Intrepid – Post Mortem

Now that Intrepid is done and been on sale for about 3 weeks I feel like it is worthwhile looking back over how it all went, from start to finish, so this post is kind of long.

Intrepid started out being called Quest and it came as a direct result of me finally saying goodbye to GM’d games, including D&D. There have been plenty of games harking back to old school D&D but my ‘golden-era’ was in the 90s; when TSR were cranking out large elaborate campaign settings like Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Dark Sun and Planescape: adventuring was part heroic quest and part magical mystery tour.

It helped to have something concrete to aim for, and something I was really excited about recapturing: a GMless game that would last for a campaign and let you explore an interesting setting.

The first draft of the rules included the now familiar quests and maps (but a lot more of them… far too many), but had the Mist Robed Gate combat rules (the vestiges of which can still be seen in the Crossroad voting). I took it to the London Indie RPG meetup for its first playtest and I think this was probably the best thing that happened to the game.

Each month I took Intrepid down to the Indie Meet for playtesting, and despite my comically bad pitching technique, it gained momentum. Not only did I get lots of quality playtesting in but I also got a lot of people excited about the game in a way I never could with just my terrible game pitch. Turns out, this will come in handy later on.

After about a year I took it to IndieCon 2012 and ran it in most of the slots. Everyone seemed keen on it and several people asked when they could buy it! I also found that I’d gone the whole convention without changing any of the rules, so I decided it must be nearly done: I set the conservative release date of next year’s IndieCon.

Playtests continued but now I was seeing how it worked and gathering play advice so that games could run as smoothly as possible. This time was also useful to test out a few alternative rules I wanted to include in the back of the book.

I wrote the first proper draft at the end of 2012, after which I realised I couldn’t write at all well. I needed an editor, and after that someone to lay the book out. Luckily I had Indie Pete and Ash on hand to step into those voids. Working on the text collaboratively was an amazing experience and the result of editing was unrecognisable… it was a million times better.

We used Google Docs to write, rewrite and comment on things. The commenting was good, the revision history was terrible (I’m trying out penflip.com for my next project).

Before the text was considered final I got a group of people from work and got them to play a game without any interference from me. I’ve blogged about this before but I think it went really well and I learnt a lot about how people read and interpret rules, so I’d recommend it as an exercise to others.

It was about this time I discovered the other RPG called Quest (that was also going to be on the UKRPDC stall, although maybe not now), so I decided one of us should change our name and I’d never been happy with Quest anyway. A bit of brainstorming over on the UK Roleplayers forum and Quest was rechristened Intrepid, which in hind sight was a much better name for it.

At this point it was August and time was running low. I had some decisions to make. I had wanted to do a kickstarter or indiegogo as a pre-order, but in the end decided the effort required probably wasn’t worth it for an unknown. Secondly I had made ‘setting decks’, cards with inspiration for factions/themes/characters etc. but the layuot and printing of cards is generally considered a nightmare so they got pushed back onto the ‘maybe later’ pile.

This simplified things immensely and Ash got cracking with the layout (while I did the illustrations for the examples). Ash, Pete and I’d meet up in a pub and they’d have conversations about layout while I looked on without really understanding what was happening. Whatever they did the result was rather pleasing, seeing my game look like a real book was someone exciting.

I did procrastinate on the illustrations though, which delayed things more than I’d like. So it’s definitely a good idea to leave plenty of time for art and the laying out of art in the book, since at this point it was 3 weeks till Indie Con and my target release date.

To print I went with Mixam which Ash used for ‘What You Wish For’. We had a little problem with the proof… the first page had been garbled, which we eventually tracked down to Scribus exporting a newer version PDF version that the printers supported.

Once that was out of the way the printing was very quick. 6 days from giving them the go ahead and the books arriving in the mail. If there’s something magical about seeing a PDF of your game that looks like a book then it’s something else to open up a box of 100 of the real thing!

I had a few minor quibbles with what we’d printed, the black border on the cover is slightly off, the first two pages need swapping and the thickness of the paper leaves a bit too much of a gap in the centre of the book for my tastes, but nothing worth worrying about really. All in all I was happy to get on with selling the things.

I put it up on RPG Now, and defied the recommendation that my first game should cost $1. I would have sold a lot more but I doubt anyone would have played it, we all have too many cheap/free PDFs on RPG Now.

I set it to 1/2 prince for the first few days though, while it was in the ‘new releases’ list, which netted 4 sales from people who had probably never heard of it (I hadn’t set up e-mail notifications on sales so I don;t know who bought the first 6 copies). I don’t really have anything to compare it to but I’d say that was a good plan.

Promoting the game didn’t get off to a flying start, I posted on UK roleplayers, story games, RPG geek and that’s about it. It did help to have some people turn up and say nice things about the game though.

Things really kicked off at IndieCon, when we had the UKRPDC stall and there were lots of people who had playtested it about who naturally generated some buzz. I offered 20% off to playtesters which, while nice, probably didn’t drive sales, they would have bought it anyway.

All in all, from my first 3 weeks of sales the figures are:

  • 4 PDF sales on RPGNow at 1/2 price.
  • 37 PDF sales on RPGNow after I started promoting it.
  • 32 book sales at IndieCon on the UKRPDC stall.
  • 6 book sales via the Intrepid website.
  • 4 book sales directly to friends.

Total sale: 41 PDFs + 42 books = 83 total

I haven’t been to London Indie Meet since I released it, and there is Dragon Meet in a fortnight, which will hopefully add some more sales to those figures.

All in all I’d say the development and release went as well as I could have expected. It was a lot of hard work but the book’s turned out well and lots of people are out there playing the game, which at the end of the day, was the plan.

If anyone wants to know more about any part of this process, let me know.

P.S. I’ve only just worked out how to give away free PDFs on RPGNow (it’s under ‘Send Complimentary Copies’ obviously enough), so I’m offering them to everyone who buys the print version. If you have the book but no PDF, let me know.

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3 thoughts on “Intrepid – Post Mortem

  1. Nowadays, I develop a game through playtesting and I learned the most when I sat and watch others play my game (or being in the player seat). There are so many things that I take for granted that my game should teach the readers in how to create a smooth ride.

    Thanks for sharing your sale numbers. That’s always interesting to know. Not that I can draw any hard conclusions, but it seems like internet presence and attending at conventions is equally important. I usually playtest at conventions so people will know about the game in advance.

  2. There is so much in your post I almost feel like writing a whole post in reply.

    1) 2 years playtesting and production. That’s very honourable. No wonder the game is do highly regarded.
    2) getting other people to play your game is essential.
    3) glad you got collaborators. I’d say you were lucky but it’s a function of the long gestation period and activity on forums so you made your own luck.
    4) ordering 100 copies of a book through a printer? Isn’t that a bit 20th century? I suspect I’m a bit less fussy on the final outcome quality than some but I’m completely POD. Why only .pdfs on RPGNOW? Their POD service is VERY adequate and can get BOOKS sold in the US. You really should also go through AMAZON’s own POD service CREATESPACE. Far from perfect but you could have – should have – Intrepid on sale through Amazon across the world in under a week. I think it’s good enough. (Some people do this through Lulu but I’ve never got to grips with it.) maybe I need to do a post about my POD experiences.
    5) what we all need is to know how to promote our books more widely…….

    • wrt printing a batch, they work out almost 1/2 the cost of POD and I figured I could shift more than 50 to make that worthwhile. 20th century is having to order 1000s, but now you can get just 100 for a reasonable price.

      RPGNow POD is my back up plan for once I run out of hard copies but I don’t feel the need to offer POD when I still have books sitting in my house. Maybe that’s a mistake and I can sell these copies at conventions and POD everything else.

      If I put it up as POD on RPGNow then I’d probably also do CreateSpace, I have looked at it and it seems easy enough. The format is a bit different from Mixam though so I’d have to beg Ash to do some new layout.

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