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James Ward, Lenard Lakofka, Johnn Four and many more share some of their pro tips on how to create your first fantasy RPG adventure!
112 backers pledged $4,505 to help bring this project to life.

11-6-2018-JOHNN FOURR

Posted by Matthew A. Bogdan (Creator)
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11-6-2018-JOHNN FOURR

Wow, I just got the massive piece written by Johnn Fourr for this book! I must say that what he has provided is labeled as a great reference for creating your own Kickstarter projects, but as per his two sentence comment, he was right in that this piece will really help others in other ways as well.

As a rule, I never show ENTIRE sections of writing, for obvious reasons. What I can do is share the 1. OUTLINE or table of contents Johnn has based this piece on, as well as 2. Just a PORTION of his writing. I am going to share some content, not at the beginning or end, but in the middle. I want this to intrigue you as much as it did me.

I have always been pretty open about things, and I will say this: I wish I had half of this knowledge before launching any of my KS projects. I will be the first to admit that I had a lot to learn, and have made an honest mistake or two, but I am finding out that EVERYONE makes mistakes on these things. We are sincerely (at least not the people I know) not doing this on purpose to hurt you or ourselves. Like I said, honest mistakes that we all learn from. When this piece is published, I recommend that you read this article 2 or 3 times, as there is so much to it. I am also using it as a model for other contributors so that there is no duplicate content.

Johnn is the first established pro I met in this RPG field, and it did not take a Sherlock Holmes to discern why I instantly gravitated towards his work. It simply speaks for itself. Johnn is an incredibly honest and humble fellow, and with a great sense of humor. Plus, he is Canadian, and Canadians are pretty cool! I have learned (only the good things!) a LOT of things from him. If anything I do falls short, blame me!

Okay, so without further delay, and as I mentioned, I am now going to share just a portion of this excellent article, and it goes without saying that I am VERY pleased with this. It is a sincere pleasure to have crossed paths with this amazing teacher. As I have said before, I will say it again. If you subscribe to any of his newsletters, you will find it very difficult, and sometimes downright impossible to delete some of his content-packed material. It is that good. You cannot stop him, hell, you can’t even hope to contain him! VIVA LA CANADAAAAAA!!!!!!

Okay, here is the EXCERPT of the several thousand word piece he provided for this book. And remember to sign up to his newsletter here. You will be glad you did! https://www.roleplayingtips.com/blog/

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Types of Adventure Business Models One-Off Small Project You plan a short standalone adventure such as a level 5-7 D&D romp, that spans 30-60ish pages.

This model is perfect for dipping your toe into Kickstarter and adventure writing. Kickstarter rewards success. You earn trust after delivering a successful project that attracts more backers, for example.

You also get to keep your project scope small so you don't bite off too much. Deliver a small adventure first so you work through the entire process from sunrise to sunset before you tackle something bigger and riskier.

Finally, you keep your Kickstarter blackout period and production period as short as possible. You can only deliver one Kickstarter project as a time. And you should focus on delivering one project at a time to the market so you can focus on it and make it the best adventure possible.

Once you thrill backers with a small project done well and on time, you'll earn their trust and backing for future projects. This snowballs over time as each project brings more new backers while attracting the loyal previous backers who can't wait for more of your stuff.

One-Off Mega Project Big adventures, megadungeons, and standard adventures with lots of bling tend to break through the noise and garner more attention. Therefore, they attract more backers and funding.

Mega projects can be mega successes for you, or mega failures. We've all heard of the various projects that turned out to be vaporware due to bad decisions. Either the project creator miscalculated the funding required to create and ship their product (physical products and stretch goals get expensive fast), or they became overwhelmed by the scope of their promises, or the lost interest (big projects are a grind that require a lot of discipline to get through cloudy days).

However, we've also seen the amazing mega adventure projects that delivered six figures to their creators. Who wouldn't want their awesome adventure idea to pay off their student loans or mortgage?

Yes indeed, the stakes are much higher with this adventure model. Treat carefully.

Series Project This is my favorite model. It's turtle beats hare strategy. Through a series of modest projects, you build a brand that backers trust. You hone your craft. And you build up an amazing product catalog that attracts new backers and non-Kickstarter buyers for years to come if you wish.

You can make your series short, such as a trilogy of linked adventure Kickstarters. You can also build a series of standalone adventures tied to a single setting or game system.

But my favorite follows the successful formula of the old serial radio shows from early last century. You create a series of linked at least three adventures, and ideally more. Simple short adventures you can line up consecutive Kickstarters for.

Think of it like collectibles meets grand storytelling. Backers will want to follow the whole series to complete their collection and find out how your thrilling story ends.

You earn the snowball effect this way, and can perfect your creation and delivery systems with each small project.

For example, you might create a 20-part series where each adventure advances characters one level over the course of an epic plot arc. Or you create a seven-part series, one part for each quest to assemble a magic item. Maybe your series takes PCs from mortals to ascended gods. Perhaps your series tells the tale of how vagabond characters on an almost space-worthy ship become heroes of the galaxy with the most advanced vessel in the system.

Let's assume you plan more than one adventure and Kickstarter project. Imagine yourself five years from now. What do you want your career or business to look like? Did you grow from a humble initial project into a masterful adventure builder? Or perhaps you delivered a single famous mega project that took years of care and attention. Or maybe somewhere in between.

Give some thought to beyond the next project and plan accordingly.

What Are You Funding? Be clear before project creation what your goals are. While Kickstarter advises you treat its service like a research & development tool, many project creators meet their goals with consecutive profitable projects.

With Demonplague, I set a modest goal of $1500 so I could cover basic art and layout costs. I wanted the project to help me bring a level of polish to my beloved adventure without risking my personal finances. Profit was not a motive.

I'd put Kickstart creator goals into three buckets: • Minimum viable product to test sales • Bring a polished product to market • Earn enough profit to accomplish another goal

MVP Your greatest risks are time and money. Losing money on a project hurts, and it might make you give up your dream. And spending a whole bunch of time on something that fails to sell not only feels terrible, but it means you wasted time you could have spent on something else more rewarding.

With Kickstarter, you only need to bring your idea to the world. If it resonates and attracts backers, you proceed with confidence garnered from funding and feedback.

Published Product Many of us dream of seeing our work in the hands of gamers. Presentation and perception is 80% of the battle. If something has the scent of quality, it will attract attention and interest. However, if your cover and design feel like a third grader's project, you will repel many gamers who would otherwise enjoy your great content and ideas.

Use Kickstarter like I did to hire professionals at fair rates to transform your adventure into something shiny and glorious. It's amazing how professional editing, layout, and art can make your adventure incredibly attractive to gamers.

Income You might want to raise funds for a personal goal, leveraging your talent at writing adventures and the Kickstarter platform as a kind of storefront.

This is the riskiest approach because your project will therefore require a higher funding amount than MVP or polish goals.

Two factors hamper this goal. First, a higher funding amount scares away some backers. They feel your project won't fund and it's not worth them risking pinning their funds on it. Second, a project that funds in the first few days gains a momentum that attracts backers you wouldn't otherwise have had. Success multiplies when projects fund fast and start unlocking stretch goals.

To mitigate these issues, I recommend setting a modest goal for your project that at least covers your costs and then gives you a 10% profit margin. If you only make your minimum goal at Kickstarter end, at least you've made a little money and learned a few lessons. And then you focus on making a good marketing plan coupled with carefully crafted stretch goals to hopefully increase profits during (and after) project run.

I feel it's important to be honest with yourself about your motives here. If you have clarity on what you are trying to achieve with your Kickstarter, you can structure it so it has the greatest chance of achieving your aim.

Build Your Reach For The Demonplague, most backers came from an audience that already had come to know, like, and trust me.

Look at the top sources of backers for my project:

Notice the power curve. Most backers came from direct + search + Twitter + Facebook.

I run an email newsletter for game masters. James runs a podcast. Links in those newsletters and on the podcast contributed to most of the backers. And then building up a Twitter and Facebook audience created project awareness that resulted in direct backing or branded searches that resulted in backing.

Also notice Kickstarter rewards for our project funding early and trending well: the Advance Discovery, Internal, and Tabletop Games (Discover) avenues brought us even more backers.

Finally, relationships James and I built in various communities and with folks in the industry helped create a long-tail of traffic and a steady stream of backers.

Well before your Kickstarter, please start building an audience. You have many options these days, and the barrier to getting your voice out there is the lowest ever from a technical perspective (though it's the highest ever from a noise perspective).

First, figure out what your Tick-super power is. Hopefully, it's not having a chair for a head or rubbing your feet together on carpet to zap yourself. Instead, learn whether your mojo comes from writing, conversing, creating videos, drawing, being around other people, and so on.

Experiment. And once you know if your jam is Twitch, tweeting, or talking, writing, wit, or Reddit, double-down on that and keep at it. Your audience will grow over time if you consistently put yourself out there.

I see many folks trying to do too much. They try to blog, email, and maintain several social channels. Without a team, that's a recipe for burnout. Those who focus do well.

Think about the numbers for a moment. (And they reveal the good news that you don't need a large audience to fund a Kickstarter). Your main KPI is backer count. More backers spread amongst your tiers means more funding. More tiers don't mean more funding. And higher prices in tiers don't mean more funding. Only backer count truly matters.

Start with your funding goal and your default middle backing tier price.

Let's say your goal is $1500. And your middle tier is $20. That means you need just 75 backers to meet your goal! You don't need an audience of thousands to reach this goal. If you had an engaged audience of fans, you could fun with an audience of 150.

And if you look at all the possible channels and platforms, there are thousands and millions on each. And you just need 75 of them to fund. Can you get 150 engaged followers on Twitter? Or earn 150 fans be being active and helpful on a forum? Or build an email subscriber base of 150?

Figure out how you enjoy creating and communicating most, pick your channel of choice, and then dive in. Give it awhile to work as you get better at communicating, delivering value, and learning the channel's features.

Start doing this now, well before you need any backers. Start delivering value to gamers now and building a following.

Plan Stretch Goals A big lesson we learned was to plan stretch goals in advance. We got caught off-guard by funding early with haphazard stretch goals figured out. So, we scrambled to create and publish a couple of stretch goals. Then those stretch goals unlocked and we were scrambling again.

That ended up in a dynamic that left us with 8 stretch goals we had to deliver by Kickstarter end. First, that meant big and unexpected scope creep. Risks of delivery suddenly increased without a plan on how we'd meet these hasty promises. Second, we set stretch goals too close together. For only small, incremental increases in the funding goal we were on the hook for more and more work post-funding.

And from data and conversation after the project, James and I concurred that the stretch goals didn't have a major effect on backer shares and word of mouth. We ended up giving ourselves a lot more work with low return on our time investment.

Next time, I will carefully plan my stretch goals. First, I will network with other project creators on types of stretch goals that generated the most buzz. The whole idea of a stretch goal is to get backers excited and telling others back the project so the stretch goals unlock. You rarely get backer tier upgrades from stretch goals— you'll get 90% of your funding bumps via stretch goal incentives from new backers brought in by existing backers.

So, do your research to find out what kind of stretch goals generated the most incentive for other projects for backers to spread the word.

The second reason to plan stretch goals is to properly cost them out. How much time and money will they cost? For example, our bonus PDFs cost us for editing, cover art, and layout. So, you want to plan noteworthy, valuable stretch goals that will bring more than their cost in funding increase, else they erode your margin.

The good news is James and I created digital-only stretch goals. I feel we broke even on them, in that their costs to add to the project were offset by the social mentions (on Twitter, mostly) that brought in new backers. The small goal increases needed to unlock each stretch goal also meant we had less budget to work with to break even. If any of the stretch goals had involved physical goods, such as dice, cards, props, and so on, we would have been in a loss position.

Plan your stretch goals carefully, in advance, even if you do not believe they will get unlocked to avoid shooting your future-self in the dice bag.

Create Your Offer You want to create your initial offering (before any stretch goals are unlocked) to be as value-packed and appealing as possible to garner those early backers so you get funded fast.

Some people mistakenly believe that perfect graphics and tricksy writing will manipulate backers into choosing to support your project. I am firmly against this and do not believe you will build backer trust and loyalty this way.

Instead, keep your offer simple and pack it with value. A clear, good offer of what backers will get will do 80% of the heavy lifting for you. Cheap sales tactics will just erode that number.

A wonderful adventure offering does not mean you must promise the world. Let's take a small, standalone adventure as an example. 32 pages, say.

First, give your adventure an interesting angle. We don't need another generic low-level adventure. Check out a lot of adventures. Keep a running list of ideas that excite you. Combo RPG ideas with cool things you notice in real life. An interesting adventure premise will capture backer interest and keep them on your Kickstarter page reading more.

Second, come up with an evocative name. Use your adventure's name in the title of your Kickstarter. While this seems simple, it's powerful because the title gets display everywhere. It displays when you and others share your Kickstarter link on social. It displays when Google picks it up. It displays on Kickstarter Discovery. And it’s used when you talk about your project.

Third, consider writing bonus sections. This just costs you time and it's something you love to do anyway. Create custom NPCs, monsters, and treasure. For Demonplague, we put all these into Appendices at the end, and we could brag about how many new monsters and other adventure elements game masters would get with the product sure to excite players who think they've seen everything.

Fourth, look at simple version upgrades. We created a single column PDF version designed for easy tablet and phone reading. Scrolling sideways or up and down to read two-column layouts sucks on digital screens. And we got a lot of great feedback on this idea. All it cost was a little extra time by our layout pro, Craig Judd of Powerframe Games [https://powerframe-rpg.weebly.com/]. The content was the same.

Fifth, visuals have huge impact. While we used maps from Dyson Logos [https://dysonlogos.blog/maps/commercial-maps/] we digitally remastered them to suit the adventure logic and give them most detail. We could flash maps on our Kickstarter page and in project updates for instant oohs and ahhhs.

Likewise, any interior illustrations you can get created ahead of time and then brandish for effect will instantly increase the perceived value of your adventure.

Last, create your cover ahead of time. This graphic, more than any other, cemented the idea of what we were creating and the polish and value of our project. You can use your cover for product description and in your marketing to catch gamer interest and clicks.

Stack as much value into your project as possible from the outset so you attract early backers fast. You don't have to spend out of pocket for a lot of feature and bonus types. Look at many successful Kickstarter projects for ideas.

Offer Something Immediately After Funding Another things James and I did was promise something tangible for immediately delivery after funding.

When potential backers see delivery dates far into the future you lose that action instant gratification causes. If backers don't have to wait 18 months to get something they'll be more interested and more likely to trust you'll deliver it all, eventually.

We often share a draft of the adventure. It was quick and simple to set up. We already had the adventure written. I wanted my first Kickstarter project to fund successfully so my future Kickstarters could accurately claim I kept my promises and delivered everything I said I would. Trust is a huge deal, and I asked what I could do to build it.

One answer was having the adventure's first-draft already complete. This reduced risk in backer's minds. I could truthfully say the product was almost completed, and that set backer's minds at ease that I would deliver.

And so, we launched with a completed draft in hand. And we put the draft up online using Google Docs, a free service. I emailed backers a link to the doc after project funds had cleared and were in my bank account. This allowed me to give backers something tangible right away. As a bonus, we got feedback after the project that helped improve the quality of the adventure before we produced the final version!

MUCH MORE TO THIS ARTICLE - You can see when this reaches completion.

JOHNN’S VERY SUCCESSFUL DEMONPLAGUE CAMPAIGN
JOHNN’S VERY SUCCESSFUL DEMONPLAGUE CAMPAIGN
KS DASHBOARD STATS
KS DASHBOARD STATS
Vesala, Jonas Schiött, and 3 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Matthew A. Bogdan 6-time creator on

      Thanks, Jack. Glad you like it. John is a very thoughtful designer and he really doesn’t miss anything. I honestly did not think of this, but your comment gave me an idea. Simple but effective: To include this TOC and outline in the table of contents but to also have a single, 8.5” x 11” page that is a CHECKLIST for people to view and a Digital version that could be in a separate jpg that people can pop up on their desktop! Thanks for the comment and IDEA! Have a magnificent day! Matt.

    2. Jack Noron
      Superbacker
      on

      That's the amazing part I like! Great summary of thing what to not forget and how to keep yourself dedicated to your ideas. It is really inspiring me to get to my writing once again. And I am thankful for that a lot!

    3. Matthew A. Bogdan 6-time creator on

      I do not blame you one bit, and thank you, Vesala, we are going to try our very best to make this as good as possible! I am learning lots of things myself! I appreciate your encouraging input and feedback. It makes me happy! Thank you again, and I will be back as soon as I can with more cool stuff. : )

    4. Vesala
      Superbacker
      on

      I expected a lot from this contribution and now I know I won't be disappointed. Looking forward to the complete piece!