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Hatred of the New
[04/15/2006] [Matthias]

In Amtgard there is a fear or a dislike of the new. A fear of new players who are surprisingly good fighters, a fear of changing traditions, a fear of trying something different for a change. If something threatens the status quo, it gets labeled as anything from "stupid" to "flurby" to "bad for the game".

I am guilty of this myself. I like trying new things -- but more often than not, something new that I have not thought of myself tends to get a more critical review than something I rattle out on my own in a half-hour sitting. Like any other seasoned Amtgarder, I have raised my own herd of sacred cows and whatever threatens any of them gets an immediate red flag; I tend to look for something I can use in order to dismiss it or at least question its quality. I know other people do this too. I've been on the business end of many nitpicks and overall rejections of things I've written based on nothing so substantial as "I just don't like it".

Now there are some ideas that really are bad and should not be experimented with (pay-for-play rules, for instance). Others are less questionable but are still too much to handle for many folks who don't like new things because of personal preference (alternate classes, new monsters, etc). And there are ideas which are otherwise legitimate but get short shrift only because it's new.

Now, most new things that get rejected are for use in battlegames. There's far less resistance to new things when it comes to weapon or shield technology. What gets rejected is what tends to catch the "flurby" label: which for many people includes anything that doesn't have anything to do with ditching. It's this subset of new that I am addressing.

This subset of new can be divided into two categories: (a) something new that takes a preexisting ability or game effect and uses it in a new context (perhaps by combining it with other preexisting abilities or game effects) (b) something new that invents a whole new ability or game effect by itself or combines it with other new or old abilities or game effects.

New things are fairly effectively squelched in this game, because there are two trump cards favored by those who seem to not like anything new. These two trump cards are effective because one of them will always be usable, and because everyone seems to take them at face value. The wisdom behind them is taken for granted and hardly ever questioned. The result of this in my opinion inhibits creative thinking when it comes to trying new things in battlegames and quests. I personally resent these "nuke buttons", not so much because they are never questioned but because they encourage a closed mindset.

There is a third "nuke button" which really is unquestionable, but for the moment let's deal with the first two.

When something new uses a preexisting ability or game effect, the reactionary "nuke button" used against it tends to be "It Adds Nothing New to The Game". *Boom* Idea squashed. Why overcomplicate the situation by adding redundancy to the system? The answer to that is that not everything has to contribute something new. A new alternate class (or a monster, if you will) that mixes a few nice things from several different classes gets shot down by advice to the writer to "just use what's already in the rulebook/DUA and make it fit". Innovation is, for good or ill, quashed because nothing should ever be allowed to multiply what already exists (never mind that many game effects such as healing, repairing things, the use of bows, and many magics are already redundant).

When something new includes an ability or game effect that does not already exist in the game, the reactionary "nuke button" used against it tends to be "People Already Have Too Much to Keep Track Of Without Adding New Stuff." In a game where we have a rulebook that's 70 pages long, a class or monster or set of optional rules that adds one or two more abilities or game effects gets rejected because it *does* add something new to the game. Whether something new you want to introduce does something new or not, it is bad, for one reason or another. Effectively, you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

What is so wrong with recombining different abilities or game effects and using them as special rules for quests and such? Nothing, but still you will still see people disliking it because it's not what they're used to. It's different, so it must be bad. No matter how unique it is, it has become an article of faith that is always better to use one of the existing classes to simulate the new thing, than it is to actually use the recombination of abilities that cannot be found together in Amtgard anywhere.

As well, what is so wrong with adding new abilities. There are two lesser-used "nuke button" against this sort of thing. Either something new is "looks like it'd be too powerful so it probably is, so we better avoid it just in case." or else it "looks completely useless, so why bother?" And come the possibility that a golden median does get reached in the reactionary's mind, the individual finds some other reason for not liking it. And so the cycle continues.

So as a result, whenever some new suggestion is offered, redundancy is bad and something completely different is bad. We get it. That leaves ... nothing. Something new is acceptable as long as it's neither redundant nor unique. Things that are somewhat similar to a preexisting ability either get shot down for being too similar or not similar enough. You just can't win.

Truth be told, there really are ideas that are bad. Ideas that shouldn't be tried, or at least used in order to prove how broken they really are. But not everything new should be rejected outright, and it's my opinion that there are players in the game who nitpick not because they find a reason not to like something, but that they don't like it on principle and want to find a way to justify their rejection. Very few innovative rules are perfect in the first draft, but one draft is the only chance the creative Amtgarder has with them.

As mentioned before, there is a third "nuke button" that can destroy an otherwise flawless set of optional rules. This is the only legitimate one, because it's the only one that has the force of the contract behind it. "Abide; without deletion, addition, or alteration; by the Amtgard Rules of Play and Corpora. While special events may warrant the creation of special rules, regular events must utilize the standard Rulebook." What constitutes a "special event" versus a "regular event" can be debated endlessly, but the fact remains that this is really the only "nuke button" that should not be questioned. All others described in this article are susceptible to being someone's personal taste in flurbiness being touted as out-and-out fact.

Before someone who doesn't like new things in a fit pushes his "nuke button" of choice, he or she should really consider whether they are letting personal taste cloud their judgment, and whether "sameness" or "differentness" is automatically a bad thing.

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