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My understanding from trying to sort through the D&D 5th Ed OGL is that any content based on Open Content is then also Open Content. That seems to mean that Other writers and publishers could use my Open Content if they want to, just as WOTC could. Is this the case? And also, if it is the case, did this happen in 3.5 Ed at all? I don't seem to remember noticing this.

It seems like it would be cool for publishers of OGL content to be able to share and build on each other's work, as I've heard was the intent of the 3.5 SRD. Why didn't this happen?

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First, read the OGL carefully. If you're even a bit unclear on what the document legally means you're not yet ready to choose it as a license for your own work. If necessary, consult a lawyer. (Usually only necessary for work that involves significant money, however.)

With that said, basically yes. Others can use your OGL-licensed content in the exact same way that you can use WotC's OGL-licensed content. There are ways to make it difficult to reuse material, but without resorting to that kind of willful sabotage of your OGL-licensed work, everyone will be able to build upon it. “Everyone” includes WotC—they don't have any special rights to reuse OGL-licensed work that others don't have.

This was the intention of the OGL from the start in 2000—creating a base of developers who would enrich the D&D 3rd edition ecosystem without WotC having to either do much work themselves or spend much effort on legal oversight, since open-source communities tend to be self-propelled and self-regulated once they hit a certain critical mass.

On that note: building on others' work did happen with 3.x. It might not seem like it if you only look at 3rd-party rules additions, because not much building on each others' rules additions have happened—few developers seem to want to promote or be locked into relying on a competitor's rules additions when they can just write their own. Instead, the sharing happened mostly with monsters: the OGL statements of many 3.x-era bestiaries and (especially) adventures often have lengthy copyright statements covering all the OGL sources of monsters the work has drawn from.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I remember being frustrated by many 3.5 OGL products because the opening statement often allowed using everything except names (and not even proper ones but of, like, monsters-- "You can use the stats of the gilled pigdog, but you have to call it something else," and so on), making compatibility across publishers a real PITA. Am I misremembering? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 16 '16 at 23:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan That's the kind of sabotage referred to, yes! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 16 '16 at 23:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie So if I wanted people to be able to use a new class option or something I wrote, it'd be better to include the whole thing, name and all, just leaving out any flavor text or whatever that's product identity? \$\endgroup\$ – Arcandio Jan 18 '16 at 3:36

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