Monday, 15 April 2013

Universal soldiers and a past and future polycosmos

Thanks to John Till and Chirine ba Kal I recently found Bronze Age Miniatures. They have some real gems in 32mm, but the models that stand out for me are the three here.

They're up as 'space adventurers', but beyond maybe the trousers and a possible pistol on one hand they could be in many times and places. Are they sci-fi, fantasy, modern?

For 40K they could cover hive gangers, mercenaries or renegades, or some unknown faction, and they'd probably fit Infinity too. They could be D&D adventurers old school or new. They'd also work for pseudo-historical gladiators and Earth-bound post-apocalyptic.

Lightly armed? Maybe that facewear could be a kind of mandiblaster or banshee mask.

It makes me wonder...

Why do so few producers make near-universal models? Or, rather, what happened to the wide-open worlds of the past, the '60s, '70s and '80s? Have our minds closed..?

Think about the gonzo blend that early D&D could be and was, and is now for the people still playing and discovering anew. Anything goes, provided our imaginations are up to it.

The flame of just this kind of imagining may been carried on in the ultra-mainstream, but flickering, in the legacy of shows like Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock, and the tone of children's programming and cartoons in general, possibly the holodeck in TNG-DS9-Voyager, and later Quantum Leap, Stephen King's The Dark Tower of course, arguably certain aspects of The X-Files, The Truman Show, Dark City, maybe even The Far Side.

And maybe a lot more that I'm just not remembering right now. I'll take any suggestions.

But in mainstream tabletop gaming? Notably Rifts, Torg and GURPS. In wargaming not much springs to mind, even at GW with its overlapping settings of Warhammer and 40K.

Can we even agree today what mainstream tabletop gaming is? Look at the increasing fragmentation into closed realms, neighbouring fiefdoms but with no diplomatic relations.

Still, with the possible decline at GW and growth in third party producers, and with new skirmish systems moving into the centre, could wide-open worlds be on the way back?

The prospects do look good. And I have a suggestion for the people involved - for the big names of the future - for the sake of that essential magic and maybe the wider truth too.

Work together, or at least not against each other: by all means compete, but leave the doors open, and more literally so: place in your worlds ways over into others, paths among the many settings - explicitly. Think Flailsnails and Hereticwerks, even the Ends.

Think how that could boost sales at the expense of the behemoths. Think of the scope for crossovers and spin-offs, the dizzy new heights of imagination - and with safety nets.

But be bold: avoid those old zero sum mistakes. After all, the tide floats all the boats.

When it comes to system-hopping maths, the landscape gets easier-going all the time.

For some of my thinking on it, have a look through the past two years of propluristemic content, but above all the posts on the D1 and deeper dice, the Pluristem, Conan Le Barbare and framing, the concepts of ouroboral and fractal gaming, Warhammer xK, the Transpluristemics, the Ends community project and the opportunity of alterpluristemics.


CounterFett said...

For the wacky and weird that used to epitomize D&D, I think we nostalgists need look no farther than He-Man.

Seriously, that had swords, magic, astronauts, blasters, aliens, dimensional travel, talking animals, secret identities.

Pretty trippy, when you get right down to it.

John Till said...

I am glad you like the minis, Porky! And a great post. I was delighted recently to find the Best of Dragon issue with the article on incorporating Kzinti in AD&D. There used to be a lot of that kind of cross-play and I miss it.

Porky said...

@ CounterFett - Very true. It's been brought up before as an inspiration for playing D&D, a bit like Thundarr, and may have been heavily inspired by D&D too. The figures were a big part of it of course, and possibly to some extent all there was to it. There's a little discussion of the overlap here, and a while back Mike found some homebrew.

@ John Till - I miss it too, but I'm very optimistic. Things are changing, small steps by many different people. The fun and stimulation there is in crossovers is clear enough. That and the value to the producers should become increasingly clear as the number of options rises. Imagination could well grow with it.