I am in the process of creating a gis map of Toril, starting from the Faerun Continent. (More details are in this question on GIS.SE: Starting a QGIS project for a fantasy world map from raster images.)

One commenter asked if I could share this on Google Earth; however, I have no idea of the legal restrictions on using this material.

Let's say I create a Faerun map completely from scratch; it would be based on copyrighted material, which will be used only as reference and will not be republished in the final work, but obviously I will put in my maps everything related to mapping. Can I distribute it freely?

For example, I want to place Phandelver on the map, so I'll start gathering everything geo-related from the adventure book, scan it, and retrace it all in QGIS (the geographic information system software I am using), I will not include any of the published maps in the final result.

The final result would be a browsable and zoomable Google-Earth-like map.

In the scope of what I want to do, I think the larger question is: Are Toril, Faerun, and all of the Forgotten Realms geographic information free to use?

Specifically, are the geographic coordinates of mountains, rivers, hills, roads, cities (and the size and shape of the buildings, monuments and roads in them) under copyright?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 19 '19 at 19:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking about sharing Forgotten Realms map data, or are you asking about sharing your own GIS coordinates based on your own measurements taken from Forgotten Realms map data? I suspect the way your question is worded now you will get answers pertaining to FR copyright but I don't think that's what you're looking for. I don't see how you can infringe copyright when all you would be publishing is GIS coordinates, but maybe I don't understand the question either. As such, I have voted to close as unclear and ask for further clarification. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Mar 19 '19 at 20:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is really not much difference between "Forgotten Realms map data" and "your own GIS coordinates based on your own measurements taken from Forgotten Realms map data" (because at the end the result should be the same). However I wil clarify the question. \$\endgroup\$ – yann.kmm Mar 20 '19 at 8:21

The short answer is that Forgotten Realms is copyrighted and is not free to use.

The longer answer is that a portion of 5th edition D&D known as the System Reference Document, or SRD, is published and usable under the Open Gaming License, or OGL. You can find all information pertaining to these topics here.

If what you want to use, place names from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting in this case, is not contained in the SRD the website above notes you must publish through the Dungeon Masters (DMs) Guild.

Specifically, the site states that if you want to "publish content using the Forgotten Realms" you must use the DMs Guild.

Outside of that, my assumption is that you would have to seek a license with Wizards of the Coast (WoTC).

Assumptions, however, can be incorrect. WotC was kind enough to respond to the OP and inform them that this use case is indeed covered under its Fan Content Policy

...upon review of the description of your project, it looks like your request is covered by our Wizards of the Coast Fan Content Policy, which you can find here company.wizards.com/fancontentpolicy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going to accept your answer, but apparently the question was not properly worded, you think that your answer is correct even considering the added clarification to my question? \$\endgroup\$ – yann.kmm Mar 20 '19 at 8:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @yann.kmm: Copyright law is often driven by case law. The safe assumption is "yes, these are copyrighted" as copying them is a reconstruction of copyrighted material - you could make a comparison to copying the numerical data from inside an image file for instance, or converting it to or from vector format: It is still a copy of the same image, in a different format, and converting the format itself does not convert this into a new original under your ownership. The answerer here might have to go to some lengths to verify or refute that. You could try on Law Stack Exchange for more detail \$\endgroup\$ – Neil Slater Mar 20 '19 at 8:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NeilSlater thanks for the clarification, I was suspecting it was something like you explained. I will accept this answer as the correct one, I also wrote to the dmsguild support staff, and I will post back here with their answer too. \$\endgroup\$ – yann.kmm Mar 20 '19 at 8:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious to hear what they have to say and, also, how this project turns out if it can move forward. Keep us posted! \$\endgroup\$ – gksmithlcw Mar 20 '19 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I got back the answer, "...upon review of the description of your project, it looks like your request is covered by our Wizards of the Coast Fan Content Policy, which you can find here company.wizards.com/fancontentpolicy." So YAY! Also, should I make this an answer and accept it? \$\endgroup\$ – yann.kmm Mar 27 '19 at 8:43

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