Edit: I’ve received a comment from someone associated with 13th Age (see the comment on this post) explaining that a big part of the reason they’re doing what they’re doing is to keep retailers happy. While I know some people have no sympathy for retailers and their desires, I’m not among them. I understand this decision in light of wanting 13th Age to have support from retailers, so I’m ultimately okay with it (even though it may well mean that I never get into the game).
The original post follows.
I’ve posted about this on Twitter a few times now, but I thought it was finally time to put these thoughts into a short blog post.
I’m a relatively new RPG player and GM, compared to most. I had a little exposure to D&D 3.0 over 10 years ago, and then I got really into D&D 4th Edition about three years ago. Now with the winding down of support for 4e, I’m available to be wooed by a new game. Sure, I’m devoting most of my game time to board games now, but I still like RPGs.
This is where 13th Age is frustrating me with a business decision. I had heard vaguely about the game in the summer of 2012, but I was neck-deep in development of Chaos & Alchemy at the time so I didn’t get involved (I think there was a pre-order campaign rather than a Kickstarter, but I’m not sure). I do understand that the game has some things that are likely to appeal to a 4e fan like me, so I’m interested in learning about it and trying it out.
Unfortunately, I can’t. See, I’m not looking for more physical RPG books. I have enough of those. I have an iPad now, and I much prefer to read my RPG books on that. If I try a game and decide I’m passionate about it, then sure, I might buy a hardcover book to show my support and to have something collectible, but I want to start with the PDF.
Is the problem that 13th Age is only available in physical form? No, they have a PDF.
Is the PDF not ready yet? No, it’s out there.
Are they not willing to get it in the hands of fans? No, they give it to you for free… IF you pre-order the hard copy book.
And there’s the problem. I don’t want the physical book. I only want the PDF. And I’m willing to buy it! I’m just not willing to pay the hard copy book price just for the PDF.
The 13th Age folks (Pelgrane Press) have announced on their web site that they’ll start selling the standalone PDF in September, but not before. I get what they’re hoping for; they’re hoping that people who are only interested in the PDF might be willing to bite the bullet and spring for the full book. Which I’m not.
So what does this mean for me? Well, it means that I can’t check out 13th Age for a couple more months yet.
And yes, I’m aware that it probably wouldn’t be hard to get the PDF through shady means, but I have no interest in that approach. I want to give these people my money!
The reason I write this at all is to contrast it with Fate Core, another alternative RPG that could woo a guy like me. I got in on the Fate Core Kickstarter campaign for ten bucks, because that was the PDF level. But even if I had missed the Kickstarter campaign, I could go to the Fate Core web site right now and download the PDF on a pay-what-you-want basis.
Now, I’m not saying that 13th Age has to be as radically open as Fate Core is (but kudos to Fred Hicks for doing so with his company’s game). If I could go to the 13th Age web site, give them ten bucks and download a PDF, I would have already done so WEEKS ago.
But I can’t. They won’t let me.
This makes it extremely likely that 13th Age will just pass me by. I’m ripe for persuasion to try a new game right now, and 13th Age is quite possibly the best fit for my interests. But since Fate Core is available in the form I’m seeking and 13th Age isn’t, it’s likely that if I want a D&D alternative, I’m going with Fate Core. (Also, I’ve read the Fate Core PDF, and I think it looks like a lot of fun.)
It’s a shame, but so it goes.
Michael Iachini, the OnlineDM