Lessons Learned, Issue 3: Death is No Easy Task

Originally posted April 8th, 2014, on G+, this is the second of my postmortems on Worlds Without Master, featuring issue three and the game Swords Without Master contained therein. Edited just a bit to fit new formatting and to update links.

Death is No Easy Task

Last week on Monday, Issue 3 of Worlds Without Master was released about two months overdue and along with it Swords Without Master was released, almost four years overdue. Briefly, this is how it went down.

 In June of 2009, Emily Care Boss, Jason Keeley, John Stavropoulos, Jim Sullivan and I sat down and created the entire game of MonkeyDome over the course of a single week.

 At the end of that week, we were on a train from NYC to Greenfield, Massachusetts, to debut the game at JiffyCon. On that train, a Western-themed version of the game based on Young Guns II was hacked together and played for the first time. During this process, Swords Without Master first took root in my head under the working title Sword Buddies.

 I had no time for new games. I was trying to get Time & Temp done in time for GenCon. Ah, remember those days? When games had to be done for GenCon. Seems like only five years ago. But Sword Buddies would not leave me be. So as soon as I could, I changed the name and declared that I’d have the game at the very next GenCon.


I ran the hell out of the game in the intervening years. At some point, I released the preview adventure “The City of Fire & Coin,” and several other folks started running the game. All the while, I kept repeating my mistake and declaring a deadline for this damn game.

Then along comes Worlds Without Master and once again it became time for me to demonstrate that I will never learn this lesson. So after two successful issues and a bonus holiday issue, I declared that I would publish Swords in the third issue.

::Insert Montage of Eppy Sweating and Drinking Heavily While Typing Meaningless Words::

The state of indie publishing has changed so dramatically in the half decade since MonkeyDome. Audiences have gotten bigger. The iPad popularized tablets, making PDF sales not just feasible, but practically the standard. Kickstarter changed how we fund things and finally slew the mandatory GenCon release date. Then, for me, Patreon slew Kickstarter and the pageantry of the release date.

Indie gamers themselves have changed in those five years. When you see talk about Swords Without Master online, the conversation uses the language of Apocalypse World rather than, say, D&D, which is almost certainly the language they would have been using if it had been released in 2010. And I am so happy about that.

(And don’t get me started on all the personal changes I’ve made in my life since 2009.)

So here we are, in a completely new world. One that grows ever more ephemeral. All this, I guess, is to put the data I’m about to dump on you into perspective. It is, probably, meaningless. But it may be, at least, entertaining to our pattern-hungry minds.

Show Us How You Spent Your Spoils

On March 31st, 2014, I released issue three to a 322 patrons and 45 allies. For this the Patron Horde granted me a boon of $1,491.11. Roughly $270 more than the previous issue and $500 more than the issue before that.

  • 2% of these pledges did not go through for whatever reason.
  • 5% was tithed to Patreon.
  • 6% were wrapped up in credit card fees, a marked improvement over last issues 8%.

This left me with about $1,300, which was about $50 less than what I owed my contributors and editorial staff (not including my own work on the ezine). That’s actually a little bit better than I had hoped to be. I went out on a limb on this one because of Swords. The issue itself was almost twice the size of the previous issue.

This is where things start to slide from glum into jovial for my wallet.

Since releasing the issue, I’ve sold 25 copies of the issue on DriveThru and 45 copies directly. Of those 45 direct copies, 18 of them were bundled with the first two issue, but for simplicity sake, let’s just attribute those sales to the release of this issue.

So, as of this post, through DriveThru and direct sales, I’ve made about $275 over the $50 I needed to finish paying out my contributors.

But more importantly, the Patron Horde has grown by 18 patrons in the past week, bringing us ever closer to that color cover milesone.

A Future Without Master

I’ve already waded into the next issue of the ezine. I don’t know yet whether I should look to this month or next, but I’m going to pull the trigger on that in the next 12 hours or so. Swords has a bright future ahead of it. It’s been largely well-received and I intend to grow it through the ezine in much the same way early D&D grew through Dragon. But at the moment, I’m going to revel in Swords finally being out before focusing on the next step. I’m chomping at the bit to write and publish more fiction. Manyara and Snorri have been knocking at my mind-door lately. It turns out they’ve been places and have such tales to tell.