Yet, over the years, the act of patronage turned more and more into employer and employee, with less and less freedom of the previous eras and a more modern mercantile thought applied to various creative projects. Society often changes a concept, yet there are still exceptions to those facts and there are still patrons today, yet they apply more and more to the arts like music and painting, with the occasional author in resident seen from time to time.
It's been over two years since Wolfgang Baur brought the patronage concept to the RPG industry and, I think, it's quite evidently a success for Baur, as well as a torch that others in the industry are looking at or, in the case of Rite Publishing, a torch to be touched from and carried on their own. The patronage model has obviously been kind to Baur, as he has not only worked with others on projects, but he's also launched Kobold Quarterly, an analog and digital gaming magazine that has taken residence in the niche that Dragon magazine once filled.
Recently, Rite Publishing has decided to use the patronage model to bring Frank Carr's Heroes of the Jade Oath, a setting powered by Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved, to print via two levels of patronage, patron and senoir patron. Originally, Lands of the Jade Oath was a homebrew, yet it's fan popularity and interesting flavor has brought it quickly to the land of (soon to be) published RPGs. How many other new worlds are waiting such a launch to prominence and are they more likely to see the light of day due to the patronage model?
At the height of the d20 boom, self-publishing brought a new age to the small press RPG designer and developer, especially with services like Lulu enabling them to go to print, as opposed to just PDF. Not only were these designers and developers successful in the digital world, but many of them soon found success in the analog world, too. Which brings to question, what and who will the patronage movement bring to the forefront?
Thus far the patronage movement has had no real stumbling or examples of misuse of trust of it's patrons, which is a good thing and, hopefully, will continue for some time to come. If folks follow Baur's example and professionalism, not only will the patronage movement take a firm hold in the industry, but it could bring a new age to the RPG where people get the exact product that they've hoped for, tailored to their needs and desire. Not only will this add a desired product to their patrons' gaming tables, but it will also fuel the creative engines of the companies that use the model, but bring an interesting level of freedom to game designers and developers who would like to work outside of the mainstream industry.
Although some of the higher levels of patronage are of a higher cost level than most products, they bring with them extras such as manuscript and art review, creation process updates and articles, as well as a hands on tutorial in game design and development. In addition to producing custom products that their patrons want, the patronage movement is also training new designers and developers who might use the same model to bring their own work and ideas to gaming tables. While some could look at this as adding hairline fractures to a multi-faceted industry, a more positive outlook is that it is an excellent training ground for future professionals who are taught by experienced veterans using patronage to supplement their own income and lives.
While the patronage model is new to the role-playing game industry, with few examples of its success, these existing examples are so strong that the potential benefits outweigh any, as of yet, theoretically misgivings. Not only is the patronage model a boon to the individual game designer and developer, as well their patrons, but I feel, in the end, it will show to be a boon to the industry, too.
But, that's just my thoughts, what's yours?