Patreon-izing

I’m sure I’ve made the joke before, but what the heck.

If you have been here in the last few years, you will have noticed something different: nothing directing you to a Patreon. That’s an experiment that has come to a close. I have to admit that having started SEP in 2004, I still haven’t figured out marketing. Unlike Kickstarters, where drive-by traffic can fuel some (for me, it’s most) of the support, Patreon relies on the subject’s ability to pull in people.

Never been really good with that.

For a while, the Patreon proved useful just to push me to create RPG material. The larger one’s catalogue, the more revenue one can expect from Drive-Thru RPG (much like Patreon, itch.io—at least for me—is very dependent on the author/publisher’s ability to draw in customers). So in the end, the Patreon will likely have a longer reach than the revenue which came directly from it.

The sad truth is that, many modern societies and cultures measure a product’s value and impact in revenue. Back in university, I took a course on the social psychology of sport, and in a component about contracts we looked at studies suggesting large contracts are pursued more as a signal of the management’s regard for the athlete than for the money itself. I imagine it’s the same in entertainment as a whole.

All that to say, I’m not immune to this, so I’m afraid I continue to looks at sales and people’s willingness to spend money on me as a measure of my value—at least as an author and RPG designer.

I think I have one or two ‘for pay’ projects I might pursue, but if I write any more adventures, I think I might release them as ‘pay what you will,’ knowing the general perception will be that these are lesser products than those with a fixed price.

Forget it, Jake. It’s capitalism.

Sword Noir Second Edition Kickstarter

Are there those who only get their information on my work from this website? On that possibility, here’s your cue to go and back Sword Noir Second Edition on Kickstarter.

Sword Noir Second Edition is a clarification, update, and tightening of the existing rules rather than a wholesale change. If you own the original Sword Noir and it works great for you, you likely don’t need this version. If you own the current Sword’s Edge, you will see that Sword Noir 2E is very similar—Sword’s Edge was derived from Sword Noir, and with Sword’s Edge having had its update, I wanted to update Sword Noir to bring it back in line with the basic Sword’s Edge rules.

Sagas of the Sea Peoples

This is definitely not the best place to find news of my undertakings (that would by my Patreon) but just in case you are following this site hoping for news, you might not realize that the Kickstarter for Sagas of the Sea Peoples is happening right now.

The Kickstarter will run until 29 February 2020, so if you’ve got the money, head on over and help me make something awesome.

NOTE: (16 May 2020) the Kickstarter for Sagas of the Sea Peoples didn’t fund, and as the only purpose of the Quickstart was as a proof of concept for the game, it is no longer publicly available. As I’ve had requests, I’d like to point out that both it and the full game are available on my Patreon.

Sagas of the Sea Peoples Quickstart

The climate is changing, causing droughts and famines. Natural disasters limit the ability of governments to respond. Those governments are involved in wars that are bankrupting them. The global trade network has collapsed. And all this has created waves of migration, which governments are characterizing as ravening hordes, coming to destroy civilization.

Welcome to the Late Bronze Age Collapse.

It’s the turn of the eleventh century BCE in the Mediterranean. The kingdoms of the Achaean Greeks, the empire of the Hittites, the trade centre of Troy, and the powerful city-states that line the coast have fallen. Egypt faces ruin. The world, as you know it, is ending.

You are one of many who have fled your homeland, finding a community among those we now call the Sea Peoples. How will you survive as order and government collapse? How will your protect your community—your friends and your family—in these most unstable times? When will you ever find peace?

Sagas of the Sea Peoples is a tabletop role-playing game set in the Late Bronze Age Collapse. The characters are leaders of the Sea Peoples, seeking better lives, struggling against innumerable enemies, and facing the fall of the civilizations in which they were born. It will be crowd-funded on Kickstarter in early 2020, and has been released only through my Patreon. This Quickstart is intended to give a glimpse of the system and the setting.

NOTE: (16 May 2020) the Kickstarter for Sagas of the Sea Peoples didn’t fund, and as the only purpose of the Quickstart was as a proof of concept for the game, it is no longer publicly available. As I’ve had requests, I’d like to point out that both it and the full game are available on my Patreon.

It Came From The Sea! Crunching the Numbers

This post was original presented at my Patreon on 6 Aug 2019.

I’ve embarked on writing for Saga of the Sea Peoples, (which you can follow at my Patreon) and in doing so, I’ve started to consider the costs that would be associated with bringing it to actual fruition, meaning distributing it beyond Patreon. The costs for doing a print product – something more than 100 pages – are pretty prohibitive. A ballpark estimate puts the Kickstarter goal at about US $11,500. My biggest success for Kickstarter was Centurion: Legionaries of Rome which brought in around $5,900 USD. Nefertiti Overdrive only brought in about $4,900 CAD, which was about $3,800 USD.

It’s possible to produce a 125 page book without editing or certain sections I’d like to include – such as considering migration and integration in the context of the Sea People – and using stock art. That goal would be about $3,000 USD so a Kickstarter goal of $4,450 CAD . . . or, to be more careful, $5,000 CAD.

A PDF-only product, substantially shorter, and using stock art, would have a goal of $4,500 CAD. That means I would need 350 backers at $13.50 CAD (around $10 USD) a pop to hit that target. Were I to do the base minimum – editing, consultation, extra sections, and more art as stretch goals – I could set the goal at $2,000 USD, meaning I would need about 150 backers.

Centurion only had 180 backers, Nefertiti Overdrive had 302 backers, and Sword’s Edge had 144 backers. So far, it looks on the edge of do-able, but with definite failure potential. Failure is fine – it means the market isn’t interested and if I want to pursue it, it would be on my own dime with minimal expectation for sales.

One thing I learned from the Centurion vs. Nefertiti Overdrive Kickstarters was the value of high ticket pledge levels. Something like creating one of the iconic characters for the game or being a model for a piece of art can support a pretty heft price tag, but does it help?. For the art, I would have to actually increase the goal of the Kickstarter to compensate for the added cost – three openings for modelling for art would increase the cost by almost $600 CAD while bringing in a maximum of $750. That’s about eight extra backers, so there is some potential but it’s not significant.

In the end, I’m going to push forward with the writing, and can promise you the rules portion. There’ll be some historical discussion thrown in there, and I’m continuing to research the era and the Sea Peoples, as it has turned out to be fascinating, but I won’t have a “history” section per se unless I’m able to finance this some other way. Kickstarter looks like a possibility, but it needs more analysis and consideration.

It Came From The Sea! . . . or maybe the pool

This article was first posted to Patreon on 18 May 2019

Today was the first day this year that I skimmed the pool.

Bear with me!

Skimming allows me to zone out, to kind of enter a Zen space where my thoughts are divorced from my actions. The body does what it needs to do while the mind is free to wander. So it wandered to Egyptian history.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the 25th Dynasty in order to write a history supplement for Nefertiti Overdrive, and while reading about the transition from the New Kingdom to the Third Intermediate Period, I came across mentions of the Sea Peoples, a kind of boogeyman often blamed for the Late Bronze Age collapse, which seemed to affect most of the Mediterranean civilizations. The Sea Peoples were apparently a kind of maritime nomadic group that swept in, messed things up, and then moved on until Rameses III of Egypt put them in their place – that place being the Levant. This allegedly led to the creation of the Philistines, who – according to one theory – were displaced Mycenaean Greeks.

Fascinating stuff, you say. So what?

Because I think the saga of the Sea Peoples would make a great game. Here’s why:

Often the Sea Peoples – and “barbarians” in general – are depicted as the villains. Here’s a nice orderly polity, imposing law and order on a specific region, and in come these terrible barbarians who create chaos and suffering. Except those polities were run by a very small elite for their own benefit. Often – especially with Rome – the fight was about stopping immigration. The Goths just wanted to some land to farm, but they weren’t obsequious enough with the Romans. The Gauls earlier had been pretty much minding their own business, ruling polities that had already imposed order on a wide area, but they weren’t serving Rome’s – or at least Julius Caesar’s – interests. Heck, it was a “Celtic menace” that was a factor leading to the empowerment of Marius and therefore Sulla, who led pretty much directly to the fall of the Republic. Those Celts weren’t even really interested in in the Italian Peninsula, though they did attack Roman town and forts in what might be called Celtic territory.

And there are parallels today, as elite interests attempt to portray those seeking a better life inside the elite’s polity as criminals and barbarians. The elite see a threat to the status quo as a threat to their privileges and power, and so change is bad.

I think history has been very clear that change is good.

So let’s have a game with the Sea Peoples as the good guys. Yes, they are forces of chaos and yes they threaten the status quo. But that status quo protect a rapacious elite. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Sea Peoples and other barbarians generally do not come as liberators. Most of them wanted to challenge the status quo, if only to find a place within it. But changing the status quo can be seen as good, protecting a society against atrophy.

All this to say that as this game evolves, it’ll be doing so in this Patreon. I will share here my notes, my thoughts, my intents, and my design. This will not be something for which patrons will pay, but the posts will only be open to patrons.

It will all start with design goals, and maybe even a philosophy.

Wish me luck.

Note: the development of Sagas of the Sea Peoples will be conducted at my Patreon, so if you are interested, look for it there.

Sword’s Edge Publishing

SEP has published a few lines that may be of interest, and you can find a page devoted to each.

Centurion: Legionaries of Rome has characters serving under the eagles of Rome in her famous legions.

Nefertiti Overdrive is about high-octane, wire-fu action set in Ancient Egypt and includes a series of adventures that tell a longer story.

Sword’s Edge is a generic system for which multiple adventures in different genres are available.

Adventures Taking the Fifth

Over at my Patreon, the vote is in and October’s release will be the newly christened “Cult of the Abyss,” which is the renamed “A Day’s Work,” an adventure for Fifth Edition – in following the OGL, one cannot indicate compatibility with a product covered by Product Identity, but I think you are all wise enough to grok the Fifth Edition of what. This is an adventure for 3-5 PCs of levels 5-7, though it best played with 4 PCs of level 6. This is designed for one or two sessions, depending on the number of players and speed of play.

It’s possible no one outside my Patreon will ever see this adventure (well, except for my daughters), so if you are interested, this might be the only way to check it out.

And I would greatly appreciate your support.

Heads Are Gonna Get Crushed!

Coming to my Patreon in September will be HeadCrushers: an RPG of Fantasy Mayhem. This is a very simple system – more simple even than Sword’s Edge – that is designed for quick, loud fantasy adventures but which can be easily adapted to other genres. This was directly inspired by the fantastic Skullkickers comic, which you can ​read online but which is ​available in print.

I would greatly appreciate your support to my Patreon. HeadCrushers will be coming to the regular venues for sale in around October, but it’s cheaper if you get it through the Patreon.

 

The Wall

This month, the release through my Patreon is the Wall, a new role-playing game in which you play members of an occupying force in a foreign city.

You are the occupying soldiers of a foreign power garrisoning a city far from home. You do not share a culture with the citizens, and your state has decided to use the existing political structure to maintain its rule. You stand as the voice of the occupying power, ensuring the elite protect that power’s interests while avoiding antagonizing the regular citizens. You do not want political opposition and you do not want riots.

You are the Wall against chaos, against dissension, against revolution. But you are also the Wall against freedom and self-determination.

And now you need to live with that.

This is not a game about playing inhuman monsters. It’s a game about playing humans in a monstrous situation. You are right in the middle of various factions, all seeking to better their lives or increase their power. You need to maintain order without alienating the foreign elite or making enemies out of allies. When you are ordered to do something wrong, how do you avoid it? How do you find a better outcome? And then what are the repercussions for you?

You can find the Wall at my Patreon.