I wrote this back in 2001. Back then, nearly 10 years ago, I think it was helpful. The article really did serve as an introduction to PDFs and RPG ebooks for many Wyrdlings. It looks a little out of date now – for example, it suggests many gamers are using Internet Explorer. Heh! No. Not today…
Also, for today, I’ve enhanced all the RPGNow links with affiliate code. Why? Because you lot keep on clicking on the big pictures (money) without buying anything (no money!).
You might well have noticed a different sort of RPG web site or even a different sort of publication for roleplaying games that are becoming more and more common these days. Perhaps you clicked on an interesting look banner or a hyperlink reference to a game that sounded interesting and found yourself on a site that invited you to download the latest .pdf. I know I have. This short essay has been written the intention of explaining what is going on and then continues to take you through an example of a purchase at the e-mall RPGnow.com.
What started all this?
Would you believe that Dungeons and Dragons was involved at the beginning? The third edition of D&D was launched alongside the d20 system. The d20 system was a part of the Open Gaming Foundation. The Open Gaming Foundation (the OGF) works on the principle in which there is a collection of game mechanics that any author or publisher can use for their product providing they agree to certain rules and conditions of use. The OGF provide a system where you can share rules. The d20 system is the biggest and best known set of rules which are a part of the project. Although the particulars of the d20 system are not to everyone’s liking they have been successful enough to breath life into old worlds such as Ravenloft (now managed by White Wolf’s partner Arthaus), give well known words like the Wheel of Time life as a roleplaying game and to allow smaller firms and independent authors the chance to contribute any more. The need to create, prove and then market a dice system has gone. You can forget about all that and just concentrate on writing your world.
Why publish the games in an electronic format?
Publishing your game or adventure of the internet is cheap and safe. It is cheap for the authors since there is much less fuss involved in putting your product in “print” and there is no danger of printing off a thousand copies of a game that no one ends up buying. For players, for consumers, the electronic format keeps costs down too. You can buy an adventure, a world setting or an entire new game for less than the cost of a trip to a fast food restaurant and as long as you’re careful about where you enter your credit card details you risk only a mild disappointment of spending a couple of bucks on something that was not as good as you were hoping for.
Explain the techno-babble to me!
I shall try. I shall also admit that everything written from this point on assumes that you’re running a Window’s system (Microsoft) on your computer and that you are using Internet Explorer to view the internet. Most of you are. If you’re not then I’m sure you can translate as required but do remember that you can always contact the webmaster or the help contact email address of the website if you have any troubles or problems that need solved.
Term 1: “.pdf”. PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It is the cunning way in which the computer stores the text and the images in the electronic document. PDF is supposed to take up less room on your computer than many other formats. When you print off a copy of a PDF it is easy for your printer to produce a high quality copy. You can also zoom into a PDF document, if the text is too small then you can just pull the electronic page closer.
Term 2: “.zip”. Downloads that have been ‘zipped’ up have been compressed into the smallest space possible. You can also take a number of different files and zip them all together into just one. It is done to keep your download time to a minimum. Zipped files download faster than unzipped files. However, once you’ve down loaded your zipped file you will need to unzip them in order to use them. In the case of most electronic RPG supplements you will unzip the file to discover it is a PDF one underneath.
The chances are that your computer already has the programs you need to deal with ZIP files and to read PDF files. If not don’t worry, they’re both free.
The most common program used to read PDF is Adobe’s Acrobat Reader. If you don’t have it on your computer then you can download it from here. It is free but comes with conditions.
The most common program used to deal with ZIP files is WinZip. If you don’t have it on your computer then you can down it from here. This program is also free but also has conditions to ensure you don’t try and misuse the software.
Personally I just love the fact that you can make use of a whole collection of different free software, benefit from an open license on game mechanics and a blooming online RPG community to grab yourself a new game to play in a matter of minutes.
An example of downloading a game from RPGNow.com
RPGNow.com is the leading re-seller of online roleplaying games, adventures and supplements. GameWyrd has nothing at all to do with RPGNow and the inclusion of this example is purely academic and based on one person’s experience with the site.
Find your supplement
I tend to use the big and obvious list of best sellers on the right of screen. If the product you are after is not there then use the Quick Find box on the right or explore the categories below it. Click on what you want and you’ll be taken to a product page that gives you a lot more information and a “Buy” button at the bottom of the page. The “buy” button does not actually make you purchase the e-document, not yet. If you press the button the product will be added to your electronic shopping cart. You’ll be able to see it there when the screen reloads along with any other downloads you have placed in there during your trip through the site. Remember to delete anything you might have placed in there by mistake (or you’re simply not wanting to purchase any more) before moving on to the checkout.
Make your purchase
At RPGNow the default method of payment is with credit card. Unlike RPGShop you do not need to worry about taking pictures of your credit card and sending them to the webmaster if you live overseas. RPGShop needs to make sure that foreign (such as the Scottish Wyrdmaster of this site) are who they claim to be because of the sheer fuss of sending books overseas but the simplicity of an internet download at RPGNow removes all of that. The checkout procedure reminds you that foreign (not American) users of RPGShop need to photograph their credit card and so you just have to remind yourself that you’re a RPGNow user and continue. From there it is a matter of entering all your details on their secure server (check that the little padlock icon has appeared in the lower right of your window) and then waiting for the confirmation email to arrive. This method takes seconds. RPGNow also accepts transactions over PayPal. PayPal is an online money exchange program (GameWyrd uses it to sell advertising space) where you can save and collect money. Taking this option, though, means you have to wait while the RPGNow staff check the shop’s account and confirm that the money has been transferred.
After you pay and when the confirmation email arrives you will find web-links that point back to products on RPGNow. Pick the one you want (and I always elect to download the zip copy), click on the link and wait for your download box to appear. Remember where in your computer you are downloading the new files to; I always create a new folder just for the purchase but some people find it easier downloading to their desktop.
The size of the file and the speed of your modem connection effects how long it will take to download your new purchase. If you have WinZip installed on your computer then unzipping the suppliment is as easy as right-clicking on it and electing to extract to folder (you pick) from the menu that appears. Double click on your newly unzipped file and if you a PDF reader installed on your machine you’ll find yourself looking at a brand new fix for your RPG addiction.
I hope this has helped ease any concerns you might have had about the growing trend of electronic RPG supplements and has answered any questions you might have had. If not, then email the Wyrdmaster here and he’ll try his best to answer your questions. If you want to share your own thoughts then consider a visit to the forums or email them as an essay submission for the Lost Archives.