Back cover and blurbs

In a conference call yesterday we realized we haven’t given any real thought to what should be on the back cover. Suggestions are welcome, although this is the kind of wide-open decision that is hard to give advice on. Here, then, are some specific questions:

  1. Should the back cover have blurbs quoting name-level gamers talking about ACKS?
  2. Who is a name-level gamer to you - i.e. someone whose name you recognize and whose opinion about RPGs might influence your purchase decision about a system?
    What made me think about this specifically is a comment from Luke Gygax:
    The progression to a larger role in the society as you gain levels was in the AD&D system. This was not spelled out, but the basics are in the PHB and DMG. Adventurers gain a reputation and standing as they go up levels (hence the cool titles) and about 9th level or so you can start attracting henchmen based on your achievement. The usual method is getting land granted to you by a noble, preist, Archmage etc in return for completing some service or quest. The alternate is going out to the fringes of civilization and clearing it of bad guys to build your own fortress. I never finished doing that because it meant stopping actively adventuring to manage the construction crews etc. Plus I was kept chronically short of gold due to the expenses of paying for training when I leveled and paying to construct travelling spell books and the like. I would like to get a look at the ACK system at Gary Con. It sounds pretty cool Tavis!
    That’s not a blurb exactly, but it seems like the kind of thing we could turn into blurbs and seek out more of.
    Luke is a name-level gamer to me not least because he co-authored LEGION OF GOLD, which was one of my first ventures as a RPG professional - when I was 11 or so I bought it with the glorified-babysitting money a neighborhood mom paid me to run games for a bunch of kids after school at her house.

Will this game actually be sold in real stores? If not, it doesn’t matter what’s on the back cover as no one will see it before they buy it.

Yes, we plan to have the book in actual stores! We’ll also sell it at conventions and such, where people can look it over before buying.

Review blurbs like that would be good although I don’t know who all would be good to have doing them. It seems like everybody and their brother has their own game to promote these days.
One thing you really should do is a good bullet list of what makes ACKS different from regular D&D.

One thing you really should do is a good bullet list of what makes ACKS different from regular D&D.
My purchasing decisions are rarely influenced by name level gamers. Maybe one or two quotes - but the rest should be the highlights of ACKS and in ACKS case I think the things that make ACKS unique ARE the highlights.

One thing you really should do is a good bullet list of what makes ACKS different from regular D&D.
It would be good to have such a list, but if it’s going on the back on the book, I think it’s best if worded as “This is what makes ACKS a great game, it focusses on…” (presenting the game as "its own thing). Don’t mention D&D much (if at all), except as an inspiration. Just my € 0.02 :slight_smile:
Name-level gamers in my case are not all that important. The people whose names I know and whom I respect are mostly from the indie-gaming scene (and thus perhaps not so widely known?) and long-time designers like Monte Cook, Ken Hite and Robin Laws. A few short blurbs are fine, but I would focus on why this game is great.

The back cover is the emotional hook to get people interested in the contents. Rather than a list of high points, a short paragraph explaining why a couple of those high points are the best things in the world might serve you well. If that happens to come in the form of someone’s quote, all the better. Check out what’s on the back covers of the D&D books (3rd & 4th ed.).
The two cover-worthy points I’d pick would be the meaningful developing roles for each of the classes as they proceed from Adventurer to Conqueror to King levels (because it’s awesome and saying why it’s awesome is good cover material and reinforces the brand) and the balanced economics (which is both excellent in its own right, can be referenced with regard to the changing roles of the classes, and helps call out the vast wealth characters will be collecting). Those are probably the biggest two differentiators from similar products.
You’ve probably already got the basis of a good back cover blurb in the early Autarch blog posts.
Remember that your ideal target audience is players, not judges. The back cover should answer the questions, “Why would this be fun to play?” and “Why this instead of that?”

Is there going to be an ebook version? If so, check this article out:
If not, there should be! Ebooks are forever, print is only as long as there are copies to sell.

I’m not sure either ‘Why this is better than D&D’ or ‘Name Level Gamer Quotes’ would sell me on ACKs to be honest.
I don’t really know any name level gamers, for instance - I don’t know if this is because I’m a Brit, or because I’m largely ignorant of ‘the scene’ (both historical and contemporary). Obviously I know the Gygax name, I know who Dave Arneson is/was and there are a few other names I can recognise (Monte Cook & Robin Laws, f’rex), but mostly such things would be lost on me. Be aware that not all of your audience will be in continental North America, so what may appear to be culturally normal (Everyone has heard of X!), might not travel well.
Also, ‘why this is better than D&D’ could come across as defensive in tone. ‘Why this is a fantastic game’, making a big deal out of the USPs (Unique Selling Points) is a more positive and inspirational tone (all imo). For me, ACKs fits a niche between B/X and AD&D 2nd Ed/Pathfinder, where you’ve got a fundamentally simple system, with proficiencies, where the dice systems are intuitive (arguments about how to present them aside ;)), and where the game is designed around the whole experience of 1-14, not cobbled together so that Domain level play doesn’t gel well with Dungeon level play.
I think that’s one of the best features of ACKs - that you’ve created Domain level play and made it flexible, interesting, and yet still fairly straightforward.
Also, talk about your inspirational sources. If someone picks up ACKs in a shop, they need to be able to tell that the game fits with what they want / like to play. If you say ‘This game will let you play Tolkein-esque elves and dwarves’ then people who love Lord of the Rings will be more likely to buy it than those who hate it. If you say ‘We’re inspired by Howard, Lovecraft and other masters of the Pulp Fantasy’, then the message is selling a very different feel. I think your pitch could be along the lines of ‘We’re inspired by Conans journey from Adventurer and Pirate, to Conqueror of nations, to King of Aquilonia, and everything he got up to in between’. That’s the game you’re selling - hence the title - so you need to say ‘What does ACKs mean to you?’

I say you want something like:
=== Adventurer ===
Explore a realistic fantasy world, with streamlined mechanics, yadda yadda
=== Conqueror ===
Build up your character’s wealth and power in the world through unique systems of blah blah blah
=== King ===
Rule over your subjects, build your own dungeons, spread your faith as key figures in the world once your power reaches such and such heights, etc etc
With this system you can do all this and more. In the old school tradition of the famous fantasy rol
E playing game