Can You Fund A DMs Guild Product On Kickstarter?
  • Can You Fund A DMs Guild Product On Kickstarter?


    Back in January, WotC's Mike Mearls was asked that question; he replied "Yes, but be sure to look at the terms of use for the DM's Guild to make sure you understand how they apply to your product." It seems that OneBookShelf (the company which runs DMs Guild for WotC) has now clarified this statement to make it clear that while you can theoretically fund a product via Kickstarter, you can't distribute it via that platform.





    DLI Media, which launched a Kickstarter for an adventure trilogy this week, was told by OBS' Director of Publishing and Marketing:

    Someone linked us to your Kickstarter and I wanted to touch base about a few things. DMsGuild creators cannot release titles on both DMsGuild and DriveThruRPG and they cannot use Kickstarter to "sell" their DMsGuild publications.

    The wording on your Kickstarter makes me think this is more of an OGL type product, which is great because we have a ton of awesome 5e OGL content on DriveThruRPG and you are already set up to sell there.

    You would only need to remove the DMsGuild elements (logos and text) from your Kickstarter page and continue on with your plans to sell on and fulfill your project via DriveThruRPG.com.

    The email was followed up with further clarification:


    The issue is you are in violation of the license on DMsGuild with your Kickstarter. All DMsGuild creations must remain exclusive to that storefront. They cannot be sold on DriveThruRPG, other storefronts, nor via Kickstarter tiers.

    While it is true someone could run a Kickstarter to fund artwork or development of a DMsGuild title, they cannot offer tiers that provide backers copies of the title product. So, I imagine tiers would have to be "special thanks" or "game with the designer at Gen Con" or "your likeness used as one of the NPCs" all backers would still have to buy the book on DMsGuild once it launched as the publisher wouldn't be able to sell them a copy via crowdfunding.

    Which is pretty much what's been said all along. No big surprises. It seems that it's a simple problem with a simple solution, though: allow publishers on DMsG to send complimentary products from that platform.


    The DMsGuild license specifically agreed to by content creators states that all DMG titles are exclusive to the DMsGuild.com storefront. Putting the PDF on Kickstarter violates that exclusivity. You are specifically listing your title (understanding that it isn't officially released yet) on another site and not on DMsGuild. It wouldn't be available on DMsGuild until after you've collected funds and finished the project.

    DMsGuild creators do not currently have the tool set to upload PoD files themselves.

    It does sound like making adjustments and releasing this title on DriveThruRPG as a 5e OGL product would work better for your overall setup.

    So, right now, Kickstarter isn't much use for DMsG products. But it sounds like some minor technical changes could solve that. In the meantime, if you want to create a 5E product and fund it via Kickstarter, the best bet is to produce an OGL product instead, like many companies are already doing.

    So, no big news or anything, but a clarification that some folks might find useful before going ahead with their Kickstarters!

    In other news, both Margaret Weis Productions Cortex+, and Mongoose Publishing Traveller, are the latest OBS DMsG-style third-party stores to open up, with Monte Cook Games' Cypher System store opening very soon. Seems to be a popular model! OBS refers to these as "Community Content Programs".
    Comments 46 Comments
    1. DLIMedia's Avatar
      DLIMedia -
      My Kickstarter is the one in question... I seem to have a habit of bringing licensing issues to light, don't I?

      Basically what they're saying is that I CAN use Kickstarter to fund the creation of a project... but I can't actually *give* it to my backers as a reward. In other words, they can pay me through Kickstarter, but once it's done they have to go to the DM's Guild to actually buy the product like everyone else. I apparently can't even give them a discount coupon or nothing.

      Also, one thing I admit I wasn't aware of: DM's Guild currently does not provide any means to create hardcopies of anything. So there's no way to provide coupons for anything. My only choice to fulfill the $15 level is the OGL. UPDATE: Apparently, if I really wanted to do it, OBS staff can upload files for hardcopies through their own internal administrative interface (which I assume is the same interface as the normal DTRPG admin panel), but those interfaces are not yet available in the DM's Guild for the general public (and, I'm venturing to guess, never will be).
    1. Reinhart -
      For several Kickstarters I've funded in the past I received coupons to download my product through OneBookShelf. Perhaps that's the proper solution? The funders still get their product, but it has to work through OBS links. However, as I'm still on the customer end of this system I still don't know how OBS's cut factors into these coupons.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Reinhart View Post
      For several Kickstarters I've funded in the past I received coupons to download my product through OneBookShelf. Perhaps that's the proper solution? The funders still get their product, but it has to work through OBS links. However, as I'm still on the customer end of this system I still don't know how OBS's cut factors into these coupons.
      That's the problem. DMsG lacks that functionality for publishers.
    1. Reinhart -
      Yes, it seems like such a simple solution, given that they already have it working throughout the rest of the OBS store system. If DMsG lacks that feature, it makes me think there may have been an intentional reason to disable it.
    1. Gnarl45's Avatar
      Gnarl45 -
      It kind of makes sense.

      By this logic, does it mean you can have a Patreon account to finance free DM's Guild products?
    1. LordEntrails's Avatar
      LordEntrails -
      It seems to me in general that these approaches (Kickstarter or Patreon) are attempts to get around the 50% cut that the DMsG gets for products sold on their site. In short, it would be like trying to get a store to allow you to use their logo and storefront and hand out coupons to people you scalp tickets to at a lower price.
    1. Sunsword's Avatar
      Sunsword -
      I think the problem is that if you fund a DMsGuild product with Kickstarter, WotC isn't getting their cut of those sales. Part of the beauty of the DMsGuild is that we can use their IPs and they generate revenue. I understand their decision on this.
    1. Monkey King's Avatar
      Monkey King -
      Seems like the easy solution is just to avoid DM's Guild for Kickstarters.

      It's meant to be a closed shop, so why not distribute the Kickstarter's rewards via DriveThru, Tabletop Library, or the publisher's own webstore?
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Monkey King View Post
      Seems like the easy solution is just to avoid DM's Guild for Kickstarters.

      It's meant to be a closed shop, so why not distribute the Kickstarter's rewards via DriveThru, Tabletop Library, or the publisher's own webstore?
      Yeah. I'm not seeing the problem. A properly run Kickstater will make far more money than anybody will make for the same product on DMsG.
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      You can send complementary copies via DMsGuild. So it would just be a matter of getting a list of emails and manually entering them for everyone who purchased the book. Doable for small publishers but tricky for larger ones.
    1. LordEntrails's Avatar
      LordEntrails -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jester Canuck View Post
      You can send complementary copies via DMsGuild. So it would just be a matter of getting a list of emails and manually entering them for everyone who purchased the book. Doable for small publishers but tricky for larger ones.
      Sure, but again, that's trying to work the system. Abuse it and it will be shut down.
    1. ArcaneSpringboard's Avatar
      ArcaneSpringboard -
      Exactly. Imagine if you had a Kickstarter that makes $10,000...and you give 'complimentary copies' via DMsGuild. And then it sells zero copies from then on in.

      Where does WotC get it's cut?
    1. DM Howard's Avatar
      DM Howard -
      Rightly so. WotC deserves their cut, just as OneBookShelf does. A little bit of a bummer because think of what could come out for DMsG with the strength of some sort of crowdfunding behind it.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bravesteel View Post
      Rightly so. WotC deserves their cut, just as OneBookShelf does. A little bit of a bummer because think of what could come out for DMsG with the strength of some sort of crowdfunding behind it.
      So it comes out on a different OBS store. I don't quite get why that's a "bummer". Why does it matter which of OBS's stores you buy it from?
    1. DM Howard's Avatar
      DM Howard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      So it comes out on a different OBS store. I don't quite get why that's a "bummer". Why does it matter which of OBS's stores you buy it from?
      Because then we could have high quality, crowdfunded products on the DMsG that use the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, and whatever settings WotC decided to allow.
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      The only solution I see is the use a 50% coupon that gives money only to One Bookshelf and Wizards of the Coast.

      Then your rewards from a Pateron or Kickstarter is X number of coupon codes.

      How this is different than the previous suggestion that 50% codes is that a regular discount would still cut the two business partners short.

      So the real question becomes how hard is it to code a completely new coupon like that into the system. I'm sure the answers will vary from very easy to Impossible
    1. Myrdin Potter's Avatar
      Myrdin Potter -
      The only solution would be to buy the products through the OBS and then distribute to your customers. With a little advance prep, you could run a Kickstarter and the reward would be a module delivered through the proper store that the creator would have to pay for.

      The would receive an even smaller cut that way as they also lose out on the KS fee. Might be worth it for the advertising and the cash up front.

      You still would need to approach OBS in advance to work out the logistics, but if the SRP was $10 and you paid OBS that for every module deleivered so they go their split and WOTc also got paid, then maybe something could be worked out.

      This is somewhat a WOTC issue as they set up only one venue to use the IP. Probably the biggest venue, but only one. There is no incentive for OBS to reduce their monopoly.
    1. Reinhart -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      So it comes out on a different OBS store. I don't quite get why that's a "bummer". Why does it matter which of OBS's stores you buy it from?
      It's also a matter of "eyeballs" for marketing/distribution. If you want sales past your initial Kickstarter campaign, then most of your customer base is probably browsing the DMsGuild and not looking for D&D content at Drivethru. That said, Kickstarters are partly about marketing and measuring demand, but they're also ostensibly about dealing with the start-up costs for a project. If all you're releasing are some new character options or in-setting adventures then you don't need a lot of start-up funds for writers or artists. And I think that's most of what WotC expects to sell at DMsG.

      As someone who occasionally works on 3rd party products and plans crowdfunding campaigns, I get why it's a bummer. Like you though, I don't think it really prevents many products from existing. So, while I wouldn't be surprised if WotC and OBS revise their policy to allow some form of crowdfunding, I also wouldn't hold my breath either. That said, very few of the recent official D&D products were created in-house and many of them were conceived by outside teams first. If someone is dead set on making a physical book that involves exclusive D&D intellectual property, then my recommendation is to reach out to either WotC, or one of the studios that they're known to contract with. If the product has some promise then they may play ball.
    1. M.T. Black's Avatar
      M.T. Black -
      Ok, I'm very late to this discussion, but I've been giving this issue some thought.

      From what I can see, there is no problem getting a DMs Guild product funded via Kickstarter so long as you then release it for free on the DMs Guild. In that case, your backers on Kickstarter are really your patrons rather than your customers.

      Not everyone will want to back a product that will be given away for free once complete, but I suspect many would. You need creative reward tiers, but that is do-able (if difficult).

      Thoughts?
    1. LordEntrails's Avatar
      LordEntrails -
      My understanding is that when you post on the DMsG, you can only distribute it via the DMsG. So, you could Kickstart it, but then you could not distribute it directly to the backers. Where it gets hazy is if you try to send your backers a "complimentary" copy via the DMsG and then charge other people for it through the DMsG. As purely a sponsor/patron (patreon) approach, I don't see an issue, but not sure why anyone would buy into the KS then...
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