Request for digital PDF Patron upgrade(s) to directly support the labor force behind PF2e products in light of the compensation issues recently addressed by Mark Seifter.


Paizo General Discussion


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I figured I'd give it a few days for the controversy to cool down before posting this so here goes.

One enlightening thing to come out of the dustup was this insight into the financial situation of the people who build Pathfinder by Mark Seifter: https://twitter.com/MarkSeifter/status/1439296955088179201

He brought up some great points about the difficulty in providing a living wage at any TTRPG company that isn't raking in WOTC money, and recommended discovering and supporting the patreons (and the like) of the individual people that put the labor into these products.

I want to reference this section of his tweets specifically for context here (I am cutting some for length):

"The razor sharp margins in the industry, the low amount people are willing to pay for these books, is a huge factor in the poor pay. And this is not to say that there aren't ways out of this prophecy of doom other than just increased salaries."

"But what I am saying is that a movement to make RPG books cost closer to what they are worth will make a big difference, only if it's supported by the public at large"

"(we can't have like 1% of the fanbase support this, and the price goes up, and the other 99% stop buying or it just makes things worse)."

"One thing you can do if you want to personally "pay more" for Paizo books is to create your own price bump in your own mind, whatever it is, and then go find patreons of Paizo staff and similar places and donate the difference."

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There are a couple key things to think about here from the Paizo side as well as the customer side.

It's hard to mess with the base price of the products. You could squeeze people out of the customer base doing that, and as Mark said, just make things worse.

It's hard for customers to track down all these individual contributors and figure out ways to deal with their preferred means of tipping and payment processing.

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I have a proposal that may get to the root of both of these issues.

I would like to have an option to pay somewhere between the base PDF price and the hardback price for a Deluxe Patron version of each Pathfinder book that I purchase in digital form. What I would expect in exchange for this is for the price difference (factoring in taxes, transaction fees, and whatnot) to be directly distributed to the people in question (ideally with a ratio negotiated a little more towards those most in need), and for my digital product to be appended with a transparency report clearly showing where that money is going.

Appending a digital product with such a report should be much more fiscally viable than trying to produce multiple hardback variants, and the personalization process already exists for Paizo digital products.

There would obviously be some logistical startup costs to begin doing this, and I'd be curious to know if they would be worth it to help with employee/freelancer quality of life (from their perspective) and turnover (from a business perspective).

I think this could be a win/win/win for ethical consumers, the Paizo brand, and the people who make the game/world we love to act, strategize, play, and create in.
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My personal notes, secondary to that proposal, in case the feedback/perspective is useful.

I buy the digital products, I don't buy the hardbacks, and I'm not sure how indicative I am of the rest of the customer base.

The reasons I purchase digital Paizo products are as follows:

1. I don't like to keep hardcopies around of anything except for some old university texts that I paid way too much for to get rid of. They take up storage space on shelves, weigh more than a single laptop when traveling, and are material objects which I do not feel a need to collect.

2. PDFs have this little thing I can do called "Ctrl-F".

3. I can go anywhere and have my entire Pathfinder library available with an internet connection.

4. The reduced digital price compared to a hard-copy fits in my "windmill slam the new one without thinking about it" price range.

5. If a printing is updated, errata is included, etc. all I have to do is download the new PDF.

I have purchased all of the PF2e rulebooks and Lost Omens books released so far. If such an upgrade was added as an optional purchase in the store for already released items (and ex-employees/freelancers could be compensated appropriately), I would buy it for all of them retroactively, and would start utilizing that option for every future purchase. I'd subscribe to a Deluxe Patron PDF option if I could. The Lost Omens books are all about a $10 dollar difference between PDF and hardcopy (except for Mwangi Expanse, but that book is hella worth it). At the high end, $85 would get me squared away with the labor crews on Lost Omens so far, and I'd do that now if I had the option. The rulebooks have a higher spread at 30+ price differential, and that would take longer to work through, but it's doable.

I would like to be able to put my money where my mouth is in a reasonably efficient way that doesn't have me spending a ton of time cross-referencing credits and hunting down patreon accounts. Is this something Paizo can help me with?


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I think the strongest counter for the "Official Tip Jar"-style ideas is just how tacky it is for an employer to start "donation drives" to subsidize their own employees' salaries. The first questions I ask are, "Well, how much is the CEO making? How much are the managers making? How do I know my contributions won't be used as an excuse to not just pay the employees more directly?"

That said, we've heard some indications that the managers, at least, don't get paid much more than anyone else. I think I'd be okay with this kind of system if Paizo posted salaries and if we could see that nobody was making two living wages at the expense of someone else's one.

This is a weird and fragile industry. I'm all for innovating solutions to make it less fragile for Paizo employees. I just want to be sure we're not propping up bad company practices.


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Hold on a minute, I'm still reading the thread title...


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If a corporation cannot afford to pay their workers a fair wage, that responsibility does not fall to the customer. I would rather see some combination of higher prices, less art, and fewer products than this.


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That's true, but at the same time, it's capitalism. If the art form can't be made profitably, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be made. I mean, if you conclude that, you basically have to conclude that a lot of devs should just quit. People want to work in this industry, fragile or no. I think we should do whatever we can to keep the industry going.


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I generally agree with Kobold Cleaver and Keftiu above. Tipping jars are not a great idea, and not a durable solution. It is sign that the business model used is not sustainable, and either they need to increase efficiency, price or volume. (Or reduce cost…. but that was what we were aiming to avoid here….).

I personally am a pocket-version buyer (size, portable), but also consider these books extremely cheap. They are quite long, have a lot of content, lots of art etc. Going out for dinner will cost twice as much easily as most books, and many things have increased in price while RPG books are a similar price (at higher production values) as they were 15 years ago.

So there should be some room to increase prices I expect, but probably requires market research. My standard of buyers around me are people with full time jobs, plenty of income, and not so young. Which may allow for a different pricing strategy to work. Alternatively perhaps something can be done to price bracket by region.


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Kobold Cleaver wrote:
That's true, but at the same time, it's capitalism. If the art form can't be made profitably, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be made. I mean, if you conclude that, you basically have to conclude that a lot of devs should just quit. People want to work in this industry, fragile or no. I think we should do whatever we can to keep the industry going.

Again: I'd sooner see them cut back on art or the number of releases, or raise prices, rather than depend on the customer to subsidize their staff.


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The customer subsidizing the staff voluntarily is just an indirect, less efficient but also less risky way of raising prices. I honestly don't see the ethical difference, assuming the company is verifiably doing everything else it can on its own end.

In the long-term, if Paizo can't operate sustainably while paying its employees a living wage, it might be a sign that late-stage capitalism isn't compatible with a healthy RPG industry. Which is a bummer, but not something we can solve within capitalist frameworks. Barring a very unexpected expansion to the National Endowment for the Arts, I don't know if there is a solution that isn't either "make less art" or "make these companies effectively nonprofit and just donate to them like NPR".

I'm not trying to be anti-capitalism here, to be clear. I'm just not sure this is a problem capitalism was designed to solve. Capitalism and art don't mix that well even on a good day, and even staunch capitalists will admit that.


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keftiu wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
That's true, but at the same time, it's capitalism. If the art form can't be made profitably, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be made. I mean, if you conclude that, you basically have to conclude that a lot of devs should just quit. People want to work in this industry, fragile or no. I think we should do whatever we can to keep the industry going.
Again: I'd sooner see them cut back on art or the number of releases, or raise prices, rather than depend on the customer to subsidize their staff.

But in a capitalist world, that can lead to a death spiral. Higher prices or less art can lead to less sales, costing more money than is gained with the price increase or saved in art costs. Less releases will likely also lead to less sales and also likely to layoffs. In some cases it might be a net loss despite lowering the number of staff. More releases and more product generally lead to economies of scale that allow more profit, which can be funneled into salary and benefits. (Or just taken by ownership of course.)


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Kobold Cleaver wrote:
The customer subsidizing the staff voluntarily is just an indirect, less efficient but also less risky way of raising prices. I honestly don't see the ethical difference, assuming the company is verifiably doing everything else it can on its own end.

I think this is the issue. I am relatively sure there are other approaches, from allowing more virtual work (locations), different office locations, more efficient work, etc. Indeed pricing is challenging/riskier, but not having liveable wages is hardly a sustainable model either.

Also, while difficult to compare, I know that one of the partners of paizo is producing their own RPG in German, similar production values, similar price levels etc. But much smaller volumes (German vs English). I am wondering what the differences in model are that make that more feasible….

Or maybe it shows that you can better do RPGs from a country with a more social model which is (a bit) less capitalist….


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thejeff wrote:
(Or just taken by ownership of course.)

Yeah, this is why I really, really want to know what Paizo higher-ups make. We might all be fretting over Paizo's sustainability when the actual problem is one or two people making a hundred times what everyone else makes. I'm not saying that's likely - in fact, I really doubt it - but it sure would be nice to know the numbers. If everyone's making basically the same salary, I don't actually see much reason for Paizo not to just go effectively nonprofit so we can just donate to them like any other "worthy cause that isn't really profitable but that we want to see succeed". But I'm fully aware that financial law regarding the definition of "nonprofit" is pretty complicated and messy.

Berhagen wrote:
Also, while difficult to compare, I know that one of the partners of paizo is producing their own RPG in German, similar production values, similar price levels etc. But much smaller volumes (German vs English). I am wondering what the differences in model are that make that more feasible….

I'm guessing it has to do with Germany just being a pretty well-off social democratic country with a thriving middle class, but I don't live there.

Boy, it is hard to talk about "how do we support a for-profit privately owned company that seems to not make a profit on the cost of its own labor?" without getting political, isn't it?

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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I would be willing to pay higher prices on the books I buy if it meant better pay for those involved in making them.

Unfortunately, it would probably take most or all of the major players in the industry getting on board to make that a reality.

I think one of the tough issues facing the RPG industry is that everybody is so small...except D&D, which sets the tone but is also so big that it sucks all the oxygen out of the room. Maybe I'm wrong and the gap between D&D and games like Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, and other industry leaders isn't as big as I think. But if it is that sizeable, it would be tough to significantly raise book prices without convincing WotC to do so first.

This is an interesting conversation to have. Pay in the RPG industry should definitely be higher, especially for those who have to navigate all the stresses involved in creating the products that we all love.

That said, even with low pay being a major cause of stress, it sounds like there are several things that Paizo can improve upon to make life easier for employees in other regards, and I hope they do so moving forward.


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For what it's worth, I'd pay more--a lot more--if I knew the employees were being paid fairly, if salaries were posted transparently, and if the other issues people have brought up elsewhere were addressed coherently. I've been tempted lately by 2E, not gonna lie.

That being said, these books are already big and expensive, and it's hard to justify such a huge purchase for a lot of people. I understand Paizo's worry that people en masse would buy less. Do I think adding $5-$15 onto the asking price for the CRB would make a huge difference in sales? Not for me, but maybe for some, and maybe for enough.

Honestly, I'd rather pay $30 each for five books 20% the CRB's size than $100 for the CRB itself. I would love for Paizo to pivot towards smaller, more proportionately expensive releases wherever possible. I actually find the big books kind of overwhelming, and really hard to sink my teeth into. But splitting the releases up more loses you economies of scale.

There's something to be said for branding, of course. If free-range eggs have taught me anything, it's that you can charge more for something if buying it feels like a social stand rather than purely a consumerist one.

EDIT: By the way, we're all being very constructive even in our disagreements, which means this is around the time a debate troll usually shows up to try to start fights. Let's just remember to not engage if that happens, so this thread can stay on-task.


Maybe a bit too specific, but beside the CR, which books do you mean? I actually think most (other) books are quite manageable in size and the pocket editions at $25 cover price are very cheap already.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:


There's something to be said for branding, of course. If free-range eggs have taught me anything, it's that you can charge more for something if buying it feels like a social stand rather than purely a consumerist one.

You can, but you lose an awful lot in volume.


So, I haven't bought anything since the first controversy a while back, which means I can't speak to 2E's prices at all. That said, I'd love a hard copy of Horror Adventures, a 256-page book which originally sold at $45. If HA had instead come out as two 150-page books with a bit of extra non-rules crunch filler in each... I don't know, it's not the best example. I just find a $30 purchase inherently more familiar and amenable than a $40 or $50 one. Call it bias from the days of 3.5, or nostalgia for the value of the USD when I was young.


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Kobold Cleaver wrote:
So, I haven't bought anything since the first controversy a while back, which means I can't speak to 2E's prices at all. That said, I'd love a hard copy of Horror Adventures, a 256-page book which originally sold at $45. If HA had instead come out as two 150-page books with a bit of extra non-rules crunch filler in each... I don't know, it's not the best example. I just find a $30 purchase inherently more familiar and amenable than a $40 or $50 one. Call it bias from the days of 3.5, or nostalgia for the value of the USD when I was young.

I only buy digital, and $35 for the PDF of the Mwangi book felt like a steal with how much gorgeous art was in it.


Thanks. Never recall the prices, but then those years also covered my years starting to work full time and career growth, so a shifting value of money and then exchange rates shifted so much over the years (from 0.9 to 1.6 and now 1.2) that the trend may be different here.

However I understand that a $30 product is more of an easy buy vs. a $45 one. However amazingly I see the pockets for 17 euro now, which used to be the price for an Adventure Path magazine….


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I suspect this is similar to issues about printing in China as opposed to the US. If all their competitors are doing it, they must as well, or be priced out of the market. If all their competitors are paying lower wages, they must as well to remain competitive.

Also, the factors that make it so expensive to live in some areas are well beyond Paizo's control.

It is not a really satisfying answer, but "we do the best we can, given the world we operate in" is all we can ask from Paizo.

In short, I would like Paizo to pay their workers as much as they can, but they can't fix national and global problems.

Lisa Stevens would be wise to look into making Paizo partially or wholly worker owned. Almost all the current issues have elegant solutions that would be easy to implement if workers had a say in how the company runs. I would encourage everyone to check out:
Democracy at Work
For more info, particularly about worker owned businesses.

EDIT: German workers (and the German economy) generally do well in part because of "Mitbestimmung" or codetermination. "The law allows workers to elect representatives (usually trade union representatives) for almost half of the supervisory board of directors."


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To be honest, I can't stand digital. I don't go on my computer to concentrate on one big book, I go on my computer to fill my mind with noise and distraction. I also hate having to worry about maintaining a digital library full of intangible value.

I'm not trying to knock anyone's preference for PDF - I get it, I promise. I just want to voice that preference because I haven't seen anyone else express it yet. I personally have almost zero interest in PDFs. Virtual stuff is fine, but not big books. If it's a big book, I want to lie down and really pore over it in person.


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Kobold Cleaver wrote:

To be honest, I can't stand digital. I don't go on my computer to concentrate on one big book, I go on my computer to fill my mind with noise and distraction. I also hate having to worry about maintaining a digital library full of intangible value.

I'm not trying to knock anyone's preference for PDF - I get it, I promise. I just want to voice that preference because I haven't seen anyone else express it yet. I personally have almost zero interest in PDFs. Virtual stuff is fine, but not big books. If it's a big book, I want to lie down and really pore over it in person.

Reading, I much prefer hard copy. Using, I prefer pdf - or for rules, online resources organized more usefully than what book they were originally published in.

But for the first read through something, I definitely agree with you on hard copy.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I keep the .pdf for 'emergency' and/or Organized Play purposes only.

I have a Very Hard Time reading .pdf and the motion disorients me and makes me nauseous and I prefer to not have a lot of that in my life.


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I don't even download the pdfs I get with my subscriptions.

Liberty's Edge

Charlie Brooks wrote:
I would be willing to pay higher prices on the books I buy if it meant better pay for those involved in making them.

Agreed, ever since the announcement of PF2 and the core pricing was made public I have felt that they were seriously underpricing for the value of a 640ish page hardcover book that is full of mechanics that took hundreds of thousands of labor hours to put together. It's too late now I imagine but if they can issue a 3rd printing with all the changes in each of the various hardcovers they have produced I would be ELATED to pay another $10 USD for any one of them.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I generally download any PDFs that I receive before the physical products and then delete them when I receive the physical products.

Except for maps. Those I generally mark as downloaded as only the physical maps are of any practical use to me.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Bad bad times ahead. TTRPG companies going to be hit as well. Article Link


I'm guessing that's why James Jacobs alluded to them wanting to concentrate more on digital products for the time being.


Anorak wrote:
Bad bad times ahead. TTRPG companies going to be hit as well. Article Link

Kinda suspected that was my copy of Sentinels of the Multiverse Definitive edition still hadnt shipped


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I'm not a Venician noble nor an American blue-blood with 100 years of securities in an annual annuity looking to support the arts. I pay for product, not for the possibility of product.

If this sounds rather materialistic, I would note that the original poster themselves laid out several arguments from utility why they don't buy hardbacks, none of which seem to fit the "support the artists" message being pushed.

As has been noted many times, hardbacks is where Paizo gets its biggest revenue, which inevitably would be used in more product, allowing creative talent to get more money or negotiate for more per word.

If you don't have any use for hardbacks, I'm sure you can resell them on the secondary market and recoup some of your investment. But telling me I ought to pay more in charity because you believe in paying less for a product is not going to sell me on the idea.

Alternately if you just want to compensate the artist with a donation and bypass Paizo entirely, most of them have Twitter presences or you could PM them and politely request their email and PayPal as much as you'd like for free or a nominal fee.

The Exchange

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Kobold Cleaver wrote:
I'm not trying to knock anyone's preference for PDF - I get it, I promise.

It's not necessarily a preference for pdf as much as an admission that after 45 years of collecting books (and not being able to bring myself to get rid of even those I don't use anymore^^) I just don't have room for new books anymore.

I already talked about the ridiculously high fees for international shipping (which is nothing that Paizo can do something about). I could avoid those by either buying over Amazon or by restricting to the German localization (both I don't want to for a variety of reasons), but getting the pdfs directly from Paizo beats both, at least in my opinion. And I can use the money saved to support other artists that I wouldn't be able to support otherwise.

Add to that ecological reasons; if you read as much as me, ebooks is way more ecology-friendly than the printed products, especially with shipping adding to the ecological cost.

This all said, I still prefer reading real books about reading ebooks 100%.

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