I finally saw this email when I rolled outa bed this morning. What Matt McElroy details is far from a perfect solution to the past weekend's drama. I don't think there IS a perfect solution to address products like Tournament of Rapists (which judging from the title and the description that was included with the product posting, I'm beginning to think the author's intent was very much a "Troll" release - he just got WAY more reaction than expected.) Status quo wasn't going to work for OBS's business model so we knew change was coming. I suspect the content policy and the policing of it will change as OBS get's a handle on things.
Now, for all this talk of censorship I see being thrown around - OneBookShelf has the right to publish or not publish as it see's fit. I really don't see a problem with them refusing to distribute a product that they find to be offensive. Do I think their solution to the issue that is detailed below is going to work? I suspect there will be abuse of the system. I expect the system will change over time in response to such abuse. And I really hope Stewart remembers to stay away from social media in times of crisis.
At DriveThruRPG, we trust publishers to upload and activate their own
new releases without anyone at DriveThru reviewing the product before
it goes public. Because this system worked so well for the past 14
years, we had no need to create an "offensive content guideline.” To
avoid anything approaching censorship, we simply adhered to an
unwritten policy of not banning any RPG product.
There is, however, a growing problem. Sometimes, RPG creators design
content that goes beyond disturbing. For example, we recently — and
rightly — received criticism for selling an RPG supplement called
"Tournament of Rapists" for four days on our marketplace.
In hindsight, we realize that we should have suspended that product
from sale immediately, pending further internal review and discussion
with the publisher. For a variety of reasons, we relied on our
standing policy of not banning RPG titles, even in the face of a
product so offensive that the policy was inadequate. We understand
that we were wrong to do so.
A New Policy
It is time to change the approach we have used on DriveThru. Our prior
stance, that "censorship is unacceptable," was tantamount to shirking
our responsibility. As market leaders, we are in a position that
requires us to be leaders also in keeping the RPG hobby inclusive and
We do not believe there is any set of bright-line rules that
adequately define what content is offensive, so going forward, our
offensive content policy will simply be as follows: We'll know it when
we see it.
We will tend to err toward including content, even where it challenges
readers and deals with sensitive issues, as long as it does so
maturely and not gratuitously. Any product in which racial violence,
rape, torture, or a similar subject is a treated as a central feature
will be subjected to careful scrutiny.
We will also code customer-facing options that allow customers to
report potentially offensive content to us. If a reported product
seems questionable, we will suspend it from sale, pending a full
internal review of its content.
We appreciate all of our customers and publishers, who have been
patient with us while we examined our policies and processes. Thank
you for giving us the benefit of the doubt; like you, we are human
beings trying to do the best thing. Like everyone, we sometimes make
mistakes along the way. We will strive to learn from those mistakes.
For more information, please see our CEO Steve Wieck's post on our blog here: