Bethesda Comments On Accusations Of Plagiarizing D&D Adventure

Bethesda has issued an apology for plagiarising D&D adventure The Black Road by Paige Leitman and Ben Heisler. Well, not an actual apology, just a brief explanation.
"We have pulled a previously shared ESO tabletop RPG adventure while we investigate the source. Thank you to those who reached out with concerns.

Thanks again to everyone who highlighted the issue of alleged plagiarism in relation to the ESO Elsweyr tabletop RPG promotion. Our intention had been to create and give away a unique Elsweyr inspired scenario that could be played within any popular tabletop RPG rule set.

We requested that an original scenario be created, and we are investigating why this does not appear to be the case. We have removed all assets relating to this and ask, in respect to the creator of the original scenario, that it should not be circulated.

Lastly, to avoid any confusion, please note that there is no correlation between this scenario and anything that will eventually appear within the video game."
 
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Russ Morrissey

Comments

DM Dave1

Adventurer
I'm curious what you think should have happened differently here. Assuming that the folks at Bethesda didn't have a specific reason to suspect plagiarism (and why would they?), what sort of competent keyword search do you imagine would have tipped them off?
I'm no QC professional, and I realize I do have the power of hindsight here, but one might run a search that includes a setting element, the mcguffin, and the named characters:

- desert AND statue
- "Chandra Stol" OR "Mother Mara" OR "Kah'reem" OR "Zayla"

Given the proclivity for lawsuits in the video game world, it seems this and similar types of QC research would be done (early and often) regardless of whether the company suspects something; it would be done to ensure their "original" idea doesn't too closely resemble something else already out there. Then the company can decide whether to edit the work or just proceed as is.
 

dimonic

Explorer
I dunno, maybe have someone at the company who can competently run some keyword searches online for at least 15 minutes as part of their QC procedure before publishing?
Actually if it is anything like patent law, searching for prior patents actually weakens your position. Plus the chances of finding real plagiarism is low if the new "author" has changed the names of people and places.
 

Madmaxneo

Explorer
I think Bethesda did a good job so far. It is still an alleged act of plagiarism because they have to figure out what happened. Once their investigation is finished they will hopefully issue an apology for working with someone who would give them something that was already published.
 

Hussar

Legend
The first thing I can think of is that they're going to be going through every e-mail and memo involved in the ordering, production and distribution of this product, just in case there's anything in there which could be interpreted as Bethesda being aware of (or even just having cause to be suspicious of) the malfeasance and then going ahead with the project anyway.

Also, the author may not necessarily be co-operating with the investigation. He doesn't have to, unless they bring legal charges. And before they start bringing legal charges they'll want to be sure of the facts of the situation - which is tough without the author's co-operation.

So, sure, it might be something they can clear up in short order. But it might also be something that will drag on for weeks. And if Bethesda do begin legal action, there will probably still be things they don't want to commit to in public until after those proceedings have concluded.
Why would Bethesda be pursuing legal action? Against their own writer? How? What action would they be pursuing? At worst, they fired the writer and moved on. There wouldn't be the slightest chance of Bethesda suing anyone here.

I'm no QC professional, and I realize I do have the power of hindsight here, but one might run a search that includes a setting element, the mcguffin, and the named characters:

- desert AND statue
- "Chandra Stol" OR "Mother Mara" OR "Kah'reem" OR "Zayla"

Given the proclivity for lawsuits in the video game world, it seems this and similar types of QC research would be done (early and often) regardless of whether the company suspects something; it would be done to ensure their "original" idea doesn't too closely resemble something else already out there. Then the company can decide whether to edit the work or just proceed as is.
Huh? Search how? Google search? That's not going to turn anything up - a minor NPC in a module on DM's Guild? None of that will come up in a Google search.

And, frankly, you DON'T start investigating every single piece that your employees turn in. They're employees. They're hired on the basis that they aren't 1st year University students. The plagarism was caught, actions were taken. You don't double check this sort of stuff beforehand.
 
Why would Bethesda be pursuing legal action? Against their own writer? How? What action would they be pursuing? At worst, they fired the writer and moved on. There wouldn't be the slightest chance of Bethesda suing anyone here.
It may not be their own writer. They may have contracted it out to an advertising agency. In which case Bethesda may want to sue the agency for reputational damage.

And Bethesda could still be on the receiving end of legal action, in which case they may need to countersue. Whist the injured party has not expressed any interest in bringing it to court, there are those with a vested interest in seeing that it does - the lawyers.
 

Hussar

Legend
One has to wonder if the same results would have come up before all the traffic due to the plagiarism. Maybe so. But, in any case, companies don't do this because you tend to assume that your employees are acting in good faith.

Like I said, the plagiarism was caught, the plagiarizing work was removed, end of story, isn't it? What more really needs to be done here? It's not like Bethesda dragged its heels or tried to bury this or did anything other than act in a completely responsible manner.

I'm not really sure what people actually expect here.
 

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