How did I, a self-publisher, become the bestselling RPG system after Dungeons and Dragons?
I will reveal the story behind how the first game I published climbed to the second position on Amazon UK's RPG rankings. All this without a huge marketing budget, large social media following, or board game website reviews, and how I was turned away by the world's biggest game manufacturers who said there was no demand for my type of game, I did it anyway. Read till the end, and I’ll also give you my top tips to get ahead of the competition.
The question echoing in many minds is: How?– What has fueled this ascent? Allow me to tell you.
I’ve always been a fan of Dungeons and Dragons. Still, while an exemplar in its realm, it can be daunting for novices or those seeking a swift, engaging RPG experience bereft of an encyclopedic rulebook. It also relied on other factors that made it hard to play.
You needed a DM and other players who were like-minded.
Someone needed to buy the rules, which meant a fair amount of financial outlay.
You needed the time to learn all the rules and explain them to others.
You must have time to dedicate to an adventure, let alone a campaign. This can sometimes mean multiple days, weeks or even years.
So I set about creating an RPG that would
Allow anyone to DM
Let non-role-player roleplay from ages 8-adult
Be possible to learn and start playing in ten minutes or less.
Be really affordable to buy, as a tryout item or as a gift from your favourite aunt or uncle… plus shipped in one to two days.
Play a whole quest in one to two hours.
Be fun, scary and magical!
The Storymaster's Tales endeavoured to do all these things but also threw in solo or group play. As well as being different, I also wanted to add a few extra features that don’t appear in most RPGs. Coming from an immersive theatre design background, I knew how important music and narration played in my shows, so I produced soundscapes specially for every game I designed. Moreover, its price positions it as an ideal gift, appealing to both young adventurers and those dabbling in RPGs.
When I launched it in July 2021, I made sure it also had an eye-catching bold design that would stand out on phone displays but also evoke the fairytale books of old. Very quickly, it took hold, and wonderfully positive reviews started to come forth. Word of mouth started to build, not amongst the RPG communities, but by families and schools… the old-fashioned way. Playing with someone who liked it and wanted their own copy.
I mentioned the world’s biggest games publisher at the start of this piece, the one that turned me away. Yep, that was Asmodee who dismissed the viability of family RPGs. Obviously I chose to ignore this advice as I firmly believed the market of role-players wanting to get their kids into role-playing or wanting a casual RPG lite to play would be huge. Thankfully, my gamble was correct.
What I’ve since found is that so many types of people play it: hardened D&D clubs and child beginners. In fact, I have been contacted by several teachers who now use it in the classroom.
While debates may linger regarding the hybrid RPG, Boardgame, Choose your own, nature of my creation, scepticism is assuaged by the burgeoning community that passionately embraces it.
If you are wondering what this game is like, well, you can try it out for free if you like from the following link: www.storymasterstales.com. Otherwise, you can get it now from this one: http://mybook.to/Weirdingwoods. Don’t let the Amazon brand put you off; they have helped a self-publisher stand shoulder to shoulder with the big boys, so for that, I thank them.
What now? Well, The Storymaster’s Tales has been published in Polish and Italian, and I’m currently working on my latest R.P.G “Folklore Realms”, which will again try to do things differently.
So what if you want to get ahead of the competition? These are my top tips.
Look for something that’s popular and has a fanbase. If there is an existing audience, you already know there is a market. This also means that there will be websites, group pages, and people who might be excited to spread the word on your game.
Don’t copy, but try to design something the market has yet to deliver. Try to find a new angle that has not been touched much before. If it has been done before but is not over-saturated, you need to be able to do it better or differently.
Find ways to stand out! With your artwork, gameplay or design. Give it its own look. Once you have a game, you need it to seriously stand out. This could be with art or colour style rarely used. It also needs to pop on the phone to pique someone's interest.
Think big. Think about how you can expand on the range. If the idea is good and has traction, you have an audience that will want more. Think of this as you are designing. Think of your first production as The Hobbit with the potential to follow up with Lord of the Rings.
So my advice to all you designers, authors and producers is to look at what's out there and try doing the opposite.