First, I’m gonna talk about my Monday Lunch Meeting with our CCP representative and all-around good guy, Eddy Webb, and then a fair bit about the Mage20 Kickstarter and Onyx Path‘s whole methodology of handling KS Stretch Goals- as that topic has come up a lot recently. So this is going to be one of those blog posts, and you’ve been given fair warning.
Eddy mentioned that he had been to a live performance of Welcome to Nightvale, so already I was jealous. I’ve been enjoying the broadcast for quite a while now, and while they sometimes get more whimsical than my WoD, the city and surrounding environs could certainly exist in “our world, but darker”. Eddy has been getting some requests to speak at various cons and colleges and was wondering about how to step into such things and how to price his fee. Not a lot of comparable situations usually occurring in tabletop RPGs where your “speaker fee” is usually transportation, room, and board, as guest of honor, or what have you. He and I also compared notes on some of the writer and artist rates out among other companies- as we have done occasionally for years- to note that with very few exceptions, Onyx Path continues to be one of the better paying companies in the tabletop RPG business. Which granted, is not saying a whole lot compared to the real world.
Which leads us to the impetus of my writing about our Stretch Goals: specifically, my discovery last week that some of you fearless-front-facers out there have some misunderstandings as to what Stretch Goals are, how they function as part of a Kickstarter, and why any sort of Stretch Goal pay bump to our awesome creators is not cheating you out of other, cooler, Stretch Goal bonus products.
To begin with, let’s be clear from the onset, Stretch Goals are not part of the original Kickstarter process. The gang who created KIckstarter did not have them in mind when they went live, and so far have not built them in to the creators’ tools. I believe Stretch Goals started because game designers simply must tinker with systems, and saw a cool “after the goal has been achieved” demand from the backers. So any Stretch Goals you see as part of any KS have been deliberately added by the project creator. This is important because…we don’t have to include them. We really don’t.
Now, I can’t speak for other creators, but the reason I like them, and include them, is based on several things:
1- They are fun for our fan community. It’s fun to see what else can be unlocked as the KS keeps rolling past funding. Sometimes that fun is compounded because backers get a chance to add to the original intention for the book: added subjects and art, more bookmarks, special gilding. Sometimes it’s fun because backers get to enable us to create more projects than just the intended special book: extra books, screens, maps, music suites, novels and fiction anthologies. It’s fun when we can give backers those new projects for free or at a discount. And it is always fun when backers are throwing around ideas for what would be cool and participation becomes far more than just “pre-ordering” a book and going away. This added community experience was one of the big selling points of Kickstarters for Onyx Path when I first looked at KS, and continues to be a big reason behind our KSs.
2- We (Onyx Path) get to create some things we wouldn’t have. And we get to try out ideas that we’re not sure would be of interest to the community.
3- Backers can reach out and do more for the creators than a simple transaction-based relationship. The KS format and comments set-up starts the process, but I think the Stretch Goals where the backers actually enrich the creators’ efforts like with the aforementioned pay bumps, or flying the Exalted Devs out to Gen-Con for meet and greets, really expand what it means to support a company and the creators. It becomes more of a two way street, with a spectrum of involvement much wider than was standard years ago: from fans commenting about a particular text section to add, to enabling a writer to afford rent that month.
Now, you’ll note I didn’t include “Making huge bucks!” as one of the advantages of Stretch Goals for Onyx Path. Certainly, the theory is that having a series of Stretch Goal rewards spurs on the excitement, which gets existing backers pledging more, and new folks interested and then backing. All this excitement and noise is supposed to be better than not. In my thinking, for the reasons above I’ll take the Stretch Goals as we do them- but for financial gain? I’m not convinced that the extra hoopla actually makes a creator more money once you factor in the costs of creating the new projects.
Which brings us neatly to the realities that dictate how Onyx Path does Stretch Goals. The first reality, which is really the most important one that must be understood by both creators and backers, is the fact that all the “extra money” after the funding goal is met is not pure profit. The vast majority of pledges throughout the run of our Kickstarters involve getting the physical book (that the KS is being run to create because doing short run prestige and deluxe books is expensive) as a part of their Reward Tier. Which is unlike other KSs from other industries where your rewards aren’t about a physical thing created because of the KS, but like a tote-bag with the bands’ logo for backing getting a new album out. So most of the funds we get go towards the creation and shipping of those books. We also have percentages to pay before anything else happens to Kickstarter and Amazon Payments for using their platform and services, and to CCP as part of our license.
Then that’s what we do with Stretch Goal rewards- we decide how much of that percentage of the pledges that isn’t directly eaten up by fees and the cost of creating the books themselves we can use for the additional stuff in the Stretch Goals. I am ultra-conservative about carving out funds to add to the book, or to create new projects via the Stretch Goals, because there is not a lot of leeway there. My goal is for Onyx Path to be here making the books you love ten years from now, not closed up because we made a bad call on making Vampire Lawn Chair rewards for the Deluxe Mage 20th KS.
Because, anything else that needs to be created- ie: physical things- brings another set of issues to the table. There are the added logistics and cost of packing and shipping those extra things as part of the backer reward package, but even more dangerous is how the trap of how the Stretch Goal is set up and worded.
Here’s the logic: a physical item Stretch Goal reward is going to be given to all or some percentage of your backers based on a goal number. Let’s say it’s another book. As an informed creator, you get a quote for the number of books you’re estimating you’ll need to have printed. So you know about how much of that extra money you need to assign to pay for printing/manufacturing these new books and set your Stretch Goal amount based on that. Let’s say you set $3,000 aside. Now here is where it gets ugly: what happens if the number of pledges is a lot more than you estimated? Let’s say the number of books you’ll need to create to fulfill your Stretch Goal amount has doubled, and even with some cost reductions for scale, it still will cost you $5,000 instead of the $3,000 you set aside. That $2K has to come from somewhere, and it’s going to be from a different part of the pledge funds. Fall into that pitfall enough times and your big huge success of a KS has just been torpedoed by your Stretch Goal efforts.
So Onyx Path, by and large, doesn’t include physically manufactured rewards in our Stretch Goals. I try and stick with PDFs and other electronic projects like Music Suites, which have almost no scaling issues based on quantity, and discounts to PoD products which allow backers to choose to purchase or not. The rewards still cost us for creation (which is a fixed cost), but not manufacturing. The advantage to the backers is that we can still add a lot of new projects during the course of a KS without breaking the bank, and we include other types of Stretch Goal rewards which aren’t new item/project based as well.
Which brings us to those Stretch Goal rewards that aren’t about another bit of bonus stuff, but are about allowing Onyx Path, through your pledges, to give something back to our creative teams. And while there are a few backers who get annoyed anytime a Stretch Goal is not a freebie they want, the most divisive extra Stretch Goal are those times we give a well-deserved bonus to the creators. First, let me be clear, any Pay Bump does not include me, no matter how involved I am in the project or the KS. So I have no vested financial interest in “sneaking a pay bump in there”. Which is paraphrasing from a comment I got on the Onyx forums.
I could just wait to the KS is over and fire off a few bonuses like I used to do with our earlier KSs. But look up the page to Stretch Goal reasons 1 & 3 above. Making a Pay Bump a Stretch Goal is fun and lets those who care about these things know that some fraction of their pledge is going directly to the very folks whose imaginations, creativity, talent, blood, sweat, and tears go into the making of these games you love. That’s a rare opportunity, and one I think is worth hearing a few complaints about every time we do it.
The other complaint we keep hearing is that some folks want all of our possible Stretch Goals listed ahead of time with each KS. Well, unless I see evidence to change my thinking, that simply is not how we do Stretch Goals. Before each KS goes live, myself and the Devs and other creative folks involved get together and throw around ideas as to what would be cool as Stretch Goals. We make sure that we understand just how big the projects would be, and who will take ownership of getting them created if they get the OK during the KS. If the Kickstarter is for a project that allows adding material to the book, I try and get a list of Dev ideas for possible expansions to the existing book, but am always looking for feedback from the community as to what they want to see in there. We establish a rough ladder of Goals, and then tease a couple at the beginning. That way, we can try and “read” the KS once it goes live so that we’re putting the Goals in in such a way that they are seen as doable based on how fast pledges are coming in. We don’t want backers getting bored, or us flashing through the Goals so fast that they don’t register.
Similarly, to the original point about listing all the Stretch Goals ahead of time, I’ve found that while there are a minority of backers who are most satisfied when they have a list, most backers seem to have more fun when Stretch Goals are revealed sequentially. Right now, as with the Deluxe Mage 20th KS, we try and keep two unachieved goals revealed at a time. It’s the anticipation and reveals that add in to the fun, and we have the freedom to swap Stretch Goals around and add Goals we didn’t think of ourselves if the backer community brings them up.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few points I wanted to make, but this magnum opus is already War & Peace size, so let’s wrap it up for this week and continue any questions in the comments.
And a shorter section (in comparison) this time:
- Mummy the Curse - Cursed Necropolis DC is in editing.
- Exalted 3rd Edition: From Holden: Bureaucracy Charms are down, Crunch Team Prime is now banging away on Craft. The social engine, larceny rules, investigation rules, and leadership rules, along with Charms dealing with all of the above, have now been sent out to playtesters, officially kicking off Phase 2 of the playtest.
Zub’s EX3 Comic is more than halfway finished being illustrated and both EX3 novels are being worked on (I talked to both novelists last week). Starting to get one of the EX3 Music Suites to a finished state, the Dragon Blooded theme.
- V20 Hunters Hunted 2: US/Canadian missing packages being gone through case by case- at this point I should have messaged all of you back. Waiting for confirmation that all International packages have been sent.
- V20 Anarchs Unbound – Amazon Payments are finished and we’re getting together some fun for our AU backers including first shot at AU t-shirts featuring Smilin’ Jack himself.
- Deluxe Werewolf 20th Anniversary Edition: As with HH2, US/Canadian missing packages being gone through case by case- at this point I should have messaged all of you back. Waiting for confirmation that all International packages have been sent. The Heavy Metal Deluxe W20 is slowly being assembled- the current delay being a glitch on the W20 disc on the spine that’s being fixed by the printer. Mike Lee has a new batch of chapters of the W20 “Houses of the Moon” novel for Bill to review. Jess Hartley has the White Howlers Tribe Book in red-lining and will jump back into inputting changes once her last couple of CB stories are done for that anthology. W20 Wyld West patch writing is in editing and is being art directed.
- Mage the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition- the Deluxe M20 Kickstarter KS went live just about a week ago and we have (as of this writing) 2185 backers, and $330,256 in pledges! We’ve passed 11 Stretch Goals including 3 early t-shirt designs, a Character Pack PDF Parts 1&2, a Quickstart PDF, a PDF on the way the Spheres work, an increase in the art budget, Book of Secrets PDF Parts 1&2, two more silk bookmarks, a Mage20 Fiction Anthology and a pay bump for the creative team. Come check it out, the fun is just starting! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/deluxe-mage-the-ascension-20th-anniversary-edition
- W20 Changing Breeds PDF and PoD versions are on sale at DTRPG! Deluxe files are with the printer- proofs were shown to backers and are back with the printer. The cover emboss needed a tweak and has been. The Changing Breeds Fiction Anthology in editing.
- W20 Book of the Wyrm is in layout. This will be the next Kickstarter project if everything times out as expected. We think this book should appeal to W20 and W20 Changing Breeds fans alike.
- V20 Rites of the Blood: is ready for layout, but layout is not yet ready for it, art finals rolling in.
- Dark Ages: Darkening Sky (classic Dark Ages): PDF is available on DTRPG. Physical book PoD just needs to go on sale, hopefully this week.
- Trinity Continuum: New System ideas continue being hammered out. Most of the Aeon setting material is in. Logo discussion has started. We’re looking at starting some preliminary blog posts.
- Scion: New Systems discussion continue. Both Scion and the TC above are now moving into active mode for 2014. Contracts and art notes out for the Scion: Origins cover.
- Demon: The Descent: We delivered the Demon PDF to KS backers before the end of December, and the backer PDF has been updated and the PoD version is awaiting PoD approval (I sent for the PoD proofs again after the ones last week had some major errors in them). Traditional printing files at the printer. The Demon: Ready Made Characters set is in editing and the artist is working. Demon Seed Collection is in first drafts. DtD Seattle is in first draft. Heirs to Hell is in redlines.
- Hunter: Mortal Remains: Art coming in and going in for approval to CCP, and is in layout.
- Book of the Deceived (MtC): Redlines. The loss of a writer means their section has to be given to a new writer, CAS is on top of it.
- nWoD: Dark Eras: Writers are following up on redlines except for one chapter which is having writer issues.
- V20 Dark Ages: Scribes are scribing 2nd Drafts. David Hill has recently moved to a new country and is still acclimating, more info once he is settled in.
- DtD Players Guide: Flowers Of Hell?: In editing and being art directed.
- V20: Ghouls: First drafts coming into to the developer for redlines.
- V20 Red List: In final draft stage.
- The Making of the Art of Children of the Revolution: Out to backers who pledged for it. Creating PoD files to go with PDF for sale on DTRPG.
- W20: The Umbra: First drafts being written.
- WtF: The Idigam Chronicle: First drafts being written.
- GtSE: Geist Ready Made Characters: Being written. Just thought we’d throw this in.
Reason to Drink: I need a drink after writing all of that….