Shadowdark looks so good!

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
However I think it's success shows that clear communication, marketing, good presentation and layout and strong support are highly valued in the market. While there's nothing in the rules that particularly wows me, there's nothing that turns me off either. And you can't deny the product is put together well and the campaign has been run very professionally.
I think the fact that she's a known quantity among engaged 5E DMs, due to her very well-regarded adventures, helps a lot. She's spent years garnering a reputation as a good writer who understands both mechanics and theme very well. (Even her lightest 5E adventures have a horror edge to them, and this is her going harder in that direction.)

A lot of OSR folks are known, if they're known at all, inside the much smaller OSR space. Being even a medium deal in 5E land gives her a huge edge over all but the best known OSR folks, and maybe even over them.

And yes, since she's a YouTuber, a lot of the other YouTubers know her already, and the ones that don't, as always, are hot to chase whatever's getting clicks, now that yelling about the OGL has stopped being lucrative. So she got the ball rolling by reaching out to a few of them early and things picked up speed from there.

Most of that can't be replicated by generic "marketing" -- it's unique to her. She put in a lot of work and is reaping the rewards.
 

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I think the fact that she's a known quantity among engaged 5E DMs, due to her very well-regarded adventures, helps a lot. She's spent years garnering a reputation as a good writer who understands both mechanics and theme very well. (Even her lightest 5E adventures have a horror edge to them, and this is her going harder in that direction.)

A lot of OSR folks are known, if they're known at all, inside the much smaller OSR space. Being even a medium deal in 5E land gives her a huge edge over all but the best known OSR folks, and maybe even over them.

And yes, since she's a YouTuber, a lot of the other YouTubers know her already, and the ones that don't, as always, are hot to chase whatever's getting clicks, now that yelling about the OGL has stopped being lucrative. So she got the ball rolling by reaching out to a few of them early and things picked up speed from there.

Most of that can't be replicated by generic "marketing" -- it's unique to her. She put in a lot of work and is reaping the rewards.
FYI my tone was not dismissive, and marketing does not need to be considered a negative term.

She has created a good project and put years of effort into it. I think that needs to be acknowledged that many of these factors are as important to a successful project as the product itself.
 

JohnSnow

Hero
Many people use “it’s just marketing” to dismiss something because they think it’s dirty, being locked in a mindset that the only “right way” to do game design is to operate from an “If you build it, they will come” mentality.

So it comes off as incredibly dismissive of the parts of Shadowdark that reflect good, or even exceptional, game design. As someone put it on the Discord server, when you put a pile of interesting mechanics together in a compelling and unique way, it may be obvious once it’s been done, but what they did is innovative.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
FYI my tone was not dismissive, and marketing does not need to be considered a negative term.
Yours wasn't, and I apologize if I made it seem like you were.

A lot of other folks in the broader internet have decided there's something wrong with her success, though, and I was just pointing out that it's hard earned.

I have a friend who sold his website a few years back for 10 figures. Naturally, people came out of the woodwork to say he didn't deserve that kind of "sudden" financial success, when "was just a website," ignoring that he had spent 20 years working, 10 hours a day, six days a week, to make it a "sudden" success.

So some of the corners of the OSRsphere grumping rubs me wrong.
 
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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
As someone put it on the Discord server, when you put a pile of interesting mechanics together in a compelling and unique way, it may be obvious once it’s been done, but what they did is innovative.
In my professional life, one of the ways I note something being great and even innovative is when everyone else stands around afterwards saying "well, any one of us could have done that" and made something great, but none of "us" did.

It also is something I keep in mind for my own work. Instead of being jealous of a colleague's or counterpart's success (I am in a business that is sometimes incredibly competitive and cutthroat), I work to be that person who looks at how things are done, considers how they might be reassembled better and what putting in extra sustained effort to polish the whole might accomplish.

I spent about six months of last year in a sustained sprint like that (when I was largely absent from online life, not coincidentally) and am now at the beginning of a season where I'm starting to reap those rewards, where no one will know how many nights I was working late, all by myself, polishing the work for the 70+ time.

If it looks easy after the fact, it probably involved a lot of hard work.
 


Good marketing is an essential part of any successful kickstarter. It's also a skill, and one a lot of game designers, writers, and artists may not have. To say that Dionne is also good at marketing is obviously not a knock on her and says nothing about the design merits of the game. Likewise, there are many indie designers who sell their games on itch or drivethru but have relatively few downloads; there are probably some fantastic, thoughtful, play-tested games on there that have relatively few downloads. That doesn't say anything about the quality of the game design or how much work they are putting in behind the scenes, it just means the authors haven't cracked the code of how to best cultivate an audience and market their product.
 

JohnSnow

Hero
Good marketing is an essential part of any successful kickstarter. It's also a skill, and one a lot of game designers, writers, and artists may not have. To say that Dionne is also good at marketing is obviously not a knock on her and says nothing about the design merits of the game. Likewise, there are many indie designers who sell their games on itch or drivethru but have relatively few downloads; there are probably some fantastic, thoughtful, play-tested games on there that have relatively few downloads. That doesn't say anything about the quality of the game design or how much work they are putting in behind the scenes, it just means the authors haven't cracked the code of how to best cultivate an audience and market their product.
I mean, as another example, there's the kernel of a very good game in 1e AD&D, but the presentation was an unholy mess. It makes it fun (for some definition of "fun") to dig through the 1e DMG and find new stuff even after owning it for 45 years, but it made it a little unwieldy to use. ;)

It definitely could have benefited from a very good editor and layout team.
 

I mean, as another example, there's the kernel of a very good game in 1e AD&D, but the presentation was an unholy mess. It makes it fun (for some definition of "fun") to dig through the 1e DMG and find new stuff even after owning it for 45 years, but it made it a little unwieldy to use. ;)

It definitely could have benefited from a very good editor and layout team.
In terms of the TSR era, I think any of the Basic sets over the years were well designed and marketed as products, in large part because they had a very clear target audience: 9-12 year olds, and their parents, who needed an easy to understand introduction to the game.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
In terms of the TSR era, I think any of the Basic sets over the years were well designed and marketed as products, in large part because they had a very clear target audience: 9-12 year olds, and their parents, who needed an easy to understand introduction to the game.
The Moldvay Holmes Basic set is a disaster, not particularly better organized than the OD&D booklets.

(And yes, people love it, but it's by no means a paragon of good design or marketing.)
 
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