Monday, July 26, 2010

Ropecon After-Report and Mega-Mass Mailout

Ropecon was a bit of coming down to Earth.

You see, I had gotten over 100 pre-orders from individuals before Ropecon opened. Think about that. Nobody knows what the vast majority of this thing is like. There are no reviews yet. Even the photo review on Dragonsfoot and the Acaeum came after the majority of the orders were placed. It is a premium-priced RPG product. That's amazing if you ask me. There's interest! And I had some people talking the whole thing up a lot locally, and I thought Ropecon just might be a real blowout success.

It wasn't. Not a failure by any means, though. It was a mild success.

I sold 26 boxes there, many to people who didn't know who I was, what the OSR thing is, just on the strength of my pitch and the production values. (I'm no Lou Zocchi when it comes to pitching to people stopping by the booth, but I did a damn good job if I do say so myself).

The Dungeon Alphabet was also a hot seller, as was Points of Light, the Creature Generator (Goodman chooses their old school releases intelligently, I guess it's fair to say), and Expeditious Retreat Press' Magical Medieval Society was an unexpected hit. That they were at Ropecon as guests of honor last year probably didn't hurt.

Basically, system-neutral stuff sold well. For all the internet talk and bluster, the vast majority of people I talked to had no idea about the OSR or anything of the sort. They remember the old Red Box. Mentzer was the only edition to be translated into Finnish, and that was the late 80s. I am told that the translations were horrid, being inconsistent from box to box (the BECM boxes were all translated, not sure about Immortals). The only modules ever released in Finnish for the old game were Castle Caldwell & Beyond and Rahasia.

Think about that. Think if the D&D you played growing up couldn't even keep its terminology straight within the same set of rules and the only modules you ever saw were Castle Caldwell and Rahasia.

This doesn't count the hardcores who certainly knew what was up, but when we have RPG veterans in Finland who know their shit inside and out yet have no friggin clue what Keep on the Borderlands is like... let's just say there's some work to do. The overall concept that we old-schoolers take for granted in the States just isn't part of the RPG culture here and it never was.

Actually, for the pre-Vampire era, I'm told if you were serious about RPGs, it was Runequest that was your drug of choice, not "kiddie D&D."

So the "module" culture isn't in place. No "classics" that are part of the public consciousness beyond internet talk. Which meant all the Advanced Adventures, all that Mythmere Games stuff, all that Kuntz stuff I brought along just sat on the shelf without being considered, no matter how much I talked up how brilliant Finch or Kuntz are at writing adventures. Maliszewski's Cursed Chateau sold a few copies, but Talanian's Sightless Serpent didn't sell one.

My modules sold decently because people like to buy stuff from the guy standing in front of them, I guess.

So it'll take some work. Hopefully the strong convention presence and booth presentation starts paying off when the LotFP box starts showing up on store shelves (Puolenkuun Pelit Espoo will have it tomorrow) and the buzz starts growing from people who have seen the guts of it rather than its pretty face. Get a core base going, then maybe they'll be back later for more. How can they not when the game is that good and these other releases are great?

And I hope to have the opportunity to start laying that groundwork in several countries that have good RPG scenes and decent-sized conventions, but no oldschool scene to speak of - at least not one that's letting itself be known.

It's a different world in the internet bubble, and while that bubble is responsible for 107 advance orders, there is a whole wide world out there ready for conquering that have no damn clue - and if they do have a damn clue it's full of misconceptions and misunderstandings of what the game was all about and what it could be all about. I'm going to do everything I can to spread the word.

And all advance orders placed as of Monday morning have shipped! It was indeed a Mega-Mass Mailout as we descended upon the post office with enough boxes to choke a mule.

Actually, 1 box might be enough to choke a mule. 2 for sure. But it was more than two boxes, so the saying is still technically accurate, if not very informative.

Honestly though, the European orders received before Thursday morning went out on Thursday. So if you're European and selected priority shipping, I'd be checking your mailbox today and tomorrow. It turns out I don't need those 5 page customs webforms filled out for items under 1000€, so I went ahead and did all those mailings. The vendor and distributor mailings will happen tomorrow since I will need to fill out those forms and visit the customs office. I only confirmed that with the tax office today, and had I know I would have started mailing out the non-European orders on Thursday as well. But everyone's order has been mailed as advertised, so no bitching from the peanut gallery please.

To say again: All 107 individual orders, even those made just this morning, have mailed.

PS. I screwed up the multiple item discount for one guy at Ropecon on Sunday. Somehow I applied the promised discount to just one item instead of all of them. I tried to find you after realizing my error, but couldn't after a couple go-rounds in the building. If you're someone that got a bundle discount from me in the vendor room Sunday, email me with the list of items you bought. If you're the guy, we'll arrange for me to transfer the 15€ in question to you.


  1. The Finnish rpg scene is pretty thin economically, 26 sold boxes is an excellent outcome in that context - in English, no less. As far as I know the sales record for Ropecon sales is held by the Finnish edition of Zombie Cinema from 2007 with around 50 sales, and that was a 20 € product. For a premium product in a budding school of play to sell over twenty copies is very solid.

    As far as I know, the most successful Finnish roleplaying games sell at most hundreds of copies in Finland; anything over 200 copies is already part of a narrow elite. It's probably not wise to expect too much from homeland sales when the international audience is so much larger.

  2. We sold 70 copies of Hounds of the Sea last year (20€ product) and Ironspine sold maybe 80-90 copies of their ENOC (also 20€ product)

  3. Oh... by the way.

    Death Frost Doom rocks! And I'm not OSR-guy. Very well written adventure with great horror mood.

  4. Thanks for the report on Points of Light. Where both there (1 and 2:Sunrise Sea)

  5. I played my first session at a Pathfinder table-top game this weekend (I know, I know, don't shun me...I'm desperate to game!) and I asked everyone if they knew about the OSR and retro-clones and the like...and they stared at me like I had two heads! No one had any idea what I was talking about! And most of them were at least 30 or older. Only a couple of them knew what Castles & Crusades was. So I know what you mean about the Internet "bubble" that the OSR is in...we all spend a lot of time on numerous blogs and start thinking that everyone in the world knows what's up! Not true at all...

  6. 26 units is very good, IMO. Selling at conventions is a definite art form.

  7. In terms of this 'new reality' you saw at the convention, do you still think that there is an OSR or do you think that a majority of it is people doing things they love that are now possible thanks to the massive advances in technology or both?

  8. There definitely is an OSR, as defined by an upsurge in play and publishers, it just has room to grow. :)

    I bet a booth like mine at an American or British convention would have different results though - geography matters.

  9. Hey, James, it's curious how the scene you describe of pre-Vampire era in Finland perfectly describes how it was in Spain back then. Yep, D&D was inferior, asn the manly games of choice were RQ and MERP. Guess we could follow the thread to find a trend on the differences between the US rpg culture and european one.

    The current situation about the OSR is similar, too. Wher I live it's me who's teaching everyone what's it about, and in the whole country, the only publishing effort in the foreseeable future will be under the hands of "Aventuras en la Marca del Este", but those are a group of very dedicated fans who play everything, and are not representative of the average gamer in Spain. I know they have contacted with James (Maliszewski), so he surely knows more of their project than I do, right now.

    It's certainly another country where everything is still to be done, same as you describe for Finland. Or even in an earlier stage. Interesting times, sure. :)

  10. I think it might be a European thing; certainly in my experience, most people played (or said they played) Runequest or WFRP over D&D.

    That's my experience, of course. There's a British wing to the OSR, definitely, with Vaults of Nagoh and Fighting Fantasist and others, and everyone around here plays D&D, although more modern editions (third and fourth, mainly), whereas I never ran into it as a teenager, when there was a much larger pool of players.

    My copy of Hammers of the God arrived Saturday, by the way. I like it a lot. It's a bit like Death Frost Doom in how campaign-shaking it can be, but the catastrophe is less literal. Very clever.

  11. Thanks for the good words about Hammers. I'm very proud of it, and afraid it's going to get lost in the shuffle what with that big shiny box that was released at the same time. :)

  12. I like it a lot, but it's the kind of scenario that needs a campaign around it for it to really work, and I don't have one running at the moment. One day though!

  13. Yeah, in German speaking countries we played Das Schwarze Auge (1988?). D&D was for Hack'n'Slash weirdos. Until a Canadian class-mate showed us how awesome D&D was. I think what convinced us poor 15 and 16 year olds at the time was that D&D was THE ORIGINAL. Weird. I remember buying AD&D 1st ed stuff in 1989 and soon enough AD&D 2nd ed appeared in our local gaming shop.

    There was one guy who played BECMI with his friends at the same school. He invited us to give it a try. We disliked it, thinking it primitive and crude. Race as class... Pshaw!

    It took D&D 3rd ed to show me the light. :)

  14. The overall concept that we old-schoolers take for granted in the States just isn't part of the RPG culture here and it never was.

    That is true for every market/community outside of the US. The rest of the world discovered RPGs
    - much later than the Old Guard
    - without connection to miniature or hex-and-chit wargames
    - had to master the game without other GMs as role models
    - brought their own preconception of the fantasy genre to the table
    ...and ultimately remade the hobby in their own image.

    Especially when the mainstream publishers of the foreign markets took hold of the concept and had to target their mainstream customers, using their distribution models - eg, boxed games in Germany, pocket books in the UK.

    A month ago James Maliszewski had a post about Japanese Stormbringer on Grognardia, which touched on the same theme.
    In the comments (#26) I dumped a lot of links showing examples and speculations of how and why European markets work differently from each other, and from the States - Das Schwarze Auge in Germany, visually gorgeous fantasy concepts in France, etc.
    (Btw, another user mentioned Ropecon in the comments.)

  15. Hooray for shipping!

    Do you know when US orders should start arriving? A ballpark estimate, of course.

    Looking forward to this, especially the module "The Stargazer's Tower". The art on the cover is so classic it makes me want to sing, or dance, or maybe cry. That, and people on Story-Games are talking it up.

  16. US orders that chose the Priority option could arrive as early as Thursday (first class mail often takes just three days to get from here to there!). US orders that kept the default Economy could take as long as a month according to the post office, but I've never had anything take nearly that long to arrive.

  17. I believe did actually get modules other than Castle Caldwell and Rahasia. The Veiled Society was translated, I believe, as were The Isle of Dread, The Palace of the Silver Princess and Tall Tales of the Wee Folk.

    Good job at the convention, James. I'm now recovering from the afterparty hangover, but will be really digging into the box soonish.

  18. You guys got Isle of Dread? First I've heard of it, but at least one of the classics made it over. :)

  19. Also, The Ghost of Lion Castle, and something called Elfhome, though I think that might have been packaged with the DM Screen.

  20. haha, yeah, I brought them a box (of boxes!) yesterday afternoon but didn't think they'd have stocked them yet.

    Must give a store confidence if they're selling before even being displayed. :D

  21. It seems that I am one of the few germans who actually started with the Mentzer Set, graduated to AD&D 1st and only then switched to a german RPG named Midgard (a skill based, realistic - for a fantasy RPG- system).
    We also played Palladium, Rolemaster and MERP, Traveller, Spacemaster and Star Frontiers. But never das Schwarze Auge. We once tried the first edition, but we felt that it was a bad copy of the original.

  22. Elfhome came bundled with DM screen. I haven't really figured out the point of that small adventure yet other than it perhaps being random site for home invasion.

  23. @Astropia
    I want to read through DSA 1st ed again, to see how I feel about it today.
    A friend still has the old first print box of DSA (with the ugly mask) and some adventures. Maybe I can talk him into selling me the stuff.
    We played AD&D in longer campaigns or adventures. When we got together and nobody had an adventure ready, we used the Mentzer Red Box because it was faster to get down to business.

  24. My copy arrived this morning - well it is intended as a birthday present for my brother but I think we may open it before then, long before.