Evermore: Soft Open

It’s never a good sign when a company starts giving you free stuff to apologize for the quality of an event you have tickets for but haven’t actually been to. That’s the position I was in last Wednesday, having woken up to an email in which Evermore offered me a free ticket to the hard open because I had “bought” a ticket to the soft open, which I got for free when I actually bought a ticket to the preview night back on September 8th. I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep chaining these free tickets along? Are they going to be so embarrassed about the barely-finished state of the opening proper that they’ll give me free tickets for Halloween, and then be so embarrassed by that that they’ll give me free tickets to their winter arc, too? Is this going to end up with me just getting a lifetime subscription to the park because I bought a Comic-Con preview ticket?

Personally, I wasn’t disappointed with the soft open, but I can see why other people would be, especially people who went on the first day, when it was likely even more unfinished than when I got there. Unfinished sections of the park were roped off with uncostumed staff standing there to make sure no park guests accidentally (or maliciously) wander off into the construction zones and the plot stops dead in its tracks halfway through because the goblin forge isn’t finished yet, so they just awkwardly tell you they’re locked out and please come back next week when we can get on with the plot. I didn’t reach that point until the park was near closing time anyway, but then, I’m not super concerned with getting through the story as fast as possible. I take my time talking to characters and other park guests (“worldwalkers,” in the parlance of the park’s lore), and am further slowed by frequent pauses where I try to figure out something to say without breaking character. Also, on at least one occasion I was slowed a bit by being mistaken for an NPC and people asked me for plot threads which, since it was late in the night, I was actually able to provide. So far as I know, those people still think I work for Evermore. In any case, people who are more mission focused and less awkward can probably get through significantly faster and hit that end of the plot “sorry, come back next week” point sooner.

One thing Evermore has significantly improved upon since the preview night was how eagerly the plot was thrust upon me. That one fellow who asked me to slay monsters back on preview night? This time, he directed me straight to Clara Nettleton, who is now the starting point for the plot, so obviously so that I don’t even feel like it’s spoilers to mention as much. Further story spoilers are going below the break, so if you’re reading this because you actually want to go to Evermore during the current plot arc (ends November 8th), now might be the time to stop.

Continue reading “Evermore: Soft Open”

Petals and Thorns Kickstarter: Day 15

Petals and Thorns is still on Kickstarter. The second week (eight days, really) was significantly less explosive than the first – as is to be expected. There was one absolutely massive surge, the largest since day one, when an /r/Pathfinder_RPG post really took off. Clearly that Pathfinder conversion stretch goal is paying dividends and going forward I should probably plan a 5e and Pathfinder version from the start, and just bake the extra cost of formatting two .pdfs into the .pdf stretch goal. A second, smaller surge came when I released Petals and Thorns: Hirelings, a one-page RPG, and promised there would be more like it for anyone who backed $5 and above.

Between these two surges, the momentum on the Kickstarter continued unabated even into the second week, but the days between surges revealed a growing problem: The rate at which Kickstarters own community pledged, by far the biggest source of support so far, was slowing down. This was not surprising, and in fact I expected it to happen much sooner. Eventually just about everyone on Kickstarter who wants Petals and Thorns will have already seen it and pledged for it, and apparently we reached that point sometime around day 12 or 13. The one-page surge helped mask this, but by day 15 incoming pledges are barely even balancing out cancelled pledges, not because cancelled pledges are at all common, but because incoming pledges have gotten so rare. The end of the campaign will hopefully bring in a rush of fence-sitters deciding at the last second to support me, which will hopefully more than balance the last-minute cancellations, but other than that surge (which may end up being negative!), I’m pretty sure the rest of the income for this project will have to come from posting it to new communities to try and find untapped reserves of potential backers. Unfortunately, I have no idea what communities might be left to tap.

Evermore: Preview Night

As of the writing (and slightly more so as of the posting), Evermore has been soft open for several days. The proper and official opening is coming September 29th, and the first arc of the story will run until November 8th. I got into the sneak preview at Comic-Con clear back on September 8th, and as part of the bundle for buying that ticket, I also got a free ticket that I’ll be using Wednesday, September 28th, to check out the soft open.

So what is Evermore? Evermore is a theme park unlike any other, by which I do not mean “so much better than Disneyland that it deserves a category of its own,” but rather “so different from Disneyland that if you think of it as being like Disneyland you’ll get it all wrong.” If you have to pick between going to Evermore or going to Disneyland, it’s not a question of which one is better, it’s a question of whether you like LARPing better than rollercoasters. Evermore has shows, restaurants, and food stands, but it has no rides. Instead, it has actors in costume, in character, wandering about the park that you can interact with. A fairy king has fallen to corruption, and that corruption is spreading through the town fast. A couple of people are trying to figure out how to reverse or at least contain it, but no one seems to be making much progress. Dig in the right places and you’ll find some of the townspeople are handing out honest to god quests.

I’ve been following the development of Evermore from a distance for years, and I decided that for the occasion I would slap together my very first cosplay.

Continue reading “Evermore: Preview Night”

Petals and Thorns: The Beryl Clan

The final Petals and Thorns playtest video goes up today. It wound up slightly shorter than the twelve sessions I originally expected, but the party did skip the sahuagin dungeon (they’re more aggressive in the version that’s being Kickstarted now, since I can’t really argue with my party’s logic of “well, seems like so long as everyone stays away from the river they’re pretty harmless, so why should we risk our lives for this?”).

Petals and Thorns Kickstarter: One Week In

As of the writing, the Petals and Thorns Kickstarter campaign has been going for a week and thirty minutes. Success has been explosive compared to my expectations. My initial group of supporters was several times more generous than I had anticipated, as were the people who first discovered my Kickstarter and the friends-of-friends my supporters linked it to directly. I was able to hit my initial funding goal in 12 hours. Things hardly budged for another 24 hours after that, but when I feared things might be slowing down and my Kickstarter wouldn’t have much reach beyond the few dozen people who already knew my work, a link to Giant in the Playground brought in several hundred more dollars.

The success of the first two days left me scrambling for stretch goals several days before I thought I’d need them, but this turned out to be for the best, as it allowed me to figure out what stretch goals were in popular demand. I thought that the game being designed specifically for virtual tabletops would be a big selling point and that a .pdf version would be a pretty “meh” stretch goal, probably something I would’ve put near the back because it was both a bit expensive (I need to hire a freelancer for the layout to get anything remotely professional) and I thought it’d be seen as an inferior product to the VTT version anyway. This is not what happened. What happened is that tons of people wanted a .pdf version, I moved that stretch goal up to the top of the queue, and when the surge from GitP carried me over it, that caused a second surge of people backing for the .pdf version.

That surge petered out around $1,250 on day three. It was well below my next stretch goal, the Pathfinder conversion at $1,500. I expected I’d get there eventually with the $30-$60 Kickstarter’s own community brought in each day, but it’d be several days to get there. I kept posting the Kickstarter around the internet, trying one new subreddit each day, hoping to get another surge, while also looking for a way to bring the cost of the Pathfinder conversion down.

I got the stroke of luck I needed to break through when someone started a flame war in the comments of one of my Reddit posts. They were trying to convince people I was a scammer, but it became obvious so quickly that they hadn’t even watched my Kickstarter video that they wound up with like six people yelling at them. The fight drew in attention and I went from about $1,350 to $1,650 on day six. Partly that was from the Reddit thread, but a chunk of it was from getting over the Pathfinder stretch goal and getting that surge. This is also when I sold out my limited $50 reward to get a character of the backer’s design featured as an NPC in the main town Ramshorn, something now only available from the really ridiculous reward levels at $100 and $400.

Day seven has so far reverted back to the ordinary trickle of Kickstarter backers coming in. I did break $1,700, which is a neat milestone, but not an actual stretch goal. Not only that, but I’m out of stretch goals that might prompt a surge. Everything from here ’till $4,200 – and that goal is a stretch for sure – is just more tokens. I think that’ll be a huge improvement to the production values of the adventure, but it’s not the kind of thing that gets people on the fence to donate. I can’t actually show people the tokens until after the Kickstarter is over, I collect the money, and can pay the artists to draw them for me.

The campaign has already far exceeded my initial expectations, so I won’t complain if the next week is spent limping over the $2,000 mark, but I’ve also been putting together a Facebook campaign. Maybe that’ll be a dud, but I’ve been told $10 of advertising money can go surprisingly far on Facebook, so maybe it’ll end up with another surge that brings in another few hundred. I’m just about out of cards to play, but the game’s gone pretty well for me so far. And I should get an ending surge in the last week for free, as people on the fence are forced to fall one way or another, and some of them fall on my side. After day one, I decided I’d consider the Kickstarter a success not just for convincing my existing supporters to help me, but for actually expanding my audience if I could get $750 and 45 backers. I’ve already got over $1,700 and 70 backers, so mission very accomplished.

Right now my only real worry is that maybe once people actually have the adventure, they won’t like it. I’m pretty confident in the quality of this adventure, but not so confident as to quiet the gnawing uncertainty about the future that tends to haunt my every action. I mean, I’m really bad at marketing. It’s one of my biggest weaknesses. It would be super weird if I were able to get a Kickstarter campaign 300% funded in a week on the strength of my marketing. But I won’t know for certain until it actually ships.

I should probably drop a link to the campaign in here somewhere. If you play D&D 5 or Pathfinder and haven’t checked it out, give it a look.

Petals and Thorns: Into the Catacombs

Today in Petals and Thorns the party ventures forth into the catacombs to complete an easy quest that I probably should’ve directed them to way earlier in the game. In fairness, I actually did direct them to the Order of the Bear, and they decided to wander off the road and into the spider cave instead, so maybe directing these guys is a useless endeavor to begin with.

Petals and Thorns: Against the Goblins

I’m gonna go ahead and keep posting Petals and Thorns videos for as long as they’ll last in order to get some quick and easy posts out of it while also wrapping up that series in a hurry. I’m still hoping to get some regular articles out during this Kickstarter, but I’m not sure I can make any promises. I’ve hit my funding goal way faster than expected, which means I need to figure out some stretch goals fast. That’s an awesome problem to have, but it may still eat into the time set aside for blogging. The “good” news is that Kickstarters usually slow down a lot towards the middle, so while this first week might see my backers breaking through stretch goals faster than I can get in touch with artists to nail down quotes for them, it probably won’t be a problem for the whole month.

Petals and Thorns ep. 8 is here:

Petals and Thorns: What Do You Believe In?

Petals and Thorns Cover Final Art

The Petals and Thorns Kickstarter is now live. You can click on the image above or these words here to get to the page and see what’s all up with that. If you play D&D 5e, you should consider buying it. For that matter, if you play other editions of D&D, you should consider buying it to read and maybe adapt certain elements into your homebrew campaign. Personally, I’ve got an entire Humble Bundle’s worth of Frog God stuff that’ll probably never see actual play, but it was still fun to read, so I figure there’s probably a market for that.

This thing hit 80% funding in six hours, requiring less than $100 to be fully funded. It will be five hours away from the end of its first day when this post goes live. I’m hoping to get it funded in the first 24 hours, so if it’s still not there by the time this post goes live (or if it is and you want to be helpful anyway), post this link anyplace interested in tabletop RPGs you know about, or drop a $1 pledge in (although, as mentioned above, if you play 5e or just like to read D&D adventures, you should take a look at the Kickstarter page and consider actually buying it for $15 – that’s $5 less than what it’ll sell for once brought to market). Kickstarter pushes projects according to how many backers they have, not how much money they’ve raised, so a pocket change $1 pledge hits way above its weight level in terms of showing support.

Also today: The seventh Petals and Thorns video.

Edit from 90 minutes before this post goes live: I am 100% funded in 12 hours. It is perhaps counterintuitive, but this means that $1 pledges are more important than ever. I mean, obviously $15 or $50 or $400 pledges are even better, but not by nearly as much as you’d think. My Kickstarter has been incredibly successful and that’s great, major thanks to everyone who’s already pledged, however with its current backer count it won’t sustain its momentum. The most important thing to this project right now is more backers, at any pledge level, so that we can sustain some momentum into the doldrums of the middle weeks and avoid falling apart.

Iron Fang Invasion Wrap-Up

Iron Fang Invasion is dreadfully boring viewing. Petals and Thorns isn’t that much better, but there is at least a question of what’s going to happen next, whereas Iron Fang just proceeds down the rails while two incredibly overpowered characters smash everything in their path with no resistance. The only reason I’m bothering to record and upload them at this point is because I started and don’t want to stop something partway through. This is not very rational, and in any case this last video is a decent-ish stopping point, so that’s where I’m calling it.

Speaking of Petals and Thorns, it and the GM’s Guide have missed a few updates due to a combination of throwing that Kickstarter together (it should be ready within a few hours of this post going live) and the fact that Google Drive is throwing a fit which is making it difficult for my cameraman to get his Petals and Thorns footage to me. All that stuff is still going to happen just as soon as technical difficulties are sorted out, and in fact Petals and Thorns will likely get several episodes dumped rapidly on top of one another to make up for lost time just as soon as we find a way to get those recordings from Jeff’s machine to mine. So far as the GM’s Guide is concerned, now that I’m no longer editing Kickstarter videos together, those should be returning starting next Sunday, and in the meantime you can find links to the text version at the top of the screen. That version is generally superior anyway. I’m hoping my videos will catch up to the text in quality by the time I get to the end, but I’m not there yet.

Let’s Read LitRPG: The First Five

I’m not only trying to get a Kickstarter off the ground, but will also be attending the Salt Lake Comic Con (officially redubbed “FanX” due to an unfavorable legal battle with San Diego Comic Con and a judge who is apparently unaware that the ship on Comic Con as a term unique to one convention sailed like twenty years ago), plus maintaining the schedule on games that people have paid for remains a much higher priority than blog posts which are free. All of this to say that for this particularly busy weekend I am going to post an article that is just gathering some content I already produced and then ruminating on it. Here are all the LitRPG novels I have reviewed to date, ranked in order of how much I liked them:

  1. Way of the Shaman: Survival Quest
  2. Threadbare: Stuff and Nonsense
  3. Awaken Online: Catharsis
  4. Divine Dungeon: Dungeon Born
  5. Succubus

At some point I’d like to build up a big enough library of LitRPG reviews (or at least book reviews in general) that Awaken Online doesn’t get to hold onto its deceptive middle-of-the-pack status. That book is actually really sloppy, and beats out Dungeon Born largely by virtue of the fact of having sporadic clever moments and good fight scenes spiking up from the baseline of mediocrity, whereas Dungeon Born was almost incessantly boring. It did get a little better towards the end, but so did Awaken Online, except that Awaken Online was recovering from “Mary Sue is lauded as most brilliant strategist ever for overcoming trivial opposition” instead of “100+ pages of nothing happening.” I’d rather roll my eyes than feel them glaze over.

Other than that, the list doesn’t hold a whole lot of surprises. Survival Quest was fun to read and did a lot of things right, with most of the hiccups in my readthrough being the fault of the translation, and even then it all pretty much clicked when I started subvocalizing the first person narrator speaking with a Russian accent, so of course it comes out on top. It was picked on recommendation from a friend specifically because I was hoping for (and got) a book that I could be pretty unreservedly a fan of. Stuff and Nonsense is dragged down a lot by Zuula and has severe pacing issues, but is also littered with plenty of great scenes and has both a strong start and finish. Its flawed brilliance would even have competed with Survival Quest’s consistent competence were it not for that one atrocious character. And no one who’s even skimmed the later Succubus posts will be surprised to see Nice Guy: The LitRPG coming in dead last, a position it will likely continue to occupy even as the list of books reviewed grows.