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This is Free Trader Beowulf

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This is Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone … Mayday, Mayday. A box emblazoned with those words went on sale for the first time on July 22, 1977, at the Origins III Game Fair, heralding the advent of the Traveller roleplaying game from GDW. It wasn’t the first science-fiction roleplaying game, but through its innovative design and through the development of its evocative universe of Charted Space, it would become the longest running SFRPG in the industry.

However, its path would not be simple. After Traveller reached its early apogee just four years in, it would face decades of increasing problems, raising many questions. Why did GDW decided to shatter their Imperium? What led them to seek outside help to produce the second edition of the game? Why did they abandon the Traveller game system with their next revision? How could such a popular publisher face bankruptcy just two decades on? Similarly, what happened to Imperium Games, QuikLink Interactive, and others who followed in GDW’s footsteps as the inheritors of the Traveller legacy? And finally, how did Mongoose Publishing reach into the past and bring Traveller back to its position as the industry’s best-loved SFRPG?

This volume answers those questions and more. It tracks Traveller from its inspirations in the early ’70s, though its initial publication, and across seven distinct editions of its original 2d6 gaming system. It reveals the stories of Traveller’s three major publishers; GDW, Imperium Games, and Mongoose, as well many licensees. Most importantly, it tells how Traveller fell into increasing darkness before descending into a Long Night, and how it rose again as a phoenix.

From the author of Designers & Dragons, which told the story of the entire roleplaying industry, comes the intimate history of a single roleplaying game, culled from hundreds of primary sources and interviews.

 A Designers & Dragons System History

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Customer avatar
Bruce L April 15, 2024 6:45 pm UTC
I hope a hard copy is in the works! I bought the little black booklets around 1981-1982, in the little black box. The game was astounding, different from AD&D. We all loved it, but we only had the three black booklets. We were in High School then, so money was very tight. We never got very far into Traveller, but it still calls to me, today!

I would love to read this book, but at nearly 300 pages, I need a hard copy, not a PDF. I could bash it into shape to print it at Lulu.com, but that is a great deal of time and effort, on my part. I would much prefer to throw money at Mongoose, to get it faster/easier. Adding it to my Wish List. Cheers!
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Customer avatar
Matthew S April 15, 2024 10:11 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
It is indeed coming, you can pre-order it on our website right now!
Customer avatar
Matthew S April 15, 2024 8:54 am UTC
PUBLISHER
Time for some Rumour Control :)

With regards to pricing, first, this book took well over a year of research and writing. It was not a simple thing.

Second, print costs are actually the smaller fraction of the costs of a book. We typically set the PDF price at 40% off the print price - that 40% does _not_ account for printing, shipping, warehousing, etc. We therefore make less on the sale of a PDF edition than we do print.

So, where does that revenue go? What are our main costs?

The people that create the books - the writers, editors, artists, and graphics people. When you buy a Traveller book from us, the majority of that money is going to the people who put that book together.

Yes, if we set the price at $15, we would indeed sell more. But not enough to make up the gap that would be created, so the people behind the books would earn less. The problem with that is part of Mongoose's 'mission' is to make the lives of its employees as comfortable as...See more
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Michael F April 15, 2024 1:11 pm UTC
Thanks for all you do, Matthew. This is my point:

"So, where does that revenue go? What are our main costs? The people that create the books - the writers, editors, artists, and graphics people. When you buy a Traveller book from us, the majority of that money is going to the people who put that book together. Yes, if we set the price at $15, we would indeed sell more. But not enough to make up the gap that would be created, so the people behind the books would earn less. The problem with that is part of Mongoose's 'mission' is to make the lives of its employees as comfortable as possible."

I'm getting the big vibe here that people paying for the work of artists in any form isn't "worth it" for them. Yet, it is those artists that make the product possible in the first place.
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Christopher K April 25, 2024 9:32 pm UTC
"We typically set the PDF price at 40% off the print price" - so the cost of this PDF is 60% of the total print price? My math says it's 67% if the price I saw on the Mongoose site is an accurate one. If it's 40% *off* of the total print price, this will likely turn in to a buy for me. Higher than 50% *of* (not off) the total print price is likely a hard pass. 67% of the total print price is, in my opinion, beyond the pale for a price print for a PDF prodcut, regardless of the econonics behind it. If this were a PDF only prodcut I would have more consderation for the price point because of the author and history behind it. But it isn't.
Customer avatar
Michael F April 14, 2024 11:17 pm UTC
Thread on rpg.net that highlights a lot more factors that go into production costs than most people realize, including pdfs: https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/what-of-print-should-pdf-cost.900929/ I get a real hefty sense of ignorant entitlement here. Not about what you can afford. But the fact that you seem to think that your preferred price point counts more than feeding creative families.
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Customer avatar
Christopher K April 15, 2024 2:42 am UTC
Why are you taking this so personally? You're very angry at people saying they don't like the price point. Did you work on this book somewhere and that's why you're taking this so personally? You say it's not about what people think they can afford, but you're going to lace it with more accusations and links to prove what point? If you were hoping to change minds, I doubt this was the best way to do it. Let's sum it up, shall we? You've accused the people commenting about the price of this of ruining the fandom. Then no one understanding economics. Then trying to starve creative artists. And now ignorance and entitlement and another accsusation of starving people. Telling people to stop saying that this is too expensive because we're what? Too stupid to understand the economics? Not changing our minds at your "expert opinion?" You're not doing yourself any favors. Perhaps you should quit telling people to stop complaining while you're way behind. And one last point - you don't have a purchaser tag with...See more
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Customer avatar
Rory H April 15, 2024 7:24 am UTC
I’m not sure why Christopher here is taking it personally.

Facts are that companies can charge what they want for their own goods and consumers can choose whether they want to buy them or not. Everything else is hot air.
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Customer avatar
Michael F April 15, 2024 1:14 pm UTC
I think that if you had an actual discussion with me on this topic, you'd see that, if this is personal for me, it is because people treat artists with incredible disrespect and it makes working in the industry incredibly difficult for them. I don't work on any Mongoose books. I am simply highly resistant to this attitude that the producers of the content are the one who should have to lay down the sacrifice to get media to people.

I haven't purchased the PDF because I am waiting for a print copy. If I find out that there won't be a print version of this book, I'll buy the PDF. Shannon is a luminary of ttrpg history and I am willing to pay for his work, regardless of format.
Customer avatar
Scott M April 13, 2024 11:23 pm UTC
It looks like the author has written a number of ttrpg history books
Customer avatar
Simon B April 13, 2024 8:18 pm UTC
PURCHASER
The current pdf version appears unfinished. There is no cover and some internal illustrations are missing.

I believe Jenell [sic] Jaquays is a misspelling.

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Customer avatar
Shannon A April 15, 2024 7:37 am UTC
FEATURED REVIEWER
Agh. That was sadly a last minute addition. Thanks.

(I've heard over on the Mongoose boards that the problem with the illos has something to do with OSX display. Definitely not unfinished. They're there.)
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Customer avatar
Simon B May 22, 2024 9:02 pm UTC
PURCHASER
The latest version (May 2024) has fixed the illo display problem. I should add that the written content is fascinating.
Customer avatar
Shawn D April 13, 2024 9:12 am UTC
I've lived through most of what I see in the table of contents. I like the artist picked for the artwork. It will be fascinating to read the history of Traveller alongside other goings-on with other game designers at the time. I can't wait to get the actual book in my hands.
Customer avatar
Scott M April 13, 2024 4:07 am UTC
I agree that Mongoose needs to be able to pay for production costs plus profit. But what they haven’t considered is the elasticity of demand. Cut the price from $30 to $15 and you will sell more copies. Since the production costs for PDFs are static, and there is no per unit cost, there’s a huge potential revenue improvement by lowering the price. The challenge is finding that spot on the demand curve that maximizes revenue. I’m pretty sure it’s less than $30.
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Customer avatar
Michael F April 13, 2024 2:05 pm UTC
This is a much more realistic approach to the issue. Since I haven't seen their balance sheets, I don't know what the sweet spot is. But neither has anyone else in this audience. I don't agree with the argument that some are making that "your prices should be based upon my feelings and nothing else." That is economic naivety.
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Customer avatar
Scott M April 13, 2024 11:20 pm UTC
Agreed. Pricing should be based upon a series of factors including perceived value, actual value, market forces and production costs.

Damn I sound like an economist.
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Customer avatar
Scott M April 13, 2024 11:21 pm UTC
I think we can say, based upon various reactions, it is unlikely that $30 is the sweet spot
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Customer avatar
Roc W April 14, 2024 3:31 am UTC
I'm thinking along similar lines as well, in Aussie dollars it $46 and change and when I saw the email I thought it was the cost of a physical copy! This sort of price gouging as I see it seems to be a common thing these days, but people much richer than I who can obviously afford a digital book priced around that of a physical copy have all given these publishers the go ahead to do so (the first time I saw it was on DriveThruRPG and the PDF was was only a few dollars less than a physical copy).

Honestly it is putting digital copies out of my disposable income range. I've never downloaded a 'pirated' Traveller product PDF from a free website, preferring to buy often from FFE and here on DriveThru, but prices like these surely test my resolve sometimes. I guess I'll just have to live without this bit of code (I can buy a classic updated computer game that works perfectly fine and looks better than ever for less sometimes and therefore can't see reason for such a cost disparity). I don't think anything...See more
Customer avatar
Andrew K April 13, 2024 2:42 am UTC
Meh.
Customer avatar
Christopher K April 12, 2024 5:40 pm UTC
Mongoose has never been particularly clever when it comes to the pricing of PDFs. There's no costs to inorporate into the price for printing on paper and making covers. They shoud only be a perecentage of the print price, and I'm willing to do up to about 40%, maybe up to 50% if I'm a big enough fan. I believe the authors and artists and designers are due money for their work in the book. But I object strenuoulsy to overpriced PDFs. This one is currently at 67% of the printed price before conversion of British Pounds to USD, which means it's going to be even more if you're in the US. Some may find that acceptable. Others will not. I am in the not crowd. I like Traveller. I can't afford these prices. I love the historical stuff a lot, but it's not enough love for this one.
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Customer avatar
NB N April 13, 2024 12:16 am UTC
Many companies have been jacking the price of PDFs over the last few years and people keep buying them.

I doubt things will change.
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Customer avatar
Scott M April 13, 2024 4:01 am UTC
$30 for a pdf of this type is nuts. If they had a print version I’d consider it. Even at a higher price. But for a pdf? No thanks. I can read the Wikipedia pages
Customer avatar
Sheridan L April 12, 2024 5:17 pm UTC
Any chance there will be a printed version available soon? If not how about the option to pay for a third party to print a copy for you? I've seen that in a few Kickstarter campaigns when you get your reward it's a pdf or you can go to DriveThru to order a printed version for another 8-10 bucks.

Don't get me wrong, I love the convenience and portability of PDFs but it's very difficult to read a book in PDF format vs ebook format. To read a PDF like a book I find I either must have a huge monitor or print it out. Copy shops often won't print a PDF for you for concerns of copywrite infringement.
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Customer avatar
Michael F April 12, 2024 6:04 pm UTC
This is a fair comment. I also prefer printed products to PDFs. I have invested in a mid-range high capacity ink printer that I use to print PDFs. I understand that not all have the means to do that. Heck, if paying 30 dollars for a digital file (as compensation to creatives) doesn't fly with people, than that certainly won't be seen as a viable option for them. The elephant in the room in ttrpgs is that small companies do not have the capital to do simultaneous print and PDF releases anymore. The solution to that is either paying more, or waiting.
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Customer avatar
Dale H April 12, 2024 6:45 pm UTC
Mongoose's website lists release of the print version is September.
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Customer avatar
Michael S April 27, 2024 3:15 pm UTC
I would also much prefer an e-reader format like the Designers & Dragons series came out in. That was a great romp through the history, and having it on an e-reader ensured I read through all of it. Any chance of a multi-format e-release? I realize that's not Mongoose's norm, especially given the trademark format and look of the books, but as with the Traveller short stories, an e-reader format (along with the PDF or alternatively to it) would be a huge plus. Thanks, and no objection here on the price. Heck, I'd pay a little extra for the e-reader convenience (rather than trying to jam a PDF through some converter).
Customer avatar
Michael F April 12, 2024 3:48 pm UTC
It is absolutely incredible to me that some fans of Traveller have no concept of inflation or the nature of production costs. You could type: "I have no idea how publishing works" and it would have the same impact. Posts like the ones you whiners keep shelling out here just chase people away from fandoms. Congratulations.
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Customer avatar
Sheridan L April 12, 2024 5:09 pm UTC
I think people don't think of it in terms of publishing costs but rather their own salary. I've been lucky and my salary overall is much better than it was 40 years ago. I am in the minority of Americans. Most American's salaries are either the same or worse than they were 20 years ago so they seek products that are more in line with what they were able to buy 20 years ago.

The reaction of not being willing to pay X amount for a product is not based on an acceptance of inflation and production costs but rather the frustration that products consume a higher percentage of their disposable income than they used to.
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Customer avatar
Michael F April 12, 2024 5:59 pm UTC
But that's not on Mongoose. I agree with you that purchasing power isn't what it was. That said, Mongoose has the right to pay it's writers, artists, layout artists, editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, and project managers a fair wage. Complaining about purchasing power on DriveThru accomplishes nothing, other than shaming creators for making a product.
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Customer avatar
Michael W April 12, 2024 7:45 pm UTC
Possibly, but Mongoose isn’t passing on any savings. Comparing an electronic to a hard copy, the prices aren’t remotely close.

Electronic copy: press enter.
Hardcopy: the cost of the paper, binding, manpower and shipping should bring this electronic version down to half price, easily, and still bring in a tidy profit.

A pdf shouldn’t cost as much as the hard copy unless you’re Amazon and you are the soul source of the Ebook.
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Customer avatar
NB N April 13, 2024 12:20 am UTC
Don't for warehousing, and the fact that when you sell through the print run you have to pay more to do another printing. PDF you never have to invest more money in a new print run which has additional printing and shipping costs.
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Customer avatar
Andrew K April 13, 2024 2:54 am UTC
Lol, have you seen the difference in price point for the compared to the whole multi-volum set of the Designers and Dragons books by the same author?
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Customer avatar
Christopher K April 13, 2024 5:17 am UTC
This is a straw man argument. Simply put, the people who are willing to pay for it will. Those who want it but can't afford it *might* buy it if it goes on sale or if the price point drops to where they can. Complaining that people are complaining about the price tag is sort of counterintuitive. If you want to hype it up to get more interest, you should. Complaining that people find the price unacceptable but that somehow they should, isn't going to convince them the price is right. In the end, people are voting with their wallets. Hardly the first time people have complained about the increasing costs of products, and Mongoose has overpriced their PDFs for years. It's not a lack of interest in the product - plenty of people have said they'd be interested in reading it. But not very many people are willing to read it as this particular price point. Accusing people of wrecking the fandom because they don't believe this price is fair is not going to go very far with people who are the fans and still can't afford...See more
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Customer avatar
Michael F April 13, 2024 2:02 pm UTC
I find it ironic that you think MY argument is a straw man where you piecemeal ignore the costs associated with product production in yours. I'm not telling people "pay a price you can't afford." I'm telling people that ignoring costs of production doesn't justify the argument that something is "overpriced." I understand the psychology of buyers. Do you understand the logic of a balance sheet and running a business? Because I'm not convinced that you do. You're the pot calling the kettle black.

And Andrew: You're talking about two different publishers. Have you seen both of their balance sheets? Why do you get to ignore the reality of balance sheets when you make an argument?
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Customer avatar
Christopher K April 14, 2024 3:41 pm UTC
Do people really need to justify the belief that something is overpriced for them? You started with accusation that people complaining about the price being too high will chase people away from the fandoms. Would you not call that an accusation that people should not be complaining about the price? You keep harping on this idea that we don’t understand production costs. Maybe that’s true, but even so, some folks simply cannot justify the price tag on this. I agree that this appears to be a form of price gouging, and honestly, Mongoose overprices their PDFs constantly. The ones I own I got from bundles on Humble Bundle and Bundle of Holding because high costs or not, these prices are beyond the pale for me. They might not be for others, and I said as much. But you keep telling people they shouldn’t be complaining about prices because it will destroy things and that we should just take the price for what it is because we don’t understand the costs. Mongoose is doing that entirely on their own with prices...See more
Customer avatar
JAIME M April 12, 2024 2:00 pm UTC
I have been a Traveller fan for over 40 years, but there's no way I am shelling $30 for this...
Customer avatar
David P April 12, 2024 1:46 pm UTC
PURCHASER
A ton of research and work has gone into this history of Traveller. I am so excited that it is now available. Definitely an instant-buy.
Customer avatar
Thomas E April 12, 2024 1:42 pm UTC
I might consider this if it were $30 for a printed copy
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Customer avatar
Dale S April 12, 2024 4:55 pm UTC
The email I got said it was a FREE copy (I understand PDF) and pre-order... then I see this page, SCAM?
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Customer avatar
Paul S April 12, 2024 11:52 pm UTC
I think you need to re-read your email again. The title of the book is Free Trader-Beowulf not that the book is free.
Customer avatar
George M April 12, 2024 1:11 pm UTC
This sounds really intriguing. I’m a longtime fan of the Traveller RPG. Is this also available as an EPUB? And does this include conversations with Marc Miller? I see him at conventions regularly, and I enjoy his take on GDW’s history.
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Customer avatar
Tim L April 12, 2024 4:36 pm UTC
Given the lay-out I'm not sure it could easily be converted to an ePub. Can't imagine it fitting very well on the small screen of most e-readers out there.
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Customer avatar
Michael G April 12, 2024 5:15 pm UTC
For a history of book... I completely agree, I'd rather curl up with Kindle on my phone instead of the evil multi-column scroll of a PDF. Change font, change size, are all critical needs for me these days. If I'm going to look at a full spread, I want a paper copy. PDF is reference.
Customer avatar
gavin P April 12, 2024 1:07 pm UTC
£23.93 for a PDF of the HISTORY of a rpg? You have to be kidding! When you're paying that money for a campaign or a system that kind of price is justified by the many hours of play you get for your money, but for a history of a product? All you have to do is research it. From the preview, the design and typesetting are awful. I've worked in publishing for over thirty years and this is an absolute rip-off. If you're going to produce something for the love of it, then charge accordingly. No idea if the actual content is good or not, but for that money, I'll not be finding out. I can't possibly see what justifies that price for a PDF. What a shame, as it would have been a "book" I would have wanted to read.
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Product Information
Silver seller
Author(s)
Rule System(s)
Pages
296
ISBN
978-1-916675-21-6
Publisher Stock #
MGP40119
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44.12 MB
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This title was added to our catalog on April 12, 2024.