Open for Business!

Caradoc Games now has a webstore! For those following the blog there has been quite a lot happening in the background… we shifted hosting, rebuilt parts of the website, and added a shop! It’s taken a long time to get it all sorted out, but everything is up now, and ready to roll!

Over at the shop you can find all of our games for sale, including physical copies of the Corsairs Zine, and everything else we have produced. Some, like our micro-RPGs are set to ‘pay what you want’, so if you’re after an evening of silly fun, they are well worth checking out (yes, I am biased 😉 ).

To celebrate the opening of the shop we have a sale running from Black Friday to Cyber Monday with a reduced price on everything Corsairs!

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!

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!

Laying it all out…

If you ever find yourself Googling ‘How many fonts are too many fonts’, chances are you’ve already used too many fonts. At the moment I am working on my next micro-RPG, tentatively called ‘Corsairs’, and I’m moving out of my MS Word based comfort zone, and delving into the deep waters of Affinity Publisher.

Affinity Publisher is a program designed to do, essentially, what In-Design does, it’s a publishing program with a whole bunch of functions and features that I am unfamiliar with, and do not understand. Making the leap from Word, where I can make something that looks pretty reasonable (at least to my untrained eye), and into the murky waters of a desktop publishing program has been enlightening, frustrating, tear-inducing, and invigorating. Yes, it’s been a roller-coaster.

No cover image yet…

Corsairs has been an interesting project, essentially I am working on two very different drafts. The first is the draft of the rules and game itself, and the second is a draft of playing with the program and trying to get it to do things. The first is ground I feel comfortable on, and the second has been a struggle, I won’t deny it.

Luckily for me there are a whole bunch of tutorial videos on the Affinity website, which has been a massive help. I also downloaded the Affinity Publisher Beginner’s Guide, by Nathanael Roux, which was very informative, and came with a bunch of backgrounds and fonts that have been very useful! I would highly recommend Nathanael’s guide, not only does it come with useful resources, it is also a great source of general information about the program itself.

So why make the leap? I suppose it’s because I wanted to stretch myself, and to try and make the games I’m releasing look a little more professional and well put together than they have in the past. Am I succeeding? Well, I am not familiar with the ins and outs of visual design, but I am slowly coming to grips with the program, and I am enjoying the flexibility it offers. This was something I had been intending to do for a little while, but have been putting it off. I’m glad I finally made the leap. While I’m sure that the games I release will still undoubtedly look like they were put together by an amateur (no denying it), I think that as a whole, they will look better produced than what I had been releasing previously.

Little details, like the ease of adding art to the document, the ability to create Master Pages, and the capacity to use the background around the document to make templates and tables you can copy and use throughout are all elements I am enjoying. I am even slowly becoming more familiar with such terms as kerning, who would have thought it!

I have been enjoying using Affinity Publisher, and I am strongly considering getting Affinity Designer to go along with it. All the box outlines and diagrams in Corsairs I have drawn in Corel Painter Essentials, but the capacity to shift between Publisher and Designer is something that really has me curious.

Affinity Publisher is an excellent program, and while learning it (and I am still learning it) has been a roller-coaster, it is pretty straightforward to use, and offers a lot of flexibility. Having struggled through creating something close to a working draft of Corsairs, I think I would find it hard going to turn back to Word. Affinity is well worth the entry price, and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

The beginnings of a character sheet takes form as a Master Page which I can drop in anywhere. No matter where it appears in the document, any alteration to the master page alters them all. A great and very useful feature!

Corsairs will be, I think, the next game released by Caradoc Games. It is coming together nicely, but more about that in another post…

Breaking Eggs

You can’t make an Omelette without breaking eggs, as the saying goes. The same is true for game design. Owlbear Omelette has been through a number of revisions, most recently an update to the random dungeon system that will be in the extended edition.

Run Goblin! Run!

The dungeon creation rules started as a card driven system: split a deck of cards into three, divided by colours and numbers. Flip this card, then that card, corridors, rooms, and encounters defined by suit and then number… Explaining it to a friend at a later stage I realised something that should probably have been quite obvious earlier: all the same could be achieved through dice rolls. In fact, rolling dice and checking tables is simpler than splitting up a deck of cards into three specific decks, and then having to check tables.

The Lost Paladin… Which way did the rogue say to go?

It’s funny how, in the moment, we can get lost in needless complexity. That the solution to a problem we see can swiftly spiral into complication. But… would the dice system exist without me having first created the overly complicated card system? No, it would not.

There is much to be said for building the thing; complexities, complications, warts and all. Once the things exists, in a form that approximates, roughly, painfully, and no doubt awkwardly, what you want to achieve, cut it back, pare it down. Ask of the thing: what can be done more simply? Is there another way to achieve the same thing?

I changed from cards to dice not just because the system is simpler, but because it doesn’t ask the GM or the players to pre-prepare. Thinking about the physical actions required of either preparing or executing an action in the game is important. Such things can add a fun aspect to the game experience when they are deliberate and purposeful, but can detract from the fun just as easily. A system that involves some sort of procedure or preparation can be a barrier to entry, a step or series of steps that add needless ‘busy work’ to a process that doesn’t necessarily require it.

I have a tendancy as a designer to add all the things in, one idea leads to two others, which in turn add some system or sub-system, and so the teetering pile grows. This is a part of my process, and just as important as growing that messy pile, is the act of going back and shaving it down, of cutting away and reorganising. Of removing the things that don’t add to the experience, but simply add processes. This cutting back is the step that is key… As I wrote at the beginning: when making an omelette, you need to break eggs.

Owlbear Omelette will be the next game released by Caradoc Games. The basic edition will be available as a free download in all the usual places (Patreon, DriveThruRPG, and Itch.io), while the Extended Edition, which includes extras such as fun secret character goals, armour rules, and random dungeon creation, will be available exclusively to Patreon supporters.