Pricing and marketing the Nibelungs

I’m getting closer to publishing my game, In the Realm of the Nibelungs, so here’s my current thinking on pricing and marketing (phrased for, though not yet published on the game’s blog):


My game’s [planned] price is €6,50.

You’ll get five documents (S&WCL, Im Reich der Nibelungen, the optional booklet Rheingold, a GM Screen, and the introductory adventure Sterben muss Gunther), either digitally or printed & stapled. The latter option will only be available at conventions or possibly a local game store because I don’t want the hassle of shipping a physical product. Maybe DriveThruRPG will offer a print option.

I’m not interested in making money but I’m proud of my creation and believe it’s well worth the price.

If you agree to do a review, you can have my game for free. If you don’t get around to reading or reviewing it after all, no sweat and no obigation to pay (unless you play) – I appreciate the thought. Also, I’m going to link to / publish all reviews, even if they are lukewarm or negative. No worries — the game won’t be to everyone’s taste and that’s okay.

[I wonder if I should say “no sweat, you can just pay me”…]


I enjoy discussing my game online and obviously I’d love to see people play it. However, I’m not interested in spending my free time on marketing it. Apart from posting on my regular internet haunts [i.e. a Discord where Eero Tuovinen and his circle hang out, Adept Play, and two small forums] and continuing to play it with friends face-to-face, I merely plan on running it online, at conventions or possibly a local game store for strangers, new acquaintances or friends.

[I have never run a game at a convention or game store, so this will be exciting new territory. My game’s turning out really well and I look forward to running it for others.]

7 responses to “Pricing and marketing the Nibelungs”

  1. We should probably set some rules for talking about this. Adept Play is absolutely not for conferencing, socializing, or surveying about publishing options or pricing, and it’s not for raw promotion.

    However, Independent publishing is indeed a category here, so some kind of discussion must be possible. You’ve provided some facts about what you and want and intend, and I can think of a few ways I might proceed. If any looks OK to you, let me know, just one for now at least.

    1. Economic pitfalls which turn self-publishing into a nightmare.
    2. As above, but social.
    3. Staying focused on play rather than purchase.
    4. Managing inspiration and revision.

  2. All right! Social pitfalls which turn self-publishing into a nightmare.

    I’m not going to provide an essay or diatribe. I’m more interested in how you process the topic. To help, here are some claims or thoughts which you can assess for how they relate. I’d like to know. If they don’t, or if you think of something similar which matters, provide your own. Whatever you provide, I’ll respond with a comparison with my own experience, merely for companionship, not intended to correct or instruct.

    1. External: others’ entitlement regarding how good it is (as if that’s your problem), what you should put in it (prior to publishing, e.g., friends’ “help,” Kickstarter comments), what you should write and publish next, how you should provide it or sell it, and really, anything else that oversteps a pretty basic boundary. Notably, one’s sense of the boundary is easily eroded during this process, although that’s more of a #2 issue.

    2. Internal: arrogance regarding new status as “designer” or “publisher,” a false sense of status among people who subculturally identify with the publication, engaging with online and social media buzz, developing an online persona, people-pleasing, internalizing what this buzz purports to want or like.

    3. In both cases, losing touch with play: most obviously ceasing to do it, or similarly, playing only in terms of demo and promotion.

  3. External:

    Over Christmas, I ran my introductory adventure for the third time, online with a mixed group of old friends and new acquaintances. None had played _In the Realm of the Nibelungs_ with me before (or for many years, for that matter). In the post-game chat, I was a bit surprised about how much criticism was leveled at my game and my adventure.

    (Dunno if having tagged the event as a playtest contributed to or triggered this behaviour.)

    However, I was also surprised at my own reaction: I was relaxed and comfortable. If this had happened early in my design process, I might well have second-guessed my choices and, god forbid, started to chase these and future players’ approval.

    (One example: Two people were unhappy with how little impact the 3d6 stat line had on play. I could and did empathize with this but felt no need to defend my choice — which I continue to be very happy with and which the criticism did in fact confirm as just right: I *want* the ability scores to be little more than an oracle to help with visualizing one’s character. You want to achieve something in my game, let’s see some canny tactics and bold action.)


    I’m keeping my expectations low, deliberately so. I’m even wondering if I am self-sabotaging and should market my game more.

    As it is, I’ll celebrate 1, 3, 6 and 10 copies sold (to strangers) and will consider myself lucky to reach that many people.

    (I think my game rocks, but I see no way to bring it to people’s attention that doesn’t entail spending money or work I’m not interested in. So be it. I wrote it for myself and my current creative needs anyway.)

    Arrogance is not unknown to me, though: I used to be a highly effective player in Quake 3 back in the day (in a niche and on public servers, so nothing to brag about) and it did go to my head: I cultivated a white knight persona (relishing turning the tide for beleaguered teams) and was arrogant about it more than once. Here comes your savior, deigning to join you losers and gift you a victory (or nobly go down with you). Yuck.

    I am using a pen name (i.e. Johann Mitland) online and for _In the Realm of the Nibelungs_, which increases the risk of creating a persona, so being arrogant or inauthentic is something to watch out for.

    • For my part, I found sudden liberation in shutting down all processing after playing something I’m working on. (1) Play finishes, (2) someone inhales deeply, preparing for their little feedback speech, (3) I say “good-bye!” and leave. Part of my course The Ronnies includes direct training including this concept, for people to try – and a lot of them are astonished at the positive outcomes for what they thought would be mean or less useful. (I’ve actually diminished post-play processing in general too, but that’s not as relevant here.)

      Regarding the marketing, I see no problem with posting a buy-link in these comments, when it’s ready. I mean, no guarantees of raving hordes, but I do know many people have enjoyed the consulting sessions and look forward to the game – and most people here are happy to reference games they’re playing in discussions here and elsewhere, which is the best & healthiest promotion.

    • I circle the feedback issue a lot. I hang out with a local crowd of people who like to design games. The range of motivation for making games is the full spectrum from “I make games for fun” to “I want this to be my next career move”. Having taken the Ronnies class and done the “no feedback” exercise, I find it valuable and have mentioned it to them. Surprisingly, I’m not met with hostility but an intrigued curiosity.

      What I see with the “I make games for fun crowd” types, feedback is simply an enjoyable extension of the social experience. They’ve brought this thing they made and they WANT to talk about it after they’ve played it. To not talk about it is like leaving a three course meal before dessert or walking out of a movie just as the last act starts. The experience is not socially complete without the after discussion.

      With the “this is my next career move” type feedback is an important part of marketability and product viability. They often advocate getting the game into as diverse and as many people as possible for the widest possible amount of feedback. I know these are largely things the community of Adept Play is unconcerned with but one point they bring up sometimes gives me pause: accessibility.

      They frequently want to know what a diverse range of people with marginalized experiences think of the game. They want to know what non-white people think, people who live in oppressive societies, disabled people, LGBTQIA people, poor people, young people, old people… and so on. They want to know if there’s anything they could do with the game, even if only in presentation, to make the game more approachable, usable, and relatable to these people. That goal doesn’t seem horrendous to me. Though sometimes it strikes me as patronizing.

      For myself, I think it is often useful to know how people emotionally react to the game. What did they feel? What did they enjoy? What didn’t they enjoy? In the “no feedback” exercise of the Ronnies I think the take-away was that you can get much of that through play alone. So in some ways, I’m saying I like it when we continue the reflection on play even after we’ve finished. It isn’t brainstorming or problem-solving. Just giving voice to things you might have said during play but didn’t for whatever reason.

      I posted here about my game Haunted: I talk about a common piece of feedback I get: the murderer player feels trapped. Which has always been, in my mind, a fine thing. The game, to some extent, is about being trapped. But Ron said something in his reply about the possibility of the murderer player feeling like they exist only to dodge consequences. Also my wife, who doesn’t even play these games, once said to me while I was describing the game, “It doesn’t sound like your murderer has very many friends.”

      It occurred to me that the entire social landscape of the murderer consists only of people who want things from him. Literally, everyone outside the murderer only sees him as someone who can fulfill a need or fix a problem. No one actually cares about the murderer as a person. I’m not sure I would have noticed this if those three points of view had not been shared with me. One from play. One from observing my notes on play. And one outside of play entirely.

      Notice, no one here tried to offer me solutions. What I choose to do about this, if anything, remains wholly my own. But having heard it was revelatory and invaluable.

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