Awhile back I realized a few things: I’ve never subscribed to a Patreon, the RPG community is full of a bonkers number of Patreons, and I had no idea which ones might be worth supporting. It seemed like a topic worth looking into, and pretty much as soon as I started, I understood this is actually a good thing to put up here on the blog. Hopefully someday people as lost as I was will stumble across it on Google and get themselves educated! So, with a little Google and a lot of help from my friends on Twitter, I’ve learned a few things about RPG Patreons!
Once I gathered that I had really no idea where to begin on this subject (because I am embarrassingly out of the loop, and, full disclosure, have found a lot of other nerd hobbies of mine overrun with extremely thin pretenses for Patreons) I started to take inventory of what I even understood about Patreon in the first place. It’s a creator-managed platform for people with talent, where folks who appreciate their skills can pay a subscription fee to see behind-the-scenes, exclusive, or custom examples of these talents – so figuring out whose talents I want to see more of seems like the obvious choice. This gave me a pretty good place to begin my search for great RPG Patreons: who do I know who has a talent that I would like to see more of?
I immediately thought about my conversations with Alex Mayo and Luka Rejec – two of the most talented artists and creative minds our hobby has today – and knew where to start. The two Patreons I began with belong to those two creators. Both are illustrators and graphic designers whose work in the RPG space is basically a highlight reel of the last several years of amazing books, and both are sincerely nice guys.
PENETRALIA PRESS by ALEX MAYO
Over at Alex Mayo’s Patreon, PENETRALIA PRESS, Alex is working to create all of the RPG stuff he’s never been able to squeeze into a book. Alex is known for his work on books like this year’s ENnies darling Harlem Unbound, as well as many LotFP projects with authors like Jeff Rients and Zzarchov Kowalski, and even the B/X Essentials books by Necrotic Gnome Productions. He spares no time in making his Patreon an amazing value for the prospective backer, beginning with his amazing illustrations (which, for certain tiers, are included as licensed art, meaning they can be used in your own projects!) in high resolution including layout print resolutions for some backers. Once he got his new computer squared away to speed up his workflow, Alex dove right in to building (and drawing, of course) a bunch of RPG content that he would not otherwise have the time to work on or the right projects to include them in. This makes his Patreon a cool resource for a lot of OSR players, but there’s also the early access to his new and upcoming projects, including a brutal campaign setting inspired by Frazetta and Ligotti. Most recently, he has also started doing hour-long audio interviews with other OSR and DIY RPG folks he finds interesting and inspiring, starting out with the great Zzarchov Kowalski, with whom he has collaborated many times in the past. He’s an incredibly friendly and accessible creator, making himself available to patrons on a special private Discord server where the conversations range from live previews of his work in Photoshop to graphic design to the future of the Patreon and more. If that sounds like you have the ear of one of the most creative people in the industry, who is supplying you with the weird and unique ideas he has that he’s been thinking up behind the scenes and hasn’t found a home for yet, you’re exactly right. This was a no-brainer for me, as I think Alex Mayo’s work as a layout designer and as an illustrator is amongst the best the industry has ever seen, and being able to support his creativity is a great feeling with tons of tangible benefits. It’s especially cool to be able to hit him up on Discord any time I have a ridiculous question.
WIZARDTHIEFFIGHTER by LUKA REJEC
My second (by as long as it took to click between tabs) Patreon choice was Luka Rejec’s WIZARDTHIEFFIGHTER. This is the home of his personal project, Ultraviolet Grasslands (UVG), which is on its way to become just about the coolest post-apocalyptic game around. Luka’s UVG has generated some buzz amongst OSR and DIY RPG nerds for the last little while for great reason; his incredible artistic flexibility and use of color invites comparisons to Moebius on much of the art for the project and creates a sensation of immense vistas of a ruined world unlike anything else out there on the market right now. The aesthetics of this game are off the charts. Backers are treated to early previews, playtests, inclusion in the game’s final version, polls and questions about how to design elements, and more. It’s a massive feast for fans of Luka’s work or post-apoc RPG enthusiasts, and it’s generating so much value in content that it’s frankly crazy we can sign up for as little as $1 per month. At the $9 tier, Luka is throwing everything he produces for the project (and others) at you as a high quality PDF download. The UVG project seems to be going so fast at this point that it is nearing completion, and backers are going to be the first to get to see what that looks like in its entirety. Most recently, he also showed off a preview of WIZARDFIGHTERTHIEFSKELETON, the background system he’s been working on behind the scenes for a while, and which could end up being the next OSR-related system of choice for a lot of people. As if all this wasn’t enough, he’s also teasing a narrow-scope follow-up to UVG already in the works. Being on the ground floor of Luka’s work feels like running full-speed into next year’s ENnies award winner’s speeches.
So these two were easy first choices. Didn’t take much to convince me to support Alex and Luka. But where should I go from there? The starting place, for me, is usually to demand that my Twitter friends solve my problems, so I grabbed my phone and started asking the guys and girls out there a simple question: who has an RPG-related Patreon that you believe is worth supporting, and why do you believe that?
1. I am gonna follow some.
2. I am gonna reshare them.
3. I am gonna write up a blog post about it and probably quote you.
Some very useful answers came in from several folks on Twitter, which I’d like to share below:
RUNEHAMMER by BRANDISH GILHELM
Alex Wilson @400goblins
Replying to @DungeonsPossums
. @HankrinFerinale, because I love the design and mechanics and advice in ICRPG. Hank’s constantly shoving great RPG ideas into my meat-brain, and his enthusiasm is contagious.
Ol’ Hankrin started his fame with his Youtube channel, Drunkens & Dragons, which was characterized by his extremely amiable personality, Bacchanalian indulgence in the sauce, contagious excitement about role-playing, and genuine desire to explore the possibilities of the game without being constrained by the rules as written. He has since expanded it from there by rebranding to support his burgeoning company, Runehammer Games – from which he has published the very popular Index Card RPG (ICRPG) and his two novels and has collaborated extensively with the guys over at Absolute Tabletop. He’s an awesome, intelligent, creative, and sincere man who has always been friendly and accessible. Though I’d been watching his videos since pretty much the dawn of the channel, I somehow missed the existence of the Patreon (probably because, until recently, I vaguely tuned out the word entirely thanks to some of the internet’s less-scrupulous entities). On his Patreon, Hankrin (real name Brandish Gilhelm, I think?) brings his supporters a little of everything they love from him – podcasts, discussions about RPG mechanics, worldbuilding and storycraft, livestream conversations with patrons, artwork, early looks at upcoming RPG projects, and even short stories and novel previews from his writing career.
MIDDLE FINGER OF VECNA by MAGE HAND PRESS
Replying to @DungeonsPossums
@MageHandPress is awesome I’m a long time supporter! They are super friendly, have a great discord community and release a ton of amazing content both free and paid. To top it off they work with the community to get play data and make adjustments to their work based on feedback!
Mage Hand Press run the popular 5E-centric Middle Finger of Vecna blog, where they recently launched their first-ever Kickstarter for DARK MATTER, a sci-fi conversion for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition; they’re also the hosts of the Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies Youtube channel. Their work spans the gamut of D&D content, including common things such as DM tips and discussions but also the rare and unique (like their D&D-inspired beverage recipes!), but they’re most known for their work hacking the D&D 5E ruleset to bring polished homebrew player classes and options to the RPG community. They produce tons of content geared towards expanding the 5E experience – a worthy cause, considering the fact that a very large segment of the 5E player base is a little impatient with Wizards of the Coast and their snail’s pace rate of introducing new content. The folks at Mage Hand Press have concocted completely realized classes omitted in official Wizards books, as well as a broad setting and sourcebooks for new races, adding Cthulhu Mythos content to your D&D 5E game, and numerous other subjects. Their online store offers each book a la carte, of course, but patrons can score access to almost everything they make just by backing the team. The big draw, of course, is their immense 120-page sci-fi conversion of the 5E rules, DARK MATTER, which is already so close to being fully-funded for a print run/PDF edition with tons of extras for backers.
Then along came @Allandaros, who is better known as Hydra Co-op’s Humza Kazmi, who had one of his own lists already posted to Reddit handy for me
- Wizard Thief Fighter, run by /u/WizardThiefFighter. (Disclaimer: Luka and I are both friends and business partners, so I am not claiming to be unbiased by a long shot.) Luka’s creating a big ol’ sandbox setting called the Ultraviolet Grasslands. It’s full of amazing trippy art, surreal and terrifying monsters, and new rules (check out his work on caravans and wilderness exploration!). If that sounds interesting at all, check out the free 76-page teaser he released.
- Evlyn Moreau creates more on the art and illustration side than direct rules creations, but she does a lot of directly gameable and fantasy/SF related art that’s 100% on point. (She even mails you stuff she creates!)Those are folks who I’m backing right now. People I’m not currently backing, but I’d definitely consider adding in the future:
Again, disclaimer: many of the folks in the “consider adding” zone are friends, so I am not unbiased here; that said, I’m also 100% comfortable recommending their work. Happy to elaborate on any of the list as desired!
And here I had my work cut out for me. That’s quite a list! Browsing these creators was quite an undertaking, but I was glad I did. Several of them overlapped my own interests greatly. Of this list, I was especially taken by a few of the creators! I have not yet backed any from this list at the time of writing, but by the time this blog goes live to everyone I am pretty sure I’ll already be a supporter of Mabel Harper, Munkao, Loot the Room, and Dyson Logos — the last of whom I get to interact with frequently on Twitter, where he is a great source of interesting conversation and, of course, his latest works of art.
What I learned from this experiment is manifold:
- The RPG scene is lucky to have so many amazing Patreon options
- The value for money prospects of many of these select RPG Patreons are off the charts
- A lot of early-access stuff is out there on Patreon, but so is a lot of exclusive stuff
- I am excited to back creators whose work I admire, rather than feeling obligated to support someone like in many other hobbies
- The chance to help develop what is certain to be future ENnie-nominated stuff is awesome
- There are several different subscription styles (per post, per month, etc) and some are more suitable for some creators than others
I am sure with time I will find out about even more Patreons that are worth every penny. In the “Related Patreons” suggestion sections I saw more and more familiar names as I browsed through the Patreons listed in this article. It’s a rabbit hole I may never see the end of, as our hobby grows. It’s great to see the OSR so heavily represented on here; this has always been such an incredibly creative segment of the hobby and it’s no surprise that such fertile minds have so many avenues to produce awesome stuff. We’re all really lucky to be gaming right now!
And now for some brief Notes and Disclosures:
- By sheer coincidence of, I believe, the #dnd hashtag on Twitter, Mage Hand Press and I had interacted for the first time earlier in the day that I ended up asking for suggestions. The two things aren’t connected, as the open call for suggestions was many hours later and Mage Hand didn’t nominate themselves, but Mage Hand Press and I did speak earlier that day and my compliments on their logo earned me a fancy d20. This in no way influenced my inclusion of their Patreon here – they’re genuinely offering a tremendous amount of content via their Patreon and it’s all highly polished. It would take at least a full set of dice to buy my vote.
- All artworks and logos used are used with express permission of their creators. I reached out to Luka, Alex, the folks at Mage Hand, and ol’ Hank of Runehammer via social media and gained their blessings first.
- Since writing the draft of this, I have become a Patron also of Evlyn Moreau because she makes amazing artworks and I think she’s a Canadian and we have to stick together. It’s a nationalism thing. It’s pure jingoism. (Okay, okay, it’s because her artwork is awesome and I can’t wait to see her work in person sometime!)