What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Demonologie Playing Cards

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Arcana Creations 2017: A Year In Review

 The year of 2017 was an interesting and busy time for Arcana Creations.  Did I meet all the personal objectives set for it?  No... we did fall short of a couple but nothing got dropped.  Things are just taking longer to come out.  So, where did we meet or surpass expectations and goals and where did we fall short.

In 2017, there were a couple of releases and a successful Kickstarter which helped us shift gears.  Earlier in the year, we released our first fiction novel under our non-gaming imprint, 'Arcana Elements'.  The title of the book is 'Mother of Mortals' and this was successfully Kickstarted to bring in the funds necessary to produce rewards for backers as well as a small print run to sell directly at shows and events.  The Kickstarter success was attributed by the simple fact that it had a modest goal and the first proofs of the book were already in our hand.  We also delivered EARLY on our commitments.

With new product and things finally moving for Arcana Creations, we also began to do smaller shows and conventions.  Sales of 'Mother of Mortals' at the shows were good and the books has gotten positive reviews.  Between the shows and other projects, we decided to keep the momentum going with a second novel, Jack London's 'The Star Rover'.  While not a new title, being in the public domain and not as well known as his other works, we felt it a good match for the stuff we wanted to produce. Like our first novel release, we went to Kickstarter to secure funding and, again, we launched in the proofing stage of the book. Unfortunately, the Kickstarter failed (more on that later) but despite this setback, we still brought in advance copies of the book to sell in December.

On the gaming front, we re-embraced our love of Castles & Crusades and committed to deliver 'The Shaman of the Mire'.  For the benefit of the shows and conventions we were doing, we brought in some stock from Troll Lord Games as well as some other gaming odds and ends and some inexpensive dice (because everyone needs more dice). Gaming sales have not been as strong at the shows we have done but these were not focused on gaming so much as other things.

Of course, the primary reason for all of this is to branch out and get a bit more exposure and possibly lay a more solid foundation to build from.  We have continued making some contacts and despite things still being a bit touch and go from project to project and show to show, it's making a positive difference.

But we also stumbled.  The focus on the Arcana Elements imprint and various shows (while working a full time job) meant some projects got pushed back and set aside and this blog was updated way less than I hoped to.

'Shaman of the Mire' was the first casualty of this followed by the (re)launch of our own gaming line.  A sizeable book which I originally hoped to be out in the last quarter of 2017 was instrumental in these delays and, in the end, it had to be pushed till 2018.  We are back on to finishing 'Shaman of the Mire' and other pressing gaming releases.  As for that second Kickstarter... why did it fail if the first one did well enough?  The biggest problem was timing.  I wanted to have a short campaign and I wanted to close the campaign by the end of November.  Being Canadian, I somehow forgot about Thanksgiving and Black Friday that happened within a week of a campaign that was little more than a couple weeks in length.  That hurt the campaign as much as recent changes to advertising and promoting things on social media (notably Facebook).  It ended up being something of a disaster which took away time from other pressing projects.

As for the blog... at the end of the day, I don't have the time or energy to be very active on the blog so I don't expect that 2018 will be terribly different on that front.  It will still be a place for news with updates for Arcana Creations but less musings, thoughts, and reviews.  Hopefully, when I caught up sufficiently with the backlog of work in my production queue, I can get back to it as well as some of my other hobbies like painting miniatures.

Up next... What's planned for 2018!


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Can-Con 2017... So Far.

When I first did Can-Con as exhibitor, Arcana Creations was still new-ish.  It was a small convention in Ottawa but an interesting one. With the cost of the table, and a friend who also had a few books to sell, we split a table and decided to go for it. The good news was that I sold enough to cover the costs of my portion of the table. The bad news was that this was ALL I made and the table wasn't that expensive to begin with!  Since we had come in to Ottawa from Montreal, we also had to factor in things one does when coming in from out of town to a convention such as hotel stay.

To be fair, the experience wasn't horrible and I still had fun doing it.

Since then, a couple things have happened. Over the past few years, I decided to come in as a regular attendee and in that time, I witnessed it grow. It is STILL a small and fairly intimate convention but there was a remarkable difference in attendance, and more importantly, traffic and the number of different vendors at the con.  The other thing that shifted is a broader appeal to what was being presented. More people coming in are looking at the gaming books and, since we have also released our first novel under the Arcana Elements imprint, our table has generated a fair bit of interest to appeal to a greater number of attendees.

For me, I also realized that I am spending more at this particular convention as well. My first Can-Con a few years back had me purchasing a single book. I ended up trading for another book at the end of the show with another publisher/author.

Now, with a day left to go, I already picked up eight books and I'm still eyeing a couple more! However, unlike my first Can-Con, I honestly have doubts I will have any copies left of 'Mother of Mortals' to trade! The novel has sold REALLY well today.

Any way, on the strength of the numbers for the first two days of sales, I have already committed our attendence for Can-Con 2018.  Ballista will be up and going by then so Arcana Creations will newer product to sell on top of the fantastic gaming product we already support and Arcana Elementas should have about three more books added to the roster!  Maybe even a follow-up book to our very first release if we are lucky.  :)

Here's hoping our final day of sales end up doing just as well, if not better, than the first couple.  :)


Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Six Month Hiatus -- UPDATES!

It's been six months since I last updated the blog and by the looks of it, my various posts have still gotten a decent amount of traffic during my absence. To my loyal readers as well as seekers coming across the blog by chance, I thank you.

Things have continued to be eventful and I have been busy since the Spring.

The first novel released under the Arcana Elements imprint I've set up was successfully crowdfunded and delivered ON TIME and the feedback we've received on it has been very positive! Two more books are going to added to the catalog by the end of the year. One is an academic work of non-fiction and the other is a great novel presently in the public domain. During the next week or two, I will be making specific announcements on what these two books are exactly and provide other details regarding their respective releases.

As for Arcana Creations, on the gaming front, things are continuing to progress albeit at a much slower pace. I have fallen behind on a couple of my goals as my time is demanded elsewhere. I still need to finish up the Castles & Crusades adventure, The Shaman of the Mire as well as finish up the long overdue Hide in Plain Sight. I am also revisiting previous releases like The Secret of Ronan Skerry, A Trick on the Tain, and Ruins of Ramat. I also have a couple more things up my sleeve. When looking at this previously released material, I made the decision to re-brand these adventures as well as the new releases going forward.

My commitment to Castles & Crusades as well as Swords & Wizardry is still there but these will now all be published as part of the Ballista line of adventures Arcana Creations will be focusing on. These are going be compatible with both these games as well as other similar FRPGs that share common ground with these two systems.

This isn't the first time I've talked about Ballista and I guarantee that it won't be the last. The idea of it has also changed considerably over the past few years too. This time, a fair bit of headway has been made in the past few months and I've come to a point that I feel secure enough start talking about it again.

Lately, the big push for Arcana Creations have been the upcoming shows for both CanCon in Ottawa as well as a local Yule Fair in Montreal. This means getting more stock and all the necessary preparations to vend at this two shows. I've also taken the Arcana Creations website down to set up an online store. It's still down but all that will be remedied in the next few days.

CANCON is happening on October 13th-15th, 2017 in downtown Ottawa and Arcana Creations will be there selling some gaming material as well as Arcana Element's first release, Mother of Mortals.  We will have an introductory selection of various products from Troll Lord Games (Castles & Crusades, Amazing Adventures, and Victorious) as well as our publishing partner, Brave Halfling Publishing. There will be other gaming odds and ends and plenty of dice. There may even be a pick up game or two during the weekend if we are lucky enough!  :)

You can find out more about CanCon HERE.

The Montreal Community Yule Fair will be taking place on December 3rd, 2017 though is a small scale event hosted by the Crescent Moon School of Magic & Paganism. I don't have too many details to share yet but both new releases by Arcana Elements will be available for that show as well.  With any luck, the first Ballista module will be there as well supported by much of the same product we will be showcasing at CanCan in a couple of weeks.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Castles & Crusades: A $15 Players Handbook

I need more time to actually relax and enjoy myself. Castles & Crusades has been my go to FRPG for years now and I realize that it's been a over a decade since I've picked up my first Players Handbook for C&C. The book has gone through multiple printings and is gearing for a 7th print run right now on Kickstarter. In some ways, the book has changed a lot over the printings ... but not so much in terms of the actual content. You can gather a group of players each with different printing and still be on the same page as far as rules are concerned. It's a rules light game that is a good balance of what I was looking for.I love this game a lot.

I'll write more about the how the game feels mechanically in a couple of days. For now, I want to talk about the evolution of the Player's Handbook.

It started off as a booklet in a white boxed set. Before Swords & Wizardry had their white box and before other various OSR clones did their own white box tribute, Troll Lord Games did it first with their white, collectors edition box. Three booklets in a box containing all the basics you needed to play! It was a proof of concept as no one at that time had used the SRD and the OGL to recreate d20 version of the D&D game that was a nod to the classic versions of D&D that many people grew up with. Sure... it was rooted with a slightly more modern system design with ascending armor class and a unified d20 mechanic to resolve a variety of challenges, but it was so elegant when unhindered by the mountain of skills and feats and a requirement of miniatures that Third Edition forced you to contend with.

From there, the first printing of the Player's Handbook was made possible and... well... never had I seen a more abysmal display of layout and editing in a 'professionally' released gaming product. Had I come across Castles & Crusades in that guise, I would have closed the book and walked away. It was a more complete game and on par to contain some of the things one became accustomed to seeing in first edition AD&D.  Unlike the booklet that had the four core classes... the PHB had 13 classes in all... from Assassin to Wizard!  A much greater and detailed selection of spells as well as an array of demihumans to choose from.

I was one of the lucky ones though as I came upon C&C with the 2nd printing of the PHB.  The text was basically the same but it was finally laid out correctly and pleasant to flip through.  Both 1st and 2nd printings where black and white and printed on white paper. A good stock that took pencil (and ink) well which made some people happy. The game was new so there were errors and mistakes littered throughout the book. I have met more than one person that marked up their books accordingly. I was not one of those people.

The cover artwork began to change slightly with the third printing but the biggest change was the paper.  It went to a higher quality but thinner stock of paper while retaining the black and white look.  There were LITTLE variations to the text and the most significant change was to the poison tables.  The thinner stock also meant the books were slightly thinner as well. Many loves this new printing but others didn't care for it as much.

Up to this point, the books have also remained at a bargain selling at $19.95 a book. You could get the Players Handbook and the Monsters & Treasure book for the same price (if not cheaper) than the current 3rd Edition PHB!

The next printing was a big thing for Troll Lord Games though and they were making a concentrated push to expand the game. All books in their main line were getting reprinted and all sported the same dark olive green trade dress. The 4th printing of the PHB also represented the most changes in any of the printings. New material was added and a couple of classes got revamped. Notably, the Barbarian class moves away from being a berserker to a regular barbarian befitting a variety of cultures. The Monk on the other hand moved away from an oriental themed influence to a slightly more western one. There were new spell and multiclass options also presented in the volume. The book also saw a $5 price increase.

The 5th printing was another big step even if it was a bit of a misstep. It was the first printing of the PHB which would see color and the art and pages all got colorized. Have you ever seen a black and white movie that got colored after the fact?  It doesn't always work out does it. The same thing happened here. Some pages and pieces of art looked good while others looked worse. It was significant nonetheless and, aside from errata, no content changes happened here.

The last printing is probably the finest printing we have to date.  It is also full color but TLG went back and made sure the color was done perfectly.  It got an expanded page count but not so much because content, but because they chose to make the font slightly bigger and more legible. The font had always been on the smaller side for these books but the new look is bigger and crisper and suits the book very well. Some of the text was clarified a bit and a lot of errata was corrected. The book has a $39.95 price tag if I'm not mistaken but, given the quality of paper, color, and increased page count, no one should be surprised. In my case, I treated myself and made sure my copy was a leather copy.

I've owned easily a couple dozen players handbooks for C&C books over the years and often gift copies or even sell some of them second hand. I've kept my third printing, fourth printing, and definitely will be keeping my sixth printing. I like to see the book getting arguably better with each printing but I honestly figured that the 6th printing would be my last printing.

The current kickstarter is for the 7th printing and they got me by offering a collector's cloth edition with my name embossed on the cover. That sounds nice and I'm of course happy to support them.

Why should you support them? How does $15 for a full color hardcover sound?  That's right, they are planning a deep print run and, at the same time, want to thank current fans and supporters that might already have the books to allow for an inexpensive upgrade. They also think that $15 is a great incentive to buy the game to see if they like it. In other words not a lot of risk.

And there are stretch goals and add-ons to consider.

If it sounds like you might be tempted, I invite you to check out the current Kickstarter campaign HERE.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Day After Your First Kickstarter

Kickstarter has been around for awhile now and many people flocked to it thinking it a great way to make some money quick. People have seen many great Kickstarters come and go of varying degrees of success too. There are the ones with happy endings, there are the ones which are painfully late, and then there are the spectacular failures. As a backer, I have backed well over 100 campaigns now and MOST of those have had happy endings. A couple have languished in a special kind of hell and will likely never see the light of day. In other words, you win some and you lose some. Regardless, there are MANY lessons to take in.

In my case, I took a lot of things to heart when I put together my first Kickstarter to help fund the 'Mother of Mortals' novel. The first thing I did was not start a crowdfunding campaign before the book was finished! I only launched when I had the proofs in hand. That being said, they were the first proofs and a whole lot of corrections have gone in and I'm getting ready to send the files in to get a second set of proofs done. In other words, these additional corrections were done by the time the campaign ended last night!

The campaign made it's goal and the goal was deliberately set to be a modest one. $2,500 in Canadian Funds which works out to just under $1,900 USD. Arcana Elements, the imprint I set up under Arcana Creations for the publication of fiction and non-fiction is an unknown and $2,500 was a bit of a stretch but I had a good mix of tiers and this ultimately helped fund the project. Shipping charges were factored in the campaign as well and since the reward fulfillment has an anticipated quick turnaround, there shouldn't be any surprises. Since the majority of the rewards are being drop shipped, shipping costs were also kept relatively low too.

Advertising. Well, while we made our funding goal, if it wasn't for the collector's level tiers, I don't think we would have been as fortunate. I really hoped for more backers but, as an unknown publisher of fiction released a work by an unknown novelist, I can't complain either. Family and many friends help support the project but we did make some new friends as well and, if they really like the book, they are the some of the ones that may come back to the next one and bring a few more friends with them. I opted to limit financial investment towards advertising because I didn't see much use for it on social media. Facebook proved VERY frustrating though. While the initial cover art we released before the Kickstarter was shared and received many interactions, the moment I had a Kickstarter link, I quickly realized that only a FRACTION was being exposed to that post. Clearly, Facebook is interested in your advertising dollar. I did some paid advertising just to see if it would make a difference and it looks like I didn't end up losing money doing so but the net results would have been the same had I saved that money instead. It might make more of a difference if I dropped some serious cash but that is well beyond the scope of the projects I've been doing.

Now that the campaign is over and since the money won't be transferred to me for at least a couple of weeks, I can rest a bit. I will need to set up the surveys and begin gathering information and do a bit of work for the collector's hardcover (mostly set up the dustjacket) in the next week or so but, I think I can rest a bit and start thinking about other projects in the queue.

This Kickstarter has been quiet compared to other larger and fast paced ones but, between my regular 9-5 and getting the book finalized and running the campaign, I'm still pretty tired... but happy too.