Saturday, 10 April 2010

Link Dump + a Pessimistic(?) Thought on Cheapness

Ten classics Gustave Dore should have illustrated, but didn't (@ Garden of Unearthly Delights) - I have nerdboners for Dore.

Human powered cranes (@ Low Tech Magazine) - ancient man lifts 632 times the normal human limit, sneers at puny moderns and their 'machines'.

Treadwheel Fans (@ Low Tech Magazine) - Victorians use Wheel of Pain to make prisoners "grind the wind", vast quantities of drugs implicated.

Comic Book Cartography blog - includes Principles of Kirbytech, Kamandi's continent and secret base cutaways.

and, from the depths of the yesterweb: Cone swarms ( @ - traffic cones + simple AI = lulz.

Unrelated to the above:

I was nosing through the games section of one of our local FLGSes during my lunch hour today, having been initially attracted by the big boxy beauty of the Warhammer: Invasion card game (yeah, I have a dysfunctional love/hate relationship with GW licensed properties).

Awful to say, but none of the high gloss, high production value (and appropriately high priced) books or boxes on offer appealed to me. Nor did any of the other gamer juju presented for my delectation:
  • Map tiles/layouts? Cool! - But I have about half an acre of those already...
  • Premium dice? Cool! - But I already have more dice than brain cells...
  • Cthulhu minis? Cooool! - But I know where I can get bits cheap to kitbash my own...
  • C[-ataan, -arcassone] Eurogames? Cooooool! - But who wants to learn a whole new game when we've got so many old ones to replay...
Maybe I'm too price conscious a consumer, but everything that initially leapt into my hand under the impetus of the "Oooh, pretty!" factor I ended up looking at twice and rejecting.

"Why do I want this block of shelf beautifier at £stupid*, when I can legally download [other stuff I could name] for free, print it for pennies, and know it'll get used to death in actual, real world play?"

* Thanks to exchange rates and an egregious tax regime (import duties, VAT, and other such 'tax on tax' taxes) we in the UK end up paying in Sterling for our games roughly what Americans pay in dollars. It has ever been thus, and ever has it sucked.

Maybe the sheer profusion of good, cheap-to-free gaming material available on the internet has spoiled me (in accordance with the unalterable principle that "you can't beat free"), or maybe I'm just a tight-fisted auld fart, but sorry FLGS: no sale. My gaming gelt is instead reserved for forthcoming OSR releases. Freeware, print-on-demand, or small press game material may not have the 'pretty pretty princess' production values of the marque rulesets, but they have a combination of utility, flexibility and availability that big name games using traditional distribution channels can't match.

I'm sure there's something big and important about the state of the industry and hobby represented in that little personal anacdote, but I'm no pundit. I'm just a guy who walked into a store wanting to spend some money on something he could use in his game, but who walked out disappointed.

Oh well. At least I've managed to nab the one KEW "Kane" book I was missing. (at last!) And, unexpected bonus, my newly arrived, dirt cheap from the interweb tat bazaars (I paid less for it than the 95p cover price from 1980!) copy of "Death Angel's Shadow" was signed and dated by the man himself.

PS: Yes, recent content-free waffleposts nonwithstanding, there is actual gameable content coming down the pipe.


  1. The fact that DIY players almost by definition don't buy things (at least the kind of things they mostly sell now) is important. I feel like there's a niche for things more like The Dungeon Alphabet or great gobs of distilled blogmaterial that nobody;s tapped yet.

  2. the VAT is an insidious and crippling tax

    i had a friend in the medical equipment field (Heine)
    who said his German counterparts could buy their own equipment (opthalmoscopes, etc..) RETAIL in the United States for LESS
    than they could obtain WHOLESALE from their German manufacturer.

  3. I'd take the German VAT if it came with Autobahn and clean, walkable cities.

    Chris, we're the minority. Game industry will do just fine without us. And the Hobby exists because of us.

    I see that "niche" being tapped faster than MTG cards in a tournament. Published in two Print mags, 2nd blog articles in dead tree coming out soon, several bloggers going commercial, GG and WoTC releasing "old-school" games. Well ok the last two probably are full of fail. They're trying to extract the grognard dollar, even if they don't have a clue as to how.

  4. I posted this somewhere else today, and can't remember where now:

    "And for what gain in product utility?"

    That, I think, really gets to the heart of the problem with these big glossy books. They may serve the companies that publish them fairly well, but they are a pain for people actually trying to play these games. First, there's simply the matter of lugging these monsters around; Oddyssey has told me horror stories about trying to manuver a suitcase loaded with gamebooks just to play the game. She's even cut the portion of her gaming collection that she brings to school down to a "mere" two feet.

    Juggling all the books you need to play just one game in your backpack on the bus, or trying to smuggle them into the office in your briefcase, is a pain in the neck. The books are just too big, too heavy, and to clumsy.

    Beyond their mere physical encumbrance, they're not easy to use. When you need to find a rule, it requires that you flip through multiple books to find what it is you wish to reference. This seems especially true in 4E with its new players handbook and DMG and monster manual every year. Indexes help, but not every game out there has an index, and some of them aren't that good.

    And finally, to fill these big thick coffee table books, we get terribly byzantine, labyrinthine rules. Long gone are the days when the GM could be expected to keep all the rules he really needed in his head. It was rare for me to have to look up rules in my 2E games, and almost unheard of when I played Moldvay/Cook. Now it's just an expected part of the game; not only do you have big, heavy, clunky books to juggle, you will be juggling them more often just to play the game.

    All of which points to something that gamers have lamented for quite some time now: the industry appears to be more interested in collectors than players.

    *** New Stuff Starts Here ***

    I agree with Zak, and more than that, I think there's a revolution waiting to happen in how we access this material. Dead trees ain't cuttin' it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...