The industry isn't dying, it's just going 2.0
November 23, 2010 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Tabletop roleplaying has always had a long history of self publishing. The internet has certainly made it easy for people to share their games for free, though admittedly presentation is improving. Beyond the free models, a number of publishers have started coming up with alternative for-profit business models - The Shadow of Yesterday followed the Cory Doctorow model, releasing the whole game for free online, while charging for hardcopies. John Wick's Houses of the Blooded sells very cheap PDFs and full price books. Greg Stolze has led the charge in Ransom Model rpg sales. Following the "Whatever Price You Like" model of World of Goo and other videogames, Bliss Stage & Polaris are doing the same with PDFs. Shock: Human Contact has already pulled in over $7,000 on Kickstarter, before the game has even been published.
posted by yeloson (22 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Lady Blackbird was the most fun I had running an RPG in a long time. It's an outstanding system, and a beautiful game. Especially given that it's only fifteen pages long.
posted by magstheaxe at 12:30 PM on November 23, 2010

I just came here to say, "Burn the heretic! Kill the mutant! Purge the unclean!"

Ok, now I'm done.
posted by kbanas at 12:32 PM on November 23, 2010

Oh wow, Shock: [weird colon sic] looks awesome. It seems more like a storytelling game than an RPG: it resembles an explicitly character- and conflict-driven spin on Once Upon a Time than it resembles D&D. I wonder how it actually feels to play it.
posted by RogerB at 12:42 PM on November 23, 2010

I wonder how it actually feels to play it.

I've gotten to play a couple of one-shots, and the rules about adding detail to the world as you play is pretty awesome, along with the system being focused on how you deal with human issues.

Googling "Shock Actual Play" has a lot of examples; Trash in the Hopper, Hollow Bodies, GDMN, AP report from Dark & Quiet Room, Everything is Social Networking
posted by yeloson at 12:53 PM on November 23, 2010

Shock: does look cool, but I don't seem to actually be able to purchase a PDF for $13 as advertised. Irritating.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:55 PM on November 23, 2010

Nevermind, I'm just an idiot.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:57 PM on November 23, 2010

Obligatory shout out for Eclipse Phase, transhuman horror game. It's not free as such but its creative commons license means you can legally download it. But it's beautiful and awesome so you should download it then buy it.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:02 PM on November 23, 2010

Jeez, Wick's still around?

Did Orkworld ever actually get made? Is it at all playable?
posted by kafziel at 1:07 PM on November 23, 2010

Orkworld did get made. Somewhere in the house I have a copy. It never really seemed like it was intended to be playable. Maybe more so that Tynes' Power Kill, but ...
posted by khaibit at 1:11 PM on November 23, 2010

Ah, I forgot to include Diaspora as another free-online but pay for hardcopies game. It's a fun one if you want hard sci-fi that isn't super crunchy.
posted by yeloson at 1:11 PM on November 23, 2010

I find the ransom model interesting. Has it had its Radiohead moment yet? I seem to remember that Stephen King was peddling a book that way, but I don't remember what came of it.

It strikes me that you could do something cool with games (video games or table games) in which you could have separate prices attached to certain maps, features, etc. The game would grow as more people invested in it.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:05 PM on November 23, 2010

It may not be exactly indie but the new "we're not Amber" diceless RPG using the ADRPG system is using one of these ransom/kickstarter/etc. type things. I'm watching with interest to see whether anything actually comes of it.
posted by immlass at 3:23 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Shock: sounds bizarrely like the RPG that Andrew Rilstone and I were working on (which we were going to call Future Tense) back in 1995, before Hogshead v1.0 imploded when our European distributor declined to pay us the considerable sum of money it owed us. Only our system was diceless.

(Lest you doubt that, someone upthread compared Shock: to Once Upon a Time. Andrew and I designed Once Upon a Time, with Richard Lambert, in the late 80s.)

I've been toying with the idea of using Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to raise sufficient funds to get me off my chair to finish FRUP, the D&D parody that was going to knock the hobby on its ass in 1995. I still have all the art I commissioned for it--a third of it done by a friend who like me had emerged out of the UK fanzine scene, was at the time a struggling freelance artist, and who has just done the cover of the books in the new D&D Red Box. Maybe its time has come at last.
posted by Hogshead at 6:08 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've been toying with the idea of using Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to raise sufficient funds to get me off my chair to finish FRUP, the D&D parody that was going to knock the hobby on its ass in 1995.

posted by adamdschneider at 8:16 PM on November 23, 2010

This is the kind of thing that makes me wish I had friends.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:17 PM on November 23, 2010

This is the kind of thing that makes me wish I had friends.

Nearby Gamers is an option.
posted by yeloson at 8:23 PM on November 23, 2010

Yeloson, that's a great link. It seems that there are several people near me that like to play Ogre/GEV. Thanks for that.
posted by Splunge at 1:59 AM on November 24, 2010

Yeloson, thanks for reminding me to update my profile!
posted by immlass at 6:46 AM on November 24, 2010

When I finally publish my game, I'll probably go with relatively standard POD, like Lulu, CreateSpace or Lightning Source, but yeah, it's very tempting to go with an alternative strategy.
posted by jiawen at 9:16 AM on November 24, 2010

I'm thinking rpgs will parallel webcomic business in a way- the business model you start with will change multiple times as your fanbase changes. Stuff like the ransom model only works if you have a customer base who trusts you enough to pay up front for something they haven't seen.

On the other hand, stuff like "Pay what you want" depends on customer good will - Ben Lehman is posting initial reports about Pay What You Want, though the real test is what payments look like a month or two from now as people read, or play the games. Given that Bliss Stage and Polaris have been sold in book and PDF format for a few years now, they've already paid off at a profit - would the games do as well, better or worse if they started with PWYW?

There's a lot of interesting room to explore!
posted by yeloson at 10:00 AM on November 24, 2010

I picked up Shock based on recommendation in a previous MeFi thread. We've played two incredibly fun incomplete games so far; we keep forgetting to budget enough time to actually get through a full game. I ordered a hard copy+pdf bundle, and they gave me a preview of Human Contact, as well.

In the first game, we explored a near-future Singapore, where fast cloning and genetic engineering had been perfected. Soldiers bought drugs on the black market to give them a night of free will, while the elites paid to have their relatives cloned as sex toys, and the poor lapsed into simple incest in imitation of the elites.

The second game centered on the discovery of a continent-spanning intelligent fungus growing in the Amazon. Scientists tried to synthsize a way to communicate with it, while others simply ate the fungal blooms and spoke cryptically with the creature in trippy dream-states. Meanwhile, the fungus itself used hopped-up monkeys to fling poo at those it deemed annoying.

Good times.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:00 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Shock: sounds awesome, and I'd love to play or at least read it. I paid my $13 a couple of days ago and have yet to receive anything. There's no excuse for this stuff to not be automated. Ben Lehman a least authorized my Polaris download same day.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:55 AM on November 25, 2010

« Older HIV Preexposure Prohylaxis -- Only $12,000 per...   |   Talk of the Town: A McCarthy Era trial and... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments