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I am sketching out my 2012 programming project, and Im planning to make a classic fantasy RPG game.

The world design, plots, characters and all that I can make, but being a avid tabletop role-player, I would love to use a stable and tested rpg system like Pathfinder, since its balanced and interesting.

Would there be a problem if I make a game (indie dev, but still planning on selling it) using the pathfinder license ? Do I have to purchase a license? And would I able to say that it's based on the Pathfinder ruleset, or should i keep that under wraps.

All big official D&D games boast with that they are official, so doesn't this mean that unofficial games can exist too ?

It's not because I wan't to jump the lowest fence, and all storylines and the game setting will be by my own hand. But I love the Pathfinder system and actually think it could use some publicity as well.

If not, I guess I could make a Pathfinder-like system, with a few measely differences... But I would rather not, since it would feel a bit of a rip...

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There's a difference between the OGL and the Pathfinder Licenses. The OGL covers the core mechanics of the game, and Pathfinder License stuff covers all of the IP like Golarion/Iconic NPCs/Pathfinder logos, etc. I am not a lawyer: I suspect you can use the mechanics and be fine so long as you make no references to "Pathfinder". Otherwise you'll need to talk to Paizo about a license. –  Cthos Dec 2 '11 at 20:55
    
Also, don't make it an MMO, they sold the rights to that already: paizo.com/v5748eaic9opl?Paizo-Licenses-Pathfinder-MMO-Rights –  Cthos Dec 2 '11 at 20:55
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2 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

If you only want to use the OGL part of their rules, the answer is yes. See this previous question on Is it possible to use rules from OGL or GSL games in a computer game? You have to understand that license and adhere to its terms however. One drawback is that you may not say "Pathfinder" or otherwise claim Pathfinder compatibility if purely using the OGL.

For anything not covered by the OGL, called "Product Identity" in the legalese, the answer is "not without a license from Paizo." The public Compatibility License which allows some use of their Pathfinder specific product identity specifically does not allow for computer software.

You can also consult an IP lawyer and likely proceed without a license if you just mean to use the core mechanics. Game mechanics are not copyrightable and you may also claim compatibility with another game (this has been hashed over and settled in the courts, see Hasbro v. RADGames). Goodman Games used this exact legal right to produce some D&D 4th Edition compatible works. (There is an old oft-cited lawsuit between TSR and Mayfair that Mayfair lost regarding their AD&D compatible labeled Role Aids products - but they only lost because they had signed a separate contract limiting their rights. The OGL etc. do this too.)

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As someone mentioned in the comments the Pathfinder MMO rights are already claimed by a subsidiary of Pazio. For more on their licensing I'd check here. Info on the OGL can be found here. I'd highly advise contacting Paizo as I am sure they will be happy to let you know what you can and cannot do with their information. See the first link for more info.

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Though it is a bit murky still, as you can probably use the OGL content in an MMO, without referencing Pathfinder and it'd be kosher. –  Cthos Dec 2 '11 at 21:14
    
That's kind of my take but I'd want someone legally smarter then me to do a once-over at the minimum. –  mirv120 Dec 2 '11 at 21:35
    
Of course, legal advise is not a bad idea in the slightest, especially if you hope to profit off of it. –  Cthos Dec 2 '11 at 23:18
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