Comments on 2020-02-14 Unprofessional

Good to know that flipping burgers is better way to support yourself, and totally doesn’t suck the life and energy out folx, and totally doesn’t negatively impact creativity.

– Anonymous 2020-02-14 19:52 UTC


Let’s talk when the RPGs bring in as much money as flipping burgers. Flipping burgers is a job. Making RPGs for a living is winning the lottery. Telling people to pursue their dreams and work in RPGs is simply bad advice. Yes, flipping burgers is shite for life and energy and creativity. But so are most other jobs.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-14 20:46 UTC


Like how dare folx monetize their hobby

– Anonymous 2020-02-14 21:14 UTC


I guess I don’t understand the argument you are trying to make and it seems pretty clear that you don’t understand the point I’m trying to make. Move along, please. I don’t think this conversation is going anywhere. Feel free to write a longer reply elsewhere.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-14 21:46 UTC


(Un)Professional, on the Axes and Orcs blog argues that they know “more than a few folx who do [make a living]” (presumably from RPG product making).

Of course I would claim this is survivorship bias: they are not counting all the people who failed. It is only by comparing the two that we arrive at numbers that would help us decide who’s advice to heed. As I don’t know the numbers either, we are at an impasse. All we can do is list are anecdotes and critically examine the system.

Anecdotally, I have seen a small number of people selling a few books. Do they have day jobs? I think so; I haven’t ever heard of anybody getting rich from RPGs. So even at the top, the air is thin. That is to say, on the winning side, the rewards don’t seem to be great.

At the same time, the number of people I see begging on social media is heart breaking. I think we must all work for change but we must also survive. Looking at the amount of bad news from the US health care failure is crushing. Such an inhumane system is one of the main reasons to not drop your day job. Leaving the system is a mortal danger. That is to say, the price of failure is horrendous.

Based on that, I’d say that unless you’re living in a social system with safety nets for diseases and accidents, producing RPG products is almost always going to be a side job. I don’t know whether people like Sine Nomine Publishing’s Kevin Crawford have a day job. I assume they do? John M. Stater of Land of Nod does. In any case, I don’t see many people in their league.

So now we’re talking about “just do it as some extra cash”. Here, too, I see a lot of hardship – perhaps it is not as existential, But what I remember of people talking about how their games are doing financially is mostly that it is coffee money, or enough for them to support other creators, or simply some form of validation. To which I say: sure, if that’s the reward you are looking for, then this is fine. More power to you. It does look like a completely different hobby than running and playing the games, though.

Perhaps I’m simply confused (or we all are?) because we think the product authors share the same hobby when in fact on the one side there are the people running and playing the games, which involves a bit of writing, and on the other side we have authors of ergodic literature, as recently discussed by Robbie on Teaching Role-Playing Games, Part 1: The Justification:

The basic argument is that there is a type of literature—not a genre per se, but a kind of modality—that requires efforts which go beyond the direct understanding or reading of a text. This is what he means by ergodic literature.

Such as RPG products. We’re talking about how to become a successful author for a (no longer?) niche market. I think that culturally we know about how to become authors and thus we are better able to understand how it will work because we have seen enough movies and read enough books where authors make an appearance:

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-15 07:14 UTC


AHAH! People do read my blog! Just a few musing to stir up some conversations. Explain “prosecute anything for a livelihood” as my meager Louisiana education (Ranked 62 in the Nation!) allows this term to elude me and frankly anyone else who has tried to discern the meaning of such.

EldradWolfsbane 2020-02-16 04:13 UTC


Webster 1913 app screenshot showing the entry for ‘professionally’ 😀 – as a non-native English speaker I often look up words in a thesaurus. Specifically, the Webster 1913 edition which is in the public domain. It’s my favourite!

I sort of knew that “professional” meant doing something “for a living” but I didn’t know what the exact definition was. And when I looked it up on Webster, I thought “prosecute anything for a livelihood” was funny as I associate “to prosecute something” with lawyers and so I decided to quote it. 🤷🏻

Also learning English as a 15 year old with AD&D 1st ed and Gary Gygax’ prose surely didn’t help, haha!

As for blogs I read: these days I stopped subscribing to blogs and just skim the RPG Planet. And since your blog is listed, I read it. 😀

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-16 11:29 UTC


FWIW, Kevin of Sine Nomine Games does write RPGs full-time, but he’s definitely an exception rather than the rule. He does believe others could follow his suit, though, and he’s pretty open about his methods (e.g. free flagship game that lures in customers, offering cross-system tools to increase potential audience, pricing, and generally being a one-man show, except for art in his case).

Ynas Midgard 2020-02-16 20:39 UTC


Point taken. Kevin Crawford, and I’m guessing all the small scale businesses like Paizo or Monte Cook Games are a handful of people that manage to live off of RPG products. Maybe Wolfgang Baur and Kobold Press as well?

I’ll easily concede that it is possible to so. I’m not sure how much of concession that is, however. It still looks like a lottery to me.

I’m not sure what to make of it. I know, of course, that many people will try to win the lottery in life, be it writing their books at night, painting in their studios, following their dreams... But if these people were my kids, I’d hope that they also don’t have to beg for alms, for donations, for dollars on Patreon. I’d hope that they got a steady day job and pursued their dream while being safe. Perhaps it’s middle age that’s making me say this. I also want to say this to the people that have a hobby they enjoy: playing games with their friends. Begging for alms, tip jars, dollars on Patreon, telling me that the dollars they get allow them to justify the hours they spend... I don’t know. If they were my kids, I hope they’re all happy. I hope that they’re not setting themselves up for disappointment. If 9999 of them are unhappy and one of them wins the RPG lottery, that still is a lot of misery. How many RPG players are there? 10 million? How many people make a living writing RPG products? Let’s be generous: 100? That still leaves 100,000 of them. One in a hundred thousand. Now, you can counter that by saying who cares about the players of games, we need to compare them with the number of people trying to make a living making RPG products. Surely there are far fewer of them. I’ll concede that as well. If only one in 10,000 gamers wants to make a living making RPG products, then perhaps I’m wrong to be so negative: 1 in 10 would succeed. Nine unhappy stories of slow failure and grinding and nothing to show for it, and one of them makes it.

I don’t know. I’d still feel bad about it as a parent. Sure, follow your dream! But… be careful out there: Consider the nine who tried in vain, for years, they gave their all and still they failed. And consider the 9,999 gamers who decided no to make a living making RPG products. Perhaps they made better life choices.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-16 22:35 UTC


(Somebody also posted it on Reddit.)

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-16 22:43 UTC


If you want to be an author, you’re playing a different game. Good luck1

I just saw this on Mastodon, by @mwlucas:

I write books to pay the bills. No consulting, no leeching off family members, no teaching: only writing books.

How do I pull it off?

  1. Understand cashflow
  2. By treating it as a business

More on publishing, writing, etc at my FAQ.

The big secret: MAKE MOAR WORDS!

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-18 22:29 UTC


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