Set in Stone…

A little later today the files for Corsairs will be heading off to the printer. At this point, everything is set in stone. I am nervous, and excited. Once printing is finished we will begin the process of fulfilling the physical copies of Corsairs!

In other news, progress on the follow up zines has been slow, but ongoing. There are some fun new things for Ships and Sailing in the upcoming release Smoke and Oakum, and expanded options for characters and development that I think add some nice features in Speed, Strength, and Wits. Felicity has completed the art for Smoke and Oakum, and it is looking fantastic! I am really impressed with the work she has done to help bring life and energy to Corsairs, I’m sure you will agree.

It’s been a chaotic time, from a bush fires to a pandemic, to social upheaval. Given these very real and very important events I have felt that trying to push and market Corsairs in this time is insensitive to those issues. So Corsairs sits, at the moment, slowly ticking away. I have been pleased to see Corsairs gather a few more sales on DriveThru and Itch, and hopefully this continues with the release of Smoke and Oakum. I am considering developing and writing a mini-campaign for Corsairs to supplement the line, but that will depend on how the follow up zines progress. Beyond that, there are a few more games in development that will either see light later this year, or be more fully realised for 2021, perhaps as a part of the ZineQuest then, if it runs again.

I know I have been quiet of late, but things have been ticking along. I hope to shift back to posting more regularly soon…

Setting Sail

Corsairs has set sail! After the Kickstarter launch as a part of the ZineQuest in February, backers have finally been sent their digital copies of the Corsairs RPG! Before hitting send I was a mix of nervous and excited, immediately afterwards elated and relieved! Corsairs has been released!

Corsairs is a role playing game zine containing the full rules for character creation, and character actions, as well as for ships and sailing the skies of the Molten Seas. Scattered throughout is background information on the floating islands, and the setting of Corsairs, as well as wonderful art from Felicity Haworth. When you buy Corsairs you will also get separate files for the character sheet, the ship sheet, and two rules reference sheets.

Corsairs is available now on itch.io here.

You can also find it on DriveThruRPG here.

If you get a copy, please consider leaving a rating or review!

For the next two weeks I’ll be gathering feedback and questions on Corsairs, before I send the files off to be printed. I’m excited, and I hope anyone who gets a copy enjoys reading and playing the game half as much as I did writing and developing it!

Preparing for launch…

It won’t be long now before the backers of my Corsairs RPG Zine Kickstarter get their backer surveys, a short hop from there to the digital copies being sent out, and another short hop to the physical printing and shipping…

Things are starting to move!

For now the most exciting thing I wanted to share is the cover for Corsairs. This piece of art was created by Felicity Haworth, and I think manages to bring the setting of Corsairs to brilliant and exciting life!

Back to the jungle…

It’s been far too long since my last post. I have been busy. My day job is as a teacher, and the transition to remote learning has involved a lot of work. This has had a significant impact on everything else obviously, and has led to fewer posts here, and a couple of deadlines pushed back for freelance work. I am trying to make ground, but the going is slow. I think I have a handle on this whole remote teaching business now though, so fingers crossed I manage to find some more free time in the next few weeks!

So what have I been doing for Caradoc Games? Work on Corsairs is progressing, and I have been through and edited and reedited the core book a number of times. Progress on the follow-up source-zine Smoke and Oakum continues, though has been slower than I had hoped. I have a system for running chases written (allowing better rules for a Corsair ship to chase down and catch some juicy merchant galleon), as well as a bunch of Ship Conditions. I have started turning my notes for the Weather into actual properly written rules and guidelines, and am happy with how all of this is shaping up!

Art for Corsairs is coming along nicely! I have seen and given feedback on all the early sketches, and Felicity is working hard on turning them into their final pieces. I am looking forward to being able to share them when they are done!

In addition my co-designer Karl Lange (of Ark Angel Games) and myself have returned to Colour Jungle with gusto. Karl has made a brilliant Table Top Simulator version of the game, so we should be able to organise more testing than previously even in our isolation! It’s looking really nice. We made some adjustments to the rules that I think are very solid, and have trimmed some other pieces out that felt like they added ‘stuff (TM)’ without adding much. The game is feeling more solid now, and I think with some honing, it might be ready to take back to publishers…

My physical playtest copy… Not as pretty!

In any case, that’s the update for now! I’ll endeavor to return to more regular posting soon, until then, stay safe, and I hope you and yours are well!

Sugar Gliders

A while ago I wrote about a card game that Karl Lange of Ark Angel Games and myself were designing, it was called Colour Jungle. After plenty of testing and development, we felt that it was ready to show around, and while we got some positive feedback from various publishers (thanks to Karl for the leg work on this), it didn’t quite make the grade, and no-one picked it up.

Colour Jungle in testing…

Karl and I had an online meeting a week or so ago, and decided to take a different approach. Taking the feedback we had received from playtesters and publishers, we looked at the game again and pulled out the pieces that we felt were the strongest and most enjoyable aspects of Colour Jungle, and imagined ways we could redesign the game around those core elements.

Setting up the new spin-off – Sugar Glider Tag

Sugar Glider Tag is the working title of the result. We still have a way to go with developing this one, and who knows, this particular road may lead us to a point where we shrug, trek back, and look for a different fork in the path to explore.

Right now though work continues apace with the early development and playtesting. There are aspects of this new game that I really like, and there are aspects of the-game-it-was that I miss, but for now the only way is forward. Testing, trialing, playing, and seeing what feels like an interesting avenue to explore.

More testing, more tweaks…

It’s good fun, and I’m glad to have a design partner to work with. He keeps me honest, keeps me working at it, and two minds, as the saying goes, are better than one!

My attempt at a sugar glider, from a photo I found online.

Zine Quest – Why Kickstarter?

Previously I wrote about ‘Why ZineQuest‘, but let’s back up a bit and ask why Kickstarter?

In late 2018 I was getting the urge to scale down the freelance writing I was doing, and start working on projects of my own. This led me to start development of a large fantasy RPG: Ashmerl, and a collection of smaller RPGs. I wasn’t sure about what the the best way to sell these games was. Just whack them up online for purchase? Look at fleshing some out for self-publication? There were many potential avenues and I was undecided. Then Patreon announced it was changing it’s fee structure…

In mid 2019 I accelerated my plans, had a logo designed, set up Caradoc Games, and launched my Patreon. I did it because Patreon were changing their fee structure and getting in before that happened meant I could avoid some of those fee changes, having a uniform identity from the start would prevent messiness later on, so I did it all at once. In the months after setting up my Patreon I wrote and released four micro-RPGs, both in basic and expanded versions. The goal was this: To write basic games that people could download for free, and include links in each to my Patreon. On Patreon my patrons would have access to the expanded versions of these games. Simple: drive traffic to Patreon in the hope it would encourage people to sign up as patrons in order to get the expanded games.

It did not happen.

I might have been a relatively successful freelancer (well, busy at least), but I did not have an audience. My email list languished, the views on my site were minimal, on the upside the number of downloads were great, but the next step, getting people to Patreon… it did not happen. This could be related to the audience, it could be related to the quality of the games, it could be that I didn’t or don’t market it well, it could all manner of things. To be honest, I think a lot of games that get downloaded for free don’t end up getting played a whole lot. Read perhaps, but played? Maybe I am thinking too much about the number of games I download vs the number of games I actually manage to get to the table, but it is also a potential reason, so… Obviously this is something I need to spend some time considering. Is it worth going back and rethinking how I am doing my Patreon? Is there something I could be offering or doing that would see a change? I think there is, but that is a subject for another day.

Originally Corsairs was intended to be one of the Patreon games. It would have been a smaller game than it is now, but that was the goal when I first started to develop the idea. Then whispers starter to circulate… ZineQuest was coming back in 2020. In October/November I knew this was something I wanted to take part in, for all the reasons I wrote about in my previous post. Namely: it offered the potential for an audience I lacked, it offered the chance to try Kickstarter with as many elements tilted in my favour as possible, and it challenged me to actually do something different, and learn a whole slew of lessons in the process.

With the methods I had been trialing in the middle of 2019 broadly unsuccessful, here was an opportunity to try something different, during a promotion that I hoped would help provide me with the best opportunity to be successful.

Of course, while the timing seemed ideal to trial running a Kickstarter, crowdfunding offers other benefits. With an upfront injection of capital I would be able to do things that I could not have justified otherwise. It allowed to me to trial printing physical copies, something I would not have considered otherwise. I mean, I could have printed physical copies of course, but what would I do with a couple of hundred copies of my game sitting in a box? Hope to sell them slowly? Set up a webstore to sell them? Sell them through my site? eCommerce additions to WordPress cost money, as they do through any other platform. If it was a book to be sold through Amazon or similar, then I might need to consider getting an ISBN and barcode, which costs more money, and I would have no way of knowing (without an audience remember) whether I would sell even half a dozen copies, let alone more than 100.

Upfront capital also allowed me to commission an artist, in the case of Corsairs: Felicity Haworth. Without the upfront capital I could have commissioned an artist, potentially, but it would be a cost I wasn’t confident I could recoup. Prior to running Corsairs I spent hours and hours drawing all the artwork seen on the Kickstarter page myself. Now, I’m can put together a reasonable drawing, although I am better with a pencil than a stylus, but being able to hire someone who is far more capable than I is going to give Corsairs a quality and life I couldn’t have achieved on my own.

Of course, assuming the risk in the hope of reward is how businesses have run since Glob decided to sell amber beads through Ötzi. But Crowdfunding provides opportunities for small time businesses and indie creators to take risks on their ideas through a safer and more defined pathway. For me, creating an indie game, having a small or next-to-nonexistent audience, and wanting to create something that looked nice and could be physically handled, was going to be cost prohibitive. Kickstarter provided a vehicle through which I could mitigate the financial risks, and have a greater opportunity to grow and connect with an audience.

The process of running a Kickstarter, gaining backers, and getting funded, cuts out many of the uncertainties. I know how many physical copies I need to get printed, I have budgeted for art, I have budgeted for shipping costs. All of these things have been considered and accounted for. Running a Kickstarter has defined what my budget parameters are, and given me the exact number of zines I need to print (plus a margin for error). There may be complications along the way, and Kickstarter is by no means a perfect solution, but it is a very useful one, especially for small time creators trying to share their work with the world at large. Is it also widely used by big companies, you bet, and I can see why, but that’s a different topic.

Corsairs hit Kickstarter as a part of ZineQuest. What was going to be a small PDF-only game released on DriveThruRPG and Itch, as well as to Patreon, has grown to a 32 page Zine. Kickstarter has allowed me create something that will be printed, with high quality art from a professional artist. In the process it has also allowed me to learn about laying a document out, printing processes, commissioning an artist, fulfillment, and perhaps more important than all of the above, gain an audience of over 200 backers. I am pretty happy with this humble beginning…

Why Kickstarter? Well, if you managed to make it this far I hope the answer is clear!