Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Tempering “This Is the Way”

 Persistence without insight will lead to the same outcome.”

The Armorer from The Mandalorian

I’ve been reading some miniature wargaming rules, some from the 1970s and others having been around a while that still see a good deal of play today. I’m guilty of acquiring games of various forms – roleplaying games, wargames (both board and miniature), even board games – not necessarily to play but to read for their own sake, seeing how each uses rules and components to craft a particular play experience based on a setting. Some authors of older rules assume an attitude that their particular method of playing a game is the way (at least the way for them), sometimes looking down on or dismissing other rules concepts that don’t work with their vision. “This is the way,” one might say, to coin a phrase made popular by the Star Wars Mandalorian series. Naturally where one rigidly declares their rules are the best way of playing a particular game others will rebel against it, offering an alternative emphasizing different game aspects. Much of early gaming – roleplaying as well as wargaming – evolved through this reactionary give and take, with games emerging in response to and in competition with other rules, based on what individual designers felt worked best to provide a satisfying game experience. Certainly games have changed over the years, especially with the accessibility to both publishing and distribution computers and the internet have enabled in the 21st century. To me it’s interesting to see inflexibility in a play activity, though no doubt I’ve been guilty at some point of being too rigid in my game interpretations. I remind myself that everyone finds satisfaction in games differently, that, as always, your mileage may vary. And in many cases, as demonstrated in The Mandalorian’s third season, several divergent, adversarial groups can come together, relax their rigidity, and work toward something new.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Journey to the Mage-Blight Hills

 We are not monsters; we simply are. We are creatures with unrealized potential.”

From “A Testament of Completion”

The paths down which imagination leads us sometimes don’t make sense, might bring us to strange places, but offer us opportunities to grow. I’m stumbling down one such path with my latest fantasy roleplaying game project, The Mage-Blight Hills, a setting sourcebook without any game stats, enabling gamemasters to port it to whatever system they prefer. It grew from a simple idea, a lark, really, for an adventure I might run for my son should I ever introduce him to pen-and-paper roleplaying (as opposed to the diversions he finds in the seemingly infinite electronic worlds of Roblox). As I thrashed about trying to develop and write another setting – the perpetually postponed Infinite Cathedral – I let my imagination run a bit wild on this other scenario...until it took on a life of its own and demanded I follow the path it set before me. Although it’s still quite a ways from any sense of completion, it’s providing both a chance to find some solace in an escapist fantasy world and an opportunity to try out some concepts in setting design.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Miniature Wargames’ Versatility

Many facets of the adventure gaming hobby have a do-it-yourself aspect (DIY). Roleplaying gamers spend time creating their own settings and scenarios. Miniature wargamers work hard crafting terrain and props besides painting and basing figures. Both forms offer flexibility in altering rules (“house-ruling”) to better suit people’s different styles of play or level of detail/complexity. (Less so board and card games, including board wargames, all of which, by their very nature, include everything one needs in the box, ready to go.) Which means roleplaying games and miniature wargames can combine their DIY suitability with gamers’ needs and preferences to customize the play experience for a particular audience, venue, or event. Over the years I’ve tried to introduce gaming to new audiences, most recently at the local museum. Although roleplaying games aren’t ideally connected with local history, historical miniature wargames possess the capacity for customization to a particular time and place...with some DIY legwork and a bit of research.