Damn You, Paul

January 2, 2009

Listening to Paul Tevis has provoked me into planning a podcast again. Here’s my outline for the first episode:

Top Five Interesting Developments of 2008
(in no particular order)

1. Fourth Edition: focused design, the GMG being good, skill challenges, making minis fun, borrowing good stuff from Blizzard, the GSL eliminating most third party publishers.

2. Diversification of the Forge Diaspora: too many games to keep up with, too many different kinds of games to like them all, localization of communities, and (finally) diversification of publication models beginning.

3. Nordic Invasion: US roleplaying scene stops playing footsie with Scandinavia and gets serious, Jeep arrives, Eero publishes Zombie Cinema and Solar System, Chris Pramas goes to Ropecon, etc.

4. Leading with the Fiction: with In A Wicked Age and Poison’d, Vincent points to another alternative to focusing on resolution.

5. Structured Freeform Arrives Despite Me: thanks to Eero (Zombie Cinema), Elizabeth (It’s Complicated), and Shreyas (Mist-Robed Gate).

Yes, between Jeep, leading with the fiction, and structured freeform… that gives us three new styles of design and play that don’t focus on resolution. Woohoo!

Five Predictions for 2009

1. Further syncretization of board games, card games, miniatures games, roleplaying games, and larp as the differences between genres of “analog games” are destroyed by boundary-spanning designs.

2. White Wolf has to do something to avoid becoming Palladium Books, producing the same kinds of games for the same audience. They’ve already started producing fancy board games. Maybe they produce a focused design RPG (not their traditional fare), produce a legitimate RPG-board game hybrid (probably based on Exalted), or start a boutique label in the mode of Vertigo, hiring “edgy indie designers” to revamp IP they’re not currently using (“Luke Crane’s Dark Age Viking Werewolves”) or producing creator-owned content by their own freelancers.

3. GenCon stops being the annual meeting of the indie game community as the community diversifies and fragments, localizes, and tries different publishing styles.

4. In similar terms to my White Wolf prediction, some company steps up to be the Vertigo/Image of the indie games scene, publishing creator-owned material for a number of people who would otherwise be creator-publishers. Keep your eye on Fred Hicks and Brennan Taylor in this regard.

5. The GSL is revised to be more publisher-friendly, but it’s too late to change the general movement towards medium-sized publishers using proprietary or open content, not licensing stuff from Wizards.

16 Responses to “Damn You, Paul”

  1. Jason Says:

    I like your predictions. I think all of this (well, everything but #2, who knows about that) is underway and perhaps more iterative and incremental than one year will allow.

  2. Paul Czege Says:

    Isn’t Malcolm Sheppard already out the gate on prediction #4 with his Mob United Media Mobworx line?



  3. renatoram Says:

    Well, EvilHat is already well underway to being this: they’ll publish Chad’s “S7S”, Daniel’s “Do”, Macklin’s “Mythender”… and that’s only what we know NOW. 🙂

    Then, they’ll release the DFRPG and sell thousands, and become famous 🙂
    (hey, one can hope!)

  4. Jason: You’re probably right that some of these will take several years. I’ve been making the Vertigo prediction every year for the past 3 years.

    Paul: There’s also Mongoose’s Flaming Cobra, who talked to Vincent about publishing Dogs and released the first (bad) printing of CthulhuTech, but I mean one that makes a significant splash. No offense to Malcolm, of course. I’m sure his publishing agreement is better than Mongoose’s, but I’ve never heard of any of the games he’s publishing, aside from Aeternal Legends, and that’s just because he pimped it on SG.

    Renato: Yeah, that’s why I put Fred on my shortlist. Assuming S7S and Do come out next year, and they’re both really solid, something might be happening there. Thing is, Evit Hat has to be successful enough doing it to both 1) be able to keep doing it, and 2) inspire other folks to consider a similar publishing model.

  5. Paul Czege Says:

    It seems to me for #4 we’re looking for an endeavor with demonstrated success on two axes. There’s the “John W. Campbell mentors a great generation of SF writers as editor of Astounding Science Fiction” axis, and there’s the “marketing and publishing of creator-owned RPGs” axis. Mobworx and Flaming Cobra are actually selling creator-owned gamebooks, so they’re showing visible progress on that axis. Hard to know who’ll turn out to be the John W. Campbell of the story though, so I’m thinking it’s still anyone’s game.


  6. Nathan P. Says:

    Let me know if you need/want any help with the podcast. For example, I have a (decent) USB mic and (good) audio recording software. Also, like, talking about stuff is cool.

    I’m not sure that there’s too many games to keep up with. Or maybe I just don’t know about a lot of cool stuff? But I feel like the last year has been a good, fallow year of people working on stuff that they’ve been working on for a while without pushing it into production (or whatever).

  7. Paul Tevis Says:

    “Listening to Paul Tevis has provoked me into planning a podcast again.”

    I win.

  8. Paul: Yggxactly.

    Nathan: Wanna be on my second episode, “How to publish games, but not really”? Also, I think there are too many “active” games, in the sense that there have been gob-loads published in the past 3-5 years that haven’t seen enough play and should still be on people’s radar. I think you’re right, though, that this year was a slower one for publication within the community, which is hopefully a good sign.

    Paul: The number of horrors you have unleashed on the world is untold.

  9. Fred Hicks Says:

    2009, assuming the various in-development things emerge therefrom, is when we see if the experiment works.

    If it don’t, well, that’ll be data.

  10. Matthijs Says:

    “Yes, between Jeep, leading with the fiction, and structured freeform… that gives us three new styles of design and play that don’t focus on resolution.”

    Four, if you count Norwegian design (see The Father, Until we Sink, Fruit Hangs Heavy/Fuck Youth, and most role-playing poems).

  11. Jonathan Walton Says:

    Fred: Yup. It’ll be interesting to know, either way.

    Matthijs: Totally, but that hasn’t visibly impacted the Anglo-American scene yet. Hopefully your “Norwegian Style” book will change that. Definitely looking forward to it.

  12. Sure! I think we could have a really interesting for-public discussion about that, actually.

  13. Linnaeus Says:

    I’m sure you’ve realized this by now (what with Paul’s podcast about it), but A Flower for Mara fits the Structured Freeform model as well.

  14. Jonathan Walton Says:

    Linnaeus: Actually, Paul’s description of Jeep as “structured freeform” is interesting, because it’s not really the same thing as I mean by structured freeform. Paul uses “freeform” in the sense of larp freeform, while I use it in terms of tabletop freeform, which are kinda different things.

    The tabletop design style I call “structured freeform” is basically (as I once told Emily Care):

    1. All Drama (as opposed to Fortune and Karma)
    2. Guiding Structures But No Resolution
    3. Consistent Implementation of Those Structures

    So, yeah, while A Flower for Mara fits those categories well, it’s more Jeep inspired than the kinds of games that draw on the tabletop freeform tradition, I think.

  15. Linnaeus: Hey, nevermind, I totally take that back. I actually think the structured freeform in both Jeep and the kinds of games I’m talking about are the same. I just didn’t realize it before because they focus on completely different content. Your post was actually instrumental in helping me realize that, thanks! New post coming.

  16. Ed Heil Says:

    For totally selfish reasons I hope #3 does not come true. I happen to be in driving distance of Indy and enjoy having the world come to me. 🙂

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