News Digest: BattleTech Lawsuit Dismissed, Gygax Estate Licenses Unpublished Games, Deadpool RPG Covers, and more!
  • News Digest: BattleTech Lawsuit Dismissed, Gygax Estate Licenses Unpublished Games, Deadpool RPG Covers, and more!


    Hello everyone, Darryl here with this week’s gaming news. Harmony Gold’s BattleTech lawsuit isn’t working out well for them, Gary Gygax’s unpublished gaming material may see the light of day, Deadpool pays tribute to roleplaying, and more!


    Harmony Gold’s lawsuit against Harebrained Schemes over the use of mech designs in the BattleTech video game was dismissed with prejudice. The lawsuit, which attempted to claim that mech designs from the BattleTech game releasing next week were infringing on designs from Macross and Robotech, will not only no longer be an issue for the video game, but Harmony Gold is barred from filing any further lawsuits against Harebrained for those mech designs. And I know not many people get the same joy from reading court documents that I do, but I still recommend looking at this one if you’re a long-time BattleTech and MechWarrior fan as the claims are rather silly. Especially when they can’t seem to decide which mechs are infringing what and decided that the Locust (which was based on the design of the Ostall from Crusher Joe, a show Harmony Gold has never held the rights to) somehow infringed on the design for the Zentradi Tactical Pod Glaug Commander Type from Macross (which was the designed used for BattleTech’s Maurader).


    That is not the end of the lawsuit, however. Harmony Gold also filed against Piranha Games (makers of the MechWarrior Online and forthcoming MechWarrior Mercenaries 5) and also added Catalyst Game Labs as a defendant to the lawsuit. And it seems Piranha’s lawyers may have Harmony Gold pinned in a corner. Harmony Gold had several other intellectual property lawsuits related to their Macross license recently and, in three of them, the final decision showed that Harmony Gold does not have the proper license from the Japanese rights holders to enforce a rights lawsuit in the manner they have (at least according to Piranha’s lawyers). Harmony Gold submitted a last-ditch stay until they can get documentation from Japan proving they have rights that previous American courts have stated they do not have. Piranha’s legal team filed a motion to deny the request and for summary judgment in their favor. A lot of this is complicated and this is a summary, but if you have any questions or have further information, I'll be in the comments below so post away!

    Thankfully, none of this will affect the April 24 launch of the BattleTech video game from Harebrained, nor has it yet affected Catalyst Game Labs releasing new content for the tabletop game.


    Gary Gygax’s home campaign may finally be seen by the masses, thanks to a deal between the Gygax Trust and the video game publisher-slash-crowdfunding-platform Fig…but only for video games. Fig is a different take on crowdfunding that, like other platforms, allows consumers to pledge to “pre-order” games in advance but also allows investors to seek a stake in future revenue for a game in development and has been used by game development companies like inXile, Obsidian, and Double Fine. The bad news is Alex Gygax, youngest son of Gary and CEO of Gygax Games, has rejected tabletop gaming as an appropriate medium. In an interview with Polygon, Gygax said:

    “I’ve always wanted to see them put out in the next level. Pen and paper is a dying art. Computer games, video games, they’re the next generation, the next wave of games and I’ve always wanted to see them on that new medium and I’ve always wanted to be working with someone who’s excited as I am about it.”

    That said, it would finally be a peek into the now-mythical Castle Greyhawk dungeons that Gary Gygax ran for decades in his personal games, many elements of which found their way into Dungeons & Dragons and Lejendary Adventures. Well, not counting 1988’s comical WG7: Castle Greyhawk released after Gygax’s departure from TSR and the out-of-print and now difficult to find Castle Zagyg series for Castles & Crusaders written by Gygax himself. Fig is currently accepting pitches from video game companies for titles with additional information coming later this year.


    In another classic finally coming to gaming, The Design Mechanism announced via press release a license for the Lyonesse trilogy by author Jack Vance. The press release (which, like most press releases, I unfortunately can’t link directly because it came via email but is quoted liberally in the ENWorld article above) announced a release for late 2019 or early 2020 for the stand-alone game using the Mythras System based on the Vance novels Suldrun's Garden, The Green Pearl, and Madouc. This will be the first licensed title to use the system, which is currently available as a Bundle of Holding benefitting the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


    Back in February, Marvel announced the You Are Deadpool series of adventure gamebook comic miniseries, basically a Choose Your Own Adventure style story told similar to the D&D Endless Quest line or Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf. And they’re going all-in with the idea as Deadpool writer Jordan D. White tweeted out the variant covers for the first issue based on Paranoia. Also, all the other issue variant covers, each of which is a parody of a different cover image of a classic roleplaying game (though I’m fond of the Paranoia one personally). The first issue was released to comic stores this week, with a collected graphic novel available this October.


    So Humble still has all the bundles I mentioned last week, including the Gaming Comics bundle running until April 25, the Game Studies bundle running until April 23, and the Vegas Pro Creative bundle running until April 25, but they’ve also added the Plan Your Vacation bundle just in time for the start of con season. But if you have any money left over for video games, you may want to check out GOG’s Most Wanted Games Sale, which features discounts up to 85% off on a lot of classic games including Planescape: Torment and pretty much all of the other isometric-era Dungeons & Dragons games, Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines and Redemption, the Shadowrun Returns series, and the original Gold Box games for Forgotten Realms and more. The sale runs until April 23.


    Exalted Third Edition has been out for two years now and it’s ready for a big expansion. Thankfully, Onyx Path is ready with Dragon-Blood: What Fire Has Wrought with over three hundred pages of expanded content. The book will feature expansion to the world for dragon-blooded characters as well as new rules and character creation options to play as dragon-blooded along with new traits, spells, charms, and NPCs. I’d go over all the pledge levels, but this is Onyx Path and they’ve started including charts to easily determine what you get at each level, so let’s stick to the basics. The PDF is available for a $30 pledge, the Heirs to the Shogunate companion PDF for $40, and the deluxe hardcover edition for $110 (with an at-cost print-on-demand version available at that tier or higher). This Kickstarter is fully funded and runs until Thursday, April 26.

    So, that Deadpool story seemed cool, right? Why haven’t more companies done graphic novels that work like the old adventure books? Well, Van Ryder Games has you covered with an entire line of Graphic Novel Adventures. But even more than that, these are being designed by a game company and thought of as solo games in themselves. So aside from simple pick from these options, there will be more choices to make with one of the preview images showing an overworld map to choose different destinations during reading (playing?). The series will launch with five books each in a different genre. Captive is a contemporary thriller and mystery, Tears of a Goddess is based on Asian wuxia period stories and legends, Loup Garou is a European fantasy adventure, Your Town is a classic western, and Sherlock Holmes Four Investigations is, well, Sherlock Holmes. You can get one hardcover book for $19, two for $34 (with add-ons at this level for additional books at $17 each), or the full set of five for $75. But you’ll need to hurry as this fully-funded campaign ends this Monday, April 23.

    A Dead Man’s Guide to Dragongrin is a dark fantasy campaign setting for Fifth Edition. Sidebar: Have we decided that’s our “no trademarks were harmed” D&D 5e replacement for “d20 System”? Anyway, this book is more than just a campaign setting, but also a “worldbuilding toolkit” for those who already have a campaign setting they prefer, but would like to add some gritty realism and a touch of grimdark. The 325-page book will include specific character creation rules for the setting, full details on the world and its lore, and option rules covering monsters, treasure, combat, and lots of random tables. The PDF is available for a $20 pledge, while the hardcover is available for $55. There’s also an option to add on Absolute Tabletop’s entire back catalog of PDFs for $75. This Kickstarter is also fully funded and, again, slipped under my radar so you need to hurry as it ends this Sunday, April 22.

    That’s all from me for this week! Find more gaming crowdfunding news by following our Kickstarter news tag, and don’t forget to support our Patreon to bring you more gaming news content. If you have any news to submit, email us at news@enworldnews.com. You can follow me on Twitter @Abstruse where I’ll hopefully announce a live stream on my Twitch channel very soon (or will be complaining about OBS not doing what I want), follow Gamer’s Tavern on YouTube featuring videos on gaming history and Let’s Plays, or you can listen to the archives of the Gamer’s Tavern podcast. Until next time, may all your hits be crits! Note: Links to Amazon, Humble Store, Humble Bundle, and/or DriveThru may contain affiliate links with the proceeds going to the author of this column.
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. TerraDave's Avatar
      TerraDave -
      Thanks!

      But this paragraph...

      Quote Originally Posted by Abtruse View Post
      That said, it would finally be a peek into the now-mythical Castle Greyhawk dungeons that Gary Gygax ran for decades in his personal games, many elements of which found their way into Dungeons & Dragons and Lejendary Adventures. Well, not counting 1988’s comical WG7: Castle Greyhawk released after Gygax’s departure from TSR and the out-of-print and now difficult to find Castle Zagyg series for Castles & Crusaders written by Gygax himself. Fig is currently accepting pitches from video game companies for titles with additional information coming later this year.
      WG7 was a horrible and insulting "parody" of a parody. Castle Zagyg I don't know, except that the widow pulled the plug on it, and I would guess there might be some issues on who owns what.

      And would it give us a peak into Castle Greyhawk? Maybe for marketing purposes, on the substance I would not hold my breath.
    1. houser2112's Avatar
      houser2112 -
      Battletech suit: For the comparisons on p.10-12, though you can see the design similarities, I think they're different enough to be dismissed, but I can see where they might have a case. They clearly wanted people familiar with Battletech to be able to say, "Yeah, that's a Rifleman, that's a Warhammer", etc.

      The comparisons on p.13-14, however, are frankly ridiculous. I can't say for sure what the one on the left is supposed to be (Jenner?), but whatever it is, it looks nothing like a FASA Marauder (Officer’s Pod/Glaug). On p. 14, what is clearly supposed to be an Atlas looks nothing like their Armored Valkyrie, and what looks sort of like a Shadow Hawk looks nothing like an Archer (Destroid Spartan).
    1. Polyhedral Columbia's Avatar
      Polyhedral Columbia -
      When the Gygax Scion says "Pen and paper is a dying art.", I would translate that to..."Despite my last name, I'm personally unaware of the TRPG renaissance (PF, 5E, OSR, Middle-earth RPG, Kickstarter)...and, what I really mean to say is, the video gaming industry is lucrative...that's where the big bucks are."
    1. Abstruse's Avatar
      Abstruse -
      Quote Originally Posted by houser2112 View Post
      Battletech suit: For the comparisons on p.10-12, though you can see the design similarities, I think they're different enough to be dismissed, but I can see where they might have a case. They clearly wanted people familiar with Battletech to be able to say, "Yeah, that's a Rifleman, that's a Warhammer", etc.

      The comparisons on p.13-14, however, are frankly ridiculous. I can't say for sure what the one on the left is supposed to be (Jenner?), but whatever it is, it looks nothing like a FASA Marauder (Officer’s Pod/Glaug). On p. 14, what is clearly supposed to be an Atlas looks nothing like their Armored Valkyrie, and what looks sort of like a Shadow Hawk looks nothing like an Archer (Destroid Spartan).
      The Piranha comparison images they posted...yeah, those I can kinda see maybe they didn't change the designs enough. But the ones from Harebrained? Not only do they look nothing alike outside "two-legged giant robot), they're not even matching the mechs to the designs FASA originally licensed them from. And, like I said in the article, some of them are mech designs that were based on licenses for anime series that Harmony Gold has never held.

      "As you can see here, your honor, this is an image of an Apple, as licensed by Harmony Gold. And this is the picture of the Harebrained Schemes design called 'Orange', which you can clearly see is based off of our Apple design! We have more of these, your honor, but please pay close attention to Exhibit D: 'A grape vs the International Space Station'..."
    1. Abstruse's Avatar
      Abstruse -
      Quote Originally Posted by TerraDave View Post
      WG7 was a horrible and insulting "parody" of a parody. Castle Zagyg I don't know, except that the widow pulled the plug on it, and I would guess there might be some issues on who owns what.
      WG7 was a comedy/parody adventure and, while its mandate may have been malicious (I'm not trying to defend Williams here because that's totally a thing she'd do, there's just no evidence she actually did it), most of the designers were long-time TSR employees and still friends (or on friendly terms at least) with Gygax.

      Castle Zagyg...it depends on what source you listen to what happened there. As far as I'm aware, no one's made any official statements about why it was cancelled and left out of print for so long and there's rumors of lawyers getting involved at some point.
    1. TerraDave's Avatar
      TerraDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Abstruse View Post
      WG7 was a comedy/parody adventure and, while its mandate may have been malicious (I'm not trying to defend Williams here because that's totally a thing she'd do, there's just no evidence she actually did it), most of the designers were long-time TSR employees and still friends (or on friendly terms at least) with Gygax.
      Have you seen WG7? It has nothing to do with the original, except the name. It was mean spirited and misleading marketing. As for being "friends" with EGG, why that makes the betrayal all the worse.

      The other interpretation was that it showed there was a lot of resentment against Gygax for this, that, and the other thing. But thats based on rumors.

      The fact is that "Castle Greyhawk" had nothing to do with Castle Greyhawk. 2es Greyhawk Ruins or 3es Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk would at least be closer in spirit, though none of these products actually had Gygax's input.
    1. Atlatl Jones's Avatar
      Atlatl Jones -
      A stipulated dismissal with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a) means that the parties agreed to a settlement, not that the court ruled against Harmony Gold.
    1. aramis erak's Avatar
      aramis erak -
      Quote Originally Posted by houser2112 View Post
      Battletech suit: For the comparisons on p.10-12, though you can see the design similarities, I think they're different enough to be dismissed, but I can see where they might have a case. They clearly wanted people familiar with Battletech to be able to say, "Yeah, that's a Rifleman, that's a Warhammer", etc.

      The comparisons on p.13-14, however, are frankly ridiculous. I can't say for sure what the one on the left is supposed to be (Jenner?), but whatever it is, it looks nothing like a FASA Marauder (Officer’s Pod/Glaug). On p. 14, what is clearly supposed to be an Atlas looks nothing like their Armored Valkyrie, and what looks sort of like a Shadow Hawk looks nothing like an Archer (Destroid Spartan).
      The real issue is that HG doesn't even have provable rights to the images they're attempting to enforce... They're not legally the copyright holder.
    1. Abstruse's Avatar
      Abstruse -
      Quote Originally Posted by aramis erak View Post
      The real issue is that HG doesn't even have provable rights to the images they're attempting to enforce... They're not legally the copyright holder.
      That's a separate thing and something Piranha's lawyers latched onto hard that I kind of edited down to a brief summary because...seriously, I think I wrote about 1000 words before I started editing down that section.

      The lawsuit has a few major questions at its heart, all of which have come up before in relation to Harmony Gold and BattleTech, but none of which have ever been answered because the lawsuits always got settled first. In order, the questions are:


      1. Can someone own the rights to a mech(a) design? Playmates brought this up in the lawsuit from FASA in 1996 that started this whole mess when they copied the design of the Timber Wolf (no it is not a "Mad Cat" you Inner Sphere freebirth scum!)
      2. How close do designs need to be to one another before they're infringing? We're talking about humanoid bipedal machines. They're going to have a lot more similarities than differences after a while, especially when there's hundreds of games, manga, anime, movies, TV, novels, and more all creating new ones.
      3. Does Harmony Gold have the legal authority in the United States to sue another company over these rights? Harmony Gold is a licensor of the Macross anime and related products from Bandai and Big West (and indirectly at that). They may not have the legal authority to go after infringement any more than Netflix would someone selling unlicensed Star Trek uniforms just because they have the rights to stream Star Trek. And that's if Harmony Gold even has the rights they claim they do, since they got the rights to make Robotech from a third party licensor in Japan who may or may not have the ability to sublicense the exclusive international rights they claim. Which is highly likely because of previous lawsuits over the distribution of Macross anime TV episodes and films as well as Macross merchandise and toys imported from Japan.


      To win, Harmony Gold has to get a positive answer to all three questions. To lose, they only have to miss one. And any single one of those as a "loss" opens up the Unseen to be used again completely. And the last potentially means losing the rights to Macross altogether.
    1. aramis erak's Avatar
      aramis erak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Abstruse View Post
      That's a separate thing and something Piranha's lawyers latched onto hard that I kind of edited down to a brief summary because...seriously, I think I wrote about 1000 words before I started editing down that section.

      The lawsuit has a few major questions at its heart, all of which have come up before in relation to Harmony Gold and BattleTech, but none of which have ever been answered because the lawsuits always got settled first. In order, the questions are:


      1. Can someone own the rights to a mech(a) design? Playmates brought this up in the lawsuit from FASA in 1996 that started this whole mess when they copied the design of the Timber Wolf (no it is not a "Mad Cat" you Inner Sphere freebirth scum!)
      2. How close do designs need to be to one another before they're infringing? We're talking about humanoid bipedal machines. They're going to have a lot more similarities than differences after a while, especially when there's hundreds of games, manga, anime, movies, TV, novels, and more all creating new ones.
      3. Does Harmony Gold have the legal authority in the United States to sue another company over these rights? Harmony Gold is a licensor of the Macross anime and related products from Bandai and Big West (and indirectly at that). They may not have the legal authority to go after infringement any more than Netflix would someone selling unlicensed Star Trek uniforms just because they have the rights to stream Star Trek. And that's if Harmony Gold even has the rights they claim they do, since they got the rights to make Robotech from a third party licensor in Japan who may or may not have the ability to sublicense the exclusive international rights they claim. Which is highly likely because of previous lawsuits over the distribution of Macross anime TV episodes and films as well as Macross merchandise and toys imported from Japan.


      To win, Harmony Gold has to get a positive answer to all three questions. To lose, they only have to miss one. And any single one of those as a "loss" opens up the Unseen to be used again completely. And the last potentially means losing the rights to Macross altogether.
      The answer to #1 is blackletter law - and a yes - Once it's in fixed form, copyright attaches, on any work of art. Not fundamentally an issue.
      Only 2 & 3 matter.
    1. KentDT's Avatar
      KentDT -
      Quote Originally Posted by Abstruse View Post
      WG7 was a comedy/parody adventure and, while its mandate may have been malicious (I'm not trying to defend Williams here because that's totally a thing she'd do, there's just no evidence she actually did it), most of the designers were long-time TSR employees and still friends (or on friendly terms at least) with Gygax.

      Castle Zagyg...it depends on what source you listen to what happened there. As far as I'm aware, no one's made any official statements about why it was cancelled and left out of print for so long and there's rumors of lawyers getting involved at some point.
      I was at GaryCon X a couple of months ago and attended a seminar about working with Gary put on by (among others) Stephen Chenault of Troll Lord Games, who was publishing the castle Zagyg stuff for Castles & Crusades (not Crusadors) and Jeffrey Talanian who was working together with Gary in turning his notes into the published books. Essentially Stephen said that after Gary's passing he talked with Gail (Gary's widow) and gave her the option to end the license. A few months later she did and although his company was, at the time, hurt financially by the decision he stood by her right to make it, with no hard feelings.
      Alex was also at the Con, together with his half brothers and sisters so they seem to get along. Personally I would have rather that, for Gary's legacy, they continue with the license and I'd love to see the stuff updated and put out now for 5e (or at least OSR). I missed it when it was first published, thinking I'd be able to pick up the books when the series was finished. At least I got the Gygaxian world-building books that Gary (with Jeffrey) did.
      However, we don't know what Gary said to Gail (and Alex) about his legacy and name, his IP, etc. If the people who had the license (Troll Lord Games) say that they are personally fine with how it turned out, then I think we have to accept that.
      For Gary's legacy we have the excellent GaryCon (mostly done by Luke, but as I said, Alex was there) and maybe Gail will be able to get the monument up and maybe Alex will be able to find success with this project. I hope the best for them.
    1. Deset Gled's Avatar
      Deset Gled -
      Quote Originally Posted by aramis erak View Post
      The answer to #1 is blackletter law - and a yes - Once it's in fixed form, copyright attaches, on any work of art. Not fundamentally an issue.
      Only 2 & 3 matter.
      I'm not the OP and am not overly familiar with the case he mentioned. But I took this as a reference to the issue of copyright vs design patent. You can copyright a specific mech. But protecting rights to a more general design with certain key features (e.g. the reversed knees and shoulder missiles of the Timber Wolf) would be better served by registering a design patent rather than just a copyright.

      Many of the lawsuits that I have seen about mech copyrights seem ludicrous when considered as a copyright lawsuit but might have merit as a patent design case. But I've never seen a plaintiff actually use a design patent, probably because the design patent's don't exist, and even if they did most of them would be expired by now.
    1. Abstruse's Avatar
      Abstruse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Deset Gled View Post
      I'm not the OP and am not overly familiar with the case he mentioned. But I took this as a reference to the issue of copyright vs design patent. You can copyright a specific mech. But protecting rights to a more general design with certain key features (e.g. the reversed knees and shoulder missiles of the Timber Wolf) would be better served by registering a design patent rather than just a copyright.

      Many of the lawsuits that I have seen about mech copyrights seem ludicrous when considered as a copyright lawsuit but might have merit as a patent design case. But I've never seen a plaintiff actually use a design patent, probably because the design patent's don't exist, and even if they did most of them would be expired by now.
      Also, patents are expensive and a PitA to get compared to trademarks. It's why third-party gaming products even exist: You can't copyright or trademark game rules, only the specific expression of them. But you can patent them (like Wizards of the Coast originally did for "tapping" in Magic: The Gathering). It doesn't happen very often because, well, it's expensive, it's short-term, and there's a lot of other legal aspects involved.

      That said, I don't know if a "Design patent" would work for a mech design for a game because it's not a design for an actual real-world machine... I'm not sure if there's enough established case law for it to cover the design of a game asset. My source is Wikipedia so grain of salt, but it gives the example of computer icons that can only be granted a design patent based on a real-world functional use, so it only applies to use in computer programs.
    1. Deset Gled's Avatar
      Deset Gled -
      Quote Originally Posted by Abstruse View Post
      That said, I don't know if a "Design patent" would work for a mech design for a game because it's not a design for an actual real-world machine...
      I would assume any potential design patent on a mech would be applied for with one of the many models, toys, or miniatures done using the design. I think you're correct that the implications of design patents on the "virtual" world (i.e. 3d renderings, video games, etc) haven't been completely flushed out in the courts yet. But the merchandising side of the companies should be sufficient to go that route if they chose to.

      In any case, the point stands that many of these lawsuits push the edge of what copyright can protect, where the suit would be trivial using another form of IP protection.
    1. Tranquilis's Avatar
      Tranquilis -
      I owned all of the Castle Zagyg stuff at one time. I was dubious then as to how much of the material was “original”, and how much Gygax (and others, perhaps?) added from scratch in the 2000s. Not being a huge TSR historian, I never was captivated by the mystique surrounding Castle Greyahwk, and it didn’t hold my interest enough to hold on to (especially considering the price it was going for on the secondary market). Same goes with the multi-volume set by Gygax and published by Troll Lord Games. Some of the books were interesting, but that’s about it.

      Now, with his passing and, what, another decade having passed I’d be even more dubious about how much actual, original Castle Greyhawk material we could ever glean.
    1. Lwaxy -
      Whoever thinks pen&paper is ignoring the facts. We get so many new players around here and on the websites , we just don't have enough GMs.
    1. Steven Hardy's Avatar
      Steven Hardy -
      Quote Originally Posted by houser2112 View Post
      Battletech suit: For the comparisons on p.10-12, though you can see the design similarities, I think they're different enough to be dismissed, but I can see where they might have a case. They clearly wanted people familiar with Battletech to be able to say, "Yeah, that's a Rifleman, that's a Warhammer", etc.

      The comparisons on p.13-14, however, are frankly ridiculous. I can't say for sure what the one on the left is supposed to be (Jenner?), but whatever it is, it looks nothing like a FASA Marauder (Officer’s Pod/Glaug). On p. 14, what is clearly supposed to be an Atlas looks nothing like their Armored Valkyrie, and what looks sort of like a Shadow Hawk looks nothing like an Archer (Destroid Spartan).

      None of this even matters, harmony gold was never sold the rights to the IPs, they where sold rights to sell the IPs in japan market only, when they originally bought the IP rights they where not buying IP rights they where just buying rights to sell in market place.

      every time company buys copyright you have to buy it for each market, if that is how Tatsunoko Production sold the rights they gave HG the rights to only japan market not the american market or even the rest of the world, so HG has no claim in the USA or any where else and that is why it was thrown out of court, now every compnay that has been hurt by them could counter lawsuit for past damages, sense now all those past lawsuits could be relegated.
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