Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hypothetical: Buying A Custom Campaign

This came up in the discussion from earlier this week about how much players should know about a given game session, be it the adventure, the stats for monsters, the layout of the dungeon, etc. With how accessible game information is to players, be it online or in soucebooks that a given player is likely to own, the theoretical was raised about having a professional game designer write a custom game module, exclusively for a Game Master.

How much would such a service cost? Let's assume it includes the following:
  • At least one annotated map of a dungeon, town, castle, etc.
  • A key villain, with full background and stats
  • Several quick-stat NPCs important to the game
  • At least one monster, creature, unique item, or other special one-of-a-kind point of interest
  • An outlined setup of the adventure, including a hook, descriptions of half a dozen possible/optional encounters, and written storyline as you might expect from a canned adventure found in a sourcebook
  • All in all, roughly 12-14 pages in a printable PDF or hard copy
So, how much for a truly special and unique adventure that would get your players through two or three gaming sessions? $100? $150? $214? I really have no idea. While it's certainly a luxury that most GMs would never utilize, it's not so terribly different than having a professional artist render a group's portrait, right?

Just a funny musing for a Saturday morning. Sound off, below.


Helmsman said...

I'd say this hypothetical becomes an order of magnitude more possible when you scale things to larps of 20+ people or IRC chats. Then you could hire game designers to do a month of plot scenarios. It would be pittance compared to standard consulting fees in other professions, but a $200 or $300 check for doing something you enjoy might be okay for some...

JEY said...

it is really a fun idea that came up...

i guess it might not be that hard, couse centainly there are TONS of people who would like to live by the RPG, which would lower the price.

I mean, everyone of us can make an adventure, if we have the proper time to do so.

what would happen is an market of RPG design freelancers whose price would depend on the quality of their work, their fame (as everything on the market)and other deatils, as system, theme (horror, fantasy, etc) and etc.

think about it, how many time do you need for creating all that you mentioned?

If I have 4 hours per day to do just it, probably in a week or two I guess, a professional in designing probably would take less.

lets see, the other side: if a group would need two or three gamming sessions, it probably would be an month, so it probably would buy one per month

So a professional could do around 8 "products" per month (working 8 hours a day), I dons know which is the average payment you recive in the U.S., but its just do the math.

moreover, it would have also the part time designer, tat probably would produce one or two adventures in a month

suposing that all players and master help on paying the fee, it wouldn't be so much expensive, look, it would be and average payment, divided by ten (suposing its a good professional) an then divided by , let's say, five (4 players and the master) per motnh.

supposing an average payment is US$ 2000,00, it would cost each member in the party US$ 40,00 per month.

that's a very interesting line o thinking and I would like to post about it i'm my blog and mention yours, is that all right? (don't worry, my blog is in portuguese ;D)

thanks and good dices ;D

A.L. said...

I think what I'd be willing to pay would depend on turn around time, and then obviously for quality (like quality of the map, etc).

But $100 for a custom module received in a few weeks to a months time would be good I think. If it was going to last a few sessions, had that stuff, and was exclusive. More depending on what was going on. Like, $100 for a base package, but say $200 if the package was more work intensive. I.E. I need 8 major NPCs with backstories that could become recurring characters even outside of this adventure.

I could see a lot of gaming groups splitting the cost evenly as well, which could be good.

The snags I see this hitting are with supported systems, and then (like I said) turn around time on order to receiving the product. A portrait of the group can be expensive, and take time. But if the portrait is late, the session isn't going to suffer this Friday due to the lack of an adventure.

A.L. said...

I should point out, I am notoriously cheap for things like this, but then again, that is why I don't usually buy adventure modules. So my $100 would probably mean a good value would be $150-$200, depending on work hours going into it and such.

You would probably also need a group for it. At least 2 people, one person for the Map, the other for the actual "stuff".

Hannah said...

I doubt people would be willing to pay much if anything. But why does it have to be exclusive to the group? Design it for the group, wait until they play it through, then release it as a product like normal. More chances for revenues, cuts down on how much you have to charge the group for the adventure, and you get it playtested before it's released to a general audience. Everyone wins.

JEY said...

@Hannah: well, I guess some people would buy, and that's on what the whole idea is based (hypotetical huh?)

but I thinked about it and really, the adventures could be "reciclated", but I don't think that releasing it's the best idea, couse it rans in the same problem of the same topic, but having it in a "stock" and when a group cames to you wanting an adventure like that one, you could sell it again, without problem.

the stuff is, I think, that the adventures don't need to be unique, but have to meet the needs of the group and need to be very restrictec to public, so only the GM, after buying the stuff would have access

thinking better, I guess $50 to $100 for the whole material would be possible...

hugs and good dices o/

A.L. said...

In the discussion for the other thread there was talk about making it exclusive or being allowed for resale. But the idea was for it to at least be exclusive for a short time, so only the GM knew all the cool little tid bits and the players wouldn't also have a copy of the book.

Part of that value though is just from the fact that this is a custom made adventure for your group. Sellable later or not would be debatable, but we are talking a professional work that:

Entertains for about 2-3 sessions
Provides a unique encounter (at least one)
Has fully made and fleshed out NPCs
At least one map (custom for the adventure as well)
Has a full story as well as alternative hooks and twists.
Delivered on a specific time frame, and for a specific system

It may not be a viable stand alone revenue stream, but it's probably worth more than $50 to most people who would pay for an adventure. Especially when non-exclusive ones are $20-$30 or more these days.

SpiralBound said...

I'm also not sure just how salable it would be afterwards. If it's a custom adventure, then it's reasonable to assume that part of that customizing would be tailoring it towards the specific group - the PC classes, abilities, levels, items, back stories, etc. Not to mention also tailoring it to any pre-existing setting or plotline elements. Unless the product is intended to start off a campaign, it's going to have to include a lot of non-recyclable elements.

Consider a campaign set in a specific region of a specific setting (homebrew or published) where the GM has already used/created certain NPCs, had some events occur already, etc. Unless the campaign is supposed to wildly veer off at this point, all of this will have to be taken into account. Once used by this group, it will be difficult for another group to use it as is in their campaign.

Perhaps some elements could be released separately, (items, monsters, locations or npcs), but there isn't exactly a shortage of pdf collections of any of those! LOL! :-) Also, there may be more value in the designer keeping such set pieces unreleased so that he can use them for another client. The next time a customer wants a strange goblinoid, that poison-spraying, tentacled goblin he crafted 7 clients ago can be reused with only minor editing - instead of being a minor demon summoned by an evil priest, it will be a variant species created by a mad wizard...

Such recycling would have to be done sparingly and only where appropriate, else the designer get a well-deserved reputation of being a cut-and-paste hack of limited creativity, but such a balance needs to be struck with any such custom artwork.

A.L. said...

Only certain ones I think would be mass-sellable for that reason. Then again, the most custom tailoring and reading of information the client has, the more work, and that is something that could be factored into the cost as well. If the designer has to read through half a dozen or more pages of campaign notes, character sheets, and back story to truly tailor it to the group it is more work than just "I need something fun for my group of 4 level 10 characters to do. Have a wizard, thief, cleric, and warrior. The game is set in a desert"

There are a lot of nuances that could very easily come into play here though.

Atraties said...

I think it's a very interesting idea that could be very useful to people who like to game, but due to work have little time, but a bit of money. I think the price would have to be variable depending on what people wanted. The rule of thumb I'd go by is that it should pay a flat minimum of $10 per man (or woman) hour put into it. Given making a map, a few NPCs, a challenge geared towards a specific party, and some scripting for 3 - 4 adventures that is probably 20 hours for an experienced creation crew to do it at a professional level so $200 sounds very reasonable to me for something custom.

It is a very niche market so it would obviously have to be something that was not a primary revenue stream, but instead a secondary or likely tertiary one. Something that came to mind with the rest of the comments is that it might be worth giving a 25% discount to people who don't mind their adventure being marketed to mass market after they've had a reasonable time to run it (2 months for a 4 session arc or so).

Jay said...

It's certainly an interesting idea. I can't see myself paying for one--unless it was compensating artists and cartographers to do the heavy lifting on tasks I'm just not talented to do--for my own campaign.

That said, you've created a handy little "kit" list to give me ideas and get me started!

/step 1: buy lotto ticket!

JEY said...

I guess @spiral bound said everything, but I think it is such a good idea, that could even become a business, like an website that group desginers and organize then by categories, and have heavy marketing efforts, so people would, in one site, find the best designer they wanted, and compare prices, and everything else that an e-bay like do.

and this discussion keeps becaming more and more interesting, it's just amazing!

good dices!

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