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I recently thought of a game idea I'd like to put into fruition, but I'm curious whether it could possibly infringe any copyright laws.

I haven't developed my idea that much, but the concept is that of 4 friends playing a tabletop fantasy RPG game, only to then get trapped –inside– the game itself. My idea is not to "port" a game such as D&D, rather make a classic RPG set inside a tabletop RPG universe.

I'm guessing that the idea of a tabletop fantasy RPG is not copyrighted in and of itself, right? 🤔 including aspects such as dices, boards, the GM, etc. which I'd like to make use of. Or are there any particular elements I should be cautious with?

My original inspiration was D&D, however, would I be in the clear as long as I stay away from any direct references? what is the consensus on referencing a –specific– game?

Sorry if this was somewhat long. I'm not well-versed on copyright laws at all so I'd like to be informed. Thanks in advance!

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Wizards of the Coast (the owners of the Dungeons and Dragons IP) has a set of documents in place that outline what they allow to happen with their trademarked and copyrighted content. Study them and figure out how much content that allows you to use. Other publishers of TTRPG materials have their own license grants detailing what they will allow you to do with them.

Beyond those documents copyright law doesn't let you copyright an idea or a process. That is they cannot copyright a D20 check (rolling a 20 sided die and apply a set of modifiers to them as applicable). But specific characters and their lore are copyrighted. And that's one of the things mentioned, you can make a game fully respecting the D&D ruleset as described in the v5.1 edition of the reference document. you can also make your own modifications to those rules as needed for your game or lore.

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"Ideas" are available to everyone; it's an "implementation" (i.e. "look and feel") that's protected. As you build your game and people remark that it's "just like D&D", then you probably have an issue. What you're interested in is "genre". D&D is of a genre, and has certain traits that you would incorporate, but with your own characters and plot lines. Look at other games in this genre and add your own unique spin.

And, no, you can't reference a particular game without permission ... you're "profiting" from their reputation. That's the other criteria: does your use of someone else's work diminish their right to profit from their own work. As a "reviewer", you may have some claims to "fair use" for "small" passages.

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