Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ain't It Cool News interviews V&V creators

My fave RPG of all time is Villains and Vigilantes(tm) for its open-ended creativity and rules-lite style.

One year ago, almost to the day, I called up Scott Bizar of FGU and had a good conversation with him on the possibility about getting something published for V&V. I ended the conversation with "This is going to be the best year ever for V&V!"

He was little quiet after that statement. I think Scott might have thought I was either boasting of my own possible submissions, or was simply shocked that I was so confident.

Well it ended up being a very prophetic statement. And fulfilled in a way that COMPLETELY blindsided both me and him.

In six months, Scott began publishing adventures that had been sitting gathering dust for ten years - and brand new ones submitted by eager talent.

But almost at the same time, Jeff Dee and Jack Herman announced that they were now the sole publishers of V&V and were re-claiming their rights.

No one knew how solid a grip they had on this claim until a few facts came to light: that FGU was no longer incorporated, and on the day that happened, all rights reverted back to the original creators. That day occurred way back in 1991, says one document from the state of New York. [Insert SFX "My goodness!" spoken by Dorothy from Wizard of Ozhere.]

In the following interview by 'superhero' Kristian Horn for AICN, another reason Jeff and Jack have the sole rights to publish came to light: they only signed a contract for the First Edition of V&V, not for the ever more popular Second Edition. They were told it was not necessary.

Seems that it was. New rules and new writing and all that.

So that means they had the rights even earlier, if you get down to the legal nitty-gritty - back in 1982 or so.

[Insert SFX "Walll, GOLL-EE" from 'Gomer Pyle' here.]

Here's the interview: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/48121 . Just scroll to the bottom to see this quote:

superhero [Kristian Horn]: OK…so at what point did it begin to go off the rails? I’m not sure about the specifics, but I remember reading about some legal issues regarding who owned Villains and Vigilantes?

JD [Jeff Dee]: We started to become unhappy in the late 1980’s when FGU stopped advertising V&V, taking it to conventions, or even soliciting distributors. When it became clear that this situation wasn’t going to change, we started looking for ways to get our game back. But for years, it looked hopeless. The contract seemed to give Scott Bizar enough loopholes so that he could keep it in force perpetually with little effort, and attempts to purchase the publishing rights from him were met by outrageously high price tags.

As it turned out, there are a few problems with our old contract which we were unaware of until recently.

Our contract was with Fantasy Games Unlimited, Incorporated – which, we recently discovered, was “dissolved by proclamation” by the state of NY in 1991 for failure to pay state taxes. It no longer exists. And the contract clearly stated that if FGU Inc ever ceased to exist, then the publication rights reverted back to us.

But Scott never told us that FGU Inc was gone. He just kept calling himself “Fantasy Games Unlimited”, as if nothing had happened. Maybe he was afraid we would take our game and walk, or maybe he didn’t want to risk having to renegotiate the deal.

Furthermore, the only contract we ever signed with FGU Inc was for the original 1979 edition of V&V. Scott told us we didn’t need a new contract for the second edition in 1982 because it had the same title and authors. But that’s just not true. The second Edition is a separate work, and therefore legally required its own contract. So it turns out that FGU Inc never actually had the right to publish the V&V second edition in the first place.

So basically, Scott Bizar has been pretending that the corporation we had a contract with still exists, which it doesn’t, and that the contract we had with that defunct corporation covered the 1982 edition of V&V, which it didn’t.

When these facts came to light, we immediately moved to assert our legal claim to the publishing rights to our game.

Though Jeff Dee and I are ideologically MILES apart - he is a member of the Atheist Community of Austin, TX - I had a gut feeling that this rationalist, transhumanist would NOT move beyond the proper legal boundaries to get his creation back.

Just not his style. I've been criticized for believing that, but I knew Jeff as a man bound to follow the rule of law, no matter how tough it was. I respected that. I mean, you do REALIZE that some FIVE pages of the rules of V&V [a 60-odd page rulesset] are simply the legal codes for the state of New York and their consequences, right? What RPG asks you to play yourself and then GIVES you a breakdown of the legal system for the 'home state' of superherodom?

But for him to discover this legal right so late is bittersweet, I bet.

I bet.

Can I tell you something as a Christian? We have incredible rights that most of us are, like Jeff Dee, unaware of.

As a Christian, we have the RIGHT to be called 'Sons of God.'

We have the RIGHT to boldly approach a Holy God without fear, without shame.

We have the RIGHT to ask for wisdom, be given supernatural power and understanding, and to effectively deal with what is evil before us.

We have the RIGHT to eternal life as an unchanging, inviolate gift, not based on performance but on our trust in Christ.

We have the RIGHT to Consul/Counsel. We have a RIGHT to know the Truth and proclaim it.

We have the RIGHT and AUTHORITY to forgive others.

But we have those rights because Jesus paid for them.

Don't forget that. Don't let anyone take those rights from you by lies and/or deception.

You were created for a purpose; there is no one like you or better suited for the tasks assigned to you.

Praise God for that.

And, if you will, praise God that Jeff and Jack, two very creative men, have finally gotten their creation back.

Even as God got back His Creation as well -legally, through Jesus.



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