Porky’s Wild Bore – So why’s that they call you One-Eyed Willie?

Porky again, with some more riffing on the rolls.

First the good.

When I saw Brian Cherrington’s painted dwarf longbeards this week, at Making Little Boy Noises, I thought at first they were models I hadn’t seen, probably from the Avatars of War range, or maybe GW. Turns out they were from Mantic, with the luxuriant beards sculpted on by Brian.

Tinkering with models and rules is a cornerstone of tabletop gaming. If this set of rules or that kit isn’t what we want for whatever reason, we often just fix it, writing some homebrew or maybe a heartbreaker to test with a gaming group, or rummaging for bits and mixing up some greenstuff. The process can be a pleasure in itself. It can save money into the bargain.

But if we really are happy doing this – that is, buying something we’re going to change anyway, or know we might want to change when we see it up close – how easily can we complain when a product isn’t what we expect? If it’s badly written for example? Or miscast?

Let’s stick with miniatures for now. This past week at Send The Eighth! Christopher Gomez posted about some issues with an order from Forge World.

Scrolling down the page, they do seem to have some casting and/or handling issues, with elements seemingly misaligned or broken, and a case of what Christopher describes as ‘weeping’, where maybe the material hasn’t cured. The good news is that he contacted FW and the problem is being fixed by them.

But in this situation – *zoom in on your face* – what would you do?

The answer might depend on how much the mini is for roleplaying, or wargaming or just for painting.

Modellers, painters or collectors, which likely includes a large part of any given player base, presumably want a miniature that’s at least internally consistent, that offers a challenge or the chance of an impressive display, and in the latter case that’s consistent with the expectations also of the audience.

In roleplaying some of this can be offset by the fact that the mini is more of a useful marker for physical interactions, with actual appearance being secondary, especially if it belongs to a GM who hasn’t got time to worry too much about how good each mini looks when there are so many, and who – let’s not forget – also has to focus on preparing the game itself, where anything might happen. Or it belongs to a GM whose campaigns go outside the box and is used to not having an exact match for what’s just shown up in-world.

In wargaming WYSIWYG is usually a little more important, maybe because of the legacy of precision from historical wargaming, and a love of actual visible spectacle, and maybe because the scope for in-game interaction is more limited than in roleplaying and so there’s more emphasis on the accuracy of it, and maybe partly because of the competitive aspect, i.e. the need to see what a thing is to know what to expect from it.

But maybe also because the business model in wargaming could depend on customers doing more than just imagining the world, and not just stopping at chits or similar. If the company has to sell minis to survive, and can’t for example make use of its wider wordbuilding skills elsewhere, and especially if the game rules are provided free, as an incentive, players might be more likely to expect a good-looking mini, and maybe even to exert a social pressure on other players to adhere to certain aesthetic conditions.

Maybe this is why in some communities there’s a little frowning at the use of third party producers, and maybe even beyond miniatures, although I don’t really see it with things made through the Open Game License for example. Yes, these smaller producers can fill gaps in a range, and save a lot of effort, but they represent money not going to the producer that’s played the core role in that community. Then again, those same third party producers are presumably only filling gaps and saving effort because the core producer left the gaps, or produced something that didn’t match customer need, expectation or simple preference. In this situation we could even ask whether or not that producer should in fact be the core producer.

The taurox might be a good example of this, as a vehicle kit, released by GW, that seemed almost to cause a sharp intake of breath when it first showed up. Not everybody liked it, or thought it was consistent with the level of realism even of fantasy in space.

Which might well be why Charlie at Elite 40,000 went for a conversion kit.

In this case the specific conversion kit chosen wasn’t ideal for the task, but a different kit looks like it will be. The first seems it might be best for a display piece, the second better suited to the rigours of play.

Here then the smaller producers are not just offering a solution: they’re offering a choice of solution.

The terrain piece in that same post is an example of a related issue, of a producer possibly taking inspiration from another producer’s design cues to build a whole new work.

It looks pretty funky. But to the eye of a beholder used to GW’s products it also looks like it could be a high elf-themed arcane fulcrum or an Eldar landing pad. And maybe that was the intention, and quite possibly perfectly correctly.

Less pirates than the first Goonies?

But again, what would you do?

What do you do if you think an official design doesn’t fit the game world, but you’re sensing a certain social pressure to buy the official kit, and avoid third party pieces? Or if you yourself would prefer other players to use official products? Or if a mini you’ve bought turns up looking less exact than you expected? These are points on a continuum of potential dissonance.

Is the given mini good enough that you can accept it?

Looking at the Forge World minis again, we had those three problems. Let’s take them one by one.

Could the possible misalignment actually show a case of battlefield repair, with the suit of armour having been split open by a macroweapon and resealed? If so, it could make for a more unique feature, with little or no extra work on the part of the owner, and even be inspiration for future conversions.

Could the seemingly broken element also be an example of battlefield damage, but something not yet repaired? Maybe the item was like that when the in-world figure adopted it? It could be encouragement to break bits off a few other minis in the force too, to better reflect the intensity of the fictional conflict.

Could the possibly uncured component, the part that was ‘weeping’, just be a more realistic representation of an in-world process – like leaking oil, melting unguent or bleeding ichor, or the miraculous manifestation of the blood of the emperor? Not just a static modelling of it, but a dynamic one, making for a miniature that’s more than just a passive mass?

I’m joking, right?

But each one is a possible artefact of the miniature-making business. It wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t.

How much anyway can a given miniature be a pure manifestation of artistic freedom? The sculptor might well have been constrained by practical and/or commercial considerations, like consistency with an existing world, the scope of the chosen scale, possible division into components, as well as transport; constrained by the needs of some degree of mass production, and possibly the needs of marketing or the equivalent.

Is there a danger that by expecting a miniature that’s subject to these constraints to be perfect aesthetically we’re beginning to lose ourselves in the fictional world?

After all, the various imperfections in a given mini are also a reminder of the true nature of this kind of sculpting and production: they’re aspects of worldbuilding, a kind of subcreation, or maybe subgeneration. They represent fictional things. They’re a reminder that we, as co-creators ourselves, exist in the same constrained world as the sculptor. A reminder also that we have our own equivalent of mould lines, even if we don’t see them so easily, or don’t even think to look.

A reminder in turn that there are standards to be met also in our world. Or maybe not. After all, it depends on how you look at it.

Tl;dgde? DeulCC.

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