For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, you may not know that Sword Noir: A Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery was plagiarized. Another “hardboiled sword & sorcery” product copied the text from Sword Noir verbatim. The product has been removed from where it was sold and I’ve contacted the publisher/owner, so right now it seems the case is closed. At least for now.
When I was warned about this, I kind of brushed it off. I said I would deal with it quietly. No need to embarrass anyone, just send some emails and get the product removed and no worries. When I actually saw the product, saw how blatantly this individual copied word for word almost the entirety of Sword Noir, I lost it. I could feel my face getting flushed and my hands were actually shaking. I was as close to pure rage as I can ever remember. I had to go for a walk to calm down. Before I had calmed down, I had blathered to the Twitterverse the identity of the culprit, though others had already discovered it. If you are really interested, go have a look at my profile over at Twitter, and you’ll learn what you need to know—and the thoughts of others.
I honestly have no idea what this guys was thinking. I mean, did he believe no one would notice? He friggin’ subtitled his work “hardboiled sword & sorcery.” In truth, I likely wouldn’t have found it myself, but anyone interested in that game will likely also be interested in Sword Noir. One of them is going to say something, okay?
And what really burns me is that I put the mechanics for Sword Noir out there as the Sword’s Edge System for free. Free! And it’s creative commons, so he could have taken the rules he wanted, provide his own interpretation of hardboiled sword & sorcery in his own words, and released it under creative commons and not only be in the clear, I likely would have been thrilled that someone else is digging hardboiled S&S as much as I. The catch? SES was creative commons non-commercial, meaning he would have to do it for the love of it.
And he would actually have to work. You know, actually write the game he is selling. That might have been a bridge too far.
Now, I am not about to condemn a little creative borrowing. I mean, look at Sword Noir, it’s an amalgamation of Tim Gray’s Jaws of the Six Serpents (published by Silver Branch Games), the PDQ system designed by Chad Underkoffler (published by Atomic Sock Monkey Press), The Shadow of Yesterday by Clinton R. Dixon, Fate 3.0 by Robert Donoghue, Fred Hicks, and Leonard Balsera, Savage Worlds from Pinnacle Entertainment Group, and Lady Blackbird by John Harper from One.Seven Design. The thing is while I got mechanical inspiration from all those—especially Jaws of the Six Serpents—the words were all my own.
I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on podcasts, but I’m pretty damn sure game mechanics can’t be copyrighted while the expression of those mechanics—the writing including charts and graphs—can. If the dude had just taken the mechanics and made them his own—because what gamer in his right mind wouldn’t tweak what he had just borrowed—his product wouldn’t have been removed from its retail website all of five minutes after I sent the email with the subject line “Copyright Infringement.”
I guess I should have some sense of accomplishment, that my shit is so hot someone is trying to steal it. When someone steals one’s car, is that how one consoles oneself? First my websites get hacked and messed with, and now this—I am not feeling particularly charitable right now.
However, the Kheufer Scrolls is out. Kiss My Axe is done and in layout. I’m going to Gen Con.
I guess things could be worse.
You can buy the Kheufer Scrolls: A Sword Noir Adventure here.
You can buy Sword Noir: A Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery here.
You can buy more of my stuff here.