GSL & SRD -- Comments, Questions, and Hopes
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  1. #1

    GSL & SRD -- Comments, Questions, and Hopes

    I posted this on WOTC but I surf ENWorld more and consider it a more reliable source of intelligent conversation, so here it is...

    I should first say I was one of the first critics of 4.0 and still reserve some harsh complaints about WOTC practices in the past 6 months. They have admitted many mistakes and the GSL and the SRD is the end of a very long wait for many of us.

    I have a personal interest in this considering I am a publisher and my 3.5 product which took two years to build and test was released only two months ago. So we have felt like the rug was pulled out from under us despite positive reviews and encouraging first month's sales. We understand that moving to 4ED is financially the right choice despite the vocal--but minor--opposition.

    On the surface, there have been a lot of knee-jerk reactions to the GSL, even from me...but I took a breath and looked it over, and I feel there are ways to create a distinct, original setting within 4ED without having to compromise. I invite anyone to the table and I hope I am right in these determinations:

    --Although you cannot alter, define, or redefine entries, this does not stop you from removing them altogether. If you don't any of their races, create your own batch. You might not be able to use the word elf, else it could confuse your entry with theirs, but perhaps you could create a new group of fey-based creatures. People within the setting may call them elf but the book my not give them the official title.

    --From the previous point, you could remove all classes that are magic-based and create a setting that is low or absent of magic. You could then take a few rare abilities and reference them as feats. The SRD does imply you could recreate abilities based on those in the books. You could create an all new Wizard class, just not use the name, if you so desire. Plenty of words in the English language.

    --The reference document is just that, therefore it lists those terms you can call upon and those you can't...but look at it closer. Sure, some monsters are copyrighted, but certain others can't be. Look at demons. There has been some flak around the idea that 3PP products could not have demons. I think this is incorrect. You could have demons as the name is not copyrighted but just not the demons and the fluff created by WOTC.

    --There is also no stipulation you cannot add certain science-fiction elements to a setting. Their mention of a non-fantasy SRD seems to imply a D20 modern 4ed coming soon. But what of techno-fantasy games? I think we are good on this. Shadowrun may not fit with that idea, but I think techno fantasies like Final Fantasy should be ok.

    --Remember, you can still add new abilities, paragon paths, maybe even create a whole new rule that is applied to classes we have no thought of. As long as wizard is still a wizard, who cares if there are new rules to expand on them?

    --And I don't think they are saying you can't have a company website or a website advertising your product, just that you cannot create some interactive flash-game 4ed website.

    I am just saying its not all bad. If I am right on these points, I think we can make our setting work. Lets not all freak out over this until we have had a chance to read them all through and understand the meaning of the words rather than assume Scott and the others are plotting the end of the 3PP industry. I still have reservations about 4.0 and had hoped there would be more freedom with the GSL, but since we can't close our eyes and wish for it, we have to make do with what we have.

    If I am totally off base on these assumptions...then I will be sad.

  2. #2
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    The question you have to ask is: how much do you trust Wizards to keep the GSL around? Because once it is gone, that product you made likely cant ever be published again. Why? Because if you use the GSL you can NEVER (even after the GSL is terminated) make an OGL version of that product.

  3. #3
    That assumes some nefarious evildoers rubbing their palms in giddy delight about how their wicked plans have been so perfectly set.

    So on that, I believe you are jumping the gun. In the end, they don't own your setting, so the worst they can do is terminate your license. Nowhere did I get the impression they would chase a company down for abandoning 4ED and going to another system. I am fairly certain WOTC did not create a "no take backsees" rule, lest we have all fallen into tall grade school

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    Quote Originally Posted by DiasExMachina
    That assumes some nefarious evildoers rubbing their palms in giddy delight about how their wicked plans have been so perfectly set.
    Or they release 5e and have no 3PP support. At which time they terminate the GSL for everyone. Read 6.1 and 6.2 carefully.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by DiasExMachina
    That assumes some nefarious evildoers rubbing their palms in giddy delight about how their wicked plans have been so perfectly set.

    So on that, I believe you are jumping the gun. In the end, they don't own your setting, so the worst they can do is terminate your license. Nowhere did I get the impression they would chase a company down for abandoning 4ED and going to another system. I am fairly certain WOTC did not create a "no take backsees" rule, lest we have all fallen into tall grade school
    Actually, it presumes that there will, eventually, be changes in staff at WotC. Past history indicates that such changes can significantly change the outlook on licensing/open gaming and that a license could be be withdrawn.

    Frankly, if not for Scott Rouse and Linae Foster, I don't think there would even be a GSL. Take them away, and who knows how long the license lasts. There are certain high level individuals at WotC that do NOT want any sort of open license.

    Remember, and this is KEY to the publishers looking at this right now, there is no OGL to fall back on here. Everyone knew that the d20 STL could be changed or eliminated, BUT you could still publish product X under the OGL doing nothing more than removing the d20 trademark symbol. If the GSL is pulled, the publisher is well and truly screwed.

    Looking at the license as is, I have a hard time imagining Green Ronin, Mongoose, AEG, or Paizo jumping in with both feet. Even Necromancer Games is hesitating now. It is completely clear that all they want you to make is adventures. If you make anything else you are completely locked into this license with that product or product line. The above are the major publishers that have supported 3.X with a variety of products that were out in distribution to be seen in game stores and even in major bookstores. These are the publishers you want supporting your game system. The smaller .pdf publishers really aren't going to help (and really, I don't see how they can hurt) your products.

    I'd say more, but I should shut-up now...

    Patrick

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    Quote Originally Posted by Orcus
    The question you have to ask is: how much do you trust Wizards to keep the GSL around? Because once it is gone, that product you made likely cant ever be published again. Why? Because if you use the GSL you can NEVER (even after the GSL is terminated) make an OGL version of that product.
    Or else what?

    Clearly the GSL says what you are saying. But, what is the penalty?
    Say I publish the Book Of Things That Go Boo under the GSL. I sell it with moderate success for three years and then WotC terminates the GSL. Then I simply ignore the the surviving terms of the GSL and publish the Book Of Things That Go Boo under the OGL.

    What happens?

    They terminate my license under the GSL? Hard to do since they have already terminated the GSL for everyone.

    Obviously I'm not gonna get invited to the party when it comes to the 5th edition 5SL. But that is a big assumption there, and there would probably be plenty of ways around that anyway.

    Could they sue for damages? What would they present as the damage to them? Perhaps that is a scary enough bluff to get the job done. But am I ignorant of something of more substance?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BryonD
    Or else what?

    Could they sue for damages? What would they present as the damage to them? Perhaps that is a scary enough bluff to get the job done. But am I ignorant of something of more substance?
    Well, the license seems to say that if they sue you for damages you agree to pay their legal costs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PatrickLawinger
    It is completely clear that all they want you to make is adventures.
    Except, of course, you really need to be able to include full statblocks to make good adventures, and you can only do that for 100% original material. You want your kobolds to be Shifty like the Wizards kobolds? Sorry, you need to put a "See the 4e Monster Manual" reference in there.

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  9. #9
    Y'know, "full stat blocks" aren't always needed. The first TSR modules just had hp for individual critters in the original G, D, S, and T series. 4e is nowhere near 3e's complexity in the stat block.

    It's an inconvenience to DMs, sure, but it shouldn't really interfere with cool products.

    I'm just saying...

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by MerricB
    Except, of course, you really need to be able to include full statblocks to make good adventures, and you can only do that for 100% original material. You want your kobolds to be Shifty like the Wizards kobolds? Sorry, you need to put a "See the 4e Monster Manual" reference in there.

    Not happy.
    Sounds like the intent there is to keep someone from doing something like World's Largest Dungeon, which includes every monster in the SRD, and thus doing an end-run around the "Can't reprint the monster manual", by arguing that you're just including the stat blocks for the monsters in the advanture....

    And, of course, as you note, this means that 3rd party adventures are automatically more annoying than WOTC adventures, since you won't need constant page flipping with a WOTC adventure.

    "Do I want to play the one where I need to look up all the monster abilities and how they work, or do I want to play the one where everything I need to run the encounter is printed right in front of me? Hm ,hm, hm..."

    Honestly, looking at this, I think the only reason it exists at all is that WOTC announced back in '07 that 4e would "have an open license", and since they announced this to potential competitors, failing to produce one might have exposed them to some corporate liability for possibly defrauding competition. (For example, suppose Microsoft promised that the next version of Windows would include feature X, and other companies made plans around that, and then the next version didn't Feature X.) So they kept working until they came out with a license which makes it very hard to produce products of the same quality and utility as the ones WOTC can make.

    Of course, we may all be misinterpreting this license. But you'd think that after waiting an extra six month, the license would be crystal clear. This is one reason why keeping the license secret during development was a Really Bad Idea. The OGL was widely adopted in part because the development process was public and these kinds of questions and concerns were asked, answered, and dealt with before the license was released.

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