Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Five or So Questions with Mark Diaz Truman and Epidiah Ravachol

I interviewed Mark Diaz Truman about The Fate Codex, and Epidiah Ravachol about Worlds Without Master, both Patreon projects. 

First, Mark!

Tell us a little about The Fate Codex. What goals do you have for the project?

The Fate Codex is a mostly-monthly e-zine showcasing the Fate roleplaying system. Each month(ish), we'll publish an e-zine that features new Fate Systems, Essays from Fate experts, Quick Start Adventures, and Short Fiction in the Fate style--all featuring new and experienced voices in the Fate Community.

My goals are diverse. I hope to bring in new folks to the system with a set of e-zines that are easy to pick up and play and to entertain experienced Fate players with Systems and Essays that expand what the system can do. I'm also hoping to feature new perspectives on Fate from a diverse set of creators!

Finally, I want to see people get paid for the great work they're doing. Folks like Ryan Macklin, for example, are constantly pushing out new ideas to the Fate Community, but often as unpaid blog posts and community discussions. I don't want to replace that work--these discussions are so valuable--but I think there's clearly a hunger for polished pieces that present finished ideas.

What motivated you to create The Fate Codex?

Since the Fate Core Kickstarter blew up the interwebs in 2012/2013, Fate has been a big part of my gaming experience. I was lucky enough to write Timeworks for Fate Worlds, followed by work developing Wicked Fate and Do: Fate of the Flying Temple, and now Fate is a regular feature at my table. I love developing these bigger projects, but there's also a lot of little stuff that I'm working

At the same time, I'm also an active member of the Fate Core Google+ Community, and I see so much interesting and different thinking coming through that group. Unfortunately, much of it is lost, pushed down the Community page and inaccessible to new folks. It's like trying to drink from a firehouse of awesome sometimes!

It occurred to me that I could kill two birds with one stone by creating a venue for this kind of work (both my own and the work of others) that would be curated and polished. And when I saw Eppy's Worlds Without Master Patreon campaign do so well the last few months, my brain slowly slowly slowly kicked over to thinking about some the work I do in Fate being a good fit for that system as well.

What benefit does the Patreon model provide for you, as a creator?

More than anything else, it gives me a budget to bring in great people. Magpie Games is lucky enough to have some cash on hand from our work on our previous Kickstarters, but it's tough to estimate demand for something like a mostly-monthly e-zine. Knowing that I've got over 250 subscribers who are excited to get their copy of The Fate Codex through Patreon means that I can hire great people to produce great pieces for future issues. We're already talking about Issues 3 and 4, and I'm excited to be able to pay people for that work right now instead of waiting for several months' worth of revenue to come in before we can start planning Issue 2.

What is the biggest challenge to creating and distributing an e-zine like The Fate Codex through Patreon?

One of the biggest challenges is getting a regular flow of content. There's a lot of good stuff out there, but gathering up great pieces, editing them, and laying them out on a regular basis is tough. I'm thankful that Patreon structures the payment system so that I don't have to think much about how much content to produce, but staying on top of it all is a big job. Luckily, I've been doing these kinds of projects for the last few years, so I've got some experience herding game designers.

What are you looking forward to the most with the project?

Right now? Our first issue! We're deep into writing, editing, and laying out our first issue, and I can't wait to show the Fate community what we've put together. It's exciting stuff.

I know that down the road I'm also really excited about the potential to bring new voices to the table--especially folks that haven't had a chance to show off what they can do in Fate. It's a wonderful system, and I want to bring in new voices that will take the system to interesting places. In many ways, I think The Fate Codex could be a wonderful place for new designers to get started with Fate--it's small enough to give folks a chance to try new things and big enough to have a real audience for good work.

Thanks to Mark for the interview! Make sure to check out The Fate Codex, which will soon feature a short story by yours truly!


Next, Epidiah!

Tell us a little about Worlds Without Master. What's it all about?

Worlds Without Master is an ezine of sword & sorcery fiction and games. It’s as much about sword & sorcery as it is about that intersection between fiction and gaming. I want the reader to feel as if they’ve been shown the paths to a myriad of worlds for them to explore in whatever way they wish.

What motivated you to create Worlds Without Master?
It’s been in my head for a while now, and perhaps even longer. Sword and sorcery was the genre of my youth that I abandoned for several decades for many reasons, some very much misguided. About four or five years ago, I began the used-book store hunt for Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stuff. I remembered really enjoying his books when I read them as a teen and wondered if they held up. They did. And what’s more, the parts of them that struck a chord with teenage Eppy read as delicious satire to adult Eppy. I began to find new things about the genre that I missed back then, but now captivated me.

This set me on the path towards making the Swords Without Master game. While struggling through the forging of this game, all these proto-stories kept welling up from within, always to be cast into the future. Once this game was published, I promised myself that I would set pen to paper and finally write these things out. I just needed to get this game published first. But I wanted the physical object of the game to be something I did not have the power to create just yet. So everything kept being pushed into tomorrow.

In the summer of 2013 I started to look for places to submit my stories and a surprising number of ezines were only offering free copies as compensation for my work. As my frustration with this was on the rise, I became aware of Patreon and it all sort of tumbled out from there.

What benefit does the Patreon model provide for you, as a creator?

So many benefits! It allows me to write the stories I want to write, hire folks to edit and proofread those stories, dream of artists I want to see illustrate those stories, pay those artist to do just that and then distribute those stories to an audience who is not only eager to receive them, but will pay me for them!

By only charging the patrons when an issue is released, Patreon has relieved me of a lot of the pressure to release on unrealistic schedule.

By letting me know roughly how much money will come in after an issue is released, Patreon eviscerated 90% of the risk involved in publishing.

The traditional publishing model has evolved a number of vestigial organs that now exist only to second-guess what the audience wants. Patreon surgically removes these obstructive organs and puts me in direct communication with my audience. This closer relationship with the audience is a powerful motivator. You can look at your Patreon page, see how many people are eager for you to create, and more importantly, know their names. This is a different relationship than before, and it’s one I intend to explore further.

What is the biggest challenge to creating and distributing an e-zine like Worlds Without Master through Patreon?

There is a deluge coming. At the moment, I’m holding back a liquid wall of fiction, games and art. A flood of sword & sorcery that wants to sweep across the land and alter the landscape forever. I’ve got amazing works from talent writers, artists and designers pushing and shoving at me. And I want to set them loose. But I have until the Patron Horde is huge enough to take them head-on. So at the moment, each issue is the merest trickle of what this ezine can be. The biggest challenge is waiting that out.

What would you say is your biggest achievement with Worlds Without Master?

“One Winter’s Due,” my story in the second issue. Before that, it was “Strange Bireme.” With a little luck, each story will be a slightly bigger achievement than the last.

Thanks, Epidiah, for the interview! Keep an eye out for Worlds Without Master on Patreon!

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