View Full Version : Publishing an RPG under the OGL

Vegan Squirrel
2016-06-03, 12:36 PM
Hi, I have a few questions. I'm in the midst of writing my own RPG system, mainly for my own amusement and future use. But others might find it useful, so I may decide to publish it as a pdf through DriveThruRPG or one of those sites. The system is a classless, simplified system derived from D&D (primarily 5th ed and 3.5), with the goals of being simple to run, creating characters in less than five minutes, leveling in a minute or less, using few enough details to easily fit a character sheet on an index card, having a simple enough ruleset to easily memorize it or quickly refer to a one-card reference guide, being a familiar play experience that mostly feels like D&D, and being flexible enough to easily work in some more complicated D&D mechanics as a play group desires.

My questions pertain to the OGL, to make sure I'm reading this right. I'm not asking for legal advisement, but the voice of experience from those who've worked with it before.

I need to include the OGL, with copyright notices for all of the sources of Open Game Content used in the work. That will include the 5e SRD, and probably the 3.5 SRD and Pathfinder SRD to be safe. If I designate the entire publication as Open Game Content, then I don't believe I need to specify which parts come from other sources and which parts I created. Is that correct?

I know that I can't refer to D&D or the d20 system without separate licenses, yet I'd like to refer to them obliquely as a guide for several reasons: referring to spell levels as a guide to adjudicating the Spell Point system I'm using, to point out that GMs can sub in money, treasure, and magic item systems from them, and similar appeals to familiarity. Am I right in assuming I can say things like "in lieu of the Wealth system provided here, Game Masters can easily substitute the familiar gold piece economy from other RPG systems" without issue?

I think the nature of the project is such that I can easily publish it under the OGL as long as I'm careful with wording and designate the whole project as Open Game Content. I just want second opinions before I get too far in.

Thanks for your help!

2016-06-03, 12:49 PM
Unfortunately, these forums don't let people give legal advice, for the very simple reason that it's impossible to verify if anybody giving it is actually qualified to do so. So...you couldn't be sure you were hearing accurate legal advice even if we gave it.

I say "unfortunately," because I enjoy this kind of discussion, and I know what advice I would give (for all that it's worth, since I'm no lawyer), but I don't want to risk steering you wrong when you've asked for some pretty specific advice.

You could try tweeting Jeremy Crawford; he does 5e's Sage Advice and is apparently very responsive and might at least be able to point you to somebody who would be qualified to give such advice. Failing that...you've got a long and boring task of reading the OGL very closely, seeing what exactly it says you can and cannot do, then using your best judgment. Or hiring a lawyer, but if you're not making money off of this, that seems awfully silly.

Vegan Squirrel
2016-06-03, 01:41 PM
Thank you for the thoughtful response. If this falls too much into soliciting legal advice, my apologies. I had read through some old threads (years old) talking about other OGL issues, where I saw a lot of people commenting with the likes of "this is just my understanding, and in no way constitutes legal advice." I was hoping to get some of those responses, figuring that the wisdom of the crowd would be a good middle ground between my interpretation and legal counsel. Perhaps the moderators have taken a harder line on that since. I don't mean to push beyond what the forum allows. I don't think I'm going to join Twitter over this, but I'll carefully reread the OGL before publishing anything.

Does anybody recall any game systems published under the OGL (but not the d20 system) using that kind of language?