RMu in Print?

I have recently been doing a lot of Print on Demand work recently and this set off a train of thought. Coupled with the fact that Ironcrown.com is broken again I started to think about physical copies of RMu.

Obviously, none of us have seen the final texts. Up until last week, it seemed that JDale was still open to making minor changes, based upon Hurin’s Gen Con feedback. So the books cannot be in editing if they are still in flux.

Assuming the text is finalized this week. Nicholas could get this edited in April.

May would be for commissioning art and final text changes.

June art would start coming back and the books could go into layout.

I would suggest that the earliest possible date to see RMu on the shelves is July 2020.

OK, I accept that that is an entirely arbitrary timeline. There is an awful lot of things that can slow it down. But assuming it not far off, we really could see RMu in 2020.

One of the things that got this thought into my head was a book I was preparing for Print on Demand. It was 123 pages and the printing cost would have been $13.12. It was my intention to sell the book for $14.99.

The print costs, in this case, were so high that I had to make a choice between increasing the sales price, to say $19.99 or making almost no money on the sale. The $1.87 profit would be split between DriveThru and me so I was really looking at less and $1.30 per sale.

The PDF has zero overhead costs and sells for $9.99.

The problem is that even selling at $19.99 I would make less money, not more, when offering a physical, and theoretically, premium product.

This book is almost exactly the same dimensions in page layout, page count and paper quality and weight as Navigator RPG will be. Selling a full game for $19.99 make more sense. I can see how that would be desirable. GMs love books.

But what would it cost to buy physical copies of the RMu books?

I am using the old Beta 2 page counts. I would expect the final books to have more pages than the beta books purely because we haven’t seen much taken out but there have been plenty of things added, Creature Law being the exception.

Arms & Character Law

The Beta is 188 pages. The final books will have art and we have seen a few more skills added. The books certainly needed some clearer explanations in places but the text held up pretty well. When I edit the page count often drops by about t10% and by the time you add in the art it typically grows by 10%. So going with the 188 pages there are two formats we could choose.

All previous Arms Laws have had black and white interiors, I have chosen the premium B/W paper.

The softcover, perfect bound Arms Law would cost $11.39, and in hardback, $15.89. That is the printing cost only.

Treasure Law

The next book is TL. It comes in at 339 pages and there have been very few suggested changes to this book, so I think we can go with that page count. Assuming that editing and art don’t shrink or grow it by much either way.

Softcover would be $19.21 and Hardback $23.71.

Spell Law

Rather like TL, I don’t think this will change much. The bulk of the book is the spell lists and even if they are all updated the number of them and format remains constant.

Softcover $26.26, Harback $30.76.

Creature Law

This is the big unknown. We all know that the book has been split into two. I believe I read somewhere that the ‘core monsters’ come in at 600 pages. This would leave about 300 pages left over for Part 2.

All the previous core monster books were about 200 to 300 pages. So it is really hard to estimate. If it is at the bottom end then the cost would be on a par with ACL. If it is up around 300 pages then it would cost about the same as TL. If it is nearer 600 pages, after art is included it would be:

Softcover $32.73 and Hardcover $37.73.

A Full Set

To buy the books you are looking at $75 to $90 simply to print them. Looking at the existing Print on Demand titles, all these figures hold up. The pricing model used by ICE is that they make a typical $5 profit on each physical sale, which adds about $7 to the purchase price. It looks like the full set in print will be a $100 investment.

Where ICE makes its money is on the PDF version of their books. Typically they are set to about 60% of the print cost, in the $15-$18 range. Where most publishers give the PDF for free with a printed book ICE doesn’t. They charge full price for the PDF even when bundled.

Given their [ICE] past pricing structure it looks like RMu will cost about $75 to buy as PDFs, $100 to buy as books and $175 to buy together. ICE would make between $20 for a full set of printed books, $50 for a full set of PDFs and $70 for a full set of bundles.

The last question is, how much money does RMu need to make to be a success?

16 Replies to “RMu in Print?”

  1. The other option open to ICE would be to follow the model used by some other’s in the industry, of trying to get a Kickstarter to fund a traditional printing option. (Onyx Path do this with a lot of their new thing). This would allow the cost of the printing to be covered by those who back the kickstarter, and allow for copies to be available to FLAGS, which would help viability for the game. This of course is only an option

    1. Kickstarters were discussed and rejected, on the forums. I totally agree with you. Offset print runs would reduce the cost per unit dramatically, in exchange for a much higher upfront cost, met by the KS.

      If they can get the backing.

  2. I think ICE (or at least DriveThruRPG) has started to give a bit of a discount when you bundle the hard copy with the PDF. Take for example the Haalkitaine book, a recent release. The non-sale price of the pdf was $20 and the Hardcover $35; bundled, they were $55, so not discount there. But the prices have now been reduced, the cost of the bundle going down to $45 (and the base price of the PDF down to $15). I’m not sure if that is a trend or just a one-shot deal.

    It’s not a big discount, to be sure. But it is a bit of one. Maybe they are listening to you!

    1. There is a bug on DTRPG at the moment that lots of products did not go back to their full price when the GM’s Day sale finished. So it is more likely to be a programming error and no one at ICE has bothered to check their products and pricing in the past month.

  3. I’m not sure I would order the print version straight away. I would wait for the pdf to drop as I am sure there will be numerous corrections flagged up in the first few months post launch. Hopefully these would be addressed quickly, so when the print version is opened up it will have been thoroughly reviewed. I’ve recently done an in-depth readthrough of some HARP books and it looks like there are a number of corrections that have been flagged but still have not been actioned – hopefully RMU will fare better.

    1. I agree. Financially, games that release print and PDF together do better than PDF first, print second.

      Leading with the PDF has the advantage of allowing customers to find the typos, which arguably should have been done prior to release.

  4. I cant look at the ICE sire at the moment, but I seem to remember some reference to a lite version launching alongside the main RMU launch. Maybe getting the light version out into stores, and leaving the full-fat version of RMU as POD, will increase Rolemasters visibility without scaring new players off (as the main rule set will be a more substantial financial investment). I missed the RMX/RMC dual approach to getting physical product out, so I could be wrong here.

    1. There are at least two discussions on Lite editions.
      The first was about 5 years ago. I was suggesting a lite version of RMu but there was a lot push back, the problem being what could be cut out and what was essential. It was generally decided by the developers that it couldn’t be done, as I remember.
      The second discussion was much more recent and it was a highlighting of 13Mann Verlag’s lite version of Rolemaster. They didn’t get the memo that says that condensed versions of Rolemaster were too difficult

      The RMX/RMC model was brilliant. It was a much more nimble approach to getting the books out.

  5. I keep looking at the Chivalry & Sorcery kickstarter and how well it’s worked out; it has resulted in good quality prints going out to the backers, and indeed this has carried through to the company store now selling the book in print format for new customers. If RMU is well implemented it could really turn things up a notch for ICE.

    1. It certainly can be done. The thing is, if you go looking for C&S online, you can easily talk to the writers, the publishers, other players. They are active on discord, on twitter and Facebook.
      No one can sit in a bunker and expect people to throw money at them.

  6. Excellent analysis; thank you for those numbers. As an aside, as a guess, do you expect Black and White Hard/Soft/PDF like HARP?

    Optimistically, I’d be ecstatic for AL&CL, Spell Law sales in excess of 500 in the first year (both print and PDF), with TL and CL half of that. However, putting the reality helmet on, I’d expect less than half of that, with less than a 1/4 of that through things like ERA and VTT’s like Fantasy Grounds.

    And even given the pricing (which I expect to higher(*)), I’m cautiously hopeful that there is pent up demand for the first NEW Rolemaster version (arguably (**)) since RMSS 25 years ago (13 since RM Express).

    Lastly, I too wish ICE would offer a premium/special edition version of the rules. We’ve seen that in the past, for example several books (Spell Law, C&T, HARP) bound in black cloth or leather. (Noble Knight Games lists several).

    (*) I dug into DtRPG and did some calculations based on HARP’s print costs. I show ICE’s B/W Hardcovers selling at 19 cents a page (all HARP btw), with SoftCover B/W selling at 15. Funnily enough (and perhaps a warning to me), I have the cost per page of Mr. Amthor’s last three Hardcover’s (Std Color) at 15 cents (the same as B/W costs for HARP).

    (**) I know, it’s overselling it a bit. =)

    1. When I write I tend to aim for 20 cents per page and then round to the nearest dollar ninety-nine, those per page prices are not far out.

      I really want there to be a lot of interest in the new version of RMu. Now is the best time ever to release a game, if you embrace the current landscape. We need to see advanced copies in the hands of actual play streamers on Twitch. We need Nicholas or the face of Rolemaster on every podcast, in every magazine and on every blog.

      That is how we will know RMu is ready, because everyone will be talking about it, six weeks or two months before anyone can buy it.

    2. I personally doubt there will be special editions of the books. Those all dated back to the previous incarnation of ICE before the latest, and I seem to recall there were massive problems with people never actually getting the books they’d paid for.

  7. The discussion around RMU in print has made me think about the format/layout of the new books. My introduction to RM was the RM2 (blue) box and tbh I found it a challenge to get to grips with. It was only after I read MERP that I really got the concepts (and was able to go back fully absorb RM). However I found the RMFRP book to be well organised and logical, so would imagine someone picking it up cold could probably follow it. My hope is that RMU is laid out in such a way that clarity is prioritised over reducing page count. One simple example is for professions – give each profession it’s own page/half page for description and a nicely formatted box for skill costs.. and keep any master skill cost grid for an appendix.

  8. Egdcltd: You’re probably right; certainly feel for those who got caught on the short side of the stick.

    Ylisa: Full page Professions would be nice. WFRP 4th’s Core rule book dedicates a single, full color page to each Career, and each has a unique color illustration. Quite stunning, but I think it’d be a cold day in **** before we ever saw that in RM. =D It takes a LOT of art to fill that kind of space(*); heck WFRP career art covers at least ~40% of the Career page in many cases. Besides, RM is a generic RPG and I’ve always seen all the character flavor and color coming from skills, setting, culture, background etc… not from the verbiage that the core profession provides.
    I’m hoping for more filled out skills. I like that RMU has specific maneuver tables for each skill category, but I’d like to see that expanded by having standard category modifiers as well (similar to how ‘School of Hard Knocks’ does it). Frankly similar to the “Lighting & Visibility” table in RMu Beta 2 document. I find it helps enormously in consistent application of the skill.

    (*) We know they have their conservative heads in the sand about it, but it is EXACTLY this kind of thing that an art focused Kickstarter could provide.

  9. Reality Check:

    A 264 page Full Color Hardcover Book (eg. FFG Genesys, US Product) sells for 49.99€ (SRP) at FLAGS here in Europe, with some online shops allowing some price spans up to 90€ (w/free shipping), i got mine at 52€. PS: the PDF costs extra.

    The 2d20 Conan Full Color Hardcover (408 pages, UK Product) retails for £34.99 GBP (39€, from the online shop), i got mine for 49€ from FLAGS. If ordering online, the PDF is a free download.

    The HeXXen 1733 Full Color Hardcover (250 pages, DE Product) retails for 39.95€, The PDF is 9.99€ from DTRPG.

    Raw printing cost from a printer here in Germany/Austria with 264 pages
    (FCHCB, includes free shipping to one address):
    @10 = 25€/Book
    @100 = 21€/Book
    @500 = 17€/Book

    my 2c

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