View Full Version : A Crazy Idea for the Guild

The Cartographist
03-25-2008, 07:20 PM
So after reading Torq's thread about Thinking Big, I've let my mind wander. I know that hosting this site costs money, and I recall reading old threads wherein Arcana was asking for donations to pay for software (I think). More recently, there have been a couple comments regarding ways to harness the collective power of the Guild, Torq's thread being the most recent.

Why doesn't the Guild enter the fantasy publishing field--at least as a publisher of pdfs?

I realize that the pdf market is a tricky beast, but my own experience shows (as does Terrainmonkey's) that a small pdf with some decent maps and good production value can make a small (but real) amount of money. (I'm sure that those of us who roleplay are probably aware of Enworld's Burning Sky adventure arc as an example of a similar site entering the market.)

I propose a pdf, or series of pdfs, or several different product lines of pdfs, that use maps and other materials from members of the Guild, gathered into a coherent format, and sold on RPGNow.com or any of the other sites out there there sell pdfs. It can be structured such that there is one "project manager" and several contributing cartographers/writers. Once on sale, the PM gets a small percentage of the profits, each contributor gets a small percentage, and the Guild (whose name is plastered across the front) gets a certain percentage. The Guild (who, I guess, I really mean Arcana) uses the money to pay for the site upkeep and hosting. Another advantage is that money now exists for the Guild to expand in other ways beyond merely just the forum site that we have now.

Success (at least at the beginning) does not mean making a lot of money (which isn't realistic anyway). Success of this venture in my mind is measured by our ability to limit out-of-pocket expenses for administrators in keeping the site alive and running (and growing) while creating products that we ourselves would buy if we weren't involved in their creation whose production values we can be proud of.

I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I'll stop now to hear what others think.

03-25-2008, 09:10 PM
Well, why not roll Torq's ThinkBig world into the mix and make pdf adventures within that world ? GamerPrinter was saying how we share this site with adventure writers and why not collaborate ? I wouldn't want the site to turn into some factory for it but right now theres no collaborative efforts going on at all and no avenue to pitch in with that. Even if it made no money at all I would think it worth looking into.

The Cartographist
03-26-2008, 03:33 AM
Redrobes - Couldn't agree more, but I do have one thought.

There is a (perhaps small) market out there for maps-only products, and we (collectively) are really good at maps. I think that we should start at that level.

Stretching the project into actual adventures removes us somewhat from our expertise and into a realm where it is (IMO) much harder to do it really well.

03-26-2008, 06:55 AM
I'm still new here, but I'm going to offer my two cents anyway.

I've wanted to get into a project similar to this for a long time. I think that while the focus should remain on the maps themselves, there is always room to flesh things out. I don't believe that fully realized adventures are necessarily the way to go, as you are then limiting yourself to a specific rules system. I do think that detailed descriptions of important places and people, including their histories and motivations, would be an inspiring source for any motivated DM.

In short, the guild provides the fluff, and the DM supplies the crunch.

I really hope all that made sense. :)

03-26-2008, 09:51 AM
Excellent idea, Tim. Perhaps we should see how Torq's scheme goes? I don't mean to sound negative but it's just in my experience 'big' projects which are carried out by volunteers, usually start with a lot of enthusiasm and fire and then either get mired by a lot of discussion about how to do something (rather than going ahead and doing it) or people lose interest and drift away. Content high projects like these need a project manager with a really sharp vision and contributors who do not take offence if their content is edited by the PM.

03-26-2008, 12:10 PM
If you're planning to do this. You should start small. I've worked on several projected based in virtual communities like this. And they all end premature because some members bail out. So if you start it make sure you can finish it alone or with somebody you know really good (in real life preferably). Then when you've ended some small projects with succes you can try bigger ones. People need to see result if you want to keep them on the project.

If you're going to do this. I can do some adventure writing. But not alone, I need to work with some native speakers.

03-26-2008, 12:32 PM
This very discussion (or one similar to it) has come up numerous times in the community leader discussions...And every time it comes up I start leaning towards it. There's a few problems with it though...

A) I'm not a businessman, just a guy with a hosting plan and bandwidth
B) I'm not a lawyer nor do I have access to one
C) All of the above in regards to international issues since this site caters to everyone

To do this I'd basically end up turning this into a business that will have to pay taxes more than likely, and keep records as well as ensure I have legal protection from disputes over content rights and publishing rights and monetary exchanges.

At this point it sounds great to say hey all, lets make maps and adventures and sell them to the world to make money for the guild...and the very real problem with that is that when you say that you are saying...lets make Robbie some money...which while I am totally flattered that you'd want to do that...I'm pretty sure you wouldn't expect that to continue to be a one-way venture...eventually, if not right frm the start I'm going to have to start paying people for their work so I can publish it and make money off of it...even if the money isn't even profitting me, only helping the site stay afloat, there's still the issue of rights and pay. How long would you guys make maps for me to publish and make money off of? Not long I imagine.

Also there's staffing issues...at this point, Its me running the website side of things...and my community leaders run the community side of things...I'd have to bring in additional site admins, possibly programmers, and of course the aforementioned lawyer, all of which are going to want a cut of the sites proceeds and all of which are going to require tax information and employee or contractee legal processing.


Keep in mind...I'm not saying any of the above is impossible...Its just a lot more daunting and involved than saying "lets sell pdf's to help pay for the site". Your hearts are in the right place, and it honors me greatly...

Because of that honor, I'm going to start digging into this...I'm going to start with what I consider my mentor site (CGSociety) and see if I can get in touch with their administration and find out what they had to do to get things rolling...That site basically does exactly what I'd like to do.

Thanks go to you all...I'll keep ya posted ;)

03-26-2008, 01:02 PM
If I were you I start looking at your product first. Have you ever created a map pack? or a d20 adventure? d20 is nice, because you can use the rules if you do it right. That's not terrible difficult. I can help you with that.

I think it's a good start to see if we can do it for free. Under a Creative Commons Licence for example. see here for licences (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/)

Then if this is succesfull, you can see if there is some money in it.

03-26-2008, 01:15 PM
Now that I'm all for...definitely.

03-26-2008, 01:35 PM
the d20 system has it's own license (http://www.opengamingfoundation.org/). If we for example make a pdf. All the d20 stuff we use for it should be in a box. Everything in the box is published under the terms of the Open Gaming License. For all other work we could use the normal copyright or a Creative Commons Licence.

03-26-2008, 04:07 PM
Theres some good points here.

First let me reply to the point above about content. I would only be interested in making maps or at most some short descriptions but not so much in the style of a full module and I think most of us are leaning that way in this guild. But I thought be we co-joined at the hips with a group who has more interest in the writing and back story so thats where I thought the module aspect would come from.

In terms of site design w.r.t selling modules I would not think that we need worry about that as RPGNow et al handle all of that. You are right about the money tho in that it would have to be accounted maybe even taxed. Personally I don't give a hoot about the money as I know its going to be very little. Maybe Arcana is right in that if we were shifting many hundreds+ of free modules then there would be more temptation to charge. The difference in take up between stuff thats free and very cheap but not free is drastic tho believe me.

To have a physical product has its downsides too. Unless we have somebody who can print on demand or run small quantity then you end up with stock which has to be stored, posted and accounted for. The digital route is much easier and you can update or make changes to it.

The licensing issues is a little more tricky too. Some applications restrict some content based on it so you would have to be sure that you were able to use the art correctly. Most shared art has a requirement for non-commercial use. I have stated that anyone can use icons from my set as they wish as part of a map but the downloads from the site are creative commons with non-commercial attribution & share-alike. So fine for the CC content but not if you charge for it. I don't know if Kepli is listening to add whether DJ & CC2/3 art is likewise but I see a lot of that on these maps too.

and I am in full agreement with keeping it small to start. When your faced with a large amount of work it can seem very daunting. The skill most required more than any artistic type is just sheer tenacity. Its just so easy to give up on it.

03-26-2008, 05:36 PM
CC3 issues for maps is very....liberal, with their licenses.

The way it was explained to me is as follows:

A CC3 map is like a printed document. You have the right to make and sell the document using the program, but instead of FONTS you have IMAGES. As long as you are only selling the final Image of the finished map and not providing access to the 'fonts' you are OK. Lots of smaller companies out their using CC3 to make and sell map packs, or even image libraries for use with that software (i.e. MS and ADOBE Does not care if I write a document, and then sell said document in WORD or PDF format, as long as I do not provide licensed material/intellectual property to others who did not pay for it).

Does that make sense?

03-26-2008, 07:01 PM
But when you download new IMAGES for CC3. The owner of those images may not be so liberal? I believe this is the answer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_patent#Computer_Images

04-01-2008, 01:35 PM
Here is the pertinent text straight out of the License agree for ALL official Profantasy Files (programs, symbol sets, etc):


This update includes a large amount of symbols, fill-styles and other artwork in a variety of file formats (OUR ARTWORK). This section sets out how you can distribute maps containing OUR ARTWORK.

(i) Subject to the restrictions in section ii and iii, you may freely distribute the maps you create using OUR ARTWORK in CC3 format, but not the source image files (PNG and bitmap artwork) associated with them. You may freely distribute flat files (for example BMP and PNG) exported from CC3 containing OUR ARTWORK. You may publish such maps for commercial gain.

(ii) You may not redistribute any map that in our sole opinion is, or appears to be, for the purpose of disseminating OUR ARTWORK. Think of your maps as documents, and our symbols as fonts. You can print a document containing Times New Roman font, but you can't give the font file away, or produce a "font book".

(iii) You may not produce commercial products which consist predominantly of floorplan-resolution exports of OUR ARTWORK without written permission from ProFantasy Software Ltd. This includes but is not limited to PDF tiles.

04-08-2008, 07:15 PM
Excellent idea, Tim. Perhaps we should see how Torq's scheme goes? I don't mean to sound negative but it's just in my experience 'big' projects which are carried out by volunteers, usually start with a lot of enthusiasm and fire and then either get mired by a lot of discussion about how to do something (rather than going ahead and doing it) or people lose interest and drift away. Content high projects like these need a project manager with a really sharp vision and contributors who do not take offence if their content is edited by the PM.

I have had a similar, albeit singular, experience with a community design project. As I saw it, there were two problems that seemed to crop up. The first is a question of maintaining enthusiasm in order to avoid key participant drop out.

The second is a bit more difficult. The most enthusiastic members of a project also seem to have very strong ideas about what the project results look like. So, there can be a lot of potential for conflict between the key producers. In opinion, this is even worse than the slow attrition of the folks that are interested in the concept but not necessarily into producing a lot of results.

I have some ideas about how to deal with both of these, but they're wholely untested.

04-10-2008, 09:16 PM
I, for one, would be glad to entertain your ideas, especially since the collaborative worldbuilding project is chugging along at a good pace. So do share!

The Cartographist
04-18-2008, 10:19 AM
All - I've given this a lot of thought, especially concerning Arcana's concerns. I would propose the following:

Rather than have Arcana worry about any of those things, a third party publisher could produce material with the Cartographer's Guild logo stamped on the front with material provided by the artists from the guild. The third party publisher would handle artists and their compensation including contracting, track all of the accounting, and then provide to Arcana a "licencing fee" to be formally and contractually agreed upon between Arcana and the publisher. Contracts would be signed between each artist and the publisher (in the same way as all work is done in the industry right now) stipulating compensation, copywrite, etc.

I would think that the artist would maintain the copywrite in his name, which would be clearly documented in the product.

For a given product, the compensation split could be:
- 25% to the publisher for putting the whole thing together.
- 25% to Arcana in the form of a "licensing fee".
- 50% to the group of artists who contributed, split proportionally to their contribution.
Although these are numbers just off of my head. Perhaps it could go 20/20/60 or 25/35/40 or some other.

The whole original purpose of this idea was to help defray the costs that Arcana bears in running the website, which, while I don't think are considerable, are real. Likewise, the earnings from such a venture probably wouldn't be huge anyway.

Another positive side-effect of doing this would be more advertising for the guild to continue our growth with new members, etc. And, perhaps there are other areas into which the Guild might want to expand that would also cost money; the decision to embark in something like that would be much easier if there were a ready source of funding.

Anyway, I have looked at a lot of stuff out there, especially stuff that is sold on RPGNow.com, and some of the other sites. The quality of many of the "amatuers" here in the Guild is as strong as some of the stuff that is available commercially. The money is not huge (I don't think that anyone really does any of this stuff for the money), but it is there, and I believe that it could be made to the benefit of all of us.

04-18-2008, 11:43 AM
I think Lulu do publishing...the Traveller community uses them but I have no idea what their terms are.

04-18-2008, 03:20 PM
ya know I work for a printing company that does quite a bit of on demand printing and has a well developed e-business group

but the one thing i think that kills most of these endeavors is the lack of a good plan.

first make sure you have a good product that people will want
make sure it is legal to distribute print and sell it.
develop a plan that will be beneficial to you and a printer/distributor
use a printer printing that can do fulfillment, storing several copies on site and distributing when an order comes through.
there will be printing charges, storage charges, fulfillment charges, shipping, composition, and web development/ebusiness charges

so make sure there is enough interest or you will loose you shirt

how about some free adventure modules for download
and you could track how much interest that develops before leaping off a cliff

although nothing worth doing is without risk

anyway just some random fragmented thoughts

04-20-2008, 05:31 PM
all good points... perhaps we should do some free adventure modules or even a catalog of ten user maps.. or compile the last few challenge winners into a volume for download... see how it runs...