(this picture has nothing to do with anything, but it's nice)
Enough people have asked me about why I publish my stuff the way I do that it might be a good idea just to make a post about it that I can refer people to in the future if they ask. This post is going to be game content-free; trust me, I'm bored writing this already so you will likely be bored by the end of it as well.
At first I was posting my Gothic Fantasy stuff on RPG forums. Unfortunately, RPG forums are more about arguing about elfgames than the deployment of usable content for elfgames. In fact, one forum seemed outright hostile toward posts that contained gameable content; I was told "This stuff should be on a blog, not here."
And so, I started this blog on the off-chance that my game stuff would be useful to someone, somewhere. Enough people have said that they've enjoyed it for me to keep at it.
But then a couple folks were saying, "I really wish you'd collect this Gothic stuff into a pdf supplement!" Since it wasn't much work to oblige them, I complied a bunch of my stuff as a pdf. It's over there on the right if you want it. There are a few of them now, and they're all free. (I've had people accuse me of "devaluing" their work because I give my pdfs away for free. If what you can charge for your nonsense is in any way connected to what I charge for mine, you're already fucked.)
Then people started to say that they wanted the pdf as a book...and I was stuck for what to do. You see, this is a hobby for me; putting my stuff out for free feels like a hobby endeavor, but putting out a book means slapping a price tag on it. Even if you decide to sell your books at cost, you're still making an economic decision, and that makes me uncomfortable about the line between hobbyist and "publisher."(1) And honestly, I don't think you should have to pay for my junk--which is why I continue to offer free pdfs.
In the end, the solution that felt right for me was to price my books slightly above their cost and donate the profits to worthy causes. Now, I'm not saying that everyone should do this. People get their jimmies rustled thinking that is what I mean. It isn't. It's what works for me. If it works for you too, that's awesome. If you want to make money on your game books, that's cool, you're just oriented toward gaming in a very different way than I am.(2) If you want to make your living off of game stuff...well, then I just feel bad for you; that's going to be a tough road, pal, but I've got my fingers crossed for you.
However, keep in mind that I don't write for "the community," to further my "brand," or to grow my "line." I write for myself without an audience in mind. Case in point: the other day Planet Motherfucker got its first negative review by way of an email that went page-by-page detailing what I did wrong. Yes, a guy felt the need to email me and literally call me an asshole for not writing a book he wanted.(3) Obviously, the book wasn't for him, but realistically none of my books were written with other people's wants and needs in mind.(4) I write this stuff for my use; if you happen to like it and have a use for it, that's fantastic and flattering--but also secondary, at best.
(I also don't get this whole, "Write me the game/supplement/adventure I want!" attitude. Writing this stuff isn't hard. It's not tough to make stuff up. You know what's most fun for your table. Start peeling your own orange. Trust me, you'll be better off for it.)
I write my stuff for me, not you. I publish my stuff this way because people asked nicely and it's what I'm comfortable with. When it's no longer fun or useful for me, I'll stop.
(1) I will say that one thing that seems really disingenuous is when publishers do a little song and dance while straddling the line between "hobbyist" and "publisher." It usually goes a little something like this: they are a "publisher" when they want respect from the hoi polloi that actually buys this stuff, but suddenly we're told to remember that they're "just a hobbyist" when the stuff they took money for is inevitably late or turns out to be vaporware.
If you lord your status as a "game designer" or "industry insider" over people but can't seem to get your game out after three years, you're neither a designer nor involved in the industry. If you can't finance your "game line" without rattling the tin can of crowd-funding for each new release, you're definitely not what I would call a professional.
(2) The one thing I do actually find unethical are the guys who make retroclones based off the OGL and the SRD but then turn around and offer no free version (even art free, hey, that art cost money, I get it) of their game. The OGL and SRD made those games possible; the OGL and SRD made hobbyist-created content viable in ways it hadn't been before. To take the content made available to further the hobby and close it off in a pay-only retroclone simply strikes me as unethical (and ungrateful) behavior.
In the end, though, I think that will be a self-correcting problem. The major freely-downloadable games (Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, LotFP) will continue to be played, at least in part because they have a built-in ease of access. The clones that are behind the Wall of Payme will likely sink into obscurity. It's a shame the seemingly-officially supported Swords & Wizardry Complete doesn't have a full free version, but that's the way things have been headed for a while.
(3) If you publish your game stuff, you too can look forward to people you barely know feeling entitled to tell you how you should go about your business, despite there being ample opportunity to learn about a thing before spending $10 on it. I asked his permission to publicly publish his "review," but he declined on grounds of wet-mouthed doughboy cowardice.
(4) Before I had even considered doing Planet Motherfucker as a book I had asked on G+ what systems I should consider test-driving the setting with. A number of OSR grognards stepped forward with some variation of "If it's not compatible with a retroclone, I won't play it." In every instance I looked at the names attached to that kind of comment and breathed a sigh of relief; they were exactly the guys I would never want to play a game with.
What's that? You insist on some content after that tedium death-march? Well, I guess you earned something. Here, have a craptastic map: