Seven Bells…

Corsairs hit DriveThruRPG and Itch.io on June 2nd, and has since been downloaded 348 times across both platforms. There have been a few extra sales, which has been nice, but almost all of them have been downloaded by Kickstarter Backers.

If you are a backer, and have not received your email, please reach out and let me know!

So what’s with the seven bells? Bells were a way of keeping time on a ship at sea, bell times were used not just to signal the passage of time, but eight bells would signal the end of a four hour watch…

So seven bells?

I left Corsairs ‘open’ for a period of time after the digital rewards were fulfilled. The object was to gather any feedback or corrections, and to generally ensure Corsairs was as tight as it could be before sending it off to the printers. That time is fast approaching. There are but a few days remaining before I ‘close’ Corsairs, and send the files off to the printers.

This is exciting, daunting, and generally thrilling moment, as I take a step I have never taken before – to send something off to be printed, and prepare for the fulfillment of the physical rewards.

This means of course, that the window to get in any feedback is fast closing. If you have had a chance to look at Corsairs, and have noticed any embarrassing slip ups or mistakes, please let me know at caradocgames@gmail.com using the subject line: Corsairs Errata. I have had some feedback already, and it has been much appreciated!

So with the seven bells rung out, we wait the approach of eight bells and the changing of the watch… Corsairs will be sent to the printers, and the next stage of our little Kickstarter will begin in earnest!

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!

Uncertainty…

Well, my intention was to continue with my series about the ZineQuest, and I will be getting to it, but right now I feel the world is reeling in a state of shock. The onslaught of the coronavirus covid-19 has been swift, frightening, and shocking. The impact it has had on communities around the world is absolutely awful. Sitting here with a sense of uncertainty about things like the printing, delivery, and shipping of my little zine Corsairs pales into insignificance against the backdrop of events currently unfolding around the world. In my corner of the world we have just entered a shut-down, all non-essential businesses have closed and all non-essential travel restricted. My town has recorded it’s first couple of cases, and undoubtedly there are more in the community, people either not feeling particularly sick, or sick but untested. But it is also true that we are faring so much better than many places around the world.

I never envisaged, as I wrote in the ‘Risks and Challenges’ section of the Kickstarter, that Corsairs was well planned and would meet deadlines barring any unforeseen events, that unforeseen events would indeed step in to throw things into confusion. Of course, this is exactly what unforeseen means, but writing and experiencing it have proven to be two very different things. There is a sense of uncertainty, and of shock, at the way word events are unfolding. I feel obliged to write about the steps being taken to mitigate the challenges posed, and keep people up to date with progress on Corsairs, but it also feels like I’m disregarding the impact current events are having on the lives of so many us when I focus on such a comparatively trivial thing.

Nonetheless, it is important, I think, to keep up with these updates, and it’s something I plan to do with more regularity. Partly because backers deserve to know they have not been forgotten, but mostly because making that contact, sending that message, communicating, is an important and unifying act, however small it may be.

There is uncertainty. As the states in my country all enter different stages of lock down there is no news or forecast as to when certain businesses will open again. No certainty over whether I will be able to have Corsairs printed next month, or whether it will be in three months. No certainty that it will be able to be shipped to me, or that I’ll be able to post it out to backers within days, weeks, or months.

Corsairs will be printed. It will be shipped to backers. But uncertainty is a product of this rapidly changing and evolving global pandemic.

Amongst the chaos of the current world climate I hope that you, wherever you are, are ok. Stay safe, stay well, reach out if you need someone to talk to, and follow health guidelines (ie: wash your hands)!

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!

Zine quest – Why Zine quest?

To start the series of articles here reflecting on my experiences with the ZineQuest, I’m going to delve into the question why?

Why ZineQuest?

I think the most honest answer to this question is the most obvious: ZineQuest has an audience.

ZineQuest was a promotion I heard about last year at the tail end of the promotion. As February 2019 was coming to a close I started to look at the games that had been released on Kickstarter as part of this odd looking, but interesting promotion, and wished I had heard about it earlier. As someone who had already started drafting and developing various role playing games, the ZineQuest promotion was something I was very keen to explore. Why? Because I hoped that by launching something as a part of a promotion like ZineQuest, I had the best chance of getting funded. People remembered the 2019 ZineQuest, people were planning for, and excited about, the prospect of a 2020 ZineQuest. These were people who might look at Corsairs, who would likely never have looked at Corsairs had it launched as it’s own thing at some other point in the year. To me there seemed to be a clear marketing advantage in being part of such a promotion.

Let’s be honest, while I had worked as a freelance writer for more than 5 years, and had written for a reasonable number of RPGs and miniatures games, while I had previously had a life as a podcaster in the board gaming community, I was not well known. Those that did know me were a mix of board and role playing game people, and my potential audience was extremely limited, especially for a project that lacked professional art, and had no budget for marketing.

A promotion like the ZineQuest offered the potential for me to get more people to look at my project, people on Kickstarter for ZineQuest, looking for Zines. I still had to create a game and a project that I hoped would be good enough or interesting enough to get those people to back it, but more eyes means more potential. So that, in essence, is why ZineQuest.

ZineQuest also seemed to me to be a safer place to experiment with creating a game than outlaying the money up front to do it at some other time (or creating a Kickstarter at some other time). A high percentage of of the projects created for the first ZineQuest reached their funding goals, and I believed that while this percentage would be lower in 2020 (due to there being more zines), the number would still be higher than the average outside the ZineQuest promotion. All of this meant that ZineQuest felt like a safer time to try Kickstarter. To learn about planning a project, putting it together, launching it, running it, and getting a feel for how it all works. It meant it felt like a safer time to experiment with printing something: writing, getting art done, laying it out, and having it printed. Something manageable for a first time creator: something that is not a luxurious hard cover book choc full of glorious full colour art. And of course, it also meant I had a chance to experiment with fulfillment, and to learn about the costs and processes involved with that. Some of these things are lessons I have learned, some of these are still ahead of me.

Putting up a project for the ZineQuest was also a challenge to myself. Everything involved (apart from designing and writing the game) would be new to me. I hoped the project would fund of course, but I didn’t imagine it would explode, and so I would be left with a funding level and number of backers that would give me a chance to learn the processes without being overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to need to print 1000 copies, but I tried to be optimistic, without being unrealistic. I believed I could write a game that people would enjoy, I believed I could put together and run a project people would get behind, and I hoped I would be successful. But I also had a voice in my head whispering that if my project did fund, it would not be so huge that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

So there it is, that’s the why. ZineQuest offered the potential of an audience I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get, and challenged me to learn how to create, print, and fulfill something that was manageable. Lessons, lessons, lessons.