TTRPG Roll 23-6: The open death of Cepheus Engine

There was some rejoicing today when Mongoose Matt of Mongoose Publishing announced “a brand new Traveller Open Content programme.” I’m not rejoicing; this new Open Content program confirms to me that Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

Open Content? My a$$.

“…allowing gamers and publishers to build their own products using the most recent edition of the Traveller rules.” This Mongoose Open Content program is exactly what WotC is trying to do with “deauthorizing” the OGL—force gamers and third-party publishers (3PP) to use their SRD which they control. Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

“…new SRD based upon the Traveller Core Rulebook Update 2022…and a logo license.” Not the Cepheus Engine SRD. Further, a logo license is a mark of compatibility, not open content. Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

“…looking to the ORC license to maintain openness.” The more I hear about the ORC the more I see it as a repository for SRD’s, not a true Open License. Without a truly “open” OGL Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

“The current TAS programme…will continue to run separately, but alongside, Traveller Open Content.” TAS allows gamers and 3PP to publish using the latest edition Mongoose rules and the Charted Space setting. This new “Open Content” program will allow gamers and 3PP to publish settings beyond Charted Space, but they MUST use a Mongoose-defined SRD. Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

It appears Mongoose is banking on WotC eventually “deauthorizing” OGL 1.0a. When that happens, the open license upon which the Cepheus Engine SRD rests goes away, and CE disappears. CE gamers and 3PP will be forced to use the Mongoose Open Content Program SRD. I don’t think Mongoose will overreach like WotC did and demand royalties (but I wouldn’t really be surprised if they did) but given TAS has an IP grabbing clause I kinda expect one to show up here. Either way, Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

I once again am going to point to “Beware the Gifts of Dragons: How D&D’s Open Gaming License May Have Become a Trap for Creators” from EFF – The Electronic Frontier Foundation published on Jan 10. The Mongoose Traveller Open Content program is no different than what WotC tried to do with OGL 1.1. Mongoose is not a knight in shining armor coming to rescue CE. With the Traveller Open Content program Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

—Some Additional Thoughts—

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The only way to save Cepheus Engine is to use a Creative Commons license. Alas, today’s Open Content Program announcement makes it clear that Mongoose is NOT pursuing that path. Without an open license like Creative Commons Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

I note that in the aftermath of the Mongoose announcement I can’t find the voices of Cepheus Engine 3PP like John Watts of Independence Games or Paul Elliott of Zozer or the like. Mongoose Matt claims he is “talking” to CE creators and “will be working with” them but I don’t hear them rogering up to this program either. Which means every 3PP must decide if they will buy into the Traveller Open Content Program because Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

What of Mr. Miller? I don’t expect him to weigh in on the side of Cepheus Engine. He has his own Traveller RPG (5e) and is paid by Mongoose for their license. While I think everyone would appreciate him making the basis of the Cepheus Engine SRD open content, he has no financial driver to do so. I don’t blame him…money talks—and Cepheus Engine is DEAD!

Feature image courtesy © 2007-2023 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

16 thoughts on “TTRPG Roll 23-6: The open death of Cepheus Engine

  1. Obviously, a lot hinges on Mongoose’s new license and how open it is (though looking at ORC sounds encouraging). But even if the new SRD is based on MongTrav2 instead of just being the Cepheus Engine SRD, people for years have developed clones of older editions of D&D (and then issued their own SRDs) based on the D&D 3.5 SRD. Is there any reason the Cepheus Engine or a nearly-identical facsimile couldn’t be reverse-engineered from the new Mongoose SRD?

    1. That’s exactly what Mg wants…for all to,use their MgT2e SRD. You can already do that though their Community Content Program, Traveller’s Aid Society (TAS) hosted at DriveThruRPG. That is, if you are ok paying a sizeable percentage of your take to them and surrendering your IP to them too. Mg has basically been doing since 2016 what WotC tried to do with OGL 1.1.

  2. i hope that “Traveller Compatible” systems will be allowed in the Traveller communities. or else getting cut out from the Traveller market will kill any small publisher.

    1. The only “Traveller Compatible” allowed is in the Travellers’ Aid Society (TAS) Community Content Program thru Mongoose on DTRPG. Catch is you can only use MgT2e rules, but can access their setting (the only licensed use of the Third Imperium setting). Catch is they have claims to your IP and you pay hefty royalties to Mongoose. Mongoose basically did in 2016 what WotC tried under OGL 1.1. What saved “Traveller” was creation of Cepheus Engine using OGL 1.0a…but without that (or similar open content) the small publishers are threatened.

  3. I want to ask all the Traveller Socmed groups if they will allow Non-Traveller Scifi to advertise and post their wares. What will kill us when we go to CC-BY-SA is access to the the various 1-10k member socmed groups and being de-listed as Traveller Content in DTRPG.
    It would be so painful to be unable to advertise our wares in Traveller once we remove the “Traveller” elements in our books.

  4. Just because WOTC wished to “deauthorise” OGL 1.0a in respect of its IP it does not mean that Mongoose can or will try to terminate the OGL in respect of the Traveller SRD. Nothing WOTC can do to its version of the OGL can affect another entities version of the OGL – they are different licenses. If you like the Mongoose OGL 1.0a cold be considered a sublicense of the WOTC OGL and in case of termination of the WOTC OGL all sublicenses survive….

    1. “…in case of termination of the WOTC OGL all sublicenses survive….” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. The Traveller SRD is licensed using the language of the WoTC OLG 1.0a. If 1.0a is “deauthorized” then no new content can be created—by anybody—using an SRD opened via OGL1.0a. I’m pretty sure WotC didn’t consider that others use OGL 1.0a for products beyond D&D (and if they did I’m equally sure they don’t care). All would be fine if Mongoose, copyright owners of the Traveller SRD, simply “relicensed” it but I don’t see that happening.

      1. Yeah sorry that isn’t the way it works either. It is legally dubious that WOTC can “deauthorise” their 1.0a, if their lawyers had said they had a chance of simply terminating they would have used that rather than “deauthorise” language and even then it is quite possible a court will read the words of the paragraph to apply to subsequent versions being “authorised” as opposed removing authorisation form 1.0a so I think they are pissing into a Southerly a bit here.

        Having said that even if that hurdle is overcome the best WOTC could do is have a copyright action against Mongoose for using the text of their OGL, they cannot unilaterally delete the version of the OGL license used by Mongoose as it is a completely different legal person dealing with their own IP. WOTC tearing up their OGL, if they can, does not result in the tearing up of all copies of the OGL as in this case OTC is NOT a party to the license – they only wrote it.

        People need to get it through their heads that the non WOTC entities that used the OGL have “stolen the contract wording” to make their own agreements in respect of their IP. Those agreements are now different legal constructs.

        Yes it would be nice of those third party publishers to do their own version of the OGL that is a bit tighter written to avoid future problem if they do want to encourage a 3rd party publishing community who can use trade dress, trademarks or settings materials, or to release their SRD into the public Domain whilst still retaining their trademarks etc – and if necessary use something like CC0 to define it.

      2. “…stolen contract wording…” is a different take than I’ve heard in the last week. While I like it I don’t think that’s how Mg or small 3PP are reading it. I think Mg wants to have control over all things Traveller related. Although they publicly hinted at using ORC, comments fm John Watts on CotI boards are negative in tone, making me wonder if Mg is back to demanding IP surrender and steep fees/royalties like their Community Content Program, TAS.

  5. Well, not dead yet. We’re working on ways to keep it alive. Obviously, some of those details are things I can’t say openly in public, but you can believe that we are working on keeping things going.

    Negotiations have been up and running for over a week but we’re not going down quite yet. We’re fighting.

    1. I totally believe you are fighting to stay alive and hoping for the best. I sense from your comment there are still many unknowns. I’ll cheer you on here the same way they cheer in Korea by shouting “FIGHTING!”

  6. Terrible news. The RPG world has taken a dark turn of late.

    1. I think it was inevitable that the OGL 1.0a be revoked. I “always” thought it was a bit sketchy to be using the WoTC OGL for non D&D/D20 content. I am tempted to say “lazy”. Fortunately, some of the Cepheus Engine users/publishers are working on an alternative path. It is a dark turn, but may well lead to a brighter future.

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