Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Axis of the World

While I haven't been keeping up on the blog, I have been keeping up in my notebook.

Strathos has expanded from a continent to an entire world!

Strathos (the world) is in the style of a "Flat Earth," in that it isn't a globe or sphere, but rather a disc. However, this disc, like a coin, has two sides. A Light side, and a Dark side. Which is kind of a misnomer, as there is darkness on the light side and light on the dark side, but well I'll explain as I go on.

Imagine a coin or wheel floating in the air, laying parallel to the ground. Now put an axle through the center of the wheel, with equal lengths on either side of wheel. At each end of the axle, imagine a light bulb. When one light bulb is turned on, the other turns off. Now, place a bubble on either side of the wheel, encompassing everything within that side of the wheel, including the axle and light bulb.

That's a rough description of Strathos.

I never claimed to be a good artist

For our purposes, I will refer to the world as the Coin, and the previously described axle as the Axis. The light bulb is the Sun.

The center of the coin, the area surrounding the axis, is the hottest area of the world. Jungles, swamps, deserts, tropics, etc.  The outer edge of the coin is the coldest; tundra, ice flows, glaciers, and so on. In between is the temperate regions.

The Light Side of the coin experiences daylight for a uniform 16 hours a day, and 8 hours of darkness. The Dark Side, by contrast, experiences daylight for 8 hours a day, and 16 hours of darkness.

The Light Side is where I'm going to concentrate first.

The Axis in the center of the Coin, rises higher than the tallest mountains. At its pinnacle rests a gigantic sphere that emits light and heat. Not as much light and heat as a traditional star, of course. But just enough to mimic most of the conditions here on Earth.

Surrounding the Axis is a continent filled with steaming jungles.

Outward from that continent are more continents and landmasses, each with their own ecological systems and dominant life forms. These would be the "sandbox," to borrow the popular term. I will build upon the central continent and Axis, while the rest of the world can be whatever; premade settings, homemade ideas, or a mixture of both.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Getting the Word out, part 2

My last post was mainly a rant. Here is some more.

In the last post, I mentioned the term, "street team."  It's a term I lifted from musicians and bands who use social networking to get fans to volunteer to spread the word about a band, particularly in cities and towns the band is going to hit while on tour.

Some games publishers already do this. Off the top of my head, both Goodman Games and Palladium have Ambassador programs, where people who voluntarily run games at stores and Cons get shwag from the company. I have a promotional poster from Goodman Games specifically for Dungeon Crawl Classics that includes spaces for date/time of an upcoming game. It's also a rad looking poster in its own right.

People like free shit, they also like to feel like they are part of something larger than themselves. It doesn't take much for people to advertise their favorite game system and run games for new players to that system. A poster, some beer/pop coasters, a Referee screen (or better/cheaper yet, screen inserts), dice bags, etc... all very cheap to produce, all advertise your game, and all will be cherished and used by your loyal fans.

Availability of your product

I live in a city with four or five tabletop game stores. All of these stores have huge sections devoted to Hasbro DnD, Pathfinder, and Warhammer. With stand-ups, huge posters, books, miniatures, specialty dice, and other company logo'd merchandise.

I've never seen any promo material for DCC or LotFP other than stuff on the "free shit" table or the "looking for a game," corkboard. On top of that, other than Free RPG Day, I've never seen product from either of those two companies inside a game store. Which means that one of, if not the, major channels of introducing new players to those games is completely ignored and out of the loop.

Go to any small publisher's webpage and you'll see halfhearted pleas to get players to request their products at their local game store. But where is the incentive for the game store owner whose main concern (rightly) is making money? Special ordering one game book for one nerd isn't going to increase that store owner's money.

What will get that game store owner's interest in not only stocking your product but not shoving it into a corner some where? Make it worth their while. Contact store owners directly, send them promotional and merchandising material to put up. Agree to cross promotions like, if a customer buys your rule book, they get a discount on an adventure book. Or a free set of dice. 

There aren't that many dedicated game stores out there. Send them promotional material to put up to drive interest in your product, which ultimately means sales.

If a person goes into a game store for the first time and only sees Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and Warhammer, then they will believe that is the extent of the hobby.

Are there record stores that only sell music from three bands or three record labels?  Of course not. They sell a wide variety of music from a wide variety of labels, all at different price points.

which brings me to

Price Point

LotFP publishes some of the best products in the industry, in terms of physical production value. I don't even know if that's debatable at this stage. What IS debatable is the actual monetary value of those products. Especially when considering that for the vast majority of people who buy LotFP products, they have to buy from the LotFP webstore, deal with massive shipping charges, and wait weeks for their product to arrive. Sometimes, you can get lucky and buy a book from Noble Knight before it goes out of stock.

LotFP offers a free, artless pdf version of the rulebook for download on their website. Which is cool, if you can find the link hidden on the front page, or if you are already interested in LotFP. But doesn't help anyone who has limited or no knowledge at all of LotFP.

What would be a low cost alternative? A quick-start rule book with minimal black and white art, the essential rules, and first level spells, and a short 1st level adventure. Send copies of it to game stores and use the merchandising suggestions from above. MSRP of $5.99. It is a stepping stone to drive interest towards more expensive but complete hardcover rule book and all of the adventures.

Goodman Games sells the DCC rule book for around $40-50 for the massive hardbound version. Those hardbound rule books are gorgeous, too. They just recently started selling a softbound version for half the cost. They sell quite a few adventures for a reasonable price, although the cost of pdf versions of those adventures are insane! A pdf should never cost as much as a physical book. There is a reason every single DCC adventure has been pirated online.

GG could make a stand-up display that has ten slots for ten different adventures and ask game stores to place it near the register. Plastic wrap them and put an insert inside with a free download code for a pdf of that same adventure. Once that code is used, it will no longer work.

Now, look at Basic Fantasy Role Playing. Same OSR theme. Physical copy of the rule book? Five fucking dollars. Pdfs are free. There are a bunch of published adventures, too. All ridiculously cheap for physical copies, and free for pdfs. What Basic FRPG doesn't have is great artwork or marketing of any kind at all. Which is the price of not making any money, I suppose. But they sell at cost. So, what if they decided to add a dollar to the cost of the Rule book? It's still cheaper than any other physical rule book out there, and gives them some cash to to actually advertise.

Something you don't hear everyday... Music.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess started out as a fan-zine for metal music. Dungeon Crawl Classics defines itself as a 1970's psychedelic trip. Put out soundtracks to your games. Oh I know, licensing costs a lot of money. That's true. But making an official LotFP Spotify playlist costs NOTHING. Or a Pandora station. Or whatever other streaming music station. Hell, make one on every streaming music source. DCC already has a Google Plus group that shares their fan-made Spotify playlists. Goodman himself should have one, too. James Raggi should definitely have one. His last book, Vagina's are Magic, names its spells after song titles! Why is there no LotFP playlist???

Also, look to your fans. Find out who they listen too. Find out which bands are known to play RPGs. If they already play your game, send them badass looking t-shirts to wear on stage. If they don't already play your game, send them a rule book or quick start guide for free.

Use video to your advantage

Play your games on a video feed so people can watch and see how you play your own product. Twitch is unbelievably popular for this. If you are already playing, you have no excuse. It brings you closer to your fan base and introduces new potential fans to your product.

Finally, and this is unbelievable that I even have to mention this...


This means Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Twitch, Google Plus, Ello, and anything else.

Do NOT use social media to talk about your personal life or your personal politics or beliefs. No one cares about that stuff and if they do care, it is only to use against you.

Use social media to interact with fans; promoting products, and answering questions about your products. Do this EVERY DAY. Not once a week. Not twice a week. EVERY DAY.

Ignore users who try to push your buttons or troll you on social media. I know that is hard to do. I've trolled and I've been trolled. Don't fall for it. Mute, Block, and Ignore are your best friends on social media.

Using social media regularly (remember, EVERY DAY) keeps you in the know about what your fans are into, what they are not into, what they want to buy, what they don't want to buy, what other company's stuff they are buying, and more. Social Media Marketers call these things, "Metrics." It's a very important term any business must know about. Know and track your metrics in order to grow your business.



You aren't helping your business by getting in arguments on twitter. You aren't helping your business by remaining hidden just because you don't want to spend a few bucks on advertising.

I don't know about you, but I want to buy some minis and whatever adventure this is from

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Getting the word out

A couple weeks ago, a prominant 'OSR' publisher asked a question on G+ about how to get more young people to play his game.

I responded, and my suggestions were dismissed. Another, prominent 'OSR' writer responded later who said much the same thing as me, and was heralded!

Both of these guys are older than me. Keep in mind the question was about bringing younger people than them into the fold.

So, here are my thoughts on "How to get younger people to play role playing games."

1. Listen to them.
2. Market to them.

Expanding on these ideas
1. Listen to them: When you cry out, "WHY??? Why doesn't (insert demographic) play my game in greater numbers???"  And then IGNORE and DISMISS comments from that demographic, how do you think that makes you look to the people you are trying to attract?
Story time...
When I was a kid, I used to collect baseball cards. Up until I was 10 years old. I stopped when I went to the baseball card shop and the clerk paid no attention to me. I was standing at the cash register, money in hand, a pile of cards on the table... but he was much more interested in talking to an old guy in a suit who wasn't ready to buy anything. After what seemed like an eternity, I walked out with my money and without the cards I wanted. I never went back to the shop and stopped collecting baseball cards forever.
I now work as a salesman. I have been awarded by my company time after time over the past six years not just for sales figures, but because of customer feedback about myself. See, I treat everyone, young or old, rich or poor, with the same amount of respect and give them the same amount of attention. In fact, I give more attention to the people who are less inclined to make large purchases because I relate to them much more than I do some guy with a fat wallet.
How does that relate to selling games to young people?
Fat wallet guy is going to buy stuff no matter what. That's why he showed up. That's why he's been buying for years. He's a cash cow, and he's not going anywhere. He knows, and you know, he's going to buy everything you publish because he's a geek with disposable income. A collector. Eventually though, he's going to die and his money will be gone.
Young people don't have a lot of disposable income and have far more choices on hand to spend that small amount of money. Ignoring needs and non-entertainment goods, they could spend money on tabletop RPGs, Magic the Gathering cards, miniature wargames, Console or PC video games, or boardgames.

If you want them to choose your game over those other choices, you have to work.
  • Magic cards have a cheap buy-in and dominate every game store. You can keep a deck in your pocket and play during lunch at school.
  • Wargames are expensive to get into, but once a person is hooked, that's where their money is going. Not easily portable and not big with the kids, as it costs too much to start.
  • Video games are the big gorilla and might as well not even be considered competition.
  • Boardgames are having a resurgence right now and people pay a lot of money for them. But it is still mostly people over the age of 30.
So how are you going to get hip, edgy, cool, teenage whippersnappers (that's what you old people say, right?) to buy your product?

Which leads to #2: Market to them.

Identify the types of young people who play RPGs. That's easy; they're the same types who have always played RPGs.
  • Nerds - the base of geek culture. Obsessive about their hobbies and looking for acceptance from other people.
  • Druggies - They have blacklight posters of mushrooms and listen to music their parents hate and smoke lots of weed. This was my demographic (minus the blacklight posters). We had nothing to do and a lot of spare time to do it. Probably two thirds of the people I've gamed with have been pot heads.
  • Military - people who either obsess over the military or have served and got into RPGs while having nothing to do on base. Probably half the gamers I've met in my life got into the hobby while stationed somewhere and played because they had nothing else to do. 
  • Hipsters - people who latch onto trends. They typically let go of something once it is no longer trendy, though.
I hate to say it, but don't market to the nerds. They may seem like the easiest bunch to cater to, but that's exactly why you shouldn't. It's unnecessary.

The druggies and the military kids are the ones you should go for. 

Military sure, but pot heads? Why them?

Because pot heads have imagination. Pot heads have time to sit around with friends and eat munchies. They like to get weird. They wear clothing with stuff printed on it, they skate on boards plastered with artwork, they decorate their rooms with posters of weird shit they think is cool.  Throw the artwork from your product onto skateboards. Make t-shirts that look like they're for a metal band and leave off those three uncool letters, "RPG." 
DO NOT make shirts like those god-awful Dungeons and Dragons shirts from the 90s. No cool person ever wore those. In fact, they probably did more harm to the hobby than anything else.

Put this on a skateboard

Place ads in comic books and skate magazines. Organize street teams at college campus' who can staple posters to telephone poles like they do with concert announcements. Send free posters and merchandising to comic shops, game stores, record stores (yes, record stores not only still exist but are having their best decade in history). Hire graffiti artists to tag your stuff at skateparks or the sides of buildings or overpasses.

As for the military... go to the Palladium Books forums sometime and check out how many people there talk about their former or current military service. I use Palladium as an example because a LOT of Palladium players seem to have a military background. Why is that? Well, one reason could be that years ago, Palladium used to (I'm not sure if they still do) send free game books to deployed military personnel, as a way of saying "thank you for your service." Brilliant move. People who don't play Palladium games are often at a loss to explain why anyone still plays their games. It's because of shit like that.

Lastly, the big thing, that no small business person who thinks they know everything ever wants to hear;

hire someone who knows more than you do.