No more Dungeonscape

Closed TrapdoorAt least, not as originally planned. Trapdoor carefully worded its announcement with passive language, just saying that the two companies “will no longer be working together to develop DungeonScape for Fifth Edition D&D, and we will not be releasing the product in its current form.” But Wizards of the Coast wrote a little more actively, taking the responsibility for ending the relationship.

Of course I feel bad for the staff at Trapdoor. A small startup with no cash flow losing their only major client will inevitably have to let some people go. That has happened to me several times in my life. It disrupts everything and, in some situations, can cause major trauma to a person or a family. My heart goes out to anyone who’s affected by this.

As a participant in the web beta, I only ever saw the character generator. It worked decently (modulo one or two relatively straightforward bugs) as long as you were following the Player’s Handbook directly. They didn’t yet have full support for customization like player-developed backgrounds, which the PHB explicitly allows on page 125. But Dungeonscape’s chief selling point didn’t really have much to do with character generation anyway. They have talked about some tech called The Story Machine to parse sourcebooks directly without manually entering all the data and statblocks, which certainly seems feasible. Possibly the as-yet-unreleased “public license” from WotC, telling players what we can and cannot do with our home-developed material, somehow interfered with this.

So I speculate that the problem has to do with the revenue and pricing model. Trapdoor has always carefully avoided any public discussion about it, and I always had the impression that was because WotC had not agreed with them on things. With the end of October upon us, it seems that they’d reached some sort of impasse.

Here’s hoping that Trapdoor can take their core Story Machine technology and do something cool with it. And here’s hoping WotC’s public license comes out soon and doesn’t completely kill the momentum for digital tools they’ve already interrupted.