Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Working Together

Responding to this post, John Adams of Brave Halfling Publishing said this:

"This is one of the reasons I wish we could get some of the OSR publishers to work together. We could do so much more together, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. "

OK. "Working together" sounds like a grand idea.

I have no idea how it would work.

Seriously. I have no idea.

There is creativity and passion and small pots of money involved. If there was no money involved, nobody would have much to lose by working together. If there was a good deal of money involved, then it might be risking too much to be independent of the money-maker. But small pots of cash? In a creative enterprise? Trouble.

Let's use me as an example so I'm not projecting hypothetical motivations on other people.

I want to make LotFP work as a business. Not a hobby thing, but an attempt to be a full-time business. Dreamy and perhaps foolish, but if I'm going to do all this work I might as well grab for the gold, right?

So late last year it becomes obvious that selling "third party" adventures for other games from a few webstores wasn't going to achieve that goal. I couldn't even break into the small, but not inconsequential, Finnish market because this group of games really isn't on many gamers' radar here.

I needed greater distribution. Selling into retail in the US on the third party "compatible with OSRIC, S&W, and LL" wagon isn't something that sets retail on fire. In Finland none of these games are generally available at all (and Lulu is hardly Finland-friendly). And I honestly believe that these games being available for free on PDF is largely irrelevant to the viability of third party publisher support for them.

Now I could have decided to import Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry into Finland and then piggyback my releases into stores with them. But that would have been me aggrandizing and promoting someone else's brand for very, very little gain (basically I'd just be a middleman between the publisher and the stores here, and any money I took for taking the risk and effort of actually importing the stuff would just markup the price of the book in the store...) in the hopes that any customers take that next step to my stuff.

Even if that worked as a business strategy right now, that would be stupid to do. Neither Labyrinth Lord nor Swords & Wizardry are being run as full-time enterprises. So many things can happen, as we've seen with Stuart Marshall stepping away from OSRIC and both Proctor and Finch have already taken absences away from the scene for one reason or another. That they all have 100% legitimate reasons for their actions just underscores my point. LotFP is the #1 priority in my life right now. Is LL or S&W the #1 priority in their creators' and promoters' lives?

So if I was going to be serious, I had to do my own game, build my own brand instead of being a label that depended on people recognizing other peoples' work. It's certainly no guarantee of success, let alone the success I hope for, but at least the failures, the shortcomings, the mistakes, will be all my own.

However, I did not intend to do the game as any sort of a separatist movement. Here's what I'm doing to work together while at the same time pursuing my own game and brand:

Offered to carry several publishers' work at Ropecon, paying wholesale rates for their products. Brave Halfling, Expeditious Retreat Press, Goodman Games, and Rogue Games took me up on it.

My Referee book will be plugging publishers involved with the OSR, by name and by product. All of the major clones are plugged and linked. This is all pending their OK (I sent each of them the section of writing to make sure it is acceptable to them). Eight Eleven of the eleven publishers have given their OK, some after requesting minor adjustments that I was more than happy to make. Haven't heard at all from three two of them yet.

I offered a free ad flyer in my box set, printed at my expense, to six old-school entities, including five "competing" publishers. All I needed was the graphic to use from each publisher (so they had complete control over the presentation). I set a deadline months in advance, even sent reminders a couple weeks ago. Only two delivered. How closely am I supposed to want to work with all these people?


  1. Welcome to the world of RPG game publishing.

  2. You do more bond-making than pillaging. If you did more pillaging, you would win more respect, and then you could be the Warlord of the Internets.

  3. If no-one else wants the space I'd love to have an ad for my online game in there (www.ageoffable.net) - but it might not be on-topic enough.

    On another note, is the English language a big barrier for game materials in Finland? Maybe you could work with some to do a Finnish-language version?

  4. I haven't stepped out, just busy with a lot of things.

  5. Actually, I was talking about your overseas absence last year.

  6. Man, that was a long time ago. I've kicked all all sorts of butt since then! Don't get me wrong, i understand completely why you would want your own game. Nonetheless, Labyrinth Lord and now the Advanced Edition Companion are doing very well in distribution. In general I've built up a lot since last year.