In this series, we get to know the communities, both online and off, dedicated to celebrating science fiction and fantasy around the world.
This month we got to know Glen Welch from D&D Fantasy Art, a Facebook-based group of roleplayers and artists with over 40,000 members.
Hey there Glen! Thanks for talking to us. When did the group start? And how?
I started the page about eighteen months ago. I was looking for a place where artists could show off their work; and, more importantly, one that allowed people to offer and request commissions, something that wasn’t a common practice on the other Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) pages.
How has the group grown? Has it been a recent explosion of members or a gradual increase over time?
The group started slowly. After about six months we had maybe 1,000 members, being generous. Then artists started showing up in large numbers, often several hundred a day. In less than a year we went from 1,000 members to over 30,000 members, and we didn’t stop there. Well-known artists from various gaming companies starting posting up their own works for commission, and now even game companies requesting artists for hire aren’t uncommon. The large numbers were brought on largely by the fact we allow people to sell their art — in fact, we encourage it. Because we have more requests than available artists the members of the board are quite supportive of each other.
Is the group geographically dispersed or are most members from certain regions?
I haven’t looked at our demographics, but I do know that most of our members are American, followed by Europeans. But we have members from across the globe with large numbers coming from Asia, South America, and Australia.
Your page is crazy busy — people seem to post new incredible artwork all the time. Is it a lot of work to manage? Does it require a lot of moderation?
Yes, it quickly grew too big to manage by myself. A few friends volunteered, but again the numbers grew immense.
The page is, for the most part, well-behaved. We do have to follow the various Facebook rules that they tend to spring on us unannounced, but flame wars and flare-ups are thankfully rare. I believe we have nine moderators right now — we tend to expand every 10,000 members.
Are D&D players a naturally artistic bunch, do you think?
You have to be. You are creating characters from your own imagination. A huge number of our artists fell in love with art from Boris, Frank, Elmore, Caldwell, Parkinson, and many more classic artists, and it inspired them to pick up a pencil. We have a small but noticeable group on the page that are visual artists; they are driven to paint miniatures and design costumes. All inspired by the game they play.
Do you play a lot of D&D or other roleplaying games (RPGs)? Are there other systems you enjoy?
I am a bit famous for my gaming, being the author of the Things Mr. Welch Can No Longer Do in an RPG. I’ve probably played close to 100 different RPGs. I run a 5th Edition group for my girlfriend’s daughter, set in the classic setting of Mystara, right now. I’ve had long-running campaigns for Cyberpunk, Star Wars D6, 7th Sea, Deadlands, Paranoia, Aeon Trinity, Rogue Trader and dozens more that would take up too much space to mention.
Do you find the same names pop up on the page all the time, or do a wide range of people contribute?
I’ve noticed the artists tend to draw cyclically. They post up a lot of art trying to get commissions, and when the commissions arrive they take time off to finish the commissions. Then somebody else steps forward and posts up art for review. We have artists that have been with us since day one but we’ve got thousands of different artists that have posted up their works.
Do you organise events or competitions for members?
We have two contests that the page sponsors, though the reward is mostly free advertising for the winning artist. Granted, from the amount of traffic the page generates, that free advertising tends to bring in a decent amount of work for the winner.
Every two weeks we have the featured artist contest, where in theory a little-known official D&D character is drawn by various artists to see new takes on older characters. The character last selected was Xanathar, but we’ve had characters from all sorts of other settings, with Dragonlance getting the lion’s share of contests. We don’t have many members of the Fellowship of the Lance left to do.
The other contest is the banner contest that occurs when we get another 10,000 members. This is a much more intense contest because the art becomes the first art you see when you log on to the page, so the artist becomes the face of the page for months on end. So far the banners have been Morgan Ironwolf, The Lady of Pain, and lastly Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
Have you organised any offline activities or meet-ups for members?
We don’t do anything offline, our membership is too spread out and our moderators come from every part of the globe. If I was able to make it to the larger conventions I might be able to have an official event, however.
Do you have anything on the horizon you can tell us about?
We’re looking at a few things to do when we hit 50,000 members. It’s strange being one of the largest D&D communities on Facebook, and largely without much effort. The page just happened — people were happy with the unique options we gave them and told their friends. We make people money, and that makes them happy. We might do a charity fundraiser, but we’re still deciding on an appropriate cause.
With thanks to Glen Welch and the artists of D&D Fantasy Art.