Guillman's Guide to Speed: From then till Now

Guillman's Guide to Speed: From then till Now

As of the time of this post, Guillman's Guide to Speed launches tomorrow. It's the perfect time to take a look back at where the sourcebook started, the thought process that took us through development, the set up of the Kickstarter and what there's still left to do. It's been a great experience, regardless of the outcome of the campaign, and we want to share what we've learned.

Pre-Concept Phase

Like many Game Masters, worldbuilding and lore writing are two of my main hobbies. In 2020 Only Crits started selling adventures, and a year later we talked about combining the settings of these adventures into a single book. As the one who wrote most of the adventures, and someone who loves worldbuilding, this made perfect sense. So, as we continued putting in the necessary and often gruelling work of building the business, from establishing a social media presence to negotiating supplier relations to sweating through tax season to signing affiliate contracts to analyzing data; through it all and more the world was also slowly but surely coming together. However, as we started looking for how to make this next project a reality it became clear that we were missing something...

Concept Phase aka Developing a Theme

 A theme is what was missing. Talking about some random person's personal worldbuilding can be fun, to be fair it's something I'm always a big fan of doing, but it didn't seem right to ask the community to get behind a project that was just developing another high fantasy setting without adding anything new and unique to the space. So the next task was developing a strong theme. The seed of the idea came while I was worldbuilding at the same time as I was watching a Formula 1 race. I've been a fan of that particular racing series for a while, and one of the most entertaining parts of the sport have to do with, for lack of a better word, the lore of it all. A small cast of characters with huge egos combined with massive stakes, in dollars, lives and glory, makes for incredible real-world narratives. This sparked two questions that would help form the basis of our theme: How can we emulate the drama of a Formula 1 grid in DnD? Why are there no decent speed races and vehicle mechanics in DnD?

The first question was only partially ours to answer. The drama and characters of a DnD campaign come from the players, not from any third party or the sources used to play the game. But, the second question was something we could absolutely address, and so the design of the supplement shifted from another simple setting sourcebook to one centered on developing the mechanics of speed.

A Brief Aside: Inspirations and Draws

After this we're going to move into talking about the creation of the crowdfunding campaign, but before getting down to those nitty gritty details I wanted to talk about the book itself a little bit more. You can access some of the content itself by checking out our sample package, and you can see the various assets we've developed on the hype page or Kickstarter page. But what did we want the book to feel like? What emotions are we trying to evoke? I've already mentioned Formula 1, and its grand roving circus mentality is something I wanted to imbue into as much of the material as possible. It also comes with the idea that sport is an inherently political entity, that it is closely tied to nationalism and patriotic success, which is why different nations in the book have different preferred speed races and can be used for diplomatic relations. While Formula 1 produced the kernel of the idea and helped form the core of the theme, that's not where it ended.

Fantasy Mario Kart. Or maybe Mario Kart is already fantastical enough, but what if you could play it in DnD? With a bright aesthetic and a whimsical nature, creating something with the same vibe as Mario Kart meant adapting the setting from something classically medieval (which is where much of the fantasy genre resides) into something more carefree. The natural course for this would be the same that would justify fast vehicles: magic. Magic as a power source opens a lot of doors unavailable to the real world.

To help shape the world and the vehicles a lot of inspiration was drawn from the Netflix original series Arcane. Created as a companion to the MMORPG League of Legends the series captured the feeling we hope to achieve, somewhere between steampunk and fantasy, a genre we've dubbed arcanepunk. 

With these pillars of inspiration, a strong theme, and a wealth of ideas of what to build the book took shape. But there's no point in having a book if you can't get it produced.

Campaign Phase: Launching a Kickstarter

Trying to crowdfund a project is drastically different than creating that project. There were three main fronts that we had to tackle in the run up to this campaign:

1. The Backend: What we can produce

When asking people to get hyped about something it's important to know what you can offer. In the long run it is much, much worse to promise something we can't deliver than it is to never mention it in the first place. So we set figured out what we could offer. We spent a bunch of time conceptualizing what we could include in the Kickstarter so that we would have a master list that we could set about sourcing, getting quotes from suppliers, checking materials and just generally getting a sense for what it was going to take to produce everything we wanted to. But of course there's a twist. Minimum order quantities meant that even when we found a product with a decent price that we wanted to include, the cost of the bulk order would often put it well outside our budget. This meant far and away the most difficult and time consuming part of this phase was budgeting. Running through scenarios where we got funded but only barely, where we got funded but most of it was through the PDF tier leaving us to produce a ton of books and physical products for only a few people. Finally what that left us with was a list of products we could produce and a number we had to hit in order to match all of our minimum order quantities. From there we knew what we could offer people.

2. Sample Content: Good enough before good

It's very stressful putting content out into the world before it's been polished, but the simple matter was that we needed early feedback and we needed to show people what it is we were trying to create. Much of this was writing based. Creating stat blocks and item info is fun in isolation but if you're not careful those assets can become completely unusable very quickly. Saying we were going to produce a book full of content that was broken is not appealing, which meant getting samples out and feedback implemented as quick as we could. As a side note if you want to help us workshop content while we're finishing the book you can do so over on our Discord server! The other front of content that we needed to tackle was art. In the past we've needed very little art, relying more heavily on digital photos of our products for their respective pages. The main barrier to having amazing art was the fact that neither of us were artists, and so we had to go back and update the budget sheet to include not just artists, but artists that were great to work with and produced content of a high enough quality to get people to buy into the idea we were trying to encapsulate. And finally, art takes time. Even after we had assembled a wonderful team of amazing individuals, they needed enough time to bring our visions to life. Once again it came down to prioritizing what was going to best illustrate our vision and providing all the information and support we could.

3. Building Hype: Please back the Kickstarter!

We've been very fortunate to be able to work with a variety of content creators throughout the TTRPG community in the last few years. These relationships would be our basis for building hype, along with the people on our email newsletter. It's a nerve-wracking process because the most important day of a Kickstarter campaign, by far, is the first. This meant that we had to organize the creators we've sponsored to coordinate posting so that we could generate maximum traction all on a single day. Obviously we also had to lay the groundwork through our own feeds, making videos about the Kickstarter on our socials and dripping content out to the email list, but in a very real way the fate of our project lies in the hands of other content creators. That being said, these individuals are actively working to make the TTRPG community a better place, so we'd really have it no other way.

Tomorrow's the Day

Of course there is a plethora of details that there's no time to cover in a simple blog post like this. Every day presented new challenges to overcome and new things to learn, and regardless of the outcome of the campaign itself it's been an amazing experience that we would be happy to endeavor on again. That said, we really want to be able to get this sourcebook out into the wild, and for that we need your help. If you like anything that you've seen here, check out the Kickstarter page and see if there's a tier that's right for you. And lastly and most importantly thank you, for giving us enough time and support to pursue this dream of ours. We couldn't have done it without you.

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