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Revolutions are Always Verbose: Effecting Change in the TTRPG Industry

To actually post something directly relevant to the thread, I think others have had the right of it: there's too many people of at least competent capability willing to do the work for too little for there to be much pressure for pay to be raised much.

Of course, you can legitimately ask the question of whether the RPG market is one of those that, in a sense, shouldn't exist. What I mean by that is there are classes of business in many places that can only function at all because they're to one degree or another, free-riding on the backs of underpayed employees; what the public is willing to pay is, essentially, not enough to keep a real market with proper pay alive. I'm of more than one mind what should be done about that kind of situation.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
See: Just-in-time supply networks.

Yep.

When earthquake and tsunami damaged Japanese computer chip manufacturers a decade ago, Toyota took a hit, as their plans had assumed that chip supply and other parts supply would bounce back from interruption at the same rate, which they didn't. Chips lagged behind the plastics/polymers industries, for example.

Having had that experience, Toyota changed their behavior - they started keeping several months of production worth of computer chips in inventory. So, when covid-19 similarly interrupted chip manufacture, while other car manufacturer's car production slowed to a trickle, Toyota kept on going.

They kept to the ethos of actually fixing problems, and it worked.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Of course, you can legitimately ask the question of whether the RPG market is one of those that, in a sense, shouldn't exist. What I mean by that is there are classes of business in many places that can only function at all because they're to one degree or another, free-riding on the backs of underpayed employees; what the public is willing to pay is, essentially, not enough to keep a real market with proper pay alive. I'm of more than one mind what should be done about that kind of situation.

Or maybe we need to recognize that some parts of the market are really fully-fledged businesses (like, WotC and Paizo) and much of the rest is essentially lone artists and cottage industry.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Honda is a lot like Toyota in that “problem solving” regard. When the EPA started really tightening down on emissions & MPG regulations, the (then) Big 3 complained and lobbied about the new regulations being “impossibly burdensome”.

...then Honda met the goals with a new cars before the laws were in effect, which helped them gain market share.

And Toyota, being Toyota, learned from that. I’ve noticed that they not only try to meet or exceed regulatory demands, they occasionally lobby for tighter standards they believe they can meet. If/when those standards get adopted, they’re at a competitive advantage .

Which is part & parcel of why 6 of the top 10 consumer automobiles that are kept beyond the industry average lifespan are Toyotas.

But back to gaming…

Yes, a guild-like structure or accreditation program for creative talent that had actual, meaningful standards as a condition of membership would be helpful, if only as a guideline for the potential employers. It might cut into some executive compensation an/or add a few pennies to the market price of the product, but I’m willing to pay a little extra for quality. Quality matters.

Awards, nominations and other industry accolades are nice, but they only provide a snapshot of the absolute best of the best at a particular time. The “also-rans” who might be pretty much as gifted and talented (or not, as the case may be) won’t be recognized.
 
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Or maybe we need to recognize that some parts of the market are really fully-fledged businesses (like, WotC and Paizo) and much of the rest is essentially lone artists and cottage industry.

Lone artists are one thing, but even cottage industry needs to be able to pay people.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Lone artists are one thing, but even cottage industry needs to be able to pay people.

Cottage industry doesn't typically operate with the usual "employer/employee" relationship, and isn't often considered "professional employment". Two people working in their craft room, garage, or on a laptop at their kitchen table, selling on etsy or DMs Guild or wherever aren't necessarily going to be able to make ends meet with that they are doing.

And, that's okay, if everyone involved is on board with it. But we then should recognize that some of the smaller operations are more like buying a dice bag off etsy than they are buying a game from a game publisher.
 

amethal

Adventurer
Insofar as anyone who is putting in a full day's work ought to be able to earn a living wage, yeah, it is a problem.
So how far is that? The topic isn't actually about waiting on tables, which obviously deserves a living wage.

Do people deserve a living wage regardless of what they decide to spend their time doing?

There has been more talk lately in the UK of a universal basic income, but we aren't anywhere near that at the moment - and some people fear it might become a means of social control (toe the government line or lose your income).
 


Cottage industry doesn't typically operate with the usual "employer/employee" relationship, and isn't often considered "professional employment". Two people working in their craft room, garage, or on a laptop at their kitchen table, selling on etsy or DMs Guild or wherever aren't necessarily going to be able to make ends meet with that they are doing.

And, that's okay, if everyone involved is on board with it. But we then should recognize that some of the smaller operations are more like buying a dice bag off etsy than they are buying a game from a game publisher.

I've apparently seen the term used somewhat more broadly, as I've seen it applied to people who had a shop behind their house that wasn't really a professional operation, but they still employed people (though only one or two).
 


amethal

Adventurer
Yes, a guild-like structure or accreditation program for creative talent that had actual, meaningful standards as a condition of membership would be helpful, if only as a guideline for the potential employers. It might cut into some executive compensation an/or add a few pennies to the market price of the product, but I’m willing to pay a little extra for quality. Quality matters.
As I understand it, historically a key function of guilds was to provide a barrier to entry. A guild structure could dramatically cut down on the number of people "accredited" to provide RPG content, increasing the salaries of guild members by preventing everybody else from working in the industry (including those providing content for nothing).

Also, I'm not sure how you determine "quality" in a role-playing product. Pretty much every time I have have panned something on the internet there have been people willing to defend it. I had an incredibly bad (over) reaction to the 4th edition Dark Sun adventure "Marauders on the Dune Sea" - by casually including a running stream in a Dark Sun adventure it felt like WotC had somehow personally insulted me, yet it is averaging 4 stars on Amazon UK and most people seem perfectly fine with it.

Conversely, a great adventure (in my opinion, obviously) like "Mines, Claws and Princesses" gets rated by some people as "impossible to run unless you put in a great deal of work yourself" since the room descriptions don't have any boxed text to read out to the players. (I never read out boxed text anyway.) The adventure itself was written because the author thought the 3rd edition adventure Forge of Fury didn't live up to its potential so wanted to do "Forge of Fury done right" - yet lots of people think Forge of Fury is one of the best D&D adventures ever written.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
As I understand it, historically a key function of guilds was to provide a barrier to entry. A guild structure could dramatically cut down on the number of people "accredited" to provide RPG content, increasing the salaries of guild members by preventing everybody else from working in the industry (including those providing content for nothing).

Also, I'm not sure how you determine "quality" in a role-playing product. Pretty much every time I have have panned something on the internet there have been people willing to defend it. I had an incredibly bad (over) reaction to the 4th edition Dark Sun adventure "Marauders on the Dune Sea" - by casually including a running stream in a Dark Sun adventure it felt like WotC had somehow personally insulted me, yet it is averaging 4 stars on Amazon UK and most people seem perfectly fine with it.
Just some spitballing…

I would think “quality” would be determined by something akin to an editorial board. For adventures, are the plots properly outlined for the GM? Is the language itself clear enough to follow? How is the pacing? Do the NPCs fit their roles? Do they follow the rules? And if not, why not?

For rules/sourcebooks, again, clarity of expression would be an important metric. Is a single term used for too many unrelated mechanics? Is the work logically ordered?

Is there confusing use of homonyms and esoteric language?

For the visual artists, how well does what they are commissioned to do match the directions given? How well do they deal with change orders? How well is their work suited for transformation into commercial print media?

I know- some of that gets hammered out in the editorial process itself. But if guild members- by virtue of their accreditation process- tend to need less editing for their finished products, that’s a win for the companies that hire them.
 

MGibster

Legend
I don't even think Writer's Guild of America West monitors the quality of the writing done by its members. I don't believe there's any way you could implement such a system for RPGs.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I don't even think Writer's Guild of America West monitors the quality of the writing done by its members. I don't believe there's any way you could implement such a system for RPGs.
It doesn’t, but it doesn’t claim to, either. It also covers an enormous number of professionals- about 10,500 full members as well as something like 14,000 others as of a couple years ago.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
It doesn’t, but it doesn’t claim to, either. It also covers an enormous number of professionals- about 10,500 full members as well as something like 14,000 others as of a couple years ago.
Yes, but what a union could do is help people like Quinn Murphy who got a raw deal at wizards. Their being 80% of the market would help a lot, and all the unsung people working behind the scenes at the bigger companies, like who Owen Stephens mentioned in a recent blog post. A small tide to raise the boats, even helping a few helps a lot, and maybe there would be better writing due to market forces or a better standard of living attracting them.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Yes, but what a union could do is help people like Quinn Murphy who got a raw deal at wizards. Their being 80% of the market would help a lot, and all the unsung people working behind the scenes at the bigger companies, like who Owen Stephens mentioned in a recent blog post. A small tide to raise the boats, even helping a few helps a lot, and maybe there would be better writing due to market forces or a better standard of living attracting them.
Certainly!

I mean, look at the positive effects pro sports unions have had on their members, despite small membership numbers
 

I agree with your entire take on this issue, though I will note that in California, where I live, minimum wage for servers is in fact the same as minimum wage for anyone else, between $13 and $17 depending on area and how large the employer is.
Last I checked, several states are lower minimum wage for servers before tips, but raised to the general minimum if their tips do not bring them up to the general minimum.
As for square... I've seen 10% 15% 20% and "other" on the few times I've encountered it. I myself tend to tip 5-15%, trying for a whole dollar amount near 10%.

The closest we get to tipping designers is PWYW titles on PDF sites, or, very rarely, actually just sending money to them, or paying memberships on their forums which fund their commercial website on the same servers. (EG: Far Future Enterprises FarFuture.net is the same webserver as TravellerRPG.com. Paying for COTI "Moot Membership" supports both the FFE commercial side and the COTI forums, and the TravellerWiki by paying the costs of the server which all three are on. I'm the lead admin of COTI. Marc recently sent out a mass email with the above information, so I'm not treating it as privileged information.)
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Last I checked, several states are lower minimum wage for servers before tips, but raised to the general minimum if their tips do not bring them up to the general minimum.
As for square... I've seen 10% 15% 20% and "other" on the few times I've encountered it. I myself tend to tip 5-15%, trying for a whole dollar amount near 10%.

The closest we get to tipping designers is PWYW titles on PDF sites, or, very rarely, actually just sending money to them, or paying memberships on their forums which fund their commercial website on the same servers. (EG: Far Future Enterprises FarFuture.net is the same webserver as TravellerRPG.com. Paying for COTI "Moot Membership" supports both the FFE commercial side and the COTI forums, and the TravellerWiki by paying the costs of the server which all three are on. I'm the lead admin of COTI. Marc recently sent out a mass email with the above information, so I'm not treating it as privileged information.)

Briefly-

1. Square does not have a default 10% setting. Source. Give that it is not a default setting, and I've never seen it customized to that in the wild, I have to assume you have either a mistaken memory, or a very bizarre and self-selected set of places you visit.

2. Given that I live in an area where places routinely print suggested tip amounts on checks, and given that I just visited another area that did the same, and I have never, ever, ever, ever in my life seen 10% listed as an option (and it is getting more rare to see 15%), I have to assume that you have encountered this as well. At a certain point, people fully know what is expected- they just are choosing not to do it.

3. Yes, it is technically a violation of the law for an employer to take advantage of the tipped wage credit if the employee doesn't make the minimum wage with tips; as with many things (classification of employees as exempt or non-exempt, or classifying employees as independent contractors) it is rarely observed. The point is that these employees (who rarely get benefits) are, in many states, operating at a deficit to minimum wage prior to making tips.

4. As a side note, I have yet to meet someone in real life who worked in the service industry who is a "10%er." Weird, huh? Now, given that this is the internet, and people are anonymous, I am sure that someone will claim that they totes worked tables to support themselves throughout high school and college and they are all about the 5%, buddy, because bootstraps. Uh huh.


It’s a useful principle in life … What matters is how you treat people that you don't need to be nice too.

I've actually used that in all my dealings, and it's the best way I've found to judge a person's character. It's like the old saw about integrity (how you act when no one is looking). How people treat waitstaff, how people treat those that they don't have any obligations to, that's how I view a person's character. It's a pretty good indicator, so far.

And to move it to the subject...

If you want to tip designers, just support patreons (for example) or kickstarters. It's not something I'm really used to, but I did it for a forum member making an inclusive OSR game, gave at the highest amount, and I feel pretty good about it.
 
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I've worked in a service industry - multiple, actually - but not ones where I got tips. Fast Food, Education, Retail Management (of a music store), and Receptionist. (One of the receptionist gigs was in Mental Health; one was in the National Archives system)
I've NEVER seen a check with a suggested tip. Not once. Not anywhere I've paid for a sit-down meal... Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Florida. The only suggestions have been at the register when paying by card, on the tablet or touchpad.

Square does allow changing the 3 displayed. Same source, next section, rendered on same screen. Read your sources carefully before implying that someone's a liar based upon them.

And, as for game design...
FFG, WotC, Paizo all pay a living wage for the in-house employees, but all of them also use freelancers, because it's not possible to pay a full staff of good creatives even on their budgets and hit their production targets. GDW, before it closed, did the same. Fasa, too.

The biggest change in the last 20 years is the PDF version...
Some indie designers (John Wick, Ken St. Andre, Mr Rahm, Mr. Hillmer, a few others) choose to set PDF at enough that they make more from the PDF than from a physical... often $3 to $10... but below
Others price at half of the dead tree MSRP... because they don't want to reduce dead tree sales.
Marc Miller does both - sort of... $35 for a CD (or, if you ask nicely, thumbdrive) with 10 to 80 PDFs...or $4 to $10 per PDF via Drive Thru. ISTR that M

If you want the maximum money back to the designer, you pay for PDF direct from the designer (if you can) or the publisher.
If you want your FLGS to continue to exist, buy your dead tree through them rather than from Amazon or even the designer or publisher.

The games industry is a no-win series of choices. Maximum value? Wait for a PDF bundle. Maximum Jobs, full price at FLGS. Maximum to designer/publsiher? PDF from them. Any way one goes, someone is losing out...
 

pemerton

Legend
Somewhat orthogonal - but in Australia tipping norms were always a bit unstable, and with a general shift from cash to credit card payment (especially in the pandemic) tipping seems to have largely died out, at least at the casual cafes/restaurants I eat at. There was a brief period, probably 5 (?) years ago, when the credit card machine would give an option to add a tip, but I don't see that very often these days.

We also had a big scandal a couple of years ago where one of our biggest celebrity chefs was caught out underpaying staff. I don't know if wage theft is a concept in US law or public discourse, but it's become a big thing in both respects here. (And well beyond the hospitality sector - multiple universities, for instance, have had to pay sessional teachers and markers who were underpaid for the work they did.)

I don't want to say everything is rosy here - it's not - but I think the basic approach of a robust minimum wage enforced by regulatory action is one that I favour over individual consumer choices at the point of purchase (eg tipping). Of course it's also natural to prefer what you're used to, so maybe I'm just expressing my cultural biases!
 

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