The Value of a Game

The 5th Edition Player's Handbook costs $50, or just under $30 if you snag it on Amazon.

It's hardcover, 320 pages (none of which are blank), full color, and chock full of art. Formatting that is easy to implement yet bizarrely missing from many "indie" products includes tables with alternate row highlights (as opposed to just lines or no lines at all), horizontal rules, sidebars, and more than one or two header styles.

I'm rattling off these product details to set a precedent.

I've noticed more than a few "indie" role-playing content creators charging an amount disproportionate to their page count, production quality, and I guess what you'd call "focus", by which I mean it'd be more accurate to label some of their "games" as glorified adventure modules, generally only good for a single playthrough, and sometimes complete with essentially pregen parties that you're forced to utilize for contrived reasons (current trend seems to limiting you to playing women and/or gays).

Though the song and dance has shifted slightly from last year's pathetic attempt by self-proclaimed "professional" game designers trying to convince consumers with actual jobs to exchange ridiculous sums of money for mediocre works at varying stages of completion—including products that could only generously be described as complete—the rebuttal is still the same: you aren't entitled to make a certain amount of money doing...whatever it is you want to do.

Not everyone gets to do what they want to do for a living, and even those that do aren't necessarily making as much money as they'd like (hell, pretty much everyone I know isn't make as much money as they like working jobs they hate). Frankly, when it comes to role-playing games if the results are any indicator I'd say it's for the best, because most of the designers aren't very good at it: it feels like they just want to call themselves game designers because it sounds cooler than whatever their actual job is (if they even have one, that is).

Melissa and I are a two-man operation. We do all the writing, layout, and art ourselves. We edit and proofread as best we can, but since my brain starts to I guess auto-correct things after reading a document so many times we also do closed feedback rounds to catch as many as typos as possible (and make sure that everything makes sense), offering up a free PDF as payment/a way of saying thanks (plus a print-at-cost book if we do an actual book, though we also provide color and black-and-white PDFs in case you want to print it out at home).

We don't price our books by, as has been actually suggested, logging all of the hours it takes us to make something (or just pull a number out of our ass), multiply that by an arbitrary wage that we think we deserve, and then divide that amount by an expected consumer base that we somehow even remotely accurately deduced. That's insane, but it would explain the more oddly and overpriced PDFs out there.

No, instead we—surprise sur-fucking-prise—just base it (mostly) off of what everyone else is doing. For example, most Dungeon World classes are $2-3, so that's around what we charge (yes, even though we put in more effort and provide more content: we're passionate like that). Our very flexible GM Screen is $5, because when I published it that's about what most GM screens cost. Our upcoming games are going to be in the $5-20 range, because that's what reasonably priced stand-alone role-playing games cost.

A few people have tried comparing the price of their lazily cobbled together rules-lite/microgame/theoretical game to buying a cup of coffee (because they're totally the same thing, right?), apparently somehow (but perhaps not surprisingly) unaware that the price of coffee is influenced by more than simply what one guy thinks he's entitled to. It's not like Starbucks has a bunch of employees and bills to routinely pay, and it's not like you can just shit out a PDF and continually make money off of it, right?


When it comes to buying role-playing game stuff my current PDF price ceiling is $20, but that's for a complete game that doesn't look like a bunch of text walls broken up by blank pages and Creative Commons art or photos that you maybe ran through a Photoshop filter. Page count is also a factor, which for some reason confuses/outrages some people, but I can forgive that up to a point if it looks like you actually put some effort into it (there's a difference between rules-lite and putting is as little effort as possible to technically maybe get it done).

It also helps if you (as mentioned above) didn't crap out a glorified adventure module (or something that would work much better as a board game), omit your boring vanilla setting with your boring-ass names to pad out the page count, aren't pushing a bullshit ideology/virtue-signaling, and/or it's also not a lazy system hack. If you can do that, great, I might actually pick it up. Until then, lower your price and stop trying to convince me that your 8 page "microgame" that's barely good for a one-shot is totally worth paying $10+ for.

As for print-on-demand products, I'm only willing to pay in the general ballpark of the PDF price plus the cost of printing. I don't mind if it you round it up to the next dollar, or maybe even tack on an extra buck or two, but if you expect me to pad your pocket with $10+ for the "privilege" of having a physical book you can fuck right off (to be clear, I'm not talking the cost of printing: I'm talking the PDF cost, plus the printing cost, plus an extra $10+ on top of it all).

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

The Rogue is our latest alternate-addition to the Dungeon World core class roster. If you want something different and/or more flexible than the thief, be sure to check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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