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the island of misfit games

Started by Paul Czege, June 04, 2002, 09:33:52 PM

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Ron Edwards

Hi Clinton,

I cast my vote exceptionally strongly in the category that Any Actual Play is valid for discussion at the Forge, regardless of the game. That's been the policy from the beginning, and it has a reason - supporting active and self-reflective play of any kind leads to a more inquiring community; a more inquiring community tries new games more; trying new games more here at the Forge leads to more indie-game play.

The point is to engender more indie-game play than there was previously in absolute value, not to get more indie-game play relative to non-indie-game play. Therefore promotion of all play is the best route to the goal.

I have seen far too many small and large endeavors fail (game publishing, martial arts schools, academic departments) based on exactly the logic you are using: "We aren't seeing the demographic that we want, so we shall exclude everything but, hence we will then see the desired demographic." It's madness. Madness and ultimately failure.


Clinton R. Nixon

Quote from: BaileyPlayed Everway on Thursday.  It lasted about two hours.  It was a small (4 person) group, with two player characters and two gamemasters.  It was a lot of fun.

Actually, that would be an excellent post - you played with two gamemasters. Most people play with one, or sometimes none. How did that go? How was the balance of power laid out? Did you decide how the balance of power would be before play or not, and if not, how did that work out?

If you want to answer these questions, please do so in Actual Play. I did, however, want to give an example of just a few questions that could be asked from this short recollection of playing a game.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Ron Edwards


I'm moving all this to Site Discussion. Seems like we've hit policy and site satisfaction issues that belong there.


Zak Arntson

- Posts of Actual Play
 Actual Play posts, whether indie games or not, do help indie game design. They allow for us to analyze the gaming and the game and use the observations add to our design-toolkit.

- Private Messaging
 It would be great to make some super-easy resource to let the designer know. Unfortunately, it's already pretty easy. My email shows up once or twice on every game I release. My PM button is readily available here for all to see.
  Are there other steps we could take to encourage player<->designer discussion? There is the approach where you send a copy through email because of an email request. Unfortunately, for the little games I design, I don't see that as an appropriate method. (Full 30-page Shadows version, yes. Metal Opera 1-pager, no).
 I've toyed with adding a cost for my games in the form of an emailed report of play. It's a volunteer method (since how can they play if they don't get the game?), so it may not get any better results than the email address/PM option.

- Designer Swapping
 That's a great idea! I'd love to see some sort of pairing up. Would this be good for a new Forum? Or something. I would like to offer two different games for designer swapping in the near future. But where to announce it when I'm ready?
 (I see just now that Xiombarg's started a Designer Swap thread. I guess we'll see how much traffic it gets!)

Clinton R. Nixon

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I cast my vote exceptionally strongly in the category that Any Actual Play is valid for discussion at the Forge, regardless of the game. That's been the policy from the beginning, and it has a reason - supporting active and self-reflective play of any kind leads to a more inquiring community; a more inquiring community tries new games more; trying new games more here at the Forge leads to more indie-game play.

The point is to engender more indie-game play than there was previously in absolute value, not to get more indie-game play relative to non-indie-game play. Therefore promotion of all play is the best route to the goal.


Awesome. I think that's about settled, and I'm glad the questions were asked. I wanted to have this discussion out in the open so people could see how things work, and why we do the things we do.

I have to say, a 1:3 ratio (indie:non-indie) ain't bad compared to the average gaming demographic. I think I've made it obvious in this thread that "indie gaming" is my big fucking albatross I've chosen to wear, but I also think, after discussion, that we're doing a pretty decent job.

- Clinton
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Mike Holmes

Hey Ralph,

You forgot that I swapped a copy of Universalis for a copy of Orbit with Jeff Diamond (I really got the better of the deal, I got a hardcopy in a nice folder). Woulda worked, too, except Jeff wrote and said not to bother playing as he had changed everything and written up a new edition. But the enthusiasm was there. It's definitely a good idea.


You don't really want to hear about my Rolemaster game, and how many goblins my group slayed last time we played. Hell, I'm not sure I want to hear about it. I've thought about posting about it, but then thought that nobody would be interested, an assessment I still stand by. When I play something with an interesting issue, I'll be sure to mention it. Now that Josh is in town, I think you might see more Actual Play posts out of both of us. :-)

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.


Quote from: Clinton R Nixon

I'm going to ask a question, but I need to put serious disclaimers before it. This question is solely for the process of information gathering and discussion, and doesn't reflect any views, policy, or effect on the Forge at all.

That said:

The Forge is here for the creation, promotion, and play of independent games, right? In that case, is the idea that anyone can show up as discuss whatever RPG they play a good idea? Does it help create, promote, or play indie games? (It well might - that's why I ask.)

Or does it water down the content on independent game design and creation? The Forge has grown at a near-exponentional rate. Has that been good for it? Or should the non-indie material be shunted towards communities that have that as their explicit purpose?

I don't know the answer to this question, but I think it's one well worth examining before we move on.

As I see it, the Forge has 3 main thrusts, Indie Games, GNS Theory/Narrativism, and lastly Actual Play.

Indie Games is the creation, promotion, and play of indie games. Which is accomplished by the Indie game design forum, and the publishing forum, as well as the game/publisher specific forums.

GNS Theory and Narrativism, which is supported by the GNS forum, and RPG theory. I say GNS and Narrativism, as the big N is a major area of interest to many of the "Indie" designers that frequent the Forge.

Lastly there is the Actual Play forum, which is more or less a lab report for experimentation with the Indie design and GNS thinking, IMO.

Since the majority of people who post here are also involved in the design of their own systems, Actual Play thus becomes a place for them to publish their findings, either about their own Indie designs in progress, or about various ideas and aspects of GNS theory.

That is how I see it. So I wouldn't be so concerned about what games they happen to be posting about. For instance, the only group I have available to me is interested in DnD 3rd Edition, however that doesn't prohibit me from trying out various ideas and theories for my own design within the structure of that game.

I have done it before by introducing various rules tweaks to AD&D, which were simple implementations of some of my character design and Hero Points rules.

So I wouldn't judge the subject/system of play so much, as what is discussed considered within that post. Even beyond immediate concerns of GNS/System experimentation within a gaming suggestion is the development of RPG theory on the broader level. For instance, I discussed some of my observations about gamer "types" and gamer expecatations/backgrounds in one of my Actual Play posts.

Understanding the range and experience of gamers extant is extremely useful for being able to shape a game that will appeal to a broad variety of people, players.

so in short, I don't think "non-indie" actual play disucssions are necessarily bad. Rather the content of that discussion/posting. If we get people largely concerned about talking about (insert your own cliched gamer fanboy and then frothing) how cool their dwarf cleric/illusionist is, and how he rolled a 20 to kill that dracolich on the 13th level of the dungeon, and such, then I would consider more selectivity and steering.

As was mentioned in a previous post, despite the great growth in the forge, the largest number of posts are still made by a small core of participants. Participants who presumably approach the forge in terms of Indie game design.

So to summarize, I don't think there is currently any problem or cause for concern in the nature of posts in actual play.

Rob Muadib --  Kwisatz Haderach Of Wild Muse Games --   
"But How Can This Be? For He Is the Kwisatz Haderach!" --Alyia - Dune (The Movie - 1980)

Ron Edwards

Hi Rob,

I totally agree.


Gordon C. Landis

Quote from: Clinton wrote45% of the people around here read and talk about indie games, and then go home and play D&D or d20 Cthulhu or whatever. I don't have a problem with these games, but they aren't getting indie games played.
Guilty.  I mean, I could quibble - I ran a little Orkworld, for e.g. - but essentially, guilty.  I'll list some reasons why, not as excuses, but because I think they tie in with other aspects of this discussion.
1) I'm a pretty busy guy, with a ton o' chaos in life recently.  d20 - in particular, someone else GMing d20 - is easier.  Relevant point - I doubt I'm the only one.  Solution - The usual discussions about managing your life & hobbies apply here - we've seen some good discussion on this in the past - but it is worth remembering that not everyone chooses the same time prioritization's regarding their RP activities.  And that it can change over time.
2) I've been doing the slow, probably-over-ambitious Game Design thing.  Not only does this soak up a bit more time, it also provides satisfaction of the . . . "something different from same-old-same-old RPG" urge.  Relevant point - Again, I doubt I'm the only one.  Actually, we *know* there are a lot of designers here at the Forge.  Not only is time spent designing time unavailable for play, but designing a game may satisfy that "something different" urge by an easier route than organizing actual play can.  Solution - I'd tie this one to the "design is a subset of play" discussion.  Design and play are (or should be, or at least quite productively *can* be) deeply linked.  The Featured Game idea could help here.  If it happens, I'll do my best to participate.  In addition to a one month time frame, how about a 2-3 game choice?  Less likely for people to just go "that ain't my thing" . . .
3) My discussions about running indie games with my current group (10-12 folks who combine in various 4-6 person groups over time) have not sparked much interest at all.  There are of course many possible reasons for this, but I'd like to use one as my Relevant point here, using another quote:
Quote from: Seth L. Blumbergwe're used to thinking of an RPG in terms of "one night every other week for the next three years" rather than as a casual pick-up kind of experience
I think it is fair to say that what a lot of folks want out of gaming is (to use Forge examples) much more like Ron's Hero Wars game than an evening of InSpectres.  A lot of games designed/discussed here are more like InSpectres.  Solution - There's always the "find some people who *are* interested" option (I'm in San Jose, folks, as you can see in my profile).  There's also designing more games like Hero Wars, or Riddle of Steel, that fit the normal mode better.

In general, I think Paul asked important questions, Clinton and Ron did some important clarifications, and this whole thing is only an issue because most people here really do want to hold themselves and the site to an at-least-slightly more rigorous (note - not "better") standard.  That's always hard, so an occasional kick is a good thing, IMO.  

I'm also thinking that specific public play-test forums (maybe for the featured games?) might help.

Gordon (under construction)

joshua neff

QuoteNow that Josh is in town, I think you might see more Actual Play posts out of both of us. :-)

Man, I hope so! I'm antsy for some gaming.

I agree with Ron--the more Actual Play is open to any & all kinds of RPGs, the less we get saddled with that "pretenious Forge assholes" mislabel. And the more people feel welcomed, the more likely they are to hang around. The more they hang around, the more they're exposed to indie RPGs. Which is great.

And the good thing about this thread is it's made me think about how many indie games I could be playing. On one hand, with my old group in KC, just getting us all together on a mostly-weekly basis was chore enough. Add to that the desire to play longer-term games. Add to THAT the desire to play certain games over other ones, & no matter much enthusiasm I expressed over, say, Sorcerer or The Pool or Le Mon Mouri, I was most often met with a hearty "Whatever you want to run, we'll play" mixed with a "but I really love Mage & want to play that some more". Yeah, I finally got them 'round to playing Sorcerer. Yeah, we played InSpectres. And it was great. But my group just didn't have the drive or interest to do a few weeks of Little Fears followed by a one-or-two session run of Donjon Krawl. They were more of a "I want a lot of sessions to really get into character & play that character's story" type of group. And I have those same desires a lot of the time.

On one hand, I don't really think in terms of "indie" or not, just as I don't with music or movies or magazine or comics. I'll go to see Attack of the Clones & love it, & then I'll go to see Y Tu Mama Tambien & love that, too. I'll play Adventure! & love it. I'll play Sorcerer & love that, too.

On the other hand, I do have a strong indie streak running through me, which is one of the reasons I hang out here. And I do want to play & promote independent RPGs.

Great thread. It's good to get this stuff worked out. And Paul? I love the title. I now have an image of you as a funny-voiced jack-in-the-box.

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes


I tried to have a conversation with Clint about this sort of thing -- but he may not have caught my drift. Chalk that up to me for a poor wordsmith -- heh heh!

I've playtested my own creations with my group -- I've got them pumped about playing InSpectres sometime. I haven't really had time to get them to do anything -- heck, I am just enjoying the benefits of a group with up to ten rotating players. It is a challenge, but it is much better than the 3 always-there-dedicated people that I use to have. The games can be really exciting and really strange.

Originally, I thought Indie-RPGs was a toolbox sort of website where game designers could meet, share tips, critique a bit, offer suggestions, and generally check out one another's stuff. Ron, I know, always urged people to play games before any review -- but I'm not positive if everyone who came over here understood that as a complete part of the picture. Indie-rpgs hosts an occasional article, review, and then the indie game library.

But -- people were never asked or encouraged to contribute articles or reviews. It always seemed here that the forum was about the main focus -- everything else was sort of an afterthought. Maybe part of that is -- what happened here is some sort of surprise? Maybe Ron and Clinton didn't expect the Forge to grow so well and house such a great bunch of folks.

Anyway, I may be rambling -- it's late.

My two cents is this -- the Forge would do much better to focus on those designers who are kicking ass as opposed to the sort of free-for-all stuff that goes on right now. Game design and publishing advice is helpful here, but we need to have the guts to hold up our successful rock-n-roll superstars. We need a frontpage that lets active designers talk about their designs and what inspired them and this and that. We need a place to feature successful games and promote the whole concept of indie games. We need a face for the Forge. :)

Therein, I think we would kick some bee-hind. People say, "The Forge is all about Ron..." If we get all of our little brainchilds here writing an occasional update/step-by-step process about their design or game, suddenly, we got a ton of articles by people other than Ron. Hopefully, these articles will feature some other sort of design method that is contrary to GNS. Suddenly, we have variety... and so on....

I think I am rambling, and I know I am tired. My point is -- promoting and encouraging play and talking about play is like sticking your thumb in the hole in the wall or whatever, to prevent the leak... We need to build a new wall.... Maybe. :)

What is the goal of the site? To help indie game designers create and promote? To encourage indie games to be played?

If it is to encourage more play, let's start some forums where we run forum games of indie games. Let's get hooked in with an IRC network and run online games. Let's start some OpenRPG games or something. Let's not simply say, "Hey, let's all play this game." -- let's actually run the game, even if we can only run it online.

I am babbling, and I am trying to edit and clarify my post. Alas, I think I have rolled a critical failure on my attempt.


Serving imagination since '99
Eldritch Ass Kicking:


I read the entire thread and then went back to Paul's original post and here's my thoughts.  

Anyone who really wants their Indie game (or any game) to be a success in terms of actual play needs to break out of the Forge box.  I consider a "Forge game" successful when I start hearing about it at other sites- Kayfabe and Cartoon Action Hour both immediately come to mind, as well as Sorcerer and Little Fears of course.  

As big as the Forge is these days, its still only a fraction of the RPG community.  We can sure help each other, but we also shouldn't try to bear the entire brunt of one another's success.  

Making games that get played requires more than just making a good game and leaving it in a vaccuum.  It needs to be promoted beyond the Forge.  Reviews, play sessions, and active forum conversations need to happen... beyond the Forge.  

The Forge is a pretty safe place to make a game.  But once you have your game in hand, its time to leave the nest and take a plunge.  I personally think that a lot of Forge games stay "here" and don't get played much because there is an element of security in that.  Sending free copies to outside sources and making arrangements to get played, and played, and played (at conventions, game stores, by friends of friends) is a lot more emotionally risky- but its a necessary risk.

On the other hand, I'm a big fan of Clinton & Ron choosing two games a month for Actual Play and all of us commiting to playing one of the two at least -once- within those four weeks.  Giving the most polished Forge games a little extra attention and seriously addressing actual play and specific design issues relating to reading & playing it sure wouldn't hurt, and would probably help diminish the "spread too thin" feeling we sometimes encounter.



Just posting on the time issue:
I'm guilty.

I don't play indie games.  I have no group willing to play indie games...or rather, no group with the time available to do so.  We get three -- if we're reasonably lucky, four -- sessions a month, of two-to-three hours each.
That isn't a lot of time for gaming.
Hence we invest alot into what we are currently doing, and what we are currently doing is 3E D&D.
I make no apologies for this.
Yet I get the feeling from some that, perhaps, I should be.
Not an attitude I agree with.

Further, we play on-line.  My nearest player lives three-and-a-half hours from here and is soon to move further away; the others live in other time zones entirely.  This means that to play other games we all must own the material -- there is no book-sharing, no "I'm taking Fading Suns home tonight to look over and create a character."  More gaming books is money some of us don't have to spend on gaming.

Now, I would love to play some indie games.  Find me a group, on-line, who want to play some of these things and I will.  I've signed up for the Yahoo! group Nathan started for exactly this, and what I would like to know is: has anyone played yet?  All you need for a good session is three people, and that includes the GM.

Just something to keep in mind.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio