Thursday, January 18, 2007

10 Questions Joe Browning

Joe Browning, head honcho of Expeditious Retreat Press is our second 10 Questions volunteer for this week. Previous interviewees at 10 Questions have been Russ Morrissey, Fraser Ronald and Phil Reed.

ERP are the creators of Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe, one of the best conceived products the PDF market has seen in a long time, which educates fantasy GMs and world designers on the actual mechanics of medieval politics, religion and economics, as well as taking magic into account, assuming you're not running a strictly historical game.

As for the rest, let's let Joe speak for himself.

1. What do you see as the “next big thing” in gaming?

Honestly, I have no idea. For me, the products that I’ve always liked aren’t the things that have been big things in the industry, so I think my opinion here isn’t of much value.

2. RPGNow and Drivethru recently merged. What do you think this means for the PDF market?

I think the merger between RPGNow and Drivethru has illuminated the distribution risks associated with allowing a single entity to dominate a publishing company’s electronic gaming products. The associated fee increase was a shock to the publishers who helped build both of those businesses and informed them that their profit margins are fair game when the OBS goes looking to increase its bottom line. Having less choice in distribution is not a benefit to anyone but the distributor in the PDF market.

3. Related to question #1, where do you see PDFs specifically headed in the next year.

Hopefully over to Your Games Now! J But seriously, I think the market is maturing. I believe we’ve passed the initial growth spurt where PDF products gained acceptability as a viable option for publishers. There are now almost no publishers whose products are outside of the PDF market. Growth now will come from continued production within PDF producers as opposed to growth from adding print publishers into the PDF mix. That’s not to say everybody’s here yet, but I expect they will be within 5 years.

4. Now look further into the future. Where do you see PDFs five years from now?

Bigger than they are now, probably roughly 40%+ of the rpg market. PDF will slowly gain converts from those who were formerly against the medium. As our society as a whole adapts towards a more digital-friendly view, such a migration will naturally occur. If digital paper gets off the ground in a cheap and durable form, the change could be quiet rapid.

5. How did you get into the RPG business? What was your first job in the industry?

I wrote the book I’d always wanted to read: A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe. After over 2,000 PDF copies, I’m glad I did. J I’ve never had a real job in the industry outside of our publishing company Expeditious Retreat Press, and in ways that’s both a blessing and a curse. I’d like more knowledge about how other companies manage their production, but at the same time having to find our own way has helped us as well.

6. If you were just starting out today and were ready to try and break into the RPG business, what would be your first step?

Have a goal of what you want out of the business and try to make a plan that fits what you want. If you just want to be creative, don’t try to publish. Publishing isn’t creative work, it’s just work. If you’re going to publish accept that a lot of your time that you could spend on doing something creative is going to be spent doing something else. But more than that realize that people make buying decisions on appearance, marketing, and content. I wish things were more content driven, but that’s not the case. But to be honest, appearance and marketing ARE content, just of a different sort than what many think of as the content of a game.

7. What was the first RPG you ever played?

A mix of red-box and blue-box basic D&D. Rules were optional, dice were rolled for fun and profit, and I got killed by a big centipede. Nasty critter, that.

8. What are you playing right now?

Unfortunately, nothing on the rpg side. I’ve been too mobile (moving roughly 11 times in the past 6 years) to have any established gaming group. That said, last GenCon I played in a great game of Expert D&D and when I was in Austin last year had a lot of fun trying out various board games with Wil Upchurch and the various folks he’d prod and poke out of Steve Jackson’s company. Lately, with getting Your Games Now off the ground I haven’t had any time to play anything in the past two and ½ months. Even BuyWord and hasn’t been dusted off lately.

9. If you could snag any licensed property for an RPG, what would it be?

Thundarr. Something about that series just grabs me and I’d love to produce a little rpg for it. For something more serioius, the Kane novels by Karl Edward Wagner would make a great world and system for a dark and gritty rpg.

10. What’s coming up for you? Sell me something damnit!

We at Expeditious Retreat Press are continuing our 1 on 1 Adventure line (adventures for 1 GM and 1 player) and the Advanced Adventures line (for the OSRIC/1E system). We have another Magical Society book in mind, but it’s going to be a beast and I’m not prepared for a real announcement yet. But I've just finished a new chapter for A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe about warfare, so our Magical Society fans will have something to chew on for a while. That'll probably come out in PDF before February.

But our real big news this year is Your Games Now. I’ve started up a cooperatively run sales site for tabletop gaming e-products where site profits are shared with the publishers who actually make the material that’s sold. I think this model is going to do very well for us, publishers, and customers. The more money that reaches the hands of the Creatives in this industry, the better and more varied the products will be for all gamers.

Id like to once again thank Joe Browning for taking the time to answer my 10 questions, he has a lot going on in the writing and business arenas.

Stay tuned for further installments in the series, upcoming interviews include Gareth Michael Skarka of Adamant Entertainment and Mike Mearls of Wizards of the Coast.

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