June 10, 2010

D&D Insider and Ethics

The D&D Insider is simply awesome for running a 4E game. The Character Builder makes creating a character a snap. Supplemental information is within easy reach; no more searching through five books looking for a specific power. The Monster Builder makes creating encounters super easy. The Dragon and Dungeon magazines have a lot of useful things within them (right now I am plundering Dungeon adventures for my new 4E sandbox campaign that is starting this week).

The Character and Monster Builder are updated monthly (though the Monster Builder seems to missing a few updates). A subscriber is allowed 5 updates during a month; this number resets back to 5 at the beginning of the next month. This is where a possible question of ethics comes in.

If a GM has the D&D Insider subscription, is he allowed to share his log-in information with his players, thus allowing them access to the benefits of his subscription?

At first glance the answer is no, he is not allowed to share his subscription. He is a single individual and thus is the only person allowed to use the benefits of the subscription. You can probably stretch this to allow the players to create and update their characters on the GM’s computer.
Relating this to music CDs, this would be similar to letting a guest put the latest Snow Patrol music CD into the CD player and hitting play. The questionable part comes in when you allow the guest to burn a copy of the music CD and then let him take it home with him to be played at his leisure. It’s the issue of a single commodity (and single purchase) potentially being used at the same time in separate locations.

This leads to a question involving intent. Is it ok to let your players use the GM’s subscription to D&D Insider if all they are going to do is update their characters that will be used in the GM’s game? The intent is to remove the chores of character advancement and allow for more gameplay time at the table.

Assuming you think this is acceptable behavior, this leads to other questions...
Should one of those players be allowed to use parts of the subscription that do not relate to the GM’s game?
What if the GM and one of the players swap GM duties for an extended period of time? Should the former player now be required to get his own subscription?
What if a player starts his own campaign without the GM (who pays the subscription fee) participating?
Can a play group pool their money and collectively get a subscription and then all make use of the subscription?
Can a player purchase the subscription and then allow his GM to make use of it for the campaign the GM is running for the player?

Is a D&D Insider subscription a group purchase or an individual purchase?

How have you and your group handled these questions?


Wickedmurph said...

I have a DDi subscription, as do several of my players. A number of others don't, though, so I provide them with my username/password so that they can update their character builder.

I'm quite sure that WotC intended this to be the case, as they allow you to update character builder multiple times each month with each DDi subscription.

If my players want to use my subscription info to check out the subscriber stuff on the website, more power to them. But then, I trust my players - not everybody might want to do that.

srvenable said...

Clearly, if someone borrows my computer and uses the software on it, they are not violating any laws. To think otherwise would be tantamount to saying "I'm going to play this new CD, so everyone please clear the room so you can't hear the copyrighted material I alone have purchased."

With regards to multiple installations of the Char Builder and Adventure Tools, that's a little more confusing. It *seems* that WotC is enabling limited software sharing by allow 5 installations per account. I'm sure the EULA prohibits software sharing, but they seem to be sending mixed messages.

anarkeith said...

As it is presented to users, a DDI subscription seems to be designed for use by multiple players. Based on the usefulness of the product to me as a DM, I'm happy to "host" the subscription. I did, however, mention the annual fee to my players and give them the option to pitch in to the cost if they so desired.

Ethically, I don't have a problem with this. The product seems designed for this type of use. If that was not WotC's intent, I feel that the burden is on them to redesign the product to encourage other methods of usage.

Callin said...

Playing Devil's Advocate here, but my understanding of the 5 updates per month was designed in part to allow for a subscriber to be able to use the service if...
...the software got corrupted and he had to reinstall.
...the owner's computer required a wipe and reinstall for other issues.
...they offered a mid-month patch or content.

However, 5 is a very lenient number so some could infer it was meant to be used by more than just the subscriber.

Anonymous said...

Whenever WotC patches an application mid-month they reset the number of downloads you are allowed to five.

Anonymous said...

I take the five updates to mean up to five computers per subscription. Since my buddy and I split the cost, we share an account. Though I would certainly look into it for our college organization if they were to offer a group licensing option.

Anonymous said...

The subscription fee is ridiculously high ($10/mo?!)

Some of my players pirate the builder with updates outright. Some use my login. I don't care what they use it for after that.

I'm buying enough books and overpriced minis to have paid for their fractional usage of the character builder. I feel sufficiently justified in our piracy.