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

  1. #31
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    Again though, in terms of "Indie" that isn't a very useful definition, being entirely subjective about being different than what one considers "established"

    Very much like the music scene actually. Indie is used alot as a marketing term, and as a way to attack the sales of rival bands. One band is "indie" and thus to a certain segment "better", while another band gets called "not really indie' to hurt their sales, or compete for better gigs. 100% subjective and usually based upon hysteria and hype.

    Perhaps a better term is to simply say "IF you want to call yourself a small press or indie gamer you are. Because if you say those things it means you probably don't have banks or investors whose opinions you care about" and thats enough.

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    Everyone has an opinion, alas they are ALL different.

    OK Farcaster; YOU tell US what an "Indie" gaming means and we will use that definition.

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    Indie games that approach the norm

    Quote Originally Posted by tesral View Post
    Everyone has an opinion, alas they are ALL different.

    OK Farcaster; YOU tell US what an "Indie" gaming means and we will use that definition.

    That's just it, though. They're different, but they're not all completely different. There are no hard and fast qualifications, true, but there are deep norms at play, consciously or not, when enthusiasts use the terms. And norms are informative.

    Of course, I second the motion to have Farcaster set the terms as he wishes. I also enthusiastically second the fmitchell's suggestion that we turn the conversation to the games we consider exemplary. However, in doing so, I think it's a little unfair to think of Farcaster's potential judgement--or anyone else's (if they've thought long and hard about the issue)--as being hopelessly subjective.

    This forum is barely a week old and already there have been recommendations that I, for one, am grateful to have been made aware of, including yours Tesral. I'm like a kid in a candy store--and this despite the fact that others may have different (yet overlapping) ideas about what qualifies as candy (is gum candy?--how about soda?--popsicles?--why are large sugar crystals recognized quintessentially as rock candy, but a packet of sugar is just, well, sugar?)

    Of course, there's always the risk that our favorite treat won't be given the shelf-space that we feel it deserves... Nevertheless, even if it is only of theoretical interest, I'll wager that if we took a sizable poll among self-described "indie" enthusiasts, even though we would witness much variation in the examples given, we'd also be left with a core set of common prototypes, potentially even normative of a much larger sample.

    In fact, if pressed to guess, I believe we might find many of these features already put forth by trechriron and other individuals in this very thread, some posed as objective benchmarks and others blatantly subjective. But, if we take the title of this thread seriously--What is an indie RPG?--I think a more useful way to approach the question posed, as compared to eliminating or despairing over what is subjective, would be to ask: what is the norm that binds the differences?

    And this calls for a discussion, again to echo fmitchell and trechriron, of the games themselves. What are they? What do they have (mostly) in common? Looking at the games already put forth as exemplars throughout various venues and threads at PaPG, a nonexhaustive selection would be:
    Burning Wheel, Mouse Guard, Dogs in the Vineyard, Suzerain, Sorcerer, Colonial Gothic, Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, Fringeworthy, Don't Rest Your Head, Silvercord, Polaris, Dread, Montsegur 1244, Dead Inside, Sign In Stranger, Primetime Adventures, Shock, Spirit of the Century, Steal Away Jordan, Houses of the Blooded, Unisystem, Incarna.net, Victoriana, Beach Bunny Bimbos with Blasters, Shooting the Moon, Witch Hunter, Grey Ranks, Storming the Wizard's Tower, The Dark Eye, Thou Art But a Warrior, Kill Puppies for Satan, OSRIC, Basic Fantasy, Wushu, Spycraft, The Shadow of Yesterday, Hellas, My Life with Master, FATE, Donjon, 1001 Nights, The Mountain Witch, Bureau 13, In a Wicked Age, Agon, Nobilis, Mist-Robed Gate, Labyrinth Lord, Misspent Youth...
    The list goes on. And I'm sure I'm neglecting many! Yet, just based on the quick compilation above, we can already see "potential" commonalities--and culled, as if data from a survey or poll, we can also see that while none of them individually escapes subjectivity or qualifies as a necessary or sufficient exemplar of the terms small press or indie games, they are collectively very useful.

    If it were a truly representative list, we could then ask what do the core games themselves have in common? And again I can't help but point out that, when we compile the second-order list below, we can see that they are almost all restatements of observations that have already been offered by trechriron and many others. Also noteworthy, some observations appear to be directly contradictory (e.g. #7 and #8); and that's not necessarily a problem, since such contradictions underscore the unappreciated fact that, as abstracted from how most enthusiasts use the term, there are multiple paths to "indie-ness". Many paths, but not arbitrary paths.
    1.
    Games whose creators eschew the traditional 3-tier model of distribution;

    2.
    Games whose creators communicate regularly here at PaPG (Bless 'em!) or who are equally accessible at other sites whose purpose is discussion of ideas within the so-called "indie scene", i.e. there is little communicative distance between the designers of a game and its consumers;

    3.
    Games not published by the largest (top 5, you name it) game-publishing companies or their subsidiary imprints; nor published by companies whose market penetration in table top gaming can be leveraged by virtue of an "established brand" outside the market, i.e. Sony or "Second Life";

    4.
    Games whose mechanics or system as a whole, at least at the time of their arrival on the scene, are considered to be innovative, thought-provoking, boundary-pushing, possibly controversial, but always fresh, even when freshly retro (as many attempt to resuscitate older "neglected" systems in innovative ways);

    5.
    Games designed deliberately to be experimental, or otherwise to subvert rpg traditions or popular conventions that are deemed moribund or else too constrictive (e.g. diceless, more story-driven, GM-less, etc.);

    6.
    Games which are imported and/or newly translated from their designers' home nations, yet without a popular audience abroad;

    7.
    Games that are just plain cool, made by "the little guy", which may not get the attention and respect that aficionados think proper, dammit;

    8.
    Trend-setting games that seem to come out of nowhere, the source of whose buzz is mostly word-of-mouth within a specific gaming community, but yet eventually come to exercise noticeable influence on other games or systems outside that community;

    9.
    Games created by individuals whose primary motivation does not appear to be profit;

    10.
    Games or supplements made freely available, or else are offered provisionally as free works-in-progress, where anyone may playtest and offer feedback directly to the game's creator(s);

    11.
    Games that tend NOT to be entryways into rpg gaming for most players, but rather tend to be discovered later, often as part of a deliberate search for "new" ways of role playing.
    Last edited by Tamburlain; 06-15-2009 at 09:38 PM.
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    Tamburlain - well said.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zzarchov View Post
    @Fmitchell

    A lifepath system in Burning Wheel is not groundbreaking, having been used in both WHFRP and Rolemaster.
    WHFRP and Rolemaster use a very different lifepath than Traveller, Burning Wheel and Mechwarrior 3rd.

    WHFRP path you start in a career and change careers as you gain xp. Traveller you pick a series of careers as background to make your starting character, you then spend xp wherever you want as you gain it. For WHFRP its more like multi-classing (to use a D&D term) where as Traveller its just background.
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    As I recall with Rolemaster (been awhile)

    During character creation to get skills, you had to pick "careers", aka things you did in your life prior to now to get training. These had costs listed in months or years, and opened (or closed) other options. You could start as older or younger based on the amount of previous training you took.

    That doesn't strike me as THAT different than BW. Which hey, nothing new under the sun as they say.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zzarchov View Post
    As I recall with Rolemaster (been awhile)

    During character creation to get skills, you had to pick "careers", aka things you did in your life prior to now to get training. These had costs listed in months or years, and opened (or closed) other options. You could start as older or younger based on the amount of previous training you took.

    That doesn't strike me as THAT different than BW. Which hey, nothing new under the sun as they say.
    Aside from Burning Wheel (and Mouse Guard by association), I haven't ever played the games that you and MortonStromgal are comparing in terms of originality. I can say that, aside from games that seem to entirely jettison the traditional rpg format (e.g., radically story-oriented, GM-less, collaborative, don't use dice or cards, don't call upon character stats...)--that Burning Wheel is among the most original rpgs that I've ever played. Again, I lack the breadth and depth of knowledge that would be required to weigh in on which game first implemented something like lifepaths, but to me it's more than that. It's the whole package and how they are integrated. It's the first game I've ever played that has a mechanics system rooted in action-adventure role playing, and yet plays simultaneously like a story telling game.

    I'm not sure if there is any single aspect of the game that has never been implemented in another previously, but in my opinion it is strikingly original in how it all fits together. It's complex (even surprisingly crunchy in many ways) yet also transparent in the mechanical sense of providing just the right measure of tools for players to take control of their characters and really use their imaginations to shape the game's story .
    There is no path, traveler; the path is made by walking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by templeorder View Post
    Tamburlain - well said.
    Agreed.

    I want to take that list and add it to the top. Perhaps I WILL!
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    Well, for the purposes of this section, we only have to define what do the terms Independent and Small Press games encompass. Now, I havenít been involved in any sort of esoteric discussion or deep research of the varying definitions of these terms, but in my mind, this section applies to: 1) RPGs that are owned and distributed by the original author(s) independent of a publishing company, and 2) RPG Publishers that have only a small print distribution (in relation to other RPG publishers) and those publishers that otherwise have only a small market presence. Apart from this, I donít think we really need to hash out the minutia of what is Independent and what isnít. To put a different twist on the words once put to pen by Justice Potter Stewart, ďI shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But, I know it when I see itÖĒ
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    Quote Originally Posted by trechriron View Post
    Agreed.

    I want to take that list and add it to the top. Perhaps I WILL!
    Feel free. It's mostly yours and others' comments here and on other threads.
    There is no path, traveler; the path is made by walking.
    -Antonio Machado

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamburlain View Post
    Feel free. It's mostly yours and others' comments here and on other threads.
    Done. Post #3.
    Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zzarchov View Post
    As I recall with Rolemaster (been awhile)

    During character creation to get skills, you had to pick "careers", aka things you did in your life prior to now to get training. These had costs listed in months or years, and opened (or closed) other options. You could start as older or younger based on the amount of previous training you took.

    That doesn't strike me as THAT different than BW. Which hey, nothing new under the sun as they say.

    Well the version of Rolemaster on my shelf basicly has D&D classes. However unlike D&D as you level up you get way more options. I only have one edition of Rolemaster though if you dont count MERPS.
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    Hello
    I just read your post and I must say this is really very good information about an Indie RPG. I think this is really good to know all this for everybody who don't know about it. Thank you very much for sharing this information with us. You have done a great job so keep doing good work.

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