34 thoughts on “Just something I’m thinking about:”

  1. I agree and I’m not sure the distinction is all that helpful. I guess it comes from the idea that DW and similar games are not tied to big publishers like Hasbro/WOTC. Do gamers really care about that? I don’t know. “Small Press Games” makes it sound lame, too. HAHA

    “Emergent Games” makes it sound new and fancy. This is something new and different, but has some ties to the past. I dunno.

  2. I find it interesting that “indie” and “small press” read as lame and sub-standard, since in my XP it’s always been the opposite: i.e. indie games are where the good stuff happens 😉

  3. In this particular case I think Indie Game best fits Dungeon World. For you see there is this mystical place called The Forge (http://goo.gl/GZBpoQ). It is the birth place of the Indie gaming movement. Created by Ron Edwards and Clinton R. Nixon, it was a place for game designers of a new mindset. Folks who approached game design with a very different set of goals than traditional game designers have.

    Game design in this circle is an art form. Here, the story is all that matters. Mechanics in the game should only exist to facilitate the story. They should never get in the way and are best when they melt into the background as much as possible. In an Indie Game, the story is always front and center.

    The two founders created many popular games and from time to time they will take someone under their wing and help guide them along this sacred path. Early on they helped a man, by the name of Vincent Baker, master his designer-fu. Vincent would go on to create popular games that were the essence of The Forge philosophy.

    Perhaps you have heard of Apocalypse World? Yes, this is one of Vincent’s great works. During its creation the there was a call for playtesters. Many answered the call, Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel among them. Later these Indie Gaming fans would team up and Dungeon World would be the byproduct of their awesomeness.

    Why is Dungeon World referred to as an Indie Game? Because Indie Game is a badge of honor ^_-

  4. Love the enthusiasm Marques Jordan but there are a couple factual errors. Clinton was a long time admin but he wasn’t the co-creator.

    And your second paragraph is completely not true. In fact in many ways Forge design was a direct backlash against games that had that as their design goal.

    What the Forge was about, and what the name “indie” means is that the creator of the game retains full control over all aspects of the property, including when, how, and if to publish; which distribution channels to enter or not, and what the future of the title should be.

  5. Well if you like the “forge model” probably you can call those kind of games “coherent” games. But someone with an english better than mine will explain you the meaning of “coherent” in the “forge model”. Otherwise I would call DW only a roleplaying game 🙂 .

  6. “Indie game” might mean “creator controlled” or similar, but in practice the games that get identified that way seem to cluster in other areas. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fantasy heartbreaker labeled as indie. I don’t generally see Old School Renaissance games labeled as indie.

    Common traits I see in indie games: you can usually trace their heritage to the Forge. The creator usually was part of the Forge community, or clearly took ideas from someone who did. The games usually reject “realistic” simulation of the world in favor of reproducing types of story. “Universal” games aren’t usually labelled indie; an indie game usually has intentional assumptions about the types of story that it will serve.

    It’s a very clumsy fit. Sadly, I’m not aware of a better term that doesn’t have similar problems of poor fits to a literal meaning. Absent a clearly better option, I’m going to keep using it.

  7. Ralph Mazza  I was always under the impression Clinton was equally involved. But I digress, it was my perception, not a known fact. The opposite of a story focused game is a system focused game. Again, this is my perception, but I can’t remember seeing many Forge games where system was a primary focus of the game.

    My line of thinking is that a great deal of effort is put into creating a system that best conveys a certain type of story or allows the story to be handled in specific ways. Versus traditional design where a system is handed to the players and they are told to tell a story with it. So by no means do I mean the system is insignificant or an afterthought. Rather the system is used in a non-traditional way.

    Take DW for example. It uses Moves to codify common events that take place in a typical fantasy story. Many people are blown away by how easy moves make telling a story, even though technically they are the same kinds of things you do in traditional games. But the way they are presented and designed causes people to view these standard actions in a very new light.

  8. “Indie,” being short for “independent,” I think fits this sub-category of games quite well. When you buy it, you’re giving money to a couple of people who are putting a lot of time and effort into a project, and don’t necessarily make their living from it. And the “indie” label certainly doesn’t mean the game is going to be something strange, untested, or a bunch of writing sad things on index cards. Most of the OSR I would call “indie.” Heck, even the original D&D whitebooks are “indie.” (current D&D is “design-by-committee” RPG)

    I’m not sure why there’s so much stigma around the term “indie.” I mean, it certainly doesn’t make people avoid “indie” music.

  9. Alan De Smet I can’t speak to what you have or haven’t seen, but your perceptions aren’t accurate. Heartbreakers were one of the original driving forces behind the Forge. The primary purpose Ron had in creating the Forge in the first place was so that people creating these heartbreaker games (which he loved) would have a place to 1) learn a better way to publish so they wouldn’t be taken for a ride by publishers or left with cases of unsold stock waiting to be mulched (a common problem for pre-forge indie publishers); and 2) to expand their knowledge of what games were out there and how other designers have done things so they wouldn’t spend all their passion reinventing the wheel and “fixing” D&D (another common pattern among pre Forge indie publishers)

    Never heard Heartbreakers being called “indie”? Heartbreakers are why the site dedicated to being indie got started in the first place.

    As for why you don’t see OSR folks calling themselves indie…that’s mostly identity politics in certain segments of the OSR universe. By and large the ex-Forge ex-Story Games crowd loves the OSR and totally embraces them as indie. But you’ll find some in or around the OSR with an axe to grind against the Forge who eschew the term because they want nothing in common with the Forge, or those who hate story-game type games (sometimes with lots of nasty BS thrown in) who don’t want to be under the same umbrella.

    So yeah…as long as its creator owned its indie as far as the Forge definition is concerned.

  10. There are lots of other terms you could use, depending on your purpose. I mean words don’t really mean much outside of their context, right?

    Something like “fiction first” would include DW and a lot of the OSR, but would probably confuse a lot of people who might assume it meant loosey-goosey collaborative storytelling games. “Sandbox” would connect DW to a whole swath of other games, but has a complex history, apparently. “Progressive” would connect it to other innovative games, but downplay how much it borrows from much older styles of play. Honestly, in my mind what the Apocalypse Engine has most clearly done is revive the interest in “second wave” 1980s-1990s setting-focused play in the style of Shadowrun, AD&D2, White Wolf, all those Palladium games, Blue Planet, etc. but infused it with some of the thinking coming out of the post-Forge indie games movement of the 2000s. Not sure what to call that exactly: a friend at one point mentioned a “Second Wave Renaissance” and this could be it. The Forge was traditionally somewhat critical of these kinds of play styles, as I recall, but now they are back in a big way. How things change 😉

  11. “Indie” role playing games follow a development, publishing and distribution model. Original D&D was 100% indie. So are most OSR products and many games in between. It has little to do with a given game’s theme or content.

    Just call Dungeon World a role playing game, published in 2013. That’s what it is.

  12. I just tend to call it a rules-light RPG, or a Story/Narrative-based RPG depending on if I’m talking to someone that has a concept of the Gamist/Simulationist/Narrativist classification.

  13. Thank you so much everybody! 

    I was just looking for other names I could use and discovered (and should have realized this) that DW and games like it have a rich history.

    Out of all the names mentioned, “Second Wave RPG” feels like the best fit to me and for my purposes.

    Thank you all for your help/input!

  14. Marty H, thanks for your input but “rules-lite” assumes that another game is that standard, and I guess I’m looking for ways to say “The standard is changing.”

  15. I fight tooth and nail against calling DW a “story” or “narrative” RPG because, even more than “indie,” those get thrown around as pejoratives.

    It also isn’t exactly accurate. Or at least it means very little if it also includes games in completely other spaces, like Universalis.

    One comparison I’ve been seeing a lot lately is DW and FATE. That probably comes from being “hot” at the same time, but it’s really interesting since they both get lumped together despite being very different styles of games. (Both games I like, don’t get me wrong.)

    Oh well. Here ends the frustrated rambling of a game designer.

  16. Ralph Mazza My apologies, I was unclear.

    I’m reporting how I see “indie” being used today, outside of the Forge.  Who is using the term to identify the games they create or play?  As you note, generally someone self-identifying as part of the OSR will reject the indie label.  New heartbreaker creators aren’t generally using the term (though I suspect many would accept the label if asked).  If a game isn’t Forge-influenced, its fans are far less likely to identify it as indie.

    Indie Games on Demand (back when “Indie” was still part of the title) I observed the correlations I described above, even as games like Marvel Heroic Roleplaying were included.  If someone says they’re interested in indie RPGs, I can be reasonably confident they are looking for games roughly fitting those observations.

  17. The trick with “indie” (in games as in music) is that it refers to the method of production rather than the mechanical or genre aspects. While it’s easy to mistake creator-owned games as all being story-focused or narrative-driven I think it’s a false correlation. This makes it difficult to discuss games without weird conflation of concepts.

    Dungeon World, for example, is;

    – a game

    – a role-playing game

    – a pen-and-paper roleplaying game

    – a fantasy role-playing game

    – a creator-owned roleplaying game

    – an independently-created roleplaying game

    – a GMed game

    – a “traditionally” focused game, in terms of narrative authority between players and GM

    There are hundreds of games that share each and every one of those qualifiers, which makes it super hard to refer to them categorically. How many of those apply equally to Sorcerer? To Torchbearer? To Tenra Bansho Zero? To Monsterhearts?

    What parts of “games like DW” are you looking to reference?

  18. I have to agree with people making the definition that indie just stands for independent. The designers are the owners and in many ways publishers. They don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves when it comes to how create, licence, publish, or distribute the game.

    I don’t know that I could make a decisive categorization for DW, But I can say what features in it that I like.

    It’s an improvisation-heavy rpg that relies on the imagination of all of its players to create the imaginary playspace, and uses its rules to focus on the consequences of the characters actions.

    Dungeon world is also a lot of other things to other people.

  19. I guess I’m with the folks saying just call it an RPG. It makes no difference to me whether it’s Lumpley, Sage Kobold, Chaosium or Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro. If an RPG is good, it’s good. If it sucks, it sucks. Who controls the publication, etc., is meaningless in every day discussion, far as I’m concerned. I liken it to film: an “indie” film is neither inherently better nor worthier of my money/attention than a Hollywood one. Calling it an indie film outside of the context of the actual filmmaking process is pointless to me; it does not sway me in a decision to watch it. So, while the publication process may be a matter of importance when describing an RPG in that context, it has no meaning to me in the context of value or ingenuity. My two cents, worth every penny.

  20. I think of Dungeon World as solidly part of the OSR.

    First wave was fearful of lawsuits and was reskinned d20 (CC, HM, S&S). Second wave OSR was mostly pure clones (LL, OSRIC, S&W), third wave was largely compatible but expanded, reinvented, and increasingly incompatible (LOTFP, ACKS, DCC) and the fourth wave is games that are OSR in style and philosophy but break with the rules almost completely. DW falls in this last category.

    All these categories have coexisted with D&D all along, but there is a clear evolution within the OSR and a lot of it has to do with popular acceptance. For example Donjon was an indie game that could have been 4th wave OSR but it preceded the OSR and never had mass appeal. GURPS DF is a product of the current OSR craze and would fit the 4th wave, but has not caught on and is also slightly out of sync temporally. It’s like any number of D&D adaptations over the years, only it happened at the right time to surf the OSR wave. DW is the same but I think much closer to the spirit of the OSR, clearly inspired by old school D&D, and wildly more popular.

    Other category labels apply to DW: rules lite (to a degree), indie game, narrative rpg

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