Monday, July 21, 2014

Behind the Scenes: TFPC and Friends

 By Richard Litzkow

What makes a kickstarter successful, is it the idea being pitched, the person or team behind the idea, or some combination of both?

I got to wondering about this as I watched the Potato Salad kickstarter reach 11 days left having raised $61k. It seemed remarkable that this kickstarter; created as a joke, could raise so much money. But other kickstarters like Non-Player Cards with much longer term use only just having reached 60% of it’s target goal.

I stumbled onto the Non-Player Cards kickstarter by accident while searching the RPG section of kickstarter. As a game master by day and developer for The Flying Pincushion by night i’m always on the hunt for tools that enhance my ability to provide immersive, detailed games for my players. This, of course, also helps inspire my writing. I’m used to using tables to find random personality traits, but a kickstarter that promised to bundle decks of cards into categories like Name, Profession, Personality, Traits and so on sounded fascinating. With one draw from each deck a unique NPC for any occasion can emerge ready for use in any fantasy setting.

But I was wary, i’ve backed RPG kickstarters before and for all the love poured into them by their creators, many fall to pieces when exposed to the reality of deadlines and logistics. I’ve backed indie RPG bundles by auteur developers that i’ve had to pay for postage twice for and still not received the full pledge, i’ve backed other games where i’ve worked with artists to have scenes drawn from my games - but never seen more than the finished pdf, there have been RPGs i’ve backed by veterans of the industry that due to bad luck have fallen through and ruined their creator’s lives. Kickstarter is harsh, the products that make it through do so on the strength of their creator’s planning and preparation.

The only way to find out whether the creators of the Non-Player Cards kickstarter had the wherewithal to see the project to completion was to look for transparency. So I sent Andreas Walters the project lead of Non-Player Cards a message and asked a few questions.

I wanted to know what sort of team he commanded, the sort of professional skills he was bringing to the table and what plans he had for logistics if the project saw fruition.

Andreas was kind enough to answer my questions; as it turns out he works by day in local government for the San Francisco Transportation Agency, specifically on accounts and planning. A job he explains that is one part cat herding to several parts logistics and systems maintenance.

But he stresses, that he is also a gamer, specifically a GM who loves D&D and still reminisces about 3.5. He explained that he prefers to run intricate games, heavy on plot and character with unexpected twists added liberally for good measure. The idea for a card based system to create quick NPCs came to friend and him whilst they were plotting out a new set of tables, and after much discussion and planning they decided that the idea was worth pitching to the public - Non-Player Cards.

He hopes that the project will, if it gets it’s funding, see the light of day and be available to order online, as well as be available to retailers down the track. But the funding goal is to establish the groundwork, create the product and manufacture it small scale before expanding it.

When the group did the budget for the kickstarter they investigated closely the process of printing and shipping as well as the associated costs. A professional skill, Andreas informs me, is key to his real life job.

This is frankly the sort of thing I want to hear from a kickstarter creator, it’s not enough that they have a love of their project, but that they have the business skills to plan ahead. It also doesn’t hurt to be willing to engage in discussion with members of the public who are on the fence about backing the project.

While only time will tell how the Non-Player Cards project turns out, they have my money and support. If you think the project is worth investigating I suggest looking it up here

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