#Blog – Why Crowdfunding Court Ruling is Bad for Everyone

frankenstein-angry-mob_10

News comes via Polygon that a court has ruled that late or failed Kickstarters are liable to their backers.

“Washington state will not tolerate crowdfunding theft,” said Washington’s attorney general Bob Ferguson in a press release issued July 27. “If you accept money from consumers, and don’t follow through on your obligations, my office will hold you accountable.”

I’ve been trying, hopelessly, for some time to get this point across to people, but crowdfunders are not customers. They’re investors. When you back a project via a crowdfunding site you are not making a preorder, you are risking money to back a maker of a project to try (operative word try…) to create something. There are no guarantees that you’ll get anything at all, let alone everything that’s promised.

On the flip side, too many companies – especially established companies – HAVE been using crowdfunding as a preordering system. This abuses the system and sucks money away from small companies and innovators who should (in my opinion) be the major beneficiaries of the crowdfunding revolution.

Are there rip-off artists? Yes.

Should they be punished?

Yes.

Are there clueless people who don’t know what they’re getting into? Yes.

Are there people whose projects fail or get delayed through no fault of their own? Yes.

Should they be punished?

No.

This ruling is going to likely lead to more rulings in a similar vein and this is going to severely curtail risky and creative ventures, it’s going to severely truncate the scope, scale and ambition of projects. It’s going to disproportionately impact on the small businesses and innovators while impacting less on the larger companies who have more slack and more existing capacity to reliably deliver.

This concerns me, and not only because my own project is currently delayed. It’s going to end up hurting people whose projects have failed through no fault of their own and who have thrown their entire lives into their projects and will have nothing left to compensate angry and litigious blowhards. It’s also going to mean less interesting, innovative and meaningful projects for people to fund as more will play it safe or scale back what they’re attempting. This will mean more bland, less interesting projects.

Fingers crossed this precedent is overturned or at least not followed in other territories, but things are looking grim for what was a revolutionary and essential tool for small publishers and technical innovators to disrupt the existing system.

Gor RPG Update

After some delays due to the artist being oversubscribed, we should now be on course for a late June/Early July completion for backers with – because of the delays – a fairly rapid release to Print on Demand and general digital release following.

The wait is almost over!

Have some slightly saucy previews I haven’t been able to post on the IGG site, because boobs.

Gor, Games & #Gamergate

CensorshipSavesTheDay-2368

“The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
– Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

TL;DR: I have been, and am, a victim of many of the same forces involved in #Gamergate in its broader sense as a culture war between artistic expression and what might, generously, be called concerns of representation. I, and other designers and writers of similar style, have come under attack, boycott, rumour, suspected blacklist and the chilling effect of the mob. This has had an impact on my capacity to work and to complete projects and, as such, I’m asking for your help to hit the funding target on my current project. Here’s the LINK

I hesitate to even ask, for more than one reason. Firstly the howling mob will get great mileage from the fact that I am ‘cashing in’ on an existing outrage to try and draw attention to my projects and work. Secondly, the suspicion will be – from within #GamerGate, that I am trying to use the momentum of the movement to cash in on it.

The first lot of people will just have to go hang.

The second lot should, hopefully, have seen that I have been an honest and earnest participant in #GamerGate who shares their values and concerns and has stood up for the right thing throughout this turn of events.

You see, the thing is – as we’ve seen from #ComicGate – this battle is not limited to computer games.

My ‘battleground’ has primarily been tabletop games. I’m a game designer of board games, card games and – mostly – roleplaying games (like Dungeons and Dragons, which I have worked on, but mostly other things). Roleplaying games have been a battleground for various moral panics, just as computer games have been, but going back to the 1980s and the fallout from The Satanic Panic.

Having lived through that mess in the 80s and having lived through a similar, smaller, mess in the 90s when Vampire roleplaying came in for similar flak and was dishonestly associated with some murders and other nastiness.

Perhaps that has left me biased, but multiple incidents of this sort tend to leave an impression, as they’re always bullshit and the arguments are the same, time after time, after time. This is just another battle in a long, long line of battles.

I’ve paid a price for sticking to my guns, not wanting to compromise and not apologising for things I am not sorry for. As you all know, resisting censorship and defending free expression is taken as endorsement of any and every social ill or nasty attitude you care to think of. I get abuse on forums, I get hate mail, I appear to be semi-blacklisted some places (which in a niche industry makes things… interesting) and have had to adopt pen-names to get by.

As a writer, and sometime writer of erotica as well, I’ve also seen the problems there. Erotica writers have been pressured and censored commercially and via payment services, and yes, it is censorship. Science Fiction and Fantasy have become playgrounds of the excessively ‘politically correct’ often to the detriment of the genre itself (look up Jonathan Ross and the Hugo awards for a recent example).

So I’ve fought this fight, and it has cost me dear and it continues to do so, but it’s wearing and has gone on for years now.

My current project has been negatively impacted by this, making it hard to raise the monetary goal of $5k, with only four days left to raise the remaining money. This was always going to be a controversial project – Gor – but the fact that it plays to a lot of the classical fantasy tropes and involves a more overt sexual element than has been traditional. The novels got in trouble over this in earlier decades, and the atmosphere wasn’t anything like as repressive as it is now. Still, it’s been like getting blood from a stone to get any publicity, we’re short of our goal and having seen what #GamerGate has done for TFYC and others, I hope that we can get a last minute boost.

So I’m willing to take the risk, wincing, even as i know I’ll get crap for it.

Anyway, I hope you’ll forgive the ask, but I need to explore the options available in order to keep commitments to the artist working on the project. If you’re not interested in a tabletop RPG, or an art/world book, but know someone who might be – please pass this on.

Cheers,

G

PS: Other ways to support me:

PDFs of analog game designs: Postmortem Studios / Chronicle City

Hardcopy books, including fiction (and ebooks): Lulu and Chronicle City

Card & board games (hardcopy): The Game Crafter (Privilege Check may interest you especially…)

And yes, Patreon… I know.

Gorean Chronicles: Q&A

18lrsqwlqldjbjpgHere’s the first few answers and updates, and another classic Gor cover.

Please send me more questions and suggestions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Q: Gaming has made big advances in the representations of women, minorities and alternative sexuality. Don’t you think a Gor RPG is a regressive step?

A: Gor has a plurality of representation, despite its reputation and the concentration on a particular outlook within the books themselves. On racial issues, despite some troublesome terminology (to modern eyes) Gor is immensely respectful and inclusive. Alternative sexuality barely comes up in the books, but there’s also no judgement or negative images presented, per se.

As regards the more general comment about representations – and this question was originally asked in a much more abusive form, I’ve translated it – there’s several things to keep in mind I think.

Firstly and most importantly, Gor is a fantasy world. Not reality. It’s a ‘what if?’, and, as such, should be understood in that context.

Secondly, there’s room for multiple ways of going about things. I’m in favour of a plurality of representations and tropes and I don’t think that creativity is a zero-sum game. The new and the ‘traditional’, both have things for and against them.

Thirdly, I see nothing progressive in constricting or limiting free expression, kink-shaming or abandoning classical tropes which can still entertain and serve a purpose, even in different contexts.

Q: How have you changed the D6 system to fit Gor?

A: This will only make sense to those who know the system, but…

  • The Wild Die can now ‘implode’ as well as explode.
  • The health system is a hybrid of wound levels and health points, drawing some inspiration from 4th Edition D&D’s ‘bloodied’ rule.
  • It’s a little bit deadlier.
  • Fate points are replaced with rules to encourage Goreans to act according to the Gorean codes, as a roleplaying prompt.

Q: Why do you keep emphasising the World Book?

A: A lot of people think this is just an RPG project. While the world book stands in support and alongside the RPG book it is really a separate product and one which people with no interest in RPGs, but with interest in Gor, fantasy worlds and art should be able to have an interest in.

Q: What made you choose Michael to do the art?

A: I’m a fan of good art and I wanted to do something different. I have previously been supposed to work with Michael but those projects fell through for one reason or another (a business partner’s heart health in one instance). A lot of game art has become complacent and samey, no matter how well executed. Michael has a distinctive style, familiarity with BDSM and fetish art and a level of skill and talent I’ve long admired. I think he can bring something special to the project and is, absolutely, the right person.

Q: Could you offer spaces in a session on Hangouts as a reward?

A: I cannot reliably offer such due to my anxiety and depression issues. I don’t want to ‘write a cheque my arse can’t cash’ by offering that, especially when I might have to pull out at the last minute. There’s also problems with timezones that make this a less than ideal thing to offer.

Q: What about an introductory adventure and sample characters?

A: These are already present in the RPG book. I could add a second set as a separate file…

Q: What about offering some of your other products as a bonus?

That I can do.

Chronicles of Gor – FAQ

FAQ

FUND IT!

THE CAMPAIGN

Do you have permission from Jon Norman?
This project is being completed in partnership with Open Road Integrate Media: E-book edition of Gor and all other John Norman titles are available in the United States via Open Road Integrated Media and the United Kingdom via Orion Gateway Editions. Print editions are available in the US via Amazon or in the UK at Amazon UK. Short answer: yes, via his agent and publisher. I’ve had no direct contact however, manuscripts have been made available to his agent and publisher.

Just what is this ‘Gor’ thing?
The Gorean Cycle (Or Gorean Chronicles) are a series of 33 books published by the author John Norman since 1966, starting with Tarnsman of Gor and ending – so far – with Rebels of Gor. Gor takes place on the ‘Counter-Earth’, another world like ours, in the opposite orbit, shielded from us by the sun. It is kept in a relatively primitive state by its mysterious and hidden rulers ‘The Priest Kings’. The world is full of savage beasts and constantly under threat of war between its cities and against the Kur, an enemy almost as mysterious as the Priest Kings. Gor’s cultures have institutionalised slavery and this state – strong over the weak – is seen as the natural state of affairs.

Why didn’t you use Kickstarter?
IndieGoGo allows for Paypal payments and isn’t involved with Amazon, who are controversial in the UK on tax issues and have censored a couple of projects in the past. I prefer IndieGoGo’s ethics, have worked with them before and given that the project may well involve nipples and a degree of kink – given the source material – I’d rather be safe.

Why is this flexible funding?
The books are already written, one way or another they are coming out. I just need money to do them justice and to hire the artist/s I want to hire. I want to leave a legacy product that fans of Gor will love and cherish. I used flexible funding before, for Machinations of the Space Princess and used fixed funding for ImagiNation, both of which funded and delivered their projects.

This Depression thing worries me!
Believe me, it worries me too. However, the writing is done, the books are pretty much ready to go so far as my involvement with them goes. I could be  hit by a truck tomorrow and the files could be retrieved and ready to go anyway. There’s very little I could do to fuck things up at this point. I’m in a fairly good place with my illness at the moment, in therapy, taking medication, managing to pull full working days. It’s unlikely that my depression will cause any issues in the extreme, but I wanted to be up front about it.

Why isn’t there information on X,Y,Z?
It’s coming. I’m holding things back – like details, to bring out bit by bit. I’ll update the FAQ with new information as we go along.

Will there be print?
Yes there will be. Ideally there’ll be a proper print run of the books to put them into distribution. Past experience suggests that despite there really being nothing more suggestive here than there would have been in, say, Conan, that some distributors can be a bit jumpy. I’m not sure how this will shake down yet, but there’ll definitely be Print on Demand.

Why isn’t print on offer as a perk?
A lot of projects get scuppered at the execution stage because of underestimating print costs and shipping, both of which have been quite volatile over the last couple of years. I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep and I have no real way of knowing what the final size, cover price and shipping cost of the books will be. What will likely happen is that once the books are complete and fully priced up I’ll give contributors the chance to get physical copies at a reduced price.

Is this about that AWFUL film on MST3K?
No. While the two ‘Gor’ films are very, very loosely based on the books they’re not really a good reflection of the books, the world, or the game.

MISOGNY/SEXISM/ETC!
It’s fantasy, it’s not real. The books and the world described in them has been incredibly and persistently popular for many years and a huge number of those fans are women. While the Gorean world, as presented, is undeniably strict in its gender roles and (arguably) misogynistic this is only in the same sense that BDSM role-play, D/S relationships etc are and this need not be the focus of the game. There’s plenty of other stuff going on, from the intrigues between cities to the machinations of the Kur.

Why two books?
Not everyone who’d be interested in a Gorean world guide would be interested in a roleplaying game. Splitting the books this way will allow fans of the books to get the World Guide without having to buy the game, while roleplayers can get both. The RPG book will have a basic primer on Gor and its cultures but the greater majority of information on the world will be in the guide, indexed like an encyclopaedia. If we meet the target we should be able to lavishly illustrate both and bring the Gorean world to life.

What is a Role-Playing Game Anyway?
You know what Dungeons & Dragons is? Like that, but with different rules and set on Gor. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a game where you and your friends create a story together, based around your characters and using dice to determine what happens if it comes down to luck or skill.

ME, MYSELF & MOTIVATIONS

Why do this?
Personally?: I want to? I’m a fan of the books and its an opportunity to finally write something game and sex related in a grown-up fashion without having to nudge and wink all the time.
Professionally?: It’s a challenge and an opportunity to – further – put my money where my mouth is and show my commitment to free expression and different ideas. A way – further – of challenging the acceptance of violence and the disgust towards sex that is so common in games.
Commercially?: There’s, potentially, a huge and untapped market here. Gor has been consistently popular online since the 90s as a roleplaying setting and if we can engage the people that do that (not just related to Gor) then we can expand the hobby. We’ll see if tht works out.

You’re just doing this or the oppression-cred and to get attention!
I’ve been sat on this in virtual silence, working hard, for some 18 months around and about other projects. There’s easier ways to get attention than that. The publicity from people’s inevitable outrage can’t hurt but honestly, it’s just wearisome at this point. I’m taking my own advice and making things that I like and want, other people should do the same. Attention might help the project, so I’ll suck it up.

Your Comparison to 50 Shades isn’t hopeful!
I’m just trying to point out that kink (albeit horribly misrepresented kink) isn’t the marginalised, out-there fantasy it might have used to have been. Gor is – in many ways – much more coy than 50 Shades. I hope to include some sort of sidebar to avoid the same sort of problems found in 50 Shades, to emphasise the importance of consent in the BDSM scene and to head off some of the kink-shaming.

Are the books full of lecturing and gender theory?
Other than some explanation on what Goreans (tend to) believe and think on these subjects, no. Long internal monologues don’t make for fun and interesting games. Swooping in on tarn-back, smashing into the locked chambers of a high cylinder and making off with the Ubar’s daughter into the night do. I’ve tended to skip over that stuff as much as possible in order to concentrate on the flying, intrigue, paga taverns, dancing girls and stabbing people with swords.

Machinations: We Made It!

Not the planet orbiting Procyon in Known Space (see, I know my stuff when it comes to SF) but rather our funding goal.

Those things which can be fulfilled immediately, will be over the course of the next week.

I will also bore you all with a constant string of updates and discussions.

A few people asked if they could top up their contributions after the end of the fundraiser. Well, you’re always welcome to send me money but it will not contribute towards the stretch goal.

Check your inboxes for updates and be sure to reply promptly!

Some Clarifications

Books

If you opted for a hardcopy you’re guaranteed the B&W version and at the higher donation levels will almost certainly get the full colour version. I cannot absolutely guarantee anything because shipping and printing costs are pretty damn up and down and all over the place. You’ll get the best quality we can afford to send.

For the signed book level that is only signed by me. Shipping here, then to the states, then on to get all the signatures is going to be a huge pain in the arse and not economically viable. I COULD stick signed cover-sheets in there signed by both of us but then it wouldn’t be the actual book.

I do however promise to write something witty as well as my name.

Similarly the GM screen will be included at the levels where affordable.

GM Screen

This will be getting sorted out at the US side and those of you getting them (again, the higher the donation level the more likely this is to be possible) will have them signed by Satine. These are pretty light – in theory – so we should be able to send them relatively cheaply.

PDFs

If you opted for a level that got the book in PDF format you’ll get everything that we produce for the game as this starting project as a PDF.

You can get your Fistful of Metal and your free Postmortem Studios PDFs immediately, but please wait to be contacted by email.

Art/Content

If you got a level that gets you drawn, gets you content addition or gets you art, you’ll be contacted individually to sort that out.

 

PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT EMAILS FROM:

grim AT postmort DOT demon DOT co DOT uk

ARE SAFE FROM YOUR SPAM FILTERS

 

You can keep an eye on how things develop here and I’ll also somewhat regularly poke at the fundraiser page to ensure people are up to date.

Machinations: 24 Hours to save the Earth!

Machinations is on its last 24 hour push.

The following rewards are provisional, but we’ll do our damnedest.

I’m afraid I can’t say for certain at what levels these will be available to people who aided, but definitely at the signed book level and possibly at the ‘Tea, Earl Grey, Hot’ level. Otherwise they’ll simply be available for purchase but I’ll give backers dibs on getting them at ‘mates rates’.

$4,000: ‘Tarot’ Deck:

A deck of cards from ‘in universe’ used for sooth-seeing, truth-telling and channelling psi. Doubling up as an inspiration deck for Games Masters.

(Image taken from The Science Tarot, which is pretty fucking goddamn awesome in its own right and clearly everyone should have one)

$5,000: Engraved Dice:

Six-sided dice engraved with an MotSP image in place of he one or the six. Maybe both. We haven’t decided yet.

$6000: Concept Album

OK, so not actually an album, but rather a square-format book containing 10 introductory adventures and styled after a 1970s prog-rock concept album. If we exceed 6k I may even find someone to lay down a couple of tracks on mp3 to go with it.

This is the LAST CHANCE to get in on this so tweet, facebook, blog, accost  people in the street but most of all:

FUND IT