This comic exploded in a way I never predicted. I figured it would be marginally popular with a new audience and let us expand our readership for Ramen Empire slightly. Instead, a conservative estimate of 7,000 new readers have read the last two comics and have demanded more on three different platforms, while at the same time Tapastic made Thieves Can’t a staff pick.
Wow. And the best part is that this all happened on my birthday. I can’t think of a better end-cap to my 30th. A huge thank-you to all our new readers for making today and last several days awesome. It’s exactly what I needed toward the end of an incredibly dismal year.
Thieves Can’t is getting its own dedicated patreon. That platform has never been a huge success for Ramen Empire, largely because we’ve been at a constant loss about what kind of rewards to offer on it. For that reason, if you are currently supporting Ramen Empire, and you’d rather have a Thieves Can’t reward instead, just drop me a comment, tweet, or Facebook Message, and I’ll make sure you have access to that content as well.
We know exactly what kinds of rewards we want to offer Thieves Can’t readers. We’re just not necessarily sure what they’re worth. So if you’re reading this, sound off with an opinion even if you’re not planning to support Thieves Can’t on Patreon. We want to know if you think the costs meet the rewards. Keep in mind that these support levels have “keep Thieves Can’t updating” built into them, meaning that, in spirit, you’re paying us to make Thieves Can’t, but deciding how much you pay and getting extra stuff along with it at certain markers. It’s a niggling distinction, but it rhetorically poises us to always prioritize the free comic. The goal, then, is to produce rewards that do not interfere with the creation of the comic, but that are genuinely of interest to the community without being a wholly separate product.
With that in mind, here’s what we’re planning:
For $3, we’re offering a creators’ blog, which will update with spoilers, discarded and evolved art that won’t see the light of day anywhere else, comic sneak-peeks, and our thought processes on the creation of Thieves Can’t. This reward is live right now.
For $5, we want to offer useful DM tools. Useful charts, like lists of everything an NPC hedgemage is selling and for how much, hand-picked names that jibe with 5e races while also providing professions, alignments, goals, secret goals, and personalities for NPCs — basically, materials that address the really time-consuming parts of being an “at-ready” DM. We’d also sneak fun homebrew into this category, like feat variant ideas and magical items.
For $20, we want to offer world maps, town maps, dungeon maps, adventure modules, and small expansion packs. The first among these would be a pair of drag-and-drop dungeons designed around vampire encounters that I’ve made. They’re meant to be printed out on a black-and-white office printers (…for reasons that absolutely have nothing to do with my dubious access to the a certain math department…), but are playable, if not pretty. Future content would definitely get a facelift. We’d also offer things like modules for adding airships to 5e.
At the $35 bracket, Zach will draw your tabletop RPG character in the Thieves Can’t style. Additionally, you’d gain access to custom art assets suitable for use on platforms like roll20.net. (These assets may also be suitable for printing on good stock and using in meatspace, but we’d need to test it out.) This means that illustrations of your characters would come with usable tokens, and you’d have access to monsters and NPCs that we make — the first of which are going to be used to draw attention to the rewards themselves on Patreon.
And last but not least, how much would you guys see as reasonable for 3D-printed figurines? We don’t have the costs nailed down yet, and so haven’t got a price in mind, but we’ve got access to a 3D printer and Zach is itching to get back into 3D art.
So what do you guys think? Sound off in the comments.
Ramen Empire is going to evolve. Part of what we’ve learned over the past two comics is that vertical pages are not only better for most new devices, but they’re less time consuming to make. I had hoped that this week would represent a good deal of down-time in which I could edit the remainder of Phoenix Down, but the surge of new readers has left me scrambling to capitalize on the prospect that, for the first time, making comics could be my job in addition to being my obsession.
The buzz I’ve got over Thieves Can’t isn’t killing my enthusiasm for Ramen Empire. Quite the contrary. The former is informing the latter. The series is going to get a spiritual reboot, in which I approach writing it from a new, liberated-from-horizontal-spaces attitude. In a lot of ways, Thieves Can’t is Zach and I learning a to tell stories in 2016 instead of 2002.
Since you can now get Ramen Empire in PDF form for free (Thought, you know, we won’t stick our nose up at money), I’m not sure if I am going to separate Thieves Can’t out of the stories section of Ramen Empire or not. With the existence of those PDFs, there’s simply a better way to read this comic, and this becomes, I think, a more elegant solution to having two webcomics than paying for two websites, or designing a new lander. But I’m interested in your thoughts on this. Is having Ramen Empire and Thieves Can’t in the same stream jarring? Would you like the Ramen Empire site as much if it had a lander ala Penny Arcade, where you clicked the comic you were interested in to proceed? Or do you prefer the latest comic in whichever stream being at the top of the home page?
Give us your thoughts!