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I've decided to try and "build" a system of my own, and I've decided to make it a "life path" system but I don't really want to start from absolute scratch, but thus far I've haven't found any open game/ game engine (open so that I don't infringe on anybody's work) which is life path based.

If it's more math heavy it would be no problem, the clearer the math is and the less swingy the better for me in the design stage I think.

As an aside I've seen the d20 life path alternative rules and I'm looking for something with more involvement in the game engine (for example there is one table pretty uninspiring/straightforward which gives bonuses to the attributes while another table which has interesting options like born under the influence of demonic beings which lead to no concrete effect.)

As a final aside I would also like to release my system/engine under a open license as well that's why an OGL/etc base to work with would be the best for me.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's a touch more work — and not easily summarized in this text box — but the Drama-focused version of the Cortex Plus system (as seen in games like Smallville) features a lifepath-based character creation system that takes a PC from childhood all the way to playability. Each step adds assets and resources along the way, and forges connections between the other PCs and any signature NPCs you come up with. Lastly, Cortex Plus does have a license structure — both commercial and non-commercial — under which you can release your game.

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+1 for this answer. The life-path system in Smallville is actually really cool and I've never seen an episode of the show. – Discord Dec 13 '13 at 20:39
I'll definitely look into this, I've heard good things about Smallville. – George Bora Dec 13 '13 at 20:43
It's worth noting that it's not using the OGL. It is a free license for non-commercial use, and a more restrictive one requiring pre-publication approval for monetized (=commercial) projects. And, under current terms, you can't include the system text within the product, only the modifications; they are planning a reference document for such use, but don't plan on "soon." – aramis Dec 19 '13 at 8:38

Mongoose Traveller has an OGL-licensed SRD and a lifepath generation. Traveller Developer's Pack

T20 (and it's de-travellerized spawn, Sci-Fi 20) has a d20 system adaptation from the same source as Mongoose: Classic Traveller. There is no SRD, but both are under the Wizards OGL.

They went in different directions from CT, but both involve prior service creating both a backstory and access to skills.

That all said, the if you're not looking for compatibility, and are in the US, it's a non-issue; game mechanics are not protected. (see The US Copyright Office's Copyright Registration of Games)

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Life path systems aren't common, so it's not surprising that you haven't found an OGL one yet...

But let me remove the problem. Game systems can't be patented, and you can't violate a writer's copyright if you're not copying the text. As a result, you can absolutely go ahead and use ideas you get from existing life path–based games without infringing anyone's work in a legal sense.

That leaves infringement in the moral sense unaddressed though, of course. However, there's an answer to that too: no well-known designer considers their work completely novel and unrelated to other designers' work. It simply isn't possible to be a consumer of other designer's ideas without your own designs being influenced by what you know. In fact, being aware of the field of game design is widely encouraged in the RPG design community as an important part of developing design skill, since it allows you to avoid the common mistakes already made, and it prevents you from re-inventing the wheel and foolishly declaring it a new and never-before seen invention.

So go ahead and design your game. Don't worry if you're reusing ideas you've seen elsewhere – unless you're cribbing them word-for-word (and why would you even want to do that?), you're not going to violate anything. In addition, it's the unique combination with the rest of your game that makes something new and worthwhile playing, not whether any single mechanic is wholly clean-room new.

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This is a shorter version of my answer here to a related question. – SevenSidedDie Dec 13 '13 at 21:08

Traveller d20 has a lifepath system under the OGL.

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There are basic core systems out there which you could adapt, such as FATE. These are not life-path based though, you would need to add that in yourself.

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This doesn't answer the question; the life path is specifically the part of the system the asker is looking for, not just any given system. – WrongOnTheInternet Dec 18 '13 at 17:27

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