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Thread: What is an Indie RPG? FAQ, Info, Links

  1. #16
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    To quote the Wikipedia article on Indie rpg's

    Disputed Status of the title

    Some contend that the term "indie" applies to members of a self-defined "indie" RPG community. The definition of indie in the context of role-playing games is difficult, because the role-playing game industry operates with a different organization and scale than the computer and video games, publishing or music industries. The dynamics that inspired well-known independent movements in these industries are not necessarily present in the role-playing game industry. Even prominent role-playing game companies often publish on a comparatively small scale. In this fashion, the industry is unlike the larger creative industries, whose indie communities formed to react to an elaborate bureaucracy. The question of whether indie role-playing games can be defined precisely, abstractly or not at all sparks ongoing discussion among RPG hobbyists and creators."

    Is this forum to be entirely for Forge games and Ron Edwards foundations of what "Indie" games are?

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    Self Promotion:
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    The 1.0 rules are online, 2.0 rules, simplified, are in the works... including psychic powers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mnemenoi View Post
    Is this forum to be entirely for Forge games and Ron Edwards foundations of what "Indie" games are?
    I think that definition is too narrow, just as sales figures are too broad.

    To me, what sets an "indie" game apart from other RPGs is one or both of innovative mechanics and a strikingly different theme or genre. The "indie" movement, in part, is to break out of standard "adventuring" modes of play and stock tropes. Some games subordinate mechanics to the story; others play with or abandon the usual patterns: skills, combat rounds, random resolution.

    Here are a few nominations as "indie enough":

    • Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies: flying pirates isn't exactly original, but the book lays out a whole civilization and cosmology, and this recent iteration of the PDQ mechanics changes the standard combat sequence for more of a "swashbuckling" feel.
    • Dead Inside: another PDQ-based game, which encourages players to help people and give them stuff.
    • Dogs in the Vinyard: a game I haven't read, but one which purportedly uses the same mechanic for physical brawls and philosophical arguments ... including escalating the stakes.
    • Primetime Adventures: an obscure game that frames each "season" as a sitcom, in which the resolution to each "scene" relies as much on what's dramatic and interesting as the numbers on each character's sheet.
    • Shock: Social Science Fiction: an even more obscure game which defined characters as opposed goals or passions instead of skills/talents/etc., and gives each player a "protagonist" and an "antagonist" of another player.

    Almost by definition, D&D is not indie since its tropes pervade RPGs, and (subjectively) even its 4e incarnation doesn't really push the envelope. Maybe White Wolf or Chaosium were "indie" when they were founded (SJG never was), but they've become fixtures, thematically and mechanically.
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    My definition of Indy:

    Not publicly traded and thus independent in terms of what you can do and publish.

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    My definition of "indie".

    Independent. That is, separate/independent from the "establishment". So, GW, FFG, ICE, etc. would all be non-Indie, in spite of any sales figures or small staff or whatever. GM may be bankrupt, but nobody says it is an "indie car maker".

    Likewise, just because Iron Crown Enterprises produces only two RPGs ( counting both RoleMaster and SpaceMaster ) and working with a small staff and an even smaller user base, it is still part of the "establishment" game companies.

    Indie vs. Establishment is about status and conformity. Being members of the same associations, adhering to "industry standard" procedures, etc.

    Just my US $0.02

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zzarchov View Post
    My definition of Indy:

    Not publicly traded and thus independent in terms of what you can do and publish.
    So Steve Jackson Games is "indy"? I wouldn't consider it to be so.

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    The definition is what trips so many discussions. MY take would any game company that is not done for a living. Independent of any hope of profit. If the CEO has a day job, that is an independent publisher.

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    Established "not Indie" Companies

    Quote Originally Posted by mnemenoi View Post
    ...

    Is this forum to be entirely for Forge games and Ron Edwards foundations of what "Indie" games are?
    Ye Gads! I hope not. Good games, but let's not limit the scope THAT much.


    I feel we should define Indie as individual/small publishers not part of the established game companies that try and take games into new directions.

    Established in my mind:

    • Adamant Entertainment
    • Alderac Entertainment Group
    • Atlas Games
    • Catalyst Game Labs
    • Chaosium
    • Columbia Games
    • Eden Studios
    • Fantasy Flight Games
    • Far Future Enterprises
    • Green Ronin Publishing
    • HERO Games
    • ICE Games
    • Kenzer & Company
    • Malhavoc Press
    • Margaret Weiss Productions
    • Mongoose Publishing
    • Paizo Publishing
    • Palladium Games
    • Pinnacle Entertainment
    • R. Talisorian Games
    • RPG Objects and member publishers
    • Signal Fire Studios
    • Steve Jackson Games
    • Triple Ace Games
    • Troll Lord Games
    • West End Games
    • White Wolf
    • WOTC


    There could be more, but if its a main stream established or derived product, it tends to make it into the "not Indie game" category in my mind.

    Just my two cents...
    Last edited by trechriron; 06-11-2009 at 02:03 AM. Reason: Clarifications
    Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
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    I'd like to point out that indie means "independent" not "unestablished" or "small scale" or the like.

    Whether or not a game is established has nothing to do if its independent. Lots of products (if not in gaming specifically) are not well established, but are still in no way "independent".

    When the X-box first bust into the Console scene, Microsoft was not established as a console making. I would not have considered it independent as it had too many stakeholders.

    Likewise if tomorrow Sony tries to bust into the pen and paper RPG market (I doubt it, but in theory), it would not be well established, it would also not be independent.


    Being well established has nothing to do with independence in my mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zzarchov View Post
    I'd like to point out that indie means "independent" not "unestablished" or "small scale" or the like.

    Whether or not a game is established has nothing to do if its independent. Lots of products (if not in gaming specifically) are not well established, but are still in no way "independent".

    When the X-box first bust into the Console scene, Microsoft was not established as a console making. I would not have considered it independent as it had too many stakeholders.

    Likewise if tomorrow Sony tries to bust into the pen and paper RPG market (I doubt it, but in theory), it would not be well established, it would also not be independent.


    Being well established has nothing to do with independence in my mind.
    In film, independent means small distribution. Therefore any rpg sold at Barns and Noble would fail that test. I used to work for a several hundred million dollar battery company, we were not publicly traded. We had couple thousand private investors. I would not have considered us independent. Our job was to make money for our investors. Actually we were the 3rd largest company of our type.
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    I'm amused that we have a brand new forum category for something we haven't really defined yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zzarchov View Post
    I'd like to point out that indie means "independent" not "unestablished" or "small scale" or the like.
    Defining what something isn't doesn't define what it is. Wikipedia certainly doesn't have a clear definition, and I don't know of anyone who does.

    I proposed one operational definition, based solely on the game's content: an attempt to break with standard tropes and mechanics, or experiment with new designs. For example, Burning Wheel is indie because of its life path rules and other mechanical improvements. White Wolf Games, on the other hand, isn't; it use die pools instead of fixed die systems but otherwise reuse patterns from previous skill based games (e.g. BRP, Traveller, GURPS) This is a highly subjective definition, and there's a considerable gray area between "mainstream" and "indie". One virtue of this definition, though, is that we don't need to know sales figures or even publishers details, and we can concentrate on what makes the games themselves interesting.

    Another criterion, suggested in the Wikipedia article, is that "indie" games are self-published, using PDF or POD technologies, and available mainly at conventions and a few marketplaces. There's certainly a correlation between "the indie spirit" and one-man operations or small hobbyist groups; someone with a day job can take risks that a for-profit company can't. Unfortunately, that definition also has problems, too. What about games using Open Gaming Content? What about the latest "fantasy heartbreaker" that plays like D&D with a different dice mechanic or a few house rules? Marketplace certainly doesn't matter; are White Wolf's PDF-only offerings "indie"?

    Obviously I prefer my definition, but at this point we should probably talk about (candidate?) indie games themselves, not "what distinguishes an indie game".
    Last edited by fmitchell; 06-12-2009 at 10:26 PM. Reason: clarification
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
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    Quote Originally Posted by fmitchell View Post
    I'm amused that we have a brand new forum category for something we haven't really defined yet. ...

    Obviously I prefer my definition, but at this point we should probably talk about (candidate?) indie games themselves, not "what distinguishes an indie game".
    I agree with the first statement.

    I also like fmitchell's definition and I agree we should chat about the games themselves and decide as we discuss.
    Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
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    @Fmitchell

    A lifepath system in Burning Wheel is not groundbreaking, having been used in both WHFRP and Rolemaster. I think you will find any new mechanic has been done before.

    As for being privately traded, its still not independant if you've got more than one shareholder (ie, the corporation as a liabilty free sole proprietorship). If you've got only one stakeholder you can be truly independant in terms of decision.

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    "Independent game" is a prototype category

    Given that we are talking about a category of games similar to "indie music" or "indie film" or "alternative art form X", if we try to substantively define "independent game" by laying out necessary and sufficient conditions as if the category were a formal set or as if it referred to some natural kind, then we are bound to run into paradox. And I don't mean the good kind of paradox, but the muddled headachy kind that tricks even well-meaning and articulate people into talking past each other.

    "Indie", as used in all of the above examples, is a graded category, as is the concept of "game" itself. As conceptual spaces, this means that they demonstrate prototypicality. A prototype-based category can't really be subjected to analysis by way of necessary and sufficient conditions (either you're in or you're out); instead, membership is defined with reference to common features of the common examples that we gamers hold in mind as we make use of the category. Some games are simply more "indie" than others.

    So, I guess I'm not sure what is at stake here... at least in the sense that I cannot see why a person might hesitate to use a forum just because its discussion may focus on a topic with fuzzy boundaries. To me, and I'm sure to others, these are the ones often most worth talking about.

    Personally, if I see a game being discussed here that wouldn't fit into what I would normally think of as an indie game, I'm going to just skip it. In any case, I trust people to use their best judgment. If you wanted to get empirical about the issue, you'd have to implement some kind of survey. In it, people might be asked to simply name five games (using any criteria they wanted) that they felt were most representative of the descriptor "independent game". Over a period of time, you could then tally all the choices and come up with the most popular five, and from this core set you could then describe what features they had in common. Voila', there's your category, in all of its provisional humility.
    Last edited by Tamburlain; 06-13-2009 at 07:41 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zzarchov View Post
    A lifepath system in Burning Wheel is not groundbreaking, having been used in both WHFRP and Rolemaster. I think you will find any new mechanic has been done before.
    Actually, I don't know much about Burning Wheel, but I'd heard about the lifepath system, so I used that as an example. There may be better ones.

    BTW, Traveller (1977) probably did lifepath/career systems first. My point was not that "indie" systems necessarily invent whole new mechanics, but they compose mechanics into a game that stands in stark contrast to prevailing designs. PDQ uses freeform Qualities instead of a fixed list of skills and attributes; arguably it's been done before, and 2d6 mechanics are well known, but as a whole it produces a style of play that contrasts with the detailed and crunchy systems of D&D, GURPS, BRP, and so forth.
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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