Saturday, July 26, 2014

Essay On The Braunstein - A Short Digression: A Look Backwards In Time to The 1970s...

Lurking in the shrubbery...
It's been a busy week; Fourth Daughter (signed and numbered limited edition number four, in a limited production set of five; sure to appreciate in value and highly collectable!!!) is now resident in the eldrich Chamber Of The Daughters (part of module DA13, "Household Dungeon Crawl", featuring Gronan of Symmaria) and I have some time to post again.

If I may, I'd like to take a short digression into the past; there was a comment on the previous post that I thought was excellent, and really needed a much fuller answer then I think I gave in my reply to the comment. So, here we go...

(From Virche hiDune July 21, 2014 at 9:25 PM)

Isn't frontage of a model also to critical to its facing?

(Chirine ba Kal July 22, 2014 at 7:00 AM) Here's my elaborated and expanded reply:

Good point - thank you!

First off, the 'tradition' in miniatures rules, back in my day, was that "frontage" and "depth" indicated the physical space a formed body of soldiers would take up on the game table, according to the ground scale of the particular rules.

There was, and probably still is, a lot of time and effort devoted by writers of historical miniatures rules to trying to figure out just exactly how much ground a body of formed troops occupies; And, in a lot of rules, the shape of the troops' formation must also be taken into account; in general, melee-armed troops have deeper and narrower formations in order to take advantage of mass in shock power, while missle weapon-armed troops generally have wider and shallower formations. I should also note that later rules sets, like the marvelous "Compleat Brigadier", were written after the historical re-enactment people started actually trying to move bodies of soldiers across the ground and bring their weaponry to bear. This is especially true of the gunpowder periods - military formations tended to be a lot wider (unit fronts) then deep (units with men in ranks) in order to use their weapons more effectively.

In historicals rules, ground scale and figure ratios are very important, especially as one uses larger and larger formations on the table - a 'man to man' game has very different needs then a battalion or regimental sized game, and the on-going quest for 'realism' and 'accuracy' drive a lot of the provisions in these rules sets. Fantasy games, on the other hand, have diverged from this to some extent; GW's "Warhmmer" rules, for example, largely ignore the issues of ground scale, figure to soldier ratios, and base sizes in favor of simply putting on a good game that plays quickly and provides as much fun and excitement for the players as possible.

I should touch on the topic of 'basing', here; most miniature figures will simply not stand up on the little 'pillows' of metal that they are often cast on - and quite a few modern figures don't have even these, as the 'slotta base' has taken over in many lines. These tabs make the figure much easier and cheaper to produce, as they save metal, casting time and labor, and the plastic bases are much cheaper to manufacture.

Back in Ye Olden Dayes, figure bases were sized according to the specific needs of the specific set of rules, with little or no standardization in the industry, and were almost always squares or rectangles. (Artilery units, in many black-powder rules, were based in triangles that showed the arc of fire of the weapon.) Role-playing games largely ignored all of this, and the person doing the figures for games usually just settled on a standard base size to make it easier to get stuff on the table.
"Facing" was which way those soldiers were looking - normally, we based our figures with the little lead people's faces looking out from the narrowest side of the base, which we assumed to be the "front" of the unit - which is was, in most sets of rules at that time.

I standardized on 25mm x 25mm bases very early on, and have now gone over to laser-cut 25mm x 25mm round bases for my human RPG figures, with base size adjusted to suit the larger or small creatures and other 'NPC types' that appear in my games. This leads to the subject of 'facing'...

"Facing" was which way those little lead soldiers were looking - normally, we based our figures with the little lead people's faces looking out from the narrowest side of the base, which we assumed to be the "front" of the unit - which is was, in most sets of rules at that time. With square and round bases, we assume that the direction the figure is looking is the 'front'; off each shoulder (assuming a human figure, for the moment), are the 'flanks', and the figure is at a disadvantage in most sets of rules when beset by an opponent from these directions. The 'rear', as might be expected, is to the back of the figure, and any attacks from this direction occur at a comparatively high disadvantage.

'Facing' does count in our RPGs; we always specify that one or two of the party is looking over their shoulders to make sure that nobody is sneaking up on us, and we normally posted sentries who faced in all directions so that we'd get a little warning when we were about to be attacked. It made a huge difference, especially with very sharp GMs like The Big Three - in my personal experience, they'd seize on any sloppy technique in the party and make you all pay for being careless.

Does any of this help explain things?

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