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: http://theonyxpath.com/about/faq/) 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 http://theonyxpath.com/ and check out how awesome these guys are, and maybe pick up one of the 20th anniversary titles.