Monday, February 19, 2018

OBS Content Program is terrible and it is now not just an opinion.

My first post of 2018 was about how the One Bookshelf community content were a terrible deal for authors ... with one exception.In the discussion here and elsewhere commentors noted that much of what I said was opinion regarding a technical area of IP law.

So I submitted a series of question to One Bookshelf. The answers were all I suspected, and not favorable to the independent creator.


If I created a 5e supplement about Daggerford in the Forgotten Realms. And in had some original magic items of my own creation (for example the Spear of Night). Does the DM's Guild license preclude me from using that Item in a product outside of the DM's Guild.
One Bookshelf response
Yes, if you released that content on DMsguild then you cannot release it again as part of an OGL product. You could theoretically put that same magic item repeated in another DMsguild product.

Suppose several years ago I released the Spear of Night in a d20 product and then later incorporate a variant of it in a DM's Guild product.

One Bookshelf response
If you've done that then you should not put the Spear of Night in a DMsguild product.

Slightly more broad, say I release Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition product based on an original setting of my own creation (for example of Majestic Stars). Then I turn around later and release the same material for a different system. Not using any Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition. Does the Traveller Aid Society license prevent me from doing that?

One Bookshelf response
Yes, the Traveller's Aid Society does prevent you from doing so.

What if I released the Majestic Stars under another set of rules and then released a Mongoose Traveller 2e version under the TAS?

One Bookshelf response
No, you cannot do that.

Understand I am talking solely about reuse of control original to me. I am concerned as the Community Content licenses grant rights to derived  works. If I released a hypothetical Daggerford supplement I am fine with that product as a whole remains on the DM's Guild for the duration of its copyright. What I am not fine with is not being able to reuse original concept and elements that are original to me and not based on publisher's IP.

One Bookshelf response
I understand your concern here. If you want to maintain control of the content you should not make it part of any Community Content program. 

Final Comments
What makes this bad are the consequences it implies for being successful. If somebody is successful with any of these community content programs, and has built a body of work that in part original to them, the license preclude not only ever use it elsewhere but also forbids preparing derivative works.

This is particularly problematic with programs like the DM's Guild and Traveller Aid Society, as they are not just about a specific setting, but also define much of what is fantasy roleplaying and science fiction roleplaying through their culture impact. The derivative works clause comes close to being literally shackled to a specific factory floor.

It understandable that publishers want to maintain control over their own IP. These community content programs are innovative in the IP holders giving up some of the traditional control over one's IP.

Incorporating a no derivative content clause into these agreements to the third-party creator or original content is unjust. The use of a publisher's IP and the publicity behind the program does not make this a fair deal, and Wizards, Cypher, Mongoose, and the rest should ashamed for including this as part of the IP agreement being used.

This is even more so when you consider that under current US Law there is a specific provision for author to regain the rights to the works they created between 35 and 40 years after publication. Steve Jackson used this recently to regain the rights to the Fantasy Trip, Melee, and Wizard.

This exists because Congress, in a rare moment of sanity, recognized that publishers all too frequently take advantage of new authors. The newbie authors are forced to sign draconian contracts that effectively surrender lucrative rights to the work they create. It not some theoretical or ephemeral problem, but something that currently exists throughout creative industries.

Shame on the publishers for doing this, and shame on One Bookshelf for enabling it. Don't force authors to wait 35 to 40 years to get back rights that are theirs. Change the agreements to eliminate the claim to derivative content, and until then, spell out ALL of the rights the authors will be giving up front and center of the agreement and FAQ.

Note: Thanks to Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic taking the time to edit my post.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Talking about Authentic Medieval Roleplaying

I been doing a series of podcasts with Brendan Davis, Nick Seidler and Adam Baulderstone.

The first was with Brendan as gamemaster and featured a trap dungeon.

The second was me using my Majestic Fantasy Rules (based on Swords and Wizardry) to run an adventure set in a fantasy medieval setting.

The live stream is here and the podcast where we discussed it can be found here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

One of those days.....

Every have one of those days and then something happens that just puts a smile on your face.

Congrats to everybody at SpaceX for a hell of an achievement

Friday, February 2, 2018

Livestreaming the Majestic Wilderlands

Just a heads up that I will be refereeing tonight a one shot adventure and it will be livestream.

The link

The adventure will be Deceits of the Russet Lord, an original adventure I been working on as the follow up to the Scourge of the Demon Wolf.

It will be run using my Majestic Wilderlands rules which are a combination of my supplement and Swords and Wizardry.

Nestled in the western eaves of Dearthwood is the Shrine of Saint Caelam the Dragonrider a popular pilgrimage destination. The monastery that runs the shrine are habitually late on delivering their tithe to the Bishop. This time are even later than usual. His excellency is fed up with the continual delays an is sending the player characters to resolve the issue and collect this season's due.

But meanwhile others feel their due is owed as well and their payment is far bloodier.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

That vague setting behind Points of Light and Blackmarsh

For those of you with both Points of Lights, and Blackmarsh know that there are common elements like the Grand Kingdom, the Ochre Empire, Delaquain, etc throughout the different setting. While never spelled out in detail they are all could be considered part of the same setting. In the first Points of Light each of the three lands (Southland, Wildland, and Borderland) are also separated in time that when put together open a window into the larger history.

+Ethan Gundry asks whether has anybody had any success merging all the Points of Light settings, along with Blackmarsh? A while ago I combined the Blackmarsh and Southland map along with the work I done with the Wild North merge with Blackmarsh. The result was this.

But do I have a "master" map that combines everything? Do I have a master document like the old Greyhawk Folio? Yes I now have a master map, no I don't have a Greyhawk Folio style master document. Keep in mind the focus on the Points of Light/and Blackmarsh is usability. That each individual setting stands on it own as a useful backdrop for a campaign. Making them into the equivalent of region supplement defeat that purpose. But still I want the option to exist to combine them so I keep the few background elements I write about consistent.

So what the deal with the master maps. Well I drew a lot of maps over the years and I have a bunch that not part of the Majestic Wilderlands or any other setting. For example this giant map I made for what I call the Eastgate region.

At the heart of which is the City State of Eastgate

Both originated in 2008 before I got my license from Judges Guild. I took all the content I made for the Majestic Wilderlands and stripped out the Judges Guild IP which included drawing new maps. I started writing the initial draft of the Majestic Wilderlands when a fortuitous set of circumstances led to me to securing a license to use enough of the Judges Guild IP to publish the Majestic Wilderlands supplement. Having that license meant I could use my original notes as is saving me a lot of work.

But the above work didn't go to waste as I used some of what I created for Blackmarsh.

So back to Ethan's question about combining the maps. A year ago I was sketching out some map on paper to get a feel for how mountainous and hilly regions really looked like based on Earth's geography. I decided to draw a outline map as an experiment to see how real I can make it look. The result was this.

And I figured if I am spending the time doing this I might as well incorporate the Points of Light/Blackmarsh maps use the above as a future reference.

Here is the annotated version of the above.

At this time I am not going to flesh out all the blank spots as I want to leave the possibilities open for further Blackmarsh style projects. The thing I am currently working is the circle marked Beyond the Borderlands basically my answer to the question of what lies beyond the Cave of Chaos in B2 Keep on the Borderlands.

I am also working on the tweaks to the Wild North to make it fit along the north edge of Blackmarsh. This is the map for that. Basically everything below Row xx26 has been tweaked while everythiing above is pretty much the same as the version from Fight On #3.

Hope this answers your question Ethan. Appreciate asking it as it gave me the idea for this blog post.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Making a campaign human centric with the least amount of violence to RAW

+Joshua Macy has a complaint that not uncommon, all the players in his campaign made non-human characters. Let's face it, non humans are cool kids of fantasy roleplaying. Most races have interesting backstories, memorable characters, and of course the racial abilities. Sometimes all three like with the Drow.

Starting with DnD 3.0, later edition attempted to rectify this by giving Human their own racial abilities. Typically extra flexibility by granting a feat or two, increased ability of the player's choice, or more skills. But still it seems lacking and rather bland.

The primary way I fixed it was to grant a 15% XP bonus for humans that works the same as the XP bonus due to having a high prime requisite. Read below the fold for my reasons why.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Why Middle Earth is working for me, the Cubicle 7 supplements

There are two main things that "sold" me on Adventure in Middle Earth by Cubicle 7. The fact that magic is presented as subtle in the core books, and the quality of their supplements.

First most of the AiME contents is repackaged from their The One Ring (TOR) equivalent. What differs are the short sections of either AiME rules or new stuff like NPCs, Creatures, and items. The rest is duplicated from the original TOR version. Luckily the TOR stuff is excellent. But I have to put it out there so you are not surprised in case you decide to buy the TOR supplement AND the AiME supplement. The Moria Boxed Set will be the first Middle Earth product that new to both TOR and AiME. For the rest TOR is generally ahead on the release schedule but AiME is catching up.

Rhovanion Region Guide
TOR and AiME have a class of supplements that can be characterized as a region guide. Both games have a referee hex map that divide broad areas of Middle Earth into regions. One reason for this is that the hex map works hand and hand with the journey rules. Another is that it offers a useful way of  organizing the geography for supplement like this one.

This is a section of the referee's map for the Wilderlands in Rhovanion.

The reddish area are the place that are most  dangerous to travel in as the party found out last week when they were attacked by a swarm of black squirrels in the middle of the Heart of Mirkwood.

The Rhovanion Region Guide has three major section. The first covers the regions along the river Anduin, the second covers the regions of Mirkwood. Dale, Lake-town, and Erebor are not covered although the TOR supplement for these areas have been released. The last section are new adversaries found in these region. It includes NPCs like Gorgol, son of Bolg, and the more general like Hunter Spiders. Seventeen new foes are added plus numerous NPCs in the various region writeups.

Out of all the supplements this is perhaps the most useful.

Each region is given a general description. Has a section called combat scenery which is advice on where typical encounters take place. A description of the wildlife, and inhabitants. This is followed by a list of notable inhabitants. For example the East Middle Vales describes; Beorn the Shape-shifter (from the books), Turin the Tinker, Gelvira Pot-stirrer, Ennalda the Spear-maiden. The last three are original characters created by the author. Turin is a useful contact about the what going on. Gelvira runs a inn at the Old Ford which can be used as a home base by the PCs. Ennalda is a spear-thane of Beorn and is likely the person the PCs will interact most with if they associate with the Beornings.

Then the section goes on to describe notable places within the region. Which for the East Middle Vales is The Carrock (from the books), The Old Ford, The Isle of Strangling Tree, Beorn's House (from the books), The Grey Heath, and The Cleft of Storms. All of these provide interesting places to explore or have roleplaying possibilities.

Man it looks packed
It is and it isn't. While there are a lot of things described it isn't like my mini-region in Scourge of the Wolf where I provide a capsule description of a dozen settlement within a 25 mile radius. Each hex in the above map is 10 miles not quite the howling emptiness of Greyhawk's 30 mile hexes but large enough that even with what I described for the East Middle Vales you have to spend a day or so travelling to each site. And if you go outside of that, you are talking journey of a week or longer.

When you look at the below map for the East Middle Vales keep in mind that you are travelling two hexes (20 miles) per day by foot. That the only two "settlement" are The House of Beorn and the Old Ford with perhaps the Carrock when the Beornings meet there. Where are the Beornings? Read the description from the book.
While most Beornings live in isolated farmsteads, there are a few… well, towns would be an exaggeration. Call them villages, or steadings, clustered around trading posts or river crossings; one of the largest has sprung up in the vicinity of the Old Ford. 

I will talk about the other supplements in the next post.