TSR The Cult of Abaddon - Release from NuTSR/TheEvilDM

This started in the NuTSR info thread, but I'm starting to dig into things enough that I decided to start a new thread rather than derail that one completely.

Vincent Florio, aka The Evil DM, has released a PDF version of his module "The Cult of Abaddon" on lulu.com. Details can be found here: The Cult of Abaddon Module, now for Sale as a PDF! This is a product that Vincent "donated" to NuTSR, who then had Ernie Gygax modify it enough to add him as a co-author. Vincent has stated on his Twitter that he was paid nothing for the module and gets no percentage of sales from NuTSR, but the link above says that he owns the rights to publish it as a PDF. Ostensibly, he's the one getting paid when you buy a copy from lulu.com.

This is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it's the first real gaming product from NuTSR that we've actually seen. NuTSR teased a hard copy release of this "by the end of Jan 2022" but that has yet to materialize (just like the rest of NuTSR's vaporware). Second, the adventure centers around the tiny, simple village of "Morrus", an obvious jab at ENWorld.

The first thing to note is that the adventure is in dire need of a professional editing job. It has misspellings. It has grammar mistakes. It has run on sentences. It freely switches between calling the person running the game a Game Master, a Dungeon Master, and a Referee. At one point, a stat block covers half of a paragraph of text. @David Flor started doing a rundown of these issues (and a lot more info) on his Twitter, which you can see here:



Another big issue that I'm finding is that the module seems to have a couple of issues with crediting artists. For reference, these are the credits from the book:
The Cult of Abaddon

A OSR Module written and created by Vincent “The Evil DM” Florio
with Ernest G. Gygax Jr.

Maps by Vincent Florio

Interior Art By
Vincent Florio
Donald Semora
Forge Studios

Cover Image by Felipe Gaona
Courtesy of Publishers Choice - Fat Goblin Games
Published by TSR Hobbies

Game Module is printed in the United States of America
ISBN 978-1-7341961-2-2

This game module and its content is in no way endorsed by Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro Games
or any other entity. All content is original to the author.

All interior artwork is © Copyright their respective artist, and TSR-Hobbies
makes no claims as to their ownership.

However, as I'm going through the adventure, I'm finding some images that aren't properly sourced. First, I found this image:
dwarf.jpg

Which is the "Dwarf Innkeeper" from Alekzander Zagorulko: https://alekzanderzagorulko.artstation.com/projects/o2Aw6W It's unclear if they paid for this or not, but it's clearly uncredited.

I also found multiple images from Axebane Games, including (but not limited to) these:
Capture4.JPG
cave.jpg

Axebane provides these images for free at drivethrurpg.com, but has strict requirements about crediting them for the work. These guidelines were not followed here.

If anyone has more info, please feel free to post. The next image that I'm trying to source is a small picture of what could be an elven warrior (called a "rager) that has this in the corner:
logo.jpg

If anyone recognizes this logo or signature, let us know. I'll do my best to answer any questions about the PDF.
 
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DLIMedia

Hero
I want to go on record and state that I incorrectly accredited the "Cult of Abaddon" adventure to Wizard Tower Games when in fact they had nothing to do with it... the product is wholly owned and managed by NuTSR and Vincent Florio.

1646063829696.png


ETA: This brings up a curious question, though... The PDF's meta data says that Donald Semora, who as far as I know OWNS Wizard Tower Games, was the PDF's author.

1646064255529.png
 
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That last logo/signature is from Kimagu (Kiss Márton Gyula) on DriveThruRPG. I should note that the art packs I purchased from Kimagu do not include a specific requirement to credit the artist BUT this is pretty standard for any publisher to do so.

Thanks much! I had a feeling someone around here would recognize it. The image in question is from the "Goblin Pack".

For the record, I don't look down on any publisher that uses stock art. It's an important tool, especially for smaller publishers who want to focus on text and game design instead of books of pretty pictures. But proper attribution is important. When something is free iff you give proper credit, always give proper credit. And the absolute worst thing you can do is take credit for something you didn't create.

Unfortunately, that's what NuTSR has done here. They gave credit to some artists, but not all. By doing so, they have incorrectly stated that this art (from Alekzander, Axebane, and Kimagu) is by someone else (Vincent Florio, Donald Semora, Forge Studios). That's intellectual theft. It's possibly just an oversight in editing, but that doesn't make it any less of a problem. If you put a can of tuna in your pocket and forget about it, it's still theft when you walk out of the store without paying for it.

Of course, I imagine I'm just preaching to the choir.
 


I want to go on record and state that I incorrectly accredited the "Cult of Abaddon" adventure to Wizard Tower Games when in fact they had nothing to do with it... the product is wholly owned and managed by NuTSR and Vincent Florio.

Don Semora's digital fingerprints are all over the PDF metadata. I get that they aren't the final publisher. It's fair to say that they don't "control editing" or have any kind of final say. But OTOH, it looks like they definitely had a hand in putting the thing together.

Edit: You ninja'd me with an edit, @DLIMedia! :)
 
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Any reports of anyone getting their print copy?

It's still listed as "back-ordered" on the NuTSR website.

Also, it's been discussed elsewhere but I'll repeat it here: we're not sure if a hard copy really exists yet. NuTSR posted images of the book on their Facebook page, but it could be a digital mock up rather than a real pic (as they've been caught doing before). It only shows the cover and a generic background.

This is partly in response to questioning who actually made and manages both the Cult of Abaddon PDF and the Dungeon Crawl board game...


View attachment 152565

It's fair for WTG to agree they helped "donate" layout services without taking any role in editing. However, the PDF metadata shows it was worked on by Don Semora late on Feb 9th (NuTSR posted their pics on Feb 19th). WTG's timeline of donating services "in December" doesn't track. This isn't a smoking gun, but it shows that NuTSR's claim of shipping the book by the end of January was a bold faced lie. It's pure speculation, but I'm guessing WTG is claiming they did work in December to help NuTSR save face on the original timeline.

Also, as a note to WTG: part of the reason people might assume you're part of NuTSR is that you're literally the only sponsor of TSR Con that isn't owned by Justin LaNasa. If you look at the TSR Con fliers, it's an easy mistake to make.
 
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Faolyn

(she/her)
Unfortunately, that's what NuTSR has done here. They gave credit to some artists, but not all. By doing so, they have incorrectly stated that this art (from Alekzander, Axebane, and Kimagu) is by someone else (Vincent Florio, Donald Semora, Forge Studios). That's intellectual theft. It's possibly just an oversight in editing, but that doesn't make it any less of a problem. If you put a can of tuna in your pocket and forget about it, it's still theft when you walk out of the store without paying for it.
It's probably an oversight, or just laziness, as nobody at NuTSR seems willing to make much of an effort at the best of times. Or maybe they googled stuff and used images that didn't have watermarks all over them and didn't bother to find out who the artists were in the first place. But when I saw who they failed to credit, I suddenly wondered if it was because two of those people are "foreign" (Kimagu is Hungarian and Alekzander is Ukranian--hope he's doing all right) and that made it "less important" for them to care about crediting properly.
 


I found a couple interesting things on the back cover.

Just below the ISBN is this note: "Cover Art by: Madre Shipton" I don't know what to make of this. The cover art is credited inside the book to Felipe Gaona at Fat Goblin Games. There's no art on the back cover. Maybe a reference to an earlier version?

Also, the back cover contains the text "The cult is attempting to harness the souls of these deaths to summon Abaddon the Demon from his dark prison deep in the depths of the Underdark." I am pretty sure Underdark is one of names that is not free for use under the OGL. The back cover is the only place it shows up in the adventure, so I'm guessing this was supposed to be scrubbed but got missed. Could be a costly mistake.
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I found a couple interesting things on the back cover.

Just below the ISBN is this note: "Cover Art by: Madre Shipton" I don't know what to make of this. The cover art is credited inside the book to Felipe Gaona at Fat Goblin Games. There's no art on the back cover. Maybe a reference to an earlier version?

Also, the back cover contains the text "The cult is attempting to harness the souls of these deaths to summon Abaddon the Demon from his dark prison deep in the depths of the Underdark." I am pretty sure Underdark is one of names that is not free for use under the OGL. The back cover is the only place it shows up in the adventure, so I'm guessing this was supposed to be scrubbed but got missed. Could be a costly mistake.
Yeah, that's a disallowed word. Does the module even have a copy of the OGL at the back? Cuz it's supposed to.

As far as Don goes, I imagine people would be less confused if

  • he didn't have a close relationship with LaNasa and went to the ground defending him last summer
  • worked with Justin closely for a while
  • has almost the same writing style as Justin (complete with atrocious grammar)
  • only produces vaporware to date, constantly promising release dates that come and go. He's been promising stuff almost every month since last September.
  • "creates" the same type of products for the same marketing demographic
 

Stormonu

Legend
Read through @DLIMedia 's partial review. Sounds like the lack of editing is pretty bad - not quite The Forest Oracle levels of bad, but fairly close.

Is the adventure even runnable in its current state?
 

Maggan

Writer of The Bitter Reach
I must admit that I am a bit surprised at the thought of an editor being the person to salvage a badly written text. Shouldn't the text be sort of okay at the get go? Sure some cuts here, some suggestions for rewrites there, some grammar fixes. But the responsibilty for the text being of sound structure and passable grammar and spelling must surely rest on the writer?

Or is it normal for writers to turn in bad text to be fixed by editors? Is that industry standard?
 


adamantyr

Adventurer
I'm disinclined to pay even $9 for this train wreck to see for myself, but I am curious about the actual adventure itself.

@DLIMedia already confirmed it's not anything special or worth salvaging.

I'm curious if it's sandbox, narrative, if it tries to introduce any unique monsters, if the dungeons look original or did they rip off Dyson's Delves...
 

Stormonu

Legend
I must admit that I am a bit surprised at the thought of an editor being the person to salvage a badly written text. Shouldn't the text be sort of okay at the get go? Sure some cuts here, some suggestions for rewrites there, some grammar fixes. But the responsibilty for the text being of sound structure and passable grammar and spelling must surely rest on the writer?

Or is it normal for writers to turn in bad text to be fixed by editors? Is that industry standard?
I'm no editor, but I've turned in texts to them. They're humans, just like anyone else so you at least want to put your best foot forward - or they may just give up on you.

But a spell-checker should have caught a fair number of the problems in that document. The case/tense mixups, less so. But, any second pair of eyes would have caught a LOT of the glaring issues.
 

DLIMedia

Hero
Is the adventure even runnable in its current state?
Technically, yes... but it will take the DM far more effort than usual to make sense of it all.

I must admit that I am a bit surprised at the thought of an editor being the person to salvage a badly written text. Shouldn't the text be sort of okay at the get go? Sure some cuts here, some suggestions for rewrites there, some grammar fixes. But the responsibilty for the text being of sound structure and passable grammar and spelling must surely rest on the writer?

Or is it normal for writers to turn in bad text to be fixed by editors? Is that industry standard?
Depending on the editor, there may come a point when they may say "I can't fix this." Or maybe they'll charge you significantly more because of the amount of effort involved.

My experience in those extreme cases, where the editor actually goes though and effectively rewrites everything because it's terrible, is that the original author does not take it particularly well and actually gets enraged at the editor. The end result, depending on the author's ability to realize they need to better themselves, is to either go back to the drawing board, publish the train wreck, or bury the product in a deep grave.

Also, Grammarly is free... It's not perfect, but it's a significant help.
 

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