Last year, designer Wolfgang Baur did a very strange and interesting thing, he announced he would be designing an adventure using the ancient system of patronage. To this end he created a website called Open DesignÂ and allowed people to buy into different levels of patronage for the project, with each level allowing more of a say in both the process and the final product. Once the amount collected from the patrons reached a pre-determined amount, the project got green-lighted (and if it hadn’t reached the amount, the money would have been refunded to each patron, so no risk there) and a couple of months later, all the patrons ended up with an exclusive, one-of-a-kind adventure never to be made available beyond those involved.
I recall when this was being announced at the various industry news sites, and recall the ongoing updates, both from industry sites and from my friend Mark Gedak’s LiveJournal, since he was one of the patrons, and I have to admit that I just didn’t pay attention to it simply because of scattermindedness and just plain being busy with other stuff. However, the results of the first Open Design project are in and everyone that has commented on it has said it was awesome. A quick look at the Open DesignÂ website showed me a bunch of really cool-looking stuff that instantly made me wish I had gotten in on it when I could. I mean, just look at the cover of the 115-page (!) adventure, Steam & Brass. That alone looks awesome.
I find the whole concept fascinating, and I have to admit I like the model and feel slightly annoyed that I both didn’t think of it first nor that I followed it the first time around. Wolfgang has a whole post on the issue of patronage where he explains how the system worked for the first project, and he makes a lot of good points; if the system worked for the artistic community of the Renaissance, then why not take it out for a spin today? RPGs are certainly a niche enough market that a person highly skilled in his craft (and seriously, check out the partial list of Wolfgang’s credits) or someone with a good amount of talent working in a sub-niche area of the same field could stand to benefit from the same business model that got the David made, among thousands of pieces of art from the last handful of centuries.
I’m not making the same mistake again. Wolfgang has announced that the second Open Design project is now underway and seeking patrons. Three different product options have risen to the top of the heap based on the votes of the patrons, with the one that is currently my favorite as well at the top: Castle Shadowcrag. So yes, I will be joining as a patron for the second Open Design adventure project, and thus support not only a really good writer in doing his craft, but also an economic system that for ages has allowed us artists (if I may humbly include myself there as well) to practice our craft in a highly materialistic world (funny how some things haven’t changed), not to mention a unique roleplaying product for my collection.
If this sounds interesting to you, too, check out the various Patron levels and join in as well!