Designing a Role-Playing Game Crowdfunding Project

Designing a Role-Playing Game Crowdfunding Project

Posted by Nicholas Ribera on

Whenever one project begins to sunset on Kickstarter, my work ramps up on the next one. It helps to keep a steady flow of crowdfunding going. So for this blog, I’d like to discuss my next project, which is currently in development. Looking at my previous projects, I would estimate that I spend an equal amount of time building out the crowdfunding campaign as actually designing the product I’m trying to fund.

Pilgrimage of the Penitent is a “zine” or a “compendium” in the Mörk Borg role-playing game system. So what does this mean? Before last year, these were all foreign words to me, too.

Flashback to Origins in June of 2022. I hosted a seminar on lessons I’ve learned from crowdfunding on Kickstarter. In attendance was Zac Goins, the crowdfunding guru for World of Game Design. We chatted afterward and I showed him my Ready Play Games series. He told me that what I had inadvertently created is now known as a “Zine.” No longer relegated to fighting the Man or promoting punk shows, Zine now also refers to small one-off RPG scenarios. Like a single-adventure campaign. And there is a healthy market for them on Kickstarter. In fact, Kickstarter has a month dedicated to their promotion called “ZineQuest.” He suggested using the next upcoming Zine Quest to promote my small pocket-sized RPGs and it worked well. No, I’m not retiring off of what I collected from it, but it did help me fund the printing of another batch, and the second volume is live on Kickstarter right now (for the next 4 days).

Okay, so Role-Playing Games are a viable avenue of revenue, and they are fun to make, too! Smash cut to a few months later, and I learn about Mörk Borg via TikTok. Mörk Borg is a newer RPG system that is super simple to learn and describes an incredible world of dark ages horror as the world begins to end. The core rulebook is an incredible feat of design, illustration, as well as gameplay, and it inspired me to make a zine that uses the Mörk Borg world and ruleset.

My initial plan was to adapt my illustrations into a series of cards, each with art on one side and rules on how to use the item, interact with the NPC, or explore the environment on the other side. I then decided- why not write a story that ties all of these disparate elements together? That way it can be played as one large adventure or just taken apart piecemeal. 10,000 words and 26 illustrations later, my content was finished.

As I was writing this, I vended at Atomic Holiday Bazaar in Sarasota. I was amazed by a neighboring booth’s work- Print St. Pete, and their Risograph prints. Many of my recent commissions were for event posters, and the one I had most recently made I decided to do in the style of a 70’s Italian horror film, so I knew I had to create a fake movie poster for my game, now called Pilgrimage of the Penitent via Print St. Pete’s Risograph machine. This became the first physical product in this project.

My process for converting the Google Doc’s text to the zine involved:

  1. Laying out the text in adobe Illustrator. Why didn’t I use InDesign? Mörk Borg is known for its anti-design rules aesthetic. Each page uses different fonts, the text is often illegible, and everything is an asymmetrical mess. So I focused on the text first in Illustrator and then exported each page as a transparent png.
  2. Import the Illustrator pages into Clip Studio Paint (CSP). CSP is the industry standard for Manga, so it has some excellent tools for this exact situation. I was able to create a “book” which is basically a compendium of illustration files all with the same bleed, margins, and sizes. I imported each page’s png into each illustration file in CSP and then turned each pair of pages into a spread that I could “decorate” with scratches, messes, and ink splots as a single unit.

Some design choices I made along the way:

  1. The pages are not numbered. I decided to instead identify each element with a letter and a number, for example, the Non-Player Characters (NPCs) that you can meet along the way are labeled as N1, N2, N3, etc. This ties back to the desire for this to work as both a compendium and as a storyline. I have the story outlined on the first page, so that can be used to progress through the adventure if needed.
  2. I gave the illustrations full pages on the left with their corresponding text and rules on the right where possible. The locations each required two pages of text.

Once that started, I went crazy. Reviewing other crowdfunding projects in the Mörk Borg space really made me feel that my imagination could go wild with additional products outside of the book itself (which is currently at 76 pages and will be a hardback A5 size to match the core rulebook). I designed a silkscreen t-shirt, custom printed dot journal, enamel pin, bookmarks, Giclee prints, character sheet pads, a deck of Oracle cards featuring the illustrations, and a UV Spot black Collector’s edition box.

I am currently waiting on price quotes from 5 different manufacturers to solidify my pricing plans.

I have the Kickstarter project design based on my estimated retail prices, which may change if the quotes come in unexpectedly high or shockingly low. I plan on having 90 Collector’s edition boxes as well as offering many of the items as add-on, so the price quotes I’m basing my project off of will be 500 hardcover books, 40 t-shirts, 100 Collector’s Edition boxes, and 200 of everything else. I find this to be a safe estimate and, if the project does really well, I’ll increase my quantities which will reduce the production costs further.

For the Kickstarter project itself, thanks to the option for Add-Ons, I can simplify it with four tiers:

  1. Digital Only ($15)
  2. Hardback Book ($30)
  3. Book + Character Sheets ($40)
  4. Collector’s Edition

For marketing, I’ve been sharing my 3d renders as I’ve been making them on a Mörk Borg Facebook group. I’ve already got a Backer-Kit Launch page up, so I’ve been collecting leads through there. I just submitted the project for approval on Kickstarter (you only need the bones in place for this, you can keep editing it after approval is granted) so once that is done I’ll have an official pre-launch page. I’ll create a subdomain on my website that redirects to either the Backer-Kit Launch page or the Kickstarter pre-launch page. I haven’t yet decided.

I plan on sending out some review copies so I can collect some quotes from people known in the DMing and Mörk Borg space. These will either be print-on-demand books or PDFs - I also haven’t yet decided. I’m in no rush since I am planning on an April launch.

For Ready Play Games Vol 2, I guested on two podcasts. When this project is launched, I hope to do the same. In an audio medium, you need to be able to very easily get people to visit your project, so leaving them with a simple URL or a name of something to look for is paramount.

Will I run Facebook ads for this project? I think I might. If I can target people who like Mörk Borg, then that is a no-brainer. But targeting people who like Role Playing Games and Horror Movies might be too general. But those are decisions for another time.

So that’s how I’ve gotten to this point- over a month out from release and a lot left to do. No matter how it does on Kickstarter, I know I’ll be extremely proud of the printed book and the desire to see it realized is ultimately what drives me in all of my projects.

You can view the BackerKit Launch page, and sign up to be notified when it launches, here.


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