Measuring Success: The First Year In Review

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There are differences between levels of success and they’re based on the goals we lay down. Yet no matter how you look at it, we all view success as a means of moving forward and upwards. There’s a momentum behind it and when you get a lot of it behind you, even in small doses, things can really move in directions you never imagined. That’s the mantra I live by when it comes to anything I do. I start small and I let it grow and don’t look back until I can see things have really progressed in ways I had not expected and yet always hoped for.

I guess that’s a long way to say… Welcome to another edition of our Measuring Success series! Where I figuratively pull back the curtain to reveal nothing more than a lone man frantically pushing a lot of buttons in the hopes of creating something magical. And that would be me, Todd Crapper, the publisher of Broken Ruler Games and Pusher Of All Buttons. Not only is it time for an update on this bi-annual sales report for all curious onlookers and fellow independent publishers, it’s also a review of BRG’ first year as a registered business. If you’ve never read any of the previous installments in this series, you can find them all here. Basically, I open up the books and spill the beans on how well my business is doing.

Right off the bat, let’s begin with the good news. We made money! The majority of that stems from the High Plains Samurai Kickstarter, which means that profit is going to be very short lived. But still… we made money! If I take away the Kickstarter funds, we are working in the red but that is very much expected with numerous projects and partnerships in the works, memberships fees, printing costs, and more. There have also been some valuable lessons learned – some of them troubling, others eye opening. As you’ll see below, we’ve also started moving into some exiting new directions for 2018. Put on your goggles, folks, because it’s time to dive into the deep end of the pool.

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What Did We Sell?

Every one of these posts starts off with a big giant spreadsheet containing sales from multiple sources – DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, CreateSpace/Amazon, the Open Gaming Store, Epimas, and others. Below is the complete sales data from September 2016 to August 2017.

Product

OBS Sales (DriveThruRPG/ RPGNow)

Open Gaming Store Sales

Convention/ Direct Sales

Total
Sales

Total Gross

Killshot: The Director’s Cut

83

11

94

$143.90

PDF

26

26

Hardcover

2

2

Hardcover + PDF

1

1

Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal

9

9

Killshot Files #0

26

11

37

Killshot Files #1

9

9

$12.00

Killshot Files #2

10

10

$27.97

ScreenPlay

314

20

16

350

$450.45

PDF

37

2

39

Softcover

2

16

18

Softcover + PDF

4

4

Ironbound

105

18

105

$8.84

The Blessed and the Damned

150

150

Dial M For Monster

16

16

$68.50

TOTAL

397

31

16

444

$711.66

dialm_finalcoverOverall, sales were down 44% compared to the previous year (and before I registered BRG as a business). The main reason is a lack of new products during this first year. Aside from Dial M For Monster, which bombed, all of my focus this past year was spent preparing the HPS Kickstarter, engaging with distribution channels and connecting with publishing organizations. All things considered, it’s not a harsh drop and is quite acceptable when you consider this crowded RPG market (particularly on DriveThruRPG). These numbers do not include either of the free playtests for ScreenPlay and High Plains Samurai, which helped keep BRG active and increased the size of our audience. These playtests combined were downloaded 1,640 times since 2016 – an impressive amount that helped us raise $6,411 on Kickstarter this year.

What these numbers provide is a benchmark for 2017-18, one I’m quite hopeful can be jumped over and left in the dust when the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game is released in Fall 2018. If I play my cards right, there will also be some early momentum from Summer convention sales and will also be available through North American distribution with Indie Press Revolution (they’ve already requested a restock of 20 copies of ScreenPlay, in fact). While the past couple of months have been off to a slow start, my eyes are looking towards March 2018 for the numbers to make a running charge at that benchmark.

Otherwise, there hasn’t been any significant change in sales since the previous MS post. If you’re interested to read a summary on the first six months’ sales, click here.

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What Did I Learn?

If there’s one area that has been the biggest eye-opener, it’s been bookkeeping. Detailing every single transaction, noting it across different reports, multiple currencies, transfers, and all the financial data needed to run a business has changed significantly in our second year. With new opportunities now available to BRG products, including access to distribution through IPR, there’s going to be more to track and I need to keep everything organized in a way that will make sense 365 days of the year.

Balancing the demands of running your own business with the need to create new material has also been challenging with a few adjustments made along the way. This has also lead to a better approach on dedicating time for project management, scheduling and budgeting to get ahead of the train rather than racing after it. There has been more time placed on setting up new opportunities for BRG to pave the way for a larger release with High Plains Samurai than anything else I’ve ever done. While not a conscious goal, there is a chance HPS‘ core rulebook could premiere at Gen Con 2018! An opportunity too good to miss. With these matters handled during the first year of operation, I can now get back to the creative side of the business before stepping back into the marketing and publishing sides. Different hats, as they say.

I’ve also discovered that it is possible to go with only 5 hours sleep for two weeks straight but it’s not going to feel good by the end.

One of those nice and unexpected (yet secretly hoped for) benefits of this past year has been the contacts and support from other indie RPG publishers, particularly with the members of the IGDN. They were incredibly helpful filling in the gaps and tightening up the presentation for the Kickstarter and I’ve been able to work with industry figureheads such as Mark Diaz Truman, Sarah Richardson, Emily Care Boss, and others on the Metatopia Scholarship program. It’s given me a couple of geek-out moments, for sure, but the most important benefit has been that sense of inclusion. Of community and knowing there are others who are just as mad dog crazy as I am about doing this. It’s also offered up a lot to think about when it comes to marketing and communicating with my customers, from setting up a subscription newsletter, to Patreon, and other things that would need a post unto themselves. All told, being part of the IGDN started to teach me how I can responsibly grow BRG.

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I also had a blast going on some of my favourite podcasts, including Misdirected Mark and The Gauntlet. Plus there were the personal connections made by attending Breakout in March and shaking hands with fantastic publishers and game designers like Fraser Simons, and Hamish Cameron. Knowing there are people out there you could be trapped on a deserted island with and talk about game design uninterrupted…? Priceless.

Going back to the benchmark mentioned above, this year’s sales were more than enough to handle expenses, printing and shipping costs, convention attendance, travel, and others. One of the advantages of working almost completely online is the savings; it’s quite possible to make a lot of business arrangements without leaving your chair. This means as long as I can at least pull in these kinds of numbers year-to-year, the business can continue to stay afloat. And that requires a continuous release schedule, something my editor, Vince Harper, brought up during one of our earlier production meetings.

Hmm, perhaps now would be a good time to get to the fun question…

What’s In Store For 2018?

So glad you asked! Thanks to the 273 honorable backers who helped make this happen, we’ll be rolling out the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game in two phases.

  • breakout2018-logo_324x179In March 2018, you can try out High Plains Samurai: Legends as a free download. Legends provides players with everything they need to play out one-shots in the One Land, perfect for convention play and to test out your wire-fu storytelling skills. Will include pre-generated characters, character & scene notes and three storylines. A print-on-demand (POD) version will also be available for a reasonable price (currently in the $10-$15 range based on final page count). We’re on target to premiere Legends at Breakout 2018 in Toronto, Canada and my plan is to have softcover copies available there as well.

  • Then in the Fall of 2018, the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game core rulebook will reveal everything you need to begin magnificent and dangerous tales from the One Land. Complete with character creation, advice for Writers and Directors, detailed introductions to the Five Cities and the Wastes, and more. This core guide to the game will be sold in PDF, POD, and softcover (prices yet to be determined) on all OneBookShelf sites, Amazon, and at major conventions and (hopefully) local gaming stores across North America (but I’ll settle with a handful… for now).

Plans are also underway for a dedicated High Plains Samurai website, publishing Fraser Ronald’s origin story of Black Scorpion, moving forward with the Atlas of the One Land project, I’m currently plotting out some ideas for a series of mini-games, and the wheels are spinning on a Black Scorpion’s Revenge Kickstarter late next year or early 2019. There will be more to come about these projects… soon. Stay tuned.

In Conclusion…

I’m quite pleased with this first year. Capped off with the success of the Kickstarter and the knowledge gained during the first 365 days of official operation, I’m really looking forward to applying these to the next 365 days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hyperventilating deep down inside but optimistically hyperventilating. If such a thing exists. All in all, I’m very happy with this first year.

If you have any questions or comments on what you’ve seen here, I’d be happy to follow up with more information or compare notes to help fill in a few more gaps in the indie market.

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The Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Bundle on DriveThruRPG

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 7.06.14 AMIn times of dire crisis, everyone needs to do their part to help out in whatever way they can. That’s why we answered the call when Hydra Cooperative activated the bat-signal for fellow publishers to fill their Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Bundle (available now on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow). For $25 USD, you’ll receive over $500 worth of PDFs from publishers such as Kobold Press (Deep Magic), Arc Dream Publishing (Delta Green), Fat Goblin Games (The Gamemaster’s Worldbuilding Journal), and so many more. Plus we’ve included ScreenPlay in the mix. Even if you’ve purchased ScreenPlay or a sampling of these products, there’s a lot to gain from this bundle with the added bonus of doing a little something to help out the people of Puerto Rico.

Beware the Terror of… Dial M for Monster

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Cover by Jason Moser.

What terror will be unleashed? Who will survive the night? How will you save the museum?

Something haunts one of the city’s biggest museums in the dead of night. It leaves more bodies than clues and the staff will only be able to keep this story under wraps for so long before something truly gruesome happens. Whatever this creature is, it must be stopped and only the dedicated members of the museum’s inner circle can stop it.

Rather than actually make you wait to play for another two weeks, we’ve pulled the trigger on the PDF version of Dial M for Monster. Now available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow (and soon releasing on the Open Gaming Store and Composed Dreams – coming soon!). Everything you need to play, including the full rules, allows you and friends to gather around for a Hallowe’en game of monster hunting in a 1950s black-and-white B-movie monster movie. A print-on-demand version should be only a couple of weeks away and will keep everyone posted on our Facebook page.

Measuring Success (or How Well ScreenPlay Sold)

(This is the second draft of this post written from scratch. Something about the chart above is really throwing off WordPress and anytime I attempt to select more than one word, it scrolls straight down to the bottom. Therefore, to keep it simple and avoid a third attempt, all links are provided at the bottom of this post.)

Another fiscal year has come and gone and this one is extra special. As detailed in my personal blog, Broken Ruler Games is now an actual business. Licence and everything. Which means apologies must be made for any ruse or hand waving magician-ry of the past four years. Yet what made the goal of starting BRG remains and fuels the engine of this next step.

It meant creating a clean and accurate slate as a business rather than part of freelancing. Only a month ahead of schedule, it was time to see how well ScreenPlay has fared and discover the aftermath of 2015’s Bundle of Holding.

Let’s See Some Numbers

Yes, let’s start with that. Below are the sales/downloads for everything in the BRG catalogue from October 2015 to August 2016.

Product Total Sold Gross Sales Earnings
Killshot: The Director’s Cut 36 $259.21 $140.08
  PDF 25
  Hardcover B&W 4
  Hardcover B&W + PDF 7
Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal 6 $10.17 $5.95
  PDF 6
  Softcover B&W 0
Killshot: Direction 2 $7.15 $4.18
  PDF 2
  Softcover B&W 0
Killshot Files #0 42 $9.78 $3.98
  PDF (Free) 42
Killshot Files #1 16 $19.94 $11.67
  PDF 16
Killshot Files #2 16 $57.22 $33.47
  PDF 16
ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition 645 $0.00 $0.00
  PDF (Free) 645
Ironbound 444 $64.46 $37.72
  PWYW 231
  Softcover POD 5
  Blessed and the Damned 208
ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition 92 $444.44 $260.01
  PDF 75
  Softcover POD 5
  Softcover POD + PDF 12
  Hardcover POD (playtesters exclusive) 11
TOTAL 1315 $872.37 $497.06

Starting with highlights, the numbers for both ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition (not including additional downloads during ENnies voting, which were provided on Google Drive instead of RPGNow – the original provider) and Ironbound are impressive. Those are loads of opportunities for people to discover ScreenPlay with little to zero cost (and risk). Did it translate into the desired number of ScreenPlay core book sales? No. Based on the initial launch, core book sales have dropped nearly 70% in August compared to May 2016. Even the Christmas In July sale did not improve sales. There are still sales taking place with 11 PDFs in August and a couple POD sales.

There was also no carry-over from the ENnies nomination. A couple hundred more downloads, yes, but there doesn’t appear to be any impact on core rulebook sales.

The true test will be the October release of Dial M for Monster (slated for layout this weekend). At the very least, it will make for a geiger counter of a specific concept over a universal system. And whether or not people like to play old drive-in movies for Hallowe’en as emphatically as they did in playtesting.

Overall sales were down 50% from the previous year. Killshot sales dropped significantly, down by more than 90% from 2014-15 and the main cause is the Bundle of Holding. Oh, how could you, sweetest moment of BRG’s short life. The BoH was an amazing opportunity and it was also a swan song for this edition of the game. At this point, it seems to be cooling down to a slow trickle… but this is after three years in the spotlight. For my first original design, this is truly amazing and I’m happy to report over 1,000 copies of Killshot: The Director’s Cut are resting on bookshelves and tablets all over the world.

Perhaps this means it is time to take another crack at Killshot Reloaded in the near future…

Um, Great Time to Start a Business, Huh?

It does seem like going +1 forward on BRG after a year like this may not have been the smartest move but it’s all skewed on one major factor: the Bundle of Holding. For a small indie publisher such as BRG, gaining access was fundamental to last year’s success. Yet such a thing cannot be expected as a regular feature. When I look at the total earnings BRG has accumulated in four years, 2015-16 was on par. 25% of its total earnings were made in the last 11 months and that means we held our heads above the water as the cruise ship took off without us. Thumbs up!

There’s also the price points between Killshot and ScreenPlay, with the latter priced at half that of its violent older brother. While ScreenPlay’s numbers were not what I hoped, those for Ironbound are very promising and I am considering a possible Ironbound sequel once it reaches 300 downloads.

Here’s what this teaches me. For the past four years, Broken Ruler Games has been a development studio with help from Mystical Throne Entertainment and operated on soft launches and zero marketing. Promoting, yes, but promoting is when you connect with an existing audience (Twitter followers, email subscribers) and marketing is reaching a population outside of that. Plus it’s only been available on OneBookShelf sites – that’s going to change. A lot is. It has been a learning experience these past four years and there’s a very good indication this could grow into something more, something with a bit more muscle going into the bigger picture. I’ve been having fun with BRG and creating games for people to play; now it’s time to take it seriously.

Are you ready?

Un-Broken Links

To read my personal blog post on turning BRG into a legit business (that sounds kind of mafia, doesn’t it?), click here.

You can read more about ScreenPlay, Ironbound and Killshot by clicking on them words.

Discover all about the Bundle of Holding and pick up some sweet bundle on their website.


Todd Crapper is the Owner/Lead Designer/Jack of All Trades for Broken Ruler Games. Basically, anything you see written with that blue target and snapped ruler on it was written by him. Including this. He’s writing about himself in the third person. Weirdo.

It’s Not Real Until It’s In Print! ScreenPlay Softcover POD Only $9.99

Hey, ScreenPlayers. Warden here. I mean, Todd. Sheesh, still takes getting used to not using that name anymore. Anywho, I wanted to make this announcement extra personal because as someone who used to work as a press operator I’m very fond on physical books. Call them old-fashioned relics slowly going the way of the dodo, but there’s nothing like holding paper in hand and flipping through with the greatest of ease.

That’s why I’m very happy to announce ScreenPlay is now available in print through DriveThruRPG’s print on demand program. And the best part is the cost: only $9.99 US for 92 pages of full colour, full bleed, full ScreenPlay sweetness. This also covers a free PDF of the game if you’ve been sitting on the fence to keep you busy until that beautiful softcover addition to your gaming shelf arrives.

Click here to buy your copy from DriveThruRPG or here to get it from RPGNow. There’s more big news for the future of ScreenPlay on the way – stay tuned! Check out these preview photos in the meantime (and let’s give a big round of applause to my publisher, Aaron Huss, for the fantastic hand modelling).

Talkin’ ScreenPlay: An Update From The ScreenPlayers Guild Community

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Use the #ScreenPlayRPG hashtag to help maintain the hype!

It’s been a couple of weeks since anything for the ScreenPlay playtest has graced this page and it’s not because everything’s gone quiet. Far from the truth, the finishing touches are going into Version 1.4 of The Rehearsal Edition with hopes to release it by early next week to everyone who downloaded this free PDF from DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

600+ downloads later and we’ve collected a fantastic group of avid playtesters are not only giving this game a run for their money, they’re creating new stories, settings, and genres to play. Playtest surveys are still rolling in with two additional unlocked treatments putting it at over 100 pages. The shining crown of this playtesting is the activity going on in the ScreenPlayers Guild, our online G+ community. Here’s a sample of the most recent discussions and events.

  • Ironbound Play-By-Post: Already into its fourth scene, this rendition of ScreenPlay’s dark fantasy tale of witch hunters features Derya (the scout), Gareth (the blade), Drachen (the archanist), Philip (the shield bearer) and Lyonesse (their new commander). If you’re looking for an idea on what makes this game tick, be sure to check out the Ironbound PbP thread.
  • Necronomicon Stories: Based on an idea created by one of our playtesters, we’re experimenting with a Lovecraftian tale of monstrous terror… in the future! The ball has only begun to bounce on this upcoming story and with only two Writers currently signed up, there could be room for a couple more.
  • EscapeFromTheX_logo_CMYK_preview2Escape From The X: The third treatment recently unlocked from playtest surveys, this sci/fi-horror story takes place in Mystical Throne Entertainment’s Mercenary Breed. The short and sweet of it: mercenaries hired to deliver an alien prisoner to a secret installation find themselves desperately outnumbered when someone mysterious releases every inmate to wreck havoc and spill as much blood as possible. Look for it in Version 1.4 next week!
  • Optional Rules For Building Potentials: With many core mechanics locked down, some optional rules are being considered. Such as building your dice roll’s value based on the number of details you apply in a scene.
  • Kickstarting It Up A Notch: Finally, we’re also looking at Kickstarter to help elevate the finished version of this project. With playtest surveys averaging a score of 4.6 out of 5 and ideas bouncing around for a small product line built using ScreenPlay, all options are on the table right now.

This and more is taking place at the ScreenPlayers Guild. Join us and see what all the fuss is about before the cool kids see what we’re doing and want to make it a crowd.

Black Friday 50% Sale For Assassins This Holiday

KillshotDirCut_mock_v1‘Tis that time of year when thoughts turn to spending time with family and friends gathered around the table sharing drinks and laughs as flakes of snow trickle from the sky to herald the beginning of winter. What other time would be perfect to think about saving some of your hard earned cash on the world deadliest roleplaying game? And if that doesn’t sound appropriate, then you clearly haven’t spent time with family and friends gathered around the table sharing drinks and laughs as flakes of snow trickle from the sky to herald the beginning of winter.

Along with some other fine products available at DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and their various affiliates, all you need to know is Killshot is 50% off this weekend from Thanksgiving Thursday to Cyber Monday. Because assassins love a good deal and so do you.