Thursday, August 26, 2010

You are free now so go enjoy it.

The Do It Yourself ethos is a strong current among those who been playing, writing or refereeing older editions of the world's most popular roleplaying game. There been a fair amount of confusion generated by the recent Frog God Games/Mythmere announcement.

And no I am not talking about the ill-written ad copy on the About Us page of their website. James Raggi's post mirrors much of my sentiment on the matter. The only thing I will add is that the people involved with Frog God Games are stand up folks, I worked with them in the past, and I trust them to do right by their customers both in quality and contributing back to the hobby.

Now that out of the way, there is a lot of confusion over future publishing for Swords & Wizardry. This short post by Julian Grimm sums up the various statements I read. Matt Finch clears up the matter in various posts including this thread on the Swords & Wizardry forum.

But what being missed is that publishing (big or small) is not the same game in the OSR as it was in the past years of the hobby like the 70s, 80s or 90s.

We all free now. Free because of the Open Game License.

Nobody can't take their toys and go home. At various times in the past two years people left the OSR and removed their products. However their work continued on because of the Open Game License. If because of circumstances I had to quit publishing tommorrow you can still use and adapt the Myrmidon, the Montebank, etc from the Majestic Wilderlands because it is in a section that I released under the Open Game License.

So when I see new arrangements being announced I am not concerned for my own projects. I still have sitting beside my desk a copy of Swords & Wizardry with the Open Game License on the back page. For that I thank Matt Finch and wish him all the best in his new relationship with Frog God Games. I thank all the authors of rules, supplements and adventures that continue to release new material under the Open Game License.

I am free from worrying that a publisher turns greedy. And guess what! So are you.

You are free now, so enjoy it!
Additional Clarifications
(in response to Scottsz comments)
I am going to refer to a worst case scenario. The Frog God Games/Mythmere merger is not that scenario. My opinion is that the merger will be an step forward for the hobby.

People were concerned about whether Swords & Wizardry Core Rule and/or White Box was going to go away with the announcement of Swords & Wizardry Complete. This is my opinion on how the OGL will work in the worst case scenario of a publisher taking a open rule set and making it closed or cease publishing it.

If the worst case scenario ever ensures you can just do a new layout, add new arts and release the same product under a different name. The reason you can do this is because of the Open Game License.

From section 4

4. Grant and Consideration: In consideration for agreeing to use this License, the Contributors grant You a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license with the exact terms of this License to Use, the Open Game Content.

I highlighted perpetual to show where my assertion comes from. In short a publisher can't unilaterally revoke permission to use OGL material. He has to have cause and that only applies to an individual violator.

I don't think aspect this has really sunk in with the majority of the folks in the OSR. It effectively ends the power of a publisher to "go home and take the ball with them." Particularly for rules.

I am not saying is going to a paradise. Because there a lot of other things that are unique a publisher , like connections, a distribution network, and capital. Plus a community of a fans that buy their products. When a publisher changes direction it changes that community and a lot of people don't like that and react negatively.

So a worst case scenariowill hurt. But with the OGL there is a clear path that a community or an individual can take to solve the problem.

Now I am being vague on "worst case scenario" and "solve the problem." This could mean some individuals republishing the rules, and rebuild the market and/or community around the new book. But I can't envision all what a community consider worst case. Nor I can envision all the paths that an individual or community can take.

But that part of the beauty of the OGL. By it's open nature that means multiple things can be tried. And one of them (and maybe more) will be what works and keeps the hobby going.

Now there has been discussion about "game rules can't be copyrighted" and the like. But no matter how you slice it they are riskier avenues and much more restrictive. The OGL in contrast clearly set forth the conditions under which a copyright can be used. The risk is much less and you have a bigger pool to draw from to get people to help.

There been many fine products published that have been NOT released under the OGL but the foundation of the publishing side of the hobby has been adapting the d20 SRD under the OGL to produce a game that emulates one of the older editions. There would be a hobby but without the OGL it would no where near as vibrant and expansive as what we have today.


John Matthew Stater said...

Amen to that!

scottsz said...

Can you clarify or add some more detail about how the OGL interacts with the Frog/S&W news?

scottsz said...

Mr. C,

Thanks for the update. I'm still not 'sold' on the OGL, but I appreciate you taking the time.

Robert said...

It has always seemed to me that this is the reason the OGL was created. The smart people at Wizards had seen what happened to Gygax. They wanted to make sure that nobody could take the game they were creating away from them. (Probably they even knew they wouldn’t want to be at Wizards forever even in the best case.) So, they came up with the OGL and then added the d20L to help sell it to the suits.