Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Story of Perils and Mazes

Let's tell a story.

"John" is taking a class in college. He does some research and decides he wants to write his term paper on "13 y/o boys whose mothers' lock them in the basement". He sees a previous student wrote the same and likes the previous term paper so much, he decides to do a homage to it, extrapolating the data to cover "13-18 y/o boys whose mothers' lock them in the basement". He hands the paper in crediting the original writer of the previous paper as the "editor" and himself as "retro-organizer".

His professor isnt sure what to make of it. He had read the original term paper it was based on, but the amount of new material and research was significant. There were problems with some of the material that was repeated verbatim, and in the end "John" decided to abandon the term paper and the class.

Along comes "James". He wants to take the same class and wants to do the same type of term paper. "John" sees him and says to the effect: "I no longer want to take this class. Do you want my term paper?" "James" eagerly takes "John's" term paper, makes a few minor changes and submits it with his name on it "By James". He lists the previous "authors" as "contributor" and "original system and rules authors" after his name and in a much smaller font.

Now the professor is getting pissed. He's definitely seen this before. The tables match the previous copy he pulls out of his desk. Paragraphs may be rewritten but say basically the same thing. There is no way"James" wrote this.

"If I accept this paper, I'll have to bring it to the attention of the school authorities." After a little thought, "James" withdraws the the term paper.

The next semester, "James" rewrites pieces of the previous term paper, changes some numbers on the charts and resubmits it. He wonders why the professor refuses to accept his rewritten term paper, which in substance hasn't changed at all.

So, here's the issue with Mazes & Perils, just so it's out there in plain english - Vince didn't write it. He claims authorship, but it's not his work. It's the work of another (or two others, depending on your point of view.)

If Vince had released it as "Mazes & Perils, based on the work of Holmes and Pinnell. Additional work and editing by Vincent Florio" I doubt there would have been as much as a whisper. Ego apparently wouldn't allow that.

So, where's my facts? As apparently Vince feels I've appointed myself "OSR Cop", I figured I'd take some pictures of the crime scene. To Vince's credit, he does change up the numbers and charts in the second release of M&P. Doesn't change the fact that he is not the author of the work. Editor? Certainly. Additional material? I'll grant him that. Author, let alone sole author? Not happening.

The following screenshots are, from left to right: Holmes 77, M&P 1e, M&P 2e. You'll need to click on the images for a larger view.

Let me put it another way. Vince does podcasts. If Vince were to suddenly say "I'm done with podcasting! Jack, here, Save or Die is all your's now." Jack now goes and instead of writing new episodes of the podcast, uses old scripts, changes a few words and now claims authorship of the "new" episodes. People that listen to Save or Die would be going - "WTF?!? I know I already heard this! This guy "Jack" is taking credit for Vince's work!"

Therein lies the problem - taking credit for work that isn't your own. As a creator, I'm sure Vince has a better understanding of the point being made now.


  1. Hi,

    Okay, first off, full disclosure: I'm the main illustrator of M&P as well as one of the hosts on Save or Die as well as the main host for THAC0's Hammer. I hope that doesn't lessen the point or question I ask.

    I see a lot of rancor (not the Star Wars kind) going on here so I just want to get it clear before I weigh in on this (if I do at all).

    This is a matter of giving (or taking) credit, right? Because it seems to me that Vince has done nothing better or worse than the other retro-clone writers in that respect. I looked at my copies of S&W, Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC and, like Vince, they have taken an author credit and credited the authors of the original work(s) that the piece is based on. As it looks to me I don't think Vince is trying to take credit for the original work. Am I right? Am I even close to right?


    1. Correct. I've given credit where credit is due. I'm only claiming authorship on all the things I had re-write and the optional rules I included.

      FYI none of our podcasts are scripted. And if I have such an ego, as you claim, I'd still be on all the podcasts and not stepped down, to allow them to grow on their own. A person with an ego would have said ha this podcast couldn't live with out me.

  2. @Smokestack Jones - and all other clones don't line up next to perfect like Holmes 77 and Mazes & Perils 1e. (as the screen shots show). 1e to 2e is certainly changed, but not in substance.

    This isn't like comparing Swords & Wizardry to Crypts & Things. I can't open up the same page in each game and find virtually identical pages.

    The only thing most RPG writers can claim is some very localized fame - there sure isn't fortune involved in this hobby.

    @EGM - I used your podcast as an example, to give you a perspective that you could possibly relate to. It was hypothetical, so say the least.

    As for the "ego" crack - my comment is no more or less valid than your comments about me. I'll take your word for the moment that ego is not involved.

  3. So if I put "Additional work and editing by Vincent Florio" on it, you just leave this alone is what you are saying?

  4. @TEGM - That would be an amicable solution.

  5. Fine. Done. Uploading new copy with that. Now we can let this go.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Sorry had to deleted my other comment because I couldn't figure out how to edit.

    To Mr Tenkar:

    I am RC Pinnell, and I turned over my work to Mr. Florio so that he might reorganize Holmes77 and make it into an accessible clone. Holmes77 was never claimed to be written by me, nor does Dr. Holmes claim to have rewritten the original D&D game. He called himself an editor, and I--a reorganizer. Vince did the same, no more, no less, than Dr. Holmes, Monte Cook, myself, or a dozen other guys that have issued clones or 2E or 3E, etc. Your characterization would be more correct if M&P had been intended to dupe the professor into giving Mr Florio an "A", or gaining him fame and wealth; since M&P is free, and he will likely never offer it as a major thesis, I think your perspective on the matter is incorrect.

  8. First, I'm pleased that Vince took the high road and made the change. I'm a little angry about the bullying that went on here. Tenkar, I'm not sure why you felt it necessary to get this public pound of flesh. All of your complaints and comparisons boild down to similarities between M&P and Holmes77. Perhaps you should have either approached Vince and/or Thork with your concerns and merely mentioned in a review that in your opinion this was a derivative work and leave it at that, rather than turning it into a character assassination piece. Let's be honest, there is a lot of ambiguity in regards to original work and derivation and where the dividing line should be in regards to being able to claim authorship. All the retroclones are derivative in one way or another. Some authors have gone further than others in adding their own stamp on the game. If they took the time to put some text in their own words, even if it seem derivative with no new ideas, I have no problem with the claim of authorship if those who came before are given credit. I have to wonder whether this was really about enforcing some kind of unwritten honor code among the OSR retroclone creators, or perhaps it was the result of a chip on the shoulder. It seems pretty clear that you and Vince have a history. Right or wrong, you come across as more than a little bit petty.


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