On Open Cloning

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michaeltlombardi
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On Open Cloning

Post Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:14 pm

\o Hey, folks!

I'm following up here based on a brief conversation on Twitter between myself and Chris Gonnerman wherein I was looking for information / guide posts for creating an open clone of a product and Chris very kindly offered to share his knowledge on the condition we do it here so it's publicly available for other folks.

So!

The TLDR on my end is that there's a game I want to hack, use as the base for some of my own work, and otherwise mod. All well and good except it's a wargame with no license for use, only copyright. So my thought is to do an open clone of the system, stripping out all the author's wonderful insights, writing style, art, etc to reassemble the engine - recognizable, but not infringing (as best I can).

I don't know how this has been done in the past and haven't seen good resources for it despite some googling, so I figure going to the source of an open clone is a good step! Here are some initial questions I have (and I'm surely missing a lot here due to the unknown-unknowns problem):
  1. What were your largest concerns when starting an open clone and how did you address them?
  2. Did you have any design or writing guide posts you followed during the process?
  3. Is it enough to change all of the language and leave the mechanics intact or does there need to be enough differentiation there, too?
Seriously, thank you for taking the time for this - and for requesting it be in a public space!
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Solomoriah
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Re: On Open Cloning

Post Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:03 pm

First of all, I Am Not A Lawyer.

With that said... in the US, the mechanics of a game cannot be copyrighted. Only the "artistic presentation" can be. Like most OSR games, Basic Fantasy RPG makes use of WoTC's Open Gaming License so that we can use not only mechanics but some of the artistic presentation. However, I have heard that some "compatible" game materials don't use the OGL, but depend on rewriting ALL of the "artistic presentation" bits.

One of the things to watch out for is tables. If the contents of a table in the game can be generated by some algorithm (i.e. they are properly mathematical), you can likely get away with copying; if the contents are arbitrary, they may count as "artistic" and thus you'd have to change them more broadly.

Not knowing more exactly what kind of game you are cloning makes it hard to be more specific.
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michaeltlombardi
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Re: On Open Cloning

Post Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:19 pm

That's fair! I'm specifically looking at Dragon Rampant, a fairly generic wargame with rules for fantastical units.

The advice regarding tables is good and actionable, thank you!

I'm currently veering away from trying to re-represent the scenarios, advice, sample army lists, etc and focus on making an open license version of the underlying engine (probably released under CC-BY or CC0 to be as permissive as possible).

There's a huge amount of value in the book itself that I don't want to replicate - I just want to have the basic engine (to some degree of fidelity, not perfect) cloned and available for folks to hack and mod and otherwise build onto and remix.
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Solomoriah
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Re: On Open Cloning

Post Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:39 pm

Interesting. This a current game, then? If you are a fan, aren't you concerned about undercutting the vendor?
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michaeltlombardi
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Re: On Open Cloning

Post Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:57 pm

It is and I am - the engine underneath has been re-used across several of their products (and iterated on since then) since 2014 - each of which is a more specific implementation of the underlying engine with concessions made to a particular time period (medieval armies vs 17th century, for example) - but the books are chock full of stuff besides the underlying engine (lots of advice for running the games, scenarios, etc) and I'm not interested in carrying over any of that work or making a perfectly exact copy - Daniel Mersey's work is definitely worth buying (and I've purchased both PDF and hard copy).

I'm not sure really how much (if at all?) this will actually undercut the vendor as the game was published four years ago, but I'm not looking to make any money off the clone, just have something I can point to for derivative content without crunching my fingers in as much of a vice.
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Solomoriah
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Re: On Open Cloning

Post Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:27 pm

I see, and I understand now why you want to do this. Have you any other questions?
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michaeltlombardi
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Re: On Open Cloning

Post Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:31 pm

I don't think so, unless you have any more thoughts or pointers on an cloning not mentioned up thread!

Seriously, thanks for your time and the space to ask the questions!
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