Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How Much Actual "RPG News" is There to Report?

Lets be honest - there is very little actual "RPG News" to report on and any website that claims there is, is either fooling themselves, their readers or both.

Why do I say that when there is an extremely well trafficked website that bills itself as "The source of RPG News and Reviews?" Because they confuse announcements and sponsored fluff as news or news facsimiles. Some random new gaming Kickstarter from your friend in the industry is now news.

No, it is not. It may be interesting information to your readers, but it's not news.

"News" is WotC announcing an OGL for 5e or The Gygax Trust licensing it's IP. It is not announcing some obscure Swedish RPG Kickstarter or the latest virtual issue of Dragon going live (which it does every month, like clockwork) Those are "announcements." It's information. It's something which you might expect in a trade magazine.

However, this is what they are listed under:

GURPS turning 30? It's a "sponsored" article (and kudos to ENWorld for finally making that fact more prominent after the pushback on the "it's a fine fuzzy line between news, promotion and outright advertising" stupid statement) but it falls under RPG News Updates. So, sponsored articles? "News", of course.

That "red highlight" as well as the "This is a sponsored post" are new.
Yep, you can thank this "abusive personality" 
Press releases? File them under "News" at ENWorld:

Why "pay(s) a bunch of folks to post press releases?" Because the truth is there is little actual news and being the source of RPG Informational Updates, Press Releases and Sponsored Content sounds so... not very sexy.

As for investigative reporting? Never bite the hand that feeds you.

Am I being too dogmatic about what constitutes actual "RPG News?" Perhaps. Maybe my definition is too narrow. I certainly think ENWorld's definition is far too wide and dilutes the value of any true news to be found, lost in the mire of sponsored content and press releases filed under "News".

Once you, the reader and consumer of ENWorld content, realizes what that actual content is, you'll best be able to make your own informed decision as to it's value.


After I wrote this post a Taverner forwarded me the following:

If one is an "abusive personality" for pointing out shortcomings in how a "News Site" flags "sponsored content" and how it pimps the reinvention of the history of someone like Gareth Sharka, I'll gladly take the mantel upon myself. Because if they had done nothing wrong, they never would have changed the way they flagged "sponsored content". The criticism would not have been "legitimate criticism." I stand by my postings.

I would, however, like a link or links to the posts from these "mean spirited personalities." That infers there is more than one. Who else then? Oh, right. Morrus doesn't read them.

Morrus won't read your comments. Your feedback is irrelevant. Critique and criticism have no place in a community that covers it's ears and hums so it can't hear you. Until it does. But it won't acknowledge your criticisms even as it takes actions to correct them.


  1. ...and this is why I don't visit En World. No news, all cronyism, all the time.

  2. I publish 2-4 releases a month. If you ask me, they're all news-worthy. PLENTY of news to report! :)

  3. You know, the site was a great source of news around 2000 or so when Eric Noah ran it. I ran to the page on a daily basis to get all the information about D&D 3.0 and the tidbits that were leaked to him from WoTC staffers about what 3.0 would be like. And even after the release of the game, it still provided insight and useful information about the game and the releases. I stopped paying attention on a regular basis around 3.5 and stopped altogether when the site became the "endless shill" for D&D 4.0 and made anyone who didn't switch feel like an idiot.

    Since 2007, I can count the number of times I've been to the ENWorld on both hands. I find the ENNIES something useful, but other than that, it doesn't offer me anything I can't get elsewhere on the internet.

  4. ENWorld has always had this kind of reputation. Back in the 3.x and 4e days, it was known as a WotC fansheep (my gender-neutral term for fanboys and fangirls) forum where no criticism was welcome. And their idea of "civil discourse" has pretty much always ruled out any kind of critical analysis of anything, or even any statement that somebody got an objective fact wrong. After all, we wouldn't want to hurt the feelings of the oversensitive.

    But your definition of news may be too narrow, depending on what kind of content you're criticizing. I don't think covering a new product release is "not news," if you write your own story about the product and what it means for the game line and the industry. On the other hand, letting company employees write articles for you and not labeling them as sponsored content or the opinion of a guest author -- that's unethical for anyplace that's calling itself a news source.

  5. What's up with the C Helton comment in the screencap? Can't decide if he's supporting Morris or not.

    1. My guess? True Neutral representation.

    2. Chris is a paid columnist for ENWorld.

    3. What's his issue with you?he was trashing you in JRB wall in the past.

    4. Chris, Morrus or both?

      And what is "JRB wall?"

    5. Chris. Jolly R Blackburn. Wasn't like he was ranting about you just said he had issues with you.

    6. Helton also supports the idea of getting rid of forums and comments sections. At least he agreed with GMS on a Tweet about that. So he's part of the 'stick your fingers in your ears' brigade.

    7. Chris and I have vastly different world views.

      I will call people on their shit and expect to have my shit called on me. It keeps me honest and ensures I don't take the community here at The Tavern for granted.

      Feedback, both positive and negative, is the secret to building a vibrant community.

      Echo chambers are not for the living.

      Oh, and Chris, who created the Swords & Wizardry G+ Community, claims he doesn't really like the OSR.

      Also, he is a Stacey fanboy and probably the one that got her S&W project successfully pitched (he also helped pitch the first S&W Appreciation Day - go figure). Stacey and I? Not so good. Chris and I by extension? Probably not so good.

    8. Chris and I butted head when he started claiming I was saying things that I wasn't saying at all (in the thread where he claimed I was saying them no less). Plus he had added me to his circles and forgot and was bragging over in his echo chamber about 'calling people out' and all that... which I called him out on. He booted me from his circles and a couple of his groupies blocked me and acted like they were doing some big evil thing to me. Personally I laughed about it and carried on my life online as normal.

    9. I tried getting Helton to look into the whole "vice-president of GAMA is almost five years late on his Kickstarter" fiasco (it's been mentioned here and elsewhere), but he never responded.

      I tried several methods of contact, to no avail.

      Dude doesn't rock the boat, apparently.

    10. This was my suspicion; I think I blocked him due to his inability to argue. Some of this stuff I didn't know.

    11. This was my suspicion; I think I blocked him due to his inability to argue. Some of this stuff I didn't know.

    12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    14. Holy fuck dude! Stop putting words in my mouth.

      Real story - Chris "I've got all the connections" Helton approached me about doing a Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day after I ran one for BFRPG. He set up the meeting with Rachel at the Frogs. We got it all planned out. Then he left me holding the bag to organize and run for over 130 blogs and was happy enough to take credit.

      Nothing to do with gender. Everything to do with Chris. I tend to be suspicious of Chris and his motives after what happened with me.

      As for the rest of your rant, I have NO idea where it came from. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with what I or any of the other commenters have said.

    15. I'm not putting words in your mouth. The bottom stuff is what I get hit with every time I say ANYTHING positive about Stacy by other people.

      The words I'm putting in your mouth are the implication that Stacy couldn't do this on her own and thus Chris must have done it. Sorry I included the SJW stuff in the same post, but I get fed up with this label being thrown at me for doing good things and then being used to describe supposedly horrible things. I'll delete the post and repost it without the SJW part since it could easily be misconstrued as having to do with you, which it doesn't.

    16. "probably the one that got her S&W project successfully pitched"

      Are you seriously putting it out there that she couldn't pitch her own projects?

      The amount of crap leveled at this new edition of S&W just keeps piling up and reads more and more as sexist every time it comes up.

    17. Again, what I said was dealing with Chris only. So yes, you are putting words in my mouth.

      Anyone can pitch anything. Gender has nothing to do with ANY part of this discussion.

      My dislike of Chris has NOTHING to do with his gender or the gender of anyone he associates with. It rests solely on HIS personality.

      My assumptions are based on my predispositions towards Chris, which I feel are strongly based on my personal interactions with him.

      If I have issues with people, gender plays no role. Asshatedness crosses gender lines.

  6. I left EN World shortly after Eric Noah did. I only visited the Gary Gygax Q&A threads with any regularity after that.

  7. Just like the real news, there are many fonts for RPG News dissemination. For every USA Today, there's the 5-page Rolling Stone in-depth article.

    Long story short: Tenkar's Tavern is one of my primary RPG news resources.

    1. Thank you for your support :)

      I suspect there will be some mudslinging heading this way in the coming weeks ;)

    2. Well, lets just say I am subscribing to one of these two sites. This choice was made for a few reasons. This is a good example of one.

      If one can not except criticism, how can one improve? Not all criticism is worth excepting, but some is. If you don't expose yourself to criticism you will never be able to find and incorporate the worthy criticism.

      Damn, this is too deep I am at the gaming table, back trying not to screw up in Fey lands...

    3. And I appreciate it.

      Seriously, if I step out of line I expect to be called on my shit by this community.

  8. Does it really matter? Who cares if he gets some paid placements? I mean, in the grand scheme of things, he built a successful community, why does it really matter if he monetizes his front page a bit? It's not like anyone is getting rich off of RPG forums. Seriously. This really isn't worth the multiple posts it has generated.

    1. I have no problem with monetization of ENWorld, but be honest with your readers when doing so. Paid content, ads and regurgitated press releases are not news. Reinventing Gareth and ignoring his past isn't just poor reporting, it's downright dishonest.

      That thin,fuzzy line is neither thin nor fuzzy.

    2. I guess I'm a little more "meh".

      If they get paid for a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter advertorial, and you have a similar news item on the site (but not paid), as a consumer, it doesn't matter to me. Either post is equally useful to me if I am interested in GURPS.

      Similarly, I know OLD is NEW and En5ider are EnWorld publications, so I can choose to ignore them, or read the posts if I am interested.

      While I think I've read the name "Gareth" somewhere EnWorld forums, I don't really know who he is. If he has an interesting publication to sell, I might be interested... or I might not. But I will look for other people's reviews and opinions before making any purchase decision regardless of where I hear about it (as most others would likely do).

      I don't think placement on the EnWorld home page triggers a "buy" from readers unless they were likely to buy the item anyway. Pathfinder people will buy Paizo stuff they hear about. D&D people will buy WotC stuff... Fans of Kobold or Pelgrane will be interested in those press releases.

      Does it matter if those companies pay for some placement? Not really to me honestly. I want to hear about what's coming out from different companies. I just found out from EnWorld that Fat Dragon has their new Kickstarter up. I'm a big fan of Tom Tullis, so I'm considering backing even without a 3D printer. Don't know if he paid for the announcement, but probably not.

      I guess what it comes down to, is that I treat any website or blog as not being "news" in the journalistic sense. I can choose to ignore or explore the posts based upon my interests... and it's useful to me that a lot of WotC, Paizo, and other publihers' announcements are gathered in one place.

      Is it "news"? Just because it comes from a press release, doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't qualify. You like to link to RPGnow/DriveThru with affiliate links when people publish something new or interesting. Does it matter to me that you make a few cents on each referral? Nope. If I like the content, I want to hear about it. Same with EnWorld. If I'm interested in the content, I want to know when it's coming out. That's still "news" in that it informs me as a consumer about a product that I may not have been aware was coming.

      Anyway, like I said it seems to be a lot of digital ink spilled on what is a pretty minor issue.

    3. i was wondering the same thing. read it in bed from my phone last night. thought u had deleted it.

    4. it got pulled into SPAM as did Phil Reed's response below. We don't use anything but Blogger's default spam filter setting. No idea how your comment got pulled. I'm the only one with admin rights.

    5. Marty, I read your comment last night in email, so it might have been snagged from the start. I did some basic research and the spam filter kicks in with longer comments - not sure if that is what happened.

  9. Umm, I've only been using the Internet for the past few years w.r.t. rpg news. Hate to say this but didn't ever come across ENWorld as a 'useful' news site, yet I found here. I can't decide whether this means I my Google Fu is poor, or if you've inflated how important ENWorld currently is.

  10. * GURPS - Since I am responsible for that post happening at ENWorld I feel I should step in and explain our reasoning. We saw a promotional opportunity -- ENWorld's Patreon for news offered up a $50 for sponsored article -- and took it, knowing fully well that this project would be of interest to many ENWorld readers.

    We only took advantage of this promotional opportunity because it would carry info noting it as a sponsored post. Just as when we provide articles to print magazines (rarer today what with the decline in print and all, I am still sad) we want those articles to inform, promote, but most of all be clear that they are paid content. The last thing we want to do is buy advertising that isn't identifiable as advertising.

    I still believe that we made the right call here. $50 for the traffic generated by that post was money well spent, and I feel that it's a good promotional opportunity for any RPG publisher who wants to attract eyes on a project.

    One last bit of clarity: We did not provide the opening text. We provided the meat of the post, but ENWorld provided the framing language for the post.

    If anyone wishes to discuss this I am always available online or at cons. Also, my email -- phil@sjgames.com -- is there if anyone wants it.

    1. Phil, no one is pointing a finger at you or SJG. Hell, I posted about the KS myself. The "tempest in a teapot" did convince ENWorld to more prominently indicate when a post is sponsored, so in the end it's a win / win for all.

      Happy to see SJG with a boxed RPG game BTW

      Somehow you got caught in the spam filter - sorry your comment took a few hours to approve

    2. I've been called spam before. :) And no problem at all. I just wanted to be as transparent as possible here for everyone.

    3. Phil - are you guys going to be subscribing at the $50 level for a year?
      Just asking because - I had inquired about whether I could pledge $50 just for a month when I wanted a story run (and $600 a year is a bit steep for my advertising needs)- and I was told (a bit tersely) that that would be gaming the system and frowned upon.

    4. Yes, we're going to try this for a year. We figure it's also a good place to talk about upcoming games like the new edition of Car Wars, new Munchkin releases, and the new Ogre game.

    5. Just to correct my previous post. I have since talked to the person I spoke with at Enworld about pledging for the Patreon. And - I had drastically misread their tone - as can sometimes easily happen over email. So - really not so much with the "terseness". Also - apparently - my contact at Enworld was incorrect about their policy on pledge levels. You can "go big" at the higher levels for a time and then adjust your pledge to a different level after that. So - things were not quite what they seemed.

  11. I must have that obscure Swedish rpg, even if I found out about it from a written commercial. That art....

  12. I must have that obscure Swedish rpg, even if I found out about it from a written commercial. That art....

  13. I am still stuck on how different sites and blogs get groupies.
    How do I get groupies? Is there a service? did I not sign up?

    Seriously though. I understand the cult of personality aspect to all of this, I would rather read, and comment, on a site more for the quality of it's writing rather than the following around it.

  14. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle on this. I think that product announcements do qualify as news, even if it's a rather boring kind of news.

    That said, simply regurgitating press releases is a terrible way to do your job if you're supposed to be any kind of journalist, and clearly marking sponsored content has been the standard for a looooong time.

  15. I think posting sponsored content is fine, but it MUST be properly labelled. If I'm reading an article and the author makes some claims about a product ("fast combat and deep setting!"), even if they are opinion oriented claims ("this game is great!"), I'd consider these statements in a different context if I knew up front the article was paid for by the company who made the product. I wouldn't automatically discount it, but it wouldn't get the same weight as a completely unbiased article. Similarly, I'd treat a press release differently than a review.

    I WOULD be tempted however to completely disregard a review or opinion article on a product if I found out afterwards it was sponsored content and the author/website didn't disclose it. After all, if regardless of sponsorship one truly intends to be unbiased, why NOT be upfront about it?

    Imagine this scenario: "ABC RPG INC" publishes the "Acronym RPG", and then on their own site posts an overwhelmingly positive "in depth player review" written by a known employee. Who would take such praise seriously? Who would not laugh if ABC RPG INC then claimed to be an unbiased RPG news source? The fact is, what Erik is posting about at ENWorld is really only one step removed from such a ridiculous scenario, thus it warrants the criticism he's levied against them. Especially since the solution is so simple and easy - just tell us when there is a bias.

    I think it all boils down to trust. Is "x" trustworthy? Can I trust "x" to be unbiased when they say (or are not stating either way) they are unbiased? If criticisms or even factual but unflattering information isn't allowed, the article in question is about a friend of the author or is being paid for by a company, and such biases are not disclosed, AND such biases are subsequently discounted by the site when brought up, it severely erodes the trust factor. As a reader, I am then left wondering how much credence I should give to anything posted there. I end up feeling betrayed and manipulated by a source I thought was trustworthy.

  16. If someone doesn't post the press releases, then they never get reported on and we never read them.

    Which kind of slaughters the whole point of making press releases, and makes it a lot harder to find out about new stuff coming out.

    I've discovered a LOT of awesome stuff courtesy of ENWorld.

    Including the OSR.

  17. As a marketing guy - press releases ARE news. That's why we write them and why people publish them.

    Claiming they are not news because they are not breaking news or investigative journalism is obfuscation and misdirection.

    1. and the sponsored posts that were masquerading as news? that's OK then?

      as for whether or not press releases are news (not saying they are not informative and useful) is in the eye of the consumer I would guess

    2. You are moving the goalposts.

      When they post stuff about their own material, take it the same way you would take ANY publisher talking about their own material. It's not like they ever hide their involvement in their own products. Russ has been publishing stuff for basically as long as ENWorld has existed.

      What other sponsored news bits have they been posting without indicating that they are sponsored by the news provider?

    3. Now? Nothing - all the sponsored bits have disclaimers, even the ones that didn't before. Which is as it should be.

      Without the post in question bringing that to the forefront, that never would have happened.

    4. What other ones was there besides the GURPS one?

    5. According to ENWorld, just one other, which went up 5 days prior to the GURPS one.


    6. strangely enough, even morrus doesn't consider press releases "actual news":

      Help Us Expand EN World's News Coverage!
      EN World has been reporting on tabletop roleplaying game news for 16 years, since it was Eric Noah's Unofficial D&D 3rd Edition News, and is one of the oldest and largest RPG communities in the world. We have a roster of columnists, including Russ "Morrus" Morrissey, Chris Helton (previously at Bleeding Cool), Darryl Mott Jr. (previously at Ain't It Cool News), Angus Abranson (industry veteran who co-founded Cubicle 7), Michael Tresca (formerly of The Examiner), and Sean Patrick Fannon (of Evil Beagle Games). But we want to do more!

      EN World's news will always be free. This Patreon will allow us to expand our coverage. We want to cover ALL the tabletop roleplaying game news for you. Whether you are a fan of D&D, Pathfinder, OSR, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Cypher System, World of Darkness, Fate, Savage Worlds, Warhammer, Star Trek, or more, we want to have you covered.

      That requires funding. More articles from more columnists, providing the actual news (and not just the press releases) about your favourite tabletop roleplaying games. With your help, we'll expand our coverage to be a comprehensive, one-stop location for all your RPG news needs. We'll grow this into the professional, focused, journalistic publication that the RPG industry deserves! Our columnists are biting at the bit to be let loose and start working hard on keeping you informed.

      Please check out EN World's new Patreon and contribute if you can! Thank you!

  18. Thank GOD.. I never understand why people worship at the feet of ENworld (Morris) and throw money at them.. Don't get it..

    I HATE the way he posts his "News" he NEVER quotes a source.

    Ugh.. Just ignore them, I always hope one day they will just go away...

  19. ENworld became a very toxic site years ago when Eric handed it off. Well, actually shortly before that really. The moderation there is very one-sided, and I've often gotten the impression that many of the arguments and debates that go on involve moderators using "socks" to avoid giving the impression that they're part of the group stirring the pot. No way to back that up, but its a very strong suspicion I have after years of lurking on their forums and seeing how lopsided the moderation is. I stopped posting years ago but occasionally pop in every now and then to see if there's anything worth seeing. Not surprisingly its the same-old-same-old.

    1. Oh yeah. The forums are mostly a cesspit. Some of the biggest jerks are the high post count users and they never get a wrist slap for being assh@les.


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