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?

About AlegisDownport

Musings on the Traveller RPG world, technology, astronomy and digital art.
This entry was posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector, Hostile, Independence Games, Mongoose Traveller, Mongoose Traveller Second Edition, Moon Toad Publishing, OGL, Stellagama Publishing, Zozer Games and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Mongoose and the Future of Cepheus Engine

  1. bibliosk8er says:

    As a player of Traveller, owner of books from Classic Traveller, Mongoose, and the various Cepheus Engine creators, and as produce of currently the only Traveller RPG fan podcast, I agree.

  2. shichitenhakki says:

    No need for apologies. We live in Interesting Times. Thanks for this update

  3. Well said. We (few? Vocal minority?) need to push Mongoose. Alas, I think it all comes down to their benevolence. As much as many despise it, that means corporate good will versus bottom line. I also wonder where Mr. Mark Miller stands on these issues.

  4. Alistair says:

    I started with RPGs in late ‘79/early ‘80, as best I can remember. It took me a long time to realise that as the internet became a reality that there was more and more RPG stuff turning up there. I was off with my friends quietly playing Traveller, and RQ2, D&D a bit (I’d stopped following any ‘zines or cons for D&D a few years before), and other games. The internet was for other things. So I didn’t see the things that all the OGL creation brought into being at the start. I missed the beginnings of the OSR, for example. I did discover Mongoose Traveller 1e (in one of my local game stores, which have sadly decreased in numbers), which I liked, and was always unsure why there’d been a need to upgrade it to version 2. What I did see was some rumble about the way it was done (I never knew any of the details), but I got to see the birth of Cepheus Engine and all the interesting projects, settings, variations and such that it spawned. I didn’t realise then that it was tied to the OGL that seemed to have spawned a similar vibrant growth over on the D&D side of the fence, which I’d now discovered and which was attracting me back to considering D&D + adjacent games.

    So for me, all the chaos caused by WotC/Hasbro with the OGL in D&D spaces, and the flow on effects to Traveller & Cepheus Engine (and anyone else reliant on OGL 1.0a) is very sad. It threatens the vibrancy and health of the hobby as a whole. If the worst interpretations of what Hasbro and Mongoose intend come to pass it seems to me that this will set back the RPG hobby 20 years, and not in a good way. If that happens then that’ll be the last Hasbro or Mongoose will see of me. There are other places to spend my RPG dollar when the dust settles. But will it be the same? The last 5 or so years seem to have been full of an upsurge in creativity: kickstarters for all sorts of games, and supplements; zinequest became a thing and introduced me to the world of ‘zines, for example. So many projects that mix fantasy with SF, and more – many of them using an OGL 1.0a product as their foundation.

    So there is more at risk here than just D&D, and Cepheus Engine. IMO at least. And that is why I also support the Alegis Downport open letter, and the various Cepheus Engine publishers, creators and supporters affected by this matter.

  5. Pingback: Mongoose is in talks with Cepheus Engine publishers over Traveller license concerns

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