Another Tale of Two Kingdoms

What has gone before:

There are two magical kingdoms, X and Z.  Part of the magic operating in both is the ability to make things out of basic raw materials — let’s call them “blocks” — which appear out of thin air at command, and at no cost.  The supply of blocks is theoretically infinite. (There are limits, but not based on scarcity of materials; rather, each kingdom sets a maximum number of blocks that are able to exist on a given area of land.)

Everyone in both X and Z can be a magic-user, a Maker-of-Things; they merely need to wave their wand to cause a block to appear, and there are other incantations (which are the same in both kingdoms, and available to everyone) to warp, stretch, cut, color and combine blocks into more complicated Things.  Not everyone, however, chooses to use the magical potential of the kingdoms.  The reasons are various: They may not have the patience, or they may not have the talent to turn an imagined visualization into a realized Thing, or they may just not be interested in playing with blocks.  Others have found that they are good at making one kind of Thing, but not another.

Meanwhile… Like people everywhere, the inhabitants of X and Z want nice Things.  It’s human nature.  And so, an economy grows around the desire for Things, in which people are not merely willing but eager to purchase Things from talented Makers, and the Makers are, of course, eager to provide.  At its base, the money that changes hands is a token for an underlying exchange wherein the buyer is saying “Thank you for the quality and convenience; I could never have done this myself,” and the Maker (if she or he is a good businessperson) is saying, “Thank you for selecting my work over others’.”

If that were all, the story would have been done at the end of Part 1.  But, as we have seen, it is possible for people to travel between kingdoms X and Z — in fact, with sufficiently strong magic, it is possible for them to be in both at the same time!  It is also possible for Makers-of-Things with a presence in both kingdoms to go into the import/export trade if they choose to: making their Things in one kingdom, but selling copies in both.

Of course, there are Rules governing import/export.  Intended to protect Makers from counterfeiting, the Rules restrict the magic so that only the certified Makers can export their Things.  This is all well and good when applied to the blocks themselves, the way they were manipulated and connected to each other, and even their color.  However… for every ointment, there is a fly.

Part 1 of this tale concerned two widget-makers.  The widgets they made represent the flies in the import/export ointment.  One kind invokes a special magic to reshape a block; the other changes its surface appearance so that it looks like something other than raw block material.  For arcane reasons known only to a handful of ancient philologists, these two kinds of widgets are known by their names in the Craft — “maps” and “textures” — even though one can neither navigate by the first, nor feel the second.

Kingdom X is the oldest and most populous of its kind — it is where the magic they all use, including Kingdom Z, was first developed.  It is also where the Rules were written, long before other kingdoms ever existed.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of so-called textures to be found in X have been in circulation since its founding, and were free for use by anyone to begin with; hence, they are commonly called “freebies”.  Others have (perhaps with their Maker’s permission, perhaps not) entered the freebie stream over time, so that their provenance is at best muddled, and at worst, untraceable.  Nevertheless, since the intent of the import/export Rules is to protect all Makers, the magic is restricted such that Things may be exported, but not their textures — not even when the Maker of the Thing and its textures are the same person.  The same restriction applies to maps — when you export a block sculpted by a map, the magic goes away.

Where there is a will, there is a workaround.  Textures and maps which are not permitted by their Makers to be copied are useless — they cannot be applied to blocks.  However, making them (in the arcana of the Craft) “copy-enabled” also allows them to be copied to the magical device through which people are able to visit, inhabit, and do business in kingdoms like X and Z.  This means that it is possible to buy textures in one kingdom and use them in both, by re-applying their magic to imported Things (and for any other purpose for which they might be used).

Some Makers of textures and maps don’t worry themselves about this.  Their only plea is “Don’t undercut our market by reselling these, or giving them away.”  Others don’t see it that way, and they make up their own rules to add to the kingdom’s, to the extent of, “When you by these from me in X, you may only use them in X.  If you want to use them in Z, buy a second copy in Z.”  Of course these extra rules (which, taking a cue from the Rulers of Kingdom X, they like to call “licenses”) are completely unenforceable… unless they hire a bunch of spies to skulk around both Kingdoms looking for “unauthorized” use.

Mind you, those Makers of textures have every right to make their own rules.  It is a curious anti-magical aspect of Kingdom X (and by adoption, all the others) that no one actually owns anything, even if they made it themselves from start to finish… except something called “copyright”, which is actually the right to regulate copying.  Thus it is perfectly within their purview to insist upon limiting the right to copy their work — that is, to apply it to a block — in one Kingdom but not the other.

But is it “good business”?  Only the market has the answer to that.  As you may know by now, I am a Maker-of-Things in Kingdom Z — but not one in X, nor do I import what I have made from Z to X, yet I can empathize with those who do business in both Kingdoms.  Given the choice, I would naturally buy from a texture or map Maker who is satisfied to be paid once and once only for a copy of their original work — a copy which, I remind you, costs them nothing to reproduce — regardless of where I use it.

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4 responses to “Another Tale of Two Kingdoms

  1. Thank you Lalo, that last sentence is *exactly* why supporting cross-grid vendors of products (typically builder's products, textures, sculpt maps, scripts) is such a good idea. I think everyone would prefer to buy something once, if they knew it would make their creations portable to other worlds without encumbrances. The alternative is an obstacle to creativity and commerce.

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