#RPG #ART – Zelart Scholarship 2018-2019


Many artists are struggling. The gig economy, the degree of competition, university or college fees, it all adds up to be a massive discouragement to many artists and for those who make their living from their art, life can be extremely precarious. The Zelart Scholarship seeks to redress this for those who have the biggest challenges ahead of them, young or disadvantaged genre artists. For several years we’ve been doing all we can to help.

The Zelart Scholarship

Hi, my name is James ‘Grim’ Desborough. I’m an author and roleplaying game designer from the UK, with my own small press publisher, Postmortem Studios. I run the Zelart Scholarship in memory of my friend and collaborator, ‘Zel’.

Zel was an artist I worked with and helped through his education. We met through friends and formed a strong working relationship together. We made card games together and he provided illustrations for several of my gaming books. I got a great sense of satisfaction from helping a young, budding artist through school and watching his talent blossom.

Sadly, Zel was killed in an accident before I got to see him fully achieve his artistic potential or the success he so richly deserved.

Casting about for something I could do to commemorate him, I remembered how we had met, how the work I gave him had helped him so much and how good it had felt to nurture that talent. The best way to remember Zel, I felt, was to do the same for others.

In my day to day work I do what I can, deliberately seeking out young, marginalised, disabled, unemployed, homeless and other disadvantaged artists to give them a leg up, money and help in getting the attention of the RPG and publishing community to get them into more regular work.

The Zelart scholarship is a natural extension of this. A way to hunt out and promote new talent and to give them a lump sum of cash to smooth their way.

What We Need & What You Get

We sell Zel’s back catalogue of stock art, along with donated artworks and the artwork of past winners to raise funds over the year and supplement that with what we can raise via this fundraiser. This isn’t about selling a product to you, but what you get out of it is more, reasonably priced stock art, a way to nurture new artists and a warm sense of self-satisfaction.

Whatever money we get will go to the scholarship winner, if we raise a great deal over and above our target we may institute second or third tier awards. Whatever we raise will go to artists.

Risks & Challenges

It can be challenging to find people both to sponsor and to enter into this scholarship. Previous years this has proven very challenging. Whatever you can do to spread the word to potential sponsors, donators and entrants is greatly appreciated.

Other Ways You Can Help

Besides a contribution, you can help out in many other ways.

Are you a young artist or an artist suffering from reduced circumstances? Then enter!

Are an artist who is doing OK for themselves and has some spare personal pieces they don’t mind being sold to support this enterprise? You can donate art!

Do you know a young artist or an artist who needs the money due to disability, unemployment or other issues? Tell them about it!

Rules for Entry

Entries to try and win the scholarship award should meet the following requirements:

  1. At least A6 at 300 dpi and able to be delivered digitally.
  2. It is preferred that you have a Paypal account for ease of payment.
  3. You must be either a student, or an artist in reduced circumstances, whatever those might be.
  4. Your art must fit into the loose definition of ‘genre art’. That is science fiction, fantasy, horror and similar.
  5. Adult art is permitted, but nothing ‘hardcore’. Consider your limit to be that of ‘burlesque’.
  6. Contact for further clarifications and entires is grim AT postmort DOT demon DOT co DOT uk.

#Art #RPG – FREE MONEY FOR ARTISTS! The Darkzel Art Scholarship

Watch this:



Then apply, help, donate, do something to aid this project!

Professional GMing? Is it feasible

It’s a perennial question isn’t it really? Roleplaying is cool, could I make it my job as well as my hobby? Essentially that’s what we writers and game designers are doing, after a fashion, and it’s not that easy at all.

MMOs have professional paid GMs, but that’s not really like being a tabletop GM. It’s more like tech-support and forum administration, only with less sociable hours and even less money.

Let’s assume you’d want to make minimum wage with your professional GMing services. In the UK the minimum wage is £6.08 per hour, let’s call it £6.00 for ease of mathematics. You want to match a 9-5, 5 day a week job. 35 hours a week, four weeks a month. That’s about £840 a month. Let’s call it £850.

You might get away with £10 per person, per month for a subscription service – broadly compared to MMO subs, which means you’d need a client-base of 85 people. That’s the equivalent of 15 or so six-player gaming groups (that’s about the size of a normal convention group).

Thing is, you’d likely be working weekends as that’s when most people would play and running yourself ragged you might be able to host three games a day, Saturday and Sunday.That’s 24 potential slots per month on a first-come first served basis, but you’d likely burn out pretty fast at that pace.

You could supplement that with GMing ‘services’.

EG: “I need adventure notes for a level 3 D&D group”, or “Run me off a dozen NPC orcs…” or “I need a villain for my campaign.”

Anything you do make up could also go into a ‘secure’ wiki or something, adding value people could raid all the time as and when they wanted (so long as they kept up their subs).

For a lot of games – now we’re in an open-source age – you would also have the basis for supplementary products that wouldn’t take that much effort to turn into a saleable PDF and would also provide incentive for you to do the best possible job when putting it together at the start.

I think this is… just barely… feasible as an idea. If you could combine those ideas, but there are definitely some non-trivial problems:

1. Taking it to a professional level isn’t free. Sure you could do all of this – running games over Skype or Google Hangouts, hosting documents in the cloud etc, using a free wiki host, but it’s not going to look very professional. You’re going to need some sort of storefront, way of tracking subs, access etc.

2. Paperwork is going to eat into your time to do the bit you want.

3. Creativity cannot be turned on and off like a tap. Being creative full time is exhausting and you’re only as good as the last thing you’ve done.

4. What if you get sick? Can’t hold up your end of the bargain? You need a way to refund people.

5. You need a way to make sure your customers have equal access to you, fair access to you and are getting their money’s worth.

6. You need to have a rep. To be a rockstar GM, in order to attract people willing to shell out.

7. Some companies might by huge arseholes about you making money from running sessions of their games or charging for content for their games. Even though RPG magazines used to do his all the time.

This is all assuming that you’d be doing things on an individual basis. A company could match GMs and people wanting to play together and pay GMs on a game by game basis but that would be even more complex, a sort of Infrno-plus.

This isn’t something I would do. Maybe if I was still in my early twenties and was single it would be tempting to try, or if some investors could be brought together for the Infrno-plus idea. This is just an exploratory study, if you want to give it a bash, feel free to use this as the basis for your business plan and let me know how you get on.

But you’re mad.

Postmortem Studios Financial Year

My financial year runs 1st January to 1st January so far as my accounts go.

I’m not going to give absolutely precise figures to you but I’m going to let you know where the business currently stands financially and what I think this means for me, and potentially for you if you work in this sort of area or have expectations thereof.

Postmortem Studios covers my income from fiction self publishing, RPG self-publishing, freelancing for other RPG companes/small publishers and also my income from stands at conventions, sales via distribution through third parties and so forth.

Postmortem Studios has a diverse RPG product portfolio with many different games and one-off products, support materials for other companies and generic products.

In our last financial period we made around £8,000 and have approximately £500 worth of stock currently in storage.

We made less than the UK minimum wage, but more than the US minimum wage (close to $13,000).

The year was a difficult year due to the economy being bad enough to reach into the leisure market and due to personal problems and additional expenses. My depression kept me from working at my full capacity and turned more than one month completely unproductive. Medical costs have increased for me despite the NHS and the cost of learning to drive has been considerable but may pay for itself later on with easier and increased convention attendance.

Agents of SWING was the banner product, supported by hardy perennials such as the 100 seeds books and increased access to distribution.

The best move I made was probably becoming involved with IPR and supplying them with hardcopy product though cashflow issues have prevented me fully exploiting that avenue for sales. Potential profits have also been impacted by the relative slow speed at which third party access to distribution has been processed.

I speculate that had I not been so ill this past year I would have been able to break the UK minimum wage barrier for yearly income for the first time, rather than merely the occasional month. Without a strong hit (like Agents of SWING) I am unlikely to make the same amount this year, particularly as I intend to concentrate on my diversification into written fiction.

Good things we did this year

  • The $1.99 pricing for short or one-off products seems to work well and to attract interest to things that might otherwise be passed over.
  • Conventional pricing for larger products seems to work better than cheap pricing.
  • Blog engagement has been good and has driven sales, especially in hardcopy.
  • IPR has been worthwhile to join and e23 sales have continued to grow.
  • Assisting/boosting new writers has been good and driven engagement and enthusiasm.
  • Social media engagement, especially Twitter and G+. Facebook doesn’t appear to be worth the effort.
  • Managed to pay artists more and get good rapport with co-workers and bind regular co-workers together.

Things that didn’t work out

  • Deluxe versions of products are very expensive with little return other than buzz.
  • Still haven’t managed to find a stable, usable and common enough platform for running demo games or found people to reliably run demos etc at cons.
  • Depression, enough said.
  • Didn’t get to more cons.
  • No improvement in direct sales.

New Year, New Regime

I’ve been taking December off in order to reassess where I stand on work, depression, how I go about working, promotion and so in. Introspection often isn’t a good thing if you suffer from depression as you will tend to ruminate and be extremely self-critical which really isn’t any good for you. At all.

Still, I’ve come to a few conclusions about what needs to be done to make some changes and how I plan to attack these changes come the new year.

Plucking a stereotypical definition of your average working stiff out of thin air, at least in the UK, he’s going to be working 9-5, five days a week, 52 weeks of the year with something like 20 days off as holiday per year, not counting bank holidays and so on. That amounts to a working schedule of 240 normal work days per year, minus some, but let’s go with 240.

If I wanted a modest income of, let’s say, £12,000 at the best rate I can expect for my work ($0.06/£0.04 a word, sometimes more, usually less, self-publishing is harder to track) that would entail writing a minimum of 1,250 words per day, of sale quality.

Here’s how my days currently run, when I’m fit and able:

  • 7:40am – Get up, check e-mail, reply to work mails where possible. Mess about on social media games/work related topics mixed.
  • 8.00am – Start work properly.
  • 12.00pm – Lunch
  • 12.20pm – Back to work.
  • 1.00pm-2.00pm – Sometimes a nap, otherwise working. The nap is something that came in with the depression which often manifests as exhaustion.
  • 7.00pm – Finish day’s work. Cook evening meal.
  • 8.00pm – Blogging/Reading, semi-work related.
  • 11.00pm-12.00am – Bedtime.

Thing is, I’m often not fit and able. I’m not sure when I became such a workaholic, it doesn’t sound like me. Somehow though, I did. Other writers/creators tell me they’ve never worked as hard as I do and that I even put them to shame. I am, quite literally, killing myself by exhausting myself this way though. Things seriously need to change and I need to learn to relax again, to regain focus and to put it onto one main project at a time so that shit gets done.

To that end I’ll be making the following changes next year:

  • Assisting/fronting for more creators under my ‘brand’ as Ian and Uri, and others, have. This is less work for me, keeps a good product flow and lets me help people out and even mentor new creators.
  • Working on more fiction. I enjoy writing. I want to spread my wings this way some more. You can see some of the stuff I’ve written over on talesofgrim.wordpress.com
  • Setting my workday target to a ‘mere’ 1,250 words. I know I’ll go over that (I’ve been known to crank out 10,000 a day) but as a target that’s achievable even when I feel bad and a mark of progress day to day. Achievable goals are important.
  • Concentrating on one project at a time and once I hit my goal spending my time on projects that my brain WANTS to work on. (I will finish all my outstanding projects before this new regime starts).
  • Picking up my exercise regimen.
  • Learning to relax and ‘consume’ media as well as produce it again.
  • Less freelancing. People can come to me, I shouldn’t need to pursue them for work any more. I’m known now. Hopefully somewhat respected and valued as well but I’ll settle for known.
  • I tend to undervalue my work. A common comment at cons is that people expect my material to cost more. I need to value what I do more and bring myself a little more in line, price-wise, with other indie producers.

I’m telling you guys this because it means that things will likely slow down, but quality should go up. Also because I need the support and understanding of my customers, friends and fellow professionals to make this change. I hope you will indulge and assist me as Postmortem Studios moves forward.