On Selling Out

I have no real idea what exactly to write here so this will probably be stream-of-consciousness nonsense, possibly so nonsensical it barely passes as English even after I anxiously revise it sixty times. I feel like I owe some kind of explanation, though, so here we go!

Since just about the earliest days of the blog I have had some incredibly supportive friends cheering me on. It’s truly a blessing to be given an abundance of faith and friendship from wonderful people. Soon after this blog started reaching an audience, I started getting suggestions that I set up a Patreon, or give out a PayPal address for tips, or start a Ko-Fi. These ideas were shared with beaming smiles (or so I imagine; it’s the internet, after all) from close friends and perfect strangers alike. Some people have hit me on Twitter or slid into my DMs to ask where my tip jar is. One I will always remember with awe, stunned love, and a sense of unworthiness was the sheer kindness of one person asking if they could tip me somehow because they forgot to use my affiliate links to buy an RPG on DriveThruRPG – as if they owed me that in the first place. What I’m trying to get at, I think, is that the extraordinarily positive and friendly community of people I am lucky enough to engage with daily have been cheering me on since day one, and have repeatedly tried to give me some of their hard-earned money as a token of support.

I’ve always said no.

It’s not that I don’t need money – who doesn’t? – and it’s not like money isn’t useful to me. I have bills, I have vague debts from the years I spent not working while waiting for the immigration process to let me do so, I have kids and a cat, and I have a crippling RPG habit. Money’s cool.

It’s also not that I am not awestruck and flattered beyond belief at the idea of it. I cannot begin to convey the swelling sense of joy and confusion and appreciation I feel at those displays of kindness and generosity. It’s incredible to feel valued and to have people want to support my dumb projects. It’s really something I have a hard time expressing (I’ll come back to that in a sec.)

But I said no, anyway, because:

  1. I do this for free. For fun, for everyone. It’s enjoyable to me. Frankly, it’s astonishing to me it’s enjoyable to anyone else. It’s genuinely 100% free. Seriously. Free access to the blogosphere is one of the most wonderful things we have and certainly the lifeblood of my favorite particular corner of the RPG hobby, the old-school renaissance.
  2. I have always been concerned that accepting money would change how I do this; afraid it’d change my desire to do so, or my own expectations of myself. Maybe it’d make me a greater perfectionist, or make me feel like I needed to a post on a given schedule.
  3. I don’t want there to be a perception that it has changed what I am doing. I try very sincerely to be as close to objective as I can of works, even though I’ve been lucky enough to befriend many of the great creators I’ve reviewed and interviewed here. Sometimes I even worry that just that alone changes the perception of honesty of my reviews, or at least of my distance and objectivity – it’s something I work very hard to maintain, but I totally understand why someone might feel differently as it is. I worry that adding money to the equation might make someone go, “Oh, XYZ dropped sweet golden lucre into his Ko-Fi tip jar, so of course he was kinder in that review.”
  4. Most of all, maybe, is the tremendous guilt or anxiety I feel about it. I’m not good at accepting compliments for the most part, terrible at getting gifts, and I generally feel a pretty (un)healthy dose of impostor syndrome at all times when I engage in creative pursuits. There’s a few things in life I am genuinely good at in my own eyes, and this is actually not one of them. I tend to mess things up when people try to be very kind to me and show me generosity and appreciation. It drives my wife nuts. I could explain why, but it’s pretty personal, so I hope it’s clear enough anyway that I am simply a mess of neurotic tendencies related to praise and remuneration.

Awhile back Patreon announced changes beginning soon which would impact future Patreon creators. The long version is here. The short version is that Patreon wants a bigger slice of the pie – but existing creators would be grandfathered into the system so the cut they give Patreon would not change. The changes are a bummer. But, mostly, they just incentivized everyone who may ever want to have a Patreon – ever, in the distant future, at all, for any reason – to make one now, to be grandfathered into the system and keep their extra percentage bits.

Now, while I support like a dozen people on there, I had no plans to ever be a Patreon creator myself. But, on the off-chance I ever cooked up some kind of self-replicating content farm in the future, I figured it’d be a good idea to get in now and prevent Patreon from chumping me on the dollars and cents. To be fair, I also felt a good deal of spite towards the company. So, I made one a week or so ago when the news dropped. As the few people who saw it this week prior to this blog post can attest, it was a deeply sarcastic, self-deprecating placeholder. It specifically said, and I quote, “do not pledge to this.” It was set to per-creation billing (meaning no monthly automatic debit) and featured a warning that I would not be posting anything that would trigger it to bill anyone. It was very much a dead placeholder designed to spite Patreon and hopefully inform any misguided attention that it was not a live, functioning account.

I spent the week advising friends and fellow Twitter RPG nerds that they should make Patreons, even placeholders for “what if”, before the changes went live. It only makes sense that, if you ever might potentially run a Patreon, you should act now to ensure you keep more of your potential future money. You’re the one doing the thing; you’re the one earning the money. Fuck Patreon’s greed and desire for geometric growth and shortsighted lack of appreciation for functionally endless stable income for very little work on their part. Go make a Patreon, I said, even if it’s just a placeholder for now.

And then @mountain_foot (better known to many of you as Patreon creator and cartographer Foot of the Mountain Adventures or Pat Eyler) went and tracked mine down after I warned him not to, and pledged to it. Being that Pat is a tremendously kind person I presume he meant to genuinely support me. Since he has a sense of humor, though, he also rewarded my warning by posting it all over Twitter. As is my way, I made a joke of the whole thing, called him a tricky rat bastard, and accused him of trying to reveal my secret fort to the public. It became something of a funny ha-ha amongst all of us Twitter nerds and many of my wonderful, generous friends pledged to it and shared it repeatedly on Twitter for a day or two. One of my friends pledged $69 (nice) per creation just to be funny. Noted creator of the Beneath the Canals Kickstarter, @barbariankb, made sure to take particular delight in my horror at people actually pledging to this. He kept me laughing while the shock and anxiety kicked in.

To be honest, I was genuinely aghast. Not at those two, of course. They’re wonderful and hilarious dudes and the running joke of my friends resharing their pledges to Twitter made me laugh repeatedly and even had my wife cracking up. They’re terrific. But that voice in the back of my head that makes me feel weird as hell about gifts and attention and praise started going ballistic. I was very anxious about it all. I didn’t want to be seen as a crass idiot seeking monetization or some kind of self-centered and greedy person demanding pay for what is and has always been a free enterprise. I also felt very, very unworthy of this attention and kindness and certainly the money on offer. At the same time, I also did not want to disappoint these incredibly generous people on the off-chance they were serious. Like, the running joke that it was all spite-pledges to a dead Patreon was hilarious, but the idea that they were sincere people trying to support me was utterly terrifying. I had no plan for a real Patreon. I had no model in mind, no real tiers, no rewards, no goals, nothing. But here I was, looking a gift horse in the mouth and trying to scare supporters away while they were trying to give me some kind of aid and recognition. I was horrified.

So I did the only thing I could do, really, and posted to ask everyone what the hell I should do. Who better to tell me what to do with my life than strangers on the internet comment section of a joke placeholder Patreon, right?

Overwhelmingly, these wonderful people told me to shut the fuck up and take their money.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Today, I told everyone on the Patreon page that I was switching to a monthly sub model, shaking things up a bit, and redecorating to make it fancier and more worthy of them. At the very least, they deserve a few purpose-made pictures over there. I also told everyone who had pledged, via direct message and public Patreon post, about the changes and encouraged them to jump ship if they like. No hard feelings, no worries. So no one who backed as a joke feels stuck, and anyone who doesn’t want to actually sub monthly to a Patreon with no exclusive rewards can also safely exit too without feeling obligated to stay or as if they might upset me or our friendship. Those fifteen brave idiots have my undying appreciation whether they leave or stay.

I got tier art up. I don’t know why there’s more than one tier other than I drew three tier drawings. 

I’m working on a new banner and user image, but that’s about all the shiny redecorating I can do without just adding posts. Which I’ll do too, I’m sure; the place doesn’t have enough possums by half. Anyway. I’m also working on plans for non-blog-related, Patreon-specific gimmicks for backers. Maybe stickers on a semi-regular basis; maybe random stupid doodles of possums for each B/X class; maybe mailers full of the shredded newspaper I use for bedding in my possum nest. I haven’t decided yet. But the moral is, I have a Patreon now, and it’s open to anyone who wants to support it.

I won’t be posting about it further. I don’t want to invade your day with mentions of it or demands that anyone join it. I’ll probably find a spot for an icon for it here on the blog, but it’ll be small or something. It’s not gonna change what I post, how often I post, when I post, or why I post at all. I will not be posting there first or anything like that. I’m sure anything that does get posted over there – whatever it is – will also be here if it remotely fits the theme of the blog. If you like what I do here, you can support it financially over there, but you’re not obligated to.

This website remains a constant deluge of stupid thoughts and opinions and doodles from my brain, for free, for everyone. It always will.

An additional note: Some experienced nerds – Fiona Geist and Kiel Chenier – advised me also that many people prefer to do single “tip jar” things instead of recurring charges, and that Ko-Fi is good for that, so I decided to sell out EXTRA HARD after speaking with them and surreptitiously set up a Ko-Fi page as well. I figure, if I’m gonna be a money-propelled freight train of capitalist greed I may as well put both wheels on the track, so to speak. Let’s do it properly, right? Of course, because I don’t want to pay Ko-Fi money, I don’t get to choose a different dollar amount there, so it’s frozen at $3 because I guess they’re trapped in 1997 and coffee still costs that much wherever they are.

Anyway, here’s some links and fancy doodles:


Thank you for your patience with this article.

Thank you for your kindness, generosity, support, and understanding. That’s not limited just to the brave nerds who pledge to this insane thing; that’s true, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone out there who laughs with me on Twitter or comments on this blog or even just comes by to see what’s new and makes the view counter one higher when I look at it from time to time. You’re all amazing.

Thank you all, very much.

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2 comments on “On Selling Out

  1. phillcalle

    You have a strong prose style, a good sense of humor, a great imagination, and a love for what you do. I feel guilty that I can't keep up with your all of your output, and Patreon provides a great service in helping me assuage that guilt one micro-transaction per month. I'm glad you decided to give in.

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