Open gaming


Open gaming

Open gaming is the movement within the role-playing game (RPG) industry that is somewhat similar to the open source movement.[1] The key aspect is that authors give recipients of works covered by copyright a license to certain rights, such as the right to make copies or the right to create derivative works, under particular conditions. All open gaming therefore depends upon a license with exception to fair use and works under public domain.

Contents

Definition

"Open gaming" refers to the practice of publishing content (rules, sourcebooks, etc.) under a "copyleft", open content, or free content license, which grants permission to modify, copy, and redistribute some or all of the content.

A number of role-playing game publishers have joined the open gaming movement, largely as a result of the release of the System Reference Document under the Open Game License by Wizards of the Coast. Open gaming has also been popular among noncommercial role-playing game and supplement authors. Several licenses have been used to facilitate open gaming. Despite this, the concept has yet to make a significant impact on games outside of pen-and-paper RPGs, and most commercial RPG publishers continue to use proprietary game systems. There is some question as to the current status of the OGL, as of 2007. When WotC published the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, all mention of the OGL was omitted. However, at least into early 2009, a previous edition of Dungeons and Dragons, 3.5 Ed, which was the last edition to embrace the OGL fully, is maintaining a tenacious hold on its popularity, in spite of supposedly being "replaced" by a new edition.

History

The history of open gaming began with the publication of the System Reference Document and the simultaneous release of the Open Game License. However, role-playing games had been licensed under open and free content licenses before this.

The Fudge Legal Notice

The Fudge role-playing game system was created in 1992 by Steffan O'Sullivan with extensive help from the rec.games.design community. The name stood for "Freeform Universal Donated Game Engine" until Steffan O'Sullivan changed 'donated' to 'DIY' in 1995. One of the keys to the success of Fudge is that the author released it under the FUDGE Legal Notice, a license that made it essentially "open" for non-commercial use. This predates the publication of the System Reference Document under the Open Game License by several years. However, like most open gaming licenses, the FUDGE Legal Notice (more commonly known as simply "the Fudge license") was never intended to cover any work other than its eponymous role-playing game. The 1993 FUDGE Legal Notice allowed reprinting of the Fudge rules, including in otherwise commercial works, as long as certain conditions were met. The 1995 FUDGE Legal Notice permitted the creation of derivative works for personal use and for publication in periodicals. Derivative works which were to be distributed for a fee required written permission from Fudge's author, Steffan O'Sullivan. The details of the Fudge Legal Notice were modified and expanded from time to time as O'Sullivan updated his work, but the essential elements of the license remained unchanged.

In March 2004, Grey Ghost Games acquired the copyright of Fudge, and in 6 April 2005, they released a version of Fudge under the Open Game License, making it open for commercial use.

Dominion rules and circle

The phrase "opencsource roleplaying" was used as early as 1999 by the Dominion Rules fantasy role-playing system, the license of which permitted supplementary material to be written for its rules (see the Dominion Rules Licence). Another "open" system was the Circe role-playing system, published by the WorldForge project under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Open Game License

Despite Fudge and other games, the open gaming movement did not gain widespread notoriety within the role-playing game industry until 2000, when Wizards of the Coast (WotC) re-published the 3rd Edition of their popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing system as the System Reference Document under the Open Game License. This move was driven by Ryan Dancey, then Brand Manager for WotC, who drafted the Open Game License and first coined the term "open gaming" with respect to role-playing games.

Open Gaming Foundation

The Open Gaming Foundation (OGF) was founded by Ryan Dancey as an independent forum for discussion of open gaming among the members of the fledgling open gaming movement. The OGF consisted of a web site and a series of mailing lists, including the OGF-L list (for general discussion of open gaming licensing issues) and the OGF-d20-L list (for discussion of d20-specific issues).

The most common criticism of the Open Gaming Foundation was that it was primarily a venue for publicizing Wizards of the Coast. Ryan Dancey was an employee of WotC, and discussion on the mailing lists tended to focus on d20 and the OGL (both owned by WotC) rather than on open gaming in general.

Like most efforts to publicize "open gaming", the Open Gaming Foundation did not gain widespread support, and the most recent update to the OGF web site (as of January 2007) was on 4 August 2003. However, the OGF mailing lists continue to be active, particularly the OGF-d20-L list, which is a haven for various d20 publishers.

Reaction to the OGL

The Open Game License gained immediate popularity with commercial role-playing game publishers. However, the OGL was criticized (primarily by independent role-playing game developers) for being insufficiently "open", and for being controlled by the market leader Wizards of the Coast (see d20 System for more information). In response to this, and in an attempt to shift support away from the OGL and toward more open licenses, several alternatives to the OGL were suggested and drafted. Similarly, the popularity of the OGL inspired others to create their own, specific open content licenses. Virtually none of these gained acceptance beyond the works of the licenses' own authors, and many have since been abandoned.

October Open Gaming License

One of the licenses written in response to the OGL was the October Open Game License, a copyleft license published on 27 December 2000 by RPG Library. The OOGL was designed to present an alternative to perceived problems with the WotC Open Game License. The OOGL was used by two games before the authors of the OOGL ceased using it for their own work in late 2002 (and suggested that others do the same), in favor of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. RPG Library support for the October Open Game License ceased entirely on June 15, 2003.

Present adoption

The most common open gaming license in use by commercial role-playing game publishers is the OGL, and the most popular noncommercial licenses are the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License and the GNU Free Documentation License.[citation needed] There are many publishers currently producing material based on the WotC System Reference Document, and many which make their products available under the OGL but which use game systems not based on the SRD.

Licenses

Unlike open-source software, the term "open gaming" distinctly predates the establishment of an organization establishing a definition for the term. As such, while there is a definition offered by the Open Gaming Foundation for what is and is not an "open gaming license", the term is used more expansively without notable comment. Generally, any license that permits re-use, modification, and redistribution of content can be considered an open gaming license, though open content, free content, copyleft, and copyfree offer various definitions and specifications for licensing terms that apply to some open gaming licenses.

The following licenses are currently in use as open gaming licenses:

Open supplement licenses

Open supplement license is a licenses where the original rulebooks are covered by normal copyright, but a license permits the publication of supplementary material, such as adventures and new rules. Examples of open supplement licenses are the EABA Open Supplement License [2] and MasterBook™ Open Supplement License (MasterWorld™) [3].

Open games

The following are considered open games (listed in alphabetical order):

Retro-Clone systems

A number of fans and publishers have created copies of rules systems which are no longer supported, and released those rules systems under an open license. The term "retro-clone" was coined by Goblinoid Games, the publisher of Labyrinth Lord and GORE.[citation needed]

The best known example of a retro-clone game is OSRIC, which contains the rules for 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Other examples are GORE (the Basic Roleplaying System i.e., the rules used in RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu), Labyrinth Lord (based on Basic Dungeons & Dragons), Swords & Wizardry (based on Dungeons & Dragons circa 1974), and Dark Dungeons (based on Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia[5]).

References

  1. ^ Dancey, Ryan (2002-02-28). "The Most Dangerous Column in Gaming" (Interview). Interview with Ryan Dancey. Wizards of the Coast. http://www.wizards.com/dnd/article.asp?x=dnd/md/md20020228e. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  2. ^ http://www.infinite-realities.com/ordnance/OSL
  3. ^ http://www.pigames.net/collaborative/index.php?action=read&page=429
  4. ^ The print-on-demand page for the book at Lulu.com, shows this as the author's name.
  5. ^ RPG.Net game index entry

External links


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