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D&D Beyond, Wizards of the Coast, 5e, and You

by Mike on 18 December 2023

Wizards of the Coast continues to expand D&D Beyond's dominance in 5e tabletop roleplaying games and they've proven they don't always act in the interests of the larger 5e tabletop roleplaying hobby. It's up to us to ensure our handle on the 5e TTRPG hobby remains strong and beyond the whims of any single company.

We can do two things to strengthen our hobby:

  1. Show WOTC how they can better support the larger 5e TTRPG hobby.
  2. Make our own use of 5e products resilient to the whims of any one company.

Don't let D&D Beyond determine your happiness with 5e.

In addition to this post, you can watch my YouTube Talk Show on the subject or listen to me, Jessica Hancock, and Russ Morrissey talk about it on the Unofficial Tabletop Podcast.

WOTC Built a Resilient 5e

Earlier this year, after the OGL fiasco, Wizards of the Coast released the 5.1 SRD into the Creative Commons. This made the core concepts of D&D available to 5e publishers big and small. Not only can people write 5e compatible materials, but they can write D&D-style games with all of the nomenclature of D&D and not worry about getting sued.

They also released the 5.1 SRD in French, Spanish, Italian, and German. By doing so, they helped creators all over the world build 5e products in languages other than English.

Download these documents and save them on your hard drive so they'll be available forever.

Releasing 5e into the Creative Commons makes the larger landscape of 5e publishing extremely strong. Any of us can publish products compatible with 5e (not just the 2014 D&D but all other 5e compatible products and systems) without needing anyone's permission.

That's great for print products and static digital products like PDFs.

But the landscape for digital tools is changing.

Growing Their Walled Garden

WOTC's expansion of D&D Beyond, including adding products from other 5e publishers, gives WOTC further control over the larger 5th edition TTRPG hobby – the very control they hoped to acquire when attempting to violate their own contract by deauthorizing the Open Gaming License. That failed, and, in return, the 5.1 SRD is now under a Creative Commons License.

Digital play of 5e continues to grow. Just shy of 40% of the 3,300 GMs and players I surveyed on YouTube regularly use D&D Beyond (yes, I know such polls are flawed but polls do give us a sense of what trends are emerging). The more players and GMs depend on D&D Beyond to run 5e games, the more they depend on WOTC to dictate what that game is and how it's played. If you're reliant on D&D Beyond,

What Can WOTC Do?

WOTC greatly strengthened the 5e hobby by releasing the 5.1 SRD into the Creative Commons. Here's how WOTC can further strengthen the hobby.

Make Your Hold on the Hobby Resilient

WOTC may or may not follow through on any of these things but there are things we can do to strengthen the resilience of our 5e TTRPG hobby.

WOTC's Role in the 5e Community

WOTC is in the unique position to bring more people into the hobby. I want them to spread the word of D&D far and wide. I want D&D postage stamps. I want movies. I want critically acclaimed, popular AAA video games. I want them to bring in every person they can into this hobby, show them how the game is played, and show them the value it can have in our lives.

I want them to bring those people into the larger community and show them that there's more. There are other options, other monster books, other sourcebooks, other adventures – thousands of products published by hundreds of publishers – all in support of this larger hobby we love.

These games enrich our lives. They saves lives. I want us all, WOTC included, to make this hobby as strong as it can be.

More Sly Flourish Stuff

This week I posted a couple of YouTube videos on Running Monsters in Dynamic Situations and Saving Barborog – Shadowdark Gloaming Session 14 Lazy GM Prep

Last Week's Lazy RPG Talk Show Topics

Each week I record an episode of the Lazy RPG Talk Show (also available as a podcast) in which I talk about all things in tabletop RPGs. Here are last week's topics with time stamped links to the YouTube video:

Patreon Questions and Answers

Also on the Talk Show, I answer questions from Sly Flourish Patrons. Here are last week's questions and answers:

RPG Tips

Each week I think about what I learned in my last RPG session and write them up as D&D tips. Here are this week's tips:

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