D&D 5E Too cheap to hire a lawyer, so I'll ask gamers...

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
...what could possibly go wrong?

Anybody have any amateur, total guesswork opinions about the relevance of the OGL to online character creators? Where's the cut-off in terms of what content can be included?

For example, could I use the names of the official sub-classes, and even the names of the abilities, but not the text-blocks of description? Or is all the sub-class stuff off limits?

Backgrounds?

Names of spells?
 

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SunGold

First Post
IANAL but...

Is this something you're going to try to monetize in any way? Even just having ads on the page to pay hosting costs? If so: I'd stay well clear of anything outside the OGL.
 

seebs

Adventurer
I am pretty sure that if money is involved in any way, failing to get competent legal advice is the worst idea. Short of, say, getting it and then acting contrary to it.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
...what could possibly go wrong?

Anybody have any amateur, total guesswork opinions about the relevance of the OGL to online character creators? Where's the cut-off in terms of what content can be included?

For example, could I use the names of the official sub-classes, and even the names of the abilities, but not the text-blocks of description? Or is all the sub-class stuff off limits?

Backgrounds?

Names of spells?
There were online character creators that cropped up when 5th Edition first launched, and I remember cease and desist legal letters being served.

:(
 


G

Guest 6801328

Guest
No, I wasn't planning on monetizing it.

So it seems like the two key missing things are backgrounds and feats.

And of course any of the new spells and sub-classes from EE and SCAG.

Maybe not worth the effort it if it can't be complete.

Really kind of a shame; seems like good online tools would help the brand, not cannibalize it.
 

AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
...seems like good online tools would help the brand, not cannibalize it.
Good online tools would likely get special license from WotC to include closed content, rather than use the OGL, or would include fair amounts of original material to compensate for the "thin points" of the SRD's contents.
 

Even Hero Lab does not have a license, as they only offer the SRD for their digital tools. However, they did make theirs capable of having extra options, like items not in the SRD, added in manually by the user, so that you can still make a complete character.
 

No, I wasn't planning on monetizing it.

So it seems like the two key missing things are backgrounds and feats.

And of course any of the new spells and sub-classes from EE and SCAG.

Maybe not worth the effort it if it can't be complete.

Really kind of a shame; seems like good online tools would help the brand, not cannibalize it.

Just make a tool that allows freeform content to be added/remembered when necessary. As a bonus, that will make it easy to use with homebrew. If I want to use Steeldragons' Warlord fighter subclass, I should be able to annotate that my 7th level ability is "Into The Ground" (IIRC): "as bonus action, knock Large or smaller enemy prone automatically on a successful hit." Boom, done.

Tools should be mostly content-agnostic in order to be widely applicable.
 

indemnity

First Post
Actual ex-copyright/patent attorney here. Have worked on board games and copyright issues with apps vs content creators (I crushed many dreams or thieves, depending on POV). However, I am not your attorney.

I would have charged you about USD2000-5000 for advice and assessment, 10k per year to see your product published.

This is a long post as it includes deliberate language. I have tried to break it up into smaller sections

You cannot violate Wizards copyright.

Any text included in a published source book is not allowed. If you are found out, especially if you are making money, you will receive one of (1) a polite take-down notice (this seems to occur), (2) a C&D, (3) a DMCA notice, (4) a civil suit variant of some type. Any property you create based on Wizards material, will be owned by them, plus can included punitive damages (approx. 4x what you made, plus their Hasbro lawyer costs).


However, you mention the OGL (also include various SRD)

Titles are not protected by copyright. Names are not protected by copyright. Lots of written text isn't protected by copyright. However, most of it is.

The doctrine of merger says that where a rule has only a handful of useful ways of being expressed then where the expression is little more than the writing down of the method without substantive creativity in expression, then even the written form of simple rules cannot be protected by copyright.

Most (but not all) of the 5e mechanics, and even the names, are a variation of the OGL, hence, free to use (with attribution). E.g. spells have distance, chance-to-hit, duration, damage, elemental effects, status effects. All spell mechanics are just variations of the first written spell.

Anything in the OGL, SRD or another games SRD is open to use. See http://www.5esrd.com/home for an example of multiple sources combined to re-create much of D&D 5e.

Other modes of publishing
If the product you create is available for free, you get more leeway in regards to "fan art" and "derivative works". At worst, you get a polite email and/or take-down notice.

Certain perks are allowed under the conditions of the Wizards Fan site policy. However, they will be more restrictive in regards to implementing Wizards material via third parties (such as re-building 5e with OGL/SRD+3rd party games).

I have read that people who approach Wizards with a created property will often be instructed into what editing is required (don't expect a quick response). As opposed to putting your project on the app store, where a single rule violation gets the whole project removed.

Summary
You can use all:
  • race titles
  • class titles
  • sub-class titles
  • ability titles
  • spell titles
  • background titles and mechanics
  • item names
  • mathematical equations
  • game rules found in freely licensed material (most combat, ability checks, spells mechanics, class/racial/background/feat modifiers, basically "the game")
  • the names 5e, fifth edition, or variants thereof

You can use some:
  • your own flavor text
  • substitution of your own alternate text for copyright text
  • other games freely licensed material where attributed correctly (e.g. Pathfinder)
  • spell mechanics (most fall under doctrine of merger)

You cannot use:
  • background features or descriptions
  • feat text (excluding OGL/SRD)
  • other text not included in the OGL/SRD, including spell effects
  • D&D, and variations thereof
  • an ampersand (&) in your game title, subtitle in a way that resembles D&D
  • images you do not have permission to use
  • music and sound effects you do not have permission to use
  • a format that could be considered "passing off", so no colours, fonts, non-textual element arrangements including break-out-boxes, backgrounds or schema as found in the books

Final point
At any time, Wizards LLC can attack you, even if you are in the right. At that point you will need to defend yourself. They will be very nice and very apologetic, however, it is usually a matter of whomever has the most money.

I still say make your character creator, but just aim to be conservative in what you include.
 

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