This post goes off the rails a bit; not really about games, more just me rambling awhile

Just checked on our remaining Kickstarted board games, all but one of which are running late, to see when they’re currently estimated to arrive. (It’s hard to hold all the half-promises in my head & keep them straight.) Luckily I ran into the feeling of “we’re getting close to ‘enough’ board games until we get rid of some” at the end of this summer, so there are only a handful:

Surprisingly, Epic Resort (Floodgate Games) is theoretically in the midst of shipping, and should arrive any time now. (Backed in April, original estimated delivery in September—only two months late, with 7 months from Kickstarter to shipping.)

Next up will be Scoville (TMG), bumped back again to “probably after Christmas” for delivery. (Backed in February, original estimated delivery this month—maybe only a month late, with 10 months from Kickstarter to shipping.)

Another from TMG, Harbour, is currently estimated to be shipping in February—this is earlier than their pre-KS (official) estimate of March, but during the campaign they predicted an 80% chance they’d deliver by December. (Backed in July—7 months from Kickstarter to shipping, if they hit February, which would be delivering 1 month ahead of their official estimate and 2 months later than their mid-campaign estimate.)

Technically I failed to back Tiny Epic Defenders (I’d meant to go back and see whether they’d hit the stretch goals on the last day, and I glanced at the total pledges (not high enough), assumed they hadn’t hit them, but didn’t have time that day (busy day) to read the page/updates and see Michael had decided to unlock all the stretch goals anyway…) but saw Gamelyn Games at Maricopacon a few days later and pre-ordered a copy of the Deluxe Edition. According to the updates on KS, it looks like they’re on track to deliver on time, like prior GG KSs. Original Estimate: March, Current Estimate: February. (KS Campaign in July—7 months from KS to delivery.)

Ooh, I did back another one recently: Another TMG microgame, Eminent Domain: Microcosm. Backed a month ago, estimated delivery originally stated to be May 2015, no delays yet announced. I expect it to arrive a month late, at most; they seem to have microgames under control at TMG. (That would be 7 months from KS campaign to delivery, btw.)

…and finally, the first board game I ever actually backed for, all the way back on July 3, 2013, with an original estimated delivery date of February 2014, from Artistic Justice Games, it’s Fairytale Games: The Battle Royale. Technically, due to the scale of response & number of stretch goals hit, they revised their estimate to Summer 2014 at the end of the campaign. As of a month ago, they’ve got finished art for the core game, one expansion, and all the miniatures/models (Kickstarted separately, later), but not the other expansion or three standalone/expansion games (which were stretch goals, included with every copy), and not for the tarot deck, cheesecake deck, or several other sets of cards they made available as add-ons during the initial campaign. I don’t believe they’ve actually finalized the gameplay/rules, at least, certainly not for anything beyond the core game. Their current best estimate is that they’ll be splitting fulfillment into two waves, with the first wave containing the core game and first expansion, plus all the miniatures from the 2nd KS campaign, perhaps as early as Summer 2015—they have no estimate at all for when the second wave will ship. If they make this estimate, it’ll be 24 months from the KS campaign to delivery of the first part of the rewards (containing a little over 25% of the board game content promised, plus a bunch of miniatures—most of which are for backers of the followup campaign) …and maybe the rest by mid-2021?

The pattern here is “about 7 months from Kickstarter to delivery”, I believe. Of note, I did recently Kickstart a card game—Kickstarted in August, shipped in October; less than 75 days from funding day to shipping the last copy (not including people who hadn’t responded to the survey), and my original delivery estimate was December. I would probably have shipped in December, too, if we’d hit 1k+ copies. But 7 months / March? Yech. This is part of why you’ll probably never see me Kickstart a board game again, at least not with the possibility of mass-production. Same as traditionally-published books; the multi-year timelines drive me crazy.

If I can PnP a copy (including a box) in a couple of hours, or have a card game (with no box) printed & shipped by DriveThru within 7-10 days (they seriously printed & shipped 300 copies of Teratozoic within 10 days—same 7-10 days they take to print & ship 1 copy), and if (at least one) overseas printers can print & ship 2k or 4k copies of a game (cards, rules, box, shrink—everything) within 5 weeks, why does it take the pros 7+ months to fulfill their games? If I hadn’t had to wait 2 months for SuperiorPOD to print the boxes & instructions (DriveThru has nice clear, plastic boxes, actually—I like the box I designed & the professional/finished feel of the completed product, but aside from the rules, Teratozoic is really just a set of 110 cards; retail packaging is meaningless for a game which will never be sold at retail), I could have started shipping the game a mere 20 days after funding closed; I had all 300 copies of the cards on hand. grumble, grumble

I know, I know… a lot of campaigns only have a fraction of the art finished when they Kickstart, and a lot of the funds they’re raising are to pay artists, and art takes time… and most reputable overseas game manufacturers have a waiting list / delay before even the “5 weeks” or “2 months” to manufacture even begins, and for games larger than card games which get mass-produced you have to use sea-shipping, which takes 3+ months (sometimes more if your container gets “flagged by customs”) instead of a week, and then you also have the games shipped to distributors, whose processing/fulfillment can add another month or more (not to mention huge expenses! The difference in price between POD manufacturing and overseas manufacturing is significant, but for my game it was actually less than the cost of paying for professional fulfillment!) and on and on and … yeah, no wonder I’m working on fiction-writing again, lately: I can just upload the eBook & boom people can read it, plus… look at all these words, aching to escape my head/hands! ((You wouldn’t believe the amount of world-building I’ve been doing this week—if I don’t write something from this stuff, I … I just don’t know:

I’m doing everything from designing complex & unique economic structures to sketching in the gross anatomy of hundreds of species and sub-species (which generally have nothing in common with Earth life) of a world (whose cosmology I spent multiple weeks fleshing out—but which is just a bit … physically impossible, I fear) and also developing social structures, reproductive relationships (and organs & processes, sometimes down to a molecular level), and interesting back-stories and attitudes for the ~18 “main” characters of the core set of stories I want to tell, so they’ll have engaging and meaningful interactions and responses to the challenges I intend to throw their way as the stories unfold, not to mention their space ship… I really want to 3D model this thing, maybe put together a physical sculpture of it; it’s remarkable, and unlike any other space ship I’ve been exposed to in science fiction (or science fantasy)—though the FTL propulsion system is made-up, only loosely based on warp theory. Plus, I mapped out (roughly) the entire history of the main cultures/life-forms across their entire galaxy this Summer, sketching out a skeleton/guide for a 100-story arc and specific plots for the first 13+ stories… though next I suppose I’ll have to dig into developing the biologies, economies, and cultures of all the other beings in the galaxy, in at least as much detail as I’m giving my protagonist-species (whose home world doesn’t technically even appear in the main storyline!), for when they meet.

Earlier this week (and a big part of why I’m so excited/engaged by what I’m creating, here) I came to the realization that, between the idea that few/no people will ever actually read what I’m considering writing (my current estimate is that the entire project requires me to write 7 to 10 million words) and the further eureka-moment of “no one will ever make a movie version of this—there’s no need to make it in any way affordably-filmable!”, I’m actually really free to write … anything. I don’t need humanoids. I don’t need close parallels of Earth-politics, Earth-economy, Earth-culture, or even human-like thoughts, feelings, romance, or even human-like bodies, life-spans, conceptions of time, or space, or duty or … I don’t know, even the senses. My current conception of these guys doesn’t even give them mouths, as such—certainly not mouths for eating, and I’m not sold on giving them a dedicated organ for speaking, since they respirate through their surface-flesh (~skin), not via lungs/gills/etc, and are partially telepathic, but have excellent sight+ (Do you remember how Fantastician/Job could see all radiation? Or how the Radiant communicated, in Untrue Tales… Book Six? These guys definitely have radiation-based senses & awareness, well beyond a tiny sliver of electromagnetic radiation!) and probably communicate via some combination of radiation, digital gesturing (think fingers, except they don’t have fingers, not computers (although they have quantum computers by the time my story gets to them)), and telepathy. I’m not going to begin to describe their bodies, here, except to say: I guess a small sub-species of them could vaguely be mistaken for something in the category of ‘Greys’ (if Greys had no mouths, weren’t in any way grey, and were far away / out of focus), but most of them don’t actually resemble anything you’ve probably seen or imagined before. And each variation or feature or new way of putting together bones has good reason, and leads to interesting characters.

I just need to learn how to describe them without in any way referring to an Earth-based or human-experience-based frame of reference; even if I don’t decide to write any of the stories in first-person POV, the descriptions should be native and immersive of these people’s experiences.))

…I should probably go to bed…

((It is now November 23rd, and I haven’t yet decided whether or not I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year. A couple of weeks ago I’d been hoping my world-building would have reached a point (or gained enough momentum) where I could write a quick expository novel laying the groundwork for the project and setting things in motion—the free prequel novel which introduces the characters, the setting & background, and the plot of the series/project, getting readers hooked/interested before it breaks them up into … well, more on that later, but I think it needs at least a prequel [long] short story. Alas, at this point & rate, I’m not sure I’ll get there in time to make much progress before the end of the month. Especially considering I’m expecting to be reading a book on Monday & Tuesday, then have Thanksgiving weekend coming up from Thursday through the end of the month—how much novel do you suppose I can write in a day?))

Here we go again, with the existential crisis about game design…

While waiting for everything for Teratozoic to get here, I’ve been developing a card-drafting game. At first it was built around storytelling/story-building, a version of my first game, Paved With [my…] Intentions, expanded to create a complex multi-act storyline instead of a vignette… but I ran into technical and existential problems with crafting the story-space my imagined/envisioned game would take place in, so I dropped the theme—but my brain kept thinking about card-drafting games. (I’m sure, in part, because I bought several other card-drafting games to study, and have been playing them a lot.)

So over the last week, a complete game sprang forth from my mind & hands, with almost fully functional mechanics and no theme. By mid-week I picked a placeholder theme and re-skinned all the cards, and now I have a fun, fast-paced, competitive card-drafting game in need of more play-testing. The proto-theme is ‘Black Friday shopping’ and the best name I’ve thought of so far (which I haven’t yet Googled) is “Black Friday Blitz”, and it’s got an interesting double-drafting mechanic, where players are drafting from two different decks at once, passing cards in one based on where they’re sitting at the table (as in most card-drafting games) and passing cards in the other based on how fast they drafted from the first deck; it takes the fast-paced mechanic of card-drafting and adds a race element to it.

So far it’s tested pretty well, and I’ve already ironed out some kinks & shortcomings in the initial design, but the artwork is … basic. Nearly every “graphic” is actually a dingbat from one of the many dingbat fonts I have (or found, specifically for this project), which is nice on one hand (all vector graphics!) but is also … fairly weak, and somewhat incoherent (since they come from several different dingbat sets) and not really the sort of thing that, say, people would get excited about on Kickstarter. If I wanted to produce/sell it as more than a prototype, I’ll have to redesign the cards, probably from the ground up, and create 24 unique pieces of art (several of which represent abstract concepts, not easily presented by representative art styles) for the various cards in the current version of the game.

Unfortunately, right now I don’t feel like my own capabilities as an artist are well-suited to delivering on the ideas contained in “Black Friday Blitz”. This becomes a self-fulfilling situation; this is in the nature of being a creative person, that you can usually only do what you believe you can do. Additionally, the tone & style of the artwork which I envision matching that of the theme & gameplay is one which … I almost wouldn’t want to put my name behind. Which I almost certainly wouldn’t seriously consider buying, myself. I have no idea how to sell it, or who to sell it to. Which makes, say, including the cost of paying to hire an artist in a Kickstarter goal to publish the game… even more difficult.

I’ve been targeting POD for this game, trying to keep the rules simple enough to present on cards (since DriveThruCards doesn’t print rules), so I wouldn’t need any big, up-front investment to publish it. That doesn’t work without art. To hire someone else would probably end up costing $1k-$3k, which is no big deal if you’re raising $15k+ on Kickstarter to pay for mass-production, or if your last game was profitable, but my last game raised ~$6k and is projected to net me around $300 (in part because my printer died right before I needed to be able to print ~300 shipping labels, an unexpected extra expense)—I can’t afford to pay an artist to work on this game with the last one’s sales, and I can’t reasonably expect this one to outperform the last one by 3x+, when I can’t imagine who would even buy it. So then we end up back where most of my work lives, with me doing all the work—in this case, all the artwork.

Which brings me back around to my old existential crisis. What am I doing this for? How much effort do I want to put into creating a game I don’t think people will actually want to play? What’s it all for/mean?

I mean, I’ve been really excited & motivated to design the game, and even to play-test it. Like, after the last time it was played (Friday night), I made a couple of small adjustments to the game flow (and wrote out the basic rules for the first time) and I’m still itching/eager to test the new setup. Like, super excited to improve, polish, and play my new game. So on one hand, that’s great. I still love designing gameplay, and playing (at least at first) my new game designs.

On the other hand, I can’t seem to sever things like choosing an art direction and creating the art from the ideas of marketability, audience perception/snap-judgements, and the reactions game reviewers had to Teratozoic’s art style. Which makes even thinking about what the card art should look like transform into this evil, hulking, acidic thing I don’t want anything to do with. It associates the idea of taking the game from a prototype stage to a publishable stage with a feeling of failure, with pain, with suffering, with the idea of how far off the rails my life went to try to raise ~$6k for Teratozoic and how much worse trying to raise $15k+, especially for a much-less-obviously-marketable game, would be.

Now, there are potential alternatives. Perhaps I’ll come up with an easier-to-conceive-of-marketing theme to paste on, over the top of the existing mechanics & theme. Perhaps I’ll start taking mind-altering pills every day which will help me grind through the 24 pieces of art without collapsing into a pit of despair—and can then just dump the thing on DTC and forget about it. (That’s actually my current best-case plan.) Perhaps I’ll put together a compelling package & sales pitch for the game [mechanics] and sell the thing to a publisher which will figure out a workable theme, hire an artist, and otherwise take care of the things which are bugging me, right now. Perhaps I’m just experiencing a temporary mental and emotional slump, a part of my lifelong journey of depression, and I’ll have no trouble completing the game if/when my brain stops doing … whatever it’s doing. Perhaps I’ll be okay with setting the game aside once the gameplay has reached a satisfactorily polished conclusion, without art or public availability, like most of my prototypes.

I’ve definitely set up my life & business so as to not be dependent on continuous sales or product releases. I certainly don’t create with the intention of making money or accumulating fame. That I create at all has more to do with maintenance of my own mental health than with any other factor.

I think that right now I’m just testing out the limits. I don’t want to go *too* far into doing things which upset me or otherwise compromise my mental (&physical) health, but perhaps it’s not a good idea to shy away at the first signs of discomfort. Perhaps I should try to stretch myself, being wary of going too far.

Last time I went too far.

With Teratozoic, I went too far. Much too far.

This time, perhaps I can figure out a way to publish a game without going too far.

My most successful Kickstarter yet

I suppose I ought to have made at least one post last month… At the beginning of the Kickstarter, say, to try to drive more traffic to it (as though this blog got any traffic, at this point), or perhaps during the campaign, to give more background on the project or on myself or on my plans for the future… But instead I forgot to think such thoughts until now, until well after the campaign has ended: Until after the stresses of the last several months have had a chance to dissipate.

My mind is finally beginning to clear from the clouds and stresses brought on by six months of marketing.

I have now spent more time thinking about and working on the marketing for Teratozoic than I’ve spent: Thinking about and developing the game and refining the gameplay and creating the art and doing the graphic design and writing the rules and play-testing with dozens and dozens of people.

This literally sickened me, though I won’t go into the details here; you know what various colds and flus are like, and probably know how stress weakens the immune system to allow them easy access. The last month or two have been awful. But now it’s over.

The Kickstarter was quite successful. More successful, by far, than any prior crowdfunding attempt I’ve ever made, bringing in $6511 in pledges from 323 backers. That’s an order of magnitude more funding and more backers than my next-most-successful campaign. There’ll even be a little money left over after fulfilling all the rewards, this time: Usually I barely manage to cover my expenses, or fall a bit short. All that extra time and effort and money (which wouldn’t have been possible without another round of crowdfunding I did back in April) spent on marketing seems to have paid off.

The result falls neatly between success and great success: Three or four times more than I needed to fulfill the game and cover expenses, and three or four times less than I needed to actually have the game mass-produced instead of POD-produced. (Another three times as much as that and I could have started offering proper stretch goals.) I need about 266 copies for backers, and a few more to cover shipping and manufacturing errors, so I’m making Teratozoic a signed, numbered limited edition of 300 copies. I’ll be hand-assembling every copy, anyway, so going the extra step to sign & number them seemed reasonable, and adds value.

Plus, it hammers a nail in the game’s coffin for other people, making it easier to communicate that the game is dead. Once I’ve delivered every pledged-for copy, any remainder will be available for direct sales, but they’ll merely be dead copies sitting up on my shelf—and once they’re gone, that’s it for the game. 300 copies of the First Edition, no more. I’m not sure I’ll even be playing it much, once all is said and done; I’ve now played (or watched played) more games of Teratozoic than any other game in my life. Including Scrabble. (Even if we pretend my 18+ Scrabble variants are the same game.) ((Which is nuts. I’ve played no small amount of Scrabble.))

Getting everything from the manufacturers I’m working with will take a couple of months, then assembling & shipping everything will take a week or two, and then there’s days, weeks, maybe months waiting for everything to get delivered to backers.

In the meantime, I’m working on other projects. I have a few other games in early development; one or more of them may be great enough to pursue beyond prototype stage. My mind has recently begun prompting me to start writing again—spitting out short SciFi stories and horror texts and doing deep world-building without really intending to. …so I might get back to writing again, soon, too. I’m not sure I can stand getting back to marketing again, though. Not at anywhere near the scale I just did to get this moderate level of success. Certainly not soon, possibly not ever.

Continue reading My most successful Kickstarter yet

Trying to define my goals for Teratozoic

I’ve been thinking about this part of the problem for a long time, now. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, probably several times if you also follow me on Facebook, Facebook, and/or Twitter. I need to know what my goals are for this project. What I’m trying to achieve. How I’ll define success. (How I’ll know when I’m done.) I still don’t have it all nailed down.

Barring selling the game to a publisher, which is an avenue down which I am not likely to travel very far, I certainly have no intentions of pursuing traditional distribution into retail. The complications, expenses, frustrations, and challenges of dealing with distributors, retailers, or even with the scale of manufacturing (above and beyond any pre-sales/KS-sales) required to satisfy a supply chain are not something I want in my life. At most, I intend to have a POD version of the game remain available at DriveThruCards (with downloadable/printable instructions, and no box; DriveThru only prints cards), and (assuming a successful Kickstarter) to offer a small inventory of copies directly through—something in the range of: I’ll have to order ten or fifteen percent more copies than are backed for, in case of damage/loss/etc; any which remain after all copies have been shipped will be available for direct sales.

So why do a Kickstarter, at all? Well, because I’d like to include printed rules, and I’d like to package the game in a nice box, preferably printed. If I raise (at least) $1,000 I can afford to have 50 copies (read: At least 60 copies, in case of damage/loss/etc) of the cards, custom boxes, and nice rule sheets printed, I can assemble them myself, and I can afford to package and ship them (via USPS) to 50 different backers. For any number of copies sold between 50 and about 1,000 I’d be using the same suppliers/printers, doing the game-assembly (& shipping) personally, and have roughly the same (almost zero) profit margins. Since all but the most-popular new games (the top 15% or 20%) sell fewer than 500 copies, even with a wildly-successful Kickstarter that’s the range I expect to be in; the ‘hand-assembled craft-product with little-or-no profit’ range.

Since a key point I keep trying to explain to other people when they ask about how to succeed (or why they’re failing) at Kickstarting their projects is that you must bring the crowd with you to Kickstarter (they don’t provide the crowd, just the platform for transferring money from fans to creators), and I know that I don’t have an appropriately-large ‘crowd’/audience to know with any certainty that my project will fund at even as low as 50 copies, it is actually against my own advice to attempt to Kickstart Teratozoic.

At least, not now.

Not with 43 Facebook ‘Likes’ on my professional Page. Not with a mere 33 people opening the last email I sent my (still quite small, at 156 people) mailing list. If I saw someone posting about their failing/failed Kickstarter with numbers like those, I’d tell ’em the same thing. You have to do something to reach enough* people, and you ought to do it before the Kickstarter goes live. Based on my Kickstarter history and my current reach, I wouldn’t expect Teratozoic to find more than 10 or 20 backers; 50 is an almost-ridiculous stretch, and the 1,000+ required to have a financially-profitable venture is genuinely-ridiculous. Ludicrous.
*Enough people to have no doubt you’ll reach your goal with only the people you bring on Day 1.

Which is why I’ve been planning on sending out dozens of preview copies to board/card-game reviewers; to put my game in front of their audiences, which are orders of magnitude larger than my own, and hope some percentage of those viewers decides to back Teratozoic based on what they see in the reviews. Which is, theoretically, an excellent idea, and a good way to ‘cast a wider net’. It’s also why I’ve been planning to demo the game at Phoenix Comicon, with as many people as I can wrangle into coming over, and at game stores around town over the next few months, to build ‘buzz’ and let more people know of the game’s existence. It’s why I’ve been planning on ordering and assembling dozens of additional promo copies, to give them away to people who would be willing to teach their own friends & gaming groups how to play, further spreading the word.

Except fuck me if the cost of the preview copies doesn’t push the costs so high my new break-even point is around 250 copies, instead of 50. (Or ~$750 to $1k in patronage, in advance of the Kickstarter. Don’t ask me to explain the math, but suffice it to say that $800 from 2 or 3 people who mostly want to support me (but maybe also want a painting) is worth a lot more than $4,000 from 200 people who each want a copy of the game.) Which means those reviews had better be good, and had better reach many thousands of people, because there’s no way at all my own network (even with as much local promotion as I could stand) would ever reach those numbers.

Which leads me, perhaps, to the idea of running a pre-Kickstarter Kickstarter (or off-KS crowdfunding campaign), to raise $800+ to pay for marketing of Teratozoic. Because if I could raise funds to cover the costs of marketing and development, then the actual Kickstarter for the game is much closer to reachable, at possibly as low as a $200 (instead of $5,000) goal without threatening the project’s viability. Hmm… Interesting thought. I could put up two or three tiers, say $50 in marketing support gets you a preview copy of the game, $100 gets you a preview copy of the game and a Plus Subscription, and $400 gets you a monster painting*, a preview copy of the game, and a Patron Plus Subscription. (Yeah, yeah, the last two are basically just the regular subscription prices.) If I run it through Gumroad on my own site I pay half as much in fees (~5%) to get the funds, and I get the funds whether or not I hit the goal, and I get them immediately, which would all be benefits over running an actual pre-Kickstarter. If successful, that would relieve a lot of the stress I’ve been under, in planning this thing.
*One of my planned tiers for the Teratozoic Kickstarter is $400 (plus Shipping) to have an original painting (up to ~24×36″) made of your favorite monster (from multiple cards, assembled) or monster part (from one card) from Teratozoic.

So. I think part of why I don’t drop the plans/hope to get reviews done & reach a wider-than-my-own audience with the Kickstarter is that I don’t just want to get the game made, and I don’t just want to get the game made with the nicest version I’m able to produce, but I want that nicest-version of the game to be bought and enjoyed by as many people as will/could enjoy it. Not just those among my 30 to 300 fans who would enjoy it, but as many as I can imagine and afford to reach. With a book, it’s cheap and easy to get it in the hands of thousands or tens of thousands of readers/listeners, by giving the digital versions away for free. And I plan to offer the digital/PnP version of Teratozoic for free, but there’s so much expense and effort in turning a PDF into a playable card game that it doesn’t reach nearly as many people. I write my books to be read and enjoyed, and I (apparently) design my games to be played and enjoyed. So I guess that’s an important part of my goals: Not to make money, or to have brick-and-mortar distribution (the reach is not worth the effort, to me; the only reason I can see to go that way is money, which I don’t directly desire), but to have a nice, complete version of my game made, and to get it into the hands of as many gamers as possible without going to too much trouble or getting too stressed. Success will be delivering those nice copies of the game to players, without having had too many anxiety attacks in the process, or going into more debt.

I think the pre-Kickstarter fundraiser may be the answer to that. I’ll start working on it, now.

Update: You can now directly and easily financially support the marketing efforts of Teratozoic, as described; links are up at

Update x2: The fundraiser has now concluded. I was able to raise $550 of my $850 goal.

The Road to [somewhere] is…

So, I’m still hard at work on Teratozoic. I did a little play-testing and a moderate amount of calculation/maths this weekend & ended up revising the entire Era cards setup to better-balance the game against 1) going to 3 colors from the originally-designed 2, and 2) simultaneously adding support for up to 6 players from 4. (Actually originally 2, but that was many, many major revisions ago, now.) Ended up adding a 7th Era card, a new Era name (really re-named 5 Eras, but it’s mostly re-arranging names), and having to try to reconcile this with the fact that I ordered (effectively) 5 copies of the updated game from 3 printers last Wednesday. One printer let me change the cards, but put me at the back of their queue, another couldn’t change the existing order (but it was the one I was ordering 3 copies from) so I made a new order for just the 7 new cards (21 total cards in the new order, and shipping double the cost of printing). The third printer hasn’t gotten back to me, yet. Maybe I’ll call them tomorrow. So… things are advancing, I have more play-testing scheduled for next weekend, and [redacted] which was probably premature and has been stressing me out—I guess I’ll have my answer one way or another by Friday?

Paved With [my...] Intentions, a card game by Teel McClanahan III, from Modern Evil PressIn other news, which I broadcast on all my Facebook pages, I actually published my first game on March 6th. It’s called Paved With [my…] Intentions and it’s … a bit of an odd duck. It’s the third or fourth game I’ve designed with narrative being one of the central pillars of its design, in this case quite obviously and literally. Mechanically it begins as a quick card-drafting game—each player starts with a stack of cards, picks one, and passes the stack to the next player, receiving a new stack from the other direction and repeating until they have a full set. In this case a full set is one card in each color of the rainbow, plus white. (No, not indigo.) Then players take the cards they selected and arrange them into a straight line where each card covers half of the card below it—because each card (except the white ones, which are on top) is divided into two halves and each half has a distinct chunk of story (and a numerical value) on it, and players have to choose one half of each card to be part of their story. Finally, each player reads the story they built, out loud, to the group, and compares stories and scores.

If they’ve put their cards in the correct color-order, every possible combination of cards forms a grammatically and structurally-valid story (though many, many combinations are quite-intentionally surreal and/or disturbing), each one carefully crafted as a possibility by me when I was writing them. It occurred to me recently that with this game I jump from having a few dozen published stories to having almost eighteen million published stories: There are 17,915,904 valid story formations possible from the 42 story cards in the deck. (Some assembly required.) Realistically, there are only a little over a million stories which make sense for someone to play if they care about their score, because of the way I devised the scoring of each story chunk, but almost everyone who’s played it so far has agreed that the scoring is clearly secondary to the story-building. (They also seem to think it’s a blast to play. Almost everyone has quite enjoyed the stories I wrote for this game.) So I’m clearly going to go ahead and start describing myself as the author of over 17 million stories.

(And I’m currently in early development on another narrative card game which, based on my current concepts, would result in upping that number to “over 128 trillion stories”, though I expect that total to fluctuate wildly as I hammer out the details of the gameplay and write the narrative chunks.)

Here are some photos of the cards I took, for the product page:

Sample hand from Paved With [my...] Intentions, a card game by Teel McClanahan III, from Modern Evil Press
A sample hand
Card detail, drawn from the sample hand, from Paved With [my...] Intentions, a card game by Teel McClanahan III, from Modern Evil Press
Card detail, drawn from the sample hand
The first half of the instructions, with an example rainbow-layout in the background, from Paved With [my...] Intentions, a card game by Teel McClanahan III, from Modern Evil Press
The first part of the instructions, with an example rainbow-layout in the background.
Second part of the Instructions, with a sample lineup of cards in the background, from Paved With [my...] Intentions, a card game by Teel McClanahan III, from Modern Evil Press
The second part of the Instructions, with a sample lineup of cards in the background.
Did I forget to mention that the game is for adult/mature players only? “Contains elements of comedy, horror, working in an office, sexuality, religion, dreams, and nightmares.” Oh, and as you can see in the 2nd rules card, there’s one other mechanic which makes things more interesting: many of the story chunks have occurrences of “[my…]” which, during the reading of the story, will be replaced by the red phrase on the player’s chosen white card. This creates much more apparently-coherent storytelling from an otherwise random combination of sentences and sentence fragments.

So it’s quite an odd game. Very light, very quick, almost-surprisingly functional. I did roughly zero testing, designing it and ordering my copy within (I think) 48 hours. There’s no art, only graphic design. (The font selection and the colors used are very specifically chosen for this project—I custom mixed (with math) CMYK colors for the rainbow of cards to suit my intentions for the tone of the game.) I have no idea how to sell it, no expectations that there’s even an audience for it, but it turns out that’s one of the core concepts of my publishing company: Publishing the creations I wanted to create, not the ones I think the market wants to buy. So I put it up for sale via POD, ordered myself a copy (and a copy for each of my Plus Subscribers), and that was that. No attempts to raise funds for a print run to give myself stock I wouldn’t know how to sell, just put it out there, put up some links, and hope for the best. Depending on how I decide to account for Plus Subscriptions, exactly, it’s already profitable.

((Note: If you buy a Plus or Patron Plus Subscription before the end of March, a physical copy of Paved With [my…] Intentions is included in your subscription.))

I am definitely doing my best to resist the urge to do the same thing with the production and distribution of Teratozoic. Teratozoic, I think, is broadly marketable. Potentially difficult to learn the scoring of monsters for, but appealing to people of all ages and capabilities (re: gaming). I’m going to keep working on Teratozoic. Dumping it straight to POD-only is the last resort. (But certainly still counts as publishing it, of course!)