Democracy Dies in Darkness

My crowdfunding campaign: College for wizards

November 25, 2015 at 1:16 PM EST

Welcome to On Small Business’s series spotlighting interesting crowdfunding campaigns. Every week, we’ll feature a new company or individual attempting to raise money through these new online portals.

Who: Maury Elizabeth Brown, 45, an assistant professor of English at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg. Brown is also a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Cultural Studies at Old Dominion University, where her dissertation focused on live action role play as cultural representation.

What: A four-day crash course in wizardry at New World Magischola: A College of Wizardry Larp. Attendees will play a character and take part in a magical universe for four days and three nights next summer. Donations can get you anything from a wand or ballpoint quill to a ticket to the college or private short course, depending on what you contribute. Class tickets range from $450 to $920.

Where: Richmond.

Raised: $232,062 (as of Nov. 25) of a $35,000 goal. The campaign goes through Jan. 4.

What’s the pitch?

Get your wand ready. Wizardry school is just around the corner.

At New World Magischola, students will get the chance to take courses in a range of subjects including alchemy, magical theory and poisons.

They will receive a costume, robe and a magic textbook when they arrive and will be tasked with warding off  evil entities and saving civilization — all while in character.

Brown and her co-founder Benjamin Morrow, 38, came up with the idea for the live-action role play event after attending a similar workshop at a castle in Poland last year. They spent six months creating a fantasy world called Magimundi.

“We thought it was high time that North American had its own magical universe,” Brown said.

In order to become wizards in this magical universe, students must complete one of five majors (choices include Cursebreaking and Cryptozoology) that will be offered next summer. Students will live on campus at the University of Richmond for the duration of the four-day, three-night program.

“You’ll get access to an entire North American magical universe,” Brown and Morrow write on their Kickstarter page. “We’ve designed a world, history, economy, characters, plots, sets, costumes, and magical creatures for you to interact with as your character.”

How the University of Richmond be transformed into New World Magischola?

With its gothic archways, stone stairways and ornate spires, the University of Richmond is the perfect starting point for a wizardry college, says Brown.

A group of scenographers plans to transform the university’s living quarters and classrooms using draperies, props, fireplaces, fog machines and a host of other special effects. Each of the five houses in Magischola will have its own banner and crest.

“We want to bring this world to life,” Brown said.

Why crowdfunding?

Brown and Morrow, who invested several thousand dollars of their own into the project, turned to Kickstarter as a way to reach a community of people interested in live-action role playing.

“People looking for new novels, new games or other artistic endeavors really look to Kickstarter first,” Brown said. They set up their campaign earlier this month and received the bulk of their sales (about 60 percent) from their 4,500 Facebook fans. About one-third of the pledges, however, came from users who happened to stumble across their project on Kickstarter. So far, more than 370 people have backed the project.

“It looks like people really do want to be a part of this magical world,” Brown said.

What’s next?

If the campaign raises $300,000, Brown and Morrow plan to offer a week-long wizardry summer camp for children aged 11 to 17. The program would include workshops in wand-making and creative writing. They also plan to come out with a series of novels about the history of the fantasy world of Magischola that would describe its founding in 1635 and its evolution through pivotal points in U.S. history, such as the Trail of Tears and the Civil War. Eventually they hope to expand into movies and card games.

Editors note: Our coverage in this series does not constitute an endorsement. For more information about crowdfunding, please check out this SEC Fact Sheet.

Spotted or running a cool crowdfunding campaign? E-mail us here.

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