Every month we feature an independent creator we love.
“Well I’m still trying to understand how all this happened.”
If you’re in the indie TTRPG scene it’s unlikely that you don’t know Iko, the mind behind publishing house and webstore The Lost Bay Studio.
“I still don’t know what the Lost Bay Studio is. I know it’s a small publishing house and its has content creation with the podcast, and that I’m doing a bunch of bundles, but it’s still a work in progress. I’m discovering what it is and what it can do and how it can contribute to the scene.”
Like many folks, Iko came to the indie TTRPG community by way of COVID. During lockdown, Iko quarantined with his work partner with whom he produces documentaries. Work was slow and Iko’s partner encouraged him to channel his creative energies into RPGs.
After starting his own channel, he then created the shop which started as a place to share the zines of creators he looked up to and admired as a way to be involved and support their work.
Now, Iko is a RPG creator in his own right.
The Lost Bay: A Suburban Horror RPG
Before the pandemic began, Iko and some friends had been playing the Swedish TTRPG Tales from the Loop, in which you play as teenagers in the late 80s and attempt to solve the mystery of a new technology called The Loop.
The Lost Bay began as a new setting for Tales from the Loop, one that centered on a coastal town in a place like Corsica. Soon though, Iko’s setting turned into its own game.
“The Lost Bay is a really fascinating place with some very violent contours — extremely modern and archaic at the same time. It’s a place where you can go from parking lots of concrete to the most pure wilderness.”
The game is a modern horror RPG set in the 1990s following a group of young adults in a small coastal town called The Lost Bay. Inspired partially by his experience growing up and the world during the pandemic, Iko’s The Lost Bay combines rich storytelling with an incredibly detailed setting.
Leaning into collaboration
From the podcast to the many bundles he creates to his approach for creating Skyrealms and The Lost Bay, the crux of Iko’s work is collaboration and support of the indie creator community.
“It’s an extraordinary learning experience having the opportunity to work with the other creators. That’s something I enjoy about the indie TTPRG scene is that there’s a certain cultural diversity — probably not enough — but there is a certain cultural diversity and I had the chance to speak and exchange with creators.”
Indie TTRPG creators span countries and time zones; it’s an international community of folks who just want to make games and art.
“I try to lean into that, to support [other creators], to create opportunities for myself and others to have more of those exchanges, collaborations, and conversations with other people. This is also where the publishing house evolved to using bundles.”
Each of Iko’s bundles includes work from about 10 creators. He sees it as another opportunity to collaborate.
“[Through the bundles we can] discover different ways to engage with RPGs, to play them — to explore different universes and different ways to create languages. Honestly, for me, that’s the best part.”
Advice for new creators
Iko’s advice for new creators is advice he would give himself:
“Work on something smaller, smaller, smaller, and when you think it’s small enough reduce the size because there’s so much to learn, to discover, and by doing so, the smaller your projects are, the quicker you can gain experience by feel and by listening.”
Use Kickstarter Wisely
Creating the game is only part of the process, though — after it’s ready you release it to the world. Many creators choose crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, and for good reason: it’s relatively risk-averse and can help creators gain a following behind their project. But it doesn’t come without a need for planning.
“Do smaller Kickstarter projects. Do a Kickstarter only when almost everything for your Kickstarter is ready to be released. Don’t finish after it has started because that’s so much stress – at least it is for me. After a Kickstarter, I tend to think that what I’ve done is not enough, so I write more, produce more, and that can be bad [for the project].”
“I’ve learned how to go and ask for feedback. Open up to criticism and constructive criticism.”
This doesn’t mean share your unfinished work with the masses; seek out trusted friends, mentors, and collaborators who can help you reach the finish line for your project.
“Yeah the scene is cool, the scene is supportive, the scene is inclusive. That’s good. Let’s do that more. Let’s try and build the tools and the support structures to be more open, more supportive, and more sustainable, for folks who are trying to do this full time, part time, or at all. There’s a lot of positivity. Let’s build on that.”