Thursday, July 28, 2011

Seeking Free Legal Advice

Which will, I am fully aware, be worth every penny. :-)

Seriously, though, an OGL question for the gallery. Section 7 of the OGL reads:
Use of Product Identity: You agree not to Use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity. You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark. The use of any Product Identity in Open Game Content does not constitute a challenge to the ownership of that Product Identity. The owner of any Product Identity used in Open Game Content shall retain all rights, title and interest in and to that Product Identity.
I read that to mean that a publisher cannot publish a given work under the authority of the OGL and say "this is compatible with game X" without the express written permission of the owner of the trademark of that game's name. All fine and well.

But what would happen if, hypothetically, a publisher published a work under the authority of the OGL, including the text and so on, but then published a second work, without the OGL, that said, in effect, "product A is compatible with game X". Would the fact that the second work was not published under the OGL allow said publisher to do so?

A hypothetical example, to illustrate the point.
  • Krazy Kobold Games publishes a retro-clone game called Awesome Adventures under the Open Game License. They include the text of the license in the rulebook, just like they're supposed to.
  • Villainous Vulture Games publishes an adventure module that is compatible with Awesome Adventures under the Open Game License, including the text of the license in the module like they're supposed to. Because they don't have permission from Krazy Kobold Games to say it's compatible, they do not say so on the cover or in the text of the module itself.
  • Villainous Vulture Games then publishes a catalog of their offerings. The catalog is not published under the OGL, because it in and of itself does not use any Open Game Content. In the catalog, they say "Buy our adventure module, fully compatible with Awesome Adventures!". 

Bearing in mind that the question of whether saying something is "compatible with" another game has already been decided by the courts, and has been deemed to be perfectly legal from a copyright/trademark point of view, has Villainous Vulture Games violated the terms of the OGL by indicating compatibility without permission, even though the means by which they indicated such compatibility was not, in and of itself, published under the terms of the OGL?

Bonus points to the answers of anyone who is actually a lawyer, and double bonus to anyone who's a copyright lawyer or has previous experience with the OGL.

Adventures Great and Glorious

Well, before all the steamboats left the slip, I figured it was time I made the official announcement about something I've been tinkering with for some months, now.

Adventures Great and Glorious™ will be a stand-alone game that depicts the actions of kings, high priests, merchant princes, and generals. In briefest outline, the game will cover:
  • The Colony game. What happens when someone strikes out on their own on the fringes of civilization, and carves out a freehold of their very own. Clearing territory, attracting settlers, and starting your own economy.
  • The Power game. The interactions between various factions and centers of power in an already-established nation, allowing the best to rise to the pinnacle of power.
  • The Long game. Rules for playing a game over successive generations of player characters, a la Pendragon
  • Full integration with Adventures Dark and Deep™ or any other similar game, allowing individual characters to integrate effortlessly with the factions of AGG, enabling a game master to create a massive combined game sharing the same campaign world, or simply have the events in one game influence the other.
  • Tips and guidelines for running AGG as a purely PBEM game.
  • Mass combat rules, intended for use with either miniature figures or with cardboard counters, to enable players to resolve battles the old fashioned way.
  • Naval combat rules, intended to give a full measure of fantasy naval combat fully informed by history, again either with miniatures or cardboard counters.
I know that this has been touted as "the end game", but I'm not convinced that all that many campaigns end up on this trajectory. Thus, I envision it as a game unto itself. Something compatible with, but not necessary to, a more conventional game where you play a single character, rising in level and killing ever-more-awesome bad guys, thwarting their plans, and taking their treasure.