Friday, December 9, 2011

Lands of Ara Enterprises and the OGL

As 2011 draws creepingly to a close, I find myself gearing up for some new Lands of Ara-related endeavors, most notably the compilation and self-publication of the Lands of Ara Compendium 2011.  This project, which I announced here, offered an artwork preview of here, and posted a tentative Table of Contents for here, is going to be the first official publication of Lands of Ara Enterprises, the publishing entity I have formed with my collaborator Spawn of Endra.  My hope is that LAE will function as an "umbrella" or brand identity for future Lands of Ara Compendiums, various adventure modules I plan to release including The Tower of Death, and, in the fulness of time, a Lands of Ara Gazetteer

Obviously, generating content for these projects is not a problem for me: I really enjoy writing gameable stuff, especially adventure modules.  I am also extremely fortunate to have Spawn of Endra as my collaborator / editor-in-chief, for he has a keen eye for (and many technical skills relating to) layout and graphic design. (See, for example, his enlightening queries about Font Use in D&D Products.)

However, where I am still a bit naive and ignorant is in the exact functioning of the OGL and the various legalities behind what I can and can't use from other sources.  Sure, I have picked up on some of the general parameters by reading other people's stuff and consulting posts about various "cautionary tales" -- and the most valuable of these to me is a post by David Macauley wherein he outlines two such tales and follows it up with links to crucial resources for using the OGL properly.  For my own convenience, and to possibly benefit my readers, I will now re-post those important OGL-related links.  I also highly recommend that you check out his original post, esp. the second half. There is also a nice comment by Melan, and some further advice from Matt Finch, which I will excerpt here:

"the OGL can be intimidating if you start by reading the definitions section. In a legal document, capitalized terms are like defined variables. The heavy duty legal language is in the definition of those terms. It is easiest to get familiar with the OGL by skipping the definitions for your first read-through, then reading the definitions to get a better sense of how it works with the details, and then (because you will still be somewhat confused) start going to reputable sources to walk you through it a bit more clearly. Don't rely on those, though; once you have their advice, you should still go back to the OGL for a third reading now that you think you understand how it works."

Now those links:



Thanks, David!

See also Paul Gorman's helpful advice about font use in pdfs.


  1. Thanks for the kind words Carter, I'm glad you found the post useful and I'm most definitely looking forward to seeing the publication of your Lands of Ara Compendium 2011 and other projects. I reckon you're in good hands with the editing skills of Spawn of Endra and your LAE collaboration will be a winner.

  2. Great compilation. I'm currently working on publishing my first product and recently used Gorman's post to select a font. The OGL aspect is more difficult to understand, luckily I've had a few friendly fellow OSR Grognards lend a helpful hand.

  3. I thought we were going to call the organization "All of You Motherfuckers Are Going to Pay! Enterprises".

    But fine, you're the boss. On a tangent about fonts a recent back and forth on DnDwPS brought to light a fairly cheap way to make one's own fonts and have them workable in Word, Illustrator, etc. Maybe we talk about this over Skype tomorrow.

    As for the OGL, probably the question is exactly where and for what do we need the OGL? My readings of that are out of date, but I don't recall if just using stat blocks requires an OGL. Creative Commons Licensing might be more appropriate in places, and maybe the text per se should be copyrighted.

    These are the nitty gritty bits that I never feel I get a decent commentary on. I worked for 5 years in historic preservation, and I could make practical sense of all the federal, state and local laws and how they conflicted in jurisdiction. But for this stuff I still feel like even the pros can't (or more fairly haven't) just laid out HOW you comply with/apply the OGL or other forms of IP protection.

    Just citing the OGL doesn't mean you are complying with it, nor does that protect all the other content as a copyright would (if enforced).

    Grumble grumble ... now I'm going back to reformatting 3 bibliographies into a 4th alien format.

  4. Thanks for the great comments everybody!

    @Spawn: Who knows, perhaps "All of You Motherfuckers Are Going to Pay! Enterprises" (or AYMAGPE) isn't out of the running yet!

  5. Meh, the OGL is pretty easy to use (especially if you start with an existing work like Labyrinth Lord that already has the OGL attributions for all the source material that was used in the creation of that work). You just slap the copyright declarations from the source material (Labyrinth Lord, for instance) into the Section 15 Copyright Notice at the end of your OGL, then you add your copyright declaration after that. Other than that, make sure to clearly define what is product identity and what is open game content in your original work and add the OGL declaration at the beginning of your text.

    @Spawn - there is nothing really clear to say that you need the OGL for much of anything, as long as you steer away from clear trademark and trade dress infractions. BUT... once you choose to use the OGL you are bound to its very specific terms of use.

    Carter - let me know if you are still unclear at all about how to use the OGL, I waded into it a while back when I did the OGL for Fantasy Quirks

  6. Thanks Carl, your comments here are very helpful, I will get in touch if I need further guidance on this.