Saturday, 23 January 2021

Talking about running?

 Yes that's right, running, not running an adventure... Actual running. 

I shall start with a wee bit of personal history... I used to be fat, not just a bit overweight but proper fat. To the point where it was literally crippling me. Operations on my spine, paralysis and long periods in traction etc. It wasn't until a surgeon said "Mr future old Git... Unless you sort your weight out, you will end up in a wheel chair in your thirties." 

It quite honestly scared the crap out of me. The following week I lost 11lbs, I noticed the difference straight away. I felt better, happier and looked different. I lost more, started rock climbing, lost more weight, started running and got down from 19.5 stone to 13 stone. Felt wonderful and lifted my mood hugely.

Skip a few years, things were a bit rubbish and I was going through a rough patch and getting bouts of depression. I went to the doctor and he asked if I ran at all, I said I used to. He told me the best way to beat low moods and depression without chemicals is to run and do exercise. I started running again and it worked a treat. I got massively into running, did marathons and half marathons, my week revolved around my Sunday long run. 

What on earth has this got to do with TTRPG's I hear you ask?

I can't help noticing on Twitter especially how many role-players say they have mood issues, mental health issues and especially sleep problems. 

This isn't me preaching, this is me trying to help a bit. I know it's difficult at the moment with lockdown and everything, but exercise is a massive boost to your mood, it gives you free headspace time to think about game ideas, stories, scenarios, characters. Away form a screen or a TV, which do sap energy and don't always help with the creativity. It can help you to sleep, lift the dark thoughts and leave the demons behind you. Those things that can affect your creativity can literally be left eating your dust. 

It helps me loads. I plan and think about all the things I want to do when I am out, walking or running. It also has the added benefit of improved stamina, long game sessions fueled on coffee, coke and crisps get run on pure zest and energy then. It's a much healthier way of gaming. 

Sorry if I am preaching. It's not meant that way. I am fifty in a couple of years and if I did not run or walk, I would quite honestly go bonkers. Exercise can really help improve your gaming. 


fitness
Cardio is important


Thursday, 21 January 2021

Mryddin's Circle

 One of the original old gits @Hopper_JT and I made contact last week after getting of for thirty years of no contact at all. It was a good evening spent chatting and reminiscing about events and people and our old gaming club. 

I moved to this area in 1989, straight from school aged 16, no friends here and just a fascination for fantasy books and painting Warhammer miniatures and with only a small amount of experience with roleplaying. On one of the first visits to the town I spotted a hand written poster in the local hobby shop where I purchased some miniatures. 

Myrddin's circle poster
This is how we rolled back then, hand drawn posters and land line numbers6



It was for Myrddin's Circle, a roleplaying / gaming club in town. It had a name and a contact number. So for me, I did something that was very brave and I called and arranged to meet Jon. What followed was friendship that lasted directly for a year or so while Jon was in the area and fortunately has carried on where we left off. 

Myrddin's Circle poster
Quality posters, you don't get them like this any more... Sadly. 

Jon was great, he made me (aged 16) very welcome and suffered me being an irritating teenager at the games. But I learned a lot and he helped my find my roleplaying feet (not furry). We had a few extra players, Eric from Canada (also just made contact again after many years) and Griff and a few others. We even made the local paper at one point, because you know, Dungeons and Dragons was so weird and wacky back then!

Myrddin's Circle newspaper cutting
Two members of the original Old Gits... Mryddin's Circle. That's me in the middle with the hair, when I still had hair. 1989!

Back in 1989 / 1990 there was a new thing just starting to be more heard of, Live Roleplaying, I had read about it and seen the amazing costumes in GM magazine and I had to do it! So I contacted one of the groups I had read about, Fools and Hero's and asked if I could set up a local branch. They ummed and ahhed about it as I was so young still, 17 at most. But they said yes, I got trained up, it was all very professional and the Aberystwyth branch of Fools and Hero's was opened. We celebrated with another hand drawn poster...
Fools and Hero's poster
Fools and Hero's Aberystwyth. 

It ran quite well, even with the modest number of members we had in Aberystwyth. I went along to the festivals they held and again made a good number of new roleplaying friends. 

I can't begin to tell you how happy I was to see these pictures that Jon sent to me, I have not seen them for thirty years and in honesty, I had forgotten I set up the Fools and Hero's branch in Aber, when I was so young. 

This to me is proper roleplaying history, hand made, hand drawn, no smart phones and video screens... This is how us Old Git's rolled. 

PS..... I would love to get in touch with any of the old Fools and Hero's members if anyone knows of any?



Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Holding Out for a hero

 Now you all have Bonnie Tyler's famous song from 1984 going through your head, I kind of have your attention. 


For years when we were playing AD&D we had a very relaxed method of rolling up new characters, we would roll four D6, drop the lowest number and add the rest, do this six times for the stats and then do six sets of these and chose the best set. Plus we could arrange the numbers how we wanted them to assign them to the stats we wanted to be the better ones. 

AD&D stats
Six sets of six, 4 D6 drop the lowest

We did this because not only did we not want to be limbered with really weak characters (weak characters are a pain for DM's as well as not much fun to play), but we jointly assumed that the sort of person who was going to be going off adventuring, was more than likely going to be above average in terms of capabilities. Stronger than average, better fighters, more intelligent, the most inquisitive and wise. Not content with the hum-drum life they had been given, they needed to seek adventure. 

There have always been alternative methods for creating characters, and we took this one and modified it to give us the best chance of having a character we wanted to enjoy playing. We did try playing with really restrictive stat rolling methods, but not a single player had fun, the DM struggled to make the adventures playable and not instantly deadly and we realised that most of the fun of roleplaying was being able to live out your fantasies and to play characters we kind of dreamed of being. 

There should always be an element of struggle and peril in a game, but not so much that it's just a chore and a grind trying to stave alive. We felt this relaxed rolling method worked the best for us, that and an understanding DM, if the six sets were all really pants.

I will leave you with Bonnie Tyler now so you can enjoy the Welsh singers best song ever. 



Rich 2021




Tuesday, 12 January 2021

The Joy of Hex

 Who here loves HEX paper?


MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!


I used to spend hours upon hours drawing maps, layouts and plans on hex paper pads purchased from game shops. I would selotape them together to make massive worlds, and then promptly losing interest in that world and start another one.

Happened all the time. For me, the joy was with the hex paper and the mapping, maps have always fascinated me. I was a member of my local mountain rescue team for a while and as a keen outdoorsman I can and do spend hours looking at maps. So to have a blank piece of hex paper and an overabundance of imagination fizzing away it was pure joy. Space maps, fantasy maps, town maps and dungeon layouts, all were possible and easy top use on HEX paper. 

I have not seen it in shops for a while, it's all gone virtual, but some kind soul sent me some pdf's of hex paper to print off and use again when I have time (that's the crux... time) to start planning adventures again.


What to do? The imagination I feel has been dulled by years of work drudgery and the need to be an adult, I would love to feel the same fizz again of ideas, of waking up buzzing to get started on a new world, new maps, new cities. That fire I am sure will come back.


hex paper
The joy of HEX

Does anyone else still get the same thrill from using pens, pencils and HEX paper?


Thursday, 7 January 2021

It started with a Hobbit

 Well...it sort of started with the Hobbit. Picture the scene if you will. It's 1978 and a young me is off to the cinema to see Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings. I didn't know what the film was about, other than the cool poster

The film just captured my imagination and I have a soft spot for the movie today. I still own a copy! I found myself wondering about this story. The young me wondered if it had anything to do with the Hobbit. A story that had appeared on a kids show of the time called Jack-a-nory. I wondered if it had anything to do with those intimidating books I saw in the library. The drama teacher at my school had posters of certain characters on his wall. I had wondered for years who they were. Now I knew. It had captured my imagination in ways that no other kids movie had. I started reading fantasy. I started reading those intimidating books. I played the Hobbit on my old spectrum 48k (very old school home computer). That might have been that though, had it not been for the fact that I also had joined a wargaming group, roughly about the same time. 

One day I saw an advert for our wargame club, with a new offering called "Middle Earth" gaming. I was excited. When I saw one of the teachers who ran the club, I asked him what "Middle Earth" gaming was about.

His reply was:

"Not really sure to be honest. Something about knights charging each other in tunnels"


I tried to imagine what that would look like. I also couldn't recall anything like that happening in Lord of the Rings. And so I walked away, slightly deflated.

When the club met later that week, I had a chance to see "Middle Earth" in action. A group of boys had got a table at the back of the room. A green cloth had been thrown over it. Books were placed underneath to make hills. A few props placed on it. Some large miniatures were present that sort of looked like hobbits.


I watched this game for a short while. I have to be honest, I was not impressed. They spent most of the evening arguing over rules. The rules were of course the original dungeons and dragons boxed set. I didn't know what dungeons and dragons was, but what I did know, is that this game had nothing whatsoever to do with "Middle Earth". I got tired of watching this group go round robin on some interpretation of the rules. I didn't get it and frankly didn't care to.

And so the years pass. Middle Earth faded from view. Real life intervened and I could easily have gone down a different path. One Saturday, I chanced across a sci-fi magazine in the local news agents. It was an American mag, called Astounding tales. Quite rare to see something like that in the UK at that time. It was an impulse buy and it put me back on the path so to speak. It was the usual collection of articles and short fiction. As I read it, I found one article in it concerning something called "Roleplaying Games" - I didn't know what these were, but I read the article all the same. Man! That article lit a fire in me that day. It not only explained what the hobby was, but gave a description of a crazy game that was a mix of high fantasy and Sci-fi. I was completely hooked. The passion with which the author had treated his subject, sold me on roleplaying. I also realised that this is what those boys from my time in School had tried to do but failed. They were playing it wrong - came the cry. (an issue for another blog perhaps) I would do better I thought. The problem was - how? I was too young and inexperienced to consider homebrewing something. I knew I had to get my hands on one of these games. It was then that fortune fell in my lap in the shape of an old wargaming magazine, called "The Wargamer" - this issue though, was a roleplaying special. I'm having that I thought and raced off home with my treasure. In it, it had a few essays on the hobby, but it also had a "pick your path to adventure" solo scenario. I can't remember much about it, but it was the first time I had an example of what a game could be like and let me try it out. The magazine had one more surprise for me. It had a review of a game being released in the UK. The game was called: Runequest. The review was quite the glowing one and I was determined to get a copy in my hands ASAP.  I had to wait a while, but one Xmas eve I was given money to go and buy it. (My folks were worried they'd end up buying the wrong thing.) I went to a game store (long since gone sadly) and picked up a copy and was advised to also pick up a packet of Dragon Dice, which I did. It will come as no surprise to anyone, that I started reading it as soon as I got home.

Runequest 2nd edition. It was everything I could have wanted. It was also a very easy system to pick up, especially for someone who was coming into this via an old movie and some magazine articles. It was clear from the outset that the game was a bronze age setting. The ducks threw me (ducks are playable race in the game) but the rest of the setting gave off strong vibes of Conan, Robert Adams Horse clans, the Sinbad movies like Eye of the Tiger and the old Jason & the Argonauts movie from the 60s. Runequest was a world with some very unique ideas at the core of it. It was a mix of ancient Babylon, Ancient Greece, Rome and plains Indians of America. It had no orcs or goblins. Trolls were an ancient race and not evil. Elves looked like man sized Ents. And yes, lets not forget the the Ducks. Everyone can use magic, Rune Lords and Rune Priests could wield God Power. Spirits could be captured and bound. Hero Quests could be attempted were characters would reenact ancient deeds of valour. At the heart of it was a very simple percentage system. First chance I had, I ran the first scenario set in the town of Apple Lane. From that moment the die had been cast and my path set.

From Glorantha, I would be dungeon delving in Tunnels and Trolls. Flying rusty old Free Traders in Traveller. Play survivors of the apocalypse in games like Aftermath, The Morrow Project and Gamma World. I play in westerns and play as Samurai in games like Bushido. Fought ancient alien and godlike beings in Call of Cthulhu. And yes - I finally got to Middle Earth via the Middle Earth roleplaying game. It would be a full 10 years before I finally encountered Dungeons and Dragons again. This time it was 2nd Edition "Advanced" Dungeons and Dragons. The difference here, apart form the mechanics. Was that the previous games all had worlds built around them. AD&D had none as part of its core rules. You had to buy into a world separately. But I encountered most of them From Greyhawk to Spelljammer, though I still rate the old Lankhmar setting as my favourite. I like the old sword and sorcery tales best.

It was quite a convoluted journey to get into the hobby. A movie. A terrible example of D&D. A couple of magazine articles. Glad I took the trip.

Rock n Roll Generation

 I was watching the Lemmy Rockumentary the other night, he was a man from a very different generation to where we are now. 

That's kind of how I feel. 

I have been away from the roleplaying world for a good number of years now, and although I have never truly disengaged from it, I have not been active or mixed with people who are currently active in it, until recently. 

Before I get too involved, I think you need to know a bit more about me as it is entirely possible I will get badly judged for some of the things I am going to say. I am (very) left wing and active in my politics, I would describe myself as an anarcho-socialist and pro LGTBQ and equal rights, civil rights. I am what a lot of people would describe as "woke", but...

Roleplaying back in the late 80's and 90's was a group of mates playing in a smelly bedroom, usually there was porn on a TV in the background, there was lots of cigarettes being smoked, often joints lots of crap food, fry-ups and endless bags of crisps and chocolate. The games were full of dreadful jokes, bad puns and really poor sexual innuendo along the lines of DM "Dawn comes"... The players in unison "Orgasm noises". 

Oddly enough, far from being the outcasts in the town we lived in, we were some of the cooler cats. I had moved from a place where being a nerd was bad to where being a nerd was cool. We loved it! We drank, smoked too much and played AD&D badly. We argued not over rules but over what we thought was physically possible, we never put any thought into characters backstory, they were just poor copies of characters from books, my mate basically played Rasitlin, but because he was a bit lacking in imagination, called him X the Mystic because he could not come up with another name. 

We hit imaginary monsters with imaginary weapons and cast imaginary spells in imaginary situations and laughed and laughed and laughed. And that was it.

And now coming back into it after a gap of many years I see things like this, and I feel kind of lost. 

rpg text
Alien concepts to me

And please please please do not think I am posting this example to make fun of it, it is merely an example of things similar to what I have found recently. 

To me, the above example is completely alien to me, not only do I struggle with the terminology, I just don't recognise it as part of roleplaying. I am not saying it's bad or wrong, I simply do not understand it or see it as part of what I remember a game to be.

I would love to hear some of your feedback on this. I know I grew up in a time when feelings were repressed, gender issues were not discussed other than to use as insults and they certainly played no part in roleplaying, what to us was a way to kill a few hours on a Sunday evening. 

I love roleplaying, I used to spend hours making maps, writing scenarios, reading fantasy and sci fi books (still do) and use them as inspiration for games. I am a total sci-fi and fantasy art nerd and I totally love arms and armour. But seeing people get so emotional over characters, agonising over drawing maps and seemingly seeking confirmation from other gamers over their feelings, just leaves me confused. 

I am not saying what goes on today is wrong, I need to get used to it, it's not going to change for me! I am not saying our games were wrong, they brought us endless hours of pleasure, what I am saying is us older rock and roll generation of gamers need to understand where the new players are coming from, and they also need to understand where us old gits are coming from at times.

Its a voyage of discovery for me now again. I am an old git in a new and alien world so please go easy on us old gits, we are often confused. 

ADvanced Dungeons and Dragons
Dungeon Master... Old school




Sunday, 3 January 2021

Let's get muddy (Possibly)

 What started as a fairly innocent conversation on Twitter has sparked an idea that is continuing to grow.

A Table Top Roleplaying Festival... A place for you and your mates to come for a weekend, meet up, game, drink, listen to music, have a laugh and then go home with some festival tales and a wrist band. 

The Old Gits are working on it at the moment, it's still very much in it's infancy and we very much need Covid-19 to hurry up and do one, but it's there as an working plan. 

Festival camping
Rolefest or Burning Elf

Contacts are being made locally and discussions are being held, but what we want is people to come forward with ideas and suggestions, possible pit falls and things to look out for etc. Please do not be shy, spread the word and see if we can get this thing off the ground.

We will use this blog to keep you posted on any developments so keep checking in. 

Any ideas or offers of help please get in touch with us at oldgitsanddragons@gmail.com


Thursday, 31 December 2020

Post Good Book Lag... Lightstone Series Book review

 Everyone who reads feels this at some point in their reading life, usually a lot more than once. This for me though is the worst I have possibly ever had it and it's definitely lasting longer than normal as well. 

The Lightstone by David Zindell
The First in the Lightstone Series of Books by David Zindell

The books I am suffering withdrawal symptoms from are the Lightstone Series by David Zindell, (/the link to the first of the series is HERE). I first came across the author David Zindell when I was 15 and I read his science fiction book Neverness, which was the first real hard science sci-fi book I had ever read, it was also full of philosophy and concepts that quite literally altered the way I chose to live. To say it had a massive effect on me is an understatement. So, when I saw he had written some fantasy books I was hugely interested as that was really the genre I was interested in back then.

I read the first one when it came out in 2001 and read it and loved it, then I read the second book in the series that came out and loved that, but then I got confused. The second book that came out is the second part of Book 1, I then must have gotten the wrong book and got lost and put them to one side and forgotten about them until recently. The gaps in publication and life at the time meant I just got lost and confused with what I had or hadn't read. I was also a massive bibliophile and had hundreds of books to read (now sadly lost)

Fate landed me in a position where I have a lot of free time on my hands and I had recently been in contact with the author and it had sparked my enthusiasm to read the books properly and in the correct order. So I got the kindle version and sat down to read it. And it was as good as I remember. 

I am not going to go into detail with the plot, that's up to you to discover! Suffice to say it's a series set around a good old set of quests and an age long struggle between good and evil, as a lot of fantasy books are. The difference I got from these is that the struggle is really boomin difficult and the evil is truly nasty and has consequences not just to the world, but the whole universe if it succeeds. There is a real feeling of peril and risk in the books. 

David has also managed to work in themes and hints of mythology from our own world and past, leaving you wondering about the placing of the books. Are they in our past, in our far future, or are they just in a parallel universe that has close mirrors to our own. I have tried to ask him and he has been evasive in his answers!

The one thing I did find with these books is that I got so involved with the characters and plot that I genuinely felt I was living it with them. I even started dreaming about it, which has happened so rarely in my rather long reading life that it is quite important for me. This Is why I am suffering such an immense feeling of loss now I have finished the series. I wake up wanting to know how Maram is doing and missing the fact I have no epic struggle to read and enjoy during the day. Finishing these books has left a huge void. 

The books are not an easy read, there are long periods of quite intense dialogue and when it gets bleak it gets REALLY bleak to the point I felt quite lost. David has a deep interest in philosophy and like his science fiction works, these philosophical themes are worked through in the books, this can lead to some of the heavy dialogue, but bear with it, it's worth it!

They are nearly twenty years old now, but they definitely stand the time test and have not aged at all. Please give them a go. 

Rich 2020

Get your Sh*t together

 On the eve of a new year, after an absolutely rubbish year some of us are starting to think about how it can possibly get any worse. It's worth remembering that Mad Max was set in 2021 and Cyberpunk was 2020.

So with that in mind it's time to crack out a classic game and get into the spirit of chaos and catastrophe and play Aftermath! 

Aftermath TTRPG
Aftermath, failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

I played it ages ago and it was a good game, I can't remember anything about the system, sorry, it kind of felt a little bit like Traveller but more dirty and simplified. What I can remember about it though is it did make me think about what would happen in this situation and I did start making plans and lists on things I needed to sort out in the even of the end of civilisation as we know it. They used to say roleplaying, especially Dungeons and Dragons was a gateway into demon worship and Satanism, well, all it did with me was get me interested in a survivalism a bit and learned quite a few handy skills.

Us old gits are hard to kill.
If you see an old-un in a post apocalypse setting, they are alive for a reason, they are tough!

Anyway, Aftermath is well worth hunting down and giving it ago. 


Wednesday, 23 December 2020

First ever time...

 The year is 1988, I was just about to turn 15 and I was just starting to get more into roleplaying. I had experienced Warhammer Fantasy Battle and I was already used to buying and painting miniatures, but I kept hearing about roleplaying games, and I wanted to find out more. 

Now, I have absolutely no idea how I found out about it, there was no social media then, it may even have been an advert in a local advertiser paper come to think about it, but anyhow, I got a telephone number for a man that was part of a roleplaying club in a slightly bigger village near where I lived. The club met on Sunday's and I was more than welcome to go along.

My dad, bless his cotton socks, was happy to take me over there on a Sunday, drop me off and then pick me up at four in the afternoon. Thus was arranged my first ever trip to a roleplaying club, with actual adults.

It met in a village hall and they had a large table ready set out with books, dice and polystyrene cups of coffee and hot chocolate. I was warmly welcomed and introduced to the rest of the group. They were playing GURPS and I was helped and guided through the really confusing process of getting a character together. I had no idea what was going on AT ALL! I just did what they told me. 

Gurps screen
GURPS DM Screen. I had no idea what was going on...


I was massively impressed, one of the chaps there had an actual chain mail pencil case. It was Awesome!

I only went a few times, I embarrassed myself badly by laughing at a totally inappropriate joke and spitting hot-chocolate over all the books and maps over the table, and I felt I could never return after that.

I moved from the area not long after anyway and found a small group called Myrddins Circle (Merlin's Circle) in the little coastal town where I now live. And that was where I truly found my roleplaying feet. I started going every Sunday to the University club at the student Uni where I my friend and other old Git the Armoured Wizard who I have stayed in contact with now for over thirty years.

I guess the point that I am trying to make is that I have never come across a more social hobby than this, the only other one that has come close was climbing which is super friendly. Roleplaying has given me confidence and some really strong long term friends, who I cherish and always will. My one regret from that period of my life is that I have no photographs of us all. 

I will have a 10" Spicy mexican Pizza and a pint of strawberry milk tonight in memory of the many happy hours spent at the Student Union Roleplaying Club. 



Monday, 21 December 2020

Gaming music

 This one goes out in memory of Wargaming Dave. He may or may not still be alive, but given his predilection for substance abuse and general poor state of health, and the fact I last saw him well over twenty five years ago, chances are slim. 

Dave was an ex bomb disposal officer, he was slightly deaf  FROM TOO MANY BLASTS, he then joined the fire brigade and then got pensioned off with an injury. Dave spent most of his free time abusing substances and wargaming. He had an excellent set up for Warhammer and a decent amount of miniatures and we spent hours at Dave's playing a really basic version of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, with very little magic, only magic items and weapons and no spells or wizards. It worked well for us. 

Anyway, Dave was a bit of a character, he had a Battle Axe I used to drool over and we used to listen to very cool music at Dave's and listen to stories of the Hawkwind concerts he had been to. The one musician he did introduce me too was Bo Hanson, a Swedish musician who used to play keyboards for Jimi Hendrix, but had a good solo career as well. He would rent an island in the middle of a fjord with some friends and make music. 

One album he did was music inspired by Lord of the Rings and this is what Dave used to play a lot, and it was perfect for us, the atmosphere, the games, the whole situation. Dave said when it came out you either tripped out to Dark Side of the Moon or Bo Hanson's Lord of the Rings. 

It's stayed one of my all time favourite albums ever since, and one I play a lot when painting or gaming, or just chilling out and remembering the good old days in the early nineties. 

Anyway, enjoy....




Saturday, 19 December 2020

The Weapon that games forgot.

 The Poleaxe

Poleaxe
The Poleaxe... Awesome!


These things rock and are missed out of AD&D 2nd Edition (The one and true edition). They were the most common weapon of nobility in later medieval Europe and they are totally underrated. 

It's characteristics are thus. They are about five to six feet long, have a large spike at the end and a shorter spike at the butt of the pole. They have a hammer one side and an axe or bill on the other. In combat you would use them to hook, smash, stab and generally batter. Armoured men on foot would smash at their opponents armour until the sliding rivets stopped working, the plates got bent and the man in the armour essentially seized up, then they would get them onto the floor to finish them off. 

Of course they could get lucky and land a sound head shot that would crush the skull inside the helmet or just render them totally senseless. 

Against lightly armoured people they are amazing. You can keep adversaries away due to the length of the weapon, and hammers in general are nasty! They do a lot of damage. The Poleaxe was like the swiss-army knife of medieval weapons, but whereas a Swiss army knife is a bit crap at anything because they try to do too much, the poleaxe was just brilliant. 



In terms of AD&D 2nd Edition, the Lucern Hammer is the closest, I guess but the Lucern hammer is not really the correct term, Poleaxe is the correct, generic name and covers all the variants. I don't think the stats do them justice, but you have to work within the limitations of the game, everyone would have one if it was too perfect, in the middle ages though, most people did have them, They were that good. 


Thursday, 17 December 2020

Historical Accuracy

 Now this is a controversial topic for a blog that is dedicated to fantasy (and some sci-fi) roleplaying. What is the point of historical accuracy in RPG and should we even consider it?

I feel first I need to start with a bit of background for where this is coming from. I used to do a lot of living history of various periods, mostly medieval and Viking. I am friends with some of the finest practitioners of the historical displays, research and craft and have been very lucky to handle and used a lot of different types of weaponry and armour.

So this essay will discuss predominantly some of the issues with historical accuracy in arms and armour. 

A lot of what RPG combat is based on is supposition and from watching films... Sad to say, a lot of it is just plain rubbish. Swords worn on your back? Nope, you can't draw them easily. Two swords? Nope, it's a nightmare, believe me, I have tried (two short swords possibly). Being winched onto a horse in plate armour? Nope, a person in armour needs to be as agile and speedy as they can, it totally defeats the object if you can't move in it. I have seen men in very fine plate armour, run, roll on the ground and then stand up quickly and vault onto a horses back. All perfectly possible. 

The most common armour in the middle ages was cloth, it is comfortable, easy and cheap to make, plentiful and surprisingly very effective in battle. A padded jack can protect against blows and slashes, and with the addition of a mail shirt, very good against thrusts and stabs too. It's just not very sexy and does not look like armour.

padded jack armour
A padded Jack

I would rather a padded jack or gambeson over plate any day of the week. They are warm in cold weather, and counter-intuitively not too hot in summer. They are very comfortable to wear and just darn practical. In RPG's they tend to be ignored sadly. They are ignored in favour of leather. You wear a leather jacket and get hit by a hammer and then try the same thing wearing a jack and tell me which does more.

I used to get so fed up in LARP that people would wear leather trousers, thin leather and expect it to be classed as armour, which it often would be. Leather clothing does NOTHING to protect you. I stopped allowing it to be classed as armour in the games I was running.

Mail is excellent, but on it's own is a bit pants. It's good at stopping glancing blows and poor thrusts, but hard blows and thrusts will do significant damage. Most heavily armoured people fought with hammers and maces, the intention being to smash the armour up so it made it harder to move, then get your opponent on the floor and then poke them with something sharp and thin into the visor, or armpit or groin. You hit someone squarely in the head with a warhammer, even if they are wearing a nice helmet, they are going down. 

This is the main point really of armour, it's to deflect the bad shots, and to help a bit with the good shots. This is one thing that the crit, the natural 20 is good at representing. A really good shot will kill regardless of the armour that is over the top, especially if you hit them in the head. An extra dice roll to determine location of the critical blow is a good way to decide this. 

I try to use common sense and a bit of historical knowledge when I am gaming, I don't want to destroy peoples fantasies, but there is an ultimate point of armour and that is to protect. Mail bikinis do nothing, they may look good but please don't try to claim it's armour!

My advice is, use a hammer, wear cloth armour and smack the crap out of everything that moves.  

We would really be interested to hear your thoughts on this and how you go about putting in a bit of history into your FRPG.

Old Git Rich 2020