Altered Beast

The last time I sent this newsletter was in December of 2014. At the time I asked how often people would like to receive these missives. Most replies said annually. That's why this isn't actually as late as it seems. 

Just kidding! Most said monthly. 2015 was just generally not conducive to writing anything. I actually planned on starting this again right at the start of 2016, but didn't have anything to say. I'm also finally in a situation where plans don't block up every weekend. Even better, Rym is going on some business trips. That leaves me a bunch of free time to make things.

Monthly it shall be. I even put a recurring reminder on my digital to-do list. Let it be written. Let it be done.

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As of this writing, there are a few things going on in GeekNights land. As I said, we might be short a few podcast episodes in the near future due to Rym's travels. We are considering whether or not we will return to Anime Boston this year. The way we lean seems to be changing daily, so it's TBA. Rym is definitely going to Zenkaikon. I am deciding whether I will go with him, or just stay in NY and go to the MoCCA Festival. Of course we're going to PAX East. That's a given.

In non-convention news, we've uploaded GeekNights Presents: Utena Episode 14. Episode 15 has been recorded, and will appear soon-ish. We also recorded many things at PAX South and MAGFest which will be edited in due time.

The clocks are switching to the correct time (daylight savings time) in a few weeks. The energy we get from photosynthesis should help make good on at least some amount of shit-talk. Keep your eyes open on all of our channels for announcements of new content.

PonyNet Express

The last newsletter I sent all that time ago actually appears to have gotten quite a few responses, but only one of them has an answerable question of some kind. If you have any questions or comments, just reply to this newsletter, and I will see it!


Questions: How do you guys feel about short-term campaigns vs. long-term, multiyear campaigns? Is there a sweet spot for you in your personal gaming life? What things make games sing for you for short/longterm play?

- Ryan

This is a really well-timed question! For many years we ostensibly had bi-weekly RPG group which primarily played Burning Wheel. We finished one mid-length campaign, and started another one. The group fell apart from too many consecutive canceled game nights. It didn't help that half the participants were not locals.

As far as long vs. short goes, I don't think that there is really a competition between the two. Shorter campaigns have less risk, less investment, and less reward. Longer ones have more risk, more investment, and are more rewarding. It's that straightforward.

Paying a one-off game at a convention is the lowest risk. There's nothing to lose but a few hours of time. The investment is so low, players don't even need to make characters. A one-off is still often a worthwhile and enjoyable gaming experience. It's just much less likely to be a life-changing and unforgettable one. 

A long-term campaign is very high risk. It could be broken up and ruined if anything happens to one of the players or GM during all those years. Lots of time and preparation gets invested into something that might not ever pay off. As the odds of failure increase, so does the price of failure. Thankfully, the reward also increases just as much. If the campaign persists, it will have no peer. The story, characters, and social experience surrounding that game will profoundly impact the lives of all those involved.

No matter how willing people are to commit, long campaigns are not feasible for the vast majority of human beings. Will everyone's schedules continue to line up? Will player's moods and interests not swing away? Will the game remain a high priority for everyone so many years down the road? Except for teenagers and the retired set, the answer to these questions is almost always no. Extremely few working adults can manage it. It's only possible for those who make RPGs their primary hobby at the expense of many other aspects of life.

The sweet spot for me, I think, is to have a game that is bi-weekly. That fits my schedule nicely. Each session should just be a few hours, since that's all I have the energy for. I would like, however, for the campaign to be very long. I've never actually had the chance to play a game that went on for a very long time. The story of my characters is always the pre-game back story plus the story of the one campaign we play. I would very much enjoy it if the story that is collectively written by the game itself were to dwarf the pre-written backstory at the campaign start.

That day when you read through the campaign notes, and they're more epic than most fantasy novels. That's a good day.

Dolla Dolla Bills Y'all

I have talked about this topic a bunch already, but I want to use this opportunity to make myself entirely clear. I strongly discourage almost all people from giving any money to the GeekNights Patreon. I'm not even linking to it because I'm serious. The only people who should be giving us money are people who are so rich they don't even notice the money is missing, and people who love GeekNights more than anyone should.

If you are in the wealthy group, which I'm sure is zero people, why are you only giving us a few dollars? If you like us enough to give us any money, why not give us a lot more? You're so rich, it won't matter to you, but it will matter a lot to us. If you give us enough to quit our jobs, do you know what kind of things we can create? We might actually reach output levels 1% as prolific as Tezuka. As a result of so much work, our production skills would increase dramatically. I bet we could be half as big as Penny Arcade within a year or two. You could be the Robert Khoo of GeekNights. If you like us that much, wouldn't that also be a dream for you? Let's do this!

For those who are not wealthy, what is everyone thinking? I see more than thirty people giving five dollars a month, or more. That's not an insignificant price. Amazon Prime is a little over $8 a month. Hulu with no commercials is $12 a month. Netflix is $9 a month. Can anyone honestly say that GeekNights is worth more than half of a Netflix subscription? WTF NO! At least go down to $1 a month. That's what it costs to get 50 gigs of storage from iCloud. That seems much closer to the value of GeekNights.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to Patreon as a whole. There are actually artists on Patreon who everyone should be giving money to. Not only should people be giving to them, they should be giving much much more. They took the risk that GeekNights won't take and devoted their lives to their creative work. They might do works for hire on occasion, but they don't have day jobs with salaries. Nobody should give to us who isn't already giving to them.

When I look around at some of the deserving Patreon folks, such as KC Green, Neil Cicierega, or our friends at Johnny Wander, what do I see? I see that they're only making 4-5 times as much as the GeekNights Patreon. For people who need the money more, and are about 1000x as talented as we are, shouldn't they at least be making 100 or 1000 times what we make? Neil is responsible for many of the greatest works of Internet culture over the past 15+ years, and we're two bums with a podcast. How is he making only $883 to our $236? What's really weird is that his patrons are giving an average of $1.7 and ours are giving an average of $3.60! That's just criminal.

For our situation, I think a model closer to Kickstarter would be preferable to the Patreon model. Instead of giving us money every month, people could pledge to give money if, and only if, the goal is reached. The goal being enough money for at least one of us to work on GeekNights full-time. If we're not making money from jobs, then we can take money from the audience without guilt.

Often, both Rym and myself, rail against scams of all shapes and sizes. At its core a scam is when a victim is led to believe something has more value than it actually does. They end paying too much for too little because they have been lied to. Someone pays real money for a diet pill because they believe it will make them thin, when in reality it does nothing. 

When someone gives money to GeekNights, I feel very guilty. It's as if they have been scammed. They were led to believe our work is more valuable than it is, and they are paying too much. It's fine if people buy a t-shirt, though it might be best to wait for us to design a new one. I'm 15-20% done making a board game. In the extremely unlikely event it ever gets published, feel free to buy that as well. But to pay money just to hear your name at the end of the podcast, or to hear us answer some Q&A, is worth nowhere near $3.60 a month. We don't even meet or default quota of two podcasts a week!

If people are going to keep giving money, I guess I can't actually stop them. Nor can I stop Rym from collecting. I just want everyone to think extra hard about whether they are getting their money's worth. If people who are properly informed decide to give, then the guilt is on them. I won't feel bad if well informed people make bad decisions. All I ask is that everyone give to those artists who live off this money before you even think of those of us who can afford to pay rent in NYC.