Monday, September 28, 2009

[ 12 / 19 / 05 ] The gibberish that never was

I drew this installment's comic a while back, and to be honest, I'm almost amazed that it finally has a monologue to accompany it on it's journey to irrelevance. When I created it, I had intended to marry it to a diatribe outlining a scheme I'd cooked up for bringing Second Edition's fan attributes back into the game, but every time I sat down to write that monologue, I just couldn't string together even my normal semi-lucid perpendicular lines of thought. Something was just not quite right with what I was trying to do and I was acutely aware of that fact, but I just wasn't sure what it was that wouldn't let me finish the column.

The rules were quite good, actually. Born from a period of prolonged nostalgia, simple, elegant even, without burdening the game, slowing it down, or otherwise getting in the way. They seemed to work very well, interesting simulationist-inspired retro rules that added a bit of variety to a neglected corner of the game. Yet, I still couldn't formulate an argument for using them, I couldn't even convince myself.

But why not?

Well, lets look at just enough of the substance of the rules to make the point. The idea was that a team's Fan Factor would be split into the familiar three attributes of Chant, Hooligans and Loyalty. Each Fan Factor increase or decrease would give the team the opportunity to add or remove one point from any one of these values, and Fan Factor would remain the sum of the three. One or the other attribute would replace Fan Factor in modifying the die rolls for kickoff table events, and the aforementioned table would be modified slightly to include one, and only one, result requiring each of the three. They would have no other impact upon the game.

That's the nickle tour, but you get the idea, I'm sure.

So, why couldn't I pen an even marginally-persuasive bit of prose to illuminate and advocate those rules? I really wasn't sure for a while, and so the comic you see above these rather mediocre lines sat upon a shelf with an uncertain and indeed unlikely future while I slowly mulled the dilemma over in my mind.

Thing you don't need or want to know about Phil #39 - I do my best thinking on the way home from work.

Maybe it's because my brain is Jello at that point and I'm stuck in creeping traffic with nothing else to do but try not to fall asleep while listening to the oh-so-subdued announcers of the BBC World Service report without emotion about the day's tragedies, but my thoughts often turn to Bloodbowl while waiting in vain for the solid wall of cars in front of me on I-275 to part like some ancient Hebrew expectantly waiting for Moses to do something about the inconvenient sea in the way, and that, this phrase included only to make an already awkwardly-long and overly-pretentious sentence even longer, is exactly when and where I realized what was wrong with those rules.

The long-awaited answer? They just weren't necessary.

And there it was, the truth I'd been searching for was that the system was entirely pointless. Sure, the rules worked, and it did add variety and character to an otherwise very mundane section of the team sheet, and yes, it did bring back some more of the flavor of Second Edition, but at the end of the day, it was nothing more than a more elaborate version of what existed prior to my meddling, and as such, was simply not a worthwhile venture.

Fan Factor was already accomplishing everything that this new approach offered, except variety. But what is the value in variety? In this case, very little. In the version of Bloodbowl this site illuminates, Fan Factor plays only a trivial role. Without gate roles, fans are relegated to doing little more than modifying a couple of kickoff roles and serving as a measure of luck and success for teams. Yes, it is a bland little corner of the team sheet, but does it deserve to be more than that? Can I remain intellectually honest to my philosophy of simplicity and anti-simulationism while trumpeting such rules? No and no.

In the end, even though they were neat rules, even though they were rules that worked, and even though I personally wanted to use them, the new fan attribute rules were of no value to the game I am striving to realize. And so, with a heavy heart and something that could be regret, relief, or indigestion I consign them to the great graveyard of utterly useless good ideas - right next to the McDLT.

The moral of this story is one which anyone involved in the incessant rewriting of this game should take to heart, yet none seem even marginally-inclined to do - not everything you think of, even the good things you think of, belong in the game. The game is the sum of its parts, and overloading or under developing any portion can diminish the whole of the game. As with this case, over describing a trivial aspect gains you nothing. Even when that mistake is so unremarkable, even when it would never slow the game, confuse a coach, or otherwise threaten Rule #1 in anyway, something which is simply not needed is just that.