The 9th Age: Project and Sustainability

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  • In view of the release of Version 1.0 and questions that some of our members have run into in discussing T9A with potential members, we decided to provide some input on a few areas relating to sustainability of the project and questions relating to T9A being "official" or not.

    How does The 9th Age (T9A) plan to be sustainable seeing as there is no “company” running the project?

    This is a question that comes up quite often. Many, at least initially, have a view that a game cannot be sustainable over the long run without a company backing it up. The idea being that people will not donate their time in the long run.

    From an organizational standpoint, The Ninth Age does have a functioning Operating Agreement and is set up a nonprofit association. The Operating Agreement allows T9A to function in a very real sense as a legal entity, for example, to enter into contracts for events, or advertising, or even promotional products, etc. However, T9A is and will remain a nonprofit association that uses unpaid volunteers.

    From a strictly work flow perspective, yes, there is a ton of work up front to put the game together: balancing the ABs, writing the fluff, creating the illustrations, etc. However, once the game is put together, the ABs are out with stabilized rules and the B&A Team have put out the new stories and illustrations, the work load will tail off significantly. It is a lot of work, but there is a very dedicated group of individuals who are putting in the time and energy to get the job done. It's also interesting that, as the work load ramps upward and new members continue to join the project, members are being added to the staff and management positions to handle the increased work load. We have also set up the project in such a way that we rely on teams rather than on single members. So, frankly, this has just not been a problem for the project.

    With respect to there being no “company” running T9A, we see this as an advantage rather than as a problem. The rules that are made are not dictated by which models the project wants to sell. T9A does not sell models. Rather, the whole focus is on achieving the best balanced game possible. Multiple model companies have already approached T9A (we have a hidden forum on the site for collaborating companies to discuss and plan their product releases) and have indicated to us that they want to support T9A. Some, in fact, are actively advertising T9A on their websites (e.g., This is great because we don't have all our eggs in one basket. Likewise, we are in the process of updating the Wiki with different manufacturers so people building new armies can just click on the unit and be navigated to a company's website where they can buy a model that is a good representation of the unit.

    But T9A is not “Official”, how can a community driven project ever be viewed as an officially supported game system?

    It’s difficult to determine what “official” means in this context. Is a game put out by a company more “official” than one put out by the community? Just because a company puts out a game does not mean they will actively support it continually (I think you all know where I'm going with that). Likewise, because a community puts out a game does not mean it is unsupported (T9A will continue to work on and improve the system). In any event, we can say definitively that T9A is the “Official” game system for ETC 2016. Of course, ETC is a community project too, but who cares? The real question should be: is T9A a really good game? If so, people will play it for a long time. Keep in mind, just because a company "supports" something does not mean it will last. To illustrate the changing landscape of company supported products versus community supported products, think of Wikipedia versus Encyclopedia Britannica. If you recall at first there was quite a bit of resistance to use of Wikipedia. Why? Mainly because it was not viewed as an "official" encyclopedic resource. But that opposition has faded away over time. Where are all the "official" encyclopedia companies now? They are pretty much gone while the community project remains and is thriving. This is similar to what we are seeing in the table top gaming industry. The industry is adapting to the Internet community and companies that follow the old business models are struggling. Better to let the community make the game system and for the companies make the pieces for the game.

    T9A will continue to be a nonprofit organization. It will maintain its independence and high standards. While T9A will not sell or distribute models, T9A will cheer on the many companies that are stepping into areas vacated by other companies. In fact, our hope is to revitalize the table top gaming industry to create higher demand for high quality models.

    How will T9A attract new players seeing as there is no marketing division like you would see in a company?

    The answer lies with the community itself. The more each of us actively supports and talks about T9A to our friends, to LGS owners, to TOs, etc. the quicker the word will get out. Europe has already largely embraced T9A. This is due in large part to the reasons stated above, good community involvement with advertising the game system. Other geographic areas may take more time, but each of us can help.

    An additional item on the To Do list for T9A is the creation of a simplified starter version of the game to teach new and younger players the basic game mechanics with simplified rules. This would be geared to lower-point games making initial model purchases for new players more manageable. The Wiki is also intended to help new players find models that are affordable, but still look great.

    T9A also has a new PR team that is starting to work on contacting local games stores and through social media. They are working on putting together printed advertising materials such as full color posters for use in LGS, and advertising literature that can be handed to customers. Likewise, the Content Team is working to produce content for T9A headed up by the legendary Oncebitten360. As more Content Team members post Battle Reports and report on GTs, the more the word will get out about T9A.

    Now that a stabilized rule set is here, it is expected that T9A will grow even quicker. Many potential players have appeared to be waiting to see if the project could actually produce a stable rule set. But that is happening now this month with Version 1.0. The first AB (UD) was already released and the next one (SE) will be following in the near term. Each army will receive a full AB complete with the rules, storylines, maps and artwork. Likewise the BRB is going to be provided with at least some fluff and a stunning full world map.

    As people see the project extend year after year, the fears of non-sustainability and not being “official” will fade because T9A is one of the best war games available and it is just too fun not to play.

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Comments 14

  • sgu97bjd -

    One question this doesn't answer is how T9A will deal with the vast diversity in the army books which will inevitably grow to keep things fresh, but will there be some rationalisation to avoid the balance problems of having too many units? If so how will units be "retired"?

    • Mr.Owl -

      This is just the first in a series of articles. We will cover questions that arise, like this.

  • Squigkikka -

    Well put! :)

  • TheRevell -

    Amen Brother!!

    Be great to see T9A at Salute London in 2017

  • EEJR -

    A non-profit enthusiast project is easily sustainable if it's based upon a strong theme dear to enough contributors. Chaos Dwarfs Online proves the point, and 9th Age has WHFB enthusiasts from across the board to keep it up, not just enthusiasts for a single faction.

    And since 9th Age has already seen the advent of miniatures released for it along with background and artwork, this project holds great promise to grow in the future!

    • Mr.Owl -

      I think so too. I really do believe that T9A will become the premiere fantasy table top war game in the world.

  • Omarcomin -

    Send me some posters

  • Vitnar -

    Great read Digfer! I am especially happy about the lite rules for the new players, this is the real deal when it comes to add new blood into this hobby. Fantastic to hear that you guys have that adjust covered! Cheers!

    • Mr.Owl -

      Yes, this is something near and dear to the RT. I think they have a great idea.

    • Eternal Flitter -

      Yeah I really think that getting that intro ruleset solid will go a long way. I'd love to have something along those lines to demo at shows even.

  • Petterwass -

    It's also a bit silly objecting that a game cannot survive without a company backing it when Blood Bowl exists and has been fairly healthy for over a decade without Gw doing anything, as is still being supported by nearly a dozen different miniatures companies...