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Friday, 7 April 2017

Classic Rant: Is the OSR Hostile to Self-Publishers?

A few days ago, I reposted the review of John Berry's (very good) "Hulks & Horrors RPG".

Yesterday, I hear that Berry has announced his retirement from RPG writing.
(also, he's in Finland, apparently. What is it with non-Finnish-sounding RPG writing guys living in Finland??)

Among the reasons he cited for Quitting Forever was that "the OSR community had become increasingly hostile to self- and public-funded works like mine".

Do you think that's true? Is the success of the OSR and the rise in fancy, more professional OSR products actually meaning that the very small-press guy (the guy without huge design skills, who can't make a slick product with awesome art) just isn't wanted anymore?

I'm not really convinced; I DO think that there's been a kind of rise in "standards" that I could see as being problematic for some publishers. With people used to stuff like DCC's core book, or just about anything LotFP does, with insane production values, there can be a de-valuing of an otherwise excellent game with lesser quality production. At the same time though, I think RIGHT NOW at least, the OSR is still quite happy to support someone who makes a good product even if its look is kind of simple.

But more importantly, I don't get why it matters. To Berry, I mean. Sure, I could get why it would be a reason not to be a FULL-TIME game designer (that's a crazy pipe dream, for the most part; though if you're lucky you can end up making game design an important PART of your income); but to quit writing RPGs forever?

Look, all I know is, if at this point no one wanted to buy what I was selling, if there was no viability to it, then I'd STILL be writing RPGs. I'd still be trying to share it. Hell, Dark Albion: The Rose War didn't find a publisher for like three years, until it did. What did I do? I put part of it on theRPGsite for free. I didn't just quit. And now, tons of people say they're interested in buying the much larger and expanded edition of this OSR setting book, which has got an awesome publisher in Dominique Crouzet.

But even if that hadn't happened, I would still keep doing my stuff. Because it's in my blood. I can't not do it.

I have trouble thinking the guy who wrote Hulks & Horrors doesn't feel that same way too.


(originally posted December 27, 2014)


  1. Replies
    1. Oh man, it was 3 years ago. I don't remember where his little hissy fit happened. About a year later he showed up again but to say that all OSR people are horrific sexist/racist/transphobic monsters and denouncing the whole hobby as toxic.


    3. It sounds like some of his games might be cool. But he's retiring because of "book burnings" among hobbyists. Book burnings? Book burnings? Maybe they do that in Finland to get warm. But I've never seen it here. Unless, ruining your life and your business because you're wife is a Trump supporter counts. They just did that in Chicago to the owner of one of the city's most prominent music stores. But he was a sexist, racist Trump supporter (or, at least, his wife was), so that's okay.

  2. I think it's the opposite. The OSR market is very forgiving in regard to production quality. People will buy a simple textual PDF with no art if it's interesting - in many cases, they will be using it from a tablet and the art will sometimes get in the way anyway.

    As a small-time publisher myself, I must say that simpler products in terms of graphics and layout mean less production cost and thus a possibility for a cheaper PDF. Art is the main cash sink here.

    I suspect that this unfortunate person encountered some of the nastier instances of internet trolling and harassment, which unfortunately exist everywhere - probably also even in our community. In such a case, his retirement and retreat and very, very understandable.

    This is one reason why I am very careful to steer clear of internet controversy and online politics, as they do indeed invite toxicity. This is how the online medium works - it affords partial annonimity and thus is inviting for bullies who know that they can get away with much more online than in the real world. This has nothing to do with our hobby - but rather with the nature of the internet in general and of social media in particular.

    1. I don't think he was harassed. In fact H&H was praised, including by me in my review of it.
      I think what happened is that he discovered OSR books sell way less than what his fantasies of being a 'great game designer' led him to expect.

    2. I don't know, but his entire speech about intolerance etc in the OSR community feels like an attempt to refelct the behavior of whatever online bully on the entire community (which has nothing to do with teh bullying).

      And yes, definitely, you don't grow rich from OSR (in most cases?). But you get to get some income from doing stuff you like to do - and you get your gaem materials published! For me, it is more than enough.

  3. I thought that accepting lesser quality production was part of the Ctrl-Left's plan to drive us all toward mediocrity.

  4. Oh, and I actually completely agree with the Pundit here, it just came very soon after the badwrongart thing last week.