Monday, February 10, 2020

Fireside Chat with Tenkar

Erik and I got together Sunday night and did one of his fireside chats. Here is the link. And that's what it was, a chat. More like two friends sitting around a table talking about gaming stuff. We covered my Kickstarter of course. Hunters in Death is nearing 400 backers. That's nuts. But we covered a lot of different topics. 

Erik and I have known each other since I started blogging in 2009. I think Ivy spoke to him before I did. I can't remember that far back. Erik has always been a big supporter of mine and has always helped me get the word out when I released whatever I was working on. But it's the first time we recorded our conversation. 

If you'd like to hear our chat please check out Tenkar's, Tavern Chat. It was a good time.

PS. Joe the Lawyer said that he just listened to the parts we talked about him and that those sections were too short. heh

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Hunters in Death: An Inside Look

Hunters in Death has done well. The process of learning the ins and outs of Kickstarter has been a great experience. Today I'm sharing my thoughts on the first week of my first Kickstarter.

Let's get to the numbers and the different metrics I find interesting. These are the current numbers as I write this.

350 Backers
This number still baffles me. When I considered doing a Kickstarter I figured with the price points I established that I'd need 60+ pledges. I was confident I could get that. But I hoped to reach triple digits. Maybe squeeze into the 110 range.
- I blew past that the first day with a 155 backers. 

$3308 Pledged
I considered setting my pledge goal at $1000. But I decided $500 was better because I wanted to make this zine and learn the entire process of Kickstarter.
- The first day I already had $1466 in pledges.

Shipping Costs are Included in the Pledge Total
Another thing I did not know. When folks pledge, the shipping costs are included in the total pledge amount. It seemed a strange thing to me. But after some consideration it makes sense, as in Kickstarter wants 10% of it all. 
- The money collected for shipping is $710.
- 21.4% of my funding total. 

Super Bowl Affect
I was concerned that Zine Quest 2 starting on Super Bowl Sunday would sap the energy and excitement away. I figured people would be prepping or getting ready for Super Bowl parties and would forget about this zine thing. Ahh, nope. As soon as I posted Hunters in Death I received a handful of pledges before I even announced that I did it. People were searching for entries for Zine Quest and were looking to back them as soon as possible.

Reduction or Cancelled Pledges
I've run a Patreon for several years now so I am no stranger to cancelled pledges. It is a running joke at the Manor that when I watched my Kickstarter pledge page, it went down. So I stopped. 
- So far $185 in pledges were either cancelled or reduced to a lower pledge level. 

Increase of Pledges
It works both ways though. I've had a few people increase their pledges. Some have even pledged more than needed. I've had $55 in increased pledges. Granted $35 of that was from my mom, but it still counts. Thanks mom. 

Mailing Costs Scare
There has been some concern about my shipping costs. That I've charged too low and I'm going to lose money on my Kickstarter. And while the concern is flattering, I've got it covered. I ship out zines all around the world every month for my Patreon. I think most of the confusion comes when folks look at the package rates in which case I would be in trouble. These are considered letters. A 1oz. to 2oz. letter, my zine averages around 1.6oz. costs $2.24. The USPS increased their rates on January 26th, 2020. It used to cost $2.13 to mail. So please, do not worry about the shipping. I have it covered. Not my first time.

Project Followers
This was something I didn't know about. These are people who are following a project and want a reminder before the campaign is over. I asked a few veterans of Kickstarter about the conversion rate. There are Project Followers, Converted Followers (you know the person who came up with that term is a D&D person), then there is the conversion rate given in a percentage. The average was about 10 to 35%. Quite the range. 

Right now I am sitting on 322 followers, 31 have been converted, at a 9% conversion rate. 

The Pledge Pattern
It is well known that the first and last are the largest pledge days. Then there is all that space in between where pledges flat line. I expected it to drop to a pledge or two a day. Maybe have days where no one pledged. But it has been fairly consistent, after the first two days it has stayed steady and I feel I'm still going strong. I'll share the daily numbers at the end.

Excitement of Friends and Family
The first day I kicked off Hunters in Death I had people texting me, IMing me, letting me know when I received more pledges. It was fun. It was fun to see my friends online getting as excited as I was. And Ivy, she kept on announcing new marks hit. Each time I'd get 10 new backers or $100 more in pledges. 

Kickstarter Hangover
This is a thing. I released my Kickstarter. A flurry of social media posts to make sure as many people know about it as possible. Then follows the flurry of congrats and backed! and general support. I am not a social media person so while it was all great and positive it still took a lot out of me to be honest. At night it was difficult to settle down. I was wired from all the excitement of the day. On Monday I downloaded the Kickstarter app onto my phone so I spent the work day checking my pledge level. 
- Next year I'm taking that following Monday off.

Fighting the Stretch Goal Demons
With the success I started thinking of stretch goals. People asked me about stretch goals. I knew I couldn't offer physical items (see mailing costs scare above), but maybe a PDF stretch goal? Ivy gave me a good Gibbs smack. Because I swore ahead of time to keep it simple and focus on creating the best zine I could.

I don't know what the rate is for people making what they Kickstart in there own homes is, but that's what I'm doing. I'm printing and mailing everything from my home. I wanted to do this, for some reason, my first time out. Of course I thought I'd only get a 100 backers at most and knew I could handle that without an issue. I'm at 283 backers who will get a zine mailed to them. With my beautiful assistant, Ivy, we can handle that. It'll take a little longer, but it's worth it.

This goes with the DIY section. Because I am fulfilling this myself there are many costs to consider. Let's break it down.

0.06 to .07 for the 6 or 7 pages of paper
0.07 for the cardstock cover
0.04 for ink (best estimate)
0.14 envelope
0.70 postage in the US
2.24 postage to Rest of the World
1.01 made and mailed in the US
2.55 made and mailed to the Rest of the World

- Kickstarter and processing is 10% off the top.
- Taxes, I'll need to hold back 25% of the net profit.
- A $100 down for art plus I'm giving Jim a cut of the profit. 
- Editing, while Joe doesn't want any money I want to make sure he gets paid for his time. I'm thinking $100.

I'm estimating after all expenses and folks are paid, I might land about $1300. And that is a rough estimate and not taking into consideration any mistakes. 

Pledge Days Totals
Day 1
Total Pledges $1466
Total Backers 155

Day 2
Total Pledges $2406 (+$940)
Total Backers 257 (+102)

Day 3
Total Pledges $2704 (+$298)
Total Backers 284 (+27)

Day 4
Total Pledges $2917 (+$214)
Total Backers 307 (+23)

Day 5
Total Pledges $3111 (+$194)
Total Backers 327 (+20)

Day 6
Total Pledges $3244 (+$133)
Total Backers 344 (+17)

Day 7

7 day remaining in the campaign.

That's all I got for now. I hope this little shot behind the curtain is helpful. Thanks to all who have pledged and if you haven't please go on over and check out Hunters in Death. It's taking shape to be the best zine I've made. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Kickstarter Zine Quest Selections

You may have heard there is this thing on Kickstarter called Zine Quest 2. All the cool kids are doing it. I wanted to share a few of the excellent zines I've found. Some will be bias because I am friends with the authors, but that doesn't mean their zines don't kick ass.

The creator of Dice Roll Zine #3 is Steve C. He's one of the guys I'm bias about. We game together and he's a cool guy. Man are his zines good. And big. My zines come in at 24 to 28 pages. Dice Roll Zine comes in at a punching weight of 40 pages. And it's full of good stuff. And he's also has a pledge level to get issue #2. Get it.

Hidden Hand of the Horla is written for Old School Essentials. I didn't need to hear any more to back this one. This Kickstarter is part of their 'Make 100' campaign. The premise is, you make a 100 of your thing and sell them. Cool idea. Ryan of Appendix N Entertainment has sold out of print copies, but there are unlimited amounts of PDFs. Grab a copy.

Here's another Kickstarter I am biased because I enjoy Dave Aldridge podcast, dpercentile so much. A fellow anchorite. Mudharbour is not just any zine, it's a kung fu fantasy zine. I shouldn't have to write anything else. I mean it's a kung fu zine. duh. It looks like he is using Black Hack for the base system. And there are a lot of interesting possibilities in here. Three Kung Fu dungeons? Whaaaat? I wanna know what a kung fu dungeon is.

The Hidden Necropolis is one I am very curious about because it uses the Five Torches Deep system. I have that system in PDF, but I've haven't played it. It's a 3rd level adventure that is written and playtested. He's has a stretch goal to convert it into 5e so you fifth edition folks, a few more pledges and you'll get a version for your game.

Phylactery says it focuses on the strange and bizarre. Cursed objects. Nefarious tomes of magic. Forbidden demon gods. And there is artwork by Karl Stjernberg, Adrian Landeros, and Ed Bickford. Amazing. It looks like a solid entry into the OSR zine scene.

The Forgotten Rites of the Moldering Dead isn't part of zine quest, but I had to put it here. There is one day left to get in on this one. Donn Stroud just makes good gamable material. Listen to this, RPG supplement containing tables to enhance and generate all facets of the dead, the un-dead, funerary rituals, and death rites. Huh? Huh? Come on, that is frick'n cool. He's also offering his former product, Lesser Key to the Celestial Legion. Get that one also. I have a small bookshelf on my desk for the RPG books I use the most. Lesser Key is on that shelf.

Alright folks. That's a wrap. Checkout these gorgeous pieces of art. These zines. These wonderful nuggets of gaming material. 

And oh, before you go, a shameless plug for me.

I heard Hunters in Death is pretty good also. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Hunters in Death Kickstarter: First Day

Hunters in Death, for Zine Quest 2, was unleashed on Kickstarter today. An old-school hex crawl for low-level adventurers to explore. It exceeded my expectations by a lot lot. My goal was set at $500 and in the first day I'm approaching $1300 with a 135 backers. I was hoping to reach $1000 by the end of the two week campaign. So thank you to all the backs so far.

It looks like I have a 115 other people following my Kickstarter, so if I only get a portion of those also, consider my mind officially blown.

Here's a bit of a preview of what's inside.
  • I've done the writing and maps. I'll add a few map samples. 
  • Jim Magnusson created all the art. Check out that cover. Scroll down to see more of his work. 
  • Matt Jackson created a new logo for me. I wanted a fresh logo for this project. 
  • Joe the Lawyer is editing. Along with Happy Whisk. Between the two of them they should tighten up and sloppy writing I might have let slip through. 
This product is a look behind my GM screen, how I run my campaign. I've included house rules and other additions to make the Komor Forest a distinct setting.

In addition, the adventures that are included have threads connecting to them to what is going on in Hounds Head and the other adventures. The fun thing is when the players discover these on their own. I know its one of my favorite things when running a game and hearing them put hints, clues, or rumors together. 

The random tables I create have their own adventures within them. Some have ties to other adventures. I try to cram as much gameable material as I can into the pages. 

It's been a busy day full of social media. I'm not used to being on-line for so long. A lot of today's success is due to a bunch of folks who have shared, blogged, and podcasted about it. Thanks to all of you. And thanks to all my backers.

I'm now enjoying the Super Bowl. Almost the 4th quarter. Time to try and wind down and get ready for work tomorrow. Good luck with that.

As I end this post I'm at 142 backers pledging $1346. Wow. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Forgotten Crypt of Sir Reginald

Click to grab the PDF

I've been grinding away this month working on a hex crawl adventure that I plan on adding to Zine Quest 2 on Kickstarter. Last year was the first time Kickstarter took the month of February and featured old-school zines. I missed it. I'm not going to let that happen again. 

But I needed a break. So what do I do to take a break from writing an adventure. I write a different adventure. 

The Forgotten Crypt of Sir Reginald is my 86th micro-adventure and my 140th offering created for my Patreon. Everyone of them I've released for free on PDF. And those who wish to get a physical copy push a pledge button. Or if you just like what I do, there is the option to throw a tip into the jar. 

This adventure has been laying around for a while. Sir Reginald's Crypt is actually one of the many entrances into a mega-dungeon I work on occasionally. I believe there are over 350 keyed areas and I've written about 50 of them. I haven't had a party plunder those depths yet. Maybe someday soon.

Sir Reginald is a regional hero in my campaign. For a small group of people he's the shit. He's the one that helped them when no one else would. This adventure is an introduction to the end of his story. I may have a couple more adventures coming out that feature different deeds through out his life. 

I should mention I used a piece of artwork from Rick Hersey of Fat Goblin Games. And I am using another piece of his art (I'm hearing Janis Joplin in my head) for this month's NPC card, coming soon. 
I created a new undead using this piece as the inspiration, skull collector. He's a weird skeleton-like undead who can grab the skulls off of corpses and adhere them on its shoulders. Then use them as missile weapons that do d4 damage. I liked the idea of it. Kinda creepy. It's good to throw an unknown at the players every now and then. 

I also added an element of where nature interacts with magic. I love weaving those elements into my campaign. In this case moonstones are used by necromancers to enhance their raised undead. Effectively they get their max hit points while wearing a moonstone. 

And lastly, poor Reginald suffered one of the worse fates he could have ever imagined. He became one of the undead he hunted all his life. A victim of a wight's drain. Sometimes fate has a cruel sense of humor. 

Alright folks, thanks for stopping by. Again, please stop by Micro-Adventures Patreon and grab some PDFs and consider pledging. But only pledge if you like getting cool gaming stuff in the mail. If you hate that kind of thing...why?!?

Take care!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Big Battles

The adventurers enter a dungeon, a ruins, sewers, or abandon temple and find themselves in a series of personal battles. A group of goblins pepper them with small black arrows before they repel down to the floor and engage in hand-to-hand combat. Skeleton warriors emerge from their earthen graves, exploding debris throughout the crypt, rusted and jagged weapons slicing at their moral opponents as they charge in a silent rage. The floor collapses under the party's weight, the rotten boards shower down on them and that's when they notice the soft, sticky floor moves. A family of green slimes quickly move up the hands and slip beneath armor and clothing.

All scenes from close battles. Something we all have some skill in. However, what happens during large battles? There are many different systems out there to manage large battles. No GM wants to roll for each individual participant. But the personal touch is lost in these systems. It becomes more of a practice in accounting. Calculating numbers of troop strengths and giving various advantages in battle a score to be considered in the column of numbers.

I don't have an answer, but I've been involved with many of the sub-systems during play. What should be a climatic battle came down to number crunching. It detaches the personal heroics from the game.

From Total War Rise of Mordor

Like I mentioned, I don't have a clear answer. However, I have run a handful of big battles over the past year and I found my non-system works fairly well. This works for me, your mileage my vary.
  • I keep the battle as personal focused on the adventurers as much as possible. 
  • The massive battle that happens around them is part of the setting. Assign a few rolls with advantages worked in and have the players roll these.
  • Allow for heroics that you wouldn't normally allow in a regular game. For example, say a fight is surrounded by goblins and he does 15 points of damage. Each goblin has 3hp each. Fighter killed 5 goblins in a single swing. 
  • In addition, if the players come up with crazy ideas let them attempt them. Give it a roll, if they succeed fantastic, if they fail fantastic. Even in success and failure, results are not always what the players expect. 
  • Use tactics for the enemy to make it interesting to keep the players on their toes because they will have been scheming what to do. I know mine will.
  • Always have one or two twists ready for the battle. Good or bad. 
  • Make sure you keep the pressure on the party.
  • Allow death to occur. If one of the party goes down, allow one last heroic act.
  • Then after the battle is over, consider the repercussions of it. It will have a ripple effect. 
While this is not a comprehensive list, nor an organized system, it is a loose philosophy to enter into larger battles to keep them personal. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Constant Reshaping of a Campaign

The Northmen temple the party explored. They expected something bigger. 

Last night's game session three of the five players showed, one was an hour late. The two weeks before, two players showed. And the week before that, one player showed. And the week before that, all five showed.

What is the common denominator of all those weeks? 

We played. 

I've been running this campaign for a little under a year and attendance is sporadic at best. One player left completely. It happens. There are a ton of legit reasons players don't show. And there are some bogus reasons, but we won't dwell on those.

I run a hex crawl, with lots of things going on. Different groups grabbing for the same pot of power. And monsters. Yeah, lots of those. I build off the characters' backstory and their actions. I morph the campaign to reflect the consequences/rewards of those actions. Because I do this, no two campaigns are alike. The maps don't even look alike. I create what best suits the party I'm running.

This is Monday's group map.

This is Wednesday's group map. 

These are the same hand drawn maps. Hounds Head remains in the same spot, but little to nothing else is the same. For example, take a look at the hills just north of Hounds Head. Monday's group encountered a gnoll fort there. Wednesday's group discovered it was territory run by a bugbear tribe. While not all that big of a difference, each change served that particular game. 

A lot of these changes were due to who showed up at the table that night. I will run a game for one person or all of the party. Trying to weave personal story lines to play off a character's backstory is difficult when that player doesn't show on a consistent basis. I built story lines that would flesh out one of the characters and the impact would be felt campaign wide. Then they don't show. And don't show the next week.

Move on.

There are going to be times when story/plot lines don't go anywhere. They abruptly end. It's okay. Work them into the background. While the party is off slaughtering the next batch of orc babies the Temple of Sarrath is establishing fortified locations. Shit happens while the party is crawling in a dungeon.

Focus on the people that show. It's okay to mess with the time continuum. In a recent adventure where the entire party showed I had a climatic end. To be continued the next week. Only two people showed. I still ran a game. I put them a few days back and they got to explore details of what was going on in more depth. The next week it was the same. One person showed. Finish this side quest while we waited for the rest of the group to show. 

This last week, still only two showed (third joined later), the freeze on the climatic end was unfrozen and that scene played out. Nearly exterminating one of the party members. He's okay. A little scarred and scared, but his soiled britches have been changed and his boo boos have been kissed. 

While it wasn't what I wanted, A GM rarely gets what he wants, but I got to play. Have fun. Roll dice. You know. So I did get what I wanted.

Running this past year has taught me to be more flexible when running a game. To run the game with who shows. Adjust your adventures and expectations. Just because you planned the party to enter a hell dungeon this week, but only two show, you decide to run something a little smaller, shorter, but no less deadly. Work in a little backstory or something the players have taken an interest in.

So yeah. That's it. Don't call the game if not everyone shows. Be flexible enough to run with one person or ten.  

Peace out!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Hag Moth

Click on the picture to get a PDF copy.

I've been working all weekend on my Zine Quest 2 project. Its been slow going. I've got bits and pieces spread out. Beginnings of an adventure here, notes over there, and somewhere in the mix is the hag moth. How the hell did this guy get into the mix?

I was writing an adventure and thinking of the dangers in the forest, or more exact the nuisances. Bugs! One of my least favorite things. I figured in the ever darkness of the Komor Forest what would happen when an adventuring party brings in light. Swarm!

I tweaked them a bit so they are only attracted to normal light, not magical. 

I guess hag moths are a real thing. I did not know that. And the pictures I found are creepy. Especially the cocoon. A bit HP Lovecraft looking if you ask me. And the poison, that is true, real life, no shit accurate. 

This little write-up was a nice break from the zine. You can click the picture to grab the PDF.