There appear to be legal issues standing in the way of Baldman Games being able to release Chapter 3 onwards of the Ashes of Athas campaign for private play. I do not know what would have changed between Chapters 1 & 2 and Chapters 3 onward however I am not a lawyer.
This has been going on for at least 6 mths, speculation is because WotC is too busy with other things. I don't think that the development team would be involved in legal matters so I'm not sure what they (legal) would be so busy doing?
Personally as someone who fully supported 4e and the DS setting, this is another example of WotC just not caring at all anymore for the fans of the current edition and losing whatever goodwill you have had with me.
Any details on this? Oh Wizards, trying to crack down on organized events like this will only hurt you, not promote you
I did not get in on the AoA campaign, and it is no longer available from the start, but I would like for all my fellow Dark Sun enthusiasts to keep getting AoA.
DoctorNecrotic, I heartily agree with you.
I couldn't agree more.
Especially with the eventual changeover to DDNext and the recent slackening in Dark Sun products...the AoA type stuff is exactly the only thing that will keep interest in the setting high and the community vibrant. Cannot imagine how it makes WOTC's property more value to prevent people from getting excited with/engaged with it.
[Please WotC straighten out whatever legal issues exist between you and the AoA group.]
My name is Feetz and I support this thread.
For all of those who like darksun (and DS4e) I sign for you all.
Unfortunatly, looks like they will do to DS4 what happened to DS2 when DS3 never happened. DS5 won't exist... (but I hope not).
All hail to the athas.org team who kept the setting alive for all those years in 3.0 and 3.5!
Btw, I find it's rather stupid not to allow new peoples to be able to start AoA from the beginning as well. My gaming group would surely have been interested.
Design team has already mentioned that DS 5th edition will happen. The thought of lawsuits over D&D material that is not makeing designers money is silly as it does keep people involved when they are slacking on releasing of new material.
Just wanted to add my voice to others expressing interest in overcoming whatever issues have stalled the release of Ashes of Athas material. I'd like to run these fine adventures form the beginning at a local game store. Of course, Ill take what I can get, starting from whatever chapter.
Wizards of the Coast, if you're listening, please take a look at this issue and work with the folks of Ashes of Athas to help us gamers out. We can sell some more 4E Dark Sun books if we can get this content out.
Thanks to the good folks at Ashes of Athas for their efforts thus far.
I remember the good ole days when you could find homemade modules and characters all over the internet. I realize that there were some bad eggs out there but this kind of thing only helped sales. Not sure why open source stuff can't be out there as long as folks are not trying to make money on it
One day I want to make a database of all my old DM materials. I wish I could do that without having it be either a money sink or filled with unsorted fluff. Sections for every different Roleplaying game with sub-categories.
My Dark Sun campaign had so many NPCs I created that I actually had to make a giant word document for the guy taking my place as DM. His response, "I think I'll just start a Forgotten Realms game".
Hey DERH, mind sending me that files by email?
I'm rather curious!
Just PM me I will send my email over.
This is one of those events that can't be explained simply. What I can most easily state with absolute certainty is that this is in no way "WotC just not caring at all anymore for the fans of the current edition".
I'll do my best to recount what I believe to be the situation. I'm an admin, but I'm often not involved in direct discussions. Because of that, some of what is written below may be incorrect.
Phase 1: Con Only
The original concept for Ashes of Athas was a convention-only program. Chapters of three adventures, released at D&DXP (Winter Fantasy), Origins, and Gen Con. We started that way, but there was enough interest and support that at some point Wizards agreed to consider additional distribution.
Phase 2: Distribution Window
The decision was to allow distribution of the adventures through other conventions and also to allow a narrow distribution window for home play. Distribution would be through Baldman's site, confined to a narrow time-frame of one month after a chapter had run at two of the main conventions. Chapter One ran at D&DXP and then at Origins, then was available for a one-month period of time. Gamers could go to the Baldman site, request the adventures, and receive them some time after that. After a month, the window closed. The same happened for Chapter Two.
Phase 3: No Distribution
I'm not entirely sure what happened, but at some point either the popularity of the program or the discussions we were having with WotC about larger distribution opportunities had the opposite effect and created worries that caused a ceasing of distribution. There are two concerns that I consider the most likely. The first is quality. When an entity (Baldman Games and volunteers) is providing content, there is the chance that the content may be perceived as coming from WotC in its entirety, and that any problems with the content would be attributable to WotC. In an extreme case, imagine something really bad and how it would play out if we put that in an adventure and then someone felt Wizards condoned that. In a less extreme case, someone might dislike something, perhaps finding it to be of low quality, and attribute that to Wizards. One option would be to have WotC professionally edit and develop the content, but it seems very likely that there is far too much content for that to be cost-effective. I've had the pleasure of working on Dark Sun content for DDI, and I can say with certainty that Wizards staff are really at the top of their game. Their development and editing is better than ours. At the same time, I think that fans are okay with that (as they are with Living Forgotten Realms, which sees distribution through specific channels).
The second likely concern is intellectual property. There is often at Wizards a concern that allowing any distribution can weaken the brand or WotC's ownership. I don't frankly feel this concern is valid, but it could perhaps be an issue.
There is no question that the lack of distribution has hurt our campaign. Gamers at Gen Con 2011 showed up in huge numbers, but having largely having played the previous chapters. That was no longer the case at Gen Con 2012. Very few gamers can attend even two of the major conventions and that means they fall behind. Our campaign is story-driven, so it hurts play when DMs and players are not connected to the story. Most players of Chapter 6 adventures had not played Chapter 4 or Chapter 5.
If you read the editorial for the Dark Sun month of DDI, heard the mentions of the program in official podcasts, or have been to conventions where Wizards staff love wearing Ashes of Athas T-Shirts, you can see the the support that Wizards shows our campaign. Unfortunately, a developer might really dig the campaign, but they aren't in the team that deals with distribution concerns. So, while overall there is a lot of support for AoA, somehow we have this issue within WotC. The AoA admin team, Baldman Games, WotC Organized Play, we are all working on resolving this issue. It isn't simple, for various reasons.
What Doesn't Help
Badmouthing Wizards doesn't help at all, and isn't accurate. WotC's concerns aren't at all about not wanting us to have great games. They are actually about ensuring that we always get great games. Illegal distribution doesn't help (and we are really glad to have not seen any... thank you!).
What Does Help
Showing your interest in seeing AoA's adventures distributed helps. In particular, it is great to hear the reasons why you want to see the AoA campaign become available. It may also be helpful if you are fine with this not being officially edited and developed by WotC, and if you are okay with this offering having a slightly lower quality as a result. Communicating here, via Customer Service, in-person when you see Wizards staff at conventions... all could be effective.
In the meantime, the admins are staying focused on this issue. We really believe it is important for these adventures to be distributed. This is arguably the longest Dark Sun campaign ever created for the setting. It ties one other, but that one really doesn't have a coherent story. We think this campaign will create great value for Wizards of the Coast customers not just for 4E but for the brand well into the future.
Regardless, we are working on Chapter 7, which will premiere at Winter Fantasy in January. We believe it will be a fantastic part of the campaign!
Great post--thanks for spending the time to explain things in detail.
I hear WotC's concerns on the first point. Although I feel the AoA adventures have been top-quality in terms of story, creativity, play, etc., they are not copy-edited to the level a professionally published product is. While I've spotted typos and such in WotC products in the past--and we all remember things like the +18 attack bonus tareks from Marauders of the Dune Sea--generally they adhere to professional standards of copy editing. There are far more errors in AoA than would be acceptable in a printed product.
I get it: if the AoA products were published by a professional corporation, they'd have hired a professional copy editor to give them the once-over before putting them into print, and Baldman Games simply doesn't have resources like that.
However (and this also addresses the second point), I think that over the past decade or more, the customer base for RPGs has evolved in their outlooks so that not all products for a certain rules system are automatically thought of as part of the core company. Wasn't that the point of open-source systems like d20? Consumers would become conoisseurs of the game, and would think, "I really like the adventures Baldman puts out" and "I think Kobold Games' adventures are really crappy" without lodging the idea of WotC = crappy (or even WotC = great) in their minds. And I think that worked--look what happened with Paizo and Pathfinder.
So it seems a real step backwards into a 1980s mindset when WotC's business department puts such a massive stranglehold on AoA. (I'm remembering how Nintendo would refuse to "certify" some company's NES cartridges). The risks Alphastream mentioned seem quite minor (especially if you think about open-source gaming) compared to the actual consequences of what happened: Dark Sun as a brand has assuredly been diminished by not having AoA out there, winning fans to the setting (and to the system; I only purchased 4E rulebooks when I heard Dark Sun, which I loved in 2E, was getting a 4E release. That's hundreds of bucks WotC got from me they would never have otherwise earned).
Anyway, again, thanks for the thoughtful post.
Thanks for the update Alpha but here is what drives me and maybe others absolutely nuts:
I can definately sympatheize with this being a complex matter, but the lack of communication from WotC and Baldman is what has made this expereince frustrating from the standpoint of being exposed to some great content only for it to stop with very little explanation. Why do people need to be up in arms before we get any facts on the matter if there is alot of support from within WotC as well?
Thinking like Chancellor Palpatine:
Please work your contacts within WotC and get some people from Legal (or whatever section is being blamed for the hangup) to come visit you at Winter Fantasy.
This way they can see AoA in action and send favorable reports back to Headquarters. Objective: break up the logjam.
Then (late in the weekend) WE can get our hands on them.
Life on Athas is tough, man...
Guess I'll be the first one to ask, what happened to the Baldman games site? I've been trying to check on any info about the modules for ashes of athas on their site and now it seems like the whole site is M.I.A.
Just stopping by to voice my support for having the adventures distributed. I've read the concerns that Teos posted and I don't think they are valid, especially the worries that any bad content would reflect badly on WotC. After all, they already have that potential scenario now with convention play. Illegal distribution? That can happen already too.
I have a lot of local players who are huge Dark Sun fans but cannot attend conventions because of family and work schedules. I would love to run Ashes of Athas for them, but the convention-only restrictions and then the removal of the ability to play at home makes it impossible for me to do that. I would love to get home access to the AoA campaign adventures!
I am a big fan of the Dark Sun setting and the Ashes of Athas campaign. My ability to attend gaming conventions is limited by work and family so playing at home is very important to me. Please allow Ashes of Athas for home play so that myself and many of my friends can finish the campaign. Allowing play of these adventure is good for Wizards as it encourages people to play D&D, buy the Dark Sun books, and subscribe to DDI to read the Dark Sun articles. In addition, it's good public relations to embrace your fan community. It's a win for everyone.
I'm greatly concerned by the sense of direction that has been displayed by the publisher. I love the game, I love the products - but by eliminating small-scale products like the Ashes of Athas campaign (which Wizards maintains only a very tiny overhead for, as the authors are unpaid) it only hampers a very viable growth sector for the product line as a whole.
I own a gamestore, and I've written some things for both LFR and Ashes of Athas. I love them both, but if a player comes into my store and asks if I can get a copy of the Dark Sun Campaign Setting so that they can be better prepared for Ashes of Athas or another homebrew game, I have to tell them no. The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting? Great material, but one of my warehouses recently closed them out due to have too many copies left over (all from the first printing).
I can agree with the initial outlook that Wizards and the AoA admins shared when the campaign began - as a convention-only storyline. By overlapping the storylines (chapter 1 and 2 at DDXP, then 2 and 3 at the next show, then 3 and 4 after that), players were empowered to be a part of the ongoing storyline but could afford to skip a major show. The ability to download missing adventures at a later date was a great addition and outside the scope of the original vision; I was incredibly pleased when this happened.
But then nothing more happened, and there was no further communication on it. Dark Sun evokes a powerful, visceral response from gamers once the subject is explained to them. Dark Sun sells books. Providing adventure materials helps us sell books, and selling books in turn encourages the publisher to create more new materials.
I write this with no small amount of dismay, but please don't think that I'm "knocking" or "bad-mouthing" Wizards. I'm concerned that clear communication has not been given, and that we have been left to such a device as a public forum post as a plea for help.
I also would like to check these out, but I don't really get why they don't make these regularly available to the public. None of the excuses make any sense, to be honest. These are very niche products, and they aren't for sale in the first place, so I will just politely ask for them to make them available so that the few of us left out here that are really curious can check them out.
Waiting on Wizards to help with anything distribution-wise seems pointless. Quite frankly, they aren't doing anything of note to promote your program that you couldn't do yourself. What, are they all of a sudden going to distribute your year-old one-shot 4e convention adventures on the main site? Seems incredibly doubtful. That Wizards mentioned you in a podcast one day a year ago, or wore a t-shirt one afternoon does not seem a very good reason not to make these available to the few people that even care. So, my fear is that you guys entered into some sort of contractual agreement with them. I hope you didn't, but I fear you did.
It sounds like you guys were hoping for a bigger partnership that involved Wizards doing more to promote your stuff. I am sorry that didn't work out. I still want to check out your adventures; maybe one day I will be able to. But to imply that anyone reading it would somehow confuse it with a Wizards product is, I'm sorry, laughable. We are not knuckle-dragging Cro-Magnons, and can certainly fathom the production credits of an adventure.
You guys will ultimately need to make these available for download yourselves, on your own site, in order for anyone besides convention-goers to get to read them. I know you have spent a lot of effort writing them and developing the program, so you honestly deserve to have them read by more than just a handful of people. Hopefully Wizards will release you from whatever nightmarish agreement you apparently made with them, and allow you to distribute your material.
Wizards, please allow these great modules to available to more people. I have had the great fortune to work on these modules and would love for others to be able to have access to them other than the conventions. Thanks!
I'll add my support to getting these products into the hands of interested gamers. Our plans to play 4E Dark Sun stalled out because of the lack of support products out there, and something like this would be perfect for gamers like myself who are short on time to develop their own material for settings that don't get as much love like Dark Sun and other niche locales.
Please, make this happen Wizards!
Please add me onto the list of folks who would like to see Ashes of Athas be available for wider distribution. I had a few players in the area who did the first chapters after the conventions where they were released. They were looking forward to doing the other ones as well. Not everyone can travel to two or three conventions each year, and the strong story makes a lot less sense if you skip every second or third chapter.
Another thing to think about in terms of WOTC seeing how their clampdown on Ashes of Athas distribution is causing damage to their own brand (much moreso than the argument above that unfettered AoA distribution weakens the brand): older players (those of us in our 30s, let's say) have more income and real willingness to spend it on products, but are much shorter of time than we were in our younger years. We can't travel to conventions or play on a reliable schedule, but are eager to buy Dark Sun products (and that leads to other purchases--for example, I bought Heroes of the Elemental Chaos entirely because of my deepening involvement in the Dark Sun product line), and would like more pre-made adventures we can adapt and use rather than having to make everything up from scratch (a role AoA fills neatly).
Very interested in playing the rest of the Ashes of Athas events, but I organize and volunteer at conventions. After the ludicrus amounts of time I put into making these event happen, there's no time left to play in weeks and days leading up to the conventions. My chance to play these adventures is largely at home games and gamedays later on. Having these events off the website means I won't get a chance to play them.
There should be allowance for use of D&D and it's campaign materials for a shared world campaign. The passion and work of the authors of this campaign can only be considered to be promoting D&D above other game systems. In the diverse and fragmented RPG space we find ourselves, one needs to consider more highly how much your product is used, adored, and promoted as is being done with Ashes of Athas.
I'll add my voice to those who would like to see these adventures continue to be available. They have built an engaging story, drafted by several longtime fans of the setting; I remember talking with Alphastream when he was moderator of the Dark Sun mailing list back in the mid 90's. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or availability to attend RPG conventions, and I know that many others are in the same boat.
I do have the occasion to run home games, or the occasional in-store session, and Ashes of Athas has been perfect for that; it's served as a good introduction to the setting for players who would not have otherwise noticed it; and the shared-campaign aspect of it gives us something in common to talk about; helping to strengthen a community ... and Dark Sun has lived and surivived on the basis of it's community.
I've had the pleasure to run AoA at both conventions and for home play. Not everyone I know can travel to the conventions to play and having the wider distribution was great. Since this is a labor of love and the authors receive no monetary compensation for this it would be great to have this available again.
Please let Scrooge's heart open up and support the people who support you making a living (literally) by buying Wotc products. Myself being high on the list but I will vote with my dollars and find other places to spend my money if decisions like this aren't reversed.
Add my voice too. As one of the original admins and AoA designer, I would love to see this continue for the community.
as a fan of Darksun since 91, I like to see and collect just about everything I can get ahold of. Please add me to the list of people that would like to see AoA distributed.
As an Australian with no chance of ever being able to play the modules at a convention distribution is the only way I can share these modules, one of which I wrote, with other players here in Australia.
There are some excellent modules in the campaign and it is dissapointing that players around the world are unable to enjoy them because of an obfuscated legal concern.
It would be a shame to see everyone's efforts not reach a wider audience, so I to wold love to see this situation remedied.
As a fan of Dark Sun since 94, quoting Flip, I'll also add my voice to those who would like to see these adventures continue to be available. They have built an engaging story, drafted by several longtime fans of the setting.
This member of Clan Beerbiter wholeheartedy supports the release of AoA for home play.
The amount of work spent on these modules is amazing, and they deserve to be shared with a wider audience.
Please give baldman permission to release this content. Most of us can't attend every con, and the alternatives are us missing out on story or the AoA admins cutting back on story, both awful.
I've only gotten chances to play a few bits and pieces of AoA, but I really enjoyed what I played and would love to get a chance to play or run the entire thing. Not sure if adding posts to a forum thread will change anything, but if so I'd really like to see these made available.
I've been lucky enough to get to play most of the Ashes of Athas adventures. However not having the ability for homeplay hurts our number here. There are more people interested but not all can make it to the conventions.
Wizards please allow Baldman Games to distribute these outstanding adventures and stoke the fire for more 4th edition playing!
I had the great privilege to work on these adventures and would love to see the ability for AoA to be downloaded as a home play adventure so everyone can share the interest in Dark Sun. Not everyone has the ability to get to all or sometimes any of the conventions that are available and missing the conventions has hurt the interest since people do not feel like they are necessarily on a continuous adventure, but simply moving through and jumping into some larger storyline.
WOTC has shown interest and support initially by allowing us to create a wonderful storyline, but once the storyline is completed in January it will only be part of Athas's history that a few poeple know about and no one will be able to relive the great set of adventures that everyone had worked on.
Please release the Ashes of Athas adventures for everyone to enjoy!
....this kind of reminds me of the cleansing wars on Athas...no one will really remember it over time! Gotta go the templars are here already.........
Please give Baldman permission to release the AoA adventures. This is a great campaign and storyline that everyone should be allowed to enjoy.
+1 to allowing Baldman to distribute Ashes of Athas.
There's really no downside to it, Wizards guys, it's free advertising, and good PR on your part.
I would really like to see Ashes of Athas distributed! I love seeing more great Dark Sun material for those of us that have waited so many years to see it return!
My group can't attend conventions easily living in a different country. The unavailability of Ashes of Athas adventures for home play makes it impossible for us to run them unless we get home access to the Ashes of Athas adventures. For this its crucial that distribution is maintained.
I hope distribution issues are resolved and Chapter 3 and onward become accessible for homeplay again for those who can't participate in Organized Play programs.
I, too, agree with the sentiments expressed in this thread. Please allow the release of the AoA material.
I would love to see the release of all of AoA material.
I would even purchase a book or pdf that compiles all of the AoA adventures and material at the standard prices.
Eric M. Paquette ( @ericmpaq on twitter )
Unfortunately, I'm not hearing a positive response from Wizards at this time. We'll keep speaking with them and keep you all posted if/when that changes.
My sincere thanks to everyone for their support!
In other news, Baldman Games just opened up judge registration for Winter Fantasy. One way you can get a copy of Chapter 6 and 7 is to judge at the convention. Chapter 7 will feature a way to jump into the campaign even if you have never played before. And, it will have a very huge event taking place on Sunday - so, keep your schedule clear or sign up to judge accordingly.
Thanks for keeping the good fight going Teos.
I guess I keep hoping where there isn't any hope of someone at WotC to address us.
It would be helpful to hear from the actual, official WotC person who is in charge of making the decision--not someone who shrugs and says "it's out of my hands"--to explain what the obstacles are. The silent stonewall from WotC is kind of offensive, while I think a rational explanation would cause people to understand or even agree.
Funny thing is, as it stands now, I almost wish I never got the first two chapters. That way at least I wouldn't really know, how good it really was what I'm missing.
This just continues to highlight WOTC/HASBRO's inability to understand their fanbase. Perhaps this could be a reason why Pathfinder continues to grow and DnD just languishes?
I hope someone is listening.
I'd like to voice my support for AoA homeplay. This is really one of the best published adventures I've ever played and it's a shame my whole group can't participate. Can't wait to play chapters 6 and 7 at Winter Fantasy later this month. I plan to make a plea to every WoTC employee in attendance about this issue, hope the community will join me.
What's the difference between AoA and the Forgotten Realms adventures that are available for distribution?
We are overjoyed to announce that Wizards of the Coast has allowed us to distribute the Ashes of Athas adventures! You can read a first announcement here.
At all steps of our discussion with Wizards, we understood the issues they faced. The issues were not simple, and really they could have easily decided that overall it wasn't worth their time. We thank them for being such fans of the campaign and seeing value in persevering. And we thank all of you for helping make the case that they weren't the only fans - you showed how much you wanted that content!
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