Open gaming

Open gaming is a movement within the tabletop role-playing game (RPG) industry with similarities to the open source software movement.[1] The key aspect is that copyright holders license their works under public copyright licenses that permit others to make copies or create derivative works of the game.

A number of role-playing game publishers have joined the open gaming movement, largely as a result of the release of the original System Reference Document (SRD) by Wizards of the Coast, which consisted of the core rules of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition. Open gaming has also been popular among small press role-playing game and supplement authors.


The use of the term open gaming began with the publication of the original SRD and the simultaneous release of the Open Game License (OGL). However, role-playing games had been licensed under open and free content licenses before this.[1]

The Fudge Legal Notice

The Fudge role-playing game system was created in 1992 by Steffan O'Sullivan with extensive help from the community. The name stood for "Freeform Universal Donated Game Engine" until Steffan O'Sullivan changed 'donated' to 'DIY' in 1995.

One reason why Fudge succeeded is that the author released it under the "FUDGE Legal Notice", a license that removed most restrictions on non-commercial use. However the FUDGE Legal Notice (more commonly known as simply "the Fudge license") was never intended to cover any work other than its eponymous role-playing game. Derivative works which were to be distributed for a fee required written permission from Fudge's author, Steffan O'Sullivan. The details of the Fudge Legal Notice were modified and expanded from time to time as O'Sullivan updated his work, but the essential elements of the license remained unchanged. The 1993 FUDGE Legal Notice allowed reprinting of the Fudge rules, including in otherwise commercial works, as long as certain conditions were met. The 1995 FUDGE Legal Notice permitted the creation of derivative works for personal use and for publication in periodicals.

In March 2004, Grey Ghost Games acquired the copyright of Fudge, and on April 6, 2005, they released a version of Fudge under the Open Game License, making it open for commercial use.

Dominion Rules and Circe

The phrase "opensource roleplaying" was used as early as 1999 by the Dominion Rules role-playing system, the license of which permitted supplementary material to be written for its rules. Another "open" system was the Circe role-playing system, published by the WorldForge project under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Open Game License

Despite Fudge and other games, the open gaming movement did not gain widespread recognition within the role-playing game industry until 2000, when Wizards of the Coast (WotC) published portions of the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons as the System Reference Document under the Open Game License. This move was driven by Ryan Dancey then Brand Manager for WotC, who drafted the Open Game License and first coined the term "open gaming" with respect to role-playing games.

Open Gaming Foundation

The Open Gaming Foundation (OGF) was founded by Ryan Dancey as an independent forum for discussion of open gaming among the members of the fledgling open gaming movement. The OGF consisted of a web site and a series of mailing lists, including the OGF-L list (for general discussion of open gaming licensing issues) and the OGF-d20-L list (for discussion of d20-specific issues).

The most common criticism of the OGF was that it was primarily a venue for publicizing Wizards of the Coast. Ryan Dancey was an employee of WotC, and discussion on the mailing lists tended to focus on d20 and the OGL (both owned by WotC) rather than on open gaming in general.

The OGF maintained a definition of an "open game license" while it was active, with two criteria:

“1. The license must allow game rules and materials that use game rules to be freely copied, modified and distributed. “2. The license must ensure that material distributed using the license cannot have those permissions restricted in the future.”[2]

The Foundation explicitly stated that the first condition excludes licences that ban commercial use. The second requirement is intended to ensure that the rights granted by the licence are inalienable.[2]


The OGL gained immediate popularity with commercial role-playing game publishers. However, the OGL was criticized (primarily by independent role-playing game developers) for being insufficiently "open", and for being controlled by the market leader Wizards of the Coast. In response to this, and in an attempt to shift support away from the OGL and toward more open licenses, several alternatives to the OGL were suggested and drafted. Similarly, the popularity of the OGL inspired others to create their own, specific open content licenses. Virtually none of these gained acceptance beyond the works of the licenses' own authors, and many have since been abandoned.


The most common open gaming license in use by commercial role-playing game publishers is the OGL. There are many publishers currently producing material based on the first System Reference Document, and many which make their products available under the OGL but which use game systems not based on the SRD.

Wizards of the Coast used the non-open Game System License for the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but released a new System Reference Document in 2015 for the 5th edition licensed under the OGL.[3][4]

Approved licences

The Open Gaming Foundation describes these licences as ‘Known Open Gaming Licenses’.[2]

Open games

The following games are under an Open Gaming Foundation-approved license or a free culture license.

Retro-clone systems

A number of fans and publishers have used existing open game content to create rules systems which closely emulate older editions of games that are no longer supported, and released those rules systems under an open license. The term "retro-clone" was coined by Goblinoid Games, the publisher of Labyrinth Lord.[7]

Notable examples of retro-clone games are OSRIC (based on 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons), Labyrinth Lord (based on Basic Dungeons & Dragons), and Swords & Wizardry (based on original Dungeons & Dragons).


  1. ^ a b Dancey, Ryan (2002-02-28). "The Most Dangerous Column in Gaming" (Interview). Interview with Ryan Dancey. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2008-02-26.
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Legal". 13th Age SRD. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  6. ^ "The GUMSHOE System Reference Document".
  7. ^

External links

ConCoction (convention)

ConCoction is a full-spectrum multi-genre fantasy and science fiction convention based in Cleveland, Ohio, and is annually in March. It is a not-for-profit endeavor run by the local and regional community of fans to promote Community Service, Education, and the Arts in Northeastern, Ohio.

ConCoction as a convention offers several tracks of programming in the arts, costuming, music/filk, literary, media, and the sciences. The convention also includes such events as an art show, a masquerade, an exhibit hall, a gaming hall, and at least one dance. ConCoction also has a children's track of programming that has included open gaming, make and take crafts and the attack of Godzilla as well as costuming, and science programs.

In 2016 this group will be celebrating the theme of "Space", where they will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of TriCon, the 24th World Science Fiction Convention held in Cleveland, Ohio on 1–5 September 1966 at the Sheraton-Cleveland and the pilot premier of Star Trek.

D20 System

The d20 System is a role-playing game system published in 2000 by Wizards of the Coast originally developed for the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. The system is named after the 20-sided dice which are central to the core mechanics of many actions in the game.

Much of the d20 System was released as the System Reference Document (SRD) under the Open Game License (OGL) as Open Game Content (OGC), which allows commercial and non-commercial publishers to release modifications or supplements to the system without paying for the use of the system's associated intellectual property, which is owned by Wizards of the Coast.The original impetus for the open licensing of the d20 System was the economics of producing roleplaying games. Game supplements suffered far more diminished sales over time than the core books required to play the game. Ryan Dancey, Dungeons & Dragons' brand manager at the time, directed the effort of licensing the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons through the 'd20 System Trademark', allowing other companies to support the d20 System under a common brand identity. This is distinct from the Open Game License, which simply allows any party to produce works composed of or derivative from designated Open Game Content.

Dominion Rules

Dominion Rules (DR) is a role-playing game system for historical and fantasy role-playing. DR is notable in the history of role-playing games for being one of the first RPGs to be released under an open source (or open gaming) licence, known as the Dominion Rules Licence. Development of the game followed an open source model whereby contributors, known as the Dominion Games Development Team, made improvements or additions to the game and published them on the internet (often through the Dominion Games web site) under the terms of the Dominion Rules Licence, thus explicitly encouraging the creation of new skills, spells, beasts and rules by its modular structure in an attempt to establish an equivalent to the Open Source Software model in RPG gaming.

Dominion Rules Licence

The Dominion Rules Licence (or DRL) is the open gaming licence under which the Dominion Rules role-playing game system is distributed. It is notable for being one of the earliest examples of an open gaming licence, predating the better known Open Game License.


The drow ( or ) or dark elves are a generally evil, dark-skinned, and white-haired subrace of elves in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game.

Dungeon Crawl Classics

Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) is a series of role-playing game modules published by Goodman Games, most of which use the Open Gaming License (OGL) and System Reference Document (SRD) version 3.5 to provide compatibility with the revised third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It includes more than 73 adventures, and features celebrated game designers such as Michael Mearls, Dave Arneson, and Monte Cook, as well as classic TSR artists like Jeff Dee, Erol Otus, Jim Roslof, and Jim Holloway. The DCC series harkens back to early 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons modules in content and style.

Game System License

The Game System License is a license that allows third-party publishers to create products compatible with and using the intellectual property from the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). It was released by Wizards of the Coast (WotC) to the public on June 17, 2008.

A System Reference Document (SRD) of the 3rd edition of D&D had been licensed under the Open Gaming License (OGL). The OGL is a copyright license, allowing the use of copyrighted text created by others in one's products. Also released at the same time was the d20 System Trademark License, allowing third-party publishers to indicate compatibility using a system logo, but not allowing the use of the D&D trademark.

The GSL, however, grants use of the 4th Edition System Reference Document, which lists trademarks, words, and short phrases that could be used to refer to materials in the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition rules, but contains no rules itself. People wishing to use this license are also granted a logo that must be placed onto their products to state that they are compatible with Dungeon & Dragons 4th Edition. The license also can be updated by Wizards of the Coast and updates affect all licensees; in case of litigation the licensees must pay the legal costs of Wizards of the Coast.

Prior to Gen Con 2008, it was announced that the GSL was undergoing a revision. Shortly after the end of the convention a number of Wizards of the Coast's jobs were eliminated, including the Licensing Manager position that was held by Linae Foster.With the release of the 5th edition of D&D in 2014, and the release under the OGL of an SRD for that edition, the GSL fell into disuse, though it remains the only license for 4th edition.

Gaming convention

A gaming convention is a gathering centered on role-playing games, collectible card games, miniatures wargames, board games, video games, or other types of games. These conventions are typically two or three days long, and often held at either a university or in a convention center hotel.The largest gaming convention, Spiel, is a trade fair held in Essen, Germany that focuses on German-style board games and RPGs. A similarly large event is Festival Ludique International de Parthenay (FLIP), a games festival held over twelve days in France. The annual gamescom in Cologne is the world's leading expo for video games.While games are often a large part of science fiction conventions and other hobby conventions, gaming conventions are distinguished by focusing on games and game-industry guests. The Penny Arcade Expo is the largest gaming convention in the US, with over 70,000 attendees at both its East (Boston) and Prime (Seattle) events. Gen Con has an emphasis on RPGs and features events for RPGs, CCGs, miniatures and boardgames with 60,000+ unique attendees over four days in 2017. Origins focuses on miniatures wargames and boardgames with 12,902 unique attendees in 2014, but also has a large component of RPG and CCG players. DragonCon is an example of a large convention with a focus on popular culture and comics that includes a large gaming contingent and 35,000-40,000 attendees, but isn't dedicated solely as a gaming convention. A smaller genre of gaming conventions are those devoted to the hobby of historical miniature wargaming, many of which are sponsored by the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society.

World Boardgaming Championships, PrezCon and Euro Quest are game conventions representing the hobby of Tournament Board Gaming Open Gaming, Demos, Jr. Events and more dedicated to the face to face board game hobby. The World Boardgaming Championships and PrezCon are considered two of the largest events dedicated solely to board games. WBC runs the first week in August each year and PrezCon runs the last week of February each year.


This article describes the game by role-playing game. "Mechamorphosis" is also used to refer to the transformation of robots in fiction relating to the Robotech anime setting; primarily in the novelizations written by Jack McKinney.Mechamorphosis is a Transformers-like role-playing game based on the d20 System created by Lysle Kapp and Rob Vaughn of Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). The game, released in 2004, is the fifth of FFG's Horizon minigames. The manual describing the game is 64 pages long. The game allows players to take on the roles of giant transforming robots set within the storyline of FFG's homebrew variation on Hasbro's Transformers toyline. Most of its game mechanisms are Open gaming content released under the Open gaming license.


OSRIC, short for Old School Reference and Index Compilation, is a fantasy role-playing game system. Specifically, OSRIC is a recreation of the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), and one of the most successful Dungeons & Dragons retro-clones. OSRIC describes itself as "a compilation of rules for old school-style fantasy gaming...intended to reproduce underlying rules used in the late 1970s to early 1980s". OSRIC uses the Open Gaming License and the System Reference Document of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition to create a new presentation of the first edition rule set.

Open Game License

The Open Game License (OGL) is a public copyright license that may be used by tabletop role-playing game developers to grant permission to modify, copy, and redistribute some of the content designed for their games, notably game mechanics. However, they must share-alike copies and derivative works.

Open Gaming Alliance

The Open Gaming Alliance is a non-profit organization of hardware manufacturers, game developers, game publishers and others, with the goal of promoting and advancing the PC as a gaming platform.The PC Gaming Alliance was announced during the Game Developers Conference 2008.In 2014, the PC Gaming Alliance changed its name to the Open Gaming Alliance and now focuses on all mainstream non-console gaming platforms, including Windows, OS X, SteamOS, Linux, desktops, laptops, and tablets.

Open admissions

Open admissions, or open enrollment, is a type of unselective and noncompetitive college admissions process in the United States in which the only criterion for entrance is a high school diploma or a certificate of attendance or General Educational Development (GED) certificate.


Paladine is a fictional major deity from the Dragonlance fantasy series of novels and role playing games, originally published by TSR, Inc. and later by Sovereign Press under the d20 Open Gaming License developed by Wizards of the Coast.Paladine is the leader of the faction of good deities in the Dragonlance campaign setting. Among his other duties, he is the patron deity of the Order of the Rose, a prestigious order of knighthood. He is also credited with the creation of the elven race in the Dragonlance campaign world. His colors are silver and white. In keeping with his role as a major deity, he holds dominion over several concepts, which form his divine portfolio. Among these concepts are Charity, Redemption, Leadership, Law, and Light.

Paladine is described as being the elder brother of Takhisis and Gilean, the major deities of Evil and Neutrality, respectively. He and Mishakal are the parents of Kiri-Jolith, Habbakuk, and Solinari, who are all lesser deities of good, and of Mina, a lesser god standing apart from Good, Evil and Neutrality.


PrezCon "The Winter Nationals" is a convention held yearly since 1994 by PrezCon, Inc. It is held in Charlottesville, Virginia at the DoubleTree of Charlottesville in late February each year, the starting Monday typically coinciding with the Presidents Day holiday.

PrezCon averages 650+ players each year. The convention was modeled after Avaloncon, which had been run from 1991 to 1998 by Avalon Hill. The convention offers over 100+ board game tournaments, many demos and play tests; plus, 24-hour gaming, live auction of games and related paraphernalia, an auction store, and a vendor's room.

Specific characteristics include:

24 hour open gaming area, with library of 500 games, no added for all attendees.

All tournaments may be entered by all attendees with a tournament level badge.

Junior level open gaming and tournaments for children 12 years or younger for free.

Sword and Sorcery Studios

Sword and Sorcery Studios (S&SS) was an imprint of White Wolf, Inc. used to publish its d20 System & Open Gaming License material in from 2000 to 2008. The imprint also acted as publisher for other small press game developers, such as Monte Cook's company, Malhavoc Press, and Necromancer Games.

System Reference Document

In the open gaming movement, a System Reference Document (SRD) is reference for a role-playing game's mechanics licensed under the Open Game License (OGL) to allow other publishers to make material compatible with that game.


True20 is a role-playing game system designed by Steve Kenson and published by Green Ronin Publishing. The system was first published as a part of the Blue Rose RPG before being published as a standalone universal generic role-playing game, True20 Adventure Roleplaying.

Wayfarers (role-playing game)

Wayfarers is a pencil and paper role-playing game (RPG) released in the fall of 2008 by the Ye Olde Gaming Companye (YOGC). It was created by Jimmy T. Swill and Gregory Vrill. The names Jimmy Swill and Gregory Vrill are used within the book as names for example characters.

Wayfarers is a swords and sorcery fantasy RPG, and it references the Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) Open Gaming License (OGL) and System Reference Document (SRD), an open source document allowing publishers to employ material from the d20 system version of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG, which is published by the WoTC. In addition, the YOGC publishes Wayfarers under its own Open Gaming License.Wayfarers is similar in style and form to the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, but has a classless skill-based player character creation system and employs character proficiencies similar to those in the 2nd edition of AD&D by David "Zeb" Cook.Despite referencing the WoTC SRD, Wayfarers is not true to the mechanics of D&D as games such as Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, and Swords & Wizardry which also reference the SRD, and due to their similarities to this source material are often called retro-clones or simulacra. As an example, unlike D&D, armor in Wayfarers reduces damage, and there is no Armor Class. It has been suggested that Wayfarers is a 're-imagining' of D&D, wherein the game evolved towards a class-less, level-less approach like GORE. The game is sold in hardcover, paperback and PDF. The YOGC and the "YOGC community" produces a publication called the "Wayfarers Guild Journal" that supplements the game, with the first issue published 01/19/09.Wayfarers was revised and released by Mongoose Publishing in March 2012.

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