#RPGaDay 2017: Day 29

The 29th question for 2017’s #RPGaDay month-long challenge is asking about crowdfunding. In particular, it asks about well-run funding campaigns which stand out for how well they were managed. If you do not participate in crowdfunding RPG products on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or whatever other platform is available or popular in your part of the world, today might be a day where checking out an alternate question might be helpful.

The platform I use for supporting creators directly is typically Kickstarter, although one of the campaigns I will mention was run through Indiegogo. Once I established some personal rules for how and what to back, the experience has been a mostly positive one.

Personal Rules:

  • The content-creator will be creating the product themselves
  • There is a functional prototype or the text is written, a manufacturer or printer is waiting to start production
  • Stretch Goals improve the product, they do not add additional items which must be designed or written
  • Increased funding to reach Stretch Goals improves the rewards to all backer levels
  • Creator Updates are timely and informative whether it is good or bad news
  • Delivery Projections are realistic
  • Shipping is charged after production through a delivery management service such as BackerKit or CrowdOx, not during the campaign.

By following these personal rules, my satisfaction levels are more protected than they might be otherwise, and my likelihood of avoiding poorly-run campaigns is increased greatly. It is not perfect, bad things happen from time to time, but it definitely improved my experience.

Well-Run Campaigns

I will share a few good campaigns I have backed, past and present. Not all of these campaigns follow my rules above as those personal rules are still a work in progress. The examples below, however, by the positive example that they set, helped frame those rules as my experience with backing projects increased.

RuneQuest 6th Edition Collector’s Edition

A nearly-perfect campaign which was run on Indiegogo a number of years ago by The Design Mechanism stands out for its focus, and its clarity. The goal was to produce a collector’s edition hardcover of the core rules for RuneQuest 6. What I love most about the project is that the goal was to make a well-bound hardcover and the result was to make a well-bound hardcover. Thanks to funding over the target, that hardcover was upgraded from just well-bound, to incredibly well-bound, with solid slipcase and dust-jacket. It had a goal, it stuck to it, and it delivered on time. No crap. The creators obviously knew the industry inside and out, and while new to crowdfunding were completely prepared to deliver on their promises.

Red Markets

A more recent project I backed on Kickstarter was by Caleb Stokes for the Red Markets RPG. The creator had obviously (and very transparently) done a lot of research before launching the campaign and was very clear and forthcoming in pre and post-funding updates. The project has stayed on track, despite a very successful run and a lot of stretch goals. It will not meet its original delivery projection for the physical rewards, but the reasons for the delays were made clear to backers early on, with evidence, and due to proper planning for such delays, has not pushed delivery much off target. Backers have had the beta since the launch of the campaign, received the final PDF on time, and have seen each stage of the print proof approval process. Had things unexpectedly occurred as planned, the project would have delivered early.

Torchbearer

Unsurprisingly, Luke Crane’s projects on Kickstarter are exemplary. Two truly stand-out projects run by Crane for Burning Wheel HQ were for the Torchbearer RPG, and years later for its Middarmark setting source book. As above, the projects stuck to a specific goal, communicated regularly on relevant details of production, and provided timely responses to questions as well. Both projects were completed on time and delivery targets were reached as projected. This is rare enough to deserve respect.

Corporia

The campaign to fund Corporia by Mark Plemmons’ Brabblemark Press was the single most important element in helping to shape my personal approach to Kickstarter on the back of some negative experiences I had had with other campaigns in the year prior to its launch. The tone set by the creator in updates and in the pitch itself was excellent, the work was obviously done and needed only funding to make it a reality, and perhaps most importantly the skill and experience of the creator in the industry established a strong level of confidence up front. It delivered on time and met expectations. Interestingly and impressively, the creator continued to tinker with the game and with technology for both the PDFs and PoD copies of the game and when a superior format for the book was achieved, made it available to the backers. Very classy.

Cabal

The last one I will mention, and the one which most exemplifies the spirit that I would wish to see crowdfunding creators to embrace is that of Andrew Peregrine for Corone Design. This project like Red Markets was the first for its creator to launch via Kickstarter, and it came as a proof of concept and research. The creator was clear about what they were trying to do, how complete the project was prior to launch, what was to be produced post-launch should funding levels demand it, and who was to be involved in the additional material to be created after funding.

As noted above, I am not fond of campaigns which include material which must be created later. Some companies have a good handle on this, such as Modiphius as evidenced in both their Achtung!Chtulhu campaign and their Conan campaign, but in most cases the result is delay and disappointment, I have found. Updates as these Stretch Goals began to take shape for Cabal, however, alleviated my concerns as the author, size of their contribution, and timeline for delivery were all made plain.

The project completed early and was delivered without problem. From launch through to delivery the creator kept up clear communication with relevant details about production and shipping. Very impressive. However, as backers began to receive the print product it was soon noted that a table on one page was not correct. Frustrating for some, disaster for others, not a big deal for still others.

What did the creator do? Well, immediately, the PDF was corrected and updated. Apologies were made. This is expected and appropriate. For most people, that would probably have been the end of it,and many backers would be left feeling neutral about the whole thing. Not so in this case. A temporary fix was devised in the form of a file sent out to backers so that they could print or have a sticker printed to cover the offending table with the correct table, and then the new print version was made available to those backers who had chosen to get print copies originally.

Now, this was only possible because a sensible PoD model was used for this campaign in the first place, but the attention to detail and the rapid action taken are the focus of my point. The line-crossing that takes place between the creative aspects of crowdfunding its business aspects, its management aspects, and its promotional aspects can baffle and ultimately undo a lot of prospective Kickstarter hopefuls. When even large teams of experienced professionals find themselves in trouble from over-promising and inconsistently delivering, or even just from basic planning gaffes, the smaller, newer creators should take heed and tread carefully. Corione Designs, when faced with a disheartening setback was able to rally, rise to the challenge, and respond with grace and effectiveness, and that brought about a very successful end to the campaign, in the same way that it had marked its start and its build toward funding.

Question 30: What is an RPG genre mash-up that you would like to see?

 

 

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