Saturday, May 24, 2008

REVIEW: Monsters of Myth


Monsters of Myth is an important book. Besides being packed with 128 pages of new monsters for use with, as it says on its back cover, "First Edition-compatible games," it is in many ways emblematic of the possibilities and pitfalls that lay before the old school gaming community in general and the retro-clone movement in particular. Produced under the auspices of the First Edition Society, Monsters of Myth is an anthology edited by Stuart Marshall and Matt Finch. Those names are significant, as they are the two principals behind the creation of OSRIC, a restatement of the underlying rules of a certain old school fantasy game from the 1970s and 80s. The involvement of Marshall and Finch thus makes Monsters of Myth as close to an "official" OSRIC product as any currently available and thus gives some insight into exactly how they intended OSRIC to be used.

But let's first look at the book itself. The copy I purchased is the hardcover edition, which cost $27.50. A softcover edition is also available for $14.99. I am quite pleased with the quality of the book's binding and printing; it is sturdy and should hold up to regular use, much like the AD&D books I purchased nearly 30 years ago and that were almost certainly models for the design of Monsters of Myth. There is a very brief foreword by Matt Finch, which explains the history of the project and thanks those who had a hand in its development. Following this is a brief overview of the format used for the monster entries of the book itself. Anyone already familiar with the format from D&D's Monster Manual will have no trouble understanding the format used here, even though it is not identical. My main gripe is that the overview is often unduly terse or else refers the reader to the OSRIC rules or some "other compatible ruleset." It's a small gripe but one that has wider implications that I shall discuss in due course.

The meat of the book is a series of alphabetical entries of monsters, from the antlerins, a race of stag-headed evil fey to the extraplanar undead beings known as the zuul-koar. Besides the game statistics you would expect, each entry also includes a description, typically 2-4 paragraphs, although some entries, particularly of new humanoid species are twice that length or more. Though short, I can honestly say that most of the entries are nonetheless evocative, exemplifying the "less is more" approach that characterizes the best of old school products. Likewise, the sheer variety of creatures on offer in Monsters of Myth is equally impressive and equally representative of old school sensibilities.

This is a truly catholic work, presenting creatures from many possible environments and climes, as well as from a wide number of "ecological" niches. By this I mean that the authors were not fixated on undead or demons or any of the usual hang-ups you expect to see in third party monster books. Instead, we are treated to the whole panoply of monstrous adversaries, from giant animals to nuisances and vermin to clever re-imaginings of mythical creatures to, yes, new examples of undead and demonic beings. I could not help but be favorably reminded of Gary Gygax's Monster Manual II, a particular favorite of mine and, in my opinion, the last Dungeons & Dragons book to have remained almost wholly in line with the game's origins.

Many -- though not all -- of the monster descriptions include black and white illustrations as well. These illustrations vary in quality from the excellent to the amateurish. Those by Peter Mullen and Matt Steward stand out at the excellent end of the spectrum and have done much to push me to re-evaluate my oft-criticized stance toward old school art. My feeling remains that too much "neo-old school" art is effectively a parody rather than an homage to the originals. That's because the original artists, such as Dave Trampier and David Sutherland, never set out to draw "old school art;" they simply drew in their own styles. That's not to say that there isn't such a thing as old school art, but I think the reason why, for example, Peter Mullen's work in Monsters of Myth (such as the shadowcat on page 26, which struck me as a tip of the coif to Wormy) appealed to me is because it was, first and foremost, Mullen's own work rather than a deliberate imitation or aping of another artist's style. One of the things that really distinguishes genuinely old school products is the lack of a "house style." Instead, you get a jumble of different styles that simultaneously complement one another even as they also jar. For me, it's that quality that's most absent from modern RPGs and most self-proclaimed old school products. Monsters of Myth doesn't quite produce the same effect in me, but it comes close -- and I am grateful for it.

Eleven pages near the back of the book are given over to Steve Marsh, a one-time collaborator with Gary Gygax and perhaps best known for his work on 1981 D&D Expert Rules. This section presents many new monsters derived from Mr Marsh's own campaign. They're by and large an eccentric collection of creatures, many of which owe their strange character to an otherworldly "chaos" that plays an important -- and Lovecraftian -- role in that campaign. Also included is a random table for determining which "chaos taints" a creature possesses. This calls to mind similar mechanics in RuneQuest, which is not a bad thing. I've long been a proponent of injecting more Lovecraft into D&D as an antidote to the high fantasy that's infected the game since the release of Dragonlance.

Simply taken as a book of monsters for old school fantasy games, Monsters of Myth is superb, by far and away one of the best I have ever read; it really is that good. The book both exemplifies what "old school" means and serves as a model for how to carry on that lost tradition in the 21st century. Reading through the book, I not only found many of the creature descriptions sparked ideas in my head for adventures and situations, but I was also occasionally transported back to 1979, when I first held the original Monster Manual in my hands and attempted to make sense of the smörgåsbord before me. The authors of Monsters of Myth should be proud of what they have accomplished here and thanked profusely for having given us a solid example of just what the old school community is capable of.

That said, there are a couple of some notes I must mention. Firstly, though released under the Open Game License, Monsters of Myth has adopted a "crippleware" approach to Open Game Content. Thus, "the statistics of all monsters are open game content. The names and descriptions of all monsters are Product Identity." What this means is that, if I were to publish an old school adventure that included the wonderfully villainous jackal-headed Kheph, I could freely use their game stats, but I could not call them Kheph nor could include the description of them from Monsters of Myth at the end of my adventure. Certainly, I could make up my own name and description for them, but, at that point, I might as well make up my own creature.

One of the many virtues of old school gaming is the relative ease with which you can create new game mechanics or statistics. Given that, the real value of books like Monsters of Myth isn't primarily in their game mechanics (though they are valuable) but in their creative descriptions. By closing them off as Product Identity, the First Edition Society has given us a terrific book brimming with great ideas and then encased it in Plexiglas so that no one else might benefit from them. I find this deeply disappointing. A book of this quality ought to have served as an inspiration to others interested in the old school revival. Had the book's contents been fully, or at least more fully, open, other publishers might borrow elements from it in their own products, which would not only have pointed people back to Monsters of Myth itself, but also would have helped spark the organic evolution of old school fantasy games and concepts.

This leads me to two other concerns I have, neither of which negatively impact Monsters of Myth directly, but which do, I fear, make it less successful a volume than it could have been. Firstly, OSRIC remains solely a publishers tool. It is not a commercially available game in its own right. I cannot go into a game store and buy OSRIC. Granted, that's because OSRIC is primarily a restatement of an out-of-print rules system rather than a game in its own right. Unfortunately, this means that retailers will never carry Monsters of Myth and very few gamers, even old school ones, will ever see the book. And many who do will be unclear for what system the book was written.

It's a pity, because, as I hope I've made clear, this is a really good book. This brings me to my third and final concern and it's probably the least of them. The back cover promises "more new releases by the First Edition Society in 2007!" Unless I missed them, Monsters of Myth is the sole release by the First Edition Society and here we are nearly halfway through 2008. Now, I understand well that producing new RPG books can be difficult and time-consuming. Delays are common. Likewise, I also know that old school gaming rightly eschews the supplement treadmill that characterizes modern RPGs. I'm not expecting -- or desiring -- there to be an ever-flowing stream of new books from the First Edition Society. Still, one gets the impression from the back cover text that there were supposed to be more and yet they never materialized. Why?

Perhaps it's an impertinent question. Perhaps it's even an unimportant question. After all, Monsters of Myth can clearly stand on its own considerable merits. I can't shake the feeling, though, that this book is, to use a metaphor, fighting with one hand tied behind its back. It's a metaphor that seems to describe a lot of the old school gaming community. There's no lack of passion, good ideas, and talent. We have all of those things in spades. And it's true that things are better now than they have been in many a year. I keep saying that I feel a change in the air and I still do. There's an old school revival waiting to be born. Products like Monsters of Myth should help get that revival off the ground. They still could, if they could overcome a few difficulties that, in my opinion, stand in the way of reclaiming the patrimony left to us by Gygax and Arneson.

Final Score: 4½ out of 5 polearms

38 comments:

  1. Nice review, James. There was a bit of fuss over on Dragonsfoot as to what could and could not be used from 'Monsters of Myth' a few months back. If you haven't already read it, you might be interested to check it out:
    http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=48&t=27647

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  2. Looking at that thread, and then at the "OSRIC™ Open License", I'm just rolling my eyes.

    Did they ever notice they used the term "OSRIC™ publishers" without ever defining the term?

    Or that they granted the permissions to use OSRIC™ Open Content on a per-publisher basis, not on a per-work basis?

    Or, that use "as if it were Open Game Content" includes the requirement, under Section 8 of the OGL, that downstream "OSRIC™ publishers" designate the "OSRIC™ Open Content" as Open Game Content?

    And that the result of that is that they might as well have designated it as Open Game Content to begin with?

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  3. Thanks for the link to the thread at Dragonsfoot. To my mind, it raises a few more questions than it answers, but it's useful nonetheless.

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  4. Okay, assuming I ignore the utter amateur construction of the so-called "OSRIC™ Open License", there's still the fact that construed as it is seemingly intended it doesn't do diddly to stop a 3.5 publisher from lifting all the names and descriptions and using with 3.5 stats, because it has no rules requiring provision of compatible statistics.

    1) I take the Open Content, and translate it into 3.5 terms.

    2) I take all the "OSRIC™ Open Content" and publish it in my work around the open content 3.5 stat blocks.

    3) I put the OSRIC™ advertisement text on my cover page, as required.

    4) I sell it to anybody wanting to play 3.5 by blurbing it as "For Revised Third Edition Fantasy".

    Ta-da.

    But, man, that OSRIC™ Open License (I think I've got the link right this time)? Publishers shouldn't touch that with and old-school ten-foot pole.

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  5. Something I failed to mention in my review is that the OGL included at the back of Monsters of Myth is filled out incorrectly, since it doesn't included the book itself in Section 15. Of course, the book includes a copyright notice after each entry in the name of its author, so I'm honestly confused as to how one would use what OGC there is in Monsters of Myth anyway.

    It's not a huge flaw if all you're interested in is a book of excellent old school monsters. However, if you're a publisher it's all very confusing, which is why I was disappointed on this score. Monsters of Myth could have been a book that simultaneously helped the old school movement and dispelled some myths about OSRIC itself, but I fear it did neither, which is a terrible shame, since it's a very fine volume and deserves much acclaim for its content.

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  6. That the license is crippled and/or muddled is extremely disappointing. The OGL was supposed to make that part easy.

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  7. That the license is crippled and/or muddled is extremely disappointing. The OGL was supposed to make that part easy.

    Agreed on both counts. I'm digging into this further, but the sense I am getting is that the OGC in MoM was done this way in order to push would-be old school publishers toward using the OSRIC open license. If this is the case, I think that's unfortunate for several reasons, not least of which that MoM itself does not make this clear in any way. The result is that, as a resource for old school publishing, MoM, much like OSRIC itself, comes across very "inside baseball;" you already have to be deeply immersed in this stuff to understand how it all fits together. To my mind, that serves no one's interests, least of all the old school revival.

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  8. They may have meant to do an include-by-reference approach a la the original Tome of Horrors, and then screwed up the follow-through.

    But who knows? Insofar as OSRIC™ is intended as a tool for publishers, it's fatally crippled by its license. That Ronin Arts has published OSRIC product makes me really wonder about Phil Reed's competence to run a company.

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  9. That Ronin Arts has published OSRIC product makes me really wonder about Phil Reed's competence to run a company.

    Why would you say that? I'll grant that the OSRIC open license is less than ideal on numerous levels, but I think the only thing it says about individuals who choose to use it is that they're willing to jump through some extra -- IMO unnecessary -- hoops to support old school gaming.

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  10. OSRIC has been unchallenged by WOTC for, well, years now... In fact, there was a favorable blurb about an XRP adventure in Dragon (or was it Dungeon) Magazine of all places. XRP has 4 published modules (each excellent by the way), 0One Games - 4, Ronin Arts - 2 (I'm not worried about his competence!), Wyrms & Warlocks 1, and Usherwood Adventures 1. The First Edition Society published a monster book equalling the quality of MM II. Not a single legal challenges has surfaced.

    So, what do the OSRIC creators get? Criticism from the old-school community. I will never understand this. I have a lot of respect for what those guys did -- lay the legal groundwork for publishing adventures in the style w/ most of the game mechanics we all still love.

    OSRIC is the biggest opportunity for 1e in the last 20 years.

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  11. I have a lot of respect for what those guys did

    I do as well, which is why I regret the fact that the content of Monsters of Myth is not as open as, say, that of Tome of Horrors II, another monster book with an old school vibe, despite its having been written for 3e. Speaking only for myself, I think the necessity of a second license hampers the utility of MoM to old school publishers and that's a shame. The material here is so good that I'd like to see it disseminated much more widely within the old school publishing arena than it likely will be.

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  12. Just my half cent:
    It is very, very disappointing that the RPG publishers cannot get to make the step to the real and tested - before jurisdiction - open licenses like "CC" or "GNU Free Documentation License".

    In every - excuse me - fucking book you have to dig deep into not clearly written OGL text to find out what is free to use and what not. And even that is then to discuss - speak not really clear -.

    I am waiting, really waiting for the day when a publisher makes his books under a real open and free license.

    I would start just in this minute to develop and write a RPG under such a free license(a RPG like the first RPGs written) if I would have a friend or partner who is able to write good fantasy texts in English.

    It bugs me - no it drives me CRAZY - that publishers take free sources and then like in this example MoM make a closed up product from this free sources.
    IF THEY HAVE THE RIGHTS TO USE THESE SOURCES - SPEAK OSRIC - THEN I SHOULD ALSO HAVE THE RIGHTS TO USE THEIR TEXTS.

    AAAaarrrRRRRRGGHHHHHH

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  13. I recently purchased Monsters of Myth, too, and found it to be an excellent product. I've been buying OSRIC adventures since they first started appearing, but I'd passed on another monster book, because I have a bunch of those, and I like to come up with my own stuff, too. I finally ordered MoM in paperback, based on good word-of-mouth. (Now that I've had a chance to read it, I wish I'd have ordered the hardback, instead; nothing is wrong with the paperback, but the book is worthy of a hardcover.)

    As James mentioned, I like the varied art, and I like the black-and-white art (that has nothing to do with old school/new school -- I just like black and white or monochrome art, for some reason, and I like the pen-n-ink look).

    You can flip through this book and immediately find inspiration and monsters that make you go "hey, I want to use that..." That's about as good as it gets, for monster books.

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  14. How do you actually use OSRIC™ Open Game Content?

    Seriously. "[A]s if it were Open Game Content" is what it says. Well, Open Game Content may only be used under the terms of the Open Game License. One of the strictures of the Open Game License is that "No terms may be added to or subtracted from this License except as described by the License itself. No other terms or conditions may be applied to any Open Game Content distributed using this License."

    So, in order to use the content "as if it were Open Game Content", you must use it under the terms of the OGL, no more and no less. No other terms or conditions may apply (such as the text-on-cover-page clause of the OSRIC™ Open License); otherwise you aren't using it as if it were Open Game Content. That directly contradicts the terms and conditions that the OSRIC™ Open Game License adds to the use. How do these reconcile?

    Well, the "license" (yes, those are scare quotes) says that "any term that violates the Open Game License is to be construed as closely as possible to the original intent within the terms of the Open Game License." That's nice. Is it closer to the intent of the OSRIC™ Open Game License that the contradiction means you can use OSRIC™ Open Content under the exact same terms as Open Game Content, or that you can't use OSRIC™ Open Content at all because you can't oblige people to meet the terms of the OSRIC™ Open License? Or is the OGL implicitly amended by the OOL in the case of OSRIC™ Open Content to include the terms of the OSRIC™ Open License?

    More importantly, will a judge agree with that answer when you're sued by the widow of the author of the content you used?

    What's worse, why do you think you have any right to use OSRIC™ Open Content at all? Only an "OSRIC™ publisher" does. Who is an "OSRIC™ publisher"? The license doesn't say.

    The standard plain English meaning would be the people authorized to publish OSRIC itself -- that is Knights & Knaves, and no one else. In which case, nobody else can use any OSRIC™ Open Content. Except that it refers to "other" OSRIC™ publishers. Does that mean it applies to anyone publishing stuff compatible with OSRIC™? Or anyone using the OSRIC™ Open License? Or some other group?

    And again, will a judge agree with that answer?

    If you use OSRIC™ Open Content, you are gambling real cash money, basically, that no one will ever file a lawsuit. Because the OSRIC™ Open License is so badly worded – lays such a poor legal goundwork – that it offers no protection from one.

    I'm not a lawyer, I'm not an IP expert, I'm not anybody who can give legal advice. But I wouldn't publish anything under this "license", because I have no idea how a federal magistrate in Randomtown, USA (the closest federal circuit to J. Random Heir) is going to construe these ambiguities. And I think anybody who does publish under it is a fool.

    Now, it might be that Phil Reed had a lawyer vet the thing, and the lawyer told him it actually wasn't a problem. Like I said, I'm not a lawyer. But my lay opinion is that the OSRIC™ Open license is as airtight as a fishing net.

    (And note that none of my objections are in any way related to any possible Wizards of the Coast claims. They are entirely internal to the license, not OSRIC the system. I am assuming that OSRIC itself is absolutely, 100% legal, free and clear.)

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  15. This sort of question is best put to Stuart by people who desire to publish OSRIC compatable material. He is very approachable and wants more quality OSRIC compatable material to be made available. If you still have questions or doubts after that, then it will be necessary to either consult a lawyer or take a risk (and all business involves risk, both legal and fiscal, as I am sure you are aware).

    Bottom line is that you aren't going to find answers to these questions here.

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  16. Bottom line is that you aren't going to find answers to these questions here.

    Correct. I don't mind questions about OSRIC or any other game being discussed here, since I did raise some questions of my own in the review. However, I'd much rather that we discussed the book itself, which I say again is a very, very fine piece of work and in the best tradition of Gygaxian fantasy.

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  17. I think the whole License nerdity is idiotic. Honestly, if the OSRIC fellows would RILLY be interested in a vibrant community, they´d say: "Go ahead and use it, please give credit to us."

    But it seems that the lower the stakes get, the more convuluted peoples minds get and the pissier the fighting.

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  18. Setting license strangeness aside -- Monsters of Myth is one of the few monster books which actually proved useful. Most of the time, what we get is a boring list of new demons, new humanoids that are really just purple orcs, and the obligatory new dragons. Monsters of Myth had something those books don't usually have - imaginative, interesting concepts. I particularly like the various mollusks and crawling horrors of Matt Finch (who again proves that he has a good eye for weird fantasy, in addition to being an excellent illustrator) and the works of Mark Ahmed.

    Not everything in the book is gold, but there is enough of it to make it worth the money. Writing monster books is hard work - even Gary only got it right once (MMII., for instance, is pretty uninspired) - so the good reviews are well deserved.

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  19. > Honestly, if the OSRIC fellows
    > would RILLY be interested in a
    > vibrant community, they´d say: "Go > ahead and use it, please give
    > credit to us."

    THIS ^^^

    A BSD like license to do what the fuck you want with your texts.
    Not everyone is interested in "WOLRD-DOMINATION" (TM)(C) (PATENTED).

    Look at it this way,

    Here you can read 5 reasons why OD&D is not embraced :
    http://shamsgrog.blogspot.com/2008/05/why-od-part-3.html
    1. Lack of Availability
    2. Lack of Support
    3. Difficulty of Play
    4. Time Investment Demands
    5. Amateurish Publication

    Every one of them can be fulfilled if the "new" texts on "old-school" gaming were released under a free license.
    1. Lack of Availability
    If the texts were under a free license than all the books could be distributed in a super-modern way - with the so called Linux distributions -. Availability to hundred of thousand of users and readers - most them more nerds than even you old-grognards can imagine -.
    2. Lack of Support
    If the texts were under a free license than everyone could "patch" them - speak make corrections - AND every one of these corrections could also be distributed in a freely manner. So that "patch" for "patch" every rulebook would become more "perfect" than any industry supprtted game out there.
    3. Difficulty of Play
    If the texts were under a free license and with this the texts would be distributed with the Linux distributions than everyone of the hundred thousand person community of Free Software could just "install" the texts on the side of Voip programs and Texts editors and can play at the moment of lust of playing. (What WotC is trying with millions of $ one can reach without any Cent but with strong support of community)
    4. Time investment demands
    Okay, free licenses cannot alter here something. For every RPG you have to invest time. But with the strong text editing tools that came with every UNIX system in the history of mankind it is unbelievable easy to store the entire history of your characters and watch them grow XP for XP.
    5. Amateurish Publication
    You know, with LaTeX in your hand WotC has not more tools to get a good looking book than you.
    If a strong community comes together and someone with strong nglish skills edits the texts, someone with LaTeX skills sets the layout and someone other is testing the rendering in various formats (XHTML, PDF, UTF8-Text (the modern version of ASCII) , etc.) you will get modern and good looking books in 0 seconds.


    But __everything__ hangs and starts and begins with true ... ah, no ...
    with TRV3 Free Software licenses for these books , all of them OSRIC, LL, BFRPG and all the modules and other things for them.
    Give them free and you shall get a community that you need and that you want...

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  20. I want to add a point to the number 2. in my above posting

    One of the FUN things the old-school gamers have in playing _with_ (O/A/ETC.)D&D is to play _with_ Rules. You know what I mean, to alter and test and alter again the Rules of the game and to look in which directions a game - and the actual adventure - is going with altered Rules.

    If the texts of the rules are Free - in the sense of Free Software - than you can maybe imagine what this would mean to building a community which plays _with_ Rules.

    Because you can copy, edit, distribute every Rule and every Rules section of such a free RPG text (rulebook) the most favorite printed form of rule books of old-schools games will be in short time the ringbinder(I hope I have used here the right word).

    Can you just imagine to patch rules to BFRPG to make out of it a tabletop like game.
    "RPGs are going back to their first forms:Wargames".

    The _legal_ (<- and this is the whole important point of this) possibilities are endless.


    PLEASE, please I don't know what it takes but look into making the rulebooks of Simulacrum really free.


    Thank you for reading my thoughts.

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  21. Not everything in the book is gold, but there is enough of it to make it worth the money. Writing monster books is hard work - so the good reviews are well deserved.

    Indeed. It is an excellent work, with plenty to recommend it, even if just in terms of inspirational reading. I particularly like the full page illustrations by P. Mullen on pages 5, 34, and 108, but there are many other very cool drawings in the work. The Sand Giant on page 41 by (I believe) Mark Ahmed, particularly put me in mind of a cross between the various Sinbad movies and the Al-Qadim setting.

    Many of the freakier drawings bring to life monsters like the Thorn Creeper and the Spiny Horror; great fodder for adventures!

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  22. "Go ahead and use it, please give credit to us."

    I suspect (though I haven't confirmed this) that an individual or publisher probably could get permission from the First Edition Society to re-use the closed content of Monsters of Myth and perhaps even at no cost. However, they would have to approach them and ask permission to do so.

    Philosophically, I don't much like this approach, as it runs counter to the spirit of the very Open Game License Monsters of Myth (and OSRIC) relies upon to exist at all. By not making their content open without the need for a special license above and beyond the OGL itself, I think these products will remain marginalized and that's a pity.

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  23. Monsters of Myth had something those books don't usually have - imaginative, interesting concepts.

    Very much agreed. It's a terrific book. My only real complaint about it is that too much of its content is closed, to the point that I think it's unnecessarily limiting its potential recognition and influence as a leading light of the old school revival.

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  24. By not making their content open without the need for a special license above and beyond the OGL itself, I think these products will remain marginalized and that's a pity.

    That may well turn out to be the case, but let's not forget that much of this is an experiment and, dare I say, 'adventure'. One of the strengths of the OGL D20 movement was also a major problem, that anybody could take what was released and put it to any purpose, including crappy ones (obviously this is subjective).

    One of the things that I have seen indirectly stated by the authors of OSRIC is that they want some form of quality control to exist, and I think that Monsters of Myth is an attempt to retain some measure of just that.

    Neither let us forget that the adventure modules released so far do not contain a lot of truly open material either; if I were to write a campaign setting and introduce a campaign specific foe, say 'Raconians,' 'Bithyanki' or 'Prow', I do not think it would be expected that I release them as Open Game Content (well okay, assume these new creatures aren't the rip offs their names imply). Still less any of the other campaign setting contents.

    The question then becomes, 'of what use is Monsters of Myth and who is it primarily intended for? To be blunt, it is not a resource for publishers, but for game masters. It is not OSRIC, but a publication that makes use of that license. It can be turned to the use of publishers by agreement with the copyright holder(s), but that is not its primary purpose (from what can be observed).

    Still, we shall see what we shall see.

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  25. To be blunt, it is not a resource for publishers, but for game masters. It is not OSRIC, but a publication that makes use of that license. It can be turned to the use of publishers by agreement with the copyright holder(s), but that is not its primary purpose (from what can be observed).

    I think you're very likely correct. It's still a bit of a disappointment to me nonetheless, because I think one of the strengths of the Open Gaming movement was the free sharing of ideas, which not only helped improve the overall quality of products over time but also helped create a certain sense of shared purpose that I think is sadly missing from the old school community. Right now, we're mostly united by our gripes and complaints and that's no basis for a successful revival of old school RPGs.

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  26. I would broadly agree with that, but I am not a big believer in the evolving game model. When it comes down to it, what would the practical uses of a truly open Monsters of Myth for OSRIC publishers?

    Direct inclusion in a module or inspiration for the production of a derivative monster book are the only possibilities that spring to my mind, both of which remain possibilities.

    The 'real' problem is the one you have identified and that is the creation of a community spirit and direct sharing of material. If we recognise that this should be a voluntary decision, then all we can really complain about is that the authors of Monsters of Myth did not volunteer. Let us see what the authors of the next OSRIC monster book choose to do (assuming that one appears, which to my mind is entirely possible, especially in the form of small digests, but enough of my thoughts!).

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  27. And to make an ending point to my two postings above:

    Think about that soon the medium of RPG distribution will be an online format.
    I mean - don't matter if you like it or not - but WotC has some point in trying to get the people to play by their online tools.

    And just like these tools the future format of RPGs is in web-based programs which can give you nicely formatted printings if you want but also gives you everywhere you are with every hardware you can connect to the net - from mobile phones to mainframes ;-)) - a database of rule and world and monster knowledge.

    To implement these online tools a free license would also help.



    I see that I am getting ignored - I can imagine it is because of my bad English skills why I cannot get my ideas explained - so I stop here my explanations why Free Software would help the Simulacrum initiative.


    But kudos to you all, continue the great work, the great blog postings and so on

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  28. The 'real' problem is the one you have identified and that is the creation of a community spirit and direct sharing of material.

    Just so. I think the old community would be strengthened by a greater emphasis on such things. Given that the Open Game License makes it easier than ever to do just this, I guess I'm a bit baffled as to why someone wouldn't do so.

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  29. I see that I am getting ignored - I can imagine it is because of my bad English skills why I cannot get my ideas explained - so I stop here my explanations why Free Software would help the Simulacrum initiative.

    I don't think you are being ignored, I just don't think this is the best place to discuss the broader topic. A good place to post your ideas might be the simulacrum forum at Dragonsfoot:
    http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewforum.php?f=48

    Just so. I think the old community would be strengthened by a greater emphasis on such things. Given that the Open Game License makes it easier than ever to do just this, I guess I'm a bit baffled as to why someone wouldn't do so.

    I think I can explain this, but bear in mind that these are only my observations and opinions, I could be totally wrong.

    OSRIC does not come directly from the OGL movement, rather it comes from dissatisfaction with Castles & Crusades. That being the case, the OGL is viewed by the authors of OSRIC as an error to be exploited and not a movement to be supported (which was also, from what I understand, Gygax's own view).

    That they made the OSRIC license as open as they did was a 'best move given the circumstances.' To put it another way, I doubt OSRIC would have been open if the means to legally support it with a fully fledged company existed.

    On the other hand, I think motivations naturally fluctuate and sometimes one feels one way, and other times another.

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  30. OSRIC does not come directly from the OGL movement, rather it comes from dissatisfaction with Castles & Crusades. That being the case, the OGL is viewed by the authors of OSRIC as an error to be exploited and not a movement to be supported (which was also, from what I understand, Gygax's own view).

    Again, I think you're correct. At the same time, this represents a huge philosophical difference between the creators of OSRIC and myself. I don't see the OGL as an error but rather the best thing WotC has ever done. I also think it represents a huge opportunity for preserving the building blocks of old school gaming without the need for licensing fees or consultations with a third party. In short, I think the future of old school gaming will depend very heavily on the OGL, so I wish to support and strengthen its virtues rather than treat it as a necessary evil.

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  31. @people who want a different license than the OGL used:

    The problem is that the OGL grants you permission to use copyrighted works only in the context of the OGL. It doesn't grant any actual ownership of the material outside of the OGL, so you wouldn't have the rights to release it under some other open license. At least that is how I understand it.

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  32. As foolish as it would seem to "reinvent the wheel", I can't help but feel the need for a Public Domain version of the rules (the parts that can't be protected by law) using new terms (ie, Wound Points for hit points™).

    Sure, there will be a lot of criticism - from who? Probably not the intended target audience. After all, we've all admitted that original players are already using their original books. If the material that comes out to support the public version is good enough, people will buy it anyway.

    Also, I can't see the new terms being a hurdle for the "next generation". Personally, I've gone through a thousand and some rule systems in my years - it was like referencing a thesaurus and didn't slow me down at all.

    If this "old school" thing has any hope of expanding, it needs to break free from the shackles of the license. YES, it'll be a rough start, but once the dirty part is dealt with, I think hindsight will show it being the turning point and the best move.

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  33. Why couldn't we use "Hit Points" like a million other games unaffiliated with the OGL or TSR or Wizards of the Coast have for decades? There are a ton of little bits like this that D&D uses that *nobody owns* and it would be stupid to abandon them.

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  34. I agree that any terms (eg. the die notation; d4,d6, etc.) that are public domain should be used. Is there any way of knowing if some terms are not?

    I never studied law, but I'll be speaking with someone today who did - hopefully I can get some answers and I'll share any that I get.

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  35. Is there any way of knowing if some terms are not?

    With absolute certainty, probably not. However, a good rule of thumb is that, if the term in question can be found in another context without a license from WotC, then it's most likely public domain. My take on the OGL BTW is that WotC entered into it because most of D&D had already effectively entered into public domain anyway, due to its many imitators over the years, so why even bother to pretend otherwise? And I say again that one of the major reasons for 4e is to "reinvent" D&D as an IP so that it's once again filled with terms and concepts that are proprietary -- and you can be sure WotC will do a better job of policing them than TSR did in the early days of the hobby.

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  36. Actually for short terminology you're on pretty safe ground legally if WotC hasn't trademarked it. Beyond that, they'd have to object to presentation which is a pretty slippery concept. To be honest I think you'd be safe there if you just used standard terms but came up with your own statblock format.

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  37. The issue isn't about one term or even a handful of terms. D&D isn't Armor Class or Hit Points. It's Armor Class, Hit Points, Saving Throws, the six attributes (and their names) and on and on.

    So my point is that IMHO you could use some of these terms in a new public domain game, but you are going to have to change a lot of things. It is the whole, not any one piece individually, that would get you in trouble. Add all of the spells, their names, what they do, many of the monsters or even monsters with common names, but you use them how they are handled in D&D, and you're in trouble. That is the beauty of the OGL...so much of that is there with legal permission for a derivative work.

    Could you make a public domain game? I think you can, sure, but then you have a bunch of terms that will mess up compatibility. Also I'm not convinced you could have all the spells and magic items or present them in even a similar way.

    IMHO anyone who does this would need to hire a lawyer not just for consultation, but to go over your document with a fine toothed comb, because you are treading into dangerous territory.

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  38. Could you make a public domain game? I think you can, sure, but then you have a bunch of terms that will mess up compatibility. Also I'm not convinced you could have all the spells and magic items or present them in even a similar way.

    Speaking only for myself, I've never contemplated a public domain game. Any D&D-derived game I might produce would be done under the auspices of the OGL. However, I think quite a few mechanical concepts from D&D are now public domain, such as hit points or armor class, so no one should fear using those terms without use of the OGL.

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