Zine Quest – Shipping from Down Under

I went to a local post office. I figured it was better to speak to someone with expertise rather than noodle around on the Australia Post website for hours to find the same information.

“If I was interested in sending an A5 booklet. This size (I had two samples). What would the cost be to post domestically? Internationally? To the US? The UK? Europe? China? etc…

Before too long the scales held the samples (both), and a price was forthcoming.

“How much?”

Shipping from Australia is expensive. Hell, shipping to Australia is expensive, in the instances when I have purchased games from overseas the shipping has often cost more than the game.

Shipping domestically is fairly well priced, a little over a dollar for something like an A5 Zine, plus the cost of the envelope it is put in.

Shipping internationally, wow.

A5 booklets can be sent as letters in the appropriate packaging, packaging from Australia Post can cost anywhere between $50 for 100 envelopes, through to $90, depending on the quality. In other places, like Office Works or similar stores that specialise in stationary and office supplies, you can find cheaper alternatives.

Postage costs, in the case a zine being sent as a letter, are based on weight. If the total weight (the weight of the booklet and the envelope together) is less than 50g, then the cost to send to most places internationally is $3.20. Between 50g and 125g, and the price jumps to $8.30. If it’s between 125g and 225g, the prices jumps again to $13.50, and beyond that and you’re probably not sending a zine.

So I’m waiting for the printer to get back to me with options and projected weights, and the choice here lies somewhere between getting as low a weight as possible and maintaining a level of quality.

The postage costs are high, which makes them difficult to roll into a backing level in the case of the Zine Quest. If my zine ends up weighing over 50g (envelope included), which is likely, it will mean adding or absorbing $8.30 on top of the cost of printing, and on top of any additional margin for losses, profits, and so on).

What does this mean for the Corsairs Kickstarter? Well, if the weight is over 50g, which is likely, it means that I will likely charge for shipping on top of the cost of the Zine – backing levels will be set at x, shipping at y, and backers who want a physical copy will be required to pay x+y.

If, in the unlikely scenario, that the weight is beneath 50g, then I may be able to increase the cost of the backing level for the physical Zine slightly, and absorb some of the shipping costs. Is the prospect of ‘free shipping’ worth it? What will it bring to the campaign? These are questions I need to ask myself.

On the upside the Australia dollar is fairly weak compared to most major currencies, so my $8.30 (well, $8.30 plus the cost of the envelope) for shipping translates to about $5.70 USD, €5.15 EUR, ₤4.5 GPB, $7.5 CAD, or ¥39.5 CNY. Perhaps that makes it more palatable, perhaps it doesn’t…

All food for thought!

Zine Quest – Moving Forward

Tentative cover…

As Zine Quest approaches with the unstoppable momentum of… a… a thing with unstoppable momentum, preparations are well underway. The rules are fairly well finalised, and playtesting continues apace. Layout is almost complete, though I have a few more pieces of art to finish. I have finished the cover, and have investigated shipping costs. I still need to confirm with the publisher, and finalise the weight of the zine, which will give me the final shipping costs, but everything is moving, and generally speaking, it’s moving forward.

Prior to Zine Quest, everything has since been modified to accommodate the KS rules for colour.

It has been a lot of fun running through playtests, we’re currently in the process of testing a mini-campaign that will be available as a stretch goal, should Corsairs make it that far. There has been much chaos, many fires, and even a riot or two in the ports of the floating island of Teboa. All good fun!

Playtesting with the old character and ship sheets, but with the new rules.

Over the course of playtesting, we have changed a bunch of the smaller rules, streamlined some others, and heavily modified stats throughout. Playtesting is such a valuable process. I was thrilled the core mechanisms held together and work well, but playtesting has helped everything else. The book has been significantly restructured as a result of feedback, as well as a result of flipping through to find things during play. If I had my time over, I wouldn’t draft the zine in a layout program like Affinity – I would write it in word, and transfer it to Affinity, but it has been a hell of a learning process, and I feel much more comfortable dealing with Affinity had I done it the other way around.

The manor house, storage sheds and stables are all on fire… it was meant to be such a simple mission!

At the moment I am working through a list of updates, creating the Kickstarter page, and working on ideas for Stretch Goals. When I get the final weights from the printer, I will be in a better place to set the funding goal, backing levels, and make the choice about whether to roll shipping into the price, or to charge for it separately. Being in Australia has some serious implications for shipping, and everything comes back to weight, but I’ll write more about this another day.

With everything coming together, albeit slowly, I am hoping that Corsairs will be launched as a part of the Zine Quest in the first or second week of February! Keep your patchless eye open for it!

Zine Quest – Resources…

I added a page to this site to catalogue resources I found across the internet in the lead up to the Zine Quest. You can find it on the page tab, or here. As February approaches, I am finding a few more useful threads on Twitter and on various blog sites around the web. I wanted to highlight some of these here.

First off is @zeshio on Twitter. Zeshio has a number of fantastic Twitter threads about various things to remember and consider when it comes to creating a Zine for the Zine Quest. Three of these particularly caught my eye, and are linked to on the Zine Quest page. The first of these is a Twitter thread about printing. In this thread there are a range of useful tips, tricks and nuggets of advice. Things to do with paper weights, binding types, costs of printing, things to remember when creating the file, and so on. Well worth a read, a reread, and then a rereread.

Second in the list of helpful posts from Zeshio is his blog post about shipping. Shipping, he states, is likely to be the largest cost for producing a zine. He then delves deeper into the subject, considering weights, shipping methods, satchel sizes, and so on. Again, this post is well considered, and contains a huge amount of very useful information. Check it out here.

Last of the three (but not last of Zeshio’s great advice – check him out on Twitter!) is a compilation of stats drawn from the last Zine Quest. This is a google-doc that contains a wide range of data points, how many Zines were a part of the Zine Quest, how many funded, how large were they, how many had stretch goals, what were the funding levels, what level did they fund at, and so on. Really interesting and relevant stuff, that contains a lot of useful points that can be extrapolated. Do stretch goals correlate with funding? Are higher backing levels more likely to succeed than lower backing levels, and so on. On the summary page of the google doc Zeshio develops some thoughts around the data, and asks some interesting questions. Well worth checking out!

I’ve said it already, but if you are looking at developing a Zine Quest, or are a fan of the TTRPG industry, you should most definitely check out and follow @Zeshio – on top of all that he is a fantastic artist.

Next cab off the rank is Exalted Funeral, @ExaltedFuneral, who put a call out for anyone interested in having them handle fulfillment. Well worth checking out!

Last, but not least, is a wonderfully in-depth article by Clayton Notestine, @ClayNotestine, that has been circulated on Twitter, reddit, and elsewhere, all about layout. This blog post really delves into the subject of layout, takes a look at dos and don’ts, as well as examines some wonderful examples from a range of RPG products. This link is not just for Zine Quest, but a must read for anyone interested in learning about layout (like myself), or who is jumping into the subject without having any great prior knowledge (like myself).

I am trying to keep a track of the various links I find interesting or useful over on my Zine Quest page, so if you’ve read this far and have some links that you think would suit – shoot me an email (you can find it here) or hit me up on Twitter!

As an aside, my Zine Quest project, Corsairs, has nearly finished being laid out (I am doing this myself this time around, and using the Affinity Publisher program, which I have thoroughly enjoyed). I’m currently in the middle of playtesting a campaign that I hope will be available as a stretch goal – we shall see!

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!