Last year was a year of both growth and change, for Raging Swan Press. Looking back over the last 12 months in some ways it’s been a more turbulent year than almost any other in Raging Swan Press’s eight-year history. That said, Raging Swan Press has managed to grow despite battling some pretty serious “headwinds”. (Gosh, don’t I sound professional and businesslike!)
In this article, I’ll look back at 2018 and then cast my gaze forward into 2019.
Looking Back at 2018
Pathfinder 2nd Edition
In 2018, Paizo announced a new edition of their Pathfinder Roleplaying Game would release at Gen Con 2019. This development is both a tremendous opportunity and a potential threat for Raging Swan Press as a new edition could potential splinter Pathfinder’s existing fan base. When I launched Raging Swan Press in 2010, it was with the express purpose of releasing Pathfinder Roleplaying Game compatible products. For the first five years of our existence—or so—that’s all we released.
However, back in 2015 I realised a new edition of Pathfinder was inevitable. It seemed wise to diversify and so we did first producing System Neutral products and then starting to ease our way into 5e. Both sets of products have done well for Raging Swan Press. In particular, our 5e products have driven scores of people to join our Patreon campaign—which is Raging Swan Press’s throbbing heart.
Sales of our Pathfinder compatible lines have been challenging this year. News of 2nd edition and the release of a playtest version of the new edition heralded a slump in demand for Pathfinder products. Paizo’s website crashing for most of a month didn’t help either. In any event, after the announcement of 2nd edition our Pathfinder sales have declined by roughly 30% across the board. Nowhere has this effect been more pronounced than at Paizo’s own store, but I expect that’s to be expected.
The good news is that our Patreon campaign continues to power along. Although in terms of raw numbers we’ve been only grown a little since August, I view this as a positive. With the Pathfinder 2e announcement, it was inevitable we’d lose members as people try the playtest, finish up their current 1e campaigns and so on. To continue growing in this climate is a real achievement.
Overall I am delighted with the state of our Patreon campaign. Our patrons—heroes all—enable us to pay top notch rates for our brave freelancers and I am tremendously proud and grateful for their support. More than that they inspire me to push on, and are an excellent source of comments and ideas for new products and lines (see below).
The Raging Swan Press Store
We launched Raging Swan Press’s own online store just over a year ago and I’m slowly familiarising myself with the doings of running a store (as opposed to only listing products at other people’s stores).
Recent events have underlined the importance of having our own platform and I’m generally happy with how the store ticks over. Sadly, for me, a lot of the business of running a store—uploading products, managing promotions and so on—is tremendously boring. I should spend more time on it, but frankly, I prefer writing and gaming! Sadly for me, I know no Shopify gurus.
In 2018, Raging Swan Press quietly started releasing products on Fantasy Grounds. This isn’t something I’ve really pushed yet—I don’t really understand online gaming—but I’ll be making more of this in 2019.
Onwards to 2019!
2019 is going to be a challenging year. One subject I have not yet touched on is Brexit. Raging Swan Press is based in the UK and Brexit hurtles ever nearer. For the last two years or so, the $/£ exchange rate has been all over the place. Given that most of my freelancers and customers live in the States I’m hoping Brexit will have little impact on how I run my business. However, given we still don’t know the final shape of the deal it’s too early to say what effect—if any—it will have on Raging Swan Press.
Our Patreon campaign remains a priority for Raging Swan Press win 2019.
At the end of 2018, I started recording and releasing a patron exclusive AMA, and I’ll be continuing in that vein in 2019. We’ll also be releasing our first Patreon-exclusive product in February. Only members of our Patreon campaign will get the book—a collection of every NPC we release during January as part of The Daily NPC. Ideally, I’d like to release such a book every month, but we’ll have to see how it fits into the writing and release schedule. (But, I’m thinking of either “Adventurers Around Town” or “Caves & Caverns” as the theme for February).
Release Schedule and New Lines
2019 is also going to be a busy year for Raging Swan Press. We’ll be maintaining our frenetic rate of releases. Normally, we release around ten products a month and I see no reason to slow down. The Village Backdrop line remains a staple of our line as does 20 Things and Monstrous Lairs. Last year saw the demise of Places of Power. In its place, we’ll be working on two new lines: Eventures and Dungeon Backdrops:
- Eventures: An eventure is akin to a normal adventure, but does not (normally) feature violence or physical challenges. Instead, an eventure focuses on the use of social skills and role-play to resolve the challenges, or events, therein. Most eventures take places in a settlement or on the road. Few occur in traditional adventure locales such as dungeons, ruined castles and so on. Eventures are an excellent change of pace and can be used as filler between adventures or as situations in which PCs who have invested in social skills can shine. They are also perfect for players who enjoy role-playing.
- Dungeon Backdrops: You are a GM, but you are busy. You want to write your own modules, but you just don’t have the time. And you don’t want to use commercial modules. You want to make your campaign your own. That’s where the Dungeon Backdrop line comes in! Each Dungeon Backdrop presents a fully fleshed out and lovingly detailed self-contained dungeon ready for you to use as you see fit. Stock the dungeon with your own monsters (and—perhaps if you are feeling nice—their treasure), design their back story and you are good to go.
I can foresee no realistic situation in which Raging Swan Press does not support Pathfinder 2e. I spoke with Erik Mona last year at UK Games Expo and he confirmed there would be a 3PP license, and I’m happy to take him at his word. Erik’s a decent chap. The extent of our support of Pathfinder 2e, however, will depend in part on our patrons and how they take to the new system. Shockingly, I’ll be picking up a copy of the books as soon as they release and I’m mad keen to see how the final product shook out.
Gloamhold and Ashlar
Since releasing the Gloamhold Campaign Guide, we’ve focused on designing the various villages, towns and city extant in Ashlar. That work is essentially complete—although you can never really finish designing a city—and I’m turning my fell eye towards adding more details to Gloamhold itself. I’m starting in the ruined village of Greystone and will work my way inwards from there.
Greystone is the most accessible part of Gloamhold and it’s where my current campaign—Adventures in Shadow—is focused at the moment. To a certain extent, I’ll be using my campaign as a guide to chart my design on the megadungeon. We started at 1st-level and I’m assuming that many campaigns featuring Gloamhold would similarly start at the beginning. There doesn’t seem—therefore—much point in designing the harder-to-reach, more dangerous locales just yet.
In conclusion, I’m tremendously positive about 2019. Sure, they’ll be challenges ahead but I think Raging Swan Press is well placed to make the most of the year. We’ve got a great bunch of freelancers and we’ve got a great bunch of patrons, customers and supporters. My main frustration is having to wait until August to get a decent look at Pathfinder 2e.
On a personal note, I can’t wait to detail more of Gloamhold. I’m enjoying my Adventures in Shadow campaign immensely—although keeping ahead of the players is a challenge—and I’m fascinated to see where it goes in 2019! I’ve been trialling a new way of working, which enables me to focus more on actually writing—that’s why I started Raging Swan Press in the first place—and it is bearing fruit.
However, my biggest challenge of 2019 will likely be time. I would love to hire more help so I can write more, but Raging Swan Press isn’t quite at that level yet. We have a great crop of freelancers, cartographers and artists, but ideally, I’d hire more help in the fields of editing and layout and get some decent help with our Shopify store which I think could be a much slicker, better store if only I could lavish more time and attention on it.
Finally, we have our ninth birthday this March! Which means that in 2020, Raging Swan Press turns ten! When I think about that, I’m staggered. Raging Swan Press has come a long way since our first product—Retribution—and I’m very grateful to everyone who has supported us over the last (almost) nine years.
Have you got any comments about Raging Swan Press or suggestions to make our books and supplements better? Please leave a comment below.