brother_dour (brother_dour) wrote in roleplayers,

The 800 lb Gorilla: Real or Myth?

As some of you may know, I am currently developing an indy RPG of my own, which I hope to market at some point and make money off of at some point. I know I won't get rich, but to me making a few bucks off a product that has my name on it while doing something I love (gaming) will be enough.

One of my partners/co-developers is very concerned about the '800 lb. gorilla in the corner' called WotC. His concern is that WotC will seek to protect their share of the tabletop RPG market by lawsuit, using game mechanics as an excuse to do so, if they feel sufficiently threatened by an indy product. He is afraid that any perceived similarity to any D&D product will make WotC come down on us like a ton of bricks- and we do not have the legal resources to combat that! And yes, I know this smacks of pure hubris in assuming our product will ever be that wildly successful, but this is an ongoing discussion between myself and this one partner.

My strategy has been to simply avoid looking at any other RPG for inspiration and ideas, so that I am not even unintentionally plagiarizing any other game. However, I know that independently coming up with something that someone else already has is inevitable. My feeling is if my product has any similarity to any existing RPG, no one can legitimately claim copyright infringement as long as the same idea has appeared in at least two other separate products. As an example: I use the 'skill versus difficulty' system that D20 uses, but I'm pretty sure that is not something specific to D20. But how do I know for sure?

Are there any 'common' RPG terms or mechanics that I can use freely- such as PC and NPC, or the 'skill versus difficulty' idea? How do I know if any familiar gaming term or any game mechanic is somehow copyrighted? Really, how many different ways to do anything in an RPG are there? You're bound to use the same mechanic as someone else eventually...
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