Amtgard Rules of Play.

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V8 is Amtgard
[01/23/2014] [Randall]

Lately, some people have been arguing that V8 isn’t Amtgard—that it’s too different from what came before to be called Amtgard. V8 brings change to the game, it’s true, but so did every rulebook before it. Some rulebooks brought big changes, and some brought small changes, but they all changed something that had previously been a fundamental part of gameplay. And yet Amtgard, the character and nature of our experience on the weekend, persisted. Will it be so with V8?

A glance back at previous editions, plus a focus on what defines "Amtgard, " could be instructive here—because rulebooks in the past were ultimately regarded as being just as much Amtgard as their predecessors. This happened even though the new editions changed armor rules, and spell incants, and how magic classes worked. Heck, for many people, 7.0 has been Amtgard for their entire Amtgard careers, but broad sections of it don’t resemble the 5.0 rulebook used twelve years prior. So what does "Amtgard" mean, if it doesn’t mean the incants we utter, or the abilities classes get, or how immunities work?

When I started playing, we used the 5th Edition rulebook. Mine had a worn blue cover printed sideways, and looked like a photocopy of a photocopy. That was an interesting rulebook. It had guildmaster abilities for barbarians and druids, and barbarian was a Chinese menu of options designed to accommodate the varying roleplay interpretations of the class. Healers used one set of magic point rules, wizards another, and druids a third. Bard, which was my favorite class at the time, didn’t even have magic points—it had a list of powers at each level, just like a monk or an assassin. There was no specified cap on armor, no special guidelines on penalizing armor, no scout heal spell.

Although 6.0 was broadly an editorial change, keeping much of the language intact, it changed many of those things. Spell lists stayed virtually identical, yeah—except for bard—but the way every magic classes earned points was entirely standardized. There were tweaks throughout. True, lots of class abilities remained identical to what came before, but that’s not really what made it "Amtgard. " That came from the fact that we were playing assassins, and bards, and monks, and healers, and reciting heal spells, and throwing spellballs, and going berserk as barbarians, and casting heat weapon, and playing battlegames with foam swords and shields and garb.

7.0 represented a broader step forward, with even more significant modifications in the rules. For example, instead of having a list of what each class could do, all that stuff became codified as abilities and traits. Immunities got grouped together by schools of magic, an entirely new concept. Paladin and anti-paladin were rewritten. All the classes received brand new flavor text. Armor got changed quite a bit: plastic armor was specifically limited, an entire type of armor was removed, and chainmail got a boost because the committee felt it was underutilized. The fighting rules were codified to define things like wiggling and draw cuts, not to mention end the Shot in Motion/Atomic Clock debate. Every class received new garb requirements, every spell got assigned to a school, and new spells were added to every spell list. Before 7.0, there was no Dance, no Release, no Berserk enchantment, no Confidence spell, no Regeneration, no Acid bolt, no Swords to Plowshares, no Awe or Fear spells, no Assassinate, no Powerful Blows, no peasant class, no Camouflage, and so on. Before 7.0, you couldn’t kill a paladin with a fireball. Think on that one.

And yet 7.0 was (and is) Amtgard. We’re playing warriors with armor and druids that entangle people, and shooting foam arrows, and dodging fight-after-death, and casting hold person and finger of death and barkskin, and playing battlegames with foam swords and shields and garb.

So let’s examine V8. At first glance, a lot seems different: battlegames are streamlined to reflect how we play, and classes are focused more on their roles rather than being assembled in the slapdash manner that came before. There have been adjustments to standardize, categorize, rearrange, and outright change the way some classes work. Bard, for example, is quite different from the 7.0 bard… which, by the way, is quite different from the 6.0 bard, which was itself quite different than the 5.0 bard. It’s this way throughout the rulebook—rather than accept the inherited problems of the past, the rules are being revised throughout. Does that mean the game is completely different? Not "Amtgard"?

To the contrary: because the impetus behind these modifications is to make every battlegame as much fun as possible, the game under V8 is even more Amtgard than it was before. The designers have asked the community what makes 7.0 fun, and what makes 7.0 not fun, and have acted accordingly. That makes each game of V8 feel not just like Amtgard, but like some of the best Amtgard we remember playing in years past. The fun parts have been emphasized, and the not fun parts have been jettisoned. If the rules seem to be "not Amtgard" anymore, that’s why. That’s what’s different.

And true, a lot has changed in terms of the lists of powers the classes get. I’d argue that these changes are, in many ways, more superficial than substantial, but they are changes nevertheless. The spell lists have a lot of familiar stuff, but they also have a lot of new stuff. Archer, bard, assassin, warrior—these classes all got pretty intense facelifts. We also have new mechanics, such as the notion of refreshes and charging, and a few new combat mechanics, and new armor rules that seek to encourage plate armor. (As you can see, that’s not so dissimilar from what V7 did. ) We could talk about why these things emerged—everything comes from pulling that one thread attached to barbarians getting three lives at level one—but that’s not the point right now. The point is that there are some differences, yes—a lot of differences, from a certain point of view. Since the V8 project is fundamentally based on reexamining the lives/300-death-count framework that existed in previous versions of Amtgard, it has brought to light lots of things that needed to be fixed or replaced or rebalanced. So absolutely: V8 is a change. As it should be.

But let’s focus for a moment on the similarities, because broad swathes of V8 are the same as what has come before.

In V8, archers shoot arrows that destroy armor and wreck shields, and can mend their bows in a pinch. Assassins teleport around the field, immobilize their enemies, and slay their foes with poison, projectiles, or arrows. Barbarians go berserk, throw rocks, are immune to subdual and control, fight after death, and trash armor with ease. Monks block arrows and use sanctuary to avoid enemies, are immune to tons of magic, and can heal themselves and raise the dead. Scouts shoot or fight, can heal a little, get to wear extra enchantments, can trap their foes, and can track down the enemy. Warriors wear tons of armor, have shields that are hardened, and are on the field longer than anybody else. The armor is real (or close to real), the swords are foam, and we were diagonal sashes: black, white, gray, green, and purple for the classes just mentioned.

For the casters, bards use spellpoints to buy use powers that confound and confuse the enemy, and can also fight a bit, wear armor a bit, and help boost their team a bit. Druids also have spellpoints that they use to wield entangles, cast stoneskin, and call lightning, and have tons of enchantments to give. Healers can go out there with a sword and shield and stun you, heal you, and resurrect you. Wizards are the only caster that can’t use shields, and get lightning bolts, fireballs, spheres of annihilation, and lots of wicked verbals. These casters can grant enchantments by tying strips of cloth to the recipients, conjure up magic balls by tossing cloth spheres with streamers, or cast verbal magic by pointing and uttering an incant – provided the target is within range. The magic classes also wear sashes: blue, brown, red, and yellow.

Then we have the two knightly classes – anti-paladins who can steal your life, poison you, or raise you as an undead soldier, and paladins who can heal you, resurrect you, and grant you their immunities. You can tell a paladin or anti-paladin on the field, because one wears a white belt and white phoenix, and the other wears a white belt and black phoenix.

It's got amazing battlegames and magic and wars and ditching, and sometimes you defeat an enemy and run on to the next, and sometimes you are hit by a spell and have to count out the duration, hoping your team can survive without you. Sometimes your life depends on the enchantments you receive, or the armor you wear, or using shove at just the right time. There are wounded people around you calling for the healer and beat-up warriors calling out for mends. Monks leap in the way of arrows, enchanted wounds-kill poles tear lines apart, and bards sing songs to keep you going. When a warlords tears through the lines, you hope you have the right trick to stop him—team up with friends? A well-timed finger of death? A fireball to the chest? Maybe a hold person until reinforcements can arrive... and then the archer he didn't see tags him, and the tide turns, and your team starts coming back alive just in time to rally around the warrior on the front line.

There is only one word in existence that sums this up. Just one.


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