Precis Intermedia Selling Softcover Compilation of 2013 One Page Dungeon Contest on


As a submitter and a winner in the 2013 contest, I was startled this evening to find this:

The One Page Dungeon Contest 2013 Softcover

and this:

The One Page Dungeon Contest 2012 Softcover

What the fuck is going on here Alex Schroder Schroeder (listed as "author") and Brett M. Bernstein (listed as "compiler")?

Both are listed as being published by Precis Intermedia.

Yes, it's perfectly legal to do this, as the entries were submitted under a Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. But it still would have been nice to be notified.

This is seriously a dick move. If Alex is making money off of the community efforts, I'm going to be seriously pissed.

So, Alex--what is going on here?


As you can read in the comments below, Alex finally responded to my queries:


David Brawley said…
I remember reading something about this a while ago, but I can't find it right now, and I don't think Alex was involved in this.
theGimpier said…
Hello. These books were made available as a service to fans of the 1PDC. This isn't some money-making scheme, as the books are full-color and costly to get into distribution. Alex has made several posts about both books on Facebook and elsewhere. There are far too many individuals involved to notify them separately. Amazon doesn't also list authors correctly - in other words, there has to be a single author. Thanks.

Brett Bernstein
Precis Intermedia
mwschmeer said…

Thanks for your response, Brett. It's a great non-apology. But I think you owe the contributors to those books an apology.

As the publisher of that book, you are making money off the sale. Even if it is less than $1.00 per book, that's more money than the people who submitted the work are making from its publication,

There were only 70ish entries this year. Sending a mass email to everyone would have been the right thing to do. And since most of the authors list contact info on their entries -- emails or blog URLs, there is NO EXCUSE to not contact them individually.

Not everyone is on Facebook or Google+ (like me). And I don't follow Alex's blog on a regular basis (way too many programming posts for my liking, and sometimes he posts in German, too). I haven't seen one post about this in any of the forums that Alex posts the contest announcements in, either. Neither you nor Alex did due diligence to reach ALL the authors.

In other words, I see a lack of ethics here.

I'm not objecting to the publication--I am objecting to being kept in the dark about the publication. Why didn't Alex or anyone say that a book would be published when he made the call for submissions? That's is also a bit galling. I have no problem with a free PDF being distributed via DriveThruRPG as happened in previous years, as Alex indicated that he'd be doing so at the time of the contest announcement. But that didn't happen here. As far as I know, there was NO WORD that this book was being published in any of the places that Alex pops in to drum up entries. Even an announcement or a post on the One Page Dungeon Contest page would have been a step in the right direction.

Finally, I shouldn't have to purchase a book in which my work appears without my knowledge or consent. That's just wrong. When I have a poem published in a literary journal, I get a copy of that issue for free -- even if the poem is a haiku. At the very least, you should give a discount to those folks whose work you are making money off of.

While you are legally free to reproduce the work, I stand by my comment that it was a dick move to not notify the contributors on an individual basis. There is a difference between what is legal and what is ethical, and you've crossed it.

I've never bought anything from Precis Intermedia, and you just guaranteed that I never will.
theGimpier said…
I'm sorry you feel that way. Good day.
mwschmeer said…
Again, another non-apology, this time in the form of a fauxpology!

How I feel isn't the issue. Even if I was as happy as a pig in shit, it wouldn't make what you did right or ethical.

What is the issue is your action as a publisher. Saying "I'm sorry you feel that way" isn't an apology--it is a shifting of the blame from the one who did an action to the one who responded to that action. It's an underhanded rhetorical tactic that is meant to easily dismiss a charge or argument.

So, fake apology not accepted.
Alex Schroeder said…
Have another non-apology, then. The tone is way over the top.
mwschmeer said…

And yet still no explanation. I like how you both keep dodging the issue.

Can either of you explain the thought process behind the decision to offer a print version without notifying anyone -- even in an announcement on the 1PDC pages?

I did a search on your blog, Alex. You never mentioned the book being produced. Period. The only public references I can find is to the 1PDC Google+ Community -- which does not have a lot of members -- and to Precis Intermedia's blog. That's it. So where were the announcements? Where was the open, public discussion about this? Why not mention to the writers and artists that this was going to happen?

You can complain about my tone all you want. That's one of the weakest dismissals of someone's argument that you can make. Complain about my tone and you can dodge actually answering the question, right? No.

I'm not the one taking money and selling something I didn't create without notifying the contributors.

I'm not accusing you of breaking the law--the Creative Commons license allows you to print the book. But morally, what you did was shit. You should have notified the contributors--whether it was required by the license or not. That's just the right thing to do. And it was fairly simple to do, too, since you have all the email addresses of everyone who entered, as they submitted entries to you via email.

So, what's your explanation for not telling anyone that this was in the works? Help me understand why I should be happy instead of annoyed. What's going to happen to any profits from this? Will it go into your bank accounts or will it fund prizes in next year's 1PDC? A little transparency on your parts would be appreciated. If this is a fund raiser or something then I can see why it would be a good thing to promote it. But there's been scant promotion and little discussion and no notification.

So answer the questions and don't just dismiss the questions because you don't like the tone. Man up and take responsibility for your actions instead of trying to shift the discussions. If I am off-base here, explain why. But don't dismiss the questions because they make you uncomfortable -- which they clearly do or else you would have explained the situation already somewhere else in clearer detail.
Alex Schroeder said…
I don't feel like talking to some dude on the Internet that instead of sending an email if he has a question starts out with a blog post calling what I did a dick move. Send me an email when you have calmed down.
Alex Schroeder said…
I need to discover this via a Google Alert? WTF.
Porky said…
@ Alex - Matt's not alone in wondering, and isn't the only person affected. Even the people who saw the call and considered contributing might reasonably ask why they weren't told directly this might happen. Maybe the way Matt chose to raise the question wasn't the most tactful, but now it has been asked, it can't hurt to respond openly. Surely not everyone needs to send an email, especially when many presumably don't know they might have to.
Alex Schroeder said…
mwschmeer said…

You don't get to choose how someone raises an issue. Call it an angry rant if you want--I call it more of a midnight shocked reaction. But the fact is that you were less than forthcoming until I openly raised the issue.

And thank you for finally addressing openly addressing the issues I inquired about and in greater detail than an announcement on social media sites. I think you've covered all the bases here.

Maybe next year you can be more forthcoming about the plans for the contest entries and/or compilation.
ClawCarver said…
I have an entry in the 2012 collection. Like you, I was startled to learn that the book was available to buy. (Had it not been for your post, I would perhaps never have known, so I'm grateful to you for that.)

Is it legal? Clearly.
Is it ethical? Maybe.
Is it courteous? Assuredly not. The argument that "there are far too many individuals involved to notify them separately" is arrant nonsense.

Perhaps common courtesy is an antiquated notion, but I set great store by it. For that reason, I certainly won't be contributing to the One Page Dungeon Contest again.

A shame.
mwschmeer said…

Bryce Lynch said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
mwschmeer said…
@Bryce, who deleted his comment:

It's not "nerd rage." I'm not angry over some small trivial detail or whether DC is better than Marvel. Yes, Alex should have contacted everyone who submitted -- under a 100 people is not that large of a mailing list.

You are right that CC license stated that work could be used for commercial purposes. But Alex and Brett never stated they intended to do so at any point in time until after the fact. It would have been courteous and ethical to tell people that their names would be appearing in a printed publication placed for sale that they would not be receiving any payment for.

This is why I changed the Use License for this site, and why I will not be participating in the contest again. Of course, that's no big loss to anyone.
Bryce Lynch said…
I thought better of it soon after posting it. But since you commented:

Oh the humanity! Oh the injustice you've suffered! How ever shall you go on! Wail the mourners and gnash the teeth! Rend the clothing and wail, wail of the harm done unto you!

It's a fucking compilation of something that you agreed to. You make yourself look like a idiot by making a big deal over it just because you feel slighted or because someone didn't kneel down and kiss the ring.

Your bullshit attitude of entitlement is lame. Or, you're having a bad couple of days, in which case you get a pass.
Joshua L. Lyle said…
mwschmeer, I looked over your Use License section. You directly contradict the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license by trying to wrap it in additional requirements. If you don't actually want people to use it as stated, I would suggest that you should probably take it down in favor of a license that actually satisfies your desires, as the status quo is confusing.
mwschmeer said…
@Joshua: How so? Please explain.
mwschmeer said…
@Joshua: After reading the Creative Commons FAQ, I think I see your concerns. If you'd be so kind as to take a look at the re-worded Use License page and let me know if I am clearer, I'd appreciate it.
Joshua L. Lyle said…
@mwschmeer Much clearer. Thanks.