Today’s RPGaDay prompt is “Supplement.” Supplements for RPGs are usually additional or optional sets of rules released as a separate product.
Supplements, I think, are a good way to try and create an additional revenue stream for RPGs, as long as they are truly devised to be additional information rather than a system in pieces. The Revised edition of The Burning Wheel, for example, was originally released in two volumes, namely The Burning Wheel and the Character Burner, being the books for the Game Master and the players, respectively. Over the years, the Monster Burner, Magic Burner, and Adventure Burner were released. Later, these were rebundled for the Gold edition in two books, The Burning Wheel and the Codex. The Burning Wheel is fully playable with just the first two books, and as a group you can enjoy good games with them. The additional three books for the Revised edition are there to provide additional input, help, and structure for Game Masters.
Pathfinder is another one of those systems that I appreciate the supplements for. The rules for Pathfinder are actually all published online, and the game is fully playable like that if you’d so choose. However, some optional and additional material is released via published supplements. That, to me, is a pretty fair business model. You don’t have to have all the latest toys for free. Moreover, the rules online are barebones and functional, but the purchased products are extensive and beautifully illustrated. Even then, while a print version of a supplement may cost around US$50, a PDF version of the same wil be as cheap as US$15; again, as far as I’m concerned, a quite acceptable price. I suspect their business model is based on providing easy access to their materials; after all, the more people play your game, the more people will end up buying your products.
Lastly, what I really enjoy about the type of license that Pathfinder applies is that they’ve opened up the door for a Compatibility License. In short, anyone can publish material and state that it’s compatible with Pathfinder. Essentially, as long as they make clear it’s not an official Paizo product, it can be published. As a result, indie RPG stores have a plethora of incredibly cheap mini supplements that add a couple of rules or items for RPGS. What a great way to include your customers in your business!