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D&D 3E
Quick d20 questions 
5th-Sep-2005 10:44 pm
Ok I could sit here and read this and go over it with a lawyer but I need some very basic and quick answers.

From what someone told me I could take the D20 system and drop my own material (game world) into it so long as I do not change the system itself. So my questions are.

1: is this true?
2: does WOC get money for this?
3: How much of the material do they own? If I am using their system do I turn over rights of the game world to them?

I need to know this stuff before I throw 10 years of work into this.
Comments 
6th-Sep-2005 03:09 am (UTC)
I'm not a lawyer, but I've been involved with the d20 and OGL movements since before 3e was launched.

The short answers are:

1: Not exactly, but close enough.
2: Only through increased sales of their books
3: None of it.

Of course, that doesn't really help. Here's the longer answer:

The Open Gaming License, or "OGL", is a copyleft license modeled after the GNU Public License. It allows a work to be released with only part of it, usually the game rules, delcared as "open" and with another part of it, usually trademarks and distinct characters, as "closed" (or "Product Identity.")

If you're not famiilar with copyleft, the easiest concept to get is "share and share alike." You can use their OGL'd rules, but only if you release your legally derivitive work under the OGL as well. You still retain legal ownership of the work, but you cannot keep anyone who gets a copy of your work from using it under the OGL. (this is the part you may want a lawyer for, although the non-lawyers and lawyers-not-giving-legal-advice on the OGF listserv are helpful enough.)

A similar license, the d20 Trademark License, lets anyone who uses both the OGL and the additional restrictions in the d20 Trademark Usage Guide use the "d20" trademark. Again, none of your work becomes WotC's work, but you do become subject to their review of your work. Of course, you can always just not use the d20STL.


Oh, and your friend misinformed you. Nothing in the OGL or even the last d20 guide I looked at require you to not make any modifications to the system. Mutants & Masterminds, Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed, Mike Mearls' Iron Heroes, and a wide assortment of other d20 games make significant modifications to the game without violating the OGL.

(Now, you can't redefine terms and still use the d20STL--but redefining terms without a very good reason isn't a good idea in any case.)
6th-Sep-2005 11:36 am (UTC)
Here's a point I'm curious about:

"If you're not famiilar with copyleft, the easiest concept to get is "share and share alike." You can use their OGL'd rules, but only if you release your legally derivitive work under the OGL as well. You still retain legal ownership of the work, but you cannot keep anyone who gets a copy of your work from using it under the OGL. (this is the part you may want a lawyer for, although the non-lawyers and lawyers-not-giving-legal-advice on the OGF listserv are helpful enough.)"

So does this mean we could never attempt to make a profit; and does it mean that anyone who receives a copy of our game could use the material?
6th-Sep-2005 12:41 pm (UTC)
> So does this mean we could never attempt to make a profit; and does it mean that anyone who receives a copy of our game could use the material?

To answer the second part first, they could use any material that you designate as open content, which has to include any open content that you've taken from elsewhere (such as the PHB). Actually, they could "use" any part of it at all, in the sense of running a game set in your world, but in a commercial sense, the statement holds.

In terms of making a profit, te important phrase is "You still retain legal ownership of the work". You can sell or distribute your content in any way you see fit, so long as you identify which parts of it are open content, and thus fair game for others to adapt. Just look at companies like Kenzer Co, Sovereign Press, Fantasy Flight Games, Mongoose Publishing or Necromancer Games for examples of companies that have made a good living selling OGL products. In a couple of cases, they have special agreements with WotC (Kenzer can put the Dungeons & Dragons logo on Kingdoms of Kalamar, for example), but in most cases, they're utterly independent.
7th-Sep-2005 02:00 am (UTC)
Thanks. I will check out these other companies
7th-Sep-2005 01:28 am (UTC)
Anonymous
Just about everyone who responded is spot-on. It warms the cockles of my heart to have so many folk in the know in the liense, even though there's a discussion about a rather arcane interpretation over on ogf-l.

Prof, you've hit upon exactly why WotC went through the expense of creating a new license instead of just using the GPL or some other extant copyleft license.

The short answer is "anyone who recieves a copy of the game can go ahead and use the open gaming content, which must inlude at least anything that is legally derivitive of other open gaming content."

While you could go to a lawyer and get an answer that could range from "nothing at all" or "the whole kit and kaboodle", most of the industry--including Wizards of the Coast--treat game-rules and the non-rule aspects of game-characters as seperate copyrights. This goes double for thing such as cities, organizations, histories, dialogs, stories, artwork, and anything else listed in the OGL's "Product Identity" description.

Helpful hint: the OGL was intended to keep both the big guys and the little guys out of court if at all possible. If you have a question about what you can and can't use, go ahead and ask Wizards of the Coast or the publisher of whatever product you're using. They're all rather nice guys (or girls), and while they only have limited time for relations like this, they do respond.

7th-Sep-2005 01:28 am (UTC)
Oopps... that was me. Forgot to log on.
7th-Sep-2005 02:02 am (UTC)
I will try to contact them directly. I wanted to at least ask around and get a feel for what was what before I put in time and enegry to a project I might/might not be able to work with due to the amount of detail I have with what I created.

Thank you for all the information. You have helped me figure some stuff out.
6th-Sep-2005 03:48 am (UTC)
It was my understanding that the only profit they make from the d20 system is through the sale of books published by WotC.
7th-Sep-2005 02:04 am (UTC)
I have no picked up a new RPG in years.
I have been running CP 2020 (which I changed a great deal)
and my own RPG.
7th-Sep-2005 02:42 am (UTC)
... Okay?
7th-Sep-2005 02:58 am (UTC)
In other words I did not know that because I am out of the loop *LOL*
6th-Sep-2005 12:05 pm (UTC)
I Am Not A Lawyer.

The D20 System is not the Open Gaming License. Pretty much, as long as you follow a couple easy rules about including the license and crediting properly, you can do anything you want using the System Reference Document (the OGLed ruleset), as long as you leave the D20 System trademark and the Dungeons & Dragons trademark out of it.

If you want to get the D20 System trademark on your stuff, you have more rules to follow. See the D20 Trademark License for details.

If you intend to publish your material anywhere, including on a "private" home page on the Internet, you should make sure you're compliant with the license. It's not hard to do this.

If you're just sharing this with your friends at home, Wizards of the Coast won't give a flying fuck what you do with it. Have fun!

In all cases, the material you create is your own material. The only time you run the risk of them owning your material is when you create a wholly derivative work based on their specific intellectual property without license to do so. Such would be the case if you published a setting booklet about, say, The Forgotten Realms, without permission. Simply creating Forgotten Realms material for your own campaign is considered by most to be Fair Use (or implicit license) of the product, and thus does not constitute a copyright violation. It's when you publish that things get sticky.
6th-Sep-2005 12:06 pm (UTC)
By the way...

Best. User Icon. Ever.
7th-Sep-2005 02:04 am (UTC)
:) thanks
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