Dec 272011

Recently I realized I was out of my depth when it came to doing graphic design on the cards for Race to Adventure, and brought Daniel Solis on board to do the work. It’s absolutely been proving out as the right decision. Daniel’s bringing a level of polish to the cards that I think would have eluded me, at least in the kind of timeframe I wanted to see. (I’m sure we’ll be seeing some previews of the Race to Adventure card design out of Dan over on his blog soon enough. He has permission to share.)

But it’s also given me a chance to reflect on the difference between Fear and Caution, as a publisher.

Here, I’m going to define Fear as “being scared of doing something because it’s scary”, and Caution as “being careful about what you’re doing because you aren’t bringing the resources to bear you should be”.  By those definitions it’s probably obvious that I’m saying that Caution is something you need to listen to, and Fear is something you should ignore, but it’s not as clean-cut as all that experientially speaking, and I’m not sure that it’s easy to teach folks how to suss out the difference between the two.

The thing is, both things just feel scary when you’re in the middle of them. And when you’re scared, you get risk averse. Sometimes that risk aversion is a good thing, and keeps you from losing your shirt. But completely avoiding risk means you limit your opportunities for growth. In short, without taking a chance at something  that includes the risk of failure, you stagnate.

(Worth noting: Don’t read too much into the connotations of “stagnate” here. A stagnant venture can still muddle along for a good long time, but it’ll never soar; that said, it also won’t ever crash — at worst, it’ll just slowly wind down over time. For some folks that might be desirable, because a stagnant venture also doesn’t require all that much work to maintain. It’s purely a momentum-as-it-is play, and may be the right way to go for  mildly commercialized hobbyists.)

If I let the Fear drive, Evil Hat would not be trying to push into new venues: there would be no fiction projects (Don’t Read This Book and Dinocalypse Now), no graphic novel project (ElectriCity), and no projects for moving into board games (Zeppelin Armada and Race to Adventure). It’s entirely possible we’ll lose some or a lot of money on these projects if they tank. For the Race budget, I’m looking at a production and printing budget that adds up to 20-30% of Evil Hat’s current (prior-to-getting-its-ass-taxed-off-again) bank balance, a figure that’s roughly three times the amount of money Rob & I invested in the company to get it started in the first place.

Evil Hat could have a perfectly fine time going for as-is RPG production more on the Spirit of the Century scale than the Dresden Files RPG scale and simply coast a long for a good long while. And we absolutely will continue to work on projects in the RPG space … but it’d be that momentum play, all the same. But Rob and I would like to play a little what if with the money the company has made, and see what happens if we deliberately try to grow into new (new to Evil Hat) markets, games, and media.

Fear wants us not to do that. Fear wants us to stay as we are.

Caution wants us to do that, but do it right. Caution is what told me to recognize where I didn’t have all of the pieces of the job in the right hands, and to bring in Dan.

I’m starting to think that experience is entirely about the journey of telling those two things apart.


  4 Responses to “Fear vs Caution”

  1. […] I’ve recently been pushing hard to make sure Evil Hat has enough plates spinning at once that we’ll have a pretty steady (if a bit irregular) slate of releases once the projects […]

  2. So here’s the question: when you are in the middle of scary, how do you sort those things out?  Or how do you learn to distinguish Fear and Caution?

    • That’s the thing I was talking about, not being sure of how to teach this beyond simply getting some experience pushing past the scary. I think a lot of sorting it out, though, has to do with playing a certain amount of “chess” with your fears: think three moves ahead; use that to identify which fears are merely ludicrious, and which ones are causing you to consider real, legitimate problems.

  3. […] Productions has posted a look at what’s coming in 2012 and beyond. So I’ve recently been pushing hard to make sure Evil Hat has enough plates spinning at once that we’ll have a pretty steady (if a bit irregular) slate of releases once the projects start […]

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