Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bedroom Wall Press is going free.

 “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”
– Tim O’Reilly
Recently I've been struggling with an idea. A very scary idea.

What if charging for my books is what's killing them? 

Bedroom Wall Press is currently in the middle of what industry types used to call 'the long tail.' We sell a bare trickle of mostly PDFs, enough to usually bring in right around $100 a month in net profit.

In barely a month, at launch, Hulks and Horrors made four times that despite the PDF being free, and got over 2,000 downloads.

What if charging for my books is what's killing them?

Recently I ran several articles on this page detailing the actions of a man who was trying to actually patent one of the most common features of roleplaying games. A basic function of character conversion that's at the core of, among other things, the H&H shared engine, my recent Roulade game, and what I've been working on in the tabletop sphere behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, one of the most successful roleplaying games in the last year is Dungeon World, a game that is completely open source to a degree that I didn't even go to with any of my previous works, and has spawned an entire new community of fan development around it by giving its ideas to the world.

When I think about those two things, I think I know which one I'd like to be.

What if not sharing my books is why no one wants to make things for them?

I have always considered myself a supporter of open gaming. But I have also harbored under a vain dream that I'd somehow make a paying gig of that, and so I've hedged. I've hemmed and hawed, and I've taken half measures that I've even condemned in others, because I was afraid to threaten that dream.

It's time I fixed that. It's time I truly gave back to the community, made a statement once and for all, and thrown the doors open.

Starting today, Bedroom Wall Press products are free and open source products.

This means a few things:

  • All PDF products are now free on DriveThruRPG.
  • For those who still wish to support us with their cash, print products will continue to be sold commercially.
  • Those products released using OGL material will have to remain under the auspices of the OGL for legal and practical reasons, however:
    • All Product Identity clauses are hereby rescinded*. The text of all materials in all currently published Bedroom Wall Press is considered to be Open Game Content for the purposes of the OGL.
    • * Due to practical and legal reasons and out of respect to their creators, this rescinding of Product Identity does not cover included artworks not created by Bedroom Wall Press; those remain licensed under the terms discussed in the relevant works.
    • Due to lack of access to compatible software, I may not be able to update these within the documents myself just yet, though see below on where you might be able to help.
  • All BWP products are to be truly "open source." This means that the original source documents used to generate the PDF, wherever possible, will be made available publicly. 
  • All future BWP releases will be free in PDF.
  • All future BWP releases will release source documents.
  • All future BWP releases will be released under the terms of the GNU General Public License v3.
  • Products under development may also be released and developed openly via our Github. Announcements to follow.
I think it perhaps goes without saying that these are exciting times for me and the name I've built around BWP. I will be hard at work on handhRL in the near future, but I've also got other open projects that I've yet to announce, including stuff I had planned for the sadly now mythical 'year of H&H'.

I hope this gives those of you out there who've yet to try any of my fantastic games a chance to do so, and those who've wanted to but felt uncertain about developing for them the license they need to go forth and spread the awesome.

Have fun!

John S. Berry III


  1. I must say, this is a bold move and I for one cant wait to see what happens!

  2. Much respect for this, kudos to you BWP.

  3. Best luck with this bold move.
    I, for one, would love to see an art companion to go with H&H, or even just a collection of what is floating out there with the Squiddies so far.

  4. Which things do you want people to make?

  5. Whatever they want.

    Not knowing what to expect is part of the fun. :)

  6. I would love to help out. I did a little bit of the playtesting for H&H and I just love the system and all the effort that went into it.

  7. Well, at the moment, other than Roulade everything's still OGL.

    But I was rather swayed by the arguments of the late Free RPG Community and their argument on the importance of source documents.

    Speaking from personal experience, trying to re-adapt content from a PDF is a pain in the arse, and the most successful open projects seem to be the ones who clue in to that and offer some kind of easier to use source documents. The d20 SRDs were available in RTF, as was Mongoose's Traveller, and many others like Dungeon World have even built interactive wikis around their sources.

    Going with the GPL as a framework means ensuring that my games aren't just free content, but truly *open source* in the most literal way possible.

    The GNU licenses are also more widely used in software, and thus this rather simplifies things for anyone who wants to use my stuff to make software, be it gaming tools or full blown computer games. CC isn't technically compatible with the GPL, and that alone was a good reason to reconsider it.