Friday, June 17, 2011

A Professional Hobby or a Hobby Run Professionally?

The way I see it, there are basically 2 types of successful RPG publishers once you get past the Industry giants.

You have the Professional Hobbyists - these are the ones that truly are attempting (or maybe even succeeding) with making a living off of RPG writing and publishing. LotFP, Troll Lord Games, Goodman are some examples.

Then you have the Hobbyists That Make Professional Games - professional releases for free or close to cost. Creativity before profit. Goblinoid Games, Mythmere, Dark Horse are some examples.

There are other tiers, but this are the main types you see in out little corner we call the OSR.

Both approaches are valid, although those attempting to make a living off of this hobby is by far the tougher path.

Still, it reminds me of my early days as a cop in the South Bronx. On weekends, my unit would come in early to do "Ho Roundups". If that sounds like herding cattle, there were some similarities. In any case, there are different "social classes" of prostitutes, even in the South Bronx. The "locals" that lived in the area and considered this a somewhat legitimate occupation, would literally get into fist fights with the girls that were from out of town, or in many cases, drug addicts. The fights were over a simple issue - the out of towners would do the same sex acts for about half the amount the locals charged. Even worse, they were happy with the amounts they made. The locals felt they were ruining the local economy (that's what they referred to it as. I remember the arguments that took place in the prisoner wagons). The 2 sides had to co-exist, but they didn't like it much, and the disputes often got nasty.

I most certainly am not likening the writers and publishers in the OSR to South Bronx Prostitutes, although the imagery is pretty funny. It's just that I see some similarities in the different attitudes and approaches from those that are looking to make a living off this hobby and those that treat it as a hobby.
No fist fights, no hair pulling - it seems to be more politics then anything else.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm just a "John". Whoever puts out the best product for the lowest price is where I'll be. I'll try not to feel too dirty ;)


  1. Actually as some that has been writing and publishing RPG stuff for the last 10 years I think the comparison is dead on.

  2. At White Haired Man, we run a business and are trying to succeed as best we can, but we do not expect to make a living. I just hope within the next 2 years we can finally break even.

    I would also say that we do put creativity before profit. We have never compromised our vision in creating our adventures. Nor do I expect that we ever will.

  3. Free RPG day is right around the corner, you dirty John. ;)

  4. Following up on your analogy, Tenkar, where does that leave me? I employ the services of an ageing big-time professional (White Wolf), but I have stripped her off all her accoutrements so that I can do with her as I please.

    I'm not sure I like how that sounds...

  5. Sounds like you frequent the School Teacher (HBO used to play a documentary called The Ho's of Hunts Point - she was one of the "Stars").


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