Tuesday, February 26, 2013

RPG Review Recess - FATE Core #WhitePicketWitches

One of the interesting things that I look forward too with FATE Core being released under CC is the wide variety of games that are going to come out with it. I'm thinking about the really interesting worlds and ideas that come with a really fun, flexible, story driven system like FATE.

That was one of the things I was excited about with the Kickstarter. They had a whole bunch of them as part of the kickstarter, which was an amazing idea that should be stolen by many people.

I'm going to talk about White Picket Witches by Filamena Young which is described on the kickstarter page as:

Small towns are cauldrons full of family secrets. In Salem, those cauldrons bubble over. Inspired by paranormal cozies like Practical Magic and the Witches of Eastwick, White Picket Witches give the players magic and charms to deal with small town pressures... and sometimes, the forces of evil. It's about accepting the past, fitting in, or breaking out. It emphasizes friendships, brother/sisterhood, community, and a touch of romance.

The setting is Moon Island where five families of witches have lived there since before the Salem witch trials. The island itself is full of magic as the members of these five families who have their own loves and hatreds mixed in with years of living on the island to stew. The game does a great job of giving that feeling as you build your characters and with every single conflict (called a Face-Off) in the game.

There are a couple of things that this games does brilliantly. The first is that it gets rid of what doesn't work for it from FATE and replaces it with what works for White Picket Witches. It's a great example of what you want to do when using a system for a setting. You don't need to flaggelate yourself to try to fit everything from the system into the game. Take what works, keep the feel of the rules for what you change but change what you will. For instance, there isn't any skill pyramid because the skills have turned into a total of seven each one describing how you would deal with a situation rather than a particular skill that you would have.  Instead of Hand to Hand or Melee there's a Dangerous or Powerful kind of attack. The thought behind it is more important than the doing which is awesome because it makes your motive the focal point of the action rather than the action itself.

Shoot a cool gun is great for an action game, shooting that gun because you're trying to make someone cower behind your Dangerous action then that's great for a game about relationships.

And there are plenty of relationships in the game. The beginning of the game allows you to define everything about Moon Island. Each player gets to create a Place of Power, these are the locations where Face-Offs happen so they tend to be powerful even if they're kind of mundane. They get a Lietmotif (a mood or theme that defines the place) as well as Assets that can be used by the GM in a Face-Off to affect one character or another depending on the situation. You also get to define an Antagonist for your character, so you really get to have this small town kind of feel with everyone knowing everyone and a few cool/odd/spooky places to deal with.

Much of the game, forget much all of the game, is spent picking up on Face-Offs between characters. It's the conflict that comes up between them. It doesn't have to lead to a roll but they really all should because it's all about the Drama in the scenes. Because there isn't a different Stress track, any type of damage hurts no matter where the source or what's going on but instead of someone dying there's just a lot of narrative control that happens where the winner gets to define and change aspects on the loser. Of course, like any other FATE game you don't have to get knocked out, figurative in this case, to end a conflict you can choose to and modify what the other person wants to a degree.

Now, I mentioned the GM above but what I really think is brilliant about this game is that it's really a GMless game masquerading as a GM needed game. Seriously, all the stuff the GM does you can have the "audience" do which is come up with what the Place of Power does when it's turn to do something, or play the various NPCs as needed.

I asked Filamena if she had considered going GMless and this is what she said:

I did, but I was worried it would be too unfamiliar to many Fate players. So I suggest ways they could do it without being too obvious. As long as everyone is doing their job as audience, and someone is willing to run the place of power in a conflict, you don't need a GM

The only thing I would have like was a little bit more discussion about sex in the setting. It didn't need to go as far as say Monsterhearts where I have had a friend tell me, "Jonathan ... I can't get my players to stop fucking each other," but talking about it would have covered something I think is kind of lacking for the document but sometimes you only have so many words and you have to describe what keeps the game going.

That said, this is one of those settings that makes me glad I got in on the Kickstarter. If you didn't, pick up the World's book when it's made available to everyone. I've only read two of them, but each of them has been amazing.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The fine art of RPG selling - Part 3

The first two parts of selling an RPG are covered here, and here. Now it comes to the part that I've heard lots of people complaining about, closing the sale.

Before we start I want you to repeat a few things.

It is okay to close a sale.
It is okay to take people's money and give them a product.
This is all part of the process.
The person giving you money is aware of this fact.
It is okay to close a sale.

Repeat that until you feel comfortable. This is all about closing.

When people talk about sales, they say that this is the part that's really hard for them. They seem to think that people are going to be upset that they've brought in filthy lucre into the conversation.

If you are at a convention, in a space designated to sell product, then the people you are talking to are there to ... ready for this ... buy product. They understand that you aren't there for some philanthropic reason. They know that you have a product to sell and if they've gotten to this point there's a good chance they are interested in buying what you have to sell.

It is okay to close a sale.
It is okay to take people's money and give them a product.
This is all part of the process.
The person giving you the money is aware of this fact.
It is okay to close a sale.

Now that you've said the affirmation, let's talk about some tips to help close that sale.

1. Touch

At some point in time it's a good idea to get the product into the customer's hand. It makes it real, and concrete which is important. Why? Have you ever had a situation where someone says, "Hey, that's water's cold" and you walk into the water and go "Wow, this water's cold!" That's the difference between being aware of something conceptually and viscerally. The second one is always more powerful because we knew it was cold, but now it's personally cold.

Same thing with a product. They can be all for the idea of a game, but putting it in their hands helps when they're thinking about buying it. It's no longer an idea, it's a thing and it's right there.

2. Walk towards the sales area

If you're at a convention, usually you'll have a location where the sales take place. It doesn't have to be big, it doesn't have to shout that "HERE BE SALES" but even if it's one guy whose got three thousand dollars in his back pocket that is your sales area. If you're closing the sale, you should be walking towards that spot for a couple of reasons. The first is that it's convenient for the customer. They want to buy your product and get going, you want to make both of those things easy for them to do.

Secondly, it shifts the conversation to the sales part of the conversation. It's the segue into the money part.

3. Make the buying as painless as possible

I mean don't make them wait. If it's cash, make sure you have plenty of change ready. If you do credit cards, make sure you know the process and can do it. If you take 10 minutes to take the customer's money, there's a chance that they'll get annoyed and leave. Also, if you make the purchase hard they'll remember that and while it won't be a huge factor in coming back to buy other stuff, it will still be a factor. If they're pressed for time, or they're hungry, they're going to remember that and say they'll come back later.

At a large convention, come back later becomes come back never.

4. Make small talk

You still want to be conversing with the customer, but you don't really need to go on more about the game. They're convinced, don't over sell because you can lose people that way too. Talk about them, what they think of the convention, what they're excited about on the floor that they haven't seen yet. Nothing is completed until they have given you the money, and they have taken the book with them.

That's the end of the sale. They go away happy, you go away happy, and then you turn around and start the process all over again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The fine art of RPG selling - Part 2

Mikael Andersson, who runs an awesome local convention called Hammercon, linked to the first part of The fine art of RPG selling and had a really salient point that he made, which was:

"your pitch should make it clear how the game fits into my life."

To me, this is important but it comes into the next section which is the middle part of selling an RPG. If you don't get your pitch down to the point where it doesn't catch the interest of the person then the rest of it is pretty moot. The pitch is the most important part of selling your RPG, right up there with all the other parts.

It's true. Because this next section is how you listen to your customer, and find out how your game is a fit for them. You're going to talk about the book, but this is where you get into their concerns as well as how your game fits well into their lives. If you read any books on selling, they say this is where you'll deal with your customer's concerns, and you will be to do that you really only need to do three things:

1. Listen

Listen to what your customer is saying. If they're saying if they don't have a lot of time in their lives you're going to want to talk about how your game saves time. If they really like to share narrative control, talk about the ways your game does that or if it doesn't what might interest someone who does like to share control like that.

The worst thing you can do is just plow ahead with a pre-planned bit of dialogue that doesn't fit with what the customer is saying. I hate it when it happens to me, because then I know that I'm getting a spiel and I just tune out what I'm hearing. Know your product, be prepared with some of the questions that come up time and time again (you'll know what they are because you're listening to your customers) but be ready to modify your answer to fit what your customer is saying.

It's like any conversation really, if you aren't really paying attention to the conversation the other person is going to know and it will do nothing but annoy them.

2. Love your game

I've said this before, but you have to love what you're selling or else it comes across as bullshit. Love the games you make, love the games you sell. It will help you understand what's great about them, and why other people will want to play them too. Love is infectious and if you display it in what you do, then the more people are also going to excited about what you do.

3. Be Honest

Yes, you want to adapt what you're saying to fit what the customer is saying. Yes you want to make sure what you're saying fits into the customer's interest and life, but don't lie. Don't misrepresent your product, because that customer has the chance to be a repeat customer. If you want them to come back and buy the rest of your products, then lying to them is a sure fire way to make sure that they never do that again. Lying in sales doesn't work. If it's not going to be a fit for the customer, then it's not going to be a fit for a customer. If that one particular product isn't going to work for them, find another one. If you only have one product, then no matter how hard you try to push it on the customer it's never going to end well.

There's an example, and I'm not going to be specific because the industry is small and I don't think it was malicious, of something that happened to me with a game. The person had an amazing pitch, and I picked it up their game (or swag traded for it, which made me regret it a little less) and took it home to read. I got home and it wasn't what they said it was at all.

I got rid of the game, and I can't really find it in me to recommend it to anyone. Why? Because I was really disappointed that it didn't really deliver on its promises. It could have been a really good game, but I never got over the initial disappointment at all.

Like I said above, this is going to be the longest part of your sale. This is where you'll do the talking, hear about personal stories, and it's a lot of fun.  Next we'll talk about the thing a lot of people have problems with, which is the close.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The fine art of RPG selling - Part 1

Corey Reid, of Dino Pirates of Ninja Island fame, wrote up a blog post about selling at the convention floor. He's got some good thoughts about how to consider a convention a success. Things to think about like metrics and key indicators which is always a good thing to have. We can discuss them at a later time, because what I want to talk about is the fine art of selling RPGs ... which is really just the fine art of selling.

That being said, when it comes to the hobby game industry it's on the higher difficulty end. I've sold pretty much everything you can sell when it comes to convention in the 10 years (oh god it's been about 10 years hasn't it) of doing all this conventioning and selling and stuff.  I would say that Card Games and Board Games are the easiest to sell. I've sold them without even showing the game, I've just talked about it and for some people it's the right price point with the right conversation and they've bought it sight unseen. I'd say accessories and miniatures are next on the scale because of the price point and/or the extra requirements (if you have an accessory for a game then I need to play it/own it in order to want the accessory). However, if it's a good accessory then it's easy to get the buyer interested.

RPGs themselves? They're the used car of the gaming industry. People want to take it for a test drive, they want to roll down the windows, kick the tires, and after all that you're going to get a "Oh ... I'll think about it and get back to you."  That can be demoralizing, and frustrating especially if you've spent a lot of time with this person and they've shown you a lot of interest in the product.

That said, there are things you can do to help you with your selling. This isn't original, a lot of this are stuff you can find in a wide variety of selling books but I figured I would put it out there anyway. This is mostly information at the beginning of the sales conversation, we can talk about the middle parts and the end later.

1. Give a Damn about what you're selling.

If you don't like the product, there's no way in hell you can consistently convince other people that they should care about it. I don't care what kind of actor you are, I don't care what kind of sales person you think you are, but if you don't care the customer doesn't care.  It's pretty simple, and it should be easy because you're probably going to be selling your stuff. You care about what you've made, right? Right?

2. Greet People, don't Grate People.

People are at a convention to check things out, that can also mean your stuff. Make eye contact, say hello, wave at people. If they're moving don't do much more, they're checking things out and will make their own decision on what to do. If they're stopped, you can move to "Would you like to check out" or asking them what they're interested in.

Don't try to force people into your booth. That's the worst thing you can do, because all it does is make people resent you and trying to win their interest after that is hard, and you want to make this as easy as possible.  If they don't want to stop, you can't make them stop, so let them go. They may come back later, they may not but you can then focus on the people who are interested in what you're doing rather than the ones who aren't.

3. Perfect your Pitch

You have heard this ad nauseum, but it's going to get said again. Have your pitch ready.

For those of you who don't know what a pitch is, it's a short blurb that tries to encapsulate what makes your game awesome. You want to highlight the cool thing that your game does, what makes it special, what might pique their interest and what might get you to a sale.

In reality, with so many things vying for people's attention you've got about 10 seconds to try to give the customer a reason to stay. You've got one or two lines at most before they decide if they want to listen more or they're done with what you have to say. Repeat after me ... 10 seconds. Practice all the words you can intelligibly say in 10 seconds. It's not a whole helluva lot of time so you have to work on getting what makes your game great out there.

4. Adapt your Pitch

If something isn't working for you, don't think you can change it on the fly. I know I've started out using feature X for a pitch and finding out that people really enjoy feature Y. That's great, change your pitch to include Y and get rid of X, or find a way to include Y and X. Find the things that people seem to enjoy about the game, and use that to get them to talk about all the cool things about the game.

5. Be Positive

This isn't some sort of always be happy in a fake kind of way, but it kind of is. When you're selling at a con, it's great and wonderful and exhausting, but it's also a job ... it's your job. That's right, when you decided to do this whole selling your own stuff thing, sales became one of the many hats that you're going to have to wear. Get used to it, and be positive. If you're showing signs of negativity then people will react to that and you'll get less people interested to get passed your pitch to learn about your product. Smile, make eye contact, be friendly.

6. Don't go Overboard with the Positivity

Of course, don't go too far. If you're being fake, then people will pick up on that too and run but more because they're worried you're going to be a serial killer rather than a sales person.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but this is really the important stuff that I find works for me when trying to sell games to people. When I get around to writing Part 2 we'll talk about the middle of a sale, which is where most of the conversation will happen but is actually one of the easier parts of a sale.

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