Saturday, 23 April 2022

[BLOG] Wizards of the Coast Fucks Over Hungarian D&D Licensee and Treats D&D Fans Like Crap

For Realz Now
This is kind of a long and convoluted story, but this is a good time and place to share it. The video below (audio in the Hungarian, captions in English) provides a good summary of how Wizards of the Coast screwed the small publisher responsible for D&D 5e's Hungarian translation, and in turn our small but enthusiastic D&D fandom. 

In short, Tuan Publishing, a local publisher of fantasy novels and games, obtained a license to publish 5e in a local translation. As other overseas properties, the deal was made through Gale Force Nine, a large international game company. Tuan, much unlike previous license holders, did a jolly good job on their translation. They put out a well-received Starter Set, and completed a translation of the core books that was not only up to license standards, but assisted and advised by a body recruited from Hungarian D&D fans as well. But the books, despite being textually approved, pre-ordered by numerous fans, and ready to print, never came out.

See, WotC and Gale Force Nine had an argument over the profits from these overseas distribution deals, and basically blackmailed each other by holding the licenses hostage, and refusing to approve them for printing. Perhaps this sort of lawfare is chump change for major international players, but it is really not chump change for a small outfit like Tuan. Still, they kept a good faith approach, and waited, along with the enthusiastic fans. What happened, though, was treachery: GF9 and WotC reached a settlement, but from this point on, simply stonewalled all communications with Tuan Publishing. Wizards of the Coast assumed responsibility for publishing D&D in four major languages (German, Italian, Spanish, and French), while not even deigning to send an official communication to the Hungarian licensee. And so it continues, with everything left hanging. The translation, created with much care and effort, is hanging in legal limbo due to a petty legal squabble between warring publishing giants. You can get the details from the video below (yes, Kildar really does speak that fast; it is his secret superpower).


I do not usually comment on new D&D: it is a fine game I do not really care about, and I have made peace with this situation. This, however, is scummy because it harms honest dealers and enthusiastic RPG fans. Shame on Wizards of the Coast and shame on Gale Force Nine for this charade, and for mistreating a Hungarian game company and Hungarian gamers. For a company that bloviates all day every day about doing the right thing, they sure don’t mind fucking over the little guy when it is convenient for them. You know, when it is not a matter of virtue signalling about adventuring wheelchairs or hashtag politics, but following a business contract and serving a fan base, even if it is not your main bread and butter.

This is, naturally, par for course for the rainbow pony brigade. And obviously, them being a large company and Tuan being a small one in a small country, they can get away with it.

And still. Is this really a company you want to give your dollars to? Is this a publisher you can trust? Or, if by accident you are a small RPG publisher in another country reading this, who had thought of dealing with these guys: can you afford being next? Right.

Food for thought.


17 comments:

  1. I am shocked, SHOCKED to learn that wokeness is functioning as a smokescreen to conceal the psychopathic extortionate behaviour of large corporations.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Something different, but oddly similar, happened here in Spain.

    D&D, since 3.x, was licensed by Devir, a boardgame company that edited RPG (mainly said D&D). When 5e arrived finally the license was acquired by Edge, another boardgame company, but this far more invested in RPG's (but infamous for only translating a couple of books of each RPG, focusing on translating 'basic books' and nothing more).

    Edge was doing a very good job with D&D (they translated the core books, cards, adventures, starter sets, etc) but then this squabble between Wizards and Gale Force Nine happened. And Edge lost the right to license D&D AND, I assume, the right of their own translations because now Wizards is licensing the 5e in spanish directly, using the Edge translation (with a couple of minor corrections here and there) without crediting the translators, at least in the Essential Kit.

    Something strange is happening and I simply can't bother anymore. I think that these kinds of practices are awful for everyone involved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Something different, but also the same thing. What Nirkhuz said happened in Spain, but also the third paragraph of this blog post happened almost to the letter with us. The pace of publication during the last year of the Spanish license wasn't Edge's fault, I can tell you that.

      Delete
    2. Interesting - I didn't know this extended to other licenses as well. You can definitely see a pattern there.

      Delete
  3. They should stick a copy of the OGL in the back & push 'Print'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A good idea in theory, but in practical terms not terribly feasible. They'd have to go through EVERYTHING and remove everything derived from the actual 5e rulebooks.
      WOTC would probably sue them regardless.

      Delete
  4. WOTC is the the epitome of everything horrible about modern RPG design and contemporary woke capitalism. I'm not surprised at all. And someday I'll tell you what I really think...

    But I'm interested in the language question. What % of Hungarian RPG people are fluent or close-to-fluent in English? Assuming similar pricing, availability and production values, what would be the probable sales breakdown between the Hungarian vs. the English versions? If one (a Hungarian) WERE fluent in English, would one be more likely to purchase the English version (because it was "original") or the Hungarian version (because it was Hungarian)?

    Apologies if these questions seem ignorant or silly. I'm a lazy American who has never seriously studied a foreign language (except on and off for a few dead ones), so I really have no idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was a lot of discussions like this, in the fandom, boards, Facebook groups, and with the publisher as well. And most of the answers are guesswork.
      A significant portion of current Hungarian RPG players do speak good English. The question is: if there is quality, modern, mainstream games available in Hungarian, would you be able to reach people who are CURRENTLY not RPG people? It seems to me, DnD 5e did manage to this in the English-speaking world, and did help in newer generations of rpg people getting involved.
      That being said, there are games available in Hungarian. A few patent Hungarian games, from our very own Melan's games of course, to much larger, corporate-published ones (there is especially one popular game, MAGUS, from the early nineties, which had and still has a huge fanbase, even though it has not been properly supported for 10-20 years, partly due to legal squabble among the IP holders). There are also some translations happening - Tuan who was screwed over DnD is now publishing Cyberpunk RED, there are also other players in the field coming out with staff, there is even a very dedicated guy running a one-man publishing company who keeps coming up with translated (and all officially licenced) games from very small indie ones to surprisingly significant ones (like Trail of Cthulhu, or now with City of Mist).
      So, there are alternatives in Hungarian, DnD 3.0 was also published in Hungarian many years ago. But, I think, it would have been very good for the community if 5e, this more modern, mainstream, popular thing actually appeared in the market, with a quality translation. So, I feel pretty devastated now, waiting for good things to happen for a change.

      #releasethehungarian5ephb

      disclaimer: you can't call me an impartial witness about this topic. I was one of the dozen or so enthusiastic fans who were asked to consult Tuan about the translations, and we spent hundreds and hundreds of fun hours refining the raw text, various edited versions, fighting over the perfect translation for bugbears, warlocks, paladins and pocket-dimensions vs demiplanes, or how to best express things like regaining hit points, gaining advantage on a check, or making a save for half damage. And please, don't get me started about imperial vs metric measurements...

      Delete
    2. My work language is English. I'm running a campaign for my friends (language skills varies, most are average) and for my 12-year-old daughter and her two friends.

      For them, it would have been great. I'm translating all important stuff to them, but it takes me time to type, format, print, update after level ups. It would much easiert to buy each of the a Hun PHB and put my time to game prep.

      That is what WotC denied of us. :(

      Delete
    3. Indeed, as the others have written, it is less of an issue than a few decades ago - after all, there is already an active 5e community out there, and they are doing fine with the English rulebooks. But translations are still useful for the aforementioned reasons, and also to have a unified nomenclature - right now, you have a bunch of competing home standards that don't always communicate well.

      We do have concrete data on PHB pre-orders for 7,000 units. That would be a respectable sales number even for a mid-tier US RPG, these days. I think the starter set sold 5,000 copies or so (someone will correct me if I am misremembering).

      This doesn't really affect me on a personal level, but 5e's popularity has been the water that has lifted a whole lot of other ships - it matters for a lot of people, and who knows what'll happen with this positive community energy now.

      Delete
    4. I would think translating the monster names would be fun, fascinating and (for obsessives or perfectionists) potentially maddening. Even more than in other types of translation, I would think there would quite often be no right or perfect answer. Among other things, much of the meaning that we give to some of the monster terms are themselves due to their D&D descriptions - the names themselves being chosen, presumably by whim, perhaps during some 1973 Gygax all-nighter or whatever. For example, as I see it, or in fairness, as the OED sees it, "goblin", "hobgoblin" and "bugbear" are all roughly synonymous or at least have no differences when it comes to size, sneakiness, hairiness, etc. Similarly that devils are lawful and demons are chaotic, or, more to the point, that there is any difference at all between the two terms when describing plural entities, is, as far as I can tell, an invention of D&D. I suppose there's no particular reason why Hungarian might have only one term for them (or three).

      I've spent many happy hours with the online OED ($100 a year and well-worth it). Does Hungarian have an equivalent?

      I assume one could "cheat" simply by seeing what one's predecessors did with translations of Tolkien, the Brothers Grimm and so on. Has Dunsany been translated? I think he pulled "Gnole" out of thin air, and Gygax just replaced the "e" with an additional "l". How many monsters could simply be translated with the Hungarian spellings of the English sounds, or is that frowned upon?

      Delete
  5. Take off the WorC logo and references to Hasbro, change the title to “Kazamatak es Sarkanyok” (or whatever) and publish it as a book with no textual copyright infringement or use of trademark.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I assume the licensee is specifically prevented from similar tricks with a non-compete clause... it would have happened in the 1990s (and it did!), but you can't get away with that kind of stuff anymore. Mostly for the better, of course.

      I have been fortunate enough to be able to publish "Kazamaták és Kompániák" (Dungeons and Companies), a fine B/X variant, though, and my own games will get second editions this and next year. But this is a small segment of the hobby, and obviously cannot compete with a major international property.

      Delete
  6. Also important to mention that D&D5E became the giant gorilla of the hobby. We have CP Red, Fantasy AGE and some other games coming in Hungarian, but they are under the radar. When someone sees D&D podcasts and actual plays, they will want to play THAT game with warlocks with invocations, paladins smiting, rogues sneak attacking and all. You can't bypass it, when it has such a strong online presence. No Pathfinder, Savage Worlds or anything else can compete with that. :(

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'll make sure to buy something from Tuan, hopefully it will help.

    ReplyDelete