Friday, January 27, 2017

Kickstarter is No Way to Run a Business, Part Two

In February 2014, Goodman Games launched their first KS for their DCC World Tour.  I cannot go into what was offered because  I can say it was projected to deliver May 2014 and it appears to have delivered on time on target.  It raised $13,333 from 109 backers.  These numbers are skewed by one pledge level that was $1500 and another four each at $1000.  Therefore, 104 backers for $7833, or $75.32/backer. 

In March 2014, they launched there 2nd KS.  Wha?  You just had one and you haven't even delivered it and you launch another one to fund your first KS book?  Here's where the flag should go up.  And what was their 2nd KS?  Oh, only a reprint of the very first SF RPG.  The basic buy-in for the book was $80.  $83,264 from 624 backers is $133.43/backer, but again 5 pledged $1000/each and 17 pledged $350/each, so $72,314 between 602 backers = $120.12/backer.  Projected delivery was September 2014.  Again, for a book, a roughly 5-6 month window to print, handle, and ship.  I can't comment tremendously on this as I did not back it; however, I can find some things.  First, 67% of the books alone had shipped in December 2014.  At that point, the stretch goals and add-ons were at the printer.  Second, it looks like everything had shipped by May 2015.  So at least 7 months after projected.  It appears it didn't go to the printer until July 2014.

Third was the Chained Coffin.  This was actually for a regularly printed module, but with a lot of upgrade and add-on options (it turned into a boxed set and I feel they lost a lot of money fulfilling this one).  It ran for the month of May 2014 with a projected delivery of August 2014.  This is one that I wanted to back, but lacked the money.  Basic buy-in of $10 for the standard module, which is what it streeted for, but the majority of backers were at the $30 level.  Total raised $38,238 by 729 backers, or $52.45/backer.  Again, 119 backed at a $60 level, so that's $7140 subtracted leaving $31,098 between 610 backers, or $50.98/backer.  It would have been my first KS backing, but I had one Indiegogo under my belt.  It went to the printer at the end of October 2014, began shipping after Christmas 2014.  The last relevant update appears to be February 2014.  6 months late.

The next 2 aren't DCC, but may illuminate more information.  Starfall Over the Plateau of Leng for Age of Cthulhu ran for just over 3 weeks in June 2014 with projected deliver of October 2014.  It was a hardcover book that appeared to be ready to ship at the end of August 2014.  Basic buy-in was $25.  $10,536 raised by 341 backers; $30.89 per backer.  The last update stating everything was shipped was the end of December 2014.  That's 2 months late; for Goodman it's good and for damn near anybody it's good.

Next we have Maximum Xcrawl for Pathfinder.  It ran for 30 days from the last week of June 2014 thought the first 3 weeks of July 2014.  The basic pledge for the print book $40, but 167 pledged at the $60 level.  There were also 74 who only backed electronically.  $18,847 raised from 378 backers or $49.86.  Let's eliminate the digital crowd, so 304 backers gave $16,817, or $55.32 for print backers.  Estimated delivery was October 2014; that's 2 KS projected to be shipped in the same month.  Ballsy.  The official starting date of shipping was November 2, 2014.  Shipping was complete before Christmas 2014.  However, it appears there were stretch goals that weren't completed until January 2016.  Yes, 2016, not a typo.  In my opinion, that's 15 months late.  For these first 5, one was delivered on time, one 2 months late, and the other three were 6 months or more late.  At least 60% late.

The sixth KS was the first I backed:  Peril on the Purple Planet.  We'll continue our discussion next time.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kickstarter is No Way to Run a Business, Part One

TRIGGER WARNING:  It is not the purpose of this post to a) disparage any one publisher or backer or b) make light of those who have actually been swindled via Kickstarter.  Instead, it is to provide information in the form of facts and experiences to help not only KS backers, but also those who develop Kickstarters.

I received my +Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics 4th edition Kickstarter box yesterday.  For those of you not playing at home, on October 24, 2015, I pledged as a First Time Fan.  That was a base $40 pledge for the following:  
receive the print + PDF edition of the classic "blue-cover" edition of DCC RPG 4th printing, with all the stretch goals that get cleared! In addition, you'll also receive a randomly determined adventure module of our choice, and you'll also receive some free swag similar to that produced for our prior Road Crew programs. We ask that experienced players please reserve this pledge level for our new fans! If you would like to add on another edition of the book, simply add the "dollars" to your pledge, then complete the survey at the end to specify what the dollars are for.
So, up to that point I did not have a copy of the rules and did not own any of their modules.  I had read some, but didn't own any.  I added $20 to upgrade to the Peter Mullen cover, which I loved for it's science-fantasy feel.  I also added $12 for shipping based on this:
this Kickstarter includes shipping charges as follows:
USA: $12
I also added on $15 for the "new compilation module" (#89 Chaos Rising) and $20 for the Monster Alphabet and an additional $5 shipping for add-ons.  This brings us to $112 total which was collected after the KS ended on November 25, 2015.  To give you an idea of how that works on average, there were 2259 backers for $215,369 or an average of $95.33 per backer.  So I'm a little above average, but not much.

There was a "randomly determined adventure module", which ended up being #66.5 Doom of the Savage Kings.  When I got my pdf of this, I was super-excited.  This is one of the best modules I have read; I hope to be able to review it here in my spare time (HA).
Now for the stretch goals, apparently the bane of KS.  
1) two sewn-in satin ribbon bookmarks.
2) a full color dust jacket.
3) two built-in 4-panel judge’s reference panels. 
4) DCC #71: The 13th Skull, with include new material on magic skulls
5) DCC #75: The Sea Queen Escapes, with a new mini-setting on the sunken lands of Ru
6) DCC #76: Colossus, Arise! with a include a new conclusion / wrap-up section
7) DCC #78: Fate’s Fell Hand, with a number of edits and updates
8) DCC RPG will be printed with gilded page edges.
9) DCC RPG will be printed with drilled-out dictionary-style “thumb tabs” 
10) DCC #79: Frozen in Time at 8.5”x11” dimensions including the new material added in the second digest-sized printing. 
11) DCC #69: The Emerald Enchanter at 8.5”x11” dimensions including the mini-adventure “The Emerald Enchanter Strikes Back” 
12) a custom color pocket folder for print backers. 
13) sticker sheets with the cover art from modules (and perhaps other images) for print backers. 
14) bookmarks for all print backers
15) custom-printed pencils for all print backers. Probably #2 pencils so everybody gets several.
16) custom-printed dice bags for all print backers.
17) a notepad of 0-level character sheets for all print backers.
18) an updated judge’s screen (i.e. a traditional one you set on the table, not attached to the book) for all print backers.
19) custom D6 dice for all print backers. 

And this KS achieved ALL of them.  Now, this is my first observation:  the KS had the first 9 listed as initial at launch, which were cleared in a little over a week.  5 of those are direct updates to the book itself, which means the cost should have been calculated before launch.  The other 4 are re-prints with some additional information, which should have been on hand before launch and shouldn't have cost much if all the art and original text had already been paid.

On November 5, 2015, the final 10 stretch goals were laid out.  I have no idea if these were previously planned/accounted for, but I do know that they asked for backer suggestions for additional goals.  10 and 11 are like the previous reprints, so shouldn't be that expensive.  Then we get into stuff I don't know about.  That folder should have cost (higher quality cover and folding) and I would think stickers are expensive to manufacture.  The bookmarks shouldn't have been too bad, but it is double-sided.  15 and 16 are custom-printed items and the notepad could be expensive due to the glue.  The judge's screen should have been easy to figure out as they have previously put one out on Free RPG Day.  Custom dice, I have no idea.  How many of these were figured into the initial cost to print the 4th edition at launch?  Again, no idea, but I feel confident some of them were not.  Also note that none of these touch the core book like 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9, but are all outside it.

Now, the KS originally projected delivery April 2016.  As you can tell, it didn't deliver then.  For calculation purposes, from the end of the KS to receipt was 14 months for a project that was projected to take 5 months from KS completion.  If I grant them the full month of April 2016, 8 full months and 25 days is how late the KS was.  Also, note that this is not the complete KS, only the items that could be shipped media mail.  I am still owed pencils, dice, and dice bag.  Is that excessive lateness?  It depends; if Joe Blow Schmuckatelli is doing his first KS and had all these balls in the air, I would call it outstanding.  When you are an established publisher from 2001 who has 10 "successful" KS under your belt, I'm gonna say yeah, it's late as hell.  At least +James Raggi had the foresight to give us a heads-up in 2013 that we should expect delivery 2019.

So what happened?  Before delving into that, let's do a little KS history with the publisher tomorrow.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Day 2 of 30 Days of Dark Sun

Do you like the concept of Preserving or Defiling better?

I have to go with Defiling.  Really, that's how Dark Sun got to be a desert.  Once again, I had very little true knowledge of the pulp classics like Conan or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.  However, something about the drawback to magic use made sense to me.  I instinctively knew magic use was dangerous and now I had a mechanic for it.  It also gave a dichotomy to magic users, who I always felt were too carbon-copy.  Would I have ever played one?  I don't know; I never was big on magic users in general.  It would have been interesting; unfortunately, I was the DD:  Designated Dungeonmaster.  :)

Day 1 of 30 Days of Dark Sun

So, October 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the Dark Sun setting. That means I was 16 and in the Fall of my Junior year. Over at, they're running a #30DaysofDarkSun celebration with 30 questions about your favorite aspects of Dark Sun. Of course, I'm late as usual, so I'm going to try to catch up and keep up.

What is your favorite setting element of Dark Sun?

I mean, good night! Probably the best way I can articulate this is the alienness of the setting. I was familiar with Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, and Ravenloft; all 3 of those are fairly interchangeable. Dark Sun was none of these. It was a revelation to me that you could play D&D in a completely different way. Surprisingly, it foreshadowed my interest in pulp; my only knowledge of pulp at that time was probably H.P. Lovecraft (from my love of Stephen King). There was something primordial about the alien world of Dark Sun. The concept of a desert planet as a fantasy setting seemed brand new to me and most likely reminded me of Tatooine. The requirement of psionics was so cool to me; I was basically a sci-fi guy and I loved the setting's reliance on it. And the take on races was great; obviously I was not familiar with Arduin's phraints, but thri-kreen as a playable race again seemed to key to my sci-fi background. All of these really interested me and caused me to buy the box set at the first place I found it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Marvel Character Creation

So, having purchased the Marvel Super Heroes RPG for the last time, I decided to use it.  One of my goals is to provide gameable content for every post here.  Without further ado, let us make a character!

First off, origin.  I rolled a 72, which makes our new hero a Hi-Tech Wonder.  That's cool; Iron Man is one of my favorites.  Now to generate his primary abilities.  Fighting 41 (Good), Agility 62 (Good), Strength 08 (Poor), Endurance 61 (Good), Reason 91 (Excellent!), Intuition 97 (Remarkable), and Psyche 11 (Typical).  The Reason roll is really good; I was surprised by the Intuition roll and if I had rolled a high Psyche, I might have gone more of the mystical route instead of scientific.  As a Hi-Tech Wonder, Reason gets increased two ranks to Incredible.  Secondary abilities of Health (27) and Karma (67) are just math problems; I remember not liking that initial rank numbers are on the bottom of their respective rank, but now I see more of the rationale behind it for new heroes.  For initial Resources, I decide to roll (92) to improve it from Typical to Remarkable.  Popularity starts off as 10 and I choose a secret identity, so 5/5.

Now for Powers.  I roll a 74, which gives me 4 initial Powers.  I've decided to just roll for categories and then pick the individual powers.  I roll a 34 (Energy Control), 99 (Body Alterations/Defensive, yes!), 15 (Movement), and 67 (Distance Attack).  That's a good spread to start with; let's start with Body Alterations/Defensive.  Taking Body Armor is a no-brainer; as a Hi-Tech Wonder, all of my powers will be rolled into this suit of armor.  For power rank, I roll a 78 (Incredible).  Now to modify my Fighting (56) by one rank, Agility (66) by one rank, Strength (94!) by four ranks, and Endurance (71) by two ranks.  Also, I can lower my Agility by one rank (Typical) to increase my power rank by one (Amazing).  My Health while wearing my armor is now 76.  For Energy Control, I've always liked Gravity Manipulation and I roll a 94 for an Amazing rank; I get one Power Stunt and decide to increase weight on targets at the Amazing rank, making it feel like 50 tons!  For Distance Attack, I choose Darkforce Generation, another personal favorite, and roll 72 for an Incredible rank attack.  Finally, I choose Lightning Speed for my Movement power.  I roll a 46, but the power must be at least Endurance plus one, so it's Incredible.  I also get to use it for Agility FEATs.

For my Talents, I roll an 81 for three.  I decide to choose these and go with Engineering, Physics, and Repair/Tinkering.  I roll a 21 for Contacts, giving me one, which is the organization I work for or own; I decide it's Business World, giving me Incredible Resources to draw on and it's my company.

So, here's what we've got:  a genius business owner in a suit of armor that makes targets heavier, shoots black bolts, and moves at 105 MPH.  What if the Darkforce is a little less specific?  What if our character developed a device that replicated a black hole?  With the recent discovery of gravitational waves, this seems really cool.  By manipulating a micro black hole, he can increase gravity and lash out with singularity spears; he also alters space-time to achieve high speeds.  Thus, I give you Cygnus X-1, named after the first black hole to be observed.

Leonard Cooper, MEng, PhD, started his company with a grant from Stark Industries. Based in San Francisco to research singularities as a power source, Dr. Cooper used Stark's arc reactor technology as a starting point.  Following information gleaned from the invasion of New York, Dr. Cooper was able to create an aperture into a micro black hole and capture the Hawking radiation in 1-second microbursts.  Unfortunately, there was no effective way to channel this tremendous energy into a directly usable source for consumption, but it did have certain side effects when released, such as gravitational anomalies.  Dr. Cooper created a "gravitational lens" that allowed for controlled release of energy and built a suit of armor around it to channel the energy.  He learned to use the energy to increase local gravity, accelerate to fractions of light, and channel tangible black matter.  Following Stark's example, he became Cygnus X-1, Dark Star of the Bay Area.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

MARVELous Memories

If memory serves, my true introduction into roleplaying games was 1986.  That would have made me 11 years and in 6th grade, which matches a lot of what I remember.  My soon to be best friend in the whole world was 2 years older and was heavily into RPGs, including AD&D, Star Frontiers, and even Battletech!  But he was also into a game I had vague familiarity with:  Marvel Super Heroes, the first RPG I ever bought.  To really date myself, I bought it at a KayBee Toys in the mall.  I remember pouring over that Advanced Set box, trying to understand it all.  I got character creation fairly easily and had a ball with random generation of tons of characters.  The rest was a little more complex without someone to bounce off of.  Soon thereafter, I was invited into the inner sanctum of my older friends and fully initiated into RPGs; we had some great D&D and AD&D campaigns (including Temple of Elemental Evil), but the MSH campaign is still probably my favorite.

Eventually, I wore my books out.  They were falling apart and I had moved on to things like Vampire, Star Wars, and Champions.  I really can't recall what happened to that first box set; I may very well have gotten rid of it around my first marriage in 1999.  But eventually, I remember missing it.  Oh, I had bought the Marvel SAGA when it came out, and actually played it with my first wife and a friend.  But I missed my old, first love.  As luck would have it, sometime during that time period between my first marriage and divorce, I found a used copy that was damn near flawless.  Complete, intact, barely used.  I can't remember the price, but I know it was not much; probably between 10 and 20 dollars in the early 2000s.

Then, I met my second wife.  Sometime after we got married, probably during moving in together, I realized I lacked the space to keep all these wonderful childhood books.  So I purged; HARD.  Gone were the AD&D books I first bought (orange spine PHB, DMG, and Fiend Folio); all of my Fading Suns books (basically everything ever published); and so much more.  And gone too, was my precious first love:  Marvel Super Heroes Advanced Set.

Until now.

The box is not in as good a condition as my previous one, but there are no tears.

The books are dang near flawless; a little aging, some rust on the staples, but they really don't look like they were read much.

Pretty sure this is the original map, which was meant to be connected to the map in the Original Set.

All of the standups are here, uncut.

And the character cards, uncut!

And this little blast from the past....But wait, I think I see something else under there!

And this!

That's right; I got the two rulebooks from the Starter Traveller box (another casualty of my purge).  No, no adventures or maps, but really, these two books are sufficient to run Traveller forever.

Yep, it certainly did just get better.  As I told my wife, this is the last time I'm buying this.  All of this was acquired for the paltry sum of $35.00.  Sometimes, the gaming gods smile on me.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

EPThursday - This Time, It's Personal

So, I’m going to try to do some recurring posts.  First up, I will designate Thursday as Empire of the Petal Thursday or EPThursday.  I will attempt to recount the exploits of my Wednesday night games run by +James Maliszewski 

Last night, we were in the clan house of the Iron Pillar clan.  Seven of us, four warriors (Chuminish, Kurukkemish, Komesh, and Viruish), two priests (Komish and Cherekelmir, my character) and a magic user (Ka’uleggish), had been invited to dinner with the head of the clan, ChusĂșnish.  This clan house appeared to be in some sort of parallel dimension of death; coincidentally, these Iron Pillars are worshippers of the Five-Headed Lord of Worms, Master of the Undead, Guide Into Darkness, the Demon of Decay.  So yeah, we kinda got what we asked for last night.

While we were waiting for dinner to begin, we investigated more of the surrounding area.  We discovered that based on the spatial geography of where we were, the town we originally came from should be nearby.  Unfortunately, when we arrived, we discovered rubble as if tanks had rolled through the place.  Surprisingly, there were no remains and some of the buildings were not in the original town we had left.  Upon discovering nothing fundamentally useful, we returned to the clan house to await dinner.

Upon arrival, ChusĂșnish began to parlay with us as his undead servants entered.  Braziers were lit to help alleviate the overpowering stench of death and decay; unfortunately for us, the smoke began to accumulate thickly and we all had to save vs poison or begin coughing.  The dark lord then unleashed his minions upon us!  We fought 10 skeletons in the hazy chamber.  This was our first combat since beginning play almost weekly since after Christmas.  My dice were very hot; Cherekelmir hit one skeleton each round and rolled maximum damage for each.  Unfortunately, our warriors could not hit the broad side of a barn with a baseball bat.  Komesh was reduced to one hit point and Kurukkemish and Komesh were trapped in one corner.  However, Ka’uleggish dashed to the doors in the nick of time to begin the process of ventilating the room.  As the haze cleared, we spotted an undead leader of the group commanding the skeletons.  Kurukkemish and Komish charged across the room to the leader; Kurukkemish missed and prepared to meet his doom.  Fortunately, his brother Komish did not miss as he stabbed the rotting thing with his halberd and returned it to the land of the unliving.  I healed Komesh and we began to sweep and clear rooms.  We came up empty handed for the first two flanking the dining hall and moved toward the southwest, to investigate a room we had found to be empty earlier.

When Chuminish opened the door, he saw a woman kneeling on the floor, staring at the opposite wall.  She spoke to him and when he approached, he discovered she too was undead!  I believe this is when he uttered the best line of the night:  “Is there a skeleton in my face trying to murder me right now?”  The woman zombie tore into Chuminish viciously, reducing him to 0 hit points.  I believe it was Viruish who finally struck the killing blow, but our friend was shuffling off his mortal coil.  Both myself and Komish had previously used our cure light wounds for the day, but Cherekelmir did not let that stop him.  I kneeled beside his still form and prayed to Bulkh, asking for Chuminish’s return.  Ka’uleggish provided a blasphemous tome we had found earlier and we offered it as a burnt sacrifice to Bulkh.  As the gods would have it, Chuminish did rise from the ground, but he was now…changed.