ScreenPlay Goes To GenCon

ScreenPlay_cover_7x10_March2016_preview2It’s not a zany sequel (though wouldn’t that be cool?), it’s the truth. Thanks to our partnership with the Independent Game Designers Network (IGDN), print copies of ScreenPlay will be available at Gen Con 50 this weekend! Anyone who buys a copy at Booth #2437 will also receive a PDF copy of the game, a handy reference to send out to your Writers. Plus you can find many other indie games from publishers such as Growling Door Games (Chill), Magpie Games (Epyllion, Masks), Third Eye Games (Pip System), and our good friends from the Ottawa Game Publishers Podcast too.

Stop on by and discover games you never knew you always wanted to play.

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Measuring Success: The First Six Months

BrokenRuler_logo_websiteheader_Oct2015_noshadow

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

hpslogo_kickstartermay2017

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….?!!

Merry Epimas To All!

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-8-43-20-amWait… what?

If the name Epidiah Ravachol means anything to you, then that headline is starting to make a lot more sense. For the last couple years, Epi, as his friends calls him… and we’re not sure if we’re one of them so let’s try this again. For the last couple years, Epidiah has put together a special non-denominational tabletop bundle around the holidays and called it Epimas. This year is no exceptional and we’re proud to state ScreenPlay is included in one of those bundles.

From Google+ on December 1st:

This year, we’re going to have an earnest, no-bullshit Epimas.

For those not in the know, Epimas was created by +Nathan Paoletta and myself way back when PDFs were still just kind of a new thing–before the iPad and other reading devices, so folks were still a bit leary of them. Following in the grand tradition of . . . well, just about all of capitalism, we were trying to create a new normal. We wanted to make it okay to give the gift of a PDF for the holidays. Particularly because small-time game publishers with shoestring budgets like ourselves had none of the resources to stock and delivery a holiday load of physical games.

So we created Epimas, a holiday set on my birthday (Dec. 24th) during which you give the gift of games (in PDF format) and enjoy them with your friends, family and assorted loved ones.

If you’re interested in indie RPGs such as ScreenPlay but also Apocalypse World by Vincent and Meguey Baker, the Romance Trilogy by Emily Care Boss, Our Last Best Hope by Mark Diaz Truman, and many more (57 titles, to be exact), visit the Epimas page. In addition to grabbing games for yourself, you can also enter the email of a friend and provide them with free PDFs at no additional charge. 

What Is High Plains Samurai?

hpslogo_geared_preview2What a good question. What exactly is High Plains Samurai (or HPS, as we call it around here)? With a little over a month before the public playtest/preview and four months until the Kickstarter launch, now seems like just as good a time as ever to divulge what makes this game tick. And there are many more questions to answer in the coming weeks.

  • What genre is High Plains Samurai?
  • What is the One Land, the Five Cities, and the Wastes?
  • Who are the people calling them home?
  • How do you play these characters?
  • What is qi and how does it give some of these people incredible powers?
  • What are the Elemental Spirits and how do they interact with the One Land?
  • Who is this Black Scorpion threatening to destroy the One Land and finish what Chaos started?

Plus so many more. That’s where posts like this will begin to answer those question, tease you of the infinite possibilities, and prepare you to band together to save this world and its people from ultimate destruction.

For those of you new to this site (and Broken Ruler in general), my name is Todd Crapper (yes, that’s right) and I’m the creator of HPS and the figurehead of Broken Ruler Games. With this long gestating project approaching these two major milestones, I want to share with you the process of creating this game, its setting, and what is so magical about this game.

Let’s begin with perhaps the first lesson: What genre is HPS?

The Ultimate Mash-Up

the_good_the_bad_the_weird_film_posterCutting straight to the chase, HPS isn’t about one or two genres. When it first started four years ago in my kitchen, it was a spin-off based on The Good, The Bad, and The Weird involving a train robbery merging westerns with wild and crazy wire-fu sword fighting. As time went on and as this game grew in potential, it also became apparent publishing this project faced an obvious hurdle: there were already a few western/samurai mash-ups in the RPG community. This one needed something unique to truly stand out in the crowd.

Building up the setting, I started experimenting with additional genres adapted to suit each of the major locations in the place called the One Land. Each of the Five Cities – the major communities fortified within unique geographical locations and home to vast majority of survivors from Chaos’ Wrath, a near apocalyptic event that has scarred the landscape and its people for generations – became its own stand alone setting. Merged into one cohesive whole, there are near endless possibilities for the make-up of any group of heroes (though anti-heroes may be a better word).

What began as a wester/samurai/wire-fu concept has now become a western/samurai/gangster/barbarian/steampunk/post-apocalyptic/superpowered quest of gods fighting over the fate of their homeland. Phew!

Imagine the possibilities. Your group can consist of a young, insulate gangster who rose from poverty to a position of power within one of the gangs from Yung Zhi, enforcing his boss’ orders with a Tommy gun; a bounty hunter and her double-barrelled shotgun who calls the rugged, sandstorm streets of Hunan home; a banished warrior from the snow capped mountains of Khar’tep with nothing but the desire for revenge, his axes, and the ability to turn flesh to stone; a noble warrior from the poisonous jungle surrounding the fortress of Monsoon tasked with discovering a lost tome by her General, blade and armour at the ready to battle anyone who gets in her way; and a genius inventor from the underground city of Rust, who happens to make his way across the One Land riding atop a warmech and its twin machine guns.

This also means going up against some equally versatile and dangerous enemies. Your lead characters will face others who have tapped into their qi powers, wield legendary weapons capable of slicing through stone or summoning a swarm of locusts, and so much more. Like I said, the possibilities are endless.

How The Hell Are You Making All These Genres Work?

img_3101
A demonstration of “anything goes in the One Land” portrayed in this early concept piece by Kieron O’Gorman. 

If you’ve ever heard of (or better yet, played) ScreenPlay, you have a very good idea of how HPS works. If not, well, it uses story game mechanics allowing a wide range of genres, styles of play, and more. More importantly, the players are the ones driving the story forward with the Director (aka the GM) keeping the plot moving forward and challenging the lead characters in a true improv style game where anything can happen.

You can learn more about ScreenPlay right here.

By stripping away the mechanics associated with genres, tropes, and other standards of any specific emulation, the rules allow everyone to simply describe their characters as they see fit. Without guidelines or mechanics forcing your hand in how you act and guiding your behaviour using pre-determined reward systems, you can play HPS however you want to play it. Even in whatever storytelling style floats your boat: scripts, novels, anime, the sky’s the limit.

But HPS is not exactly a ScreenPlay product. It applies a few new mechanics specifically designed to maximize your potentials as your story unfolds, such as building your potentials rather than default to its dice value, legendary weapons, teachings… don’t worry, we’ll get there soon. What continues from its predecessor is a free flowing storytelling experience driven by its players to create their own version of a world filled with characters like Grandfather Tom, the Council of Iron, the Desert Sun Gang, Xang the Mother of All Gangsters, and the unstoppable cataclysmic force known as the Black Scorpion.

The Doors Have Begun To Open…

Over the next few months, you’re going to have the opportunity to learn a lot more about HPS and how you can help shape the game that will hit Kickstarter in March 2017. For our next lesson in tapping into your inner qi, we’ll get into that dreaded day when Chaos – the very creator of the universe – took revenge on the One Land to punish his children.

Until then, we invite you to discover more about HPS on the official High Plains Samurai page. 

 

The Silence Is Broken! New Previews for HPS and ScreenPlay’s Now In Print

It’s been a month plus change since we last posted anything here and it’s not because of taking some time off. Far from the truth and today’s new updates are proof of the Ruler’s future in 2017.

First, check out the updated (and moved) High Plains Samurai page. As we get ready to launch the Rehearsal Edition of the game at the beginning of next year, we’ve updated the juicy text and included previews of Kieron O’Gorman’s ongoing artwork for the Kickstarter and two pages of layout previews. Speaking of juicy, we’ve updated the logo too.

hpslogo_geared_preview2
Mmm, juicy. 
Second, we’re happy to report ScreenPlay is now available in a black & white softcover and will be working its way to a few small distribution channels. Phone calls and emails are in progress on that front but with access to groups such as the IGDN (Indie Game Developer Network), IPR, and local convention distributor, Ottawa Story Games, we’re hoping to have copies of ScreenPlay in a couple of stores by the start of the new year. Oh, and it’ll be available on Amazon around the world by the start of next week.

You can order your own right now right here from BRG. For only $15 (plus shipping), you can have a softcover edition for use as soon as you pull back the packaging.

And we’re not done yet. Pick up your jaw because you need it to heal quickly for what’s coming soon.

Beware the Terror of… Dial M for Monster

dialm_finalcover
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.