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Diaspora: How I Learned 2 Stop Worrying & Love the Forge

Started by Jonathan Walton, February 03, 2005, 01:20:48 PM

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Jonathan Walton

So I posted the following text over on Vincent's Blog, but I thought that it was important enough to bring over here and maybe talk about a bit with both old timers and new timers.

Quote from: IDudes, the Forge Diaspora (I mean, face it, that's what we are) is still out there doing damn cool stuff.  It just ain't happening on the Forge anymore.  That's sad but also inevitable.  Maybe the Forge will be back.  Maybe it's basically done all it can do.  In any case, the future moves on with or without it.

Instead (or additionally), check out what's happening with upstarts like Wicked Dead, what's happening on various peoples' Livejournals, what's happening on 20-by-20 Room and similar online communes, what's happening in indie_netgaming.  Heck, give me another couple months and you can see some of it happening in PUSH.  The Great Work goes on.  Be a part of it.  Get jazzed.  Get pumped.

Start thinking less one-dimensionally.  So you can't get all your progressive roleplaying needs met in one source anymore.  Branch out.  Do multiple things at once.  Start multiple conversations going in multiple places.  Think multi-disciplinarily.  

I'm really, really excited about post-Forge roleplaying theory and the games that'll come out of it.  Just think, we get to cut free of the limited terminology and keep the same great ideas!  We get to start saying things in new ways instead of the same way all the time!  Damn, I've got so much personal agency to influence the future of roleplaying that I can't stand it!  I should forget my scholarship and write theory and games for the rest of my life!  Woohoo!

I should comment that if the Forge is going to be cutting-edge-relevant in the theory world for much longer (if it hasn't already been passed by), I doubt it's going to be because of people like Ron, Mike, or even Vincent.  I doubt it's going to be because of the people that stumbled upon the Forge and became vocal in the second half of 2002 or early 2003 (including myself).  I think, if it's going to happen at all, it has to come from people who've come on board in the last year & a half (or at least people who've recently or have yet to come out of the woodwork.

I should also say that, looking back at my participation here, I don't feel much ownership of the big block of Forge Theory.  I don't feel like I did much to help construct it, though I spent a hell of a lot of time trying to understanding it (and there are still so many things that I don't get).  I don't know if it was too late by the time I got here or if I was just on a different channel from everyone else or what.  But I searched back today and saw that my first post in RPG Theory was called Designing Specifically for a PBeM Format, which makes me think that I've often been pushing sideways when other people were trying to push forwards (not that that's inherantly good or bad).

Look at me.  I meant to post that excerpt as a way to get energized about the future and here I am doing that Old Timers Complaining thing that annoys me every time I hear someone else do it.  Back to the future...

What's happening now is not so much post-Forge as it is greater-Forge or pan-Forge.  The body of thought and the dedication to looking at roleplaying in progressive ways is permeating a larger community as people stop spending all their time here and start branching out into other places.  You see this all over the place, especially online.  And this is, in many ways, freeing.  We're being forces to carry on detailed and intricate discussions with super-intelligent roleplaying theorists, designers, and players who don't give a flying fig about GNS or the Big Model or IIEE or stances or whatever.  We're being forced to think outside of the Big Box, the Forge Box.  This is an opportunity, not a problem.

So, onwards and upwards.

Clinton R. Nixon


You have no idea how much what you're saying jives with personal discussions I've been having with Ron. The Forge is still an awesome tool, but it's grown a bit heavy for the jeans it's wearing. The eventual splintering into many websites is quickly approaching.

I'm already working on a web tool to help with this. Hopefully, I'll get it done pretty soon.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Ron Edwards


I can only say, "Where has this been for the last three years?"

Yes. Go away (said nicely). Please set up your own websites, fanzines, or anything you can possibly think of as new nuclei for discussions and fruitful interactions.

I've been saying this for years. It's usually been construed as some form of rejection, to my exasperation. If it takes a degree of snot-nosed defiance, on your parts, to get it going, I'm willing to accept that. (Even though it's nothing more than what I and Clinton want.)

Vincent's already done it. See his blog? Why aren't you doing something like that? ("you" is collective but includes Jonathan)

And one more thing ... you're welcome.


Eero Tuovinen

Great post, answers my question about Internet currents in the PUSH forum quite conscisely.

I'm personally not a very networking person in the American scene (no great surprise, being that my primary orientation is of course in Finland), so it's natural that I've been pretty unaware of many of those branching resources you list. Good of you to upgrade us moles on where it's at, I'll have to make sure to check those places out on your recommendation. I find you personal policy stuff touching, too; you're routinely putting to words almost exactly the same stuff I evangelize in the Finnish scene, both on personal and cultural policy level. "Damn, I've got so much personal agency to influence the future of roleplaying that I can't stand it! I should forget my scholarship and write theory and games for the rest of my life!" Well said, I feel just like that. Except that I actually provisionally made just that decision before Christmas ;)

Of course, if such a diaspora is happening, that represents new challenges for us all socially. It took me three years to feel enough at home in Forge to actually start posting. Although the "important people" here act graciously towards me, I quiver at the thought of having to move my interaction to another, perhaps less public space. I'm not so sure that I belong in the scene to a great enough degree to go and intrude in places like Vincent's blog. Heck, I've never even gone to Gencon, or met Jared Sorensen, not to speak of gaming with Ron Edwards...

I suspect that there's plenty of other people who aren't "in" enough to feel comfortable joining the diaspora in a while yet, so whatever else happens, Forge will likely stay a central stop for "public" discussion. Perhaps it'll even become more international, when others like me choose it as their primary international arena?

As for your take on the development of theory, consider the historical perspective as well: the cutting edge is not in the final calculation where it's at, important fruit is carried by ripening institutions as well. Meanwhile it's true that cutting edge really only exists where there's will to revolution. Thus it's natural that the edwardsian theory of social interaction, and thus, Forge, will drop out of the edge into something better...

You probably knew that already, I'm just writing it out for those who interpret this as another thread of "Oh no, Forge is dying!". We do have those now and then, you know...

And Clinton: great news, that's something I'd have considered in your place, too.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Here's one voice saying Way to go, Clinton for an effort to avoid the worst possible result of a Diaspora: dissolution.  Pointers to new values, new methodologies, new loci, are so often lacking after a transition - I for one no longer see any of my high school gang, how 'bout you? - but are critical for sustaining any kind of momentum.

I'll be fascinated to see what you come up with, Clinton.  I for one plan to put my blog (which right now serves somewhat as a dissemination tool to my local crowd), to use for much more in-depth work.  I'll be interested to interface that with whatever you put together.

As for the Forge, one thing that hasn't happened in a while - and may yet return - is the emphasis on exploring outside the model we've got.  I'm reminded of discussions, never concluded, about the aesthetics of design and of theme (not the way Ron uses the term), with Fang and Emily and so forth.  Or the dissections of Social Contract and how to smooth it, handle it, shape it in the real world.  There are still lots of black boxes in the theory... and if the Forge is to continue to inherit its function, those black boxes should be writ large, with hammers and chisels lain beside them.  Not all such things require a B.O. (Bachelor's of Ownership) in Forge Theory; the best ones, I suspect, are altogether orthogonal.

- Eric

Clinton R. Nixon

The plan is a thing I'm calling "Gamelog."

Step 1: Learn Ruby. I'm doing this as we speak. I'm writing an RSS generator for Vincent's weblog, which ties into step 2.

Step 2: Make a site that aggregrates all the weblogs I personally find interesting about independent RPGs into one page.

Step 3: Make this site open for registration. You can sign up and add your own RSS feed, and then it's on the front page.

Step 4: Add the ability to host people's weblogs there and have them mix in.

Step 5: I don't know yet. Working on it.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games



Clinton, I should email you a document of mine.  This orgininally had nothing to do with gaming, it was a brainstorm in politics and e-democracy.  But awhile back I came up with a mathematical weighting scheme which would basically be a "smart" personalized RSS-feed filter.  If you're gonna aggregate things... maybe I'll try and talk to you about setting up an alpha version of it in tandem there.  That would be really cool.

- Eric

Ben Lehman

I still think the Forge serves a lot of damned important purposes.  Look at the posts in Indie RPG design.  That's some damn fine feedback.

At the same, time, I am astonished by what Vincent is doing, what is happening to the 20x20 Room, etc.  It is damned important work, too.

So what can I say except -- I'm glad that people are talking about this.  And I am totally flabbergasted that you already have a plan, Clinton.


P.S.">My LiveJournal has some share of RPG stuff.

Ron Edwards

The plan.

Well, here's the plan. Clinton did open the topic with me quite a while ago, and we both think it's something you guys ought to know.


Yup. I've faced it and admitted it, months ago. Clinton and I have discussed a variety of "exit strategies," ranging from simply turning over the reins to others and walking away, to actual software-based transformations into another kind of site entirely, to whatever.

My current thinking is this - to encourage as many possible spin-off sites as possible, but also to encourage an ongoing acknowledgment among them that each other exists. (I have my own notions about what my personal such site will be.) So rather than dissolution, think of the Forge possibly as the Big Bang.

Or if you want to look at it this way, "Lenin really dissolves the dictatorship this time. Stalin never shows up."

I also think people might focus their attention on the Forge Booth concept, officially begun by me in 2002 but with its roots 'way back in Sorcerer, in 2001 and well before, for those who remember. The Forge booth is a "go" for GenCon this year, and I imagine indefinitely. Luke's Forge East, the recent Dreamation, and many others - the "indie press explosion" is under way, and it's no longer my thing, my little game, my leadership, that makes it possible in the first place.

The "industry" can have its quotes taken off, because our games and publishing efforts are an industry now - only peripherally and non-dependently related to the rather sad, vague, and humpbacked pseudo-industry.

One major concern is the value of Indie Design and the specialty forums to the publishers, and a possible solution is to have the Forge remain as a "kernel" format for a while, providing these services in transition. As I say, Clinton and I haven't hit upon the exact step-by-step process yet, but we will eventually.

What time factor are we talking about? Quite a while. I'm talking about at least a year of transition, possibly not even beginning until the end of 2005. And maybe a year isn't long enough, if the plan is to make sure to avoid screwing over folks who are maximally benefiting from the Forge at present. In many ways, I'd like the Forge to be obsolete (replaced by con programs, publishing-helping sites, discussion sites, etc) long before it vanishes.

Another question concerns archiving, and that's something Clinton and I are discussing as well.

I posted this without consulting with Clinton. Sorry man, we shoulda discussed it a bit more before dropping the bomb, but the explosion of recent threads, full of bright-eyed suggestions that we've sifted over carefully on our own for months, sorta snapped a restraining strap or two in my head.


Clinton R. Nixon

Quote from: Ron EdwardsThe plan.

Well, here's the plan. Clinton did open the topic with me quite a while ago, and we both think it's something you guys ought to know.

I posted this without consulting with Clinton. Sorry man, we shoulda discussed it a bit more before dropping the bomb, but the explosion of recent threads, full of bright-eyed suggestions that we've sifted over carefully on our own for months, sorta snapped a restraining strap or two in my head.

It is cool.

Ron's right. I mean, I told him two years ago that if I could do it again, there wouldn't be a forum. (The forum? My idea. I kick myself.) I look at something like and think, "That's a discussion website."

So, I encourage people to take what they've learned here and do something with it. Ben Lehman's Lessons for Designers today distilled my thoughts from the theory so well I can't even tell you. It should be the beginning of a website all on its own.

Me, I'm going to do what I've always done and be the techie weirdo behind it all, sort of observing from the shadows. I see it as very freeing to take all the ideas of what I've thought we could do with this place, remove the inertia of a moving object, and then really do them.

Oh! Here's me speaking without consulting with Ron. If the Forge is ever going to shut down, it'll be with a fight. We're going to conduct some neat events this year to see where it can take us. And if we don't, I will on my own.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Emily Care

Ron & Clint,

As ever, you're ahead of the curve and doing things more right than can be adequately expressed in words.  

yrs in gratitude,
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

M. J. Young

Well, don't mind me. I'm actually terribly resistant to change--the old curmudgeon, in some ways. I can't count how much time elapsed between the theory exodus from Gaming Outpost and my decision to follow it here. I was reluctant to add yet another task to my daily routine, no matter how important it seemed to be to my understanding of what I do.

I've never been to any of those places, except once over a year ago read something in Vincent's blog. The others I did not even know existed, and I've been resisting becoming involved in the Wiki. Why? I don't have time. My wife already complains about how long I'm on this computer every day, and my company complains that I'm not keeping up with the writing and editing they expect from me in that time. The Forge serves a very important function in my life, because it is very focused on game theory and design, and I can come here instead of tracking all over the world for the current thoughts.

When the Forge goes, I'll lose that. I probably won't find it again, because I won't have the time to figure out where to be instead.

That might be good for me. After all, I've gained a lot from these discussions, and maybe it still has to filter and settle. I'm still writing articles, many of them on theory. I'll have more time.

But I'll miss it. It works extremely well for me the way it is, and I really don't like having to learn new ways of doing things when the old ones work so well.

Hey, I'm still complaining that they forced me to give up my DOS, and then my Windows 3.1, and I've threatened bodily harm against my computer people if they upgrade me out of Windows 98, because I like what I know. The Forge gave me a lot of access to new ideas, but in a familiar format, and that was very workable for me.

Thanks for having me here.

--M. J. Young


I'm with M.J.  I hate big changes.

I realize that I'm not going to convince anyone, but what exactly is it that makes the Forge no longer viable long-term?

Jonathan says that cool things aren't happening here any more.  On what time scale?  M.J. and I have been carping for some time now that things happen much too fast here.  So now it slows down, and you all want to bail?

Good lord, it's time to go back to paper.  You remember paper, right?  That white, thin stuff people used to write on?  Back in the dark ages?

See, journals run for a really long time.  Decades.  Some of them more than a century.  And when things seem to need change, the first thing you do is....

wait for it....


Either things pick up, or they don't.  So you ask yourself, what role is this journal serving?  And if that's a valuable role, and it's not the same role as you started with, that's called growing.  Maturing, even.

This "let's close down the Forge because it ain't insto-hot" sounds to me like a failure to mature.  To me, maturing is the really hard part, and it's what could potentially make the Forge, and its theories, and its discussions, of really long-term value.  But if everyone says, "nope, gotta change, gotta move on, gotta chase that bubble," then we'll never really get anywhere.  I confidently predict that if the Forge shuts down in a year and people splinter into a whole bunch of other forums, the vast majority of what we have learned or gained will be lost 5 years later.


Got that?


And to me, that means that the Forge will have failed.  It will have convinced a small number of people of a disparate group of things, not all of them compatible, in fact most of them not compatible, and years from now people will say, "Gosh, remember the Forge, where things were really discussed?  What a loss!"

Let the hot go away.  Who cares?  Let's get down to the important things.  We've spent years debating what increasingly amounts to trivia, because there is a growing inertia.  Is that a problem?  GOOD!

Time for radical change at high speed to move to blogs or wherever.  Let the Forge slow down, like a person not being a bouncing-off-the-walls child and starting to think before he moves.

I'm sick to death of all this "everything has to be now now now" crap, here and elsewhere, and the ways it's killing thought.  I'm horrified to see the Forge buying into that.  You want thinking?  You want innovation?  You want really new and complicated and interesting things?

You just gotta goddamn slow down.  Sure, the first flush of passion is gone, but is that a good reason to leave your wife?  Time to develop a really meaningful relationship.


Guess it'll be you and me, huh M.J.?
Chris Lehrich


Whoa - jarring news! I too was a GO migrant. Lately (over the last 18 months), keeping an eye on the evolution of discussion has certainly been difficult. How i've dealt with it is to unfairly seek the comments of particular posters, rather than aim for "new" content. I nearly missed the whole development of DitV (recently rectified and i'll be playing it soon!).

Is there a project plan or expected closure date? And given my own inability to stay abreast of the breadth and synergy of Forge discussion - is there a risk of these new nodes developing in isolation, without that Forge "synergy"?


PS - guys consider this one of the many "this place has been fantastic - thank-you" messages you're bound to get!