There are 51 products on Limitless Adventures virtual shelf at DriveThruRPG and 78% of them cost less than $2.
That’s not expensive. This indie developer of 5e compatible tabletop RPG goodies isn’t getting rich at the expense of their customers.
Just hours after the company had delivered some Kickstarter pledge PDFs they found those same products had been uploaded and made available to others on PDF sharing sites.
On a Reddit thread, Limitless Adventures shared the news of the discovery. They said;
Limitless Adventures is Andrew Hand and Michael Johnson, with Benjamin Baer as a guest writer. We spend hours writing, editing, and working on the layout of each book. Commissioning artwork isn’t cheap. Those are hours we aren’t spending with our families. We literally pay our bills with the proceeds of our products. You take from us twice, as we have to take time to find the shared material, deal with the site’s piracy policy (if the site or group even have one), and respond to these.
However, Limitless Adventures wasn’t finished there as the small band of writers took the brave and innovative route of offering free products to anyone who wanted them. They added;
If you really can’t afford it, drop us a line, and we’ll gift it to you. We’d rather win you as an ally than try to play internet-whack-a-mole.
Geek Native reached out to the Limitless Adventures team.
The response to your offer has been overwhelmingly positive, but I see some gamers suggesting this is a smart PR move. Is that an understandable scepticism?
It’s amazing the scepticism you can find any anything you post as a business. No matter what you post, if there’s ever a connection to sales,
some will see it as suspect. We recently did a fundraiser for suicide awareness, and had comments that felt it was just “a PR move”. They don’t realize that we had started the conversion with the Id DM quite some time before, and that his brother committed suicide while we were still working on it. The project (to which we donate the transaction fees, $5 purchase is 100% donated to AFSP) became a tribute to Iddy’s brother, as well as a way for us to give back to people who are suffering, and perhaps ease some of the stigma of mental illness. It was a small good we could do.
We’ve actively tried to participate in the community, donating materials, books (even buying/shipping WotC books), and PDFs to counselling and school groups, veterans groups using DnD for PTSD therapy, after school programs, libraries, therapists, and even a unit deployed overseas. All of that good funded by our PDF and Kickstarter sales.
The initial posts (on Facebook and Twitter as well) were more a cry of frustration. We wanted to call attention to a problem in the community, where certain groups believe that a PDF has no cost. True, it has negligible costs to distribute, but we might spend $3,000 commissioning a cover and internal artwork. And often, artwork isn’t one-and-done… you might have to commission several pieces to get what you’re really looking for. You spend hours and days combing back over the document, editing, stretching short pages and materials. There’s a lot of time and effort in those books. We’ve done nine kickstarters to date, and while we’ve improved our processes, streamlining our workflow, but the whole process still requires a LOT of time and effort.
Reddit readers like free stuff, we’ve learned that. And that’s ok. We wrote a free new module every month for nearly a year and a half. Those are popular, people sign up for our mailing list, they download them. After a few months, they drop off and become pay items. We’ve slowed down on those, as we’ve spent more time on the big projects, like getting books in print, and all the design and process overhead it requires for new layouts, artwork, editing, and content. We have plans for newer free modules, but we’ve got a couple more big projects in the works that require our time. We’ve learned that directly posting items for sale isn’t appreciated by the community, so we don’t do it.
Scepticism is healthy, and we understand. But this was just frustration, and a wish to have a public discussion. Unfortunately, that discussion is verboten on some of the subreddits, so it was ultimately locked, as the mods had a hard time policing the comments.
We know from your Reddit post that some Kickstarter products had fallen foul of pirates. Can you tell us what the products were and where we can go to buy them legitimately from you?
We’ve found just about everything we make, at one time or another, on the sites and within a few PDF-based link aggregations.
All our products can be purchased at https://limitless-adventures.com/.
We’ve got all of the books (softcovers, three comics, and one hardcover) available on Amazon, and I’m currently working on a “buy in print” capability for our customer-facing website. We’ll make an announcement when we’re ready to go with that capability.
Is piracy really a big deal for small RPG publishers?
I don’t think we’re alone in this, we just had a higher profile due to the post.
From my old “Business of Software” shareware days, I understand that some people will never pay for anything, and I can understand that.
Every barrier to entry causes someone to seek out a simpler solution. Commenters cited a multitude of reasons for pirating, from “PDFs are free” (which is tangentially correct, they are free to distribute – not produce), to legitimate economic difficulties, age factors, or international location/current exchange. Some people, a large number, cite that they are worried about risking their money. I can understand that to a degree, it’s part of the reason we offer “ala carte” options – you can just buy the one module you need. It’s also the reason we offered the freebies – you can get a sample of what we do before you buy. Others cite DRM, or the need to be able to search the document, or move documents between devices. We intentionally did NOT include DRM in our PDFs so that our readers would be free to move the documents between their own devices. We even include a print friendly edition of the document to make a quick print-out or high-contrast text easier for users with visual impairment. We even removed the standard “account” system with a simple email-based login and link click to access your library.
I believe the real problem is that it’s just very easy to justify pirating someone else’s work. Especially when it’s a few searches and mouseclicks away.
Has the incident left you dishearted?
The problem, especially for a small publisher, is that your success – your reason to keep going – is based on the number of readers you have. Waking up to a few dozen downloads of a new title is amazing. Now, if you aren’t being compensated for your time – somehow.. how long before that lustre dulls? Are you going to create 100 new products and give them to the world? Great! Compensation isn’t always monetary, as you can see in the Open Source Software movement – but knowing that people are willing to pay you for your work changes how you feel about creating that work. I’ve seen “Pay What You Want” titles on these servers as well, these sharing sites are about acquisition of content, not creative participation. Can pirates participate? Sure, they do. Are there studies showing some pirates buy stuff? Yes, I’ve seen them. But there’s a point, early on – where it’s not necessarily about the sales – it’s about the betrayal of trust.
Instead of slaving away at some dead end 9-to-5 cubical job, you could earn enough money to write full time. Think of the worlds you could create if that 40-60 hours were dedicated to your craft. We created four new modules and a freebie every month for over a year – all while working full time jobs. That was our measure for whether we could make this a viable venture – can we adhere to a publishing schedule. We did, and it wasn’t easy. That’s time you could spend with your kids, or your own game group, or .. anything else.
When you’re small, when you’re celebrating every single sale as way to keep moving forward – a reason to even try – every pirated copy you find is a kick in the teeth. It hurts. You poured yourself into something, and it’s just taken from you. Justify it however you want, even if it ultimately could help, you don’t wake up in the morning hoping someone will steal your work without asking.
I’d rather you email, and we can chat about what you’re going through – and I send you a few things, than you just take them. Pay me with your story, with your interaction, and your time. Treat me like a human being, and I’ll share what I have with you. We have families, medical problems, houses, and bills to pay, too. If we can help you decompress with a game of DnD, we will gladly help you out – and we’d love to hear how it went… I’m sure ANY small RPG publisher would do the same.