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“Death” In The “Family”

You may have seen my post on social media that my computer died Monday. What exactly happened and what does it mean for JBE. First, what happened: the hard drive went. The boot sector is dead and nothing I do is bringing it back. “Have I tried …” My wife is a computer adept. She tried it. She was able to bring it back enough to copy any files that weren’t backed up online to a thumb drive. There’s still a few more things she wants to try, but what we lack is time to do them immediately, with Thanksgiving being this week and family obligations filling our weekends for the next few weeks. More than likely, I’ll be buying a new computer sooner rather than later.

What does this mean for JBE? Fortunately, there’s good news: my old computer works perfectly fine. It’s been sitting on my desk since I got the laptop and I’ve been wondering what I should do with it. Well, now I know: put it right back where it use to be. Sure, it has lots of updates to do, but beyond that there was nothing wrong with it. I just couldn’t play Skyrim on it. Oh well…

Next bit of good news: earlier this month, I decided to pay for online storage earlier this month and set up the computer so it would auto-backup anything in certain folders. So every file for JBE is saved, and when I left for the day job this morning, I was syncing it with my old computer. I even have the cover backed up that I was working on the night before the hard drive bit the dust. Grand total of files lost: zero.

That’s the good news. Any bad news? Well there will be two things lost: time (syncing, digging out activation numbers, working on an older system, computer shopping, trying to get the old one repaired) and money (new computer/repairing computer cost). How much, I don’t know yet. This much, I am sure about: I will not compromise the quality of our products because of this. If I tried to publish Deadly Delves: Nine Lives for Petane for Pathfinder RPG in December, it would be rushed and may not be up to our standards. Instead, I am delaying it until January 2018 and bringing 13 Fighter Talents and Maneuvers for the 13th Age Roleplaying Game up into December’s slot. The first in our 13 Class Options series is going to be significantly shorter and will require less time than a level 12 adventure. This should be completed before Christmas with the computer delays without compromising quality. I will admit, this is not how I wanted to show off the cover for it to you, but I hope you like it nonetheless.

As far as the rest of the schedule goes, I do not anticipate any issues, but I will keep you up to date should any such issues arise.

Have a happy holiday.

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Traveller: We Are Moving Forward

Incase you had not heard, there has been considerable discussion online about the new licenses that DriveThruRPG put up last week Friday. At first glance these licenses are pretty good: you get to publish whatever you want for the system with an easy path to becoming a publisher. However, for reasons I will not go into here, the license has some down sides. All of them are in the “iTunes User Agreement”-size license that you must agree to before publishing material for it.

We at JBE spent the weekend discussing what to do. After careful consideration, we came to a decision: we are moving forward with Traveller plans for the Original Traveller Universe only, at this time. Adventures, settings books, and ships that are designed for the Third Imperium, we will be continuing as planned. We had considered ideas for Traveller 2e that were for settings beyond this, but we will not be pursuing those under the current agreement. We will reconsider those ideas should the agreement change.

So what does this mean for you, Traveller fans? It means that if you are a fan of our Foreven Worlds setting, you should expect to see more of it. And by “more” I mean beyond the subsectors. Now that we have a quadrant developed, we are going to spend some time working on adventures. We want the area to be your home for some daring campaigns. And that is what we are going to give you. Expect some freaking awesome adventures coming soon.

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13th Age: We’re Official

13th Age CompatibleIts official, we signed the 13th Age Compatibility License yesterday. We will be redoing the covers of our two current 13th Age Role Playing Game releases in the next week or two. Also keep an eye out for our next 13th Age release: Age of Icons: 100 Lich Queen Agents. Like Age of Ideas: Character Backgrounds, this will include 100 names of agents of the Lich Queen you can use in your game right away. In addition, we are including 5 fully stated out NPCs that serve the Lich Queen in all her dastardly desires. Each of these make excellent bosses to defeat as well as enemies to taunt the players.

In addition, we updated our newsletter sign up form to include 13th Age. If you would like to stay current with what Jon Brazer Enterprises is planning for this exciting role playing game, be sure to sign up or modify your existing subscription today. It is totally free and helps us stay in contact with you better. Sign up today!

13th Age and associated marks and logos are trademarks of Fire Opal Media Inc., and are used under license. See 13thAge.com for more information on the 13th Age Roleplaying Game. The 13th Age Roleplaying game is published under exclusive license to Pelgrane Press Ltd.

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New Line Developer at JBE

JBE LogoJon Brazer Enterprises would like to welcome our new line developer. From the Mile High State of Colorado, we are pleased to have Marie Small join us. With an amazing list of writing credits that include the Book of Heroic Races: Seedlings, Pathfinder Player’s Companion: Dragon Slayer’s Handbook, and Conflict PvP: Tactics & Teams.

Marie describes herself as an evil overlady with her own small army of minions consisting of a husband, two cats and four kids. She enjoy games of all kinds, reading, music, and creating art of all kinds. “I’m extraordinarily grateful to my husband for holding me to my promise to compete in RPG Superstar 2011. I’m also grateful to everyone who voted (regardless of whom they voted for), the judges, and the fine folks who have granted me the opportunities I’ve had ever since.”

We are really thrilled to have Marie apart of our team. Please join me in welcoming Marie to Jon Brazer Enterprises.

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Attitudes That Do Not Help

As a publisher that tries to make my books as attractive to game stores as possible I do quite a few things to help them out. Most notably, I have a PDF guarantee where a customer can get the PDF for free no matter where they pick up a print book. And game stores can give out the PDF via Bits and Mortar. However, I only know of a few game stores that really tout this kind publisher/game store cooperation. The general attitude I have encountered from game stores is that they find it annoying that they have to do additional work keeping track of a PDF for a book that doesn’t sell all that many copies. Sure they are glad to handle it for big selling game companies, but for game books that may only sell 2-4 copies ever in their store, they do not want the additional work. And on more than a few ocassions I’ve heard game stores just ignore it and tell their customers to contact me personally, which I am happy to do. While this is not exactly helpful, I do understand the position. We are all busy and extra work is not always welcome.

However, this position blindsided me. The author of the post and owner of the blog is Gary Ray of Black Diamond Games. He’s a good guy whom I value his insights into the retail side of the industry considerably. The short version of his blog post is that he will no longer be carrying books that are funded via Kickstarter anymore from small and medium publishers. “So my answer is always going to be ‘no’ now, I do not want that product, and thank you for sharing your efforts to bypass traditional mediums that I happen to use to feed my family.” While I do understand (and agree) that business is business and if he can’t sell a product (regardless of how it was funded) he shouldn’t carry it, a blanket attitude like this does not help me at all. As one of these publishers that had a Free RPG Day book funded via Kickstarter, I produced a book that would otherwise be impossible for me to do so without Kickstarter funding. The minimum print run to participate in Free RPG Day is larger than any other print run I do on a for profit book. I cannot do that on a book that is nothing but a total loss. It is just not possible.

But factor this in for a moment: Kickstarter is used by a number of small and medium game publishers for games that they themselves are not sure if there is a market for it. So the game publisher is not sure if they should 1) make the game at all, 2) how large the initial print run should be, or 3) plan to make expansions. Kickstarter can give you definitive answers to some and points to others. It can clearly say if there is enough interest out there to actually make it. A funded Kickstarter project means you should produce the book. While it won’t say exactly how many to produce, you know you have to produce copies for those that bought the game early and you have additional money to make more. Just don’t spend more than you brought in and you’re good. And if you did goals beyond the minimum, you may have funding for expansions as well. On top of all that certainty in the very uncertain market that game publishing is, it generates excitement among those that will become the alphas of the game.

Compare that with traditional distribution. You do not know how many to produce if there is a market out there at all. You are relying on game stores and distributors that are so flooded with other games and books that unless your name is Paizo, Fantasy Flight, Game’s Workshop or Wizards of the Coast, there is no guarantee a single store in the world will hear of you and (even if they do) order a single copy, let alone more than one. You also don’t have any indication if there is reason for you to work on expansions for the game or how well they will sell either. Oh and you are using all your own money to design, playtest, and produce this game.

Comparing the two, Kickstarter has a considerably amount of certainty while traditional distribution has almost none. So an attitude like the one in the blog ties an arm behind my back. I can say with certainty that because of attitudes like the one expressed above I will not be participating in 2013’s Free RPG Day. If my books are going to be banned from their store because it was funded with Kickstarter, then I do not have the funds to create such a book. Its that simple. I can’t do it. If the attitude expressed was, “I have to use more discretion when ordering books that were funded with Kickstarter,” is completely understandable and good business.

Consider the future for a moment. If a game company sells through direct marketing, print on demand, Kickstarter and other non-traditional methods, having never touched the traditional distribution system and makes it big (a distinct possibility in the 5-10 year time frame), what incentive do they have to ever sell through game stores. Lower profit margins, no direct access to their customer base, no direct feedback from customers, no certainty that the game store will pick up the game “because they didn’t sell through us game stores before, why should I sell their products now,” (yes I got that attitude when I went from PDF to print publishing), and many more reason against selling through traditional distribution. However, if game stores are (at minimum) not against selling a game that was funded or produced through non-traditional means, they can be part of the game company’s strategy to reach customers and seen as indispensable. Attitudes like the one above do not help.

For the time being, I can say that I am not going to be making changes. However, I am getting that much closer to reconsidering my distribution strategy. I am content the way it is. However, the more push back I get from any one distribution channel, the more I want to look for alternatives.

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Important Milestone

Yesterday, JBE hit an important milestone. We received 2 checks in the mail for PDF and print book sales. The total of those two checks is more than I receive in take-home pay per paycheck from my day job. That is highly significant since my job is in the category that Matt Sprange (of Mongoose Publishing) describes in “I am Mongoose and So Can You” as “will likely require to take a pay cut working full time in the RPG industry.” Mind you, the the checks I received was more than my net pay and not by gross pay and I get 2 checks per month, not just 1 and it didn’t include expenses like print runs or artwork, but it was an important milestone nonetheless.

It means that JBE is a success. No matter how you slice it, we are holding our own. It begs the question, “If I can do this is with an average of 10-15 hours per week, what can I do with 40 hours every week?” Whether I’d love to find out the answer to that question or not right now, I will not be in the near future. There are a good number of reasons why I am not testing those waters just yet. Many of those reasons involve health insurance, the security of the day job and so on. But we have been looking at the possibility of making it a reality. Running JBE as a full time job is a dream. One that looks to be more a reality with each week and month. While the economy may not allow for it to happen this year, we are working towards it. We believe it can happen.

In the words of the great J. Michael Straczynski, “Faith Manages!”

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‘Brazer Blog’ Now Apart of the RPG Bloggers Network

I applied to have my the Brazer Blog over at ENWorld added to the RPG Bloggers Network and they accepted it today. If you are not familiar with the Brazer Blog, it focuses mostly on the Pathfinder RPG material, but there is the occasional Traveller post there as well. Mostly I blog about actual play experiences with my Pathfinder character currently in a Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign (and give tips and hints in how to play/build a particular class). I also post the thoughts behind decisions when writing material, my thoughts on gaming related material, and similar topics.

The RPG Bloggers Network is a place to find the latest RPG related blogs. Opinions, play exeriences and news from average gamers can be found here. Check it out.

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[Meta] Newspapers and the Future of RPGs

This morning on my way to work, I stopped at my local Wawa for breakfast (bad for the waist line, but still good) and there was a guy from the local newspaper there handing out free copies of their paper. I didn’t take one and as far as I could tell no one else did either. It amazed me that they were still trying to keep that end of the market alive. Why weren’t they offering some kind of “try our online subscription free for 30 days” or something like that. This might sound harsh, but when the nation’s largest newspaper (the New York Times) could spend HALF as much money by buying every single one of their subscribers a Kindle and letting them read it there instead of printing the actual paper, your industry needs to find a different business model, and fast.

My next thought though was: how does this apply to RPGs? The print side of the market has been shrinking for years while the electronic side as really been the only growing part. While the total market for electronic books is miniscule compared to the print market, those numbers will not be that way forever. But when Amazon sales of Dan Brown’s book The Lost Symbol are selling better on the Kindle than in hardcopy, the rest of the market cannot be far behind. Keep your mind open for the whole of the RPG market to be on those devices in less than 5 years.

What else is changing? Sci-fi-like battlefields are finally here. If you have not seen this video yet, check it out. Surfacescapes Demo Walkthrough for D&D from Surfacescapes on Vimeo. Throw a network connection on there, and you’re set to game with the rest of the world.

But back to my newspaper musings, I see some RPG companies getting it and some not. Some companies post the whole of their system up on a wiki and others that do not place bookmarks in their PDFs. Now we’ve got the Nook from Barns and Nobles that is full color. Printing full color costs a ton; displaying full color images on the device costs the same as black and white. Why print when you can do that? Companies need to be ready for the future, because the future is here. As Michael Stackpole put it, “The war between digital and print is over. Digital won, print just don’t know it yet.”

How will you be reading your RPG material in five years? Have you ever tried reading a book from your phone or an eReader device?

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New Widget Added

Normally, I do not comment on adding or deleting a widget, but this time I am because it is a relative big deal. Its a writer’s word count meter underneath the Tweets from the Future widget. It displays the current word count of a major project I’m working on. I don’t know how many words the final is going to be but 50,000 is a good estimate for the moment. That is about a 128 book. So this does not for a book less than 48 pages. I am planning a few that are 32ish pages, but I am not counting them for this. My goal is to have the current top secret major project ready by Origins or GenCon 2010, but no guarantees. I am, however, not going to be working on this on a daily basis.

This also marks a change in my current business model. I am going to be focusing on more larger projects and releasing less frequently. If there is one thing that has been communicated to me rather clearly is that most do not want sub-10 page products. I will be phasing out those shorter projects in favor of longer products. The 1-3 pagers were good to get the company off the ground, but it is now time to move on. I will be releasing products much less frequently, but they will be larger products.

Until Next time.