Meet the Publisher: Tony Vasinda of Plus One Exp
Updated: Oct 9, 2022
Tony Vasinda is at the helm of Plus One Exp, a multi-faceted company that publishes and distributes both rpgs and beard care products. He has been working tirelessly to promote the work of indie publishers over the past few years. You can find him at https://plusoneexp.com/ as well as on Twitter as @plusoneexp
Question: Can you tell us a bit about Plus One Exp? In addition to publishing your own work you help to publish and distribute the work of others. What sort of help do you offer?
Answer: So the initial vision of Plus One was just an expansion into offering tabletop inspired balms and lotions which is what I did for my primary income when we were dreaming the brand up in 2018, but we never really pushed that limited vision forward. It felt a little hollow to me, and when I started looking at the other work I was doing that made me most excited it was all around creating platforms to uplift other voices and creators. So when we really launched out at the end of 2020 it was really about a vision for lifting up and promoting indie and small press designers. Creating high quality content that could help introduce their games quickly and share the work they were doing. We had a game called Beards & Beyond that was finishing up development at that point, and we figured that a rising tide lifts all ships. So we started creating content, making more games, and it's been a whirlwind in the last 2 years to grow the channel and help support other folks.
Now in addition to playing and promoting other folks' games we also do print partnerships and crowdfunding support for them. We print our own games, host design jams and community conversations & due to recently getting bought by a global shipping company called BrandFox we offer fulfillment, ecommerce, and distribution support for creators of all sizes. We also still sell beard (and coming soon) skin care products.
Basically if you want help getting the word out or getting your game printed, promoted, or to people we can help.
Even if we can't help you directly I am on 2-3 calls a week talking with indie and small press creators about what they can do to move forward.
Q: Like I said, you're heavily involved in indie game promotion, especially around the ZineQuests. This year was a bit weird. Can you talk about what your perspective was with the two "competing" zine months? Did anything really jump out at you as being outstanding or, perhaps, detrimental to the community at large?
A: I mean we didn't really have 2 competing months. Kickstarter made a bunch of bad choices and we ended up with Zine Month organized by our friends at Feral Indie Studio in February and ZineQuest 4 in August. I could take up tons of time and space with my thoughts on this. At the end of the day, I think the community needs to take ownership of the events happening in it and move away from letting specific platforms or corporations dominate them. Three things I'll throw out.
- Zine Month did more practical good for the community than any individual Zine Quest ever did. Amazing skill sharing and support happened in a way we have never seen. It was because even though Feral Indie organized it, we all owned it. No matter what happens in the future we need to hold onto that.
- As overall lackluster as ZineQuest 4 was, I think the brightsports highlighted something important.
ZineQuest has a function beyond FOMO. Lots of people feel the pressure to release 1 (or more) projects during ZineQuest each year. If it's your first ZineQuest I am excited for you, but if you can put your game out any other time of year do it. I think as a community we need to let ZineQuest be a cool entry point for smaller, especially first time, creators. If you are a well known creator putting something out in ZineQuest you are probably getting less attention than you might normally. I want to see us let ZineQuest be a starting spot for people taking that first stab at creation and have the rest of us step back to cheer them on and support them.
- I think the missteps Kickstarter made this year highlighted the need for change. This is good, right now I don't know that most creators were ready to step off to a new platform. It's a lot of work and a lot of creators, even experienced ones, are not up for it. However, we saw a healthy shift away from KS and crowdfunding a response. People moved to Gamefound, IndieGoGO, Itch, their own websites and mailing lists and we saw real actionable data and practices come out of it. This was good for us, but we have to keep pushing forward. I think on every project a creator needs to ask, "What is the best way to make this happen?" That starts by asking the question, "What do I actually want out of funding my game?" I don't know that enough of us are asking that.
Q: What advice can you give to people who may be new to the indie publishing industry?
A: Similar to the above. Ask yourself, "Why do you want to do this?" I just watched a bunch of friends and designers I love take active steps back from design or quit designing because they realized it was not giving them what they wanted or needed. In some cases it was actively causing them harm. There are easier ways to make money. There are more kind communities. There are better professional pathways. We are a hobby scene muddled together with a professional industry. The answer to the question above will tell you a lot, but let me give you a few options.
"I just want to try it" Great! Welcome, I am so glad you are here. Have fun, mess up, discover things. Unleash your creativity in this community.
"I have an idea I want to hold in my hands" Awesome! If you just want copies for you and friends just print Mixam or your local print shop. Want a few hundred copies in the world? Talk to folks (like us) who do print partnerships or don't quit your day job and just print it while you can.
"I think I want this to be my job" Amazing! Find a community of support, start small, write for others (make sure they pay you), write bigger, print small things, print bigger things, work with publishers, grow your work, and make a go of it. Realize that professional paths require professional growth.
"So people will think I am cool" I get it, game designers are known as the best looking and most attractive individuals in the world, but since most people walking by us on the street don't know us or what we do it may not be the best choice.
"I want to get rich making games" Cool, it could happen, but I don't know many folks who have done it and most of the folks in the community will not be inspired by your desire to get rich.
These are just a few (trope) examples, ideally you want to dig down. But knowing why you want to do this is huge. It lets you know:
A. If you are here for a good time or here for a long time.
B. Where and how to dig down, and when to call it quits.
If you don't know how to answer this question, hit me up. I am happy to talk with you and refine your vision or support you in getting there if you are here for reasons I appreciate.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for getting minority and female voices amplified and heard in gaming? Even though a lot of progress has been made to diversify the community (and the world in general) it is still very much a white male space (witness not specifically ttrpg-related, but responses to both She-Hulk and the new Little Mermaid live action movie). I mean, we're two white, middle-aged dudes having this discussion. Do you have any insight or advice to offer?
A: Oof, how to say this without giving into any kind of broken savior complex...
Give other people space, and only build spaces that you are willing to give up to others.
I am about as much of an embodiment of the patriarchy as you can be.
My cultural background, faith, gender, sexual preference & socioeconomic class all reinforce this.
I can't change that, but I can act on that.
I can leverage the cultural capital other people will easily give me on behalf of others and then decentralize myself from the conversation.
No one is asking me to leave, but they are asking to let their voices be heard and for me to be quiet when it's not my time to talk.
After about 10 months of doing Plus One I really wanted to move to a setting where I was not on all the streams.
We have always been a diversity 1st channel (meaning that players from marginalized & diverse experiences get preference on playing), white straight men have always been told they would be picked after other folks. If you didn't like that we made it clear that this was not the community for you. However there was a major issue with that...
I was on every stream.
So I started by running streams off camera so I was not part of the play. We did that a few times and it was nice, but the real win recently has been The Cult that has started on Plus One Exp. Cult.exe is Kegan Queen and 0SarahXFrank0 running their own streams on the platform. It's allowed totally new voices to own space on our stream, voices that are not mine, voices that can do things mine could not. We also added our solo game series Alone w/Armanda that brought Armanda Haller an Argentinian creator to the platform. These are honestly the things I am most proud of that we have done on the content side. For games, Down We Go & Through the Void both focused on global design teams and giving lots of space to designers from the global south.
This takes time. It takes demonstrating trustworthiness. It takes continuing to show up for other people. It takes being vulnerable and it takes being intentional. We aren't done yet since Plus One is still too white of a space.
We won't always do it right. People will call us woke like it's some sort of insult. Other people will make unfair accusations because of who I am.
None of that will stop us from trying to make the scene a more human space.
We are gonna do it. One stream, one zine, or even one tin of balm at a time.
Q: Finally, can you tell us a bit about what you're currently working on?
A: This week I am recording reviews for Apocalypse Keys, The Zone & Craplands and streaming Lighthearted, The Few & Cursed, and Meet in a Tavern, Die in a Dungeon (A bit heavier lineup than normal), and also designing a new pricing schema for helping fulfill Kickstarters for small clients while preparing for peak shipping season (you know the fun stuff).
But the game I am spending most of my time working on right now is Through The Void which we just did the ashcan print of over in the Plus One store. TTV is a rules light old school flavored space crawler about a constantly changing space station that's home to the last vestiges of sentient life across the quadrant and the Drifters keep it running. It's very OSR inspired but has huge emergent narrative pop. It's my homage to all of my favorite spaces shows and is designed for low prep egalitarian play around the table. Players and the Voidkeeper (GM) build the universe together as they harvest old parts from massive space leviathans, loot lost tech from lunar laboratories, fight space pirates, make mining runs, try to keep their ship flying and the stations spinning in the lethal void of space.
I've honestly never been more excited about anything I am working on. The fully playable ashcan is out in print and digital at 30 pages, the final version will be about 120 pages of expanded content, but it all operates on a core system that is 4 pages long so it's easy to get a new table up and flying in minutes. You can get it on itch, or our website. We have a killer design team for this one, and I can't wait to show folks more.