D&December Catch Up

Work has been a bear, and a few things came up besides, so I’m a little behind on my D&December posts. So today is a little bit of catch up, with another catch up post tomorrow to get me up to date.

Day #5: A Moment of Triumph

This might be slightly different than what was intended for the question, but one of the moments I had around characters was the day I outgrew the “lone wolf” style of character. As a young gamer and a lover of fantasy and sci-fi film, the stoic character who makes his own path was well-known to me. And on the screen it looks like an exciting character to play. The problem, of course, is that D&D is a group activity. If you’re playing a loner (or as was often the case, everyone in the group is trying to play a loner) you don’t really fit with the dynamic needed for a successful adventuring party. So the day I figured out how annoying and boring the lone wolf character is for the other players and the GM, was the day I really started to grow as a player and GM.

Day #6: A Moment of Despair

About two years ago, I almost gave up the hobby for good. I was having health issues, both medical and mental. There were health issues elsewhere in my family that were a drain on my time and energy as well. My work was suffering as a result of all this, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to fix that. Tabletop gaming, which had been my escape from all of this, was becoming harder and harder to organize, and I couldn’t work up enthusiasm for it anymore.

It was around this time that I discovered the show Critical Role, and got hooked on watching the adventures of Vox Machina. It didn’t happen all at once, but over multiple episodes I felt my enthusiasm for gaming return. I was reminded of what was truly important about the hobby: shared experience and friendship. It wasn’t a magic bullet, and I still had a bunch of other things to fix. But I was saved from giving up on the hobby which gave me support and strength through the bad times.

Day #7: Your Player Character

I have a longer piece planned for this, so stay tuned. I’ll post it out of order later on.

Day #8: Favourite Creature

I talked about them in another post, but I’m really fond of slipping mimics into my campaigns. I enjoy the idea of the “classic” mimic, disguised as a treasure chest to gorge on the greedy adventurer. But I also love the idea that, like other ambush predators, mimics will use whatever works best for their current environment. So a mimic could potentially show up as any inanimate object that might attract prey. And the strength of the creature can be pretty easily adjusted for any party, so they are a wonderful “evergreen” monster to throw at your party at whatever level.

Day #9: Draconic

I don’t think dragons get used nearly as often as they should, as an encounter, NPC, or main villain. You have a creature which, barring mishap, will live for centuries and likely has done prior to meeting the adventurers. They are stronger, faster, more cunning, and generally smarter than the party. They can prepare their lair to “properly” receive visitors, and have usually hired or bullied a screen of lesser beings to wear down the party. My favourite way to reveal a dragon in a campaign is to have the characters interact with an NPC who they think is humanoid  for a while, and eventually learn that that NPC is actually a dragon in disguise. Always fun!

See you tomorrow, as I get myself up to day twelve.

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D&December Day 4: Favourite Villain

I feel like I may have answered this yesterday with Strahd as my NPC, but since it would be boring to just write, “See yesterday’s answer” I’ll pick another.

Instead of a specific character, I’m going to go with type of villain. And my favourite villain type is the true villain. I can have fun with a “shades of grey” villain, who is maybe a little sympathetic or actually has good reasons for their actions but goes about them in the wrong way. But sometimes I want to just let slip the dogs of evil and confront the party with a hold nothing back, scenery chewing, evil to the core villain. The kind of villain who actively chooses to do the selfish, nasty thing all the time. And maybe they play on the “I’m just misunderstood” trope to confuse the characters or string them along. But they are dastardly and evil through and through. And the only thing they love more than crushing the innocent is crushing the party of adventurers who dare defy them.

* * *

My first post is up over at The Rat Hole, and it would be swell if you went and checked it out. It’s sort of a mission statement for the next several weeks of posts, and I’m excited to research and write those articles. Plus you can check out the news and reviews posted by Dave; this month is all about Christmas themed games so you should check that out.

D&December Postings, and News!

Between work and getting into the swing of things with my seasonal depression, I’ve been away for a bit. That’s all about to change, as I’m taking part in the D&December Art Prompts (seen left) and I’ll be posting every day this month. As is tradition I discovered this just after the beginning of December, so today is catching up.

But first a few pieces of Renaissance Gamer news. First up, if you just can’t get enough of me here, I’m a new weekly contributor over at The Rat Hole, a gaming news and reviews site newly minted by my buddy Dave Chapman. He’s been at the game reviewing biz for a while, and I am shamelessly riding his coat-tails as he begins this new venture. I’ll be posting an article every Monday on topics relating to the role-playing game hobby, starting with a series on getting into the hobby. And even if you’re a RPG veteran, these articles will discuss ways to make our space welcoming to new gamers. And you should go there anyway to read Dave’s reviews and news, because he’s got some good things to say.

Second piece of news: in January I’ll be hosting the RPG Blog Carnival. Started by Johnn Four over at Roleplaying Tips, the carnival invites one blogger to host each month and provide a topic. Other bloggers then post their own takes on that topic, and comment back on the host site so the links are all in one place. It’s a great way to get myriad perspectives on a subject, as well as being highly entertaining. My January topic, fitting after the holidays have lightened our collective wallets, will be “Roleplaying Games on a Budget”. I know a few things I plan to write and I can’t wait to see what other folks come up with.

But now the main event: D&December!

Day 1: Favourite Race

My favourite race to play in D&D is a plain old vanilla human. I know, I know, all those wonderful races to choose from, I go with the “round ears”. I’ve played other races and enjoyed them. But if I’m going to settle into a character I plan to play a while, I’ll go with human every time. Versatility is certainly one of the reasons, but it isn’t the main one for me. As a player, I want the DM to reveal a world of wonders and terrors, and I want the feeling of exploring that world and discovering those wonders and surviving those terrors. And so I will tend to pick a character which is, well, me. Playing human lets me focus on that experience without also having to juggle the lense of another race. I’m happy to explore that in other games, but for D&D human is how I roll.

Day 2: Favourite Class

I’ve long been a fan of the wizard class, and that hasn’t gone away in D&D 5e. I like the way the school specializations have been handled, and I don’t think there is a “weak” school to choose from, depending on the campaign. My ideal build for my wizard is the “adventuring scholar”; always on the lookout for new spells, spellbooks, scrolls, and other magical gewgaws to enhance his art. The strength of the wizard, for me, comes from the sheer number of spells he can know, and the fact that he can store more situationally useful spells on scrolls while memorizing the more broadly useful ones. For instance, you may not need knock every session, but having it on a scroll gives you an option for when the rogue is all thumbs that day. And once the wizard can lay hands on a Handy Haversack, his scroll game become fierce.

Day 3: Favourite NPC

I wasn’t sure if this meant my favourite type of NPC, or a specific NPC from Dungeons & Dragons. So I’ll touch on both.

My favourite type of NPC is what I call the “web spinner”. This is an NPC which the players, through no fault of their own and possibly without realizing, end up opposing. They work behind a sometimes shifting screen of lieutenants and flunkies, maybe even working as the power behind a fairly Big Baddie to further hide their efforts. I love using them, because done well the big reveal when the party realizes who or what they’ve actually been opposing all along is delicious. Especially if they’ve been interacting with that NPC the entire campaign.

My favourite specific NPC in D&D is Strahd, which should come as no surprise (see above). Strahd is the master manipulator, working behind the scenes to choreograph a monstrous dance, delighting in watching the player struggle to learn the steps. And not because he’s afraid to confront the characters, but because the eventual confrontation will be all the more delightful when they realize to whose tune they’ve been dancing.

Demo Monkey Rides Again!

I may have mentioned this, but I am once again the Edmonton Demo Monkey for Cheapass Games. I’ve been a huge fan of their games since the company got going a few decades ago, so much so that I was one of their original Demo Monkeys in that program’s first incarnation. The company restructured and their demo program went bye-bye for a while, but it is back and so am I! If you aren’t familiar with the history of Cheapass Games, I highly recommend heading to their site and looking over their history and wares.

In a nutshell, Cheapass Games started as a company which sold you really cool games, minus all the fiddly bits like pawns and dice. The assumption was, as a gamer, you would have pawns, dice, tokens, money, and so on that you could grab from other games you had. So why sell those to you again? Instead, Cheapass Games sold you a clever game and maybe a cardstock board to go with it. You provided the rest and hey presto! You’re playing a sweet little game for a fraction of the cost of other board games.

Flash forward to the last few years, and they’ve re-worked a few things. They still have great games, but they’ve fleshed out and added pieces to a number of their original cheapass offerings (those they haven’t are available for the low, low price of free on their website). Kickstarter has been a boon for their business model, meaning they can often realize clever niche games and deliver them affordably. For example, it is unlikely that Tak, a fictional game from Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle would have seen the light of day if not for the combination of Cheapass Games and Kickstarter.

All of this is to say two things:

  1. I’m running a demo of Kill Doctor Lucky at Apt to Game (5722 104 Street) tonight at 6pm, and I have few little things to give away to all participants, so you should stop by if you want to learn how to play it, or see the 19.5 Anniversary Edition of the game. There is also Oracle of Delphi to learn and play, so plenty to keep your little gaming fingers busy.
  2. I’ll be reaching out when my schedule permits, but if you know or run a game store or cafe and you’d like me to come show off some Cheapass Games for an evening, please contact me. I’m also available to teach the games to groups, so if you’ve got some event going on, or just a bunch of friends who want to learn some new games, drop me a line and we’ll see what we ca work out. I don’t charge for demoing, though I won’t say no if you buy me a cold cola for my time.

Extra Life 2017

It’s that time of year again, when good gamer boys and girls stay up playing games for 24 hours in support of Extra Life! While the “good” part might be questionable, I am definitely a gamer and I’ll be doing my part on November 4 to raise funds for my local children’s hospital, the Stollery. I’ve provided a handy link in the sidebar to my fundraising page, so if you are so inclined please head over there and donate. Any amount is appreciated and all of it goes to a great cause. If you can’t donate, you can still help out by spreading the word and raising awareness. Share my page link with your circle of generous gamers and encourage them to do the same. The more people who know equals the more people who can donate.

Monday I plan to be back in the saddle for regular updates, and I have a few posts I’ve been working on and tweaking, getting them just right for your eye holes. And honestly, probably a few posts I’m just going to wing, that’ll hit your eye holes like a squirt gun filled with Mountain Dew. Stingingly refreshing!

GLYPHcon, or “Zut Alors, I Meesed One!”

I recently posted about fall cons coming up in Edmonton, and because I didn’t have all the information on it at the time I left one off. So get comfortable, kiddies, and let me talk to you about GLYPHcon (October 6-8)!

Now in its third year, GLYPHcon (or Games and Lore of Yearly Pathfinder Heroics con if you’re being formal) is a weekend long convention dedicated to all things Paizo Organized Play: Pathfinder, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and for the first time, Starfinder. It’s hosted by The Adventurer’s Guild (15211 Stony Plain Road), a great little gaming store in the west end, and is free admission. Whether you’ve been involved with Pathfinder Society Organized Play for a while, or have been interested but haven’t checked it out yet, this is your weekend. There will be multiple tables of Pathfinder, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and Starfinder running all weekend long, and you can see the schedule and sign-up for games on the Warhorn site.

As well, the con this year features not one, but two Pathfinder Society Specials: #8-99: The Solstice Scar and #9-00: Assault on Absalom. Specials are a chance to join several tables of Pathfinders in overcoming a particularly difficult threat or challenge, and what happens at your table can affect the other tables (and they you). You won’t have a chance to play these anywhere else unless you travel to a convention, so these are not to be missed.

I’ll be GMing the high tier table for Assault on Absalom, and I can guarantee it will be a rough ride; the high tier (10-11 level) tables are always a challenge. We’ll have to see which stalwart Pathfinders are up to the task, and which will fall in glory! I’ll also be playing some Starfinder, because that is the new hotness and I’ve developed a little crush on that game.

Make sure to check out the PFS Edmonton Facebook page to stay up to date on the event, as well as goings on in the local Pathfinder Society scene. Hopefully we’ll see you at GLYPHcon!

Creating a Library, No Big Deal

On Facebook yesterday I mentioned that I’m going ahead with an idea I’ve had milling about for a while now. I’m creating a roleplaying game library, mandated to collect, preserve, and share tabletop roleplaying games, as well as documents associated with the hobby. I’m not the first person to have this idea. Alexandria RPG and the Play Generated Map and Document Archive are both examples of what I’m trying to achieve, and they aren’t the only two. Which may beg the question, why? If things like this already exist, why start another one? Well I happen to have a few answers to that.

First, I don’t happen to think redundancy is bad when you’re endeavoring to preserve the history of something. Roleplaying games as an industry-supported hobby have been around for over forty years, and I plan to keep enjoying them for at least the next thirty. There is a wealth of knowledge, lore, and folklore tied up in all the time that all the people involved in the hobby and the industry have expended. It would be a little foolish to think one person, or even dozens of persons, could collect and preserve it all. Just by living in a different geographical location from other librarians and conservationists, I have a chance to collect and preserve a different set of materials, obviously with some overlap.

Which brings me to my second answer. I spent a good long while looking, and I don’t think there is anyone else living in Canada doing what I plan to do. If there is, I’d sure love to talk to them, but if so they are keeping a very low profile. And I think having a Canadian library for my hobby could be a good thing. Yes, mostly because I live here and this is where all my stuff is. But it’s unlikely that US-based groups doing this sort of work will make the trip up to many Canadian events, unless they’re just over the border. It’s just not cost-effective. And maybe this is a bit paranoid, but given the political and social climate in the US right now, I don’t think it could hurt to have a collection of this information outside the US.

But lastly, it’s something I’ve been doing for a while anyway, without what I’m now realizing is the very important public engagement portion. I’ve collected roleplaying material for a while, and I have a bunch tucked away on shelves in my game room, with a bit more tucked in boxes awaiting the light of day. And that’s all well and good, but at the end of the day these are games. They are meant to be out where people can read them and play them. I want people, at whatever point they entered the hobby, to have a chance to experience a bit of what the hobby was like before they joined. Or have a chance to see the hobby from someone else’s point of view.

So a few things are going to happen over the next while.

  • I’m setting up a not-for-profit Society, called the Canadian Library of Roleplaying Games; as small as this is now it’s going to grow, and I need a framework for that growth. A NFP Society is also the first step to attaining eventual charitable status, which I think will help us in getting larger donations of gaming material down the line. As it stands, a Society can’t issue tax-receipts, so all I can offer folks for donating material to me now is my winning smile.
  • But having a Society means I can officially donate my personal library of material to that Society, which will form the seed of the collection.
  • I’ve started on a website, and I have Twitter and a Facebook page in place ready for the official launch. The website is going to be a key player in all this, since that is where the collection’s database will live. I know some thing about creating a database and I’ll need to learn a whole bunch more, as well as finding like-minded volunteers to help out.
  • And then I want to get the collection out in front of the public, so I need to decide what that will look like and figure out the logistics. Currently I’m one guy with shelves of gaming stuff and no car, so how I get to events and which events I attend are non-trivial issues.

But for me, all of that is the first part of the fun part. I’m excited to get this project started and you’ll definitely be hearing more about it as I move forward. And if by any chance you’re interested in helping out, whether with time or a donation of material, feel free to email me at canlibrpg@gmail.com. Don’t be put off if I don’t know how to use you quite yet, it’s early days and I’m still figuring things out myself.