Great podcast guys. I really enjoyed it. Although after you got done I still dont know if I am a dedicated or a serious RPG’er.
I wanted to touch quickly on the part of your podcast dealing with the post from Chris Spivey about his Harlem Unbound RPG and how to make it as an independent.
Now first, I listened to your podcast last night on the drive home so I didnt have the chance to make notes and I have not reviewed the session since then to get all my facts straight so please forgive me if I repeat something you said or if I get some details wrong.
I am coming at this from an obviously outsiders prospective. I have never written an RPG and have only played D&D and Pathfinder (I did some Traveller and Top Secret back in the mid-80’s but just a few sessions of each so I dont count that). Having said that here is what I see.
It seems that many ‘independents’ want to have the success of the big boys, but they are really running a hobby business. At least that looks to be they way they treating it. True, you can run a ‘successful’ Kickstarter but it seems that most of the time I hear that the Kickstarters really dont make money but rather cover expenses and provide exposure for the product.
If you want the success of the big boys then you have to be willing to invest like the big boys. Simple truth is that it takes money to make money.
One issue I have specifically with Chris’ work as it was presented in your podcast is answering the question of what problem is he solving or what need is he meeting with this project? I have not reviewed the sourcebook so I dont know the answers here, but what ‘new’ thing is he bringing to the RPG industry? Does he offer new rules unused anywhere else? That to me really is one of the few differentiators for the industry. If you are using rules or game mechanics found in other ‘sourcebooks’ then how is yours really different?
Does he feel he is targeting an underrepresented demographic? Ok, but are there enough people in that demographic that want to play that way or that game to provide the success he seems to want to achieve? If his thought is that he is targeting all RPG players, then he will waste a lot of money and effort because I am an RPG’er and I am not his target market at all. If there arent elves and dwarves and castles and swords and magic then I am not interested. I might venture out a bit but horror (I thought I heard you say this was a horror game) and real life, modern day settings dont appeal to me. And I am sure that there are others who feel similarly, perhaps not what I like but not interested in deviating from what THEY like.
Now if it were me trying to promote this sourcebook here are a few things I would do.
First, I would be attending at least one convention every month and running as many games of this as I could. I would be promoting my games on all the convention appropriate social media as well as my own. And if people didnt sign up, I would still go and try to round people up in the halls to play. Yup, Covid stopped in person conventions but many tried something virtual and you have to take advantage where you can.
I would even have hard bound copies at the conventions that I could give out to people for free. Not hundreds. Just 10 or so, autographed versions, given to those who take time to play a game or who show genuine interest.
He might even need to consider getting a vendor booth at the conventions to demonstrate his game and collect emails from interested folks who he can then market too. I know, everyone hates to be marketed to. But do you want to build a successful business or do want to have a hobby? Successful business collect information on those who are interested in their products so they can stay in touch and market to them.
Next, you mentioned that he had done some live play streaming. My question here is, was it just him and some friends playing? He needs to go out and get some RPG influencers to join him for a multi session streaming live play. And preferably he needs to have more than one game going at a time with multiple influencers. And the sooner he can have an RPG personality run a game with his material the better.
And then there is pricing. What is he charging and what can he breakout and what can he add later? The big boys have the core books - plural. What is he offering here? What can he do differently? Many people achieve success in business by looking at what the industry norms are and then breaking as many of them as possible.
And dont get me started on the number of people who go into business thinking they have what everyone wants only to discover that no one wants what they have. It just happens. No rhyme or reason.
I dont know Chris nor am I familiar with his work or efforts to promote his work. I wish him nothing but the best and this is in no way meant to be a critique of him or his efforts. Just me sharing my industry outsider thoughts about the subject of success for independent writers/designers.
Keep up the great work guys. As for me, I am going to try and start playing my games at a higher level.