Dungeons & Dragons,  Kickstarter,  Raiders of the Serpent Sea

Raiders of the Serpent Sea Metrics

This post is a short summary of my experience using Kickstarter to fund the roleplaying campaign, Raiders of the Serpent Sea (print & PDF). I am on the verge of the first phase of fulfillment — the PDFs release next week! I decided to take a break and get these thoughts down before I forget them.

I’ll start with a breakdown of the costs (simplified) and end with a discussion about some of the challenges around creating a campaign that spans levels 1-16 and beyond… in a reasonable number of pages.

Who knows what you will find in the forest?

The Cost of Making Raiders of the Serpent Sea

With over 200 pieces of art spanning 3 separate books, this is an expensive product to create! Thankfully I was able to connect with many of the artists that worked on Odyssey of the Dragonlords who are familiar with the type of art needed for a project like this. And the new artists who joined us along the way are just as professional!

But regardless, quality art costs money!

I thought it might be interesting (and illuminating) to show a crude breakdown of where the money has been spent (anything marked with * means a future expenses). The income I needed to fund this came from the funds gathered in Kickstarter, the preorders from Pledge Manager, and loans.

Art is, of course, the second largest expense, with the cost to actually print the books the only higher expense (the printing estimate is based on an earlier quote for smaller books… so this will likely increase). Other Partners include Modiphius, Pledge Manager, and VTT development costs.

A large fee that is missing from this expense list is “Writing”. This is simply because I wrote the bulk of the content myself (aside from those portions rewritten by the editor). Generally this would also be a significant expense on a project like this. It is hard for me to estimate but I’ve put in thousands of hours over the past three years… I’d probably estimate that cost at about 30% of the overall budget (had I been paid!)

Writing Large Books!

All three books are significantly larger than I had intended (and estimated). Though I knew my player’s guide would be a bit longer than the Odyssey of the Dragonlords player guide, I had intended to create a smaller campaign book. This was to keep in line with where we landed with funding on the Kickstarter (versus Odyssey) and to compensate for the increased costs in printing and shipping versus a few years ago when Odyssey shipped. I tried a few approaches to help keep my page count reasonable. They helped, but not enough.

Raiders of the Serpent SeaActual PagesKickstarter EstimateOdyssey of the Dragonlords
Campaign Book496300466
(406 when the content duplicated from the Odyssey Player Guide is removed)
Player Guide804860
GM Reference3216n/a
Page Counts

#1 Reducing Page Count – The PDF Funnel

As part of the Kickstarter campaign, I added several additional PDFs, thinking to parcel-out some of the content (to keep the core book smaller). Unfortunately as I wrote the campaign, some of the details in a few of those PDFs really needed to be included in the campaign guide (mainly some of the ship and squad information that I had planned to have in the Raiding Seas PDF). Bits of content from the other add-ons also made sense to tell the story I intended and to have the campaign run smoothly. So, the campaign book grew.

The add-on PDFs still have unique content (as described on our product page), but any material that I considered essential for the campaign, I included where it was needed.

#2 Reducing Page Count: Removing Duplicated Material

Unlike Odyssey of the Dragonlords, most of the Player’s Guide is not duplicated in Raiders of the Serpent Sea. Which means effectively that Raiders has about 90 pages of extra campaign content (versus Odyssey) and about 20 pages of extra player’s content in the Player’s Guide. There’s a further 32 pages in the GM Reference!

If I hadn’t removed the player’s guide from the main campaign guide, the book would have been almost 600 pages…

#3 Reducing Page Count: Cutting Content

No writer likes to cut content they have written but it has been necessary on every videogame that I ever worked on at BioWare and it was necessary on Raiders. There are several subplots that I really enjoyed writing that unfortunately met the “Cut Criteria”:

  • They were not directly involved in any of the core campaign events… they were more fleshing out other parts of the world
  • They were easier to cut because any items and creatures found within them were not mentioned elsewhere in the plot

Establishing this criteria helped ensure that these late stage cuts did not damage the quality of the book (I hope we caught and fixed the few references to them!) In all I probably cut about 50 pages of content.

So… why is Raiders of the Serpent Sea so Large?

Primarily, a 5e RPG campaign like this, that spans from levels 1 to 16 and beyond simply requires a lot of material. There has to be enough encounters and challenges throughout, to allow a party of heroes to level up into the higher tiers of play. This requires content.

I had also noticed some criticism of Odyssey, that the later portions of its campaign were not sufficiently detailed. I tried (perhaps too hard) to ensure that the adventure locations were sufficiently detailed and that there were enough monsters and challenges to warrant the necessary level progression.

Preorders Close for Raiders of the Serpent Sea Next Week

Order Now

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.

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