I recently had the opportunity to interview, Game Designer and publisher, David Brown. David is very active within the hobby and his company, eXtra-Dimensional Publishing, publishes some very high-quality products. You can see my other posts related Adventures in the East Mark to learn about the high quality of their products. This interview was spurred on by the cancelation of their Adventures in the East Mark (English) line of products. So, without further ado, I present to you….. David Brown
RB. I know I was sad to learn that the relationship between eXtra-Dimensional (XD) Publishing and its Spanish partners regarding Adventures in the East Mark was ended recently. For those that may not have seen your press release, can you summarize the situation?
DB. Basic summary is that while we succeeded at delivering our physical products to our backers we required additional investment to produce more units available for retail and combo tiers for future Kickstarter Projects. But distributors are not seemingly interested in carrying our game, often citing price ($59.99 MSRP) and size, and it’s hard to commit to another project launch with debt outstanding from the first. Also, our marketing and community outreach could have been better, despite support by a lot of folks. It’s where I failed, specifically.
RB. If you had it to do over, what one thing would you change that you believe might have had the greatest impact on the future success of the Adventures in the East Mark product line in English?
DB. This one is tough. It’s easy to say that things might have been different if we’d just gone soft cover book versus full box set, but then we would have been just another retro-clone. Yes, the artwork would have differentiated the product, but probably not enough. We definitely sought out from the start to court the nostalgic crowd and the un-inked precision dice with a crayon were my contributions to add to that appeal.
I think if I had to do anything different, I’d have found a way to lower the price of the full-color box set and eliminated the B&W version altogether. That’s what I was hoping to do with the Blue Box.
RB. Would you ever consider undertaking another translation type project in the future?
DB. The translation of the product was very tricky- Pedro Gil and his collaborators liked to use a style of prose that has an intentionally archaic voice in Spanish. Working with that and making it flow well to an English audience was a struggle. We failed initially and had to take a few months going back through it, polishing out as much of the awkwardness as possible. The finished product still wasn’t as note perfect throughout as I would have liked, but we had deadlines and I didn’t want us to become vaporware.
I love what I’ve seen in foreign RPGs, especially those from Europe. There is a ‘je ne sais quoi’ about their games and especially their artwork that really sets them apart. They have a very different perspective as they live in areas that have actually lived through a lot of the epic struggles that we game about.
So, yes, if the pieces were all there and I knew the translation team could get it right, of course, I would. I wish I could have delivered Walküre to the US audience, but the timing hasn’t worked and I didn’t want me to be the delay on that project. Heck, I would do more of East Mark in a heartbeat if I thought I had the means to do it right.
RB. Is there anything the Kickstarter campaign has taught you about being a publisher? Maybe lessons learned?
Cost of shipping, not properly calculated, can kill a project. International shipping is a beast. I’ve seen that Kickstarter has new tools to handle it and I know other companies who only offer a “shipping credit” in the initial pledge.
Also, you want to make a splash with the introduction of your Kickstarter project when it launches, but if the right people aren’t looking when you launch, you can easily get off behind the game. We did OK, but I wish I’d made better inroads with the OSR community before we launch. That was my fault.
And don’t split your first project up with too many add-ons until you’ve hit your initial funding goal. It’s too easy to mistake money earned from them as contributing to your bottom line for delivering your goal and miss the time, effort, and costs associated with fulfilling them.
If you’re new to publishing and product fulfillment, it’s easy for printers and producers to forget that you are new to it. Remind them frequently and ask all the potentially dumb questions. It’s too easy for assumptions to be made and therefore misunderstandings to occur.
RB. What does the future hold for eXtra-Dimensional Publishing?
DB. Well, first we have to continue to sell the product we have. It’s a strong game and just because I’m relinquishing the license so that there is a more likely chance folks will get the rest of the line in English doesn’t mean I will not continue to support the heck out of it. And we still have a few digital offerings to deliver- Tony Reyes’ Lovecraftian adventure and the Beta Blue Box are continuing to be worked on. We have every intent to deliver on those products.
Other than that, I am hoping to focus more on digital only offerings for a while. I love print materials, but I think you’ve got to walk before you run, especially if going in a new direction. East Mark had a following, and as I said before they had defined their product before I came into the picture. Anything else from X-D would be in new areas, so I’ll make no assumption that people will be interested right out of the gate. I have been working on a licensed product for another game line, but I can’t say much on it right now. It’ll be a small release that I’m doing for fun.
My long term goal for X-D will be to RPGs what Image has been to comics. It’s not a perfect analogy, but my hope is to help bring up-and-coming creators together to produce self-owned works. I’m building a network of designers and artists and I hope to help bring them together on projects that they want to do. I make no claim that I’ll succeed at that goal, but I have a lot of passion that drives me to give back to our hobby some of what it has given to me.
RB. In what ways are you connected to the industry apart from being a principle in eXtra-Dimensional Publishing?
I am the lead host on two podcasts focused on Monte Cook Games RPGs- “Transmissions from the Ninth World” (twice Ennie Nominated) focused on Numenera and “Translating the Strange” focused on The Strange. I’ve been a big supporter of what Monte and the gang at MCG have been producing since the Numenera Kickstarter. I started a website “Ninth World Hub” to support a community eager to discuss Numenera in early 2013 and have since been made part of the MCG Editorial Board.
I’ve also started “Legends of RPG” that I hope to become a series of in depth interviews with some of the hobby’s greatest contributors. I interviewed Frank Mentzer for our first episode and it looks like I’ll finally be able to record our second one with Chris Pramas soon. I already have commitments with a list of some big names in the industry and I hope to get to a more regular recording schedule with them.
RB. Our readers would like to know, what are you two favorite RPGs and why?
DB. I’ll skip the obvious answers in Adventures in the East Mark, which I do love, and I am excited about the new edition of “the world’s oldest fantasy RPG”. It would be ridiculous not to acknowledge that game’s prominence and the fact that it’s first edition is what got me started playing.
But I have to say, Numenera is my tops. The setting is so inspiring and I love playing in the weirdness. A huge percentage of the games I play now are Numenera games.
I also love The Strange for its versatility in settings. Don’t miss out on what can be done in The Strange, whether the GM chooses to involve the game’s metaplot or not. You can really capture a game that is reflective of things like “The Fringe” or “Sliders” TV shows. I’ve had a lot of fun with it.
RB. Do you play other types of games? If so, what do you play, what attracts you to these types of games and gives us some of your favorites.
DB. I am a near addict in collecting games. I play card, miniature and video games all the time. I think of every game played as mental exercise of some type; each game training different brain “muscles”. My current favs are “Android: Netrunner”, which I love its asymmetrical gameplay, and I’ve been revisiting “Mage Knight: Dungeons” for kicks. Love that game. On my PC, I’ve been hitting Endless Space for hours and I get drawn back into the XCOM re-release all the time.
RB. Will we see you on the convention circuit this year? If so, where can our readers meet, talk and more importantly, game with you this year?
DB. I’ve been to the past two GenCons and hope to go every year going forward. It’s been pretty cool to attend the past two as an Ennie Nominee, so I hope to make it three in a row in some fashion.
I really wanted to go to GaryCon or even the North Texas RPG Con this year, but not looking likely. There are some more local cons to me (I’m in Charlotte, NC area), so cons like Storm-Con, SCARAB Gaming Con, MACE, etc. are more likely to fit my agenda.
RB. Please tell our readers what three industry or hobby personalities you would love to see interviewed by Rolling Boxcars and why.
DB. I owe a huge gratitude to Frank Mentzer for many reasons. I hope everyone in our industry takes whatever time they can, to thank him and learn from him. He’d be top of my list (in fact, he was!).
And of course I’m a huge fan of all the folks at Monte Cook Games. Monte himself has a huge swath of RPG knowledge. Bruce Cordell is also an immensely talented and I’m digging into lots of his earlier work that I missed.
I am very eager to see continuing contributions by Shanna Germain. I honestly believe that her “Love and Sex in the Ninth World” will be viewed as a turning point in RPG games in the very near future. She may be the chosen one to bring balance to… just kidding, but seriously she’s great!
It was my pleasure and my honor to interview David. David, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions and for allowing me to dredge up some of the issues with Adventures in the East Mark. I know I look forward to seeing what eXtra-Dimensional Publishing will put out in the future!
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