Sunday, August 7, 2011

Value Comparison Tome of Horrors

I happen to hate expensive pdfs, mainly because I hate pdfs in the first place. So I tend to get sticker shock about the price at a pretty low dollar figure, and without thinking much about how many pages I'm getting for the dollar.

However, the enormous page count on the Frog God Games Tome of Horrors made me curious, and I took out a calculator. First of all, I took a look at the price per page -- and yes, I don't usually calculate value based on price per page, but it makes some sense here. On the printed book, with 688 pages in the Swords & Wizardry version, the cost per page on $100 is $.145. As a comparison, take a 128 page book being sold for $25, which is a pretty good price. The comparable price per page is actually higher than it is for Tome, at $.195. In other words, while it's perhaps not a super blow-out bargain, Tome of Horrors, even with the high sticker price, is actually a better deal than one ordinarily finds. The OSR has cheaper books out there, but ToH isn't at much of a premium, especially since it has binding that is sewn in 16 page signatures, a way higher binding quality than lulu.

The pdf is actually an enormous bargain, as I discovered. Take an OSR module priced at $3.30 for 32 pages -- this is REALLY cheap, because they can run $4.95 for only 16 pages. But let's make the comparison based on the really well-priced module. The price per page on this module is $.103. By comparison, the Tome of Horrors pdf, at $29.99 for those 688 pages, has a per page cost of $.043 per page. In other words, the price per page on the pdf of the Tome of Horrors is an incredibly good value compared to going prices in the OSR. It's less than half the expected price (and that's the expected price on a really inexpensive module, too).

So it probably depends on how much one hates (or loves) pdfs, and how you would value a module as compared to a monster reference book, but overall I just got a lot happier about the pdf price on ToH. Up until now, I was getting sticker shock because the total number is higher than I expect to see for a pdf, but it's actually really, really cheap when it's compared page by page.

Full disclosure: I think virtually everyone reading my blog knows that I'm working with Frog God Games on the Swords & Wizardry materials, so this is not an objective observer's view. But it's the view of a guy who doesn't set the pricing levels. I just got more comfortable with them, being someone who still has a tendency to value things using 1980 dollars instead of 2011 dollars.

And quick warning -- if you go to the FGG page and order the pdf, MAKE SURE you're hitting the button for the Swords & Wizardry version. The Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry buttons are on the same page right next to each other.


  1. In 1980 dollars the cost per page of the PDF would be $0.016 the monster manual was going for about $0.11 a page in 1980 dollars, that'd be $0.30 a page in modern dollars.

  2. What you say is completely logical, but personally I won't pay more than $10 for a pdf unless it's truly exceptional - and even then I couldn't imagine paying more than $15 tops for a pdf, given that I would want to then print it at an additional cost on top. The sad fact is I would never ever attempt to print a 688 page pdf on my home printer, let alone try to bind a ream and a half sized document.

    But back to value for money, I agree with what you say Matt that price per page ToH is excellent value. One old school publisher lost my business on his regular line when he hit an all time low of charging $7 for a 7-page module (not including the cover and OGL licence). While I love what he does, I can't help feeling ripped off at paying $1 per page when for the same money I can pick up a pdf with 100+ pages. Of course it's simply psychological because no doubt I'd get my $7 worth playing a 7-page module if me and my gaming group had a fantastic time with the adventure, but there you go, understanding customer psychology is important for anyone in the publishing game and a product is only worth what people will happily pay for it.

  3. I'd be far more likely to shell-out for it of I could see a few sample pages. I was curious enough that I googled for reviews, but none of them showed any monster entries or pages from the book.

  4. I'm one that usually has a PDF price point that I won't pass - the C&C CKG was pas that point. That being said, ToHC is probably worth 30 bucks in PDF if you are going to use it at the table. Just to read? Still worth it to me, but maybe not to others.

  5. All pages aren't created equal. You can pad out text that could fit on a single page into something 10 times as long (or more!) pretty easily.

    I haven't looked at Tome of Horrors yet, so this isn't a comment on that book at all, just the idea that you can use page count as a standardized metric for value.

  6. Stuart, I agree that page count isn't a good metric (I think I even mentioned that in the post). Frog God layout is generally less compact than much other OSR stuff, with the exception of the S&W Complete Rules, which are pretty compact. Nevertheless, page count is about the only quantifiable metric there is, other than reviewers commenting on the actual quality of something. I would easily pay $1 per page for the Judges Guild Ready Reference sheets, but wouldn't pay anything at all for many much longer products from, say, the era of second edition.