How to Run an RPG Kickstarter


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20 January 2024
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With Zine Quest approaching, you may be wondering about creating your own crowdfunding project, with the biggest site for this being Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website that allows creators to put their ideas in front of a massive audience and generate funding through what are essentially pre-orders. This has allowed many independent creators to get their games off the ground and out into the world. With six successful RPG Kickstarter projects, Anna Blackwell talks us through running one.

Create An RPG Kickstarter

First things first, you’ve got to have an idea of what your game is. You don’t have to have a complete game ready to ship as soon as the campaign ends but it does help. When you come to Kickstarter you want to be able to show something visual about your game and to give as much detail about what you’re making as you can.

Next up, if time is on your side, you’ll want to get your Pre-Launch page up as soon as you can. This little page will allow people to sign up to be notified when your Kickstarter goes live which is great for getting your project seen.

And finally, if you have something playable already, start contacting reviewers at least three months before your campaign so they can get their reviews ready to go as soon as the campaign launches. If you don’t have something playable, don’t worry, you can still go on podcasts and post on social media to let people know what you’re making. This tends to be my routine as I’ve never had a game playable before a Kickstarter.

 

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Who will buy your RPG Kickstarter?

There are so many different expectations in the tabletop community and understanding your audience is key. If you’re making an RPG zine then your audience will expect something small made on a low budget and costing less than a D&D rulebook. If you’re making content for an existing RPG system, people will be using other products in that line as the benchmark. It’s at this stage that you’ll have to break down your cost per unit (how much it costs you to print one copy of your game) and how much work it’s going to take to make the game in order to figure out how much to sell it for. And then take into account that Kickstarter backers expect to get the game cheaper than retail as they’re taking a chance with their money.

The other thing to think about is; who is your audience? What do they like? Where do they find out about new games? What will catch their attention? How much disposable income do they stereotypically have? There’s no point making a deluxe handmade hardback book printed in gold ink on italian paper if you’re aiming your game at college students during Summer. Wait till September when the student loans kick in.

What are Kickstarter Pledge Tiers?

People like to have options on how to support a project but too many tiers can get confusing for them and invite fulfilment problems for you down the line. I recommend a Digital Only Tier; a Physical Tier; a Special Tier (usually with a badge or some sort of Kickstarter exclusive goodies); and if you have made other games before, a Bundle Tier.

Launching Your Kickstarter

Kickstarter allows you to run your campaign for up to 60 days but the truth is, the majority of your funds are going to arrive in the first and last 48 hours… at least, normally. Kickstarter has been around for quite a while now but it’s still a roll of the dice as to what will happen. Some campaigns get a big burst on the first day then stagnate until the last 48 hours. Others gently rise day by day. Some leap up randomly in the middle because some news outlet you’ve never heard of reports on it. The only consistent thing is that success snowballs on crowdfunding websites so it’s important to set your goal at something that is realistic for you to reach while still funding you and your project as needed. If you ask for £15,000 for a zine, unless you’re already famous and have a huge audience waiting to throw money at you, you’re going to struggle to reach that goal. And while the whole point of Kickstarter is that you don’t pay anything if the project isn’t successful, people don’t want to have their money tied up in something that might not fund. Understand what your minimum viable product is and work towards that. What’s the smallest amount of money you need to make your game and live at the same time? Use that and if you want to make your game bigger and grander, you can do so via stretch goals. Just, be careful with those. Understand how much a stretch goal will change your schedule and costs both for production and shipping.

How to Deal with Kickstarter Failure

Not all Kickstarter projects fund and all creators will have to deal with it at one point in their career. But don’t be disheartened. Just because a project didn’t fund doesn’t mean you have to take it behind the shed and put it down. A great example of this is Stout Stoat’s Border Riding RPG which first ran in February 2023 and only managed to pull in £2,643. Brian Tyrell, the designer, re-tooled the Kickstarter campaign, introduced more artwork and physical examples of the product and the second Border Riding Kickstarter campaign funded in July 2023 with £22,834. Just be aware that you can’t re-use a name when running a second Kickstarter. If you can get away with small changes like Border Riding to Border Ridings, then great. Otherwise you may need to consider a re-brand!

 

So your Kickstarter Succeeds?

One of the surprisingly scariest things that can happen to a creator is massive success that they haven’t prepared for. If you, like me, didn’t prepare for it, you can end up scrabbling to put together stretch goals which delay your project and introduce a lot of added complexity. Plan ahead how you would handle a campaign that does 2X as well, 10X as well, or even 100X as well.

Running a Kickstarter is stressful and exciting. It is very easy to end up fixating on the numbers going up, constantly refreshing the page to get that next dopamine hit. Which also has the downside that any decrease in your project’s funding can cause actual panic. At the end of the day though, a successful Kickstarter can be a great source of joy as you now have the funding needed to make your game a reality and that is awesome.

Running a RPG Kickstarter Tips

  • Collect shipping after your campaign. Shipping prices fluctuate constantly and Kickstarter counts any shipping fees collected towards your total which means you may not have as much for the project as you think.
  • Promote your campaign constantly. It can be easy to think “oh no, I don’t want to annoy people” but the internet doesn’t work like that. Most people aren’t going to see every single promotional post you make and those that do will filter them out. Keep promoting.
  • Once you’ve launched your campaign and you’ve got everything you need to do for the day done, go do something that relaxes you and keeps you away from your computer. 
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