Friday, April 02, 2010

The Shattered Glass Project -- Jess Hartley's Fiction Foray into the Open Design Wilderness

A couple of years back Wolfgang Baur began a project that leveraged the hobby gamers' desire to support game designers they enjoy to create a revenue generating project taking advantage of the distribution possibilities the internet offers. With his "Open Design Project," Baur asked fans to become Patrons of role playing game adventures that he would design in collaboration with some patrons and distribute back to all the individuals who patronized his project. There were various levels of patronage that allowed for a greater, or lesser, role of creative input by the Patrons and also allowed for more individualized product offerings at the termination of a given project. For example, a high ranking patron would not only be allowed to have input on the content of the adventure, but would receive a signed copy of a printed version of the product as well.

Early in the process, the Patrons and Baur discussed whether finished products should be available for sale to the community at large upon completion -- perhaps after a given timeframe of Patron exclusivity. The answer was often some variation of, "No! We supported the work, we want to keep it special." Supporting a project often entailed a much higher price tag than is associated with buying a typical adventure at a hobby store, so the sentiment is easy to understand. This isn't to say that there haven't been projects "made public." Baur has done patroned work that was intended for public sales upon completion, and the vast number of Open Design bit torrents available has demonstrated the willingness of some patrons to completely ignore Baur's copyright -- and the rights of exclusivity shared by other patrons -- in order to make the "information free yo!"

In fact, it was upon seeing a group at my local gaming store playing an early Patron project that the GM announced proudly he had downloaded from a torrent that I cooled off on my patronage of Baur projects. I am still a patron of all of his projects, as of today, but the broad availability of torrents and my lack of time to participate actively has led to me reducing the level of my Patron status. I tend to be a mere "patron" rather than a glorious "Patron of the Arts," as I was in the past. Baur's project is inventive, and he is one of the better designers out there. He deserves your support, and not your scouring of the internet for a "freebie."

Speaking of deserving your support, on March 20th of this year Jess Hartley -- of White Wolf and other RPG design fame -- announced that she was beginning a patron supported project of her own. She calls the project The Shattered Glass Project and describes it as follows:

What is Shattered Glass?

Shattered Glass is a modern fairy (urban fae) short story, penned by Jess Hartley, which will be made available for a limited time, exclusively to patrons of The Shattered Glass Project.

What is The Shattered Glass Project?

The Shattered Glass Project is many things. It's an experiment. It's a work of fiction. It's a solution. It's a piece of art. And it's your chance to be directly involved in my work.

Why "Shattered Glass?"

Shattered Glass is the splintering of reality that happens when a person realizes that the world is not quite as they believed it to be. It is destruction, from which both damage and opportunity may arise. It speaks of magic mirrors and ice queens, of vandalized store windows and shattered windshields. It's the fragile nature of everything precious, and the value both of protecting that which we hold dear and knowing when to move on to something else when what we love is no longer good for us.

If you enjoy the thematic writing within the White Wolf gaming line, Jess Hartley is one of the writers who makes the flavor text of their games so engrossing. And let's be fair, it is the flavor text of the White Wolf games that helped them start a minor revolution that re-invigorated the role playing game hobby. For readers of White Wolf's flavor text, books and films like Twilight and Vampire Diaries are merely part of an existing obsession rather than new takes on older narrative tropes. As a contributor to White Wolf her work has been primarily within the re-imagined World of Darkness of the 21st century (if she contributed to the works in the 90s I apologize for limiting my credit giving to the more recent work), a re-imagining that broadened the scope of the line of narrative horror games. She has contributed to works within all aspects of the World of Darkness, but her largest area of contribution has been in the Changeling game line. In its 1990s incarnation, the Changeling game setting seemed mildly out of place. The game, with its focus on Faeries and the Fairy Court, seemed slightly out of place with the urban horror focus of the rest of the World of Darkness. With the re-invention of the line, and Hartley's contribution, in the 21st century version there is no longer room for doubt that Faeries can be as horrifying as Vampires, Werewolves, and "constructs."

With The Shattered Glass Project, Hartley is bringing her personal take on urban fae storytelling and I am looking forward to seeing the results. I have signed up as an "Artisan Patron." If I am going to participate in a Patronage project, I like to have something physical to which I can lay claim. I just don't trust that some other patron won't violate Hartley's copyright and make the digital version available beyond the "limited time." Which is a shame as all the revenue patrons contribute goes straight to the artist, which negates any "corporate overlords cheating artists" argument in support of piracy, and the virtual patronages are a very reasonable $5.

If you can't spend $5 to support an artist you admire instead of taking the product of their hard work for free, then you don't really admire the artist. Actions speak louder than words.

So if you are in mood for a -- possibly pretty dark -- modern fairy tale, give Jess Hartley's project a little support. I can't wait to see the results.

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