D&D Tools Website Closed
  • D&D Tools Website Closed


    A few people have dropped me emails to tell me that the D&D Tools website has been closed. In its place is a message which indicates that WotC sent them a Cease & Desist request, with which they appear to have complied. I'm not very familiar with the site, but it contained a lot of 3.x era D&D official content.

    Looking at snapshots from Wayback Machine, it does appear that the site included plenty of material not covered by the Open Gaming License. The note below says it was serving 1M pages per week, or 4M per month, which puts it on par with some of the biggest RPG websites (that's similar to EN World), so it was a pretty big deal.

    The full closing letter is shown below.

    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.

    PS: Oh and if you want to say hello or something, you can find me at dndtools.eu at gmail.com.


    I sympathize with how it must feel to have a company request that you take your website down. I've had letters from WotC's legal folks before, too, due to content on EN World, although I've always found that communication is a great way to resolve these issues and everything got handled amicably.

    Below is a screenshot of the site from January or so. You can click on it to go and see the final page.



    Comments 25 Comments
    1. delericho's Avatar
      delericho -
      That's a shame, as that site was incredibly useful at times. But, to be honest, my only surprise is that this didn't happen ages ago - that site was hosting a lot of WotC IP, and it seems they did so without approval from WotC themselves.
    1. 3catcircus -
      If it is on the wayback machine, it can easily be reached by almost any semi-savvy web user.

      It isn't dead, just a bit more difficult to access...

      Considering that a lot of the 3.x pages on wotc's own site are missing, I'd think a small licensing deal might allow him to reopen his site.
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      This does highlight the problem with WotC's legal policy of C+D first, talking to people second.

      Not everyone knows you can negotiate after a C+D as it's a warning of legal action and not legally binding. And not everyone is just going to contact the legal team without a lawyer, as common C+D advice online is always "talk to your lawyer."
      WotC is sending out C+D to unaware non-lawyers, who are in some cases foreigners who may be completely ignorant of the details of American legal policy (such as the above gent or Ema of the so named character sheets). Especially the C+D letters are usually sent out for a small infraction but demand the removal of the entire site. They don't sound like they're phrased as an invitation to open a discussion since, by definition, a "Cease & Desist" is a commanding order. It's aggressive and adversarial.

      It sounds like if Morrus was less ballsy and didn't contact WotC directly, ENWorld would have been shut down over the years as well.
      (I also wonder if the visibility of ENWorld made the legal team more receptive to talking, and if his experiences were representative or not. I guess we won't know until someone else chooses to discuss their C+D and negotiation and doesn't just shut down their site.)
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      A C&D is just a letter. It's written by lawyers, sure, so sounds stern, but it's just a letter. It can be a prelude to a lawsuit, but it's not a lawsuit itself. Most anybody who sends one is open to discussion, though some much larger companies might not be. Usually you just fix what's wrong, or talk to them about it if you think they've misread something.

      An entire site which simply reproduces non-open IP, though, is harder to open discussion on.

      A C&D might even end up being the start of a conversation about licensing.

      Always reply to a C&D and be amicable in the way you do it. You can't make things worse!

      My experience with WotC is that various management regimes there have approached things differently. Some drop you a friendly request first, some start with the C&D.

      I'd also note that there's nothing really preventing him from sharing the letter, even if the letter demands he not do so. Though it's not a polite thing to do!

      Anyway: not legal advice, etc. etc. Checking with a lawyer is a good idea, and if it's something you've worked on for 5 years, the cost of a quick consultation really shouldn't stop you.
    1. Matt James's Avatar
      Matt James -
      I think many people would be surprised to know that WotC is under no requirement to submit a C&D letter to anyone. A company can file suit and have the courts sort it out. It is what it is, but WotC has an obligation, legally, to defend their IP. If they don't, the IP weakens. I never used that site, but if it was storing their IP, it makes sense for him to take his site down.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Matt James View Post
      I think many people would be surprised to know that WotC is under no requirement to submit a C&D letter to anyone. A company can file suit and have the courts sort it out. It is what it is, but WotC has an obligation, legally, to defend their IP. If they don't, the IP weakens. I never used that site, but if it was storing their IP, it makes sense for him to take his site down.
      Matt, I don't think anybody thinks a C&D is non-voluntary. Defence of trademarks, though, can take many forms. A C&D is one choice. Not the most friendly one, but it's a choice. It's also totally OK to just talk to somebody. A C&D, in diplomacy terms, is the worst way to open communications.
    1. kenmarable's Avatar
      kenmarable -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      Matt, I don't think anybody thinks a C&D is non-voluntary. Defence of trademarks, though, can take many forms. A C&D is one choice. Not the most friendly one, but it's a choice. It's also totally OK to just talk to somebody. A C&D, in diplomacy terms, is the worst way to open communications.
      He can probably speak for himself, but my impression of Matt's point is that there is in fact a worse opening move - going straight to the lawsuit first. In that light, a C&D is a bit of a middle ground, but, yeah, it would be nice if there could be more diplomatic handling of these situations.

      A site full of WotC IP - useful, but yeah I'm surprised it lasted this long or that the owner didn't expect this sooner or later. Same thing but either OGC only or some agreement for older material only? That'd be nice, but we'll see.
    1. RotGrub's Avatar
      RotGrub -
      Many 3.5e gamers I know are very upset with this turn of events. They were using that site exclusively for their games. In fact, I think it was all 3.5e had going for it to compete with PF online.

      It's too bad that WotC can accept that there is a great need for a site like that. IMO, they need to fix their licensing before they can even hope to compete with PF.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by RotGrub View Post
      Many 3.5e gamers I know are very upset with this turn of events. They were using that site exclusively for their games.
      3.x gamers tend to have a reputation for expertise at optimisation.

      May I suggest that telling WotC that many of you *exclusively* use an illegal website, combined with the site owner's declaration that 1,000,000 page views are served per week, are *severely* suboptimal strategies? I mean, really. Given what I assume are your goals, those two things are the *worst* possible things you could say!

      Optimize, man! As far as tactics go, you just dump-statted!
    1. Dannyalcatraz's Avatar
      Dannyalcatraz -
      A C&D letter is about as diplomatic as it gets without just making a personal phone call. However, I think WotC missed an opportunity here.

      I did use that site. It was crash-prone at times, but overall, it was extremely well done. Good cross referencing, linking and sorting tools. And you could see the 3Ed AND 3.5Ed versions of most of the stuff they had on that site.

      It was well enough done that, were I in WotC's shoes, I'd have floated them an offer to come into the fold as an alternative to the C&D. Yes, fees would be involved, and they'd have to find a way to make the site earn some revenue, but...
    1. Nebulous's Avatar
      Nebulous -
      I don't know why they would care at this point, so many years later, but i do agree that it's probably not fair to have all of the IP property posted like that, even though it seems like a ridiculously useful resource for 3.x players. Maybe there's some compromise they can reach.
    1. Frankie1969's Avatar
      Frankie1969 -
      The problem with suggestions about licensing or compromise is that WotC does not WANT useful resources for 3.x players. They want people to stop playing 3E (or PF, or OSRIC, or even 4E) and rejoin their party in 5E.
    1. delericho's Avatar
      delericho -
      Quote Originally Posted by Frankie1969 View Post
      The problem with suggestions about licensing or compromise is that WotC does not WANT useful resources for 3.x players. They want people to stop playing 3E (or PF, or OSRIC, or even 4E) and rejoin their party in 5E.
      That used to be true, but I think WotC's emphasis has changed. Yes, they would prefer us to play 5e, of course. But it does appear that, if we decide 5e isn't for us, then they'd rather support us in playing 3e (or 4e, or another edition) than lose us entirely.

      It's not so clear whether they'd prefer us to play Pathfinder than not play at all. I suspect that might depend on whether we use "Hoard of the Dragon Queen" when doing so. (If nothing else, it's probably easier for them to recapture Pathfinder players than ex-players.)

      It would be really good if WotC could buy that site and take it in-house. That's probably the quickest way they could get a 3e equivalent to 4e's very useful Compendium. But I'm not holding my breath.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Yeah, I think WotC's PDF support for earlier editions shows that they'd rather have you playing an old edition they were selling than not at all; although their preference is for you to play 5E, they want you to play 3E or 2E over a totally different game.
    1. Umbran's Avatar
      Umbran -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      Matt, I don't think anybody thinks a C&D is non-voluntary. Defence of trademarks, though, can take many forms. A C&D is one choice. Not the most friendly one, but it's a choice. It's also totally OK to just talk to somebody. A C&D, in diplomacy terms, is the worst way to open communications.
      Diplomacy is for when you want to negotiate, when some middle ground needs to be found.

      By description, WotC was solidly within their rights. It isn't like their position is weak, that negotiation is the best way to get what they want.

      Do you figure that WotC would be somehow okay with a half-measure, or actively sought a licensing deal? If not, why do they need to negotiate over it?
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
      Diplomacy is for when you want to negotiate, when some middle ground needs to be found.

      By description, WotC was solidly within their rights. It isn't like their position is weak, that negotiation is the best way to get what they want.

      Do you figure that WotC would be somehow okay with a half-measure, or actively sought a licensing deal? If not, why do they need to negotiate over it?
      They don't need to do anything. Any yes, they are within their legal rights. And yes, they might reject any attempt at negotiation.

      Then again, they are a decent bunch of folks who many of us know. They're not ogres, and may well be open to discussion. If they're not, they're not.
    1. Sword of Spirit's Avatar
      Sword of Spirit -
      [Duplicate post]
    1. Sword of Spirit's Avatar
      Sword of Spirit -
      In my anecdotal experience, the people I know who referenced that site have libraries of 3.x material and their referencing tended to be a quick alternative to looking up what they already had, lead to putting books on their shopping list--or was referencing material in books they were never going to buy anyway.

      It was functionally advertising.
    1. Dannyalcatraz's Avatar
      Dannyalcatraz -
      Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
      Diplomacy is for when you want to negotiate, when some middle ground needs to be found.

      By description, WotC was solidly within their rights. It isn't like their position is weak, that negotiation is the best way to get what they want.

      Do you figure that WotC would be somehow okay with a half-measure, or actively sought a licensing deal? If not, why do they need to negotiate over it?
      The simple answer is "goodwill"- a happy customer base has real economic value.

      FWIW, I am the kind of guy in Sword of Spirit's anecdote. I own most of the expansions for 3Ed/3.5Ed, and used the site largely as a convenience at the gaming table. It was easier to have it up & running than have a stack of books around the table for me to use. And, of course, there's stuff in the books I don't have that I simply didn't know existed until I found their site.

      I always intended to make a spellbook for my most recent PC- for which their site was an invaluable aid- I may now have to revise his spell & feat list if I can't find the stuff in my library.
    1. Bohemond D'Arlac's Avatar
      Bohemond D'Arlac -
      For a moment I was worried...thank you Wayback Machine!
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