In the tabletop industry, DrivethruRPG is one of the largest digital distributors of TTRPG materials. If you want a rulebook or supplement for a certain book in a handy PDF format, it’s most likely through this ubiquitous platform. However, if you are a table developer and want to sell your latest work on this platform, recent changes to the Publisher Conduct Guidelines raise some concerns. Indeed, the policy as currently written has the potential to remove your game from this showcase if you make reviews that the company disagrees with.
What is the new DrivethruRPG policy?
The new DrivethruRPG policy change came from the official page of their parent company, OneBookShelf. The most notable of these changes are highlighted in a section regarding social media behavior. It states that “publishers who make derogatory or defamatory statements on social media about OneBookShelf or our staff may be subject to a change or termination of their publisher account.” Also, a new section has been added below except for hostile marketing.
Our policy regarding potentially offensive content (see Product Standards Guidelines) reported by customers is to disable such titles while they are reviewed. Publishers who deliberately court controversy by making public statements or accusations of censorship resulting from this process in order to draw attention to their products will be considered to be engaging in hostile marketing.
Publishers who direct or support public accusations of impropriety or censorship toward OneBookShelf when their controversial titles are rejected or removed from our marketplace will also be considered to be using hostile marketing.
This behavior will not be tolerated. We have adopted a strict one-time warning policy for those who engage in hostile marketing: the first incident will trigger a warning, and after a second incident, their accounts will be permanently and immediately removed from our site.
Overall, these policies make sense. Do not act in bad faith towards this publisher and your work will continue to be sold. Additionally, Meredith Gerber wrote a blog post explaining these policy changes in more detail. Regarding hostile marketing, this was added in response to “a small number of malefactors we have dealt with over the past few years who have knowingly and maliciously manipulated our policies”. The post exemplifies such malicious behavior as a creator submitting material that explicitly violates the company’s Product Content Guidelines, knowing their work will be removed by DrivethruRPG for review, then sparking outrage against their “censorship” as means of self-promotion on their social networks. media platform of choice.
What are the potential issues with DrivethruRPG’s new policy?
The underlying problem with this DrivethruRPG-modified policy is that, as currently written, it can be applied to any form of criticism. If a tabletop developer sells something through that company, then has concerns about DrivethruRPG’s policies, finds that their concerns are mixed through internal sources, and then voices those same concerns on social media, they can simply losing a major distribution for his work. Even if these concerns are expressed in good faith, the company may simply mark it as defamatory or derogatory, remove the game from sale, and simply not work with the creator. He relies too heavily on OneBookShelf’s leadership to be good natured when it comes to criticism, something that can easily shift and change over time as employees come and go.
This is concerning because OneBookShelf not only owns DrivethruRPG, they own multiple digital service platforms including DMs Guild which publishes community created material for Dungeons and Dragons. Additionally, DMs Guild recently partnered with the most popular virtual dinner service currently available, Roll20. If you don’t work with this company, your potential audience shrinks significantly.
We have contacted OneBookShelf about these policy changes. We communicated the concerns mentioned above and asked if any further changes would be forthcoming. In response, OneBookShelf’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Scott Holden, said, “We currently have no plans to adjust the wording of the policy, no. Right now it says what we want it to be. ‘ he says. We’ve found in the past that, the more we try to narrow our definitions on these kinds of things, the more people try to find ways around and so around the spirit of the rule.” For more details, he directed us to Gerber’s blog for additional context.
Although DrivethruRPG’s policy change was made in part to organize their services and to prevent bad faith players, any potential creator will need to consider this changed policy in the future.