The year is over, and what a year it has been. This marks the second year I write a “year in review” article (2021 can be found here), and this time I’m working on this article at my dad’s cottage in Colombia. It has never felt less like winter for me, and with the warm days and cool nights, the mountains of Fusagasuga have more in common with September 15th than they do with early January. This article, much like last year’s, is going to be a review of everything Possum Creek Games has accomplished in 2022, along with what I’m proud of, what I learned, how we handled the lessons from last year, and what my goals for 2023 are.
As always, while I’m the loudest voice at Possum Creek, I’m not the only person here — Grubby is my business partner and handles a ton of the visual and logistical behind the scenes, M Veselak has done a great job managing a lot of the creative side of Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, Dominique Dickey is our perpetual editor-on-retainer and helps make sure everything we release (including this article!) is up to snuff, and we’ve even had the joy of working with our first intern! Mael absolutely killed it, and we’ve continued to leave him in charge of our Tiktok, where he can post about buff Parish in peace.
What Happened In 2022
2022 was defined by Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast. A project four years in the making, and surrounded by hiccups in basically every respect, we finally were able to launch the crowdfunding project in March to incredible success! Of course, as any project manager can tell you, actually raising the money is only half the battle. We spent basically the rest of the year finishing the text with the editing team, getting all the art we need in from our team of artists, and leaving Grubby to do her dark sorcery over the manuscript, transforming it into an Indesign file. We’ve also been working with One More Multiverse to make the digital version, which has been a new experiment for us. But that’s not the only thing that happened in 2022 for us:
- In February, we released the print version of Our Haunt by Rae Nedjadi. It’s done really well sales-wise, and I’m proud and excited by the love people are giving it. It’s matching and exceeding Sleepaway’s sales numbers.
- In March, we worked with Jeff Stormer to release a limited-run podcast of Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, featuring luminaries from across the world of gaming. Jeff did a phenomenal job organizing, recording, and promoting the podcast, and in the fall it won multiple well-deserved awards.
- We worked with Indiegogo to crowdfund Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, which managed to raise more money than Wanderhome did. While it doesn’t have the same-sized community yet, Yazeba’s has a passionate fanbase and is consistently growing in excitement.
- We raised $43K for Inscrutable Cities by Julian K Jarboe on Backerkit. We’ve been looking forward to working with Julian for some time now, and it’s been great to do our first solo game with such a talented writer. This is equivalent in size to Our Haunt last year, and indicates a stable path for us to publish smaller softcover games in the future.
- We’ve learned a lot about logistics and fulfillment this year as we’ve worked with our new distribution partner Brandfox and had to do multiple reprints of Wanderhome to meet community demand. A lot of creative work at the company has had to take a backseat in order to meet the logistics overhead needed. This included fulfilling Tide Breaker and printing our own T-shirts instead of relying on print-on-demand.
- Wanderhome was nominated for several awards, including a Nebula and a Gayming Award, and managed to win three ENnies! Similarly, Wickedness also won an ENnie, and its popularity has been slowly growing over the year.
- We released a number of smaller games (including first drafts of Seven Part Pact, Midnight Oil, and a tactical wargame?!?) over on our Patreon, and the Creekside Community Center has slowly-but-steadily grown over the year.
And we did all that in spite of countless personal challenges for both Grub and myself, including moving houses, losing family members, and trying to balance work and life in the midst of a slowly-cratering USA. All in all, I think we did a pretty good job of it.
How Did We Do?
At the end of 2021, I set three goals for 2022. Here’s how we did at each one:
Embrace the possibilities of marketing
Yeah, I tried to do this one. And in a lot of ways we succeeded! The podcast was a huge success, we managed to connect with a bunch of journalists and creative teams we’d never worked with before, and Wanderhome is more well known than ever. We experimented with mediums like Tiktok, and I’m definitely far more aware of what 2023 will need to look like, advertising wise. The reality is that for a small company, our ability to market is directly tied to our energy levels. We explored a lot, but there’s a hard limit we hit without the resources of a larger company or the connections of an established PR firm. I’m going to give us a B.
Build new models of community
This has been a hard year for community-building online. We launched a new Discord space and we were able to engage with new communities outside our normal spaces. But we haven’t done the work needed to maintain that Discord space, and it’s languished with inactivity when compared to the Patreon-only server. We also haven’t had the chance to connect with local bookstores, especially as we’ve moved the center of our operations from the Hudson Valley to Philadelphia. I think we can do better, and I’m going to give us a D.
Find an alternative to Kickstarter
Wow, if I knew this was going to shape the year the way it did… We ended up launching Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast on Indiegogo, and we’re experimenting with both Backerkit and traditional preorder models. Most importantly, we were able to play a small part in getting Kickstarter to walk back its Blockchain plans, and I can see a future where we return to Kickstarter someday. I’m no longer stressed about the future of crowdfunding the way I was at the end of last year, although new catastrophies (such as Twitter) make me increasingly afraid for the fate of the TTRPG space. I’m going to give us an A.
What I’m Proud Of
Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast is real and is BIG
M and I started working on Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast back in November 2019, months before I even started Wanderhome, a quarantine and a presidency away. It’s always been a pipedream of a project, a monumental beast that has felt like our white whale for a long time. Most of the work we did on Yazeba’s we accomplished assuming it would never see the light of day. The fact that it’s real, and that we’ve been able to bring it all together, is an incredible testament to the work of our team. Four writers, four editors, four hundred illustrations, and a ton of creators handling everything from distribution to music, it has been a beast of an undertaking, a level of logistics which would be a struggle for a company twice our size and four times as abled. And somehow we’re doing it? I think I knew how much of a headache it would be going in, but I didn’t realize the truth until I was able to look back. This has been an incredible project, and the whole team, including Mercedes, Lillie, Grubby, M, and all the editors and artists, have done the impossible.
We’ve never been more multi-media
As a publishing company, it’s easy to focus on our lane and stick to books and PDFs forever. But we’ve gotten to do all sorts of new experimental projects with incredible people. The Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast podcast with Jeff Stormer, working on music and animation, planning secret things with some cool companies, and trying out all sorts of new ways to push the envelope on what games can be like. I’m especially excited to be working with One More Multiverse — they’re a genius team of passionate people, and I can’t wait to show you all what they’ve made. Through the past two years, our understanding of what a tabletop RPG can be has grown tremendously, and I hope we can continue to push the envelope of what games can look like and include.
We’re still here
This year has been the closest I’ve ever gotten to quitting RPGs. The United States (and it seems, much of the world) is entering into a cold recession. Social media platforms which have for better or worse served as the centerpiece of RPG design communities are on the verge of collapse, and I’ve had to personally deal with harassment, stalking, and creepy unpleasant stuff. It’s a hard climate to be making RPGs in, and the fact that we’re still here and still trucking along is itself my proudest achievement of the year. Sometimes just getting out of bed is enough. Sometimes our greatest victories are just about making it through.
The Lessons I’ve Learned
Yazeba’s is … too big
Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast is the biggest project Possum Creek has ever done, at least twice as large as Wanderhome. It’s a passion project made by a bunch of people who have beautiful ambitious visions for an impossible beautiful thing, but it’s also a really big book for a company with two full-time employees to create. I have no plans to make something even half as big as Yazeba’s B&B for many many years, especially without the support of a larger company or a lot of growth.
Double the time we need
This year we made a concerted effort to plan schedules around the disabilities and logistical needs of our team. And I think we still lowballed it. Both Grubby and I had to crunch to get Yazeba’s in working order for the Indiegogo, and we both pushed ourselves way harder than we could throughout the year. We’ve gotten good at taking time off, and crunch isn’t a deadly sin when it’s “just you”, but anyone who’s worked in videogames knows that when the people in charge overwork themselves, that creates an unhealthy standard for everyone working with them. We need to build plans with the assumption that we might lose months at a time to chronic illness or mental health struggles, and stop treating our own personal energy reserves as an exploitable resource.
Nurture that creative energy
When I was at my darkest moments of the year, I managed to pull myself out of it by nurturing my creative energy and playing games with friends. This year, while I did less playtesting than normal, I did way more playing. I pretended to run with rats on fantastical rooftops and explored a time-traveling dungeon puzzle. I got to lead aliens and elves through a black market in Cold War Vienna and draw lots of maps of post-apocalyptic communities. And I read! And I played video games! And I listened to a bunch of podcasts! The biggest lesson of the year for me is that I can’t count on my creativity and energy to be a passive reservoir I can tap into whenever I want. I gotta feed into it, spend time playing games, and remember to take care of myself as part of the work I do.
My Goals for 2023
We’re ready and determined to face 2023 head-on, as we gear up to print Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast and tend to the Possum Creek. Here are my three biggest goals for the year, disconnected from any specific project, and next year I’ll tell you how well we did.
Play More, Play Local
Possum Creek is now firmly a Philadelphia-based company, with both of our directors living there and with our distribution center only an hour away. Philadelphia is rapidly becoming a hub for game designers and creative work, and we want to bring more of that energy into the year. I hope to play a lot of games this year, and I hope that I can play those games with my friends in the city. I also want Possum Creek to do more activities with the network of amazing game stores located throughout the Philly area, and to both host and run events with our community.
Grow The Team
Possum Creek is currently held together by the blood sweat and tears of two very disabled twenty-something year old girls who have, between them, one bachelor’s degree (Grub), one attic office (also Grub), and a whole lotta moxy (exactly one of us at a time). I hope this time in 2023 I’ll be able to introduce you to a whole network of people, and that Possum Creek can grow beyond Grubby and myself to encompass others with more directed skills, who can help steward and tend to the company as it navigates its growing pains.
Build The Ladder Down
The Ladder is a common metaphor when it comes to creative professions, and as people succeed, the question is often “what are you doing to help the rest of your community?” We’ve done a lot of cool stuff with grants and our smaller projects, but I hope that in 2023 we can devote a lot of resources towards uplifting the next generation of designers, and pave way for many incredible creatives to get the spotlight they deserve. I have some (secret!) plans in the works for this that should come together next year. The easier it is to make games, the greater we all do, and the healthier our community is as a result.
This was a tough year for Possum Creek — we faced a lot of growing pains and had to push ourselves a lot harder than we’ve ever had to before. I’m really proud of our team, of what we’ve made possible, and what the future is going to look like. I’m grateful for all of you reading this, who have supported us in one capacity or another over the year, and I hope 2023 can bring more cool games, more weird experiments, and more great moments to play with your friends.