Lisa Stevens, Paizo's CEO, will be dropping by the DM Tools chatroom for a chat, tonight 5pm PST (that's GMT -8 for our European friends). Got a burning question for Lisa, be sure to stop by! (Can't make it? Send your questions to me!)
See you there!
hmm... I have to work then... Lilith, does the chatroom have a history function? Or can someone post a transcript to the boards, especially if there is information about RPG Superstar?
Chat with Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens, November 1st, 5pm PST
This was a much more orderly chat than the Tuesday Pathfinder ones. "The chat room is chaotically aligned," says Eltanin. ;) Here's what I got, I'll try to group them by topic.
Ask a Shoanti Why did you guys start Paizo?
Vic and I took a year off from work after I left WotC and we thought about retirement believe it or not. However, we got bored and decided we wanted to work again. But it had to a) be something we loved and b) feel like a family. When the opportunity came along for us to start Paizo, it combined my love of D&D with my love of Star Wars. And we built a company where it is like an extended family. Basically, we do this because we love doing this.
farewell2kings How's Pathfinder doing for Paizo?
Pathfinder is doing great. I am really happy with the products and the response from y'all.
Yasha Has the customer response to Pathfinder thus far met/exceeded expectations?
Exceeded my expectations. If the support for Pathfinder stays where it is or even grows a bit, Paizo will be in great shape for a long time to come.
RogerC Pathfinder seems distinctly...'edgier' than what was in Dungeon. Just how edgy might Paizo get? Is an R-rated adventure out of the question?
It is probably edgier since we don't have to get WotC's approval. You would be suprised what being a publically traded company does to your edginess. :) That said, we don't make our adventures edgy just to be edgy. But if the storyline requires us to go to the edge, then we won't hesitate. So, depending on how you rate stuff, R-rated isn't out of the question, though it isn't a goal either.
Pendragon Translations for Pathfinder?
You are going to have to ask Erik that one next week. I left all the translation business in his capable hands. :) Tell him I passed the buck. :)
farewell2kings Is the new contest to find four finalists for a GameMastery module really a good way to find a writer whom you'll entrust such a large chunk of product?
Good question f2k. I guess we'll find out. :) I figure that we might as well try a number of things and see what works. And hopefully we can have some fun along the way.
At least I think it'll create some buzz and interest in the product line, and that's good.
Buzz is always a good thing. I am hoping we can draw some more folks to paizo.com and help build the community. Please, spread the word. The more the better. And that will also increase the chance that we will have some really good contestants, which should make it even more fun! I wish you guys could read the judges' posts in the private room of judgement. I spent an hour doing so last night and it was entertaining and education. Perhaps we can find a way to deliver those posts in the future.
Roger C What's the worse thing a freelance writer can do? (Or artist, cartographer, etc.)
Miss their deadlines.
Lilith Best possible outcome you're hoping from the results of the RPG Superstar contest?
Best possible outcome for RPG Superstar is that we discover the next Keith Baker, Nick Logue, Richard Pett, James Jacobs, Erik Mona, Wolf Baur, etc. If we end up with somebody who gains some cachet and can make products regularly for us that people want to buy, then we will have been successful.
Sebastian Will adventures continue to be the core of Paizo's business, or will we start seeing more sourcebooks ala the Pathfinder sourcebooks?
We will experiment with the mix as we move forward. Adventures are a great medium for us to build a new world through. And we knew how to do them well from Dungeon. But I expect that we will dip our hands into sourcebooks more often in the future and maybe even, gasp, rules books. :) BTW, don't read too much into the rules books quote above. It could be something as simple as spells or a class book or something like that. I am not inferring that we are planning to do a whole rules set. Just explore more of the types of stuff we used to do in Dragon.
farewell2kings Rulebooks for your own in house designed RPG?
I doubt that we will ever produce an in-house designed RPG. We love playing Dungeons and Dragons here at Paizo and really don't want to not be producing products for it. So I don't think you will find much support for doing our own ruleset around here. D&D has been good enough for the past 30 years for us.
Zaister Do you think you can sustain the company on material that mostly appeals only to DMs instead of players, like Dragon Magazine did?
We can most definetly support Paizo on the types of products we are making now, which almost all appeal to DMs. My big worry is a split of the audience with 4e that makes it hard to succeed in either direction. Also, I expect we will try our hand at some products aimed at players in the future.
farewell2kings How are spirits at Paizo in the face of tough decisions ahead?
*puts on her +5 armor of question avoidance* :)
Eltanin Have you made any progress on the difficult decsion re: 4e and Paizo's approach? How do you even go about making such a thorny choice?
We actually talk about this every day. But, obviously, we still have no clue and probably won't until sometime early next year. The bottom line is that we will do the thing that a) allows Paizo to continue to make the products that we all love and b) gives Paizo the best chance to be financially successful. Right now, we don't have all the data we need to make that choice.
David J I'm wondering, are you still planning on producing 3.5 material after 4e comes out, and if so, will it be strictly OGL?
*shakes her magic 8-ball* Answer hazy, ask again later. Much later. :)
RogerC Does Paizo have anything planned for World Wide Game Day this weekend?
Nothing planned for WWGD. I know, pretty lame. :)
Fatespinner We've already seen a connection with Necromancer Games in the past. Is Paizo planning to make any other collaborative efforts in the future, perhaps with other companies?
We are always looking for partnerships with other companies that make sense for our business. For instance, our relationship with Steel Sqwire for the combat templates and flip mats, and also Open Mind Games for the Combat Pad. If we find other companies that fit our business model like that, then I am sure we will for some sort of relationship with them! We usally look for companies that are doing stuff that we aren't, but makes sense for our customer base. For instance, I got a message today from the Australian company that makes those campaign coins you saw at GenCon. Hopefully we might be able to do something neat together.
RogerC Is there any sense of competition between the major publishers when it comes to freelance writers? Is there a sense that some companies "poach" the best ones?
You know, I haven't heard anything like that from our editors. For the most part, the gaming industry is an industry of friends. We all like the same thing and try to help each other out when we can. So I would say no.
David J Is it possible For 3rd party publishers to sell products through Paizo? If so, who do you contact for more information?
Yep, we have a coop program on paizo.com. A third party publisher contacts firstname.lastname@example.org and she will get you that info. Oh wait, that is me. :) If it is a PDF, you upload it and we pay you monthly. If it is a physical product, you send us some on consignment and we pay you monthly as they sell.
RogerC What's your perspective as a publisher on digital rights management and all that?
Well, obviously Paizo doesn't use DRM, so it should be pretty obvious that we prefer to trust our customers to not give away our livelihoods and only use what you've paid for. That said, we know that our products get pirated daily and we lose hundreds if not thousands of sales because of it.
Lilith Does the increase in preview material since Pathfinder & GameMastery Modules come about as a means to incent people to buy Paizo products as opposed to pirating them? Or just wanna show off groovy stuff?
Preview material is just a way to market our upcoming stuff to y'all. It gets folks jazzed for the next new thing, give you something to talk about besides 4e, and allows us to show you what is exciting. Like I just got the next iconic art in my mailbox today. James just gave me permission to tell you that the next iconic is a dwarven ranger. Picture next Friday. James promises!
I was just noticing that when Paizo had Dragon & Dungeon mags, we didn't get as many content previews as we do now. Was wondering if there was a WotC prevention of material release or whatnot.
We couldn't do as much previews with Dragon and Dungeon because everything had to get approved by WotC and that was just a big hassle.
Sebastian Do you think the rpg market is growing?
I actually know that the RPG market is shrinking. We are getting older and older and there isn't a lot of new kids coming in. I think they are tantalized by online and video games, and thus it is harder for us to get them to play RPGs...Ten years ago, you were disappointed selling 20,000 copies of an RPG product. Today, 5,000 is a success story.
Coreans Disciple Are those figures US or worldwide?
I only talk about worldwide. We live in an age where our business encompasses the world.
Sebastian Is there room for Paizo to expand without eating into someone else's market share?
There is room for Paizo to expand, but it probably is taking a bigger piece of the pie instead of making a bigger pie. However, if we can get folks who don't normally buy products to start buying them, then perhaps we can grow the overall pie. But that is really hard...
It is possible to succeed at the level of WotC/White Wolf these days and is that your goal (again)?
As for being as big as White Wolf or Wizards, I believe that we aren't that far off from being as big as White Wolf already. For us to be as big as WotC though, we would have to be the market leader. Which probably isn't going to happen as long as they have D&D.
Is WotC way out ahead of everyone else and then there is a clump of similarly sized companies? How is the market structured?
WotC is way out ahead of everybody in the industry, especially in the RPG biz. Then there are a few second tier companies. The third tier companies are always near going out of business. And then there are a bunch of hobby companies where making money isn't that important. RPG Second Tier: White Wolf, Paizo, Mongoose, perhaps Goodman and Green Ronin.
Lilith Is word of mouth still the best way to get products sold in the RPG market?
Yep, word of mouth is the BEST way to spread the Paizo love. :) Folks tend to take the opinion of fellow gamers much more seriously than all the hype that companies put out about their own products.
Do you still have contacts at White Wolf? Given that 4e is coming out and there is the possibility of an audience split, is there any chance of a WoD OGL and if so, would that be something that you think could work?
I do have contacts at White Wolf. Actually, somebody I am pretty close with just got hired there, but it hasn't been announced yet. :) However, I don't think that White Wolf wants to open up their WOD system and I don't think it would have a chance against the 800 pound gorilla even if they did.
Sebastian As a community, are we becoming too insular? It's a comment that's getting lobbed around lately, but it seems to mostly be trolls passing through and not real new people.Well, mostly I just want to know if we are being the kind of community that Lisa wants. And what we can do to help things grow - I worry that the anti-4e stuff is so strong as to scare off people.
Good question. I think you are right on both accounts. I do think that there is a little bit of cliquishness around the folks who have been here forever and a day. However, I think that the 4e announcement has polarized the D&D fanbase even more than in the past and we here at Paizo are sensing an axiety amongst our messageboards which leads to troll-like behavior. There are some folks here at Paizo which have quit reading lots of our own boards because of all the negativity. But I think that when something that is a big part of our lives is being threatened, the natural response is to lash out. It is hard to reign that in.
The Livewire What's the status on the Goblin Plushie is? (And Pathfinder minis?)
We have been talking with a friend of mine about doing Goblin toys. We are in the exploratory stage (ie. figuring how much these things cost). Trust me, when I know more, I'll let you know.As for miniatures, we are working with another company to produce these. I have seen some sculpts and they are really, really cool. I hope to be able to post more info soon. These are unpainted, metal minis.
Lilith What's the project you'd most like to work on?
I would have said in the past without thinking about it, the Greyhawk setting. But now with Pathfinder and our new world, I am not sure. So I would have to say that I want to most work on my top secret game that I have been working on for about 10 years. I would love to see it published some day. It is so Top Secret, that most folks here at Paizo don't even know what it is!
RogerC Can you share any war stories of really bad submissions with us?
You know, I haven't dealt with submissions in a long, long time. So I am afraid those types of war stories are not something you are going to get from me. :)
Sebastian What is your business background?
My business background is part school of hard knocks and part real degree. :) I got my BA in Biology back at St. Olaf College. That is where I met Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein*Hagen and we started our first game company.
Did you pick up what you needed to know along the way or have you always been interested in the business and creative sides of the hobby?
We learned about business by just doing it, making mistakes, and learning from them. I got my MBA when I was at WotC back in 1999. You can check out my Profile on paizo.com to hear the whole sordid tale. :)
Lilith What's your biggest disappointment from a business perspective, either current, or in the past?
My biggest disappointment was not being as prepared as I should have been in the early days of Paizo. I didn't know jack about the magazine publishing business and we suffered because of it for a couple of years. I wish I had been more on the ball there.
RogerC Who would you cast to play yourself in your autobiographical movie?
I was asked this question by the Seattle Storm, the local WNBA team that Vic and I are fans of. They put my response to that and other questions up on the big screen during the game. Vic, what was my answer? Sarah Michelle Geller?
Vic Wertz I have no recollection!
Lilith Favorite DM moment, since I know you run a Shackled City campaign.
My favorite DM moment is going to be next Tuesday night, I hope. Let's just say that I have built up the campaign for this moment, with lots of plot threads coming together. If it works well, then everybody should leave with huge smiles on their faces. The players have been clammering for these resolutions for the whole campaign. Just say "Blue Duke" and they get all angry and such. :)
Pendragon How does one get into the RPG business and make it lucrative? As a writer or publisher?
Getting into the RPG biz is really hard. I would have suggested getting into Dragon or Dungeon, and you still might be able to do that through D&D Insider. Otherwise, RPG Superstar is what I have come up with to hopefully be an avenue.
Thanks once again Lisa & Vic for stopping by to chat, and thanks to everybody that showed up for being so well behaved!
|Santito the Great Deductor|
I just finally got to read through all this...wow!
Lisa, thanks for being open to this kind of interrogation and for being so honest and sincere.
|Jason Nelson Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games|
Indeed, thank you Lilith and Lisa!
Somehow I must have missed most of the whole story - I just stumbled today over the RPG Superstar section of the site... ;-)
There are some interesting things I gleaned from the interview:
1. New authours are gained by RPG superstar only (?!)
2. The Paizo community looks pretty insular from the outside perspective.
... both of which aren't really assuring for me.
Ad 1. So acceptance of new authours will be considerably more restrictive. Is this due to the relative larger size of adventures (in comparision to Dungeon) which means larger responsibility for authours to produce good content?
I am happy with the current quality of the adventures, but I would like to see more new authours, too.
During Dungeon time the saying was "send a proposal". Now it's just join the RPG superstar competition?
Ad 2. If this is everyone's point of view outside (including WotC), this doesn't exactly bode well for the near future. After all there is this open 4e topic, and you never know how much you'll have to rely on WotC's good will. If your customer base is reknowned as queer fellows, though...
Then there is the question why people here are seen this way?
The one thing which attracted me and many people to Paizo was that people at Paizo (at least more openly) care about their customers' opinion. I love the game and therefore feel sympathetic for its publisher, but I don't feel taken seriously to the same extent as by Paizo.
Why should other people feel more at home at WotC? Do they just don't care that much for message boards? (for sure the glue here keeping the community connected; but then messageboards at WotC are busy, too!). What about the popularity of e.g. candlekeep.com in comparision to the FR message boards at WotC? I never spent much thought on the topic before, but feel curious about what is the difference.
What do you think? I know that many of you frequent both the WotC and Paizo message boards. Are people here and there really that different?
|Great Green God|
|Sebastian Bella Sara Charter Superscriber|
|Great Green God|
Great Green God wrote:Yeah, but you're part of the problem. You need to post more, you're on here way too infrequently.Guennarr wrote:Are people here and there really that different.
There was a time I would have said yes with more vehemence.
|Sebastian Bella Sara Charter Superscriber|
Sebastian wrote:Oh yeah!?!Great Green God wrote:Yeah, but you're part of the problem. You need to post more, you're on here way too infrequently.Guennarr wrote:Are people here and there really that different.
There was a time I would have said yes with more vehemence.
|Sebastian Bella Sara Charter Superscriber|
|Kevin A Turner|
Glad to see the triple G in here. How could I know that my message would end his hibernation on these boards? ;-)
Jade and Sebastian: Good point, and this certainly lets WotC's new target group for 4e appear in a different light... Maybe this is the only way to increase the audience group? People in our target group don't really grow more numerous, do they?
Just a sad insight, that new and younger customers don't seem to be attracted by our favourite style of play any more...
But back to topic (or rather my two questions above):
Are people here really so much stranger than the average D&D player on different message boards? Are people here just more nostalgic? Or are we only considered as Paizo groupies? :ppp
|Vic Wertz Chief Technical Officer|
1. New authours are gained by RPG superstar only (?!)
You misunderstood. Lisa said RPG Superstar is "an avenue," not "the avenue."
They guys have been too busy getting Pathfinder back on schedule to do much with respect to submissions since the open call that finished shortly before RPG Superstar began, but we do expect to have other avenues for people to get published. We just don't have any specifics—or, frankly, even any non-specifics—to share on that now.
I always wonder about people who want to break in to the rpg industry these days. It seems you could write up something you throughw as cool, get a friend to illustrate it, and through it together as a pdf for sale with less expense than actually buying a hardback book nowadays. If you want to break in, start writing and selling stuff. Seeing the interest the Top 32 superstars got, if you're any good someone will notice.
But why would you want to? The industry is so squeezed and hard that anyone who earns success either moves up or moves out. I don't mean full-time people, the folsk at Paizo have real jobs and goodness bless themn, but freelancers always seem stressed and unhappy, or leave. reading the blogs of people like Ari marmell, Eytan bernstein and Owen Stevens it's clear they all love doing what the6y do, but want to do it full a full time paycheck, which just isn't available even for the people already at "superstar" popularity anbd production levels. And of them the one I thought was in it for the long hauil just gave up trying full-time freelance.
Breaking in seems to be the elast of your worries.
But why would you want to? The industry is so squeezed and hard that anyone who earns success either moves up or moves out. I don't mean full-time people, the folks at Paizo have real jobs and goodness bless them, but freelancers always seem stressed and unhappy, or leave. reading the blogs of people like Ari marmell, Eytan bernstein and Owen Stevens it's clear they all love doing what the6y do, but want to do it full a full time paycheck, which just isn't available even for the people already at "superstar" popularity anbd production levels. And of them the one I thought was in it for the long haul just gave up trying full-time freelance.
Breaking in seems to be the last of your worries.
Stressed? Yeah. Freelancing is definitely stressful and there's times where you're hating life and wondering why you knocked yourself out for so little pay. Then you say, "Once I'm done with this I'll be free and I won't take new assignments for a while."
It feels good to be free for three days. Then a game company asks for something and you hop to take the assignment, jazzed and once again overworked.
The reason why freelancers want to write RPGs is that there's a little voice in their heads that says, "Write RPG material and then make sure people see it."
Then you obey. Sometimes you ask yourself, "Why would I write this when writing picture books for children is so much more lucrative?" Then you start penning a childrens book, and yet still you're writing RPG material on the side. Ultimately, freelance RPG writing is just something one is driven to do, regardless of the grim pay or meager market share. When one is this deep in a hobby, the respect of one's peers can matter much more than the pay. My first check from Dragon, at age 18, was a mere $38, but that pittance might as well have been a shipyard full o' platinum. The first article I ever sent to a magazine got published. I was over the moon.
That all said, some of these assignments pay four figures. So it isn't all that bad. So far, I've got about ten projects slated to hit the market in 2008. I'll use the money to buy... probably more RPG material. <:)
I suppose there is prestige in getting your stuff put out by Paizo instead of on your own, but if it's just an urge to write it and get it seen, messageboards and prfs can do that. I see why the people who freelance as their career need Paizo, which apparently doesn't include you since your page lists other ways you are makign a living. But the major freelancers all seem to be bruning out and falling by the wauyside, which saddens me but also makes me wonder why anyone tries it.
Is this just mothes to a flame?
You misunderstood. Lisa said RPG Superstar is "an avenue," not "the avenue." (...)
Thanks for this clarification, Vic!
This thread grows more and more interesting. Actually I was looking forward to answers about the "uniqueness" of Paizo messageboard members, but obviously you prefer the "action speaks louder than words" approach (although it's in the end words again... ;-) ).
Dungeongrrrl: Not only amateur authours eager to join the industry. When even those people who definitely put a stamp on the game leave the industry... Monte Cook certainly couldn't complain about lacking success, he has quite a following and is one of the creators of 3e. Even he decided to quit. :(
Jade: You probably really need to be a fanatic in order to keep on producing content. Or really considering it to be a hobby of yours. So maybe attracting more hobby authours could be a promising approach. RPG superstar could certainly turn out great new authours. WotC tried something similar and there you had Eberron (ok, no discussions about the merits and failings of that setting, please!).
I live in Europe and from my point of view one thing is obvious: The game doesn't attract the mainstream any more. I guess it is similar at your places.
When I restarted DMing with the publishing of 3e, it was quite difficult to find players. I succeeded then, but it was always the same person who DMed, who bought the books, who knew the rules by heart. The players were willing to buy the PH and that's it. It's similar in other groups here.
Maybe it's a question of age: If you are busy in job, have a family, and a house, you are more inclined to just expect a nice and entertaining evening - and not more. That's it again: How to attract new (younger) players... 3e/ 3.5e certainly managed to draw old players back to the hobby, but where are the new players? Maybe D&D really has to dramatically change in order to stay accessible for new players?
Pooh! Quite a rant... :pp
I suppose there is prestige in getting your stuff put out by Paizo instead of on your own, but if it's just an urge to write it and get it seen, messageboards and PDFs can do that. I see why the people who freelance as their career need Paizo, which apparently doesn't include you since your page lists other ways you are makign a living. But the major freelancers all seem to be burning out and falling by the wayside, which saddens me but also makes me wonder why anyone tries it.
Is this just moths to a flame?
Oh, it isn't the smartest field for a dedicated freelancer. It's a love thing, without question. The biggest names in RPG writing don't make a lot of money because the RPG market is teensy; but sell a short, talentless "window cleaner's confessional" type piece for a British booby mag and you're in food for the week. Make sure to use an nom de plume, I always do.
Writing stuff on messageboards and self published PDFs isn't the same as getting past the gate keepers and into a magazine that's widely read and respected. The reward isn't only the prestige of getting that far and how your peers will view you, it's also the process of refining your skills and learning from your rejections until finally you've developed the insights and instincts of a good game writer and designer.
You snatch the pebble from Master's hand and he says, "Time for you to go."
Pebble snatching rocks like Gibraltar. I highly recommend it.
I freelanced for a living between the ages of 18-20, but I sold to anyone that would have me. Any genre fiction or article. Whatever it took. I made enough to live on, but then I didn't usually write for three cents a word. When li'l Jade sold his first piece to Dragon in '86 they had a circulation somewhere around 100,000. The numbers have dropped precipitously since then, which can make it seem as if it's only getting to be more punishing trying to make money in the field. Yet not only can you write for a bushel of newer RPG companies, you can start your own viable company if you've the talent, the time and a good reason for why your business will give future customers something they won't get elsewhere. So even if less people are buying RP games, there are actually many more opportunities for writing them.
|Ross Byers RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7|
|Molech Star Voter Season 8|