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[Ronnies] November results at last

Started by Ron Edwards, December 28, 2005, 02:16:46 PM

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Ron Edwards


I am over a month behind schedule for the November round of the Ronnies feedback. Everyone has been very patient with me, which I appreciate.

The real problems with being so late don't concern convenience and attention, however. What I've done is screw up the Ronnies plan. The plan was to have three rapid rounds to establish a standard of thinking, feedback, and awards. Then I wanted to scale back the efffort to every other month, but in hopes of fostering an ongoing Ronnies-like culture of game design and play which would persist between them, and with any luck, eventually, without them.

However, I broke the rhythm, at the worst point - creating a gap between the effort/enthusiasm, which at the start of the third round was extremely high, and the feedback/attention, which as I say wasn't ever supposed to be the real point, but it is the necessary primer. It's a big problem.

The point of the Ronnies was never to establish myself as a high judge of the quality of game design (and fortunately folks have not looked at them that way), but rather to inform people in the most practical way possible that they, too, could write games that they wanted to play. I also intended the awards to foster a community of mutual interest in one another's games, as well as to be plain fun.

So I have a request for you. It is to try to recall the interest and enthusiasm that brought your attention to the November Ronnies, whether as an author or an observer/reader. Let's see if we can keep this going despite my delay. Without further ado ...


HIGH RONNY - No need to explain what this category means.

General Mud

LOW RONNY - These are games that fulfill the conditions for a Ronny award, but presented minor points of confusion or points of frustration for me.

apocalypse girl, White Dragon, Holodomor, Krasnoarmeets, October's Shadows

RUNNERS-UP - These games are playable and generally good, but include a deal-breaker of one kind or another for me. I hate this category; every one of the games has merit and putting them here always wracks me with guilt.

The Long Patrol, Mud Dragon, Bylina & Bogatyr, A Song Without End, The Dragon vs. the Gun

BAKE IT, BETTY - These games score very high on my enthusiasm to play, but present fundamental design issues that require some correcting or adjustment across the board, i.e., throughout their systems. Playing them would require me, at least, to do some interpretative re-writing.

On the Ecology of the Mud Dragon, Dragons of Blood and Water, Defenders of the Union

GREAT NON-RPGS - As with both of the previous rounds, some of the entries ring my personal "not an RPG" bell, but I also think they are great starting designs for fun games - perhaps along the Cheapass model, or any other sort of cool non-standard board or card game. If the Ronnies were about "games" rather than "RPGs," these would be winners or near-winners.

Here Be Dragons!, Serpentine Thunder, The Saint's Golem and the Devil's Dragon, Stand Off!, Soviet Politics

GAME NOTION UNDER WAY - These entries all present excellent ideas for play and design, but at present, don't hold together as playable packages, at least not for me. However, I want to identify their strong features for the next stage of design.

Infinity, Delete, Stalin's Story, Dirty Virgins, Firestarter

Some observations
great spread across combinations
notice winners were mainly among newcomers!
14 out of 24 were new; in October round, 20 out of 26 were new
much higher bar this time; people are learning

For this batch in particular, it was incredibly hard to keep the games straight in my head, as they shared many similarities among techniques, terms, and meanings - yet not in the same combinations. So I'd be thinking, "OK, Dogs/dice mechanic, was this the one with the Soviet spies or the one with the politics?" Or, "OK, mud as slander, was this the one with the hidden cards to turn over, or is it the one with slander but not mud?" 

Some of the things which flew back and forth among these 24 games like bats include the finking/slander issue, Connections, Endgame, Escalation, Fact Tokens, and above all within-game, make-or-break judgments upon one another's characters and sometimes upon players.

The terms were far more evenly distributed across entries than in previous rounds, too.

soviet + dragon, 3 games
soviet + mud, 4 games
soviet + gun, 4 games
dragon + mud, 6 games
dragon + gun, 4 games
gun + mud, 3 games

Dragon + mud only pulled ahead in the last few days of the submission period, too.

I became interested in how the meanings of the term played out, especially because they were so divergent yet also fell into distinct categories. Here's my tally:

dragon = chaos principle 1, big magic lizard 8, dangerous unknown 1, satan/hell 2, psychic powers 1
gun = reason principle 1, literal weapon 7, mystic weapon 3
mud = knee-deep landscape 5, dissolution/confusion/death 3, slander 3, honest naturalness 2
soviet = grim society 3, spy game 2, Stalin 3, comedic 2, war/history 1

I was pretty impressed at how diverse and interesting "mud" turned out to be, much like "rat" in the September round. Not too surprising, I guess, given the idiomatic diversity the words simply have in English, but it's nice to see it expressed across the designs.

I'll begin posting about individual games in Indie Game Design tomorrow. I hope to hit a pretty good pace for that.


Frank T

Does, by any chance, the mentioning of "Mud Dragon" refer to my entry, "Mud Planet"?

- Frank

Ron Edwards

Ben Lehman

Yay!  Congrats to the winners and I look forward to the feedback.



Well done to everyone who entered! Can't wait to read more about the games and - hopefully - contribute something to the feedback.

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs



No prob on the delay, I'm just glad to see the results.  Big congrats to all the winners!  Can't wait to read the reviews.




Yay! How very exciting and surprising. Congrats to all (not least Ron for working through all the submissions while travelling to Berlin, during the holiday season. Oy.)

I hope to fulfill the rest of the deal and contribute meaningful feedback on all the submissions just as soon as I stop doing a mental Snoopy happy dance. I'm most happy because I think it means I've internalised some of the great and good theory I've been ready avidly for the last year or so. Huzzah!
Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14


Tobias op den Brouw

- DitV misses dead gods in Augurann
- My GroupDesign .pdf.


I know 'me toos' are frowned on, but I must also do the little dance of joy and agree that I've got to step up and make sure I give good feedback for all the entrants.

As for the delay - well there's been a lot of fire and motion on the Forge, in my life and even in my game design. Yes, the delay robs us of a little bit of momentum, but I think that the delay past the holidays makes it credible for us to begin serious work on publishing.

And a personal goal for the next round - convince one of my friends to make an entry.

Malcolm Craig

Great stuff. Well done as always to the winners and I'm looking forward to seeing how the feedback turns out for my own effort.

Malcolm Craig
Contested Ground Studios

Part of the Indie Press Revolution

Ron Edwards

All right, all right, thank you for your enthusiasm, but let's see it expressed by reading one another's games, responding to the feedback threads, and starting your own threads. Maybe even some actual play, eh?



Heya Ron,

Here's the question I always ask ya, because I find it all so interesting that one person would take it upon himself to help an entire comunity like you do.  I'd like to hear your feelings about the Ronnies so far and about what it means to you personally to have so many people participate, respond, and applaud your efforts.  Certainly it must be exhausting to read 20+ entries, but I detect an increase in enthusiasm and optimism in your feedback posts for this batch over October's.  Of course that could just be my own perception of things, but I'd like to hear your side.  Do you feel this contest is accomplishing what you wanted?  Is it helping the Indie scene in a way that you hoped, or is it still too early to tell?



Ron Edwards

Hi Troy,

Before anyone nominates me for the Altruist Sweepstakes, let's remember that Adept Press sales rely on my own presence and efforts toward the community as least as much as they do on word-of-mouth and experience of play. I want to get that front-and-center in addition to saying "thank you" to the compliments I've been receiving about the Ronnies.

Answering your question requires several responses, some of which might seem independent at first.

1. In the world of ideas, it might surprise people to know that my key concerns in RPG design are Color, reward systems, and Currency - all very techniques/ephemera oriented. In other words, brutally practical. I originally wrote "System Does Matter" as an orienter toward the eventual goal of discussing these things and applying them in new ways.

In other words, I considered, and still consider, GNS to be a no-brainer - obvious, clear, and simple. However, it took almost six years and the construction of the Big Model in order to explain it to the Body Internet. As far as I'm concerned, all that effort was a detour. I wanted to discuss Color, reward systems, and Currency. It is extremely frustrating to me to be labeled the "theory guy" and for a bevy of self-perceived young turks to congratulate themselves for getting "practical" as a form of rebellion. Inevitable, socially speaking, I suppose, but aggravating, especially for the author of such practical designs as Sorcerer and Elfs, and especially since I dug deep into the mechanics to help out many young turks with their games when they were pretty crappy drafts.

Now, the Ronnies permit me to get my hands dirty, at last, very publicly. I can illustrate the questions that need to be asked, and especially - especially! - illustrate that game design can begin from nearly any starting point (level, detail, etc) of what will eventually be the finished product. There is no "start here" on the board, in terms of techniques or procedures. The only really reliable one (and it's not universal) is Color.

2. In the world of enjoyment as a role-player, Paul Czege and I shared a major frustration by 2004. We missed the time about five years ago when we'd cruise through the internet and find cool little RPGs sitting there like islands, play them, and blow the author's mind by giving feedback. "Wow! Someone played my game? I didn't put it up there for nothing?" And for us, it was the best way to discover and consider what did and didn't work in given systems, and also to consider what issues needed to be addressed for a given game-in-draft. It was amazing what system innovations you might find sitting in some little crappy HTML Geocities webpage, as well to identify the crust of previous assumptions that were now so obviously mismatched and unnecessary. Does anyone here remember Ghost Light, by Doug Bolden? You should.

So the Ronnies are a way to get back there, and to remove the whole bullshit notion that the hobby is divided into Piddly Players and Noble Designers. Inspiration + Guts + Thought = a game to play, and Paul and I, and then Clinton when he joined the conversation, agreed that in early 2005, we'd had a bellyful of design that was based on solely on a debased form of Thought alone. It was time to get the Forge back to discovering the Inspiration simmering out there.

3. In the social/creative world, the current hobby is a cottage industry, and in such industries, mutualism is the key. People talk about the "Forge community," and the biggest internal steps to getting there so far were (a) the publication of the big essay ("GNS and other matters of role-playing theory"), (b) establishing the GenCon booth, (c) the Infamous Five essays,and (d) the Iron Game Chef contests. The trouble with all of those is that they facilitated people playing insider-ego status games on each other, and facilitated newcomers to exclude themselves unnecessarily ("Oh, I'm just a newbie," etc).

So we needed a new step. Clinton and I have annual powwows about what to do with the Forge, and every time, we've implemented our ideas successfully. 2005 was the year of stripping-down the forums, encouraging the Diaspora, recovering our original sense of snarling determination, getting a little clearer about ourselves at the personal level to all of you, and emphasizing our expectation of mutualism. You can review our posts throughout this last year in that light, and you'll see it.

That mutualism was the toughest one; no one can make anyone else want to help others. The Ronnies are a kind of reversed way of fostering it - people see me being mutualistic, and join in. It looks like a me-centered thing, but ultimately, it's clear that one man cannot, alone, review and play and help with all these games, even if we did restrict ourselves to the winners (which we shouldn't). People can see that they simply have to help, or they won't themselves get the real feedback they need.

4. I have been tremendously impressed by the Iron Game Chef and the 24-Hour RPG endeavors. Mike Holmes' work on the first was stellar, and the first round of the latter produced great stuff. However, by 2005, I was a little dissatisfied with both. The power was still there, but not the quantity and simple clarity that I'd hoped for.

The former had become "twee," with tons of terms and constraints that seemed messy to me rather than elegant. Yet it still produced a small number of awesome designs ... not enough, in my view, but the awesomeness was there. And it did indeed facilitate the "newcomer from the canebrake" effect, most dramatically Tim Kleinert and The Mountain Witch. And the latter, after an amazing start, trickled into a kind of desultory, low-yield endeavor, especially because people were making it harder than it had to be.

So, I took the elements I liked the best from each. From Iron Game Chef, I hooked the choose-from-terms idea, which I thought was great, but boiled into a more concentrated form; I wanted more thematic/Color unity among the entries rather than less, because interpretation of something like "rat" is what Inspiration is composed of. Four terms in combos of two seemed perfect. I also hooked the whole idea of a contest, because the competitive angle is important ... but as you can see, I muted it by making the Ronnies less about beating others and more about being good. I also decided to own the judging wholly myself, thus accepting that any subjectivity was simply up-front and unavoidable. Oh, and I added the money to give the whole thing bite ... you see, I mean it.

From the 24-Hour RPG, I took the whole basic concept, obviously, similar enough to be able to boost the success of that site through the awards. But I also wanted to emphasize what I saw as the primary opportunity of the idea, which is this: getting the whole vision of one's game into one place, in relatively few pages, is actually not all that hard. The hard part is getting over the mistaken and humpbacked misapprehensions that persist out there, even after six years of the Forge in place, about how to write a game.

Even more importantly, this little document is eminently usable. It may have holes, but you know where the holes are. It may have fucked-up mechanics, but you can see how they need to be fixed because the other parts are in place. I was deadly sick of projects like Fang Langford's Scattershot, in which he wrote and scribbled and re-tooled and refined, yet ignored the big picture because it was somehow too vast or too amazing ever to profane by being written out simply. I was similarly sick of projects like Jonathan Walton's notions, which as I saw it, got tangled up in deconstructive self-reference without ever actually becoming a set of 1-2-3 do-this procedures. My mantra is, fucksake, summarize in ten pages. Who cares if it's not all detailed yet? If I can see the bigger reward system, grasp the Currency, and get bug-eyed to transform the Color into System through play (think about that one!), then the hard work is over, and it's all playtesting and refinement from here.

Whew! I didn't write this big fuckin' post for myself, people. I already knew all this. I wrote it for you, so let's see what you think. Post a response about what part of it resonated with you, and why, or what parts you disagree with or think are misapplied in some way.



Quote from: Ron Edwards on January 02, 2006, 02:14:30 PM
Inspiration + Guts + Thought = a game to play

There it is for me.

I haven't entered anything into the Ronnies just yet but it has created the itch.  I want to make a game and play it.



Quotewhich is this: getting the whole vision of one's game into one place, in relatively few pages, is actually not all that hard. The hard part is getting over the mistaken and humpbacked misapprehensions that persist out there, even after six years of the Forge in place, about how to write a game.

-This is what it was for me.  I could only conceptualize HUGE games with tons of needless bullcrap and totally unfocussed play and reward systems.  Writing Cutthroat was the best thing that ever happened to me as a designer.  After that, I realized just how easy it is to come up with all the critical parts of a game and get it down on paper.  I now have to stop myself from coming up with new ones all the time just so can concentrait on the three I do have and get them finished.  The hard part, as I see it, is the revision-playtest-revision-playtest cycle.  Once I get that down, look out!