Tuesday, January 12, 2010

White Box Boxed Set Sold Out *Again*

Yesterday, John Adams of Brave Halfling announced that additional copies of the upcoming boxed set of Swords & Wizardry: White Box would be available for sale. He'd no sooner made that announcement than all 50 additional copies were sold. If that's not a testament to the demand for simple, boxed, tabletop RPGs, I don't know what is. I certainly hope that other publishers will consider producing similar products in the future. I think the lack of complete, boxed roleplaying games is a contributing factor to the hobby's decades-long decline. It's not the only factor, nor even the most significant one, but not being able to walk into a toy or games store and buy a non-crippleware version of Dungeons & Dragons in a format that, to the uninitiated, looks like a game rather than a book certainly can't help the cause.

For those hoping to snag a copy of the boxed edition of S&W: White Box before it's reprinted next Fall, there's one last chance. On January 20, a final lot of 25 copies will go on sale. Once they're gone, that's it for many months. Again, I think it's unfortunate that this product will not get into distribution, but I fully understand why Brave Halfling isn't in a position to sell and unlimited print run of this product. Here's hoping that will change in the future. BHP is a company I'd dearly love to see succeed and acquire the ability to produce its excellent products in larger quantities.

24 comments:

  1. There is a boxed set of 4th ed D&D as there was one for 3.5.

    The 4E one comes with simple rules for levels 1-3 (IIRC), cardboard counters for chars monsters and some dungeon tiles. You can also download the same rules and the first published adventure for free from wizards.com.

    The 3.5 box seemed a bit more attractive to me since it came with d&d minis instead of counters.

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  2. The problem with recent boxed sets, though, is that they're not complete games. I haven't seen the 4e one, but the 3e one didn't have character creation rules in it, which meant you were stuck using pregens. That's not a complete game.

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  3. Green Ronin is publishing the Dragon Age RPG (based on the computer game with the same name) which, according to their website, will be sold as boxed set, including dice, rules and a poster map. According to several reviews I read, the game is complete - you can create characters, advance characters and play characters.

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  4. 3.0 had a players kit, which, admittedly, was just ANOTHER box you had to buy, but it was centered on character creation and even had quick-start rules, dice and minis.

    I believe WoTC was trying to separate the DMs from the PCs by offering sets that appealed to two different types of players. At least that was my take on it. Plus, you have to remember that there were probably a dozen iterations of D&D in quasi-board game format throughout the 90s.

    We all grouse about the mass marketing of the game, but really, box sets served their purpose. Let's hope the trend hasn't died.

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  5. Wow. That's impressive to sell so fast.

    I wonder if this is exciting James Raggi, who is also planning a boxed-set D&D clone.

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  6. I missed the first batch but was able to snag one of these 50.

    I agree that an inexpensive, complete RPG with simple rules in a box with dice can reignite interest in a hobby that many people may have played in the past but, in wanting to come back, are overwhelmed by the new books of rules. Whether it's WOTC or the OSR, bringing back the complete boxed game(s) can be a very positive thing.

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  7. Has anyone else seen the reto boardgames at Target, They're vintage-looking, and they come in wooden boxes designed to look like books

    http://www.target.com/Yahtzee-Hasbro-Library-Game/dp/B000AFESJE

    My dream is to take one of these boxes and make my own Basic Set, (green dragon Erol Otus cover)complete with stamped wooden tokens to stand in for minatures.

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  8. For what it's worth, Troll Lord Games has quietly had a limited-run "white box" set of Castles and Crusades available. I just stumbled across it myself last week, so I'm uncertain as to how long its been out.

    The set comes with digest-sized copys of the Players Handbook, Monsters and Treasure, an adventure, and a set of Zocchi dice with crayon.

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  9. Damn. I'd hoped this would last till I got paid on Thursday. I can't believe it sold out overnight. Good for them though. Guess I'll try again on the 20th. :(

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  10. Man, you guys are fast clickers. I need to be quick to snag one of those last 25. Sheesh.

    This does do wonders for Brave Halfling, though, and says a lot for the OSR!

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  11. The C&C white box was a promotional deal which predates the hardcover books, I believe. Maybe the first C&C product at all.

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  12. If that's not a testament to the demand for simple, boxed, tabletop RPGs, I don't know what is.
    Yes, but who bought it? I'd like this to be a sign of an audience hankering after a boxed rpg, but I think it's more likely that this is fifty OSR bloggers who probably already have a copy of the game in another format.

    But perhaps that doesn't matter, and this is still good news for the hobby; part of me thinks it should matter, though.

    Onno, from what I can tell, the Dragon Age rpg is not complete. Yes, you can create characters and play them up to a certain level, but there is not much choice in character races, the setting information is lacking, and further "core" sets are planned. The Doctor Who rpg, on the other hand, is indeed a complete boxed game.

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  14. ...who bought it? I'd like this to be a sign of an audience hankering after a boxed rpg, but I think it's more likely that this is fifty OSR bloggers who probably already have a copy of the game in another format.

    @kelvingreen - Cynicism aside, so far the three individual pre-order releases have added up to a LOT more than 50 people.

    Although your theory is probably still correct, it's what happens afterwards that will be interesting. When people receive the box set and reviews start hitting the Net. When those outside of the OSR niche start showing interest. That's what I'd be interested to see.

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  15. Yes, I agree that what happens next will be most interesting, and as I said above, it's still good news for the hobby.

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  16. I really love this little WB Boxed Set. It is very retro and most certainly a specialty item. So why won't BHP put these into distribution?

    I know that it is many folks dream to have a real, old-school rpg boxed set available in game stores. I do to, but it isn't nearly as easy as it sounds – especially from a publisher's standpoint.

    Let me explain.

    First, in the heyday of our hobby, publishers would print up thousands of copies of each product they would offer for sale. Because they were have thousands of each item printed, they could use printing processes that, while costing $1,000s up-front, provided publishers with many thousands of copies that might be sold over the next few years. The result was that each product could sell for 5 to 10 times (or more) its manufacturing cost. Today, (and especially in the current economy) a publisher is lucky to sell 300-500 of any given product, so we usually cannot mass-produce items like we used to do. Instead, we have to rely on small, costly, digital print runs where we are lucky to just get the production costs back and a little more. Sure, there are a few that are doing better than that, but most are struggling along.

    So if most publishers are struggling to get ahead offering single products (modules, campaign settings, rules, etc) imagine how much more difficult it is to try and put two or three printed products, a set of dice...and a box(!) together in one product. That's easily 4 to 5 times the cost of just offering a single product. And even if the publisher takes the base cost of all the parts of a boxed set and then sets the retail price by doubling it, a publisher still only gets around 40% of the retail price when a product is sold through distribution! So, right from the start, the publisher loses money! The result is that most boxed sets end up being too expensive to create or effectively sell in today's market.

    Second, distributors and game stores owners do not look kindly upon our precious digest products. They claim that they “get lost on the shelves” behind those big, honkin Patherfinder Core Rulebooks and such. As a result of not being seen, they do not sell. Yes, I do agree that the Explorer Edition of Savage Worlds is a good example of how this kind of thinking is not completely correct, but a hobby publisher doesn't have much say when it comes to an entire industry. ;)

    Third, well, the same folks won't even let you send a product with a black and white cover to them.

    But you never know...

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  17. I bought it- and I'm no BLOGger :D I lucked out last night I guess, and got in before the last copies got snatched up.

    As for the 3/4E basic sets. The Black Dragon cover version of Basic set for 3.5 had character generation (along with pregens, minis, tiles, dice, etc) for levels 1-2, then you were directed to the PHB or Players kit. It's about the only version of 3.X era D20 I care for. Ripe for expansion/houserules to flesh it out a bit into a nice lite D20 system (and it's the only 3.5 item I still own). The later 3.5 Basic set with Blue Dragon cover only had pre-gens and no character generation, IIRC.

    The 4E boxed set doesn't offer character generation, but it's definitely a better value as you'll get more play time out of it vs the 3.5 sets. I bought it for my son for XMAS last year and it's pretty neat! *

    *disclaimer- I'm one of those rare beasts..frequency: unique who loves 4E and OD&D ;O)

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  18. @ kelvingreen - As someone with zero experience with the Dragon Age computer game, I pre-ordered the Dragon Age RPG from Green Ronin and received the complimentary .pdf. I've read the game and even had several copies of the Player's Guide printed using printme1.com, and in my estimation, it's a pretty complete game.

    It offers 3 races, two of which are broken into a pair of pretty distinct types. It offers 3 classes. It takes characters up to level 5. The background info may seem sparse to those who've played the computer game, but as someone new to the setting, it offers substantially more data (much of it quite gameable) than most of the settings presented in Fight On! and other OSR publications, to say nothing of the old D&D box sets.

    In short, I think anyone who would consider the Holmes, Moldvay, or Mentzer sets to be close to complete would certainly have to give Dragon Age the same designation. The game should have a fairly wide release, and I hope it helps fight the decline that James notes.

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  19. Color me bummed (again) on missing out, this time due to being sick as a dog and not turning on my computer for two days. I understand the logistics behind such a small run (esp. as someone that runs a small record label) but this is going to be extremely frustrating.....especially once the first sealed copies end up on Ebay w/a BIN of twice the list price.

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  20. @litrtrdnck I'm afraid I must dispute your uniqueness claim as I too love both the 4e & the OD&D.

    I was lucky enough to score an order in the first batch, and I'm looking forward to seeing what BHP produces.

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  21. LUG produced two boxed sets. We were all fans of them and wanted to recussitate them. There's nothing like the thrill of opening that box, and pulling out the contents, and looking at the maps...

    Aside from the production costs and problems, distributors and retailers complained that customers couldn't open the box to see what was inside. They said that consumers wanted to be able to flip through the product before deciding to buy. They practically insisted we NOT do boxed sets in the future.

    We all thought this was horse-hockey. But, there it is. The distribution chain doesn't like boxed sets.

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  22. Has anyone else seen the reto boardgames at Target, They're vintage-looking, and they come in wooden boxes designed to look like books

    Yes, they're awesome. I'd love to see the LBBs, Holmes, or Moldvay/Cook made available in a format like that.

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  23. Were boxed sets just a remnant of the Avalon Hill Bookcase wargame format that was very popular at the time the first RPGs were released?

    Luckily the modern age of internet and pdf allows us to DIY our own LBBs. Mine are proudly displayed on my blog article http://dungeondelving.blogspot.com/2010/01/true-retro-b5.html

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