Owlbears and Omelettes…

Hitting Kickstarter soon is Owlbear Omelette, the souffle sized edition of an older game, now updated and with all new art from the always spectacular Juan Ochoa.

Owlbear Omelette is a game designed specifically for one-shots, or mini-campaigns. It is a palace crawl (or dungeon crawl, depending on you tastes), in which a team of erstwhile goblins seeks to find some Owlbear eggs for omelette making purposes. Why? Maybe this video can help explain it…

Inside this A6 sized zine you’ll find all the rules you need to play, from deed doing, to goblin creation. There are also a bunch of tables – from the Oh No! table – to find out what happens if you do something silly while carrying an Owlbear egg. To a magic item complication chart.

The rear of the book is dominated by random encounter charts, which can be used to generate corridors, palace and dungeon rooms, encounters, what those encounters are up to, names and more.

To give an idea of how this system works, let’s run through a sample room and encounter, using the Dungeon charts… every number in brackets represents a D6 die roll.

Our goblins make their way down a (5) large corridor. Through the door at the end they find themselves moving into a (4) barracks. Yikes! That’s an extra encounter. Inside the barracks there is (1) a challenge to be faced, and (3) some heroes…

The challenge is (6) that ‘there is something difficult to cross’. Let’s say this difficult to cross thing is a good old chasm, replete with rickety and narrow bridge. On the far side is our extra encounter: heroes, they are (2) rogues and paladins.

A paladin…
A rogue…

What are the heroes up to you ask? (6) Double yikes! They are looking for an easy source of XP to grind! Would that be our erstwhile goblins? But what is the vibe of the room? According to the Vibe table (2), things are about to get wild!

So, after a few dice rolls we have an encounter laid out: Our erstwhile goblins left a large corridor and entered a barracks. Separating our goblins from the rest of the room is a chasm, stretching across which is a rickety narrow bridge. On the far side are some rogues and paladins looking for XP to grind. As the eyes of one (called (5) ‘Zalabar’) notes the entrance of our goblins, their face lights up. Things are about to get wild!

What will our goblins do in the face of this new encounter?


Owlbear Omelette is designed to a be a quick paced and enjoyable game, perfect for those nights when you are looking for something light and fun to play, a palate cleanser, a convention game, can’t decide what to play, or can’t get the usual group all together.

The new edition updates the rules and adds in a bunch of new elements, including the random encounter charts we used to create the sample encounter above. All the art, from cover to cover, is brand new and the product of the magic hands of esteemed RPG artist Juan Ochoa, who has done a stunning job (as always).

I think Owlbear Omelette is a lot of fun. It will be hitting Kickstarter later next month, and you can check out the Kickstarter Notification page here.

Downsizing, a Plan?

A few weeks ago I completed fulfillment of my latest game: Foundlings. This is the third game I have published physical copies of. All three of the games I have published (Corsairs, Rascals, and Foundlings) are A5 saddle-stitched zines of varying lengths.

Foundlings is the largest, clocking in at 48 internal pages, and cover (4 more pages). It has the highest GSM cover stock, making it the heaviest game I have produced. Why is this relevant? Well, this post is broadly about shipping costs.


You can also grab Foundlings, Corsairs, and Rascals from Exalted Funeral, or Indie Press Revolution


If you backed Foundlings on Kickstarter, $15 AUD would net you one physical copy of the game (as well as PDFs, etc). The cost of shipping (which I collected through GameFound) was $14 AUD.

Yes.

Shipping cost nearly the same as the game itself.

Anyone from Aus will probably not be overly surprised, but for anyone else: this wasn’t me price gouging, inflating the cost of shipping to make more out of suckered in backers who just wanted their physical copies, this is actually less than what shipping those games cost me.

A backer jumps onto GameFound, uses their credits to get their copy of Foundlings, and pays the $14 for shipping.

Stripe and Gamefound take their %, and I get about $13.30 deposited into my account. Shipping an envelope large enough to hold an A5 zine internationally (let’s say somewhere in Europe), costs me $13.50 at the post office. This does not include the costs of the envelopes, labels, time, or anything else.

Shipping is wildly expensive for a small time publisher.

With Foundlings I tried something I hadn’t done before, I used shipping partners in the UK and the US to help reduce the costs of shipping. So how did that go?

It did not really reduce the costs of shipping.

The cost to send a box of games to the US (or UK) is expensive, the processing costs charged by my shipping partners (which were very reasonable I need to add), were in USD and GBP – both of which are worth considerably more than the humble AUD – so whatever the cost, you can times it by a minimum of 1.5 for USD, and about 2 for GBP.

All of it meant that the actual savings passed on to the customer were small – indeed, the shipping costs for Backers in the UK and the US were both only a couple of dollars cheaper than had I not used shipping partners.

It might have been more cost effective if I was shipping larger quantities than I did, but not significantly.

Now, I’m not complaining – it costs what it costs. It’s important to note that I absolutely understand why backers might be upset with the costs – hell, I certainly am! It is also absolutely reasonable for shipping partners to charge – of course – and both partners I used were extremely reasonable and extremely helpful, and I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to work with them – they were and are wonderful.

But… Shipping is expensive. It is, by a long way, the most expensive part of creating and getting a game like Foundlings (or Corsairs, or Rascals) into the hands of gamers around the world.

In fact, it’s so expensive, that I’m not sure I want to try publishing a game of the same size (or larger) here in Australia, and sending it out internationally. I think for any future game of this size (or larger) I will need to look at working with a publishing partner, probably in the US. Anyway – food for later thought…

So why is this post called Downsizing? Well, if you made it this far, this is the experiment I plan to undertake…

The next game I am releasing is called Owlbear Omelette – a reworked and rewritten version of a little game I published back in 2019. This game is designed to be a fun and silly dungeon crawl style game, in which the players (Goblins) are ransacking the Goblin King’s palace for an Owlbear Egg for the express purpose of omelette making.

Owlbear Omelette will be published as an A6 saddle-stitched game. At 34 internal pages, it will be about the same thickness as Corsairs, with the added bonus of being literally half the size.

Why?

Shipping.

Besides the fact the A6 is a fun little size, and I quite like mini-games, shipping an A6 booklet of that size will allow me to use tough card DL envelopes, keeping the cost of international shipping to about $4.00-5.00 AUD. That reduces the cost of shipping by two thirds, and with currency conversion should come out at a pretty minimal addition for most international backers.

Will it be successful? Who knows! I will be Kickstarting Owlbear Omelette during the ZineQuest promotion Kickstarter is running in August, and will let you all know how successful (or not) it was after that…

If it is successful, then maybe I need to take a long and careful look at a few of my planned and upcoming games, and ask myself how they would look wearing an A6 sized overcoat.

Winging away…

Rascals is in the post and winging it’s way around the world!

After a mildly stressful beginning, the Rascals Kickstarter has been fulfilled. So what was the stressful part? Well, full of excitement, I marched into the post office with the intention of sending off Rascals. The postal worker informed me, that due to Covid, Rascals would be treated as ‘parcels’ instead of ‘letters’. A difference that would mean the cost for shipping each copy of Rascals would more than double, and that the money gathered for shipping was no where near enough to cover what I was told it was now going to cost. After recovering from the mild fit my heart decided to undertake at this news, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and legged it.

I was fairly confident I had done my due diligence, and had researched the shipping costs properly, but by the same token, Covid has had a way of changing things rapidly. Add to this that fact that being told a thing by a person who should know has a way of getting one to question one’s own reality, and I was ‘somewhat’ concerned.

After undertaking some more research, and finding that I had been correct after all, I decided the best course of action was to try my chances at a different post office. Thankfully the people there were wonderful, took everything in hand, and to cut a long story short: Rascals is in the post.

Now seems a good time to mention that in addition to Rascals you can also download the adventure module, Operation: Bramble, get a copy of the official card deck, as well as make full use of the Rascals DLC for TableTop Simulator​.

I have been thrilled to see some photos from people locally who already have their copies, it is wonderful to finally see the game in the wild!

 

Rascals is live!

Rascals is live on Kickstarter now! You can check the project page out here.

On the project page I preview some of the wonderful art created by Juan Ochoa, and you can also see my first foray into creating a project video…

I’m really thrilled with how this project has come together, the black and white interior, supported by the sublime artwork of Juan Ochoa, looks really nice (in my very biased opinion). I can’t wait to see how the project goes!

On the Cards… A Question of Design

You’ve been called back. Back to the life you thought you had escaped. A foul plot is afoot…

Rascals is an action-adventure science fiction role playing game. It was inspired by such movies as Rogue One, Bourne, The Dirty Dozen, and so on.

Rascals uses traditional playing cards as the core engine for resolving skills tests and challenges. Today I want to talk a little about how this works, and some of the design decisions I made when creating this system.

You can find the pre-launch page to Rascals here, hit Notify to follow the project…

Context

Before I delve into why I made the system this way we need to know how the system actually works.

In Rascals each player will have a hand of cards. When a player undertakes a Challenge, or Reacts to something, they will play a card from their hand into the middle of the table (called the Pot). The GM (called the House), will also play a card according to the Difficulty of the Challenge or React.

  • Easy: The House will draw two cards, will discard the higher card face up, and play the lower card face down into the pot.
  • Average: The House will draw and play a card to the pot.
  • Hard: The House will draw two cards, will discard one face up, and play the other one (note that the House can choose which to play).

Discarding a card face up in an Easy or Hard Challenge will give the player some indication of what they need to succeed. The House may choose the card to play in a Hard challenge, because many adversaries have abilities that can be activated when they play a card of a specific suit. Sure the House may play a card thinking they have a good chance of losing the Challenge, but it might mean that the Adversary gets to do something extra, or special…

Players will redraw cards on Reactions, but not for Challenges they undertake. Cards are the characters inspiration, their drive, and their focus. If they get caught in a series of Challenges – a chase, a complicated engineering problem, heated debate, or firefight, their hand will slowly dwindle. Their options will contract…

Why?

Because in the movies this game is inspired by there is always that dramatic narrative, the heroes are challenged, they are set upon, beat down, they escape and struggle, thrown from one bad situation into another, they are running out of options, out of luck…

Until…

They manage to duck into a cafe and avoid pursuit, find that vet’s clinic and patch themselves up, or lay low in a dive-hotel, giving them a chance to reset, draw breath, plan…

This is the drive behind Rascals, the second act, the false victory leading to despair up to the point where all seems lost, but…

The purpose of this system is to have the characters pushed, to stress their hand and their Hustle (that’s another post), encouraging the players to find ways their characters can break the momentum, change the scene, take control, seize the initiative.

When characters find space in a scene they can use a Second Wind to regain cards or heal some, if they escape a scene they can redraw their hand… it’s about movement and momentum. About changing the ground. It’s about the characters, beat down and hurting, relentlessly pursued, struggling as they roll from one encounter to another, and finally managing to find space, time, to catch their breath, to reform…

This momentum swing – in a narrative arc going from the second to third act and back again – is exactly what the card system in Rascals is designed to reflect. Players should start feeling powerful and in control, slowly feel the pressure mounting as the action builds, then feel the drive to force change – a change of momentum, a change in scene, an escape and reprieve…

Rascals is all about that second act, when things start going sideways for our heroes, when, in the movie theatre, we are on the edge of our seats waiting to see how they’ll escape this one… and the relief and excitement when they do, when they pause the tempo, when they manage to find a way to wrest back control.

Did I mention the prelaunch page? It’s here… go hit Notify!

mockups-design.com

Rascals, in 3, 2, 1…

Rascals is preparing for launch… Find the prelaunch page and follow along here.

Rascals is a science fiction table top role playing game of action and adventure. The game system uses traditional playing cards and poker chips, and is designed to bring the tension, twists of fortune, and calculated gambles of action adventure stories to the fore. Rascals is ideal for 2-5 players, including the GM.

You are Rascals: ex-special forces, spies, or crooks. Hard boiled types who worked together in the hottest zones during the former unpleasantness. You were some of the few who managed to get out, make a new life, but something has changed all that…

Now the old crew is together again, you Rascals who survived the bloody final years of terrible war, have been pulled back. An abominable plot is unfolding in secret… 

From high-tech cityscapes to shattered habitation domes, through the heaving corridors of stations in chaos to empty transfer stations and the broken worlds beyond… Where will your path lead, and what awaits at journey’s end?

At 36 interior pages, with a 4 page cover, Rascals is bigger than my previous game: Corsairs. Inside you will find the rules for character creation and play, as well as rules for vehicles and space ships. A part of the rules includes a system the GM (called the House) can use to generate the problem the characters face, as well as which character or characters is somehow tied to it.

In addition to the physical zine, when Rascals drops after the Kickstarter ends, I will be adding a free DLC to the Table Top Simulator Workshop, which includes cards, chips, editable character sheets, and everything you need to play the game.

A work in progress… And a big shout out to Michael Jamieson who helped put this together!

Rascals is perfect for an action-fueled campaign, follow the prelaunch page to get notified when it launches!

Announcing: Rascals…

Kickstarter has officially announced Zine Quest (you can find the link to the KS announcement on my Zine Quest page here, along with a bunch of links and articles I hope anyone thinking of undertaking Zine Quest will find useful).

My project this year is Rascals. In Rascals you play ex-special forces, intelligence operatives, or crooks who operated as a team during the final years of the civil war that wrought havoc on the Network of Star Systems now administered by the New Government.

You thought you had left that life behind, when the peace accords of Luyten B were signed and the ink had dried. but something has happened to pull you back in…

In Rascals your character will be one of four archetypes: The Brains, The Face, The Muscle, or The Stick, each tied to a suit of cards. Characters have archetype powers and tricks they can use to manipulate the outcomes of the challenges they face.

Game play is built around cards, with the players sharing a deck, and the GM having a deck of their own. Poker chips are also used to measure character health and energy (called Hustle), ammo that can be spent for extra hits, as well as power and damage to vehicles and ships.

Rascals will be a 40 page zine, including rules for character creation, creation of the problem the characters face, rules for actions, combat, space ships and vehicles. A lot is packed into a small zine!

I’ll be writing more about the rules and the setting in upcoming posts, as well as dropping the link to the prelaunch page for the Kickstarter… until then, strap in and get ready for a wild ride!

Locked and Loaded

I was unsure what to do for the 2021 Zine Quest, and I wrote last time how my fantasy RPG, Heralds, was approaching a point where the project was too big to fit comfortably into the Zine Quest format. I could have cut it back, but I like the systems, and I felt it would lose too much if it was cut shorter. I bit the bullet and did what any self-respecting Zine Questee would do, I decided to write a different game.

In fairness I had the core of the system already written up, so I wasn’t coming at it from nothing. I knew the genres and themes I wanted to hit, they were baked into the system I had dusted off. So what did I do?

First, I made a few more notes, and left it at that for a week.

In that week I did three things before really delving into the system, setting, and writing. I worked on finding an artist whose style matched my feel for the setting and game, I looked for fonts that would work in a similar vein, and I started developing the layout and look of the zine.

Normally I tend to get writing first, so this was a departure from the established routine for me. Why did I go this route? To be honest, it was the fact that while I had a feel for the game in terms of what I wanted out of the mechanisms and setting, the setting itself was nebulous, it was feelings and emotion, a pace and rhythm, a soundtrack with no lyrics. I felt that getting a good grip on the visuals of the game would help me ground the the rules and setting, provide inspiration and limitation in equal and needed quantities. I’m glad I did.

I found an artist I am really excited to be working with, I won’t say too much just yet (not until there is something to show alongside), but I will say that I think his work is going to make Rascals look absolutely brilliant.

I started working on the layout. With Corsairs the game was originally envisaged to be more of a old-time worn look, faded leather and the like. With Rascals I wanted to make something stridently black and white, something that would fit within the two-tone rules for Zine Quest, and really sit comfortably within that space. I am really happy with how Rascals is looking at the moment, and I think once the art is dropped in, it will really look amazing.

Lastly I looked at fonts… and well. That’s a whole thing. Finding fonts that fit the style you want, but making sure that they are free for commercial use (or that you can get hold of a license for them), is not as easy as it could be. A lot of the fonts that come with Word or whatever program you happen to use might be free for personal use, but not for commercial use. I looked through a whole slew of fonts before settling on two I really liked. One will be used for all the headings, and the other for the body text. The 3D and gradient overlay effects for the title and contents pages were all done in Affinity, and fit the theme and game perfectly in my opinion.

So, a little update on where I am at in the lead up to Zine Quest 2021. I will be back with more on the subject, and back with some reflections on the year past (and hopes for the year ahead) in another post.

Where-ever you are, I hope you and yours had a lovely Christmas/Holiday period (if you celebrate such things), and a smashing new year (again…).


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

Implications…

Earlier in this series of articles about running a Kickstarter (links to all of which can be found here), I wrote a post called Levels and Goals in which I talked about setting the backer levels, the prices for the backer levels, and the funding goal for the Kickstarter. The relevant part is that I had decided that the physical zine would cost $15 AUD, and the digital only zine would cost $10 AUD. In the linked article I delve into why I made these choices, and for the digital zine that level seemed on par with what a lot of other ZineQuesters were charging for their digital zines (Australian Dollars translates well into US Dollars, with a $10 AUD level costing about $6.70 USD when the Kickstarter launched).

All of this has implications…

I don’t mean implications for the Kickstarter, though obviously pricing is important, and I’ve lost track of the number of times I have written hand-wringing articles about the added costs of shipping. No, I mean implications beyond the Kickstarter.

Corsairs funded (yay!), the physical rewards have been sent, and of the two digital supplements that were unlocked as stretch goals one has been fulfilled, and the other will be fulfilled in the next few weeks. But, what about after the Kickstarter? What would I do after the dust had settled and the Kickstarter has been fulfilled? Is that sweet goodnight for Corsairs?

Obviously not. I had always planned to have Corsairs available to buy digitally through both Itch.io and DriveThruRPG. What I had not considered was the implications of setting my backer levels, and what that might mean in the months that followed…

At the moment Corsairs is available on both Itch.io and DriveThruRPG for $7.99 USD. Why this price? Why not cheaper? I mean, it would be nice to have Corsairs sitting at say $4.99, and appearing in the ‘Popular Under $5’ lists on DriveThru. It’s certainly a more appealing price, and likely to lead to more sales. So… why?

Well, the reason comes back to implications… The backers of Corsairs spent good money supporting my Kickstarter, and without them it wouldn’t be a success, and certainly wouldn’t be available as it is. For the digital only copy backers paid their $10 AUD. How would they feel, having supported me, to turn around and see the game on sale for cheaper? Is it a betrayal of sorts? Would I be disrespecting them? Playing them for fools? Would I be undermining any future Kickstarters I run through such disregard?

All these were thoughts that swirled through my head when it came to putting Corsairs up for sale as a digital product. While the backer prices I set were a reasonable choice for the sake of the Kickstarter, they had implications and set (in my head at least) boundaries on what I could or should charge after the Kickstarter… How could I place Corsairs up for sale for less than what my backers paid? In the end I didn’t. I have no doubt that a number of purchases have been passed over because of the cost, and that more sales would have been achieved at a lower price point, but still…

I am pretty confident that many backers wouldn’t mind seeing Corsairs online for a little less than what they paid, after all they got two extra digital zines as Stretch goals, and yet… I also think there would be some who would feel they had been unfairly treated, and that is valid.

So what does this rambling thought train of a post imply? For me at least it means that next time I will think carefully about the future implications of pricing for backer levels, and what that might mean carried forward past the Kickstarter phase. I need to ask myself where will this game be available in six months time, and what sort of price do I want to be selling it for. And lastly, I need to parse those thoughts and bring them into the decision making process when defining backer levels.

Implications…


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.

Timing and Tax

This post might be very ‘Australia’ orientated, but I am going to make some obvious observations about timing, tax, and the ZineQuest Kickstarter I ran in February this year. In Australia the financial year runs from July one year to June the next. ZineQuest ran in February. My Kickstarter project for ZineQuest launched on the 1st of February, and ended on February the 16th, funding successfully. Kickstarter takes time to gather rewards, chase backers who declined or didn’t pay, and generally process things, and in the end the money raised by the Kickstarter landed in my account on the 2nd of March, about two weeks after the project had ended. It should also be noted here that the amount pledged and the amount received by the project creator are not the same thing. Kickstarter takes it’s 5% fee, and there are additional processing fees which typically round the amount up to around 10%, and then there are dropped backers and refunded backers. Dropped backers are those who pledged an amount of money, and then who, for whatever reason, didn’t pay.

To give a quick and dirty break down using my Kickstarter as the example:

Corsairs funded on February the 16th, with 236 Backers pledging $4116 AUD.

Dropped Backers amounted to -$76, leaving the amount gathered by Kickstarter at $4040 (an ominous number 😀 )

Kickstarter fees amounted to about $202 and processing fees of a further $167.

Meaning that, after all else, Corsairs resulted in a deposit into my account from Kickstarter for roughly $3671 (yes, I am sanding off the cents throughout).


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.


Out of this I obviously had to pay for everything, from art to printing and shipping. Shipping was the largest expense by far, and cost a little over $1100 on its own. Aaaaannnndddd this is the thing that I think I am going to try and remember for the next time…

With the money hitting my account at the start of March, and the end of the financial year sitting at the end of June, the money raised by the Kickstarter was going to sit in the 2019/2020 taxable year. Between art, printing delays, and Covid, I ended up having Corsairs printed and shipped to me at the start of August, and then shipped out to my backers in the middle of August. Meaning the printing and shipping costs of more than $1600 would be counted as an expense in the 2020/2021 financial year.

Why is this relevant? It’s about the taxable income for any given financial year, in an ideal scenario I would have had the game printed and shipped before the end of the 2019/2020 financial year in June 2020 in order that the costs of printing and shipping would count against the income from the Kickstarter as an expense, and reduce the taxable income of my business.

Now, I fully understand we are talking small amounts of money here compared to almost every other kickstarter or business. But timing, as best as is possible, the expenses element of a Kickstarter so that the income does not look artificially inflated to the tax office is really worth planning for.

Yes, I had an income from the Kickstarter of over $3600, but that didn’t account for multiple expenses (art, printing, shipping labels, envelopes, shipping, and everything else). The tax office don’t care what expenses are upcoming though, that’s for the next financial year, all that matters is what happens between the start of July 2019 and the end of June 2020. Now, perhaps there is an advantage to the fact that my business has already racked up a bunch of expenses for the 2020/2021 financial year, and that may be useful when it comes to the (fingers crossed) ZineQuest in 2021 and lodging my tax return for the 2020/2021 financial year, but thinking about the timing of income and expenses is something I am much more aware of now than I was back in January of this year. This might be especially true if you are running a Kickstarter or making money from your creative work in addition to a day job, and your income is already close to a tax threshold.

Dull talk, and perhaps very Aussie-centric, but some further thoughts following my experiences this year with the ZineQuest.


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.