The Alexandrian

Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Apply however many spoonfuls of salt you would like to the following (and I encourage you to do your own research on the the topic if you doubt what I have to say here).

An oft-mentioned factoid is that you “can’t copyright game mechanics” and, therefore, people are free to make supplemental material for RPGs and distribute (or sell) them publicly.

This is an overly simplistic reading of the law.

First, game mechanics cannot be copyrighted, but the specific expression of those game mechanics can be.

Second, there’s a lot of case law — albeit none of it directly related to RPGs — which suggests that game mechanics describing a piece of protected IP are effectively copyrighted as an expression of that copyrighted material.

Why? Well, for obvious reasons, really. For example, the Star Wars universe is protected through copyright whether you describe it in movies, TV shows, novels, radio dramas, comic books, or a myriad of other forms. Why the heck would the Star Wars universe suddenly become open season because somebody used game mechanics to describe it?

So, no, you can’t just create a game or a game supplement featuring Luke Skywalker and lightsabers and Force powers because “game mechanics can’t be copyrighted”.

What about something like D&D? Well, the case that WotC (and other RPG companies) make is that the mechanics of the D&D game are describing a specific fictional universe. Some of the elements of that fictional universe are obviously generic enough that using them wouldn’t be a violation. But a lot of them are unique and their aggregate whole is certainly unique. This has never been specifically tested in a court of law for an RPG (as far as I know), but given the other case law that exists it’s pretty clear that the RPG companies would win. (And if they didn’t, the law would be changed about 5 picoseconds later. Disney and other major IP corporations don’t want their property becoming effectively public domain because they licensed a board game.)

(This is all before you add in the additionally murky waters of trademark and patents, of course.)

My personal theory on “take-backs” in tabletop games. If:

(a) There is no new information; and

(b) the game has not changed

Then a move can be changed.

In more complex games, we are also generally pretty relaxed about retconning standard maintenance tasks that get overlooked as long as they don’t impact ongoing events. (So you can’t say, “Oh, hey, I forgot to add a reinforcement to this province that’s about to be attacked.” But it’s probably okay if you say, “I forgot to grab $300 for occupying Yu-Shang.”)

In the original text for The Merchant of Venice there are, arguably, four different characters with similar names: Salanio, Solanio, Salarino, and Salerio. (Salarino is also spelled Salaryno, but that’s a fairly self-evident variant.) The Second Quarto in 1619 changed all the instances of “Solanio” to read “Salanio”, and since the Q2 text was preferred for the next few centuries most modern editions still follow this practice and narrow the list to Salanio, Salarino, and Salerio.

John Dover Wilson referred to these character as the “Three Sallies” in his efforts to unravel the rather vague identities of these characters for the New Shakespeare edition of the play. My own work on the Q1 text confirmed that his conclusions were generally sound, and the ASR script for The Merchant of Venice generally follows his practices.

First, there is the character of Salanio/Solanio. This character first appears in 1.1 and is identified in the first stage direction and speech heading as “Salanio”. But the character is then referred to consistently as “Sola.” in the remaining speech headings and then “Solanio” in the stage direction for his exit. Similarly, in his next appearance in 2.4, the character is identified as “Salanio” in the first stage direction before becoming “Solanio” in the first speech heading and then “Sol” for the rest of them. In 2.8 the character is “Solanio”, “Sola”, and “Sol”. And, finally, in 3.1 he is “Solanio”, “Solan”, “Sola”, and then “Solanio” again.

In the balance, I am forced to agree with John Dover Wilson that the text’s overwhelming preference for “Solanio” would be respected by more modern editors if the 1619 quarto hadn’t arbitrarily corrected the name to the form of its first, irregular spelling.

In the ASR script, therefore, the character is “Solanio”.

Second, there is the character of Salarino/Salerio. As “Salaryno” the character appears in the first stage direction in 1.1, then as “Salarino” in his first speech heading. He then becomes “Salar” once, “Sala” once, “Sal” once, and then “Salarino” for his exit. In 2.4 he is “Salaryno” once again for his entrance, “Salari” once, and then “Sal” for the rest of his speech headings. (It is notable that the distinction between “Sol” for Solanio and “Sal” for Salarino/Salerio in these scenes requires the spelling of “Solanio” and not “Salanio”.) In 2.8, he is once again “Salarino” in the stage direction and then “Sal” in all speech headings. In 3.1, he remains “Salarino” in the stage directions but becomes “Salari” for all speech headings.

At this point, both Solanio and Salarino disappear from the play. They are replaced by a completely new character named “Salerio” who shows up in Belmont for 3.2 (“Sal” in speech headings), teleports back to Venice for 3.3 (“Sal” and “Sol” in speech headings), and then appears in the courtroom in 4.1 (where he’s given no entrance, but is referred to as “Salerio” in both his speech headings).

John Dover Wilson argues that “Salerio” must be either Solanio or Salarino, and I’m forced to agree: It makes little sense for the other two characters to simply disappear from the play while being replaced by a third character out of wholecloth. The most likely error is that “Salerio” and “Salerino” should be the same character, misread by the compositors of Q1. Between the two, Wilson argues that “Salerio” must be the correct form because (a) it is the only form found in actual dialogue and (b) it matches scansion in the dialogue where it does appear while “Salarino” does not. (This, to my eye, appears to be a little loose. But it is true that “Salerio” matches the scansion perfectly in most cases and acceptably in the rest, whereas “Salarino” causes far more problems if you choose it.)

But the reality of the situation is more complicated than that, because it appears that Salerio’s appearance in 3.3 is a completely different error: First, he leaves Belmont with Bassanio and Gratiano at the end of 3.2, so it makes little sense that he has somehow gotten back to Venice ahead of the others without mentioning their approach to Anthonio. Second, his appearance would require an exit at the end of 3.2 and then an immediate re-entrance at the beginning of 3.3 (a practice Shakespeare never engages in for obvious reasons). Finally, the character’s identity is somewhat confused in any case: In the Q1 text he appears as “Salerio” in the stage direction, “Sol” in his first speech heading, and then “Sal” in his second speech heading.

The Q2 compositors apparently recognized the problem and corrected the character to “Salarino”. But since Salarino and Salerio are the same character, this obviously doesn’t solve the problem. The First Folio, on the other hand, correctly changes the character’s name to Solanio.

Taking all of that into consideration, therefore, we take our Four Sallies and reduce them to two: “Salanio” and “Solanio” are both Solanio. “Salarino”, “Salaryno”, and “Salerio” are all Salerio (except for 3.3, where Solanio is restored to his proper place).

Go to Merchant of Venice: The Script.

Originally posted on December 7th, 2010.

Tagline: A resource almost any GM of Sailor Moon should make every effort to get their hands on.

Sailor Moon: The Complete Book of Yoma, Volume 1 - Guardians of OrderThe Complete Book of Yoma: Volume 1 is the seventh Guardians of Order book I’ve reviewed for RPGNet (Big Eyes, Small Mouth; Big Robots, Cool Starships; The Sailor Moon Roleplaying Game and Resource Book; and the three Sailor Moon Character Diaries being the others). I continue to be impressed with their efforts, as the company steadily makes it way closer and closer to a hallowed inclusion on my “buy everything these guys do” list. The Complete Book of Yoma is a resource almost any GM of the Sailor Moon roleplaying game should make an effort to get their hands on.

WHAT’S IN THIS BOOK?

The Complete Book of Yoma basically has four primary features (in my mind, anyway):

COLOR SECTION: Let’s start with the glitz and the flash: In the center of the book you’ll find an eight page, full-color section printed on glossy paper. This section, like the plentiful use of art throughout the rest of the book, illustrates (yet again) the huge advantage which Guardians of Order has here: After all, if you’ve got a couple hundred animation stills to choose from, you can (and they do) provide four or five pictures of every single monster in the book without a second thought … because you’re not stuck having to pay the artists.

YOMA: The core of the book, of course, are the yoma themselves. I discuss these in a bit more detail below. (For those of you wondering, at this point, what the hell a “yoma” is, the answer can be found there.)

HOW TO USE YOMA: The first section of the book deals with how to handle the yoma in your campaign. A solid resource, it succinctly sums up the basic foundation on which these creatures exist – summarizing the standard formulas of the television show (and how to break them to make a better roleplaying campaign); who controls yoma and how; where yoma come from; general cosmology… the whole nine yards. The best part of this section, in my opinion, are the charts which statistically break down the yoma – by who controls them, what attacks destroyed them on the TV series, their type, and their gender.

RANDOM YOMA: This is actually a part of the first section of the book, but I’m spinning it off into its own section because I really liked it. Basically, Lindsey Ginou realizes that the yoma can be broadly classified in various ways (for example, there are the yoma who “charm people”). Thus you can, effectively, chart these – and once you’ve got the charts you might as well throw in some probability tables and get yourself some randomized yoma. The resulting charts can be used to actually randomly generate a yoma – or you can use the charts as a quick reference for designing your own basic yoma packages.

THE YOMA

Anyone with even a minimal amount of exposure to Sailor Moon will know that the basic structure of any given episode is simple: Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts face down a nasty magical creature. They are nearly defeated, but in the end they find the yoma’s weakness and defeat it. There’s also an arc structure to each season of the show (for example, during the entire course of the first season the Sailor Scouts are facing off against Queen Beryl.

So what’s a yoma? “Yoma” translates, roughly, in to English as “monster”. The Complete Book of Yoma: Volume 1 assembles and presents every single monster which the Sailor Scouts face down during the first two seasons of the show. (This includes the Cardians and the Droids, who are not, strictly speaking, yoma. But that’s just a technical distinction, and not all that important.)

Each yoma is given a full page description, and are arranged in the order they appear in the television series (thus the yoma from episode one appears first; the yoma from episode two appears second; and so forth).

Each yoma is described with: Their English and Japanese names, the name of the episode(s) they appeared in (English, Japanese, and translated Japanese), their type (defined in the introductory material), their master (who sent them), who defeated them in the show, and their final fate on the show.

Additionally, more lengthy passages are given describing their physical appearance, the significant events of their appearance(s), various points of interest, and (of course) their actual stats.

In case you missed it: With this information you (of course) get a standard monster manual entry for every yoma, but you also get a strategy section on how they can be defeated, and also adventure hooks on how to design a story around them.

A great deal of care has gone into constructing the yoma so that they behave exactly as they do in the television series. Using the rules of the Sailor Moon roleplaying game and the stats as they are provided, you can recreate the events of the television series exactly as they appeared on the screen. Guaranteed. Nothing is more frustrating than picking up a licensed RPG only to discover that you can’t create characters who can do the same things the characters the license is based on. No such problem here.

CONCLUSION

Having read this book, I really can’t imagine running a Sailor Moon campaign without it. At the end of the day it does precisely what every supplement should do: It helps you run the game, without being absolutely necessary.

In other words: Sure, you can run Sailor Moon without owning this book. There is absolutely nothing here that you cannot create yourself using the core rulebook. But The Complete Book of Yoma makes you ask a simple question:

Why would you want to?

And that’s why you should buy it.

Style: 4
Substance: 4

Author: Lindsey Ginou
Company/Publisher: Guardians of Order
Cost: $17.95
Page Count: 90
ISBN: 1-894525-00-0

Originally Posted: 2000/04/06

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

Star Trek: Voyager

The writing is really bad.

This is the biggest problem. Voyager regularly deals up truly horrendous episodes at a pace roughly equivalent to the Original Series, but it doesn’t surround those episodes with the highes of TOS (which produced some of the best episodes of television ever made).

The acting on the show is also incredibly problematic. There are several performers who are just flat-out terrible. Others are crippled by the bad writing. The cast notably lacks the stellar talents like Shatner and Stewart: The best actor on the show as Robert Picardo, but it’s really difficult to run a show out of sickbay. (Which is why most of the series’ best moments come after the Doctor gets a portable holo-emitter and Jeri Ryan joins the cast.)

Coming back to the writing ,though, we can also note that the writer’s room was burned out: The same basic team had produced hundreds of episodes of Star Trek at this point and they were just running out of ideas. There’s a lot of rehashed Trek fan-fiction taking the place of original science fiction ideas. (And if you peek behind the scenes, you’ll discover a surprisingly large number of rejected scripts from other series getting dumped into Voyager.)

Finally, the show embraced ideologies that were curiously antithetical to a lot of the futurism that the franchise had previously fanfared. For example, “Measure of a Man” is one of the most celebrated episodes in all of Trek, so it was weird to see so many episodes of Voyager endorsing Janeway’s position that the Doctor (and other forms of artificial life) weren’t actually sentient beings. Voyager is also where the Prime Directive reached bat-shit insanity.

What might have saved the show would have been to embrace the long-running story arc with meaningful continuity that its premise inherently promised. But meddling from above repeatedly prevented that from happening.

Nail in the coffin: The entire series hinges on Voyager being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. The writers accomplished that by making Janeway an asshole; misinterpreting the Prime Directive; and then executing a plan that makes no sense. (Put your bombs on a timer!) The entire series got off on the wrong foot and was based, ultimately, on some really stupid writing.

Archives

Twitter

Recent Posts


Recent Comments