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I'd like to publish an OGL adventure for 5e. In order to keep its size small, I'd like to avoid having to repeat stat blocks for simple creatures like the skeleton, the zombie, etc. And because not every creature is in the SRD5 (like the flameskull), I can't include their stat blocks.

In an ideal world, I would simply write something like this:

Two skeletons (Monster Manual pg. 272) and a flameskull (Monster Manual pg. 134) guard the door...

Would this be a breach of section 7 of the OGL 1.0a, of any other part of the OGL 1.0a, or of U.S. trademark, copyright, or other IP law?

Could I instead legally write the following?

Two skeletons (MM pg. 272) and a flameskull (MM pg. 134) guard the door...

If not, how can I legally reference a specific page of the Monster Manual? Would I have to resort to something like this -- and would it even be allowed?

Two skeletons (official bestiary pg. 272) and a flameskull (official bestiary pg. 134) guard the door...


References

In SRD5, it states that "Monster Manual" is part of the SRD5's Product Identity:

The following items are designated Product Identity, as defined in Section 1(e) of the Open Game License Version 1.0a, and are subject to the conditions set forth in Section 7 of the OGL, and are not Open Content: Dungeons & Dragons, D&D, Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master, Monster Manual, d20 System, Wizards of the Coast, d20 (when used as a trademark), Forgotten Realms, Faerûn, proper names (including those used in the names of spells or items), places, Underdark, Red Wizard of Thay, the City of Union, Heroic Domains of Ysgard, Ever-­‐‑ Changing Chaos of Limbo, Windswept Depths of Pandemonium, Infinite Layers of the Abyss, Tarterian Depths of Carceri, Gray Waste of Hades, Bleak Eternity of Gehenna, Nine Hells of Baator, Infernal Battlefield of Acheron, Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus, Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia, Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia, Twin Paradises of Bytopia, Blessed Fields of Elysium, Wilderness of the Beastlands, Olympian Glades of Arborea, Concordant Domain of the Outlands, Sigil, Lady of Pain, Book of Exalted Deeds, Book of Vile Darkness, beholder, gauth, carrion crawler, tanar’ri, baatezu, displacer beast, githyanki, githzerai, mind flayer, illithid, umber hulk, yuan-­‐‑ti.

In the OGL 1.0a, these restrictions on use of Product Identity exist:

  1. Use of Product Identity: You agree not to Use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity. You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-­‐‑adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark. The use of any Product Identity in Open Game Content does not constitute a challenge to the ownership of that Product Identity. The owner of any Product Identity used in Open Game Content shall retain all rights, title and interest in and to that Product Identity.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason you don't want to reference SRD page numbers instead of MM page numbers? \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Apr 18 '18 at 15:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ First, most DMs have a paper copy of the Monster Manual, so it's more convenient for them to have those page numbers while running the game. Second, not all creatures are in the SRD, like the flameskull. \$\endgroup\$ – Kerrick Apr 18 '18 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could try reaching WotC asking this \$\endgroup\$ – jcordova Apr 19 '18 at 4:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Citation (as you are proposing) does not violate copyright. \$\endgroup\$ – Lexible Sep 24 '18 at 4:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't violate copyright, but it can mean breaking the terms of the OGL. And if you break the terms of the OGL, you lose the rights the OGL assigns to you. \$\endgroup\$ – Kerrick Sep 24 '18 at 14:44
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The simplest way to reference monsters is to follow the lead of WotC published adventures and not include page numbers at all. At the beginning of your publication, explain your writing convention ("monsters named in bold print can be found in either the SRD or one of the core rule books of the 5th edition of the world's most popular pen and paper RPG"), and then trust your readers to know how to find them. For better or worse, 5e DMs have been trained not to expect page references after every monster name, so it's likely that none will even notice that your product doesn't have them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's an interesting strategy... But if I wanted to reference, say, a Kobold Scale Sorcerer (published in Volo's Guide to Monsters) does that mean I'm sending the DM on a wild goose chase across all the books? Not being able to say something like (VGM) or (MM) could make it difficult to run the adventure. \$\endgroup\$ – Kerrick Apr 18 '18 at 16:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that circumstance deserves its own Q&A. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Apr 18 '18 at 16:53
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I am not a lawyer, but I published a fair number of RPG products from 3.x through today. When I worked for WotC in the Living Greyhawk Campaign, we were told to include the name of the book, but not the page number (re-editions, different language, etc). Referring someone to an existing product should not violate the legal restrictions.

Orc
See Monster Manual.

Now, that said, I have been avoiding material out of Volo's for that precise reason.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 3.5 has a very different license from 5e - following this answer will breach the law \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Apr 19 '18 at 0:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depends under which license you publish your book. \$\endgroup\$ – JP Chapleau Apr 19 '18 at 15:48

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