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95% of you didn't need the OGL and you don't need ORC

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Pedantic Grognard
The dragon stat blocks are copyright, you can't copy it word for word.
Look, sure, back in 1853, when a Philadelphia publisher translated Uncle Tom's Cabin into German, it didn't violate Harriet Beecher Stowe's copyright, because all translation is paraphrase, and paraphrase is automatically not a "word for word" copy. The legislative reaction to that sort of thing happening was the creation of the category of "derivative works", and it accordingly has been more than a century since you could avoid copyright claims by avoiding making a "word for word" copy.

Yes, lawyers still use the cliche "copyright protects expression, not ideas". The problem for laymen is that "expression" does not mean just the literal words or images or sounds or whatever else is used by the medium. It can mean a particular concatenation of ideas.

A blue-scaled dragon that breathes lightning, on its own, is not likely to itself be enough to count as an infringement, no. That might have been in D&D first, but it's a fairly generic idea. Put it in grouping of specifically black, blue, green, red, and white dragons with acid, lightning, poison, fire, and cold breaths, the group evil, matched against a grouping of good dragons of brass, bronze, copper, gold, and silver colors, and you're going to have a judge rolling his eyes at you if you try a simple "I rewrote it in my own words!" defense.

So, sure, if you want to make something that was mechanically similar to/compatible with D&D but had mostly-different creative elements, then you didn't need the OGL. But that wasn't unknown in 2000; things like Tunnels & Trolls, the Palladium Fantasy RPG, and Role Aids* had thoroughly proved that for decades. What the release of the SRD under the OGL did was take a massive amount of D&D-specific creative work (mostly in the spells, monsters, and magic items), and made that available for use.


*Role Aids' first legal entanglement was a trademark suit from TSR, not a copyright claim. That suit was settled with a specific agreement on how Mayfair would use the AD&D mark to indicate compatibility. Its second legal entanglement was also not copyright, but because Mayfair, as it admitted in court, violated the settlement agreement from the first case. Even then, the court was pretty obviously looking to only impose something like a de minimis judgment against Mayfair, and what actually killed Role Aids as an independent line was TSR buying the line from Mayfair.
 

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masdog

Explorer
There’s more to it than not copying it word for word. Copyright doesn’t just protect against duplication, if also protects against derivative works. And no one is really clear on how that applies to RPG mechanics.
I don’t know if I would go that far. While there are still some questions, there was at least one case (DaVinci vs Ziko) that involved copyright infringement of a game with role playing mechanics. And it was found that copying those mechanics was not infringement.

But there are still questions around the limits of this, especially in regards to a system as complex as a TTRPG, that haven’t been answered. And I will leave it at that since I am not a lawyer…
 

Clint_L

Hero
The OGL wasn't a trick to create the DM's Guild years later...but it was a trick to try to A) make the D&D rules the de facto OS for a huge swathe of RPGs, and B) make folks worry that WotC had more ownership of those rules than they actually did, or do.

I hope someone does take Hasbro to court over a rules ownership issue...because we will see how fast they fold rather than face a judgement that very likely would not go their way. And that would kill the myth of the OGL.
 


rcade

Hero
The OGL wasn't a trick to create the DM's Guild years later...but it was a trick to try to A) make the D&D rules the de facto OS for a huge swathe of RPGs, and B) make folks worry that WotC had more ownership of those rules than they actually did, or do.
I was there on the OGF-L and OGF-d20-L mailing lists where the OGL was born in 2000. I wouldn't call it a trick when Ryan Dancey came right out and said that the OGL and the SRD were being offered because of WOTC's strong belief that it would bring more players to D&D and sell more copies of the PHB, DMG and MM. Even if the OGL was used on non-SRD games, Dancey said it would help D&D because the overall growth and financial health of the gaming community would benefit the market leader.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I was there on the OGF-L and OGF-d20-L mailing lists where the OGL was born in 2000. I wouldn't call it a trick when Ryan Dancey came right out and said that the OGL and the SRD were being offered because of WOTC's strong belief that it would bring more players to D&D and sell more copies of the PHB, DMG and MM. Even if the OGL was used on non-SRD games, Dancey said it would help D&D because the overall growth and financial health of the gaming community would benefit the market leader.
Yeah, Dancy was NEVER coy about the purpose.
 

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
I was there on the OGF-L and OGF-d20-L mailing lists where the OGL was born in 2000. I wouldn't call it a trick when Ryan Dancey came right out and said that the OGL and the SRD were being offered because of WOTC's strong belief that it would bring more players to D&D and sell more copies of the PHB, DMG and MM. Even if the OGL was used on non-SRD games, Dancey said it would help D&D because the overall growth and financial health of the gaming community would benefit the market leader.

One of the reasons why I trust 2000 WotC far, far more than 2023 WotC. The mailing list discussion talked these things over, I'm pretty sure we even discussed ideas like simply reprinting the entire SRD verbatim and selling it and concluded that while it was certainly permitted, it would be unlikely to sell (although I know Mongoose, at least, gave it a try!). Relying purely on my terrible memory, there was even talk at the time about the omission of experience rules and creating characters and how that while it was intended players would pick up a PHB to do that, it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibilty to simply replace those with our own versions.
Then the FAQ explained things and expressly mentioned multiple things being allowed that the 1.1 covering letter now says were not intended.
The general D&D public may not have thought of these things, but yes, it was certainly open enough if you asked at the time.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Honestly, I've always known that what I create and publish never needed the OGL at all, I used more for audience acceptance and more of a marketing tool. I have never published an adventure that included OGC monsters, all my my monsters are custom. Almost all the rules supplements I put out are subsystems that doesn't replace anything in the OGL, it fills a hole where nothing did before. Everything I create is custom. Now when I published the Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG) as an imprint under Rite Publishing, they published it OGL and it had more reasons to do so. I create for Starfinder now, and nothing in Starfinder is 3e SRD. Because my most current project is a Spelljammer supplement with custom ships and setting - I don't think 2e Spelljammer is OGC, thus 5e Spelljammer isn't either. Still the Dungeon Master's Guild is where I'd normally sell it, and they aren't accepting 3PP D&D products until this OGL thing is resolved. So even if I don't need the OGL, I still cannot sell it at the DMs Guild, so I have to wait for this to resolve only due to DM's Guild's current policy.
 
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Greggy C

Hero
Still the Dungeon Master's Guild is where I'd normally sell it, and they aren't accepting 3PP D&D products until this OGL thing is resolved. So even if I don't need the OGL, I still cannot sell it at the DMs Guild, so I have to wait for this to resolve only due to DM's Guild's current policy.
You can't sell it on the Drivethru section either? That is rough. You should try it on itch.io ?
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Actual legality and being in the right is secondary in the legal system here. The threat of a lawsuit comes with a threat of legal fees that can destroy most people outright no matter how in the legal right they are. A terrifyingly large chunk of our economy depends on this.

The OGL was a promise not to hit you with a SLAPP suit like in the good old days.

Last week, WotC got one of those chalk bags like gymnasts used and started publicly taking practice swings.
 

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