Chaosium under "new management"

So, I'm also a big Call of Cthulhu fan. I backed the CoC7 Kickstarter a while back, and had faith in Chaosium's ability to deliver, after all, they were established and had a history of product delivery. Time has passed, and time has passed, and all we've seen are some PDF proofs. The overall project is way overdue, even by overdue RPG Kickstarter standards. Looks like today they issued a statement at Gen Con:
At 4pm (Eastern Standard Time) this afternoon Chaosium held a press conference at Gen Con in Indianapolis. The short and sweet version of the news is that Moon Design Publications has been installed as the new management team at Chaosium. The team has one primary (and challenging) goal related to this Kickstarter:

The number one goal of the new Chaosium team is fulfilling the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Kickstarter. We are working actively with the printers to review and finalize the proofs of the core deliverables, with the goal (shipping from China permitting) of having the initial shipping to backers underway by Halloween of this year.
Part of this really rubs me the wrong way. I appreciate their candor in letting the community know what's up, but at the same time, how bad were things when they started the Kickstarter that the company has, for all intents and purposes, fallen apart? I'm not entirely sure we'll ever see full delivery on the Kickstarter, and this can't bode well for the product line.

This is also on the heels of them just announcing in early June that some of the original creative staff had come back to take over running the company. So what happened to all of that? At this point, if they hit the "target" of Halloween, that would put them two years overdue. It's hard to even be excited by the game at that point.

Anyone else here back the CoC7 Kickstarter project? What are your thoughts?


  • The mess apparently that Stafford & co. apparently found when they decided to step in is kind of disheartening. It's been obvious for a while that the old management at Chaosium ran it more like a hobby than a business, which led to books being released "whenever" with egregious typos and sloppy editing. That the Kickstarter money is wholly gone came as a bit of a shock. On the other hand, maybe with new eyes and new energy we can finally get CoC7 wrapped. Seriously, there's a PDF now; all they have to do (theoretically) is send it off to the printer. (Of course, one more pass for typos wouldn't hurt.) The other rewards aren't far off either.

    Longer term isn't certain, yet. I hope they can clear out the warehouse, raise some capital, and get a revenue stream going again. I think all the current Chaosium folks are dedicated to getting the company back on track. I've also heard they're going to re-release RuneQuest 6 under either Moon Design or Chaosium's imprint, which might be the shot in the arm they need. They've got 30+ years of CoC material they can convert to the new rules (or not?) and re-release, plus the BRP and Magic World lines. Like any other business, it's a matter of lowering costs (digging out of the CoC7 hole, paying freelancers, keeping printing prices reasonable) while raising revenue (the quantity and/or quality of Chaosium releases going forward).

    That said, it doesn't affect my enthusiasm for the game. Despite the negative buzz from some quarters it's a much needed update to the old reliable BRP engine. The new rules streamline skill tests, replaces fiddly modifiers with a simple dice trick, and incorporate a few lessons learned from FATE, Cypher System, and other modern designs. Even if it's Chaosium's swan song it's a great product to go out on ... and I'm sure Moon Design or the Design Mechanism will swoop in to rescue it should Chaosium itself fail.
  • fmitchell said:

    ...It's been obvious for a while that the old management at Chaosium ran it more like a hobby than a business, which led to books being released "whenever" with egregious typos and sloppy editing...

    This is something in particular that bugs me. In the same light, I grew up on Earthdawn. It was the heart and soul of my RPG world for years. The last couple of years, I thought it'd found a great home at Red Brick, who was putting out consistent, high quality 3ed material. And then they were just... gone. Sorta like Living Room Games, which tried and failed to push 2ed.

    Now, "FASA Games" is a "thing" again, and they ran a KS for the 4ed. I should have done more due diligence, maybe, but my excitement for the system, along with new content, and it flying under its home banner again was too much to resist.

    And then the delays started. I get delays, it happens. And then they dragged on. And then they started putting out updates that made it 100% clear the "FASA Games" team wasn't really a company, but a bunch of guys who had reincorporated the the name on the side, and did this in their spare time.

    I guess that pisses me off, because while I respect their enthusiasm for the world and system, it's a terrible way to run a successful business that would ensure more content over time. Chaosium, I thought, was better than that.
  • "Professional" companies can deliver crap (as Mongoose used to demonstrate on a regular basis), and amateurs can deliver polished products on time (as Sine Nomine and other largely PDF-based companies also do on a regular basis). A lot depends on the management team, writers, and production staff, who may all be the same people (or person). Chaosium, as I said, had been phoning it in for a while, while Moon Design and Design Mechanism have been putting out some great stuff, especially in the past year. "FASA Games" might have the enthusiasm, but like many newbies probably lack experience on the production side.

    Also, Kickstarters are a crap shoot. I've been waiting for TimeWatch (GUMSHOE time travel) to come out for at least a year and a half, with few explanations until recently. Tunnels and Trolls 8 is nearly as delayed as CoC7 (the PDF only came out a couple of weeks ago), albeit with far better communications and better excuses (e.g. the editor/lead artist is sick). I kickstarted a non-fiction book three years ago, and I've heard almost zip; I doubt I'll see that $10 again.

    On the other hand, the aforementioned Sine Nomine, a.k.a. Kevin Crawford, seems to have them down to an art:

    1. Hammer out an initial playtest version, which isn't hard if you have your own house system and a predilection for random tables.

    2. Now that you have something to show, START YOUR KICKSTARTER.

    3. Keep stretch goals and bonuses to a minimum, mostly centered around what goes into the final book(s).

    4. Use DriveThruRPG for fulfillment of POD hard copies.

    Spears of the Dawn and Silent Legions went swimmingly; would kickstart again. Newt Newport seems to be struggling with the final Crypts & Things manuscript, and TimeWatch is giving us a very slow progress bar, but they use a similar model and I'm sure they'll figure it out in the end. (Movies, on the other hand, are frustrating as hell. Festivals! Permissions! A few more edits!)

    Then there's the James Raggi III school of setting expectations: new Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee Book: January 2019! Because f--- you, that's why! (That said, he is apparently working on it, and on his blog he's candid about all the things that keep him from pushing forward, including publishing all those other books.)
  • This is what has really impressed me with MCG. Obviously he has tons of industry experience backing him up, which helps when you're managing expectations, but Monte basically came out of nowhere with Numenera, and not only delivered, and delivered nearly right on time, but also delivered a crazy good product (this irrespective of if you actually like Numenera or not - the production quality is hard to argue though). They also did it with a lot of pretty big add-ons that have crippled other projects (e.g. CoC7) and a small team.

    Outside of the two Peak Design projects I've backed, I think MCG is a close second in overall Kickstarter satisfaction (which isn't wholly fair to them, because Peak Design technically had their product done and ready, and just used Kickstarter as more of a preoorder system).
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