So, who are the “mainstream” RPG publishers these days?

This kind of came up in William Nichols’ thread, but I figured I should stop crapping all over his lawn and extract it for discussion elsewhere.

So, by “mainstream,” I’m talking a) publishing companies, not individual creators, who b) comprise the majority of the product you will typically see on the shelves at stores (or topping the bestseller lists at sites like Amazon).




Umm, maybe…

Cubicle 7

And, maybe…

Margaret Weis Productions?
Green Ronin?

And of these, how many actually rely on the RPGs a bread-and-butter? As opposed to profits from other kinds of games that keep them afloat.

Just curious.

My take on PWYW. Take with a grain of salt but I do have some experience with it.

First, let’s dispose of capitalism participation and all that. If you want to eat you need to get paid. If you don’t need to get paid it’s because you are privileged to have another way to get paid. So let’s just talk about PWYW as a way to get paid, directly or indirectly.

If you want to make money with PWYW directly you are going to be disappointed. The vast majority of your sales will be zero dollars or, more insultingly, pennies. There will always be a better price to set if you need direct payment, at least according to my experience so far. I’m sure there are edge cases but I wouldn’t bet on being one. Not if you want to eat.

Indirectly, however, there are some interesting applications. Most of them revolve around “building community”. This is a little disingenuous so let’s bit the bullet and call it what it is: “building a market”. So the idea is that you are going to get a lot of people interested in your stuff by making something compelling available for essentially nothing. You’re still going to get a few dollars but less than you could because you want to create a market for something else. That might be more of the same, more under the brand, bits that attach to the free-ish thing, whatever. The nuts and bolts are the same: you’re building a market with free awesome stuff.

For that to work you need to also manage the market. You need to keep track of who’s in it, provide a way for them to talk to each other, and participate in those conversations. You need to keep the buzz alive until the money-makers can be delivered to that market. If that’s not work you’re interested in, don’t bother with this method. You will only succeed accidentally.

So now the question is, how is PWYW better for this task than free? How is it better than cheap? Free gets you more market. Cheap gets you more money. PWYW seems like a weak compromise. But it does let you identify investors — people in your market that are ready to drop money. That’s valuable.

If you are not taking the capitalism part of this seriously (and let me be clear that I sympathize completely — I am certainly in that privileged class that doesn’t need to make money making RPGs), it’s hard to see what PWYW does for you at all. If you are taking it seriously, PWYW implies an active strategy you will need to manage.


24. Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

Well, none of them. I don’t second guess publisher decisions on marketing plans.

To add some actual content, I’d like to shout out to Sine Nomine and Johnstone Metzger who have both sold me on games due to a free/pay-what-you-want edition that allowed me to read up on a game before deciding to go ahead and buy the fancy version later…


Day 24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more?

So…I kind of have to no-comment this one, since it’s really “Name a PWYW Publisher who should not be PWYW” and that’s kind of a philosophical question.

So instead I’ll just say some nice things about Bundle of Holding – – which is a great thing to watch for PDF bargains of every stripe. Pay what you want, get a bundle of a size based on hitting certain thresholds, though the maximum threshold is never that high.

And, of course, if you’re looking to spend your money, consider Patreon – – which is awash in RPG creators of every stripe. If you look around, you will almost certainly find some you recognize. If you’re looking to help the creators, consider putting $1 a month towards 5 patreons. It’s a relatively small cost, and it can make a difference.

#RPGaDay2017 What RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

Haters gonna hate, but Monte Cook’s old Arcana Unearthed was the first thing that leap to mind for me. Heck, the trade dress of everything he did under Malhavoc was gorgeous. Clean, airy, impeccable typography, and lots of fantastic Sam Wood art.

Bonus: the light and airy style was a stark contrast to the ornate-border-heavy style that was prevalent in the d20 era (see Mongoose for some of the worst abuses of this trend), and so it totally pissed off lots of gamers because, duh, blank white space is essentially robbery, because it’s all about the ink-to-page ratio. Remember, RPGs are basically bulk produce, right?

Gamers, man.

In my own interview, when I mentioned that my colleagues had talked about a porn star when we were on a plane together, the investigator asked if it was Sasha Grey. I said no. He pressed the point, saying that Sasha Grey was crossing over into legitimate acting. At another point, the investigator asked, in a ­“gotcha” tone, “Well, if they look down on women so much, if they block you from opportunities, they don’t include you at their events, why do they even keep you around in the first place?”

I hadn’t thought about it before. I replied slowly as the answer crystallized in my mind: If you had the opportunity to have workers who were overeducated, underpaid, and highly experienced, whom you could dump all the menial tasks you didn’t want to do on, whom you could get to clean up all the problems, and whom you could create a second class out of, wouldn’t you want them to stay?

I noticed he didn’t write that down in his notebook.

This is a great read, in the sense that it will probably make you puke in your mouth a little.