Saturday, 31 July 2010

Keep It To Yourself

Jervis used his Standard Bearer coumn this month to talk about narrative gaming.

It was an interesting piece that boiled down to if you personalise your army, then over time a narrative will develop, and you will have many happy memories. All very nice, all very fluffy, and designed to make WAAC Tournament types froth at the mouth.

I was particularly interested to see that one of the minions in the Wizard's Tower in Lenton keeps a diary of his armies exploits. I did this ages ago, and happened to come across it when moving house. I'm not saying it was an historical document of great import but it was heart warming to read of the various expliots I had, across various periods and systems. But then I like the charts that you get at the end of a game of Civilisation.

Jervis does have a point though.

I recall a game with my Woodies in which an Alter Kindred fought three rounds of combat against shadow warriors and a mage who kept refusing the challenge. The combat drew in a unit of Elven archers, but still my hero fought on, only to fluff his attacks at the very last moment, lose his nerve, and get run down. I can't say the memory would be more vivid if I had named though.

The problem I have with Jervis saying thi,s is that if one reads the fluff GW produces one wonders when they will do the same.

For instance take the Orks. I am struggling to think of Black Library novel that has the Orks as anything more than a metaphor for the heroism of the Space Marines.

Or take the Ork codex. Why anyone after reading the fluff would think they could build an army that is anything other than a bunch of losers is beyond me. Every single campaign they highl;ight to get you enthused about the army you are about to build ends in failure.

I understand that naturally we are supposed to take the Human side in the fluff, but it would be nice if the other races were explored as something more than psychotic. Or indeed there was a nod toward what might be described as the civilising virtues. For instance Bretonia is painted as a land of heroic knights standing up for forces of good - yet the reality is that they are more akin to the kind of historical masturbation that so appealed to Himler.

Oh I understand we are supposed to be immersed in a world of constant war, but does war really make recognisable virtues disappear so completely? And the fact that people believe in Gods doesn't make the creation stories true. Not to mention that the time lines and history in 40k and WFB is entirely from one perspective - the humans.

I suppose I am risking sounding like Otto, the bus driver in the Simpsons, in wanting something from the Vampires point of view.

But I just feel uncomfortable with the notion that my Ogres are just thoughtless killers that want to eat everything, or that my Orks can't string to words together and their only plan is 'BASH 'EM'.

Of course when one does start wondering about such questions, and indeed verbalising one's hypothesis, it is not long before one runs into the fluff lawyer - who is a character not disimilar to the rules lawyer or the hard core tournie type. The fluff lawyer is very threatened by anything that is outside of the Fluff. I might want to think of my Ogres as being a fusion of Orcs and humans from Cathay caused by warpstone mutation from the asteroid impact, but if that is the case then it best to keep it to myself.... or hint at in in the names I give to the units and the characters for fear of being questioned for heresy, and looked at in a quizzical manner before enduring a lecture on stipling.


1 comment:

  1. >All very nice, all very fluffy, and designed to make WAAC Tournament types froth at the mouth.

    Meh. I mark out Gaunts that have achieved special recognition in killing enemy models. One my Tyranid Primes bears the Crest of Shame for constantly missing/failing to wound (with Poison and Talon rerolls, no less) time after time when it is critical. Narratives, being a _result_ of the flow of the game, are in no way anathema to competitive play. Doesn't mean I'll rush my 'Nids out into the middle of an open field because "That's what they'd do! They'd be really, really dumb!", but there's usually some amusement to be hand somewhere in every game.

    I think you have the right idea- no army has a monopoly on narrative. What do Ogres do when they aren't bashing people? GW is generally good about leaving the fluff open enough that you can fit in whatever you want.