RPG publisher

Founded in 2009

Engine Publishing is dedicated to creating insanely good gaming products. We're part of Bits & Mortar, so all print books include a DRM-free digital copy.

Our products

Over 21,000 copies sold

We've sold over 3,000 books through our online store, and over 18,000 more online and at retail stores worldwide. Happy gaming!

Connect with us

Email, Google+, Twitter

You can reach Engine Publishing via email at martin (at) enginepublishing (dot) com. We're also on Google+ and Twitter (@enginepub).


Focal Point preorders open July 7! Here’s a free preview PDF

Focal Point is at the printer!

Which means . . . preorders will open July 7!

And that means . . . it’s preview time!

Specifically, time to share a free 19-page preview of Focal Point, including the front and back covers, table of contents, and a representative sample from each of the book’s three big sections.

Preorder details will be in the launch announcement on the 7th. I can’t wait to share this book with you!


Focal Point preview: the table of contents

It’s time for our third preview of Focal Point: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions (the third book in the trilogy that begin with Never Unprepared and Odyssey) — specifically, the table of contents.

I know that might not sound like the most exciting thing to preview, but it is! I always read the table of contents before buying a gaming book — it gives me a good idea of what the book covers (and doesn’t cover), and whether or not I’m interested in it.

But first…here’s the book’s lovely cover by Juan Ochoa again:

…and now, a bit of context for the table of contents. Focal Point is divided into three sections — Lights, Camera, and Action (have you guessed the theme that ties Focal Point together yet?) — each focused on one of the three major roles a GM plays: entertainer, storyteller, and facilitator.

We’ve got just one more preview left, the big one: Next up is a PDF excerpt from the book itself!


Focal Point preview: interior artwork

Our sixth system-neutral book for GMs, Focal Point: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions, will be available for preorder in early July — but in the meantime, how about another preview?

If you missed the initial announcement, which includes the gorgeous cover illustrated by Juan Ochoa (with graphic design by Darren Hardy and art direction by John Arcadian), fear not! Take a peek at it now.

Let’s talk interior artwork! Focal Point was art directed by our own John Arcadian — who, along with Phil Vecchione and Walt Ciechanowski, is also one of the authors of the book. This time around, we got to work with four talented, creative artists: David L. Johnson, Avery Liell-Kok, Matt Morrow, and Elizabeth Porter did the interior illustrations in Focal Point. And they did a killer job.

As in Odyssey, the book that precedes Focal Point in our “accidental trilogy,” the authors used a fictional gaming group to provide examples of the problems and solutions discussed in the book. This time around, they did it by way of three fictional campaigns, and one artist illustrated each of them. The fourth, Avery, provided three spectacular fictional movie posters, one for each campaign.

That’s enough from me, though — their work speaks for itself. In order of appearance in the book, here are some previews by each interior artist.

Avery Liell-Kok

(I’m only going to share one of Avery’s pieces, leaving two as surprises for folks who pick up the book.)

David L. Johnson

Matt Morrow

Elizabeth Porter

Keep your eyes peeled for our next Focal Point preview, which will appear right here on the blog in a few days. Next up: the table of contents, followed by a meaty excerpt from the book itself — and then it’s preorder time!


Coming Soon – Focal Point: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions!

I’m thrilled to announce that the sixth system-neutral GMing advice book from Engine Publishing and Gnome Stew will be available to preorder soon: Focal Point: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions, by John Arcadian, Walt Ciechanowski, and Phil Vecchione!

Here’s the cover, illustrated by Juan Ochoa and designed by Darren Hardy:

Focal Point is a standalone guide to running great gaming sessions, but it’s also the third and final volume in our “accidental trilogy” — it follows Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management and its predecessor, Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Session Prep. You don’t need either of those books to enjoy Focal Point, but they do go well together.

We’ll be opening preorders for Focal Point soon, likely in late June or early July. It’s so close to being done, with just a little bit of review work and the conversion to other formats (mobi, etc.) still to go.

As always, preorder customers will immediately receive the digital version, giving you access to the book weeks before it’s on sale anywhere else. It will also be available in print at Gen Con, and I’ll be making special arrangements so that customers in the EU can order it as well.

More details to come!


Coming April 2015: Never Unprepared in Portuguese from Pensamento Coletivo

I’m thrilled to announce our first translation partnership: Brazilian publisher Pensamento Coletivo will be publishing Never Unprepared in Portuguese.

They have already opened up preorders for the Portuguese edition, with an anticipated release date of April 2015.

Given the popularity of gaming in Brazil, I’m excited to see how Never Unprepared does in Portuguese. Pensamento Coletivo has been a pleasure to work with, and I’m confident they’ll do a bang-up job on this edition.


Engine Publishing break February 19 to March 2

I will not be fulfilling direct print orders or replying to customer service requests from February 19-March 2. Direct digital orders (including the digital edition that accompanies every print order) will continue to be fulfilled automatically, just like normal.

Print orders placed during the break will be fulfilled on March 3, or as close to March 3 as I can manage.

Sorry for any inconvenience, and happy gaming!


Please vote for Unframed in the Golden Geek Awards

Our latest GMing book, Unframed, is nominated for two Golden Geek Awards: Best Supplement and Best Artwork & Presentation. Thank you to everyone who nominated Unframed!

If you’re an RPGGeek member, please consider voting for Unframed in these two categories. Voting is quick and easy. Thanks for your consideration!


Please nominate Unframed for the Golden Geek Awards

The Golden Geek Awards are now accepting nominees, and if you’re an RPGGeek member and a fan of our latest book, Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters, I’d like to ask for your nomination.

Voting only takes a few moments and runs through February 8th. Unframed is eligible for Best Supplement and Best Artwork, and to nominate it you just search for Unframed, click nominate, and repeat for the second category.

if you nominate Unframed, thank you very much for your support!


2015 EU VAT regulations and the Engine Publishing store

A substantial change in European Union (EU) VAT (value added tax) regulations has been put in place beginning on January 1, 2015, and despite being based in the United States this change impacts Engine Publishing. The new rules are explained on the European Commission website.

I’m not a lawyer or an accountant, but here’s my understanding of the new rules: If you sell a digital product to a customer in the EU, you have to verify their location, charge the appropriate VAT for that country, and remit VAT to all countries where you made even a single sale. It doesn’t matter where the seller is based, only where the customer is based. It’s an accounting nightmare that is too expensive, both in time and money, for Engine Publishing to handle.

The only legal, financially viable option for me is the one that impacts the fewest customers: Effective today, Engine Publishing will no longer sell our products directly to customers in the EU. I’ve agonized over every possible solution, and I wish there was a better option. Choosing from a menu of shitty options has been a stressful process, and this new law makes no sense to me as it applies to small businesses. I apologize to all of our customers in the EU for making this change to our online store. It sucks, and I’m sorry.

The rest of this lengthy post lays out the new rules, the options I considered, and what this means for Engine Publishing and you.

The new VAT rules

Direct digital sales, such as sales of PDF RPG products from our online store, must comply with the new rules. Because Engine Publishing has always provided a free digital version with every print product, the new rules apply to the digital “portion” of those sales as well. This means that for every sale to a customer in the EU I would have to:

  • Charge VAT based on the customer’s member country. There are currently 28 countries in the EU, all of which have their own VAT rates and laws.
  • Collect very specific data proving that the customer lives where they say the do, and retain that data for 10 years.
  • Remit VAT payments to each member country where I’ve made any digital sales, with no minimum threshold.
  • …or face fines and other penalties from any EU member country for not following the new law.

The crazy part is the lack of a minimum sales threshold. By way of example, that means that if I sell a $10 PDF to one customer in France in 2015, I have to remit VAT to France for that sale. Add a threshold, and the law wouldn’t impact me — or most small-press RPG publishers — at all, because I don’t make enough money from EU sales to meet a reasonable threshold.

What this means for Engine Publishing

This presents a big problem for Engine Publishing.

Engine Publishing is a small business with one part-time employee, me, and I run it in my spare time. Like a lot of small-press publishers, I have a full-time job that pays the bills, and I also have a family. I handle direct order fulfillment (shipping), accounting, customer service, advertising, and other “publisher stuff” like finding new sales venues on an ongoing basis. Alongside that, I do the stuff that goes into publishing our books: lining up freelancers, handling contracts, making payments, editing, indexing, etc.

Adding complex VAT remission on a regular basis isn’t something I can handle. There are products and services available that will handle the tax stuff, but they’re too expensive for me. That leaves a few options, all of them bad.

  • I can just ignore the law and hope no one notices, but that’s not how I roll. I pay my taxes and run my business on the books and above-board, and doing otherwise isn’t in my blood. It’s a shitty law, but I’m going to follow it.
  • I can rely on the Internet’s advice regarding complex tax law and employ a loophole, such as manually attaching a PDF to an email and manually sending that email to customers in the EU. I’ve read as much information as I can find on the automated aspect of the new law, which is also pretty weird, and — setting aside the time and effort costs involved — I’m not convinced that this manual workaround is legit. So I’m not going to do that.
  • I can stop bundling free digital versions with print products in our online store. This goes against one of my deepest-held beliefs about gaming books — that buying the print book should give you access to all available formats — and it impacts all of our direct print customers. This isn’t an option.
  • I can close the Engine Publishing store entirely, shifting all sales to third-party marketplaces. This would impact 22% of our sales (both print and PDF, overall) in some way. Exactly how is hard to calculate, because some direct customers would be willing to buy our books elsewhere and some wouldn’t, and I don’t know how to guess that. This option isn’t economically viable for Engine Publishing as a business, and on top of that it would remove an important component of the company’s present and future development. I can’t do this.
  • That leaves only the least-shitty option: I can stop selling books to the EU. This will impact roughly 25% of our direct customers (roughly 6% of our customers overall), though some EU-based folks will likely buy the books through other channels. This, unfortunately, is what I’ve decided is the best option.

From setting fair prices, to providing free digital versions with print sales, to bundling multiple digital formats at no extra charge, to customer service, I’ve always tried to run Engine Publishing as a customer-focused business. No longer selling books to the EU is a crappy, customer-unfriendly thing to do, but it’s the legal, financially viable option that impacts the fewest customers and I can’t see a better choice.

What this means for our customers

Effective today, our online store will no longer sell products to customers in the EU. Again, I’m very sorry about this.

If you’re in the EU and want to buy digital versions of our books, I recommend DriveThruRPG.

If you’re located in the EU and want to buy print copies of our books, I recommend your local gaming store or an online retailer (Amazon, Noble Knight, etc.). Our books are distributed worldwide, and your local store should be able to use one of their regular distributors to order you a copy.

Our PDF guarantee (Bits & Mortar) still applies to customers in the EU. (I may send PDFs through DriveThruRPG or via email; I haven’t figured that out yet.)

The future

I’ll keep tabs on these regulations, as I have done for the past several months, and if a sensible exemption for small businesses or some other change makes it feasible for me to start selling books to customers in the EU again, I’ll go right back to doing that. However, I’ve heard that these regulations will also apply to physical products — i.e., printed books — starting in 2017, so it’s entirely possible that this change will be a permanent one. I just don’t know.

Thank you for reading this, and my apologies again for making this change.


Sortable Masks NPC matrix

Inspired by Ville Makkonen’s sortable plot matrix for Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters, Masks fan Adrian Thornton created a sortable NPC matrix for Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game. You can download Adrian’s matrix (and Ville’s, and other freebies) on our Free Downloads page.

We put four indexes in Masks for a good reason: With a thousand NPCs, it can be a challenge to find the one you need at the right moment, and we tried to make that as easy as possible. But there’s no substitute for Excel when it comes to sorting, filtering, and drilling down to see exactly what you need, and Adrian’s matrix is an awesome tool for doing just that.

Thanks, Adrian! We appreciate the time and energy you put into this, and we hope other GMs will get great mileage out of it.