Remembering the Forge

This is a post prompted by Shimmin, who was asking after a simple introduction to subjects surrounding the Forge. I realised that I couldn’t think of many that weren’t highly biased one way or another; certainly, the Forge itself isn’t much use for this, since a lot of their explanations of their ideas consisted of either a) articles which were working documents for ongoing conversations or b) extensive forum conversations.

So, here’s my attempt to summarise the points Shimmin seemed to want clarifying about the Forge. This isn’t going to be especially neutral, because I have my own well-developed opinions about all this stuff, but I’ll do my best to try and present the points in question with as much context as possible. If you have a different understanding of the Forge’s work or disagree with my conclusions, I’d welcome comments that’d either illuminate points I don’t explain adequately or provide corrections.

What’s a quick explanation of all this?

Once upon a time a now-defunct web community – the Forge – spent a lot of time trying to elevate tabletop RPG criticism and theory to academic levels. They ended up coming up with a bunch of contentious theories that on the plus side led to the development of some interesting games, and on the downside led to some inflammatory statements being made, including some truly abhorrent stuff about brain damage and child abuse.

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ENWorld’s Hot Roleplaying Games – December 2014

For the last time this year, let’s check in on ENWorld’s chart of hot RPGs. As usual, remember that RPGs are scored on the chart based on what’s being actively discussed on as wide a pool of internet fora and blogs as they can find RSS feeds for. It isn’t tracking sales, and it isn’t even tracking popularity (because conceivably a game could get onto the chart if there were a sufficiently virulent negative reaction to it). Note that I’m presenting here the scores assigned to each game, not the percentages (which can tend to obscure whether there’s been a recent explosion of RPG discussion – as there has been for 5E – or whether things are comparatively quiet on the RPG talkosphere).

1	D&D 5th Edition				1597
2	Old School Revival (OSR)		 421
3	FATE					 418
4	Pathfinder RPG				 345
5	D&D 3rd Edition/3.5			 326
6	Savage Worlds				 192
7	World of Darkness			 178
8	Traveller				 161
9	Call of Cthulhu				 158
10	OD&D					 126
11	D&D 4th Edition				 120
12	Shadowrun				 107
13	Dread					 106
14	Dungeon World				  98
15	AD&D 2nd Edition			  89
16	GURPS					  88
17	Numenera				  83
18	The Strange				  74
19	Star Wars (FFG)				  73
20	Dungeon Crawl Classics			  67
20	Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures	  67
22	AD&D 1st Edition			  65
23	RIFTS					  60
24	13th Age				  55
25	ICONS					  52
26	Warhammer 40K				  49
27	Gumshoe					  45
28	Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space	  44
29	Dragon Age				  38
29	Castles & Crusades			  38
31	Apocalypse World			  35
32	Star Trek				  34
33	DC Heroes				  31
34	Stars Without Number			  30
35	Feng Shui				  27
35	Firefly					  27
37	Warhammer FRP				  23
38	Exalted					  22
39	Deadlands				  19
40	Earthdawn				  17
40	Colonial Gothic				  17
40	d20 Modern				  17
43	Eclipse Phase				  16
44	BESM					  15
45	Gamma World				  14
46	Iron Kingdoms				  12
47	The One Ring				  11
47	Star Wars (SAGA/d20)			  11
49	All Flesh Must Be Eaten			  10
49	Marvel Heroic Roleplaying		  10
51	A Song of Ice & Fire			   9
52	Aberrant				   8
52	CORTEX System				   8
54	Paranoia				   7
54	Hackmaster				   7
54	Star Wars (d6)				   7
54	HERO System / Champions			   7
58	Ars Magica				   5
58	Mutant Chronicles			   5
60	d20 Future				   4
60	Godlike / Wild Talents / NEMESIS	   4
62	True20					   2
62	Brave New World				   2
62	TMNT					   2
62	Fading Suns				   2
66	Alternity				   1
66	Chainmail				   1
66	Marvel SAGA				   1
66	Runequest				   1
66	Rotted Capes				   1
71	Hobomancer				   0
71	Ashen Stars				   0
71	Villians & Vigilantes			   0
71	Golden Heroes / Squadron UK		   0
71	Marvel Super Heroes			   0
71	Silver Age Sentinels			   0
71	Other Superhero RPGs			   0
71	Smallville				   0
--	Dnd/Pathfinder				 DNC
--	Stage					 DNC
*DNC = Did Not Chart

1	Paizo					3557
2	Wizards of the Coast			 917

Note that according to the chart page a 0 score doesn’t mean nobody’s mentioned a particular game – a statistically significant sample has shown up but no more than that. For sanity’s sake I’m only tracking zero-scores which previously scored. Games which did not chart presumably either failed to even yield a statistically significant sample or have had their categories retired from the chart (as appears to be the case with the redundant Dnd/Pathfinder category).

As mentioned last time, ENWorld has started tracking the levels of traffic for Paizo and Wizards’ official discussion boards. As the chart page on ENWorld explains, typically they don’t track official fora, on the basis that it would skew the charts unless every single official forum were tracked. Weirdly, they seem to be including the fora in the main charts, but this seems to be exactly the sort of apples to oranges comparison they claim to want to avoid, so I have separated them out here.

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The Threefold Dungeon Master

As the third piece of the puzzle when it comes to the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons core rulebooks, the Dungeon Master’s Guide is a position to either cement the positive reception the rest of the core books have received or mar them. At the end of the day, not only does it confirm 5th Edition as my new favourite version of D&D, but it also tips the designers’ hands a little by subtly evoking a quasi-threefold model only to reject the conclusions reached by previous purveyors of such models.

The book is split into three major sections: Master of Worlds, Master of Adventures, and Master of Rules. The first section provides a discussion of worldbuilding – not quite so in-depth as more dedicated books on the subject have been able to offer, but providing enough material and ideas that any reasonably bright newcomer would be able to use this to make a start. As well as giving the usual pointers on mapping, establishing the parameters of societies, constructing pantheons and so on, the section also offers pointers on tampering with more fundamental premises, like coming up with your own planar cosmology or altering the fundamental assumptions underpinning standard D&D fantasy. In addition to that, there’s a decent explanation of the 5th Edition cosmology (essentially the old Great Wheel with cool bits from 4E like the Shadowfell and Feywild tacked on) that, whilst not going into Planescape levels of detail, at least gives enough support to at least consider running excursions to those planes if you feel like it, which is better than the extremely sparse description given in the 1E Dungeon Master’s Guide managed.

As a nice touch, this section finishes off with a quick summary of the various published campaign worlds for D&D – including settings like Birthright and Mystara that haven’t had any official support since the 2nd Edition days. Whilst I doubt that Wizards will be producing 5th Edition updates for more than a fraction of these settings, at the same time it doesn’t do them any harm to mention them seeing how offers most of the original releases for them as PDF downloads, and giving newcomers a quick reference to all these different worlds also helps to demystify any online discussion of them they come across.

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