One of the problems facing the small-press, indie roleplaying game industry—and in particular, the illustrators who want to work in it—is that it is a very niche industry, with traditionally small print runs and low margins. As such, it is very difficult for publishers to pay illustrators a decent rate. Many illustrators are faced with the choice of either underselling their illustrations by 50% or more, or simply moving on to less interesting work. As you might imagine, a lot of illustrators, given the choice, would love to be working within the fantasy, sci-fi, and comic book genres—but they can make more money working with more standard fare. As a further result, many small-press roleplaying books suffer from a lack of quality art, which impacts the fans of the genre.
The Patrons of the Monstrous Arts project will use a fantasy roleplaying “monster manual” as a test case for patronage funding of the publisher’s art budget: Dedicated fans make an early commitment to the work, specifically by funding the art budget to increase the number and quality of illustrations the work will contain. The patrons benefit from a final work that has more original, high-quality illustrations than a typical small publisher can afford; the publisher benefits from a better-looking final product; and last but certainly not least, the illustrator benefits from a more reasonable rate for his work.
The barriers between creatives and their fans are lower than ever. The patronage project may be the final piece of the puzzle for independent game designers looking to break free from the traditional publishing and distribution model. The game designer creates the written work, illustrated from an art budget funded by the most dedicated fans, uploads the finished PDF to an electronic vendor or print-on-demand service, and the end customer orders the book, one copy at a time, delivered directly to his door. This is a remarkable difference from the old-guard publishing model, where a monolithic game company with a huge budget and a huge staff prints tens of thousands of dead-tree books and ships them all across the world to sit on bookstore shelves, until they finally reach the end of their life in the cluttered remainder bins of small hobby stores.
The final work will be a roleplaying game supplement for the Trailblazer RPG, published by Bad Axe Games.
- (60 days)