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5E Homebrew Question About Legal Matters

Sotik

Villager
I am working on a homebrew PDF that I will be handing out to players who join my game. I made a world for a book I wrote long ago, and have decided to change up some of the races to better fit with my world. To set the record straight, I do not plan on publishing this book, I will only be handing it out to players who wish to play in my game. They will still be required to get the core rule books for classes, spells, feats, rules, and all that good stuff. The only thing I am adding from the D&D PHB are the races as I am going to be changing them for my world.

My legal question is, is this okay? Since I am going to only hand it out to players who already own the books, does this fall into a white area, or since I am going to be giving out information from the book is it a black area? Or is it a gray area?

I've looked around on google and found topics on OGL, SRD, Open D20, but nothing that really relates to my situation since I am not making a whole new game, or publishing this. To me, it's only for personal use and would be no different than someone using my copy of the PHB to make a character, though I am going to have races in this PDF. Problem is, I am going to be giving this out online since I run my games on Roll20, and I have no control over what someone does with it, and I guess it could be seen as making copies and handing them out.
 
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Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I am working on a homebrew PDF that I will be handing out to players who join my game. I made a world for a book I wrote long ago, and have decided to change up some of the races to better fit with my world. To set the record straight, I do not plan on publishing this book, I will only be handing it out to players who wish to play in my game. They will still be required to get the core rule books for classes, spells, feats, rules, and all that good stuff. The only thing I am adding from the D&D PHB are the races as I am going to be changing them for my world.

My legal question is, is this okay? Since I am going to only hand it out to players who already own the books, does this fall into a white area, or since I am going to be giving out information from the book is it a black area? Or is it a gray area?

I've looked around on google and found topics on OGL, SRD, Open D20, but nothing that really relates to my situation since I am not making a whole new game, or publishing this. To me, it's only for personal use and would be no different than someone using my copy of the PHB to make a character, though I am going to have races in this PDF. Problem is, I am going to be giving this out online since I run my games on Roll20, and I have no control over what someone does with it, and I guess it could be seen as making copies and handing them out.

Important point #1: I AM NOT A LAWYER. Take everything I say with a grain or six of salt.

1. You say you aren't publishing the document, but you are providing it in PDF. Which means there is absolutely nothing to prevent your players or their spouses/SOs/kids/pets/houseplants from distributing it. Keep that in mind. I know you are, just keep doing it.

2. The OGL and SRD lay out what parts of the core rulebook be used without legal complications. Use that as your guide.

3. From the little you'd describe above, you have nothing to worry about anyway. Your own world fluff obviously isn't copyrighted by WotC, and assuming it isn't directly ripping off another IP (a desert world filled with giant sandworms and spice mines with noble houses and psychic nuns for example), it's all yours. Modifying races isn't a problem either, subject to the above, but honestly there are so many variations of the concept of "elf" (did you know that in German, the same word is used to describe an elf and a goblin, and that word is "kobold?"), it would be hard for anybody to prove you stole their particularly flavor. Be careful if you're using the goofier ones, though, like the tieflings and dragonpeople and whatnot.

I think you're fine.

P.S. why not throw it up on the DMs Guild when it's done? You've put the work into it.
 
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Sotik

Villager
Important point #1: I AM NOT A LAWYER. Take everything I say with a grain or six of salt.

1. You say you aren't publishing the document, but you are providing it in PDF. Which means there is absolutely nothing to prevent your players or their spouses/SOs/kids/pets/houseplants from distributing it. Keep that in mind. I know you are, just keep doing it.

Yeah this is my biggest concern. If I was to print out a book, and let players use it at my house it would be no big deal since I am just letting them use my personal copy. However, if I made a book using D&D stuff and started handing out copies at comic book stores, I know I could get in trouble if it became a big enough of a deal. I guess I will just have to strongly stress to my players not to distribute the PDF no matter what.

I had also planned on using Norse mythology for a lot of my world. Elves will be alfar, dwarves will be dvergar and so forth.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
If you’re worried about somebody else distributing your work without your permission, that’s on them. You won’t get into trouble because somebody took your personal home brew and distributed it.

That said, from what you said, it doesn’t sound like it would matter anyway. Unless you have the D&D logo on it or have copy/pasted text from WotC’s books, it sounds like it’s all your own stuff anyway. Depending on the actual text, you might not even need an OGL.
 

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