In what format do you buy RPG products?

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In what format do you typically purchase RPG products? Assume you would be charged for each option.

Physical book
19
49%
PDF or other e-book format
15
38%
Virtual tabletop (VTT) assets (maps, tokens, system "crunch")
2
5%
Other (please describe in a comment)
3
8%
 
Total votes: 39

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Tim Baker
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In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Tim Baker » Fri Sep 28, 2018 4:40 am

I recently came across a Kickstarter that doesn't offer a PDF option at all, but offers physical books and virtual tabletop (VTT) assets. This caught me by surprise, as the publisher has consistently offered PDFs for years and hadn't announced that this was going to change.

Reading the comments from the publisher on their Kickstarter, it's clear that this was a deliberate decision and is being used as an experiment for future product releases. It's been one of those moments where I became obvious to me that the way I purchase and consume RPG materials is very different from many other people (probably the majority).

It also made me curious about the community here on the Piazza. In what format(s) do you purchase your RPG products? If you feel like sharing why you purchase products in the format that you do, I'd be interested to read your comments.
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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Morfie » Fri Sep 28, 2018 6:33 am

I'm exclusively PDF now.
Haven't found a VTT that caters for BECMI/RC D&D, but would be interested if there was.
No longer have the finances or space for physical books. They would be my preference otherwise.

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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Big Mac » Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:26 am

My preferred setting for RPG content that I buy is dead-tree format. I buy both physical books and Print on Demand books, as I find them easier to read.

I treat PDFs as a search tool.

I treat VTT content as stuff that is expendable, as it only lasts as long as the people who put it up support it. You own physical books forever (so long as you don't damage them) and you own PDFs forever (so long as you don't forget to back them up) but VTT companies that have tie-in licences with RPG companies will not necessarily have those licences forever. (Anyone who bought Dungeons & Dragons PDFs from Paizo will know that Wizards of the Coast removed their ability to download replacement copies from the Piazo server. Anyone who thinks that buy 5e content from D&D Beyond is "buying" rather than "renting" should look carefully at their ability to use that content outside of D&D Beyond. The same applies to other VTT providers.

One option that you didn't mention is subsidised free downloads. There are a number of people who create free content paid for by Patreon backers. There is an advantage to that content in that a backer can pay for the content to be created and then legally share that free content with all their players without having to pay extra. (For example, it's not possible to buy Ghostwalk content right now, but if Sean K Reynolds ran a Patreon to fund him spending time expanding on the countries in the Ghostwalk campaign setting, that would be a way I could pay - up-front - to expand the player base and have more people to talk to.)

I personally consider subsidised free content a better type of content than commercial PDFs and a far better type of content than VTT content.
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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Tim Baker » Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:36 am

Big Mac wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:26 am
One option that you didn't mention is subsidised free downloads. There are a number of people who create free content paid for by Patreon backers. There is an advantage to that content in that a backer can pay for the content to be created and then legally share that free content with all their players without having to pay extra. (For example, it's not possible to buy Ghostwalk content right now, but if Sean K Reynolds ran a Patreon to fund him spending time expanding on the countries in the Ghostwalk campaign setting, that would be a way I could pay - up-front - to expand the player base and have more people to talk to.)

I personally consider subsidised free content a better type of content than commercial PDFs and a far better type of content than VTT content.
Thanks for the explanation of this type of content. I'm not very familiar with it myself, and it's good to learn more. I can see the appeal! Unfortunately, I don't think I can update the poll questions without clearing the results.

Perhaps you can check the "Other" box, to lead readers to the comments section to learn more.
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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by agathokles » Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:39 am

Generally either physical or PDF. Typically I tend to purchase physical copies of games I play, and PDF copies of games I'm not likely to play often (mostly through Bundle of Holding or Humble Bundle). I don't use VTTs, so that is generally less valuable to me.

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Last edited by agathokles on Fri Sep 28, 2018 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Tim Baker » Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:40 am

Morfie wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 6:33 am
I'm exclusively PDF now.
Haven't found a VTT that caters for BECMI/RC D&D, but would be interested if there was.
No longer have the finances or space for physical books. They would be my preference otherwise.
I still buy some physical books, but the vast majority of my purchases are PDFs. My bookshelf space is limited, to begin with. PDFs are much more portable, which is important given how often I read RPG books during work trips. They allow me to copy and paste content into documents that I use to prepare sessions. They're also less expensive, which doesn't hurt.

I used to use a VTT when one of my players wasn't local, but that was several years ago. I also used to use VTTs when I ran 4e D&D, even when I played face-to-face, but with 13th Age's excellent theater of the mind support, I stopped doing that.
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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by shesheyan » Fri Sep 28, 2018 12:22 pm

90% PDFs except for D&D books which I buy in physical form. If I really like what I read in PDF I make a B&W photocopy. I have no use for VTT versions.
Last edited by shesheyan on Fri Sep 28, 2018 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by timemrick » Fri Sep 28, 2018 12:27 pm

I vastly prefer physical books for reading purposes. I'm dramatically more likely to read a book or play a game if I own a hard copy.

PDFs are fine for having an easier way to store and search documents--and having a way to print out just what you need for a given adventure--but I dislike reading them for long periods of time.

I also buy data packs for Hero Lab, so that I can use those books with my characters. But I didn't buy more than the core package until I'd been playing PFS for well over a year, and I don't buy data packs for every book I own, just the ones I find worth using in HL.
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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Angel Tarragon » Fri Sep 28, 2018 12:48 pm

I prefer Print + PDF. I love the tactile experience of holding a book in my hands. I also love the ease of portability of PDFs and the ability to search them and assuming they are not locked, the ability to copy text and paste it into another program so that I can make modifications.

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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Baron » Fri Sep 28, 2018 3:43 pm

I prefer printed books, although they're often ridiculously priced. I can't read or game with PDFs, although I will print selections for the table, and use them as an index. Nowadays I expect a PDF included with my purchase. I use a VTT, but would never pay for materials.

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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Tim Baker » Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:07 am

Interesting that PDF and print are tied with 10 votes each, right now. They appear to be the clear favorite (keeping in mind our small sample size).
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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by HenshinFanatic » Sat Sep 29, 2018 4:08 am

Dead-tree editions. Personally only have a handful of PDFs as it's not my preference. I like having the physical product and largely avoid online shopping, if you can call getting free and PWYW ($0.00) as shopping.

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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Dread Delgath » Sat Sep 29, 2018 3:33 pm

Always purchase physical books, but the occasional free PDF tag-along is nice to have, but like others, I only use PDFs for research. I find it hard to read one on a computer screen, with the scrolling up & down for double columned pages. So much easier to look at the real book. :cool:

Ain't no way I'll ever PAY for VTT because I've always been aware that it only lasts as long as the platform is supported. Once support & updates go bye-bye, you paid for something you cannot access again.
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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Havard » Sat Sep 29, 2018 6:22 pm

Physical books.
The occasional PDF
Dice
Miniatures

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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by maddog » Mon Oct 01, 2018 4:06 am

I've slowly moved from dead trees to PDFs. Mostly because I now have shelf space issues :)

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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Big Mac » Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:44 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:36 am
Big Mac wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:26 am
One option that you didn't mention is subsidised free downloads. There are a number of people who create free content paid for by Patreon backers. There is an advantage to that content in that a backer can pay for the content to be created and then legally share that free content with all their players without having to pay extra. (For example, it's not possible to buy Ghostwalk content right now, but if Sean K Reynolds ran a Patreon to fund him spending time expanding on the countries in the Ghostwalk campaign setting, that would be a way I could pay - up-front - to expand the player base and have more people to talk to.)

I personally consider subsidised free content a better type of content than commercial PDFs and a far better type of content than VTT content.
Thanks for the explanation of this type of content. I'm not very familiar with it myself, and it's good to learn more. I can see the appeal! Unfortunately, I don't think I can update the poll questions without clearing the results.
Here are a couple of examples, that might serve as case studies:
Keith Baker is creating Web Content for RPGs

107 patrons are paying Keith Baker $440 per month and that is helping him to create free content...including free Eberron content.

I honestly think these 107 fans are a major contributing factor to the development of Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron and the opening up of Eberron on DMs Guild. So some of the peole that supported the free content, may now be making some of that commercial content.

Thorfinn is creating Fantasy Maps for Bruce Heard's Calidar

34 patrons are supporting our very own Thorf (I'm not sure how much funding Thorf is getting, but reading between the lines it looks like he is more interested in having more supporters than having supporters who pay a lot.)

Thorf is well known in the Mystara community for designing hex maps, but he also makes great 3D terrain and this patreon program has put out a mixture of both types of maps. The maps go beyond the maps that come with Bruce Heard's full-blown Calidar products and kind of act like a series of Web Enhancements that add value to the campaign setting.

Anna B Meyer is creating Fantasy Cartography

136 patrons are supporting Anna Meyer. Anna has been working on a 3D model of the Flanaess, from the Greyhawk campaign setting for more than 20 years. Her previous map won an ENnie Award and WotC have had her on their Dragon Talk podcast.

There have been people nagging her to go beyond the Flanaess for ages and she is now working on a way to create a new map of the Flanaess that uses geographical coordinates, so that it can be properly wrapped onto a globe of the world.

As you can see these things are all niche projects, each only appealing to a subset of the RPG community, but they provide a way where fans can create a trickle income that constantly feeds into a project that creates content for something they like. Even if you don't like any of these specific projects, I'm sure you can look at them and imagine something similar for a product line that you like.

I think that one thing they all have in common is that the person running them cares about the product line their free content is supporting and they would be putting out a small amount of stuff even if people were not supporting them. Where the Patron funding is making a difference is that it is paying for a chunk of time, so that the creative person can spend time making free RPG content instead of spending time doing a day job.
Tim Baker wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:36 am
Perhaps you can check the "Other" box, to lead readers to the comments section to learn more.
Good idea! I did that!
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Re: In what format do you buy RPG products?

Post by Digitalelf » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:20 am

I buy both physical copies, as well as PDF copies of RPG products. Though I now rely upon PDF products when I game, as my main campaign is run on Fantasy Grounds out of necessity (players live in a different state). Another reason I use PDFs, is that my game of choice is 2nd edition AD&D, and a PDF saves the aging physical copies of wear-and tear. ;)
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