Post Mortem After the Death Of the Forge, How Did It "Help"?
Now that the furore has died down regarding my victory announcement, and Ron Edward's absurd "victory" announcement where he shuts down the forge because its so "successful", many people have been analyzing Edwards' legacy. Interestingly, the vast majority are doing so in a fairly condemnatory way, even those you might have thought would side normally with the swine or would say some empty gracious platitude or would just not say anything.
The hardcore, the "going down with the ship" kind of Forge Swine, are always out there defending the "legacy". And I've already shot to pieces their various arguments that somehow Forge Theory was anything more than a hairbrained pustulent sore on our hobby, and almost exactly ass-backwards in terms of both what is True and what Works (seriously! take the "Forge Theory" essays, and do exactly the OPPOSITE of everything it tells you to do, and you'll have an incredibly successful gaming career).
But the Forge Swine always fall back on one argument: "well... yes, maybe Ron was utterly full of shit when it came to Theory but he was always mainly about PUBLISHING, and what he did that was so worthwhile was that he invented Indie Publishing".
No he didn't, you stupid shit. There have been ridiculous claims this past week from some people who should and others who definitely do know better, that make it seem like before Edwards came along the publishing field in the RPG hobby was a vast empty wasteland dominated by faceless megacorps. Yes, it was McDonalds and Glaxo Smith-Klein who were producing RPGs until Edwards came along and "Told us all" that we could publish our own games.
Its a load of utter bullshit. If you actually remember the 90s (and I do, vaguely), there were shitloads and shitloads of independently-published games. Ditto for the 80s, and of course for the 70s. In fact, our hobby started with an "indie game". The only thing Edwards did in that regard was invent a mentality that "indie games" have to in fact mean MORE than self-published, that they have to "represent" a pretentious pseudo-intellectual and elitist subculture.
So Edwards' defenders will claim "well, if he didn't invent it he was at least really good for self-publishing!". No, fuckers, the PDF was really good for self-publishing. Edwards, in fact, caused it incredible harm.
His takeover of the entire independent publishing arena for a while, garnering enough online influence to determine what's "hip" and what's not, the Forge Swine creating the IPR which for a brief while was where everyone who actually wanted to get their books out there to be seen wanted to be, all of this created an atmosphere of pretentious bullshit. The first step was that it alienated publishers who wanted to make regular rpgs. The more the Forge went on, the more outrageous the "standard" of what an "indie game" should be became. Sorcerer is an extremely mild and inoffensive game by Forge standards, because it was basically first. Compare that to My Life With Master, or Dogs in the Vinyard. Or those with the Shab al-hiri roach. Or those with Poison'd or Grey Ranks or Maid. At every step, Forge games became more exclusive, more divorced from anything a regular roleplayer would want to play or a normal human being would find appealing, more pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-artistic, and more generally degenerate focusing on abject suffering, torture, sexual perversion of the worst kind, even up to and including the infamous "cabin boy being decapitated and throat-raped" rule in Poison'd.
So soon, a normal Joe who wanted to publish a game didn't want to be associated with "indie gaming". "Indie gaming" was not a big open tent, it had become an exclusive subculture, that ultimately made itself exclusive by how disgusting it became. But this intimidated normal game designers, limiting their enthusiasm for publishing for fear that they would "fail" (because the Forge had made great propaganda about how their definition of "success" was the right one), for fear of getting branded as one of these degenerates, for fear of being mocked, or that regular games weren't going to get the coverage those others would. It was a massive campaign of intimidation on Edwards' part, and the goal was to STOP regular people from making regular self-published RPGs, not to "encourage" them. Edwards only ever wanted to "encourage" the people who fit his ideological mold, those who would be part of his revolution.
And ultimately, of course, it also went beyond intimidating the publisher to intimidating the customer. Soon, "self-published" meant "Degenerate book about naked underage slaves being tortured with broom handles", and a great deal of gamers decided "You know what, I'm better off playing it safe with WoTC products". People's ability to trust that they would get something they'd want if they bought an "indie game" was seriously hampered by the fact that the Forge "indie" movement wasn't really producing RPGs that people wanted (it wasn't producing RPGs at all! It was producing "storygames"), and that at the same time some of those games were extremely deceptive in their presentation, appearing on the outside like a good old-fashioned adventure RPG, only to make the reader find when he'd bought the book that it was actually about "the theme of coping with loss", or about the "conflicts and secrets in a small town and how one determines justice". Or just about boy scouts and girl guides seeing their lives destroyed before being brutally murdered by Nazis. You know, that kind of fun stuff that's great for an evening's laughs.
By alienating the public, by intimidating the real RPG writers out there, general pretentiousness and an atmosphere of intimidation and propagandist lies, Edwards did VASTLY more harm than any good to RPG self-publishing. Edwards came in, and tried to claim he invented something that had actually been around since the LITERAL day one of the hobby, and basically destroyed the very thing that people are trying to now credit him for "inventing".
It has only been in the last few years, because of places like theRPGsite, where non-Forge-Swine small-press publishers can conglomerate and interact with an interested audience and the Forge Swine are not going to be able to intimidate them out of existence, that small-press publishing of real RPGs has begun to make a recovery. The new movement of the OSR has vastly accelerated that, and now the "indie movement" has fallen all but into obscurity, its death rattle being Edwards' closing down of the Forge. But its telling just how much damage Edwards and the Forge really did to self-publishing that to this day, most of the newer self-publishing authors will try very hard not to refer to their game as an "indie" game.
(Originally posted November 9, 2010)