Art and Publishing Plans

I’ve spoken before about how I think I might like to publish Echelon, but I haven’t discussed much about art.

I did a bit of math.  Depending on how large things get, I see the following paths for my art requirements.

No-Frills PDF

Just as it says on the box cover, a “printer-friendly” version of the game.  Likely published as a PDF (possibly free) or Print on Demand hard copy.  Apart from the time and effort I put into it, and any editing I pay for, I don’t aim to spend a lot of money on this.

  • Probably a single, probably reasonably simple cover.  I could look for something public domain or stock, but I’d prefer something bespoke.
  • Internal art is likely to be stock art.

B/X Box Set

This is where things get more complicated.  If I’m going to do this, I want it to be the best it can be.

For economic reasons this could be reduced to a single book, but I’d rather not do that.  I started with Mentzer D&D, and doing Echelon as box sets — especially since there are natural divisions to the game already — really appeals to me.  I’m going to work on the assumption I can do it this way, if only to simplify my math.

I am big on consistency, for a certain value of consistency.  I don’t mind mixing and matching between styles for different books or topics (I could see using different artists for different tiers of Echelon — if B/X goes well I will likely want to do Heroic/Master and Champion/Legendary boxes as well) but if I use two artists “in close proximity” their styles have to work well together: either be close or be complementary.  I’ve seen books where the art is all over the place in style and quality, and it’s a wicked turn-off.  If I’m going to do this, it is going to be done well.  I am likely to want to single-source this, despite the risk that entails (more artists means I can better cope with a single artist being unable to deliver).
I see a baseline of 12 pregen characters, rule book (possibly plural, player and GM), 32-page monster book.  This would suggest a baseline image count of:
  • 1 full-page color cover;
  • 12 half-page or so full-color characters (the pre-gens are likely to be printed on 11″x17″ cardstock and folded; front is character name, action picture, and why you want to be this badass, middle two are game information needed to play, back is likely supplementary information, possibly about how the character might level up);
  • 30 quarter-page monster images (as with the characters, likely ‘action poses’ but otherwise simple, likely no backgrounds.  Willing to settle for black and white (and honestly, in many cases I prefer it — or line art).

When it comes time to go to publication, I expect I’m likely to try Kickstarting this.  I see stretch goals including (for art purposes; “more talents” is likely to be here in any case):

  • Increasing the number of pregen characters, probably doubling them;
  • Increasing the number of monsters, probably doubling them to start;
  • Improving the art (line art to black and white to color).

I’ve spoken with a couple of artists to get a feel for what this might cost.  I can absorb the expected cost of the No-Frills version, but the full version?  Going to have to get funding elsewhere, or save up my nickels for a long time.

Alternate Plan: Full Deal

This might still be a box set, just a much fuller one, or it might be a single, bigger book, or it might go the classic three-book route.  This would likely have the entire core in one place.  At this point I have no real idea of the scope of the art requirement, but my first guess would be probably three to five times as much as the box set described above, to have a similar sort of quality.

Definitely not something I can afford to do myself.

Closing Comments

This really puts some perspective on the Inkwell Ideas stock art project at Kickstarter right now.  I could probably satisfy almost all of my art requirements for the monster section, reasonably well, just by buying into it at the high end. Being able to cover pretty much all the monsters for $325 is a hell of a deal… I don’t have to have bespoke art, as much as I’d like it.

Hmm.  And the Kickstarter doesn’t close for another six weeks.  I have time to think about this, and can save my Kickstarter pennies for stock art instead.

In fact, that itself could be an upgrade in the project.  Baseline is no longer bespoke, but quality stock art, then I upgrade to bespoke when and as it becomes feasible.

I didn’t share any specific math beyond raw counts, it would not be a reasonable thing to do to the artists I have spoken with.

When it comes time to move ahead with this, I am like to solicit proposals from artists, particularly after I have a firmer idea of the scope I am trying to meet.

I’m at a weird place in evaluating the ballpark estimates right now.  Part of me goes “$thatmuch?!  Dear gods!” and another part goes “only $thatmuch, hmm?”  One of the hazards of being a gaming geek who works for the Ministry of Finance, I suppose.

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  1. tussock

    Regarding basic sets I just yesterday penned the following. Think of it as your four-year publishing schedule, should you go that way. NB: I am not a publisher-person, and you should listen to more serious people by preference.

    “Yes, though I think level 3 is still too low in 3e (because you level-up so fast). The first 6 levels would work well mechanically, and get you fireball and fly, plus all the basic monsters up to a few iconic “level 7” ones (CR 5, the Manticore, Troll, and Wraith). That’s the D&D most people seem to play.

    Maybe just 6 classes, Fighter, Rogue, Adept, Wizard, Cleric, and Bard/Druid.
    Where Adept is the martial adept and gish type, a barbarian/monk/psiwar/shifter deal.

    A 2nd pair the same sizes would net you the rest of the core game, level 7-16 might be a better stopping point than 7-20, and adding typical prestige path/class options could fill out your page count. Could have PClass rangers and paladins and alt-wizards and spec-clerics and …, splatbook filler forever. Cold Guy, and Frostmancer, and ice-knife.

    Churn out a 3rd pair for rulership and background income, mass combat, trade, boats, flying ships, city-building, and all the bullshit that wouldn’t fit earlier, levels 1-16. Include all the noble, criminal, and monstrous secret-overlord societies like Illithid elder brains and drow plots against the overworld. Totally add a courtly social mini-game if anyone can write one that isn’t a bag of ass.

    A 4th set for planar adventuring and world-rending catastrophies, a few “I’m a god now” epic classes for 17-22 (6 of them, for the original six classes). Get into vampire plagues and nanoswarm cascades and other things DMs may or may not want to bring to the prime but can totally work anywhere as a planar jaunt. The blood war, the fury of angels, the great walk, a dragonflight. Plus all the 9th level spells you ever wanted.

    You know, what they tried to do with 4e, a money-making scheme, only something people might totally buy once they’re bored with the last lot, not just more of the same. Pathfinder2, eh. Monsters and treasure and encounter generation in the DMG, everything else in the PHB. Not monster books, but monsters and interesting things you can do with them. /rant.”

    Adapting to Echelon, you’d be levels 1-10 for your starter game. Or a free 1-5 proof of concept freebie for the basic 4 “class concepts” to show how classic 1st level D&D characters play out in your own fantasy heartbreaker. Can you make a Dwarf Fighter yet dude? 8]

    • Honestly, I expect that a “B/X” version likely would include at least some talents into the Heroic tier (just as Mentzer included some second-level cleric spells and third-level magic-user spells in the Red Box). This is partly so the GM has some extra stuff to work with, and so players have somewhere to go after they get to the top of Expert.

      I’m not entirely attached to the first set being “B/X”. I’ll admit that split pleases me: it provides a decent starting range, dealing with more or less real-world limits, and aligns wonderfully with my first D&D. The next set (Heroic/Master) aligns well with the Expert box (4-14 IIRC), and so on.

      I can easily see making two sets, Basic-Heroic and Master-Legendary, if I keep the split by level. I can usually get up to Heroic tier in a talent without too much trouble, Master to Legendary is sometimes a bit more difficult for me.

      Hmm. While I don’t see myself doing a splatbook churn such as you describe, I can see doing something like:

      • B/X-only No-Frills edition (minor art, first two tiers, adventurers mostly live in only one of them) for more or less free.
      • B-H formal release, with art. Box set or book, preferably box set because it would make me happy. May include rulership stuff at the top end, as Adventurer Conqueror King does.
      • M-L formal release, with art. Same format as B-H.
      • Ultimately, a full set from B-L, possibly split into the classic three books. This would likely happen only after enough material has accumulated that I’d want to better organize what’s out there.
      • Splats by topic; if you want to play Supers or include Psionics or whatever might be specialized and not in core.

      … but I still like the B/X, H/M, C/L splits because B/X is “more or less real world, for some definition of real world”, H/M is “becoming superhuman”, C/L is “working toward apotheosis or parallel” (for those who don’t want the limitations of being a god). I imagine the nature of the adventures splits broadly on those levels — could, at any tier, but those are the places I see major differences beyond just the tiers.

      Dwarf fighter… I’m close! I need some Martial Traditions and Combat Styles, I think. I’m working toward toward it now.

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