Creative Mind seeking legal opinions
I am in the process of creating a new system. It is intended to be for private use at the moment, but will eventually be made public when i feel it is ironed out and balanced.
My issue is: how copy righted/trade marked is a system mechanic. for example: in my game, i am thinking of using d10's and anything on an 8 or higher is considered a success. But WoD uses the same mechanic.. will i be infringing upon rights or legal issues?
i am also using a Stat + Skill dice pool, and am aware that Shadow Run 4th edition and WoD use these mechanics as well, but i dont want to just assume i can since one uses d6 and the other uses d10.
can anyone help me. i have googled and binged copy right law but come up a bit more confused, as i'm not sure they are in gaming terms.
I've done some research on this topic myself, but I am not a lawyer. If you are seriously considering a competing product to WOD then I recommend talking to a lawyer. But here's my understanding of the law.
Copyright does not cover "ideas". The concept of success/failure on dice rolls is an idea. The part that is actually copyrighted is the writing. Thus you cannot plagiarizer from WOD and the wording of your idea must be your own.
With the disk pool concept, once again it is not infringing on copyright.
However, there is a point where you could be infringing on trademarks. You are creating an RPG, and so does WOD. Your system is SIMILAR to WOD. The real question becomes HOW SIMILAR is it? You need significant differences between your system and theirs to avoid crossing the line to "infringement". If your game is about vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and sorcerers, and you have a similar system, they might have a case. But if you are doing a space adventure system with a similar system, you might be safe.
RPGs when you break them down are essentially collections of stats. How you use those stats are important. You want to make sure that you use different attributes or skills, a different damage system, or change the die mechanics a bit. Maybe instead of 1-10 you do 0-9. Or you have an attribute that modifies the roll but it is the skill/power that determines how many dice you get.
I would aim for at least three MAJOR differences between how your system works and the big name-brand systems.
If you check out my system (link below) you will find several similarities between it and d20, Gurps, and Shadowrun. However, there are several significant differences from each as well. My attributes are roughly 1/2 of a d20 character's score and they are similar in definition. I use d6's similar to Gurps and Shadowrun, but I use a variable number of dice based on how much time devoted to an action. More time = more dice. I track wounds similar to d20, but there is a Stun Roll that determines if my character is affected by the damage. While this is similar to Shadowrun's damage roll-off mechanic, I do it differently. Where d20 hitpoints count down, I have no limit on the number of damage points the character can take.
Then there's the setting, another point of difference.
If you're interested in checking it out, here's the docs: http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/2423015
this was very helpful, i thought i had this post subscribed to but i forgot i changed my email and never updated my profile, other wise i would have thanked you earlier.
when i am ready i may get some opinions on whether people think i am too close to any other system. my main concern is the way i have my stats set up. I have 4 categories Physical, Mental, Social and Supernatural. each category has Might, Tact, and Vitality. WoD uses Physical, Mental, Social and Power, Finesse, and Resistance. I guess i could change my categories to Body, Mind and Social but not sure if that would make a difference.
I have the categories set up that way for various reasons throughout the mechanic of my game, and as far as i know, WoD only uses those categories for flavor/descriptive uses. My categories literally make up the core of the stat/skill mechanic. the total number of Ranks a character has in his Physical Stats determine his Health, Physical Skill Points, the damage threshold he can take before suffering penalties, etc. and the same thing goes for Mental, Social, and Supernatural. each one has it's own version of Health i.e Clarity, Ego...
The magic system i have is now a headache, cause it is hard to think of original spells,. only so many ways to describe a fire ball or teleport. wording a spell's description so that it meet's my game mechanic will ease a lot of the burdan,.. but the flavor / rule text within the spell's description is tricky, as i thought i was making up a spell only to have my friend show me that GURPS has a spell that is worded similar. But of course, when you are GURPS and right over 350 skills and over 700 spells, its pretty hard to have someone not step on your toes,.. just a little.
In a way it is fun to have the challenge, but at the same time.. i do want to eventually publish my system.. even if it wont sell,.. so i want it to be 100% legit.
I think you are still getting yourself hung up on copyright. You can write something that is SIMILAR to someone else's work, but you cannot copy & paste.
A single spell or description of a stat will not get you for copyright infringement as long as you have SOME differences. Copyright usually gets people in trouble with entire sections that could easily have been described differently but were copied word-for-word.
If you describe a fireball as a "Mass of energy that bursts into flames on contact with the target." and some other game says "Ball of energy that bursts into flames on contact with the target." and that is the only major example of a similarity, you are perfectly fine. Where it becomes a problem is where you describe multiple spells in the same way with only minimal differences. The odds of you describing 20 spells exactly like an author from one book is extremely low - unless you are plagiarizer!
It has to be reasonably obvious that you copied from Book X.
As for your description of stats, it sounds like you have enough differences there. Just because a stat is named the same as WOD will not be a problem. It will ultimately come down to how you use the stat and its written description. If I'm understanding the concept then they act very differently from WOD.
Where WOD stats represent everything related to the stat, yours breaks each one down into three sub-stats, right? You've taken their idea and expanded on it. That seems like a significant difference to me. But that's only ONE difference. How you deal with the dice could be another.
Is that about right?
Keep in mind that D&D was the original RPG and from that you had Palladium and Hackmaster that basically used the same concepts, added their own descriptions, changed the way some things worked, and they were just fine. Palladium system used 3d6 to generate attributes, had modifiers, used hit points, armor class, etc. BUT it was written with different descriptions, and they had a lot of small changes that added up to "significant differences" overall.
Even if you look at D&D 3.5 vs. Pathfinder there are tons of similarities, obvious and blatant ones, but they are safe from copyright infringement due to the differences. Heck, everyone refers to Pathfinder as D&D 3.75. HOWEVER, the d20 OGL screwed WoTC because they inadvertently created a legal loophole. WoTC/Hasbro tried to kill the OGL and because of the way the license agreement was worded, they couldn't. This means that anyone can create any d20/OGL product without infringing on the rights of WoTC INCLUDING writing a competing version of d20.
This is also why D&D 4 has so many differences from d20 to differentiate themselves from their own products and avoid being included in the OGL.
WOD does not have this kind of license so you can't simply rip them off as blatantly as Paizo did.
Thanks again for the reply. you are or helping a lot.
-------------- Mental ----------Physical ---------------Social :
Power=====Intelligence === Strength ======= Presence
Finesse=======Wits ==== Dexterity ======= Manipulation
Resistance====Resolve ===== Stamina ======= Composure
My System is:
-------------- Physical ----------- Mental ---------- Social ------------Supernatural:
Might ====== Strength ====== Intellect ========= Presence =======(changes depending on Type)
Tact ========= Agility======= Insight ======= Charm ======= (changes depending on Type)
Vitality ===== Endurance ======= Willpower =======Confidence ======(changes depending on Type)
So from what you said, this may be enough differences to be allowed, but i also go further by having the stats determine a lot of stuff such as each individual category's health track.
Physical has Health
Mental has Clarity
Social has Ego
Supernatural (changes depending on Type)
the Categories also determine starting skill points for each group. I have Physical Skills, Mental Skills, Social Skills, and Supernatural Skills.. each one has a number of skill points available based off of the governing Stat.
Last edited by EpicSpire; 04-28-2012 at 10:00 AM.
The names alone are similar enough that this could be seen as a point of contention. But like I said, it depends on your description and how they are used. Just because you have the same number of traits and they are named similarly, doesn't mean you have infringed on copyright. All cars have the same basic parts, but they are put together differently and have different dimensions and designs.
I don't know that much about WOD so I can't really help with the technical differences.
In my (cynical) experience, anyone can sue anyone else at any time, for any reason. White Wolf strikes me as very unlikely to go after some hobbyist designing their own game, unless the issues are blatant. Using a d10 dice pool/roll over mechanic, by itself, doesn't seem like it'd draw much attention.
I think the more important question to ask is, what are you doing to make a game that absolutely rocks? From what you showed, your stat block breakout approach is also very similar to WoD. If you have similar mechanics to WoD, and if the setting might resemble WoD, then there's not much reason for folks to look at your game ... White Wolf has dice pool mechanic + dark, angsty supernatural settings pretty well wrapped up.