Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I'm a Copyleft Type of Guy

I identify with copyleft for a number of reasons. The main ones are monetary (I have several children and hobby money is painfully scarece), the challenge (it isn't nearly as easy as plopping down the money and having the thing), and philosophical.

My computers have run on Linux for at least 10 years, either in dual-boot, or for the last 3 years, 100% Linux. I use Openoffice for my office-type needs. I do my maps in GIMP. Any kind of vector drawing is either Inkscape or LibreCAD. I think you get the idea.

I'm sure you find all of this fascinating, but are still left wondering, "What does this have to do with a gaming blog?"

What it really comes down to is that I feel sort of guilty about working with a game that actually costs money. Guilty isn't precisely the right word, but I can't really pin down a better one. There is a graphic link in my right sidebar about supporting free and open gaming. I didn't put that there because I thought it looked cool, or I wanted to be some sort of "RPG Robin Hood" when it seemed like fun. I put it there because I believe in it.

Many years ago, when the hobby was booming (before CRPGs nearly killed it) I was like a lot of other geeks. I thought I could make a very comfortable living for myself if I could just get my ideas published. I "worked" feverishly on them, and guarded them very jealously. Well, I am almost 51 years old, and with the wisdom of age I now know that I will not get rich, or even financially secure, on the strength of my game ideas.

I have believed for a long time now that if I create something in my spare time, as my hobby, why not just share it? If I forego gainful employment in the pursuit of such things, of course I have the right to compensation, should I desire such. Bear in mind, this is my personal philosophy, not anything I would try to foist on someone else.

This is the reason that I prefer to work with games like Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, Dark Dungeons, and a variety of other clones that offer free downloads. I prefer the ones that offer everything, rather than hold back some, less essential, parts for the paid version. For example, the downloaded version of Dark Dungeons that I have is exactly the same as the print version I have from Lulu. I'm not busting on games that offer free versions with missing elements at all. The free download of LotFP is perfectly playable without the referee book or the tutorial, and the no-art Labyrinth Lord is complete and playable without the art. It is just the full, natural extension of my personal philosophy to be drawn to the ones that are completely, wholly free.

This is also the reason that games like Crypts & Things draw so much of my ire. I know it has an original setting and mechanical hooks into the setting. I have no issue with the publisher wishing to sell those aspects. What I don't like is that they took something free and charged for it. Specifically, Swords & Wizardry and Akrasia's house rules. Both are freely available. Maybe the publisher tweaked them in some ways, but the heavy lifting with already done. They should have at least made their rules available for free download.

Why do I bring this up? I really don't know, aside from the fact that this blog is about sharing my ideas and thoughts on our hobby. I know this is only tangentially related, so I hope you'll forgive me this indulgence.


  1. "copyleft" is simply an extension of copyright where the owner of the copyright declares openly under what situations other cans use their materials in future projects and redistribution beyond common restrictions of copyright.

  2. For me, the most important part of it is that anyone may take the freely available material, whether it is a campaign world, rules set, or software, and modify it, IF they make their finished product freely available. They can value-add things purely of their own design and production, such as the referee book in LotFP or a user guide for some software, but the part that they got free has to be freely returned. It's that community of sharing and culture of improvement and options that I find most compelling.