“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.