Armies of Fluff: because narration is important

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    • Armies of Fluff: because narration is important

      So, after a week of thinking and mumbling and brainstorming I decided to give a chance to this idea: creating a blog about the narrative side of the Hobby.

      What is the narrative side, actually?

      Well, when my older cousin gave me my first miniature, some years ago...

      ...ahem, that was back in 1992 I think, it was one of the first Noise Marines by GW, the ones with the electric guitars, and I loved them since I already was a lot into Heavy Metal...

      ...back to the main subject: when I had THAT miniature, the first thing I thought was the STORY of that power-armoured hero.

      At the time I was not into Sci Fi literature, since I was only 11. But as an Italian, those were the years we - in Italy - learn for the first time epic poetry (first year, middle school, generally 11-14 yo: we study Iliad, Odissey and Aeneid), so the next step toward fantasy miniatures was quite easy and fast. Also, I was already into collecting 1:72 scale WWII models and soldiers. And medieval Lego, of course.

      Stories about those toys and miniatures were the main cause I started collecting them. Recreating into my mind their adventures, leaving my mind to break free and create whatever tale was possible at that time.


      ...26 years later...

      Hi,

      I'm Alessandro, 37 from Rome, Italy. I'm in the BGteam of The 9th Age since two years now, contributing to the fluff and also to some other stuff - staff side :D.

      I'm a mediocre player, a mediocre painter and also a mediocre writer. Nonetheless I generally dedicate a lot of time (...and money) to this Hobby, and many people often asked me why, especially if the results are not extraordinary.

      My answer is always the same: this Hobby is connected with the things I love the most, such as History, Poetry, Literature, Music, Mythology. It allows me - toghether with RPGs of course, which is to me the "theatrical side" of the Hobby, to break free from the grey walls of daily routines and enter the eternal world of Mankind's ability of creating Tales.

      Tales are not merely "stories". Mythology, legends, folk tales are one of the best ways to understand the depth of mankind's thought. I had this book in italian (if you speak french,there's a translation), about Mircea Eliade and George Dumezil, called "Explorers of human thought". Well, that is how I define myself and what I find often in this Hobby at its full potential: the chance to explore specific sides of the human ability to create tales about itself and its dream and nightmares.

      As a former soldier, and anthropologist and historian of religions, fantasy wargaming - and its connection with literature and other arts - always gave me the chance to make more real "my storytelling".


      But, biographies apart, what are you going to find in the following posts?

      Storytelling, mythology, books, ideas to create your own stories and characters, reviews, music, and alikes.



      (Vlad Urbakhanov, The Woman and the Fox, an image I found in a "siberian tales" pack of "postcards" during my transiberian honeymoon)

      Display Spoiler

      A jackal, O Karna, residing in the forest in the midst of hares regardeth himself a lion till he actually sees a lion.




      Armies of Fluff: because narration is important - a blog about fluffing your army.
      Armies of Fluff: repository of my unofficial short stories and excerpts

      :WDG_bw: :VC: :O&G: :EoS: :BH: :DE: :KoE:

      The post was edited 1 time, last by VisconteDimezzato ().

    • It was the year 2001 I believe. Summer before the third grade. My best friend and his older brother split the third edition 40k starter. My friend was Dark Eldar and his brother was Black Templars. My friend painted his DE in metallic gold and the BT in dark blue.

      Looking over the citadel catalog we decided as the four of us (myself and a neighbor) we'd be better served by rank and file of new sixth edition fantasy. Our embryonic gaming group was my Skaven, the friend's lizardmen, his brothers bretonnia, and my other friend's beasts of chaos. Another neighbor got Orcs. We preached to other kids at school but Iit didn't catch on.

      Everyone else grew out of it, but I'm still hooked on plastic crack. It's not the miniatures so much as the world they inhabit, the stories they enact, and the shared narrative. End Times was pretty interesting but ultimately a disappointing rework of the also disappointing Storm of Chaos. Age of Sigmar is okay but it's not the replacement for that WHFB itch that only 9th Age can provide short of an official Fantasy reboot that probably isn't coming.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Col. Tartleton ().

    • Col. Tartleton wrote:

      It was the year 2001 I believe. Summer before the third grade. My best friend and his older brother split the third edition 40k
      Everyone else grew out of it, but I'm still hooked on plastic crack. It's not the miniatures so much as the world they inhabit, the stories they enact, and the shared narrative. End Times was pretty interesting but ultimately a disappointing rework of the also disappointing Storm of Chaos. Age of Sigmar is okay but it's not the replacement for that WHFB itch that only 9th Age can provide short of an official Fantasy reboot that probably isn't coming.
      [IMHO]

      I strongly believe on the long run the choice GW made will prove the best thing ever happened in R&F fantasy wargaming, and I'm still talking about narration, not rules.

      From a fluff perspective, the Old World was great in several things, but was already deteriorating in a few others. I personally have seen the change between late 4th, and 6th, when it evolved from a 80s setting made of some comical and let's say "caricaturistic" fantasy, to the 6th edition, in which narration reached its qualitative peak, historical and literary inspiration, grim fantasy at its best. That was also the time (let's say mid sixth ed) in which I left, due to RL issues, before returning with the 9th age. Meanwhile I had the chance to follow more 40k.

      What I've seen, is a deterioration of the potential narration. Despite the economic boom of Black Library, the quality of narration fell, especially in 40k. Even if HH (and I'm a fan of that saga) was well managed in its entirety, several works are just crap, nothing new, not to mention the last evolutions of the BG from 7th edition 40k to 8th edition. Not because of the storyline, but because of the HOLES (I would say literally CRATERS) and the attempts to fill them with ridiculous events.

      Briefly: GW capability of narrating epic events just fell badly, filling their worlds with paradoxes and redundant cliques and parodies of their own, once epic and meaningful, characters.

      Of course the purpose of narration of a setting is not to be a masterpiece of literature. We don't really need a reincarnation of Lovecraft, Poe, Tolkien or anyone else.


      ...On the other hand, you cannot build a world on extremely simplified narration based on the taste of younger audience, because on the long run the risk is to have your salaried audience (the adults) bored.




      But this is not the subject of this blog :).

      _________________________________________________________________________________________


      let's talk Armies of fluff, personal fluff and The Ninth Age setting.

      My experience tell me there are a wide variety of approaches (I'd call it "narrative nerdism") to narration among wargamers. Of course, some of them do not care about narration and tales. Some of them are mostly focused on painting and modellism. If you are one of those that need to give a real existence to every unit in your army, and a specific personality to every hero, or simply a general "sense" to your army, then you are more or less like me.

      When people ask me why I don't play a specific style or a specific army, I simply answer "I don't like it". That's the easy way of explaining it. In reality, that style or that army doesn't generate in my mind a story and an aesthetical inspiration.

      Behind such a story, nonetheless, there should be consistency. Such a consistency was well described by Tolkien as the inworld coherency limiting the suspension of disbelief. Such a balance between the two grants an easier identification with the narrated fantasy world.

      Let's make an example: it's easier for everyone to identify ourselves in a world in which magic exists, but gravity is still there, than in a world in which everything fluctuate in nothingness.


      I'm that kind of nerd that is not satisfied easily by deploying an army. I demand constantly to know why that army is deployed, how it is possible to deploy that army, which kind of society is able to field such a specialistic army.

      Of course with the above mentioned balance: fantasy elements such as magic have to be balanced, for example, by rarity: an entire army of magicians is not appealing (even Rowling introduced "limits" to magic in her world, to make it consistent, introducing a Ministry of Magic...).


      ...if everything is possible, how can possibly Evil exist?

      Giving consistency to an army and its story (or to a single hero) is a matter of questioning how can such a story exist, being on one hand consistent with the context and possibly on the other being interesting.


      Interesting means you can identify with your hero (meaning he/she is something you would love to be or you really want to see dead - but please consider this an oversemplification of a deeper psychological and sociological argument).

      So we identified right now two main characteristic you probably would like to see into your army/hero

      - being consistent in itself and within the world it moves in
      - being interesting to you.


      We will explore them in the future posts.


      ___________________________________________________________________________________




      (one of the first cover of the american edition of Italo Calvino's tales, part of the Trilogy of the Ancestors; among them, the Cloven Viscount - italian: Visconte Dimezzato - one of my favourite fantasy tales since I was a child).

      Display Spoiler

      A jackal, O Karna, residing in the forest in the midst of hares regardeth himself a lion till he actually sees a lion.




      Armies of Fluff: because narration is important - a blog about fluffing your army.
      Armies of Fluff: repository of my unofficial short stories and excerpts

      :WDG_bw: :VC: :O&G: :EoS: :BH: :DE: :KoE:
    • Following, with great interest.

      I'm one of the fluff-nerds who has intricate backstories for my armies' backgrounds, the units of my various list and in fact even most pieces of magical equipment on my hero models, so I can relate :D
      "You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?" -Death
      Phae's Pointy-Ear Blog: Elves in a Corner
    • @VisconteDimezzato "I'm that kind of nerd that is not satisfied easily by deploying an army. I demand constantly to know why that army is deployed, how it is possible to deploy that army, which kind of society is able to field such a specialistic army."

      Exactly right! I love story in every game I play and it baffles/annoys the people who just want to skip every cinematic scene and just kill things.
      Shield...WALL! Hold the line! Brace!Brace!BRACE!
    • ok, time to talk some more about heroes and consistency.

      Talking about heroes is always difficult for the word implies different meaning in different contexts.

      Today's concept, for example, sees the hero as a valiant "knight" without stains, always "heroic" and, more than this, its cinematic version is extremely super-human.

      Super-human in the sense that modern-day cinematic heroes perform incredible deeds such as destroying entire armies and surviving super weapons blows. On the other hand, the classical concept of Heroes is a bit different. In this case, while saying classical, I actually means ancient classical/greek/roman.

      The heroes (again, oversemplification) were superhuman because literally a race half way between gods and mortals and, more importantly, they were not necessarily heroic in the modern sense. Many of them were in fact literally monsters, both physically and ethically. Almost all of them were cursed, and in fact it was with the heroes that the "sense of tragedy" of the greek grew up, as a vision of the world, first in epic poetry and later in tragedy of the V-IV centuries bC.

      These heroes were superhuman, but at the same time they were extremely human and, in some cases, even worse. If you think of the greek heroes as in Troy's Achilles - Brad Pitt version - well that's not the case, nor their function.

      If I have to think of a purely cinematic, modern comparison, think of the Lord of the rings movies trilogy. On one hand you got the super elf surfing and killing on an uruk shield, launching an infinite number of arrows and never taking a single scratch. On the other hand you got the former numenor guy, the exiled future king, that several times almost die.

      So, all this to say: the first thing you should decide about your characters is if you want them to be "herohammer superman" guys or "almost normal guys with several draw backs that are heroic because perform great, but realistic, deeds".

      Again, in this context "realistic" is relative to what you find consistent with the rest of the setting.

      Consider that consistency into the setting of the Ninth age is granted by a strong historical inspiration and a world in which different polarities clash in different ways (not necessarily through constant warfare), and its depth is granted by a certain degree of development of each faction in therms of vision of the world, culture, economy, history, biology in some cases. The existence of magic and religion is inserted into this concept of "reality" with specific limits to avoid the complete fall of the setting through, for example, a single magical object that can destroy the enemy army.

      Of course you can create your god-like general, victorious over a million foes, but just consider he will not be consistent with the rules on the table. But, I always love to say, culture is a complex, dynamic system, in which a powerful communication device, the "chinese whispers" plays a great role in making an hero.


      The type of hero you're going to create is up to your pesonal taste You could love to have a Supermean like one, or a more human one.

      Personally, I strongly believe that heroes are common people making specific choices during their lifetime. I also strongly believe in the mythological, initiatory, prophetic patternes of tragic heroes, but still, they are extremely human. Even in special cases such as the indian heroes of the Mahabharata, that performs super human deeds, they are still human.

      And, more than this, always remember that an Hero can be vile, cruel, sadistic, and worse too.








      Reading advices, old but gold....





      Display Spoiler

      A jackal, O Karna, residing in the forest in the midst of hares regardeth himself a lion till he actually sees a lion.




      Armies of Fluff: because narration is important - a blog about fluffing your army.
      Armies of Fluff: repository of my unofficial short stories and excerpts

      :WDG_bw: :VC: :O&G: :EoS: :BH: :DE: :KoE:
    • Of course, others attempt to get immortality by following the Dark Gods, cast away everything they always loved, get super powers for that, and then fail… and have a last glimpse of humanity at the realization that all that was for nothing, and now Nothing is what awaits them.
      (Shiva)
      GHAÂAÂAÂARN ! — The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young
      First T9A player in West Africa
    • Marcos24 wrote:

      I want the numenor guy that almost dies but succeeds realistically please :) so that I don’t roll my eyes and end up ignoring the fluff ;)
      then at least you try to succeeds. I generally chose the guy dying and losing. But doing it with style. :D

      Display Spoiler

      A jackal, O Karna, residing in the forest in the midst of hares regardeth himself a lion till he actually sees a lion.




      Armies of Fluff: because narration is important - a blog about fluffing your army.
      Armies of Fluff: repository of my unofficial short stories and excerpts

      :WDG_bw: :VC: :O&G: :EoS: :BH: :DE: :KoE:
    • And what about anti-heroes? Some races (VS) just deny the concept of a hero. Hero is the stupid rat that dies instead of me. They may be usefull but frankly vermin hulks are better as they last longer... Characters can be completly unheroic, villains hiding behind their minions. Pathetic, cowardly and using their kin for own gain. Their heroic deeds are all lies or happy coincidenses.
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    • IMO it is a-okay to have your Mary Sue or three, we all need to indulge once in a while, right? Just, be self aware when marysueing your heroes.

      Even the thickest of plot armours can be made seem plausible, so just mind the surroundings when crafting your one-and-only captain awesome. Plant some of their awesomeness into the surroundings, into the hands of fate, into the people they have decided to surround themselves with.

      They're much more likeable when they know how to give credit where credit is due. They're more likeable if they play down their own role to lift up others. And, the genuine praise of others is the only way to truly become the dude everyone has mostly good things to say about.

      Not every hero has to be likeable, but your choice is likeable or interesting if you want anyone besides yourself to remain engaged in your narrative. And, IMHO, likeable is the far easier route. To be a "sort of a villain" without being a downright jerk, that's a veeerry difficult balancing act. Most of the time these are the kindsa protagonists that are most readily forgotten as personal fantasies of badassery.
      "You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?" -Death
      Phae's Pointy-Ear Blog: Elves in a Corner
    • JimMorr wrote:

      And what about anti-heroes? Some races (VS) just deny the concept of a hero. Hero is the stupid rat that dies instead of me. They may be usefull but frankly vermin hulks are better as they last longer... Characters can be completly unheroic, villains hiding behind their minions. Pathetic, cowardly and using their kin for own gain. Their heroic deeds are all lies or happy coincidenses.
      Absolutely yes, but I would not call them "anti-heroes". Or, if you prefer, they can be anti-heroes from a specific human point of view, but they would be heroes from a vermin point of view.

      One thing I forget to focus on is that heroes in mythology have different function. Among them (and I'm not being exaustive):

      - setting up a norm, a praxis;
      - founding an institution;
      - explaining basic archetypes of life and or human nature.

      That means that a Vermin mythological hero, for example, should have set up in the "mythological times" some praxis about refusing challenges, for example, and he is seen as "the best vermin possible" for this.

      Also, as previously said, "HEROI" are not necessarily heroes. I mean, Achilles could be the strongest achean warrior, but he was a necrophiliac, and from this point of view, he was worse than Thersites who was a mere coward.

      Phaeoron wrote:

      IMO it is a-okay to have your Mary Sue or three, we all need to indulge once in a while, right? Just, be self aware when marysueing your heroes.

      Even the thickest of plot armours can be made seem plausible, so just mind the surroundings when crafting your one-and-only captain awesome. Plant some of their awesomeness into the surroundings, into the hands of fate, into the people they have decided to surround themselves with.

      They're much more likeable when they know how to give credit where credit is due. They're more likeable if they play down their own role to lift up others. And, the genuine praise of others is the only way to truly become the dude everyone has mostly good things to say about.

      Not every hero has to be likeable, but your choice is likeable or interesting if you want anyone besides yourself to remain engaged in your narrative. And, IMHO, likeable is the far easier route. To be a "sort of a villain" without being a downright jerk, that's a veeerry difficult balancing act. Most of the time these are the kindsa protagonists that are most readily forgotten as personal fantasies of badassery.
      I personally think that the risk with creating "likable" characters is making them boring and non original. On the opposite, the risk with creating "bad" heroes is making them jerk and more than this, making them caricatural, a parody of themselves.

      I think the second is the hardest thing, for you have two choice, and both of them are extremely difficult:

      a- you create a fundamentally sociopathic character. Looks easy, but in reality it is really hard if you don't have a strong background in psychology of deviance.
      b- you create a badass based upon the so called "grey evil", which is focused on egocentrism, narcisism, infinite ambition, and also here you need some sort of depth that is actually harder to achieve compared to "classical likeable heroes".


      In all the cases, I strongly agree on the fact that a protagonist alone cannot really work. This is why I personally believe if one wants to create his characters, he has to build up and "fluffize" the entire army around them.

      Display Spoiler

      A jackal, O Karna, residing in the forest in the midst of hares regardeth himself a lion till he actually sees a lion.




      Armies of Fluff: because narration is important - a blog about fluffing your army.
      Armies of Fluff: repository of my unofficial short stories and excerpts

      :WDG_bw: :VC: :O&G: :EoS: :BH: :DE: :KoE:
    • Col. Tartleton wrote:

      We focus too much on protagonist and antagonist. I believe in celebrating the unsung agonist.
      here it comes, the unsung hero, the Agonist.

      Did anyone ever asked of his feelings?
      Did anyone ever questioned his motivation?

      ABSOLUTE DEVOTION,
      ABSOLUTE DEDICATION.


      Display Spoiler

      A jackal, O Karna, residing in the forest in the midst of hares regardeth himself a lion till he actually sees a lion.




      Armies of Fluff: because narration is important - a blog about fluffing your army.
      Armies of Fluff: repository of my unofficial short stories and excerpts

      :WDG_bw: :VC: :O&G: :EoS: :BH: :DE: :KoE: