OSR Blogs, Product Announcements, and Reviews
With the recent release of White Star: White Box Science Fiction Roleplaying and Petty Gods: Revised & Expanded Edition, I have noticed some complaints about OSR blog posts about these games (on threads in RPG.net and even theRPGSite.com). These complaints are that the posts about these games are softpetal posts instead of hard-hitting reviews like the review of White Star in this post on RPG.net.
I don’t think the problem is that many OSR-bloggers are softpetalling their posts (although I’m sure a few do from time to time) so much as they are either doing one of these two things:
1) Writing Product Announcements for their OSR Audience: Posts that read like “Wow! I just noticed NiftyNewProduct on Drivethru, got a copy and it looks great” aren’t intended to be reviews at all. They are just posts saying I found this product and like it, perhaps given a few reasons why they like it. Such posts are not reviews and are not intended to be reviews by their authors so faulting them for not being complete and objective reviews is silly. They are just posts saying blogger X got product Y and liked it.
2) Writing Product Reviews for their OSR Audience: Even when an OSR blogger does write a review, the blogger probably isn’t writing it for a general tabletop RPG audience. Instead he’s writing it for his regular readers who are likely almost all OSR people. Therefore, the blogger is unlikely to point out all the issues a non-OSR person might have with the game any more than a blogger with a D&D 4e blog is likely to point out all the issues a person who prefers TSR D&D is likely to have a 4e product he is reviewing — as TSR D&D lovers are not his audience. Expecting an OSR blogger to care about things like how innovative the rules are or are not, how mechanically interesting the rules are or are not, how mechanically complete the rules are or are not, etc. is expecting too much as the blogger’s audience doesn’t care nearly as much about such issues as those outside the OSR often do. There are lots of things that those who aren’t into OSR games would likely see as major problems (e.g. depending on the GM to make stuff up) with most OSR games that the an OSR blogger writing a review for his OSR blog would never mention at all (let alone point out as problems) because those things are things that are expected (and more often than not desired) by OSR gamers.
In both cases the key is that OSR bloggers are writing for an OSR audience. They are not writing for a general tabletop RPG player audience. In a review or even a good product announcement post for a general gaming site or publication, one would have a right to expect the writer to approach the review of an OSR game from general gamer point of view and detail some of the issues a non-OSR gamer would likely have with the game. However, OSR blogs are not general gaming publications so such expectations are unrealistic.