An Update on Old-School Essentials and the OGL

There have been a lot of developments in the days since our last blog post on the OGL topic earlier this week. (It seems there have been major developments pretty much every day!) The most significant thing was a statement from Wizards of the Coast on their plans going forward, including the stated intent that "Content already released under 1.0a" (like Old-School Essentials) will "remain unaffected".

We're awaiting the release of the new OGL, but based on the way things seem to be going, our plans at the time of writing are as follows.

Old-School Essentials is Sticking Around

Before diving into more detail, the most important thing to share is that Old-School Essentials isn't going anywhere. Whatever happens with the OGL, we'll find ways to continue publishing the game that we love and supporting it with our patented brand of moss-encrusted adventure.

Dolmenwood Continuing As Planned

As the Dolmenwood setting books consist almost entirely of original material (i.e. not material derived from Open Game Content), Dolmenwood is unaffected by the pending OGL changes. We'll make an announcement once we have a concrete date for the Kickstarter.

Moving Away From the OGL

Similarly to many other publishers of OGL-based games, we're planning a version of Old-School Essentials to be published without the OGL. This will require some work in revising certain aspects of the text. The exact approach we take will depend on how the OGL topic develops over the coming months. We're looking into what would be the best way forward and keeping an eye on developments. Our priority is to make this a considered and sustainable move, rather than rushing into something that might not be the best solution in the long term. The direction is clear, though.

Adopting An Alternative Open Licence

One really important aspect of the current OGL is that it allows publishers to label portions of a text as available for other publishers to copy/adapt in their own works. For example, almost the complete Old-School Essentials Rules Tome is defined as Open Game Content. (See the OGL declaration at the back of the book for full details.)

For this reason we plan to make use of an alternative license to easily denote which sections of the future, non-OGL OSE are open content. For example we may decide to use the Open RPG license being spearheaded by Paizo. We're waiting to see how things develop in the broader, post-OGL v1.0a RPG community, so the exact license we'll end up using for OSE is yet to be determined.

Notes for Third-Party OSE Publishers

For anyone working on (or planning) adventures or supplements for Old-School Essentials, here are some guidelines for navigating this post-OGL time:

  • Remember that the OSE third-party license does not require you to use the Open Game License. The only reason to publish under the OGL is if you copy/adapt Open Game Content text from another OGL source.
  • Similarly, the OSE third-party license does not place any restrictions on you publishing under an alternative open content license. For example, if you wanted to publish an OSE supplement using a Creative Commons license, you're free to do so. (As long as the text is yours to publish and declare as Creative Commons, of course.)
  • Of course, the OSE third-party license does not require you to publish your works under any kind of open content license if you don't want to. You're completely free to publish OSE compatible products without the OGL, without CC, etc.
  • For anyone wishing to copy/adapt text from Old-School Essentials in non-OGL publications, just reach out to us at We're very happy to grant permission to copy/adapt sections of OSE text, outside of the OGL framework.
  • Also feel free to reach out if you have any other questions on this subject. Naturally we're not able to give legal advice, though.

Fight On!

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Since Hasbro/WOTC backed away from deauthorizing the OGL, I hope you don’t overhaul classic or advanced fantasy to move away from it. It’s the close relationship it has to B/X that I love.

Gary Burnett

I really appreciate the dead gnomes getting in front of this, and agree that there needs to be a permanent answer. But I have to think that what WOTC is trying to do with the OGL may not be possible, as the barn door has been open for years.

Doug K

The first word that popped into my head when the OGL issue appeared was “Dolmenwood!”. I’ve been eagerly awaiting it’s completion for quite some time and the idea that all that long effort and work could be derailed so easily and without warning was frustrating (far more so on your end, I’d imagine). I am very happy that it looks like it will not be hindered. Thank you for the attention and effort put into OSE and its products, they are a treat for those of us that still enjoy B/X at the table.


Good to hear. I’ve been looking for an excuse to move my group to an OSR style game for some time and this OGL tiff is probably it. I bought all three Tomes in PDF along with Hole in the Oak and Grotto to give us a good dungeon to explore. I am really looking forward to the boxed sets as those are the perfect size to have at the table and pass around as needed. Are those moving forward as is?

Also, we mostly use Roll20. Is there a VTT that best supports OSE? I’m thinking really just a system agnostic VTT and share story and characters through something like Campfire might be best.


I am so happy to hear you are proceeding with the Dolmenwood setting. It had occurred to me since it’s a completely unique setting, there probably wouldn’t be anything that required the OGL in the first place. I’m glad that occurred to you too. Regardless of what happens with the new OGL, never bend the knee to WOTC strong arm tactics!


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