Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Faeries of the Majestic Wilderlands Part 2

Now we get to the Sidhe the heart of what makes Faerie, Faerie along with with some notes on a few important Sidhe.

The Sidhe appear very similar to elves, however they are faeries and not one of the Children Races of Elves and Men. The Sidhe born of positive emotions (love, charity, etc.) are considered to be part of the Seelie Court and are ruled by the King and Queen of Summer. The Sidhe born of negative emotions (hate, greed, anger, etc.) are considered part of the Unseelie Court and are ruled by the King and Queen of Winter. It is a mistake to consider the Seelie as good and the Unseelie as evil. Their motivation is to recreate the emotions that gave them birth regardless of the desire and needs of those they interact.

Sidhe, Lesser, AC 7[12]; HD 5; HP 20; ATK 1; HTB +5 DMG 1d6 (shortsword), MV 120’; Save 12; Special: Magical Immunity, Innate Magic, Gift of the Muses; Harvest: 1 viz (faerie essence); CL/XP 6/400;
Magical Immunity: Spellcasters need to roll an 11 or better on 1d20 to affect them with a spell.
Innate Magic: Lesser Sidhe can cast Phantasmal Force at will.
Gift of the Muses: A Lesser Sidhe can bestow a +2 ability bonus for 1d6 months to create an artistic or literary work. However while under the influence of the gift, the target will age 1 year per month and will be obsessed with completion of his work. The immortal elves are not affected by the aging but have to make a saving throw with a +2 bonus or retire to the realm of Silvanus for 1d6 months to recuperate from its effect. The target can opt to refuse the gift allowing him to make a saving throw to avoid the effect.

These Sidhe appear as elves in rustic clothing. Lesser Sidhe focus on inspiring artists and writers as a means of acquiring novel stories in order to rise in the hierarchy of the Sidhe.

Sidhe, Greater, AC 3[16]; HD 10; HP 45; ATK 1; HTB +10 DMG 1d8 (rapier), MV 120’; Save 5; Special: Magical Immunity, Innate Magic, Gift of the Muses, Spell Casting; Harvest: 3 viz (faerie essence); CL/XP 12/2,000;
Magical Immunity: Spellcasters need to roll a 16 or better on 1d20 to affect them with a spell. They immune to the effects of any mind control spells like Charm Person or Suggestion.
Innate Magic: Greater Sidhe can cast Phantasmal Force at will. They can turn Invisible and cast Dimension Door at will. And use Polymorph at will to change their appearance. Once a day they can cast Suggestion.
Gift of the Muses: A Greater Sidhe can bestow a +4 ability bonus for 1d6 months to create an artistic or literary work. However while under the influence of the gift, the target will age 1 year per month and will be obsessed with completion of his work. The immortal elves are not affected by the aging but have to make a saving throw with a +2 bonus or retire to the realm of Silvanus for 1d6 months to recuperate from its effect. The target can opt to refuse the gift allowing him to make a saving throw to avoid the effect.
Spellcasting: Greater Sidhe can cast 4 1st level spells, 3 2nd level spells, 2 3rd level spells, and 1 4th spell as a 10th level magic user.

Typical Spell List
Magic-User spells (cast at 10th level)
1st Level: Charm Person x2, Detect Magic, Sleep
2nd Level: Darkness, Detect Thoughts, Mirror Image
3rd Level: Lightning Bolt, Dispel Magic
4th Level: Hallucinatory Terrain

These Sidhe appear as elves in extraordinary fine clothing or armor. Greater Sidhe are the chief servants of the Sidhe Lords and serve as heralds, and their champions. In exchange for their service the Sidhe Lord grant a Greater Sidhe the right to enact their stories in a small region or focused on a small group of mortal. This grant is known as the Concession, Arcane. If focused on a region there is a spot where a hidden treasure of ancient wealth is buried. If focused on a group, the individuals will be marked in some manner typically with a minor birthmark.

Ariel’s main interest is elevating scholars and magic-users to the height of their professions. To this end s/he will act as a willing servant aiding his/her master with various task and with information. To some Ariel appears as a female elf, and others as a male elf.  The chosen form depends on whatever to be whatever will inspire or aid his/her target the most.

Herne the Hunter
Herne appears as an elf wearing hunter’s garb made of head and wearing an antlered stag headdress. He works towards inspiring mortals to help the helpless and fight injustice. He often acts by teaching his targets how to survive in the forest and use it to their advantage in their fight. He is noted for his rivalry with the Erl-king and to his irritation is often mistaken for the Winter King.

Puck interest lies mostly in getting his chosen targets to reenact stories of love. He delights in creating romantic situation with complications. One of his favorite tools is a potion conocted from a flower known as heartease. When applied to the eyelids of a sleeping individual, they will fall madly in love with the first person or animal they see when awakened. (Saving throw applies). Puck appearance is little different from his days as a lesser Sidhe; he appears as an older adolescent dressed in forest clothes.

One of Mab’s favorites in the Court of Winter, Umberiel feeds off of stories involving sorrow, loss, and tragedy. He will rarely take any direct action himself. Instead he will plant items drawn from his Bag of Sighs, Sobs, and Sorrow to manipulate mortals into playing out his collection of stories. While his appearance is definitely elven, he is shorter and more gnome-like than his fellow Sidhe. He also sports a sparse beard.

Sidhe, Lord, AC -1[20]; HD 16; HP 56; ATK 1; HTB +16 DMG 2d6 (weapon), MV 180’; Save 3; Special: Magical Immunity, Innate Magic, Gift of the Muses, Spell Casting; Harvest: Viz 7 (faerie essence); CL/XP 18/3,900;
Magical Immunity: Spellcasters need to roll a 16 or better on 1d20 to affect them with a spell. They immune to the effects of any mind control spells like Charm Person or Suggestion.
Innate Magic: Sidhe Lords can cast Phantasmal Force and Hallucinatory Terrain at will. They can turn Invisible and cast Teleport at will. And use Polymorph at will to change their appearance. They can cast Suggestion at will.
Gift of the Muses: A Sidhe Lord can bestow a +4 ability bonus for 1d6 years to create an artistic or literary work. However while under the influence of the gift, the target will age 1 year per three months and will be obsessed with completion of his work. The immortal elves are not affected by the aging but have to make a saving throw or retire to the realm of Silvanus for 1d6 years to recuperate from its effect. The target can opt to refuse the gift allowing him to make a saving throw to avoid the effect.
Spellcasting: They can cast 5 spells each from 1st level to 6th level, 2 7th level spells, and 1 8th spell as a 16th level magic user.

Typical Spell List
Magic-User spells (cast at 16th level)
1st Level: Charm Person x3, Detect Magic, Sleep
2nd Level: Darkness, Detect Thoughts, Mirror Image
3rd Level: Lightning Bolt, Dispel Magic x2, Fly, Protection from Missiles 
4th Level: Charm Monster, Confusion x2, Polymorph Other, Fear
5th Level: Conjure Elemental, Feeblemind x2, Passwall, Telekinesis
6th Level: Control Weather, Geas, Project Image x2, Reincarnation
7th Level: Limited Wish, Power Word Stun
8th Level: Mass Charm

The Erl-King
The Erl-King is the ruler of the Winter Court. He appears as a giant of man dress in hunter’s grab made from the hides of his kills. His face is shrouded by the antlered stage headdress he wears. The only thing that can be seen are his red burning eyes. His stories are as merciless as a hunting wolf pack and as cold as a winter storm. He has used his mastery of stories about cruelty, terror, and unforgiving nature to become the King of Winter. It is said he is a lover of the blood goddess Kalis and sometimes asked to be the Master of the Wild Hunt when one of her vampires are not available.

Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness
Mab has long ago mastered stories of all the great vices; Greed, Envy, Avarice, Gluttony, Lust, Wrath, and Sloth. But what made her the Queen of Winter, the Queen of Air and Darkness, is her ability to manipulate her target into not caring about the consequences of their actions. Some say she literally is able to freeze a person’s heart into ice, free of all concerns about what they do or not do. She appears as an unearthly beautiful elven maiden wearing a gown tinted with various shades of white and blue, reminiscent of the shades of ice.

The Summer King, Oberon has mastered stories about the great virtues of Charity, Love, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility, and Temperance. He only takes a personal hand in those stories involving epic danger to its participants. The rest he doles out to his followers. As a consequence his attention is not always welcomed by mortals. His natural form is a dwarf with the features of a kingly elf lord. He is typically dressed in clothing of a fine make colored in earth tones. Titania is the great love of his life and he is sometime intensely jealous when she show any favor to other males.

Titania is the Queen of Summer, and like Oberon, she has mastered all the stories of the great virtues. She prefers to take a personal hand in those stories involving a great romance among its participants. Manipulating the situation so that not only love is fulfilled but exemplifies the desired virtue. Her natural form is of a beautiful elf maiden with fiery red hair wearing in a iridescent white dress.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Faeries for the Majestic Wilderlands part 1

Does anybody find roleplaying Faeries difficult? I sure did and a year ago I finally found a handle on roleplaying them that worked for me.

Now that last night session played out. I can post what I written about Faeries. It is in-game knowledge now that the gig is up largely because one of the players is Colin McDaw a Bard of the Trehaen (a Druidic organization).

Although my campaign is run with the Dungeons and Dragon Fifth Edition rules these are written up for Swords and Wizardry with a few added feature. Each creature has something that can be harvested for treasure. I also standardized how special abilities are listed to make it easier to reference during play.

The rules for Viz can be founded in the Blackmarsh SRD.

Account of Doug of Gaming Ballistic.
Account of Tim of Gothridge Manor

Magic in the Majestic Wilderlands is the force of creation made manifest. Before the creation of the Abyss and the Chromatic Crystals, the inherent level of magic was low. In order to be harassed as a spell, it has to be laboriously gathered in a ritual and infused into a scroll, charm, or magical device. After the creation of the Chromatic Crystal, it was found that a disciplined will alone could be used to cast a spell.

Over the centuries magic did not turn into a science or craft because it was highly infused by an individual emotional and mental state. What worked for one individual, often didn’t work for another. This susceptibility of magic to emotion had another consequence, the creation and evolution of faeries.

Faeries are creatures, and monsters born out of the ambient level of magic that flow throughout the Wilderlands. The emotional life of elves, men, and even plants and animals give birth to these creatures including the faeries that develop sentience. The nature of their birth has left all faeries with a singular drive to recreate the emotions that give them life. This typically manifests with the faeries using their abilities to recreate the circumstances that led to their birth. Using magic, to manipulate the environment and those around them into playing out certain stories and emotions, over and over again. This can sometimes led to dangerous situations when emotions like anger, hate, and fear are part of the faerie’s nature.

The key to dealing with the Faeries is to understand the emotions and stories that give them birth.

The Elves and the Faerie
When the Wilderlands was created there were two sentient races; Elves and Men. The Elves were born as the glory of the Wilderlands, as a shining example of the potential of life. They were given great gifts however the price was that their fate was to the Wilderlands. One reason for this is that their immortality and other gifts are sustained by the innate magic of the Wilderlands. Because of this, the elves feel kinship with the faeries, and in general will help them fulfill their nature. For the faeries that have the negative emotions as their nature the elves will still help them but try to do it in isolated locations far from the other races of the Wilderlands. Many elves realms will have a large population of faeries.

Banshee, AC 0[19]; HD 7; HP 25; ATK 1; HTB +7 DMG 1d8 (claw), MV 120’ (fly); Save 9; Special: Damage Immunity, Magic Resistance, Shriek of Death, Magical Immunity; Harvest: Ectoplasmic Residue (5d); CL/XP 11/1700;
Damage Immunity: Need Magic or Silver weapons to be hit.
Magic Resistance: Resist Magic on a roll of 20 or higher on a d20, add +9 to the roll. Forcing a banshee to cross running water will cause the creature to lose this ability for 3d6 hours.
Shriek of Death: A horrid wailing shriek requires everybody in earshot to make a saving throw or die within 2d6 round unless a remove curse is cast.
Magical Immunity: Not effected by any enchantment spells.

Banshees are horrid undead creatures that live in swamps and other desolate places.  They look like gaunt humans (male or female) with long, stringy hair and glowing yellow eyes.  They often wear hooded cloaks.

Banshees are formed when an elf or a faerie dies with an unfulfilled intense loss or obsession. Their spirit does not to accept the loss of their current life and is unable to move on to be resurrected. Instead they linger as an incorporeal undead lamenting their loss or unfulfilled goals. The banshee is the closest thing that the elves and faeries of the Majestic Wilderlands have to a concept of hell.

Dryad, AC 9[10]; HD 2; HP 7; ATK 1; HTB +2 DMG 1d4 (wooden dagger), MV 120’; Save 12; Special: Charm; Harvest: 1 viz (dryad leaves); CL/XP 3/60;
Charm: Can cast a Charm Person at will. The target has a -2 to its saving throw.

Dryads appear as a beautiful female. They are a manifestation of the life giving force of nature. When a tree sprouts in a highly fertile area with a high enough concentration of magic a dryad will manifest. It is tied to the tree’s existence and will die if its host tree dies.

It is highly attracted to humanoid males and will use its Charm ability to beguile them into staying with them for a year and a day. To the effected individual it will appear as if a single wonderful day has passed in the embrace of a beautiful woman.

Leprechaun, AC 8[11]; HD 1; HP 4; ATK 1; HTB +1 DMG 1d6 (shortsword), MV 180’; Save 15; Special: Magical Immunity, Stealthy, Innate Magic; Harvest: 1 viz (hair); CL/XP 5/400;
Magic Immunity: Spell casters need to roll 3 or better on 1d20 in order to affect them with a spell.
Stealthy: A Leprechaun gets +5 to it Stealth ability roll.
Innate Magic: Can cast Invisibility and Dimension Door at will. They can cast Phantasmal Force once per day.

Leprechauns appear as small humans about two to three feet tall (slightly smaller than halflings). Leprechauns are tricksters who delight in placing their targets in situations where confusion and misunderstanding abound. There are three broad types of Leprechauns. The first delights in humor and will orient their trickery to creating funny or absurd situations. The second delights in showing up those who are full of hubris and will orient their trickery to show how foolish these people are. The third is more malevolent and their trickery often have tragic or cruel endings.

Regardless of type, Leprechauns maintain a treasure trove of coins and other valuables gained over the years from their trickery. If captured or tricked themselves the Leprechaun has to turn over his treasure trove or obligate himself to fulfill three tasks for its captor.

Nymph, AC 9[10]; HD 3; HP 10; ATK 1; HTB +3; DMG 1d3 (fist), MV 120’; Save 14; Special: Blinding Beauty; Harvest: 1 viz (tresses); CL/XP 5/240;
Blinding Beauty: A character failing his saving throw upon seeing a nymph will forever see its beauty in its eyes forever. This is effectively the same as blindness.

Related to Dryads, Nymphs manifest as faeries of harmony and beauty. When magic concentrate in a small region of wilderness of particular beauty and calm, a Nymph will form. Regions include places like rivers, springs, mountain tops, forest glades, rocky outcroppings, windswept beaches, and geysers.

Nymphs have an innate connection to their region and can be a valuable source of information to friendly allies. They work towards enhancing and/or maintaining the natural beauty of their home. Nymphs feel the emotions of those who appreciate their work.

Harming or killing Nymph will invariably bring about a violent reaction from the animals, planets, and sometimes the weather of the region.

Pixie, AC 5[14]; HD 1; HP 4; ATK 1; HTB +1 DMG 1d4 (dagger), 1d4+1 (pixie bow), MV 60’/150’ (fly); Save 17; Special: Magical Immunity, Pixie Bow, Innate Magic, Magical Confusion; Harvest: 1 viz (pixie dust); CL/XP 5/240;
Pixie Bow: Has a range of 60’/120’. A pixie can either a) fire a +1 arrow for 1d4+1 damage, b) cause sleep for 3d6 x10 minutes if the target fails a saving throw, 3) cause total amnesia if the target fails a saving throw.
Magical Immunity. Spell casters need to roll a 6 or better on 1d20 in order to affect them with a spell.
Innate Magic: Can cast Polymorph Self, Invisible, and Light at will. Can cast Dispel Magic as a 1st level spell caster once per day.
Magical Confusion: A pixie’s dagger and arrows are coated with a magical poison that causes the target to fall under the effects of a confusion spell if they fail their saving throw.

Tomorrow Part 2 with the Sidhe.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

I don't where to put my low stat.

This is a pretty funny video and one of the best DnD related songs I ever heard.

I don't where to put my Low Stat by Dr. Mary Crowell.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Golems in the Majestic Wilderlands

Working through the Gs on my monster list. Just finished the Golems.

Golems are humanoid constructs built to serve their creature, usually powerful magi-users or clerics. Typically they are built to serve as guards or servants, however some with artistic ability create golems for other purposes like life sized dioramas, pleasure, or other forms of entertainment.

To create a golem, the spell caster needs to create or obtain a Manual of Golems. The Manual of Golem can be created at a cost of 3,500d in ritual components. This will take 35 days to complete for one spell caster at a rate of 100d per day per caster. Two spell casters working together can complete the manual in half of the time. To buy a Manual of Golem costs an average of 7,000d or double what it costs to market. As a general rule one can be found for sale in the largest cities if a 15 or better is rolled on a d20.

After the Manual of Golems is created, or obtained, the process for making the golem can begin. The cost in ritual components for each golem is listed and like the Manual of Golems the time to create is 100d per day per caster.

The following list the creation costs for various golems.

Golem Type Cost Magic Type
Clay Golem 6,000d Divine
Flesh Golem  4,000d Arcane
Stone Golem  8,000d Arcane/Divine
Iron Golem 10,000d Arcane

*1d = 1 sp it can be 1gp to make magic items more costly/rare

Control of a golem can be transferred to another individual at a cost of 1/10th of the creation cost of the golem. For example control of a stone golem can be transferred to another for 800d. The time to complete the ritual is 100d per day per caster. If multiple spell casters are involved in the creation of the golem, the different spell casters have to agree on which one is to have control. If this does not occur then the spell caster who makes the highest Thaumatology (or Theology in the case of clerics) ability check at the end of the golem creation ritual wins control.

Golems are man-shaped creatures built to serve their masters, usually powerful wizards or high priests. They are often used as guardians. Golems cannot be hit with non-magical weapons, and are immune to the sorts of spells used to create them (iron golems being immune to fire, for instance). You can find the details in the specific monster descriptions.

Golem, Clay, AC 7[12]; HD 10; HP 50; ATK 1; HTB +10; DMG 3d10 (fist); MV 80’; Save 5; Special: Berserk, Construct, Made of Clay, Magical Immunity; Harvest: 600d of Ritual Components; CL/XP 14/2,600;
Berserk: Every 5 rounds of combat roll a d20, if a 1 or lower is rolled the creator loses control of the Clay Golem who goes berserk and attacks friend and foe alike. For each subsequent 5 rounds of combat subtracts an accumulative -1 from the roll. The 10th round subtract -1, the 15th round, -2 and so on.
Made of Clay: Immune to damage from all piercing and slashing weapons (spears, sword, etc).
Magical Immunity: Immune to all magic except for the Earthquake spell which will destroy the Clay Golem. Also the Move Earth spell will deal 1d4 per level of the spell caster to the Golem, half damage on a successful save.

Clay Golems are massive clay humanoid statues that can move. They are imbued with a rudimentary intelligence and are able to follow their creator’s command. They can only be created by clerics and other casters of divine magic. Scholars theorize that this is because Clay Golems symbolizes the legend of man being created out of the dust of the earth.

Golem, Flesh, AC 9[10]; HD 8; HP 40; ATK 2; HTB +8; DMG 2d8 (fist); MV 80’; Save 8; Special: Damage Immunity, Lightning Healing, Magical Immunity; Harvest: 400d of ritual components; CL/XP 12/2,000;
Damage Immunity: Will only take damage from magical weapons with a +1 or better enchantment.
Lightning Healing: A Lightning spell will heal instead of damaging a Flesh Golem.
Magical Immunity: Fire and cold spells will act as a Slow spell on the Flesh Golem. Reducing the speed of the golem to 40 feet per round and only able to attack every other round. This will last for 30 minutes. It is immune to all other magical spells.

This magical construct is created from stitching together human limbs and other body parts. They can only be created by magic-users and other casters of arcane magic.

Golem, Iron, AC 3[16]; HD 16; HP 80; ATK 1; HTB +16; DMG 4d10 (fist or weapon); MV 60’; Save 4; Special: Damage Immunity, Fire Healing, Magical Immunity, Poison Breath; Harvest: 1,000d in ritual components; CL/XP 17/3,500;
Damage Immunity: Iron Golems can be only damaged by magical weapons that have a +2 or better enchantment.
Fire Healing: Any damage from mundane or magical fire heals the Iron Golem.
Magical Immunity: Lightning spells will act as a Slow spell on the Iron Golem. Reducing the speed of the golem to 30 feet per round and only able to attack every other round. This will last for 30 minutes. It is immune to all other magical spells.
Poison Breath: They can breathe a cloud of poison gas in lieu of attacking. This covers a 10 foot radius within 10 feet of the golem with a deadly gas. Everybody caught within must make a saving throw versus poison or die.

Iron Golems are magical constructs made out of a large 10 foot or higher statue of iron.They can only be created by magic-users and other casters of arcane magic.

Golem, Stone, AC 5[14]; HD 12; HP 60; ATK 1; HTB +12; DMG 3d8 (fist); MV 60’; Save 3; Special: Damage Immunity, Magical Immunity; Harvest: 800d of Ritual Components; CL/XP 16/3,200;
Damage Immunity: Iron Golems can be only damaged by magical weapons that have a +2 or better enchantment.
Magical Immunity: Fire spells will act as a Slow spell on the Stone Golem. Reducing the speed of the golem to 30 feet per round and only able to attack every other round. This will last for 30 minutes. Transmute Rock to Mud will do 1d6 damage per caster level. Its reverse Transmute Mud to Rock will heal a Stone Golem 1d6 per caster level.  It is immune to all other magical spells.

Stone Golems are magical construct made out of an 8 foot to 10 foot statue of stone. They can be created by magic-users, clerics, and all other spell casters.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Delving into AD&D, The 1st edition Player's Handbook in PDF

Yup! The PDF for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook is now available at RPGNow. While it does have the reprint cover it has the remastered searchable text and the file size clocks in a 5.3 meg. I still have the version I bought off of Paizo and it was a series of scanned images at 23 meg. So the smaller size is appreciated.

While Wizards doesn't allow page extraction it does allow you to copy text and graphics out of the book.

This is absolutely fantastic. Now if they would just set it up for print on demand!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Awarding XP in Classic D&D and in 5th edition.

Tenkar has been talking about XP awards and I figured now is a good time to lay out how I handle XP. Early on I grew to dislike XP for gold, and somewhat later XP for treasure, never had a problem with XP for overcoming monsters.

However not awarding XP for Gold or Magic Item left a huge whole in what the players earned per session. I was and still am big on "roleplaying" i.e. acting as if you are there as your character. So in place of Gold and Magic Item XP, I had a roleplaying award.

The formula was 100 xp times the character level time a factor. If I wanted a slow campaign, I used 50 xp as the base, a faster campaign, 200 xp as the base.

At first the factor was based on my judgment on how well the played "acted" as his character. That didn't work so well. I dislike having to play pageant judge week after week and players invariably protested low awards. More importantly some players were successful in my campaign acting as themselves with a particular character abilities.

I decided that good roleplaying wasn't about being a good actor, but about acting and reacting as if you were really there in the setting. This accommodated players who developed distinct personalities for their characters, with players who played a version of themselves.

So what about the factor? I started to pay attention to what were the personal and party goals. When one of them was accomplished, I gave a bonus award that session. The base award was a factor of 1. I would use a factor of 4 for some really big noteworthy accomplishment. The rest were inbetween.

The virtue of this system that it largely stripped my campaign of preconceived notions of what it ought be about. The goals were not my goals, but what the party set for themselves. Of course I manipulated that by the various clues, hooks, and situations, I created but I always left the final choice of goals in the hands of the players. In addition I rarely try to do anything formally about what the goals are. Instead I tried to play careful attention to what they wanted to do and use that as the basis for my awards.

5th Edition DnD has an explicit options for the above in the DMG. It called milestones and it uses the Encounter XP charts as a foundation for the amount of the award. In the Monday Night campaign I use the milestone awards combined with the xp value of any creature killed as the foundation of what I hand out.

In my view the benefit of using milestone awards is immense plays directly to the strengths of tabletop roleplaying over other types of roleplaying and games. With a human referee, players have the freedom to explore anything they can explore with their characters. With milestones, they don't have to feel like they have to kill and loot to get ahead. Instead they pursue whatever they find interesting.

To be honest for most that still ends up involving killing and looting. But hey now they don't feel they have to do it. Which is a good thing right?

Friday, June 19, 2015

An OGL Primer

There was a bit of a discussion over on Tenkar's Tavern about copyrights, licenses, and trademarks. While it is always good to get a lawyer's advice, the Open Game License, (along with Creative Commons and other open license) are designed so that it is easy for people to see what is permissible to reuse WITHOUT shelling out $$$ for legal advice.

In general you are not allowed to use another person's work verbatim without permission due to copyright. In many cases you are not allowed to create derivative works either like say the New Adventures of Harry Potter.

The OGL is a type of blanket permission by the author to copy a work or portions of a work under certain conditions. The various Creative Common licenses have a similar goal.

Those conditions are:
  1. You must update Section 15 with the copyright notice of any open content you copy. Luckily this mostly involves copying pasting the section 15 from the license text of the work.
  2. You explicitly agree not to copy the work's product identify without a specific set of permission from the original author.
  3. You must clearly designate or mark which portions of your work is open content.
  4. You can't cite compatibility or use the original work for marketing without specific permission from the original author.
And that is pretty much it.

#4 is the only right that you are explicitly giving up by agree to use another author's open content. #4 is why Wizards had the d20 trademark license. Note: Wizards has since revoked the license and no longer gives permission to use the d20 mark or logo.

The OGL has a feature where you can designate some portions of a work as open with people free to copy that portion under the OGL, and other portions as product identity which can't be copy. This is why many opt to use the OGL over other types of license such as Creative Commons. Creative Common is designed to give permission to ENTIRE works. The OGL is deliberately designed to allow certain SECTIONS to have different permissions.

Now where it gets difficult is that people being people don't clearly mark what open content. Luckily there are documents that are marked as 100% open content that cover what most people want to do with their projects.

Pathfinder SRD
The Fate SRD
Swords & Wizardry SRD
The Blackmarsh Setting (which I wrote)

If you want to publish your own product. Take your rulebooks put them far away from where you do your writing.

Download one of the above (or one of the otherSRDs out there). And use that as your main reference.

Then when you lay out your book, CLEARLY mark which portions are open content. The rest is product identity in which you retain full rights.

What is open content? Any thing that is copied or based on the SRD.

For example this entry about the Boglings from my Majestic Wilderlands.

This has to be open content because it depends on information found in the Swords & Wizardry SRD and the d20 SRD.

BOGLINGSArmor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 2+1
Attacks: 2 claws (1d3)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Underwater, Jumping, Extensible Tongue
Move: 6/12 (when swimming)
Challenge Level/XP: 2/35
May breathe underwater indefinitely
Can Jump over 60 feet and up to 20 feet in height.
Has an extensible tongue can immobilize a target if it fails it’s saving throw.

This part can be product identity because it is my own original writing.
These are amphibious humanoids with bulbous eyes. Boglings are noted for their ability to jump long distances and for their extensible tongues. They are found in tribes in tropical swamps and rainforests as well as on several of the outer planes most notably the Swamps of Acheron home to the god Set.

Personally I made the whole thing open content just because I wanted too.

When you are done, copy the text of the open game license and alter Section 15 to be
Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
plus whatever the section 15 the SRD has and then YOUR copyright notice. Like this from Blackmarsh
Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
System Reference Document Copyright 2000-2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Rich Baker, Andy Collins, David Noonan, Rich Redman, Bruce R. Cordell, John D. Rateliff, Thomas Reid, James Wyatt, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
Blackmarsh, Copyright 2011, Robert Conley
A comment about Trademarks.

Note that if any of the following is an issue for something you are doing this the point where you need to start getting legal advice. The above is about making thing clear and easy for people to reuse other people's work without having to get lawyers involved. The below is where a lawyer comes in handy.

Trademarks are graphics and text that identify a product or business. Like copyrights they can be registered or unregistered. The White Star Logo and trademark license that the debate over on Tenkar was centered are unregistered.

Understand the law frowns on businesses pretending to be other business or trying to confuse consumers whether product is really brand X. So registered or unregistered the law protect a business right to have a distinctive mark and name for themselves and their products. What does registering a trademark get you? Namely the right to use for damages when your trademark. The best you can do with a unregistered trademark is sue to get somebody to STOP from infringing your mark.

In both cases you have to actively enforce your trademarks. The law grants powerful protection to a business' trademark but only if the business actively goes after violators. Let it slide and the law will assume you don't care and hence the violation.

This is unlike copyright where inaction can only effect your ability to recover PAST damages. Once you decide enough is enough, from that point on the clock is ticking for damages by the violator. This is of course you have registered your copyright as the best you can do with an unregistered copyright it to get them to stop distributing your stuff.

Finally do you need to deal with the OGL? No there are ways under copyright law and precedent for third parties to create compatible works. But guess what! You should go to a lawyer for advice if that the route you take. And understand if that the route you take, you will need legal advice at every step to ensure your work doesn't stray across the line and cause you legal headache. In my opinion it sounds like a huge in the pass for what is in essence a hobby pastime.

Of course some people are just dicks and rely on the fact they have little or no money or assets. Or the fact that criminal copyright has a high minimum threshold before the US Attorney will consider a prosecution. Authors dealing with such assholes have my sympathy the only thing I can offer in the way of advice is for you or your lawyer to look at the DMCA as it has provisions that help smaller publisher deal with these jerks.