Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dyson Logos Offers Free Commercial Map License

I don’t really cover “news” as such too often here at Hobby Games Recce. Other websites compile the deluge of relevant adventure gaming developments in a far more timely and comprehensive manner. But I still occasionally find “breaking news” that grabs my attention. Dyson Logos’ recent announcement deserves note: he’s releasing every map that hits the $300 level on his Patreon site under a free commercial license for use by anyone in a for-profit project.

Cool Map by Dyson Logos
The prolific and talented mapmaker already allows individuals to use his maps in their personal, free materials with the proper attribution. Several times each week his Dyson’s Dodecahedron blog releases new maps, each with enough adventure hook notes to suggest how to populate them and use interesting features he’s packed into each creation. Many other talented artists produce maps and map-based game materials online – Tim Shorts, Matt Jackson, and Simon Forster remain among my favorites – and while I like their contributions to the collective map-making community, Dyson’s style really connects with my ideals for how dungeon maps should look: black-and-white line art, crosshatching (with some nice embellishments), intuitive secret door notation, and a solid feel for imbuing the graphic map with elements suggesting their specific and more general purpose.

I’m excited about this news for two primary reasons: it provides free maps for publishers and it reinforces the effectiveness of the Patreon model.

Free Maps for Publishers

Anyone could use one of Dyson Logos’ maps for their home game – his excellent Dyson’s Delves books encourage that by presenting a map on one page and lines for notes on the facing page – but with the possibility of a free, commercial-use license, independent publishers who don’t usually have access to this kind of cartography can now use it to enhance their products. All they have to do is credit him in the product for his work (“Maps by Dyson Logos,” for instance). Free graphic materials don’t matter much to the big game publishing houses, but to smaller, independent game creators they make a world of difference. Not everyone has the talent or time to draft an eye-catching map, but it certainly can serve as at least an appealing embellishment for a game book, if not the focal point for a product like an adventure; and independent game publishers need all the help they can get producing attractive materials. I like to think I possess decent enough artistic talents to render my own maps (often done in a similar style to Dyson’s), but it takes a great deal of effort and time, which I don’t always have, and the results are certainly nowhere near Dyson’s well-developed, crisp, inspiring pieces. Dyson’s free-for-commercial-use maps aren’t exclusive – any publisher can use a map released under this license with the standard credit attribution – but they’re a wonderful source of fantasy roleplaying game location maps to enhance creator’s projects without having to spend additional cash, finances that, if they have them in the first place, they can use for other enhancements.

Patreon Reinforcement

One might argue whether the real effect of Dyson’s announcement comes in its reinforcement of Patreon’s subscription model approach and the value of individual creators. I’ve talked about the adventure gaming hobby’s history of using the subscription model before. Although much of the material is intended to remain free to some extent, Patreon’s arrangement works very much like the subscription method, with supporters pledging certain amounts per month or per release, with the ability to “cap” their contributions at a certain amount or frequency. They pay only when the creator releases product, instead of paying in advance for a product still in development in a sort of “pre-order” system. They can “cancel their subscription” at any time for whatever reason; possibly their own financial reasons or because the content doesn’t appeal to them anymore. Patreon offers a platform where independent creators can connect with fans who, if they believe enough in creators and have the means, can become paying patrons providing financial incentive to support new materials. This in turn encourages creators to regularly produce work; whether operating on a monthly or per-release basis, creators get nothing unless they produce. This positive environment – enabling fans to interact with and financially support creators – nurtures new, beneficial developments in the relation between creators and their followers and encourages creators to pursue original projects often beyond the scope of what’s normally seen.

Subscription as Patronage

A few years ago I briefly discussed the patronage system in both its historical context and its relation to creators in the adventure gaming hobby, just as Kickstarter was making its mark but before Patreon appeared on the scene. In an adventure gaming hobby long dominated by traditional publishers – though independent designers now have more venues for creating and distributing their work – Patreon offers a platform to connect creators with consumers and helps drive the independent designer economy.

Of course these creators still release many materials to the gaming public for free, but Patreon allows people to financially support their efforts, interact in positive, encouraging ways, and ultimately provide creators incentives to keep producing. It’s hard enough to eke out a living in the adventure gaming hobby or even make it worthwhile amid financial challenges and online sniping; so I’m encouraged to see a positive environment like Patreon nurturing creators.

I hope Dyson continues these arrangements in the future...and that funding levels sustain it. He deserves credit and thanks for demonstrating that the Patreon model can benefit both designers and gamers in innovative ways. I encourage creators to examine how Dyson uses Patreon to expand his scope and popularity, use the platform themselves as a means to develop original projects and deliver them to fans, and learn from the experience to enhance everyone’s involvement in the adventure gaming hobby. I urge people to continue supporting creators in their paid endeavors, whether through Patreon or other venues. Crowdfunding has quickly become yet another means for gamers to acquire new material beyond the Friendly Local Game Store and online sales of physical books and PDFs; it’s also a new way for independent designers to fund and distribute their works. I’m not going to debate the differences between a subscription patronage like Patreon and the one-time, “pre-order” investment in a future product like Kickstarter (though others, most notably Tenkar’s Tavern, have already examined this issue). I think the crowdfunding experience has helped both creators and patrons. Granted, crowdfunding has seen its growing pains – newcomers still have to gauge the value of their experiences and satisfaction with each new platform – but the net result offers more ways of enabling creators to release material and connect with gamers.


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