OneBookShelf Content Policy – One Year Later

Posted by on Sep 6, 2016 in Publishing | 0 comments

TL;DR Summary: One year after OneBookShelf implements new content policy, zero books have been banned.

Approximately one year ago, the role-playing game PDF behemoth OneBookShelf—the parent company of,, and other related sites—implemented a new Offensive Content Policy.

While OBS had banned one title in the past (the GamerGate card game), the title that catalyzed OBS into clarifying their offensive content policy was Tournament of Rapists – a d20 Modern supplement. You can read the full policy above, but the policy is essentially “Offensive Content: We’ll know it when we see it” with the additional elaboration of “Any title in which racial violence, rape, torture, or a similar subject is treated as a central feature will naturally be subjected to increased scrutiny.” To the best of my knowledge, the title in question was eventually withdrawn from OBS by the publisher (which is also chronicled by the publisher here.)

When the policy was introduced, there was a fair amount of discussion in gaming groups on the potential impact. The responses ranged from the skeptical:

Tenkar’s Tavern:

Now, for all this talk of censorship I see being thrown around – OneBookShelf has the right to publish or not publish as it see’s fit. I really don’t see a problem with them refusing to distribute a product that they find to be offensive. Do I think their solution to the issue that is detailed below is going to work? I suspect there will be abuse of the system. I expect the system will change over time in response to such abuse.

…to the irate:

LotFP blog:

Without the ability to freely create, and freely reach people who might be interested in those creations, participation in this hobby and this industry is simply not worth doing.

Anyone who would restrict that creativity, or make it more difficult to find people who are creating things you might enjoy, anyone who restricts imagination and works of fiction, anyone who works to ban any work, is simply evil.

As a casual blogger, the only title that I was personally aware of that came under scrutiny after the new policy went into effect, was Alpha Blue by Venger Satanis. Judging from the publisher’s blog posts it looks like it was temporarily suspended on Mar 21, and re-instated on Mar 23.

Back to the point of this entry: where did we end up?

When the OBS policy was implemented, I put a reminder to check in a year later to check in on the potential impact. Was there a plethora of titles being flagged? Could we surmise if the new system was being abused or not?

I reached out to OBS and asked them a couple of questions to see the results of the policy. Here’s the response I received:

Since the installment of the Customer Report Tool, less than 10 RPG titles have been reported and none have been banned. As of note, we’re not including in that number RPG titles for community content programs like DMsGuild (where more titles get reported for other reasons like copyright violation when people post covers using World of Warcraft images and such).

So… less than 10 titles were flagged and of those none were actually banned from the site (copyright issues aside). I’m not sure how many titles are uploaded in a 12-month period—I suspect somewhere between the 100s or potentially 1000s)—but the figures provided would indicate that there doesn’t seem to be any trends of abuse in the system. IMHO, good news for content publishers concerned about abuse of the program.

Sept 10, 2016 Update. Great minds think alike. Community Favorite +Bob Brinkman has begun a much more in-depth series on this very topic and he’s posting his series of articles over on Tenkar’s Taven. You should go check his article out too 🙂