An important step of creating is understanding licenses (if you are writing content for another game) or creating your own game (which may inspire others to write content for your game). There are different licensing options you can do, often with overlapping considerations. The two areas of focus I want to present as options for games that I see a lot in the indie-rpg scene, and those are Creative Commons Licensing (CC-BY-SA 4.0) and Third-Party Licensing.
Of note I am not a lawyer and this is by no means legal counsel.
- Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International — CC BY-SA 4.0 is a super permissive licensing language that allows others to share, sell, remix, transform, and build upon one’s work. Cairn by Yochai Gal and Liminal Horror (my game) are examples of games that have CC BY-SA-4.0. The main idea behind it is to make the works completely open for use by others (and therefore encourage games/hacks/adventure to be made for them).
Open Licenses (often referred to as 3PP/ 3rd Party License) allow others to create and publish compatible games. These licenses have stipulations that must be followed, and if they are then others can make original content while adhering to vision set out by the license. These licenses also stipulate what is open to be used (and what assets are not allowable for use by others).
- (The Mörk Borg Third-Party License & You – Līber Lūdōrum (liberludorum.com)) does a fantastic job of not only guiding the reader through the Mörk Borg Third-Party License but it details what a 3rd Party License can do.
- MÖRK BORG LICENSE (morkborg.com) is perhaps the most popular format of open license I found (especially when I put the call out about licensing how-tos). I found a lot of creators pointing to this license as the framework for creating their own licenses.
- I was able to talk to Johan Nohr (@JohanNohr) / Twitter, one of the creators of Mörk Borg, about the idea behind creating a permissive third-party license, “in short, we wanted a license that was open, inviting and encouraged people to make and publish things. I don’t think people necessarily -need- a license like this to make stuff, if they want to publish their own material they will, regardless - this I just our way to say loudly that we really want people to do that and we want to help them get their shit done.”
- THE COMPANY by Mega_Corp (itch.io) by Logan Dean (@L__Dean) / Twitter is an example of a license that is based on the foundation laid out by Mörk Borg. It acts as a direct invitation for others to create content, while maintaining the vision of the original work.
Third Party Licence · Runecairn (byodinsbeardrpg.com) by Colin Le Sueur - (@ByOdinsBeardRPG) / Twitter is another example of a easy to parse Third-Party License. When asked about why he decided to make a license, he said, “Since I based it on Cairn, which has a CC BY-SA (share alike) licence, I’d already opened up Runecairn for editing and modifying, so a 3rd party licence just made sense. I wanted people to take my work and hack it, like I’d hacked Cairn. By adding a logo and giving explicit consent and encouragement, I hope people would build on Runecairn and make it their own. Selfishly it helps me as well, since more Runecairn adventures helps spread the word for the system and my work.”
- ARC CREATORS LICENSE by momatoes is a license for ARC that allows people to “ARC-compatible, -inspired and derived works for free or for sale without any fees or prior permission required” as long as they follow the guidance laid out in the license.
In the end, you can publish a game without any custom licensing, but what is becoming more evident is for game designers, they see having an open and permissive Third-Party license as a invitation for others to create works for their games. It acts a way to bring people in and let them know what can be done with the works.
Creative Comrades Licence is a new form of licensing agreement created by jn for use of their art in commerical products. It also is another model of a license worth building from.