Gen Con – Useless Advice

Tomorrow, I’m off to Gen Con. This isn’t going to be my usual Gen Con as I won’t be there with the Accidental Survivors crew. I’ll be there working, running some Nefertiti Overdrive, trying to sell some Centurion and Sword Noir, and generally trying to have a good time.

This is my fourth time out to the rodeo, and I was trying to think of advice I would give to people going. These are just a few very minor thoughts regarding my preparations for going.

1) Get your rest before you go. It’s a little bit late to mention this, but if you are already tired when you hit Gen Con, it’s going to steamroll you. A body in need of rest is also more susceptible to illnesses that are always floating around cons. You can still get a good night’s sleep while at the con, but it means you need to prioritize sleep, which is generally pretty low on most people’s hierarchy of gaming needs.

2) Have a schedule notebook. I usually have a notebook specifically for Gen Con with one page for each scheduled activity. That page includes timings, required equipment, place and map. The rest of the page and the back of the page I leave blank for notes linked to the appointment. I put them in chronological order and have a small paperclip to mark the present/next event. The rest of the notebook is available for game notes, writing down phone numbers/email to keep or pass on, or even jotting down ideas that strike in the exhibitors’ hall.

3) You need to keep clean. Yes, this is just plain common sense, but also yes, it probably needs to said. Take a change of clothes for each day and don’t forget your toothbrush and tooth paste. Take some gum as well, for the in-between periods. You will be surprised how few “catpiss gamers” you’ll meet at Gen Con (thank you to Brad Clark for that evocative turn of phrase), so don’t be the person at the table that befouls the atmosphere.

4) Be flexible. Stuff is going to happen. Don’t go in with rigid expectations. Some events are going to be cancelled, some will change, some won’t be what you expect them to be. Don’t worry about it. You’re at Gen Con! Roll with it. Don’t be afraid to walk away from situations you don’t like. I’d be very careful about doing that in the middle of a game, but if you meet the GM and the individual is a total d-bag, just walk away. You don’t need that shit in your life for the next four hours.

5) Don’t be afraid to lurk – as long as you aren’t being stalker-y. A couple of times when I was running games on the side – at a free table or in the lounge at the hotel – someone has stopped to watch. That’s cool. I usually greet them, let them know it’s cool to ask questions, and if there is space, I’ll offer to have them join us. If you are interested in a game, feel free to politely watch. If you are doing it because of an attractive individual at the table, that’s not as cool. And if that attractive person studiously avoids looking at you, move the fuck along.

6) If you are coming from outside of the US, don’t expect wi-fi at the hotel unless it explicitly states it is available. When I am travelling in Canada, I am honestly shocked when a hotel doesn’t have free wi-fi. It’s pretty common in Asia and Europe as well. In the US, I am generally shocked if the hotel has free wi-fi. Maybe this has changed since my last visit, but it has been super-frustrating. At the convention centre, there are free wi-fi hot spots, so take your laptop, tablet, or phone, and check in there.

That’s all I could think of right now. Nothing ground-breaking. There are no epiphanies to be had here. If you are coming to Gen Con, I hope to see you there and shake your hand. I’ll be at the IGDN booth (#734, right beside Indie Press Revolution) on Saturday from 2PM to 4PM. You can also see me at the Indie RPG Matchmaker seminar Friday morning at 9 at the Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Stn B or at the Historical Gaming seminar Saturday at 1 PM at Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Stn A.

You can find my Gen Con calendar here.

Gen Con – Train in Vain

As you may have heard, I’m running a couple of games with a system I was calling Fancy Pants but now has two names – F#ck You Up and Face ‘Splosion. Yesterday I told you about F#ck You Up: Gangwar. Today, let’s looks at Face ‘Splosion.

I’ll be running Face ‘Splosion: Train in Vain Thursday evening. It sees the characters arrive on the planet Anesidora in an attempt to get the secret location of a vault filled with alien artifacts known as the Pithos out of a mole within Cronus a mega-corporation with both mining and manufacturing interests. Anesidora was once a mining colony but has since been mostly abandoned. Mostly.

Just in case it’s not clear enough, this is a riff on the concept behind the Borderlands video games.

The characters for Train in Vain are:

The Assassin (picture Zer0)
Elements: 2d6/1d10 – Alertness; Stealth
Tools: 2d8/1d12
Plasma Blade; Hologram Projector
Traits: 2d4/1d8 – Physical; Social

The Deathbot (picture Gaige’s Deathtrap)
Elements: 2d4/1d8 – Electronic Brain; Hover Drive
Tools: 2d6/1d12 – Plasma Claws; Laser Eye Beams
Traits: 2d6/1d10 – Physical; Mental

The Gunslinger (picture Nisha)
Elements: 2d4/1d8 – Fast; Cunning
Tools: 2d8/1d12 – Big Bore Pistols Akimbo; Attitude
Traits: 2d6/1d10 – Physical; Social

The Leader (picture Maya)
Elements: 2d6/1d10 – Presence; Mythic Entity
Tools: 2d4/1d8 – Communications; SMG
Traits: 2d8/1d12 – Mental; Social

The Mad Scientist (picture Gaige)
Elements: 2d8/1d12 – Science!; Make things go BOOM!
Tools: 2d6/1d10 – Electro-static Plasma Atomizer; Sonic Screwdriver
Traits: 2d4/1d8 – Mental; Social

The Scout (picture Mordecai)
Elements: 2d8/1d12 – Awareness; Survival
Tools: 2d4/1d8 – Bioform ISR/Strike Asset (hawk); Big Ass Rifle
Traits: 2d6/1d10 – Physical; Mental

You can find my Gen Con calendar here.

Read more about Fancy Pants here.

Gen Con – Gangwar

As you may have heard, I’m running a couple of games with a system I was calling Fancy Pants but now has two names – F#ck You Up and Face ‘Splosion.

I’m running F#ck You Up: Gangwar on Thursday morning. It sees the characters caught in the middle of enemy territory – that being a part of the city run by another, hostile gang – and forced to fight their way back to safety. They learn that not all is at it seems and something might be waiting for them in the place they thought was safe.

The characters for Gangwar are:

The Boss
Elements: 2d8/1d12 – Precise; Cunning
Tools: 2d4/1d8 – Tactics; Presence
Traits: 2d6/1d10 – Mental; Social

The Duellist
Elements: 2d6/1d10 – Balance; Daring
Tools: 2d8/1d12 – Blade; Awareness
Traits: 2d4/1d8 – Physical; Mental

The Face
Elements: 2d4/1d8 – Persuasive; Connected
Tools: 2d6/1d10 – Charm; Insight
Traits: 2d8/1d12 – Mental; Social

The Muscle
Elements: 2d8/1d12 – Tough; Strong
Tools: 2d4/1d8 – Fists; Speed
Traits: 2d6/1d10 – Physical; Social

The Thief
Elements: 2d4/1d8 – Agile; Silent
Tools: 2d8/1d12 – Acrobatics; Timing
Traits: 2d6/1d10 – Physical; Mental

On Monday, I’ll introduce you to Face ‘Splosion : Train in Vain.

You can find my Gen Con calendar here.

Read more about Fancy Pants here.


There was a post and an article I read recently arguing that RPGs needed less story. You can imagine my surprise. Only what both were arguing was that a story is constricting, it forces railroading as the PCs must conform to the plot. It seemed that both thought of “story” only in the strict sense of a story one would read in fiction or watch in a movie.

That is not a definition of story I had ever encountered previously in regards to the RPG discussion.

Story, as I’ve generally seen it used in RPG discussions, refers to the narrative, the non-combaty parts of the game. And in that sense, it is no more confining or railroading than any other aspect of RPGs. In fact, I’ve been arguing – and trying to implement in my games – for more narrative, not less.

Sure I would like to see less railroading in RPGs, but there are some issues with implementing that. I personally see it as an issue of GM comfort. If you relinquish control over the narrative, if you do not have set encounters and at least the outline of a plot, you will need to be ready to create on demand. This is what I call improvisational GMing – it’s GMing on the fly. Not everyone is comfortable with doing it.

If you are comfortable with creation on the fly, it is easy enough to get started if your group feels the same. Don’t discourage players from interacting with the story elements and the other PCs. Give them control over events. If you don’t mind improve GMing, let them answer their own questions. When a player asks “do we find any clues?” your answer could be “you tell me.”

Giving players control over the plot is something into which you might need to ease them, especially if they have been involved in games with tight GM control, like how D&D, GURPS, and Savage Worlds are traditionally played. Players will likely flounder at first when you give them control, like a first-time driver nervous behind the wheel of a car. That will change.

Oh my, how that will change.

So I would agree that we need less railroading in games, but I also believe that some GMs are not willing to improv GM or comfortable with creation on the fly. It’s not easy.

But I do find it fun.

Bunraku Redux

On Sword’s Edge, my blog where I talk about movies and writing and personal stuff, I wrote about the Bunraku effect. In that article, Bunraku refers to a very interesting movie with sets like a stage play, modern costuming and no firearms. The minds behind this movie decided to try to explain all of that with a prologue.

I found that to be the worst decision possible.

Now, in writing, it is possible to avoid providing causes or background to readers. Sometimes you want to do that. In Bunraku, the reason for the lack of firearms was not the point of the movie, so why even bother? There are no guns, live with it. Not knowing would not affect my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the movie.

I kind of feel the same with RPGs. You might be the kind of GM that loves to write pages of setting information and backstory for a campaign. You might even try to get your players to read that. But would the characters necessarily know all that information? And do they need to know it?

Do you really need to explain to a player why there are no gunpowder weapons in this fantasy world with Renaissance or even Enlightenment levels of technology? Nope. The character wouldn’t know. The character wouldn’t even know what a gunpowder weapon might be. So why is it important, other than providing a reason to argue?

I would say that for much of our history, a vast majority of the population did not know that history. Even today, those “person on the street” interviews reveal a huge swath of ignorance regarding history, technology, and the world around us. Should we expect the populace in RPGs to be any different?

I am not suggesting this as a way to keep players in the dark so the GM has an advantage. I am suggesting that you should consider if it is important for the players to know the complete backstory of the setting. If not, don’t bother them with it. Maybe you don’t even know, and that is totally fine. The PCs can learn about his world as they explore it.

You don’t need to provide a reason for everything in your setting, but it would be kind of nice if you provided a fun setting.

You can read that Sword’s Edge article here.

Violent? Sure! Evil? No thanks.

With the announcement of Fallout 4, I’ve gone back to play the shit out of Fallout: New Vegas . . . again. I’ve almost completed the main storyline as an independent, having taken out Mr. House and completed as far as I can go in the Legion storyline before I’m asked to do something I’m not willing to do.

And I should be willing to do it, because it’s just a game right? I even restarted the game in order to play through the Legion storyline, but I have a real hard time doing it. I mean, I shouldn’t be worried about spoilers, but there comes a time when the character is asked to start removing factions the new Caesar considers threats. Given that I have generally made alliances with at least one of these factions, I don’t really enjoy pushing forward with that. I’ve delayed it as much as I can.

It reminds me of playing in an “evil” campaign back in high school. I was okay with it when we were being naughty – thievery, extortion, even a little assassination of other bad NPCs – but at some point it actually got evil. I walked out of the game when the crew were talking about raping the princess. I made some comment about not understanding how anyone could find this fun. The response that it was all just a game just didn’t cut it for me.

There are those out there that enjoy that kind of thing, and perhaps there is some actual value to it. My parents could never understand why I enjoyed movies with extremely foul language and graphic violence. I kind of follow the Aristotelian idea of catharsis (or at least, the generally accepted interpretation of Aristotle’s reference to catharsis in his Poetics) that it can purge the mind of emotions linked to the subject. I once read an interview with John Woo, who is a very mild individual by all accounts, in which he said that the movies allow him to examine violent encounters without the need to resort to actual violence.

I can understand the desire to play criminals and badguys. I did, after all, author Sword Noir: A Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery. I find that desire very different from playing in an evil campaign. In most cases, these criminals and badguys have lines they will not cross. Tony Montana loses it all because he won’t allow the murder of a mother and children, and kills to protect them. Henry Hill gets in trouble because he dabbles in drug-dealing, originally off limits to Good Fellas. The Killer is basically a knight errant out to kill other badguys, but unwilling to harm innocents. These are the kinds of “evil” campaigns I could deal with.

To me, there’s a big difference between assassinating bad people and killing innocent “civilians.” If your campaign was the Silence of the Lamps, would you want to play Agent Starling or Buffalo Bill? I know some of you want to answer Hannibal, but in the movie he is more of a sage than a figure of evil, and his violence in that movie is reserved for a faceless (sorry, couldn’t resist) cop and the violence is perpetrated off screen. Were Hannibal to be murdering characters for which we have sympathy he might not seem like such a great choice.

But then again, to some he might. This is what I can’t understand.

I can understand stealing from the rich, even if you aren’t giving to the poor. Even if an individual gained wealth through hard work and perseverance, the individual has more than enough to meet a person’s needs, and taking a percentage of that doesn’t seem like a real harm. Stealing from the poor? This isn’t fun to me.

I can even understand extortion. Imagine you live in a realm in which the resident lord has absolute power over you, in which you fear opposing the lord’s minions as they break laws and ignore tradition. Now imagine you could fund a police force that could protect you from predations. Some would argue this was the infancy of the Yakuza (Japanese organized crime). It might still be extortion, but it’s easier to swallow if you are honestly protecting innocents for a reasonable “donation.” And our badguy Yakuza thugs would never have to shake anyone down – they’d be busy defending the villagers and protecting property.

Extorting shop owners and burning down their shops if they don’t pay doesn’t seem like fun to me.

The difference for me between role-playing violence and evil is that violence can be used in the preservation of the good or for the protection of innocents. Violence need not be evil. The extreme violence in Hong Kong heroic bloodshed movies, such as the aforementioned the Killer or something like A Better Tomorrow, is never directed at the innocent. Badguys gun down worseguys and avoid collateral damage. When collateral damage occurs, the heroic badguys are devastated by this and attempt to make amends or seek redemption.

I don’t run or play in games in which the violence targets the innocent or the good guys. I had a really hard time accepting the violence directed against the police in GTA IV – the first GTA I had ever played. I messed up one modern campaign in which we were specifically criminal hitmen when my character stated: “No cops. No civilians.”

And perhaps I am belittling a valid gaming choice. I honestly don’t know. Can this work as catharsis? Can we explore the motivations and drives of evil? This would seem to me to be justification for an evil campaign. Just as literature or movies can give us unsympathetic but fascinating characters, I would expect RPGs could do the same.

I just likely wouldn’t want to play in such a campaign.

The Languid and the Focused

Most of my games have some way for the players to communicate with the GM their desires and what they want their PC to do in the game. In Nefertiti Overdrive and Centurion, these are Pivots. Pivots are not only signposts for the GM, they are reminders to the players of what they said they wanted their PCs to be about.

Pivots are pretty important when I design adventures. The players are telling me this is what they want their characters to do, so I better make sure their characters get to do that. However, there is a large difference between using Pivots in a regular, ongoing campaign and in a one-shot or convention game.

In a campaign, having each character hit at least one Pivot during an adventure is fine. An adventure might last a single session if you are lucky enough to have six-hour sessions. For the adventure I’m running over Google Hangouts for two backers from the Nefertiti Overdrive Kickstarters, our sessions are two hours.

In a one-shot or convention game, the session is the adventure, and it has to fit into a specific timeframe – generally four hours. The adventure in the Nefertiti Overdrive Quickstart was designed as a convention one-shot, and fits into a four-hour session. In it, each of the six characters can hit both of their Pivots. I’m finishing my Gen Con adventure right now, and I am wrestling with Pivots to try to make sure each character hits their two.

This is important because in a regular adventure, there might be scenes that have a purpose and might even spotlight a character, but that do not hit a Pivot. In a one-session adventure, each scene needs all three. That’s tough.

Think of the regular adventure or campaign as a novel while the one-session adventure is a short story. A writer can engage in diversions and sub-plots, characters that only tangentially touch on the story but are of interest, scenes that can explore at great length some small point. A short story needs to be laser-focused, everything contributing to moving the story forward.

A regular adventure can be languid and discursive while a one-session adventure must be focused.

You can find Centurion: Legionaries of Rome at Amazon and Drive Thru RPG.

You can find out more about Nefertiti Overdrive here.

You can find the Nefertiti Overdrive Quickstart here.

Quo Vadis, SEP?

In my last post I was looking at costing League of Extraordinary Misfits, and came out with production cost for doing the book right at $5,680 USD, without printing and shipping. I could probably get away with $2,650, and shipping and printing would probably run at least $1,500 though it could easily hit $2,000.

Let’s just look at production costs. I’m going to look at the lower cost, $2,650. The upper cost is right out of my ballpark right now.

Okay, so $2,650. The last book I financed out of pocket was Kiss My Axe. That was published in Dec 2011. It’s still in the red. Sword Noir, which was published in Apr 2011, took two years to recover its funding. Sword Noir‘s budget was half of the budget I’m looking at for League of Extraordinary Misfits.

One of my principles in running SEP was that my personal money would never go to financing the company. That has happened twice. Once turned out okay, the other did not. That’s not a lot of data to go on, but I’m averse to pumping money into this enterprise. If you have been following me for any length of time, you will know that I am mercenary. Yes, I love doing this stuff, but I could get the same sense of fulfillment writing this stuff for my local group and maybe sharing it with the small group of people who support SEP. Cost to me? Nothing.

Let’s say that personally financing League of Extraordinary Misfits is off the table.

So crowd-funding? I said I would never do another Kickstarter. Nefertiti Overdrive finally did fund, yes, but it took a lot of work and investment to finally make it happen. Do I want to go through that again? I would spend a lot of time marketing and I would probably need to do something like the Quickstart again to build some interest and awareness. I’d be looking at an investment of about $450 to $500 for a Quickstart or preview. Since I’d be giving it away for free, the recovery of those costs would be based on the Kickstarter funding. And while the art and map for the Quickstart could be recycled in the main product, the editing and layout costs would simply be added to the cost of funding the product.

Let’s look at the numbers for Kickstarting it. My production costs would be $2,650. I’m going to round that up to $2,800 for unrecoverable Quickstart costs. Can I do a PDF only campaign? I could probably try, but that’s a real risk. If we do add book rewards, we need to add at least $750 for production and shipping. We’ll say $3,500 – the target for the Centurion campaign. However, that doesn’t cover the Kickstarter costs. I generally ballpark this to 10% based on my experience with the system. $3,850 USD would be the target, but because I’m in Canada, my Kickstarters are in CAD. That means I need to set the target 25% higher. Right now, the difference is 20%, but it fluctuates, and if I don’t want to screw myself, I need to account for that. That leaves the target at $4,820.

Almost $5,000. When I tried that with the first Nefertiti Overdrive Kickstarter, I got all of $2,3600.

So even the low-rent version of League of Extraordinary Misfits looks out of reach.

What about piece meal? I could get the rules out for about $575 (or $470 if I go the less expensive route). That means a Kickstarter for a 20 page PDF of $800 or $650 respectively.

Going the basic route, I think I would need to ask for $3 for a PDF copy (I’d later sell it at $3.99 or maybe $4.99, haven’t done a lot of price research yet). That would mean I would need about 220 backers at that level.

Trying to create rewards would be an issue. Let’s say I do a character-based reward. If there’s a $50 reward for being the model for a pre-gen you design, that increases the cost by $35, only netting $15 in actual funding – limit it to 5 and that increases the cost to about $900. If all 5 are supported, that means I still need to fund $650. This doesn’t help. Maybe make it $75? Then if all are supported, the funding target reduces to $525 or 175 backers, but if none are supported, I might still get $650 and not be funded.

Confusing, eh?

$470 USD (which would be about $580 CAD) is something that I might be able to pay for on my own. And, really I could do this for just the art budget if I ignore editing and layout. That would be suboptimal, but it makes it more affordable, and I would worry less about investing my personal money.

One way of subsidizing the cost would be through Patreon. I’m considering using Patreon to release games and adventures. It would basically be $1 for backers per product with a minimum of 10 pages and a maximum of 20 pages. How many people could I get in Patreon? It’s hard to say. I’ve seen Patreons that I support only get $3 in total funding, while some other campaigns make more than $1,000.

To be honest, it makes a lot more sense to me to go the Patreon route to subsidize investments. To do a Kickstarter right, there’s a ton of time and investment. Patreon still requires work, but it is ongoing. I might be a $3 campaign at first, but there’s the chance to get to $100 per product in a year or two, and that could help support art and maps for systems and campaigns.

Here’s the numbers for that:

Games ready to release now: Direct Action (special forces modern action); Starship Commandos (Aliens meets Heinlein’s Starship Troopers); and a League of Extraordinary Misfits.

Direct Action has a campaign that could easily span three or four 15-page products, Starship Commandos has an intro adventure, and LoEM has a campaign of about six products.

That’s a one release per month for about a year. By that time Fancy Pants (needs new name) and Riggers will likely both be ready to go. Fancy Pants will have two adventures for it: one inspired by Borderlands 2 and one set in the default Sword Noir setting. Riggers will have Dream Riggers, which will likely be a campaign that spans about six products.

Patreon seems to make a lot of sense.

But maybe I’m deluding myself.

In any case, nothing will happen until after Gen Con, and after Nefertiti Overdrive is released. That gives me some planning time.

What do you think? Feel free to comment, but there is an SEP G+ community to facilitate discussion.

You can find Kickstarter here.

You can find Patreon here.

Paying for League of Extraordinary Misfits

With a League of Extraordinary Misfits completed, I have to decide what I want to do with it. Do I want to release as something parred down – bare and functional? Do I want to include art? Maps? What are the costs?

Let’s look at the size. The rules themselves right now are 2,335 words. That’s a very basic “only what you need” rather than having examples and multiple explanations. Let’s say around 3,000 words once it is put into good order. That’s likely about 10 pages.

There’s no book there. Maybe a cheap PDF.

However, I don’t think League of Extraordinary Misfits works well without the campaign. This is the search for the Pithos – Pandora’s Box. The campaign reveals the fictional facts behind the myth, and hits six geographic regions in 1937 and a couple of mythical/fictional places. That might be another 40 pages there.

I still don’t have a book.

A GMing section? Sure, I could certainly do that, but I don’t think I would do much more than just repeat the GMing section from Nefertiti Overdrive. There’s not that much more to say, and unlike Nefertiti Overdrive, there isn’t the conceit of highly descriptive, cinematic action. Having said that (wrote that), there is something to be said for a discourse on taking myth and making it your own. It may have been done to death, but someone interested in action archaeology would likely be interested in some advice on making mythology their own. Can I pump out 20 pages on that (6,000 words)? I think it’s possible.

That puts me at 60 pages. Now, before considering budget, let’s make this my dream product. I want at least one 1/4-page illustration every 5 pages. That’s 12 1/4-page illustrations, which also makes the book 63 pages. I would love 1/2-page illustrations every 10 pages. That’s 6 1/2-page illustrations and another 3 pages, for 66 pages. And let’s say two full page illustrations for 68 pages.

Thin, but it’s a book.

Still not done. There would need to be eight maps, one for each of the adventure locations. Those would likely need to be full page maps (in my dream product). I would likely need at least six or seven other maps, probably half-page, for the adventure. So let’s say 11 more pages there.

So 79 or 80 pages. The printed Sword Noir is 82 pages, so this is doable as a print book.

Okay, here’s the splash of cold water: reality.

I’ve seen quotes from $15 to $50 USD for 1/4-page illustrations. That’s for line illustrations without background or with limited backgrounds.

For a 1/2-page, I’d expect between $45 and $80. These are going to be line art still (that’s really the only thing in my price range), but more complex, likely action scenes.

For a full page, I would expect a cost between $75 and $175. Like the 1/2 page, these are going to be scenes, complex illustrations even if they are only line art.

For maps, it really depends on what I want, but for a basic map, I’d expect to pay about the same as an illustration, although if I were looking for greater levels of detail, it could increase that price by up to double. Let’s say my maps are going to be the same cost as my illustrations. These are either going to be adventure locations (so basically illustrations rather than cartography) or very basic maps used for reference rather than accuracy something like this map of Manchuria during the Japanese occupation, but with less details and accuracy.

So let’s look at my art budget. I’m going with the highest of my expectations, because this is about that cold dose of reality.

12 x 1/4 page at $50 per illo = 600
6 x 1/2 page at $80 per illo = 480
2 x full page at $175 = $350
7 x 1/4 page maps at $50 = $350
8 x full page maps at $175 = $1400

This gives me an art budget of $3,180.

The entire budget for Nefertiti Overdrive was $3,000 CAD and that included printing and shipping. Centurion was $3,500.

And while that art is being done, I’d need to have the book edited. That is easily going to run me between 1 to 3 cents per word, or more if I want a more comprehensive job. Let’s go with 3 cents per word, so at an estimate of 33,000 words all told, that’s $990. Let’s got with $1,000.

Let’s talk layout and graphic design. Rob Wakefield does all my layout and design work, and he does an awesome job. He throws in a cover gratis because he’s an awesome dude. In my estimation, I don’t pay him nearly enough for his work. For this job, I would want to pay him no less than $1,500 (which is still relying a little too much on his friendship and enthusiasm).

Then there is printing and shipping. Let’s say a print run of 250 and shipping for that. I’d estimate about $2,000, depending on how postage rates hold out. It will probably be lower, but this is a cost that will definitely rise.

So, if I wanted to do League of Extraordinary Misfits as a book, the budget would be $7,680.

That’s not going to happen.

That does not include my pay as a writer. Since everyone else is getting market rate, I should be paying myself 5 cents per word (that’d be $1,650) though I’d settle for 3 cents ($990). I won’t be paying myself, though. I’ll get whatever profit comes from selling the book.

Let’s say I cut down on the illustrations and go with the lowest bidder (which means the art is going to suffer – Nefertiti Overdrive was pretty much sold on Kieron O’Gorman’s illustrations), I can cut my art budget in half to $1,500. Go with a less experienced editor, and I’m looking at $330 for a straight line edit – looking for spelling and grammatical errors, possibly some comments on comprehension. Could I get layout done for $750? Yeah, I probably could, but again, SEP is viewed as professional because I’ve had professional level work throughout. So, yes, I could cut my production costs to maybe $2,580. I might be able to compensate for the lower illustration count by buying some stock art and art collections, so maybe $2,650.

Printing and shipping won’t change, so the production cost would be for a PDF only product.

I don’t have $2,650 USD in my pocket (which would be about $3,060 CAD), so this isn’t going to happen.

At least for now. I’ll explore some options in my next post.

You can see the Centurion: Legionaries of Rome Kickstarter here, and you can but the book at Amazon or Drive Thru RPG.

You can see the Nefertiti Overdrive Kickstarter here.