Okay, Linda and I had a terrific holiday with my family. Later this week, we're looking forward to spending time with Linda's family at her sister's birthday party. As promised, here is part two of your State of the Erfworld Address.

State of the Business

Hoo boy. Yeah, let's do this one first. Let the bummers continue.

Mine4Erf, the Ads, and the Crash of Crypto

We had ads on this website for many years. Often, they were terrible ads. Misbehaving ads. Ads that blasted audio in your browser, or made your phone go to some crappy app in the Google play store. But they were ads that paid the bills. At their peak, our ads were regularly bringing in $3500-$4500 a month. That was a $50,000 a year pillar of our business model, and it was the main way that I was paying our web team for all their hard work.

In February, we rolled out a system where a few readers with high-performance GPUs could mine cryptocurrency for Erfworld and replace that revenue stream, getting rid of ads for everybody. It worked well enough for a while that we removed the ads completely. At the time we did it, I wrote optimistically about the price of $ETH "recovering" back up to somewhere north of $900.

Yyyyyeah. Nearly every cryptocurrency has been, er, (how to delicately put this) plummeting like a dead osprey ever since. This past month, most coins have been in freefall. Right now, $ETH is flirting with $100. Rather than thousands of dollars a month, our trailing revenue from Mine4Erf for the past 30 days is something around...$118? Yeesh.

Obviously, we're going to have to do something about that. It's essentially asking the web team to take a gigantic pay cut just to keep those obnoxious ads off this site. John, Red, and Brendan wanted me to say that they all hate the ads, and you know how much I hate them.

So, yeah...we really can't stomach the idea of bringing ads back yet. For now, let's just note a $50,000 year hole that needs filling, and move on to the other gaping money sinkholes of 2018.

In fact, I want to list all the major "sinkholes," or the ugly financial surprises that happened this year and only this year.

2018 Sinkhole #1 - Moving to Maryland

A couple of years ago, we put out the call to Erfworld readers to help Red move to Richmond. It was a real win, with lots of nice people volunteering their time, money, and equipment to make it happen.

When Linda and I needed to pick up stakes and move to Baltimore, time seemed a lot more important than money (for reasons that are probably obvious). In fact, several gracious readers from Baltimore have reached out to me in PM or through the site, and those messages are still just sitting in a gigantic pile of unanswered communications from 2018 that makes me sick with guilt every single day. There just is not the time to tackle that beast. Not yet. Not and take care of everything that's still in crisis, and do what I need to do to keep ourselves and Erfworld alive and moving forward. You have all been incredibly kind, patient, and understanding about that.

As it was, the half of the team that could sweat for the cause (me, Linda, Brendan and Red) put in a lot of hard days packing and labeling our Stupid-Worldly possessions. The professional movers who hauled it all up Interstate 95 and dragged it into the new house set us back more than $3000. Furnishing the new place to make it livable/workable probably brought this particular sinkhole up (or down) to a total outlay of close to five figures.

Taking it to well over five figures is the fact that we spent three months paying double rent. Ironically, the day before I had taken Linda to the ER, we had just renewed our lease on the house in Richmond for a full year, and there was no clause for paying a penalty to break that lease. This essentially left us on the hook for an entire year's worth of rent, whether we lived there or not. The rental agency agreed to let us vacate and clean up the premises, and they would try to lease the property to someone else. But there was no guarantee when or if that would happen.

(And right here I would like to give a big shout out to Cleaning for a Reason and a big thanks to enigmaticfox for letting us know they were out there!. Cleaning for a Reason is a charitable organization specifically helping women who are undergoing cancer treatment by providing volunteer maid service. This took a while to set up, but it ultimately happened just when we needed it and it was a truly kind and beneficial aid.)

Anyway, someone did rent the Richmond house before summer was out. We only ended up paying an additional $500 in advertising and showing fees, but the double-rent bleeding did stop.

2018 Sinkhole #2 - Reduced Update Rate

Our art team learned the hard way that trying to do two updates a week indefinitely is unsustainable. We managed it for over a year, but it just about destroyed us. At the start of 2018, we had dialed back the expected update rate to about 80 a year rather than the maximum possible 104 per year.

After Linda's diagnosis, I announced my intention to maintain that 80 a year with more abbreviated updates. Your response to that post (blowing through milestones that didn't even exist as so many joined the Toolshed) was a pretty clear indication that it was okay to do "less" in an update. Fewer panels, fewer words.

But it didn't work for me. Sometimes updates can be brief, but there is a minimum amount of story and information that I feel comfortable calling an "update" and collecting your pledge, even under the circumstances. I found myself calling skips frequently, just so that the post that went up would do everything for the story that I wanted it to.

As a result of that, we've spent most of this year on pace for fewer than 50 updates a year. We introduced the rain or shine option for your pledge, and more than 1/3 of all Tools opted in. We really can't thank you enough for that response. Without that, we would be completely dead in the water right now.

Even with the pledge increase and rain or shine, though, doing 30 fewer updates than planned is probably the biggest sinkhole of the year. Worse, the whole team sinks into that one. Everybody's compensation takes a hit when we don't update. You can safely call this a $60,000 hole.

2018 Sinkhole #3 - Inventory and Store Fulfillment

This is an important (and unexpected) one. We had 11 pallets of Erfworld merchandise stored in a local warehouse in Richmond. When we finally settled on our battle-tested Kickstarter fulfillment company Gamblers Warehouse as the solution for store order fulfillment going forward, we got to find out that it is more expensive somehow to ship boxes of merchandise to Texas than to haul personal belongings to Maryland. And as good as they are, paying another company to take over the work that Linda was doing is a brand-new ongoing operating expense.

On top of that, we wanted to have at least some new store items to sell when we reopen the store. So we bought T-shirts in two new designs. We had Free Calendar Month to fulfill as well, and we needed to make some extra pinup calendars to sell as merch. All told, call this one almost a $10,000 hole.     

2018 Sinkhole #4 - Legal, Accounting, and Taxes

For the sake of time, let's just skip the details on this one, and call it "not the smallest sinkhole of 2018." The teal deer:

TL;DR 1: Accountants do not always know what to tell the IRS when you do something weird like invent an exchangeable token that is worth store credit. Part of our time problems involved having to redo and amend 3 trailing years' worth of taxes.

TL;DR 2: Maryland is a gouge-y state. So far, it has cost $2200 and 4 productive days' worth of time to make it legal for us to live, drive cars, and do business here.

2018 Sinkhole Nº Cinco - Medical

Having fun on this ride yet? Are ya screaming right along with us? Good, because I saved the best plummet for last.

Medical I - Sorry, you're not covered. No, you're fully covered. No, you're not covered. Um, IDK. Here's a bill for $28K

I posted about this on Facebook and Twitter when it happened, but I don't think it has made it into a news post yet. On the very same day that we got Linda's CT scan results with the shrinking tumors, we also had to have a long discussion with a representative from Johns Hopkins about our bill.

We knew in May that our health plan offered no out-of-network benefits, and that everything outside of Virginia was considered out of network. After deciding to move to Baltimore to be closer to family and treatment and just get insurance in Maryland, we were committed to racking up whatever bills came in the interim.

But then we were told (to our incredible relief) that a representative from Johns Hopkins had spent hours on the phone with our Virginia insurer, Cigna, finally getting them to agree to pay for all of Linda's treatments in Baltimore for six months. On this particular day in August, though, we were told that the bills had been submitted and Cigna had refused to pay for anything but her initial gallium 68 scan. The amount that we were on the hook for at that time was around $28,000. Until our coverage in Maryland kicked in, all of her visits and treatments would be coming out of our pocket. Those Sandostatin treatments were going to run about $7700 each.

Medical II - New insurance? That'll be a mere $2400/month

The big bill is where it begins, but not where it ends. In the post back in April about Linda's initial diagnosis and the visit to the ER, I broke down some facts about our finances. I mentioned that we had a Marketplace/ACA/Obamacare health plan covering the two of us which cost $1100 per month. There were actually a couple of comments here and there, questioning whether that could be right.

That's perfectly understandable. The first "A" in "ACA" is for "Affordable," and it had been, for a while. The Marketplace plan I had for myself just a few years earlier was costing me $165/month. But other posters chimed in to say, "No that's about right. For two people in their fifties (I'm a couple of months off, but close enough) who make just enough to not qualify for any form of tax break or income assistance, that's what you pay."

Well, now that we have a health plan in Maryland, I get a little bit misty eyed and nostalgic for $1100/month. Maryland has its own system, somewhat separate from healthcare.gov. To give it its due, this is probably a better overall system in a lot of ways than the one that we were presented with in Virginia. However, at the end of the day, we still end up paying $2400 per month now.

By way of comparison, we only pay $1800 to rent this two-bedroom house with the basement office. Even with utilities and maintenance fees, the physical coverage of the roof over our heads costs less than the financial coverage for the care of our bodies.

The thing is, it's practically our only option. There were four plans available that would cover Linda's treatment, each with their own "gotchas" in terms of either high premiums or limited coverage. We picked the one that was the smallest overall sinkhole.

And all of this is not a swipe at Obamacare. Without it, it's fairly certain that we would not be able to move to another state and get any kind of health insurance covering Linda's cancer treatment. The great promise of the ACA has been that at least we can get some coverage for a pre-existing condition. Without this coverage, right now I would be asking the Erfworld readers if it would be at all possible to come up with another $7700 every month for the shot, plus probably tens of thousands more $$$ to pay for everything else that's needed to save Linda's life. (And I know I'm unimaginably lucky to have that option to even consider.)

Medical III - The Stuff That Isn't Covered

So you'd think, "well, at least they did get covered at last. It's all in the $2400."



Not all. All these plans have a yearly out-of-pocket maximum (one reason we're still not clear on how much we really owe due to Cigna pulling the football away), but changing plans in mid-year (even from one Marketplace plan to another) resets that maximum to $0. There's some Naughtymancy for you. And guess what happens a month from now, when it becomes 2019? Zero is always calling.

Anyway, we've got some significant co-pays associated with those shots and CT scans and other visits, plus all of my health stuff. To this date, we've paid more than $4000 to Hopkins (leaving out all the chemo treatments, biopsy, and other expenses from Virginia), and the outstanding balance is currently showing around $12,000. Whee.

So...do you need more help? Is there a GoFundMe page or something?

When the news first broke about Linda's cancer, quite a few generous and well-meaning folks suggested starting a go fund me page for our medical bills. I said at the time that we would hold the option in reserve until we had some idea about the need. There were some scenarios in which we didn't find ourselves owing very much at all. There were others in which we would owe more than a GoFundMe could possibly raise, even from the Erfworld crowd.

I also said that the jump in Toolshed subscriptions was probably the only answer we would need. Whatever hole we were left in, financially, the pledge levels we reached would assure that we would be able to get ourselves out of it just by updating Erfworld.

Now that we know about the size of the hole we're in, I still feel that's the way to go. Considering how you've all responded time and again when we had a specific need, I don't doubt that I could start a GoFundMe page to make these enormous medical bills go away.


But, like with the ads...let's not. Making more Erfworld is the best way through this particular problem, so I'd rather just ask you for some additional help with making Erfworld.

Let's hold off on those details for now, and talk about something happy. I've been writing this news post for days, and I'm starting to worry that this alone might send me off to some new expensive medical facility.

Yeah, let's first talk about how the story's going. (And where.) I like the story.

State of the Series

Not "between books," but in a "Prelude"

We wrapped up "Book 4: Lies and Dolls" and its epilogues recently. Really proud of it. Proud of the creative team, particularly how Lillian has grown into the inker/colorist role. That image from the Transylvito portal room is one of the best panels of art by any artist or team we've had. We have a lot of fun in the art team channel.

It's possible you were not aware that we were even in book 4, since most of the book 4 updates were uploaded as book 3. It's okay to be confused, and it's even sometimes okay for the author to be confused, as long as it's about something relatively minor like "where to end the book." ^^

We're right on track with the bigger story/series arcs, though. Red spent a lot of his attention and time to split past updates into the appropriate books, update the archives, wiki, forums, and various other pieces of the website and its code. "Book 5: Temple Tantrum" has begun.

But at this point in the telling, there's a hitch. At this turn in the series, Erfworld becomes extremely demanding on the illustrators. Minor spoilers below, but if you are caught up with updates, you should probably read on.

Here's what's about to happen. We are going to take a long pause from following Parson and the other main characters. ("Long" means around 12 to 20 updates.) Also, the rate of updates is going to be significantly slower than usual.

Yikes, I hear you say, why is that?

Well, it should not necessarily be a "yikes" moment. But it is necessarily...necessary.

Erfworld is a world. It is a great big fictional place, with an estimated 200 capital sides. Part of the problem with confining most of the main narrative to Gobwin Knob, Jetstone, Transylvito, Charlescomm, Faq, and a few surrounding sides so far is that it can leave a reader with the sense that "The Great Western Conflict" is the only part of the Erfworld where important events ever happen.

With the awakening/creation of the Tutelaries, we are now about to experience politics on a worldwide scale. A lot of new settings, sides, and characters need to be introduced in a hurry, because what distant actors say and do is about to matter to our mains. So I would like a chance to breeze through and have you meet the bulk of those new faces and places all at once, as a prelude to Book 5.

These updates will be like the "Generica" ones, just brief vignettes about the awakening of a particular Temple. With permission, I'm even using some of these updates to canonize some of our Kickstarter backers who are still owed a "character sheet" reward, as a way of getting caught up on some of our deliquent promises from projects past. The preludes should be pretty light and entertaining. The story has gotten a little grim lately, so it's a good time to have some fun with it again. I think you'll like this stretch.

Okay, but why slower updates than usual?

Partly because of all of the health stuff and time crunch stuff I have already listed. But mostly because we need these preludes as a foundation to future books in multiple ways.

Cities, new places, and characters are some of the hardest things for the illustrators to draw. Our only hope for jumping around the world like that is to model a lot more of Erfworld in 3D.

A brief history of 3D in Erfworld

It's not any kind of exaggeration to say that 3D has been a part of Erfworld since the beginning. The very first updated Book 1 was a six page release on Giant in the Playground. There on page 4, we got our first look at the Arkenhammer. This was modeled by Jamie in Maya.




Looking back at the reactions to the first update, no one even commented on the fact that the Arkenhammer looked 3D-rendered. It wasn't until we saw the Arkendish and Arkenpliers that readers connected points A and B, and began discussing how different the Arkentools looked from everything else in the world.

So 3D has always been with us, always a part of the process. This has been especially true for cities. When Xin took over for Book 2, she tried her hand at modeling new Gobwin Knob in Sketchup (she has a degree in architecture from University of Houston). I'm also pretty sure that David Hahn modeled the palace at Jetstone and other buildings in some 3D program. Lauri Ahonen modeled Spacerock, Faq, Parson's cell, the rifles, and quite a few other things as a way of streamlining the art process.

That modeling took a lot of the burden from Xin's shoulders as penciler. In the past, we tried a lot of approaches to simplify complicated scenes. Sketchup didn't really work for modeling whole cities and we abandoned it. Some of the overhead views of Spacerock in Book 2 were meant to reduce the detail and time required to draw all those buildings below.

But Xin and I agreed that we weren't thrilled with the look of that. So we went back to "cities take a whole lot of time to draw" for the rest of Book 2. Updates were slow. Book 2 ultimately took nearly four years of active production (5 years on the calendar) to complete. That was semi-okay when we weren't being supported on a per-update basis, but it was frustrating for everybody. It was nice when Lauri was able to completely remove penciling cities from Xin's plate.

Now, Lauri was working in Cinema4D, and he left us his models. It was a pain and a hurdle to get useful renders in Maya out of those, but we did it. We were able to use the Spacerock model for the "Parsonfall" page, for example.





I gave Lillian the raw renders. She cleaned up the lines, fussed over the shading, did textures, and generally integrated the renders into the the look and feel of the rest of the comic. Xin only had to do some minor spot penciling here and there. It was a massive time-saver, and will be again, the next time we need an exterior view of Spacerock.

A Real Generican Hero

That kind of brings us to the point where we begin Book 5 as a world with a whole lot of brand new buildings in it.

Our 3D modeler since Lauri departed has been...Rob Balder. I've worked hard at it, gotten a lot better over a year and a half, but I am still a noob and still slow. We really do not need another time-consuming Rob task in the mix. As much fun as I have in Maya, I would really rather not be making whole cities.

That's where Erfworld's weird good Luckamancy comes in. For as much as our dice can be cursed, we do seem to find A+ art talent in the nick of time, right when we need it the most. I ran into Connor Cercone in a character modeling Discord channel, where I was looking for help with a Maya scene. A week later, he had essentially become Erfworld's third artist. He turns out to be both a virtuoso 3D modeler and an experienced modeling teacher.

Making Generica was Connor's trial by fire. He was working from my concept description, and reference photos like these:


Along with Xin's overhead maps (begun using this cool open-source city generator):



And her pencils of the Temple and garrison:

 


I also threw together most of the signage:

 



But Connor was able to riff on my examples and create more in the same style. He's exactly the kind of creator I enjoy collaborating with, offering genuinely helpful suggestions and presenting proofs/concepts without being prompted, but not going off the deep end with nutty ideas. "Can there be a coffee shop sign?" "Yep, absolutely." Minutes later, he's showing me a great looking coffee shop sign in the style of my other signs.

Generica was...a lot of work. A ton. I've estimated that the four of us might have created more than a thousand 2D images in the production of those two pages.

But here's why it's worth it. Watch this clip:



That's not a finished/complete model. But it's enough to save Xin and Lillian a dozen hours each, whenever we need a panel to show an exterior shot of the Temple. We can render it from any angle or camera that works with the text, then Xin can add needed details and extras, Lillian can do her magic in Photoshop, and we've got an update.

Connor is the help we need - but we need your help to keep Connor

Here's where we really lucked out. In addition to being a great fit with the creators and hell of a hired gun for 3D modeling, Connor also tutors. He has developed an entire 5-week intensive Introduction to Maya course that he gives regularly.

Xin and Lillian really want to go through his whole course. They are both champing at the bit to learn 3D. That's going to be difficult and time-consuming, though. They couldn't take this training and also be drawing two updates a week, even if those updates *weren't* "brand-new places, characters, decor, etc."

So again with the pay-cut problem. I want to not only pay Connor to teach it, but also pay our two artists for their time to learn. The three of them will be working on modeling our new cities and Temples. And our old cities, too! Here is a WIP shot of Connor's model of Transylvito, pre-Huehue:



Should be fairly evident just how freakin' talented he is at representing Erfworld things as models. He's also beginning to pick up with Erfworld unit sculpts, working from Xin's pencils:





This is (I hope) just the beginning of what Connor can bring to Erfworld. I don't even want to get into teasing all of the other stuff we've been discussing for future applications of 3D with our other plans, like gametable and unit collection. But even if all he does is teach Xin and Lillian to model and sculpt scenes in Maya, he will have done a Titanic amount for the future of the series.

So, of course, this is the part where we say what help we need. That part's easy. In lieu of a Kickstarter/GoFundMe, all we're asking is for some basic sponsorship of the time it takes to run through the course, so that Xin, Lillian, and Connor can do this thing and still be able to pay their bills. It's time to:



From now until the end of the year, you can sponsor the 3D training and get one of the unique gems designed by Xin, Lillian, Connor, Linda, and me. Details are right here, in the Erfworld store.

Erfworld Store is Back?

Ooooh, yeah it is. Finally. Sorry for the long downtime, but it's essentially four hard problems in one.

The Erfworld store is back up and running, and ready to take your Shmuckers for everything except Re-tool the Art Team. (Coursework sponsorship is a fundraiser and we need to raise cash money, at least until landlords and utilities start accepting Shmuckers.)

There are two new t-shirts and the 2019 Pin-up Calendar there to buy.

 



Calendar! Do I get one free?

Yes, you do! If you have been a rain-or-shine Tool for 10 missed updates or more, then you get a free 2019 Calendar. You can see if you qualify and tell us where to send it by clicking the Free Calendar Month page (and being logged in).

We are probably going to have only about 350-400 left for sale to those who don't get a free one. If you do not qualify for a free calendar but you want one, then you should grab it in the store as soon as you can. We might re-print them if demand is obscene, but I wouldn't bet on it.

What about Printing Book 3 and Book 4?

Yeah, those are hard...cover. Layout of two books for print and the art on two gigantic covers...that is going to be an ordeal still to come. Plus, we had to raise $47,000 to print a run of one hardcover title on Kickstarter the last time. I haven't even gotten quotes for two at a time.

That's going to be January's problem. Or...February if things continue to be rough. For now, we'll focus on getting the tech and training and story and art all together for Book 5, so that we can hit our stride with posting updates in 2019.

Hey, you didn't mention...

I'm sure I didn't hit some important things here. But this news post is like 5000 words long already, and that's for "Part 2." This and the holiday travel has taken most of my time and attention for like the last two and a half weeks. If there's a major thing I haven't covered, it's fine to ask about it in comments.

We probably won't update on Friday, and I know that's four skips in a row. It's necessary, for now. Everybody's working and learning, and there's good stuff to come. I'll be posting progress shots of Xin and Lillian's coursework. I also do have a nice pinup from Xin to post soon, and I want to make a Toolbox post with some of that Generica development art.

Final Thoughts - Erfworld at 12

Next week will be Erfworld's 12th anniversary. Feels like 12 minutes. Feels like 12,000 years. There's no question that this is still my dream job, and that it's much, much tougher than any job I ever worked in my life. I wonder if every dream job is like that.

Things are not normal, still. The future is uncertain.

But we're on a mission. This group of seven, now eight (pretty please buy a gem and make it happen?) smart, talented, fun-to-struggle-alongside-with people are doing whatever it takes to make a story/universe that's worth your time as smart, talented, fun-to-watch-struggling-with-my-story people to read. (Think of how much you had to struggle just to read that sentence! You don't want to imagine writing it.)

I hope it comes across how much hope I've really got for the future of Erfworld, though. If not, then it's only because I'm pulling my punches when it comes to making promises about the exciting stuff to come. I feel the weight of backer stories (and even limericks) still to be written, PMs and emails I haven't answered, even that bedtime story I owe you all.

But the team grows. The talent and skill and understanding we're putting to work on our problems grows with each one we solve. We grow to trust each other and rely on each other and adapt.

2018 has been the most Titans-awful year, but it could have been a whole lot worse. And I'm more giddy about where this is all heading than ever.

With a little more love and Luckamancy, the best stuff is still ahead. From all of us, peace.

Comments

    • Finn MacCool

      Too bad that Project Wonderful is gone and that starting up a comparable service yourselves (while possibly profitable) would take way too much of your time.

      • a7i20ci7y

        If you guys offer Erf World STL files for 3D printing I would totally buy them.

        • Lord Scotticus

          Honestly.  Put the ads back.  They never bothered me.  -And if they help the finances, then DO IT!

          Monetizing a web comic is hard enough as is.  Don't make it harder for yourself.

          • Gyrate

            Your healthcare story always reminds of the 'joke' about the Canadian version of "Breaking Bad", in which a man just goes and gets treatment for his cancer and is fine and it's all paid for. Ha ha hmm.

            I'm torn on the idea of "little updates" to help keep things moving along - while a regular drip of little snippets would be nice, even if they're not particularly earthshattering revelations, I can see that trying to manage to larger storyline and do snippets at the same time would be more of a headache than doing fewer, larger updates. Best I can suggest is to say don't be afraid to split an update into two if it's splitable; while obviously it's nice to have big chunky updates to endlessly pore over and argue about how they relate to Jillian and whatever contract is in play at the moment, it's also nice to have new stuff to read when we check in.

             

            • Alkimodon

              Stay strong, Team Erf.

              • Betzevim

                Just saying, if you put up a poll I'm sure more than three quarters of your readers would vote to bring back ads.

                Best of luck

                • Imrahil

                  Wanted to do $40 towards art school, but I really wanted two of the d20 gems.  Bought two of the $20 level 'pledge' gems and only got on d20.  Is this intentional, that you can only get one copy of each?  If so, can I amend my payment to at least get one of the cubes too?  smiley-cool.gif

                  • Seannibal

                    OK, OK - you've convinced me to do the rain-or-shine.  Thanks for all that you and the team do. 

                    #TeamAds

                    • Knott

                      Sadly the American Health Insurance and Healthcare system is going to get worse before it gets better..

                      Google ads, its not 3K per month, but it is more than 0 and nowhere near as annoying as unreliable and sketchy ad-providers.

                       

                      I'm glad you guys had a lovely holiday, you deserved that.

                      • rxmd

                        I'm an Erfworld reader since day 1. I don't come here for fancy cards, or gems, or badges. All this community stuff is a distraction for me. I come here to read the comic, and if there is no comic then I go away. That's why I don't mind pledging for the comic, but I don't feel like spending money for fancy widgets. I think there are a lot of users like me.

                        I see it's been a rough year, and I wish you and Linda all the best. But in my eyes, the core business of Erfworld is the comic. Bring back more comics and you will have more revenue. One update of the comic is worth $3000 in pledges, that's a lot of gems, and at the listed rate it's 38 hours of 3D training.
                        In the meantime, here's another vote for "bring back ads". I don't mind ads on sites. If they get obnoxious, infected or whatever - change the provider? Make the ads optional, like Slashdot does for registered users? Sure, an ad-free site is nice, but from what you write, it seems that all the cryptocurrency stuff and the crusade against ads were a huge distraction that took a lot of time and energy. You mention that the ads, at their peak, brought in like $3000-4500 per month. At present pledge rates that's the equivalent of 1-1.5 comic pages per month. Are you sure that the effort that goes into combating ads would not be better spent producing an extra comic every three weeks?

                        • Filkomancer

                          Understanding that copy protection and perhaps additional hassles might render it inadvisable, I'd totally pay for a pdf Advance Reader Copy of the books while waiting for the hardcover.

                          • NinaAndresen

                            I am sad to hear of your struggle, but glad that you are sharing it with us. 

                            Mostly out of curiosity: Could you perhaps ad how many people /pledge dollars are Rain or Shine?

                            Maybe it will encourage more to do it...? 

                            • enigmaticfox

                              I'm so SO glad that Cleaning for a Reason was able to help you and Linda, in the midst of all the stress and moving!  It was an absolute lifesaver for us too, when I was going through cancer treatment in 2015, so I was happy to pass that tip along.

                              It's hard to express exactly how bone-deep exhausting the entire cancer battle is, to someone who hasn't gone through it.  Not only for the person who's sick (most people understand that the treatments can really knock you flat), but to the well partner or caregiver as well!  So I can imagine what an intensely stressful year this has been for both of you (probably feels like 10 years packed into 1).  Glad to hear that you've been able to spend some time with family for the holidays!

                              I'm already a rain-or-shine pledge, so I'll just add my voice to the growing chorus -- bring back the ads!  You won't lose loyal readers, it's an easy way to support you, and I don't see any downside to it (aside from the ErfWorld's noted unhappiness with the concept as a whole).

                              Thank you for being so open about everything that's going on, and for keeping concerned fans in the loop.  Here's hoping that 2019 will bring a light to the tunnel and some better boopin' news!

                              • ArtyD

                                reads a lot, switches to rain or shine pledge

                                 

                                Well that helps with one problem.

                                • csgardner

                                  Bring back the ads.  I can't mine cryptocurrency, and joining the toolshed would be tricky, but I can darn well pay for my pageviews by putting up with some ads.  I would even be willing to go to a special "dangerous ad page" that is extra lucrative (I might only visit in a VM. :)

                                  • Corieu

                                    thanks for keeping us in the loop, hope all ends well and bring back the adds, please, since Im currently unable to pledge again for the toolbox, it would be at least a way of helping out for the 12 years of readership.

                                    • enkidu

                                      Bring back the ads, we really don't mind all that.  Heck, I wouldn't even mind ads with my subscription.  Just crank out the updates so you can get more money from us! :)

                                      • DunkelMentat

                                        I have never brought politics on this website before, and don't plan to again, but I have to make an exception for this news post. We need Medicare for all, yesterday. I will now return to babbling about tutlaries.

                                        • bsheairs

                                          @Imrahil, we've addressed this bug and you should have 2 d20 gems now. The intended behavior is for you to get however many gems you ordered. 

                                          Thanks for bringing this to our attention. 

                                          • Ansan Gotti

                                            Please count this as another vote to bring back ads, and also to build in some (significant) overhead percentages for the next book printing KickStarter(s). Have been here since about the first quarter of Book One, and will be here for the long haul, supporting as I'm able to!

                                            • Bandaid

                                              Well Robs Concience, really nice for you to join us with a newly created account.

                                              To adress your points:

                                              First, no one here is forced to pay or has a long running contract. You can stop paying at any time. Anyone dissatisfied with the update rate can stop paying.

                                              Second, as for the money, well first healthcare in the USA is fucking expensive. If someone I loved had cancer, I would want the best possible care for that person, no matter what the cost. Unfortunately I would not have that option because I do not have a source of income nearly large enough, in the USA I would be denied treatment. Thankfully I do not live there.

                                              Rob has a potential source of income, his fanbase. You can be safely assured that if I had a such a source and needed the money for a cancer treatment I would use it.

                                              Again, no one forces us to give Rob money. We choose to. It is your free decision to not support Rob and Team Erfworld, and "I do not want to"  or " I no longer want to do so" is completely fine.

                                              But if you have to say something, say it with your real account, if you actually have one. And using the nickname "Robs Concience" is really dickish.

                                              • JadedDragoon

                                                "I can't believe ONE THIRD of patrons opted in to the rain-or-shine system. $2k a week FOR DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Count me out man."

                                                Some people have... irony... a conscience. They don't boil every decision down to what they get out of it like a psychopath. I do rain or shine cause it helps Rob and Linda and the Erfteam. Not cause I expected something in return. That's rather implicit in the very concept of "Rain or Shine." But clearly you're too self absorbed to understand such a concept.

                                                Regardless, Rob and the team have a long history of bending over backwards and sacrificing... even unnecessarily... just to keep us entertained. You're lack of gratitude for that is embarrassing. I'm offended to know you are (or were) a fellow fan. If you even really were and aren't just a troll.

                                                Last but not least... the biggest irony of all... you talk about taking responsibility? Well how about you stop hiding behind a pseudonym mister "Rob's Conscience." Or can you not handle taking responsibility for being a self-absorbed asshole?

                                                • Drest

                                                  @Robs Concience wow, what an asshole!

                                                  • Danalog

                                                    I can't believe ONE THIRD of patrons opted in to the rain-or-shine system.

                                                    I can. Because people are fans and love the comic.

                                                    • Werevrimayroam

                                                      I don't post much here, but I have been a reader and fan since the comic first showed up on Giant in the Playground. I was fortunate enough to meet Rob and Linda, and happened to be there when Rob proposed, and I can tell you that I would be hard pressed to find two more excellent all-around human beings on this planet, both from my (admittedly few) personal interactions, and from the way Rob has managed this site.

                                                      I rarely read the forums, but when I do, I am always impressed with the eloquence, intelligence, passion, and civility I have found here. I feel like I have to respond after seeing the post from "Rob's Conscience", and while I know that his post is trollish like 90% of the internet, I sense that maybe this user wants to live up to the high character of the rest of you.

                                                      1) Rob and team have been far more open and transparent than many others in their situation, and it is apparent to me at least that he does it because he feels a great sense of responsibliity towards this community. 

                                                      2) Everything about this - the site, the comics, the forums, Mine4Erf, the shop - is all 100% up to your own free will. You can consume as you wish and pay what you think is fair. The team has done a lot of things that have caused some financial issues, but not because they are stupid, but because they care so much about what they are producing for us.

                                                      3) Asking for a mea culpa on Mine4Erf is low and small behavior. Rob admitted when he did the experiment that it may work and it may not; asking him to apologize for trying is just small-minded in my opinion.

                                                      ...also please add me to the chorus of bringing back the ads, they do not bother me and it seems like one of the simpler ways to help address the shortfalls.

                                                      Have a blessed holidays, all of you Erfworlders and especially to the team. Rob and Linda you have all the good karma I can send, you certainly deserve it.