Today I added several tiers on The Gauntlet Patreon called “Quality of Life Keeper.” I wanted to use this post to discuss the purpose of those pledge tiers and how they came about.
The work we value
Last week, I tracked the number hours I spent working on tasks for The Gauntlet. In total, it was 43 hours (not including the roughly 15 hours I spent planning and running games on Gauntlet Hangouts, which I consider to be fun activities). The only financial compensation I will receive for those hours is having my cell phone bill paid for by The Gauntlet. That makes my rate of financial compensation for last week’s Gauntlet work roughly 69 cents per hour.
That’s a pretty stark number, and I’m not bringing it up simply to shock you, but to also offer a basic commentary on how certain types of work in indie ttrpgs (and, I suspect, in the wider industry) is valued. Outside of a very tiny group of people, anyone who is not involved in the direct publication of a ttrpg book (editors, artists, writers, and so forth) but who is otherwise doing work in the industry, is getting paid little to nothing for their effort. Convention workers, forum moderators, community organizers, and so forth, do work in the industry that is considered of little value.
My situation in The Gauntlet is definitely on the more extreme end of the spectrum, but I suspect if people start to get really honest about compensation levels in this industry, it would be pretty eye-opening.
But what about The Gauntlet’s bumpin’ Patreon?
It’s true The Gauntlet enjoys a moderate amount of success on Patreon. Compared to a lot of other outfits in the indie space, we’re practically rolling in it. But here’s the thing: The Gauntlet’s financial success does not trickle down (up?) to the people who organize it. As an organization, The Gauntlet is much larger than others in our lane. The scope of what we do is much wider. Nearly every single dollar of our revenue streams, including Codex sales on DTRPG, go toward paying our expenses—expenses which do not include pay for people such as myself. Our costs include: website hosting fees, Dropbox, Libsyn hosting, Basecamp subscription, bookkeeping software subscription, editing for 6 different podcasts, artwork for Codex, layout for Codex, my cell phone bill, and numerous expenses that pop up each month but that are not recurring (such as graphic design for logos, Gauntlet Hangouts site maintenance, Gauntlet Con expenses, etc.) We also have a few people in the community who get a modest payment each month for the critical work they do in the community. We have a new, interesting source of revenue from the Codex Vol. 1 Kickstarter, but right now, much of that money is set aside until fulfillment is complete—and whatever we have left over will probably be used for much-needed community improvements, such as an improved scheduling system for Gauntlet Hangouts.
The short of it: we make enough money to pay our bills, but not enough to pay me or other folks who currently volunteer their time. And don’t get me wrong: I’m super-happy we can pay our bills, and very grateful for our supporters who make that happen. We’re past the days where I have to pay for things directly out of pocket, and that feels good.
A sad and punishing lifestyle
Working 43 hours a week for no compensation is fucking brutal, because I still have to work my main job in order to survive. This has lead to a number of sad consequences for my life: I don’t have time to exercise, I don’t have time to hang out with friends outside of The Gauntlet, I have not been on a single date since I broke up with my partner (that was over a year ago), I have not taken a vacation in 3 years, and I have not been to the movies in 2 years. My only “me time” outside of The Gauntlet is occasionally watching TV and going to work at Starbucks instead of my home office. I can’t even attend much of the gaming convention circuit because, even though it is beneficial to The Gauntlet for me to be at those conventions, I have to pay the expenses from those trips entirely out of pocket (in addition to the fact conventions set me back DAYS in terms of the work I am responsible for).
Yesterday was a rough day for me. I literally broke down crying two different times on account of the intense burnout and feeling stretched so thin. A change had to be made.
The way forward
First of all, a major goal for me this year is cutting back on the sheer volume of work I have to do for The Gauntlet. This is much easier said than done, because we have a lot of commitments and I possess a lot of institutional knowledge. It will be a job just figuring out the way forward, but I have started to make some progress. Yesterday, I retired our Game Designer Patreon program. That wasn’t easy for me to do, because the work I did with those game designers was very important to them (and to me) but I had to cut it because it was taking up a lot of time while bringing in relatively little money for the community. Our Patreon will take a hit from it, but that will be outweighed quite a bit by the personal time I will be able to claw back.
In the future, in addition to cutting projects that aren’t an overall benefit to the community, I need to figure out which tasks I can delegate to other people. That will be a slow process, but it’s one I’m willing to start looking at.
But even that won’t be enough. I will always have to spend a lot of time on this community, and at some point, I need to start getting paid for that. I would also like to start paying more of the folks who are currently volunteering their time for the community, even if just in a small way.
The Quality of Life Keeper
All of the above has lead to the creation of 4 new Patreon tiers. The pledge levels for those tiers are $15, $25, $50, and $100. Those pledge tiers come with all the same benefits as the $8 tier, but the extra money from each pledge goes directly toward paying the people who help organize The Gauntlet. My hope is that people who have the money to spare and who want to see The Gauntlet keep going will consider pledging at one of those levels. This will be acutely helpful for me since my day job is essentially consulting work, and if I can start bringing in a little bit of pay from The Gauntlet, I can scale that work back, leading to less burnout.
The Gauntlet is doing the most amazing work in indie ttrpgs. Our desire to create fantastic, high quality content and a fun, inclusive play space is undiminished. But the folks who organize The Gauntlet deserve to get paid for their work. Plain and simple. This is the start of that important conversation for us.
If you'd like to help out, our Patreon can be found right here: The Gauntlet Patreon