I’ve got a lot of great ideas…
For other peoples’ intellectual property, unfortunately. For example, Power Rangers RPG is something I’d love to develop all kinds of cool content for. But how far can I go before I start getting blowback from Hasbro and their army of rabid legal dogs? I’d love to do a Diablo 2 or even Diablo 3 conversion for Dungeon Crawl Classics or even 5E D&D.
The magic word: FREE
The oldest RPG content dilemmas involve money, time, and copyrights/trademarks. Two of these are the oldest problems in the world that we even discuss in world design and campaign design. The other issue revolves around the fact that we tend to live in a greedy, litigious world here on Earth.
Money and time are probably the two most valuable assets in existence anywhere at any time. Art costs money. Printing costs money. Marketing takes time if you’re on your own and/or money if you hire it out. Crowdfunding only does so much good.
People gotta eat and pay bills. Honestly, I hate it. And don’t get me wrong, people deserve to be paid well for their efforts. I’m not trying to make a dime off of anything in the RPG industry that’s not my own original content. I just want to occasionally do things FOR FUN! Not profit. Not so much as a single penny.
Unfortunately, free projects, aside from being a labor of love, have to be done on the artist’s own time for fun. That means it takes away time from projects that could be making money. And if you compile a “regular day job” on top of writing/art/cartography/marketing efforts, pretty soon you run out of time for the fun stuff. I’m not suffering from that problem currently, but I am all too familiar with it.
I just want to do things because, wouldn’t it be cool to play a WoW Warlock in an OSR style game? Wouldn’t it be cool to play a Diablo Necromancer in D&D again? (I loved the Diablo 2 books back in the day.) I want to make a massive monster table for Power Rangers RPG and give it away to the public for funsies.
I can do things for fun and free, but…
Alas, people like to profit from their intellectual property. If I ran a company like Hasbro or Activision, I’d want to make sure my people got paid and keep the lights on. And thank goodness we have the Open Game License for D&D. Without an OGL and the accompanying System Reference Document, we’d get into legal trouble just trying to make cool stuff and share it.
We live in a disturbingly litigious world and the RPG industry is well known for lawsuits. Some of them can be pretty dumb and have cost us some of the best content that could have been, but never was. Just in the last year we lost out on some premium Ravenloft villains because of a dispute involving some old T$R properties and Dragonlance. And there was much grumbling from fandom.
There comes a point where free doesn’t keep the ban hammer from coming down. Unfortunately, getting sued takes away time and money not just showing up for court, but the sweat equity invested in the project itself. My best advice legally when it comes to publishing anything anywhere- when in doubt; don’t.
But, with a little luck, I’m a small enough fish with a free site I won’t get noticed or smacked down by any of the big fish. I’m pretty reasonable, too. Sometimes legal trouble stems from people being too stubborn or proud to know when to quit. Here’s a good stop sign- If you’re in court as a defendant- it’s time to stop doing whatever it was that landed you there.
I’m going to keep going until I can go no further.
Fanfic still gets plenty of mileage in most genres/tv shows. I know other fans tend to scoff at one another’s fanfic efforts. I get that sometimes it’s not super popular. I know it’s somewhat frowned upon to insert one’s one characters into canonical works. I like pushing the boundaries with creating my own works in someone else’s world, though. Wait until GI Joe RPG comes out…
I’m leaving the Diablo conversion on the back shelf for now. Although DCC with Diablo characters… aw man. So tempting… I notice Matt Mercer got to run a session or two in Sanctuary. I’m jelly.
Power Rangers RPG will keep showing up on my blog FOR FREE! I’ll never offer a paid product unless by some freak chance I get the nod from Renegade Studios/Hasbro. Otherwise, if I hear from someone’s legal team, it all comes down. Morph em while you got em, I guess.
Keep plugging away. I’ve got some things I want to put up as paid projects that aren’t just fan-having-fun stuff coming up. The paid stuff is probably going to be Pay What You Wish until I’m somewhat established. Some day maybe we’ll be in the $1.99-19.99 range. I have dreams and goals. Some of it’s a long way off.
Hang in there. Have a great week. Please be kind and considerate to one another.