Fairwell to ‘The Independent Characters’

Yesterday Episode 127 of the podcast The Independent Characters was released, closing down the show on a high note. The ICs have been massively influential in my return to the hobby, how I’ve been thinking about the game, and when it comes down to it, this blog.

This is me saying goodbye.

It all started with buying a new car. Faced with a five hour drive back home, a strong dislike of the radio stations available in the very southern reaches of Virginia, and a fancy new Bluetooth system, I found myself browsing for podcasts to listen to on the way home. And while infectious disease podcasts are all well and good, I can only stand them for about an hour at a time.

So I started browsing Warhammer 40,000 podcasts. It had been a long time since I was properly in the hobby – moving frequently, stale army books for both armies I played at the time (Sisters and Dark Angels), and being distracted by the whole “getting a PhD” thing will do that. But it sounded like an excellent way to get a little dose of the hobby in while driving.

Enter The Independent Characters.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the ICs are responsible for my re-entering the hobby. After a couple episodes I was thinking about everything I missed about miniatures wargaming. The hosts were a perfect blend of enthusiasm (Carl) and a touch of skepticism (Geoff) that never the less managed to remain positive. Too many places in this hobby degenerate into “Everything Is Ruined Forever” negativity, about things that are minor, trivial, or sometimes not even true. Listening to them felt like being welcomed back into the hobby by a surrogate gaming group of people who play like I want to play – just there to have fun, play with their awesome models and roll some dice. The new hosts – Justin and Adan – had big shoes to fill when Geoff left, but they did it ably, bringing their own perspectives to things without making them discordant, or feeling like it was a different podcast with the same name.

There were a couple things I particularly appreciate about the ICs. The first is that their shows were thematic, and on a theme that wasn’t just “What’s happened since the last time we broadcast?” Especially with GW’s fairly brutal release cycle in the past year, far too many podcasts are getting bogged down in codex review after codex review, and while useful, it leaves a lot of the hobby unexplored. The second was their embrace of the different ways to play 40K – while Zone Mortalis isn’t a big deal in my area, I liked hearing about it. I liked hearing about narrative campaigns, and the BAO, and massive Apocalypse battles, and Forge World models being used in gaming, and generally the vast diversity of ways to enjoy our hobby. I appreciated the hosts being honest, especially in the Hobby Progress section, about things I also struggle with – the war against grey plastic, keeping on top of projects, and trying to get a painted army on the table. I’ll admit I stole Carl’s organization system not only for hobby projects, but for work projects as well.

But most of all, I appreciated their enthusiasm. Even when they didn’t like something, the worst it got was “Eh, it’s not for me.” They didn’t drag the hobby down into the mud, because what’s the point of that? If it’s not fun, don’t play.

A month or so later, I was starting my Eldar. And the Hobby Progress Challenge (see my post here) was spurring me on to get as far as I’ve ever gotten toward a fully painted army. Because lets face it, hobby projects ever being truly “done” is a rare thing indeed. #tuttletime, which Carl doesn’t want to take credit for but which I’m attributing to him anyway, the idea of painting one hour a night, every night, got my army ready for the LVO.

Their tone has inspired a lot of what this blog is about. Even though Variance Hammer is focused on the occasional critical, numeric evaluation of the hobby, the goal is to keep things largely positive – just largely positive with numbers attached to things, and the ability to ask “Is that…true?” It’s inspired the idea of pushing your hobby farther – for me, that’s thinking about it computationally, and picking some more ambitious modeling projects. And it’s inspired the idea of thinking about the social contract behind gaming – that this is you, and your opponent(s) coming together for a few hours to jointly have fun, and what that means to people. What it means for pickup games, and the tournament scene, and in your local group.

So 1850-odd points of painted Eldar, one major national tournament, a bunch of guys literally across the country from me I’d kill to play a game with, the makings of a Space Wolf and a Dark Eldar army, and the serious consideration of getting into 30K.

Carl, Geoff, Justin and Adan…this is all your fault.

Thank you.

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  1. Great post. I had a very similar experience with getting back into it. I haven’t gotten close to 1850 points of painted miniatures yet or played in a tournament but I look forward to such things. You’re a good write by the way. I’m glad I found your blog.


    1. Thank you – that’s very kind of you to say.


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