Grognards, Unite!

For those of you who still remember when fighters had d8 hit points, Grognardia is the blog for you.  It’s certainly one for me – I started with “red box” D&D at the age of five, and I still roll my d4 by throwing it up in the air, causing great amusement when I tried to explain that to a group of younger gamers twenty years later.

Of note there is a link to this post by James Mishler explaining the economics of game publishing.  To give my own perspective, many (hardly all, mind you)  gamers go through the following cycle:

1)  Express a desire for a book that combines the best qualities of a technical manual, an art book, and a work of fiction, all of it extensively tested before publication and sold in incredibly small amounts to a niche market.

2) Complain about the high cost of the book, when most publishers outside the genre would charge two or three times as much for a similar product.

3) Decide not to buy it, or download it for free online.

4) Complain about how the company doesn’t “support the line” of products they refuse to buy.

5) Express deep woe for the state of the industry when the aforementioned company goes belly-up.

6) Find a new game to love/hate.

Or am I just being cynical?

More England updates later, as well as some other reflections.

Published in: on July 15, 2009 at 11:17 pm  Comments (6)  

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  1. Didn’t John Tynes write that same essay six years ago when he quit writing for RPGs?

    In defense of gaming, here’s my response:

    1) Express a desire for a book that combines the best qualities of a technical manual, an art book, and a work of fiction, all of it extensively tested before publication and sold in incredibly small amounts to a niche market.

    I couldn’t care less about the art. Yes, it’s nice when it’s good, but it never dissuaded me from purchasing a book. It’s the writing, and I think that’s what matters to most Keepers who buy books.

    2) Complain about the high cost of the book, when most publishers outside the genre would charge two or three times as much for a similar product.

    I don’t think I’ve ever complained about a book’s price, as long as the number of pages met my expectations, or the quality of the writing compensated for a shorter pagecount. While it’s straining my budget to fit in anything about $50 a book, if I want it bad enough I’ll save for it.

    3) Decide not to buy it, or download it for free online.

    I understand sales are fairly low these days, but I don’t think this is true, much as I don’t believe that “the internet is killing the music industry”. I probably am not doing used game retailers any favors, since if the book is out of print I’m likely to download it. However, if it’s a new book that I’m interested in I’ll fork out the cash, period. Now, I may download something before hand, but usually only to read five pages of it and make the decision if I want to buy it. However, any gaming product I intend to use I’m going to make a purchase. Flipping through a few pages of a .PDF copy is no different than browsing at the bookstore, a luxury that’s fairly rare when it comes to boutique games (like CoC) when you live in Montana.

    4) Complain about how the company doesn’t “support the line” of products they refuse to buy.

    For me, at least, this is simply not true. If I’m interested in a product enough to request it online, I’m guaranteed to buy it.

    5) Express deep woe for the state of the industry when the aforementioned company goes belly-up.

    The only time I can think of this being true would be with Unknown Armies. Didn’t know the game existed until it was too late and most of the supplements were only available at scalper’s prices.

    6) Find a new game to love/hate.

    That’s the way it usually plays out. You buy a game, hype it to your friends, hope that it stays afloat, but then the publisher gets sick of working like a dog for almost no pay. However, that’s the truth of roleplaying: it was a fad, like Pokemon or collecting comics. That fad is long over, and it’s just a cottage industry that only true devotees have stuck with. There’s no getting around that.

    Now, you may say that I’m just one guy, but I don’t think so. Most of the people that I know who run games end up spending a lot of money over the years and continue to do so today. While the players are notoriously cheap (try explaining that other people need to chip in on the food when you’re spending hundreds/thousands on gaming books), the people who really love the games, the ones who dedicate their time, energy, and money on them, the Keepers, buck the trends you describe.

  2. Why not read Thomas Pynchon instead?

  3. The RPG industry is like a music industry where no one sells songs, just instruments and music sheets.

  4. You forgot about grousing about how much better [insert old school game] was, even if [character generation required calculus / book was not proof-read / errata sheet was longer than the original book / game required curious assortment of d7 and d11 and a raven’s skull to play]. Grump grump grump.

    Alternately you could have the younger gamer wondering why everyone gets mad when they post a link to a file sharing site hosting illegal pdfs of a book you just slaved over for years and were paid roughly .004 cents per word for.

  5. Damn! How do I get this raven skull game?

  6. Dan: Not cynical enough – gamers wouldn’t complain about the state of the industry, they’d crow about how they still have the books and as long as they have that who needs an industry? I recommend a remedial wallow in RPG.net.


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