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Wednesday 6 May 2015

The Real Legacies of The Forge

Well, since my previous post pointing out how Ron Edwards was "not getting" the Legion (which is pseudo-intellectual code for "I think it's dumb, and I'll say that I'm not saying its stupid like five times in my blog entry to just really drive home the point that my readers should suspect it of being stupid") I've had a barrage of rebuttals on G+ from what feels like the Homecoming Day/10th Anniversary School-Reunion of the Forge.  Mostly on Ron Edward's stream, because he retreated there where he knew all HIS people would see him and leap to his defense rather than arguing on my own turf where I had initially posted my comments.  But that's fine, I'm not a coward, so I went over there to slug it out.

In the slugfest, there was no end of bullshit, and it became clear just how desperate all the Forge people are to try to re-write history and portray the Forge as though it had been a bastion of tolerance, openness and defense of regular Roleplaying, when of course it had been anything but.   You'd think from how they describe it now, the Forge had spent all its time singing the praises of D&D, to which you'd wonder where they would have then found the time to present game 'theories' that suggest D&D is inherently flawed and creates an experience that makes gamers 'secretly miserable', as Edwards suggested in his earliest Forge documents?
Oh, and of course, they dragged out the old canard that we all need to thank the Forge because they somehow "invented" self-publishing, so without them we would never have had any small press games ever because they invented it!

Here's the real truth:  Forgists had nothing but contempt for regular gamers, and this obviously included D&D. Again, I was there.  I never ever saw anyone associated with the Forge making any positive comments about D&D or old-school play, ever, until around the time Dungeon World came along as their big move to try to subvert old-school.

As to the second, the reason I said "positive" is because I suppose someone could make an argument that one factor that contributed to the rise of the OSR was regular and old-school gamers growing increasingly sick of the pretentiousness of the Forge and being demeaned in public forums for liking the type of games they did.  That's pretty much the only sense in which one could say the Forge helped the OSR come into being, but it's hardly something to "thank" Forgists for.

As for all that bullshit about 'creator-driven design', that's actually something that the Forge constantly takes credit for but NEVER INVENTED.  Ask Kevin Siembieda if it was the Forge that gave him the idea to publish his own books. Or Steve Jackson. Or Gary Gygax.

The OSR owes them nothing. Not the Forge in general, or Ron Edwards as its architect in particular. 

Even the arguable resurgence of self-publishing in the last decade was not 'thanks to' the Forge, it was thanks to the invention of the PDF, the kindle, and Lulu/Createspace (that is to say, the rise of self-publishing in general).

I've also had several Forgists or Storygamers, in arguments with me, claim I'm "not a game designer" because the OSR is just imitative and not "real design", since I don't use jenga blocks or whatever.

And I've spoken to several publishers of small press games who expressed their frustration at the way that the "indie game" crowd created a little coterie that shut out anyone who made games from an ideology that they didn't like (i.e. regular RPGs, rather than storygames).  If you're one of these, and brave enough to say so, and to comment about how you were shut out, I'd sure like to hear it - I know you're out there, because you've said it to me before, but I don't want to be the one to out you.

Their attempt to exaggerate their own prominence and shut out other publishers including using tactics like citing each others in ways to get totally obscure micro-game publishers from the Forge their own wikipedia articles while much bigger self-publishers can't from "lack of citation", or stuffing the "indie gaming awards" to the point that they're a fucking joke; while reporting non-forge publishers that tried to get more notice.

The Forge movement pissed all over any game that wasn't GNS.  And now you're acting outraged that we dare to remember that, rather than just pretend along with you that you all loved D&D from day one.

I'll just close, then, by sharing a link that gives a fairly accurate perspective on just what Edwards, and the Forge, was really about back then, and why it sucked.  Note that the article doesn't come from me, nor does it even paint me in a particularly good light, making the argument that I helped make the Forge famous by my very opposition to it (which is a legitimate kind of point, I recognize):

Pretty well everything Ron Edwards did in the hobby up until very recently was directly harmful to the hobby as it traditionally stood. He was not a supporter of regular RPGs or of D&D.  He created an exclusive elite club of pseudo-intellectual hipster-authors that would denigrate anyone else's self-publishing, so claiming he opened that up to the general public is bullshit too (the Forge wanted 'everyone' to be a self-publisher, but only if 'everyone' embraced GNS theory, kissed Ron's ass, and acted like pretentious pseudo-intellectual twats).  His ideas ruined D&D when they were embraced in 4e. His ideas were ultimately proven WRONG in every respect.  And because of what he did and how he did it, not only did the level of conflict and acrimony increase in the online communities related to RPGs (and its no small surprise that many of the forge/storygamer crowd are now part of the pseudo-activist crowd staging witch-hunts against people who aren't part of their cool-crowd; though I will recognize that Edwards himself seems to have taken a strong anti-censorship stance and has been on the right side of several recent controversies), but it also made it almost impossible for people to talk about the root-concepts of RPGs without starting a flamewar or in some other way evoking the ghost of his shitty theories.

So I have a problem with his coming along now and pretending like he was the Champion of Traditional Play and did no wrong in the past 15 years, much less claiming that we owe him something.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + Gawith's Balkan Flake


  1. I'll read the linked article either tonight or tomorrow when I have more time. But I can tell you that I was briefly part of the Forge discussion boards around 2004. It was a strange time because all the big RPG companies seemed like antediluvian mega-corporations and there was almost no reason to try and make your own RPG, especially with any regard for fame or profit.

    One good thing about the Forge is that a certain segment of outsider indie RPG publishers were relentlessly throwing junk against the wall hoping it would stick. And some of it did; although, usually for the wrong reasons. I received a decent amount of support from a couple key people and created Empire of Satanis. What I like to call one of the shittiest RPGs I could have pooped out of my brain. It's like Encounter Critical, except taking it self seriously and even that's giving it way too much credit.

    Anyways, I was an anti-authoritarian, outspoken dude (and occasional arrogant douche) back in those days. I parted ways from the Forge soon after publishing EoS, not on the best of terms (which was par for the course for me back then). I remember there being a lot of judgement, criticism (some constructive, some not), and anti-traditional RPG fanaticism all over the forum. If it wasn't a Forge-type game (both indie and story/GSN focused), then it was anathema to the Forge and Forgies and whatever master plan they were concocting.

    Even though I purchased a few of the most-hyped Forge-esque RPGs whilst there, I never had the urge to play them. Part of my brain thought that I should be open to this new kind of roleplaying and forced me to consider running or playing in a game, but I found no passion there. To me, most of those games were like free-form card games, except stifling game mechanics that replaced actual emotion and drama.

    Perhaps what came out of that place fostered a climate of independent RPG publishing, but it could just as easily been a coincidence. I'm grateful for the push, if only to get my initial failures out of the way so I could start producing something relevant that I'm actually passionate about. Wow, this was a long comment...

    1. You're not the only one who had similar experiences to this, as I alluded above. Others were even less fortunate; maybe because (in 2004) you were still in relatively early-days there; I heard from other would-be publishers that they were treated with nothing but derision.

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  3. Wow. So the Forge is trying to take the blame for OSR? How noble of you to step in and take that bullet for them.

    [i]I'm just kidding![/i] A lot of good stuff has come out of that movement. =) I'd even say it influenced 5E's design, but that's a whole other discussion.

    But let me explain hipster mentality to you, as best as I can understand it, so we might understand The Forge.

    On the inside, hipsters very much want to be the cool kids, even though they publicly disdain coolness. They want to set the trends, because they secretly feel empty, either ironically aping trends or rebelling against them. Part of this is taking credit for anything cool. Hipsters will tell you they liked [coolthing] before anyone else did, before you and others came along and ruined [coolthing] by mainstreaming it.

    Now, of course, should you do some research, you won't see hipsters supporting [coolthing] before it became the cool thing; they may well have bashed or derided it. But they retroactively support anything once it becomes hip, in a desperate attempt to be relevant and to take from you any satisfaction from liking that thing.

    Clearly, the Forge are gaming hipsters. I've been saying so for years. (Long before it was cool to say so.) ;-)

    (Sorry I deleted my comment then reposted it. Noticed some intolerable editing/grammar errors.)

  4. Jenga as a task resolution system excludes neurologically non-normative individuals. ;)

  5. to forge: to make or imitate falsely especially with intent to defraud

  6. Dude, you're just too "brain-damaged" to remember.

  7. >which is pseudo-intellectual code for "I think it's dumb, and I'll say that I'm not saying its stupid like five times in my blog entry to just really drive home the point that my readers should suspect it of being stupid"
    Is it lie or foolishness on your part? Ron made it quite clear that he has never read much of LSH and this is a regular "Where should I start?"/"Is it realy worth it?" kind of inquiry addressed to more-versed comrades. And he did receive some constructive answers.

  8. >because he retreated there where he knew all HIS people would see him and leap to his defense
    I recently read the January brain damage thread, and it was much the same then.

    One guy there even went as far as to call you "mad" and a kind of person "noone can have any discussion with".

    Ron Edwards' loyal lapdog, for sure.

    His first name was Zak, accidentally.

  9. Just looked up GNS. Sounds like drivel to me.