I think David Grogan is right, in that improving production values in rpgs may be antithetical to improving actual gameplay. Now, sure, people can make what they like, charge what they like, and buy what they like… but I don’t think the move towards ever-fancier production is net-improving our gameplay experiences.
(for a narrower, more personal, angle on this, see my post Low production values are better for my enjoyment)
So, I have a proposal — we could start an annual prize for the best rpg product with modest production values. This would reward people who come up with good ideas, good words and good game design, but don’t want to (or can’t) take the cost, delay, and risk of fancy art and layout and printing.
A few possible rules:
- Bottom end of “modest” is “competent use of a word processor”
- So e.g. The Quarrymen, as reviewed by Melan, would be out, even though the content is good
- Upper end of “modest” is “POD-quality book with some spot art and maps”
- So e.g. Patrick Stuart’s Deep Carbon Observatory might scrape in at the top (although that feels a bit like cheating as Scrap’s art has a misleading effortless quality)
- Middle ground might be something like Archipelago III
- No weird distribution channels e.g. “You have to get it from the author at a con”. Has to be easily available in at least one Anglosphere country
Ideologically, I’d like to make it PDF and POD-only, because it supports idea that this competition is about avoiding barriers that some creators put between (their ideas and design expertise) and (people who might use and benefit from them). But I’m not wedded to that.
I envisage this as being something I run alone, and that has no reward other than glory — something in the vein of the Rammies. If I’m feeling extravagant, I might send out hand-signed certificates.