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What's a resonable price-point for entry into the RPG hobby?

ShadowDenizen

Explorer
This came up in the D+D-specific forums (specifically the "Would you pay $50 for a "Standard" PHB?" thread), but I think it's worth bringing up as a general question.

SO..
What's a reasonable price-point for new players to enter into the RPG hobby?

(I"ll refrain from posting my thoughts until later, so as to make this an open conversation.) :)
 

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Ideally, $0. The best way for a new player to get started remains for them to join an existing group. So, they can play with no materials, decide they like the game, and then invest in the $50 PHB if they like it. (And $50 for a game you know you like really isn't unreasonable.)

Failing that, it would be good if companies would put QuickStart materials on their websites for free use. These don't need to be elaborate - a pregen adventure, some pregen characters, and a rules primer, just enough to get started. Of course, not all companies are able/willing to do that.

But failing that, I think the $35 Paizo have set as the RRP for their Beginner Box is very reasonable. (The $20 WotC set for their 4e Red Box was also quite reasonable, but I really don't rate that as a product. The 5e box would appear to have the same price point, which is good... providing it is good.)

A 300+ page hardback is a poor entry point for a new game, be that at $50, $40, or even $20.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What's a reasonable price-point for new players to enter into the RPG hobby?

That's an interesting question. I have to counter with another question - what counts as "entry into the RPG hobby"?

Broad generalization - you don't need to own a copy of the rules to play D&D (or most RPGs). In order to play without owning the rules, you need to spend a bit more time with people to learn from them, but it isn't rocket science. I know many gearheads on these boards may find that unthinkable, but I suspect the majority of folks don't tinker with rules much between sessions, which means they probably don't need to own a copy of the books. I'm currently running a classic Deadlands game - I'm the only one in the group who owns the rules. I'm considering starting a Shadowrun game. Again, I don't expect anyone else in the group to buy the rules.

So, by my observation, given a mentor, the dollar cost for entry for a player is already zero dollars.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Entry-wise, the biggest barrier isn't a book price. It's all about someone introducing you to the hobby. That someone always has the books already.

So the entry price is zero, and has been for decades. The price comes in a bit later when/if you decide to purchase your own books.

I've played with folks for years who shelled out exactly £0. Maybe a few dice.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Entry-wise, the biggest barrier isn't a book price. It's all about someone introducing you to the hobby. That someone always has the books already.

So the entry price is zero, and has been for decades. The price comes in a bit later when/if you decide to purchase your own books.

I've played with folks for years who shelled out exactly £0. Maybe a few dice.

I think it's a reasonable question to ask if that player, who hasn't invested in his own copy of the rules, is really an equal participant in the hobby. Does someone who never invests in any game book going to be a long-term participant? I've seen quite a few people introduced to the game, but I also usually don't see them continue long term without investing in it themselves.

I also think it's worth looking at who is investing in the game on their behalf if they're not investing themselves.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I think it's a reasonable question to ask if that player, who hasn't invested in his own copy of the rules, is really an equal participant in the hobby. Does someone who never invests in any game book going to be a long-term participant? I've seen quite a few people introduced to the game, but I also usually don't see them continue long term without investing in it themselves.

Yes, but then it's not an entry price. The entry system is - generally, but not always - handled by 'gatekeepers'; by people, not by products. The product comes later if the initial wooing succeeds.

There are exceptions, but that's a very common entry scenario. Curious person invited to a game, borrows books for a while, and if they stuck around probably ends up buying them. Rarely do brand-new folks buy the books and then start looking around for a game.
 

gamerprinter

First Post
I'd agree with the others so far, that the best entry cost is $0.

I've seen game systems where the base rules is a free product, but specific themed games and adventures are low cost additions to the basic game. These are often start-up products as might be produced by a smaller or unknown publisher. For a new game by a smaller publisher, I think this is a normal expectation.

The larger games produced by larger publishers can expect and get away with releasing the basic game (Core rules) as paid for hard cover, though almost always there are secondary free or lower cost entry products to get involved, like providing an SRD document with free access online to that resource. This applies to games like D&D or Pathfinder.

While there's a definite cost to any kind of game development, the needs of the Core rules is often less expensive than the cost of creating an adventure, as adventure almost always require paid-for illustrations and maps which greatly increase the costs of creation. Core rules often also include illustrations, though this is usually not necessary. Free adventures (IMO) should not be an expectation.

The only free adventure, I've ever provided for my Kaidan setting of Japanese horror, for example was the Frozen Wind one-shot module. Because the author planned to attend Origins and run some Con games, he wrote the complete adventure at his own cost without expectation for compensation. Because I am the primary developer of the setting, and am also both an illustrator and cartographer I opted to create cover art, several pieces of interior illustration and the adventure map on my own, also without expectation of compensation. So, at this point, before that product was ever intended for public release, large portions of the development was already complete. The only needed development cost was to pay for editing, and the author and I decided (rightly or wrongly) to not use an editor to save on that expense, try to edit the document ourselves (apparently not as successfully done as we desired) and release it as a free product - a good setting entry tool to getting new fans to the setting. Had the writing, illustration and cartography not already existed - trying to pay for that with a free product is not generally possible, nor expected. It was a rare opportunity, that we took advantage of in releasing, since the work and costs involved were already generated. Also since the base product was 'paid for' and little additional expenses were included for final release, Steven Russell, the publisher, opted to have a POD printed version of the book made available as well. Keeping the free development intact, that product is at a very low price point for a print product, because the only costs to the user is the POD printing itself, and DTRPG's expected profit margin - as a free product the publisher and developers get no payment from this product.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I think it's a reasonable question to ask if that player, who hasn't invested in his own copy of the rules, is really an equal participant in the hobby.

Oh, my goodness. Are we going to, "You aren't a *real* game if you don't..," territory? Really?

I gauge participation by engagement *at the table*. What you have on the bookshelf at home does not tell me if you're a participant. Anyone can own books. Not everyone goes to sessions, makes time for them, and takes enthusiastic part in play.

Does someone who never invests in any game book going to be a long-term participant?

That question is based on the presumption that there's some causal relationship between owning rules and long-term play. I don't think that's the case. If they aren't having fun, or they no longer have the time, having spent a few bucks won't keep them around.

I've seen quite a few people introduced to the game, but I also usually don't see them continue long term without investing in it themselves.

And I have a campaign currently running on three years, where only one player invested in rules (and he had to leave the game because his schedule changed - the investment didn't mean he could skip out on his paycheck!). I was playing in a Star Wars Sage Edition game that ran for two years, in which no player invested a single dollar in rules.

So much for dueling anecdotes.

I also think it's worth looking at who is investing in the game on their behalf if they're not investing themselves.

It isn't like I've bought rules for any of my players. I invest some time in getting them up to speed on rules - but I'd do much of that anyway, to make sure our interpretation of the rules was the same. But, assume I'm spending more time than I would if they owned their own copies of the rules. This is a hobby - its primary goal is to spend my time in interesting ways in good company. So investment of of a bit of time teaching players really isn't an issue.

I submit, in fact, that my players not having their own copies of rules has sped up game play - they rely on me for rules in-session, and don't spend time looking things up in the middle of combats!
 
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billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Oh, my goodness. Are we going to, "You aren't a *real* game if you don't..," territory? Really?

I gauge participation by engagement *at the table*. What you have on the bookshelf at home does not tell me if you're a participant. Anyone can own books. Not everyone goes to sessions, makes time for them, and takes enthusiastic part in play.

Get off your high horse, Umbran. There's engagement at the table, but there's also engagement and preparation away from the table. And it has been my experience that you generally don't get one without the other. I know of very few gamers who haven't invested something in the hobby. They may not always be investing the same for all of the games they play, but investment in one almost always helps understanding and participation in the others and lack of investment in anything generally hinders.

The ubiquity of D&D as an experience in the RPG hobby will pretty much guarantee that there will be people entering the hobby through that point in the near future. D&D will be someone's first gaming experience and the first game they will be tempted to buy. And yes, some will want to buy it off the shelves without being taken to their first game even if they are the minority. Assuming they aren't pricing themselves out of that market...
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
From the anecdotal POV, back in the 80s my group and I had *one* copy of the 1E PHB, MM, and DMG between us, which somebody brought along. So 5 of us had a zero entry fee, and didn't spend a penny on anything other than dice for a few years. 3-4 years later, some of us had a little money from part-time jobs and the like and experimented by buying a few other games, but we had well and truly "entered" by a few years at that point. So I still maintain that the cost of entry is very often zero. The book cost literally doesn't come into it; you just use someone else's.

As for whether the people in question counted as having "entered the hobby" - well, I ended up making a career out of the hobby, so I'd say that's an unqualified yes.

We just started a Pathfinder game last week. The GM bought the adventures, but there was only one copy of the Pathfinder rulebook between us, and that belonged to me. For everyone else, the entry cost was exactly zero. They turned up, they played.
 
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Yep. My first ever game was a 1st Ed adventure where not only did the DM own the only copy of the rules but he actively discouraged others from getting their own set. That did create some problems a few weeks later when he went off to university and none of us had the rules we needed! And it was at that point that the availability of the Red Box was extremely beneficial - a low-cost box that contained everything we needed to get started and the play for a few months, and a clear progression path on to the Blue Box Expert Set that I got that Christmas.

Ever since, I've tried to follow that same pattern - a new player needs to bring nothing with them to get involved. Once they've played a few sessions then I'll encourage them to pick up a few things. Even then, I'd only recommend they pick up a PHB for D&D (and dice, of course) - for every other game we don't seem to play them often enough for anyone but the GM to pick up their own copy unless they really want to.
 

ShadowDenizen

Explorer
Wow!
I'm glad to generate such vigrous discussion! :)


The GM bought the adventures, but there was only one copy of the Pathfinder rulebook between us, and that belonged to me. For everyone else, the entry cost was exactly zero.

And the availability of tools and apps (PFSRD, Mastertools, etc.) also help to lower that entry price point. But purely for the point of this thread, I was curious what people think a reasonable entry fee would be for someone who intends to actually purchase the books needed to play [and/or DM] the game. (Whether it be in Physcial or PDF/Kindle, etc.)

The ubiquity of D&D as an experience in the RPG hobby will pretty much guarantee that there will be people entering the hobby through that point in the near future. D&D will be someone's first gaming experience and the first game they will be tempted to buy. And yes, some will want to buy it off the shelves without being taken to their first game even if they are the minority. Assuming they aren't pricing themselves out of that market...

And that was my line of thinking when I started the thread.

My three-fold line of thought was:
A) What is a "Reasonable" fee to get into the hobby?
B) What is a good "Core-Rulebook" size?
C) At what point are RPG's pricing themselves out of the market?

Speaking for myself, my thoughts are...
A) Whether you like the Pathfinder ruleset or not, The Pathfinder Starter Box seemed like a ideal jumping-on point for new players, and at a relavtively decent price-point. (IE IF you'd never played an RPG before, you could access the box and start playing within a relatively short amount of time.)
B) (Full-confession, I'm a Rules-light gamer!!) I think 128 pages is a decent size rulebook to start. (Ideally, you could even go for half-that!). But Core Rulebooks do seem to proliferating in size every year. (Though admittedly, "Core Rulebooks" are often the equivalent of a DMG/PHB/MM and setting book in one- I look at "Edge of the Empire" or "Dresden Files" as an example of that.)
C) Again, speaking for me, $50 and under I can justify for a single book without too much effort; over $50, and I start to look at the tangential questions; "What are the reviews?", "WIll I actually USE this?" "Is there a video-game/DVD out I would prefer instead?", etc.
 
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This came up in the D+D-specific forums (specifically the "Would you pay $50 for a "Standard" PHB?" thread), but I think it's worth bringing up as a general question. SO.. What's a reasonable price-point for new players to enter into the RPG hobby? (I"ll refrain from posting my thoughts until later, so as to make this an open conversation.) :)

For a new player? Their share of the nibbles and drink. I'd expect them to pitch in later - but they shouldn't need more to start out.

For a new table? The price of a boardgame or so. But seriously, RPGs are a pretty cheap hobby compared to ... just about anything else.
 

A

amerigoV

Guest
From the anecdotal POV, back in the 80s my group and I had *one* copy of the 1E PHB, MM, and DMG between us, which somebody brought along. So 5 of us had a zero entry fee, and didn't spend a penny on anything other than dice for a few years. 3-4 years later, some of us had a little money from part-time jobs and the like and experimented by buying a few other games, but we had well and truly "entered" by a few years at that point. So I still maintain that the cost of entry is very often zero. The book cost literally doesn't come into it; you just use someone else's.

...

We just started a Pathfinder game last week. The GM bought the adventures, but there was only one copy of the Pathfinder rulebook between us, and that belonged to me. For everyone else, the entry cost was exactly zero. They turned up, they played.

It does not surprise me you got away with that back in the 80s - 1e mostly had the rules on the DM. Only the MU really needed a PHB (the cleric damn well better be taking Cure x Wounds if they knew what was good for 'em :p). Leveling up was basically rolling for HP, the thief updating their skills table, and the MU picking a spell or so (it had better be Fireball, if they knew what was good for 'em :p)

I am surprised you are getting away with that for Pathfinder. Given the crunch of the system, it seems like you would be spending a lot of session time leveling people up as XP accumulates.

I put this in another thread, but to me the price of entry is not that big a deal for our hobby. But the price for a group to change systems is a better measure.
 

ggroy

First Post
C) Again, speaking for me, $50 and under I can justify for a single book without too much effort; over $50, and I start to look at the tangential questions; "What are the reviews?", "WIll I actually USE this?" "Is there a video-game/DVD out I would prefer instead?", etc.

I always ask this question to myself, whether it is rpg books, video games, dvd/bluray movies, etc ...

I do this largely to avoid buying too much stuff that ends up collecting dust on my bookshelves after being used once (or twice). (Such as numerous 4E splatbooks and $5 bluray/dvd movies).
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I am surprised you are getting away with that for Pathfinder. Given the crunch of the system, it seems like you would be spending a lot of session time leveling people up as XP accumulates.

Leveling up happens away from the table. The SRDs and the like help, of course.

I put this in another thread, but to me the price of entry is not that big a deal for our hobby. But the price for a group to change systems is a better measure.

Yep, that's a great point. I'd agree with that!
 

Mishihari Lord

First Post
It kind of depends on your target customer. I'll assume we're not talking about someone recruited into an existing game because then the question is meaningless: there's no cost.

For someone who isn't a gamer in any sense buying the game without being in a group, $20 - $30. This is how I came into the game. At 10 years old I was just starting to get into wargames, saw the D&D ad, and asked for it for Christmas. For someone who isn't into games and wants to try out "that D&D thing," they're going to compare it to board games. Higher and the price seems unreasonable for something you're just trying. Lower and it must not be any good.

For someone into Eurogames or video games, $50 would be the comparative price point.

An equally important question is "How long should the introductory ruleset bet?" In my present circumstance, I'm a lot more concerned about how much time I'll have to spend on a new game before I can get to the fun part than I am about a few bucks. I'd say for a total non-gamer, 10 pages max. For a Eurogamer 30 pages. For a console video game player ... well I had a joke to make here, but this being the internet, I think I'd better refrain.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
It kind of depends on your target customer. I'll assume we're not talking about someone recruited into an existing game because then the question is meaningless: there's no cost.

That's my point. I think that nearly all new gamers are created this way.

For someone who isn't a gamer in any sense buying the game without being in a group, $20 - $30. This is how I came into the game.

I wonder how common that is. I would wager it's rare. I'd guess that the barrier to entry for a brand new gamer - the "entry level" one everyone's talking about - isn't cost. It's getting them interested in the first place.
 

ShadowDenizen

Explorer
That's my point. I think that nearly all new gamers are created this way.

I wonder how common that is. I would wager it's rare. I'd guess that the barrier to entry for a brand new gamer - the "entry level" one everyone's talking about - isn't cost. It's getting them interested in the first place.

Well, that's a valid point, and a whole different question... {Sorry if this veers us off-topic a little, but it's worth discussing; maybe I should rename the thread "What are the barriers to entry for new players"?...}

How are new gamers (esp. younger ones) coming to the tables?
With RPG's being marketed to a decidely older/aging audeince... how is the "Next Generation" of gamers being recruited?

I applaud Paizo for their "Starter Box", and FFG for their "Edge of the Empire" starter box [though realistically both are merely lead-ins to the larger core-book.], but what other companies have "New Player Friendly" quickstart rules or starter sets?
 

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