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Author Topic: The Forge as a community (Thread #5 of 5)  (Read 26381 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2002, 09:33:37 AM »

Hi Maurice,

I suggest that the band situation permits more room for non-friends in the band because of the shared desire/contract to succeed commercially. The non-friends are at least allies in that shared interest. Few if any role-playing situations can be said to offer commercial payback for the act of play.

Still, though, I see your point - and I agree with you, basically, that Matt's claim is perhaps too 1:1, and that the Social Contract of play is not necessarily the same thing as friendship. In my piddly-model so far, Liking Others holds Socializing with Them holds Role-playing - and "friendship" is not mentioned. It seems to me that it's an independent variable.

Best,
Ron
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2002, 09:43:26 AM »

For awhile I was with Mike & Matt, but I've finally got something to grasp onto --


What's the Point of a Discourse Community?


Well, I think the point is where its going? Where is the Forge going? What direction is it pushing roleplaying? There's a lot of energy going into this place, for what purpose?

I'm not saying this is what is happening, just where I think the natural evolution of roleplaying should lead us.

First, I think, Ron, you're missing a crucial thread -- "Is roleplaying art?" It's an entertainment yes, but is it like movies, novels, and comics or is just a parlor game? Without that thread, for now, I'd say yes, it's art.

A class I recently took on Children's Literature informed me that kids learn to read in stages, the key is that each stage builds on the other:

1) They learn to decode writing
2) They learn to plot, usually through exploring genre
3) They grasp characterization
4) They explore the story through setting -- which is really a way of saying the prose or the camera shot or the composition of the panel is reinforcing a theme or emotion

Where's roleplaying? I'd say plot through genre. I'd love to see roleplaying move to characterization, at the least. Now, I haven't had a chance to play Dust Devils or Sorceror, so maybe its there. Am I just talking Narrativism here? Am I just talking GNS'isms here? Or can literary elements be seperated from that? Can roleplaying become literature in all its forms?

Is the Forge moving roleplaying into a literature? In ten years, will the work done on the Forge be seen as a stepping stone toward making roleplaying a legitimate artform, or are we pissing in a vacuum here?

And if roleplaying is an art, whose the artist -- the player or the designer?

I have no real answers just questions.


Enjoying the Roleplaying


Do people think enjoying roleplaying and being friends are mutually exclusive? I don't know -- I can't imagine roleplaying with someone I didn't like, but everyone here thinks it happens all the time.

What does this have to do with roleplaying design? Are we talking about the creation of incoherent rules made to keep the big boogeyman "balance?" Are you saying some rules are designed to enforce people to play nice? That roleplaying has spent too much time with the GM vs Player dictomy (sp?)?

Personally, I think the culprit you're really looking for is sportsmanship. People can be friends with others during a game, and tempers still flare up. I chalk it up to being a bad sport. Or, more importantly, I attribute to people unable to seperate their self-worth from play -- avatarism.

To bring this back to the main issue I see arising -- what direction is the Forge moving roleplaying -- is the Forge to move roleplaying into a literature by ignoring or tackling the issue of sportmanship?


The Three Boxes


I think the 3 boxes are a bad idea. For one, I really do think the 2nd box is pointless -- why is socialization outside of roleplaying important to roleplaying? What hobby requires I have friends outside of it to make it work? For take two examples tangentially related to roleplaying -- sports and drama. Do I need beers with someone to play football with them? What about acting -- does it require me to be chummy with my fellow actors?

I think the 3 boxes model is flawed.

Also, I'm not seeing what psychological or sociological theory of roleplayers has to do with game design. Well, maybe I do, in a few of ways:

1) It's about identifying dysfunction. I don't think its an accurate model to do this, because I think its assumptions are wrong,

2) The Forge is not just about game design, but about roleplaying in all its aspects,

or

3) It's a way of identifying the audience of roleplayers. That of course, begs question, what do we do with that audience?

And it returns to: what direction is the Forge pushing roleplaying? Art? Hobby?

If we're identifying the audience for commercial purposes, then we're tailoring our games to our audience, so they'll buy them. And if that's it, isn't this just marketing? Demographics? Why do we need a psychological theory?

But if we're creating art -- then we're trying to push our audience in new directions. Money's not an issue. And then again, why the psychology? If I'm pushing them ahead, why the psychology?

Maybe I'm way off tangent with all of this, but frankly this thread seems to be a hodge-podge of discussing issues already come about so far, and not the big unifying thread I was expecting. Which is only fair, I think I got a little to worked up about it, anticipating it.

Take care, Steve Dustin
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2002, 09:47:30 AM »

Hello everybody,

Here's why this thread is more than a hodgepodge.

It's a major point for me that has emerged from the four threads so far, and it has everything to do with the primary activity at the Forge, independent game design. The logic goes ...

1) When a person creates something (film, novel, RPG) that shares interest with another, it's because the content "speaks" to the second person. What jazzes you, jazzes me. Or, in some cases, what jazzed you in way X, jazzes me too in way Y.

2) The personal commitment and personal spin brought to the creative work - the extent to which it jazzes and satisfies its own creator - is precisely what the audience member (or user, in the case of a musical instrument or an RPG) is responding to.

Which is to say, the more a work expresses a personal vision, the more likely it is to appeal to its audience.

3) People do indeed like fantasy, horror, humor, sex, biography, historical, adventure, and surreal fiction. Some like one, some like them all, but in the main, people like these things a lot. Enough of them like any particular spin on one or more of them that a product with potential fo r#2 above has a pretty good chance of getting a customer base, if it can get the attention of those people.

Now for all the qualifiers.

a) I am not speaking of the whole audience, out there, meaning everybody. I am referring to content, not to numbers. I am speaking of some number, however many, of people who say "Spoo! That's all about what I like!"

b) I am not talking about "attracting new people to the hobby." That is a possible outcome, yes, but I'm really talking about attracting anyone who's interested in this topic, completely regardless of whether they do or do not already role-play.

c) I am not claiming that personal vison automatically means "good." I am saying, however, that when it is good, it's what people want.

I am attempting to break the apparently very-deeply-embedded misconception that in order to appeal to a viable target market, the product must not express a personal vision and must instead be based on some other thing - usually a cobbled-together imitation of some thing that's been successful in the past. I am attempting to say instead that personal-vision role-playing games have a real audience awaiting them, in which they stand or fall based on their merits.

Broken dreams:

"We have to make it more accessible so it can't express what you, the author, want to say. It has to express, oh, something, I dunno, that 'they' must want out there. I dunno. Make it like D&D or Vampire, but different." This is wrong because it diminishes the interest of anyone who'd connect with the author upon reading it, with no particular reason to attract the attention of committed D&D or Vampire customers.

"We have to give it a great cover, hard-bind it, put up an ad in GCQ, get ads into Dragon and anywhere else, flood RPG.net with brightly-smiling canned reviews and perky responses to posts, send free copies to distributors, go on demo tours across the country, send out free dice or posters or some such thing, provide a new supplement every two months (making the first coincide with the GM-screen!), and ..." This is wrong because it mistakes the three-tier distribution and retail chain for the actual customers, and focuses on initial deep-order rather than long-term use-base. The distributors and retailers do not connect with the product.

Instead: say what you want to say with your game. Have it play the way you want to play it. Make sure that it speaks to you, not to some group you want to please. If you publish it through the stores, yes, meet certain needs of the three-tier chain - but only those needs which benefit you as well, not any and every need they plead for.

Now that's the Forge, all over. Has been from the beginning. Can anyone see that our distressed and self-imposed confusions about "mainstream," "stores," "us [gamers] vs. them," and "accessible design" are counter-productive?

Best,
Ron

P.S. Steve, more points about the boxes-thing are coming soon. For now, I'll say that you're significantly mis-reading the middle box. As long as role-playing is recognized as a sub-set of socializing, then we're good - picture the socializing box, in this case, as being just a weeny infinitesmal bit bigger than the role-playing one.
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2002, 10:06:22 AM »

Quote
Instead: say what you want to say with your game. Have it play the way you want to play it. Make sure that it speaks to you, not to some group you want to please. If you publish it through the stores, yes, meet certain needs of the three-tier chain - but only those needs which benefit you as well, not any and every need they plead for.


If I'm reading this right, then this seems quite similar to the Tynes quote, which I can't remember verbatim but goes something like, "I design games for people who are me."

It seems like the right place to start, especially as folks are bringing art into the equation.  The first priority in art is expression, not commercial viability.  So a focus on expression seems right.  If you can make it commercially viable as well, then more power to you!

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf
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Seth Ben-Ezra
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2002, 10:26:24 AM »

Ok, so what I'm hearing is:

1) The Forge is a community of designers foremost

2) Roleplaying design is being hindered by the economics of the RPG scene

3) That a designer needs to divorce the two -- in other words -- spend time making "art" and not product

Ok, Yes.

4) The Forge is about making this happen

Ok, Maybe.

A couple of points -- I think the majority of people create to be "validated." I think that's a bad impulse -- one I'm only now starting to "get." With that said, I think that's why so many games die on the Indie Design page (or use to anyway). No validation for their idea.

This really is the fundamental issue to making any kind of art, whose it for? When you say "yourself," its very noble, but I don't think people realize what it takes to do art for "yourself." Hell, I'm not even sure I do, yet, but I'm working on it. Motivation is in there. And stick-to-it-ness.

But there's more to it then that. Do people create without validation, and remain satisfied?

So, how does the Forge reinforce this? I'm not gonna make any sweeping proclamation but just a question: Can someone make a game at the Forge without receiving any validation? What would that look like?

As for the boxes, sure, Ron. I'll take your word for it. I can wait.

Take care,
Steve Dustin
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: December 03, 2002, 10:44:17 AM »

Hello,

Something's going very wrong all of a sudden.

What's all this about art VS. commercial viability? I am saying exactly the opposite: that a role-playing game is more commercially viable insofar as it is art.

By "art," I mean the "jazz you + jazz me" connection, nothing else.

By "viable," I mean "attractive enough to some people that they will pay for it," and "sustainable," not overwhelmingly hugely movie-signing viability.

Unless I'm mistaking something, both Steve and Seth seem to have read the previous posts rather differently.

Anyway, here's another Larger Picture goal of this thread (back to the "what's the point" thing). Do the stores and the three-tier in general serve the valid creator + audience connection? In the main, no, they don't. Their only claim to fame at the moment is that they permit the commerce to occur at all, which is to say, in the absence of an alternative. Such an alternative is in development right now, from many different angles. I'd like to get some discussion about that in terms of the Forge's identity as well.

Best,
Ron
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #21 on: December 03, 2002, 11:03:28 AM »

Whoops.  That's what I get for posting in a rush.

Let me clarify myself then.

I tend to think that a game that is an honest expression of the beliefs and desires of the designer will tend to be a better product than one that is primarily attempting to target a market audience.  I also agree that an obvious passion for a game that shows in the game itself will make a game more attractive.  When I was talking about "commercial viability", I was referring to the tendency to try to find a market segment and aim a product at them.

Case in point.  I have zero illusions that Legends of Alyria will be the source of the next RPG craze that sweeps the nation.  However, I don't plan on aiming it at some supposed target market.  I plan on designing it in a way that satisfies my goals for it.  I do happen to think that there are folks out there who will enjoy it, but I think that I will win an audience with them by having a game that oozes with passion.  Passion that is infectious.  The sort of passion that says "I designed this game and I love it and you'll want to love it by the time that you're finished reading this."

And, as I think about it, the RPGs that are currently residing at the top of my "favorites" list (e.g. Nobilis, Unknown Armies) demonstrate this passion.  And it's infectious.

If that's what you're saying, Ron, then we're not in disagreement here at all.  Hope we're back on the same wavelength.

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
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Valamir
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« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2002, 11:22:07 AM »

Quote from: Steve Dustin
A couple of points -- I think the majority of people create to be "validated." I think that's a bad impulse -- one I'm only now starting to "get." With that said, I think that's why so many games die on the Indie Design page (or use to anyway). No validation for their idea.


I'm not sure what you're getting at Steve.  "Die on the Indie Design Page".  What games die on the Indie Design Page?  Do you mean ideas that get discussed and batted around but don't result in a for sale product?  I'd hardly call that death...take the artist/illustrator of your choice.  For every full complete finished and sold (or at least displayed) work they have I bet you'll find a sketch book full of stuff in various stages of completion that will never reach a finished product...are all of those "pictures that died in the sketch book"?  I think not.


Quote from: Ron Edwards
Anyway, here's another Larger Picture goal of this thread (back to the "what's the point" thing). Do the stores and the three-tier in general serve the valid creator + audience connection? In the main, no, they don't. Their only claim to fame at the moment is that they permit the commerce to occur at all, which is to say, in the absence of an alternative. Such an alternative is in development right now, from many different angles. I'd like to get some discussion about that in terms of the Forge's identity as well.


Actually I was a little disappointed that that WASN'T what #5 was about.  I'd love to have that discussion, but to get it started I think we need a summation of exactly what a distributor is and what they do.  I know that they physically take ownership of the game and then push it down to the retailers...in my business we call that Underwriting.  And I know that they take a huge cut of the proceeds (in my business its the same...the people who really get rich on an IPO are the Investment Bankers...the distributors of the shares).   But what do they do really?

It needs to be broken down:
Warehouseing
Advertising
Retail order fulfillment
etc.

Only by fully understanding what exactly it is that a distributor does can we begin to talk about alternatives at anything more than the gross conceptual level.

For instance, how much inventory does a distributor actually carry?  If you whacked the stuff that hasn't sold in 3 years and expected publishers to warehouse the bulk of their own unsold stock so that the distributor only carries what they reasonably expect to move over 3-6 months how much warehouse space would that require...is that how they do it now?

How many individual retail game stores ARE there in the country.  How many seperate shipments are being made.  What is the typical size of a shipment to a retailer.  I've been present at game stores when the UPS guy rolls in 2 or 3 big boxes...but what's the norm.  Do they order 15-20 books at a time...100-200 books at a time?

What kind of differences are their between orders to large retailers and to small.

Is there any way currently for a publisher to know whether a game has actually sold vs how many copies are sitting in the bargain bin at retail stores?  I've been in retail stores where sales were written on little scraps of paper with names and Xs and then reconciled a couple times a year with a hand count.  I've been in stores where every single item is barcoded and scanned and the owner can tell exactly to the minute when an item sold, which salesman sold it, and (for customers with VIP discount cards) which customer bought it.

Do distributors ever make an effort to determine what of what they've sold to the retailer the retailer has actually sold.  REAL wholesalers do...by that I mean the companies who provide provide product to supermarkets and department stores.  They know in great detail what products are selling and what seasonal cycles there are to the sales.  If RPG distributors aren't performing even this basic function I'd really start to wonder what the hell they do to earn their cut.

But all that has to be the starting point.  We need some massive essay on how the 3 tier system works...not an evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses, but literally who are the players and what services do they actually provide.
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jrients
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« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2002, 02:55:30 PM »

Quote from: Steve Dustin
Ok, so what I'm hearing is:

1) The Forge is a community of designers foremost


I believe this sentiment has been expressed twice now in this thread.  Am I the only non-designer in this forum?  I feel like a member of the community, but perhaps I'm just kidding myself.

To me, the Forge as a community seems to be all about enabling better play.  Design is forefront because better design enables better play.  Dysfunctional play is dissected because it enables better play by giving clues as to what not to do.  The resource library and reviews exist to enable better play by offering new and innovative options.  The kind of frivolous chitchat I participate in at other sites is discouraged because it does not serve the goal of enabling better play.

That's my take on the Forge identity: a community dedicated to better play.  That's why as a player I come to the Forge.
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Jeff Rients
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: December 03, 2002, 03:05:22 PM »

Hi jrients,

I agree with you. I don't agree with Steve that we're a community of "designers foremost," and I don't understand how he read that from any of the posts so far.

I can see how individual needs vary, certainly. Pound for pound, a lot of design goes on at the Forge or by people who regularly stop by. If someone's personal gain from the Forge is design help or discourse, where's the harm in that - just as, if your personal gain concerns play, where's the harm in that either.

Steve, I really don't see where or how you get the idea that design is placed as the central feature of the Forge. Take a look at my longer post above: all of its issues apply equally to creator and to customer/user. This is especially relevant to role-playing because the "designer" is merely a subset of "user population" in the first place.

Best,
Ron
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #25 on: December 03, 2002, 03:20:27 PM »

Hi all,

Another quick side note:  As someone who recently posted the glimmerings of a game design on the Indie Game Design forum and let the thread drop into oblivion, let me emphasize that I don't consider the effort dead or anything but well-served by putting it up on the forum in the first place.  In my case, and perhaps this speaks to the experience of other proto-designers, I found I needed a great deal more serious thinking and tinkering before I was ready to continue the discussion.  The feedback I did get was by no means terminal; it was constructive and gave me plenty of grist for the mill.  When the mill has ground through it all, I'll be back to solicit another - hopefully more extensive - round of comments.

Best,

Blake
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #26 on: December 03, 2002, 05:43:08 PM »

Aww, crap. I guess I'm having a hard time pulling this thread together, getting to the core of what it's about.

The "died at Indie Design" is a red herring. My point wasn't about ideas "dying," it was that one of the reasons someone creates is to be validated by others. This whole tangent is probably best left to another thread.

Apparently I'm not on the same wave length as everyone here. I'll just ask: Am I wrong in saying this thread is about the Forge's function? It's purpose?

And have the following things been brought up as part of its purpose: pushing the boundaries of roleplaying design, fixing dysfunctional play, and connecting games (created with personal vision) with the "users" who will enjoy them?

Sorry about that.

Steve Dustin
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Clay
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« Reply #27 on: December 03, 2002, 06:49:04 PM »

First, I'll say that The Forge does seem to have a bias towards designer support, at least in the general forums.  But there is definitely support for improving the role playing, especially in the Actual Play forum, and certainly in the individual company forums.

Something that I think would support both the designer and the player is more discussion on improving play. Although I tinker with my own designs, my real concern is running good games in any system.  I think that management and preparation skills as a GM are very important to this.  I'd love to see articles on (and am willing to contribute) how to create and run a scenario driven by situation, such as Call of Cthulhu or Traveller.  I'd really like to see articles on how to prepare and run scenarios that are character driven. I am weak in these things, which are essentially interpersonal and management skills (there's a reason I chose a position as a low level grunt-and-click programmer).
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Clay Dowling
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #28 on: December 03, 2002, 08:42:02 PM »

Quote from: Ron
Can anyone see that our distressed and self-imposed confusions about "mainstream," "stores," "us [gamers] vs. them," and "accessible design" are counter-productive?


Thanks, Ron.  I needed that.

Too often, I think, I get caught up in thinking that goes like: Hmm, there's not enough games like X.  In fact, there's not even a single game like X currently being published.  Wouldn't it be cool if there was a game like X?  Hey, why don't I create a game like X?

This type of thinking completely ignores the fact that I might not want to create a game like X.  Heck, I might not even be able to.  What I want is for someone else to do it, but, since it doesn't look like it's going to happen, I decide to take on the task myself.

Prime Examples
-- the Great American Roleplaying Game
-- a game accessible enough for anyone to play
-- El Dorado
-- a Fortune-less, GM-less system that supports various GNS styles of play and can tapdance

It's long past the time where I should have stopped writing the games I think I should be creating and started writing the games I actually want to create right now.  Thanks for smacking me upside the head.  Hopefully, that will clear the confusion for a bit.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 on: December 03, 2002, 10:13:27 PM »

Hi Steve,

Spoink! I think your last post nails it nicely. What do you think about the community-issues I've raised? What sort of individual choices and self-examinations characterize the social goals that you've listed?

Best,
Ron
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