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Role Playing (Games)

D&D 4th Edition Game System License Announced 131

Posted by Zonk
from the listen-to-foreplay/long-time-for-me dept.
Wizards of the Coast has announced plans for a brand-new system license for the fourth edition of Dungeons and Dragons . As with the d20 STL for Third Edition, this is a royalty-free license that will allow third parties to publish products using the rules developed by WotC. The new system reference document will be made available early in June (just after the release of the new edition). That license only covers fantasy gaming, but a second license (the d20 GSL) will be released allowing for any type of gaming product to be developed. For analysis and follow-up on the announcement, the ENWorld boards have full details.
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D&D 4th Edition Game System License Announced

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  • Game Rules (Score:5, Informative)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @07:48PM (#23112418)
    One point that is often forgotten when discussing the OGL and D20 license is that game rules cannot be copyrighted. You are free to create a new game using essentially a ripoff of the d20 rules. What you are not allowed to do is use their particular expression of the rules. That means you can't copy and paste text, you can't use names, settings, unique creative elements, and so forth.

    My understanding is that the WOTC gaming licenses give you some extra rights (for instance, you could use their skill and magic descriptions verbatim), but takes away others (you are given certain restrictions, such as requiring use of the D20 logo). I'm not criticizing WOTC, just saying that using their licenses are not the only way to write compatible rules and expansions.
  • Re:Game Rules (Score:5, Informative)

    by KevinKnSC (744603) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @09:18PM (#23113006)
    Could we just check with the U.S. Copyright Office [copyright.gov] instead?
  • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Friday April 18, 2008 @06:57AM (#23115492) Homepage
    I haven't read the details of this new license, but if it's anything like the license for D20, then it's not free at all, it only looks like it's free. Let me explain.

    A project I was working on some months back was game-related, and we figured we'd use the D20 system because if someone is going to know how to make a compelling game engine, it's going to be the makers of Dungeons & Dragons.

    So we researched the license for D20, were really excited for a while, but eventually found a sentence or two buried deeply in the license which brought us to a screeching halt.

    D20 allows you to use the game rules defined by the D20 engine for pretty much any purpose you want, royalty free; I think with some attribution clauses or the like. You never have to pay WotC a dime.

    However that one little clause deep in the license basically grants WotC the right to choose to seize the exclusive rights to anything you produced surrounding the D20 system. It grants them full and unrestricted access to all source materials, and it grants them the right to resell and distribute the goods produced from it. Further, it grants them the right to revoke the license from you, barring you from further use.

    Essentially the system is open and free for as long as you don't turn into a juicy target for WotC, who reserves the right to take whatever you produced away from you and sell it themselves, and keep you from selling or even using it any longer.

    When you have a litigatious-happy company like WotC offering an olive branch, you must watch out for any poison-tipped thorns contained in it, and at least for D20, there is one, and it is deadly.
  • by alzoron (210577) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:37AM (#23115942) Journal

    However that one little clause deep in the license basically grants WotC the right to choose to seize the exclusive rights to anything you produced surrounding the D20 system. It grants them full and unrestricted access to all source materials, and it grants them the right to resell and distribute the goods produced from it. Further, it grants them the right to revoke the license from you, barring you from further use.
    Buried? The clause is about as buried as the word "caffeine" is buried in the ingredients for Mountain Dew. The license is only two pages long, and in a 12-point font. Also, nowhere does it state that they can "sieze" anything, only that you cease marketing your product and destroy all copies if you breach the license.
  • by starwed (735423) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:41AM (#23115970)

    However that one little clause deep in the license basically grants WotC the right to choose to seize the exclusive rights to anything you produced surrounding the D20 system. It grants them full and unrestricted access to all source materials, and it grants them the right to resell and distribute the goods produced from it. Further, it grants them the right to revoke the license from you, barring you from further use.
    1. You seem to have confused the d20 license with the OGL. To use the d20 game mechanics, you only need to obey the OGL. The d20 license is only to use the d20 logo and TM.
    2. What clause are you talking about? There's nothing in the OGL which allows WotC to seize material that you haven't released under the OGL, even if it's in the same book as OGL stuff.
  • by dmgxmichael (1219692) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:07AM (#23116144) Homepage

    They can't seize it in the sense of use it and deny you from printing your own books - but they and every other publisher has the right under the OGL to use the game mechanics created by any other publisher under the OGL. This has rarely been capitalized on but it has happened - Mongoose publishing put out a series of collection books on spells, feats and the like regardless of who originally published them.

    That is true to the give and take nature of the OGL. You get the right to use materials designated as open under the license - such as Wizard's System Reference Document (which is an open clone of the D&D core rulebooks). You give up the right to close off your unique game mechanics from all other parties to the OGL.

    This really isn't any different in principle from the Gnu Public License (No accident - the GPL inspired the OGL) - you get the right to use code from any program released under the license, but you give up the right to keep your derived code closed off from everyone else.

  • by Valdrax (32670) on Friday April 18, 2008 @12:06PM (#23118604)
    Use Rope doesn't merit having its own individual skill, though. It's pretty much the exemplar of wasted skill ranks after 3.5 got rid of Intuit Direction and Innuendo. You can do what with it -- secure a grappling hook, tie someone up, or splice two ropes together? Yawn.

    Why isn't using a grappling hook under Climb? Why not fold tying someone up under getting out of it (i.e. Escape Artist)? Who finds drama or challenge in trying to splice rope together? (For that matter, Profession (Sailor) doesn't include any of this?)

    It's a senselessly fine-grained skill definition that wastes precious resources (i.e. skill points) that could be spent on things like Survival or Move Silently or Climb -- you know, skills people would actually *use* every adventure.

    4e's philosophy on skills is that skills will generally be broad and cover common adventuring challenges. Their system is designed so that party members aren't excluded from the fun when a rare type of challenge is needed, like the party that won't use horses because only one player has the Ride skill. Lastly, their system is designed with versatility in mind, encouraging players to find creative uses of their skills to defeat challenges, like using History to escape pursuers by remembering an entrance into the ancient catacombs under the city.

    If deciphering documents is essential to your game, then there's no reason you couldn't let someone make an Arcane, History, or Thievery check for it, representing their experience with tomes of cryptic lore, translating dead languages, or espionage, respectively. Having a largely one-trick skill is limiting and either forces the DM to find contrived ways to make it relevant or leaves the player with wasted skill points. 4e gets rid of that.

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