Conspiracy at the Heart

I love a good conspiracy theory, me. My favourite by far is the theory that the movie Capricorn One was actually filmed on the Moon. But I’m here to tell you about a deep, dark Conspiracy right at the heart of D&D itself.

Of course, like all good Conspiracy Theories, it’s probably not true. It’s probably just the fetid ravings of some untutored drink-sozzled lunatic who knows nothing (the lunatic being me, in thise case). Probably. You be the judge.

And it’s all about the Monster Manual.

Y’see, back in the day, Monsters were simply called by their name. The Elf entry contained stats for an Elf. An Orc was an Orc and a Kobold a Kobold. Simple, straightforward. We knew where we were with the entries. Then along came the Open Gaming License (praiseitsholyname) and Wizards’ realized something.

All these monster names (with precious few exceptions – the beholder, illithid, carrion crawler, githyanki, githzerai and a few others) are in the public domain. They’re monsters either from classical mythology or names lost in the mists of time. Aside from that handful, Wizards’ couldn’t claim ownership on them at all.

Then along comes 4e D&D, and the names for the monster stats aren’t quite the same. We don’t have a statblock for Kobold, Elf or Orc. They’re replaced instead with stats for Kobold Skirmishers, Elf Archers and Orc Raiders. See the difference? Elf can’t be copyrighted, but Elf Archer can. All your base are belong to Wizards of the Coast.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a good thing as a whole. Wizards’ should be able to claim ownership of things they’ve made, and I absolutely adore the latest Monster Manual. It really is the best Core MM we’ve ever had. Having multiple-level statblocks for each critter is pure brilliance, and it’s one more thing that marks 4e out the most GM friendly Editions we’ve had.

But the fact that the Monster Manual is, essentially, a Statement of Intellectual Property still leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

It’s a Conspiracy, I tell ya!

But it does leave one little loophole……

I reckon there’s nothing to stop someone creating 4e stats for just a kobold, just an orc, just an elf, etc and releasing them for anyone to use, OGL or otherwise.

What do you think?

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7 Comments on “Conspiracy at the Heart”

  1. You’re leaving off the additional step that, under the original GSL for 4e, if you wanted to create a book with stat blocks for JUSt an kobold, JUST an elf, or JUST and orc, you’d have to pay Wizards for the privilege.

    Wizards of the Coast is secretly run by John Galt.

  2. I half-agree. In the case of “Elf Archer”, i doubt WotC would win a lawsuit – the phrase is a likely combination of two words. However, in the case of “Bloodfire Harpy” (for example) they would have a much better chance i think. Personally, i like all the prefab, ready made, templated monsters in the new MM. makes being a DM easy.

    jonathans last blog post..Square, Hex, Anything Generator

  3. Elf Archer and Orc Raider can’t be copyrighted, either. Not the names, anyway. Those’re common words.

    The stat blocks, though, that could be a different story.

    There’s nothing stopping anyone from statting up an “Orc” — but I’d be wary of using the 4e stat block format to do it. I’m not a lawyer, but I’d certainly want to consult one before releasing a product containing anything of the kind.

    Incidentally, it’d be the same situation with other editions, were it not for something like the OGL allowing that sort of use.

    Scotts last blog post..Special Effects in Action

  4. I love this post!
    Fan the flames of gamer discontent my friend.

    I too think the MM is the best we’ve had and find the multi-stat monsters a DM’s dream come true. However, I am intrigued by the whole conspiracy because I enjoy a good conspiracy, there are just too few really good ones these days. You can always depend on untutored drink-sozzled lunatics to come up with the best conspiracies.
    BTW Didn’t Magic: The Gathering have an Elf Archer as well? WotC must have planted the seeds for their domination of fantasy gaming phrases years ago and are just now putting their evil plan into play… maybe.

  5. And who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory, eh? :D

    In today’s litigious age, I’m pretty sure “we can own that name!” came up at some point during the R&D meetings. Doesn’t necessarily make them Evil Masterlords Over Us All though.

    But it’s kinda fun to picture Mike Mearls dressed as Ming the Merciless rubbing his hands and cackling over a map of the world. Bwahahahahaha. Etc.

  6. All great conspiracies must have an Evil Mastermind(s). MJ12, The Kennedy Assassination, Area 51, 9/11… all have them. D&D needs one for its conspiracy too. That is how things work. Conspiracy = Evil Mastermind(s).
    Ming the Mercilies :-)

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