Note from archiver<at>cs.uu.nl:
This page is part of a big collection
of Usenet postings, archived here for your convenience.
For matters concerning the content of this page,
please contact its author(s); use the
source, if all else fails.
For matters concerning the archive as a whole, please refer to the
or contact the archiver.
Subject: [uk.games.roleplay] Frequently Asked Questions
This article was archived around: Thu, 03 Jun 1999 09:11:09 +0100
Maintainer: Phil Masters <email@example.com>
Frequently Asked Questions
This file has now received formal approval, and thus should
henceforward appear in the "answers" newsgroups. Further comment is still
| very welcome - feel free to e-mail the maintainer, or post to the
| The file was originally drafted by James Wallis, and subsequently
| extended by Phil Masters.
A few sections may be a bit cumbersome for a FAQ, but people seem to
want them here; other such have been moved to separate text files, held on
the 'Web, with links noted below. Note also that this file is appears in
HTML-ised form on the WWW, at <http://www.granta.demon.co.uk/rpgfaq.html>.
Many thanks to Sheila Thomas for her work on this, and for the hospitality
of her 'Web space.
Previously, this FAQ was posted with an "Expires:" line in the header,
| set one month ahead. Unfortunately, the then-maintainer's ISP's news
| system took to blocking posts containing such a line for some reason
| (probably to prevent some kind of abuse), so we've been forced to remove
| it. All we can do is point out here that copies of this file posted more
| than a couple of months back may be unreliable in some ways.
Changes to the file since the last posting are indicated by a "|" in
the left-hand margin.
Important Note: Shortening
This FAQ was suffering from ever-increasing length by mid-1998, to the
extent that the compiler was receiving complaints. Hence, a number of long
lists of information have been hived off to a 'Web site:
Although the contents of these text files should no longer be
| considered parts of the FAQ, comments and updates are invited - e-mail
This FAQ is of course a public sort of document, and redistribution,
intact, to 'net-related sources, on a non-commercial basis, is positively
encouraged. Anyone wishing to use any part of it for commercial purposes
| should contact the maintainer to discuss arrangements.
If anyone wishes to quote a selected fragment for some (non-commercial)
| purpose, they should (a) state clearly where it comes from (mentioning
| the various authors' names would be nice, but not obligatory), (b) make
| it clear that what is being quoted *is* just a fragment, and (c) tell
| people where to find the complete document, on Usenet or the 'Web.
1. What is uk.games.roleplay?
2. What is the group's charter?
3. Are there any common courtesies I should follow?
4. Is it okay to sell things via this newsgroup?
5. How do I learn to play these games?
5a. What do people *argue* is the best introductory system?
6. Where can I find out about local games shops?
6a. What about second-hand/out-of-print games?
7. Where can I find out about local games clubs?
8. Where can I find local LRP groups?
9. How do I run a play-by-e-mail game?
10. Where can I find out about conventions?
11. Where can I find out about UK and Irish RPG magazines?
12. Where can I find out about UK and Irish RPG publishers?
13. Where can I find out about UK and Irish RPG distributors?
14. Are there any other good sources of RPG information I should know
15. What about Net resources and computerised game aids?
16. What's a fanzine?
17. People in my area are attacking RPGs as
dangerous/corrupting/satanic. What can I do about it?
18. What are my chances of getting a job in the adventure games industry?
19. How do I publish my own game?
20. Is role-playing in decline? What is the future of roleplaying?
20a: Don't be stupid; the future of role-playing is...
21. What's the difference between copyrights, trademarks, and patents?
21a. Didn't TSR trademark the word "Nazi"?
22. Aren't Games Workshop the Antichrist and the source of all evil?
23. How do I get a new section added to this FAQ, or correct any mistakes
Q1. What is uk.games.roleplay?
A1. uk.games.roleplay is a newsgroup for the discussion and
dissemination of information about "table-top" (and possibly some
"freeform" or "live action") role-playing activity in the UK and Ireland,
or matters concerning gaming in those places.
It is not a venue for discussion of computer games, card games
(collectible or otherwise), board, miniature or wargames, or family games.
There are better groups in the uk.games.* hierarchy for these subjects.
NOTE: This is NOT a binaries newsgroup. Posting encoded binary files of
any type (graphics, programs, word processor files, etc.) is against basic
netiquette, and will earn you a hostile response from many people. Merely
flagging such postings as "long" is not a defence; some users don't employ
header-based filtering, and others, knowing this to be a small, specialised
discussion group, assume that they can download everything that appears
here with minimal trouble and expense. Please respect others' time and
budget, and familiarise yourself with the conventions of Usenet.
ALSO NOTE: As this is a discussion newsgroup, debate here may
occasionally become a little heated. Usenet is like that, and most people
put up with it. However, a lot of people do think that arguments over
personal taste in RPG systems and styles are a little futile, and in any
case, there is already a newsgroup rec.games.frp.advocacy, which may be a
more appropriate place for this sort of thing.
LASTLY: Note that information on all uk.* newsgroups, including
guidelines for creating new ones, can be found at
<http://www.usenet.org.uk>, and interested users are also advised to
subscribe to uk.net.news.announce, a low-traffic, moderated group.
Q2. What is the group's charter?
A2. 'The newsgroup will be used for UK (and visiting) role-playing
addicts to meet and arrange games throughout the UK. Also it can be used
for (but not limited to) the discussions of new and old games, rules, large
game meetings (i.e. GenCon).
'It will be used for all types of role-playing, including (but not
limited to) Live Action (i.e. Amber, V:TM), Play By Mail, Dice (i.e. AD&D,
'Lengthy and/or off-topic advertising posts will not be welcome. Short
announcements of RELEVANT products, services and events, inviting e-mail
inquiries or suggesting URLs for further information, will be allowed.'
| (Note that, since the above charter was written, a new group
| dedicated to RPG-related adverts has been created:
| uk.adverts.games.roleplay. This will make advertising on
| uk.games.roleplay even less appropriate; see Q4 for more details.)
| <SOME TEXT DELETED>
Q3. Are there any common courtesies I should follow?
A3. When posting to this newsgroup please try to state what the post is
about. It may help if you place a short code (no more than 5 letters) at
the beginning of the subject line (although very few people do). Some
AD&D Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
DISC General discussions.
EVENT Use this for any events you know about, which anyone is
welcome to attend.
FAQ: This will be used for the FAQ, and for any discussion about
L(A)RP: Live (action) role-play
WOD White Wolf's 'World of Darkness': Vampire/Mage/Werewolf/etc.
Also, in the matter of courtesy; posting game ideas of various sorts
for discussion or use is generally within the scope of the newsgroup, but
very long posts of this kind are likely to annoy more people than they
entertain; remember that this sort of thing adds to a lot of people's
'phone bills. If your bright idea requires more than a few hundred words to
express, the best idea is probably to place it on a 'Web page, and post the
URL to the newsgroup. Do also remember that most popular systems and genres
have their own, international, newsgroups.
And finally - good Usenet practice applies as much here as on any other
newsgroup. For example, quoting the entire of a long post, merely to append
a one-line comment, is wasteful and untidy. Edit your quoted text down to
the pertinent basics before posting; certainly, if your post consists of
more quotation than new text, you should think very hard about reducing it.
For an introduction to good practice, see
Q4. Is it okay to buy and sell games via this newsgroup?
| A4. Previously, despite the charter above, advertising was tolerated
| here provided that it didn't grow too long. However, as noted under Q2,
| there is now a newsgroup where such posts are considerably more
| appropriate; uk.adverts.games.roleplay. Advertising on uk.games.roleplay
| will probably be heavily discouraged from now on. The FAQ for
| uk.adverts.games.roleplay, including its charter, can be found on the
| 'Web at
| See that document for details of how to use that newsgroup and what is
| appropriate there.
Q5. How do I learn to play these games?
A5. The best way is still to learn by doing, and for that you need to
know someone who already plays. Good games shops will have a notice-board
where clubs and groups post information about their meetings. Crap games
Although most games contain some information directed at newcomers to
the hobby, distressingly few are designed with the beginner in mind. The
best may be West End Games' old 'Star Wars Introductory Adventure Game',
which leads new players a step at a time into an RPG set in a familiar and
popular setting; it's compatible with their full Star Wars game, which was
pretty straightforward itself. WEG also did another "Introductory" game
based on the *Men in Black* movie. Unfortunately, they recently hit severe
financial problems, almost went bankrupt, and have now apparently lost the
*Star Wars* license. Watch out for further news of the company, one way or
For fantasy settings, TSR's 'Firstquest' allegedly does the job
reasonably well, and this is linked to the ever-popular AD&D. The
'Dungeoneer' RPG published by Puffin as part of the 'Advanced Fighting
Fantasy' series is good - and British to boot. 'Feng Shui' (previously
Daedalus Games, now Atlas Games) is also aimed at new gamers, while
'Everway', from Rubicon Games (originally from Wizards of the Coast) could
be good for anyone with a taste for high fantasy, collectible art cards, or
story-telling. (Everway was originally quite expensive, but has been known
to show up dirt cheap in remaindered book shops.) And Iron Crown
Enterprises has recent published 'Run Out the Guns', a
pirates/swashbucklers game that is the first in a planned line of complete,
reasonably simple "beginner RPGs".
Note also that some publishers place "Lite", cut-down versions of their
| rule systems on their 'Web pages these days. (Examples include Steve
| Jackson Games' "GURPS Lite" and the "Fuzion" rules created by Hero Games
and R.Talsorian.) These are not necessarily well suited to beginners - they
tend to be a little too terse and minimalist - but they are free, and may
give some idea as to the style of the full rules.
Q5a. What do people *argue* is the best introductory system?
A5a. Frankly, this is really a separate question, argued out interminably
between old hands rather than being discussed rationally with beginners. At
the risk of being controversial, I will quote a post I made when this topic
came round again. Please note that this is just one opinion.
The Best Introductory System is one where:
(a) The GM knows the game mechanics fairly well, so as to be able to
explain, discuss, and use them smoothly and without distraction or
(b) The setting is one that the players can grasp quickly and enjoy
once they've grasped it, so that the game appeals to them immediately
on a "story" level.
Therefore, The Best Introductory System depends on the players and
the GM involved.
In many cases, the system should also be simple and quick (especially
if the GM is also a beginner - there's no way of fulfilling (a)
otherwise), but this isn't an absolute.
Q6. Where can I find out about local games shops?
A6. At present, the nearest thing to a UK chain of RPG stockists is
Virgin's Megastores; some branches have some kind of games section, and
others can in theory order stuff for you. Dillons (the bookshop chain) also
handles some RPGs, and some branches have good selections.
Chains aside, try looking in Yellow Pages, under 'Toys' or 'Hobbies'.
Anything that describes itself as a 'specialist' or 'hobby' games store is
probably a good bet. If that doesn't bring any success, you may get some
joy out of the following URL:
If none of those yield any fruit, you can always ask on the newsgroup
if anyone knows of a shop in your area. Or, as a last resort, find a shop
that deals in mail-order: there are several that advertise in gaming
magazines, and one or two of them have made it onto the Net as well; see
One common question on the newsgroup comes from people who are visiting
London for a day or two, and who want to locate a good games shop there.
Virgin have a large Megastore on the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham
Court Road, complete with a hobby games department; unfortunately, the
stock and floor-space allocated to games in there is less than it used to
be, years ago, but it's still a fairly substantial games store. The Dillons
branch opposite the Megastore has one of their RPG displays, but the best
bets in Central London may be:
(a) Orc's Nest, at 6, Earlham Street, just off Cambridge Circus (on the
left, in the direction of Seven Dials, if you're heading south - see their
'Web site at <http://www.the-lion.demon.co.uk>).
(b) Playin' Games, in Museum Street (one of the streets leading south from
opposite the front gates of the British Museum) - a shop which sells all
sorts of games, including RPGs and wargames (in the basement).
However, many people's favourite London shop is a tube ride from the
centre; Leisure Games, at 91 Ballards Lane, Finchley, is close to Finchley
Central station (on the Northern Line), and has an impressively
comprehensive stock. They also have a 'Web page - see:
Q6a. What about second-hand/out-of-print games?
| A6a. One might observe that the UK RPG hobby barely seems big enough to
| support shops carrying new product; thus, there are relatively few
| *specialising* in older stuff - although plenty of provincial RPG shops
| have old material that they've never cleared off their shelves - but
| actually, there now seem to be more than there used to be. Unless you are
| especially lucky in your location, you will probably have to resort to
| mail order; the Internet can help here. For one list of such shops and
| people, see:
Q7. Where can I find out about local games clubs?
A7. If a local club exists, any half-way decent local games shop should
be able to point you in the right direction. In fact, any half-way decent
local games shop should be running a discount scheme for club members.
Local universities and colleges also often have games societies, and many
If that's no good, try a copy of 'Valkyrie' or 'Games Games Games',
both of which print excellent directories of games clubs in the UK and
Ireland, and all over Europe. It's not complete or exhaustive, but it's the
best there is at the moment.
Or, of course, you can ask in the newsgroup, or on
Elenor Maclaren maintains a WWW page with a listing of clubs in the UK
and Ireland. See:
Q8. Where can I find local LRP groups and events?
A8. Set your browsers to the heart of the sun:
- which should give you all the information you need about groups in the
For the UK there is an Events Guide on The Net, at:
This list only covers the UK. If you would like your event listed please
mail the information to <M.D.Horrill@bath.ac.uk>.
You might also want to look at the FAQ for rec.games.frp.live-action:
(This used to be maintained by Marcus Hill <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and
he is still willing to act as a UK liaison on the subject; ask him to e-
mail you a copy if you can't get through to the WWW site.)
One of the longest running lists of LRP events on the 'net is Shade's
LARP list, available on:
- You can add your group to the list by e-mailing Joe Santocildes at
Q9. How do I run a play-by-e-mail game?
A9. The Irony Games WWW site has some info on running PBeM games:
This also lists new PBeM games starting and needing players as well as
links to already up-and-running games on the Web.
The 'How to run a play-by-e-mail game' section can be found at:
(This has lots of useful links.)
'Intro to PBeMs'/'What's a PBeM' is at:
Q10. Where can I find out about conventions?
| A10. Phil Masters maintains a WWW page with listings of forthcoming
| British conventions:
Convention organisers should e-mail all relevant information to
Magazines like 'Valkyrie' and 'Games, Games, Games' maintain lists of
forthcoming conventions. Don't bother with the one in 'Dragon'; when last
checked, it had a notable bias against anything not in the USA or Canada.
Q11. Where can I find out about UK and Irish RPG magazines?
A11. We had some hopes of a resurgence in British RPG magazines a little
while ago; then the disappearance of the fully professional 'arcane', and
the non-appearance or irregularity of some others, rather took the shine
off that. However, the recent announcement of at least one new project from
a professional publisher may restore optimism.
A listing of a best guess at the current state of the UK RPG
professional magazine market can be found at
Q12. Where can I find out about UK and Irish RPG publishers?
| A12. There aren't many. Some are listed at
Q13. Where can I find out about UK and Irish RPG distributors?
A13. Distributors are the people who supply games shops with games: they
order from the manufacturers, import the goods into the country, and ship
stuff to the shops. Their names and addresses are commercially sensitive,
and you're unlikely to be given a complete list of distributors just for
the asking. Try asking games retailers which specialist distributor they
use, or ask a games publisher if they can help. And some of them advertise
in magazines like 'Valkyrie'.
Q14. Are there any other good sources of RPG information I should know
A14. Yes; there's the British Roleplaying Society (BRS). This operates
via a mailing list, which you can join by sending a message with the word
'Subscribe' in the subject line to: <BRSemail@example.com>.
Messages to the list itself are sent to <BRSfirstname.lastname@example.org>
Q15. What about Net resources and computerised game aids?
A15. It's always useful if helpful readers of this newsgroup forward
me their suggestions. FTP or WWW sites don't have to be in the UK or
Ireland - the nature of the Net makes physical location mostly irrelevant -
but anything of direct relevance or interest to UK or Irish role-players
would be greatly appreciated. That can include club and shop homepages,
details of forthcoming events, indexes of UK-produced gaming magazines, the
CAMRA homepage ... whatever. 'My D&D page' is not UK-specific enough.
To begin with; there are many computerised RPG aids and utilities
available from numerous 'Web site or FTP directories, but
this FAQ isn't really the best place to suggest where to look. Aside from
the fact that what's available changes rather frequently, there are simply
too many games, too many things that a computer might be used for in play
or preparation, and too many operating systems and platforms, for any short
guide to be truly useful. If you ask on the newsgroup, do specify what sort
of thing you have in mind - but better still, try a 'Web search engine
first. It's more likely to be up to date.
However, for now, I will just list a few URLs that have been recommended
by readers of this newsgroup as widely useful. No guarantees or special
recommendations are intended:
Any new participants bemused by the terminology used round here might
| like to look at the article on "The Vocabulary of Role-Playing Games", on
| the 'Web at:
The UK Masquerade is a society, mainly based in the south of England,
concerned with White Wolf's 'Vampire: The Masquerade'. They have a 'Web
This hold both IC & OOC information, including who's who, status list,
newsletters, contact points, and a WoD Time Line.
Warhammer FRP is a British-written and British-published game, so I'll pass
on the following two URLs that were sent to me:
..apparently covers all those articles relating to the game in various
prozines and fanzines, and...
..gives a breakdown of all articles that ever appeared in White Dwarf (up
to about WD206).
Some UK game shops are now moving onto the 'Web, at least to the
extent of placing their catalogues there. Examples include:
Leisure Games: <http://www.btinternet.com/~leisuregames/>
Best Books & Games: <http://www.northwest.co.uk/wanet/bestbooks/index.htm>
There's also an admirable library of material at monosys.com,
accessible by FTP or e-mail. The URL for FTP access is
<ftp://ftp.monosys.com/Games> - with a welcome/help page at
<ftp://ftp.monosys.com/Games/welcome> - or, for information on e-mail based
access, send an e-mail to <email@example.com> with a Subject line
containing just the word "info" (no quotes).
MUDs (online multi-user dungeons) are slightly off-topic for this group,
but may be of interest; the following sites have been recommended to me:
Vampire Wars - a UK MUD based loosely around Vampire the Masquerade, with a
site that's said to have a useful general FAQ:
For a list of MUDs with machines located in Britain:
The European branch of the RPGA has a 'Web site, with another list of
UK and European conventions, a list of companies, and other links:
Lastly, polyglot gamers might want to look at the FAQ for the German
counterpart of this group, de.rec.games.rpg.misc, at:
(And see also many of the company and magazine home pages mentioned
Q16. What's a fanzine?
A16. A fanzine is an amateur-produced magazine, typically with low
production values and more enthusiasm than technical proficiency.
Nevertheless, fanzines are a traditional seed-bed of gaming, teaching
people publishing skills and the dynamics of the game industry, and many of
today's professional games creators and publishers emerged out of the
fanzine hobby. For a list of possibly-active UK fanzines, see
Q17. People in my area are attacking RPGs as
dangerous/corrupting/satanic. What can I do about it?
A17. First of all, stay calm. Flying off the handle never helps.
Secondly, check out the WWW, if you've got time; there are various
sensible pages containing suggestions and useful hard facts you can use
| defensively. One list of useful links is in a section of the page at:
For example, the American trade association GAMA have a leaflet that
addresses this subject, albeit with some US-specific references. It can be
found, in Adobe Acrobat format, at:
Thirdly, write a calm and considered letter to the local paper, simply
stating that RPGs are just games. Use evidence gleaned from WWW pages or
wherever to support your case. Invite anyone interested - including
reporters from the paper - along to a club night or convention, so they can
see the truth about RPGs for themselves.
Fourthly, contact the company whose games are being attacked. Usually
this will be WotC/TSR, but more recently Steve Jackson Games, Chaosium and
Metropolis have all come under fire. Most companies have e-mail addresses
these days, and they will almost certainly be just as worried as you about
the attacks on their products.
And finally, if the attacks persist, drop an e-mail to the following
people, letting them know that there's a problem. They all have experience
in dealing with the media, and because they're involved in the games
industry in this country their voices will carry some weight with the
press. They are:
Paul Evans, SFCP <firstname.lastname@example.org>
John Brown, WotC/RPGA <email@example.com>
Andy Butcher, Future Publishing <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Andy Jones, Games Workshop <email@example.com>
James Wallis, Hogshead Publishing <firstname.lastname@example.org>
(Paul Evans has contacts with the CARPGa, who deal with such issues in the
USA, and John Brown is concerned that the RPGA be made aware of such
problems, and is based at WotC UK, so contacting these two may be
Q18. What are my chances of getting a job in the RPG industry in the UK?
A18. Pathetically tiny, frankly, unless you're prepared to move to the
USA or start your own company. It is possible to make some money from
working as a freelance writer and designer in the RPG business, and a
handful of hardy souls around the world earn a living from it. You might do
better to regard RPGs as just a part of a career in writing or journalism.
Contact as many games publishers and magazines as you can think of, and ask
for their submission guidelines.
We have been asked to point out that some RPG publishers aren't as on
the ball professionally as you might hope, and you should prepare yourself
for disappointments and delays - although this applies to every other field
of publishing too.
Q19. How do I publish my own game?
A19. The answer's far too big for a FAQ - James Wallis says that he
could write a book about what he learned in two years, and probably another
book about his preceding five years as a freelancer. For an overview of the
major points, see
Q20. Is role-playing in decline? What is the future of roleplaying?
A20. At any given time, by whatever measure you consider important,
role-playing may be in decline. Even if it is, this does not necessarily
mean that people are not still enjoying it. Define your terms before asking
this question on the group, and do not expect a useful answer from anybody.
Well, okay - to be honest, there are some seriously unhappy signs about
the RPG industry at the moment. When TSR, the original and biggest pro RPG
publisher, gets taken over by Wizards of the Coast, who make their money
from card games, the situation has gone beyond a joke. The disappearance of
'arcane' magazine, partly because of the loss of TSR advertising revenue,
shows that the UK side of things is not immune. How serious things are, how
long the problems it will last, and what solutions may be possible, are
matters that can be discussed on the group. But don't expect general
As for the future; no-one on the group is psychic. Probably, some
people will continue to play, and (we may hope) to enjoy these games. Many
people also think that a high degree of diversity in the games that people
play (and enjoy) is a good thing. All of this, however, is a matter of
Q20a. Don't be stupid; the future of role-playing is...
A20a. ...Don't tell us - it's your favourite game or approach. The
chances are that you have just discovered this game or approach, and you
are feeling very happy with it. Good for you. However, the chances are also
that it will remain just one part of a complex (if not massively popular or
fashionable) hobby. Some people will even tell you that this is a good
thing. But please phrase these "questions" as questions in future. (And do
remember that rec.games.frp.advocacy may be a better place to express your
personal preferences in RPGs.)
Q21. What's the difference between copyrights, trademarks, and patents?
A21. Intellectual property law is a large and messy subject - especially in
an international context - and there really isn't space to do it justice in
this FAQ. Nor, for that matter, am I an expert on the subject. However, it
is sometimes relevant to discussions on the newsgroup, so it's worth
providing a brief outline.
Remember, to begin with; some regular posters deal with such issues
regularly in their day jobs, and they can become a little irritated with
people who argue about intellectual property rights without, say,
remembering the difference between copyrights and trademarks. When the law
is involved, it's important to be precise, and shooting your mouth off will
get you mocked. On the other hand, if you ask politely, they may be willing
to explain details you don't understand. For more specific information, see
the 'Web sites listed below.
HOWEVER - if you're involved in legal actions involving intellectual
property, and especially if you're going to court, you need a lawyer. NOW.
The following is NOT professional legal advice, makes no claims to be
definitive, and should not be used for reference if there's money involved.
Anyway, in brief:
COPYRIGHT is ownership of the content of a piece of creative work, such as
writing. It is granted automatically, with no need for registration, and it
is covered by international conventions signed by almost every country on
Earth. It generally belongs to the author (or their heirs for several
decades after their death), unless the creation was done under contract, as
"work for hire", in which case the copyright belongs to the employer. When
you buy, say, a book, you buy one copy of the text - but the copyright
remains with the creator.
If you photocopy the book, or scan it into a computer, you are violating
copyright, and the author or publishers have every right to set their
lawyers on you. It makes no difference whether or not you are making any
money from the copying; aside from anything else, you are quite likely
reducing the chances of them making money from it. Quoting short extracts
for review or discussion is usually okay under various "fair use" get-out
clauses, and is unlikely to get you into court, but don't push your luck.
And yes, the Internet and the 'Web are fully covered by copyright. It may
sometimes be a little harder to enforce, but enough money, spent on enough
lawyers, will deal with that. Electronic communications are not above the
There's no copyright on ideas or facts - just on the way they are
presented, the "expression of ideas". But ripping off another writer's
stuff is not only bad manners, it can very easily be interpreted by a court
as plagiarism and breach of copyright. It's unwise to push your luck in
grey areas, if only because publishers will not generally touch suspected
plagiarists with a ten-foot pole. (It's too much grief for them.)
Incidentally, original characters are generally covered by copyright.
Legendary characters (such as, say, Hercules) are in the public domain, but
something that borrows too much from a modern telling of the tale (such as
Disney's "Hercules" movie or the TV version) may be considered breach of
TRADEMARKS are names, symbols, or logos used to identify something in the
commercial world. They are covered by a fairly complex system of claims and
registrations, mostly at the level of national law. The main aim of the
system is to stop anyone passing their products off as someone else's work.
For example, you can't call your game "Dungeons and Dragons" - that's a TSR
trademark. If you called it "Demons and Dragoons", you'd probably be
pushing your luck. But you can talk about TSR's Dungeons and Dragons, by
name, as much as you like; that's not passing anything off as TSR's
The distinctive logos that companies use are also covered by trademark law.
Note that using either names or logos in, say, a magazine you publish -
even a fanzine - may fall foul of trademark problems, especially if they
are attached to, say, a scenario for the game. (The scenario might be taken
for something the company sells.) Most companies will permit magazines to
use such things, provided that the trademark ownership is acknowledged, but
permission IS required, and is not automatic.
Note also that the law says that companies MUST enforce their trademarks;
otherwise, they lose them. It may seem harsh, but it's the rules. So if you
hear about a games company taking a fanzine publisher to court over
trademark use, don't assume that the company is evil; they probably have no
choice if they want to hang on to the thing that marks their products out
from everyone else's stuff.
PATENTS are the things that give inventors rights to machines or processes
that they invent, handled by a registration system at the national level.
As such, they are not generally relevant to the RPG industry, as you can't
patent ideas with no unique physical form. However, in 1997, Wizards of the
Coast were granted a patent for "Magic: the Gathering", their trading-card
game - something which caused a lot of discussion and controversy in the
hobby game world, and which may have indirect consequences for RPGs.
The following 'Web sites have been recommended by readers of the newsgroup
as providing more extensive information on these subjects:
Copyright in general:
UK Trade Marks:
International Protection of Intellectual Property:
On Intellectual Property in the USA, see the US Patent and Trademark office
- recommended pages at this site include:
The latter is a pamphlet, customarily furnished in response to general
information requests about trademarks received at the Patent and Trademark
Office. This whole site is widely recommended as a first stop.
Q21a. Didn't TSR trademark the word "Nazi"?
A21a. It may seem bizarre to include such a specific question in a FAQ,
but the number of times the thing comes up really does justify it.
The quick answer is "no." What seems to have happened is that TSR's old
"Indiana Jones" game included an illustration or cardboard figure of a Nazi
soldier (as a villain), with a "TM" symbol next to the word. The myth grew
from there. However, what was being trademarked was NOT the word, but the
associated image. Furthermore, the trademarks in that product were claimed,
not by TSR, but by Lucasfilm (makers of the Indiana Jones movies).
However, some people refuse to let mere facts get in the way of a good
urban legend. This one is amazingly persistent. If you try to resurrect it
on the newsgroup, expect to be derided by the old hands.
Plenty of people on the newsgroup find plausible reasons to mock the
old regime at TSR (and others are ready to defend the company). But please
leave the "Nazi(TM)" canard out of it.
Q22. Aren't Games Workshop the Antichrist and the source of all evil?
Okay, this deserves a little more explanation. Some people who post to
this newsgroup believe that Games Workshop's action in changing from a
games importer/distributor to a wargames company handling purely their own
products was extremely bad for role-playing, and object to the company
philosophy that it reflected. (The expansion of their retail chain, and the
business tactics allegedly involved at times, are particularly
controversial.) Others emphasise that these were business decisions, and
defend GW on that basis. Either way, this change took place about ten years
ago; whether it is worth discussing after all this time is *itself* subject
All this is certainly on-charter for the newsgroup, and may be relevant
to more general discussion of the UK RPG industry. However, it may also be
worth noting that very few opinions have ever actually been changed when
the subjects have been discussed here. While not everyone who mentions
Games Workshop on uk.games.roleplay is trolling, the effects may be
similar. If you do raise this subject, polite requests for relevant factual
information are probably the least inflammatory approach. (The facts of the
matter are not particularly obscure, and arguably verge on the trivial.)
Q23. How do I get a new section added to this FAQ, or correct any
mistakes in it?
A23. You e-mail me at the address below, with your ideas. All
contributions gratefully received: I know a fair amount about bits of the
hobby, but I don't know it all.
This FAQ for uk.games.roleplay is currently re-posted monthly. It was
| originally drafted by James Wallis, and subsequently revised and extended
| by Phil Masters. Additional information and assistance was supplied by
| helpful and admirable people too numerous to list.
Last update: 2nd June 1999