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Announcing the Basic Roleplaying System Reference Document and Open Game License


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Poe's "Pym" might be usable e.g. in the Jules Verne or Charles Romyn Dake context. This is a Lost World style adventure, and while Lovecraft was inspired by it, he hardly was the only one.

And if you do need the Mythos context, you can publish under the Cthulhu community content. Not everything published there needs to have direct Mythos content, either - vaguely mysterious or even perfectly explainable with our science can be used in a Cthulhu campaign. If the gibbering madness isn't guaranteed in each and every scenario, it can be more devastating when it comes.

 

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Chaosium is pleased to announce the release of the Basic Roleplaying System Reference Document (SRD). The Basic Roleplaying SRD is based on Basic Roleplaying, the simple, fast, and elegant skill-

I just took another look at the Mythras Gateway license and noticed that the BRP license is actually quite similar in some regards - I think them main problem and the reason for most of the discussion

This A suggestion might be to start with the BGB, remove Sanity and other bits you folks feel fall under the list of Prohibited items. My guess is that it will be a much bigger document, and much

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Honestly, the more I think on the matter, the more an Antebellum-era, laudanum-soaked, Poe-inspired, tightly-scoped game of personal horror and paranoia, completely devoid of overwrought Mythos tropes sounds right up my alley.  Quick!  Someone give Chaosium the benefit of the doubt and write this thing under the BRP license!

!i!

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1 hour ago, Ian Absentia said:

... an Antebellum-era, laudanum-soaked, Poe-inspired, tightly-scoped game of personal horror and paranoia, completely devoid of overwrought Mythos tropes ...

<stares pointedly at Ian, looking back and forth between the man and his desk>

If not you, who?

If not now, when?

 

😁

 

1 hour ago, Ian Absentia said:

... Quick!  Someone give Chaosium the benefit of the doubt and write this thing under the BRP license!

I think it doesn't take any "benefit," or have any "doubt."

Such a project is entirely in the clear.

 

Ya know who I think is most likely to roll their eyes and call you "derivative"?   The WoD/Vamp crowd.

Scope tightly, my friend!

🤔

😇

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On 4/12/2020 at 8:35 PM, g33k said:

Going through the OpenBRP doc again, more thoughtfully...  Got another criticism.  On the one hand, it's a minor (even petty) thing.  On the other hand... geez, Chaosium, really?

 

Section 2.4, "Characteristic Rolls" -- STRx5, POWx5, etc --  "Effort" rolls, "Luck" rolls, etc...

My gripe is right... there.

A whole new layer of terminology, really?  That adds nothing except... jargon?  Is there ANY good reason not to just call a "Strength Roll" what it is, a Strength Roll (and so on, for the other 6 characteristics)?  It just seems like an utterly needless layer of jargon and confusion.  Chaosium was stripping the system down to a barebones framework... and they preserved this bit of obfuscation???

This leads to a slightly more substantive criticism:  how utterly LIMITING the terms, as presented, can sometimes be... e.g. an "Idea" roll, when clearly an INT roll may represent other things (recall (an exact detail, or a long-ago memory, etc); solving a logic/reason puzzle; etc etc etc)..

These terms were already in the BGB. Nothing new. 

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14 minutes ago, smiorgan said:

These terms were already in the BGB. Nothing new. 

I think that's the complain!
They could have boldly simplified the wording further! ;) 

In passing note the character sheet make it quite clear that all those terms are synonyms...

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On 4/12/2020 at 10:46 PM, Nakana said:

Is anyone planning to? (Sincere question)

I am still planning on using the OLG. I was hoping that I would be able to see another project go through before me so that I could see how to format my work with the actual SRD document, though if I am the first, that won't be so bad either. I just need to learn the game more and improve my art skills.

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10 hours ago, Joerg said:

Poe's "Pym" might be usable e.g. in the Jules Verne or Charles Romyn Dake context.

No, Pym has been declared totally off-limits as "all works related to the Cthulhu Mythos, including those that are otherwise public domain" are covered in the BRP OGL as "Prohibited Content". Its cry of "tekeli-li" is enough to count it, retroactively, as a Cthulhu Mythos story for the purposes of the BRP OGL.
 

10 hours ago, g33k said:

Malory wrote in the chivalric/romantic tradition; the specifically-cited-as-OK sources were hundreds of year older (or newer), not mere decades, with one author pointing to another just one generation before or after.  As I've previously stated, this isn't a needle I feel qualified to thread (nor do I wish to) ... but I think they're noticeably different in tone, flavor, etc.

I did NOT see -- for example -- de Troyes'  Lancelot  or  Perceval  (also in the romantic tradition) cited as "OK."

In the end, it seems Chaosium's aim here is partly one of "tone" and "flavor" and "character" (i.e. "Mythos" flavor, or "Morte d'Arthur" flavor), not merely a matter of  specific text  such as "ia! ia! ..."

Unfortunately, it's not simply a question of "tone" and "flavor". This line of discussion began at the very start of this thread, with the general question of Merlin in another era. A Morte d'Arthur-influenced Merlin in a contemporary urban fantasy setting—nothing remotely like Pendragon—was deemed inappropriate, because it derived from Malory. Similarly, a satiric steampunk adventure based on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court—again, something that would not cause confusion in the marketplace with existing Chaosium products—was ruled to be unacceptable under the terms of the BRP OGL. These two examples are completely different in tone and flavor from existing BRP-based games, but that's not enough. Anything from, or influenced by, Malory is fruit of the poisonous tree.
 

10 hours ago, g33k said:

In the end... I wish people would stop trying to cut these issues as close to the bone as they can be cut.  It "looks" to me -- as a 3rd party, not Chaosium -- as if people are trying to find out just HOW CLOSE they can come to creating a CoC-clone (or a KAP-clone), and the answer to THAT is "Not close.  Not close at all."

I don't actually think that this IS the objective I am NOT accusing folks of trying to clone these Chaosium products!   Instead, I think they just want a "nice clear line" that they can be sure they aren't even  close  to crossing... but the questions  look like  people's projects are trying to get as close to that line as possible! 

I think it would serve the questioners well to (a) get as specific as possible, rather than work in general cases

"No retro-clones" couldn't be clearer and is completely understandable. Similarly, Chaosium's guidelines about fair use and derivative works from the public domain are perfectly comprehensible: "If someone would mistake your content for material from one of the Chaosium games listed under Prohibited Content, it's not transformative."

What's less clear, however, are the creative elements that actually fall under Clause 1(e) since clearly states, "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 any of the following: […] all works related to the Cthulhu Mythos, including those that are otherwise public domain".

For example, would these RPGs be acceptable to Chaosium under the BRP OGL:

  • An alternate-history/weird fin de siècle RPG based on Chambers's The Repairer of Reputations?
  • A folk-horror Victorian-era RPG based on Arthur Machen's The White People?
  • A fantasy-adventure RPG based on Lord Dunsany's Idle Days on the Yann?

Although they do not resemble any existing Chaosium property, Lovecraft drew inspiration from the original stories (in particular, Hastur, Aklo letters, Sheol-Nugganoth, respectively). Is that enough to count under Clause 1(e)'s "Prohibited Content" in the BRP OGL's current state?

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And this really displays why I am tempted to give up answering questions on this forum. Do you really plan to publish something using BRP based on Dunsany's "Idle Days on the Yann"? Really? Or is this just an exercise trying to dance around boundaries you don't really have any interest in actually doing anything with at all?

Meanwhile, I have already been asked about:

  • Simplified BRP for kids with investigative fantasy (not horror but children's fantasy)
  • Something based on Jules Verne's Mysterious Island
  •  Sci fi generation ship (as long as it is not based directly off Niven's Known Space stories or Jim Ward's Metamorphosis Alpha without his permission, great!)
  • And an adaptation of an existing French RPGs to BRP by their publisher.

These are all fine and great. I'd love to see them made. Who knows what will become of any of these, but their would-be creators can do what they want with them. Nobody had any concerns or questions about the license. 

 

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23 minutes ago, Jeff said:

And this really displays why I am tempted to give up answering questions on this forum. Do you really plan to publish something using BRP based on Dunsany's "Idle Days on the Yann"? Really? Or is this just an exercise trying to dance around boundaries you don't really have any interest in actually doing anything with at all?

And this is what I was saying earlier about this license. Instead of clarifying everything up-front you've now committed to answering these sorts of questions for folks.

This was one of the beauties of the WotC OGL: It was crystal clear what you could use. WotC doesn't have to field these sorts of questions. They said "No Beholders, etc." and we were off.

I hope you'll reconsider adopting something similar.

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7 minutes ago, Jeff said:

And this really displays why I am tempted to give up answering questions on this forum. Do you really plan to publish something using BRP based on Dunsany's "Idle Days on the Yann"? Really? Or is this just an exercise trying to dance around boundaries you don't really have any interest in actually doing anything with at all?

In addition to my general questions elsewhere in this thread, I'm providing hypothetical examples to illustrate questions people have with the BRP OGL's language and the responses from Chaosium staff on these forums (just as g33k suggested).  As I said before, hypotheticals don't carry the emotional investment of actual works-in-progress.  That said, are Chambers's The Repairer of Reputations, Arthur Machen's The White People, or Lord Dunsany's Idle Days on the Yann not considered "Prohibited Content", their influence on Lovecraft/the Cthulhu Mythos notwithstanding?

I appreciate the answers to the questions about the BRP OGL on these forums, even if they're not necessarily the answers I would have expected.  Without them, I'd be working under incorrect assumptions.  (For example, I would never have considered Chambers's The King In Yellow stories to count as echt Cthulhu Mythos, as opposed to Derleth's derivations from them.)  I'd much rather return to evangelizing BRP elsewhere on the 'net, but not until the various questions have been clarified.  The communities at Reddit, Twitter, Enworld, RPGPub, and RPG.net have been frank and freewheeling in their discussions about the BRP OGL.  They won't be won over without airtight arguments.

 

5 minutes ago, craigm said:

And this is what I was saying earlier about this license. Instead of clarifying everything up-front you've now committed to answering these sorts of questions for folks.

This was one of the beauties of the WotC OGL: It was crystal clear what you could use. WotC doesn't have to field these sorts of questions. They said "No Beholders, etc." and we were off.

I hope you'll reconsider adopting something similar.

I've also asked if, pending revisions to the BRP OGL, the FAQ on Chaosium's site can be updated with the clarifications from Chaosium staff here.  Chaosium.com is, after all, the first place where people will go.

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2 hours ago, Jeff said:

And this really displays why I am tempted to give up answering questions on this forum. ... Or is this just an exercise trying to dance around boundaries you don't really have any interest in actually doing anything with at all?

The point of clearly defining where the boundaries are is for an author judge whether this license makes sense for a given project without having to badger you with questions. If you could please clearly and definatively state whether that crucial "from" in 1(e) is supposed to be interpereted as "originating in" or "appearing in"  and share how Chaosium defines "story element" in the context of the license, the majority of the questions would evaporate. 

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11 hours ago, g33k said:

Ya know who I think is most likely to roll their eyes and call you "derivative"?   The WoD/Vamp crowd.

Scope tightly, my friend!

😮

Hand to God, I hadn't even thought of that when I suggested a "game of personal horror and paranoia".  Goes to show you, the stars may be right...

!i!

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7 minutes ago, Ian Absentia said:

"game of personal horror and paranoia"

Now I want to play a group of secretly-vampiric Troubleshooters in the Alpha Complex hunting down strange Poor Hygiene cults for Friend Computer.

Edited by JonL
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On 4/14/2020 at 10:14 AM, Jeff said:

Meanwhile, I have already been asked about:

  • Simplified BRP for kids with investigative fantasy (not horror but children's fantasy)
  • Something based on Jules Verne's Mysterious Island
  •  Sci fi generation ship (as long as it is not based directly off Niven's Known Space stories or Jim Ward's Metamorphosis Alpha without his permission, great!)
  • And an adaptation of an existing French RPGs to BRP by their publisher.

I, for one, am excited to see what comes from this.  I'm looking forward to seeing supplements of equipment/weapons/skills/professions/bestiaries for various eras/settings, and world books for various eras and settings:  an original fantasy world, ancient, old west/weird west, modern, dystopian, sci-fi, etc.  If I had the time or know-how, I'd love to do some myself.  This has always been my favorite system, and I always come back to it.  It's simple and elegant, easy enough to teach to my youngest (who's now 8), and everything (other than various powers) is now just 20pp (much like the BRP Quick Start).

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Moving these comments from the BRP OGL questions thread, where questions are to responded to by Chaosium staff (Rick, Jason, MOB, Jeff, etc): 

22 hours ago, Giant Ice Spider said:

By what legal means are mechanics such as Passions, Personality Traits, and Pushing restricted? That is to say, since game mechanics cannot be copyrighted, are they patented?

Further, what does 'substantially similar' men? Is it in reference to terms of art? Does it refer to a cookie-cutter or near-cookie-cutter replica of the mechanics, with none of their terms of art?

I'm just confused, since I thought you couldn't copyright a game mechanic I'm no lawyer, but if you could point me in the direction of a US (and ideally MI, given the license) court ruling that would set a precedent allowing game mechanics to be Prohibited Content, I would be very grateful.

 

19 hours ago, Mikus said:

Hi GIS.

As I understand it and in my opinion:

The BRP SRD  states that you must include the logo in three places.  This way you get to be part of the larger BRP family.  If you fail to adhere to the terms of the BRP SRD contract then you wont be able to do that. Even if you can get away with violating the terms and spirit of contract based upon copyright rulings.  At least that is how I understand it both legally as well as certainly in the spirit of the contract.

Certainly if Chaosium requests we do not recreate their game engine as well as the setting this is more than fair.  If I wish to create a Lovecraft game I can.  I just need to use some other game engine.  If we want to do something Chaosium has not done, such as possibly a setting on Venus with a reptilian culture, carnivorous plants and dinosaurs too boot, that would be good as long as we avoid the things we are asked to avoid.  Now we get to be BRP compatible yet publish our own setting and house rules. Pretty cool.

RQG is not BRP.  They are similar yet very different.  Once you add the prohibited material you start encroaching on their current flagship and they are politely asking us not to.

 

57 minutes ago, Giant Ice Spider said:

I hadn't considered that. When you put it that way, it does sound a lot more reasonable :)

 

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On 4/14/2020 at 3:33 PM, Travern said:

No, Pym has been declared totally off-limits as "all works related to the Cthulhu Mythos, including those that are otherwise public domain" are covered in the BRP OGL as "Prohibited Content". Its cry of "tekeli-li" is enough to count it, retroactively, as a Cthulhu Mythos story for the purposes of the BRP OGL.

The intent of the ruling is quite obvious: it's "don't use this to create anything that competes with a Chaosium product". 

To be honest, if you're going to rules-lawyer over specific words and phrases while ignoring this intent, you'll probably not achieve anything much more than tying yourself in knots. 

Without presuming to speak for Jeff & Co, I would suggest that if you're broadly acting in good faith and not trying to sneak a competing product under the door, you probably have very little to worry about. 

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1 hour ago, 21stCenturyMoose said:

The intent of the ruling is quite obvious: it's "don't use this to create anything that competes with a Chaosium product". 

To be honest, if you're going to rules-lawyer over specific words and phrases while ignoring this intent, you'll probably not achieve anything much more than tying yourself in knots.

The problem is that the ambiguous language of Chaosium's OGL leaves it open to this.  This isn't about rules-lawyering in a game, it's about the legal implications of a license.

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23 hours ago, Travern said:

This isn't about rules-lawyering in a game, it's about the legal implications of a license.

Write us the pitch for your game and we'll tell you if you can use BRP or not... That will probably go much faster :)

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On 4/23/2020 at 4:13 AM, Travern said:

The problem is that the ambiguous language of Chaosium's OGL leaves it open to this.  This isn't about rules-lawyering in a game, it's about the legal implications of a license.

I never actually said it was rules-lawyering in a game. It's about rules-lawyering the license, and it comes across as setting up hypothetical edge cases to test the license and try to discover where it's boundaries break down. Which is not a very productive use of anyone's time. Not trying to be rude, but if you need to come across as Comic Book Guy in order to prove your point, then you probably don't have a valid point to begin with. 

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4 hours ago, 21stCenturyMoose said:

I never actually said it was rules-lawyering in a game. It's about rules-lawyering the license, and it comes across as setting up hypothetical edge cases to test the license and try to discover where it's boundaries break down. Which is not a very productive use of anyone's time. Not trying to be rude, but if you need to come across as Comic Book Guy in order to prove your point, then you probably don't have a valid point to begin with. 

Rules-lawyering in the real world is just, you know, lawyering.  This whole situation reminds me of book contract negotiations when the two parties can't agree on the general terms.  Protracted multi-session meetings of the minds can be frustrating in business if the two parties have different outlooks when it comes to contractual language.  My preference has always been to revise the general terms until mutual agreement can be reached, but some agents/authors prefer to come up instead with specific cases to address problems.  I've found that the latter approach runs the risk of overlooking possible cases that didn't occur to anyone at the time the contract was being drawn up—hence raising hypotheticals now, rather than tackling with actualities later.  Besides regular contract law, Murphy's Law applies especially here.

And if you have to say you're not trying to be rude…

8 hours ago, lordabdul said:

Write us the pitch for your game and we'll tell you if you can use BRP or not... That will probably go much faster :)

I've come up with numerous pitches that I genuinely thought would pass muster but which have all run afoul of interpretations of the BRP OGL's "Prohibited Content" clause.  How can you give me any assurance that another one would go any better with the current BRP OGL?  As a matter of fact, I do have an old BRP campaign that I'd love to turn into a real game, but since it's a freewheeling, multi-setting concept, there's no way that it can be reconciled with Clause 1(e) in its present form.  "All trademarks, registered trademarks, proper names (characters, deities, place names, etc.), plots, story elements, locations, characters, artwork, or trade dress" is an incredibly sweeping yet vague set of conditions, especially since it makes no distinction about those that appear in vs. originate in.  Without certitude about how transformative works are dealt with in the OGL, the license in its present form contains potential problems for a prospective game developer.

"You can use this open license but check with us first" is the antithesis of an open license.  You simply don't have to do this with Creative Commons or GNU.  Even the WotC OGL states precisely and categorically what they reserve as "Product Identity", and that's not exactly an uncontroversial document.  Anyone looking to use an open license should be no less confident of its legal language than if they were signing a regular two-party contract.

Just to be crystal clear, I would like to think that this is a question of aligning Chaosium's spirit about encouraging open BRP development with the letter of the OGL.  If I didn't, I wouldn't be pursuing this issue with such tenacity.

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7 hours ago, 21stCenturyMoose said:

Not trying to be rude, but if you need to come across as Comic Book Guy in order to prove your point, then you probably don't have a valid point to begin with. 

Boo.  Head-butt.

!i!

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4 hours ago, Travern said:

No, you've come up with all kinds of hypothetical examples to try and figure out what the license covers. It's not very productive, and visibly frustrating to the Chaosium staff. What I'm saying is for you to send Chaosium the actual pitch of the actual game you actually want to work on and publish for real. Apparently some other authors already did that, as Jeff has anecdotally mentioned a few things he has been approach about. If you want to publish that multi-setting campaign of yours, write a 1 or 2 pages pitch and send that.

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59 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

No, you've come up with all kinds of hypothetical examples to try and figure out what the license covers. It's not very productive, and visibly frustrating to the Chaosium staff.

It's only unproductive and frustrating because they refuse to directly answer two rather basic questions about what they meant by a couple of terms in 1(e). They wrote it, they should know the answers. This frustrating merry-go-round is ongoing entirely because they are being silent on those two points. 

Whithout clarity on the appearing-in/originating-in point in particular, setting anything on Earth is a risk, given the decades of CoC materials, many out-of-print, set in various locations around the world. I can see where defining "story-element" might take some careful thought, but they could clear this one up in less time that it took me to type this post.

If, as one might hope, the correct interpretation of 1(e) is that "Arkham, Massachusetts" is a prohibited location/place-name but "Massachusetts" itself is not, I cannot fathom why they are chosing to keep that to themselves or only reveal the answer to someone with a pitch for a BRP game of Espionage in Colonial New England. That's not how open licenses work.

Edited by JonL
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