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About Travern

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    Advanced Member


  • RPG Biography
    For BRP, Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, and Runequest
  • Current games
    Call of Cthulhu
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    Slowly, slowly returning to the RPG hobby

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  1. Just to note, @g33k, in this case "originates in" is intended to cover what copyright considers to be valid work, which can be either unique creations or unique treatments, i.e. sufficiently transformative work based on existing properties. For example, Malory did not come up with the legend of the Questing Beast, which goes back to the Perlesvaus, but he did retell its legend based on Suite du Merlin in his Morte d'Arthur. (It's possible this alone would not be enough to pass muster by 21st-century copyright standards—maybe only Malory's text would be ruled valid—but copyright as we know it didn't even exist as a legal concept in the 15th century.) Thankfully, the case of Malory in Pendragon is clearer in Clause 1(e), which at least unambiguously rules "all works related to Le Morte d’Arthur" fall under "Prohibited Content"—which, in turn, applies to any and all genres and settings. Anyone wanting to use the Questing Beast in their OGL BRP games will have to stick to the Perlesvaus's version. Unfortunately, other examples that we're bringing up here are less clearly defined in the BRP OGL. Since INAL, much less a copyright lawyer, I can't furnish Chaosium with new boilerplate language for this, but Clause 1(e) needs to reflect this distinction.
  2. This is a perfectly understandable goal for Chaosium as a licensor. The problems that arise stem from ambiguous language in the BRP OGL, e.g. what counts as a Chaosium IP, i.e. "Prohibited Content" in Clause 1(e), or how to calculate what is considered "thirty percent (30%) or more revised or new content" in Clause 10. Thanks, this is a helpful piece of general guidance (and a useful tip for game design in general). Would it be possible to incorporate this into the FAQ? This conversation is simply the process of determining what these are since, again, people have questions about what counts as Prohibited Content. It's much better to settle these now rather than later, after people have begun work on their OGL BRP projects. For example, the BRP FAQ encourages, "Make that Jules Verne game you always wanted". However, since Clause 1(e)'s list of Prohibited Content counts the Call of Cthulhu line which includes Cthulhu by Gaslight, does that mean Captain Nemo and Phileas Fogg are off limits because they appear in that supplement as NPCs? What does that mean for the other famous fictional heroes and villains featured in that supplement, viz. Allan Quatermain, Count Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Doctor Moreau, Dorian Grey, Fu Manchu, The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera, Prof. Challenger, Prof. Moriarty, Prof. Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Varney the Vampire, and Victor Frankenstein and Frankenstein's Monster. For the purposes of Clause 1(e), these definitely count as "proper names"/"characters" and their write-ups describe events from their originating fictional works, i.e. "story elements". Are vampire-hunting OGL BRP games unacceptable if they feature these characters, or ones about consulting detectives, steampunk adventure, gothic horror, or fin-de-siècle thrillers? Chaosium staff's previous answers suggest they're probably OK, but that's not unambiguous from the language in the BRP OGL, which is in effect the final word. The Prohibited Content's clause does not distinguish between what appears in and what originates in, which leaves open this issue of transformative vs. derivative works. Chaosium understandably does not want the BRP OGL to be interpreted as an opportunity to ransack its intellectual property. How it has maximally defined this in the BRP OGL, however, may include public domain works and cultural figures that would normally be acceptable subjects for game design. Clarifying the language should be a priority now, before it becomes a licensing problem later.
  3. Many thanks for the clarification—that's good to know. Would it be possible for this to be incorporated in some form into the FAQ (if not the BRP OGL)? Cheers,
  4. These kinds of cameos and allusions appear throughout the Call of Cthulhu line. Personally, I love them, but they have the potential for legal exposure now.
  5. This ambiguity remains an issue since, as written, the Prohibited Content clause covers the entire Call of Cthulhu product line, which includes plenty of non-Cthulhu Mythos creative works. For instance, the now-out-of-print Malleus Monstrorum includes H. G. Wells's Martians from The War of the Worlds. Does this mean that they cannot appear in an OGL BRP sci-fi space opera?
  6. Please, let's not open the copyright can of worms that is the Cthulhu Mythos in this thread (yes, HPL's work is basically out of copyright, but so much work has been done on the Cthulhu Mythos since then that it's tricky to go back to "first principles"). More important, Chaosium is under no obligation to license competition to their flagship game under the BRP OGL. That would be tantamount to asking them to furnish a knife to cut their sails. Besides, anyone wanting to create Cthulhu Mythos gaming material has many options within existing CoC licenses, from the Miskatonic Repository to small publisher and commercial licenses.
  7. Thank you very much for the response, Jeff. I'm afraid it's still unclear to me if Chaosium is reserving the right to consider characters from Malory to be Prohibited Content regardless of the setting (the most drastic interpretation), only the chivalric Matter of Britain (the narrowest needed to protect Pendragon's IP), or just the Arthurian setting (the middle ground). Clarifying this would allow potential RPG designers to draw their own conclusions about how to resolve other particular concepts that could potentially fall under "prohibited content". (Elsewhere on the web I've seen some ludicrous over-interpretations about the BRP OLG forbidding basic fantasy tropes because of RuneQuest and Stormbringer.) If the answer is that people must check with Chaosium first to receive permission to use the BRP OGL in such cases, then this ought to be spelled out in at least the FAQ, though any waivers granted through this process will, by their nature, complicate the license. I'm raising these hypotheticals because I genuinely worry that the ambiguous language in the Prohibited Content clause could scare away potential development of OGL BRP. And I'm sticking to hypotheticals because I have no emotional investment in them, unlike, say, the homebrew systems that people on this forum have put their creative effort into. If one wanted, for instance, a cyberpunk-sorcery game right now, one could always try… Shadowrun, but I think I speak for everyone here when I say I would prefer an OGL BRP alternative with a richer setting. An open license for Basic Roleplaying has been on my wish list for a long time, and I would like it to enjoy the success that similar projects from other publishers have seen. P.S. By the way, I think that BRP OGL's language covering Lovecraftian horror, while sweeping, is unambiguous and entirely correct: "all works related to the Cthulhu Mythos, including those that are otherwise public domain". Anyone wanting to create works in this subgenre should have no questions about whether they can adapt BRP (no) or must work within existing CoC licensing options (and Chaosium's options, from the Miskatonic Repository to small publisher and commercial licenses, cover everything they could need).
  8. It really would be better to sort out the ambiguities of the Prohibited Content clause in its current form now than later. Here are three hypothetical RPG ideas, none of which are retroclones of Pendragon, but which may present varying degrees of problems with Chaosium's BRP OGL, specifically: "The following items are hereby identified as “Prohibited Content”: All trademarks, registered trademarks, proper names (characters, deities, place names, etc.), plots, story elements, locations, characters, artwork, or trade dress from […] all works related to Le Morte d’Arthur" in the Prohibited Content clause. (For the purposes of discussion, we'll assume that all of them have distinctive designs, art direction, title logo, etc. so as not to cause confusion in the marketplace with any existing Chaosium product.) Merlin in Manhattan RPG: A cyberpunk-sorcery setting for contemporary urban fantasy. Is this in compliance with the BRP OGL if it uses such characters as Merlin and Morgan le Fay who appear in Malory's Morte d'Arthur? A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court RPG: Based on Mark Twain's novel, a steampunk RPG satirizing feudal Britain. Is it this in compliance despite its Arthurian setting and Twain's use of Malory? The Sword in the Stone YA RPG: A young-adult light fantasy game revolving around Merlin's whimsical tutelage of Wart (Arthur) and similarly de-aged Knights of the Round Table (the PCs). Is this in compliance because of T. H. White's focus on a time in Arthur's life that Malory does not discuss? As I said, I think Open BRP is excellent news that will only benefit the RPG hobby, but these questions with Prohibited Content should be addressed before people start making RPGs with it.
  9. It's more like "you shall not pass", which is why it's important to spell things out from the start. It seems to be analogous to the "Product Identity" restrictions of WotC's OGL for D&D, but where that specifies their intellectual property that cannot be used under the license, Chaosium's is much more generalized—which is why we need clarification.
  10. You're welcome. I don't know the reason for Pelgrane's decision, though I assume it would still be kosher to mix the OGL Gumshoe SRD v2 with other OGL properties. (The latest version contains content from Gumshoe One-2-One, QuickShock, and The Yellow King Roleplaying Game.)
  11. The Gumshoe SRD v2 was OGL and Creative Commons, but v3 is only Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Unported License.
  12. In the case of Cyberpunk Camelot, I would also think that Chaosium wouldn't have a problem with it, but the license in its present state doesn't preclude it falling under “Prohibited Content”. I brought up a hypothetical The Sword in the Stone YA RPG precisely because it's similar, but not too similar, to Pendragon—only Chaosium can say whether they believe that, for the purposes of their open license, it would unfairly compete with their existing product or cause confusion in the market. I simply would like for the “Prohibited Content” section to be clearer about what is considered prohibited content when it comes to "proper names (characters, deities, place names, etc.), plots, story elements, locations, characters". As written, it causes confusion between their IP and elements in the public domain and real world. Precisely. I'm proposing a hypothetical game merely for the purposes of this conversation*, though clarification from Chaosium at this point would be very much appreciated. On the whole, I think Chaosium creating an open BRP is excellent news and will only benefit the RPG hobby. We're just kicking the tires before we take it out for a drive. * Although I'm becoming more curious about creating a rules-lite BRP as an entry-level system for a younger market, a little like FATE Accelerated vs. FATE Core.
  13. I assumed this clause referred to creative work, because anything else is unenforceable. ("All trademarks, registered trademarks, proper names (characters, deities, place names, etc.), plots, story elements, locations, characters, artwork, or trade dress" sounds, I would argue, like a set of examples covering material specifically created for the prohibited games.) If Chaosium were to argue that my hypothetical The Sword in the Stone YA RPG competes with King Arthur Pendragon, it would have to be on other grounds than being set in, say, "Lorgres", "Cambria", or "Cumbria". Would you have to call Britain "Breteyne" to comply with the license? EDIT: Similarly, would TSitS be in compliance if it simply referred to Merlin as "Merlyn" and Arthur as "Artur" (though he's just Wart in White's book)?
  14. You'd have to figure out how to create a BRP game that doesn't duplicate Pendragon. It would be absurd to expect Chaosium to sanction direct competition to its existing products. The FAQ says up front: "You are certainly entitled to create your own game using creatures, stories, characters, or locations derived from the Le Morte d’Arthur – you just can’t use Chaosium’s BRP system to do that. Chaosium already has a game that does just that (King Arthur Pendragon), the BRP-OGL does not allow you to publish your own variant of King Arthur Pendragon." Using mythological figures like Merlin or Morgan le Fay in other settings, such as Urban Fantasy, should be completely acceptable. On the other hand, if you were to create a version of The Sword in the Stone (provided you could get a license from T. H. White's estate and/or Disney…ha!), that ought to be kosher as long as you came up with new mechanics to reflect that setting's much lighter tone and whimsical approach to the Matter of Britain*—and avoided anything that could cause confusion in the market (e.g. titles, art design). * EDIT: I'm thinking of a young-adult game—again, to avoid direct competition with an existing Chaosium title. And for further clarification, I picked The Sword in the Stone because the novel focuses on Arthur's youth, which Malory does not discuss.
  15. Ah-ha! I just remembered the novel Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. Its cast includes a few over-powered characters, but for the most part, its setting deals with street-level superheroes and supervillains, treated comparatively realistically.
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