Here we are wrapping up Onyx Path‘s second year, and boy was it a good one! Just looking at what we did last year kind of makes me giddy. We rumbled and rassled our way towards a lot of the goals we set for ourselves when this all started, and while we might not of gotten there as smoothly as we wanted/expected/estimated, we sure did a lot of stuff in 2013.
So, here are our highlights of the year as compiled by talking with our Onyx Path internal team. (They’re not rated in any way as we pretty much feel that they are all parts that needed to happen):
1- Overall, Onyx Path Publishing is starting to be recognized and followed. Folks are really starting to grasp that we a) have the White Wolf license and are putting out new books, b) that we are independent of CCP/WW and are working on different projects besides the WoDs and Exalted, and c) that we aren’t functioning like old WW when it comes to business practices and philosophy. There is still a long way to go to establish Onyx as a recognizable “brand name” that folks can follow because they trust us to produce great work, but last year showed great progress. The feedback we’ve received here, on our other social media sites, and at Gen-Con was great, with as many folks coming to talk to us who already knew who we were as folks wondering what was up with White Wolf.
2- Speaking of Gen-Con, we had a great one. Our Onyx Path panels were very well attended, our creative gang were excellent in answering questions and generally presenting themselves with the right mix of friendliness and professionalism, and we made a cohesive presence in the DTRPG booth with our Onyx signage and hand-outs (and matching shirts). Just like last year, I didn’t spend as much time in the booth as I would have liked, but my Industry Guest of Honor panels were pretty interesting (especially the Sexism in Gaming Art one), I got the Onyx Path word out to a totally different audience, and made a few friendly industry contacts. Which is really helpful since my years with WW were pretty insular- there wasn’t enough time to get to know folks that I wasn’t directly on a project with. And we had two great meals with EX3 KS backers that really, really helped in reminding me (and Holden and John, I think) how great our fans are.
3- We finally got the White Wolf website redirect page up so that WW fans could find us over here at our Onyx Path site. As a surprise bonus (OK, it wasn’t that much of a surprise) Onyx also got the very great honor of hosting the forums as well. While the redirect had been planned for a really long time, we had slightly less time to actually do what we had to in order to bulk up our capabilities here for the much higher WW forum traffic. Rose, Ian, and the forum mods did stellar work in bringing that all together, and we now have a single official location for discussing all the many setting and game-lines we are doing- WW, and once-WW, and new ones.
4- We put out some awesome books this year! But that’s way too general a statement, even for me, so let’s look at it deeper. We continued to bring back the classic WoD lines, with W20 being the big “dog” in May, W20‘s The Skinner SAS in June, V20‘s Hunters Hunted 2 in July, and an explosion of W20 books right here at the end of December, with W20 Changing Breeds, W20 Rage Across the World, and the W20 fiction anthology, Rites of Renown: When Will You Rage 2. Classic Mage got a Translation Guide, and the remaining three “promised” Technocracy Convention Books all came out through the year.
For nWoD, the intention this year was to evolve the existing game lines towards the sorts of games we felt they could be after 8ish years of play and experience since their initial releases. With some discussion with CCP, we set upon the idea of providing these changes as “Chronicle Books” designed to allow a coherent backstory, new rules tweaks, and yet still be set up to allow Storytellers to pick and choose the elements that worked for their games. To ease people into those changes, I felt like it would be helpful to release a fiction anthology ahead of the Chronicle Book itself. So, while its fiction landed in 2012, The God Machine Chronicle arrived in April (along with its free rules update, because we’re like that), and immediately rocketed up the sales charts. The Strix Chronicle Anthology arrived in July, and Blood and Smoke: The Strix Chronicle came out in December to absolutely stunning response. It is very gratifying to see so many comments and reviews which focus on exactly what we were trying to accomplish. One of the first things I said to Rose was that we needed the book to be fun and engaging to read, or all the setting and rules changes wouldn’t seem worth the effort of getting through the text. Boy, did she deliver!
While we were working to rejuvenate the nWoD existing lines, we still were pushing to create the new game lines that folks expect us to deliver each year (while a bit of an internet meme, “WW is Dead!” is actually an issue we at Onyx Path need to fight against, a lot, so new lines are really very important). Mummy: The Curse arose in multiple formats in March in an experiment to see what sort of package might be more fun for fans, and various pieces of the project were also released in April, with its first supplement, Guildhalls of the Deathless, arriving in October. We teased the next new game line in August, with the Demon: The Descent Quickstart, and while Demon KS backers already have their backer PDFs of the game, I’m going to play by the rules and not consider the full game a 2013 release.
Now, those were the big releases- and I mean big, we went from 80 pages being the sweet spot for PDF/PoD releases in 2012, to these 300+ page monsters we’ve been making this year. We also did a few smaller projects for very specific reasons in 2013. I already mentioned the Demon Quickstart, Skinner SAS, etc, but we also created the Requiem lead-in product Reap the Whirlwind as a traditionally printed product for game stores, the God Machine Condition Cards to both highlight one of the cool new GMC rules tweaks and to experiment with DriveThruCards, and put out one of my favorite projects this year: the April Fool’s book Scion: Extras. Which, while funny as hell, also does actually provide new gods to be part of your ongoing pantheons (even if they’re not really very good gods). I was really glad that folks like it, took the project in the spirit that it was created in, and that we could do something for our devoted Scion audience in 2013.
5- Kickstarter madness. Well, we did five in 2013. I had planned to do more, but the sheer amount of physical, mental, logistic, and yes, emotional, effort Kickstarters take meant that we could only schedule five. I’ve talked a lot about KSs in general, and specific facets of the KS experience a lot on these blogs, so rather than list the things we learned here- and we do continue to experiment and evolve how we do these, hopefully getting better with each one- let’s keep looking at highlights. According to our Master Statistician, Doctor Ian Watson, we had pledges of over $1,120,000 in 2013, of which half were for the insane and wonderful Deluxe Exalted Third Edition Kickstarter (still the most funded tabletop RPG KS) ending in June. Mummy’s ended in January, followed by Hunters Hunted 2 in February, and then W20 Changing Breeds in July, and Demon in December. We shipped the deluxe and prestige editions from the W20, Mummy, and Hunters Hunted 2 Kickstarters this year as well, and delivered the Deluxe W20 Changing Breeds printer files to the printer in December. Besides that big dollar amount, and remember that most of that is eaten up printing and shipping costs for the KS projects and the additional Stretch Goal projects that come out of the KS, Kickstarters have given us a fantastic chance to directly talk with a huge community of backers and fans. For a starting company that has all sorts of confusing legacies to work through, our Kickstarters in 2013 were an amazing chance to explain just what Onyx Path is.
6- Those previous highlights were the stuff that came out, but part of what we accomplished in 2013 was getting ready for greatness in 2014. Our Scion and Trinity Continuum teams took on an amazing challenge of creating a dice-pool system that actually can scale from regular human all the way to gods. And they prepped and started writing non-systems sections, as well. nWoD‘s Dark Eras is being written, Mage 20th Anniversary was an epic writing journey Mr. Brucato hadn’t realized he’d be taking, and Rich Dansky signed on for Wraith 20. And Exalted Third Edition, the single biggest Herculean Labor of them all, was worked on through some of the worst times for the creators of any book I’ve ever worked on. The writers and artists we have are really hitting on all cylinders now, and our releases in 2013 are only a hint of what we’ll be delivering in 2014. I put this as a highlight, and not just a shill for 2014, because Onyx Path‘s intended method of bringing creators together and letting and encouraging them to experiment and try different solutions to making great games is starting to work really well. We had a slow start, and the idea that we wouldn’t release a project until it was as good as we wanted it- no, needed it- to be has caused some upset when we missed expected release dates. But in 2013, I think the quality of the books we put out can stand proudly with our best work at old White Wolf.
7- Internally, we have made significant strides towards tightening up how we do things while still enabling that creative energy I mention above. I have found that it’s a delicate balance to achieve the right support of creative endeavors while not becoming so “supportive” that the structure crushes the creative impulse. We still have plenty of work to do here, but this year we made huge strides to creating that supportive infrastructure thanks to the folks that chip in and help behind the scenes. For example, we brought on a half dozen new editors, and instituted putting out PDF files first so that our awesome and nit-picking legion of fans could catch the errors the editors missed on the PDFs before we made physical books. Mirthful Mike Chaney, Rollickin’ Rose Bailey, Amiable Ian Watson, and our consultants from over the mountains and through the woods- or at least from DriveThruRPG and Flames Rising, Matt McElroy and Monica Valentinelli, have all been instrumental in pulling Onyx Path together and taking a ton of weight off my ancient shoulders.
8- Onyx Path also went in halfsies with Nocturnal Media to purchase the Scarred Lands IP from CCP. This is very exciting on a lot of levels, not the least of which is getting to play in the Scarred Lands playground I helped create with my oldest friend in the RPG business and the guy that brought me in, WW founder Stewart Wieck. We haven’t begun to discuss this in 2013, because just look at all the projects we’ve already got rolling, but having a well-loved fantasy setting in the company certainly promises some cool projects in the future.
9- We put out some fiction, and have a lot more in store. This is important on several levels including providing folks entertaining ways to enjoy our settings beyond the game books/files, as well as entering the wider fiction marketplaces when we have them sussed out. Meanwhile, to get ready for those fiction marketplaces, in 2013 we started exploring alternative file formats beyond the PDF/PoD combo that we’ve gotten pretty good at. Mirthful Mike has explored new tricks with PDFs that you’ll be seeing more of, and Rose brings a programmer’s knowledge to additional formats we could start creating our projects in. There’s a spectrum of ways that folks get their entertainment these days, and my intention is that Onyx Path grows to be able to create traditional and deluxe printed books when that makes sense, or our PDF/PoD combination that works so well for tabletop gaming, or to other file formats that are needed to enjoy our projects on pads and other hand-held devices. We took baby steps in 2013, but steps they were and it’s something I’m thrilled about.
Now, obviously there were all sorts of challenges and issues that Onyx Path still needs to overcome, but that’s the topic for a blog in January as we look forward into 2014. For now, I hope all of you reading this had as much of a fun ride this year as we did- because none of these things listed above are any good without you.
Now, better buckle up for 2014!
(Project Updates and convuluted discussions of mass media between Eddy, who is still working on the WoD MMO project, and myself, will return next week).