Tuesday, March 17, 2015

400 Dollar Dungeons

So I came across this post from an independent RPG adventure designer.  I don't know anything about the author, but he's good at what he does.  According to his Facebook site, "Four Dollar Dungeons are standalone adventures for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game designed to be logical, entertaining, challenging and balanced, and easily integrated into any campaign world.  Each adventure has enough material to last two to three playing sessions and enough experience to raise four characters of the appropriate level up by one extra level. Treasure is commensurate with the encounter challenges faced. Scaling information is included for adventuring parties of five or six."

Why do I like this guy's stuff so much?  So many reasons.  First of all, he publishes a free teaser that includes a several page-long adventure summary for every adventure he sells.  That means that you can peruse the adventure rather than just trying to make a decision based on a product page on a website.  Also, the adventures are designed to take a character from one level to the next.  They are also scaled for parties of 4 or 6.  Finally, everything--monsters, spells, etc.--that you need to run a module is part of the PDF you download.  There's no rules content that you don't get.

Finally, his adventure The Horn of Geryon might be the best introductory adventure to the Pathfinder rules set I've ever seen.  The plot is interesting yet simple to follow at the same time.  I heartily encourage you to check out all of the Four Dollar Dungeons.  Start with the free previews, you'll find something you want more of!

What really had me interested was his notes about how well his products have been selling.  Horn of Geryon is close to selling 200 copies and Panataxia, another offering, is approaching 100.  His other 4 adventures are all around 50 copies each.  That's a total of 500 sales.  What's interesting to me is that the designer is excited about this!  "I hope I'm not tempting fate by saying that I feel I have finally *arrived* at the adventure writing scene," he says.

500 sales sounds like a lot until you consider the amount of time it takes to write an adventure, compile all of the fluff and rules content, and lay it out.  Admittedly, Four Dollar Dungeons aren't flashy like a WoTC or Paizo (or even Kobold Press, for that matter) product, but they are well-designed and laid-out and easy to use.  I'd guess at least 10 hours went into each adventure, for a total of 60 hours of work.  500 copies at $4 each divided by 60 hours is about $33.33 an hour before considering the website he sells through's cuts.  That's getting up to some impressive numbers.  There was a piece on EN World last month discussing what freelancers make for their work.  The numbers there suggested about $0.01 to $0.07 a word for the highest paying publishers.

My question to y'all is what's the sweet spot where you'd consider getting into this racket?  I generally like to self-publish (c'mon folks, layout isn't that hard) so I'd want to look at it from a dollars per hour perspective.  Plus, that only goes up--once something is published it's only making you more money.  How much would it take to get you to really polish off the home adventure and put it out there for everyone else to use?