Followup: Plagiarism in Unconquered (2022)
Answering some questions about my last post! But first, I wanted to say that I've confirmed that Jarrett Crader and Fiona Geist were not involved with Unconquered in a developmental capacity. Also wanted to say that I have updated the post with more instances of plagiarism, including from another book, thanks to some readers who reached out.
Something else I wanted to say: please don't ungender Noora Rose. She is a woman, and I refer to her as such throughout the original post. You know her pronouns.
Have you ever posted call-out posts on burner blogs?
Nope. The blog I was referring to is specifically a joke blog full of AI-generated posts, which is why my original plan was to publish that post there (since it was originally translated into AI Gygaxian speech). The whole point is that, as this became more serious, it would have seemed unethical to do so. Why would I have been doing that all this time, but have a change of heart for this? Have you ever seen an anonymous call-out blog? Ahhh put the blog post in a sarcomphagmgjs.
Who was involved in the making of this post?
Mostly people impacted by it, and I'll leave it at that. No one involved, except for myself I guess, had a beef unrelated to the topic. And not everyone had beef, either.
When I referred to “my parts” of the text, I was referring to my commentary as opposed to the quotations from the various texts, not to the contributions of others.
For those in the know: this was not a MAMR thing.
Were you influenced by Hbomberguy's video in the development of this post?
Nope. Again, I started on this a couple months ago while consulting with different people. I didn't know about it much earlier than that, except by maybe a couple of months and only in the case of one author. It was only when I learned that potentially multiple authors' work was plagiarized that I decided to do this, because that's insane.
I published this today because it was a Monday.
How could Unconquered have plagiarized Vaults of Vaarn, which is under creative commons?
First, copyright infringement is distinct from plagiarism. Second, Unconquered violates VOV’s own license by not attributing the extracted passages to the original author. This means that Unconquered is a special case of copyright infringement and plagiarism, although I only care about the latter.
Isnt’t it hypocritical that you published a retroclone?
Nope. I clearly state, both in the book and everywhere else, that it is a retroclone of the original 1974 role-playing game. I do this euphemistically, by avoiding referring to D&D or its authors by name, to avoid speaking of the devil. No one reads this retroclone, or any other, thinking that it was the invention of the “author”. I also, strictly, do not benefit monetarily from its publication. I ripped off, loudly and proudly, a work whose essence I then cast into creative commons.
Unconquered lifts specific phrases and concepts from at least three books, without crediting the original authors, and in doing so it attributes those passages (explicitly or implicitly) to Noora Rose. She plagiarized those texts and monetarily benefited from publishing her “work”. She did not expropriate intellectual property into the creative commons; she appropriated it as her own private property.
The Gygax Cut
Behold! This amusing missive finds itself gracing the pages of a blog that, until this moment, has been devoted to dreary scribblings birthed by the machinations of artificial intelligence. Ah, artificial intelligence, a topic ripe for discourse! From an economic standpoint, one might regard it as dead labor, for it reintroduces the fruits of labor into production, transferring their value into fresh creations without generating new value of its own accord. The same holds true when viewed through the lens of artistry, as artificial intelligence regurgitates works without venturing into the realm of creative iteration. At best, it can but statistically approximate human expression, incapable of birthing novel meaning. But do you know what is even more disheartening than artificial intelligence itself? 1 It is when human intelligence, blessed with the capacity to forge new value and convey profound significance, consciously chooses not to do so.
Creative thievery, an age-old phenomenon, has woven its treacherous threads throughout the tapestry of the tabletop role-playing realm since its inception. Indeed, it may be deemed the original sin of this cherished artform. We are all acquainted with the tale in which one Ernest Gary Gygax forged an alliance with a college student, Dave Arneson, to bring forth a certain compendium of rules for fantastic medieval wargaming adventures. However, merely three years later, Gygax embarked on the publication of an “advanced” iteration of said game, strategically excluding Arneson from receiving rightful compensation for his invaluable contributions. Every meticulously crafted page within those tomes, penned by Gygax’s own hand, glorified him as the singular progenitor and supreme arbiter of this game. Meanwhile, Arneson, once a vital figure, found himself overshadowed, his remarkable contributions to a hobby that would ultimately soar in popularity obscured from view. Such is the lamentable saga of creative theft, where the laurels of innovation are unjustly hoisted upon one while the other, a visionary in his own right, languishes in the depths of obscurity.
Now, let us venture forth and explore a couple of works within the OSR or OSR-adjacent realm that have sparked whispers of plagiarism. By plagiarism, we refer to the act of pilfering ideas and even passages from preexisting works without due credit, thus attributing them (be it explicitly or implicitly) to the author of the purportedly “new” creation. In many of these instances, the pilfered works are either yet to be released or lie within the realm of obscurity, emboldening the plagiarist to believe they shall evade detection. While it may appear that borrowing concepts or words from these original works is permissible under creative commons licenses, our concern extends beyond mere legality. It delves into the realms of honesty regarding one’s own creations and the reverence owed to the toil of others. A machine, devoid of agency, cannot be faulted in this regard. However, a human being ought to possess a deeper understanding.
Nay, let us speak candidly, for artificial intelligence is no worse than the broader concept of automation itself. In truth, it would be naught but a mere curiosity if it were not vying with true artists. May we entreat the invisible hand of the market to possess the wisdom to discern the distinction in value betwixt these realms! ↩︎