Oh hey there! It’s sure been a while since we last posted on our blog and wow are we glad to be back. We’ve been very busy building multiple successful Kickstarters, collaborating with some well-known influencers in the D&D sphere while also preparing for more exciting projects that we look forward to sharing with you very soon. In light of all this growth, we thought now would be the perfect opportunity for you to get to know a bit more about us. Our Marketing Associate, Ian Gratton sat down with the Ghostfire Gaming co-founder and Chief Executive Officer; Jordon Gibson to get to know more about his past professional experiences, present projects and future expeditions for Ghostfire’s dive into the TTRPG realm. We hope you all enjoy getting a better insight into Jordon’s world and learning more about the creation of Ghostfire Gaming!
So Jordon, it’s a bit of a jump from corporate banking to TTRPG Publishing, what’s been some of your favourite parts of the transition?
Great question Ian. While the transition took some getting used to I have really loved every bit of it. The industry and community around TTRPG’s is so refreshingly genuine, caring, and passionate. My greatest highlight is definitely interacting with all our backers, particularly during the craziness of a Kickstarter campaign. It’s a lot of work, but everyone in the community is always so excited; so it’s hard not to have fun. Otherwise, I have really enjoyed being in a position where I have been able to help steer the industry (or at least our community) towards games I am truly passionate about. There’s something really special about seeing thousands of people nerding out over the sort of gritty and dark fantasy stories I love.
For sure! I can only imagine how trying 2020 was for you guys, was there any particular challenge that was… shall we say “Everest-like?”
Haha, can I answer 2020 as a year in general? The Ghostfire Gaming founders are based in Melbourne, Australia; so we thought the bushfires at the start of the year would surely be the defining moment of 2020 but then came the COVID pandemic; it was during this incredibly trying time that we were caught right in the fulfilment period of our first-ever Kickstarter. We’ve worked tirelessly since then to continuously improve our internal processes to accommodate for future complications, but wow was that a stressful time. What should have been a May fulfilment for Grim Hollow: The Campaign Guide became a September fulfilment for a lot of our United States backers. The manufacturing we were providing for Stibbles Codex of Companions was delayed, pre-production for Grim Hollow: The Players Guide was also delayed – we actually pushed the Kickstarter a few weeks to accommodate. The team pulled through it though, and honestly, they deserve so much credit! I am incredibly humbled and proud of their continual efforts to create fantastic content for us all to play.
Funny you mention the team, how’s the team changed since y’all started up in 2019?
Tremendously! When we started this journey back in early 2019 we were just three people; now we are fourteen, with a small army of freelancers and agencies at our side. We realised after we completed Grim Hollow: The Campaign Guide that to continue to release content at the standard we are sticklers for, we needed to expand the team. Since then we have brought on Art Directors, Senior Game Designers, Logistics & Supply Chain Managers, Marketing Associates, and a bunch more roles from people around the world. In fact, I believe we have people involved in the creation of our products on every single continent. We’ve found that involving more people to specialise in specific roles in production, managed to create a bit of work-life balance for us founders, while also maintaining a high quality of production. We also have more time to play fun games!
Every continent? Even Antarctica?
Haha, no I misspoke. Not Antarctica – the penguins haven’t shown much interest in our job offers. Joking, but I do love the idea of them all huddled around together playing TTRPG’s though. Maybe Suzanne can illustrate that one day.
I think we just found the next cover for our newsletter! Only joking, you’ve got a lot of people working overseas, how is it for you to manage a team on an international scale?
It’s really cool. Everyone in our company is a tabletop gamer, so we all have a lot in common, to begin with. A lot of us come from countries that have different cultures to Australia, so there’s definitely a challenge too, but I think that this makes us a better team with more diverse thought. As far as working across so many different time zones, we make up for that with a very open but consistent policy of communications and meetings. I feel a lot of businesses around the world are going through this process too due to lockdowns. They are realising that in 2021 you don’t need everyone to be in the same room to achieve organisational goals – at least in industries like ours.
Considering I’m in Atlanta, Georgia; I’d say that’s a fair assessment!
Right! We now have access to the talent pool of the entire world. It’s a big game-changer for a lot of industries. I’m excited to see how it expands into other industries that are traditionally located in a fixed geographic location, like education.
No doubt, it’s going to be really cool to see how the world changes after things return to “normal”. Back to the assembled team, what sort of projects are you most interested in creating?
Right now we have almost finished writing the newly announced Grim Hollow: The Monster Grimoire. One of the refreshing benefits of having a larger team is that you can develop more than one project at a time. As team members are specialised in their field – such as the fantastically talented Suzanne Helmigh in Art Directing – instead of moving to a new role when their input is done, they can start working on the next project. This is how we have been able to develop Grim Hollow: The Monster Grimoire so much faster than any other project – our process has become vastly more efficient and refined. This has allowed us to allocate some of our spare capacity to the “Forged with Ghostfire” initiative as well. Something we are very passionate about.
Actually, good you mentioned that, what is the “Forged by Ghostfire” initiative?
Well everyone rolls a d20, and whoever rolls the highest gets to partake in blacksmith activities first. Haha, sorry that was awful but in all seriousness, it is the program we use internally to allocate spare production capacity towards helping our friends create and release TTRPG content. Whether it is running a Kickstarter like The Seekers Guide to Twisted Taverns with Eldermancy or helping the Dungeon Dudes with their new Drakkenheim book. It really depends on what they need help with.
Will the previously backed projects be affected by this?
Great question and the answer is not at all. With the added capacity we have gained from increasing the team, our company is more than capable of working on more than one project at a time. That being said, I wouldn’t be willing to do more than two purely Ghostfire projects a year, just in case there is another pandemic level event that forces us to radically shift gears. Not at this stage at least – better to have too much capacity than not enough! As for Forged with Ghostfire projects, these are usually pretty limited in scope. The other party has created the book, we just assist with technical things that are easy for us to do with our setup, but much harder for some else to do – like engineering and manufacturing products for example.
What would make me want to give you more money when I haven’t received my previous products?
Hopefully, our track record. In 2020, when other companies were cancelling projects, furloughing staff, and even borderline scamming people, we delivered the goods – literally. We’ve managed to fulfill two highly critically acclaimed Kickstarters across the globe in the largest economic crisis since the great depression. And yes, while we have faced delays in the past, these have been considered a pretty normal by pre-pandemic Kickstarter standards, let alone the current situation. But beyond that, we hope our products speak for themselves. We put a ridiculous amount of blood, sweat and tears into them because we have incredibly high standards for ourselves.
So that’s what you’d attribute Ghostfire’s success to?
I think it is a big part of it! We only make products that we 100% believe in. Not to inflate ourselves here, but I think the other aspect would be the extreme talent that resides within our team. I mean Shawn had been writing and designing with Wizards of the Coast for nearly 20 years before working with us. Suzanne was painting in D&D books and Magic: The Gathering cards frequently. I mean she even worked on concept design with Sony’s Horizon Zero Dawn. And Josh was an aerospace engineer before stepping in as our Logistics & Supply Chain Manager. He literally did rocket science! I think that says a lot about the sort of company we are.
You’ve mentioned shipping quite a bit now. The prices are pretty expensive, can you talk about why and how you’re working to address this?
Yes, we know they are quite expensive at the moment and we are working hard to address this. Essentially, they are high because all international shipping is very expensive at the moment due to COVID, and ocean freighting companies are very reluctant to lower them. Regardless, we are working every day to improve processes, scout new vendors and even when required, absorb some of the shipping costs for our customers. Improving shipping prices isn’t as simple as flipping a switch, it’s a slow grind of winning small victories every week. Over time they add up to big changes.
So for the big questions: favourite D&D monster?
Ooooo, this is a real question. I’m a sucker for anything high CR and Undead, but particularly Vampires. I think they’ve had a really bad rap in pop culture in recent years, as in they have been romanticised to the point they no longer represent the absolute tyrannical monsters they used to. Strahd was a really great recent example of what they could and should be in my opinion. Incredibly powerful, arrogant, but tragic. Play them smart and they can be much scarier than almost any other BBEG.
If you could live in any one TTRPG setting, which would it be and why?
Not Etharis, that’s for sure! Etharis is fun to play in, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Does Star Wars count? My inner child would be so happy to fly in a real X-Wing, it isn’t funny.
So getting to the last questions, where do you see yourself and the leaders that exist within Ghostfire Gaming in the future?
I think the next 18 months will be very exciting for us. For the past six months, we have been working away in research and development; improving our plastic injection capabilities for miniature manufacturing. It sounds kind of dry when you say it like that, but the outcome of this is really exciting! Excellent quality and detail miniatures that come on a sprue so they can be built and customised in a bunch of different ways. If you have ever played Warhammer, you’ll know what I am talking about. I’m really excited to see us perfect this over the next 18 months! We have also hired another new Senior Game Designer who is an absolute titan in the industry, I think you will all recognise this person. We aren’t ready to start showing off what he’s been working on, but I’m beyond excited for when that time comes. Other than that, we are going to spend the time doing what we have been, while really focussing on improving our processes and capabilities. It sounds boring, but sleeker and better processes equal better games for everyone!
Sounds solid! my final question, do you have any insights into what lies beyond the next 18 months?
With the way 2020 panned out, I try to refrain from getting married to long term plans these days, but I do still think it’s important for companies and the leaders within to have a general idea of where they are heading and how they’ll get there. Knowing the near future of the company is dedicated to improving what we currently do, it would make sense that further down the line to start focusing more on innovation within the tabletop space. I think that a big part of the charm of tabletop games is the return to a form of entertainment that isn’t restricted by code. But that being said, I think there is a lot of opportunity to incorporate technology into the tabletop space that is uniquely innovative in a way exclusive to tabletop games. Beyond that, I would love to try my hand at a board game, or a card game, as I am also a big fan of them. But, we’ll see – only time can tell.
And that’s a wrap! We hope you, a member of our incredibly passionate, fierce and supportive community have loved getting to know more about Jordon and some further insights into the mechanics of Ghostfire Gaming.
If you have any questions for Jordon about running a Kickstarter campaign, working in the industry, or anything else, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Until next time,
The Ghostfire Gaming Team