Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thrones of Chainmail

I have a lot of stuff on my mind (as usual) and no idea how to go about blogging it, nor why I have no idea. I suppose I'll just say that when you've been out of practice posting (the A-Z stuff really doesn't count...really), and your mind has a constant influx of thoughts and concepts, it just creates a logjam that's kind of the opposite of "writer's block." Perhaps the solution would be to simply post and post and post random shit until my mind gets "emptied" again, but...well, I'm not sure if that's really the best way to go about my business.

[my "business"...ha! That's a funny one]

*AHEM* Still, before I get to more serious topics (or not), let's start with something easy and (for me anyway) more recent. Had a chance to catch episode 1 of the new Game of Thrones season Monday night. I'm aware that a lot of folks find the series (and the books) disagreeable for one reason or another...I've written myself about how I find the novels a depressing slog that I'm not interested in finishing. But Martin's world is deep, richly textured, and interesting, and the GoT show is what I call "television crack," no different from Sex and the City (which series I've viewed in its entirety) or True Blood (which I watched with reckless devotion until the birth of my first child made late night viewing something that neither my wife, nor I, had the energy to pursue). I could do without the soft-porn fan-service that that the creators insist on including in every episode, but the writing is interesting, the acting is excellent, the production values are spectacular, and the subject matter...courtly intrigue and medieval warfare in a fantasy right in my wheelhouse.

As a result, I'm a fan of the show, and as a long-time acknowledged "killer" or "adversarial" Dungeon Master, I take a perverse enjoyment in the way beloved characters get killed/maimed/degraded with rather reckless abandon. To be clear, I'm not especially happy when one of my favorites gets the ol' "Charley Manson Special" but at least its a refreshing change of pace to know that the protagonists are operating without the magical shield of "plot immunity." It's a schtick, sure, and one we've seen before (the reimagined Battlestar Galactic, which also made for compelling television BTW) if not quite so brutally.

I've lost more than one character to PVP.
[oh, and just so everyone knows, I am aware there are far more important things to talk about in the world today, like Venezuela's current economic collapse. But that shit is absolutely depressing. However, I might make some observations about Argentina in a later post, just to "keep it real"]

D&D, of course, is neither television nor literature and longtime players are probably inured to the idea of a protagonist being slain by bow or blade. How many times have we not seen our own "main character" fall beneath the spears of gibbering goblins or cackling kobolds? And though Game of Thrones IS television, presumably following an overarching plot of some sort (though the casual viewer might be forgiven for not being able to make heads and tail of it), it's hard NOT to equate the game with a fantasy RPG, seeing as how it shares so many tropes found in the hobby...unsurprising given the current state of fantasy these days (largely inspired by D&D and its associated fiction) nor the fact that its author (Martin) has a background in gaming.

[rangers? come on, man]

I've also written before (after my first exposure to the Game of Thrones series) that while some aspects of it are reminiscent of of my old, latter day AD&D campaign, it's hard to imagine anyone using the D&D system (any edition) to run a campaign truly resembling A Song of Ice and Fire...which is probably why Green Ronin (the series's license holder) opted for a completely new system when developing the RPG, rather than building on D20 or something. Heck, that's the main reason I was 'porting the setting into the Pendragon system last year (see my Buckets of Blood posts if you missed 'em)...a little side project that, at this point, I'm not terribly interested into getting back into, new GoT season or not.

[though someday I probably should get around to posting the last couple pages of notes concerning the alternate ASOIAF timeline that's supposed to be used in place of the Pendragon Arthurian/Camelot one. *sigh* if only I slept LESS hours in the night, right?]

Thing is, I was considering that, all soap opera bits aside, a lot of Game of Thrones resembles a war-game campaign more than anything else. Pretty obvious considering Martin cites the English War of the Roses as a major inspiration for his novels. There's a number of large-scale battles in the series, and this is yet another reason why the story seems like a poor fit for a D&D system, where combat is prevalent but based on small scale skirmishes in subterranean environments...NOT open warfare on the field of battle.

And yet...

And yet, I can't help but consider that D&D itself has its roots in a war-game, specifically CHAINMAIL, and how much of the setting...much of the story...could be modeled fairly easily using a Chainmail system with only slight tweaks. Chainmail may have billed itself as "rules for medieval miniatures," but its system encompassed a historic range that encompassed about 1000 years (from the 400s to 1500s).  This could easily be tightened up to account for the specific ASOIAF setting. And if one replaced the Tolkien-based Fantasy Supplement with one based on Martin's supernatural elements (easy enough as they are so few), it's easy to imagine a tabletop campaign based in large part on Martin's books. Just imagine an army of 15mm knights painted in Lannister gold and crimson riding out to battle the armies of the North...

Throw in some Braunstein-like sub-plots and secret missions involving special "character" figures and...well, with a few random tables, one could probably recreate a pretty reasonable facsimile of the series.

It's actually a pretty interesting idea for a gaming project (I've never written/designed an actual war-game before, though I've played more than a few)...especially given my recent research/interest in the origins of the hobby (not yet blogged about) and some thoughts I have on "forward compatibility" (as opposed to backwards compatibility).

But I'll write about that more later. Time to get the kid for soccer practice!

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