C&Ds for Online D&D 5E Character Generators

Ed Friedlander reports that WotC has asked him to remove his D&D character generators. Ed ran the generators at his site, Pathguy.com, including a D&D 5E character generator. His Pathfinder RPG character generator is still running. Thanks to Slayyne for the scoop (who also reports that at least one other site has also closed). [Update: while the actual request has not been shared, others have reported that these are very amicable requests].

You can see his closing note here.

"After almost two decades, Wizards of the Coast has asked me to remove my online character generators. I appreciate the many people who have written and thanked me for my work, and I hope you will continue to enjoy the hobby.

As a physician and gamer, I've supported and defended the hobby, and helped concerned families understand its value.

The "Dungeons and Dragons" phenomenon has encouraged young people to study other cultures. It is a game in which people work together to accomplish a meaningful goal. Characters even define themselves in terms of their good morals and their ethics. On one level, it simulates the spiritual warfare described in the Christian scriptures and in the Arthurian legends on which the game is based. I am proud that I was able to make a contribution.

My generator for Pathfinder will of course remain online. Click here for more information about this role-playing game.

May your dice come up 20s.

Ed Friedlander MD
"

Back in November, the D&D Tools website suffered a similar fate, as have a couple of spellcard websites. While WotC appears to be largely easygoing as far as fan creations are concerned, they do take action when content from their products is copied or distributed.

Ed's character generator created characters by selecting a number of options, and output a character sheet similar to below. I'm not all that familiar with it, so I don't know what text, if any, it may have borrowed from the official rules.

As yet, there's no license (Open Gaming or otherwise) for D&D 5th Edition (although WotC does intend to do so), although a number of publishers have published books anyway using the older Open Gaming License for D&D 3E and 3.5.

What is interesting to hear is that some people who have received such requests describe them as very amicable. Toxic Rat says "Speaking from personal experience, I received a very nice email asking that I take down particular content owned by WotC. No threats, no warnings of legal action, just a request to honor their copyright." That's great to hear.

dwarfey.jpg

 

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holyground

First Post
This sucks because of how great the generator was. It was nice to whip up a character and just have the stuff. It didn't have any rules in it, merely names of spells and abilities, so you still needed a PHB to actually use the character.

Isn't that the point? If you need the PHB to actually play, what's the harm?
 

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tomBitonti

Adventurer
But it is self destructive to fail to put out compelling tools, when the game value is only partially unlocked without such tools, and it is self destructive to fail to give out a clear policy.

Anyways, the way I see it, at the heart of this, standard IP practices don't mesh well with RPGs, which build strength from a community which is enmeshed in the game, and with players who become co-contributors of content as a part of a normal interaction with the game.
 

trancejeremy

Adventurer
Wow, that's awful. I used a lot of Ed's character generators back in the 2e days.

Funny how history repeats itself. TSR was very strict about that stuff for a while, shutting down every fan work they could find. Right now Hasbro only seems to be doing it to character generators....but it's not a good sign.
 
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trancejeremy

Adventurer
But it is self destructive to fail to put out compelling tools, when the game value is only partially unlocked without such tools, and it is self destructive to fail to give out a clear policy.

Anyways, the way I see it, at the heart of this, standard IP practices don't mesh well with RPGs, which build strength from a community which is enmeshed in the game, and with players who become co-contributors of content as a part of a normal interaction with the game.

Actually, I think standard IP practices today is to leave fan created material alone, as long as it's not a commercial project. Companies have learned that allowing it to exist doesn't actually cost them anything, but alienating fans by being strict about derivative material will.

(edit: Fanfiction.net is a great example of this)

And in some cases, even commercial products seem to be okay. Look at Bethesda approving of that Fallout web series Kickstarter...
 
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Uder

First Post
This is self-destructive and stupid - and so shortly after riding such a big wave of good will. Whoever is responsible should be canned.
 


GlobeOfDankness

Banned
Banned
as someone who's used Pathguy's generator in the past, i will surely miss them. i hope WotC is doing this as part of their gear-up to releasing a suite of tools of their own. i was one of the few people who had no problem paying for the insider tools back when i was playing 4e.
 

tomservo999

Explorer
This may be a good sign that Wizards may be developing its own generator

Hopefully it turns out better than Master Tools did...what a turd that turned out to be.

I don't claim to understand copyright/IP laws, but I fail to see how this generator was a threat to WotC/Hasbro any more than any of the fan created material here on ENworld is. Like the material here it generates interest in a game/hobby that in this age of constant electronic stimuli is sorely needed. As was mentioned earlier, you still had to own all the books to make use of it.

Even if they are within their legal rights, it just seems very short sighted and bad PR to me.
 
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fireinthedust

Explorer
5e is a great edition. The tools were very handy, and being free allowed me to get a number of new gamers to buy into RPGs in general and 5e in particular. Like having a friendly cousin who'd help you get your sheet right, or tie your skates on before you get onto the ice.

I would welcome something similar on the WotC site, even with ads on the pages so they get marketing value (ie: every time we go to make new characters, or update them, we see ads for their products). Even without that, Ed's site was a helpful model, and something the industry needs in some form or other. I need something I can use to convert new gamers BEFORE they pay money. The basic rules are a great start, but something to help me "bean count" new characters on the fly? Handy.
 

Evenglare

Adventurer
Its this kind of crap that makes me wary of converting my stuff. I don't know if I will ever be able to let people see it since they refuse to release information about an OGL or fan content. Wizards, get your crap together. If you don't want to let people do this, then TELL US before we go to all this work. Release your fan content license please!
 



DaveDash

Explorer
Seems pretty silly and behind the times. Since they have limited resources they should be encouraging their community of fans to build content, tools, etc.

This isn't really growing D&D, is it?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I've always maintained that the sight of a vibrant fan community creating stuff for your game is something that many game designers and companies would give an arm and a leg for. This is what you want: it's people embracing and playing the game with public and open enthusiasm. It's a wonder to behold, and something to be hung on to.

As a whole I think WotC does a good job at that. There are hundreds of blogs and sites producing homebrew material for 5E. Sure, the quality varies, but that's not the point. There's a dynamic, creative fan community surrounding this game unlike that seen since the early days of 3.x. I think WotC should be applauded for not interfering with that.

Then, occasionally, out of those hundreds and hundreds of things, they'll ask someone to stop doing doing something. It's happened about a half dozen times.

The question, then, is what is it about those half dozen things that prompted this? What makes them different? What behaviour exactly is it that WotC doesn't want? Automation? Trademark usage? Content distribution? My guess is the latter.

I wish these folks would share the C&Ds so we all didn't have to guess.
 

DaveDash

Explorer
The only thing that makes sense to me is they're on the verge of releasing something online themselves, and want to drive traffic to their site and not someone else's.

Could even be a lite basic character builder or whatever.

I still think it's the wrong approach. The more people building D&D stuff the better for their brand. If they want to build their own stuff make it better than everyone else.
 

Paraxis

Explorer
A lawyer type person could weight in much better than I on this, but isn't there something along the lines of how they have to be able to show they defended their IP with these C&D's for when they do go to court on someone, because if they ever do need to fight someone in court and that person's lawyers can point to dozens of examples of them not protecting their IP when they knew about infringements then that is a valid defense for the guy they do end up suing.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
A lawyer type person could weight in much better than I on this, but isn't there something along the lines of how they have to be able to show they defended their IP with these C&D's for when they do go to court on someone, because if they ever do need to fight someone in court and that person's lawyers can point to dozens of examples of them not protecting their IP when they knew about infringements then that is a valid defense for the guy they do end up suing.

There's an element of that with trademarks. Not with general copyright infringement though. They have to protect the name "Dungeons & Dragons" (see Xerox, Hoover, Photoshop). They don't have to protect the description of magic missile (not that there might not be other compelling reasons to do so, but it's only trademarks you're in danger of losing if you don't protect them).

Contractual issues might be one thing. If they've given someone an exclusive license to do something, problems might arise if it transpires that it's not quite as exclusive as was promised. Even more so if someone paid thousands for a license to do something that you're quite happily letting everybody else do for free.

Of course, that only applies if someone is infringing on your IP, not just because they're doing something you don't want them to do. That's why I'm curious about the actual C&D and what type of violation it addresses.
 
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DaveDash

Explorer
There's an element of that with trademarks. Not with general copyright infringement though. They have to protect the name "Dungeons & Dragons" (see Xerox, Hoover, Photoshop). They don't have to protect the description of magic missile (not that there might not be other compelling reasons to do so, but it's only trademarks you're in danger of losing if you don't protect them).

Contractual issues might be one thing. If they've given someone an exclusive license to do something, problems might arise if it transpires that it's not quite as exclusive as was promised. Even more so if someone paid thousands for a license to do something that you're quite happily letting everybody else do for free.

Hmmm these are good points that I did not consider.
 

delericho

Legend
If the sample character in the OP is an accurate representation of what the tool provides, then something is amiss - as we know game mechanics can't be protected by copyright (only the specific expression of them), and there's nothing else there. That suggests to me that the tool must have provided more - probably write-ups for the various selected powers/backgrounds/race selections/etc. In which case, WotC are indeed right to take action.

Weird thing is, there are auto calculating character sheets right here on this site, and those appear to be fine (and very helpful).

See above. As long as the auto-calc sheet only does the numbers for you, but requires you to enter the text (for power descriptions, etc) yourself, there shouldn't be an issue.

This may be a good sign that Wizards may be developing its own generator

I'll believe that when I see it. And by "when I see it", I mean the working product, not an announcement, beta, or other interim step.
 

wedgeski

Adventurer
Contractual issues might be one thing. If they've given someone an exclusive license to do something, problems might arise if it transpires that it's not quite as exclusive as was promised. Even more so if someone paid thousands for a license to do something that you're quite happily letting everybody else do for free.
That shouts out as being the case here.
 

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