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Is There Money in Self-Publishing?

black box movement

Today I’ve got two ready questions. “Is there money in self-publishing? What do you think is a good day-job for tabletop game designers?”

Is There Money in Self-Publishing?

Step one, don’t refer to it as self-publishing. I am a publisher that also happens to be a content creator. This is a business (ask the tax collector), and it’s my full-time job. Even though I acknowledge that what I do falls under the umbrella of self-publishing, I reject the stigma. People hear that term and assume you’re amateurish and unprofessional. If you want to make money doing this, you can’t come in with the idea that what you’re doing is less legitimate than outsourcing the publication of your book to someone else.

Stop asking if there’s money in this. Start asking yourself how there’s money in this. In 2014 my wife and I moved to Finland so she could attend grad school. I don’t speak Finnish, and possess no skills that couldn’t be done by a Finn. Being unemployable, I had to invent my own job. Writing and publishing were things I could do. I had no choice but to figure it out, and quickly, so I could pay the rent and keep food on the table. There is money if you’re willing to work hard and be creative in locating revenue streams.

What’s a Good Day Job for a Designer?

Do you want to be a designer full-time, or do you want to do this as a hobby? If doing this is your dream, then any job that covers the bills while leaving you the time and energy to create will do. Nothing that’s going to suck you into a career track and pull you away from the dream. If you’re doing this as a hobby, then find something you enjoy doing and pursue that as a career. Tinkering with games will always be there.

I spent several years working in various aspects of the book trade, and I can’t say many skills were transferrable. Maybe look for work as a copywriter to hone your writing and editing skills. Find a job in marketing, because that often has more to do with the success of a book than that book itself.

The bottom line is that whatever you decide to do, commit to it. Expect that it’s going to be hard. Realize that there’s going to be a lot of trial and error. There is no universal path that anyone can walk. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you. What worked for me mentors and role models didn’t work for me. We all have to find our own way to success.

 


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

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[Hippogryph] System Summary and Core Mechanic

hippogryph system

System Summary and Core Mechanic

The following is an abridged excerpt from the Hippogryph Codex on the system summary and core mechanic. References to page ## will of course direct you to actual page numbers in the completed book. 

Tabletop roleplaying is ephemeral. The action exists in the moment of play, and then is gone. It’s not a movie, it’s live theater. It’s about the journey, and those fleeting and spontaneous moments that occur along the way. This book isn’t the game. The game is what happens in real time, around the table.

That’s why Hippogryph is referred to as a system. It’s a methodology, a way of doing things. These aren’t rules, to be strictly enforced. What you’re reading are guidelines to be applied when you need help determine the outcomes of actions. These are tools that can be used to create things that you need and want for the worlds you’re building, adventures you’re unfolding, and the characters you’re playing.

You control the actions of the character you have created. This is the means by which you contribute to the story that you, the other players, and the guide are all telling together. The guide will narrate the world and the actions of supporting characters, and the other players will narrate their individual player characters’ actions.

To act, follow the principle of story first: say what your character is trying to do, then figure out how you’ll do that using the system. Your character’s elements inform what they can attempt, and create the context for interpreting the results. Even without a specific ability that says whether you can or cannot do something, you are always allowed to try. When in doubt, check with your guide and the other players at table.

Determining Success

How do you know if you’re successful? Many times your character will automatically succeed. If the action isn’t hard, nobody’s trying to stop you, and there’s no need to determine a specific degree of success, the guide may declare that the action succeeds. In difficult or unpredictable situations, you will need break out the dice to determine what happens.

When deciding whether or not an action requires a roll, consider the following questions:

  • What’s stopping this action from happening? Are there inherent difficulties present in the task itself, obstacles making the action more harder than usual, or distractions interfering with your concentration?
  • What could possibly go wrong in attempting this action? If you fail can you simply try again, or could something be broken, a resource be wasted, or a person get injured?
  • What interesting things could happen if the action goes wrong? Beyond failure of the action itself, what might (or might not) happen if you fail? Will it affect other actions, other characters, or the arc of the story?

Core Mechanic Summary

Whenever you take an action, follow these steps:

  1. Think Story First: Describe what you’re trying to do.
  2. Determine the Type of Action: Choose from attack, create an advantage, defend, and overcome.
  3. Select Abilities to Use: This includes appropriate combinations of attributes, skills, and features.
  4. Roll a d20: Roll a 20-sided die and see what number comes up.
  5. Add Modifiers: This includes abilities, conditional modifiers, and bonuses from invoking elements. Add them to the die roll result.
  6. Determine the Outcome: Based on the total of roll and modifiers, see if you fail, tie, succeed, or achieve a critical success.
  7. Describe the Action: Narrate the outcome in the context of the scene and the characters involved.

Examples of the Core Mechanic

  • Michaela wants to fight an orc using a sword. This is an attack action, using her +1 Strength attribute and her +2 Fight skill. She rolls a d20 and gets a 7. The total of the modified roll is 10. The orc needs to make a defend action against a difficulty of 10.
  • Bandile is trying to crack the code on a map, so they can figure out where the treasure is buried. This a create an advantage action, using their +3 Intelligence attribute and +1 Language (Decipher Script) skill. The guide decides the difficulty is 15 (Tough). Bandile rolls a 14, for a total of 18. The code is cracked, and they can now invoke a bonus to decipher other text that uses this same code.
  • Greta uses her Craft (Cobbling) skill to make a new pair of boots. This is an overcome action, where the guide has set the difficulty at 5 (Easy). Her +1 Wisdom attribute and +2 Craft (Cobbling) skill are appropriate here. She rolls a d20 and get a 3. Adding modifiers, the total is 6, and successfully creates new boots.

About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

 

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How Do You Promote Your Games?

black box movement

Today I want to answer another reader question. “How do you promote your games to get attention to it on DriveThru?

There’s no easy answer to this question. When I decided to pursue a creative career, I had the option of going back to school for an MFA in creative writing or getting a business degree. I went with the latter. When I’m not working on the next book for Dancing Lights Press, I’m reading books on marketing. A lot of my time is spent researching the social media keywords and SEO.  I analyze what types of products sell well, and spend a lot of time on finding the best titles. Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve also worked what the best days to release products on Drive Thru are, and even what time of day will bring the most attention.

How Do You Promote Your Games?

The simplest answer I can offer comes down to two things: build a mailing list and release new products regularly. You can’t write one book, drop it, and wait for something to happen. DriveThru allows you to email customers. They need to have purchased something from you, and they need to opt it, but the feature is there. Let people who bought the first book know about the second.  And the third. And the hundredth. If you’re making good stuff, you develop a fan base that will turn up and buy your new thing consistently. It takes time, but that’s how I did it.

 


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

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Is the Lack of Art a Disadvantage?

black box movement

Today I want to answer a question sent in by a reader. Is the lack of art in Dancing Lights Press books a disadvantage?

“I wrote a few small books in a fantasy world, and like yours, they have little to no graphic art to accompany it to reduce the cost of production. How do you go about to mitigate, if not outright nullify, that disadvantage?”

Barriers to Entry

First, stop calling it a disadvantage. It isn’t. As you stated in your question, it reduces the cost of production. This allows creators with limited resources to overcome that barrier to entry. It also reduces the price point for cash-strapped players. In spite of everything else going on, 2020 is going to be the best year so far for Dancing Lights Press. A lot of that is because people who can’t afford to back a $50+ fully-illustrated hardcover on Kickstarter right now can afford something like the DoubleZero Core Book, a complete system priced at $4.99 for the PDF.

Know Your Audience

Second, you need to understand who you’re creating for. There are people that collect, and people that create. I’m not saying there’s no overlap, but collectors want pretty books to put on their shelves. They like a lot of art, full-color interiors, all of the glitzy production value. Those aren’t our customers. Creators just want the information they can use to build characters, worlds, and adventures. They want to make their own stuff, rather than lean on pre-generated material.

Be Useful

Third, and this builds on both of the above points, there’s the matter of utility. How much art is actually useful, let alone essential, to a roleplaying manual? Maps can helpful, as are illustrations of unusual monsters, unique weapons, and strange magic items. Beyond that, though, how does the fully-painted picture of a woman casting a spell on page XX help me to run my campaign? In what way does the 364th illustration of a guy drawing a sword help me to create a better player character? How does line drawing of a tavern keeper improve the mechanics?  I’d rather have a book filled with material I can use.

Is the Lack of Art a Disadvantage?

The only place where having a lack of art is a disadvantage is when facing certain expectations within the hobby. There is a perception that because things have always been done a certain way, that’s the correct and only way to do them. It’s fine if your personal preference is to have a pretty book with a lot of art. To say that no one will buy your stuff if it doesn’t have art in it is demonstrably false. Dancing Lights Press have over 150 best selling titles on DriveTHruRPG, the majority of which have no art. I’m in my fifth year of doing this for a living full time. I’m creating the things I want to create, the way that I want to create them. I don’t feel that I’m at any disadvantage whatsover.

 


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

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This Week’s Hottest Titles: 18 October 2020

Dancing Lights Press

This Week’s Hottest Titles: 18 October 2020

Here are this weeks hottest titles from Dancing Lights Press for the week ending 18 October 2020.

  1. Adventure Generator Vol. 1 $4.99
  2. Building Monsters $4.99
  3. Adventure Generator Vol. 2 $4.99
  4. Building Adventures $4.99
  5. Building Theme [Revised] $4.99
  6. Building Worlds [Second Edition] $4.99
  7. Building Characters [Second Edition] $4.99
  8. Names and Their Meaning $4.99
  9. Phrases and Names $4.99
  10. Bullet Journaling for Gamemasters $4.99

Download all of these titles and more at DriveThruRPG!

Building Series Toolkits [BUNDLE]

Get the PDF versions of all 9 bestsellers in this series for 20% off! As with all bundles at DriveThruRPG, you only pay for the titles you haven’t previously purchased. This bundle contains the followings:

  • Building Characters
  • Building Worlds
  • Building Adventures
  • Adventure Generator 1
  • Adventure Generator 2
  • Building Monsters
  • Building Theme
  • Names and Their Meanings
  • Phrases and Names
The print-on-demand versions of the titles not currently available as POD are coming. Many of you have asked for them, so thank you for your patience. Between the pandemic and the USPS situation, the printer is backlogged and delivery of proofs (test prints) for review is taking longer than normal. As soon as we receive the proofs and look them over, assuming everything looks good, we will make them available to order and let you know!

HippogryphHippogryph Codex Update

The book is in final editing and will be available before the end of the month. We considered making it available for preorder, but there’s always that one guy that doesn’t understand what a preorder is and thinks we’re asking him to pay for the book twice.

Until then, check out Issue Zero of the Hippogryph Zine! It’s where it all began! This is the earliest prototype of the ideas and mechanics that will be expressed more fully in the Hippogryph Codex. While the zine is gone, the concepts live on and form the basis of the system that will be fully supported with more titles throughout the rest of this year and into 2021. And the PDF of the zine is only 99 cents!


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.