In early 2011, I discovered the wonders of Raging Swan Press. Creighton Broadhurst and his talented group of writers and artists have been putting creative and helpful gaming products together (currently 133 by RPGNow’s count) every week or two for nearly two years now… And honestly I don’t know how they do it!
So I thought I’d ask Creighton to see if he might offer some insights into the Raging Swan process and the secrets of their success. Guess what? He kindly accepted my interview request.
Here’s the results of that exchange:
Q: How did you go from running the Living Greyhawk campaign to running your own game publishing company? How are the two pursuits alike? How are they different?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time on Living Greyhawk, and when the campaign finished I looked around for something else to do. I’d previous given up my proper job to look after my two sons and so working for myself from home seemed to be the perfect answer! Now, I work when they are at school and have the freedom to spend time with them when they are at home (through accident or design). I feel very strongly that my children were not going to be “latchkey” kids. Raging Swan Press hit the spot perfectly.
The basic difference between running Living Greyhawk and running Raging Swan Press is that with Raging Swan Press I can design and release whatever I want whereas with Living Greyhawk we didn’t have that kind of freedom.
Q: If you had to describe yourself to your fellow players like a new character at the beginning of a RPG campaign, how would you do so?
I’ve never been asked that question before! I guess, “Tall, lean and athletic with a keen, enquiring mind, great perspicacity and great hair.
Oh, and I’ll be standing at the back.”
Q: According to RPGNow, there are more than 100 Raging Swan products in their system and more than 80 listed at the Raging Swan site. How have you managed to be so productive in so short an amount of time?
The short answer is to be very focused and very organised! I hate wasting time or not knowing what I’m “meant” to be doing.
The long answer is I make a lot of lists and make a lot of plans. At the start of every week, I sit down and write a weeknote to myself and post it to my blog. This focuses my thoughts on the week’s tasks and lets everyone know what I’m up to. At the end of the week, I review the weeknote and make sure I’ve completed everything on it. During the week, I employ salami tactics – breaking a task down into lots of small, easy-to-complete subtasks. I find crossing out lots of subtasks on my to do list not only incredibly motivating but also an excellent aid to tracking my progress on projects day-to-day.
Q: What’s the lifecycle of a Raging Swan product from idea to finished product? How long does a typical product take?
That depends on the kind of project I’m doing. Some of my smaller supplements – for example, the Dungeon Dressing line – can go from idea to sale in as little as two weeks. Other products like Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands took about nine months from the start of the design work to it being on sale. Adventurers are always trickier to complete successfully as playtesting (and the inevitable rewrites) are an extremely important part of the process. You ignore them at your own peril. The most important thing about a product’s lifecycle is not to rush production; if you haven’t playtested, edited repeatedly and so on the final product suffers. That’s not fair to people spending their hard earned cash on it.
Lots! I’ve been luckily enough to work with loads of talented designers. Some are old friends who I I’ve actually gamed with or worked with on Living Greyhawk while others I’ve met more recently through Raging Swan Press. I could do a list, but I would inevitably forget someone. I expect Raging Swan Press has (or will very shortly) feature the work of over 20 designers; that’s not bad for a two-year-old! As to artists, I’ve worked extensively with Marc Radle, Matt Morrow and Ryan Sumo. I also love William McAusland’s work and Tom Fayan does excellent hand-drawn maps.
Q: What products have surprised you in their popularity?
So What’s For Sale, Anyway? was/is an amazing success. Born from my frustration with magic item shops, I originally generated just lists of items available in villages. I found it so handy in my own campaign that I commissioned Julian Neale to grow the product to encompass all settlement sizes. Julian did a great (and very quick job) and sales were/are awesome. It’s my second best selling supplement to date. I’ve also been absolutely delighted with the reception Shadowed Keep on the Borderland has received. That was a real labour of love and while sales have been spiffing, I’m much prouder of the reviews the adventure has garnered.
Q: What or who are your biggest influences on your gaming and your writing?
I’m quite curmudgeonly and Old School. Gary Gygax, of course (not only did we share a love for Greyhawk we also both loved gin). Authors like Robert E Howard, H.P. Lovecraft and Raymond E Feist wrote awesome stories. Recently, as my sister works on the Games of Thrones TV series, I’ve read the books and have enjoyed them immensely.
Some would say I game too much! On Mondays I play in a 3.5 game and on Wednesdays I run a Pathfinder game. Both are set in Greyhawk. I do session recaps on my blog – http://raging-swan.livejournal.com – which I find a very handy tool as it is easy to go back and check important events and such like. I’d encourage all GMs to do such recaps – it’s a handy and enduring record of our crazy adventures! Also, they are fun to read.
Q: What’s the secret to being a successful small publisher in your opinion?
Enjoy what you do. Design and publish things to make the game better. Make the best products you can. Budget effectively. Understand that success requires a lot of hard work. Be flexible.
Q: What do you think about D&D Next? Will it change what Raging Swan does or will you continue to produce material for Pathfinder exclusively?
That’s really an impossible question to answer at the moment! I’ve downloaded and played some of the initial playtest packet and enjoyed the game to a certain extent, but I think they’ve got loads left to do. If I was to publish D&D Next material it would be because I like and play the system. I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon just because it’s new and shiny. The license would also have to be very open – unlike the GSL.
Q: What’s next on the docket for Raging Swan? And where do you want Raging Swan to be in the next year? 5 years? 10?
This year, I set myself the goal of releasing a supplement every week and I’m well on the way to achieving that! This year was also the first time I’ve been able to devote significant time to the company and its really showing in terms of number of products released (I should have doubled the size of my catalogue by the end of the year) and revenue (which has roughly tripled year on year). I would be very happy for this trend to continue! I would also like to publish more long adventures – two of my favourite projects to date are Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands – or possibly start a megadungeon type setting from scratch. The megadungeon in particular would require a ton of work, but would be awesome fun!
Q: Lastly, if there’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but are dying to answer – what would it be? Curious minds want to know!
My favourite colour is blue, no green…
A huge thank you goes out to Creighton for answering my questions and I wish him and the rest of the talented crew at Raging Swan Press all the best as they continue marching towards 52 products in 52 weeks in 2012!
For more about Raging Swan Press, be sure to stop by their website at RagingSwan.com.
For a bit more information about Creighton…
Creighton is a keen gamer who passionately believes in the Open Gaming License and is dedicated to making his games as fun and easy to enjoy as possible for all participants. Reducing or removing entry barriers, simplifying pre-game prep and easing the GM’s workload are the key underpinning principles of the products he releases through Raging Swan Press.
Over the last 11 years, Creighton has worked with Expeditious Press, Paizo and Wizards of the Coast. He now releases his own products through Raging Swan Press. You can read his thoughts on game design at raging-swan.livejournal.com.
Creighton lives in Torquay, England where, apparently, the palm trees are plastic and the weather is warm. He shares a ramshackle old mansion with his two children (“Genghis” and “Khan”) and his patient wife. Famed for his unending love affair with booze and pizza he is an enduring GREYHAWK fan.