At the end of 2018, I finally put my rulebook for my tabletop roleplaying game, Rulers out on the internet. It was was the culimination of a project I started some 8 years earlier to answer a question a friend of mine had asked:
“How would you run a roleplaying game, where everyone played as Kings instead of Heroes?”
Rulers was my attempt to answer that question. I do not think it is a good answer, but it is my best answer (so far).
As a result of this self-doubt, despite uploading Rulers to my website I had made no attempt to promote it. I knew that at somepoint I would want to post about it to Reddit, and in February I finally did just that.
Suffice to say, I was
surprised, taken aback, stunned, completely floored by Reddit’s overwhelmingly positive response when I posted about Rulers to r/Worldbuilding!
In this post I want to discuss what happened and what I learnt from promoting Rulers on Reddit, and offer an insight into the downloads and purchases that followed.
A huge heartfelt thanks to everyone who upvoted, commented and even gave me Reddit Gold. You have greatly encouraged me to keep working on Rulers!
Reddit – Upvotes and Web Traffic
After I first released Rulers, I immediately knew I wanted to post about it to r/Worldbuilding. As a community where people create whole worlds, societies, economies and ecosytems, they seemed like they would be a good fit for my game.
My post recieved over 2,4k upvotes within across a 48hr period and quickly rose to around 75 comments. It now sits at 2,555 upvotes, with a nice round 100 comments to date. I even got 2 pieces of Reddit Gold.
I did the post as a text post, because I have learnt from my experience as a Community Manager that Redditors often don’t want to be immediately linked to another website. It also gave me the oportunity to explain Rulers and its Creative Commons liscence, but above all, it allowed me to strike up a conversation with the r/worldbuilding community.
If I had just linked directly to my download page, I think I would not have gotten such postive comments or as many upvotes. I imagine the comments would have been far more critical of the content and skeptical as to its validity, perhaps even confused. I think by posting as a text post that prompted people to talk to me as the creator, with many personal “thank yous” as well as many probing questions about the game itself, and a few direct messages from people who said they wanted to start a campaign using my game.
However, I think the fact that I released Rulers under a Creative Commons License garnered me a huge amount of good will. This give permission for people to share my creative work and “remix” its contents, re-writing rules or adding their own content, although they cannot sell Rulers or any variant they create, and must always credit me as the original creator.
It is hard to tell how many people saw this post, but I can tell you that r/Worldbuilding has 410,869 subscribers currently and at the time of my post, it was at the top of their front page for a couple of days. If you search now my “Top Posts in the Past Year”, it is on page 5. Definitely it appears to be the most upvoted post about a specific game.
Looking at my own site traffic, I had 817 views on Feb. 22 and then 851 View on Feb 23rd. After that traffic fell off almost entirely, but it was interesting to see that enough people saw the post to warrant 48 hours of solid traffic.
Interestingly, Day 2 had more views but fewer unique visitors, which suggests that a lot of people came back later, after an initial look.
I offered downloads of Rulers through two different methods:
I have long since admired Humble Bundle‘s “Pay What You Want” system. I think it inolves the consumer more intimately and it makes purchasing a much more interactive experience. Creating a Humble Bundle Widget was incredibly easy and very accessible for someone with limited technical experience. I set the suggested amount to $5.
For the most part people seemed to pay that amount, although sometimes they paid only $1-3 instead, and one very kind person paid $15! Surprisingly, a number of people paid just $0.01, apparently missing the memo that it was also available for free on DriveThruRPG! (I mentioned that fact both in the Reddit post, and on the page with my Humble Bundle Widget.)
To date, I have made $55.54 in sales on my Humble Bundle Widget (THANK YOU!), which amounts to $48.58 after Humble Bundle takes its 5% cut. This is covers 16 downloads of the Rulers rulebook, 14 of which came immediately after my Reddit post.
As I mentioned I also offered Rulers for free via DriveThruRPG. While offering it for free does somewhat undermine the idea of paying for it all, I did this for a few reasons:
- In the spirit of releasing Rulers under a CC liscence with the hope a community might grow around it and improve it, making it readily available made sense.
- DriveThruRPG takes 35% of sales, which is a lot when you have a low number of sales and a low priced item.
The weekend of my Reddit post I saw 916 downloads of Rulers, to date it has received 1563 downloads. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that more people downloaded it for free than paid $0.01 for it through my Humble Bundle widget, but I was still amazed that so many people downloaded it at all.
Whatsmore, Rulers has a 4.5 star rating across 3 reviews on DriveThruRPG! That might not be a lot of reviews compared to downloads, but that is still a lot of goodwill.
Reddit – Lightning in a Bottle
Naturally, I began to wonder if I should post to Reddit more. I was at least curious as to how Rulers would perform in other subreddits, particularly ones more focused on RPG games.
I decided to also post to r/RPGdesign as a crosspost from the original, that same weekend. Following up a month later with posts to r/mapmaking and r/Tabletop. As many RPG enthusiasts are often keen worldbuilders, it seemed likely to me that these subreddit communities would have a lot of overlap, so I deliberately took my time between posts on the assumption that if I posted to soon, it would be the same group of people who saw my post in r/worldbuilding.
While r/RPGdesign was mildly encouraging at 88 upvotes, but I was sruprised by the lack of traction from r/mapmaking, as that is a core part of Rulers gameplay, and overlaps very closely in themes to r/wordlbuilding. Despite that I got only 18 upvotes. I think this comes down mostly to the number of subsribers of each subreddit, as r/wordlbuilding was by far the largest, while r/mapmaking is one tenth the size.
Comments were still mostly postive, with a few minor criticisms on the design or my grammar (turns I out I forget to put “game” in the title of my posts). The fact that no comments complained about me posting about Rulers again, might suggest that there was not as much overlap in these communities as I expected, but that is only speculation. They could just as easily shown their contempt or disinterest by not upvoting.
What I’ve Learned
This experiene has taught me to be less afraid of posting to Reddit, and has greatly encouraged me to continue to pursue the development of Rulers. My creative approach has always been that if I would like something, someone else would like it as well, and now I can say I am vindicated in that belief. Clearly, there is plenty of interest and excited for a civilisation-scale tabletop roleplaying game.
My biggest takeaway was that Text Posts on Reddit have great value. As I suspected, people who are on Reddit want to be on Reddit, and that content that immediately redirects them to an external website – while not necessarily ineffective – is less than effective than starting a conversation on Reddit itself. This is a theory I have begun to apply to Twitter and other social media platforms, and I will be interested to see if it is just as true on those platforms as well.
My only regret is that maybe, just maybe, I should have listed it for $1 on DriveThruRPG.com instead of listing it for free. I probably would not have gotten over 1,500 downloads if that was the case, but perhaps the lesson there is that more people felt more comfortable downloading it from DriveThruRPG than from my own Humble Bundle Widget. It is not something I lament, but perhaps I’d have some more substantial funds to pursue a Second Edition.
Once again, I huge thank you to Reddit for all of the wonderful comments, the excitement around civ-scale RPGs, and for a huge boost to my self-confidence as a Game Designer. It has been immensely encouraging, and I think I will one-day attempt to answer the question: “How do you make a roleplaying game of Kings?”
If you would like to try to answer that question, try downloading Rulers for yourself and give yourself a head start. At the very least, you can learn from my mistakes.