Monday, October 29, 2012

Print on Demand: a review whether you like it or not

As I've previously written, White Wolf/Onyx Path (one of my favorite RPG producers) has gone to a "digital first" model. This means that they will publish all their books in pdf first, then produce a print-on-demand (PoD) version of the pdf. Occasionally, they run Kickstarters for special editions of their books. So far, they've been doing this pretty successfully; their rate at getting books to the PoD stage is almost instantaneous, and I've been supporting (and enjoying) every Vampire-related Kickstarter they've done.

I'll reiterate my gripes, though: I don't like their current neglect of "brick-and-mortar" shops even though they've stated their disbelief in the traditional method of distribution. They state that they're working on finding a way to include game shops in their current model, but so far nothing's come of that. I may come across as biased, being an employee of a game shop, but you'll have to give me the benefit of the doubt when I say that I'd feel the same even if I wasn't an employee of a games shop. Games shops have always been a part of my hobby "career," both as a marketplace, and as a community center of sorts, and I work at one because I think they're great, not the other way around.

Also, pdfs are irritating. I've bought pdfs (mostly as a by-product of buying PoD products) and I've only skimmed them. I've never sat down and read a pdf gaming product. This might change if I ever bought an iPad or other tablet, but even with my brand new smartphone, I don't relish reading one. I have them to whet my appetite until my PoD arrives.

On to the meat of this article: Vampire: the Requiem Blood Sorcery

I ordered this book on Friday, September 14th; it shipped on Thursday, September 27th; I received it on Tuesday, October 9th. All together it took 3 weeks and 4 days to get to my grubby hands from when I clicked "buy." A far cry from taking a 45min bus ride to my local game shop and grabbing it off the shelf. Now I'm not naïve; I know that it takes a long time to order things, but it took almost two weeks to print it. Still, I'd rather have them make PoD products than just pdfs so I'm not going to gripe too loudly. Plus, if my only complaint is the time it takes to get to me, then it's still a worthwhile product.

And it is.

The product is a full-color softcover. This is the first PoD product I've bought, so I've yet to experience the quality of the black and white products or the hardcovers. I hear that the black and white products don't have "full bleed" (which means that there is a small white border around every page), but the color ones do.

The paper quality isn't as great as their older "traditional" products, but it's not shitty. The printing is clear, and crisp with no pixilization of any pictures or text, it's just not glossy and looks more like the kind of paper I could walk out to an Office Depot and buy. However, it doesn't cost me the lake of ink I'd need to print it off and it's already bound.

Were it not for the type of paper and the lack of anything on the inside of the covers it would look exactly like a softcover White Wolf product of yore.

As for the content, itself, it's a fine supplement. A lot of gamers feel that every supplement should be a necessary one, but I often divide supplements into necessary (or as far as an RPG product is necessary to one's life) and optional. Necessary VtR products would be "Danse Macabre" or the "Requiem Chronicler's Guide." These are books that either update the game system through errata or revision, or add so much (or so importantly) to the game, you wonder why they weren't included in the first place. Optional refers to books like "VII" or the "Clanbooks." Were these books to be left out of a regular gaming session the game would not feel lacking, but their addition would enhance the game in certain ways.

In short, the supplement is an optional one, but does give a little bit more detail, and character to the systems of Crúac or Theban Sorcery. Having never played a character that used either of these two systems, I can't comment too strongly on the new rules, but they look like they'd be interesting, and I'm definitely going to think about playing a "spellcasting" character in my next game.

All-in-all it looks like your typical White Wolf supplement, albeit with a difference in cosmetic aspects. It's got its usual WW style, and attitude, which is a good sign considering the changes they're making to the business side of things. At least we'll always have the same content, which is the most important thing.


P.S. Unfortunately I may have bitten off more than I can chew in regards to my convention schedule in 2013, and so the aforementioned "Gottacon" tournament diary is cancelled due to the fact that I'm not going to Gottacon in 2013. I plan to go to GenCon and Lock and Load this coming year, and am also planning on getting closer to the black financially. As such, I can't see myself affording a trip to Victoria, BC in three months.

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