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Marketing Possibilities?

Envisioner

Explorer
I've been creating RPG characters in my spare time for well over a decade; it's basically my #1 hobby unless you count something as generic as "video games", which IMO you shouldn't. It's one of my chief creative outlets, and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I am sometimes extremely inventive, producing very fleshed-out personalities and complex, interesting mechanical designs, although my skills in either arena are far from perfect. Unfortunately, while I've hosted some of my work on public forums a number of times over the years, my somewhat antisocial tendencies have a habit of getting me kicked off of one board after another (ENworld itself nearly being the latest one, before I voluntarily near-discontinued use of it, in part to stop myself from continuing to poke the bear), assuming the board in question didn't simply cease to exist for technical or business reasons. On top of this, while the hobby has entertained me greatly, it has also cost a great deal of time and effort, and the amount of those things I can devote to it is drastically limited, when I'm dealing with the day-to-day reality of jobs and bills and such.

So I'm looking at the way the wind is blowing globally, and I'm seeing that a lot of creative types are migrating to the crowdfunding model (Kickstarter and Patreon and such) as a way to sustain themselves, and I'm wondering whether this is a solution for me. At least it could lead to me creating my own website to host my character designs on, and if enough people liked what I was doing enough, it might even supplement my income to the point that I could start doing it as a full-time job, rather than just a spare-time hobby. Thusly, I present this thread, as an effort to take the community's temperature on the possibility that I can pursue this.
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
The possibilities of something like Kickstarter really depend on having an already established name, and/or a really appealing new product. Same for Patreon really. Without that existing presence or name recognition you may find it difficult to attract any reasonable kind of funding. I would probably start with a blog of some kind, probably character design in your case, and get some content onto DMGuild. I would probably start the product with shorter bits, one or a small handful of character builds, and go for the pay what you want option.

As far as the product itself goes, I'll be honest and say I think the market for pre-made characters is limited. Most gamers really enjoy making up characters and aren't perhaps all that likely to just buy one instead. However, if you were to codify some of your ideas, and perhaps present them as guides to building character concept X, you might get more traction. I feel like there might be more interest in guidance for building cool backstory especially, than in just getting it already complete. Far more gamers struggle with background and story than with the mechanics of character creation. Another benefot there is that background and concept can be presented in a system agnostic way, which might let you pull in a wider audience, both in terms of potential sales, but also site readership.
 

Envisioner

Explorer
DMsguild will only work if I'm writing within Forgotten Realms or other such approved settings (eg the upcoming Theros). And while I could start a blog, it wouldn't have the technical resources I really need to do justice to my designs. I don't just want to post the character's backstory; I like having a full accounting of all their mechanical abilities, and while I could link some stuff to d20srd.org or the like, there's a lot of material that isn't included there. So what I really need is a full website, where I can put up every block of ability text that's referenced and have a fully consistent indexing system for navigating through it.

Far more gamers struggle with background and story than with the mechanics of character creation
That's really surprising to me. The mechanics require actual work, number-crunching and cross-referencing and so forth; background and story is literally just making stuff up (or stealing from your favorite TV shows). I'm not trying to put anyone down, but are there really people who find it impossible to imagine a basic character backstory? You sit down to play a Paladin, you pick out your Paladin oath based on its mechanical effects which interest you - do you not then IMMEDIATELY think "my guy has the Oath of Vengeance because orcs wiped out his village" or some such? I feel like my contribution should not be telling you "you should say that your guy has the OoV because orcs", but rather walking you through the step-by-step cost/benefit analysis of deciding whether your Paladin should multiclass to Ranger in order to have Favored Enemy: Orcs, and which other Humanoid race he should pick besides that since you get two of them with one Ranger level.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
That's really surprising to me. The mechanics require actual work, number-crunching and cross-referencing and so forth; background and story is literally just making stuff up (or stealing from your favorite TV shows). I'm not trying to put anyone down, but are there really people who find it impossible to imagine a basic character backstory? You sit down to play a Paladin, you pick out your Paladin oath based on its mechanical effects which interest you - do you not then IMMEDIATELY think "my guy has the Oath of Vengeance because orcs wiped out his village" or some such? I feel like my contribution should not be telling you "you should say that your guy has the OoV because orcs", but rather walking you through the step-by-step cost/benefit analysis of deciding whether your Paladin should multiclass to Ranger in order to have Favored Enemy: Orcs, and which other Humanoid race he should pick besides that since you get two of them with one Ranger level.
It can be kinda surprising how uncreative some people are, if you're creative. Among other things, if you internalize that you aren't creative, that'll make it harder to be creative; at least, it'll make you less confident in your abilities. It's not difficult at all for me to generate ~1000 words of backstory (the amount I want as a DM) for a new character, but I have players who aren't confident or comfortable doing so. Maybe they think I'm going to judge them based on how well they write (I won't); maybe they just don't think in terms of backstory; maybe they're primarily thinking in terms of mechanical edge; I work with what I get.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
The restrictions on the DMGuild will apply to game mechanics stuff, but not to system agnostic story and background stuff. That's why I suggested the latter, you have a lot more room to make it your own.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I've been creating RPG characters in my spare time for well over a decade; it's basically my #1 hobby unless you count something as generic as "video games", which IMO you shouldn't. It's one of my chief creative outlets, and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I am sometimes extremely inventive, producing very fleshed-out personalities and complex, interesting mechanical designs, although my skills in either arena are far from perfect. Unfortunately, while I've hosted some of my work on public forums a number of times over the years, my somewhat antisocial tendencies have a habit of getting me kicked off of one board after another (ENworld itself nearly being the latest one, before I voluntarily near-discontinued use of it, in part to stop myself from continuing to poke the bear), assuming the board in question didn't simply cease to exist for technical or business reasons. On top of this, while the hobby has entertained me greatly, it has also cost a great deal of time and effort, and the amount of those things I can devote to it is drastically limited, when I'm dealing with the day-to-day reality of jobs and bills and such.

So I'm looking at the way the wind is blowing globally, and I'm seeing that a lot of creative types are migrating to the crowdfunding model (Kickstarter and Patreon and such) as a way to sustain themselves, and I'm wondering whether this is a solution for me. At least it could lead to me creating my own website to host my character designs on, and if enough people liked what I was doing enough, it might even supplement my income to the point that I could start doing it as a full-time job, rather than just a spare-time hobby. Thusly, I present this thread, as an effort to take the community's temperature on the possibility that I can pursue this.
Patreon is free to the creator I believe. And it's the best place to start to develop a following for an ongoing effort. Kickstarter is more for one-time releases of stuff; it's not ideal for a subscription to ongoing creative efforts.

How you market the patreon is a different question; and ultimately more germane to whether you are successful or not.
 

Eltab

Hero
If you want to put out pre-made characters, provide a Party that can work together, with each character's abilities easy to understand how they function.

Some parties at L1 for Intro adventures (such as Lost Mines of Phandelver). More complex parties at L3 and at L5 with features that can work together as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". Upper-level parties would come with an explanation of how their individual and group features work together effectively. (And maybe point out dead-ends or false starts, based on space available.)
 

Envisioner

Explorer
If you want to put out pre-made characters, provide a Party that can work together, with each character's abilities easy to understand how they function.
That's actually a spectacularly good idea. I think that aspect alone takes this to the point that it can be a viable Patreon product. I will begin seriously looking into this.

....

...tomorrow.

....probably.
 

The blog is not for distributing and selling your product, it is for building a base of followers. You need to build followers in some way. Whether that is through a forums (such as ENWorld) or somewhere else. A blog is a very common and useful way to show your creativity, provide a central portal for your fans to engage with you and your products and for your fans to point other potential fans/customers to. "Hey, check out this guy, he does some really cool backstories"

Patreon can be a good place to sell your stuff. But you are restricted to OGL stuff. If that's relevant. DriveThruRPG is another good place, but again you are restricted to the OGL. If you want to reference the WotC 'stuff', then you have to sell through the DMsGuild as it's the only place commonly available for re-use of the WotC IP. But, as you noticed, it has restrictions.

And personally, rather than PCs, I would suggest you look at creating NPCs. I'm much more willing to buy a product of 10 or 100 related NPCs than I am a bunch of PCs.

As for mechanics vs backstory. I too agree that most people like to do their own characters, but when they struggle they struggle with backstory. And the reason is simple; mechanics have simple and defined rules for determining them, and players can easily test those mechanics for DPR, spell list, etc. Backstories have no discrete steps to create, they are only limited by imagination and any evaluation of good/bad is almost purely subjective.
 

Envisioner

Explorer
I generally don't draw a distinction between PCs and NPCs. I build the latter as if they were the former, and don't treat the former as if they're more special than the latter. The only real difference is that I'm more willing to make a boring character (eg single-class Dwarf Fighter 5) for an NPC role, and more likely to make an ultra-compex character (eg Spellwarped Illumian Wizard 3/Binder 1/Anima Mage 1 with a Frost Giant bloodline and wielding a Weapon of Legacy) for a PC role. But ultimately, when the rules are boring, I tend to consider them inadequate, and will try to homebrew something to improve them.
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
There was a Kickstarter recently for a deck of pregenerated characters with original artwork on each card. You could try finding that Kickstarter and seeing how successful it was.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Patreon can be a good place to sell your stuff. But you are restricted to OGL stuff.
I'm not sure that's true. I think if you want to create and share a GURPS character using GURPS rules, that seems pretty straightforward, as long as you are not including any copyrighted art and not using the actual text from the books.
 

I'm not sure that's true. I think if you want to create and share a GURPS character using GURPS rules, that seems pretty straightforward, as long as you are not including any copyrighted art and not using the actual text from the books.
True, but the OP has already implied they are working with D&D 5E characters. So I continued the implied assumption. Let's suffice it to say that with Patreon you have no special access or license to anyone else's Intellectual Property. On the DMsG you do.
 

MichaelSomething

Adventurer
I generally don't draw a distinction between PCs and NPCs. I build the latter as if they were the former, and don't treat the former as if they're more special than the latter.
You'll need to make that distinction in your pitch. I don't think , "A large selection of pre build charaters with well written backstories and characterization that people can play as" would sell well. However, "A large selection of pre builded NPCs with well writtren backstories and characterization that a DM can use to populate their town/adventure/world" may fare better.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
The mechanics require actual work, number-crunching and cross-referencing and so forth; background and story is literally just making stuff up (or stealing from your favorite TV shows). I'm not trying to put anyone down, but are there really people who find it impossible to imagine a basic character backstory? You sit down to play a Paladin, you pick out your Paladin oath based on its mechanical effects which interest you - do you not then IMMEDIATELY think "my guy has the Oath of Vengeance because orcs wiped out his village" or some such?
Some people do design characters the way you suggest -- build a mechanical game piece and then add on a background which explains the game mechanics. But many people are more story-forward, thinking up a character's story and then trying to work out how to make it work mechanically. For me, I usually mull over a story for a few weeks. Building the character takes maybe half an hour, and nearly always changes after playing a few sessions.

More worrying also for your plan is that the people who ARE mechanics-first are the people who like to make characters themselves and so are most unlikely to use your service. I'd think you actually need to appeal to the players who think exactly opposite to you -- the people who say "I was driven to be a paladin because I felt an inner calling from Desna that despite trying to avoid, I could not resist -- find me the mechanics to make that work".

Honesty, since I think your appeal will be limited to a certain style of player, I thin you'll need to cast your net broadly. You just won't attract people from one system to make it worthwhile. To be successful, you need to be "the site" that people go to for characters; I would suggest that each character you produce needs to be provided:
  • In both PC (long) and NPC (short) format. maybe split the NPC into a "serious" NPC with background and info, and a "throwaway" version. Fate has a good supplement explains how to do this.
  • For at least three or four systems. 5E, PF2, BRP, Fate would be my suggestions, but if you limit to fantasy, maybe a different list would be appropriate.
If you started with maybe 40-60 characters across 3-4 systems, that might be an attractive point for people to buy into. You can give 4-6 away for free, and hopefully attract them to payoff the other 90%
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If at all possible, I'd suggest including a not-cartoonish simple portrait as a part of each character's write-up. Doesn't even have to be in colour, as long as it a) gets the general idea across of what the character looks like, b) doesn't have the silly over-the-top weapons and armour that ruined so much 3e-era art, and c) agrees with the character's write-up.

By c) I mean that if a character is written up as a master swordswoman, for example, then make sure the art doesn't show her waving around a mace.

Most of us aren't sketchers or painters or other-visual-artist-types, and finding decent character art can be a (sometimes expensive) headache and time sink.
 

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