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).


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.


Our 2014 Black Friday/Cyber Monday starts now!

For Black Friday/Cyber Monday, we’ve knocked 25% off of all of our titles on DriveThruRPG. This discount applies to single products only, not bundles, but it’s essentially the best bundle discount we offer…except you can mix and match whichever products you’d like. This is also the first time we’ve offered a discount on our newest book, Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters.

This sale will run from now through sometime on Tuesday, December 2.

Happy Thanksgiving, and happy gaming from Engine Publishing!


Unframed goes Gold on DriveThruRPG

Two months after it went on sale at DriveThruRPG, Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters just became a Gold bestseller on DTRPG — one of around 400 Gold products on a site with about 40,000 titles (top 1%). Many, many thanks to everyone who has bought, reviewed, or talked about Unframed, and to all of the authors who worked on the book!

You can read more than 10 reviews and download a free PDF sample of the book right here on its product page.

And of course, as with all of our books, every purchase, print or digital, includes a DRM-free, bookmarked PDF plus bonus epub, mobi, and text versions of the book.


Please vote for Odyssey, Engine Publishing, and Gnome Stew in the ENnies

Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management, Engine Publishing, and the “blog behind our books,” Gnome Stew, were nominated for three ENnie Awards this year, and I’d like to ask you to vote for us online.

Voting doesn’t require an account or login, and it only takes a few seconds (you don’t even have to vote in every category):

  1. Head on over to the ENnie Awards voting booth
  2. Scroll to Best Aid/Accessory and rank Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management a “1”
  3. Scroll to Fans’ Favorite Publisher and rank Engine Publishing a “1”
  4. Scroll to Best Blog and rank Gnome Stew a “1”
  5. Click the big “Submit Ballot” button to cast your votes

That’s all there is to it! Thank you very much for voting for us!

Why your vote matters to us

There are two big reasons why the ENnie Awards matter to us — “us” in this case being me, Martin Ralya (the fellow behind Engine Publishing), and the authors and designers and artists and other folks who work on our books.

The first is that your support is a big part of what motivates us. We’ve been writing Gnome Stew since 2008, and working together to publish books through Engine Publishing since 2009, and knowing that fellow gamers get good mileage out of what we do is what makes it worthwhile. It sounds corny, but it’s true! Voting for us in the ENnies is a quick, simple, but very meaningful way to show your support.

The second is that these awards, and the others we ask you to vote for us in from time to time, open doors for the gnomes. Recognition via the ENnies leads to more work in the RPG industry, new career paths in our day jobs, and other new stuff that matters. We write the Stew, and work on GMing books, because we love to do it; that’s never changed. But speaking as the owner of Engine Publishing and Gnome Stew, I view one of my main jobs in both places as being an opener of doors for the awesome folks I get to work with.

Every vote truly makes a difference

Gaming isn’t a huge industry, and the ENnies are sometimes decided by just a handful of votes — less than a dozen votes, on at least one occasion! The field this year is one of the strongest I can remember; competition is fierce. Your vote — yes, yours! — makes a difference.

Now that we’ve been nominated, which is an honor we appreciate unto itself, it’s all about “ground game” (a term from politics that applies equally here) and getting out the vote. If you’re so inclined, asking your gaming group, friends, and even family to vote for us would be awesome. We do this ourselves; my mom’s rowing team all voted for us last year. It might sound silly, but it helps.

Thank you!

Thanks for reading this, and more importantly for reading the Stew and our books. You rock, and I look forward to bringing you more useful gaming content for years to come!

And if you do vote for us, thanks! That’s totally awesome of you.


Unframed is now available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow

If you’ve been waiting for Unframed to be available on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow, your wait is over!

Head on over to Engine Publishing’s publisher page to buy Unframed (and the new bundles which include it) on DTRPG.