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Rules Rape 6.1
[09/16/2002] [Randall]

I remember back in 1993 when the 6.0 version of the Amtgard rulebook was released. I was a newbie, slowly approaching the apex of my chosen class. Bard was special back then, because we didn’t have spell points and weapon costs and all that mumbo-jumbo. We just had a set of neat abilities we could use until we reached the holy grail of jongleurs: those five points of druid magic. Then 6.0 was released. Bard was lumped in with all the other spellcasters in the name of progress. The unique feeling of the class fell away and the rather limited replacement came into play. The new bard was obviously cobbled together in a poor attempt to standardize the class, with magic replacing the special abilities. A few other spells were tossed in to make the class seem complete, but they had the feeling of last-minute additions and begged the question as to why other, more obvious spells were not added. I still played bard a considerable amount and grew to enjoy the new class, but that was because I was left with the choice of loving it or leaving it. The lesson of the unnecessary update stuck with me -- if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The last rules revision took almost eight months. It’s now been eight peaceful years since we’ve had a change, and the powers that be have decided the time is right to give the masses something new to play with. Fasten your seat belts and hold on tight, because 6.1 is coming to your kingdom, ready to forever change the classes you’ve played and loved for nearly a decade.

Before I explain exactly why 6.1 is evil, let me ask you a question: What would you do if you were in charge of the rewrite? Thinking this through, we consider that 6.1 is, by definition and name, a minor revision. Spelling and grammar are obvious areas for improvement, as is layout, if a good editor can be found. Standardizing the hypocrisies in the rules is another good fix, since touch of death, fight after death, and red weapons are inconsistent with the game’s stated safety standards. Maybe, if you want to improve gameplay a little, you could tone down entangles and other game killers. And if you really feel like screwing with the rules, you might rebalance wizard and slightly improve a few underpowered classes, such as warrior – but even that minor change would exceed the mandate of our mission.

By any reasonable standard, 6.1 is a failure. Instead of being presented with a clarified, streamlined update of the rules, the twelve kingdoms of Amtgard are being asked to swallow whole the bloated vision of the game as seen through the eyes of a cynical twenty-year veteran. It doesn’t take nine years to revise the rules, but that’s just enough time to hack them apart, completely rewrite them, and use them as a political weapon.

The most obvious proof that 6.1 is a failure in terms of accomplishing its mission and staying true to the spirit of Amtgard is the addition of multi-classes. The problem with our game, according to proponents of multi-class, is the inevitable boredom that sets in once you’ve hit 6th level in all your classes. After getting shouted down for considering adding more levels to the game, the guys at 6.1 came up with the idea of letting people play multiple classes at once. This means a person who is 6th level in a couple of classes can opt to play them both at the same time – one at 5th level, and the other at 1st. This solves the problem of boredom by giving people over a hundred combinations to play.

Except it’s a horrible idea. From a game balance perspective, it’s a catastrophe that forces future rules revisions to consider how each class update will affect multi-classes; what may seem like a great idea for a single class can turn into an abusive disaster when combined with something else. Even worse, people don’t get excited when they hear about multi-classes because they think it’s more fun. They get excited because they’re thinking about all the different ways they can rape the rules. The party game we’ve all played by now is trying to come up with the most abusive multi-class character. 1st-Barbarian/5th-Wizard, anyone? Or how about a little 5th-Monk/1st-Paladin?

Sure, sure, they’ve tried to put in safeguards against this sort of munchkinism by requiring certain club officers to approve the use of these classes, but do you really think that’s going to prevent this sort of thing from happening? The argument is completely counter to the amount of time and effort that’s been put into creating multi-classes, too. Why spend so much time adding something only to turn around and say it’s nothing to worry about because people won’t get a chance to play it anyway?

Nothing to see here, move along, nothing to see.

Not happy with merely building abusive new classes and then forbidding people from playing them, the 6.1 rules committee has made it their mission to hamstring two of the weakest classes in the game. Both Paladin and Anti-Paladin, Amtgard’s only prestige classes, have been targeted for a wing-clipping.

Now, normal people have a certain image in their minds when they think of the knightly classes. They think of something that’s a little neat but not all that powerful. Paladin is worse than healer, and anti-paladin is worse than assassin or scout. Even their coolest powers – their much-vaunted immunity to most wizard magic – doesn’t protect them from the most common spellball in the game. The only thing the classes have going for them is their rarity. People think they’re cool classes because they don’t know any better.

Aramithris, on the other hand, thinks just a little differently than you or me.

It is my personal opinion that the run on knighthoods and the attempt in certain groups to make it automatic is an attempt to be dominant no matter what at big event battlegames.

-- Aramithris


Does 6.1 have anything good in it? Probably. The revised immunities are clean and tidy, and are of the same order of magnitude better than the original that D&D3 is over AD&D2. Even here, though, they’ve tinkered with something that wasn’t really broken. Everybody knows how the current immunities work, and there’s no confusion over who can resist what. Redone immunities, no matter how good they may be, have no place in project that set out to merely update and clarify the rules.

But even if 6.1 were a perfect update of the game – which it isn’t – it would still be a failure because of the crass and abusive way in which Aramithris has used it for political reasons.

You see, Aramithris likes to make 6.1 out to be the true test of whether you’re working on Amtgard or not. Even worse, the sole arbiter of whether you get to work on 6.1 is Aramithris. He thus ensures that the people working on the new rules are either members of his own political clique or personally acceptable to him. The end result is that the illusion of Amtgard coming together under Aramithris’s leadership to build a new rulebook is just that – an illusion. This isn’t Amtgard’s project. It’s Aramithris’s project.

It’s also a political weapon that Aramithris uses against his enemies. The Emerald Hills had one kingdom-elected representative vetoed by Aramithris for political reasons, and had another vetoed before he even ran for the position. In the end, the Emerald Hills resorted to giving Aramithris a list of potential candidates to approve or disapprove before they would even bother with an election. After the BLBOD’s efforts to “give the people a say” in the Wetlands, such selective democracy is that much more repugnant.

Even worse, discussion of 6.1 always seems to get louder when the push for Interkingdom Government increases. The Burning Lands has a history of using new editions of the rulebook as a way to reassert its dominance over the other kingdoms. The various attempts by other lands to propose a new rulebook, and the subsequent mad scramble in El Paso to thwart them, bears this out. That’s why it’s not a coincidence that 6.1 is being released so soon after the display of unity shown by the kingdoms at Clan. Nothing gets Amtgarders arguing and distracted like new rules, and 6.1 is just what the doctor ordered to kill Amtgard democracy for another few years. Like a lunatic Nero, Aramithris is delaying revolution by giving the mob bread and circuses.

It’s not 6.1 anymore – it’s more accurate to title this as 7.0. When we went from 5.0 to 6.0, it was a conservative update that fixed typesetting, layout, confusing terms, loose rules and unclear rules. The biggest change was to the bard class, and it was only changed mechanically, not stylistically. 6.1, by comparison, contains multi-classes, fully-redone immunities, rewritten knight classes, and more… each rep was given an area of the rules to handle. Let’s not try to hide behind the 6.1 name and claim it’s just a minor update. Let’s be honest and call it what it is – a completely new rulebook.

And it’s going to become the new rulebook. According to the Amtgard Corpora, 75% of the kings and queens must vote yes for a rules change to apply to all of Amtgard. That means it would take four kingdoms voting no for 6.1 to fail. That simply won’t happen for a number of reasons – we’ve waited so long that we’ll accept anything, 6.1 isn’t that bad, people are always curious to try something new, and nobody wants to vote against something that’s taken half of Amtgard’s history to complete.

And, in the end, maybe 6.1 will be great. Who knows? 6.0 looked pretty poor when it was released, and now it’s the status quo. It doesn’t matter either way, though… good, bad, or ugly, we’re going to get a new rulebook this weekend whether we like it or not. The BLBOD will give it to us and wait for the formality of a ‘yes’ vote by the kingdoms – assuming Aramithris is inclined to tolerate democracy for a change.

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