Sunday, 3 July 2011

for a fistful of d6

On July 4th, the 6d6 RPG hits general circulation.  After 18 months of development, rigorous playtesting and experiments in publishing and production, it's finally here!  I got chance to have a couple of beers with Chris Tregenza and discuss the concepts that led to 6d6 RPG.  The ideas behind this are innovative in combination:
  1. Creative Commons: 6d6 RPG is CC-BY-SAYou can publish (and sell) your own version of 6d6 as long as you acknowledge the original and don't use 6d6 logos.  No standard reference documents or terms of fan use to restrict third-party publishers.  Remixing content, hacks and mashups are welcomed.
  2. Fan-driven rules mechanics: Development of mechanics has expanded during playtest and is now hosted on a wiki (DocuWiki for the technically curious).  It's telling playtesters are becoming 6d6 RPG mechanics and setting writers.  Both Breakout! and 6d6 Bots are playtester-developed.
  3. Living Document Buy a 6d6 PDF and you'll always have the latest edition.  New versions can be provided from the site. Compiling errata and annotating against static hardbacks isn't an issue since you can just re-download the PDF. As long as there's a 6d6 RPG, you'll have the latest version.
  4. The Writer's Share.  Writers of 6d6 RPG branded-products get a share of the profits (33%) rather than being paid a flat-rate per word.  If you have a vision for a game setting, the 6d6 RPG mechanics provide a distinctive mechanical framework.
  5. Subscription-based online tools.  The 6d6 Tools offers full, ongoing access to all 6d6 products and the wiki.  Initially being launched with lifetime memberships, the plan is to offer regular updates to products (see the Living Document item above) and other materials.

Print copies of 6d6 RPG are ring-bound.  This gives them a distinctive look and certain benefits (no spine to break, handouts can be removed without harming a book) compared to other RPG products. Products make a splash when they break the mold (e.g. LOTFP's Vornheim).  The hard covers are durable plastic-bound art board.  The manufacturing process is outlined here with associated costs. Chris is candid why this approach was taken.
I wanted to learn how to make and sell an RPG, which included physically making one.  People have written about the risks, about how role-playing games are a tough market - any market is tough, look at how many businesses fail!  Game store owners have told me 6d6 RPG will stand out on shelves.  This is about doing things a little differently, with unexpected benefits - like not damaging the book to provide player handouts.
Chris discloses his costs, following the example of Fred Hicks.  Costs, especially printing and distribution for the print copies were higher than expected.  In addition, the perception of professionalism matters, especially when it comes to art.  This intrigued me as many publishers use print on demand (POD) to cover those costs.  Why not use print-on-demand services like Lulu?
 Many Lulu-based products look and feel like traditional RPG product which means they're bound within the same constraints.  Also Lulu doesn't do cards, a core part of 6d6 RPG.     
When it comes to PDF products, buyers are spoilt for choice and product quality varies. With Online Tools and Living Document, writers and fans can refine work without bogging down in the concept of errata.  Chris admits he will provide some quality control, particularly over the Core Rules.  Good open source is hard and ultimately the intent is for self-moderating peer review to drive development. 

6d6 RPG products (Ultra-Lite and Mince Pies and Murder) have had good reviews, the Core Rules and Outbreak! are released on the 4th of July after extensive playtesting at UK conventions alongside a western (Shootouts) and fantasy-based system (Magic) as well as adventures.  Chris speaks highly of this process and of conventions in general - his only wish is that more people visited them!  We got to talking about the casual gamer and what role Facebook and social media could have in bringing more people into RPGs.  I asked if there are plans to develop 6d6 RPG apps: 
Not in the short term but if you've got technical skills and are interested, I'd love to hear from you - you may have to be paid in 6d6 products at first!  Some core 6d6 RPG concepts like cards, static and dynamic pools would work well in a web or app-based model.
It was a pleasure talking to Chris and I hope 6d6 RPG goes well.  A lot of ideas he's expressed are things I think will benefit tabletop RPG development and the market.  The cards make resource-pool mechanics tangible and easy to grasp.  Combined with guaranteed minimum competence and situational modifiers it combines utility with the ability to model multiple settings.  A versatile set of easy-to-grasp mechanics with good product support and wide-open development environment. What more could you want?

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