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Let's Talk About Ironsworn Licensing



A leaked version of the license which underpins community creations for Dungeons & Dragons was circulated in the past week. In short, the license — as detailed in the leak — undermines both the previous version of the license and the rights of third-party creators. It has, to put it mildly, stirred up some controversy.


This news also generated a ton of online discussion around D&D alternatives, licensing for tabletop roleplaying games in general, and the future of community creations. Thus, I want to take an opportunity to spell out my position on third-party creations for the Ironsworn family of roleplaying games.


The Mission Statement


Simply put, I want to enable and support your Ironsworn-related creations. You keep full ownership of anything you make that is derived from the Ironsworn family of games, and retain all revenue from your creations.

The Creative Commons License


Ironsworn is supported under a Creative Commons license. What is Creative Commons? This license was introduced in 2002 by the Creative Commons non-profit organization. It gives creators (like me!) a sensible framework for allowing derivative versions of our work, without giving away ownership and copyrights for that work.


A CC license is non-revocable, which means that I cannot cancel the license on a whim. I can't suddenly pull the rug out from under creators relying on this license, now or in the future. You can learn more about CC at creativecommons.org.


Non-Commercial and Commercial Licensing


Ironsworn, its supplement Ironsworn: Delve, and its sci-fi sibling Ironsworn: Starforged, use two versions of the Creative Commons license:

The first, the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-SA), is a non-commercial license for fan-created works. It covers the entirety of the text in the rulebooks and handouts, and allows you to use, remake, or repurpose that content as you like. You'll note that the credits/copyright page for Ironsworn, Ironsworn: Delve, and Ironsworn: Starforged include a reference to this license.


The second, the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY), covers specific elements for use in commercial products. Here's what's included in that license to date.

  • The Ironsworn System Reference Document (SRD), which includes the bulk of Chapter 1 ("The Basics"), Chapter 2 ("Your Character"), and Chapter 3 ("Moves") from the Ironsworn rulebook. The SRD also includes a subset of other materials, such as some basic oracle tables and a sample NPC.

  • The entirety of the text in the Starforged Reference Guide, which includes moves, rules summaries, and oracles.

To summarize, if you're creating something to share with the Ironsworn community at no cost, you're covered by the CC BY-NC-SA license. If you're producing an Ironsworn-derived product for sale, you're under the commercial CC BY license. The CC BY license doesn't give you access to reuse the entirety of Ironsworn content word-for-word, but it provides everything important that relates to the system. Plus, I'm excited to announce it's getting even better (see below)!


Expanding the License


When I released Ironsworn in 2018, I had two assumptions.

  1. No one would be interested in my goofy game

  2. If anyone was interested in making something based on Ironsworn, they would use the Ironsworn mechanics or the moves, but not necessarily content such as assets or oracle tables

I envisioned creators building their own worlds and character archetypes using the Ironsworn system, so anything that felt specific to the setting didn't fall under the commercial license. However, I've learned this restriction is sometimes challenging to work around, particularly for digital tools. For Starforged, I extended the use of the commercial license to cover additional content (such as Starforged oracle tables).


As of today, I am expanding this even further.


In addition to the products outlined above, the following materials are also now under the CC BY 4.0 commercial license.

  • Text of all Ironsworn and Ironsworn: Starforged assets

  • Text of all Ironsworn and Ironsworn: Delve oracle tables (Starforged oracles are already included)

  • The complete text of chapter 1 ("At the Threshold") and chapter 2 ("Into the Depths") of Ironsworn: Delve, which covers all of the Delve moves and the explanations thereof

  • Text of all Ironsworn: Delve theme and domain cards

Note that it will take me a bit of time to roll out this change. I have plans to develop a web-based SRD for Ironsworn, Ironsworn: Delve, and Ironsworn: Starforged, but other development must take precedent. In the meantime, this notification is as official as you need to leverage those elements in your works. Go forth and make awesome things!


Your Responsibilities


As a licensee, you agree to some conditions:

  • These licenses apply only to text content. They do not apply to images, illustrations, and design elements (with few exceptions, such as the dice illustrations in the Ironsworn SRD).

  • You agree to provide credit, as noted on the Ironsworn licensing page.

  • You agree to make it clear that your works are not official Ironsworn products.

One of the benefits of the CC license is that I can't arbitrarily introduce additional binding conditions other than what is described above. This includes morality clauses or content guidelines. However, I do request that you help support a positive, inclusive ethos, and not include content that is bigoted, racist, homophobic, transphobic, or otherwise discriminatory.

Questions?


For more details on CC licensing and your responsibilities, visit the Ironsworn licensing page. If you have specific questions, hop into the Ironsworn Discord and give me a holler. I am adding a Discord channel specific to Ironsworn licensing questions and concerns.


A Final Note


This week we are seeing licensing-related announcements from some big names in the industry, including Paizo, Green Ronin, Kobold Press, MCDM Productions, and others. I believe this push towards more open licensing will benefit customers and creators overall, and I want to make sure I've placed my stake in the ground over here in the remote reaches of the Ironlands.


I am honored and humbled to see anyone playing Ironsworn, much less spending their time and creative energy making Ironsworn-related things. Thank you, sincerely.


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