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The Mortar Pit

A Few Not So Random Thoughts

Rating: 4 votes, 4.75 average.
I am still quite angry with the treatment of veteran's issues by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), and by extension the government, as I ranted about in my last post.

Even worse because of stuff like this CRAP posted by CTV News.

A few years ago, VAC couldn't cover service dogs for veterans because there was no national standard in place. Okay, so a group of stakeholders, including veterans who had been given service dogs through private charities, service animal providers, as well as VAC, got together and worked on a national standard. Just as it was being finished up, VAC walked away from that process. Apparently the standard wasn't good enough, no national overseer body to enforce the standard, stakeholders not working in good faith. The reasoning behind it doesn't matter. The current government walked away from that process.

Now they say they are waiting on the results on an US study that they already have?

Come on really? Time for the idiots running the show to give their head a shake.

How hard is it to look at veterans that have a service animal and see how well that animal works?

How much more money do you have to throw at studies for this?

Same thing for the whole medical marijuana issue, but hey...keep pushing all those medications that big pharma wants you to push.

Both work, all you need to do is look at the quality of life of veterans who use either. It is amazing to see the difference in the veterans I know personally that have either.

Speaking of money. That $372 million in budgeted funds unspent to the government? That's actually an improvement..not that long ago is $1 billion returned. Yet, THAT'S the fault of the veteran who aren't applying for programs??

Somehow I don't think so...not when you have to wait a year or more to find out if you qualify for a program. Well over a year more if you want to appeal a decision.

Its been a motivator of sorts. I don't have the energy, the will or the desire to become some public advocate for veteran's issues. There are already some really good guys that are out there doing that already, and in a far better manner than I could ever do.

I need to find another route to contribute, and to feel like I am contributing in someway. I have been mulling over some ideas, then kind of got caught off guard by my wife's suggestions. I got voluntold twice.

Our youngest is attending the NB College of Craft and Design in their fashion program, and has decided he want to start a YouTube video blog, where he discusses Canadian art, artists and fashion designers. My wife promptly decided I will handle all the "other stuff...you know - like editing the video and uploading." So apparently I need to learn some video editing skills. Worst part about it, the kid has the personality for it.

Second, grows out of the nebulous of an idea I have had for a bit, and it involves far more work for me. I have been thinking hard about getting being my own indie rpg writer/publisher. With the rise of the community content creation Guilds make this far easier through the OBS system. I need learn how to do layout and a bunch of other stuff as well.

Since I have been doing a lot of work with Campaign Cartographer, from ProFantasy software suite, not super competent with the platform yet but this is my more recent Map (hig rez). I have also have been experimenting with the Map Forge software, as well as Dungeon Painter Studio on Steam.

The crux of my wife's idea is create stuff - stories, maps adventures then sell those. (Nice to know I have her support and backing in something like this though.). Now thinking back to my that news story couple with my drive...that need that I stubbornly that I need to feel like I am contributing to something bigger than myself. To me this includes contributing to the household.

I see two possibilities in front of me.

The first is I create material - maps, small adventure ideas and sell them directly through OBS, possibly even the Savage Worlds Adventurers Guild and taking all of the proceeds and donating them to a suitable PTSD service dog training charities here in Canada.
The second idea is to possible set up a Patreon creators page and do the same thing with the proceeds - donate them to a service dog training charity here in Canada.
To be honest, the only critique my wife had with either those choices, is in her words...."You are a veteran, and you could use that money as much those charities can right now."

For all those content creators, not just map creators, but all of you that I know out there, whether you use one or both of these platforms you have any tips or pointers from your adventures as you started out?

Any other thoughts or comments?

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  1. LordEntrails's Avatar
    So yea. My biggest piece of advice is consistency. The second is patience. The third is self-promotion.

    First you have to publish regularly. Then you have to wait to build a reputation and a following. And you're going to have to build that self-promotion through social media. Especially Twitter and probably even Reddit. Reddit can be extremely toxic, so approach with caution. My best advice there is to only link to free stuff there. That said, I'm not a big fan of free stuff...

    I will also add, that what you've shown with CC3+ is better than 80% of the stuff I see in indie publishers. People just don't get it. With CC3+ and a few hours and very little artistic talent (but some since of geography and how to make maps interesting and/or useful) you can make maps that are 80% or better than what you will see from everyone but the very high end.

    Go for it. It's a long slow road, but it can be done. Let me know if I can help.
  2. Mortar's Avatar
    Thanks for the response and compliment LE. Its an idea that cropped a week or two ago and is still gelling. Some other things I need to to take into account and figure out. Do you use patreon at all?
  3. GavinRuneblade's Avatar
    Here is some real data from 2018, people often toss out depressing statistics, but self-employment is actually a great path. In America in 2015 (most recent federal data) there were 30.2 million small businesses, and of those 24.3 million had no employees, they were one person supporting themselves, which is probably what you're thinking of if I read you correctly. You will have heard some false information like (90% of small businesses fail). That comes from misreading statistics. Per the SBA 78.6% of new businesses survive their first year about a third make it to 10 years. Yes, many businesses do fail, but it's not as bleak as many people make it out to be. I don't know Canadian data currently, but last I heard your self employment stats are even better than ours.

    Second, a serious question and please don't take it as discouragement: How serious are you about self-employment as an indie game developer/adventure designer?

    I am a vocational rehabilitation counselor, this is what I do for a living. I have seen it over and over and over, especially in the entertainment fields. People look at writing, journalism, music, gaming, etc. and they treat the industry like the hobby. Those people don't often have careers in the industry short of incredible luck. The ones who have careers treated it like an industry. "Oh anyone can write a novel these days, I'll just work on it in my spare time". Ya, is that book going to be the next Harry Potter series? No, it is not. "Oh anyone can record music now, I'll just make some youtube videos". Is that person the next Justin Beiber? No they are not. "Oh anyone can get a PDF adventure published on DriveThruRPG, I can just make one from my home campaign". Is that going to be the next Pathfinder or Eberron? No it is not. Is there room for new Pathfinders, and Eberrons and GURPS, and everything else? Hell yes. But all those guys treat it like an industry, themselves like industry professionals, and treat their customers like hobbyists. They see the line and they stay on the successful side of it.

    If you just want to see your name in print, have some stuff out there, and maybe or maybe not get some money for it from time to time. Then start with your maps. They are good and LordEntrails was right they are better than a lot of what I see in published adventures. Find a DriveThruRPG product you like that needs maps, make them, give them to the author and say you would love to collaborate on their next adventure or campaign setting book. You will quickly have what we call "hobby income" and it might start out small but could become significant. If that's really all you want, then jump in and go for it and I'll look forward to seeing your maps in print.

    If you really want to make income and be professional? That is a whole other story. Does Canada have an equivalent of the US's Small Business Association? They have free services to teach people how to do a financial and market analysis, do a real business plan, take stock of the competition and find prices that work for your unique situation etc. Our Veteran's Administration has a support process for it too, but I've heard mixed results. The ones who do it best, ironically, are our Social Security Administration with their process for helping people with disabilities get off of benefits and become self-sufficient. There are a lot of classes and other sources of support. Many people think, "oh it's a just a game industry and I can do this work for free from home, so I can just jump in and figure it out". Same story, that needs lottery winner levels of luck if you want to get past the hobby stage. You want a career, treat it professionally and it will treat you professionally.

    So really, are you looking for a hobby that pays, or an actual career?
  4. Mortar's Avatar
    Very well thought out response GavinRuneblade. I deliberately took an extended bit of time to think about the topics you hit upon, because it deserves a well thought out answer.

    Short answer is "Yes". To me, this is my second career. Creating gaming material- world building, adventures, stories - has always been fun to me. It is not something before the last 6-8 weeks that I would have considered viable for me. I still had the drive to want to do more for my family. It turns out what I had been doing was having the opposite effect for both my family and myself. That took a long time for me to understand, and there were a lot of missteps and backslides along the way.

    Discussions over the last couple of weeks with my wife, and she is a big supporter of this idea, helped me realize the opportunity in front of me. RPGs have been a big part of my life for 35-36 years or so. Its more than a diversion, and it has also gone beyond being a passion. I don't just see it a second career, its more than that for me know. I was never known as one to half-*** anything I do - its full speed ahead or not at all. This I am learning, and loving what i am learning, but I have slowed myself down and am taking baby steps - doing my research, finding out what I need to know and trying to identify ways to learn those subjects.

    The difficulty I will have is dealing with Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC) on this. As far as they are concerned at this point, I am not physically or mentally capable of permanent employment. This may or may not change in the future. Physically, it will likely never change. I am already looking at knee replacements, hip and back surgery...and I am only 47. Mentally there will be improvements, but I can't see them letting me work outside of the home. To them this is a hobby, something I do to keep my brain active. I know of one fellow veteran that lives just up the road from me - he had to sell his successful business as VAC felt he made too much money, or he would lose all benefits.

    There a bunch of programs that are available, or will be available once VAC decides I have improved enough. These programs are both through Prince's Operation Entrepreneur and https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-...velopment.html. There are also other education/training benefits that would kick in at that time.

    There are also some other education benefits I can tap into right now that I could use to take smaller courses - say a course on PS, or InDesign, or a short course on programming - stuff like that. Hell...pottery or ceramics too if I wanted to.

    So...Yes, full blown career to me, but I can take the time to research, learn and do it right
  5. GavinRuneblade's Avatar
    Good. Because, like I said self-employment is a great path and Canada is a great place to have a company.

    Some quick things, find out who your local Vocational Rehabilitation Agency is. VAC might not treat you right, but your local Voc Rehab unit follows totally different rules. Again, I am more familiar with Americas laws but I do know that you also have a "presumption of benefit". This means that we assume you can benefit from vocational rehabilitation. there are a huge list of tools that we have available to support people like you, and assistive technology can do amazing things. To be found unable to work here in America requires a process called a "Trial Work Experience" which involves putting you at multiple different jobs with all the support possible and observing for months. Even if one job doesn't work then that only proves it was the wrong job, the wrong company, or the wrong supports, so enough variations have to be tried to actually prove that no set of tasks are possible for you to complete for any employer regardless of the supports provided. I think our law in this regard is more protective than Canada's, but I know you have something in place to guarantee a presumption of benefit. This is totally different from your VAC's process. So do not rely on convincing VAC you can do it. Talk to your local Voc Rehab unit and get them on your side. THEY will do the harder task of pulling in VAC for you, plus get you started down the road while that is happening.

    If you cannot find your local province's Vocational Rehabilitation agency, try contacting these guys and asking them who covers your area. Unless you live in Toronto, then they are the people, lol.

    One scary thing is that to succeed you'll want a business plan, and a good plan needs about 6 months to do all the research. Our laws in America say that anyone seeking self employment through VR (vocational rehabilitation) is entitled to consultation with business lawyers and financial analysts to help with the plan. In Hawaii where I live we partner with the department of labor and a group called SCORE to provide this service. I work with the blind community, so where I start is having my people take these classes, you'll want to see if you can find something equivalent either online or in your area as this particular provider only helps students who are blind:

    Business Fundamentals
    Self Employment with Minimal Investment
    Market Research
    The Market Plan
    The Financial Plan
    The Business Plan

    At the end they have a plan and a great understanding of their industry and how to operate. This takes about 8 months to go through. Again, you'll want to find somewhere local or online where you can get comparable information. As a start I put three good links in my post above for some free classes. Start there.

    Some quick tips: In this industry, never go into debt first. Gamers WILL give you kickstarter funds if you are professional, transparent, and have a viable plan. You can sell merchandise or swag from vendors like CafePress or Zazzle at no cost to you. There are print-on-demand publishers to get physical books out and shipped without having to pre-order and pay in advance or you can just do PDFs. Patreon is your friend if you want to do small-form content over and over. In the past, you would have had to invest to make the item, invest to print the item, and invest to market the item. Today major chunks of those three are free, so try to find a model where you do not start with debt. Our small business association tries to get everyone to take out loans and start in debt. Don't do that, find another way.
  6. LordEntrails's Avatar
    Curious how things are going for you. One things that struck me was this part of your post;
    The difficulty I will have is dealing with Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC) on this. As far as they are concerned at this point, I am not physically or mentally capable of permanent employment. This may or may not change in the future. Physically, it will likely never change. I am already looking at knee replacements, hip and back surgery...and I am only 47. Mentally there will be improvements, but I can't see them letting me work outside of the home. To them this is a hobby, something I do to keep my brain active. I know of one fellow veteran that lives just up the road from me - he had to sell his successful business as VAC felt he made too much money, or he would lose all benefits.
    It got me thinking, if you do incorporate or make a legal entity, look into making your wife at least part owner (if not full owner). It's crap, but I do know their can be advantages to having a "minority owned business". It also might mean since you don't own it, and maybe you are only a contractor to your wife? That maybe it applies a different metric for 'success' as far as the VOC is concerned.

    I just don't know, but I think if you do get legal services as Gavin laid out, it a topic to discuss.
  7. Mortar's Avatar
    Sorry abut that Lord Entrails, I got sidetracked (way too easy for me to do.)

    My desktop computer **** the bed before Christmas, and it isn't high enough on my priority list to replace the dead components yet. I'm still not 100% certain what parts are still usable yet (honestly, mostly because I am too lazy to dismantle it all and start messing around with stuff). I have an old laptop I am using to do some writing and plan on getting back to working on some conversions.

    So not much news on my front really.

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