[Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

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[Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by BPIJonathan » Mon Dec 01, 2008 7:50 pm

In this thread you can ask any questions you might want about the new Crystal Spheres line of products. I will be certain to answer any of them to the best of my ability.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Big Mac » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:12 pm

OK here are a few questions to start you off:

1) Are you going to have game stats in these products or are they going to be systemless?

1a) If you are going to have game stats, then what RPG systems are you going to support? (i.e. 3rd edition D&D, d20 Modern, C&C, OSRIC, etc)

2) Are you going to be allowed to put up Web Enhancements that make each of your products compatible with other game systems (like Spelljammer or Space 1889) or is that not legal/possible/economicall viable?

3) Are these books going to be released under the OGL?

3a) If not, then are you going to have any sort of fan-licence, to allow websites (like Beyond the Moons) to publish supporting documentation (or some sort of conversion document)?
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by BPIJonathan » Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:17 pm

Big Mac wrote:1) Are you going to have game stats in these products or are they going to be systemless?
No, they are all going to be completely system-less. The idea is that the material can be dropped into ANY system and be used. I will be telling this to the finalist, but all they need to do is describe race X and give the benchmarks and the GM for system Y can go ahead and drop it into <system of choice>.
Big Mac wrote:1a) If you are going to have game stats, then what RPG systems are you going to support? (i.e. 3rd edition D&D, d20 Modern, C&C, OSRIC, etc)
Not needed. See answer above
Big Mac wrote:2) Are you going to be allowed to put up Web Enhancements that make each of your products compatible with other game systems (like Spelljammer or Space 1889) or is that not legal/possible/economically viable?
No, but web enhancements or other material can be released under licensed and OGL material (for example if we wanted to provide stats for a Spelljammer campaign we would just release the material under the OGL using OSRIC.
Big Mac wrote:3) Are these books going to be released under the OGL?
No, none of the books will contain rules documentation, so the standard Copyright laws will apply to the material in the books.
Big Mac wrote:3a) If not, then are you going to have any sort of fan-license, to allow websites (like Beyond the Moons) to publish supporting documentation (or some sort of conversion document)?
Its entirely possible, we will have more information on things like that when the first of the material is ready for publication.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by dulsi » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:22 pm

Will the crystal sphere encompassing the solar system be described in the products? Spelljammer people will obviously have them inside crystal spheres. Most sci-fi settings would probably use normal space.

Will products be aimed at fantasy or sci-fi setting and then include suggestions on adapting them to the other? Or do you intend to be non-specific enough about what is tech and what is magic so that you don't need adaptation notes?
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by BPIJonathan » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:26 pm

dulsi wrote:Will the crystal sphere encompassing the solar system be described in the products? Spelljammer people will obviously have them inside crystal spheres. Most sci-fi settings would probably use normal space.

Will products be aimed at fantasy or sci-fi setting and then include suggestions on adapting them to the other? Or do you intend to be non-specific enough about what is tech and what is magic so that you don't need adaptation notes?

The initial releases will have the information on how to use it with scifi or fantasy setting (the choice of the customer) others will be specific for one or the other. As for detailing the "crystal sphere" we may discuss it some in those usable with the fantasy settings, but primarily that would be something that the customer could attach to the system without issues. Now really depending on your game, even the scifi ones could be used with something like Spelljammer or Dragonstar.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Tauster » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:02 pm

Just out of interest: If I were to detail a Crystal Sphere using elements from WotC and other game companies (like monsters from the various Monstrous Manuals) - what would need to be done to get them published without these companies having copyright problems?

Legal stuff like that is probably covered in the OGL, GSL or some other legalese alphabet soup... but I'm really, really, really not proficient in these lawyer stuff, so I have absolutely no clue how to handle that.

A few examples:
Let's say I include the following elements in my sphere writeup:

Monsters:
- Mindflayers of Thoon from the Monstrous Manual 5 by WotC
- Neogi, Beholders, Scro from various WotC sourcebooks (both 2nd and 3rd edition)

Stuff from other game books:
- Bluffside, City on the Edge by Thunderhead Games*
- Savage Worlds: Sundered Skies by Pinnacle Entertainment

* the company was bought by Mystic Eye Games in July 2002. No clue whether MEG is still in business or not...

I'll do a (more or less complete) sphere writeup for my own campaign anyway and will definitely use these elements. Since this is purely for private use and I have all the books in my collection, I don't have to care for copyright stuff.

I have no idea how much effort polishing it up for publication would make since I never published anything game-related. ...heck, I don't even have a clue if anybody would publish such a thing at all! :lol: My idea for a published writeup would be to give a rough description of the thing (using a non-copyrighted name) and add a footnote saying something like "You can either add more details on your own or use product XYZ." Is such a thing possible?
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by BPIJonathan » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:07 pm

Tauster wrote:Just out of interest: If I were to detail a Crystal Sphere using elements from WotC and other game companies (like monsters from the various Monstrous Manuals) - what would need to be done to get them published without these companies having copyright problems?
The simple non lawyer answer is this, you cant use anything from another publisher without their permission. The WotC material that is not in the SRD can not be used without them giving permission and they are unlikely to do so. Additionally you can use material from other publishers as long as the material is open content, and you follow the rules concerning the use of the OGL and open content.

Also, IANAL and I dont claim to be one. This is not legal advice and should not be taken as such.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Tauster » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:17 pm

Wow, that was a fast answer! :o

I had expected something like that, and was already guessing that getting Mirrorspace* published like that is out of the question.

* Thats the sphere I'm talking about. You'll find a number of postings about it on the SJML, and a few references throughout some of the threads here.

Thanks anyway! I hope that I'll post this writeup (or parts of it, since it will be quite large) here more sooner than later. If(!) then you think it is good enough to be worth the "rewriting-trouble" to make it somehow legally publishable, just drop a line.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Jaid » Wed Dec 03, 2008 5:57 pm

in particular, scro, beholders, mind flayers, and neoghi are all the intellectual property of WotC, and are not open game content. you could, however, use orcs, phrenic scourges (a third party creature which is very similar to the mind flayers but open), and some other creatures that *are* open to replace them. in point of fact, there's nothing keeping you from creating a group of orcs that are lawful evil and believe in discipline, order, etc... you just can't call them scro, or use the name dukagsh, etc. likewise, you could create a creature that fills the role of beholders (it would probably be pushing it too far to make them a floating sphere with eyes that shoot rays, but you could just as easily make up some other flying creature that has several magical attacks, even using most or all of the same attacks as the beholders). finally, i don't see neoghi as being hard to replace. there is little about them that needs to be duplicated in terms of powers etc, so it wouldn't be too hard to do.

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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Ashtagon » Thu Dec 04, 2008 10:54 am

Would it be pushing the rules of parody to have a creature called an "inhaler", that has a variety of breath weapon attacks?
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Big Mac » Thu Dec 04, 2008 12:55 pm

BPIJonathan wrote:
Tauster wrote:Just out of interest: If I were to detail a Crystal Sphere using elements from WotC and other game companies (like monsters from the various Monstrous Manuals) - what would need to be done to get them published without these companies having copyright problems?
The simple non lawyer answer is this, you cant use anything from another publisher without their permission. The WotC material that is not in the SRD can not be used without them giving permission and they are unlikely to do so. Additionally you can use material from other publishers as long as the material is open content, and you follow the rules concerning the use of the OGL and open content.

Also, IANAL and I dont claim to be one. This is not legal advice and should not be taken as such.
On top of what Jonathan said, you also can not use anything from the SRD, unless you use the OGL (to authorise you to use the SRD).

However, there are a number of elements in D&D that are generic. Things like "elves" and "dwarves" are pretty much public domain, so they would be OK to use without the OGL. You wouldn't be able to use the variants owned by Wizards of the Coast, but if the names were very generic, you could probably get away with creating your own variant elf that had the same name. So if you created elemental elves that lived on the sun and called them "Sun Elves", they would probably be different enough from FR's Sun Elves to not be copyright infringement. But I am not so sure you could get away with creating an "Elven Imperial Navy", that used butterfly shaped ships to fly through space.

One thing to bear in mind, is that if you use the SRD (and therefore are forced to use the OGL) you are bound by additional restrictions. You must, for example, include a certain percentage of Open Game Content and must also respect Product Identity (PI). PI is not something that exists in normal copyright/intellectual property law, so using the OGL means that you need to think about that, as well as normal copyright issues.

The safest thing to do is avoid going to close to someone's work. As you specifically want to make something that ties in with commercial material (that you are not allowed to use) you are going to have a hard time doing anything commercial.

I would suggest you pull or replace anything that belongs to WotC - assuming you are talking about something commercial.

However, if you are making a free fan thing that is going up on a website like Beyond the Moons, the rules are different. The official sites have more freedom. WotC doesn't want to stop fans from making stuff that acknowledges their IP rights and doesn't profit from them.

But as Jonathan said: IANAL (I am not a lawyer) - TINLA (this is not legal advice). And as he forgot to say YMMV (your milage may vary).
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Big Mac » Thu Dec 04, 2008 1:09 pm

Jaid wrote:in particular, scro, beholders, mind flayers, and neoghi are all the intellectual property of WotC, and are not open game content. you could, however, use orcs, phrenic scourges (a third party creature which is very similar to the mind flayers but open), and some other creatures that *are* open to replace them. in point of fact, there's nothing keeping you from creating a group of orcs that are lawful evil and believe in discipline, order, etc... you just can't call them scro, or use the name dukagsh, etc. likewise, you could create a creature that fills the role of beholders (it would probably be pushing it too far to make them a floating sphere with eyes that shoot rays, but you could just as easily make up some other flying creature that has several magical attacks, even using most or all of the same attacks as the beholders). finally, i don't see neoghi as being hard to replace. there is little about them that needs to be duplicated in terms of powers etc, so it wouldn't be too hard to do.
Lets not forget that mind flayers are very similar to Cthulu creatures. The phrenic scourges probably just reinvented the same idea in a different way. But don't make the mistake of thinking a "phrenic scourge" is open. OGC is not the same as open content. Open content is free from copyright restrictions. OGC is locked down by copyright law, but automatically licenced under the OGL. If you don't want to use the OGL, you can't use the phrenic scourge.

I'm not sure of your exact motivation for trying to "clone" elements of SJ, but if you try to create a complete collection of SJ-like stuff, you make it much easier for WotC to slap an accusation of copyright infringement on you.

I personally think it is best to create a bunch of new iconic races and new iconic organisations, that could be declared as open (or OGC) to encourage other people to reuse them.

But this is a thread about Crystal Spheres, so it would be up to Jonathan to decide if Crystal Spheres wanted to create an open collection of space races and space organisations that could form a sort of core that could be reused commercially by other publishers. As far as I know, it isn't his intention to create any sort of Space SRD.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Tauster » Thu Dec 04, 2008 2:29 pm

Thanks all for the advice!

Thats more or less what I already guessed: rewriting the Mirrorspace-writeup in order to remake it into something publishable is too much work for me. It would have been nice, but I can live with it. Having it perhaps some day published on Beyond the Moons is enough, and nearly not as much work as rewriting the whole thing to get rid of anything that might step on other companie's toes.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Jaid » Thu Dec 04, 2008 6:08 pm

actually, phrenic scourges *are* open content (though of course, you have to use the OGL when publishing them). they were basically made as a creature that fills a role similar to mind flayers, without being mind flayers, specifically so there would be an OGL creature that was somewhat similar conceptually to a mind flayer (for the record, phrenic scourges are not much like mind flayers physically at all, just more in terms of role)

but that's beside the point =P

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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Big Mac » Sat Dec 06, 2008 1:32 am

Jaid wrote:actually, phrenic scourges *are* open content (though of course, you have to use the OGL when publishing them).
To put my pedantic hat on (because we were having a "discussion about the law", "Open Game Content" and "open content" are different things. They may look similar (to the user) but they both have totally different legal baggage, so it is important not to give any would-be authors advice that would encourage them to confuse the two types of reusable content.

Using Open Game Content forces you to comply with the terms of the OGL and provide a minimum quantity of OGC within a RPG product and provide an OGC/PI definition for the product. Jonathan might* not want to publish his Crystal Spheres products under a licence that forces him to create a quanity of OGC. Or he might not want to be forced to include an OGC/PI definition (that if written incorrectly) could allow some of his copyrighted material to automatically become OGC (in the eyes of people who hold that view). He might want his products to be based entirely on conventional open content (such as public domain ideas from history and folklaw) and new ideas, so that he can lock down the copyright and have full protection.

* = I say "might", because I'm talking hypothetically. I'm not Jonathan's legal spokesman, so he obviously has his own ideas and my "example" of what he might want, should not be taken as what he or his company actually wants to do. I only say this, to stress that if we make incorrect legal assumptions about what Jonathan wants to do, we can put him in a position, that isn't good for him.

I know I'm being pedantic, but this is a thread about Crystal Spheres and (unless Tauster was talking off-topic and accidentally derailing this thread) any OGC that was accidentally dropped into one of Jonathan's products could cause his company legal problems or delay his launch schedule (while he scans through the "polluted" product and removes/replaces all references to the OGC material).

For chatting on a forum, the difference between "open content" and "open game content" is not important (as fair use law allows small extracts) - for a commercial RPG publisher it is very important. Breaking the terms of the OGL (even accidentally) leaves a publisher open to legal action (including being forced to pulp the entire print run of a RPG product). People complain about TSR being heavy on fans sites, back in the day, but it is no more than WotC is legally entitled to do if you accidentally or deliberately break the OGL. (Worse still, if you publish a product with 20 section 15 sources, each one of those companies (theoretically) has the ability to take you to court if you break the licence.) :o

And even if Jonathan was happy to publish under the OGL, he would need to know the source of the "phrenic scourge", get hold of a copy. Check its Section 15 and copy everything from its section 15 into his own section 15. (AFAIK, he also has a responsibilty to check all the section 15s of all the products that are listed in that first section 15 and ensure that none of them have used uncredited OGC. One bad OGL, can "taint" any products that spin-off from that "invalid copy" of the OGL, as an invalid OGL causes anyone who reuses the wrong bit of material to be in breech of copyright law.)

So I'll repeat my earlier advice that "OGC" is not "open content" and advice any would-be-author, who can't yet tell the difference, to consult an IP lawyer who has experience in the OGL before attempting to use anyone else's OGC material. (Or at the very least raise the issue with any publisher they want to work with, so they can decide if you/they should consult a lawyer before publication.)

I think that Tauster did exactly the right thing here. He worked out that Mirrorspace would be in a legal grey area and thought about the amount of work it would take to rewrite it in a way that could be used commercially. I think that Mirrorspace could possibly still be done as a commercial product (for example as a Crystal Spheres product) as long as Tauster was happy to expunge any dodgy** content. Given that a commercial product is probably going to require an author to make several passes to clean up bad writing, tighten up sloppy ideas, add in ideas that fit in better with the core product line and tweak the size to fit in with Night Druid's "4x multiple of pages", it might not actually be too much more work than Tauster already need to do to make Mirrorspace "pretty enough" to be published. (You might even be able to do a lot of this sort of work with a simple "find and replace" tool built into a word-processor.)

** = And I would go with Jonathan's definition of "dodgy" if he was going to be my "boss" for the duration of the writting process.

EDIT: @ Jaid: I mean no disrespect to you here, as I know you are trying to be helpful (just like I am). I'm just worried about someone getting confused and making a legal mistake.

IANAL - TINLA - YMMV
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by BPIJonathan » Wed Dec 24, 2008 12:32 pm

Geesh Big Mac, you are certainly long winded. However I am not complaining. You basically did all my work for me, thank you very much.

Now, while I am waiting for the next round of submissions I will mention this about them. Primarily the idea was to have "generic" systems that could be used in any space based game. New races may end up in book for game X or y, but it will always refer that reader back to the core book. So, things have to avoid stats and have to avoid creatures that we dont have permission to use (either by way of written permission or via license). So do what you can within the scope of the law, but IANAL, nor do I play one on TV.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Big Mac » Tue Dec 30, 2008 7:38 pm

BPIJonathan wrote:Geesh Big Mac, you are certainly long winded.
Yep. ;)
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by BPIJonathan » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:53 am

And the winner is....


Dennis Payne with EonSpace.


I meant to post this the other day, but my day got away from me. I'm sorry.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Big Mac » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:48 am

BPIJonathan wrote:And the winner is....


Dennis Payne with EonSpace.
Congratulations Dennis. :D

Shouldn't that be "Eonspace" (with a small "s")? :P
BPIJonathan wrote:I meant to post this the other day, but my day got away from me. I'm sorry.
Days have a habbit of vanishing into the past sometimes.

So what happens next? Have you got some sort of timescale for when yourself and Dennis can get this all together? I'm assuming that as this competition was to find amateur talent the time taken to finish this would be a bit harder to work out, but I wonder if you have a rough "not before month X" estimate.
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by BPIJonathan » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:51 am

Big Mac wrote:Shouldn't that be "Eonspace" (with a small "s")? :P
Hey, who's running this dog and pony show? :D
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Big Mac » Tue Mar 17, 2009 3:12 am

BPIJonathan wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Shouldn't that be "Eonspace" (with a small "s")? :P
Hey, who's running this dog and pony show? :D
You're the man*. It is just that WordsWithCapitalLettersInTheMiddle always look a bit to modernistic to me. (It is a personal bugbear of mine.)

* = Not the man.

Anyhoo, I'll be interested in finding out more about this new Crystal Spheres product. :mrgreen:

(And now you have your competition out of the way, I suppose you can have a chat with Night Druid and see what you can get out of him. 8-) )
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by dulsi » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:25 pm

Big Mac wrote:So what happens next? Have you got some sort of timescale for when yourself and Dennis can get this all together? I'm assuming that as this competition was to find amateur talent the time taken to finish this would be a bit harder to work out, but I wonder if you have a rough "not before month X" estimate.
A sense of dread falls over me now that I have to make a 30,000 word document. :)
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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by BPIJonathan » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:27 pm

dulsi wrote:A sense of dread falls over me now that I have to make a 30,000 word document. :)
30,000 words is easy. :)
Jonathan M. Thompson
Battlefield Press International | thompsonjm (at) gmail (dot) com |"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere." - Carl Sagan

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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by Jaid » Wed Mar 18, 2009 5:36 am

yeah... once you get going, you'll probably be asking if you can write more =P

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Re: [Crystal Spheres] Offical Q&A thread

Post by dulsi » Wed Apr 01, 2009 3:34 pm

Is anyone going to post up non winning entries? I'm curious what my sphere was up against.
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