Saturday, July 7, 2018

How Should I Share My Dreamlands Material?



I want to share with you my labor of love, the D&D dreamlands material that has formed the basis for my nearly 3 year (and still running) campaign on google plus, and about a dozen posts here. Speaking with Robert Parker the other day helped crystallize two major issues I've been struggling with in figuring out how to do this.

The first is that it's too BIG to produce. It is divided in reality and in my mind into three parts: (1) Zyan Between, the cluster of (more or less modular) dungeons in the undercity of Zyan that Ultan's door opens into. (2) Zyan Below, a 3-D hex crawl through the inverted white jungle that hangs from the bottom of the rock of Zyan. (3) Zyan Above, a cursed city in the dreamlands. It thus comprises a point crawl between dungeons, a massive wilderness hex crawl across four stacked hex maps, and a full city supplement. AND there are three tent pole dungeons, of the 200-400 room variety (only two of which my players have visited).

And even if it could be produced, what genre of RPG book would it be? Well, it's a tightly thematically unified campaign setting book for sure. In theory people don't like that kind of book, although they might like this. But it's also a point crawl between more or less modular dungeons, a wilderness setting in a dreamy alien jungle, and a city supplement. Oh yeah, and also kinda a megadungeon book (or three). Yeah right.

OK, so let's get real. How can I do this thing?

Robert suggested that I break it up (for now) and release things bit by bit, starting at the beginning. The idea would be start with Ultan's door and the area it opens into in the undercity of Zyan. (It opens into a dungeon called "The Ruins of The Inquisitor's Theater".) Zyan Between, where The Ruins of The Inquisitor's Theater is located, is inspired by the underworld of Empire of the Petal Throne, a vast complex of tombs, temples, and Red Nails style empty chambers. Zyan Between is the best entry point for introducing players and DMs alike to Zyan, since it's the most familiar in terms of the tropes of D&D. It's not as batshit crazy, or nearly as ambitious as the White Jungle or the city of Zyan itself.

So supposing this is the place to start, how should I do it? Robert suggested that maybe I should start a Patreon and do the first couple of dungeons, perhaps all of Zyan Between, as free PDFs with costs offset through supporter contributions. But my career doesn't allow me to make commitments to paying supporters that I will meet regular deadlines, so Patreon does not seem optimal.

Another option would be to do it as a series of zines. The first zine, for example, might be The Ruins of the Inquisitor's Theater. The second might be The Great Sewer River, and so on. Roughly one dungeon or pointcrawl area per issue. If the zine was modestly successful it might at least pay for itself, allowing me to hire people to do maps, art, and layout.

Another option is to do Zyan between as a series of free pdfs available for the community. (I love you guys so hard.) Without any funding source, they would have to be pretty bare bones, using my crappy maps, and maybe a single piece of commissioned art. Doing this doesn't foreclose eventually representing the material in a more developed commercial form. That's what ended up happening with my first module, The Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper, which started on my blog, migrated to the free supplement From the Vats, and is now going to be published (and sold) in a prettier, better, and more usable form by Necrotic Gnome Press. So if I do it free first, maybe later it could be presented in a different form. Or maybe not. Either way it gets to you.

A third option would be just to try to pair with a small publisher, and do Zyan Between as a series of modules. This would likely allow the most adequate presentation of the material, with for real layout, decent maps, and lurvely illustrations. But it wouldn't be as cheap as a zine, much less a free PDF. Also, I'm not sure that I will be able to find a publisher, although I'm certainly game to try.

So what do you think? How should I do it? What form would you prefer? Zines? Free no frills PDFs? Published modules? Any options I'm not considering?

28 comments:

  1. I think "Wormskin" and "Crawling Under a Broken Moon" offer a workable model for someone starting out in self-publishing.

    "Wormskin" and "CUaBM" both started out as zines and pdfs. Give away the pdf of the first issue, or sell them all. Charge money for the print zines for sure. More people will want to buy your work than you think. You have the Dreamlands and an upside-down white jungle; people will buy it. One dungeon per issue seems like a sound idea. Start with your own art, or pay just enough to get the covers, the maps, maybe like one set-piece per issue. The more issues come out, the more word-of-mouth you'll get, and the more people will want the back issues as well. Release as much of it as you want this way; we'll pay twice to get it the second way, too.

    The second way is this. Take the money you got from selling the zines, combine it with money from a Kickstarter. Hire artists, editors, layout people. Put together the book (or books) YOU want. It seems like each level of Zyan could be a book of its own. (Put one megadungeon in each book though, even all three are on the middle level.) Take a peek at "The Forbidden Caverns of Archaea" - it sounds a lot like how you described the middle level. It would take a while to work up to this point, but we've seen that it can be done, that it's viable.

    I mean, this is just an idea, not marching orders, but I think that other people have successfully walked a path that you could follow.

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    1. My instinct is to do something like this. You’re right that there are good models out there.

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  2. I think you're worrying over much about the Patreon option. Just be straight with people about what they can expect and let them decide whether or not they want to support you. Bet you quids that plenty of people will sign up. $5 a month or whatever isn't exactly a lot of money and many people just want to support creators who they like.

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  3. (Btw I have a Patreon channel so I know what I'm talking about)

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  4. Once upon a time I thought $5 a month wasn’t much. Not today, for various reasons. That is why I like the lesser options ($1, $2) some patreons offer which still allow me to support them and get me some content as well as being affordable enough that I don’t fret each month about it.

    I can spring for the occasional purchase on a one off. So based on that, what Anne suggests sounds good. I’ve gotten a few Wormskin, Black Dog, and Vacant Ritual Assembly - when I can afford, and based on good reviews. What Adam suggests is a future state for me in terms of relaxed affordability. But if you had a $1 or $2 patreon level and were a bit haphazard, and said so up front, that might work too.

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  5. Another thing to consider with Patreon is that option to do by-the-post pricing instead of by-the-month. I've heard that recently Patreon changed its policies to make by-the-post somehow less good for most creators, but if you're worried about inconsistent timing, everybody's getting what they expect that way.

    Another model, just so that you have more to consider: put out a call for artists/layout folks/publishers that are interested in co-creation and doing profit-sharing rather than or in addition to up-front paid freelance work. Maybe pay an advance on the profit sharing if you can afford it (that's what I've done with my co-creator for Fellhold). This lets you start getting help on the areas you can't handle yourself without raising the capital to do it the old fashioned way first. Plus, you get more points of view, which can be helpful creatively.

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  6. Thanks for the advice on Patreon. You’re all probably right that it could be made to work. I’ll look into it. Since I don’t really do Patreon myself, I’ve never really *gotten* it. My instinct is always: I’ll wait until you’re done and support you by buying your stuff. It’s interesting that over here (on the blog) Patreon seems like the appealing way to go to folks. Whereas on G+ people were unanimously in favor of the zine approach.

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  7. I'd love to see your work. I'd be more likely to become a paying customer if I could see a sample pdf, maybe with an overview. I rarely pay for PDFs, I prefer to have printed copies. But I can't pay for high-end, illo-laden books, either. Nor do I want them. I also wouldn't be interested in long-term ongoing things like Patreon. I guess I'd like simple printed chunks that I could enjoy even if more in the series is produced.

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  8. I would just ask Raggi if he wants to publish it.

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    1. All you have to do then is wait 5 years and survive the nervous breakdown and dramas on publication.

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    2. Ask someone who isn't a creep - ask Hydra.

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    3. Hydra is definitely the natural fit, and I am primarily talking to them insofar as I've talked to anyone at all. My assumption is that I will most likely self-publish some part of it, maybe in zine form, and do some part of it with them.

      Raggi is the nuclear option only because he prints big beautiful weird books that a lot of people buy. However, there may have been some mild double-entendre intended by me, given the controversies that he courts, including in the threads that drive you nuts.

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    4. I adore Dreamlands so if you need a free map or two drop me a line.

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    5. Thanks! That's amazing offer coming from someone of your rare talents.

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    6. This conversation gives me good feelings

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    7. I'm not into Patreon, but I can see the appeal. Free or pay-what-you-want Zines would be a good way to get the material out there. Build interest, drive people to your blog or Patreon. See what people think, and what people pay for. That gets your material ready if you want to combine it into a single or multiple books. Also promote shamelessly. Tell every blog, gaming news site, and reviewer when you release anything.

      Personally, I like physical books. I like having material in one place. Kickstarter can cover those larger costs, but you have to advertise and build hype before, during, and after. You also have to convince people who don't know you to lay their money on the line. The fact that this post is getting so many comments is a good indication that you have interested fans. (I've never commented before, BTW, and I'm sure there are others.) If you were to go with Raggi, awesome. I get an email when new stuff is added to his store and I buy most of it. I understand the reluctance, but he produces incredible books.

      People want this. Not everyone knows they want it, or that it even exists. Those are the people you need to find. A publisher (like LotFP) brings a built-in audience.

      So put me on your mailing list, I want to know what you are doing and when.

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    8. Thanks Janus. I promise not to stay quiet about it, whatever shape it takes. Right now I'm pretty set on the zine format. It allows me to work at my own rate, and to give people something physical and aesthetically appealing. All with a view to eventually producing it in some more lavish and abiding format.

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  9. I’d consume whatever you put out, however you decide. I think the Zine would be most effective short-term, you have such descriptive prose I’d almost prefer to imagine the scenes than have art that tells me exactly what the Merchants of the Hanging Padoga’s look like... I was able to run the Spire long before any official maps or publishing happened, but I think that’s kind of the OSR appeal. You’d definitely reach a bigger audience with official modules, but it’d also take much longer to get material out...

    Patreon is a great resource, but would hold you to a bit of a schedule... it’s what people expect of Dyson, but he seems to almost thrive on the pressure.

    Regardless, I’m excited to see more of your world. I definitely agree on releasing one area at a time, and saving the jungle and Zyan above for future publications when you’ve figured out exactly what you want...

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    1. A setting book like Yoon-Suin seems appropriate if you decide to go all-out, and you could release dungeons and future adventure hooks as suppliments or zines? People universally seem to enjoy Yoon-Suin’s layout...

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  10. Hi Ben, if The Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper is going to be published by the excellent Necrotic Gnome it may be worth asking Norman, seen he's just paired with Quality Beast, if there might be space for Zyan in their future schedule. Very slowly drawing a map of Zyan above, maybe I'll have something to show you next Fall.

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    1. You're right Adamo, I should talk to Gavin too. Why not?

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  11. I'd say reformat your blog posts (what we've already seen) into a barebones intro PDF to the three parts of your world, crappy maps and all.
    I know what you've already written has gotten me hooked, so dangling some free PDFs and offering more material and fancier stuff for the low price of $2 a month seems like a good model. Middle Finger of Vecna does a pretty damn good job of this sort of stuff.

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  12. It's also worth looking at what Luka Rejec has been doing with developing Ultraviolet Grasslands. AFAICT, he's been using Patreon to fund content to the point where he's produced a nice introductory PDF in the run up to launching a kickstarter.

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  13. Regardless of what form you end up using, I would enjoy seeing more stuff related to your summoning system. The posts are from 2014, and you may not have used it since then, but I found your take on summoning innovative and true to the ideal of the spell and would happily put down some money for a full Book of Six Circles or one of the other tomes you name in your first post on the topic

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    1. Henry V I've been planning on revisiting that, perhaps in conjunction with my more recent post on familiars. It's one of the things I find myself with ideas about from time to time.

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