This is a site for discussing roleplaying games. Have fun doing so, but there is one major rule: do not discuss political issues that aren't directly and uniquely related to the subject of the thread and about gaming. While this site is dedicated to free speech, the following will not be tolerated: devolving a thread into unrelated political discussion, sockpuppeting (using multiple and/or bogus accounts), disrupting topics without contributing to them, and posting images that could get someone fired in the workplace (an external link is OK, but clearly mark it as Not Safe For Work, or NSFW). If you receive a warning, please take it seriously and either move on to another topic or steer the discussion back to its original RPG-related theme.
NOTICE: Some online security services are reporting that information for a limited number of users from this site is for sale on the "dark web." As of right now, there is no direct evidence of this, but change your password just to be safe.

Author Topic: The mysterious RPG market  (Read 1043 times)

Stoltverd

  • Newbie
  • *
  • S
  • Posts: 3
The mysterious RPG market
« on: March 25, 2021, 03:40:26 PM »
So, I'm about to graduate from game design. I have to publish something and I have so many awesome drafts, mechanics and prototypes!
And yet... I can't start writing yet.
Did you know that there's almost no data about the PnP RPG market? And the information available is extremely outdated!
Would you help me probe the market? that will allow me to publish a better product and sell more; which means more products.

If you'd like to help me, you'd only need to answer 7 short questions. None of them are open! No need to lose time!
As a reward, you'll be able to check the data. Please share the form with people you know!

https://forms.gle/NJfmBUwgzVi7RNb97

As a thank you note and an incentive, please enjoy some old concept art I made years ago when making some worldbuilding. I hope the images spark your imagination, as they did for me!




Ps: You may see this exact same post in several forums. Please forgive me if that annoys you! I'm trying to get all the data I can.

Kneller

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: The mysterious RPG market
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2021, 05:00:16 PM »
I tried to answer the questions, but the options didn't cover how I would answer the questions. Also, why are you even worried about the market? Nobody really makes any decent money doing this (unless we're talking about the real pros like Wizards, and even then, they have other revenue streams). On top of that, tons of designers put their stuff out there for free. It's hard to beat that price point.

So, why not just make the game that you really want to make, maybe throw a pdf on drivethrurpg, and whatever you make is fun money?

1) Technically, I haven't bought an RPG in about 15 years or so. Between my current collection and all the free RPGs out there, nothing has come out that does better than what I already have. And being that I also design games myself, I can just drum up what I'd want to run instead of buying something. But hypothetically, for the sake of the question, were I to buy an RPG, I would pick a new one, depending on the "depth". I've seen a lot of self-published RPGs with sizeable gaps in the material that the designer is basically punting on to the group to figure it out. That's not the kind of thing I'd pay for.

2) I don't think this would fall under gameplay additions, but the actual design of the mechanics are the most important part. If all the bells and whistles are built in a lousy core, that's no good.

3) If I do buy a game, I prefer pdf. I don't need physical copies and pdfs are more cost effective. I have hobbies I spend real money on, but this isn't one of them.

6) None of them. Fantasy has been done to death. I honestly believe that there's no new ground to cover there. The technomagic one sounds a bit like like Shadowrun (or maybe FFIII/VI?). I'm kinda lukewarm on that.

7) The options were weird on this one. There were two fast and dirtys, two "simulationist" (though I suspect you mean rules-heavy here), the long term consequences thing seemed like a pretty fine point to focus on. And, the "sorta in between" wasn't very illuminating since it's a very relative concept.

Stoltverd

  • Newbie
  • *
  • S
  • Posts: 3
Re: The mysterious RPG market
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2021, 05:27:28 PM »
I tried to answer the questions, but the options didn't cover how I would answer the questions. Also, why are you even worried about the market? Nobody really makes any decent money doing this (unless we're talking about the real pros like Wizards, and even then, they have other revenue streams). On top of that, tons of designers put their stuff out there for free. It's hard to beat that price point.

So, why not just make the game that you really want to make, maybe throw a pdf on drivethrurpg, and whatever you make is fun money?

1) Technically, I haven't bought an RPG in about 15 years or so. Between my current collection and all the free RPGs out there, nothing has come out that does better than what I already have. And being that I also design games myself, I can just drum up what I'd want to run instead of buying something. But hypothetically, for the sake of the question, were I to buy an RPG, I would pick a new one, depending on the "depth". I've seen a lot of self-published RPGs with sizeable gaps in the material that the designer is basically punting on to the group to figure it out. That's not the kind of thing I'd pay for.

2) I don't think this would fall under gameplay additions, but the actual design of the mechanics are the most important part. If all the bells and whistles are built in a lousy core, that's no good.

3) If I do buy a game, I prefer pdf. I don't need physical copies and pdfs are more cost effective. I have hobbies I spend real money on, but this isn't one of them.

6) None of them. Fantasy has been done to death. I honestly believe that there's no new ground to cover there. The technomagic one sounds a bit like like Shadowrun (or maybe FFIII/VI?). I'm kinda lukewarm on that.

7) The options were weird on this one. There were two fast and dirtys, two "simulationist" (though I suspect you mean rules-heavy here), the long term consequences thing seemed like a pretty fine point to focus on. And, the "sorta in between" wasn't very illuminating since it's a very relative concept.

The question about why I worry about the market?
Mainly 2 reasons:
1. I want to use all my knowledge. Practice and grow my portfolio in all regards. I can't say no to an management job just because I prefer design for example. Worrying about the market is me practicing product design.
2. I'm not American. US$270 is more than most of my country earns on a monthly basis. "A lot of money" is completely relative.

I actually plan to release two versions of the product I end up making: One free, without art and without a couple of systems, and one with everything for money. Also, I'd like to do everything! But I have to take smart decisions.


--------------------------

1. I'm guessing you prefer simulationist games? Or what exactly do you mean by gaps? Because I'm guessing you mean not very clearly defined rules. Or rules that don't cover every aspect of gameplay.
2. Completely agree! I fell in love with the sine nomine games after reading a draft with no art!
6. I agree. Classic medieval fantasy has been donde to death. A fantasy game that intends to make any dent, should put a twist to it.
7. It's intended to be unclear... Well... More like undefined. Most people that choose "in between" points in a form, mean they don't feel strongly about one side or the other, or that they enjoy both.

Kneller

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: The mysterious RPG market
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2021, 09:12:33 PM »
There's got to be an easier way to make a few hundred bucks. One of my favorite people from the forums in the old days once said, "The best way to make a small fortune in game design is to start with a large fortune." Most people who self-publish make nothing. Those who do turn a few bucks on it, usually have a product they spent years crafting, as well as meticulously and extensively playtesting. Most people don't make enough to cover their copyright fees, assuming they even protect their work.

I wouldn't say I'm a "simulationist". I don't particularly like the term as it refers to a long since debunked game design theory that wasn't even actually a theory. I don't like D&D because there's far too much bookkeeping and (long story short) most of it is a waste of time. I also don't like faffy rules-light free form storytelling games. I like playing an actual game, but a game that isn't weighed down with bloat. This is largely why I started designing.

By "gaps", I mean:

1) What I'm (theoretically) likely to buy is really a new RPG with complete, well-designed mechanics and the relevant setting material to go with it. If it's not 100% complete, I'm not going to bother. But, the wording is a little unclear in your question. Is it not deep or is it complete? Consider books like Earthdawn or CODA's Lord of the Rings RPG. I wouldn't say they cover every nook and cranny of the setting, but there's more than enough there to build campaigns from a single book. I also think the deciding factor isn't between a new RPG or a setting book, but between an RPG that uses step dice vs. dice pools vs. etc. For example, I'd never buy a game that uses dice pools (I think it's mathematically a terrible resolution mechanic). I would never buy an RPG that's a fantasy heartbreaker (or a fantasy heartbreaker with a gimmick). But, the survey offers two options, neither of which I'm likely to buy.

2) There isn't an option for the mechanics, but maybe this is covered by gameplay additions. It wasn't clear.

6) There should have been a none of the above option. Forced choice survey items work for some things, but not a question like this. The way the question is set up, you can't account for the people who wouldn't buy any of those games, so it's not an accurate view of the market. Fantasy has been done so much to death, that even the twists have been done. Of the options you provided:

a) there's already a bunch of norse RPG games out there.
b) not sure what you mean by high risk/reward, but demihumans are ostracized in Dragon Age, magic is risky in Dark Sun. There's blood magic in Earthdawn that can be risky. I believe it also has marginalized races.
c) There's a handful of these out there, but I hope this isn't Arcanum the ttrpg? If so, good luck with that. Troika is now defunct so I'm not sure who has the IP. Half the guys ended up at InXile (good rep), the other half ended up at Obsidian (horrible rep), but then both were acquired by Microsoft (very protective of their IP).
d) Technomagic. Shadowrun? Numenera? Rifts? Titansgrave? Iron Kingdoms?
e) High classic fantasy sounds like there is no twist. But the morally ambiguous bit sounds a bit Dragon Age, maybe Exalted.

I'm not saying that there isn't any space in any of these sub-genres, but finding out where there is a niche that hasn't been covered (and is interesting) is challenging and more important than market research. If you have an idea for a game, and there's a close approximation already out there, then you're wasting your time (in terms of making any money or building a portfolio). If you have an original and compelling idea, with a solid system to run it, you don't need market research, it'll hold it's own (as much as a self-published ttrpg can in this hobby these days).

7) This one is a double barreled question, which should be avoided on surveys. If you broke it up into two questions (one being rules light/moderate/heavy, the other being combat consequences), it makes for a better survey. However, the first one is still problematic. If you ask people if they like rules light/moderate/heavy games, what people considering rules light/moderate/heavy is relative to the respondent. However, if you have those categories with popular examples, it would be a more reliable measure.

Stoltverd

  • Newbie
  • *
  • S
  • Posts: 3
Re: The mysterious RPG market
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2021, 10:51:19 PM »
You gave me better counsel for the survey than 3 teachers at my uni  :-
That's great! Thank you! Kind of sad in some ways, but great.

I was SO afraid of making forced choices... I tried to divide fantasy in the subgenres I know and that sell relevant numbers, but you are absolutely right... That isn't the impression the survey gives.

1. AH! This is my favorite topic! I have several core mechanics from past mini games I've designed that I'd love to try, let me list a few:
- Both you and the GM throw. If you get a higher roll, you succeed. If you get a 20, you can describe how the action goes. If the GM rolls higher, you can either fail or succeed with complications. If you roll a 1, you fail AND get an extra complication.
- Algorithms as actions! This is the one I liked the most until recently. The idea is that every player and mob has "actions". The actions happen as soon as the conditions are met. I thought it was super innovative until recently, when I was told it's extremely similar to a game called "Apocalypse World".
- 2 dices. 1 dice is too swingy, more than 2 dices and that becomes a pool, which I hate just like you do. 2 dices however allow me to statistically incline the odds to one side or the other (depending on the target) and the players will still feel there's a huge random factor.
Now to clarify: When I say "not deep" I mean that since it's only one book, lore can't be too defined like in D&D, rules can't be explained with several examples or accompanied by much flavor etc

Please keep posting! You're making me realize many things!

Kneller

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: The mysterious RPG market
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2021, 05:30:58 AM »
That's weird that your uni professors didn't mention forced choice pitfalls and double barreled questions. I used to be a research methodologist and statistician in a previous career, but this was stuff I learned in undergrad.

I wonder where you found that those were the genres that sell relevant numbers. There are a few genres I think you left out (i.e. pure sci-fi, cosmic horror, etc.) that have done well over the years.

I'd recommend this for reading. I think they are a good example of a business that "succeeds". In general, if you hit the mark, you maybe have a few good years and then kinda fizzle, or pursue other revenue streams. DP9 went in the direction of minis games. Steve Jackson Games did the same with a variety of other (non-TTRPG products). As for the big kahuna of Wizards, well, D&D is a rather small chunk of their revenue, I'm sure. They could just straight up kill D&D tomorrow and they would be fine. Chaosium and Grey Ghost are other companies worth studying, though I'm pretty sure they are both run out of someone's basement at this point.

I'd also recommend reading up on Graham Walmsley. He did something rather clever and original. He built an extremely rules-light game for Lovecraftian horror short play (generally one-shots). I mean, really, it was a lunchbreak RPG. He put it (and even some supplements) out there for free. Then, he created a commercial product bringing it all together with some additional material and kickstartered it. He funded for 25 days and drummed up almost 72k British of his 6k goal. This was far from his first (even published) project, though. But, he put something cool together to whet people's appetites (and also gauge the reception), then threw together a commercial project once he had a sense how it was going to hit.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Vincent Baker, too. This is an example of another "successful" rpg designer. He had two hits with Dogs in the Vineyard and Apocolypse World (which, clearly you're familiar). I wouldn't even consider Dogs in the Vineyard a game, but more of a collaborative IF thing (like Fiasco just clunkier due to the pseudo-poker resolution mechanic. AW is ok. Personally, I think the bastard child Dungeon World was a much better designed game. But AW did make a chunk of change (twice as much as DW), so if that's what matters. Then again, there was also a cult of personality that surrounded Vincent Baker and pals that likely helped the numbers. Controlling for that, I would actually say that DW was more successful, as was Cthulhu Dark, for that matter.

I would also recommend this. In terms of games where the designer sets a goal and designs a game to meet that goal, this is one of the best games I've ever seen. You probably never heard of it, but that's how it goes. And no, I'm not Simon Washbourne. :P

Lastly, I'd take a look at this. Steve Jackson is an OG. Like, he probably goes as far back as Gary Gygax. Notice the section on "Breaking In". He has some good tips about making a name for yourself through blogs and other online media.

I absolutely love gaming and RPGs and have been in the hobby for decades. I've been designing for probably 15-20 years. At no point did I have the intention of becoming a "professional game designer" (I can proudly say that nobody in this hobby except my closest friends even knows who I really am), and I think it has become less and less viable over the years. Even when you break down what a self-publisher makes to an hourly rate, I'm pretty sure I get paid more to take a crap at work (and I'm not a millionaire or anything). The hobby itself is probably dying. Between a growing interest in digital mediums and the various sociopolitical issues that divide the sub-culture, people question whether the hobby can even survive, nevermind have any commercial value. It's kinda sad really. I'd much rather sit around a table with a bunch of pals drinking some beers and going on an adventure, than sit alone on my couch with a headset mindlessly blowing away aliens or whatever.

Anyway...

Based on the mechanics you posted, the first sounds kinda like d20 with crit successes and fails. Also, 1s and 20s hit on the rare side (there's actually a study out there that showed most d20s manufactured skew towards the middle, actually, due to construction and design). Not that a d20 game is a bad thing, but basing a mechanic around something that happens rarely isn't going to pack much of a punch. I think everyone has their own threshold for this, but (for me) anything less than a 10% likelihood is not worth the effort.

I'm not sure if I would call AW an algorithmic system. It's more like, each character template has a bunch of vague, broadly applicable abilities. Almost anything you can think of to do should fit one of them. The resolution is also far from concrete. It's basically, roll low and bad stuff happens, roll high and good stuff happens, roll in the middle and it gets complicated (and it's up to the group to decide what these vague things mean). All in all, I wouldn't say it's much meatier than Dogs and would probably still consider it to be collaborative IF. I would recommend taking a look at Dungeon World if you're thinking this direction. It's probably the most sound usage of the AW resolution mechanic.

Two dice have a stronger central tendency than one. However, I wouldn't call one die swingy. When you figure that most systems have a binary pass/fail resolution mechanic, you have a simple binary probability of success at various TNs. This is a double edged sword (and possibly why people who rebel against d20 for this reason don't often succeed). Having a stronger central tendency means a smaller range of viable TNs. Consider 1d20 vs. 2d10. 1d20 moves in flat 5% increments. Going from 1-2 means the same as going from 11-12. However, with the 2d10, going from 10-11 is the same as going from 2 to 6. I mean, if that's what you're going for, then great, but I'm not confident that many people who do this do it intentionally.

Lunamancer

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 923
Re: The mysterious RPG market
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2021, 04:59:24 PM »
An interesting thing I noticed as I was answering questions. I would have answered some of them very differently if I had any confidence that the details of the game would wind up close to my liking.

For instance, the question regarding long-term consequences of combat, I opted for no long-term consequences. Now I actually probably would prefer there be long-term consequences. I just find it highly unlikely that the particular built-in long-term consequences that an RPG adopts would end up matching my tastes. And so it would do nothing more than waste page count and waste my time as I disentangle them from the system to replace them with my own. It would be easier for me to take a basic, bare-bones system and beef it up to my liking.

Or put another way, my rank order choice for D&D is as follows:
AD&D 1st Ed most preferred.
Basic D&D second most preferred.
3E least preferred.

Even though 3E may have roughly the same level of depth and complexity I prefer, I think the particulars of the game sucks eggs. And so it would actually be more useful to me to just be given bare bones Basic D&D as a skeleton that I can build upon to get something sort of like 1E. Of course, if you just gave me 1E to begin with, it would save me all that work as well. But the chances of you turning out exactly what I want like that is practically nil.


Which reminds me of something I've been saying about initiative systems for over 2 decades now. My experience for the most part is nobody ever likes any initiative system. Everyone wants to dick with it. Everyone thinks they can build a better initiative system. And so from my perspective, it would have been wise for RPG designers just to have given up a long, long time ago on trying to make a decent initiative system. Just say fuck it. All it is at the end of the day is who goes first so we don't have everyone shouting at once. Just flip a goddamn coin and get it over with. If a coin toss is good enough for the Superbowl, it's good enough for a casual gathering of friends playing make-believe.


And I've realized my feelings on modules are about the same. Give me the general idea and some stats that save me the legwork of looking things up myself, and I'm good to go. Just keep the notes brief, otherwise reading and prep take more time and effort than just making up an adventure myself. This means no box text, stat blocks must be kept compact, and you don't explain in too much detail how things work.


Hope this helps.

imurrx

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 230
Re: The mysterious RPG market
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2021, 11:46:51 AM »
The layout and editing is very important to me. Easy conscience content with an easy on the eyes format. Illustration and flashy formatting can be a distraction. Look at World Without Numbers then Old School Essentials.  Two systems I just picked up. I prefer OSE for its layout and ease of reading. WWN is nice but harder to read and more wordy.
MADE IN THE USA