Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Side Rant

I won’t do this too often here, but every now and then there’s going to be something that needs to be said. Here it is: The next person I see link some newbie poster the two articles on Fantasy Heartbreaker is going to get one angry PM from me. I am sick and tired of people using those two articles as a club to beat some poor guy who’s just looking for some feedback and a place to belong. Enough already!

Time and Time and Time and Time again I see people ON THEIR FIRST POST in the thread link them the Fantasy Heartbreaker articles. And half the time (maybe more) it’s linked by people who have never written, let alone published an RPG. Who are you to decide who is worthy to write a game and who isn’t? It’s like swatting down some poor kid’s dream before he even has a chance to see if it will fly. Linking those articles to a newbie poster isn’t feedback folks, it’s bullying. That’s right, you’re a bully.

Not once in those articles did Ron ever say they didn’t have a right to be published. Never did he say that those games aren’t fun to play. And he certainly never established a pattern on whacking someone over the head with them to keep him or her from designing their game!

And more than anything, people who typically link them forget about one of the most important components of a Fantasy Heartbreaker: Publishing. Here’s a quote from the first article: “And considering when most were published, before most printers changed their policies regarding small print runs, print costs must have been enormous, in the $6000-plus category for standard paperbacks. Some of the games contain cardstock inserts, too. Vanity is vanity, sure, but we are not talking about small sums. …they are not selling direct to end-users, they are selling to the tiers. A limited presence in stores via "slush-fund" ordering is the best they can hope for, meaning no in-store sales or even recognition of their presence. And even if they get to end-users, their aggressively retro mode of play and presentation cannot compete with those games which defined that mode of play and command the loyalty of those who value it. In terms of the tiers, these games are what define small press: imitative game design, low-budget presentation, and minimal customer interest. To the retailer of the 1990s, such a game is not re-ordered, even if it sells.”

Now, can you honestly tell me that from the first post the newbie makes you can say whether or not they plan to sink thousands of dollars into publishing the game to sell to distributors and not end users? Can you assure me that their publishing plans aren’t just to turn it into a pdf and sell it on Drivethru RPG? I doubt it.

So instead of bullying someone out of writing a game, dig deeper. Ask them pointed questions that might lead them to A) changing the style of their game or B) keep them from sinking large amounts of cash into it. But don’t tell them that their game sucks! Don’t tell them they’re automatically a Heartbreaker because they said the word “fantasy” in their post. Step up to the table and give them a real feedback post that will help them improve their design. Linking articles on the Forge in your first post in the thread is a coward’s way to feedback.

On your third of fourth post of trying to help this guy, then maybe it would be time to link it and be done with him. But only after you give your best effort to help them improve their design and they just don’t seem to understand or care about what you’re trying to get at. But every time I see those links in someone’s first post, I get irate.


For further reading along these lines, check out this article by Joshua BishopRoby.


Joshua BishopRoby said...

It's sort of a pervasive Forge issue -- we seek to understand the hobby, so we classify it; different classifications accrue connotations of value and quality -- originally and properly in specific contexts, such as "this thing is good for that goal," but the qualification eventually gets lost -- and then the assumed value and quality standards of specific classifications are applied across the board. Usually, as you point out, by the guys who haven't completed a design and haven't published, the guys who have been at the Forge only a couple months, but sadly not always. Fantasy Heartbreakers become second-class citizens of the RPG world, and "Narrativist" games are lauded as the apogee in design.

Unfortunately, it's not really a situation that is resolvable, I think. This is an uncomfortable stage in the learning process, where the student must incorrectly apply new concepts in order to understand where they don't apply. The fact that we do all our learning out in the open at the Forge means that we're constantly publicly misapplying concepts in our quest to learn to apply them correctly. Maybe the Intro to Big Model forum will help with this, but it certainly won't end the problem completely.

Troy_Costisick said...


This is an uncomfortable stage in the learning process, where the student must incorrectly apply new concepts in order to understand where they don't apply. The fact that we do all our learning out in the open at the Forge means that we're constantly publicly misapplying concepts in our quest to learn to apply them correctly

You have a good point here, Josh. I know I've made my share of public mistakes on The Forge. Still do in fact. Taking it to PM's is probably the best way to handle situations like the one I described.

Thanks for dropping by :)



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