Thursday, 12 April 2012

We fear Change!

As a gamer, both paper and pencil RPGs and table top war gaming, there comes a point in your involvement with the past time you have chosen when a company that produces/publishes the majority of the stuff you use in your games makes a drastic change to the product you have come to know and love. Take for example, Dungeons & Dragons, a classic game published in 1977, twelve years later TSR published AD&D 2nd edition, it wasn’t a new game, it was a set of enhanced rules that improved the playabilty of the game. The rule set remained the same but there were new character classes and skills. These changes weren’t just accepted they were welcomed. I totally enjoy playing second edition, I know the rules inside out and I can hold my own as a ref who not only enjoys presenting the players with a challenge, I also enjoy those moments when the players threw me a curve ball and scuppered my plans to end their adventuring careers. I had an unwritten agreement with one group of chaps that as a Ref it was my job to screw the players over and make the game as difficult for them as I possibly could, it was down to the players to out smart me, or the bad guys I threw at them, at every opportunity.

The Second Edition of AD&D stayed around in published form for about eleven years, TSR sold the rights to Wizard of the Coast and they announced the release of Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition. This news rocked my little corner of the gaming community, this wasn’t an update with enhanced rules and skills, this was a complete change to the game. The rules became virtually unrecognisable as the game I had more or less grown up playing. More out of curiosity than interest I bought some of the books, young minds, fresh ideas and all that. The art work was nice, the concept, for me, was dire! THAC0 and AC were gone, player character generation was as close to a point based system as you could get with out calling it a points based system. from a players perspective I have a strong dislike of point based PC creation, it generally results in seriously overpowered characters that are usually defeated by something completely mundane, the main problem with a point based system is this: Players start off with a standard character with slightly above average stats, this character is by no means playable and invariably requires considerable tweaking, this is done by spending points (DUH) on improving the stats and skills. Then comes the dodgy bit, once the stats and skills have been sorted players can spend any remaining points on merits, these are usually extra skills or abilities that “enhance” the character. Whilst merits cost points, players can take flaws. Flaws, obviously, are the opposite of merits, they usually take the guise of weaknesses that a referee can exploit during a game. Flaws may include an allergy, a moral code or a phobia. They are also usually scaled such as slight, moderate and severe, depending on where on the scale the player places a flaw the higher amount of points can be added to the points that are available to dispense on the character. As I said earlier, this can result in strong powerful characters that are crippled by a bout of hayfever or they have an irrational fear of something completely mundane, one chap I gamed with had a PC that was mortified by penguins, seriously, he explained that whenever his character saw a penguin he would immediately fall to the ground and assume the foetal position. So for me point based RPGs are rather naff, I happen to be a big fan of rolling dice to generate that stats for my characters, although as mentioned in an earlier entry dice can be a bit cruel at times and it’s no easy task trying to portray a chap that has the strength of a hill giant and the intelligence of a stoat, no comments about me finding that easy please!

Some say change is good it keeps and idea fresh and can improve on the original, I counter that with this, sometimes change is stupid and is nothing more than a way for a company to line its collective pockets with more of my hard earned cash.

This is more or less aimed at a certain publisher of a table top wargame that shall remain nameless. When they announced the imminent release of models in a brand new resin we were all keen to see what the company was about to produce. A new word appeared in the lexicon of wargaming, that word was “Finecast”. Hailed as the biggest thing to happen to TTWGs since Napolean and Wellington, described as the model producers moon landing, now referred to by the people who actually buy the models that are not on the payroll as either “Failcast” or “Finecost”. Granted the quality of the model detail improved, the resin is much lighter than metal, obviously, but as the quality improved the price went up, as the weight fell the models are now much more fragile. A metal model will bend where a finecast model will snap. most people I know have complained that they have bought a model only to return the model because its badly cast, full of bubbles or both. From a modellers take on the new medium I can see the benefits, converting a finecast model is much easier and it lends itself well to display pieces, not so great for models that are constantly being picked up, put down, moved, dropped and otherwise man handled, but ours is not to reason why, ours is but to choose and buy.

With the space of a year, maybe less, the almighty powers that sit upon thrones of cash in the Valhallen halls of Nottingham have once again produced a new product, no longer can we talk in adenoidal nasal tones about simply painting, we now have a painting system comprised of 145 colours spread over five different types of paint. whilst the article printed in this months anaemic short one tells us that the new colours won’t be a perfect match for the older colours they are close, well close in the way that a Citroen 2CV is close to a Bugatti Veyron. Sadly I think I like the new range of paints, so the colours are wrong and most of them match the original colours about as much as I can easily be mistaken for Johnny Depp but I think the new range will actually benefit the more experienced painter rather than a beginner, someone who’s been painting for a while will simply see the range as a wider choice and more productive, someone that is just starting to paint their own models may find the variety of colours a bit daunting, do we really need six shade of red and five greens? For the more able painter simply adding black or white to alter the shade is a challenge and part of the creative process, it’s also a good way for a beginner to learn how the colours work, by adding so many shades of green, blue, red or whatever, the pleasure of finding a unique colour is removed in favour of having another 60+ colours, not including textures and technicals, at £2.30 a pop. I can see where the logic behind it is. Yes as painters we have a greater choice but do we really need such a wide range? I a few years ago I bought the full range of paints and there’s a large number of them that I have never used, even some of the paints that I bought 25 years ago when Citadel first release the first sets of acrylics I have never used. I like the idea of the “dry” paints and I hope that the new base paints will have better coverage, the original Skull White always needed at least three coats until the undercoat didn’t bleed through and some of the metallics were even worse. In truth I’m on the fence about the new paint “system”. Hopefully I’ll be able to give a better opinion once I’ve used some of them, currently its really only the whites and metals that I want to try, if those have improved I may feel that the change is worth the fuss.

So there you have it, a bit of a rant about the way my hobby has, once again, been messed about with, I suspect that when Warhammer 40000 sixth edition is released later in the year I’ll be up in arms over the new rules and how the game has been broken, but unlike some players I won’t scream about how unfair it all is and babble on about quitting the hobby because I like 40k, I like getting together with the lads at the shop, I like painting and I enjoy the banter that happens when I have a game. The core element to any game is to enjoy what you’re doing, when I stop enjoying it, then I may stop playing. However I think, even with my win/loss ratio, that day is a while coming.

So here’s to more changes, good or bad, and huzzah for the forth coming 6th edition, I’m quite looking forward to seeing what they do to improve the game, I know what changes I would make, bring back the 4th ed sniper rules for a start.

Have fun and may Randomonia bless all your dice rolls.