2021 Retrospective: Gaming

Note: This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 covered my sales numbers for the year, while part 2 discussed my achievements this year as a designer/publisher.

My goal for 2021 was, after almost a year of pandemic life, to game more. Have I achieved that? Not really. I’ve continued to find getting into online games a challenge, primarily with regards the mental effort involved in arranging and setting up games. I miss the ease of a regular group that meets week in, week out.

That said I did manage to get in more games than I’d originally thought I had, though most of them were one-shots. What did that include?

  • Paris Gondo (player, one shot) – as part of GenCon online
  • Project Cassandra (GM, one shots) – in person at Dragonmeet
  • The Cthulhu Hack (GM, one shot) – as part of BurritoCon online
  • Alien (player, one shot) – as part of BurritoCon online
  • Alien: The Colony (player, campaign) – A drop in/out West Marches style campaign run by The Effekt podcast
  • Aftermath Tenerife (player, ongoing campaign) – A new mini-campaign in GURPS spread that will be continuing into 2022
  • Folk, Form, Phenomenon (player, one shot) – in person at Dragonmeet, probably my only “miss” of the year.

It may not be the hundreds of hours that many people have posted about but having felt like I struggled most of the year with engaging in actual gaming I am, in retrospect, relatively happy with that list. It also doesn’t cover the sheer number of games that I read during the course of 2021. That is certainly something I want to continue doing this year. While I know a lot of people don’t get much from it I really enjoy just sitting down with a rule book and going through it, learning the system or engaging with the world-building. It also means that even if I don’t bring a game to the table I can say I have gotten something out of it that makes the purchase worthwhile.

So what about 2022? Any goals? Well first off more in-person gaming, which of course is highly dependent on Covid. I was fortunate enough to get to Dragonmeet at the start of December, just prior to Omicron beginning its sweep, and it was really invigorating. While it was a risk to travel to London it felt like an acceptable one, especially as I work almost exclusively from home and could minimise contact prior and post-convention. Getting to actually engage with people again was an extremely positive experience and fingers crossed I’ll be able to do it again this year, ideally with Expo and Dragonmeet. There was also the announcement that the Tabletop Gaming Live convention was relocating from London to Manchester so I expect to make the trip to that as well if possible.

As for other plans at the moment I’m going to keep it to a vague “game more” as I know that anything more specific is lining myself up for failure. I’ve got a number of games that I would like to try running or playing, top of the current list are Tachyon Squadron, Scum & Villainy, and L5R 5e. That’s just off the top of my head though and there are plenty of others that I could add to the list.

2021 Retrospective: Publishing

This is part 2 of my 2021 retrospective, you can find part 1 here: Sales.

By almost every metric 2021 was a positive step in the right direction for me as an indie designer/publisher. I ran my first Kickstarter, finally published Project Cassandra and designed, wrote and published Signal to Noise.

If you’ve read the blog before you’ll know that Project Cassandra was in development for far too long. I started it in 2013, initially as a hack of Lady Blackbird. It quickly drifted into its own thing and then went to development hell after a bad playtest right before I was hoping to release it. I know, however, that it is a better game because of all that. I’m a better designer and a far better layout artist. That long development time, coupled with the release of the Affinity suite of programs I was able to release a game that I’m proud of and that has made its way to close to 200 people. If I had released the game when I originally hoped to it would have disappeared into the void and gotten little to no traction.

A lot of that is down to funding it through ZineQuest but I know that the extra time improved both the rules and presentation of the game. Is it perfect? No, but it’s a damn good game. I also learned a lot about the behind the scenes aspects that I hadn’t encountered that go into crowdfunding. All in all it was an enjoyable experience and one I’m keen to repeat in 2022.

My second major release of 2021 was Signal to Noise. As a remote, epistolary game it’s a significant departure from my usual style and in some ways, I am prouder of it than I am of Project Cassandra. Once I had the concept the design came together fairly quickly and I’m keen to continue exploring the design space around both duet and epistolary games.

Sales of the game have been modest but did well enough to pay for editing and my hope for 2022 is to produce an expanded print version. My aim had been to run a ZineQuest Kickstarter but with the whole blockchain kerfuffle, I don’t know how I’m going to proceed. In a weird twist Signal to Noise also has the honour of being not only my first game to be pirated but also to have been translated (without my permission) into another language. On top of all that they’ve produced print copies, something I haven’t even done yet!

While those two games took most of my focus I managed to release a few smaller products. The Duskbringers is an ongoing series of adventure pamphlets, with versions for both Brighthammer and D&D 5e. They’re inspired by an adventure I ran a few years ago but I’ve primarily created them to exercise the creative process. Near Carbon Blades was a similar ‘what can I quickly do with this idea’ and came together in a burst of creativity one evening. Both of those, produced under no pressure ensure that I don’t get to caught up in trying to make big, perfect products that will ultimately fizzle.

Of course, not everything went to plan this year and there are a number of projects that have languished on the sidelines. For the most part that’s down to a combination of aiming to do too much, the ongoing pandemic and losing a lot of momentum after shipping the print copies of Project Cassandra. What’s the unfinished list look like?

  • The Ajax Stratagem – The stretch goal supplement for Project Cassandra. It’s close to being complete and should (fingers crossed) be released to backers within the next week or two.
  • Say Aargh! – An adventure for Demon Hunters to complement Dr Ahoudi’s Mutant Menagerie. That this remains unfinished is particularly frustrating as it’s inspired by an adventure I first ran over a decade ago. I just can’t get it down on paper.
  • The Cyclic Void – A hack of Stealing the Throne, designed to act as the closing bookend to The Dyson Eclipse, the space opera setting I am slowly developing.
  • Red Roots of the Rose – A short adventure for mythos games, primarily the Cthulhu Hack. I’ve run it twice now but it needs tweaking to fix some issues.
  • Rockhoppers – A Wretched & Alone game for the Dyson Eclipse, partially drafted but still missing close to half of the prompts.

My primary publishing goal for 2022 is to finish those 5 products. On top of those releases I’d also like to do another crowdfunding campaign to get Signal to Noise into print. My aim had been to do so as part of ZineQuest until Kickstarter decided to go down the blockchain route. I’m looking at alternative options right now and am considering going with GameFound but that’s very much dependent on completing The Ajax Stratagem ASAP so I can start working on the new campaign.

So that’s a quick list of thoughts on publishing in 2021, all that’s left is for one more post talking about the actual gaming I’ve managed this year.

2021 in review: Sales

2021 is coming to a close and somehow I’ve failed to post a blog since August so I figured that a year in review would be a good way to get back to it. As with last year, I’m going to break this down into three separate posts; sales numbers, publishing, general thoughts. (For 2020 you can find the three posts via these links: Earnings, Publishing and Gaming)

Sales

As always I’m going to preface this post by highlighting that as far as publishing goes I am a tiny publisher. I am neither super prolific nor followed by a lot of people, which is why I feel it’s important to highlight these numbers. Many of the indie publishers that talk numbers are pulling in substantially more than I do, having built a following or gone viral in some way. That takes a lot of work and more than a bit of luck. Right now I’m doing this as a hobby – sure I’d like to grow my numbers or appear on a ‘games you should check out’ list but that’s not my real goal and earning something off of it is a bonus. So what do those numbers look like:

Kickstarter

My big push this year was to finally publish Project Cassandra as part of Kickstarter’s ZineQuest event in February. The campaign raised £1830 thanks to the support of 175 backers. The fulfilment of the main game was complete by the start of July and as I write this I am in the final stages of layout for the stretch goal missions. For a full breakdown of the Kickstarter numbers see these two posts: Kickstarter Thoughts 1, Kickstarter Thoughts 2.

After posting the game to backers I made it available online through Ko-fi and Etsy. I’ve made 6 print and 2 digital sales via Ko-fi and a single sale via Etsy. I also made a single in-person sale while attending Dragonmeet. Those numbers, while small, are about what I expected – I just don’t have enough of a reach to be gaining regular sales and haven’t done as much as I could to promote it.

I was, however, fortunate enough to sell 20 copies of the game into retail and it is now stocked by IglooTree, Rook’s Press and Leisure Games. I have no idea how many of those have been sold but just having the support of retailers means a lot and significantly increases the chance of people spotting it and buying it.

DrivethruRPG

I made 248 sales on drivethruRPG this year, with my missions for The Sprawl being the biggest sellers. My total earnings after drivethruRPG took their cut was $400.11.

The Synth Convergence sold 91 copies while Mission Packets 1 & 2 sold 48 and 51 copies respectively. Sales of The Synth Convergence were largely driven by the trilogy being featured as Deal of the Day earlier this year (see this post for more details) while the mission packets primarily sold as part of a bundle I have collecting all three together. The Synth Divergence transmission for Technoir sold 9 copies, which was a surprise given how little I promoted it.

My two main releases this year were Project Cassandra, which sold 14 copies and Signal to Noise which sold 11 copies. Everything else I have released over the years sold less than 10 copies each, not really surprising given the fairly niche market (missions for Demon Hunters) and fact that most were listed as PWYW.

ProductPaid copies soldGross sales ($)Earnings ($)
Lockdown21.50.90
Missionary Opposition21.50.90
Talentless Hacks21.50.90
Trick of the Light21.50.90
What’s so [redacted] about [redacted]?26.03.90
Slice of Life: A Demonic Fiasco31.510.98
Channel Surfing44.952.97
The Tannhauser Investment77.805.07
The Synth Divergence: A Technoir Transmission925.3516.48
Signal to Noise1152.0033.80
Project Cassandra: Psychics of the Cold War14112.6073.19
Mission Packet 1: N.E.O.4867.2340.34
Mission Packet 2: Subversion5173.2343.94
The Synth Convergence91292.87175.85
DrivethruRPG sales stats for all titles that made at least 1 paid sale during 2021

Itch.io

I made a total of 63 sales during 2020, 19 of which were from the Epimas Christmas bundle. During 2021 that number increased to 89 but 51 of those were from the Cyber Week bundle I participated in at the end of November so my total number of independent sales was down. That, however, is only half the story as my revenue (after itch had taken its cut) increased from $114.83 to $204.65 inclusive of bundle sales. Excluding sales made as part of the Cyber Week bundle I earned $159.78, up from $91.89 in 2020 after I exclude externally organised bundles.

The Cyber Week bundle included two of my products, The Synth Convergence for The Sprawl and The Synth Divergence for Technoir, neither of which sold much outside of the bundle. The majority of my non-bundle itch income came from Project Cassandra (9 sales, $60.16) and Signal to Noise (14 sales, $69.84), the latter of which was aided by a generous tip from one contributor.

ProductPaid copies soldGross sales ($)Earnings ($)
Dr Ahoudi’s Mutant Menagerie13.52.7
What’s so [redacted] about [redacted]?37.135.28
Channel Surfing11.50.81
The Synth Divergence: A Technoir Transmission*
Signal to Noise148969.84
Project Cassandra: Psychics of the Cold War97260.16
Mission Packet 1: N.E.O.*
Mission Packet 2: Subversion*
The Synth Convergence*
Home Amongst the Stars28.56.75
The Stars Will Carry You Home110.57
Near Carbon Blades49.56.39
The Duskbringers242.65
Sprawl Mission Bundle165.44
Cyber Week bundle5150.7944.87
itch.io sales stats for all titles that made at least 1 paid sale during 2021. *item was only sold as part of a bundle

Sales round up

This year has, without a doubt, been a big step up in terms of sales. I’ve not only earned more on both drivethruRPG and itch but made the big step of running my first Kickstarter. DrivethruRPG continues to be my biggest ongoing source of revenue with The Synth Convergence making a small number of regular sales. That’s not unexpected, the missions are for one of the more popular PbtA games and benefit from its brand recognition. It helps that I’ve included mention of The Sprawl in their metadata – if you search for the game the missions come up as well. They’re discoverable. That and the amount of traffic drivethruRPG makes a massive difference to sales numbers and is a large reason why I’ll a) keep using the site and b) continue to publish material for popular games going forward.

Itch on the other hand – I like the site and their ethos but it falls down in so many ways and sales there are close to zero unless I push a game. I just don’t have the name recognition nor the desire to be constantly marketing myself in the way that the site requires. I will continue using it as I think it is a benefit to be on both but I would be surprised if it ever becomes my main source of revenue.

The big shift this year was, obviously, Kickstarter which brought in a massive earnings boost. Sales since have been modest but I expected that – just getting the support of 175 backers was phenomenal and every sale since is the icing on the cake. Getting it into retail was something I hadn’t expected and was really one of those “won’t know unless you try” things that thankfully paid off.

So that’s sales, in the next post I want to talk about publishing, both with regards to what I achieved this year and plans for 2022. That article can be found here: Publishing.

RPGaDay 2021: 14-18th August

It’s time, once again for RPGaDay and as always I’ll be releasing a short post each day inspired by the prompt from the table below. For the most part these are going to be off the top of my head, zero edit posts so I have no idea how much sense they’ll make or where each prompt will take me.

14th August: Momentum

Momentum – When it comes to one shots, convention games and even shorter sessions during a campaign I think it’s vital that a scenario has the momentum required to get through to the end of the session and reach a satisfying conclusion. A 3-4 hour window isn’t long, especially online where there are the inevitable connection issues and slower pace of play necessitated by the inability to have more than one person talking at a time. My advice to GMs is pretty simple – have a clear objective and get right into it. A clear objective tells the players what they should be seeking to achieve and sets out the focus of the game. Take the following setup:

“You’re a group of paranormal investigators and you’re here to investigate some recent sightings.”

It’s not a terrible opener, it tells the players who the characters are, why they’re present and gives some idea of what they’re here to do. But “investigate some recent sightings” is rather weak, it’s vague and lacks any specifics. As a result the players might dither or spend ages just trying to work out what the sightings were.

“You’re a group of paranormal investigators and you’re here to deal with a civil war ghost that has been attacking people at the mall.”

Is a much better opener. It provides far more in the way of details and makes it clear what the problem is (a ghost), where it is (at the mall) and that they aren’t just here to investigate but to deal with it. Combine that with a strong opening scene:

“It’s nearing midnight, you’ve been wandering the halls of the mall for over an hour without any signs of activity when a scream rings out. It’s coming from the security office…

Bam. Now you’ve got a problem and action. It starts you off from the get go and if you can do that then it’s far easier to maintain the momentum. Start a session by spending an hour picking gear and chasing vague rumours before you even stumble into the mall and you put yourself in the position of needing to overcome that initial inertia which is a far harder problem.

15th August: Supplement

Supplement – I don’t ever expect game design and publishing to become my primary income but it is a very nice way to supplement it and provides earnings that I am able to reinvest in the hobby. My hope going forward is that it will provide enough going forward to cover not only the money I spend on games but convention travel and accommodation. Right now, for the past 2 years my profit margin is about £500/year and if it stays at that then I’d be quite happy. A substantial portion of that was from ZineQuest, take out the income and costs I can directly associate to it and it drops to ~£130/year (though obviously this tax year still has a while to go). It’s a big difference and while I know a lot of people have issues with Kickstarter I’d have had a fraction of the success on other platforms. As an example Signal to Noise, which I’ve been trying to itchfund has sold a total of 9 copies right now whereas I’m pretty confident that had I launched it during ZineQuest it would have easily done 10-20x that.

16th August: Move

The emergence of Moves as a mechanic is, I think one of the defining features of the last decade of game development. They’re an elegant way to move past the very naturalistic idea of actions as defined by older RPGs and to incorporate the impact of the narrative on what you’re doing. Take, for example, jumping from one building to another. In an action orientated RPG you’d probably resort to something like rolling dexterity or acrobatics. The thing is that action would be the same regardless of the situation – jumping a chasm full of lava? Acrobatics. Jumping it to try and impress your crush? Still an acrobatics check.

Switch it to PbtA though and the move you use could be wildly different depending on the combination of what you’re doing, your motivation and what you want the narrative impact to be. Jumping out of danger vs showing off would be two completely different moves despite your action being exactly the same. It’s one of the things that I like about PbtA style games.

That said I also regularly find myself struggling with moves. Because of that need to incorporate the fictional positioning moves generally need to be wordy and describe the situations where they apply. They’re also typically paired with a name that while evocative isn’t always clear. Even faced with a PbtA game I’m familiar with I find that I have difficulty recalling exactly what each move does or when it applies. I can learn it with time but most of my PbtA experience is with oneshots so the lack of clarity is frustrating at times.

17th August: Crime

Given its popularity across wider media I am very surprised that crime solving games are not a bigger part of the gaming scene. Off the top of my head I can think of a few but very few that I would say are police procedurals or crime dramas. That being said investigative mystery is a fairly big category, especially as you could potentially say that games such as Call of Cthulhu fall into it.

The emergence of the GMless, clue driven Brindlewood Bay games is an interesting development and I’m keen to see how they develop in the future. It’s a system that would be ideal for a police or detective game, though I appreciate that many people would be reluctant to explicitly play as cops right now.

18th August: Write

I find the switch from development to writing hard. I always have and I say that with the experience of having written a 70k word doctoral thesis. Going from the ideas in my head to word on the page is just a difficult process and I often find myself self editing as I write which is NOT a great way to do things. For one it means that it takes forever just to write each section but it also doesn’t save me any time. I still need to go back to do edits/rewrites once everything is in place just to ensure that what I wrote at the start works with what I wrote at the end. When it comes to games I’ve actually found that working directly in layout helps me immensely. One of those weird tricks you won’t believe things. I think it helps being able to see how everything will work on the page and where I need to consider page breaks, art etc. It’s obviously not really that suitable for larger projects but for items under <10 pages it is my preferred option.

So what am I in the process of actually writing rather than designing right now? The first is the next in my fantasy adventure pamphlets. These are really small double sided releases that are designed to be printed and folded into a small pamphlet. I’ve released two so far for both Brighthammer and for D&D 5e via the DMs Guild. They’re built around a central map so the word count is really low and they make for an enjoyable creative distraction. Alongside that I have adventures for The Cthulhu Hack and Demon Hunters that need finished. Both of these have already been sketched out and I just need to get the words onto the page so I can release them. I’ve spoken before about Red Roots of the Rose and I’m really keen to get it out into the wild as I think it is an interesting adventure. I’m also really proud of the cover image that I’ve made – I’m not an artist so to be able to create artwork rather than just photoshop together existing pieces is something that represents a big step up for me.

RPGaDay 2021: 13th August

It’s time, once again for RPGaDay and as always I’ll be releasing a short post each day inspired by the prompt from the table below. For the most part these are going to be off the top of my head, zero edit posts so I have no idea how much sense they’ll make or where each prompt will take me.

13th August: Improvise

I learned the hard way how to improvise by diving in at the deep end with a creative group of players that often latched on to elements that I, as a rookie GM, hadn’t expected them to. Some of those situations I handled well, others not so well. Those early experiences have had a massive impact on how I approach games as a player, GM and designer. I lean in to lightweight adventure design that focuses on the situation, the driving forces behind the plot and the goals of those involved. I’ll sometimes plan out key locations knowing I expect to drop a clue that will lead the players there but just as often I end up throwing something together just because they took a left turn.

That all comes from experience though. I once had a new player, during a game of Honey Heist, ask how I was able to come up with all the details on the fly and my response was simple – practice and experience. I’ve been gaming for well over a decade and the majority of the time I’m a GM. What I can do now without thinking would astound the me that first tried to GM and started out with a session of Serenity that was so comically disastrous that we shelved the campaign after that single session. We did eventually come back to it and treated that session like an unaired pilot to be reworked as the plot of the true session 1. While that campaign went on to be a nightmare for scheduling it eventually produced some of the best RP I’ve ever come across.

Improvisation was also at the heart of Project Cassandra, where I wanted to mix the traditional GM role with the player input that many indie games favour. The ability for characters to add details that can drastically shift the plot or tone of the game was key to making it feel like they really had prophetic abilities but that does mean a GM can end up running an adventure that is totally different from what they’d expected. I’ve heard from a few people that have since run it that they found that one of the harder aspects of the game to handle, to flip things in an instant and rework a scene to fit the new truths that had been revealed. I wish I knew how to bottle that, or present the skills I’ve picked up for others to learn as I think being able to improvise is a key skill for GMs. All I can really say is play more indie games, get the practice in. You can learn the skills if you want to.

I did.

RPGaDay 2021: 12th August

It’s time, once again for RPGaDay and as always I’ll be releasing a short post each day inspired by the prompt from the table below. For the most part these are going to be off the top of my head, zero edit posts so I have no idea how much sense they’ll make or where each prompt will take me.

12th August: Think

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about publishing, what I want to get out of it and the intersection between hobby and business. Over the last year or so I’ve shifted towards releasing things that have a price tag affixed to them. The result of that is that very few people actually end up seeing my games – Signal to Noise released a week and a half ago and so far has racked up all of 8 sales. I’d obviously like that number to be higher but on the other hand I put a lot of work into the game and would like to see some earnings back from it.

Which, I suppose, brings me to the point of this and what I’ve been thinking about recently. This is a hobby for me, so should I even be bothered about price and earnings? You could make the argument that no, I don’t need to and I should consider just putting everything out for free or PWYW. The counter to that is that this risks devaluing the work that people doing it for a job do. How do you fairly price something when a hobbyist working in their spare time for fun can produce material close to or at the level that a professional working in the industry can do? It’s a conundrum and not an easy one to answer. I firmly believe that an individual should be able to make a living from making RPGs and actively want a wider more diverse selection of people who are able to do so. That can only make the industry stronger. I don’t think it will ever be an easy task, there are so few companies that hire people that the majority of designers are always going to be freelancers/self-employed while selling enough to make a living off of games requires an investment of either time or money – both of which I realise are privileges many people don’t have access to.

On the other hand how do you balance that when there are people like me who can do it for fun, don’t need to make an earning from it but can? As a hobbyist should I be expected to price my material at the same level as a professional working full time? Should I give it away for free? Is there a middle ground that doesn’t undercut the industry as a whole but reflects the intersection of the two? I just don’t know and I think the short form discussion that platforms such as twitter encourage really prevents us from having a proper, nuanced discussion about it.

The other issue that I think doesn’t help is the move towards digital. On one hand I think it’s great, as it opens up the door for people that just can’t afford a print run and games that don’t suit traditional formats. As a society though I think we still don’t appreciate the value of digital goods. The time and work that goes into a game is rarely focused on what it takes to get it printed and from what I’ve learned the actual cost to print most games reflects only 10% or less of the cover price. The rest goes into the art, the writing, the time it took to design and playtest. All factors that play into PDFs as much as print yet we value that printed book far more than the file sat on our computers and until we get past that I don’t think we’re ever going to value small games by indie designers properly.

RPGaDay 2021: 11th August

It’s time, once again for RPGaDay and as always I’ll be releasing a short post each day inspired by the prompt from the table below. For the most part these are going to be off the top of my head, zero edit posts so I have no idea how much sense they’ll make or where each prompt will take me.

11th August: Wilderness

As a general rule I’m not a fan of wilderness exploration games. I just find them boring and I think that’s down to a few bad experiences with West Marches style games. The big one: A lack of plot. I’ve encountered too many people that think a West Marches game means the exploration takes over from the plot, even sometimes down to the level of individual sessions. They view the approach to the game as being little more than “you go here, explore, kill stuff, go home” which doesn’t excite me. I get that the characters are meant to be explorers and the GM in a traditional West Marches game has to expect different players each time but that doesn’t mean you can’t have plot.

I’d actually say that you need more plot – you need a reason for people to want to keep heading out into the unknown beyond a love of gold and XP. You need something more than a grind.

At the campaign level a West Marches style game is the ideal opportunity to have a large, emergent plot that is slowly revealed by the players as they realise that individual events and clues are all being driven by larger events that will require them to work together and plan their future expeditions. Give me the awakening evil and search for ancient relics that are foretold to herald a new age. That’s exciting. The procedurally generated quests that have zero impact on the wider world (yes, I’m calling out you out Skyrim)?

Boring.

As for individual sessions, well anyone that can’t fit a decent plot into a 3-4 hour session needs to sit down at some convention tables and learn from the GMs there who regularly do the impossible and not only teach the mechanics of the game but include a full plot arc with highs, lows and a satisfying conclusion.

Do all that and maybe then you’ll get me interested in the wilderness beyond the keep.

RPGaDay 2021: 10th August

It’s time, once again for RPGaDay and as always I’ll be releasing a short post each day inspired by the prompt from the table below. For the most part these are going to be off the top of my head, zero edit posts so I have no idea how much sense they’ll make or where each prompt will take me.

10th August: Advantage

While it wasn’t particularly revolutionary if you consider RPGs as a whole I think the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanics in D&D 5E was an inspired move by the WOTC design team (unlike Inspiration, which never felt like it was anything more than a tacked on idea). With one fell swoop it drastically simplified the +/- modifier system that had become excessively overcomplicated in 3.5/4 just because of how many factors could come impact a roll.

Situation works in your favour? You have advantage. Situation works against you? Disadvantage.

It’s simple and elegant and I really wish that they’d come up with it for 4E as that was a game that could have really benefited from it. While there has been some resurgent interest in that edition I’ve not heard of anyone tweaking it to include the advantage mechanic and I’d be interested to hear how it impacts play.

RPGaDay 2021: 9th August

It’s time, once again for RPGaDay and as always I’ll be releasing a short post each day inspired by the prompt from the table below. For the most part these are going to be off the top of my head, zero edit posts so I have no idea how much sense they’ll make or where each prompt will take me.

9th August: Percentage

Like a lot of gamers I’ve only run or played a small percentage of the games that I own. Just looking at my shelves I’ve probably brought around 70% of the systems to the table in one form or another but that’s a little deceptive. It doesn’t account for the various sourcebooks I’ve not had a chance to use or that I’ve slimmed down my collection over the past couple of years, which filtered out a lot of games I’d owned for years but never run/played. It also doesn’t account for the elephant in the room: PDFs. Thanks to various bundles and impulse purchases my PDF collection dwarfs that of my physical collection. Just using ZineQuest as an example I backed a single zine in print but around a dozen digitally. The number of those that I’ve run or played? Well I’d be astounded if it even approaches 20% and wouldn’t be surprised if was actually below 10%.

Oops.

All that said I am getting pretty good at reading through games. While the number is lower than I’d like I would say that I have read a significant chunk of everything I own, probably in the 60-70% range (though not necessarily cover to cover). Part of that is because I’ve been increasingly focused on design and want to get a feel for how other creators approach a challenge but the larger motivation is that I enjoy reading them. I always have. Is it as good as playing them? No, not even remotely but I enjoy the process of diving into a new world and set of mechanics, to see how it all comes together and the story the creator was trying to tell through it.

RPGaDay 2021: 8th August

It’s time, once again for RPGaDay and as always I’ll be releasing a short post each day inspired by the prompt from the table below. For the most part these are going to be off the top of my head, zero edit posts so I have no idea how much sense they’ll make or where each prompt will take me.

8th August: Stream

I’m not sure that I will ever fully embrace streaming. It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal but they just don’t sit right with how I tend to connect to media. I’ve never really gotten into watching things on my phone, it’s just not something that I enjoy doing. Similarly I’ve never really made the jump to regularly watching things via a computer and I’ve no idea why. Part of it is probably that if I’m sat at a computer I’m doing something and I struggle to do that and watch a stream. I’m one of these people that when it comes to watching something I need to give it my full attention or I lose track of what’s going on. I think that’s why I like podcasts so much – I typically listen to them during commuting to work on the train or when I’m doing tasks I can zone out such as the washing up. Maybe that will change in the future, I’m probably going to need a new tablet soon and I might try again then especially if I can find some more UK/Europe friendly streams to watch.

It’s also interesting how a large part of the growth of the hobby seems to have come off of the celebrity culture that has built around the big streams. I think it would be really interesting to examine the average stream engagement, watchers, returns etc as I suspect the vast majority are really low and only a handful are actually getting enough to convert it into something that pays. Not that that should be surprising and I don’t doubt many people are doing it just for the fun but I wish people appreciated just how much work and luck goes into being a successful streamer, I’ve seen plenty of comments about not getting viewers or being able to build an audience and it’s hard knowing that you can produce amazing material and just not have the right connections or reach to turn that into noticeable numbers.