Explaining the OGL Declaration and Section 15
I had a colleague ask me today about the OGL, and really OGL questions are normally about Section 15. It’s twenty years old, you hang out long enough in RPG publishing spaces and you see a lot of questions about it because nobody wrote it down anywhere.
Let’s fix that.
The Open Game License lets you use content like game mechanics that have been shared as Open Content and by agreeing to the terms of the license you get to use that content and generally you also share new content with everyone else.
Your book needs four things:
- Product Identity
- Open Content
- OGL Declaration
- Section 15 Copyright Notice
Product Identity is what differentiates your work from others, there are many swordsmen in fantasy there is only one Conan. Your Product Identity statement should be somewhere in the book, we often put ours on our OGL page.
Product Identity: The following items are hereby identified as Product Identity, as defined in the Open Game License 1.0a, Section 1(e), and are not Open Content: All trademarks, registered trademarks, proper names (characters, deities, etc.), dialogue, plots, storylines, locations, characters, artworks, and trade dress. (Elements that have previously been designated as Open Game Content are not included in this declaration.)
Open Content, this is what you are giving back to the community, generally game mechanics, classes, rules, stat blocks all fall it this category. If I have an NPC in the book named Bob, a 5th level Eldred (elven) soldier, you can use the stat block for the 5th level soldier but you can’t call it Bob because Bob is product identity. Your Open Content statement should be somewhere in the book, we often put ours below the Product Identity statement on our OGL page.
Open Content: Except for material designated as Product Identity (see above), the game mechanics of this Evil Robot Games product are Open Game Content, as defined in the Open Game License version 1.0a Section 1(d). No portion of this work other than the material designated as Open Game Content may be reproduced in any form without written permission.
You put a copy of the OGL license somewhere in your book, we use version 1.0a. I don’t know what the lowest readable font size you can use is, but some publishers have OGL sections too small for my old eyes. Put it in your book, some put it up front, some put it in the back. If you are using OGL open content you need a copy of the license in your work to use that content. Our webpage has an OGL declaration to cover any mechanics we use on our site and also allow people to use things we release on the website.
Section 15 Copyright Notice
This is the part that throws people, section 15 needs to include the following:
- Open Game License (you just put the whole thing in your book)
- System Reference Document (All D20 derived systems cite the original SRD from 2000)
- Rules System (D&D SRD, Pathfinder or Starfinder Core books)
- System Reference Document 5.0 Copyright 2016, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Chris Perkins, RodneyThompson, Peter Lee, James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell, Chris Sims, and Steve Townshend, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
- Starfinder Core Rulebook © 2017, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Logan Bonner, Jason Bulmahn, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Jason Keeley, Robert G. McCreary, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Mark Seifter, Owen K.C. Stephens, and James L. Sutter, with Alexander Augunas, Judy Bauer, John Compton, Adam Daigle, Crystal Frasier, Lissa Guillet, Thurston Hillman, Erik Mona, Mark Moreland, Jessica Price, F. Wesley Schneider, Amber E. Scott, and Josh Vogt.
- The Pathfinder block depends on if you are writing PF1e or PF2e content.
- Any other work you referenced creating your work
- Your book (this helps others credit you properly when they use something from your book)
This is the completed Section 15 for our Operative Weapons book citing the license, SRD, Starfinder Core, Armory, our book and Owen KC Stephens website.
If you have any feedback about this post or our books please feel free to contact us.
Evilrobotgames at Gmail.com