Thursday, July 17, 2008

The HD world

Well, I spent a lot of money yesterday. First, I FINALLY got a large screen HD TV which was delivered today. I also bought a Yamaha Clavinova digital piano (which gets delivered tomorrow). My lovely wife teased me, of course, but I had to tease her back. I told her the piano was for her and DD and the piano was for her too. *I* will spend money on a PS3 sometime soon though ;).

I am still sitting on the website update and announcement of the forums I set up (not like anyone will head there until I have products out anyway). I'll be on vacation next week and I would like to make certain I am "around" when I pop the update up.

On the GU front, I think I am going to go ahead with some more "GM Aid" type books that are mostly tables. I have been sitting on the idea a bit to see how the whole GSL thing was going to sort out. Right now, well, the GSL is basically a "bad deal" for most publishers, but I could probably stomach it as I am probably not using the OGL anyway. I don't have any OGL backstock to worry about. The interesting thing is, I know of 2 publishers that previously announced they were going to use the GSL that are now having huge hesitations. I know that one hasn't sent in the response card, not sure about the other. Interestingly, I have only seen one freelancer publicly ask a somewhat important question which boils down to:
"If my contract states that any copyright issues in my writing are my responsibility and I get published with (a company not using the GSL) and they get sued, am I liable?"
I actually asked a lawyer this, and the reply is, of course, depends on the wording of my contract. Based on the wording of some of the basic writer's contracts out there, the publisher could pull the writer into the lawsuit.
Another factor to consider, the internet legal wannabes are discussing how games can't be copyrighted, etc. but an IP lawyer that works in the copyright/trademark area has told me flat out, there isn't enough case law out there to really know what the boundaries are. In other words, sure, you can write something compatible, but there isn't a lot of case law telling you when compatible goes into "derivative work" and crosses into copyright territory. A lot of the case law dealing with "game rules" is also more in the board game realm. What this boils down to is the fact that you could get sued, and win, and not be able to recover your legal fees because the case is considered something that legitimately needed to be worked out in court. If you stay in very safe territory, such as adventures and/or setting material that is completely different and only use stat blocks that have a different design (look and feel) and stay away from any trademarked material, ... anyway, there are things you can do that should be "safe." Creating new classes and powers without the GSL is, in this lawyer's opinion, potentially a "grey area."

The only reason I keep thinking about these things is that I have several ideas for 4e products that are, well already outlined (in one case, even more). I still haven't decided how much I like the gameplay of 4e. Some of it is pretty nice, but so far the only games I have played in have been very rules-focused with very little Role-playing. I am sure this is mostly because people are still getting the hang of the rules. More on that another time though.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Okay, I had lots less time the past few days. But... we have all had lots of fun! Our guests all leave tomorrow, and my wife has the day off, so I have been told that I'll get the entire afternoon to work uninterrupted. This, however, doesn't take into account the fact that the closet shelving in DS#1's room collapsed the other night. I have filled in the holes (either the original owner or the builder simply did a bad job putting it all up) and I need to paint. Then I need to figure out what sort of shelves to put in. The problem was due, in part, to the non-uniform shape of the closet and the fact that whoever put in the hardware took a lazy way out. Enough about that, basically, I have to get that all fixed this weekend. I have decided, with approval from my wife, that I need to spend tomorrow afternoon working on GU and/or other writing because it helps keep me sane.

GSL news (again): Well, Kenzer is moving forward with some material sans the GSL. Dave Kenzer is a REALLY smart guy and I have complete faith in him on this one. I am still not sure if the risks for me are worth it. The lawyers I have talked to aren't really keen on the GSL OR going sans the GSL (what people are calling the "copyright route" for some reason). It sounds like I could go ahead (carefully-there are definitely things you can't do) without the GSL and if I receive a "cease and desist" letter, simply, well, cease and desist... Right or wrong, I don't want the stress of going to court.

I have been sitting on a website update for weeks. Mostly because it has links to the Yuku message boards I set up (obviously these are quite dead as I haven't told anyone about them yet). I was also waiting on some info from a writer that asked to have his location "back." I don't know if he wanted more $ or not, but I have always been up front about what I pay. I think he is worried about selling the "copyright" and whether or not he can use/reuse the characters. If that is the case, I let him know that I could give him a letter stating quite clearly that he has permission to use those names/characters in other books, rpg material, etc. Anyway, I told him "yes" to having the writing back and sent a "letter of recision" stating that we mutually agreed to end the contract and that he has full ownership of the location and that I will not be publishing it. Fortunately, I only got the signed contract 2 weeks ago and haven't worked on editing it or planning any art for it.

"Planning" art generally involves deciding if I can do something halfway decent for it, looking up public domain art or cheap clip art, or trying to find a "real" artist to do something for me. Option 3 is very low on the list as that can get expensive. Well, I have a few things to get done and then I am probably off to bed. It has been a busy week and the baby hasn't been sleeping well. I want to be well rested in order to get the most out of my afternoon tomorrow.

Monday, July 7, 2008


While a lot of the country has had more rain that it wants, San Antonio has been on the dry side. Lately though, we have had rain, often at the least convenient time.
Today we went to the gym to get a workout in and spend some time at the pool (the neighborhood pool is closed Mondays). We left at about 11:30 (AM) and went to Chick-fil-et for lunch. It started raining during lunch and continued off and on during the rest of the day. This made it a perfect day to take the older 3 kids to Wall-E. The animation and effects were fantastic and I think the movie was interesting for younger kids. For adults, well, let's just say the political message(s) was so over the top that most will ignore it making it a waste of the writer/director/producer's time.

This week my mother and father-in-law are coming from Houston tomorrow along with my wife's sister and her two kids. The cousins all get along so well that we asked if the kids could come and my sister-in-law decided she would just drive everyone here. Unfortunately, the rain I mentioned above looks like it'll continue for a while this week. This means I had better come up with some alternative indoor fun. Once fall hits we probably won't see them much. With DS#1, DS#2, AND my nephew all playing competitive soccer this fall, the weekends are clearly going to be shot.

On a bright note, when my in-laws are here I have LOTS more time to get work done. Let's see if that translates into real results.

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July

Well, it is Independence Day here in the USA. My wife had today off so we had a bit of family time. She is on-call tomorrow (24 hour call, based on cases scheduled already it looks like it won't be a good one) but will have this coming Monday off as well as next Friday. Today we spent some time at the pool, where it rained, no lightning so we all kept playing until it REALLY started to pour, and we watched a movie together (Pirates of the Caribbean, #3). The rain was off and on, it only drizzled while I cooked steaks on the grill and cleared up completely on time for fireworks.

I have been spending too much time looking at the legalities, and questions, surrounding the 4th edition DnD GSL (Game System License). My discussions with a two lawyers about the GSL suggest that it really is a bad deal for all of those major print publishers with a strong background and backstock. A new .pdf publisher STILL needs to be very cautious but it is probably okay so long as you don't publish anything under the GSL with material you might want to do as an OGL product. Several publishers are clearly going a different route. They are using the fact that you can't copyright game rules and creating compatible products. This is clearly do-able under the law but, according to both lawyers, still risky. Basically, WotC can still sue and it won't be considered a "frivolous" lawsuit. More importantly, they think that the lawyers for WotC (okay, "should" based on doing the best for their client) will send cease and desist letters to the distributors, particularly electronic storefronts for .pdfs, as well as ISPs. Anyway, the question of whether I will do anything for 4e is still open. It is partly based on my time and ability to play and test the game as well as where/what to publish. Well, the story and questions get longer after this point so I'll leave off for now.

Got a bit more layout and editing work done this week. I hope to accomplish more tomorrow.
In addition to the above distractions, another distraction has been playing some games with DS#1 and DS#2. The boys LOVE playing Talisman (a fantastic board game) and DS#2 simply loves playing board games (and/or DnD or Castles and Crusades--which has been DnD for us lately). My FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store--yes, Friendly is a key word here) gives me a discount on virtually everything I buy. This includes board games such as Talisman, Cave Troll, Drakkon, etc. I mention those 3 because they are DS#2's favorites right now. Cave Troll and Drakkon are fun games and have a relatively short playtime. Be warned that Talisman says something like 1 1/2 hours on the box but ALL of our games have been MUCH longer. Descent is a good game too, bit it can be more "adversarial."

It is late, I have two ideas I want to outline quickly before I forget them. I'll just have to talk more about board games another time.