Web3 gaming company Gripnr has been forced to change course on its upcoming project, The Glimmering, after it became clear that Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) publisher Wizards of the Coast wanted nothing to do with non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The Louisiana-based firm had originally set out to create a blockchain-based tabletop game, leveraging Ethereum sidechain network Polygon to facilitate play while recording currency, items, and experience points on-chain. However, the recent leak of an upcoming license shakeup for D&D, which included a prohibition on NFTs, forced Gripnr to rethink its approach.
For over two decades, the current version of the D&D Open Game License has enabled fans and companies to create content compatible with the fantasy-themed tabletop experience by borrowing certain elements, such as game mechanics, via a System Reference Document. Despite recent changes to the license, which removed some of the more onerous conditions, the prohibition on NFTs remains.
“We wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in Web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that [Open Game License] content is limited to tabletop role-playing content,” D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast wrote in a blog post.
After the update
Following the leak of the license update, Gripnr’s top management held a meeting to discuss how to proceed. Lead game developer Stephen Radney-MacFarland said that the ban on NFTs wasn’t entirely surprising, as the company had previously received communications from Wizards of the Coast suggesting they “may not be happy” with The Glimmering.
Gripnr ultimately decided to move forward with the project while revoking all uses of the Open Games License and System Reference Document, and it believes its game does not infringe on any of the intellectual property that’s protectable by Wizards of the Coast. The firm also put forth a plan to create a new, open-source license for tabletop role-playing games.
“The best path forward for Gripnr and many other companies in the industry is to abandon the [Open Games License] and find licenses or other methods that will allow us to continue our business,” the company stated. “To be candid and blunt, Wizards has no broad right to prevent the use of Web3, blockchain, or NFTs in tabletop gaming.”
The situation highlights the ongoing debate about how to reconcile traditional, physical tabletop games with the digital realm of NFTs and blockchain technology. As the use of NFTs continues to grow in popularity, it’s likely that we will see more companies and creators attempting to integrate the technology into their games, and more pushback from traditional publishers and licensors.