Corehammer was originally intended as an outlet for our ragged band of dungeonpunks to collectively scream into the awning void of cyberspace about our mutual boner for gaming culture and the underground music that fuelled our creative endeavours. Whilst there’s no denying we’ve done well within that remit, I have to be honest that I had envisaged a broader sweep to both elements of our schtick and lately cannot help but feel we’ve come up a little short in that regard.
Whilst not wishing to besmirch the efforts of the other guys, for the most part my contribution to CH has just boiled down to me occasionally ranting on about whatever mainstream hardcore band has caught my attention interspersed with photos and discussion of contemporary Games Workshop armies. Neither of these things inspire me to write with any zeal, passion or regularity. Personally It feels like I have exhausted my muse somewhat and I feel we are in danger of becoming just another Games Workshop obsessed blog. I don’t think that is what any of us ever wanted. At this juncture then, I am forced to consider what I am getting out of all this and what I can actually offer going forward. It would appear that I have reached a crossroads of sorts…..
Somewhat serendipitously a solution to our diminishing music coverage appeared in my inbox this week. Gav Russell has stepped in to offer his assistance with the musical coverage and I couldn’t be happier. Gav has been a Corehammer ally for a while now and he was responsible for the brilliant and very popular Tight To The Nail extreme music blog for the past four years. He recently decided to wrap things up there which is a great shame, but TTTN’s loss is most definitely our gain. I am pleased to announce that he’ll be posting a monthly round up of the heavy stuff currently tickling his walnut. Welcome aboard Sir.
That still leaves the other thorn in my side, my gradually diminishing sense of purpose and direction with CH.
I am not a ‘Rules Guy’. I know some bro’s get a kick out of knowing all of the loopholes in the rules of the game and I respect dudes like Marsden and Connor who are walking/talking encyclopedias of rules, stats and knowledge. Definitely handy to have around whilst playing but endless discussions of the hows/whys and wherefores of tabletop mathematics does not flip my switch in the slightest. Given the fact I can barely remember to make sure all my guys fire during their shooty phase there’s nothing I can offer there.
Same goes for painting really. Though my skills are gradually improving and I am learning new techniques and broadening my influences, I’m still a rank novice and in no fit position to share any wisdom I might have gleaned. I have been plowing through my Space Wolf army since the middle of last year, desperately trying to get it finished, but to what end? WH40K 7th edition came and went without effecting me too much. The new Space Wolves Codex and models seemed really uninspiring and suffer from a definite lack of character I think. The lack of models that reflect my tastes in how I want my Wolves to look has been more blessing than curse though. I have been teaching myself to convert and kitbash to get the models I want onto the tabletop and I am pleased with my progress in that department at least.
The current state of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, with it’s epic narrative progression, has peaked my interest a little. But is it enough to motivate me to paint up the Dark Elves, Dwarves and Skaven languishing in shoe boxes in the attic? Ehhhhhh. Talk of Army Lists and optimized filth combinations does nowt for me either. Unlike many of my CH compatriots I am not competitive nor do I harbor any ambitions of being a tournament player, I’m alright cheers.
Increasing cost of the mainstream GW side of the hobby is another burr in my arse. I am not naieve, nor some infantile ‘rage quitter’. I realise that GW is in the business of doing business and to maintain their position in the marketplace they need to keep a tight hold of what they’ve got and continuously keep pushing new product but I am at saturation point and I am not having fun with it.
Recently I found myself gravitating back towards Dungeons & Dragons. I have not played since I was at school 25 years ago but I just got involved with a 5th Edition Encounters campaign organised by the local comic shop in conjunction with Wizards Of the Coast worldwide Adventurers Guild. Joining the group meant stepping outside my comfort zone and sessioning with people who were strangers to me. Prior to that I had only done a little Pathfinder with other Corehammer dudes, but due to our geographical spread and conflicting schedules, running a campaign with any sort of regularity was a total ballache. Wednesday night D&D has been really good for me. Sessioning with new people has definitely been a challenge for me and I can’t say that there weren’t some initial frictions. But it’s working out great. The guys I play with are a diverse group of ages, ethnicities and backgrounds and I really look forward to Wednesday nights, the sense of immersion, unfolding narrative and the massive burrito from Tortilla that inevitably follows it
I think attending Fighting Fantasy Fest set a high watermark for me personally. It reminded me how and why I got into all this stuff in the first place and the pleasure I can derive from it. Being around all those creative people and hearing stories and ideas floating around was good for me. I left Ealing feeling inspired, my imagination boiling and my creativity thrashing around and beating at the doors of its cage. It’s been a long time since I felt so charged up. See, when I was a kid, like most introverted dorky types I lived in my head and I was totally fine with that. My imagination was limitless and bubbled away like a cauldron full of stories and ideas. The trigger point that steered that frantic imagination towards high fantasy was this:
That strange cartoon, first encountered on a Christmas afternoon in the early 80’s probably seems very primitive to modern eyes and those who have grown up in recent years will doubtless scoff at its distinct lack of production values and clumsy animation.
But the truth is that cartoon (along with Bakshi’s animated Lord Of The Rings) opened my mind to the massive potential of mythologys in conflict.
As a child I would re-enact the Battle Of Beruna with my Britains farm yard animals, dinosaurs and toy knights. I reasoned that other battles must have taken place prior to Beruna, border skirmishes and ambushes of scouting parties. After the White Witch was defeated and her people flee back into the wild places I figured that a guerilla war was not unlikely. I had not read any of the Chronicles Of Narnia beyond TLTWTW at that point so this was all creative play within the realm of my own imagination and it was glorious.
‘I have moved away from the hollow, charmless gaming that has become a kind of standard thanks to our own complacency and develop a gaming style that encompasses the gaming and role-play values of the 80s and early 90s…’
The Black Hole Blog
Recently I happened upon the Oldhammer network of blogs and a light went on for me. The quote above is taken directly from one of them, the excellent Black Hole. Oldhammer could perhaps be best described as a mindset, a guerilla approach to gaming that clicked with my own interests and the values that inspired Kev, Chris and myself to start CH in the first place. OH is basically a series of blogs run by folks who have grown weary of the constant stream of rules changes, amendments and expense that seems to follow the market leaders current production schedules and dwindling ideas. The blogs are, for the most part, excellently written, enthusiastic,knowledgable and ultimately FUNCTIONAL. Sure, the forum can be awash with nostalgia and an overwhelming appreciation for the GW of yore, but beneath all the old school bluster is an abundance of the one thing that modern fantasy gaming seems to have lost and that, my friend, is some fucking soul.
Zhu’s page in particular speaks to me on so many levels its ridiculous. Not only is it jam packed with intelligent opinions, well researched articles and cool ideas there is a clear understanding of the aesthetic, social and cultural homogeny that contributes to the psychology of a certain type of mid 30’s gamer. Go read his blog Realm Of Zhu immediately.
Whilst trawling through the brilliant Realm Of Chaos blog recently, I came across an interview Orrlyg had conducted with Lone Wolf/early GW illustrator Gary Chalk. This paragraph in particular jumped out at me
‘ I didn’t much like the ever increasing rules either. Chaos seemed to need an enormous number of rules. Think about that for a moment… and the background was getting so detailed that there was very little room for the gamer to be inventive. I actually enjoy making up scenarios, war-engines, uniforms and so on that bolt on to the rules for my own games. I now believe that I may be alone in this and this could be one reason why Fantasy Warlord failed.’
Gazza eloquently summed up my feelings on the matter right there. The notion of mixing up mythologys and pantheons takes me back to those childhood ad hoc Narnia battles and the old What If? comics that Marvel published in the 70’s and 80’s. But now I have the resources to create a more accurate representation of how those might play out.
Along those lines Thantasant’s OH blog Somewhere the Tea’s getting Cold is documenting a project he’s embarking upon with Paul from The Black Hole, to recreate the battles from Steve Jackson’s Trolltooth Wars. Naturally as a die hard FF fan and of that book in particular, this idea has me absolutely salivating and I am hoping I get to see the campaign in action some time. Imagine if Zharadan Marr had hired Glen Cooks Black Company to protect the Cunnelwort Caravan or if the armies of the Drow encountered the children of the horned rat in the depths of the Underdark? The scenarios and possibilities are absolutely endless and that is exactly where I am headed. Sure I might only get a couple of games a year, but I am fine with that.
I realise that there’s already a lot of gamers and hobbyists out there doing just this and it’s nowt new, but it feels liberating to shake of the shackles and restraints of Army Books and Codex’s and just do whatever the hell I want. Like Polonius says ‘To thine ownself be true’. Right on.
So as far as contemporary Warhammer goes, its goodnight from me. For now. Rest assured the other lads will continue with coverage of the current rules sets and miniatures. Think of this as an exercise in diversifying rather than me breaking up the band. Again. It may well be that I end up taking my Oldhammer and other oddball material elsewhere and starting up a new blog rather than using Corehammer to chronicle my journey into solitary confinement. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it’s received. Regardless, for the first time in a long time I am excited again and ultimately that is all that really matters isn’t it? And if you disagree? Fudge Tunnel have some solid advice for you.