Posts Tagged ‘Kobold Quarterly’

Wolfgang Baur Interview – Open Design’s Kickstarter Experience

March 12, 2012 2 comments

courtesy of Kobold Quarterly

SG: First off, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about your experience both Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding RPGs! It’s a great contribution to this months RPG blog carnival!

For our readers who may not be aware, Open Design has been a collaborative RPG design company since 2006 and has published a lot of material in those years. A FAQ for those unfamiliar with the process can be found here.
There were a few things that remained unclear to me as I read the FAQs. Namely, how are Open Design projects chosen?
WB: It has changed over time. For the first few projects, I proposed 5 or 6 options and the backers picked one of those. That lasted about a year. Then I asked some freelancers to pitch things, and they came forward with great ideas that turned into some award-winning D&D and Pathfinder adventures and sourcebooks. In the last 3 years or so, I’ve asked backers to write up some pitches that they’d like to see, and wow, did they ever!
Now the current backers themselves pitch project ideas for the next project. I’m looking at about 19 different project ideas for the next Open Design project. Those pitches are all discussed and voted on by the most active Open Design supporters, and the cream almost always rises to the top.

SG: Once the project is chosen, how is the lead designer chosen?

WB: The person who proposed the idea is the lead designer for the project–if they can write a compelling pitch, chances are good they can write a compelling adventure or gamebook.
So for instance, Christina Stiles proposed the Journeys to the West project, based on ideas that had been floated in the Midgard campaign setting project.

Journeys to the West drew the biggest number of votes, and so Christina has led that project as the lead designer. The book will be released this summer. It’s a series of adventures in the style of the Voyages of Sindbad or perhaps Francis-Drake-meets-Temeraire. It’s spectacular island-hopping fun, with demon monkeys, undead islands, a leviathan, and more.

SG: While customers having input to the product as it is being produced can be exciting and engaging for the patrons, what are the challenges in designing “by committee”? Have you ever been surprised by the results?

WB: Oh, there’s no committee! Every backer can contribute to the brainstorms, and some backers do write NPCs, spells, or whole adventures. But the lead designer is always, always the benevolent dictator, or else the project gets mired down in exactly the way group projects often do.

That said, I have often, often been surprised by the results. Three examples: 1) early on, the backers voted to move ahead with an Arabian Nights project that I thought would never fly, and that I proposed on a lark, 2) Brandon Hodge showed up and single-handedly turned my rather traditional Mines of Moria adventure into something rather more ominous and devilish and secretive, and 3) when people said let’s turn Zobeck into a whole campaign setting.

SG: The Open Design system of patronage allows people not only access to the end-product, but a vote and possibly an opportunity to pitch ideas to guide the project’s direction. Did kickstarter’s pledge levels complement your system of patronage you’ve used in the past? Is one better than the other?

WB: Kickstarter made it easier, but it is remarkably similar to what Open Design started doing back in 2006. The pledge levels are identical to the system we’ve used for 6 years. The expanded offerings if the project hits a funding goal are new, and wonderful. Overall, it felt very comfortable, and clearly it worked.  

SG: Journeys to the West was Open Design’s first kickstarter. It smashed it’s initial goal, and made every stretch goal. Was the response you got for this project typical for OD publications, or did it exceed expectations? Do you think kickstarter played a role in the result?

WB: Oh, it exceeded expectations by a huge amount! Most of our prior projects were held together with a lot of spit, bubblegum, and love, but they were underfunded. A few depended on some level of volunteer effort. I think Kickstarter did help, though obviously they take a big cut for that help.

SG: Will future Open Design projects utilize kickstarter? Why/why not?

WB: That remains to be seen.

Thanks for your insights into not only the crowdfunding model, but crowdsourcing material as well! We’ll all be on the lookout for the next Open Design project!

RPG Magazines – Essential or Outdated?

December 26, 2011 5 comments

I knew of Dragon and Dungeon magazines when I was growing up, but didn’t own any issues and didn’t subscribe. The dad of our regular DM had a subscription, and I remember thumbing through an issue or two, but mostly we were too busy playing nintendo to be bothered. When I came back to D&D in 2008, Dragon and Dungeon had gone digital. I had just missed all the gnashing of teeth about the transition, and never had a proper example of the old magazine to feel a sense of loss that so many did when they transitioned to their digital format. At the time, I was only playing 4e, so at the end of the month I was thrilled when they compiled all the articles into a PDF and I had a digital magazine full of new character options and adventures, not to mention great art and maps!

I was really upset when they stopped compiling the issues at the end of the month, and further enraged when the amount of content started to drop off at an alarming rate. I voiced my displeasure in the forums and cancelled my subscription. Most of the articles that I have any interest in reading from Wizards of the Coast are now free, so I don’t regret my decision.

I’ve been doing some research on the roots of D&D and role-playing games in general. After asking around, I discovered some of my gaming buddies had digital versions of the old Dragon magazines. Digitally paging through these issues was like finding an old bookshelf in a library filled with forgotten lore. As a fascinating side activity, I googled the companies in the ads, and a surprising number still exist. Reading the old articles, it was surprising to me how little has actually changed when it came to what gamers were arguing about, and the controversies of the day. Some of the letters were seeking clarification on rules for a particular spell, or how something should be resolved given a conflict between two rules. Others felt that PCs were becoming too powerful, and dragons were getting stomped without being a big enough threat to the party. (Power-creep, anyone?) It was really surprising how similar the conversations were in the old issues as compared to what people are discussing on blogs and twitter today. Are we all just rehashing the past? Has everything worth being said on the subject of RPGs already been written? While a lot of the issues are similar, the evolution of game mechanics, trends, and advances in the hobby make a really entertaining read.

The thing I liked most about the old magazines was that they were filled with interesting games from other companies and ideas from all over the gaming spectrum. The old ads were amazing, and some of the products I had purchased when I was a kid, not ever seeing how they were marketed to the gaming population as a whole. I was hooked. I’ve poured through issue after issue, including early articles from industry giants. Its been really informative, and hugely inspiring.

Enter the Kobold. I had downloaded a free issue of Kobold while it was still available, and decided it wasn’t for me. At the time I was only playing 4e, so I didn’t feel a lot of the content was applicable to me. After reading the old issues of Dragon and Dungeon and realizing what space KQ aimed to fill, I have developed a new appreciation for it. As I have grown in both depth and breadth of games I play, and experience as a Game Master and player, Kobold Quarterly captures the old feel of the Dragon and Dungeon magazines. If you only play one game, you may not find it as valuable as if you are a RPG fan in general. However, if you frequently GM homebrew games and are running out of inspiration, seek out the Kobold. Its full of interesting ecology articles that detail iconic foes, thorough interviews with fascinating figures in the gaming industry, and has ads that actually may appeal to you. Normally I just flip right past ads in magazines, but the majority of the ads in KQ are for products I’m actually interested in, and probably wouldn’t have stumbled across otherwise. I’m ready to subscribe.