A photo of reading glasses resting upon a book.

The ORC has landed. It kinda sucks.

Overall Effectiveness

Fundamentally it runs into the same problems that people who champion Blockchain Technology does in that it is an eternal, rigid and complex solution to an ever evolving problem. The license does seem, primarily, good for if you’re:

  • The owner of Pathfinder and/or Starfinder – a d20 type game with clear distinctions between mechanics and fluff, that can adapt easily to the license; and
  • You also sell Board Games that essentially have the same thing; and
  • You’ve got a massive (recently expanded) audience who want to make modules and expansions to your game… and it’d kind of sweet if you could use the mechanics they build in your official products for free; and
  • Your company has the cash and the clout to bring law firms around the world to bear on anyone who fucks you, and also the connections to control the narrative if it starts being reported on.

So, it’s good for Paizo… and maybe reasonably good for some of the other top creators (all of whom are dwarfed by Paizo), but of negligible value to creators who:

  • Build systems where the rules and fluff are integrated at a core level and so aren’t easily separated (eg Onyx Path Publishing); and/or
  • Build crunchy systems which are focused more on a genre than a building attachment to fluff (like the D20 Modern or many espionage themed games); and/or
  • Don’t have the funds or general capacity to employ a lawyer in the offender’s jurisdiction or a clue how to approach anyone for help.

It will almost certainly never be tested in a courtroom as almost any case that would relate to this would certainly be settled, simply because nobody is going to settle or back out of once they receive the bill.

Furthermore, one of the issues of ORC is the ORC AxE is a nine page statement on the intentions of the creator of the ORC. That’s not ideal, for anyone, since an important element of contract law is the known intentions of the parties making the agreement – in this case, the Licensor and Licensee.

Believe it or not, you don’t actually need to use legalese and lawyer formatting to create a license, you can give one verbally, informally or by implication. A plain language license can, depending on the circumstances, be as binding as one drafted by a $500 per hour lawyer.

Lawyers don’t get hired to draft important contracts because their presence is necessary, they get hired because they know what aspects need to be addressed, how best to address them and to advise their client as to the potential consequences of certain decisions.

Depending on your situation… its quite possible you could be better off with a plain language license that outlines your wishes and makes your intentions clear. (Again, not personalized legal advice – I don’t know you either.)

Open Licenses and the Industry

All of this is kind of pointless, because the buried lede is that the vast majority of creators will never significantly from having an open license. The tabletop role-playing game scene is oversaturated and the vast majority of influence and sales, and most of those operate by selling products that are created to be supplements of Dungeons & Dragons.

Wizards of the Coast doesn’t maintain the open license because it helps them maintain hegemonic control over the tabletop role-playing game industry. It’s been helpful for a lot of small creators, but their rise has also put cash in Wizards of the Coast’s pockets by giving people more reasons to keep playing Dungeons and Dragons.

The Open Gaming License has greatly enabled small creators because it let them skip over the part that’s hardest to do as a small creator – build a crunchy, rules heavy system that people understand – so they can focus entirely on their


ORC isn’t a particularly good open license for anyone but Paizo. At best you might be lucky and have it work for you, at worst it could lead to you accidentally losing control of your intellectual property irrevocably.

But that doesn’t really matter, even if it was a great license – it’s not not really helpful to the community.

The hobby doesn’t need a magical, eternal license that somehow remains apolitical – it needs more resources available for small creators to understand the dry, business topics like contract law, intellectual property, negotiating deals and understanding how markets work.

(That way people might understand if you’re going to use a fourteen page license for your product, it should be drafted by your lawyer, not a third party lawyer you’ve never met.)

But that’s not all it needs to fix this problem.

It needs a wider culture of encouraging people to experiment with games that are wildly different to D&D even if they want to play D&D – because its always good to have a break from time to time, and you’ll get lots of ideas for your next D&D session/campaign/character.

It needs more encouragement of curiosity and empathy for people in the real world so people actually spend their time in a social game building social skills, not insulating themselves and convincing themselves of the objective correctness of their opinions, judgement and lifestyle.

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