2008-03-31 : Conpulsion 2008 Story 4: Indie Shortcomings
When I play indie rpgs, I find myself missing (please check all that apply):
_ Campaign play
_ Rich setting
_ Rules flexibility
_ Other: _______________
Sunday morning at Conpulsion Gareth Hanrahan, Iain McAllister and I sat in a circle of comfy chairs and talked to people about rpg design and publishing. For those of you who don't know, Gareth Hanrahan writes for Mongoose, he's currently writing the new edition of Traveller; Iain McAllister is the author of Mob Justice.
Gar and I layed out the indie vs trad thing, publishing-wise, up front. I talked a bit about the new technologies that make indie rpg publishing even possible, and he talked a bit about how incorrect it is to call an operation consisting of 3 roleplayers with some cash a soulless bloodsucking corporation. He said that sure, there are horror stories about freelancers not getting paid, but mostly you do get paid, and I said that that's my brother Drew's experience too, as an artist.
No controversies. "Soulless bloodsucking corporation" did get incorrectly used later in the seminar, alas.
Then we talked about design. Gar was gracious - when he raised indie rpgs' shortcomings, he set it up so that Iain and I were able to answer in terms of decisions you make as a designer, instead of setting us up to defend the current fads and fashions in indie rpg design. For instance, "not so much immersion in indie games?" he said, and I got to say, "well, what matters to me is that the players be surprised, excited, frightened, engaged. Surprising, exciting, frightening or engaging their characters is one way to do it, but not the only way, and sometimes not the best way. It's a technique available to you, is all. As designer, you choose whatever techniques you think best suit your design goals."
Same with production choices. We talked about Luke's creating the infrastructure he needs in order to physically make the books he makes, vs my NOT creating any such infrastructure, so being far more limited in my physical products.
So the seminar went well. Gar, Iain, thank you. Everyone who participated, thank you. It was a pleasure. Talking about rpg design is one of my favorite things in the world.
At Cat's party a couple of nights earlier, Shevaun had talked to me about indie rpg design too. Same thing: "we miss campaign play," she'd said.
So take it as a heads up, indie rpg designers. If the Edinburgh scene is any indication, there's a strong market for indie rpgs that deliver the above. Some of us could do pretty well by reaching it, I think.
Oh and also, J, you should be proud. Shock:'s the current held exemplar of hyperfocused system-hard rpg design. Apparently everything from traditional play that indie rpgs lack, Shock: lacks extra.
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