'The New Hires' Update
I had a dream last night that I was listening to a random Disney podcast and the hosts announced that they were launching a Disney themed RPG podcast. I wasn't madat them, but I was so angry in general at the idea of being too late. I'm usually not one to read into dreams, but it lit a fire under me to make more progress with the project today.
While most of my notes so far are digital (like damn near everything else I write), I did break out an old work notebook to sketch my idea of what the Space Mountain space station (named Space Station X-1 as a nod to the 1955-1960 Disneyland attraction) would look like.
I'll admit the idea is fully inspired by the game Tacoma, but the concept is to have not only spinning rings but a stationary core so that I can play with both simulated (and not dependable) gravity as well as zero-g spaces.
I also realized writing this campaign might be a lot of fun. Usually when I wrote scripts in and after college, I found that while I could easily come up with and fill out worlds and premises, I always struggled with actual writing of the story from scene to scene.
With RPGs however that's what the game itself is. I mean I still have to come up with characters for the players to interact with and flesh out the story beats I hope they hit, but the actual dialog, character development, and scene to scene progress becomes a fun collaborative group effort.
I have a premise and five act outline for 'Space Mountain' that I'm working on. The next step for me is to create all sorts of potential pathways and branches between those acts so the players can still exercise their freedom to make their own decisions while still hopefully finding their way to the story beats I want them to.
My hope is to have it finished by March 1st and use March to do two more campaigns.
I've also been thinking about the practical side of the project, by which I mean paying for it all. The podcast itself shouldn't be too expensive. LibSyn hosting is only $20 a month and website hosting isn't that much either.
The big hook of the podcast though is going to be that beyond just recording our play sessions and cutting them into podcast radio dramas, I want to offer up the game itself free of charge. That way anyone who wants to try it out themselves and play with friends can do just that.
On a very literal and basic level, this is easy. All I have to do is put out my game documents in PDF format and host them on the website. Done. That said, I'm a firm believer that you only get one first impression and even with the little things how you present yourself does matter.
So what I'd ideally like to do is hire an illustrator/designer to make the game documents look really nice and professional. I especially want this for the quest documents where the illustrations could help the DM out with descriptions and setting the scene.
I'm willing to pay for that upfront because I want the project to come out nice and be something I can be proud of, but it's also got me thinking of ways to monetize the podcast so that if it does do well I'm not stuck without a plan and have a means of making a return on it.
I figure typical merch is pretty much out. The whole premise of the game is so rooted in Disney that I wouldn't dare anger the mouse's legal team. I imagine we might be able to get away with advertising during the show, but ideally I'd love to save that for last, as nobody really likes ads in podcasts. I'm also obviously against monetizing the game itself. It defeats the purpose of trying to get people to try it out themselves. Not to mention between using a modified RPG rule system and using all that Disney IP, it would also be a legal minefield.
The one idea I have that might just work, in the event the podcast is popular, is one specific type of merch: dice.
The game requires a six-sided die to play, preferably four dice and most preferably four per player. It's part of why I picked the FATE Accelerated rule set. I wanted something accessible. While they might not have a set of four for every player on day one, most people usually have one die they can get their hands on to try it out.
The game works with normal d6 dice, where 1-2 equates to -1, 3-4 equates to 0, and 5-6 equates to 1. However you can buy FATE dice online that makes it simple by putting a + on two sides, a - on two sides, and nothing on the last two.
I wouldn't want to just re-sell those, but I looked into it and it would actually be reasonable to get custom dice made. So if I can create original logos for the game to represent + and - I could make "official" podcast dice that we could sell to support the podcast. What I like about the idea is that it's entirely optional and doesn't act as a gateway to getting to play the game. It would purely be there for people who want to support the podcast. For those who can't afford it or just don't want to, they'd still be able to play completely free of charge.
In any case like I said, I wouldn't be doing this right out of the gate. The podcast would need to grow and prove it's worth before introducing something like that. I just want to have that plan in my back pocket in case that day ever comes.
I used to feel really bad about that. A part of me used to feel that thinking of these business plans before the project was out there was somehow selling out or having the wrong motivations. On the one hand I learned to get over that feeling. At the end of the day my root motivation to monetize projects like that and the channel isn't to buy boats or live a lavish life. God knows YouTube doesn't provide that well for most. It's really to just keep a roof over my head and food on my plate so I can keep doing these fun projects. So with that motivation, I tell myself not to feel too bad about it.
On the other hand though I almost want to hold onto to feeling bad, at least a little bit, because I feel that it's part of what prevents me from actually selling out and letting the money become a primary motivator over the actual content.
So days like today I'll swing from "Man, am I a scumbag for thinking of merch to sell before I even finish writing the campaign, let along starting the podcast?" to "It's smart to have those business plans at the ready in case you need them and it's feeling bad that helps ensure you don't abuse it."
I need to remind myself to keep that tug of war going. Too far in one direction and I'm humbly doing everything 100% for free and find myself without the means to keep doing it. Too far in the other direction and I let money drive the creative decisions, which usually result in really crappy creative works.
Just gotta keep up that back and forth.