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What's changed for me since the Forge.

Started by Judd, April 06, 2005, 12:55:24 AM

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I always knew I could run a great game but  I wasn't sure what it took to make them consistently great.  The greatness just happened, like mana from heaven.

Some sessions were sublimely life-altering while others fell flat.

I thought that in order to make a game great I needed to write a single notebook paper batch of notes, mostly NPC names.  Now I realize that those names were bangs.  The Forge has distilled how I go about my gaming, honed it.  I learned here that it is not only the system and the fictional entities but the people at the table.  I knew that table chemistry had something to do with it all but wasn't sure how much.

Great games are not easy to come by but my batting average on successful games to flops has gotten better.

Kickers, Bangs, Beliefs, Instincts, Traits, Spiritual Attributes, Descriptors and GM-less play were ideas that we were groping towards and even stumbling over here and there but it was such a relief to see them written out, to see people wrestling with the same ideas that Jim and I had been.

Not even our gaming friends were all that interested in talking about what made a game work, so long as it did work.  But Jim and I liked to take the watch apart and look at the cogs, shine 'em up and remember when one worked for us or when one let us down.  And here is a place where people are putting the cogs back together in these wonderful new shapes for these wonderful new purposes, taking the dialogue that Jim and I always had on my mom's front porch and going well beyond us.

Suddenly, the system isn't something that is getting in my way or even something that just manages to stay out of my way long enough for a game to happen.  Suddenly, the system is helping me.  Suddenly, game rules can be followed to the letter and work.  I wasn't used to reading game books and running them to the letter.  We never did that, it wasn't our way.

Conventions that I know Forge-folk are attending are suddenly fun because I know I can sign up for one of those games and have a wonderful time, right off the bat.

The Forge is, more than anything else, a tremendous relief, a place where ideas and learning are king and queen.


Bill Cook

I used to be a D&D snob. And that's ironic, because I spent most of my time rehashing it. My position was: D&D is the Cadillac of RPG's; why look at another game by a company I've never heard of to do fantasy? How could it be anything more than Pepsi trying to copy Coke? (Which, I prefer Pepsi, BTW.)

I started to loosen up when my group got into M:TG. I had no idea a card game could be so damn fun. Like, as fun as an RPG.

Picking up Story Engine was a bit of a lark that, I now realize, prepared me for other games.

After getting back into an RPG group, finding the Forge, reading through the GNS articles (including M.J.'s excellent Applied Theory), buying TROS, Sorcerer and Burning Wheel and talking my group into trying something else besides 1st ed. AD&D, my whole RPG world has changed.

With TROS, we explored lethality, defense that costs and story-based heroic advantage. With Sorcerer, group chargen, multiple, inter-weaving storylines, modern setting and situation-driven play. During our Traveller campaign, I finally figured out how to connect to the GM's material from the player's seat: write your way in. I also stumbled on the play-multiplying technique of authoring your character's story to cross to other PC's (again, as a player). In WoD/V:tR, I was reminded of the malaise created by a total absence of player-to-player dialogue about how/where the game's going, the misplaced value of discovering what play is about and I got to fight (profitably) for the scene setup I asked for, damn it! (And I had a vision of myself as the GM, fucking up my player's setup in the name of realism. (Shudders.)) In BW, we used BITS in group chargen to seed storylines, played race as a heavily stamped cultural simulation, got the reward system firing like tossing sardines into a seal's mouth at a stage show at Sea World and worked out a rhythm of setting stakes and chaptering conflict.

I've come so far since Story Engine. RPG design has come so far since 1st ed. AD&D.  Thanks Jake. Thanks Ron. Thanks Luke. Thanks Clinton. Thanks Ralph & Mike. Thanks Vincent. And thanks to everyone else who's helped me out or inspired me.


Quote from: bcook1971I used to be a D&D snob.

I used to be a real narrativist snob.  I had no idea what that was but I thought that people who played for historical simulation or for hack and slash fun were just missing the point entirely.  I really used to think that their fun was inferior before I came here and realized that some games have different leanings and such.


The Forge has brought me one thing that everyone I game with values. But I will not talk about that thing yet. I will, instead, beat about the bush for a bit with lesser things that all add up to the one big thing the Forge has brought me.

The Forge has brought me into contact with guys like Mike Holmes, whose HeroQuest IRC game rocked with mighty guitar the likes of which could challenge even the opening riff of "The Immigrant's Song." I loved the game not just because it was fun for me as a player, but because it gave me one of my few chances to see in actual play action the ways that a GM as experienced as I am deals with modes of play that I had little experience in. Watching Mike handle players and characters did a great deal to solidify ideas I'd only had in nebulous other-spaces before.

The Forge has brought me terminology. Much as I'm not a GNSer, and often cry poopoo at the model, I freely acknowledge that terms that crawled out of the chthonic mire of its chaotic protoplasm have found usage at my gaming table and among my gaming circle. Having a word that at least points to an idea, even if it does so in a less than perfect way, is far better than having no word at all.

The Forge has brought me clarity of understanding about what I want and what others want out of RPGs. I, like so many others, used to live in a mire of ideas about what "RPGs are/should be" without having examined why I thought that or what value the RPing styles of others might have. Some time at the Forge has led me to believe that the unexamined RPG is not worth playing, but that if you know what you want out of it any game, from D&D to Dogs in the Vineyard can be fun.

The Forge has brought me a working understanding of the importance of the social contract in gaming. My wife, a long time gamer who still has little patience for fancy narrativist tricks and no patience at all for GNS jargon, often praises "those forum guys you talk to" for giving an enunciated, examined look at the social contract and how it works to build functional play. She's a big proponent of social responsibility in everything she does, and finding a way to use that passion to also make her games better has made her a happy woman. It's also started to rub off on others, many of whom have turned to me as of late and said, "So this other game was going shitty, and so I talked to the people I played with and told them what I was feeling and what I needed, and they talked with me, and now things are working out...." Funny that it's a surprise to all of us, but when you talk about things like adults, openly and honestly, they work out better.

These things have all added up to the greatest gift of all: The Forge has made me realize that I am a fucking mental retard. I spent years in school working on English, Cultural Studies, Rhetoric, and Psychology – and then would sit down at the table with the same thoughts and attitudes in my head that I had when I was 16. Oh sure, my methods had become more advanced, my tricks more subtle, my mastery of the one form I knew near perfect – but it wasn't enough, wasn't making me happy, wasn't giving me what I wanted. It was all of the things above, gifts of the Forge, that made me remember that I'm an intelligent human being with massive amounts of training in understanding how games, people, and words work – and I hadn't been using any of them in my favorite hobby. The Forge made me realize that thinking about game, working at game the way I worked at other things in my life, would make my games better. And not only did it give me that, it gave me my first pointers on how, exactly, to do it.

So thank you Forge, for making me realize I was a dip shit!
- Brand Robins

Frank T

I used to play all GM-driven. Now I want player input badly, but my old group just won't provide it. Also, we keep playing Star Wars d6, to my dismay. It's still ok, but not as much fun as it used to be, especially cause I have a hard time motivating myself for all the prep necessary. Well, at least I can play the games I really wanna play in IRC.

I used to think that the major differences in rpg designs were by what stats they measure a character's capabilities and what check, combat and health mechanics they have. Now, well, I opened my mind.

I used to think design was mostly about setting. Now I go thinking more about theme and mode. Not too much, though. Mostly I've learned to ask the question: "What is this game supposed to be like? And does this particular rule serve that purpose?"

Not much more than a year ago, I equipped myself with five boxes containing 12 books, to get to play the 4th edition of Germany's most popular rpg, "Das Schwarze Auge". Even read most of the stuff. Even thought it was good. Half a year later, I was at least using the setting with Unisystem Lite rules. Now I have this little booklet of 101 pages by the name of "Dogs in the Vineyard" on my table, right here beside me, and think that it's probably the best thing I've ever read and it's a damn shame I have no one to play it with.

Oh, I have also become initiator and moderator of the new rpg theorie channel in Germany's biggest general rpg forum, the GroFaFo. And I'll be doing a workshop called "Does it have to be that way?" at NordCon, our annual rpg convention here in Hamburg.

Nicolas Crost

What's changed for me since the Forge? Well, everything. :)

Victor Gijsbers

I used to tinker with AD&D2E. I used to write my own fantasy heartbreaker, that still didn't do what I wanted it to. I used to believe that my fantasy heartbreaker was wildly different from AD&D. I didn't understand why my roleplaying experiences were strangely unsatisfying.

Then I came across the Forge, read some stuff here and there, threw away my fantasy heartbreaker and started a long train of experiments with free-form and quasi freeform systems. I had fun, more fun than previously, but it still was not as satisfying as I felt it could be.

So I returned to the Forge. I bought My Life with Master and Sorcerer, and started by playing the first. I blew me away. I bought some more games. I tried to get the hang of bangs and stuff.

You know what has changed? I have more satisfying games. I still have unsatisfying roleplaying experiences now and then. But every time, with a little reflection, I know what went wrong, and I know what I can do to change it. I know there are many techniques I have not yet mastered. I know there is a lot to learn. But I know how to go about it, I know how to become better, I know how to have more fun. Thanks.

James Holloway

I was one of those guys stumbling toward a play style, hating almost everyone I played with because they didn't kick it the way I did. I know it sounds lame, but the Forge helped me make my peace with gaming. I enjoy it much more now, and I've never run games that made me happier than the ones I've run since I really started paying attention here.

I haven't come all over all Narrativist (well, maybe vanilla), but it's certainly done a lot to improve my play.


I actually run and finish games, instead of planning massive campaigns that collapse under their own weight after 8 sessions.

I use Kickers to design adventures around the players.

My horizons have expanded beyond D&D and White Wolf. Still haven't played Kill Puppies for Satan, though, which is the game that brought to the Forge in the first place.

I'm aware of the Social Contract, that it exists and how important it is.

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs

Jonathan Walton

Before the Forge, I was alone.  I knew that this thing called roleplaying had such amazing potential to be a medium for collaborative creations of fantastic splendor.  Nobody else was buying it.  I would have to prove it by myself.

Now, I'm not alone.  I have comrades in arms.  I can say stuff like: "What do you think of the potential for mechanics that aren't based on numbers or manipulating resources, but are instead guidelines about the kinds of in-game statements that can be made?"  I mean, where else could I say something like that and A) have people know what I meant, and B) take the idea seriously?

The Forge gave me a body of knowledge to define my own thoughts against.  Once I finally got a grasp on a significant chunk of the great stuff people spout on these pages, I could decide where my own experiences agreed and disagreed.  I could decide where I thought more work needed to be done, where more attention was needed.  It gave me a badly needed foundation, instead of trying to work from scratch.  And it gave me a sounding board for my own thoughts, where people would respond honestly and thoughtfully.

Most important of all, the Forge put me in contact with some brilliant and fascinating people, with whom I'm proud to associate with and, together, work towards the future of the medium.

Andrew Cooper

The Forge helped me to free my inner Gamist.  My friends and I spent so much time railing against and denigrating all those powergamers and munchkins but couldn't figure out why most of our own game experiences were so unsatisfying.  We played the games the way the DMG or other source materials said we were supposed to play but all that advice just seemed to fall flat in actual play.  Then I found this website that showed me that there wasn't anything wrong with the way I had secretly wanted to play all along.  I LIKE to Step On Up!  I like to take the risk and succeed or fail based on my own wits and a little help from the dice!  I like to maximize my character and watch it roar through the challenges like a well-tuned NASCAR!  Woot!

But the Forge didn't stop there.  It gave me the tools and techniques neccessary to begin mastering how to play and have fun.  The things I've learned here have breathed life and excitement in my regular gaming and I REALLY look forward to meeting some Forgites at GenCon this year and thanking everyone for their advice in person.

Andrew Norris

I game more and obsess about gaming less. That's definately an improvement for me. :)

I got back into gaming a few years ago through Neverwinter Nights, and developed Illusionist skills that myself as a fourteen-year-old DM would have killed for. I had notebooks full of maps and plots, the works. But it wasn't really doing it for me. After the time I've spent here, I realized that it didn't matter how good I got at feeding people a plot, it wasn't going to make me happy.

Now I talk about gaming with my fiancee, and I give her the whole spiel about stories having a theme and premise, and everybody at the table having an equal creative stake, and she smiles and goes, "Well, duh, how else would it work?" But it took me a year and a full campaign to finally shed the old habits.

Ben Lehman

Quote from: Andrew NorrisI game more and obsess about gaming less. That's definately an improvement for me. :)

Oh, yeah.  *Oh* yeah.

What can I say?  I could talk about how it brought me through a dark time in my gaming life, when I played a lot of games that I hated and hated myself for not having fun at them.  I could say how it has forced me to look at that and see it wasn't bad.  I could say it taught me what I was already doing right.  I could say it gave me a place to bring some realization to my ideas.  I could say it gave me a hell of a good group of friends.

But really what is important it is that it gave me Polaris, a game that I like so much I nearly want to cry when I play it.


P.S.  Ron and Clinton!  I hope you are reading these.

Eero Tuovinen

Before the Forge (and this starts literally before the Forge as we now know it) I had pretty much given up on roleplaying in favor of pure literature. I had hardly played for four or five years, preferring to hone my literature skills. I knew pretty much about what roleplaying is and how it's done, and I wasn't impressed.

Reading the Forge intermittently from 2001 or so onward, my interest got reawakened. The Edwards essays on theory singlehandedly proved to me that there's actually more cultured people in roleplaying than the local D&D geeks. From there it's been quite a ride...
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Andrew Morris

Quote from: PakaI used to be a real narrativist snob.  I had no idea what that was but I thought that people who played for historical simulation or for hack and slash fun were just missing the point entirely.  I really used to think that their fun was inferior before I came here and realized that some games have different leanings and such.
Ditto for me.
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