By (lay . Justin Bealtic is Lt mild-mannered catering trainee. After sundown. however. he
bCC! )mes (iamos Tracker. an elf ninja. He is equally at home as a wizard leading armies ofskeleton men against the (‘haos Lords. or a Terminator blowing away futuristic enemies. Fear not — .lason is not the latest sad victim of hallucinogenic superlagers. he is just one ofa growing band of fanatics devoted to fantasy games. being shamelessly encouraged to escape reality by weekly meetings at shops in Edinburgh and (-ilasgow.
Fantasy games have had rather a bad press in the past; being sneered at by the trendies for their sexism. glorification of violence and associations with hippy drippy rock bands. and attacked by the tabloid
society while they await the next Rottweiller atrocity. This hasn‘t
turning into a lucrative industry. Demand for new games and accessories isn‘t letting up. and has
guides on how to paint your Blood Angels. to iii-depth character
imaginary tavern. This is serious stuff.
it started in the Seventies with the American import Dungeons and Dragons. a role—playing game in which the players take on an individual character. It‘s most
press searching for another threat to
stopped the hobby proliferating and
spawned a wealth of literature. from
analyses of the bar staffof an entirely
Hit TASY rings
immediately noticeable effect was that it seemed to inspire a severe loss ofgrip on reality in some ofits players. Tales filtered back from the States ofstudents found wandering in university sewer systems trying to ‘capture the real dungeon atmosphere. man‘. Such extremes never quite affected British players but D&D (rule one offantasy gaming: never use a proper word when an acronym will do) was so successful that the UK distributors. Games Workshop. recognised a
huge potential market for this type of
Games Workshop now have 21 shops in Britain and more overseas. Dungeons and Dragons is now more than a little passe. being superceded by distilled versions like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. or Heroquest. Futuristic science fiction games like Space Hulk (intergalactic warriors being nasty to each other with blasters) and Bloodbowl (no holds barred futuristic ‘sport‘ a la Vinny .lones with deadly weapons) have attracted players who prefer a more basic blood and guts approach. Overall. the impression is that fantasy gaming has become a somewhat harder. more macho pastime. attracting younger devotees than previously. This is exemplified by the links with the new thrash and Death Metal rock bands. The distinctly hardcore Bolt Thrower even produced a soundtrack for the Realm of(.‘haos
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When we were young Snakes and Ladders was all unfettered imaginations needed to run riot. Now fantasy games are the rage. where insurance loss adjusters become elf ninjas. Tom ‘Merlin’ Lappin throws a dice into the works.
game. (‘A grinding Death Metal soundtrack to the scream of tortured souls.‘ as the catalogue describes it.)
Derek Hodge has been selling fantasy games ever since he left university. and now manages the Glasgow and Edinburgh GW shop. He organises game nights there every Thursday. to show new players how to play the games. and give old hands tips on painting models and making terrain. A basic ready-to-play game costs around £20 with optional accessories such as figures being extra. His players are ‘intelligent 12—20 year-olds. mostly middle-class. lots of them into heavy metal'. with varying degrees of fanaticism for the hobby. "They can get obsessed with it.‘ he admits. ‘(iettingobsessed with anything is not really a very good idea. but I don't think that fantasy gamers are any worse than anyone else. You can fail all your exams because you‘re obsessed with model aeroplanes. can't you'."
Jason Beattie (in his catering trainee persona) did leave school without any qualifications. but he denies that this had anything to do with the fact that he was a fantasy gaming addictfrom the age ofeight. ‘My mum started me off when she brought Dungeons and Dragons back from Harrods. 1 don't think it's a bad influence. It encourages the imagination. and makes you think about the best way to solve a problem. Anyway. my mum started
me off. so it‘s up to her to try and stop me.‘ Over to you. Mum.
Dylan MacKinnon affects the ‘denim jacket covered with every heavy metal band patch under the sun‘ look. and is rather fond of Bloodbowl. ‘lt's a fantasy version of American football. with lots of killing and slaughtering and that.’ A somewhat violent game, you might say? ‘Aye. that’s one of the biggest things about it. lt‘sjust like American football. only with more violence. You can get big ogres coming up and smashing people. Only there‘s a lot ofskill and brain power as well. And ifyou‘re in the house playing violent Bloodbowl. you can‘t be out on the street smashing things up.‘
Bloodbowl as a sublimation of natural teenage bloodlust seems a little far-fetched. but Dylan is eager to offer an explanation for the popularity of heavy metal/thrash music amongst gamers. ‘Metal fans are the misfits in society. so they come here to get away from the real world. to escape.‘ Looks like James Dean got it all wrong going in for fast cars. A few games of Warhammer would have sorted him out.
Derek llodge‘s games‘ nights provide an invaluable social service for many of the players. Cynics might say that they also help shift a lot of product. But Games Workshop does go beyond mere commercial promotion. providing competitions. games instruction and advice. painting demonstrations. and. above all. an informal forum for players. As Dylan MacKinnon, stranded in West Lothian with only Bloodbowl to keep him company. explains. "This is about the only hobby I‘ve got. and the shop helps me to meet other folk who are interested in the same kind ofthing.‘
Other folk are very unlikely to include females. Like thrash metal. fantasy gaming is a singularly male pursuit. Perhaps the female lack of enthusiasm for the games can be explained by Jason Beattie: ‘There was a lassie playing once. who got a bit out of control. She was a sort of Grace Jones type. you wouldn't want to meet her down a dark alley. Her character wanted to attack all the rest. but I wouldn’t let her. It turned out that her character had been raped by an ogre. you see. and . . .‘ Games Workshop. 66 Queen Street, Glasgow (1131).? (OH-2263762); 136 High Street. Edinburgh (031220 6540).
I Alignment .-\ character‘s particular world-view and general niceness level. (‘an range from ‘Decent bloke who gets his round in‘ to ‘l’sychopathic lunatic with a predilection for rippingout entrails'. In other words. just like real life.
I Beastmen A Realm of Chaos character. generally half-man
82The List 6 il‘TAipriI-Il(flit-l“ -
halt-goat. given to worshipping evil gods and indulging in hedonistic pleasures. which seems perfectly understandable in the circumstances.
I Genestealer Deadly enemies of the 'l‘erminatois. who get up to all sortsofdirtytricks. probably nastier than just nicking your Levis.
I GM/DM Acronym for
(ianiesmasteror [)ungeonmastcr. a sort of unipire-cum-(iod player who invents all sortsof devious traps and pitfalls for the other players. L‘sually a lonely and much-hated figure.
IThe Great Unclean One Another Realm of('haos type. based on the general habits and demeanour of a thrash metal bass player.
(iiy es you a very nasty infection if it bites.
I Librarians Not timid ladies in horn-rimmed specs asking for lllp for that overdue book. but Space llulk characters causing may hem and bloodshed With hi-tech weaponry. I2010(iameis shortspeak for the total
score of two ill-sided dice.
The common-or-garden six-sided die is too prosaic for most fantasy gamers so they employ all sorts of unlikely -looking polyhedra. The total score recorded on these dice can mean anything. from how drunk your character has become to how much of his liver has been eaten by a giant lizard (Cf2D4. 2D2l). ad nauseam).
I Prone Block Polite euphemism in Bloodbowl for the act of killing the opposing player in a grisly fashion while he‘s laying on the ground. As popularised by Don Revie in the early Seventies.
I Terminator Suitably-named troop type in Space Hulk described by one player as ‘half man. halftank'.