Last time I had a long conversation with Andreas Walters (AW) was in July of 2014 when I interviewed him for his NPC Cards - which I know quite a few of you guys got behind. Since then, we keep in touch through social media (G+ mostly). He has gone from an obscure game designer to something of a crowdfunding darling.
I was intrigued by his original Baby Bestiary however and kinda kick myself for not backing that one up (bad financial schedule). However, it was completed and he is now back for a second one. Then a few days ago, he pinged me on G+ about his new project, the Baby Bestiary 2 and I was immediately intrigued.
So I sent him a series of questions!
JP So what have you been up to since the NPC deck?
AW Well, a lot of time has passed since then, proejct-wise I've released a few Numenera supplements, Kickstartered the Baby Bestiary, Scavengers RPG, and the Baby Bestiary 2016 Calendar. Personally, the company I worked for went under, I was unemployed for 5 months and moved to Philadelphia from San Francisco, it's been an action-packed 1.5 years.
JP Where did the original idea for the Baby Bestiary came from?
AW Well, it all started right on this post, where a friend of mine had realized that the Displacer Beast was classified as an Abberation rather than a magical beast, and there was a comment about rust kittens just not being as threatening as a rust monster abberation, then from there it just popped into my head on the potential cuteness of the monster manual and it's play on the 'kill a baby goblin, are you being evil by killing a baby or preventing future evils to" come problem.
JP Why a second one?
AW Well, at the end of the 1st Kickstarter, there were too many other creatures that haven't been able to be depicted, so naturally I really wanted to give those the justice they deserved.
In addition, during the success of the first one, I began to envision an entire brand-line of the Baby Bestiary, of which I am working towards, which would feature plushies, miniatures, children's books and adventure modules.
JP What made you select one monster over another? Say why the bulette over a sphynx? Can you explain your monster selection process?
AW So really, in Volume 1, I had only firmly decided that a few beasts were required to be included, they were the Owlbear, Phoenix, Chimera, Rust monster, and probably two others. The rest were actually voted on by the backers, so I had no involvement in what volume 1 finally ended up being.
JP The art I've seen is AWESOME! I mean the babies look cuddly and cute as heck! Even for monsters like a harpy or a chimera! Tell me who are your artists!
AW Thank you, I too wish I could draw with such skill. The artist company responsible is Conceptopolis (http://www.conceptopolis.com/), you actually may recognize them for a lot of the work they had done on the new D&D 5e books. I knew that in order to make this project work I had to go to the pros, and that's what I exactly did.
JP How did you go about building a team of designer?
AW During the NPC Kickstarter I joined an organization called the IGDN (Indie Game Developer Network), here we have a large number publishers and writers of the indie RPG community, so naturally looking for writers I put out a post to the IGDN membership and also emailed the Evil Hat writing team to grab some talent. I hadn't checked any of their past work, so it was kinda a leap of faith. I asked all of the writers to give me their top picks of which beasts they wanted to write, and I divided up the work that way. Also, I set up a 'standard format' which explained the tone of the writing, in addition I would write out a few notes for the particular beasts that I felt needed to have a few clarifications on their lore, like the immortality of phoenixes, and have it makes sense. That aside, I gave a lot of freedom to my writers, which I think they really enjoyed (as they're back for volume 2) and they also got to write about the beasts they love.
JP What would you are the biggest challenges to making a project like this, while in a systemless environment?
AW Biggest challenge in reality was the budget, but that probably wasn't the answer you wanted for this question. I actually had a lot of fun time figuring out ways to portray the baby beasts, we took a lot of inspiration from the monster manual, but for others we wanted to go back to their historical roots, or even reinvented them (like the cockatrice). The systemless was actually probably the easiest part, we could use ambiguous locations and directions, to the north, in the highlands, to the east, as we place value in these directional descriptions locations
The decision to go systemless was actually an easy choice, it opened up the potential market and without stats, it kept the book focused on the imagery rather than the stats.
JP Any lessons you learned by working on so many successful Kickstarters? What would you recommend/counsel to someone wanting to try his hand at it?
AW I could probably write a short book about this, but essentially it comes down to,
- share often (even before you launch, this pre-exposure helps)
- be open to feedback, share your project url to get criticism, there are a lot of Facebook groups for RPG creators and Kickstarters, find them and use them.
- When you launch, you should have a very defined concept of what you are doing, we should see mockups, sample text and art, maybe even some specific mechanics so that we can see your vision of the project, backers expect that you have made samples/prototype .
- what is the minimum viable product, and how much money + contingency do you need to make that happen. I actually have been kinda bad at this, because I have been setting my goals to what I wanted (rather to what I needed), because once you're funded it can snowball, but otherwise you're working hard advertising to a goal
- Avoid addons (unless they're digital), fufillment is a tricky beast and only gets worse when you start to segment your shipments.
- Advertising and self promotion suck, so far Facebook, g+ and twitter are obviously the big ones, but don't be afraid to research bloggers and other influentials and have something to give them to report on, prototype, art ect, oh and don't try Kickstarter cross-promotion.
- Paid ads? only thing I've ever seen make a marginal impact is Facebook ads, and even then I've had mixed results between projects, any other paid service I would avoid as our industry is (relatively) very small and niche.
JP What would you say is the biggest key to your crowdfunding success?
AW I actually think a lot of my success is actually the visual aesthetic of my projects, in addition to a solid concept, they all have a large emphasis on art. Its odd to say this but art really does sell, but you still have to have a solid underlying concept.
Marketing is a mixed bag, but really in the end I have drastically expanded my RPG social circles by making friends with various bloggers, designers, artists and participating in various groups across the industry.
JP Can you tease us with some upcoming projects? Anything else you have in the works?
AW There may be a book about how to cook and prepare various beasts, probably titled The Adventurers Cookbook: From Dangerous to Delicious.
So be prepared to see dining in your dungeons improve, this will include tandem rpg crunch.
JP Any links of interest?
AW We have our current Kickstarter that we would love to share https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/metalweavedesigns/baby-bestiary-volume-2-and-vol-1-reprint
In addition we have our (constantly evolving) website http://www.metalweavegames.com/
Thanks again for having me, it was a pleasure.
Check out his stuff. I certainly will.