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Kickstarter musings


I have backed 38 Kickstarters, all RPG-related and all (except 1) with physical rewards. For me, being located in New Zealand, a key driver is shipping. The variation in shipping costs is insane, particularly where the creator is based in the US. Often the cost of shipping can be US$40, significantly more than the cost of the hardback I am backing. And I do not understand how that can possibly be justified when sending a book of the same size from the UK (which is almost as far as you can get from NZ) via the Royal Mail’s first-class service costs £3.50.
The shipping costs out of the US have gone way up because our previous administration pulled out of an international shipping treaty for flimsy reasons.

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I've only gotten burned on the following four Kickstarters:

Ernie Gygax Jr.'s Marmoreal Tomb
The Great Kingdom
The Dreams in Gary’s Basement: A Documentary on Gary Gygax
Hunters Mark: Long Live the Hunt!

Of them, only the last one is one that there's no hope of it coming out. The backer essentially released a PDF that was half of what was promised, then ghosted on all channels. The rest might deliver, one day...

My rules:
1 - No first-time Kickstarters, unless the buy-in is low enough to offset the risk.
2 - No Kickstarters with massive stretch goals unless it's from someone that I trust to actually deliver.
3 - No more 5e monster books. Don't get me wrong, I love them, but I've got enough to last for a long time now.
4 - No more D&D documentaries. I've gotten only about 50% of the ones I've backed.
5 - Nothing that involves Ernie Gygax or Benoist Poire.


Solitary Role Playing
Backed only 5 KS. 4 of 5 small indy companies I wanted to succeed. Only one delivered very late and the book was more like a beta than an actual game.

I no longer back KS because of the high prices of shipping to Canada. That said I backed The One Ring 2e with my wife. It's a game we really want to play and Free League delivers high quality products.


Kickstarter says I have backed roughly 180 projects, most of them RPG stuff (a few video games, art books and film projects). Most of them have actually delivered.

Regarding personal "rules" for backing, things have shifted over time:

In the early days, I mostly backed things that I personally wanted and/or that were at least somewhat interested and seemed like a massive bargain.
For a longer while then I have backed a lot of things under the delusion that I would play them some day. These were also the days when shipping from outside the EU was not horrible, so I pledged for a physical product a lot of the time.

These days, it roughly comes down to four rules of thumb:
1) Is it an extension to a game I already own and actively play? Then I will pledge for a physical product if shipping is EU-friendly; if it is not, I'll go for digital and buy the books later.
2) Is it an indie thing that I find compelling (visually, rules-wise, conceptually) and that I want to see happen? Then I will typically pledge immediately if the price for a digital reward 10$/€ or less (irrespective of likeliness of use in play)
3) If it's like (2), but the price is higher, I decide on a case by case basis.
4) If it's a new Free League Year Zero game, I will probably pledge for physical items.


Sure. Most Kickstarters have separate digital and print tiers. That’s pretty standard.

(Though I also give PDFs free to anybody who buys a physical book, wherever they buy it).
Sure, but in some cases it can be more efficient to provide discounted POD options, particularly since trans-Atlantic shipping has become hella expensive (but then again, I think DTRPG recently raised their POD prices as well).

Just to take an example in fresh memory, Exalted Essence had a $25 digital pledge level with a discounted POD, and a $60 pledge level for a "properly" printed book + PDF. In the kickstarter, Onyx Path Publishing strongly recommended that if you lived outside the US and wanted a printed book, you should get the digital level and later get the POD, because that would likely be cheaper than the extra $35 + international shipping you'd pay extra for the print pledge level.

Some publishers no longer even offer print pledge levels to non-US addresses. And with recent changes in the way selling things to the EU works, it's likely even more publishers will go that way (because the EU is shifting the burden of handling sales tax onto the seller, and of course they're doing it in the most bureaucratic fashion possible – I saw a twitter thread by John Nephew on the topic a short while ago).


I've only backed eight Kickstarter projects and five of them were for Savage Worlds, one for Delta Green, and two different Zombicide games.

1. I'll only back Kickstarters from established companies/creators.
2. I view Kickstarters as pre-orders.
3. I barely read the updates on the Kickstarters I participate in and never on those I don't put money into.
4. I typically don't make the decision to back a Kickstarter based on stretch goals. Though for Zombicide, the stretch goals sweetened the pot.
5. I don't care about trinkets. Don't give me stickers or pins unless they can be used as props or something.

I've backed 20 or so kickstarters. Mostly but not entirely, RPG material.

  • Keep me updated regularly - once a month is fine, even if it's 'we're still waiting on the printers'. Don't just go radio silence.
  • Be realistic about your goals and timelines. If it's two months before your expected delivery date and you're still sourcing art and haven't admitted that the project will be delayed, that's a good way to make sure I'll never back you again
  • I'll rarely back first-time kickstarters. I've done it before, but for RPG material especially the results have always been disappointing and the fulfillment dates enormously late.
  • I don't want miniatures, dice, dice bags, bookmarks, medallions, or other trinkets as stretch goals. Miniatures are in fact a dealbreaker - I won't back a kickstarter than includes them, as they're expensive, slow to deliver, rarely useful, and inconvenient to store. Neither do i want PDFs of products you've already released (I love Kobold Press, but they need to stop doing this) - if I want them, I already own them. Stretch goals should be additional pages of new material in the core product I'm buying.
  • I'm not GMing right now and likely won't be in the medium term future, I won't back and don't need adventures. If your kickstarter is a package of material that includes an adventure book (like Southlands, Iron Kingdoms Requiem etc), I'll still consider it, but the adventure makes it less likely I'll be a backer. Same with monster books.
  • I want high-quality colour art. I'll only back hardbacks - no softcovers or pdfs. Realistically, I've got more rpg material than I'll ever actually use in a game, so if I'm backing a KS I want it to at least be something i can indulge myself in the experience of reading. Oh, and if your product has rules material, then i want to see some samples of it on your kickstarter page so i can check if you have any sort of competence in actual game design or balance before i back.
  • Your kickstarter should tell me how awesome your product is, and it should not do this by slagging off other settings. I'm getting a lot of ads for Lost Lights in my facebook feed at the moment, and while it should by rights hit all my buttons, to be honest it steps a little too far over this line and the marketing has so far put me off backing it.
  • Shipping cost matters. I'm in Australia and most of the time KS shipping is actually surprisingly reasonable (much better than getting similar items shipped from any other seller in the US) but it is something I'll keep a close eye on
  • Give me something new. There's about 4000 iterations of 'Viking-inspired D&D' going around at the moment, and if I step away from 5e you could probably double that. I don't need another one. And if you start your pitch with 'dark fantasy' then you're two strikes down already, for similar reasons.

In general, I'm realistic enough to know that kickstarter or something like it is here to stay, and it'd definitely got its plusses in that the quality and production values of small-company or startup game material has skyrocketed since, for instance, the first days of the d20 glut. But I do have to say that it's a double-edged sword. So much great stuff is being produced, but so little of it is making it into local game shops. I was on a big gloomy downer this week (just started yet another new lockdown, sigh) and in the mood to binge on some RPG stuff to cheer myself up. I wanted to sit down on a comfy couch and spend a cold weekend in front of the fire with a glass of red, some good cheese, and a new 3rd-party 5e campaign setting. Ridiculously, I couldn't get one. Other than the core WotC stuff, none of the shops in my large city stocked even a single 5e setting. A couple had a small selection of Midgard material, but most of it was long since sold out (always a problem with Kobold Press I've found), but there was literally nothing else. If I want to get ANYTHING from the huge amazing 3rd party D&D ecosystem out there, I need to order from overseas, or PoD, and that'll take a month if I'm lucky. Or I can back a kickstarter and not see anything at all for a year. There's all this great stuff out there, and I can't impulse-buy any of it. I need my instant gratification, dammit! :(

Dire Bare

I've backed 49 Kickstarters. I'm no Superbacker, but I've backed my share. I've also created 26 Kickstarters. With that in mind, here are some of my personal observations. Your mileage may - and almost certainly will - vary, and you're more than welcome to offer your own perspectives. The below applies only to me personally.
  1. I'm more likely to buy core game than a supplement.
  2. I’ve been pretty happy with those I’ve backed. I don’t think I’ve backed any non-fulfilled campaigns.
  3. I’ve only backed on Kickstarter. I haven’t backed on any other crowdfunding platforms.
  4. I have never read a Kickstarter update of a campaign I wasn't already backing, and I have never backed a Kickstarter based on an update.
  5. I have never backed a Kickstarter based on a stretch goal.
  6. I don't back Kickstarters which offer a coupon to buy a book at cost from DTRPG.
  7. Fancy production values totally sell me. If it looks pretty or striking, I'll probably back it!
  8. I've never bought an add-on.
  9. I like high concept stuff.
  10. I don't need to be kept constantly updated about production (but if it's delayed for a good reason, please tell me).
  11. I'm not interested in plushies, pins, and other trinkets.
  12. Titles are important.
  13. More may follow if I think of them.
What are your Kickstarter rules?
That's a pretty good set of "rules"!
  • I've certainly backed some failed Kickstarters, but I can't remember any TRPG campaigns that failed (that I backed).
  • I've seen a few campaigns on Indiegogo, but don't think I backed any of them, Kickstarter definitely seems to be the place for TRPG crowd-funding!
  • If I'm familiar with the company, I'll back campaigns on GameOn and other smaller crowd-funding sites, but the experience always seems sub-par compared to Kickstarter.
  • I kinda hate the constant stream of updates on campaigns, and try to only read the ones that require action on my part. It does make me worry that I might miss something important! I would LOVE, LOVE campaigns to clearly label updates as ACTION NEEDED!!! when appropriate! When you back a lot of campaigns, the emails get overwhelming . . . for me at least.
  • Stretch goals can push me over the edge on deciding to back a project, but rarely do. I don't even pay much attention to stretch goals and add-ons anymore.
  • While I've backed campaigns that included the coupon-at-cost POD option, I've never backed at that level. Mostly because I don't do a lot of print books anymore. But I see why some publishers do it, it's a lot easier and less risky than a full print run!
  • Production values are important to me also, it won't always sell me on a campaign, but the LACK of good production values almost always convinces me to pass.
  • Plushies, pins, trinkets . . . . dice vaults, special dice and other such add-ons . . . . I find more annoying than enticing, usually, and ignore them. Some of the more recent Kickstarters that bundle an RPG product with a small line of miniatures intrigue me . . . . but since I'm cutting back on miniatures, I haven't jumped on any of those.
I used to back all sorts of RPG and RPG-adjacent Kickstarters, but as these types of projects have proliferated and I've realized I need to reign in my spend-thrift habits . . . . the types of projects that tend to grab my attention these days are . . . .
  • Compatibility with D&D 5E. It's not the only game in town, of course, but it's the only game that's easy to find other players to play with you!
  • Projects that push 5E into new territory, either with mechanics and/or setting.
  • I'm getting bored with monster manuals, item compendiums, player's tomes (collections of classes and races) that just add more splat to 5E, and don't really offer something new and exciting. There are a lot of these on Kickstarter.
  • That said, reliable companies that are known to deliver good stuff can get me . . . I just backed Kobold's Tome of Heroes, which breaks my rule just above!
  • The most exciting projects are new settings that push genre boundaries and aren't just somebody's bog-standard homebrew D&D campaign.
  • Currently, I'm not interested in VTT or print . . . PDF digital only. The few campaigns that don't offer PDF ebooks don't get backed.
  • Production values! Art, layout, a good title, well edited text . . . . if the teacher in me starts correcting your grammar, you're not getting backed!
  • Of course, there's always the odd campaign that breaks all of my "rules", but somehow convinces me to back anyway!

Dire Bare

Neither do i want PDFs of products you've already released (I love Kobold Press, but they need to stop doing this) - if I want them, I already own them. Stretch goals should be additional pages of new material in the core product I'm buying.
I just backed Kobold's Tome of Heroes, but the stretch goals annoyed the crap out of me. I normally don't pay much attention to them, but when I saw the list of existing titles listed as stretch goals . . . I own the entire list already! As I'm sure many Kobold super-fans do! It's an easy freebie to throw a small, already completed product as a stretch goal, but . . . hella annoying!
I'm getting a lot of ads for Lost Lights in my facebook feed at the moment, and while it should by rights hit all my buttons, to be honest it steps a little too far over this line and the marketing has so far put me off backing it.
Lost Lands initially intrigued me as well . . . it looked like a fairly standard campaign setting with high production values, but with a stated emphasis on changing up how races are handled. This is something I'm interested in, so I downloaded their free sample. Sooo confused. Their take on race is weird and nonsensical, and completely turned me off to their product. You basically inherit your species from your father, and your culture from your mother. Or something like that, it's odd.


As a comic and game retailer, I only care about two things (both of which come down to: Can I make money while helping the kickstarted game make money and find fans?)

1) Does the Kickstarter have a Retailer pledge level? Is it a reasonable amount of product for its cost?
2) I need physical product. Can I get it in Canada with reasonable shipping? (Or at all?)


Limit Break Dancing
Unrelated (mostly): I just got a notification that my "Legend of Vox Machina" backer rewards have shipped. It might not be big news for most of ENWorld, but it's one of the most highly-anticipated Kickstarter shipments in my social media circle. We've been waiting forever to get those rewards, and both my wife and I are really excited.

Related (mostly): Some lessons to be learned from Critical Role's wildly-successful Kickstarter.
  • Backer rewards are great incentives...especially for something like a cartoon, video game, or movie that might not have a purely "physical" format (like a book). But too many of them can really hurt your delivery.
  • Later in the campaign, when they were hitting the multi-million dollar mark, CR stopped adding trinkets and baubles and switched to adding content (produce more episodes, hire more animators, etc.) This was the right call. Lots of backers complained because they wanted to get MOAR STUFFS for their backing dollar, but CR was already overcommitted on rewards and were at risk of not being able to deliver at all.
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It must be frustrating for a Kickstarter creator: shipping is the most common complaint and the most common deal-breaker, and also the thing that creators have the least amount of control over. :(
Yeah, it's tough. It's gonna be terrible going forward, too. But I've got to consider it, because there's only so much shipping that I can "eat" and a customer off the street coming into my store is not going to want to pay a jacked-up retail to pay for shipping, sadly. (But understandably).

Initially, kickstarter projects played on my fomo. Because of the scale and realities of indie production, there are some products that you probably need to get on kickstarter or not get them at all, at least in physical format. But in general I don't like paying for something and then receiving it like over a year later (of course, covid has slowed things down), so I'll probably lay off the kickstarters in the future.

The other issue is that I have more rpg products than I have time to use and I need to stop
Ugh, just backed the Mausritter kickstarter at the highest level. I'm incorrigible!



Ugh, just backed the Mausritter kickstarter at the highest level. I'm incorrigible!

Me too!

Perhaps I should have included "I'm a sucker for boxed sets" in my original list of reasons for backing a kickstarter.

I'll almost certainly never get to use it in a game, but I'd hate to be in the position where my gaming group were demanding some mouse-based RPGing and I didn't have anything to offer them.

(Well, apart from Mouseguard, and probably a few obscure PDFs I can't even remember, and this assumes they weren't tempted by the various cat-based RPGs in my collection as an alternative, or that weird ferret game that I have no idea why I bought, and I'm pretty sure I have some Bunnies and Burrows stuff floating around somewhere …)


I've only backed a couple dozen or so kickstarters, entirely ttrpgs and video games. About half of the video games have delivered, the other half are in limbo. The ttrpgs have a much better track record, although I regret backing Exalted 3E, as they're still sending me emails even though I'm long past the point of caring about it.

Stretch goals can make or break a project for me, as they can be a good indication of how well the creator can manage themselves. Stretch goals full of time consuming or expensive sounding content? Red flag.

Proof of concept is another big one for me. Kevin Crawford's kickstarters are a fantastic example of this, every one of his that I've seen and backed have been along the lines of "the product's mostly done, kickstarter's just for production value and maybe some extra stuff." Makes it a lot more likely that I'll see the finished product, and worst comes to worst, I'll still have the playtest document.

I'm also sick of kickstarters that make "5E Compatible" their main selling point. I mean, I get it, but I want a product that will sell me on the strength of their own merits. I don't need another generic 5E fantasy setting with a different coat of paint. Something that uses Fate or another toolkit system gets more leeway here, as they usually at least have a unique implementation of the mechanics-at-the-table.


Elder Thing
5. I don't care about trinkets. Don't give me stickers or pins unless they can be used as props or something.
Ugh. This. I feel every other project these days has enamel pins and stickers and what it, and what exactly are they supposed to be for?

I don't really care; they can gather dust on a shelf or in a drawer until eventually they get thrown out. But I seriously don't understand the appeal.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
Proof of concept is another big one for me. Kevin Crawford's kickstarters are a fantastic example of this, every one of his that I've seen and backed have been along the lines of "the product's mostly done, kickstarter's just for production value and maybe some extra stuff." Makes it a lot more likely that I'll see the finished product, and worst comes to worst, I'll still have the playtest document.
Yeah, we do that too. Final PDFs within seconds of the KS ending, physical books within weeks (basically physical printing/shipping time only).


Wow, I thought I was doing well having supported 19 projects! Compared to some of you, that's a drop in the bucket.

  • All of mine have been TTRPG products save for 3 - a back massager, an endangered species enamel pin that my daughter wanted to back, and a couple $ for the Critical Role animated series. Most of the TTRPG ones are 5E supplements.
  • If it is a game or physical product (minis), will I use it? If I don't think so, then I'll pass
  • I've never chipped in for an add-on
  • trinkets (pins, plushies, 'collectibles') don't interest me
  • Stretch goals aren't a make-or-break decision for me, but once I've committed, I like to see those get unlocked.
  • I would be happy to see more stretch goals that add more art or adventures. I don't need more dice or dice bags.
  • I'm mostly interested in PDFs because of the quicker delivery and the usually horrendous shipping fees to Canada.
  • I'm a sucker for the ReaperMini Bones Kickstarters - we'll see what happens with Bones 6 now that I have a 3d printer
  • I've only been disappointed with one - a 'cinematic sci-fi' for 5E book, that introduced new rules, used cards and was far enough removed from 5E that they may as well have said it was a new game.

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