I first found out about this news at Greywulf’s Lair where I ranted a bit. The skinny is that a wonderful tool for 4E encounter building has had a cease and desist order placed against it by WotC. Details can be found here by the guy that runs Masterplan.
Masterplan is something I’ve raved about before and it really is a fantastic program. What really put it way up on my list of tools was the ability to import just about every sourcebook from your DDI subscription for monsters, traps, and treasure. It was (and I’d still say is) an immensely powerful program for planning and running your games.
It seems that feature was something that got everyone up in arms over at WotC. I guess having an offline tool that could create a database of all the material was too much a threat to their DDI subscription model. I guess that someone saw how a person could get a short term subscription to DDI, be able to get the entire library of WotC monsters and treasure downloaded, and just let the subscription lapse.
What gets me into a twist is that if WotC got off their ass and provided us with something remotely useful to planning our sessions like Masterplan, most folks would likely keep up their DDI subscription. We are getting close to 2 years post release for 4E, and still nothing as helpful like Masterplan is available by WotC.
Instead you’ve got third parties making programs that offer a suite of functional tools for the DM, all for no profit, and all as a little project they likely do in their free time. Masterplan offers a way to plan out your game sessions, create handouts for players, map out a dungeon using tiles, and even tools to run a combat encounter. WotC should be ashamed that they have not gotten something similar out. They should take a hard look at the teams building the software tools now and consider making personnel changes, hopefully with a few layoffs.
Or maybe they need to face up to the fact that the entire DDI bit is a half baked idea. They’ve not put the financial (and labor) resources behind making it an attractive feature for a customer. I’ve been using it to access the Dungeon and Dragon magazines only. I’m not rolling up characters every 3 weeks to justify keeping the character builder loaded on my machine. The monster builder is a nice tool, but again, that is something I use so infrequently I haven’t run it in about 3 months.
Where is a map builder program, that can let you drag and drop dungeon tiles, and print out battle maps? Where is a decent encounter builder that can link up to others, have notes for tactics and terrain features, with sections for read aloud text? How about a decent combat encounter manager? Or a simple initiative tracker? How about a random treasure parcel generator that can let me pick what types of armor, weapons and such to selected as potential items?
All of these programs can be found online. Developed by people that love the game, and are putting them without a profit. How the hell can WotC not have something equivalent out now? Sadly, they likely have not done so since they can’t figure out how to get it working as an online-only tool. Something that requires you to be logged into your DDI subscription to use.
Do us all a favor. Drop the idea WotC. Get us tools now. Allow people with a subscription to have access to the most recent database and just let the whole ‘online with subscription’ model go. Get something out like the functionality of the character builder. An offline program, with the most recent databases available to active subscribers.
There is a reason why people use programs like Masterplan. And that is because you guys have dropped the ball on providing a decent alternative. If you want people to maintain a DDI subscription, then start getting tools out there to make it worth having.