A question to everyone who self-publishes DW content on DrivethruRPG: Is it a viable source of income, or more like…

A question to everyone who self-publishes DW content on DrivethruRPG: Is it a viable source of income, or more like…

A question to everyone who self-publishes DW content on DrivethruRPG: Is it a viable source of income, or more like enough to buy a coffee every month? Does DTRPG require art in works to be sold? (I have a BS in fine art painting, but I’m total BS at illustration)

35 thoughts on “A question to everyone who self-publishes DW content on DrivethruRPG: Is it a viable source of income, or more like…”

  1. I can’t speak for DW content as of yet, but I have several items for sale on DriveThruRPG. I started selling through OBS (DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, etc.) about a year and a half ago. I started with B&W illustrations and have gradually added an adventure (Swords & Wizardry) and several Print & Paste Map Tiles sets. The best selling stuff right now is the Tiles. I don’t make much, but it is a bit more than a cup of coffee and just enough to supplement my modest gaming habit. 

  2. It really depends. I probably make a couple thousand a year publishing game stuff, including my DW stuff. It’s not a ton, but it’s not nothing. Other folks make more or less. Seems like large PDFs of player-facing content (play books, setting material, etc.) sell better than adventures, but that’s true across all RPG stuff. You don’t need art but you do need a cover.

  3. J. Walton a couple thousand a year is like what I spend on GenCon, that’s “real money” IMO, what do you publish, I’m not familiar with your name? What sells better, stuff for players or stuff for GMs? Mind you I’m not making decisions on what to write based on what sells better for people here, I’m just curious.

  4. I only sell a couple of DW products right now, both part of the “Planarch Codex” series. They’re short 32-page booklets. Folks like Johnstone have a much larger product line.

    The general impression is that stuff for players sells way better than stuff for GMs (there’s more potential buyers!), but nobody’s really tried a GMG-equivalent for DW yet.

  5. J. Walton I feel dumb now, I own a copy of the Planarch Codex, I should have recognized your name. Interesting information. I find myself pondering these questions because several of my players are encouraging me to publish my work.

  6. Go for it! I mean, if you have more specific questions on how to do it, folks here will be happy to help. But there’s still not that much good DW stuff being published.

  7. J. Walton Really? I’ve bought a ton of stuff on DTRPG for DW that I absolutely love (mostly Red Box Vancouver’s and Awful Good Games’ stuff).

    My only real question now comes down to formatting, I use Google Docs as my word processor and that does have the ability to export as pdf, but I don’t know that I can insert a full page without margins cover onto that, or will DTRPG take your files and assemble them into a PDF for you? Or do I need to invest and learn something crazy like inDesign (sadly my BS in fine art only included photoshop skills and not the entire creative suite)?

  8. John Kramer Scribus is a free alternative to InDesign. It’s simple, with just a few warts – I’ve used it for a bunch of things. I wouldn’t even consider publishing straight from google docs. EDIT: Frank Turfler ninja’d me!

  9. To echo what others have said, it depends. My Spes Magna Games generates pocket money each month, enough for me to take the family out to the movies, but I don’t put a heckuva lotta effort into writing and publishing new content on anything that resembles a regular basis. I spend more time generating free content which I give away via Google Drive. (Maybe I should put a PayPal donation button on my site?)


  10. The usual sage (sorry) advice for indie publishing is “don’t quit your day job.” The number of people who are prolific enough and whose stuff also sells well enough to make a living doing things like this are pretty few. For perspective, Sage still works for Google, if his profile is up to date. Adam, it would appear, lists the design house as his employer. Which is impressive.

    Even “industry” folks like Dennis Detweiler have day jobs (he’s a video game designer, I believe). His partner Greg Stolze probably makes a lot more money off his writing than he does his RPG sales (though he does the writing on an indie basis as well). Guys like James Lowder (who I think is part owner of a comic book shop near where I live) and Mike Stackpole make far more money off of their fiction than they ever did off of their RPG sales or income. 

    Even if you do manage to make enough money to live off of, sales of RPGs are not evergreen… once you saturate your market, sales fall to a trickle. So, again, you’d better be prolific and put out entire new games, or you won’t be able to continue as a designer for long.

    That’s right, Adam, I’m looking at you and what Sage Kobold productions is going to make next!

    That’s not to say you can’t make some good side money doing it, as Jonathan points out. There’s a thriving market for material for this game. Definitely go for it. Just keep in perspective that “viable source of income” likely doesn’t mean enough to quit your job. Much as many of us would like it to be. 

  11. A (very) side question: is this Scribus so different from regular commercial word processing software (Word, Pages, Libre Office, etc) to be worth the learning curve? One can produce quite good documents with this softwares with some training.

  12. Bruno Vilar They wind up implementing similar features, of course – Word can do columns, margins, etc. Layout tools have slightly different starting assumptions, such as the idea that you might want an arbitrary number of text boxes in your layout (whereas Word allows three I believe – body, header and footer, plus page-specific text boxes).  I suppose it’s a bit like PowerPoint – you could use Word, but there are enough subtle workflow differences that it makes sense to have a specific tool. Microsoft has a layout program, for instance: ‘Publisher’, which is a little easier to use than Scribus, but isn’t as pixel-precise as either Scribus or InDesign.

  13. Mike Holmes I wasn’t looking to replace my other income, by viable I mean enough to support my hobby (which eats a sizable portion of my disposable income as it is)or enough to go to GenCon on. That said, if I worked for google, it’d take an awful big dumptruck of money to get me to quit, so while I imagine Sage and Adam have money rolling in, it’s probably not enough to pay for your own insurance for example.

    This begs the question are indie self-publishers just selling to each other or are people who don’t read this community buying in too?

  14. There aren’t enough designers/publishers to account for all of the sales, not nearly. That said, this sort of “trading” does account for a substantial portion of the sales. More importantly, however, other designers talking up your product accounts for a lot of the rest of the sales. 

  15. Why does player-focused work sell better than GM-focused? In my experience, the primary buyer of anything game related is the GM, for instance, my regular Dungeon World group I’ve bought everything, I ended up with an extra copy of the corebook and gave it to a friend who now runs DW because of it – he hasn’t bought anything else. Meanwhile, I’ve bough several playbooks, truncheon world, dungeon planet, and the most recent DW bundle on bundleofholding.com (despite already owning a couple of the books). Point is, I’ve spent more money on GM-focused work than player (TW, Class warfare, Dungeon Planet, the corebook, etc). I’m just curious, again I’m not making decisions on what to write based on what sells (that way lies madness), but on what I am interested in, which is GM-focused work.

  16. There are a bunch of good DW products out there, but it’s still a small amount of publishing compared to the huge number of people who own (and hopefully play) DW.

  17. John Kramer Two things leap to mind: there’s way more playing than GMing in role-playing, so anything aimed at players has a bigger market.

    Secondly, content like modules has an anti-word-of-mouth problem: if a GM loves this or that module, they’re less likely to recommend it to their fellow group-members, because they might use it and so don’t want its secrets spilled.

    So module recommendations are much more likely to need to spread from GM to GM, across groups, rather than within tight-knit groups.

  18. Michael Prescott Ahh, but there’s so much more to GM focused products than adventure modules (I don’t even know how you could really write a DW adventure module without a railroad, it sort of flies in the face of playing to find out), but things like Class Warfare, which arguably is a player book, or more like Truncheon World or Terrors of the Ancient World, or Dungeon Planet or 10+ Treasures etc.

  19. John Kramer, I think you could do a lot with a well-developed Front with complex characters, conflicting goals, nifty prizes, and events available to shove the characters this way or that.  Instead of a few grim portents, you could have a whole page for each faction describing how things go if they get what they want.  The whole thing could be a powderkeg ready to blow at the first touch of the PCs.

    Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes “railroading”, but my players have no problem being dropped into the middle of a thing like that, and then being free to do what they like with it.

  20. I have no problem starting adventures in media res, my railroad comment was more about how do you write the middle or end without knowing the players and what they’re gonna do, it seems like you’d need to offer many paths in a published adventure or only publish adventure starters

  21. Yeah, often DW adventures are either dungeon crawls, where you just go area to area so it’s kinda railroaded geographically even if it’s not railroaded narratively. And then more sandbox-y overland stuff doesn’t really have pre-planned encounters or endings so much as it has a bunch of dangerous stuff on a map and the players can decide which stuff to fight and which stuff to avoid and what stuff to try to solve in non-fighty ways and so on. There’s no reason you necessarily have to have a scripted ending in an adventure scenario. You can leave that up for the players to discover on their own, as long as you create threats with motivations and countdowns that lead them towards causing trouble.

  22. John Kramer Dungeon starters are deliberately open-ended, with lots of questions. You can have quite detailed content that describes stuff that will stimulate play (e.g. NPCs with motives), well beyond starter detail, without describing specific events (middle and end).

  23. As the GM for my playgroup I’ve bought all the DW content so far (core book, a few playbooks and supplements)… but I usually buy them to then share with the players.

    I haven’t actually purchased any GM-specific content yet.

    I’m also curious: a bunch of folks in this thread have said there’s a dearth of good DW content available. What kinds of additional content do people usually look for?

    For instance, when playing D&D 4E we got mileage out of all the extra classes released over the years, the compendium of monsters, and occasionally the monthly DM mags (for broad adventure and set-piece ideas).

  24. Kevin Bishop For my gaming money, things that make GMing easier or more fun. For example: Truncheon World, it’s essentially just a copy of the GMing rules from the corebook, but it’s organized in a way that makes it easier to use to look something up at the table,.

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