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Open gaming is the movement within the amateur and professional role-playing game industry that is somewhat analogous to open source movement. The open gaming movement refers to those individuals, amateur gaming groups and gaming publishing companies who publish their content (rules, sourcebooks, etc.) under a copyleft, open content or free content license imparting the freedom to modify, copy, and redistribute some or all of the content. It is more commonly used to refer to those who published works derived or modified from the System Reference Document under the Open Gaming License using the d20 System trademark as licensed under the d20 license.
Open gaming can also be used to refer to a type of role-playing game event where players free to join at any time. This article deals primarily with the more common, former definition.
A number of mostly small game developers have since hopped on board the open gaming initiative mostly through the d20 System. Open gaming has been most successful with amateur-designed RPG and RPG supplements. Several licenses have been used to facilitate open gaming. Despite this, the concept has yet to make a significant impact on games outside of pen-and-paper RPGs and still most major RPG developers continue to use their own, non-open systems.
Open Gaming Licenses
There are no set of rules to define exactly what is and isn't an open gaming license and, unlike the open source movement, any license that permits re-use of content can be considered to belong.
The following licenses that have been used as open gaming licenses:
- Open Gaming License
- GNU Free Documentation License
- GNU General Public License
- Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
- Open Content License
- Open Publication License
- EABA Open Supplement License .
Open Supplement Licenses
An interesting development in the open gaming movement has been the arrival of "open supplements licenses": that is, licenses where the original source rulebooks are covered by normal copyright, but a license permits the publication of supplementary material, such as adventures and new rules.
The most famous example of an open supplement licensed work was the Dominion roleplaying system. The rules themselves, but not the sourcebooks published by Dominion Games, are published under the Dominion Rules Licence . Other examples of open supplement licenses include the EABA Open Supplement License .
The following games are considered to be open games:
- d20 System
- The Swedish role-playing company Rävsvans have introduced the T10 system that is licensed according to an open license.
For many, this history of open gaming begins with the publication of the System Reference Document and the simultaneous release of the Open Gaming License. However, various role-playing games have been licensed under other open and free content licenses before this and if we are considering the definition of the open gaming movement in its wider sense, we should include these games as well.
First published in 1995, the FUDGE role-playing game is probably one of the first systems to be published under an open content license. The legal notice accompanying the FUDGE rules permits redistribution and modification for non-commercial works. Other systems were published under various different terms which could all be considered "open", including the Dominion Rules fantasy role-playing system, whose license permitted supplementary material to be written for its rules, and the Circe role-playing system, published by the WorldForge project under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Open Gaming License
The open gaming movement didn't really gain widespread popularity within the amateur and professional role-playing game industries until 2000 when Wizards of the Coast (WotC) re-published the 3rd Edition of their popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing system as the System Reference Document under the Open Gaming License. This move was driven by Ryan Dancey , Brand Manager for WotC, whom drafted the Open Gaming License and first coined the term "open gaming" with respect to role-playing games.
Open Gaming Foundation
The Open Gaming Foundation (OGF) was founded by Dancey as an independent forum for discussion of open gaming and a touch stone for the fledgling open gaming movement. The OGF consisted of a web site and a series of mailing lists, including the OGF-L (for general discussion of open gaming licensing issues) and the OGF-d20-L (for discussion of d20-specific issues) lists, both of which were instrumental in the development of the open gaming community.
Critics often complained that the OGF focused mainly on the OGL and was simply a thinly disguised mouth piece for WotC publicity. Dancey was an employee of WotC and discussion on the mailing lists tended to focus on d20 and the OGL rather than open gaming in general.
However, the concept of the OGF, unlike the Free Software Foundation upon which it was undoubtedly based, never really took off and updates to the web site have ceased. The OGF mailing lists continue to be active, particularly the OGF-d20-L which is a haven for various d20 publishers.
Despite its overall popularity, the OGL came into a backlash after its initial flurry and was heavily criticised in some quarters for not being as open as it could be and for being controlled by the market leader Wizards of the Coast (see d20 System for more information). In response to this various more open and free alternatives were suggested and drafted. Similarly, the popularity of the OGL also inspired others to create their own, specific open content licenses. Virtually none of these gained acceptance beyond the works of the licenses' own authors, and many have been abandoned even by their authors.
October Open Gaming License
One of the many licenses written in response to the OGL was the October Open Game License, a copyleft license published by Brandon Blackmoor of the RPG Library. Like most such licenses, the OOGL was published in order to rectify the perceived problems with the OGL. The OGF considered the OOGL to be compatible with its own OGL, but the reverse was not true.
The text of the October Open Game License was very similar to the GNU Free Documentation License. On May 5, 2002, Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, requested that the RPG Library cease publication of the OOGL believing that it was an unauthorized modification of the GFDL. Mr. Stallman of the Free Software Foundation, copyright holders of the GNU Free Documentation License. The RPG Library disagreed and refused the take down the license, responding that the October Open Game License was only modelled after the GFDL and contained significant differences (such as the handling of trademarks). The RPG Library offered Mr. Stallman the opportunity to suggest revisions to the OOGL, in order to prevent any confusion between it and the GNU FDL. Stallman did not reply, and the RPG Library continued to publish the OOGL despite the concerns with its legitimacy.
The OOGL was used by at least two games: Jazz, an unfinished game system designed by one of the authors of the OOGL, and Four Colors Al Fresco, by Woodelf. The authors of the OOGL ceased using it for their own work in late 2002, in favor of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. RPG Library support for The October Open Game License ceased on 2003 June 13, also in favor of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. The OOGL is no longer published by the RPG Library but, since it is non-revocable, the games continue to be licensed under the OOGL.
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