Dungeon Tours Ltd – Launch!

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Our first RPG, Dungeon Tours Ltd, is now in Open Beta! Click here to learn more!

 

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Fate Mini-Hack: Gonna Pop Some Tags

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It’s been a few months since we went to GenCon2016, so I thought it was well overdue that we share one of the things we tested: The Skeleton Crew RPG!

As anyone who’s been following this blog the past few years, we’ve been fine tuning one of our magnum opuses (opera?), the Skeleton Crew RPG. This supernatural adventure game has seen a few changes of the years, here’s one of our newest innovation, meant to cement the setting and streamline character creation: tags!


TAGS

A tag are a special type of aspect or sub-aspect that defines how the character of aspect interacts with the world (or worlds). They are also different from normal aspects in that they have a narrow range possibilities.

In the Skeleton Crew game, they come in several categories: Mortality tags, Knowledge tags, and Reality tags.


HOW DOES A TAG WORK?

A tag can be used in the same three ways an aspect can:

A. To aid you.

Example: If a cop with the reality tag “Natural” is following the trail of a mercenary with the tag “Natural,” she might be invoke the tag to give her a +2 to her investigation; she’ll think to look for the cigarette butts, crumbs, and other normal stuff that an immortal might forget about.

B. To grant a +2 invoke against you.

Example: A normal cop with the reality tag “natural” is analyzing an ancient clay doll; is it has secret writing on it, but the symbols have the tag “ethereal”- the GM decides that this mean they next to invisible to the human eye. If the cop player wants to investigate it further, the GM may spend a fate point to raise the difficulty of the search by +2, or to have the cop automatically fail.

C. To compel a character act in a particular way.

Example: A cop (tag: “mortal”) is escorting a djinn (tag: “immortal”) through a haunted tomb. The cop may say, “stay here, I’ll go in first.” However, the GM might compel the cop’s fear of death; this causes her to hesitate slightly. In the meantime, the GM might compel the djinn to go into the dangerous tomb alone; it has no concept of fear, even as it walks into certain doom! Now the cop is racing to catch up!

Reminder to GMs: Remember the rule that dice rolls should always result in something interesting. If a character is compelled to fail a roll, due to attempting something outside their specialty, it might result in a negative repercussion. This is particularly true if you suspect a player is intentionally attempting a task they know they’d fail at (i.e. fishing for compel points). Make sure it blows up in their face!

Ex. If a mad scientist with the knowledge tag “Science!” attempts to study a priceless haunted crown (with the tag “magic”), he might be compelled to fail; but instead of resulting in nothing, he might do something foolish, like dissecting it into bits, or handling it such a way that their adversary learns something about the scientist!


WHY ADD TAGS TO YOUR GAME?

We came up with the tags idea after several trial and error attempts:

Version 1.0 – We originally tried the Skeleton Crew game with the default Fate Core skill list, but it made certain skills cover too far of a narrative range; it seemed strange that a robot-building scientist would know so very much about prehistoric magic. It needed more specialization.

Version 2.0 – We next attempted dividing the skill list into smaller parts; notice, lore, and crafts, and others were all split into magical and non-magical equivalents. While this worked with some skills, it made others so niche that you might go an entire adventure without using them. Also, the skill list ballooned in size. We needed something in between.

Version 3.0 – The tags system lays the groundwork for a simpler skill list, but to still allow some specialization amongst teammates. It allows players with similar skill to join forces and be versatile at times, while the GM can still veto an action to provide more of a challenge, or to reign if a character steps too far from their expertise.


THE SKELETON CREW TAG TYPES – IN DEPTH

MORTALITY

bonejack-sneakA mortality tag defines what you are. It comes in three types, mortal, undead, and immortal.

Mortal – you are a creature that was born, grew, and will likely die (but haven’t yet). Your life span will either be short (half a century), or, if you’re special, a century or two. This is the tag for humans, mutants, and some demi-gods.

Undead –you are a revenant; a creature that was born, grew, died, and came back; this is most likely due to dark magic or a curse. This is the tag for vampires, ghosts, werewolves, Frankensteinian constructs, mummies and other reanimated mortals.

Immortal – you are were made, not begotten; either by a god, a creator, or by the raw forces of natural. You can be destroyed, but left to your own, you will never age and never die. You have refined yourself over the years, but you didn’t learn as a child learns; your abilities are natural to you. This is the tag for elementals, angels, demons, robots, djinns, and similar beings.

Sidebar – Which tag applies to Faeries? No two players will see faeries the same way; we encourage each group to decide how faeries work in your campaign, to best fit the view points of the those playing. We recommend you give faeries their own tag; mortals see faeries as immortals, and immortals treat faeries as mortals.

Mortality Tag Interacts with: your high concept. It helps define what you are, and how you act. Certain tags like “undead” also interact with certain types of magics and wards (ex. a holy talisman against revenants).


KNOWLEDGE

The knowledge tag defines your background knowledge and how you explain the world around you. It comes in two types: Science! and Occult.

Science! – to you, the world is a matter of rules and equations. You know that history is fixed, and that a cause always precedes an effect. This is the tag of cops, scientists, teachers, doctors, and most modern mortals.

Occult – to you, reality is an illusion that manipulated or broken. You know that history is but a dream, that sometimes you getting the desired effect is more important than understanding the cause. This is the tag of warlocks, ghosts, mediums, priests, and philosophers.

Example: Both a psychic and a medium can perceive ghosts andlibrary hubris.png emotional residue; a medium will see these phenomenon in a traditional, philosophical way, while the psychic will see the situation from a modern, analytical point of view.

Knowledge Tag Interacts with: certain skills, such as Crafts, Lore, and Operate*.

Crafts: Science! allows you to build and deconstruct mechanical devices; Occult allows you to build and deconstruct artifacts and enchantments.

Lore: Science! gives you knowledge of modern science, medicine, current events, and Earth geography; Occult gives you knowledge of ancient history, magic, and other worlds.

Operate*: Science! lets you control modern vehicles, robots, and machinery; operate lets you use artifacts, magical transports, and low-level animated servants (ex. skeletal puppets).

*Operate – in the Skeleton Crew RPG, the skill “Drive” is replaced with “operate,” which is broadened to cover any device that cannot reasonably be covered by “lore.”


REALITY

A reality tag defines what plane or planes of reality you find yourself tethered to. Are you a flesh-and-blood human, a ghost from beyond the veil, or something in between? There are two types, Natural and Ethereal, and the dual tag, Supernatural (for more on dual tags, see below).

Natural – A natural object is something based in the mortal plane. For persons and objects that are natural, the laws of physics are consistent; if you are a person, you likely have mass and find it easy to other things with mass. When investigating a clue that is natural, it is best to observe it through the normal senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Natural objects generally have a low innate amount of magical energy, and tend to obey the laws of physics. Natural characters include mortals, robots, and revenants resurrected through science (ex. Frankensteinian constructs).

Ethereal – Smummy-ba-flyomething that is ethereal is based on the world beyond; there are many names for this, be it the afterlife, beyond the veil, limbo, the psychic realm, the etheric plane, etc. These beings are made up of magic and raw emotion, which are often indistinguishable on this level. To them, pain and joy are palpable enough to touch, while matter and gravity are sometimes hard to perceive. It is possible to have a natural object have a clue or aspect that is ethereal in nature, such as invisible writing drawn in magic on a brick wall. Ethereal beings, like most things of magic, have little regard for the laws of physics. Ethereal characters include ghosts, as well as some demons, fairies, angels, gods, and elementals.

Supernatural – Dual Tag An object that is supernatural is something that has real mass, but also carries with it strange psychic or magical properties. In this way, it can be seen and manipulated by both natural and ethereal characters, however their exact nature is sometimes hard to tell; a ghost can tell that a person has a high “supernatural quality,” but would be unable to discern if they’re a vampire, a psychic, a priest, or someone who’s just born lucky. Likewise, a supernatural character can see things that are natural and ethereal, but can only focus on one at a time. Supernatural objects generally tend to bend the laws of physics without breaking down. Supernatural characters include dhampirs, revenants resurrected with magic (such as zombies, werebeasts, vampires), spellcasters, priests, demigods, mediums and psychics.

Side Note – Holy Mass – Most daemons and angels are, in reality, ethereal beings; however, they borrow mass when they visit the material plane. Their true ethereal forms are nearly impossible to kill, but their physical bodies can be destroyed, or have be cleft from their spirits in a banishing ritual; if either is done, their souls are pushed so far into the etheric realm that they can’t interact with mortals. While in physical form, treat them as if they’re supernatural.

Reality Tag Interacts with: certain skills, particularly Notice and Investigate. Ethereal can also be invoked with other skills as well.

Notice: A Natural character will have a much easier time reacting to natural threats, or seeing hidden natural clues. Similar, an ethereal character will be more alert to ethereal threats.

Investigate: A natural character can more thoroughly investigate natural clues and clues that leave a physical trace; likewise, an ethereal character will be able to spy details that have no physical form, just as magical trails, feelings, and psychic echoes.

Ethereal Skills: The ethereal tag can also be invoked and compelled with any skill that involves the physical plane. They have less connection to matter, and thus they can invoke the tag to help them avoid physical objects (ex. for burglary when sneaking through a wall; for stealth when avoiding view, for athletics when getting past a guard; for fight when avoiding a punch). However, if they trying to interact with a physical object, it can also be invoked or compelled against them (ex. against burglary to make a stolen item slip through their fingers; with physique or fighting when pushing or punching an opponent). It can also used to help with Empathy to sense emotions; but for every invoke used to help spot feelings, make sure it is compelled to make it harder to Notice physical details.


Dual Tags

There are some instances of tags that fall under two categories; the most common of these is the Supernatural tag (see page XX).

For the most part, treat this is if the two opposing tags cancel each other out; the character is immune to unfriendly invokes and compels, but cannot compel their supernatural tag to aid in their roles.

Ex. a “natural” cop, an “ethereal” ghost, and a “supernatural” vampire are investigating a crime scene. When inspecting a gruesome “natural” blood stain, the cop could invoke her “natural” tag to get +2; meanwhile, the “ethereal” ghost investigating the same “natural” blood stain may receive an unfriendly invoke, or be compelled to notice nothing. The opposite would happen if the natural cop and the “ethereal” ghost were trying to investigate an “ethereal” psychic vibe in the air.

The “supernatural” vampire, however would be able to investigate the “natural” bloodstain or the “ethereal” psychic vibe; he’d be immune negative invokes, but could not invoke the “supernatural” tag to help his search.

Can I invoke the Dual Tag for anything?

Tags define a very specific thing about your character (generally how you perceive the world and how others perceive them); while a dual tag cannot be invoked to help with exact field related to it, it can be invoked or compelled for completely unrelated matters.

Ex. A supernatural vampire does not get a boost when searching for normal or for ethereal clues; however, she would be able to help her in a social situation, such as convincing another supernatural psychic that she ought to help them out.

Are there Dual Tags for Mortality? –

We recommend you don’t have any dual tags for mortality, unless a player wants to create an original character that straddles the line, like someone who is half-alive and half-dead. Similarly, you could treat Faeries as a dual tag for “mortal” and “immortal” (see above).

Are there Dual Tags for Knowledge?

If there were to be a dual tag for Knowledge that straddles both “Science!” and “Occult,” it would be “Alchemy.” However, we advise that GMs only allow it small groups. If there is only one “know-it-all” character in the group, it’s fine if they know Alchemy. However, you don’t want a “Science!” inventor and an “Occult” librarian to feel redundant next to an alchemist character that knows everything.


 

Tags in Action – Sample PC Type

ANGEL / EUDEMON

You are a loyal messenger to a god. If you are an angel, you serve the Great Light, and are made from light, air, and/or fire. If you are a eudemon, you serve a lesser god (like Zeus, Mardok, or Isis) and reflect the element of your master.

Eudemons are the middlemen between mortals and the gods, and thus do not take pleasure in hurting humans; however, they have no qualms against smiting the wicked. Similarly, they can grant humans what they need, which is not always what they want (ex. an angel of death ending a mortal’s suffering).
A Note to GMs: Angels and Devils are typically portrayed as having immense power. If a player wants to playing one, have your group come up with an explanation on why their powers are limited: maybe they’re a daemon-in-training, have had their powers sealed, or have had their “membership card” revoked.

High Concept: Angelic Servant to ________

Suggested Tags:

  • Mortality: Immortal
  • Reality: Supernatural or Ethereal
  • Knowledge: Occult

Suggested Skills: Will, Fight, Empathy, Evoke*
Suggested Stunts: Pillar of Strength

Pillar of Strength – Will –  When defending against Intimidation attacks, any of your teammates who have a lower Will than you may reroll their defense roll once per turn. This stunt may only be used if you’re in the same room as the teammate, or only if you are still in the conflict (i.e. not taken out).


What Other Tags Could Exist?

The above tags work with the world of magic and mad science of Skeleton Crew, but your game might find your own.

An additional tag we considered but eventually scrapped was a tag for Provoke and Rapport- you could easily merge the two into a single, emotion-influencing skill, and add a tag dividing it into “positive” emotions and “negative” emotions.

However, adding a tag for a single skill seems to waste, but what if you also added it to Empathy? In your world, maybe characters are more attuned to emotions of a certain nature.

I don’t see the “emotion” tag being useful in Skeleton Crew, but what about a Star Wars hack? I could easily see a “light side” / “dark side” tag affecting provoke, empathy, and maybe a slew of other skills. Try it yourself, and tell us what you think!

Until next time, GAME ON!

Halloween: Skeleton Crew Collection

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Halloween’s coming up, and I’ll be soon giving you another a creepy Fate-related article… after all, we’re still working hard on our supernatural-adventure setting, Skeleton Crew.

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In the meantime, I thought I’d collect a few of my older adventures and extras. We hope you enjoy!

Adventures:

  • Fright at the Museum  – Pre-written adventure about necromancers and museums. (On the rails, great for beginning GMs)
  • Tomb Enough to Two –  Pre-written adventure of mummies. (Partially on the rails, room for flexibility)
  • Open the Gates  – Very Open Ended adventure about Ghost Pirates

Extras:

  • Closet Full of Skeletons – Rules for love triangles in FATE, 3 villains NPCS, and rules of the haunted Kingship Manor.
  • Paranormal Investigation Generator – Version 1.0 of our random generator for strange clues and murder sites; perfect for any paranormal investigation game!
  • Get Out of the Kitchen – Rules for the magical PC  / NPC, Jynx, the Muffinmancer.
  • Chimera NPCS – Optional rules for complex mini-boss NPCs, including the Zomb Squad.
  • Toy Box Review –   Includes the rules for the ghostly NPC, the hunted spirit!
  • Gloom Cart – Rules for the spectre of the road, the Gloom Cart!

Also for your consideration:

  • Manor of Fact 1: Using “Kill Doctor Lucky” board game for your murder mystery / supernatural RPG.
  • Manor of Fact 2: Using “Betrayal at the House on the Hill” board game for your supernatural RPG

Until next time, readers, GAME ON!

 

 

Umdaar Extras- Lands of Light

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Hello again, folks!

Today, I’m posting another aid for the Evil Hat game, “Masters of Umdaar.” Why? Two reasons:

  1. Paul Kießhauer’s did another Umdaar themed challenge. August’s challenge: a location!
  2. Today, “Masters of Umdaar” is one year old. My, how they grow up so fast!

Before I post my entry, a little inspiration:

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A Low-Rez version- the originals are high-rez

Lately, I’ve been a huge fan of Frank Tuffler Jr.’s map series on patreon, and this one in particular caught my eye. He has a “normal water,” but the mystical “sea of stars” variant seemed perfect for an Umdaarian Land of Light. He’s got lots more (including a lot of urban & horror settings I want to use for Skeleton Crew), and you can unlock them for only $1. Also, Frank uses funds from the patreon to support Phoenix Children’s Hospital.


As my entry, I’m giving you another random chart. Why settle on one location, when you can have 225?

LANDS OF LIGHT

How to roll on this chart: for the first name, roll 4dF. For every + move to the right; for every -, move to the top.

For the last name, roll again. Do the same as above, but move down for every -.

 

– – – – Quantum
– – – Sky Phantasmal
– – Ardent Sylvan Crystal
Sparkling Sacred Hidden Floating
0 Silver Golden Living Glacial Lunar
0 + + + + + + + + + +
0 Reef Abbey Glade Bastion Tower
Spires Village -opolis Island
– – Valley Castle Cathedral
– – – Stronghold Mesa
– – – – Acropolis

(Yes, this can mean that you end up with a Land of Light called “Floatingopolis” or “Hidden Valley.” You can always reroll, but I think it’s better to play it straight and see how long you can continue with a straight face.)

Coming soon: GenCon Report!

Masters of Umdaar – The Scorpotaurs

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Inspired by ‘s challenge, the Villains of Umdaar, I’m present my own submission: the Scorpotaurs!

It was inspired by one of Gennifer Bone’s Monsters of the Week. Support her patreon, you can get access to more images like the one below. https://www.patreon.com/ladyredfingers (Warning: some images NSFW).

THE SCORPOTAURS

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Bioform: Bellicose Scorpion Centaurs

Motivation: I’M the strongest

Aspects: Big and Mean; Poor Jumpers; Ranged Weapons are for Weaklings

Approaches:

Forceful: Good +3

Quick: Fair +2

All others: Mediocre +0.

Stress: 2 stress each

Stunts:

Scorpion Legs: Scorpotaurs can climb up vertical surfaces with ease. They also  gain +2 Quick when overcoming any climbing rolls.

Weapon: Scorpotaurs are armed with one weapon from the Umdaar weapons chart (reroll any range weapons).

 

SCORPOTAUR ALPHA

The alpha is the leader of the clan or the hunting party. They are the toughest fighters, but their position in society is fragile; they fact that they already pledge allegiance to an outside Master has made them weak in the eyes of their followers.

 

Bioform: Bellicose Scorpion Centaur Chieftain

Motivation: I Must Remain in Charge

Aspects: Bigger and Meaner; Poor Jumpers; Ranged Weapons are for Weaklings

Ranged Weapons are for Weaklings

I Serve the Master… For Now

Approaches:

Forceful: Superb +5

Quick: Great +4

Clever: Good +3

All others: Average +1.

Stress: 3 stress, plus one condition (2 stress)

Stunts:

Scorpion Legs: Scorpotaurs can climb up vertical surfaces with ease. They also  gain +2 Quick when overcoming any climbing rolls.

Weapon: Scorpotaurs are armed with one weapon from the Umdaar weapons chart (reroll any range weapons).

Venom Tail – The Alpha has the BIG tail. Instead of making a weapon attack, the Alpha may use Quick to make a Tail attack. If the attack is successful, the victim gains the aspect “Poisoned.” While poisoned, the character cannot use the Approach “Quick.” The venom is caustic, and will even affect non-organic bioforms! The aspect can be overcome by a healer (or, for androids, a mechanic), or will drop off at the end of the NEXT scene.

Up to the Test – 5 Tricks to Tweaking Your Playtest

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Next month, Tangent Artists will be going back to GenCon. Two years ago, we had a great time showcase our WIP at the First Exposure Playtest hall, and we were so pleased by the experience that we had to sign up with them again.  We’ll be getting four slots to show off our two new games, Penny-A-Pitch and Eco-Schism.

When we first went, we had thought of it as a way to showcase and network.  If there’s only thing that disappointed us about last First Exposure, it’s that we didn’t really get much exposure; we’re used to conventions, when you spend 8 hours giving 30 second pitches to hundreds of people. Rather, it’s an intense 2-hour session with the exact number of people you need to make the game work. In our hubris, we went to a playtest hall expecting to get very little feedback, only publicity. O, how wrong we were.

As we prepare for our next session, I thought I’d share with you what few nuggets I’ve learned about running playtests (mostly from mistakes).

1. Know Your Pitch

When you sign up with the First Exposure Playtest Hall, they ask you to submit a short pitch and a long pitch. The long pitch is a short paragraph, tiny enough to fit in a tweet. The short pitch is a sentence. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being the “booth babe” at a convention for ten years, it’s streamline your pitch and have it memorized. Most strangers tune you out after less than a minute, so you have only one or two sentences to get them interested; this is called the elevator pitch.

 

As for our two new games, here’s the two versions:

Penny-a-Pitch – Short: A game of Midway Moguls.
Long: A light worker placement game of Midway Moguls. Mama Maxie is retiring, and whoever buys her Ferris Wheel will literally run the show. Can you sucker enough rubes to make the cash, while still keeping Maxie happy?

Eco-schism – A game of weak links in the Food Chain.
Long Adds: The Alien Mothership is asking your genetics department to rebuild the extinct ecosystem of planet Earth; but you’re not satisfied being just another cog in the machine. Prove that your “improved” fauna can dominate the food chain!

You’ll notice that the short version of Penny-a-Pitch leaves out the “light worker placement” addendum. Why? Because in a one-sentence pitch, any discussion of games and mechanics is irrelevant. You might be able to stick “card” or “board”, but focus on the flavor, not the gears.

2. What’s the Point?

This one was taken from Mark Rosewater’s podcast series, “Ten Things Every Game Needs.” If someone is going to play your game, the most important thing to convey is “how do you win?” Despite the fact that it’s the last thing that occurs in a game, there’s a reason they always stick it near the beginning of a rulebook (for the other reason, see #3.)

Why is this important? Because the playtesters need to be focused on what they are supposed to achieve. It gives them a mission, an objective, and something to be excited about. If the testers are confused about how to win, they’ll fail to see the point in anything else.

Also, if you’re playing with the group, and you’re the only one who knows how to win, you likely will. (See #4).

3. Don’t Frontload the Rules

When playing games on their own, most players don’t read all of the rules until after they’ve started. Similarly, you should not explain 100% of the rules when the game starts; just get them the win condition and enough to get through turn one or two.

4a. Do Play Yourself

Lead by example. Add yourself to the test; you can lead by example, show the rules in action

You can, of course, hover around and try to orchestrate from beyond, but this can come off as bossy. Sure, this frees you up to go around and explain cards that people have in their hands, but if the cards aren’t clear without your explanation, it’s probably not clear enough.

4b. Don’t Play to Win

I remember joining in one designer’s game test, during which the designer blew the other tester and myself out of the water. “Don’t feel bad,” they said with a chuckle after an easy win, “I’ve played it a lot.” I can’t tell you how much of a turn-off it was. I didn’t want to play again or buy it, I just felt frustrated.

If the game is composed of several rounds (like poker), it’s definitely fine to win a hand or two to show the other players how it’s done. However, your role as the play test leader is this: to explore the frontiers.

When a new option is made available, if other people aren’t exploring it, do it yourself. If everybody is choosing option A, try option B; even if B is a bad choice, they’ll learn from your mistake what the pros and cons are. They’ll see, “it’s bad for a player to do X now, but it might be useful to do X when Y is in play.”

Don’t stick with one strategy, take the “sampler” approach; be the jack of all, master of none. That way, if a player spreads around like you, they might tie. If they narrow their energies towards a specific strategy, they have a decent chance of pulling ahead of you; that way, even if they lose the overall game, they’ll feel accomplished that “at least they had more X than you.”

5. Make it Clean!

Try to make the game look as pretty as you can. Start your first few tests one index cards, but then upgrade to something more streamlined.

Cards: this trick I learned from the DC Metro group, “Break My Game” (click the link for their Meet-up page). Type up your cards, print them on simple paper, and add them to card sleeves. To give the cards thickness, add a playing card behind them (you can buy one or two card decks from the dollar store for 99 cents). Voila! Now you have something slick, stiff, and shuffleable! If you can afford card sleeves of different colors, you can easily sort your cards into different deck types without having to print on both sides of the paper.

One thing I’ve learned on my own: buy colored paper. It’s a lot cheaper to print black text on colored paper than to print color on white paper.

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Also, if you have the time, include art. It doesn’t have to be fancy, either; simple and iconic is easier to print, and easier to keep consistent. I recommend the site game-icons.net, which has thousands of images you can use for your prototypes. All of them are free to use, and come in a default, clean black and white (although you can play with the slider to add color and/or a border).


Hope that’s inspired you a bit for your tests. If you’re going to GenCon, I hope to see you there! Until next time, Game On!

Starting Your First Kickstarters

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A friend asked for some handy tips for their first starter. This has inspired me to share a few things that we at Tangent Artists have learned from our experience:

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If I could give you one tip, this would be it:

  • Keep in mind that your production cost (the amount you need to make a minimum order with the printer) and the “funded goal” are not the same thing. Digital products are the easiest to factor, in that they are almost pure profit; a $10 digital backer means you’re $10 closer to your fund goal and, after expenses (taxes, KS’s cut), have $9 towards the production cost. If you’re dealing with physical products, don’t forget that they give you a false “boost” towards your KS funded goal. For example, a $40 backer with a $15 product and a $15 S&H (don’t forgot to include shipping from the printer to you and back out to backer) means you’re $40 closer to the funded goal, but only $21 closer to your production goal. In this sense, it’s better to have two-hundred $5 digital backers than fifty $20 physical backers (although, reaching two-hundred people might be harder). I’ve read plenty of horror stories about people who reached $20,000 goal for a $20,000 printing cost, only to end up going several thousand dollars in the red; they reached 20k, but after S&H, KS’s cut, and taxes, it ends up costing 25K or more.

Other Tips:

  • You can build and share the KS page before you launch it. This lets you get feedback from peers, but also lets you start promoting it in advance. Sadly, you won’t have the final link itself until the launch date, so it’s good to have a private promo page (ex. your website or blog) that you can promote. This way, you can update push people to go to your promo page for both the “preview” link, and then change the link later to an active “KS” link after you launch.
  • KS must approve all pages before you can launch it.. Once you’ve had feedback and are happy with the page, submit it for approval. This can take a few days, so do it at least 7 days before you need it. Once approved, it will give you the option of waiting before you launch, so you can let it sit on it for a while.
  • Backers will shun KS accounts that have never backed KS projects before; they believe you have to give to the community before you can take. Go find a dozen projects you like and support them, even if it’s for a tiny amount. If you’re a company, have a company account and have all of the members back their personal KS through the company, and you’ll build it up faster.
  • Have one “manager” setting up the page, levels and handling the KS updates. You can’t just let it sit for 30 days alone.
  • People like graphics. Have a video. Make sure it has a GREAT opening slide- this the first thing they see when the load the page, and when you share it on social media. Make sure you’re updating your progress with visual aid trackers.
  • If the person managing the page is a different person than the person doing the graphics, prepare all of the graphics for all of the different levels ahead of time. It might seem strange, but we needed our “funded” and three of our “stretch goal” graphics on day two.
  • Set your initial goal as low as you can go afford (assuming it’s not putting you in the negative). People are more likely to back something that is funded than something that is not.
  • Always have a cheap ($1 – $5) level. Even if it has no tangible rewards (thanks, glory, good karma), it allows people to tag you and follow your updates easier, and lets family and friends who have no interest in the product show their support.
  • Have different levels, but don’t overdo it. 3-6 is fine. More than 10 is a mouthful, unless there’s a specific reason why. More levels is also tricky in case you need to send messages out- KS lets you message all backers, or all backers in a specific group (ex. group A); however, if you’re messaging groups A-C but not D, you have to send it to groups A, B, and C individually; thus, if you have 20 levels and you’re sending it to 19 of them, you might be copy-pasting the message 19 times.
  • Have a slightly higher level with recognition; sometimes people will pay $24-50 just to have recognition on the finished product.
  • Have at least one large shoot the moon level. Don’t expect it to be taken, but you never know.
  • KS has strict rules about selling in bulk to merchants; I’ve seen some projects do it, but I would research the rules carefully first to make sure you’re not violating anything.
  • If you’re dealing with a digital product, calculate the longest estimated amount of time you need to deliver it. Then put the delivery date as DOUBLE that date. If it’s a physical product, QUADRUPLE it. That may seem like a stretch, but those dates come on you fast.
  • With stretch goals, digital rewards are your friend! If going with physical products, don’t be afraid to add it as an optional thing they can BUY by pledging extra. Again, a lot of people go crazy adding free physical rewards, which raises their production cost and shrinks the profit.
  • If you are adding an optional stretch bonus product, this can be handled by having the backers over pay and then respond to the survey which add-on product they want. However, MAKE SURE the survey has the optional bubble, “we didn’t pledge anything else, no add-ons,”; alternatively, allow for write-ins. We learned that the hard way, and you can only send out one survey.
  • Limit it to 30 days; you don’t want it to linger.
  • This is a rough estimate, but about 75% of your backers will be pledge on days 1-10, and the last 2 days. In between, don’t be scared by the lull. Be sure to still send updates every few days, and keep promoting outside. If it’s a game, I recommend G+ (there’s LOTS of gamers on G+).
  • Plan a lot more stretch goals than you need. A LOT. The levels these are best planned around price breaks for the printer (ex. cheaper to print at 5k, 10k and 50k). If there are no price breaks, you can set at anything you like. If I could turn back time, I would have spaced them further apart. We had ours set at a fixed increment (about .5K or 1K apart). Although it doesn’t look as clean, I would have spaced it at rising increments. Maybe use the Fibonacci thing (.5k, 1k, 1.5k, 2.5k or 4K), so it’s less than double. The hard part is judging the right amount. Too far and you lose momentum, too small and you flood the backers with too many goals- if you’re forced to do more than you had planned for, you risk creating subpar stretch goals, or hastily adding new physical products that might cost more than you originally estimated.
  • If you have multiple projects in mind, and your KS is starting to go into stretch goals, resist the pressure to merge the two together. There’s no shame in doing a smaller KS first and doing a second one later. If you have a successful KS under your belt, they’re more likely to back you later. Better still, when you do a KS in the future, you have all of the backer info, so it’s easy to promote.

Here are some other tips passed on from Evil Hat’s Kickstarter Guru, Fred Hicks:

  • Launch it on a Mon. night / Tuesday morning. Most office workers do all of their web surfing on Tuesday morning (after they finished Mon’s work).
  • If you’re KSing a physical product, don’t plan to make money from the KS itself; instead, set the selling “price” of the basic ks level (for a backer buying one unit) to be 2x the cost of the unit (including other costs), and then order double the number of product from your printer. Thus, if your KS sells 500 units, you order and ship out 500 units to backers, and have 500 units sitting in your garage that are already paid for; anytime you sell one of those extra units, it’s 100% profit.

That’s all for now. Hope it helps!