The Wild Road to Kickstarter 1: Community

A personal, accurate and occasionally ugly accounting of the Wildsea TTRPG as it heads toward the looming make-or-break of Kickstarter crowdfunding. I’ll be focusing on a different aspect of the journey with each post, and I warn you upfront that I’m no expert on any of this – in fact, this series of blogs may be nothing more than a useful repository of things not to do. With that said…

I’ve gone through most of my life staying out of the realm of social media. It never felt like the place for me, because I didn’t have anything to offer – I had a small circle of real life friends scattered across the globe and a job that involved being stuck in a room for hours at a time with up to 40 energetic students. That was quite enough socializing for me. What did I have that might interest the wider world?

But over the last week, things have changed. I have something to offer now, in the form of the Wildsea, but also something a little more nebulous – a shared interest for a new community of people. All sounds a bit high-concept, perhaps, but watching it grow has been fascinating.

The Wildsea discord had been chugging along, quietly and happily, since about the beginning of August. People hopped in to contribute worldbuilding ideas for each other, ask questions about the first playtest release and sometimes even play a few games. We’d go days, sometimes weeks without an active post, and there were channels made in anticipation of content (‘Official Resources’ being the most notable) that remained pretty much empty. The Wildsea is still a small fish in the very big pond of narrative-driven indie TTRPGs, but back then it was essentially completely unknown, and the Discord reflected that perfectly.

It… Looks a little different now.

The worldbuilding channel is still there, but now receives several hundred posts a day as people discuss their own versions of the rustling waves, or speculate as to what future content might contain. There’s an art channel, newly made, for the artists to directly connect to the people that love their work. There’s a section for official resources still but far more active is the one for player-created resources – we’ve had short fiction, in-world audio drama, forest-based sea-shanties and several pieces of original music made to evoke the feeling of the sea, even an entirely new character option written by one of the early playtesters. Some of the more experienced players now run games for newer members, and for the past few nights there’s been a game almost every evening (with new members listening in on mute to get a sense of the setting and mechanics).

It’s a hell of a change.

And it is amazing.

In fact, it’s so amazing it’s surreal. The Wildsea is in bloom, bolstered every day by new people hearing about it and offering comment or criticism. It’s helped lift my spirits, spurred me to redouble my efforts in terms of marketing and outreach, and exposed some mechanical flaws of the game that can now be fixed. We even caught a few typos, the bane of any published product.

But even the most amazing developments have their downsides.

The first is a simple, mechanical concern – I need to work, but I also need to be as active as possible to engage with the people supporting my work. I owe them that in return for their interest, and I love doing it, but it takes time. And before last week, I had no idea how much time it was actually going to take up. Between comments on reddit, posts on discord, messages on twitter, listening to playtests and answering e-mails it takes 3-6 hours, split throughout the day, just to stay in touch with the community. I’ve thought more about the Wildsea, in terms of setting and mechanics, but I’ve written less. Far less, in fact.

Now we’re lucky to be in the position where 80-85% of writing for the core text is effectively done. It might need some revisions, some re-ordering, some cleaning up, but it communicates the rules and setting well enough. Listening in to new people playing the game (independent of me or any of the other experienced playtesters), their games run well and they use mechanics correctly. That was a big weight off of me when I realized.

But it doesn’t change the fact that I miss the writing. Talking to people about the things coming down the pipe in the future is great, but it’s no substitute for creating those things in the first place. And it’s not that I can’t do it – there are enough hours in the day – it’s that I’ve never had to manage my time like this before. It’s a steep learning curve.

The second is an equally mundane concern, but an important one.

I’m *tired*.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired. Over the past week I’ve shifted my sleep schedule from its usual GMT to something closer to either EST or PST, because it’s those hours when most of the discord’s members are active and playing games. I get a couple of hours of sunlight a day, and work and chat and play or run games throughout the night, relegated to the living room to spare my housemates from the worst of the noise as they sleep. I took part in a twitch stream with the lovely people over at Flail Forward the other day that ended just past 5AM my time. The last game I ran started at 1AM. I eat breakfast at midday. After years of either a 9-5 or no job at all, it’s a shock to the system.

So is it all worth it?

Yes, emphatically. I’m more tired than I’ve ever been, but I’m also happier. We passed 200 followers on the pre-launch Kickstarter page this morning, which doesn’t seem like a bad show for a week of activity (not that I really have any metrics to measure it against, but I’m happy). I’m excited about the future, I’m absolutely in love with my community and the support they give, and despite the worry and the schedule changes and the constant half-awake feeling, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

And now I’m going to take a nap.

Felix Isaacs