Possum Creek’s Year In Review (2021)
So here we are, at the end of 2021 and the start of a new year. It’s a Long Grasping month in the Hudson Valley, the view from my office punctuated by thick mist and hungry branches. Rain is constant but snow is nothing but a memory. While it doesn’t really feel like winter, I thought it would still be a good idea to do a short review of what Possum Creek Games did in 2021, what I learned from it, and what I’m hoping to bring into 2022. I hope to make this a regular series, because I think it would be pretty cool to examine the past and have a trail of these!
It Took A Team
For those who are unfamiliar about Possum Creek’s structure, we’re a small tabletop role-playing game company with two full time staff along with a lot of talented writers, artists, and consultants working alongside us. As the most prolific writer and loudest voice here, I tend to end up serving as the face of Possum Creek, but the reality is that it’s a sprawling team that each plays an important role. I can’t possibly credit everyone we worked with this year in one post, but I’ll do my best to cover some of the names and teams who were involved with 2021.
- Grubby is my business partner, and she runs half of the company while holding together the other half. Any artistic decisions we made this year, any stylistic choices, or any especially good cheese recommendations we gave — all came from her.
- Dominique Dickey has served as our editor on retainer for the past year, and they are an irreplaceable help. Every project besides Wanderhome we released this year had their hand in it, and they’re going to be taking on the role of lead editor for Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast — a role which they’ll pull off admirably.
- We spent a lot of time working with the Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast team, an amazing crew of folks including Mercedes Acosta, M Veselak, Lillie Harris, Aster Santiago, and Avery Alder. They’ve all played a huge role in making Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast possible into 2022, and have worked quietly in the background for the past year pulling all that together.
- Will Quinn did the 2021 marquee art for Possum Creek Games (the beautiful illustration you see in the top banner) and he was a delight to work with.
What Happened In 2021
2021 was the year of Wanderhome for us. Our pastoral fantasy TTRPG was a breakout success on Kickstarter in 2020, and we spent much of the first half of 2021 editing, laying out, and releasing Wanderhome. We also released a few other games that were experimental, incomplete, or in preliminary stages as Patreon-exclusives. We also began preparing for our next big project, Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast. Here’s a list of our releases and how well they did.
- Wanderhome was our biggest release. The PDF came out in April and the book was shipped out in September. Wanderhome single handedly accounts for most of our profits, around 70–80% of last quarter.
- Uncanny was an expansion to Sleepaway, our first game release. We released the book in February 2021 without a Kickstarter. It paid for itself, but it wasn’t profitable.
- Wickedness by M Veselak was our first game written by someone else that we published, and while the Kickstarter for it was in 2020 we finally put out the book in May. It is our second-highest selling game after Wanderhome, and has been something of a sleeper success.
- Venture & Dungeon by Riley Rethal and myself was another Kickstarter from 2020 we took on and published. It released in September/October 2021. Its success has been limited by a lack of marketing, but the audience who has connected with it really enjoys it.
- In The Time Of Monsters is a tactical combat TTRPG we released on Patreon and Itch.io. The PDF is unfinished and features only one piece of art. It did exceptionally well on Itch.io despite being unfinished, and far exceeded our expectations.
- We also released Midnight Oil and [untitled 1] on our Patreon, with minimal layout. These did well among our core audience.
We were also involved in the following projects this year:
- We helped Tidebreaker launch on Kickstarter, a superheroic TTRPG by Nick Butler. We loaned out money to help bring the Kickstarter page together, and we’ll be taking care of shipping and handling. It was our first experiment in partnering with another creator to help make their project a reality.
- We ran a Kickstarter for Our Haunt by Rae Nedjadi, a creepy-cozy ghost TTRPG that we’re going to be publishing in Q1 of 2022. It was a well-executed project and an exciting example of what we can do.
- We’ve been doing a ton of behind-the-scenes work on Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, our next upcoming project. This includes hiring writers and artists, negotiating deals for printing and merchandise, finding partnerships, and pulling it all together. We were originally going to launch the Kickstarter on September 15th 2021 before we decided to give ourselves a longer lead-up time.
- We expanded our Patreon through new games, articles, and a Discord community space that has done exceptionally well.
- We supported the Oneshot Network while they created a limited Actual Play of Wanderhome.
- We launched our merchandise line for Wanderhome and associated games on our storefront. While this doesn’t seem huge, it took a lot of time on our backend and involved a lot of work.
Wow, busy year huh? In the next two sections I’m going to go over what I’m proud of from this year and the hard lessons we learned from it that I’m excited to bring into next year.
What I’m Proud Of
Wanderhome has exceeded expectations — again
Thanks to the incredible work of Grubby and the rest of the team, Wanderhome was able to elevate itself and really come together. It’s been awesome getting Wanderhome to players, retailers, and communities — and watching the fan community emerge around it. I’ve gotten a lot of beautiful emails and letters from fans who have been personally touched by Wanderhome, and I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to bring it to life. While the merchandise, featuring art by some of the artists — including Juho Choi, Conner Fawcett, Jennie Lindberg, Jo Thierolf, and others — hasn’t been the core of Wanderhome’s success, it’s helped bring attention to the visual landscape of the game and propelled it forward even more.
The Haeth Grant was a success
After the Wanderhome Kickstarter, we gave out more than $12,000 with no strings attached to creators so that they could contribute to the world of Wanderhome. The results have been amazing — artwork, stories, game design, bottles of Wanderhome-themed wine, soundtracks, and more. While there were some challenges with the implementation of the Haeth Grant (mainly related to the amount of time it took to review submissions, send out acceptance letters, and pay people out) the core concept worked out really well, and we’ll be implementing it in the future for other projects. It did a great job building a community of creative people who are enthusiastic and excited about making Wanderhome content, and I’m super thrilled to see what it could do for Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, or even expanded into a general process available to all sorts of TTRPG-related work.
Publishing other people’s games feels great
Getting to work with other creators and help bring their stuff to life is a really outstanding part of this work, and allows me to focus on the parts of the business I feel most comfortable in — marketing, hyping, networking, and project management. While we’re still figuring out the best way to build a schedule for the future (more on that later) but getting to make someone else’s dream a reality is the best part of this job. This was especially magical for Our Haunt, where we got to pull a project together and execute it quickly and smoothly.
The Lessons I’ve Learned
Don’t crowd the games
We’ve done a lot this year, and while I’m proud of all of it, it means we can’t shine a spotlight on each game as much as it deserves. We had to take a couple releases we were hoping to push in early 2022 and expand them out throughout the rest of the year, and while it’s fine and a good idea, it is frustrating to realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. We’re still learning the correct pace to release new games, and our current pace has been a bit too fast.
You can’t do it alone
This is more of a personal lesson that I’ve had to learn over and over again this year, in a ton of ways. I can’t make books alone, I can’t run a Discord alone, I can’t be the face of Possum Creek alone, I can’t take on the world alone. Thank god Grubby is here, who has been able to pick me up and make the machine run when I accidentally overwork myself — she runs half the company, after all. But I have to remember to ask for help, to outsource projects I can’t get done, and to call in my friends. They’re here for a reason!
Merchandise is hard
We launched multiple lines of T-shirts, blankets, and mugs on our website — and learned the hard way that it’s not always easy to handle print on demand. Being at the mercy of another company, that will frequently have misprints and product delays, has led to a lot of headaches this holiday season. We’re hoping to develop solutions going into 2022, which will include printing merchandise ourselves in larger quantities, something we’re only able to do with our existing resources.
My Goals For 2022
We have a lot of plans for 2022, and I’m excited for what we’ll get to do. Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast,our huge next project, looms large in my head — but I wanted to set goals that aren’t directly connected to that project. Here are my three biggest goals for the new year, and next year I’ll report back and tell all of you how well we did.
Embrace the possibilities of marketing
Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast is coming in March, and I’m pouring my heart and soul into making this amazing project possible. I hope people will like it, but it’s important to me that we’re able to get the word out while also still keeping our other big projects, like Wanderhome and Wickedness, in the public mind. Our goal is to advertise Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast before and during the campaign, and then switch back to sharing the focus on our core projects until it’s time for Yazeba’s to release. There’s a lot of experiments here, and I’m excited to see how they pan out in 2022.
Build new models of community
I’m working with a group of moderators and community leaders to create a public discord server for Possum Creek Games (our current one is Patreon-only). This is going to be a new community space, and developing it and ensuring the space is healthy is going to be a critical part of expanding Possum Creek as a community environment that isn’t centered on me specifically. I’m also looking at connecting with local pride centers and bookstores (although this has been stymied by the pandemic) so that we can integrate with local spaces.
Find an alternative to Kickstarter
For those of you not in the know, Kickstarter has decided to burn every bridge it has all at once and switch to a Blockchain software model later in 2022. We need to find new alternatives, and I plan to spend a lot of Q3 and Q4 of 2022 exploring new opportunities and experimenting with our various releases to find the best ways to market them. Our goal is to find a new release model by the end of 2022. I discuss more of my thoughts around this in this episode of the RPG Academy podcast.
In a lot of ways, 2021 was the first “Real Year” for Possum Creek Games — the first time we had to really buckle down and make this business functional. We had a lot of fears, but thankfully we’ve been able to tackle each challenge as it comes up and make our dream a reality. I’m so proud of the incredible games we’ve managed to put into the world, and I hope 2022 gives us more chances to work with awesome folks, release beautiful games, and do our part in making the world a more fun place.
This article was originally posted on the Possum Creek Games Patreon. For more articles like this weeks before they’re released, along with first looks, exclusive games, and a community discord, consider signing up here!