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My first impression of Dark Dungeons (wip1 version)

Posted: Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:23 am
by chatdemon
The rules themselves look good, a nice "clone" of becmi as intended. Since this is a work in progress, I won't comment on the layout/graphic presentation yet.

There is one issue I must raise. On page 8, there is a blurb about patentability of game rules and "reverse engineering" and whatnot.

You're using the OGL, the text on page 8 is not only irrelevant, it's rather insulting to WotC. I'd recommend either dropping the text and using the OGL, perhaps explaining that the OGL allows the D&D rules, as presented in the srd, to be tweaked to mimic out of print editions, OR, drop the ogl and attempt to go the fair use route.

Re: My first impression of Dark Dungeons (wip1 version)

Posted: Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:33 am
by Blacky the Blackball
You really need both the OGL and the can't-copyright-mechanics stuff though.

If the can't-copyright-mechanics stuff wasn't true, using the OGL would be limited to adapting material from existing games that are released under the OGL. In other words, an OGL game would have to be either a d20 game or something completely original. People wouldn't be able to use the OGL to emulate legacy D&D mechanics because those legacy mechanics are not released under the OGL and therefore using them would be an infringement of copyright.

On the other hand, without the OGL, people would be able to use the can't-copyright-mechanics stuff to make a game that plays in a similar way to legacy D&D systems, but wouldn't be able to use familiar terminology of "Hit Points", "Armour Class", the six ability scores, the names of monsters and spells, and so on. Using that terminology for the parts of the system would be an infringement of copyright.

So - at least by my interpretation of the law - a retro-clone of a legacy D&D system relies on both the OGL and also the can't-copyright-mechanics stuff.

It needs the OGL to be able to use D&D 3e terminology. And it needs the can't-copyright-mechanics stuff to be able to apply that terminology to legacy mechanics.

Having said that, the section you're talking about doesn't mention the role of the OGL in the process - so I'll expand it to cover that.

Re: My first impression of Dark Dungeons (wip1 version)

Posted: Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:56 am
by Blacky the Blackball
How's this:
What is a Retro-Clone?

Dark Dungeons is not just a role-playing game. It is specifically a retro-clone. That term also needs explaining.

Like the paraphernalia used in any other hobby, role-playing games (and their rule books) are subject to the forces of both fashion and business. While some manage to last for decades with a small following, others go out of print and become unavailable; either because they are no longer fashionable or because the companies that made them no longer exist.

This is a problem for the hobby, partly because old games often quickly become “collector’s items” which keeps them out of the hands of people who would otherwise enjoy playing them; and partly because intellectual property and copyright laws often prevent fans from providing support for a game that the original publisher is unable or unwilling to support themselves.

This is where “retro-clones” come in.

Retro-clones are designed to fill two functions. Firstly they allow new people to have the experience of playing the old game even though it is long out-of-print and may be hard to get hold of; and secondly, they allow fans of the old game who wish to continue to support it now that the company that produced it no longer does (but who cannot legally produce material that is explicitly for the game) to produce material that is instead designed for use with the retro-clone of the game, knowing that it will also be compatible (with some minor changes in terminology) with the old game.

There are two principles that such retro-clones rely on.

Firstly, in Europe and America, it is not possible to copyright the game mechanics of a game. However, it is possible to copyright the “artistic presentation” of those game mechanics – i.e. the way they are described and the specific terminology they use.

Therefore, using the same principle as “reverse engineering” a piece of technology, it is possible to produce a new game in which the rules are identical to those of an existing game, but in which those rules are presented in a completely new manner that does not infringe on the artistic presentation used in that existing game.

Secondly, Wizards of the Coast have published a System Reference Document (or SRD) under a license called the Open Game License (or OGL). This game license allows anyone to use the rules—and more importantly the terminology—of the SRD in their own games and game supplements, providing that those games and/or supplements are themselves released at least partly under the OGL.

Without the first principle, a game released under the OGL would have to either copy the SRD mechanics or have wholly original mechanics.

Without the second principle, a game released with mechanics similar to an out-of-print game would have to have completely new and unfamiliar terminology.

However, when both principles are put together, a retro-clone can be produced that combines the familiar mechanics of an out of print non-OGL game with the familiar terminology of the SRD.

Dark Dungeons is such a retro-clone. The terminology used in this game is taken from the SRD via the terms of the OGL, and the game mechanics of the game very closely match the game mechanics of a specific out-of-print version of the world’s most popular role-playing game.

However, to avoid issues with trademark and copyright laws, that game is not mentioned by name within this work and no specific compatibility or endorsement with it or with any other existing role-playing game is claimed.

Re: My first impression of Dark Dungeons (wip1 version)

Posted: Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:11 am
by APN
As you know, I appreciate the work you've ploughed into this - still hard to imagine the sheer amount of work you've ploughed in :shock:

Have you given thought to the fonts you'll use (you may have done, but I missed that bit)?

Re: My first impression of Dark Dungeons (wip1 version)

Posted: Wed Apr 14, 2010 2:05 pm
by Blacky the Blackball
APN wrote:As you know, I appreciate the work you've ploughed into this - still hard to imagine the sheer amount of work you've ploughed in :shock:

Have you given thought to the fonts you'll use (you may have done, but I missed that bit)?
I'm sticking to the "less is more" design principle, and therefore using only two fonts (in different sizes) in the whole book and one colour (in three different shades - dark, light and mid) per section.

I'm using 10pt <black> Garamond for the main body text, because it's one of the most readable printed fonts, with sub-titles being 10pt <dark colour> Garamond Bold and example text being 10pt <dark colour> Garamond Italic. Bold and Italic are both also used for emphasis in the text itself. Text is three column, with 1pt <grey> seperator lines between the columns.

Tables are 8pt <black> Garamond, with vertical 1pt <dark colour> lines separating cells, and rows having alternating <white> and <light colour> background. The header rows of tables are also 8pt <black> Garamond, but with <mid colour> background. Table titles are 10pt <dark colour> Garamond Bold (the same as sub-titles in the main text).

All headers are in Norton, which is free for non-commercial use (another advantage of Dark Dungeons being strictly a non-commercial effort) and is similar to title font used by the Rules Cyclopedia itself.

Main headers within the text are 14pt <dark colour> Norton Bold, with chapter titles, page headers/footers and section titles being variable size (scaled up to exact sizes in centimeters rather than a particular point size) <mid colour> Norton Bold with <black> outline.

Other than the seperators between the text columns, all of the above is already in the WIP, so what you see is what you get - in terms of fonts at least; obviously the layout will change once I get art in there and I shuffle/re-word text to clean up the widows and orphans and things like that.