Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The King of Wayward Kickstarters - Axes & Anvils (is pretty much dead)

Latest update can be summarized as thus:

The money is gone, I spent more time running kickstarters and organizing cons than I did to actually write the games in question. I fucked up, but so do 40% of RPG kickstarters that never produce a product (a number puled out of his nether region). No worries tho, because I can still try the pyramid scheme to have a later project fund an earlier one - wait, that's what put me here in the first place...

Here it is in it's full glory:

Project Update #39: Update

Posted by Mike Nystul

So here's the thing. I screwed up. I started a game company and proceeded as though the cash flow and production speed would keep pace. They did not. I’ve tried to keep you informed and up-to-date, but most of all I’ve tried to deliver on expectations. So far, all you’ve seen are delays and broken promises. I take this situation very seriously.

The long and the short of it is that Cairn and Axes and Anvils have become troubled projects. We are out of money, due to some poor decisions on my part. People have asked for refunds I can't possibly give them.

Some 40% of RPG Kickstarters fail, their sponsors simply disappearing with the money (bull fucking shit Mike! 40% may be late, seriously late, but few totally fail after collecting cash - it may be that 40% fail to fund, but that's not the issue here). Good people don’t ever see the projects in which they put their faith, and they don’t receive refunds. That number haunts me. That will not happen here.

Cairn could use more work to make it what it should be. I was rushing to get it out and turned in some inferior work. I just wanted to get something out the door and into your hands. Axes and Anvils has suffered because I was thinking like someone running a company and has too much going on at once.

We have discussed ways in which to get something into your hands – maybe ashcans like the old D&D White Books. It’s not the finished project, but it lets you see what we’re doing and lets you start playing with it as soon as possible.

I believe in these games. I will move heaven and earth to get it out, and into your hands. Every promise made will be honored – every tankard and every last stitch on every last plush. This company and it's products will NOT be numbered among the 40%. I and everyone involved in the project are completely committed to that notion. All I can do is be completely honest with you, and ask you all to forgive my my stupidity and bear with me as I make it right.

I tried to salvage the company with my well intentioned, but poorly received, IndieGogo campaign. I see the point of the people who objected - I was not an effective custodian of your investment in the first place. Why invest more? An excellent point. All I can really say is my goal here has nothing at all to do with money.

Case in point - one of my bad decisions was DwarfCon. We didn't have the money or manpower to mount a first year Convention. Based on optimistic projections of where I thought we would be it seemed like a good idea. I shut it down and took a big hit. Because my first priority is the people who supported the idea I'm mounting NonCon instead. For free. A way to try to make good without asking for anything but your moral support.

Moving forward, I am searching for ways to fix these problems that don't call for anyone to invest further or take a leap of faith. I may try another IndieGoGo but this time for a complete in-hand game. Not a promise. A product. I will be working as hard as I know how to dig myself out of the hole I find myself in. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been patient and understanding.


  1. Wow. Just...wow. These crash-and-burn scenarios seem to be getting more prevalent, eh? I think people need to calm down with the Kickstarters for a while. At the very least, folks need to start balancing dreams with practicalities. Like Dirty Harry said, you have to know your limitations.

  2. Hum, I wonder how this will effect "Nystul's Infinite Dungeon" which I was a backer for...

  3. I wish KS had a way to "rate" project sponsors (like Ebay sellers). Maybe it has that functionality and I simply don't see it, but it seems silly that someone should be able to pull a stunt like this without there being any feedback mechanism in place. At a minimum, future backers should be warned about the guy's track record...

    1. Unlike eBay, where if you don't get your $20 widgit you can leave a neg FB, there should be a MUCH higher penalty if someone defrauds 500+ people of $35,000.

      And, yes, with all of the assholery I'm seeing with take-the-money-and-run KS projects, I feel there should be legal contracts in place for future KS projects with very real, very binding penalties in place for such shenanigans.

    2. The thing is, Tim, those legal realities are built into Kickstarter. The legal reality, though, is "Caveat Emptor". Thus, I agree that Kickstarter should have a feedback system, though I'd also lean towards it being a semi-impersonal one... "Project funded", "shit delivered on time?" "Shit delivered at all?"

      I think KS (and similar sites) are going to see something of a reputation-based economy. Someone with a history of delivering is going to do better than someone with a history of not... even on a less impressive idea.

    3. I understand your point. But I know if *I* made off with $35,000 with no legal repercussions, I wouldn't give a crap if I had a KS feedback rating of "F-! Didn't fulfill nothing! :(".

      My point comes to this: Those who really screw the pooch as far as Kickstarter is concerned will never start another project on there. So a "feedback rating system" is too little-too late. Besides, the public reputation hit on blogs and forums will ensure no future projects by that person will ever be funded.

    4. Yeah, but a real crook would have his Cousin Delbert put his name on it instead, so a bad reputation on the internet is only a minor obstacle. It's really a shame to see something that could be a good idea become a way to con people out of money. It really creates a bad rep for honest people who wanna do something in the RPG arena as well - which already has a bit of a shaky reputation. Sucks all around.

  4. Contact your credit card company and demand a credit card chargeback. I've done this twice, and I am about to do it a third time. There is ample evidence with these failed kickstarter's for a chargeback. Once the credit card companies start to notice this, Kickstarter will start to notice this.

  5. Replies
    1. Agreed. What a douche. It doesn't actually cost money to write, so "the money's all gone, bye!" is absolutely incredible.

    2. While I don't condone the litany of excuses and non-delivery of promised goods, the argument of "doesn't cost money to write" is severely flawed. Writing is not an instantaneous task. It takes time. During the time taken to write, the writer needs to exist, (food, shelter, etc), and therefore needs money to perform the task of writing. Nysul still needs to deliver the goods, but now doing so will cost him out of pocket since he needs to spend more time to finish the products and he has exhausted the raised funds.

      Also, he isn't saying "money gone, bye", he is saying, "money's gone, all my fault, I still intend to deliver." This makes him a poor manager of his resources, (as he admits to), but calling him a douche is at best premature. If he makes a further update to the effect of "screw you guys, I don't want to do this any more", THEN feel free to lambaste him with every invective you can think of.

    3. I agree with SpiralBound.
      A douche would take all of the money, forget to pay his artists, stop taking phone calls, and disappear for months. Sound familiar?

    4. "Writing is not an instantaneous task. It takes time. During the time taken to write, the writer needs to exist, (food, shelter, etc), and therefore needs money to perform the task of writing."

      So write two hours a day before you go do your evening shift at McDonalds. RPG writers have these things called 'day jobs'.

  6. trying this w/o the cat walking on the keyboard ;)

    pledged for this and his Infinite Dungeon

  7. Well this is disappointing. I met the guy at Gencon last year, and he seemed honest and enthusiastic about the project. I liked the guy. I still don't not-like the guy, but I'm disappointed. I want to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but where the heck does 35K go with nothing more than some art and a playtest draft to show for it?

    I'm glad I only pledged 20 bucks; at this point I'd be (mostly, not really) happy with a playable PDF.

    I've been picky about what KS projects I back. So far this is the only one that's totally failed on me. I'm still haven't lost faith in Kickstarter as a whole.

  8. Pretty much why you should have a product well and truly developed before seeking funding.

    1. Agreed. In fact, many of the more successful projects have either had large and/or experienced teams behind them or were mostly completed, needing only funding for improvements, expansions, or large scale production costs.

  9. ...The OD&D white books were ashcans? I've never seen that opinion before.


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