Ted's RPG Rant

A place to rant about RPG games, particularly the Temple of Elemental Evil. Co8 members get a free cookie for stopping by. Thats ONE cookie each, no seconds.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

RPG rant

Ahh, a good old-fashioned RPG rant - just what this website was designed for.

Recently I was looking for some info about U3, The Final Enemy. I have the modules U1 and U2 (folks familiar with them will recognise various motifs from them in KotB, which I gratefully acknowledge :-)) but since the campaign for which I got them never eventuated, I never got around to getting U3 (D&D stuff is VERY expensive here in Oz, being fully imported and all, and not to be bought on a whim too often ;-)). Anyways, that was many years ago and I don't tend to buy stuff nowdays for various reasons, but I really wanted to find out more about U3. (Why? Never you mind :-D)

So anyways while reading a comprehensive review of it at ummmm www.rpg.net or somewhere, they offered to sell me a pdf version for $4.00. Heh, thinks I. No real reaction at all at that time - you get what you want in a lower quality format for a lower price - makes sense I guess.

So go forward a week or two and I was looking online for some info about material components after the recent discussion of introducing them into the game (very small discussion between myself and Half-Knight - I notice no-one else weighed in. And Basil did, I think, but no big grass-roots push of "yeah, lets do it!" - there never is). I found some d20 book specifically devoted to the subject - Encyclopaedia Arcane: Components and Foci if I remember the name correctly. Of course we all have a giggle about these books just being a push to make money but since I was specifically interested in this subject and am happy to acknowledge other folks may well come up with better ideas than me (not to mention do some play-testing for balance, or at least apply the rules / guidelines for producing balanced encounters, which I never worry about but recognise as important) I thought about getting the pdf version of this. (Actually, I was going to buy U3 as well, spend about $20 to get 4 or 5 pdfs and have a big print-a-thon. Our financial situation has been looking up lately, due to some re-structuring of this and that and a combined pay-rise / tax cut. I got some stuff for Cheeky that Yvy wanted from Amazon.com too.) Also I thought I might find something good devoted to Alchemy, since I have been trying to get the Thunderstone going (it works but the little timer for its duration doesn't count down for some reason) and once it is in we will have about 6 different items that could be made by an Alchemist (that, Tanglefoot bags - damn, don't those things need an overhaul in KotB! - poison, acid, Smokesticks and ummmm I forget the other one) so enough reason to have the skill implemented: but again, some more research might reveal something interesting that could easily be added to the game.

Didn't fnd anything spectacular about Alchemy, so just went to see about getting the Material Components one. It was $10.46US (marked down from 14.95). For a 64-page pdf! Ridiculous! What the heck were they thinking?

That quite depressed me so to cheer up and get my anticipated pdf-fix I printed off that copy of Libris Mortis Cujo linked to some time back. Didn't do a whole lot for me when I scanned through the pdf version but it has some stuff about new special materials (again, for the 'Craft (Alchemy)' skill) and things always look better in print (even draft quality print on a crappy printer running low on blue and green). 207 pages! This was more like it. Happy Ted! :-)

So then I decided to print off a pdf of this 'equipment Guide' that someone linked to, that someone else had assembled from core-and-other rulebooks. It was full of abbreviations and while looking through it I came across something else called 'Complete Arcane', which I had never heard of but assumed to be some sort of conpanion piece to 'Complete Warrior', which people talk about a lot. So I googled it, and there was a pdf download saying ***click me!*** So I obliged.

Hmmm... 200+ pages, new spells, new classes, new prestige classes (God help us), not a word about material components or new special materials (like Adamantine), though there were a few ancilliary references to new uses for Alchemy. Not what I wanted, glad I didnt spend money on it, though I dare say it is good in its own way.

On with the rant. So I then start thinking "isn't there some book about life in the wild?" I am really starting to run out of ideas for the wilderness around the Keep, and thought I might find something. A quick look at the back of the Equiment Guide and there it is right under 'Complete Arcane' - 'Races of the Wild'. Lets give that a google.

No downloads without going to some Torrent place (I don't have the software, and certainly won't install it to pirate things - I feel queasy enough about such things as it is) but thats ok, I don't mind paying a few bucks for a pdf.


I mean COME ON! Thats what I would expect to pay to pay for a hard cover version, and wouldn't! (Not saying its not worth it - fully imported, high production values etc - but I wouldn't). A quick look through DriveThruRPG.com and most of the WotC books are similar priced!

And so we come to the meat of the rant - here was I, someone looking to spend his hard-earned money. I won't pay full price, but am open to a cheaper option. The pdf should be perfect for me. And unlike a printed book, it costs them nothing to create: they just have to sell a licence to online stores to permit a download. Its a bigger scam than Windows!

So what do they do? Charge such an exorbitant price for something I still have to shell out time, paper- and ink-money creating that I feel impelled to rant on here about how bad it is rather than becoming a loyal customer!

And they wonder why people pirate stuff...

Now, I would certainly not try to justify such behaviour - it is stealing. The two things I downloaded I just grabbed from sites where they were openly available, no question asked, so whether they are Open Content I don't know (that doesn't justify it either, but I was following a 'didn't ask / wasn't told' idea :-P ). But the point is, if stuff could be downloaded cheaply and legally, you would have to think it would greatly reduce the extent of piracy. I think the music industry has finally figured this out (judging by some of the ads I hear on the radio to download this and that for 99c) and of course we all pray the gaming industry will finally realise that charging nearly a hundred bucks (AUD) for a new game is just saying to the average teenager, "yeah, we make games for you and them price them at levels you can't afford! Hahaha! What are you gonna do about it?"

And of course the kid pirates it. What the hell do they expect?

I had a discussion abut this once with a programming friend of mine. He suggested the software developer (or more likely the publisher) has a room full of actuaries that carefully calculate the exact price they can charge to maximise profits without pushing folks over the edge into mass piracy and just plain refusing to buy. True enough, I dare say. But the thing is, these people are not infallible (wise readers will observe the rant now taking a tangent to the left). You hear some of these corporate types talk about 'synergies' and 'leverage' and they seak as though they have some arcane knowledge. But the majority of new business still fail, despite often being run by folks with MBAs and other training, or in partnerships with advisors such as the ofore-mentioned actuaries. The companies still make colossal mistakes, giant businesses still periodically go catastrophically belly-up and medium-sized businesses - such as game developers we all know and love - go under all the time.

At the other end of the scale, we all know of entreprenuers - formally untrained in business but with a knowledge of people - wh make squillions by doing things that to the corporate types, look like maverick actions and/or luck. Doubtless these Richard Branson-types listen to the advisors, but don't buy into the self-deluding arcane jargon they surround themselves with.

My point? Its common sense that pricing yourself out of the market is bad business sense. These guys just seem to lack that common sense. How sad.

If you'll excuse me, I have a fairly-priced $4 module to buy, and some other stuff to download elsewhere.