Saturday, January 11, 2020

Zweihander, Open Content and a reply to Daniel Fox

The Old School Renaissance or OSR, rest on the foundation of open content released under the Open Gaming License. Open content is what allowed this segment of the hobby to become then just a regurgitation of classic DnD content and tropes. 

For everyone who worked to support the classic editions 'as is' dozens more emerged to take them into new direction. New genres, or infusing a new version with a different tone or tenor than the originals. All of this was possible because the use of open content placed no restrictions on the next author imagination. The main requirement being is that anything you use or is based on open content must also be open content along with retaining proper credit.

For over a decade this has fueled an amazing array of works and products using not only classic edition of DnD but other older games as well. Including hybrid fusing older concepts with newer mechanics and ideas. The result is a dazzling array of products and works for anybody tastes within the tabletop roleplaying hobby. Five thousand+ on DriveThruRPG's site alone.

Yes there are individual and companies that don't contribute open content yet strive to take advantage of the OSR label. One of them is Daniel Fox and his Zweihander. RPG. Recently Erik over at Tenkar's Tavern pointed out the incongruity of having a OSR community content program.

Daniel had this reply

Hi Erik,
Thanks for the post. A few points of factual clarification:
* Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG was released under Creative Commons License non-commercial. This means anyone can take, remix, reduce and create their own free content, unbound by a license.
* Commercial efforts for community content can be monetized through the Grim & Perilous Library, our Dungeon Master Guild at DriveThruRPG. They are released in PDF, and print-on-demand starting in February. Commercial efforts can only be released via DriveThruRPG.
* RPGs Powered By Zweihander (our commercial IP license) are released by Andrews McMeel Publishing. Examples include the upcoming Colonial Gothic Grim & Perilous RPG.
My design intention: the argument whether Zweihander RPG is OSR isn’t ours to make, but our fans believe it’s an OSR game. The OSR was one of the design principles when it was written, influenced by Maelstrom and other older games that hadn’t been revived at the time.Thus, why we categorize it as OSR.
OSR isn’t just D&D. It may have started there, but there are numerous examples of games classified as OSR that aren’t D20-based

The argument that Daniel make is disingenuous, the debate isn't what rule system is to be considered part of the OSR, the debate is whether open content is to be primary driver of the OSR.

The first thing to keep in mind that Zweihander is the result of Daniel's own work. While inspired by the first two Warhammer edition it is not a clone in the sense that OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, or Swords and Wizardry are clone of various classic edition. It is a system that is design to appeal to fans of early editions of Warhammer Fantasy, and to easily be understood by those fan. This is important to understand because this mean that in regards to Zweihander IP, Daniel has complete control over how it is to be presented and used.

Unlike the situation I have with Judges Guild where I am licencee and thus limited in what I can do with it. For the recent Wilderlands releases only the Monster & Treasure section was released as open content. But where I do have complete control, I tend to release the work as open content under the OGL For example Blackmarsh, and much of the material found in Stuff in the Attic.

.  Why? Because it only fair. While I do a lot of my own work when it comes to settings like Blackmarsh, when it comes mechanics and rules, I stand on the foundation built by past authors. Those publishing in the 70s and 80s. Those publishing now in the 2010s. So it only fair that I contribute back, not halfheartly but fully in the same spirit that the material I used was given.

As for the OSR label, what it is the largely the work of hundreds of author doing their own thing. My voice may reach a larger audience but I don't have any bigger say about what the OSR mean then the individual who just shared their first adventure last week. But I am not going to stay silent when I see people not contributing or in Daniel's case justifying why they are not fully sharing.

Breaking it down.
* Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG was released under Creative Commons License non-commercial. This means anyone can take, remix, reduce and create their own free content, unbound by a license.
This is a nice thing to do. However it is not sufficient. The reason many in the OSR prize the freedom to commercialize their work is that many project need some kind of return in order to happen. To buy art, editing, or layout services. The non-commercial restriction means you only have the freedom to do something if it on your own dime. Which is fine for somebody like me who makes a decent living from a job. But not fine for somebody who has little to no income.

Keep in mind that most OSR project are written, produced, and sold within somebody's time they have for a hobby. Usually the income these work generate won't make them rich but it will just enough to make it possible compared to what else they could be doing with that time.

Commercial efforts for community content can be monetized through the Grim & Perilous Library, our Dungeon Master Guild at DriveThruRPG. They are released in PDF, and print-on-demand starting in February. Commercial efforts can only be released via DriveThruRPG.
First of all the Grim and Perilous Library is not a DM Guild program. It is a Onebookshelf Community Content program. Each program has their own license and their own body of IP that they offer. The only thing in common is that they are managed by Onebookshelf through DriveThruRPG.

Second every program except the Genesys Foundry but including the Grim & Perilous Library has the following restriction. This excerpt is taken from the license attached to the Grim & Perilous Library.
(b) Except for short promotional excerpts used to promote your Work, you may not display, recreate, publish, distribute or sell your Work (or derivatives thereof) outside of the Program administered on OBS websites or through other platforms or channels authorized or offered by Owner.
(b) Exclusive License to your Work. Effective as of the date you setup your Work through the Program on OBS’s website, you grant us the exclusive, irrevocable license for the full term of copyright protection available (including renewals), to develop,
license, reproduce, print, publish, distribute, translate, display, publicly perform and transmit your Work, in whole and in part, in each country in the world, in all languages and formats, and by all means now known or later developed, and the right to prepare derivative works of your Work.
 The implication of the above is twofold, the first is that you can't bring an existing work or existing open content into a worked released within the Grim & Perilous Library. Second, any work you release first within the Grim & Perilous Library, you lose the right to use it outside of the program even if you remove all of the Zweihander IP.

In effect if you wrote the Cave of the Night Warlock for Zweihander you can't release it later for DnD 5th edition even if you removed all of Daniel's Zweihander IP.

Needless to say, I very opposed to this provision and view as unnecessary for any program except those that are focused on sharing setting IP like Traveller's Third Imperium or WoTC's Forgotten Realms.

There is now an alternative, a few month back the Genesys community had an outcry about this issue. Fantasy Flight had OBS chancg the license. Removing the clauses limiting derivatives work and putting in new limit stating only FFG IP has to be remove for a work to be used outside of the program.

So it is within Daniel's power to have this changed for the Grim & Perilous Library.

My design intention: the argument whether Zweihander RPG is OSR isn’t ours to make, but our fans believe it’s an OSR game. The OSR was one of the design principles when it was written, influenced by Maelstrom and other older games that hadn’t been revived at the time.Thus, why we categorize it as OSR.
OSR isn’t just D&D. It may have started there, but there are numerous examples of games classified as OSR that aren’t D20-based
The debate isn't over whether the OSR label includes non DnD systems like Zweihander. That ship has long since sailed. The debate is whether the label OSR stands for sharing open content free from any condition other than to share. In my opinion a generous as Daniel has been with his IP, that generosity doesn't met the standard of many of us who use the OSR label who offer material free of any condition other than to share as we have.

What should be done about this?
As I stated many times before nobody controls the OSR label. It widely known because many, including myself, adopted it as a shorthand for their own work. What it is a result of our combined work over time not of any one person or smaller group.

But I do have opinions, and one of them that the OSR is at its best when sharing open content. A thing that doesn't just benefit a particular system or edition but the entire hobby. The way to ensure that the OSR continues to stand for sharing open content, is to share. Share your thoughts on open content, make content and share under a open license like the OGL, and support those who do share open content.

In doing these we will ensure that the next five thousand works are every bit as amazing as the first five thousand.

So I talked to Daniel Fox over on Discord and learned something interesting about how OBS handles the Community Content Program. That is largely on the publisher to police including enforcing the above clause. Several people on in the Grim & Perilous program have published their work elsewhere. Daniel was receptive to changing the license to one more like the Genesys Foundry to better reflect what he is already doing.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

An update to the Majestic Fantasy rules

I hope everybody had a good holiday. To start the new year off, I am posting a small update of the Majestic Fantasy RPG rules which are based on and compatible with Frog God Games' Swords and Wizardry RPG.

I added some missing spells notably Magic Missile, but it left me with three blank pages. After looking through my draft of the full rules I added sections on Horses, and Dogs. Along with selected hirelings useful for level 6 or lower, Animal Trainer, Man-at-arms, Porter, and Servant.

You can download Revision 10 from here.

Bat in the Attic News
I am still at work on the draft of the Wild North. Currently I am finishing up the terrain notes. After that is finished, I will draw some maps of the main settlements along with some notes similar to Castle Blackmarsh in Blackmarsh. I am shooting for a first quarter release.

This will include a separate poster map option so you don't have to hunt down a printer to print the maps. I can't combine them as DriveThruRPG keeps their card ordering system (which posters use) separate from their book ordering system. The maps will be grayscale similar to those in Blackmarsh.

Remember this version of the Wild North will adjoin the northern edge of Blackmarsh as shown below.

Click you will see the full size map.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Castle Xyntillan now avaliable

This begins with a story, back in the 2000's a bunch of folks were organized by Necromancer Games to fleshed out Judges Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy. The project took a lot of work but finally saw the light of day.
One of the author involved was Gabor Lux (also known as Melan).

So as a follow up to the Wilderlands one of the project Necromancer Games was planning on was Tegel Manor and Gabor Lux was tapped as the author. We all knew him from his blog and other writings and was excited about seeing his take on the venerable adventure from Judges Guild.

But alas it was not to be.

Now flash forward a decade, Gabor Lux revisited his ideas for Tegal and made his is own haunted castle adventure, Castle Xyntillan.  You can take a look it yourself at his store front. It is $40 plus shipping. You can also read up what Gabor has to say about in this blog post.

Finally I did the cartography for the adventure.

You can get a sense of the detail and scale from the players maps that Gabor Lux provides Or this snippet below.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thoughts on metagaming

Recently a two posts popped up on my feed related to metagaming in tabletop roleplaying campaigns.

What a horrible night to have a curse 
Role Playing, Metagaming, and Differing Opinions

The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms 
Is This Metagaming?

Both authors make good points including the individual in the video linked from the first article. I do find conversation bog down in an infinite loop of corner cases and exceptions.

The way I think about stems from my changing views on what constitute "proper" roleplaying. If you would have asked me in the late 1980s I would have said proper roleplaying is making a background and personality for your character and acting as that character.

When I refereed, I encouraged this ideal through how the experience mechanics worked and later by using systems that had mechanics for detailing a character's personality like GURPS. But I learned that not all hobbyist were interested in acting. Whether it was preference or ability, these players would up roleplaying a version of themselves with the abilities of the character.

For the sandbox campaign I ran, I found that was more than adequate. I learned that the all that required is for the player to act as if they are there in the setting as the character. The main thing I needed to do reinforce that was insist on first person roleplaying. A player doesn't have to do funny voices or act in anyway other than as if they were there saying what they are saying.

The reason for this is that first person roleplaying engages most people social sense and helps them be more certain of what they can do in a roleplaying situation.

Thus my definition of metagaming changed. Metagaming became for me acting as your character for reasons other than those as if you are there. Which seems to clarify the corner cases and exceptions for me.

Those damn rules
However there is an important corner case that comes up a lot, players gaming the rules to their character's advantage. I find this a non-issue provided one thing is true, that the rules being use reflect the reality of the setting. They don't have to overly detailed like GURPS vs. Microlite 20. But they do have to be accurate in regards how the setting.

That way it doesn' t matter what approach the players takes. Whether it is pretending you are there, visualizing my description, acting accordingly, and trusting me to use the rules to come up with a ruling. Or knowing the rules forward and backwards and using the mechanics to figure out the best option for the situation. Both players wind up in the same spot in the end if the rules reflects the reality of the setting.

Note the reality of the setting is the not the same as realism.

This was something hammered into me eading the Old School Primer and by my experience running LARP events. The use of live action made certain debates over what you can or can't do physically moot.

The Old School Primer goes into explaining rulings not rules. When coupled with my reading up on the early days of the hobby, I realized that the rulings being made are not arbitrary but rather based on the referee's understanding of history and sometimes sports.

This can be extended to cover the fantastic. The rules of SJ Games Toon are not realistic but they do reflect the reality of Looney Tunes cartoons. The record for a standing long jump is a little over 12 feet but on Barsoom with 1/3 gravity you can leap much further than this.

Tying this back to the metagaming and rules issue if the decision making process and procedures of the mechanic reflect the setting's reality then it not metagaming to think in terms of rules. In fact may make the campaign more fun for some hobbyists as it dovetails better with how they think of things.

Wrapping it up
For me the point of running a tabletop roleplaying campaign is to have fun presenting interesting places and people for the players to interact with. With the campaign being open ended this results in fun surprises happening every session as things unfold. Metagaming gets in the way of this as it introduces distractions from experiencing the campaign.

Some metagaming is necessary due to the limitation of how the campaign is setup. The most important of which is that there is only one referee and many players. But beyond a handful of items, it is a good thing to try to eliminate metagaming and focus on being within the setting as the character doing interesting things.

A unrelated side note
I posted a minor update to the Majestic Wilderlands Basic Rules. I omitted some spell descriptions referenced on the spell list namely Magic Missile, Mirror Image, and Monster Summoning I

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Deal of the Day for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

Today I put up the Wilderlands of High Fantasy Maps as the Deal of the Day over on DriveThruRPG.  The deal will go live at 11 am Eastern Time.

Note that buying this will get you the Guidebook PDF as well. There are 18 maps to the Wilderlands divided into four sets of guidebooks and maps. This deal is for the first set of five maps including the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

The guidebook has an introduction and map commentary by me,. Each map in the guidebook is detailed with the following listings: Villages, Castles & Citadels, Idyllic Isles, Ruins & Relics, and Lurid Lairs. Any statistic or rule is compatible with Swords and Wizardry and various classic editions of the original roleplaying game.

This deal on the first set, is a good way for folks to see if they like the series without having to invest all at once. You will be credited the cost of the PDF if you decide the buy the PDF bundle later. Finally if you decide to buy print, I include the PDF of maps and guidebooks at no additional charge. The print version of each map is two 12" by 18" poster maps. They also have a generous overlap to make joining the map easy or to track features across the map boundaries.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Been working on the Wild North

Been working on the updated Wild North. A small snippet of something I just wrote. The map is the same style as Blackmarsh and has been revised to adjoin it to the north.

Niveny River (Hex 1516)
This river is the traditional border between Orenberg (Hex 1313) and Suzdal (Hex 1720). The river valley has long been a debatable land between the two cities and is currently dominated by Orenburg. Regardless of which power is dominate a thousand gold pieces are given as an offering to the Vodyan (10 HD, Triton) every year. The offering is given after the first thaw to the river king is to appease him so river travelers are left unmolested during the summer season.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Last day for some Viking Adventures

Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistics and I have gamed together and since he started publishing often wound up chatting on the same podcast. He has created a distinctive fantasy Viking themed setting called Nordlond. Along with doing work with GURPS, The Fantasy Trip, and his own 5e variant Dragon Heresy.

His latest kickstarter is expanding Nordlund with a series of adventures. It now in its last 24 hours and like all his projects looks to be fun, and interesting. This version is for the The Dungeon Fantasy RPG by SJ Games which implements the GURPS system as a standalone fantasy RPG. I hope you check it and get in on the kickstarter. Douglas has delivered on all his kickstarters and spares no expense on the production values.