Ah, the RPG community. No difference is too small to be an excuse to fragment it further!
Background for the Uninitiated: There are such things as “indie” role-playing games, for those of you who consider using rules from Dragon Magazine in your D&D to be “living on the edge.” What “indie” means is of course immediately up for debate; to some folks it’s any games from single person or small shops (e.g. not from a big publisher). Of course, in the RPG world pretty much everyone but WotC and White Wolf has less than a handful of employees. Some people draw a distinction between “storygames” and “traditional” RPGs, which is also a very arguable distinction between RPGs that are more story-oriented, or, frankly, just more “newfangled” and games that seem to be constructed just like every RPG since 1970.
The Forge (aka indie-rpgs.com) is a forums site run by Ron Edwards, author of the RPG Sorcerer, which is for certain indie game design folks to collaborate. (I say “certain” because they have a very specific view of what’s indie and other views are not welcome.)
Indie Press Revolution is a distributor that carries indie titles, from the FORGE and others. There’s some overlap in publishers with the mega-RPG sales site RPGNow.com, but they focus on small press titles. They’ve grown quickly; now my FLGS (Rogue’s Gallery, in Round Rock, TX) has an IPR mini-section.
Anyway, on the FORGE site, Ron Edwards has declared IPR not “indie” enough and is starting his own distributor (well, a couple hours a week of some chick named Meg) to do fulfillment for him and a couple other companies. He’s concerned that his “definition of independence” is a low priority for IPR taking on new publishers, and that his books are not “front and center” on the IPR home page.
Unlike the RPGPundit, who dismisses the whole kerfluffle as storygamer silliness, I enjoy some indie games, storygames, whatever you want to call them. I own octaNe, InSpectres, Lacuna, Don’t Rest Your Head, Spirit of the Century, some of the GUMSHOE titles… In terms of older games I’d consider indie, Feng Shui changed how I play all RPGs.
Anyway, this whole thing seems to be a case of ego run wild. I defy you to read the FORGE thread and not say “Man, that Ron guy is being an assmaster.” He claims to not have a beef, but then casts IPR as some huge demon corp with tremendous overhead used to fleece the publishers, then when one of the IPR guys very politely responds to say “we’re like two people and I pull only 10 hrs/week salary from it”, goes into full attack dog mode, even threatening to moderate him so he can’t reply. Stay classy, Ron. He claims that “No one owns independence” but you get the clear idea he thinks he does, or at least is its pope. For someone that’s published exactly one game, that’s a bit of a tall order IMO.
And franky, it’s not a good idea to split off on your own. I’m sorry his game isn’t “front page” on the IPR site any more. But there’s a reason you get mileage out of a good distributor – their reach and quality. IPR has become (like RPGNow and Paizo.com, at least for me personally) a destination to go look at when you’re in the market for games. They have a great and usable Web site with helpful features, a problem-free store, they take credit cards and not just PayPal – all that stuff that junky little one-man Web pages don’t have. I mentioned there’s an IPR mini-section in my FLGS. All that gets your game out to people. And the woods are littered with well-meaning self-fullfilment folks who just end up screwing it up and alienating customers and publishers. Like everything else, fulfillment/distribution is a discipline and people who specialize in it will do it better – more reliable, get you your books faster, etc.
In fact, Pelgrane Press posted an interesting thing to the FORGE about their distribution model and how they do some self-fulfillment *and* IPR – their self-fulfillment was plagued by the expected problems (bad store software that can’t calculate shipping, etc.) and reasonable costs.
If you don’t like the store site not having your books on the front page, or not making a “shared and enticing concept,” have a Web site of your own to push it – I don’t know why you have to get into the distribution business for that. That’s sour grapes, not good business.
Some of the folks supporting this make the somewhat odd claim that “we don’t want to get our games out to just anybody, but only to those who would enjoy them.” If you think only your fellow FORGEites can appreciate your brilliance, just give them all PDFs, it’s a quite small community. I think that’s an inherently stupid and elitist attitude to talk about who’s worthy to buy your game. “Some dude in some game shop in Iowa is obviously some redneck retard who could never enjoy my game without being a part of the FORGE community for five years first.” Do you think so little of your product that you think there might not be others out there who would enjoy and appreciate it if they had access to it? And they are proud their new scheme “isn’t a business model.” You know, things are profitable because they provide something people percieve to be of value. Many big companies got big because it was doing things better for their customers than the smaller one. Shocking, I know.
On the one hand, so someone’s doing something stupid for fulfillment, welcome to small business. But the real risk is that this is going to be used as an excuse for infighting, fragmentation, or “purges” as RPGPundit puts it. Sadly, my many years experience with the online RPG communities leads me to believe that’s a likely outcome. The RPG community is very small. The indie game community is even smaller. Don’t let someone with a big ego goad you into fighting with each other. There is value in collaboration and in dealing with people that, God forbid, do not share the 100% same worldview that you do. In fact, it might *improve* what you produce. This isolationist mindset is not useful and will generate bad feelings and a weaker indie RPG industry. If you would like to see more people in general play RPGs, and see more RPG players play innovative, new games – don’t fall into this trap.