Posted on 2 Comments

Forbidden Lands Solo Book

This supplement at the moment doesn’t have a name, but, it is now a book of sorts. I don’t want to draw too many comparisons with Mutant Year Zero. Both games are hex crawlers and both use the Year Zero engine. Character creation is similar, but then it was always going to be if they were going to run off the same engine.

There the similarities end.

Do you want to know when Forbidden Lands Solo is read? Read to the end!

I cannot help but feel that For-Lands is much more Solo friendly. There is a sweet location generation engine for creation villages and adventure sites. There are enough stock NPCs and bad guys you can use straight off the page to make setting up encounters a breeze and that is excluding the predefined random encounters. As I said, it is much more Solo friendly.

As to writing this book, I decided against modifying Mutant Year Solo in favour of reading the For-Lands rules, creating a character and just playing the game. I then creating solo tools as I needed them. I also made the tools that fitted in with what I was doing. Rather than trying to fit the rules in with the game.

For me, at least, everything I do is about tuning the most common solo tools to work seamlessly with the game. To try and work it the other way just wasn’t going to be the best solution.

Ever since about 1983, when my regular group started playing in Middle Earth, a game run by a die hard Tolkien worshipper, I have had a strong dislike for Elves. Elves have little or no redeeming qualities.

For some strange reason, my For-Lands character is an Elven Minstrel. I have no idea how that happened. It is most unlike me. I am a pure Human, Male Character kind of person.

My Minstril is called Radnar and he is having a tough time of it. Most of my solo characters do not have long life expectancies. Sometimes you just have to push things to see where they break. Radnar is not broken yet, but it is probably just a matter of time.

What it feels like is that For-Lands has a lot of replayability. The different kins are nothing unusual, they are the standard fantasy fayre, as are the professions and the skills. That is not a criticism, if you buy a fantasy RPG you probably want Elves, Dwarves and Halflings and all the usual suspects.

The star of the show is the setting. The random nature of the setting means that every game is going to be unique but the way the map works, it means that you are going to have quite a bit of shared experience with other people who have played For-Lands. Castles end up in the Castle places and villages end up in the village places, and so on.

The legends are another outstanding feature. These add enough lore to the game to make it really rich in flavour, without having to drop an info-bomb and spending days wading through the setting material.

From a solo point of view, the key to working the For-Lands setting is prepping everything for each adventure site before you start to playing. That doesn’t mean maps and stuff, you can grab this as and when you want them, if you want them. I use oracles to create maps on the fly (Are there any exits? What sort of space is this? That sort of thing).

If you push the adventure site creation to the front of your session you gain two things. Firstly, the creation process does not interfere with your roleplaying. You don’t have to stop your story to start making loads of rolls and table lookups. But, the creation process also gave me loads of inspiration when then influenced my oracle answers. The end result was a richer and slicker game.

These rules are not fit to share yet. They first draft, with a few bits that still exist purely on post-it notes. But I downloaded the document template today. For me, that tends to mean that I am thinking I am not far off. These will not be ready next week. That is certain. I am expecting to put this booklet out in mid-July.

Get a 40% Discount on these rules

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.

 
Posted on Leave a comment

Savage Worlds, Capers & Forbidden Lands

I am lucky enough that I have a folder of solo rules I have made, for personal use, that I can share as and when things like Community Content Programmes become available, or a game gets a compatibility licence.

Some of them I make up over a weekend, just rough and ready things, but then when I revisit the game I refine them a bit more, and so on.

Last week I put out my Savage Worlds solo game guide, and since then I have been focusing on Forbidden Lands. I promised to write these rules two months ago, but they have taken a lot longer than I had anticipated. In theory, they are zero engine and it should be easy, using the MYZ solo rules as a base.

Forbidden Lands is not just a fantasy rehash of MYZ, it is a very rich, and solo play friendly, fantasy game.

At the moment, I have set myself a goal of getting one booklet out each week. I was able to fill in some weeks with small projects like Maze Rat and A Lonely Knave. Others I have filled in with things from my archives.

This coming week will see me put out Capers Solo, in one form or another, as yet undecided, and then in two weeks it will be Forbidden Lands turn.

I finished the first draft last night, and played a session this evening.

Get Updates

Do you want to know when any of these books are ready?

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.

 
Posted on Leave a comment

Making a Living #2

This post follows on directly from last time (Making a Living #1).

The third question in that list was:

3- How do you manage to keep productive and consistent on releasing new content? Do you set goals for yourself, or do you manage your time and production some other way?

Following on from there was a supplement question of “what’s your daily routine like“?

I will preface this with saying that I live on a farm. Most people will not have to worry about feeding livestock, or checking fences. When I get a problem I want work through, I will tend to go for a ride on a horse and let the problem work itself out.

My daily routine looks something like this.

First thing, check my stats. I want to see sales notification emails. I want check my social media following/followers and website traffic stats.

Why? Because I am checking that nothing is broken. I know roughly what I expect to earn each day. I know my peak days and my quiet days. If the sales notifications stopped coming it could mean that a site is down.

When I get to my desk, I start with research. This could be reading a source book, checking SRD documents. I can also mine the DriveThruRPG website for data. Some of this will be researching what books to work on in future, some will be about improving my business practices.

Why? Because if I learn something actionable, I have time to implement it straight away. Doing research later in the day may mean that I forget a key point or idea over night.

Late morning I do playtesting. This normally takes me up to lunchtime.

I can now immediately implement any revisions following the playtesting.

Early afternoon, I start writing. I will continue writing until I stop for dinner.

I normally do some more work in the evenings. This is probably the most important part of my day, and the bit where (in my opinion) many indie games people fall down. I devote an hour to marketing. Most games people don’t like marketing. I have an hour block for it. I do different things on different days, but every day I do something that falls under the heading of marketing.

If I do anything else in the evening, it will be more writing, carrying on from the afternoon. About 9pm I try and turn the PC off and I will then do more reading. This will be either rulebooks or setting books.

That is the basic structure of the day.

Mondays is my big product release day. It also means sending out emails through the blog contact list with readers loyalty discounts and using my DriveThruRPG mailing list.

Tuesday is a regular writing day. I tend not to do anything exceptional on Tuesdays, but I do do more with the animals on the farm. Tuesday then becomes problem solving day because mucking about with horses is a great way to solve writing problems.

Wednesday is video blog day. Don’t ask me why this is a Wednesday activity. I think I was planning to do it on Friday, but I got so nervous about it looming up at the end of the week that went ahead early. Now I am settled in to it being Wednesday.

Thursday is normally ‘little project day’. I try and do something that is completely self contained on a Thursday. This could be a small adventure, or a supplement, or an experiment. One week it was creating maps, another it was making a micro RPG. This serves as a mental change from the bigger projects, and if the result is worthwhile, it gives me a mid week product release. These will tend to be released on Itch.io rather than DriveThruRPG.

Friday is another writing day but with a focus on adventures. If Thursday’s mini project has potential, but didn’t not get finished, then I will try and finish it on Firday. Otherwise, I focus on the the main project.

Saturday and Sunday, these are my main playtesting days. Sunday can turn into a page layout day.#

It may sound like I am at my computer all day and all evening. This is not exactly accurate. My wife is also a blogger and a keen knitter. She can somehow knit and watch television. I can be working on a laptop while she is knitting. While I am doing the most creative parts I can type them up just as easily while sat together in an evening, as I can at my desk.

Planning

I do have a plan.

Technically, this plan extends four years into the future, but anything more than about 3 weeks from now is a bit vague and open to negotiation. I am my own manager, I can swap titles into the production queue or swap others out as and when I want.

More than the planned books, I have goals. These are measured in hard numbers. I know when I hit a goal. In a previous career we used SMART targets.

S-Specific
M-Measurable
A-Achieveable
R-Realistic
T-Timed

What that means is that I know exactly what I want to achieve (Specific), how I am going to know when I have achieved it (Measurable), it is based upon past performance (Achievable), I believe I have everything in place to do this (Realistic) and I have a date in early 2021 when I want to hit this first major goal (Timed).

My day is filled with other SMART targets. The mini projects on Thursdays and Fridays are SMART. They are very specific and chosen to fit into the allotted time. I would not try and write a major supplement on a Thursday afternoon, but a two page adventure is a realistic goal.

Because I set goals, and achieve goals, each achievement gives me a nice feeling and that motivates me on.

This goal setting and achieving I think is one of the most important skills for an indie writing, in any sphere.

I know that I cannot focus on any one task for a long periods. I just cannot do it. So I set up my day to allow me to hop from task to task. You have to know what works for you and then play to your strengths.

So, referring back to the original question, yes I set goals, many goals, on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly time span, but I also manage my time and production in a way that is unique to me.

Possibly the second most important block of time spend, is that hour of marketing each day.

In the next of these making a living posts, I will share some of what I do for marketing.

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.

 
Meet the troubleshooters – these guys solve my writers problems.
Posted on 1 Comment

Making a Living #1

This week I was contacted by an aspiring game designer. He had seen a comment of mine on twitter where I said that I made my living writing for role-playing games.

I could have answered his questions by email, but I thought it would possibly be more useful to do it publicly , in case other people are interested.

As far as I am concerned, I am not competing against another other publisher. People do not buy one game and stick with it forever, except D&D in which case they are of less interest to indie game designers anyway.

This attitude means that it doesn’t hurt me in any way to help other people be successful. Quite the contrary, the more happy and successful people in the world , the stronger the games market will be. Poor, sad people do not by many games! I want more rich happy wealthy people in the world.

Here are the first three questions I was asked. I am going to answer the first two today. The third one next time.

1- How do you build an audience among so many other creators? How do you keep yourself relevant enough as to have game design as your full-time job?

2- What’s your take on the different models of income, such as Patreon, itch, releasing free content, focusing on smaller projects or bigger ones?

3- How do you manage to keep productive and consistent on releasing new content? Do you set goals for yourself, or do you manage your time and production some other way?

Building An Audience

This depends on what you want to create. If you want to create a full game and build your career around selling hundreds of thousands of copies of that game and then supplements to that game, I am not the person to ask. If I want that sort of advice, I would ask Daniel D Fox. He has pretty much answered that question several times in his twitter threads.

We have a saying in the UK, if you want to become a millionaire, don’t ask an unemployed bloke in the pub.

Daniel has built up Zweihander and navigated these waters successfully, I haven’t.

What I have done is build up a business that creates game books and supplements mainly supporting other successful games; and then created the games I wanted to play purely for the joy of creating. When I have released a game there is no pressure for it to succeed or fail, it is what it is and every paid sale is a moment of joy. I don’t need them to be ‘successful’ by anyone else’s measure. If I get some positive feedback, a good review or a nice email, that makes my life a little bit happier. My full games, 3Deep, Devil’s Staircase: Wild West, Navigator RPG and the soon to be released Things Grown Ups Cannot See are vanity projects and made for the fun of making.

What I make my money from is supplements.

Firstly, I only write for games I play and like. If it isn’t fun then you could not do this. When I started I wrote all kinds of things just to find out what I enjoyed making, what I had the skills to make and what would sell. I tried to make each thing slightly bigger and better than the things that went before it.

There are two ways that work for building an audience if you are writing for other people’s games.

  1. If you write for a game with a Community Content Program, they gift you a ready made audience. This is the basic premise of the CCP. They have the audience and the materials you need to produce a decent looking supplement. You have to have the ideas and then write it up.

There are problems with CCPs. They tend to have a short life. We see a lot spring up, they get really good sales and gather lots of content and then the energy goes out of them. If you supplement is not one of the hottest ten titles then you are unlikely to get much in the way of sales or exposure.

The second problem is that people who buy your books from a CCP are not your customers. They are a customer of the CCP owner. What this means is that when they are offered the chance to receive emails from the publisher, that will not be you. That may sound like a small thing, but it is actually really important.

One way to building your audience is through your email list. When you work through CCP storefronts you are building up someone else’s email list.

CCPs give you an instance source of income because they have the audience, but it is harder to capitalise on the exposure you get from them.

There are many games that are friendly to Third Party Publishers, which is what I am. These games either have a compatibility licence, such as Mothership RPG, or are published under the Open Game License [OGL] or a Creative Commons License.

If you publish as a Third Party Publisher [3PP] you have to try and get your own audience. Your adventure is competing for attention against official adventures, and so on. The advantages are that you will get a bigger royalty via OneBookShelf, anyone who buys from you is your customer and you have more creative freedom.

The downside is that you are not competing in a small specialist storefront, you are in a much larger free for all of the general listings.

Audience

The most important thing is to build that email list.

DriveThruRPG is not set up to promote free content. They don’t make any money from it, but it costs them money in the form of hosting and bandwidth. Most of the hottest product lists use sales velocity as the ranking factor. If your title is not making any money, it will not rank.

A free product will appear in the new releases and the lastest new and PWYW for a few hours to a few days, depending on how busy the site is, and then disappear into oblivion.

You will get downloads of your product, but chances are that they will be people who don’t want to spend money, ie. not very useful customers.

One sale of a $4.99 booklet is worth more than ten thousand free downloads.

The DriveThruRPG homepage is the prime storefront. almost all of the carousels of products are ranked by the value of sales recently. That instantly filters out the free, and most PWYW titles. If you make a single sale, your booklet will hang about on that storefront for longer. The longer it is on the storefront the more chance of making that second sale.

It is possible to create a virtuous circle. I have three titles in the Most Popular under $5 and the same three titles in Hottest Small Press. Because I am getting double exposure on the home page, they are picking up sales. Every time I sell something there is about a 60% chance that that person will choose to accept emails from me.

This gives you two tools you can use.

If, before you publish your first thing, you have a plan and get several items in production and near completion, you can release items weekly or nearly weekly. This gives you near constant visibility.

As you start to make sales, you will build your email list. You can then use that to tell everyone who has agreed to be contacted about your new release. This will encourage them to buy more of your products, which will keep you on the home page longer, and that will encourage more people to buy. That is the virtuous circle.

It takes the acceptance that your first year’s worth of books could earn you very little.

But, you can maximise that.

If you sell your titles for $0.99, thinking that people will buy your books because they are cheap, you are training your customers to expect more cheap books in the future. If you want to offer a loyalty discount to existing customers, which I do, a 40% discount is just 40¢. This causes two problems. You are asking people to get their credit card out for a mere $0.59, which can seem a lot of trouble for a tiny sum, and a saving of 40¢ is hardly worth having.

You do not get all the money from a sale of a book. DriveThru take 30%-35%. I will assume 30% for this bit.

If you wanted to make $500 from a book at $0.99 per copy. You would need to sell 721 copies. That is 721 people who need to trust you as a new and unknown writer.

If you wanted to make $500 from a book at $4.99 per copy. You would need to sell 144 copies. That is 144 people who need to trust you as a new and unknown writer. It is much easier to find 144 people to take a chance, that it is to find 721.

You are not going to sell 700 or even 100 copies of your first book. About 50% of all books released on DriveThru never sell more than 50 copies.

But if you sold 50 and that gave you 30 emails to reach out to, the chances of your second title selling equally or better is slightly higher. Repeat that in week three and you have a slightly bigger list again and more chance of making a few more sales.

Keep putting that effort in for a year and you will have a chance of having a decent sized list and that list having a positive impact on your sales.

I have been doing this since 2016, the first year I made a lot of mistakes, just learning how to do this.

In June 2020, I sold 1200 books.

Part of the question was large projects or small projects. I am an advocate of the small project. It is impossible to finish a book a week if they are 500 page rulebooks.

A 50 page supplement, is 10 pages a day. That is easy to write, proof and edit. You can have a couple on the go at once, write it, put it away then look at it afresh later. I tend to hope around in different genres. My GURPS book was modern day, Maze Rat was fantasy, I have done Anime and sci fi in the past month. By changing it up, it keeps it fresh.

Right now I am thinking about 1950s Hollywood Pulp sci fi, Forbidden Lands which is classic fantasy and Pony Finder which is anthropomorphic horse adventures.

Another advantage of smaller projects is that you are more likely to finish them. All the time a book is sat on your computer and not published, it will earn you nothing.

Another advantage again, is back catalogue. If you have one book to sell, your customers can buy a total of one book. If you have three books to sell, if someone likes your work they could buy one and then come back and buy the other two. If you have 50 books to sell you could sell up to 50 books.

A friend who also writes supplements, Azukail Games, the other day made 140 sales in a day. Last week I took a break for my evening meal. When I looked at my computer, I had made 37 sales in a single order.

If your ultimate goal is to write your own games, having that mailing list of thousands of email addresses, my list after 4 years is 3,127 emails. You could write the best game in the world and if no one knows it exists, you will sell none of them.

Patreon & Itch

I know a few people with Patreons and none of them make much money from it. I think the best I have seen is something like $700/month. There are some fantastically talented people, such as Dyson Logos who can make it work for them, but they are few and far between.

I am on Itch, but I am just getting started. I am also too busy to give it the attention it requires. I am in the position of I cannot afford to put the effort in, so I am not getting much reward out.

If I were starting again, I would start with a non-exclusive DriveThruRPG account and put everything I can on DriveThru, Itch, Lulu and Amazon. That only scratches the surface of potential storefronts you could use.

If you have everything, everywhere you are much more resilient to one website being down for maintenance or if they have server problems.

Last year DriveThruRPG was horribly broken for nearly a week. It caused a lot of people a lot of problems.

You must be as diversified as you can be.

You will also notice that at the bottom of nearly every article on this blog, there is an option to join my contact list. The mailing list provided by DriveThru is a sealed box. You can email people, but you never get to see their addresses. You cannot take that list away with you.

To make me more independent, I am building my own list, that has nothing to do with DriveThru. To make it worth joining I offer my blog readers a 40% discount on all new releases. My regular DriveThru mailing list subscribers get a 25% discount. So there is a real benefit to being a member.

I think this is enough for today!

I will continue to answer these in follow on blogs.

If anyone else reads this and want to get involved in writing for RPGs, or art for games or whatever, just ak me questions and I will do my best to answer them!

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.

 
Posted on Leave a comment

And the Build is Complete!

Fantasy Grounds 5e Solo Adventures control panel

I am pleased to say that as of today the module is physically finished. All the tables and rules from the PDF are now all present and correct.

What remains now is a final proof reading of the text, just to make sure it all refers to the automated tables and not the dice rolling of the PDF.

What to know more about this Fantasy Grounds Module? Read to the bottom of the page to find out more.

I played it again tonight and it works really well.

I loaded up a Dyson Logos map, used a few stock 5e NPCs and had Kellan (my ever faithful test Character) running around trying to disrupt the evil rituals of a giant snake god.

NPCs and Reactions

For me, the most important single element in solo playing is the NPCs that populate your world.

A bonus side effect of this focus on NPCs is that you can run your entire solo game form the NPC Reactions chapter.

Here I have scrolled down past the supporting text, straight to the links section. What you have are the NPC reactions themselves, for Friendly, Neutral and Hostile NPCs but at the bottom, because I like to add supporting questions and answers are the yes/no and complex question oracles.

I have decided that for me at least, having the oracle answers do directly to Chat is the most satisfying solution. I have included the Story card option because I am fully aware that not everyone works the way I do.

First But Not The Last

While I was making this module a explored a lot of dead-ends, tried many approaches and learned from a lot of mistakes.

I also created two alternative versions of this module. Those others were not a tightly focused on 5e. They could be used with almost any RPG. The drawback is that they would both my technologically much more challenging to build. I have enjoyed making this module. I want to keep on building up my Fantasy Grounds skills. One day, I may even finish these super solo modules!

5e Solo Adventures Module

If you would like a 40% discount on these rules, I send the discount links out by email.

If you are happy for me to send you email with news of new products, or for me to ask your opinions on ideas, please consider joining my contact list. I send emails no more than once a week so you definitely won’t be flooded by emails.

Please consider joining as I really value your opinions and support.