Tag Archives: OGL

Other Open Gaming Thoughts

Besides the buzz about D&D Next possibly being OGL, there’s other news in game licensing land.

First of all, the GUMSHOE system used by Pelgrane Publishing in many of their games is released under both OGL and Creative Commons! You can download the SRD in Word format there. Very cool.

Second, Numenera has a license and it’s not quite open. One product has been released so far though, Celestial Wisdom. But here’s why this concerns me.

Numenera is an innovative game in a very weird setting. A setting that could benefit a LOT from third party material. It’s going to be intimidating to some people to actually run, because of the weird nature of the setting and adventures.  The more the better, and any bars there limit it somewhat.

In conjunction with that, the Monte Cook brigade are now off on their second Kickstarter for a similary ambitious game called The Strange.  This does not give me a lot of confidence that Numenera is going to see lots of support from Monte Cook Games itself.  Given the worry that they’re just going to be happily Kickstarting one neat new idea after another and then moving to the next without focusing their effort on sustaining each one, does it make sense from any perspective to put limitations on people that do want to?

13th Age has, on the other hand, released under the OGL with their SRD located here on the Pelgrane site. That makes me a little more hopeful about ongoing support.

D&D Next Might Be OGL?

In an ENWorld thread about their Amethyst Kickstarter, Chris Dias of DiasExMachina claims to have it “on good authority” that D&D Next/5e will be released under an open license, possibly the OGL.

If true this would be huge, and possibly bring D&D back into the living mainstream of gaming from the weird blind alley it’s been coursing down.  I’ve been reading the next playtest docs and it’s OK – but not OK enough for me to bother with if it’s not open with a SRD and third party support (especially for adventures). If it is actually open, and distinguishes itself enough from Pathfinder (ideally by being way more simple and D&D Basic like), then it might just have a place at my gaming table after all.

When I got my copy of Third Edition at Gen Con 2000, it was the Green Ronin Freeport module that was the first thing we ran, and their (and other 3pp’s) rapid adventure support after that was what kept us in avid 3e gaming goodness for quite a while. If Next can pull off the same thing, then it could light WotC’s D&D back up!

 

Skull and Shackles – Why Community and Open Licensing Are So Important

Paizo Publishing has started in on their next adventure path, the pirate-themed “Skull & Shackles.” They are supporting it well, with six books of adventure and rules material, the Isles of the Shackles campaign setting book, a Player’s Guide, and the Pirates of the Inner Sea player’s book.

But where it really begins to shine is the support that their rich ecosystem provides – third party publishers and fans, empowered by the OGL specifically and Paizo’s pro-community policies in general.

So from third party publishers, you can get paper minis for the AP from Pathfinder Paper Minis, which has done them for a number of APs. Or expanded ships and ship rules from LPJ which expand on the rules in the Player’s Guide. Hero Lab has the rules content from S&S going into their tool.

But that pales compared to the community support.  Just on the Paizo forums, we have people statting up all the NPCs in Hero Lab. And putting together tools to help track all the pirate jobs and NPC attitudes, and generally helpful things like calculating how far away you can see a ship or creating ambient noise files tuned to the AP.

And that’s why open licensing and promoting instead of shutting down fan sites is good business, and why Paizo is beating the pants off WotC right now.

The OGL: It’s Not Just d20

Hey, so I keep seeing people confused about the Open Game License. My Open Gaming for Dummies article helps dispel some of that but let’s come out and get one thing clear – it’s not “just for D&D” or just d20-derived games. Open gaming is strong and diverse.

The OGL is just a license.  It’s like the open source Apache, GPL, or MIT licenses in that it can be applied by anyone – though it was written by WotC originally, it’s not owned by them and has no relation to what games can be released under it.

Guess what all game systems are open under the OGL license?

  • The Action! system (from Gold Rush Games)
  • Traveller (Mongoose’s version)
  • Runequest (Mongoose’s version)
  • The d6 system (from West End Games’ Star Wars and Ghostbusters)
  • Fudge and its newer more popular variant FATE and derivatives thereof, like ICONS

And many more, including many many d20 variants from Anime d20 to Mutants & Masterminds.  I’m not sure there’s a comprehensive list – here’s a couple that are old and out of date. But that’s like, a big share of the systems people have played over the decades.

And of course this doesn’t mention other open games published under other licenses, like Eclipse Phase is published under Creative Commons.

Really, publishers, is there a reason NOT to open license your system?  Because face it, your system kinda sucks.  They all do. Your best bet is to get it in the hands of as many people as possible so they’ll get interested and buy your products. If GURPS got open licensed, for example, maybe someone under 30 would play it.

Open Gaming Triumphs In The End

Back in 2008, Mike Mearls wrote about whether open gaming had been a success… Right before Wizards pulled the plug on it.  Death to open gaming was their clear intent, especially when they added a clause to the new very non-open GSL forbidding use of the OGL by people looking to use the GSL.

And now, by Wizards’ own  numbers, the people playing D&D has gone from 6 million in 2007 to 1.5 million now.  So is D&D dying?

Grognardia brought to my attention this post by Ryan Dancey (archtiect of the OGL) on the Paizo forums about his view of how the OGL succeeded.

In the end, D&D isn’t dying – it’s free.  Hasbro can jack with it now all they want, but it was freed once and for all by Dancey, and so Paizo and the OSR and everyone else can play D&D and spread it far and wide, regardless of what kid film licensed property some suit wants to push this year.

Let Hasbro make all the soda and tennis shoes they want, and we get to play D&D and safely disregard whatever flavor of the month they are peddling.  Power to the people!

The Past Of Modern d20 Gaming – And The Future?

Conversation among our gaming group recently turned to “Hey, was there ever another edition of d20 Modern?”  It got me thinking about  modern gaming and d20 modern-type gaming, especially as there may be some new breakthroughs coming on that front soon.  (Teaser!  I’ll spill the beans later in the article!)

Generic Modern d20 Games

I thought d20 Modern was just okay.  It was serviceable.  I didn’t like the stat-based classes, I think that’s lame.  And I didn’t like the way they halfheartedly supported it – it’s like it wasn’t a real product, just a spoiler product to steal sales from Shadowrun, etc.  In my mind it didn’t compare well; they proposed d20 Modern Dark Matter and Star*Drive, for example, which pretty much were better using the Alternity system. d20 Past and Future were just insulting in how light they were.  “You could use this to replace a number of other existing games!  We won’t provide enough content for you to do it out of the box, but look, you clearly could do it!”   Not sure what they were thinking.

Two other major d20-based games tried to fill the gap – True20 and Modern20.  True20 is Green Ronin’s generic, somewhat simplified d20 system; they use variants of it in Mutants & Masterminds and Blue Rose.  I like it better than d20 Modern, but am not wildly enthusiastic about it.  I don’t like the wound system, particularly.  And there’s not a lot of direct support for modern gaming; it’s meant to not be purely fantasy-tied so you *can* do it but it seems spread thin.  Every support book feels like it has to cover fantasy/modern/future/etc. which means you only get a little of each in the Companion, class books, etc.  That’s a poor marketing strategy because it means if I want material for a modern warrior, I have to buy a book with fantasy stuff in it.  I’m sure there are 10 or so people out there so in love with True20 they want to buy everything, but normal people would like books focused around information useful in a specific game they’re gonna run.

Modern20, from RPGObjects, is more specifically modern focused, which is nice.  It still goes with a largely stat-tied set of core classes, though it tries to add a little more “zazz” to them.  They have supplements for horror, martial arts, etc.  Seems serviceable.

Specific Genre Modern d20 Games

Mutants & Masterminds, from Green Ronin, is a great superheroes game.  I love it – well, the first edition.  I felt like the second edition overcomplicated things and decided the book should read more like a dictionary than a gamebook.  I understand some people like that kind of “definition centric” format but I say bah.   Anyway, I really like M&M 1e.  Beautiful books, you can build beautiful Marvelesque characters, and fun gameplay.  Criticisms – the way damage works can be a little problematic sometimes and I’ve learned over time that games that give the DM action points to use for villains suck.  Anyway, it’s the best d20 supers game hands down and IMO one of the best supers games in any system.  But it’s pretty much just for supers, which is great for that genre and not relevant for others.

Spycraft was another excellent game – in its first edition.  It’s weird that I also don’t like its second edition; it’s super overcomplicated and also goes for that descriptor stuff, must have been a fad at the time.  It was an espionage game, but because of that could work perfectly well for modern action, crime, investigation, military, etc.  If you’re looking to play a “subtle” genre, d20 probably isn’t the right thing to use anyway.  But if you want to be a faceman, soldier, wheelman, or fixer, it’s the game to use!  For most traditional modern genres, though, in my opinion Spycraft 1.0 is the shizznit.  (I didn’t like their uber gonzo “G.I. Joe on meth” setting,  Shadowforce Archer, but all the class guides are nice.)  They went the ‘real class’ direction instead of the ‘stat class’ – heck, Spycraft 2.0 minimized stats to the degree where they did away with ability checks!   You can find all the Spycraft 1.0 stuff easily at Half Price Books etc.  I don’t know what the heck Crafty is doing with the game line now that they have 2.0 – their supplements are bizarre (convert to d20 Modern!  Add fantasy!  Book after book of new guns!).

Haven: City of Violence, from LPJ Designs, also seems like a good bet.  I haven’t played it, but it seems to stay squarely in the modern action/crime/etc and not try to add in psychic mutant magic-using bugbears or other crap like that.  Seems to be Grand Theft Auto in Sin City directed by John Woo.  I’d like to give it a shot sometime.

What’s New?

Well, there may be a Pathfinder version of Modern in the works!  People asked Paizo to do it from time to time but they said “we’re busy with the core stuff.”  Recently, however, on the Paizo boards, some names you may recognize – Stan!, Owen K.C. Stephens, and Hyrum Savage, who have formed Super Genius Gamesare seriously talking about doing a Pathfinder Modern, possibly as a patronage project.  Although I’m leery of patronage projects, as the RPGverse is full of long promised and never delivered products (Nick Logue and Razor Coast, I’m looking at you), it’d be interesting to get a new version of d20 Modern with the learnin’ of the last 10 years baked in.

Here’s what such a game should look like IMO.

  • Real classes, not “stat based” classes.
  • Vitality and wound points, not pure hit points or a True20 weird DC thing.
  • A general modern corebook, but supplements organized along specific genre lines.

Some Bonus RPG.net Reviews

Open Gaming FTW! Pathfinder SRD Already Up

In all the release hullabaloo it’s easy to miss, but Paizo shows how committed they are to open gaming by putting the Pathfinder RPG System Reference Document (or PRD) up the very same day the game released!

Be warned, it’s really slooooooow right now ass hordes of people are paying their $10 to download the whole 500+ page PDF from the Paizo site.  But if you’re just dying to see how Combat Maneuver Bonus is calculated in the final, it’s there in the Combat section!

To prioritize the extra work required to get this out “the day of” the RPG and PDF release (and Gen Con) is an amazing statement about their dedication to open gaming.   Heck, many OGL games leave it to the fans to create the SRD, or do it months-to-years after they release the game.  It’s great to see that Paizo doesn’t hold any archaic notions of how that will “inhibit their sales.”  They are releasing a free SRD, a $10 PDF, and a $50 book on the same day; the first print run of the book is already sold out and a mob of people at Gen Con are surrounding a huge stack of books trying to get theirs.  Congratulations to Paizo for understanding at a deep level that the open model is not “charity” or a detriment to sales, but in fact is a force multiplier that will bring you even more success!

Somebody give me a “Hell yeah!”

Paizo’s New Pathfinder License and Fansite Policy Examined

In the midst of the latest barrage of D&D 4e GSL news, Paizo Publishing, creator of the Pathfinder roleplaying game, has released their license and fansite policy.  Pathfinder is widely considered to be a “fork” of Dungeons & Dragons, made possible by the Open Gaming License that D&D 3rd and 3.5th editions used. Let’s take a look!

This license, the PCL, is really the “secondary” license, as the Pathfinder rules are open for use already under the Open Gaming License.  It is similar in concept to the old d20 STL from D&D 3e – the point of it is to be able to put a special Pathfinder logo on your product to indicate compatibility.

The short form is that the PCL covers printed books, electronic publications, and free web sites.  You aren’t supposed to use it for standalone games (although  you can certainly use the OGL Pathfinder rules for such a game).  The restrictions are pretty minimal, and are things like “don’t pretend you’re Paizo,” “don’t do anything illegal,” and “don’t totally copy our trade dress.”  Fair enough.  Also, you have to send them a copy of your product.

If Paizo says you’re in breach of the license, you have 30 days to remedy it, or else you have to stop and destroy inventory.  This is reasonably generous.  It doesn’t seem to explicitly cover the “what about when the license ends,” like the d20 STL was eventually totally cancelled by Wizards and everyone had till the end of 2008 to sell off their inventory.  IMO they should add something about that.

And that’s about it.  They don’t bother with the draconian (and unenforceable) crap the GSL had in it about “don’t ever sue us or contest us legally about anything or we say YOU LOSE” – they just say you have to use King County, WA as your venue.

And if you want to do something not allowed by the OGL or this license – use Golarion IP, have a paysite, etc – you can email licensing@paizo.com to see if they’ll let you.

But Do You Need It?

In fact, my only concern comes in with some of the things the FAQ says.  This license is used to be able to put a “Pathfinder Compatible” logo on your book.  the FAQ claims that “So while the OGL allows you to make compatible products, it forbids you from indicating compatibility using the terms “Pathfinder,” “Pathfinder Roleplaying Game,” or “Paizo,” since those are our trademarks.”

I’m not sure that’s true.  Legal advice is welcome, but Hasbro lost that suit to RADGames over their Monopoly add-ons – the court found that RADGames could happily make Monopoly add-ons and say “for use with Monopoly.”  Similarly, Mayfair only lost their old Role Aids “D&D Compatible” suit because they had signed a license that prohibited them, not because the law prohibited them.

Of course you could just use the OGL and say “3.75 Compatible!” or similar evasion, but my point is you may be legally able to indicate Pathfinder compatibility without this license.  Of course you’d have to be way more careful about everything else.  And since the license is very non-restrictive, it’s probably pretty safe to sign it.

In summary – very good!  200% less restrictive than the GSL, better than the d20 STL, etc. Kudos to them for delivering it before the actual game.

And they follow it up with…

In other words, the fansite policy.  Like the one Wizards hasn’t gotten around to yet…  They strike the right note and set out the problem perfectly at the beginning:

The Paizo Publishing community is an intelligent, creative, dedicated, and enthusiastic group of people, and we at Paizo appreciate and value the contributions of our community members. This Community Use Policy is designed to encourage you to spread your enthusiasm and creativity while respecting ownership of our copyrights, trademarks, and other intellectual properties.

While copyright and trademark laws protect our property, they also prevent you from using our intellectual properties in most circumstances. That means that you are generally prohibited from using any of our logos, images, or other trademarks or copyrighted content without our consent. This policy grants you the consent to use some of our intellectual property under certain circumstances.

This policy is limited to non-commercial use, where commercial is defined as “charging for it.”  This is more generous than the White Wolf Dark Pack fansite policy, which started screwing with anyone having ads on their site, etc.

You have to put a short disclaimer on your site somewhere.  Again, you can’t pretend to be Paizo or an agent thereof, and not use their trade dress.

Then we get to the one problematic stanza.

• You agree to use your best efforts to preserve the high standard of our intellectual property. You agree to present Paizo, our products, and the Paizo Material in a generally positive light. You agree to not use this permission for material that the general public would classify as “adult content,” offensive, or inappropriate for minors, and you agree that such use would irreparably harm Paizo. You agree not do anything illegal in or with products or websites produced under this Policy.

Illegal, fair enough.  But the “positive light” thing seems a little bit like “don’t criticize us” and the adult content/inappropriate for minors thing sucks like the WotC GSL morals clause.   There are already some “adult” pictures, popular on the Paizo forums, of some of the Rise of the Runelords characters.   Paizo claims the morals clause is one of the reasons they don’t want to sign the GSL, so this is a bit two-faced.  I think this could easily be changed to say that people doing “adult” stuff should follow general laws/Internet best practices in labelling it adult content to keep the kiddies out.

Anyway, if you do this you can use some pics and stuff they have, but most importantly you can descriptively use trademarks from their products.  So you can rattle on about Paizo IP like Golarion, Kharzoug the Runelord, etc.

So, all great except for the “adult content” clause.  Let’s see if we can get that improved by when the game comes out!

So how close are we to perfection here?

1.  Uses the OGL – check.  Perfect.  Oh, actually, not quite perfect – I see the answer now to my compatibility/RADGames/Mayfair question, which is that the OGL cockblocks it!  The OGL is the one that says “You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark.”  So you could probably do that if not for the OGL.  DANCEY!!!!!

2.  Pathfinder Compatibility License – needs a little better work on the termination clause, mainly the “when it all ends” part.  Ideally it would say “sell it on into infinity” but  a long selloff would be fair.  About 90% perfect.

3.   Paizo Community Use Policy – very good except for the morals and critique clauses.  About 75% perfect.

What else could you ask for?

Well, glad you asked.  It would be nice if third parties could set stuff in Golarion.  Unthinkable,  you say?  You must be too used to D&D and Wizards/TSR setting the tone of RPG licensing.

Check out the Traveller licenses that Mongoose Traveller is using.  It’s OGL, they have a Fair Use Policy (fansite, like the PCUP), a Traveller Logo License (like the PCL)…  And one last one.  This, the “Foreven Free Sector” license, lets people publish in the Imperium setting!  Basically it gives them a sandbox in one sector of space they can use and reference external PI, they just can’t change anything outside the sandbox.

Paizo could easily do this with some section of Golarion.  And why not?  In my opinion, similar to the benefit of the OGL, having people write stuff for their game world would only benefit them.  But you keep them in a sandbox to mitigate problems from quality issues or whatnot.

Come on guys, whaddya say?  Want to be TOTALLY perfect and open?  You can do it!!!

Wizards Releases Revised GSL – Is It Better?

So first, a little history.  The first version of the new Wizards of the Coast license to let other people publish products for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, the Game System License (GSL), was poorly recieved, especially coming after the open and visionary Open Gaming License.  I covered its flaws from when details started to leak last April, in Wizards Declares War On Open Gaming.  They decided to back off of its most controversial “poison pill clause” a little at the time (Wizards Comes Clean On Open Gaming).    But when the final GSL was released, it still wasn’t all that great (The GSL Is Finally Released).   And it wasn’t just me, most of the major players who put out D&D third edition products under the old OGL walked away (How Bad Is the New Wizards D&D 4e Game System License?).  Even Clark Peterson of Necromancer Games, lawyer and big booster of WotC and their license up to that point, had to walk away (Clark Peterson Is A Flip-Flopper).  Wizards tried to ignore the hullabaloo for a while, but finally in August said they’d be revamping the GSL.  Then… time passed.

The New GSL In Depth

But today, they have released a new version of the GSL!  Let’s go through it and see how it is.

Before we start, if you don’t understand all this business about the OGL and d20 STL and GSL and SRD – read my article “Open Gaming for Dummies” which explains the basis of a lot of this.

OK, the license starts by delineating that it’s for D&D Fourth Edition (4e) and lists a bunch of core rulebooks, updated to include newer ones like the PHB2.  It’s nice that they’ll be allowing access to more than just the “core three,” but are they planning on updating the list every time they publish?  Or will subsequent books not be included?   Hard to say.

Starting and Stopping

First, this isn’t a “no-touch” license like the OGL was; you need to send in a document to WotC that they agree to, so it is a real direct entity-to-entity agreement.  Second, they can change the license any way they want at any time, and don’t have to notify their licensees.  This is still a little sucky – if you publish a book, and then they change the GSL to somehow be a problem (like, say, “give us a meeeeelion dollars,”) you automatically accept the changes if you continue to distribute your book after the date it changes.  A bit of an ambush clause, if you ask me.  But, there is now a part of the termination clause that actually lets the licensee terminate the agreement!  That’s new.  And once you terminate, you can sell your stuff off for six months.  Same six month grace period exists if they decide to cancel the GSL wholesale.  The six month period does NOT apply if Wizards decides to terminate your license.

This is a positive change.  Previously, you were pretty much completely at Wizards’ mercy – if they decided to screw you and tell you to set your warehouse on fire tomorrow, they could.  From a  business viewpoint, no one with self-respect (or decent risk management skills) could agree to it previously because of the update and termination (“ambush”) clauses.  Now…  it’s not exactly friendly, but it might be viable, if your products tend to make most of their sales in the first six months.

They still follow it up with the usual legalese about “you can never challenge this license in court, or Wizards’ right to anything it claims as IP under patent, copyright, trademark, trade dress, trade name, trade secret, or anything else we can think of.”  I assume these are largely unenforceable; I see these a good bit in other legal agreements and somehow people still go to court over them.

What Can You Do?

It’s worth mentioning for the newbies that the GSL is a “free” license like the OGL was before it – there are no royalties or payments involved.

The license covers paper game books and pdfs only, or other stuff not excluded in section 5.5, which we’ll get to.  You basically can use any specific term listed in the 4e SRD.  This SRD is a lot more restricted than the old d20 SRD; essentially you can just use some D&D terms and refer back to the core books.  You have to use some logos and disclaimers. You can’t describe character creation or advancement; it still won’t let you create “D&D variants” like Conan, Mutants & Masterminds, True20, or the many other things that came from the time of the OGL.  You can’t change anything from how it’s defined in the core books – the GSL FAQ says that even saying Eladrin are taller in your game world than what the PHB says is off limits.

There’s what I think is a new clause that lets you make new artwork “based on” the art in the D&D books, which is nice – before there was just a clause saying “don’t refer to the art in any way!” which means that drawing an orc too much like the orcs are depicted in the Monster Manual was bad, which was retarded.  Although they specifically list some critters you still can’t create derivative imagery of:  “Balhannoth, Beholder, Carrion Crawler, Displacer Beast, Gauth, Githyanki, Githzerai, Kuo-Toa, Mind Flayer, Illithid, Slaad, Umber Hulk, and Yuan-Ti.”  Why just those?  (Because they’re not in the SRD, says the FAQ, but that begs the question.)  This is a bit of a WTF? clause.

This leads us to Section 5.5, the licensed products clause.  It still omits Web sites, which is sad.  They say fansite guidelines are coming out soon, but it took seven months for their GSL revamp to appear, so who knows when that’ll happen.  It omits software, which is sad because they’ve always produced shit software and it would be nice to have more people working on that, but eh.  No novels, no miniatures, no t-shirts.  The worst part of this is that you can’t include a licensed product in a magazine that isn’t entirely a licensed product.  This means no magazine can print one 4e article – the whole mag has to be all 4e, all the time.  I’ve worked on RPG zines before, and this is a PITA.  We’ll call this the Magazine Killer clause.  Again, this was in the previous rev too, so if not better at least it’s not worse.

Section 6 is the usual morals clause.  No sex, “excessive” violence, or real-world stuff.  Stupid and moralistic, and somewhat counter-productive…  But again, unchanged.

What’s Missing?

Well, the other big change is that they removed the remaining “poison pill” clause.  This clause basically said that “you can’t publish the same stuff under the OGL and GSL.”  In other words, if you want to create a 4e version of an adventure, campaign setting, etc. that is also available via OGL – you have to give up the OGL.   Of course, this meant that everyone with multiple product lines including OGL stuff – Green Ronin’s Freeport, for example – wouldn’t touch 4e with a ten foot pole.

Now, apparently, you could put out a “4e Guide to Freeport,” adapt existing 3.5e adventures to 4e, etc.  You can’t dual-stat; the FAQ states that, say, using Cleric as defined in the OGL inside a GSL-licensed product violates the “don’t redefine things” clause in the GSL.  That’s a little annoying – I fail to see how they have a vested interest in someone not dual-statting an adventure, for example – but it’s a minor restriction in lieu of the previous huge ass one.

Summary

There is no doubt that the two simple changes made in this version – adding a termination clause with *some* protection for the licensee and removing the GSL “poison pill” clause – have hugely improved the license overall.  It has changed from “we hate open gaming and will do everything we can to stomp it out” to “open gaming’s not for us, but no hard feelings.”

It’s still a little wonky (don’t draw a Yuan-Ti!) and has a little of the “You’re all 4e or not” flavor in the no-mixed-magazines and no-dual-statting restrictions.  But whereas the previous GSL was probably rated a 2 out of 10 in terms of desirability for a potential licensee (it really could only have been worse if it incorporated forced sodomy) this version jumps to a 6 out of 10.  It could be more open, but in the end it is a free-use license that lets you publish some things for D&D 4e with only moderate restrictions.  For comparison, the OGL is a 9 out of 10; it could only be improved by making it more future-evil proof, and the old d20 STL is a 7 out of 10, it still had morals clauses and was bossy but at least it didn’t try to tell you what you could do with your other products.

Should I Use It?

If you’re only interested in doing 4e stuff – sure.  You are officially no longer a chump to sign at the dotted line.  Rest easy tonight, for the first night in nine months.

If you do other stuff as well, especially OGL – well, you have to think about a couple things.  One, do you want to fork your R&D to include D&D 4e?  I suspect Paizo, for example, won’t spend much effort publishing 4e adventures because they are now heavily invested in Pathfinder, and as 4e is a very different beast from previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons, it would take a lot of work to dual-purpose.  But maybe Green Ronin would want to put out a “4e Guide To Freeport.”  And certainly outfits like Necromancer that just do adventures and aren’t strongly system-devoted could.  Anyway, don’t glut the stores with 4e stuff because you can now and it might make a quick buck; evaluate it according to your business strategy and focus on your core.

Two, you have to decide if the six month termination deal is okay.  On the one hand, it might be unlikely to happen, and some product types generate a lot of their revenue in the first six months.  On the other hand, this process (and the recent experience for the third party companies of burning all their old d20 books according to the terms of the termination of the old d20 STL) has made a lot of people not trust Wizards so much any more.  And if you lose your GSL licensee status (at your discretion), it’s not just your newest product you lose but anything in the pipeline.  And if your products sell well over time, six months may not be all that great.  Plus, you have to remember that if Wizards terminates your license themselves, you’re boned, no six months.  But it does offer you some legitimate business tradeoffs.

Conclusion

Producing third party supplements for Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition is now viable.  It took a long time to get here, but we have to give props to Scott Rouse, the D&D Brand Manager, for listening to the community’s complaints and making positive changes.

Mongoose Traveller Licensing Unveiled

Mongoose Publishing, one of the recent publishers of the venerable Traveller universe, has released their “Developer’s Pack” that describes licensing terms for others to put out Traveller material.  And it’s groundbreakingly liberal!  But somewhat complicated, so let me break it down.   (Direct download link)

1.  First of all, the new Mongoose Traveller rules are released under the Open Gaming License (OGL), and a complete System Resource Document (SRD) is included.  So as far as open licensing allows – go nuts!  But wait, there’s more.

2.  There is a Fair Use Policy document – actually provided by Far Future Enterprises, who owns Traveller and licenses it out – that allows you to do stuff based on all previous (non-Mongoose) Traveller versions and publish noncommercially on a Web site or whatnot.  Make copies, write programs/spreadsheets to automate stuff, whatever.  They ask you don’t directly reproduce more than a page or two of rules straight out of previous rulebooks and that you post a FFA copyright notice somewhere.  There’s some unavoidable complication here – they note that they didn’t have all the rights to some art/maps from previous editions and so technically you need that artist’s permissions for those – sad, but unavoidable.

They don’t explicitly mention the ticky things that White Wolf did in their site policy, like not being able to take advertising.

3.  There is a Traveller logo license (TLL).  You get to use the logo but you have to agree to a bunch of lame restrictions – send a form in, can’t use “Traveller” in the title, avoid naughty content (sex/violence), they can ask you to destroy your stock, the whole litany of unpleasant restrictions in most licenses (though they do note that “It should be noted that Mongoose Publishing is committed to a strong relationship with third parties using the Traveller logo and that this instruction will only be given under extreme circumstances that threaten to bring the Traveller trademark into disrepute. If in doubt, third parties may always discuss potential projects with Mongoose Publishing first.”  I’m not sure it’s worth it.

4.  There is a “Foreven Free Sector” license.  This is an interesting one.  The other licenses are basically about rules.  This one lets you use the Original Traveller Universe (OTU) intellectual property (IP)!  I wish this wasn’t so groundbreaking but it is – you can publish stuff set in the OTU – Aslan, K’kree, the Empire, and all of it, in any time period.  You have to “keep it in the Foreven sector” – you can reference all the rightness of the OTU but can only develop/change this one “sandbox” sector.   This license has a similar set of restrictions to the TLL, but in this case it might be worth it; it’s like WotC letting anyone write a Forgotten Realms book as long as it’s set in Sembia.

All in all this is a pretty cool set of licenses.  I think things like the content clauses are 1970s leftover crap, but in general a) the rules are open and b) you can use the OTU even commercially under restriction and c) you can do whatever a normal fan would do under Fair Use.  Props to Mongoose and Fast Forward for this approach!  Any company that thinks it’s not in their best interest to be open like this is either delusional or WotC.

Clark Peterson is a Flip-Flopper!!!

Just kidding, Clark, we love you.  But one of the third party RPG publishers who had been a big booster of D&D 4e, WotC, and their new licensing direction with D&D fourth edition, Clark Peterson of Necromancer Games, has announced that Necro will NOT be signing the GSL!

Clark’s a lawyer, and apparently some time with the real GSL, even though he is all about saying how Scott and Linae from Wizards are great people and trying their best and and… made him decide that it’s not an acceptable license for someone to sign on to.  He’s careful to say he’s not bashing Wizards and is working with them to fix the GSL, but for now – no signies.

Throughout this entire debate Clark has been very friendly to Wizards (giving them way too much benefit of the doubt IMO, though that may just be in public for relationship purposes) but even he’s not willing to sign this piece of garbage.  This should be a wake-up call to Wizards – not that it will be.  They lost Paizo, the people who published Dungeon and Dragon magazines.  They lost Green Ronin, who published the very first adventure for 3e.  They lost a whole list of other companies who had previously lived to put out D&D-compatible products.  They’ve proved completely deaf to any criticism of their brilliant new plan in the face of its colossal failure.

This comes after most other reputable RPG companies have also turned their back on the GSL, or decided to publish for 4e without it, and after all the initial furor when it was released.

Green Ronin Says “No” To The GSL

Well, another major company has said “no thanks” to Wizard of the Coast’s new D&D 4th Edition game system license. Green Ronin won’t be signing on – see their site post on the topic here. They sum up the main issue well -

“We had hoped to include 4E support in our plans, but the terms of the GSL are too one-sided as they stand. We certainly do not blame Wizards of the Coast for wanting to defend their intellectual property and take more control over the type of support products D&D receives. We do not, however, feel that this license treats third party publishers as valued partners.”

Unfortunately, no GSL for them means no 4e. I don’t really care since I don’t like 4e and don’t plan to play it, but hopefully in Kenzer gets some legal precedent down this won’t be the choice everyone has to make.

This truly is Wizards cutting off their nose to spite their face. When I was helping launch 3rd Edition at is premiere at Gen Con 2000, I bought a copy of Death in Freeport, the first scenario available for 3e, and it was by Green Ronin. Freeport later grew into a huge game line for them; this initial adventure got our gaming group in Memphis fired up on Freeport and 3e in general. Freeport and 3e went together like chocolate and peanut butter for us; we’d play other stuff – all the scenarios from Wizards and the other third parties that cranked into full steam with the debut of the OGL – but our characters would always come back to Freeport. Exciting times. Which apparently Wizards doesn’t want to relive.

There is no doubt that Green Ronin contributed heavily to the 3e launch and its high quality products contributed to the overall health of 3e gameplay. Slavish devotees of Wizards, no matter what their practices, will claim that can’t be *proved.* And no it can’t; economic causality is impossible to prove even if the indistry involved didn’t hide sales numbers like they were state secrets. But I lived it, with my gaming groups and with all the Living Greyhawk groups I interacted with. Wizards, you want a bigger slice of the pie, but you’re shrinking the pie to get it, and that’s idiotic. Wake up.