Do you read RPG news? Like most of the games and accessories that make up tabletop roleplaying games, producing it is a labor of love, and by “labor of love,” I mean it costs money. If you click on any major media online news site, you’ll see walls of ads along with paywalls requiring you to buy a subscription to know what’s going on in the wider world. Reporting the news costs. Just like those websites, RPG news sites have costs that have to be defrayed including paying for the site, site upgrades, the journalists, the editors, any budget to cover conventions or specific stories, and more. Without bombarding you with ads (BleedingCool) or creating a paywall (ICv2), how is reporting the stories that impact your gaming table paid for? To answer that, I review three RPG news sites and how they keep the lights on. This is not an in-depth examination of their finances or records, instead this piece looks at the visible and public means by which they pay for their works.
- EN World (My work for them can be found here)
- Open Gaming Network (OGN) (My work for them can be found here)
This site is one of the largest RPG news sites in the English-reading world, with content focused on D&D and Pathfinder, as well as other TTRPGs. The site is part of EN Publishing, which produced several well-funded Kickstarters including the recent success, Judge Dredd and the World of 2000 AD RPG.
How is EN World funded? The easiest way to see how the site makes a return is via ads. Like all of the sites that I’ll mention in this article, EN World makes use of game-related banner ads that generate revenue through views/impressions/clicks. Beyond that, there are more direct methods that fund EN World including contributions via Patreon. The following Patreons represent a variety of content from journalism to podcasts to games:
- EN World Patreon : Creating RPG articles. As a reward for being a Patreon, you’ll get to see some articles before they’re published on EN World.
- EN5ider : Creating D&D 5th Edition supplements and adventures at very reasonable rates.
- TRAILseeker : Creating Pathfinder and Starfinder RPG supplements while keeping costs low.
- EONS : Creating the official magazine of the WOIN roleplaying game system. WOIN is the EN Publishing house system, and the engine on which the new Judge Dredd and the World of 2000 AD RPG runs.
- MORRUS’ UNOFFICIAL TABLETOP RPG TALK (Patreon here, podcast here) : A weekly free podcast of the major RPG news bits from the prior week, a game of guess the Kickstarter, skits, and, occasionally, industry guests.
- One Page Adventures for DnD : Morrus’ newest Patreon “creating one or two one-page adventures for DnD each month.”
Beyond Patreons, EN Publishing’s finished content is available through DriveThruRPG here.
Clearly, there are many ways to support EN Publishing, but what’s the best way to support articles on EN World? Of those, the primary option is their EN World Patreon. Contributions to that Patreon go directly to funding the articles you enjoy on EN World.
This site is the hub for John Reyst’s family of Open Gaming sites including the Open Gaming Store and his massive collection of SRDs for different games. What sites does John support? d20PFSRD, Starjammer SRD, 3.5e SRD, 5th Edition SRD, Swords and Wizardry SRD, Black Hack SRD, 13th Age SRD, d20HeroSRD, The Modern Path SRD, Dungeon World SRD, Traveller SRD, GumshoeSRD, FateCoreSRD, FudgeSRD as well as the Open Gaming Network.
With that many sites, the better question might be: how does he pay for all of them? Like the other websites on this list, the sites draw some revenue from game-centric ads. Beyond that, there’s a few other options:
- Open Gaming Store : A TTRPG-specific online store that allows vendors to sale their products while taking a small commission per sale. Any sale made via the OGS leads to revenue that keeps the OGN and SRD sites going. Currently, their rates are listed as “20% on digital (downloadable) products or 30% on physical products that WE ship.” [Source]
- d20PFSRD.com Patreon : This Patreon allows you to direct-fund the whole of the Open Gaming Network’s variety of sites and, at certain levels, provides you with discounts to the OGS and/or access to all of the d20PFSRD.com Publishing material.
- d20PFSRD.com content is available on DriveThruRPG here : There’s a mantra that’s something like, “Be where your customers are.” d20PFSRD.com Publishing could only sale through the OGS, but they want to be available to their fans so they decided to cast a wider net and appear on DTRPG.
With those choices, what is the best way to support the Open Gaming Network? Direct contributions to their Patreon ensure that they can continue to create new content for the games you love while delivering some RPG news. Alternately, if you’re not able to contribute monetarily, but still want to assist, the Open Gaming Network is looking for OGL/SRD transcribers and compensating them for their efforts. To learn the details, click here.
Like the prior RPG sites, RPGnet makes use of ads to support its content. Beyond rotating ads, RPGnet focuses on curating sponsors and patrons that fit with its culture and direction. These sponsors include some well-known game companies and services:
- Skotos Tech : “Skotos Tech offers a theater for multiplayer interactive fiction. It hosts a community of StoryPlayers, who enjoy playing in other people’s worlds, and StoryBuilders, who enjoy creating worlds for them. Skotos’ technology, in the form of the StoryBuilder Server, brings them together.” [Source]
- DriveThruRPG : “DriveThruRPG.com is part of a family of premiere online marketplaces including
RPGNow[closing soon], DriveThruRPG, DriveThruCards, DMsGuild, DriveThruComics, DriveThruFiction, and Wargame Vault. Together, we have been selling digital and print-on-demand comic books, roleplaying games, and fiction since 2001.” [Source]
- Scabard : “A freemium website for organizing RPG campaigns.” [Source]
Beyond those sponsors, there are fan contributions gathered through their annual Indiegogo campaign. Until December 19th, RPGnet 2018 Membership Drive is live on Indiegogo allowing backers to contribute to improving RPGnet. Backing this campaign not only supports RPGnet, it can grant you a set of 10 RPG PDFs:
[NOTE: This crowdfunding campaign ended on December 19th, 2018.]
- Pelgrane Press’ Book of Ages for 13th Age
- Pelgrane Press’ Loot Harder for 13th Age
- Rogues Games’ Embrace for 5E
- Flying Buffalo’s T&T Adventures Japan for Tunnels & Trolls
- Legendary Games’ Legendary Planet for Starfinder
- Arc Dream’s The Unspeakable Oath #25
- Rogue Games’ 3e Colonial Gothic Rulebook
- Rogue Games’ Colonial Gothic Atlas
- Rogue Games’ adventure Flames of Freedom: Beginnings
- Posthuman Studio’s Transhumanity’s Fate: The Fate Conversion Guide for Eclipse Phase
- And a membership to RPGnet
Though ads and affiliations pay some of our costs, we are picky about which ads and ad networks we use, so that we can maintain high-quality ads that are likely to be of interest and that won’t distract our readers. We’ve opted out of high-value ads that include audio, that expand, or that are placed as interstitials between pages. We forbid dating ads, gambling ads, gold-farming ads, political ads, and certain other categories of advertising.
As a result, we occasionally ask RPGnet readers to become members, in order to help support the community. We’ve done this on a somewhat ad hoc basis in the past, but now that crowdfunding has matured, we’ve turned to IndieGoGo for our annual RPGnet Membership Drive.
We hope that you’ll join us, and help to support the RPGnet community.