A Quick Update

There’s been a lot of speculation about Masterplan in the last week; here’s the official version.

Last week we received a Cease & Desist email from a lawyer acting on behalf of WOTC, in which she demanded that we shut down Masterplan entirely. As some people have speculated, the lawyer’s main complaint is about Masterplan’s integration with the WOTC Compendium.

In response to this email we have removed the Masterplan download link, for the time being; this means you will be unable to download Masterplan until version 9 is released. This obviously doesn’t affect those of you who already have the latest version, although sadly there’s not much we can do to help those who are newcomers to Masterplan.

As development of version 9 continues (and continue it does), we will disable the Compendium integration feature. We don’t have an ETA for version 9; as with all previous versions, it will be released when it’s ready. In the meantime, support will continue as normal – the website, blog and Facebook group are not going anywhere.

If any lawyers are reading this, and would like to offer your insight regarding this issue, you’re very welcome to contact us.

In short: we’re very gratified by all the messages of support we’ve received in the past week, but reports of Masterplan’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Edit: Yes, we know Masterplan doesn’t infringe any copyrights, and everything it does is perfectly legal.


47 Responses to “A Quick Update”

  • Arby Says:

    Well, I am happy to hear that it is something simple like a lawsuit; and not something bad happening to you or yours. We can certainly make due with what we have for now.

    Not being able to load monsters is going to be a PITA, however.

  • Fenny Says:

    I find it short sighted that WotC would send a C&D against a tool promotes subscriptions to D&D Insider.

  • Roger Alix-Gaudreau Says:

    Interesting — I assumed that your Compendium integration was through a publicly-available API that you were using to avoid any legal issues related to distributing WotC’s material. Which you were in fact not doing. And since people required a DDI membership in order to access the material, all you’ve done is provide a convenient way for people to access the information they already own. I’m not a legal expert, but I don’t see the basis for a lawsuit.

  • Dave Says:

    Well, if Masterplan was not encrypting the library files generated from the compendium download using the users userid/password, then there was nothing stopping them from distributing them through other means. I kind of see WotCs point on this. Regardless, the tool is compelling enough by itself without the DDI integration.

  • Richard Mathis Says:

    Thats unfortunate, but I think the masterplan is really strong by itself, I’m assuming you’re going to still allow importing of XML for monsters? I use that almost exclusively for the monsters anyways if so.

    Good luck and I hope this is only a small speed bump on your way to dominating the 4e campaign planning software niche. :)

  • Tweets that mention A Quick Update - Masterplan -- Topsy.com Says:

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gato, CH News Robot, Richard Mathis and Cory Mcnabb, Paul Baalham. Paul Baalham said: RT @criticalhits: Update: Masterplan software was sent Cease & Desist by WotC legal, still plans to release future versions http://is.gd/cdEzO

  • Icosahedrophilia Says:

    I can’t speak to any legalities, but I consider this a bad move on WotC’s part from a PR/customer relations point of view. As Fenny wrote above, Masterplan 8 promotes D&DI subscriptions, and as Roger wrote, WotC published an API on their own site, for crying out loud.

    As long as Masterplan continues to import XML files exported from Adventure Tools, though, it’s not too many more steps to get newer monsters over that way. Like Richard, that’s how I usually do it anyway, since I’m all the time customizing monsters.

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  • Nifelhein Says:

    If you can make the libraries brought from the compendium unable to be passed to another install of the program then you could be able to pull WotC’s leg, but there is not much else you can do to avoid the problem.

  • Mike Betzel Says:

    Wow, that is terrible. DDI integration is probably my most-used feature of Masterplan. Not that I don’t find value in the tool otherwise; quite the opposite. Masterplan actually makes my DDI subscription more valuable as it lets me quickly and easily use those critters and items in the adventures I design. When I design an adventure in Masterplan I often start by browsing all the level-appropriate creatures, traps and items looking for inspiration.

    Not that it will make a difference but Wizards will certainly be getting a letter from me. I understand that they need to do whatever they must to protect their copyrights but this is just wrong. The better solution would be to ask Masterplan to encrypt the files so they can’t be shared and require you to be logged in to DDI to even have those items show up in the program.

    Masterplan is amazing and will certainly continue to be amazing without DDI. Wizards may lose a DDI subscriber, though.

  • Christopher Says:

    Well, here is my 2 cents on this. If WotC can’t make their own tool then they need to STOP making other people stop with their tools. In the Dungeons Master’s book it shows the virtual game table, and yet they have C&Ded that “because of the economy.” And their plans for the rest of the Adventure Tools, they have stoped that as well. They need to STOP working on other things and give us what we want. If most of the D&D community that use the computer want a program like masterplan, why not make a program like masterplan for the Adventure Tools instead of writing the stupid articles that don’t help all that much anyway.

  • John Says:

    I have to second Mike Betzel’s post, Master Plan actually ENHANCES my DDI subscription and makes it really usable at the table. I for one hope to see Master Plan around for many, many years to come and I always look forward to each new release.

    Andy, I certainly hope you can come to some sort of an agreement with WOTC and keep the DDI integration. I certainly hope you don’t give up on that function simply because of C&D and I truly hope they are not so self-centered that they will completed refuse to work with you. That ability is such a tremendous asset to us DM’s out there.

    Thanks again for such a great product and I’ll support whatever decision you make.

  • Vittor Says:

    I almost had an heart attack when I thought it would be the end for Masterplan.

    Masterplan is the ONLY reason I am DMing right now, and the only reason I did not stick with 3.5 edition of D&D and bought 4 for their 4e books. WotC should thank you for this, not try to end Masterplan.

    I will support Masterplan in whatever decision you make.

  • bone_naga Says:

    Would it be possible to still have a feature to import data if the DDI data was downloaded by other means or would that still be too much? I understand there’s no need to risk legal action over this (and it’s sad that WotC is handling it this way), just curious. Or maybe a third party could make a plugin for the program that handles it? But whatever happens, and whatever features have to be removed for the bloodsucking lawyers to let up, masterplan will definitely continue to have my support.

  • Brad Sumner Says:

    I wondered if it was this kind of an issue. One way that masterplan may be able to use the compendium info is if it did not actually download the info and save it all, if it only saved the key info for searching (creating a table or something) and in order to preview the monster or trap or whatnot you would have to have an active internet connection. The main issue is not that Masterplan does or does not promote DDI subscription but that it allows access to the info even after the subscription is over, and the library files can be shared between computers which means that someone who doesn’t have a subscription can get the info by copying the files from someone who does.

  • Zenith Says:

    I sent Wizards a letter. This is their personal response.

    Customer 05/17/2010 02:55 PM I am choosing to deactivate my D&D Insider subscription based on your decision to send the website http://www.habitualindolence.net/masterplan/ a cease and desist order for their product, “Masterplan”, a campaign manager which uses your published API in order to access the paid-only D&D Insider Compendium. Because a product I use can no longer access a product I pay for, I see no reason to continue my D&D Insider subscription. I find is short sighted that you would stifle game making tools that, in themselves, promote subscriptions to your own service. I am also disappointed in your decision to abandon development of your online game mastering services that were advertised in print as major focuses and selling points of the 4th Edition version of Dungeons and Dragons. I am no longer appreciating the level of service I am getting from the D&D Insider product.

    Response (Support Agent) 05/17/2010 04:54 PMHello Adam,
    You may cancel your subscription to Dungeons and Dragons Insider at https://accounts.wizards.com/amlogin.aspx under the Manage D&D insider account. If you would prefer to have us do this please fill out the following information: .
    First Name registered with the account: Last Name registered with the account: Email address registered to your account:Zip Code registered to your account: We take your account security very seriously. Therefore, while we want to assist you, we will require that you be able to answer certain pieces of information as registered on your account. Once we verify that you are the account owner, we can proceed with your request.We would appreciate your feedback on the service we are providing you. Please click here to fill out a short questionnaire.

  • Joey Says:

    I love the generic auto reply from WotC Zenith.

    I still haven’t actually played 4e, but I was considering running a quick 4e game some point during the summer, and planned on using master plan. But now I think I won’t run the game if this is how the company treats its customers.

  • Jim Says:

    I can’t find the documentation for the Compendium API on the Wizards website, despite numerous searches, but I suspect the reason behind the Cease & Desist is that, once the Masterplan Compendium libraries are downloaded to your computer, the libraries can be (and have been) shared to non-DDI subscribers. I know I’ve seen the libraries available from several places as torrents or archived files, and making these files available non-subscribers undermines the DDI subscription program. I’m hoping that this is the rationale behind the C&D because it means that future version of Masterplan might still be able to use the Compendium to add monsters, traps, and items to encounters in much the same way it does now, only without downloading any Compendium information to your local machine but rather by accessing it remotely.

  • DelugeIA Says:

    I too would be interested in seeing documentation on the Compendium API.

    I can understand the need for WotC to protect its intellectual property, but it seems to do so in such destructive ways. Rather than beating down the creative spirit of independent developers, why not work with them to bring them into compliance? Then promote them, thereby promoting their own product.

    Silly lawyers.

  • Alphastream Says:

    I recommend you approach WotC for clarification on what would be allowed. Would it be permissible to pull the information but store it in a way that cannot then be redistributed? Is it permissible if the API is public? Are they interested in working with you and in integrating Masterplan into Adventure Tools?

    I admit not using this tool much (though I keep an eye on it). I use other tools for tiles, Monster Builder for monster editing/choosing, and just plain Word for encounter/adventure ideas. However, I would be more prone to using this if it were part of Adventure Tools.

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  • David Says:

    I’m relieved that support of the other aspects of MP will continue, but I’m sad that the Compendium integration must go away. I’m a bit resentful (of WoTC) because I am a DDI subscriber and having this feature in MP made it incredibly smooth to write adventures. Since WoTC have been draggin their feet for ages on the Adventure tools I find it ridiculous they would shut down a utility that fulfills their promises for the online life of DnD instead of seeking to build on your successes (you’ve done a heck of a lot of work for them). Good luck and I plan to continue using MP with or without compendium integration.

  • Greg Says:

    I second Alphastream’s comments… although I use FG2 to play online, I’ve recently found Masterplan to be a GREAT tool for creating adventures. As many have expressed in the past, I find it disconcerting to learn that WotC’s lawyers are targeting products that are being used by the very individuals buying massive amounts of their print and digital products. Since they didn’t approach you with an offer to purchase MP, I can only think that they are looking to offer their own Adventure Tool to do the same. One could only hope… but if they don’t by Gen Con, I would consider them to be quite foolish for not approaching you with a buyout offer.

  • Michael Vohs Says:

    I just to go on record and say that BECAUSE I found and used masterplan, I purchased a 3 month subscription to DDI. Without the program, I would not have have done so and now I have to reconsider resubscribing when my purchase runs out.

  • Michael Says:

    Wow.

    Did they at least follow-up with the names and numbers of the R&D staff for the Adventure tools? Doesn’t Hasbro follow the Microsoft policy of buying up potential rivals or start-ups that show prominse?

    I’ll be following this…

  • Euan Holton Says:

    @Jim: I’m pretty sure there isn’t a formal API for the compendium; Masterplan just scraped the data from the served web pages.

    Hopefully Masterplan will keep the ability to import XML from the Monster Builder.

  • David Says:

    I emailed WOTC too, hopefully if enough people email they will at least consider doing something different.

  • Drakkanius Says:

    One little trick, though is quite a pain, is to create custom libraries from the RTF the Monster Builder is exporting. Then no one will have anything to complain about, imho.

  • White Giant Says:

    It would be in their best interest to buy your program and rebrand it as an adventure tool. Masterplan is my sole reason for having a DDI subscription. The printed books are outdated so they are mostly useless. Glad I jumped on this wagon when I did because I have what I need… for now.

  • MC Says:

    Would it be possible to be required to login in to your d&d sub in order to use the monsters in the compendium and what not? That way if you do not have a sub you cannot actually use the information in the compendium. Of course this would mean that you would have to have internet access available in order to use masterplan, but I think it would circumvent the Lawyer Cheese that WOTC is throwing out.

  • Christopher Says:

    So…I found this great gaming tool 4 days after they had to take it down?

    WotC! *shakes fist*

    I will keep an eye out for version 9, I hope things can be ironed out to everyone’s satisfaction…even if some of the players in this little drama are pretty short-sighted and reactionary.

  • Myke Says:

    In all honesty, I know two wrongs don’t make right. But, you can download every WOTC book for free anyway. So, in principle, I guess I see what they’re trying to accomplish, but in reality. It makes no difference. It only screws Master Plan and some possible DDI subscriptions. Thus, I dont see what it accomplishes.

  • Fellick Says:

    I know I bought my DDI sub only to use Masterplan and I know I won’t renew when it comes up if this continues to be an issue. Your program has been critical for me being able to run a weekly game and in fact the only reason I found out about this was because I was looking to update my program as I spent the night building a zombie apocalypse for my game tomorrow.

  • Chris Says:

    @Euan Holton: One of WotC’s software developers definitely did publish API details for the compendium.
    Might not be up any more and IIRC the WebService only served up HTML, but the details were released.

  • Mark Knapik Says:

    Can you post the C&D Letter? If so, then maybe we can offer some concrete advice.

  • DM_MEGALODON Says:

    I have been recently introduced to 4ed which is a far cry from the original Basic Set which I received as a Grade 5 passing gift after being introduced to it through now a near 25+ yr friendship. Played most of the time as a DM mainly because no one wanted to invest the time to learn the rules. It was either that or don’t play at all. Reprising my role as DM after nearly 20 years from when I took a long break mainly because of the exceptional preparation time I am devoted to my players to prepare. The adventure module I’m creating as I go after only 2 sessions I’m practically logging so far nearly 20 hours of prep, I don’t mind because I take the role of DM very seriously. I have taken on a role of internet archeologist in a matter of speaking as I’ve hunted the plane of cyberspace to find programs which I feel are probably available in this day and age, and always foresaw the day that classic pen dice and paper RPGing would eventually evolve to DMAG (DungeonMastered Assisted Gaming) and anyone out there who is a DM or GM or has been realizes the tools you can use to minimize preparation the better. I just started tinkering with Masterplan and the DDI applications and WOW this makes my job so much easier I find it a little greedy though that WOTC after the success of Magic the Gathering (which I owned a store selling CCG’s for 6 years) its like more people will play the game if applications like character builder and monster builder are available rather than flipping through hundreds of pages of manuals which is what turned me off after the original AD&D set hit the market and just became too complicated to enjoy. I think Masterplan at just a tinkering glance is a monumental resource and my genuine thanks goes out to those who took the time to make such a great application as it literally makes Masterplan be the preferred GM/DM screen the fact that there’s cross compatibility with DDI stuff continues to make my job even more easier, which comes to my vision of D&D that if it’s not fun for the DM then there’s no point. This program is awesome and I’m looking forward to seeing the updated versions evolve as I get back into the DM swing of things.

    ONE MAJOR QUESTION I HAVE about masterplan so far is. Is there a way for the PC’s to enter an initiative value as my players as others do really like to roll their own dice and even being a DM I like to roll my dice too for the monsters. Is there anyway to input a dice roll into the calculations regarding adding bonuses. I am grateful for the encounter manager which keeps track of so much. One other thing is importing a character from character builder it doesn’t seem to give the stats as far as the abilities that each character has. If anyone can help then I will be evermost grateful. Thanks for your time to read my views..

  • JSug Says:

    Lame. If WOTC can’t provide their own software tools, they shouldn’t be squashing the independent developers who do. They should be working with you to secure their IP. Hell, if I were them, I’d be offering you a cushy job.

    For the record, the information about the compendium API, which I used to write my CompendiumSearch tool, is still up on the WOTC community site:
    http://community.wizards.com/wotc_frazier/blog/2009/08/20/dd_insider_compendium_api__part_2

    The API is buggy and no longer being actively supported, but it’s still active.

  • Lev Says:

    Well, there went pretty much the only reason I bothered to subscribe to DDI.

  • Noel Says:

    Dear Masterplan,

    Wizards does not have a legal leg to stand on. A C&D letter can be a scary thing to receive, but your software does not enable its users to do anything that a person with a DDI subscription could not already do. Your software just enables them to do it in a faster, more efficient way than they could before. You cannot be held legally responsible for what your software users do with the data they scrape from the Compendium. Your only responsibility to WotC is to require DDI subscribers to log in (as you did in Versions 8 and earlier) before scraping the Compendium.

    Please release version 9.1 with Compendium scraping ability, stand up to Wizards, and hire an attorney. Community donations may pay his or her legal fees, if they are not a pro-bono lawyer willing to take your case.

    Thanks,

    A Really Enthusiastic Fan

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  • Jim L Says:

    I just read the Adventure Tools service agreement. There is nothing in that ‘agreement’ that I can find about linking to their runtime. If all you did was add a ref to their DLLs, then I can’t see how you violated anything because their service agreement is stunningly silent on the topic. I don’t see any reverse engineering clauses either and that would be VERY difficult to prove given they did absolutely nothing to obfuscate or use .net’s dll licensing mechanisms etc to prevent others from accessing their runtimes. In essence, they don’t need to provide any documentation to their API because they’re leaving it all hanging out there. I didn’t even need to fire up Reflector to start finding the hooks. And looking at with Reflector, it’s mostly logically laid out, almost as if they are asking you to hook into it.

    Did they mention any other terms of service that you supposedly violated?

    It’s also in their interests to say “we want you to hook into our libraries so that anyone using your tool HAS to have a DDI subscription”.

    Also, check out eff.org.

  • Flintlocke Says:

    Just caught wind of Masterplan and loaded it up to import libraries before I noticed that this is no longer a working function.

    Thanks for your cool prog; it’s still very useful. I agree with those that pointed out that it adds value to the DDI sub and that WotC should consider another option besides the cliché C&D letter.

    Seriously, they should buy it up and incorporate it into adventure tools or just let it be and be glad that someone is working on something that increases the amount of DDI subs.

  • wshoffner Says:

    Good to hear that Masterplan will continue, I have started using this on a weekly bases since discovering it and it has made my game prep much easier.

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