As I push towards a complete manuscript by the end of 2019, with a view publication by April 2020, I'm asking friends and supporters to please commit a modest sum to support Zero Dark on Patreon.
Why use crowdfunding at all?
It may be surprising, but whilst developing a set of rules is a labour of love, it doesn't come free. My experience over the last few years - during which time I've made several attempts to get my rules to market through different pathways - has taught me that people don't just want great rules. They want rules that look good: that express their quality aesthetically and physically as well as through simple good writing. Some great rules-sets languish, barely played, because their author couldn't afford to do more than circulate a basic Word document. To support Zero Dark, therefore, I've taken out a subscription to some top-end desktop publishing software and it's not cheap.
Another important aesthetic part of a set of rules is the illustrations. I've been forced to publish Over the Horizon with photographs of miniatures and scenery, which is great, but with no artistic contributions. Given how much people loved even the limited amount of art we put in Horizon Wars, I want to make sure Zero Dark gets the same amount of love. But art... is expensive. And it should be expensive. Good artists work hard to realize their clients' vision and I know some great artists. I want to pay them a fair wage for their talent and hard work, but I don't have that sort of capital.
As for miniatures and terrain... Well, Precinct Omega's got a reasonable studio collection of both, so I'm not looking to fund that. But painting it, photographing it, editing the images and - of course - playtesting the game takes time: time that I would usually be spending playing other games, but which I have to spend on Zero Dark. This is the least important part of the funding issue, but make no mistake: being given money to do it is a terrific motivator to get it done!
Why not, for example, run a Kickstarter? All the cool kids are doing it!
There are two reasons why I don't want to do a Kickstarter. The first is an ethical one. Not that I think KS is unethical (although their attitude to unionization is questionable), but a KS places an ethical obligation upon the campaign organizer to deliver something within a reasonable timescale and, whilst I have ambitions and plans for Zero Dark, I have no certainty that I'm going to be able to achieve them to the standard to which I aspire.
The other reason is a practical one. I've done my homework and the games that succeed on Kickstarter are the ones that the creators have already poured significant sums into. A good Kickstarter campaign has already spent £1000s on art, prototypes, professional videos and marketing. The KS should recoup this expenditure and provide enough additional money to realize the project and leave the organizer with profit in-hand. I, however, don't have the talent, money or time to organize an effective campaign on my own.
Patreon is a different approach. I frame it in terms of meeting me for a cup of tea once a month. I'll tell you what I'm up to and show you my latest ideas and how much progress I've made. Then I'll ask you for your opinion on things I'm not sure about, and get your feedback on how things look so far. Patreon opens a conversation with people who care about the project and it costs them only as much as it would cost to buy me a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit on the side once a month.
That's what you get out of it. What do I get?
Patrons get two things:
First, you get sight of and access to the current state of the rules for the game to read, try out and (hopefully) enjoy right now. So rather than waiting for the finished game to be released in March or April next year, you can dive straight into Zero Dark immediately.
Second, you get to have a say. I don't have many patrons, and don't expect to be overwhelmed with them, even if the campaign is successful. But if you want to influence what the game looks like, what the setting involves, what artists are employed, what miniatures are featured or any other aspect of the final manifestation of Zero Dark, this is the best opportunity.
There's a third thing, too, although its importance will vary depending upon who you are: you provide the impetus that the project needs to get it done! I take the onus of other people's money very seriously. Whether it's $2 a month or $20, the mere act of trusting me with a little of your money in return for making this happen the way you want it to is the best motivator by far.