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Winter Cleaning

A gripping tale of books, boxes, and binders.

I’m not normally one to take pictures of his RPG collection and talk about it. I mean, we all have RPG stuff, and we all have a few titles that hold special meaning, and apart from including some out-of-print material, there’s really nothing remarkable about my RPG bookshelf.

But mysteriously, there is…

Last weekend, I remedied my Annual Pre-holiday Freak-Out by culling my RPG stuff. The books on the shelf, the bankers boxes in the attic, even the hand-written notes and maps spread across a dozen 3-ring binders just shy of 2 decades old. There’s nothing like an OCD frenzy to clear my head, and this one imparted unforeseen clarity.

The Challenge

Just to put things into context, I have a small bookshelf in my office. There are essentially 4 shifting sections: Reference material, Computer books, History books, and RPG stuff. Space is limited, so I tend to swap out bookshelf titles with books I store in the Hadrian’s wall-sized blockade of bankers boxes lodged in the attic.

bankers boxes

Hadrian's Boxes

I first adopted this practice when we moved into our new house. In the 3 years since, I’ve made a couple of realisations. First, it’s a pain in the butt, because there’s a 73% chance that the book I need at any given time is in the attic, where the temperature hovers just above absolute zero in the winter and soars to nuclear-furnace levels of hot in the summer.

Second, it’s disorganized: three years of shuffling material from bookshelf to box to a different box and back to the shelf later has shattered the careful order in which I had packed the material when we moved. Third is the futility of hording: In the years of shuffling, it occurs to me that I own several titles that have never made it to the bookshelf. They’re neither useful nor collectible.

The Effort

Long story short, I consolidated the shite out my books—RPG and otherwise. I cleaned the shelf of anything I didn’t regularly use. I consolidated the 14 bankers boxes in the attic into 6: 1 of Classic D&D material, 1 of miscellaneous RPG stuff, 1 of medieval history books, 1 of general reference, and 2 of WWII history. I kept only the computer books I need to reference when my Internet connection is down. Programming references have a notoriously short shelf-life anyway.

Everything else is off to consignment or, in the case of the remaining RPG stuff, Noble Knight (or maybe I should dole out pieces as prizes for Welsh Piper contests that I have yet to invent?). Those 3-ring binders? Neatly organised into one 2.5″ bad boy filled with only the choicest of my hand-written crap, old adventures, maps, and NPCs (dear, dear Snagglepod–how I have mithed thee).

It took me all day, but it was worth it. Well, actually, it took about 4 hours. With breaks. But it seemed like ages. Plus the cat was getting into the boxes and nibbling on the plastic sheet protecting Level 2 of Spindle Mountain and then my back got sore from hurling books all over the place, and at one point I had to dick with the thermostat because it was, like, 80 degrees in my office.

The Result

Now, my RPG stuff occupies just less than one-quarter of my office bookshelf. I share this not because you need to know what’s on it (even though I’m gonna tell you that next week), but rather because of the transformative effect this exercise has had on my prioritisation of gaming material. In short, as Deimos sagely suggests, it’s this: In every sense of the convention, less is more.

This maxim has been a variously subtle or prominently conscious motivation behind Chimera and other bits of my old-schoolery. It’s a fun concept to bandy about in business meetings or when accessorising for a formal dinner, but I’ve come to believe it’s especially true with respect to roleplaying games.

In the dim ages, one’s favourite ruleset was pretty much all that was required. Then some supplements to make life easier, like geomorphs or a booklet of NPCs. Then perhaps a setting, maybe a module or two, some alternate rules, a better setting, a book of new monsters to go with that better setting, and then a boxed set of something nifty-sounding and while-not-really-part-of-your-campaign-possibly-worth-including-later. From experience, I admit you can ride this train for a long time before realising how far down the track you’ve come.

But it’s part of the industry, and how RPG companies stay in business. The assumption is that you haven’t the time to create your own settings, author your own modules, invent your own monsters, or draw your own maps. So they push out product beyond the rule system, taking the “more is better” approach. Now, let’s clarify: RPG companies need to turn a profit—nothing wrong with that. And I’m all for acquiring good material (meaning “useful” or “well-written” or even “thought-provoking” and possibly “evocative of fond memories”). I’m not saying RPG companies should stop at rulesets or that they should fail to support their customers with “good,” supplemental product.

But as I was cleaning out my horde, I realised that the vast majority of my collection was comprised of material that seemed “good” when I bought it, yet was really the “opposite of good” when I got it home. So in the bankers box it went. And when the box got full, I got another box.

Deck of Priest Spells

Really?

The funny part—and I mean funny as in, “Smale, you’re an idiot”—is that I used to decry 2nd Ed. D&D for all the drek it spawned. I used to get very bothered over TSR’s penchant to patronise its customers with appeals to convenience: “Buy this rulebook to make your game better,” or “Buy this supplement to save time,” or even (shamelessly), “Buy the Fighter’s Player Pack because we’re pretty sure you’ll lose your character sheet without it.”

Not only was the glut insulting, but it promoted the “too many rulebooks” problem 2nd Edition was supposed to fix. The real issue—the part that pissed me off—was that it became too commercial for the market, meaning that TSR had become more interested in gamer’s dollars than gamer’s satisfaction. In this case, “more” was definitely not “better.” In the end, you didn’t need imagination to play, just a wallet.

So while I joke about The Complete Drunken Peasants Handbook (and if TSR hadn’t gone bankrupt, I swear it was coming), the irony is that I had accumulated all sorts of drek on my own. I drank the TSR Kool-Aid. I believed that not purchasing the “Castle Guide” would prevent me from having proper castles in my setting. I believed that my Forgotten Realms campaign would suffer deeply without access to the Maztica boxed set, despite the fact that I had no intention of running a game in that corner of the world. Yet all this material is taking up space on my bookshelf, in my attic, and, as it turns out, inside my head.

So I got rid of it. The fact is, when you have less material laid out for you, you end up creating more on your own. It sounds like more work for the busy GM, but it’s not—you’ll be surprised at how much more efficient your game prep becomes without a bevy of distracting RPG publications. And even if you do take a bit longer, it’s worth it—the results are invariably more satisfying.

Final Words

Having pared down my RPG collection to a fraction of its former volume is amazingly liberating. While I literally have less material, I find that it’s already encouraging me to rely more on my imagination. And this fits in better with my style of playing and running games: give me a seed—a kernel—and I’ll cultivate it; give me a grown plant, and I’m likely to kill it, even if by accident. I said before that I’d rather have a rulebook and a set of random tables than a full bookshelf of complete supplements, and now I feel like I’ve actually arrived at a place where I can put my money where my mouth is.

So, tell on. Is your RPG collection big and useful, large and ponderous, or lean and mean?

  1. deimos3428
    December 22nd, 2010 at 15:54 | #1

    I’m on my third or fourth collection now, after several complete purges. The current incarnation is the size of a mid-sized bookshelf, and would be much smaller if I weren’t such printing junkie/minutiae researcher. At first glance, it appears as though I have multiple copies of the exact same books, but there are various weird and wonderful differences. On the whole it’s a bizarre mix of 1E, 2E, basic, and “other”, and I’m constantly battling to keep it in check.

    Erin, just in case you’re throwing out something absolutely priceless: send me a list of stuff of which you are disposing*. I’ve got a pretty good eye for value, as a sometime member of the Acaeum Valuation Board, at least as far as early D&D is concerned.

    *Ok, awkward…but bonus points for not ending the sentence with “of”, right?

  2. December 22nd, 2010 at 16:53 | #2

    @deimos3428 : I would’ve gone with “send me a list of items destined for abandonment,” but I think I ended a sentence with “at” somewhere above, so what do I know?

    Anyway, sure – I’ll send a list. Nothing will be tossed, just given to new owners (either Noble Knight or collectors or (and I’m liking this more and more) prizes for future contests–why not?). But regardless, I need a proper inventory, and since you’re asking, I’ll share it with you before anyone else.

  3. December 22nd, 2010 at 17:09 | #3

    The saying is “less is more” – but it disagrees about less of what equals more of what.

    My personal RPG collection is neither large, nor lean, but diverse – Every single product you’ve mentioned pruning comes from TSR who produced a few good rules systems and then pushed out a ton of products that you didn’t need. These are the products that have been pruned.

    My collection includes the basic rules for many editions and many systems that, even if I don’t play them, still provide me greater insight and experience into the design philosophies behind them. I could prune the magazines, periodicals, and adventures every through years, but the systems themselves are evergreen – because sometimes, even just for nostalgia, it can be fun to start a game of a previous edition and see the way thing have changed and evolved.

    The industry too is evolving – products used to be the only way to make a profit and remain in business. Then you had the rise of community and hobby which results in periodicals and other media, so products became less important, resulting in a product-service hybrid that has continued to develop. Now, we’re in a position where the products themselves are no longer necessary to solely keep developers in the industry, and we can engage in a full service model.

    Products also represent another shift in the style of gamemastery which is truly old school, and it is here that I believe the “less is more” saying applies. Rules and products provide authority – when a player challenges a GM, they can turn to a product and say – here’s where it says that. But back before there were products, GMs did not have this authority – they made it up and ran on their expertise, their own authority, because they had to.

    This is more of the old-school epithet than when you started playing or what system you are running. The industry has become lazy and spoilt with products, and for many, it is coming to a point where they cannot see the game for the products.

    Chimera RPG has helped me see that – when I first read it, and enthused about it to my friends, they observed that it clearly has the “geek spirit”. It let’s you see the game, without the rules the settings, the numbers, and the other things that get in the way, and have been getting in the way for decades because of the needs of an out-dated business model.

  4. December 22nd, 2010 at 18:11 | #4

    My RPG collection sits at:

    1 copy of the S&W player’s booklet
    1 copy of the 1st edition Player’s Handbook
    1 set of dice

    That’s it. I got a bunch of stuff in .pdf form, but otherwise I’ve come to loathe all the printed material cluttering up the place. I plan on adding a copy of Labyrinth Lord to that list for when I get my next game up and running.

    So overall, the antithesis of the typical RPG collector :D

  5. December 22nd, 2010 at 20:02 | #5

    @Da’ Vane : Not sure I agree with the appeal to rules as authority. It’s a logical notion that GMs would rely on printed material to enforce their decrees, but since most games usually contain some language that says “These are guidelines–do what you want,” I don’t think holding product content as the “final world” is viable. Though many are wont to see it that way, I certainly wouldn’t tolerate it at my table–without good reason, at least.

    I do agree that the industry has become lazy, but that’s capitalism. Producers produce what the market will bear–cars, steak sauce, hard drives, RPGs, whatever. Quality is the easiest thing to cut when the bottom line is top priority.

    Also, just to clarify, most of the material I purged was actually non-TSR. When I share my “final bookshelf” next week, you’ll see that plenty of TSR material made the short list. It just happens that TSR was the most fertile example of the point I was trying to make (and of what I’m referring to in the paragraph above).

  6. December 22nd, 2010 at 20:06 | #6

    @Anthony : Now that is lean and mean. One ruleset I can see, but only 1 set of dice? Send me your mailing address. I’m going to remedy that right now. Really, send it to me off list. Consider it a Christmas present, from one GM to another. :)

    Oh–good point about PDFs. I have…many. But cluttering up my hard drive is somehow more acceptable than cluttering up my living space. Still, maybe a topic for another day…

    I’ll await your address.

  7. deimos3428
    December 22nd, 2010 at 22:22 | #7

    I wouldn’t tolerate such a player, either. It’s just plain rude to both the GM and the rest of the players.

    Taking up or even arguing some finer points after the session has completed is quite acceptable, of course. As is reminding the GM of a bonus to a particular roll or asking for clarification during play. But a player outright “challenging the GM” during play? They’d best have their chair half-pushed from the table, printed rules in hand or otherwise.

    As for the suggested progression from products–>hybrid–>services, I suppose you’re talking about this sort of stuff: http://blog.stuffedguys.com/2005/04/03/products-vs-services-oriented-business-model/

    Back to D&D, there are in fact only three official rules supplements that predate The Dragon, and only one of these (Greyhawk) predates The Strategic Review. There were also a handful of third-party RPGs and adventures, most notably Tunnels and Trolls, and some tournament adventures but that’s about it. (The first commercial TSR adventure was G1 in 1978, after The Dragon was well-established.) If periodicals are the goalpost that marks the hybrid model, it transitioned in June 1976 or thereabouts. Even earlier, because tournaments are themselves a form of service.

    So in the RPG world, it would seem the first stage of this proposed progression happened rather rapidly, and then we stopped. I’m not denying there’s a model, just that there’s a necessary progression. This “hybrid business model” has worked just fine for nearly 35 years. It’s not about to change.

    What exactly are you suggesting with this “services” model? A stable of writers churning out custom adventures for time-starved GMs on demand, based on a personal brand? If so, I can’t see that working over buying a printed module or rolling your own. (Hell, I wing it most of the time. I’m not writing a novel, I’m playing a game. It needn’t be perfect.)

  8. December 22nd, 2010 at 23:33 | #8

    @deimos3428 Good question, Deimos, what IS the service model?

    It’s the difference between a sofa and a haircut or theatre show. Products are designed to be used for ever, simply finished and left, testaments to whatever. They are supposed to work indefinately – once you have a sofa or a car or a similar product, you never need another sofa or car or similar product (in theory). Even games systems and settings are built this way – designed that once completed, you will never need to buy another system or product, even from the same designer.

    However, the latter are services, and are designed to be single use, often for experience alone. People have favourite movies, favourite musicians, and favourite artists – they have favourite hair salons and favourite resturants. None of these are strictly designed so that you never need another resturant, artist, or haircut, but rather they are designed so that you are enticed to keep coming back for the same service, for the same experience.

    Paizo make a killing off their adventure paths, because their fans subscribes to these adventure paths – they might seem like products, but it’s more like a thematic kind of Dungeon Magazine of higher quality that provides a certain experience. For many, buying every product in a product line equates to a service, turning the entire thing into a product-service hybrid.

    But with an increase in media and expertise, the balance between products and services have been shifting. Now products can be easily updated – Erin provides Chimera RPG Basic for free while he develops it and intends to sell Chimera Core, but then what? This is product thinking and somewhere along the line one of Erin’s fans turns around and realises they’ve got a whole bunch of Chimera stuff they don’t use and throw it out, just like Erin did today. But what if the model is changed to a service – you buy a product such as Chimera RPG Core for say $20 and as Erin works on it, you get the updates for free. This model is easily enough done with todays technology – DVOID Systems is using it.

    The other aspects of the Service is that the support material is often more important than the products. So, Erin sticks with Chimera RPG as a product, but this website, the forums, the newsletter, everything else relating to Chimera RPG is a service, and fans of that will gladly buy the few products that Erin produces to support him in such tasks. He could easily take the articles he has written on hex-based campaigns for example, and create products for them that would sell, because the writing of the product is the service, and the product itself is just a media format. Ultimately, you cannot put a price on knowledge or experience, and sharing these is an invaluable service that is easily overlooked, until you need it.

    The biggest thing to understand is the demands of success – you only need a few sales and a few fans to be successful, so even a small group of say twenty people who like your material and are willing to pay for it can support small projects. Now it’s more about finding ways to make a living from the things you are already doing, rather than doing things to try and make money. With that attitude, it’s generally easier to succeed and seize opportunities when they come along.

  9. Greg MacKenzie
    December 23rd, 2010 at 06:58 | #9

    I’ll take a somewhat different tack on this, although like you I did organize my various materiels into boxes, and store them in the attic, I did not buy terribly many supplments through the years. What I did do though is buy other games and rulebooks. Certainly, the Judges Guild provided me with many inspiring sources, but I rarely every used them as they were. For example, I completely re-wrote Tegel Manor and the City State of the Invincible Overlord to suit my own tastes. The examples they provided were a bridge to writing my own materials, and after I began doing that I did not buy and run many of TSRs modules. That was probably somewhat disastrous for them but I really do think one of the tenets of the game was that you would make up your own modules.

    Some years ago I had an un-birthday party where I gave away all the rulebooks and games I was no longer interested in. Basically wrapped them up in newsprint, and gave them away to friends.

    What happens thereafter is simply focus, to draw down to what is important to you. In my case certainly I’ve kept some of the early printed materials. From these wellsprings, I am reminded of what is important to me, certainly the freedom of imagining. Whether I’m lost in ancient tunnels with John Carter, or delving in the ruins of Bob Bledsaw’s Tegel Manor I never cease to be inspired by the currency of that moment, this is not nostalgia, but the foundation. For others they may know that cornerstone is KOTB, or one of the early Mentzer or Moldvay boxed rule sets. I don’t think we really can do without such things.

  10. deimos3428
    December 23rd, 2010 at 08:27 | #10

    @Da’ Vane
    I wasn’t really intending to extend a soapbox there. I was asking why you think a “service model” is at all appropriate for RPGs. (The Paizo example is a fine one, but hardly indicative of RPGs as a whole, and I’m not sure I wholly agree that it’s a “service”…but ok.)

    The truth is people aren’t really interested in supporting an RPG industry, they’re interested in playing an RPG game. Which is why I’m happy Erin’s updates are FREE to this point, and the day he starts charging for fixing typos, etc. or “services” is the day I walk away and find someone who isn’t. If he wants more money, he can hurry up and release Swords of Telm. (Erin: I kid. It’s ready when it’s ready.)

    I also don’t think anyone will bother to throw out Chimera stuff, as it’s in PDF format and storage capacity is only getting larger. That’s not going to be much of an issue anymore. The drive will likely die before I need those precious few megabytes back.

    The reality is RPGs are not like antivirus or windows updates. You don’t need to use the latest and greatest, especially if it is in digital form and costs money. If anything, it’s a bit annoying to keep track of an ever-changing digital manuscript. I’ll take a few typos over constant change anyday.

  11. December 23rd, 2010 at 13:28 | #11

    Very brave, Erin! I have enough gaming crap to choke a basement. I recently did a re-org as well, however, instead of freedom, mine ended with two new bookcases.

    I think i need to do a mini-purge too. I will think on it and maybe add that to my 2011 goals.

  12. Greg MacKenzie
    December 23rd, 2010 at 13:36 | #12

    @deimos3428 Probably the reason people stretch tne notion of the service model is that it is getting harder and harder to “sell” something when there’s so much free stuff floating around. If you have something new it has to be really striking and unique enough to attract any following at all. You said it yourself “…the day he starts charging for fixing typos, etc. or “services” is the day I walk away and find someone who isn’t.” I would argue that this is another reason why the OGL based OSR is poison. It has created a climate in which people expect everything to be free.

    In these circumstances when would an author with a new game ever expect to see a return on it? I think that is a reasonable question. I can see why people want to charge for copy with art, or printed copy as they try to find out if it’s possible to get anyone to pony up a few dollars for their hard work.

    I hate to be cynical here but perhaps the single reason why the OSR is allowed to continue to exist at all is that it eliminates a significant element of startup competition and re-directs that creativity into a predictable formula which is of no real threat in the end. Even if the OSR were to overtake a corporate product, well you already own it if you own the OGL, you can release materials for the OSR because you own the source, and your market development has already been done for you. Win Win Win, for them.

    If you are going to do something new, you have to support it above and beyond as Erin is doing by revising Chimera Basic. I don’t have any problem with updates. How we got from boxes in the attic to trying to find a business model that works these days, well I don’t know.

  13. December 23rd, 2010 at 15:54 | #13

    @deimos3428 Soapbox? This is a normal conversation for me – I haven’t even started getting out my soapbox and megaphone just yet…

    You probably haven’t heard of e-Junkie then – the platform we use at DVOID Systems, and one I’d heartily recommend that Erin looks into for Chimera RPG. It is a sales platform and a newsletter rolled into one – so you can release a “product” and then provide free updates. With a simple click, you can alert all customers of the existing product that there is a new version, and provide them a direct download link, so they do not have to go hunting for the latest version. It comes to them.

    One advantage of this is that you can turn your product into a service by releasing the material you have now and updating it regularly. This is particularly useful for larger products that could take years to complete.

    The most common type of splat product that you despise is extra material for stuff you’ve already paid for. You’ve bought the Monster Manual, and then they release more Monster Manuals every year. Rather than do this, they could provide a Monster Manual and then regularly update it with new monsters.

    The point of throwing Chimera RPG is moot – Erin is advocating a cleansing of unnecessary material. Could he not have scanned all the material he intends to get rid of and store it on electronic media, making it just as useful as Chimera RPG material? If the Maztica boxed set material was on PDF, would Erin still have got rid of it?

    From the article: “Yet all this material is taking up space on my bookshelf, in my attic, and, as it turns out, inside my head.” This means it’s an informational purge, not just a media purge. Erin could easily adopt the same business model as many other RPG developers, and be quite successful with it, but this will just repeat the cycle – in time, there will be roleplayers going through their hard drives purging unnecessary material, and getting rid of Chimera RPG products as a result.

    I would disagree with your assertion about people not supporting an RPG industry, particularly if the assumption is that people will charge to fix typos. This is the downside of the fire and forget product model – you work on a product, finish it, fix it, and then abandon it for the next product.

    As a service, the products themselves, while complete, are never fully finished – more material is added and updated. Errata is rolled in. You have a living set of rules, and a living game. None of this is charged for – completely new material might go into a new living product if it is not relevant to an existing one.

    Few, if any, have actually managed to make the service model work, simply because they assume this means charging for typos and turning everything into a means to make money. This is an incorrect assumption – they just need to discover the value in their unvalued properties and seek out alternative revenue streams.

    For example, at this point in time, my AdSense revenue from the Legend of Zelda Roleplaying Game website and other pages provides enough for an update, so this is essentially free. As more material is produced and published on my websites, and readership increases, updates can become more regular. All of this is a free service to our fans.

    If Erin were to put such practices into place on this website, where he already has a readership that is more significant than my own, he will see even more benefit. He can turn Chimera RPG into a service.

  14. deimos3428
    December 23rd, 2010 at 23:36 | #14

    @Greg: At the risk of repeating myself: RPGs aren’t work, unless one is already very well-established. For the vast majority of up and coming authors, that’s pure hubris. Even a well-established RPG author should not *expect* to see a return, ever. If that’s why someone’s doing this — well, let’s just say there are far easier ways of making money. Some extremely fortunate authors do manage to turn a profit, but such an expectation is going to end in frustration and tears far more often than not. Ask any renowned RPG author about their day jobs. Frank Mentzer, for example, ran a bakery until very recently.

    @Da’Vane: If someone chooses to ignore my advice above and pound their head against a wall repeatedly looking for a way to tweak a successful business model — well, I wish them all the luck in the world because frankly, they’ll need it. If it were even half as simple in practice as you suggest, it would’ve been done long ago.

    My turn at theorizing. A far better approach, if you’re going to bother to try to change the world at all, would be to create an open system. No, it hasn’t been tried. Despite the name, the OGL is not an open license. I’m talking about a copyleft license like Creative Commons or the Gnu Public License. Do I think Erin needs to do this? No, of course not. But he could and I believe it would work, because Chimera’s extensible enough for it to work.

    As a game designer/author, you want to get your stuff out there to as many people as possible, right? Whether you’re after money, fame or just to give the RPG world something wonderful, that’s your goal. So what’s the easiest way to do that? What’s the fastest way to make the game accessible to everyone and anyone? No, I’m not telling — just think about it til we get to the end of my rant.

    Consider that technically, I can’t give a copy of Chimera to a friend right now. Copying it is illegal. My friend could play it and learn about it, but if they wanted their own copy, they’d have to shell out their twelve bucks. Not a lot anyway, but it’s copyrighted; I have no license to distribute it. (Yeah, I can also point them to the free Chimera Basic link but to be very precise I cannot even copy the Chimera Basic PDF. To be legal, they’d need to download it themselves and bypass Erin’s deluge of theoretical banner ads or whatever.)

    I certainly can’t reprint either work and/or attempt to sell it, or write and publish material written for it and give away or sell that, etc. (Well, maybe I can do that last one…but who wants to mess about with complex international IP laws? Suppose Erin was a highly litigious sort!) You get the point, it’s relying on it’s merit alone to get out there.

    Now consider an obvious open license success story in the field of computing. There’s always going to be a Microsoft; that’s our WotC. If you want to really compete with the big bad corporation, you can’t do it very well with MacOS — it’s a niche market at best. That’s your independent gaming company. You need Linux or FreeBSD; open systems. Even then it’s going to be a tough battle, frankly. (You’ll note, however, that even MacOS now runs FreeBSD under the hood…) What made Linux a success? It’s free, in both senses of the word, but that’s not the whole reason.

    Under an open system, supplements need not licensed under the same terms as the system itself. They can be, at an individual author’s discretion, but it’s not required unless they contain parts of that system document. That’s right, under an open system anyone could make compatible supplements without issue, and that’s perfectly ok. Better than ok. It’s a very good thing, as everytime they do they are generating interest in your system. That means all supplements gain a wider audience — yours too.

    Supplements need not be gratis, but they can be. And there’s the rub. There’s an opportunity for *others* to make money, and that’s the real answer to my question above. You’ve made it open, but left the door open a crack for capitalism. By far the easiest way for you to get the word out is to delegate.

    Now if you’re really good enough, and people can readily access the system, people will buy your supplements. You just need to be better at writing material than the guy giving stuff away for gratis, and as good as the other guys selling at your price point. Not a big deal, really. (And if you’re not better than the average joe, why are you trying to sell your stuff? Get real.)

    The point is the market is based on quality, not any sort of lock-in. You don’ t need to try to lure players into a subscription, and you don’t need to continually produce new product either. As long as *someone* is making new products, even free products, your player base grows and some portion of those new players will buy your stuff — if it’s worth buying.

    Whether you’re after money or not, a service/subscription model will never grow or keep a base as well as “Hey, here’s something with no strings attached. Roll with it!” You want the system out there first. Then you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women.

    At least, that’s how I see it.

  15. December 24th, 2010 at 01:15 | #15

    @deimos3428 I had to read your entire wall of text to spot the obvious assumption, and thus the flaw in your argument. You are assuming a service model means a subscription model – it does not.

    I totally agree with you on the “get it out there” – this is the fundamental point of the OGL, and pretty much what made the magic of the Legend of Zelda Roleplaying Game. It was released for free, it has been updated for free, it is now about to be re-released for free as the Revised Sourcebook (it’s over 6 years old now and missing a LOT of necessary material that should have been in there) and will be updated regularly for free.

    Paizo provides subscriptions to their adventure path products, because they USED to provide subscriptions to Dungeon magazine which they published. They didn’t necessarily come up with the idea that they were going to produce a whole bunch of products to sell vis subscription – the subscription service evolved afterwards to make selling their products easier. Yet, since the adventure path products themselves were an evolution of what they were doing for Dungeon, which is a media periodical, and thus a service, it’s better defined as a product-service hybrid than anything else.

    Monte Cook uses another subscription based service with his Dungeon a Day website, where he provides a regular series of encounters that build up into a setting. It has been successful, and going for a few years, but pretty much only because he is a celebrity trading off of his name and talent. I mean, Monte Cook worked on the original 3e and was one of the first to leave WotC to set up his own company following the 3.5 debacle. He already had a lot of collateral to go with to make that work.

    But service models do not mean subscription models. If you provide a good service, people keep coming back for more. If they like your work, support your ideas, they come back for more. How many of us return to this website regularly to check on the latest for Chimera RPG? Erin could put some AdSense on this site, and he’d be able to keep all his products free for as long as he wanted to. He won’t get rich, but it will be enough to sustain itself after a while.

    After all – we’re coming here anyway, and Erin is producing Chimera RPG anyway, so it’s essentially additional revenue that takes the reliance away from product sales. As Erin works on and develops Chimera RPG and the community further, showcasing it’s merits and building the community, he’s creating more of a service.

    Then a change happens – the rise of celebrity and fandom. As we appreciate services we enjoy the experience of, we put more into preserving and supporting that experience. There will be people wanting to know what Erin is working on next, and can they work with him, and can they buy his stuff, and so on. Once that is done, you don’t have to sell your product or your service, your fans sell it for you, and they will willingly support your projects as long as you keep meeting their standards and providing that experience.

    This is the exact opposite of the motivation of expecting to get things for free. Those who expect things for free will never truly be fans or appreciate the worth of what they expect for free. Even gifts have a cost to the giver, and as such should never be expected, let alone demanded. This cynicism is a poison that is rampant throughout – it just shows more disrespect with OSR material. All of the OSR material should be available purely as a service model – not a product model.

  16. December 24th, 2010 at 02:04 | #16

    With all respect, I was really just talking about cleaning up my RPG bookshelf.

    As far as my “business model” is concerned, I’m inventing is as I go, based on tried-and-true indicators such as “instinct” and “common sense.” I trust that my success or failure will be indicated by the prevalence of Chimera in the marketplace, either as a free RPG or a “pay-for” set of supplements as formed by the “Core,” which has yet to form.

    Faith, my adherents. Faith. If you like Chimera, share it with your friends. If you don’t, tell me what’s wrong with it.

    But let’s leave “business” for another time, shall we?

  17. deimos3428
    December 24th, 2010 at 09:02 | #17

    @Erin: Apologies, and agreed on all points.

  18. December 24th, 2010 at 10:00 | #18

    @deimos3428 : No apology necessary. This should probably migrate to the forums, where I promise to use fewer “quotation marks.”

  19. December 24th, 2010 at 17:53 | #19

    @Erin D. Smale Why leave business to another time, when this IS part of your business? What is so scary about “business” – the fact that it means you take it seriously, and thus it’s not just a hobby or game any more?

    People put different meanings and definitions to these terms, Erin. This is your living, is it not? It is something you are passionate about? Just because there is money involved, does that somehow devalue all the time and effort you are putting into Chimera RPG?

    You may have just been talking about clearing out your RPG bookshelf, but you cleared it out both physically and mentally, and you got rid of things that other people have worked on. It is not something that anybody should do casually – it’s not “just” anything, because there is a very good chance that someone could end up doing the same thing to something that you’ve worked on for Chimera RPG.

    Maybe you are happy with that idea, but if so, then you can’t really complain about the process of producing and purging products. But if you are not, you should at least look at what you can learn from this.

    Learning from your own mistakes is experience, learning from someone else’s is intelligence.

    This entire update is based on this point, and then you want to turn around and say “let’s leave the business for later.” You might as well change your quote above to “If you don’t, tell me about it later.”

    Because, like it or not, business and development go hand in hand, and are connected. When you decided to release Chimera RPG Basic for free and work on others to produce other things, you made a business decision. TSR and the other companies also made a business decision to produce all the material that you are purging. They used “instinct” and “common sense” too, with their product-based model driving their needs.

    Erin, this is not a lack of faith on my part – but as someone who doesn’t need to rely on “common sense” and “instinct” for business strategy, there are other workable models for you to look into if you stop avoiding the idea of “business” like it is something dirty. Being a professional or being self-employed does not devalue the service you are providing.

    If anything, us adherents of yours should be more than willing to pay for Chimera Basic, or find some other means to support you and your work. If you can afford to do this off your own back for free as a marketing exercise then all the better for you – but not every business is so lucky to have that luxury. We all need to cover our costs and eat, you know – even you.

  1. December 25th, 2010 at 05:56 | #1
  2. January 22nd, 2011 at 06:06 | #2

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