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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    – V2Blast
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 6:36

2 Answers 2



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.

Where is this limitation?

  1. Use of Product Identity: You agree not to Use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, …

There is a list of things that are unambiguously Product Identity in the 4th paragraph which includes “Player’s Handbook” and “proper names (including those used in the names of spells or items)” - cleric domains are in the Player’s Handbook and reference spells (making a reference to them indirectly a reference to those spells).

However, the explicit list doesn’t exhaustively define Product Identity. Product Identity is defined in 1(e) and includes “characters”, “thematic elements”, “designs”, “concepts”, “themes”, “names and descriptions of … special abilities” and “magical or supernatural abilities or effects”. The clause goes on to state that Trademarks must be identified as Product Identity but cleric domains are not trademarks.

The definition of product identity is extremely broad - so broad that it will likely capture everything WotC (or TSR) have ever written.

An argument that cleric domains are not captured is doomed to failure.

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\$ How do you figure that any license is required to mention something that appears in another work? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 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
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 7:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you include a citation where they say in the OGL that you cannot reference WotC copyrighted work? By what I see they explicitly forbid using "product identity", but are cleric domains (specifically, just their names) part of that? \$\endgroup\$
    – kviiri
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 10:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM Yes, but that's not the point. You claim the license forbids referencing WotC content. It's also very unclear to me whether cleric domain names are copyrighted in the first place, given that they are not very novel (their feature texts certainly are but the querent seems to only need the names). \$\endgroup\$
    – kviiri
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 13:26
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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
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 14:53

No, but Life is not the only domain in the SRD.

The names of the basic 8 domains from the PHB and DMG are listed on pages 360 to 362 of the System Reference Document 5.1 (which list examples of pagan pantheons). They are listed as "Suggested Domains" for each of the example deities. The details of the Domain are not specified but it does confirm their existence.

You can't reproduce the specifics of those domains in your own work as the details are not part of the SRD, but you can use their names to refer to them.

It isn't best solution, or the widest selection, but it isn't limited to just Life Domain either!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Tristan, I've gone and read what you are referring to and added an explanation of that to your answer. I still don't know if this qualifies as an answer to the question. Generally when a question refers to "Divine Domain" they mean the entire subclass, not just the name. However I do understand what you are trying to say. My apologies for not checking earlier. For future reference, you can edit your answer to improve it, then flag it with a custom request for undeletion, rather than reposting. Reposting is not allowed as it bypasses our content curation tools. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 7:20

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