Regarding cameos / homages

Hello everybody!

First of all, I’m new to the forum, but not to CoG. Both me and my husband love this site, and have bought and played most of the games here. We would like to thank everybody for the hours of wonderful entertainment we’ve got. Keep up the amazing work!

Then to business. I’m planning on writing a fantasy game (the D&D style fantasy), with a twist and a pinch of humour. It’s still mostly in the planning phase (and I’m still figuring out ChoiceScript), so don’t hold your breaths just yet. In my game I would like to include homages, very small cameos from popular fantasy, e.g., works of Weis & Hickman, Salvatore, Tolkien and Pratchett. But I’m rather confused about the laws regarding this, I wouldn’t want to commit any sort of copyright infringements.

So I’m wondering if any of you would know, if it’s OK to, let’s say, include meeting a pair of halflings or gnomes on their Very Secret Mission to drop an earring into a rumored volcano some way ahead? No names would be mentioned, nor would I mock them - not at least in malice. I apologise if this matter has been discussed in another thread. I couldn’t find anything specific, but it’s completely possible I missed them.

Thank you for your time :slight_smile:

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Did a quick search regarding this and also didn’t find specifics however I think what you have in mind in completely legal but someone else here may know more about it. Good luck with the game by the way.

I think hobbit is copyrighted, which is why they’re called halflings everywhere else, which frankly sounds rather derrogatory! Who would call themselves half of something. But I would say, winks and waves to popular culture is fine as long as you don’t rip off a whole story/character or something like that. And I say this with almost zero legal knowledge, but still, rather certain.

I was thinking that it might be alright, just thought it’d be better to be safe than sorry. Thank you very much!

I believe you are right about hobbits vs. halflings. I’ve personally never read anything apart from Tolkien with “small people” called hobbits. Winks and waves are precisely what I’d do, they wouldn’t be a part of the plots nor even longer conversations. Not necessary for the story in the slightest, I just wanted to do something like that since fantasy is very close to my heart.

Usually in D&D and other fantasy settings I’ve found, the small race of people are called Halflings. Or Kenders, Kenders suck, always stealing the most valuable items from the party because “lol, I cans do its.” Go with Halfling, people will get what you mean.

As with references and homages, it’s best to imply but never firmly state that the two characters are connected.
For example, calling a Halfling Nobby who’s a kleptomanic and NOT A FECKING KENDER!
Nobby is a reference to a character from Discworld, if I recall.

Other examples might be encountering heroes called Chicken Chaser (Fighter) or Little Sparrow (Ranger) (Fable reference). The party could gather at a tavern called… The Giggling Druid? Because he found a stash of the good stuff.

Note to self: Ranger/Bard hybrid that wears hair in dreadlocks, preaches one love and hotboxes in his tent.

And for the whole Halfling vs Hobbit thing, fantasy archetypes exist for a reason, Dorfs are sturdy, Elves are graceful, Orcs are strong and clumsy, Humans are resourceful.
What I mean is, just call the race Halflings and let our mind fill in the rest.

I’d avoid anything to do with the Tolkien estate like the plague. It might actually be fair use, but it just isn’t worth the risk considering their litigious reputation. (See also Games Workshop and Hasbro).

Pratchett should be fine, considering his previous comments about fanfic.

It’s one of those super grey areas which only gets really examined if someone gets close enough to actually infringing for the owner to file a case, then someone decides after the fact who’s in the right. Annoying, but the best system we’ve got so far.

So, specifics a little more. First, I’m not a lawyer, and as far as I can recall, no one on the forums has claimed to be (and even if they do, assume their not unless you’ve got solid proof. We are on the internet after all). Second, assuming you’re in the US, the only law you’ll have to worry about is US. Even if you’re in another country, chances are US is law is what going to come into play, because, well CoG is US based and they will probably end up the targets of any potential suit. Which also mean that they’ll be the ones that get first and last on what actually gets sent out.

That all said…

generally something this generic is going to pass. Generally.The more we talk high concept generics, the more muddy it gets. Now when you say “[…]nor would I mock them[…]” that’s something worth mentioning. From a (US) legal standpoint, one of the safer things you can do is mock something. See, parody is a specifically protected part of free use. So long as you’re commenting on a work, you’re allowed more leeway in referencing it, and calling something silly is both easy and a very obvious comment.

And as said by @Duck certain groups are better choices to parody and homage than others. That’s another, ‘case by case, do your research’ thing though.

As a start, this is probably a useful list-

While this isn’t technically fanfic, it’s close enough that I suspect most author’s will have similar attitudes.

One thing to note: That’s only useful so long as the writer doesn’t intend to publish their work. Anything handed over go CoG (on either their main label, or as a Hosted Game, yes even free ones) will have to be much more stringent in what is allowable.

Thank you, everyone for your replies. I shall keep on looking into this, but I might just end up leaving them out. As I said, it’s not important for the story. We’ll see.

That said, asking for permission would be a good excuse to send love letters to the chosen authors… :wink:

Parody counts as fair use. So you could do cameo/homages, as long as the purpose is to make fun of them. Parody doesn’t need to be mean-spirited. Just avoid using trademarked terms such as Hobbit and you should be good.

So mention of two halfings dropping a piece of jewelry into a volcano should be perfectly fine. Even having that as a quest for your adventurers should be good.

Check out Bored of the Rings, for instance. (