Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Magical Blood Math

(Art scanned from the rule book for purposes of review/slander. I couldn't find any credits for a specific artist. Sorry, artist, I would name you if I could.)

So I clapped eyes on this, and thought, "Holy shit, this is an actual revolutionary moment in popular culture. I've never seen anything like this before -- an attractive older Latina, a little on the stocky side, none of that brass bikini crap. This is something that would make someone none-white feel a little more at home, that won't make a woman feel shitty automatically. It's pop-slop crap, but the health of the image is more than compensatory. This is motherfucking fantastic!"

Then I noticed she was a Dwarf. (Not a little person; a Dwarf. Sorry, it's not my fucking terminology.) What the fuck? That ruins everything!

Or does it? Maybe it's still cool. No it isn't. This is...

My thoughts felt like angry bees for a few moments, and then I settled down and asked the real question, one which brings the current vernacular term 'shorty' to mind.

If MILFs are Dwarfs, then are standard hot chicks hobbits?

No, this is a motherfucking hobbit. The four-year old listening to The Hobbit being read aloud has just been left bleeding in the intersection, thank you very much, but I like this a lot.

Because it is a triumph for a commercial artist working with the corporate machine, man.

Here's what happened.

Art Director: Okay, so Bilbo Baggins was a burglar, okay? And he had a sword called Sting?

Artist: Here. Sting's a cat burglar with a sword. Give me my fucking check.

And that fucking candyass gave him the fucking check. Go, team.

So I mentioned that I've been spending more time with my nieces, who for blogging purposes may be known as Poppy and Spike. Poppy had a birthday recently, prior to which my sister and I had the following exchange.

Oaf: I've been trying to think of things to do with them. An evil corner of my soul thinks I could drag them down to perdition and get them into Dungeons and Dragons.

The Sister: You've got to do it. You've got to geek them.

So I picked up a copy of the Basic Dungeons and Dragons boxed game.

I have a gaming history. I got into it back in the mid/late seventies and played until I left Richmond at eighteen. When I started playing, there were no high-impact dice. Blue-cover basic was my start. Did a lot of stuff with a mix of AD&D and Arduin, which is the role-playing equivalent of making fire with sticks. I wrote a bunch of games myself, even played a few of 'em. These days I'm a distant spectator, but I still follow things.

So I had a few hopes. I'd always figured role-playing had a real industry in it and sure enough, it's here. I'm used to RPGs being strictly amateur night. I knew what was coming, but it turns out I wasn't ready for it.

Corporate fantasy.

I have seen a lot of shit fantasy on the shelves over the last forty-six years, and I believe I have located an asshole. This is fantasy systematically stripped of anything resembling individual vision, and reading it is like eating gravel that smells bad. It is Tolkien heard the sixth time round the ring in a game of Chinese whispers.

Worse. This isn't shit fantasy. This is a set of instructions for creating shit fantasy. There are some wonderful ideas in here -- doing character creation as a solo adventure that produces a character the player will enjoy playing is just brilliant. Shame the type is so small, the rules so needlessly complex --

There we go. That's part of it. When I said this was stripped of anything resembling individual vision, I overspoke. There is a love of rules and math here that speaks clearly. This is the product of people who, in playing Pac-Man, would rather not use a computer to run the algorithms. They'd rather do it themselves.

Because of this love, they did not want to strip the game down to the point where it would actually be accessible to someone who had never gamed before. There's another aspect, too. If someone can jump through the hoops this rule set presents, they are likely to be the kind of person who would like to work with even more rules. This is an industry run on rule consumption, thousands upon thousands of pages of rules. Here's how that works out in real life.

When Poppy opened the box she was thrilled with the maps and the counters, and devoted a lot of speculation to what the characters were like and who she'd like to be in the game.

Then she cracked a rulebook, and started reading. A few minutes later, she came over to me, a look of irritated concern on her face. "Do these people have any idea at all what kids like?"

Case closed.


aankrum said...

Sheesh, that's too bad. Maybe you need to find an original D&D setup...

Sean Craven said...

I'm thinking about it. They've got some givaway games on-line that are basically that -- but I'm not sure the ladies would really be interested in skirmish wargames.

There has to be an RPG that girls can enjoy, damnit.

Rob Pierce - 2 Verbs said...

Sean, you should talk to Nate. He's 18 and knows a helluva lot about RPGs. Plus, he's real good with a BBQ. Got all them 3 letter things down.

Rich Baldwin said...

D&D these days is a war game that pretends to be an RPG.

You should try Amber Diceless Roleplaying. It's an old game, and not too well-known, but the great thing about is that it makes it so obvious how much the rules in RPGs *don't matter*.

That or try the Live Action RPGs. LARPs have to run on minimal rules by design.