Thursday, September 3, 2020

Inspiration from Tony Bath?

One of my current projects is reading Tony Bath's Setting Up a Wargames Campaign, a classic in the field of miniatures wargaming and originally published in 1973. Not having been a wargamer, of either the hex-and-chit or miniatures variety, I would never have thought to pick up this book. Fortunately, a friend with whom I have regularly roleplayed for nearly a decade now recommended Bath's book highly to me and I am so glad I did. There are innumerable insights to be found within its pages, particularly if you're interested in the prehistory of roleplaying. 

Bath is perhaps most famous for Hyborian Age campaign, set in Robert E. Howard's eponymous prehistoric world. This campaign started in the late 1950s, long before any of the people recognized today as "founding fathers" of the hobby had started down the path that would culmination in the publication of OD&D in 1974. For that reason, I have come to believe his writings on wargaming are of immense value (though others were way ahead of me in this). Over the next few weeks, I'll likely have multiple posts about Bath and his books, but, for the moment, I'd like to focus on just a single section of the aforementioned work, because it's not only fascinating – and possibly useful – in its own right but because it might shed light on the origins of a procedure found in GDW's Twilight: 2000 (and other games derived from it).  

Chapter 6 of Setting Up a Wargames Campaign is entitled "Characterisation" and discusses multiple methods for generating the personalities of the various leaders, both political and military, of a fictional setting to be used for miniatures wargaming. Bath proposes the following:

So, for each person's character you deal out seven cards. The first card dealt will decide upon his or her most outstanding characteristic: a Heart will indicate Good Nature, a Diamond Love of Wealth, a Spade Ambition, and a Club Love of War in a man, Patriotism in a woman. The value of the card will determine the depth of this passion, a high card being very strong, a low card relatively weak. The rest of the cards are used individually, and each has a value of its own
He then enumerates personality traits based on each card. For example, an Ace of the Spade or Club suits indicate a disloyal intriguer, while a Diamond is a loyal intriguer, and a Heart possesses an exceptionally good nature. Meanwhile, a Six indicates laziness in Spades or Clubs or Charm in Hearts or Diamonds. It's a straightforward little means of generating character details and I was immediately impressed with it and the other systems he offers (about which I shall write later) precisely because it does something similar to what I'd been seeking recently.

In reading this section, though, I was immediately reminded of a section in the Referee's Manual of the 1984 edition of Twilight: 2000. In the section discussing non-player characters, it's suggested that

To determine the motivation of an NPC, draw two cards from the standard deck of playing cards. The highest value card is the NPC's primary motivation, the other is his secondary motivation. The particular motive is determined by the suit of the card.

The section goes on to associated Clubs with Violence, Diamonds with Wealth, Hearts with Fellowship, and Spade with Power. As you can see, these associations are very close to those of Tony Bath. Now, one might reasonably suggest that the suits suggest obvious correlations; there's nothing unique about associating wealth with diamonds, for example. That may well be true, but my hunch remains that Frank Chadwick, the designer of Twilight: 2000 and many military simulations published by GDW would have been familiar with Bath's writings and took inspiration from them. Even if I'm mistaken about this, that doesn't change the fact that Bath's system is simple and useful and could be profitably employed, either in its original or altered form, by referees looking for a way to introduce some randomness into even their world building.

1 comment:

  1. I've been deep diving into your blog this past week, and prototyping a board game involving cards as well, and the timing couldn't have been better. I had my own symbolism based on the suits (and the colors (RYGB) I've assigned them) and their values, and these entry just fueled my imagination more. Yes, diamonds symbolized wealth in mine as well, but also symbolize the sea and trade, as I assigned blue to them (also a nod to lucky charms).