2019 – Achievements…

2019 is on the verge of passing, and before the new year gets underway, with the related slew of ‘goals for the coming year’, I thought I’d jot a few notes down about the year that has passed. Every year, like many others I set down some goals. Reading back over my posts from January, my goals vacillated, I wasn’t sure whether to pursue my fiction writing, my freelance work, or work on my own games. In the end I settled on the idea of working on my own games, and continuing with my freelance work, albeit, winding it back a touch. So how did these things go?

Caradoc Games

2019 saw the founding of Caradoc Games, with a logo, a business name, and all the funky official things that go alongside it. It saw this website renamed twice, and shift through three domains to the current caradocgames.com.

After I finally settled on producing some games and work of my own I started with development on a large fantasy RPG I had begun in the latter months of 2018: Ashmerl. Ashmerl has only seen a small amount of work over the last six months, including an early playtest that suggested I need to change a few core elements, this is something I intend to come back to, as I am a big fan of both the setting and the character creation system I devised. I’ve recently started to play around with some various ways to fix the issues I felt existed in the system, and some interesting mechanical alterations to other rules aspects. It is something that will feature heavily in 2020, I hope.

Despite not making a lot of progress on Ashmerl, I wasn’t idle, and released four micro-rpgs: Freedom or Toaster, Brigands of Sherwood, The Hoppy Pops, and Owlbear Omelette. I’ve also managed to finish off the rules for a slightly larger micro-rpg called Corsairs, which I hope will be released through the Kickstarter Zinequest… we shall see!

These four games were released through Patreon, on DriveThruRPG and on Itch.io, and links to all these places can be found on the Downloads page.

As of the time of writing this these games have collectively been downloaded over 500 times, with twice as many downloads through DriveThruRPG than Itch. Altogether I have made about $25 USD from these games, with a majority of the money actually made coming from when Owlbear Omelette and Brigands of Sherwood were a part of the indie-RPG Colludium bundles, put together by the most excellent Marcus Shepherd.

No, that’s not a lot of money, but since all four titles are available as pay what you want, it is more than I was expecting. Here are some of the stats, for those interested:

The most successful of my games so far has been Owlbear Omelette, it has been downloaded 160 times, 117 on DTRPG, and 43 on Itch.io. It has also made the bulk of the money, with $11 from DTRPG and $5 from Itch.

Second most successful has been Brigands of Sherwood, downloaded some 149 times, 109 of those on DTRPG and 40 on Itch, and raising $1.10 from DTRPG, and nothing on Itch.

Freedom or Toaster comes in next with 146 downloads, 82 from DTRPG and 64 from Itch. Interestingly it is my most popular game on Itch, and most regularly downloaded, even in more recent months. It has netted $2.00 from Itch, and nothing from DTRPG.

My least successful game has been The Hoppy Pops, which is a shame, because I really quite like it. I wonder if my choice of running with a coloured cover that looks (well, is) very amateurish has hurt it’s chances. I did have a sketched version, but felt this lurid colour suited the theme better. Not a choice I would repeat. It has been downloaded only 64 times, 49 on DTRPG and 15 on Itch, and has made no money.

All of the games I have released have been rated one time each on DriveThruRPG, and not at all on Itch. Ratings and comments really do help, I know it’s something I rarely do, and need to strive to do more often, but they are useful, and help draw eyes to a game.

So why talk so much about revenue when I made the choice of releasing all these games as ‘Pay What You Want’ (PWYW)? Well, because the purpose of releasing these games for free was ultimately in the hope that people would head to my Patreon account, where they could find the expanded versions, and automatically get copies of games as they were released. Which leads me to my next thing…

So far this year my Patreon efforts have been a dismal failure. I have one Patron, and that is a friend of mine (thanks Will!). I don’t necessarily think the idea of releasing micro-games to lead people to Patreon is a bad idea, I have only really just started, and so I don’t think I have given it a fair chance. I also need to make sure I aim to release one small micro-rpg a month, and something larger (like Corsairs will be) every couple of months. Yes, I have had no luck with Patreon this year, but it’s something I will come back to and put more thought into for 2020. I need to work out what I can be doing better on that front.

Hardest of all this year was finding time to playtest, this has been a continual struggle, and something I want to come back to talk about in more detail at a later date. But man, it is hard to find the time to playtest! Games rely on playtesting to smooth the kinks and see what falls apart. Playtesting relies on having willing participants and time, and the latter particularly has been very difficult to shoe-horn in around all of life’s other commitments. This is a topic that I will come back to later, but between family, friends, gaming, freelance writing, and working on my own games, getting in the playtests has been tough going! Speaking of one of these pressures…

Freelance Work

In 2019 I wanted to cut down on the freelance writing I have been doing and focus more on my own material. I managed the first, and partially managed the second. Despite cutting back, over the course of 2019 I submitted 14 pieces of freelance work to 3 companies, totaling more than 78,000 words.

The largest portion of my focus has continued to be work for Modiphius on the Infinity Role Playing Game line. For this line I wrote 7 pieces totaling nearly 60,000 words. My favourite piece to work on was a chapter for the upcoming Tohaa book, and I hope those that get it will enjoy it as much as I did writing it (no hints yet).

Next was Red Scar, writing for the Devil’s Run role playing game. I submitted 5 pieces to Red Scar, and my favourite piece was a hard-to-decide draw between the first adventure in the upcoming Living Campaign, and the group creation rules that can be found in the core rules book.

The last, with a little sadness, includes my work on the now cancelled The One Ring second edition role playing game. Of these, my favourite was the first, a background piece on the Mountain Pass in the Misty Mountains. Yes, I got paid for my work, but I still saddened that I won’t ever get to see it in print!

It has been nice seeing much of the work I have written over the last three years released in 2019. A slew of sourcebooks for Infinity, and an adventure for Star Trek Adventures that I am rather proud of (Trouble on Omned III). These are available as PDFs and most of them are also available as physical books. I won’t be getting my physical copies until the line is finished, but I am very much looking forward to it!

2020 will start busier than most years, I have a piece for Infinity to write, and several more waiting for outline approval. But… all the books for the Infinity kickstarter are nearly written, will there be more? What will the future hold for the line, and where will my place fit in it? This game line has been a main focus for me for three years, and in that time I have written more than 200,000 words for it, spread across more than 18 releases. This has included 8 adventures and a host of background material. 2020 will be an interesting year for freelance, and whether I go looking for other work or choose to refocus any spare time on Caradoc Games has yet to be decided.

Blogging

This is the fiftieth post made this year, so I have managed to keep ahead of my goal, which was to write about 4 posts a month. The most popular post this year was a piece I wrote about rates in the freelance industry, and I have more to say on the subject, something I’ll carry forward next year. Traffic here is slower than I would like, so I need to do a couple of things to shift that. Firstly I need to post more regularly. That doesn’t mean more often, but instead means I need to create and maintain a regular schedule. Secondly I need to write more posts that are useful, useful to others reading this site. It is no coincidence that my most viewed posts are about aspects of the industry that may be of interest to those experienced RPG freelancers, curious would-be freelancers, or interested observers. These posts have also gained me the most feedback, some supportive, some critical, and this is something I would like to reflect on at some point.

Overall I have been pleased with my output on the site, and just need to ensure I space things out more evenly, and post on a more scheduled basis.

Phew, well I think that’s more than I intended to say, but that covers some of things I have managed over the course of the year. Some of these pose interesting challenges to overcome for 2020, and topics I’ll come back to in the new year. For those who have read any of my posts (or have had the stamina to make it this far), thanks very much for stopping by! I’ll see you in 2020!

Colludium Two, Available Now!

Colludium Two is an RPG bundle containing a great collection of indie and small press RPGs. It’s a tiered bundle: for $10 gets you 7 games, $25 gets you 15 games, and $50 gets you 20 games! There are a bunch of really neat RPGs in this bundle, with a wide range of mechanisms and themes, and it represents many, many hours of potential gaming!

My own micro-rpg: Brigands of Sherwood, is a part of the Colludium Two bundle. In Brigands of Sherwood you play a proper brigand trying to steal enough loot to retire on. It’s not an easy life though: the Sheriff and soldiers are after you, and every time Robin Hood is about everyone expects you to give you’re hard-stolen loot away!

While Brigands of Sherwood can be found PWYW, this bundle is a great way of acquiring many nights of entertainment for a very reasonable price, and at a significant discount compared to the cost of buying them individually. The Colludium bundle has the added bonus of seeing all money paid going to the creators of the games. You can find the bundle over on Itch.io here.

Bundles like these are a fantastic way of supporting indie creators. Being a small-time example I can tell you it makes a significant difference! The four games I have released this year (Freedom or Toaster, Brigands of Sherwood, The Hoppy Pops, and Owlbear Omelette), have collectively had more than 500 downloads (a drop in the ocean for many games, but it’s a start!). Of these, the game that has been paid for most often has been Owlbear Omelette, and this was while it was a part of the Colludium One bundle. The money earned is not a enough for me to retire on by any stretch, but it makes a difference.

Speaking of making a difference, the other thing that can help creators out significantly is ratings and reviews. If you have downloaded any games on Itch or DriveThruRPG that you have liked or enjoyed, consider going back and giving them a rating, comment, or a review. Not only do nice comments give the creator warm fuzzies, but they help other gamers to find those games!

Here’s to happy gaming, and a glass raised to adventurers everywhere!

Zine Quest – Honing…

Time is sliding by and December is passing. Usually the amount of freelance I get over the December/January period slows as the holidays approach, but this year everything seems to be ramping up. I have two main freelance pieces to work on, one for Devil’s Run, and one for Infinity, and I need to find time to continue researching and honing Corsairs for the Zine Quest, as well as getting answers and finding more questions on the whole process.

I’ll write about some of my ongoing research another day, but for now I am excited. I’m excited because I’ve kicked off a playtest mini-campaign, the first adventure is done, and the next should see high action, and really put some different aspects of the mechanics to the test. I won’t go into the details, because if I find space (and if the project is successful enough) this mini-campaign will be a part of the stretch goals for the campaign. Suffice to say that an issue with a Customs house on the floating island of Teboa has the characters investigating the possibility that some of the customs agents are skimming the goods brought in for trade. The first adventure was a lot of zany fun as the characters set themselves on the path, found information, did some snooping, and caused general mayhem. In the next session we should see suspicions come to a head, and the implications may run deeper than anyone suspects!

What was that I mentioned above? Yes! The first stretch goal for the Zine Quest campaign for Corsairs is going to revolve around including a mini-campaign in the booklet! This will mean more pages, and a great jumping off point for any Corsairs interested in sailing the skies around the infamous pirate isle of Teboa!

Zine Quest 2 – Printing…

Everything is a learning curve. All the questions I have about printing have been answered, and new ones have taken their place.

A friend of mine was kind enough to ask a couple of printers they know for some quotes. I won’t list the specific printers here (as I haven’t asked them for permission to do so), but it helps to give some context and idea. I have listed one set of prices, as the quotes were about the same. All the prices below are listed are in Australian dollars.

As a quick aside: files would be submitted to the printer in ‘printer layout’ for booklet printing, so the first spread (two pages side by side) would be pgs 32 & 1, and so on through the document. The file for the cover (4 single pages – front outside, front inside, back inside, back outside) would be generally submitted as separate files. A good article on that can be found here. An article on paper weights can be found here (both links have been added to the Zine page).

For a saddle-stitched 32 page A5 booklet, on 113 gsm paper, and a 300 gsm cover with a matt cellosheen covering (a plastic layer over the cover for protection, like a magazine cover, which could also be gloss, etc), digitally printed (too small a volume for offset printing):

  • 50 copies sits around $580
  • 100 copies sits around $800
  • 200 copies sits around $1300

For 50 physical copies each Zine would cost around $11.60 to print. For 100 copies each Zine would come down to about $8.00, and for 200 it would reduce to about $6.50. Obviously volume is cheaper. Each copy would also need to have shipping costs added (though this could be charged after the Kickstarter as opposed to included in the backing level).

Additionally, any other costs, for things such as art, editing, layout, and so on, would need to be defrayed across the copies printed to come up with the final value per copy, which would then give a clear indication of the cost per Zine, and therefore what the backing levels should look like. It’s worth remembering that Kickstarter is going to take a slice of the funds if the project succeeds, as is whatever other companies are involved in the post-campaign period and fulfillment (if any). Lastly, it is probably a good idea to tack a few dollars on for a profit per copy, and then a little more to pad out any costs, in case something turns out to cost more than was projected, or something else comes up.

What does this all mean for Corsairs? Well, I’m in the process of finalising the document itself, that is writing and editing. I’m looking into art and artists, and what the costs involved there could be. I’m looking at the costs of Zines from the first Zine Quest to get an idea of what a reasonable price might look like. I’m completing small pieces of art to include in the book. I’m preparing for more playtesting. And lastly I’m reading and asking lots of questions…

It is tempting to think that the easier option is to print a larger volume, but this then means a higher funding goal, and no-one wants boxes and boxes of their games sitting around the house. I think if the option for digital and the option for a physical copy are both offered separately, most people will opt for the digital. Especially if they are international. These prices are, from what I can tell with preliminary research, much higher than the printing service offered by DTRPG, but I have no idea how they stack up in terms of quality. From what I can tell the printing quote above is for a much higher gsm paper stock than that offered through DTRPG POD service. Something to investigate!

I’m sure there is a ton I’m missing, not seeing, or don’t know are things I’m missing yet, but hopefully that will be revealed in the coming month or so.

Last aside for today: the layout program I am using is called Affinity (link on the Zine page), and it allows you to move pages around easily, so I’m working directly on the file, and will shift the pages around to the final layout once everything is finished, edited, and ready to go.

Zine Quest 2 – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know…

Until, that is, you try to do it.

Having finally settled myself on the idea of using Corsairs for the upcoming Zine Quest, I’m left with a whole bunch of ‘what next’ questions I know I need to answer, and whole lot more I don’t even know I need to answer yet.

What questions? Well I have a to-do list, and part of that list is comprised of the things I need to finish on the game itself, and a larger part of that list is the host of things I need to learn, find answers to, and do. This list is far from complete, and I have the feeling that I’ll be adding a whole lot more questions to it as I work through this process from knowing nothing, to getting a Zine Kickstarter ready to launch for February’s Zine Quest 2.

I recently had the opportunity to speak briefly with the kind and excellent Ben Hoban of Red Genie Games. In that short call Ben covered a myriad of things about Red Genie’s own experiences and learning curve with the first Zine Quest, and the practicalities of things like printing, and shipping. He also talked about momentum in a Kickstarter, keeping things moving, keeping people involved. Having things to reveal or show about the project, and getting input from backers along the way.

I spoke to a local graphic design company I know, and they talked about the differences between offset and digital printing, and some of the considerations to take into account. They also gave me the names of some of the printers they have used and would recommend, and I have added them to the Zine Quest page on this website.

I spoke to an artist about the costs and things involved with commissioning art, the things like licences for commercial use, and the costs involved (which will vary from artist to artist). In fact, I spent hours and hours looking through Twitter, Deviant Art, and ArtStation for artists who listed they were interested in freelance work, and whose styles I felt would suit Corsairs. Contact information is hard to come by at times, and as of writing this, there are still many emails that have gone unanswered, and which may never be answered.

Still there are questions, questions about printing and costs, about the weight of the paper and cover, the weight of the finished book, and the costs of shipping that may be involved if I have to send physical copies around Australia or overseas. There are questions about layout in preparation for printing, And there are questions about what the overall costs involved are going to be. These costs will indicate what the funding goal for the project will be, as well as what the cost per physical copy will need to be. There are questions about taxes and fees, particularly for overseas markets. There are questions I am not yet aware are questions, that I will need to find, and then find answers to.

It’s a process, but a process I have started. Links I find, articles I find, and information I uncover I will endeavor to add to the Zine page here in case it should prove useful to anyone else going through the same process. Which reminds me… if YOU are going through this process and have any links to share please let me know! I’ll add them to the Zines page and hopefully they’ll be useful to others as well! Also consider joining up here, collaboration can be a powerful way of helping each other get things done!

Zine Quest 2 – Choices

Will I or won’t I? Oh, the agony of choice…

‘What choice?’ I hear you bellow at the screen in rapturous anticipation.

Ok, calm down. It’s this: with the goal of participating in next year’s Zine Quest abuzz in my mind, the question that burns most keenly is whether to use the game I have been working on, Corsairs, for my zine, or whether to develop a new game specifically for the purpose.

Corsairs is in late development, and had Zine Quest not hoved into view on the horizon like an ice-burg with bloody intent, it would have been released this month through itch.io and DriveThru, like my other micro-rpgs.

But… But… with Zine Quest approaching, am I best to set my sights higher? Am I best to take this game, already close to completion, and use that for the Zine Quest? It gives me time to focus on the other aspects that need to be done: to get art, to finish and polish the writing, to add some things… Or should I finish and release Corsairs, and then develop a new game for Zine Quest?

I think I have the answer… using Corsairs for my zine will allow me more time to playtest, allow me more time to really add to what is there, allow me time to get art, and allow me time to polish everything and lay it out ready. Yes, I know that Kickstarters don’t need to be finished when the project launches, but having it well developed already gives me space in the next months to delve into publication, packaging, shipping, and all those other aspects that are involved.

I had Corsairs nearly fully laid out in A4, and now I need to start again in A5, I’m sure for professionals this is only a small hurdle, but I am still learning, and layout takes me time. I think it will be worth it though, Corsairs will be a developed and playtested game, it will include all the rules required for characters, ships, and ship combat. It will include background material, and will also probably include at least one adventure.

I think it will be awesome. No, it won’t replace D&D, but it isn’t designed to. It’s designed for short run campaigns, for high action and adventure, for quick play, and hopefully, much fun! For anyone looking forward to Zine Quest, I hope that the prospect of broad-sides and daring-do in the skies among floating islands has you as excited as I am!