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On Publishing Star Frontiers Related Materials

Star FrontiersAkeisha Roberts just added a post to her blog listing all the places you could go for Star Frontiers materials (“Get The Entire Star Frontiers Rule Book Set & More For Free (Legally)“).  In the process of putting that list up she asked me about what can and can’t be published related to the Star Frontiers game and setting.  She isn’t the first to ask me this question and I thought I’d write up my understanding on the topic.

Now, let me start by saying the following:

  1. I don’t work for Wizards of the Coast and don’t speak for them
  2. I am not a lawyer
  3. Your mileage may vary
  4. This is 100% based on my personal experience and agreements with Wizards of the Coast and my conversations with others who run (or have run) Star Frontiers related websites
  5. There are some specifics I can’t go into details about because of the agreements I have with Wizards.

Given the above, your experience may vary but I suspect you would find a similar experience to me.

The Short Version

The TL;DR; version of this is that between the Star Frontiersman and Frontier Explorer magazines I can publish basically anything for Star Frontiers as long as it is fan-created and free.

The Longer Version

So let’s break that down a little bit and give some background.

Some History

First, Star Frontiers is not part of any version of the Open Gaming License (OGL).  It never has been.  I’ve seen statements on the internet to the contrary but none of those have ever come from Wizards of the Coast.  They own the intellectual property (IP) that is Star Frontiers and have never given it away.

And they don’t seem interested in licensing it.  I’ve asked.  Several different times.  So have several others that I know.  In every case, we have been told no.  Whether that is because they have plans for the IP or simply due to the fact that it is so small that it is not worth their effort, I don’t know.  I somehow suspect it’s the latter but see point #1 above.  That is pure speculation on my part.

Second,  many of the major websites that are Star Frontiers themed have personal, written permission from Wizards of the Coast to use the Star Frontiers IP.  The only one I’m not sure about is the Star Frontiers wiki that is a subdomain of wikia.com; I don’t know if they do or not.  I know that Tim Norris has one that covers StarFrontiers.com and StarFrontiers.org (run by Art Eaton).  In fact,  StarFrontiers.com has had permission from the days of TSR before they were bought by Wizards of the Coast.  I have permissions for StarFrontiersman.com and FrontierExplorer.org.

The StarFrontiers.us site, which is a community forum site, falls under those two although now that I think about it, I don’t know that an explicit permission exists for that particular site.  I never got explicit permission for StarFrontiers.info either, a site that has community forums and a wiki that was geared toward on-line play by post Star Frontiers games.  It too, now falls under the permissions I have for the magazines.

The social media groups on Google+ and Facebook are just groups created on those platforms.

You may have noticed that I run a bunch of those websites.  It wasn’t always that way.  Originally I just had the StarFrontiers.info site, then I was hosting StarFrontiers.us.  Then I started the Frontier Explorer and finally was given the Star Frontiersman and StarFrontiers.us from their original owner.

What Can I Publish?

As I said in the short version, the answer to this is just about anything.  There are some variations between the permissions I have for the Frontier Explorer and the Star Frontiersman that mean that I can publish some types of content in one but not the other but overall, there really isn’t a limit on content.

The only real limit is price.  It has to be free.  The only other restriction is that I can’t commission Star Frontiers related material.  So I can’t hire someone to create a piece of work (article, art, whatever) and pay them for it, even if I intend to give it away.  Everything I publish has to be fan created and effectively donated.

The truth is, Wizards of the Coast has been fairly generous with the permissions granted.  They don’t mind people writing material for the game or in the setting.  The only thing they don’t allow is people to sell material that is Star Frontiers related.  Which is completely within their rights under copyright law (something I’ve become more familiar with over the years, especially now that I’m a librarian).  Beyond that, as long as you’re giving it away, they don’t seem to have an issue.

So keeping in mind the points at the beginning of the article, if you want to write stuff for Star Frontiers and put it up on your blog or website, that is probably fine.  Just don’t charge money for it.

And if you want to write stuff and get it out to the existing Star Frontiers audience, the Frontier Explorer is a great way to do so.  Consider submitting and I’ll help you get it published.  As I said, I have explicit permission to do so and to put material up on DriveThruRPG and it’s sister sites.

Other Points

The above holds true as long as you’re doing it as a personal endeavor.  When I started the Frontier Explorer I asked about publishing the magazine under the banner of my publishing company, New Frontier Games, which I had established several years prior.  (The website is dead at the moment – long story – so no link but here is the publisher page on DriveThruRPG).  I was explicitly told no.  It had to be a stand alone endeavor with no affiliation to a publishing company.  Just something to keep in mind.

While I wasn’t allowed to sell anything, I was allowed to accept “tips” and donations to help support the website and the work of producing the magazine.

The astute reader may notice that the Frontier Explorer issues are available for sale in print form on DriveThruRPG.  This again was an explicit permission I received.  I could make them available in print form but they had to be at cost.  So the price you see there is what it costs to print the magazine.  I receive no income from the print sales.

With the announcement of the Dungeon Masters Guild you might be wondering if any of the above changes and you can publish Star Frontiers stuff there.  The current answer to that question is no as well.  Yes.  I asked.  The day the DMGuild was announced.  That may change in the future but for now it’s still a no go.

Last Words

Actually, I’m not sure there’s much else to add.  The love for Star Frontiers continues and I actually see it mentioned more and more on social media as time goes by.  It’s a game completely maintained by its fans right now and for the foreseeable future.  However, if you want to create and share Star Frontiers material, there are plenty of opportunities to do so.  Just remember, it’s just a hobby.

Do you haven any experiences with creating and sharing Star Frontiers materials?  Do you want to?  Let us know in the comments below.


Categorised as: General



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