2012Last week I revealed my crash and burn in 2011 and a new commitment to not biting off more than I can chew.

So this week’s post is going to be a bit on the conservative side, and I’m going to talk a little about my plans for 2012 and a little about where I think the state of the gaming industry is at.

Better Project Management

First up, let me brag about my current organization system. I developed it as a result of taking on too many projects and commitments last year.

I needed a system that would provide me clarity on what I’ve got on my plate at any given moment, plus facilitate my penchant for coming up with new ideas all the time.

I have experimented with many organization systems, and landed on GTD plus MyInfo software.

I still use these for workflow and information management because they are superb.

But I also needed a project management system that would help me stay focused.

As luck would have it, the web team at work switched to the Agile method of working, and it’s paid them huge dividends. Agile prevents you from tackling too much. It keeps you focused on what needs to be done next. It allows you to queue up as many projects and ideas as you like, but it keeps you focused on the task at hand.

Agile also helps control scope creep, it helps you launch projects faster so you can get feedback sooner, and it creates a more robust working environment.

So, I studied the team’s implementation of Agile management and crafted my own version of it to help me control my projects. So far, it’s awesome. I’m getting more done, faster.

It’s still early days though, having just emerged from the phoenix of 2011, but things are looking solid for 2012 in terms of managing my own projects and keeping the sanity.

Game Writing

In 2012 I will continue to write GM tips, advice and how-tos. Some content will be for the Roleplaying Tips Newsletter, a bit will be for Campaign Mastery, a bit will be for ebooks and reports, and some will be for various websites as guest articles to help me spread the word about Assassin’s Amulet, Faster Combat and other products from Roleplaying Tips Publishing.

Business Writing

Since forming Gamer Lifestyle with Yax of dungeonmastering.com fame, I have discovered I love business writing as well.

In the same way I enjoy breaking down GMing tasks and writing about them in how-to or step-by-step fashion, I enjoy doing the same for online entrepreneurs.

Taking my experience from running RPT and Gamer Lifestyle, from writing and publishing various books over the years, and from my various day job endeavours, I will be doing more business writing in 2012 to help people learn how to start up and run profitable side businesses from home.

Most of this writing will appear on the Gamer Lifestyle site or as ebooks.

Faster Combat

The world’s first online GMing course is a huge success. By the time this article gets published, Faster Combat will have its 100th member!

Tony Medeiros from Leonine Roar and I have created a course that is guaranteed to help you cut your combat time in half while you increase the drama and tell better stories at the same time.

It’s amazing seeing the 52 lessons you receive come together and the depth of material covered. Feedback from members has been tremendous, as well. I published several testimonials in a recent Roleplaying Tips issue, and GMs are loving the how-to and actionable advice.

I’ll be working on spreading the word as much as I can about Faster Combat in 2012. If you could tell your gaming friends about the GM course, I’d sure appreciate it.

Legacies Campaign Setting – More GM Toolbooks

Mike Bourke has an amazing vision for the Legacies Campaign Setting that kicked off with Assassin’s Amulet in October.

We called Assassin’s Amulet a GM Toolbook because it’s as much a GM campaign tool as it is a resource for assassins in your games as villains and NPCs. I talked about this last week, so this week I’ll move on and say 2012 will bring the next title to the series.

Legacies #2 will delve into the other end of the spectrum – paladins. But, of course, things are not always as they appear, and Legacies #2 will be a GM Toolbook with depth and twists to help your campaigns rock.

The RPG Industry in 2012

Not only do I think there are more gamers than ever before playing RPG, but I think the time has never been better to get into the industry, especially for self-publishing.

The Biz Side of Things

I run the Gamer-Lifestyle.com site with Yax. It teaches you how to publish your own RPG work and to make your first dollar online within 90 days. So this endeavour might have me donning my rose-coloured glasses, but hear me out.

I do not work for a big tabletop RPG company, nor have I ever worked for one. I’ve always self-published and been in the trenches with my fellow game masters. So I do not have the expensive industry data some companies might buy or develop to see the big picture.

However, think on this. Pathfinder is kicking ass. Paizo reports Core Rulebook sales in 2011 were more than sales in 2010, and those books flew off the shelves in 2010.

Though this is a broad generalization, I stand by the statement that if you give gamers what they want, they will love you for it, buy your stuff and spread the word to their friends.

Again, I do not know what the big picture for profits are for the likes of Paizo, WotC and such, but for us small publishers, this is extremely encouraging news.

We don’t have huge payrolls to meet or stockholders to assuage.

We can create cool gaming products that gamers want and do a good business that helps pay off the mortgage, pay the bills, or better yet, pay for more gaming stuff. :)

Further, the barriers to entry into the publishing world are non-existent. The tools are now available for gamers to publish their stuff for little to no monetary hurdles.

And the great news for us gamers is the level of quality continues to rise in fan-based and small-publisher based materials. That’s because tools for publishing are making it ever easier to produce quality stuff.

At the heart of RPG for a lot of us is homebrew. We craft our own worlds, adventures, house rules and game systems. The hobby has always had a grass roots do-it-yourself culture, which is what makes the hobby so much fun.

And companies like Paizo who support this, who allow fans to create stuff and publish it for free or for a few bucks, understand this aspect of gaming and help keep the hobby alive.

And there’s never been more ways you can stand on the shoulders of others to get your creations out there, with all the cool free systems that give you license to create stuff with their rules for their fans. Fudge, FATE and Savage Worlds come to mind.

For a guy who grew up during a time when the industry leader would seek out fan content and have it removed from the internet, this is nirvana.

All this means more choice for gamers who just want to play stuff, not publish or create it. And the rising quality of amateur (as in amateur – love of) creations adds even more pleasure to our games.

Marketplaces like RPGNow.com, Paizo’s store, LuLu, the Kindle Store and others give RPG enthusiasts more choices, more ways to share their content and more ideas than ever before.

Another trend on the biz side of things that indicates to me small publishing is thriving is kickstarter.com. This service allows gamers to vote with their wallets on the gaming stuff they want to see created.

For RPG businesses, Kickstarter reduces risks and helps them do market research before investing time and money. And the number and variety of Kickstarter projects continues to rise, as does the number of projects that meet their green light thresholds! More great news for everyone.

The Gamer Side of Things

I’ve already covered most of the points I wanted to make about why the industry is thriving. But to recap, gamers have more choices and better quality choices today. They are supported and encouraged to create content and share it for certain games. And they have lots of services and venues for sharing their content where gamers gather online.

I also think the number of casual RPG players is on the rise. Again, I have no stats for this, and it’s just hand-wavy optimism based on feedback I get from my websites and newsletter.

But there is a growing group of casual gamers out there. When they get together with friends, they ponder their options and sometimes pick an RPG to play. More RPGs are available for single night gaming than ever before.

Some of these gamers will become hard core, like us. :)

In addition, virtual tabletop gaming is on the rise. WotC has their new VTT software in beta, and their are lots of other options such as Fantasy Grounds, ScreenMonkey, MapTool and Battlegrounds.

There is also forum gaming and play-by-email.

So, while industry projections on gamer numbers based on purchasers of big company products might show the number of gamers worldwide has dropped, those numbers do not show the truth.

And I think there are more gamers than ever before. Some casual, some virtual, and most playing a wider selection of games. This means a more splintered community, but also more opportunity.

Why more opportunity? From the publishing side, you can create niche products perfect for a specific group of gamers because there are so many choices you can appeal to.

From the gamer side, the chances of running into a gamer, former or current, is better than ever before. Gamer friends are easier to find as well.

What’s Your 2012 Going To Be Like?

So enough about me, my goals and my hand-wavy industry musings.

What about you? What kind of goals have you set for 2012?

Hi! I’m Mike Bourke, the other primary writer here at Campaign Mastery, and I’m hijacking-slash-gatecrashing the tail end of Johnn’s post to drop in a few words about where CM, & I, are going to be heading in 2012.

Thursday Posts: These are part of my weekly routine now, and I’ve still got lots to discuss. So these will be continuing. I have a number of articles series that I want to wrap up, or at least carry closer to a conclusion, and there’s that Ask-The-GMs backlog to finally deal with. You start these things with the best of intentions…

Monday Posts: Come february, all of our stockpiled content for these posts will have wrapped up. I’ve started doing sample posts for a number of new columns to generally positive but limited feedback, and these will continue. The aim with these posts is for them to be a lot shorter than my more epic Thursday articles, but I’ve tried to keep it short before, without notable success. How long is a piece of elastic? All I can say is that these will be as lengthy as time, subject matter, and inspiration, allow.

Best Posts: This list in our right-hand-side menu is long overdue for an update. This is high on my 2012 to-do list.

More Assassin’s Amulet Add-ons: A couple of technical problems and the real-world Holiday season disrupted schedules as soon as they were announced, but the intent is still there to value-add to purchasers of the product. There’s a good month or so of work to do in getting them out – and it’s to give me a bit more time to knock these over that we’re running Johnn’s posts this week and last, and the big wrapup to the GM’s Toolbox series.

Legacies Product #2 This has more working titles than a TV series in development by committee, but the central vision is clear for this product. In fact, a good quantity of it has been designed already, at least through the preliminary stages. So we’re hoping to get the first draft of this book done by mid-year – and for it to be somewhat smaller than AA! – and get it out quickly thereafter – while avoiding all the panic and rush of this year. The Cover Art contest for AA was really successful, and if it’s at all possible, I’m keen for a repeat of that this time around. As Johnn has revealed, the next entry in the Legacies Campaign Setting will revolve around All Things Paladin – including that never-ending source of friction in gaming, the alignment system and its restrictions.

Other Ebooks: We still have lots of plans for other e-books. In fact, if time allowed, we already have enough content for 18 or so. It doesn’t, but I want to at least get a few out. I also want to find the time to work on a couple of unfinished e-books of my own.

There are also a host of little things, some of which have been on my to-do list for a couple of years now, but that keep getting shunted aside for higher priorities. I have 76 almost-done designs for a logo for Campaign Mastery and some ideas for a matching favicon, for example. Little stuff like that, which have been stewing away in the background for quite a while.

Finally, on the personal/gaming side, I’m really excited about the long-planned return of my Superhero campaign after a year’s hiatus. This might very well be the last superhero campaign I ever run, because I’ve thrown every idea I’ve got into it! Except that I keep thinking up new ones…

There’s lots of fun planned for 2012, so hang around, OK? If the world ends (I’ll bet $xxx it won’t) because the Mayan Calandar is about to recycle itself, I want to go out gaming!

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