|It's ok to not like this.|
... there's a blogpost that came out while I was at GenCon that had a really good go at shitting all over the recent Feral RPG PDF that I released just before I hit the US.
You can download the PDF that was criticised from here:
I won't link to the blogpost in question cause it's full of puerile comments and well, really tiresome name calling. Sadly, the endless stream of insults really, really undermines the validity of what I believe is worthwhile criticism of what I've been working on.
I actually really enjoy listening to opinions of people who are critical of your work, and of people who are outside the circle of your target audience. That's why I signed up for 4 hours with Ron Edwards's RPG workshop at GenCon (which was awesome). Some people commented on why would an OSR guy shack up with a storygamer guru? Because someone who knows their trade, even if they're supposedly in an opposed camp to yours, is someone worth listening to. Also: fuck the segregation of the gaming community, I'm just a guy who loves RPGs and Ron's just a guy who's studied them very extensively, so why wouldn't I?
I actually believe that underneath all the shit-talk in the Feral RPG review are some points that are worth addressing and some criticisms or misunderstandings that are worth responding to.
To save you the time of reading the shittier aspects of the post, I've waded through it and pulled out the critical points the reviewer was trying to make.
Whoever the reviewer is, I actually think you know RPGs quite well and know what you're talking about, and I think the points you're trying to make to RPG creators would be so much more valued and effective if you dropped the trash talk. Try it with your next review, I think if you address these creators who have spent so much of their time and efforts with a little more respect, you'll find your criticisms are better appreciated.
Fortunately you've addressed me, and I'm 1) Australian, 2) lived in New Zealand for four years, so everyone mispronounced my name as Jizz Gordon every damn day, 3) a very thick skinned fellow, so I'll try to answer the genuine criticisms that you've buried in amongst a pile of garbage.
1. YOUR ART SUCKS
Hey, not going to argue with you, you're 1000% entitled to your own taste in art. Don't like my style? No worries, don't hire me to illustrate your own projects. Other people seem to really like it, but to each their own. No beef there.
2. YOUR RED AND PLEASANT LAND MAPS SUCK
Again, that's subjective, I've had a lot of praise from other quarters, but can I suggest you look at some of my other maps here? They're of vastly different styles, some of which you might prefer:
3. FERAL IS NOT A COMPLETE RPG
Based on what is available in the playtest, you're right. it's incomplete, 36 pages out of the 96 pages I've written, and I'm aiming for a 240 page book (240 is very deliberate). Fortunately the 5E D&D system lets you port in home brew material - classes, races, backgrounds, equipment - ridiculously easy. Wizard of the Coast has for the last three years been releasing new playtest material via their Unearthed Arcana articles. There is nothing different to what I'm doing here. Pick one element of the playtest I've released and try it out in your current game. That's all I want anyone to do (and give me feedback about your experience if you can).
Additionally, how much new material fills out that 240 pages will determine whether I have space to include the core 5E system and make it a fully fleshed out RPG, or whether — in the same vein as say Adventures in Middle Earth — Feral RPG will be a supplement that requires the 5E Core rulebooks to play. I won't know until nearing completion, but my preference is to have Feral as a fully standalone RPG book that DOESN'T require the 5E books to play. Time will tell.
4. FERAL RPG HAS BEEN WORKED ON FOR OVER A YEAR. WHY IS THIS ALL YOU GOT?
Actually two years. I'm father of two kids, one with special needs; I'm their primary carer, plus I work a day job while they're at school and a night job when they're asleep. I also freelance design for other RPG creators, doing layout, cartography and illustrations for them. I get very little time to do what I love doing which is working on Feral, but I do it when I can. This is why I have set up a Patreon (after seeing other RPG creators do the same thing): if people are willing to support me financially (and I'm not forcing them to, just letting them know they can) it means I can spend more time working on Feral instead of chasing freelance work elsewhere.
Also (as I mentioned above) this is only a small portion of the stuff I've completed. I'm only interested in feedback on what's in the playtest PDF. As I regularly release new playtests, more an more material will be released, and the previously released material will be revised once I've received feedback from playtesters as to the success or failure of the ideas within.
5. WHY HAVEN'T EACH OF THE d200 ANIMALS GOT THEIR OWN SPECIFIC ABILITIES?
That's a deliberate design choice: instead of lots of pages detailing every single species in that table, my approach has enabled me to cover most species in far fewer pages, which means I can get more material about other aspects of the game in there.
I was already considering another d200 table with the same animals listed, including a fast play option where the point-buy abilities are already done so it's quicker to get into the game. Sounds like I should put it in.
6. A LOT OF THE ANIMAL ABILITIES AREN'T REVOLUTIONARY OR PUSHING ENVELOPES
I'm not trying to be either of these. I'm trying to marry a style and setting of play that's been around since the 80's with 5E's ruleset cause it's fun. This is my first RPG. I'm not trying to break the wheel. I think if you took the time to understand that it's more a project of genre emulation than revolutionary design then your expectations will be more realistic.
7. JEZ IS OSR, AND WANTS YOU TO VOTE FOR HIM AT THE ENNIES
I have no personal game camp allegiance. People like to think I'm OSR cause that's who I do a lot of work for LotFP; but then I've also worked with the creator of Monsterhearts, and with the good folk at Magpie Games. Storygame central.
The games I play and run each week are Pathfinder and 5E D&D. I've never run LotFP. That doesn't mean I'm washing my hands of them, either; I REALLY love a lot of what the OSR produces in art and word, but I just port them over to 5E cause that's the system I like best. I also prefer simulationist games to narrativist, but that's not an OSR exclusive.
As for the ENnies, yeah! I love winning awards and being recognised for what I do. It's a lovely feeling, and if you voted for me this year or any other year, thanks so much!
8. YOUR BACKGROUNDS SUCK (I THINK? HARD TO TELL WHAT YOU'RE SAYING)
I really like writing the backgrounds, they're part of 5E, and a fun way to define the tropes you're going for in your 5E game. It's a pity you only bring up the Cop background; that was pretty easy to write, whereas the Freak and Experiment were harder and have additional material.
Also, from my experience running 5E for the last two years, the background the players choose has a seriously big impact on the style of character they play. The players I've run for rely on them heavily to define the differences between characters of the same class. Spending time writing them is definitely worth doing given how much influence they have on the game.
9. WHY HAVE STARS AND QUALITY RATINGS ON EQUIPMENT?
Some people work visually, some verbally. Ultimately yeah, I could just commit to one or the other. It would only save a narrow column's worth of space, but maybe I should to save possible confusion.
10. THE DICE ARRAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CHARACTER SHEET SUCKS
I've run Feral at three conventions now, and out of the 18 people who've played, 7 had NEVER played an RPG before. It's a fucking honour to run their first game ever. Having the dice array really helped them.
For anyone who doesn't want a dice array at the bottom of their character sheet, I've already produced character sheets with out them so there's more room for features. It's in the character sample PDF. Have a look at it and tell me that satisfies your criticism.
11. THE WEALTH SYSTEM SUCKS
You know? I can't tell you if it works yet because I haven't run a long campaign of Feral where the wealth system came into play. The three convention games didn't get into that aspect of play, so yeah, it's quite possible it doesn't work. But that's the point of a playtest: produce new experimental material to see if people can or can't make it work. If the feedback on the wealth system is mainly negative, clearly I need to change it. You have strong opinions about it, and that's totally fine. I look forward to other people's feedback. It's quite possible it sucks. If it does, I'll change it.
The abstract wealth gimmick is pretty much the same as used in White Wolf's Vampire games and others, btw.
The daily/ weekly/yearly wealth is there to help people get an indication of what each wealth level is like. It's not perfect, and the numbers aren't meant to add up; it's a generalised indicator and to be used as such. I can easily chuck it if the feedback is predominately negative about its inclusion.
Also, I'd just like to point out that you save the largest part of your criticism for what I consider to be the least important part of the game.
12. THE EQUIPMENT SYSTEM IS JUST PORTED IN FROM D&D 5E
Actually there's two new things you missed that are probably worth looking at more closely.
- the Equipment Packs, which is a spur-of-the-moment item system that avoids meticulous record-keeping of every item; it's had 9 hours of playtesting and everyone seemed to enjoy it, so far no complaints.
- the Firearms section, which includes all kinds of modern weapons (modern for the 80's anyway). This has been playtested for 24 hours in three different con games, and all up I'm really happy with how it works in game. Take a look.
13. IT'S NOT MUCH FOR A YEAR'S WORK
I wish I could have produced so much more, but as I explained above, I really get very little time to work on it. Additionally I'm doing the whole project — writing, game mechanics, graphic design, illustration, and marketing so yeah, I don't expect to produce as much as I could if I just threw down a .txt doc. But that's not what I want to produce.
14. IF YOU SUPPORT JEZ'S PATREON, YOU RUN THE RISK OF NEVER SEEING IT FINISHED
That's true; life might have other plans. But as far as I can tell, I'm 100000% dedicated to seeing this through to the finish, and the more people who support me on Patreon, the faster it will come into being. At no point am I forcing anyone to do so, and people can opt out at any time. I clearly state the amount of time I expect the project will take based on the amount of patronage I receive. People can be their own judge of whether it's worth their support or not.
Go here if you're curious:
Yes I am totally pimping my patreon. Why wouldn't I?
And I think that addresses every one of the criticisms made.
TO THE CRITIC WHO INSPIRED THIS POST
Whoever the author of the blog is, I hope you understand that your blog has the potential of being a really good site of constructive game criticism.
You clearly know a fair bit about game design, and are motivated enough to pour a considerable amount of time and effort into critiquing other people's games, but hiding what good you have to offer underneath a pile of bile does neither you or the creators you address any good.
I hope that by addressing the better aspects of your blog I can encourage you can be more respectful of other people's creations and of other people, and if you have valid criticisms to make, that you make them in a more meaningful and productive way.
We all do it for the love of the roleplaying games, we all just want to create new avenues for fun and pleasure. There's no need for the bullshit trashtalk. People will appreciate your efforts a lot more if you drop it.