2005-02-02 : Archive 165

I've made my second big Dreamation post on the Forge: Roleplaying Theory In Person.

Here, I want to say two things more, things about the Forge that came up in the conversation.

1) When you go back and read a Forge thread, there's no way to understand it fully. We created it in a context of surrounding threads. We created it with a rhythm that we were all aware of and all following intently, which is now gone. We know how long between which posts. We know what each participant was reading and writing elsewhere during those silences. You never can.

2) Creating a Forge thread, sometimes we come to an agreement that's good enough. It's hard won, we do Ron's group hug thing, we go apart - and we start to draw conclusions. What if the agreement was good enough for the thread, but not good enough for drawing the same conclusions? Here's what: we create divergent schools of thought. Gradually we come to realize it - but do we have the energy to tear each other down and start over? Hardly ever.

Do you wonder why I'm doing RPG theory here instead of there? I do sometimes. But when I think about posting some of this stuff there, I start to imagine how far down into the assumptions I'll have to defend. How much wrongness I'll have to engage with and tear down, because of that time when an agreement was good enough for a thread, but not for real.

1. On 2005-02-02, Ben Lehman said:

You're drafting chapters for a book. You don't need an open forum, really. That isn't helpful. Having these discussions at your place, as it were, allows an environment where you can take a more authorial and less equal stance.

It's the same reason why I post some RPG stuff on my LiveJournal and some at the Forge.

It's a good thing.



2. On 2005-02-02, Keith, Goat Master said:

I know that I for one find the Theory aspect of the Forge utterly useless. Like you said, I am not privy to the context of the discussion so I get lost, and since I have no patience for this shit I throw my hands in the air and wait until I can talk face-to-face/phone-to-phone to someone about it. I've gained more from conversation than I ever have through the forum when it comes to this matter. Personally I think it is too nuanced to not discuss verbally. Just look at the conversations had with Tony at Dreamation.


3. On 2005-02-02, Poh Tun Kai said:

With regards to 1), it's what makes the Forge so inaccessible to newcomers. I'll gladly read your blog here because you explain what you discuss. With the Forge, there's just so much, I don't know, specialised terminology, assumptions and insider context that no outsider can make heads or tail of all of it.

This is true to some degree of most online communities, but the Forge just seems to overflow with specialised definitions. It's tough going for me.


4. On 2005-02-02, Chris said:

Not only is it tough enough to begin with, but then you get some folks who read the theory stuff, get none, some, or all of it, and then decide to become "Theory Crusaders" and proceed to go way overboard with showing off what they know, or think they know, or how smart they can make themselves look. But when the average newcomer says, "Um, gimme an example of play?" they throw out enough terminology that folks need to go back to school and get a degree in cognitive studies just to go, "Uh, ok."

Hell, I understand the theory, but I have NO IDEA of what those guys are talking about- at all.


5. On 2005-02-02, Clinton R. Nixon said:

When the co-founder avoids the theory, something's amiss.

I just wish I could go back three years and show the Forge to you guys. If you're really interested, do a search for the first 100 or so threads on the Forge. It's a magical, awesome place.

One of my favorite threads: The new distribution.


6. On 2005-02-03, Ninja Hunter J said:

You can never stand in the same river twice. Let's learn what we can and teach everyone a lesson with the results.

It took me a long, long time to really get into much Forge stuff, because it's a bunch of people talking to people who already know what they mean, or they're trying to look like that's what's going on.

For the most part, I don't see that as the intent. I see a lot of people saying 'What does IIEE mean, really?' and then a lot of people working on neat stuff, and the occasional Hearbreaker. Which still amazes me.


7. On 2005-02-03, Jonathan Walton said:

Dudes, 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 a 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!


8. On 2005-02-03, Matt said:

This blog is proof to me that theory doesn't have to sound like... theory. Except for some posts that do, but I skip over those.

I like theory best when presented in game form.


9. On 2005-02-03, Vincent said:

Well that was a pigfuck. 'Scuse me, mom.


10. On 2005-02-03, Tim Alexander said:

Hey Folks,

The Forge hasn't lost it's relevence, but it appears to be changing it's focus. I'm not a huge poster, but I've been lurking for a while. The Forge is a big body of work, and it's a great resource. Really, it's a great resource. It's really raw though, and you have to do a lot of digging to have it be accessible. The people who are getting the most out of the Forge with regards to theory at this point are the unexposed. They want to do what was done in those beginning posts.

Those early posters though aren't interested in going back to that though, so they drift away from those topics. In my mind that doesn't mean those posters who are rehashing the initial talks aren't being productive, they're just hitting a different place. Personally I'm more interested in reading the body of work, so I did. I'm not sure who's got the better angle on learning.

I'm glad Vincent blogs here, I find it really focused and useful in a way that the rehashing threads just aren't for me. That said, I think the Forge still has a lot of merit via actual play. Ron always harps on it, and I think people give it lip service, but man I wish we'd get better at doing actual play posts. Some of the most though provoking stuff I've seen on the Forge in recent months has been stuff in how people's games work in practice.



11. On 2005-02-03, Vincent said:

Clinton: I think I must have been in the first batch of Forge-fuckin' newbies.

Ben: Book the huh?


12. On 2005-02-03, Clinton R. Nixon said:

Holy crap, Vincent! You stirred the waters a bit today.

Actual play is what the Forge should be about. I kind of doubt this will happen, but I e-mailed Ron this morning about an idea. March should be the first annual "Play and Write Your Game Already" month. The GNS and Theory forums would be closed for a month, leaving really only Indie Design and Actual Play.

It'd be an interesting web experiment at the least.


13. On 2005-02-03, Vincent said:

I'd be so fuckin' there.


14. On 2005-02-03, Ben Lehman said:

Remember the textbook that you aren't writing?




15. On 2005-02-03, Meguey said:

Wow. I'm so casual a Forge person, and so rarely do I delve into theory, butI'd love to read the PaWYGA threads!

All the commets here just make me nod and say "Yep."


16. On 2005-02-03, Eric Finley said:

I'm with Vincent. All over that.


17. On 2005-02-03, Vincent said:

Ben: Oh right, doom. I remember now. How sweetly the birds sang, then, before I remembered my doom.


18. On 2005-02-03, Vincent said:

Tim: There's a curious thing. Actual Play posts generate replies when the play went badly, or is problematic somehow. A writeup of the best play only generates replies between the people who played it.

I think that slows the forum. I also think there's nothing to do about it; it's just how it is. A bunch of "sounds great wish I'd been there!" replies aren't helpful either.

...Now, what I just said? I think Actual Play is the forum that's working best. It's nicely-paced, considered, and there's no nonsense in it. Theory and GNS are too easy to post to. There's nothing you have to accomplish first!

I'm not suggesting it as a rule, but what if you could launch at most 3 threads in Theory for each thread you launch in Actual Play?


19. On 2005-02-03, Tim Alexander said:

Hey Vincent,

I disagree a bit. Sometimes successful play does generate stuff, like the tangent on one of your Adventures threads when Paul and I talked about getting you to analyze how you kept continuity. I think the Moose thread there's less of that, but I think it's useful even without it because there's a whole lot of information on how the group dynamic worked. I wasn't lurking when it started but I would have liked to try and nail people down on how that evolved.

I just dropped a post in on how to create an actual play post that actually evokes these kinds of probing, though I don't know if I got across what I was looking for as well as I wanted. Also, I think the 3 to 1 idea sounds nice, but I'd almost prefer seeing you have to reference an actual play post in any theory post. You could post your own actual play and refer to it, but you couldn't start a thread in a vaccuum. That way you don't have an arbitrary limit, but you have to have a reference point to avoid some of the back and forth without people having a starting point.



20. On 2005-02-03, Keith, Goat Master said:

Vincent: Actual Play posts generate replies when the play went badly, or is problematic somehow. A writeup of the best play only generates replies between the people who played it.

This must be why mine never get any comments except for the ocasional clarification on rules stuff. I think it would be nicer and even more effective as a forum if folks were also interested in the hows and whys of what went right.


21. On 2005-02-03, Chris said:

I think a major part of it may have to do with the fact that problematic play gives us insight into the system and/or group, while many people post positive play without anything more than a transcript of in game events. Usually when folks attach a question, or insightful statements or observations of trends, you get more response.

It's sort of the difference between, "I ate a hamburger" and "Have you ever noticed with hamburgers, they're like -this-? Why is that?"


22. On 2005-02-03, Emily Care said:

Also, it's a matter of what other folk think they can contribute. If something is broken (ie dysfunctional play), they can tell you how to fix it. If they disagree with what you say, then they can say so. But if basically everybody thinks it's kind of cool, then they won't all pile on to say "good job". Substantive agreement is less voluble than disagreement, and shorter threads tend to get fewer reads and disappear quicker from the rolls on a php forum.


23. On 2005-02-03, Tim Alexander said:

Well, and if there's that much consensus then I suppose having it roll off isn't too much a of loss. It's the positive play stuff that has insights that resonate but people don't understand or can't capitalize on that are important to keep at the front. The question is whether that sort of stuff is being conveyed effectively enough to elicit discussion.

The discussions resulting from poor play experience posts do less to further the discourse in general than the ones spawned from positive play. Discussions from positive ones are fewer though, and my wonder is whether that's because they're harder to write in a way inviting discussion, or because insights like the above are just more rare. I'm dubious of the latter, otherwise I'd expect we'd see far less lousy play posts.



24. On 2005-02-03, Jonathan Walton said:

Clinton: Do it! Do it! Do it!

March sounds about right for Vesperteen anyway. Maybe for Push #1 too, come to think of it. I'm chomping at the bit for excuses. Like a NaNoWriMo for game play and design.


25. On 2005-02-07, Doug Ruff said:

So, I followed the Forge Diaspora, and ended up here. Hope that's cool.

I think Emily's comment is spot on, especially about fixing what's broken. However, although "fixing" is a valuable activity, I think that this - inevitably - draws some focus away from creating something brand new. PaWYGA would be a good step towards creating more, and commenting less.

PS email is - or you can PM me at the Forge. See you around.