Saturday, April 30, 2011

Capitalism, Bitches!

“Money is the sincerest of all flattery.”
– Robert Heinlein

The prolific –C has decided he’s not going to give it away for free anymore. I can’t say I blame him, and I wish him luck with his foray into for-pay game development. I hope more follow his lead.

I don't have any problem with anyone who wants to give away their work for free. Heck, I've given away lots of stuff for free: shields shall be splintered, the table of Death & Dismemberment, and all of my Labyrinth Lord/B/X classes. But I didn't expect anything in return for any of these. Not even comments. If you want feedback, you have to make it as easy as possible for people to let you know what they think. It doesn't get any easier than asking them to pay for it. It may not be very detailed feedback, and it's possible to misunderstand exactly why people are paying for your stuff. But that doesn't change the fact that it is exceptionally easy.

Even better, getting a little scratch makes it easier to offer more. Let's be honest here; we are only getting Vornheim because Raggi made money on previous projects that he had could then spend on Vornheim. Vornheim could not be made on the cheap. Even if Zak had wanted to give it away for free (I'm sure he could make a lot more money if he'd spent the time on painting) it wouldn't have worked. It had to be a hardback that you could take to the table with a dust jacket and interior covers and all of that. Vornheim simply could not have worked as a PDF or a Lulu POD project.

The other cool thing about money is that it doesn't suffer bullshit. The web is full of all sorts of nonsense about RPG publishing that simply isn't so. Three years ago, everybody knew that boxed sets didn't work. It was boxed sets which had killed TSR. Everybody knew this as an indisputable fact. Nobody was going to invest in a boxed set project.

I don't need to tell you how things changed since then.

Time and effort and care and stress and dedication cost money. We all need to keep a roof over our heads. We all need to pay our bills. We all need to put food on the table. Compensating people for the time and effort and the blood and sweat and tears they put into gaming allows them to put more into gaming. It means artists can spend more time drawing dragons and sorcerers and paladins instead of illustrating instruction manuals for electronics. It means designers can spend more time testing and tweaking and thinking of new ways to do things. It means writers can give us more adventure instead of having to spend all their time describing real estate opportunities and VOIP telephony. It means publishers can experiment with new forms of publication, and can spend more time letting us know about the cool things they've got coming down the pipe. The more we give them, the more they can give us.

And besides, it's a very easy way to show your heartfelt appreciation.

13 comments:

A Paladin In Citadel said...

I heartily endorse this product or service.

JimLotFP said...

>>Vornheim simply could not have worked as a PDF

Aw man, you know what I'm uploading to RPGNow, etc as we speak?

Chris said...

Good for -C. Something is worth what you're willing to pay for it.

Free is always nice, but really good work deserves the approbation and warm glow that only money can give. :)

DHBoggs said...

Good stuff. Can't agree that only hardbacks are useful at the table. In fact, I'd rather have a softcover rulebook unless it's freaking huge. Much easier to flip through/manipulate. Likewise pdfs allow me to print out portions of a work without the crap I'll never use, and comb bind several related things together if I want to.

Telecanter said...

I think this post only makes sense if each blogger posting free products is doing so in blind isolation. In other words, they are not sharing the value of other peoples works by reading some of the 300+ blogs, or building off of ideas encountered there, or getting any social value involved with taking part in the community.

You can charge money for what you do, but do not demonize sharing in the community as if it is stealing from you. Even if you worked your ass off to make a one-page dungeon for the contest, you got 70 free for you trouble.

trollsmyth said...

DHBoggs: Ah, yeah, don't get me wrong: Vronheim needs to be a hard-cover book with a dust jacket because Zak does stuff on those inside covers that needs them to lay flat and be rigid, and because stuff is printed on the inside of the dust jacket (I think; haven't gotten my dead-tree copy yet).

If I had my druthers, most game books would be spiral bound like technical manuals so they could be laid out flat on the table, for easier use. And I don't think we've even begun to really scratch the surface of what is possible in electronic formats.

trollsmyth said...

Telecanter: True, but -C wanted feedback on his (?) ideas specifically, and wasn't getting that. If you're happy to just send your work out into the intrawebs as a sort of Joesky tax you pay to the community, awesome for you. But if you have other desires and needs, you need to set expectations accordingly. And, clearly from -C's experience, simply asking for the comments wasn't enough.

I actually think he was asking for too much. Writing a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and useful comment (forget actual critique) is hard to do. Paying someone $10 for their work is not only easier, but usually cheaper.

Zak S said...

I figured:

if Vornheim is going to be a physical book that people pay money for instead of a bunch of blog entries, it should be contrived in such a way that -being a physical book makes it more useful- so I did that. Thus the roll-on charts and the attention to information/graphic design.

Personally I think, in most cases, free blog-distributed content is good and way better than making books and selling them.

However I don't understand the fetish for PDFs--doing something as pdf rather than simple html just ensures that people have to download it just to even see what the hell it is. (especially now that we have the "print to pdf" button on blogger).

I mean, if the only way to even see what the hell a thing -is- is to download it,your going to get a ton of downloads. But each one is the equivalent of flipping through a comic book you aren't going to buy and putting it back on the rack.

Free content is good, right, just, and proper as long as you're getting as much shit back from the community as you're putting out.

trollsmyth said...

Zak S: I was chatting with Oddysey last night, and she was enthusing about your latest post, saying, "This is why it's important to have a graphic artist in the OSR." (Quote not exact, apologies to her if I got it a bit off.)

Most folks don't treat publication formats as artistic media the way you do. I know it annoys Raggi when I say this, but Vornheim really needs to be seen in its hard-book format because you designed it (optimized it) for that medium. In the same way that some works need to be sculpture and some need to be watercolors and others need to be oils, some RPG material is just more useful in dead-tree format, and others is easier to convey when it's supplemented with hyperlinks.

However I don't understand the fetish for PDFs--doing something as pdf rather than simple html just ensures that people have to download it just to even see what the hell it is.

The big (maybe only) benefit of pdf over html is that when you lay something out in a pdf, it will always have that layout. If you lay something out in html, it'll get jiggered all over the place based on browser, screen-size, the computer that reader is using, etc. Blogger, for instance hates tables that look just fine in raw html.

Again, I'm not denigrating stuff offered for free on blogs. I'd be a hypocrite if I was. However, I am saying that if you give it away for free, that includes freedom from any obligation on the part of those who take it.

Stuart said...

However I don't understand the fetish for PDFs--doing something as pdf rather than simple html just ensures that people have to download it just to even see what the hell it is.

My first game goes on sale tomorrow. I couldn't have done what I did using HTML. :)

Zak S said...

@stuart

for sales, pdfs make sense. For most of the content i see in free pdfs, it just seems like a way to hide content from people unnecessarily.

Like when I finished the alphabetical monster thing everyone was like "why not make it a PDF? Um...why, it's right there already.

Stuart said...

For most of the content i see in free pdfs, it just seems like a way to hide content from people unnecessarily.

Yeah, I agree with that. After all many Ebooks are written in HTML. :) A few things (like Origami Gamebooks) won't work in HTML though and need the extra formatting of PDF.

-C said...

@ Zak

Why make something a .pdf?

So I can easily print it off add it to my play binder.

Why do I release .pdfs?

Because they are huge things - I can't have my 44 page psionics as a blog post, nor everything that's in my tricks and traps