May 31, 2016

Game mechanics not protected under copyright law

Texas court affirms game mechanics not protected under copyright law.

This ruling is sure to be of interest to all tabletop games makers.
DaVinci had sued Ziko games over the game Legend of the Three Kingdoms, which both companies acknowledge is mechanically identical to DaVinici's board game Bang! The art and aesthetics of the two games differ, with Bang! taking on the iconography of the wild west and Legend of the Three Kingdoms borrowing from Chinese history. 
The court's ruling, which Strebeck has hosted on his own site, states that nothing about the mechanics of Bang! can not be considered "expressive," as they are rooted in widely familiar game concepts like health bars, punches, and kicks, while that the expressive elements of the game (its art and aesthetics) aren't substantially similar to Legend of the Three Kingdoms. 
There have been examples in tabletop games such as Monopoly clones, and of course CCG's that are all essentially clones, or close facsimiles, of Magic: the Gathering*. In the case of Monopoly Hasbro has been vigorous in defending the expressive aspects of Monopoly such as the look, trade dress, and characters, but not so successful in preventing mechanical clones. For example: Triopoly, Petsberry, and Cashpiracy. Granted, these games do add some mechanical variations and improvements, but the similarities are stronger than you'd think they could get away with.

With all the wrangling around what is protected under "OGL", what is "d20", what is this or that, I wander how much legal protection any game system actually has. The expression of the game, it's "world" and art, such as Dungeons & Dragon's Forgotten Realms, or Runequest's Glorantha, or Traveller's Charted Space, seems to be what is protected by international copyright laws.

The full article is here:

Of additional interest, read the fascinating case of the battle for Anti-Monopoly.

Also related; according to the US Copyright Office in their publication on Games, fl-108, “Copyright does not protect the idea for a game” . . . “Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.”

Here is a more detailed analysis by Zachary C. Strebeck, attorney at law (tip o' the hat to Sean Kelley)

*note that in the case of M:tG Wizards of the Coast got a patent on the core game mechanic. I don't know if they've exercised that in a legal case.

None of this is suggested to be legal advice of any sort, as I have no qualifications to give such advice, I'm merely passing along this info from other public sources.

May 30, 2016

Kublacon 2016 is a wrap

Kublacon was terrific as always. I got to share a booth with the inimitable Ed Baraf, his game GemPacked Cards was a hit.

The line of Original Edition RPG's had a strong showing as well. Thank you to everyone who supports this little labor of love. Beasties in particular did very well. Which makes me glad, I do think it is a special book.

I'm looking forward to coming back next year with new and innovative OSR style games.

May 27, 2016

Super Sale at RPGNow!

RPGNow is having a 25% off sale on Super Hero books. I see Guardians has been included in the sale, and is currently at #1 in the Hottest Supers Sale!

If you've been waiting for the price to drop now is your chance. The sale is only for a few days.

Kublacon 2016!

I have a table at Kublacon 2016 in Burlingame California this Memorial day weekend. I'll have all the Night Owl Workshop books in print format. The advantage of getting it at the booth is it saves you shipping cost and helps support making more great old-school gaming products. Please stop by and say hi if you're in the area!

May 26, 2016

Bob Maurus - obscure TSR artist

In November of 1984 Issue 91 of Dragon magazine came out. It had a number of interesting articles, but one that really caught my eye was "Nine Hells Revisited" by Ed Greenwood. It was sort of a follow up to the popular Nine Hells articles from back in issues 75 and 76.

For some reason I really liked the artwork that accompanied the article, which was drawn by Bob Maurus. For a few months afterwards I filled my sketchbook with drawings of the Nine Hells inspired by Bob's style. I wish I still had that sketchbook, but it is long lost. Looking back at the work now I still have nostalgia for it.

Bob went on to illustrate an article in Dragon #95, but his most well known work is probably the cover and interiors of Ghost of Lion Castle.

D&D module BSOLO: Ghost of Lion Castle, TSR, 1984

"Nine Hells Revisited" by Ed Greenwood, Dragon magazine No. 91, TSR, November 1984.

“Mobility: If you can get a flying steed, use it.” (Bob Maurus, from “Battles above the dungeon: Basic combat tactics for the wide-open spaces” by Tim W. Brown, Dragon Magazine No. 95, March 1985.)

May 18, 2016

An Adventure for Guardians!

The Power of Fear

A Guardians superhero adventure for levels 1-3
10 super-powered NPC’s
New super power
Multiple Maps

Marcus Grimwood, once known as the Teklord until he retired from superhero duties, was a genius super inventor from a family of wealthy industrialists. After tragically losing his partner, and the failure of his brilliant inventions to be accepted by the public, he concocted a scheme to create the ultimate power source. Grimwood did not realize that in his grief and frustration, he had gone stark raving mad...

The adventure takes place over several days as Grimwood unfolds his master plan to “harness the power of fear” and perform the final calibration of his Phobos Device.

Available in print here.

May 13, 2016

Mechanized Men of Mars available now

I didn't think I'd have this done until early next week, but I was able to finish up the maps and the illustrations and layout today. The adventure went through quite a few variations, but the core idea remained throughout play tests. It's a fairly solid one-shot, but it has enough sandbox elements that you could use as the start of a campaign. With a little local map of the wilderness area north of Helium. I do hope you enjoy it.

Print copy available on Lulu:

PDF available on DriveThruRPG:

I experimented a bit with the cover trying to do something retro inspired by early D&D modules, but then added some contemporary flourishes to it.

Beasties is Available

Beasties, a collection of monsters, creatures, strange beings, traps, and encounters compatible with the Original Fantasy RPG and similar systems, is now available live on Lulu and DriveThruRPG.

27 Monsters
6 NPC's
37 Drawings
5 Maps
1 "Megadungeon" sample

Print edition on Lulu

PDF on DriveThruRPG

I did several homages to classic illustrations, new takes on some old stuff, and a bunch of brand new content all in the spirit of "OSR".

Every time I do a book I think this won't be too hard, I'll just write up some stuff, do some drawings, lay it out and publish it. Then the reality hits of just how much goes into making a good work, and all the details it takes to finish something. So this took longer than expected, but its out there now!

Note that the PDF/Book combo will be available on DriveThruRPG as soon as the print copy is approved. It is a process that takes about a week or two. I'll definitely mention it here when its available.

I'm still working on the adventure for Warriors of the Red Planet, if all goes well it'll be available early next week. Now that Beasties is done I'll have less distraction.

May 11, 2016

Mystery Location

I've been neglecting this blog, as happens on occasion, because I've been busy working on Deluxe Judges Guild, an adventure for Warriors of the Red Planet, and the Beasties monster book. So, so close to being done!
My morning routine is getting the kids off to school, sitting down with coffee, checking email and RSS feeds (lots of great old-school blogs!), and doing some warm up sketches. All before starting the day's work.
This month I've been participating in a little artist thing called #maysketchday, which you can see on my Twitter and Instagram feeds. The sketches I've been doing would make good inspirational material for a fantasy adventure or adventuring locales. This one could be particularly useful as a visual.

"As the sun sets and the twinkling stars appear to light the night, silhouetted by a full moon is the ancient spire of Tal-Marduk. It is said that atop the rugged heights is the lonely haunt of a great hermit mage who uncovered the very secrets of transmutation. Scaling it could be dangerous, but might be worth the risk..."