Talking 52 in 52 with Owen KC Stephens

Want to lock in new D&D 5e, Pathfinder 1e, PF2e, and Starfinder content delivered every week in...

Want to lock in new D&D 5e, Pathfinder 1e, PF2e, and Starfinder content delivered every week in 2020? Plus over 500 bonus supplements? All brought to you by Owen KC Stephens (Star Wars Saga Edition, Starfinder, Dungeon & Dragons, Fantasy AGE, Wheel of Time RPG, EverQuest RPG, Fantasy AGE, and EN World)? And at less than $30? Welcome to Rogue Genius Games 52 in 52 exclusively at the Open Gaming Store! This interview is one part exploring Owen’s experiment and one part hyping up his experiment.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Owen, thank you for talking with me about this project! It’s new, it’s ambitious, it’s not one I’ve heard of before, so tell us what you’re doing?

: I’m running a project I am calling 52 in 52, which provides customers who buy into it a new game product a week, every week, throughout 2020. Each of those products will be released in four versions, one each for the four game systems, Pathfinder 1st edition, Pathfinder 2nd edition, Starfinder, and 5e, so 208 total products. During the preorder period people can buy into the program for $29.95, and afterward it’ll be $49.95 (and still include all the pdfs from earlier in the year).

The idea is that you can get the same game material no matter which of these systems you play, or even if you play all of them. Game products that try to cram multiple game systems’ rules into one book often don’t work well in my opinion, so I want to just make separate versions for each game. And giving every customer all four copies both means they don’t have to pick through and find just the versions of each they think they want, and also means if the customers change systems later they’ll already have support products with ideas they are used to.

As an added incentive, customers to buy the preorder immediately get a 500+ pdf Bonus MegaBundle, so they have lots of material to tide them over to 2020.

EGG: 52 – really 208 – products in 52 weeks! And you’re offering a discount? And and you’re offering the Bonus MegaBundle as an incentive? I’ve seen the full MegaBundle list; at a glance, what are the systems and types of products fans can expect from the bundle?

: The Bonus MegaBundle has four products from Rite Publishing, and tons from Everybody Games and Rogue Genius Games. There are products for Starfinder and 5e, but the vast majority are designed for 1st edition Pathfinder.

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EGG: Four systems? Why D&D 5e, PF 1e, PF 2e, and SF?

: Let’s start with the conceptual outlier—Starfinder. I was the Design Lead for Starfinder [at Paizo] for more than two years, helped write the core rulebook, and feel extremely comfortable with the game rules. I also have a fanbase who have specifically followed me because of my work on that game, and, if possible, I don’t want to ignore them when I tackle a big project. I have specific ideas on ways some of the at first blush fantasy-specific products ideas can expand Starfinder, and I didn’t want to leave Starfinder out just because it’s got more sci-fi elements than the other three game systems.

Pathfinder 1st edition is similar a game I have a great deal of experience and comfort with, and Pathfinder 2nd edition was created while I was an employee at Paizo. I even got to play it early, when I was a cast member on Oblivion Oath. I know a lot of game groups haven’t decided between those two game systems yet, and I don’t want to force them to on my account.

All that said, D&D was my first RPG love, and I’ve always kept myself informed on what the current system is like. It has a large player base, and I have lots of 5e-related plans I’m looking at in the long term. If I’m already doing each product for three game systems, it just makes sense to me to make sure people playing the grandfather of tabletop RPGs get something they can play with as well.

EGG: When does this special offer and incentive bundle end?

: It’s running at least through the end of the year. If demand is high enough, we might extend it into January.
[UPDATE: Per Owen's comment below, this package has been extended through the end of January.]

EGG: This is an experiment. As a creator, what do you hope to achieve?

: There’s a number of things, not the least of which is to see if there’s a viable independent game creator business model beyond Kickstarter. One of the bigger problems with being an independent or small game company is getting your products in front of customers who want it. It’s frustrating when I meet people at conventions or talk to them online, and they mention wishing someone had made a game product to meet some specific need, only to be surprised when I mention that I or some other smaller publisher have already done so.

So, here I am offering an entire year of products at one price, in one bundle. If you want any of the 52 of them you have to buy all of them, but at a cost far lower than buying 52 would cost. (In 2021 we’ll likely begin releasing them individually on various sales venues, to build a backstock, but each one won’t be available solo until a year after it’s appeared as part of 52 in 52.) that both means I only have to get each customer’s attention once, and I am doing something new that might get news coverage (like this!) or pique someone’s interest who wouldn’t bother with any one product announcement.

EGG: 208 new RPG products plus 513 existing products at $29.95 puts this at two and a half cents a product. As a consumer, that’s outrageous value. As a businessperson, that’s a lot of work for the wage. Can you share how many bundles you’ll need to sell in order for this to be a success?

: I can say it’s not a small number! In many ways this is like $1 app pricing—we need volume to make enough money to justify the time. But the project is also custom built to keep giving people onramps to buy. There’s the Bonus MegaBundle and preorder price incentive now, of course, but once we begin putting out the 52 in 52 products, we’re also building a new bundle of material that will grow bigger and bigger. We want to reward early adopters, but if someone doesn’t get excited enough to buy until we release Armored Aces, or Into the Breach, that’s okay too!

EGG: Let’s be real, four items a week for a year plus your other RPG day jobs is how Websters should define “ambitious.” Online you talk about RPG freelancing means no sick days. What kind of support system will you have in place to keep this schedule over the whole of 2020?

: The first support system is experience and planning. I’ve done a product-a-week, every week before. In fact I did it four times in a row for Super Genius Games, and then Rogue Genius Games. So I know that getting these done has to be carefully planned in advance, and begun in advance. I need to have the first few projects complete on my end before the end of the year, so they can run through the rest of the workflow while I focus on the next month’s work, and so on. I also have these broken up so I can do small pieces of later projects early in the year, send them out for playtesting while I write earlier, shorter books, and then get the feedback from playtesting early enough to incorporate it.

In that regard, my experience developing the Player Companion line, where I had to have a player companion done for Paizo every month, is a huge help. In any given month, I had to outline the Player Companion coming out in 8 months, write cover art orders for the one coming out in 7 months, assign to freelancers the one coming out in 6 months, do interior art orders for the one coming out in 5 months, write marketing text for the one coming out in 4 months, develop the text for the one coming out in 3 months, go over editing questions for the one coming out in 2 months, write preview blogs for the one coming out in a month, and answer customer questions about the one that had already been out for 30 days. That takes a lot of multitasking and ball-juggling, and those are skills I really honed at Paizo.

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EGG: What made the Open Gaming Store the right exclusive outlet for this experiment?

: I have a lot of experience working with the Open Gaming Store, and it’s owner John Reyst. He has the infrastructure to handle fulfilment for pdfs and the monthly POD compilations we plan to do. He has the eyes of thousands of gamers, meaning there is built-in advertising when you partner with the OGS for a big project like this. And, the single most lucrative month I have ever had in my entire 20+ [year] gaming career was a project I ran on John’s site, so there’s a track record of success I want to build on.

EGG: You’re doing this throughout the year, should fans expect themes around holidays or products to spotlight charities or other special moments?

: The full list of what the 52 in 52 products are going to be is already available at the project’s F.A.Q. We didn’t do holiday and season themes for the most part (well, maybe October which has things like a playable Headless ancestry... ) in part because we want these products to be evergreen elements of gamer’s catalog of options.

Plus, the 52 in 52 program isn’t all I’m doing next year, by a long shot. If I decide I want Battle Bunnies for Easter, or 55 Fabulous Fireworks for July, I can release those separately, for people who enjoy some holiday-themed things.

EGG: Thanks for answering these! Where can fans find you online? Where can they find 52 in 52?

: You can find me at my Patreon, website, Facebook, and Twitter. You can pick up the 52 in 52 preorder and Bonus MegaBundle here.

52 IN 52 PREORDER and BONUS MEGABUNDLE from Rogue Genius Games

Read the 52 in 52 Preorder and Bonus MegaBundle FAQ here.

Exclusively at the Open Gaming Store

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry

I absolutely did not take it as a dig! It's a big undertaking, and customers have the right to consider the implications of that.
You may well be right about the popularity. I consider it possible that since I am the former Starfinder Design league, I may have fans who look to me in particular for Starfinder stuff over other options, for example.

But, really, i could make a case for any of the 4 systems winning out in popularity among my customers, specifically. So getting some data is one of the things I am super-exited about!

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At seven weeks in,I'd just add that 52-in-52 is very much worth a subscription with the caveat that a few of the early products were very similar. Many of the concepts so far are new kinds of items, and while some would coexist nicely in a game, others do very similar things and wouldn't be as interesting to add at the same time. I really enjoyed the Rune Magic system and its accompanying class, and am looking forward to the Mech rules.

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