I am creating some software that, at the moment, uses parts of the same format of summarizing creatures as the published works of Wizards of the Coast. Specifically the 2nd edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D 2nd edition).

For reference, this is what I'm talking about:
What I'm including
What theirs look like (if linking to this isn't allowed here I apologize)

From what I understand from the research I have done this does not fall under copyright, though despite the research I still have a hard time understanding it all. Where I get slightly more confused is trademarks and what some refer to as "product identity" however I haven't been able to find much information on the latter.

I don't understand how and what is protected outside the illustrations and perhaps the physical descriptions/explanations of the creatures. From my understanding of copyright and trademark the name and what I could refer to as the "recipe" (the list of attributes) of the creature can't be protected.

So what exactly is protected here and how, if at all, am I allowed to use parts of what is protected to stay kosher.


Firstly, all content written by Wizards of the Coast (such as descriptions and stats) are owned by them.

However, Wizards of the Coast has released the Open Game License (OGL), which allows content creators to use the rules of dungeons and dragons, and incorporate copyrighted material into their own works.

Specifically, they are allowed to use the contents of the D&D System Reference Document freely and D&D rules freely. The SRD contains monster information so would indeed permit someone to write an app intended for use with D&D monsters.

But you may not use any of the D&D media in your work. So pictures of monsters are not allowed.

Here is an article from the WotC website which briefly describes what you can and cannot do with the OGL.

But it is necessary to look at the OGL itself, which can be found here

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  • As was mentioned in another answer and what I forgot to include in my question is that the layout I use is that of a much older version of D&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition) which doesn't seem to be mentioned anywhere on their site or anywhere else I have looked. I will edit my question to include this information. – PinkPenguin Jul 19 '17 at 21:27

From my understanding of copyright and trademark the name and what I could refer to as the "recipe" (the list of attributes) of the creature can't be protected.

Well, your understanding is wrong.

WotC have produced a copyright work which includes the words, the order of the words, the layout of the words etc. you have created a derivative work and this is not allowed. While it is true that facts are not subject to copyright, the game statistics of a made-up creature are not facts.

Now, WotC have issued licences for their 3rd, 4th and 5th editions of the D&D game where the material references the licence. Your link is to 2nd edition material which is not and never has been licenced.

The only way that you are permitted to do what you want is if it is fair use. If you intend this software for personal use it probably is, if you intend public distribution it probably isn't.

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  • If I were to release the program without including any monsters would that be alright then? That is the user would be able to themselves create that content but the order and type of creature facts would be the same still. In essence, does WotC have rights to the order and layout of that specific list if it is not describing one of their creatures? – PinkPenguin Jul 19 '17 at 12:22
  • The attributes of a monster are not facts but ideas. They are absolutely not copyrightable. – stwlam Jul 14 '18 at 18:17

Since you are not talking about specific content but rather the manner of presentation or perhaps the idea of reducing a mythological creature to an attribute set, this would be subject to patent, not copyright. WOTC does not appear to have patented this process. Further, if they had then the patent would have likely expired by now. https://patents.justia.com/assignee/wizards-of-the-coast-inc

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