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Author Topic: Questions about OGL and the Official D20 License  (Read 5812 times)
Kyle Carter
Member

Posts: 20


« on: September 29, 2005, 04:55:36 PM »

I am confused about the Open Gaming License from Wizards. I like the d20 System, and would like to use it the game I am developing. This is a commercial project, and it seems that the Official D20 License prohibits Character Creation and systems for advancing levels. Whereas, the Open Gaming License allows this, but cannot be used for commercial applications because it is "Open". I want to develop this game as a complete game, and not a supplement for an existing Wizards game, which it seems is all the D20 System License will allow.

I really need a very thorough and clear explanation of how the OGL and D20 Licenses work. In other words, I need someone who really understands how this works to post their explanation.

Thanks for any help in andvance...
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The Secret to Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. - Albert Einstein

Also for the those interested, I am a Graphic Designer, so I can help with your projects if you need it. Just PM me!
Veritas Games
Member

Posts: 171


« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2005, 05:47:14 PM »

Whereas, the Open Gaming License allows this, but cannot be used for commercial applications because it is "Open".

Patently untrue.  The OGL has been used on thousands of commercial products.

Quote
I really need a very thorough and clear explanation of how the OGL and D20 Licenses work. In other words, I need someone who really understands how this works to post their explanation.

Thanks for any help in andvance...

http://members.aol.com/veritasgames/fudge_ogl_faq.html

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=d20/srdfaq/20040123b

The d20 STL is a trademark license.  It leverages the OGL, but it makes you give up the rights to include certain very specific character creation information (rolling up stats and going up levels, primarily) in exchange for the right to leverage the d20 trademark.

As a general rule, you don't need the d20 logo to sell a professional product (Mutants and Masterminds, Arcana Unearthed, and Spycraft all do fine without the d20 logo).

The d20 logo just makes it a little easier to sell more copies to some people.

I suggest you actually read the licenses.  That'll get you further along than guessing (which seems to be what you are doing right now).
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Regards,
Lee Valentine
President
Veritas Games
Kyle Carter
Member

Posts: 20


« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2005, 03:14:10 PM »

First off, thank you for your response. For clarification, I am referring specifically to the D20 Open Game Content from Wizards of the Coast, not FUDGE, GURPS, or other Game Systems. Secondly, I have read the License and it is, to me anyway, vauge on the point I mentioned in my previous post. Specifically, is it legal for to me take the Open Game Content, and my embelishments and then sell it. Or is that not legal because it is an open resource and therefore must remain free?

Maybe that will clear up my specific questions. Also, I don't want to be difficult, but I need some answers, that I can't derive from the OGL License. I doesn't speak clearly enough about commercial aspects of using OGL content. Additionaly, I am a student, and don't have the financial faculties to speak to legal council about this matter, so that is why I am turning to these Forums.

Thanks again.
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The Secret to Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. - Albert Einstein

Also for the those interested, I am a Graphic Designer, so I can help with your projects if you need it. Just PM me!
Josh Roby
Member

Posts: 1055

Category Three Forgite


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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2005, 03:35:09 PM »

As I understand it (which is dubious, at best), you can use OGL stuff freely; you are specifically allowed to use and incorporate it into commercial products, using the bits you like and adding the bits (including cgen) that you want.  Look at Blue Rose for a recent published example.

If you want d20, however, you cannot include character generation or levelling; these must come out of a WotC-published book (so they still get their cut).  You can't get the d20 logo without going this route, but I'm skeptical of how much that logo is really worth in terms of sales.
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talysman
Member

Posts: 675


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« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2005, 04:43:29 PM »

First off, thank you for your response. For clarification, I am referring specifically to the D20 Open Game Content from Wizards of the Coast, not FUDGE, GURPS, or other Game Systems. Secondly, I have read the License and it is, to me anyway, vauge on the point I mentioned in my previous post. Specifically, is it legal for to me take the Open Game Content, and my embelishments and then sell it. Or is that not legal because it is an open resource and therefore must remain free?

Maybe that will clear up my specific questions. Also, I don't want to be difficult, but I need some answers, that I can't derive from the OGL License. I doesn't speak clearly enough about commercial aspects of using OGL content. Additionaly, I am a student, and don't have the financial faculties to speak to legal council about this matter, so that is why I am turning to these Forums.

first off, although the first link posted above is titled "FUDGE OGL FAQ", very little of the FAQ has to do with FUDGE specifically. in fact, more questions deal specifically with WotC content (The SRD). furthermore, it explains a number of key concepts behind the OGL that will help you to understand the OGL and the d20 license better. you really should read it before continuing.

second, you state that the OGL can't be used for commercial products. it can, and more to the point, has. unless you are willing to concede that it can be so used, you're not going to get a satisfactory answer to your question.

third, that FAQ specifically mentions the situation you are describing: gaming companies that want to create games "compatible with that super popular fantasy game or its modern rules equivalent" but don't want to abide by the restrictions of the d20 license, such as the character creation and experience restrictions. companies have done this, and apparently like to publish their games with "OGL" in the title as a work-around to suggest compatbility with d20 without actually using the d20 license so that they can legally claim compatibility.

fourth, if you have much more specific/detailed questions than that, every OGL FAQ out there says the same thing: talk to a lawyer. only a lawyer can provide the extreme detail and confidence you are looking for. we're not lawyers, we're game designers.

in fact, there's another problem: only a very few of the people here work with OGL/d20. most of the games talked about here aren't anything like d20. the few that are, are written by people who aren't any more knowledgeable on law than you are... so all they can do is point you to FAQs and mention whether or not someone else has ever done anything legally similar to what you have done. it's up to you to find the examples we point you to and say "yes, that looks like a legal precident for what I am going to do, so I must be safe" or "no, that's not quite the same thing I'm doing, I better talk to a lawyer".

if you want a summary, here it is: companies have published complete game systems that were d20 or close to it, like Mutants and Masterminds, Blue Rose, Everquest RPG, OGL Horror, or Castles and Crusades. all of these take elements from the SRD and build standalone games around them. all of them are commercial games. all of them use the OGL.

check out a few of those games, and then decide if what you are doing is legally similar. if not, ask a lawyer.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Adam
Member

Posts: 165


WWW
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2005, 06:20:24 PM »

First off, thank you for your response. For clarification, I am referring specifically to the D20 Open Game Content from Wizards of the Coast, not FUDGE, GURPS, or other Game Systems. Secondly, I have read the License and it is, to me anyway, vauge on the point I mentioned in my previous post. Specifically, is it legal for to me take the Open Game Content, and my embelishments and then sell it. Or is that not legal because it is an open resource and therefore must remain free?

First off, you probably shouldn't use the term "D20 Open Game Content". That term does not exist in either of the licenses. If you want to refer to the Open Game Content that WotC has released, the term "SRD" -- System Reference Document -- is typically used.

There is a d20 System Trademark License. This license allows you to use the d20 System logo.

There is an Open Gaming License. This license allows you to use Open Game Content. Open Game content is not limited to material that WotC has designated as such; anyone can publish something as Open Game content -- hence the reference to Fudge earlier [GURPS, however, is absolutely not Open Game Content!]

The d20 System Trademark License includes a clause that requires a certain amount of material in the product to be Open Game Content, and thus using the d20 System Trademark License requires you to also use the Open Game License for the material that you declare as Open Content.

You are able to use Open Content as long as you abide by the Open Gaming License. This does include adding your own material and/or modifying the Open Content. It has nothing to do with being "free" or not, where "free" refers to something being given away without a monetary exchange. Dispel any notions that either of the licenses have anything to do with money.

There are many mainstream game products that use only the Open Gaming License and not the d20 System Trademark License. These include Mutants and Masterminds [both editions], and many books from Mongoose Publishing [OGL Steampunk, OGL Cyberpunk, etc], Spycraft 2.0, etc.

WotC has a page with both licenses and FAQs about them: http://wizards.com/default.asp?x=d20/article/20040121a -- the FAQs are "plain English" and are not too lengthy. You should be able to absorb most of the information in an evening.

cheers,
Adam
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Veritas Games
Member

Posts: 171


« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2005, 12:53:02 PM »

First off, thank you for your response. For clarification, I am referring specifically to the D20 Open Game Content from Wizards of the Coast, not FUDGE, GURPS, or other Game Systems. Secondly, I have read the License and it is, to me anyway, vauge on the point I mentioned in my previous post. Specifically, is it legal for to me take the Open Game Content, and my embelishments and then sell it. Or is that not legal because it is an open resource and therefore must remain free?

Actually, that link WAS about the OGL from Wizards of the Coast.  I prepared it for FUDGE publishers who wanted to use the OGL, but only 1-2 items are FUDGE specific.  I advise you to follow my instructions from my original post.

Quote
I doesn't speak clearly enough about commercial aspects of using OGL content.

It doesn't because there are NO commercial vs. non-commercial restrictions at all.

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Regards,
Lee Valentine
President
Veritas Games
Veritas Games
Member

Posts: 171


« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2005, 01:00:48 PM »

By the way, I know a fair amount about the OGL (I'm the one who prepared the OGL FAQ for Fudge publishers).  There's also the OGF-L mailing list (Open Gaming Foundation), however, you are working off of assumptions that need to be clarified by reading up on the licenses a little bit so that you can ask a little more informed questions.  I prepared the OGL FAQ for Fudge publishers specifically so that the most complex issues would be dealt with.  It points to other FAQs on the subject, and I gave you a link to the d20 STL FAQ as well.

Read all of these first, along with the licenses.  Some of the FAQs from WotC are a little biased, but they'll give you a starting point (although the FAQs prepared by WotC have interpretations that favor WotC and may not always be what a court of law would agree as a valid interpretation).

Start with the resources I gave you, then post back if you have further questions.  If you are wholly unwilling to read the resources I gave you, then I'm not really interested in fielding questions at this point.  People prepare FAQs specifically so that redundant questions don't have to be answered de novo each time.


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Regards,
Lee Valentine
President
Veritas Games
Justin D. Jacobson
Member

Posts: 186


WWW
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2005, 10:08:28 AM »

Buy THIS BOOK. It provides a lot of simple explanations along with DO/DON'T lists, etc. If you're planning on putting out an OGL or d20 product, it's literally the least you can do.

Short answer that may help crystalize things for you:

The OGL is a license that deals with content. It allows you to freely use open content (whether it's from the SRD or another OGL product) in your product and publish it--even for profit. The d20 license deals with trademark usage. It allows you to use the d20 trademark (and some other trademarked terms) in exchange for you agreeing not to use two specific rulesets: character creation and character advancement. The two licenses are not mutually exclusive. In fact, every d20 product is necessarily an OGL product.

There are more restrictions in both licenses (e.g., your OGL product must include some open content, your d20 product cannot include indecent material, etc.); so you should get the guide for more answers.

Hope that helps. My single most important advice is this: Don't guess! If you're unsure about your use of the license consult with an attorney or another publisher.
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