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System Design and ownership


Nightshade

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[started as a new thread so as to try and not derail the new questions to Our Author].

Seems fair enough to me, I've never really bought the "you can't copyright a system, just the words" defense. It might be legally ok but it seems a bit shoddy from a moral point of view ( well it does to me anyway ) It'd be nice if somebody did do a 'magic' supplement, that kind of thing always seems to sell well and would provide a welcome expansion of the rules and some nice variety.

If you object to that, you probably object passively to most of the hobby; almost all roleplaying games are, to one degree or another, built on bits and pieces of prior art. Is the BRP skill system illegitimate because OD&D thief skills were roll low percentage skills? How about the attribute set, which was originally almost identical to the D&D set, with the addition of Size and Wisdom renamed and slightly repurposed as Power?

If you start considering system "property" the whole evolution of this hobby is nothing but thieves.

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If you object to that, you probably object passively to most of the hobby; almost all roleplaying games are, to one degree or another, built on bits and pieces of prior art. Is the BRP skill system illegitimate because OD&D thief skills were roll low percentage skills? How about the attribute set, which was originally almost identical to the D&D set, with the addition of Size and Wisdom renamed and slightly repurposed as Power?

If you start considering system "property" the whole evolution of this hobby is nothing but thieves.

Personally, I'm not against the notion of taking inspiration from other games, or even evolving mechanics based on what has previously been developed.

I do have a problem with the issue of rewriting material so it is systematically identical, yet doesn't infringe on the original author's/publisher's copyrights. It is especially galling when a publisher fails to give credit for such blatant plagiarism.

To address your two examples:

  • The BRP percentile-based system doesn't plagiarize old D&D thief skills in fundamental ways. It advances along different parameters (experience vs. level) and results are handled differently (I don't remember critical/special results or fumbles being a part of that minor system).
  • Characteristics are also handled significantly differently in BRP than in D&D. In addition to two new ones (SIZ and POW), one missing one (WIS), each one of them has a radically different effect on play. Stormbringer and RQ2's characteristic-based skill modifiers predated D&D 3rd edition's characteristic-based skill modifiers by more than 20 years.

I'm curious as to what point you're trying to make with your post. Are you advocating plagiarism? Are you advocating stealing ideas without giving credit where they're due?

A friend told me recently that Wizards of the Coast has let the trademark to the term "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" lapse. If this is true, a publisher could rewrite AD&D from scratch, copying the system exactly. They could stamp their name on it as the sole author, and publish it under the title Advanced Dungeons & Dragons without any credit to Gary Gygax (or Dave Arneson).

Is it legal? Sure, I suppose. Is it ethical? Personally, I think it's a lousy way to do business.

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A friend told me recently that Wizards of the Coast has let the trademark to the term "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" lapse. If this is true, a publisher could rewrite AD&D from scratch, copying the system exactly. They could stamp their name on it as the sole author, and publish it under the title Advanced Dungeons & Dragons without any credit to Gary Gygax (or Dave Arneson).

Is it legal? Sure, I suppose. Is it ethical? Personally, I think it's a lousy way to do business.

Maybe, but I would have loved it if somebody had done that with RuneQuest a couple of decades ago. :cool:

What we are talking about here isn't a rewriting a system in words only I think, but more like "Where is the difference between plagiarism and inspiration?" Is MRQ a plagiarised RuneQuest? Obviously not I would say, it's way to different. GORE on the other hand is more similar, but still it's different from both BRP and MRQ. If you steal some ideas here, some ideas there, and add some of your own, then it's well within the realm of "inspiration" to me. If you takes someones idea, and do something similar, but still different with it, is that plagiarism? That discussion is the interesting one.

SGL.

Ef plest master, this mighty fine grub!
b1.gif 116/420. High Priest.

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[started as a new thread so as to try and not derail the new questions to Our Author].

If you object to that, you probably object passively to most of the hobby; almost all roleplaying games are, to one degree or another, built on bits and pieces of prior art. Is the BRP skill system illegitimate because OD&D thief skills were roll low percentage skills? How about the attribute set, which was originally almost identical to the D&D set, with the addition of Size and Wisdom renamed and slightly repurposed as Power?

Open a copy of Call of Cthulhu and it acknowledges the debt its design owes to Steve Perrin's original RuneQuest. OPen any D&D 3 or 3.5 book and you will find an acknowledgement of Arneson and Gygax's original design work. Open SJG's GURPS 3rd edition core book, or GURPS Space and you will find acknowledgements of the key games that inspire, influenced or blazed a trail for Steve Jackson.

It used to be that in RPG's, as in fiction (such as amongst the Lovecraft circle of writers associated with HP Lovecraft), that there was a degree of mutual respect and co-operation between writers and publishers which the fans appreciated and respected. Now, largely thanks to the Open Game License and the attitudes it has encouraged, there seems very little respect for people's creativity and publishers and fans alike seem to regard ripping other people's ideas of without due credit (or even recognition of the original creators moral rights) as acceptable.

And then gamers whine about the talented writers who leave the field to work in computer games or movies or TV...

If you start considering system "property" the whole evolution of this hobby is nothing but thieves.

"This book is dedicated to Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, who first opened Pandora's Box, and to Ken St. Andre, who found it could be opened again."

That's the dedication in my 1980 copy of RQII, and IIRC it was there in RQI as well. MRQ, which clearly has a far closer relationship to that original RQ than RQ did to either OD&D or Tunnels and Trolls contains no such gracious acknowledgement, and indeed was (by one of the parties to the licensing arrangement that allows MRQ to exist) described as being intended to be "the same system but not the same copyright words."

Maybe, but I would have loved it if somebody had done that with RuneQuest a couple of decades ago. :cool:

Personally I think whether it was done then or now it's a shitty way to behave.

What we are talking about here isn't a rewriting a system in words only I think, but more like "Where is the difference between plagiarism and inspiration?" Is MRQ a plagiarised RuneQuest? Obviously not I would say, it's way to different. GORE on the other hand is more similar, but still it's different from both BRP and MRQ. If you steal some ideas here, some ideas there, and add some of your own, then it's well within the realm of "inspiration" to me.

Funny how Steve Jackson managed to acknowledge his "inspirations" in the introduction to GURPS 3rd edition by name, where as MRQ omits them entirely and the closest GORE gets is some weasel words ("...special thanks are owed to all authors of late 1970s and early 1980s game systems."). And Steve Jackson's GURPS is an original system (for all it's influenced by his previous design TFT and stuff like Champions).

If you takes someone's idea, and do something similar, but still different with it, is that plagiarism? That discussion is the interesting one.

"Plagiarism (from the Latin "plagiarius," meaning "a plunderer" or, an older term, "plagium," meaning "kidnapping," or possibly "plagiare," which is "to wound") is the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else's written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one's own without adequate acknowledgement." (from Wikipedia) I have no idea if that is how the term is legally defined in US, UK or European law but morally that's the definition that makes sense to me.

To quote Wikipedia on Plagiarism again: "Plagiarism is different from copyright infringement. While both terms may apply to a particular act, they emphasise different aspects of the transgression. Copyright infringement is a violation of the rights of the copyright holder, when material is used without the copyright holder's consent. On the other hand, plagiarism is concerned with the unearned increment to the plagiarising author's reputation that is achieved through false claims of authorship." (My emphasis)

Nick Middleton

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... OPen any D&D 3 or 3.5 book and you will find an acknowledgement of Arneson and Gygax's original design work.

...

If I remember well, ADD 1st ed didn't gave credit to Dave Arneson, and ADD 2nd ed didn't gave credit do Gygax, so... it seems WotC is more polite than TSR.

But, all in all, I agree.

Runequestement votre,

Kloster

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Jonathan Tweet (co author of D&D 3.0 & 3.5) has also mentioned RQ's influence on D&D 3.0.

Heck the D20 task resolution system is essentially a mix of RQ's skill system and the resistance table combined. Truth told it is probably closer to ROlemaster's system than RQ's, too.

Truth be told, it is difficult at times to know just where to draw the line. What I think Nightshade was trying to point out is that no RPG has been completely original. D&D might have been the first, and that plagiarized the hell out of Lord of the Rings.

Legally, the matter is clear, "rules may not be copywrited."

Morally, there is a lot of grey areas. What game first used dice? D&D started with chits. Then there are things like the way games started to roll and handle the dice. HERO was one of the first to go all with D6s (if Gygax and Arneson had thought of a way to do it, they probably would have, and probably all RPGS would be using D6s today).

Virtually every RPG out there today uses things that were developed by designers back in the late 70s and early 80s.

As for plagizing other systems or not giving orginals authors the credit they deserve (BTW, anyone see Steve Perrin's name on MRQ?), Slimy, underhanded and unethical-- it a perfectly fine way to do business. It's also one of the sad tradtions of the RPG field. Look at TSR.

THe stories about Gygax cutting out the other designers of Chaimail/D&D and taking over the company and writing AD&D are legend.

So are the stories about the way TSR treated Gygax when they got rid of him. Does anyone really consider Dangerous Journies to be a rip off of D&D? It one of only a handful of RPGs that have had legal action taken against them.

Or the way that TSR helped to wipe out SPI.

So it's a perfectly fine an acceptable way to do business.

More's the pity.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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As someone who writes OGL material using both SRD, I do it with an admiration for those who came before and wrote their own material. Much like Dan Proctor I have such a fondness for older style games that I want to see them back in print. GORE does that for me. If I never found out about GORE Id never know about MRQ and if I didnt learn about MRQ I wouldnt now be here on this forum learning that a new BRP is coming out.

So dont trash someone's work just because you think them using the law and their legal rights to recreate something they love is dodgy. I know Dan fairly well (as far as knowing a Forum Personality goes) and understand that he honestly loves old school gaming. His introduction in Labyrinth Lord is like a sports fan introduction to a story about a favorite athlete or movie star.

The guys at OSRIC likewise have respect and love for the old ways.

Now if these fellows were actually making a profit off their works and denied the proper homages and dedication, then thats something to complain about. Ive made a total of $40 so far off my works (which have more dedications then the bible) and thats not profit as I commission some original art for the books.

So if it bothers you that GORE doesnt outwardly say "Thank you Sandy, etc etc" email Dan and ask him why it doesnt.

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You know, I really don't care.

So what if someone doesn't acknowledge a game designer from the 70s? It was 30 years and several game versions ago.

I might change my mind if the people who haven't been acknowledged start saying they should have been, but I honestly can't see that happening.

If I wanted to write a new set of rules and based it on the OGL then I'd be covered anyway.

If I ripped off RQ/BRP and didn't want anyone to know, I wouldn't acknowledge those games anyway.

Since I plan to do neither, how does it affect me?

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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MRQ, which clearly has a far closer relationship to that original RQ than RQ did to either OD&D or Tunnels and Trolls contains no such gracious acknowledgement, and indeed was (by one of the parties to the licensing arrangement that allows MRQ to exist) described as being intended to be "the same system but not the same copyright words."

And that I agree is some quite shady marketing. Especially as it's not the same system at all. It has d100 roll below skill resolution, d20 hit location and the same stats, but other than that it doesn't feel like RuneQuest at all. I think they probably planned to credit Steve Perrin too, to "validate" their system even more, but dropped it after their fallout with Perrin.

The only part about MRQ I wonder how they can use without copyright breach is the magic system. Sorcery spells, common divine spells and "rune" magic with the exact same names as in RQ3, and similiar descriptions. Is it considered to be "part of Glorantha", and therefor usable through their license from Greg? Chaosium too have some claims to this system I would believe, but they have dropped it all together from their new book, sort of surrendering it to Mongoose.

(or have they sold it? what about some Cthulhu-rights? Mongoose are selling a sci-fi Cthulhu RPG too, CthulhuTech.)

Personally I think whether it was done then or now it's a shitty way to behave.

Well, rewriting a system in words only and releasing it as new WOULD be a shitty way to behave. If it could have saved a system that was left to die decades ago though, I would have embraced it with open arms though.

Funny how Steve Jackson managed to acknowledge his "inspirations" in the introduction to GURPS 3rd edition by name, where as MRQ omits them entirely and the closest GORE gets is some weasel words ("...special thanks are owed to all authors of late 1970s and early 1980s game systems."). And Steve Jackson's GURPS is an original system (for all it's influenced by his previous design TFT and stuff like Champions).

I agree that games should acknowledge their sources of inspiration, so we're on the same page there. But would you be fine with GORE if they had added a line with thanks to Matt Sprange, Sandy Peterson, Steve Perrin, [etc., etc., including all the d100 and d20 stuff it draws from]. Would that make it acceptible, or do you think no-one should use something that have been used by other before?

SGL.

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You know, I really don't care.

So what if someone doesn't acknowledge a game designer from the 70s? It was 30 years and several game versions ago.

I might change my mind if the people who haven't been acknowledged start saying they should have been, but I honestly can't see that happening.

If I wanted to write a new set of rules and based it on the OGL then I'd be covered anyway.

If I ripped off RQ/BRP and didn't want anyone to know, I wouldn't acknowledge those games anyway.

Since I plan to do neither, how does it affect me?

Since it hurts your hobby, it affects you. If someone writes something, and gets ripped off, they are less likely to write something else.

And people have already in the past companied about not be given due credit, going all the way back the Dave Arneson and AD&D.

But using your reasoning, if someone steals something of yours, should we care?

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Since it hurts your hobby, it affects you.

How does it hurt the hobby? Do you really think that those who prefer OSRIC or BFRP or Four Color over D20 or even D100 counterparts are hurting the market by buying products for those games instead of WOTC books? Chances are they wouldnt buy WOTC or other games anyway. Personally I think they are helping the hobby by providing a product that people actually want.

Not all people want it (obviously) but there are those of us who would rather play AD&D (1st or 2nd) instead of D20 and want to have new material for it and not use the same old books over and over again.

I would have quit games altogether if it werent for OSRIC and GORE! Hell because of GORE I went out and bought Call of Cthulhu books and am going to get BRP when it comes out. I might even check out MRQ, sense the only negative comments I get about MRQ is that it "isn't BRP or RQ".

I never played any RQ, have no clue what a Glorantha is and think a Duck is for eating. But because of GORE Ive discovered this whole other side of games I never seen.

So basically Dan Proctor is providing free advertisement for BRP by making GORE. I saw it, read it and wanted more. And that leads me to either MRQ or BRP.

If someone writes something, and gets ripped off, they are less likely to write something else.

Yeah, that stopped George Lucas. It stopped DC Comics. It stopped Stan Lee. It stopped Dungeons and Dragons (TSR). I honestly believe they are more likely to write more stuff because they have the original ideas, dont want to give up on them and can make better follow ups as its their ideas (with the exception of Lucas, we were better of letting others steal his stuff).

This is a narrow view of the situation. The fact is these Retro-Clone games (distils is a horrible name) stir up interest in games that have long been forgotten by most gamers, or never even heard of. BRP needs all the fans it can get and that includes those who use the OGL of MRQ or GORE to create works for it.

Someone may see my Berlin '61 books as a mockery of the BRP rules, theft or even killing the system, if thats how the want to view it. In actuality it is a throwback to better days of role playing where setting was important and capatibility as well.

All this talk Ive seen on other threads of world specific monster books and settings are only possible if there are people willing to write them. And whats on the cover page of this web site? Vikings! Vikings!

Thats less original then GORE using the OGL to recreate a variation of the BRP. So let these writers add thier chapters to the history and volume of these games. You dont have to like it. But dont say they are killing the game or harmful to the hobby or they negatively affect other writers.

They bring in new fans and force the competing writers to create and write better and more interesting material.

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I have no problem with the Retro-Clone games. As PK already pointed out, the introduction to Labyrinth Lords is genuine (I feel) and explains how they love old school game systems and want to breath new life into them. They acknowledge the predecessors of the gaming industry with fanboy zeal. Since the game companies that did produce these products are now defunct and dead, then I have no issue with someone else picking up the torch.

There is nothing new under the sun.

In the RPG hobby, the 1980's saw an exploration of different settings, genres, styles, and systems. The 1990's saw a refinement of systems that worked fairly well in the 1980's. There is a multitude of systems, genres, and styles out there currently, but they are based upon the same gaming principles for the most part. You can count the different approaches to game functions on one hand; Level-based or skill-based, random or point-based character generation, resisted task resolution or tiered-scale task resolution. etc.

Does every game going forward have to list designers from the 1970's in their credits?

BRP Ze 32/420

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...

You can count the different approaches to game functions on one hand; Level-based or skill-based, random or point-based character generation, resisted task resolution or tiered-scale task resolution. etc.

...

At least 2 or 3 hands. Dices or no dices. Unique resolution tables or not. Simulationist or abstract. etc.

Runequestement votre,

Kloster

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How does it hurt the hobby? Do you really think that those who prefer OSRIC or BFRP or Four Color over D20 or even D100 counterparts are hurting the market by buying products for those games instead of WOTC books? Chances are they wouldnt buy WOTC or other games anyway. Personally I think they are helping the hobby by providing a product that people actually want.

No. I think those who rip pff an RPG and pass it off as thier own do hurt the hobby. The big point being ripping off the system. Most RPGs have enough differences from each other to be more than a rip off. The people who wouldn't buy WotC products probably woun't be interested in D%D/d20 rip offs either.

But to swipe someone elses work and not give credit for it is wrong. I'm noting taking about taking one or two rules, ALL RPGS have borrowed from each other.

I would have quit games altogether if it werent for OSRIC and GORE! Hell because of GORE I went out and bought Call of Cthulhu books and am going to get BRP when it comes out. I might even check out MRQ, sense the only negative comments I get about MRQ is that it "isn't BRP or RQ".

I never played any RQ, have no clue what a Glorantha is and think a Duck is for eating. But because of GORE Ive discovered this whole other side of games I never seen.

So basically Dan Proctor is providing free advertisement for BRP by making GORE. I saw it, read it and wanted more. And that leads me to either MRQ or BRP.

I don't have a problem with GORE. Peronsally, I think it has just a s much right to be on the market as MRQ does. At least GORE isn't sold AS Call of Cthulhu.

Yeah, that stopped George Lucas. It stopped DC Comics. It stopped Stan Lee. It stopped Dungeons and Dragons (TSR). I honestly believe they are more likely to write more stuff because they have the original ideas, dont want to give up on them and can make better follow ups as its their ideas (with the exception of Lucas, we were better of letting others steal his stuff).

Actually it has. All the people and companies you mentioned have been involced in lawsuits over ownership of creative works. Lucas is very protective of Star Wars; DC is the main reason why the copyright laws have been extened from 18 years to 95, and responsible for taking Captain Marvel off the market with a rather infamous legal battle; TSR has gone after others for infringing on D&D, and OGL occured under differernt ownership; Stan Lee has been on the recieving end of suits and claims by people such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko over just who created the major characters of the Marvel Universe.

I haven't seen many orginal ideas from any of the names you mentioned in quite awhile, too. Lucas hasn't done anything original since the first Indiana Jones film; DC has basically copied the Marvel method and downscaled their Universe to suit; Stan Lee is esseintally retired from writing (I'll cut him some slack); and D&D hasn't been an innovator in the RPG field since the 1970s. In fact D&D is amsusing. I get a kick out of seeing AD&D fans knock other systems for having things like improavable skills, only to turn around and embrance them when they were incorpated into 3.0.

Thats less original then GORE using the OGL to recreate a variation of the BRP. So let these writers add thier chapters to the history and volume of these games. You dont have to like it. But dont say they are killing the game or harmful to the hobby or they negatively affect other writers.

They bring in new fans and force the competing writers to create and write better and more interesting material.

I think you are misunderstaning me. I don't have a problem with GORE. Everyone knows it's out under the MRQ OGL, and I think anyone who has a problem with that should blame Greg Stafford and Mongoose rather than the folks who wrote GORE.

To my eyes, GORE is no worse than an OGL D20 book with all the d20/D&D rules needed to play. That's what the license allows. If they didn't want that, they should have restricted it more. WotC deliberately choose to set up the OGL differently the way they did. They could have made it more restrictive, as could Mongoose, but they didn't.

On a similar note, FATE and SotC (and a host of other RPGs) are derived from FUDGE, and fall under the Creative Commons license. All such games acknowledge Steffan O'Sullivan and FUDGE, and I don't have a problem with that.

Its when someone swipes a system and doesn't give credit for it is when it bothers me. Worse still, is when a fan of a system doesn't give a damn as long as it doesn't affect him.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Then what system are you talking about?

Me, I wasn't complainging about a specific system. I was compnaing about the "I don't care, it doesn't hurt me," attitude that I saw posted. Are there some blantant rip offs, sure.

IMO, MRQ will probably do more damage to BRP/Chasoium than GORE will. If MRQ harms BRP at all. Right now, it is too soon to tell. The games could all help or hurt each other. Right now, I don't think Chasoium has much to complain about, since they haven't released an RPG in years, and don't have anything out there to compete against either MRQ or GORE. It hard to slam Mongoose for stealing away Chasoium's customers when Chasoium hasn't publsihed a fantasy RPG book for D100 in 6 years. It would be another story if Chasoium had a competing product on the shelves.

Personally, I think that in the long run, Chaosium has an uphill battle. Mongoose and OGL RQ are simply going to outproduced Chaosium by 10 or 20 fold or even more. Mongoose's output in the last year and half probably exceeds Chaosium's total output for RQ2. Increasing market share will be tough. The company had a loyal fanbase, but that was decades ago. How many old time Chaosium fans are still gaming? What are Chaosium's chances of wooing the current generation of gamers with a game system that was written 30 years ago? Can Chasoium keep up with the rate of production and still produce high quality games?

All unknown. But right now I'd say the ball is in their court. If they do well, they might just carve themselves a new niche (although probably never regain their former status as the No. 2 RPG). If they fail, I think it will probably take them out of the running for good, or just limit them to CoC stuff.

And the Stan Lee/George Lucas/DC comics argument still goes to me, because even with the lawsuits and court battles and rip offs, they never stopped because of them.

No because they were the big companies making the money. It's the little companies that get hurt stopped. Fawcett was stopped from producing more Cpatain Marvel comics. Likewise, it was Gygax who was stopped, and for a time couldn't write anything RPG related without TSR coming after him.

Note that both those cases, involve, IMO, people being wrongly accused of violating a copywrite.

The companies at risk are smaller companies. They don't make much money to begin with, and can't afford to take the hit. OGL MRQ might just be the final nail in Chaosium's coffin.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Personally, I'm not against the notion of taking inspiration from other games, or even evolving mechanics based on what has previously been developed.

I do have a problem with the issue of rewriting material so it is systematically identical, yet doesn't infringe on the original author's/publisher's copyrights. It is especially galling when a publisher fails to give credit for such blatant plagiarism.

I'm not going to deny that there are some egregious cases; I'm just suggesting that they are the price of the very process that drives new work in the hobby.

To address your two examples:

[*]The BRP percentile-based system doesn't plagiarize old D&D thief skills in fundamental ways. It advances along different parameters (experience vs. level) and results are handled differently (I don't remember critical/special results or fumbles being a part of that minor system).

I have to note they weren't originally present in RQ skills except for combat, either. Applying them to other skills was a relatively late evolution, and unless you changed the system when you did the rework, still applied rather haphazardly.

[*]Characteristics are also handled significantly differently in BRP than in D&D. In addition to two new ones (SIZ and POW), one missing one (WIS), each one of them has a radically different effect on play. Stormbringer and RQ2's

They were applied in a more sophisticated fashion, but I'd question whether they effect they had was radically different given the differnce in systems involved; Strength still affected the same sort of things it effected in D&D, as did Dexterity, Charisma (back when it was still Charisma) and so on.

I'm curious as to what point you're trying to make with your post. Are you advocating plagiarism? Are you advocating stealing ideas without giving credit where they're due?

I'm actually denying that "ideas" can be stolen, at all. I'm firmly of the school that says ideas (rather than their execution) are part of the public trust once someone lets them out of their brain--and that's a good thing, as without that fact, the evolution of almost any human endevor would be slowed immensely.

I consider not acknowledge the source of ideas rude, but given the way the legal systems work in the modern world, there are reasons for not doing so that have little to do with rudeness and everything to do with caution.

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What we are talking about here isn't a rewriting a system in words only I think, but more like "Where is the difference between plagiarism and inspiration?" Is

That's mostly it. I'd rather see someone rework a system they know will work for them into something that serves their purpose than have people change things for no reason than to avoid looking like someone else's system. I consider it a case of pointlessly reinventing the wheel.

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Open a copy of Call of Cthulhu and it acknowledges the debt its design owes to Steve Perrin's original RuneQuest. OPen any D&D 3 or 3.5 book and you will find an acknowledgement of Arneson and Gygax's original design work. Open SJG's GURPS 3rd edition core book, or GURPS Space and you will find acknowledgements of the key games that inspire, influenced or blazed a trail for Steve Jackson.

It used to be that in RPG's, as in fiction (such as amongst the Lovecraft circle of writers associated with HP Lovecraft), that there was a degree of mutual respect and co-operation between writers and publishers which the fans appreciated and respected. Now, largely thanks to the Open Game License and the attitudes it has encouraged, there seems very little respect for people's creativity and publishers and fans alike seem to regard ripping other people's ideas of without due credit (or even recognition of the original creators moral rights) as acceptable.

I don't personally believe the OGL has anything much to do with it. In some cases its simple rudeness and lack of concern; in others, however, I think its a perfectly legitimate concern that acknowledging any possible relationship with someone else's work can leave a door open to landing you in court.

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Jonathan Tweet (co author of D&D 3.0 & 3.5) has also mentioned RQ's influence on D&D 3.0.

Heck the D20 task resolution system is essentially a mix of RQ's skill system and the resistance table combined. Truth told it is probably closer to ROlemaster's system than RQ's, too.

Truth be told, it is difficult at times to know just where to draw the line. What I think Nightshade was trying to point out is that no RPG has been completely original. D&D might have been the first, and that plagiarized the hell out of Lord of the Rings.

Well, that and the fact I think the distinction between systems and expression there of is critical. Not making the distinction is leading to some of what I consider really oppressive behavior in corners of the IP world (particularly computer software) and I don't think getting people in the mindset of thinking someone has the right to ownership of a particular way to count dice or whatever is a good thing.

As for plagizing other systems or not giving orginals authors the credit they deserve (BTW, anyone see Steve Perrin's name on MRQ?), Slimy, underhanded and unethical-- it a perfectly fine way to do business. It's also one of the sad tradtions of the RPG field. Look at TSR.

Well, as I said, I find that one as distasteful as anyone else; I just don't think that _everyone_ who's doing so is doing so for malign reasons. I'd be really interested to see what legal departments think of "credit" dedications these days; I bet they're dubious about them.

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The heart, soul, and tentacles of Call of Cthulhu is Lovecraft, and all that nifty historical 1920s stuff. That's why it can be successfully ported to d20, or even Risus (another free RPG system, but not a retro-clone). In the same way, Runquest IS Glorantha.

One thing I have to say about GORE is that it truly is generic in spite of (to my superhero and sci-fi gaming eyes) an overemphasis on magic. It could just as easily be used to run a espionage or science fiction game as horror or fantasy. If Daniel Proctor hadn't illustrated it with eldritch monsters, I wouldn't have known any better.

4C is so spare, dry and generic that once I'd helped my kids roll up some characters I didn't know what to do with them. Without all the Marvel art and gameplay examples, I couldn't see what set my friends' hearts atwitter a couple decades ago.

These days, there are hundreds of competing RPG systems, many of them free. But the system itself is not the game. What breathes life into dull, dry, confusing rules is the setting, the characters, the sort of genre information that the writers of GURPS and Hero System are so good at providing. And that's what the gaming industry needs more of: creative, well-written, fleshed out role-playing settings to use with all those rules. It seems to me that GORE could well give Chaosium a well-needed shot in the arm and kick in the pants by providing more material and attracting new players.

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