May 24, 2023 7 min read
This FAQ is about how to publish your own material for Shadowdark RPG using its license, the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License V1.1!
If you want to publish for Shadowdark RPG, you can download an entire Creator Kit here that has the basics: the license and the logos you can use to show compatibility with Shadowdark RPG.
This FAQ grew out of questions from a Live AMA about how to publish Shadowdark RPG material with The Arcane Library’s resident level-20 legal counsel, Greg the Lawyer! You can catch the replay here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uimZFDkfTVw&t=73s
Greg the Lawyer would want me to tell you that this FAQ document is not legal advice, nor does it constitute a modification of or amendment to the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License.
Now, onward to the FAQ!
Q: Does the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License allow me to use all of your work, including Cursed Scroll zines?
A: No, Cursed Scroll zines don’t fall under the scope of the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License.
What you can reprint is the designated material from the Shadowdark RPG core rulebook (spells, monsters, and magic items). See Section 2 in the license for the list of what you can use.
All that said, you are allowed to make general page and name references to any material! Consider it like a bibliographical citation. So you could say something like, “see the bogboil witch spell, pg. 27, from Cursed Scroll 1: Diablerie!”
Q: Do I have to put a full copy of the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License V1.1 in the material I publish for Shadowdark?
A: No, you don’t! All you have to do is put the attribution statement (the very last paragraph), which reads: "[Product Name] is an independent product published under the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License and is not affiliated with The Arcane Library, LLC. Shadowdark RPG © 2023 The Arcane Library, LLC."
Make sure to replace [Product Name] with the actual title of the material you’re publishing.
Q: If I make a Shadowdark RPG product and share it for free, do I have to put the attribution statement?
A: Yes. Any material you publish for Shadowdark RPG, whether free or for sale, should include the attribution statement.
Q: Can I use the same fonts and general look of your Shadowdark work in my own Shadowdark material?
A: Yes, you can make something with a similar vibe! Black headers with white typeface, the Montserrat font family, bullet lists, clean whitespace – all of that is okay.
What you should please avoid is taking the header art or any artwork in Shadowdark RPG, or trying to make your work so exactly like mine that it would genuinely confuse someone into thinking I wrote it.
Q: Can I make tables that look like yours, such as a Trap Generator table with the same overall layout?
A: Yes, you can make tables with a similar overall layout, as long as the creative content in there is original to you.
For example, you can make a talent table for a custom class you’re designing that follows the same layout and header conventions of the classes in the Shadowdark RPG rulebook.
Q: Section 2 of the license says, “you may not print verbatim passages of text (no matter the length) from the game, with the exception of monsters, spells, and magic items.” Does that mean I can’t write game rules, like talents, with your same wording?
A: This is a bit of a gray area in the copyright world. Separating game mechanics (not copyrighted) from creativity (copyrighted) can be tricky with TTRPGs.
If something is purely a mechanical rule that would be difficult to express in any other way, such as certain class talents (example: “+2 to Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence stat”), then you can use the exact same wording.
But if a talent has mixed in creativity/flavor that goes beyond minimal game mechanics wording (example: “1/day, DC 15 CHA to hypnotize a target in near, focus duration”), then you’d want to avoid using that same wording.
Generally speaking, if it would be very difficult to write something in any other way (without sounding absurd) to work within the game rules, then it’s okay to proceed.
Q: Is including the WotC Creative Commons license for the Systems Reference Document required in material we publish for Shadowdark RPG?
A: For those who don’t know, the Creative Commons (CC) license we’re talking about is the oneWizards of the Coast released as an alternative to the Open Game License. It allows third parties to use a subset of WotC’s copyrighted material pulled from Dungeons & Dragons.
I include WotC’s CC license in my Shadowdark RPG material, whether or not it’s “legally necessary.” I prefer to cover all my bases as a publisher and be abundantly cautious, giving any possible credit where it might be due rather than risking a failure to attribute copyrighted material.
Your decision to include that CC attribution in your own material is up to you – it may or may not be necessary depending on whether your work pulls from WotC’s copyrighted material.
If you’re uncertain on whether you need to use the CC license, you should definitely ask a copyright lawyer to review your work and give you their legal opinion!
Q: Can the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License be revoked?
A: This is an understandable concern in light of the recent OGL fiasco that affected all of us!
Put simply, it would be nearly impossible for me to revoke the use of the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License as it’s printed. That’s because the license is a part of the core book itself, and so its “offer” exists for anyone who wants to accept it as long as the book exists. It is inseparable from the book itself – very different from how the OGL worked.
There are some rare situations where I could terminate an individual use of the license if my reasoning meets a strict legal standard (I can’t just wake up one morning and decide I don’t like you and yank your license). There has to be a legally justifiable reason to do so, and that would be an extreme situation.
Q: Should we run things by you before publishing them?
A: I’m sorry to say that I can’t review material folks send me for legal approval. It makes weird problems that Greg the Lawyer would have to spend a long time explaining to me.
That said, I can try to answer specific questions about something you’re working on, such as whether you can use XYZ material. Please reach out if that’s the case!
Q: Are you going to sue me if I mess up?
A: Whoa, there! I’m not out to sue folks. I’m just a lady with a game, and I want you to write for it as much as I want to write for it.
Suing people sounds like it totally sucks, and I’ve never come even remotely close to that situation in my entire career. Most mistakes are from honest and good-intentioned people and can be easily remedied with a friendly conversation.
Q: Is it okay to make playing cards, handouts, or resources of the spells, monsters, and magic items from the Shadowdark RPG book?
A: Yes, it is! You can make anything you want with those three types of material from the core rulebook.
Q: Could someone reprint all the monster stats from Shadowdark RPG’s monster chapter and resell that?
A: Yes, you could do that. While I’m not sure that is in the “spirit” of the license, the fact is, I want you to be able to use the monsters from the book. So, how you do that is in your hands!
Q: Can I write and publish adventures about The Lost deities, or Mordanticus the Flayed?
A: Absolutely! You can use any of the named beings in the Shadowdark RPG book.
If you’re going to reprint information about the named beings from the book word-for-word, please make sure it’s only a monster stat block, a spell, or a magic item (the three sets of material you can copy-paste from the Shadowdark RPG book).
Beyond that, you are free to create and write your own lore for those beings however you see fit!
Q: Can other people use stuff I publish with the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License?
A: Only if you let them. The Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License does not require you to share the use of your material out to anyone else, including me. If you want to share your material out for others to use, you certainly can! But it’s not built into the license. See the next question for one example.
Q: Can I release my Shadowdark RPG material under the Creative Commons? Do I need to put any special disclaimers in it?
A: Yes, you can release your Shadowdark material under Creative Commons!
The Creative Commons license requires that you put a notice in your legal section saying that you are using material licensed by the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License, and that material is not included in the CC content you are releasing.
To explain a bit further: Creative Commons allows you to share the rights to your own work, but it does not allow you to share the rights to work that you do not have permission to grant. Those elements simply get “excluded” from what you’re sharing.
Although Creative Commons automatically works this way, they still require that you put the notice I mentioned above in your work.
Q: I’m interested in translating your work into another language. Can I do that?
A: You are free to translate the spells, monsters, and magic items that anyone can use from the Shadowdark RPG book under the third-party license! You can do whatever you wish with that material – it’s yours.
However, translating any other parts of the book to distribute would need a special license since that goes outside what’s covered by the third-party license. Please reach out to me if you’re interested in doing that.
Q: Can I make online character building tools or Game Master helper tools with material from Shadowdark RPG?
A: The Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License allows you to reprint monsters, spells, and magic items, but it doesn’t allow you to reprint things like character classes or roll tables.
Anyone who has created a character building, GM helper, or VTT-related tool for Shadowdark RPG has been given special permission to do that. You can always email me to ask, too!
Q: My question wasn’t in this list! What can I do?
A: No worries! Please reach out to me on Discord or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) so I can help you out. I’m here to answer your questions and make sure we’re all on the same page.
Here’s a diagram explaining some of the crossover with the license!
November 27, 2022 1 min read 6 Comments
August 28, 2022 5 min read 6 Comments
May 30, 2022 5 min read 12 Comments
Open-table gaming is a bit of a lost art form. But in recent years, it's been going through a revival — and for good reason!