FindingMyName

Eternal Ramblings of an Empty Mind

A lot of (virtual) ink has been spilled discussing WotC's new Open Gaming License, v1.1. Usually I have my own thoughts on that type of thing but don't bother sharing them on my extremely neglected blog here, or anywhere else for that matter, but I decided to put my own pen to paper, as it were, and share my opinions.

First, many articles, and D&D itself, have referred to the “leak” as a draft. I'm not personally “in the know”, but it seems that individuals from medium-to-large creators have stated that they were sent a version of this license along with a contract asking them to sign it and abide by the new terms within 7 days. That's not a draft. However, the copy provided by Gizmodo/io9 must be a draft. There would be no “[link]“, “[TBD]“, “[drop in picture]“, “[EMAIL]” or any other bracketed text in the copy. Also, there are incorrect references (to section “VIII” when it should be “VII” or “IX”, for the non-commercial and commercial versions, respectively). Should have been through a copy editor at least before it made it out to the public if it was a final version. I may call it a draft here, because the copy I have

There is good in 1.1, and quite a bit of it, but there's bad also. Yes, some people are up in arms about both, but I'll discuss both these points.

The Good

  • Legalese that should have been there before
    • merger and integration clause
    • limitation on liability
    • severability clause
    • governing law clause
    • failure to exercise a right is not a waiver
    • termination clause
    • forum selection
    • class-action waiver
  • Explicitly proscribe sale of NFTs
  • Explicitly proscribe use “of the content or works...for any harmful, discriminatory, illegal, obscene, or harassing purposes.”

The Bad

  • Commercial license only allows printed media or static electronic files
    • How I read this:
      • One cannot create (for use with a commercial product) an Excel spreadsheet or executable (for PC, Mac, Android, iOS, etc.) to help manage my new spells, weapons, etc., because it's not a static file.
      • No commercial app to manage a character sheet, locate spells, roll virtual dice and total according to SRD rules. This bans (explicitly) sale of VTTs. You can make them and give them away, but few developers in their right mind would put in the required work gratis. WotC can sell theirs, but basically shuts out all others.
      • No sale of “music, songs, dances, and [or] pantomimes”. Granted, anything people might create here would likely be fine under the fan content policy, and is unlikely to be sold.
    • Unclear how 3D prints would fit into this. Several companies sell STL files, which are static, and 3D-printed is technically “printed”, but the OGL implies printed words, rather than printed figures or terrain.
  • “You agree to give Us a nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sub-licensable, royalty-free license to use that content for any purpose.”

I take issue with the limitation to static electronic files. Hero Lab and Foundry are commercial products that do the “math” for you, and therefore do not produce static files. I used Hero Lab once upon a time and am seriously considering purchasing Foundry. Under OGL 1.1, these companies are out of business (with regard to D&D and SRD-based games—they work for other systems, but as these make up the bulk of their customers, they wouldn't likely be long for this world.

Foundry is also a VTT. Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds are also VTTs, which do not necessarily require paying money, but it helps (you and them). Their business models fall apart without the ability to sell their VTTs. Wizards is theoretically in the development stages of designing their own, and if theirs turns out to be better, maybe the community will use it. But saying that no one can sell a competitive product in that sector seems awfully restricting.

I would like to see WotC modify the commercial license to not restrict the content to specifically static electronic files and to remove the VTT clause.

The other bad thing that's explicitly in the draft is that last clause. “You agree to give Us a nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sub-licensable, royalty-free license to use that content for any purpose.” Anything the community creates under the OGL can be appropriated by WotC for their own commercial gain without returning the favor. Someone creates a character, class, or nifty magic weapon that goes viral. Wizards adds it/them to their next supplement, without paying the original creator. They can do that, because you signed the use of any and all of your stuff away to them.

Other Stuff

WotC has made some odd moves since this came out, muddying the waters a lot. They released an OGL 1.2, clearly marked as a draft this time, with some changes, but not everything the community wanted.

With regard to the royalty payments, which I see as not that terrible, the implication came out that the royalty payments Wizards was asking for are on gross revenue, not net. Now, if your gross revenue is above \$750 000, the royalty payments aren't likely to be onerous. The problem came when WotC implied that they could change this figure to anything they want at any time. So, sign the license, figure drops to \$0. Now any gross revenue will be subject to the royalty payment, and that 20%–25% absorbs all of a content creator's profit, limiting their ability to put food on their table. We have to rely on their good will to not lower that figure. If it were clear that such royalty payments were on the net, and the dollar amount was less subject to the whims of our benefactor, I wouldn't be opposed to the top-tier dollar amount (where royalty payments begin) being lowered somewhat. The OGL 1.2, however, removed all discussion about royalties (for now).

With regard to the “harmful, discriminatory, illegal, obscene, or harassing purposes”, I have no problem with this in general, except what constitutes such content is solely at WotC's discretion. While I agree with where they (Wizards) stand today, if it becomes illegal to sell content that implies homosexuality exists or an ultraconservative CEO takes over Hasbro and makes such a decree, all the queer players who have created content to go with the game get their licenses revoked. When it comes to Nazis, I don't mind WotC telling them to pound sand, but there might not be quite such bad press among the broader community if the types of content were made more explicit. Secondly, OGL 1.2 says that if the creator engages in such conduct, the license could be revoked. So if one were to create a popular module, for example, that violated none of the standards, but had a criminal record, Wizards could say, “Nope!” and the creator would have no recourse. Also, if creators had a way to contest rulings under this clause, that'd be nice.

Finally, with regard to VTTs, the OGL 1.2 draft is more specific about what is and isn't allowed, but it's still anti-competitive, and, in my opinion, they (Wizards) should be welcoming of competition to push them to do better. The microtransaction model that's been hinted at would turn a lot of people away from Sandcastle towards other platforms, whether allowed by this license or not, and if WotC decided to sue the other VTTs into oblivion, the internet never forgets, and there will be a “black market” for mods for VTTs that do exist to emulate or improve on features that Sandcastle gets.

Paizo

WotC is definitely trying to prevent the emergence of another Paizo, who used the SRD to create another game system which competed with, and surpassed the sales of D&D in that genre, for four years. A lot of that has to do with what Wizards created with 4th edition, so many people preferred 3.5e, or Pathfinder, which some of us (at least my gaming group) referred to as D&D 3.75: an incremental improvement over 3.5e that wasn't the catastrophe we saw as 4e (full disclosure: I think I only ever played an early playtest one-shot of 4e, and never personally experienced the full system).

The ORC

Paizo, as the second-largest publisher of tabletop roleplaying games, along with as many as 1500 creators, has pledged to create their own license. I applaud them for their efforts and would like to see what they come up with, but without the SRD, I'm not sure how well it's going to work.

Closing Thoughts

The OGL 1.2 can be saved, if WotC listens to the more measured voices of the opposition. I still see a lot of shrieking going on, and no matter what, not everyone will be satisfied with the result—that's an impossible goal. It needed an update after 23 years. Keeping the OGL 1.0b was untenable. I'm not upset about my own cancellation of my D&D Beyond account to join in the chorus of those calling for a change using their wallet, and I will be playing the game for years to come I'm sure.

#FishBlade FTW!

-JMC

If you've ever used a spreadsheet, you'll know that, by convention (at least now) rows are numbered with Arabic numerals in base 10 and columns are “numbered” with letters. In fact, this is basically a base 26 system with a slight twist. Or is it?

Let's build this from the ground up. We're familiar with counting in base 10, starting with 0: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, etc. We could use any symbol we want in place of the digits themselves, though. Let's use A as 0, B as 1, C as, 2, etc., through J as 9. Counting (starting at 0) would proceed as follows: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, BA, BB, BC, BD, BE, BF, BG, BH, BI, BJ, CA, CB, CC, etc. Fine and dandy, but what happened to AA through AJ?, since A represents 0, they're not missing, but AA is 00, which is just A, and AB is 01, which is just 1, and so on. That's not how spreadsheets indicate their columns. Let's revise our assumptions such that A in the units place represents 0, but it represents a 1 in the 10s place. Our revised count: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, AA, AB, AC, AD, AE, AF, AG, AH, AI, AJ, BA, BB, BC, BD, BE, BF, BG, BH, BI, BJ, CA, CB, CC, etc. We've done it! Or have we? IA in this case is equivalent to 90. So what's the number after IJ (99)? Is it JA? Or AAA? What base are we in, after all?

Thinking about it as a base 26 system doesn't help, because it isn't really one. Here's another way to think about it: How many combinations of one letter in the English alphabet are there? 26. What number is column Z in Excel? 26. How about 2 letters? 676. What number is column ZZ in a spreadsheet? 702. Three letters? 17576. If there were to be a column ZZZ in a spreadsheet, what number would it be? 18278. These are just “stacked” on each other, so we have all 1-letter combinations, followed by all 2-letter combinations, followed by all 3-letter combinations.

How does this relate to Microsoft Word?

Well, if you tell Word to number a list using an “alphabetic” sequence, you'll get A–Z like you might expect. You'll even get AA as the next item in that sequence. But what comes after that? AB? Microsoft gave you Excel, so that might be what you expect, but you get BB instead, then CC, DD, EE, through ZZ, followed in turn by AAA. and AAA is equivalent in this case to just 79 rather than 703. So if you want Excel-style numbering in Word, you have to be clever. Or masochistic. Or both. Because here's what the “formula” looks like in Word:

{ QUOTE { SET FIRST { =INT({ SEQ ABC \c })/26 } }{SET SECOND { =MOD({SEQ ABC }-1,26)+1 } } { IF FIRST >= 1 { FIRST \*Alphabetic } }{ SECOND \*Alphabetic } }

This is a set of nested field codes, so the curly-braces ({ and }) are actually special characters, the pair of which is inserted with Ctrl+F9 (by default). I'm not providing the step-by-step, but what I've given along with some appropriate “Googling” should be enough to recreate it. This will number each consecutive instance of this set of field codes with the “next” appropriate number in the anticipated spreadsheet schema. It can be extended to a third character if you need 703 or more items, or a fourth if you need more than 18278, but I'm leaving those as exercises for the reader.

-JMC

Hodes v. Schmidt

Since April 26, 2019 (Hodes & Nauser, MDs v. Schmidt), the Kansas Bill of Rights Section 1 has been interpreted by the Kansas Supreme Court as protecting a woman's right to have an abortion.

Here's what legislators could have done, but didn't. Legislators could have crafted other restrictions on abortion, so long as they weren't an undue burden prior to fetal viability. The language is vague, yes, but that's what the US Supreme Court said was the law in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Such regulations might have included regular inspections of facilities, continuing education, no (state) tax dollars used for abortion services, restrictions after 20–22 weeks (this cutoff is problematic as well, but I'll leave it alone for now), or (possibly, IANAL), restrictions regarding out-of-state patients. Legislators did not do that. They campaigned on this amendment, or something similar.

Value Them Both

The “Value Them Both” Coalition would like you to believe that, if the amendment to the Kansas Bill of Rights does not pass on August 2, you'll be signing up for the following:

  • unsafe clinics where the doctors don't have to bother washing their hands or equipment
  • doctors who aren't “qualified” to admit patients to a hospital
  • women don't understand what abortion means
  • tax dollars paying for abortions
  • minors (children) getting abortions without parental consent
  • promotion of the D&E procedure
  • an unlimited right to unregulated abortion up to the moment of birth

All of these are untrue, or at least deceitful in one way or another. The text of the actual amendment is as follows:

Regulation of abortion. Because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion. To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.

What this effectively does is takes the first section of the Kansas Bill of Rights and change it to (insertions underlined)

Equal rights. All men (and only men) are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unless any of those require abortion, in which case, ████ you.

Okay, it's not that cut-and-dry, but it's not far from it, because if/after this amendment passes, bills still have to be passed in the state legislature that restrict or ban abortion, but if you don't think these aren't already drafted and ready for introduction on January 9 at 2pm (are our legislators lazy?) then I don't feel that conflicted about calling you naïve.

Clinic Cleanliness

Do you know what happened in the semi-famous case where a KCK abortion doctor was found sterilizing his equipment in a dishwasher? He lost his license to practice medicine. There were claims that officials ignored reports about his clinic for years before inspecting the facility. This appears to be untrue, and he was fined multiple times before ultimately losing his license.

Do you know how abortions can be safely performed in a carpeted office? Because most involve the patient ingesting a pill, something that I do on a carpeted surface two or more times a day (not that pill, but you get the idea). Also, surgical abortions are not performed on the floor.

Doctor Qualifications

Abortion doctors are doctors. Trained medical professionals. They must have a medical license. But do they need “admitting privileges” to a hospital? When 99+% of the time no hospital is needed? Your GP doesn't need such admitting privileges (and likely doesn't have them), nor does your dentist, or dietician, or most other medical professionals. You know what happens when an emergency happens at these other facilities? Someone calls 911 and the patient is transported in an ambulance to a hospital. No one needs admitting privileges for that.

Education

In many states where “educational materials” are required reading, or where the doctors are required to read a statement about the consequences of abortion, they are required by law to lie to their patients, and the legislators call this “informed consent.” Abortion does not increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer. It does not produce solely negative emotional reactions (or cause depression or PTSD). Individuals should have access to information, but they should be allowed to make their own decisions.

Tax Dollars

Due to the federal Hyde amendment, your federal taxes cannot be used to pay for abortions. Due to a state law passed in 2013, your state taxes cannot be used to pay for abortions either.

Minors

I'm not up on any law or laws that may require parental notification of minors seeking abortions, but there are serious reasons why this isn't always the best course of action, and am opposed to requiring such notification.

D&E

D&E, discussed earlier, is a safe medical procedure, probably the safest past 13 weeks. Regardless, the procedure suggested by your trained medical doctor will likely be the safest approach, not one chosen because of the doctor's proclivity toward cannibalism or glee at dismemberment.

Deregulation

Again, the Kansas Supreme Court decision was that banning D&E was an undue burden, not that “anything goes”.

Reality Check

Did you know that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in natural miscarriages? Did you ever wonder why couples keep the news of a possible pregnancy “secret” for so long? How about the fact that somewhere between 30% and 60% of fertilized eggs do not implant on the uterine wall? If you believe in “personhood” from the moment of fertilization, might I suggest funding scientific research to deal with these numbers? Because otherwise this idea of personhood suggests that, “based on God's perfect will”, 30% to 52.5% of all fertilized eggs are destined to end in a dead person.

Did you know that individuals in the United States, even in locations where abortion is legal, have been arrested on murder charges for having a miscarriage?

Did you know that there are medical situations and conditions which, if a pregnant person is forced to attempt to carry the fetus to term, will result in the death of that pregnant person, the death of the fetus, the death of the delivered child, and/or the permanent sterilization of the pregnant person? And that many, if not most, of these conditions cannot be determined until a 20-week scan?

Did you know that rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn's disease, colitis, and some cancers are treated with methotrexate, one of the “abortion pills”? And that any poorly crafted legislation that bans this medicine can cause pharmacists to be prosecuted for filling such prescriptions? And that such laws are already on the books in some states? Even without such laws, if an individual with a functioning uterus has one of the above conditions, would they dare go to a pharmacy to get a prescription filled for fear of being charged with potential murder, even though they are just attempting to live their lives free of chronic pain?

Did you know that there were an estimated 631,832 children waiting for adoption in October 2020 (AFCARS Report #28) (a number which is actually going down)? If the ALL statistics are to be believed, and pregnant individuals are supposed to just put their child up for adoption, another 930,160 children would be added to this report per year. That is unsustainable and the system would collapse in no time.

Whose Responsibility?

The ultimate question is who is best fit to decide whether pregnant individuals can make the choice to carry their child to term: the individual themselves (with advice from their doctor), or a politician in Topeka?

More Resources and Articles

-JMC

I've got a server running again. This'll host my blog, and random coding projects, mostly. This, in fact, is only a test post, as it is...

-JMC