Meet the Publisher: Jim Hall of Brooklet Games
Brooklet Games has been consistently producing some top-quality OSR zines of late, and I'm especially interested in the model of using Patreon as the initial, if not primary, distribution channel. You can purchase their 'zines here (Vortex Isle and Arbon and the Rot Dragon), as well as the Cairn webstore as well as their own recently established store. Links to the Patreon and webstore are at the end of the interview.
Question. You're one of the few publishers I've encountered that use Patreon as a primary means of distribution. Can you talk about your experience doing that? I have a Patreon, and for me it is really good at keeping me motivated to produce. It basically covers the cost of professional editing. I'm curious to see how other publishers are using Patreon, and how it compares as a platform to Drivethru or itch.
Answer. I'm still relatively new to distribution, but I think Patreon is super interesting. It's pretty much a subscription. I think people just love the idea of getting a monthly zine in the mail. Members also get my work before anyone else. From a business perspective, I use my Patreon to fund the production of my adventures. This includes printing, editing, and shipping. It provides the financial stability needed to plan ahead. Also, as you pointed out, it's quite motivating.
When I first started my Patreon page it was something totally different. I was creating weekly magic items with mechanics and illustrations. Then I got into illustrating maps and started working on a bigger project called Escape from Glist (still under development) which I shared on Patreon. In the meantime, I had written a couple of smaller dungeons, Titan Cliffs, Thorne, and Forbidden Swamp. I really liked the activity of making the smaller adventures so with the new year I decided to do one a month, using Patreon to fund it.
It's worth noting that a month after each zine comes out on Patreon I put it up for sale on itch and send copies to a few excellent web stores such as Third Kingdom Games. This month my retailer sales just passed my Patreon sales for the first time. With that in mind, I hope to open my own web store soon as well.
Q. Talk a little bit about your 'zine writing. What inspires your products? Are they set in a defined world, or one you're developing as you're producing?
A. I start by putting out a survey on Patreon with a few prompts that I come up with. The crew votes for their favorite and I get to work! It's a fun creative challenge to turn the prompt into something bigger. The prompt for the latest zine was "escape the city". Then I explore the premise a bit. Why do we need to escape the city? What threats/encounters might come up? What secrets can be learned? I am really interested in setting up scenarios that encourage creative and social problem solving. Furthermore, it's important to me that player choices have consequences.
With the latest zine I was really interested in creating a GMless experience. I had seen that the Lichdom Kickstarter was using cards to determine scenarios, so I thought I'd play with that. You draw cards to pick locations and encounters to play through. Something I'm really proud of in this game is the secrets mechanic. I find secrets to be one of the most fun parts about playing. It's satisfying to learn them. With ``Escape the City'', as you play you learn "secrets" about the four foes guarding the bridges out of the city. In reality, each secret adds to the encounter at a given bridge. They players then have to choose which bridge guard to try and pass.
The world is not terribly well defined outside of the individual locations where my adventures take place. They are meant to be dropped into your campaign for a couple sessions. The last two adventures, Arbon and the Rot Dragon and Escape the City refer to the same villain, Kol Ban Ri, but you'll have to stay tuned to learn what his plans are. Other adventures, like Vortex Isles and Titan Cliffs, are more standalone. For example, the next zine I'm writing is an encounter builder that has an otherworldly feel. I think it would be just as at home in an Into The Odd game as a Cairn game. I also plan on writing more material for the Escape from Glist world sometime this year.
Q. I see you're statting for 5e and Cairn. How did that come about? Amanda P does the same thing, and I'm always so impressed with folks who have that kind of system mastery to stat an adventure using two very different systems in a condensed format.
A. Aside from a little bit of D&D 3.5e that I played back in college, I have primarily played D&D 5e. Also, my main group likes D&D, so I usually start with that.
I play 5e a little differently than you're supposed to. I found that rather than fixating on rules as written, games felt much more fluid if you tackle things narratively. It wasn't until last year that I was exposed to games like Troika!, Into The Odd, Knave and Cairn. These games are super boiled down and force you to use that narrative play style. It's not "I roll an investigation check" it's "I rummage through the dirty laundry looking for a set of keys."
Cairn has been particularly easy to work with because Yochai Gal has provided a bunch of free and easy to use resources. So conversion is easy. On top of that it's easy to make new characters and that makes play-testing quicker and easier.
What it boils down to is I like to play both systems.
Q. Finally, do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to share? I know you're close to releasing Escape the City, but is there anything else big on the horizon?
A. Thanks for asking! Since I'm putting a zine out every month, I'm naturally working on the next one which will come to Patreon the first week of Map. It's about strange interplanar beings who have come to our dimension for various reasons. This will be a boiled down encounter builder featuring artwork from Perplexing Ruins. I also have a couple longer term projects I'm chipping away at including Escape from Glist which is a rather large hex crawl with four main dungeons. Also I'm working on a huge map for Barkeep on the Borderlands.
Thanks for inviting me to share my process here!
The best place to get my latest work, to get my library of work, and to support me is on the Brooklet Patreon - https://www.patreon.com/brookletgames
You can buy my games as PDFs at https://brookletgames.itch.io/