I read an article this week about the rising popularity of European and particularly German board games, the so-called Eurogame.
The core difference apparently between American and German games in the past 50 years has been that American games have been centred on conflict, think Risk, Axis & Allies, Star Fleet Battles, and Victory in the Pacific. Germany for obvious reasons was not so big on these conflict-centric games but favoured games based around construction and building things up like communities (Settlers of Catan), farms (Agricola) or businesses (Power Grid).
So this article, linked below, was interesting but it also struck a bell with other things I have been reading. Fria Ligan are Swedish but there is much emphasis in Mutant:Year Zero on the collaborative building of the Ark.
Another Euro/American difference is that American games tend to eliminate players as the game progresses but Eurogames keep people involved right to the end. Tales from the Loop is build from the ground up with the presumption that the kids will not stand and fight, and die, but run away and find a different route or solution.
It may be just my perception but start up times seem to be faster in the European games. The original Iron Crown Enterprises (Rolemaster/MERP) was an American publisher and Rolemaster must have one of the most complex character creation processes known to man. In contrast the Fria Ligan way is very fast and light but at the same time construct characters using a detailed skill system created by player choice.
Maybe it is just my perception but is there a move towards role playing games being more accessible and less confrontational? Mind you, the high lights of my gaming life at totally hack and slash so who am I to tell?
Here is the original article, which is very interesting.
I half expected Micheal to post this morning, it being Christmas eve. In our house we celebrate a Swiss Christmas today and then do a British one tomorrow as the two halves of the family have different traditions. That has nothing to do with RPGs but I was not going to crash Micheal’s post.
He hasn’t so I will.
There are three emulators I want to look at. The first is the grand daddy of them all, Mythic.
Mythic is the most feature rich GM emulator I have ever seen. It is based upon multiple D100 rolls. It uses the idea of twists, interrupted scenes, chaos and random facts. The intention is to give the players as much inspiration as possible.
In my opinion Mythic is too crunchy for my tastes. There are too many rolls for each simple yes/no question. On the other hand something that was unique to emulators is that the full RPG and the emulator use exactly the same game mechanics. What this means in practice is by asking a question like “Can I see any guards?” the perception/observation test and the emulator roll are identical. Obviously the better your observation ability the more likely the outcome of the test is going to be a ‘yes’. In the previous article in this series I tried to align the example GME with the M:YZ style of play as much as I could. The way that M:YZ resolves skill tests was a bit to complex to turn into a yes/no answer generator but I could reference the and symbol dice and the D66 mechanic to keep the M:YZ flavour. Mythic is not just flavoured, it is truly unified with its parent system. Normally everything I reference is either free or ‘Pay What You Want’. In this case Mythic is a full paid product ($6.95) and a platinum best seller on both RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. If you want to try an Emulator and want a really professional product and all the supporting material you need to learn how to use it then Mythic is worth the $7 price tag. For me, as I said, there are too many rolls, too many tables (and that is coming from a Rolemaster GM!) that the rules get in the way of the game. On the other hand though once you grasp how Mythic Gamer Master Emulator works you can easily create a much lighter version to fit any game you want to play.
CRGE, Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator
CRGE is a much lighter affair than Mythic and is also a PWYW product. You can grab a free copy and see what you think before going back and making a contribution. CRGE is based around a table called the Loom of Fate that is your basic yes/no generator but with different probabilities for different types of questions. It breaks things down to ‘towards knowledge’, ‘towards conflict’ and ‘towards endings’. The Loom of Fate is a d100 table so there is ample scope for tweaking probabilities. One of the nice things about CRGE is that it is modular. There are different add on products such as a random NPC generator called UNE, The Universal NPC Emulator and BOLD that creates backgrounds, legends and adventures. There are more bolt ons as well but I have not tried them. As I noted above, I don’t want too heavy an emulator as I feel it gets in the way.
CRGE is a lighter option than Mythic. The Loom of Fate is d100 and the twist part of the system runs off a d20 roll. If you don’t want to risk a whole $6.95 then I would recommend that you download CRGE and soem of the bolt on products. These standalone so even if you do not end up using the emulator the NPC generator, for example, could be useful.
ABS12 Flexible Solo Game Engine v 1.0
ABS12 stands for A Basic System D12 but it actually supports most common dice systems. In addition it also has a number of complimentary products such as a random fact generator and character generators. Of the three emulators here this is least professional, by which I mean you do not get a lot of hand holding and supporting material. You need to be pretty comfortable with GM emulators to understand what is going on. I have included it as it is feature rich and crams everything into just 5 pages. Something else that makes ABS12 stand out in this lineup is that ABS12 is primarily a solo engine. Ken Wickham, the writer, uses ABS12 as a writing stimulation tool on his own blog, World of the Fifth Sun. The blog details the development of the ABS12 solo engine and Ken’s super light RPG where characters have just a single stat. Ken’s rpg has the same ABS12 name as they were designed in tandem.
The advantage of ABS12 is the speed of use. Ken had the advantage of trying many other emulators before building ABS12. This emulator includes more options on the yes/no table for conditional answers. As another PWYW product it is worth downloading if you want to see another alternative system.
The last product I want to look at is something a little different. Rather than being dice and table based this is card based.
ALONe: A Solo Game Engine BETA
I like the way that the income from the PWYW BETA is being used to fund the development of the full products. Each deck of cards costs $9.99 and includes all the information you need. So, although this is pitched as a solo game engine it works really well as a collaborative social game. ALONe gives you half a deck to play the BETA with which is more than enough to get a feel for how it works. There are loads of decks of cards and expansions. ALONe itself is a Silver best selling product so it is certainly popular.
All of the above products are available to try for free, with the exception of Mythic, and they do a better job of illustrating how they work than I ever could. If you find yourself with some free time in the next week why not download a couple and see what they are all about?
Today I thought I would do a bit of an opinion piece just to break up the number of game read throughs I have done recently.
I like to think that deep down all of us would like to spend all day role playing and not have to go to work. So how viable is that?
Micheal has a patreon profile which doesn’t bring much money in but if you contrast that with The Angry GM he is earning $1110 (and counting per blog post, based on 4 per month. That is $4440 x 12 $53,000 a year for writing one blog post a week. There was an article I read this week that put the US poverty line at about $23,000/year so you are not going to starve on $53k. So yes you can write about games and make a living off it.
Blogs are about the easiest option. They used to be far more popular than they are now, as social media has taken off blogs have somewhat diminished. It is easy to make money on a blog but much much harder on social media. You cannot just plonk some ads alongside your content and get paid like you used to.
Blogs fall into some basic types. The Angry GM is an opinion blog. Review sites make money from small commission payments when you refer a reader who then goes on an buys something. Stargazer’s is largely a review site. In its hey day it had 10k readers a week and that would have generated a reasonable income but not enough to live on. I don’t know the figures but I do know that Michael still has a day job.
Some blogs are magazine sites. Gnome Stew is one of my favourites. The advertising on sites like Gnome Stew earns in the region of $2 per 1000 pages seen. They typically get 17,000 visitors per month, each views a guestimaged 6 pages per visit based upon their site design and they publish new content 12 times a month. Multiply that all up and you just over $800 a month. They have a little Patreon following taking them up to a $1k a month. They also sell their own books. How much that brings in I cannot easily guess. Using typical figures for online sales and the size and price of their books I would put it in the region of $30k/year. So Gnome Stew probably earns about $50/year like The AngryGM.
If you don’t want to blog about roleplaying than you can create and sell games. I have produced dozens of supplements over the past couple of years from full games to simple plot hooks for adventures. Not one thing that I have produced failed to sell. These days of PDF downloads and sites like OneBookShelf (drivethuRPG, DM’s Guild and RPGnow) make becoming a small publisher very easy indeed. Making serious money from it is, in contrast, extremely difficult. Ever since Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms setting as picked up and adopted as an official setting it has seemed tantalisingly easy to write and sell your own adventures or setting. After all, we all write adventures for our players week in, week out. Surely we can write an adventure module or path and make a killing? There is a big gap between what us a normal GMs produce and the adventures released by WotC or Paizo! Probably the biggest differences are Art and Playtesting. Just about every game played has some house rules or loose interpretations. These can make an adventure that works for your group go very pear shaped every quickly when another group tries to play it. The Art question is another thorn in the side of the independent publisher. The cover and interior art can make or break a game or supplement. Art is also not cheap of you commission it.
We are all storytellers. I also think that quite a few of us harbour the idea of writing up our campaigns to create a novel. Drivethufiction allows anyone to do that. You can easily write just a single chapter and sell it for a few pence as a PDF. I produce a fanzine for one of my favourite games and that sells as a PDF but I also create and sell a kindle version and paperback. In total I have published eight issues of the fanzine plus a print version of one game and the first supplement of that game. Interestingly, I sell more printed copies on Amazon than I do on the RPG sites, where PDF is far more popular.
How much you are going to earn through self publishing is a rather open ended question. If you focus on one game system and the publisher is open to third party supplements then the size of the gaming community is the size of your market. This means that 5e and Pathfinder attract the most attention, so it is harder to get noticed but if you make something popular then it will make a lot more money.
It is certainly possible to mix and match all of the above suggestion and create a completely game-centric income for not a lot of work. That would then free up your time to play games with your friends. Even if you don’t make enough to give up the day job it is easy to make enough that you can have any game you want when you want it and not have to worry about it, just worry about the bookshelf space instead.
So, with New Year’s resolutions just around the corner maybe a little secondary income could be an ambition?