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Last week I wrote one of my most popular blog posts ever. Thanks to all who took the time to read and comment on my article about changing the way we think of roleplaying game products. This post is a follow up to that one and is all about making free, cheap, and pay what you want RPG products. I covered this idea a bit in my last post, but I want to expand on it.
Why Make Free or Low Cost Products?
You may be thinking, “This is the guy who just said $50 is the right price for a single D&D core rulebook. What does he mean offer free stuff?” I do believe that. I also believe free is the right price for the D&D Basic Rules and $20 is the right price for the D&D Starter Set.
When RPGs like D&D, Esper Genesis, Troika!, FATE, and so many others offer free or low cost versions of their games, they create easy entry points into the hobby. Even individuals with loads of cash to spare might look at the $150 price tag on D&D’s core rules and think, “But what if I don’t like it?” Offering some (or most or all) of your core rules for free is a cheese sample at the deli. People get a taste with no financial risk then decide if they want to invest more time, money, and energy into this hobby. If you think your game is awesome, give away some tastes for free to back up your claims. Without free and low cost products, RPGs have a big barrier to entry. Free and low cost products grow the hobby!
RPGs are a social hobby. You (usually) need more than one person to play. AS such RPGs can bring together people from all walks of life with all sorts of financial situations. Free and low cost versions of games mean that we can all play together at the table. If only one person in a social group has the means to afford the game, it’s very difficult to bring together a group of players (though sharing is an option). Free versions of the game mean more groups can get together and play your game, which also means more people who can afford it buying your products because their friends and family who cannot still have a way to learn the rules.
Want help creating more stuff for your game? Put out a free or cheap version. Why? In general tabletop game designers aren’t swimming in cash, and we already have tons of games. A free version is something any designer can get and read then say, “Excuse me. I’d like to make this awesome thing for your game. May I?”
Not Everyone Can Afford It
Not everyone is in a financial situation to buy your game. If you put out a free or low cost version not only are you doing a kindness, you’re putting your game in the hands of people who would not otherwise have it. You’re growing your audience, many of who may have enough cash to throw your way someday in the future. Anyone who grabs your free product could become a great marketer for you, telling others about how awesome your game is, and garnering you sales you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Always Give Something Free
It’s always a good idea to give SOMETHING away for free, even if your product is a short one-shot adventure or pamphlet of new character options. Even if its as simple as the preview function on DriveThruRPG, free previews help consumers determine if your product is something they want to buy. It’s the internet version of flipping through a book in a bookstore before buying it.
Always give something of your product away for free, but don’t give everything.
Making Free and Low Cost Products
When you make a free or low cost product, think about what you want to give away, and look at the market. What do you think works best for you? Do you want to put out all your words without art like Troika!? Do you want to offer the minimum needed to play with some very basic art like D&D’s Basic Rules? Do you want to create a starter adventure with pregenerated characters and the rules needed to play just through that scenario like the City of Mist Starter Set? There are lots of options out there. Take a look and see what’s right for you. Take a look at this Twitter thread (which started with me posting a link to my last post) for some great suggestions.
If you are creating supplements for an existing game and not an entirely new game, you likely don’t need to give away more than a free preview.
Don’t Under Value Yourself or Others
Remember to not undervalue the work of others or your own work. Give away what you think is right, but make sure your premium or “full” version of the product comes at a cost that gets everyone a good wage. For more on that see my last post.
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