Wednesday, June 07, 2006

See the trees, don't let the forest get in the way, just see the trees

Someone started a thread on ENWorld asking why there aren't more 3rd party adventures.

Damn, is it Wednesday again *already*?

This is a thread topic both amusing and frustrating to me. It's asked ALL THE TIME, and freelancers and company owners drop in fairly consistently and give all the same reasons why we don't do more modules.

Then people tell us why we're wrong. It WOULD sell better, it DOES make sense, and we CAN compete with Dungeon.

Ok, sure, whatever. We suck and we don't know what we're talking about. Gotcha.

Here's the one thing that always baffles me though, that no one in these threads ever, EVER seems able to wrap their minds around.

Even if modules sold better. Even if companies (especially PDF and small press companies) could compete with dungeon, put yourself in the boat of the average RPG writer:

You have two weeks to work on a project.

Project A will make you X dollars.

Project B will take the same exact amount of time and energy, and make you X+5 dollars.

Which project do you do.

Chuck

PS The module is Project A.

5 comments:

Larry Clapp said...

First you say "even if modules sold better", then you say "p.s the module would make less money than the other product". So, how much better would a 3rd party module have to sell? By which I mean, how much better than the "average" 3rd party module, if such a thing exists.

And, speaking mathematically, is X the price per unit, or total? If X is total profit, and X = $1000, then the answer is: do whichever one you most want to do, and don't sweat the lost $5. :) On the other hand, if you're talking about the difference between, say, $10 unit cost and $15, then I'd definitely agree that that's a pretty big difference.

Chuck said...

X+5 is misleading mathematically. I think X for sourcebook and 1/2 X would be a better way to put it.

It's not a small difference.

In fact, there are many profitable module franchises, Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics spring to mind here, but even THEN Goodman Games could probably make more doing sourcebooks.

But the DCC series is an anomaly. Most modules sell very, very little, one account by a well-known and talented PDF publisher in the thread I linked to gave an example of a module he wrote that has sold 16 total copies since its release.

So I should have used something better mathematically to show that most sourcebooks sell orders of magnitude better than modules.

And they take just as much time and money to make, if not more.

In fact, imo, almost every single time you see a module from a 3rd party company, there's one of two motivations:

1. They love the game.

2. They have a setting or game line that they want to support and get some branding behind.

In neither case is the module itself being counted on to turn a profit. There's some other motivation.

Daniel M. Perez said...

I sell a fair number of adventures (in fact, they are my main seller), but these are adventures written during the heyday of 3.0. The original adventure I sell is of the "I love the game" kind (it's for Testament), though even as a niche-within-a-niche product, it actually sells pretty well. I will, more likely than not, produce more of the kind.

Would I spend the full resources of a sourcebook solely on new, generic adventures? No, not likely. But adventures are a necessary evil in our industry, and can be a good seller if used as intended: support for new games/settings, or support for niche games/settings. Generic D&D/Fantasy adventures meant for your average d20 gamer without a hook behind it will fail; to quote Blues Travelers, it's the hook that brings you back.

Adventures will pick up again once 4th edition comes out (assuming it is OGL). ;)

Daniel M. Perez said...

I sell a fair number of adventures (in fact, they are my main seller), but these are adventures written during the heyday of 3.0. The original adventure I sell is of the "I love the game" kind (it's for Testament), though even as a niche-within-a-niche product, it actually sells pretty well. I will, more likely than not, produce more of the kind.

Would I spend the full resources of a sourcebook solely on new, generic adventures? No, not likely. But adventures are a necessary evil in our industry, and can be a good seller if used as intended: support for new games/settings, or support for niche games/settings. Generic D&D/Fantasy adventures meant for your average d20 gamer without a hook behind it will fail; to quote Blues Travelers, it's the hook that brings you back.

Adventures will pick up again once 4th edition comes out (assuming it is OGL). ;)

Chuck said...

Agreed.

And that was one of the things I listed that caused adventures to be written, support for a product line or setting.

But again, the point there isn't for the adventure to be an independent revenue stream for a company.

An adventure for that purpose is viral marketing that will hopefully not COST money (since a well-written adventure should at least break even).

And even if an adventure for that purpose does lose money, it's a marketing expense.

But time is the most valuable commodity anyone who owns/works for a small business has and that's where adventures are really a tough sell from my perspective.

There's other things I could be doing with my time.

Which doesn't mean I never find them worthwhile time expenditures.

First I love the game so occasionally that gets me. Second, there are occasions where as a form of marketing the adventure is second to none.

Like an adventure that will be run at a big con like GenCon.

Which brings us to where I am now: writing two adventures ;)

Chuck

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