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Announcing the Basic Roleplaying System Reference Document and Open Game License


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2 hours ago, Numtini said:

I seem to remember that Chaosium has stated in the past, during the OpenCthulhu arguments, that the Legend OGL and the derived Delta Green OGL were recognized as being legitimate. Is this a change of Chaosium's legal position?

That was my understanding, too.  I'm very interested in hearing what Chaosium's official legal position is.

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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

Granted, I'm just saying that not everyone wants to write a setting. I'm writing a series of scenarios for Mythras at the moment (not under any kind of open license, by the way - I'm simply worki

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1 hour ago, Travern said:

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.

As written, you can't use any proper noun from KAP or any of the other enumerated lines. As I alluded to above, that language seems in my (not a lawyer, but took upper level college courses in logic, semiotics, and philosophy of language) reading to inadvertently capture broad swaths of real-world locations and entities. If "locations" from Masks of Nyarlathotep are prohibited, can you set a game in New York, London, Cairo, and Kenya, or Shanghai?

In trying to prohibit original/unique IP  from proprietary fantasy worlds and ideas from stories and games based on/in historical or folklore settings in a single sentance, there is no logical differentiation being made between Sartar and Britain. 

A non-compete clause is totally reasonable,  I just wish this one were rigorously implemented. One more paragraph would do it.

Edited by JonL
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1 hour ago, JonL said:

As written, you can't use any proper noun from KAP or any of the other enumerated lines. As I alluded to above, that language seems in my (not a lawyer, but took upper level college courses in logic, semiotics, and philosophy of language) reading to inadvertently capture broad swaths of real-world locations and entities. If "locations" from Masks of Nyarlathotep are prohibited, can you set a game in New York, London, Cairo, and Kenya, or Shanghai?

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)?

Edited by Travern
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If "from" after that list of things means "originating within" the following list of enumerated titles and lines, then you're right.

That would make the Le Morte prohibition nearly meaningless though, as Mallory drew from so many prior works.

If "from" means "appearing within," then the Mallory prohibition includes Arthur & co., but sweeps up all the real world locales and gods along with it.

Best to get these ambiguities sorted out sooner rather than later, IMO.

Edited by JonL
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12 hours ago, Vile said:

Will the BGB be retro-fitted with the new logo, by the way?

To expand upon this, if not the above, is this new BRP logo and SRD the "5th edition" of Basic Roleplaying going forward? If 3PPs put out product with the BRP logo on their books, does Chaosium expect buyers to see the SRD or the BGB as the core system? All other SRDs with logo licences in my experience have an actual rulebook to refer back to. Or is the intent to get publishers to develop complete games based on the SRD, somewhat like Chaosium's tradition of all lines having their own variant rules built into the core book?

By the way, there is a typo under prohibited content: it says "Dragn Lords of Melniboné".

Edited by Vile
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I think it is very positive news to have a BRP Open Game License. I think the intent of the document is clear, though the nitty-gritty of legal language may cause headaches down the track. My question is, what is the status of the monographs under this document? Some of them were pretty damn fine. Did rights to their content revert to their owners, and can they re-publish them with the BRP OGL, or are they still covered by the fact that they were once published by Chaosium so referencing them is out of bounds?

My favourite monographs and a hat-tip to their creators who are still on these forums:

The Green -- haven't played it yet, but I still want to.

Swords of Cydoria -- love it; this one at least got re-printed/re-imagined as Exiled in Eris, but it wasn't BRP 🙃

Rubble and Ruin -- Played it the other day!

Aces High -- Haven't played it but would if I was doing a wild west campaign

Edited by Questbird
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To the folk at Chaosium

I think it is wonderful that you are willing to open the BRP game system, I hope this goes well for you and I hope to see some dividends in great fan created product that is mostly compatible with very little work. (I have already seen evidence of this in a few different ways over the past years). The Chaosium has always had a reputation of playing nicely with the other kids in the school yard and it seems that the new regime is willing to keep at it. Good on ya, as our antipodean friends say.

To the folk criticizing 

Chaosium did not have to do this, It is a risk that could sink their company or make it even better than it already is. I understand that a for profit company should be open to criticism from its stakeholders and customers but I really do not see the need to criticize here. They have been pretty  up front and reasonably patient in the face of some impassioned critiques. I hope they continue to be as reasonable in the future and I even hope good criticism continues, what the hell, if they are doing a good job they should be able to take it.

 As said, I do not understand what they are doing wrong here, It is their intellectual property, the founders of the company willing turned the reins over to them (the new kids that are running the asylum, that is... if I can call them “new kids”) They are allowing y’all to play in their playground and even letting y’all use their marbles. 

I expect to see criticism when they f*** up, but I don’t see them doing so here. I even expect to see criticism, I guess, when they aren’t. Most of us live in free countries, and I assume those who do not wish they did. Criticism is one of the hallmarks of a free country. Just don’t see the point here, that’s all.

Barbarically yours
Bill

Cheers

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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23 minutes ago, Bill the barbarian said:

To the folk criticizing 

Look on this as playtesting a new product. I sincerely hope this is understood in the spirit that it is intended, i.e. constructive criticism. Removing ambiguity in the form of the "substantially similar" clause can only be a good thing.

I also see a potential problem for Chaosium in including the BRP logo within the document rather than as a separate logo licence, because the OGL does not tie publishers to compatibility with the SRD. There's no guarantee the end product would be recognisable as BRP even though it has the logo on the cover.

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3 minutes ago, Vile said:

Look on this as playtesting a new product. I sincerely hope this is understood in the spirit that it is intended, i.e. constructive criticism. Removing ambiguity in the form of the "substantially similar" clause can only be a good thing.

I also see a potential problem for Chaosium in including the BRP logo within the document rather than as a separate logo licence, because the OGL does not tie publishers to compatibility with the SRD. There's no guarantee the end product would be recognisable as BRP even though it has the logo on the cover.

...and this i why I left the door open for critics in my soapbox thoughts above. A good criticism is like sunlight on an infection, nothing but good should come of it!

Cheers

..and thanks for the excellent response,

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13 minutes ago, Vile said:

Look on this as playtesting a new product. I sincerely hope this is understood in the spirit that it is intended, i.e. constructive criticism. Removing ambiguity in the form of the "substantially similar" clause can only be a good thing.

 
 

I agree. It is important for a license to be as unambiguous as possible. Future lawyers will argue about the the spirit of the agreement. Some early free and open software licenses (one of the ancestors of things like the OGL and Creative Commons licenses) caused problems down the track because of their language. Even the most robust and well-thought out free software licenses have been through several revisions. It's a great gesture from Chaosium to open up Basic Roleplaying. Many of the constructive criticisms of the published license have been from those who have published good d100-related things before and may do so again with this new license if the legal status of those new works is clear -- to everyone's benefit.

Edited by Questbird
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For the Arthurian stuff, and if it were me, I'd base it on the French prose Lancelot instead (which incorporates the French L'Estoire del Sant Graal, Merlin, La Queste del Sant Graal, and La Morte Arthur). I love Malory, but the sprawling multi-authored(*) French romance is IMO better (although de gustibus non est discutandum ... ).

As for the document itself and the Basic game, the weapons tables seem a little bit incomplete somehow ?

Just in mélée weapons, I can see that cudgel and longsword are missing. (cudgel is actually missing in RQ as well, should be a 1H 1D4 weapon ; and longsword 2H 1D10, but usable 1H with some penalty, the absence of this weapon in RQG is however with good reason) -- the cudgel is one of the few classical mediaeval weapons still in common use today, most notably in the form of the classic police baton. It's not the same weapon as a light club, as it lacks the heavy business end ; it's more like a 1H short staff. It is a basic weapon.

Granted you can't list every single weapon that exists in History or Fiction, but the far most common ones should be.

Long Spear should be categorised as a Polearm, because that's what it is. There are people who argue that Quarterstaves and Greatswords should be too, but meh

(the basic polearm was actually the Long Staff, and it was used to dismount mounted fighters and whack them at a safe distance, but that's way too obscure for basic RPG purposes)

Hit point values for the weapons seem to be extremely arbitrary -- I can think of no reason why there should be such a discrepancy between battle axe and heavy mace, particularly as maces had metal hafts rather than wooden far more frequently than axes did. A Knife has 15 HP and a Quarterstaff 8 ??? A typical ash staff (and I use one daily) is very resilient to damage, and there is no reason why one should have a Hit Point value so inferior to that of a spear or any hafted weapon. But a simple knife can block 15 points of incoming damage ??? A quarterstaff used properly is very effective at blocking incoming attacks ... it's hard to see how a knife user could prevent anyone with a long weapon striking into his quarter. Should it have been "parrying dagger" instead ? Those were very effective indeed ...

Quarterstaff Base skill should be 15% -- it takes a very long time to learn how to use even a simple hiking staff correctly, despite the fact that it looks easy from outside. Basic quarterstaff technique is the basis of polearm technique, so it should start at the same value, even though there are things you can do with a staff that are difficult or impossible with a polearm. hmmmm, 20% ?

(*) You think shared-worlds like Thieve's World are a modern invention ? hah !!

Edited by Julian Lord
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6 hours ago, Travern said:

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)?

 They can't enforce copyright on public domain works, but they can restrict the use of the game rules anyway they wish. They could include a clause against the use of purple text. Their rules, their rules. It is a lot easier and friendlier to make individual exceptions than to play wack a mole against every use that comes to close to their existing IPs.

If you want to make a cyberpunk game featuring King Arthur and his chrome knights of the round table I would expect chances are pretty good you would get a green light because nobody could confuse that with Pendragon. What you describe is pretty different but only they could say if it is far enough for their comfort.  

 

I actually didn't know that Pendragon was back under Chaosium, it sure has done some travelling. 😃

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10 hours ago, Bran said:

My main concern is regarding any magic systems. I have been working on my own homebrew fantasy campaign using the BRP system. It was never meant to be published, but now with this announcement, there is always that possibility down the road. I only own Call of Cthulhu, Elric, and Paladin; I do not own Runequest, so I am unaware of how many of the prohibited magic systems work.

As several magic systems are considered Prohibited content, where does the Cthulhu magic rules fall? I'm not looking to replicate spells (all mine are D&D type stuff), but my system revolved around similar activities of studying tomes and learning from other magicians and entities.

Are the Cthulhu magic rules a variation of the Sorcery rules? 

Just trying to get clarification, as I really don't want to invest a pile of work into a system, only to find out it's too similar to existing mechanics, or end up in legal trouble because of my ignorance. 

Does anyone have an example of mechanics for magic that COULD be used?

Thanks.

The Cthulhu magic rules are not "substantially similar" to any RQ's sorcery rules. RQ3 and RQG have very distinctive sorcery systems. As the license says:

Sorcery: If substantially similar to the sorcery mechanics presented in any version of the RuneQuest rules. Original magic systems not derived from RuneQuest may be called “sorcery.”

RQ's Rune magic with its system of sacrificing POW to specific cults to gain a spell effect is even further away from Cthulhu.

Spirit magic is essentially a spell list. Come up with your own spells - RQ's list of Bladesharp, Protection, etc. are hardly universal spells. Come up with spells based on reading tomes, or carving symbols into wood, or whatever. 

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12 hours ago, Numtini said:

I seem to remember that Chaosium has stated in the past, during the OpenCthulhu arguments, that the Legend OGL and the derived Delta Green OGL were recognized as being legitimate. Is this a change of Chaosium's legal position?

It is valid as far as we are concerned - we have no interest in challenging it. But we'd never rely on its legal validity being upheld by a court for anything other than in conjunction with WotC's IP (which it is definitely valid for). 

 

Edited by Jeff
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On 3/27/2020 at 5:40 PM, g33k said:

If I understand this correctly -- and @Jeff your comments are eagerly desired -- you COULD include content from other OGL's.

You would simply have to include each of the relevant OGL notices in the book, as specified by each OGL itself.

Each OGL licensor has given you permission to use each of their bits of content.  The point of them being "Open" is that such content ISN'T "protected" content.  None of them want you to use any protected content in an OGL product... but you aren't.

 

On 3/27/2020 at 5:45 PM, MOB said:

Correct.

 

Hmmm...  An issue that may need some dancing-around in the legalese at the beginning of multi-OGL'ed games.  I add emphasis to show the choreographic challenge:

Quote

3. The License: This License applies to any work Using BRP Open Game Content published by Chaosium. You must affix a complete copy of this License to any BRP Open Game Content that You Use and include the Copyright Notice detailed in Section 7 in all appropriate locations. No terms may be added to or subtracted from this License except as described by the License itself. No other terms or conditions may be applied to any BRP Open Game Content distributed Using this License. 

A mean-souled reading of the bolded bit might suggest you cannot combine Open Content covered by more than one OGL, as other OGLs are "other terms or conditions."

But I think you simply need to assert that your game is derived from multiple OGL's, that the terms of each OGL only covers the material derived from the respective SRD or other Open Content, and that you do not assert either OGL covers the entirety of your game, or the SRDs / Open Content of other OGL(s) you have included.

I think that covers the legal bases?

But IANAL...

Question for the Peanut Gallery -- does anyone know of any such multi-OGL projects(s)?  Fate+SavageWorlds, or ... whatever?

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The problem is that the current license / SRD document license conflates several things: an Open Content License and a System Trademark License, and then embeds both in what is ostensibly a System Reference Document but is in fact so thin in detail it’s worthless.

It’s hard to read this as a genuine, OGL conversant, attempt to encourage ”Open BRP content” I’m afraid. Discounting conspiracy theories of deliberate self sabotage (patent nonsense), I can only assume there’s some fundamental dissonance between Chaosium’s understanding of the OGL and related topics and, y’know, the rest of the industry...

But that aside, what REALLY baffles me? No one wanted this as far as I can tell, and Chaoisum ALREADY operate several versions of what people did want: a BRP Community Content Program!

A BRP CCP using the BGB for BRP as the rule book reference would provide a flexible platform for content creators, but rules distinct from ALL Chaosium‘s flagship titles (RQ!7, KAP, CoC7e, 7th Sea); it would automatically preclude people away from cloning those games, or old Chaosium titles. And it could generate a modest revenue stream for Chaosium that this will not.

A few people utterly obsessed with the BRP brand will try something, find the effort excessive, and it’ll fizzle out is my prediction. It strikes me as a wasted opportunity.

Ah well.

(copy pasted from RPGNet thread as it felt disingenuous to only say this there)

Edited by NickMiddleton
clarity
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6 hours ago, Toadmaster said:

 They can't enforce copyright on public domain works, but they can restrict the use of the game rules anyway they wish. They could include a clause against the use of purple text. Their rules, their rules. It is a lot easier and friendlier to make individual exceptions than to play wack a mole against every use that comes to close to their existing IPs.

If you want to make a cyberpunk game featuring King Arthur and his chrome knights of the round table I would expect chances are pretty good you would get a green light because nobody could confuse that with Pendragon. What you describe is pretty different but only they could say if it is far enough for their comfort. 

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.

 

6 hours ago, Vile said:

Look on this as playtesting a new product. I sincerely hope this is understood in the spirit that it is intended, i.e. constructive criticism. Removing ambiguity in the form of the "substantially similar" clause can only be a good thing.

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.

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A simple (and maybe naive) question : is it possible to use the evolution of the BRP that Cthulhu V7 is ? In fact, the V7 is a very elegant system that refines the BRP system a lot : no more Resistance Table, for example, and caracs under 100 instead of 3d6. If this wasn't possible, I would have the feeling that the BRP SRD is like giving an old toy rather than offering a brand new one. Like if WOTC gave today a SRD of DD3.5 and not a SRD for DD5.

I don' t want to be unpleasant : the BRP is a great system. I would simply have the opportunity to use the last and best (in my opinion) version of it !

 

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3 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

It’s hard to read this as a genuine, OGL conversant, attempt to encourage ”Open BRP content” I’m afraid. Discounting conspiracy theories of deliberate self sabotage (patent nonsense), I can only assume there’s some fundamental dissonance between Chaosium’s understanding of the OGL and related topics and, y’know, the rest of the industry...

As we've stated above, If you want to make your game using BRP, you now can - there's nothing stopping you publishing your own original creations, settings, games, and unique ideas using the BRP system. But if you want to make a thinly veiled retroclone of Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, Pendragon, etc., we didn't open that door.

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10 minutes ago, MOB said:

As we've stated above, If you want to make your game using BRP, you now can - there's nothing stopping you publishing your own original creations, settings, games, and unique ideas using the BRP system. But if you want to make a thinly veiled retroclone of Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, Pendragon, etc., we didn't open that door.

My concern is that if folks don't adopt this license (again, cognitive load from trying to understand it and navigate it) will Chaosium revisit what worked and what didn't work or will it be chalked up as "we tried" and abandoned? Again, I think there's some real value here, but I'm starting to feel like what cold be an opportunity won't pan out.

(I'm a huge fan of open licenses, as I've stated earlier, so I'm keen to see this experiment work out).

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4 hours ago, g33k said:

Question for the Peanut Gallery -- does anyone know of any such multi-OGL projects(s)?  Fate+SavageWorlds, or ... whatever?

GUMSHOE is multi-licensed (OGL and Creative Commons), but like most things you can negotiate another license with the publisher to not have to abide by that license. Bubblegumshoe (Evil Hat) was released without conforming to either the OGL or Creative Commons licenses. (Though, to be fair, the Creative Commons BY Attribution license is the simplest license to abide by, they just negotiated a different license).

That said, I think what you're referring to is something that uses two licenese (OGL and another license) in order to exist. The difficulty with that is ensuring that the licenses don't conflict. The Free Software Foundation maintains a list of Open Source Licenses for software that are compatible with the GNU Public License (GPL) without interfering. Someone would have to do the work of ensuring that the OGL and the BRP Open License won't conflict. 

Edited by craigm
Adding clarification n the CC-BY license.
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19 minutes ago, craigm said:

GUMSHOE is multi-licensed (OGL and Creative Commons), but like most things you can negotiate another license with the publisher to not have to abide by that license. Bubblegumshoe (Evil Hat) was released without conforming to either the OGL or Creative Commons licenses. (Though, to be fair, the Creative Commons BY Attribution license is the simplest license to abide by, they just negotiated a different license).

The Gumshoe SRD v2 was OGL and Creative Commons, but v3 is only Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Unported License.

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12 minutes ago, craigm said:

Thank you for the clarification.

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.)

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11 hours ago, Jeff said:

The Cthulhu magic rules are not "substantially similar" to any RQ's sorcery rules. RQ3 and RQG have very distinctive sorcery systems. As the license says:

Sorcery: If substantially similar to the sorcery mechanics presented in any version of the RuneQuest rules. Original magic systems not derived from RuneQuest may be called “sorcery.”

RQ's Rune magic with its system of sacrificing POW to specific cults to gain a spell effect is even further away from Cthulhu.

Spirit magic is essentially a spell list. Come up with your own spells - RQ's list of Bladesharp, Protection, etc. are hardly universal spells. Come up with spells based on reading tomes, or carving symbols into wood, or whatever. 

Thank you. This helps clear things up regarding the Cthulhu magic mechanics.

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