[Another Year Of Frugal Gaming] Yes, I Believe In What We Had

The thing about packing up your troubles in your old kitbag (in readiness to ship them across the country to your new place of abode) is that it involves, by its very nature, a taking of stock and a reassessment of what you own. That’s set me to thinking about the materials I own: a brand new SAGA force and rules, a Malifaux gang that I’ve never managed to sell, a hotchpotch of models purchased for use with sundry RPGs, Hark’s LotR-SBG starter box, half a block’s worth of Magic cards and a modest selection of RPG books, mostly for Vampire: the Masquerade. That’s reminded me of something I wrote during the original Frugal mission, four years ago now, a question my exasperated grandmother used to ask me on a monthly basis: why can’t you just make do with what you’ve got?

This is where we start talking about consumption, and purchasing, and commodity fetishes – the argument that gamers are defined by the things they purchase, that the word itself exists to create a particular sense of ourselves as purchasers and centres of attention. This is a nice comfortable Marxist argument and one which seems to be rooted in observable behaviours, not least of which being that this whole series is about buying things, although it’s also an oversimplified hatchet job which overlooks that a gamer is someone who plays games. To own the thing, but never to play it, is the hallmark of the collector, and I think there’s a difference there in how the thing – the game, the model, the fancy custom die or whatever – is perceived. If it’s owned to be used then the usage arguably drives the consumption: it’s not entirely about owning things and certainly not for the sake of owning them.

What’s curious, then, if we take on board the idea that we buy things to play with them, is this: I hardly ever buy new RPG books. In the last year or two I’ve bought a few OSR/DIY D&D supplements, either to review them or because credible authorities had pronounced them decent, but that’s positively sluggish compared to my miniatures turnover and I’m not even one of those “new army every tournament season” guys.

Why is this so? Is it just because a decent RPG is playable and inspiring and fun with only its core material? Is it the lack of a meta (deflowered or otherwise) that drives people to buy new things for the sake of winning at little-lead-men games?  Is it something structural about the RPG itself? Rolling up a new character type that you’ve not played before, or taking a turn in the GM’s chair for a change, or playing an old familiar system in a different style to your usual – is it that any of these things can bring a bit of variety back into the proceedings and none of them actually require you to go out and buy new toys?

Roleplaying seems far less focused on commodities, despite the attempts of some people to sell you officially branded playmats, miniatures, proprietary dice, accessories and tie-in novels. I suppose there are mugs everywhere, actually, given that these things seem to sell, and perhaps I’m an oddity in that I still draw my maps on flipchart graph paper filched from work and give death-glares to anyone who sneers at them.

Apropos of nothing, while we’re looking back at things from old blogs (even pre-blogging, in the next case), I kinda miss Trollbloods. I don’t miss Hordes, per se, beyond the battlebox experience and the mini-tournaments that made me enjoy the faction back in the Mark One days, when life was simpler and I rolled with a crowd who were into knockabout fun rather than deflowering metas all over the shop, but I recently came across a couple of photos of my (proper, metal) Trollblood starter set from back in 2006:

photo by mailorderchild.deviantart.com

photo by mailorderchild.deviantart.com

and Hark found my Best In Faction swag from the Breast Cancer Brawl while we were packing up to move house:


I even looked, briefly, at the Trollbloods army in a box before giving myself a sound slap over the face. I’m well out of that hot mess but I might be in the market for some Trollbloods miniatures toward the end of the year, if only to put together an IKRPG adventuring party or something. I’d be much more likely to buy models for the IKRPG if Privateer Press still produced boxes of six miniatures, mind, but then, I don’t think I’m the target market any more: the game feels like more of a sideline for WM/H folks who have collections of models to borrow and distil downwards from than something to buy models especially for the purpose of running. Which brings us back to commodities again, and purchasing: apparently they’re the only important things about my identity as gamer scum, and they’re certainly the point of this post, so let’s get on with it.

Spend Less

Achieved with a side order, since I haven’t spent a nerdy penny all month, and made a couple of quid flogging off the last of my WFB accessories (the battle magic reference cards).

Game More

Completed Diablo III – well, the core game, anyway, I nibbled at Reaper of Souls a bit but I’m saving it for the next time I’m in a bad mood and just want to fucking shoot things. That’s basically the niche the game occupies for me at the moment: I’ve settled into a comfortable routine with my Demon Hunter that’s carried me through so far, and I’d like to complete it on Monk (dat accent yo) and Crusader (for multiplayer fun) at some stage, but it doesn’t have the keep-up-with-the-Joneses obligation factor that WoW used to. I feel like the spell is finally broken, not least because I barely talk to anyone on BattleNet any more.

Top X Factor

Given that I’m feeling a little guiltridden about the lack of interaction with other hobby blogs, I’ve decided to sign off these posts with a little more style than before, and talk about someone else’s good work: so, when you’re done here, point your browser at Warpstone Flux, where jabberjabber’s been talking up the Gal Vorbak kit from Forge World (and reviewing the rules too). Bangin’ good models, and apparently very nice to prepare and work with. I’m actually tempted. No particular reason. They just look nice.

You may also like...

  • Also being in the process of moving, it is so nice to finally get rid of stuff and actually feel OK about getting rid of it. Cleansing. Woo-sahhh. Not being super frugal about it.. if it’s useful, I’d rather give it away to someone I know will use it than ask for monies. Made a little cash off some old furniture though. Next up is more e-waste. Anyone need an HP G4 dual Xeon server?

    Diablo 3 is so much fun for just unwinding. We’ve been playing a lot of it still. Love the Demon Hunter, Wizard is TONS of fun and while I didn’t enjoy single player Crusader, in multiplayer it’s a good time.

    Also, love my metal Hordeblood Impaler/Axer. HATE the look of the new plastic ones.

    • Von

      Those plastic bastards are humourless big-handed jank. Look at the evolution of the Trollblood range and see how Warmachordes has changed (arguably for the worse) over the years…

      • I like many of the new sculpts. I just find the resin stuff they’re putting out to be lower quality as far as detail / parts fitting. Companies want to move away from metal due to cost, but they have trouble finding the right solution. (And there’s many who disagree with me about the quality and would rather save money.)

  • Loquacious

    I comprehend the need to take account. I just haven’t done it lately.

    • Pfft, it’s summer now – Spring is a year away.

  • The breast Cancer Brawl sounds just plain nasty isn’t having breast cancer bad enough without being made to fight to the death for others entertainment 😉

    I echo your support for warpstone flux one of my favourite reads and the guy puts out such huge quantity of quality content and I always felt quite bit sorry that he gets so few comments I would comment but he uses the blogger system which my tablet will hold no truck with

  • Maybe the reason RPGs seem more resistant to consumption is that you can’t really play them without using at least some imagination? This means you’re more likely to take the next step along the DIY path, and think “well I could just make up whatever we’ll need to run (insert latest splatbook’s subject matter) and save a few bucks.”

    Thankfully I think that’s something that can never be taken away. Even a kid who grew up spoonfed video games and official paints and brushes will, once they start playing an RPG, sense that the books are just an aid really.

    • Will they though? I mean, there are a TON (or at least used to be) of premade adventures. Those had to exist for a certain type of gamer.

      • There are a ton of premade adventures. I use them myself sometimes, but somehow they never survive first contact with the players! By the end they’re usually quite different from the way the author presumed they would go.

        That’s what I mean: once you actually sit down to play an RPG and are in the thick of it, and you realise that you can do whatever you want if you can negotiate with the GM, you realise it’s not a normal game where the rules are the limits of what you can do.

        But yeah, it could be tradition more than anything.As I understand it historical wargaming has a strong DIY ethic to this day, with little rulesets coming from the community constantly. But for some reason the F&SF wargames community takes the idea of “official rules” as limits seriously. Sometimes even in the face of the rules makers telling them not to do that 😉

  • fiendil

    I got some spare metal Trollbloods who will be cheap as chips. pMaddie, Impalers, and some other stuff. I can even supply them sans cards, if that will help. 😀

    • Von

      STOP IT. Don’t tempt me, fiendil.

      • fiendil

        I am the patron saint of bad ideas…

        • Von

          … Hell with it. Let’s negotiate. I’d really like to paint up the battlebox at least.