“It’s a surreal day when a top tier gaming company steals your sh*t.”
Bethesda has announced that they’re investigating claims of plagiarism related to a marketing initiative for the upcoming ESO expansion Elsweyr.
In an effort to promote the new Elder Scrolls Online update, Bethesda’s Netherlands studio published an unnamed ESO-themed tabletop RPG adventure based on the rules for the fifth edition of Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons. However, it was more than just some basic rules that the studio appeared to copy – it was almost an entire adventure from 2016.
Originally spotted after Bethesda promoted the tabletop scenario on the ESO Facebook page (that has since been removed) and reported by Ars Technica, the adventure mirrors multiple aspects of the 2016 Adventurer’s League scenario “The Black Road.” While certain elements of D&D’s core rules are available to designers via what’s known as the Open Gaming License – originally published by WotC so that people could create and publish their own Dungeons and Dragons content – those protections do not extend to the content of adventures themselves. The Black Road was written using D&D 5e rules for a 5e game – as an official part of the Storm King’s Thunder adventure path – by Ben Heisler and Paige Leitman, and remains protected under copyright laws.
Leitman originally responded to the alleged plagiarism in the comments of the now-deleted Facebook post, while Heisler remarked on the issue on his Twitter account, saying “It’s a surreal day when a top tier gaming company steals your shit.”
Bethesda has since announced on both its Twitter and Facebook profiles that they “have pulled a previously shared ESO tabletop RPG adventure while we investigate the source,” though all of the materials can still be found on Dropbox.
For more legitimate licensed tabletop coverage, why not check out our impressions of The Witcher tabletop RPG, or if you’re new to the tabletop community, check out some suggestions for which RPG is right for you.
JR is a Senior Editor of Features at IGN, and really loves D&D – maybe a little too much. He often expresses this love on Twitter.