Saturday, April 23, 2011

[Lantz's Corner] AdMech FanDex Part I: The Past

There are numerous reasons to start a fan-made codex of your own. Perhaps you enjoy the fluff for an army that doesn't exist and want to see it on the field. Or maybe you've got self-created rules rolling around in your head and you've just got to get them on paper. Or possibly you just want something so overpowered on the tabletop that you can't possibly lose (though this commonly stems from impotence in the pants.) For me, the Adeptus Mechanicus codex started about a year ago after finishing what is now my favorite novel; Titanicus by Dan Abnett. If you haven't had a chance to check this book out, with the fury of a thousand suns (not a typo) I suggest you give this a read. For now though, over the next few articles I'll delve into how the Mechanicus dex started out, what it is currently and the what the future holds for it.

During and after Titanicus, my imagination ran wild to say the least. I knew what the AdMech were before reading it, but not very much past a shallow overview. I began searching through google search after 40k wiki trying to find out all I could about them. At this point, with the AdMech being my favorite "race" by-far, I trudged through hours of information on them. After getting a good grip on the ins-and-outs of what the Cult Mechanicus was all about, I began my search for a fandex so I could finally bring to life what I had read. I was no stranger to fandexes, though I had never read or used one myself, I had a basic understanding; you create rules, you use those to play--simple enough. Unfortunately, my searches for a fandex that complimented my new obsession dropped me into a deep depression filled with therapy sessions and large amount of boozing.
I don't want to say I came up dry in my searches, that is far from the truth. I found at least five AdMech fan-codices out there for 4th Edition and up, but I wasn't satisfied by any means. Out of the few I had found, even the best of the best all suffered from one painful flaw: convolution. I'm not going to toss out any names on the fandexes I found, as they all are fantastic and clearly took a lot of work to create. What I will say is when creating a codex, it's very easy to get lost in what you want. As an example, say you want some dude in your dex to do backflips over enemies. Off the top of my head; a good representation of something like this in rule-form would be:

I Know Kung Fu: During Backflipper McGee's Movement Phase, the controlling player may choose to move D6" through an enemy model. If Backflipper-McGee is not able to finish his movement 1" away from the enemy model, he will be locked in Close Combat with the enemy model and must pass an Initiative Test. If the test is failed, Backflipper McGee is removed from the game. If the enemy model is a vehicle without an Initiative value, Backflipper McGee must take a Dangerous Terrain Test. If this test is passed place the model 1" away from the vehicle.
This Is Exactly What Was Going Through My Head While Writing That...

At this point, you can either get rid of the rule as a whole, try and break it down into a simpler form or just keep it and call it good. In my humble opinion, a lot of the fandexes out there seem to choose the latter. I'll say that the setup of other fandexes out there were confusing enough for someone like myself to throw my arms into the air and defiantly say, "To hell with this." The convolution isn't always simply rules-based, it can take form in many ways. Wargear is a major one. Giving a unit the option to increase stats, change armour types, have access to seventeen weapons in addition to wargear that has rules attached to it is a common problem throughout many fan-made codices out there. In the end, if your fandex suffers from convolution, it's probably because you're trying too hard to get exactly what you want out of your imagination. And honestly, that's fine if it's a dex just for you and you alone. But if you take the community into consideration, you may find that back flips just aren't that important.

I could attest the birth of my fandex was to many things, but the overbearing factor was the above explanation. I'm an extremely organized person, and from the codices in existence at the time; nothing tickled my fancy. First and foremost easy-to-read organization is what I've striven for in this dex. It was when I stumbled upon this 3rd Edition fandex-in-the-works that the gears really started turning. I liked the feel to it. And while organized haphazardly, for the most part it was simple and had a true feel to the AdMech. If it wasn't for me finding this fandex, I doubt my current creation would look as it is or exist at all. My first thoughts were, "This could work. I could really make this work." Obviously, with this being a work-in-progress from two editions ago a lot of work needed to be done, but over the course of a year I've still included tidbits here and there from this fandex as a tribute to its creator Tim Huckleberry. So, after months of hard work, November of last year hit and the first version of open-beta went out to the world. It was received...well, poorly.
At the time the fandex still included many Imperial vehicles found in other official codices and the community yawned in boredom. This was good. Harsh, but good. The 40k community was not afraid to throw me their criticism and often provide ways to improve it. A week or so after its first release, I made contact with two fantastic individuals; Derek Reihe and Nick Thom. These two have worked tirelessly with me for the last five months in getting the fandex into respectable shape. Several of the units in the fandex's current state are creations straight from their minds or fine-tuned into their current form thanks to them. Another major contributor in the fandex's creation was my friend Eric who I play 40k with currently. He has continuously helped me flesh out rule ideas for several units over the last few months. With all of their work, it was only a short three months until the second and current version of the codex was released. This version seemed to appeal a lot better to the masses.
With the removal of almost everything that was already in official codices and the addition of nine new units as well as the Complexity Value system, the second version of the fandex went in with great appraisal in February of this year. From a creator's point of view, this was somewhat of a hollow victory. The criticism seemed to have come to a halt, and while this means the current version is certainly on the right path, without the critics yammering there's not as much to improve upon outside of my own realm. Thankfully, I have an amazing tabletop group who has put up with my playtesting during the fandex's development. Week after week I am, and was, able to try new ideas and lists in order to test the limits of the fandex.

Hopefully this will give you all a small idea of where the dex has originated. In Part 2 I'm going to focus on where the fandex is currently as its development continues.

Later days.

~Lantz aka Sinaura

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