The Brazilian D&D Scheme
According to a Facebook post by Antônio Sá Neto, CEO of Brazillian RPG publisher Redbox, the negotiations for a Portuguese translation of Dungeons & Dragons began on November 28, 2015. Fábio Ribeiro acted as a broker between the small Brazilian company and the international corporation Hasbro. He gathered the heads of four Brazillian RPG and board game publishers: Antônio de Sá of Redbox, Diego Bianchini of Meeple BR, Fábio Ribeiro of Rigo Logística and João Barcelos of Fire on Board.
The three companies agreed to join forces for the massive task ahead and form a joint venture called FMR (the initials for Fire, Meeple and Red). Its sole purpose would be to publish D&D in Brazil.
After many months of meetings, emails, projects and forms, the licensing process in Seattle stopped. They discovered that British company Gale Force Nine, a partner of Hasbro/Wizard since the D&D launch, was itself acting as a mediator, negotiating foreign language publishing contracts on behalf of Wizards of the Coast.
Members of the joint venture then appointed João Barcelos, owner of Fire on Board, as the person responsible for negotiating the D&D license for FMR. The negotiations took place during 2016, culminating in an in-person meeting between FMR and GF9 in October 20th, during the Spiel Essen convention in Germany. Antônio, João, Fábio and Diego represented FMR and Gordon and Matthew represented GF9. The different parties met and FMR was made sure that the contract was coming through, but it would require extremely tight deadlines. All that was missing was the contract currently being drafted by the parent company (Wizards of the Coast). Assurances were made that it would be done “soon”.
With that positive response and assurances, FMR members set about the process of formally opening the company, assigning responsibilities and getting started on the translation and revision work. The board met in Niterói on November 5, 2016. Many subjects were discussed, including prices, workflow, branding of the new company and, most importantly, the assignment of tasks. The Redbox team (the only one with actual RPG publishing experience) was made responsible for the editorial part of the product – translation, revising, layout and graphics. They started the process, hiring professional translators, revisors and a supervisor with experience on RPGs. The board members agreed on a price for the services and all contributed with a set amount to pay the professionals. João Barcelos of Fire on Board among them.
The hired professionals started working. The Wizards contract never seemed to materialize. João Barcelos reported on his meetings with GL9 with vague sentences like “They’re very tired from a con. We’ll talk again next week”. A new deadline was set for the contract – sometime in January. Then came February, and a new deadline was set. The board came across the information that Fire on Board was announcing itself as the “Brazilian D&D publisher” to boost sales deals. Seeing as it was agreed that FMR would publish it, board members asked João Barcellos and FoB to stop that line of advertising. João promised that he was sorry and would stop doing it.
On the day the contract was supposed to be signed, FoB sent a vaguely legal email to the others. The email said that FoB was no longer interested in the project and would remove itself from FMR. The other members were left completely dumbfounded, with zero information about their motives or what that meant for the entire deal. They contacted GF9 and received a brusque reply: “Fire on Board has already signed the Brazilian Portuguese D&D contract. We were not informed of anything else beside that. Have a good day”.
Then, on March 21st, Wizards of the Coast announced their global deal through Gale Force Nine to license localized D&D translations. Their Brazilian distributor was announced to be Fire on Board Jogos represented by João Barcelos. Antônio de Sá of Redbox exposed the entire scheme in a Facebook post, shared by 762 people by the time of this publication. FoB announced that they had always been the sole agent in the deal with GF9, and that they had merely consulted other Brazilian companies about “some help on this big project”. They went on to say that there was never any deal between the Brazilian companies, and that the meeting in Niterói never amounted to anything solid (despite admitting to having paid a portion of the translation and revision jobs). The release repeatedly cites “trust issues” and “obstacles” preventing a partnership with those companies, but fails to elaborate on them. It goes on with “We have decided to not start anything with such companies” and “We let those companies know we wouldn’t make any deal with them” before finally coming to “We won’t respond to ‘envious’ hashtags. That is not who we are and we don’t do that kind of thing”. It also hilariously cites “We have worked hard to bring D&D to Brazil. We made several Fortitude saving throws to avoid levels of exhaustion”, referencing a rule that does not exist on the RPG he’s working so hard at.
People started talking and suggesting that Redbox should take legal action. Fábio Ribeiro of Rigo Logística issued a personal statement vouching for Antônio’s allegations. Then Diego Bianchini of Meeple BR (the “M” of FMR) issued a release on his company’s Facebook page, reaffirming each point presented by Antônio. The release explicitly expressed that “FoB acted in bad faith, directly signing the licensing contract by themselves, going against previous signed agreements and in blatant disregard of legal concepts”. It ended with “Finally, we reserve our right to take legal action. We keep being confident in our simple, but honest work”.