Tuesday, October 9, 2018

How To Validate Your Table Top RPG Idea For Crowdsourcing

“Don’t put the cart before the horse”

Chances are you have probably heard that old cliche.

But like with all cliches, the above is a cliche because there is truth to the statement.  And the truth in that above cliche is something you need to keep in the front of your mind when you are considering crowdfunding for your RPG project.

Let’s face it - there are no new ideas.

Chances are that the idea that you have for the next great new shiny RPG thing is pretty similar to an idea that someone else has already had.

But that doesn’t mean that you should abandon your dream of bringing your idea to fruition.

Far from it.

What it does mean is that before you go through all the steps to create your RPG thingy and launch it on Kickstarter or crowdfunding site of choice, you should do your homework to make sure that your particular project has something unique that no one else is offering.

Researching Past Tabletop RPG Campaigns on Kickstarter

Let’s say that I have an idea for a superhero RPG.

I certainly wouldn’t be the first or last person to have an idea for this theme for an RPG.

But one of the keystones to success with  crowd sourcing - or any creative endeavor - is uniqueness.

How do we ensure we have a unique offering and crowd source campaign?

We do our research!

So let's jump onto Kickstarter to discover what has been created in the past in the way of superhero RPGs.

First Steps To Researching Your Tabletop RPG on Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a super popular crowd sourcing platform for tabletop RPGs. So I'm going to concentrate my efforts there for this article.

The first thing I'm going to do is to search for projects that fall into my general category.

So entering in the Keyword “Superhero” into the search and this turns up 1034 projects - a healthy number with that keyword in it.

Let’s tweak our search a little to see how many of these were successfully funded by adding the filter of successful projects.

This filter yields us 427 projects - which means that about 42% of these projects were funded at greater than their goal - which is pretty darn good.

While this is encouraging - the results are general. After all we were only searching for the general term “superhero” that fell across all categories.

Since we are looking to create a superhero RPG game we should do a little more tweaking to refine our search to better reflect our category and add a filter for tabletop games. Let’s take out the “successful” filter to see how many games come back for the search.

This search yields us 62 projects in total. If we add the “successful” filter back into the search that narrows our results to 38 - which means that 62% of superhero tabletop games are successful funded.

Tabletop games that have a superhero theme have nearly a 2 in 3 chance of getting funded!

Of course that doesn’t mean that your idea is guaranteed to be successfully funded.

We need to do some more research on the successful - and unsuccessful campaigns - to see if we can come up a unique selling point (USP) or angle to our game as just doing the same thing as everyone else will usually result in failure.

Finding Your Tabletop RPG Idea’s Unique Angle

One of the things you should do when trying to find your idea’s unique selling point or angle is to search your initial keyword - in this example “superheros” along with other keywords.

For instance you could search for the following to create a noir themed superheros game

  • Primary Keyword - Superheros
  • Secondary Keywords - dark, crime, underworld 
If you wanted to focus on horror:

  • Primary Keyword - Superheros
  • Secondary Keywords - zombies, apocalypse, horror

Or how about supers in a dystopian setting

  • Primary Keyword: supers
  • Secondary Keywords: dystopian, post-acpocalypse, cyber punk

The idea here is to see if you can turn up any projects with the keyword combinations you have listed to find out if anyone has done anything like this in the past and if they have, what success or failure did they experience with their project.

Try to come up with as many variations of your primary keyword as you can.

For instance, in my last example I changed the keyword to “supers”. This is one of a couple of variations on superheros which show up in the genre.

Variations for superhero names could include the following:

  • Supers
  • Vigilantes
  • Capes
  • Mutants
  • Masks

Riff a little and see what you come up with but don’t stress about it.

Avoid the trap of  “Paralysis by Analysis”.

A sample search of “supers” and the word cyberpunk turned up 3 successful table top game projects and one of them was a card game.

This isn’t to say that other supers games didn't have the cyberpunk element but these three were specifically focused on the cyberpunk/dystopian element as their main theme.

Looking closer at the RPGs that turned up one is a Pathfinder supplement and the other is a standalone RPG product and both were funded - one at 134% of its goal and one at 280% of its goal.

The card game was funded at 750% of its goal!

So at this point you can say that in general you have a good chance of funding a supers RPG on Kickstarter and there haven't been a lot in the way of cyberpunk/dystopian themed games but the ones that we have turned up were very successful.

Checking Out the Tabletop RPG Competition in Google

We aren’t done with our idea validation though - we still should do a quick Google search to see if there are other cyberpunk supers games out there that have not been funded via Kickstarter.

From the below screen capture you can see that I also modified the search a little adding the keyword “tabletop” this was to help narrow the results only to pen and paper RPGs.

The astute reader will also notice the sidebars to the the right of the screen capture that indicate related keywords, their search volume, CPC (cost per click) and Competition.

This information comes from a free Chrome plugin called Keywords Everywhere, and is useful to help search for related keywords to your main set.

While our search doesn’t turn up anything too concerning on the first results page, you should always go a few pages deep and monkey a bit with the words you are using to make sure you have covered the bases for your idea (one of the reasons I use Keywords Everywhere).

This type of search is also useful in finding extra hooks and angles for your project and uncovering potential problems.

Validating Your Tabletop RPG Kickstarter Idea Conclusion

At this point you have the basics of how to validate your idea for a tabletop RPG.

You done some research on Kickstarter and Google and found that your idea looks sound and has a good chance of being successful.

You could launch right now if you wanted to…but I think there is just a little more work you can - and should do - before you launch.

I’ll cover that extra work in the next article.

Until then - may you always roll crits!

About the Author

Michael Harrington is a cybersecurity course designer and instructor by trade and an self-diagnosed RPG addict.

He first started playing TTRPGs with the original TSR Dungeons and Dragons back in elementary school (the 70's man).

He does freelance writing on the side and is the author of a book on using Google Earth in digital forensics. His Twitter account is @voidmarked