Friday, October 2, 2009

Selling Out

I am astounded to find people asking to buy my trade tables. It is a spectacular confirmation of my work and I do appreciate it.

However ... I won't be selling or providing my spreadsheets on line. I know, I know, it isn't the sort of thing the gentle reader wants to hear, but there comes a point when I know I have something too valuable to throw out into the vast wasteland of the internet. I'm more interested in selling the work to a gaming company legitimately interested in simulation games, who won’t screw me, and who might understand that this is not my only idea. I’ve been warned about gaming companies, and for good reason. Nevertheless, they are the one game in town.

On the other hand, as I said recently in a blog post, I understand that setting is in much demand. I have considered that I could provide the following information as a “half license”:

1. A general description for a given city, say Dresden in eastern Germany (Saxony)
2. That I could provide a map for the region surrounding that city
3. A listing and a statistical outline of the major NPCs
4. A price table for finished goods
5. 2-3 thousand words description, including suggestions for possible adventures

Following that, I could provide additional information for a “full licence”:

1. Encounter tables for the surrounding hexes and Dresden’s hex
2. A Seasonal price table, as the goods available in winter would be much reduced from the goods available in summer
3. 4-5 thousand words description, including suggestions for possible adventures
4. A traditional map of a “lair”, either humanoid or monster, as desired

Let us suppose that the area in question would be somewhat flexible: for a densely populated region like Germany, a 100-mile diameter circle around a given city. For somewhere obscure and largely uninhabited, like central Arabia, we’re probably talking about 400-500 miles in diameter.

All said description would be largely based on the actual locality, from materials I have and which I would be prepared to research. Thus, if you as DM were prepared to research the area further on your own, you would tend to find that your discovered information would mesh with that which I’d given you.

In cases where information is difficult to find, I’m prepared to invent plausible descriptions which would mesh with honest data.

Now, I tell you honestly, I can see myself doing this for any place on Earth which is at present within my already mapped areas. I have no problem with the work, only with the degree of compensation.

You see, I am normally paid 30 cents a word for work which is commissioned. For any given original project, as a bare minimum, I could see myself working for 2 cents a word on the descriptions, and throw in the rest for free. That would mean a full license for any particular region centered on a particular city would cost around $100.

If, on the other hand, I had already done that region, and there was a wider market for it than just one person, the work would already be done and I could afford to sell it for much cheaper ... say $40.

The usual practice is to produce a region, offer it for sale and hope that someone buys. Most of those I’ve talked to who did this wound up working their asses off and never really getting compensated.

Whereas, I remember in the day when I used to hand draw maps for people at conventions in the ‘80s, I never put pen to paper without obtaining a commission first. This is how an artist does it. And although I charged $80 for a map that was 2 feet by 3 feet, I did not have trouble finding clients when I looked for them.

To me, the only rational way to provide settings for D&D (or any other circumstance) is to do them on specification – just as I write on spec for magazines and newspapers when I’m contracted to do so. If someone is prepared to pony up the dough, I’m prepared to work.

But there’s still that problem with the fellow who pays $100 for something that the next person over gets for $40.

It occurs to me that a “kick-back” method might be applied here.

Let us suppose that “Joe” asks me for a full license for the city of Dresden, and that I charge Joe $120. And let us say that once I’ve produced the city of Dresden, I have the privilege of selling it to other people for $40.

Now, just to keep Joe happy, as he has just paid $120 for something that now only costs $40, that I offer a kickback of $10 to Joe for each additional copy I sell to someone else, until Joe has paid $40 for his copy. That would be 8 people altogether.

In other words, once I have sold 8 copies in addition to the copy I’ve sold to Joe, Joe will have paid no more than anyone else. My compensation will be in gaining an immediate incentive from Joe to produce the original work, and the opportunity at some imaginary point in the future to continue making income from that work by selling it indefinitely to other people.

Now, is this completely crazy? Will anyone pay $120 for the original product I’m offering? As I see it, the primary benefit in doing so is my knowledge of history, my imagination and the benefit of being able to choose a personal location.

I think I can add to that the privilege of the payer to have some influence on the final project – if you know something about Hungary, and you want me to work on Hungary, I think that some collaboration on the subject would be appropriate. In such a case, given enough collaboration, the kick-back received from every sale can be increased and may not have an 8-sale limitation.

Okay. Criticism can begin at once.


Chgowiz said...

I'm curious to see how this works.

Alternatively, you could do a "patronage" approach where a bunch of people get together and pay you a set fee for a "shared" number of exclusive copies.

That would kinda fit some interesting parallels to your time period of choice.

chris said...

I know I was one of the people asking for your data, but your proposal makes sense. If anything, it probably undervalues your temporal and intellectual contributions by a significant margin.
If I had money to spend, I would take it to you instead of buying more vague, deterministic expansions and settings books. All I can say is thanks for everything you already share for free; it's been a real eye-opener for me.

Eli Elder said...

You should find an economist and write a book about trade in the 17th century. It sounds like Ph. D level research work.

jgbrowning said...

What's the rights situation in your proposal?

Alexis said...


If we are speaking of my rights to publish material related to D&D, I plan to refer to the game only obliquely and certainly to avoid republishing any material directly associated with any RPG. The purpose of the setting would be present an interactive, instructive format, but it would have as much to do with the copywritten rules of D&D as a hockey pool has to do with the NHL. A gray area to be certain. If stats are published for a particular NPC, have I broken copyright laws? I very much doubt it. If I have, this entire blog is illegal, and so are thousands of other blogs on the Net. The unwillingness of WOTC to prosecute all these blogs would certainly tell in my favor in court.

In any event, unless I were making extravagant amounts of money, they wouldn't bother. They certainly wouldn't go after the payer.

If we're talking about your rights to do with the material what you will, well, you paid for it. I would rather you didn't spread it all over the Net - but since this would reduce your chances of receiving $80 of your money back, it wouldn't be in your interest to do so. If you wanted to resell the material to someone else, well, I suppose I'd have a courtcase, but finding you and going through the process of suing you probably wouldn't be worth my time.

Is there a way you could further clarify your question?

jgbrowning said...

"Is there a way you could further clarify your question?"

Sure, my pardon for the confusion.

What rights does the purchaser of your product have over the product purchased? Do they have publication rights? All rights? Distribution rights? Who owns the copyright after a purchase is made?

You basically answered my question, however. It looks like your product is for the end user.

Alexis said...


"It looks like your product is for the end user."

Not entirely. You will note that the post describes access to the work as a 'licence'. You may use the material, but copyright remains with me.

Adam Thornton said...

Alas, I'm much, much less interested in the specifics of the setting. "Notable NPCs of Dresden" just don't do much for me, nor do encounter tables for the nearby hexes. The thing that fascinates me is the directed acyclic graph of trade goods, their rarity, and their respective prices at various nodes.

Now, the fact that is is being done on a real map with real data does make it a lot more interesting than Generic Fantasy World #433.

What I really wanted was the model, because I, of course, don't think of my campaign world as "Generic Fantasy World #433," and would like plausible trade tables, but am not willing to do the Herculean amount of work it would require.

But, oh well. I am clearly not your target market. Life's like that sometimes.

Tripper said...

Alright major thread necromancy in order.

Adam, he told you how to make your own. It's in four or five posts right here in the blog, Christ in a sidecar they even all have the Trade tag, he honestly couldn't spell it out any clearer. "Herculean?" Herculean is going back through his work and changing all the names and distances and equipment lists to fit your cities/cultures. That is, unless you plan on using Alexis' world wholesale. If you're truly blessed with players that express actual interest in playing the mustard market or comparison shopping ankle-length woolen coats, and you're too lazy to create it for them, then nothing Alexis has for sale will really help you.

I'VE become frustrated with the grasping hands and willful ignorance on this blog. As pretentious as it sounds, I understand now why Alexis' recent comments seem so venomous.