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.
(snip)
(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.

Update
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.

8 comments:

Daniel D. Fox said...

Thanks for the post, Rob. This point stuck out to me:

“... or derivatives thereof”

You are absolutely correct, this is incongruent with the intention of the Grim & Perilous Library. A recent example: one of our creators (whom we call Librarians) reached out, asking to use the story content they made for a new game they are launching on Kickstarter. We immediately said yes, provides they remove the work from the Grim & Perilous Library at the time of Kickstarter launch. Super simple ask, and we granted it without question.

I can see where the confusion comes from, and your post highlights the problem. We will reach out to DTRPG to do so.

I do feel you have a misunderstanding about what the community content program’s intention is. It boils down to accessibility. Creators don’t oftentimes have cash to dole out for Indesign templates, for artwork, for access to early playtest material and game design rules that have underwent rigorous play testing. They also don’t have an audience, understand how to market on DriveThruRPG or have the business advantages we do we publishers. That is what the community content program solves for.

Our intention for Grim & Perilous Library is as a commercial effort to enable creators to make “official” fan content, and to make money doing it. This means they get to take advantage of our publisher marketing efforts and audience built into DTRPG. They can use our art, our templates, our game rules and our game design know-how. They can hitch their wagon to our train, and we can all blaze the trail together. The other advantage is that it allows us to identify future freelancers for paid positions: folks who understand the rules, are passionate about the IP and understand how to write using a shared design language.

Wizards’ Dungeon Master Guild is a great example of how a community content program should work. Their design and development teams consist of people who began as contributors (and many still are, like James Introcaso and James Haeck). This is is also our intention, and our first foray into a collaborative community content print-on-demand project for DriveThruRPG begins in February.

I can appreciate the sentiment here, and I can crow on until the cows come home about why the Grim & Perilous Library is awesome. Or, you could drop into our Discord and ask the 26 active community content Librarians what they think of the program:
https://discord.gg/5KVHyEh

Khusru said...

The point where there are restrictions is where open, free content ends. It would seem DTRPG are applying copywrite to others work of which they are only the distributor

Robert Conley said...

Appreciate the comment Daniel and the time you took to write it. To clarify I do think community content programs absent the no devritive clause are a good third way for company to share their iP. It is more controlled environment then the use of OGL SRD.

I still don't like any community content program being associated with the OSR label, but if the no devritive clause is absent then I will just grumble to myself. With releasing my own open content as my "statement" on the matter.

I also have less of a problem with CCPs if it is focused on a setting as opposed to a system. Inviting 3PP content to setting is more problematic than it is with RPG system so to keep the chain of ownership clear I can understand the need for draconian terms when a setting is involved.

But when it comes to CCPs focused on a system, then the no derivative clause strikes me as the publisher being overly greedy and protective. That what OBS CCP offer (commerical sales, 50% royalty) is not sufficient compensative for those rights.

Luckily the solution now is simple, just use the Genesys Foundry License instead of the OBS boilerplate. The nice thing that Genesys license cover the setting IP FFG released into the program. So you have a system + setting CCP and still keep your setting IP clean.




Klintron said...

FWIW, the Savage Worlds community content program on OBS is significantly different from most others as well. It does mention that you can't sell derivative works outside of the program in 4b, but instead of the usual "Exclusive License to all User Generated Content in your Work" bit the Savage Worlds version of 4c says: "You retain full copyright ownership of your Work in the Program. You may reuse any setting ideas, concepts, or other Intellectual Property for use in other publications by you, and license your unique settings, ideas, and concepts. You may not violate the copyright of any Savage Worlds product by the Owner or other authors in the Program to do so."

It also omits the highly problematic Moral Rights waiver, which even the Genesis Foundry agreement includes.

The no derivative works bit could be problematic and someone should probably clarify this with Pinnacle and OBS, but it sounds like they only want to keep you from using Savage Worlds IP outside of the program.

Robert Conley said...

Thanks for the heads up Klintron

Ryan B. said...

I think all these stakeholders need to take a closer look at US copyright law, because I have a sneaking suspicion that they haven't passed these by a copyright lawyer...

Ryan B. said...

Based on my understanding from here:
https://gsllc.wordpress.com/2019/08/12/part1statblocks/

Robert Conley said...

What Frylock dealing is an issue called Trade Dress
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_dress

Basically a particular visual arrangement, which a stat block is, can be protected. However the primary point of trade dress is so that consumers are not confused about whether this product was made by that company. Frylock's situation falls into a grey area which is a topic for a fuller post.

What my post is about is PERMISSION. I have written something, and I am willing to give you permission to use that work under certain condition. US Law (and much of the world) has this part of copyright law. It is one of the fundamental points of copyright law that the author can control how their work is distributed.


I favor a form of permission that encourages sharing with the main conditions being that the recipient must share as well. I use the OGL or a Creative Common license because I know they have been vetted by attorneys and because I find their specific conditions align with the permissions I want to give for my works.

In contrast the Community Content Programs of OBS have a different permissions with a different set of conditions. One of which, non derivative work, I have serious issues with along with actively advocating it removal for any CCP where the focus on sharing a set of rules not a setting.