Friday, October 23, 2009

Small Press Week: Friday Thoughts

This week, several other RPG bloggers and I are celebrating Small Press Week, with a look at some of the works coming out of the smaller publishers in our hobby. And I think this week will show that just because a company is small, that doesn't mean they can't go toe-to-toe with some of the big boys. I'll be linking and rounding up other coverage periodically throughout the week.

I had hoped to have my review for FireWater Productions done today, but I'm just not done yet. I'll try to have it completed as soon as possible, but it looks like it might slip till next week. Look for a recap posting for all the Small Press Week links across the blogosphere.

Since I can't finish my review, I'm stuck instead with offering up some thoughts on small press companies in general. I'm not going to pretend that every small press offering has the spit and polish of a Wizards of the Coast or White Wolf product, and I won't pretend that there's going to be a Two-Fisted Tales, Don't Rest Your Head, or In Harm's Way game at every local gaming store.

But for those willing to be brave and try something new, there are plenty of rewards there. Innovative mechanics, people trying something new and off the beaten path. Unrivaled publisher and author access, and a one-on-one level of customer service. Games dealing with genres and topics largely untouched by larger publishers. And above all, the spirit of do-it-yourself gaming--of working a 9 to 5 job, coming home, writing, playtesting, scrimping and saving to get your product out the door, and the sheer amazing feeling of knowing someone is playing their game.

It's worth remembering that our hobby started with a couple of colleagues churning out copies of a somewhat rough-looking, novel game. The future of our hobby will undoubtedly begin in the same sort of place.


Gleichman said...

As much as I enjoy the blog, let me play the curmudgeon and have a rare moment of disagreement between us.

"Innovative mechanics, people trying something new and off the beaten path."


I've seen stuff slightly off the beaten path as in things few people are interested in. I suppose that covers 'new' as well.

And I guess mechanics can 'innovative' while being boring and/or flawed.

I suppose my disappointment is due in part to things like JAGS missing from the list while popcorn games get all the attention.

Beh. These games are suited as a replacement for a night of playing Life or Mouse Trap (although I wouldn't make that exchange myself) and if they are the today's high point measure of small press- small press will be continue to be significant only in its own mind.

Zachary The First said...

@Gleichman: Your opinion is always welcome here! And I will be the first to admit that there are many games that strive for innovation that end up being virtually unplayable. But the diamonds in the rough make it all worth while for me.

It’s true, there are more robust small-press offerings as well. Solid generic systems such as JAGS and genreDiversion 3. There are also definitely non-lite systems such as Epic (which I covered) and StarCluster 2.

Bottom line, however I concentrated this small press week, I firmly believe there are offerings out there for those who enjoy rules-lite as well as more robust systems. Perhaps next Small Press Week I’ll try to diversify a bit more.

rainswept said...

I'll split the difference with Zachary & Gleichman :)

While I have yet to come across an indie game that provokes a full campaign, I have read many that have 'stirred up the crackling fire' of my GMing ambitions. Often they don't cost any more than a trade paperback novel and they are at least as entertaining

Indie games may sometimes fail as games and yet succeed as inspiration. I think their place in the marketplace of RPG ideas is both vital and secure.

And PS... I think JAGS Wonderland gets it right: A concept that blossoms in the reader's head plus a loving presentation plus a straightforward system.

Barking Alien said...

I've been following this series of posts with great interest and must say that while I have enjoyed the information very much, many of the games you've reviewed are not the pinacle of small press's repetoire. In truth most have been rather traditional in scope if not in mechanics.

I've been playing RPGs since 77' and got bored of D&D around 85'. Why? Mainly because I'm just not that much of a medieval fantasy fan to be honest. I also like variety. I'm the kind of fellow who can't eat the same thing for dinner every night of the week. I have my favorite things but I also love to try new and different items.

For me, few 'mainstream' games over the last two to three years have really wowed me. On the hand I'm having a ball with InSpectres, Faery's Tale Deluxe (with some mods and houserules), Monsters and Other Childish Things, Sufficiently Advanced (with some mods and houserules) and MAID: The RPG (although I haven't yet run or played the latter - just reading it has been a blast though).

Anyway, I can see where everyone's coming from and Indie and Small Press labels do not equal awesome but they do offer an alternative to what you've been playing and are definitely worth a shot.

Zachary The First said...

@BA: Well, if you think I’m getting into “indie” vs. “small press”, you’re crazy. ;) Innovation can be found emergently as well, I feel; you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to put things that have already been done in an innovative way.

There are a lot of more non-traditional small press games I enjoy, to include Lacuna, InSpectres, Misspent Youth, etc. However, I’m also a junkie for Two-Fisted Tales, In Harm’s Way, and Burning Wheel. Honestly, I could do Small Press Month and not run out of games. One of these days, I just might do that.

Thanks for the comments!

HinterWelt said...

Thanks for the mention Zach! Some interesting choices.