Over the coming months, I will publish my very first RPG supplements on all the popular marketplaces. I am starting with nothing but a dream and a budget. I will record all of my ideas, techniques, successes, and failures on this blog series "The Path to Published".
Let's start with the dream.
The Sword & Source Dream
I started Sword & Source to help independent creators in TTRPGs. I plan to do this by learning what's causing them problems, and then building tools or resources to make their lives easier and their businesses more profitable. For example, when I noticed that a lot of people ask where to start as a new Game Master, I started working on a definitive guide to get them through their first game.
When I started looking at marketplaces like DriveThruRPG, DM's Guild, Roll20, etc. I realized I had a problem. Or rather I did not have a problem. TTRPG creators are publishing their work on these marketplaces every day - but I am not. The reason is simple: I am a software developer, not a game designer. I realized I needed to develop more empathy in order to better serve this community. I decided that I would walk a mile in their shoes by publishing something myself. I want to make their problems my problems.
And so this project was born. I will create and publish TTRPG content and learn as much as I can along the way. I will write it all down so I can share those learnings with everyone. The knowledge I acquire will get me a few steps closer to achieving my dream. And who knows, maybe I'll even make some profit I can invest in future projects?
Speaking of profit, let's talk about budget.
Budget for TTRPG publishing
This is one of the trickiest elements of this project. There are several money issues that make this complicated:
- I have never done this before so I have no reference point. I don't know what the going rates are in the industry. I don't even know what to google for (am I looking for homebrewers, game designers, or writers?)
- I am in a priviledged position. Because of my past life as a professional software developer I can have a budget for this project. I understand that many independent creators can not. Would it be better for me to spend no money for maximum empathy or should I spend some money to go faster and learn budget related things?
- Other people seem just as confused as I am. So far in my dealings with RPG professionals I have noticed that not many seem to know what to charge for their services. This makes coming up with some sort of standardized budget very difficult. I'm sure I'll learn more as I meet more people.
After considering these factors, I have decided that I will allow myself a budget for this project. I believe it's the right way to go for a few reasons:
- I have never published supplements before but I have created other things that I will leverage (eg. Novus Bestiary). For that reason, there is a minimum quality bar I need to hit so that people continue to associate Sword & Source with great work. A budget will help ensure quality.
- There are certain lessons I need to learn that require money, such as how much freelancers cost, how much art costs, and how much it could take to do a big project like a monster manual.
- I can lose my money so you don't have to. Any creators following along who have no money to lose can learn from my mistakes if I fail. Maybe fancy art isn't worth it after all? Maybe I should have researched more before spending? Who knows? The point is I think the lessons will be valuable for others when they do raise funding.
I will do a few things to mitigate the risk of losing too much empathy. I will release at least 1 small supplement with a budget of $0. I will also think of ways I could have done things more cheaply, and include those ideas wherever I can. Finally, I will be as transparent as possible the whole way through. Nothing will be hidden or sugarcoated.
So what is the budget?
I am setting my budget at $5000 USD. I think this is on the high end.
I went with a high number because I want to manage my expectations. I don't know what I'll be publishing yet, and I know very little about the costs of things. I want to be conservative so that I don't get unpleasant feelings when I see the bill. I do know that original art is expensive and that I will likely be commissioning some. I strongly believe that artists deserve fair pay!
I'm aiming to publish 3 projects so this amount has to cover all of them.
In the next post I will decide on what I am actually going to create. We will go through a quick research and ideation process, take stock of what we have already, and then commit to whatever projects make the most sense.
Until next time!