The GSL Is Finally Released

So even though I’m on vacation, I can’t help but post that the new D&D 4e Game System License (the license they’re using instead of the old OGL for 4e) has been released.  Here it is

There’s a bunch of downloadable docs; the GSL itself, the new SRD (system reference document), and more.  Here’s the summary of each.

GSL – You have to send in an “acceptance card” to use the license.  No products to be published before October 1.  The license can be changed at will by Wizards.  You have to use their new logo on licensed products.

Licensed products may NOT  be any of the following: web sites, minis, character creators, “interactive products,” reprint any material from the books (so no “power cards”), refer to any imagery or artwork, or be incorporated into anything not fully licensed – so no magazine articles!  That last one is a bit of an unpleasant surprise, I guess it’s a play to make people still use Dragon and Dungeon despite their “high-tech” ghettoization onto Wizards’ site.  Death to fanzines!  And Kobold Quarterly, and…

They kindly say you can continue to publish under the OGL (duh, that’s anyone’s legal right), but also you can “convert” your material to the GSL after which  you can’t publish stuff in the same line (“as reasonably determined by Wizards”) under the OGL.  If you’re a licensee you can’t publish anything that features “the same or similar title, product line trademark, or contents” as a licensed product.  The contents thing may be the real hook here, so no rebranding of Freeport as something else and reusing material.  (Or, by this clause, reusing art across lines, which is a big deal for most third parties; they reuse art liberally in their lines.)

Then they have their quite retarded content standards, worse than the old Comics Code.  No depicting nudity in text, wouldn’t want that!  Anyway, no sex, “excessive” violence, or endorsing/disrespecting any RL group.

It finished up with a number of “toe the line!” clauses – a licensee may not challenge the validity of any part of the license, for example.  And you get to pay all of Wizards’ legal fees if they feel like suing you.  And you admit that you breaching anything causes Wizards “irreparable harm” that a court of law isn’t sufficnet to remedy so they can do X, Y, and Z to you.

People will happily say it’s within their rights to do, and so it is.  But as a businessman myself, companies that care about their partners don’t make agreements totally one-sided.  This is definitely not a “be our partner” type of agreement.  We don’t make our corporate contracts this one-sided and we make a lot more money than Wizards.

SRD – it’s not a SRD like the old one that actually listed rules; instead it is mainly a list of tables, words, etc. you are allowed to use.  It mentions some severe limitations:

  • You can add on but not redefine.  So in your licensed product, you can’t change anything about the core definition of Athletics, just add some new use to it.
  • You can use applied mechanical results – not that a license needs to say this, it’s clear from prior law you can’t restrict this, but whatever.
  • You can make citations to parts of the D&D books.  Also allowed by law, but fine.
  • You can make new rules that “reflect the influence” of the core rules.  OK, now I’m getting concerned – all of this is pretty much within your legal rights even as not a licensee, but including it here is pretty much saying “do it without this license and it’s legal action time.”

Also, it’s so specific – “‘here’s a huge list of words you can use, but nothing else” – it’s going to be hard to maintain and follow, I think.  I bet there’s already accidentally overlooked terms that you “shouldn’t use”.  Essentially, every power’s name has to be listed in here, for every class, race, monster, etc. or it’s off limits.  Weirdly, e.g. “Claw” is listed under every single monster that has it.

Unsurprisingly, everything about their “points of light” setting is excluded from the SRD.  You can use all the funky little icons that appear in monster stat blocks now at least.

FAQ – the GSL doesn’t cover fansites, a limited fan site license will be forthcoming… sometime. 

It clarifies that you can’t redefine any terms or do anything related to character creation, including describing alternate methods for ability score generation.  So no “beefed up rolls for a Dark Sun type campaign world” or the like.

It could be worse.  It’s certainly not unheard of in terms of a semi-draconian licensing license.  But I can still regret their repudiation of open gaming, it won’t be in anyone’s best interest long term. 

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5 responses to “The GSL Is Finally Released

  1. There’s lots of good discussion on the Paizo and Enworld boards. Even some folks who were pro 4E are backing down.
    There’s the referring to artwork clause. People are wondering why succubus is considered part of Wizard’s IP. And the list pretty much continues with draconian measures.
    From what I’ve heard most of the established publishers are scratching their heads and thinking they’re kidding right?
    On the bright side, the GSL pretty ensures that 3.5 will have a much longer shelf life.
    Best Joke so far: The Core Books were dedicated to Gary Gygax, the GSL is dedicated to Lorraine Williams.

  2. Got some links for my and others’ edification? (I’m back but have 24 hours before I fly out again, sigh, so not much time for surfin’/searchin’.)

  3. Pingback: Wizards is Buckling on the GSL « Geek Related

  4. Pingback: Wizards Releases Revised GSL - Is It Better? « Geek Related

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