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Games Entertainment

Where Daemons and Dragons Collide 246

The Free Software and Open Source movement is infectious. While the software industry has been rocked by Linux and the GPL, the ideology is flowing over into other industries, as well. The D20 System is the stand-alone game system behind the long-awaited Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Wizards of the Coast VP Ryan Dancey is on a mission to release the system as an open standard, and bring the Open Gaming movement to the forefront of the market.

In a quick question-and-answer session on the Wizards of the Coast website, Ryan goes into the bits and pieces of his idea, paying homage to Richard Stallman and the Free Software movement as the basis for his crusade. He makes it rather clear that people will be able to write their own modules and game systems using the D20 System, and sell them on their own, without permission from Wizards of the Coast.

Like computers and caffeine, Dungeons and Dragons is a geek staple. The chances are good that geeks who aren't 'clued in' to the Free Software movement may get their first impression from reading a paragraph about it in a RPG manual. For the system to arrive on store shelves, though, it needs support from individual stores and distributors. The good thing is that they're excited about this, too. I recently spoke to Tony Kautz at Bridgetown Hobbies and Games, an RPG shop located in Portland, Oregon.

Slashdot: What was your first impression of the 'opening' of the D20 System?

Tony: I think it is a really good idea. The reason why Second Edition and Second Edition Revised did well is because they were based on the First Edition, which had a lot of resource material available. When they change the rules to the D20 system from the one they're using currently, a lot of their previous statistics won't be usable. Now that they've opened it up for other people to make supplements using their rule system, it'll make resource material a lot more available and a lot less expensive, because they'll have to compete with competitors with their own rule system.

Slashdot: Do you think that your store would carry D20-compatible modules and home-grown games using the system?

Tony:Yeah. We'll probably carry just about anybody that we can get a hold of. Some companies are too small to use distributorships, and so they have to do direct, like via mail order or online, but everybody else we will. We're pretty open to any manufacturer that comes along.

If you build it, they will come. One of the key reasons that Dungeons and Dragons is so popular is because you're limited only by your imagination. Experienced gamers thrive on being able to make their own choices and doing things their own way. Sounds like Linux system administration 101, doesn't it?

Needless to say, Open Source software developers think that the extension of the Open Source ideology into different industries is a fantastic idea. Downtime developer Justin Wheeler shares his thoughts with us: "The whole concept of keeping things open is the way most business should have been from the beginning. Imagine if Einstein kept the theory of relativity private? We'd not be able to work on it, or build on it. When thoughts are kept within a small group/society, others don't have a chance to work on them. If everyone has a chance to help at it, the company may find something that they missed. Companies often fear they're going to lose money if they give out their trade secrets. If Coke gave away their recipe, do you honestly think I'm going to brew up my own batch of Coke when I'm thirsty?"

Cooperation and a Laissez-Faire approach from Wizards of the Coast may make the D20 System the most popular approach to Open Gaming the world has ever seen. Until the boxes hit the store shelves, we'll just have to wait and see how successful Ryan Dancey is in promoting the ideals of Free Software and Open Source in the RPG arena.

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Where Daemons and Dragons Collide

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  • IANAL, but from the OGL:

    2.5. Patents and Trademarks


    2.5.1. You agree not to seek to obtain a Trademark or any similar restrictive right to any portion of the Covered Materials contributed by others.

    2.5.2. If you are contributing material that you hold a patent, trademark, or similar restrictive right to, You agree that this License also provides a world-wide, perpetual, royalty free License to use that patent, trademark or other restrictive right in conjunction with the Covered Materials to any person who comes in to possession of any copy of the Covered Materials.

    2.5.3. Excluded from the provision of Section 2.5.2. is the following exception: If you are the Contributor of a trademark used in the title of the work, you may restrict the use of that trademark in the title of the work to versions of the work that are exact duplicates of the version You published. You may require that the publisher of any modified version of the Covered Materials You contributed change the title of the resulting derivative work to remove your trademark. A notice indicating that you are exercising this right must appear in the version of the Covered Materials You publish.


    This section seems to contradict their D20 licence. The OGL gives us a Royalty-free licence to re-use any trademark freely, except in the title.

    I assume the intent of 2.5.3 was to allow "worldbooks" for trademarked terms (such as Forgotten Realms, AD&D, Traveller, Magic: The Gathering, etc). They may be under the illusion that this will cover their D20 Trademark games. I don't believe it does, however, since as long as the trademark is not part of the title, it is not excluded from 2.5.2, and can be freely used in any other part of the work.

    So we can easily get around 2.5.3 by removing the trademarked item from the title, and making it part of the cover design, as long as that trademark is used anywhere else in the original work!
  • How can anyone prefer D&D based games to the beauty of GURPS and similar systems (Heroes, White Wolf, etc.) The concept of generating character statistics randomly (used by D&D and others), leads to huge gulfs in character abilities, and favours cheating over roleplaying.

    I own and have played a lot of systems over the years, from Toon to Rolemaster, and I think that GURPS is the best sytem I've come across. The best thing about it is that a cut-down set of the basic rules is available from Steve Jackson Games [sjgames.com] as a free download in PDF.
  • actually, it's a good thing they're doing this.

    i don't know if you remember the dying days of TSR before they were bought by WotC, but they claimed that *anything* created for use with AD&D was a derivative work, and as such, they had copyright on it. anything which used thier terminology (Dungeon Master, Hit Points, etc) was fair game.

    the upshot is that they shut down most of the D&D archives on the web, and tried to have everything served off of one ftp site (i think it was ftp.mpgn.com....) and pretty much ended up alienating most of thier fans.

    this (to me, anyway) just looks like a promise that, even though they've resolved the issue with AD&D 2nd Ed., that they can't do something this under 3rd ed.

    here's a good account [ucr.edu] of the times.

    note that this was TSR that did this - this happened before they were bought out by WotC, and has been completely resolved under WotC's management.
  • I woudn't touch AD&D. What a pile of junk.

    There are so many free RPG systems that are superior to D&D.

  • This is just like MS saying, "Look, we're open, we let anyone who wants to use our APIs!" (this assumes that MS APIs actually are completely open, but I digress)
    This only enforces the idea that WOTC is like MS and nothing like Linux. Dancey not only says that helping AD&D make money for WOTC is the sole purpose of the "hobby gaming industry", but he says that all other gaming systems cause "inefficiency" in the system of getting that money to WOTC and this caused the current bullishness of the gaming industry! He is basically saying that the best thing for gaming is for everyone to make AD&D products because *no one else has enough mindshare*. Tell me, is this Open Source talk? Would Apache ppl say that anyone who makes Web Applications should make them only for Apache because anything else hurts the Internet?

    If I were Richard Stallman, I'd be incredibly pissed off at being associated with such a move. But I'm not Richard Stallman ;)

    Brynn, President of the BSCF (Brandeis University gaming club) and all-around role-player
  • Go to the the "TSR" website [tsr.com]. Notice anything?
  • I read their FAQ, some comments:

    First, when they took the "advanced" out, they meant it. The math burden is way down, and a single D20 based resolution system does for nearly all skills, combat, saving throws etc. Armor class now goes upward, thAC0 isn't used, and there's a single initaitive roll for the whole combat (which takes notice of dex scores.

    Second, they intend to fix the non-gamesystem errors of TSR - they're obsoleting most of the half-a-billion addon manuals and freezing out spurious game worlds until the numbers are up again. The PHB, DMG and MM are all goign to be $19.95, about half of what they were. Smart move - they can profit from economies of scale and prevent competitors from freezing them out with a cheapskate retread of the open system.

    Third they're making Greyhawk the default worldset again - the one in PHB - and they're going to keep out of that world as much as they can so as to let DMs develop it.

    In general, I totally approve; all the errors in the AD&D system are fixed. I intend to upgrade.
  • ...is that if you want to use the D20 name (as opposed to just use the system but be unable to say so) then you also agree never to compete with their Player's Handbook. I can see why they want to do it, but it's defeating their own open concept. It will basically mean that add-on modules will be common, but no other RPG systems will consolidate under the D20 game-engine.

    Why would White Wolf or any other maker want to make a game system that said "oh and buy a copy of that elves-and-orks gaming system players handbook to actually find out how this totally different genre game system works". Nor can I see much cause for them to adopt the system without the trademark (since they'd be unable to say it's compatible, why alienate their "installed user base"?).
  • Several generic and free systems have been availible for some time now on the internet. The first two that come to mind are: These two jump out because while they are free on the net, professionally published versions are availible as well as support materials (shameless plug/full disclosure: I am a convention demo gm for Greyghost [fudgerpg.com], the publisher of Fudge material.

    RPG.NET has a list of 100 free games on their website and other free directories exist on the web. These range from the above games to jokes to GUPRS lite.

    Finally, this idea was mentioned in Pyramid Online about two months ago with speculation that in five years all RPG material would be world based using one of:

    • D20
    • GURPS
    • FUDGE
    in the interests of money.
  • if(HoursSinceLastShower > 24) {
    - if(Player.Girlfriend)
    + if(Player.Girlfriend != NULL) // we're dealing with pointers
    - Girlfriend.StormOut;
    + Girlfriend.StormOut(&Player); // do it right
    Player.Shower;
    }

    I would also submit that you should add additional checks to make sure that when Girlfriend is called the give() member function is invoked with any of the following #defines: FLOWERS, DINNER, FANCY_DINNER, PROMISE. Doing so may prevent dissatisfaction from incrementing. After a certain threshold, girlfriend will set it's BoyFriend private variable to NULL and not update the boyfriend object referenced. It's a bug in the Girlfriend object, so we must be careful to keep the dissatisfaction variable at zero to prevent calling a deallocated girlfriend object - which will segfault the system and prevent further gameplay.

  • For those that really wish to remanise, the original 8 Traveller books have been re-released as one A4 volume. Should be available from all good games stores.

  • Actually Steve Jackson Games did release a version of GURPS that is freely available. They made GURPS Lite a free PDF download on their website (http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/lite/). It is a slimmed down 32 page version of the Basic book. I have been using it as a handout for people not interested in buying the GURPS Basic book. I is fairly complete. And it has allowed me to convert my group to GURPS without forcing all the players to buy a new book. I think this is a smart move since some of the players will undoubtedly soon become interested in buying GURPS books.
  • And it's a neat system, so it would be a great pity if it "died."

    YOU still have the rules, don't you? You still have the dice? You still have imagination? Then, how can the game die? So, there won't be commercially produced supplements, you can write your own.

  • I remember the simple skills and combat system. For a game that was hardly known, it had a beautifull huge universe with almost infinite possibilities for play.

    The actual weapons were well balanced (except the Fushion gun thingee god, I would love one of those just to mess up a long boring business meeting). I will look into the GURPS thing and Marc Miller's new version of the game that is supposed to harken back to the original.

    "This is Scout Vessel Godspeed signing off..."
  • amen, brother.

    We took the Non-Weapon proficiency stuff but threw away the rest. Instead of a zillion sub-classes it allowed us to simplify and use less sub-genres of different character types. You were not a Ranger for example you were a fighter with buckloads of wilderness skills. Even Unearthed Archana in my opinion added too much complexity or overally powerful or restrictive character classes.

    Keep it simple. Does anyone remember the first versions of Traveler? That was one wonderful elegant gaming system!
  • The thing is though that some companies -TSR specificly- were cracking down on distributed group efforts that used their game system. All of the net books (like the Net Book of Sex) came under fire in a lawyer feeding frenzy not unlike what we are seeing from the MPAA and RIAA today. With a lot less publicity apparently.

    TSR was the first non-porn company I personally remember going ape over "intellectual property violations"; and that was back before the September that never ended.

    And TSR really shot themselves in the foot with their laywers over this and other issues. I was initially surprised when I heard the got bought out by upstart WoTC; however when I thought about it for a bit I realised I hadn't bought any of there stuff in quite a while and didn't know many people who had. The quality of their later offerings left a lot to be desired and they had sent me looking for alternatives with their draconian stance on the net. GURPS anyone?

    The thing that ticked me off the most was TSR was stopping people from distributing stuff that the new corporate TSR would never touch themselves. After the Fiend Folio fiasco everyone knew they would never release "The Complete Sex Handbook" or anything similiar. And if it had been anything like the Clerics handbook no one would have bought it anyways.

    So the stance by WoTC to officially acknowledge the legitatmicy of fan/other contributions seems like a good thing to me.

    Of course I may be willing to cut them some slack because they make one of the IMHO best board games out there Robo Rally. And they aren't cracking down on any of the fan sites on the net. Which they could do as most(all?) of them are using scans of WoTC board elements to create the new boards.

    Anyone in Calgary, AB want to get together for a game or two?

  • I can't see programmed RPing replacing, or even coming close to replacing tabletop paper-pen and dice.

    Heh. Amen...

    I have an in-house gaming network (soon to be online) and we featured Baldur's Gate from the day it came out.

    Ya know what happened? There was no real interest in multiplayer play at all. A couple of people tried to get games going, but people would cheat and create total munchkin characters, or be "evil characters" and harass the other players. We had younger kids (I'm talking early teens here) who'd go around killing chickens and squirrels because the game decided they were worth 1 XP each.

    There were three or four people who were working their way through the single-player setup, but that was it; meanwhile, my supply of 2nd edition D&D books sold rather steadily. I, along with everyone else, am looking forward to 3rd edition.

    I'll have to print out this article on the "D20 system"; I have lot of aspiring adventure writers...

    Jay (=
  • New Coke was the best thing to happen to Coca Cola Inc since WWII. At the time, Pepsi was gaining market share and according to some reports had passed Coke in overall sales. Which is why they released new Coke in the first place. Then the hard core adicts made all kinds of free publicity by hoarding old Coke and writing letters, and Coke Classic was 'introduced' and propelled them back into top spot.

  • Let's not forget demons and devils. We can't call them that any more, parents might get upset

    Actually, from what I understand, 3rd Edition will no longer be calling them Baatezu, Yuggoloths, and T'annari...When the new Monster Manual is released it's back to fighting Devils, Daemons, and Demons...

    WooHoo!
  • BUZZZ!

    You're wrong here buddy. Have you even read the license? The d20 System Reference Document will be release under the OGL and will be available for modification, redistribution, and extension by anyone! The only thing that you are NOT able to do is use the d20 System LOGO, which would indicate that you are compatible with D&D.

    And I don't think that anyone here has touched on this, but the OGL does do something that the GPL doesn't. It does allow for the exclusion from the license of certain things within the work. This is an extremely important to those artists who contribute artwork, songs, and/or poems to an OGL work.
  • Daemon != Demon. Demon == Outerplanar Monster
    Daemon == Disk And Execution MONitor


    Actually, with regards to the D&D universe...You are wrong.

    Devils are the Lawful Evil residents of the Nine Hells

    Demons are the Chaotic Evil residents of the Uncounted Layers of the Abyss

    Daemons are the Neutral Evil residents of the planes in between. Deities like Nerull (from Greyhawk) are in these planes. Also refer to the Monster Manuals (or maybe Fiend Folio) for information on Daemons.

    Yes, there are Daemons in D&D!
  • >This, if anything, makes the prospect of buying 3e even more tantalizing, since not only would I be purchasing an incredibly cool product, I'd be rewarding a company for its openness and fair competitive spirit.

    Fair competitive spirit?

    Can I sell an improved version of the Player's Handbook under their D20 license? No. Can I compete with their core rules while still leveraging the available third-party source material as a result? No.

    The D20 license is akin to SCSL: you get to look at the source, and if you make complementary products, great. If you want to make and distribute core changes, though, HOW DARE YOU!

    *sigh*

  • The reason nobody's mentioned the author is because it doesn't matter.

    No matter how good the author is, he's still working within the limits of the D&D system. As a result, those people who like the D&D system are probably going to like the revised D&D system, becuase it can't stray that far from the original.

    Those who *don't* like the D&D system are probably not going to like the revised system much, because it can't stray that far from the original.

    What HazWizTSR (as somebody else wrote) fails to grasp is that people have differing needs that not *every* single system can address. I would truly hate to see a system as complex, intricate, and still quite useable and playable as FASA's "Earthdawn" mechanics - mechanics which really allowed one to get a feel for the world which they governed get replaced by something as generic as AD&D.

  • Weird.

    2 years ago (January 1998) and while at Wizards of the Coast, I submitted a written business model to the powers that be at Wizards essentially to open source D&D. I found out that Jonathan Tweet and Skaff Elias had already suggested opening the system as well in some ways. Dancey wasn't even working for RPG's back then but did ask for a copy of my proposal. Nothing happened.

    Dancey was soon put in charge of RPG's at Wizards (transferring from L5R (Legends of the 5 Rings) TCG).

    Then when Sun announced their SCSL license, I realized that the business model behind the SCSL was (in part) essentially what I had recommended for the D&D line in my business model (i.e., open source the core (e.g., Java), and control the standard to maintain its quality (to a degree) and integrity). I immediately reiterated my proposal to all the powers that be at Wizards again in the context of proof of concept with what Sun was doing. Ryan suggested Java was bunk (I believe) at the time, so my third-party (Sun) logic didn't quite work (backfired you might say). [Wizards is a die-hard Microsoft house even though half the computers were (1/3 now?) Macintoshes.] Nothing happened.

    I think Wizards is finally trying the suggested open licensing approach in a bastardized way with Dancey's new announcement. Fortunately, I quit Wizards last month or I'd be trying to reshape the efforts into a more clear-on-the-concept genuinely open source form! :-)

    It'll be interesting what if anything comes of this effort.

    For the record, I do agree with a previous poster that Dancey's comments seem problematic regarding where the property boundaries are drawn. Hopefully, those lines will improve as the concept matures in Wizards (fingers crossed for RPG diehards).

    I also agree with another previous poster that Wizards is trying to grab a bigger stake in RPGaming. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing (after all that was the essential attraction of my proposal, and what's good for Wizards can also be good for gamers), but I think the way Wizards tries to do that is important. As the saying goes, the devil's in the details. Unfortunately, despite having some (self-professed and otherwise :-) geniuses on staff, Wizards often gets the big picture and/or details wrong. It should be fun to watch.

    On another note, I *disagree* (though I guess I could be wrong and wouldn't really know) that any nefarious Hasbro type influence on Wizards is causing something evil to happen at Wizards. Wizards is just the way Wizards is. Some of it good (some people have great experiences) and some of it bad (cough, cough). Hasbro just happens to be the owner these days, but they mostly seem hands off for now (unless their latest cash cow shows problems, I'm guessing). Wizards may have problems, but they didn't start with Hasbro.

    In response to yet another poster trivializing D&D 3E, I believe that D&D 3E should be more than just a warmed over D&D/AD&D 2E. I didn't work on it, read it, or try to influence it (even though I love RPGs, I eventually realized I became disenchanted with the high politics of Wizards). However, the age old TSR mechanics have been revamped and reshaped in a way palatable to some very discerning game designers, Richard Garfield, Jonathan Tweet, and a horde of other game analytic creative types. Bottom line: great creative care has gone into the new system (not necessarily perfect, but tons of upgrades).

    For a largely backward compatible system, D&D 3E should be a serious and very welcome upgrade (don't "good" versions usually come on mod 3 iterations anyway :-). Think game balance, character class balance (?), weapons balance, some sanity checks on the system as a whole, plus more seamless upgrades to the base system. Less Frankenstein, more Terminator :-).

    Finally, does any of this matter anyway? The term, RPG, used to mean paper-based D&D. TSR didn't get (and it's not clear to me that Wizards gets) RPG is now a computer term. RPGs for a new generation of children are computer games. It's not clear to me D&D has enough value/time to compete with modern forms of entertainment (at least not the way Wizards bottom line thinkers will want). Who knows? Thoughts anyone?

    Anway, there's a hodge-podge of random thoughts for /.

    Cheers,

    = Joe =
    Wizards 1997-2000
  • Well I hope D20 is a mechanically better system than AD&D's ludicrous table-driven approach. I know they only did it to sell Handbooks, but I mean really... I was never greatly fond of the universe, but the mechanics were so damned intrusive.

    Levels? Alignments? Saves vs DEX, poisons, whatever? Armour classes? Nonsense, I say. It took too damned long to learn, and was still impenetrable even then.

    Give me Call of Cthulhu any day - a better world in any case, but the mechanics actually made sense, since they were all based on %age dice rolls. The flexibility was marvellous - I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to introduce Rice-ian vampires into the mix.

    Ah well, back to whistful reminiscence of campaigns past.
    --

  • Check it out...Looks to be much more playable now.

    As you say, it does seem clearer, but not really a lot cleaner - ACs go a less confusing direction, and the combat round is a considerably more sensible length, but there are still (even in the combat rules I browsed) an alarming number of tables. And the level business is still there, I see.

    As for some of the really new stuff... I hadn't come across the bracketing rules WRT sneak attacks before (not having played AD&D since 1e), but a lot of the rule changes on things like mobility penalties for wearing heavy armour appear to me to be retrofitting on mechanics form RuneQuest (cf Fatigue).

    I think I'd better move away from engaging in any more detailed critique since it's all so long ago, but I think I'll maintain my out-dated allegiance to Chaosium's systems for the moment.
    --

  • I've had a link to my Open Source Paper Roleplaying Engine Y*. (Not that I've been posting fast and furiously lately...) It's a free (speech and beer) face-to-face, paper-and-pencil roleplaying game. GPL'd and everything.

    * Y? Because we like you.
    --
  • A patch to the patch?

    -if(HoursSinceLastShower > 24) {
    +if(Player.HoursSinceLastShower > 24) {

    even then, probably

    -if(HoursSinceLastShower > 24) {
    +-if(Player.HoursSinceLastShower() > 24) {

    would be better.

    --
  • If anyone cares, there's a relevant article on Salon in which the above was quoted.

    http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/03/29/ope n_dungeon/index.html

  • The latest incarnation of Traveller (Marc Miller's version 4)has a very simple system as well. Particularly the combat system has been slashed quite a bit from TNE. In some ways it's a bit too simple, but with a few expansions (Fan made) it becomes very nice IMHO.

    Howewer, since Marc Miller and c/o has a nasty habit of going bancrupt every now and then I'd have to say that it would be nice if they made it possible for fans to expand on the game. The 4.0 is very open and fairly easy to expand. And it's a neat system, so it would be a great pity if it "died".

    I haven't looked at the GURPS version though.
  • That isn't accurate. Ryan would like the PHB to be open except for the trademarks.

    And frankly, while I'm aware that you can't copyright mechanics, I'm also aware that Hasbro can afford bigger lawyers than me. So even though they're just providing me with a right I already have, I still see it as a net good, because suddenly I can produce D20 stuff without worrying about getting unjustly sued.
  • Yeah, exactly.

    I'll add to this the following datapoint: I'm a freelance RPG writer, and I intend to start my own company someday. I will be taking a close look at the D20 system, with the intent of possibly using it as a base system for one or more of my games, without the D20 logo. I don't care so much about getting D&D players as I care about not having to write my own mechanics.

    Something I don't think anyone's mentioned yet is the author of the D20 ruleset -- Jonathan Tweet. He's considered one of the best designers in the business; he wrote the classic Ars Magica, the insane Over the Edge, and the diceless RPG Everway. (Over the Edge is the game of choice for people who want to do Interzone. Seriously.)

    Getting access to rules he wrote is immensely valuable.
  • The trouble with this little theory is that they intend to make all of their profits off of sales of the PHB. This whole Open Gaming License is designed from the ground up with one goal in mind: "...we hope to drive sales to the D&D PHB."

    They'd be insane to go forward with this plan as written. Suppose I, as an enterprising gamer, decide to release a system "based" on the PHB called the Cheaper Handbook under the Open Gaming License, identical in every respect to the PHB (page for page, line for line) only without using any of the D&D trademarks. A quick find/replace for "dungeonmaster", "D20", and a few others would suffice.

    The CHB wouldn't call itself "D20 compatible," but it would be just as useful as the PHB, would cost me practically nothing to make, and could be sold for the cost of printing the book.

    There goes their main revenue stream.

    The fact of the matter is that one of these days, probably not very far in the future, something like digital paper will start to look readable. At that point, book dealers everywhere need to watch out. Wizards will need a totally different business model (probably one which focuses on live events) from the book sales racket they're running currently.

  • I've got a page about it somewhere... [wahcentral.net]

    sorry about the double post.

    --
  • note that this is an older recipe

    but I want the new Coke!

    --
  • ...and Microsoft owns FASA, creators of the Batteltech and Shadowrun series of RPGs. So, yes, nothing is sacred.
  • ...there are warez sites for people who can read? How do explain the spelling? What'll they think of next?
  • by / ( 33804 )
    (they want you to buy the PHB)

    But what if he's not for sale? Oh wait, he is [umstore.com].

    (And yes, I know all about the Player's Handbook.)
  • It *used* to stand for "Tactical Studies Rules", but they dropped that at some point, and it became simply "TSR".
  • Well, let me start off by taking my side in the traditional RPG war: i like d&d. I play d&d. I intend to continue playing d&d for the forseeable future. I don't think the system sucks. It's easily abused, the rules are either convoluted or nonexistent for some situations, and it's been cloned so many times people seem to think it's now un-origional. I could make the obvious parallels to linux, but i won't because this really isn't about linux or open-anything.
    There. Now, on with the details.

    This is, short-version, a bunch of whooie. Every halfway serious d&d player (or any other rpg player in any system i can think of) has been doing this forever. Need a new rule? You make it up based on what's there. Want some new d&d classes, use the cheesy class-creation chart, or just come up with something reasonable. All this says (so far as i can tell) is it's now legal to publish and distribute it. This isn't 'open source' at all, at least not in any way comparable to the origional defenition. But, geeks RP and TSR makes RPGs, and geeks have this weird magnetic attraction to the word 'Open', so there it is. I was just thinking yesterday that one of these days someone was going to publish and 'OpenSource' book with nothing but page upon page of random letters..
    But anyway, back to the topic at hand. What this thingy means, so far as i can tell, is that any budding RPG maker can now publish their own game worlds, adventures, and modules for 3rd ed d&d (assuming they don't have the gaul to Call them that). In and of itself, i think this is a fairly good thing really.. TSR's adventure writing has gone fairly downhill and with the recent killoff of gaming worlds, so new blood would be nice. It doesn't mean that all the geeks on earth can now write their own rules modifications to their heart's content. Why not? Because they've been doing it all along. Nobody publishes their house rules, it'd be as cheesy as those stupid 'unofficial expansion pack' things for war/star craft.. a bunch of stuff that was probably really cool for the guy who made it and lots of fun for their friends, but not something i want to pay $20 for.

    So is this a good thing? Yeah i guess, it means d&d will live on in the publishing world a while longer. It really doesn't make a difference though. Young kids will probably never play d&d.. they're all sucked into the world of pokemon (gag) and Everquest (gag). Flashy graphics, low comprehension requirement, little imagination needed. It's a sad thing, but it still doesn't really matter. I've no intention of playing d&d with a 7 year old, but when i'm 70 and drifting through my golden years in a retirement home on mars, i'm positive i'll be able to pull together a game session of my fellow retirees, hunt down a copy of the PHB and DMG online somewhere, and have a few last goes with old sword +1 kobold-slayer.

    RPG's are in your head and your heart. If you want to play, you're going to play.. if you can't get rules for what you want to play, you'll write them yourself and play anyway. You don't get any more 'open source' than that. And as for the whole 'my rpg is better than your rpg' thing.. give it a rest. If you don't like d&d, for gods sakes, play something else. Nobody's forcing you to play it and there are limitless other systems to choose from, both in your head and on the shelf. I've played at least a dozen myself and written 3.. when i want to be a 5th level dwarven fighter, i play d&d. When i want to be a vampire, i play Vampire. When i want to be an interstellar hydrogen-3 smuggler, i play one of my rpg's. This is what the rest of the 'open source' community should be striving for, an environment where you can do what you want, when you want, how you want.. not trying to force it's own peculiar restrictions on a world freer than it will probably ever be.

    So when my eyestrain flares up and i can't tell vi from dos anymore, toss me my wand of wonder and get out of my way or beware 2d10 gems (1 gp value).
    Dreamweaver
  • >He is a dangerous, slimy, man. Do not trust anything he says; he's probably wrong, and either way, his goal is to eliminate competition from his market by making his system the only viable one - while still holding all the trademarks and making sure everyone has to buy his products.

    Ryan Dancey is a lot of things, but slimy is not one of them. Dangerous, maybe.

    A few years ago Dancey was Brand Manager of FRPG, makers of the Legend of the Five Rings and Doomtown CCG's. He came up with a plan called Rolling Thunder that would make collecting CCG's cheaper and easier. First, Rarity would be flattened, making it easier to get all the cards you needed. Secondly, releases would be small monthly sets instead of big quaterly releases. This would mean that a complete set would run about $20-$40 a month instead of $150-$200 every 3 or 4 months. It could have made ccg's much easier to get into and expanded made it much easier to collect.

    The problem? Players didn't like things being cheaper. They complained about the new cards not being worth as much as oldere ones. Today Scorpion Clan Coup (the first rolling thunder product) can be had for pennies while other expansions, even arguably weaker ones such as Anvil of Despair, are increasing in value all the times. Dealers had their own beef; those monthly releases took up too much shelf space. In posts to rec.games.frp.industry Dancey revealed that sales during this experiment plummeted and half of gthe games released during this time period never got off the ground. (The glut of releases during that time and other factors are even more off-topic than this, feel free to look up Rolling Thunder or Dancey's author profile at dejanews for more info.)

    Ryan Dancey likes to come up with big ideas. He wants to make games into a huge, famous business. So famous that a discussion of D&D won't include moderated-up posts that assume this is a discussion about a computer product :) . He is always brutaly honest about his motives, in this case to make the most money for his company as possible. That is, after all, his job. But he also loves games and wants them to grow as much as possible. You can say all you want about how lousy AD&D is and how bottom-line focused Wotc is, but don't think that it's because these people are evil. Dancey and Peter Adkinson and everyone else at Wotc are gamers who love games. Even if they have some really kooky ideas about them every now and again.

  • I miss the old 1st edition. Gary Gygax, my friends. Unearthed Arcana. No political, pr crap about not including demons or devils or evil gods in the monster manuals. No monstrous compendium loose leaf with 40,000 supplements that cover almost every creature introduced in MM I and II. Oh, and what of Fiend folio? took forever to get some of those guys back. Let's not forget demons and devils. We can't call them that any more, parents might get upset. Hell, my parents played the damned game. Gary Gygax was a genius, whose vision was corrupted by cartoon breasts hanging out of snippets of chain mail, and a company who felt their symbol would look better in gold.
  • Didn't Steve Jackson already do this with GRUPS?
  • Yep. It's been a while since I played. Mind the fau pax.
  • It's been a while since I had time to play much, but the people I played with tended to simplify most of the rules as time went by, and concentrate on the more creative aspects. We even ended up moving away from interesting dice, using various numbers of D6 for just about everything random.

    When the game is consists of someone building a world and several people role-playing in it with a relatively simple (OK, RISK combat without the 2/3 die limit. With enough dice, you can get any probability range you want.) dice system to handle combat and anything that needs to be random, how much is there to "open"? Our rules were dead simple, our worlds insanely elaborate (they often had economic systems involving the inflationary effects of all that gold being dumped into the market, and multiple pantheons including deities that may or may not exist) and our role-playing guided by the creativity of the players more than by rules and die rolls.

    In short, virtualy all the value was provided by the players (including the game coordinator) and there just wasn't much marketable IP involved, unless a game coordinator wanted to try selling a world.

    Situation wasn't great for me financialy, since I was trying to sell games, but is was fun.

    If I were to try making a game for sale, I'd be real leery of taking WotC up on the "open" rules. That would put me in their arena, and they don't have a history of playing nice.

    Open source software provides lots of benefit (tons of valuable code) and a culture and license that seems secure to me. D20 provides a set of rules that isn't particularly valuable to me, and means I have to trust a single company.

    What happens if I invest a lot of time and money into a project and they decide they don't want to be open anymore? Since I declared my project to be D20, even if I retro-fit my own rule system and remove all reference to D20, they can still claim my project is a derivative work.

    I think I'm better off staying out of their park altogether.

    Our secret is gamma-irradiated cow manure
    Mitsubishi ad
  • Games die when you can't find enough people to play them...I know, I was a Runequest GM, and convincing people to play the (superior) Chaosium 1st ed rules was hell, when all they knew of was the convoluted and inferior Avalon Hill version. So chaosium runequest was essentialy 'dead', at least where I lived.
  • Ok, New Coke was a bad idea, but what it was was a big change in Coca-Cola's recipe to make their drink taste different. So, is it the recipe they care about or their precious brand name? I think the answer is the latter.
  • Why would Verant open source code that they are dependant upon to survive? They don't want their playing base leaving a going to a free server.

    Wise up, some compnaies invest millions in thier products and are entittled to reap the benefits. You want EQ open sourced? Create a new game, and do what you will with it.

    Don't expect everyone to have your same jaded ideology as it pertains to intellectual property.
  • Tunnels & Trolls was the first RPG game I ever bought, and through the next 12 years of playing was always one of my favorites. We abused those rules in the early, Maunty Haul days through the almost diceless pure-character epics. Damn, now I'm going to have to find the book (battered, water stained and missing a front cover) again...
    Is Flying Buffalo still around?
  • No one has mentioned what I think is the best RPG system
    ** Bushido and Aftermath **

    Best Character and Situation Resolution model of any RPG ever.

    Any one else play them?

    PS: Traveler was used(cribbed) into a number of BBS Doors apps in the late 70's and early 80's and made for some good fun at 300Baud.
  • Exactly. The mechanics for play and character generation go hand in hand. How severe is a -3 penalty to a skill/attribute check? It depends on how the skill attributes are assigned. A -3 penalty doesn't hurt as much in a skill/attribute system that typically ranges from 9-12 (that was the statistically average score for attributes in the 3d6 system IIRC) than a system that only allows stats to go up to 6 (as was typical in the Shadowrun mechanics for character attributes).


    Anyway, I'm more pissed that the Alternity system (sorta GURPSish generic sci-fi gaming system) was all a test for the d20 mechanics, and now that WoTC has determined that it works, they're discontinuing support for the game. Grr.

  • With many recent open source projects, there is a lot of borrowing of code from other open source projects. Why reivent wheels? In addition, if an open source project finds a faster way of doing something, why not use it elsewhere when appropriate?

    Take that thought to open games, specifically D20. How many role playing systems are out there? I'd guess that there are at least 10 major ones, and 100+ althoughter. And because they've been around for 20+ yrs, they've been well established, so that most people that play RPGs will be familiar with two or more systems.

    So what if someone tries to add something for a 'closed' RPG system to the open system? Sure, concepts may be brought across, but I'm thinking more along the lines of specific tables. A good example is incorporating the critical hit tables that the Rolemaster system offered with D20, word for word. Does the OGL prevent this? Does WotC have protection from other RPG makers in case this does happen ?

  • This is *DEFINATLY* different from how AD&D was dealt with in the past.

    For those of you not familar with the earlier days of the internet, the past owners of AD&D went *NUTS* during the early days of the internet. Many gamers had developed optional reference guides, GM managment programs, etc, releasing them as public domain software. They all ended up with very LONG letters from lawyers demaning that they stop creating these programs, and delete all copies of source, etc, that they had. It was quite funny when some of the 'warez' where simple dice rollers and optional hit tables.. ;-P
  • The PHG will be a hardcover book, full-color artwork on every page, on non-cheap paper. It'll be printed in huge quantities, and will be able to get printing costs as low as possible. They're also selling it at a lower margin, because they expect to sell lots.

    Your CHB couldn't be printed, in small lots, for as cheap as they could. It'll be considerably more expensive, if the production quality is as good.

    So, first thing to go is the full-color artwork. You simply won't be able to make it cheap enough. Grayscaling the artwork is still probably out of the question, because it probably won't look good, and you'll want to go with as cheap a printing process as you can get. So you want line art... but you'll have to come up with all that on your own. Yuck. Ok, no art in the CHB. Suddenly, you've got a smaller potential market.

    The hardcover may have to go, too, because they're pretty expensive.

    You also can't do a simple search-and-replace on the text to get rid of the trademarks, because it's not in the computer, it's on paper. Scanning and OCRing all that will take a lot of time, or a fair bit of money. Sure you want to do that?

    Ok, even assuming you get this far before you give up, you need to be able to sell it. You don't have a vast distributer's network like WOTC does. You aren't owned by Hasbro, which has an even _larger_ one. So, you have to try to find a distributer who will sell your short-run CHB, which looks like junk, next to the PHB (less than $20).

    Sure, maybe you'll be able to do it. You won't be able to compete enough to make a ding in WOTC's sales. And why would you want to? Sell D20 modules, make much more profit!
  • Read the license, please. It's at the OGF website [opengamingfoundation.org] and looks quite modelled after the GPL. In particular, it allows you to reproduce, verbatim, the rules (subject to trademark restraints).
  • Not a moot point. The chargen the give you would probably be limited to Windows. (Most of their stuff these days is.) If you don't run it, you might want to write your own.

    You might want to write your own to have it use your house rules for certain aspects.

    You might be writing a cool internet-enabled RPG client, to allow the computer to handle the mechanics and have a separate (voice or text) channel for inter-player communication. You'd probably want to be able to generate characters in that.

    You might also want your internet-enabled client to be able to advance characters by level, which is also restricted by the D20 license.
  • Must be some real high level non player character type I've not come across.

    That's true. They're all 30 level necromancers from the underworld. One look and the player will fall madly in love with them, upon which the necromancer has total control over you. A saving throw v. death is allowed, however. Seperation is possible if you either kill the necromancer or remove the player from the girlfriend forcefully for one month and hermetically seal him in a cave. You should also have cold water available in the cave. Some high-level priests (the Zen ones) have claimed limited success by allowing the character to transcend the girlfriend... but such things are legends.

  • If you don't put the D20 trademark on your product, the D20 TL does not apply. All the D20 TL does is tell you when you are allowed to use thee D20 trademark.

    It would be like Sun releasing Java's code under the GPL, but requiring that you pass a certification test to use the Java trademark. The certification test doesn't stop you from using the code however you like; it just says under what conditions you can call it Java.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • Cute word, "legitimately". The answer is that

    1) There is no on-point precedent as to whether or not your work would consitute a derivative work. None. There are lots of legal theories that get mouthed a lot, but there has been no actual rulings, so all they are is theories.

    2) You can't afford the legal fees to fight Hasbro on point 1.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • Stop staring at the D20STL, and actually look at the OGL.

    D20 under OGL:

    Can distribute the core product: YES

    Can modify the core product: YES

    Can write add-on products: YES

    Can call your version "D20": NO

    Netscape 6.0:

    Can distribute the core product: YES

    Can modify the core product: YES

    Can write add-on products: YES

    Can call your version Netscape: NO


    Steven E. Ehrbar

  • Now, I have yet to find a post of mine where I say anybody should sing the praises of Hasbro for this. I just don't think it deserves all the crap its getting. No other RPG company is going to let you release your own commercial version of their system without a court fight or paying them something. Not FUDGE -- read the commercial license demanding in-kind payments. Not Fuzion -- they don't let you print core rules. Not GURPS Lite -- the .pdf itself includes a warning. Only Hasbro.

    So no, I'm not saying sing their praises. I'm just saying lay off the crap.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • The D20TL only applies to the trademark. You will be able to "distribute the whole damn thing" as long as you don't call it D20.

    I'm on the OGL mailing list. The D20 System Reference Document, including everything you need to put out a complete RPG, will be under the OGL. IF uninformed ranters and anti-big-buisness yahoos don't undercut Dancey and convince Hasbro/WotC to abandon the project...

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • Argh...

    You want a parallel? Imagine Sun releases te Java source under the GPL, but keeps the Java trademark reserved for people who conform to their compatibility tests and add a dependency on a single Sun library. How HORRIBLE! They're DEMONS! They won't let you call it Java!

    On the other hand, FUDGE is *not* Free, it is semi-free, with a restrictions on commercial licensing and required in-kind royalty payments.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • Can I sell an improved version of the Player's Handbook under their D20 license?

    But you can under the OGL. You just can't give it the "D20" label.

    Can I compete with their core rules while still leveraging the available third-party source material as a result?

    Yes. There's been extensive discussion on the OGL mailing list as to how to do exactly that.

    The D20 license is akin to SCSL: you get to look at the source, and if you make complementary products, great. If you want to make and distribute core changes, though, HOW DARE YOU!

    The D20 trademark license only governs the D20 trademark. Leave the D20 trademark off your product, and you can do anything you like with the system -- even sell core changes.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • Simple enough; you will be able to sell your own D&D compatible products, rules mods, etc., without Hasbro's permission or having to worry about lawyers.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • Indeed. As of January of this year, all the new TSR gaming modules, DRAGON magazine, DUNGEON magazine, novels based on the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms worlds, and so on have the WoTC logo instead of the old TSR logo. You'll notice the change immediately on the cover of the new Dragonlance novel DRAGONS OF A FALLEN SUN that just came out last week.

    At the rate things are going, we may end up seeing the Hasbro label replacing the WoTC label, too! :-(
  • Well I hope D20 is a mechanically better system than AD&D's ludicrous table-driven approach.

    Actually, from everything that I have seen it IS better. Check out Eric Noah's D&D 3rd Edition News [rpgplanet.com] for more complete information.

    All the old terminology is still there, but instead of having all the reverse arithmetic of THAC0's and armor class, or the "You've gotta roll high to pass this saving throw check, but you've gotta roll low to make the attribute check," Everything has been standardized to be worked off of the d20.

    For example, instead of having to look up on a chart what your saving throw vs Paralysis, Poison, or Death Magic was, the DM comes up with a number that you have to beat. You then use you're Fortitude bonus (which is now one of the three saving throws out there) and add it to your roll on a d20. Beat the number, you make it...don't beat the number...uhoh! This is the mechanic that the entire system is built off of now.

    Check it out...Looks to be much more playable now.
  • It's an "improvement" from TSR's old position, but keep in mind that Dancey himself has repeatedly said that, while you can create D&D things, that he believes that WOTC has *OWNERSHIP* of those things you create.

    Part of the gimmick here is that the "OGL" doesn't really give you any rights you didn't already have; what it tries to do is "give" you *FEWER*
    rights than copyright law would normally give you, and then provide a framework for suing or harassing you if you try to exercise the intrinsic rights the law gives you.

    Sneaky. It's no coincidence that a man who believes that references to a rule set create a "derivative work" is in charge of this stuff when Hasbro is starting to file suits on stuff like "anything someone might think is like asteroids".

    (Obviously, it's not a derived work, because copyright covers the text, not the rules. Rules can't be copyrighted.)
  • The *SOLE* purpose of this is to try to crush all competing gaming systems, while preserving WOTC's rights.

    Pretty much. Read the following statement that Dancey makes in the article that was linked to:

    The D20 System Trademark License restricts you from creating a work that explains how to create characters, and how to apply the effects of experience to those characters. To be blunt, it means you can't take the D20 stuff and publish a complete roleplaying game to compete with the D&D Player's Handbook.

    In other words, you can make adventures or worlds or characters or whatever, but you can't make an RPG that competes with D&D. This is the MS model - feel free to create things for the users of our system, but don't you dare compete with our system.

    I see this as an improvement from TSR's position, where you couldn't legally create anything for D&D, but this is a far cry from open source. It really ticks me off that this is presented here as an example of how "open source" is influencing other industries. Read the article carefully, folks; the ONLY influence is the word "OPEN".
  • Which license?

    The problem is that there are two licenses on the site, the one you linked to and the D20 license, the latter which seems more likely to apply to the system rules. The thrust of the D20 license is that you can't reproduce things like character generation and experience tables - if you make adjustments, you have to post your changes.

    In other words, it's a lot like saying that you can't distribute a modified Linux kernel - you simply have to distribute the diffs. While this suffices in most instances, occasionally it's a good thing to be able to distribute the whole damn thing.

  • That's the *point* of this plan - they make the most money on the Player's Handbook, so they'll become an exclusive producer. Somebody sees this cool RPG supplement in the shops, realizes it uses the D20 system, and buys the Players Handbook as well.

    Frankly, I don't quite see the point of this. For novelty's sake, it's interesting, but there are far better truly-generic systems than D&D/D20 - GURPS, for one.

  • > For some information as to the chilling and horrifying goings on at TSR in those days

    Yes, I will never forgive them for destroying GDW, the best map & counter wargame company there ever was (well, in their prime and IMO, at any rate).

    Of course, GDW more or less handed them the axe to use, in a fit of terminal stupidity. (I suppose terminal should be taken quite literally there.) Still, I can never forgive the latter-day owners of TSR for this vile act.

    --
  • Wow, I haven't touched a role-playing game in years, and I had no idea how much the business had changed until I read this article and did some investigating.
    Basically, following the huge success of the Magic and Pokemon card games and a general decline in standard RPG sales, Wizards of the Coast dwarfed TSR, SJG, and the other RPG companies. Wizards of the Coast then acquired TSR (which I always thought of as the number 1 gaming powerhouse) somewhere around 1998. They later acquired the chain of "The Game Keeper" stores, after opening a few of their own retail outlets. Finally, Hasbro acquired Wizards in 1999, but they're giving them pretty strong independence. Pretty crazy stuff, no?
    Of course, the better system to open source would've been GURPS from SJG, which is already designed to work for any era, genre, etc. GURPS, though not without its flaws, was just amazing because SJG put out an unbelievably cool line of expansions/world books to hit genres most people had never thought of (e.g. GURPS Russia, GURPS Vodoo), and they even did games based on popular books (which weren't as high quality, from my experience), with a persistent rumor that Orson Scott Card was collaborating on an Alvin Maker series (I swear I read an excerpt from its beta version years ago, but I can't find any info on what happened to it, anybody know?).
    Wizards' point about the network effects and the general prevalence of D&D players, however, is well taken. I think that most other game companies would probably avoid supporting it, because it would cannibalize their own sales (think Sun/Linux), but smaller game companies could do pretty well by putting out adventures, expansions, and so on.
    --JRZ
  • Most colas taste pretty much the same anyway

    Next thing you will be saying the Budweiser and Guiness are substitutes as well....
  • Sounds like a return to the old days where DM's were encouraged to pick-and-choose and modify or enhance the rules to suit their own world/audience/imagination.

    After the suits took control in the mid to late 80's everything became "Oh you can't do that because it's not OFFICIAL", which we all took as the utter BS it was. It was about this time that Gary Gygax was driven out.

    At least WotC are acknowledging the way everyone who's ever been involved with D&D thinks and acts anyway.

    This is wonderful news for the players and the future of the game and RPG's as a whole.

  • You mean like Virgin Cola? Pretty much indistinguishable from Coke, and much cheaper. Coke accused them of stealing the recipe. People still drink Coke, though.
  • ..community reputation, as far as I'm concerned. Their lawyering folk got a little miffed that someone had ported Magic to the Internet. [dragonstudios.com]

    What followed was a quick lawsuit, and tremendous outrage from the online community. Eventually WoTC capitulated and decided to play nice. They are on, as it were, the cluetrain [cluetrain.com]. Let's hope they stay there. I've got a page about it somewhere...


    --
  • Just over two years ago TSR was acquired by WOTC as TSR was teetering towards bankruptcy. WOTC in turn was acquired by Hasbro late last year [wizards.com] - so expect to see D&D 3rd. Edition in Toys R Us, a 51% Hasbro company, in August with 3e gets released.

    Incidentally, WOTC just picked up a comprehensive license for Star Wars [wizards.com], as West End Games lost it while trying to keep its head above water. I believe Lucas has a sizeable stake in Hasbro these days....hmmmmmmm.....

    Mmmmm....kill JarJar with Paladin....

  • We need an independant third party to examing the OGL and see if it is Copyleft compatible. If it is, then we can use it however we want, if not we should just ignore it.

    I'd like to see it listed on this page, after Richard Stallman has looked at it:

    http://www.gnu.ai.mit.edu/ph ilosophy/license-list.html [mit.edu]

  • Ok, a couple of points. First it is true, all pen and paper RPGs are inherently open source, or else they'd be unplayable. What the people writing about this mean is Copylefted not "open source."

    Secondly, I have some of the Demons supplements for AD&D produced by Mayfair games, which were really well done, addressed a need in the community (I was one of the ones who felt TSR really screwed up by attempting to sate the appetite of the Fanatics for Family values by removing demons and devils from their games, when we all know that only the utter destruction of D&D and RPGs in general would ever do that.) and caused Mayfair to promptly get sued by TSR. See this page for information. [uni-hamburg.de] What irritated me was that TSR and later Hasbro could be in a position to suppress D&D altogether is they had a motivation (eg, fundamentalist boycott) to do so.

    For some information as to the chilling and horrifying goings on at TSR in those days, please read:

    The Gary Gygax FAQ [gygax.com]

    As someone who used to be avidly into pen & paper RPGs, I believe a popular, copylefted RPG would be the greatest thing to happen to RPGS since their original invention. I hope this is for real.

  • I'm suprised that nobody has brought up either of two points I think are relevant to whether WOTC is embracing Open Gaming...

    First, they took serious legal action against some people that were distributing new M:TG "cards" as stickers to be placed on top of old ones, as a private expansion set. I think they even uses different symbols for the mana, and backgrounds, but because they were obviously meant to be played with Magic, they went after them.

    And WOTC actually has a patent(!) on many of their game mechanics. They've patented "tapping" a card, as in turning it sideways on the play area to indicate that it's been used. This is most definately NOT open...
    ---
  • Reminds me of an experience I had with RoleMaster a few years back. I was an admin for a MUD called "Darkpowers" which was based on the RoleMaster system. It was quite elaborate, written by a lot of player-coders like myself. I called up RM to ask if they were interested in sponsoring us officially - their response was to send us a threatening note about lawyers, licenses, etc.

    Pretty sad.

    Want to work at Transmeta? Hedgefund.net? AT&T?

  • I don't see how this is any different than how things usually are. Gamers have always been able to take the rules and create their own variations on it. You want a mage that can cast in armor? Sure! You prefer to use "magic points" instead of only being able to memorize X spells every morning? Not a problem! You want to play a party of monsters instead of humanoids? That's okay!

    Not only that, but there already are gaming systems that are generic and have rules for all types of games. GURPS [sjgames.com] is the best known, but other games like Rolemaster [ironcrown.com] are also somewhat generic.

    It looks to like all they're doing is trying to make D&D more GURPS-like.

  • Girlfriend...Girlfriend?...

    No, sorry, you missed me there, I've been playing D & D at least 8 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, for the last 10 years (when I'm not programming fax machines for a job). Must be some real high level non player character type I've not come across.

    ;-)

  • Personally I think that the Hero System is a far better "universal" RPGs, in fact it's one of the better rule sets I've seen around. I truly haven't been able to think of a character I couldn't recreate through the rules.

    It does cost a bit, but there's a cutdown crossover version with R Talsorian, called Fuzion [herogames.com] which you can download for free IIRC.

  • The Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game. No dice, four attributes, a handful of powers and a couple of background perks. That's all. How do you handle melee combat then? Whichever combatent has the highest Warfare attribute wins. Of course if they're close then role-playing out the combat using tactics, dirty tricks and other factors can swing it your way, but that's the essence of the rules.

  • Can I sell an improved version of the Player's Handbook under their D20 license? No. Can I compete with their core rules while still leveraging the available third-party source material as a result? No.

    The D20 license is akin to SCSL: you get to look at the source, and if you make complementary products, great. If you want to make and distribute core changes, though, HOW DARE YOU!

    And I quote, from the article [wizards.com]:

    "The other great effect of Open Gaming should be a rapid, constant improvement in the quality of the rules. With lots of people able to work on them in public, problems with math, with ease of use, of variance from standard forms, etc. should all be improved over time. The great thing about Open Gaming is that it is interactive -- someone figures out a way to make something work better, and everyone who uses that part of the rules is free to incorporate it into their products. Including us."

    Remember, this is a proposal. If this thing ever gets off the ground, I for one will count myself lucky.

    --

  • If they're anything like me, and that's a big if, a lot of the people who are attracted to Open Source (whether for ideology [gnu.org] or the wholesome goodness of market competition [opensource.org]) are also the types who are drooling over D&D 3e [3rdedition.com].

    This, if anything, makes the prospect of buying 3e even more tantalizing, since not only would I be purchasing an incredibly cool product, I'd be rewarding a company for its openness and fair competitive spirit.

    --

  • I was going to moderate this to being something negative, but just plain stupid didn't exist. (4 more points of moderation to go!)

    Wizards of the Coast OWNS TSR. They have for quite some time, and anyone who visits TSR's website [tsr.com] would find it painstakingly obvious.

    Oh well, now I can't moderate this topic. I just really hate when people post about things they really have no clue about.

  • Actually, Daemon is a far older term than either demon or Disk And Execution MONitor. The term Daemon originated with the Greeks, and indicated a beings of a level between mortals and gods. They usually represented a Platonic ideal of some human thing. Thus Socrates describes Eros as a Daemon. Of course the Greeks were very fluid about where exactly a being falls in the divine Hierarchy, and Eros has also ben describes as a god. The Romans (as they did with so much else) took over the Greek concept of Daemons. They expanded it slightly to make them "server beings" of the gods. Christianity came along, and redfined the old gods as fallen angels, thus they took the name of divine serants, daemons. The word eventually corrupted to demon. Actually if you used the old definition of Daemon, both angels and demons would be subclasses of the race daemon. AD&D for purposes of giving us a greater varity of things to kill seperatered Daemon as a race from Demon and Devils, just as they seperated Demons and Devils from each other. In actual Christian Mythos, all three are the same, but AD&D made them the embodiment of the NE, CE, and LE alignments respectivly.

  • by Alan Shutko ( 5101 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2000 @06:07AM (#1183023) Homepage
    No political, pr crap about not including demons or devils or evil gods in the monster manuals.

    No, just political pr crap about not including angels in it. 8^) (Somewhere around Dragon 39, I think.)

  • by Cycon ( 11899 ) <steve [at] theProfessionalAmateur@com> on Wednesday March 22, 2000 @06:16AM (#1183024) Homepage
    String ShamelessSelfPromotion="
    Anyone interesting in creating their own Zork/Myst style games (read "interactive fiction") using a simple, straight-forward, GPL'd engine that can played via any java-enabled browser might want to check out The COG Engine [linuxave.net]. The first beta was released this past weekend, and we're looking for more developers over at the SourceForge site [sourceforge.net] right now.";

    System.out.println(ShameLessSelfPromotion);

  • by ywwg ( 20925 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2000 @07:11AM (#1183025) Homepage
    Wrong wrong wrong. Here are the ingredients in Coke (see this page [snopes.com])

    Citrate Caffein, 1 oz. Ext. Vanilla, 1 oz. Flavoring, 2.5 oz.
    F.E. Coco, 4 oz.
    Citric Acid, 3 oz.
    Lime Juice, 1 Qt.
    Sugar, 30 lbs.
    Water, 2.5 Gal.
    Caramel sufficient

    Mix Caffeine Acid and Lime Juice in 1 Qt Boiling water add vanilla and flavoring when cool.

    FlavoringOil Orange, 80
    Oil Lemon, 120
    Oil Nutmeg, 40
    Oil Cinnamon, 40
    Oil Coriander, 40
    Oil Neroli, 40
    Alcohol, 1 Qt.
    let stand 24 hours.

    The thing is, getting de-cocanized coca leaves (Fluid Extract of Coco) requires a special license from the gubment. Guess who owns the only license?

    (note that this is an older recipe, but it's a starting point :)
  • by Rombuu ( 22914 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2000 @06:00AM (#1183026)
    If Coke gave away their recipe, do you honestly think I'm going to brew up my own batch of Coke when I'm thirsty?"

    No, they think Pepsi, or someone else, would brew the same stuff, sell it at half the price and kill their profit margins.
  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2000 @06:04AM (#1183027)
    For the good of all humanity I'm submitting this patch to D&D:

    +if(HoursSinceLastShower > 24) {
    + if(Player.Girlfriend)
    + &nbsp Girlfriend.StormOut;
    + Player.Shower;
    +}

    --
  • by Alan Shutko ( 5101 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2000 @06:04AM (#1183028) Homepage
    The D20 game system will be under the OGL, but if you want to use the D20 trademarks, you'll need to follow the D20 license. It offers some restrictions, like not giving the rules for character creation (they want you to buy the PHB).

    So, as an example, you could take the rules, change them, and release them as a different system (also under the OGL, kind of like the GPL). But you couldn't say it was compatible with the D20 system, and I don't think you could mention the D20 system at all.

    Or, you could write supplements, new characters, modules, etc. and say it was compatible with the D20 system. The impression I've gotten is that the D20 license will not restrict things like that.

    If you want to say "Compatible with D&D", you have to enter into a separate license for that trademark.

    I'm not certain, offhand, what that would mean if say, you wanted to write a character generator. It seems to me that that wouldn't be allowed under the D20 license, but I'd have to ask for a ruling.
  • by trims ( 10010 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2000 @01:49PM (#1183029) Homepage

    OK, I run one of the big AD&D hobbyist web sites (I get ~200k hits/month). I'm not posting it here, 'cause I can't take being /.-d. :-)

    I've been writing AD&D rule expansions and collecting and editing alot of material from the Web for almost 10 years now. I'm also one of the two people involved in maintaining the Great Net Spell/Prayerbook stuff (I do the editing and rule-checking). I've had alot of dealings with TSR in their old incarnation, and also with WOTC when they first took over TSR, though none recently.

    Here are the legal guidelines that govern add-ons to the AD&D system (that is, what you can legally do, and what can be published).

    • You can't use trademarks of TSR without permission. TSR had published a list of words/terms it claims as trademarks - find it here [netdemons.com]. Additionally, there is a list of non-registered ones here [netdemons.com]. Some of the unregistered trademarks are dubious (eg. "goblin"), since they are well-established in prior literature.
    • You can't copy text from any TSR work. That is, you can't quote any section or description from a rulebook. However, you are allowed to rephrase the section, as the book is covered under copyright, not any other law.
    • You cannot wholesale copy tables from TSR books. The layout and presentation of those tables is copyrighted. However, you can copy the contents of those tables and create your own tables from the information contained therein. The info in those tables is considered game mechanics, which is NOT covered by trademark, trade secret, copyright, or any other IP law. Game mechanics are expressly excluded from protection.
    • You can use generic terms (such as Armor Class, Hit Dice, Hit Points) from the TSR rules. Generic terms are those which express concepts in game mechanics. Note that DM (ie Dungeon Master) is a TSR trademark, and is NOT a generic term.
    • You can reference items and information in TSR works. This is perfectly legal. What you cannot do is provide any specific language that such a work includes.
    • Writing your own rules and extensions is NOT considered to be a derived work. The base AD&D system is a game, and as such, is subject to different legal status than literature. Using items, characters, and settings from TSR literature (such as The World of Greyhawk) is not allowed, as that is considered a work of literature. However, the base AD&D world and ruleset is not protected from others building upon it, no matter what TSR says.

    After about 7 years, I'm about 90% of the way through a complete, free, unencumbered re-write of the 1st Edition DMG + PHB. I've tried to be very aware of all these issues, and I suspect that the D20 initiative is really intended to head off the possible impact that works such as mine would have on TSR income (there are several others working on similar, free rule tomes).

    To look at it in a simplistic view, all we've done is to clone Monopoly. There are large numbers of Monopoly-like clones out there: same rules, same board layout. However, notice they have different artwork and labels for things. This is what you can do.

    To reiterate, Game Mechanics Are Not Protected . All TSR can do is prevent you from using their trademarks, exact text/layout and developed settings. Everything else is fair game.

    -Erik

  • by sugarman ( 33437 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2000 @07:12AM (#1183030)
    This is a shame. TSR has long been the M$ of roleplaying, extending their roleplaying system into any and all genres, including some that where is obviously didn't fit. The reason there have been so many additions (patches) is that for anything beyond a quick dungeon crawl, AD&D breaks down quickly in being able to handle the complexities of the rules.

    AD&D has largely been a cludge, a hack, since its inception. It has since been surpassed by most other systems that are out there. WhiteWolf, FASA, SJG, and GamesWorkshop all had much more workable systems, that scaled much better. AD&D has just always had more money, more marketing, and a larger installed user base to allow it to maintian it's market dominance, despite the system being crap. The fact that most players would leave AD&D and not look back once they discovered some of the other systems out there only serves to prove how flawed the AD&D's system was.

    The reality of the weaknesses in TSR's strategy was revealed once they faced a true open paradigm from the CCG's. It was small, lightweight, and portable, usable on a variety of hardware, and was able to cross a number of language and cultural boundaries by dealing with differng sytems iconically. The wooshing sound that was heard was the rush of players moving to the open CCG style. Of course we saw an incredible influx of different distributions, and there were those that were advocates of one or the other, but in the end it all came down to the same thing: playing cards.

    Now, years after they've been beaten in the marketplace, so badly in fact that the've been bought out by one of the upstarts who 've caused their downfall, (And don't think that the upstarts isn't laughing about that every single day) they are forced to look for any way to recapture their glory days. And they release their system to the public.

    Unfortunately, they still don't 'get it'. They have kept a number of the key components (D20, PHB) under their strict control, and you still need these to buy in. Sure, they say you can use D20 now, but what's preventing them from pulling that resource in the future, as Unisys has done with GIF's. No, what they are really trying to do is capitalize, finally, on what everybody has been doing all along, since the game was originally released:

    Making up their own stuff.

  • Roleplaying games are inherently "open source." (You can't copyright the rules themselves, only the specific text of the books.) The so-called OGL grants no rights above and beyond what you already have, and actually takes some away.

    Look closely at what's happening... they're trying to control the source anyway through use of the "D20" trademark.

    And they're claiming to be first, when critters like Steffan O'Sullivan's FUDGE has been doing this for a long time.

  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2000 @06:28AM (#1183032) Homepage
    The entire point of this is to mislead and misdirect. This is *HASBRO*. Remember, the people who are suing "clue.com" into the ground for existing? The people suing other companies because they claim to have a copyright on a "triangular ship with thrusters"?

    The *SOLE* purpose of this is to try to crush all competing gaming systems, while preserving WOTC's rights.

    Ryan Dancey is a scumbag. He also does not understand copyright law.

    When asked about ownership of gaming materials created for use with the AD&D system (say, you run your own campaign, and you have a world), he said that WOTC owns them. He claims that anything that works with a gaming system is a derivative work of that system, and that *ALL* ownership and rights of derivative works goes to the "original" copyright holder.

    He is a dangerous, slimy, man. Do not trust anything he says; he's probably wrong, and either way, his goal is to eliminate competition from his market by making his system the only viable one - while still holding all the trademarks and making sure everyone has to buy his products.

    WOTC was bought by Hasbro; they are now expected to follow Hasbro's path of buying franchises and suing to eliminate competition.

Parallel lines never meet, unless you bend one or both of them.

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