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gdmcbride
07-16-2008, 12:29 PM
Green Ronin (http://www.greenronin.com/) has officially announced they will not be signing the GSL and supporting fourth edition in only a very limited way. You can read the full press release on the front page of their web site. Instead they will be focusing on their own systems (Mutants and Masterminds, True 20, Freeport and the upcoming non-d20 Song of Ice and Fire RPG).

This is another interesting development in what is proving to be an interesting time for RPGs. But what does it all mean?

I think it is yet another blow to the GSL. Chris Pramas and Nicole Lindroos are far from being outsiders of the industry. GR has produced over 100 d20/OGL gaming products over their company's history. Their absence means there will be far fewer GSL products on shelves in years to come.

But is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Hmmm....

Gary

Igbutton
07-16-2008, 12:39 PM
From the way the GSL read I would say it's exactly what WotC had in mind.

Is a good or bad thing?

Personally I was always wary of 3rd party material, I had a hard enough time convincing my DM to let me use stuff other than core, and I don't blame him because it got kinda silly with all the extra books. Furthermore it rarely seemed to fit well with 1st party, it was similar but difference discouraged me.

But if WotC is the only one producing anything they won't have to worry near so much about producing quality material, no competetion = no inovation.

Time will tell.

Greylond
07-16-2008, 12:55 PM
Kenzer&Co has also said that they aren't signing the GSL. In fact a few days ago they released an updated version of The Kingdoms of Kalamar for 4E(PDF only for right now).
http://www.kenzerco.com/product_info.php?cPath=25_28_43&products_id=625

As long as you don't use any of WOTC's IP then anyone can publish a "4E Compatible" supplement without the GSL.

ryan973
07-16-2008, 01:22 PM
Thats true but there update is kinda vague on certain point and could be adjusted to almost any fantasy setting. It is sad that Hackmaster 5th edition is goin to be a new sytem but i understand it. Wizards opulled there licence to use 2nd edition and so they will have to move on. I am sure it will be great though as they are not the types to produce a product they dontr beleave in.

Greylond
07-16-2008, 01:26 PM
Just to be clear, Wizards didn't "Pull the license". WOTC and K&Co had an settlement agreement which included the license for a set number of years. K&Co always planned to let it expire. In short K&Co never asked for an extension and WOTC never offered.

Dave and crew have said all along that is why they started years ago toward distancing themselves from WOTC trademarks and developed Aces&Eights.

From what they've said HM5 will incorporate some stuff from A&8's. From what little I've heard from the people involved it's gonna be kewl...

fmitchell
07-16-2008, 02:52 PM
As long as you don't use any of WOTC's IP then anyone can publish a "4E Compatible" supplement without the GSL.

Hmmm ... I'm not sure about that. I thought you had to sign the GSL to use the SRD, which is essentially a list of all the content you can reference (or quote in short snippets).

The sample PDF includes a stat block for a variant horse that refers to the Monster Manual (albeit vaguely), and another that defines a new PC race. Both rely implicitly on rules in D&D 4th edition. Kenzer can argue Fair Use, but WotC can still lawyer them out of existence even before the case goes to trial.

Notice, too, that Kenzer is hedging its bets by making this version available only as a PDF and a POD book. No inventory = nothing to pulp if WotC gets snippy.

ithil
07-16-2008, 03:06 PM
But if WotC is the only one producing anything they won't have to worry near so much about producing quality material, no competetion = no inovation.

Look to different systems like Pathfinder to provide that competition, I'd say.

fmitchell
07-16-2008, 03:25 PM
Chris Pramas and Nicole Lindroos are far from being outsiders of the industry. GR has produced over 100 d20/OGL gaming products over their company's history. Their absence means there will be far fewer GSL products on shelves in years to come.

But is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Depends who you are. D&D's current third-party publishers are splitting into 3.x holdouts (e.g. Paizo), proprietary system vendors (e.g. Green Ronin and Kenzer) and 4e boosters (mainly WotC, but supposedly Necromancer). WotC can only publish so many titles, so that will reduce the amount of 4e material available. Also, while the PDF market might be small potatoes, it's a source for small and cheap house rules; most of these guys might balk at the GSL, if WotC even deigns to let them on board, so players will have even fewer choices for new adventures, feats, races, classes, powers, etc.

WotC is gambling that they can draw in more players than they alienate and have (nearly) all the pie to themselves. I suspect what will happen, instead, is that the total D&D pie will shrink, and non D&D systems -- old and new -- may get more of the total RPG pie. Not that there's much pie to go around in this business.

Greylond
07-16-2008, 03:33 PM
Hmmm ... I'm not sure about that. I thought you had to sign the GSL to use the SRD, which is essentially a list of all the content you can reference (or quote in short snippets).

The sample PDF includes a stat block for a variant horse that refers to the Monster Manual (albeit vaguely), and another that defines a new PC race. Both rely implicitly on rules in D&D 4th edition. Kenzer can argue Fair Use, but WotC can still lawyer them out of existence even before the case goes to trial.

Notice, too, that Kenzer is hedging its bets by making this version available only as a PDF and a POD book. No inventory = nothing to pulp if WotC gets snippy.

David Kenzer's real job is a IP Lawyer for a Major Corporation. He's studied and practiced IP Law for 15+ years. He says that they are ok, I'm willing to trust him since I'm not lawyer and don't know more than he does about it.

Also, Kalamar came out in 1994 and TSR never objected at the time and that was during their lawsuit happy days...

fmitchell
07-16-2008, 03:49 PM
David Kenzer's real job is a IP Lawyer for a Major Corporation. He's studied and practiced IP Law for 15+ years. He says that they are ok, I'm willing to trust him since I'm not lawyer and don't know more than he does about it.

I've no doubt they ran it by lawyers, and the boss being a copyright lawyer is a plus. But it's a fine line they're trying to draw, and one slip could open them up to a lawsuit, even an ill-founded one. A major toy corporation's pet sharks can easily chew through Kenzer's time and money.

And, as I've noted, Kenzer Co is clearly hedging their bets.

Greylond
07-16-2008, 04:15 PM
Nah, what Dave said in this thread (http://www.kenzerco.com/forums/showthread.php?t=38336) was;


we no longer have an agreement with Wizards. Why? Is there some "magic" restriction in IP law that restricts people from making new creative material that doesn't use any TMs, patents or copyrights of another company?

Oh, perhaps it's the magical FUD rule that you're referring to?

By-the-by, KoK first appeared in 1994 and we had no formal relationship with TSR.


copyright infringement is basing your work on someone else's creative expression. Rules are not creative expression. Also, it is not "based" on their rules. It happens to "work with" their rules.

SHould every programmer that writes a program that works with a computer have to pay the owner of the OS it runs on? I think not. I could be wrong, but fortunately, the US and International copyright laws agree with me.

A world where one could not reference others' materials in their product would be a dark and sad place.


We sold Kalamar from 94-2001. A dozen or more products. never once did even litigious TSR send a letter. Let alone WoTC themselves (who, IIRC, got their start by making 3rd party product for Palladium games).


Also, folks misunderstand this move. This is not a heroic gesture or a jab at WoTC. We're just some guys with some kewl IP sittin around that would be better served making revenue. If anything, having a top-notch campaign setting converted to DD4 can only help Wizards sell more DD4 books.

If they feel somehow slighted because we didn't follow a license that we've never needed before, well I can't help how they feel. but somehow I doubt they feel slighted. They're pros after all.

Like I said, WOTC/TSR never objected to Kalamar pre-3.x and Dave has got lots of experience as a Lawyer AND the Presiden/CEO of a Game Company(more than most other Game Company Prez/CEOs out there). I'd tend to think he knows what he's talking about.

tesral
07-16-2008, 04:17 PM
Considering the GSL (Gotta Supply Loot) I can handly blame them. Might as well cut off an arm as sign that thing.

agoraderek
07-16-2008, 05:50 PM
Hmmm ... I'm not sure about that. I thought you had to sign the GSL to use the SRD, which is essentially a list of all the content you can reference (or quote in short snippets).

The sample PDF includes a stat block for a variant horse that refers to the Monster Manual (albeit vaguely), and another that defines a new PC race. Both rely implicitly on rules in D&D 4th edition. Kenzer can argue Fair Use, but WotC can still lawyer them out of existence even before the case goes to trial.

Notice, too, that Kenzer is hedging its bets by making this version available only as a PDF and a POD book. No inventory = nothing to pulp if WotC gets snippy.

well, you can't copyright rules, for one, so, unless the judge is "in pocket" for WotC, any "rules" based lawsuit should get thrown out as frivolous. what you CAN copyright is format and verbiage, so kenser needs to be aware of that trap...

fmitchell
07-16-2008, 05:56 PM
From browsing around, there are hints that Goodman Games is trying to do an end-run around the GSL as well. For example, their 4e-compatible DCC modules will be available before Oct 1. (On the other hand, they seem to be discontinuing their 3.x DCC line.)

It's probably legal, but I'm paranoid ... what's sensible sometimes departs from what is legal, which in turn departs from what somebody can find a judge to sign off on.

gdmcbride
07-16-2008, 06:59 PM
But if WotC is the only one producing anything they won't have to worry near so much about producing quality material, no competetion = no inovation.

Time will tell.

There is definitely going to be competition. Paizo's "Pathfinder", Mongoose's "Conan, Green Ronin's "True20" -- not to mention even if all of those folded -- RPGs are just an entertainment media. RPGs must compete with CRPGS, MMORPGs, Board Games, CCGs, and so forth.

I do not fear that WotC will have no competition. 'What sort of competition' is really the question.

Gary

gdmcbride
07-16-2008, 07:31 PM
Copyright laws so perilously close to a protected IP are a legal tightrope. Let no one tell you otherwise. Since we're throwing around quotes from industry professionals, let me quote James Jacobs, Pathfinder's editor-in-chief, on why they won't be using copyright laws to put out 4th edition compatible products:


I'm not interested in walking legal tightropes and "faking" 4th edition content without signing on to the GSL.

Pretty succinct.

Kalamar works because fundamentally, Kingdoms of Kalamar is D&D. All the core races and classes are part of the world mostly unchanged. Also, KenzerCo is unique (to my knowledge) that it is game company ran by lawyer specialized in IP. And that's great! Goodness knows, I'm a fan of some of Kenzer's works. I bought "Aces and Eights" last year and have never regretted it. I own a good chunk of the Kalamar line (especially the adventures!). Yay Kenzer!

But you must recognize their condition is unique. For other companies and product lines things are much more complicated. A world that reimagines parts of the IP for example is much more legally perilous. For example, Fantasy Flight Game's "Midnight" has the Wildlander class which is basically the Ranger without magic. How can you say without using WotC's mode of expression that the wildlander gets all of the ranger's normal abilities at 1st level? That's where the OGL really shines. It precisely clears up those issues.

Yes, it can be done. It has been done! But you must be very careful or you could print thousands of copies of a book that you can't sell. I understand why that would intimidate most publishers.

Gary

Grimwell
07-17-2008, 12:03 AM
I consider this a fine opportunity for third party publishers to take more stabs at that pie. Good gaming is good gaming, and there are number of companies with very talented individuals who are now in a position to innovate and make their own space.

Innovation is good for the industry, and good for the customer. We will see a number of things that are tried and fail, and can take good gaming nuggets from each. One or two of them will succeed; and could take a stab at being the new hotness that replaces D&D as the top game -- that's never impossible even if it's not probable. ;)

Greylond
07-17-2008, 01:49 AM
gmMcbride, Kalamar is "unique" in that regard because it was specifically researched, designed and written to be self-contained IP. It was written that way in 1994 and K&Co has worked to keep their IP separate from anyone else's.

But yea, I'm not sure how many other game worlds/supplements were designed from the ground up to be like that. Not saying that it isn't a "Fine Line", just that it's been done and it will continue to be done in the future. Fact is that a company doesn't need a WOTC License to produce product, they've just got to be careful.

fmitchell
07-17-2008, 02:26 AM
K&Co has worked to keep their IP separate from anyone else's. ... Not saying that it isn't a "Fine Line", just that it's been done and it will continue to be done in the future. Fact is that a company doesn't need a WOTC License to produce product, they've just got to be careful.

Many RPG products attempt to be "system-neutral", with varying levels of success. You can detail wholly original kingdoms, cities, and important NPCs without any legal ramifications ... but as soon as you need to write out stats for NPCs, critters, and new races/classes you're treading close to that line.

The 'Atomik' series of PDFs, among others, attempt to define everything on a system-independent scale of bonuses and penalties, with translation notes at the end. (A related technique is to design for a "lighter" system like Fudge.) That sort of works, except the buyer has to translate it to his or her own system, and make it "feel" natural ... which almost defeats the purpose of buying a pre-made adventure or setting.

Perhaps a game company could get away with publishing an adventure outside of D&D 4e, and then provide "translation notes" for D&D crunch as a separate product (maybe a free download). Then again, maybe not; I am not a lawyer. Even if it passes legal tests, the market may reject that sort of kludge out of hand.