Friday, 5 July 2019

Best Practices Part 1: Follow your Bliss

Christopher Tang works here at OneBookShelf in publisher services. His responsibilities
include helping every new publisher for RPGs that registers with our site. Every day he gets
questions from new publishers about how best to get started or to grow as an RPG creator.
With the Best Practices series he will try to answer some frequently asked questions about
how best to grow and develop both on and off DriveThruRPG.

Getting into RPGs can be overwhelming. So often I talk to people who are brimming with
their own ideas and ambitions as they’ve finally taken the plunge to put their creative work
into the world. Sometimes the problem is not so much “what should I do” so much as
“what should I do first?” In this article I’d like to answer a few of the questions I hear as the
creative wheels start turning.

What sells best on DriveThru?
The short answer that is not actually helpful is that Fantasy is the genre that sells best and
D&D 5E is the rules category that sells best.

What people are usually actually asking “what should I create if I want to make money?”
That’s a harder question to answer.

You can make money doing Fantasy 5E products and several people on our site do.
However, it is a crowded field, and if you’re going to jump in to that field you’ll want to make
sure that your work stands out by offering something unique

What is more important is to think about what you are truly passionate about. Do you read
detective novels all the time? Play every relationship simulator that you can get your hands
on? Do you put together ships in a bottle for fun? If you follow your passion then that
passion will translate into your work and will sell better than if you try to chase trends.

What should my first product be?
When you’re getting started the best thing to do is to start with something short. This could
be a one page game or adventure or something just a few pages long. So often I see people
getting started who have grand ambitions of a magnum opus that is hundreds of pages long
but who then get stalled out. Start with something small and finish it. After that move on to
something bigger and finish that. As you create, you’ll learn more about how to create. As
with anything new, you’ll make some mistakes, and it’s less painful to make those learning
mistakes on smaller works.

Small products also become easy access points for new fans. Someone who likes your work
in an adventure is more inclined to check out your big rules book. Even as you grow these
small products are an important part of succeeding and getting your work out in the world. 

What kind of games are out there? Is there a game like mine?
Sometimes I know this off the top of my head (I play a lot of games) but the more important
lesson here is do your DriveThru research. We are the largest role-playing download store
in the world and so looking through our website can give you a look into what the state of
role-playing is in the world without having to buy everything. Try searching for key terms
that you think your game would be associated with. No one is saying you can’t make your
game, but it is important to know what is out there and similar to your game so you can
differentiate yourself in a positive way. What’s a positive difference? Well one example
could be a game that is more rules lite or rules heavy. One could be a game that focuses
on a different group than the standard set of protagonists. One excellent example of this
is the game Masks: A New Generation. There were already dozens of superhero RPGs
and even one Apocalypse Engine Superhero RPG, but by focusing on teenagers and
the sub-genre of teen heroes, Masks sets itself apart from what came before.

That’s it for now. Hopefully this advice can get you started on your adventures making
role-playing games. See you next month for more Best Practices.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Tribute to James Mathe

I woke up this morning to the tragic news that my friend and business partner James Mathe died in his sleep. I want to pay tribute to him here so that more people might get a glimpse of the man and know his many contributions to our tabletop gaming hobby.

Perhaps James' most far-reaching contribution to the hobby was his founding of RPGNow, the first webstore to focus on selling roleplaying games in PDF format. James launched RPGNow in 2001, the same year Apple launched iTunes. Well before the iPhone, iPad, or the Kindle, James recognized the opportunity for RPG publishers to reach more fans through digital versions of their titles.

By 2004, when I and a few others started DriveThruRPG, we were the Johnny-come-lately to the pioneering work James had already done with RPGNow. Nevertheless, it was through the resulting friendly business rivalry between DriveThruRPG and RPGNow that I got to know and soon came to respect James. Our professional acquaintance turned to camaraderie when we decided to merge RPGNow and DriveThruRPG in 2006 to form OneBookShelf. My esteem for him, both as a person and as a professional, only continued to grow during the 13 years we remained business partners.

What James started in 2001 has grown each year since, so that now roughly a million gamers visit OneBookShelf sites each month to discover games. Some of the webpages James coded in the early days still remain in use on the sites. He designed RPGNow to be open and transparent to game publishers and to entrust and empower those publishers with great freedom to manage and modify the marketplace directly as they saw fit. I think these design decisions were intuitive outgrowths of James' own nature.

The man's many contributions to gaming hardly stopped with the webstore, though. James never met a business opportunity he wouldn't entertain. He collected gaming-related web domain names like some gamers collect dice, and he would regularly spin up new websites overnight dedicated to some facet of gaming or another.

He also founded and operated the Game Universe retail stores in Wisconsin, expanding to three stores before later selling the stores so he could focus on his many other business pursuits.

And as if I haven't used the word "founded" enough yet, James also founded game publisher Minion Games, primarily as an outlet for his own abiding passion for board gaming. He produced hit games like Manhattan Project and, along the way, became one of the early experts on using crowdsourcing to fund game development.

He then generously turned that expertise into a website devoted to offering free advice to other board game designers and publishers, thus helping many other people who were seeking best practices for creating their own games and funding them via crowdsourcing. James also started several groups on Facebook that have since grown to be among the best places for new publishers and experts to swap game publishing advice.

To speak fairly and earnestly, James did not, in person, always convey the kindest first impression. There was a frankness to his manner that, upon first exposure, led some people to not seek out his company a second time. Those people missed out. James had a heart of gold. Whatever roughness might have shown on the surface was just an expression of James' drive to never be satisfied with the status quo and to improve things, not just for himself but for everyone.

James was a very smart entrepreneur in a hobby business full of smart people. He embodied the best of the US Midwestern virtues of work ethic, honesty, and fairness. He's gone too soon. I am saddened that we will never see what else he might have founded in the years to come.

Rest in peace, James.

Forever your friend,
Steve Wieck

Monday, 15 April 2019

Announcement: DriveThruRPG Partners with Astral Virtual Tabletop

Astral Virtual TableTop is the easiest way to create, host, and play tabletop roleplaying games. Astral has partnered with DriveThruRPG to launch a new experience that makes running tabletop roleplaying games immersive, simple, and fun for both Game Masters and players. Use Astral to play with friends online, or as a helpful tool around the gaming table. Play any tabletop roleplaying system in Astral by importing and sharing your favorite titles purchased through any DriveThru site, including DriveThruRPG and Dungeon Master's Guild.
All accounts come with a ready-made starter template, tokens, audio files, and a helpful guide to help you get started. Use Astral for free, or level up to a Pro plan to unlock automation tools and 10,000 assets (designed by Mythic Portal Games) that come with every Pro account.

Get started today:
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Thursday, 7 March 2019

Annual Sitewide Sales

A lot of people have reached out to us about this so we wanted to give a general idea of when our sitewide sales are. 

We have several recurring sitewide promotions each year. Few of these sales are attached to a firm date, but rather most slide a bit each year to suit both the international calendar and our internal marketing schedule. We also prefer to keep things flexible in case a delivery slips or we have a conflict or a last-minute change.

Even if the precise dates might move around a bit within each month, here are some guidelines that can help you when setting your own release or promotion schedule.
  • Early January: New Year, New Game occurs in the first half of January. It tends to focus on quickstarts, intro adventures, and “starter pack” bundles for game systems.
  • Early March: GM's Day is one of our three biggest annual sales, with substantial discounts on a huge swath of titles.
  • All of May: D&D Month — Throughout the month of May, we host Dungeons & Dragons-specific sales, including all editions.
  • Late July: Christmas in July is another of our top three biggest annual sales. It usually starts the Thursday before July 25.
  • All of September: Our September System/Setting Sales focus on one or two major game systems or settings for the entire month, with broad sales on all titles for that system or setting.
  • Mid- to Late October: We generally hold a Halloween Sale in the mid- to latter part of the month. Usually the focus is on Horror titles of some kind.
  • Late November: Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales take place around the U.S. Thanksgiving Day weekend. This promotion has grown over the past few years to challenge GM's Day and Christmas in July as our biggest of the year. We usually have a wide array of titles on sale for the entire weekend, with separate sets of headliner/doorcrasher items at very deep discounts for each of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.”
  • Early to Mid-December: Prior to Christmas, we hold the Teach Your Kids Holiday Sale. This promotion features child- and family-focused games only. 

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Print on Demand Prices Changing in April

Hello Publishers,
I hope that your February is going fantastic!
This is a quick update for print on demand books as we prepare for the following print cost changes in April. We do not have a definite date yet, but as we get closer, we will notify you as soon as possible.
The short version is that Lightning Source has implemented a pretty significant change to their print cost structure. As a result, there will be a few changes coming to our sites soon:
·       Short books of all types will generally decrease substantially in cost as the fixed price for low page count books goes away.
·       B&W books will be 10-15% cheaper.
·       Standard Color books will be 10-35% more expensive.
·       Premium Color books will be 15-30% cheaper.

    There will no longer be a "Medium" size for Premium Color books. The 6"x9", 6.14"x9.21" sizes will now be considered small, and the 8.5"x8.5" size will now be considered large.

Changes to Book Print Costs

You can compare the new cost formulas below to the current costs here:
The new cost formulas below apply to all available page counts.
·       Black and White (Small / Softcover): $1.55 + $0.0138 per page
·       Black and White (Small / Hardcover): $5.98 + $0.0138 per page
·       Black and White (Large / Softcover): $1.61 + $0.0202 per page
·       Black and White (Large / Hardcover): $5.98 + $0.0202 per page
·       Standard Heavyweight/70 (Small / Softcover): $1.55 + $0.0316 per page
·       Standard Heavyweight/70 (Small / Hardcover): $5.98 + $0.0316 per page
·       Standard Heavyweight/70 (Large / Softcover): $1.61 + $0.0503  per page
·       Standard Heavyweight/70 (Large/ Hardcover): $5.98 + $0.0503 per page
·       Premium (Small / Softcover): $1.55 + $0.0676 per page
·       Premium (Small / Hardcover): $5.98 + $0.0676 per page
·       Premium (Large / Softcover): $1.61 + $0.0905 per page
·       Premium (Large / Hardcover): $5.98 + $0.0905 per page
·       Premium Color Landscape will have the same price as other Premium Large formats.
·       There will be no more Quantity Discounts for bulk orders over 50 copies.

Updating Site Prices for POD

In April, when we update print costs for your POD books, we will adjust the site price on your titles automatically so as to maintain the margin you have set for that printed format. As part of this site price adjustment, we will try to maintain similar price points that still end with $X.95, $X.99, or $X.00 to stay as close as possible to the prices you have set currently.
For example, if you have a 300-page, hardcover, premium color, 8.5x11” book on site now, the current print cost of that would be $39.90. After the April cost changes, the print cost will drop to $33.13.
If you currently have the print margin on this title set to $20.09, then its site price to customers would be $39.90 + $20.09 = $59.99.
With the April update, our code will first attempt to maintain your margin of $20.09, re-setting the site price initially to $33.13 (new print cost) + $20.09 = $53.22.
As that site price does not match the format of your former site price ($59.99 follows the $X.99 format), then our code will adjust your margin from $20.09 to $20.86, so that your new site price becomes $33.13 + $20.86 = $53.99.
Of course, after the April update, you are free to further adjust your margins (and resulting site prices).
We think this automatic price reset is the easiest and most effective process for us and you. We welcome your feedback.

What if I planned my KickStarter?

Many KickStarters print runs may benefit from the cost reductions, but if you already planned on a larger (i.e., higher page count) standard color book, you may be facing a sizable cost increase.
We will work with you on grandfathered pricing if your KickStarter launches on or before March 1st, 2019. If you are within that date range, please contact your Publisher Service Representative so we can work with you through your fulfillment.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me through e-mail during normal business hours.
Meredith Gerber

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Tiny Trove: Coming Soon to DriveThruRPG

Ogden, UT – February 28, 2019

Gallant Knight Games and DriveThruRPG are pleased to announce a new community content program, centered on the TinyD6 ruleset: Tiny Trove!
The minimalist TinyD6 ruleset has been a hit since it’s launch, and now fans can create their own content centered around Tiny Dungeon 2e! Now, Gallant Knight Games and DriveThruRPG have partnered to let independent content creators publish material utilizing the TinyD6 ruleset and set in the top quality variety micro-settings published in TinyD6 products!
Tiny Trove features:

·       Self-publish service for tabletop RPG material set using Tiny Dungeon 2e

·       Creators themselves set the price for the material they publish and receive 50% of the revenue

·       Access to over templates and art packs that will evoke the feel of Tiny Dungeon 2e

·       Additional content supporting other TinyD6 game lines will roll out beginning with Tiny Frontiers: Revised in May, 2019 and continuing forward.

About Gallant Knight Games

Gallant Knight Games is a tabletop gaming company dedicated to high-quality roleplaying games and card and board games. Founded in 2015 by Alan & Erin Bahr, Gallant Knight Games publishes it’s flagship TinyD6 line, featuring Tiny Dungeon 2e, Tiny Wasteland, Tiny Frontiers: Revised, along with other games such as Cold Shadows, For Coin & Blood, Beach Patrol, and many more. contact:

About DriveThruRPG is part of a family of premiere online marketplaces including RPGNow, DriveThruRPG, DriveThruCards, DMsGuild, DriveThruComics, DriveThruFiction, and Wargame Vault. Together, we have been selling digital and print-on-demand comic books, roleplaying games, and fiction since 2001. As of 2016, we have launched multiple community content programs as well as our Community Card Creator for fans to create content for some of their favorite roleplaying and card games. www.onebookshelf.comContact:

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

DriveThruRPG Responds to Current Industry News

Thanks to everyone for your patience as we deliberated on the situation that has unfolded regarding Zak Smith (aka Zak Sabbath). At DriveThruRPG, we want to do our part to keep bad actors out of the roleplaying community, and we don’t want business relationships with such people. As such, you’d think there wouldn’t be much deliberation needed on our part. However, the situation posed a number of challenges for us to consider in terms of precedent and collateral impact on other parties.

I have decided that we will not accept future titles for sale on DriveThruRPG (or our other marketplaces) if Zak is a contributor on the title. If any publisher has a title-in-process to which Zak is a contributor and this policy would impact you financially, then we’d ask that you please reach out to us via the publisher services link to have a dialogue about that title.

For titles currently on our marketplace in which Zak is listed as a contributor, we have checked those publisher accounts, and none of these titles have us paying money directly to Zak. While it is likely that Zak does earn a royalty on some titles sold on DriveThruRPG, any such royalties would be paid directly by the publisher of the title, not by DriveThruRPG.

Further, whatever royalty Zak might get from any publisher on our store is unlikely to be the entirety of what we pay that publisher. We do not feel it’s fair to penalize financially those who worked with Zak in the past, including both publishers and possibly other contributors earning income from these titles. Therefore, we expect publishers to make their own decision to continue selling these titles or not, presumably after consulting with all other contributors.

For our part, we will be identifying all titles to which Zak contributed and diverting all of the revenue shares that DriveThruRPG might make from sales of these titles as a donation to RAINN (

I’ll try to pre-emptively answer other possible questions below.

When this happened, why did you not suspend sale of Zak’s titles while you deliberated?When we expect that it will take us a few days to deliberate on a title reported for offensive content, our policy is to temporarily suspend sales of that title. In this case, though, it was not the content of any particular title under discussion, and we did not find any titles where we directly paid Zak for ongoing sales during our deliberation.

So DriveThruRPG is now banning certain creators? Will whoever the “outrage brigade” complains about next be banned as well?
We all share a responsibility for the health of our hobby. Any demographic measure we’ve ever seen on the roleplaying hobby shows women are under-represented. Things won’t improve if people shirk the responsibility to make our hobby inclusive.

Zak Smith has a long and well-documented history of behaviors antithetical to a healthy community. In light of recent allegations, which we find credible, we think our business and our hobby is better off without him, so we’re doing our part.

We already have a small list of other bad actors in the industry with whom we refuse to do business: people who have repeatedly abused crowdfunding platforms for personal enrichment, who repeatedly engaged in IP violations, who have repeatedly treated our staff or customers in unacceptably unprofessional ways, and so on. If you repeatedly act like a jerk (or worse, a predator), we won’t wait for other people to complain about you. We’ll just quietly stop doing business with you.

Why are you not banning his existing titles?
Because we don’t want to hurt other people who also contributed to those same titles just to diminish Zak. Banning those existing titles risks doing just that.

Steve Wieck
OneBookShelf / DriveThruRPG