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Masterplan is dead. Long live Masterplan!

18. May 2010
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The past week has been rough for fans of Dungeons and Dragons and Wizards of the Coast. The announcement came earlier this week of another round of lay-offs and resignations, as their design team lost Peter Schaefer, Andy Collins, Torah Cottrill, and Jesse Decker. Anyone who’s been following the company knows this is no big surprise; WotC regularly cycles through employees, having lost Rob Heinsoo and Chris Sims back in December. Regular though it may be, it is still no less sad to see the people responsible for the game I like to play axed, especially when many of them have families to raise.

My disappointment was followed shortly thereafter when the creator of Masterplan released version 8.8 of the software, only to leave a cryptic comment behind: “This is likely to be the last version of Masterplan for the forseeable future.” This came as a huge surprise, considering he was just talking about version 9 a few days before. Despite the wave of questions coming from everyone, there was no immediate answer as to why he was seemingly shutting down this project.

Until yesterday.

It seems our worst fears were realized: Masterplan was sent a Cease and Desist letter from WotC’s legal team. The major sticking point was that the program allows users to login to their D&D Insider account and scrape the Compendium, downloading all the monsters, traps, items, and more into a library file that Masterplan would use to plan encounters and treasure parcels. These libraries, while designed to be an easy and quick way to manage information, were easily shareable. To be honest, WotC had no choice BUT to contact Masterplan about this infringment on the Terms of Use.

This issue is the split-personality that WotC is showing. With 4th Edition, they have taken great strides in advancing the plight of roleplaying games and bringing the culture up to speed with technology.  A subscription-based service is a great method of deterring piracy, earning profit without having to jump over all the printing hurdles, and providing continuous service to the end-user. Their Compendium API takes this one step further, allowing third-party applications to access the service, such as the way iPlay4e reads Character Builder files (and links to the relevant powers straight from the Compendium), Asmor’s generators create quick appropriate encounters and treasure parcels, and various other mobile applications allow you to access the service on smartphones. WotC has supported the D&D community with their “Wizbook” service, the celebrity podcasts, events such as Worldwide Game Days and the Encounters line, and fostering the active 4e blogger base. However, they are still a company owned by Hasbro, and are still capable of conservatively turning away from the future.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to whine about Wizards protecting their IP and not giving me whatever I want. They have every right to send a C&D to Masterplan; they already did, and there is nothing we can do about it, obviously. However, if they want to brutally remind us that they are a company first, community second, I say we protest in the same way anyone protests a company, with our wallets. The Insider subscription went up in price between the time I first subscribed and now, yet it really hasn’t been that much more useful to me on its own. Sure, there is more content than before, but a major part of my experience was through MP. Here I am, ready to purchase another year so I can update (in the Builder) the two characters I play (one in an online game, with iPlay4e!), and update my copy of Masterplan so I can plan some Delves out for a weekend game session. No, I don’t think I’ll be resubscribing to Insider. To quote a friend of mine, “the value just isn’t there” for me anymore; I might pay less, not more, for it after this. I still support the 4th Edition game, and will continue playing it and, as I usually do, buying the books as I find them useful to what I’m doing. Until this mess gets sorted out and WotC starts supporting the third-party that has done nothing but advertise their service, I won’t even consider resubscribing, and I know of many others who share this sentiment.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 18. May 2010 1:16 pm

    Just a comment. Masterplan isn’t shut done. The new version is still in development. They will just remove the DDi downloading feature.

    • 18. May 2010 1:21 pm

      I know, his devblog said as much. However, the Compendium feature is the best aspect of the program, arguably the most important part. Sure, everything can be manually entered, but I find it convenient when creating a quick Delve to just pick and choose from the content I’m already paying for.

  2. Frank permalink
    21. May 2010 8:38 pm

    Well, the beast is already out of the cage. Masterplan 8.8 and below are being used and the functionality of them has not been diminished. Unless WotC finds a way to block access to the existing versions you can still update the library files each month.

    • Anonymous permalink
      13. March 2014 12:22 am

      Well this is really disappointing. I just started DMing master plan seems to do exactly what I want, but, as people have said, without library, its really lacking, equally without master plan, DDI is really lacking.

  3. 23. May 2010 9:44 am

    I saw a friend using masterplan along with his DDI subscription and i was really impress as to how easy it was for him to create/manage encounters. I decided afterwards that i should do the same and subscribe to DDI and download this nifty application… a day later WotC did their move. As understandable as it may be, i think WotC should integrate all these great ideas out there (masterplan, icombat, iplay, etc) into their own. I can clearly see masterplan as part of the adventure tools empty tabs, why not just hire the creator to work for you instead of diminishing his potential as a developer and your potential to get more customers to subscribe?

    • 26. May 2010 8:07 am

      EXACTLY! They seem too busy to take offense than realize that Masterplan could easily be adapted into their pretty-much-dead Adventure Tools to give us the product that is advertised in the back of my Player’s Handbook.

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