The Dilemma of Supplements

There is a dilemma in which I find myself trapped again and again when it comes to new role-playing games. A new game comes out whose premise I dig, so I pick it up. It turns out I like the game and then I look forward to picking future supplements expanding on that game. Only . . . the supplements get trapped in the pipeline or they don’t cover topics of interest to me.

In the first case, I’m a fan of WitchCraft and Conspiracy X, two games published by Eden Studios. Both have had chronic issues with Eden getting supplements through development and into the market. As I’ve seen it related on web forums, they need an infusion of cash to pay the printer for a run of a supplement, so they knock out an All Flesh Must Be Eaten book to generate that sum. But somehow that doesn’t work out due to time and energy concerns, so books like The Book of Geburah and Grace & Guidance linger in development hell.

In the second case, consider The Day After Ragnarok, published by Atomic Overmind Press. I love the primary setting book. It’s awesome stuff. The published supplementary materials available so far which I . . . don’t really care about. Sten guns? Monster Island? Not for me.

The quandary for me in both situations is this: I want more books to do with the game in question. I understand I need to vote with my dollars to make that happen. But buying the things available seemingly sends the wrong message. In the case of WitchCraft and Conspiracy X, there is nothing to buy; supporting them would mean buying All Flesh Must Be Eaten books; and an uptick in sales for that line isn’t going to help its beleaguered siblings. Similarly for The Day After Ragnarok, if I buy the existing supplements, it tells Atomic Overmind two things: I am interested in those topics — when really I am not — and I buy PDFs — when really I do so only under duress. Additionally, my luxury cash is not so plentiful that I can buy books willy-nilly without having any interest in the content.

So it’s a bit of a bind. Buy stuff I don’t particularly want in the hopes that the rising effect somehow affects the products I’m really interested in — or could be, if they existed — or buy nothing but the books I want and watch the line quietly taper into “Sure do wish they’d published some more books that . . . what was it called again?”

(There are the other options of buying extra copies of the core books, which leads back to needless waste of limited cash, and running the game to get other people into buying the books. Grassroots promotion is probably the best route, but it’s so time intensive compared to buying a book, you know? Really though, that’s probably the way to go, so long as the books are actually still available for purchase.)

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3 thoughts on “The Dilemma of Supplements

  1. So many issues will be solved when the RPG industry shifts over to PDF and/or POD as the primary method of distribution and usage.

    When everyone has a tablet, and every game/supplement is under $10, and publishers don’t have to risk capital on print runs, then a lot of complications will evaporate.

    It really just comes down to tablet computers coming down in price, which they will. The iPhone was $600 in 2007, and now you can get it for $50. Within a couple of years this will be similar with tablet computers, and the old antiquated systems of distribution will shrink down to a smaller version of the vinyl record scene in music.

    • But how does the proliferation of tablets cause the stuff I want to actually get made? The delivery method may lower the cost of publishing, but it won’t remove bottlenecks in the production process like prioritizing more profitable projects.

      • I think it just comes down to the fact that there are lower costs, and also lower risk.

        If you don’t have to risk capital just to print a book, nor go through all of the design and logistical hassles that it entails, it frees up the content creator to diversify what they are offering.

        If they don’t have to worry about warehousing and shipping product, then they can develop a catalog that relies more on the “long tail” spread of product that is diversified, specialized, and yields profit over time, rather than having to hope that the make their investment back in the first couple of months/year.

        Basically, none of their products go out of print, and so they can allow that unique feature to give them revenue over the long haul. That approach actually encourages them to diversify their offerings so that they have as big of a net dragging behind them, catching as many different interests as possible.

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