10 Things I Learned Creating and Publishing a TTRPG (Book)
That's a "tabletop roleplaying game" which is a fancy way of saying "game you play with dice and your imagination" - in other words, you read a fancy textbook and then you can have fun with your friends forever. It's really the best, but I wrote and designed a whole book and I learned a lot in the process. There are way more than 10 things but I'll start with these.
You should check it out: Legacy of the Cage: The Gauntlet by PlayArchitect Games
1. Crunch Time is Real
I've shipped hundreds of projects in digital, physical, etc. formats and every time there's crunch. I tried to pretend it wouldn't happen this time because I was doing it all on my own but that should have been the clue that it was FOR SURE going to happen this time. Plan for it. Accept it.
2. Layout Design Is Damned Hard
You might think "it's just words on a page" and you're right, but the way those words are aligned, sized, flowed (hyphenated, that is), where paragraphs break etc. all affect how the reader understands the information. On top of that, RPG books double as reference books - so you have to both understand the information when you read it and then be able to look it up again when that one dumb person at the game table says, "I have no idea what the rule is on that."
3. Artwork is "Overrated"
If youre a major publisher with a huge kickstarter backing and a team, art is required. Players won't let you get away with a text-heavy rulebook. They want the whole package. But, if you're a solo designer, people tend to understand you're working with limited resources, stock photos, etc. That's a nice reprieve, but don't let it excuse you from trying to add more content in later updates or editions. Art matters, but there's a limit.
4. A Small Community of Supportive People is Gold
I joined a discord server a couple of years ago (just googled it and jumped in and that was that) and the community has been unbelievably supportive. We're there to critique, cheer, pump each other's social presence and just give honest responses to works in progress. Having the few really active members of that server in my corner got me across the finish line - and I'm going to do the same for them, too.
5. Your Game is Not Special
Look on any digital storefront (DriveThruRPG, itch.io, Amazon, DM's Guild, etc.) and you'll see that there is no shortage of content being published every day.
You need to find a way to make yours cut through the noise (a nice cover helps, there is a lot of garbage out there).
6. Most RPGs Have Horrible Elevator Pitches
I saw a thread recently on a site where people were pitching their game ideas and most of them were vague, soft, muddy, or uncompelling. 99% of people can't pitch their stuff.
Be the 1% who can.
7. Launching is Messy, Nobody Notices
I submitted my title to two platforms at once and one of them had a review process that took longer than I expected, so I only got one platform out on July 1 (my launch deadline).
Nobody cared. In fact, I got two sales right off the bat on itch.io and then when I got my DriveThruRPG page up, people were going bonkers to see I had it finally published there, too!
Nobody noticed it was an asynchronous launch. I'm not big enough for that (yet). Even then, people understand.
8. Some Marketing is Better Than No Marketing
I found that even though my marketing hit a little lull prior to launch (because of crunch!) that it was better to have had it out there than to have to make up ground at or after launch.
9. Nobody Expects Perfection (You Shouldn't Either)
I found a bunch of formatting issues IMMEDIATELY after I launched the book. So far, nobody has noticed, but I'm going to fix it and upload a new copy next week.
10. You're Not Dungeons & Dragons (It's a Slow Burn)
Wizard of the Coast (publisher of Dungeons & Dragons) is a massive, multi billion dollar company owned by Hasbro (one of the biggest toy/game makers in the world). Their audiences have high expectations about products in terms of release dates, quality, content.
They make their big splash at launch because of all the hype generated leading up to it.
Everybody else makes little ripples as their plod along the course to more consistent sales over time.
Sales will come. Make thing as best you can, sell the thing always.