Or, An Investigation into the Provenance of the “Open Cthulhu SRD”
One of the most controversial things to happen this year in the world of Lovecraftian tabletop RPGs has been the (non-)release of the Open Cthulhu SRD and the subsequent debate about its alleged Intellectual Property infringements.
I don’t think there’s any value in rehashing the lengthy (and generally insightful) debate that transpired on the Yog-Sothoth Forum (you must sign-up for free forum membership to see this content). But as a brief capsule summary anyway:
- A group of (AFAIK) unknown game designers created a d100 game of Lovecraftian horror which they aimed to release under the OGL; they posted links to their file on YSDC and other forums.
- Moon Design (Chaosium) promptly contacted both the creators AND the sites which hosted this link and bluntly asserted this material was in breech of their Intellectual Property and also that of various Cthulhu Mythos fiction authors. Moon also asserted that Open Cthulhu’s use of material from Mongoose Publishing’s OGL version of Runequest was also illegal since that latter work’s OGL was no longer valid.
- The Open Cthulhu group re-worked their SRD and claimed to have removed all the references to Mythos creations by any authors other than Lovecraft (whose solo works are now indisputably in the Public Domain) and replaced all content drawn from the Mongoose Renaissance OGL with material from the Legend RPG (which is 100% OGL).
- Lively debate followed about trademarks, the nature of the OGL, and other topics concerning Intellectual Property; Moon Design also asserted that they had re-assessed the revised Open Cthulhu SRD and found it to still be in breach of their IP (without citing specifics).
One of the things that I have observed about the online debate about Open Cthulhu is that most of the comments made about it’s use of the OGL are, to some extent, hypothetical (including my own).There are plenty of opinions which are qualified along the lines of “If Open Cthulhu’s claims are true about it being derived from valid OGL content then …” or “If Open Cthulhu has copy/pasted text from Chaosium publications then …” The reason these are hypothetical is because nobody has (to my knowledge) gone through the Open Cthulhu SRD with a fine-toothed comb to try to unpick its provenance. That is, to unravel the DNA of this controversial newborn? (stillborn?) beast.
So, I decided I would sit down and do just that — opening up the latest Open Cthulhu SRD side-by-side with all of the OGL documents it claims as its ancestors AND copies of multiple editions of Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu rules (specifically 4th, 5th, and 6th editions).
The analysis took me a LOT longer than I thought — several days of concerted effort — but at the end of it I have gained a fair degree of understanding of what this beast is, and where it’s various parts seem to have come from. In this post I’ll summarize some of those findings.
Quick Summary (or TL;DR)
- Open Cthulhu’s claim that it contains no references to non-Lovecraft Mythos elements is basically justified
- The OGL ancestry of Open Cthulhu, as stated in its own OGL License seems legitimate
- Open Cthulhu draws in text from the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook (approx 16% of the Open Cthulhu wordcount), the Legend RPG (2% of the OC wordcount), Eldritch Tales and the Cthulhoid Bestiary for OSR (together 6% of the OC wordcount). Plus it has a smattering of text drawn from the Delta Green Quickstart
- While a significant part of the Open Cthulhu text comes from pre-existing OGL rules, two-thirds of its text is apparently new content.
- Some of the apparently new content represents rules/content that have no relationship at all with Call of Cthulhu (or any other Chaosium book I’m familiar with); however other pieces look like they are clearly intended to be “retro-clones” of pieces of older Call of Cthulhu editions.
- In terms of wordcount, about 31% of Open Cthulhu SRD appears to have a “Chaosium influence,” versus 35% of the SRD text which is new content but not inspired by Chaosium’s rules (as far as I can tell)
- Looking very closely at the Chaosium-influenced parts of the Open Cthulhu there is no evidence I could find of a direct “copy/paste” anywhere but plenty of examples where similar rules have been re-written using different words
In order to analyze the provenance of different pieces of the Open Cthulhu SRD I decided to create a version of the OC text in a form that allowed me to “colour-code” different sections of text based on provenance. That is, whether it was directly (or almost-directly) copied from an OGL source, whether it was a wholly-original creation, or whether it was new wording attempting to reverse-engineer parallel text from Call of Cthulhu.
In the end my categorization scheme grew to recognize:
- Five OGL “flavours”: Delta Green Agent’s Handbook, Delta Green Quickstart, Adaptations of Delta Green rules, Legend RPG, and Miscellaneous OGL material (covering Eldritch Tales and the Cthulhoid Bestiary)
- Two Categories of original material: Entirely Original, Chaosium-influenced
- Two Miscellaneous categories: H.P. Lovecraft Quotations, OGL License Text
Categorizing (colour-coding) the different sections of the Open Cthulhu SRD was undertaken by comparing the relevant rules/resources text side-by-side with each of the relevant OGL sources and then against the different editions of the Call of Cthulhu rules. Where no source had any clear resemblance to any of those sources I assumed it to be original to Open Cthulhu.
Once each word of the Open Cthulhu SRD had been allocated into one of the categories, statistics were gathered of the total number of words that had been assigned to each category and the proportion they represent of the total Open Cthulhu wordcount.
For a full table of raw data in PDF form, click here.
The Structure of the Open Cthulhu SRD
The Open Cthulhu SRD is structured as shown in the diagram below, being split into two main sections — a Rules Section (aka the Player section) and a Keeper Section.
Overall the Open Cthulhu SRD consists of 61,014 words.
In terms of wordcount, the rules make up about 40% of the total file, with the Keeper section making up the bulk of the rest. There’s a small amount of intro and outro material at the front and back of the file respectively; the outro is made up of the OGL license text.
Overall Observations and Analyses
Looking at the Open Cthulhu SRD in its entirety, the breakdown of words assigned into each of the nine categories is as follows:
|Content from Delta Green Agent’s Handbook:||9,520 words (15.6%)|
|Content from Delta Green Quickstart:||270 words (0.4%)|
|Content extrapolated/adapted from Delta Green Agent’s Handbook:||2,978 words (4.9%)
|Content from Legend RPG:||1,368 words (2.2%)|
|Content from Miscellaneous OGL sources:||3,837 words (6.3%)|
Original Content Catgories
|Entirely Original Content:||21299 words (34.9%)|
|Chaosium-inspired Content:||19052 words (31.2%)|
|H.P. Lovecraft Quotations:||1736 words (2.8%)|
|OGL License Text:||954 words (1.6%)|
Use of OGL Material
It is clear that large sections of the Open Cthulhu rules section — especially the combat and sanity rules — are copied directly from OGL content in Delta Green. In some cases this material has been edited down to simplify rules or to omit particular parts altogether. For example, Open Cthulhu does not make use of the Character Bonds mechanic at all and all references to it have been edited out. Similarly, the combat rules in Open Cthulhu simplify some of the ways in which high-tech weaponry and/or militaristic weapons are represented.
On the other hand, there are places in Open Cthulhu where the core concepts introduced in Delta Green have been adapted or extrapolated. These are mostly minor, for example the renaming of DG’s “combat turn” to OC’s “combat round” or the expanded set of descriptions for how Lethal Damage affects different types of Mythos creatures.
Leaving aside Delta Green, it is clear that Open Cthulhu’s use of other OGL sources is more slight than might otherwise be assumed. In particular its direct inheritance from the Legend RPG is really very small and is mostly concerning game stats and character creation. The material which is sourced from Eldritch Tales is mostly short descriptions of different Great Old Ones, Mythos Creatures, and Eldritch Artifacts. Open Cthulhu’s borrowing from the Cthuloid Bestiary for OSR is similar, albeit on a much smaller scale — it draws upon descriptions of several Mythos monsters that are not mentioned in Eldritch Tales.
Original vs Chaosium-Inspired
As noted above despite its reliance on OGL sources for the bulk of its rules, more than two-thirds of the words in the Open Cthulhu SRD would seem to be new content (i.e., not derived from an OGL source). One of the more difficult aspects of this analysis was trying to separate out which parts of these non-OGL-derived sections represent entirely original ideas and which are intended to be similar-but-not-identical versions of rules from Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu game.
It is very clear that both types of text appear in the Open Cthulhu SRD.
As evidence of entirely original content, I would point at things like Open Cthulhu’s rather intriguing new take on game stats for Great Old Ones (which it terms “Mythos Powers”). Rather than giving these entities full game stats, as Call of Cthulhu does, OC characterizes them more by the perils of mental contact and the raw Lethality of their physical forms (as a single game stat). Another idea that is (to the best of my knowledge) original to Open Cthulhu is the concept of Investigators needing to make a roll to become “immersed” in a Mythos Tome (i.e., truly believe it isn’t gobbledygook) before they can research its contents.
On the other hand, it is equally clear that there are many cases where Open Cthulhu has introduced rules which are obviously inspired by Call of Cthulhu. Examples which come to mind include the specific skills breakdown in Open Cthulhu which, while not a complete copy of the skills list in early Call of Cthulhu, preserves some of the quirkiness of those editions’ characterization of Investigator knowledge. Another clear example is the inclusion of a brief set of game rules for running Dreamlands adventures which seems closely analogous to rules in Chaosium’s H.P. Lovecrafts Dreamlands (and latter editions of the CoC rules).
A Breach of Copyright?
One thing that is very clear upon a close reading of the Open Cthulhu SRD is that it definitely *is* aiming to be a “retro clone” of pre-7th Edition Call of Cthulhu, in the sense that its rules are similar enough that they could be used to play supplements released for those editions. Arguably, given the slow and slight way in which rules change between different editions of Call of Cthulhu, this also means one could (without too much work) use the Open Cthulhu SRD rules to run more recently-published scenarios as well (which would make it a not-so-retro clone, as others have pointed out).
The big question to be answered when it comes to these “Chaosium inspired” sections is … whether or not they are breaches of the copyrights held by Moon Design? While I searched long and hard for a “smoking gun” which would show there had been literal copy/pasting of sections out of Call of Cthulhu (the most unambiguous form of breach), I didn’t really find anything that absolutely qualifies as such. Yes, there are stat blocks for monsters and for Lovecraft NPCs that use the same set of numbers against the same characteristics, but I’m not sure that qualifies as breach of copyright (since arguably the numbers and the names of the characteristics are both pieces of game rules … or at least that’s how they’ve been interpreted in the cases of other “retro-clones”).
In terms of narrative text in Open Cthulhu that is a literal copy of Chaosium text … I couldn’t find any examples. Of course there are *plenty* of examples where the Open Cthulhu SRD uses different words to describe effectively the same game mechanic found in Call of Cthulhu, but once again I don’t know that this is a copyright breach since rules themselves cannot be copyrighted only their textual expression. As an example of the use of different language to describe similar rules, here is the parallel text describing how Investigators gain percentiles in the Cthulhu Mythos skill when they suffer insanity:
Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition
(© Chaosium, quoted here under fair use)
(© Open Cthulhu, used under OGL)
Insanity and the Cthulhu Mythos
Insanity stemming from non-Mythos causes yields no Cthulhu Mythos knowledge. But each time an investigator reels from Mythos-induced trauma, he or she learns more of the Mythos, and this is reflected in the arcane Cthulhu Mythos skill.
The first instance of Mythos-related insanity always adds 5 points to Cthulhu Mythos. Further episodes of Mythos-induced insanity each add 1 point to the skill.
Understanding the Cthulhu Mythos
Whenever an Investigator goes Temporarily Insane or develops a Disorder due to an encounter with the Cthulhu Mythos, he or she also gains some deeper understanding of the true nature of reality. On the first such occasion, the Investigator gains 5 percentiles in the Cthulhu Mythos skill; each subsequent occasion grants a further 1 percentile. This increase also serves to reduce the Investigator’s maximum SAN (and if current SAN is higher than this value, also causes it to drop to the new maximum).
Provenance of Rules vs Provenance of Keeper-Resources
One thing that is quite clear when looking closely at the Open Cthulhu SRD is that there is a sharp difference between the way in which it derives its “rules” content versus its material for Keeper Resources (Mythos Entities, Creatures, Spells etc).
The Rules section borrows very heavily from existing OGL rulesets — most notably Delta Green. If taken in isolation, the rules section of Open Cthulhu has about 47% of its text derived from Delta Green with another 6% from Legend. That leaves 45% of the rules-section text which doesn’t come from any OGL source. This is mostly made up of skills descriptions, rules for skills improvement, sample weapons table, and examples of rules being used. While the example text used to illustrate and clarify rules is entirely original, most of the other areas identified above are a mix of Chaosium-influenced rules and entirely original rules.
Things are quite different when it comes to Keeper Resources, largely because the primary two OGL sources — Delta Green and Legend RPG — have no OGL content for Mythos entities. In the case of Legend it’s not a Mythos game, so that isn’t surprising. In the case of Delta Green, its own OGL makes it clear that those parts of the Agent’s Handbook are off-limits when it comes to OGL re-use. This seems to have forced the Open Cthulhu writers to (a) create more “new” text, and (b) seek out some alternative OSR rulesets which have small fragments of descriptive text about Mythos creations.
The provenance of the Keeper’s section of Open Cthulhu is broken down as shown below.
The small amount of “Delta Green Adapted” material shown here represents the text supplied for each Mythos creature which describes how it should be considered in terms of the Lethality combat mechanic borrowed from Delta Green. As can be seen, when it comes to Keeper resources, there seems to be a lot which is consciously inspired by Chaosium material, although it must also be said that there is a lot of really interesting material which seems quite distinct from how Call of Cthulhu handles situations (e.g., a different take on Great Old Ones, a more restrained approach to magic, and a set of nifty guidelines for making a brand new setting for Lovecraftian gaming and adapting the Open Cthulhu rules to work with it).
One thing for which Moon Design (and others) chastised the Open Cthulhu crew upon their first SRD release was the inclusion of Mythos elements which derive from works still under copyright (e.g., those of Brian Lumley, Ramsay Campbell, etc.). The Open Cthulhu team claimed to expunge all such mentions in their second SRD … so the question is, did they succeed? In general I would have to say that they did — there are no mentions by name of non-Lovecraft Great Old Ones, Mythos creatures, or Tomes. In fact the list of Mythos entities looks surprisingly similar to that published online for the German-language FHTAGN game (which probably isn’t surprising, since that game was held up during the YSDC discussions as an example of good practice in this area). The only qualifier I would place on my observations in this regard is that Open Cthulhu — like many other games — has rolled in several unnamed or generic Mythos creature categories (e.g., “Winged Servants” or “Hounds of Time”) which seem, to a greater or lesser extent, to be allusions to specific Mythos creations without actually claiming a direct relationship to those creations. It’s another “grey area” from an IP perspective I suppose.
The point of this exercise was to look at the Open Cthulhu SRD in detail to see whether its claims of OGL provenance check out, whether Chaosium’s claims of IP violation are backed up by examples, and whether Open Cthulhu was intended as a true “retro-clone” of older Call of Cthulhu editions.
I think that the analysis I’ve presented above answers many of those questions, although the question about IP violation is obviously a multi-faceted thing. I can certainly see why Moon Design has not been forthcoming with a laundry list of claimed copyright “violations” — since such a thing would be open to argument on both sides, which likely isn’t how they would wish to pursue the matter.
Above all this, however, I would have to say that a close examination of the Open Cthulhu SRD has surprised me in a couple of ways. Firstly, it’s really apparent that the writers of this system have put a lot of effort into it — I was expecting a shoddily slapped-together affair with little consideration for gameplay, but in fact the current rules show a deft and experienced hand at work judiciously picking pieces from several sources and assembling them carefully. The second way that the SRD has surprised me is in its aim to be more setting-independent and all-purpose than the thing it seems to be trying to copy — if the goal was to provide a basic engine to power a broad range of Lovecraftian d100 games, then it substantially succeeds, although obviously would need extrapolation to meaningfully work outside its stated range of eras (early twentieth century to modern day).
It’s a real shame that Open Cthulhu has wound up in such troubled straits, since otherwise it’s just the sort of thing I would recommend to game designers looking for an adaptable d100/Lovecraft base from which to build their own creations. As it is, though, it would be a brave person that took on such an endeavour . . .
[Raw data for the statistical analysis available here; marked up version of the Open Cthulhu SRD for peer-review available on request]
September 29th, 2019 at 2:01 am
From a purely emotional, gamer, personal perspective: Moon Design chose to abandon the earlier iterations of CoC (and RQ, after first milking the cow one last time for a quick cash infusion with the Kickstarted reissue of RQ2, which they only JUST finally provided the last of the products for this past July, while devoting 99% of their efforts over the past 3.5 YEARS into churning out other products instead). They made it clear that they wanted nothing more published for those old, beloved systems, leaving a tabula rasa for their “new” games. Lovely for them, they bought Chaosium and they can do what they want with it. But there are gamers who prefer the prior incarnations, and reject the new as a cash-grab. Chaosium games went from being the oasis of stability in the middle of the desert of chaotic edition-wars, to just another manufacturer contributing to the churn of re-writes. They even took over the BRP Central site, and woe to you if you cross the company line while posting there. Now, along come some guys who want to provide an engine that gamers can use to continue in the well-established play style, following a long tradition of retroclones and heartbreaker alternative rules sets. Moon Design comes down on them with guns blazing, even though game mechanics themselves are supposed to be free for anyone to use. (BTW, if you haven’t been following the other major brouhaha in the hobby, it’s here: https://gsllc.wordpress.com/2019/08/12/part1statblocks/ ). Moon Design won’t specify what they have a problem with. Of course. They refute the OGL. Much like T$R did, they are attempting to intimidate these guys into abandoning their effort, in spite of the new guys’ caution to avoid crossing any legal lines. SO, bottom line, Moon Design fails the customer relations test. Big time. IMO. It’s just like the Old Days. There will always be fanbois, and there will always be oblivious newbies, and Moon Design can sell to them. But for at least some grognards who are “woke” enough to recognize an appalling lack of regard for the gaming community, this will be the final straw.
September 29th, 2019 at 2:36 am
Thanks for the link to Robert Bodine’s blog article about the copyright-ability of stat blocks — many of the points he discusses there are also pertinent to Open Cthulhu
September 29th, 2019 at 2:58 am
Yes, if you persevere and read through all of his posts (I think there are five in the series), you see that we’re at a very dangerous place (once again) in the history of the hobby. He’s an attorney, so his arguments are well-constructed and backed up with research. And I agree, very pertinent to the situation that Open Cthulhu finds itself in.
February 7th, 2022 at 7:38 am
Sorry I’m late in this discussion, but as far as I understand the posts of Robert Bodine, all the fuss about content coming from “valid” OGL game or not is mostly irrelevant for Open Cthulhu or any other RPG.
All of his case rest on the fact that the OGL is not an enforceable licence for many reasons, but mainly because **it does not grant anything that the licencee doesn’t already have : game mechanics are simply not copyrightable !**
Anyone already had the right to re-plublish game mechanics and rules, even before the OGL, and even if it embodies the identity of a game (like what Chaosium says about sanity rules). Only the particular phrasing of the description of a rule is subject to copyright (and, in a broad simplification, only if it is not the only reasonable way to describe the underlying mechanic)
Thus, if you believe Bodine, in the case of Open Cthulhu (or APOCTHULHU for that matter) everything that is only a description of game mechanics is perfectly ok without having any permission or licence from the editor of the game. Only the creative content is under copyright and may pose problem. But this content is mainly *not* concerned by the OGL as Bodine post show very convincingly (it is due to a very nasty trick in the phrasing of the “licence”).
For me, the conclusion is that you do not even need to base your work on any game under an OGL licence if you only use game mechanics/rules and do not reproduce creative content.
In his last posts, Bodine goes even further and show that you *should not* use the OGL for your own games because by doing that 1) you accept this fraud and acknowledge that WotC had the right to impose this fake licence on the community and 2) you expose your own creative content to the flaws of the licence at your own risks.
Despite this, I see that APOCTHULHU and Cthulhu Eternal are placed under the OGL.
* Is this because the team does not agree with Bodine conclusion ? If so, I would be very interested to know the reasons !
* Or maybe is it just to try to avoid costly lawsuits ? I think I can understand this but Bodine says it is also a smoke screen because the OGL does not protect you and gives WotC more opportunities to sue you as they please.
* Or maybe I just do not understand all this clearly 😉
February 7th, 2022 at 9:15 am
Thanks, Guzze, for your thoughts on the interpretation of the OGL and the inherent “non-copyrightability” of basic game mechanics. For what it’s worth, I agree with thrust of your arguments.
As for the specific question as to why APOCTHULHU and Cthulhu Eternal are published under OGL … well, it comes back to the way in which the rules were created.
When going about the task of creating a brand new ruleset inspired by earlier games (but unique from them) there are a couple of different ways you can tackle it. The first is to set yourself the task of paring back *everything* you like from the earlier game, back to its most fundamental mechanics (which, everyone agrees can’t be copyrighted). From those fundamental first principles you can then build brand new descriptions of each mechanics using language that is wholly new, not in any way borrowed from the previous game.
It must be said, that approach is quite a lot of work … although it is exactly the task that Mongoose undertook when making Legend.
However, if the game whose rules you are seeking to emulate is released under the OGL, there is a second, easier, path — namely to make use of the OGL’s provisions for re-using content that is designated Open Content. And when I say “re-use” in this context, I mean lifting both the mechanics of rules AND the textual description of those mechanics. The practicalities of writing a brand new system are such that it is sometimes worth keeping that “semi-verbatim lift-and-shift” option in the back pocket, even if you don’t plan to use it often. Who wants, for example, to agonize for hours about whether YOUR text description of how opposed skill rolls work COULD be construed by someone to be too similar to the literal text of someone else’s description when you can find an open content mechanic, borrow what you want of its literal text and tweak it to fit in with the rest of your rules? Even if you only use that level of “derivation” occasionally, it is still a huge savings in time. And the OGL allows for it … BUT only if you also release your product under the same OGL. That is why we have released our content under that license.
In some ways, it’s possible to see the OGL as a kind of “walled garden”. Within the confines of the garden, there’s a high degree of freedom when it comes to permissible re-use. But try to step outside that garden, and you have to somehow prove that your re-use isn’t copying expression of ideas, but merely the ideas themselves. Yes, you can do that, but it’s a lot of work. Plus if your intent is, like ours, to make the end product ALSO freely shareable and available for further derivative works there’s an incentive to keep your creation inside the garden. After all, we WANT to make it easy to recycle our stuff. Both the ideas AND (if people want) the literal text that we wrote to express them. For all its quirks, the OGL is a vehicle for enabling that.
February 7th, 2022 at 11:49 am
Thank you so much for your answer ! I was not expecting a reply at all by digging this very old post 🙂
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think you miss part of the point of Bodine in his articles, particularly the number 3 and 3.5 where he analyses very deeply the different OGLs. Again, I may misunderstand all this, as English is not my native language (as I’m sure you have already guess).
Ok, for the sake of the argument, I understand quite well that possibility to re-use all the descriptive text without having to rewrite it is a wonderful opportunity. But I think part of the point of the Bodine is precisely that the OGL *does not allow this at all* due to the subtle wording of the licence. To quote from https://gsllcblog.com/2019/08/26/part3ogl/ :
” This means that, despite the existence of the SRD5, and a strong implication that all SRD5 material may be copied freely, if an alleged licensee copies SRD5 material directly, there’s a breach of license, and WotC holds a potential lawsuit in their back pocket in case they ever decide to sue for unrelated reasons. ”
And this is one of the main reason that the OGL should never be used according to Bodine : it grants nothing the licencee is not already having, i.e. the possible re-use of the game mechanics, and only that, not their precise wording in the text.
IMO, this goes two ways : 1) using OGC in your work does not protect you and may still lead to be sued by the licencor and 2) putting the OGL on one’s own work does not grant anything substantial to the future potential users of this work (they could even still be sued by the first licencor !).
So, according to Bodine (and if I understand all this correctly ^^), the OGL is not what you think it is. It grants nothing to its users, it enables nothing new : it allows nothing except what you already have and only that (in fact this is even worse than that according to Bodine in the follow-up of his argument). At the end of the day, it seems to be just a nasty trap for future users allowing them to be sued by licencors.
I also understand that, unlike Bodine, you are not dealing with WotC but Mongoose. Considering their past relations and all that arise between them and Chaosium over RQ, maybe those guys won’t sue and can be trusted to really adhere to the noble goal that has been stated for the OGL but isn’t that kind of a bargain ?
Writing this, I guess what buggers me most is that, having rewrite and effectively freeing all the rules in Legend, Mongoose still used the OGL instead of, let say, a Creative Common licence (like CC-BY-SA which would be, in my opinion much more clear and safe regarding future use of the text).
In retrospect, if Chaosium understood the OGL as Bodine did, they would have no reason at all to be mad at Mongoose for putting RQ in OGL as it does not arm their IP in the way they thought it was. As the licence allows nothing that they can’t already do to the users, Mongoose had all the rights to do that. It only poses a problem to Chaosium if the OGL is invalidated in court (like it should be) and the licencors are busted for having use this dishonest licence (still according to Bodine in part 3 of the serie).
I think anyone can disagree with Bodine reasoning but I think that I get his point. Am I wrong ?
I would like to end by thanking you for your answer and all your work (including the analysis in the article above) and also for the wonderful game that you gave us in APOCTHULHU, including your strong will to make it freely usable by other people!
September 29th, 2019 at 10:24 am
This is a very interesting in-depth analysis on that thorny affair.
I would just add a little clarification also stated in other places, that is important for us: That “Open Cthulhu SDR” is not at all related with our http://www.opencthulhu.com stuff, runing since 2015.
Thanks and good job,
September 29th, 2019 at 11:03 am
Thanks for mentioning that … there have been so many twists and turns in the online discussion that it’s hard to summarize it all in a few dot points.
Your point is very valid — there’s no connection between the Open Cthulhu SRD and the online community that’s been called Open Cthulhu for much longer.
September 30th, 2019 at 1:14 am
Thank you for doing this! I was painfully aware while I was following and responding to the discussion that I was writing entirely in the hypothetical because I have not actually gotten my hands on the Open Cthulhu document to see for myself what it does and does not contain.
Without an actual analysis of its content to go by, my best guess has been that the problem content would have almost entirely been a matter of problematic “fluff” content referring to non-Lovecraft Mythos content – if so (still in hypothetical mode here), cleaning that problematic content up should have taken the teeth out of Moon/Chaosium’s complaint.
After all, Moon/Chaosium’s letter to YSDC didn’t give much detail to work with on exactly what was a problem for them, and the little detail they did give referred very specifically to the intellectual property of mythos writers that is protected by copyright.
I’ve a feeling that any remaining complaints that Moon/Chaosium still has will probably involve those grey areas involving e.g. “Hounds of Time” and such.
September 30th, 2019 at 1:47 am
From the perspective of Mythos-related entities, I would imagine you are right. But I also wonder whether Moon Design’s more recent statement of objection suggests that their bigger objection now is that they think Open Cthulhu copies Chaosium rule or “flavour text” relating to rules too closely.
October 16th, 2019 at 2:30 am
This analysis is thorough and very well done. I notice that it is labelled ‘part I.’ I look forward to part II and/or any future analysis and commentary.
October 16th, 2019 at 2:33 am
Oh I may have confused myself on the ‘Part I’ thing…sorry…regardless, this is very thorough, well-researched, and very interesting. Great work.
October 16th, 2019 at 5:57 am
Hi Brian, fear not — you are partly correct, I did initially intend to write the Open Cthulhu provenance analysis in 3 parts (general observations, then detailed analyses for the player and GM halves of the OC SRD). As I was writing it I changed my mind, thinking that the general overview was getting long enough that it would probably exhaust most people’s interest in the topic.
The URL does still have the original title (“Part 1”) even though the page doesn’t
Of course if there is interest in further analysis of the Open Cthulhu SRD there is a lot more detail I *could* write about, including the pieces of the system which seem (AFAIK) brand new pieces of original invention by the OC folks.
October 16th, 2019 at 12:04 pm
I for one would be interested in that further analysis. You do great work that I find worthy of reading and consideration. Thank you for sharing your findings and thoughts.
March 29th, 2020 at 8:17 am
Moon Design have a long history of vague-posting about the validity of the Mongoose RuneQuest SRDs, which they will not back up because the claim it won’t hold water. From anyone else this could be a simple misunderstanding of the concept of Open Content, but in this case it’s plainly malicious misinformation and bullying.
December 24th, 2021 at 9:26 am
[…] Roleplaying. In some of our previous posts we’ve pulled apart some embryonic efforts that have dipped their toes into this realm. We’ve also tried to work through some of the practical IP limitations that […]