On the use of free licenses – A personal manifesto

Welcome back friends of Zotiquest Games!

In this issue I want to touch on a topic that is of paramount importance to me, and I will try to expose it while trying not to bore you too much.

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Why Free Culture licenses are a win-win

Free Culture licenses like Creative Commons offer a mutually beneficial arrangement for content creators and consumers. By allowing people to share, remix, and repurpose creative works under certain conditions, creators can gain more exposure and influence while retaining copyright privileges they deem important.

Free Culture strikes an ideal balance between access and ownership that serves both producers and users of content.

This is especially relevant for tabletop RPG creators and designers, as Free Culture licenses allow them to share their ideas and mechanics with fans to catalyze further creativity, while still retaining commercial rights over their core products. It fosters an open culture that benefits both developers and players.

The Zotiquest Policy

It is not uncommon that I get asked, “can I do this* expansion/optional rule/other game based on yours?”

And the answer is and always will be just that, “of course.” Almost anything I publish is under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 license.

The license allows others to share, edit, and build upon a work, even commercially, as long as they credit the original creator (me in this case) and license any derivative works under the same terms.

This enables RPG designers to share game mechanics, settings, characters, and other ideas freely while still getting attribution. Others can then take those game elements and expand upon them in their own way, fueling innovation and creativity in the RPG community.

The ShareAlike provision ensures ideas stay open by requiring derivatives stay under CC-BY-SA. This creates an expanding ecosystem of open game content that all designers can draw from.

Even if creators later decide to make a commercial RPG product based on their open content, the origins are documented and they retain full copyright control over the core product.

The CC-BY-SA license strikes the right balance for RPG creators to collaboratively develop ideas while still maintaining commercial opportunities. It’s a win-win for both designers and players.

On using the text of my games

Lately requests have been coming in that fall into three categories:

  1. “Will you make a trademark/license for game X?” No. The only exception might be for Loner, but we’ll see in the near future. And in any case, to write material compatible with my games (including Loner) you only need the above license and without having to question me in any way.

  2. “Will you be doing the compendium of fan rules for game X?No. I do not have to put any stamp of approval on the material you write. I don’t have or want the authority. If you want to get on board, you can publish it yourself, without any qualms.

  3. “Will you write expansion/rule Y for game X?” Maybe, if I’m interested in doing it. If the idea is good we can do two things: if I am interested I will develop it, or collaboratively (and either way I will credit you). Conversely, if I am not interested you can develop and publish it quietly yourself without having to ask my permission (the licensing issue always applies).

Additional Notes

Publishing does not mean selling

With the internet and digital platforms, creators have more options than ever to publish and share their work at little to no cost. This democratization of distribution channels means that publishing no longer equates to commercialization. Creators can now easily publish content under free culture licenses, allowing others to freely use, remix, and share non-commercially. The value is in the spread of ideas and creativity, not direct profit. Of course, creators can still attempt to monetize and sell commercial derivatives or physical products related to their free works. But the core digital publication exists as a “gift” economy where reputation and influence matter more than sales. For many, the joy of creation and contribution is reward enough. Overall, the old paradigm of publishing as selling is fading; publishing now simply means making creative work publicly accessible.

I am not the final authority on anything

While I aim to create fun, immersive games, I recognize that my designs represent just one perspective. My ideas on mechanics, settings, or gameplay styles are inherently limited by my own experiences and vision as a creator. Even with years in the field, I cannot claim authoritative knowledge on the “right” or “wrong” way to craft an RPG. There is no one definitive formula. I offer my own take, but understand that players may envision something entirely different. Their input could improve my thinking. I try to design thoughtfully, but welcome constructive feedback and critique. RPG creation is a collaborative process, not a dictation of absolute rules. The brilliance of tabletop gaming is that no one person owns it completely. I contribute my voice, but I am not the final arbiter on any aspect of this art form we collectively nurture and play.

Third-party licenses do not promote Free Culture

In tabletop RPG design, some publishers use third-party licensing models that restrict the faculties of using mechanics and content. While arguably valid, these licenses actively limit creative freedom and community participation compared to Free Culture alternatives. It stifles the open ecosystem of sharing and iteration that fuels innovation. This privatizes ideas that could inspire the entire community if freely available. There is a place for commercial restrictions, but third-party licensing’s strict limitations contradict the spirit of freely collaborating to advance the RPG medium. Enabling all creators and fans to collectively expand on influential works is true “open gaming.”

As Zotiquest Games I will never offer my texts under such a license.

Happy gaming!

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