Friday, November 21, 2014

Pretentiousness in Indie-Games

I was actually responding to something on the Grand Heresy forums, when I realized my response was going to turn into an unrelated rant. Instead, I moved it here.

Higgins made a comment about what we would call our GM, poking fun at TROS' terminology "Seneschal." I replied the following:

You know. That's a good conversation point. We originally started the game trying to decide what we were calling the GM. We had "narrator" for a long time, but ultimately wound up going with ...GM. Yes, we could carve ourselves out a neat title for the role of game master - Seneschal, Narrator, Story Teller, Scribe, Referee Arbiter, Adjudicator, Justicar, Grand Moff, Naib - but these are all cases of using a five dollar word where fifty cents will do. It's already pretty well established what a GM is and does, and ultimately people are going to call it GM anyway when they can't be bothered to remember what our particular variant is called.

I thought that itself was worth posting, simply because I just wrote a bit on the issue of naming things. The following is what was taken out, but something I want to get into anyway:

One of the things I've tried to do in writing / editing the Band of Bastards beta is be conscious of how we might come off in the writing itself. I'm speaking for myself alone here, but one of the things that makes me cringe when reading a lot of independently published RPGs is the way in which they talk about themselves, either in advertising or internally in the book itself. The rules may or may not be awesome, the game may be awesome, but there is so much author/creator commentary on how awesome it is that it's hard not to just roll your eyes. I'm a big fan of the "under sell, over-deliver" mantra. If our game is awesome, you won't need us to remind you of that within the book itself.

This really bothers me when the hype-machine for a game is fueled by negative comparisons to other games or types of games. Most often, this is a stab at dungeons and dragons and the people who play it. I feel like a lot of this comes out of Forge culture, but it isn't exclusive to it.

I get it, I really do. That someone has bothered to create something in the first place is generally evidence that they think it will do something better than some other system, otherwise they wouldn't have made it. I don't have a problem with someone explaining how their system is better for X or Y kind of game, or offers Z kind of experience. The rub is when the primary way they explain this is by crapping on some other kind of game or experience, as though it was less valid. Badwrongfun is not a way to sell your game, or at least it shouldn't be.

At least for 'Bastards, I want the game to speak for itself. Part of that is in managing the way we pitch ourselves, but that also carries through to more mundane topics.. like naming things.

My two cents.

Until next time,


  1. I think we should reconsider and name the GM to Referee Seneschal Master, as it would make RSM, also known as Regimental Sergeant Major.

    1. I'm partial to Naib, myself. Maybe we'll get a Dune license one day.