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Gauntlet

D&D Module Transformation to Hero 6.0

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I am in the process of transforming D&D 1.0 Modules G1-3 Against the Giants to Hero 6.0. I think it is neat and would like to post them for free but I want to make sure that there wouldn't be any legal problems with doing so.

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There's a very simple (and very open) license agreement for the Hero System available--is it still in the download section here?--but as Hugh alluded to, you'll probably have to cite the WotC (Hasbro?) copyrights and trademarks on the old AD&D modules.

 

Now, assuming you aren't copying any of the text of those modules verbatim, then you won't be in violation of copyright law, and since none of the character names in those modules are trademarked, you should be fine there too. There might be trademark implications if you use the name Greyhawk though, so tread carefully (does the G/D/Q module series take place in Greyhawk? I don't remember.)

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1 hour ago, zslane said:

Now, assuming you aren't copying any of the text of those modules verbatim, then you won't be in violation of copyright law

 

Copyright infringement covers way more than plagiarism. What's being described is very clearly a derivative work, and only copyright owners have the exclusive right to produce derivative works based on their copyrighted materials.

 

It may fall under fair use, but don't hold your breath.  Looking at the four factors:

  1. Purpose and character of your use - 👎 Even though it's noncommercial (posted for free), it doesn't sound like you're adding anything new.
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work - 👎 You're deriving from a creative work rather than a factual one.
  3. Effect of the use upon the potential market - 👍 Even if every Hero player used your modules, I doubt that would reduce sales of the originals by even 1 module.
  4. Amount and substantiality of the portion taken - 👎 I doubt you can get around copying large portions of the original work (e.g., characters, locations, monsters, encounters, rewards, etc.), even if you're not copying text verbatim.

You can always do what a lot of other people do: hope you're too small to be noticed, and post it anyway.  :-j

 


Doug

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Yes, but translating the work into a different game system is like translating a text into a new language, and would be categorized as a transformative work. The degree of transformation, and thus the proximity to violation would fall to a local court. However, I am presuming that all the original module text would be re-written in the adaptation author's own words, and probably even changed a bit to suit the target game system. "Derivative" or not, it doesn't take much for the derivation to be judged a new work.

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Yeah putting out a Hero version of these modules is okay if you just make them and share them with buddies.  If you try to sell them, then its copyright violation, and Hero would be liable if they put that on their site or officially licensed such a thing.

I'm not a lawyer but I did take a bunch of college classes on art and the law.

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On 9/5/2019 at 2:57 PM, Gauntlet said:

I am in the process of transforming D&D 1.0 Modules G1-3 Against the Giants to Hero 6.0. I think it is neat and would like to post them for free but I want to make sure that there wouldn't be any legal problems with doing so.

 

These were already converted to an earlier version of Hero along with several others.  4th or 5th edition.  I have them somewhere. I'll look and see if I can find them, and if they are shareable.  I cannot remember where they came from and if they were free to share.  If not I'll try to find you a link or contact info for the maker.

 

2 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

Yeah putting out a Hero version of these modules is okay if you just make them and share them with buddies.  If you try to sell them, then its copyright violation, and Hero would be liable if they put that on their site or officially licensed such a thing.

I'm not a lawyer but I did take a bunch of college classes on art and the law.

 

Yep, sharing a homebrew build with buddies is a far cry from conversion for profit.

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On 9/6/2019 at 2:10 PM, zslane said:

Yes, but translating the work into a different game system is like translating a text into a new language, and would be categorized as a transformative work. The degree of transformation, and thus the proximity to violation would fall to a local court. However, I am presuming that all the original module text would be re-written in the adaptation author's own words, and probably even changed a bit to suit the target game system. "Derivative" or not, it doesn't take much for the derivation to be judged a new work.

 

I don't think that is true, or at least that example, I can't take a best selling novel written in english and translate it to german and sell it in Germany. Even through it is "transformed" it is still the same novel and is still very illegal. That would be the same for games, adventures, etc... 

You can't just rewrite something that is under copyright and sell it as something new or derivative.  Especially after announcing to the world on a forum that you are copying a specific set of something (in this case D&D adventures) and just changing the rules to a different system. That is still blatant and premeditated copyright infringement. Heck, this thread alone would all the owners of D&D would need to prove in court that the plan was to take copyright material and rewrite it and distribute.  And you couldn't even claim "ignorance" of the laws, since the thread was started with the question of it was legal. 

 

Whether you get busted for it or not is another matter, this is pretty small fry to a big company like Hasbro, but those "fan films" people were making about Star Trek were small fry and Paramount went and crushed them. So I doubt Hero would let them be distributed here in case Hasbro decides it want to be litigious and loops them into any lawsuit. 

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Nolo.com has this to say on the subject of transformative fair use:

 

...the status of a transformative work seems to be defined by two questions:

  • Has the material taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning?
  • Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings?

I think a rewritten D&D module, adapted for a completely different system could easily pass the transformative work test. But ultimately the question can only be answered by a judge.

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I've noticed that many 'conversions' are not 100% self contained.  Instead they contain game mechanics, stat-block conversions and advice on adapting play, but you have to have a copy of the original module to play. 

 

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And while that's kinda inconvenient if you don't have the original module, I think it is a pretty good approach overall.

 

However, I recall how in the 1990s, before M:tG made WotC filthy rich, an overly-litigious Kevin Sambieda sued them (or threatened to) over conversion material in The Primal Order for the Paladium system. The claim would never have stood up in court, of course, but WotC was too small back then to afford any kind of legal defense. In effect, Sambieda won the way most corporate bullies win, by having more financial leverage over their competition (rather than by having a legitimate legal claim).

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43 minutes ago, zslane said:

And while that's kinda inconvenient if you don't have the original module, I think it is a pretty good approach overall.

 

However, I recall how in the 1990s, before M:tG made WotC filthy rich, an overly-litigious Kevin Sambieda sued them (or threatened to) over conversion material in The Primal Order for the Paladium system. The claim would never have stood up in court, of course, but WotC was too small back then to afford any kind of legal defense. In effect, Sambieda won the way most corporate bullies win, by having more financial leverage over their competition (rather than by having a legitimate legal claim).

 

Well now days you can get most of the old modules in PDF via DriveThru.

 

Well it looks like KS may have overstepped recently, but that is for another thread and a search for actual interest 😉

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