Words from the Wise (Guys)

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2005

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion


To the seventy-ninth issue of The Guild Companion.

Back at the helm

My apologies for my absence last issue. I went into hospital for a routine scan to check on my appendix, was admitted that day as an emergency case, and was operated on a few days later to remove the treacherous organ and associated damaged tissue. Unfortunately there has been a serious complication and I'll be receiving precautionary treatment to forestall any further problems. This is likely to mean that projects such as HARP SF will be delayed.

My thanks to Paolo and the rest of the TGC staff for ensuring that the August issue was published, and to everyone who has sent get-well-messages.


Consternation took place last month and was a very successful convention. We had 84 attendees signed up for the full three days and more than twenty day members. When the membership weren't attending panels, they were playing in a multitude of games and LARPs

Rather than push my luck by running demos, I elected to do my committee duty by serving my hours on the Front Desk, nobly assisted by various deputies and gophers, and by talking on two panels, the first on self-publishing with Allen Varney and Marcus Rowland, which introduced me to the "ransom model" (see below) and the second on making fantasy worlds different with Phil Masters, where I talked about Cyradon and, because I could, the alien races that I've been working on for HARP SF.

We also had a very profitable gaming auction, including a hard-fought bidding war for a copy of the HARP SF manuscript between the Cambridge attendees and Jay Moran, who was bidding via a transatlantic phone link. Jay had the stamina and was eventually triumphant.

Consternation was a Very Good Convention (™). So good in fact, that there will be a successor convention, named Recombination, which will combine the British RolePlaying Society's covention series with the Unicon science-fiction convention series. Recombination is pencilled in for August 2007 (yes, two thousand and seven) and, all being well, will be held in Cambridge.

The Ransom Model

The World Wide Web means that it is trivially easy for anyone to get published. Getting paid for one's writings is a more difficult matter, particularly in the arena of role-playing games. Usually, a RPG writer has to con(vince) a publisher to take a chance on his/her ideas, or more frequently, works on a project that has already been approved by the publisher. Alternatively, a writer can go it alone and be published through RPGNow.com and other outlets.

The ransom model, or the patronage model, hearkens back to the tradition of wealthy aristocrats, prelates, and rulers funding artists to produce works of art. However, instead of a single patron digging deep into his/her pockets, the Internet allows for distributed patronage where dozens, even hundreds, of ordinary individuals can contribute a small amount each. (There are websites that can manage the financial end of things.) This process has already been used for several RPG projects - the author has set a price, donations or patronage have duly come in, and the product has been released, either free to the world or free to the patrons and for purchase by everyone else. It's not a model that would easily work for someone with no track record, but for published writers and designers with an enthusiastic following of fans, it is a possible means of earning money for short-term projects that would otherwise never see the light of day.

Allen Varney, in the Consternation panel, proposed a further twist on the model. For some projects, such as compendia of NPCs, monsters, treasures, and so forth, instead of the patrons simply donating financially, allow the patrons to contribute ideas or writeups, subject to unchallengeable editorial oversight and full transfer of copyright.

I can think of several projects that TGC could achieve using this model that would have been impossible under our normal royalties scheme. Definitely food for thought.

Forum Changes

Those of you who frequent our forums (and yes, we know that most people now use ICE's forums) will have spotted an infestation of spammers. We weed their "posts" out, but they return anew, abusing the anonymous posting facility on our site. So with regret, we're going to have to switch off anonymous posting. Hopefully this will be sufficient to deter them and allow everyone to use our forums as intended.

Farewell for now ...

I'll leave you to enjoy this month's articles. Our next issue will be published in October 2005, but until then ...

Keep gaming and have fun,
Nicholas HM Caldwell
General Editor for The Guild Companion