Publishing Advice - Monthly Micro-publishing

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jul 2nd 2010

Although Fiasco, by Jason Morningstar, isn't really a game I've become engaged with, I've been terrifically impressed by the support that Bully Pulpit have offered for it. Their 'Playset of the Month' has produced some really engaging stuff, and offers some really interesting situational building blocks tat could be used as inspiration in many other games. Oh, and the uniformity of the design ethic and simple, clean presentation makes it all really accessible and attractive.

This model of monthly micro-publishing seems to really create engagement with fans of the game and provide a growing foundation of support for the game. This leads me to think how useful it could be for other games, how difficult/easy it would be to implement, and what the further benefits might be.

For example, for Cold City there could be a 'Monster of the Month': a single sheet with illustration, description, stats, and a couple of story ideas. Hot War might see a 'Situation of the Month': a pre-created situation and NPCs covering no more than two sides of A4.

With a bit of work, you could create a six month buffer for yourself, having stuff ready to roll and giving you a nice little firebreak in case anything untoward happens that might otherwise disrupt the schedule.

So, what are the benefits/disadvantages of doing this? Is there an argument for free or for paid-for, subscription content? Oh, I'll email Jason as well and let him know about this thread, as I'm sure he'll have some really worthwhile input based on his experiences.


Posted by: Neil Gow On: Jul 2nd 2010

Its similar to what I tried to do with the D&H Almanacs last year.

All of the pros that you listed are spot on - it creates a good degree of engagement and allows you to keep the game in the spotlight, or at least on the fringes, for a lot longer after release. Its an excellent way to drip feed material as well in a far less pressured environment than a proper release.

It does suffer from some degree of 'fun becoming a job' as you are essentially committing to a monthly release schedule of some sort - your buffer idea is an excellent one. It also has some exit costs with regard to customer expectations and the communication of the termination of the project.

Personally, I think this sort of episodic gaming content is a very strong thing to do.


Posted by: Andrew Kenrick On: Jul 3rd 2010

I think it tickles a similar itch that supplements always used to – rightly or wrongly, it gives the impression of a living, breathing, supported game.

Another pro - at the end of the year, you can collate them into a single volume.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jul 3rd 2010

Neil: Regarding your 'exit costs' comment, I think that's pretty on the money. It seems to me that Bully Pulpit have handled this well by making it clear that the Playset of the Month is a 2010 thing. That seems to be a good way to manage expectation.

Andrew: Yes, the collation could be a valuable thing and allow you to realise a small amount of revenue from all that hard work. And I don't think there's anything bad about that at all.


Posted by: jmstar On: Jul 3rd 2010

Hello everyone,

Some general thoughts on this. We'll collect the playsets we own (the ones written by me) with some additional material into a bound collection in 2011. The work is already done, so we'll capitalize on it as best we can. The free stuff will remain free forever on our site, which adds value to the initial purchase of Fiasco - you get 16 playsets instantly.

Releasing *anything* every month increases sales at sites like onebookshelf/rpgnow. It gets fresh eyes on pages, and has the effect of boosting sales of related products.

The monthly schedule also maintains a level of interest from existing players. Something new draws them back.

If you plan to try this, make very sure that you will not slip. Have content prepped and ready to go. We had four playsets absolutely locked and eight others in various stages when we began in January.

I'm glad to discuss this in more detail!

Posted by: jmstar On: Jul 3rd 2010

We did misstep - the original idea was to have each playset available for one month only, then take it down until it re-appeared in the bound collection. This confused people endlessly and was a bad idea. We thought it would build excitement but it just built frustration.

In terms of effort, a playset is 10-12 6x9" pages of formatted text and a cover. So the 144 elements need to be authored, it needs to be tested out, the intro material needs to be authored, a cover needs to be made, and it all needs to be formatted. It is not a huge amount of work but it is nontrivial. Luckily almost every phase is actually pretty fun. Also luckily, I designed this with user-generated content in mind, and people have been writing them for me, for fun.

Posted by: Andrew Kenrick On: Jul 3rd 2010

I noticed when you first started posting the playsets up that you gave access to previous ones if people posted AP. How did that work out? Was it enough of an incentive?


Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jul 4th 2010

Hi Jason,

Thanks for swinging by and giving us some detail on Playset of the Month. That's some really valuable information there. In terms of user-generated content, have you incentivisied this in any way, or is it purely because people are excited about the game and want to contribute? Back in the dim and distant past when we did the Mire End Tribune for a|state, we actively called for user generated content. We did get some, but it proved harder than we thought. Is there perhaps something about the nature of a playset and the way it is set up that increases the chances of people submitting their own?


Posted by: jmstar On: Jul 7th 2010

Andrew, that was a failure. Just give it away - that is the lesson here. Requiring some commitment, some sweat equity, some buy-in - not worth it. Better to have lots of people poring over your stuff every month and translating that into sales.

Malcolm, there is no incentive other than prestige, I suppose - seeing your name on the cover and having your work distributed. Making a playset isn't an enormous undertaking, and after one play of the game, people usually walk away with an idea about one they'd like to see. The best of these I encourage, edit, and publish if the author is amenable.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jul 8th 2010

Thanks again for coming over and giving your input, Jason.

There's some really good advice here regarding this monthly publishing model, and certainly a lot of stuff that I intend to take careful note of for the future.


Posted by: Neil Gow On: Jul 16th 2010

As another point of periodic publishing, does anyone have any information or insight into the 'War of the Dead' adventure that is being published weekly through

Whilst its not free, it looks pretty interesting and the full sub model was riding high in the top 100 for some time.


Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Aug 15th 2010

Not trying to dredge up old threads, but I've been away for a bit and I just caught this now.

I've been thinking about a monthly release for Hell for Leather for some time now, as it uses a similar bundled-up-scenario rig. That is, when you start the game, you might be playign as soldiers in Vietnam (Malcolm!) or civil servants in middle England (Malcolm!). I always thought it would be nice to produce a 4-8 page free PDF with artwork from my brother. Here's some out-loud thinking: In every supplement I'd like to include a simple, novel rig to stick on your game with an emphasis on making some of the harder game setup choices easier (like picking the Checkpoints). I'd also like to include at least one mini-hack (to show how the game can be squished around for different genres). And artwork.

If anyone knows Hell for Leather, would you like to help me explore what I could put inside the monthly supplements (here or in another thread)?

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Aug 23rd 2010

Yes, let's start a new thread to look at Hell for Leather. Sebastian, would you oblige with some initial thoughts and I'm sure productive chat will follow?

Oh, and I think this thread could be left as it is now. Lots of great ideas and information have come out of this, and sub-threads have spun off, so good to leave this as a record and take further discussion to individual threads.


Posted by: Andrew Kenrick On: Sep 17th 2010

This is a bit of addendum, I guess, but Tony Dowler has been playing with the monthly micro-publishing model for the past year, and has posted a little about it here, including some handy advice. Thought it might be of interest.

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