Just over two years ago, John Wick’s 7th Sea: Second Edition Kickstarter smashed through the barriers of roleplaying game potential, becoming the first campaign of its kind to surpass the $1 million mark. Among contemporaries in the RPG space, consistent hits from Monte Cook Games and Richard Thomas, along with extraordinary successes from Evil Hat Productions, Modiphius, Kobold Press, Frog God Games and others illustrate the possibilities of crowdfunding. And with the meteoric launch of Strongholds & Streaming, the first Kickstarter project from Matt Colville, we will almost certainly see the bar raised even higher.
The Kickstarter by Matt Colville did what?!
Launched on Friday, February 9, 2018, Strongholds & Streaming met its $50,000 goal just over 30 minutes, surpassed all goals within four hours and as of the time of this writing two days after launch is sitting at $860,303 with 27 days remaining in the campaign.
This is a watershed moment, nerds.
It’s no surprise whatsoever that Uncle Matt’s Kickstarter fully funded in short order or wildly surpassed the goal. Matt Colville is a skilled and experienced game designer, writer and content creator beloved by the Dungeons & Dragons community. If you’ve followed the progress on preparing and launching the Strongholds & Streaming Kickstarter you know he and the team invested a huge amount of research to help deliver top quality. The Strongholds & Followers material is something Colville has used in his own games for decades, refining and developing it through various editions of D&D.
In his Twitch chats leading up to the launch he talked about the process of including the gemtone dragons and associated miniatures, plans and goals for streaming games and more. The guy is very open and engaged with the community and this positioning certainly impacted the skyrocketing success of the Kickstarter.
The remarkable confluence of Strongholds & Streaming is folding in goals beyond the product, opening the door to the gaming community to support not only the content but leveraging the success for additional projects. In Matt Colville’s case here, we see how much gamers want to help him reach a separate goal of raising money to cover costs associated with starting a quality live stream gaming series of his own. These costs include securing studio space to accommodate the custom rig he built and further expanding it – essentially building a TV studio specifically designed to meet his needs.
If I’m honest, I’m not thoroughly well-versed in Kickstarter history or possessed of deep knowledge of the RPG industry. Thanks to excellent work by EN World’s Morrus I got a great jumping off point for exploring this phenomenon. And what I believe Matt Colville has done here is next-level stuff. Already established in the game design field – both tabletop and video games – what I see here is not a creator seeking to make it in the RPG space. I don’t believe his goal is to segue into the tabletop game design industry or create a thriving company to consistently produce material for D&D. I would go so far as to say I think he is as surprised by his position in the RPG space as anyone.
“Since finding studio space means signing a multi-year lease and being on the hook for a lot of money, it terrifies me. It’s my hope that enough people want this book, or want to support the stream, to cover some or all of that cost. If not, no big deal. You still get a great book!” – from the Strongholds & Streaming Kickstarter campaign
Clearly, Colville is very intelligent and applies these smarts to endeavors appealing to him with gusto. Outside of his career as a game designer, which he’s discussed at length on his mega-popular YouTube channel, his self-published books have done well and help support his non-monetized channel. I’ve heard him talk about various things like learning to play instruments on a podcast a while back to more recently delving into wonderful world of moog music. His YouTube channel itself is a passion project and over the last few years he’s invested time and energy into learning how to improve it, with a success that’s plain to see.
This same approach was applied to launching his Kickstarter, with him gathering broad spectrum knowledge and starting off on the right foot. And boy did he. But the unique thing I see here is how he incorporates tangential goals to the campaign. It’s entirely possible other Kickstarters have done similar things; there’s a heckuva lot of campaigns out there and I’m not even going to pretend I have a grasp on even a small fraction of them. But by folding in the goal of building future content in the form of live stream games, he added a new dimension and the payoff is obvious.
People love Matt Colville, there’s no denying it. He began and continues to run his YouTube channel without monetization, expanding into Twitch along the way, purely out of a love for D&D, wanting to encourage others to play, to be Dungeon Masters and provide his astute perspectives on ways to make those things more enjoyable for gamers. His eggs weren’t all in the basket and I’d go so far as to say there were no eggs, and no basket at all.
What Kickstarter means for the RPG industry
Clearly, Kickstarter has had enormous impact on the RPG industry. Entire companies are built around planning, preparing and running Kickstarter campaigns for new and innovative third party products for D&D, er…5E as well as entirely new game systems. It’s astounding to me, frankly.
At any given time there’s campaigns big and small enabling content creators to produce amazing products in dizzying variety for gamers. New games and supplements for existing games, accessories, adventures, miniatures and more provide paths for gamers to have ultimate flexibility at their gaming tables.
And innovations are coming around every day. Just a couple of months ago, campaigns like the Creature Codex from Kobold Press and Masters and Minions from Jetpack 7 included ways for pledges to get involved with the content themselves through becoming part of the creative process.
Monte Cook Games’ Invisible Sun demonstrated how deep a campaign can get with top tier pledges getting not just an incredible amount of product but rewards like access to the Directed Campaign run by Monte cook and content with him for advice and suggestions. Monte Cook Games is a veritable Kickstarter juggernaut with 11 campaigns that have since become a irrefutable part of the RPG lexicon. Numenera, The Strange, No Thank You Evil and Worlds of the Cypher System are just a few.
What really amazes me is how Kickstarter has evolved. Strongholds & Streaming represents an evolution of a different tack, too. The idea behind the crowdfunding platform is giving a boost to creators to get project funded and, well, kickstart new ventures and careers in the RPG industry in these cases. But now we’re seeing it can be a way to support growth beyond a single concept. Matt Colville could have launched his campaign for the book and associated accessories only, and it would have for certain funded successfully.
But by leveraging his value he has accomplished something extraordinary here. People – a lot of people – love what he’s doing. He does a fantastic job engaging and building a community by remaining true to himself. Because of that, gamers are happy to show their support by helping him achieve this other dream of bringing his ideas of what live stream D&D gaming can be to a broad audience in the way he envisions.
I absolutely doff my hat to good ol’ Uncle Matt. Not only for his success as a content creator with the Strongholds & Streaming Kickstarter, but by doing it in a way that elevates what can be achieved in the RPG space we’re all so passionate about.
With innovators like Matt Colville building on the phenomenal and continuing success of creators like Monte Cook Games, John Wick and others, it makes what is already a fantastic time to be a tabletop roleplaying game nerd even better. These luminaries inspire us to explore our games in new ways, see games through different lenses and take new approaches at the table. They grow our hobby not only by giving us new shiny things to play with but expanding what games can be and the immense and growing community of people who play them.
For everyone here at Nerdarchy, they do something else, too. They keep us moving forward with our own ideas and projects. Pushing and often erasing boundaries of what gaming can become, we are constantly invigorated and energized by what we see and eager to keep doing our best to make the kinds of positive impacts these folks have for our hobby.
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If you haven’t checked out the Strongholds & Streaming Kickstarter from Matt Colville…what are you waiting for?
Thank you for your consideration and as always, until next time stay nerdy!
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Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, world building, or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy or his own blog The Long Shot, he’s a newspaper designer, copy editor and journalist. He loves advocating the RPG hobby and connecting with other nerds and gamers on social media and his site thelongshotist.com.