A PDF and a PoD Walk Into a Bar…

Today’s Monday Meeting Notes are going to go in reverse order of how Eddy and I talked today. No reason except I want the meaty bit to be all together near the Updates, but we actually talked about it first.

Eddy convinces me to give Elementary another chance, based solely on his enthusiasm.

We confer on Gen-Con. He has his badge confirmed and looks we’ll be rooming together again, as we’ve done it before and we like our “special times” together.

I complain a fair bit about why every mcdamn thing in my life has to tilt sideways while I’m having a major Kickstarter (The Deluxe Exalted 3rd Edition Kickstarter, breaking KS records near you!). Nothing that is going bad, just everything needs me to set it back on its course with phone calls and paperwork.

This leads us to what I really wanted from Eddy today: a gut-check on a direction I want to take Onyx Path in concerning how we release our PDFs and PoDs. As Eddy and I talked all the time while we were transitioning WW out of the traditional RPG three tier distribution system and into the new PDF/PoD model WW evolved into, and Onyx Path is using, I wanted his input (and memory) on how I think we should be doing things. That is, we once released our PDFs when they were ready and then followed up with a PoD version as it got done. We had a fair bit of feedback that folks wanted the two release types to be put on sale together, and so we adopted the simultaneous release policy that we’ve had for a while.

But since then and now, we had a bunch of these little things I like to call Kickstarters, and one of our tenets going in has been to be as transparent as possible, from my messages, to the Open Dev Process which our developers use to some extent or another. We want to hear from the community, in fact we count on it with the Kickstarters, and one of the things we did in that regard was to get the backer PDFs out and let the backers know that if they found errors in their names that we had time to change those credits. Really, all I wanted were happy backers who got a little bit of a kick out of seeing their names the way they wanted to in the finished books. But instead we started to get notes and comments on things the backers found in the text itself: typos, confusing syntax, sections from one chapter not agreeing with others. Of course, we hate to see those sorts of things slip through, but they do, they always do, and so we were grateful to use that opportunity to make the changes and create a tighter book. And then it happened again on the next one. So on the one after that, I left time specifically to gather and correct anything the backers found. This was good, this put thousands of eyes on a project as opposed to a dozen. A small company like ours can really use that kind of crowdsourcing. And we all got better books out of it and a lot of fans really seemed to dig helping make that so. It was the logical progression of the Open Dev Process.

That still left us with our non-Kickstarted releases (yes we still have them), as they still were locked into the PDF/PoD simultaneous release strategy. No biggee, I thought, we just have two different ways we release our projects. But a funny thing happened. The folks who bought Progenitors and God-Machine Chronicle sent us the errata they found anyway. And we fumbled our way through how to update the PDF and then…not update the PoD? That didn’t seem right. Ignore the fixes? But that both flew in the face of our desire to work with the community and one of the key selling points of PDFs in that we can make changes that tighten up our PDF books and the purchaser gets free updated files forever. Make the changes to both PDF and PoD at the same ? That would take the PoD off the market until the new version was approved and have different PoD versions out there as well.

So maybe, it seems to me, that the real solution, the one that is in line with Onyx‘s philosophy of working with the community and not releasing until we’re satisfied with the quality of our projects, is to do just what we’re doing with the Kickstarters for our non-Kickstarter releases as well, and release the PDF before the PoD and let folks get back to us on whatever slipped past our regular crew. An Advance Screening, if you will, that gives us that last bit of Quality Control before we start making physical books with the PoDs. Something like this would mean that a PDF/PoD combo purchase would be about a month later than the initial PDF release, but then those two versions would be totally synched up, and as error free as we can make them. Fans who want the PDF as soon as we can get it out would get a version that they can either comb through for slips to send us, or not; either way those PDFs get updated with tighter and more perfected versions automatically as we make the changes. We won’t be trying this on the Mage Translation Guide as those PoD proofs are already coming to me, although any feedback will be reviewed of course, but soon after that.

And… Updates:

–  Strix Chronicle Fiction Anthology (VtR) Strix is in layout.

Blood and Smoke: The Strix Chronicle (VtR) Crisis handled, new authors working on the project, and we’ve pushed back our release estimate by a month to compensate.

Mummy the Curse – Book and  Screen are at press. The final Q&A with CA Suleiman is going up on the Onyx Path site at 13:34 EDT on Weds (the 22nd).

Exalted 3rd Edition:  Kickstarting like crazy: We funded in 18 minutes, we have 700% funding and are the #3 funded tabletop RPG KS. Headed towards 3,000 backers and those backers have blown through 13 Stretch Goals.  There will be lots of Updates via the KS that reveal pieces of what will  be in EX3, so keep an eye out for those too. There’s also the map and new art there.

V20 Hunters Hunted 2:  PDF went out to KS backers and comments and a small number of missed backer names and correx came in. Justin’s working on redlines for the Anthology writers.

– V20 Anarchs Unbound is in editing and we are getting art for it.

Deluxe Werewolf 20th Anniversary Edition: At press. The W20 PoD is live. Mike Lee is almost done the W20Houses of the Moon” novel.  The Storyteller Screen files are at press with W20. Bill has prepared the W20 Anthology outline and contracting prospective writers.  The Skinner is ready for CCP approval. Jess Hartley is writing the White Howlers Tribe Book  and the W20 Cookbook is being outlined. Check out some news here: http://whitewolfblogs.com/w20/2013/03/18/w20-cookbook-update-white-howlers-outline/

Deluxe Mage the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition has Phil Brucato writing like a maniac and developing his writers, also like a maniac. Art notes and contracts out to our full-page artist, once we have some feedback from him I’ll look a posting an art blog along with Phil’s developer notes. Very early sketches for the fulls look awesome. Talking to more, more artists this week.

– W20 Changing Breeds is in layout. Talking to Stew about Strey-tch Goals.

W20 Rage Across the World: Most of the art is in but a bit continues to trickle in.

– Guildhalls of the Deathless (MtC) is into editing.

Conventionbook: Syndicate (cMtA) has about half the art in.

Mage Translation Guide PoD proofs ordered.

W20 Book of the Wyrm is being written and red-lined. Check out the W20 blog notes: http://whitewolfblogs.com/w20/

Trinity Continuum: Looking at the schedule to start setting up writing. John Snead is chasing me through the internet. He almost caught me but I started talking about genre emulation and got away. I might read his outline this week.

Scion: Gotta talk to Joe Carriker about the project this week as I missed him last week. Ditto.

– Demon: The Frutang: lots of example of play commentary including from Black Hat Matt McFarland’s play test are up on the new Demon blog: http://whitewolfblogs.com/demon/ Check it out, there are quite a few playtests posted now and they give a very interesting (if early) look at the game. Text is being redlined and Rose is trying to get early art notes together.

Free RPG Day Project: Reap the Whirlwind, for VtR, is a combined 64 page booklet that combines a revised version of “Into the Void” and additional rules files from the Strix and God Machine Chronicles. This will be available at participating friendly local game stores June 15.

Reason for Drinking: Have you paid your dues? Yessir, the check is in the mail.

47 thoughts on “A PDF and a PoD Walk Into a Bar…”

  1. I think that holding on to the PoD copies until the PDF has a chance to be screened is a pretty good idea. I’ve always been one to pick up the combos, but I’d be willing to eat the difference if it means a chance to help make sure the final print version is top notch. 🙂

  2. Releasing the PDFs first (as a “first screening”) sounds like a smart plan — especially if (and as) you’re up-front about the reason, i.e. give people a chance to find typos and mistakes before the book “goes to print”. As long as the delay isn’t overly long, I think most people will be supportive.

  3. I would love to have the PDF checked over and updated before being printed but I would never be willing to pay the increased cost of buying the two separately. Perhaps PoD preorder would be possible when the PDF comes out. That would let people buy the two products together and let them cotribute toward corrects.

    On the Exalted front, I haven’t been terribly excited about the stretch goals despite my enthusiasm for the project overall. Some of them are very cool (like the music and paying the creators more) but others are totally blah to me (book marks). I think when I look at a stretch goal, I want something that will increase the cool factor of the project or contribute to a higher goal. Mummy was a great Kickstarter and the stretch goals brought me in to a game I wouldn’t have otherwise bought.

    • I agree.
      One should be able to buy PDF/PoD-Combo at DriveThru, even if the PoD version isn’t available yet, but is awaiting feedback from all those who find mistakes in the PDF.

    • Re: Stretchgoals. I’d be surprised if every single Stretchie was wahoo for every single person- they cover a broad spectrum for a KS like this. I think they do all increase the cool factor of the game, but then I’m looking at both just this one book and the health of the line itself. If all the Mummy ones worked for you though, that’s great!

    • Just one more comment to echo, I’d really appreciate the ability to bundle the PDF with a pre-order print-on-demand.

    • There’s still plenty of editing work done “in-house”, but if we use W20 as an example; out of 550 pages, everything from “remnants” of old systems dropped in (references to Dodge skills). to mis-spelled names of Tribes/organizations, or incorrect punctuation might be more easily noticed by a thousand eyes who are looking at the product for the first time. However it’s done, as long as it creates a better product, I’m happy (especially if I’m spending $100-$300 on the physical book! 🙂 )

  4. I second the idea of having a PoD pre-order when the PDF is released, so that customers can get the combo discount.

      • Can’t be that hard to program a way to have the PoD orders on hold until the PoD-Version has final approval.

        But anyway, if there comes a coupon code with the PDF to get the PoD at the same discount a PoD/PDF-Combo costs, it would be fine, too.

      • What about giving a discount on the PoD if the PDF has already been purchased?

        I was rather annoyed when the Autochthonia PoD was released after having subbed to the PDF release, now if I want to have the print version I have to pay for it twice.

  5. How long before you’re forced to add another person to your company as a full-time manager of some sort to help handle the paperwork and such? I’m sure that at some point it’s likely to have to happen.

    Gen Con
    Rule #1 about Gen Con Roommate Buddy “Special Times”: You don’t talk about Gen con Roommate Buddy “Special Times”.
    Rule #2 about … … well, you get the idea. 😉
    If I had to hedge a guess, I’d also say that Holden and Mørke will be spending the weekend with you guys there too. (You’r less than $19,000 away from that goal, and that’s just $1K/day to achieve that goal!)

    Not surprisingly, I’m a fan of utilizing fans for crowd-sourced editing. Not only because I think it can be very effective, but also because I think it encourages the “community” idea. There are a few development models out there that are used for identifying and posting “bugs” and other errors for projects (notably, mostly for software, I think), that you may find useful for organizing the information. Perhaps even a form field of some sort on your http://www.theonyxpath.com site with a drop-down for the book in question, page number, and correction that can be submitted would then be sent to a feed/email/document that you could then use and could already be in a more manageable format PLUS it would be a site/place that you could direct ALL traffic to as the “standard” means by leaving that information?

    Another issue that would require some work-around is that the PDF is only $5 more when you purchase the PoD. If I intended to purchase the PoD, I wouldn’t want to pay full-price for both. Unfortunately, you’re at the mercy of what http://www.DriveThruRPG.com can do.
    • If they can offer the purchase of a book before it’s ready, I think that would be an easy way to handling the issue that most folks should be happy with (“This product is not yet available as a PoD yet. It will be shipped to you as soon as it is made available.”)
    • If each book could include an identifiable code, perhaps something similar to the “free PDF code” you manage through the KickStarters could instead be turned into a coupon within the PDF, or Emailed to the linked account that gives the purchase of the PDF at a price = (cost of PoD-[cost of PDF-$5])? (I’m not sure how all of that works on your guys’ end/their end, but unless things have changed recently, I’d guess this isn’t likely to happen soon. :-/

    I’m glad that the Exalted KickStarter is going so well. 😀
    Geez. It’s a good thing I’m not going to Gen Con this year, because all of that vacation money is going into the Werewolf: the Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition KickStarters. 🙁 Yet, I’m looking forward to them! 😀

    • This about the code. I think that the way to solve the price difference for the people who want the packaged deal is to allow them to purchase the PoD books at a discount later. That seems like the way to do it if DriveThru doesn’t allow pre-orders.

      • If their code doesn’t/can’t allow for a “pre-order” (basically stacking up orders at the physical printer for a few weeks, where they sit until printed), then some sort of “discount” would probably be the next option.
        The next question is “how does that work?” As far as I know, DTRPG also doesn’t have any system that allows for a “coupon” to be generated from a purchase to affect the purchase of another coupon (at least specifically for one-time use by that person.) They can put out generic 20%-off coupons with a code at check-out (“ComicCon2013”, etc.), but that’s not the same as then everyone could get that $15-off the purchase of the PoD because the internet shares that stuff like Herpes at a [redacted]. XD
        We know that the software recognizes that you’ve purchased the PDF when you go to an item’s page. IF that could trigger some sort of a decided-upon/automatically generated button, or coupon that could reduce the cost of a PoD purchased (one time, of course) at purchase, then I think that would work very well. It’s all going to require new code, though, and that means that there has to be enough interest from publishers and the public for it to make it worth their while and financial sense too.

    • How long before you’re forced to add another person to your company as a full-time manager of some sort to help handle the paperwork and such? I’m sure that at some point it’s likely to have to happen.

      I’d totally drop my CV/resume in for a chance to do that job. 😀

    • Red List- being written. Matt retooled almost all the concepts after notes from Justin gave him a brainstorm on tone.

  6. I don’t think that’ll work quite as well as you hope, just because the price of a PDF + PoD combo is significantly cheaper than buying a PDF then a PoD. e.g. Convention Book: NWO – PoD + PDF combo is 2/3 the price of PDF then PoD. That’s a pretty steep discount. I, personally, wouldn’t think that many people would be willing to pay $10/book for the privilege of acting as a crowed-sourced editor.

    For this to really work, DTRPG needs to be able to allow either pre-orders, or be able to apply a discount to the PDF or PoD if someone already owns the other (and only once, so you can’t buy a PDF then get a $10 discount on *each* PoD version). That would probably please the largest number of people.

  7. Personally, I think releasing the PDF before the PoD is the best idea. That way the people who want the book can check whether or not it is worth buying in physical form as well, and the nitpicks among us can find mistakes before they end up in print.

  8. @ A whole bunch of ya’ll. I’ll talk with DTRPG about options to how we can make the PDF/PoD combo work. My thinking was not to make people “pay for the privilege of editing our books”, but that if you wanted to buy the combo, you’d wait until it went on sale. Talks will be had.

    And yes, we are going to add this last review of the PDF to the end of our process after the Editor and Developer have reviewed the layout proofs just like now. This is not instead of the professional eyes we’re currently putting on it, it is in addition to them.

    • At a thought, if it’s possible to get a list of all the people in the dtrpg system that have purchased a specific product, then you could:
      Add the pdf to the system.
      Then in a few weeks when any minor gotchas was done and the final version is approved for printing you get the list of customers and generate a discount coupon for the specific product of book only at a value of the price difference and mail it out.

      There’s some accounting on the dtrpg side of things, but it should all be doable with the systems they have in place now.

      Just a thought.

  9. I like this idea of releasing the pdf and waiting for the POD for a few weeks until all the corrections are made. It makes good business sense and gives us a better quality product.

  10. I can’t wait for the 20th Anniversary Mage dev blog to go live. I was *super* excited for M20 – Changeling, Vampire, and Mage are my top three classic World of Darkness games.

    Some of the previews coming out through Facebook have me worried though. It sounds like secondary abilities are coming back in a big way in M20. V20 and W20 had such an elegant solution to finally get rid of them. I would hate to see such a huge step forward in the core Storyteller system be completely ignored.

    The open development process was fantastic with Vampire and Werewolf! It would be so nice if we had a good way to provide feedback before Mage gets too finalized.

    • Also looking forward to M20. And also keen to see some open dev for M20! Facebook excerpts are very nice, but it’s not a great forum for fluid discussion.

  11. Only one quick comment/recommendation. The updates to the God Chronicles PDF were/are coming out too quickly. An update for a single typo isn’t necessary. Save those up for a single (monthly?) release. Just a thought.


    And yeah, I can hardly wait for M20 either!

    • Although putting out new updates more quickly means you won’t have as many people commenting on the same mistakes.

  12. WARBLEGARBLE! /excitement at both Mummy and W20 at the press.

    So to try to make shipping easier, would it be worthwhile to package the two books together if you are a sadistic person like me and backed both? I am not sure if this would save you shipping $ or not.

    I wonder if DTRPG could create a PDF + Voucher option. A registry code that one could redeem for the PoD later, once it is ready

  13. Waiting on the PoD for a little while sounds like an interesting idea. I know some stuff always gets through editting (no matter how hard you might try) so having a chance for readers to catch and correct it is very cool. You should be forewarned: if RPG readers find out that they can (potentally) change the content of a book you’ll start to get a much larger volume of feedback, likely of increasing vehemence.

  14. I also support the idea of waiting for PoD release, after the PDF release, in order to collect possible corrections. I’d say a month, no longer, is a good amount of time to wait.

  15. Im a little upset that I cant buy a print copy of the story teller screens for any of the books. If its only available in pdf whats the point and why is it listed on the packing slip for the printed book but not included?

    I bought the demon ST companion specifically for the story teller screen only to find later they dont include it. I would really lime to see storyteller screens in print, as well as the option. To buy the V20 storyteller screens in print without having to do all the kickstarters.

    Maybe think about this and include it with your printed books like it claims to be?

  16. Irony moment:
    “Make the changes to both PDF and PoD at the same ?”
    I presume you meant “at the same time” ? 😛

  17. I purchased High Space on DTRPG. It was a beta version of the game for $5. When the release version came out, you where given a $5 coupon towards the purchase of the release version. It sounds like they have a system in place that could work for a PDF/POD combo (buy the PDF now, get a coupon for $x when POD hits).

  18. I like to be able to buy both the PDF and the POD together and save money, but I would be happy to do that knowing that I would have to wait 4 – 6 weeks for the printed book knowing that I get the PDF immediately.

  19. I know I’m late to the party again, but I join my voice to the other’s. I think it’s a good idea. One that I would gladly partake in if time would allow me.

    Which brings me to try to start a little conversation about open dev blogs and the advantages of posting works in progress. Now, I’m not trying to force anyone’s hand here. I got Richt’s message loud and clear. I’m simply making an argument in case one of the developers finds it valid and in the interest of intelligent conversation.

    I speak for myself, although I am likely not alone in this situation. Time is a rare ressource, For me, reading a PDF and finding problem in it, is just not going to happen. Not by lack of will, but purely because I don’t have time.

    However, in an open blog, it’s simple to drop by, see if there’s a new tribal/clan/court/Frutrangi spread. It’s in easily digestible quantities. This opens up opportunities for more people to help doing exactly what we’re talking about here. People who wouldn’t be able to do so otherwise. It also allows for such things to caught much earlier on.

    No pressure. Just saying. Love what you guys are doing. The new books have been awesome. 🙂

  20. You know, you reached a conclusion another game company, Catalyst Game Labs, has reached a while back. They release their PDFs often well before something has gone to printer, while there is still time to make corrections, and, well, make them. It has lead to a huge increase in the quality of their books over the old FASA era products. Frankly, electronic publication has led to some very interesting developments in the gaming field, and I find watching the first company to go purely electronic media, with no distribution, to be an
    interesting study in how you guys adapt to the brave new world.

    • American Memorial Day probably meant Rich was not “in the office” Then again, we often get “Monday Meeting” updates days later too. If we don’t see it by Thursday evening, then it’s probably skipped for the week. I haven’t seen an update about it one way or the other on Twitter either.

  21. btw, I have asked drivethrough rpg this question, and they refer me to the publisher: why is the pdf/POD of Vampire the Requiem the first printing when a second printing exisits?? Doesn’t make sense to me that you pay for an earlier edition with uncorrected errata.

    • Because that’s just the edition that was uploaded and proofed. Maybe the 2nd Printing files were lost at the time, or something.
      The file was apparently last updated on July 25, 2012. If you have it in your DTRPG library, check it out and see if it was updated, and if so, see if maybe it’s in fact a 2nd Printing and maybe the Preview is just old (it has a 2004 Copyright) if that’s what it’s being judged by?
      (Forsaken still doesn’t even have PoD yet.)


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