Monday, October 3, 2011

Narrative Adventures and Limited IP Licensing

It's been discussed in a number of locations around the Internet at this point, so I thought it would be useful to write something a bit more official regarding a Limited IP Licensing Agreement (LILA) that will accompany each new Narrative Adventures release from Creative Mountain Games.  One of the difficulties with having so many small companies working in relative isolation in the tabletop roleplaying market is that a lot of great adventure material gets little exposure to those fans of systems for which the adventures were NOT written.  Taking a cue from Ryan Dancey and his genius move to create the Open Game License and movement, I decided the same idea could be utilized in a somewhat different way.  The idea behind the OGL was to allow smaller companies to create products for a main system that the primary company would find marginally unprofitable.  This, in turn, was also meant to drive the sale of the core rule books for the primary system.

The LILA is meant to allow outside creators to take some IP from an adventure (names of places, people, and items, for instance) and create statistical information compatible with their own system.  The results are intended to drive sales of the original adventure for the first publisher, to increase the number of adventures available for the second publisher (and the fans of the system of the second publisher), and to drive sales of the second publisher's core rules system.  This wouldn't simply apply to publishers, so fan conversions would also be encouraged (provided fans were careful not to cross IP boundaries of the systems in which they were working, of course).  Publishers of the conversions would point toward where the adventures were available and publishers of the adventures would point toward where the conversions were available.

One obvious problem would be that fans could do creating and be competing with their system's publisher.  But here the publisher would have some advantage in that they can more extensively use their own IP and marry it to the IP being used for the conversion.  Plus, a system publisher would also be able to bring much to the table in regard to additional bells and whistles such as artwork, layout and tradedress features not available to fans.  Furthermore, if a system publisher was going to go to the trouble of a conversion of another publisher's adventure, wouldn't the fans of the second publisher's system want to support that second publisher's efforts by purchasing the micro-PDF conversion?  I believe this would be the case.

It should also be mentioned that an official conversion carries the strength of being mechanically more sound.  Also noteworthy is that a conversion can be done in a weekend while a whole adventure can take weeks to produce.  A small publisher benefits greatly by having more support material for their system, so doing a handful of conversions in one month might well trump putting out a handful of full adventures in a year.  Most publishers would likely find some middle ground publishing both original adventures of their own as well as some conversions of adventures they find particularly compelling or easy to integrate to their system of choice.

I'm envisioning an eventual market where many small companies, some that make their own systems, are doing conversions back and forth under the aupices of LILAs, thus greatly increasing the variety of material available to their fans. 
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