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View Full Version : "Parallel evolution" of D&D 3e?



fmitchell
02-21-2008, 10:25 PM
A weird thought just occurred to me. Quoted from ENWorld's 4e page (http://www.enworld.org/index.php?page=4e#ogl):


The 4e OGL will contain some aspects of the old d20 license, and is more restrictive in some areas than the prior Open Gaming License. We are tying the OGL more closely to D&D. (...)

The 4th edition SRD will be much more of a reference document than the 3e SRD. The current edition contains almost all of the rules and allows “copy and paste” publishing. WotC would prefer to see 3rd party publishers to use their creativity and talent instead of reformatting or slightly changing pre-existing rules. As such, the 4e SRD will contain more guidelines and pointers, and less straightforward rules repetition.

(...)

In any case, material that’s open under the 3.5 OGL remains open, and there will be no language in the 4e OGL to restrict 3.0 or 3.5 products.

Given the statements above, I wonder if it would be possible to use 3.x material to recreate some or all of 4e. I mean, we won't know the differences until 4e actually comes out, but presumably 4e will have something in common with 3e.

Obviously a straight "recreation" of D&D 4e would be more trouble than it's worth (in several senses) ... but maybe if someone wanted to do a hybrid d20-based game based on 3.x OGL and "reinventing" the good bits of D&D 4e, True20, and any other d20-related improvements (e.g. classlessness, point-buy creation, alternate combat and wounding rules) ...

Drohem
02-21-2008, 10:31 PM
I am sure that they are going to protect 4e D&D with great vigor. They will probably have something in place to prevent this from happening. Then again, who knows, maybe they didn't think of this possibility. :eek:

tesral
02-21-2008, 11:26 PM
Pure speculation until we see the product. Niceto know they are not taking the 3x stuff away. Some of us do not so lightly change things around.

Maelstrom
02-22-2008, 03:51 AM
I am sure that they are going to protect 4e D&D with great vigor. They will probably have something in place to prevent this from happening.

Imagine trying to reign in something like a tabletop RPG however. By definition it exists in the imagination, and the whole system is based around the DM and players' ability to be creative.

The first court case would shut any attempted activities like that down. It's hard enough as it is for companies with legitimate concerns to protect what should be theirs (such as computer games and music). No worries.

Does anyone have any news story links about WoTC trying to get people to cease and desist in any RPG related activity? I've never even heard of a hint of them attempting that.

fmitchell
02-22-2008, 05:03 AM
Does anyone have any news story links about WoTC trying to get people to cease and desist in any RPG related activity? I've never even heard of a hint of them attempting that.

Well, I snipped the part about their "community standards" clause. To quote from ENWorld again:


... according to Scott Rouse, there has only been one case in the last two years where the community standards clause came into effect, and that was amicably resolved.

A reasonable guess is that the unnamed product is The Book of Erotic Fantasy, which (according to someone I know) introduces S&M-themed classes. Nothing ever came to court, but I'd guess there was some behind-the-scenes wrangling. A source tells me said book's author effectively burned his bridges with WotC, and may have left gaming entirely.

P.S. In this case, though, it was a clear d20 license violation.

Drohem
02-22-2008, 09:41 AM
I was referring to the OP: I meant that I think they would protect 4e from being reverse-engineered using the 3.5 open license.

InfoStorm
02-22-2008, 10:35 AM
Last I knew, Gwen, the primary writer of the Book of Erotic Fantasy is still a writer for Wizards of the Coast, as is her husband. I don't remember the time frame close enough to know if she was an Editor for Wizards at the time the book game out, or if that was from before she was hired. The fact that the book had a 2nd printing leads me to believe it was not the source.

fmitchell
02-22-2008, 10:45 AM
I was referring to the OP: I meant that I think they would protect 4e from being reverse-engineered using the 3.5 open license.

Oh, I agree that WotC would send a squad of Lawyers in Black if someone tried to market a straight clone of 4e. But if someone decided to start with 3.5 and add in rewritten pieces of 4e mixed with other stuff I'm not sure what legal action they could take. Expressions of rules fall under copyright, but rules themselves can't be copyrighted, as Mongoose demonstrated with its RuneQuest. (Then again, Chaosium is four guys working at home, while WotC is a wholly owned subsidiary of a giant toy and game company ... and legal merit doesn't matter if they can bankrupt you before you go to trial.)

Now, if I were writing a game I'd just start from scratch, maybe with a 3d6 high-roll mechanic ... but some people just love their d20. Look at True20, Iron Heroes, Mongoose's various OGL games, Modern^20 (on RPGNow), ...

Maelstrom
02-22-2008, 10:56 AM
If you just grab a couple of the rules you like from 4e and tack em on 3.5 for local groups nobody's going to bother you (make yourself a 3.75e).

I agree with fmitchell that they will do something if you blatantly meld them together as a public offering basically trying to compete against WoTC with their own stuff. And they would be right to do so.

Drohem
02-22-2008, 10:58 AM
Oh, I agree that WotC would send a squad of Lawyers in Black if someone tried to market a straight clone of 4e. But if someone decided to start with 3.5 and add in rewritten pieces of 4e mixed with other stuff I'm not sure what legal action they could take. Expressions of rules fall under copyright, but rules themselves can't be copyrighted, as Mongoose demonstrated with its RuneQuest.

Yup, I agree it may be a grey area that they might have difficulty with if someone created something close, but not quite a straight reverse-enigneered version of 4e D&D.

I think a better example of rules not being copyrighted would be the Retro-Clone games GORE, OSRIC, Labyrnith Lords, and Mutant Future by Goblinoid Games. Those games are Call of Cthulhu, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeons & Dragons, and Gamma World with serial numbers scratched off, LOL!

nijineko
02-23-2008, 04:07 AM
synnibarr is also one of the serial scratched off types. except that it mixes previous stuff with other randomness. but don't tell raven that...

fmitchell
02-23-2008, 02:08 PM
synnibarr is also one of the serial scratched off types. except that it mixes previous stuff with other randomness. but don't tell raven that...

I don't know much about the Synnibarr rules, so I can't really comment.

Mongoose's RuneQuest was a more familiar example, since it took an established system and "reverse engineered" the basics while changing it just enough to avoid lawsuits (if Chaosium ever tried such a thing). It also had the blessing of Greg Stafford ... and some chunks came almost verbatim from the d20 and d20 Modern SRDs (as the OGL declaration acknowledges).

The primary "alternate d20" I was thinking of was True20 (and, to a lesser extent, Mutants and Masterminds). Essentially they took the 3.5 SRD, replaced a bunch of stuff (classes, magic, hit points), and sold it as a competitor to D&D. However, feats, combat, and "hazards", among others, came more or less straight out of the d20 SRDs. Given the different class and damage systems, I can't imagine True20 would want to rip off huge chunks of 4e ... but if 4e does something truly better that translates well into True20 terms, I can't see any obstacles to True20 or a third party supplement adopting it. Prior to the OGL, "borrowing" mechanics happened all the time.

Apparently WotC wrote the 4.0 OGL specifically to discourage using their content as a leg-up to develop your own competing game. However, with the 3.5 OGL, the cat's already out of the bag. Maybe "parallel" games won't exactly mimic 4e, but using 3.5 as a base they can learn from 4e and evolve in their own directions. While none will really threaten D&D, I suspect these "alternates" will remain a thorn in WotC's side for a long time.

nijineko
02-23-2008, 11:37 PM
like i said elsewhere, the ogl was one of the best things to happen to gaming in a long time.

Grimwell
02-24-2008, 02:54 PM
Last I knew, Gwen, the primary writer of the Book of Erotic Fantasy is still a writer for Wizards of the Coast, as is her husband. I don't remember the time frame close enough to know if she was an Editor for Wizards at the time the book game out, or if that was from before she was hired. The fact that the book had a 2nd printing leads me to believe it was not the source.

The Book of Erotic Fantasy was the product that triggered the community standards clause (http://www.gamewyrd.com/echoes/others2_14.php). It was originally to be published as D20, but due to the standards invocation it became OGL. The company behind the BOEF was the Valar Project, headed up by Anthony Valterra, and as their URL currently indicates (http://www.valarproject.com/)... they are no longer an entity. Checking Anthony's info on the net comes up with very little current indicators. I don't think he's at WOTC these days.

He was in the past though, and actually drove the creation of the OGL and D20 license; and is the one who is most likely to not be welcome there now a days.

gdmcbride
02-27-2008, 12:38 PM
So to revive this discussion: could someone make a 4th-ish 3.x clone if the 4th edition GSL turns out to be too restrictive.

When you make something public domain its hard to get it back again. And the OGL isn't exactly public domain but it is close. So WOTC is on thin ice making many D&D concepts once more completely closed. Of course, practically speaking this hardly matters. If WOTC decides to sue someone within the RPG industry, they win. Not because of any merit but because what other gaming company can afford the legal expense?

I am no lawyer, but it would seem to me that the simple answer is this: if WOTC decides to vigorously attack a hypothetical 4th-ish OGL clone, you are doomed. Since there is no way to know if they'd do that, that risk will probably keep reputable publishers out.

But a small company might give it a try (particularly in PDFs). Would anyone buy it? That's a good question. Troll Lords has staked their fortune to '3.x but simpler'. Maybe there is some room for a company that is '4.x but more open'.

Gary