I wrote another blog post about this question, but I never actually answered it. What is next? I talk a lot about projects. So far, even just in the first few months of this Patreon, you've seen a number of pitches and ideas on this blog regarding what I'm working on. Maybe you saw a game pop up onto one of my slate posts, only to see it promptly disappear, or read a full game announcement only to not hear a single thing about it since then. So, what's actually next?!
I kind of solidly know the answer to that question at this point. However, I should preface it with the likely obvious disclaimer that this is subject to change. I have new ideas popping into my head every week. Some that are incredibly exciting, some that are high value ideas. The list changes. The list warps and dances around. That being said, as I'm settling more and more into a good understanding of the kinds of projects I should be focused on, I am happy to give you amazing patrons an insider look at the big stuff I'm working on at the moment, and what's actually coming down the pipeline.
For the sake of ease, let's break this into a couple categories.
As I do not have a strong presence in any retailer, or online store (other than my own), I intend to try and make gaming conventions a thing I do more and more of as I get my footing in the game design community.
Absolutely Going To Happen: Insofar as cons that I'll never miss, I will continue to have a strong presence at CaptainCon, InterCon, TempleCon, and PAX East for the foreseeable future. CaptainCon and TempleCon are all extremely local small gaming conventions that I love setting up a booth for. InterCon is a chamber LARP convention that is also very local. As I am looking to not just put out tabletop games, but also some live action game experiences (as you'll see more about below), this is a convention I'll be attending both as a player and as a GM. Finally, I have been fortunate enough to find safe harbor with the Indie Bazaar at PAX East and so long as I am welcome there, I don't imagine ever leaving.
New Conventions: Over the next couple of months, I have some new cons I will be attending. These include Boston FIG and METATOPIA. While I would like to say I'll have a presence at Boston FIG every year, it's a curated convention and booths are only available for games that have passed through the multi-tiered submission process. I will keep submitting games, but it's up to Boston FIG if I'll be able to keep coming back! I have high hopes for METATOPIA, but I have never attended the convention previously. This seems like an absolutely fantastic way to playtest upcoming games, but as I have not actually gone to the convention before I shouldn't count my chickens first and say that I'll be definitely returning. It's currently the only convention that I need to purchase a hotel room for, so it's expensive in a way that no other conventions currently are for me. Assuming all goes well however, and it's as valuable an experience as I'm expecting, METATOPIA will likely be an every-year event for me.
What's Next: For really any convention not listed above, I don't see it currently being in the cards to attend. This is for several reasons, but the primary ones are financial, and the difficulty of taking a weekend away from my responsibilities at home. This comes with two notable exceptions: being invited, or GenCon.
I am very new when it comes to game design. A lot of my nominations over the past year have been met with a resounding "Stephen Who?" "Ten What?" and so on. I don't expect to be invited as an industry Professional to any cons anytime soon. However, I know this is a thing that can happen down the road and if a convention extended an invitation to feature me or one of my games as part of their convention, especially if that provided some financial assistance (such as a complimentary booth), I would make the best effort i could to be there. GenCon is the other exception here. I really really really want to go to GenCon. I don't quite know yet how I will be able to make this happen, or what strings I need to pull, but it's something that I will be really trying to get to over the next couple of years. Maybe even next year. Who knows. I have toyed with the idea of setting one of my Patreon milestones to be my GenCon fund, but that would be a long ways away. Lots to do before we can get there.
I have always had a problem wrapping my head around Patreon because it's simply too good of an idea.
I was confident that my Kickstarter for Ten Candles would fund, and while every pledge was delightful and exciting, none of them (with a few exceptions) were surprising. It's so easy to hand someone a twenty dollar bill and pre-order a product. It's hardly new. However, every single time I see that I have a new Patreon backer my heart nearly jumps out of my chest. It's so much more... personal. It's such a direct connection between creator and supporter. It's not paying for an idea or a product, but investing in a person who you honestly believe needs to keep making things. While I, of course, want every product I make to be as amazing as possible, I really want my Patreon to be something that you are proud and excited to be a part of for just this reason. I want you to shout out to social media "you have to back Stephen on Patreon! He's doing some really cool stuff on there!" and really truly mean it. You are taking a risk on me. There is a very real possibility that some months you may get nothing good out of me. It might be months before you get a game, or years, but you are taking a risk because you like what I'm making and want more to come of it. That's fucking awesome.
Your money helps. It helps a lot. But your support helps so much more. Knowing that I have my patrons behind me pushes me forward every day to work a little harder and write a little more. While Kickstarter may build an audience, but Patreon builds a community.
Okay, gushing out of the way, there are a couple pillars of this Patreon which have become the foundation for my presence on the site. In my drive to make this Patreon a truly worthy experience and expense for you, these central virtues to how I'm running the Patreon are very important to me. To get an idea for what's coming next with Patreon, it's probably a good idea to hash these out:
- All of the Patreon funds go towards helping me make games. I am very fortunate to have a full-time day job currently. That paycheck, helps pay for my share of the bills, mortgage, loans, dogs, groceries, and so on. What I don't have however, is much in the way of funds on top of this. While I can cover what we shall call "real life expenses", my budget leaves me with virtually no additional money that can be invested towards making games. The money I make off of selling games fluctuates wildly, but on average cannot even foot the bill on some of the most basic things I need. So, that's what the Patreon money goes towards. Anything and everything that supports me being a game designer. If you want a breakdown, feel free to skim through my milestones on Patreon! But in summary this is anything from the software applications I need for game design, hardware upgrades (getting the right tools for the job can make a big difference), marketing to expand the community around my games, and simply paying for the basic expenses of running an independent business.
- Lack of funds does not mean a lack of games. I can make games without this Patreon. I not only can, but I will. However, without the support of the Patreon was does get affected is the timeframe. I am committed as a designer and publisher to only put out top notch products. Not just the content, but the physical components as well. I want games that look amazing, feel amazing, and are amazing. I will never sacrifice that, it's the standard I have set for myself. That being said, think of it like sculpting a statue out of marble. If I as the sculptor have a certain standard to which I set myself, that's great! You'll know that anything I create and put out into the world will be up to that standard. However, if the sculptor is trying to make the statue by using some rocks they picked up, rather than a proper hammer and chisel, it's going to take a lot longer to get perfect. And even then, even once it's at that standard, regardless of how long it took - it maybe could have been even better if the sculptor had some help. A lot of what this Patreon is supporting are the tools I need to make games. With the right tools and support, games get made faster, and hey, probably a bit better if we're being honest. The money I get here goes directly towards those tools, whether it's proper software or hardware, the framework of an actual business, or building out the community so that more supporters can join the ranks. Ten Candles took four and a half years from the first draft to when books were being sent out because with the tools I had to work with, that was how much time it took to make a product of that quality. Patreon helps that not happen again, because I'll have the right tools for the job.
- This is a community based around financial support. Transparency is key. There are two main parts of this. The first is that I recognize that you are investing financially. I want to make sure that you are getting your money's worth. I made this campaign a per/month rather than per/post Patreon because I knew that I wanted to push out a ton of content to you on a regular basis. I've tried to get at least 3-5 posts on this blog monthly, if not more, so charging per post wouldn't have worked because I post way too much! If you ever feel like you are not getting your money's worth, please reach out to me. Let me know. Tell me what you'd like to see more of. I want to give you the best experience possible. The second part of this is transparency. Every six months I will be sending out a full breakdown of all Patreon expenditures. Even though the milestones lay this out a bit already, I want to throw this summary out there every six months so you know exactly where you're money's going, exactly what the Patreon has created, and everything else you might want to know.
So, what's next for Patreon? I have milestones built up to $442/month! This includes such things as a new project announcement at $175, a little surprise for all of my supporters at the $200 mark, and the official announcement of my next Kickstarter project at $325.
Yeah, I said it.
But we have a long way to go until we get there. Or do we? Patreon is this incredibly strange beast and, like anything on the internet, could catch viral with the right silver bullet. Fun fact: I've done the math, and if every single person who owns a copy of Ten Candles supported at just five bucks a month I could quit my day job and work on game design full time. The jump from 2-3 hours a week designing to 40 hours a week designing... I can't even imagine. Will that happen? Probably not. But it's an interesting thing to think about.
Anyways, you've waited long enough.
Alright. So really really really, what's next.
Through this Patreon you may have noticed two pieces of fiction I've posted, Sapphire and Pearl, and And One. These two works will be a part of the much larger fiction companion to Ten Candles which will be released in PDF form over the next few months. This will be joined by Ten Candles: The Slow Burn, which is a collection of the variants The Light Remains and It Comes Back Around, along with a campaign variant for the game and maybe some other little bits and pieces. While the Fiction Companion is not a game and would not be sent out to my lovely Patreon backers, I will provide you all with a discount code to get it on-the-cheap. You will all receive a PDF of the campaign and variant guide when it is released. ETA 1-2 months.
To Serve Her Wintry Hunger and Uncanny Valley, both of which are available to you right now as external playtests, are the two games coming down the pipeline the fastest. They are both available for external playtests this point, and I anticipate them being released in the near future. These will not be funded by Kickstarter. Uncanny Valley will be available for sale through my website, while To Serve will be available to you in PDF form, but will be included in the game anthology Seasonally Affected which should be coming out this winter. ETA 4-6 months.
Annalers of the Skein - Originally submitted (as you can see via that link) for the 200-word RPG challenge, I have revisited this small micro-game and am just about ready to pull the trigger on releasing an revised external playtest of it. This may be open to SILVER patrons as soon as September. The goal is to refine and streamline this game enough so that I can actually fit it on my business cards! ETA 4-6 months.
After those, my top priority projects are as follows:
Last Call - Hey! A game you haven't heard of! I haven't had much to release about this game yet, especially in pursuit of not spoiling anything about it. This will be a chamber LARP, like Uncanny Valley, and I hope to run sessions of it at InterCon in 2017, and maybe even as early as METATOPIA. The basic pitch is that this is a game about a group of friends meeting at a restaurant to close out the bar after their class reunion. They all come with an interwoven web of relationships and are expecting a fun, if awkward night out. The whole game is set before a backdrop of supernatural horror however, and the night will take a dark twist when one attendee offers to perform a magic trick to cap off the evening. ETA 6 months.
Key (Working Title) - Yup, another game you have heard nothing about yet. I haven't even announced this game to you because I'm not sure how quite to describe it. To try and parse it into one sentence, Key is an alternate reality gaming experience for one player grounded in a retro personality test that has no answers and probably never actually existed. This game hits every note for me. I'm excited as hell to work on it, I believe that I can get some real motion on it being produced quickly, and I think it's a high value product. While I am not going to officially lock down my selection for my next Kickstarter project until I hit that $325 mark on Patreon, this is a strong contender. ETA 6-12 months.
Terrene (Working Title) - Yup, a game you have only seen the artwork for. Terrene is my next big game endeavor. In fact, much bigger physically than Ten Candles. I could see it hitting 200, or even 300 pages. Why such a volume? What's so special about this game? Why haven't you heard about it? Here's the few-sentence rundown. Terrene is a science fiction game based around themes of exploration, relationships, wonder, and creation. Inspired by media like the video game No Man's Sky and the movie Interstellar this is a game about traveling to new worlds, terraforming them, exploring them, and then hopping back on your ship to the next one. It's meant to be light, but it has some roots in hard sci-fi. I haven't announced this game yet, because I needed the green light to proceed. Why? Because I will be calling upon heavy inspiration from the Burning Wheel rules system - or more specifically - BW Lite, such as the rules in Mouse Guard RPG and Torchbearer. Just recently Luke Crane gave me the blessing to proceed, and so I have done so. You'll be hearing a lot about this big game in the future. ETA 1-2 years.
And With A Kiss We Split The Stars - Despite how wild an idea this is, I still really want to do it. Even though I have a few other big projects that are much more immediate insofar as things I can really work on immediately, and AWAKWSTS will require a lot of thinking and planning before I even begin reaching out to collaborators, I think it will blow the minds of a lot of people and just be really darn cool. ETA ???.
I hope that this has given you a really solid idea of where my head is at right now with creating games. It's worth noting that despite listing out my top priority projects above, that does not account for a number of smaller games I am certain that I'll be releasing during that time. I have plans for a series of games following the same build as To Serve Her Wintry Hunger for example, which are relatively quick to produce, and may toss my hat in the ring for other game design contests and such as time goes on. In addition, I do have some projects in the works that I didn't mention above, some that are game related, some that aren't at all but I think will still be interesting to you. There's a lot of stuff in the works and I hope you'll all stick around to see it!