Remember how, back in 2009, Wizards of the Coast pulled all its PDF products from on-line gaming store Paizo and announced it was ceasing PDF sales altogether? Apparently it only took about four years for the company to change its mind again. Wired’s GeekDad reports that WotC has launched a new e-book store site,, in conjunction with on-line RPG e-book seller DriveThruRPG.

The site currently offers over 80 products ranging in age from the old red and blue books up to the latest 4E stuff, with prices ranging from $4.99 for older products to $17.99 for newer stuff. More products are expected to go up as time goes by. Wired reports that these releases are made from new scans of the products. Hopefully they’re better quality than the one I looked at back in 2006. As with WotC’s former sales through on-line RPG sites, the PDFs seem mostly to be watermarked rather than locked down with DRM. (Found via Slashdot.)

At the time WotC ceased the PDF publication, it also sued eight people (including one individual from Poland who insisted his uses were permitted by the laws of his country) for copyright violations in uploading some of its sourcebooks to the Internet. It appears that several months later these cases either were dismissed or ended up with judgements or settlements in five or six figures.

Despite these successes, WotC apparently found the suits were not lucrative enough to continue filing them thereafter (or at least, I haven’t heard of any), and peer-to-peer sharing of gaming products proceeds unabated. The most silly thing is that it took WotC so long to see that they could either take in some money from people who would be willing to pay for their e-books or else get nothing at all while people kept downloading them illegally.

I also find it a little sad that, after all these years, most RPGs are still available electronically only in PDF format—good for printing out, or using on a larger-screened computer, but not best suited to use on the smaller-screened e-readers, tablets, and smartphones currently in broad use. There are occasional exceptions, like Nobilis 3rd Edition, but those are few and far between, and tend to be games that don’t use as many tables as most currently out there do. You would think that by now e-book formatting would be advanced enough that someone would have figured out a way to adapt these games to smaller screens and more flexible formats. Maybe someday someone will.


  1. Part of the reason they’re in PDF only is that there’s no good way to deal with RPG info in other formats. Dedicated ereaders suck at complex navigation, like jumping back and forth between several bookmarks. They don’t have a way to set “the bookmarks you’re going to need all the time” different from “the bookmarks that you’d like to have around, sometimes, for when you want to read that section”… when you go to bookmarks, there they are, all 235 of them–chapters, subchapters, sections, tables, infoboxes, lists…

    There’s also limited support for charts and tables in ereaders, and even computer screens aren’t great with it. At least with those you can zoom to whatever level you need; many ereaders don’t have that option.

    A lot of RPG books have full-page charts. Ereaders don’t have any way to display that well; most of them would just require it to be an unreadable image. There is no “set header row and side column to show up on every page and scroll as necessary” option.

    Ereaders are poor devices for complex reference works, which is what role-playing game books are. There’s been no big movement to convert to epub (or mobi, but let’s not get silly) because there’s no demand for it, because there are no devices that would make an improvement on “open this PDF on your laptop or iPad.”

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