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[Ronnies] The winners for September

Started by Ron Edwards, September 26, 2005, 01:11:13 AM

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Ron Edwards


This thread announces the winners and presents general categories and thoughts about all the entries. Specific threads on all the games (except one, see below) will be coming later; I have some pretty extensive notes on every single entry. In each grouping below, the games are not presented in any meaningful order, or weren't intended to be, anyway.


Rats in the Walls, The Suburban Crucible, Alien Angels, Space Rat

I have also decided to add a next-level prize, which is basically just like the first, including the logo, except that you only get $25. It goes to:

One Can Have Her, Cutthroat, Untitled

Whether you think this second-tier is basically me being cheap, or whether you can see a qualitative difference between the levels, I dunno. We can talk about that, if you want. Remember, all seven games listed above did win Ronnies. Some just got less money.

Looking over the winners as a group, I see a nice mix of powerz/non-powerz, a consistent focus (I can actually play the thing given the information/procedures), and a reward system, which is another way to say, I can see *why* to play the thing. I'll be posting about all seven of these games in Indie Design, over quite a while.

I have a logo, produced by Keith Senkowski, that I'll mail to each winner, along with the $$. Oh yeah! Michael Walton is getting an additional $10 from Andy Kitkowski, for "girlfriend + hatred."


King Rat, Secrets in Suburbia, Get Out Get Away Get Wise Get Back Get Even, Ratpack, January's Frost, Darling Grove

You can *almost* say that these games were screwed by my limited budget. They're all really good in important ways: concept, resolution, reward, imagery. Some of them had confusing features, and In some cases, I wasn't able to dope out exactly how to play, but it was fairly clear that some way was possible. They're all one good solid draft away from being powerful alphas with a real shot at developing into great games.

However, the main and consistent issue is that the big-picture of the little conflicts was not there enough for the reward systems to work. That step to a solid alpha-draft requires more than just filling in blanks, it requires major content and in some cases, major system context. In order to play these, or want to, I would have to have made at least one major assumption or guess about how to do it, or why to bother.

All that's a fancy way to say, "I'd like to play this game, but I can't imagine being the main guy who has to present it (and in some cases, GM it), as currently written." I'll be very specific about what I see as the missing or mismatched parts in my comments. I'll start threads about these games which will, with any luck, lead to further drafts and followups.


Black Widows, Attack of the Giant Rats, The Rat-God's Girlfriend, All Growed Up, Best Friends, Sloat & Larkin, Vendetta, Want

Any of these submissions could be further developed into an excellent role-playing game. As presented, they require too many decisions and clarifications that I'd have to make, or stuff I'd have to add/write from scratch, in order to play them at all. Part of that, too, are consistently weak themes or "big pictures" of play. In some, I can see how a punch or a scene is resolved, but not why or how a punch might be thrown or a scene would be started. In others, the first half is rock-solid and then the rest flails.

Ultimately, this group is defined by crucial design decisions that weren't made, as I see it. Think of these as the "nowhere for Ron to go during play" category, and it's not surprising that many (not all) of them suffer from missing or wandering examples of play. I'll be posting about them individually, and I'll betcha that in most cases, the author does indeed have that missing piece or framework in mind.

You may be interested to know that just before the contest started, I was bit by a crazy-bug and wrote my own entry, using "rat" and "girlfriend." Realistically, the 24-hour product would have fallen into this category. This is not a "loser" category. You guys have some serious game on, and these ought to be developed.


Me & the Rat, The Great Rat Raid, Munch-Mausen Tales, The End of the World

I'm calling this "cheapass" in reference to the excellent company Cheapass Games, not as a literal description. These entries read like amusing contexts for card or board games, especially when "talk for a while" is part of what you get to do. The approach has its charm and I'd like to see more of it in general out there in the hobby, but almost by definition, the approach is basically a one-trick-pony: the sense that the game-experience would be nearly identical no matter who plays it - which is perhaps one of my personal border variables for "not an RPG."

This category overlaps a little with the Unbaked But Tasty group, especially All Growed Up. If anyone's interested, it'd be worthwhile to see what border conditions of design and play exist between it and the card game Once Upon a Time.

All three of these games are great starts for publishing and ought to get further developed. I'll be providing comments for each with an eye on Clinton's City of Brass as a model.


Guilt & Frustration, My Girlfriend's a Slut / My Boyfriend's a Dick, I Think My Girlfriend Hates Me, She's ...

I think you can see how these got sorted into their own group. But the reason none of them win a Ronny doesn't indicate that I disapprove of their content, or at least not in the way you might expect.

In addition to the Cheapass effect, which they share, these entries all suffer badly from ideological pussyfooting - the failure to take hold of the satire and make it squeal. In other words, I'd love to see a brutal and gut-ripping dysfunctional girlfriend-situation game ... but these aren't it yet. It's not the anger at the girlfriend that puts me off, but rather the waffling.

The threads about these games are going to be interesting. I'm not yet sure they'll be ultimately productive on an individual basis, but they'll be interesting.


Fink, SleepOver, Regis Furor, World Class Rats

All of these submissions included interesting ingredients, but they don't combine into a "shape" or identity, in terms of the play-experience, at least as I can imagine from the rules. Each has some good ideas and interesting details, but the documents seem like collections of pieces to me, sometimes filled in by "well, the group discusses and decides." Again, more details are coming later, especially in hopes of identifying the parts that could really be solid foundations for the next stage in development.


Suburban Hatred

This entry fails to meet the criteria and will receive no further comments.


So, what's this thread for, beyond announcing the winners? Well, I'm not sure. If you have any questions about how I judged, what I did, what categories and stacks I made, or anything like that, feel free. I might answer with something like "because," I suppose, but I'll try not to. I'm also open to questions about the contest itself, why I did it, why it's structured the way it is, and so on.

Oh yeah! Last thing. The next Ronnies contest will begin October 2 and the submission time will end October 12. I learned a surprising lesson this time, and 33 entries means too many painful decisions.




I'd be curious to know whether you found any recurring themes around the key words you provided or if they seemed to all take them in different directions.  Also, did any of them really take you by surprise?

Like you said, 33 entries is bound to provide a lot of great material, based on your experience this time around, how many do you think you can handle on a regular basis?  10, 20?

And now, less about you, more about the games.  I looked through a number of these and they really do rock, but many of them are extremely tight.  That is, they're so focused, and so concise that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of room for expanstion.  Some testing, maybe some textual reworking, but ultimately twenty or thirty pages of material.  Assuming that publishing is something the authors want to pursue, how do you see that happening?  PDFs only?  Something like the NPA?  A "traditional" print of a very short book?

Or, alternatively, do you simply disagree that these won't get above 30 pages?  I remember Tim talking about the amount of expansion The Mountain Witch underwent between the IGC entry and the final book...

So, how do you see some of these being published a year from now?

Current projects: Caper, Trust and Betrayal, The Suburban Crucible

Ron Edwards

Hi Thomas,

Yup, I saw some definite trends, although no absolutes.

RAT + HATRED typically went very psycho, often with science fiction elements that would have fit right into the 1960s collection Dangerous Visions. This was an edgy combination because it promoted extremism in the game content.

RAT + GIRLFRIEND wasn't as diverse as it seems at first. We have girlfriends as the heroes, girlfriends as single desire-objects, girlfriends as slutty tools, and lots more; we also have rat heroes, rat villains, rats as boyfriends, and "rat" as a verb. But again, not as diverse as it seems ... most of them were very very focused on issues of the girlfriend's loyalty, whether as the primary question of play or a starting-point assumption.

GIRLFRIEND + HATRED clearly prompted many combinations of DIY therapy + satire. I think there's a room to enter with this design goal, but hardly anyone got his foot past the threshold. Note the deliberate gender pronoun in the previous sentence.

There are a couple of other trends too which cut across categories, most obviously the games that seem to have been inspired by the TV show Desperate Housewives. I haven't seen the show, but after reading the games, I think I have some idea of what's in it. Most of these were SUBURB + HATRED but not all.

RAT + SUBURB and SUBURB + GIRLFRIEND didn't have enough entries to rate much pattern, but I think that's a higher-level pattern that's interesting too.

As far as the ones which took me by surprise, they are, in no particular order:

Alien Angels (sheer enthusiasm), Get Out Get Away Get Wise Get Back Get Even (because it wasn't hatred of the suburbs), Darling Grove (a game with guts), maybe a couple others that I'll probably remember later.

I see potential for at least half of the entries, if not more, to be games at least the size of My Life with Master, and quite likely the size of The Mountain Witch or Dogs in the Vineyard. Without padding - just decent development, good examples, and the general fruits of playtesting.

Remember, as far as I'm concerned, a 24-hour RPG produces a decent alpha at best, and nmost likely a proto-alpha, or first draft of an alpha. As I see it, it's a design step. 


Peter Nordstrand

Hi Ron,

Regarding the Runners-Up:

QuoteHowever, the main and consistent issue is that the big-picture of the little conflicts was not there enough for the reward systems to work.

Please say again in school English that even I will understand. Yes, that's right, I do not understand what you mean by "the big-picture of the little conflicts".

Thanx for clarifying,
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Ben Lehman

You know what's funny?  I haven't seen Desperate Housewives, either.  (A friend had just told me about the plotlines in the show right before I started the game.)

Are the half-baked games going to get their own posts?


Frank T

No big surprise, my dictionary fails me on the meaning of "pussyfooting" and "waffling". Though I can guess, I'd be happy for some clarification.

- Frank

Ben Lehman

Quote from: LordSmerf on September 26, 2005, 02:00:28 AM

So, how do you see some of these being published a year from now?

I'm not Ron, but it is my intention to publish WANT with recipes! as a small saddle-stitched book (around the size of Breaking the Ice) for GenCon 2006.


J. Tuomas Harviainen

Quote from: Ron Edwards on September 26, 2005, 01:11:13 AM
they don't combine into a "shape" or identity, in terms of the play-experience, at least as I can imagine from the rules. Each has some good ideas and interesting details, but the documents seem like collections of pieces to me, sometimes filled in by "well, the group discusses and decides."

Care to elaborate a bit (in general terms) on the "fill-in" vs. the winners' "consistent focus", even though these were far from the top? Being a larp writer and not a tabletop rpg designer, I find it interesting that something that's a definite advantage on that platform (collectvely arbitrated loose pieces of diverse potential instead of tight singular-direction oriented rules) is here a clearly negative thing. Is it because a tabletop game that does not show what it's for and how it's run /at once/ will too easily end up ignored or will lead to disuse due to creative conflicts of its participants?

-Jiituomas (Note: this is not a complaint in any way, just an inquiry on design perspectives. My game got exactly what it deserved.)

Ron Edwards

Hi guys,

Most of your concerns, especially as authors, will be addressed in the individual game threads. A lot of my post above was barely-brushed-up shorthand from my notes, so Peter, with any luck you'll see the necessary clarification pretty soon.

That particular phrase was especially opaque, though, so let's see ... I'll use something near to both of us as an example.

In playing HeroQuest set in Glorantha, I think you and I are both pretty dedicated to the idea that a local scenario conflict or even a conflict-resolution roll within it comes from a "bigger picture" understanding of the Hero Wars. In our group, for example, a leadership crisis in the community in the first session concerned the teenage children of incest - and that brought in the potential of broo activity in the area, as well as shame and responsibility issues that Heortling culture isn't well-equipped to deal with.

"Big picture" = the origin of Thed, Lunar interpretations vs. Heortling interpretations
"Scenario picture" = clan myth, Antigone-inspired back-story, character creation (and effectively a Kicker in one case)
"Immediate conflict" = semi-violent debate concerning a son and a daughter's status, complete with Extended Contests and Hero Points and so on

Many of the games were strong in the immediate conflict resolutions, but I couldn't see much context for those conflict resolutions to exist beyond simply throwing foes at the protagonists. Again, specific cases differ (some gave highly fixed contexts that I considered too rigid, others gave "nothing"), so I'll discuss them in individual threads.

And yes, 33 of the 34 entries will be receiving such threads, although only the winners will be getting the long-term (months) mentoring if the authors want. I fervently hope that many of the 27 (34 - 1 ineligible - 6 winners) become "winners" in their own right upon further development.

Frank, you're right, a few of my phrases in the first post were far too idiomatic for an international discussion community, so let me clarify a little.

- "pussyfooting" refers to the light, quiet steps of a cat, and indicates that the author or speaker is not being clear and direct about a crucial issue

- "waffling" indicates that the author or speaker is attempting to please both sides of a political or ethical argument; a similar, more literal term is "fence-sitting" which as you can see, means someone who will not step down from the fence in order to support one side or the other




QuoteWhether you think this second-tier is basically me being cheap, or whether you can see a qualitative difference between the levels, I dunno. We can talk about that, if you want. Remember, all seven games listed above did win Ronnies. Some just got less money.

I can't speak for the others, but I know for sure I wasn't in it for the money.  I am absolutely elated to be chosen as a winner and am fervently looking forward to being mentored by Ron.  I definately want this game (Cutthroat) to go to print.  I am in the process of playtesting it and revising it even now.




Personally, I was in the middle of being sick, and the idea of simply trotting out my design-fu (which I haven't done in quite some time) was appealing.  Getting feedback from Ron was just gravy.

Also, as I've enjoyed many of the Cheapass game line (especially Button Men), I don't find the comparison to be insulting in the slightest.
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown

Przemyslaw F. Szkodzinski

Being mentioned as one of the runners-up among such fine 24Hour games and some of the best RPG designers... not bad for   my first complete design (though to be honest, it's quite incomplete, but that's only my fault for trying to tackle too much in too short a time). Not bad at all.

Ron, can I slap a 'Ronnies September 2005 Runner-Up' tag on the game? Oh, and are you going to publish your own rat/girlfriend 24Hour RPG?
Is it not by means of the imagination one knows joy? Is it not of the imagination that the sharpest pleasures arise?
- Marquis de Sade

Currently in development: King Rat; Your 120 Days of Sodom

Graham W

Thanks to everyone involved. That was a lot of fun.

Could I make a quick request about the follow-up threads? I'd like have time to consider the feedback for each game: to actually read and discuss each one. There's a danger that, if all the threads appear within a week, that half the games get missed.

Would it be possible to space the feedback out, so that a few games get discussed at once? And perhaps to mix it up, so that, for example, all the winners aren't discussed at the same time.

That would mean a few authors would have to wait for feedback, so, obviously I'm happy to be one of them.

Ron Edwards


Those are all good questions too.

Przemyslaw, feel free to use the "Ronnies runner-up" rank as promotion, however you'd like. No logo, though.

I'll be publishing the developed version of It Was a Mutual Decision, the game I wrote just before the contest date started. The 24-Hour version will be available then too, for comparison. I'm not yet sure how, whether I'll actually submit it to the site or through purchasing the developed version, or what.

Graham, there is no way I'm going to start up threads about every game at once. I'm facing a brutal crisis of multiple demands right now, and so if even one gets started in the next day or so, it'll be amazing. They'll definitely be begun in a measured fashion.



thanks for all the work you put into this, Ron. I am quite satisfied with the results, and I don't mean my game, either; I mean that I mainly participated in the challenge for the design exercise and the advice or suggestions it may generate. I've been thinking a lot about character, setting and reward rules; I think that's the main area where many RPGs fall short, including my own designs, and it's something I'm working harder on as a consequence. most of the rules in many RPGs seem to cover primarily color, especially Simmy details like rate of fire, range, speed and the like, plus lots of fretting over resolution systems. if I had the energy to write a good rant the way Mike Holmes does, I'd write a standard rant about how resolution systems (dice rolls or otherwise) are the least important part of the rules.
John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: