Sunday, December 04, 2005

Publishing and improving Cold Iron dilemma

I've been working through a dilemma. I really would like to have a solid complete game of Cold Iron that can be passed out to people I game with, and pointed to for folks who might be interested. There's one big problem though, the core of the game isn't mine. I have posted stuff, but I always feel a bit dirty because I'm distributing someone else's copyrighted material without permission (I tried to get permission). Mark Christiansen (the author of the game) really doesn't seem interested in publishing (in fact, other than very occaisional Cold Iron games with his old buddies, I get the feeling he's mostly out of gaming). In making a more complete game, I'd also love to get outside review, and it would be really cool to get the help of folks on the Forge.

I've asked Ron, and he said it didn't qualify as an indie game, which I respect. He did invite me to use the RPG Theory forum so long as I kept things of general interest, but of course the RPG theory forum is now closed. And what I really need help and commentary on is the explanatory text I want to add. I'm pretty comfortable that the mechanics are solid (though getting others comentary on the mechanics would be interesting also - but they have been through a lot of playtesting already).

So how do I proceed?

One thought I have is to just start my own game from scratch, using the core mechanic but none of the copyrighted text. That seems like a horrid waste of energy, but would be a fair way to proceed. But would such a game be welcome at the Forge?

I could also do stuff here, but how to attract enough people interested in commenting?



At 7:55 PM, December 04, 2005, Blogger Martin Ralya said...

The obvious question that jumps to mind is: Why not just ask Mark C. if it's okay to forge ahead with publishing Cold Iron in some form?

Get his blessing -- in writing, if you plan to try and make money from it -- and give him credit, and call it done.

If you can't get his blessing, I agree that you shouldn't move forward with using his material. I'd be very uncomfortable with that idea if I were in your place, and it sounds like you are as well.

When you say that you could also use the core mechanic but not the copyrighted text, what exactly would you be losing out on?

I'm unclear on what your explanatory text would be, vs. what Mark's text already is. I realize you may not be able to share the exact details, but a bit of clarification would be helpful.

Attracting people to your blog can be an involved process, if you're serious about it. I'd be happy to give you some suggestions via email, if you like (and they should be taken with a shaker of salt, as I'm no expert!).

At 8:30 PM, December 04, 2005, Blogger Bankuei said...

Hi Frank,

You want to talk about the game, right? Then talk about the game. You can talk about the basic mechanics without violating copyright- check out 80% of's reviews on rpgs. Unless you signed a non-disclosure agreement- you can talk about the basics without reprinting word for word the game.

Second, I've BEEN wondering when you'd decide to give us something to actually work with instead of simply talking about the game endlessly- post about it here, on your blog, and if it's interesting, you'll find more and more people linking back here and discussion will naturally grow.

At 9:36 PM, December 04, 2005, Blogger Frank said...

I did try asking Mark at one point. I really got no answer. I was only asking in terms of web publishing, and to some extent, that's all I'm interested in - though I suppose if a tremendous demand for the game developed, it would be nice to go to print - of course at that point, it might also be possible to attract Mark's attention (hey, I've got like 100 customers already lined up for a print edition, I'm willing to do all the hard work and send half the proffits your way, what do you think?).

The thing that's a real bummer is that the material as-is is a good foundation for a playable game.

What's missing is "how do you create characters?" "how do you GM this game?" "what do religions look like?" "what do PC races look like?"

I have posted the rules I use on my web site. What is there is:

- How to create PCs, though very crude.

- Equipment

- Spells and magic rules

- Combat rules and charts

The thing that's most copyright sticky is the spells (99% of the spell text is either unchanged, or directly derrived from text files supplied to me years ago). The magic rules probably are polluted with directly derrived material. The combat rules are polluted with derrived material, but probably are mostly my own wording at this point. The chargen stuff is probably clean (the only stuff that might be coppied is charts that basically express formulas - not copyrightable). The equipment is probably also clean.

If I started a new game from the core mechanics, the biggest thing I'd be losing is the spells. Of course I could copy the basic idea of the spells (and I know enough of the important spells that I could provide fairly compatible spells without even looking at Mark's text). The magic and combat rules would also be pretty easy. Of course all of this would need brand new playtesting (since invariably I would introduce differences).

Chris - one thing that would help me improve my discussion is to have a better idea of what you're interested in looking at and my expounding on. I certainly could talk about the core mechanics without any copyright issues. I could point you at what I have on the web (which does have copyright issues - though it is all attributed to Mark - I just don't actually have permission to post it).

Certainly anything I expound on here, I can link to anytime I talk about Cold Iron elsewhere (actual play on the Forge, random mutterings on blogs and other forums).

One thought I have had is to split the game into two parts - one, stuff that's purely Mark's text, without any modifications of my own. Another would be documents that expand on Mark's text to make a more complete game, that are purely my text. I can then keep my versions of things like the spells within my group as house rules. That would leave a clear copyright demarcation. Another possibility would be to provide a bare bones skeleton of spells and keep the Mark/Frank text that I use private. If someone becomes interested in the game, and wants a full set of spells, I can point them to Mark.

As far as I can see though, if I want to have discussion on the Forge about the rules, I would have to start from scratch.

Martin, I'm certainly interested in seeing your suggestions on how to get more readership. Not sure how much effort I really want to put in (and you have given me some suggestions in the past). If I go forward with something that really is an attempt to make a publishable game based on Cold Iron's ideas, then I'd certainly be more interested in getting the word out there. If it's just sort of mumbling around the edge of Mark's game, then comments from a few random folks who come looking here based on cross referencing on other forums would probably be fine.


At 9:18 AM, December 07, 2005, Blogger Frank said...

Oh, one more thing I like about Cold Iron, especially compared to D&D:

Cold Iron scales well over fighter levels because attack and defense ratings both follow roughly the same formula. Both strength and dexterity add to attack. Strength adds to weapon and shield parries (though in a limited amount, more for a shield). Both gain equal benefit from skill and magic items (except for dodge which can't be enhanced by magic weapon echantments).

This compares with D&D where attack is skill and strength based and defense is equipment and dexterity based. And non-fighters gain a fraction of the skill base, which means if you continue the formulas, eventually their attacks become irrelevant (except that defense may not keep up with offense).

Even spell casters in Cold Iron don't fall too far behind since the XP system is exponential and spell casters are actually multi-classed fighter/cleric or fighte/mage, which sort of means they are just one fighter level behind (instead of 3/4 or 1/2 BAB in D20).



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