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Bootleg role-playing games are unauthorised copies of game instructions and gameplay rules of role-playing games. As with the music and video industries, the business of RPGs changed markedly in response to high-tech methods of copying.
Unlike many other types of games, RPGs are nearly entirely text-based, requiring few non-standard components other than books. Because both the price and complexity of RPG books rose in the 1990s, a cottage industry grew around copying and distributing many copies from a single purchased copy.
Since the first Dungeons & Dragons pamphlets were published, players made copies, sometimes as simply as jotting down the rules in a binder. It becomes bootlegging when the user copies large parts of the whole work via photocopying or other such methods. This method is losing popularity quickly, but it still occurs, particularly in areas where public libraries stock RPG sourcebooks.
The game industry came to live with this method of bootlegging, as it was largely untraceable and had little impact on sales. One copy could make another copy, but only through the same tedious process of copying the first one.
The game industry could not ignore the rise of another method of bootlegging, namely scanning the entire book into an electronic format, typically as an PDF. From there, it can be easily distributed over the internet.
Responses to bootleggingEdit
In response to bootlegging and other economic issues of RPGs, Wizards of the Coast released an Open Gaming License adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons, known as the d20 System. This system allows players to acquire a copy of the core rules of any d20 system game (such as Dungeons & Dragons) for free. The result allows anyone to participate in such games without having to pay the cost of acquiring a printed copy of the rules.
Supplements to these games are not free.