Lulu, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a hip new self-publishing outfit. To get a book published, you don’t need to find a publisher any more, you can just hook up with them as a print-on-demand outfit – they print your book, send it to your customer, and give you a percentage royalty. Sounds good, right? Well, it used to. And a number of RPG authors decided to use them for self-publishing. From Forward… To Adventure!, to vs. Monsters, to Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium, there’s about 500 RPG products published through Lulu.
I had been hearing rumblings about Lulu’s business practices for a while -but now, the RPG Pundit brought up their newest move, a truly world-class debacle. (The RPGPundit, since about one in ten of his posts is not on RPGs, isn’t carried by the RPG Bloggers Network.)
They changed mail providers on November 1, and suddenly their shipping prices skyrocketed. Not a little bit – a huge amount. People report the lowest cost shipping option for single book deliveries costing $100 or more to many countries – prices far, far in excess of what the major shipping companies actually charge. One author reported their shipping charge to Bosnia went from $5 to $140; another from $12 to $82 to Canada (these for books that have a cover price of like $10). A CD shipped to Spain cost 105 Euro. The RPG Pundit’s “Forward… To Adventure” game, list price $28, costs $160 to ship to his home in Uruguay all of a sudden. The increase was so large that some people assumed it was a technical glitch – but no, after a time of silence a Lulu customer service rep chimed in to say “You know, the economy, fuel prices… Those prices are right, suck it.” Coming as it did right before Christmas, the authors are rightfully freaked out.
So Lulu said “Oh… Yeah, we’re working on an economy shipping option.” So while people reported their sales dropping to zero, they worked on it and today rolled out “economy shipping”. They had promised an economy option of $11 worldwide, but it appears from early reports it’s nowhere near that in many cases, instead being $20 or more and accompanied by a disclaimer that “Lulu does not recommend this shipping option and cannot guarantee delivery.” Nice.
So no more than a week after they announced pulling the plug on Gleemax to focus on the electronics D&D Insider stuff that was supposed to launch with D&D 4e but didn’t, Wizards has announced the next part of D&DI that will be ready for players to use. Which is it?
Give up? That’s right, the new feature is that they’re going to start charging for it now. No, nothing more is coming online. Although they promise to get the DMG rules into the Rules Compendium. But you do get the honor of starting to pay $5 to $8 a month, depending on how many months you buy in advance. That’s so sweet that I’m having a hard time expressing how sweet it is.
Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition has hit stores, but as my readthrough review shows, you probably shouldn’t bother with it (see the “4e PHB Readthrough” posts on this blog for the nitty gritty). It’s a World of Warcraft-inspired tactical combat game, very unlike (and incompatible with) previous editions of D&D.
Many people love to attack the bearer of bad news, so let me be clear about my background. I’m not one of those D&D-haters, or someone who has only played Third Edition and therefore can’t believe anything might be an improvement. I’ve gamed since the early 1980s, starting with Star Frontiers and quickly moving to the D&D Basic set, and happily migrating to AD&D first edition, AD&D second edition, and D&D third edition. Each time, the new version of D&D, with its improved elegance and increased options, easily sold me on being an improvement on the previous version, and I was happy to upgrade! My bookcases still bear the weight of more Second Edition gear than anything else, just because they published the most product ever in that generation – but except for repurposing adventures those books lay fallow after the upgrade. I view players of “1e derivative” products like Castles & Crusades and OSRIC with pity; I enjoyed my First Edition days but I don’t find that I want to go back there.
I’m also not a D&D-only guy – I’ve played everything from Deadlands to Feng Shui to Call of Cthulhu – I have several Cthulhu Master’s tourneys under my belt and have playtest credits in things as farflung as “Wraith: The Great War.” Check out my RPG reviews – they’re pretty widespread. I also can’t be accused of being just a “collector”, I play all the time. So I think I know RPGs in general, and D&D in particular. I don’t have a (previous) bone to pick with WotC. I helped launch 3e as one of the original Living Greyhawk Triads at Gen Con 2000. OK, so enough about my credentials.
4e is the first time I thought of D&D, “Whoa – this isn’t going in the right direction.”
Posted in reviews, talk
Tagged 4e, 4th, D&D, dungeons dragons, edition, fourth, review, RPG, RPGs, sucks, wotc