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Saturday, November 22, 2014

D&D Tools Website Falls to a WotC "Cease & Desist"

I'm going to post the link to what's left at the D&D Tools website as well as their latest (last?) post, but I'd like to make some observations first.

The D&D Tools website was up for 5 years and it's only now that WotC has gotten around to a "Cease & Desist."

It's not like it was a hidden website. It's Alexa ranking is 114,870. For comparison purposes, ENWorld comes in at 44,688 and The Tavern at 237,743. It's highly doubtful that WotC had no idea that D&D Tools existed. (Google is, of course, #1)

Is it that the 3x era OGL rules that were referenced were too close to 5e? Or was there a fear that the current OGL could allow D&D Tools to replicate the 5e rules?

Just some thoughts. In any case, here's the last post at the D&D Tools site...

D&D Tools – End of an Era...

Hello everyone,

TGG here. As you have probably gathered, we have received a Cease and Desist letter from WotC (well, from a law company under WotC rule). I'd like to take some time now to comment on this.

I started D&D tools some five years ago as a tool for me to find "all the feats that affect criticals". From then, it grew up a lot, both in content and audience.

At the time of this letter, the site served roughly 1.000.000 pages a week.

100 races.

500 items.

1.000 classes.

3.000 feats.

5.000 spells.

Everything was interlinked with each other. Feats listed requirements as links. You could find what a class had for prerequisite and click it right away. Wanted to know what spells are there available for a class in campaign settings? No problem. Lots and lots of filtering and searching.

At November 14, 2014, I've received a letter requesting that we put the site down. As of now I have to comply, since I have neither time nor law skills nor resources to do otherwise. Also, I'm not allowed to post the letter itself here.

... about future?

First of all, the site itself is open source project. The sources are my intellectual property and I'm free to share them as I wish. About a year ago I created a repository at github – https://github.com/dndtools/dndtools. The setup notes might not be up to date, but it's possible to get it running with OGL contents. Since it was there long before the C&D letter, I feel free to share the knowledge.

Second, there is also great mobile app for android a Google Play (sorry iPhone users). It comes with full OGL contents. If you are friends with Uncle Google or Web Archive, you might even find a more interesting database for it. I myself cannot claim to be the creator of it, so please do give some love to the author on the app page!

Third, since the sources codes are available for public use and the database itself was distributed among users, there is nothing in my power to prevent others to try to resurrect the site.

Final words

I want to thank very much to all the people who put a lot of effort to see the site grow! Without you, it could never have grown into what it did. Thanks!

I'd also like to say something to WotC. The game you created is great. I spend a lot of time playing it. You have moved to 4e and then 5e. Why do you try to destroy what your fans have created? Things that can help players, that encourages them to play more? (I'm talking about all the sites that went down over the years) You'd better invest the money into creating something yourself than to spend it on law companies...

tgg out.


  1. That sound you hear is the collapse of a lot of the good will that WotC had built up. They should have allowed the public to know the terms of the C&D, at the very least. As of now, it looks like they are trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Bad move.

  2. While D&D Tools was a violation of WotC IP, thanks to WotC's decision not to put mechanics from its supplements in the SRD, it is weird that they picked now to try to shut it down. It might be because they reproduced feats and spells and such from settings that WotC intends to republish. I also take this as an indication that WotC doesn't intend to go Paizo's route and open source all 5e rules. No 5e equivalents of d20pfsrd allowed. This decision could turn out badly for them.

  3. Why does anyone buy product from Wizards of the Coast anyway? Everything you need for Dungeons 'n' Dragons is readily available elsewhere--and free. Are RPGers really taken in by this 5th edition hype?

    1. Not by the "hype", I was taken in by the new rules set.

      I still have B/X as my go-to D&D, but 5e (because it does what I want and does it well) has replaced 3.x as my "modern" D&D rules set when playing with players who don't want to play B/X.

    2. Why? Because D&D 5 is fun. D&D 3.x was fun. And yes I even enjoyed D&D4 for a while. None of that invalidates the decades I spent playing Basic or 1st Ed. I still pull them out.

      You don't have to be "taken in", you just have to have fun with the games.

    3. "Why does anyone buy product from Wizards of the Coast anyway?"

      That's a question I've been asking for more than 20 years.

  4. Honestly? Why are they surprised. WotC has a right and an obligation to defend their IP.
    D&D tools was in violation so this was the only logical outcome.

    WotC did EXACTLY what the law REQUIRES them to do. Defend their IP.

    1. The law doesn't require that. That they have the legal right is clear. But they certainly don't have the obligation, legally, morally or otherwise.

    2. If they don't defend it they run the risk of loosing it. Granted that is for Trademarks.
      But yeah they have to do it.

    3. Look, I don't mean to be too argumentative about this, but I think it's up to them, and if there is such a risk, it's up to them to assess it. Authors in the OSR make those sorts of decisions all the time, for example, whether or not to give one's game away for free. In some cases you might want to in the expectation that you'll make more more profits later. Or you might do it because you care more about fame for you or your game (if there is such a thing in this niche of a niche market) or just exposing people to something that you think they'll like. Or maybe you think you're under some additional ethical obligation as a member of a community that has given so much to you. Or whatever.

      I wouldn't mind if someone could explain the legal implications of, so to speak, waiting. That even after five years, a cease and desist letter could be perceived as unchallengeable would seem to be a good argument that IP owners can afford to be tolerant (if they choose to for whatever reason) without any ill effects if they later change their mind.

    4. Well obviously they assessed the risk and decided they needed to act. As an aside, given that WotC's D&D division operates on a smaller staff than even Paizo has, I wouldn't put too much stock on the "they ignored them for five years" notion....I had never even heard of DnDTools until Tenkar posted this, and it's entirely possible that it was overlooked until someone pointed out how much non-OGL content was sitting over there. Hell, I'd bet that they didn't even know the site existed until someone at WotC looked into a "dndtools" site title and found it was already taken...and thus opened up this can of worms.

  5. The lesson here is if you don't want a cease and desist letter you don't use someone else's IP and copywritten material outside of recognized copyright fair use and open licensing.

  6. For the most part, WOTC has been a pansy about defending its IP. A publisher put in the name "Lolth" and that would always get them riled up into hissy fit. However, if they are been more aggressive from the beginning, no retroclone would have class named "thief" or "magic-user" but "rogue" or "wizard". Now, because instead of being in sleep-walking mode, they are this bad guy. It is about time, no website not owned by WOTC should have "D&D" in its title with this context.

    Stop using "D&D" to gain web traffic to your site. Change the name make sure everything complies with SRD under the OGL and it should be good.

  7. I'm not a big fan of 3e or related systems but many are. From the looks of it, the site seemed like an extremely useful resource for those people. And it was set up and used out of love for the game, or so it would seem. Presumably the "D&D" in the site name was there not to attract traffic per se, but to accurately describe the contents. So why anyone would say that "it is about time" it was shut down is beyond me. That's not to say that HASBRO was evil to do so. But remember, HASBRO allowed it to operate for five years. Was that evil?

    Intellectual property laws exist to protect the property owners, and to serve as an incentive to produce without the fear that the fruits of one's creativity or hard work will be taken by others, not as some false god to be worshipped in the abstract. Surely it is up to the owners themselves to decide where to attempt to draw the line. In some cases, relative tolerance could lead to more profits. In other cases, any possible losses might be so small that enforcement would have corresponding small gains, and thus why not just be nice to one's fans? Or not. But surely temporary tolerance (for whatever reason) shouldn't make one a "sleep-walker" or a "pansy".

    1. "Extremely useful resource for those people" or "out of love for the game" definitely shouldn't be the criteria to just let this slip by. It did operate for five years, but it shouldn't have. A C&D is just a letter not a lawsuit. Basically, more of these letters should have sent early on to state a position that aggressively protects their IP. It is because they didn't do this that they were sleep-walking with the appearance of pansy.

      WOTC have really only gone after acts of clear trademark violation. What they didn't do was go after Product Identity violations that weren't trademarks and threaten to revoke the OGL for the violation.

      If you stick with SRD and any subset thereof; or create your own material, there will never be a problem. This is a dynamic that should have been established early on. Since it wasn't, anything more aggressive by WOTC appears to be bullying.

      Let me state that I am looking forward to a different WOTC under a more restrictive OGL in 5e era compared to 3e era. In particular, I would like to see less searching though the feces of third-party material to find the golden nugget.

    2. Already the big and small 3rd party players are releasing 5e compatible products using the existing 3x OGL.

      The cat is already out of the bag. A 5e OGL is becoming worth less and less with each passing day.

      As for feces and golden nuggets, most of the time that golden nugget is corn.

      There are easier ways to search through third party material

    3. "In particular, I would like to see less searching though the feces of third-party material to find the golden nugget."

      That's easy. Everything related to WOTC D&D is feces. There aren't any gold nuggets, except the ones WOTC has collected from gullible gamers.

  8. Part of the problem was likely the name of the site itself "DnDTools". It may be that WotC has plans for a site or product with a similar name. Or the amount of IP content on the site grew too much for them to tolerate at this stage.

  9. Eric, it would be interesting if in a future post you talked about fair use and copy right infringement. I read and give notes to a project that uses the term " DnD" but otherwise renames most everything in a way that one can understand in b/x terms. If you have done this already or you know a blog/site that does it well please redirect me.

    1. That would be a post and a half and I am by far the not the expert.

      It's been written about before by others more knowledgeable than me - let me see if I can find the links