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Re: (TFT) Open Source TFT
This thread lends a totally new meaning to the term "Rules Lawyer".
(Sorry, I just had to work that bad joke in.) ;^)
First of all Ty, thanks for brining this up. I was beginning to think
everyone had given up on this list. It is an important subject to all
I have a question. All of us could go on for a very long while about
the legalities of whether or not we could redo TFT and this thread so
far has done just that. My question is simply this: What's the point?
1.) Is it to raise awareness of TFT? Is it to attempt to get more
people introduced to TFT?
If the end product is to be freely distributed via a pdf file on a few
web sites I really don't see how that helps TFT. The rule books to TFT
are already available to download as a pdf file. (See:
http://www.deiker.net/tft.html) Is Ted doing that legally? That site
has been up for a while, has anyone asked him to take it down? Anyone
looking for TFT can get them there. So, what exactly would a reworked,
downloadable version of the rules do for TFT? How would they raise
awareness for the game?
2.) Is it to generate income? That's out.
3.) Here's a tough question: Is this a possible way to try to finally
flush out the copyright owner? As far as I know (and I spoke to Steve
Jackson about this a few years back at GenCon) HT still owns this game.
At least that was Steve's understanding at the time. Doing something
like this might bring him forward. Is that the point? (As an aside I
too have looked into finding the owner of the copyright with no
success. I've even looked hard for HT but everyone who I know that knew
him has no idea whatever happened to him.)
4.) And finally, there is something to be said about having all of our
names on a new version of TFT. Who of us hasn't thought of that? (If I
could win the lottery tomorrow one of the things I would attempt to do
is to republish this game.) But is this a reason to redo TFT? Not a
good one if this is the case. And how would you credit the design of
this new game? Would you say it was by SJ? Based on an original idea by
SJ? Original rules by SJ? Or would you just leave his name completely
off of the project.
Ty, I know you are a lawyer. I also think you've had some experience
with the publishing industry but I'm not sure. I happen to make my
living in publishing and understand somewhat what it takes to market a
game successfully. For the past 20 years I've worked for most of the
major RPG game companies as an illustrator and as a graphic designer.
I've art directed a few well known games and I know many people who
have written and self published their own games. So I know a few things
about copyright laws as well.
You are absolutely correct in stating that you can not copyright a
"gaming system". You can not copyright things like text, images, place
names, etc. But let me think about a reworded version of TFT for a
moment. You would definitely have to change the terminology to avoid
copyright infringement. Would any of you be happy to play a version of
TFT where a character who has picked preference Number 1 (stood still
or traversed one hex unit up to one half of his total hex unit
capability) has to stop when entering another figures forward
zone-of-control? Or choose preference Number 4 to dodge back to escape
your opponents attack radius? Does this rewording help clarify TFT to
new people or confuse them?
Wouldn't it be better if, instead of wasting energy and talent on
redoing the core rules, we focused on promoting and exposing this game
to a larger audience? Maybe we should pool our talents and concentrate
on publishing new scenarios and rules somewhat like the group in Texas
is trying to do. (See http://www.thefantasytrip.org/) Maybe this could
be done through the formation of a national organization devoted to TFT
and it's preservation. This could include a very extensive master web
site of ideas, rules, local clubs, etc. Many of us could also run demos
at local cons and game conventions as well as start TFT clubs in their
area. This would go a lot farther to expose TFT to a new and larger
audience than rewriting rules.
But let me get back to publishing a new, reworked version of TFT.
To bring a game to the market and raise awareness among your target
audience requires many things: advertising, web site promotion,
articles in gaming publications, etc. All of this costs money. Plus the
gaming climate has changed since TFT first premiered. I don't think a
cardboard counter style game could survive against the GamesWorkshop
miniature gaming Goliath. Who would be interested?
To bring a reworked version of TFT back to the forefront of gaming and
give it a wide audience would require a slick, 4 color, printed core
rule book followed by regularly published supplements. It would have to
be widely distributed and you would have to pay a warehouse to store
your inventory. (For those of you not familiar with publishing, most of
your money, in the way of profits, goes to the distributor.) It would
also have to be updated to current industry standards and include rules
for miniature gaming. Otherwise it's just going to wind up as another
free download on http://www.freewargamesrules.co.uk/ where it will be
Obviously I'm talking about a lot more work than what Ty is proposing.
To do this thing right requires more than a word document with a static
style sheet look. (By the way, designers use sidebars to break up the
grey space on a page generated by the body copy. Pictures do the same
thing.) It also would require an investment of several thousand dollars
to do right.
Look, currently I know some of gamings top talent who would love to
work on re-imaging TFT Melee and Wizards, most of them would even do it
for free (they've told me as such). There are a lot of creative people
out there that have fond memories of TFT and love this little game. But
all of them (I included) would only touch it if it was legitimate, saw
print, and was widely distributed. A reworked knock off would be just
that, a reworked knock off.
Anyway, please don't take offense at these comments. We are talking
about serious matters here and I wanted to lay some thoughts out on the
table. Maybe it's the New Yorker in me. Or maybe I'm stewing over the
fact that no one other than Dan responded to my Heroscape 3D Melee
rules. I really thought that would generate more discussion than it
did. Oh well, 3 months of work down the tubes.
--David O. Miller
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