Bethesda's Promotional "Elsweyr" Tabletop RPG May Have Plagiarized a D&D Campaign

Bethesda's free ESO tabletop campaign looks very similar.

Bethesda's Elder Scrolls Online is about to release its next expansion, "Esweyr." To celebrate, the company released a promotional Elder Scrolls-themed tabletop RPG campaign. Only, seasoned Dungeons & Dragons players immediately saw similarities between Bethesda's campaign and one published by Wizards of the Coast back in 2016.

As reported by Ars Technica, Bethesda's pen-and-paper Elder Scrolls "Elsweyr" campaign was published on Tuesday over at Bethesda's official Facebook page. The campaign was courtesy of Bethesda Netherlands.

However, comments began to fill with D&D players who saw similarities between "Elsweyr" and the 2016 D&D campaign "The Black Road" written by Paige Leitman and Ben Heisler. Bethesda's Facebook post has since been removed.

What kind of similarities did D&D players recognize? One of the D&D writers, Paige Leitman, published their own Facebook post (which too has been taken down) comparing the two campaigns. While there are plenty of word substitutions, the overall campaigns read very similar.

Here's a passage from ESO's Campaign:

"Traveling in the Elsweyr Desert is slow, hot and full of sizzling heat from the sun. There are no clouds, no promise of water. Kal'reem likes to start moving well before sunrise, when the full glory of the sun makes the dunes look like diamonds."

And here's a passage from Part 2. Into the Desert from D&D's "The Black Road"

"Travel in the Anauroch desert is slow, hot, and full of blistering sun. There are no clouds, no promise of water anywhere. Azam likes to start moving well before sunrise, when the moon's full glory makes the dunes look like mountains of diamonds."

Leitman told Ars Technica that they have "no comment until both authors have a chance to fully discuss it and understand the ramifiations." Meanwhile Bethesda published a new Facebook post today announcing it has pulled the tabletop RPG and will "investigate the source."

It's unclear how this was allowed to happen considering some of the available evidence shows pretty clear similarities between Bethesda's tabletop campaign and the D&D campaign from 2016. The rules regarding copyright in games are murky (as evinced by the Fortnite dance controversy), but less so for plagiarism.

ESO's Elsweyr expansion is set to launch on May 20 for PC and consoles.

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