I recently shut down my Patreon to focus on my Kickstarter-- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mercilessmerchants/supermodule-the-city-of-vermilion . But there were several other reasons why I decided to shut it down and thought I would discuss why for those thinking of starting their own.
The idea was to write short, 10-12 page adventures each month for 1$. My goal was to include a new monster, spell, or magic items each month. The idea wasn’t earth-shattering, as several others were doing it already.
I enjoy writing adventures and doing layout—that was the main reason to start the Patreon—it was fun! I had a huge collection of stock art I collected on DrivethruRPG over the years and I wanted to apply my self-taught skills of layout and mapping and trying different techniques. I figured some of the short adventures could be stuck into a larger, published adventure, and I could give my Patreons a deal since they had already contributed to it. I was also supporting several artists on Patreon and was able to use their art in my adventures, so the patronage was allowing me to break even—almost. Another long-term goal of mine was to make enough each month to support an artist for some commissioned art.
There were several problems with my Patreon, most were self-inflicted.
1. 10-12 pages: My imagination continually fought this requirement. I was doing this for fun, so I would allow my imagination to blow up, and suddenly I was writing 20-40 page adventures each month! While I was having a blast, this took up all my weekends (easily 40-60 hours a month).
It didn’t feel right to me to produce a 40 page adventure and then offer a 10 page adventure the following month as I thought people would feel cheated. I eventually changed my pricing tiers. 1$ was now all the new monsters, spells, and/or magic items. 2$ included the maps, 3$ included the adventure, and 4$ included everything and you got your name in the adventure as a Special Thanks. I lost a few patrons this way.
Lesson: Keep to your plan. Don’t over-extend yourself.
2. Quantity over Quality: Although most stock art looks great, in my opinion, it loses its luster when you see it in other products. Not to mention, I found myself writing scenes or dungeons that would fit with the stock art—it was directing my creativity. It started to bother me. I also would get around to play-testing some of my creations and there were a few I wasn’t 100% happy with during play. I didn’t have the time to play-test them to make them perfect and I had to keep busy writing for the next one that was due the following month!
Lesson: Be real with your expectations.
3. Promotion: This has always been my weakness, advertising and promoting. I hate doing it. It has to be part of your plan, especially in the beginning, if you want to get some people interested in what you were doing. I do admit that first patron leaving felt like a punch in the gut and a new patron always brought excitement.
Lesson: I got nothing. I still hate advertising. If you have a following before you start a Patreon, then you are in much better shape than people who don’t (I did not). I don’t have any tricks for advertising or promotion, all I know is that it sucks out all the fun out of the hobby.
4. Keeping it Fun: There is a bit of self-created stress that you put on yourself when doing a Patreon, especially if your plan is to produce something each month. I was always thinking of adventures and always seemed to be working on them…..all the time. I was still having fun and it was ok to skip a few months (I think I skipped 2-3 months total), but it was starting to drain on me. Especially during the summer. Want to enjoy your swimming pool membership?—nope, got deadlines for a Patreon….I shut down my Patreon before it felt like a chore, but I could start feeling it move in that direction.
Lesson: Keep it fun! Set your own rules—it’s ok to skip a month, just be open with your communication.
5. Interaction: I see some Patreons have tons of interaction. I attempted to get feedback on what type of terrain the next adventure would be in or would it be a dungeon or wilderness adventure, or asked what they liked or didn’t like. I didn’t get much interaction. I’m not sure if it was the type of questions I was asking or if it was just the Patreon platform. I also made the mistake of using polls—I’d get ties ALL the time from the two people who would choose to interact with them.
Lesson: I think interaction is a good thing and makes the Patreon fun, but not sure how I could of improved it. Polls can be handy, but have a plan for ties.
Overall, despite all the problems, it was not an easy decision to shut down my Patreon. I really enjoyed the creation aspect of it and I felt like I was just starting to receive more interaction from some of my patrons. The decision to try to focus more on quality and attempt to get away from stock art played a huge role in my decision to shut things down. The income made from the Patreon did help with my support of other artists on Patreon so I think overall, the whole experience came very close to breaking even.
If anyone is thinking of running a RPG Patreon, don’t hesitate to ask me questions. I’d be happy to help as best I can.