Making Elder Dice Happen (Part 1)

Today is a very special day in the history of Elder Dice and Infinite Black. It was a year ago today that David and I first had the idea for Elder Dice during a brainstorming session at Starbucks. We’ve been asked for more information on the development and manufacturing of Elder Dice, and so we thought we would celebrate today by starting that series.

David and I wanted to collaborate on a project and were tossing ideas back and forth, when suddenly we struck upon the idea of dice with a Lovecraftian theme. David has been a huge Lovecraft fan for years and had built his reputation as an artist and illustrator on a portfolio of fantasy/horror works based on Lovecraft’s work. David had already done a very small production run of Lovecraftian six-sided dice for his first Kickstarter campaign and they had become very popular, especially at his artist’s booth he set up at conventions.

I had the connections with manufacturers, fulfillment services on several continents, shipping logistics, and all the experience from running five previous Kickstarter campaigns. Therefore, we thought we could create the incredibly awesome dice that we wanted and bring it all together in a big way. We had decided to create three sets of dice and even knew what three symbols we wanted on them before we finished our coffee.

One thing we left undecided when we left Starbucks was how to package the dice. We knew we wanted to do something better than basic dice tubes, but we did not know what. Later that night at a bar I had the perfect idea for the Lovecraftian object to put the dice in. I did not even have to say it, because David instantly knew where I was going. The idea for the grimoire boxes was born.

A couple of days later, on a Friday evening, David and I met for dinner to discuss the project further. Then, we went to a Books-A-Million to look through the journal and diary section for textures and clasps that we might want to integrate into the grimoire boxes, but we found what we were looking for in the gift section. We struck upon a Harry Potter coloring kit in a box that was very close to what we wanted for the Elder Dice grimoires. It was so perfect that David bought it on the spot to use as an example. Then we left to go play Call of Cthulhu for the rest of the evening with friends.

A few days later, on September 28, 2016—after the Incantris Kickstarter campaign had ended—I shot a video for Periscope about moving forward with new creative projects. Even though I did not mention Elder Dice by name, that is the project I was talking about. I later re-edited that video for YouTube and posted it on my personal channel.

 David and I started working from his art studio to create a physical mockup of the Elder Dice grimoire boxes and draw up all the technical specifications for the project. That way we could send them out to manufactures to get quotes. David had been working on the graphics for the Cthulhu grimoire box. He used a scan of an actual leather World War II messenger bag for the book’s leather texture and a photo of the pages of an old book on his shelf for the grimoire’s pages. Then he worked his artistic magic to weave it all together. We hacked apart the Harry Potter coloring kit and reassembling it into something that more closely approximated the dimensions we were looking for and taped on some the early art for the Cthulhu box. We sent this short video clip as part of our package to manufacturers to illustrate what we were trying to create.

Once we had all the technical specifications for the project, we started asking manufactures for quotes. Never underestimate the time it takes to get an accurate quote for a project. We started soliciting quotes for Elder Dice in early October 2016. Originally, we wanted Elder Dice to be manufactured in the United States and so went to a lot of effort to try to find a US-based manufacturer. But, in the end, this proved impossible. Some of the U.S. manufacturers emailed us back to say they were declining to quote the project because it was too complex. Other said they would have to subcontract the manufacture of the dice to China anyway, and so they recommended we just go straight to a Chinese manufacturer.

We were also soliciting quotes from European and Chinese manufacturers and went back and forth many times with clarifications of the specifications. Establishing a dialogue with a manufacturer to ensure they understand exactly what it is you are trying to create is very important. Even though you might think Elder Dice is reasonably simple, you would be amazed at the number of different interpretations of the technical specifications the manufacturers had and the number of things that needed clarification and further explanation to get an accurate quote.

It took several weeks to start getting quotes back. Beyond ensuring all the specifications of the project are correctly understood, one reason is because most board game manufacturers coordinate further subcontractors to produce component parts and then do the final assembly themselves. WinGo, for instance, needed to get quotes from specialists in box manufacturing, plastic supply, and injection molding to prepare a quote. We did not start getting quotes back until late October and did not have a quote we felt comfortable with until mid-January 2017.

In the end, WinGo came through. They were the manufacturer I used for my board game War of Kings, my terrain system, TerraTiles (including The Misty Moorlands, Coasts and Rivers, Tundras and Wastelands, and the Battle Pack), and my latest board game Incantris. When you are doing a project of this kind, the intangible benefits of an existing relationship count for a lot. This, combined with the great quote they gave us, caused us to green-light WinGo and build our Kickstarter campaign around the quote they provided.

While we were working on getting quotes, I started assembling advanced prototypes that would be used for the Kickstarter photography and videography. This process started in October 2016. You might be surprised at how much of that process is just sitting down with cardboard, a ruler, a knife, some glue, and making it happen. On October 9, 2016, I sat down at Starbucks to talk about creating advanced prototypes on Periscope. Again, I later edited this video and posted it to my personal YouTube channel. I start talking about the coloring kit mock up at about 4 minutes in and then the state of the first prototype of the Elder Dice grimoire at about 7 minutes in.

I had the first advanced prototype of the grimoire box done on October 15, 2016. I shot Periscope video to show it off as well.

While I was working on the boxes, we were also working on dice prototypes. We ordered a very small run of laser-engraved prototype dice as an “illustration of concept” for manufacturers and to use for Kickstarter photography and videography. We would also give them away as prizes as part of the lead-up to the campaign. On January 20, 2017 David and I met in his art studio for the Elder Dice photoshoot where we shot all of the necessary photos and videos we needed for the Kickstarter campaign. Product photography day is one of the most fun days in the lead up to the campaign. I vlogged about the photography experience the next day:

With the photos and videos taken, we entered a whirlwind of activity trying to prepare everything so we could announce Elder Dice to the world. We met back in David’s art studio on January 24, 2017 to handle final details. We had hoped to publicly announce the project that day, but put the announcement under a 24-hour delay because things were not quite ready. David and I shot this vlog together that day:

We worked all that evening and night and on January 25, 2017 we were finally ready to tell the world about Elder Dice and that we wanted to bring it to Kickstarter. We started talking about it all over social media. David put this video out on Facebook:


and we shot this vlog and posted it to YouTube:

You might notice that the Star Elder Sign design and the numerals were different in this video than were on the Kickstarter page. Those changed between the announcement and the launch of the campaign. But, with that announcement, David and I started a month long effort to tell as many people about Elder Dice as possible, but I will save that for the next blog.

See you then!

Follow me on Twitter: @EHeathRobinson

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