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To Kick-Start or not to Kick-Start?

Dated: 14 Jun, 2024

Let me start by saying that my experience of Kick-Starters is limited....

The first bike I rode had a kick-start. A Yamaha DT-175 when I was about 11 or 12 I think. I wasn’t actually heavy enough to turn the kick starter nor tall enough to mount the thing. My big brother (who had borrowed the bike off his mate) patiently started it and held it while I clambered on and usually stalled or shot off up the garden trying to avoid the fish pond and stop before the gate. Then two of the first three bikes I owned had kick-starts: the Suzuki A100 that I passed my test on and the Yamaha TZR250 that I rode for years until I blew it up. My Dad’s bikes, both Vincent Comets, both had kick-starts but again, I couldn’t get the hang of the compression lever and everything else so my dad had to start one for me before I could enjoy my only ride on that classic (a rather agricultural experience, I am sad to say, but then I am used to modern bikes with electric starts, hydraulic clutches and disc brakes).

But what, you may be asking, has this got to do with RPGs and Dunromin?

Well, as I am sure you are aware, many in the RPG community are using an arrangement called “Kick-Starters” to fund new projects and get better quality kit to market. Even publishers like Cubical-7 are using this as a way of funding their new releases.

For those of you that don’t know, this arrangement works, as I understand it, as follows:

Someone works out the details of a new product they want to launch. They build up a design brief and business plan for the design and publication, including costings for artwork and whatever other resources they will need. They then put this idea out on a Kick-Starter website asking for funding. Punters then pledge money to the project in return for the promise of a copy o the finished product, often along with proprietary extras. If the funding target is met then the producers produce the product, deliver a copy to the backers and then sells the product as they would any other.

Sounds like a nice way of doing things (apologies if I have missed anything). Crowd-funding, essentially, and you pay up-front for a future delivery, forget about it and then get a nice surprise when it turns up in the post. My old friend Dave Chapman invests in quite a few and really enjoys the experience. The process supports the community, gets new products out and, often, permits products to be better quality than they would be otherwise: What’s not to like?

I think it’s a great idea, but we aren’t going to be doing one.

The drawback, we feel, is the time commitment involved. As we have said before, Dunromin University Press is a hobby-project. We all have real jobs, families and other commitments that have to come first, which means any semblance of deadlines and business plans lack any numbers on the x-axis of the project plan, representing the time to market…

We don’t feel it would be fair on the backers to offer anything without some definite delivery date, and we don’t feel able to offer a definite delivery date on anything we do. This is a hobby. We do it to escape stress. We don’t want any deadlines hanging over our heads where we might be upsetting people if we miss them.

Instead we develop our ideas in-house, in our own time, spending as much effort on them as we want to, getting the products to the high level of quality we want. Of course, our expertise in this self-publishing malarkey is improving all the time – that’s why we did a 2nd version of all our existing products. We wanted to improve the overall quality of the kit we offer, even the legacy stuff.

And we think it works very well.

The products we produce are finished to a very high quality; a professional level of finish that stands up to comparison with “proper” retail units.

And the price points we try to maintain represent astonishing value for money when compared with like products too – only the other day I saw an adventure by a well-known publisher that was going for over 30 bucks for a softback publication with less than 60 pages. What!? And I bet a lot of those pages are covered with glossy artwork that looks pretty but adds nothing to the gaming experience.

We are proud of our reputation for great quality, quantity and value on ALL our products, and we have every intention of maintaining that reputation.

I’m not saying these things can’t be achieved in a Kick-Starter, of course they can, but we prefer to keep all the development in-house, under control, and not committed to anything we aren’t 100% sure we can deliver.

Please don’t think we are against Kick-Starters, though! They are a brilliant, alternative route to market. They’re just not for us…


And on that point – our next release, SM10 The Pit of Panzar, will be ready before the end of the month. Probably…

“In CY444 the greatest Dwarf mage of all time, Archmage Panzar, mounted his Flying Pig and rode up to the Necklace to do battle with an Efreet and her army in her asteroid palace. Despite his great magical powers, Panzar failed and his burnt and petrified body fell from the asteroid and crashed down upon a hillside somewhere in the Borderlands. His fall drove a narrow pit into the hillside to a great depth, but neither his body nor his magical equipment were ever recovered.

“But now a seal ring bearing the mark of the House of Panzar has been found in a riverbed thirty miles west of the border city of Karan. The river is fed by streams emerging from the hill above it – Dol Jint.

“Could this large hill be the final resting place of the great mage and, more importantly, all his loot?”

With over 300 encounter locations on 5 levels, this is a MEGA-DUNGEON scenario for OSR and AD&D 1st and 2nd Edition, or pretty much any TTFRPG with minimal tweaking.  Intended for 5 to 8 adventurers of 6th to 9th level, this great new adventure will be available soon – hopefully before the end of June 2024.