Questions, concerns, befuddlements

Started by Ron Edwards, December 15, 2010, 09:25:14 PM

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Ron Edwards


This thread's for any and all questions about how the Ronnies will proceed.

Best, Ron


Heya Ron,

I'm very excited to hear you're doing the Ronnies again.  It was a major growth moment for me back in 2005.  I have a question.  In the sticky, you wrote, "Your actual game creation should be conducted within 24 hours."  I'm asking about the word, "creation" here.

Can a game that relies on some OGL or Creative Commons set of mechanics (D20, TSOY) qualify?  Or does the author have to create all the rules and mechanics from scratch?

Thank you,


Ron Edwards

Hi Troy,

That's a good question. By "create," I'm talking about a role-playing game authored by you (the submitter) that might meet the standards I mentioned. It seems to me that using Creative Commons, OGL, et cetera material does not violate those standards, so that would be permitted.

However, that means I should clarify what I mean by "authored by you." As I see it, that means that you would have made the absolute best choice you could regarding those two terms and how you have decided to relate them, specifically in terms of the rules. It is possible that in those circumstances, using (say) the Solar System or original TSOY would be exactly perfectly right.* But I will be subjecting that decision to my own judgment.

Here's something to add to that regarding D20. Unlike TSOY, their open license contract stipulates that certain design features be left unchanged - six attributes, and a few other things. For purposes of the Ronnies, it is up to you to decide whether you will accept these stipulations as productive constraints or violate them, rendering your design "inspired by D20" rather than in accord with the OGL. Either is acceptable to me in principle, but that judgment I mentioned applies to this too.

That idea applies to a lesser extent to the details of any open license framework one might use. For instance, if you were to use the Solar System, I would probably consider it lazy, and more importantly, uncritical design, if you simply slotted everything you had in mind straight through the exact options and exact menu of Keys and whatnot that Eero provided. I'd expect you to work with the Solar System, not merely copy from it. (And all this said with the proviso that if, somehow, your concepts were so brilliantly tuned to exactly what is provided in the Solar System, then it would in fact be the best design choice to use what was provided. But that's subject to my judgment regarding the award.)

Best, Ron

* For instance, I am working on an elaborate setting and play-design using TSOY/Solar System right now. I wouldn't be doing that unless I thought that that system's features were not already well-suited, even ideally-suited for it.

Ben Lehman

So, uh, when are you actually going to start?

Ron Edwards

Hi Ben,

It's in the main thread, but there's nothing wrong with emphasizing it here. My current thinking is not to compete with the holidays, so January 1st is probably the best bet for the start. I figure a little clarification and prep time here might help too.

You've probably noticed that the timing is a little different, capping out the number of entries. I'm trying to avoid the burnout that kicked in so hard the last time, and which hampered my ability to mentor many designs further in the case of several authors who didn't receive it, especially in terms of playtesting.

Ummm ... on a related note, you wouldn't consider working up On the Ecology of the Mud Dragon (with art), would you? Maybe for a free download or something.

Best, Ron


I'd love to participate, but my email and general internet access is getting really erratic lately. I could generate something up in 24 hours, but can only access the internet twice a week (at best), so I probably wouldn't be able to post up my work until six days had passed.

I don't know how that would affect my eligibility for the contest, especially if feedback becomes a concern.

I've got a few ideas kicking around that just need a touch of creative spark to set into motion.
A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.

Ron Edwards

Hi Michael,

That might not be a problem. Keep me informed about when you've actually finished the submission. If you finish it within the round's duration, then I'll accept it from you when access allows. If you're in the continental U.S., we can communicate by phone. If there are some circumstances that make communication especially difficult (military deployment, imprisonment; don't laugh, these have been issues before) then let me know by private message.

Also, to clarify, there's no feedback during the period of submission or prior to getting the reward. This doesn't follow the Iron Game Chef sequence. It goes like this:

- period of submission, during which people make games in 24 hours apiece.
- closure of the period of submission, with either of two criteria described in the main thread
- assignment of the award(s) with minor comments on the general performance
- unscheduled and extensive discussion of the games, with at least one thread for each

So the main work is actually done after the awards are known.

Best, Ron

Callan S.

Perhaps this is a question that just occurs to me, but is the 24 hours just in terms of getting down to scratching on paper or hitting keys/working up a document? As ones brain is probably going to come up with stuff beforehand. Possibly even drawing on stuff from quite some time prior. Probably the answer is just a "Yeah, that", but it's worth clarifying.

Ron Edwards

Hi Callan,

Totally legitimate question. Jake VanDam asked it in the original rounds. From November Ronnies! Start your engines for the 6th:

Quote... I already have a basic rules set that I've been working on, and have grown quite attached, which raises two concerns:

1. I will slip into that kind of rules structure, which seems to be against the spirit of a 24 hour rpg.
2. I will be so concerned with making it not resemble that basic stucture in any way that it would get in the way of good design.

At what point should I draw the line on #1? Is there any advice on avoiding #2?

And my answer hedged so bad it's practically a whole designer landscaping shrubbery project:

Quoteunfortunately there isn't any good answer.

On the one hand, the goals of the 24-Hour activity (and by extension the Ronnies) aren't met simply by shoehorning a new setting or whatever onto a pre-existing system framework.

On the other, if that framework is still in development, especially early development, then the 24-Hour activity can help you get it into the shape it needs to be, or help you try it out in a more focused way.

Speaking for myself, I don't especially value the "originality and insta-inspiration" ideal when it comes to game design - I actually think it paralyzes the game designer more often than it helps. However, I do value the focus and specific insights that come from putting as much of the game design process into the 24 hours as possible.

Ultimately, that question has to be answered by you alone. I'm willing to accept your submission based on your commitment to producing, here and now, the best possible game design you can. Even if you work with some material you have sitting around already, my hope is that during the 24 hours, you'll be willing to twist, break, and re-design any aspect of that material that you see fit, in order to meet the goals of generating that best possible game design for those two terms you choose.

The way I'd put it today is that I recognize that any amount of novel inspiration today may well dovetail nicely with any amount of previously-conceived material you may have on hand. The last bit of the above quote isn't bad. If we're talking about the best design for the kind of play you want concerning those two terms (and their various associations and related terms that you introduce), then drawing upon what you already have on hand is fine - as long as it works and is at the service of the immediate design, rather than the other way around.

Oh, and there was also this rudely harsh bit from The Ronnies, September 2005, which is true but I would like to withdraw the implication that a majority of readers here succumb the problem I describe. It was exhibited very strongly by one person and got up my nose at the time.

QuotePeople try to make it harder than it is. They re-cast the guidelines as brutal, impossible standards and then hold themselves to them. Here are the most common examples. Let me (be) absolutely clear: All of the following is total bullshit.

"1. Inspiration must arrive during the 24 hours. The entire creative process must be encompassed in those 24 hours. Nothing can arise from any influences, thoughts, notions, or what-ifs that date before that time. You can't even get inspired, then start the clock, 'cause that's cheating too.
"2. You can't even friggin' ask anyone how to do something on your computer, for layout or format or whatever. No, you must lock yourself in a wretched garret and dine on Saltines alone, with only the gifts God gave you.
"3. The rules, setting, and so forth cannot have any antecedents whatsoever in your role-playing history. No! All original, all the time, total innovation, from the moment of inspiration in the 24 hours."

Lest someone misread this list as criteria, let me put it plainly again: All of the foregoing is total bullshit.
Frankly, I think this is a defensive, loser posture: "Oh, I won't cheat. I'm an artist of integrity. [and then, later] Oh, well, see, I couldn't find the time or concentration to do it to the most rigorous standards, and rather than cheat, I'll pass. I could have finished a fine little game, but I won't, because I'm so virtuous." It's an arrant and grotesque way to justify what a big wanker you are being.

Look, people, the point is to make games without having time to second-guess yourself and distract yourself by crusting on a bunch of pseudo-industry crap in lieu of making sure all the parts are there. This is an easy and fun way to make games. Let's say in the future that one of the four words I provide is, oh, beer. Wow! You say. I had an idea for a fun beer-ish role-playing game a while ago, but never did anything with it. Let's see, where's that notebook?

Is that cheating? No, it isn't. It really isn't. Now, if you'd written up a whole notebook worth of beer clans and aggravated beer damage, and just 'ported it from the notebook, that would be against the point. But using the contest to jump-start your original inspiration is totally by the rules at the site. If you've been interpreting the rules at the site in that bullshit way I listed above, you are missing the point.

So, uh, scrub out the ranty tone, and that stands up well today too.

Best, Ron

Bret Gillan

So our game should be a 24-hour design but can designed/submitted anytime before the deadline?

Meaning I can design my game on the 3rd (assuming the deadline hasn't hit before then), it just needs to be done in 24 hours and is on the good old honor system?

Ron Edwards

Yeah, that's right!

I'll provide the four terms on January 1st, which kicks off the submission period.

Best, Ron

David Berg

Hi Ron,

You said, re: the words, "The two you choose need to be central to the game in some fashion."  Could you elaborate on this?

I get a vague sense of a "design to spec" challenge, but am fuzzy on doing that when the spec is so broad. 

Let's say a word is "phoenix" and I get inspired by that to do something about rebirth, and wind up making a game about robots who've uploaded the consciousnesses of dead people.  Does that count as "phoenix" being "central"?

On the other hand, I could make a game where everyone plays a phoenix.  By your judging standards, is that likely to fit better?  Worse (for lack of subtlety/originality)?

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

M. J. Young

I admit to being interested, even intrigued.  It's the 24-hour thing that causes me to hesitate, for what is probably a different reason.

My days are generally rather packed.  I've got deadlines on two articles per week (I'm the Time Travel Movies Examiner at The, and a ton of unpredictable real-life and online obligations.  If I can get twenty-four free minutes out of twenty-four hours, it's a light day.  I rarely write a forum post uninterrupted.  So while twenty-four hours sounds like plenty of time to create a game, I find myself saying with Steven Wright, "Not in a row."  It sounds like fun, but I might drop in next Thursday, pick up the words, Friday morning write a hundred words on an idea that has coalesced, and not get a chance to get back to it again until Tuesday.

That sounds like it would violate the twenty-four hour rule.  I'm not sure, though, how I could avoid doing so--I don't have days off, and if I did my wife would lay claim to them rather quickly.

So how strictly should this twenty-four hour rule be interpreted?  I know you said that the time limit was there to prevent us from second-guessing ourselves and forcing us to make quick decisions to get things together.  If it were a competition it would be unfair for me to have the weekend to think about it, even intermittently.  But since I can never know when I sit down to type whether I am going to have several uninterrupted hours or five minutes after which I won't be able to return to the task for a few days, I can see the twenty-four hour rule killing me pretty easily.  Everything I write involves picking up where I left off a day or more ago, done in fragments that hopefully coalesce into a complete coherent work.

So I guess I'm asking whether not having more than five or ten minutes a day to focus on such a project automatically disqualifies me.


--M. J. Young

Ron Edwards

It does, unfortunately. The 24-hour period is fixed by the clock. It's not that it takes 24 hours to do it, out of 48 or 72 or whatever, but that it was done in that particular span.

See what happens during the submission period. Since there's no sign-up or prior commitment phase, there's no reason to say one way or another at this time. In the past, any number of people who talked smack about what they would do failed to submit, and any number of people who said they probably couldn't discovered that they could.

Best, Ron

David Berg

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development