2008-03-20 : Mr Foot Goes to Mouthville, part 2

At Dreamation, Clyde and Luke bushwhacked me good. Now you can listen to it.

It was a humbling conversation and pretty damn intense. I welcome your questions. I haven't listened to Clyde's podcast yet, so my memory of it isn't point-by-point, so go easy on me! I'll listen to it when I can.

Also I'm leaving for Conpulsion in Edinburgh this afternoon. I'll be back ... Tuesday? So be patient for that. Or, if you happen to be there, I'll see you at the con!

1. On 2008-03-20, Jonathan Walton said:

Hey Vincent,

Does your gut-level fear of Burning Empires at least partially come from not wanting the indie scene to be re-absorbed back into the mainstream of roleplaying?

I know I've overcome some personal obstacles in the past in order to fully embrace Luke and The Burning Crew, because it sometimes seems like they're on their way to becoming the next Green Ronin, a small mainstream game company. Their terrific, full-color, 500-page brick of awesome symbolizes that fear for me, in some ways. That's not Luke's plan at all, I don't think, but I fear that more than I fear anything, that ultimately our flourishing little community of rebellion will somehow be standardized and conservative.  It's an irrational fear, perhaps, but a real one.


2. On 2008-03-20, Ben Lehman said:

Am I, like, the only game designer in the world who isn't, like, intimidated by the production of Burning Empires? I'm intimidated by Burning Empires as an act of game design. But, like, pretty book? Why?



3. On 2008-03-21, Eero Tuovinen said:

Not likely, Ben. Must be having to lug the game in and out of conventions all the time, but most of the time I see BE as just a brick. When I consider it as a product I'm mainly annoyed by the form factor - a larger book would be easier to use and withstand use better, and look more impressive to boot.


4. On 2008-03-21, Troy_Costisick said:


Vincent, one thing I would have asked had I been there is, "So was the Forge Diaspora helpful in creating new circles or cells for mutualism?  If so, how.  If not, why?"

But on second thought, that's just stupid.  It doesn't matter if it did or didn't.  Years have gone by.  I know the Diaspora made me feel like things were breaking up and going wrong, but that's not the issue.  The thing is, where do we go from here?  And the answer I have is: play other people's games and talk about them.  If you can, go to cons and gatherings to meet people and play with them.  As far as mutualism goes, IMO, that's the best way to get started.




5. On 2008-03-21, Matt Wilson said:

I think it's cool that Luke set a high standard of production for himself and then met it. I'm not intimidated by the book itself, but I am by the amount of effort Luke & crew put into creating it.

I mean, look at what it did to him. He's legally insane now, and has only one functional eye, and he can't climb stairs without assistance.


6. On 2008-03-22, Luke said:

Wilson, where the hell did you disappear to? I need help getting off the toilet!

I'd like to go public and confirm that Vincent and I did speak post-interviews (we did two), and reaffirmed our mutual commitments to respecting the shit out of each other and doing these things that we do.

I'm going to cross-post this in Clyde-Land.


7. On 2008-03-25, Feefers said:

ello Vincent, I totally saw you at Conpulsion you were awesome but I was scared of your beard (see evil twin beard theory) so didn't say hi which was ... pretty dumb really.

Anyway, hope you had an awesome time in Edinburgh and it wasn't overly cold.


8. On 2008-03-25, Vincent said:

I had a fantastic time in Edinburgh (about which, more soon). Say hi next time, okay?


9. On 2008-03-25, Vincent said:

With Luke.

Yeah, I'm looking narrowly at ideological criticisms of Burning Empires. Burning Empires too mainstream, you're on your own with that one. Me, I happen to know that Luke and I are ideologically identical ("make the best game you can and FUCK THEM").

I envy Burning Empires as an object, and it makes me insecure about where I'm putting my energy. I'm good with the fuck them, but am I really making the best game I can? (Reasoning answer: probably. Insecure answer: waah Burning Empires waah Sorcerer waah Shock: waah Grey Ranks waah Universalis waah [et cetera]!)

I also feel like, shit man, I owe Luke to play and understand and talk informedly about his games. I'm sure he'd let me off the hook, but I don't, and the size and game design of Burning Empires is a factor in my being able to understand and talk informedly about it. I signed up to play and talk about Luke's games. I've done okay by Burning Wheel, but not great, and Burning Empires is going to be even harder for me. It's intimidating in that regard.


10. On 2008-03-25, Thor Olavsrud said:

You think you've got it bad Vincent?

We measure our efforts against stuff like Dogs in the Vineyard and In a Wicked Age. You keep raising the bar on us!

Right now we're chasing InSpectres. Talk about intimidating!

Ben, YES!


We totally meant Burning Empires to be a finger in the mainstream game companies.

We wanted to make a book as good looking or better than anything that's come out of the mainstream companies, but totally indie and with gameplay as tight and demanding as focused design and our ability could make it.

In my view, the statement of Burning Empires as a product was that any schlub can make a pretty book, and if they want to differentiate themselves from us they better raise their bar for game design. They are not safe on the basis of production value alone.

Honestly, and with all respect to Chris Moeller (who is wonderful in all ways), I hate it when people praise Burning Empires based on its appearance and production values. I only care about that in as much as it supports and expresses the game. What I want to hear about is where it led you in play!

In a Wicked Age is exactly what it needs to be: beautiful, spare, lean and mean. And Burning Empires is exactly what it needs to be: baroque, saturated, difficult and subtle. I think the same is true of Sorcerer, Nine Worlds, With Great Power, Polaris and so many other games that have come out of our wonderful community.


11. On 2008-03-25, Jonathan Walton said:


This is good stuff. Thanks for talking it out a bit. Personally, I think the reaction to Burning Empires says a lot about the indie games community at this point in our existence, and I'd like to understand it better.

I totally get what you're saying about the intentions behind the product and it's tragic that somehow those didn't get translated better into shared sentiments when the game was released.  I think the community definitely shares a great deal of responsibility for not embracing and supporting BE as much as could have been done.

I think part of the reason BE felt alienating to a portion of the indie games crowd, especially folks who didn't previously have a strong relationship with Luke or the rest of you guys (like me) is that people decided, based on a cursory glance at things, that BE wasn't created for us, the members of the indie games community. It felt like it was something created by folks within the indie games community that specifically targeting mainstream roleplaying audiences.  Like, when I picked up Blossoms, a year later, I was like, "Hey, this book is written for me!" where before I was like "BE is clearly aimed at people who play Those Other Full-Color Hardcover Games, which doesn't include me at all.  Oh well. Place it back on the stack.  Sure is pretty though, but most of those pretty games suck or aren't for me [note the bias there]."  It was only later, when I heard about some of the neat scene framing guidelines, that I picked up a copy from my local game store.  So yeah, I think your intentions towards the mainstream were completely misread in a fair number of cases.

Also, as someone who didn't really know you guys well, I wrongly assumed that, because the Burning Crew was running Burning Wheel all the time and most of the Burning Wheel folks seem to almost exclusively in the Burning Wheel forums, that Luke and his comrades were pretty much only interesting in Burning Wheel and didn't really care that much about what was happening in the rest of the indie games community.  Now, in person, this has never been true.  When Luke and other folks have stopped by SGBoston a few times, we've played InSpectres and playtested Crime & Punishment and done other stuff, which is what changed my feelings over time. It would definitely be a shame if we continued to divide ourselves into little cliques based on false perceptions of what people are and aren't interested in.

Hopefully, as a community, we can try to patch things up and reaffirm our support for one another over the next few months and at GenCon.


12. On 2008-03-25, Thor Olavsrud said:


Thanks and I understand. We can be a quiet bunch sometimes, especially when we're knee-deep in a project.

So, (hopefully) without being too defensive, here's some of the stuff we've done:

Between 2003 and late 2006, before IPR really got started, Luke, Drozdal, Pete and Aaron lugged the NerdNYC table from con to con (I came on in 2004 or so). There were a handful of others (mostly Brennan, Michael and Kat Miller and M.J. Young) that went to cons, but other than that, the Forge guys pretty much only went to Gen Con and maybe Origins.

We were all over the place! I-Con, Vericon, Ubercon, Recess, Lollagazebo, Dreamation, Dexcon, Mace, Dragoncon, Shorecon, and a handful of others whose names I can't remember. Sometimes Luke would haul his stuff out to a nearby college gaming club because they invited him.

The Nerd table had the nerd T-shirts, business cards, stickers, and a supply of all the indie games that were coming out of the Forge that Luke could get his hands on. We were on point for getting games into the hands of folks up and down the east coast, including Sorcerer (and its supplements), My Life with Master, Universalis, kill puppies for satan, Dogs in the Vineyard, Primetime Adventures, With Great Power Preview Edition, Fvlminata, Multiverser, Pax Draconis, InSpectres, octaNe, Squeam, Elfs, Conspiracy of Shadows, etc.

I don't think we were solely responsible for it, but I do think that we played an important role in laying the groundwork to make Dreamation and Dexcon what they are today.

We ran games like mad at the Gotham Gaming Guild and Recess in New York City. Sorcerer, The Shadow of Yesterday, Capes, With Great Power, kill puppies for satan, Dogs in the Vineyard, Primetime Adventures, HeroQuest and others were all run for folks here in New York to the point that these games were adopted by the NerdNYC community and there are now usually as many if not more indie games played at Nerd events than there are mainstream games.

The Thursday crew playtests lots of games. Mortal Coil, Robots & Rapiers, First Quest, Galactic, Serial, and Acts of Evil are among the games that we've playtested.

Drozdal blogs about indie games and ways to play on his Polish-language blog, and has helped to get more people there looking at and playing indie games.

From an editorial standpoint, I've been involved in the No Press RPG Anthology, With Great Power, carry. a game about war., Serial, How We Came to Live Here, Darkpages, and Giants.

I feel like we've given blood and sweat to the community, you know?

There's no reason you should know this stuff. We don't (and didn't) do it for recognition. We just love good role-playing games and doing a good turn to others.

And that's what I want us all to focus on. Of course we're going to be closest with the folks who live near us and with whom we game often. We know them best. At the same time, we should strive to keep up the bonds across the larger community. First and foremost, we all love good role-playing games.


13. On 2008-03-26, Vincent said:

Quoth Luke, on Story Games, and I want it recorded here too:

And when one of your friends does something cool, whether it's pretty or ugly, fucking congratulate him.


14. On 2008-03-26, Jonathan Walton said:

Thor, totally.  It's really amazing that you guys did all that stuff and, yeah, I didn't really know about it.

Ideally you shouldn't have to talk about all the awesome stuff you've been doing, because your friends who know about it should bring it up for you, right?  Like "OMG, did you see that awesome shit that Thor did?!"  We just have to make sure that keeps happening, I guess.


15. On 2008-03-26, Luke said:

Vincent, Jonathan

This isn't about the BWHQ or Burning Empires. I am sure you know it, but I want to be explicit. This about something we all can be better at in the future, when there's a "next time." (And I'm not talking about Fred's inevitable super-mega-awesome full color glossy upcoming game that we'll all be obligated to love.) I'm talking about the hard ones, the lost ones. Those consigned to the wilderness.

Obviously, the BWHQ crew has only prospered for our efforts. We have not particularly suffered due to the weirdo indie rpg community backlash. It's not that we don't need you, it's that for us, the experience has been more educational and self-reflectional.

But there are other peeps out there who are pushing boundaries and need your love and support way the fuck more.

Vincent said it best: Play games; talk about games.

Even if you hate it, try to find some beauty in. Congratulate them. (And then shred their sorry asses for making broke-ass games!)



16. On 2008-03-26, Gregor said:

I find that BE is intimidating for me to run as a GM. I don't want to dedicate the time and effort it would take me to read it thoroughly enough to run it properly for people. I am happy to play it if someone else does all the reading though. (At one time in my life I would have been the guy to consume it all in exacting detail, but now I leave that to someone else.) However, I have no hesitation in recommending it to someone that is willing to do that stuff.

And Dro doesn't just promote the big-name games. Here's a post about Solipsist in Polish. Solipsist is a small game and below most people's radar. Dro doesn't tell anyone that he does this stuff, but he does it and I'm really appreciative of it.

I think sometimes we're too hard on ourselves too. We probably spread the word on each other's games more than we give ourselves credit for.


17. On 2008-03-26, Per said:

Gregor, BE is not a game you run FOR people, but WITH people. Many I've talked to feel like you - hell, I feel like that myself - it's too much for the usual "GM buys the book, reads it, preps and runs the game to entertain the players" type game. You have to share the burden, just like you share the fun. The players need to be in on the rules as well, and I'm serious: they should read and understand the rules as well. Is BE the first game where this is (IMO) an explicit necessity?

It's a challenge. I like challenges :)


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