The Game System License Battle Hots Up

Declassified summarizes the latest sorties from all sides over D&D’s controversial GSL, with everyone and their uncle generally agreeing it’s a Bad Thing for the hobby (as opposed to the wonderful permissive 3rd Edition OGL). The difference comes down to how folks are handling this particular Rhino in their Parlour.

Chris Pramas and Green Ronin is going to leave the Rhino well alone, for very good reasons. The GSL can’t predict the future, but it does protect Wizards’ from it, no matter what happens. It gives them far too much power and control over everything, whether they made it or not, and allows them to claim all legal fees whether they win or lose any cases involving D&D. I reckon that’s unenforcable bullcrap, but is guaranteed to make any small RPG company run for the hills. After all, who wants to risk being put out of business even if you lose the case??!! Contrast and compare with Ryan Dancey’s comments on this post at RPG Pundit. The OGL was specifically designed to make it clear what could be used and what couldn’t. It was clear-cut and positively went out of it’s way to promote and expand D&D’s popularity as a hobby. Some might argue that it was too permissive, but I disagree – it got the terms spot-on with everyone ending up winners. Sure, there were some dodgy products and outright scams along the way, but they were the exceptions, and disappeared pretty quickly.

Meantime, David Kenzer’s Kenzer & Co. is ignoring the Rhino entirely. As an IP lawyer he knows what he’s talking about too; only time will tell whether Wizards’ own IP lawyers agree with what he’s saying. I suspect they won’t.

Hmmm. When luminaries like Ryan, Chris and David say something’s bad for the hobby, it’s important to take notice. These are among the best brains in the business and know their stuff both on the game table and off. Ryan (along with Monte, who – as far as I know – has been silent on the GSL so far (a search for GSL on reveals nothing)) made 3th Edition what it was, effectively turning a dead-in-the-water 2nd Edition AD&D into one of the biggest-growth RPGs of all time.

Incidentally, I wish folks would stop calling it “the GSL License”. That’s the Game System License License. It’s like PIN Numbers and ATM Machines . Ugh. Stop it, already :)

Putting two and two together (and probably getting 27), the GSL goes a long way toward explaining all those funky-ass monster names and presence of new Core Races. Many classic D&D monsters (goblins, elves, orcs, dragons, etc) originate in mythology or otherwize exist in the public domain; Wizards’ don’t own them. On the other hand, names like Eldarin, Dragonborn, Goblin Cutter and Mind Flayer Mastermind are all theirs, and protected by copyright.

It’s not a Monster Manual guys, it’s a statement of IP.

A while back I thought the GSL was a Good Thing, because Wizards’ didn’t have to do anything at all – it was an act of generosity, whilst not as good as the OGL.

I was wrong. It’s worse that doing nothing.

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