THE (UNAUTHORIZED UNOFFICIAL) OPEN GAMING LICENSE OGL D20 FAQ

Sponsored By Mana Forge Games:

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INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the UN-authorized an UN-official Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the OGF-D20 Open Gaming License.  This FAQ was created largely from discussions and observation that occurred on the (now defunct) Open Gaming Foundation LISTSERV – a mailing list that was created to provide a forum for discussion of the Open Gaming License (OGL) and the D20 System Trademark License (D20 STL).  The LISTSERV was maintained for many years by the "Open Gaming Foundation" – a non-existent and now-defunct organization administered by Ryan S. Dancey, an executive at Wizards of the Coast (a brand of the Hasbro Corporation).  This FAQ is not authorized by, nor in any way connected with, either Wizards of the Coast or the (non-existent) Open Gaming Foundation.  As of this writing, the remnants of the “foundation’s” website still exist, and additional information, including copies of the latest versions of both the OGL and the D20 STL can be obtained at http://www.opengamingfoundation.org/.

 

LEGAL STUFF

Much of the material on this page discusses legal issues such as copyrights and trademarks.  The readers should be aware that the author is not an attorney nor an expert in the field of copyright or trademark law, and that the contents of this page do not constitute legal advice.  Readers should be cautious not to rely on the information as it is presented on this page as legal advice, and should obtain the services of a qualified attorney if they do feel they need verifiable advice concerning legal matters.

·        "OGL", "TSR", D&D", "D&D3E", and "D20" are registered Trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

·        These pages Copyright 2000 - 2009 by Faustus von Goethe and Mana Forge Games.

·        Address all comments and proposed changes to faust@hotmail.com.

·        Acknowledgements (in order of first contact):
Roy Williams, Ryan Dancey, Doug Meerschaert, Andy Hughey, Brad Thompson.

D20 D&D SYSTEM REFERENCE DOCUMENT

As part of the Open Gaming / D20 effort, Hasbro released much of the core Dungeons and Dragons (D&D 3.5 Edition) core rules as open source.  The totality of those open source files can be downloaded at the links below:

D&D 3.5 (2.2 MB): http://www.earth1066.com/D20SRD.zip

D20 MODERN (1.2 MB): http://www.earth1066.com/D20MODERNSRD.zip

 

QUESTIONS

A. GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE OPEN GAMING LICENSE

A.01.   What is the Open Gaming License?

A.02.   What is the Open Gaming Foundation?

A.03.   What is Open Game Content?

A.04.   Isn’t the OGL just like the GNU Open Software Foundation?

A.05.   Why a new OGL - isn't it just like GNU's "Free Documentation License" released this past March?

A.06.   Why is the OGL Copyrighted?

A.07.   What is Hasbro and/or Wizards of the Coast (WotC)?

A.08.   What happened to Wizards of the Coats and TSR?

A.09.   Isn’t this just an evil corporate marketing ploy?

A.10.   Yes, but isn’t Wizards now owned by Hasbro, and aren’t they a large corporation?

A.11.   Isn’t the way this presented somewhat deceptive?

A.12.   Who is Ryan Dancey?

A.13.   Who is Bill Slavicsek?

A.14.   Legally, what is the effect of releasing my gaming content under OGL?

A.15.   What is “RPG”?

A.16.   Is there any available study data on the RPG industry?

B. CONCERNING THE D20 SYSTEM TRADEMARK LICENSE

B.01.   What is the D20 System Trademark License (STL)?

B.02.   How does D20 relate to the OGL?

B.03.   What are the D20 System Trademarks?

B.04.   What is the “D20 System Logo”?

B.05.   What does it mean that if product has the “D20 system logo” displayed on it?

B.06.   What is a world-wide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license?

B.07.   What is a “restricted term” or “restricted definition”?

B.08.   What if WotC changes the "Restricted Terms" list in the future – couldn’t they do this to mess with potential developers?

B.09.   What does “SRD” mean?

B.10.   What is the “D20 System Reference Document” (SRD)?

B.11.   How come the “D” in “D20” is capitalized in text when people are writing about it but is shown in lower case on the D20 logo?

C. CONCERNING THE D20 SYSTEM

C.01.   What is D20?

C.02.   What constitutes “information on creating characters?”

C.03.   What constitutes “information explaining the effects on characters of earning experience or advancing in ‘level’"?

C.04.   HELP!  I'm trying to develop a D20 game here for GENCON and I just realized that I can’t do that without a copy of the D20 SRD?

C.05.   Could I write a product under these rules and say on the box that it was "compatible" with D&D?

C.06.   What is an “action resolution system”?

C.07.   What is the difference between a “flat” or “straight” randomizer and a “curved”, “bell shaped” or “normal” randomizer in an RPG action resolution system?

C.08.   Was the D20 effort a successful one?

C.09.   What went wrong with the D20 effort?

D. CONCERNING COPYRIGHTS AND TRADEMARKS

D.01.   What is a Copyright?

D.02.   What does a copyright protect?

D.03.   When is my work protected?

D.04.   How long does copyright last?

D.05.   Can I copyright my gaming system?

D.06.   Why can’t gaming systems be copyrighted?

D.07.   Wow, so I could just take one of WotC's books, rewrite it, then sell it as my own, right?

D.08.   So I couldn't use words like "Hit Point", or "Armor Class"?

D.09.   What is a Trademark?

D.10.   What is a Derivative Work?

D.11.   What is the difference between ( R ) and “circle R”?

D.12.   What is a copyleft?

E. CONCERNING THE D&D GAME

E.01.    What is D&D3E?

E.02.    What about  (__insert any question here__) concerning D&D Third Edition?

F. SPECIFIC EXAMPLES

F.01     Where can I get specific examples of D20 SRD “Stats Blocks”?

 

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

 

A.     GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE OPEN GAMING LICENSE

A.01   What is the Open Gaming License?

The Open Gaming License (OGL) is a copyrighted document of Wizards of the Coast (WotC), incorporated, finalized in 2001.  The OGL presents a legal framework for distributing portions of a gaming system and allowing other designers to use, modify, and make additions to that system, without running afoul of copyright law.  The essence of an Open Gaming License is that you can use, modify, and distribute the covered content, but you must allow others to do the same.
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A.02   What is the Open Gaming foundation?

The Open Gaming Foundation was a proposed non-profit organization that purported to promote the development of open games and advocates for the concept of open gaming in general.  The Open Gaming Foundation was supposedly a creation of Mr. Ryan Dancey, and as such had indirect ties to Wizards of the Coast.  It has been argued on the list that the Open Gaming Foundation is just another marketing tool.

 

In 2006, after doing absolutely nothing with this “foundation” for over six years, Mr. Dancey announced the closing of his list-serve and websites.  As of this update, some remnants of his site are still up and running at http://www.opengamingfoundation.org , but have not been updated since 2003.

 

Many observers believe that the Open Gaming Foundation was, in reality, simply a distraction to divert attention from the fact that Hasbro / Wizards was using (and perverting) the tenants of GNU General Public License to drum up interest in their Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 products.  This notion is partially supported by the release of D&D 4.0 and Hasbro’s subsequent total discontinuance of any support for any open gaming effort.
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A.03   What is Open Game Content?

Open Game Content is any existing copyrighted game material that is specifically designated by the copyright owner to be covered by the OGL - PLUS any "Derivative Work" created that incorporates Open Game Content directly in its design.  If an author is careful to identify which parts of his work use existing Open Game Content and which parts are 100% original, then the author can retain the copyright to that part of his original work that is not derivative of Open Gaming Content. 

 

That was the theory.

 

The reality is that it is very easy, and became common practice, to write any “OGL” product in such a way as to obfusticate any derivative work and to make that product virtually useless for re-use.
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A.04   Isn’t the OGL just like the GNU Open Software Foundation's GPL?

The OGL is modeled on the GNU Open Software License, but the Open Gaming License has several glaring differences from the GNU's copyleft, most notably that the GNU software foundation distributes all of their Intellectual Property (IP) under their license with the belief that sharing in this fashion promotes a stronger industry, while Hasbro used the OGL to define a very small subset of their IP that could be used as “open”, with market dominance being their stated objective.  More importantly, Hasbro inserted clauses into the OGL that made it virtually useless for fostering a GPL-type community.
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A.05   Why a new OGL - isn't it just like GNU's "Free Documentation License" released this past March?  Why not use that?

According to Mr. Dancey, the Open Gaming License is distinctly different from the GNU "Free Documentation License."  The GNU license is supposedly unwieldy due to its complexity and it does not address the issue of maintaining contributor credit for work that goes into the product.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the GNU Documentation License does not allow for documents that are part free and part copyright.  This is a key concept that Mr. Dancey stated “to be critical to the success of this effort”. 
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A.06   Why is the OGL copyrighted?

The OGL is copyrighted so that it (and its terms) are not altered.  This is not unusual as it is common in the software industry for organizations working under an Open Software License to copyright that license.
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A.07   What is Hasbro and/ or Wizards of the Coast (WotC)?

The Hasbro corporation is the current owner of the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) intellectual property, having acquired it in their purchase of Wizards of the Coast in September of 1999.

 

WotC was a gaming product company that rocketed to stardom (and huge cash flows) by inventing and selling the enormously popular “Magic: The Gathering” collectible card game.  WotC purchased TSR in 1997 primarily to keep TSR from going under.  Wizards was itself purchased by the enormous game and toy company HASBRO in September of 1999.

 

The previous owner and CEO of Wizards used some of his gains to purchase the rights to the Gaming Convention GENCON, which subsequently went Bankrupt in 2008.

 

In 2002 Hasbro dissolved Wizards as a separate business unit, eliminating many of the original management staff and re-aligning the various products under a number of Hasbro “Brand Managers”.  Shortly thereafter, Ryan Dancey was looking for work.

 

See the website for the various Hasbro products managed under the “Wizards of the Coast” brand at:
http://www.wizards.com/.
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A.08   What happened to Wizards of the Coast / TSR?

Wow, you are out of touch … TSR was purchased in 1998 by Wizards of the Coast.  To a large extent this was primarily because Wizards did not want the company to go bankrupt, and see the product line disappear or languish.  At the time, TSR was in serious financial trouble.  A description of the buyout and of that financial trouble can be seen here:
http://www.rpgplanet.com/dnd3e/tsr-rsd-0318.htm

 

Wizards of the Coast was itself purchased by the enormous game and toy company HASBRO in September of 1999.  In 2002 Hasbro dissolved Wizards as a separate business unit, eliminating many of their management staff and re-aligning the various products under a number of Hasbro “Brand Managers”.

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A.09   Isn’t this just an evil corporate marketing ploy?

While it IS freely acknowledged that the D20 STL is one of many marketing tools used by WotC to promote sales of their D&D product line, this does not make it necessarily evil.  Companies (any company – from the smallest gaming store to a giant conglomerate) are in business to make money.  Without that profit motive, there would be no gaming industry, and very few published games.  This fact that it is presented in this fashion is not inherently evil.

 

However, speculation on subsequent events has suggested that Hasbro acted in a truly deceptive fashion to represent the OGL and the Open Gaming Foundation as something that they were never truly intended to be.  They made enormous quantities of money doing so, and when the money ran out, dropped any shred of support for any “Open Game” effort and released a new system without making it “open”.  Small producers who got excited by the OGL and who were not “insiders” bore the brunt of the losses for Wizard’s business decisions.

 

That notwithstanding, other people have speculated that the OGL, AS IT WAS STRUCTURED was an elaborate plot by Mr. Dancey and others at Wizards to bring D&D entirely into the open source realm.  It remains to be seen as to whether that effort might or might not be successful.
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A.10   Yes, but isn’t Wizards now owned by Hasbro, and aren’t they a large corporation?

Since 2002, Wizards of the Coast no longer exists as a separate business unit.  All decisions about products and marketing are made by Hasbro on the basis of what will result in the maximum profit to the Hasbro corporation.

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A.11   Isn’t the way this is being presented somewhat deceptive?

In perfect hindsight, the entire OGL effort can be seen as a marketing effort masquerading as a “Open Source” initiative.  The Open Gaming Foundation was a key part of that deception – since presenting these materials under the guise of a “foundation” and under the domain  “dot.org” (traditionally used by non-profit organization) when in fact the whole deal is completely owned by an employee of Wizards was extremely deceptive.  However through many online conversations both the ownership and the profit motive were apparent, so very few people were actually deceived.  Many people however (what has been referred to as “the Slash-Dot Crowd”) were in fact alienated (even angered) by the prospect of a supposedly “open” license being misrepresented in this fashion.

 

What has been the most damaging (in particular for small producers) was the mistake notion (some say outright mis-representation) that the effort was an “Open Source” initiative that would foster an enduring “linux-like” community of designers and developers.  In reality, the fundamentally flawed, “non-open” nature of the OGL license fostered greed, paranoia, and a truckload of products where their open source nature was intentionally and irretrievably broken.
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A.12   Who is/was Ryan Dancey?

Ryan Dancey was a Vice President at Wizards of the Coast and WAS the “Brand Manager” for the D&D product line during the 3rd Edition kickoff.  He is the architect of the OGL as it relates to D20 and Wizards of the Coast.  He grew up playing D&D and speaks in very passionate terms about the continuing existence of the core system, both from a game standpoint and a profitability standpoint. 

 

In 2004 Mr. Dancey was involved in a fair amount of controversy as an elected member of the board of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) – allegations of hacking and manipulating the elections of that organization ultimately led to a messy scandal and his untimely resignation from his position with GAMA.

 

After being separated from Hasbro in 2002 during one of the many downsizings that occurred there, Mr. Dancey founded an organization called “Organized Play” that he was CEO of for some time.  As of this writing his website “organizedplay.com” is no longer active.

 

Mr. Dancey’s personal blog is online at the following link:

 

http://web.mac.com/rsdancey/RSDanceyBlog/Blog/Blog.html

 

Some of his interviews can be seen at:

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/article.asp?x=dnd/md/md20020228e

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A.13   Who is/was Bill Slavicsek?

Bill Slavicsek was the Director of Roleplaying R&D for Wizards of the Coast and the Chief Designer for the D&D Third Edition Game.  Here is an interview:
http://www.roleplaynews.com/interviews/slavicsek.asp
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A.14   Legally, what is the effect of releasing my copyright gaming content under OGL?

There are two related effects.  The first is that you are allowing other people to print and sell your work, provided they give you proper credit.  This is attractive from a financial standpoint for one and only one reason - by creating a “stripped down” version of your core product and releasing it as OGL, you can encourage others to create works based on that system, while still holding on to the most valuable parts.  This will tend to broaden your market because more people will be writing and playing in your gaming system, and therefore more people will be likely to purchase your products.  This is exactly what WotC did with the D20 STL and D20 SRD.

The second legal effect of releasing your copyright gaming content under OGL is that you are effectively authorizing the creation of derivative works based on the document that you release as OGL.  This means that (by definition) you are giving up the right to claim ownership(*) of those derived works.  This can be a strong motivator for others to write in your system, because they can now do so and still retain the copyrights to their own work.  These copyright rules are clearly outlined at:

http://www.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ14.pdf

(*) More precisely, from a strict legal definition, you are giving up the right to DENY ownership of the "new" parts of a derivative work to the author. [Back to the Top]

 

A.15   What is “RPG”?

RPG stands for “Role Playing Game”.   FRPG stands for "Fantasy Role Playing Game".
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A.16   Is there any available market research data on the RPG industry?

Yes, a (very old) study conducted and released by WotC can be seen HERE (courtesy of Gaming Outpost at t http://www.gamingoutpost.com/.
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B.     CONCERNING THE D20 SYSTEM TRADEMARK LICENSE

B.01   What is the D20 System Trademark License (STL)?

The D20 System Trademark License has been OFFICIALLY RESCINDED by the Hasbro corporation, and can no longer be used.

 

The D20 STL was a different license from the OGL, provided by WotC to encourage game producers to develop products that required the D&D Players' Handbook for their use.  It was nothing more than a license to use a trademark..  This license allowed a publisher to incorporate Open Game Content provided by WotC, and identify the source of that content with the "D20" trademark.  Publishers must adhere to the rules of the STL in order to be eligible to use the "D20" trademark.  WotC believes this effort will encourage game producers to develop products that will require the D&D Players' Handbook for their use.
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B.02   How did the D20 relate to the OGL?

The D20 System Trademark License has been OFFICIALLY RESCINDED by the Hasbro corporation, and can no longer be used.

 

The information in the D20 System Reference Document represents the parts of D&D that Hasbro released as Open Content.  Aside from that, D20 and OGL are unrelated.

The OGL is a license to copy, use, and distribute copyrighted work that has been specifically placed in the status of Open Content, provided you adhere to the rules of the license.

The D20 System Trademark License is a different license, provided by WotC to encourage game producers to develop products that will require the D&D Players' Handbook for their use.
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B.03   What are the D20 System Trademarks? 

The D20 System Trademarks were the words “D20 System” and the image of the red, white, and black D20 system logo.
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B.04   What is the “D20 System Logo”?

The D20 system logo is a trademark of WotC and consists of a black “d20” in a black box outline surmounting a red box with the word “system” in it, all on a white background.  It can be viewed at http://www.opengamingfoundation.org/d20.html. 
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B.05   What does it mean that if product has the “D20 system logo” displayed on it?

Only this - that the D&D 3.0 or 3.5 Players Handbook is necessary to understand how characters are generated and how they advance in level.  It DOES NOT mean that the game is in any way compatible with D&D, although most materiel written with that intent should certainly make an effort to qualify for the D20.  The D20 logo PLUS the word "Fantasy" on the cover, (along with appropriate cover art) would certainly tip off potential buyers that the product might be able to be used in a D&D setting.
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B.06   What is a world-wide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license?

This means that anybody in the world can use the license, they don't have to pay royalties, and they understand that they are not the only ones who get to use the license.  This is provided, however that they adhere to the terms of the license.
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B.07   What is a “restricted term” or “restricted definition”?

Part of an irrelevant argument – now that the license has been rescinded.

 

These are words and concepts that you may not use in your publication in any way other than as described in the D20 SRD, and still keep the privilege of using the D20 logo on that publication.  The general public will not have access to the exact list of words until the D20 SRD is released in August 2000.
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B.08   What if WotC changes the "Restricted Terms" list in the future – couldn’t they do this to mess with potential developers?

Part of an irrelevant argument – now that the license has been rescinded.

 

Not currently.   The D20 <DRAFT> STL currently contains the verbiage, “If the D20 System Reference Document is revised by Wizards of the Coast, you may use any version of the ‘Restricted Terms and Definitions’ section of any version of the D20 System Reference Document issued by Wizards of the Coast.”.  This means that all versions of the restricted terms and definitions list are equally valid.
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B.09   What does “SRD” mean?

D20 System Reference Document.  “System Reference Document” is the term coined by Hasbro to refer to a document which presents all of the “open” parts of another work or system in a single place.  The “D20 System Reference Document” is the official “core” part of D&D 3.5 (less character creation and advancement) – the material that was actually released as “OPEN” by Hasbro for the D&D system.  You can download the entire system from our site at the links below:

D&D 3.5: http://www.earth1066.com/D20SRD.zip

D20 MODERN: http://www.earth1066.com/D20MODERNSRD.zip

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B.10   What is the “D20 System Reference Document” (SRD)?

The D20 System Reference Document is the

official “core” part of D&D 3.5 (less character creation and advancement) – the material that was actually released as “OPEN” by Hasbro for the D&D system.  You can download the entire system from our site at the links below:

D&D 3.5: http://www.earth1066.com/D20SRD.zip

D20 MODERN: http://www.earth1066.com/D20MODERNSRD.zip

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B.11   How come the “D” in “D20” is capitalized in text when people are writing about it but is shown in lower case on the D20 logo?

We don’t know, but we think that WotC just thinks it looked cooler that way on the logo, and people just think it looks better the other way in print.
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C.     CONCERNING THE D20 SYSTEM

C.01   What is D20?

The D20 system consists of the entirety of the Core Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 gaming system – essentially a distillation of the “core gaming system” of D&D3E, excluding character generation rules and the specific effects of advancement..  “D20” is the (now RESCINDED) license and logo for third party products based on that system.  It was the stated hope of Hasbro that D20 in fact becomes the industry standard action resolution system for game products, supplanting the myriad of systems currently being used by game designers.  This, of course, did not happen.
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C.02   What constitutes “information on creating characters?”

Again, not really relevant because the D20 license no longer exists.  Many variants on “D&D 3.5” are now available around the web that incorporate both character creation and character advancement.  The general public will not know the exact answer to this question until the D20 System Reference Document is released in August 2000.   Mr. Dancey has stated, "The rule for character creation is ‘pick a race and class.’ ”  A general statement has also been made to the effect that you cannot say "You roll four 6-sided dice and drop the lowest, adding them together to get an ability score."  The essence of this is that your work should require the D&D Players Handbook for its explanation of character generation - IF you want to use the "D20 System Trademark. 
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C.03   What constitutes “information explaining the effects on characters of earning experience or advancing in ‘level’"?

The general public will not know the exact answer to this question until the D20 System Reference Document is released in August 2000.  Mr. Dancey has explained this concept by stating "The process of level advancement is "when a character exceeds threshold Z in experience points, increment that character's level by one, either by increasing an existing class by one level, or by taking a new class at level 1."
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C.04   HELP!  I'm trying to develop a D20 game here for GENCON and I just realized that I can’t do that without a copy of the D20 SRD?

TOO LATE!.
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C.05   Could I write a product under these rules and say on the box that it was "compatible" with D&D?

In a word, NO!  But it has become accepted practice to write products and include the phrase “Compatible with Edition 3.5 of the most popular fantasy role-playing system in history.” 

 

The D20STL stated:”3.3.3. You may not use the Dungeons & Dragons(R) or Wizards of the Coast(R) trademarks in advertising or in any material separate from the Publication, or in any other way other than that described in Section 3.3.1 and 3.3.2.”  Section 3.3.1 of the STL stated: ”3.3.1. You may place a notice in the Publication that reads: ‘Requires the use of the Dungeons & Dragons(R) Player's Handbook, Third Edition, published by Wizards of the Coast(R).If typography permits, the "(R)" indicia should be converted to the recognized "circle R" character.

 

What this meant was that the most you could do is put “Requires the Use of the Dungeon & Dragons (R) Players’ Handbook, Third Edition.”  This notice can be placed anywhere, including on the cover of the publication.  What you could do is to put the D20 logo on the cover, at the top of a full color glossy art piece of an obvious fighter, obvious thief, and obvious mage standing in an obvious dungeon, holding obvious swords and facing down an obvious orc.
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C.06   What is an “action resolution system”? 

An action resolution system is a method of determining the outcome of a proposed action of a character in a RPG game.  It is generally agreed that an action resolution system uses some form of randomizer, be it a dice role or some other method of determining an outcome.  Note that this explanation is a simplification.
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C.07   What is the difference between a “flat” or “straight” randomizer and a “curved”, “bell shaped” or “normal” randomizer in an RPG action resolution system? 

A flat or straight randomizer (like D20) uses a die roll or some other method where the probability of occurrence of any number is equally likely, i.e.; it is just as likely to roll a “1” as it is to roll a “10”, or a “20”.  A bell shaped or normal randomizer uses some method that results in the middle numbers of all the possible outcomes being more likely than those at the extremes.  For instance, the probability of rolling two six-sided dice and rolling a twelve is 1 chance in 36, while rolling a seven is six times more likely at 6 chances in 36.  In a RPG context, the extremes are much harder to reach on a bell-shaped system.  Some people maintain that the actual realities of combat are more easily modeled using a bell-shaped randomized.
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C.08   Was the D20 effort a successful one?

To answer that question, you have to define what you mean by “successful”.  Any definition of success needs to start with what the intended goal.  Here are some conclusions based on alternate goals:

 

1. Was D20 successful in enhancing Hasbro’s revenue?

            In the short run, yes.  D20 dramatically enhanced community interest in the D&D product and (more importantly) allowed Hasbro to focus on producing high-margin hardcover “rules” books without having to produce historically low-margin modules and adventure-based supplements.  If you doubt this statement, consider that in the nine years after releasing D&D second edition, TSR released more than two hundred and ten (210+) adventure modules for use with the D&D 2E system.  In the nine years after releasing Third Edition, Hasbro released less than twenty (<20) modules for D&D 3.0/3.5.

 

2. Was D20 successful in allowing third party producers to develop and market products for the D&D game?

            Absolutely.  Many, many companies were able to produce a truly staggering quantity of content to be used with D&D third edition.  So many in fact that keeping up with the sheer quantity of products being released became impossible. 

 

3. Was D20 successful as a marketing brand, recognized an valued by consumers?

            No.  Ultimately, a glut of products, many of which were knockoffs, re-compilations of previous work, or of very poor quality resulted in the devaluation of the brand.  This reached a point of critical mass during the winter of 2005-2006 when the market was so glutted with D20-based products that were not selling that several key distributors went out of business.  At this time, gaming stores stopped carrying the vast majority of third-party products (with the exception of a few proven products from a very top tier of publishers).  By 2007, in conjunction with the planned D&D 4.0 release, Hasbro marketing representatives went on record as stating that the D20 brand “had become effectively worthless.” 

 

4. Was D20 successful in creating and “Open Source Revolution” - what its creator (Dancey) stated was its actual goal that “… D&D as a game should benefit from all of the people who work on the Open gaming derivative of D&D.”

            No.  As an “Open Source Revolution” the OGL/D20 has ultimately been a dismal failure.  See section C.09 below for a discussion of some of the reasons.  All hope is not lost however.  The core D&D 3.5 Rules as released under OGL can never be “closed” again, and there are still some efforts out there to extend the 3.5 rules set into a truly open, truly community supported effort extensible gaming system.

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C.09   What went wrong with the D20 effort? 

The reason that the D20/OGL effort failed completely as an open source effort lies in the fatal flaw of the Open Gaming License (OGL).  This flaw is known as Paragraph 7, “Product Identity” or just simply “The Product Identity clause”.  Paragraph 7 allows an author of an OGL work to close unspecified portions of their work for virtually any reason and in virtually any conceivable way – including a host of ways that effectively make re-use either impossible or logistically impractical.  The problem lies both in the definition of Product Identity, but also in the total lack of enforcement of the license by Hasbro once it was released.  Here is clause 7 of the OGL along with the OGL definition of Product Identity:

 

7. Use of Product Identity: You agree not to Use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity. You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark. The use of any Product Identity in Open Game Content does not constitute a challenge to the ownership of that Product Identity. The owner of any Product Identity used in Open Game Content shall retain all rights, title and interest in and to that Product Identity.

 

DEFINITION "Product Identity" means product and product line names, logos and identifying marks including trade dress; artifacts; creature,; characters; stories, storylines, plots, thematic elements, dialogue, incidents, language, artwork, symbols, designs, depictions, likenesses, formats, poses, concepts, themes and graphic, photographic and other visual or audio representations; names and descriptions of characters, spells, enchantments, personalities, teams, personas, likenesses and special abilities; places, locations, environments, creatures, equipment, magical or supernatural abilities or effects, logos, symbols, or graphic designs; and any other trademark or registered trademark clearly identified as Product identity by the owner of the Product Identity, and which specifically excludes the Open Game Content;

 

A true “open source” effort rests on the notion of what the Free Software people refer to as a “copyleft” (rather than a “copyright”).  A copyleft is a license (e.g. the GNU GPL and the Free Software Foundation) which stipulates that (without exception) any contribution to the work automatically also became open source and could be used by anybody else for any reason.  A copyleft is a powerful social tool, because it prevents anyone from directly profiting from the work of another person.  Not only does this mean that each person to use a part of  truly open source effort can do so for free, but it contributes to a sense of community among the various contributors – a tremendous sense of being part of something bigger than oneself.

 

As a result of greed and/or fear on the part of individual D20 producers and lack of enforcement of their own license by Hasbro, it became common prac tice for an OGL producer to put something similar to the following statement as the “Product Identity” statement in virtually all D20 products:

 

“All content in this work which is not directly derivative of already open content is considered product identity.”

 

The practical effect of this practice was to make the product unusable for any re-use whatsoever.  The notion of “derivative” is an entirely subjective one and the courts and the legal profession have spent millions of dollars and hundreds of years proving exactly that.  Without the fundamental notion of shared re-use that is so key to any Open Source effort, the whole effort ultimately came crashing to a halt – at least as far as “Open Source” was concerned.

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D.     CONCERNING COPYRIGHTS AND TRADEMARKS

D.01   What is a Copyright?

A copyright is a construct of intellectual property law that protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture.  For more information consult:
http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/                           For the Library of Congress' Copyright Pages
http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html          For Brad Templeton's Excellent FAQ.

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D.02   What does a copyright protect?

A copyright is a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Go here to see What Works Are Protected.
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D.03   When is my work protected?

Your work is protected under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form so that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
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D.04   How long does copyright last?

From the US COPYRIGHT OFFICE:
The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, signed into law on October 27, 1998, amends the provisions concerning duration of copyright protection. Effective immediately, the terms of copyright are generally extended for an additional 20 years. Specific provisions are as follows: 
* For  works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection will endure for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. In the case of a joint work, the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death.;
* For anonymous and pseudonymous works and works made for hire, the term will be 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first;

* For works created but not published or registered before January 1, 1978, the term endures for life of the author plus 70 years, but in no case will expire earlier than December 31, 2002. If the work is published before December 31, 2002, the term will not expire before December 31, 2047;

* For pre-1978 works still in their original or renewal term of copyright, the total term is extended to 95 years from the date that copyright was originally secured. For further information
SEE Circular 15a.
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D.05   Can I copyright my gaming system?

In a word, NO!  A gaming system cannot be copyrighted.  But you CAN copyright the written instructions that you write to set up your gaming style and describe how to play the game.  See: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html for additional information.
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D.06   Why can’t gaming systems be copyrighted?

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.  For additional information, see: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html for additional information.
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D.07   Wow, so I could just take one of WotC's books, rewrite it, then sell it as my own, right?

Wrong.  You cannot simply rewrite someone else's work and claim it is your own writing.  What you COULD do is separate out all of the details of how the game is played, then write YOUR OWN gaming system that incorporated the rules and concepts expressed in those rules.  You would have to be very careful to use your own words, though.
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D.08   So I couldn't use words like "Hit Point", or "Armor Class"?

Yes, you could.  Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases.  There may be an exception to this, however.  The D20 STL refers to a document called the "Restricted Terms and Phrases List" that will be a list of words that have special requirements if you want to use the D20.  This list is not yet available.  You also have to be careful not to run afoul of trademarks.  In some cases, things like names may be protected as trademarks.  WotC has already stated that names Like "Elminster", "Dungeons and Dragons", and "Forgotten Realms" are trademarks and they will defend them in court.  Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for further information.
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D.09   What is a Trademark?

A TRADEMARK is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, which identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. Throughout this booklet the terms "trademark" and "mark" are used to refer to both trademarks and service marks whether they are word marks or other types of marks. Normally, a mark for goods appears on the product or on its packaging, while a service mark appears in advertising for the services.   Trademark rights arise from either (1) actual use of the mark, or (2) the filing of a proper application to register a mark in the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) stating that the applicant has a bona fide intention to use the mark in commerce regulated by the U.S. Congress.
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D.10   What is a Derivative Work?

From the U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE:
A “derivative work,” is a work that is based on (or derived from) one or more already existing works.  It is copyrightable if it includes what the copyright law calls an “original work of authorship.”  Derivative works, also known as “new versions,” include such works as translations, musical arrangements, dramatizations, fictionalizations, art reproductions, and condensations. Any work in which the editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications represent, as a whole, an original work of authorship is a “derivative work” or “new version.”  A typical example of a derivative work received for registration in the Copyright Office is one that is primarily a new work but incorporates some previously published materiel.  This previously published material makes the work a derivative work under the copyright law.  To be copyrightable, a derivative work must be different enough from the original to be regarded as a “new work” or must contain a substantial amount of new material.  Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting work will not qualify the work as a new version for copyright purposes.  The new material must be original and copyrightable in itself.   Titles, short phrases, and format, for example, are not copyrightable.
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D.11   What is the difference between (R) and “circle R”?

"(R) has become a common way to represent the "circle R" symbol which is commonly used to identify a trademark and denote that the use of that Trademark is restricted.  The "(R)", unlike the "circle R" has yet to be recognized by a court of law as an official symbol.
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D.12   What is a copyleft?

Unlike a copyright, a "copyleft" is a way of forcing everyone to allow anyone to use a given work pretty much any way they want to, and not be able to restrict those rights.  The GNU Public License is the foundation of the attempt to create a similar license for gaming, currently known as the Open Gaming License.  Some argue that the Open Gaming License has several glaring differences from the GNU's copyleft, most notably that the GNU software foundation distributes all of their Intellectual Property (IP) under their license with the belief that sharing in this fashion promotes a stronger industry, while WotC is using the OGL to define a very small subset of their IP, with market dominance being their stated objective.
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E.     CONCERNING THE D&D GAME

E.01   What is D&D3E / D&D 3.5E?

“Dungeons and Dragons” or “D&D” or “D&D3E” was WotC’s rewrite of the core rules of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons that have been fundamentally unchanged since the game’s release in 1978.  The product was officially kicked off in August of 2000 with the release of the D&D Players Handbook.

 

D&D 3.5 E was an “upgrade” to the 3.0E system that was released several years later.  The upgrade was ostensible sold as an “improvement” to the system, but close examination revealed many changes which were simply arbitrary and which seemed designed solely to make the 3.5 system no longer “compatible” with the 3.0 system.  In other words, it seemed as though Hasbro intentionally wrote 3.5 to capitalize on the success of 3.0, and to force the market to purchase all new versions of their core books.  Edition 3.5 also had the very chilling effect of making virtually all of the third party D20 material written up to that time suddenly seem “outdated”.

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E.02   What about  (__blank__) concerning D&D Third Edition?

This FAQ was not designed to handle D&D3E specific questions.  Hasbro’s FAQs for the (no longer supported) 3.5E product have been taken down:

http://www.wizards.com/3e/      WotC’s Official D&D FOURTH EDITION (not open source) Site.
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F.     SPECIFIC EXAMPLES

F.01   Where can I get specific examples of D20 SRD “Stat Blocks” and other material?

This area is pending ….
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