4E Will there be a 4.75 a la Pathfinder?

fanboy2000

Villager
I'm not sure if it can be a trademark when it is not visible to the consumer during the course of trade (eg because it is a table in the middle of a book). WotC, in the GSL, claims very 4e-related trademarks (in clause 5.2) but the 4e layouts are not among them.

My sense is that the 4e layouts are the subject of copyright (as pictorial or graphic works).
Well, you can flip through a book before you buy it. If there is a likelihood of confusion that the layout would make a consumer think the book is a WotC book and not a 3PP, then there's at least an argument for trademark.

Any given page from a 4e book is covered by copyright, taken together. When you separate the content from the layout, things get a bit tricky. The content, the words and pictures, are certainly protected by copyright. Even if you lay it out differently, you're still infringing (at least if you don't have a exception).

But what about just the layout? What if I write all new content and just make it look like WotC product? I haven't taken a good look at them, but I suspect that the EU's strong unfair competition laws would call that palming off, a big no no.

In the U.S.? My sense is that the layout of a book would considered trade dress. Particularly if you are, in fact, using it to distinguish your products (RPG books) from others. Which is how they were using them. I can spot a WotC 4e D&D book from 50 paces. They're designed that way for a reason, so people know which books are official and which ones aren't. Maybe the GSL doesn't claim them, but I strongly suspect they haven't waived their rights to it.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Are many people actually playing 13th Age though? I heard they were having trouble with various things but not sure how accurate that will be. Delayed MM or something like that.
There were a few delays but that was all design-related and not matters of bad faith. The backers of the Bestiary and 13 True Ways have their PDFs of both and the hard copy bestiaries apparently started arriving in the past week.

Pelgrane has said that it's the most played of their games and its organised play arm seems to be rather popular. If you want to get a feel for how 13th Age is doing, I would suggest joining their Google+ group which is full of lots of good material and the fans are genuinely decent people.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Somewhere there was an interview with 4e designer Rob Heinsoo where he stated that Powers in 4e were originally going to be fewer and scale with level, but that they were basically forced for marketing purposes to design new powers for every level so they could sell splat books and power cards.

I feel like Step 1 in building 4.75 would be to go back to that original idea where each class has just a handful of powers that scale with level. Obvious exceptions would be classes with spell lists.
That's one of the reasons I think there is a fantastic character-building system to be found within the monster-building guidelines.
 

pemerton

Legend
I can spot a WotC 4e D&D book from 50 paces. They're designed that way for a reason, so people know which books are official and which ones aren't. Maybe the GSL doesn't claim them, but I strongly suspect they haven't waived their rights to it.
Are you referring to the visual appearance of the book as an item? I am referring to the tables/colours that are used to set out powers, magic items, monsters etc. These are part of the 4e SRD, and WotC certainly believes that it has intellectual property rights in respect of them. But they don't seem to me to be part of the trade marks whereby 4e is sold. There relevance is to play rather than sales.
 
Oh man, wish I could read that article!

I did originally toy with this idea, but quickly ran into a problem: Scaling all powers either creates dead levels, or a kind of power creep at each consecutive new power level. I.e., scaling all powers would require a major rejiggering of character advancement, or different powers scaling differently. Not to say it couldn't be done, but I'm not sure the end result would be a big enough improvement to be worth the time.
You'd just scale the power at the new level where it's expected to be re-trained.

So, for instance, your 1st-level encounter power would scale at 13th (gain an extra damage die or whatever). Also at 13th, you'd have the option of trading it out for a genuinely-different 13th level power. There'd be fewer powers to choose at 13th, because not re-training would a more viable/legitimate option due to scaling.

At least, that'd be my guess at how you'd implement 'scaling' in the AEDU framework. Kinda like what happens with at-wills at Epic.
 

Abstruse

Adventurer
Are you referring to the visual appearance of the book as an item? I am referring to the tables/colours that are used to set out powers, magic items, monsters etc. These are part of the 4e SRD, and WotC certainly believes that it has intellectual property rights in respect of them. But they don't seem to me to be part of the trade marks whereby 4e is sold. There relevance is to play rather than sales.
It's called "trade dress" and it's the basis with WotC/Hasbro's current lawsuit with Cryptozoic over their online trading card game resembling M:TG and M:TGO too much.
 

GrumpyGamer

Villager
There were a few delays but that was all design-related and not matters of bad faith. The backers of the Bestiary and 13 True Ways have their PDFs of both and the hard copy bestiaries apparently started arriving in the past week.

Pelgrane has said that it's the most played of their games and its organised play arm seems to be rather popular. If you want to get a feel for how 13th Age is doing, I would suggest joining their Google+ group which is full of lots of good material and the fans are genuinely decent people.
Is it possible that pelgrane "suffers" from having too many good systems? ;)

Seriously, their gumshoe games are awesome!
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Is it possible that pelgrane "suffers" from having too many good systems? ;)

Seriously, their gumshoe games are awesome!
It's funny you mention that because my first attempt at a reply made reference to the fact that, IMO, Pelgrane has the best portfolio of RPGs of any company involved in this hobby. And you're right: the Gumshoe games are awesome with more to come. :)
 

C4

Villager
You'd just scale the power at the new level where it's expected to be re-trained.

So, for instance, your 1st-level encounter power would scale at 13th (gain an extra damage die or whatever). Also at 13th, you'd have the option of trading it out for a genuinely-different 13th level power. There'd be fewer powers to choose at 13th, because not re-training would a more viable/legitimate option due to scaling.

At least, that'd be my guess at how you'd implement 'scaling' in the AEDU framework. Kinda like what happens with at-wills at Epic.
Oh sure, these were my initial thoughts as well. To demonstrate the problem I ran into, let's talk about all-damage encounter powers:

Let's say that a 1st level all-damage encounter power deals 2dX + mod, and scales up by one die at 13th and 23rd level. Everything works just peachy at 13th level, because the player hasn't started replacing his encounter powers yet -- even if the 13th level power he chooses does exactly the same thing as his scaled-up 1st level power (3dX + mod), it's an additional power he can use every encounter!

But at 23rd level, he's now looking to replace his 1st level power. And since the high-damage 23rd level power and his 1st level power both deal 4dX + mod, there's no reason to trade out -- 23rd level has become a dead level.

Now there are at least a couple of ways to resolve this problem; one could argue that no two powers should be simple linear variations of each, but I find that idea distasteful. (I want to keep homebrew power-creation simple, and I like the idea that a PC can choose all high-damage powers if he so chooses.) One could argue that 1st level powers shouldn't scale quickly enough to be on par with higher-level powers, but at that point we've simply made the game's damage numbers bigger -- PCs will still have outright weaker low-level powers, even if overall their powers deal more damage. One could argue for removing the 4-powers cap, so that PCs are never forced to replace powers. I find this last idea to be the least objectionable, but it would still require a redo of a lot of mathery that I've already done.

If you have thoughts on the matter though, I'd like to hear them. :)
 

Der-Rage

Villager
I am not familiar with the Gumshoe products, so I'm curious: would it be possible or even beneficial to integrate some of its mechanics into an ongoing 4E campaign if the players like to investigate stuff?
 

Dungeoneer

Villager
Oh sure, these were my initial thoughts as well. To demonstrate the problem I ran into, let's talk about all-damage encounter powers:

Let's say that a 1st level all-damage encounter power deals 2dX + mod, and scales up by one die at 13th and 23rd level. Everything works just peachy at 13th level, because the player hasn't started replacing his encounter powers yet -- even if the 13th level power he chooses does exactly the same thing as his scaled-up 1st level power (3dX + mod), it's an additional power he can use every encounter!

But at 23rd level, he's now looking to replace his 1st level power. And since the high-damage 23rd level power and his 1st level power both deal 4dX + mod, there's no reason to trade out -- 23rd level has become a dead level.

Now there are at least a couple of ways to resolve this problem; one could argue that no two powers should be simple linear variations of each, but I find that idea distasteful. (I want to keep homebrew power-creation simple, and I like the idea that a PC can choose all high-damage powers if he so chooses.) One could argue that 1st level powers shouldn't scale quickly enough to be on par with higher-level powers, but at that point we've simply made the game's damage numbers bigger -- PCs will still have outright weaker low-level powers, even if overall their powers deal more damage. One could argue for removing the 4-powers cap, so that PCs are never forced to replace powers. I find this last idea to be the least objectionable, but it would still require a redo of a lot of mathery that I've already done.

If you have thoughts on the matter though, I'd like to hear them. :)
Well, the idea is to get away from picking new powers, which requires a menu of new powers every other level. Make new powers a rare thing, and make normal powers scale. In that scenario, this isn't a dead level - your power gets more powerful! You can do away with the power cap too, as you'll only ever have as many powers as you are given.

Having fewer powers:
- Allows designers to make sure the powers that are left are genuinely useful
- Keeps players from drowning in a sea of choice paralysis
- Avoids the issue where future splat books introduce powers that are clearly superior to the originals
 

C4

Villager
Well, the idea is to get away from picking new powers, which requires a menu of new powers every other level. Make new powers a rare thing, and make normal powers scale. In that scenario, this isn't a dead level - your power gets more powerful! You can do away with the power cap too, as you'll only ever have as many powers as you are given.
So your solution would be to give PCs, say, one new encounter and daily power per tier instead of two?

It does create power disparity issues*, but it is an intriguing idea.

*I wouldn't want to scale all powers up at 13th, 23rd, etc., because for example a scaled-up Dominate power is much much better than a scaled-up pure-damage power.
 
So your solution would be to give PCs, say, one new encounter and daily power per tier instead of two?

It does create power disparity issues*, but it is an intriguing idea.

*I wouldn't want to scale all powers up at 13th, 23rd, etc., because for example a scaled-up Dominate power is much much better than a scaled-up pure-damage power.
I wonder if I'm missing something?

I was thinking you'd scale at the point you'd theoretically re-train, but I forgot how... odd the re-training schedule got with PPs and ED's woven in.

So, correct me if I'm wrong:

you start with an encounter at 1, get new ones at 3rd and 7th, and have your first opportunity to re-train for a higher-level power at 13th, then at 17th, 23rd and 27th (a level I've yet to reach or run for, 26 is as far as I've gone).

So you retire with 3 class encounter attack powers of 27th, 23rd and 17th level, assuming you always trade out your lowest-level power (your 1st for 13th, 3rd for 17th, 7th for 23rd and, finally 13th for 27th)

So what I meant to suggest was that a power would scale only when it would be trained out in that progression, so your 1st level encounter (only) would scale twice, once at 13th, once at 27th. Your 3rd level power would scale at 17th, your 7th at 23rd, and your 13th level power (if you traded out your 1st level power for it) would scale at 27th. And that's it, your 17th level power, for instance, would never scale.

So none of those levels or ever dead: each time you have the option of either trading-out your lower level power, or scaling it.

But, now that I think about it, that'd get wonky if you didn't follow the assumed pattern of trading out your lowest-level power. If, say, at 13th, you traded out your 7th level power, your 1st level power wouldn't scale. Hmmm. No, wait, that's not that wonky: You could, instead, scale your 1st level power 'up to 13th' at 17th or 23rd or even straight to 27th when you got there....
 

GrumpyGamer

Villager
I am not familiar with the Gumshoe products, so I'm curious: would it be possible or even beneficial to integrate some of its mechanics into an ongoing 4E campaign if the players like to investigate stuff?
Possible, but it would change the skill system you are using. You would have to give the players a currency that they can spend when they want to be better at investigating / using a skill.
 

fanboy2000

Villager
Are you referring to the visual appearance of the book as an item? I am referring to the tables/colours that are used to set out powers, magic items, monsters etc. These are part of the 4e SRD, and WotC certainly believes that it has intellectual property rights in respect of them. But they don't seem to me to be part of the trade marks whereby 4e is sold. There relevance is to play rather than sales.
I'm not 100% sure what you mean by "as an item" as that is not a phrase I'm familiar with as a legal term of art. Restricting myself to federal law, trade dress is protected by §43(a) of the Lanham Act. (15 USC §1125 see also Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 US 763)

That said, I think I understand that you're limiting your claim to the interior of the book.

I am referring to the tables/colours that are used to set out powers, magic items, monsters etc
Here's an example: A 3PP makes a new monster: A 1 Eyed, 1 Horned Purple People Eater. They use the mechanics from MMIII to create the monsters stats, and they use the same colors and layout as monsters from MMMIII. While it's my position that (if it's protected at all) it's protected by trade dress and nothing else. It's my understanding that you're claiming this is protected by copyright, not trade dress?

Certainly, I think we'd agree that wholesale verbatim copying of the statblocks in 4e's MMIII are copyright infringement. My claim that copyright isn't implicated is based on the idea that a 3PP is creating new content and simply presenting it in a way that is confusingly similar to WotC's 4e products.
 
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C4

Villager
I wonder if I'm missing something?

I was thinking you'd scale at the point you'd theoretically re-train, but I forgot how... odd the re-training schedule got with PPs and ED's woven in.
Turns out I mistyped due to not checking the character advancement table, so let's lay out 4e's encounter power schedule:

1st Level: first encounter power
3rd Level: second encounter power
7th Level: third encounter power
11th Level: fourth (PP) encounter power
13th Level: 1st level power gets retrained away
17th Level: 3rd level power gets retrained away
23rd Level: 7th level power gets retrained away
27th Level: 13th level power gets retrained away

So, correct me if I'm wrong:

you start with an encounter at 1, get new ones at 3rd and 7th, and have your first opportunity to re-train for a higher-level power at 13th, then at 17th, 23rd and 27th (a level I've yet to reach or run for, 26 is as far as I've gone).

So you retire with 3 class encounter attack powers of 27th, 23rd and 17th level, assuming you always trade out your lowest-level power (your 1st for 13th, 3rd for 17th, 7th for 23rd and, finally 13th for 27th)
Right.

So what I meant to suggest was that a power would scale only when it would be trained out in that progression, so your 1st level encounter (only) would scale twice, once at 13th, once at 27th. Your 3rd level power would scale at 17th, your 7th at 23rd, and your 13th level power (if you traded out your 1st level power for it) would scale at 27th. And that's it, your 17th level power, for instance, would never scale.
Yeah, I'm with you.

So none of those levels or ever dead: each time you have the option of either trading-out your lower level power, or scaling it.
Eh, the option to scale up a power or trade it out for a power of the same effectiveness is only debatebly a 'live' level.

But more importantly, I can't scale all powers at regular intervals without making some powers much much better than the others. To take an extreme example, imagine a 1st level daily Stun power and a 1st level daily pure-damage power. They deal ability mod and 3dX + ability mod damage at level 1, respectively, and as a result are roughly balanced. But if they're both scaled at say, twice per tier, by 30th level they deal 6dX + mod and 9dX + mod damage.

Obviously one of those powers is vastly superior to the other by 30th level. Which is why, even if we accept that the choice to scale up or trade out does indeed create a 'live' level, I don't want to just scale up every power at every decision-point. Hence my problem.
 
I would expect each power to have it's own scaling, the way at-wills do for Epic (I know they're /almost/ always +1d, but not always).

So:

Power A, level 1 daily,
blah blah, reliable
hit: 3dX+mod dam
Special: at 13th can scale to 6dX, at 27th can scale to 9dX

Power B, level daily,
Area burst 1 in 5
hit: mod dam + stun (SE)
miss: dazed (EoT)
Special: at 13th 1dX+mod Area 1 in 10 ; at 27th 2dX, Area 2 in 10.

Or something... designing powers isn't my favorite thing...

Eh, the option to scale up a power or trade it out for a power of the same effectiveness is only debatebly a 'live' level.
Either way you have a better power than you did the level before. Sounds like something.
 

C4

Villager
I would expect each power to have it's own scaling, the way at-wills do for Epic (I know they're /almost/ always +1d, but not always).

So:

Power A, level 1 daily,
blah blah, reliable
hit: 3dX+mod dam
Special: at 13th can scale to 6dX, at 27th can scale to 9dX

Power B, level daily,
Area burst 1 in 5
hit: mod dam + stun (SE)
miss: dazed (EoT)
Special: at 13th 1dX+mod Area 1 in 10 ; at 27th 2dX, Area 2 in 10.

Or something... designing powers isn't my favorite thing...
Not my favorite part of game design either. :p It's why I'll create a bare-bones selection of powers, and then point players and DMs toward the power-creation guidelines I've written!

Anyhow, you're right that the scaling works for my extreme daily vs. daily example, but when I get into scaling encounter powers -- particularly those with strong riders -- slow scaling does create dead levels.

...But I think I've cracked the problem from a different angle! Will probably post a thread about it at 4enclave and possibly here too. :)
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm not 100% sure what you mean by "as an item" as that is not a phrase I'm familiar with as a legal term of art.
It's not a legal term of art. "As a good offered for sale" is not really a legal term of art either, but would do as a synonym for "as an item".

Restricting myself to federal law, trade dress is protected by §43(a) of the Lanham Act. (15 USC §1125 see also Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 US 763)
I think there are going to be complexities in comparing trade dress of a restaurant (or other commercial service provision, like M:tG online mentioned upthread by [MENTION=6669048]Abstruse[/MENTION]) and trademarks and trade dress of goods.

For instance, if a book or magazine is sold solely in shrink wrap, then it seems to me that that must suggest limitations on the extent to which material that appears only on the interior of the book can constitute trade dress or trademarks belonging to the publisher. At a certain point, such material cannot play a role in consumers distinguishing the goods of one producer from those of another, competing, producer.

Or, from the point of view of a potentially infringing trader, at a certain point material that appears only within the interior of a book has not been "used in commerce", which is the statutory phrase that triggers liability.

Here's an example: A 3PP makes a new monster: A 1 Eyed, 1 Horned Purple People Eater. They use the mechanics from MMIII to create the monsters stats, and they use the same colors and layout as monsters from MMMIII. While it's my position that (if it's protected at all) it's protected by trade dress and nothing else. It's my understanding that you're claiming this is protected by copyright, not trade dress?

Certainly, I think we'd agree that wholesale verbatim copying of the statblocks in 4e's MMIII are copyright infringement. My claim that copyright isn't implicated is based on the idea that a 3PP is creating new content and simply presenting it in a way that is confusingly similar to WotC's 4e products.
I think it would depend on more details.

For instance, a 3PP who publishes a brochure, or single page pamphlet, or perhaps even a short product similar to those old AEG d20 "mini-adventures", which had a WotC-style monster layout emlazoned on the front or rear cover, or otherwise as a predominant feature of the product, such that a prospective consumer who picked up the product was likely to associate it with a WotC MM or similar book, might be "us[ing] in commerce any . . . symbol, or device, or any combination thereof . . .likely to cause confusion".

But if the 3PP book on its cover does not use the WotC font, layout, spine design etc; does not use any WotC logos; sells its books in shrink wrap; but on some pages of the interior uses WotC-style layouts for monsters and items (but with different fonts, let's say, and different though recognisable sword, burst etc designs to mark attack types, etc); then it becomes harder for me to see that the 3PP is violating WotC's rights. I'm not sure that it is using the relevant symbols or devices in commerce in such a way as is likely to cause confusion.

But from WotC's point of view, I would still think that they might wish to assert copyright in their tabular layout for powers, monsters, items etc.
 
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pemerton

Legend
Another way to look at the trade dress issue is by reference to this poster:



One possibility is that WotC believed that this was a trade dress infringement, but didn't pursue it.

Another is that WotC didn't feel it could successfully argue that this use of "3.5" and "Core Rulebook" in the context of selling a roleplaying game was a confusing use of words and/or symbols. If the latters is the case, I feel that the same would likewise be the case in respect of the possible use of tabular layouts purely on the interior of a "4.75" book.
 

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