You, faithful supporters, get to see this information before the public.
We won't wait long to share elsewhere, but we are posting to you first, as a thank you for your ongoing support.
This was an important conference call. We are completely flexible about what RPG system we use, and we like to use many, but the situation with WotC definitely was important to address. It also sets a public precedent for others wishing to do as we do.
Their initial responses to our requests to be allowed to use D&D for our free and paid programs, education, entertainment, therapy, and especially billable programs, stated we were no longer allowed to use ANY of their intellectual property (IP) for any use.
Our followed up email was met with an even firmer "no" to all uses, including free, charitable, entertainment, etc.
This had to be a mistake. I assumed it was just a Tier I support person, who just didn't understand what we were asking.
So, I tried calling Shelly Mazzanoble, and only getting her voice mail. So I left a message. A few days after still no response, I sent an email, still no response.
So, we shared the emails with the public through various social media, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. There was a noisy hue and cry that began spreading through shares and comments.
I started getting comments from other RPG companies that they would gladly give us permission to use their products.
Shortly after this traffic began to take off, what do you know, I received a private message (PM) from Shelly Mazzanoble through Facebook. She even pointed out it was probably the social network response that made the difference. She forwarded my voicemail and other information to the appropriate department staff, and followed up to make sure it would be properly looked into.
Then I received not one, but two apology letters about the previous responses saying no, and that they would be happy to schedule a time to discuss permission terms.
We met through a conference call this Wednesday, 2:00 pm. And it was actually a fairly quick call.
They opened with apologies for the misunderstandings caused by their Tier 1 support, and that they wanted to do all they could to find an amenable solution between Wizards and our efforts.
It turns out one of them has a son, on the Spectrum, seeing a therapist, that is using D&D to help with therapy. I didn't ask who the therapist was, but I wonder if it is Wheelhouse Workshop or Dr. B? Someone else we should know about?
That was a promising start.
They do NOT want us to provide only D&D services or D&D training. They explicitly stated they do not want us to represent ourselves as providing solely D&D. They do not want us to list ourselves as something like "official D&D training", or "D&D therapy".
This is good, because we had no desire to do that, and were worried they might want some kind of exclusivity clause, which would not have been our preference.
It is not clear whether this means everyone wishing to do what we do, should also get such explicit permission from them (I recommend it as a good CYA if/until they make some kind of public announcement supporting such uses in general). But it does clearly indicate they are amenable to giving such permission in writing.
We will see what the actual phrasing of the letter states, but it sounds like only the good things that we wanted.
They stated clearly that they like all the things we are doing, and also stated clearly for us to use other non-WotC RPG products simultaneously with our services.
We couldn't have asked for a better conversation!
Once we have that letter, I will make the letter public (we are allowed to do so), and then approach the other RPG companies about getting similar letters for approval as well.
Another piece of the puzzle has been filled! RPG Research in 2004, RPG Therapeutics LLC in 2014, The RPG Trailer in October, the ramp extensions earlier this month, the many volunteer and paid RPG positions we've opened, the RPG product permission today, the RPG Bus on the near horizon, and more than a dozen large, and many more small, client wishing to pay for our services! Wow!
Now if only we could only figure out how to get better at some real press coverage to spread the word. But I think we need to hold off until 2018 for that, there is just so much going on right now as it is. :-)
Coming up we have TolkienMoot XIII July 15th, the two days of LARP, Drumming, and RPG programs we are running for the MDA camp in Idaho July 18th & 20th, and then Spocon August 11-13, and much, much more in the pipe.
Thank you again for your wonderful support!
STATUS UPDATE 20170629 11:53 am: I just received the letter from WotC.
The email that included the letter stated: "Dear Hawke,
Please find a letter granting permission to use D&D IP attached to this message. Thank you again for your patience and understanding throughout this process and we wish you the very best in your future endeavors!
Unfortunately the letter, at least from my limited understanding of legalese, did seem to be entirely in line with what was discussed in the conference call. The good news is they have granted us permission to use D&D for any noncommercial efforts. But it seems in the letter that they did NOT include, as was discussed, permission for commercial use. Not sure why the change. I have emailed them asking for further clarification as to the change.
Here is my response asking for clarification, because the letter language didn't seem to match the conversation yesterday: "Dear ______,
Thank you very much for your time in helping resolve this issue.
A few questions regarding the content of the letter, just so there are
no misunderstanding on our part.
1. This was as I understood from our discussion: "Do not use Wizards's
trademarks in any title(s) or marketing of the Project." As per our
discussion, we won't advertise our products as anything like "The D&D
Certification class", instead it would be "The RPG Certification
Class". Does this restriction preclude in the description of a class
containing something like "training on various
role-playing games including, game1, game2, D&D, etc." If that is on our
website or in our classes curriculi listing handouts, is that exceeding
this first restriction? Or is it, as it seems to be the intent, only the
main titling this clause focuses upon?
2. "Do not use Wizards's Property for commercial purposes."
During our phone conversation I explained that we were asking to use
D&D for free services, charities that might involve receiving payments,
and as well as the billable services (i.e. the workshops
teaching role-playing games, the therapy sessions for clients that are
paying for therapeutic services that use role-playing games like D&D,
etc.). Am I misunderstanding the this clause and the commercial purposes
Forgive me if I was mistaken, but from our phone conversation I thought
you indicated it was okay to provide the billable services including
use of D&D.
3. Furthermore under General Terms it states: "to incorporate the
Property into the Project as set forth above solely for noncommercial
Regarding the noncommercial portion of the clause. Again, in our phone
conversation I explained we also provide many services that are paid
for, and I thought during the conversation you indicated you were
okay with our using D&D as part of our paid educational and
therapy services, as long as we weren't using D&D in the title and such,
that you were okay with the billable services.
I appreciate any clarification you can provide.
Thank you once again for your time and consideration in this matter.
You, lucky supporters, get to follow this real-time, through the rollercoaster of the process. :-) More as it happens, right here.
STATUS UPDATE 20170629 12:58: Letter as PDF attached to this posting.
STATUS UPDATE 20170629 12:14: Email back from WotC, clarifying the terms of the letter. Much better!
I'll answer your questions with the numbers that correspond to the items below:
1. You are free to include our trademarks in descriptive text. The restriction is specific to titling.
2. You may use our products as part of your broader recreational therapy program, including charitable and billable services. This restriction is specific to a commercial program that uses Dungeons & Dragons exclusively.
3. See #2
I hope this provides the clarity to seek to move forward. Let me know if you have any other questions.
I responded that definitely cleared things up perfectly. Phew!
STATUS UPDATE 20170629 12:20: I received a follow up email from one of their staff stating, "I hope your program helps many clients over the years!"
So there we go!
20170629, 13:00: I fired off a quick additional question, "One other question, if you don't mind, for the sake of answering others.
When others ask, (and they already are) if they are doing the same kind
of activities as we are, should I tell them they should go through a
similar approval process?
Now waiting to see their response.
20170629, 13:25: And their response, "Feel free to direct your colleagues to me and/or Pelham for permission to use D&D in similar programs and uses. Thanks!" That is Liz Schuhl and Pelham Greene btw.
IMPORTANT: So, anyone wishing to undertake similar activities DOES need to contact them for permission. THAT is critical for everyone else to know. You folks here get to know first.
STATUS UPDATE: NOVEMBER 2ND, 2017 - Made this article available to the general public.