OK, I've got a game I'm thinking of publishing but I've got a dilemma. I thought the system I was working on was quite unique, then I read something over at RPG.net and found out about Burning Wheel. I downloaded the lite rules and read through them and found that my system was essentially the same thing but not as - deep, perhaps. Would there be any problems using my own version of that system?
Systems can't be copyrighted. The text of how they are described can be copyrighted, the names and terminology can be trademarked (though most indie games producers don't bother) and the rules can be patented (which is extremely rare) but copyright won't protect the basic ways in which you roll the dice. Legally, you are in the clear. I mean there's only so many ways you can randomise data that are practical. Since your system is also less deep, it must be pretty distinct from BW anyway. Just don't mention Burning Wheel, don't use any of its logos and don't copy the rules text from the manual and you'll be fine.
Really, the only danger you'd be in is that fans of BW might accuse you of copying its system and be a little miffed, but I don't think that would be much of a problem.
Personally, I like Burning Wheel's basic system but I don't like its character creation system at all. It's too rigid and long-winded, requiring far too many look-up tables and different options.
I would feel free to mention Burning Wheel as an example of something similar. There's no harm in it.
As always, if you are really worried, seek some proper legal advice. But from the sounds of it, I would sleep easy.
I have to ask though as an aside, if the systems are so similar, does you system do enough that is different to make it worth buying? Competition isnt fierce with indie RPGs, but just aesthetically speaking, I would make sure your game was doing the things you want it to do better than anything else before you release.
Well, the name 'Burning Wheel' is a Trademark of the publishers - it's claimed thus on the title page of the revised edition of the manual - which could lead to some friction. I don't know how much leaway there is for fair usage in Trademark law, but I don't think there's much. With that comparison they'd have reason to claim that you were trying to steal their fanbase. I'm not saying they would, they probably wouldn't, but it'd give them a good excuse. Also, if this is a fantasy game that claims to use something like the Burning Wheel system, people might think 'Why bother when I can just play Burning Wheel?'
Um. If its such a problem, you could just contact Luke to ask for permission to cite him ( luke [ at ] burningwheel.org )
And like I said, if it is so similar that people might say "Why bother when I can just play Burning Wheel?" then I wouldnt release it really. Even then though, I wouldnt say the competition is that fierce that it is a significant problem.
Well, the system is different enough not to be exactly the same as Burning Wheel, but it is close. It uses six-siders with 2s and 3s as standard failures, 1s are critical failures and take away one success from the roll. 4s and 5s are standard successes, with 6s being Spectacular results and count as 2 standard successes. Task Ratings are from 1 to 6+, and skills are Attribute + Skill level for dice to roll.
The game isn't about the system. I built it around the setting I'm working on. It's modern / fantasy mixed with a bit of Steam Punk mixed in. Electronics are useless for an unknown reason, magic and psionics abound, guns and other non-electric technologies still function. Dragons, giants, trolls and goblins roam big city streets like Manhattan or London and others. It's a pretty twisted concept, but I think it'll be fun!
I've already got a lot of this written up and will be looking to publish it within the next six months or so.
If that's as far as the similarities go, you're fine.
That's a pretty standard dice-pool system. Very similar to the quickstart Exalted rules, the d6 Legend system, and any number of homebrews and freebies.
As already posted, that is very little similarity. Dice pools are not trademarked, neither are D6s and using each number to declare a variable success is common. Adding attributes to skill rolls is older than the hills and used in so many games I it would be impossible to list them all. Unless the rest of the system follows Burning Wheel's format, you are completely different. The setting certainly does not jive that I know of.