City State of the World Emperor Question
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Post Posted: Sun May 22, 2005 10:40 pm 

harami2000 wrote:"Higher" costs?
S'pose it does depend on the format you want vs. what the current technology is more geared towards.

Well, yes, higher costs on a per-unit basis. The problem is creating a certain view as to the value of a product with POD products versus the alter mass-produced versions using regular printing.

For example, using POD, as you mention, I could indeed get 120-page books at merely $4 each, books that would cost me half that or less printing in larger unit numbers at a standard printer. POD products, however, as you note, have a "cheaper" perceived value than other books... you can only put a retail price of 2 1/2 times the print cost of a POD, whereas when you go with standard printing and through standard distribution/retail channels you must put an MSRP of at least 5 times the print costs... and there you are barely breaking even, because you are only making 40% of the MSRP. Back in the heyday of Judges Guild, Bob was using the "Rule of 10," in which you multiplied your print cost by 10 to get the MSRP. But those were the days before hyperinflation in printing costs, due to massive increases in the cost of paper and an increase in the base cost of production due to increased perception of necessary printing values (i.e., glossy cover, higher quality interior paper, even interior glossy and color!)

As noted on another thread, I can POD 50, 100, however many, 120 page octavo paperbacks with glossy covers for under 4 bucks a piece, so there's more than ample scope for some such "solution" or "part-solution", I'd've hoped.
Even with Amazon taking a huge slice, is possible to list through them at under $10 and make money.

Could you provide a link to that thread? I've missed it apparently...

As to the $10 Amazon price, sure, I could do that if I never wanted to go through the standard distribution and retail channels again. And thus I would be limited in sales to those who are hooked into the Web and would actually bother to buy from Amazon or other online sources. Online retail is still only marginal compared to standard retail, standard retail has whole different markups than online.

If I put an MSRP of $10 on a product in standard retail, that means I only get paid $4 from the distributor. He then sells it to the retailer for $5, who sells it to the customer at $10... he has to, in order to pay for his overhead. Retailers have the biggest overhead in the industry.

At that rate, if it cost me $4 alone to print, I am paying people to take my product, because the $4 I got from the distributor only covers my printing costs. It does not cover the cost of the writing, editing, art, layout, sales, marketing, shipping, or storage.

And the problem is, with selling in that fashion through Amazon, I create the *perception* that my product is only worth $10. Which will work if, eventually, I figure I can sell enough products through standard distribution/retail such that I can get my per-unit printing costs down to just $2. But even at that, the much lamented "Rule of Five" that has come to dominate the small publishers of the day, does not allow me to pay my writers, editors, artists, salespeople, or myself more than a minimum-wage level of salary... if that. Not to mention income for growth!

One of the major hidden reasons the industry has, in general, declined over the years is that it has been unwilling to adapt its pricing structure to account for the rising costs of goods. We went from a Rule of 10 to a Rule of 5 over the last 20 some years... to wit, to paraphrase a friend in the industry, those of us who were making $20,000/year 15 years ago are still only making $20,000/year. And that $20,000 doesn't go nearly as far as it did 15 years ago. That's one of the reasons so many game designers have left the tabletop industry to go to the computer game indsutry. A guy who would be making $20k per year in this industry would make $60 or more in the computer game industry. Not to mention stock options...

If I was looking at this as merely Vanity Press, sure, not a problem. But I'm looking at this from the perspective of building a long-term, viable and profitable game company...

OK, it's not good ol' JG larger format newsprint (*g*) and there's the issue of maps, but it's a mark to compare against, phps.
Anyhow, does everything really "need" to be huge multi-book printings with full color at the end of the day? Sounds interesting, anyhow...

While I would lvoe to go back to the days of newsprint and four-color covers, those days are long gone, if you want to remain competitive. Again, for vanity press, it would be another issue (and in some cases I'd consider that). But again, I'm not looking at this from a vanity press perspective.


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Post Posted: Sun May 22, 2005 11:05 pm 

mbassoc2003 wrote:I'm not a great fan of D20 and all the incarnations and resurrections that have been bread from it.

Me either, though I *really* like Castles & Crusades. It captures the old-style of gaming from OD&D/AD&D 1E while still using what I feel are the improvements in the game from 3E.

And while I'll play in a 3E game, I will no longer run one. Can't stand DMing 3E, from the pain in the ass of creating monsters and villains to the Munchkinesque Prestige Classes, Feats,a nd Skills. Blech.

I imagine the present offerings in the JG line are pretty to look at, given the advances in printing technology over the intervening quarter century, but there must surely be a distinction between the JG we all know from our childhood, and the dead horses that have been flogged by Mayfair and NG, whatever their pedegree.

Actually, so far, I think Necromancer Games has done a good job of maintaining the classic Judges Guild feel. Of course, I am not neutral here, as I helped them on several projects.

I think the Player's Guide to the Wilderlands was pretty good, though of course, it had a lot of 3E "crunch" in it that I didn't, personally, take to. But the descriptive material inside was very much in keeping with classic JG.

The City State of the Invincible Overlord was dead-on with the "Third Edition Rules, First Edition Feel." I think that was their best JG product to date.

Caverns of Thracia, personally, I could give or take. I never played in the original, so I have no real personal attachments to it. From what I hear, though, they did a fairly good conversion, and added on some interesting bits.

I've seen the stuff coming up in the big Wilderlands of High Fantasy boxed set, and have I mixed reactions. I think for the uninitiated, as in those who never played in the Wilderlands before, this is going to be the most amazing campaign setting ever. It will just totally blow away anything else, including Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Eberron, what have you. The Judge is going to be able to pick up this box and run with it with minimal preparation on his part. My only personal problem with it is I think they may have gone too far, and too in depth with the setting — but this is just the classic JG grognard in me. You see, I've been running campaigns in the Wilderlands since 1980, and thus, the Wilderlands *I* run in has little to do with the Wilderlands that is being published, save for some place names and major NPCs. I've got 25 years of development on my Wilderlands. For me, the boxed set will simply be a source to fill in the blanks where I have never developed the setting... if it fits. But for a new DM/Judge... the boxed set is going to be the answer to their prayers.

One thing you have to remember is that in order to be profitable, Necromancer Games *can't* write and develop these products to appeal strictly to the grognard taste. IF they did, they'd be out of business.

Studies have shown that 80% of the people in our hobby cycle out every 5 years. That means, that since the heyday of Judges Guild in 1980, when there were about 6,000,000 players, there remains only about 2,000 active, regular players who prefer those kinds of products. Convervative estimates on the sales of 3E PHB and DMG have been around 1,000,000 and 250,000 respectively. Which market are you going to write for, if you have a company and employees and investors who are counting on you?

That said, I think Necromancer Games has done an *amazing* job in keeping the feel and flavor of the original JG products. This is mostly because Clark Peterson and Bill Webb, the two guys who are the heart of Necromancer, are some of the biggest JG geeks I've ever met, next to myself. Believe me, if they *could* do it classic all the way, I think they would. But business sense requires them to do otherwise. I am quite certain that were the market healthier today, we'd be seeing a lot more freebie stuff in classic JG style on the Necro and JG boards...


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Post Posted: Mon May 23, 2005 3:31 am 

jamesmishler wrote:Wizards of the Coast still owns those entirely. They have been licensed out to Kenzer & Company as the core of the HackMaster RPG. Whether that license is exclusive or someone else could get a license to produce products for "First Edition AD&D" or "Second Edition AD&D," I don't know. I doubt WotC would be willing to license those rules out without an extensive fee; after all, ostensibly, part of the reason there is a d20/OGL license is to get others to publish adventures and source books in order to help WotC sell their core books for Third Edition.


Overall if you still wanted to do something like this, my advise would be... don't. If you want to throw your money away, just write a check to me, and I can throw it away for you for a nominal fee... there's a nice dump nearby. :)

Oh, thank you for the kind offer, James, but I'm real good at jettisoning money away all for myself  :lol:
When I look on my collection and see the oldies I won on Ebay, everything lets me remember that fact  8)

As I'm stuck in RPG old time forever, I was wondering what the newest tendencies in owning and distributing rights to publish games nowadays are the same as of old - strict and anal-retentive - or now there is more a Linux-approach, that is a free system...

"It's mint, it's a first print, and it's mine!"


"Not anymore".

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