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Chaosium Releases Basic Role Playing SRD

Chaosium has released the Basic Roleplaying System Reference Document (SRD).

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The Basic Roleplaying SRD is based on Basic Roleplaying, the simple, fast, and elegant skill-based percentile system that is the core of most Chaosium roleplaying games, including Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, SuperWorld, and others.

Under the provisions of the Basic Roleplaying Open Game License (OGL), designers can create their own roleplaying games using the Basic Roleplaying rules engine, royalty-free and without further permission from Chaosium Inc.

For further details and to download the SRD document, see our Basic Roleplaying SRD information page.

This uses an opening gaming license, but not THE Open Gaming License (the commonly used one published by WotC nearly 20 years ago). It is based on similar concepts, but this uses the BRP Open Game License. A notable difference is that instead of "Product Identity") (which in the original license typically includes trademarks, proper names, a handful of iconic monsters, etc.), this license used "Prohibited Content" which expands that to include mechanics, or "substantially similar" mechanics to some selected features of the rules system. For example, part of the prohibited list includes:

"Augments: The use of one ability — whether skill or characteristic — to augment another ability of the same or a different type, in a manner substantially similar to those of the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha rules."

Obviously you can make similar mechanics without using this license, but if you use this license you agree not to use mechanics similar to those in the prohibited content list.

The prohibited content list also contains Le Morte D'Arthur, and the Cthulhu Mythos.
 
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Russ Morrissey

Comments

M.T. Black

Explorer
It’s looking to be increasingly irrelevant, to be honest. Chaosium can’t really control other BRP spinoffs already in use by other companies, and putting out a document like this at this time seems a bit desperate. I’m not really sure who will use it or, indeed, who its aimed at.
I'm old enough to remember people making the exact same argument about the SRD that WOTC released back in 2000. People complained that it was a "license to breath" and that WOTC couldn't stop people from using the protected terms.

As we all know, the D&D SRD became a successful and important plank of the industry. There was no real cost to companies complying with it, and by doing so it gave consumers an easy baseline for system compatibility. When people see Odyssey of the Dragonlords 5e, Midgard 5e, Primeval Thule 5e, and Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e, for example, they know exactly what they are getting. I personally buy a lot of 5e compatible stuff because I know there will be a low learning curve on it, and I can re-use the stuff I like in my #dnd campaign.

You mention the BRP spinoffs already out there. Which ones are those, exactly? It would be good if there was some way to easily identify them all. I dunno - perhaps they could put a logo on the cover or something...
 

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My opinion is lot of players would rather to use the same rules.

* Who would use this system? Lots of franchises of dark urban fantasy, of course.
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
I'm old enough to remember people making the exact same argument about the SRD that WOTC released back in 2000. People complained that it was a "license to breath" and that WOTC couldn't stop people from using the protected terms.

As we all know, the D&D SRD became a successful and important plank of the industry. There was no real cost to companies complying with it, and by doing so it gave consumers an easy baseline for system compatibility. When people see Odyssey of the Dragonlords 5e, Midgard 5e, Primeval Thule 5e, and Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e, for example, they know exactly what they are getting. I personally buy a lot of 5e compatible stuff because I know there will be a low learning curve on it, and I can re-use the stuff I like in my #dnd campaign.

You mention the BRP spinoffs already out there. Which ones are those, exactly? It would be good if there was some way to easily identify them all. I dunno - perhaps they could put a logo on the cover or something...
Delta Green, Mythras, Renaissance, OpenQuest, Legend...to name a few. All have their own markets, and none require the BRP logo. Much of the Mythras line is adopted from products that were originally billed as ‘BRP’ games, but switched because the Mythras brand gives them more support. There is a major new adaptation of Jack Vance’s Lyonesse coming out soon this year....it uses the Mythras rules, but people will buy it because they know it’s basically an adaptation on BRP.

The BRP licence has come too late for 3rd parties to really notice, and the situation is entirely unlike anything to do with the D&D SRD.

Incidentally, I’m old enough to remember AD&D from way before D20/OGL.....
 
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Dreamscape

Crafter of fine role-playing games
I'm old enough to remember people making the exact same argument about the SRD that WOTC released back in 2000.
You can't compare the WotC OGL v1.0a with the BRP licence which introduces clauses and discretionary powers to shut down product. The OGL has a crystal-clear paragraph listing precisely which elements are IP, with no ambiguity.

As for the 3.5E SRD - hundreds upon hundreds of pages of content from the D&D core books, supplements, modern, etc., including many unique and original items which are copyrighted and/or trademarked by WotC. Even the OGL v5.1 has 400 pages of content. The BRP version has 19 pages of generic rules. Like TrippyHippy, I'm old enough to remember when BRP was in its first 16-page edition. Perhaps this is intended to be an expanded SRD for that little booklet from 1980?

There's no point having a system reference document if the user has to make up 90% of the system. An SRD is supposed to be a common point of reference, not just a vague idea to hang a logo on.

There have been many logo licence/ OGL combinations in the past, to my knowledge there have never been any all-in-one examples because the risk of allowing 3PPs to publish under your logo without oversight are simply too great. Nevertheless, the BRP document could have been a logo licence and included an SRD based on the full BRP 4E rules. It wouldn't be an OGL (but then neither is this), and Chaosium would have to approve any manuscripts before publication. More work than an OGL, but if you want to tie your trademark to the licence that's the only way to protect it. Less work than this licence, because as can be seen on the BRP Central forums potential developers are already asking a barrage of questions for clarification. Alternatively, forget about the BRP logo and just produce the BRP 4E SRD. Some people might use it as-is, but everyone will know it's "BRP". Chaosium could set up a BRP version of the Jonstown Compendium and Miscatonic Repository to encourage community content creation, keep control, and take a cut of the profits. At the end of the day, if you fear the freedom of the OGL, you don't have to make your work available through that route.

Note: I have just noticed this is a full logo rather than the more commonly seen "compatibility" logo. That strikes me as very risky from Chaosium's viewpoint. It makes anything published under it look like an official Chaosium product.

As others have said, the most confusing thing about this isn't the licence itself, obscure though it is - but why it was seen as the best way of re-awakening the BRP brand out of all the many options available.

Of course, at this point it's clear Chaosium isn't interested in reasoned discussion of their deeply flawed document ("If you don't like it, go pound sand" ??), so the above is just whistling in the wind.
 
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JonL

Villager
We concluded we couldn't necessarily rely on the legal validity of the WotC OGL being upheld by a court for anything other than in conjunction with WotC's IP. That's a key reason why we created our own license for our system.
This is absurd on the face of plain reading of the OGL, and decades of heterogeneous use in the industry (to say nothing of precedents in software going back to the 80's that giants like IBM honor).

Section 5 explicitly speaks to original content, and NOT A SINGLE WORD of the OGL restricts its application to fruits of WizCo's tree.

To assert that y'all have some deeper insight into it's meaning and implications than the entire rest of the industry makes Chaosium look arrogant and ignorant.

I respect and understand some of the choices that went into this license, even if I disagree or dislike them. Don't peddle this dumpster fire of an idea though, MOB. You're better than that.
 

This is absurd on the face of plain reading of the OGL, and decades of heterogeneous use in the industry (to say nothing of precedents in software going back to the 80's that giants like IBM honor).
Our legal advice (including review of relevant case law) is that the WotC OGL may not necessarily be upheld by a court for anything other than in conjunction with WotC's IP. Which is why we decided against using it. No doubt you could get a lawyer with a countervailing legal opinion, and that's fine.
 


M.T. Black

Explorer
Those who are interested in the OGL may enjoy the following. It's an interview between Peter Adkison and Ryan Dancey that was posted up on the Gen Con channel just a few weeks ago:


Toward the end of the interview, they spend some time discussing the why and how of the original OGL license. Tellingly, Ryan says he encountered "off the scale" hostility to the idea of the OGL.
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
Those who are interested in the OGL may enjoy the following. It's an interview between Peter Adkison and Ryan Dancey that was posted up on the Gen Con channel just a few weeks ago:


Toward the end of the interview, they spend some time discussing the why and how of the original OGL license. Tellingly, Ryan says he encountered "off the scale" hostility to the idea of the OGL.
As I pointed out before, the D20 OGL really has very little in common with this BRP document. Different market, different time, different goals.
 


Thats interesting. I just quickly checked it --

"All trademarks, registered trademarks, proper names (characters, deities, place names, etc.), plots, story elements, locations, characters, artwork, or trade dress from any of the following: any releases from the product lines of Call of Cthulhu, Dragn Lords of Melniboné, ElfQuest, Elric!, Hawkmoon, HeroQuest, Hero Wars, King Arthur Pendragon, Magic World, Nephilim, Prince Valiant, Ringworld, RuneQuest, 7th Sea, Stormbringer, Superworld, Thieves’ World, Worlds of Wonder, and any related sublines; the world and mythology of Glorantha; all works related to the Cthulhu Mythos, including those that are otherwise public domain; and all works related to Le Morte d’Arthur. This list may be updated in future versions of the License."

Do the terms "BRP" or "Basic Roleplaying" appear in any of those books? It seems unlikely that it wouldn't, but if it does it looks like it qualifies as a "trademark... from any of the following".

(I mean, obviously they're giving you explicit permission to put it on the cover in the form of that logo).
Yes, we give explicit permission for use of the BRP logo and trademark in the OGL. The required legal copy also specifically identifies us as owning the BRP logo and trademark, which implies use, as well.
 


Lucas Yew

Explorer
Note that the hostility came from within WotC, not legitimate contractual questions from potential users.
Why am I not surprised... (Hint: Ha$bro) And what kind of user-gamer would resist such a free deal?

Like, that OGL is essentially its developers' oath saying they won't ever pull a Lorraine Williams on potential fan works derived from the license, commercial or not, as long as you don't mess with PI designated proper noun and some more minor stuff. Considering how brutal the lawyers in the States are notorious for, the OGL was a game changer, no wonder.

While nowdays the even better CC-BY-SA (or even more lenient CC variants) exists, the OGL continues to be my personal gold standard of roleplaying game publishers' goodwill.
 

M.T. Black

Explorer
Note that the hostility came from within WotC, not legitimate contractual questions from potential users.
If you listen to the chat with Chris Pramas, toward the end he discusses his experience with the OGL. He notes both the hostility toward it from within WOTC but also some from third-party game makers.

As a related aside, Chris Lindsay has said that it took him 4 years to persuade WOTC to create the DMs Guild. I can testify firsthand that there was a LOT of hostility toward the DMs Guild in the early days from various sources. Many people were simply furious that it existed (and some still are). Even if they weren't planning to release or buy stuff on it.

 

Dreamscape

Crafter of fine role-playing games
I seem to remember some 3PPs not being too happy with the DM's Guild and similar programmes due to the copyright issues, but it has undeniably taken off big-time with the fan publishers. So much so that it's getting a bit tricky digging out the good stuff, but still. I also remember a little unhappiness from the Traveller 3PP community that they'd have to go that route with Mongoose Traveller 2E instead of the OGL and logo licence they'd been used to with 1E. That resulted in the Cepheus Engine, which now has a large user base.
 


Sunsword

Adventurer
If you listen to the chat with Chris Pramas, toward the end he discusses his experience with the OGL. He notes both the hostility toward it from within WOTC but also some from third-party game makers.

As a related aside, Chris Lindsay has said that it took him 4 years to persuade WOTC to create the DMs Guild. I can testify firsthand that there was a LOT of hostility toward the DMs Guild in the early days from various sources. Many people were simply furious that it existed (and some still are). Even if they weren't planning to release or buy stuff on it.

Obviously, either those publishers overcame those feelings or were replaced by other publishers. What I'd like to know is why would I choose the BRP OGL over the Legend OGL? No, I can't use "Compatible with BRP" but I can create a "D100 Powered RPG" for people to use akin to the "5E Rules" logos that can be made.

I don't see how anyone expects people to follow the BRP OGL when rules can't be trademarked. I think Chaosium has made the same mistake WotC did over 4E.

I think Chaosium would have been better to not release the BRP OGL and simply stick to their Community Content Platforms than to channel the previous Chaosium management team's blunders and foster hostility amongst their fans. 5E owes a lot to the OGL, the OSR that used it for a base, and for learning from the conflict the GSL created amongst its fans. An honest BRP OGL could have been as good for CoC & Pendragon as the OSR has been for WotC embracing all editions and servicing them with PDFs and POD products.

Finally, would Green Ronin Paizo exist without the OGL and would Pathfinder exist without the GSL?
 

Obviously, either those publishers overcame those feelings or were replaced by other publishers. What I'd like to know is why would I choose the BRP OGL over the Legend OGL? No, I can't use "Compatible with BRP" but I can create a "D100 Powered RPG" for people to use akin to the "5E Rules" logos that can be made.
The game that BRP came from, Runequest, was not even the first percentile-based system published. That honor goes to Boot Hill in 1975. And then there was Chivalry & Sorcery in 1977. Runequest was 1978. And then another fairly big player for that time, Rolemaster first came out in 1980. So there are other ways to do a d100 system without having to slap any logos on it.

This may be a discussion for another thread, but I am now very curious if there were issues and/or conflict between Chaosium and ICE (publisher of Rolemaster) back in the early 80's over the similar mechanics? After all, for a while there, Rolemaster and the Tolkien-licensed Middle-Earth Roleplaying (MERP) were much bigger in the market.
 

Sunsword

Adventurer
The game that BRP came from, Runequest, was not even the first percentile-based system published. That honor goes to Boot Hill in 1975. And then there was Chivalry & Sorcery in 1977. Runequest was 1978. And then another fairly big player for that time, Rolemaster first came out in 1980. So there are other ways to do a d100 system without having to slap any logos on it.
And you cannot trademark game systems. The just appears to be a huge gaff to me.
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
The game that BRP came from, Runequest, was not even the first percentile-based system published. That honor goes to Boot Hill in 1975. And then there was Chivalry & Sorcery in 1977. Runequest was 1978. And then another fairly big player for that time, Rolemaster first came out in 1980. So there are other ways to do a d100 system without having to slap any logos on it.

This may be a discussion for another thread, but I am now very curious if there were issues and/or conflict between Chaosium and ICE (publisher of Rolemaster) back in the early 80's over the similar mechanics? After all, for a while there, Rolemaster and the Tolkien-licensed Middle-Earth Roleplaying (MERP) were much bigger in the market.
I think this is true, but there was more to the BRP system than just being percentile. Opinions may differ, but I think the scope of RuneQuest’s design at the time elevated the game and, in it’s stripped down version was arguably the strongest of the ‘first wave’ of RPG systems to come through the initial years of RPG design. In Worlds of Wonder, we also have to acknowledge BRP as the first genuine attempt at creating a universal, generic system.

I’ve no problem with Chaosium trademarking BRP, although they’ve already done this with the BRP Rulebook (the so called 'Big Gold Book’). The problem as I see it is the attempt to create an ‘open licence’ for the rules when a) it isn’t open, and b) the system is already openly used under a multitude of other names.
 

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