Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Alarums and Excursions Mini-Review From Strategic Review #6 Feb 1976

Alarums and Excursions Mini-Review From Strategic Review #6 Feb 1976

Alarums & Excursions is a group project collated and edited by Lee Gold... The rates vary from issue to issue, so get them from Lee. It consists of contributions from numerous people, and deals solely with D&D. It is an excellent source of ideas, inspirations and fun. It provides a forum for debate and controversy (some of it is to be taken with a grain of salt, as one or two debates are woefully lacking in background on the topics. For some time now it has seen discussions of printing costs from people that are either ignorant concerning the topic, or incredibly naive). Printing in a single issue can range from terrible to very good. For all of its faults, it is far and away the best D&D 'zine, and well worth reading. See for yourself why it rates a MAJOR TRIUMPH.

NOTE: The comments regarding printing costs appear to be in response to a comment which first appeared in Alarums & Excursions #5 in the portion labeled Depth Perception 2 by Dick Eney. He writes in response Barry (Barry Gold, I believe, and this mention regarding xeroxing the D&D rules written in Alarums & Excursions #1)

From Alarums & Excursions #1 by Barry Gold

Lee and I, as publishers of Alarums and Excursions, recommend that you buy the rules to Dungeons and Dragons if you don't already have them. Xeroxing somebody else's copy is unethical and illegal too. If you are going to get involved enough in the game to build your dungeon, you should at least spring for $10 for the rule books. If you aren't making your own dungeons, you don't really need the books - some other player can tell you how to make and play a character. So there is no excuse for making a bootleg copy and depriving Gary Gygax, the game's inventor, of his fair share.

The latest prices we have are D&D $10, Chainmail $5, Greyhawk $5, dice $2.50 per set --- one each D4, D6, D8, D12, D20. Chainmail is the predecessor of D&D and is useful for resolving missile fire in melee. Greyhawk is the first supplement, with new spells, monsters and treasure.

From Alarums & Excursions #5 October 1975 Depth Perception 2 By Dick Eney

BARRY: There are mutterings of Discontent over your comment anent(Sp?) depriving Gygax of his fair share by xeroxing Dungeons and Dragons and, by extension, Greyhawk and Chainmail. as I believe that I (hem hem) am unlikely to be tagged as one of the irresponsible hippie types trying to tear down the fabric of our Free Enterprise system, maybe I'd be the right one to state them.

Firstest, let us Define Our Terms. D&D, Greyhawk, and Chainmail are fanzines (and there are more than a few Fanzines with better artwork and proofreading). That is, they are something that is published in connection with Gygax's hobby and for fellow hobbyists; they are not his bread and butter and so we don't have to make a baseline calculation of what brings him in a decent annual salary, as we would with a fulltime professional. On the other hand, we do have to him justice and make sure that a work which has brought us so much pleasure doesn't wind up costing him something out of pocket. All X so far?

Now let's make a cost guestimate. Volume I is 36 pages and a heavy cover, II is 40 pages and a heavy cover, and III is 36 pages and a heavy cover. Pages are four to a quarto sheet, so there are 18 standard-size sheets and three heavy covers. Let's assume something I don't really believe for a moment: that he hadn't the information to shop around for a price break or quantity discount, and paid the prices for commercial instant-print lithography, i.e. got badly ripped off. Nevertheless, even paying premium rates like that, 1000 sets of D&D -- that is, of all three booklets together -- should have cost him about $733.80. If he printed 2000 at once it would have been nearer $1268.80 (or $624.40 per thousand). Greyhawk, similarly, should have stood him $341.20 per thousand; if he got 2000, then $583.00 total (or $291.50 per thousand). Any of you can check this with your friendly neighborhood instant-print lithographer, so I won't bother with the calculations here. I did run it past George Scithers, who gets similar-size print runs for AMRA; he gets distinctly better prices for the whole operation including commercial stapling, even though AMRA uses odd-size special-order paper, runs half-tines, and is far superior in quality of repro to D&D.

Personally, I paid the full list price for Dungeons and Dragons and Greyhawk both, just as I did for other stuff like Warriors of Mars and intend to do for War of Wizards and Empire of the Petal throne and probably more. Presumably many of the rest of us did or would do the same, as a point of honor. But when somebody charges me $10 for an item that should have cost him less than 75c, that's a markup of well over a thousand percent (unless I punched the wrong buttons, it comes to 1264% for D&D and 1366% for Greyhawk. all in all, I am not about to dump on Xerox fandom on the grounds that Gygax is being screwed every time that green light flashes.

NOTE: Comment by Sherna Burley From Alarums&Excursions #7

Dick Eney: I find your calculation of Gary Gygax's profit frightening. You have overlooked a couple of factors, though. First, the box probably costs quite a bit (no; about 15c retail -- R.E. [Dick Eney]), and its label costs something too. Second, and more important, I bought my copy from a friend, a (fan) dealer, who was able to give me a discount. This means that, whatever Gygax gets for this set, it is not always the full $10. When there are all those overhead costs, including postage on his mail orders...

As a (partial) beneficiary of Xerox, I am glad to think, however, that he does make quite a bit more profit than seems reasonable, even if not the 1264% you calculated. (Let it be noted that I bought D&D and GREYHAWK, and would not have had the money to buy a new set to replace my lost V.I of D&D.) [I've never seen any offer of single volumes; does anyone know if they are replaceable other than by this sort of bootlegging? -- R.E. aka Dick Eney]


  1. Funny that even almost 40 years ago people were bitching that RPGs cost way too much....

  2. And trying to bootleg them. Xerox's yesterday, torents today. I love the way the guy considers D&D to be Gygax's hobby work, the set and supplements just fanzines and justifies bootlegging by saying they don't owe him a living.
    No wonder Gygax got pissed at the fanzines and told people to steer clear of them.


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