Conventions » 2008 » Forge Midwest 2008

Forge Midwest 2008

A Convention for Indie game designers, attached to the community at the Forge.

From at Forge Midwest


I took phaedrus along for the ride this excursion. We left Minneapolis about noon and made good time to Tomah, where we stopped for a meal at the truckstop there. Then rolled on to the Dells, and got two half gallon "growlers" of beer at Moose Jaw Brewery.

The sampler beer set.

Back onto the roads, rolled into Madison and the hotel at exactly 6pm.

phaedrus' parents live not too far off and they met us at the hotel, and we met up with his aunt and the 5 of us ate at this Mexican place.

Back to the hotel and into gaming proper. Played in a game of Covert Generation, run by designer Caz Granberg. It's a quick game, about 90 minutes. It's a "narrativist" game style, where each player gains control of the story for short periods of time, but there's still a GM running the overall flow of the story.

Then we got Caz into a 3-way game of First Weird War, and played until 1:30 am or so.

Other folks playing games:

Back to it!

From Midwest Wrapup

And I've recovered! Actually, I was pretty much back into it by Tues, but have been too much of a busy-body to finish posting.

Saturday I rolled downstairs with the intention of finding some breakfast. Mind you, this was about noon, so there was no hotel-breakfast to be had. I ran into a chap on my way out of the elevator whom I recognized from the night before (and, for the life of me, I can't remember his name). Within three steps, we had decided to hunt food together in the surrounding blocks. We found an IHOP, ate, and talked shop.

Back into the Con, I bounced from one conversation to another, though I didn't actually run (or play!) anything. Got into a conversation with Ron Edwards centered around his game Spione (, which rapidly expanded into cold war tactics, spying, conspiracies and the like. This somehow got me dragged into a round table discussion more-or-less headed by Ron on game design theory. I didn't have an academic grasp of the terms batted around, but I held my own.

So, here we come to why I didn't run either game on Saturday. I had come to realize that the majority of the games played that weekend (and, therefore, the majority of interest) were story games, and not role-playing games as I know them. Now, I'd catch flack for saying these games aren't rpg's. So let me try to explain.

The rpg's I played, and now design, are what I'd call Simulationist Immersion RPG's. Players take on a single role, and develop the character in depth. They attach to that particular character, and controlling that character is their primary method in interacting with the story. I've found that this lends well to long term, serial campaigns, in which there are no set victory conditions. This is more-or-less the traditional way that RPG's are done.

Story games are different. In them, players have a greater sense of distance between themselves and the character. In some versions, characters aren't "owned" by any one player, and control of the characters shifts during play. In nearly all story games, characters are not very developed. There is little intention for the game itself to simulate a particular reality... the emphasis is playing a game (with victory conditions) that revolves around a story element.

One is not inherently better or worse than the other. One great advantage of story games is that they are easy to learn, play fast (games lasting an hour to two hours are normal), and have a clearly established "win" condition. In my mind, these make *great* party games. Or for when your regular gaming group is missing a few players, and people still want to get together and do *something.* Story games are also really good to run at conventions, for the above reasons.

So, really, I decided that talking people into playing the Factions one-shot was going to be quite an uphill battle. It's a fantastic game, sure, but I didn't think people would want to invest the time in a party game environment. First Weird War is a bit better, but there's a learning curve. My time was better spent talking to people.

Got into a somewhat long conversation with Mike Holmes, one of the creators of Universalis (, about Factions and what I was doing with it.He was a bit sneaky about it, asking questions and whatnot, without revealing quite who he was. It was a challenging conversation, but not quite as confrontational as one that sticks in my mind with a fellow at Con of the North. In the end, Mike said I had made the BMW to Mage's Toyota Celica, but my challenge was going to be to convince those Celica drivers to step up their game and try Factions.

I'm not entirely sure that it was meant as praise, but I'll take it as such. It's a pretty common idea in the indie game world that one cannot compete with the "big boys" like White Wolf. I think this is wrong, that one *can* go head-to-head with big companies. The point isn't to outsell them; the point is to be successful in spite of their affect on the market.

Anyway, Mike got me to play Universalis, with himself and one other charming fellow, whom I was introduced to and promptly forgot his name. We played until about midnight.

I rolled upstairs to find phaedrus still working on the next version of the company logo. He spend most of the day doing that, and working on website stuff. The new versions of both will be up shortly. You will like them.

We decided to go for a drink.

Now, at the onset of the weekend, we had checked out listings for clubs and bars near the hotel. For a club, it was going to be Club Inferno. For a bar, is was going to be Ale Asylum. The Inferno was 4 miles away and would require a car. Ale Asylum was 1.4 miles away, down to about a mile if we were willing to shortcut through a park. We figured we could be there by 1am, maybe 1:15. So we set off on foot.

We got there perfectly. It was a light crowd. The beer selection was great stuff, and the pizza was absolutely fantastic. We drank and ate, and then headed out at bar close.

We cut back through the park, and exited at a slightly different angle. No problem, we were only a block off. We'd cut the corner and take a less-shortcutty way back. We walked and talked. And, after a while, rphaedrus informed me that we were not going the right direction. Now, my legs were getting tired by this point. Surely we should have been there by now? Okay, yeah, we might be a tad off the beaten path. He pulls out his superphone micro computer thingy and Google Maps our area.

Yeah, we were screwed. Miles in the wrong direction. Sigh. Did I mention it was kinda cold?

I *think* we made it back to the hotel at around 3:45. I'm really not too sure. I remember asking for a wakeup call at 10:30 (checkout was 11am, thank gods). We got up the next morning and rolled out. Stopped in the Dells for another round at Moose Jaw (tasty pizza, too), and to get fuel. Then a nearly non-stop run back to the Twin Cities.

In all, I was glad I went. I'll admit a little disappointment in the over-concentration of story games, and not enough traditional RPG's. It really wasn't a gaming convention; it was a game designers convention. I *did* get to meet and have real conversations with some notables in the field, which made it a worthwhile opportunity. Worth missing being the #1 bartender for Rubber Ball at the club (one of our top 3 busiest nights of the year)? Maybe, maybe not. Lessons learned all around.

The rest of my week was spent finishing up the revisions and image layout for the re-layout. I'm doing the fine tuning now, getting everything tip-top. I've decided to officially call it Factions at War: Revised, instead of just a Second Printing, to reflect the improvements to the game. Bought a block of 10 ISBN numbers, which will be processed in about 2 weeks. By then, the Factions at War Revised will be done and ready to go up on for sale as a PDF.

Phew! That went long. Hope all is well.