If the last post was looking back at the worn path of 2023, this one is about looking forward into 2024. What has Caradoc Games got planned for this year, and what are some things I’d like to work on outside of that?
Ganymede Outriders is a big game in a little package. The game uses a custom designed system built for thematic and quick play; putting the emphasis on fun and high action. Ganymede Outriders includes a full RPG system, and is ideal for both one-shots and campaign play. It is designed to be played with 2 to 5 players and a GM.
Ganymede Outriders will be published as a 40 page A6 zine – another pocket sized book because I like the format, and it keeps the shipping cheap for overseas buyers.
I’ve been working on a bunch of support material for this one, including an SRD, an example of play, and an adventure. It will be available for people to hack, remake, or create for under the Caradoc Games license. Which means you can make stuff using the system, or for the game setting, for free or for sale, without Caradoc Games expecting a tithe.
Everything for Ganymede Outriders is done and ready to roll, and I am super excited for this to launch. I think the setting is fun, and the rules lean into it – something I love doing with all my games!
Ganymede Outriders will be the first game I launch in 2024, but it won’t be the last.
With Every Fibre
Coming in second is With Every Fibre, which will probably be launched somewhere on crowdfunding a month or so after Ganymede Outriders, or the middle of the year at the latest.
With Every Fibre is a fantasy dungeon crawl. The system is designed to OSR-like, but uses D10s for skill tests, and a range of other polyhedrals for weapon damage, spells, and the like. Here’s the pitch:
With Every Fibre is a rules-light fantasy adventure game. Between the covers you’ll find the rules of play, spells to cast, weapon traits you can unlock for special powers, adversaries to face down, tables to roll on and more.
With Every Fibre includes a full RPG system, and is ideal for both one-shots and campaign play. It is designed to be played with 2 to 5 players and a GM.
With Every Fibre will be published as a 48 page A6 zine. I’m really proud of this one. First of all I think the game system is fun, and contains some interesting ideas. Mostly though because all the art and maps for With Every Fibre and the adventure were done by own hand!
Like Ganymede Outriders, everything for With Every Fibre is already done – the rules are written, the art is complete, the layout is finished… So basically, it’s ready for launch!
The third release for 2024 is likely to be a game I have been working on for a while called Heralds… A game where setting building and map creation are a strong part of the game – but I haven’t decided whether this will be a setting book, or whether it will come with a game system as well. Knowing me, I’ll probably end up designing a game system for it, but who knows!
This one is planned to come out late in 2024, I don’t know the page count, and while it’s partly written, I need to go back and rework stuff I put down to paper from a couple of years ago… it’s very much fluid at the moment.
Of course, if Ganymede Outriders or With Every Fibre do particularly well, this third release for the year might be something expanding those systems, and Heralds might be bumped back to 2025. Speaking of which, at some point, probably in 2025, I want to revisit Corsairs and Rascals.
One of the things I have been considering is starting a short review series – one where each episode is less than twenty minutes, and focuses on a single table top role playing game. One of the reasons I thought about doing this is because there are so many indie games that struggle for reviews, I thought it would be nice to do something to fill that gap. Yeah – it would probably keep a fairly positive focus, but that’s mainly because I’m motivated to talk about the things I like. I’ve done podcasting before, and I’m not sure I have the energy to make this a multi-person affair, so it would probably just be me talking into a microphone. Sure it could be TikTok or YouTube or whatever, but I’m not really interested in creating video content, and I almost never watch these forms of game media myself, stick to what you know right?
Three games and support material is a pretty reasonable release schedule for 2024, but there are other things I am working on, including a novel manuscript, creating more art for my projects, and other things both personal and professional. We’ll see how it goes.
I’ve written about my gaming goals for 2024, and in the great tradition of the new year haze, I want to continue in that vein of thinking. But first, we need to look back.
2023 was a relatively quiet year for Caradoc Games, at least in terms of releases. Prisoners of the Elf King launched as a Kickstarter in February of last year, and only just scraped over the line thanks to the generosity of a friend. I was a little disappointed in how Prisoners of the Elf King fared on Kickstarter. I think it’s a fun game, and more than that, I think it’s a fun read. It’s done reasonably well post Kickstarter though – so there is a silver lining! With the post Kickstarter sales the game managed to cover it’s costs and make a little bit of money. By which I mean I paid the artist and made that money back, and managed to keep some change for myself as well, and if not enough to pay me for the design time, writing, and layout, is better than it not covering costs!
For anyone interested, Prisoners of the Elf King a game that pokes fun at some of the classic tropes in fantasy fiction, and in particular the Hobbit (who would have guessed from the name). If you want to know more, you can pick up a below, or from Indie Press Revolution, or from Exalted Funeral.
It could be the format – A6 might not be as popular as A5, or something with a hard cover. To be honest, I don’t think this is the main issue, it just failed to capture much attention on Kickstarter. It could be that it was because it was marketed as a one-shot game – it is an adventure and all the rules required to play that adventure. I think it’s a fun idea, but maybe it’s not a commercial idea. This concept (story arc and bespoke rules set) may be something I come back to, but for now I’m going to focus on making game systems and settings that are not built around one plot concept, however funny I think that concept might be (and trust me, it’s funny). The next few games from me will keep the format, but will be fully fledged RPGs.
Sales of my other games also slowed down in 2023, though I did send off my last copies of Corsairs and Rascals to Indie Press Revolution. Corsairs has sold about 600 copies, and Rascals about 500. I could order another reprint of both, but sales have slowed, and to be honest, both of these are games I’d like to revisit.
At one point I’d love to do a bigger version of Corsairs, with the supplements rolled in with the core rules, maybe even a hard cover if that was possible. We’ll see.
Rascals is a game I am really proud of. I think the playing card system is solid, and I like it a lot. Again it’s a game I’d like to revisit, maybe as a second edition, maybe using the same core system in a different setting.
For now, both these games are almost sold out. The last copies available can still be purchased from Indie Press Revolution (Corsairs, and Rascals) and Exalted Funeral (Corsairs, and Rascals).
Why the slow down? I honestly don’t know. It could be related to the economy, but it’s most likely related to two factors:
1) I wasn’t very active in promoting my games in 2023. A fact that is almost directly related to
2) A main source of traffic for me in the last was through Twitter, which fell of a cliff in 2023. Post engagement is really low, directed traffic is really low to non-existent… Twitter was the main platform I used for putting out news and promotional material related to my games, and it was killed in a brutal if not amusingly ironic fit of capitalistic hubris.
Last year, when it came to considering how I’d promote my games, or whether I should post something, I just felt very disengaged and lacking in motivation. I tried all the things everyone else in the TTRPG industry tried: Hive, Mastodon, Tribel, Threads… the only one I have come to kind of enjoy is BlueSky, aka Twitter with the serial numbers filed off, and you can find me on that site here.
All of that, combined with changes to MailChimp – which I use for my mailing list – made it feel very difficult to get any sort of engagement. I think for 2024 I am going to focus on three things: BlueSky, my mailing list, and this blog.
A bit of a quiet year for Caradoc Games, and a part of this was the fact I changed jobs, and a part of this was that I felt a little disengaged from the whole thing. Prisoners of the Elf King was the only game I released last year, but I did put a lot of work into the design and development of some other games that will be coming in 2024. More on that in the next post…
2024 is nigh. In my last post I wrote about the games I played in 2023, for this coming year I’d like to set a challenge for myself: to play some of my unplayed role playing games.
I like reading RPGs. I like reading new settings, new rules, seeing how different games try and capture different themes and ideas, and seeing how different companies lay out their games. A side effect of this means I have a bunch of games on my shelf that I have never played.
Getting new RPGs to the table is, for me at least, a little more challenging than knocking out a few of my unplayed board games. RPG rules books are typically bigger and more involved, and playing a game is usually much more of a commitment. Add to this the fact that I also design and self-publish my own RPGs, and that somewhere in the gaming schedule I like to fit in as much playtesting as possible, means that getting new games to the table can be a challenge.
Nearly two years ago my game groups decided to start rotating games and GMs – we play through an adventure or campaign, then switch games and GMs. It’s been a great way to play through a variety of games, which suits me as I tend to be a bit of a game magpie – I like to play a game for a bit, and then try something new.
So what games are we talking about? Well I have a lot of unplayed games on my shelf, and this list does not include all of them. This is a list of the games I would most like to get to the table (in no particular order)…
Mutant Year Zero: GenLab Alpha
Star Wars (the West End Games version)
Blades in the Dark
Into the Odd
Fate Accelerated: Masters of Umdaar
15 is too many games for me to GM over the course of 2024; I have a number of games I will be releasing next year, and need some playtest time for those, and our group rotates GMs. So I’m going to set my sights on a more realistic number: I want to knock 6 games off this list by the end of the year.
In addition I want to sort through and work out how I would like to play through these games. Will it be running…
An adventure of 3-5 sessions?
A mini-campaign of 5-10 sessions?
A longer campaign of 10-20 sessions?
When it comes down to it, I would like to do all three of these options, but not equally. I think we might be able to manage one longer campaign, a couple of mini-campaigns, and a couple more adventures.
At the moment I am playing in a game of Mothership and GMing a game of the Expanse. It is probable that the Expanse is going to end up being the longer campaign, presuming the players want to continue playing. We’re playing through the published campaign: Abzu’s Bounty. Several sessions in and we haven’t finished the first adventure of that campaign, so I am guessing it’s going to take a while. It has taken some set-up though, so who knows – maybe the later adventures won’t take as many sessions to play through.
My upcoming game With Every Fibre is probably going to take up at least a mini-campaign of playtest time, but there’s a chance I’ll be setting up a dedicated playtest group and we may be able to get that one done without impacting the scheduling of the other game groups I am part of.
Some of these games have specific requirements. GenLab Alpha comes with a campaign to run through, and I feel like getting the best out of it means running that campaign. All my groups play online, and that means finding a way to run them in an online format, whether through a VTT, over Discord, or through some combination of other online platforms. For games like Mausritter, with it’s little mini-game of storing equipment, that might present a challenge. For other games there are already character sheets and rolling macros built into some VTTs, which makes them more accessible for my groups.
I think setting the goal at 6 games is a reasonable target, if we get more played, even better, if not, well, 6 games is a reasonable benchmark, and I’ll be happy if I can tick that off by the end of 2024. There’s a reasonable chance that some of the other people in my game group might GM one or two of these games, and if that happens, you can be certain I’ll be counting it!
So that’s it – my goal for 2024: knock 6 games off my unplayed list.
2022 was an interesting year, for myself personally it has meant some significant change, for Caradoc Games it’s been a year of overcoming complications and trying out some new things.
Looking back over 2022 from a ‘games and writing perspective’, I have achieved a number of things this year. I finalised, printed, and fulfilled Foundlings. I ran a Kickstarter for Owlbear Omelette. I designed and wrote Prisoners of the Elf King. And I have almost fully developed the next game, slated for the second quarter of 2023: Ganymede Outriders.
It sounds like a lot, and I suppose it is, but I also felt like I did a lot more than I actually did. On reflection, the key reason I didn’t get as much ‘game related’ stuff done as I had planned or thought I might was because of how busy my own life was outside of Caradoc Games. In 2022 I worked full time as a teacher, I also worked some 20 hours a week coaching gymnastics, and then worked on Caradoc Games related stuff outside of that. I have three very active kids, and family life is important. If I got less done on games than I had intended I think I can give myself a break – this year was busy!
One other significant change that happened this year was that I stepped away from the classroom after nearly 20 years as a teacher, and took over the management of a gymnastics center. All of this happened at the same time the little country town I call home flooded. The gym was forced to move locations and the weeks from the floods to the recovery were massive. While this chaotic start to a new career was interesting, to say the least, I really am hoping for a more stable year to come. I loved coaching throughout 2022, and am looking forward to what the new year brings.
So back to game related stuff. The year started with Foundlings, and it was a rocky start. Originally I had intended to fulfill Foundlings through my own webstore, but an error I couldn’t work out in the coupon system was taking time to resolve. In the end I opted to run a pledge manager through Gamefound, which was… interesting. While it took more time than I had planned for, I am thrilled to say that Foundlings was successfully fulfilled, if a little late. This game seems to have done well post-kickstarter, and I ended up having to order a second printing not long after the first. I hope it continues to do well, I really like this little game, and I think it uses some really fun rules. If you’re after a post-apocalyptic fantasy game, with strong environmental themes and a focus on the slow degradation any post-apocalypse brings – this game might just be for you!
The second quarter was spent getting my game Freedom or Toaster finished and laid out for the Tiny Tome – a Kickstarter run by Long Tail Games. I really like this little micro-rpg of mine, and was thrilled it got a chance to be a part of such an awesome anthology of games. As a one-shot I think Freedom or Toaster works great – it has simple resolution mechanics, a fun and funny theme (human-like robots trying to escape a busy mall to live their best lives, while human robot police hunt them down). It also has one of the best rules I have added to a game (imo): every time a robot speaks they have a noise they have to include in their speech – maybe it’s ‘beep’, maybe it’s ‘woo!’ – every time I have played Freedom or Toaster this element has been a lot of fun.
Around the same time I started work on Ganymede Outriders, a game I originally hoped I would release as a perfect bound book of something like 100 A5 pages. But…
When fulfilling Foundlings I had a number of messages from backers complaining about the high cost of shipping. Believe me, I get it. As an Aussie, shipping is a nightmare. Having the cost of shipping be about the same as the game itself – for a game which is a staple bound booklet no-less… yeah. For Foundlings I actually charged less than what it cost me to put those games in the post, and at $14 for shipping per copy – no, it was not cheap. I looking at working with a shipping partner, I looked at localised printing, and while these offered some solutions, the cost in currency conversion between AUD and USD meant that any savings I could pass on were negligible or non-existent.
My plans to make bigger books with Ganymede Outriders and Heralds was only going to mean bigger shipping costs, but what if I went smaller instead? What if I could send something in a DL envelope? That would cost about $4 AUD for international shipping.
The plan for Owlbear Omelette was hatched.
Owlbear Omelette was a game I had originally released in 2019. I chose to revamp the game for this little experiment, and converted it into a 36 page staple bound A6 booklet. I reworked the rules, added some fun new options, redesigned and added a bunch of random tables for generating a dungeon or palace, and let it loose on Kickstarter. It didn’t explode, in fact, it barely scrapped over the line, but it funded. It funded and it let me trial how much cheaper and easier it could be to send stuff via DL. Owlbear Omelette wasn’t even on my radar for a re-release at the start of the year, but here we are: a successful Kickstarter fulfilled, and copies already available in retail at places like Indie Press Revolution, and soon to be at Exalted Funeral.
The experiment was a success, and this led me to work on my next game. It wasn’t that I abandoned Ganymede Outriders – that one was still percolating in the background, but I wanted to make something that was spiritually like Owlbear Omelette, something that was hopefully amusing to read and play, and that poked a bit of fun at itself and it’s genre. Prisoners of the Elf King was born.
In Prisoners of the Elf King you play as Dwarves, captured by the eponymous Elf King, and released from your cells by your burglar. Rather than climbing into barrels and getting dashed to pieces in a river, you have collectively decided to find your own way out.
Like Owlbear Omelette, this game is both the adventure and the rules system, with the rules specifically designed to engage with the themes. In Prisoners of the Elf King Dwarves can ‘Dig Deep’ to score extra successes, but if they do it to much they can release their bane. The characters all have passions – which play off the characteristics of the Dwarves in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, and if they are fulfilled the player can advance their characters. The party also has a sheet with three tracks – Fly You Fools measures how close the Dwarves are to escape. Diplomatic Incident is rolled after the game, and can mean the antics of the Dwarves lead to a massive war (Battle of the Five Armies style), and Drums in the Deep is the track that gets filled up if the Dwarves dig too deep too often.
I think the system is fun, and I got a lot of pleasure out of designing a set of rules that play with the material that inspired it. Like Owlbear Omelette this is a strongly focused game – it sets out to tell a story, and has all the rules you need to play that story. I’m thinking of calling this little line of games ‘Episodes’ – because that’s very much what it feels like. They are a different design experience to something like Corsairs, Rascals, Foundlings, or Ganymede Outriders – all of which are game systems and settings.
Prisoners of the Elf King will be hitting Kickstarter in February this year, as a part of the ZineQuest and ZiMo promotions.
Of course, with the rules for Prisoners of the Elf King done and dusted, I turned back to Ganymede Outriders. This is a game and setting, includes vehicle rules, and a travel system. I am going to try and squeeze all of that into an A6 book. Will it work? We shall see…
Toward the end of last year Thunderworks Games ran a Kickstarter for their Roll Player Adventures game. This was hugely exciting for me, as a part of this Kickstarter included the Tales of Ulos graphic novel. I wrote one of the comics in this novel: Blackjacked Buccaneers, and it was one of the most enjoyable pieces of freelance writing I have ever undertaken. You can read some thoughts about it all here. I was very pleased to see Roll Player Adventures do so well, not least for the selfish reason that I get to see a comic book I wrote go to print. And who knows, maybe we’ll see more of Kaemon and Pitlin in the future…
Well, that about wraps up the year that was. 2022 was a busy year, but I am pleased with everything I got done. It wasn’t the biggest year for Caradoc Games in terms of money made, and one of the reasons for this is because I had made the decision to move away from freelance work to focus on my own games (Blackjacked Buccaneers was the exception – I mean who could say no to writing a comic!).
The Owlbear Omelette Kickstarter raised about $1600 AUD, of that about $100 was profit, but I also sold copies into distribution, and that, for me at least, has been where my games have made the most. Online sales through my website were almost non-existent, sales on itch.io came to about $40, and DriveThruRPG sales totaled about $140 (after DTRPG took their 30% cut). Royalties from Long Tail, and sales through distribution (both Indie Press Revolution and Exalted Funeral) came to a bit over $3000. None of this includes royalties for the comic book – I expect those will start next year some time. Not a huge amount to show for the work it has taken, but all building. I now have four games in print, the experiment with cheaper shipping options was a success and has created the model for Caradoc Games moving forward, and I have two games ready for 2023. With a back catalog starting to make some money, and at least two games lined up for release next year, I hope the building I have put into this year will start to grow in 2023.
I have rambled long enough, I’ll write about my plans for 2023 in another post.
After some delays, Rascals is being prepped and packaged, ready to post… I have finished all of the ‘One-of-a-Kind’ backer level pieces, which ended up including a lot more of my drawings than I had expected (my humble apologies to everyone who is about to get more of my attempts to ‘art’ than they bargained for)!
For anyone interested, the TableTop Simulator DLC is a great way to play Rascals remotely, and can be found here.
Speaking of the DLC… using the card images I made for TableTop Simulator, and the wonderful art from Juan Ochoa, there is a deck of premium poker cards available print-on-demand from DriveThruRPG, and you can find them here.
Below is a link to survey about the future of Rascals. If you have, or are interested in Rascals I am keen to read what you would like to see next…
I’ve written about Heralds previously, it was originally the game I had intended to release for ZineQuest 3, but as I worked on it I realised it needed to be a larger game than would fit comfortably in a zine format. Heralds will be the largest game I have produced so far, and I am really excited to see it taking shape!
So what is Heralds?
Some choose the path, some are chosen, others are called. All accept the risk; all know from scar and memory; the path is not easy. Across rock and ice, through canyons deep and valleys strange, under brutal sun and violent storm, on old paths and new, so venture the Heralds.
Heralds is set in the world of Ashmerl, a world where the ebb of magic has had a profound impact. What was once a united empire has been smashed apart, the old low-ways of the World Beneath, which joined the many Enclaves of the World Above are sealed now, too dangerous to travel. Enclaves which once bustled with trade and wealth have been separated, and forced to survive alone as best they could…
The characters are Heralds of their Enclave, daring the hazardous paths over mountain paths and unknown valleys, looking to reconnect what once was whole. But as the world has changed, so too have the people.
In Heralds, the Enclave where the characters grew up is a vital living element of the game. As players make their characters, they will also build their Enclave: map and history. As a group plays, the characters will grow, change, and develop, and so too will the Enclave.
I am hoping that Heralds will hit Kickstarter a little later this year. I won’t say much more than that right now, as development and writing are still ongoing; but I will have more to share over the next couple of months. Until then, here is an early draft of the cover, with art by the supremely talented Andie Lugtu…
I had a few people message to ask about physical copies of my RPG of sky ships and floating islands: Corsairs. I am thrilled to say that physical copies of this zine are now back in stock on the webstore here.
I was unsure what to do for the 2021 Zine Quest, and I wrote last time how my fantasy RPG, Heralds, was approaching a point where the project was too big to fit comfortably into the Zine Quest format. I could have cut it back, but I like the systems, and I felt it would lose too much if it was cut shorter. I bit the bullet and did what any self-respecting Zine Questee would do, I decided to write a different game.
In fairness I had the core of the system already written up, so I wasn’t coming at it from nothing. I knew the genres and themes I wanted to hit, they were baked into the system I had dusted off. So what did I do?
First, I made a few more notes, and left it at that for a week.
In that week I did three things before really delving into the system, setting, and writing. I worked on finding an artist whose style matched my feel for the setting and game, I looked for fonts that would work in a similar vein, and I started developing the layout and look of the zine.
Normally I tend to get writing first, so this was a departure from the established routine for me. Why did I go this route? To be honest, it was the fact that while I had a feel for the game in terms of what I wanted out of the mechanisms and setting, the setting itself was nebulous, it was feelings and emotion, a pace and rhythm, a soundtrack with no lyrics. I felt that getting a good grip on the visuals of the game would help me ground the the rules and setting, provide inspiration and limitation in equal and needed quantities. I’m glad I did.
I found an artist I am really excited to be working with, I won’t say too much just yet (not until there is something to show alongside), but I will say that I think his work is going to make Rascals look absolutely brilliant.
I started working on the layout. With Corsairs the game was originally envisaged to be more of a old-time worn look, faded leather and the like. With Rascals I wanted to make something stridently black and white, something that would fit within the two-tone rules for Zine Quest, and really sit comfortably within that space. I am really happy with how Rascals is looking at the moment, and I think once the art is dropped in, it will really look amazing.
Lastly I looked at fonts… and well. That’s a whole thing. Finding fonts that fit the style you want, but making sure that they are free for commercial use (or that you can get hold of a license for them), is not as easy as it could be. A lot of the fonts that come with Word or whatever program you happen to use might be free for personal use, but not for commercial use. I looked through a whole slew of fonts before settling on two I really liked. One will be used for all the headings, and the other for the body text. The 3D and gradient overlay effects for the title and contents pages were all done in Affinity, and fit the theme and game perfectly in my opinion.
So, a little update on where I am at in the lead up to Zine Quest 2021. I will be back with more on the subject, and back with some reflections on the year past (and hopes for the year ahead) in another post.
Where-ever you are, I hope you and yours had a lovely Christmas/Holiday period (if you celebrate such things), and a smashing new year (again…).
I’m in a bind. With Zine Quest 3 unofficially officially announced through a number of email responses from Kickstarter posted on Twitter I find myself in the middle of writing and laying out my next project: Heralds.
Heralds is a fantasy role playing game, and it emphasizes home and exploration. A big part of the game is the collective creation of the Enclave (settlement) the characters belong to. This process includes some map making, some populating the Enclave with people, and some generation for the Enclaves network of nearby settlements. Characters are created through a light life-path system, and the creation of the Enclave and the characters happens at the same time. These systems work together to create varied characters, who are uniquely tied to their home, in short, it gives the characters a context. In my various play tests of this system there have always been multiple hooks generated through the creation process, meaning that the first game, games, or even campaign is seeded in the characters and the setting the play group collectively builds. I like how it all works.
I’m in a bind though…
I like how it all works, but the game is going to be bigger than Corsairs, my RPG for the 2020 Zine Quest. Where Corsairs sat at 36 pages front to back cover, I estimate that Heralds will sit closer to 60, and could easily be longer. Yes, it still works as a Zine, and it could work for Zine Quest. However, at that page count it will push the cost of shipping internationally from $8.30 AUD to $13.50. This is not an insignificant jump, and will likely mean that the cost of shipping will be greater than the cost of the game itself (something we who live in Australia are all too familiar with).
Is this too high? I’ll admit that I thought the cost of shipping would push people to opt for the PDF only Backer Level for Corsairs, and you can read here how my expectations on that front were wrong. But is it too much? Am I better off creating a smaller game (I have a few nearly written), and running that game for Zine Quest instead, saving Heralds for a Kickstarter later in 2021, where it wouldn’t be released as a part of the Zine Quest, and would therefore have a little more flexibility in how it could be put together (perfect binding anyone?).
What to do, what to do… I just don’t know where I will go with it right now. Part of me wants to push on with Heralds because I am loving it right now, and part of me wants to take a step back and tell myself to hold off and make it a bigger and better beast that can be released on it’s own two feet later in 2021.
I am at a loss, and yet a decision needs to be made sooner than later so I can focus my attention on getting the Zine Quest project (whatever it is) Zine Quest ready… Hmm…
Speed, Strength, and Wits is complete! Download codes sent to Backers… and with that everything achieved for the Corsairs Kickstarter has been completed and sent.
Corsairs is the core rules book, and includes all the rules for play, character creation, equipment, scoundrels to face off against, and also includes rules for sky ships and sailing.
Smoke and Oakum is the first supplement for Corsairs, and delves into the world of Sky Ships. It includes rules for weather, heights, managing a crew, upgrading a ship, and much more.
Speed, Strength, and Wits is the second supplement for Corsairs, and expands on the rules for characters. Providing 54 new Abilities characters can learn, more nuanced rules for relationships, new conditions, rules for building a refuge, and much more.
All three of these books together represents something around 100 pages of content. It started with a Kickstarter during the ZineQuest promotion in February of this year, with the physical copies of the core book having shipped out in August, and the two supplements unlocked as stretch goals have since been released.
The big question for me in regards to Corsairs is where to next? I have a bunch of notes ideas, but I am keen to see what others would like to see from the line. I’m not only interested in seeing what you would like to see released next for Corsairs, but also what format you would like that to take. To that end I have created a survey you can find below…
I have been working on the next game, and at the moment the plan is to launch it via Kickstarter during ZineQuest in 2021. The rules are nearly finished, as is the setting. I just need to start pulling things into a more cohesive whole. I am really excited about this one, and I think it will be a lot of fun. I won’t say more yet, as much as I am itching to do so…
I am also starting to pull some of my shorter games into a different format. I started with Brigands of Sherwood. A silly one-shot about being robbers in Sherwood forest who legitimately want to get rich, but who have to keep giving their loot away thanks to Robin ‘bloody’ Hood. Instead of the A4 layout it’s currently in, I am working on putting it into a brochure format… it’s been fun to play around with Affinity Publisher as I am doing so. I think I will do the same sort of format for Freedom or Toaster, and The Hoppy Pops.
I am hoping that 2021 will be a productive year for Caradoc Games, with lots planned and around the corner, I am quietly excited to see what comes…
Earlier in this series of articles about running a Kickstarter (links to all of which can be found here), I wrote a post called Levels and Goals in which I talked about setting the backer levels, the prices for the backer levels, and the funding goal for the Kickstarter. The relevant part is that I had decided that the physical zine would cost $15 AUD, and the digital only zine would cost $10 AUD. In the linked article I delve into why I made these choices, and for the digital zine that level seemed on par with what a lot of other ZineQuesters were charging for their digital zines (Australian Dollars translates well into US Dollars, with a $10 AUD level costing about $6.70 USD when the Kickstarter launched).
All of this has implications…
I don’t mean implications for the Kickstarter, though obviously pricing is important, and I’ve lost track of the number of times I have written hand-wringing articles about the added costs of shipping. No, I mean implications beyond the Kickstarter.
Corsairs funded (yay!), the physical rewards have been sent, and of the two digital supplements that were unlocked as stretch goals one has been fulfilled, and the other will be fulfilled in the next few weeks. But, what about after the Kickstarter? What would I do after the dust had settled and the Kickstarter has been fulfilled? Is that sweet goodnight for Corsairs?
Obviously not. I had always planned to have Corsairs available to buy digitally through both Itch.io and DriveThruRPG. What I had not considered was the implications of setting my backer levels, and what that might mean in the months that followed…
At the moment Corsairs is available on both Itch.io and DriveThruRPG for $7.99 USD. Why this price? Why not cheaper? I mean, it would be nice to have Corsairs sitting at say $4.99, and appearing in the ‘Popular Under $5’ lists on DriveThru. It’s certainly a more appealing price, and likely to lead to more sales. So… why?
Well, the reason comes back to implications… The backers of Corsairs spent good money supporting my Kickstarter, and without them it wouldn’t be a success, and certainly wouldn’t be available as it is. For the digital only copy backers paid their $10 AUD. How would they feel, having supported me, to turn around and see the game on sale for cheaper? Is it a betrayal of sorts? Would I be disrespecting them? Playing them for fools? Would I be undermining any future Kickstarters I run through such disregard?
All these were thoughts that swirled through my head when it came to putting Corsairs up for sale as a digital product. While the backer prices I set were a reasonable choice for the sake of the Kickstarter, they had implications and set (in my head at least) boundaries on what I could or should charge after the Kickstarter… How could I place Corsairs up for sale for less than what my backers paid? In the end I didn’t. I have no doubt that a number of purchases have been passed over because of the cost, and that more sales would have been achieved at a lower price point, but still…
I am pretty confident that many backers wouldn’t mind seeing Corsairs online for a little less than what they paid, after all they got two extra digital zines as Stretch goals, and yet… I also think there would be some who would feel they had been unfairly treated, and that is valid.
So what does this rambling thought train of a post imply? For me at least it means that next time I will think carefully about the future implications of pricing for backer levels, and what that might mean carried forward past the Kickstarter phase. I need to ask myself where will this game be available in six months time, and what sort of price do I want to be selling it for. And lastly, I need to parse those thoughts and bring them into the decision making process when defining backer levels.
This post might be very ‘Australia’ orientated, but I am going to make some obvious observations about timing, tax, and the ZineQuest Kickstarter I ran in February this year. In Australia the financial year runs from July one year to June the next. ZineQuest ran in February. My Kickstarter project for ZineQuest launched on the 1st of February, and ended on February the 16th, funding successfully. Kickstarter takes time to gather rewards, chase backers who declined or didn’t pay, and generally process things, and in the end the money raised by the Kickstarter landed in my account on the 2nd of March, about two weeks after the project had ended. It should also be noted here that the amount pledged and the amount received by the project creator are not the same thing. Kickstarter takes it’s 5% fee, and there are additional processing fees which typically round the amount up to around 10%, and then there are dropped backers and refunded backers. Dropped backers are those who pledged an amount of money, and then who, for whatever reason, didn’t pay.
To give a quick and dirty break down using my Kickstarter as the example:
Corsairs funded on February the 16th, with 236 Backers pledging $4116 AUD.
Dropped Backers amounted to -$76, leaving the amount gathered by Kickstarter at $4040 (an ominous number 😀 )
Kickstarter fees amounted to about $202 and processing fees of a further $167.
Meaning that, after all else, Corsairs resulted in a deposit into my account from Kickstarter for roughly $3671 (yes, I am sanding off the cents throughout).
INSERT OBLIGATORY PLUG:
If you don’t have a copy of Corsairs you can fix that by heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io. If you missed the Kickstarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some physical copies left, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Out of this I obviously had to pay for everything, from art to printing and shipping. Shipping was the largest expense by far, and cost a little over $1100 on its own. Aaaaannnndddd this is the thing that I think I am going to try and remember for the next time…
With the money hitting my account at the start of March, and the end of the financial year sitting at the end of June, the money raised by the Kickstarter was going to sit in the 2019/2020 taxable year. Between art, printing delays, and Covid, I ended up having Corsairs printed and shipped to me at the start of August, and then shipped out to my backers in the middle of August. Meaning the printing and shipping costs of more than $1600 would be counted as an expense in the 2020/2021 financial year.
Why is this relevant? It’s about the taxable income for any given financial year, in an ideal scenario I would have had the game printed and shipped before the end of the 2019/2020 financial year in June 2020 in order that the costs of printing and shipping would count against the income from the Kickstarter as an expense, and reduce the taxable income of my business.
Now, I fully understand we are talking small amounts of money here compared to almost every other kickstarter or business. But timing, as best as is possible, the expenses element of a Kickstarter so that the income does not look artificially inflated to the tax office is really worth planning for.
Yes, I had an income from the Kickstarter of over $3600, but that didn’t account for multiple expenses (art, printing, shipping labels, envelopes, shipping, and everything else). The tax office don’t care what expenses are upcoming though, that’s for the next financial year, all that matters is what happens between the start of July 2019 and the end of June 2020. Now, perhaps there is an advantage to the fact that my business has already racked up a bunch of expenses for the 2020/2021 financial year, and that may be useful when it comes to the (fingers crossed) ZineQuest in 2021 and lodging my tax return for the 2020/2021 financial year, but thinking about the timing of income and expenses is something I am much more aware of now than I was back in January of this year. This might be especially true if you are running a Kickstarter or making money from your creative work in addition to a day job, and your income is already close to a tax threshold.
Dull talk, and perhaps very Aussie-centric, but some further thoughts following my experiences this year with the ZineQuest.