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group playtest agreements, and usage agreements

Started by poppocabba, May 03, 2001, 11:44:00 PM

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It strikes me that if this group is set up to  encourage game design, it would be practical if everyone got together to create usage/playtest agreements that anyone could download and use for their own games similiar to open source software.
it would also be a major incentive for people to come to the site,and something we could offer of value.
beside I amagine most people here have some order of experience w/ the issues.we could even put small disclaimers to cover the site in the event of changing legalities

Clinton R. Nixon

While I'm not ready to jump on this bandwagon, it's an interesting topic.

What value are "usage/playtest agreements" to independent RPG publishers? In my case, I don't have a real need, but I don't produce anything commerically (yet). If I did, I suppose I'd have some people playtest my game--do I need NDA's? What damage might I take from not having such an agreement?

Besides my security work, I actually signed my first NDA a month ago for playtesting Green Ronin's new game "Spaceship Zero." It seemed like a good idea, to tell the truth--there is market value to some secrecy regarding a game until its release.

Would/has anyone here used such an agreement, and what were your experiences?
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


I thin there is tremendous value in having these things planned out.
1-it determines usage of your material in terms of possible alteration
2-it clears up what the user can do with the material, for example how they can redistribute the project.
3-if a project does end up going commercial gangbusters, playtesters might come back,and want money for ideas contributed.
I admit that it is unlikely there would be any need for such things in your average game, it wouldn't detract from anything to have things clearly defined from the beginning

Ron Edwards

This is one of those "real value" vs. "perceived value" situations.

I'm skeptical as to whether NDA's have any real value at all. For one thing, I think "theft" in RPG design culture largely exists as an ego-boosting fantasy ... I've heard several horror stories, but somehow I remain skeptical. I should also point out that there has NEVER existed any kind of lawsuit or dispute regarding an RPG's SYSTEM. The original Hero system used a very similar method to The Fantasy Trip. Underworld uses the exact same system as Prince Valiant, published ten years before. No one seems to mind; it doesn't seem to have any market effect one way or the other.

Anyway, most people who've tried it think Sorcerer's system is pretty good and innovative. It was available left, right, center, and thievable as a pie on a windowsill, for YEARS. No one stole it. No one stole it.

Setting content is a little different, but then again, the ENTIRE Gygax-TSR thing was a little "different," wasn't it? Gygax/etc aside, it also seems to me that RPGs' design routinely cobbles setting elements from pre-existing games too, as such elements exist in a grey area between intellectual property and "shared pop culture content." (I'm not talking about the Cthulhu stuff in Deities & Demigods, either; I'm talking about FROM game TO game.)

On the other hand, people LIKE to feel "official" and even "classified." I am currently under terms of an NDA with an RPG publisher, which means I get to bat ideas around with similar individuals on a password-protected forum, and read and write materials in development. Pretty cool, huh? Necessary or not, it's still fun.

There's a real need among RPG publishers to feel like REAL publisher-dudes and not just hobbyists with a fetish for production value. There's a similar need for gamers to feel like they have "one foot in the industry" and aren't just, you know, consumer-schmoes like they used to be a month ago. NDAs are a fine way to fulfil these needs, and there seems to be no harm done.

That's my call, anyway.




I see your point, but business is business.  The use of NDA's establishes prime facie.  Even though I see your point regarding the general lac of theft within the gaming industry, protection is never bad.

Hell, I've signed so many of these things I don't even bother reading them anymore.  While using an NDA-esque form seems slightly ludicrous on a public forum, I would support a blanket statement from Clinton in the "rules" area for the forum that states that traits/info about games not personally owned, and pre-release, should be considered inside-information, and is not reproducable to other public forums without the creator's consent.  (Standard copyright establishment)

Have it be one of those "user agreements" when you sign in to the forum for the first time.  No one ould really complain at it, and I think it's something that does have some merit.

Those are my $.0188 (adjusted for inflation).