Tuesday, 4 January 2011

the year the game changed

This Etsy T-shirt is not $1.99
Two things on the same day show intriguing trends for the future.  First the $1.99 for any PDF deal from Adamant Entertainment*.  Icons RPGThe Imperial Age (True20 steampunk)Thrilling Tales (Savage Worlds Pulp)? All the sourcebooks?  Guess the pricing structure...  Citing piracy as a call to re-price, this is presented as a bold experiment.  Given some of the products involved, it's one that may bear some investigation - and maybe some reproduction?  Thanks to Greywulf for the pointer on this.

The 'app-level' pricing of RPGs and supplements feels intuitive.  Given the current paradigm of games and apps for download, it may unlock a barrier to entry that's existed to RPGs for some time and that's the perils of distribution.  Plus there's the opportunity for manufacturers to provide additional functionality baked into the product.  Quality control however takes on a whole new dimension and cross-compatibility with e-readers may be something that designers and developers need to take into account.

Meanwhile, Wizards of the Coast have announced D&D Fortune Cards.  Buy a booster pack and get eight cards (five common, two uncommon and a rare) which sounds familiar.  Then if your DM allows them to be played, you can do so to give your character a brief 'power-up' or in-session advantage.  Intended for use with D&D Encounters these "...feel different from the benefits gained from powers and feats, without adding undue complexity..."

How these will further enhance a mixture already rich with feats, powers (with their cards) and environmental powers remains to be seen.  More rules (and errata, oops updates) to manage.  Dungeon Masters may find they have to plan for the unexpected .  And does the DM grant the same perogative to their NPCs by playing these cards as well?  Is this a scene or a god damned arms race?  Though the card model has worked for Wizards before, previous cards for play in D&D have been less than essential.

The two announcements show clear contrast.  Each takes a different perspective on how the market is and where it's headed.  It'll be interesting to see which one wins out.

*this post updated following a revision to the pricing from $1 to $1.99.  Thanks to Purple Pawn for the tip.


  1. I'm not convinced by the $1 pricing model.

    I sure they will sell more copies but will it really increase sales by x10 or x20 to replace lost revenue from their previous prices?

    It also misses a fundamental point - games are meant to be played.

    Sure I can buy 10x as many PDFs as I used to, but that doesn't mean I have 10x as much gaming time as I had before. Automatically, 90% of these PDFs will never be played, and probably never read.

    Is this really a good idea for a games company?

    The WotC announcement is not good news. Gamma World with its cards has been very successful. However, in Gamma World, the cards are integrated into the game and consistent with the whole random, chaotic nature of the game.

    Trying to retrofit them into D&D suggests that WotC plan for the development and growth of D&D are ill-thought out. With some planning ahead they could of introduced the cards with the Essentials line of products.

    The positive side to both these moves is companies trying out new ideas. Some of the ideas will work, some won't but either way the RPG market will be a more vibrant place because of them.

  2. These cards have actually existed since AD&D 2d edition- they were orange or yellow certs that provided a die bump or an effect.. and then really came into prominence during 3rd edition
    with Living Greyhawk, the Xendrik Expeditions/Mark of Heroes campaign and Star Wars. Back then they were free collectibles that went out as prize support at RPGA conventions and they were *immensely popular* with that campaign (it was rare that I ever saw a Living Greyhawk group in the 3e days where the players didn't have cards). A typical card lets you reroll a failed save or turn a natural 19 into a natural 20. There's also a built in limit to how many you can have.. I think it's like 2 or 3 at low levels.

    But- bottom line: I suspect this won't have any interaction with rules so much. It's mostly an interaction with dice rolls.

    Essentials is only ten items, more than half of which are dungeon tiles. It's not any different than the rest of 4e, other than it's a beginners supplement. As a beginners supplement, it makes no sense whatsoever to introduce something optional like these cards.

  3. Thanks both for the comments.

    @tregenza - The app pricing still has merit and e-publishing is still a growth industry. While I've gamed with groups who didn't like laptops at the table, e-readers and tablets are easier form factors to work with. Plus prep is faster with searchable PDFs than with a dozen hardbacks.

    @pseckler13 - I thought this was a hybrid of the success of Gamma World, the convention cards and Wizards trying to leverage the MTG business model into D&D. If it works, it's a twist on the old form. If not, D&D may need something radical to regain ground.


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