Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Making a Living in the OSR

Much has been said about James Mishler's recent decision to close up shop at Adventure Games Publishing.  I think that I agree with everyone when I say that it is a sad thing whenever any gaming company decides to close its doors.  It is obvious from his announcement that he has given it a lot of thought and is doing the right thing for himself--as he most certainly must.  I wish him luck in his future endeavors and look forward to seeing his name on gaming material in the future.

As I've been pondering this development over the past few days, I've reread his post several times.  On the fourth or fifth reading, something jumped out at me that I hadn't noticed previously.  He writes:

Were this simply a sideline to a full-time job, that would truly be a nice result. As this is supposed to be my "day job," that result is, as we call it, a "reason to quit."

I have to admit that those two sentences shocked me.  Much has been written all over the internet about the feasibility of making a living solely based on rpg-related income.  I believe that the general consensus is that, outside of employees of a few of the larger gaming companies and a few invididuals (who can probably be counted on two hands), no one makes a living solely from rpg work.  I know that there are artists who derive a good bit of their income from their gaming work, but I believe that most of them also do art work for other industries.

I might be wrong on this count, but I have always viewed AGP as an OSR entity.  The idea that one could even conceive of making a living from our "niche within a niche" completely blew me away.  Perhaps this has been a topic across the blogosphere and, new to the OSR as I am, I missed it, but does anyone think that this is possible?  Is it?

Is there anyone out there who produces mostly "old-school" material who is making a full time living from it?  I would love to know.


  1. The idea that one could even conceive of making a living from our "niche within a niche" completely blew me away...does anyone think that this is possible?

    At this stage I don't believe so, but that's not to say, with the OSR growing as it is, that it won't be impossible later on down the track, although I have my doubts even then.

    Most OSR publishing "companies" are just one person. Any profit made from a project is often then used to fund the next project, hopefully on a slightly more expanded scale. Given the current size of the OSR market, even with its small overflow into the larger RPG community, I think it is extremely optimistic of anyone to think they could make a real living out of doing this.

    That doesn't mean I believe people shouldn't try, I just think they should realistically be prepared to fail and in the meantime not give up their day job.

  2. It is hard (and almost impossible) to make a living in the mainstream RPG business (which is kind of a contradiction in terms), and that includes not only writers, publishers, and artists, but distributors and game stores as well!

    But making a living by catering to the OSR alone? Sounds like planning to win in the lottery.