Possum Creek’s 2023 Year In Review

Jay Dragon
11 min readJan 23, 2024
Possum Creek’s 2023–2024 Shirt Design by Lynnette Munoz

Another year comes and goes, and it’s time once again for me to write about Possum Creek’s year in review. This is the third article of this sort that I’ve written (2022 and 2021 can be found at those links) and, just like previous years, I’m going to focus on recapping everything Possum Creek has done this year — our triumphs and our failures, what went well and what I hope we’ll do better at next year. I hope this article can be useful and illuminating for anyone wondering what it’s like to be a small company keeping the lights on, or if you’ve ever wondered how we make the books we do. A lot has changed since the end of last year (as I write this now in the first Possum Creek office in a work building instead of a guest room) and I hope my honest dig through how we did will be helpful.

Possum Creek is a joint venture, and as I’ll discuss later in this article, I’m certainly far from alone. Just like every year I want to shout out Grub — the artistic director and now structurally in charge of daily operations here. Possum Creek Games would be genuinely unable to function without her, and even though I’m the public face of the company, she’s the one in charge of things. We also have two honest-to-god part-time employees. Khyra, our office manager, and Michelle, our bookkeeper, have both been absolutely fantastic this year, and it’s been a delight getting to work with them both. Possum Creek is also composed of an elaborate network of freelancers, including more than a dozen artists we worked with this year and at least five fantastic writers.

What Happened In 2023

This year has been defined for us by waiting for Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast. We finished it in April, and put out Yazeba’s Online, our first collaboration with another company, to create a custom Virtual Tabletop interface for playing Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast online. A great deal of time since then has been spent tackling the largest and smallest of unanticipated tangles and final touches, and waiting for the printing process to complete. Finishing Yazeba’s was an enormous ordeal, and it’s still not quite done yet.

We also released the PDF version of Inscrutable Cities, and are nearly finished with the print release. We were hoping to have it out in December, but everything this year took 3 months more than I thought it would.

We launched Grand Guignol & Harvest on Backerkit, our second Backerkit project, and did quite well. This is a pair of books we’ve been looking forward to making with Luke since 2020, and it’s so cool to finally get these twin historical horror games out the door this year. We try and make at least one smaller weirder game each year, and this year we get to do two.

I wrote a handful of games for the Possum Creek Patreon, ranging from a romp through different AUs of the same characters (Helix Cabaret), an adventure across the Primordial Seas with a gang of swashbuckling lawbreakers (Prince of Hounds), and a crunchy entangled game about the stress of being one of the most powerful wizards in the world (Seven Part Pact). I also got some new articles up there and on my Medium, including the very well-received Storyteller Technique, which I’m personally really proud of.

We also got ourselves an office space in south Philly at the Bok Building, threw a pizza party at Gencon, a rager at Pax Unplugged, playtesting at Metatopia, and organized our company better than we ever had before.

How Did We Do

Last year, I set three goals for myself (and Possum Creek) going into 2023. Here’s how I think we did:

Arriving for Inscrutable Cities by Evangeline Gallagher

Play More, Play Local

It’s hard to play games. A lot of my focus on trying to get outside the playtesting mindset this year involved running experiments with my friends — The Magpie’s Cube, a Worlds Without Number megadungeon, a game of ICON (which has quickly morphed into Apocalypse World), and various pickup games and oneshots of all my favorites. A lot of my focus on playing at the end of this year has been on playtesting The Seven-Part Pact, and I’ve managed to get a couple real-life games of that in. But I’m still not running a regular campaign I’m confident in, and my hours playtesting still outstrip my hours playing for playing’s sake. I hope next year to find a local game store I can call my own, and get to play more games that expand my palate, but until then, I’ll give this goal a C.

Grow The Team

For the first time ever, Possum Creek has more than myself and Grub at the helm. Our office manager is fantastic, and it feels so good to be able to focus my time away from the day-to-day and towards the big picture stuff that the company needs. Having a Bookkeeper also means we’re no longer fully depending on the mathematical abilities of two terminally art-brained creatives to do things like “file taxes.” The next year is going to involve even more growing (if we’re lucky), as we both expand our network of freelancers and incorporate new part-time and full-time employees, but this has been a fantastic start to our growth, and so I’ll give this goal an A.

Build The Ladder Down

This is a frustrating one. There’s a lot I tried to do, and a lot I was hopeful for at the start of the year. I wanted to create more spaces for people to publish games and I wanted to uplift newer designers in the industry. It ended up being one of those projects that kept slipping to next month’s to-do list, and the spaces I hoped I could create never quite opened up. More importantly, it was a kinda faulty goal in the first place — how can I build these spaces when Possum Creek doesn’t have the infrastructure to confidently protect new designers? I don’t want to be relying on unsteady ladders to help people up. I hope to come back to this goal, but for now I have to give it an F.

What I’m Proud Of

Day At The Beach for Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast by Val Wise

We’re Working As A Team

At the end of the summer, Grubby and I spent a weekend in Delaware sketching out the next ten years of Possum Creek. Since then, the whole company has been meeting together every other week to set objectives, make plans, gossip about our lives, and help each other out. We’ve got dedicated folks in charge of event planning, and this is the first year we’re entering into with a plan. It feels fantastic to be working with other people and getting to lift them up and watch them shine, and to help each other get to the next level. I’m learning to trust my co-workers with their responsibilities and in doing so, I get to see people flourish in new roles.

Yazeba’s Is Real

There’s not much more I can say on Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast that I haven’t said over the past few years. I hope people like it. Currently 32 tons of books are sitting on a factory floor in Hong Kong, waiting to be shiped over to our warehouse in Pennsylvania, where we can send it out to the rest of the world. I don’t think Possum Creek can make something of this scale again, at least not for a long while. It is only through the blood, sweat, and tears of every member of our team that we were able to get this monster in the shape of a book. And what a beautiful book it is! Every time I get to hold it in my hands I feel like a little kid again, eagerly showing everyone all these little secrets I’ve been dreaming of since before the pandemic. I can’t believe it’s real.

I Love Games

This is a strange victory, because it’s very personal to me. For the past couple of years, I’ve struggled a lot with TTRPGs, my place in them, and my feelings around their creation. I’ve felt very stuck and unsure of what I wanted to do, unsure if I even liked playing them anymore. I’m relieved to say I love them again. At PAX Unplugged I spent more time playing games with my friends than I did in business meetings or selling books, and I look forward to every chance I get to hang out with the people I love and play make-believe. The classic problem with making your passion your job is that it stops being your passion, but I think I’ve managed to make games my passion again and find separation between my daily responsibilities and the creativity that keeps me awake at night with excitement.

Lessons I’ve Learned

The Redmodeled Library for Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast by Mar Julia

Social Media Will Not Save You

For a lot of small-to-medium TTRPG companies, Twitter’s collapse at the start of 2023 has been an enormous disaster. For me, it’s been a blessing and a curse. Twitter was horrible for my mental health, but also my Twitter platform was an important resource for Possum Creek, and the huge decline in engagement on the site has meant that it’s harder for us to get the word out about new things we’re doing. It’s harder to grow our Patreon now, it’s harder to talk about small releases or new articles, it’s harder to engage people. I’ve set up a Tumblr, but I use it very differently than I used to use Twitter, and promotion-centric platforms like Instagram or Tiktok are a lot harder for me personally to use. We can’t rely on word-of-mouth marketing to tell people about our projects anymore, and we can’t rely on my social media presence to reach new people. If Possum Creek wants to grow, we have to learn how to do actual marketing, not just posting online and hoping people like the sound of it.

It’s Hard To Write

I’ve been without health insurance this year, which has been a huge nightmare for a lot of reasons, but the relevant part of it is with the medication I need for my ADHD. I’ve basically only been able to write when my hyperfocuses overtake me, or when I have rare access to the meds I use to do my job. This is an area where I had grown used to having consistent motivation and capacity, which has completely fallen apart. This has meant a lot of important writing tasks, such as updates on crowdfunding projects, email newsletters, or Patreon articles, have fallen by the wayside. This is frustrating for a lot of people trying to keep up to date with Possum Creek. One of many weaknesses of a small business like Possum Creek is the shallow bench, where when a member of the team with an irreplaceable skill is unable to accomplish that skill, it simply doesn’t get done and usually stalls other work in the process. I hope next year it’ll be easier, and if it’s not, I hope to find other solutions to the vital task of communicating with our community.

Everything Takes More Time

A great deal of the philosophy and core of Possum Creek is shaped by our experiences with disability. And yet, every year we need a fresh reminder that we need to plan with our disabilities in mind. We ran late on every deadline we set this year, sometimes by months. One sick team member can compound delays and stress for every other person, and we often have many. It’s not sustainable to make schedules that assume everyone can finish everything promptly and that no one will need months off for their health. We need to try and develop a system for scheduling and planning that can accommodate our disabilities, and keep us from getting crunched by pressure.

My Goals For 2024

Verdure & The Storm Shepherd for Harvest by Sarcoma

Make Lots of Zines

Grubby and I have been talking about returning a bit to our roots this year. Possum Creek started as a zine publisher, and I miss the old DIY days sitting at Staples and hand-binding little games. I miss small games! I miss writing them, and I miss publishing them. Possum Creek needs a break after spending five years working on Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, so we’re hoping we can put out at least a few zines in 2024, and maybe explore some projects we worked on long ago and give them a new coat of paint. We’re also hoping to further enmesh ourselves with the vibrant artistic community in our new home base in Philadelphia, and maybe make some cool zines with cool people and hold events to that effect.

Reinvent Our Marketing

With Yazeba’s reaching our warehouse, we’re going to need to figure out how to market ourselves in a post-Twitter market. There’s a lot of things I want to try, including figuring out what our budget might look like for promotion. I want to find ways to reinvigorate our platform and reach new groups of people who are unfamiliar with our games, and maybe even games in general. We’re still figuring out what this is going to look like, but I hope to build a marketing plan for Possum Creek and put it into action over the next year.

Gear Up For The Future

We have a lot of big plans for the next decade, plans that are going to need a lot of forethought. We leapt into Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast and bit off far more than we could chew, and it’s important that our next big project (when it’s time for that) is something we’re prepared for. Expansions for our existing games, new big games, second editions… there’s a lot we’re hoping for, and I believe we can end 2024 with a solid scaffolding to launch into the future.

Wrapping Up

2023 was a hell of a year for me personally. The world threw a lot of curveballs at me, and even though I’m finishing this article on the exact same couch I finished last year’s article, I couldn’t have possibly anticipated what my life would be shaped like. Possum Creek is a growing, shifting beast. It’s both entangled with me and has a life of its own. I think this has been a transition year for the company, and sometimes that’s involved some growing pains, but we’re in the process of emerging bigger and better than ever before. I’m so grateful for all of you and the company you’ve kept on this wild ride, the friendly faces at cons, the late night playtests of Wizzie Wensdays, and the stories and conversations I’ve had on Discord, Patreon, Tumblr, and elsewhere. I can’t wait to see you all in the new year.

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Jay Dragon

Game designer at Possum Creek Games. Gay trans. Award winner. Has never successfully caught a ghost. Wrote Wanderhome, Yazeba's B&B, etc.