Cepheus Engine – Future Safe?

It seems I’ve woken up this morning to some very good news; from what I can make out from posts on the MeWe network, it looks like WotC has backed away completely from torching the OGL 1.0a.

Gizmodo posted this last night:

Dungeons & Dragons Scraps Plans to Update Its Open Game License

Therefore it looks like the status quo remains, Cepheus Engine publishers can continue as they are releasing material as before and Mongoose doesn’t need to (or can do) anything to the current basis of licensing.

It seems that the community’s voice has been heard and the battle won? I finish that sentence with a question mark, though it is reassuring that the OGL 1.0a remains in place perhaps it has exposed its limitations and how quickly it could be potentially revoked. Conversely, it has also shown the DnD’s corporate owners how passionate the TTRPG community feels about the game and how effective an organised response can be. Unfortunately, there appears to be casualties of war, as reported here:

Hasbro, owner of Wizards of the Coast, to lay off 15% of workforce

I’m willing to bet (a small amount of cash) that Hasbro looked at the backlash from the OGL announcement, saw that they couldn’t simply make more money from people and publishers in the way they wanted to and thought the bottom line has got to come from somewhere. Hence redundancies from Hasbro’s workforce, which at 15% (1000) seems likely to hit WotC. I can sympathise with the people in that position, I’ve been there myself and I hope they are able to get alternative positions soon. Corporations really do f*****g suck sometimes.

To those members of the community and publishers (inc. Mongoose if you read it) who have shared my posts in the past few weeks and who have read my open letter to Mongoose, I’d like to say ‘thank you’ for your support and for backing the Cepheus Engine publishers. I even got a mention on Geek Native! 🙂 Let’s hope that we can get back to some sort of stability, but I would be watchful for any future attacks on the OGL 1.0a as its seemingly safe harbour for publishers to use as a licensing base, appears exposed.

Previous posts on the OGL 1.0a story:

The Looming Crisis – OGL 1.1

Mongoose and the Future of Cepheus Engine

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector, Independence Games, Moon Toad Publishing, OGL, Stellagama Publishing, Zozer Games | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mongoose and the Future of Cepheus Engine

Since my last post the effects following OGL 1.0a recindence announcement continues to be felt. WotC issued a statement where, much in a corporate manner said they were listening to the TTRPG community but neither party had lost the argument. Gizmodo / Io9 have a useful article which highlights the key points from the battle so far and the draft of OGL 1.2. WotC say they have developed this to incorporate amendments to the OGL 1.1, addressing the community’s concerns.

There are alternatives being progressed as such as Paizo’s ORC, offering a similar route to licensing as the OGL 1.0a. However, many publishers are still left in limbo because whichever way you look at it, the OGL 1.0a which has been the basis of so many games released in the last twenty-odd years including the Cepheus Engine rule set, looks to be killed off with a big fat bolt gun slug to the head.

Where does this leave publishers such as Independence Games, Stellagama, Moon Toad Publishing and Zozer? Upshot is at time of writing, we don’t know. Rocky Mountain Navy posted an article earlier this week ‘The Open Death of Cepheus Engine’, highlighting where Mongoose is looking to produce a license allowing publishers to utilise material based on Traveller Open Content. I don’t know how much this will be like the MGT2e / TAS license which I suppose you could call a precursor to WotC’s OGL 1.1. This license allows your published content to be considered for reuse as Mongoose’s and they can use it without recompense to you.

Is Cepheus Engine really dead, so dramatically highlighted in Rocky Mountain Navy’s article? In its current form, probably. Does this mean the end of the previously mentioned publishers? I hope not, I’m a firm believer in the support of third-parties which have access to an ’ecosystem’ that allows them to thrive and not be hampered by a company who has the ‘intellectual rights’ to something. In addition through licensing agreements, the company makes it difficult for those third parties to believe they can grow and not be potentially screwed by that property owner.

John Watts of Independence Games posted a comment yesterday on the Cepheus Engine chat group on MeWe:

Well, as it stands now, the Cepheus Publishers are in a position where the big decision is now on Mongoose to make. In short, if you want the Cepheus publishers (including myself) to survive, the best way for you to help us in these negotiations is to go somewhere that Mongoose will hear you (the Traveller Discord, Mongoose’s forums, CoTI, social media) and tell them that you want them to allow Cepheus Engine to continue without caveats. Without being forced into costly rewrites to go along with MgT2e.

The publishers have already done everything they can. If you want us to survive, your voice will need to be heard. It really is that simple.

Ok; so in support of John, all the other Cepheus Engine and OGL 1.0a licensees, if anyone from Mongoose is reading this, here is an open letter to you:

Following the announcement of Mongoose to consider moving forward with a new licensing agreement about the use of open content, I would respectfully ask that in whatever shape or form this the new license takes, it is in a form that allows publishers that currently use the Cepheus Engine SRD OGL 1.0a, are allowed to do so in a manner that allows them to grow without fear that their hard work can be potentially taken away from them, as demonstrated in the TTRPG community’s response to WotC and OGL 1.1.

By restricting third-party publishers and forcing them down a particular route, I believe that this will have not just a detremental impact on these publishers, but the Traveller RPG community as well. Tabletop RPGs allow individuals to use their imagination to write products and build whole environments, which I think needs a certain amount of freedom to develop them.

An observation from the 30-odd years I have been working in the IT sector; when IBM produced the original PC back in the early eighties, it spawned a whole load of clones compatible with its operating system DOS. This in turn helped create a whole sector of third-parties who supported not just IBM’s own device, but compatible clones as well. This established the PC as the de facto computer for offices and eventually the home, because of the third-parties developed hardware and software that supported the PC platform overall.

My analogy is if there is a burgeoning third-party market and support for the overall platform (2D6 SFRPG’s) but isn’t specifically aimed at (in my example) the IBM PC, it helps to promote the platform overall. If third-party publishers such as those supporting Cepheus Engine are allowed to prosper, then Mongoose benefits as well. Those first-time players that might have started with Cepheus Engine could see Mongoose’s products and the Third Imperium setting as a natural development of their journey into TTRPGs.

I believe there is room for all sides to share and profit from them publishing their products, which benefits players by having a rich and diverse number of world’s to explore. However, if business practices (and the pursuit of coin) are allowed to dominate the market, this as demonstrated from the communities response to WotC and OGL 1.1, will have not just have a negative effect on the TTRPG community and third-party publishers, but those companies that are seeking to dominate the market.

I hope my view is helpful and thank you for listening.

To finish this post, a quick apology to Andrew at the Kosmos68 blog; sorry for the delay in getting a review completed. I have it in hand, it’s just taking a bit longer than planned with all the OGL stuff going on. I’ll get this done as soon as possible – thanks for your patience.

**Update** 28th January – it seems the planned changes to the OGL 1.0a have been pulled back altogether. Please see my latest post ‘Cepheus Engine – Future Secure?

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector, Hostile, Independence Games, Mongoose Traveller, Mongoose Traveller Second Edition, Moon Toad Publishing, OGL, Stellagama Publishing, Zozer Games | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Looming Crisis – OGL 1.1

Not a planned blog post, but with the unexpected news of the potential revocation of the license agreement that underpins many of the products and books that I buy and review, I felt that I needed to post something about the whole WotC / OGL 1.0a / OGL 1.1 thing.

Nothing related to the article, just a random picture I took whilst walking the Chatsworth House Christmas Lights back in November.

I’m not going to bother with huge amounts of detail documenting the situation that seems to have suddenly exploded over the internet in the past week or so. There are plenty of other places that has been covered. Upshot is, the licensing agreement that allows many third-party publishers to write their own TTRPG’s (known as the Open Game License version 1.0a) is projected to be revoked by version ‘1.1’ by Wizards of the Coast, publishers of Dungeons and Dragons ™(r)(c) (sorry, a reminder of TSR from the 80’s).

By revoking the version 1.0a license for 1.1, WotC will have far more control over what creators and publishers will be able release, even though it will be their own work. This reminds me of when Mongoose updated their license for Traveller, when they released the second edition (MGT2e) around ten years ago. This led to a number of publishers creating and evolving the Cepheus Engine rule set, which was based on the MGT1e / OGL v1.0a license. This allowed creators such as Independence Games, Stellagama Publishing and Zozer Games to develop products around the 2D6 Class Traveller ‘system’, without fear of infringing on the FFE / Mongoose license. These publishers, along with thousands of others, have built up companies and communities around the ability to publish fantastically detailed worlds and adventures.

However, WotC (and its owners, Hasbro) feel they aren’t (I hate this word, but I’m quoting it) ‘monetising’ the D&D platform enough so by restricting the license, it appears they believe it will bring in bigger profits for them.

Unfortunately for WotC, the genie is already out of the bag; the TTRPG community and Drivethru RPG have built up the scene around a number of products that utilise OGL 1.0a, which was out around twenty years ago. Personally, I think this is a massively bad idea; to the point where WotC have not just shot themselves in the foot, but blown both legs off with a hand cannon. Whether the license has been leaked accidentally or deliberately to gauge opinion, it has been met as far as I can see, with nothing but negative views and responses.

In trying to restrict the basis for an activity that has grown in (recent) popularity since the early 2000’s, WotC has done nothing for its brand, supporters or the D&D game overall.

I’ve read the posts and views where lawyers opinions have been sought and as things stand (the OGL 1.1 is supposed to come into effect on Friday the 13th), the old OGL 1.0a can no longer be used as the basis for publishing gaming materials.

There are a number of people suggesting call WotC to (politely) express their concern and displeasure of the coming of OGL 1.1. Others are posting to social media or just trying to make enough noise so that WotC will listen and hopefully abandon OGL 1.1. I hope this will be the case, but in the meantime, its always good to have a backup plan. You may want to consider downloading a copy of your purchases from DTRPG ‘just in case’ they get pulled from the market. Similar things have occurred when mobile phone manufacturers have successfully argued for certain devices to be stopped being sold in specific countries, due to licensing infringements. I’m not saying this will happen, but having worked in IT support for around thirty years, its a mantra that has always worked for me.

Fingers crossed this may all blow over by the last minute, but we will have to wait and see what happens this week. Uncertainly like this doesn’t help publishers and players; hopefully WotC / Hasbro are listening to the community and will reconsider their licensing approach as in its current form, will not help their bottom line.

If you want to read one post which provides a bit of analysis on this issue, take a look at:

https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/interview-with-an-intellectual-property-attorney-about-the-ogl.906184/

Stellagama are offering some (substantial) discounts to their Cepheus Engine products on Drivethru RPG, which you may want to take a look at.

**Update** 10th January – Independence Games are also offering a 30% discount via their webstore: https://independencerpgs.com on all their Clement Sector, Earth Sector and Rider products until the 17th (now extended) 24th of January. Just enter the code ‘FWOTC’ at the checkout. I have no idea what that stands for… 😉

**Update** 17th January – it appears that the release of OGL 1.1 has been delayed, due to player and community pressure. Gizmodo has published a summary of last weeks events here. The fight isn’t over yet…

**Update** 22nd January – I’ve posted a new article which includes an open letter to Mongoose, in support of the Cepheus Engine publishers: Mongoose and the Future of Cepheus Engine.

In addition, Rocky Mountain Navy has also published some interesting observations and thought-provoking comments over on his blog here.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Far Future, Independence Games, Mongoose Traveller, Mongoose Traveller Second Edition, Moon Toad Publishing, OGL, Role Playing Games, Stellagama Publishing, Uncategorized, Zozer Games | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments