Saturday, February 21, 2015

KODT Fidelity

One of my favorite KODT covers
for obvious reasons.
I've mentioned before why Hackmaster sings to my gaming soul so profoundly. In a word: KODT. Well, okay that's actually an acronym not a word, and it's five words not one: Knights of the Dinner Table. Like those first readers of KODT who clamored for the real Hackmaster game to be created; it didn't take me long of reading KODT before I started searching to see if the Hackmaster game was still being sold, and lo and behold it was. Unfortunately I also discovered that the original game was being phased out for the rewritten second edition of the game (aka 5e). This was disappointing for more than one reason.

First, I felt so enamored and connected to the ethos that Jolly Blackburn had created via the Knights that for the first time in a long, long time I felt like I had found my gaming home once again. I had gamed since the old days, and indeed was gaming a lot when I started reading the magazine for the first time. But BA, Bob, Sara, Dave and Brian just somehow represented what gaming had always meant to me. I know it might seem silly, or trite or even overly dramatic to say so. Were my old school days really so confrontational, GM vs Player, rules lawyered, deadly, power gamed, silly, immersed in and centered around gaming, etc. etc.? Abso-positively yes. They were also filled with loyalty, friendship, commitment, honor, fun, humor, intense gaming creativity and days and nights centered around gaming--also the core of the KODT ethos. The characters in KODT represented the best and the worst, the strengths and the weaknesses of myself and my best gaming friends. Yes, I realized they were just characters, fictions only loosely based on reality, gaming humor at its best--but they touched me; connected with me deeply.

Perhaps it was a form of folly, but I wanted what they had. I had lost it at some point. Moved far in place and time from the days of my gaming youth. Stepped away from gaming for a few years, and when I had returned the gaming landscape had changed, and I had lost something I would search for over the next several years. Lots of water has passed under that bridge, but the salient point here is that KODT means a lot to me. So as I checked out Hackmaster and discovered a new edition was being written I wondered if that same ethos of the game would be preserved in the new edition. I worried in part because KenzerCo had chosen not to renew their license with WoTC and instead to go their own way. That choice, I certainly didn't begrudge them; but it meant losing certain intellectual properties of the AD&D landscape that might mean having to distance the new game too far from it's roots. When HM 4e was created the KCO design team stuck close to AD&D because it was clear the concept of Hackmaster in the magazine, the game the Knights were playing, was assumed to be a form of AD&D. So, as they explain in their introduction it was natural that the Hackmaster game be built on the AD&D foundation. Would 5e preserve enough of this design to stay true to the KODT cultural universe? That was the $24,000 question.

Now, to be practical, Jolly can shift some of the dialogue in the comic to portray the differences in rules structure to cause KODT dialogue and gaming to reflect the new design. The question of course is whether we lose something in so doing. See AD&D (and the mind of Jolly Blackburn) gave birth to KODT, which gave birth Hackamster. I am not sure exactly what gave birth to 5e. Is it the development and growth of KODT? The HM design team have said that in order to do what they wanted to with HM 5e they needed to depart from the confines of the AD&D ruleset. This confused and troubled me as well. Would 5e be a significant departure from the magic that was HM 4E and the Knights of the Dinner Table? Well, in an effort to ascertain how different things are and whether 5e will remain faithful to the KODT ethos I want to begin a comparison between 4e and 5e in the near future.

No comments: