When I first discovered RPG e-books they changed my life! Well that may be a bit of hyperbole, but they definitely changed my gaming experience. Gaming supplements on PDF opened the door to so many new publishers, to experience the work of small press game designers who could electronically publish their ideas and supplements, they could now could put together products that may not have been viable thought traditional publishing but became feasible in the electronic book market.
Little by little I began to buy more and more RPG books on PDF, from True20 to ICONS and a whole lot more. This was ideal as I attempted to convert my gaming books collection to electronic format. As I embraced the presence of a laptop behind the GM Screen, or in this case supplanting it, I began to see the advantage of having the books on PDF. During my last D&D 3.5 campaign I lugged around a plastic chest (yes a chest) full of books to the game. I needed a handcart and the help of my player to unload the box form the car!
So you can imagine the advantage of carrying just my laptop and a few select books to the game. That’s why, even when I get hardcopies of the books I use (mostly Pathfinder and Mutants & Masterminds these days), I also invest on digital copies to go along with them.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up on print. Even if I got an e-reader and love my gaming PDFs, I still collect books. I just won’t buy every book that comes out if I can get a digital copy. But every so often a game comes along that even when you’ve read it digitally you know this is a game that deserves a sport on your shelve. This was the case when I read Stars Without Number!
(And by the way that is a roundabout way to get to the topic of the post…)
Michael already posted about his preliminary review of the book, and I have to concur. The book is a refreshing entry into the old-school genre. While it may be mechanically inspired by old-school games the book is well written, concise, presents and imaginative setting and includes some excellent sandbox campaign mechanics that seem to be great tools to get the players involved in the development of a campaign. I am yet to try it out, but it seems promising and Star Without Number is edging out other competitors on the race to see which system will be the one for my upcoming sci-fi campaign (Alternity and Savage Worlds being the other two horses in the race right now).
Unless you live under a virtual rock by know you know that RPGNOW and DriveThruRPG are offering Print on Demand, or POD, on various RPG books, some out of print, others original creations that before used to be only available on PDF. Many times when I purchased large electronic books I would print and bind them at the local printing shop, so the possibility of actually having the book I like printed and delivered to me intrigued me.
I was a little reluctant, despite good reviews and the proliferation of POD over the last couple of years; I wondered how it would come out. Also the shipping worried me. Puerto Rico is part of the US Postal Services but some companies fail to grasp the concept and charge astronomical prices to ship to the island. But I liked Stars Without Number so much that I decided to test the waters. During a recent sale I ordered the book, including shipping, the hardcover version of the book set me back $24. Not bad for a 210 page book…
I ordered the book March 2nd; the book shipped March 7th and was here March 9th. The book looks and feels like any commercially printed book out there. Sturdy, well put together, with excellent binding. True the art on Stars Without Number is sparse, mostly stock art and NASA pictures, but Sine Nomine Publishing did such a stellar job with their flagship product and used the art they do have so well that this is not a major issue for me.
I am impressed by the book; it is truly amazing to be able to order such a high quality hardcover print copy of this electronic book. Star Without Number is available for free in PDF. If you like the game in PDF, I cannot recommend enough getting it on print. The price is actually cheaper than what it would have cost me to have it printed and bound at the print shop and the end product is decidedly better.
If you look closely at the pictures accompanying this post you will see they are taken in my car. I wanted to wait to get home and take proper pictures but I could not contain my excitement. See, even if the book arrived March 9th to the island, I was unable to get my hands on it until today. This is the only bad part about my first foray into POD. Despite RPGNow having my correct address (and I did check) UPS truncated the address and claimed they could not deliver it. I tried to contact UPS and correct the address but they claimed ONLY the sender could do this…
RPGNow customer support was MORE than helpful and offered to have another book shipped, apparently the easiest solution UPS gave them. I asked them not to. Despite having to brave some heavy traffic and not the most helpful customer service people at UPS I decided I would drive to their offices and get it. I’ve had my issues with UPS before, their delivery personnel is very amicable, and I was pleasantly surprised by the helpfulness of the person at the counter today, but dealing with some of their corporate policies and their call center employees can be, to say the least, frustrating.
So the only complain on this whole experiment was something RPGNow had no control over. This might be my first POD purchase, but will not me my last. I am now the proud owner of a print copy of Stars Without Number. I have a feeling I may need to get another copy once my players see this one…
I'm thoroughly pleased to see that the print version meets with your approval. I've been surprised at how well the print version has been selling, considering that the PDF is free. My next project is Red Tide, a retro-D&D sandbox setting that should be completed by the first week of April. I'm intending to do that in POD as well as PDF, and I'll be interested in seeing if the quality holds up with that as well.
$24 for a hardcover? Sweet.
I really dig Stars Without Number. The system isn't to my taste, but there's plenty of material in there to inspire.
My recent post Sleek Starship Concept Art at io9
Stars Without Number looks quite handsome as a POD!
It’s encouraging to see that RPGNow’s slow entry into the POD market seems to have been motivated by making sure they got it right. I’ve used Lulu so far but I’m looking to make the jump. From what I’ve heard, there are a number of POD printers out there that the likes of Lulu use. I’m wondering if they’re the same printery companies that RPGNow is using? I can’t imagine there would be a reason not to.
Having ordered POD books quite a few times, I’ve found that the printing itself is not usually a problem (there is some color variation from printer to printer) but some of the binding of the books can be poor. Most thankfully are fine and last for years. Understandably, the bigger the book the more frequently I’ve seen an issue.
I haven’t made the jump to GMing off a laptop, can’t quite seem to do it. I have used one but mostly just as backup. I would be interested in trying out an e-ink reader that could handle double column PDFs acceptably. In the past the PDF capability of most e-readers has been poor. I haven’t looked at the latest generation.
@SineNomine, that sounds promising… I wish you much continued success with the book. It is truly fun and an inspiring read!
@worldwithoutsyn, the system intrigues me, my players are not so keen on the old school of gaming but I am trying to seduce them!
@Emmet the binding on this book is SOLID! Impressed by the POD quality.