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D&D 4E 4E boon or bust for Old School support?

Maggan

Writer of The Bitter Reach
Valiant said:
Orcus, one option (if you did want to make a few OSRIC modules) would be to make them 100% OGL compliant and then send them over to WOTC to take a look at.

They would ignore the manuscript. It is a stated stategy of WotC not to get involved on judging the legality of third party publications. That responsibility rests solely on the third party publisher.

Andf I believe that Orcus, if anyone, is aware of what WotC will and won't do when it comes to the d20STL and the OGL.

/M
 

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T. Foster

First Post
Philotomy Jurament said:
Orcus, what are your thoughts on producing OGL adventures that could be played with 1E rules without using OSRIC at all? (That is, publish under the OGL, use OGL terms, et cetera, but present the material in a "1E friendly" manner.)
I'm curious about this as well, since Goodman Games has released 2 products doing exactly this (OGL products with obviously AD&D-derived statblocks and advertised as "1E" versions, but with no explicit indication of what that actually means). Do you consider those products risky in the same manner as XRP's OSRIC-compatible products? If not, why not?
 

You're right, Matt, I'm not Valiant. :)

I've got to say that I'm extremely bored with the "is OSRIC legal?" question.

I'm grateful for the benefit of Clark's opinion, and I'd just like to add that US law is about as relevant to me as the law of Botswana or Peru.
 

Orcus

First Post
This is not legal advice, but I see absolutely no problem with doing what was proposed above (OGL adventures using 1E terms also contained in the SRD with no OSRIC at all). Just refer to the monster names and to class names and things like that. Leave out the 3E stat blocks. And you've got yourself a 1E compatible module without any of the problems of OSRIC. You've always been able to do that with the OGL. In fact, you could even probably put a "compatible with the 'old school' edition of the world's most popular roleplaying game" on your product (but I'll leave that up to you). I've considered doing this. Of course, you might have some trouble with some things, like saving throws, but you could get around most of that. The good thing is that 3E gives you MORE than you need to do 1E. It would be near impossible to do 3E stuff if only the 1E content was in the SRD, but doing 1E stuff with a 3E SRD is way more doable. The only problem remains telling your fans that this is a 1E product. That is the hard part. You could do that several ways, of course. First, make it look like a freaking AD&D module a la Goodman. Second, get the word of mouth out.

I absolutely think you can do that.

Clark

This is not legal advice. Hire a lawyer.
 

Orcus

First Post
Actually, if you are a US company and you create and distribute products in the US then US law is relevant to you in that you would be sued in the US by a US corporation named Wizards of the Coast. Granted, there may in the end be a choice of law issue. And international questions of copyright will likely arise. And your case may be removed to federal court. There are all sorts of issues. But the fact that the source OSRIC document was created by a company or person in another country does not provide an unassailable shield for domestic companies who choose to use it and its contents and refeer to it on their products that they either create or distribute here. So this idea that "hey, I'm not in the US none of this applies to me" is a dangerous idea. because we arent only talking about your creation of OSRIC we are also talking about other people's use of it. US law will very much be relevant to them.

Clark
 


Mythmere1

First Post
I should also say that even though I got the ball rolling on the OSRIC project, I'm not particularly invested in it. I don't play straight AD&D, I play a hybrid mishmash that takes elements from 2e and even things I liked from 3e. My real goal right now is to focus gamers from all the editions on the fact that the core of fantasy gaming is not a matter of rules. Rules are at the periphery - imagery, creativity, and interesting tactical situations are the true heart of all the editions.

Necromancer Games is one of my three favorite 3e publishers along with XRP and Goodman Games. I own the first Rappan Athuk module, 2 Tome of Horror books, Necropolis, and probably other NG products I don't recall at the moment. What NG does is to write modules that challenge player skill rather than merely the numbers on the character sheet. In other words, for example, you need to interact with the situation before you get a search check (or you get a bonus for actually doing the right thing, at the very least). That's what distinguishes the products of these publishers from d20 drek that bypasses player skill to only challenge the numbers on the character sheet.

The result is material that's usable in other editions, because NG takes the time to focus on the imagery, creativity, and interesting tactical situations. The numbers and stats are useless for other editions, but the meat of the module is still there; you can buy the author's creativity no matter what edition you play. The relative value is less than it is for a 3e player, but there's still value.

So, quite the opposite of what Valiant's saying, I think NG is doing great stuff. It's got "flaws" for the 1e community because it's for a different rule set (and mainly my problem with this is the necessary word-count for 3e stat blocks), but the core of fantasy is still there, and that core is high quality.

We all need to focus on the creative core of fantasy gaming that's the same for all the editions, not on the peripheral matter of the specific rules.
 

T. Foster

First Post
Orcus said:
I've considered doing this.
Depending on what the product is*, I'd very likely buy it :)

*not Rappan Athuk, because I already own the d20 version and wouldn't want to buy it again, but I'd be very tempted by some of your other well-regarded early modules that are now oop (Tomb of Abysthor, etc.)
 

Mythmere1

First Post
Orcus said:
Actually, if you are a US company and you create and distribute products in the US then US law is relevant to you in that you would be sued in the US by a US corporation named Wizards of the Coast. Granted, there may in the end be a choice of law issue. And international questions of copyright will likely arise. And your case may be removed to federal court. There are all sorts of issues. But the fact that the source OSRIC document was created by a company or person in another country does not provide an unassailable shield for domestic companies who choose to use it and its contents and refeer to it on their products that they either create or distribute here. So this idea that "hey, I'm not in the US none of this applies to me" is a dangerous idea. because we arent only talking about your creation of OSRIC we are also talking about other people's use of it. US law will very much be relevant to them.

Clark

This is correct. I think P&P is actually referring to the ins and outs of personal jurisdiction, venue, choice of law, and possibly forum non conveniens. Parts of the matter would almost certainly play out under British law rather than American, even though things would start under American law.
 

Mythmere1 said:
This is correct. I think P&P is actually referring to the ins and outs of personal jurisdiction, venue, choice of law, and possibly forum non conveniens. Parts of the matter would almost certainly play out under British law rather than American, even though things would start under American law.

Well, actually I was trying to avoid discussing any of those. ;) They're nobody's business but mine and/or anyone who tries to bring an action against me, which for various reasons that you understand because you've seen some of the correspondence, is vanishingly unlikely.

You and I know what we think. Now we know what Clark thinks too.
 


Orcus said:
This is not legal advice, but I see absolutely no problem with doing what was proposed above (OGL adventures using 1E terms also contained in the SRD with no OSRIC at all)...I've considered doing this.
Clark, I would *love* to see something like this from Necromancer. Like Mythmere, I'm a big fan of your products, despite the fact that I'm using a different edition. If you do decide to do this, how about Sword of Air? :D
 

Orcus

First Post
Sorry PJ, thats just not our focus. Or plan is to make sure 1E feel stays in the current version of the game. Just like JG always adapted and adopted the most recent rules, that is our same approach. I dont want to fragment the market and confuse things. But like I said, I understand the desire. :)

Clark
 


Goblinoid Games

First Post
Why settle for the 1e "feel" when you can grab that 1e bull by the horns and ride the real thing all the way to the dungeon?

Just sayin. 'Cause that's the way I roll. :D
 
Last edited:

Jack Daniel

Engines & Empires
I have a vested interest in the legal questions brought up by this issue, since I'm getting ready to publish my first couple of modules (for Labyrinth Lord, not OSRIC, but the issues are the same).

I find the Napster analogy brought up earlier to be both fallacious and misleading. It's far more accurate to say that old-school analogue systems are rather a lot more like video game emulators.

You cannot copyright algorithms (the very definition of what an algorithm is makes such an idea nonsensical), and algorithms form the foundations of all software (to say nothing of game rules -- you can't copyright the underlying processes themselves, even if you can trademark the name and presentation). This is why console emulators, so long as they are not distributed with any required BIOS roms, are not illegal of and in themselves. Only copyrighted rom images (including both games whatever OS software might be required to operate the emulator) are illegal. This hasn't stopped clever programmers from creating emulation software (and even "cloned" hardware), and from writing entirely new roms that contain no copyrighted IP and can thus be played on emulators, or even dumped to carts or burned to CDs, without any legal issues whatsoever. Newly invented roms are never illegal; but distributing a copyrighted BIOS rom needed to run a program that emulates a console most certainly is.

The upshot of this? If I were to scan and sell (illegally) copies of the 1e Player's Handbook and modules U1 and Q1, that would be tantamount to selling illegally cloned consoles (with BIOS roms included) and also selling illegal copies of Mario Bros. and the Legend of Zelda. (In point of fact the 8-bit NES is one of those systems that does not need a BIOS rom, and so a n NES emulator is legal -- but a Mario or Zelda rom image is still quite illegal.) If I were to write my own AD&D 1e compatible module, and release it in 100% compliance with the OGL (whether I mention its OSRIC compatibility or not), that's the same as if I were to program my own 8-bit platform or adventure game that just happened to come in a format that could be run on an NES emulator.

So the question is, are books like OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord more like NES and Atari 2600 emulators, or more like, say, Atari 5200 and PSX emulators? That is, do they contain only algorithms, or do they contain both algorithms and IP (in the way that the later sort of emulators contain both alorightms and copyrighted BIOS roms when operational)? I would have to answer that OSRIC and other such games are indisputably more like the former, especially when they themselves have been created under the terms of the OGL.

What IP is there for WotC to sue over? Name and presentation? The phrase "Dungeons & Dragons" is never mentioned, and you can't copyright the idea of an RPG (or else there never would've been "Tunnels & Trolls"). Elves, dwarves, and halflings? I think the Tolkien estate might have a better chance of winning that suit. Magic Missile? Clerics and Paladins? Experience levels? Those things are either in the SRD or allowed under the broader OGL. No, folks, I think the old-school retro-clones are quite safe from a legal standpoint.

Although it certainly doesn't hurt that at the moment, we're still too unimportant for WotC to bother with.
 



dmccoy1693

Adventurer
Publisher
Crothian said:
What is Labyrinth Lord?

A retro-clone of BD&D. It features an OGL setting so a 3rd party publisher can write setting material about some area in their setting.

I find the Napster analogy brought up earlier to be both fallacious and misleading. It's far more accurate to say that old-school analogue systems are rather a lot more like video game emulators.

You cannot copyright algorithms (the very definition of what an algorithm is makes such an idea nonsensical), and algorithms form the foundations of all software (to say nothing of game rules -- you can't copyright the underlying processes themselves, even if you can trademark the name and presentation). This is why console emulators, so long as they are not distributed with any required BIOS roms, are not illegal of and in themselves. Only copyrighted rom images (including both games whatever OS software might be required to operate the emulator) are illegal. This hasn't stopped clever programmers from creating emulation software (and even "cloned" hardware), and from writing entirely new roms that contain no copyrighted IP and can thus be played on emulators, or even dumped to carts or burned to CDs, without any legal issues whatsoever. Newly invented roms are never illegal; but distributing a copyrighted BIOS rom needed to run a program that emulates a console most certainly is.

The upshot of this? If I were to scan and sell (illegally) copies of the 1e Player's Handbook and modules U1 and Q1, that would be tantamount to selling illegally cloned consoles (with BIOS roms included) and also selling illegal copies of Mario Bros. and the Legend of Zelda. (In point of fact the 8-bit NES is one of those systems that does not need a BIOS rom, and so a n NES emulator is legal -- but a Mario or Zelda rom image is still quite illegal.) If I were to write my own AD&D 1e compatible module, and release it in 100% compliance with the OGL (whether I mention its OSRIC compatibility or not), that's the same as if I were to program my own 8-bit platform or adventure game that just happened to come in a format that could be run on an NES emulator.

So the question is, are books like OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord more like NES and Atari 2600 emulators, or more like, say, Atari 5200 and PSX emulators? That is, do they contain only algorithms, or do they contain both algorithms and IP (in the way that the later sort of emulators contain both alorightms and copyrighted BIOS roms when operational)? I would have to answer that OSRIC and other such games are indisputably more like the former, especially when they themselves have been created under the terms of the OGL.

What IP is there for WotC to sue over? Name and presentation? The phrase "Dungeons & Dragons" is never mentioned, and you can't copyright the idea of an RPG (or else there never would've been "Tunnels & Trolls"). Elves, dwarves, and halflings? I think the Tolkien estate might have a better chance of winning that suit. Magic Missile? Clerics and Paladins? Experience levels? Those things are either in the SRD or allowed under the broader OGL. No, folks, I think the old-school retro-clones are quite safe from a legal standpoint.

Thank you. The napster analogy really needs to be put down like Ol' Yeller.
 


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