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"What do folks want in gaming products?" Topic

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tsofian08 Apr 2016 6:12 a.m. PST

We are going to relauch a Kickstarter for The Hive, Queen and Country game Universe and have a number of questions about what folks would like to see in terms of products.

This is a little bit of spam, but mostly some serious questions about what folks look for in gaming products.

Do gamers want a single 350 page base book that includes everything needed to play for both the referee and the players, or two books of the same total page count, one for the referee (200 pages) and one for players (150 pages) ?

Or would the 350 page book for referees be a good idea and them a second smaller book (150 pages) with the player information extracted be a better option?

Full color or B and W, Full color is about three times the cost of B and W.

What can be taken out of the books and put on line as free downloadable content and what MUST be in the books? I.e. do gamers want a lot of tables that allow random Venusian village creation, and other such "background" material in a published work or would they rather have it as free downloadable material and have other things in the part they pay for?

I think White Dwarf magazine used to have a feature called "The Magic Jar" (Man am I dating myself here), in which a character from one system was step by step converted into another system. Would this be a feature people would want to see in published page count or in free on line content? It seems that the various open license systems would allow this without issue, although I could be wrong there (any "rules lawyers" want to chime in?)

We currently have a table top miniatures game "The Hive and the Flame"out-as a version of The Sword and the Flame. We plan on putting out a ground vehicle book. Would including some or all of the vehicle rules from the miniatures book be a good idea or a bad idea? I can see it both ways.

What do people particularly like in an RPG base book? What do they like in a player's guide? What do they like in a referee's book?

Any comments will be very helpful


Mute Bystander08 Apr 2016 6:35 a.m. PST

I don't do RPGs anymore but play THW games sometimes called "RPG Lite" so I will comment.

350 pages not going to buy such. Ever.

I prefer Player and Game Master books approach and if I ever returned to RPG gaming other than resurrecting my old campaign I would only do so with as a player with ao open system with the level of detail somewhere between OD&D and AD&D 1st Edition because while reading the complex systems that followed were fun but a real PIA as a player. I should not need a search engine to have a playable game/character.

Full color or B and W, Full color is about three times the cost of B and W.

Mix, B&W for most pictures internally, Color for Cover, possibly one or two pages of color internally if it actually represented something about playing the game better than B&W.

Background that is key to game creation (as opposed to play) separate or in the Game Master book.

Background (a page or two at the most, not an internal "mini-book") for players is fine.

Paragraphs for key "nations/factions" internally.

System to system "conversion" either separate or in the Game Master book I won't buy if I am a player. I don't "port" characters between systems.

Basic, common vehicles used by players in the book but keep it realistic. Beginning players should not have control of game warping systems until their characters have earned a reputation commensurate to handling world saving situations.

Remember that I am unlikely to buy this RPG, or any system based on TS&TF, when you evaluate my answer's applicability to the OP. That would be my approach to any RPG (FRPG, SFRPG, or VSFRPG,) game books.

I played in some of your games in Saint Louis and wish you well even if I did not buy into the game system. It was not my "cup of tea" as my British war game friends would say.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 6:50 a.m. PST

Put all the basic rules necessary to create characters and play the game in one book--and if at all possible a short, simple, readable book. Too many RPG systems die before getting out enough material to be playable.

Scenarios should if at all possible be written in English and make sense even to people who don't play the system. (Put the statistics in the back somewhere. They won't be right for the Second Edition anyway.)

Every game shop and used bookstore in the country--and every gamer's basement--is littered with bits of dead RPG systems. Try to write something which will still be useful when this one's dead too.

MajorB08 Apr 2016 6:59 a.m. PST

350 pages??? You must be joking.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 7:19 a.m. PST

Not a 'gaming product' I'd have any interest whatsoever.

Try using a more specific title next time and you might get better responses.

tsofian08 Apr 2016 7:41 a.m. PST

Sorry to have wasted your time GildasFacit, that being said the other responses have been quite useful to me.

tsofian08 Apr 2016 7:46 a.m. PST

"350 pages??? You must be joking"

Actually I wasn't. Our Venus source book came in at around 310 pages. This appears to be too long for a lot of people though. My take on it was that I, personally, do not like purchasing what I consider to be "least publishable units". I am much happier buying a single book or two and not having to worry about curating a half dozen books just to start play. It seems I am in the minority here and the "Referee's Guide-Players Guide and possibly either an environments or a monsters book might well be the better way to go.

I agree that a lot of RPGs die before they get out enough to play, which was one reason why I wanted to do a big single volume. It seems that is not a particularly popular format.

Thanks for the comments

lugal hdan08 Apr 2016 7:50 a.m. PST

If your total page count is that high, I'd say split it in two for Player and GM books.

My preference in general though is for smaller books that contain all the basics you need to play, similar to how Traveller (In its "Mongoose" and "The Traveller Book" editions) did, or like older versions of "Call of Cthulhu".

"Core Rules" + "Expansion Books", though you do make a very good point about games that don't survive in print long enough to get to the expansion books some players would need.

MajorB08 Apr 2016 8:08 a.m. PST

Actually I wasn't. Our Venus source book came in at around 310 pages. This appears to be too long for a lot of people though.

Yes, far, far too long!!

My take on it was that I, personally, do not like purchasing what I consider to be "least publishable units". I am much happier buying a single book or two and not having to worry about curating a half dozen books just to start play.

I absolutely agree. I want to buy ONE book that gives me everything I need to play the game. But not 300+ pages of it!

It seems I am in the minority here and the "Referee's Guide-Players Guide and possibly either an environments or a monsters book might well be the better way to go.

No,forget multiple books.

Tgerritsen Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 8:29 a.m. PST

I don't know if this is the best venue to be talking about an RPG, as tastes here might not be the same as the more general RPG market.

The undeniably most popular RPGs out there are Pathfinder and D&D. Pathfinder clocks in at 576 pages. The D&D Player's Handbook (just the player rules- no monsters or DM stuff) clocks in at 320pages.

So, as a player, I too pine for the days of simple rules and entire universes within 64 pages of staple bound black and white glory, but the market these days clearly speaks otherwise.

Tgerritsen Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 8:30 a.m. PST

Oh, and Lugal, Mongoose Traveller was 192 pages, and the new one is much bigger than that (and went from black and white to full color).

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 8:44 a.m. PST

One of the core challenges in this conversation is "one book with everything" means different things to everyone. So does "multiple books".

With .pdf publishing, you can have the best of both worlds … a GM Guide, Players' Guide, Stats and Data Guides, and World Background and Encounter Guides. All available separately or in discounted bundles.

In the KS, you can offer the books singly and in different packages. That is fundamentally what different levels of sponsorship are.

In the steady-state physical publishing world, it becomes a little harder as you don't know a priori that there will be a higher demand for XYZ and not so much for ABC before you have to go to press.

Twoball Cane08 Apr 2016 8:53 a.m. PST

I love the "pulp alley" mechanic/books. Basically minis, Cards, and small books…w a lot of variability.

ViscountEric08 Apr 2016 9:29 a.m. PST

You are asking book questions to wargamers, many of whom think if you provide a double-sided reference sheet in large print for a convention game, you might as well provide copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Unless you head closer to 400 pages, one book is the way to go. Personally, I've avoided most products that come into the split book format, unless it has the letters "AD&D" in front of it and I'm still jamming out to Flock of Seagulls. Looking at some Kickstarters, offering to parcel it out in sections via pdf will satisfy the initial 10-20% who want it that way.

I love randomized tables for the silliest things. Random rolls can pull out a GM who's spinning his tires. I don't see enough of them in books nowadays.

Random Die Roll Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 9:30 a.m. PST

An RPG Kickstarter want list…..
A GM type book around 150 pages---world or world creation, pantheon, and any rules not covered in the players handbook.
A Players book around 50 pages---all races, equipment, professions, and combat or challenge resolutions

Also include or offer as upgrades..

Initial adventure
Special dice set
Basic set of character miniatures
Tokens or .pdf file for all necessary book keeping widgets

Weasel08 Apr 2016 10:05 a.m. PST

For an RPG, including setting info and all that, 300+ isn't out of the norm.

I think splitting off the "players book" would be a good idea though.

tsofian08 Apr 2016 10:22 a.m. PST

Thanks everybody! Since this game will use D20 and that is all I doubt "special dice" will be in the offing. Character figures are also probably not going to happen either. We are thinking about apps for the book keeping widget ideas. We are also considering on line apps, so that all you need is to access the page and it would be platform agnostic.

Even with Print on Demand you can do a variety of hardcopy versions. Right now we do this with the 300 page plus Venus Sourcebook. In color it's around 45.00, for B&W its 15.00.

USAFpilot08 Apr 2016 11:07 a.m. PST

Yea, I like high production value of the product such as color pictures etc. Multiple books seemed to work well with the AD&D system. And the editing should be thorough to fix grammar and spelling. But what really matters in the end, is the game well written, easy to understand, and fun to play?

MajorB08 Apr 2016 11:12 a.m. PST

is the game well written, easy to understand, and fun to play?

If it's 300+ pages long, it won't be.

Maxim C Gatling08 Apr 2016 12:33 p.m. PST

Anymore, a game book with that many pages has to have a high production value. Not just the quality of paper, printing and artwork, but it better have insanely talented writers.

It's got to be highly entertaining to read, or it's going to have the same effect on me as "Windows Server 2003 Unleashed" or any other technical manual.

If I don't want to lock myself in the can and read it until I can't feel my legs, I won't buy it.

Russ Lockwood08 Apr 2016 1:05 p.m. PST

OK, so I Googled and found out this HQ&C is Victorian Sci-Fi Steampunk. Nothing wrong with such a RPG genre -- probably other ones are out there (GASLIGHT comes to mind. Frank Chadwick is also working on a reboot of 1889). So, how to present the rules and background?

My two cents…

One SHORT book on character creation and rules mechanics (movement, musketry, melee, morale, mental/psychic, skills, etc.) with one and only one PAGE of background on the 10 or 12 major factions. Think something like Frostgrave rules booklet of 100 pages or so for $25 USD (usually discounted) -- inexpensive, pulls you into the system and world. Granted, d20 is already available, but I'm sure you'll have some spin on it, otherwise, you won't need HQ&C to do steampunk.

Another book on flying craft, steam tanks, tripods, spaceships through the ether,and all sorts of other non-personal steam-driven vehicles, along with all the rules needed for characters to use the on-board weapons and gizmos.

After that, then you can go with multiple 300+ page tomes on Venus, Mars, and any other planet, or codexes (to borrow a phrase) about each specific faction with all the NPC stats, etc.. or Adventure modules, to borrow another phrase. If they're hooked them on the d20 system, then they'll want to know more.

And, pardon this if it seems a bit harsh, I would suggest hiring an editor. A real editor, not a gamer editor or someone's friend who can string words together better than the other gamers, but a real editor who edits as a day job.

Make that part of your KS funding. Your books will be shorter, tighter, interesting, and fun to read.

IMHO, if you're using the d20 system, you're selling the fiction, not the rules. Many dead RPGs (good observation, that) suffered from poor prose that slogged on page after page until it became a chore to read.

Jeff of SaxeBearstein08 Apr 2016 1:11 p.m. PST

What would be most useful would be inexpensive figures that would paint themselves . . .

That being said, .pdf files are great (and they reduce your printing costs). But they should be things that are not necessary for basic play.

Your printed rules ideally would be as 'slimmed down' as possible . . . but should include all the information needed to play the game.

Downloadable files should include things like "optional rules" and more in-depth backgrounds, etc.

BUT downloads should NOT give away the rules needed to play the game.

So the 'slimmer' you make the basic rules, the better. The more you will sell (because the initial price isn't ruinous).

I know that I personally would not even consider buying a 350 page 'rulebook'. I want a rulebook where it is easy to find what I am looking for; not one where rules are scattered over hundreds of pages.

-- Jeff

MajorB08 Apr 2016 1:22 p.m. PST

BUT downloads should NOT give away the rules needed to play the game.

Why not? That is EXACTLY the business model Crooked Dice have adopted for 7TV 2nd Edition!

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 2:44 p.m. PST

Let me try to be more helpful. I'm not sure you could actually give me a 350 page rulebook. It's not a matter of price, but of my doubts about anything that long ever being properly play-tested and of my ability to find and remember what I really need. Same thing is true and more so, of selling me part of a proprietary system. Does anyone have all the components for Crimson Skies? Castle Falkenstein? Tekumel? The Conan RPG? Were all the components ever even printed? And those are the tip of a really impressive iceberg.

What would I buy?
I'd pay a fancy price for a world. Not Venus. It squishes and stinks. But something twice or more the size of GURPS Mars--I've got two copies--would come home in a heartbeat, especially if they threw out the page or two of general ideas for different Mars, and gave me more maps and descriptions of the drying dying planet I know from Burroughs and Brackett. They'd be fun to read and adaptable to what figures and rules I use. I still pick up every 1889 Mars scenario I can find. I don't play them, but I love reading them. And there are people who love Klein's Venus the way I love Burroughs' Mars.
Everyone wants to be the next TSR/Games Workshop/Battlefront. But it's worked exactly those three times. Do everyone a favor: pay less attention to the 50th set of VSF rules and more to creating a great playground to use VSF rules in.

tsofian08 Apr 2016 4:00 p.m. PST

I think part of the issue is defining things. I called it a "rule book" but the original Stars of Empire (which was around 250 pages) had all the rules, the character generation information and lots of background. I'd have to do a page count to see how they divided out. The idea was that with a single book a person could spend a reasonable amount of money and get EVERYTHING they needed to start a campaign. We then added an air vehicles book, with 100 designs and a lot of additional background and then the Venus sourcebook.

Funny you mentioned Tekumel, since that is certainly a game universe that has inspired me. Now that being said I have owned everything published for a lot of RPGs (Morrow Project, Star Frontiers, Traveller-when it was in the digest sized books come to mind)

Also my Venus doesn't "squish and stink". We went a totally different way with it.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2016 9:31 p.m. PST

I want more free time for gaming.

I would buy a device that would let me go back in time and have fun while my present self is working.

Another gaming product of interest to me would be a device that would create a short-term duplicate of myself to do work while i was gaming.

Lion in the Stars08 Apr 2016 11:43 p.m. PST

Full color or B and W, Full color is about three times the cost of B and W.

Send production to China, where full color will cost you LESS than B&W in the US.

I think a "technology of the world" book with fewer military ships in it and an expanded passenger ship section (assuming that there are passenger airships/service) would be good for RPG. The current book is more for players as agents of a government.

350pg fluffbooks *can* work, see the Infinity books. 180pg fluffbook and 256pg Rulebook in a slipcase, then Human Sphere has a 330pg fluffbook with a ~180pg rulebook in a slipcase. While that's a set of tabletop minis game rules, adding an actual RPG skills system would add less than 20 pages to the game rules.

Ottoathome09 Apr 2016 7:27 a.m. PST

Lightning has struck twice and in one year.

I and MajorB agree on something.

Actually everything I have to say about the effort has been said by Robert Piepenbrink.

I am of the opinion that all rules should be no more than 12 pages long, including notes, charts, illustrations, indexes, and game designer drivel.


In a thing like this I URGE you to make it not 350 but over 500 pages or so and in multi-volume works. Remember you are in it to make money and there seems to be no end of the willingness of people to buy these things, no matter what the cost, and speaking frankly, you don't care what's in it, so long as they keep buying it. So pack in all the drivel you can because the dweebs will buy it, and buy it, and stack it up on their shelves and clamor for the next volume, and they won't ever play it and realize how bad the system is. They're in it for the fantasy and the reading, and they will never get to find the contradictions and gaffes. Be sure to make lots of unpronounceable names made up of portmanteaus of real worlds, like The Duke of Graffenskullemkillengberghausenstein, or for the Elves, lots of "L's" and "Y's" and "H's" with nary a vowel to be found (cause you don't need em) like " Lthylyyylhylythmyllyylnylal" (pronounced Ylth)

Remember you're in this for the cash and you really don't care what sort of stuff you throw in.

Make sure also you copyright EVERYTHING and put a standard boiler plate at the bottom of the page that you will sue anyone and everyone for the least infringement or putting on a game without your express permission, or using any of your rules or figures in a non-standard game.

Coyotepunc and Hatshepsuut09 Apr 2016 9:47 a.m. PST

The more details that go into a sourcebook, the less creativity I feel I have in using it. The more rules to the gane, the more time spent looking up rules than actually playing. In terms of source background information, I think Frostgrave and the first edition of Codex: Dark Eldar got things right… just a few little scene descriptions here and there, and largely the rest is left up to one's imagination.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2016 7:39 p.m. PST

I want 4 models of early war 2 English military police. Officer with a pistol, sergeant with a Tommy gun drum style, front hand grip. Two with rifles.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Apr 2016 6:35 a.m. PST

With POD, you can also package different sets of material as "one book", similar to multiple .pdf packaging options. That way one person can get "everything" and be ready to go with minimal work; another person can get just the rules and the backgrounds to work out their own stuff; yet another, the rules and scenarios to just hit the table and play games rather than a campaign.

@tsofian Is there a handful of scenarios in the 350 pages? Knowing that could also mitigate some of the page count trepidation.

EDIT/P.S. – With multiple packages, one could get the rules alone for a reasonable "try it out" price, then get a package with "everything else" to go all in later. Hadn't thought of that option. With everything other than physical prepublishing, a progressive full-factorial product of the options is the way to go!

tsofian10 Apr 2016 9:22 a.m. PST

I included a lot of adventure seeds, but not any full adventures.

In the past I discussed publishing less detailed source material. Although my personal preference is that basic ideas are all I need in a gaming product I have found that a large number of people disagree, and a goodly portion of them are quite adamant about it. A large number of people desire to have every last detail spelled out in what they purchase.

dragon6 Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2016 11:29 a.m. PST

A large number of people desire to have every last detail spelled out in what they purchase.
Especially if they are playing solo

tsofian10 Apr 2016 12:04 p.m. PST

Doing a role playing game solo is pretty tough, short of a "choose your own adventure" book

Zephyr110 Apr 2016 2:23 p.m. PST

If the game requires apps or other electronic support/play aids, I'm going to pass on it…

tsofian11 Apr 2016 5:35 p.m. PST

Nope, no electronics. The RPG game engine is pretty darned simple. The Miniatures engine is The Sword and the Flame

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