My apologies in advance if I ramble in what follows, I'm still sorting out some of my own feelings on the subject...
I buy a lot of OS publications. Much of it I know I'll never use directly in my game, but still find enjoyable and also attractive as a collector. As I've said here before, I've been reluctant to review many things coming out of the OSR - part of this hesitancy has to do with the fact that I'd been out of the hobby for a very long time compared to many readers. Besides that though, our community feels small, and I haven't wanted to hurt any feelings.
I occasionally feel torn, because many of the things that attract me to the old school gaming community - the DIY, homebrew, share and share alike ethos that I know and remember from the height of my gaming days can be at odds with standard business practices, as well as the new awareness of intellectual property. Sometimes I wonder if purchasing anything from an OS publisher is the beginning of the end of a great thing, a sort of commodification of art.
That being said, I also know that old school gamers are for the most part very much adults now... I know that times are tough and that many people want to make a living from the hobby we love because of unemployment, to supplement income, or just because, in perfectly understandable earnestness, the idea of doing what we love and making a living at it at the same time is a big part of what is called Living the American Dream (or just following your passion, leaving the U.S. patriotism out of it). Of course I don’t have a problem with this, and the profit motive can encourage quality as well as new materials period.
Then the question arises of supporting the OSR. I’d like to see the hobby grow and preserved for a number of reasons, but I do not in any way feel obligated to support old school publishers. Whether it's someone just putting out a PDF or a more established or officially incorporated publisher. When there's a profit motive involved, obligation I feel not. If I feel any such obligation to support the hobby’s growth and legacy, I’ll direct it first to any nonprofits (or nonprofits-to-be) such as TARGA or OSRIC. Any criticism or review of such organizations or their materials I would be more inclined to be charitable with, as of course I would be with someone offering their work for free or in the spirit of just gladly sharing their creation with others, tips appreciated but not expected, so to speak.
So coming back to the subject of reviewing most OSR publishers' work, I wish to qualify some things I might say in the course of a review that might adversely effect an opinion of me. I do this in the wake of a short (and I think very positive) review of BHP's White Box Set for a reason... although I feel my review was sincere and off the cuff, I can see how it would offend some folks in the "nothing in the OSR should be criticized, lest it not help the OSR grow" camp.
Is there such a camp? I don't know. Based on my own experience with small communities with certain similarities to ours, I would guess so. But here's the thing - I'm amazed at the amount of traffic my last post garnered here. I do keep track of such things for a number of reasons - what interests the readers, what's currently hot in the OSR, etc. It seems a good time to take advantage of the interest to point out what the main purpose of this post is... If you really want the OSR to grow and improve, honest, forthright criticism is helpful, and I hope any other prospective reviewers consider this. Publishers and others who wish to see the OSR grow should welcome and consider constructive, heartfelt criticism, even if it seems petty or at first misguided, and even and especially at this stage of growth. Hopefully it won't be taken personally. As long as it's respectful, the quality and reach of OSR publications will gain from it.
Anyhow, maybe this post wasn’t necessary, and thanks for wading through it if you've read this far. I'll hereafter be able to refer to it as my "Standard Review Disclaimer".
Preparing to Descend
4 hours ago