Version 1.0 -- January 26, 2004
There has been some confusion about how these licenses are applied to software. We will attempt to clarify the major sticking points. This FAQ assumes you have read and are reasonably familiar with the Open Game License, the d20 System Trademark License, and the d20 System Trademark Guide.
Q: Can the licenses be used with software?
A: Yes, both licenses can be used with software. However, several sections of the licenses require a bit more work to properly implement in software than they do in printed material and the d20 License has restrictions specific to software.
Q: How can the OGL be used with software?
A: Just like with other material, the OGL allows you to use any Open Content, provided you follow the terms of the OGL. Follow the requirements of the License, include the text of the license and the appropriate copyright information, and clearly identify Open Content.
NOTE: The biggest problem we've found with software and the OGL is that programmers aren't paying attention to Section 8 of the OGL. Section 8 states: ñIf you distribute Open Game Content You must clearly indicate which portions of the work that you are distributing are Open Content.î This doesn't mean you can say ñall rules in my program are Openî, the users need to be able to see all that Open Content. You can do this by putting Open Content in a format that is easy to understand. Popular solutions have been to place everything in text files that the program pulls info from, having everything in a viewable database within the software, using Java script on a webpage (viewing the source of the webpage will display the code and Java script is relatively easy for a user to interpret). The key is that the user has to see everything that is Open Content that the program uses and be able to understand it without too much effort. The whole point of the OGL is that once information is declared Open everyone has free access to it under the OGL. Compiling that information into a program denies the user that access and violates the spirit of the Open Gaming License.
Q: So what kinds of programs can I make with the OGL?
A: Anything. Character generators are popular, as are programs that help GMs keep track of their adventure. Random treasure generators are also fun.
Q: So I could make a game?
A: Sure. Remember though, you cannot use any Product Identity with the OGL or claim compatibility with anything. So you can't say your game is a d20 System game or uses D&D rules or call it ñElminster's Undermountain Crawl.î
Q: What is different if I use the d20 System License?
A: In addition to following all the rules of the OGL for any Open Content you use, the d20 System Guide doesn't let you describe the process for creating a character, describe the process for applying experience to a character, and cannot be an interactive game.
NOTE: Please pay attention to the section of the license that prohibits a Covered Product from being an interactive game. It is not enough to say your product isn't a game; the license gives a definition for what is considered to constitute an interactive game.
"Interactive Game": means a piece of software that is designed to accept inputs from human players or their agents, and use rules to resolve the success or failure of those inputs, and return some indication of the results of those inputs to the users.
This includes the obvious examples of attacking in combat, saving throws, and skill checks, but also includes dice rolling for character ability scores and hit points and rolling for damage. Why? Because in the d20 System a higher number is almost always better. Rolling an 18 for strength is obviously a preferable outcome to rolling a 3. In any circumstance where one outcome is quantifiably better than another is considered by Wizards to be an indication of success or failure; the software cannot perform these kinds of operations without breaching the license.
Q: Why can't I use those things in my program?
A: No d20 System Product can include rules for character creation or applying experience. In exchange for using the d20 logo you are prohibited from making a product that replaces the core rulebooks. Covered Products supplement the core rulebooks; they may not replace them. That is why all Covered Products must state that they require the use of the core rules.
The interactive game restriction exists because Wizards has an exclusive licensee for all interactive games. Authorizing other parties to make electronic games would violate the exclusive terms of that license.
Q: If I can't describe character creation and applying experience how can I still make a character generator?
A: You provide the users with the building blocks of the character, you don't tell them what to do with those blocks. A user familiar with the core rules will be able to use the program, while one who isn't will have difficulty. Any documentation you provide has to walk a fine line between explaining how to use the program and avoiding explaining how to create a character.
Q: Do I still need all that copyright info and stuff that goes on the covers of a book when I make software?
A: Yes, you do. Usually this is put in a pop-up window that displays when the software is opened and/or in the help or about files.
Q: Can I include non-Open Content if I implement some kind of protection, like requiring the user type word 3 from page 21?
A: No, regardless of the protection scheme you use Wizards considers any unauthorized use of our products to be copyright infringement. Furthermore, we do not feel that this kind of protection mechanism is sufficiently secure.
To conclude, here is a quick checklist of things to do when using the licenses with software:
1 - Decide if you are going to use the d20 System License (allows you to claim compatibility with D&D and to use the d20 Logo). If you use the d20 License remember what you can't do (describe the process for creating a character, meet the definition of an interactive game, etc.)
2 - Make sure Open Content is in a form where the user can see it all. Clearly identify all Open Content and Product Identity.
3 - Include the complete text of the OGL and update Section 15 with the copyright information appropriate with the Open Content you are using.
4 - If you're using the d20 License include the relevant mandatory trademark notices and other required text blocks.
Go to the d20 System main page for information about the d20 system
or check out the d20 System message boards for lively discussion.