Don’t Send Me Your Shit To Review, Because I Suck At Reading

where i went wrong

Back in February I was asked if I wanted to review the upcoming OSR book “The Dreams Of Ruin” by Geoffrey Grabowski.  Naturally I was instantly flattered that someone had actually been to my website and I said yes.  They gave me a PDF copy of the book, and I said thanks and then that night went to the laundromat (full disclosure, a lot of the material on this website starts at the laundromat [so much that I almost called this website laundromaps.com]) and started reading this goddamned book.  This goddamned book starts with a poem, and I hated it.  I couldn’t make it through the poem.  I showed it to my friends who play games and my friends that don’t and they all agreed it wasn’t a good poem, and that is a bummer way to start to develop a review.  If you buy this book skip the poem.  So that night I thumbed through the book and read excerpts and looked at the art and generally liked what little else I read at the time.  But my retention of material in PDF form stops at maybe 20 pages.  That is my fault, I am a fucking simpleton and I am okay with it.  This isn’t a review, this is a discussion I am having with myself.

then it got all lugubrious

I am not going to outline the major ideas of this book, but basically a gnarly fungal phantasmal thing is destroying worlds and it grows like plants and infects stuff on physical and mental levels.  And its your job to shut it the fuck down.  I couldn’t handle this book.  There is too much in it, and when I really dug into it I realized it wasn’t for me.  I like swords and orcs and weird wizards waxing poetic.  This one steps a little outside the comfortable zone of my imagination.  I started to stress out about reviewing it.  Here I am, little guy website trying to make it in the big website world, and I got asked to review this product and it would be my time to shine but I really had no interest in this book.  I decided not to review it.  It really upset me because no one likes failing and that is what I did.  It stressed me out.  Sorry Grabowski but I didn’t read enough of your book to give it an honest review but I thank you for the opportunity.  Here is a short one:

  • I hate that fucking poem.  The voice is all wrong.  You know in Planescape the written voice is kind of like what you’d imagine fantasy jazz guys would talk like and it works?  Here it doesn’t.
  • The art is pretty good, I love rakshasas and they get a lot of love here in the art department and the written one.  I would buy a book just about those cats killing shit.
  • Some of the stat blocks for monsters take up nearly an entire column.  That is too much.  A useable stat block comes in the form of a single line.
  • This is a setting for high level characters (something rare in OSR) but if I read correctly, and I sure as fuck didn’t, there is a section where it is recommended that while the PCs are researching how to stop the spread of this fungus they should roll some other characters to go do other shit.  This seems wrong to me, and if you’re going to write shit for players to do while they aren’t doing shit then you should just write “I don’t know, get a sandwich or something.”  I am, on a moral level, opposed to that kind of play.  Do shit, or don’t.  If you play this book make the research work that so the PCs end a session with starting research, and next week they finished.  Alright that was a long review thing.
  • There is a lot of material in this book, plenty of cool ideas about plants taking over your brains and your house.  This setting could drop into any game where planar travel is a thing, or where you players haven’t died yet and they need shit to fight.
  • This book is for people interested in things I am not, like numbers.  The rules extensions are a little much, too the point where in my mind, it has nearly but not totally separated from rules light, OSR play.
  • There was a photo of a desk where an art of a desk should be and that is distracting.
  • The layout is simple, everything looks good.
  • There is reference to the City of Brass, which was kind of uncomfortable for me.

All in all this is a fine book but it just wasn’t for me.  Like I said, I wasn’t going to review it.  But then it was mentioned how buying the book and how the license worked, and I don’t like it.

where it confused me

There was no license in this copy they sent me.  Well. there was a “CC-NC-NR-BY” license attached.  I looked up what the fuck that meant because I didn’t recognize it as a standard creative commons license.  NR isn’t a choice so that means nothing to me so I suppose it was meant to say CC BY-NC-ND which means you can share the thing freely but that is it.  No derivatives and no commercial shit.  Fine by me, protect your shit man.  Oddly, this is a Labyrinth Lord product but no OGL was in the book.  The OGL has to be included.  Has to; when you create a derivative of OGL work then you have to include the OGL.  Legally I could have forwarded the manuscript to any swinging dick I wanted, but I didn’t.  After much research I gleaned that they would have to include the OGL eventually, and that the product identity portion of the included OGL could be covered by creative commons.  Again, fine, sure, protect your shit.  But why not use just the OGL and clearly define the product identity?  Honestly I think the production team here is making a complicated mistake and the whole OGL, OSR, LL thing is being used as a piggy back to get in with the OGL, OSR, LL scene.  Heads up production team: That scene loves spending money on shit, but they are shrewd and will tear apart any attempt to infiltrate that world unannounced and backhandedly.

THIS IS A RANT ABOUT KICKSTARTER, USING THIS PARTICULAR CAMPAIGN AS a SOAP BOX

The license says that after 5,000 copies of this book have been sold or 14 years have passed, the license becomes CC BY, meaning do whatever the fuck you want with it.  How generous, I guess.  Then the kickstarter launches, for 22 dollars.  They kickstarted this book for 22 dollars.  US dollars.  There are no backer levels that get you a physical copy of the book.  It says it will be “free as in beer” which to me means nothing and must be an inside joke I don’t get.  I am a beer tender, I get paid to know a shit ton about beer and that joke means nothing to me.  It funded probably instantly, for 22 dollars.  Also the kickstarter mentions that eventually a stretch goal will contribute some money to a charity which is really cool, but I think it is a breach of kickstarter’s terms of use.  I’ve never kickstarted anything, but I have been told as much.

So the kickstarter is being used to recoup the loses from paying for layout and editing and art and all that shit, but it doesn’t net the backer anything.  Why kickstart the goddamn thing?  Why not just release it as a PDF book on drivethru or as print on demand on lulu.com?  I am seriously confused, and cannot help but this is a misuse of kickstarter which we see time and time again.  If you aren’t going to release a print copy then why bother?  I know that a lot of work went into this book, it is text heavy and it is for the most part pretty well written.  It was too smart for me, but there are things in it I can see myself using.  By and by, people should get money for being creative.  In this case I feel as if there isn’t a mentality of “I wrote and love this book, and I want people to have it and read it and love it and hopefully I get back what I spent.”  To me, this is of the “I wrote a book, can I have some money?” camp.  Kickstarter is the wrong platform for this business model, print on demand and PDF delivery is the right one.  Kickstarter shouldn’t be used as a merchant platform.

This book is free to buy.  The airs is that the author wrote a great thing, and he wants you to make derivatives of it, but he doesn’t really.  He wants to make 100 grand off the book, and then you can have it to do with what you want.  I don’t understand.  If you write something that you want people to derive content from, then why not just do it?  You can sell copies of the book and let people make derivatives of it at the same time.  Labyrinth Lord works that way.  I own those books, I paid money for them AND I can publish stuff that works with it.

THE END.

So my review of the book?  I didn’t read it all and I may be missing out on something gold.  I am okay with that.  I am really disheartened though at this kickstarter campaign.  Shit like this creates a dubiousness in backing projects on kickstarter.  I would never invest in a project that got me nothing, I would wait until the product hits retail and support the author that way.  Like the way a business works anyways.  Dreams of Ruin is a lot of good shit being done in a bad way.

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