Friday, January 29, 2010

Box Sets are All the Rage

whew. Dragon Age and Warhammer 3e I knew about. That Dr. Who was released as a box surprised me. That S&W White Box had a box release was a surprise as well. Emprise is announcing a box set version, and now Wizards of the Coast is doing the box set treatment for 4e and Gamma World.


Meanwhile I've been hard at work on my own box set project. I did plan on having a full working (if not very pretty) draft done by the end of next week, but that's my wife's holiday week so she'll be around all the time. Week after then, and that will be the rules, magic, and the tutorial. While I'm playing with those rules and you're looking them over, I plan on having the Referee book written in February. This will be the full Raggian approach to gaming, including campaign construction, adventure design, and atmosphere. A lot of stuff included in fragmented, disorganized, or incomplete forms on the blog but will be (hopefully) comprehensively and understandably written for this project. March will be dedicated to writing the two adventures, April for playtesting them, and then looking at May for formatting and all that lovely stuff (I have a new layout program on the way... I have been using a 2001 version of InDesign which can't even frickin do tables), and hoping for a June release.

In the box will be the following books with color covers:

Rule Book
Spells & Magic
Referee Book
Dungeon Adventure
Wilderness Adventure

The box cover will also be used for the Rule and Referee book, with different artists (and different media) used for the rest. There is the risk that this approach will come across as garish, but the intent is to just maintain that "oh wow, look at THIS" reaction as you go through the contents of the box. Using the one piece of art for all the covers might be confusing as well - not only for quickly grabbing the right book at a glance during play, but with me hand-assembling the box contents. I don't want that email saying "Jim, why do I have four tutorials in my box but no magic, rules, or referee book?" :P

The total cost for art already commissioned is just over 1000€, or about $1400 (the majority of that for the box cover). I expect to add another 200€ to that as I find out exactly how much interior art I'm going to need.

There will also be dice and character sheets and various other goodies in there. Right now I estimate that the box is going to be just over two inches thick (A5 format books and box - same as all my releases).

I could do a smaller project, but I figure if I'm going to do it, I need to do it right and right now, instead of waiting for some mythical "later" to go all-out.

I have secured the rights to some music from a musician friend of mine as I intend to do a promo video once the box is out. Nothing flashy, a few pans of the box and contents and flashing art on screen to the beat of the song is all.

I'll be reprinting Death Frost Doom and going to press with Hammers of the God at the same time I print the box set in order to try to keep down costs on all three.

The print run will be 600, and I'm trying to keep the final sale price down to $60.

I don't know all my final costs yet and who knows what the dollar/euro relationship is going to be by then, but that's the working idea. Get over your sticker shock now, because when I'm over 5,000€ in debt I'm not going to want to hear it. If I could print (or expect to sell) five or ten thousand copies, this would be much cheaper, but I'm worried about having hundreds of these things forever in storage as it is. Big project, small press, this is the reality. But I'm going to do every damn thing I can to make this worth the price.

After the insides are all printed and assembled and I've placed the order for the boxes (has to be done that way so I know exactly how thick the box needs to be!), I'll run a pre-order where I'll knock hopefully $10 or so off that price which will run until the boxes are ready. All these prices will include shipping, which given the size of the box will be a significant portion (30%, maybe?) of the price.

Time to find out if I'm a real writer and publisher or if I'm just playing at them.

Death or glory.


  1. Heh; everybody is at it, just shows all the chatter does not necessarily go unheeded. For what it is worth, it is probable that Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea will also be a boxed set, though a final decision remains to be made.

  2. Sadly I'm not going to able to afford this. I understand the economics behind it, but that bloody Euro is just worth too much. Unless I've missed it in a previous post, have you announced plans to later release your game as a pdf James? It might make the difference between breaking even and making a profit to fund future projects.

  3. Not sure how I'll handle the pdf.

    The basic rules + spells are going to be a free pdf like the other clones handle it, formatted nice but not sure if it'll have all the art and stuff. It'll have the character sheet of course.

    I'm making extra copies of the two adventures to sell separately anyway, so of course those will be available in pdf form.

    But then that's the guts of it. How much would be fair to charge for the referee section plus tutorial plus main rulebook with all the art? Not half the price of the physical product, that's for sure.

    Gotta think about it.

  4. I think an art-free, or minimal art pdf would still sell quite well. Just whack a single piece of art on the front cover and most people will be happy, I know I would. The truth is, when printing off a pdf product at home, the less art, the less ink used, the more money saved - and pdf's are generally a budget way of buying rpg materials.

  5. Your other modules on PDF are $5 or $6, so figure about $11 for the two modules. The rest of the stuff would probably double the value, so figure about $20 or $25 for the entire boxed set as a PDF.

  6. Hey, I'll buy it, especially if you offer a pre-order deal. I approve of your simply going for the gusto and making this thing the way you envision it. Why bother to do a thing half-assed? Huzzah!

  7. Alas, I don't think Emprise!(tm) will have a mini-pad of graph paper in the box. And players will need to supply their own pencils...

    But boxes? Hell, yeah. I started on the LBB's, but I grew up on Holmes. I just hope the economics work out.

    Oh, and I got to see Korpiklaani again in NYC a couple of weeks ago. Thought of you, James.

  8. Boy, in this age of print-on-demand and .pdf I am not sure what the allure of a box is. I gues when you guys go "old school" you go all the way. Personally I would ignore the boxes. My OD&D white box not very useful and disingrated after about two years of play. If you find a box which stores flat when unfolded you could make a larger print run of boxes then print-on-demand the booklets to fill them. Maybe someone needs to set-up a print-on-demand box site.

  9. $60 seems fair for the boxed set if it includes shipping... $25 for the pdf, maybe $15 or $20 if you are preordering the boxed set.

    Definitely looking forward to it.

  10. oh, how about same art but different background color for the different covers?

  11. My wife had another suggestion for enconmical box production. She was remembering the Old-School games where the box was just a plain box (or woodgrain)and the cover art was a seperate sheet of paper pasted down on top. More hand labor on your part, but least you don't have to figure out where to store the 1,000 boxes you need for a economical custom box print run.

  12. That would save a little money, but not enough to counteract how cheap it would look next to comparable boxsets. I want this to look Grade-A.

    In the next couple of days I'll show what the box format looks like.