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(TFT) How to revive TFT without invoking a Summon Lawyer spell
> I was tempted to buy a flatbed scanner with some OCR software, scan AM,
> AW, and ITL, and then reorganize and edit the whole into my own creation.
This isn't quite kosher, since you are directly deriving from the work. If
they could show that you did that (and this email would certainly help
them), then it would be a violation of copyright even if they were all your
The legal way to do this is to put all of your TFT materials away and sit
down at the word processor and start dumping rules out onto the screen.
Record every rule you can think of, in your own words. Save an archive copy
of that document. Next arrange them into logical groups - characters,
talents, spells, combat, adventure & campaign might make nice categories.
Save an archive copy of that document. Now start filling in the text around
the naked rules. Make sure they are your own words, and give examples of
the mechanics based on your own games. Historical references are always a
good idea when describing weapons, or monsters, so it is clear that they are
based a pseudo-historical context like other fantasy RPGs, rather than on
TFT itself. Don't use words you can't find a reference for, unless you made
them up yourself (the Mnoren would be a good example of something you
couldn't use, as would Cidri). Create your own campaign world, and populate
it with the leftovers of your own ancient beings. I'm sure this list will
be fertile ground for such a world. Even the abbreviations such as ST and
DX would need to be changed, since they represent a link back to the TFT
nomenclature. However, Str and Dex would be a subtle enough change to break
When you're finished, it wouldn't be TFT, but it would FEEL like TFT. Isn't
that the point?
Something to consider (if you want to use the Open Gaming License) is that
Wizards of the Coast is going to be releasing a generic fantasy framework
under this license. You won't want to use those rules, but it will include
most of the terms that TFT uses to refer to monsters, weapons, stats,
spells, etc..., so if you derive from that document it will pretty much
establish that those concepts came from some source other than TFT.
> At the very least I would have distributed it just to the players in my
> campaign here in Austin, and probably wouldn't publish it for
> sale anywhere.
Sale doesn't matter in the legal sense, only distribution. This usually is
a point of legal rather than practical significance, because without a
substantial financial stake in the matter there is very little to be gained
from an expensive lawsuit.
> It wouldn't be my game design, just my writing, so it would still be
> necessary (and fair) to credit Steve for the game /design/.
It is perfectly legal to mention Steve and Metagaming as a source of
inspiration for the game, and given the enjoyment TFT has provided over the
years it is certainly appropriate. However, the game design is no more
proprietary than, say, Poker or Chess. You wouldn't have any qualms about
publishing the rules of either of those games, would you? The fictional
fantasy aspect is wholly the property of Metagaming/HT, so copying that
would be inappropriate.
> Also, I'm sure
> that if I did publish soon afterwards I'd be hearing from HT and his
> lawyers! It wouldn't be worth the legal hassle.
Sounds like a good reason to incorporate and release the product under the
corporate umbrella. A paper company with no assets and a product that
doesn't make a profit is a poor target for a lawsuit. They could argue that
you pierced the corporate veil by knowingly committing an illegal act, but
that is a big hurdle to overcome. It makes it that much more costly, and
much less worth the effort.
> But instead of copying Steve I'm working on my own RPG design (working
> title /Zilch/). Copy-left might be a good way to handle it once it's
> something good enough to show to other people. Or I might make the game
> something you /subscribe to/ instead of buy.
Interesting idea. Have you seen Compact Combat? Greg Poehlein and Guy
McLimire released it last year through their Microtactix company. Its
philosophy is very similar to the minimalist approach taken by TFT, and it's
very inexpensive. www.microtactix.com, if you're interested.
I'd also like to point out that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal
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