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!

Corsairs is Live on Kickstarter

Corsairs is now live on Kickstarter! One of the first, but one of many creative, passionate, and vibrant games put forward by the role playing community as a part of Kickstarter’s Zine Quest!

What is Corsairs?

You are a Corsair: nothing more than a pirate to the navies of the Empires that battle over the floating islands. But to independent islands like Teboa, you are a bulwark against the machinations of power hungry sovereigns.

Corsairs is a game of sky ships, powerful empires and fiercely independent floating islands.

The zine is a 32 page role playing game, with all the rules for character creation, taking actions, and darring-do that you would expect. It also includes rules for great battles between the sky ships that the ply the Molten Seas!

If Corsairs funds you will get a 32 page role playing game, including a character sheet and ship sheet, either as a PDF, or both as a PDF and a professionally printed zine.


If we hit the first stretch goal, my sketches will be replaced with wonderful art from Felicity Haworth. Check out her art at the link, I think it’s fantastic, and I’m hoping I have the opportunity to work with her to make Corsairs look even more amazing!

You can find and back Corsairs here.

Corsairs – Characters

Corsairs will be coming to Kickstarter as a part of the ZineQuest in a few days time. In the lead up I wanted to show a few of the details, and today that means talking about characters!

You can tell a lot about a role playing game from the character sheet, and this is the character sheet for Corsairs:

Characters are built around their statistics: Finesse, Might, and Wits. This dictates the base number of D6 rolled when a character is attempting a task. Each statistic has three linked skills, and these will provide bonus dice a character may roll, and can be improved with experience.

Characters also have Luck points, and these may be used to modify dice, or to add some narrative element or device to the game that aids the character in their hour of need!

As the pirates close in on poor old Edward Evans he stumbles across a small gully, Evan’s player spends a luck point and states that in the gully are some picketed horses… just in the nick of time!

Characters will also have positive and negative relationships with the other characters in the group. In our playtests Del Fuego had a negative relationship with Scarred Pete because Pete’s Monkey nearly pulled out Del Fuego’s infamous moustache.

Relationships provide a benefit or impose a negative effect when the characters are working together and helping each other out.

Characters have gear! Each character will also begin the game with one special item. Scarred Pete had his monkey, Del Fuego had his moustache. Special items provide a bonus to one skill.

At the bottom of each character sheet has a Damage chart, which is where a player tracks how injured a character is. Injuries can mean negative effects for the characters, like the Cursed condition. The Damage chart also shows how difficult the injuries are to heal…

Lastly, most characters will have a role on ship, this will mean certain jobs they are in charge of when a ship is getting ready, plotting a course, sailing, or locked broadside to broadside with an enemy!

Corsairs will launch on February 2nd! Check out the pre-launch page here, and click to get notified when it launches!

Corsairs – Coming Soon to Kickstarter!

The Corsairs Kickstarter preview is up! Check it out here!

Corsairs will go live for Kickstarter’s ZineQuest on February 2nd.


Corsairs is a 32 page RPG zine of sky ships, floating islands, and high adventure! All the expected rules are there: actions, combat, giving a foe a damned good tongue lashing, Corsairs even includes rules for sky-ships and broadsides!

Corsairs does not include a GM chapter, or the usual ‘What is an RPG’ section, but it is choc full of rules, Scoundrels, and background. It also includes a Summary page, a character sheet, and a ship sheet.

Again, you can check it out here!

Zine Quest – Starting Line In Sight…

For the briefest of moments I was going to title this: Finish line in sight… but then I came to my senses. The starting line is in sight, and the kickstarter page for Corsairs is almost ready to be submitted for approval. I need to make some small final adjustments, run over the maths again for the millionth time, and hit submit… it is close!

The bleed has been adjusted (I made an error with the cover that has been fixed), and the finished book will use a light blue cover stock.

A part of all the organisation and planning that has gone into this is sorting out the costs of shipping. Shipping from Australia is expensive, and maybe, just maybe, the currency conversion rates for the weak Australian dollar in comparison to the US dollar, the Euro, or the Pound, will make a difference, but the fact remains: shipping from Australia is expensive. Working out exactly what those incidental costs will be is important. The cost of printing the zine is A, the cost of art, writing, and all those other creative parts B, the cost of shipping is C, and the cost of the shipping materials is D.

The cover is 250gsm stock, while the interior pages are 100gsm. The zine is saddle stitched, and printed in black and white. Again, the printed book will have a light blue cover.

A+B+C+D is what the zine costs me, to send to you, the backer. I have quotes for A, a cost for B, and know what D will be. The cost of C, shipping, is dependent on weight. The weight of the zine, the weight of the packaging, and the added weight of shipping labels and so forth.

To aid in this process, and to make sure everything is ready to roll as it should be, I have had a test book printed. This proof helps me for a number of reasons, one: I can test the actual finished weight of the zine. Two, I can make any adjustments required (already I can see that aspects of the character sheet are too close to the gutter and need to be adjusted), and so on. Plus, it is super nice to hold a physical copy of the zine, and to see what it will look like.

It should be noted that the print proof is not using blue stock for the cover (as the finished zine will), but all the paper weights are correct and accurate, and will give me the information I need to move forward with shipping estimates. I must say that I am rather happy with the finished product. A neat, nice looking little booklet that contains all the rules required to go a-plundering the ships and shipping lanes of the Alderil Empire in a sky ship are present and correct! Very nice!

A sneak peek at the contents – all the rules and background included. Rules for characters and actions, rules for creating characters, rules for ships and ship to ship combat, rules and lists of equipment, scoundrels, a quick reference, and the obligatory character and ship sheets!
Also, my playtesters complained that I didn’t mention all the arson they undertook in the dedication, and to be fair to them, there was a lot of it.