I am creating a completely unique setting for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, and really pouring my heart and soul into it. Under Wizards of the Coast's OGL (Open Gaming License), I am hoping to sell this setting as a supplement book (probably a downloadable PDF through DriveThruRPG).

However, I'm a little bit fuzzy on the differences between the OGL, and the SRD, and what I'm allowed to use vs. what I'm not in the context of a commercial product. Specifically, I was thinking of referencing some non-SRD cleric domains (the only SRD cleric domain, as far as I know, is Life), such as, say, the ones from the Player's Handbook, in the context of locations that are tied to particular Domains. Would that be permissible? I don't know if I'm allowed to use non-SRD domains in a commercial work. I wouldn't be reproducing the actual Domains, in their specific mechanics, just referencing their existence.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you publishing on Dungeon Master's Guide (a license) or independently? \$\endgroup\$ – Powerdork Apr 6 '20 at 5:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 6 '20 at 6:36


The SRD is issued under the OGL and the first 2 pages of the SRD are the OGL.

If you choose to use the OGL (and you have to for a homebrew setting), you can only use content from the SRD. The only Cleric domain in the SRD is the Life domain so that is the only published one that you can use or make reference to. Similarly, you can only use magic items, monsters etc. that are in the SRD.

If you want to use all of the published D&D 5e material, you can use Dungeon Masters Guild but you must have no setting or use the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Eberron or Ravnica settings. This doesn't seem like it would meet your needs.

But surely, I can just refer to this stuff?

In general, yes. Reference to a copyrighted work does not violate copyright and even copying parts of it for private use (as in your home campaign) or for commentary and education (as on this site) has fair use/dealing protection.

However, using WotC copyrighted work to make a derivative work (your campaign world) to sell is not fair use/dealing. You are only allowed to do that in accordance with the terms of the licence issued by the copyright holder, WotC. And they say, you can't refer to anything outside the SRD in your derivative work.

It's not that the reference is copyright violation - it's a violation of your contract which means you don't get the benefit of the licence which makes the rest of your derivative work copyright violation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The OP is not copying copyrighted work though, they're just referencing it. I don't think that's a copyright violation but IANAL. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Apr 6 '20 at 5:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you figure that any license is required to mention something that appears in another work? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Apr 6 '20 at 6:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells because you are making a derivative work in accordance with a license. If the license says you can’t do something, you can’t. If you step outside the license you are relying of fair use and that doesn’t work for the rest of your derived work. If you just want to talk about D&D, that’s fine but if you are building on their copyright you have to follow their rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Apr 6 '20 at 7:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kviiri It’s in the first paragraph where they tell you what is actually licensed - the SRD. You do not have a license for anything else. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Apr 6 '20 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer needs to back up the claim that the Open Game License forbids referencing anything beyond the SRD; it’s possible for a license to do that, but (IANAL) I don’t believe the OGL does. And also it is possible to produce D&D content without using any license—Kenzer & Co. famously did so in 4e to avoid the overly-restricted Game System License (it helps that Kenzer is a copyright lawyer in his day job, though). This answer just seems far too sure of itself for concerns that are actually very complicated and uncertain. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 6 '20 at 14:53

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