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Author Topic: d20 D&D supplements: Are they "Indie supplements&am  (Read 10070 times)
Andy Kitkowski
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« on: February 07, 2003, 11:57:08 AM »

Kind of a weird question. I've hit a snag and need some quick feedback.

A game is Indie if it's self-produced by someone who owns all the rights to the game.

We usually look at supplements as reflecting the games they are supplements of. Like, the Slayer's Handbook is a supplement for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In my Indie Awards thing, I've hit kind of a snag regarding the following argument: Supplements for Indie d20 games like Deeds Not Words or generic d20 supplements ("Firearms d20 Book", "Cybernetics d20 Book", etc) that aren't tied to a particular d20 game (like DragonStar, Mutants and Masterminds or Dungeons and Dragons) are certainly both Indie by production and Indie by association, therefore they are Indie RPG Supplements.

But what about d20 supplements that obviously are supplements to D&D 3E, that happen to be independently produced (like say, "The Ultimate XXX Class Book" or "500 Nifty Alteration Spells")?
* As the word "Indie RPG Supplement" applies to games that are independently produced, they are Indie RPG Supplements.
*As the word "Indie RPG Supplement" applies to books that are supplements to Indie RPGs, they are clearly not Indie RPG Supplements.

See my problem here?  Any advice?

IMO, I'm not entirely sure I'm comfortable with including supplements that obviously are for D&D or other non-Indie RPGs. But, on the other hand, I don't want to be drawing another line as to what can be included just to exclude games that "I don't like" or whatever.

In any case, I don't want to allow any indie-produced supplements to non-Indie properties. That doesn't live up to the "Indie Supplement" connection.

But Fantasy d20 supplements are tricky. Are they "D&D supplements"? Are they just "generic d20 supplements that can be used for any d20 game such as D&D or others"? Need I make more qualifiers?

In the long run, I'm not worried about d20 products "stealing the show" or claiming all the awards. However, I am wary of admitting a wash of D&D supplement producers as voters for these awards.

Sorry about airing my dirty laundry here, but I need some input.  Thanks!

-Andy
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2003, 12:09:50 PM »

I have an observation that may further complicate matters and make my viewpoint an unpopular one for folks who work hard for little reward and recognition on good D20 products.

It is my understanding of the Forge's "indie" definition that Indie products are those in which the ALL the game's right are owned by the creator. (I do not quite recall your definition, Andy, so perhaps this doesn't apply). If that's true, then aren't ALL d20 products by definition not indie? This is because no one can own all the rights to their product. They can own most. They just can't own all. Once they designate any rules or other schtuff as open content, they have just relinquished ownership of those elements. Other publishers may use them as they wish (I can't recall whether they're required to give credit to the creator, but that doesn't matter for this observation).

The D20 label absolutely, explicitly requires a publisher to make at least 5% of his product as open content. I can't remember precisely what the issue is for OGL content (as apposed to D20 proper).

So, is this just a technicality? Or, is it a clear violation of the "ownership" of indie creations, and therefore make ALL d20 (and perhaps even OGL) stuff NOT indie by definition?

I'm inclined to say that it does. Like I said, probably won't make me the most popular guy to folks who are cheering for small-scale D20 innovators. I didn't say I don't like their work or think D20 sux. I said I don't define it as "indie."

To further muddy the waters  -- does this mean that folks who make d20 products aren't indie and therefore shouldn't be participating for events like the Forge booth at GenCon? Ugly stuff, this.

Finally, one more point. Is the case even more murky for games -- like Godlike -- which have a D20 or OGL conversion in them? Are THESE indie games? Probably. But then if they are, does that mean "purely" d20 products are, too?
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Matt Snyder
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clehrich
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2003, 12:11:00 PM »

Are there a lot of seemingly Indy supplements to non-Indy games?  If so, you might make them a category unto themselves.  If not, you could fold them into another category, or not, as you like.

I have seen one excellent Indy supplement for a non-Indy game (some years ago), so I'm kind of on their side.  But certainly they are usually a rather different sort of product than what we usually think of as Indies.
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Chris Lehrich
Matt Gwinn
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2003, 12:26:16 PM »

I'm going to agree with Matt on this one.  I would rule out the d20 stuff as being non-indie.  

If you deside that they are indeed indie, I would turn away any supplement that requires you to own a non-indie game to use it.  For example, any supplement that requires you to own a D&D Players handbook should be excluded.

On another note, I honeslty think the scope of the award is too great which in part may be contributing to your problem.  You should break things down into best RPG and best supplement as there is obviously a big difference IMO.

,Matt G.
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Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2003, 12:54:50 PM »

Matt I think he's referring to the seperate "Recognition" award of "Best RPG Supplement" which is different from the main "best Indie RPG" award.

My thoughts would run as follows.
1) are d20 supplements Indie.  Absolutely if the creator owns the publishing as well as creative rights.  The fact that some of the content is OGL and other requires the PHB, I think is irrelevant.  It's a supplement ALL supplements require owning another book.  The d20 license is a blanket permission to create this stuff, so I think any attempt to exclude this from being indie is really just an anti d20 twist rather than a legitimate definitional move.

2) However, there is already an award for best use of the d20 license.  This seems to me to already cover the d20 supplements.  I would definitely not BOTH allow the d20 supplements to count for "best Indie Supplement" AND "best use of d20 license".  If you're going to break the d20s into a seperate recognition category (which I think is a very good idea) I would treat the first one as "Best non d20 indie supplement".  Or eliminate the distinction and combine them.

I would not allow a d20 game to qualify for Best Indie Game (the main award) if it required the use of the PHB because then it is not a complete game itself.
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2003, 01:40:08 PM »

Great comments everyone.

A couple bits, working backwards:

Quote from: Valamir
Matt I think he's referring to the seperate "Recognition" award of "Best RPG Supplement" which is different from the main "best Indie RPG" award.


Yeah, but while I'm at it I'd say that I'll give d20 games, like say Deeds Not Words (sorry to keep dragging this one up, I'm not plugging it, I don't even actually own it yet, but it's a good example of someone putting the d20 license to "Indie Use"), a shot at the title.

With d20 "Fantasy Games", like game worlds and the like, I'd probably dismiss them mostly as "D&D Supplements". Becase most all of them require the PHB, while I'm assuming that other non-fantasy d20 engine games, only require that online document...er, thingy... at the d20 license site.

Quote from: Valamir
It's a supplement ALL supplements require owning another book.  The d20 license is a blanket permission to create this stuff, so I think any attempt to exclude this from being indie is really just an anti d20 twist rather than a legitimate definitional move.


Yeah, I was thinking so, too. I don't dislike d20 or anything, in fact that's why I put that mini-award for d20 stuff at my site, to recognize the best of those supplements that turn the d20 license on its ear to work for them. However, I know that I AM going for promoting games that aren't d20 here, and I'm hoping that I can stay level-headed enough to not be too discriminatory against those games.

Quote from: Valamir

2) However, there is already an award for best use of the d20 license.  This seems to me to already cover the d20 supplements.  I would definitely not BOTH allow the d20 supplements to count for "best Indie Supplement" AND "best use of d20 license".


Hmmm.  I'd disagree here. I imagine that, theoretically, there could very well be an Indie-produced game that, while it turns the d20 on its ear, can also be of great design, layout, thought, writing, etc and qualify for both awards.  Most likely this won't happen, but I want to keep the possibility open.

>>>>>
I would not allow a d20 game to qualify for Best Indie Game (the main award) if it required the use of the PHB because then it is not a complete game itself.
>>>>>

This is a good thought, too.

Off to do a little more thinking. Back in a bit.
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ThreeGee
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2003, 01:42:32 PM »

Hey Matt,

I have to strongly disagree with the idea that releasing a product under an open license makes it non-indie. The creator is still the creator, possessing all rights to the product. Shared distribution rights are a completely different topic.

If my games are not indie, whose are?

Later,
Grant
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2003, 01:56:28 PM »

Quote from: ThreeGee
I have to strongly disagree with the idea that releasing a product under an open license makes it non-indie. The creator is still the creator, possessing all rights to the product. Shared distribution rights are a completely different topic.


The way that I CAN see it, were I to favor ThreeGee's arguments, is this:

Person A is a talented writer and thinker who wants to produce her own RPG. She hammers out pages of setting, comes up with ideas in her head for how the rules should work, etc.

She can't draw for crap, and wants interior art.  So she must hire someone to help her with it. She finds some people that give her work for free, others that she pays to draw, and finally finds free public domain art which she uses.

After a while, she realizes that she can't design rules for crap, either. All of her attempts have failed or produced weird results that she can't quite live with.  So she comes to the conculsion that, if she wants to really produce this game, she'll need someone to write the rules for her.  So she sees what's out there:

She contacts designers of games that she likes. They like her and her idea and say that she can use their system, word for word, no royalties or strings attached.

Looking at other options, she contacts a professional designer to do a system for her. He gives her a money estimate for his "work of art". It will become her property once bought.

Looking at one last option, she sees that there are free systems on the web. To use one of them, though, she has to enter a sort of "social contract" with its designers: She has full control over the finished product, but to get that far she had to agree to write certain conditions of that contract.

In this above example, the third option represents, of course, the d20 license.  In the above, I hope to show that option 3 isn't too different than oprion 2, option 2 isn't too far from option 1, and that they all are not that different from the art example, above.

-Andy
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2003, 02:08:18 PM »

Andy,

From the Forge's definition, they are indie, I believe. (Ron'll have to back me on this, but I have a compelling reason.)

Look at Michael Hopcroft's HeartQuest, which is an indie game. It is based off Fudge, for which the license is more restrictive than d20, in that you have to have Steffan O'Sullivan's permission to release a commercial Fudge-based game.

If HeartQuest is indie, then games built off a license that restrictive - or less restrictive - should be as well.

You bring up a good point with d20 fantasy supplements. Honestly, I don't know, but as long as we don't define indie as having a certain quality (don't take that as backhanded as it sounds), then yep, they're indie.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2003, 02:10:37 PM »

Quote

Looking at one last option, she sees that there are free systems on the web. To use one of them, though, she has to enter a sort of "social contract" with its designers: She has full control over the finished product, but to get that far she had to agree to write certain conditions of that contract.


But she does not have full control of her finished product. The D20 license dictates very specific things over which publishers have no control. It requires at least 5% of open content in the product. It absolutely may not have character creation and/or "level up" rules explanations. She must specify what is -- what's the term? -- her intellectual property (there's a phrase for this that escapes me now).

The OGL has similar, thought less stringent, rules about one's product.

Again, I'm not trying to bash D20 guys, as I've already said. I am simply pointing out that the Forge's definition of "indie" is such that the creator has full control and makes all decisions, for the product. Creating a D20 product BY DEFINITION relinquishes certain decisions to the license. It is clearly not full control.

Now, this is not the end. I certianly defer to the judgment of those much better versed in the Forge's definition if "indie". It seems to me to be somewhat debatable on whether the provisions of D20 do in fact "infringe" upon the Forge's definition of creator control. I'm coming down on "d20 does not equal Indie." But I'm not doing so out of spite, nor out some dogmatic issue I cling to. Just that this issue struck me as a potential clash with the definition. I'm not fighting about it, and I'm happy to defer to those better able to decide.

Finally, as I stated before, this is about the Forge's definition -- not Andy's. that's Andy's business for his award.
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Matt Snyder
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DP
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« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2003, 02:34:36 PM »

The whole point of the OGL was that every product--full game, supplement, doesn't matter--would require the PHB to play.

The intellectual property (IP) could be reserved for the exclusive use of the creator in their products. The "open content" has generally been things like prestige classes and add-on rules that contribute to the overall D20 "engine."

By the same token, "D&D" and WotC's settings such as the Forgotten Realms are all their exclusive IP. So as far as supplements go:

1) Everyone is creating something that requires the PHB to play.
2) Ain't nobody making "a D&D module."

So as far as the creator-central aspects of an independent game are concerned, any D20 product qualifies. I think that may allow Andy to open the floodgate and start focusing on the other element of "independent:" did the glorious worker own the means of production of their game/supplement for the people, or was he/she acting as the bourgeoisie?
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Dave Panchyk
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2003, 03:02:47 PM »

Quote from: Dave Panchyk
I think that may allow Andy to open the floodgate and start focusing on the other element of "independent:" did the glorious worker own the means of production of their game/supplement for the people, or was he/she acting as the bourgeoisie?


Heh.  You saw the "Praxis" thing, eh? ;)

I guess that's where "spirit of the award" clause can be the final arbeiter of things like this.

I VERY MUCH appreciate everyone's comments here, especially the Mikes'. Everyone got me thinking more about what I want to do with these awards, and how to approach the d20 angle. I may even rethink how d20 games fit with the awards next year.

I think what I'm going to do is to count d20 games (fantasy, futuristic, etc) as "games" for the purpose of these awards.

As for d20 supplements? ... .... ... ... ... more thinking.
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ThreeGee
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2003, 03:11:35 PM »

Hey all,

Okay folks, if we are going to have a discussion over technicalities, we all need to be on the same page concerning what the terms mean. First, the Open Gaming License (OGL) != d20 System License (d20). They are frequently used together, but they are very different.

OGL is a license allowing for the distribution and re-use of specific content within an OGL publication. It has exactly zero to do with D&D, d20, or what I ate last night. It is related to similar open licenses, including the Open Content License (OPL) and the GNU General Public License (GPL).

d20, on the other hand, has everything to do with D&D. The d20 System Logo may be used only by abiding by the restrictions listed in the d20 System Guide, including a list of defined terms and mandatory use of rules outlined exclusively in the D&D Player's Handbook. A d20 product must include a minimum of 5% Open Gaming content.

Good. So, what does this mean? The author of open content retains all creative rights and may do as he wishes with his game. The author of d20 material is necessarily writing a supplement, having to abide by at least a few restrictions (including the process used for creating a character and "leveling"). However, I feel that designers who produce games for an open system like d20 or Fudge should be recognized for their efforts. Whether they fit Ron's definition of 'indie' is open to debate.

Later,
Grant
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2003, 08:37:04 PM »

Quote from: ThreeGee
Good. So, what does this mean? The author of open content retains all creative rights and may do as he wishes with his game. The author of d20 material is necessarily writing a supplement, having to abide by at least a few restrictions (including the process used for creating a character and "leveling"). However, I feel that designers who produce games for an open system like d20 or Fudge should be recognized for their efforts. Whether they fit Ron's definition of 'indie' is open to debate.


ThreeGee: Thanks for the clarification.

I think I've decided my stance towards d20 products.  My policy for this year, in brief, is:

"F*ck it. They're in." ;)

I realize that most of my angst was reserved towards allowing a storm of similar RPGNow-like to enter the awards. Basically, I have no problems with a million d20 games coming in.  The quality games, d20 or not, will surely rise to the top and get voted on.  My only concern was the fact that this also allows dozens of d20 game designers to vote... and that this would skew the vote towards d20 games.

I think we all have those stereotypes of d20 designers as a closed circuit, only being interested in other d20 games and shutting off all others.  Thus, the idea that these folks will ONLY vote for d20 games.Well, in other realms of experience I'm one who's quick to say "How can you make arguments based on guessing? Say 'screw it' and do it!"  So that's what I'm going to do here.  I'm going to put trust in these d20 applicants to do the appropriate research of the non d20 games so that they can make an informed decision.  This year we'll see how things go, and if there are problems, we'll fix them for next year.

So all d20 games, supplements, etc that get submitted are pretty much in. Most will, as ThreeGee said, be counted as supplements. Full games of other genres than fantasy will probably get counted as full games. Full games of a fantasy nature ("This is my fantasy world made flesh with the D&D d20 rules") will have to be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Thing is, in the end, I'm still a little nervous.  I put out some sorta-heavy PR today on various d20 sites, and got a small rush of d20 supplements and voters.  If it stays like this, though, there shouldn't be a problem. However, if more d20 publishers, like the whole of RPGNow, were to register then some categories will obviously get skewed.

So, I'll put it to everyone who can read this: Please, PLEASE PLEASE get the word out!  Tell anyone you think may have released a game in the past two years to sign up to vote!  That way, we'll have enough voters that it will... not "cancel out", but "supplement", any movement towards a d20-heavy voting group.

Plus, there's always the Buy Votes thing. :)
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2003, 12:52:19 AM »

I suppose I get kind of annoyed when a topic open and closes in a matter of a few hours. It's as if the opinions of those of us who don't hang around here all day don't matter. Well, I'm going to push that aside and give my opinion anyway; if you don't want to read it, I believe Alt-F4 will close the window on a PC.

I really wanted to agree with Matt.  The D20 designer is constrained to incorporate materials over which he has no rights, and to disclaim rights to at least some of his own creation. Yet as I thought about that, I realized that it's not so simple as that.

First, although a D20 designer must use some D20 material, it does appear that he gets to choose which D20 material he's going to use and how he's going to use it.  If the question is whether he can change "anything at all" in the game, well, there are things he can't change, but the bulk of the material is about things he can choose to include or exclude. You can argue that he can't tinker with the game engine; but then, if he's doing D20, he's obviously decided he likes the game engine. You can say that he can't provide a different way of creating characters, and this may be the one point that is fatal, the one thing over which he really has no control--yet if the supplement has nothing to do with creating characters (such as the aforementioned weapons book), should the fact that it can't have a different chargen system even be relevant?

Second, it's never, I think, been the case that a game ceased to be indie if it was made public domain. That is, if I wrote a game tonight and posted it on the web tomorrow, and said, "copyright M. Joseph Young. Gamers are free to use and modify this game in any way that suits their fancy, and may publish such alterations and applications in any medium, provided only that they credit the source and do not claim ownership of this material", does it somehow cease to be indie? I don't see it.

So I could argue that any D20 game or supplement that logically could or should have a different character generation system is not indie, because that's something that can't be altered. On the other hand, it could as easily be argued that the designer made a design decision to commit to the basics of D20, including character generation and the main engine, and could as easily have chosen not to do so, going for the OGL or a completely original design or a different licensed product instead.

As much as I'd like to say exclude D20 products as they really aren't independent, the argument doesn't seem to hold.

--M. J. Young
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