This page lists the most recent journal entries talking about the publishing of roleplaying games. Adventures, settings, the PDF book market, the OGL, and so on.
Self-publishing allows us all to publish stuff cheaply. Many authors would like to see their product to look good, however, and thus they need to pay artists, or they want the quality to be even better, so they need to pay editors and layout people. At first, people called this a pre-order. Pre-orders are just that: You order a product and pay for it. The author promises to start working on it and hopes that enough people will pre-order it to make it all worth while.
This is how Frog God Games is still selling their big books. It’s how they sold Slumbering Tsar as well as the Tome of Horrors Complete editions for Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry. I have pre-ordered all three! By now I’ve received nearly all of the PDF files (some chapters of Slumbering Tsar are still missing), so things seem to be working out. Let’s hope the printed products make it across the Atlantic ocean unharmed.
Pre-order doesn’t always work out. Frog God Games is run by Bill Webb who was one of the founders of Necromancer Games. Others, with less experience, have tried to do the same thing and failed. As Jim of Lamentations of the Flame Princess says: DON’T DO PREORDERS.
I was bitten by pre-orders myself with the Razor Coast delays. The solution, apparently, is a new form of financing very similar to pre-orders. Using services like Kickstarter, customers promise to pre-order as soon as the funding goal is achieved. Thus, if the author thinks he can do it with $2000, and customers promise to pay at least that amount, then their credit cards will be charged the appropriate amount and one would hope that the project then does what it is supposed to do. But that’s in no way guaranteed.
The only benefit this system offers is that it protects everybody from unpopular projects that don’t generate enough pre-orders. Nobody gets charged when the funding goal is not met. The system does not protect customers from authors getting an awesome job. This is what happened to Nicolas Logue, author of Razor Coast.
I’m not sure what to recommend. I appreciate the ability for authors to fund their projects. I appreciate the services that automate some of the aspects of this funding process. But it doesn’t solve my main problem, namely giving me confidence in the project’s success. We as customers have to share some of the risks.
Traditionally, these two roles are separated. Authors must get venture capital from banks, friends or parents. I think I don’t like the merging of these two roles. After all, banks, friends and parents are usually better placed to get their money back eventually compared to random dudes on the Internet.
What makes this even worse is that sometimes pre-orders are basically the only way to buy the product. In the old days, if you didn’t pre-order you’d just wait for the final product and bought it then. Since authors could not accurately predict demand, they often had enough product to all risk-averse customers.
Sometimes this back-fired for authors. I remember one of the more lavish third party monster manuals for D&D 3.5 was Denizens of Avadnu by The Inner Circle. It was printed just as 4E was being announced. I saw the price fall from $39.95 to $20 to $10. It was terrible.
The physical books by Frog God Games I mentioned above are basically pre-orders only. Apparently the printers will only print in multiples of fifty, and therefore there will be between zero and 49 extra printed copies available for customers that refuse to take any risks.
And yet, it appears to be the only way to get these products made in the first place.
However, the conversion schedule is about to hit a snag. First let me reassure that all of ST including the big book at the end will be coming out, it is done, it is NOT vaporware, but we may not be able to meet our one-a-month guesstimate that we made last summer. I know I said we were still shooting for this a week ago, but the limited FGG resources are getting retasked for the moment…for a good thing, but admittedly not likely to make our loyal ST subscribers happy. For this I apologize. – Greg A. Vaughan 
I still remember the Razor Coast delays. (I got a refund.) Having ordered both The Complete Tome of Horrors and Slumbering Tsar, I don’t feel too good. The sad thing is that the lesson I should be learning here is that I should not pre-order. Unfortunately the reality appears to be that small companies are unable to take financial risks and therefore are unwilling to bet on their products, relying on pre-orders instead.
June 1 is when the pre-ordering for the Swords & Wizardry Tome of Horrors will be ending, and it’s a somewhat important deadline because not very many additional books are going to get printed. – Matt Finch 
In addition to that, I find myself unwilling to spend a lot of money for role-playing game products as I realize how little material I actually read and use – even though I play around ten times every month.
I really need to find a way to disconnect from the market: Not read press releases, not read blog posts eagerly awaiting this product or that, not read forum threads where all the excitement is building.
Strange, that. I used to be proud of myself for having disconnected my television from the networks. No more ads, no more endless zapping, no more longing for useless stuff. And now I find that the web is exhibiting similar properties, except it’s all hidden in social media. Excitement building on Twitter and the blogs, product information reaching me via forums and Facebook, endless zapping on my feed reader, the regular shopping experience in bookstores and malls has been replaced an endless stream of subscriptions, fanzines, eBay purchases, Amazon buys and small-press preorders coming in at an indigestible rate.
Stuff I pre-ordered and now I feel like I should not have done it because I have the D&D 3.5 Monster Manuals I–V and I don’t think I’m going to run Pathfinder or an adventure path any time soon:
Stuff I am subscribed to even though I feel I should cancel:
I’m falling behind in reading the books and I’m not running a Pathfinder game and I have difficulty imagining a way of integrating the adventures into my D&D 3.5 or Labyrinth Lord sandbox – and currently I feel that running a Sandbox is my preferred mode of play.
Stuff I managed to cancel reluctantly because I figured that sticking to Fight On ought to be magazine enough:
Stuff I bought even though I wasn’t sure I needed it since I’m not running a Pathfinder game:
Stuff I managed to avoid even though I was tempted:
Stuff I managed to avoid even though I am still tempted:
I guess writing this list and linking all the stuff was a bit of a penance. Now I feel bad for tempting you, gentle reader.
A package from Lulu arrived today:
Looking forward to some reading.
I really wanted the NOD issue 8 because it’s all about Mu-Pan, Asian themed, using the Ruins & Ronin variant of Swords & Wizardry—and old school Asian role-playing has been on my mind for quite a while now.
Recently I’ve been running some of the Darkness Beneath levels from Fight On!
The party has been exploring the coast and I have decided to have entrances to the various levels all over the place. I have also given them twenty Viking mercenaries sponsored my the local authorities to go and defeat the crab cult. More than half of them have died clearing out the shrine of Garaskis…
RPG Now (aka. DriveThru RPG) is offering print on demand services! And shipping more than three pounds to Switzerland is costing less than $9. I think I like it!
My first order (and apparently I am not the only one who ordered one of these):
|1 x The Great Pendragon Campaign|
- Download Format: None.
- Print Format: Softcover B&W.
|1 x King Arthur Pendragon: Edition 5.1|
- Print Format: Softcover B&W.
|International Shipping (3.363 lbs)|
(Direct Link Lettermail Economy (5-7 working days))
One of the driving forces behind purchase was the solo game on the RPG Corner.
I was talking to some friends the other night. One of the things we do is run a biweekly “systems” RPG night where we try out new rules for one to three sessions. Many of these games are indie games. J. asked me about our Polaris experience. As I wrote on a previous occasion, it didn’t go very well. But as we were talking about setting and mood and not systems per se, I started talking about the default Polaris setting: some sort of ice elves living in a clean and fantastic ice age, the dawn of the corrupting sun, the order of knights, the demons, and key phrases and rituals to help you get into the spirit. I told J. that I really felt we should all have read the book before sitting down to play because it sets the mood so well. After reading the book I wanted to give Polaris another try.
Thus, today I went to check out Ben Lehman’s site. And this is what I saw:
Wow! I approve! I decided to donate USD 6 which is not a lot. Maybe I’ll donate some more if we actually run the game and I end up loving it after all.
As for the rules, for those of you not familiar with Polaris: There is no game master. Instead, four people meet and the person sitting across from you acts as your antagonist. You have attributes that keep getting better, but eventually you have negative attributes that keep getting better as well, until you finally fail in your fight against demons, the sun, corruption, or whatever else the theme of your campaign is. It’s subtitled “chivalric tragedy at utmost north” and I approve of this subtitle.
I also like this summary on the Polaris homepage on why you might want to play the game:
There’s also a thread on the Story Games forum regarding the pay what you want model.
A friend recently asked me if I’d continue to buy and play games from an aggravating designer or publisher. I don’t have much experience with that. All the designer and publisher of the games I buy and play seem to be decent people.
Examples of aggravating publishers:
Some times the line is not so clear. What if you just disagree with a publisher that doesn’t want to publish PDF versions of books for fear of piracy? 
What happens if all you see is accusations or a catfight online: an artists claims they were not paid. Do you believe the artist? Do you contact to publisher asking for a comment? This casts a shadow of doubt on the entire thing.
Clearly, there are various degrees of aggravation. There are liars and cheaters, there are disagreements, there are questions…
The first thing to do, of course, is to make sure you’re getting it right. Check if other people are reporting similar issues. Check for rebuttals. Then decide what to do.
Here’s generally what I do, in order of increasing aggravation:
Just remember that complaining online is tricky.
Some people are happy with the low entry price for D&D Essentials. Some people like the D&D bus. Some people complain about the reuse of the old art. Some people don’t like the term Red Box being used for D&D 4E. Some people don’t like the many errata for D&D 4E.
What does it all mean?
I’m with Dan Proctor of Labyrinth Lord fame:
D&D Essentials and the current marketing campaign is the corporate answer to the edition wars. This is what It’s all D&D to me means in the corporate world. Love it or hate it… And whether it’s outrage or enthusiasm – remember, there is no such thing as bad publicity!
Here’s what I wrote in the comments:
I myself think there’s nothing wrong in this little size ratchet. That is just how things are. And generally speaking the pages added are in fact good. Customers just need to learn to discern what they like and buy the appropriate book. It’s why I like Labyrinth Lord.
Why is it difficult for customers to make the right decision? I think that is an effect of printing economics. Assuming book A was 64 pages and cost $5 and book B was 256 pages and cost $20 we might choose the book matching our preferences, ie. the shorter one in my case. But if there is a fixed sum of $10 to be paid per book irrespective of size, the book A might cost $12.50 and book B might still cost $20… Now many people will be asking themselves if they’re getting a bad deal with the shorter, apparently overpriced book. After all the higher price is not due to the author spending more time making it shorter and polishing it. Those $10 are shelf space, postage, envelopes, margins for distributors, marketing, and so on.
Thus, if you like short rules, these are my predictions:
Any recommended RPG themed Cafepress T-shirts I should look at?
If I order one I might as well order more…
Right now I’m thinking of Old School Gamer by Paul Jaquays (apparently also in support of a college fund for Mr. Jaquays’ daughter – I don’t care much for the Gygax Memorial Statue), Dungeon Master by InsaneTsharts (1484 results for T-Shirts & Gifts by this designer!?), Mindflayers!! by Horned One Trading Post (hello trademark law – get them while they last), Chaotic Neutral by CriticalHitGames RPG & Gaming Shop (love the alignment T-shirts!)… And I already have several T-shirts from the Order of the Stick store.
Leave a comment with more suggestions. Self-promotion deemed acceptable.
Shipping to Switzerland: I googled for some coupons and found that CCRAZE707 is good for the $23 shipping charge to Switzerland. Wow.
Update: Actually I switched stuff around and used CABIN707D, then clicked around for a bit, had to correct my shipping address, and somewhere along the way my coupon got lost. Apparently I did pay for shipping after all. Not good. I sent them an email letting them know about it. We’ll see how this turns out. In a similar situation when buying T-shirts from the FSF I got the money charged back to my credit card, so that turned out well.
Update: “As a courtesy I have waived the shipping on your order. We hope this information helps, and thank you for shopping at CaféPress.com!” Works for me – thanks!
I recently discovered that the 3.5 Private Sanctuary was still on and I’ve downloaded lots of episodes I had missed and listened to them over time. Today I heard the interview with Steve Russel of Rite Publishing. The episode was published in January 2010! Yes, it’s old news. Very old news.
Anyway, they were talking about their patronage model:
I like patronage – I was a patron for Wolgang Baur’s Open Design adventure, Empire of the Ghouls – but in the end I felt it was a bit too expensive since I wasn’t interested into getting any input and access to early releases. I found that the main-stream adventures worked for me. And I still like the Paizo adventure paths.
But patronage also allows people to essentially “commission” publishers, authors, artists, editors, and layouters to work on a niche project that nobody else would publish. Heroes of the Jade Oath, for example, was mentioned in the Rite Publishing podcast episode. Chinese inspired setting for Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved? Wow. That seems like a small target group!
Another thing that caught my eye is their Diceless Patronage Project. I think Steve Russel contacted me via instant messaging some time during the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 and started chatting. We talked about patronage a bit, and then he brought this project up. It’s going to be a new Amber Diceless! That’s one of the RPG systems I still have here at home, unplayed. It was published in 1991. Nineteen years ago. Wow.
Maybe I should play it again.
Anyway. I guess what I wanted to say is that patronage is more expensive than mass production. Big surprise, eh? But at the same time I feel that this is what will keep high production values around. I think that the Old School Renaissance goes to show how the operation of one person and their friends, most of them not getting any money for it, is reaching its limit: Swords & Wizardry: WhiteBox, Stonehell, Lamentations of Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role Playing, Fight On magazine, etc.