Greg Christopher draws our attention to an article by Christopher Helton about how gamers need to be less a bunch of cheapskates and be willing to spend more on RPG books. Greg Christopher does a pretty good job of knocking down Helton’s arguments, but there’s more to this. Quite simply, the problem is not with the fans. We’re not cheap.
How can I say this? Quite simply, we’re willing to spend US $40+ (depending on what the exchange rate is this week) for A Red & Pleasant Land. And has everyone forgotten Ptolus already? Back in the double-oughts, when everyone was saying that RPGs were going the way of the model train hobby, Monte Cook embraced that model with an almost-700-page book with CD and handouts and stuff that retailed for US $120. I don’t remember Monte Cook having all that much trouble selling copies of Ptolus. (The electronic version is still available at drivethroughrpg for US $60. Nope, I didn’t miss-type that, the actual price is fifty-nine-point-nine-nine US dollars.)
So the truth is, gamers are willing to spend the money. If you give them something worth that much money.
Calculating value isn’t easy, but here’s a handy cheat: does the feature you’re paying for make it easier to play your game? Does it make it more likely I’ll play your game? Does it make your game more fun to play?
Those are the things that matter to me, the player. I’m not interested in collecting books, I’m interested in playing games. So how does your book make it easier, more fun, or more likely that I’m going to play?
an example. This table of contents is printed on the inside of the cover, not a few pages buried into the book. It’s quick and easy to find. And notice what’s right on the bottom, left-hand side: if the PCs want to do x, then go to page y, with a list of things PCs commonly want to do. How awesome, yet simple, is that? Why doesn’t every adventure have that? They don’t, but World of the Lost (hard-cover, 176 A-5 sized pages, black & white interior art, MSRP US $40) does.
If you want gamers to spend money on your books, you have to convince them that the value is there. I’m a big fan of Green Ronin’s stuff, but I don’t care how much it costs to produce a full-color hard-back, coffee-table book. I play games; I don’t collect books. But even if I did, why would I buy another glossy coffee-table book when I can get A Red & Pleasant Land or the hardback version of Carcosa, with their stitched bindings, voluptuously tactile covers, sewn-in ribbon bookmarks, and sumptuous paper?
Don’t tell me that the glossy coffee-table format is the only one people will buy. Raggi’s success proves otherwise.
Hell, as a gamer and not-a-book-collector, I’d rather Raggi dump his gorgeous book-printing fetish and go with spiral-bound for everything from now on. That format is just so terribly easy to use at the table. But that’s not Raggi’s bag, so I’m not holding my breath on him doing it.
Here’s what I also know about a book I buy from Raggi: it’s been playtested. The layout has been meticulously crafted to make the book easy to use. The writer, layout expert, and Raggi have all thought about how they can make the book easier to use. The book I buy will take advantage of the innovations they’ve come up with for this book and others.
There’s more useful innovation coming out of a one-man, officing-in-his-living-room shop in Finland than there is out of all the companies based in the Seattle area.
That’s the bar folks. You want my money? That’s how high you gotta jump.
Now get to it.