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OSR Ethical Issue


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Recently, I developed a yen for old school revival gaming systems and have downloaded several PDF's for perusal purposes, but if I were to play them seriously, I would feel ethically inclined to make sure I owned a legal copy.  A lot of what I have downloaded, I know is legal.  Some I know, I should buy a legitimate copy, but there are some that are in a gray zone.  They are scans of old books that are out of print, and in some cases, the original publishers are out business.  The question is, how can I check whether a download is free and clear or would require some action on my part to make right?

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There are as many OSR games out there as there are leaves on a tree.

 

If the downloaded item has an imprint you can perform a search to see if the company still exists. 

 

Another way is to search for the title in the online sites such as DriveThruRPG and Amazon to see if there is a hit. 

 

You could also post the title here and one of the many gamers here may know something.

 

But without a title there isn't much anyone can suggest.

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This probably won't help you much, 

 

but I have run into the problem twice-- 

 

to be clear:  I am extremely anti-piracy to the point that I _don't_ have games I used to play but would still like to have simply because I can't acquire them legally-- or at least, haven't been able to as of yet.

 

At any rate, on the two occasions that I found out there were scans being distributed, I hit up eBay.  Eventually, I found a copy of the book in question (and obviously, again for the second one) and bought it.  I didn't _want_ the printed book, as I had no intention of playing the game again, but had fond memories of it and therefore would like to have a nice clean PDF to read again for the memories...

 

At any rate, you are legally allowed to own one digital back-up of anything you own in print.  While it's generally assumed that you will make your own, I can't help but think you've got better ground to stand on this way.

 

Oh-- I also did it once for More Guns (supplement to Guns Guns Guns).  The company still exists, but after repeated e-mails with questions on how to buy x (which showed being for sale on the website) went unanswered  (I don't give up easily; I tried for two months), I finally found a used paper copy and a "digital back-up" to go with it.

 

 

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Many old, out of print games--board wargames as well as RPGs--have become orphaned due to copyrights falling into the hands of parties either unable (financially) or uninterested in doing anything with them. The law leaves these games imprisoned and inaccessible even to well-intentioned fans who'd like to see them revived and kept alive, even if in a completely not-for-profit fashion. It has been long argued by numerous intellectual property scholars that the state of today's IPR laws does not reflect the original spirit or intent of those laws, leaving a gray area so large that the shores of ethical clarity are hard to see anymore. It has reached a point where each of us has to decide what is right, rather than what is legal, and act according to our conscience.

 

If you have the time and resources to track down the current copyright owners of each of the books you have downloaded, and are able to get a response from them with regard to your desired use of their "property", then by all means pursue that avenue. I'd very very interested in hearing the results of such an endeavor.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I got a PDF of For Gold & Glory that was offered for during the height of the lockdown.  It's based on ADnD 2nd edition with some options that I really like.  My first genuine introduction to roleplaying playing 2nd ed., and in spite of many complaints, second edition is still my favorite.  It makes me want to run and play a game based on 2nd ed. again.  I might even have to order the hard back version of the game; so, I can give them some monetary support to create more products.

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  To the moral question, I use the rule of thumb for places like the Trove that if it’s something I just want to look through or read the way I would if it were in the bookstore or taken from the library than that’s fine. If it’s something I want to keep and use than it should be paid for. 
  I invite others to debate on morality as long as the conversation is kept civil.

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10 minutes ago, Tjack said:

  To the moral question, I use the rule of thumb for places like the Trove that if it’s something I just want to look through or read the way I would if it were in the bookstore or taken from the library than that’s fine. If it’s something I want to keep and use than it should be paid for. 
  I invite others to debate on morality as long as the conversation is kept civil.

 

For me I have copies/scans of a lot of out of print that I simply cannot find. 

But I also make it a point to always buy a copy if it is out there to be had. 

I prefer physical copies and have far too many RPG related books on my shelf. 

 

I refuse to take a "home scanned" copy of a book that is being actively published that I can buy legally. 

If the book is no longer in print I will look for it on the secondary market.

If I have exhausted all other possibilities I will take what I can find, and if it comes back into publication I'll pick up a copy.  I guess I look at it as balancing the scales.

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52 minutes ago, Spence said:

 

For me I have copies/scans of a lot of out of print that I simply cannot find. 

But I also make it a point to always buy a copy if it is out there to be had. 

I prefer physical copies and have far too many RPG related books on my shelf. 

 

I refuse to take a "home scanned" copy of a book that is being actively published that I can buy legally. 

If the book is no longer in print I will look for it on the secondary market.

If I have exhausted all other possibilities I will take what I can find, and if it comes back into publication I'll pick up a copy.  I guess I look at it as balancing the scales.


   For you that makes sense and is a reasonable and honorable way of doing things.  The difference between us is that you’re still actively playing, while I haven’t picked up dice in more than a decade.  For me a new game book is just something to flip through.  Pretty pictures and seeing if the source material is any good. So I use as I said the library/bookstore measure.  If I’m only going to go through a book for an evening or maybe a few days I don’t feel guilty in not paying hard cash.  If it becomes something I want to keep for my permanent collection I’d feel I was doing somebody wrong if I didn’t pay them for their work.

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12 hours ago, Anaximander said:

I got a PDF of For Gold & Glory that was offered for during the height of the lockdown.  It's based on ADnD 2nd edition with some options that I really like.  My first genuine introduction to roleplaying playing 2nd ed., and in spite of many complaints, second edition is still my favorite.  It makes me want to run and play a game based on 2nd ed. again.  I might even have to order the hard back version of the game; so, I can give them some monetary support to create more products.

 

2nd Edition is also my favorite, along with B/X. How closely does For Gold & Glory emulate 2E? BFRPG is pretty close to B/X, but it has some notable changes such as using ascending AC instead of THAC0 and separating race and class. That makes it different enough to make me buy it. But I still have my 2E books, so I'd get For Gold & Glory only if I needed something compatible for my players to use.

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On 11/1/2020 at 3:09 PM, Anaximander said:

Recently, I developed a yen for old school revival gaming systems and have downloaded several PDF's for perusal purposes, but if I were to play them seriously, I would feel ethically inclined to make sure I owned a legal copy.  A lot of what I have downloaded, I know is legal.  Some I know, I should buy a legitimate copy, but there are some that are in a gray zone.  They are scans of old books that are out of print, and in some cases, the original publishers are out business.  The question is, how can I check whether a download is free and clear or would require some action on my part to make right?

Go to Basic Fantasy. It’s OSR and it’s free to down load and ONLY $5 for a print version.

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6 hours ago, tkdguy said:

 

2nd Edition is also my favorite, along with B/X. How closely does For Gold & Glory emulate 2E? BFRPG is pretty close to B/X, but it has some notable changes such as using ascending AC instead of THAC0 and separating race and class. That makes it different enough to make me buy it. But I still have my 2E books, so I'd get For Gold & Glory only if I needed something compatible for my players to use.

 

I'm trying to compare to a product that I haven't done anything with in almost 25 years; so, my ability to an exact comparison is limited, but FGG looks enough like ADD2 that it would be easier to describe the differences.  First it includes the weapon proficiency options offered in the Fighter's Handbook, and it rewrote the paladin description so that he isn't too much of a goody two shoes for most adventuring parties.

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6 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

What did you think of it?

 

I like it; it's pretty similar to B/X. Changing from THAC0 to ascending armor class was my main issue at first, but it makes things easier for solo play. Since I am setting my campaign in Middle-earth, I plan to to a MERP to BFRPG conversion soon.

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1 hour ago, tkdguy said:

One thing to keep in mind is how easy it is to die at first level. I often use a "three strikes, you're out" rule to keep the characters alive a bit longer. That saved the magic-user's life twice. 

I haven’t heard of that rule before. Could you explain? Yes, I remember how deadly it is at those levels. I just give everyone max hit points. We had a funny experience where my older son couldn’t hit the Chainmail AC but would hit the Plate AC. D20 can be fickle.  My youngest pulled a Leroy Jenkins with a MU on some kobolds and took out his opponent. That game I couldn’t hit at all. (To my relief actually).

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13 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

I haven’t heard of that rule before. Could you explain? Yes, I remember how deadly it is at those levels. I just give everyone max hit points. We had a funny experience where my older son couldn’t hit the Chainmail AC but would hit the Plate AC. D20 can be fickle.  My youngest pulled a Leroy Jenkins with a MU on some kobolds and took out his opponent. That game I couldn’t hit at all. (To my relief actually).

 

That's basically my house rule: A character can cheat death twice, but the third time a the character is killed or incapacitated, the result is permanent. I normally rule that this effect is cumulative for any character in a campaign, but in this case, I allowed it in per session. Of course, I can revert to how I normally use it, in which case the next time the magic-user bites it, she's gone for good. The cleric also has one strike against him.

 

I normally use it in my MERP game, where critical hits can instantly kill even high-level characters. Since one of my old groups integrated the MERP critical hit and fumble tables into AD&D, I don't have a problem using that rule either.

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  • 1 month later...

A bit of an update.  I've been reading through many of the OSR PDF's I have downloaded and am in the process of deleting a lot what I doubt I have no attention would ever use, and looking over my DriveThru records reveals that a good deal of the DnD retro-clones have been downloaded through proper channels leaving just a handful of that I should actually purchase.  Fortunately, most of those are cheap if bought as PDF's.  I still need to go through many of the non-DnD related stuff to see what I would be interested in.  Of the one's I have obtained by unquestionable means include Swords & Wizardry, Basic Fantasy, Old School Essentials, OSRIC, and For Gold & Glory.  Of the one's I would like to invest in are Labyrinth Lords, Castles & Crusades, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcery, and B/X Essentials.  All of these encourage me to creativity and offer a good cross section of rule choices in which to set campaigns.  Related to these, I would like to add Dungeon Crawl Classics.

 

I have only done a cursory look at the non-DnD stuff I have downloaded, but I have read through Aftermath! by FGU, and it looks like system that looks fun to play and run and inspires some creativity on my part; although since the copy I have downloaded is just a scan of the original box set, it would be a pain to actually run it.  I noticed that it is available on DriveThru.  If it is reformatted for PDF use, it might be a good investment to purchase. If not, I would hope that someone with some game creation since would take it over to re-write it and re-release it.  There's also the old WEG Star Wars and TSR Marvel Super Heroes games.  Both are readily available and all of the IP owners seem okay with free distribution of those products.

 

There are a number of systems that I am interested in for their historical value but am unsure if I would want to run.  Rolemaster/Starmaster is top of the list in that regards. Also, there are some systems that I did own at one point but have gotten rid of during one of those phases where I swear I am done with roleplaying and never want to return to it.  (I've since learned to just put my books in the closet when that mood comes upon me.)  I did buy a PDF of 4th edition Pendragon and would like to re-purchase 1st edition Warhammer.  

 

 

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