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Author Topic: I'm a plagiarizing bastard  (Read 2127 times)
Matt Snyder
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« on: January 17, 2002, 07:59:20 PM »

Ok, I'm asking for it ...

I've been working on creating a full-fledged book based on the BRP system. So, to do that, I have literally rewritten, in my own words (and with some significant customization, a.k.a. house rules) a chapter for characters and game system. I have done this using a combination of BRP based books.

Now, the little "house rules" booklet I will create will have substantial portions of my own written rules material, as well as my own setting. In effect, the book could be a stand-alone game. However, much of the rules content is simply based on the BRP system, though NONE is taken verbatim from any proprietary books. Rather, the core mechanic, general mechanics for characters is there, all rewritten by me.

My question is this: How can I determine whether what I have created is going to ruffle the feathers of Chaosium? That is, I would very much like to offer it as a PDF on my site for anyone who gives a damn (all two 'em, no doubt), but I'm not sure of that's legit.

This whole pet project of mine was sparked by ideas inspired by Forge discussion, and I started it with the intention only of sharing it with my fellow players, all of whom are close friends mere miles from my front door. But, I thought it would be fun to share with anyone else interested, too. If I decide it's not legitimate to offer it freely, then I won't. I'll get over it pretty easily.

Just looking for some advice. No, I'm not trying to screw Chaosium (hell, I like 'em lots!). Yes, I need a lawyer to answer fully, blah blah blah. Just tell me what you think, even if you DO think I'm a plagiarizing bastard scum-of-the-earth type.

Have a good one
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Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2002, 09:39:09 PM »

Matt,

I think you should have a frank discussion with someone at the Chaosium who has the authority to make a decision about it.

You: "I wrote this and I would like to sell it / distribute it free on-line / whatever."

Chaosium person: "Don't even think about it." Or, "Hmm, OK, but say or do thus-and-such." Or, "Sure!"

That ought to clear up anything and everything that's concerning you.

Best,
Ron
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2002, 10:15:51 PM »

Yeah, you're probably right about that Ron. Get it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

You know, you might be interested to know that you're to "blame" for this project. I'll try to explain. You may recall I posted a while back that after reading your essays and considering all sorts of other notions posted here on the Forge and elsewhere, I decided to create a survey for my players.

The intention was to get an idea, using GNS only very loosely as a guideline, for why my various fellow players enjoyed the activity and what they expected to get out of it. I also answered the 15 or so quesitons, then shared all the results with all of my group. We found that we were very much on the same wavelength on many issues, with some interesting differences.

We discussed the results of the survey and other issues, and we managed to come to some verbal agreements about how our gaming sessions should change as a result.

All of that was well and good, and we did indeed improve play somewhat. But, I realized there were still significant issues that kept me, at least, from enjoying GMing particularly. See, we've been playing D&D 3E since it came out. We liked all the changes since our 2E days, and it even brought our group back from the brink of "adulthood."

But the more I play -- or more specifically GM -- the game, the more I realize how much it weighs me down. My players seem to enjoy the game by and large. They really enjoy the game's many options for player characters. But for me as a GM, these many options just become overwhelming. I decided that the game just isn't suited well to my style. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, I enjoyed the game very much while I was playing a character a while back. But, it just doesn't sit well with me as a GM.

So, I began to think about what I could do about it. I identified three key goals as I examined systems to use. 1) The game's player characters had to be highly customizable and compelling in the sense that the players can "tinker" with their characters. 2) The game rules had to make my job of "winging it" easy. That is, it had to be easy for me to understand and scale, so I could easily and quickly adapt to any situation. 3) The game had to be speedy enough such that play wouldn't bog down -- during a combat scene, for example -- during our time-limited sessions.

I suppose I added a fourth unconscious goal: My players had to "get it" -- that is, I simply don't see them as the kind of group that wants to pick up, say, the Pool or something a bit more "out there" in the sense of traditional RPGs. They sometimes surprise me, but I just assumed this goal.

Ok, so when I sat down to examine what game system fit these goals, I kept coming back to BRP. First, it has player characters any long-time D&D player can understand pretty easily. Second, I am pretty familiar with the system -- I've poured through Call of Cthulhu, Elric!, Nephilim a million times. It just feels natural to me, and that's crucial. Third, I admit I'm unsure how speedily plays for our group, but it's certainly straightforward enough. Finally, the unconscious goal -- my players are familiar with the game, having played a Cthulhu/Dreamlands campaign a while back.

So, I decided to take the "engine" of BRP and transplant it into my own frame. During my sparse free time, I sat down and created my own character chapter. It just came together so easily and naturally. I'm still in the middle of the game system/rules chapter, then will create a couple other necessary chapters from scratch (rather than using the BRP as a guideline, as I've done w/ the material I've completed).

The end result will benefit from some snazzy graphic design I've put together that really gives the whole thing a unique look and feel. The goal, then, is to print and bind a copy for each member of my group.

That's the goal -- I'm going to literally mail it to my players as a surprise, gambling that they'll really dig the setting I've sketched out so far (a kind of Hawkmoon-ish / Gene Wolfe inspired far future fantasy). As I've said, I'd like to offer it up on the 'net as a PDF, too. Hence, this thread, seeking to determine whether anyone thinks doing so is a Bad Idea.

Phew! Well, that's been on my brain a lot lately. Feels good to share the ideas. If anyone's still reading this and wants a tongue-in-cheek preview of what the game will look like, visit:

http://dragons.carlisle.ia.us/secret.html

It's kind of an inside joke w/ one of my players about White Wolf teasers.

Ok, enough tooting of my own horn. As they say so clumsily on M*A*S*H (the movie), "That is all."
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Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
Paganini
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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2002, 08:12:21 AM »

Quote from: chimera

My question is this: How can I determine whether what I have created is going to ruffle the feathers of Chaosium? That is, I would very much like to offer it as a PDF on my site for anyone who gives a damn (all two 'em, no doubt), but I'm not sure of that's legit.


Ask them. :)

Be advised, though, that as long as you really did rewrite everything in your own words, they can't touch you legaly. You cann't copyright an RPG system, only a description of a system. As long as your description is your own, you can sell it, or do whatever you want with it.

That's the theory anyway. In practice, what it really comes down to is how much lawyer power each side has. If Chaosium wants to, they could take you to court for creating a "derivatve work." They would lose, assuming that you were careful not to use any of their actual material, but they might not care about that, as long as the lawyer fees ruined you financially. In the long run, legal staying power is what counts in a situation like this.
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Cynthia Celeste Miller
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2002, 03:20:00 PM »

As long as you're just giving the game out for free and not making any money off it, I doubt there will be any repercussions.  

If you go and turn a profit on the game, troubles may arise.  Paganini is correct---you can not copyright a system.  But that won't necessarily keep Chaosium from making a big stink about it in some fashion.  This, in turn, could lead to a bad reputation in the industry, which wouldn't be a good thing in the least.

If you seek to sell the game, talk to Chaosium first.  Heck, it might not hurt to talk to them even if you're doing it for free.  Just to be safe.
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Cynthia Celeste Miller
President, Spectrum Games
www.spectrum-games.com
Matt Snyder
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« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2002, 12:44:21 PM »

Well, I managed to continue the 'marketing campaign' -- I've created another WW-esque teaser for my players that features an interesting map. If anybody wants to take a look, check out:

http://dragons.carlisle.ia.us/secret2.html
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Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
John Wick
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« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2002, 01:42:20 PM »

1. Don't take legal advice from anyone but a LAWYER.
2. Think how you'd feel if someone essentially re-wrote something you'd written and put it up for sale.

That's all. Nothing else.
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Carpe Deum,
John
Matt Snyder
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« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2002, 02:09:32 PM »

Quote from: John Wick

1. Don't take legal advice from anyone but a LAWYER.


Point taken, John, but isn't that legal advice? ... Just razzin' you. I am actually curious to know whether WICKed Press has legal counsel, particularly for any D20 work you've done/will do.

What I'm getting at is this: while following much of D20 development over the last year and a half, I really do wonder: 1) who actually talked to a lawyer;  2) who could actually afford to do so; and 3) who could find a lawyer to address the specialized intellectual property issues.

Quote from: John Wick

2. Think how you'd feel if someone essentially re-wrote something you'd written and put it up for sale.


Umm, pretty crummy. But then, you remind precisely why I posted this thread -- to get some feedback for the wisdom of such action. In the end, I'll probably just offer up the original bits (in other words, sans rules) and let people download the setting if they want.

One thing I find interesting, however, is  how many BRP resources there are out there on the net. I'm NOT saying they're necessarily legit, just that I wouldn't exactly be the first. Check out http://www.basicrps.com , for example.[/i]
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Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
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