Certain of my uncertainty

When I decided to run a Kickstarter as a part of the ZineQuest, I was pretty sure that the only thing I was certain about, was that I was uncertain. I was uncertain of so many things. But… let’s start with what I knew:

The original test print with the original art (drawn by my own hand – the backers are lucky we found Felicity! 😀 )
  • I knew I would run a Kickstarter for ZineQuest.
  • I knew that it would be for the game Corsairs, which was designed, tested, and written.
  • I knew that I would do the layout, editing, and to begin with at least, the art for the project.
  • I knew that I would have three funding levels – one thank you, one digital only, and one print and digital.

So what didn’t I know?

  • I didn’t know what money amount I should set the funding goal at.
  • I didn’t know what price I should set the backer levels at.
  • I didn’t know what the costs involved would be.
  • I didn’t know how many updates to plan for.
  • I didn’t know if I should do Stretch Goals? If I did, what would they be?
  • I didn’t know how to advertise my Kickstarter, or get the word out beyond posting it on my social media.
  • I didn’t know how big the envelopes would need to be.
  • I didn’t know how much shipping was going to cost.

And soooooo many other things…

I started with one thing: what would the costs for printing be? I inquired at a local printers and looked at Mixam online. From the local printer and from Mixam I looked at printing quotes for 50, 100, 200, and 300 A5 zines with a range of paper qualities and cover types. In the end I knew that I had to settle on something, so I chose to run with an internal book of 32 A5 sides, printed on 115gsm silk paper, and a 4 side cover in 250gsm with a laminate finish, saddle stitched. This was the book all my prices were based on, and the book I would eventually print. I had no intentions to including stretch goals that added colour, special effects, or anything of that nature. My reasoning? This was a first experiment at a Kickstarter: keep it simple the first time around, follow the ZineQuest guidelines, and get it done successfully.

Originally I was going to use a coloured card cover, but to have it laminated locally was going to involve a second business, and that was going to push the prices up higher. Going local was something I wanted to do, but with fewer options available, and a much higher cost for printing involved, I ended up going for Mixam. This was a final choice I made during the Kickstarter.

The finished booklet! So good!

If I was to print 200 locally, it was going to cost around $675, through Mixam with the same paper weights and laminated cover, it was going to cost a little over $400. With uncertainty the name of the day, especially around the costs of everything involved, I decided to go with Mixam. I had read good reviews of Mixam’s printing quality, and while I would have liked to support a local business, I made the choice to go with Mixam.

While I was working all of this out I became painfully aware of how much international shipping was going to cost. So how to price out a funding goal? I made the assumption that international backers would tend to go for PDFs (I was wrong), and assumed that the printing costs therefore were likely to involve a smaller physical print run. The cost of printing overall goes towards working out the funding goal level, but divided by the number of booklets printed it contributes to the price of the backer level. For the Funding goal calculations I decided to hope, and chose to use the prices for 200 copies. For the backer level prices I decided to go conservative, and run with the per zine cost of a print run of 50. I was hedging my bets, hoping that the price of the larger run wouldn’t make the funding goal too high, but trying to ensure that the backer level prices were high enough to cover a worse case scenario. I was happy I made those choices…

That worked out, what else did I need to know to work out the Funding Goal? What were the other costs involved?

  • Printing ($400)
  • Art (?)
  • Envelopes (?)
  • Shipping Labels (?)
  • Shipping (?)
  • Margin for screw ups (?)
  • Kickstarter and processing fees (10% ish)

While I was researching the costs of printing, I was also working out the costs of shipping, but… I think I have written enough for now. The next part will come next time.

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 caradocgames@gmail.com for details.

The supplement, Smoke and Oakum, is also available at DriveThruRPG and Itch.io now!

END OBLIGATORY PLUG.

This article is a part of a series about running a Kickstarter campaign for ZineQuest, you can find the other articles in this series here.


Smoke and Oakum has Launched!

Smoke and Oakum is the first supplement for the Corsairs RPG; and delves into the world of Sky Ships and sailing the skies of the Molten Seas.

In it you will be able to find rules and guidelines covering:

  • The effects of fair weather or challenging winds.
  • Rules for encounters with storms, shoals, and more of the dangers that can foul a sky ship.
  • Guidelines for running a crew or factions within a crew on board a ship.
  • 6 new Conditions that can have a serious impact on a ship and it’s crew.
  • Rules for chases which expand on the recommendations in the core rules, and include bonuses and setbacks for starting a chase at a lower or higher level than the target ship.
  • A ship may gain a Reputation, or be upgraded, and there are a range of upgrade options from a Figurehead to larger cannons all of which can make a ship better, more fearsome, or more dangerous.
  • Two collections of stat blocks for enemies a Corsair Sky Ship might face off against, one titled ‘Sails Ho’, and the other ‘Here There Be Dragons’…

Sitting at 32 pages from front cover to back cover Smoke and Oakum is almost as big as the core rules.

Of course, Smoke and Oakum also includes more of Felicity Haworth’s wonderful art, and I hope you love how she has brought the world to life as much as I do!

Also included is a new and updated Ship Sheet, including room for marking a ship’s Point of Sail, details on the Crew, and other sections to accommodate the added rules in Smoke and Oakum. There is a page of Condition Cards, which may be printed and cut out to help track the conditions player characters or a ship might be suffering from at any given time. As well as a faction sheet, for play groups who want to delve into the murky waters of a conflicted crew.

Smoke and Oakum is a supplement that adds new material geared toward making your play experience as Corsairs sailing their infamous sky ships a more interesting, dramatic, and exciting experience!

You can find Corsairs on DriveThruRPG here.

You can find Corsairs on Itch.io here.

For those who love the art in Corsairs as much as I do, the artist is Felicity Haworth, and you can find her work here.

How things Change…

I started developing Corsairs as an idea back in the middle of 2019. I wanted to make a game that mingled the ideas of pirates and freedom fighters; rebellious sorts who wanted to strike a blow for freedom against the machinations of heartless Empires. Tropes common enough in modern takes on pirates in film and TV. So the setting was born, and the game systems evolved from that. I might take some time in another post to talk about the evolution of the mechanics, but today I want to talk about the game itself, as a thing, and about ZineQuest in general.

In 2019 I started a Patreon, with the idea that I would make a series of micro-games and people would flock to my Patreon, and… no. Not really. I started a Patreon, and released a few smaller games through that, and subsequently on DriveThruRPG and Itch.io. You can find them on the ‘Our Games‘ page if you’re curious. Corsairs was originally intended to be a part of that, one small game in among many. But… As I designed these smaller games they grew… Freedom or Toaster was the first, and each game subsequently grew a little… Part of that was the idea that I would have ‘exclusive content’ in the Patreon version, while the base game would be on DTRPG and Itch. As I was writing the beginnings of what would become Corsairs it was already becoming a ‘larger thing’.

Early character sheets. Originally the game was made in an A4 layout.

Then Kickstarter announced it would be doing ZineQuest again. ZineQuest was a thing I wanted to do. A thing I wanted to challenge myself to do. I had a choice. I could develop a new game specifically for the ZineQuest, or I could continue to develop, test, and make Corsiars into that game. I was honestly torn. Corsairs had already had a bit of work, and if I had pushed I could have quite easily released that and done something else for ZineQuest. It’s not like I’m lacking in ideas.

I decided not to do two things almost at once. Running a Kickstarter for the first time, actually writing, getting art, laying out, printing, and shipping a game would be enough work. I’m glad I chose to focus on Corsairs, because it gave me time. I had time to finish the game rules in September and November of 2019. And that gave me time to do a ton of research into all the things I didn’t know I needed to know for producing a game. Writing one I could handle, producing one, that was new. I’m glad I gave myself time, because there was a lot to learn.

A test booklet, all blank, and the incomplete print of an early draft.

So I decided to do ZineQuest, and that changed things. It changed a lot of things. What was going to be a coloured A4 PDF needed to be a two tone A5 booklet. What would that even look like? What is imposition? What size envelope would it need? How much would that cost? I made some early prototypes, just to get a feel of what size it would be and how much it might weigh. Would it be under 50g? That would make shipping very affordable! More than 50g and the price nearly quadruples. Australia, woo!

Without hitting that stretch goal, Corsairs would have looked like this…

What would I do for art? How much art? How much is art? What rights and rules are there around using art? All of these were things to consider. I drew the first cover, it was the image that I used for the Kickstarter. I knew I wanted to get a professional artist to work their magic, but that was only something I could afford to organise if the Kickstarter was a success, it was only something that could happen if I met the funding goal, and then the stretch goal for professional art. Thankfully it did.

The physical copy… final.

With the rules already written and tested, I could spend the latter part of December and January preparing for the Kickstarter, researching, working on costs, and trying to nut out a plan of how I was going to actually run the Kickstarter itself. This involved a lot of emails to artists, to people who had previously run Kickstarters, and looking back at the games that were released in the last ZineQuest. I knew the ‘rules’ of ZineQuest stipulated two tone, saddle-stitched booklet or loose pages, and a few other conditions, but I also knew that plenty of the games that had been in the 2019 ZineQuest had broken those rules with impunity. There was colour galore and a few hardbacks in there too. Still, I wanted to do the thing, and I wanted to stick by the guidelines, for 2020 at least. I could, maybe even should have had a colour cover as a stretch goal, but I love what it looks like now, so I’m happy.

How things change… Corsairs grew from what was to be a small micro-rpg released on Patreon to a 36 page saddle-stitched booklet with professional art funded through the Kickstarter promotion of ZineQuest.

The final Character sheet, a little different from the A4 version above…

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 caradocgames@gmail.com for details. END OBLIGATORY PLUG.

Running the Kickstarter for ZineQuest was a great learning curve and a wonderful experience. I won’t pretend it wasn’t a lot of work. It was. I won’t pretend I didn’t spend a lot of hours writing updates, comments, getting the word out there, pushing, pushing, pushing. I did. But it was worth it. Not terribly worth it from a financial point of view – that might be the subject of a later post. But worth the experience. It was a learning curve, and I did a lot of things I had never done before. I commissioned art and got to work with a wonderful artist, Felicity Haworth. I got to buy a large quantity of envelopes after working out which ones were the right size. I got to lay a document out, and decorate it with ink spatters and mess. I got to price shipping for the UK, the US, Iran, and China. I got to work out costings, incoming and outgoing, and then hope like crazy I hadn’t made some egregious mistake in there somewhere. I got to communicate and interact with a huge number of zine fans and indie TTRPG folx. All of it was a great experience, and yes I would do it again. Yes, I am planning on doing it again.

If you are at all interested in running a Kickstarter, or participating in the ZineQuest, I have tried to keep a record of many of the helpful sites, links, and online posts on the ZineQuest page here. These helped me greatly. There are also links to the articles I have written on this blog, charting my thoughts, plans and experiences. Articles I plan to continue with, and will continue to link there.

So final thoughts? If you’ve ever considered writing and making an RPG ZineQuest is well worth trying out. Check out the ZineQuest page on this site, and do your research. It is a lot of fun, and well worth doing.

Smoke and Oakum

Smoke and Oakum is the first supplement for the Corsairs RPG, and delves into the subject of Sky Ships and sailing the skies of the Molten Seas.

Sitting at 32 pages from front cover to back cover it is almost as big as the core rules, and covers a lot of ground. In it you will be able to find rules and suggestions covering a slew of topics, from the effects of fair weather or challenging winds, to rules for encounters with storms, shoals, and more of the dangers that can foul a sky ship. There are guidelines for running a crew or factions within a crew on board a ship. 6 new Conditions that can have a serious impact on a ship and it’s crew. There are rules for chases which expand on the recommendations in the core rules, and include bonuses and setbacks for starting a chase at a lower or higher level than the target ship. A ship may gain a Reputation, or be upgraded, and there are a range of upgrade options from a Figurehead to larger cannons all of which can make a ship better, more fearsome, or more dangerous. Of course, Smoke and Oakum also includes more of Felicity Haworth’s wonderful art, and I hope you love how she has brought the world to life as much as I do!

Also included are two sets of stat blocks for enemies a Corsair Sky Ship might face off against, one titled ‘Sails Ho’, and the other ‘Here There Be Dragons’, and I’ll leave it to you to imagine what might be covered in the second!

At the back of the book is a new and updated Ship Sheet, including room for marking a ship’s Point of Sail, details on the Crew, and other sections to accommodate the added rules in the book. Lastly there is a page of Condition Cards, which may be printed and cut out to help track the conditions player characters or a ship might be suffering from at any given time. In short, Smoke and Oakum is a supplement that adds a lot of new material, all of it geared toward making your play experience as Corsairs sailing their infamous sky ships a more interesting, and nuanced experience. I am really thrilled with how Smoke and Oakum has come together, and I hope anyone who snags a copy of Smoke and Oakum will get a lot from the book!

I expect Smoke and Oakum to be available from DriveThruRPG and Itch.io within the next ten days, and I’m really excited to read what people think!

Speaking of which… if you have a copy of Corsairs consider heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io and giving it a rating or review, these things really help, and are very much appreciated! If you missed the Kicksarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some copies left from the print run, contact me at caradocgames@gmail.com for details. I am looking at a bunch of options to allow me to sell physical and digital products online at the moment, but I haven’t made any decisions on that front just yet.

Phew… So what’s next? Well, I am currently working away at Speed, Strength, and Wits, which will take a look at characters in the same way Smoke and Oakum took a look at Sky Ships and sailing. Beyond that… who knows. I am working on an adventure at the moment that I may just write up and put up for sale, and I have a half a dozen things I would have liked to include in Smoke and Oakum but just wasn’t able to fit in. If there is interest, I am keen to keep developing the Corsairs world!

Beyond Corsairs I am working on a new RPG setting and system that I was hoping to launch later this year, but which I may just hold on to in anticipation of next year’s ZineQuest (presuming Kickstarter run it again). I am really digging the theme and world I am currently developing, so we’ll see how it progresses!

Lastly, if you want to keep up with Corsairs, and everything else happening at Caradoc Games, head here to join our mailing list, or follow us on twitter @caradocp or @caradocgames

Sailing on Fair Winds…

Corsairs has been shipped. After receiving everything, my wife and I spent a couple of days packaging the games up, printing labels, and preparing, and today I took them to the post office and off they went…

Before

It was a surreal and uplifting feeling, handing them over in their stacks – this stack to Aussie addresses, this stack to the UK and Europe, this to the US… but it is done! I do not doubt there will be delays, given the pandemic sweeping the globe everything has slowed down and mail is one of those things that has been impacted, but the journey has begun!

After…

Shipping, all added together, was the most expensive part of making Corsairs. Over a quarter of the money made from the Kickstarter went toward paying for shipping costs. I would have loved to have been able to charge less, but shipping from (and to) Australia is expensive. It was one of the reasons I had both a PDF and physical option on the Kickstarter, and I was honestly surprised that far more people wanted a physical copy, than backed for the PDF only. I have to admit that I really like having a physical copy of my games and books myself, so I shouldn’t be that surprised! I really hope that when Corsairs arrives you enjoy it. That you enjoy reading it, enjoy the feel and look of it, and enjoy playing it.

If you get the chance, please consider heading over to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io and give the game a rating; ratings and reviews help immensely!

In any case, with that out of the way I am now focused fully on Smoke and Oakum. The final draft is mostly written, so things are getting close! I am hoping to have Smoke and Oakum out by the end of August, but we shall see how we go! The art is in, and it’s looking amazing. I can’t wait for you to see it!

I’ll be writing a bit more about Smoke and Oakum in the next update, until then I wish you a fair wind!

A ship has docked…

Delayed by plague and slow winds, the ship has taken a little longer to deliver it’s cargo to port than anticipated, but I am thrilled to announce that everything for Corsairs has now landed! From books and envelopes, to everything else required. We will take a little time to assemble the cargo for distribution among the new inhabitants of the isle of Teboa, but it will be done quickly, and shipping will begin next week!

I anticipate that the time it will take for packages to leave the customs house here and wend their way to your doors will take a little extra time given the current state of events, but hopefully it won’t be too long delayed!

Printed by Mixam, Corsairs has a lovely feel to it, with a laminate cover and silk finish paper for the interior. I am thrilled with how everything has come together, including the wonderful art by Felicity Haworth. This game has been a lot of fun to write, and I hope those of you who get a chance to play it, enjoy it as much as I have.

So what is next? Well, the next week or so will involve me finally shipping out the physical copies of Corsairs to backers. I am hard at work on the follow up supplements: Smoke and Oakum, and Speed, Strength, and Wits. I am really loving some of the stuff that is in those supplements, and I hope they manage to add a bunch of flavour to your games. I’ll be able to show off a little more on the supplements very soon!

If you’re interested in Corsairs, you can get a digital copy on DriveThruRPG and Itch.io, the downloads include the core book, a character sheet, ship sheet, and rules summary sheets for the characters rules and the ship rules.

There are still some physical copies of Corsairs available, so if you have the digital version, and would like a physical copy, you can still get them, I’m in the process of setting up a store here at Caradoc Games, but until then you can email me here!

Set in Stone…

A little later today the files for Corsairs will be heading off to the printer. At this point, everything is set in stone. I am nervous, and excited. Once printing is finished we will begin the process of fulfilling the physical copies of Corsairs!

In other news, progress on the follow up zines has been slow, but ongoing. There are some fun new things for Ships and Sailing in the upcoming release Smoke and Oakum, and expanded options for characters and development that I think add some nice features in Speed, Strength, and Wits. Felicity has completed the art for Smoke and Oakum, and it is looking fantastic! I am really impressed with the work she has done to help bring life and energy to Corsairs, I’m sure you will agree.

It’s been a chaotic time, from a bush fires to a pandemic, to social upheaval. Given these very real and very important events I have felt that trying to push and market Corsairs in this time is insensitive to those issues. So Corsairs sits, at the moment, slowly ticking away. I have been pleased to see Corsairs gather a few more sales on DriveThru and Itch, and hopefully this continues with the release of Smoke and Oakum. I am considering developing and writing a mini-campaign for Corsairs to supplement the line, but that will depend on how the follow up zines progress. Beyond that, there are a few more games in development that will either see light later this year, or be more fully realised for 2021, perhaps as a part of the ZineQuest then, if it runs again.

I know I have been quiet of late, but things have been ticking along. I hope to shift back to posting more regularly soon…

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!

Setting Sail

Corsairs has set sail! After the Kickstarter launch as a part of the ZineQuest in February, backers have finally been sent their digital copies of the Corsairs RPG! Before hitting send I was a mix of nervous and excited, immediately afterwards elated and relieved! Corsairs has been released!

Corsairs is a role playing game zine containing the full rules for character creation, and character actions, as well as for ships and sailing the skies of the Molten Seas. Scattered throughout is background information on the floating islands, and the setting of Corsairs, as well as wonderful art from Felicity Haworth. When you buy Corsairs you will also get separate files for the character sheet, the ship sheet, and two rules reference sheets.

Corsairs is available now on itch.io here.

You can also find it on DriveThruRPG here.

If you get a copy, please consider leaving a rating or review!

For the next two weeks I’ll be gathering feedback and questions on Corsairs, before I send the files off to be printed. I’m excited, and I hope anyone who gets a copy enjoys reading and playing the game half as much as I did writing and developing it!

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!