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This one's important

Started by Ron Edwards, August 10, 2005, 01:03:14 PM

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Ron Edwards


I'll tell you what the Forge needs. This is directed specifically to the person who's been reading or posting for more than three months. Especially if you find yourself going "geez, all these new people really have no clue," or anything similar.

The three most important forums are Actual Play, Indie Design, and Publishing. If you aren't posting in other people's threads in those forums, then you are a big drag on this site and are forcing other people to carry your presence.

And yes, I do mean carry your presence. This isn't like other sites; you are not a firefly who can flit in and flit out, with your effect limited to where your light shines and no-effect when you're not there. It only works when you contribute to others' success.

I'm currently most concerned with Indie Design. Right now we have newcomer-people posting snippets of setting and system. And the bulk of the responses they're receiving are from other newcomers, and as you might expect, they're all about "gee, some people might be put off by dice pools" and similar rot. There are several sites people can go to for dialogue of this kind, and the Forge should not be one of them.

For years, Mike Holmes carried everyone else's asses' weight in Indie Design. He did amazing work and set standards that others learned about and benefited from, in terms of what that forum is really for. And now?

He and I now get to watch the newcomer posts piling up, totally ignored by people who, secure in their sense of Forginess, routinely post their Big T'oughts in RPG Theory and who hammer out a Thinkin' Man's Response to similar posts.

And you! All you who came in with your li'l notions? Who are now Real Game Designers who do the Iron Chef contest, and with blogs and designer cabals of your own? Or the ones who took up 100 hours of my time over a year's worth, figuring out that narration isn't Narrativism?

You're punking out. You and your friends had your epiphanies and formed your clique, and now that's established, well, it's fuck-you-then to the Forge and why-should-I-waste-my-time regarding all these newcomers.

I'm telling you that it's bogus. Remember the Forge Diaspora, and how wonderful it was supposed to be? And yeah, it's wonderful now. Anything can be wonderful for a few months, on-line. Guess what - I can see where it's going, it's going straight to dogshit, because the quality-added over time will rely heavily on those three forums continuing to be quality places to go and to learn. They need to act as a social and educational pump, for your benefit.

Unless you want the Forge Diaspora to result in five or six arid little ego-based islands, then drop by the mainland regularly and post helpfully, patiently, and with great love in your intentions, in Indie Design, focusing on people who've arrived at the Forge in the last month or two.

Even when the game being presented is high-tech D&D with lots of critical hit charts. Even when the post is concerned with whether "people will like" twenty-five pages of setting instead of fifty. And so on. "But it's so clueless!" you say.

Excuuuuse me for expecting your enlightened highnesses to have any shred of sympathy for the states of mind you, yourselves, represented when you arrived here. And besides, the solution is easy - the very best thing you can do is encourage people to post in Actual Play, and to follow up on them there.

Oh, and what if your response is, "But I'm not an expert like Ron is, so I can't post ..." then I advise you that I do not care. First of all, if you've been posting here for more than three months, then you do have the expertise to help others out, especially in terms of helping them to discover their own goals for play and design. Second, this is not a Boy Scout troop and I am not Den Daddy.

I'll lay it out very carefully: if you do not step up to this expectation, then you can fully expect your input in other forums to be marginalized, by me, very explicitly.

Person brings up issue or posts responsively in RPG Theory
Me (posting): Why bother answering? You've been posting stuff like this for six months and never helped a single newcomer. You're a parasite here. Go post in Actual Play and help someone in Indie Design.



AKA Jeff Zahari


Yeah, okay. Thanks for saying that, actually. I've had a lot of good feedback from the Forge (esp Mike), and it's time to give some back.

Eric Provost

I'm amongst the guilty.

Thanks for the boot.


Andrew Cooper

Aye! Aye! Cap'n!

Guilty as charged.  Will get off my lazy ass and help out.

Jason Lee

As I'm sure you know, every time this post is made the responses in the Indie Design forum pick up for a month or two then die again.  Once that guilt goes, so does the feeling of obligation, then the habit, and then the posting itself.  I think you're going to need to make changes to those forums if you want different behavior out of posters, because it's been like this for the three years I've been aware of.  The biannual lecture isn't going to change that.  You could post it more often, but that'll just desensitize people.

First off, the Forge isn't a democracy.  Which I feel correct, but means that I have no power to affect the goals or methods of the forum.  Also, I am not, and never will be, part of the in-crowd or the vehemently-disagrees-with-the-in-crowd crowd.  That's a very small group of people that determine the long-term sustainability of ideas.  Most of us are just background noise.  Hence, there is no social reward for posting.  This combined means that the Forge is not my community, but the community that someone has been kind enough to let me visit.  This will not change.  The social dynamic isn't going anywhere and I don't think the policies should either.  It's just the nature of the beast.  If you're like me, you'll eventually reach a point with the Forge where you either give up in frustration or stop investing.  Without investment I'm left with the only reward for posting being to improve my own play.  I'm not getting paid for this either.

I always posted primarily in the GNS and theory forums.  I quit posting and reading for a year and upon return I fell right back into posting on the theory forum.  In the seven weeks since I started looking at this place again I've made 26 posts in RPG Theory, 3 in Actual Play, 1 in Site Discussion, and 7 in GNS (which is honestly 7 more than I intended to).  I only read a handful of topics a week.  When I open the Forge I click on the RPG Theory and Actual Play forums and I look for a topic that might have a point.  I don't even bother looking in any of the other forums, except occasionally.

A big reason why this is that Actual Play and Indie Design are highly focused.  General actual play and design topics instead fall under the domain of the RPG Theory forum.  If I want to get directly to discussing techniques then I need to go to the RPG Theory forum to do it.  That point I'm looking for tends to be too hard to find in the other forums.  And with the small number of responses, there isn't much use in my posting there either.  Hell, I even have topics I want to start in Actual Play and Indie Design, but I don't because I know the responses just won't be there, so I'm better off talking to people I know in real life.  I want the Actual Play forum to have have what I'm looking for, but it usually doesn't. 

The GNS forum is taken care of.  You could ditch the RPG theory forum, allow more general topics in play and design, and restructure as such:

Actual Play (play and play theory)
Game Design (specific games and design theory)
Publishing/Production (publishing, layout, editing, etc)

I'm fairly certain that would increase the participation in those forums, but you would lose a lot of focus.  Basically, Indie Design would look like the Art of Game Design forum minus the flaming.  You can't realistically just ditch the theory forum, because people will still post theory somewhere here, and there honestly wouldn't be much worth saying in Actual Play or Indie Design without the theory forum.

I read and post very little, so my posting patterns are fairly inconsequential, but maybe the details of my behavior will be helpful.  If the posters aren't your friends, your enemies, or moderators then the only way to get them to post somewhere is by making them want to.  They have to get something out of it or it just isn't going to happen, as experience has shown.  Obviously, more people are getting what they need out of the theory forum in the limited amount of time they have to devote to posting.

So, is there a way to fill that need in the other forums?  I have 0.75 posts/day to contribute somewhere.  It just has to be somewhere that I can learn from.
- Cruciel

Eric Provost

Well.... then....

I don't think that Ron's post is really to you Jason.  It's to people like me who are gaining from the site but aren't contributing as much as they gain. 

It's not guilt that I get from Ron's post, but rather the realization that I do have something meaningful to contribute alongside the realization that the more I contribute to others the more others will be inspired to contribute to me.  Therefore I'll be a greater contributor in the future for purely selfish reasons.

The Forge has done great things for me and I intend to continue that tradition by attempting to do great things for others.  I see no need for any changes in the forums.  They work very well.


Ron Edwards

Changes to the forums are off-topic for this thread.

Changes are planned. I've referred to them recently, without much detail, not just to be mysterious, but because there's no real benefit until we get some links figured out.

For this thread, I'm talking about my expectations. An expectation is not an obligation; they are very very different. Jason, your response makes a lot of sense if I were to say you were obliged to post in the way I describe. I'm not saying that, and you're not so obliged. Eric (Technocrat13) has accurately paraphrased my point.




Ron's post also applies to oldies like me, who have gotten a lot from discussion here over the course of years, and have dropped off except for here and there discussions, and mostly the post-Forge blogosphere.  I'll make a concentrated effort to help out more :)



This one struck home. I've gained a lot of insight from this place over the last couple of years but have found myself rarely contributing. Sometimes because of time, or that I didn't think what I had to say would make a blip in the dialog taking place, or that the conversation went beyond my own understanding (or interpretation) of the site's common language.

None of those are excuses for not participating in a meaningful way.

I'll make an effort to help things along. Myself, I'm moving into the "creating games for the sake of concept and social exploration than monetary fulfillment category". Many of Clinton's latests posts around why he designs have had a powerful influence on me. I've got a day job but really feed my head and heart from game design and studying complex social system.

Thanks, Ron. I mean it.



I went back and read through some  old stickies that Clinton had posted... Namely,

The Forge has an agenda. I think we're clear about it: "the creation and promotion of independent role-playing games."

He goes on to talk about agendas and how they sometimes align with the Forge's. For some reason it's like I'm seeing this for the first time.

My new agenda. "the creation and promotion of independent role-playing games that push format." I think that jives nicely with the Forge's agenda. I won't post anymore about this within this thread but will carry it over into Indie Game Design.

John Harper

Yeah. You're right, Ron. That has been my exact reaction to most of what is going on Indie Design. It feels like a gigantic mountain that I really do not want to climb. But, Mike and others helped me, so yeah, I need to give back.

Can I give back without coming off like a giant asshole? That remains to be seen.
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!


Please go easy on me guv'nor! I'm just a pore ol' roleplyer wot 'as fell on 'ard times wiv nobody ter ply wiv, like. You do luvvly games, guv'nor!
AKA Jeff Zahari

Jason Lee

I actually didn't think the post was directed at part-time, don't bother to publish their design ideas, non-bloggers like myself.  And I certainly didn't take it personally.  I was just expressing concern that the most Indie Design will get out of this passed the initial feelings of "I should be helping" is another Mike or two.  But if the intention is to rant and wake up a select few, then okay.
- Cruciel

Gordon C. Landis

OK, a few things to say here.  First, my personal reaction - Ron's points are good, it's entirely appropriate for him to establish his expectations regarding this issue (however likely or unlikely they are to be met by significant numbers of people), and I certainly could do more than I currently do.  My expectataions for others are not Ron's expectations - I was always amazed and astounded by how Mike did the incredible job he did in Indie Design, and I would personally never expect even a fraction of that, uh, dedication from someone.  But for myself - yup, I can see the need to raise my own bar.  It aint gonna happen right now, days before Gencon, but I can and will do more in the months to come.

Second, some information: everyone can go into their profile (by clicking the Profile link just below the Forge logo at the top of any forum page) and check out their posting stats (by clicking the "Show general statistics for this member" link in the Additional Information section towards the bottom of that profile).  Keeping in mind that statistics rarely tell the whole story, it's still useful info.

Finally, the whole question of "what are our responsibilities as game players/designers/Forge participants, and to who?" has been on my mind quite a bit of late, as my own game design debut at Gencon approaches.  I firmly believe that people can, will, and should end up answering that question in very different ways, and that most all of 'em, though different, will be entirely valid answers.  But I do think you gotta look at the question from time to time, and I encourage everyone to use this post from Ron as an opportunity to do just that.  I'll start a thread of my own here in Site Discussion called "Playing Indie Games" in just a few moments to look at a few issues I've been concerned with of late - hope to see some comments over there,

Gordon (under construction)