D&D, 40k, MUDs and MUSHes

Power cuts are the bane of a serious video gamer’s life. Right when you want to go shoot something or try and beat that new song on Expert, the room goes dead and your system remains lifeless. Having lived in a place very prone to power cuts and surges (and I have never known anywhere like Stafford for the sheer number of power cuts in one year), I turned back to something I hadn’t done since my secondary school days.

I pulled out the table top games.

In my case, it was a battered copy of Fluxx that I’d picked up at a music festival in Amsterdam on the recommendation of a friend. It brought back memories of Wednesday nights over 6 years ago, when I was dropped off at a pub in the back of Erdington and trooped up to the function room to an RPG club. Almost every Wednesday night for 6 or 7 months, I happily played Munchkin and its many variants, as well as other more random tabletop games whose names sadly escape me for the moment.
Only once do I remember ever actually sitting round a table and rolling stats for a proper character creation sheet; and even then, I never remember actually playing a campaign/encounter with my character. It saddened me a little, as I’d already been introduced to the world of D&D by a friend at school bringing in her Monster Manual for me to use in an art class, and was curious to see what it would be like to take my character through a narrative where I had nothing but die to decide my fate.

All those memories came flooding back today, when I made the trip into the city centre to a Games Expo that my friend had told me about only the day before.

The UK Games Expo has been running since about 2006 (if my sources are correct), and takes over two floors of a set of suites just outside the city centre. There is room after room of tabletop gaming resources and demos, as well as full-scale tournaments. My friend mentioned the Expo to me on Saturday morning, and after a quick look at the website I was intrigued enough to want to go.

Set the wayback machine for about 2001, when a very bored internet search after playing Neverwinter Nights brought up two acronyms; MUD and MUSH. Both have multiple meanings- Multi User Dungeon/Dimension/Domain, and Multi User Shared Hallucination/Hack/Holodeck/Habitation- but all mean the same; a text-based online ‘social medium’ often used for role-playing games. I spent a few months occasionally dabbling in MUDs, but I preferred the face-to-face method of multiplayer RPGs.

40k was something else I couldn’t get into. There was Games Workshop about five minutes walk from my secondary school, and I recall at least three occasions where I went in there with friends and attempted to learn how to play. The furthest I got was painting three figures (which I still have somewhere) and getting very confused. That may have been partly to do with the fact I am not fantastic at quick mental arithmetic, and didn’t really get to grips with which stat affected whatever dice roll I was having to do. I gave in and didn’t touch 40k again, except to oggle over some of the very pretty models from the Lord of the Rings series.

But today I gave miniature roleplaying another chance- not with Warhammer, but with Warmachine. A very nice man from Privateer Press explained the factions, general gameplay rules and how the game worked, and then invited my friend and I to play a short demo game. On the table were eight figures, seven or eight D6s, a number of coloured counters, 10 cards, a tape measure and…well, that was about it. The table itself was about half a metre square, vastly different from the 4ft-square fields I’d seen 40k being played on (which, I was quickly told, were far from the biggest playing fields used). But hold on, only 4 characters each?

Yes, the guy replied. One warcaster, three warjacks. That was it. The game immediately scored brownie points from me; fewer models meant less expense. And the cards spelled everything out with an ease even I could understand. Even the combat system made sense to me after the first round- I worked out what I needed to roll to hit my friend and what I needed to be able to make the most damage. I was actually really enjoying it- something I never thought possible for a game like that.
(I should put a side-note here. In bigger games and tournaments, you do have more than 4 models; but this only goes up to about 12 models even in a full 50-point game. Which, I am told, is considerably less than in a 40k game)

Admittedly our demo game was cut short by my friend making a spectacular triple-6 roll and destroying my warcaster in one hit (thus rendering my warjacks useless), but I immediately started thinking ‘Well if I’d left my Revenger nearer my warcaster then I might have avoided that. Ah, but the rocket he used doesn’t need line-of-sight to hit, so it wouldn’t have made a difference. Maybe I should have gone after his other jack instead of attacking the heavy warjack-‘

Wait, I was strategising a game that was already over! It seems that the simpler and less ‘cluttered’ version was more to my style, and it was only the thought that I had no-one to play Warmachine *with* that stopped me buying two of the models.

I did end up buying the Monty Python variant of Fluxx, which I look forward to playing with the associated accents, quotes and songs (all of which the game actively encourages. No really, some of the rules cards enforce it!). I also found a stall selling D&D source books cheaply, and decided ‘why not’. I’ve been after a Monster Manual since the one I borrowed for the aforementioned art class. All I need now is the actual Players Handbook and I would be fully equipped to play a game with a group.

And yes, that does mean that somewhere in one of my many ‘boxes of stuff’ hide a couple of D12s and a D20 or two.

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~ by Tegan on June 6, 2010.

One Response to “D&D, 40k, MUDs and MUSHes”

  1. Sounds like fun, I used to collect 40K but it was so expensive… We did have an Inquistor club at school and that was pretty fun, just a single model or a small group- larger figures and a story that you continue over many games. I’ve always wanted to try D&D but never really had a chance, it just sounds kinda cool.

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