Sunday 28 April 2019

Kickstarter Videos & Marketing

A long time ago, I decided to make my adventure PDFs free. I believed that my content would do a better job at marketing itself than I could trying to sell people on something they couldn't see.

(If you just wanna see the videos, scroll down to the bottom!)

Running a Kickstarter challenges this approach. There's a defined funding period, and I need to get interested parties to the Kickstarter page within that period. Not before, and not after! This means actual marketing. Uh oh!

Thanks to the workspace I'm sitting in these days, I'm getting some quick 'n' dirty mentoring in marketing. Yay serendipity!

This has helped me understand that I need very different messages for different groups of people, which is a challenge with my limited manpower! I'd rather be drawing or writing. Surely you'd rather I was drawing or writing too!

Different Dice for Different Mice

For people who already know what I do (maybe you've downloaded, maybe played, or even supported me on Patreon), the message is, "It's happening now," and "tell your friends."

Beyond this, there's a halo of people who kinda know what I'm doing, and may not know whether it's applicable to them. They might have seen my stuff or even played one at a con, but don't remember my name or my blog name. Or maybe they saw one but don't realize how big the collection is. Maybe they saw multiple pieces and didn't realize they were by the same person. (Branding fail.)

For this group, the message has to start earlier in the awareness process. Yep, this is me, this is where you get them, and by the way.. now.

Then there's are people who haven't heard of me, but would love my content. Maybe they weren't on G+ (my main stomping ground, may it rest in peace). This group needs awareness building, which is apparently time-consuming and expensive.

In a way, I suppose you could view the last five years as exactly this sort of awareness building, a crazily slow word-of-mouth campaign for this book. In any case, it's a bit late to be energetically targeting this group at this point in time.

Even so, I want to make sure that any messages they do see still work for them.

The Call-to-Action Hydra

The other complexity is the "call to action." Apparently, unless you're doing long-term brand awareness, marketing messaging needs to urge you to do something. The trick is, that something changes based on who I'm talking to and when I'm talking to them.

I can put out a video spreading awareness of the Kickstarter before it starts, but unless people have a way of book marking their intention to become backers, it's easy to miss a 30-day window. That mechanism varies from place to place.

Liking a Facebook page, following on Twitter, subscribe to my notification mailing list, add this to your blog roll, visit the Kickstarter page. All of these are different messages. That's not too bad in text, but it's way more labour intensive for video content.

Add to all of this that I can't even send people to the Kickstarter page before it launches; there's nothing for them to do. That means on launch day, all my messaging needs to change. Fun times!

Video Punchline

Anyways, here's the punchline to all of this: two slightly different videos, one meant for pre-launch sharing, and another that sits on the Kickstarter page itself.

I'm curious if you think they do the job - communicating what I'm doing, when, while engaging people who already know what I'm all about. Suitable for a possibly wide audience (in case I get a lot of reshares), but not so slick ad advertising-like that they alienate people who've been supporting me for a long time.

Here's video one, the "pre-launch" video:

Here's the video that gets embedded in the Kickstarter page itself. It's exactly the same for the first 90 seconds, but then has a different ending. (I obviously don't want to send people who are watching this on Kickstarter over to! Although the video might get shared outside of KS.. so I can't even take that for granted!)

If any of this works and the Kickstarter is a success, when the dust has cleared I'll have to draw up my "communication map" that shows how it all fits together.

b.r.b. drawing a communication map

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Kickstarter Assault: The Stairs

We're now in the one-week countdown for the Trilemma Adventures Compendium Kickstarter! During the campaign, I'll be running a dungeon assault scenario, where backers help direct the forces.

As we count down the final seven days until launch, I'll be answering questions about the scenario, and using your input to direct Grinvolt's preparations.

Preparations Begun

Four preparations have begun so far:

1. Quarter-Lord Counobel, commander of the Grinvolt garrison occupying the upper level of the Sun Temple, has sent word in three directions for reinforcements to join the attack.

2. At Eamon's suggestion, , has started spreading false rumors word in Dust Town that he intends to abandon the garrison, in the hopes of misleading Dradkin spies.

3. Over on MeWe, Thaddeus Moore directed several men-at-arms to gather great quantities of oily leaves and to make great, two-handed fans, in case a huge smoky fire was needed.

4. Gathana, flametender and the garrison's priestess of Panur has decided to spend all of her time preparing a ritual of blinding light, which the Grinvolt axewives believe hurt Dradkin eyes.

What Is Known

Yesterday I got a question about Dradkin tactics, based on what Quarter-Lord Counobel observed during the battle.

Today's question is about the staircase down to the Dradkin fortress. Here's what is known about those:

1. The spiral stair down to the fortress is long, at least 200 steps.

2. They are large, wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. It's definitely wide enough for a boulder. (There are plenty outside that could be fetched, and hewn into a round-enough shape to be rolled down.)

3. In the chaos of victory six years ago, three axewives descended on their own; they found a cavernous gallery, spanned by some sort of bridge. Only one returned, the other two were cut down by arrows, but their small lamp wasn't bright enough to illuminate the large chamber.

4. Some axewives wanted to attack downwards, but Counobel ordered a halt. He argued that their task was to stop the raids, and the stairs were easy to defend. The Dradkin would soon be starved down in their claustrophobic mine!

5. This was soon revealed as a false hope. The Dradkin showed no sign of surrender; the occasional breeze on the stairs suggested there are other ways out. (Though none have been found in the surrounding area.)

6. Counobel maintains a guard post at the top. They keep a cauldron of hot oil on a bed of coals, with orders to pour it down if the Dradkin attack in force. At first the guards were in pairs, but as the Grinvolt numbers have dwindled, the duty is now a lonely one.

7. It is common for the guards to report the sounds of Dradkin far below; occasional shouts, metal-on-stone clanking.

8. The rumor among the camp followers in Dust Town is that some of the axewives have been bribed by the Dradkin for information, and may even have allowed spies. Counobel has dismissed this as unthinkable, but weird gems continue to show up in circulation. The story is always that yet another cache has been found behind the limestone wall panels.

Monday 22 April 2019

Taking the Sun Temple

Spwack asked a great question in the comments.

"Has Counobel learnt anything about dradkin tactics from the first assault? Perhaps that might influence the final push to the last fortress."

That's an excellent question! Here's what Counobel knows about Dradkin tactics:

1. Dradkin don't seem to like daylight; raids on Grinvolt farms were always at night, and no scouts have been encountered in the day (though they may have been hiding).

2. The approach to the Sun Temple itself was unimpeded. The entrance faces west, and the entry chamber lights up spectacularly at sunset. Gathana believes the Dradkin both revere and fear the blinding sun and the surface world in general.

3. The upper level of the Sun Temple seems to be primarily a place of worship. Despite the raids they had launched on the surface from this complex, there were almost no warrior-caste Dradkin present at the time of the attack.

4. The idea that there is a fortress below came from the few surviving/captured Dradkin. As described, the purpose of the fortress was to prevent attack from below, not from the surface. (The Dradkin view the complex as a sort of mountaintop monastery, a 'high altitude' place from their perspective.)

5. The first Grinvolt casualties fell in the round chamber. They were ignored in the first moments of the assault, but when they were checked later, they had no visible wounds, but their skin was crusted with salt. Common belief is they were stricken by a curse, but the warriors don't like to talk about it.

6. The area that is now a barracks was occupied by half-starved Dradkin, who put up little resistance. The area was either a prison, monastic cells for penitents, or some combination of the two. Wall engravings imply that surviving on scarce food is a moral virtue among Dradkin.

7. "Dust Town" (apparently a mine) was fully equipped with tools for digging through the loose, gravelly coprolith, but it seems to have been inactive at the time of the attack.

8. The Dradkin put up a good fight in the Night Temple, owing to the twisty entrance. The score of Dradkin there were armed only with knives and long sticks, (and no armor over their leather garments), but they used the choke point effectively, barricading it with a stone pew.

After a five-minute stalemate of violent shoving and stabbing, the Dradkin allowed a small number of Grinvolt axewives to slip into the chamber, only to topple a second stone pew in front of the entrance. The exhausted axewives were killed before the rest of the attackers could dislodge the barricade.

Once that happened, the Dradkin line broke and they were cut down both there, and in what are now Gathana's workrooms.

9. The most difficult fight was in the segmented hallway leading to stairs downward, against a group of eleven Dradkin, apparently heavy infantry trained in close-ranked fighting.

The Dradkin infantry had what later became known as tomb shields: heavy tower shields with a low step for the user to obtain a small height advantage. The Dradkin blocked the corridor with a fan of tomb shields, trying to buy time for a small number of reinforcements to arrive from below.

Grinvolt had little experience with close-ranked siege fighting, being more used to intra-clan warfare involving longboat raids: loose-formation fights and ambushes with spear, axe, and sling. They were unprepared for the wall of tomb shields, and retreated when the Dradkin second rank opened up with heavy crossbows.

In an apparent tactical mistake, the Dradkin pursued, abandoning their shields. Counobel believes the Dradkin did this because they didn't realize there were so many enemies present in the complex, and thought they had routed a small group of raiders.

The Dradkin infantry made it to the central chamber, but immediately found themselves flanked by axewives coming south from the Night Temple (where the fighting was now done). They made a stand there, and killed 6 axewives before they were themselves killed.

10. Dradkin infantry wear scale-like armor made from chips of bone and metal, sewn onto a three-layered leather vest. (Dradkin seem to use no woven cloth.) The armor is tied on from the back with leather ties, and several of the Dradkin' vests were not tied in their haste to ascend the long stair and retake the Sun Temple.

They were armed with short, spear-like weapons, only a pace and a half long: a wide, stabbing blade affixed to long, bone handle.

11. Tomb shields are as tall as a man, but only a pace in width, and notched to interlock with other shields on either side. They are made of layers of tough fungus, matted together with pitch or resin. Axes cut into them easily, but are likely to get stuck.

Gathana said that the runes on the exterior of the shields were cursed, and would entomb the souls of any who died in front of them (hence the name). She transcribed the runes, then ordered them all burned outside.

Sunday 21 April 2019

Kickstarter Scenario: Assault

As I mentioned, I'm Kickstarting a compendium of my adventures on May 1. I thought we'd have a little fun while it's running: an all-out assault on a dradkin fortress. We'll resolve it during the campaign, a crowd-sourced dungeon battle!

The Scenario

In a Patron-only adventure, "A Clutch of Shadows," I laid out the scenario of a garrison of Grinvolt axewives and men-at-arms, occupying an underground Dradkin 'sun temple'.

The temple is a gateway to the underworld, and has been the source of raids on Grinvolt lands for decades. In a rare display of cohesion, the Grinvolt clans came together to assault it. They surprised the Dradkin, and although they lost many brave warriors, they managed to seize the upper level of the complex.

For the six years since the original attack, Quarter-Lord Counobel has kept a precarious grip on the complex. The morale of the occupiers has faded, and now with the Sun Temple's treasures carted away, so has foreign interest and the money that it brought. Grinvolt songs don't sound so cheery underground, and the echoes of glory won't bring food to the tables. Many have drifted away, returning to their fishing boats and goat pens.

Unfortunately, the Dradkin threat is not gone. Leading down from the Sun Temple is a long, narrow stair, leading to a Dradkin fortress—still occupied by the Dradkin. They have spent the years preparing for a counter-attack. Dradkin spies move among the camp fires of dust town, learning the weaknesses of the occupiers.

Meanwhile other, more horrible preparations are being made below.

Gathana, garrison's flametender seems lost in her research into Dradkin runes and offers no counsel, but Counobel knows in his bones that the garrison's days are numbered. If it falls, all the lives that were spent securing the Sun Temple will have been for nothing, and Dradkin will once more raid the surface with impunity.

He makes a fateful plan: he will spend the last of his influence on a summons, calling back every warrior willing to return to the darkness. When they have assembled, they attack the fortress below.

The Fortress Revealed

When the Kickstarter launches on May 1, I will describe the opening moments of the attack, and reveal a new isometric map, showing the first chambers of the Dradkin fortress!

Every time a campaign stretch goal milestone goal is hit, I will reveal another section of the Dradkin fortress, and describe the progress of the battle.

How the Grinvolt warriors carry out their attack is up to you. During the Kickstarter campaign, I'll be running polls and taking feedback in the comments. What orders does Counobel give? Surface warriors need to use their brains to defeat prepared soldiers of the underworld on their home turf. Six years ago, Grinvolt defeated an unprepared enemy. It won't be as easy this time.

Adventure Location: Aftermath

Counobel's attack may succeed, but it could also fail tragically. Either way, if the right stretch goal is hit, I will take the revealed map and write it up as a new adventure location to be included in the compendium.

The adventure will describe the dradkin fortress in the aftermath of the attack. The battle itself will belong only to those of you involved during the Kickstarter campaign, but whatever happens will leave a legacy for others to explore in play.

The Forces of Grinvolt

Right now, it's ten days before the Kickstarter—ten days before Counobel orders the attack. Here is the disposition of the surface forces:

  • Counobel, Quarter-Lord of Grinvolt and commander of the garrison
  • Gathana, flametender and priestess of Panur
  • 18 axewives (one disgraced) and their families
  • 11 men-at-arms, half with families
As well, about a hundred camp followers live within the complex (most of them in 'Dust Town'). The garrison has been faming the lands surrounding the sun temple. The soil is rocky and ill-suited to the clans' traditional crops, but another hundred non-combatants live outside in a slowly growing.

Counobel sent out three messengers a month ago:
  • His cousin sailed to Halet Girm with the last of the silver, and is returning with two longboats and 15 men-at-arms.
  • Akum went north into Haverlow, but drank from an ill-fated pond and has lost his senses.
  • Counobel's daughter Rolan went northeast to Grinvolt. She secured oaths from 13 axewives that they would join the attack. She then decided press further. She found none in Slumbering Tealwood, but two days ago she reached the pass at Splitpeak. As I write this, she can smell the smoke from High Kellan.

(The Sun Temple is in hex 0716, on the south edge of the map.)

Final Preparations

With ten days left, what preparations should Counobel command? Will the axes of the Grinvolt warriors be enough, or should they concoct some other scheme for fighting in the cramped tunnels? Should he send a scout down below, or will that risk a counter-attack before he's ready?

Put your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday 4 April 2019

Compendium Kickstarter: May 1


All right, the date is set! The Trilemma Adventures Compendium will be Kickstarting on May 1. If you want an email notification when it launches, sign up on the right-hand sidebar.

The book will contain 48 adventures, regions and settlements, along with a table of contents, adventure summaries (so you can choose quickly), and a full index. (Curious how bad the isopod infestation is? Now you can find out.)

Everyone who backs (at any level) immediately gets the two-page adventure, Clutch of Shadows, in which a garrison of Grinvolt is trying to hold a captured dradkin Sun Temple. On May 1, I will reveal the first section of the still-occupied fortress, deep below the temple.

When the Kickstarter campaign begins, so does the assault. Trying to pre-empt a dradkin counter-attack, the assembled warriors of Grinvolt will fight their way down into the fortress. Every backer represents a soldier in the assault, and as the campaign hits milestones, more of the map will be revealed.

As well as more map, each milestone also unlocks a random stretch goal. The Grinvolt force doesn't know what it's going to find down there, old-school style.

I'm keeping the campaign low risk - I want to get this thing shipped so I can get back to making adventures. Still, I can't resist putting in a few goodies on the treasure table. If the campaign goes well, the book stands to include things like:

  • A big table of leads and adventure hooks, all pointing to the adventures
  • A new scenario, set in the aftermath of the assault on the dradkin fortress
  • A bestiary, consolidating descriptions of the nearly 100 monsters in the adventures
  • An updated version of the big campaign map, turning the separate adventures into a sandbox
  • Two-page regional gazetteers, in the style of Cleft of Five Worlds, or Roots of Ambition
If the right milestones are hit, there could also be separate bestiary PDFs with stats for B/X, Dungeon World, or both.

The book itself is a hardcover from DriveThruRPG, printed in premium color on heavyweight paper. It's a wide book, in fabulous landscape letter - flop it open behind your GM's screen and you're ready to go.

If you'd like an email when the campaign goes live (or when new adventures are published), you can sign up to the mailing list on the right-hand nav bar over there on the right [waves pretend hands].

On May 1, we descend!