Monday, December 31, 2012

In Which The Warlock Ends a Year in the Life...

Apologies on the missed post this past week--between the holidays and focusing on ending out the Cold Steel Wardens Kickstarter drive, my attention has duly been focused elsewhere, as you might imagine.

In spite of everything, though, my Kickstarter for CSW has forged on.  As I write this, we're a mere $330 from achieving our funding goal.  We experienced a fantastic surge in the few days following the Christmas holiday, and it's looking like we're going to be funded.  For a first-time RPG-designer, this is more than I could have imagined.  While I would have loved to meet some of our stretch goals, the sheer idea of my dream being funded, being expected still astounds me.  The work ahead is going to be huge, but it's work that's worth it.

That said, I've learned more than I've ever wanted in the last few weeks about starting and marketing a Kickstarter drive, to say nothing of how I work.

  1. There is never enough sleep.  I'm an insomniac by nature, but the sheer stress of running the Kickstarter in addition to all the other works has run me down like a renegade truck.  While I've managed to sleep while off from school, spending numerous nights with 3 or less hours of sleep definitely took a toll on both my health, my sanity, and my ability to focus.
  2. Publicity is a bitch.  It's all well and good to update your Kickstarter.  I made the mistake of updating too sporadically at the start, but swiftly changed to a twice-weekly rotating schedule of videos and text updates.  But, each update requires publicity of its own, which means time set aside for Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter updates.  Needless to say, that's a lot of work, in and of itself.
  3. Your base is extremely important, particularly if you've never done this before.  I underestimated this one drastically, and my recovery from this may well be the only reason that I'm on the verge of success.  While your ability to draw in new backers does hinge on your ability to provide a solid product for people you've never met, it's the people who know you that are going to do the most publicity for you and spread the word.  Further, they're much more likely to invest more money, given that they have an emotional investment in seeing you succeed.  Ensure that your base is on deck, before launching!
  4. December isn't the cruelest month.  There's been a lot of debate recently as to whether it's worth it to run a Kickstarter over the holidays.  As someone who's sitting in the midst of that debate, I don't believe I've seen a real difference based on the time of year.  With an intent to publish by August 2013, I could have waited for January, but it seemed like folly--I'd rather have the extra time to begin working on ensuring that CSW is a fantastic rpg.  Further, one might need only look as far as the FATE Core Kickstarter or the KS for ICONS: Great Power to see drives that are experiencing massive success in the holiday season.  That said, I wouldn't want to push into January or February, as peoples' wallets begin recovering from the holiday splurge.
  5. Appearance matters.  While I've been happy with my updates thusfar, my lack of finished, finalized art for Cold Steel Wardens has definitely been a drawback.  However, that pushed me into that conundrum:  do I pay for art before running a Kickstarter drive with the intent to pay for art?  While that would mean additional funding set aside for layout, it also means a greater up-front investment.  That cost, coupled with the delay in waiting for said art to arrive, pushed my hand towards a December drive.  That said, I may have recouped the cost by tossing in more money up front.
  6. Get your international shipping options straight from the start.  One of the first things that I was asked early in the drive was "Why aren't you offering international shipping?"  I truly hadn't given it any thought and, when I decided to actually offer such an option, I had to add all-new pledge levels specifically to accommodate them!  It seems like a small item, but it's one you want to have in order as you set up your drive!
  7. Stay in touch.  If someone drops you a message, respond to it within one day.  If you have a comment on the Kickstarter at large--which everyone can see--respond as soon as you can get an answer, even if it's "I don't know right now--I'll look as soon as I'm able."  
  8. KickTraq is a double-edged sword.  While it provides fantastic data in regards to what projections one might expect...the math is hard to tear away from.  And that math?  That math lurks within a realm of madness and guilt.  The more you stare at the numbers, the more you wonder "What haven't I done?  What am I doing wrong?  Why aren't people backing me?"  While those are good questions to ask, they eat at you.  He who gazes into the abyss, and all that jazz...
And the biggest piece of advice?  Never give up.  Even when hope seems lost.  Persevere.  
2012 is over, and the next step awaits.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In Which The Warlock Breathes Deep...

Friends and neighbors, despite my earlier post, I knew full well what I was getting into this fall.  Mind you, that doesn't make any of it any easier, but knowing that you're walking into a trap does give one an advantage.

My students' final hurdle before
their holiday break!
However, here at the end of 2012, things are finally starting to clear up.  My online professional development classes finished out around the 10th.  My holiday break from Northmont started today, after I subjected my 'weasels' to my annual holiday tradition--a viewing of the absolutely abysmal He-Man/She-Ra Christmas Special.  And, I'm almost entirely caught up with grading.

So what does all this mean?  Well, it means that I'm ready for the final sprint in the Cold Steel Wardens Kickstarter.  We're just a hair below 50%, with 12 days to go.  We weathered the "lull" section relatively intact, but it's still going to require a strong push over the holidays in order to meet our funding goal.

I had hoped to stave off the "lull" via two strategies:  the reveal of our publisher, Chronicle City, and through what I called the "Warden's Bounty" system.  However, what I'm finding is that neither piece of news was really effective in bringing in new pledges.   Nothing against the crew at CC--they've been spectacular--but even though awareness seems to be up regarding CSW, that hasn't proved to put any dollars in the proverbial bank.

The Warden's Bounty system was my attempt to mobilize my "base", spreading CSW virally.  The basic concept was simple--convince one person to pledge, and you could "claim bounty" on them, earning a free set of tokens for your Hero Pool.  Convince 5, and I would automatically bump the bounty-hunter's reward level to the next tier, at no additional cost.  While this would require some extra recordkeeping on my part, which I was prepared to accept, I still have yet to actually have a backer claim bounty on another!  While I have no doubts that this method could be effective, it just hasn't been for us.

That said, we fight on!  The last sprint-to-the-end makes up a good deal of every Kickstarter's funding, so I still fully believe we can make it!  If you haven't pledged today, we could really use your support!  And don't forget that you can still take advantage of that "Warden's Bounty" program--be the first to claim your bounty today!

Oh!  One more thing!  I recently was interviewed by the Farsight Blogger about my work on CSW and in the gaming world in general.  Take a look:  Farsight Blogger Interview--Andy Klosky!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In Which The Warlock Says, "But Wait, There's More!"

For Immediate Release:  December 14th, 2012

Blackfall Press, LLC announces tentative partnership with Chronicle city for new tabletop RPG
Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics currently in development

Englewood, OH, December 14, 2012– Blackfall Press, LLC has reached a tentative agreement with UK publishing company Chronicle City to produce Blackfall Press’s flagship roleplaying game:  Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics.  This agreement is pending the results of the Cold Steel Wardens crowd-funding drive, which is active on Kickstarter until January 2nd, 2013.

“Working as a print/publisher partner with Chronicle City enables us to put forward a fantastic initial product with great distribution channels.  Angus Abranson was one of my first points of contact as a freelance RPG writer, and it’s an absolute thrill to work with him on my first solo game,” said A.P. Klosky, the owner of Blackfall Press, LLC and the creator of Cold Steel Wardens

Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics emulates such classic comic book storylines as Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil: Born Again and countless others.  Using a new game system—the MAFIANAP mechanics—Cold Steel Wardens brings the thrill of street-level superheroes and their moral struggles to the game table.

“I’ve known Andy for some time, and have always been impressed with the work he has done for me in the past, so when he mentioned he was planning his own game – and a superhero one to boot (one of my favourite genres) – I was more than happy to talk to him about teaming up. Cold Steel Wardens has a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to exploring those dark streets with him,” said Angus Abranson, owner of Chronicle City.

Blackfall Press, LLC is a new producer of tabletop roleplaying games located in Englewood, OH.  Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics is their first wide-release game.  The Kickstarter drive for Cold Steel Wardens can be found at the following address:

Chronicle City is a new British based games publisher set up by Angus Abranson (ex-Cubicle 7; Leisure Games). Chronicle City are working with a number of companies and designers to publish their games, as well as designing their own roleplaying, card and board games.

# # #

If you would like more information about Blackfall Press, LLC or Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics, please contact A.P. Klosky at or visit the Blackfall Press, LLC Facebook page at

You can find out more information about Chronicle City, and their games, at or follow them on Twitter @Chronicle_City, Facebook, Google+ or by emailing

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Which The Warlock Continues the March...

I've often compared my life to that of a juggler.  I taught myself to juggle while working at an amusement park, while toiling in the long days of gift shop hell.  And, while I'm only a competent three-ball juggler, I remember my long conversations with the street entertainers during my days there, in which they spoke of greater and more impressive feats--juggling buzz-saw blades covered in lit gasoline while balancing on a tipped-up chair, or chainsaws while balancing wine glasses.

My life right now is one of carefully juggled chaos.  Between teaching, grading, taking two online professional development classes, writing and editing Cold Steel Wardens, contacting artists and layout experts, conferring with industry folks, managing and updating the Kickstarter, and publicizing for the game itself, I'm up to my eyeballs.  Each of these things spins whirls about my head, and it's all I can do to metaphorically keep tossing them back up and forging on.

Take, for example, this past weekend.  I managed to eke out a session of Hell on Earth with the PlatinumChick on Friday night, but even then, I was hard at work on my Friday update for the Kickstarter.  Saturday, amid shampooing our carpets and making curry for the annual WittLARP, I produced a series of GM screen adverts for my upcoming demo series and printed off the character sheets necessary for said demos.  Sunday was spent out at Bookery Fantasy, showing off my game in the hopes of gaining some more backers.

Only THREE?  Man, he's got it easy!
Yesterday might have been the singularity of this madness.  I arrived at my school at 7am, as usual, but downtime and breaks within the teaching day were spent editing a video update for the Kickstarter and e-mailing various contacts and potential artists.  On my prep, I took my final exam for my online history exam, which went about as well as I could have expected, given the circumstances.  Upon arriving home, I attempted to upload that video update, only to find that it exceeded YouTube's length requirement.  That meant re-editing the video to trim out about a minute of footage, then re-uploading it.  By that point, the PlatinumChick had returned home and I managed to cram down dinner and a short "de-stresssing" bath before my featured #rpgnet IRC chat.  The chat lasted nearly 3 hours, and I only managed to log off at 10:45 that evening.  My workday?  15.75 hours.  Ouch.

If you're looking at building a Kickstarter, I can't stress this enough:  don't have anything else in your life going on at the same time, if you can help it.  Minimize the level of distractions that you have overall, so that you can focus on providing quality updates and timely communication with your backers.  The less you have going, the more you can focus on your product and the publicity monster that will constantly devour your time and attention.

I'm in the "lull" right now in Kickstarter terms--that period between a project's initial surge of backers (made primarily up of a loyal base) and the end-of-project spike (primarily brought about as the project nears its deadline).  Considering that we've hit 41% this week and still have 3 weeks to go, we're doing fairly well, though our projections are very near.  Depending on the number of pledges we get in a day (some days of the lull have been great, some have been all but blank), our projections drift back and forth over our funding line.  It's easy to become absorbed in watching the numbers, but at the end of the day, playing Nostradamus helps no one and only makes a project manager more nervous.  Realism only gets you so far.

But, we still forge on!  I keep juggling my many priorities and hopefully things'll turn out in our favor, and I'll have a great game for you.

For those interested, feel free to take a look at the full transcript of my #rpgnet IRC chat.  And, if you're a Dayton local, swing by Epic Loot Comics and Games in Centerville this coming Sunday (12-16) starting at 1pm for a free demo of Cold Steel Wardens.

Oh.  I nearly forgot.  I have news.  Stay tuned on our Kickstarter page for forthcoming information!  :D

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

In Which The Warlock Contemplates the Kickstarter...

Friends and neighbors, I'll make no bones about it.  This week has been an utter whirlwind, between Kickstarter publicity, setting up demos, virtual meet-ups and the like, on top of my normal schedule of gaming and teaching.

However, I'd like to use this space over the next few weeks to record some thoughts about my Kickstarter experience and how things have been rolling out over time.

At the time of writing this, I've just hit the 30% funded mark, thanks to two massively generous donations from ChaoticLauryn and CinciNick, as well as ChaoticFrederick.  For whatever reason, the 30% mark seems to be the "magic number" for determining the success or failure of a Kickstarter drive.  According to Kickstarter's own metrics--as cited here, by a successful film project--if a project manages to hit that 30% mark, it has a greater than 90% chance of being fully funded.  While the actual reasoning behind this seems to be somewhat nebulous, the fact remains that people seem to be more likely to shell out for a product that has a demonstrable chance of success.  As such, hitting 30% only 5 days in means that we have a real shot of making Cold Steel Wardens a reality!

All the KS stats you could possibly want!
I've got to say, the whole Kickstarter process is incredibly nerve-wracking.  The temptation to keep hitting F5 in the hopes that someone has pledged in the 5 minutes since the last time you've looked is overwhelming at times.  A mixed blessing among the Kickstarter furor has been KickTraq--an analytics site devoted to processing data specifically from Kickstarter.  While KickTraq has been invaluable in assessing the relative success and failure on any given day, it's hard to avoid "armchair quarterbacking" every moment of the drive.

Publicity has been a struggle, though I feel that I've been fairly successful in areas.  My attempts to contact actual comics news sites has been an utter failure, with not even so much as an email back from any site that I had contacted (of seven).  Facebook has been useful, and I've seen good metrics from the Blackfall Press Facebook page, but the limitations on page-based posting (at least on a free basis) makes it difficult to keep word spreading.

I've also encountered something of a conundrum, for which I have no easy answer.  I began this Kickstarter drive for three primary reasons:  art, layout, and an initial print run.  As is, I can afford none of these three.  The Kickstarter was designed specifically to pay for these items.  However, I'm finding that one of the biggest criticisms leveled at the KS is that the art doesn't look "professional" or "refined".  Well...that's probably because it's not.  It was done by a good friend, pro-bono, who's never had formal art training.  While I like the cover image we've been using--I think it fits the tone and genre of the comics I'm attempting to emulate--it's not professional by any stretch.

But, because of this, I find myself in a catch-22.  I ran the Kickstarter to afford high-quality, professional art...but I find myself in need of said art in order to succeed at the Kickstarter.  Established companies have a decided advantage in this regard, as they have both numerous freelance art contacts and, in many cases, in house artists.  But, if that's the case and they have that funding already available, why are they doing Kickstarter?  Frustration, thy name is crowd-funding!

That said, the drive goes on!  I'm the featured guest at the Beautiful Brains BackRoom Chat tomorrow evening (9pm EST), so if you'd like to chat with me,  you can catch me then!
If you haven't pledged, check out the Cold Steel Wardens Kickstarter page, and stay posted through the Blackfall Press Facebook page!