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Observations About Open Gaming


"If I ever get my hands on Erich Gamma I'll..." I heard Schrodinger growl from his seat next to the computer, tearing me away from dreamland.
"Who?" Was the only answer I could muster at that time of night.
"Erich Gamma." He said.
"Eh... Who?" I asked, again.
"He wrote JUnit. And the blasted thing can't handle exceptions in new threads."
"Eh.. What?" I don't tend to sound very intelligent when I wake up.
"JUnit." He explained. "An opensource software tool for Unit Testing in Java."
"Right..."
"But if you're already up, and if we're already speaking about opensource, there's a question here for you."
"Huh?"
"In this e-mail form Edward Terry, he says that like many gamemasters, he heavily modifies the rules of any RPG he runs, and he'd like to be able to distribute his version without any legal concerns. He's looking for a list of open source RPGs he can use."
"Well," I said, waking up at once "I don't know about any list of Open Gaming RPGs out there, but I'm sure we could put one together, at least of the more common ones.
But first, let's explain exactly what open gaming means, so there's won't be any misunderstandings. Open Gaming, a term derived from the concept of Open Source in the world of software engineering means that you can distribute, and more importantly - modify the material freely. Thus, for example, GURPS Lite or Fuzion are not opensource at all - true, they can be distributed freely, but can not be modified, and they remain the intellectual property of their owners.
Among the truly open gaming licenses, d20's OGL comes to mind, as does FUDGE, which was one of the pioneers of the field. Two others worth mentioning are the Dominion Rules and F20.
Having said that, if you don't intend to commercially distribute your modifications, I can hardly imagine there being a problem with you publishing your house rules, as long as you attach a copyright notice so you don't infringe any intellectual property. However, bear in mind that I am no lawyer, and please do not take this column as any legal advice. Make sure to read and understand the terms of any open gaming license you use."
"Are you quite done?" Schrodinger asked.
"Yeah," I answered, "I think so."
"Good," he said. "Now go back to sleep and stop disturbing me..."




A few days after publishing this column, Mr. Terry wrote me again with a list of open games he compiled, including the ones I suggested here, together with their license agreements. To his request I'm publishing this list here. I hope this helps all you would be game designers out there.
Also, he stated that he was very impressed with Draft, as was I. Unfortunately, the author has apparently lost the editable files of Draft and Hexatome. If someone has a copy of them - please drop us a line!.

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