I’ve been talking this week about some of the ways that the dominant model of roleplaying game publishing constrains roleplaying both economically (in that there isn’t a solid existing market spot in the mass market for the purchase of rules), and in design (limits on the sorts of mechanics that can be functionally used). In doing so, I’ve been advocating the consideration of other models for publishing.
But there are some pretty big hurdles to new models. The two big ones are that you are starting from scratch, and that they cost more money.
The current model of roleplaying publishing (by which I mean the publishing of rules/procedures and expecting players to provide all other components) has been extensively developed by some really smart and dedicated people. Just take a look through the Forge’s publishing forum to get a good look. The dominant model has been honed over years, with hundreds (if not thousands) of man-hours invested in learning and teaching techniques.
New models are going to lose a lot of that accumulated knowledge. While some of the lessons will still hold, a lot of them will need to be reconsidered, and some of them will simply no longer apply. This means that new models of publishing are going to require significantly more time and effort to work through. This is compounded by the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, there are not analagous communities (at least not in terms of accumulated experience/knowledge) for other models (such as board game or card game publishing).
Second problem is one of money. The current dominant model is basically built upon the sale of information. In the digital age, information is cheap to produce. Publishing a game that includes components is necessarily going to be more expensive to make. It also requires a higher level of capital investment in materials for prototyping. In the current model, all you need is a word processor; but in a more component-oriented model you need scissors and glue and markers and all sorts of other things.
So, while it’s easy for me to advocate new models, I acknowledge that it’s way easier to talk about them than to build them. That doesn’t dent my enthusiasm, but it does suggest that changes are going to be slower than I might like.
That’s it for crazy publishing models for a while.Â Tune in next week for an exciting discussion of why low-permanency mediums of play (such as face-to-face play) are amazingly cool.