Crowdfunding Carnival: The Kickoff

Step right up, step right up! We’re changing the focus of Kickstarter Wonk and needed an equally dorky name! That’s right, Crowdfunding Carnival is the new, improved, and expanded version of Kickstarter Wonk, looking further across the crowdfunding world to bring you the latest and greatest in homegrown and original TTRPGs. For this kickoff article, though, I wanted to talk a little bit more about the TTRPG crowdfunding landscape and why it looks the way it looks.

For TTRPGs crowdfunding is synonymous with Kickstarter, and it only takes five minutes on any crowdfunding site to figure out why. In addition to simply hosting more campaigns, the Kickstarter website is easier to use and makes it easier to find things. That said, given the stances Kickstarter management has taken as of late, it would be irresponsible to keep on throwing up a ‘Kickstarter Wonk’ every month and pretending that that’s all that RPG crowdfunding is. The picture isn’t all that rosy for competitors, though. Given recent announcements I decided that the Crowdfunding Carnival would expand to include Gamefound and Indiegogo; this increases the breadth significantly without turning this into an ordeal every month (because if it were an ordeal I’d simply not do it anymore). I’m still going to highlight favorite campaigns every month, but in addition to that there will be a little more data and analysis. I’m interested in showing the health of the new TTRPG market in the crowdfunding universe, and we can most easily do that with data. To keep things consistent, I’ll be doing my data collection the Monday before the article goes live; this month that means January 31st. A smidge early for the February edition, but what can you do.

Analytics for February

I mentioned it in an earlier article, but browsing Indiegogo really brought it home; every crowdfunding site I’ve used other than Kickstarter really sucks. The lack of filtering by time and the lack of filtering by status are utter dealbreakers, and just from a usability standpoint I can’t really recommend a single crowdfunding site I’ve used that isn’t Kickstarter. I thought that Indiegogo, by virtue of its age and similar incumbency to Kickstarter, would be better, but I was flatly wrong. My other primary gripe is that these sites continue to list campaigns open for post-campaign backing. Now if there were usable filters this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but since there aren’t, it is. No crowdfunding site is going to be as successful as Kickstarter if they can’t make it easy for a potential backer to sort and search campaigns, or determine if a campaign is still ongoing or not. You’d think these would be table stakes, but no.

It should therefore not surprise you that among these three Kickstarter raised over 90% of all dollars for new games this month. Similar to previous Kickstarter Wonks, I define a new game as one that is standalone and novel. Novel games can be licensed and they can use existing rulesets, but they must not require a published version of the original ruleset to play. Additionally, while I do count revisions of older games, I generally only count them if the original game hasn’t been updated in more than 15 years. Using these criteria I found a total of 17 campaigns live and funding by the end of January; of those 17 Kickstarter hosted 14 of them.

Additionally, Kickstarter was the only service that was able to host any successful (i.e. funded) campaigns by new or otherwise unestablished designers. The only funded and ongoing campaign on another service was World Champ Game Co’s Cybermetal 2012 (more below), and World Champ Game Co/Adam Vass has a long enough and good enough track record that they can easily overcome the obstacle of using a second-tier crowdfunding host. That said, Cybermetal 2012 is currently underperforming Adam’s earlier efforts like Necronautilus and Campfire; with five days to go in the Cybermetal campaign I’m going to guess that switching to Gamefound cost between $5,000 and $10,000 in lost funding, though that is also exacerbated somewhat by the absence of a digital-only tier.

[I am aware that this analysis excludes Zine Month, that is by intent. Find our Zine Month coverage starting here!]

Though the crowdfunding world is changing, my aim is not: I still want to find the coolest, most interesting new games that are coming out of the woodwork and onto crowdfunding sites. With that in mind, here are a few of my favorites that are funding as we speak.

Top Campaigns

Cybermetal 2012

Cybermetal 2012 bridges the gap between Heavy Metal 2000 and Cyberpunk 2020 in a setting that features as many demons as it does interface plugs. Stylistically the game takes a different approach to 80s retro, going the pulp comic route instead of the cassette futurism route. The campaign is short and spare on details, though the game is based on a d100 system and is supposed to be the first in a series of alt-history games called DARTS, or Death Agent Roleplaying Timeline Series. The other DARTS games have names like Hell War 1991 and Panic! 1982, so there’s definitely some interesting material coming down the pike for this. The lowest available tier is $40 which includes a hardcover; I think this makes sense as it ensures a minimum print run of a fair size (the other option, which also makes a lot of sense, is including print run as a stretch goal).

One More Quest

So this is pretty cool, and more novel than most games I cover. One More Quest is a dexterity-based RPG, meaning that your dice results are based on how well you toss a die onto a bullseye-shaped target, in addition to what face it lands on. What makes this yet cooler is that the skills in the game each require a different sort of die toss, which really puts ‘player skill’ into a different light here. To make things even better, ingame Conditions and Stunts also modify the die throws, making the progression of a night’s session quite an experience and making this game a fantastic terrible drinking game. It might be hard to take a game like this seriously which may also be why the game doesn’t take itself seriously either, presenting a bog-standard fantasy setting with a lot of winking modern satire which I both enjoy and concede makes the normal comedy game pitfalls all but inevitable. Still, One More Quest looks like a fun way to shake things up and think about the ‘game’ part of role-playing game a little differently. €22 (~$25) gets you a PDF.

So what’s the Crowdfunding Carnival going to look like as we continue into 2022? Some things will change, but a lot will stay the same. Kickstarter isn’t going anywhere, especially considering how badly designed their competitors are for backers to actually browse and use. At the same time, some things will be different. ZineQuest has been moved to August, but the independent Zine Month is going on now (Seamus has the latest on that). It’s a bold move towards keeping the independent scene actually independent, though even in that context most of the campaigns will still be run on Kickstarter.

I’m not one to put a stake in the ground with regard to using or not using any given service. That, though, is why Crowdfunding Carnival had to be born. There’s a range of crowdfunding possibilities out there beyond Kickstarter, and as they become accessible to an average consumer I plan to cover them. Next month will feature less explication and more of the standard game roundup you’ve come to expect, plus ongoing analytics looking at where the games are. And if everything goes to plan, we’ll see this every month: A bit less Kickstarter, a bit more Wonk, all crowdfunding, and a lot more Carnival.

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