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?