Saturday, 31 January 2015

The 80s WERE Better... If you ignored the religious fundamentalists.

As you all know, I am an unapologetic 80s throwback - actually I can't be a throw back if I never came forward can I? 

And as you may also glean from my previous posts I cut my teeth back on Warhammer Fantasy right from day 1, moving on to 2nd and then 3rd edition and merely dabbling with later editions which lacked the feel of creative freedom and the sense that the designers 'cared' about their game.

It may have been unbalanced, not really made for competitive gaming until 3rd edition but it was FUN.

I can say hand on heart that I never had anything like as many (if any) arguments over WHFB compared to historical games rules - even when we simply turned up en masse to a game with totally unbalanced armies - you know, like real battles.

I've spent what little spare time I have had recently, reading my old Warhammer rules and supplements from square one and also reading through the first of my books put out in the 80s by Christian Fundamentalists who thought that playing D&D would make their sons 'Blood drinking, Devil worshipping, mother fuckers'.

The Warhammer reading has been great... I know these inside out, but I still get a frisson of excitement bordering on the need reach for the tissues whenever I delve into the books. The artwork was nothing like modern illustrations but somehow caught the spirit and feel of the game far better. The typos were terrifying at times and the typeset was literally 'type written'. Absolute joy...

There was enough background and 'fluff' to draw you in, but it was just for 'flavour' rather than gospel it has since become, with fanboys arguing over what colour the trim on the edge of an Elven gown should have been on a particular wednesday in Autumn (red, if you must know).

What was also different was that armies WERE armies and not 3000 points comprising 6 figures and looking like 'Mighty Zogg and his regular drinking buddies' (TM). Demons were not the 'fundie-friendly' daemons we have now, and they were truly dangerous, whereas in the modern game they are just another type of cannon fodder.

Battles between wizards were epic struggles with few spells beings simply dispelled. It seems that in the modern game, every wizard has a cart load of dispel scrolls rendering magic largely pointless. After all why risk 3000pts on a wizard when you can get 60+ well equipped rank and file on the table who won't be 'shut down' the first time they meet the opposing forces?

I fondly remember tinkering with rules mechanics, friends pressing 15mm Landsknechts into service as ersatz gnomes, battles in the Summer holidays being fought on a garden 15ft by 40ft and games with 800 models taking place on dining tables with units of 30 Orc cavalry and Greater Demons wading into  their foes with little room for fancy movement once the forces had been deployed.

Mothers dutifully supplied 10 or so hungry youths (is there any other type?) with viands, sometimes all weekend, and at times we could literally spend a week or more doing nothing but play Warhammer or some other game (we played more games than I care to recall, back then) moving from home to home like a band of dice-laden gypsies. Of course we would also have to check the local games stores at least every other day, or send out a scout for the group, but once that was done we'd pile onto a bus and continue our gaming frenzy.

Oh how I'd love to get the same old crew all together in one place for a 'proper game of Warhammer' one more time. Perhaps I shall...

Now, on that moment of reminiscence I will tell you a little more about the first of the anti-D&D books I purchased.

'Playing With Fire' comes in at under 100 pages and was written in 1984 by John Weldon & James Bjornstad and published by The Moody Bible Institute -and there is no wonder they were moody with writers like Weldon & Bjornstad.

I had hoped that being scholars and educated men, the authors would provide me with some interesting opinions, even if they sought to apply Christian sensibilities to the subject. However as I reach the half way point in what is more an essay than a book I am finding myself reading passages which frankly are  absolute senseless tosh. Alas, simply quoting the bible does not make an argument unless your audience already believe that line of reasoning in the first place. At best this book is a series of what today would be 'cut and paste' paragraphs, edited to show the 'facts' in a particular biased way, but upon closer inspection of those quotes you can clearly argue without any re-shaping of the context in it's original form.

I find it ludicrous that the Bible is taken as 'fact' but that when a D&D book is cited as being a malign and demonic influence it is treated as fact or fiction to suit the argument of the authors. Surely if game manuals ARE such a clear and present danger, they should be treated with a constant measured degree of caution.

However, by doing that, the authors have to accept that fictional and pre-Christian panoplies are 'real' and thereby come into conflict with their own opinions and hypotheses.

I may change my mind by the time I finish this book, but frankly I doubt it. It feels so far as if Weldon & Bjornstad simply jumped on the Fundamentalist band wagon that abounded during the Satanic Panic of the 80s with a collage of warnings about D&D and then either looked at a games magazine or maybe even have dared to venture into the heart of evil that a games shop would no doubt be, to such blinkered and uptight individuals as they, quickly jotting down a few titles before leaving hurriedly, to congratulate each other on facing up to Satan, perhaps over a root beer and some soothing biblical tracts.

How they would have reacted to the 'summoning pentagrams' printed on the back of the 1st ed Warhammer books, I don't know.

For the $00.01 that I paid for this book, I don't feel cheated. Rather I intend to show this to my daughter and grandson so that they can understand just what kind of lunatics were drawn to D&D... And I don't mean as players.

More anon...