Friday, February 2, 2018

Role playing game project development: A few words

Art for The Steel Road by: Zachary Viola

Fifty exotic weapons from around the world in one book, many of which have never been described in any role-playing game source I've ever seen (and I've been playing tabletop role-playing games since 1991!). This is the idea behind The Steel Road (formerly under the working title of Bare Steel & Drawn Blood).

Sounds simple doesn't it?

The reality is that this project has been in the works for months, with one artist devoted to producing the highest quality of art within the selected style.  Zach Viola has spent hundreds of hours producing art to simulate the theme of the book, that of a sketch book created by a traveling weapon merchant.  Developing content, coordinating art, laying out the project timeline, planning the crowdfunding, and making the release announcement have all been an exciting but busy job.

If you ever decide to develop such a sizeable project I hope you find it as enjoyable as I have.

A few things about project development for role-playing game material and crowdfunding it:

1) You should get estimates for completion dates from your artists.  I would recommend that you then add 20% to that timetable, to allow for any problems that come along with art development (illness, competing obligations, personal issues, etc.).

2)  Develop a realistic page count.  This is IMPORTANT!  Do NOT say, 'oh I'll create a 200 page source book and it will be awesome'.  Nope, therein lies problems.  Create an outline of the topics, resources, and materials you intend to include.  Develop your rough draft, allow pages for your art, and then look at what your expected page count will be (don't forget to include your copyright and any license statements you may need).   Once you have that, compare your art needs to your completion estimates and calculate your material development time.  Whether you have the art done in advance, or done once you know what your budget is from your crowdfunding, you MUST factor in the timeline for your crowdfunding effort as regards your fulfillment.  Don't be one of those guys who misses fulfillment because of poor planning.

3)  Budget your time for layout.  I do my own layout, then I correct it after feedback from my play testers and from my art director.  I allow about a week for every ten (10) pages of book, which is really much more time that I need.  This builds in more time in my project timeline for any difficulties I might encounter (software problems for example).

4)  Crowdfunding (oh boy)... firstly, let me state that I have had three successfully funded projects and one that hasn't.  I have some experience, but I'm not claiming to be an expert. (Disclaimer over) Some things you should remember from previous entries on this subject: use an email account devoted to your crowdfunding (because you will get marketing spam), promote well in advance and consistently, do NOT make grandiose claims (stick to the facts), be HONEST, and use your crowdfunding to make the product the best it can be and to fund its production.  Whether you use paid marketing/promotion or not is your decision (I've had little success with paid promotion and I stress LITTLE).  Target your goal for what it takes to produce the product, set any stretch goals to be realistically attainable improvements to the final product with a minimal increase to the cost of production (this is an ideal you want to strive for anyway).  Develop your kickstarter goal with a close eye on the math (do NOT forget to account for shipping costs, where applicable).  Treat your backers with the respect they deserve, be grateful for their support, and be genuine with your gratitude.

5) While your crowdfunding is underway you need to verify all your production points, complete any unfinished elements, and answer questions and respond to comment from your backers and prospective backers.

6) Fulfillment of your crowdfunding campaign must be timely. Do it right the first time so you can earn the respect and confidence (and, eventually trust) of your backers.  Admit any mistakes, remedy them, and be happy that you and your backers brought your project to life!

7) Once fulfillment is complete, bring your product to market.  I should have mentioned this well before now, but you must formulate how you are going to sell your product (if you intend to) after the crowdfunding is done. Put your marketing plan into action and keep working. Your business work load doesn't stop, so keep busy.


Art by: Zachary Viola, from The Steel Road

So, there you have a simplified outline for developing your project.  There are fine points I hope to cover in future entries, but that will at least put you on the path to getting your project, your dream, beyond the cool idea stage and onto the 'held in your hand' stage.

The Steel Road (formerly under the working title of 'Bare Steel & Drawn Blood' (by: W.S. Quinton / Illustrated by: Zachary Viola)
(c) 2017 by W.S. Quinton {all art is copyright (c) by Zachary Viola (2017-2018)}

Now, here is a little insider news for you:

The crowdfunding campaign for The Steel Road is going to launch after fulfillment is done for Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock (on kickstarter as of this writing). Please do support that project.  Its a cool adventure.

When I launch the campaign for The Steel Road it will have a really fantastic backer reward available for early backers during the first two days of the campaign.  (Yes, shameless self promotion)

So, here is what I'm doing for the campaign:

Its going to have PDF copy as well as POD code for backer rewards (the POD code allows the backer to order their hard copy at the cost of printing plus the shipping cost, this makes lower backer pledges possible, reduces costs, and should make fulfillment run quicker).  During the first two days, backers will get both for the bargain pledge of $8 and those backers will be eligible for the stretch goal rewards (yes, this is really what I'm doing).  After that early backer period is over, the PDF backer reward will be set at $10 and the PDF plus POD code will be set at $15, so early backers are basically getting the whole thing at half the pledge amount!

Stretch goals: Stretch goals will add a second POD code for hard cover edition of the book to all backers pledged for POD code backer levels.  As a second and, most likely, final stretch goal I will include a full description of the merchant caravan the narrator of the book operates.  This will give you a great NPC resource for your fantasy campaign.

Social Goals:  I've seen this done on a number of campaigns lately and I like the idea.  So, if we reach 1000 backers or more, I'll produce a third cover which will be specifically limited to KickStarter backers.  I'll send a POD code for that edition to all backers who backed at pledge levels with POD codes.

This campaign is designed to be simple to fulfill while providing fantastic value for backers.

So far, the largest number of backers I've had support a project has been 143.  For The Steel Road, I'm hoping to reach 1000 backers or more.  To do that I'm going to need your help!

So I'm asking this of each of you who are joining me on this adventure in self-publishing, writing, and game design; please do check out my KickStarter campaigns, support the projects you like, and share the links with others.  Doing that helps immensely.

Please do also +1 this entry, and share it with others to help spread the word.


Thanks again for coming with me on this adventure.

I hope I'll see you here next time.

Comments and questions are most welcome!

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