Following the Call of Legends

«One man cast a lingering spell of awe and wonder, of magical innocence overcoming evil, of simple courage conquering fear

For some months my wargaming mind has been mesmerized by the sweet tones of legendary battles and epic adventures. I’ve been offered to join a Pathfinder and a Vampire tabletop RPG [role-playing game] groups, but I don’t believe my nowadays availability and stress levels would allow me to enjoy the traditional “theater of the mind” gameplay. So I believe a pseudo role-playing game (RPG) skirmish game like Joseph A. McCullough’s Rangers of Shadow Deep or Ivan Sorensen’s Five Leagues from the Borderlands could fit my needs and better, and my main gaming partner is also a huge fan of fantasy, so win-win?

In addition, a dip into narrative fantasy gaming is also a great excuse to rescue and paint my small collection of Games Workshop Lord of the Rings figures that had been forgotten for some years in the wardrobe. And maybe also a good excuse to expand it and add some medieval terrain -goodbye my money-…

Who knows? Maybe in the future I could re-use those for bigger affairs, maybe middle sized skirmishes with Games Workshop’s worst named rule set, Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game, or even small battles with Studio Tomahawk’s Saga: Age of Magic, TooFatLardies’ Dux Britanniarum or the upcoming Midgar, from the same publishers (albeit on their sister studio, Reisswitz press).

One of the particularity of the lite RPG titles is that they are “fluff” light. [“Fluff” standing for fiction, framing and flavor] That allows the player who sets the game -in this case, me- to create their own fantastical World. A bit like historical wargaming “imagi-nations”.

Designing a fantasy background is a welcomed challenge for me. I know that many people believe that unlike historical/factual portrayals, in fantasy one can simply pull random stuff out of their… pocket; and it all be fine. At least that’s not how it works for me. My brain is wired in a way that it strives for coherence. I need a strong logic behind the fiction I consume / design.

That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy dragons and magic. In fact, I do. While my wargaming tends to be historically based, a good amount of my reading, video gaming and series/movie watching is fantasy/sci-fi. What I struggle is with inconsistency. If a story is set in a way that goblins are allergic to onions as they are lethal to them, the storyteller can’t then go and say that a bunch of goblins started eating onions with no ill effect. Those kind of errors are particularly common in video gaming where they are known as “ludonarrative dissonances”.

I believe like Stephen King said on his On Writing long essay, that one can only create -coherent- stories based on what they know or have some experience on. That wisdom allow the storyteller to weave coherent stories without falling for narrative cheats. A good example is the most sold fantasy author, J.R.R. Tolkien. He was an Oxford’s University scholar specialized in English Language and Literature, as well as Anglo-Saxon. Those subjects clearly influenced his stories, in addition to his Roman Catholic faith and his experiences as a veteran of WW1.

My main fantasy influence is precisely Tolkien’s Legendarium. I discovered it as an early teenager through the second edition of the tabletop game Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP). That was years before Peter Jackson’s movies when The Lord of The Rings books were still considered a boring read only apt for greasy asocial nerds. Which I may or not have been.

It’s incredible how vivid Tolkien’s stories are. How he uses simple clear language but he still manages to achieve a good deal of depth. His war scenes while straight and uncomplicated, describe faithfully the horrors of violence, the rigors of the military life and even the often forgotten relevance of logistics and tempo of operations. As a former professional soldier I can but to take my hat off to the professor.

I would like to bring into my fantasy wargaming something along those lines. A gritty universe with strong connections to real historical cultures with subtle -not on your face- magic elements. The main antagonist will probably be orcs/goblins, mutated versions of real animals as well as other human factions. I’ll probably have a clearer picture to describe in my next dispatch.

Journey towards 15mm

Starting a new scale is always frightening. Most of the knowledge and how-to accumulated in previous projects becomes obsolete and one must learn again. But it’s a journey worth taking if one wants to push the tabletop to enjoy bigger battles and discover new tactical challenges.

Initially the plan is to begin with WW2 company sized actions in the Eastern front using the ruleset I Ain’t Been Shot Mum by Too Fat Lardies. Although I also want to check ‘O’ Group by Reisswitz Press and Battlegroup by Plastic Soldiers Company.

After much deliberation and some tests, I decided to base my 15mm men groups of 3 and 2 figures on 30mm washers. That should allow quick movement while giving a certain degree of casualty counting and without looking too crammed.

The painting phase has just started, but I can already tell that one must be extra careful with 15mm rifles, as they bend easily. On the bright side, no eyes to paint.

Meanwhile work slowly continues on my 28mm Op. Marlet Chain of Command and AWI Sharp Practice 2 projects. There has even been some work on the side project What a Cowboy western town.

Welcome to the new site

Blogger is a great platform to write blogs. Unfortunately I find it quite uncomfortable for text editing, and a bit lacking in aesthetic options, making most blogs look the same. That’s why I decided to change to WordPress content manager system.

Hopefully, this new framework will ease the creation of content while giving it with a better look.