Sometimes I think I make a really bad business owner.
I admit that I don't do all this adventure design for the money. Heck, I can't imagine anyone doing this sort of thing for the money. Unless you somehow manage to have a multi-million dollar Kickstarter campaign, it's a hard industry to make a profit in.
And sometimes that makes little sense to those outside the industry. Take my wife for instance... "why haven't you created a game and made millions yet?" It just doesn't work that way, dear. I can't just whip up a multi-million dollar game - especially a video game, which both my wife and son seem to think can be whipped up in a weekend by a 25-year programmer such as myself - and expect it to make me stinking rich.
But I think I realize the problem with this industry: we, us happy few that create, enjoy it too much. We aren't motivated by financial gain or a windfall as our products sell millions. We are motivated by the simple fact of enjoying what we do, sharing our creations with the public. I've said this many a times before: I could spend months, maybe years (I spent two years on The Opera, so I've been there) creating something... If I manage to get *one* person to enjoy it, it's all been worthwhile in my mind. With that mentality, no wonder we can't retire as soon as we'd like.
Another problem is self worth, trying to put a price on something we create. Look at my DriveThruRPG page... Comparatively speaking, my stuff is dirt cheap. Why? Because I haven't a clue how much it would actually be worth. And I have a hard time upping the price because (1) it would deny the product from getting in the hands of people, and (2) it feels like I'm price gouging. Since I don't have an accountant breathing down my neck trying to figure out how to make the next payroll, I can accept selling stuff so cheap.
So here I am, staring at the products on my DriveThryRPG page, troubled but not decimated at the fact that I haven't sold one in a month, wondering what to do with them. I want everyone on the planet to see what I've done, but it makes zero business sense to just give it away, right? Some of this stuff might not sell ever again, only to have it disappear in to obscurity. That to me is more unsettling than anything else... I don't care if I don't make a profit, but it's personally important to me that people know who I am and what I do.
At the end of last year one of the most well known sites in the RPG industry, ENWorld, was hacked and pretty much decimated. It's taken a painstaking amount of effort for those to run the site to get it back to what it once was, and they have decided to turn to the wonder of Kickstarter to fund the re-establishing of the system and creation of new tech to empower the site.
So I figured... If my products serve no purpose sitting idle on DriveThruRPG, maybe they can help someone.
So I'm happy to announce that I am now a stretch goal for the ENWorld Kickstarter. If the listing manages to reach 11K in the next 25 days, everyone who contributed $25 or more will get every single product Darklight Interactive has published so far FOR FREE.
If anyone in the community needs help, it's these guys. They have an awesome site and provide an invaluable service to the community.
In the meantime, I'll keep doing what I do. It might not be a cash cow of a hobby, but I could live with that.
Starting off the new year on the right foot, this blog has been surprisingly selected as Stuffer Shack's "Favorite Site of the Month" for January! I'm not kidding about being surprised... I mean, as of late I've only been posting once or twice a month, and the posts that I have written aren't up for a Pulitzer (or whatever the RPG blog equvalent is... an ENnie, I guess?) any time soon.
But I was selected, so I thought it was time to post something.
This past year has been interesting to say the least. I didn't accomplish everything I intended to do, but it worked out overall. "The Heart of Fire" was released to what has become a dry market, so much so that I'm sure the six people that bought it really enjoy it. Other products went out here and there, but while D&D is in design limbo there has been somewhat of a market shift.
As a result, I'm looking at 2013 a little differently. Here's what's in store for you all:
- "Revenge of the Kobolds" (D&D 4E) is being edited and reviewed by third parties. It will be released for free, without art (except for the map, anyway) on this site as soon as I feel comfortable. It might not be perfect, and it might not work very well mechanically, but it'll be released nonetheless. I predict that will be released by month's end, but don't hold me to that.
- "A Night in Seyvoth Manor" (D&D 4E) is undergoing similar editing and review, and will probably be releadsed on or about the same time as RotK. Because of the nature of this adventure it's much easier to port to other game systems, so I'm looking to port it at least to Pathfinder and, if all goes well, other systems (AGE, 13th Age, Hackmaster, DCC, etc.). I may even use Kickstarter to fund the development for the other systems; don't know yet. The initial D&D 4th Edition version will be released for free asd well.
- I'm imagining that my epic adventure "The Crystal Scion" will not have much public interest, so I have decided to convert what I have and finish development of it for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It's a fairly high level adventure - I'm predicting between 12th and 15tyh level - so I'm somewht worried since I've never done anything like that before. It'll be an interesting experience to say the least. I don't know if there's a market or demand for such a thing, but I imagine the market to be better than what 4th Edition is now...
- My mega-campsign "The Coming Dark" has been going through some serious rework in my head; looking back on what is my first creation for 4th Edition I see a lot of things I did terribly, terribly wrong. So I'm reworking 99% of it and intend to release this for D&D Next as soon as it is possible (assuming it is possible... Licensing for Next is unknown at this time).
- I have a lot of other small projects in the works. Not sure what I'm going to do with them right now, but until D&D Next is released it might be a toss up between 4th Edition and Pathfinder.
- I have a couple of programs in the works, such as character and monster builders for D&D Next I've started on We'll see if they ever get to see the light of day.
Beyond that, stay tuned everybody... Lot more to come from us!
For the past two months, at least from a workload standpoint, I've been living through hell. So much so that I haven't had much a chance to get my two completed products - Revenge of the Kobolds and A Night in Seyvoth Manor - the needed attention to get them ready for publication. I haven't even been able to get my playtest going for Seyvoth.
But during that time I have released one tiny product, The Absent-Minded Alchemist... and even at its low price of $0.99 I've sold no more than six copies. The 4th Edition market is effectively dry, in no small part due to Wizards of the Coast's choice to seemingly pretend it doesn't exist. Heck, there isn't a single 4th Edition product in WotC's own gift guide.
So I have a bit of a dilemma... My intention was to use Kickstarter to fund the art for at least one of these products, but I can't help but think that creating a Kickstarter for a market that no longer exists seems like a waste. I can't in good conscience create a Kickstarter listing that I personally feel will inevitably fail. It makes no business sense.
Furthermore, I can't bring myself to publish and charge for a product that I personally feel is inferior or not the best that it can be. Sure, I might like the mechanics of the two modules, but to charge players any amount of money for a module with zero art in it just doesn't sit right. Yes, I've done that before... but it's always felt somewhat awkward.
So I've made some executive decisions:
- The D&D 4th Edition versions of Revenge of the Kobolds and A Night in Seyvoth Manor will be released FOR FREE on this site and on Drive Thru RPG once I feel comfortable about the mechanics and have given it at least one editing run through by someone other than myself.
- I am looking to convert Seyvoth Manor in to other game systems, most notably Pathfinder and a few others (13th Age, Hackmaster, earlier editions of D&D, etc...), and if I do these will probably have a small price to them (I'm not in it for the money, as you might be able to tell). Many have told me to create a "system neutral" product... the issue with that is that my thing is mechanics and "crunch", if you will, which goes contrary to making a neutral product.
- I will not be creating any more large scale 4th Edition products. I will probably create small side-treks like The Absent-Minded Alchemist or an occasional snippet of content here and there, but don't expect any 100+ page 4th Edition modules any time soon.
- Until "D&D Next" is closer to release and we have a better idea of what the licensing is going to be for it, I am going to keep myself busy somehow. Odds are that I may find myself doing some more Pathfinder work than I'm use to.
Revenge of the Kobolds will probably be released first because it's the smallest. It may not be perfect and I haven't playtested it as much as I would like, but I think releasing it is better than just having it sit on the virtual shelf without any exposure. I will also see if I can get the Seyvoth playtest off the ground one of these days.
I'm hoping that, with the release of "D&D Next", we'll have another D&D Renaissance and things will be much better. One can only hope...
I can't help it... I have more and more ideas popping in to my head, and part of me really wants to write them up in a module but there's another part of me that questions what edition to do it for. After all, some would argue that 4E is on its last breath, but 5E is still too far away to create anything concrete for it.
So, at least until I get around to writing some of these, here are the projects I have in the works:
DM2: The Fields of Bone and DM3: The Den of the Dark Mistress
These two modules are a continuation to my level 0 adventure DM1: Death's Edge, which was released as part of the May of the Dead blog carnival.
Part of the reason I haven't continued work on this, besides there not being enough hours in a day (man, if every day had 57 hours in it I'd be unbelievably productive!), is that the latter half of The Fields of Bone is virtually identical to the Reavers of the Harkenworld adventure that comes with the DM's Kit. I mean, the similarity was amazingly uncanny considering I hadn't even looked at Reavers until recently.
I've been considering doing a Kickstarter for this, but I've already expressed my concerns regarding that.
Unnamed Lair Assault style adventure
I got this idea from Twitter in a roundabout sort of way, and it was one of the ideas I had submitted to DDI last cycle only to be told "no".
Premise: The players are all kobolds. While they are away a group of level 1 adventures attacks their lair and kills everything inside, and the kobolds return before the party has left. They must reclaim their lair and get their revenge on the adventuring party that dared attack them!
Part of the design involves giving the kobolds the ability to "buy" traps, creatures, obstacles, etc... that they can place throughout their lair in order to thwart the intruding adventuring party. So basically the DM decides the path the adventures are going to take, the players then buy the traps using resource points (similar to Attack of the Tyrantclaw, I think), and the DM resolves whether those traps caused any damage to the adventuring party. Then the kobolds go in and try to kill the adventurers, which consist of the stereotypical five PCs (fighter, cleric, wizard, rogue, ranger), one animal companion, one familiar and at least two henchmen.
I thought it would be an interesting idea to have the participating players pretend that they themselves are Tucker's Kobolds, and it'll be an experiment to see whether the role reversal - players as monsters and the DM controlling PCs - will work without being too big a headache for the DM.
Module's about 70% written and still needs a map of the lair. I'm walking a thin line because kobold PCs are not exactly GSL compliant, but I think it will be OK.
Unnamed Epic Tier adventure
Nobody knows where they came from; ten foot tall shards of reddish-blue crystal were appearing across the land, and these crystals defied all magical explanation, were impervious to all damage and could not be moved by even the most powerful forces. They remained motionless, seemingly inert, hovering a few inches above the ground, without any rhyme or reason...
...until the seventh day. Without any warning, the crystal and everything surrounding it vanished in the blink of an eye, leaving behind a massive crater over two miles wide and almost half a mile deep. All that remained was gaping hole in the earth; no destruction, no debris... Just emptiness.
In the past the crystals appeared in seemingly random locations - in the middle of a barren field, hovering above the ocean surface miles offshore, atop distant mountains and deep within swamps - so the locals had no reason to be concerned. But now one of these crystals has appeared in the town square of the most populated city on the continent, causing widespread panic and jeopardizing the residents, their homes and their way of life. Something must be done before time runs out and the city is consumed, leaving nothing more than a lifeless crater where it once stood.
I have never done an epic tier adventure. Actually, the only epic tier stuff I've done has been bits and pieces of my Items of Legend supplement. The reason: I am very bad with D&D lore. Epic tier usually involves interaction with gods and primordials, other planes of existence and a lot of things that require detailed knowledge of the world that is D&D. I'm just not comfortable with that as a designer and as a DM.
This adventure is meant to be for the early epic tier - around level 21-23, I'm guessing - which means I can get away with not dealing with a lot of the lore that comes with epic adventures. Yes, a majority of the adventure will take place in the Elemental Chaos, but it won't be bound to much lore there beyond the plane of existence itself.
I'm still debating whether to make this a straight up adventure or something that leans towards the Fourthcore style of play (which is something I've been wanting to do for some time). And, since I have the story in my head but haven't done any actual design work for it, it seems like a good candidate for "DnD Next". Still don't know... Need to think about it...
Untitled RPG or Campaign Setting
For quite some time I've had an idea to create a somewhat post-apocalyptic RPG, or at least an extensive campaign setting. This idea of mine has been somewhat motivated by the fact that I can't legally create Gamma World (*writes check!*) content, so rather than complain about not being able to use the system I thought I'd create my own system and do with it as I please. I haven't decided what engine to use - I've considered d20, AGE, FATE and others - or whether I'll roll my own system, so my plans are still quite up in the air.
The setting is not quite Gamma World (*writes check!*), but it's close. It's a post-apocalyptic world, and although there is a certain extra-terrestrial influence it is "down to Earth", if you will. I have ideas for space travel and other adventures along those lines, which might take it beyond the d20 style of play to something more tactical or more resource-driven (my life has been heavily influenced by Star Control, Starflight, Master of Orion and similar game mechanics), but I don't know if I want to take the core that far "out there".
Writing your own RPG or campaign setting is, needless to say, a helluva lot of work. I'm not sure if I have the time or resources to take on such a thing, and I'm fearful that anything I create might be lost in the sea of RPGs currently out there. And, like I've said before, I'm horrible when it comes to writing "fluff"... and that's kind of important in a project such as this.
So maybe, some day, I might actually make some progress on this. Don't be surprised if I throw up a real Kickstarter to develop this some day.
So stay tuned for my next creation... whenever that may be.
I have a lot of thoughts and ideas that are constantly rolling around in my head, and if the average day contained more than 24 hours I would most probably put them down on paper and publish them for the world to enjoy. But there's always one thing about my publications that makes me somewhat self-conscious and question the quality of my own work: they aren't "artsy".
Like I've mentioned on this blog before, I am not an artist. Sure I can make tactical maps, but that's not what I'm talking about when it comes to being an artist; I'm talking about actual hand-drawn images to give my product a little more of an artistic flair. Every time I finish a product and am about to publish it, I spend weeks trying to figure out what I'm going to do about cover art because I don't consider it a true product without one. My last product, Death's Edge, was published without cover art (the image you see on the listing is a very low resolution stock image; I do not have license to an image of sufficient resolution to publish), and that actually bothers me a great deal. It just feels... wrong... ya know?
I got lucky with The Heart of Fire: I was able to find the perfect image on DeviantArt and I contacted the artist to see about licensing it. The artist allowed me to license it, gave me a very reasonable price for it, and most importantly I was able to afford it at the time. Nowadays the return on investment for 4th Edition products is nowhere near what it once was - I haven't made a profit on any product in ages - so it's hard to justify spending money to commission art or to pay for existing art when you know you're not going to make the money back in sales.
So I've considered Kickstarter as a means to fund the creative aspects of the project and pay for commissioned artists to create the covers and interstitial art in my publications. I have actually written up at least three separate projects in order to fund some ideas of mine... but I've never had the courage to hit the "post" button for a variety of reasons.
My biggest problem is that I don't really consider this a self-sustaining business. That's always been my problem: I do this for fun, so I'm not actively looking at this as a means to put food on the table. As a result, any aggressive efforts to try to make a strong revenue stream from these products feels kind of inappropriate, and it feels kind of awkward to ask complete strangers to spend their hard earned money to have me do what I consider a hobby, a pastime. Sure, you can pay me all you want to buy an existing product, but are people seriously going to pay me to create something that doesn't exist yet and I was going to do anyway simply because I want to?
Secondly, because of the mathematician that I am I've done the numbers a lot, and in the back of my mind I question whether it'll be worth it. If everyone provides just enough funding to get a digital version it's all great because that's considered 100% profit, but once you start getting in to the higher reward levels the profit dwindles. Let's assume that everyone (or at least a majority of backers) decides to get the hard-copy version of the product; if I have to spend $20 to get a $25 backer his reward, I could risk not getting enough margin to pay for the commissioned art in the first place. The two solutions to this - either put the project goal higher or make the cost of the hard-copy rewards higher - put the project at risk of not getting funded.
Finally, and this might sound silly... there's the issue of the video. You see, I am not a salesman, and I am very self-conscious about things like that, so much so that my online persona has no trace of what I look like or even what I sound like. Heck, if it weren't for me putting my Twitter handle on my GenCon badge nobody would have known who the hell I was. So sitting in front of a camera and trying to sell my product to you feels rather awkward, especially when I'm doing what I'm doing for fun and not for profit. I would much rather stay behind the scenes, maintain the notion that I am the "digital rabbit", and have people buy my product because they want it and not because I told them to buy it.
So now I've got this planned product, the next two parts to the campaign path following Death's Edge, that I question whether to do it on Kickstarter or not. I have the project typed up and pretty much ready to hit "post", but it feels both risky and inappropriate for all the above reasons. There are other reasons for my hesitation, such as my plans for The Fields of Bone being almost identical to the Reavers of the Harkenworld module (which is part of the 4E DM's Kit), but that's a small issue compared to all the other issues with Kickstarter mentioned above.
Maybe one of these days I'll come up with something that I feel worthy to be funded in such a way, and maybe that'll be enough for me to come out from behind my rabbit face and try to sell people on it. Time will tell, I guess.