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WotC D&D Brand Content - What can be used?

shadow

First Post
I have been getting interested in 'Old School Revival' games recently. I started to think of ways to convert some of my old 2nd Edition material to Castles and Crusades and found myself adding rules to emulate the NonWeapon Proficiencies and characters kits rules prevalent in 2nd edition. Pretty soon, I began thinking that it might be best to write my own game. With that thought in mind, I have toyed with the idea of doing a Kickstarter campaign to get it published.

However, I'm worried that a lot of the material that I would like to include would infringe on WotC's intellectual property. Therefore, I'm wondering about the feasibility and legality of some of the content:

1. I know that certain monsters (Mind Flayers, Beholders, etc.) are considered intellectual property of WotC. Does the copyright only include the name and images (and physical description) or are game statistics also copyrighted? In other words, if I were to include a 'Brain Eater' or an 'Eye Beast' and include statistics very similar to the 1st or 2nd edition Mind Flayer or Beholder, would I be violating copyright?

2. I've become a fan of the SpellJammer and Planescape settings. Could I include something very similar to SpellJammer's magical space galleons or Planescape's cosmology or are such ideas too close for comfort?

3. Since my original idea stems from wanting to incorporate some AD&D 2nd edition material in Castles & Crusades, I have thought about ways to convert certain 2nd edition kits. Could I include classes and optional rules that are obviously based on AD&D 2nd edition rules, provided that they are not a direct copy from the source books?

I sorry about these rather naive questions, but before I even think about going any further with my idea I want to make sure that it's feasible and legal.
 
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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I'm not a lawyer...

1. I know that certain monsters (Mind Flayers, Beholders, etc.) are considered intellectual property of WotC. Does the copyright only include the name and images (and physical description) or are game statistics also copyrighted? In other words, if I were to include a 'Brain Eater' or an 'Eye Beast' and include statistics very similar to the 1st or 2nd edition Mind Flayer or Beholder, would I be violating copyright?
If you include the same stats (under the same rules/mechanics), that's probably an infringement. If you include similar stats, under different rules, no problem. WotC cannot copyright eating brains, nor floating balls, nor squid-men, nor eye-stalks.

2. I've become a fan of the SpellJammer and Planescape settings. Could I include something very similar to SpellJammer's magical space galleons or Planescape's cosmology or are such ideas too close for comfort?
Space galleon: go right ahead.
Planescape cosmology: better not. Unless you change all the names.

3. Since my original idea stems from wanting to incorporate some AD&D 2nd edition material in Castles & Crusades, I have thought about ways to convert certain 2nd edition kits. Could I include classes and optional rules that are obviously based on AD&D 2nd edition rules, provided that they are not a direct copy from the source books?
It all depends on a judge's interpretation. But there will be no judge involved until there's money involved. So unless your Kickstarter brings in $10,000, all you're going to get from WotC is a cease-and-desist letter.
 

Warunsun

First Post
There is a pretty easy answer to this. You can do whatever you want in your home campaign including cut & pasting rules or material directly from someone else's work. You just can't sell it, post it on the Internet, or distribute it outside of your gaming group. If you want you can even produce 360 page books for your group if that is your thing. Enjoy!
 

trancejeremy

First Post
There is a pretty easy answer to this. You can do whatever you want in your home campaign including cut & pasting rules or material directly from someone else's work. You just can't sell it, post it on the Internet, or distribute it outside of your gaming group. If you want you can even produce 360 page books for your group if that is your thing. Enjoy!

He's thinking about a Kickstarter, so it's not just home use.


Anyway, OP, the premise behind retro-clones is that you can't copyright mechanics, only specific wordings of them. So as long as you re-write things in your own words and don't use the same proper names, it should be okay.

So you can have flying eyeballs, just not beholders. A giant planar city, just not Sigil or the Great Wheel.
 

Warunsun

First Post
He's thinking about a Kickstarter, so it's not just home use.
Holy Moley. I missed that part. There is a pretty simple answer in that case: Don't do it! There are too many kickstarters going around eating up the available money with famous and proven names attached to them. Plus D&D 5th edition is coming out very soon. Also, Castles & Crusades has rules in the Castle Keeper's Guide already that cover many of the missing mechanics from the PHB. On top of that C&C has several popular fan downloads out there for free that add-in these kind of things. Do some googling and you will find this stuff.

Here at EnWorld is a C&C character sheet styled for the Second Edition Green Sheet.
 

Halivar

First Post
I agree with Warunsun. Before you jump into adding yet another game to the current nostalgia-driven OSR bubble (and it's definitely a bubble, IMHO), I would suggest taking a look at some of the existing OSR games and make sure they don't already fit the bill.
 

Nellisir

Adventurer
Unless you've got this thing written, and have some kind of proven track record, a Kickstarter is not the way to go. Write and put it up for pdf and POD if you must. The scope of your project sounds really big, and the OSR community has accumulated its fair share of Kickstarter failures, enough to make them wary. People are not going to line up to throw money at you.

I've been doing Swords & Wizardry material on my blog for a bit over two years now. I'm not hard-core old school like Gorgonmilk or Grognardia, more of a tinkerer interested in 3e options in an old-school ruleset, but people seem to like it. I did a free product last year that gets a lot of positive comments. I just put out my first "pay" product, a small zine collecting material from my blog. To date I've sold two pdfs and 19 print copies, and that's about as much as I expect to do. I'll probably get a bump when I put out another issue, but 20 copies was more than I expected to be honest. It's possible I made enough to cover costs, but barely (I have a lot of cardstock, envelopes, & etc left over from projects years ago, so I haven't been figuring those into costs.) Printing 20 copies of the cover, on paper I supplied, cost $15.

Also, there are a lot of OSR games available now. A LOT. There's a good chance that there's one out there that does what you like and you can piggyback off of. If you like Castles & Crusades, I'd suggest OSRIC. OSRIC has a large, established audience and a very lenient license for indicating compatibility, so you can say "Compatible for OSRIC" in ways that you can't say "Compatible with Castles & Crusades".

Also, and kinda more important, if you're concerned you don't understand the legalities, you need a lawyer or to do a lot more reading. Read the licenses line by line and make sure you understand them.
 

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