back to article Dungeons & Dragons slays its digital distribution

Wizards of the Coast, publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, has pulled all digital editions of its products from online stores today in response to finding that its new D&D Player's Handbook is being illegally distributed over P2P and file-sharing websites. The Washington-state-based gaming company also filed three lawsuits today …


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  1. Eddie Edwards
    Dead Vulture


    "While online piracy of music, movies, and games grab a lot of attention from the public these days, mass illegal distribution of printed materials has been a racket since the invention of the photocopiers and continues to thrive today."

    Er, yes, when was the last time you ran off 10,000 copies of a 100 page document? Or do you get your secretary to do it, Mr In-Touch-With-Reality?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Well, that'll make a difference

    I mean, it's not like you can go to a well known torrent tracker and find multiple gigabytes of D&D books that were never originally released as PDFs anyway...

  3. Viktor

    That'll make a difference for sure.

    Now you HAVE to pirate it if you want it in the pdf format. Nice going.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    hissy fit

    Classic baby-throwing-the-toys-out-of-the-pram (or "it's my ball, and I'm going home. Sod you all") behaviour. Seriously, that's about the level of maturity being exhibited by WoTC or Hasbro, their parent company, over this. I could say it's a shame, that Wizards had shown encouraging signs by allowing a lot of their stuff to be downloaded for free up until now, but really I couldn't be bothered. If it's a calculated move intended to get gamers on their side and against the "pirates" I think this will backfire stunningly. Despite their obvious fanboyism and cult-like devotion to particular games systems, gamers still recognise the games companies for the money-grabbing bastards they are, and I doubt many would shed a tear if Wizards did end up going bust. I doubt it will have anything to do with so-called "internet piracy", though: who the hell plays (A)D&D any more anyway? Likewise, who the hell needs a multinational to tell you how to play games of imagination with a few mates, and be charged through the nose in the process?

  5. James Hein

    They are as bad as Hasbro

    I might feel some compassion for the company if they didn't hunt down and sue anyone who even uses what they consider a D&D character in say a novel. I wrote a fantasy novel and was told by those in the know that I had to change a number of the creature names I had used or I would be sued by the group. Not only is this stupid but it is a lot of work.

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  8. Dan
    Paris Hilton

    Yeah, right.

    They shifted their target market to people who play MMORPGs, then complain when their userbase has the technical savvy to share the books?

    The .pdf files are useless for gameplay- they are clunky and very difficult to use at the table. That's the same reason that the last version sold, even after the rules were published in every online format available. (ex.

    Face it, Wizards. You got greedy, you made too many books required for regular gameplay, and in doing so, you scared off even your loyal customers. Do what Microsoft did and release D&D 7.

    Paris, because she can roleplay without any rules. Her safeword is .pdf

  9. Mike Kamermans

    @Eddie Edwards

    Not all literature is 100 pages, and you don't need to run off 10,000 copies to significantly get in someone's way.

    The illegal reprinting of material was a very real problem right up to the moment airtravel became affordable for the masses - works would make it from one country to another, get reprinted by someone who "thought it worth doing", and the original author typically wouldn't find out until much, much later.

    The difference being of course that the original author didn't pull their article and hope that magically removed the illegal copies too.

    Good job WoTC, the digital copies are on P2P networks now, pulling the legal versions from stores is the best way to make sure they spread as quickly as possible.

  10. wim

    re Eddie Edwards

    Visit Vietnam, Malasya, Thailand and you will see stores full of copied books, Mr-only-in-touch-with-local-reality

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You are faced with a angry WotC lawyer he is small and bespectacled but the glowing tome of Law in his hands burns with what seems like an unnatural flame that wishes to consume your very soul and backpack of gold.

    Do you:

    Run away and cower as quickly as possible?

    Pull out your trusty battleaxe and cleave him and his foul tome in two?

    Summon a dragon to fight on your behalf?

    Roll a D20 to decide............

  12. Loki

    Why were they surprised?

    I really dont understand why they didnt think this through. All the sourcebooks for previous versions have been on the torrents for ages in scanned PDF form and in many cases OCR'd as well. People went to the trouble of actually scanning (and OCR) these documents before online versions were available... so what will make a difference now even if they pull the online versions... they will still end up on the trackers.

    In other news - Atari announced today their new anti-piracy scheme for games. They will no longer distribute games via the internet or on DVD. They now will print out the executable code (UUEncoded) on paper. Purchasers of the product must then type in the code using their favourite editor then UUDecode to get the game. A spokesperson for Atari was quoted as saying: "we believe this will reduce piracy of our products 100%"

  13. Filippo Silver badge

    books not in printing

    I can get the point for the recently released books, but WotC also sold PDFs of old TSR material that's not going to see a press ever again. Now the only way to get those is through the secondary market, or piracy. What was the point in retiring those as well?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So they decide to slash their costs (and pass them onto the comsumer) by not printing material and having the end user do the printing, and now thats come back and bitten them on the arse.


    It was better as T$R anyway

  15. Dominic Kua
    Thumb Down

    @James Hein

    When you say they're as bad as Hasbro, you mean that they are Hasbro since Hasbro bought them 10 years ago.

    Anyway, 2.5 is the one true ruleset, who'd want the new ones? I can't get the hang of this only D20s thing, last I heard they'd even done away with THAC0!

  16. Paul


    ...who the hell would turn up to play D+D with printouts or a PDF reader? You'd get you ass handed to you.

    If you had it in book form _AND_ as a PDF for easy searching... fair enough.

  17. Anonymous Coward


    "the recently-released Player's Handbook 2."

    Strange because in the late 80's, I distincly remember playing the 3rd edition...

    Now if only someone at WotC could help me rewind my girlfriend by 20 years - she'd be HOT!

  18. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Easy to put right

    Just cast Summon Bigger Fish.

  19. Paul

    @Eddie Edwards

    It dosent take that much. Sell a million copies of an album and is doing ok. Selling 10,000 of a book cam make it a huge hit.

    There is a huge problem with piracy in book publishing at the moment, and this will only get worse as e-paper becomes more and more prevalent.

    Unfortunatly WotC tryed to do somthing clever, and it went wrong for them. There is now way people can use the excuse "well I wanted to have a look befor buying" with books.

    @the other Paul.... I think it is more a case of a group buying one set of books and others downloading them, but then how many groups have ever used more than one set of books? We have 1 set of the books we want to use, plus 3 PH's and thats it.

  20. Remy Redert


    This technique is called watermarking. it's been in use in PDFs for years.

    It also doesn't work at all, as there are a surprisingly large amount of smart people who apparently like to spend their time picking those defenses apart.

    There are several programs out there that will, fully automatically, strip the watermarking out of almost any PDF.

  21. Anonymous Coward


    "President" of Wizards of the Coast?


    If my organisation was called "Wizards of the Coast", I'd make damn sure that all the exec positions had more impressive titles.

    "Lord High Archchancellor of the Wizards of the Coast" might be a good start - I'm sure there are better ones, but it's lunchtime...

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Come on now!

    does anyone really still play this shit?

    we all know you only download them to view the colourful drawings and then just delete the file and get on with playing WoW

    after all I play the hell out of neverwinter and never felt the need or had a single shred of desire to open a D&D book or pdf as the case may be

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    intellectual property not intelligence

    1. Withdrawing PDF from their offering will make the pirated copies to dissappear? The only ones who will suffer from this tactic are those who would actually have paid for the pdf. (?)

    2. So all previous pirated works of theirs have not existed before they started their PDF offer? Which planet are they populating? Even hard copies of books have been pirated for years!

    3. la la la - not hearing - not wanting to know the world attitude? Perhaps the prices of electronic copies should have mirrored the low cost of production? As if I would be interested in bying a PDF version which costs more than the discounted hard copy available at the sale in my local bookstore? I would personally buy the hard copy and then download the "pirated" one just for convenience... In many european countries such a behaviour would not actually become copyright infringement (you are allowed to make copies of material you have bought for your own personal use).

    4. Realistic assessment of loss? How many copies did they assume that they would have sold? Why would they think that the new books would sell better than the miserable numbers sold in paperback? And how many years did it take to sell those numbers anyway? So if a particular book does not sell "as expected" it must by definition be because of "lost sale due to pirate copies". Sorry but the groups that I used to know did not have more than one copy of each book any way. I do not believe that they ever considered buying more than one copy of each publication for the "club library". Also clubs with existing libraries do not necessarily need all the "new" publications - if any - as they may be satisfied with the books they have already. So what exactly has changed?

  24. Mark

    @AC - Player's Handbook 2

    They're referring to the second edition of the 4th ed. Handbook, which is a recent release. They are not referring to the 2nd ed. Handbook.

    Confused? There's a third handbook for 4th ed. in the works. How about now?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rulebook? We don't need no stinkin rulebook

    Why do you need a rulebook at the table?

    I'm the DM. I don't need a rule book. What, you arguing with me? Really, you want to argue with me? Oops, you triggered a trap, save vs. death ray.

    Strict adherence to the minutia made the game unbearable.

  26. Matt Siddall

    I reckon it'll cost them sales

    When 4th edition first came out, I was underwhelmed. I hadn't been impressed with 3rd edition (sure, they tried to fix things, but multiclassing worked very badly for spellcasters, and it didn't feel like D&D). A friend "obtained" them, somehow and lent me the cd. I liked the look and so went and bought the 3 core books, as did at least two others...

    So that one download gained them sales of 9 hardback books.

    They might be counting on the brand having built enough support now not to need such encouragement, of course, but it seems rather negative...

    And it's really not possible to play from a pdf - the proper printed version is so much better to hold, and easier to use - but the pdf is handy for looking up specific rules...

  27. Anonymous Coward

    people daon't want to pay for crap

    This is like the MPAA saying that downloading movies hurts the movie industry more than the fact that movies are just crap these days. D&D 4 is like the "Soul Plane" of gaming. People aren't buying it because its crap. But there must be some criminals responsible, not the overhyped underthought product offering...

  28. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    Sound more like dummies to me...

    I don't know much about D&D but anyone who seriously thinks that his business model is in selling manuals to a board game needs psychiatric help IMHO. I mean - FFS, selling *manuals*?!

  29. Bounty

    Down with libraries!

    The only thing this does is hurt their PR and they loose any money they had been earning from the pdf's. Which probably isn't much.

    Who wants to buy thier stuff, since everything they made after 2nd edition is munchkin crap where everyone is apparently born as invisible dragon-ogre-demon lords wielding 3 magic swords (1 mentally) while casting fireball infused lightning bolt, acid rockets.... Seriously, what ever happend to balanced games?

    Now where did I leave my cloak of invisibilty?

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