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(TFT) Open Source TFT
Howdy all. As some of you guys know, I'm an attorney *and* a TFT loon -- a
dangerous combination to be sure. I also love miniature wargaming, plastic
model building and the Dallas Cowboys, so there's really no hope. Anyhow,
enough about my mental illnesses.
I've been thinking about how to bring TFT back to the gaming world. For many
years, I've quietly attempted to locate the owner of the TFT intellectual
property, to no avail. My guess is that the property got assigned to some bank
when Metagaming shut down. At the very least, they would have had a lien on
the property. The problem is that Texas banks have gone through many mergers
and sales over the last 20 years. My own bank, for instance, has been merged 4
times in 12 years. So, it's nearly impossible to determine which bank has the
stuff. And of course it would be a formidable challenge to find a bank
president willing to discuss a sale for the minimal value that TFT should
command. There's also the possibility that TFT was secretly sold to some third
party, who, for nefarious reasons of his own, has kept it out of print since
1983. Personally, I doubt that scenario, since that person would be leaving
money on the table, but it's possible. It's also possible that HT retained the
intellectual property (he would have leased it to Metagaming or DTI and the
rights would have reverted back to him in this scenario).
And since the penalties for copyright infringement can be downright medieval,
there's (rightly) very little enthusiasm for just putting TFT back into print
without the permission of the copyright owners.
However, I am becoming increasingly convinced that we could re-write TFT and
not infringe anyone's copyright. This is *not* legal advice; it's just my
opinion. Do not rely on it -- pay your own attorney if you want to run the
But *if* a group of folks were willing to undertake this, I would be willing
to be the "front guy" on the project. This offer is not due to any presumption
on my part. Well, not much. <grin> But as an attorney, I'd be (a) well placed
to evaluate any threats of litigation, orders to desist, etc.; (b) well placed
to negotiate terms if the copyright holder did materialize; and (c) not as
susceptible to intimidation from other attorneys.
I think that such a project would need to look like this:
1. The game would be produced under our own version of the open gaming
license. In other words, it's free to distribute.
2. We could probably call it The Fantasy Trip -- that trademark was abandoned
long ago. I'd be willing to apply and pay for the trademark in my own state,
once the product was being produced (a requirement for trademark
registration). A federal trademark would cost too much, but they aren't
strictly necessary and would probably be overkill for this project.
Alternatively, we could call it something different -- say, "TFT 2" or
3. We would have to re-write the entire rules set. That means that every
single sentence would need to be re-stated. Of course, since most of us
scanned the original text long ago, that would not be as difficult as it
sounds. Obviously, the more folks we have, the faster it would go.
4. Someone has to own the intellectual property, even though it will be
effectively public domain. I have a company that can be the titular owner. I
can draft an agreement in which all work by the collaborators on this project
will be owned by the company, but only if the work is licensed per our version
of the OGL. I can also draft the OGL (I'll use the Wizards of the Coast
version as a starting point).
5. A proposed structure:
- Someone (the "Outliner") needs to produce an outline of all the current TFT
rules, organized into logical sections. The Outliner will also produce a
logical ordering scheme. Sections could be assigned to Collaborators who would
produce the first draft of their particular section. I suggest that the
Outliner also be responsible for assigning sections (as a practical matter,
volunteers will emerge for various sections).
- After comments from the group, the revised first draft would go to a smaller
number of editors (or even one editor), who would edit it for style, thereby
ensuring that everything flows together despite being written by numerous
folks. We'd want to agree on a style sheet -- I'd steal the Steve Jackson
Games style sheet (though I'd avoid their infatuation with sidebars). The
Editors would also need to verify that every sentence has been restated.
-At this stage, we would re-create the canon TFT rules. (Of course, we have to
agree on what canon is). Truly ambiguous rules would need to be identified and
an "official" ruling would be created and agreed to, with alternatives put
into the expansion section (below). I suggest that we leave the final decision
to a group of 3 people (the "Mnoren", perhaps) who will vote on it. Or, we can
all vote on it. But we need a resolution mechanism because reasonable people
can and will disagree.
-Expansion material and rules changes should be added (and marked as such)
My guess is that a lot of this work has already been done by individual
members of this list. This proposal would simply harmonize that work and
produce a common rules set.
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