Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sales Numbers: Majestic Wilderlands and Blackmarsh

To help understand the financial side of "old school" D&D publishing, here is some sales info, both concrete and speculative, for Majestic Wilderlands and Blackmarsh, by Rob Conley.


From Rob Conley's post at The RPG Site:
"On Lulu I sold 319 units of Majestic Wilderlands across all formats since 2009
On RPGNow I sold another 319 units of Majestic Wilderlands across all formats since 2009.
On RPGnow I sold over 96 books of Blackmarsh."

Majestic Wilderlands
  • Released 2009 Dec 6
  • 638 copies (mix of print & pdf) have sold as of 2012 Sep 21, for in just short of three years time. (Unclear how this number accounts for the bundled print + pdf option, which comes at the same price as the print version.)
  • $4.55: Approximate net intake per copy. ($7 pdf price x 65% royalty rate from rpgnow.) Print copy net earnings could be a bit higher, but ignoring that fact.
  • $2900: Possible total net intake, modulo the bundled print + pdf accounting. NOTE that this is not a true net earnings, as it does not subtract production costs for art, editing, layout, etc.
  • $2548: Amount he earned as of 2011 Nov 27. (Source)
  • $6 to $12: Price paid per copy sold, depending on how the bundled print + pdf factors into the count of copies sold.
  • $3800 to $7600: Total spent by customers should be roughly somewhere within this range, modulo any purchased at a discount.
Sales Numbers Over Time:
  • 2009 Dec (end): 74 print & 76 pdf = 150 total (Source)
  • 2010 Jan 18th: 87 (+13) print & 86 (+10) pdf = 173 total (Source)
  • 2010 Jan (end): 92 (+5) print & 95 (+9) pdf = 187 total (Source)
  • 2010 Feb (end): 101 (+9) print & 105 (+10) pdf = 206 total (Source)
  • 2010 Mar (end): 112 (+11) print & 130 (+25) pdf = 242 total (Source)
  • 2010 Apr - Jun (end): 149 (+37) print & 158 (+28) pdf = 307 total (Source)
  • 2011 Mar 31: +26 copies sold during Jan - Mar, inclusive (Source)
  • 2011 Jun 2: +26 copies sold during previous six weeks (Source)
  • 2012 Sep 21: 638 copies total (Source)

  • Released 2011 Apr 14
  • 45 sales as of 2011 Jun 2, which recoups his art cost. (Source)
  • 96 print copies have sold as of 2012 Sep 21, or nearly 1.5 years.
  • Note that the pdf version is free, and thus might hamper the sales of print copies.
  • $2.77: Net intake per copy. (Source)
  • $265: Possible total net intake. NOTE: As above, this does not subtract production costs for art, editing, layout, etc.
  • $200: Amount he earned as of 2011 Nov 27. (Source)
  • $7: Price paid per copy sold, modulo discounts.
  • $670: Total of payments made by customers, modulo discounts.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Detangling the LotFP Adventures Campaign Results

The four successfully-funded projects in LotFP Adventures Campaign are difficult to use as crowdfunding data points, because they cannibalized and/or subsidized one another, and also because three significant, backer-enticing additions were made to the overall project pool once it became clear that only a scant few projects would fund, and you could potentially get some or all of those additions by pledging on any one of the successful projects. The following analysis attempts to detangle the projects from one another, and from the additions, in order to give a better idea of how each project did on its own merits.

The detangled results come first, with a methodology explanation afterward.

The Seclusium of Orphone
$6647 raised / 311 backers
(math: $355 Upsell + $4170 module only + $500 retailer + $1520 GB+ + $102 collector share = $6647)
(results as shown on Indiegogo: $7535 raised / 250 backers)

Broodmother Sky Fortress
$4757 raised / 221 backers
(math: $55 Upsell + $2580 module only + $500 retailer + $1520 GB+ + $102 collector share = $4757)
(results as shown on Indiegogo: $7050 raised / 167 backers)

Horror Amongst Thieves
$4955 raised / 228 backers
(math: $213 Upsell + $2620 module only + $500 retailer + $1520 GB+ + $102 collector share = $4955)
(results as shown on Indiegogo: $6623 raised / 177 backers)

Towers Two
$6683 raised ($3923 without GWAR swag) / 175 backers
(math: $501 Upsell + $760 module only + $3800 GWAR swag + $1520 GB+ + $102 collector share = $6683)
(results as shown on Indiegogo: $6601 raised / 112 backers)
Note to prospective module authors: Offer GWAR swag as perks. Or just be Brockie. But that may not help your return on investment.

bonus Conley sandbox supplement + bonus Raggi 8-page adventure
$1622 raised / 76 backers
(math: $1520 GB+ + $102 collector share = $1622)

bonus Raggi 64-page adventure
$3092 raised / 43 backers
(math: $2850 Faithful + $140 Collector + $102 collector share = $3092)


First, a disclaimer: There are many ways the data can be detangled. This is merely one possibility. Enjoy it or don't. YMMV. Also, the total backer count on Indiegogo.com doesn't always match up to the sum of the backers in the various categories. And somehow, even though I double checked my math, the total of the numbers above comes up about $50 short of the sum of the totals as shown on Indiegogo. Sigh. And maybe I missed a concrete bonus offering somewhere. Good thing this study isn't meant to be precise.

Regarding Backer Count

Backers at the Grab Bag level, various Faithful levels, and the Collectors levels will receive each of the successful projects. (Let's call those backers "GB+".) Therefore, backers at those levels count toward all of the successful projects. For example, Seclusium's detangled backer count is 250, plus the 22 GB+ backers for Broodmother, plus the 25 GB+ backers for Horror, plus the 13 GB+ backers for Towers, for a total of 311.

Backers at the GB+ levels will also receive the bonus Conley sandbox supplement and the bonus Raggi 8-page adventure. Therefore, all backers at the GB+ level on the four successful projects count as backers of that "joint" bonus project. 16 + 22 + 25 + 13 = 76.

Backers at the Faithful and Collectors levels will receive the bonus Raggi 64-page adventure. Therefore, all backers at those levels on the four successful projects count as backers of the Raggi 64-page bonus. 13 + 15 + 11 + 4 = 43

Regarding Funds Raised

The amount each project raised via the Upsell category is not trivially visible. To determine the amount pledged via the Upsell, take the funding total and subtract the amounts pledged in the other categories. For example, Seclusium: $7535 - (10 x $75) - (81 x $20) - (60 x $30) - (3 x $100) - (7 x $160) - (4 x $180) - (2 x $185) - (2 x $250) = $355 toward Upsell. It's difficult to know what the Upsell money went toward, so for detangling purposes …

1. All Upsell money counts toward the project on which it was pledged.

2. All $10 / $20 / $30 pledges count toward the project on which it was pledged. (Duh.)

3. All Retailer Support ($250) pledges count toward the project on which it was pledged. (Duh again.)

4. The GWAR swag pledges count only toward Brockie's project. (Yup.)

5. All Grab Bag ($100) pledges are split five ways. $20 toward each of the base projects, plus $20 more toward the hybrid bonus Conley sandbox + Raggi 8-page category. (Or you could split it six ways and treat the hybrid as two projects. But 5 is good because the math with $20 is easier than math with $16.67.)

6. All Faithful ($160 / $180) pledges are split. The first $100 of those are split five ways, with $20 going to various projects, the same as with Grab Bag. The rest counts directly toward the only additional thing backers are supposed to receive: The Raggi 64-page adventure.

7. The two Collector ($450 / $500) pledges are split. The first $100 of each gets split five ways, as above. The next $60 / $80 of each counts toward the Raggi 64-page adventure. The rest gets split six ways ($610 / 6 = $102) and applied to each of the base projects, and the hybrid bonus, and the Raggi 64 bonus. After all, most or all of those products will be included in the hardback collection.


Some of the projects added various gaming-related enticements. Horror was a no-risk pledge; backers would get the product (and their money back) if the project didn't successfully fund. Baker gave away free pdfs of his other material. Conley tossed in bonuses that potentially any pledger could get. These factors aren't worth detangling, because they're not unlike the extras other crowdfunding campaigns offer. (Well, Horror's enticements was unlike the other extras. But it's hard to detangle that.)

Unpossible to Unsee the Self-References

It's just a style thing, presumably, but self-referentiality detracts from the readability of Grognardia.

A recent example, with all James's references to himself underlined and bolded:

"Over the last little while, I've been writing up these rival adventuring parties, along with some new ones, and I've found myself wondering just how much information a referee needs to use an NPC adventuring party, which is admittedly part of a larger problem of just how much detail is needed for any element of an adventure module/setting. I myself require very little detail. My personal notes are usually quite spare -- mostly words or phrases intended to jog my memory. In fact, I make up a lot of details on the spot, since this saves time and gives me more flexibility in play. I can't begin to remember the number of times I've changed my mind about things because of the roll of the dice, player decision, or even just whimsy.

However, I realize that not every referee plays like me. So, I'm trying to strike a good balance between too much and too little detail in presenting NPC adventurers. Here's an example of one such party, written in a very minimalist style:"

Sure, he's probably sensitive to flak from people who bash him, so maybe he's just trying to be extra clear that his opinions aren't intended to be universal.

To repeat: It's probably just a style thing. And it's distracting.

The following would have been better:

"How much information does a referee need in order to use an NPC adventuring party? How much detail is needed for any element of an adventure module/setting? I require only very little detail, but not every referee shares that preference. So, I'm trying to strike a good balance between too much and too little detail in presenting NPC adventurers. Here's an example of one such party, written in a very minimalist style:"

It's usually pretty clear when someone is stating an opinion, without them having to say, "It's my opinion that..." Heck, by default, readers should assume what they read on blogs is purely opinion, especially if it's a value judgement. If a reader can't figure that out, and feels the urge to respond ("hey pal, you don't speak for me!"), then it's a reader problem, not a writer problem.

Readers: Don't assume someone is trying to speak for you ... unless they say they're speaking for you.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thirty thousand (30,000) "Old School" D&D Players?

By making some assumptions (some really big ones; see below), it's possible to roughly estimate the number of "Old School" D&D plus clone & simulacrum players, thanks to the transparency of crowdfunding data.

Many "Old School" D&D type crowdfunded projects have around 200 backers, give or take.

The Reaper Miniatures Bones Kickstarter had 17682 backers, or about 90x as many a a typical "Old School"-specific project.

If the Reaper Kickstarter is a reasonable function of the overall number of roleplayers, total, then "Old School" players might be 1/90th of the total of all roleplayers.

Quasi-recent estimates of the overall D&D player base provide numbers between 1.5 million and 6 million. The 6 million number shows up a few times, but one of those instances asserts that the number might be inflated. (See footnotes below.) The most recent estimate is 1.5 million current players, and it's also the most pessimistic example, which is good because this post need pessimism. It's not clear whether the 1.5 million number intends to include Pathfinder players, so I'm doubling it for these purposes, to 3 million role-players total.

So if 1 in every 90 players is an "Old School" player, then that's about 30,000 "Old School" D&D players total. VERY ROUGHLY.

Disclaimer: That's totally unscientific, and could be totally wrong in many ways simply by virtue of the assumptions made. For example, any of the source numbers could be wrong; the doubling of the 1.5 million to 3 million was a HUGE assumption on my part; not all buyers are going to be players, and the proportion of buyers-to-players could be different for "Old School" vs. other; a miniatures project may not be a reliable indicator for a non-miniatures project; that kickstarters are at all consistent in terms of the proportion of players to backers, for the applicable system; so on, and so forth. So the resulting number may be merely suggestive of a rough order of magnitude, and could potentially be too high by a significant amount (10x isn't out of the question).

Footnotes on overall D&D player base:

2000 Feb 7: "~ 2.25 million people" play tabletop rpgs monthly

2006 May 12: "Today, as many as four million people in the U.S. play each month, while millions more play worldwide."

2008 Jul 21: "“D&D” had about 6 million players worldwide last year, according to a survey by Wizards, though Rouse said the figure may be somewhat inflated."

2009 Apr: 4e court case documents: "Approximately 6 million people currently play D&D"

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Old School" projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo

Sites like kickstarter.com and indiegogo.com provide an unprecedented level of transparency for short-term market size. (That is, the number of copies of a product you could expect to sell in the first few months.) These crowdfunding projects are directly or indirectly relevant to Gygaxian-era versions of D&D (plus the clones & simulacrums), which can be useful for predicting short-term sales numbers for similar projects.

Dates indicate the end of the particular crowdfunding campaigns.

2011 May 22: Dungeon Morph Dice
$20620 raised / 379 backers
Note: Obviously the appeal is not limited to the "Old School" D&D crowd.

2011 Aug 6: Adventurer Conqueror King
$11648 raised / 246 backers

2011 Dec 2: Classic Monsters for Castles & Crusades
$9108 raised / 166 backers / start 2011 Nov 2 (31 days)
Note: Not Gygaxian-era D&D, but including here as a comparative number.

2011 Dec 10: Labyrinth Lord Referee Screen
$1671 raised /  74 backers

2012 Jan 12 (?): Crypts & Things
$3435 raised / 108 backers

2012 Jan 15: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyboria
$13216 raised / 184 backers / start 2011 Dec 13 (34 days)

2012 Mar 25: The Monolith from beyond Space and Time plus The God that Crawls
$6241 raised / 154 backers / start 2012 Feb 9 (46 days)

2012 Apr 7: Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map
$27789 raised / 1098 backers / start 2012 Mar 7 (31 days)
Note: Obviously the appeal is not limited to the "Old School" D&D crowd.
2012 Apr 14: Dwimmermount
$48756 raised / 1023 backers / start 2012 Mar 2 (45 days)

2012 Apr 15: Adventures Dark and Deep – A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
$7459 raised / 244 backers / start 2012 Mar 15 (31 days)

2012 Apr 30: Metamorphosis Alpha
$18545 raised / 447 backers / start 2012 Apr 6 (25 days)
Note: Not actually "old school" D&D, but might have overlap of appeal.

2012 May 7: Myth & Magic Player's Guide
$24076 raised / 402 backers / start 2012 Mar 28 (41 days)
Note: Not Gygaxian-era D&D, but including here as a comparative number.

2012 Jun 1: LotFP Hardcover and Adventures Project
$16240 raised / 314 backers / start 2012 Apr 19 (44 days)

2012 Jun 05: Nystul's Infinite Dungeon
$16018 raised / 246 backers / start 2012 May 4 (33 days)
Note: Obviously the appeal is not limited to the "Old School" D&D crowd.

2012 Jun 11: Barrowmaze II
$12702 raised / 215 backers / start 2012 Apr 17 (25 days)

2012 Jun 15 Castles & Crusades Players Handbook 5th Edition
$16106 raised / 223 backers / start 2012 May 11 (46 days)
Note: Not Gygaxian-era D&D, but including here as a comparative number.

2012 Jun 16: Champions of Zed
$8077 raised / 259 backers / start 2012 May 1 (47 days)

2012 Jul 02: Rappan Athuk
$246541 raised / 1003 backers / started 2012 May 3 (61 days)
Note: Started 2012 May 03. Obviously the appeal is not limited to the "Old School" D&D crowd.

2012 Jul 02: Appendix N Adventure Toolkits
$18893 raised / 572 backers / started 2012 Jun 2 (30 days)
Note: Not Gygaxian-era D&D, but including here as a comparative number.

2012 Jul 31: Lamentations of the Flame Princess Adventures Campaign
started Jul 1 (31 days)
The Seclusium of Orphone
    $7535 raised / 250 backers
Broodmother Sky Fortress
    $7050 raised / 167 backers
Horror Amongst Thieves
    $6623 raised / 177 backers
Towers Two
    $6601 raised / 112 backers
(We Who Are Lost)
    $3221 raised / FAILED
(Of Unknown Providence)
    $1680 raised / FAILED
(The Unbegotten Citadel)
    $1620 raised / FAILED
(The House of Bone and Amber)
    $1270 raised / FAILED
(Machinations of the Space Princess)
    $920 raised / FAILED
(The Depths of Paranoia)
    $740 raised / FAILED
(Strange and Sinister Shores)
    $690 raised / FAILED
(Normal for Norfolk)
    $650 raised / FAILED
(Escaping Leviathan)
    $645 raised / FAILED
(The Dreaming Plague)
    $540 raised / FAILED
(The Land that Exuded Evil)
    $500 raised / FAILED
(Red in Beak and Claw)
    $470 raised / FAILED
    $460 raised / FAILED
(I Hate Myself for What I Must Do)
    $350 raised / FAILED
(Poor Blighters)
    $340 raised / FAILED

2012 Aug 05: (2013 Old-School Renaissance Calendar)
$130 raised / 5 backers / FAILED

2012 Aug 25: Reaper Miniatures Bones
$3429236 raised / 17682 backers / started Jul 23 (34 days)
Note: Obviously the appeal is not limited to the "Old School" D&D crowd. This data enables a very rough approximation of the number of "Old School" D&D players. (More on this later.)

2012 Sep 04: Swords & Wizardry Complete Rules
$78189 raised / 532 backers / started 2012 Aug 1 (35 days)

NOW can you identify the mystery crowdfunding project?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Hidden Egg

Why are you reading this?

Timeline: The Beginning of the V&V Publishing Dispute

Some key events leading up to the early part of the Villains and Vigilantes publishing & trademark dispute between Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU) and Monkey House Games (MHG) ...

2009 Dec: James Satter contacts FGU about submitting something new for V&V. FGU says yes:

2010 Jan 11: FGU releases first two V&V freebie pdfs (Pawn Shop; Police Station):

2010 Jan 13: Jeff Dee would rather folks "move on" to Living Legends instead of hanging around with V&V on its "deathbed":

2010 Jan 20 or earlier: Scott Bizar (in an email to a potential freelancer) is interested in publishing new V&V adventures, as standalone pdfs as well as compiled into "V&V Giant" books:

2010 Feb 6: Jeff Dee asserts that FGU owns the V&V trademark, and implies that he has still "[given] up on V&V":

2010 Feb 12: FGU releases another freebie pdf (Truth Seeker Tabloid Office):

2010 Feb 13: Jeff Dee asserts that the V&V name is FGU's:

2010 Feb 13: Brent Rose offers to privately discuss (with anyone in particular) general matters of game rule copyright, ultimately leading to discussions directly with Jeff Dee (see later events):

2010 Feb 25: Dave Woodrum says FGU plans to release adventures, with a few partially completed; he also mentions the "release/re-release of older materials":

2010 Feb 27: Jeff Dee asserts that the V&V publishing & trademark rights lie with FGU, and he also thinks FGU crossed the line with recent references to Dee- & Herman-created characters in freebie products:

2010 Feb (specific day not given): James Satter submits manuscript for Enter the Gene Pool to FGU.

2010 Mar 10: Jeff Dee's last post for a while at VandV yahoo group; he would post there again on Jun 8.

2010 Mar 27: Dave Woodrum hints about upcoming Citizen Report release from FGU:

2010 Mar 28-29: FGU release the fourth & fifth freebie pdfs (Diamante's; Any Mart):

2010 Mar (specific day not given): James Satter receives the OK from FGU to write Escape from the Micro-Universe:

2010 Mar (specific day not given): Jeff Dee and Jack Herman "started talking with Brent Rose," whose investigations ultimately led Jeff and Jack to their conclusion that FGU / Scott Bizar had no rights to publish V&V:

2010 Apr 25: Jeff Dee mentions finishing Most Wanted Vol. 2 for Living Legends, but does not mention a V&V-targeted release:

2010 May 13: Jeff Dee and Jack Herman announce the start of Monkey House Games:

2010 May 22: Jeff Dee rebrands various former UNIgames Living Legends products as MHG products:

2010 Jun early ("a few weeks" before V&V 2.1 release): Jeff Dee and Scott Bizar discuss what it would cost to buy V&V rights from FGU:

2010 Jun 8: Jeff Dee hints that MHG is "not JUST about LL. You'll see :)":

2010 Jun 16: MHG files for V&V trademark with USPTO:

2010 Jun 17: MHG announces upcoming release of V&V 2.1:

2010 Jun 27: MHG releases V&V 2.1:

2010 Jul 4: MHG releases Intercrime: Hostile Takeover (originally released for the Living Legends game, and converted to V&V for this release):

2010 Jul 6: MHG releases Oil Pressure free pdf:

2010 Jul 7: FGU releases Citizen Report:

2010 Jul 19: FGU files for V&V trademark with USPTO:

2010 Jul 21: FGU releases Enter the Gene Pool:

2010 Aug 31: FGU releases Into the Sub-Realm:

2010 Sep 10: FGU releases Giant No. 1, a print compilation of Citizen Report, Enter the Gene Pool, and Into the Sub-Realm:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pop Quiz: Which crowdfunded project is this?

Pop Quiz!

Can you identify the following module that was made possible through crowdfunding (think: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or similar)? Here are the clues:

- It was for use with TSR-era versions of AD&D/D&D.
- It sold approximately 300 print copies during its 60 day sponsorship phase.
- Shipping costs were paid by supporters as part of their pledge.
- It raised over $5000 in capital.
- Approximately 100 more print copies sold in the month following the physical release.

AD&D: Limitations on changes and house rules

The following is not a criticism of your campaign, your DMing style, or your house rules. Nor does the following attempt to describe my own campaigns. It's just an examination of the language in and around AD&D.

"It is the spirit of the game, not the letter of the rules, which is important. Never hold to the letter written, nor allow some barracks room lawyer to force quotations from the rule book upon you, if it goes against the obvious intent of the game. As you hew the line with respect to conformity to major systems and uniformity of play in general, also be certain the game is mastered by you and not by your players. Within the broad parameters given in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons volumes, you are creator and final arbiter. By ordering things as they should be, the game as a whole first, your campaign next, and your participants thereafter, you will be playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as it was meant to be."
- AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (pub 1979, August), Afterword, page 230

The above is license to change, but ONLY to a point. Only within the "broad parameters" of the game. Only within "the obvious intent of the game." The "game as a whole" is "first" – the game's needs are to be served before the needs of your campaign. The DM is first responsible for "conformity to major systems and uniformity of play in general."

To better understand the allowances granted – and not granted – by the above, two concepts of "uniformity of play" and "game as a whole" must be further explored:

"[AD&D] must have some degree of uniformity, a familiarity of method and procedure from campaign to campaign within the whole. Advanced D&D is more than a framework around which individual DMs construct their respective milieux, it is above all a set of boundaries for all of the "worlds" devised by referees everywhere."
- AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (pub 1979, August), Preface, page 7

"There is a need for a certain amount of uniformity from campaign to campaign in D&D. This is not to say that conformity or sameness is desirable. Nobody wishes to have stale campaigns where dungeons, monsters, traps, tricks, and goals are much the same as those encountered in any one of a score of other campaigns. Uniformity means that classes are relatively the same in abilities and approach to solving the problems with which the campaign confronts them. Uniformity means that treasure and experience are near a reasonable mean. Uniformity means that the campaign is neither a give-away show nor a killer – that rewards are just that, and great risk will produce commensurate rewards, that intelligent play will give characters a fighting chance of survival."
- AD&D Players Handbook (pub 1978, June?), Preface, page 6

"No two campaigns will ever be the same, but all will have the common ground necessary to maintaining the whole as a viable entity about which you and your players can communicate with the many thousands of others who also find swords & sorcery role playing gaming as an amusing and enjoyable pastime."
- AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (pub 1979, August), Preface, pages 7-8

"[D&D's] rules are designed and published so as to assure a balanced and cohesive whole. Each segment has been considered and developed so as to fit with the other parts. Each part, meshing with the others, provides an amusing diversion, a game which is fun to play and set so as to provide maximum enjoyment for as long a period of time as possible. Each separate part must be viewed as something which contributes to the whole. Pulling this or that section from the body and criticizing it is totally invalid unless the workings of that particular segment do not harmonize with the whole, thus causing the entire game to be unenjoyable."
- Gary Gygax, The Dragon #16 (1978, July), page 15. Note: Although this article refers to D&D, it might actually intend refer to AD&D, because the contemporaneously-released Players Handbook also refers to itself in places as just D&D. (e.g. the PHB quote above)