Drawing Symbols And The Aggravation of Conflicting Info!

Ok, here's my beef...

Before I draw some of my symbols for my symbol sets that I am TRYING to build - depending on what they are - sometimes I have to do research to find out if I'm doing it "accurately". Well - I followed Wizards Of The Coast's description of a "Kobold" on their d20 Monsters page (http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/monsters.htm) to draw the symbol that you see below, granted.

Well - I was poking around and noticed that other sources have Kobolds having contradictory characteristics to Wizard's definition. They (Wizards) say that they have "Ruddy reddish brown to reddish black skin / hide color - but after doing a Yahoo search of "Kobold" - as referenced from Yahoo's image search pages - I'm finding all kinds of Kobolds that don't match WOTC's definition - including the Green copy left nightmare compared below to my "Wizards Accurate" version - that I have also attatched. This thing looks nothing like a Kobold - but more accurately resembles either a Gremlin, or a shoemaker's elf with a bad case of food poisoning.

QUESTION: WHAT'S THE BEST SOURCE FOR ACCURATE INFO? Should I stick with the Wizards Definition, or try to find an historical mythological version or equivalent? Does Wizard's definition match the original description in the older TSR books, (because it's been so long that I don't remember), and if it doesn't - should I go with TSR's original description (if I can ever track it down again)? Below is an example of the confusion.
Does it really matter if I get it right or not - should it?
P.S. - I was working from WOTC's text description - NOT the image in their new Monster Manual (I wanted to keep traditional - yet draw my intrepation as I saw it in my mind from the text.)
Is there a canon, or an orthadoxy that I should be sticking to here - because I need universally consistant "across the board" details on some of these ("generic versions" if you will).
A LOT of D&D / AD&D monsters and races appear in a wide variety of DIFFERENT gaming systems that are NOT TSR or Wizards Of The Coast creations, and have really no relation to them or have little or nothing to do with them. I can off the bat think of a few of them including the OSRIC (Loosely based on old, original TSR rules - reduced to their bare bones principles) and OGRE.


  • edited November 2011
    Well... you can't get too close to WotC's version, copyright.

    But I don't think the relaxed smoker works either...
  • edited November 2011
    Actually Jim - the Kobold is covered by the Open Game License 1.0a, not only that - but I put a little bit of my own slant on it. Although it follows the "general Description" of a Kobold - I could just as well call it a "Gator Gremlin" and get away with it easily, lol. A copy of the OGL will be included with the set(s). "Kobold" is a mythological name used to identify basically a character whose concept has been done to death in pop culture. How many times - and in how many venues - have you encountered the concept of an intelligent, anthropomorphic reptilian?

    Some characters I CANNOT touch - because Wizards claims strict exclusivity - for example - I can't draw and include a "Beholder" or a "Displacer Beast" because these are characters that were completely contrived by TSR (now owned by WOTC), and is not based upon an amalgamation of historical mythologies and borrowed bits and pieces of folklore like most of the other characters / monsters / races covered by the OGL. Wizards would never dare to slap an exclusive intellectual property right on the concept, nor design of Elves for example - otherwise everybody from the Tolkien estate - to the entire country of Norway would chew them up and spit them out like a wad of Mint Flavored Copenhagen.

    For instance - if they ever tried to claim the definitions, descriptions, or terms "Angels", "Devas", "Demons", or "Devils" as an exclusive intellectual property, everybody would sue them - and they'de probably get a phone call and subsequent letter from God's attorney telling them to cease and desist, lol.

    All of the Monsters at the d20 index on this page: http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/monsters.htm ,are covered by the OGL1.0A. You'll notice that the Beholder is not listed there.
    A lot of the monsters listed in the index are, with the exception of their game stats, in reality public domain - because they are directly extrapolated from folklore and mythology, such as Centaurs, Dryads, Elves, and the Dinosaurs that are listed, among MANY others.

    Characters such as the "Blink Dogs", are creatures that were contrived during game play, or created by TSR / Wizards based upon a piece meal patchwork of elements taken from history and literature - with a bit of cultural anthropology and theology thrown in for good measure. Those exist in a "grey area", so they are strictly, and inarguably OGL territory, as for one reason or another the D&D overlords could not slap an absolute "hands off" mandate onto them.
  • Tolkien and other sources predate WotC/TSR so as long as you don't copy theirs, you're OK.

    I tend to go with one of two theories about kobolds, orcs and the like: they're green, or (like humans) they come in a multitude of colours.

    As for sources: Norse mythology and the like are probably your best bet. Ignore the internet and get a good book or two from your library.
  • Solid advice gak.
  • edited November 2011
    Just because WotC can claim beholders, mind flayers, etc as their intellectual property in no way prevents you from drawing pictures of them. Avoid calling them by those names, do not use their stat blocks and do not distribute their images. Beyond that they have no legal right to restrict what you draw.

    That said, I would not consider WotC to be the last word in anything. I'd suggest using whatever descriptions you prefer as the basis of your drawings. You have a huge selection to choose from: Original D&D, Holmes, Mentzer, Moldvay, 1e, 2e, 3e, that new WotC game that claims to be D&D, pathfinder, arduin, numerous other games, mythology, etc. Whichever sounds best to you is the one you should use. Of course, there's no reason not to create multiple versions either.

    As to kobolds, my favorite take on them is what is used at Kobold Quarterly.
  • MonsenMonsen 🖼️ 44 images Cartographer Administrator
    I'm with Old Guy here. Use whatever you prefer.
    The OGL is a good source for a lot of monsters, but if you find something you like better, use it. No need to try to be pure OGL or something else. It is more important that your drawing style itself is consistent than where you get your inspiration from.
  • edited November 2011
    Thanks guys for that input - I need it - keep it coming.

    Firstly to Old Guy
    Posted By: Old GuyJust because WotC can claim beholders, mind flayers, etc as their intellectual property in no way prevents you from drawing pictures of them. Avoid calling them by those names, do not use their stat blocks and do not distribute their images. Beyond that they have no legal right to restrict what you draw.
    Actually I am drawing them expressly for distribution my friend, but you are definitely right. What I wanted initially was to create "one size fits all" icons for users who are using different game systems with their maps - generic versions of these monsters for "across the board" protocol. You are also very right about WOTC not being the last word on anything, but I did want to use drawings that "somewhat" preserved the flavor of the old TSR stuff (circa 1970s / 1980s), because those materials DID give birth to a multitude of TSR inspired gaming systems and materials. I did my "Lamia" in memory, and tribute to the late David Sutherland's work - David Sutherland is one of my favorite illustrators hands down.

    Like I said before - I am doing these to fit D&D / AD&D user's , but ALSO users of other gaming systems having little or nothing to do with either WOTC, or TSR. I'm trying to do "generic" symbols - but I was using the OGL d20 index as a reference because the descriptions seem more or less consistant with the older "origin" materials. I guess that I'm groping for some kind of universal canon here.

    Below is my Dave Sutherland inspired Lamia. It is NOT a copy of David's Lamia - as it differs from it considerably, but it was done in memory of one of my favorite monster depictions in the original TSR tomes. R.I.P. David - your work was awsome bro. The Lamia is also covered by OGL.
  • edited November 2011
    I have just hit an "uh oh" snag in the OGL. Character images are not considered "OGL" but are instead considered "Product Identity". I can either trash the monster images that Wizards might try to sue me over - or I can try to contact them personally (AGAIN).

    Ain't this a kick in the keester...
  • MonsenMonsen 🖼️ 44 images Cartographer Administrator
    edited November 2011
    Actually, as far as I understand the OGL, WotC's own character images are not part of the OGL (they are considered product identity), which means you cannot use their artwork for anything, but you are still free to create your own images based on OGL text. The clause is there to stop you using their images, not to prevent you from making your own. (Of course, that is making your own based on the textual description, not making your own by directly copying their image)

    This is the same as all the d20 "companies" did, they took the OGL, which is just the text, and created their own images for it.
    A prime example of this is the Pathfinder Bestiary, which is a (very successful) OGL product, and uses a lot of monsters from the d20 reference document, but have made their own artwork for these monsters.
  • edited November 2011
    Remy I contacted WOTC by phone and they referred me to the mailing address of their legal department (no phone or email addy), I would like to find additional info on this without having to mail them. Their "GSL" license requires that I send them a form, again via postal mail, that I have to fill out that's basically a license acceptance form. I don't think that the GSL and OFL are attatched to each other like siamese twins though, so I'm not sure if I'de really have to mess with that or not.

    I assumed that they would claim "Product Identity" upon ANY image representing a creature in their general "bestiary". Since the Lamia, and arguably the Kobold, are based on historical Mythological entities - I could let it go and see if sabres rattle or not - but I am the kinda guy that's into dotting my i's, crossing my t's, and looping my p's just ever so carefully, lol.

    It's not a "cease and desist" order that I'm concerned about - it's about approximately 12% of my project, hours of work, and the general sense of accomplishment that I have being reduced to fodder for the Windows recycle bin - and some wadded paper in my own waste paper basket, lol.
  • edited November 2011
    You are creating problems that don't exist. Anyone can draw a picture of anything they like. WotC only has rights to pictures or text that they have created (or purchased). If your picture looks similar to theirs, there is nothing they can do about it. There is absolutely no need to fill out any forms or or obtain any sort of license to draw a picture. However, if you do release your images through a license to them, you may actually be causing yourself problems by possibly giving them rights to your images.

    On the other hand, if you draw a picture of a beholder and call it a beholder, then they will have a problem. Not because of the picture but because you called it a beholder.

    Then again, it's never a good idea to take someone's word for it, be it WotC or some guy in a forum. If you have concerns, it would be best to contact a lawyer or research copyright/trademark law yourself and make copies of relevant sections.
  • jaerdaphjaerdaph Traveler
    edited November 2011
    TA, if you want a precedent of something similar that WotC has never had a problem with, there is a game company called Fiery Dragon that has been making and publishing paper counters with artwork based on SRD (System Reference Document) monsters since the days of 3e D&D. You can see some of their products and artwork here: http://www.rpgnow.com/index.php?cPath=50_683

    The key, at least during 3e D&D days, was sticking to Open SRD monsters - so no beholders, mind flayers/illithids, yaun-ti etc. But the artwork for their kobolds (which are in the SRD) certainly looked like D&D inspired kobolds. :)
  • jaerdaphjaerdaph Traveler
    edited November 2011
    You can download a free sample here to see what I mean: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=56039
  • edited November 2011
    Thank you jaerdath.

    I believe that they might have gotten an SRG license, although I could be wrong. I'll probably just go ahead and fill out the SRG acceptance form from WOTC - just to be on the safe side, and maybe pass on an inquiry to their legal dept. (or maybe not), but the SRD / OGL based monsters that I've drawn (and that I will draw) - I'm keeping in the set. Too much love went into those to flush them, and they are entirely my work - and technically my visual editorial on those entities.

    To Old Guy: before getting my attorney to look into that at an expense of roughly $40.00 an hour - I'd much rather research it myself my friend, (although it's a pain because the last time I read up on the copyright code - it was like reading War and Peace - "the extended version",lol), lol - but you have a valid, solid point. Perhaps - as you said - I am creating problems for myself, that assessment seems reasonable considering my irrational fear of copyright Nazis, lol.

    Instead of seeing monsters in my closet when I was a kid - I ran into my mom and dad's room in the middle of the night screaming "MOMMY - MOMMY - THERE'S A CORPORATE PARALEGAL UNDER MY BED!!!!" Lol.

    Actually the conversation swung a little bit over to a subtopical - but still critically relevant subject, as I really never got an answer to my original question. Still - I want as much advice on the "legalese" of this whole thing as I can get.
  • MonsenMonsen 🖼️ 44 images Cartographer Administrator
    edited November 2011
    Do NOT get yourself a GSL license. It is MUCH more restrictive than the old OGL license, and, as part of that license, you also agree that the same product lines you release under GSL will not be available under the OGL. A GSL license is only needed if you need to release stuff compatible with the D&D 4th edition ruleset. Since images are not rules, they don't really need any compatibility, so you only create problems for yourself if you bind yourself to one of wizards new licenses. Stick to the OGL. It is older than the GSL, but much more open, and while wizards would prefer everyone to to publish under their (more restrictive) new licenses, the old ones are still available, and cannot be revoked (Although new 4th edition material will never be released under OGL obviously, there is more than enough d20 stuff released to cover everything you might need).

    Whatever you draw yourself is yours, and as long as you base it upon the materials released under the OGL (Basically the SRD document), you can even use the monster's real name, and you are safe, as long as you distribute a copy of the OGL license along with your images. Just make sure that all D&D monsters in your collection do indeed come from the SRD.

    As for your original questions, I thought the answers you got covered the subject. But anyway; As I am a AD&D player, I do prefer monsters from that product line. Since most of the descriptions in the SRD document are still somewhat similar to the older descriptions, I prefer that to be used as the primary source (I would prefer other sources, like the older monster manuals, but they are not Open Content, so you shouldn't use those).
  • I agree with Monsen. Being an AD&D enthusiast, I prefer monsters from that era.
  • edited November 2011
    Thank you gentlemen. I am going with the OGL and skipping the newer licenses. I am not including ALL of the AD&D / D&D monsters, just the ones that are either general generic types - or that have historically / commonly been used - specifically those that might be encountered in an overland setting (for my overland icons anyway). My Lamia IS "roughly" inspired by - and is "somewhat" similiar to David Sutherland's original graphic formula from the older Monster Manual, but I'm not going to worry about it since it's vastly arguable, and it IS a mythological entity with infinite, yet often reoccurring forms of anatomical variations and themes.
  • Yeah, I'm a 1E AD&D guy to, along with most of my remaining players.
  • edited November 2011
    I remember all of the cool stuff that I had Jim - and to be honest - the new stuff is flashier, but it's way too convoluted - and just doesn't have the energy, the freshness, the atmosphere, or the flavor of the older materials, so in that respect I most certainly agree. Comparing the earlier stuff to the 4e fare (material wise) - is like comparing an illuminated manuscript from the eleventh century to a comic book, lol.
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