UPDATE: Goblin Quest is available for pre-order here.

The internet is throwing money at me. It is balling up great fistfuls of pounds, in the way you might clutch a handful of M&Ms under the instruction that you were only allowed a single handful but were determined to get your fill, and it is hurling those pounds at me, and I am wondering why. This is wonderful.

THE IMPOSTOR SYNDROME

I have – indeed, almost all creatives have – struggled with Impostor Syndrome at multiple points in my life. (For those who aren’t aware, Impostor Syndrome is where you believe you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing because you’re convinced you suck at it and you’ve somehow managed to fool everyone but yourself.) I’ve dealt with it mainly by keeping my work at arm’s reach, emotionally – I maintain an ironic distance from everything I create, everything I enjoy. I make “daft” games, I make “quick and dirty” games, I make “stupid games for stupid drunk people,”  my professional persona is one spent perpetually confused that anyone would care about anything, I run LARPs where I wear a mask for the duration and never speak to players after the game… there is a pride, a pleasure, an ease in trying to appear cool through indifference.

(Which is strange, obviously, because passion is great, passion is enticing and engaging and entertaining and, dare I say it, hot? There is an emotional honesty in passion that I dig, and perhaps that’s why I’m so careful with my own. Anyway, back to the Kickstarter)

None of this helps you when it is time to shill your game over the internet.

Me, shilling.

Me, shilling.

THE PITCH

I had to write positively and enthusiastically about my own work, which is anathema to me. I bigged myself up as much as I could without lying, or saying anything I disagreed with. I wrote and re-wrote the intro, the stretch goals, the history… everything. I was not comfortable with this. I have been told, over and over, that to vocally and, crucially, publicly believe in the validity of your own work is at best irritating and at worst completely wrong. If your work is good, others will say it for you. There is no need to blow your own trumpet.

(Which is bullshit, obviously, because what you then have to do is try to subtly appeal to the trumpet-owners and operators, and you end up with homogeneous tripe and the constant drone of the same trumpet notes blaring out anything interesting. (This analogy is getting away from me, a little.))

Still; Kickstarter is my own shop front, my business, and I needed to at least convince others that my work was worth their hard-earned cash. I wrote a thing. I set up a series of stretch goals, all the way up to £5,ooo – more than twice the funding needed to get this project off the ground. I sat down at my computer and said to my wife that “if it didn’t take off, if it didn’t get most of its funding in a week, I’d just cancel it.” No sense in dragging it out and looking like a chump for doing so.

THE DELUGE

It funded in five hours. Two thousand pounds. Five hours.

I didn’t go to sleep until it funded; I figured it would take a week, at least, to get there. (I thought, perhaps, that it wouldn’t fund at all.) In two days, I’d broken past the £5,000 mark, and thus my final stretch goal – in retrospect, I should have spaced ’em out a bit. I was powering through several a day. The Cthulhu rules-hack was deliberately placed at the top end of the scale to push people into buying, because if there’s one thing gaming-types like, it’s Cthulhu. They love a bit of him.Now I’ve got Sean Bean Quest at the £15,000 mark, and I might make that? Who knows.

Anyway, here are a few unexpected things I have noticed.

ONE. I have been paid fifteen grand (in Australian Dollars, which is what I use now) to make my game happen, and that number is slowly increasing every day.

Obviously, because this is a Kickstarter, that’s not all going in my pocket; I’m not seeing a great deal of it, actually, at the end of the day. But this is not a business you get into to make money. I’ve made the physical copies bloody cheap, because I want to get them out there, and if people want to give me more money, there’s the option of hard-back or special editions. And that’s good, I think, I’ve made the barrier to entry pretty low.

I have said to the world “do you like my ideas? Show me how much you like my ideas, with MONEY” and they have said “THIS MUCH” and I have said “Gosh thank you that really is more than I was expecting.” So that’s nice, you know? That’s a real boost to wake up in the morning and see that people value my work. To know that the fact that I’m unpublished, that I’m a scrubby little indie dev turning out high-energy one-shot games, doesn’t actually matter – that I’m still a games designer.

TWO. People are much more excited about something that doesn’t exist compared to something that does. When I launched Havoc Brigade – a fully-illustrated game, ready to go, entirely free – I might have well have gone out into the bush and yelled the announcement at a rock. No-one cared. The Reddit thread generated actual tumbleweed. It’s been played a total of two times, to my knowledge. Which is a shame, and I don’t say this lightly, because Havoc Brigade is fucking great. Compare that to the promise of Goblin Quest, and I’m – well, I said, I’m dodging pound coins.

I suppose the idea of Goblin Quest is always going to be better than any book I could write; and it’s a scrappy underdog move, the Kickstarter, it’s a “come on I can do this if you can help me” rather than “hey take this awesome thing and give me some money if you want,” and one of those sparks emotion, and the other clearly doesn’t. I’m not selling snake oil – this is a good product, for sure, we’ve got excellent artists on hand and I can write a good set of rules when I need to. (Often when I don’t, as anyone who’s been on holiday with me will attest.)

Jon Morris is doing most of the art, and it's gorgeous stuff

Jon Morris is doing most of the art, and it’s gorgeous stuff

THE FUTURE

I read a lot of guides to Kickstarter before this all kicked off, and Avery McDaldno’s one had the most useful advice – what are you going to do if this is wildly successful? It’s not wildly successful (yet), but it’s getting there, and that’s kind of exciting. There’s a market for this, clearly, and perhaps I can carry on acting in my current role as a games designer and general wrangler; to bring together rules, and artists, and designers, and get everything printed, and pay everyone fairly, and generally do awesome things, and make the games I want to see in the world.

I am currently using my Serious Game Designer Connections to secure additional writing from some RPG designers that I respect. Wait, no, that’s not the world – idolise. Hold as heroes. It’s looking like it might even work, too.

So could One Last Job see a proper edition, released to the world with loads of art, and different ways to play? Could Havoc Brigade build up to a load of maps, and a load of characters, and full-colour art, and proper character creation, and a campaign where you charge your merry band of greenskins across the world stomping on faces? Could Warrior-Poet have even more examples of how heartbreakingly beautiful the Shenshi-Shijin are, and could I pare down the rules so it’s possible to play a full game in less than five bloody hours?

Maybe. It’s exciting stuff, though, and it gives me hope that there’s something here – if not a permanent business model, then a way to share my stuff with the world, and make a bit of money while I do it. And that’s awesome.

Why not back Goblin Quest: a tabletop RPG of fatal inadequacy on Kickstarter? All the cool kids are doing it.


Categorised in: RPG, Stuff I Made, Tabletop

8 thoughts on “I’m doing a Kickstarter for Goblin Quest. It’s going very well.

  • sebmojo says:

    HEY YOU

    I actually gm’d havoc brigade and it was flippin great. The dice mechanic took some getting my head around and I played fast and loose with the number of uses and how many new things people were allowed to pick up, but it ended up with the hulking warlord type throwing a still hot greasy pig at the bride while the goblins surfed across the freshly waxed ballroom floor on a tuba so RESULT

  • sebmojo says:

    I was actually going to write up an AAR for you, but didn’t get round to it – instead have my notes for the palace, for you to do with as you wish 🙂

    HAVOC BRIGADE FINALE: ORK HIJINKS YES

    servants quarters
    scullery drudges stacked up in bunks
    laundry chute, piles of dirty sheets
    butler’s quarters, poker game
    grumbling elf stripper

    kitchen
    huge bubbling soup tureen
    pantry, hanging sides of beef
    giant pigs on spits

    armory
    ballista
    suits of armour
    experimental bomb in locked box

    barracks
    snoring guards
    long running poker game
    smelly socks

    ballroom
    musicians setting up
    polishing floor, floor wax
    hanging up bunting

    throne room
    platoon of shiny guards
    crown jewels
    waiting petitioners
    velvet rope
    balcony with archers

    entrance hall
    trumpeters
    long velvet carpet
    trays of canapes

    gardens

    fancy masquerade party
    cucumber sandwiches
    croquet

    library

    court wizard having learned chat
    secret door
    magick book

    airship dock

    hydrogen tank for refills
    ballista

    • grant says:

      I was reading, and I was all “Mm-hmm, okay, yep” and then I got to the phrase “Airship Dock” and I immediately knew you understood PRECISELY what Havoc Brigade was about

  • Phil says:

    I ran Havoc Brigade, which might be one of the two that you know of, and it was bloody brilliant. I will never forget the moment when everyone realised they really could do anything. They were still working out a way into the city and someone said “I can build a ROCKET BOAT!”

    I’m, for reasons I can’t quite explain, holding off on running Goblin Quest, even though I can just get the rules from your Patreon (Hey everyone, you should totally have a look at Grant’s Patreon at some point) until the Kickstarter’s done and I’ve got the book.

    I am definitely looking forward to playing/running it though.

  • Kane the Wanderer says:

    I love Havoc Brigade. Tried on three seperate occasions to run it for my gaming group, but they aren’t interested in any games that don’t have the words “Path” and “Finder” in the title, exclusively in that order.

  • Alastair Christie says:

    Gosh, was the Kickstarter this time last year?

    Goblin Quest is just immensely appealing. The PDF is awesome; I am really looking forward to having a shiny colour copy I can wave at people and say “read THIS…”. There is clearly something different about seeing things tangibly; holding them, seeing artwork in print not on a screen. It’s more compelling somehow.

    I feel Kane the Wanderer – I worry he might get angry if I don’t use the full honorific – ‘s pain, and hope the past 12 months have provided the opportunity to wander over to another gaming group who share his joy – Spread the Steel Toecapped Boot of Bog-Al-Karukk, my friend (because we all know spreading Words is for pansy elf-types).

    The thing I like *most* about Goblin Quest, of the MANY things, is the GM-free element of it. I love how I can structure the game for new players but be on a level playing field in terms of responsibility for the story. I love how I can team up a normally very passive and reactive group of players and bring the more dynamic element that the group needs as a player, rather than sitting under my Official GM Hat* battling to sow seeds and be encouraging.

    Can I add how much I like the guest contributors. Once I realised that everyone pitching in ideas to Goblin Quest shared a certain vision, I started checking out what else they did. I’ve not had this many new blogs / webpages to check out in ages.

    *No.

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