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Friday, August 19, 2016

An Open Letter to Kickstarter Creators - I am Not Here to Blow Smoke Up the Arse of The Tavern's Readers (Rant)

Let me set the record straight.

I get 3 to 4 requests per week from Kickstarter creators asking me to look at their projects. Some ask me to peek at the Not Yet Published page, seeking critique and feedback. These are the wise folks. Others simply want me to pimp their latest crowdsourced offering, whether it be the latest, greatest fantasy heartbreaker or a new litter pan for my cat.

I get them all.

I ignore most requests.


The Tavern is not here to pimp your shit.

Let me repeat that a little clearer for those that might not understand the directness of that statement. The Tavern's coverage of Kickstarters, the good, the bad and the down right bizarre, is not a vehicle to pimp your project. The purpose is to highlight projects that I believe are worth the time of my readers to check out. That DOES NOT mean that I'm highlighting it for your benefit.

I point out flaws in Kickstarters and their presentation. It's what I do. It's part of the vetting process. You are basically begging for money from the gaming public and your project needs to be vetted. I also point out well presented Kickstarters and creators with good track records... and bad.

What I do not do and what I will never do is blow smoke up the arse of my readers. I will not speak highly of a Kickstarter project that I am not willing to back myself.

Some may ask: "If you don't like a project, why post about it at all?"

The answer is simple.

It's what I do. It's a service that I do for the readers of The Tavern. Again, I do not highlight Kickstarters for the benefit of the project creators, I highlight them for the benefit of my readers. They need to know what to avoid. They need to know the warnings that a project might not be as solid as it seems.

What can you do to avoid "unwanted attention?"

Short answer: Have your Kickstarter page read by multiple eyes before you take it live. First impressions are 90% of your battle and you only get one shot at it.

Long answer: Read through the Kickstarter posts here at The Tavern. You'll see examples of what to do and what not to do. Research. Edit. Edit again. Avoid mugs. Print stretch goals can ruin your budget. Shipping costs can ruin you.

Remember, you are asking the gaming public to part with their money with the promise that you will provide them with a finished product down the line. If you are unable to put your best foot forward out of the box, what can one expect with the finished product?


  1. and of course, this morning's post is getting hate comments.

    apparently I'm making money off of the controversy. it's what the do on Youtube, you know...

    1. I think the absolute worst thing about your rant here is this.... the fact that you have to say this. Common sense should tell people that you aren't running a service for them for free. But more and more people seem to thing they deserve others to do things for them.

    2. I seriously don't mind reviewing pre-release KSs for grammar, editing, presentation - I do it for free when asked, but that might need to change at some point. Time is not free.

      But if you want me to simply pimp your shit? Poorly presented at that? Not gonna happen.

      My loyalty is to my readers. I call it as I see it.

    3. Erik, The kickstarter has been a learning experience. It's a new experience for the Ice Kingdoms designers. I'm sure they would have benefited from your input beforehand, and they have tried to incorporate your recent criticisms in some revisions of the presentation text. I don't begrudge you your critical independence or your loyalty to your readers. As I tried to explain in my comment below, I was simply disappointed that the review didn't engage the project substantively. Fair enough?

    4. I've read the preview.

      I'll be polite and call it dense. It failed to engage me.

      To be honest, it reads more like a text book than a game setting to my eyes, or at least compared to the settings I'm used to reading at this time in my gaming life.

      My readers are loyal because I call things as I see them. I don't edit out comments that disagree with me or even accuse me of improprieties.

      But the truth is that there is an assumption that being highlighted at The Tavern, whether a KS or other gaming release, is the road to success and that all have a right to such attention.

      If all had such a right, regardless of my feelings on the product, then such a right would shortly have no value.

      Getting attention to a new product can be hard. It's very hit or miss. I do understand that.

      The thing is, if I ever put the desires of the publishers before the needs of my readers, The Tavern will cease to exist. The name might remain, the website might live on, but the Community would fade.

      The Tavern IS its Community.

    5. For those curious, this is the link to the preview.

      Don't rely on my word or judgement. I can be and most certainly have been wrong in the past.


  2. I had never known about the pre-release "Not Yet Published" thing until about a month ago - someone in my G+ circles was about to start a KS and asked for honest help. I could tell right then he was not a native English speaker, so I went through all his paragraphs and helped with the grammar and sentence structure. That Not Yet Published thing (and the sharing process thereof) is the best tool in the world for KS, and everyone not using it is only making the entire process harder for themselves.

    1. I didn't know about it until reading your comment, Brandon.

  3. "The truth hurts, doesn't it, Hapsburg? Oh sure, maybe not as much as landing on a bicycle with the seat missing, but it hurts!" -- Lt. Frank Drebin, Police Squad

  4. But I was going to get you to pimp my shit... damn. ;p

  5. I think I may be responsible for this post-rant. I expressed my disappointment to Erik (in a private message) with his review of the Ice Kingdoms kickstarter--I am also the person who passed that kickstarter along to him in the first place. Full disclosure: I am not the creator but I have had some input here and there. At any rate, I was (and am) disappointed because Erik's review didn't engage the project substantively at all, but rather focused entirely on inadequacies in the kickstarter presentation. And, fair enough--it's certainly true that the original text was not prepared as a polished pitch, but rather, as a fairly conversational and unassuming explanation of the project. No one has ever thought or claimed that it was above critique, and the kickstarter text has already been edited with some of Erik's criticisms in mind. For all that, the quality of the product itself will be excellent. Professional writers are involved in it, and TSR alum James M. Ward himself has contributed both an adventure module and the detailed mythology in the campaign setting book. I continue to think that enthusiasts of the OSR will love the Ice Kingdoms and find the setting richly imagined, thickly described, and above all, lots of fun.

    1. I posted this on the other post, but will repeat it here for completeness:
      As you sent me the link, you know how long I sat on it.

      Now, in all fairness, I do a search on KS every few days for RPGs, so this likely would have been found by me anyway.

      This wasn't a review. It was a critique. It's hard to review KSs because there generally is no product to review.

      The pitch was, to put it bluntly, sloppy. When your pitch is sloppy and its the reference you have to the finished product, it does not bode well for the finished product.

      First impressions are 90% of making a sale. The Ice Kingdoms handicapped itself right out of the gate.

      As I said in response to a comment above, the product itself may be awesome. The sales pitch and presentation was beyond poor.

      If you can't bother to properly have your sales pitch proofread, it bodes Ill for quality of editing of the finished product.

      As I stated in my opening line of this very post - I really wanted to like The Ice Kingdoms. With all that was included, I should have liked it. But the sloppy pitch ruined it and my expectations along with it.

  6. Erik, you have a sharp pen, but your comments are usually dead on.

  7. I don't know if we can be friends anymore if your anti-mug. :)