|Let's talk about exploitation|
Some Basic Math
I write a column for an art magazine.
It's like 700 words. Functionally speaking (including talking to my editor and looking stuff up and rewriting) it takes me about one work day (8 hours) to write.
So, like, let's say most writers could do 500-1000 words per day of decent, usable prose if they were writing something requiring some original thought, like an RPG. Especially if they were doing it every day. That's where I ballpark myself when I do game gigs for people.
Now let's pay our imaginary writer the rates that popular indie RPG publishers Evil Hat (which has the popular Dresden Files game) and Green Ronin (which has its DC Adventures game on the shelves of every local game store I've ever seen) pay their authors:
5 cents a word.
$0.05 a word x 500-1000 words a day. That's 25-50$ a day. Quite a bit south of minimum wage.
261 work days in a year x 50 = 13,050$ a year.
The US poverty line for a single person with no kids is $13,860.
And that's our best case scenario, with the writer writing at the bleeding edge of what they could reasonably write per day, as if they had a project for one of these companies every day, with no spouse or kid to feed.
And yet somehow the people at the top of these companies (Fred Hicks and Chris Pramas respectively) live full-time off publishing games and support kids.
James Edward Raggi, one of my publishers, aka Lamentations of the Flame Princess--who:
1. Does not have any licensed media like Dresden Files or DC Comics
2. Whose books are most definitely not on the shelves in every local game store
3. Yet also lives exclusively off RPG publishing
...has run the math on the various deals he offers his creators. These vary. One deal he offers is an upfront payment plus, if a book earns out this upfront payment, royalties on top of that.
The math turns out to be (advance plus royalties)--LotFP's 21st best selling book (that is 20 books sell better than this one) is still making its creator 26 cents a word (which is 21 in eurocents).
If you're wondering: he also pays quarterly and scrupulously on time.
So, A Question
Let's say you do not think that the blood, gore, fancy prose, player-challengey mechanics, high death toll and weird art of LotFP is better than what Evil Hat and Green Ronin are putting out.
Let's say it does not bother you that Evil Hat has had major business ties to rape-scandal-riddled RPG forum RPGnet (and the sexist "For Men Only" ads that run on it).
Let's say it does not bother you that Green Ronin is similarly linked to sexual improprieties 1.
Let's say it does not bother you that Evil Hat's head Fred Hicks has a record of harassing other creators2 and then, when questioned, claiming he can't discuss the accusations he makes for mental health reasons.
Let's say it does not bother you that Green Ronin cheats the LGBT creators 3 it is using to try to market itself as woke.
Let's say it does not bother you that they do these things while continuously and aggressively paying lipservice to supposedly progressive ideals and using supposed devotion to equality and diversity to market their products.
Let's say it does not bother you that these publishers run the other way as soon as anyone even seeks to engage them critically about any of this.
Let's say you hate me and have some conspiracy theory take where all these well-documented things didn't actually happen.
Let's say these companies make your favorite games ever.
Let's assume all that is true:
Why, though, even with all that, are freelancers ok with these dudes exploiting every creator they work with on this level for the sake of their straight white cis profits?
Why don't you leave and go make your own stuff--or hook up with a company that will give you the kind of profit-split deal that LotFP and the companies that follow its model have been able to give their creators?
1 Green Ronin's sex pestery here
2 Fred's Harassment rap sheet
3 Bad business here