Dungeons. Dragons. Graph paper. Funny dice.

My payment to you (gift culture in the OSR)

Mythmere’s post about blog popularity, the comments to that post, and Matthew Schmeer’s related post about free vs fee content deserve consideration by members of the OSR community.

I have no problem with people who charge money for their work—particularly when the prices are reasonable. Even Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which I consider something of a luxury brand* by OSR standards, offers good value in terms of creative inspiration.

For me, though, it’s not about popularity or money or the (low) number of comments on my posts. I view the OSR as primarily a gift culture, wherein any individual who freely releases their work increases the wealth of every other member of the community.

The content I’ve already read on your blogs and PDF’s is the reward I want. The content I produce and distribute (and I think this applies for free or fee content given the total revenue of the OSR) is my payment to the community.

For example, I read every one of Dyson Logo’s posts. I rarely comment on his posts, but I value them enough that I released a few pages of geomorphs myself.

What the hell is the point of this community if not to inspire each other?

* Although my perception of LofFP as a luxury brand may partially be driven by exchange rates and the cost of overseas shipping.


Risus Monkey, May 6, 2011 at 9:31 AM

here here! It should not be taken as an indication of a lack of interest or appreciation when I fail to comment on a post. Sometimes, I’m away from my computer and only have my iPhone (not ideal for commenting). Other times, my blog checking time is too limited for commented. I’m following a lot of blogs out there.

Stuart,May 6, 2011 at 9:41 AM

I’ll continue to release free material, but have (this week) made something available for purchase. If it had been free I don’t know that I would have pushed myself to make it as polished as the $1 final product. Instead I’d have likely spread it across multiple blog posts and not really worried about the extra time for revisions and proof reading.

Paul, May 6, 2011 at 9:53 AM

I also follow a lot of blogs. I have an A-list of about a dozen OSR blogs that I read religiously. The B-list of a few dozen other blogs usually gets read eventually, but I’m even less inclined to comment on a 2-3 week old post.

James’ Underdark Gazette is good for catching-up. Still, I know I miss a lot of good content.

I wonder if there’s some sort of web service that lets you define a set of blogs, and vote-up/like posts from that group…. A service like that could even automatically construct the group of blogs in your view of the community based on your followers and who you follow. Hmmm. Such a thing might be widely useful; maybe it exists, and I’m just not remembering/realizing it at the moment.

Paul, May 6, 2011 at 9:58 AM

@Stuart, I’d still call that a labor of love. A small sticker price doesn’t preclude material from fundamentally being a gift to the community.

However, I’m ambivalent about the argument that a nominal cover charge increases the perceived value of material.

richard, May 6, 2011 at 11:53 AM

As a gloomy old Maussian I tend to think of gift economies as more or less coercive social structures. The OSR strikes me as a much friendlier example than most.

And I try to comment when I’m pleased by something or have an idea to contribute - I know I find comments enormously valuable.

Dyson Logos, May 17, 2011 at 10:31 AM

Thanks for the props, man.

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