Let’s talk about RPG manual cost as a barrier to entry. It’s essentially “settled law” that tabletop roleplaying games are a good value for money. When you divide the cost of even the most expensive game manual by the number of players, and again by the number of hours spent reading and playing, it’s less expensive than going to see a movie. This is one of the great selling points of tabletop games, and one of the things that I love most about them as a form of entertainment. If you have a $30 book, and 4 people play 4 times, the cost per person per session is under $2.
That said, cost is still a barrier to entry.
Production costs work the same way. If Wizards of the Coast spends $5000 for a fully-painted cover (and that’s a number pulled out of thin air, just to serve as an example) and they sell 5000 copies of the book, then that adds $1 per book to their production costs. If random game designer that you’ve never heard of spends $5000 on a fully-painted cover so his book can look like Wizards’, and he’s only likely to sell 100 copies, that add $50 per book to his production costs. He can’t sell the book for $30. He either needs to raise the price, or cut production costs.
That $2 per person per session sounds great, but we know that’s not all there is to it. We know that the gamemaster is the one who bore that whole cost when they bought the game. The players likely didn’t chip in. Most players will want their own copy of the book, so dividing the cost per person is sort of disingenuous. We also know that it’s not the only cost involved. At the very least people have dice which, again, become less expensive the more you use them. I know that most players have already invested in about 10 kilograms of dice.
The reality, though, is that you still need to have that money up front. You’re not on a payment plan with your friendly local game shop, tossing them $2 a week, assuming you play every week, until the book is paid off. You need to have that $30, or $50 or $100 or whatever, up front. We’re in some pretty dire times right now. Not everyone has the money, even if they have the time and desire to play.
I cap the price for my books at $10. Multiply that times the number of copies I reasonably expect to sell, and that’s my budget. It’s a fair price point for me as the creator, and I think it’s a fair price point for you as the consumer. You get a game, and I get to pay the rent on time.
Keeping my prices low also means that when people can afford to buy games, they can buy more of them. They can get my game, and your game, and someone else’s game too, for what they’d pay for a big fat hardcover from a larger publisher. It’s more games into the hands of players, and more support for a broader range of creators. Win-win.