Crowdfunding your world (with Kickstarter or otherwise) is a big step for many creators, but it can be a difficult one too. If you’re looking to kickstart your world, this blog’s for you! In this Sage Spotlight, Nick, the creator of Arclands, explains the first step: defining the world’s core concept. With three successful world building and RPG Kickstarters under his belt, he’s written this blog post to share his best tips and tricks!
Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites routinely present aspiring world builders with tantalizing examples of outstanding creative and commercial success. Together with open licensing for D&D and other RPG systems, the process of creating a viable business from your own imagination has never been so accessible. Each year, Anvilites take their projects to the crowdfunding marketplace and see their visions come to life.
Sounds almost too easy to be true, eh? Well, you can probably guess the next bit…
Most projects fail
Two-thirds of all crowdfunding campaigns fail, which shows that the crowdfunding process is anything but easy. For starters, you should see crowdfunding as one component of your professional world building or ‘Imagineering’ business, not its entirety. In any case, there are several reasons why crowdfunding initiatives fail (vastly unrealistic funding goals or weak crowdfunding pages, for example), but the one I am going to focus on helping to fix today is the most fundamental—the core concept.
Why is the core concept important?
The most unforgivable crime in marketing (the business you, as a professional imagineer, are in, whether you like it or not!) is to confuse people. If your product, even momentarily, elicits an ‘eh?’ from a potential backer, it will bomb. People who regularly back Kickstarters, who have cash on the hip, are looking for projects that appeal to them, and they have to be able to grasp that idea in a heartbeat. Take the example of two of our Kickstarters:
- Arclands Player’s Guide: “A 5th Edition world where spells aren’t learned, they’re forged.”
- The Book of the Graces: “A 5th Edition expansion book set in a dying heaven.”
These descriptions were short, snappy, and memorable (both books successfully backed). This has less to do with simply dreaming up concise descriptions, however, and more to do with the basic design of the world that you are translating into a marketable product. Let us imagine we’re adapting a World Anvil world for 5th Edition, to be Kickstarted as a core rule book. In order to define the world successfully, you must reach for the simplest and most universal core concepts. Probably your world will already be a jumble of core, first-order, and second-order ideas (unless you’ve used the meta!). You must separate these out before you start the process of product creation (or it will only make sense to you, which is fine if you just want to world build for pleasure, but a big obstacle if you are looking for backers).
OK, so what does that mean?
Imagine a world building process that goes something like this:
Your imagination throws up Kung Fu masters that chase demons through time, sometimes in Victorian London, sometimes in 24th Century Tokyo, but always to the songs of David Bowie. There are gadgets, guns, airships, new rules for heroic feats, a tool for building your character’s fame over time, cybernetics, etc. Some of these concepts are core, others are first order, and others are secondary.
- Core concepts: Martial Arts, Time Travel
- First-order concepts: Locations, Demons, Bowie
- Second-order concepts: Gadgets, guns, airships, etc
If you were defining this game to a backer, you could do it as “A 5th Edition universe for time traveling Kung Fu masters”.
All the other stuff, before they are invested in the core concept, is just noise. If they don’t like the core concept, they won’t say “Hey, but airships”. There is a time and a place to talk about the other stuff, but it’s not when you are first introducing the idea. By defining your own core concept you will also be better able to choose what goes in your world and what doesn’t (leaving things out is a crucial part of creating a coherent product, but this is a story for another time).
If you are disciplined about what your core concepts are from the start of your world building, when you reach the point where you want to market your work, it will make sense to you, and more importantly, to the backer.
Nick is one of the co-founders of Verse Online, and their next Kickstarter, The Book of the Phantasm, will go live in September 2022. Meanwhile, check out Arclands on World Anvil and follow Arclands on Twitter!
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