The logo for DrivethruRPG on a gray background

DrivethruRPG Implements Broad Anti-Disparagement Policy

July 1, 2022

By: Tyler Chancey

 
 

In the tabletop industry, DrivethruRPG is one of the biggest digital distributors for TTRPG materials. If you want a rulebook or supplement for a certain book in convenient PDF format, it is most likely through this ubiquitous platform. However, if you are a tabletop developer that wants to sell your latest work on this platform, recent changes to the Publisher Conduct Guidelines raise some concerns. This is because the policy as it is currently written can potentially pull your game off of this storefront if you vocalize any criticism the company doesn't agree with.

What Is The New DrivethruRPG Policy?

The new DrivethruRPG policy change came from the official page by their parent company, OneBookShelf. The most notable of these changes are highlighted in a section regarding Social Media Behavior. It states, "Publishers who make derogatory or defamatory statements on social media about OneBookShelf or our staff may be subject to modification or termination of their publisher account." Furthermore, a new section was added below, outlying Hostile Marketing.

 

Our policy regarding potentially offensive content (see Product Standards Guidelines) reported by customers is to deactivate such titles while they are being reviewed. Publishers who deliberately court controversy by making public declarations or accusations of censorship resulting from this process in order to draw attention to their products will be considered to use 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 use hostile marketing.

This behavior will not be tolerated. We have adopted a strict one-warning policy for those who engage in hostile marketing: The first incident will prompt a warning, and after a second incident, their accounts will be removed from our site permanently and immediately.

In broad terms, these policies are sensible. Do not act in bad faith towards this publisher and your work will continue to be sold. Furthermore, Meredith Gerber wrote a blog post going into more detail about these policy changes. In regards to Hostile Marketing, this was added as a response to " a small number of malefactors we have dealt with in recent years, who have consciously and maliciously manipulated our policies."  The post illustrates such malicious behavior as a creator submitting material that explicitly violates the company's Product Content Guidelines, know that their work will be removed by DrivethruRPG for review, then manufacture outrage at their "censorship" as a means of self-promotion on their social media platform of choice.

The company logos of DrivethruRPG, DrivethruComics, Storyteller's Vault, and Dungeon Master's Guild
This policy doesn't just affect DrivethruRPG.

What Are The Potential Problems of DrivethruRPG's New Policy?

The underlying problem with this amended policy by DrivethruRPG is that, as it is currently written, it can be applied to any form of criticism. If a tabletop developer sells something through this company, then has some concerns regarding DrivethruRPG's policies, finds their concerns being shuffled around through internal sources, then voices those same concerns on social media, they can just lose a major distribution for their work. Even if those concerns are argued in good faith, the company can just mark it as defamatory or derogatory, pull the game from sale and simply not work with the creator. It relies too much on OneBookShelf's leadership to be of good nature regarding criticism, something that can easily shift and change over time as employees come and go.

 
 

This is concerning since OneBookShelf doesn't just own DrivethruRPG, they own multiple digital service platforms including DMs Guild, which publishes community-created material for Dungeons and Dragons. Furthermore, DMs Guild has recently partnered up with the most popular virtual tabletop service available right now, Roll20. If you are not working with this company, your potential audience shrinks dramatically.

We reached out to OneBookShelf about these policy changes. We communicated the concerns mentioned above and asked if any further amendments will be coming. In response, OneBookShelf's Director of Marketing and PR, Scott Holden, stated, "We do not currently have any plans to adjust the wording on the policy, no. For now, it says what we want it to say. We have found in the past that the more we try to narrow our definitions on these sorts of things, the more people try to find ways to work around and thus bypass the spirit of the rule." When it came to further clarification, he directed us to Gerber's blog post for additional context.

 
 

While DrivethruRPG's policy change was made in part to curate their services and to prevent bad-faith actors, any potential creators will need to take this amended policy into account going forward.