Monday, November 10, 2014

I haven't posted more Shadows of Brimstone cards

 WARNING: In the body of this post I assume some dark motives on the part of a fellow gamer that likely didn't exist. Copyright law is a nasty tangled mess, and involves a lot of weird grey areas and few clear-cut solutions.  I misread the situation, and came off sounding like a sanctimonious prick. I still think it was the right thing for me to pull the cards in question off the internet, but I probably didn't need to be quite so "high horse" about it. I'm leaving this post intact, so that if anyone asks me what happened to those files, I can just direct them here rather than start this fight all over again.

Several weeks back, I made some cards for use with my favorite game of 2014, Shadows of Brimstone.  I posted one group of those cards to this blog, and announced I'd be making more. While I did make several more, and have played a ton of the game in these past months, I never got around to posting any other Town Item cards here. I just used them in my home.

Since then:

Some other fans have produced similar cards for their own use. Many of those were posted to the various corners of the web. This made my efforts less necessary. I slowed down my work a lot, and didn't feel very motivated to go to the trouble of posting the cards I did make. Why go to the trouble when there were so many alternatives.

At least one of those other fans made his files available via a "lightning press"-style company, where you could click a button, and pay money to have the deck printed commercially and shipped to you. The person who did this set this up so they'd get a commission from the printer, and the printer would make money, but FFP, the makers of Shadows of Brimstone would get zero money for it.

FFP, publishers of Shadows of Brimstone, asked that person to cease and desist. This was a completely reasonable request. As much as I support remix culture, copyleft, creative and artistic freedom and fan-created expansions, I can understand that Flying Frog Productions has a need to protect their Intellectual Property rights. The fan in question was profiting on these cards, which included significant amounts of text stolen straight out of FFP's rulebooks and charts. That's not cool, and FFP was in the right for asking them to stop it.

Today, that so-called fan tried to start a nasty rumor about FFP*. I'm not going to repeat it, or link to it because I don't want to give it any support. (Nor am I naming that person, nor linking to the printing company he'd partnered with, because I don't want this nastiness to drive any business or internet traffic to them.) From my perspective, it seems like that person is childishly lashing out in retaliation. I can only guess at their motives, but given the context the guesses that pop into my head are all pretty damning. That so-called fan's actions were reprehensible.

So, I'm taking the high road here, and am going to remove my versions of the Town Item cards from my previous post. FFP hasn't asked me to do anything of the sort. They probably don't even know my site exists or that I made such cards. But they've made their wishes clearly known in the more severe case of someone else making money by plagiarism and piracy, and I don't want to be (anything like) that guy.

*: Speaking of That Guy: He's responded at the original place and says it wasn't meant as a rumor, just a joke.  Feels like he's just backpedal-ing once I called him on it, but I don't know the guy, so I can't really say what's going through his head. If it was a joke, it was ill-considered. Either way, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I guess I should give the guy the benefit of the doubt and assume he was so innocent regarding this that he had no idea anyone could misinterpret his words and motive the way I did. The alternative would be to pick further fights over the internet, and that's never a worthwhile use of time or energy.

(Also, FFP had previously announced they'd be releasing an "Expanded Frontier Town" supplement, which I assumed was new material, but I now realize may actually just be the sorts of Town Item cards that fans were making. I don't want my little fan project to make the original designer's previously announced expansion unprofitable. That would suck.)

I've been brainstorming entirely new cards for when my Brimstone encounter decks run low, and I'll probably still post those whenever I complete them. They'll be entirely new cards for use with the official Shadows of Brimstone blanks, not merely plagiarized or infringing text, and if I make them available, they'll be available for free.


digital_sextant said...

As always, you're a class act!

rbbergstrom said...

No, I could have been somewhat less rude about it. I called the guy out at the other forum, and that wasn't particularly classy.

I've been feeling a little guilty about posting my cards for a while, because they could definitely be regarded as infringing, even if created them only as support for a game I love. My internal conflict over it made me very touchy on the subject. I probably shouldn't have growled at him quite so much at either place.

Klutz said...

Wow. Ok... I'm That Guy from that Other Forum (BoardGameGeek). Let's set the record straight here.

I have been an active participant in the Shadows of Brimstone forums since I pledged for my Outlaw level. As early as November 2013, I posted some preliminary work on tiles for a custom Other World. In April 2014, I posted a preliminary version of a Photoshop template to create custom Gear cards for the game.

As the game's release drew nearer and people started sharing their gameplay experiences, I accelerated my work on custom content.

I released an Extended Character Sheet for tracking a hero's stats throughout a campaign, which is currently the highest rated file available for SoB on BGG.

Some of the first cards I designed were Gold Certificates. The response to these was phenomenal. They are the highest rated thread in the SoB forums on BGG. These cards do not feature any copyrighted, trademarked or otherwise IP-infringing material. I made these available for everyone in 2 different ways. A) Completely free, high-resolution, print-ready JPGs with instructions on how to print them at home, or build your own deck with PrinterStudio or ArtsCow. B) A pre-built deck on PrinterStudio, which clearly indicated I would be getting a kick-back if people purchased them. Many people opted for the pre-built deck, knowing full well I was getting a cut from the sales. Not one person complained about this in any way.

I then went on to design some cards for tracking XP. I released these the same two ways I released the Gold Certificates - if someone wanted to, they could very easily print out their own deck or have it printed without me ever knowing about it.

After these 2 decks, people were asking for cards to represent the mutations, injuries and madness your hero could suffer from during a game. Another BGG user actually came out with a deck of Mutation cards a couple days before I finished work on mine. Both our decks featured the text from the Mutation Chart in the Adventure Book (the content of which, I later learned, FFP had asked not be shared online). I released this deck of cards the same two ways I released the Gold Certificates - if someone wanted to, they could very easily print out their own deck or have it printed without me ever knowing about it.

From popular demand, I then started work on cards for Town Items. The same user who released a Mutation deck at the same time I did started work on these as well.

Before the town item deck was finalized, Jason from FFP sent me a private message on BGG asking that my Injury, Madess and Mutation decks be taken down. This was NOT a Cease & Desist letter - no lawyer was involved. I removed all links and images of the cards as soon as I got his message.

In your post you mention how I was "profiting from these cards", that it's "legally in the murky grey areas of piracy and plagiarism" and how that's "not cool and FFP was right to ask [me] to stop".

Again, all these cards were available for free - just like the cards you created. The cards you created were as close to piracy and plagiarism as my own. Accusing me of anything is incredibly hypocritical of you.

The fact they were made available on PrinterStudio is NOT the reason Jason asked them to be taken down. He asked they be taken down because they featured information from the Adventure Book - like yours do.

Klutz said...

Go ahead and "take the high road", but you basically published cards with the exact same IP-infringing material I did - and you only removed them once I get called out. And you were very appreciative of JVanhorsen's Mutation cards ("Thank you! Making cards for all the Mutations was actually on my to-do list for this afternoon. You've just saved me a lot of work."). Yet, I'm the evil plagiarizer-pirate and you're the white knight who takes the high road? Wow.

Also, concerning the "Floating Frog Productions"? Give me a break. Retaliation? Even after Jason asked the cards featuring Adventure Book material be taken down, I've continued investing many hours every week working on custom content for the game. I've released a custom monster template so people can incorporate their existing minis into the game. I've released a totally free online tool to create custom cards.

I'm obviously very bitter and doing everything in my power so FFP's game fails miserably. Most people who read your post accusing me of retaliating saw it for what it was - a joke.

Grow up. Stop being a hypocrite.

rbbergstrom said...

I've apologized elsewhere, but I might as well do so here for thoroughness.

I'm sorry. I misread your intentions, and assumed darker motives than you had. I also sounded rather sanctimonious in the main post here. My bad.

I wrote it (all but the "about that guy" sidebar) before you explained yourself. I now know that what I had assumed to be rumor-mongering was instead intended to be a joke on your part.

Part of why I was set off by all this was that I really didn't want to take down my cards, but in light of FFP's take down request to you, I figured it was the only decent thing I could do. Sure, I could cross my fingers and wait till they ask me to do so, but I knew the right way to go was to take my stuff down so they wouldn't have to search me out. That's where the "taking the high road" part of the original post came from. I wasn't saying because I think I'm amazing. Quite the opposite, I was saying that to talk myself into doing the right thing.

I still don't really think it's cool that you were making money off FFP's IP. That said, copyright law as written is a horrible mess, with lots of grey areas and contradictions, and we don't all draw our lines in the same place. You certainly did make your cards available for free as well as for money, so I guess that's better than nothing. I understand why you feel you did nothing wrong, even if it didn't sit right with me. It's not like I'm angry about it.

It sounds like I ruined your day, and for that I am very sorry. Like I said, the post was written before I understood your position/intent. I feel pretty bad about misreading you so wildly, and about my being a jerk.

If it's any consolation, this blog has a tiny readership. (I've only got 29 subscribers, and it's rare that a post here hits 200 page views) So while I may have been talking trash about you behind your back, it's not likely your reputation suffered for it. If you hadn't signed in to comment, most people reading this wouldn't have had a clue who I was talking about.

Anyhow, again, I'm really sorry for casting you as a villain. I wish I'd thought to investigate the facts more thoroughly before I posted. Things clearly look very differently from your perspective than from what I'd assumed. My bad.