Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

“You think your people will be free? You think you have escaped me? You mortals will have nothing but war, not a moment of peace until a new God of War rises to replace me.” Discuss the Sundered Empire featured in the Chainmail campaign setting, as it relates to pen & paper RPGs, here.

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Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby Big Mac » Sat Jul 22, 2017 1:24 pm

RSchlock's recent Chainmail miniatures painting blog topic got me thinking.

If there are still people out there discovering things like the Chainmail miniatures range and buying into them, is it actually possible for Wizards of the Coast to cater for the Chainmail audience? I think there are three aspects to this, the old books, the old minis and possible future support:

The Return of Chainmail Books

A few years back (after previously killing off the PDF industry) WotC got together with DriveThru/RPG Now to create D&D Classics, which has now been incorporated into DMs Guild. And DMs Guild is bringing back old D&D stuff as PDFs...and are now starting to bring products back as Print on Demand books. That means that we could - in theory - have a return of Chainmail sourcebooks as PDF/PoD options. (Mike Mearls said he was going to look into this.)

Some of the Chainmail material is fairly slim, so I'd personally be quite happy if they could dump it all into one big Print on Demand hardback (even though I would be buying stuff I already own).

The Return of Chainmail Miniatures

But miniatures are less easy to deal with. If they become rarer the price goes up. So what I'm wondering is: Can WotC do a deal with someone (not sure who) to bring back Chainmail miniatures, and other miniatures as Print on Demand minis? I think that PoD minis are more expensive than mass produced ones, but it would mean that players could get some stuff on the second-hand market and use PoD where they second-hand market can not supply them.

(From a non-Chainmail point of view, I know it would be good to be able to dip into miniature history to get a variety of monsters like illithids and beholders.)

I was following the Hero Forge Kickstarter a few years back. They were actually trying to work on poseable miniatures that customers can design themselves. If WotC did a deal with them, and they could import D&D monsters into their system, it would actually be possible to go far beyond the Chainmail range and be able to print an entire squad of North Wind Duelists that had different poses.

(I suppose that some of the Chainmail miniature designs are just generic enough to allow for people to use Hero Forge to build very similar looking figures that could fill out a Chainmail army.)

Just being able to scan and reprint iconic D&D miniatures (both Chainmail and non-Chainmail) would be useful.

Future Chainmail Support

This one is the big one. Can Chainmail actually come back. I know that Chris Pramas didn't think there was enough of a userbase.

One thing I've seen about 5th Edition is that (instead of trashing past versions of D&D, as has sadly happened in the past) the 5e design team have actually looked at the previous editions to see if they could identify the best features of each ruleset.

I don't want to get into the pros and cons of that, or how successful they have been, but it strikes me that Chainmail is just one of several attempts for D&D to return to it's miniatures gaming roots. We have also had Battle System and D&D Miniatures. There may be others I don't know about. (I think that the original Chainmail wasn't a TSR product.)

Anyhoo, I do feel that WotC has been tossing out their miniatures combat systems, instead of migrating them to new rules. And I feel that there is a place in the market for miniatures that can be used both with D&D tabletop gaming and also with wargaming.

I recently asked Mike Mearls about how to bring back other settings:
David Shephard on Twitter wrote:On the one hand "settings are too similar and generic". On the other hand "settings are too radical and different for homebrewers to use".

How do you find the middle path and avoid the poo-pooing of the naysayers?


He said this:
Mike Mearls on Twitter wrote:1. Find shared ground for all settings.
2. Build unique elements from/on that.
Keeps D&D recognizable, but allows for lots of directions.


So, if we get a new 5e miniatures combat game, could it do the same thing? Could it find "shared ground" from Chainmail, Battlesystem and D&D Miniautures and then build unique Chainmail elements on top of that?

Also, looking at 5e D&D, it has some interesting mechanics, like Advantage/Disadvantage rolls. Could Advantage and Disadvantage be used as a 5e replacement for Chainmail's Command rules?

How easy would it be to have a forth core rulebook that sits along the PHB, DMG and MM to be the new "D&D wargaming" book? How easy would it be to cater for warband-sized combat on the Chainmail scale and larger combat? How easy would it be to have a "Sundered Empire Adventurer's Guide" that gives an overall plot that ties into dozens of Chainmail battles, with sidebars that suggest options for changing that to something like a war in the Dalelands of Forgotten Realms or a Return of the Last War in Eberron?
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby Tim Baker » Sun Jul 23, 2017 9:53 pm

Perhaps this could be an optional "tactical combat" system, not only encompassing mass combat/wargaming, but re-introducing concepts that were in 4th Edition for groups that want to continue playing a single character per player. While 4e wasn't successful as an RPG in the D&D line, I've always believed it would have been more popular (and long-lived) as a separate "D&D Tactics" game.
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby night_druid » Sun Jul 23, 2017 11:20 pm

Chainmail didn't exactly set the world afire last time it was available. Best bet: books hit POD at some point, and someone creates 3D models for suitable replacement minis and put the mats on the internet. Heck, there's tons of 3D mini mats out there already; probably several that would be suitable replacements for the chainmail minis.
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby Icarus » Mon Jul 24, 2017 7:43 pm

I would tend to agree with Chris Pramas that there's probably not much of a market currently for extending the setting into new material.
But, I think the key to that would be the same key to making the PoD market viable: if people can get older material and play it, it can be viable again. It's much like music and services like iTunes, or even YouTube. People that weren't even alive in the 70s or 80s can discover bands like Def Leppard, Queen, the Eagles, or whatever. People that didn't play in the Sundered Empire can discover it and play again.
And *that* would be the opportunity that would make it worthwhile for writers like Pramas to write an independent supplement on the DMs Guild, that may people interested in the setting would buy.
I think the PoD market is already proving itself, and that in the future, they'll realize that it is certainly possible. Even if it's not WotC-produced material, fans would certainly snatch up "fanon" material by the original creators, if WotC would allow the DMs Guild to use the trademarked IP.
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Jul 30, 2017 8:06 am

Tim Baker wrote:Perhaps this could be an optional "tactical combat" system, not only encompassing mass combat/wargaming, but re-introducing concepts that were in 4th Edition for groups that want to continue playing a single character per player. While 4e wasn't successful as an RPG in the D&D line, I've always believed it would have been more popular (and long-lived) as a separate "D&D Tactics" game.


I don't think I've ever seen anyone compare the 4th Edition combat system with the Chainmail system.

I would have thought that a 5e Chainmail ruleset would need to be as similar to 5e D&D as 3e Chainmail was to 3e D&D? :?

I guess that their could have been a 4e version of Chainmail and that a hypothetical 4e Chainmail version might be closer to working with 5e than the original Chainmail. (Maybe we need someone to create a 4th Edition conversion of Chainmail, before we can be sure.)
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby Big Mac » Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:33 am

Icarus wrote:I would tend to agree with Chris Pramas that there's probably not much of a market currently for extending the setting into new material.
But, I think the key to that would be the same key to making the PoD market viable: if people can get older material and play it, it can be viable again. It's much like music and services like iTunes, or even YouTube. People that weren't even alive in the 70s or 80s can discover bands like Def Leppard, Queen, the Eagles, or whatever. People that didn't play in the Sundered Empire can discover it and play again.


DriveThru already said that they would put Chainmail onto the D&D Classics section if WotC allowed it. And Mike Mearls already said he would look for the files. So I think that getting it back as Print on Demand is more of a case of "when" rather than "if".

Icarus wrote:And *that* would be the opportunity that would make it worthwhile for writers like Pramas to write an independent supplement on the DMs Guild, that may people interested in the setting would buy.


The problem there is that D&D Classics and DMs Guild are not the same thing. So far WotC have only added Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft (which have 5e products) onto DMs Guild, even though there are plenty of non-5e Greyhawk products on sale as PDFs and/or Print on Demand reprints on the D&D Classics section of DMs Guild.

I think the entire focus of DMs Guild is to get people to follow up WotC products with 5e specific support.

However, WotC included Al-Qadim, Kara-Tur and Maztica (and even Realmspace) under their DMs Guild licence. So if we can get just one Greyhawk products from WotC that would almost certainly unlock access to the Sundered Empire (and Greyspace) on DMs Guild.

Icarus wrote:I think the PoD market is already proving itself, and that in the future, they'll realize that it is certainly possible. Even if it's not WotC-produced material, fans would certainly snatch up "fanon" material by the original creators, if WotC would allow the DMs Guild to use the trademarked IP.


The PoD market is an interesting technology to see arriving and growing.

I'm not sure that WotC have looked into PoD versions of D&D minis yet, but if they did a "D&D Miniatures Classics" service, and if they also created a "DMs Miniatures Guild" service, I can see people throwing up 3D models of various beholderkin, illithids and other monsters that are WotC IP.
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby Big Mac » Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:34 am

night_druid wrote:Heck, there's tons of 3D mini mats out there already; probably several that would be suitable replacements for the chainmail minis.


True.

Maybe we should have a topic to discuss non-Chainmail miniatures that would work with the setting... :)

...or maybe one topic per faction. ;)
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby willpell » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:12 pm

Wotco probably doesn't want to compete with Games Workshop, but the latter's success proves that the former could manage if they wanted to. I think they're mostly sticking to "Nolzur's Marvelous Miniatures" and several third-party producers, notably Reaper Miniatures, to provide decent-looking figures (although they're not pre-painted).
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby RSchlock » Thu Aug 03, 2017 11:24 pm

Yeah, I disagree. I think Games Workshop is absolutely nuts with their pricing structure. The cost of units is a real barrier to entry for potential new players. Now that 5e is pretty well established and spawning a kind of live rpg renaissance, I actually think it's a perfect time for WoTC to return to skirmish combat and to try to steal some of GW's market share. Imagine all those Critical Role fans suddenly getting the wargaming itch. Start publishing stat cards and skirmish combat rules w/ Nolzur's Marvelous Miniatures and boom: brand new revenue stream for the company nearly overnight.
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby Big Mac » Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:11 am

RSchlock wrote:I think Games Workshop is absolutely nuts with their pricing structure. The cost of units is a real barrier to entry for potential new players. Now that 5e is pretty well established and spawning a kind of live rpg renaissance, I actually think it's a perfect time for WoTC to return to skirmish combat and to try to steal some of GW's market share. Imagine all those Critical Role fans suddenly getting the wargaming itch. Start publishing stat cards and skirmish combat rules w/ Nolzur's Marvelous Miniatures and boom: brand new revenue stream for the company nearly overnight.


WotC have done well with the CCG market (with Magic). So bundling a card with each miniature would be a good way to make something that would appeal to two markets.

They could maybe even knock up two sets of rules - one for grid based play with miniatures - and a second one for card based play without the grid - so that people who didn't have the space to carry around sets of minis could still play a game with the cards.

If they created a PDF or full-blown sourcebook, similar to the recent ones that have converted Magic: the Gathering settings to D&D, they could appeal to the tabletop RPG market (and sell them the same minis) and if they knocked up some solo-play rules, people could run dungeon crawls when they didn't have anyone to play with.
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Re: Could Chainmail come back for the 5th Edition Era?

Postby Icarus » Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:45 pm

I like how you say "knock up" some rules.
Aside from being a *totally* British way to say it ... it sounds very quick and easy. We'll just knock up something fast and simple that takes little effort.
We'll just knock up a skyscraper real quick.
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