[Minis+] Toy Joy: Understanding them as toys, not markers.

Here's a Greg Costikyan quote to start things off, from here, pages 26-27:
http://www.digra.org/wp-content/uploads/digital-library/05164.51146.pdf
As an example of the difference that mere sensation can make, consider
the boardgame Axis & Allies. I first bought it when it was published by Nova
Games, an obscure publisher of hobby games. It had an extremely garish
board, and ugly cardboard counters to represent the military units. I played
it once, thought it was pretty dumb, and put it away. Some years later, it
was bought and republished by Milton Bradley, with an elegant new board,
and with hundreds of plastic pieces in the shapes of aircraft, ships, tanks, and infantrymen.I’ve played it many times since. It’s the sheer tactile joy of pushing around little military figures on the board that makes the game fun to play.
Mostly there he's talking about tactile joy in game design, but it starts to get into some things regarding the use of miniatures in gaming, something I'm personally into.

I had a moment of clarity, due to an exchange I had with another board member recently, which came out of a thread I'd started about techniques for designing Braunsteins. We'd been having a private side discussion, and he'd shown me one of his designs for a LARP that he thought might help me with my design difficulties. In the course of the convo, he mentioned that miniatures simply left him cold (paraphrasing).

Now, as a big minis fan I was a bit sad. But I also realized that in practical terms, it's often easier to not use minis than to use minis.

That wasn't my moment of clarity. I already knew that.

My moment of clarity was realizing that I fundamentally think of miniatures as toys.

Which also helped me figure out one of the basic problems I've had communicating with other posters in the past, especially when I've tried to work out ideas for games using miniatures that go outside of the typical tactical war game paradigm.

My dirty little secret: I'd buy these things as toys anyway.
Many times, when thinking in terms of a scenario or even a broader type of game, I'm thinking about the toys as a jump off point.

Thought #1:Hey, here are these great toys. What can I do with them?

This tends to be a whole lot different from other folks and their approach, where the miniatures are an afterthought. Heck, I have a whole long rant about why D&D 4e, the most miniatures-centric version of that game yet created, is a horrible game for miniatures use in practical terms, because miniatures use was an afterthought for them.

Also, I think of them as toys first. Which means, even constraining things to using them as little stand-in people in a tiny chunk of some imaginary world, that I'm not restricted to only (or even just primarily) thinking in terms of war game.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I was fascinated as a kid to learn that there was something like proper games people were out there playing with a bit nicer version of plastic army men! How cool was that?!?

Wargames are pretty much the mainstream of play with miniatures. Effectively, it's the only thing people use miniatures for in gaming, in one form or another. No shock then that upon mentioning miniatures, the conversation immediately drifts to war game type rules mechanics and so on. And, with the afterthought nature of miniatures in game design thinking, the conversation also tends to spin towards how and why substitutions for miniatures can/should be made.

* Sigh*

Miniatures for war gaming/ war game-like play is the mainstream way of thinking about this stuff. It's the default setting.

But toy soldiers aren't the only kind of little toy people, and toy soldiers fighting little wars isn't the only kinds of play activity children have with little toy people. Even with action figures as a kid, we were doing more than just fighting and fighting competitively.

It's in that "other stuff" play where I see possibilities for other approaches to minis use.

Comments

  • Continued:This would be easier to explain if you'd played with more Smurfs, dollies, and Breyer Horses than toy soldiers as a kid.

    Who am I kidding? I had toy soldiers and action figures, too, as my most preferred toys. I think I may have owned three Smurfs during my entire life, some time back in the 1980s.

    Anyway, a few years back, I got to talking about toys and imaginative toy play with a friend of mine, Nora. Nora is not a gamer and doesn't really much care for classic geek genres in entertainment. She did however love her Breyer Horses as a kid, and started going on about the kind of play she'd had with all sorts of imaginative goings on with them. It was pretty fascinating actually. Of course, it was also reminding me of more "narrative" style of game approaches, which I was thinking about a lot in those days, and of "story games" vs "adventure games" per this post on Ars Ludi:
    http://arsludi.lamemage.com/index.php/460/defining-story-games/

    As the concepts started gelling together, it really started a further line of thinking for me.

    One was a sad thought. Is miniatures, toy, use really so intricately bound up in only wargame/adventure game thinking that there is no way to break out of it? Is it largely a side-effect of just how wildly skewed gamer demographics are and how it relates to play by male vs female children a couple of decades back?

    The happy thought: This is largely unexplored territory. A whole other branch of possible game/activity design. And one that uses the joy and spectacle of toy people in a little imaginary world.

    Toys, not markers
    Part of the core of this though is to stop looking at toys as markers. Toys inherently suggest fiction, and even more so in combination.

    Getting that though does mean making the toys central and an early part of the process of design.

    It's the difference between writing a game that has an Ogre in it, then as an afterthought, going and finding an Ogre toy.

    It's the opposite. It's starting with an ogre, and looking at the ogre and figuring out what you can do with it.

    It's finding a character mini you like and building a character from it, rather than building a character and then hoping to find an okay-ish mini to represent it.

    It's starting with a table layout and figuring out the scenario and what you can do with that, rather than figuring out a way to make space to slap down tiles on the table when an encounter occurs.

    And it's thinking about all sorts of non-wargame toy use, even in an action-packed setting.

    ( Gotta run to work. More later. The floor is open for comments and questions)
  • I had one AD&D 2E group back in the 90's that I played with, and we used miniatures because some people in the group just liked collecting and painting them (and showing their work off to the rest of the group). Even though we also played plenty of miniatures war games, the miniatures in our AD&D games were pretty much just for fun, for prettification, and for immersion and keeping track of where people were in combat; the miniatures weren't "the game," though. I think a good comparison is the way that a lot of people seek out character portraits for their online (or even offline) games nowadays. 20 years ago, I'd scour the shelves for a miniature that looked like my character so I could paint her up and present her to the rest of the group.

    Honestly, I think using them in more abstract situations (I'm considering AD&D 2E combat to be relatively abstract), they are even more fun than in miniatures-based games, because they aren't thought of as something integral to the game. They're like a little treat, something you do to spice things up. You can write down your marching order, for example... or you can line up your minis in marching order, and just look whenever you need to remember who's where!
  • Yukamichi:
    There's definitely that aspect. I think that's a bit of what Costikyan was getting at in that quoted bit about Axis&Allies. At its base, it's making play prettier, and using those minis a bit as toys and portraits. It's adding a tiny bit of art to a game.

    It's what I tend to think of as spectacle. Yeah, it is tactile, but it's a little bit more than that. Visual comes into it too.

    With changing norms for character creation, with many later games using non-random, planned chargen, you could ( IOM should) scour the shelves first, then make the character. It will be an even better match to your vision, since to a large degree it inspires ( partially) your vision.

    As for abstract situations, I'd call Dungeon World a better bet mechanically for miniatures-as-toys than something like D&D 4e, which treats them like markers.
    _______________________________

    Some further thoughts:

    Miniatures can make first person immersion more difficult for many people

    Not everyone experiences this problem, but it seems not-uncommon. The mere existence of this separate bit representing your character means a sort of separation already exists.

    And that's even before we start to add in all of the common wargame based mechanics that are normal for RPGs that talk about miniatures use. Arguably, those can also create more 1st person immersion/character identification difficulties.

    Generally first person immersion is going to be paired with Actor Stance, with perhaps an occasional foray into Author stance if you're a bit of a heretic.

    If however you are in one of the more distanced stances ( Author or Director Stance), arguably that distancing that exists with miniatures is toned down or even irrelevant. It might even be a net positive, especially if bad-things-happening-to-a-character-I-currently-control is an expected positive to the overall experience, and not a fail state

    And that leads back to that idea of unexplored design space with regard to miniatures, namely Story Game rather than Adventure game type play ( again, term-use per the Ars Ludi piece).

    Which is not really that different than childhood freeplay with toy people/animals and bits, but filtered through things that have been explored in story game style approaches to game design.

    I'll get back to where that might go next time, and hopefully start talking a little about how that relates to some practicalities of starting from a Toys-First approach, and working with rather than against limitations of the medium.
  • Toy-Joy, tactile qualities, art-as-inspiration for fiction building, and Spectacle.

    So even before starting to think about design ( what can do with this stuff?), let me go back to the basic building blocks. These are sort of the starting points for the rest of the stuff. Givens or Axioms almost, really. If you disagree with them, use your imagination for a bit and just go with it anyway.

    On Toys:
    You played with little "people" toys as a kid and enjoyed it. You made stories with your pals and siblings with them. It was a long time ago, but you've got that extremely common human experience under your belt.

    The look of the toy partly defined what it was and informed the fiction. Maybe it was from a known property ( Star Wars action figures). Maybe it was Breyer horses and the breed of the animals and their associated behavioral properties inspired you, with a little help of anthromorphizing the behavior. Maybe it was smurfs, and even before the cartoon came out, their poses and/or gear suggested activities and personalities associated with them.

    IOW, you've got these basics.

    Tactile qualities:
    You like this stuff. It's Costokyan's comment about how this quality ( and the use of toys) upgrades a very basic, meh, game into something even more enjoyable. You grok that. It's just plain different from moving chits on a bland board.

    Art-as-inspiration for Fiction:
    You're at least partly visuals-oriented. You've pulled pics to use from the internet for your character before or for a setting. You do grok that sometimes a pic is worth a thousand words. And sometimes you just plain use that as a starting point.

    Spectacle:
    Here I'm using the word to describe the accumulative quality/feeling created by bringing those previous three things together.

    It's that feeling that hits you when you wander through the convention or game shop and see some big board of minis and terrain laid out. Ignore the disinterest you might have in participating, or getting dragged into the rules involved, or even the behavior of the players at the table. It's the Dang, that's kinda cool! What's the story going on there? of all of that stuff collectively. It's the feeling that hits ya when you're going through a museum and they have a cool diorama, and you're bit sad you can't touch that stuff and start automatically creating fictional dialogue or personalities for the bitty people.

    That's Spectacle.

    Spectacle is mmm-mmm Good. It's why minis wargaming even exists, when there are other forms of wargaming that have many more undeniable positives in terms of design and ease of play.

    So now, with those things in mind, and seemingly on the highway to wargaming talk city ( there might be another digression or two on that topic later), I want to jam on the breaks, switch five lanes without signaling, and speed onto the barely used off ramp to story gaming and how that fits in, before we accidentally miss the exit and find ourselves in downtown tactical rulesville
  • edited September 2015
    Okay, so I pulled the car over into this little town near wargamer tacticaville. Let's chat about the big 800 lb gorilla in our midst.

    Using miniatures means using fiddly-ass tactical rules and it's all about the combat.

    Nope. No it's not. It's about the three qualities I mentioned building up to and engaging with Spectacle.

    Using miniatures does not inherently mean using fiddly-ass tactical rules, and here is where I'm coming from:

    Childhood people+story play isn't all about combat
    It's just not. Not even when you used Action Man/GI Joe or Star Wars men. And even less so with smurfs and Breyer horses or other non-war toys. And even when you did have lots of action, it wasn't the only thing going on, and the other stuff mattered.

    You've got this in your pocket already also.

    We already have games that have all kinds of action and violence occurring in them regularly, that have no fiddly-ass tactical rules and they work just dandy despite that
    I've played both Fiasco and Archipelago with lots of action and/or deaths occurring. Sometimes even combat. There are no rules at all for that stuff in either game, and it works out fine.

    Even in less story game, more adventure game games, fiddly-assness need not be a quality of combat. Dungeon World certainly seems like it would deal with all sorts of combat and adventure situations without resorting to any very defined rules on movement rates or initiative.

    Any of those three games could be easily hacked to be miniatures using ( well, Fiasco would be trickier...), by means of a relatively simple hack. Here is the core of the hack:

    Use miniatures with them.

    There ya go. That's the basics of the deal.

    Okay, having said that, let's get back on the highway. We aren't going to go all the way to Downtown Tacticalville, but we are going to the nearer suburbs, to talk about constraints of the medium and some practicalities of designing with miniatures and spectacle in mind. It's the kind of stuff that really the designers of D&D 4e didn't really think about except as an afterthought, and why that game kinda burns my britches, even as a fan of toy (not bloody marker!) use in imaginative games.
  • edited September 2015
    Alrighty, we've got preliminaries in place, and you nice folks are playing along with my rambles.

    We've got:
    Yay Toys/art as inspiration for fiction/tactile joy/spectacle!
    We don't need no steenking tactical rules!
    Cool! Un-explored/under-explored design space using the above we can putter with!

    But wait! What are some things that minis wargamers know on the hobby end that may impact our design constraints?

    Plan the battlefield layout and then don't mess with it a whole lot during the play session

    Laying out a battlefield takes time and effort ( an so does putting it away). Generally speaking, once the table layout has been established, it doesn't change much during the play session. Oh sure, walls may be breached and houses set on fire, but you won't see many games where significant chunks of the layout are changed during play. To do so would be a massive pain in the ass just once. Doing it multiple times during play is almost unthinkable, and that's true even when hobbyists have planned for making it easier with the build of the terrain.

    Going along with that: Spectacle is important!
    The toys collectively are central to the fun, so minimize the space used for non-spectacle stuff like books, sheet, dice, rulers.

    What it means for design:
    A need to account for the expected size of the surface used normally in the game, and also some thought about variations in that size.

    OTOH, wargamers tend to use that space as a single whole at all times with consistent fictional ground scale within it. Story games and adventure games tend to change scenes and their locations a whole lot. We don't necessarily need to use the whole of the layout at once, nor do we need to be as consistent with ground scale.

    We still don't want to set up and breakdown and re-arrange constantly within a session however. Seriously, a big pain in the ass. We need to account for that too. Now, between sessions, we could go for lots of variety.

    And keep the non-Spectacle stuff to a minimum!

    A relatively constrained universe
    Re-use of the toys from session to session
    These two go together. A constrained universe is just stuff like: We're gaming early WW2 on the Eastern Front. We have a fairly limited amount of terrain and troop types and nationalities involved.

    Re-use of toys simply means we've designed that to fit with the above points. Sure, my Soviet rifle platoon got wiped out last session, but this is a different Soviet Rifle Platoon fighting in a different village from last time!

    What it means for design:
    Yo, this shit costs money and takes time and effort! Figure out ways to justify re-use. Slow expansion of possibilities by increasing the variety of toys is possible, but consider it something that only slowly evolves.

    This shit costs money! And takes time and effort!
    Wargamers share the pain around. There's two basic approaches: The Labor of Love and The My Team/Your Team approach. In the Labor of Love approach, one guy buys everything and does it up and usually presents it as an event game. Usually, this is in a club or convention context. Everyone else also has their own Labor of Love. Occasionally, two Labor of Love people meet up, have matching or parallel interests, and combine efforts for a presentation game . The My Team/Your Team approach is the Games Workshop approach. Spend lots of time,money, and effort on your team, but draw from a pool of people as opponents that are already into the same game, and fight.

    Either way, the upshot is the same: The pain is spread around evenly (ish).

    What it means for design:
    Almost all RPGs are set up closest to a Labor of Love type mentality. Either figure out how to minimize the costs/effort associated with that, or figure out some way to bring in a My Team/Your Team buying/building mentality. Or Both.

    D&D was already a difficult game even prior to 4e for clashing with these aspects of successful minis wargaming. And then they made a minis use heavy ruleset for it! Good lord people!

    I slam on D&D 4e a lot for this, but I will offer alternatives.

    Two vastly easier types of games for minis use, but still adventurous?

    A) Gamma World/Mutant Future/Futuristic PostApoc Wasteland Game

    Pretty much the least budget bending option out there. The bulk of your terrain can be self-created with glue and a decent recycling bin, with an occasional foray to the 2nd hand store and the fake floral section of the Arts'n'crafts store. Monsters can largely be made from cheap toys and paints with a little modification. As for character minis, pretty much anyone and everyone's junk parts miniature bin glued together from any genre (hit bartertown.com first), a couple of e-bay bits shops, and selective e-bay buying from dead collectible miniatures games.

    B) A Monster of the Week type game, based off something like Buffy or Supernatural
    More expensive, but not badly so. With Buffy, you've got one small town/suburb that can be expanded on over time and fleshed out with terrain. With Supernatural, you got a series of adventures taking place in broadly similar small towns in the Midwest, often with outdoor locales playing a role. In both cases most of the baddies are relatively human-ish in appearance.

    Lots of paper terrain options for both are available at Drivethrurpg/Wargamevault webstores. The people minis are generic modern people for the most part. Buy both the apocalypse survivor kits from Wargames factory and maybe some cheap 1/48, unpainted model railroad people off e-bay by some Chinese company and you've got waaaay more than enough to get started. Add bits here and there to make them more monster-y or add that one or two random special figures once in a blue moon as budget allows. Your outdoor terrain is pretty much done with all the super budget conscious methods all minis gamers start with, and that stuff can be discovered with a quick intertoobs search.
  • An often missing, but terribly useful, ingredient: Civilians

    With preliminaries done, it's time to consider an ingredient missing in many miniatures gaming collections (something that even HG Wells would bemoan missing in his book Floor games), namely civilians or non-combatants.

    If I meet a gamer, RPG or miniatures wargamer, who owns non-combatant miniatures and has taken some time to spiff them up nicely, it's also a good bet that I've just met someone who is at least a bit open to something beyond simple fightiness in miniatures play.

    For my purposes, "civilian" can really mean almost anything, any sort of character, that doesn't have the easy ability to use an application of force as their primary way of overcoming obstacles and difficulties. It's also highly unlikely to be their main or primary concept, even just at the level of looking at the toy and having a first once-over guess at what they are.

    Here's the thing, almost no matter what system you're playing, once you add civilians and they're important, you're starting down the road towards more of a story-game-ish experience. I would even hazard that Braunstein acted as a catalyst for what would later become RPGs by simple virtue of civilians being the main characters in that experiment.

    So buy them for your game, and consider their role in your design if you poke your
    head into this unexplored design space.
    ______________________________________________________________________________

    So, I really had not intended this thread to become quite so Manifesto-y. Caffeine combined with a very light off-season work schedule has apparently inspired me to make it such inadvertently.

    For those of you plugging through this, any questions, comments, etc?
  • edited September 2015
    Okay, yeah, the crickets are a-chirpin' in this thread.

    That's okay. It's helping me figure some of this stuff out in my own mind, and maybe this unplanned manifesto thread really will lead to something good. At minimum, I can always link back to it in later threads touching on the topic(s).

    Ongoing play, Growing Collections, Genre Mash-ups, and Toy Re-Use

    One of the big joys associated with RPGs is ongoing play. Not terribly controversial, right? The majority of gamers I'd hazard really favor, at least in theory, the open-ended campaign.

    I don't think this is necessarily a terribly good fit for a minis using game.

    Instead, I'm going to suggest a better model might be a series of presentation games, which may or may not be connected by characters and setting/situation, or perhaps only loosely so.

    Presentation Game just means a one-shot, probably one-session, game, with a largely planned table layout (where and when?) , situation starter and some development ideas ( what is going on? What is impacting it?), and a cast ( including extras for minor characters needed and created on the fly- the who is involved? bit).

    Starting with a smallish collection of toys ( that means all of them, including the landscape/terrain stuff), it likely makes more sense to have more closely linked games. Characters and setting will be re-used in this fashion. Think of this more like movies with sequels or perhaps episodes of a TV series with a relatives constrained cast and setting.

    As the miniatures collection grows ( and it will), these games become a bit more like short story or anthology collections when viewed together. This approach is a bit more like reading old pulp short stories. They're the various Adventures of {Heroes}, more Leiber or Howard than Tolkien.

    The games can also be even more loosely connected, or even not at all connected, if a fairly broad variety of toys make up the collection. Not an entirely uncommon circumstance for minis-heads to have several different collections for several different settings. Here they're more like individual movies. It's also now where you start to have an opportunity for genre mash-ups, which has some appeal of its own. Genre mash-ups often tend to be a bit lighter weight and tend towards humor, as the absurdity of two very different settings clash in odd ways. And, as mash-ups, allow for more re-use.

    Design space to explore: How do you get participants in on this type of on-going, but not standard RPG campaign/connected adventures, sort of play? What methods could be explored for moving this from a Labor of Love approach by one person, to a broader player input situation, if not in terms of toy accumulations, but simply fictional set-up building?

    Next time ( mebbe):
    Thoughts on running action and combat when there are no fiddly-ass tactical rules to draw on!

  • edited September 2015
    So, running action and combat sans fiddly-ass tactical rules...

    Most RPgamers I've met, and certainly those who stated prior to WotC D&D editions ( or who have had no contact with them) are perfectly capable of running action and combat by verbal description only. Occasionally, a quickly sketched map of ambiguous scale may be used, with perhaps at most a vague nod to movement rates and weapon ranges, if those even exist in the ruleset being used.

    Perfectly capable. Didn't even bat an eye. And even in the case of things like D&D 4E, people were backtracking and using those rules without the actual on table tactical stuff when they felt like it.

    What I have noticed, however, is that when I've gotten into discussions about minis use in the past, there tends to be this enormous jump in thinking that goes immediately past this kind of loose-goose, theater of the mind approach used in non-minis gaming, and directly and deeply into the desire/demand for fiddly-ass tactical rules.

    It's weird. The thinking completely moves far beyond the simple and comfortable known approach almost every time and into this completely different zone of thinking.

    We don't actually need to do that. Not.at.all.

    That is why the simplest hack is:...And use the toys added to just about any other ruleset.

    So here are the preliminaries:
    1)Spectacle is a positive.
    We want that. Everything flows from this.
    2)The toys are art that inspires and informs the fiction and are part of the fiction.

    Okay, so let's jump into pretty standard theater of the mind, scene setting:
    Where is this happening, where are the characters ( PCs/NPCs), what is going on as the action begins, what are the things that are going to be relevant in the scene, what is hovering at the edge of events in the scene?

    For this stuff, use normal verbal description in combination with your toys.

    Name and bound an area of the layout, adding little markers if necessary to define the space boundaries. This is the focus area for the scene. Just like you'd say "The scene begins in the main room of the tavern late at night...", you'll do the same thing here. The only difference is there needs to be a physical space defined as the tavern main room, hopefully a toy of the tavern ( or at least its main room). [If there isn't, you're in violation of points 1&2 above. Go back to start and try again]. Now show everyone the overall, rough boundaries of where, physically the scene is taking place. Leave room for toy play during the scene as you place appropriate character miniatures around the space. And do all the usual verbal fiction set up.

    IOW, set the scene per usual procedure...and use the toys
    And play out the scene as per usual procedure ...and use the toys

    If you find you can't do something while using the toys...don't do it. The toys inform the fiction. If you don't have a dragon toy, don't fiction-in a dragon. If you don't have an Inn, don't use an inn. If you could feasibly stretch things a bit while adding in fiction, that's okay. Personalities of characters, capabilities, minor items of gear? Sure, no problem, as long as the fiction would support it anyway.

    But what about initiative and movement and ranges and stuff????
    Honestly, just use a general Dungeon World approach. Or whatever other theater of the mind, dirty-hippy mechanics set you already use. And use the toys. Show it with the toys.

    Really, you don't even have to go as far as Dungeon World rules. You can go All Fiction, the kind of thing where the mechanics are mostly about player agreement/disagreement and who gets narrative input and when. None of this changes because you've put toy people in a toy setting and are showing the action with them as the scene develops.

    Lurking and looming dangers, snipers, and the cavalry on the horizon
    Okay, this is some nitty-gritty minis use stuff. generally, I'm going to assume that when you create a scene and define the physical boundaries for the focus of the scene, you'll be roughly making a square 12" x 12" or a rough circle with about the same diameter. If it's a little bigger or smaller is not terribly important. That size will largely depend on the toys on the layout. It's enough space to move the toy people about and for players to stand around or sit around that table area for the scene an move stuff about during the scene.

    For the duration of that scene, we can also get flexible of a boundary about 6"-8" surrounding that scene focus space. That outer boundary is for stuff that is threatening to "enter" the scene at some point, and we can be really flexible about how much "real world" space it represents. That outer boundary area is roughly "far away, but closing in" space. That's where we put stuff like enemy patrols stumbling through the area, the watching enemy sniper, or even allies making their way to relieve the siege that has developed at the inn. As the scene plays out, that stuff moves around and scotches closer, slowly. The boundary between the focus and the outer area is meant to be ambiguous.

    How fast do those baddies/goodies in the boundary area move? As fast and often as the fiction requires it. A little bit here and there. When they're an inch or so from the boundary of the focus space, characters in the scene start noting their imminent arrival in the focus space if the fiction justifies it. Just touching the boundary of the focus space but not in it, and long range interactions are easily justified. And naturally, once they're within the focus space, well, they're in it and now directly part of the scene. They may enter it piece-meal, over time, or all at once as the fiction requires.

    It's important t understand that the boundary area I'm talking about also becomes somewhat ambiguous during the focus of that scene. Depending on the table layout, some of that boundary space may well be other scene locations or have some sort of definition. How that interacts exactly is again dependent upon the toys themselves, and how the players want to use that to inspire the fiction. It's meant to be loosey-goosey, and that's okay. Just know that the closer to the boundary of the focus space the more "concrete" the use should be.

  • Example:
    The characters are in an inn, bunkered down because of zombies. The scene focus physically is a model inn and maybe the very close by alleys and buildings. The physical boundary has been defined in setting up the scene. That outer boundary space, the 6"-8" surrounding it is the "looming dangers" zone. We'll say we know more zombies are out there in the night, possibly being drawn towards any sort of commotion. OTOH we also know there are some friends out there with jeeps who we're hoping will figure out where the characters are and come to rescue them.

    That 6"-8" boundary zone contains other terrain toys. We've used them in other scenes. to the east of the inn is a forested area with some windy roads and the friendlies with jeeps are somewhere in that direction. To the west, north, and south are several buildings we've had scenes inside of already during play. They've been overrun with scattered zombies.

    Easy Peasy. Put the toy jeeps(s) and associated friendlies somewhere near the back of the boundary zone in the east. This is a visual cue to the fiction Our pals are out there, somewhere in that direction, effectively far away or simply far away response time wise.

    Likewise, there are some spare zombie toys scattered around in groups or individually in the other three directions. It's an indication of future possible threat, growing but not immediate.

    Over the play of the scene, those others will slowly be scootched forward toward the scene focus area. How fast? As fiction requires. The closer to the boundary, the closer to entering the scene. Within about 2" of the boundary and it's clear they're a-coming. In this area what the toys are there matter more. They are starting to literally pass through a specific building, for example. Further away and they're simply "moving through town from the South" or "driving along roads in the woods to the East".

    So again, it's really theater f the mind approach paired with use the toys, instead of theater of the mind in opposition to using the toys.
  • Nitty-Gritty Time: To do this kind of stuff, it's going to take a crapton of time, money, and effort, isn't it?

    Short answer: Yes.

    Longer answer:Yes, but over a long-ish amount of time and in smaller, digestible chunks of each.

    A collection/accumulation of any kind is built in this same fashion. One day you wake up an realize you have shelfloads of books, or comics, or albums, or whatever. You barely even remember how you actually got started or all of the points where it developed along the way.

    Minis gaming collections are the same way.

    If you're starting from Zero, but interested:
    Seek out a genre/setting you are interested in and buy the basics. First, start with civilians and critters/robots/whatever that can be used as civilian characters. Look for matching terrain or general purpose terrain. If you already have pals who are into minis, consider getting stuff that matches with their collections if you are into the genre/period/setting.

    Then get into the habit of going to minis friendly sites or boards and asking really basic questions. " What kind of terrain should I get for 1700s American colonial games in 28mm scale on a budget?" or even where can you find appropriate minis if that's a mystery to you. Other gamers are clever, and generally happy to help with links and advice.

    Also, buy a piece of cloth big enough to cover your gaming table. Check for felt in some appropriate color at the local discount fabrics store. Seriously, this adds greatly t the feel of the spectacle.

    When it comes to terrain stuff, look for the least expensive options to start. PDF paper terrain for buildings, or scratch built terrain using stuff in your recycling bin are classics. Spend money and effort only on really special stuff for a specific game, and think ahead about re-use. Again, seek free advice and links online. Minis gamers know how to make your budget extend.

    Only once you've gotten some basic core stuff, should you expand. Buy used and at discount where possible. Never be afraid of simply putting up "wanted to buy posts" at different sites. Minis gamers often have something stashed away that they aren't using that they're happy to pass along for free or minimal prices.

    You've got a wargame collection
    Look to buy civilians and minor enemies, or unique enemies that don't r,eally appear normally on the battlefield, like hostile, uncontrolled, natural critters.Think about what your friends have that you could borrow for a night. Expand your terrain to include more inside spaces, even if not at the same ground scale as the rest of your collection. This variant of miniatures gaming is a bit more like RPGs, so you want to be able to move bits around inside of key structures, not just move around them while maneuvering bodies of troops.

    Go ahead and buy some stuff you've always looked at but never purchased because it had no in-game, battlefield use. Don't be afraid of going with some genre mashing here.

    You've acquired/inherited an RPG minis collection, probably fairly smallish, and generically fantasy oriented

    You are in the catbird seat. Congrats. As always, flesh out the civilians/non-combatants/critters first, then charge into acquiring/building terrain. Your big decision here is, do I want to start more with civilization type terrain, or more wilderness? Either answer is right, but focus on one or the other at first. This will also inform your immediate miniatures purchasing. Civilization stuff is stories set mostly in cities, villages or towns, possibly focused on a single building like a castle ( or possibly a dungeon complex if most of what your collection consists of are monsters. That is civilization for the beasties!). With a more wilderness approach and maybe only a small building or two or some ruins, your stories are going to be more abut travel, explorations, and strange folk met along the way. A bit like Bilbo's journey, really. Or possibly, they're about the folk who live in the wilds and the classic fantasy PC types are the interlopers and threats.

    Whatever you start with, you build outward from there, and over time, one small project or buying plan at a time. The city gets bigger and more developed. The wilderness goes from simple hills and trees to waterfalls and cliffs and so on. You can easily start mashing genres. Some time traveler or dimension traveler or space traveler(s) show up. The cowboys and townsfolk find a hidden Lost World valley. That sort of thing.

    And you learn and expand as you go along. Pretty much no one ever starts from a museum quality, multi-hundred miniature collection and all of the lovely terrain of every genre appropriate type they could ask for. It all starts small, and the fiction you build from it and the stories that make sense to create from it are inspired by what you have, or are more than happy to acquire over time.
  • edited September 2015
    An example of a buying plan, just starting out:

    I mentioned a colonial America in the 1700s. I've been inspired by some games I saw another guy online running, and have been considering doing just that. Now I have a bit of cheat, since I do already have some re-use with toys I already own, but I'll pretend I don't.

    Keep in mind that for all of this stuff, I'd use all the tips and tricks for bargain hunting as well, just to keep costs down.

    Here's how I'd start:
    A box of general purpose, characterful civilians, standard gaming scale:
    http://bluemoonmanufacturing.com/view_product.php?product=BMM108
    20 characters, $41 MSRP.

    Terrain basics for a smallish village in paper
    http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/132410/RAVENFELL-Core-Set?src=hottest_filtered

    $14.99 pdf

    Other associated costs are printer paper and ink, paints for the minis, glue.

    For my surface, some generically bland green felt from the fabric store, about 6' long. Also about a yard of blue and a yard of brown felt for cutting up and using as road/fields and water features. Maybe some lighter green for swampy areas in a small amount. Maybe a 1/2 yard? Probably well under $20 all around.

    For foliage/trees to start out, I'd hit the classic wargamer fix of grabbing some boxes of reindeer moss online and worrying about making it into proper trees later, or just making trees by some easy, cheap method I can find online. Moss will probably run you $5-15 for gobs of the stuff in different colors.

    So far, about $80, not counting any hardcore bargain hunting, but you've got your key ingredients already.

    After that, it's mostly expansion. If you are going more colonial era horror, the same company that made those minis makes a pack of scary big wolves and a Sleepy Hollow inspired pack of more hero and villain types. Maybe add some natives down the road, or colonial soldiers, either as a big body of troops (http://wargamesfactory.com/webstore/horse-and-musket), or from small company that will sell you just a pack of 4-8 of them.

    After that, it gets even easier and cheaper. Plastic farm animals from Pegasus hobbies in 1/48 scale are about $8 (http://www.megahobby.com/148farmanimalsfigureset30.aspx).

    Out of production collectible minis games like Horrorclix or Dreamblade offer all kinds of cheapo monster possibilities, and even a trip to the toy aisle of any local discount or department store should produce other options, with the help of some paint. Right around Christmas, lots of department stores sell gobs of evergreen trees for holiday village shelf displays, along with other useful scale bits. On Boxing Day, those same stores want all that crap out and discount it 50-75%. Even if fake-snow flocked trees aren't to your taste, a $3 can of dark green spray paint will take care of that problem right quick.

    The cost for the stuff made specifically as gaming stuff will obviously be higher, so really bargain hunt for that. The other stuff is cheap-cheap. Over the course of a year, ifyou were developing the collection all on your own as a labor of love project, maybe another $100 or so. Slightly under $10/moth on average. So not too expensive at that point.

    After that, it's just refinement and expansion, possibly trading out the earlier, get-you-going, toys for some "proper" gaming stuff.
  • Okay, yeah, the crickets are a-chirpin' in this thread.
    Just so you know, I've been reading or skimming everything you write about toys/minis/floorgames/braunsteins for years, even if I don't participate much. I'm sure it would be better for you if I had insights to share, but I at least wanted you to know that your journaling on the subject is getting some attention. :-)
  • Thanks Chris! It's much appreciated!

    This thread, in accidently becoming so manifesto-y has gotten me back working on a small side project to bring this stuff all together. I hope I have something soon to show everyone who is following along, at least as a Google doc, in the next few days.
  • This reminds me of something I occasionally spontaneously do, that tends to leave the other players looking at me like there's an arm growing out of the back of my head: I'll use a miniature as a very very tiny puppet. Kinda marionette it around a little bit, chat up people. It seems related to this.
  • This is the best thing I've read on this forum in five years. Just saying. Could be because I don't read nearly everything; fortunately I read this, it's quite useful for me as a gamer with lots of miniatures-crazy friends and none of that history myself. Your thinking aligns with much of my own desk drawer speculation on the matter.
  • I don't know if you mentioned earlier KomradeBob (and I just missed it), but my feeling as a former hardcore miniature wargamer, and old-timey roleplayer is that scale make a big difference. Anything above 30 mm lends itself better towards toy-play. Anything below 30 mm lends itself towards marker-play. Back in the day, my rpg group (which overlapped with my MWG group) almost never used minis for rgp despite having tonnes of them lying around.

    What are your thoughts about scale?
  • edited September 2015
    I think that at smaller than 25/28/30/32mm scale, my eyes hurt painting it.

    But yeah, the bigger, the more toy like and easier to use as a jump off point for characters.

    The smaller scales, 1/72 or smaller, are hard to see as characters.

    It would be interesting to see what might have happened if slightly larger scale minis were commonly available at a reasonable cost.
  • edited September 2015
    I've been plugging away at a draft of a google doc that will hopefully cover a lot of this stuff, in a less thread clogging sort of way. In a few days, I'll try to link it in this thread. Right now it's very raw and not well formatted for ease of use.

    [Edit: Here's the current version:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Y-W-h-Ogwi5Xbq167kej-SHE3ZehA7j2TmWtsAaWkKk/edit?usp=sharing

    It's a big mess, because it has elements of 2-3 different earlier documents blended together. Anything you see in Red on that is a topic that I need to remind myself to tackle as the draft develops. It's also currently suffering form being two things at once that need to be separated. One is a general sort of concept explanation/manifesto, and the other is the specific iteration of that stuff as a usable game spine.]

    One of the things I'm discovering while trying to create that document is that pretty much everything I'm describing would be terribly easy to demonstrate face-to-face.

    Trying to write it out is a bit like trying to write out an instruction manual for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for an alien. ( That last bit was actually a class assignment for my daughter when she was a young child. It's an interesting exercise).

    Roger:
    I'll have to remember your description of marionette or tiny puppet play. It really does very aptly describe a behavior or play method that is essential to this sort of play.

    It's how children play with people toys. I saw a non-gamer friend of mine do something similar while playing Last Night on Earth ( Zombie Apocalypse Boardgame with character miniatures). It's a fairly natural, well-known way to play with such toys, which does lead to some interesting questions about why it isn't done.

    Part of it, I suspect, is that your behavior transgresses across unspoken boundaries and pings people's Gamer Shame buttons. Maybe a subject best discussed later though.

    Eero:
    I'd be very much interested in your thoughts as an outsider to this aspect/sub-category of gaming.

    A few weeks back, we were both participating in a thread covering lots of talk about Sim, Physics Sim, Genre Emulation ( especially in heavily stylized genres) Sim, and so on.

    Aspects of that conversation play very much into my thinking about this stuff as well.
  • I'll write a little bit about what I would be interested (and by extension, not interested) in doing with miniatures/toys:

    I am by nature a pretty immaterialist person: I don't like owning things, I don't collect stuff, I don't get pleasure from the act of purchasing, and so on. (There are no religious or lifestyle elements involved here, it's just a personality trait.) This obviously means that I don't really have those first psychological cornerstones one would need for a miniatures gaming hobby: the idea of buying some plastic to paint it and look at it doesn't fill me with glee, the idea of collecting some pre-fab commercial geek trap merchandise fills me with horror (horror at a wasted life as somebody else's cash cow, to be precise - I am something of an existentialist anti-consumerist), and while I do spend time now and then on prepping games where appropriate, I've plenty to do in that regard without making arts and crafts a majority element in the exercise.

    (I like arts and crafts, I should note - it's just that I prefer to repair furniture or make beautiful gift items that are discrete projects one can finish. The idea of starting to create wargame terrain feels exhausting, there's no end to that project whatsoever. Give me a sand table any day of the week, at least that's a contraption with an elegant and more or less enclosed use case.)

    All that being said, I recognize that it would be pretty cool to do some more extensive propping for particular games, and I do occasionally put some effort into e.g. pretty character sheets and such things that are more about personal crafts and design and less about purchasing things to fill my cupboards with. I could see myself enjoying a more let's say materially focused gaming experience (exactly as Bob envisions, a game where the players focus attention to the table like they were playing a boardgame), provided a toy-gaming format with less purchasing, less storing things and less of a demand for starting an entirely new side hobby just to maintain a vivacious capability for playing the game. Ideally it'd be creative and non-constraining on the imagination, non-commercial and not too much work compared to the gaming time one gets out of it.
  • edited September 2015
    Some potential miniatures gaming paradigms I've thought about in this regard:

    Legos:
    As you all probably know, you can do all sorts of fun gaming-related things with lego blocks (or their off-brand equivalent). I could sort of see myself going for that with the right kind of gaming context, say if I were to start a long-term 4th edition D&D game or something like that - buy appropriate kinds of legos for a few hundred euros (or steal from young relatives), and that's that. Lego blocks are lots of advantages that conventional miniatures lack. For example:
    - They're potentially cheap and not necessarily brand-locked to a single corporation.
    - They're infinitely reusable, do not become obsolescent, and are non-specific as regards imaginative details such as the gaming genre.
    - They don't strive for visual realism, making the overall aesthetic language less bothersome to maintain, while still providing suggestive distinctions between e.g. knights and dragons.
    - There is a clear and realistic point in setting up your lego block capability where you do, practically speaking, have enough of different sorts of blocks to do whatever you want with them. This differs from traditional miniatures in that the instant you want to do something new with miniatures, you have to buy more to get the ones you need. With lego blocks it is somewhat realistic to build up something you need even in the middle of play.

    Paper miniatures:
    These have many of the same advantages that legos have, they're even cheaper, and given some graphic design ability it has expressive potential. Real-time creation of more playing pieces is entirely realistic, given a few people with drawing ability present at the table. Also, origami is a noble art, beautiful in its disposability. Given all that, I could see myself going with paper instead of lego blocks. Best of all, it's easy to throw away the entire stack after the gaming project ends, retaining the digital files for possible future re-use.

    Limited miniatures application:
    If a given game is construed in a way that enables me to employ miniatures or other similar toys/props in a strictly controlled, logical way, without demanding constant purchase of new miniatures to enable me to do the simplest of things, then that makes it a much more realistic proposal. The classic scenario is about D&D: given that we're playing a skirmish rpg like 4th edition D&D or whatever, one could decide that the group goes all out when it comes to player character miniatures, while representing monsters with paper minis or abstract tokens. Add paper maps (instead of crafted terrain), and we're at a point that seems entirely realistic to me in terms of effort/expense/enjoyment.

    Representing the party with minis and everything else with abstract tokens isn't the only way to achieve a balance that feels acceptable to me. I could see a game where the GM preps a campaign by predeveloping a distinct, discrete set of NPCs that each will, indeed, get their own miniatures. Could be half a dozen, a score or 108 characters from my perspective, as the important part is about doing a thorough and elegant prep where the material preparation matches with the procedural prep of the game itself. Given a game like that, which utilized a certain pre-determined set of NPCs, and was specifically designed for this prep to suffice (so no situations where somebody opens the wrong door and yeah I should really have a dragon miniature here right now), I wouldn't have a problem with investing in the miniatures. I'd probably have a friend paint them, they seem to do that for fun, the poor fools ;)

    (In case I'm not expressing the creative psychology here well, an example: I could see myself running Exalted with miniatures if the representational aesthetic was such that the exalts all get real miniatures, while everybody and everything else gets more abstract tokens. There are a limited number of exalts in the setting, so it would be at least theoretically possible for me as a GM to prep minis for the entire set in advance, thus achieving a correspondence between the material prep and the conceptual prep of the imagination space - whichever exalt makes an appearance in the game, there is a representational token for it available, meaning that token availability does not constrain the extent of the game artificially.)

    Also, a practical example from real-world miniatures gaming that people actually do: I have much more sympathy for the idea of playing e.g. Bloodbowl or Space Hulk (both games seem to have a certain beauty in my eyes) than I have for many other types of miniatures games, simply because they feature constrained miniatures application. I would literally be in a Bloodbowl league right now if I had the time - all my friends seem to be doing it, the game is fun to play, and I could just ask one of them to set me up with the minis for team whatever-it-is-I-want-to-play for an expense comparable to any boardgame. I could give the team back to whoever paints it for me once I stopped playing with it, too, unless I simply boxed them up like any boardgame on my boardgame shelves. (Not something you can do with a full panoply miniatures gaming hobby, really, as the miniatures themselves are not self-containing games.)

    Dolls:
    Or action figures, if one prefers. Playing something like Puppetland seems to me to be a rather unproblematic thing, entirely doable; I would probably start by making the puppets or dolls with the players together as a bit of a combined chargen and handicrafts exercise, or alternatively by providing a set and having character creation circle around the imaginative detail the player provides for their doll. Bob explains in length upthread about the kinds of games one could play conceivably with only the player character dolls - there is technically speaking no necessity of providing any terrain or NPC dolls or anything like that for the interaction, I think; the mere presence of a character-representing doll would by itself be a net positive for the game if one doesn't try to play it for more than it's worth by expending effort on further developments. A doll reminds players about who a character is, the player can gesture with the doll to emphasize their words, and so on - you know how to play with dolls. The effort/expense/enjoyment balance is again entirely acceptable as long as you don't fall into the trap of thinking that you need to doll up the entire cast of NPCs or provide appropriate puppet theater backgrounds for each and every scene or something like that. Just the dolls, and let them contribute as much as they do by being present.

    Out-sourcing the miniatures hassle:
    This doesn't work for all sorts of games, but for certain gaming plans I've mulled over it'd be pretty realistic to just let one of these minis-crazy wankers be a co-pilot in the exercise. Depending on the game and the campaign plans and such they could be a co-GM or a player in the game. Either way, I could theoretically out-source all the miniatures and terrain and whatever else doll-making hassles to somebody who likes doing it, and whose hobby plan for the years ahead involves storing and collecting such miniatures anyway, so they don't have to start by purchasing paints and end by throwing away lots of good plastic. So just let them know what we'll need for next week or next month or whatever, and let the magic elf do all the miniatures-related aspects of the game. Works for me, eminently. I've flirted with this sort of thing in relation to D&D, in fact - at some points certain players have made a point of bringing in miniatures for everybody's characters (I don't use gridmaps or terrain when GMing, but I do positional charting with e.g. dice and whatever else we have on hand, so minis go right in there when it comes to portraying tactical combat space and such), and I certainly have not nay-said them.
  • edited September 2015
    I hope that the above examples shed some light to the kinds of possibilities, difficulties, issues and dislikes a gamer with no inclination for miniatures hassles perceives in adding that toy aspect to our play. I'm convinced that it's possible, I just haven't gotten around to it yet, because I've had other exciting projects going on.

    One more observation about miniatures as a non-miniatures gamer person: I am often annoyed by how inelegant miniatures are as a gaming tool due to the basic logic of access and storage. This is mostly relevant to me with boardgames that occasionally use miniatures as gaming pieces; they do not suffer from the hobby-related issues (my not wanting to spend 100 hours to paint miniatures, the impossibility of collecting a complete set, and so on), but they're still a pain in the ass to store and access.

    For example, have any of you noticed when playing Heroquest/Descent/Myth or one of those kinds of games with lots of little plastic monsters (or plastic soldiers in case of something like Axis & Allies), how you either have to pack and store and transport the monsters in an exhaustively catalogued manner, or you have to spend time looking for the right monster when setting them up for play. You have like two hundred little plastic monsters, and you riffle through them trying to find a third goblin for the table. That's just not a very elegant way to set up a boardgame, to be frank about it! It's the sort of set-up effort expense that realistically often makes us choose to play something else, with less set-up vs. the fun factor.

    Consider paper minis: they go flat, and you can alphabetize them or whatever, or you can just say to hell with it and print new ones whenever you need them, provided you have a printer handy at the gaming location. Clearly a superior approach.

    Obviously this issue would seem different if the little plastic guys were tickling your gonads for being what they are. I have friends who clearly, evidently like playing something like say Battlelore despite the mediocre strategic nature and exhausting set-up time, simply because they like looking at the plastic orcs. Very much a matter of taste, this miniatures thing.
  • Let me work backwards and forwards a bit:
    Obviously this issue would seem different if the little plastic guys were tickling your gonads for being what they are. I have friends who clearly, evidently like playing something like say Battlelore despite the mediocre strategic nature and exhausting set-up time, simply because they like looking at the plastic orcs. Very much a matter of taste, this miniatures thing.
    I probably should be communicating with your friends! What you've just described pretty much fits exactly with what Costikyan quote was talking about in that first post of the thread.
    Out-sourcing the miniatures hassle:
    This doesn't work for all sorts of games, but for certain gaming plans I've mulled over it'd be pretty realistic to just let one of these minis-crazy wankers be a co-pilot in the exercise. Depending on the game and the campaign plans and such they could be a co-GM or a player in the game. Either way, I could theoretically out-source all the miniatures and terrain and whatever else doll-making hassles to somebody who likes doing it...
    Quite possibly. When you are getting into this kind of thinking, you're almost there. :D

    The final step in bringing you over to the dark side would be when you start planning your games based on what miniatures are available to your group ( including all of the non-people toys).

    The logistics of planning, carrying, sorting, and setting up:
    Yup, it's definitely part of the activity, and needs to be accounted for when thinking about this sort of thing. It's a big part of the reason I've been thinking a whole lot about one shots/event games.

    Alternatives other than gaming miniatures:
    Paper stuff: At one point in time, different sorts of paper people and villages actually were common childhood toys, although the popularity has fallen off since the early 20th century. There are probably possibilities there. It's simply a medium I'm not well versed in.

    Lego Bricks: Lots of nerds and gamers love them. Again, lots of possibilities there, but probably better handled by someone who really loves Lego and not me. When I was growing up, Lego was for the richer kids than myself, so I never really developed any love for them personally. On a theoretical level, I could see some even greater possibilities for them, somehow working in the literal building at the table of stuff into play, including world building and situation building.

    Dolls/action figures: I certainly loved my action figures as a kid far more than any unmoving, unarticulated toy person. Potential here, although arguably the bigger physical scale plus pricing may mean that amore constrained, more focused adventure potential ( location wise) is in order. If I was looking for someone to tackle building for that kind of thing, I'd probably try to recruit a partner who'd played with dollhouses as a kid, or something similar. I'd start by looking to female gamers first, frankly.

    Other toy possibilities
    I've mentioned Smurfs a few times. Mostly it's because of the being a fad when I was a kid, and they aren't obviously action/combat oriented toys ( so, broader story potential), and were small physically, so you could work with a table layout not much different from that used in wargaming. A decade or so ago, coin-op vending machines around the US had some cheap toys in a line called Homies ( controversial at times because they parodied (primarily) urban Latino culture in the US. Made incidentally by a Latino guy primarily. Take that as you will). Anyway, I thought those had potential also, simply because they were inexpensive, had ( eventually) hundreds of different people toys, and were very individualized as characters. I think something with those characteristic could work. I've recently seen a guy who is making 54mm miniatures for some kind of skirmish SF game on 3D printers. They look surprisingly detailed, and I can only imagine that tech will become even more refined and the hardware more commonly available in coming years. That offers potential as well, and may flip some of this stuff into the same cottage industry realm that POD and PDF has done for book rpgs/story games.

    The arts and crafts aspect
    I hate the arts and crafts aspect. I paint and assemble this stuff because it comes unpainted and unassembled. I make my own terrain simply because of budgetary constraints and an ability to make stuff specifically for my needs/tastes.

    I do take pride in it once it is finished, however. There's a sense of accomplishment and of ownership of the stuff I've done myself in a way there isn't for pre-finished, purchased items, so I guess that's a positive.

    Sand table:
    Good gods no!!! Not only do I have cats for pets and all of the problems that implies, but the sheer expense, mess, space taken up, and weight alone would steer me away from that. It's lovely if you're, I dunno, some member of a military academy figuring out how to defeat Napoleon again, I suppose...

  • I hope that the above examples shed some light to the kinds of possibilities, difficulties, issues and dislikes a gamer with no inclination for miniatures hassles perceives in adding that toy aspect to our play. I'm convinced that it's possible, I just haven't gotten around to it yet, because I've had other exciting projects going on.
    I have a bunch of scattered thoughts about this last bit I'm quoting, so I'll just throw them out in no particular order:

    "...difficulties, issues and dislikes a gamer with no inclination for miniatures hassles perceives in adding that toy aspect to our play."


    I think those are important considerations that you've laid out. They are often on my mind.

    Once more, my moment of personal clarity came when I fundamentally realized that my thinking on the subject changed when I realized that I'm thinking in the opposite direction from what you've stated in that snippet.

    First, I do have an inclination for miniatures.
    Second, I'm not looking at adding them ( the toys) to anything.

    At some level, I really agree with the majority view ( which I do feel you're expressing here, quite well): Adding miniatures to gaming is a complete pain in the ass.

    I'm looking at it from the other direction. The toys are lovely, I'm okay with what goes into creating them and creating a tabletop environment. Now, in what way can I add the gaming in?
    I'm convinced that it's possible, I just haven't gotten around to it yet, because I've had other exciting projects going on.
    I'm convinced that is something almost entirely impossible to even experiment much with, unless one already has access to the toys, plus the inclination to start with them and work outward to bring the gaming in.

    That makes the whole thing rather tricky when it comes to getting a critical mass of thinking going on regarding the subject.

    From the limited experimentation I've done personally, it's possible to do this kind of thing. It seems to have a success rate pretty similar to well, any sort of gaming really. The refinement rate is much slower, however, mostly due to the logistics issues, at my local level.

    Being able to take that local experience and share it long distance, without face to face shared experience, is what I'm finding the hardest part. There's only so much that writing, or even sharing pictures and reports of play experience can really provide when the physical aspects of the medium aren't shared.

    For example, you and I could discuss how we both approached players taking their characters through The Keep on the Borderlands. It doesn't matter that we're on opposite sides of the planet, if we both have access to that module. We have a common point of reference, a bit of media, we can both examine and compare and contrast the play experiences. We can start a conversation, and everyone else who has access to the module can chime in with their thoughts. That's how we can get that critical mass of thinking and refinement going.

    To get a similar discussion going about something like the Space 1889 game I ran using these concepts and a chopped down version of Mythic GM Emulator, I'd almost have to pack everything I used up and send it to you, have you run it, then share your thoughts on the subject. Then, to get someone else involved, we'd need to pack all of that up, and send it off to another person. A bit tricky that.

    Now, I suppose if we did that a hundred times and everyone started reporting back to one another, well, smart cookies that we are collectively, we'd start to see some really refinement of the concept as well as clever offshoots in approach. At that point, we might well begin to see a critical mass forming, and finding more common approaches and techniques outside of that one scenario and associated toys.
  • With that being functionally impossible, the only other thing I can figure out is what is happening right now.

    I write up something a bit manifesto-y.

    Yay! Miniatures are great!
    Spectacle is great!
    Story-game dirty-hippy approaches are Great!
    Yay!
    Let's combine the two!
    Here's my thinking! Here are some things I know or suspect that would make this fly!
    Here's what I've done in the past! Here's what I want to do in the future!
    Here are my helpful tips and widgets!
    You too can do this!


    So, uh, how did all work out with your group?


    Part of it also is there really is a peculiar blend of characteristics that I'd need to find in other gamers somewhere out there on the intertoobs.

    1)There needs to be access to minis and the know-how involved with the logistics of setting up a game night event like a miniatures wargame table game. And, of course, a place to hold the thing, and time to play it out. There needs to be a clear understanding that during play, whatever toys you have collected to work with is, in fact, what you're working with for that game event.

    2) There really needs to be access to more than just fighty minis. I keep putting that in as a strongly worded suggestion, but it goes beyond that. It really is essential. The other strongly worded suggestion that I keep throwing in is that there need to be "interior" locations, not just exterior locations. I think perhaps I need to make that an essential as well.

    3) A majority of the players really need to have some grounding in dirty-hippy games, especially story games vs. adventure games ( see, again, the Ars Ludi link upthread) and distanced stances (author, director) when playing . Barring that mix, one might be able to substitute people with little to no imaginative hobby-game play since childhood.

    Those three core qualities need to combine, and it's a bit hard to find them in one individual, much less in one assemblage of players.

    Now, if I could find a dozen such groups scattered around the globe, experimenting in this fashion, and sharing results and ideas, I don't think it would take long to create a critical mass of understanding on the subject. I doubt that would be enough to create another off-shoot gaming style that becomes wildly popular, but certainly a great deal of refinement would take place on all sorts of related topics.
  • I think that your dream in this regard is entirely possible, and it would be exciting to see it come about. In case I didn't communicate it clearly earlier, I have only the deepest appreciation for miniatures gaming when it is executed with style and passion, even if I don't do it myself; having a story-oriented variation come about would be an excellent development.

    For reading material, in case you haven't read it, do take a look at the late '80s ICE game Lord of the Rings Adventure game. It's a beginner-friendly rpg that uses paper miniatures in setpiece scenes, and features an adventurous style more in line with adventure literature or movies than wargaming. For example, the first scene of the adventure is set in a hobbit smial, with the players setting up their miniatures on the provided map and having them interact in discussion; combat is definitely a secondary concern through-out.

    For a practical game to execute with this type of approach, I would consider trying out Dance and the Dawn, which already all but mandates the use of some sort of a game board and playing pieces; might as well set up a bit of a fairy castle and the 6-8 miniatures/dolls one would need to play through the entire thing with visual aids. Seems to me that drama-oriented games intended to be played with such tools would resemble this example in their broad outline.
  • edited September 2015
    I hadn't looked at either one. I'll go poking around and see what I can find out!

    Edit: So I went looking for The Dance and The Dawn and found both the chessboard version and the LARP version. A review of the LARP version at RPGnet gave me a better overall idea of what this is broadly about.

    Yeah, that's essentially what I'm thinking of in broad terms, and I could certainly see that as a basis for a tabletop event with minis spectacle involved. It sounds that either version, in terms of mechanics, is right about at the sweet spot I was thinking of, even if with a bit different approach.

    I do find that lots of LARP approaches tend to inspire my thinking about the minis-thing as well.

  • edited September 2015
    Eero:

    I saw that you'd mentioned that your minis-head pals were BloodBowl players. Are they by any chance also Warhammer Fantasy battle players, or just own generic fantasy type minis?

    You might have access to enough stuff to try pulling off something like Dave Wesely did with the original Braunstein, but do it in a more dirty-hippy fashion.

    Braunstein was supposed to be an appetizer course experiment prior to a more traditional Napoleonic wargame, that would influence the set up of the proper game event. It just kinda got out of hand.

    Depending on what your pals own or have access to,and the space, you could set up something similar. The core concept is the goings on prior to the actual BloodBowl game ( and possibly the post-game rioting).

    I'm not sure how big the BloodBowl board/pitch is physically, but I don't think it completely covers the amount of space a traditional wargame takes up on a table, especially if cheat sheets and so on aren't present.

    So the pre-Bloodbowl Narr-stein this suggests to me...

    A town surrounding the stadium, with key locations in it.

    The Inn/Pub (there's always at least one)
    Some kind of authority structure ( Gaol, manor, castle, guardpost)
    The vendor area outside the stadium/ tailgating area
    Areas where the two teams fans are largely encamped/taking rooms
    Fill in any remaining space with the homes/businesses of the locals

    The easy plot issues
    Townies vs. fans from out of town
    Fan rivalry and hooliganism
    The authorities who just want to see everything go off without a hitch
    Sneaky, cheaty maneuvers pre-game by various parties
    Bookies and their enforcers, various poor losers, gambling addicts, and cheats
    The locals trying to cash in by gouging the visiting fans
    The always useful romantic subplots and associated problems
    Fantasy Race racial clashes and stereotypes, and resulting problems
    Internal power plays within the town between factions in town, drawing in outsiders

    It's quick and dirty, but that seems pretty much a formula you could try out with what you have to work with already. And you could farm out all of the logistics and collecting/arts and crafts hassles, just like you talked about. If you decide to explore it, even as just a mental exercise, let me know, and I'll hit you with some options for close-to-no-commitment (time, space, and money ) toy stuff you might be lacking.

    If that appetizer course flies with them, they may never need to actually play the proper game of BloodBowl, or "play" it narratively/dirty-hippy. If the experiment falls flat, kill it early and go to the game they know they like.
  • BTW, for everyone else, I know Eero and I have been blabbing back and forth a lot.

    That last post, where I just threw together a set up idea for a game Eero might be able to put together was actually pretty useful to me personally in understanding some things.

    If anyone else among you has been following along and contemplating how you'd put something like the suggested types of games together, but can't quite see what you'd start with, go ahead and hit me with an idea of what you and your group potentially have to work with in terms of toys and interests, and I'll see if I can figure out a starter idea like that for you, even at this distance.

    It's a good exercise for me, in developing some of these ideas into more concrete methods, and hey, maybe it will spur some of that distant experimentation that I've been lacking when your group tries the thing out!
  • That's actually pretty similar to something we've been speculating about - namely, a Bloodbowl sports drama rpg campaign. That seems like an entirely legit topic for a game, provided one groks the Warhammer aesthetic of the BB world - a bit of character stable/troupe play, PCs are aspiring athletes in the cruel world of the ultra-violent sport of Bloodbowl, and the game takes a closer look at things like training, out-of-game relationships and all those things you'd expect of a sports drama comic book or tv series. The basic conceit of such a game would be to throw in a bit of an expanded rules system for out-of-pitch activities, and build the game such that each game session ends with an actual Bloodbowl match with the PC team vs. whoever's on the schedule; a natural pacing device, that.

    (And yes, I would presumably have the PC team be a special cross-species team allowed/enabled by the league as an experiment in inter-racial relations, so as to let the players choose from all the weird critters living in the Warhammer world for the player characters. Not only your own hopes as athletes, but also our hopes for peace in a wartorn world ride with you! As a bonus, all the inter-racial prejudices and such have hilarious rules effects in Bloodbowl, so the team of PC unique snowflakes would have plenty of drama work to do before all the orcs and dwarves would work well together...)

    For bonus points, just integrate that with the on-going Bloodbowl league (executed by the local rpg club, so it's not like we'd lack understanding from them). It could be a pretty fun device to invite one of the Bloodbowl leaguers in as a sort of a "guest GM" for a single session, to play members of their own team, and to finish the night by playing the actual match against the PC team. All this obviously requires close rules integration, as the rpg conceits, whatever they may be, need to be capable of being reduced seamlessly into the Bloodbowl game for the actual match play.

    (If you're wondering why I'm interested in actually playing Bloodbowl as part of this, it's mostly because I think that it might work as an interesting context and source of dramatic bullshit for the rpg. Player characters could e.g. get maimed or killed on the pitch, and so on. Also, sports drama as a genre is usually very formulaic about who wins and who loses, so it'd be interesting to execute the actual matches in a clearly non-dramatic manner, leaving the PCs scrambling for their success and fame. Presumably the off-pitch activities would have some effect on the match play, but it'd be carefully balanced and quantified in terms of the Bloodbowl game itself, not hand-waved.)

    That being the background, I think that your vision of propping out physical locations for the non-bowl activities as well is delightful. You're right in that such a sports drama could be construed to occur in a limited number of locations (a pub, some private residences - just as you list). Having half of the games occur at other cities as visiting games is a bit of a speed bumb, but I would view it as eminently logical if the "home town" had a 3D structural treatment and the GM used simple paper maps and such for visiting destinations - sort of makes the type of propping match with the dramatic importance of the locations, doesn't it, when all the other places are "just another paper map" and only the home town is created with attention and care :D

    But yeah, that's the sort of miniatures/rpgaming project that tends to crawl into my desk drawer to wait for their time. I'm not fundamentally opposed to doing this sort of stuff, it just takes a pretty exact combination of players and schedule and so on. Sort of like Ars Magica - I can't trump up that at a moment's notice, either, due to the lack of time, suitably patient players and stable scheduling.
  • As always, I've been reading along and nodding as Bob et al. talk. Great thread!

    Since Eero brought it up, I want to say something about Legos. Work is crazy now, but I'll post something this weekend. (Remind me to talk about the d20 Modern zombie game if I forget, in addition to my manifesto bit about Legos.)
  • edited September 2015
    Run with it! I'd love to hear more ideas about combining this general idea with Lego.

    Edited to add: I'd really love to hear about how using Lego in particular might be a different experience than doing something like this with toys that are more permanent in what they are. As an outsider to Lego fun, I'm guessing that a big part of the Leg joy is that you can build stuff with them, and build different stuff with them, or even modify the stuff you've built during play sessions. OTOH, moving them around, they can come apart.

    In what way could you see using the positive/negative qualities of the Lego medium as positives to the experience? What approaches do you see it implying.
  • That's actually pretty similar to something we've been speculating about - namely, a Bloodbowl sports drama rpg campaign. That seems like an entirely legit topic for a game, provided one groks the Warhammer aesthetic of the BB world - a bit of character stable/troupe play, PCs are aspiring athletes in the cruel world of the ultra-violent sport of Bloodbowl, and the game takes a closer look at things like training, out-of-game relationships and all those things you'd expect of a sports drama comic book or tv series. The basic conceit of such a game would be to throw in a bit of an expanded rules system for out-of-pitch activities, and build the game such that each game session ends with an actual Bloodbowl match with the PC team vs. whoever's on the schedule; a natural pacing device, that.
    I don't think I've ever followed a TV series based on sports. I've seen a few films based on the concept. I did see several adverts for some kind of BBC soap opera called Footballers' Wives and thought that might make good grist for concepts.
    BloodBowlers' Wives? Well, maybe just one episode/event in an ongoing series?
    I would presumably have the PC team be a special cross-species team allowed/enabled by the league as an experiment in inter-racial relations, so as to let the players choose from all the weird critters living in the Warhammer world for the player characters.
    As a minis junkie, I think it would be positively sinful to do anything other than this!
    For bonus points, just integrate that with the on-going Bloodbowl league (executed by the local rpg club, so it's not like we'd lack understanding from them). It could be a pretty fun device to invite one of the Bloodbowl leaguers in as a sort of a "guest GM" for a single session, to play members of their own team, and to finish the night by playing the actual match against the PC team. All this obviously requires close rules integration, as the rpg conceits, whatever they may be, need to be capable of being reduced seamlessly into the Bloodbowl game for the actual match play.
    Gamers being gamers, you might not have to integrate as much mechanically as you might think. It's a solid bet that if thus-and-such has happened in the events of the non-BloodBowl play, people will blame bad rolls on it inherently during the BloodBowl gaming. Or good rolls for that matter. And if the other folks aren't picking up on the possibility for that, you can always seed the concept from the sidelines yourself, on or out of character.
    That being the background, I think that your vision of propping out physical locations for the non-bowl activities as well is delightful. You're right in that such a sports drama could be construed to occur in a limited number of locations (a pub, some private residences - just as you list). Having half of the games occur at other cities as visiting games is a bit of a speed bumb, but I would view it as eminently logical if the "home town" had a 3D structural treatment and the GM used simple paper maps and such for visiting destinations - sort of makes the type of propping match with the dramatic importance of the locations, doesn't it, when all the other places are "just another paper map" and only the home town is created with attention and care :D.
    I was going to suggest simple, hand drawn paper terrain tiles, either hand drawn or grabbed from some online source and printed up (pasted on thin cardboard) for a first experiment. I'm not sure the context you're playing in. When I did my first broad experiment into the kind of play I've been discussing, I based a big part of it on the terrain the FLGS had available. I didn't feel like creating and hauling a whole bunch of stuff. If you're playing in a game club or game shop that has minis terrain, you could do something similar, or combine the concepts. It's often the case that if a shop/club plays one Games Workshop game, they also play other ones, so Warhammer fantasy battle terrain being handy is highly probable.

    With that in mind, making up the area around the stadium might not be that hard. First, you could pick small footprint buildings for what ever 4-5 key locations you think would be important, then pair them with those floorplan tiles as necessary to give you interior space, justifying it however you feel like.

    The Pub: A small building surrounded by a large walled/hedged outdoor area. Think more like a beer garden style of drinking establishment. Easy-peasy.

    The Guardhouse/TownHall: Sure the outside areas are a cool model, but the offices are underground, along with the armory and cells. Draw some floor plans that fit with that concept, and around the model.

    That's the basic rub. I'm sure you can run with that. You may well find that, since you have minis-head friends, that they spontaneously begin building fancier terrain themselves to replace the simple stuff if they like the overall concept, with no need to officially farm out the task.

    On a local note, I live in a city that's a big sports town, as well as a tourist destination and party town. Around a decade ago, our city went through a fairly big natural disaster, and our local sports team and the local stadium in some ways became a bit of an emotional magnet for people here. Here's a Wikipedia entry covering some of that story:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effect_of_Hurricane_Katrina_on_the_New_Orleans_Saints

    The Warhammer world has Mordheim, a devastated city. Maybe you could set your game and team there, and use the other story for inspirational grist. It could justify your multi-racial team and its aspirations, while simultaneously justifying a slow build up of the toy collection ( the terrain and landscaping bits) over time.
    But yeah, that's the sort of miniatures/rpgaming project that tends to crawl into my desk drawer to wait for their time. I'm not fundamentally opposed to doing this sort of stuff, it just takes a pretty exact combination of players and schedule and so on. Sort of like Ars Magica - I can't trump up that at a moment's notice, either, due to the lack of time, suitably patient players and stable scheduling.
    My opinion is that you are thinking really, really huge with this idea.

    If it was me, I would bite off a much smaller bit and just try that as an experimental idea for a single session, rather than planning ahead for this enormous, integrated RPG/BloodBowl concept from the start.

    As a comparison, I'm thinking of standalone films that were later made into long-running TV series here in the US. MASH or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example. In those cases, there was the core concept of the film, but then later a whole lot of revamping of characters, concept, recasting of actors in roles, and added or modified characters and plot for the TV series.

    I'd approach this the same way. You don't really know if players are going to groove on this sort of experiment or if it will be a limited success experiment not worth following up on. Doing a one-shot, with no long-term commitment, allows you to assess how it went, and only then consider how you'd approach it over the long haul.

  • I've played several LEGO-based games. They tend not to engage the building aspect of LEGO-use during play, but more between sessions. I've tried several times to make games that incorporated building -- games where you would acquire resources and put them together just so, actually building during play, and they're always tedious. I'd love for someone to come up with a smart solution to this.

    Even so, though, the part of miniatures gaming where you paint a mini or build a set-piece and bring it to the game and everyone fawns over it, is still there with LEGO stuff. People appreciate clever uses of bricks and employing or defying the constrains inherent in the medium. And one particularly cool thing is a game where everyone brings stuff together and you end up with a playing field grander than any one person could muster.
  • Okay, my lack of Lego appreciation is clearly showing through.

    I guess it really is a whole lot closer to using gaming minis than I had thought initially.

    Your discussion of people showing up with pre-built stuff is sounding a bit like what I'm starting to call open-form and crash-build gaming for the thing I'm putting together.

    I've been blurting out general concepts in that google doc I linked upthread, but plan to extract out of that mess a more constrained, limited game concept ( one with an actual title and everything!).

    I'd love to hear more about how the planning and organizing for your LEGO games took place, and also what they were like in the actual playing of the game.

    I had been wondering how the building aspect was handled, as I suspected it was a time-user-upper. Is it something that might be helped by the twin of a character creation session before a game proper takes off? in this case, the session isn't so much building the characters, but the literally building the environment/setting and peopling it, as well as starting to develop what the play will be about?

    I have a number of friends who are big LEGO fans ( several with kids who I know they'll want to introduce to gaming as they get older), and I'd love to pass ideas along to them.

    On a practical level, how do you keep track of the ownership of the bricks? Or is that simply not actually a serious concern when you have several committed LEGO fans gathered together?
  • In most of the games I've played, one person brings most of the stuff and other folks bring a few important additions -- armies, ships, landforms, whatever. Without much building going on. So keeping track of what belongs to who is pretty easy. I wanted to run an adaptation of Universalis with a set of tenets built to make use of the brick, and in such a case, where lot of raw brick was brought, I'd just want the whole collection to be mine so that we didn't have to worry about mixed stuff.

    Organization has either been one person deciding to run a game and then others joining in or someone posting online like "hey wouldn't it be cool if we did this thing?" and then enough people gravitate together at the right time. The ones I've played in have always used a set of rules ahead of time.

    E.g. this thread: http://news.lugnet.com/gaming/?n=1139&t=i&v=a turned into a game at Gencon 2002 (the third one down here: http://brikwars.com/fans_etc.htm)

    Or Frank Filz (who might see this) decided to run Evil Stevie's Pirate Wars at the inaugural BrickFest and brought most of the bricks to the event (see details, with sadly disappearing pictures, here: http://www.mindspring.com/~ffilz/Lego/pirate-brickfest2000.html)

    Later on, we formed a club and ran things with more forethought, collaboration and organization at cons for a few years.

    In general, these games were fun, but a little slow and a little quirky.
  • edited September 2015
    So, I'll actually start with an AP sort of report rather than with general observations.

    One of the more memorable games that I played using LEGOs was a zombie campaign. It was more than ten years ago--before zombies got too crazy popular, that is. We were using a trad system (d20 Modern) in an otherwise trad style (set-pieces, combat orientation, fairly pre-plotted direction that we all happily played along with, etc.). The group had diverse experience--one player had never played any RPGs before at all (including CRPGs, I think), one had essentially no tabletop RPG experience, and the other three (or four?) had moderate to extensive experience. The campaign ran over the summer, with a well-defined end-point: namely, the beginning of the next year at college. The whole thing was around 15 sessions, I'd guess, though it's a bit fuzzy at this point.

    Our use of LEGOs led to several interesting emergent features. First, there was definite puppet play focused on the mini-figs. In each session, we players often moved, posed, and customized our mini-figs. There were injuries and fatalities (this being a more fatal version of the zombie survival genre) which we festively celebrated by pulling off hands, arms, and legs from our minifigs. We liked deconstructing the zombie and skeleton (enemy) mini-figs even more; we used zombies and skeletons for those in advanced decay, but used a huge range of normal civilian mini-figs to represent enemies that were fictionally at the very beginning of decomposition. Every time someone head-shot a zombie, that mini-fig lost its head (literally). We'd also rip the legs off of the zombies and have the top half crawl around, which mini-figs do very well and which is perfectly suited to the genre.

    Second, we really took our cues from the material we had (a big box of mini-figs and another of accessories). The cast of enemies was never just "another zombie," since we basically used any and every mini-fig that we had with repetition, and then justified the stranger costumes in the fiction (we stumbled upon a group of civil war reenacters, for example, or nerds coming back from an "astronaut summer camp" sort of experience, spacesuits in tow.) We also enjoyed swapping out weapons and gear as we found more (and lost or threw away others). This followed Bob's observation that this kind of play uses what we had, which included the full panoply of LEGO minifig accessories, including guns and swords and bow/arrows and shovels, as well as more comical accessories, like quarterstaffs, walkie talkies, or skeleton arms. (Also, once a wizard's hat and a wand, when one player created a circus charlatan character, who was unfortunately eaten by a zombie crocodile figure also escaped from the same circus in the chaos. Another character in the same session died to a zombie clown, portrayed by a court jester mini-fig.) When characters died and we created new characters, we also first chose and customized a new minifig (a one armed trucker wielding a pirate saber, for example), and then did char gen based on the minifig.

    Second, during play, we quickly moved away from distance-based combat and instead used relative positioning, although we used all the other components of the d20 combat system. This occurred because we ended up constantly picking up our mini-figs, posing them (they have bendable arms, bendable waists, turnable heads [often with different faces], and twistable hands, as well as customizable hair or head accessories), and otherwise doing puppet play, including moving them around the built environments in three dimensions. The d20 rules for 3-D miniatures combat were a nightmare, so we just threw out exact distances all together and treated distance much more loosely, which was partially made possible by the close use/manipulation of physical space with the mini-figs. This is connected in some ways to what Bob says about distance, space, and position becoming more symbolic than representational.

    Third, our built environments were treated much more loosely than the minifigs, but with the same constructible/destructible ethos of LEGOs. The GM often brought one pre-built environment for a set-piece each session, but we commonly improvised other structures and terrain features with pre-made, stock pieces of LEGO sets; hastily improvised LEGO buildings; appropriated wargaming sets; and improvised material like books, paper, towels, soda cans, or whatever. All of these were at least partially destructible (or at least movable), and a couple of the players really loved destructing the environments and props on other people's turns (as they narrated their actions). For example, in a chase scene, our jeep (a LEGO model with all of the minifigs shoved inside, with one on top with a gun) hit trees, lost a tire (flat) and a door, and otherwise got banged up, so these players broke off pieces in real time to mirror the fiction, all while continuously rolling the jeep in a jerky path around the table and obstacles improvised from people's dice, snacks, etc.)

    [Edit: Another example: at one point, we all climbed into a LEGO tree to fight off zombies; this would have been hard to model in standard d20 without much handwaving or visualization problems, but was simple with the minifigs, since we literally moved them around in the tree, and it was easy to judge e.g. line of sight, distance, and so forth. I'm now really regretting that no photos were ever taken during this game, except one group shot before we'd set up to begin for that night.]

    Overall, even in the otherwise traditional game, the LEGOs--and the play they supported--made the campaign feel hugely different than other d20 games I've played, even ones with otherwise similar players, themes, tone, and so forth.

    I've also played in other campaigns and one-shots that used LEGOs in different ways--if you want, I can share a bit about these and how things differed, but I think this example shows how close LEGO play can be to the general archetype of "minis+" play, though it need not necessarily be.


  • edited September 2015
    ...the part of miniatures gaming where you paint a mini or build a set-piece and bring it to the game and everyone fawns over it, is still there with LEGO stuff. People appreciate clever uses of bricks and employing or defying the constrains inherent in the medium. And one particularly cool thing is a game where everyone brings stuff together and you end up with a playing field grander than any one person could muster.
    For me, this is definitely one attractive part of playing in this mode (whether with LEGOs or with other sorts of minis/puppets/etc.).

    I've always thought that might be why I never had much fun with action figure-sized miniature gaming in this sort of mode: neither I nor anyone I know has anything approaching sets appropriate to figures of action-figure scale. (These things do exist, of course, in the form of something like a doll house or some adolescent toys, but I own none of those things. Perhaps I'll get there when my daughter gets older...)
  • That was a great AP!

    I am starting to see some real potential for LEGO that I just hadn't thought about before, especially the fun of the destruction aspects!


    Second, during play, we quickly moved away from distance-based combat and instead used relative positioning, although we used all the other components of the d20 combat system. This occurred because we ended up constantly picking up our mini-figs, posing them (they have bendable arms, bendable waists, turnable heads [often with different faces], and twistable hands, as well as customizable hair or head accessories), and otherwise doing puppet play, including moving them around the built environments in three dimensions. The d20 rules for 3-D miniatures combat were a nightmare, so we just threw out exact distances all together and treated distance much more loosely, which was partially made possible by the close use/manipulation of physical space with the mini-figs. This is connected in some ways to what Bob says about distance, space, and position becoming more symbolic than representational.
    I find that loose, representational space use with miniatures play is one of the hardest things to get across as a concept when talking about this stuff.

    When folks who are mostly miniatures wargamers have issues with it, I kinda get where the difficulty comes from. With folks who are used to "theater of the mind" style approaches, it surprises me when they can't make the leap.

    I've been trying to come up with better ways to describe the methods, but I'm a bit stymied. Part of it is simply that all of it is rather loose, and seems to develop organically during play, yet people usually seem to have little problem figuring it out naturally in practice.

    In general, the answer to how far does a regular human character move in a single move ?seems to naturally gravitate towards 6"-7"- roughly the distance of the hypotenuse formed by creating a right angle with your thumb and index finger. It isn't exact, but it seems common, at least with something like gaming minis ( and I guess Lego as well).

    Everything else is based off that.

    If for some reason, a figure should move shorter distance ( sneaking, rough terrain, heavy armor, whatever), you guesstimate how much less: 1/3, 1/2, just slightly less. Likewise, faster moving can be a slight addition in the same way ( four legged critters, running on the flat, some kind of highly athletic character).

    And sometimes terrain points the way. Going through a door may stop you just inside the door. Stairs may be similar, or a jump involved somewhere along the path, or lots of zig-zag movement.

    As for ranged combat, everything at that range or less is very deadly. Pistols are in their element. Other weapons are roughly a multiple of that, although there is usually a general consensus that as range increases the "range bands" can decrease to keep everything kind of close to the center of the physical minis location. Without delving too deeply, most people will also tend to agree that generally, weapons of any sort used much beyond two or three moves away tend to start being used in a more suppression role, with hits based more on luck/bad luck than anything else. Unless a character is specifically taking some kind of action to achieve more and properly trained for it.

    Stuff further away from the area of focus (basically that amorphous circular-ish area where Our Heroes are operating) tends to either move more slowly or less often, or usually both. It's mentally and physically tied to a sense of "Hint at a Future Danger".

    By simple observation, this is also how children tend to play with toy people. So maybe that's why it seems so natural. I watched my buddy's son do that two nights ago playing on his playroom floor with his WW2 soldiers and tanks.

    My difficulty is figuring out how write that up into a method to follow. I fear that if I say: 6" is the base of everything, and blahblahblah..." readers will treat it tooo literally, to much like rules, and not enough like the flexible tool I intend it as.
    Overall, even in the otherwise traditional game, the LEGOs--and the play they supported--made the campaign feel hugely different than other d20 games I've played, even ones with otherwise similar players, themes, tone, and so forth.
    Playing with toys really does add a different feel, and it's one that's hard to pin down until it has been experienced.

    Your posts seem to confirm my thoughts about it really being an important preliminary aspect that players in these games have to have Toy Love at some basic shared level ( possibly latent for some players) for the bulk of the group for this to work well.

    The thing I had not considered was that creation of some of the physical stuff may also need to be part of the formula for success. What form that creation aspect takes is flexible and variable, but important. It seems to be something important for the majority of the group to engage in in some fashion ( and I also count the destruction aspects you talked about as part of that). Creation could be the literal arts'n'crafts of gaming minis, but it could also be building aspects of the LEGO set pieces, the minifigs, or even just the general layout of the layout. Something that goes beyond just the fiction creation. I'm not sure every player needs it, but I suspect the majority of the group needs it in some fashion and in some amount.

    I've also played in other campaigns and one-shots that used LEGOs in different ways--if you want, I can share a bit about these and how things differed, but I think this example shows how close LEGO play can be to the general archetype of "minis+" play, though it need not necessarily be.
    I'd love to hear about other variations and how they went over.

  • I've always thought that might be why I never had much fun with action figure-sized miniature gaming in this sort of mode: neither I nor anyone I know has anything approaching sets appropriate to figures of action-figure scale. (These things do exist, of course, in the form of something like a doll house or some adolescent toys, but I own none of those things. Perhaps I'll get there when my daughter gets older...)
    I think it starts to get into issues of price and space. Kids can do similar kinds of play partially because they're willing to crawl around on the floor or ground for hours on hands and knees.

    Kids are also pretty clever about creating all kinds of sets with stuff like cardboard boxes, markers and tape.

    I suspect that one of the things that makes gaming with any toys more acceptable is a show of effort on the part of the participants. It usually comes out n the form of beautifying the stuff in some fashion. The toy soldiers are painted or modified. The table layout looks more like a model railroader's personal garage project. Or even just that you're playing on a table rather than the floor. It's what moves the outside observer's reaction from " Good Lord! I suspect my brother in law is having some sort of age regression mental issue!" to " Well, my brother in law has an eccentric, but clearly adult, hobby".

    One thing I d think can be learned and used from doll houses/action figure play sets is how they toy-scale buildings and just emphasize the really relevant parts of them.

    Here's a link:
    http://www.starwars.com/news/from-cardboard-space-stations-to-creature-cantinas-kenner-vintage-playsets-part-1

    That's stuff from my youth, for Star Wars figures from the 1970s. Check out the Death Star play sets, especially the cardboard Death Star set from about mid-way down the page.

    That general design philosophy just must have something applicable to more loose styles of gaming with miniatures,

  • edited September 2015
    I avoided looking at this thread because I felt I'd said all I needed to say in private, but it is actually really interesting!

    Rafael Chandler hacked/mashed miniatures play and Archipelago a few years ago. I played it once, it was fun.

    Plastic Soldier Review is a good resource for 1/72 civilians and stuff, like:

    http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=490
    http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=2409
  • Hmm, some thoughts on LEGO gaming...

    Evil Stevie's Pirate Game was well suited to multiple people pre-building stuff. I built up a large enough collection of minifigs and accessories that the game could be run without worry about mixing stuff. Other people could supply islands, ports, and ships with little worry about mixing up stuff. There was not too much "character generation" so getting started was pretty simple (lay out islands and ports, and populate at least some of them with interesting encounters) then players would pick a ship (we did the "campaign" game so everyone started with the smallest ship).

    But for the most part, the game could easily be run with other props. Playmobil would also be a good pick, though there would be less variety in ships (and maybe more dedication to collect them) and you might construct islands differently.

    I still have all the stuff in boxes...

    I've also considered a contributory "medieval" campaign where we would have a huge table with a semi-permanent setup, but folks could build new things. I build a lot of stuff in this theme following a modular terrain standard that has allowed me to grow from a 5'x3' display to a 5'x15' display the last time I showed it, and still growing. This would actually be challenging for me to set up at home (for one thing, I only have 5'x7.5' worth of tables...

    Frank
  • edited September 2015

    Rafael Chandler hacked/mashed miniatures play and Archipelago a few years ago. I played it once, it was fun.
    I really wish the original version of that hack (titled In a Grail Epoch, iirc) was still up online.

    What I'm working on right now is essentially a hack of that, which, summarized, is:

    Use Rafael's game...but with even more toys!!!! ( and here are my thoughts on doing that..)

    As an aside, Michael's Crafts store is absolutely dangerous for your budget if you're a minis head. I ended up buying a big pad of Halloween themed scrapbooking paper to make something like this:
    http://www.inlgames.com/modhou.htm

    Studio 13
    It's Halloween Night 1978 and the boogeymen are out in force.
    Saturday Night Fever meets The Monster Squad meets Starsky and Hutch

    Nope, I have no clue where I'm going with that either. But I'm feelin' it, y'know?

    (Besides, I can apparently make an entire 3 Woman band entirely from Heroclix versions of Dazzler for about $1.50. That alone justifies this line of thought.)

  • My 13th age game has been using minis. The terrain is mostly lego, though I've been adding non-lego decorations (a giant lego tree used pieces of plastic grass from the dollar store to create more realistic looking leaves, while several more recent designs have incorporated cotton spider-webs). The human and human-ish PC minis are also lego minifigs (the pixie PCs, however, are made of puff balls and ribbon wings taped to a lego stand). NPCs and monsters are mostly non-lego though, because a) I have minis and cardboard bits that do a good job of representing them, and b) they're tough-to-impossible to build with the lego collection I've got.

    Things I've done which have worked out well:

    I built a monster into a hill. Specifically a Bulette. The players didn't notice that the hill in one corner of the the terrain I'd built had an eye and a shark-fin. But when one of their characters made a great spot check and I said "you notice this hill is sort of monster-shaped", they had a moment of recognition that was a lot of fun (and then got nearly eaten by land sharks

    I've made a modular room for the dungeon/plane they're exploring, and just swap out bits to create the room I want--the base is a room with a bunch of lava pits in it, but I have platforms with furnishings that I can use to cover the lava and make the specific room I want.

    I messed around with scale to create a sense of overwhelming threat. When they're going from room to room fighting monsters, they're at standard mini-fig scale. But when they entered a new area, I gave them a 1x1 brick painted to show the entire party, and put them in a cave that contained a fortress suspended over a pit of spider webs. It helped say "yeah, this is a big deal" in ways that verbal description alone didn't, and probably helped lead them to solving the problem with a different set of tool than they would have used had I presented the situation at battle-scale.
  • Those are some really brilliant uses of Lego. I like that scale change one in particular.
  • On a dare-to-be-dumb note, I've actually started building the Disco scenario set and plan to test it with a buddy and at least another volunteer or two soon. Turned out to be easier to build than I'd expected.
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