New Paradigms in Publishing: The Onyx Path


by Kevin Rigdon

There are companies that produce things they hope you will buy. There are companies that have a great relationship with their customers. Then there are companies that make their customers an integral part of the creative process; companies like The Onyx Path. But before I tell you about them, a little background may be in order.

For years TSR had a rabid, loyal following. This is no surprise, as the originators of Dungeons & Dragons™, they practically invented, or at least popularized, tabletop roleplaying games. Following in the footsteps of TSR, White Wolf Publishing took fan obsession to a whole other level. With the releases of Vampire: the Masquerade, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Mage: the Ascension, Changeling: the Dreaming, and Wraith: the Oblivion, White Wolf gave fans the opportunity to play in a modern setting as supernatural creatures stalking the night, attempting to save the world, define reality, retain humanity, struggle against oncoming death and banality, or salvation from oblivion. The fans were varied, passionate, and completely in love with their chosen game, their voice in White Wolf’s World of Darkness.

But like TSR before them, through various forces and circumstances, White Wolf was bought out. They ended the World of Darkness storyline, and came out with new games based on the old, but different new World of Darkness. But that didn’t stop the fans of their older games from showing up at cons, and continuing to purchase used print copies or pdf copies of the older books. I’ve done my part to keep it going, the Masquerade and the Dreaming.

Then, in 2011, White Wolf could no longer sustain publishing books. That’s when Rich Thomas, former Creative Director for White Wolf founded The Onyx Path Publishing (source: to become not only the licensed publisher of White Wolf’s New World of Darkness products, but to reimagine, and reintroduce the Classic World of Darkness games that have engendered so much love and devotion. Never before had a game company listened to the customers so attentively. Realizing that there was still a huge following for their classic games, The Onyx Path began work on V20, the Vampire: the Masquerade 20th anniversary edition, and introduced a revolutionary concept they called “open development.”

Open development for the V20 line allowed the players to contribute to the content of the book. Players could see the rules and content as it was being written, offer suggestions, ask questions, and have their input directly reflected in the books themselves. This hasn’t been beta testing. Rather, this has been real fan participation in the creative process.

To further increase fan participation, Onyx Path Publishing (OPP) has launched a series of Kickstarter projects to fund deluxe editions of their newest books and supplements, which include a W20, Werewolf: the Apocalypse 20th anniversary edition, and a forthcoming Mage: the Ascension 20th as well. And with the new editions of these books, with the development and reimagining of these classic games, fans will have the opportunity to participate in the open development.

If you want to see what it is possible for a game company to be, head to and check out how awesome these guys are, and maybe pick up one of the 20th anniversary titles.


  1. IanJune 27th, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Hi! Ian from OPP here.

    A couple of timeline corrections: the Classic World of Darkness ended and the new World of Darkness was introduced in 2004, two years before the 2006 merger with CCP (it was a true merger, not a buyout), so the merger didn’t cause us to close the Classic WoD.

    Also, V20 was released in September 2011, a month before the layoffs which led to the creation of Onyx Path in January 2012, so by that point the Classic WoD ball had already started rolling, but we’re keeping up that excellent fan momentum.

    In addition to the support for 20th anniversary lines, we’ve also injected some fresh energy elsewhere: the new World of Darkness has seen the release of the first new game in almost four years, Mummy: The Curse, with another one (Demon: The Descent) slated for the fall. We’re introducing new core mechanics and rulebooks for the World of Darkness (the God-Machine Chronicle) and Vampire (Blood & Smoke: The Strix Chronicle).

    We’re also barrelling toward the release of the third edition of Exalted, whose deluxe Kickstarter is the #1 highest-funded tabletop RPG Kickstarter by a whopping $160,000.

    In addition to all that great news, we’ve fully acquired (not licensed!) Scion and the Trinity Universe from White Wolf, and will be releasing new editions of both.

  2. KevinJune 27th, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for the update, Ian. You guys keep up the good work! I’ve been a fan of the Classic WoD since ’95, and am thrilled with what you guys have put together.

  3. TorakhanJune 28th, 2013 at 11:23 am

    The “Open Development” process wasn’t started by Onyx Path Publishing (Pathfinder, for instance, can attest to that), and each of the game lines and products that do utilize the “Open Development” model have different levels of involvement from the fans based on what the development team is comfortable with–sometimes this is “Here’s Chapter 3 I just wrote out. What do you think?” and other times it’s “Well, we’ve finished the book. Here’s a glimpse at what we’ve done.” Other times, it may be responses to Richard Thomas’s White Wolf Monday Meeting notes, or it is the input and creation of new chapters/products created through the KickStarters that influence what is developed as well. However, it is indisputable that the fan’s input has been MUCH more influential in the development of new products than was ever even considered under the old White Wolf Publishing’s development.

    The level in which the focus of the games as being a service to the fans, as well as being a business of producing books that fit into the many games’ themes and setting is something that I’m not sure any other gaming company is doing at this time. As the generations of gamers change to the more community-driven, shared-ownership-idea, and collaborative-minded ways of producing products for everyone, I think that we may see more of these models starting to develop and mature. I hope that Onyx Path Publishing remains on the forefront and helps to develop this new style and method of producing and publishing games.

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