Monday, May 9, 2016

The Cheapskates are Out There

This provocative article about cheapskate RPG buyers has been making the rounds lately and everyone's got an opinion. Including me, I guess. Here's how I see it.

Not an RPG enthusiast.
The cheapskate RPG buyer is a real creature. The one who goes on about how something is too expensive, when what he really means is that he would rather not pay for it. They text you and say things like, "Before I spend FIVE DOLLARS [on your 64-page full color game PDF with original art on every page], can you guarantee there are no typos and that the rules are extensively playtested? Why exactly should I buy this book?" I just get to a point in the back-and-forth where I tell them, "No one's ever found a typo in my work and I'd love to have your business, but I think we should break up because you're too flirty, baby."

I am fortunate not to have to sweat five dollars on a latte or on a PDF that looks interesting, but if I were that hard up, I wouldn't be spending it on RPGs. I would be spending it on booze and lottery tickets. If you're really strapped for cash, just buy a few used D&D hardcovers and stick with them as your rule system forever. Or find a free rules set. The Frugal GM compiles some of the best free or super-cheap stuff out there. The underlying reason why RPGs are a shitty retail category to start with is that you can play them for years without buying anything new. The real frugal types are the ones you don't hear from because they are making do with what they've got or taking the DIY route. God bless them for it.

Given the cheapskates and the buy-nothings, small-time game publishers can't expect to produce for such a niche market and make anything close to a living by it. The audience just isn't there. No one is owed a living through any entrepreneurial venture, including small-press publishing. Especially since you can publish with virtually zero overhead costs if you do print-on-demand of PDF. The only thing you need to pay for is artwork, and frankly most small publishers use public domain artwork or tacky PhotoShop collages, or like me, make do with their own artistic ability.

Fair pricing? If I tallied up the hundreds of hours I spent making Dungeonteller and wanted a modest return of $10/hr over a several-year-period of sales, I would have to price the PDF at $20 or more. My actual price for the whole game on Drivethrurpg is just $5 because that's where my desire for compensation meets my desire to actually have a substantial number of people play the game. People who buy my books are getting a goddam bargain and I'm okay with that as long as I get some love, some honest reviews of my work, and no one acting like they're being fleeced for something that I worked on for three years.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out and link! That was a surprise.

    I really don't like cheapskates. My take on things is that "frugal" does not equal "cheap"! I have no qualms about spending money, especially if it is on quality. I've been trying to turn some folks on to DungeonTeller because even though I haven't played it (not my style) it is impressive to me. I think your game's style is perfect for getting kids involved with RPGs.

    Looking now I see you have some stuff I haven't bought yet....

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