(This essay is also available in Spanish.)
On June 26th 2018, we had a conversation on Google+ which asked the question: what can people do to make the community better? How can a single person contribute beyond just writing posts on their blog? After a lot of deliberation I consolidated the suggestions into the list below, sorted according to how much of a time investment it requires.
This list is a living document. If there’s anything missing which you think ought to be here, please let me know!
TRIVIAL STUFF YOU CAN DO
IN A FEW MINUTES
Start a thread in any game-related social space which prompts discussion without shilling a product. What mechanics are on your mind? What do you wish could be better? What would be useful to you? More threads like this go a long way towards making the community more interesting and productive. More convivial discussion about games is the single biggest thing we can do to make our communities better.
Call out bad actors whenever you see them. Never let someone get away with hate speech, lying, or any other behavior which would drive people away from the community. Confronting these issues frequently whenever they crop up prevents the rot from setting in, and avoids bigger and more damaging confrontations down the road. Trust me: keeping bad actors out of the community will attract more and better contributors than anyone who is lost.
Blogs should be treated as part of a conversation, not as a performative lecture. If you disagree, don’t just ignore a blog post, explain why you disagree. If you like it, don’t just +1 or reshare, add your own thoughts to the conversation. Make critiques and suggestions. Do this in the blog’s comments, or in google+ threads, or in your own blog posts. More good work comes as a result of conversation than of individual effort.
Write reviews on the sites where people buy stuff! Considering how helpful this is, and how common it is for people to write reviews of the things they read, you’d be shocked by how infrequently this happens. When you post a book review on social media you are, at most, helping the people who follow you. Reviews posted to sites like DriveThruRPG are way more helpful to way more people. These are niche products. Even big releases will often only have 1-3 reviews, so your contribution can potentially have a lot of impact on that product’s future sales. If you write a review on social media, this could be as simple as copy-pasting what you already wrote!
Give feedback to artists. It’s nice to give general compliments, but it’s way nicer if you can find something specific to compliment. “Great stuff!” is nice, but “I like the detail on the fingers” is better. Constructive criticism is also great, just don’t be a dick about it.
Step outside your comfort zone and represent the OSR on other platforms where general RPG discussion happens. Reddit, Twitter, Facebook. Let them know we exist. Take a few minutes to explain to them why we think the way we do.
If you speak the lingo of RPG communities outside the OSR, help those communities cross-pollinate. Bring us their cool ideas. Take our cool ideas to them.
If you find good, usable game stuff, spread it around. Share it. Let people know it exists.
SIGNIFICANT, ONE-TIME EFFORT
Run open table games. Do this online, and in real life. Do it both for people who are already in the OSR, and for people who may (through your game) become interested in the OSR. This helps like minded people find one another, introduces people to OSR style games, and most importantly it keeps us all playing.
Create a tutorial, primer, or other tool. Take whatever relevant skill you have, and pass it along to others. In particular, we need the knowledge of how to tackle book layout to become much more common. Information design makes all the difference in an RPG book. The more of this knowledge we can spread, the better our books will be.
Acclimate new people, either by introducing individual newbies to the people and resources that will help get them settled into the community, or by writing a guide to help them find their feet. You could write a primer on OSR lingo, a list of places to get good information, a collection of links and people to follow, a demonstration of how OSR play can be done, or an aggregate of those things. I was “part of the OSR” for about 3 years before I knew what “B/X” meant, and that’s just silly.
Put out a small adventure! Nothing too complicated, just a couple of pages and a map collected into a semi-polished free PDF is more likely to get your work noticed than several month’s worth of blog posts. This is something a ton of people want to see more of.
Collate what already exists! A lot of the things people want actually already exist, but are scattered throughout a hundred thousand different pdfs and blog posts. Collecting the existing information into a single set of links, and spreading that information around, will be a huge help.
Non-Fantasy games built on OSR principals. We need Space Adventure games, Horror games, games for children, westerns, vampires, etc!
We need more reviewers! Not just folks who casually post about what they think on social media. We need people like Bryce Lynch of 10′ Pole who do the hard work of finding new stuff that no one has ever heard of, reading it, and getting into the nitty gritty of what is good and what is bad. We need people who review things with enough consistency that their audience can get a feel for their tastes, and develop a trust for how the reviewer’s tastes relate to their own. This will go a long way towards helping worthy new voices find the audience they deserve.
A catalogue of people in the OSR who are for hire, with contact information and samples of their work. Help the people in the community get paid!
A matchmaking service that helps people find OSR games to play in would be crazy useful.
People’s projects tend to slip out of mind after a month or so. A catalogue of available books, PDFs, & zines, blogs, or even specific blog posts, would be helpful. Not only would it help people to find stuff they’re interested in after it stops being talked about, but it would help creators by getting a little more money flowing into their pockets.
Public domain artwork is a great way for smaller publications to break up their text. There are many resources for public domain art online, but collecting those, and even searching out some of the more game-worthy pieces would be a great help.
A periodic look at the community, like a newsletter, would help people catch up on what notable things they’ve missed. The RAMMIES are a good start.
An actual play podcast, or Twitch stream, or YouTube series, or PeerTube series. One that is actually good, with quality audio and focused players. This sorta thing is the future of RPGs. The sooner the OSR gets its foot in that door, the better off we will all be for it.
Better OSR videos in general. Nobody wants to watch a recording of people rambling at one another in google hangouts. This would be a great venue to draw people into the community, and acclimatize them to our style of play and thinking.
OSR material that appeals to 5e players. They’re the biggest group of tabletop players, they’re the group most first-timers will gravitate towards. Bridging the gap between their lame game and our cool games is just good sense if you want the community to grow and evolve.
A frequently-updating OSR news blog, managed responsibly.
A podcast that is like House To Astonish but RPGs. Some news, smart people talking, some reviews of new things. Wit and analysis all at once. So that you can learn about new products (which, face it, is a slog because there’s so many–which is good) while being entertained and listening to a smart conversation. “Hobbs & Friends” is one example of this sorta thing, but we need more.
EXTANT COMMUNITY EFFORTS
YOU CAN VOLUNTEER WITH
Blogs on Tape has really unreliable updates! You can talk to me about helping with that.
The One Page Dungeon contest is a long standing tradition in the community. Aside from contributing it, I’m sure there are many ways a person could help out. https://www.dungeoncontest.com/
The ENNIES have a huge influence on how people find new things to read and play. Nobody is allowed to be an ENNIES judge more than once or twice, so they need new people all the time. If you’re eligible, apply to be a judge and make sure your views are represented on that panel. http://www.ennie-awards.com/blog/
If you have a local con, and you attend your local con, run some OSR games for them.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, if you’re looking to make your mark on the community, this list would be a great place to start.
This list was constructed with recommendations from Dan Domme, gregory blair, Eric Diaz, Redbeard, C Huth, Michael Bacon, Perttu Vedenoja, Yann ABAZIOU, Sean McCoy, Zak Sabbath, FM Geist, Courtney Campbell, Evey Lockhart, Logan Knight, Sándor Gebei, Dan D, Alex Chalk, Patrick Smith, Shane Ward, Chris McDowall, Brendan S, Steve Sigety, Eric Nieudan, Jarrett Crader, Elias Stretch, David Shugars, Jeremy Smith, Moreven B, & Iacopo Maffi.