Friday, June 05, 2009

Adventures Support Play

Now here's an idea for how a big company like Wizards of the Coast could make money off of people playing the game. In short: set up a big ol' database, and let users fill the database full of stuff. Characters, adventures, maps, encounters, that kind of thing. Other people rate, rinse, repeat.

I'm not sure it can be done. Not without the rating system turning into a morass of greifing, anyway. (Anyone played City of Heroes lately?) But if it can be done . . .

Heck, if access to the database was based on a subscription, then you could send micropayments back to people whenever someone downloaded their stuff. Even if all it could amount to was getting that subscription for free, it'd be a pretty good incentive for people to polish up their home adventures and send them in.

But pie-in-the-sky figuring like this is beside the point. What's important about that post is that it's another person who's come to the conclusion that the best way to build an industry off of supporting play is to publish adventures.

Most of the current industry out there has pretty obviously decided that publishing adventures isn't worth the time or the money. And they're probably right -- in the short term. In the long term? Adventures do a lot of things to grow the player base that can't really be done any other way.


  1. Usually people don't like Micropayments. To quote Clay Shirky: "the trend towards freely offered content is an epochal change, to which micropayments are a pointless response."

    Also note the large number of wikis with free content already out there: The Grand OGL Wiki, EN World Wiki, various setting wikis, etc.

    I don't think WotC will be able to compete with free on the same level. They need comparatively cheap hardcover books and expensive art to set themselves off from the free crowd.

  2. What I really want to do is make the One Page Dungeon Contest a yearly thing: 1PDC 2009, 2010, etc. Collect them all and make them available for download. Integrate them with a wiki and provide some commentary. Like the yearly Interactive Fiction Competition. In a way that has already acted as an incentive to "polish up [...] home adventures and send them in."

  3. A One-Page Dungeon wiki could be pretty cool. One way I imagine it could be used would be alternate keys to the same map.

    As far as WotC's involvement, I don't see what they'd be adding except hosting space. I sure don't see how it would work for me to donate my work to them to charge money to look at, even if I were promised some trickle of money back.

  4. Alex Schroeder: Micropayments is more the first word that came to mind, rather than really the right word. It's a little more analogous to what Google does with Ad Sense. The consumer isn't paying anything, a third party pays the creator whenever that consumer views/downloads the content.

    And hardcover books is another angle that WotC could take, rather than a subscription model. (Which would ideally be part of the same packages as the rest of the DDI.) "Send us your adventures, we'll host them for free, and the best ones we'll release in a book every year" could be an interesting model.

    But, fundamentally, this is all speculation. The adventure solution is almost certainly going to have to come from the hobbyist community, rather than WotC. (It might grow into a company, but then we're back at speculation again.) And I do like the idea of using the One Page Dungeon Contest to do that. We're going to have to try a bunch of different things, and find one that sticks.

    jamused: Marketing, exposure, and branding. Those are the hardest parts of being in the publishing business, and why even successful self-publishers of books tend to try to use that success to get picked up by a "real" publisher. And don't discount the casual factor. Something like this wouldn't mean much to us bloggers, people who already self-publish on a regular basis. The average D&D player, whose exposure to the online community consists of occasional visits to the WotC website, might feel differently.

    That said, I'd really rather see something like this come from the community rather than WotC itself.

  5. set up a big ol' database, and let users fill the database full of stuff. Characters, adventures, maps, encounters, that kind of thing. Other people rate, rinse, repeat.
    It already exists. It's hosting your blog right now ;)

  6. Great idea. StoryMash is exactly what you mentioned -- Submit content, get voted on by peers, reward content creators with a portion of the income. It happens to have concentrated on traditional fiction writing instead of RPG writing. But, nothing requires it to be that way.

    I've used adventures before but I wouldn't buy them regularly. I'm much more interested in settings books such as GURPS Russia/Japan/Time Travel/etc and new RPGs with interesting rules. Both as sources of ideas for my own games.

    I don't understand why people believe adventures are the "answer" for making money off of RPG'ers. Didn't Dungeon magazine struggle? Only 1/4-1/8 of your customers(gamemasters) might buy adventures and many of them (like I) prefer to roll their own.

    Many places I've lived the biggest thing lacking was a place to play and people to play with. But those also happened to be high rent city type places.

    I would love for it to be profitable to open a chain of game stores like FPS/Internet Cafes but for paper games. I wish it made economic sense but I doubt it does. Although I do hope when I'm old, rich, and retired to live above just such a place. One I run for fun and only needs to not loose too much money.

    The RPG Industry is mostly in the business of controlling distribution (a few exceptions include manf of dice/miniatures, running cons). Like the other content distribution industries their business model is dying fast. Now that we have Phat Internets, self-publishing, and Free as in GNU rules the industry is an Albatross more than anything.

  7. Chris T: I should make clear that this is more Square Mans idea than mine. I thought it was an intriguing one, but I'm also somewhat dubious about his ability to analyse tabletop gaming realities, based on his comments about 4e.

    But, while it's true that there are plenty of places to get free or cheap *hosting,* it's an entirely different thing to get people looking at your work, and to get it all collected together with similar work for categorization and ranking.

    Norman Harman: I doubt that there's much money to be made off of adventures, but it is something that people are willing to buy and that supports *play,* rather than playing with character creation and arguing over rules. I'm actually not much of an adventure user myself, but they're very useful for demonstrating how the game is intended to be organized.

    And you'll note that a lot of the adventure-mania going around now is focused in old school circles. The styles of play old school is associated with are particularly conducive to the use of published adventures: they're a good way to fill a sandbox, or provide a little variety in your dungeon levels.