Roleplaying Spell Effects 2.0 - Cheaper and Pre-Cut

Created by Arcknight

Revamping the best RPG Spell Effects to make them even better. Everything you asked for: Cheaper and Pre-Cut.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Long and Complainy - More more more issues with international shipping, SMH
3 months ago – Sat, Nov 23, 2019 at 12:52:20 AM

On the topic of international shipping

Essentially no progress has been made in any directions regarding international shipping.

This isn't exactly true, there's actually a lot of news, updates, and nuance. But no 'progress', because all of these options suck, and international shipping (apart from, merely just shipping it to your door ourselves) is across-the-board terrible.

Let me preface; if there was some company making a product, produced in China or printed in various regions, and it was shipped to distribution centers and shipped all over the world, we would be talking about the 'normal pipeline'. It's not unexpensive, but it's also sort of amertized costs since you must get the product from China anyway. We are NOT this company.

We are manufacturing everything ourselves, in our own facilities, here in the USA. This means our international shipping costs are NOT amortized whatsoever, and we're directly "importing" our product into various regions, and it is hell. Not because it's overly complicated to lose tremendous amounts of money doing something simple. No, if this was your goal, it's easy to accomplish. But if you're trying to -save- money by doing something that seems relatively simple, and passing along those savings to your international backers, god help you.

Now, in part for brevity, and in part for humor, I'm going to rant/complain a little at the expense of some people that ARE ultimately on our side and doing their best. I'm not really being critical of THEIR actions, simply lamenting the greater universe that we are all stuck in.


Poland - Private agent in the EU - Our first independent shipment has arrived in Poland, it has roughly 25 copies of the 5E Spell Effects in a box. Declarations / Freight Forwarding were minimized by sending this package essentially to ourselves; we declared the cost of goods, we receive our own goods, we distribute our own goods. Problem 1 > Customs will not notify the recipient that the package exists. He has to drive over an hour to a customs depo on the border and personally wait in line and ask for a package he 'assumes must exist', and fortunately they agree, "oh yes, we totally have this and it's been here for some time." Problem 2 > Our receiving "company" did not pre-place a purchase order for the products that we shipped ourselves from the USA. Therefor, we cannot prove that this package was requested, hence the package isn't technically allowed to arrive.... solid logic, right? So we solved this by having "ourselves" piggyback our friend's company name, and officially state that we have 'purchased' the items rather than just accept them. We're happy to pay VAT (of course, the package was clearly labeled and value declared in the first place). But in order to proceed, his business needs an EORI number, pay a registration fee, and ... wait several days and drive to the border again. This EORI number is for EU businesses to officially accept international packages, and since their business previously didn't ever need to accept an international package, they just didn't have one. Eventually, we got our package, and now we begin calculating costs to have our agent manually assemble these to ship to our EU backers. Again, not to insult our friend, but lets go on the assumption that now they'll need roughly $8-10 USD to ship each of these packages. Our agent has given us an initial estimate of $950 USD (we've already paid VAT, and over $130 shipping to get the box to the EU.) This would bring the grand total "shipping costs" per set to around $43, a savings of about $7 bucks, plus we've paid the VAT which in theory should be re-collected. However - this 'savings' is VS the Priority Mail price of $50 per package (plus recipient may get hit with courier fees), not VS the much cheaper First Class International shipping cost (which often go missing).


Black Book Editions - agents of "Game-On" in France, a dedicated EU re-shipper - Things are much much more irritating for the 'professional' version of doing the same thing. Our FPM2 batch has been sitting in France' customs for almost 5 weeks. Again, they "Didn't even know it was waiting on them." Now, one big difference between our private agent and BBE, is that this is a major company/warehouse in theory handling the re-shipment of many kickstarters. For these reasons, we were required to individually bag EVERY item, by SKU, barcode every SKU, and send it all with declared retail values. This batch of FPM2 stuff is lonnnnnng overdue, shipped in 2x boxes at an initial shipping price of $155.85 and $123.12, with declared values of $1643 + $1473 respectively (that means VAT alone is going to be another $600 just to import these boxes). This includes total products going to 39 destinations in EU (aka, after they scan and accept all this crap, they have to pick + pack 39 boxes with it). Estimated costs for pick + pack + box + ship are unknown, because all of our correspondence is in broken english and confusing as hell. They've told me twice now that we owe VAT (of course, on the declared import) and THEN we owe VAT for their assembly... we owe VAT for their picking fees, and we owe VAT for the BOXES and the LABOR. Now I'm well aware that this isn't how VAT works, and they agree, with the most shockingly confusing email to date confirming "oh yeah, you're in the USA, never mind you wont have to pay any VAT at all then." ... what does this even mean?? They'll certainly claim I owe VAT when they try to accept the packages and need to pay the $600 to receive it.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves - because unlike our Polish agent who was able to go and get the package, Black Book Editions has only confirmed 'yes, customs has had this for a long time' and that they need OUR EORI number to recieve it. .... Uhm. What? The company that professionally helps re-ship and re-distribute US-based kickstarter projects through France doesn't have an EORI number to import shipments, and wants ME to have one? This essentially implies we are the FIRST import they have EVER done? I'm just going to pretend I didn't hear this and it's lost in translation.

Eventually, they're going to bill me, and somehow I assume it'll be higher than my own agent's estimated $38 per package for assembly + re-ship. My rough total estimates have these at nearing $65 per shipment right now and climbing fast.


Lion Rampant Imports - Fantastic people, answered the phone promptly and let me talk to a warehouse manager and operations manager. Conversations went very smoothly, and they agree this is an incredibly light and easy to manage package, with a small number of shipments. Should be "no problem" just need to finish some paperwork and basic logistics stuff. They provided me with a standard fee chart - $3.50 base fee, +Box cost, plus direct shipping costs (once it gets to Canada), plus the initial large shipment cost, plus import duties/tarrifs. If we're sending 20x copies to Canada hopefully we can get the final costs down under $25 a shipment..... USPS First Class International shipments are $16.39 to canada right now. So, in a perfect world, we lose potentially $9 a shipment going through an agent that so far has been smooth and easy to work with. Of course First Class is unreliable, but at a cost of +$9 per shipment.... if less than 16% of these 'disappear' we SAVE money taking the risk. It's unreliable, but it's not THAT unreliable.


Aetherworks - Austrialian warehouse with dedicated KS re-shipments to AU/NZ region. Also seem like great guys. In this case, we have only 19x AU sets to ship. At this low quantity, their 'flat rate' fee kicks in, for $650 AUS ($441 USD) to cover everything. So we'll ship to them for ~$150, plus the $441, and end up around $31 per package. Honestly ... it's kind of upsetting how reasonable this seems in comparison. But again, its $22.33 per First Class shipment to just "send it ourselves", almost the exact same $+9 cost from CA, so as long as 16% don't go missing, we save money saying "screw it" and just shipping them to individuals.

On the topic of residual 'costs' to international shipping, aka time.

Again, not to 'blame' anyone. I love you guys, and we owe our business and literally our livelihood to our backers. But lets consider this an honest retrospective:

Almost 60% of non-spam emails we receive, company wide, are concerns/issues about international shipments that have gone missing or are significantly delayed by foreign customs. In virtually all cases, the USPS delivers the package to the host country ... and then "poof" who knows. Of course the backer/web customer is very frustrated, wondering WTF to do, and who's the culprit, and who's going to pay to reship to them. These email chains are 10+ emails long on average. If i'm not in a diplomatic mood, and I respond too curtly, they can be immensely offended that I'm not willing to lose serious money eating the costs and reshipments.

Less than 15% of our backers/orders are international. International backers are more polar in their purchases, strangely ordering the smallest orders (cannot understand this logic), and also the largest orders (makes perfect sense, since you'll save shipping costs buying 1 large order vs two smaller ones over time) - but this backfires tremendously when they go missing, or put in a Paypal/Stripe dispute claiming they never get their package. Every international package that goes missing puts us in a tough spot, do we upset our customer, or refuse to take a loss on the entire order. If Stripe/Paypal get involved it's a strange coin toss - either way we shipped the package correctly; 

A> When USPS shows the package 'delivered' to the host country, and then the package goes missing, we  win the dispute, because we did nothing wrong.

B> In the cases where the USPS "screws something up" typically because they delivered it to the host country successfully butttttttt "forgot to scan it properly" at some stage, the dispute declares that because the USPS is at fault .... WE lose the dispute and have to pay for the USPS' mistake.

Again, best logic ever. But regardless we lose a not insignificant % of our income from international shipments. And if a $200 shipment is considered "profit" of say, $50, having to eat an extra $200 in product, plus a second $22+ in shipping, doesn't just kill our profits from that sale, it kills the profits from several sales. So even small-ish rates of missing international shipments can completely kill all international profitability.

And now, with this latest batch of 'bad news' (from a cost perspective, physically the shipments are proceeding and all that), I'm just right back to scratching my head thinking to myself "I don't think I should even bother." I know a lot of people will be upset by this, but I really believe we will not offer international shipping solutions in the next campaign, per-say.

Amazon and Amazon.uk

Oh, I wish I could say here's our saving grace. And maybe it is. But wow there's a problem.

Now, I always assumed there would be some 'benefit' to amazon.uk from my stocking perspective. I figured that I could send products to Amazon, and they could funnel it off to Amazon.uk, with some streamlined process of getting American products into EU. NOPE! Strange as it may seem (or not strange), they cant offer me anything. I have to ship it to Europe, pay all fees, VAT, etc. to get it to an EU warehouse, and then it stocks and sells to the EU like normal. So if I'm out a % of total costs, if i want to recoup, I need to raise the cost on Amazon.uk.

I assume of course there's an end of day benefit to an EU buyer, because once it's imported there's no additional costs/ couriers, sure.

But I would not have suspected that an EU buyer would also get a significant benefit buying from Amazon.COM. Turns out, as soon as 5E Generic Spell Effects hit amazon.com, a slew of international backers jumped aboard and preferred buying the Amazon.com version of the item rather than buy the same item, at the same cost, from Arcknight.com. (everything else being equal, why give Amazon the 15% stocking fee?) Now, wouldn't this be the same? Either way it now has to leave an American warehouse and go straight to the EU backer ... I reached out and asked why - I know there's no international prime shipping, that's impossible. I was told that yes, they will pay international shipping costs. BUT, since Amazon is HUGE, they funnel all this product off to the EU, declare / minimize VAT, get it into the EU, and then the buyer doesn't pay a courier fee....

WAT. Isn't that the same scenario as above? No. If it's in Amazon's possession, and it's sold, Amazon can move it. But if it's not in their possession, and was never 'sold', thats an import of unsold goods to the EU, and Amazon won't touch my customs issues with a 10-foot pole, it's on me.

Long story short though, both Amazon AND Amazon.uk offer potentially significant benefits to international backers, from any country. Essentially if it can be imported and delivered cleanly, Amazon's on the job, though it may raise my costs to supply it (and therefore impact my profitability.) So, it's "possible" that even though I lose a % to Amazon, these international issues simply aren't worth the headaches - pass them off to Amazon, take a smaller cut, and let the chips fall.

In our next kickstarter, this may very well be our approach: We'll toss copies at Amazon, and international backers can grab them up ... but we're not taking direct international orders or dealing with anything - because it just kills our bottom line, and too much of our time.

But this isn't even the "problem". The 5E Generic set is 12x18" sheets, in a plastic bag. The final dimensions are therefore 12x18" + a bit. The cutoff for oversized items is 12x18" exactly, or else we incur a massive 'oversize' fee in addition to the Amazon listing fees + shipping fees. For the 5E Generic item, this could be another +$9 per order on a $40 MSRP product, obliterating any possible income from the entire listing - Internationally AND Domestically..... Making Amazon completely out of the question (for this product) for life.

SMH.

I'm working with Amazon to see if we can get an override or recalculation under the exception that this 'bag' doesn't actually increase it's shipping dimensions. If they accept, then I get to have the entire same argument with Amazon.uk, ESL. Fun stuff.


Pathfinder Set News

Philip has a new layout. A fan asked us if we're going to support PF2, not just PF1. That conversation led to the awareness that they're the SAME set.... except PF2 has "emanations". But the idea of Emanations aren't unique to PF2, they're just as relevant and logical in PF1, the term was just never coined. An "Emanation" is just an area spell like a nova that originates on a unit instead of a vertice. So whether it's in the 'rules' or not, MANY PF1 players (probably) already apply something like the emanation ruling to their games, or would be interested in having an emanation template if all else is equal.

What this means is that we can make a single "PF" 3-page layout, that has all the PF shapes, with the Emanations thrown in there. And if you want them, yay. And if you don't want them, ignore them.

This takes some tricks in the same manner as the 5E Generic sets with nested shapes, but that's good all around for everyone. The only step we're not finished with is trying to make sure the overlapping PF 'trace lines' aren't overly confusing, if we had an option to clean them up more, and we don't have many options anyway since only so many shapes / trace lines can nest inside each other regardless.


And then LASTLY - we have a very hard question : assuming the 'shape' of a PF1 fireball and a PF2 fireball are the same (which they are), and this single product can cater to both PF1 and PF2 players simultaneously (which it can), can the "Spell Text" as well become somehow agnostic, and appeal to both - or does the text absolutely have to go one way or the other.

We haven't spent much time on this question, and PF2 is 'new' and all new paizo products are PF2-based.... but this kickstarter was funded by you guys asking for "PF" sets, not PF2 sets (necessarily?) but perhaps what you're really asking is for shapes that work for PF - which this will be regardless.

I dunno, feedback much appreciated.

1064 / 1212 Shipped, basic update
4 months ago – Wed, Oct 23, 2019 at 11:52:12 PM

We currently have around 150 orders in our system, which includes ~100 PF Generic Sets (waiting on new template + dies), and ~50 International Reserve backers (waiting on updated pricing + options to ship).Therefore, as we currently stand, we believe that ALL orders that can currently ship, are shipped! If you have not recieved your sets, or think there is a problem, then you might have an issue with your order / account and certainly reach out to sales@arcknight.com.We do have a few damaged sheets, many of which were replaced, but I'm sure at least a few fell through the cracks. Specifically, i know I was recieving emails asking for "replacements of XYZ item" and generally I would respond 'absolutely, we'll get it right out!' and in some of those cases, I'm sure I've dropped the ball and your read email is sitting buried in my inbox.So if there's any pending sheet replacements, also feel free to poke us again, to fix this immediately.

RPG Spell Effects 2.0 going Retail

The most noteworthy part of this update, is that as of right now, I see no reason we do not list this item for sale on our website, begin pushing it out to new customers via Facebook and other avenues, and see if we can't get ourselves a great end-of-year push.

This campaign, with it's 1200 backers, was an excellent surge that mostly paid old bills and cleaned books. We believe this product has a lot of potential, and we very much hope that people will see it and buy the heck out of it going into the Christmas season.

We're also LOVING the testimonials and praise you guys poured into our comments section, that stuff is gold and I'd love to find a way to cascade those comments into a video snippet or something.

This has been a fantastic kickstarter all around, and we've gone out of our way to commit to 'getting it done', efficiently, at cost, and ON TIME. This is a proof of concept, and we'd love to have the financial security to move right into the next project, and keep momentum rolling.

Future Arcknight Projects

We have SEVERAL kickstarters planned for upcoming projects, some larger and some small and clean. Above all else we hope you'll give each an honest look, and remember our efforts and our transparancy through this process. We want nothing more than to build a strong community, and be empowered to create awesome stuff, and deliver it to you, without worrying about the increasing pressures of marketing, distribution, website maintenance and all sorts of junk that tear project creators down.

Kickstarter lets us come to YOU, and cut everyone else out. That dramatically improves our bottom line, and lets us make offers that are otherwise impossible.

As a final reminder, in order for this cycle to work, we ask that you 'follow' us on Kickstarter, so you become aware of future projects, and improve our visibility while we keep making the coolest RPG stuff around.



International Reserve Updates

As mentioned in the previous update, we're waiting on logistics to be worked out with Aetherworks (AU), and Lion Rampant Importers (CA). Additionally, we've shipped a batch of 25x sets of the 5E Generics to our agent in Poland, which he will be able to stock and ship to anyone interested in the EU.

This process should continue smoothly, and we'll try to keep you individually notified (by country) as options change. HOWEVER, there may not be any general news 'for 1200+ backers', so I expect it will be more appropriate to solve region-specific issues in email rather than on the Kickstarter. Absolutely, feel free to ping us at sales@arcknight.com

International Reserve backers bypassing shipping

There is a 'glitch' so to speak, that I did not see coming or prepare for. People in the International Reserve put down $5 in the campaign, and have their sets waiting for a shipping option to claim them, but they still -exist- of course in Backerkit. As updates rolled out, showing people the finished 5E Generic packs, many of these people got excited, and filled out their Backerkit (which we needed to get your addresses), and then proceeded to add their 5E Generic set as an ADD-On, perhaps with map cases or other items, and pay for their sets.

This pushed your orders into our shipping software - since there is now a physical item attached to it - but you've never been charged shipping at all. This was not something we meant to be possible until after those shipping issues were resolved. Just something to keep in mind, and again, we'll be addressing all of your individual needs in direct emails moving forward.

Purchasing more Copies / International Reserve 'At First Class International Price'

Some backers have asked if they can get additional copies. As of tonight, we should have the official website listing to purchase packs for $40. HOWEVER, we are more than happy to give our Kickstarter backers additional sets at the original Kickstarter rate. So if you would like a discounted set, feel free to reach out and we'll give you a promotional code to get the rate back down.

Alternatively, you can still place 'pre-order' purchases for $30, which we will process as soon as we notice them, and that still has a legacy price of $30.

If you are an International Reserve backer, now that the item exists on our website, it IS possible to pay the much cheaper First Class International rate, and have this shipped directly (generally ~$22 vs $50). Again, reach out, so we can give you a discount code for the price difference PLUS refund your $5 reserve, and then process you as a web order. This will be incredibly easy through Squarespace, and generate a new order, and we'll just clear the reserve off the books afterwards.

Now, Actually, those Domestic orders are all out!
4 months ago – Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 10:34:43 PM

So, we did get a few immediate 'hey, what about my order?' pings, and in checking the backerkit logs somehow we did miss a segment of almost 60 people. We've fixed them, pushed them into Shipstation, and now we've shipped them all.

The delay for those people with Maps

Ironically, as soon as we printed the batch of maps for this project, our laminator broke. This caused us to check in the DFW area for a 3rd party company that could laminate on demand - and a very happy accident has occurred: We've found a GREAT little factory, just up the street from our DFW warehouse, who has far more professional and robust laminate services than we were doing ourselves, at essentially the exact cost we were paying to do the work ourselves (and assumably, less error rate).

This means an all around win-win for laminatation / maps in the future. Now we'll have them do all our laminating, and our latest batch of maps are in their hands as of this evening, and should be ready in maybe 1-2 days, and then THOSE orders can go straight out, so by this weekend -ALL- domestic orders should be off our books.

International Reserve - Some news

You guys came through in a big way, you put Aetherworks on our radar for AU, and Lion Rampant Importers on our radar for CA. I've contacted them both, LRI can absolutely cover us for CA with no troubles whatsoever, and I'm waiting for a call back from Aetherworks - but they specifically do KS fulfillment.

So - in my head, these are going to be incredibly straight forward, and maybe be ideal future solutions for CA / AU / NZ which is just great.

The shipment to my agent in Poland is going forward today, which will give him 10x copies of the RPG Spell Effects inside the EU, and he's excited to reship and catalog all the mysterious costs that may come with importing directly. Customs alone will probably take 2 weeks, but we'll know soon-ish what those costs are.

Phase 1 is complete! All Regular Domestic Orders are out! (there are a few exceptions)
5 months ago – Sat, Oct 12, 2019 at 07:15:46 PM

Phase 1 Complete!

Officially, we finished 'Phase 1' this week! That means all regular domestic orders have shipped. It's an incredible feeling, and validation of what we expected was possible with a 'micro campaign'.

We designed, pitched, kickstarted, die-cut, manufactured, and shipped  ONE THOUSAND orders in just over 120 days.

 Current Shipping Status

980 / 1196 live orders fulfilled. 37 unanswered surveys. 6 domestic orders waiting on Maps (they are produced, and in-hand, are being laminated this week). 98 domestic orders waiting for PF Generic Spell Effects. 47 Backers in CA/AU with International Reserve.

International News?

We're making strides toward Amazon UK, some of the steps are tedious but I believe we'll be ready to send them some product soon, which might open all sorts of doors.

Additionally, I'm reaching out to CA / AU backers as we speak to offer them price points, and see if they want to ship immediately.

The 'Game-On' association through Black Book Editions is still a possibility, the 39x orders for our FPM2 project are en route to them, and we'll see how painless (or painful) using them to re-ship for us will be. There's some concerns, but they're small and growing and could be immensely helpful in the future if they work out a few kinks.

Lastly, there's an 'experiment' on the table, essentially the 'we just do it ourselves' option, because I DO have an agent working for us in Poland. I'm not sure, apples to apples, if Poland is an ideal country to ship into and out of - but heck, we might as well try it and see. So I'm sending him a batch of 5E Generic sets, and once he gets them in, pays VAT, and gets them prepped to re-ship, I'll essentially have X copies I can re-ship from within the EU.

Now, if people want to jump aboard, I'd be happy to write your names down and essentially funnel them to you, but there's no numbers yet for the final VAT and courier fees hes going to pay. We're just going off the basic assumptions with the EU - specifically if the shipment to your door arrives from Poland (inside the EU) while you'll pay shipping, and I've heard some lamentation that you'll still pay a 'courier fee' it will not be the SAME very large courier fee that usually exists when they have to hound you for VAT tax - because the VAT will have already been declared and paid when it was received in Poland.

From there, we assume we can have our agent / some other employees do any assembly and packaging within Poland, to further cut down costs. The concept is sound, but there are a lot of unknowns, so we'll be creating an internal accounting of every associated charge as we get say, 10-20 sets through our fingers, and then compare.

EU Distribution / AU Distribution / CA Distribution

For a long time, we haven't been interested in expanding our "distribution", but I believe the time is nearly here, with a few caveats.

We would now like to look into CA/EU/AU based distributors. BUT, similar to the process above, there's inevitably some 'larger' game stores / distribution chains that are more like fulfillment houses or warehousers than technical distributors.

Some of these guys might be so large, that they operate in the following way: they have huge warehouses, they have an online website, they 'stock' our product just like any other retailer would, you could order our product from THEM if they had it in stock - and some of these guys even do fulfillment for KS projects on the side, since they have the warehousing space.

I KNOW These companies are out there, but I'm just not aware of them in your respective countries.

So - if you guys are aware of companies like this outside the USA, I would love to know who they are, and I'll begin to reach out to them. It's a no-brainer if a large CA-based warehouser wants to stock 50x copies of our 5E Generic set for example, and then I can just funnel them the list of the 17 of you guys in CA and have the dots connect. You won't even need to pay shipping, since we have to import a shipment to them anyway, and we'll just toss +17 copies onto the shipment, etc.

PF Generic Set

Now that the 5E phase is basically done, these dies are "next" on our list, and we're now even more experienced at making them. I don't want to speak for Philip, since he may not be available to hammer these out immediately - but we're pretty confident that as soon as he has some time, he can get these done in a few nights.

I'm hoping he can find some time within the next 2 weeks, and we'll get these moving along.

It's Fun when Everything is Amazing
5 months ago – Wed, Oct 02, 2019 at 11:57:16 PM

Some quick photos of many many boxes going out. Just so many!

Before mail even came to pick up today, we had a third wagon overflowing with boxes. And right now, these 3 wagons are filled again waiting for tomorrow.

Overall Estimates

We've shipped about 500/1200 now, with another 200 or so that will go out in the next 48 hours.

We did have 1 small hurdle, we shipped ourselves 14 boxes via UPS, and they delivered 13 and one is in limbo. So with what we have onhand, we'll be 200 copies short of page #2. Obviously, they could show up any day with that missing box because it's been found, which will be great.

Regardless, the next batch of 500+ sets is due on a pallet arriving Monday, so we should have enough copies to fulfill everyone even if this missing box never turns up ... it just obviously sucks and we're hoping that doesn't happen.

Incorrect Addresses

USPS has a basic 'address validation' process, and about 50 addresses have been !!! marked by that system, so I'll be sending out a simple BCC email to all of you soon saying "can you please verify your address one more time". In half these cases, you've forgotten an apartment number or have a typo, and in half these cases there's actually NOTHING wrong with your  address, the USPS system just can't validate it for whatever reason. Once I can compare your address to the system, I'll override any address that it still thinks is incorrect, but this will catch dozens of mistakes and missing APT #s.