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Fear's Sharp Little Needles is a collection of short one-night modern scenarios for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.
Fear's Sharp Little Needles is a collection of short one-night modern scenarios for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.
1,137 backers pledged £36,914 to help bring this project to life.

Let me say this about that (Aspirations)

Posted by Stygian Fox Publishing (Creator)

Jeff here. Let me talk a little bit about the concept of backer exclusives. I'm the one who's historically been a hardass about it, but for those who want to cut to the chase, if Steph and an overwhelming majority of backers are OK, I guess it's OK with me to sell it after a cooling off period. (Backers would still get it for nothing extra).

It's really hard to come up with enticements for people to back up front. Stygian Fox (which is mostly Steph in her flat with occasional kibitzing from me across the Atlantic and Si in another city) are really, really dependent on KS project funds to produce the books. There's no line of credit. The better the pledges, the more we can do with a book, and the cents per word the authors get ratchets up depending on funding. And since we just don't have the infrastructure to do anything but POD, we're pretty much limited to add on content. With Steph in Chester, me in Ohio, Badger in California, Dean in Australia, etc. these books wouldn't exist without email and

We've kicked it around in the past and we don't have any brilliant ideas as to how to convince people to pledge up front vs. wait-and-see, other than content bribery.

I read a review of TTWLB not too long ago that bemoaned the lack of an overarching campaign, connecting threads, templates to use to do pregens (particularly for Forget Me Not), etc. Funny thing is, we did do them. Only the backers got them, though, because we teased them off and made them a backer exclusive as a stab at getting people to back. 

When we went to do this book, we wanted to do the same thing for the same reason, and juice it up a little more. Aspirations, this time around, once again has the "campaign thread" (and that dratted Global News Service is involved), but it also has four more Needles (short scenarios) plus some other short pieces. They are a little more experimental, atmospheric or "out there" than most of the ones in the main book, and there's another 26K words in total. The Blackthorns, for example, is extremely "purist" and it's unlikely that a dice will be thrown in anger until the horror of the situation sinks in, and Adam's Granny's Tales is just plain gonzo.

I'd like to hear ideas about how to entice up front backing other than through the cruel use of backer exclusives, but so far it's the only idea we've had.

Here's the TOC for Aspirations:

All For A Good Cause, by Jeff Moeller – A Campaign Framework for Aspirations  

The Blackthorns (scenario), by Jeff Moeller  

Dead Mall (scenario), by Adam Gauntlett  

Bring Me Your Sick (scenario), by Jo Kreil  

Granny’s Tales (Mythos tome), by Adam Gauntlett  

The Treader of the Stars (Mythos creature), by Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass  

Urban Pentimento (setting), by Simon Yee  

The Bay of Nouadhibou (setting), by Adam Gauntlett.  

The Lumber Barons’ Ball (scenario), by Chitin Proctor and John Shimmin


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    1. Tun Kai Poh on

      Chiming in late to say I also prefer that you go with timed early access items...then make them available to the general public later on.

    2. Pandarian

      Wait a second...there’s an OFFICIAL CoC group on Facebook???

    3. Missing avatar

      Rob Dunne on

      Well here’s my two cents on the matter:
      To put it bluntly, you guys are a small independent company catering to a fairly niche market. I can completely understand how Kickstarter is your bread and butter when it comes to funding and ultimately putting food on your table. Obviously you would want to maximize the amount of people contributing to your projects through Kickstarter. However, I think that content permanently locked behind time-sensitive crowdsourcing platforms is ultimately unsustainable.

      Anecdotally speaking, I have never considered backer-exclusive content in the few pledges I’ve made on KS here. I back projects to show my support, meet stretch goals, get a small discount, and contribute to stretch goals. Once the window of crowdsourcing closes, you are now left with a product (of effectively infinite quantity) that you cannot sell. In the long run, this is both anti-consumer and anti-seller.

      I feel that Stygian Fox took the first steps in establishing their brand after TTWLB, as this showcased their sheer amount of talent, creativity, and quality that could be produced under said brand. However, you do not want the reputation of permanently locking portions of this high-quality product behind windows of exclusivity. Look at the negative feelings towards video game publishers who put content behind pre-order bonuses and you’ll see what I mean. This will greatly affect long-term sales both from a public opinion and product availability standpoint; I’m willing to throw my money at the TTWLB supplement, and I have no legal way to do this. Additionally, this severely impacts the long-term preservation of your art/product. Outside the handful of backers lucky enough to know about the Kickstarter and have the money on hand at the time, nobody else will ever get to experience that content.
      As a backer, I get a discount, first-access, and the supplement for free. That’s more than enough to make me happy. I feel that marketing your name and Kickstarter events is the most effective way to gain backers. However, I think that a timed exclusive window may be the best compromise if you’re looking to stay on that route. You may get the odd backer who gets angry that somebody else can enjoy the product that they got early for a nicely reduced price, but are those the types of customers you want representing your brand?

      Again, this is a single anecdote. I think you should look into sending out a survey to all backers of all StygFox projects to the official CoC group on Facebook (keeping both as separate data sets) and gauge response from that, with which I would be willing to volunteer my time to assist. In the end, it’s your business decision on which route to take, and I wish you the best regardless.

    4. Chris Halliday

      I don't back Kickstarters for exclusive content. It seems counter-intuitive to insist that you shouldn't make money from this. I'm perfectly happy to be getting it early as part of my pledge. Stygian Fox does such fantastic work, it'd be churlish to want to keep it to ourselves! �

    5. Missing avatar

      Xipuloxx on

      I agree with pretty much everyone here: I don't back KS projects for exclusive content. Getting it sooner and cheaper is enough for me. If there are small bonuses in the form of it looking nicer or other small add-ons that's nice, but not necessary.

    6. Mike Weber

      I agree with others here that compromising your vision and holding back content from normal sale because of KickStarter exclusivity is not useful. You may get a few more people to sign up or upgrade a pledge, but then you can't sell the fully developed product to make money to help pay for your next project, putting more pressure on your next KickStarter campaign to raise even more money so it can be successful and deliver a high quality product! I recommend KickStarter exclusives only be behind-the-scenes or access to early material (beta testing,) and maybe physical gifts like shirts (though I personally hate when my pledge level includes junk that I don't want but I'm reluctant to throw away,) or developer talks online or things like that. On DVD movies and video game KickStarters, sometimes even those behind-the-scenes materials become part of the final product and should not be backer exclusive either!

      I have often found a KickStarter just after a campaign ended, and I would want to buy the full final product with all the trimmings that were deemed necessary for full enjoyment of the product that backers paid for, (though I may be paying more since I missed the campaign!)

      I do like an idea mentioned by others of being able to get slightly reduced-cost versions or PDF-only versions of your previous adventures at higher tier levels, or perhaps you could do Add-Ons so we could KickStart your latest project, and Add-On PDF's of older adventures rather than have them be in the higher tiers. This would allow avid fans of your work to pick up your older content for a bargain, but then you also get more money right now to dedicate to this KickStarter campaign.

      Add Ons of your older content would be a preferable method to making cups and shirts or restricting yourself from being able to sell the full final product after the campaign is over! I really don't want you folks to feel you can't sell the content that you feel makes your product better because of a promise. Just don't promise backers that you'll never sell the content later. I hope this helps some.

      I love your products, so keep up the great work!

    7. Munchezuma

      I am firmly against exclusives. If material is good and makes the product better (or in some cases makes it "complete") then it should be available. Like many others, I don't have any problem with timed releases and such. I do feel the best suggestion, like others have made, is to figure out how SF would like to handle things, and communicate that to your community. I have seen numerous board game publishers move to models that de-emphasize stretch goals and eliminate backer exclusives, and it seems that their communities are just a strong, if not stronger, for it.

    8. Modoc on

      As a fan of Stygian Fox products, I like all the add-on content, but as others have said, I am not a fan of backer only exclusive content. I back your projects because I like the content you produce and want to support the company. Some ideas come to mind.

      1. Set a realistic delivery date and meet it
      2. Produce the highest quality content possible
      3. Have realistic stretch goals that do not jeopardize delivery dates
      4. Make extra content available to non-backers at a later date (more cash flow for you)
      5. Expand the POD options to take advantage of all the different formats DTRPF offers.

      I know you said POD is the only way to offering printed books at this time, but if other small publishers can offer off-set printed books it seems likely that it could be feasible for your company as well. Then again maybe not.

    9. Timothy Story on

      As a backer, rubbing exclusive content in the face of non-backers doesn't appeal to me. At all. And I think in your shoes, I would find it highly frustrating to have to deny some of your quality content to people who express interest in it.

      When I back a project, I expect to have it little earlier (or at the very least not later) than non-backers and maybe a little cheaper. I appreciate it when creators offer a good follow-up (which you guys always do). And I also care about that slight feeling of accomplishment, the idea that I have contributed to something interesting that might not have existed without the contribution of the community (that's true for human-sized kickstarters such as yours of course, not so much for those 300-miniatures monster campaigns).

    10. Phil Ward

      I think I've been in for all the Stygian fox KS's so far, and I have no problem with selling the extras later, it gives you better cash flow, andnits great content, I'd be pretty selfish if I wanted it kept exclusive.

      Do it, and keep producing more great books :)

    11. Reg Langford

      I back projects because I want the final product; while “exclusives” are nice, they are not strictly necessary. Personally, I’d rather see stretch goals that are available to anyone, later, as an optional extra (the backers get ‘em included, but anyone can buy them), or goals that increase the value of the product to everyone, equally. I just backed a project that offered 100 exclusive hardcovers, then decided to have another tier with regular hardcovers available. I didn’t back because I wanted an exclusive, but because I prefer hardcover books and that, at the time, was the only option.

      Anyway, that’s my 2 cents worth.

    12. Ralph Kelleners on

      I think quality content is what backers are after. And since TTWLB is universally praised, that should help get new backers interested in your other products. Having a good kickstarter track record is very helpful for most people as well. For me personally the content is key, so I will back anything Pagan releases even though their kickstarter track record isn't the greatest. But I know I will get a quality product once it's finished.

      Things you could use to entice people :
      - Online RPG sessions with the designer of a scenario seems to work well for other publishers
      - If you intend to include NPC portraits or characters sheets, have a backer level where backers can provide a picture and become that NPC. I've seen Golden Goblin and Cublicle 7 do that.
      - As Stephanie is known for amazing maps, why not create a backer level that offers a custom map of the backer's choosing (with some pre-defined stipulations of course)

      Other thoughts:
      - If you have the possibility of a service like backer kit, you could open the kickstarter for late backers/pre-orders. I see several board game publishers do that. That could bring in some cashflow from people that missed the kickstarter.
      - Another idea is to offer those kickstarter exclusives as an add-on on a different kickstarter. That way they would still be exclusive to kickstarter, just not to that specific kickstarter project. That being said I don't mind personally if that product is being sold afterwards. But in order to avoid a backlash from backers who are sometimes very protective of such exclusives, it should be made clear in advance that it's a exclusive now, but will be sold after x period of time.

    13. Adam Säl North on

      It's definitely a tricky one, and I sympathise.
      I don't really have an answer other than to say that you all do fantastic work, and if offering backer-exclusives is the best way to keep this running, thats what you should do.

    14. Missing avatar

      Simon Ding on

      I backed this after purchasing TTWLB through DTRPG, having seen the quality of the writing/production. I'm considering picking up BCMT in print from DTRPG soon based on that as well and I'm also in for Hudson and Brand. Stygian Fox seems to be producing quality work and that always wins IMHO! But I've seen so many Kickstarters struggle with 'exclusives' and 'nick nacks' causing delays and backer frustration, so I'd prefer if SF didn't go down that road! I have no issue with anything offered as part of a Kickstarter being generally available AFTER the backers have got it! In a strange way I consider backers to be contributors to a project (putting in money rather than time/work) and our rewards to be in the vein of contributor copies....
      I know that is an odd way to look at it though!!

    15. Christopher 'Bear' Adams

      I'll be honest, I was on the fence about backing this at the level I did because I wouldn't get the old overarching KS-exclusive content from TTWLB. Was tempted to ask if you'd consider including it back then (Other campaigns that include items from their older KS projects often do add in exclusives). I spent a couple of hours trying to track down a way to get it as that kind of content really makes a campaign for me and my group, even if it meant me paying extra or something. No luck though.
      So for this new one - Sell it with EVERYTHING! Along with everyone else, I agree you shouldn't penalise people for discovering your work later than others. If we get it before other people and with a little lower price thanks to KS then excellent, job done!

    16. Missing avatar

      Steve Rubin

      I have backed ~100 projects. I don't back FOR exclusives per se, but they can be enticing in some situations. Example: if I see a project that will have everything available POD with no exclusives, I might not risk my money on a first time creator, because there is no real reason to do so. So they can be alluring if done well.

      My advice is have a plan and stick with it. Options for enticements:
      1. 100% KS exclusive
      2. KS print exclusive, but pdf available later
      3. Exclusive for a period of time (a year?), then generally available
      4. Backers get things first (this should be the default for every project under the sun, but I've seen it fail to happen, which I find completely dishonorable - those are creators I will never back again). As you operate POD, this isn't very meaningful.
      5. Exclusive cover art / print quality / color art / bookmarks for the KS version
      6. @David Robinson's idea about linking projects has stuck in my head. Maybe something like the bonus item becomes a $10 addon... but is instead free for repeat backers.

      Any of those are fine. But please don't change the plan because some people feel they've missed out. People miss out on things in life all the time. While it may seem that appealing to the newcomers is better, it can be simultaneously insulting to the original backers, whose money has been held for months (or years for some poorly run KS...). What exactly are they getting for being an early believer? That can turn someone off your brand.

      But, I also agree with @Dominic Mooney about exclusive pdfs - no such thing. So for the types of exclusives that you've dealt with so far, it's a moot point to me.

    17. Ben Ferguson on

      Am all for you guys selling everything. I hate it when I miss out on content when I am late to the party.

      I back your work since it is excellent.

      Thus just getting your work earlier/ early bird small discount/ an A4 piece of art..... These could be offered..

      You are a new company but hopefully already you are building up a good reputation. That will help. I hope!

      Sell with our blessing it seems from earlier posts!

      Good luck


    18. Sam Heazlewood

      Basically echoing everyone's sentiment re: Kickstarter exclusive content. Happy to share the love with latecomers.

      Backer Enticement Stuff:

      1/ I've seen other KS have Early Bird prices which works fairly well. Even if it's only a £5 discount (or whatever), it might incentive the first 200 people to back stuff early.

      2/ Stretch Goals. I've yapped about this in a few Stygian Fox comments so apologies if it seems repetitive, but, I feel smaller, achievable SGs are a key to get early involvement. I read somewhere that you're trying to knock a Stretch Goal over every 2-3 days. The gaps between SGs shouldn't feel like gaping chasms and a £5,000 increase from one SG to the next will be daunting for new backers. A £1,000 - £1,500 gap between early Stretch Goals* should be the aim so the tourist types (those that back at the £1 mark) will get the constant updates and feel the urge to contribute more. It's a Pavlovian response that gets everyone salivating.

      3/ Add-On Items. Of course you'd want to avoid things like special dice or cards which is probably a realm of nightmare you don't want to deal with but if backers can buy previous Stygian Fox books for a slightly cheaper price, that might boost sales a bit. And you know that if they're a new backer who is interested in a "Book of Contemporary Magical People", odds are they'll be interested in "Things" and "Places" as well.

      *obviously, I understand that writers/artists need to get paid so we're not talking about a new scenario every £1,500. But, using "Book of Contemporary Magical Things" as an example, £1,500 might get the backers 5 extra Things perhaps.

    19. Pat Bellavance

      Besides great content... a solid track record. KS delays happen but I almost didn't back The Book of Contemporary Magical Places because I was still waiting on this one as well as the Book of Contemporary Magical Things. Fortunately, the PDF of BCMT was a fantastic motivator.

      Backer exclusives that happen to be additional content might have a negative impact to those who come to it after the campaign is over. I've been impressed with what I've got, but I may never bother going back to get TTWLB since there is no real way to get this content after the fact.

      If you give extra content for free to the Backers and sell other versions afterwards, I think that's perfectly fine. If you want to offer printed versions of these only for backers but allow PDF, that's fine too and might be an incentive. Likewise, as already mentioned, special print versions. This is harder to do with a POD setup but you do could alternative cover art only available for the campaign. Or maybe have an interior with slightly different design elements.

    20. Tom Van Hee

      I wouldn’t mind if you do the same for TTWLB.

      I was late to the whole Kickstarter thing and missed out on a lot apparently. I wouldn’t mind paying extra to get those materials.

    21. james burke

      FWIW-My observation is that if folks are willing to spend mad money for exclusives it's for leather bound or exclusive covers, or a chance at helping create characters, or prints or original art.
      A lot of successful project creators pre-plan and limit content for stretch goals before they launch a project it make sure it's cost effective when 'bonus content' are added.
      There's a couple that at launch only have about 2/3rds or 3/4ths of what they plan the content to be and then the book is complete when goals are achieved. Modiphius if doing this right now with their John Carter ks. The campaign book is clearly intended in the product line but it is only added when stretch goals are achieved.

      As for convincing folks to pledge-nothing is better than a good track record for on time delivery with complete fulfillment. I always look at backer comments from previous campaigns. I rarely back new creators(burned too many times). I also look at updates of previous campaigns to see how frequent and how honest previous kickstarters went.

      Maybe talk with Oscar Rios, Scott Taylor, Dan Hass, or Chris Modiphius for ideas on how to gain backers. Your structure reminds me of how Oscar does things. Scott and Dan run tight campaigns with a loyal following. And Chris is where you'd probably like things to go.

      As I said, fwiw.

    22. Neal Dalton

      I don’t know how to entice backers. KS exclusives have never been the deciding factor in backing a project for me. He’ll, I don’t think I knew I was getting something in addition to FSLN. And I think you are cutting off a source of income by not releasing it to the general public.

    23. Dominic Mooney

      It's also worth saying that all the Stygian Fox KS have been strong enough in concept to sell me on the core material; the only decision has been what level to back at. PDF for the reading for interest, through to hardcover for the likely to get some decent use on the table.

    24. Dominic Mooney

      It's probably worth saying that exclusive PDF content isn't. If someone wants it, then they'll find a way to get it anyway.

    25. Dominic Mooney

      I have no issue with the backer only material being sold at some point; I back kickstarters for the content, not the extras.

      Some thoughts;

      1) Be upfront and release the material later (I missed Coriolis when that Kickstarted, and was very glad when the stretch goals became generally available).

      2) Make the KS format unique in some way - Dungeon World did this by only having the hardback from the campaign, others by a different cover or things like ribbons in the print (and POD for the others).

      3) Collect the scenarios as a separate book and sell that later on; you'll probably get second payments from the KS backers for a hardcopy. Delta Green have just done this; I will get the scenarios in a book when it goes retail (only because Arc Dream's international shipping costs the same as the book) so they'll have more money from me.

      4) Maybe get the right to offer some of the art as limited prints? May be a limited scope, but you never know.

    26. Pandarian

      Again I seem to be in the minority...wait! What? I’m in the majority? Well then ...yes. By all means sell it at a later date... and hopefully keep good companies in the need to be punish someone who came late to the party and also deprive a good company that extra cash flow.

      As for what you can offer?

      I always liked the idea of including backers into the plot in some fashion...I think you already offer this but please continue and create more opportunities in your future projects. (Examples being names/photos...hand them off to your artist friends and let them incorporate into their art work)

    27. Rob Schultz on

      I think that everything in the book should be in the book. It seems harmful to your own business to create a 'less-than' experience for your future customers if the book is going to continue to be available.

    28. Missing avatar

      David Robinson

      The only reason I was not a backer for TTWLB is that I was unaware of Stygian Fox at that time. I remain interested in the backer exclusive from that Kickstarter for many reasons. I’ve since backed other Kickstarters and will continue to do so because the company has an excellent record. I understand not wanting to release exclusives into the wild. However, I was hoping that they might be released at some point as an add-on to a future Kickstarter. I’ve seen other companies do this to reward loyalty for continuously backing products from the same publisher.

    29. HPLustcraft

      Just a suggestion, since I think other Kickstarters have done this: Why not make it a timed exclusive and just say 'We'll sell the extras, just not until later'? Put it in the Kickstarter that backers will get the extra right away (and cheaper/free), but non-backers will ALSO get it...They'll just have to wait a few months and part with a few extra bucks.

    30. Lisa Padol

      As others have said, I don't back because of the exclusives and I'm not a fan of exclusives that are content. I'm fine with "backers get it first, and after a delay, others can get it", but I'm also fine with "everyone can get it once it exists".

      I have no idea how many folks back specifically for the exclusives. Other strategies? I've seen this:

      I don't know how that will work out or if it's an option for Stygian Fox.

    31. Missing avatar

      Michael Boothroyd on

      I’m all for releasing it later. I see nothing wrong with that and the people who helped back still get everything they want.

    32. Michael Beck

      I'm not a big fan of backer exclusives. I like the "get it first" approach, but then feel others should benefit from the hard work and great creativity of the creators. Also, sometimes I can only afford the lower tier, but a year later, have some funds to purchase the "missed" items but I'm out of luck if it was an exclusive. Not fun.

      If it's a custom token, dice perk or such bling, fine. Never interested in add on knick knacks. I'm all about the rich content and solid product that Stygian Fox produces and that outstanding product needs to be shared with the world, after I get mine of course! ;-p

    33. Missing avatar

      Daniel Flood

      Exclusive backer content punishes those that missed it on kickstarter, would have backed it on kickstarter and want to be in love with the product after the fact. I'm all for release.

    34. Senator Meow on

      I was late to the Stygian Fox party, and so I've always wondered about that TTWLB backer exclusive...

      It is a great motivator, and it is a great stretch goal, but I personally would be fine with a delayed release for newcomers just jumping aboard.

      Of course, I'm also fine the other way, now that I'm here.

      ...but I wouldn't mind taking a peek at The Grand Plan, and I wouldn't mind other folks taking a gander at Aspirations.

      hint hint

    35. Jeffrey Erwin

      I don't like exclusive material unless it's non-essential or small. Example: art, cards, a handout, designer's notes, fancy editions. Not good: scenarios and setting material that will be inaccessible or pirated. Kickstarter tends to reward those with excess cash and having been a desperately poor gamer, it's always troubled me that money = superior access in our hobby in a way that ends up being gatekeeping by class. I never cared then about the fancy editions and paraphernalia that rich friends could throw their income at, but simply losing the opportunity to play something at all was a downer.

    36. Alfredo Amatriain on

      I'm in the same boat as Will. I didn't back the book for exclusive backer content and I won't mind if you sell it later to non-backers. I'm happy getting the book faster with a good price, and of course making sure it exists in the first place. Do what you must to stay profitable.

      Side note: I don't generally like backer-only content. For example, I wasn't aware TTWLB had an overarching campaign that only backers got. That sounds very interesting, but there's no way I could get it because I wasn't aware of your work during the kickstarter. Maybe it's just me but it feels like if I buy the book now I'll get only part of the actual product. I don't know how much keeping some content exclusive to backers helps to convince people to join the crowdfunding, but I suspect it does hurt later sales.

    37. Ben Turner

      Very happy for "backer exclusives" to get sold in the future.

      Heck, I don't care as much for the exclusive aspect - but if for my $30 pledge, I'm getting a book AND a few addons that will cost more in the future, then I'm saving money, as I want all the things !

      That said, FOMO does work, and exclusives drive FOMO. It's tough. Honestly, I've got too much CoC stuff on my shelf, and really shouldn't be backing ANYTHING right now, until I've played more of it. Kickstarter is making me (and many others, I feel) overspend on our hobby, all through FOMO.

      So it's a touch subject. But one thing is for sure - "limited edition exclusives" are nasty things - I'd like to see everything available to everyone at a fair price.

    38. Wil Hall on

      Personally, I would back your projects for nothing more the early-bird discount. I think you have a positive track record so I wouldn't hesitate due to worry that the project would fall through, and the production quality has exceeded my expectations. I have friends who feel similarly.