Measuring Success: The First Six Months

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It has been exactly six months since Broken Ruler Games was relaunched and the time has come to look back at those early days to see where things have progressed to date. Yes, exactly six months to the day.

Pay no attention to the date of this post!

Hello again, loyal readers and casual Googlers. This is BRG’s big cheese, Todd Crapper, here once more to review the numbers that have been flying across my screen these past few months. As this latest update in the Measuring Success is arriving a bit behind schedule and there’s still plenty of work ahead on the High Plains Samurai Kickstarter, let’s jump right into the fray, shall we?

Cutting Up The Numbers

Below are the total sales for both OneBookShelf sites (DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and affiliates), the Open Gaming Store, conventions, and direct sales between September 20, 2016 and March 31, 2017.

Product Total Sold Gross Sales Earnings  
Killshot: The Director’s Cut 20 $86.12 $50.39  
PDF 18     **listed as Silver Best Seller on DriveThruRPG
Hardcover B&W 2     1 print demo ordered from Lightning Source
Hardcover B&W + PDF 0      
         
Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal 5 $0.00 $0.00  
PDF 5      
Softcover B&W 0      
         
Killshot: Direction 0 $0.00 $0.00  
PDF 0      
Softcover B&W 0      
         
Killshot Files #0 22 $2.00 $1.17  
PDF (Free) 22      
         
Killshot Files #1 5 $6.00 $3.64  
PDF 5      
         
Killshot Files #2 6 $17.47 $10.22  
PDF 6      
         
ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition 0 $0.00 $0.00  
PDF (Free) 0      
         
Ironbound 101 $5.83 $3.49  
PWYW 48      
Softcover POD 0     limited to 5 copies only for PbP playtesters!
Blessed and the Damned 53      
         
ScreenPlay 32 $189.20 $129.75  
PDF 23      
Softcover POD 2      
Softcover POD + PDF 4      
CreateSpace / Retail 5     for backers/playtesters/patrons only!
         
Dial M for Monster 18 $68.50 $40.08  
PDF 16      
Softcover POD 2     1x POD proof ordered Sept. 2016
         
High Plains Samurai 911 $0.00 $0.00  
Rehearsal Edition 911      
       
TOTAL 1146 $365.12 $238.74  
         
Killshot Directors Kit (Bundle) 5    

With only one new paid release in this period (Dial M For Monster), these are decent numbers. Considering how ScreenPlay quickly lost steam after a strong release and Dial M (to be blunt) failed to click with classic monster movie fans in October, these are good to see and a positive sign moving forward. Killshot continues to hang on and Ironbound refuses to go down (much like the magick hunters themselves).

This is also the first time I’ve been able to include sales from multiple sources and not just OneBookShelf sites. Broken Ruler Games is now a proud member of the Open Gaming Store, Composed Dream Games Marketplace, the IGDN (providing access to some American conventions with plans to move into retail distribution as well), and we’re also available in at 401 Games in Toronto. A brick-and-mortar store selling physical copies of ScreenPlay! Always brings a tear to my eye. Plus there was a copy sold at BreakoutCon. Oops, there’s another tear.

What really stands out over these past six months is that nice big number next to High Plains Samurai: The Rehearsal Edition. 911 downloads. In one month. Wow! And that number is soon approaching 1,000. Compared to the 645 downloads of ScreenPlay‘s Rehearsal Edition during the initial playtest campaign and during ENnies voting, roughly four months of availability, and that’s a big leap. Clearly the concept connects with people enough to add it to their catalogue; the question becomes whether or not it will be enough to make a healthy portion of them want to help expand this project into something bigger and wilder. Time will soon tell.

Tightening The Focus

dialm_finalcoverThese numbers have brought something to light: open ended products do not sell as well as detailed concepts based on a particular genre. By this, I mean products with a clear direction and theme in mind, such as a game about robot hunters on Mars versus a game about telling a story around a campfire. Killshot is still selling (and selling better than ScreenPlay) after four years and HPS‘ initial downloads prove that case. While Dial M provided a clearer idea of the system than the ScreenPlay core rulebook, it was not unique enough to stand out in the crowd. At this point, the only two products consistently getting clicked are the modern assassination RPG, Killshot, and there appears to be strong interest in Samurai‘s mad mash-up. Perhaps more than the positive signs, it’s the negatives telling me BRG needs to consider a greater focus on more unique concepts than open-ended, “do-it-all” systems.

ScreenPlay and Dial M For Monster are currently financial losses and it looks as if it will be a while before they break even. Those are strong negatives as far as aiming at similar projects in the future. It’s not to say such products will never be on the menu again, just that there will be some smaller budgets attached to them. Much smaller. It will mean smaller page counts but it also means future ScreenPlay treatments are still possible with the rules left up to the core rulebook. Maybe a collection of treatments. If anything, it’s a worthy experiment that will help shape BRG’s future (even if the result was less than hoped).

Getting Ready To Unleash The Samurai

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As mentioned above, we’re closing in on the Kickstarter launch of High Plains Samurai and all wheels are spinning in that direction. Seeing such impressive numbers for the free playtest have been incredibly encouraging… but the low number of survey results have skewed that sentiment. To date, there has only been one survey result completed for HPS but there are a couple factors to consider. First, this first quarter of 2017 has been Kickstarter season (one we were originally due to be part of were it not for the scheduling change and I’m very glad HPS wasn’t trying to compete with so many other amazing games during March). There’s been a lot of new stuff coming and going. ScreenPlay‘s playtest was released in October versus HPS‘ in March. Obviously, this time difference is huge and has been noted for future playtests. The downloads suggest HPS definitely appeals to a wide audience; without the feedback, it’s hard to tell if it actually resonates with people.

Another crucial factor is that getting feedback on anything – let alone a playtest – is difficult in the best of times. What I had hoped was a working formula has now been revealed to have been a lucky fluke with ScreenPlay… or maybe it’s more of the audience each game attracted. ScreenPlay definitely struck a chord with the story game crowd, Samurai has appealed to a more traditional RPG audience (or perhaps a hybrid crowd, such as Powered By The Apocalypse fans). Even people who playtest something face-to-face with the creator can be loathe and unable to provide detailed feedback, but I’m happy to report there are some playtests in progress at the time of this post and there should be more to work from going into the Kickstarter campaign. The initial response to this game is still very strong and I should have BIG NEWS for the launch party (to me, at least, because I get to fan gush when the time is right). Stay tuned for that.

All that aside, revisions have been made to the Kickstarter’s goals and stretch goals in light of this shift in playtest results. For starters, I’ve adjusted the goal to a lower $3,000 (Canadian) to fund a “basic” version of the game and by that I mean a 96-page edition containing the complete rules and basic setting material with an appendix for the Black Scorpion storyline and a host of supporting characters from around the One Land. This will at least give me the satisfaction of knowing I can publish HPS in a way that I would still be proud to slap on the BRG label and provide something magical for people to play. At $6,000 (still Canadian), we will produce High Plains Samurai: Black Scorpion’s Revenge, the true version of the game I’ve always intended. At nearly 160 pages, this will contain everything from the “basic” version plus incredibly detailed guidelines for directing/playing HPS and a chapter for each of the six major locations in the One Land. Within each of those chapters, a series of scenarios will provide story beats to help your group play out your version of Black Scorpion’s Revenge, the main storyline that threatens to wipe the One Land from existence. At $10,000… you know what, let’s leave that one for now. Yep, I’m teasing you.

My Money Where My Mouth Is (or Do You Want To See The HPS Kickstarter Budget?)

Due to time constraints and wanting to get this post out the door before the end of April (sheesh!), I’m going to skip the fourth component of this post… for now. Seeing as I’ve been open with my sales figures, it seemed only fair to be as open with my Rehearsal Edition/Kickstarter budget for High Plains Samurai. How much I’ve spent to date to create the version that will exist as of May 30th as far as editing, artwork, marketing, and more. Time permitting, that will happen before the launch. Otherwise, I will make a point to include it during the campaign itself.

Until then, if you have any questions, comments, or random swear words to throw my way, I’m always game to hear from you. Thank you for your support so far as BRG continues moving forward and I hope there’ll be some crazy numbers to show you next time. Like numbers with four digits. Whaaaaa….?!!

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Hear The Tale of Lucky Lu on Comic Strip AP

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Click here to listen to the first episode of High Plains Samurai on Comic Strip AP. 

Some get lucky in the One Land and find a way to live outside of the warlords’ iron grip. Yet even though their day-to-day lives exist outside of the Five Cities and away from the prying eyes of outcasts from the Wastes, they can never truly live free of these dangers. Take the one they call “Lucky Lu,” for instance. He may live outside of Hunan as a retired watchdog of its master, Grandfather, but is not truly free. Deep in the mines that scour the depths of the earth searching for precious minerals and water Grandfather desires so much are Lu’s family and he has been promised they will one day go free. And so Lu runs his small farm and waits for that day.

Until Grandfather arrives with an offer that will change Lu’s life forever.

Broken Ruler Games is pleased to partner with The Gauntlet podcast network and their actual play series, Comic Strip AP, to present a six-part introduction to High Plains Samurai. The first part is available to download now and will be released on a weekly basis leading up to the Kickstarter launch in May 2017. It’s a great opportunity to get a feel for the game’s mechanics, tone, and style, regardless of whether or not you’ve downloaded the free Rehearsal Edition playtest copy or are discovering HPS for the first time. Enjoy!

The Golden Box: A High Plains Samurai Radio Drama/Actual Play

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Openly Gamer Theatre has created something truly incredible that’s a great way to learn what it’s like to play High Plains Samurai. The Golden Box is a combination radio drama/actual play recording for a previous version of HPS (something like Version 0.8 where players would roll against their own Difficulty, which has now been changed to rolling against the target’s Defence). If you’re on the fence about this game or want to hear their version of this Tarantino-esque gathering of bounty hunters all trying to acquire the same artefact in Hunan, click here and let the story begin.

Cast

Vendetta Black – Shannon Steele

Kaze Sora – Brandon Irwin

Mr. Runcitter – Aaron Woodside

Narrator – Eric Ausley

Guard – Mario Garcia

Brad – Todd Crapper

Old Lady – Jennifer Ausley

Kiki – Marielena Alcaraz

Khilmore – Chris Hussey

Marco Portune – Michael Waldschlager II

Belidia Runcitter – Katarina Ausley

Music

Benjamin Tissot ( bensound.com )

Machinimasound ( machinimasound.com )

Edited by Eric Ausley & Dan Helderman

Written and Directed by Eric Ausley