My Review Philosophy and Policies


If you are interested in having me review your role-playing game or module, first, thank you! It is an honour that you are willing to trust me to give you an honest assessment and feedback. I understand that your game is like your baby: it has been years of hard work, love, and humility to get it this far. Putting it up in front of a critic is terrifying.

I feel it is only fair that if you are going to put yourself out there, that you deserve to understand my system and my process as transparently as you can. Below is a rundown of my intentions, my policy, and my format.

What I Review

I have pretty broad tastes in table top role-playing games, but I am really interested in:
  • OSR Hacks and Retroclones
  • Rules-Light Fantasy or Sword and Sorcery games
  • Old-school adventure modules, especially dungeons and hex crawls
  • OSR Sourcebooks
  • Psychedelia-inspired role-playing games
  • "Gonzo" fantasy
  • Games that draw heavily and directly on Appendix-N and Pulp
  • Retrofuturism
  • Space Opera games
  • Games that explore sexual themes - as long as they do not lionize sexual violence.
  • One Page and Five-Room Dungeons are a favourite.

What I Refuse to Review

Life is short, there are a few things I refuse to review flat out. These are: Games set in the modern era as a political statement, Games written as an advertisement for a real-world product,  Games written by persons of any extraction as an expression of ethnic or racial supremicism or purity, Material that vilifies entire genders or sexualities. Material designed to serve as propaganda, and games whse manuals are longer than 550 pages.

My Intentions When I Review

For Players

When I review a product my core goal is this: to help my readers discover what goes into their own best game

I highlight ideas, settings, and mechanics that I think are particularly brilliant and that makes the game worthwhile to own - either to try or to "hack" for its most interesting parts. I spend a lot of time going over the nitty-gritty of the game, looking for gems. These gems can appear in the form of mechanics, structure, narrative, setting, and flavour; I do not privilege "crunch" over "fluff."

If I have persuaded someone to buy a product, it is because I have shown them that it is something that they want to try at home in their own campaigns. If I have discouraged them from buying it, it is because I have not showed them anything new or valuable to see in it.

For Developers

I also want everyone in this hobby to succeed. That means that I hold games and their designers to high standards. When I see places where the quality of the game is poor, where the design was not thought out or tested, or where there is room for improvement, I make it a point to say so - constructively. 

In my ideal world, a developer with an open mind who reads my reviews will be able to swiftly form an action plan to make the next iteration of their game smarter, tighter, and more engaging. I add nothing if it does not serve this purpose.

If I Don't Like a Game...

...I will still review it.

I will try to review it HONESTLY. I feel like too many critics will only review things that they like. This can teach the community at large what to look for in good design, but it fails to teach the pitfalls of bad design.

I also will review it with HUMILITY. Especially if my objections are aesthetic. Just because a game isn't perfectly to my taste does not mean that it won't be perfect for someone else. In a review for a game I don't like, I will try to explore who will.

And I will write all reviews, whether I like a product or not with INTEGRITY. Nobody likes a "Yes-man" or a shill. I will not, under any circumstances, give a view other than my honest opinon. Even if that will make me unpopular. Even if it means developing a bad relationship with a popular game developer.

Sending me things will never entitle someone to a good review. Sending me something good will entitle you to a good review.

My Structure

I build my reviews in a four section structure that is specifically designed to meet my two major goals.

The opening describes what the game portrays, how its mechanics work, and what people who are interested in building their best possible custom home game - or who are trying to explore new innovations in role-playing games - will like. I will also describe the audience, and how and when I am likely to play it.

"What I Loved" is a showcase of all the most creative, innovative, attractive, and clever points in a game's design.

"Growth Points" is where I talk about where I think the game has room for improvement or needs rethinking. I never talk about something I find to be a flaw in the game without also talking about how I would change the game to overcome its weaknesses.

The "Conclusion" is where I sum up and give final thoughts. I will often talk about the context of the game in the greater picture of the hobby, or how it is best used. I often will discuss what sort of audience will most enjoy it.

How I Decide What to Review

Most of what I review is material I have bought or downloaded myself, based on what has had an appealing buzz for me. (Usually it's Ben Milton or Hankerin Ferinale's fault!) Certainly, what is on tap at Bundle of Holding, etc. is going to have some impact on what I choose to buy, and thus what I choose to review.

I am, however, very happy to review books submitted to me in as prompt a fashion as possible. I can be contacted through twitter or this blog wth enquiries about how to send me either electronic or hard copy books.

My backlog of PDFs can be fairly long. I do tend to read hardcopy faster because it is more convenient (and exciting!)

1 comment:

  1. Hello Brian -- I would like to send you a deluxe hard copy of my OSR product, The Dozen Dooms, for a review. If you are interested, could you shoot me a good mailing address to baldragebob at