Tabletop RPG publisher Evil Hat recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Gamefound, becoming one of the first major outfits to take advantage of the up-and-coming Kickstarter competitor. The project aims to produce a second, expanded print run of roleplay guide Improv for Gamers.
Evil Hat Productions handles several popular tabletop RPGs, including the cloak-and-dagger Blades in the Dark, Greek epic-inspired Agon and the loudly, proudly queer Thirsty Sword Lesbians. Up until this point, the company has relied on Kickstarter’s ubiquity within the tabletop industry and have hosted 17 previous projects that included full physical books, expansions, supplements and more.
Evil Hat’s Sean Nittner told Dicebreaker that all changed with the December 2021 announcement that Kickstarter wanted to explore blockchain technology as a way of ostensibly solving long term issues, along with helping grow its user base further. The news did not go over well among board game and tabletop creators, who have helped Kickstarter consistently top its annual funding figures via record-breaking projects.
Nittner and the rest of the Evil Hat team were perplexed by vague messaging followed by months of silence. “Is it just blockchain? Is it a crypto initiative? Is it NFTs?,” he said. “They had multiple opportunities in the gaming press to clear it up and never did. To date, Kickstarter has been unable to adequately explain what they’re intending to do.”
As of February, the company has not backed down from pursuing the technology powering cryptocurrencies, NFTs and Web3 protocols - most, if not all, of these examples have been roundly criticised for the heavy environmental impact they incur through energy usage, capacity for rampant fraud and general push as an unregulated finance scheme. Kickstarter did outline a proposed advisory council to better guide its future, but neither users nor creators have seen a timeline or anything close to a plan.
“That’s really been the heart of the problem: we don’t know what they’re doing, and they won’t publicly say. Crowdfunding is a business model that fundamentally relies on trust and reputation, and Kickstarter has managed to damage both of those principles.”
Moving its funding operations to Gamefound was not without concerns, though. The founders originally created board games as Awakened Realms before creating their own platform for crowdfunding. Since then, Gamefound has become synonymous with huge board games with enough miniatures to choke a 3D printer. A recent cash investment from Ravensburger, to the tune of $5 million, has apparently allowed the team to expand its capabilities and accept all incoming tabletop RPG projects.
“From a marketing perspective, we know we’re taking a risk trying another platform,” Nittner said. “Gamefound has had some very successful projects, but we know that we’ll have to work harder to put this campaign in front of fans. That’s part of the experiment.”
It’s not all risk, though. Nittner said the team chose Gamefound over the rest of the competition because of key changes in the way information is displayed to prospective backers. For example, that long crawl of information and images that has become synonymous with Kickstarter campaigns can instead be broken into individual pages for specific pledge levels or products. Nittner also mentioned a level of care that included personal attention from COO Maciej Kuc as Evil Hat began planning its campaign.
Evil Hat is crowdfunding a second edition print run of Improv for Gamers, written by Karen Twelves. What originally started as a self-guided workshop structured around a dozen improvisational games has been expanded with 50% more content, including more prompts and games, advice for playing RPGs online and better tools for players with disabilities pulled from accessibility experts in the tabletop space.
Twelves is a professional improviser, along with being an avid RPG player, and the book is meant to strengthen an individual’s skills at roleplay, character creation and building relationships between other player characters and the world of the group’s game. Evil Hat offers a physical copy of the book for $25 and both a digital version and Roll20-compatible version for $15 and $25, respectively. There is also a workbook designed for players to use alongside the included lessons and prompts.
Nittner wasn’t ready to say Evil Hat will never run another crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter and readily admitted that the company’s current success is largely tied to the platform. That said the “troubles around unionisation a couple years back and this latest round of blockchain buffoonery” made it too difficult for him and the rest of the team to not explore the possibility of greener pastures.
The Gamefound campaign for Improv for Gamers 2E will be open through May 5th.Edit: The aritcle has been update to clarify a quote from Nittner.