Category Archives: Just my two cents

Gaming All Day, Gaming All Night

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?

Conan II

I have based this look at the Conan rpg on the quick start rules and the Conan Free RPG Day 2017 version Pit of Kutallu.

When Michael reviewed the full rule book the overall impression I came away with was ambivalence towards the game but then Michael is not a real Conan fan. Conan was my way into RPGs in the first place.

So putting the 2d20 system aside (more about that later) how has Conan and Hyboria been treated? With the greatest respect is my impression. The books are littered with vignettes taken from Robert E. Howards original works and these set the scene and bring the setting to live. The quick start book even starts with an essay on what is canon and who Howard’s creation was taken and expanded upon.

I have read through two adventures; Pit of Kutallu, which showcases the dark Cthulhu-esque shared background of Hyboria and To Race The Thunder which is set on the very edges of Aquilonia.

I may be somewhat biased here but these adventures are written in the same style as I tend to write my own. I am not a lover of maps and room by room descriptions. These adventures describe challenges or encounters and the GM may use or ignore them as they see fit or are needed to challenge the players. There is another quality to them and this is ‘relative encounters’.

‘Relative Encounters’

In many classic published adventures; a location will be described and then you are told there are 5 guards stationed here, what they are carrying and any treasure. When the PCs roll up they meet or avoid the guards depend on their choices. These static encounters have the danger of being over powered or under powered depending on the make up of the party. We play a game based upon dice and random things happen.

All the adventure encounters in these publications use a more relative way of describing the numbers encountered such as ‘one less than the number of characters’ or ‘three times the number of characters plus two more’. It doesn’t matter how many characters are in the party, the danger level of the adventures self-regulates. I don’t know if this is a Conan ‘thing’ or just a modern adventure writing ‘thing’, either way it is excellent and I will adopt it for all my future adventures.

Another feature, this may just be because the sample I have looked at are intended to be single shot adventures, but NPCs are designated as being suitable for use as PCs. Should a player die in the game session they can take up the reins of one of these NPCs to complete the adventure. This points to the adventure being well written. It also gives the GM a free hand relating to danger. I am not a ‘killing’ GM. I do not go out of my way to stack dangers against the PCs. At the same time I like to let the dice fall where they may. I am running a game set in the Forgotten Realms right now and the party have two possible options for raising a fallen character, both of which are single use, one is a scroll and the other will be consumed when used. Giving them that ability means that my hands are free to play my monsters and NPC opponents to the best of their ability. Seeding the adventures with potential pregen characters also frees up the GM.

So, as published Conan is a 2d20 system but Modiphius also publish a d20 to 2d20 conversion document to help those moving from the Mongoose Conan game. WotC incidentally publish a D6 to d20 conversion guidelines document relating to the StarWars franchise. This means that junking the 2d20 system, the only element that I don’t like, and adopting either d20 or an OpenD6 system are viable options. My D6 bookshelf has grown to 5 books now and I like what I am reading.

Conclusion

So will I buy Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book? It is a relatively cheap book and certainly good value for money at nearly 500 pages. I think this is a good possibility and kills two birds with one stone, to use the cliché, I could tempt my main group of players with Conan and feed them the D6 system at the same time. So right now Conan is on my ‘I want to play’ pile.

Looking for a spiritual home.

Excepting this past year, I have spent the last 25 years pretty much just playing the same game system, Rolemaster and its sci fi cousin Spacemaster.

I have just recently started to look at different systems looking for something that gives me the same thrill as Rolemaster but also something fresh and exciting (Michael knows all about excitement!). The funny thing is that as soon as I discovered Eclipse Phase I also learned that 2nd Edition is in development. I have just spent much of last week reading the players guide to 7th Sea and learned today that there is a 2nd Edition of that as well.

Both of those systems shine because of the setting and if I can get a group together I would love to run them.

Right now I am in that “I don’t know what I want but I will recognise it when I see it.” phase. Some systems are a complete turn off, FATE is definitely not for me, that much I do know. One look at the sheer volume of books behind pathfinder and my blood runs cold.

I do spend a lot of time creating games. Each game I build tries to explore different possible ways of doing things. The basic anatomy of a plot is force the characters up a tree, throw stones at them, get them down again, repeat in the next adventure.

The basic anatomy of a game system is create a character, enable them to do stuff, reward them for doing stuff.

With such simple specifications it is no wonder that there are so many ways going through those simple steps.

Rolemaster has been criticised for having character creation take the best part of an entire game session but Rolemaster players see it as lovingly crafting their characters. It is funny that for a game that is so deadly the character creation takes so long. It reminds me of playing Traveller back in the 80s when you could take all afternoon to create a character only to have him or her die during the creation process.

There is an obvious trade off, the more detailed the character the longer the process is going to take to create them.

My regular players are more hack and slash than story tellers so for me the combat system has to be good. 7th Sea really stood out in this respect. I would love to get my hands on a pdf of the new rules to see if it is even better. The only thing lacking in 7th Sea so far, to my tastes, are the humour and detail of the Rolemaster criticals. I guess I cannot have everything!