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Making Best Use of the Things That We find

This is all about making best use of some of the areas that DriveThruRPG allow us to use and promote our products and ourselves.

That big Sale banner, and I feel bad calling an image that big a banner, is probably too big, but…

  1. When you set up a sale, the DTRPG preview of what you are going to get often bears not relation to what you actually get.
  2. I was trying to find out what the limits were.
  3. When you set up a sale, DTRPG gobbles it up and you cannot edit it again without involving your publisher rep.

That sale banner had but one job to do. Grab the eye of anyone doom scrolling through the lists of sales. If you look at the lackluster offerings of most publishers on the sales page it does its job.

I think my next sale I will take 50px off the height of the banner, same width, but increase the font size of the text beneath it and set it to the same colour as the text in the image. I want to get both parts working for me.

Thank You Notes

I think these are actually called Purchaser Notes.

I was looking at them, I have made in excess of 1000 purchases from DTRPG. I like to look at what the best of the best are doing and I was rather underwhelmed. The first thing that struck me was that this is the only place where we are allowed to link out to another site. Yet, very few people do that.

Strangely, in the Zweihander Grim & Perilous Library, they list links to their social media accounts, but do not code them up as links. They expect you to copy and paste the text yourself.

I also like colour. DriveThruRPG is kind of nicotine stained and archaic looking at best. So, taking the Zweihander idea of listing social media accounts, but using colourful icons as the links, I could get the best of both worlds.

Are they working?

I believe so. It is hard to say and very hard to pin down the referrals of where people joined up to a social media account. I feel like my twitter is has gained more followers, without me doing anything special to drive it.

My Instagram is also growing. I don’t have a big presence on there, but it took 3 months to get to 90 followers , and now I am over 100. In the first three months I shared at least one image a day, in the last week I only shared one image in total.

This is hardly conclusive proof.

But, I haven’t lost any follower, subscribers or likes.

As always, this is in constant revision and development. I am trying to find that extra 1% here, 1% there. If this helps you, then we all win.

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You can of course leave the list whenever you want. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Solo Playing Dungeon World Adventures

Set Of Four: Wind-Up Flipping Animal Toys

When my kids were small, wind up toys like these would keep them amused for ages, wind up the little thumbwheel on the side and they would run around a table or the floor, causing much amusement.

Courses were built out of books and boxes and races were a regular thing.

Dungeon World encounters are rather like these little wind up toys. Each encounter has a very basic structure of:

  • This is what it is.
  • This is what it does
  • This is what it wants

Kind of, this is a little plastic frog, it runs around the floor, it wants to veer madly off to the left.

In Dungeon World, it would probably be a horrific giant frog warrior, what it does would be the moves you have set up, and what it wants would be its ladder of Grim Portents.

The Grim Portents could be tracking the characters through a swamp; surrounding them if they pause, rest or camp; launching an ambush when the frog warriors have the advantage.

The longer the game goes on and the characters have not dealt with the threat of the frog warriors, they [the frog warriors] will gain the tactical advantage, surrounding the characters and then ambushing them.

Your villain is set up the same way, who/what it is, its moves, and a ladder of Grim Portents.

Solo Adventures

I am not a fan of ‘choose your own adventure’, numbered paragraph, adventures. I always wanted to do something that wasn’t an option of the three presented.

The Dungeon World adventure structure is a near-perfect alternative. The Grim Portent is completely interchangeable with the Clocks from Blades/Forged in the Dark or the COUNTDOWN ladders from games such as Tales from the Loop. These are all things that are going to happen, unless the characters intervene to stop them, or because the characters intervened.

Tales uses the characters’ actions to advance down the COUNTDOWN of consequences. Forged in the Dark defines what will cause the clock to tick down when you set up the clock, and Grim Portents are more aspirational, what the subject wants to achieve and will achieve.

A simple oracle easily controls the clock or the Grim Portent. Have the frog warriors discovered my trail? That is a simple yes-no question.

Everything is defined with what it is planning to do, and as soon as the character appears on the scene, different parts of the adventure start moving, like gears in a machine.

I created an adventure last night using an isometric map. It was one from a collection I had picked up and had never had a chance to use. I sketched up the fronts for a few different factions, a few encounters with minions, and a villain to defeat.

What I had at the end was exactly the same for a solo character as I would have for a group. My face to face group, now VTT group, hate DW. Their characters are habitually risk averse. Their idea of a perfect plan would probably to use airstrikes or snipers and never get anywhere near an enemy. The idea of most moves having consequences really turns them off.

That means that I will never get to run my adventure, unless I play it solo.

Tomorrow night is going to be DW adventure night.

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Sole Survivor – Apocthulhu

Today I published Sole Survivor for Apocthulhu. The funny thing is, I cannot actually remember who mentioned the system to me. The past two weeks have been a bit of a blur!

One of the blog followers has said that the DriveThuRPG link is giving them an error. I have checked what is happening on DTRPG and it is definitely working for some people as I can see the sales in the report. Only people going via this blog or my emails get the 40% off discount.

If the link in the email does not work for you, try this version. I have copied it afresh from DTRPG.

Last weekend I started with just the Quickstart and loved it. I grabbed the SRD, [System Reference Document] as a tool when I knew I was going to play this, and then I got the full game.

Most of the time I play the game first, then decide that I am going to publish the solo rules for it. When I am doing things ‘to order’ a little bit of me wants to make back the money I spend on buying games I don’t know.

Apocthulhu doesn’t leave me feeling out of pocket. I was a little wary at first, the core rules and the QS were only Silver best sellers, meaning less than 251 paid copies sold. That is not a massive number, and the proportion of people who play solo would be a tiny percentage of those that have the rules.

I didn’t feel out of pocket because I loved the game. I probably could have written the rules just of the QS and SRD, but I wanted the whole game. I was a little disappointed that there was no bestiary included, so I then went and got the OpenCthulhu document as well.

This is now my Cthulhu game of choice.

Refresher Time

In the past 12 months I have played a lot of games. Some of them I got to play for a few weeks and then moving on to the next. I wanted to spend some time playing some of the games I enjoyed the most.

The game at the top of that list is Dungeon World.

Normally, I end up playing so much fantasy, because these are the most popular games, that I bolt back to science fiction just to get my fix of big guns and high explosives. For DW to be at the top of my ‘want to play’ list means that it must have something that struck a chord.

It will also be a bit of a palette cleanser after the harsh world of the post-apocalypse.

I am not sure how much I will play, number two on my list is Judge Dredd. I never got to play that game, but I was a big 2000AD fan while growing up.

I don’t even own the full game. All I have the Quickstart, and I haven’t read that yet either.

I just know that I want to patrol MegaCity One on a Lawmaster.

If you have never tried solo play, this is exactly the kind of freedom that solo play gives you. Don’t just collect games, more games than you will ever play, but play them, try them out and decide if you want to bring them to your game table.

I send out discounts of up to 40% to my blog readers. To qualify all you need to is join my contact list, so I have an email to send the discount code to!

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Mucking about with Apocthulhu

So, it turns out that the Scavenging mechanics in Apocthulhu were just crying out to be turning into a basic oracle. The everyday gear has been rated from abundant to impossible to find, and graded from pristine to junk.

The different levels of availability, abundant, uncommon, hard to find etc., fit nicely into the idea of likelihood. Abundant becomes very likely, Impossible to find become the other extreme. The gear is pristine, through heavily worn to junk. Those become your ‘yes, and…’ to ‘no’ answers.

It is a pretty simple matrix that can use the games mechanics of critical successes, and failures, the sub 20% roll and normal success and failure.

Playing out a Yes-No Answer

I like a tidy yes-no oracle because I use them for a lot more than just questions about your scene or world. If I ask an NPC to run back to the truck to try and find a working battery, I can decide just how sensible that NPC is. Then I ask the question, do they go straight there? On any oracle roll there is always the chance of getting an answer that doesn’t pan out too well for your character.

Does billy go straight to the truck? Roll, oops, no he doesn’t.

Do I hear anything that may tell me that Billy has gone astray? Roll Alertness, fail…

There is always a chance that Billy managed to find a better option, maybe Billy saw a display of batteries in a store? You can roll for that as well, Roll, 00 critical fail. Whatever happened to Billy is out of my hands, but probably isn’t good.

All of this leaves me hunkered down with a potentially working radio, but no batteries. How long do I wait? Do I try and find Billy? Or is it every Survivor for themselves?

The oracle and the scavenging rules are pretty much unified, it doesn’t matter if I accidentally ask, can I find any electronics in this pile of junk? The chance is pretty much the same. If I was good at scavenging then a skill test would be the better option. If I just accidentally conflate the question and the skill it is not going to give me any real advantage.

At the moment I am playing through the scenario Amber Waves in the Quickstart. The party started out as myself, I am playing the pregen Francis “Phranque” Judson, with Joby the Dog as my sidekick. Joby is entirely controlled by yes-no question rolls. Billy was a former student and an addition to the party of Survivors.

A Relay Not A Mob

I have never enjoyed trying to control an entire party at once. When I do that, I find that no one has a personality. That then defeats the whole point of roleplaying.

What I am doing is picking the character that has the spotlight, and putting myself in their shoes. Everyone else is controlled by a conbination of what I know about them from the game so far, and the yes-no mechanic to see of they behave true to type.

Whenever the group is together I use Phranque as my character.

When someone else is the lead in a scene, I play that character as my sole character and everyone else, including Phranque is controlled via yes-no rolls.

This gives me an autonomous group of individuals, that generally work well together, but are not just playing pieces on a board. I am always in the driving seat, and the star of the scene. As long as one of my Survivors lives up to the title then the game carries on.

In effect I am playing the adventure as a relay, passing the baton from character to character as the game dictates.

This makes the solo game quite robust. If the party is getting a bit thin on the ground, you can always recruit another survivor into the party. There is no need to start fiddling numbers to balance encounters for just one Survivor. The rules just work as there is a party on hand.

When I do get into a firefight, it is better to play out a number of sequential individual fights, than trying to play everyone at once. I would try and play just three rounds of each Survivor, and then take stock of the situation.

High Hopes

I had high hopes for Apocthulhu as an easy system to solo play, and so far this is bearing out. The mechanics are simple enough. Being post-apocalypse makes it much easier to roll the unnatural into the game without feeling like I am giving the secrets away.

So far, so good.

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The Importance of Audiences

I started to write the video description for this and it just started grow out of control, so I will carry on here….

As I say in the video, building your audience outside of DTRPG is vitally important. The big example is Kevin Crawford with a mailing list of 65,000+. That can be turned just as easily towards driving sales on DTRPG as it can to driving backers to a kickstarter.

The opposite of that is Symatt.

Symatt released Spy Master on DTRPG a couple of years ago (Oct 2018). In that time it has not yet made Copper.

I have a very similar system [cards in place of dice] in my old west game, Devil’s Staircase: Wild West. DS:WW is a year younger and is within touching distance of Silver.

Symatt has a pretty heft Twitter following:

but I don’t believe anyone can follow over three and a half thousand people and have any kind of meaningful interaction with them.

Symatt is clearly trying to use Twitter to market Spy Master, otherwise it would not be his account header. I suspect that he did a lot of follow/followback to build his following. Fine, that gives you big numbers but they are very unlikely to be the kind of people who want to buy into an indie RPG. I did the same thing for a few days when I first joined twitter and was given that advice. The people following me back were more indie game writers just like myself. All I had manage to do was build a following of my own competition.

I don’t normally see other publishers as competition, roleplayers will collect games by the hundred if they had the money. People’s attention, on the other hand is in very limited supply.

I would rather spend my time talking with people that care about what I do, and respond to me, than shouting into a void.

I have a solo set for Mutant:Year Zero. Take a look, not at the product, but at the discussion area below it.

This is another place where I can demonstrate that I care about my audience. It is almost zero effort to answer people’s questions.

What comes out of that is pretty much a wishlist of things for me to write. As it is I have ended up writing for Mutant:Year Zero, Tales from the Loop, Symbaroum, Forbidden Lands, and John Carter of Mars.

No Screen!

In the video above I don’t point you to anything on screen. The reason for that is that I am trying to ween myself off of wiggling the mouse over stuff and saying “You can see here…”. Why? Because the video would then make a better audio only listen. I started this last week, because of audience feedback.

There is a potential here to go from YouTube -> Audio File -> Podcast.

I don’t know how to set up a podcast yet, but I am guessing that for every one person who asks for something there are a dozen more that didn’t say anything.

Then the podcast will be a new audience, and a new way of reaching people and telling them about what I do.

Sell More Not Make More

Our goal has to be selling more of what we have already created, rather than making more stuff to sell to our existing audience.

The later, making more, is a brilliant way of building your audiences, getting more exposure and earning more money. If you have one book to sell, the most loyal fan can only every buy one book. If you have 50 books to sell, that fan can by 50 books.

Eventually, you will hit a point where you have covered all the bases in your niche. Either that of you run out of ideas for your niche.

Moving outside of your niche may mean that you do not carry your audience with you. So you are now having to start again. Your numbers continue to grow but what you really have is two audiences under one umbrella. It may look like you have a huge list you can use to sell your kickstarter, but only half of them are likely to be interested.

On the other hand, if you build your audience, you are finding people who want what you sell. The return on investment per book will be far greater if you sell 500 copies of each, rather than selling 50 copies of each.

When you do create something new, you then have more people to tell about that one product, which will boost its sales, getting it to the top of hottest or best seller lists, which will then generate more organic sales.

That is it for today.

I send out discounts of up to 40% to my blog readers. To qualify all you need to is join my contact list, so I have an email to send the discount code to!

You can of course leave the list whenever you want. Your support is greatly appreciated.