Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Chilling Effect


Yes, I do miniatures in RPGs; live with the infamy.

About a month ago, one of our regular readers - the esteemed Desert Scribe -had a post on his blog that I thought was very interesting and timely:


He, in turn, had linked to an equally interesting post on the blog of the Chicago Skirmish Wargames club:


To summarize the post, one of the club members talked about the club's rules that figures in play must be painted. This is by no means a new thing in the hobby; back in the days of The Little Tin Soldier Shoppe, here in the Twin Cities, the rule was that one had to slap three or more colors of paint - not including any primer - on a figure before it could be used in one of the shop's campaign games. This 'three-color standard' survives to this day, in the "Armies of Tekumel" series' painting information at the back of each army list.

Now, I will confess to being a 'miniatures guy' from waaaay back - it is pretty obvious, from this blog! Speaking as a modeler and gamer, I had no issues with the club's position over unpainted figures; I believe that one participates in a club's activities because the club provides - or should provide - an experience that one can't get 'at home'. A game club presents the opportunity to play with new people and with old friends, perhaps on a larger table and with more detailed terrain and scenery that one might be able to do in one's home on one's own table.

What I found very chilling were the comments made by various people on the post. There seemed to be a lot of anger and unhappiness about the issue of unpainted figures, and some over the use of miniatures in general. These comments parallel quite a few of the posts and comments that I've seen over the past couple of years on various RPG forums, where 'miniatures' (like 'story gaming', whatever that is) is a dirty word.

From what I can gather, there are a lot of people who equate 'miniatures' with D&D 4.0, or with fussy pedants who are incapable of having any of what the posters define as fun. I've run into much the same issues when I was on these same forums, and it's why I am no longer on those forums; I got tired of being hassled for doing something that a lot of people seem to think is DOING IT RONG! Simlarly, this has led to some very basic misunderstandings about what it is that I do in my own personal style of gaming; some folks are quite nonplussed that I do not consider a dozen figures on a battlemat to be A Big Miniatures Game. For me, a Big Game is one that takes place on a large table - usually 60" x 90" or larger - and with a lot of players controlling several hundred figures.

Mind you, I do not have an issue with the 'smaller style' of miniatures gaming, especially in the context of RPG adventures; this is not a new concept, after all. We were doing this in our RPGs back in those forgotten days of yesteryear, back in those ancient days of the late 1970s and through the 1980s. From my perspective, what was so chilling about the comments was the notion that using miniatures in RPGs and gaming is a new concept, and one that detracts from the enjoyment and 'immersion' (whatever that latter term means) one can get from RPGs. The Great God Gygax is frequently quoted in support of this position - from what I gather, he's being used as one of the 'planks' of the OSR's party line on this subject. By the same token, The Divine Dave is just as equally misquoted on the subject, and people were horrified to hear about Gertie the Golden Dragon being a lump of Plasticine that His Divinity molded into a dragon shape. (The Great God Gary, by the way, didn't use his expensive Elastolins in RPGs - they got broken too easily.)

(I do wonder, on occasion, what The Holy Ones would have said if they'd gone to an OSR event. My guess is that they wouldn't have even been allowed in the door by the High Priests of the Sacred Church Of The OSR - too much anarchy, 'hand-waving', 'loosey-goosey' GMing, that kind of sinning...)

I run everything from a couple of player-characters walking down a street and talking to a merchant to massed armies fighting it out over the countryside; for me, it's not about 'genre' gaming, it's about a spectrum of action and adventure. I use 'props' to tell my stories; miniatures, objects, books, scenery, movies, suits of armor, weapons, terrain, and all sorts of stuff like that.

I've moved off the forums and largely away from the Internet because of the grief I've gotten from people because of this. No problem; I can happily tolerate your style of gaming, and I'm sorry that you can't seem to tolerate mine. I simply won't be participating in your forum; you are, however, certainly welcome to drop by this little blog and have a look. I hope you'll enjoy your visit, and a little trip back in time to those younger and more innocent days of gaming...

EDIT: If you haven't had the chance already, please have a look at the wonderful post over on Greyhawk Grognard about this, and please read the comments:


There's  a lot of very good points being made, and I am very pleased to be able to read them!!!


15 comments:

  1. I love it when someone half my age describes to me how *I* played back in the day. They're invariably wrong.

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    1. Ain't it the truth? I wish I had a dime for all of the times I was told how I was playing back in the day at Coffman and out at Phil's - I could retire and have lots more lead...

      - chirine

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    2. Exactly. Most "old schoolers" are too young to remember "old". I have lead older than most of them.

      Being " old school " in RPG circles is like being a hipster in the rest of society.

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  2. Thanks for the shout out! I'm sorry people give you crap on the RPG forums; are they also rude on the miniatures gaming message boards?

    Doesn't matter; I enjoy reading about your gaming on this blog.

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    1. You're welcome! It took me about a month to digest your post and the one by the CSW people - the comments were that off-putting to me.

      I have never had any problems on the miniatures boards that I post on or follow - Lead Adventure is a particularly civilized and helpful place.

      It's always been on the RPG forums, and from gamers who came into the hobby in the very late 1990s or in the 2000s; they don't seem to have much knowledge of the history of our shared hobby. I think what I'm getting is the backwash of the 'edition wars', where anything with little figures is part of what happened with D&D 4.0.

      (I finally took a look at that game. Oog.)

      Thanks again for your post - it was a great one!!!

      - chirine

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  3. I was going to reply here, but it got way too lengthy, so I ended up posting it on my own blog. http://greyhawkgrognard.blogspot.com/2014/09/is-osr-anti-miniature.html

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    1. I read and commented on your post - it's simply superb!!! May I post your link at the end of my post? You made some great points about the OSR, and I'd really like people to see them!!!

      Geez, I liked reading your post!!!

      - chirine

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    2. This is the blog that brought me here.

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  4. I think there was a reaction against how D&D 4th felt a bit like an attempt by WotC to grab a market share from GW. Any attempt to be more like GW should cause some grumblings if you ask me...

    Apart from that I think minis are just as popular as they've always been. It did find my 15mm minis today, and groaned about having to find a better way to store them...

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    1. Agreed! I still have trouble getting my head around the way 4.0 plays out on the table; too mechanistic for me...

      - chirine

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  5. Strangely enough, while I have a bunch of nicely painted figures, my absolute go-to minis for my own PCs are unpainted pewter on a painted base.

    I actually quite like the appearance of pewter, and I like that they are iconic representations, not literal. The interesting thing is that I have at least three colors of paint (and sometimes static grass) on the base, none of it on the mini. I'd be respectfully curious as to how that would be interpreted.

    I have some of the newer plastic minis, and any that are not painted are simply not painted because I haven't yet done so; I do not like them in their unpainted state. It's strictly a love of the look of pewter -- which I texture with wire brushes and hobby blades to look nice.

    Of course, when running a game, I'm happy to just use dice or other such representations on a dry erase board on the table (often with some terrain strewn here and there). I've used (and enjoyed) Gamer Paper, but my typical session when I am GM is free of minis until it becomes physical enough to warrant it, at which point we use minis, and dice for the people who don't have them.

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    1. And there you go! I agree with you; it's all about your play style, and what pleases you. It's all about what works on the table for you, and not the 'regulations'... :)

      - chirine

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  6. Well I will admit that I got my start in 1979 at 9 years old. So I'm kind of on the cusp of old school at best. The funny thing is I loved the miniatures more than the games! So in that respect I guess I'm a fit for Old School! Labels are so silly sometimes.

    John McEwan has stated there are few true wargamers in actuality. Who else would spend all that time creating sets for a miniature world, and making sure all the extras had correct uniforms? Only miniature wargamers.

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    1. I like the cut of your jib, sir! I still can't figure what 'Old School' is supposed to be; I get a lot of very conflicting answers!

      Yes, John's right - making sure that all the extras have the right costumes is a very good way to look at what we do!!!

      - chirine

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