January 14, 2023

The Press Release Wizards of the Coast Should Have Written

The OpenDND logo in white text on a red background.

I’ve mentioned a few times in my newsletter and podcast that I play tabletop role-playing games, mostly the very famous Dungeons & Dragons. There’s a series of articles to be had about what there is to be learned about facilitation and teams from playing these games, but this post is an example of how corporations can destroy goodwill and trust through a combination of greed, arrogance and misreading the room.

The owners of D&D, Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), recently issued a statement after community outcry regarding changes to their Open Gaming License (tl;dr effectively making it a closed licence and highly unfavourable to third-party creators). This went down like a lead balloon with the D&D gaming community, who rallied around and it quickly hit the mainstream news. You can read all about it here and at OpenDND.

Like most large corporates caught wrong-footed, WOTC took too long to issue a response and, when they did, the statement was such a weak attempt at PR spin that it made things worse.

So, I’ve taken the liberty to draft the statement they should have written:

Dear beloved D&D community,

We made a mistake and we’re sorry.

In our effort to grow D&D and build a fantastic platform for the future, we lost sight of those for whom D&D exists – you, our players and creative community. At the heart of D&D are the experiences you create with one another as players.

While we have a fiduciary duty to our shareholders, this has to remain in balance with our duty to our customers and community, without whom we have no business. We committed the cardinal sin of letting the rules lawyers spoil the game for everyone at the table.

We know we’ve lost your trust and that it is not easily rebuilt. We also understand that any new Open Games License (OGL) from us may be met with skepticism. Therefore, we have cancelled our plans to update our OGL and will put our support behind the Open RPG Creative License (ORC), which will be the license we will use in the future.

We hope this will go some way to win back the trust of the D&D community beyond doubt, while still allowing us to protect the valuable D&D brand and continue to develop exciting new products, services and content for you.

To those of you who have cancelled your D&D Beyond subscriptions, we are sad to see you go and hope we can win back your trust and custom. We would like to offer you an extra three months free subscription to those of you who choose to reactivate your subscription before it expires.

We let you down and we’re sorry. This is an opportunity for us to reflect upon and improve our own culture at WOTC. We recognise there is work to be done and we will do better.

As if it’s needed, here’s the disclaimer: This is not a real press release from Wizards of the Coast and I do not claim to be a representative of WOTC. Please do not post it on social media as disinformation.

To Wizards of the Coast – I’m releasing the above apology under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, just in case you want to use it. See what I did there?

Creative Commons Licence