Friday 8 October 2021


This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

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Last week I teased at my thoughts around why the Into the Odd Remastered Kickstarter has been so successful (so far). 

It's really something I should hold off on until I have more data, but with these things you never quite get a full picture, so why not just throw out unfounded theories instead?

As much as I might imagine that this is down to masterful game design and evocative writing, my gut feelings around Kickstarter point in five other directions. Take them all with a pinch of salt, but I'll at least try to think of lessons that we might take away for future crowdfunding projects. I can think of at least one exception to every one of these rules, so keep that in mind.

Warning, some of these words are made up to fit the timbre of the list. I also had to work quite hard to avoid the headings spelling out FART.

Allurity: This is really where it all started. Into the Odd had a beauty of its own in its first form, but it was a book-next-door appeal that doesn't grab eyeballs in the same way as this turquoise-magenta-tangerine cover, the psychedelic collages within, and even the ultra-crisp layout of the text itself. Learning what work to do myself and what to outsource is an ongoing process for me, but I'm extremely happy that I got Johan on board for the visuals of this book. Of course the text matters, but without that visual magnetism a lot of people won't get around to reading it. It doesn't need to be lush, full-colour, hardback decadence, but it should be something that can't be ignored.

Lesson 1: Whatever look you go for, make sure you have a look that won't be ignored.

Familiarity: This is the boring one, and the reason why we see so many films based on existing properties featuring recognisable actors. Even though Into the Odd is far from the most recognisable RPG, I suspect a good number of people have at least heard its name at some point in the past seven years. I could even dare to say that my name might have picked up a small amount of recognition at this point. This isn't the same as saying these things have a gold-standard reputation as marks of quality, but there's power in simply seeing a thing that you recognise by name. Add in Johan and Free League and you've got a much greater number of people that are looking at this project with at least some point of reference. Perhaps it adds just a small chance to grab their attention, but all these small factors add up.

Lesson 2: Keep making things and talking about them long enough that somebody might look at your new thing and think "oh, right, that thing".

Transparency: I try to live by this ideal in all of my work, but Kickstarters are often shrouded in a fog of mystery. Vague details and lofty promises have led to many a disappointed customer. I knew that I wanted to have a full readthrough video live before the KS launch, so I can show people exactly what they're getting, page by page. You get what you see, no mystery boxes here. 

Lesson 3: Give potential backers all the information you have to ensure their expectations will be met. 

Rapidity: Part of this comes from having the luxury of being able to almost finish this project before the Kickstarter was even announced, though bear in mind that most of the actual writing for this book was done like eight-to-ten years ago around full time work. That's all behind the scenes nonsense that backers don't care about, because all that really matters is I announced the Kickstarter three weeks before launch, you'll get your preview pdfs as soon as it finishes, and your physical books a few months later. I'd still like it to be quicker, but for a Kickstarter RPG at this scale that's a pretty rapid turn around. Anecdotal evidence, but I can't count the number of Kickstarters that I've almost backed only to see the reward is due a year later, then bailed out.

Lesson 4: Get as much done as you can before you even announce your project.

Rarity: This one is totally unfounded, and almost works against my Familiarity theory, but I think it helps that I'm not somebody that releases paid products every couple of months. I admire those writers that can make a dozen zines a year, but my style seems to have drifted towards "a load of free nonsense then a big proper book every few years". Anybody that enjoys my books probably knows that this is going to be the book for a good while, so they might be more inclined to jump aboard rather than skipping out. 

Lesson 5: Make your releases feel like a significant event. 

So there we go. I'll throw out one last round of pinches-of-salt and leave those theories with you. 

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