Sunday, May 17, 2015

The ORC (Old-school Role-playing Community) Designation

Many of you have seen and commented on the "ORC" (Old-school Role-playing Community) designation that I'm using on expanded & revised edition of Petty Gods, and several people have asked about getting a copy. Before I release this into the wild, I want to go over my reasons for creating the designation in the first place.

As I was working on Expanded Petty Gods, I debated how to label the product. I was looking for something that identified who was really responsible for producing the book. While the book was designed to be LL:AEC compatible, this is really not a Labyrinth Lord product (which is why that logo was left off, though the LL copyrights are acknowledged inside). And while I could have used one of the several OSR logos that already exist, those logos (in my mind) say, "This is a certain kind of product," not "These are the people who produced this product." But more than that, I really wanted something that said, "This is a different kind of product. This product isn't just full of works contributed gratis by their creators and owners, this book is not about profit. This is a book about contributing back to the community as a whole."

Some people find it surprising that after the work I've put into Expanded Petty Gods, the PDF will be free, and the print copies will be available at cost (with no markup on top of the printing). I think it's reasonable to ask a question like that when you look at things like the One-page Dungeon Compendium or magazines like Fight On!, the insides of which consist of (unpaid) contributed material, but as a product are sold for profit by their organizers and publishers. Please understand, I don't fault them for that; managing products like those is a feat that deserves some reward, and I'm glad they reap some benefits for the time they put in. That being said, I hope you can understand why something like the ORC designation seems needed, to separate truly community-centered non-profit projects from traditional projects where the community simply contributes.

Though I've been a fan of manifestos for a while (e.g., Dogme 95 and the Manifesto of Futurism), I can't say that ever written one. And I'm not really sure what I've written below is so much a manifesto as a list of criteria of what I see as qualifying to use the ORC designation.

ORC (Old-school Role-playing Community) Designation

To use the ORC (Old-school Role-playing Community) designation on
an RPG (or related) work, ALL of the following criteria must be met.

[1] A minimum of three (3) members of the OSR community must have contributed to the project.

[2] ALL contributions to the project must have been made by their owners without receiving any compensation in return (this includes royalty-free art, which may not be purchased for use in an ORC project; instead, such works must have been contributed gratis to the project by the owner of the work). The original owners of the works must not be required to relinquish their copyrights to the work or required to put that work out under any sort of Creative Commons license. The owners must, however, grant permission for the content to be used free of charge for the perpetuity of the ORC project. [ORC projects need not be designated as "Open Gaming Content." They may only be designated as such should all contributors freely agree to such conditions.]

[3] The ORC logo may not appear on any page where other company wordmarks (names/type) or logos (graphics) appear, with the following exceptions:
[a] the ORC logo may appear on a page with any generic OSR name, designation, or mark (e.g., a logo bearing the name “OSR”).

[b] the ORC logo may appear on an interior credit page where the names of contributors include the names of their respective companies, blogs, etc., but as typography only (page may not include visual trademarks or designations), and those company/blog credits MUST appear secondarily to the name of the contributor (aliases and pseudonyms are considered an exception).
[4] At a minimum, the product/project bearing the ORC mark must be distributed as a free-of-charge PDF. If distributed as print (in addition to the free-of-charge PDF), the print edition(s) must be sold “at cost” (that is, there may be no markup on the price beyond the costs of printing and shipping).
[Exception] The ORC logo may appear on a project where proceeds from the project are donated to charity. However, all contributors must be notified of, and agree to, this condition, including the designated charity.
[5] To the best of the publishers’/editors’ abilities, ALL contributors must be acknowledged in some way, either 1) as part of the project’s Acknowledgements or Forward, 2) on a Credits page, 3) next to the name of the contributed material within the context of an Index or Table of Contents, or 4) next to an individual entry inside the book. This includes not only those works designated as Creative Commons, but those works designated as being in the public domain.

[6] The individual logos of companies and/or blogs may appear in a product or project, but may never appear on a page bearing the ORC logo or designation.

[7] When used in text (rather than as a visual mark), the ORC identifier should always appear in all caps (as “ORC”; never as “Orc” or “orc”).

By using the ORC designation and visual mark, you are hereby agreeing to abide by the standards set forth above.

Okay, you got me. It is sort of a manifesto.

Now the next question I'm sure you're all asking is, "Where can I get a copy of the logo?" I'm not ready to distribute it just yet. (I'm still deciding on some things like acceptable color usage, plus need to put guidelines on its application like scaling is okay but squeezing/stretching isn't, etc.) However, if you have a project that you think qualifies, you can email orcdesignation(at)newbigdragon(dot)com with a brief description of the project, and I'll see about getting you what you need.

Click here for information on where to get your copy of
Petty Gods: Revised & Expanded.


  1. just learned about Petty Gods, and downloaded it. Wonderful product! Then got curious about the ORC designation, and google brought me here. Now I hunt for other publications with the ORC designation. Thanks!