Wednesday, November 22, 2017

5e and the Online Thespian Generation

An article over at The Verge is connecting the rise of 5e and RPG liveplays, largely the popular video and live streaming actual plays found on YouTube and Twitch.

I can't argue with that.  If the new (and returning) generations of players are making D&D have its most profitable year ever in an Amazon-related world, it makes sense that they are turning to online instant gratification.  In part, it's solid entertainment value, but it's also the "How do we play this thing?" that we grognards with the blue ink module maps and cheesy dice in the boxed sets longed to have answered in our early days.

The problem, of course, is that these players are being deceived.  Despite all the plot-driven fantasy storylines, the angst-driven brooding, the old school renaissances, and the indy-press revolutions, unless you and your friends are a bunch of improv masters, voice-over actors, and card carrying members of SAG with wicked editing skills, your weekly sessions will than likely carry out like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off running a combat.

Having just been to a convention with plenty of old school and new wave gamers in attendance, I'm quite certain that many were fans of the liveplay series, but very little of their own pedestrian games would warrant their own camera and Twitch channel.

That includes all the My Little Pony games I ran on the Kid's track.  There's 30 seconds or so of video of me running one of those sessions, and despite my 25 years experience and the session being entertaining for all the players, I'm not setting up my own channel to broadcast future MLP games.

I am biased towards the radio-play style that traditional podcasts present gaming sessions in.  There are two things, however, that I keep in mind when listening them.  1) Audio editing can turn enjoyable games into gold, and in reverse, a lack of it and kill a game with promise.  2) The traditional players from podcasts like Skype of Cthulhu are always going to sound like their struggling when put up against professional improv players from the Campaign Podcast.

I always hearken back to a phrase I used repeatedly on this blog, "I'm not the demographic they're targeting." 

What could have been cool a decade or two ago has now vanished from my horizon.  Celebrity gamers (save the game designers themselves) loose their fascination with me, especially when the meat of many of those games is so dry.  Whether its failing to grok Fantasy Flight Star Wars dice, or belittling a setting like Rifts when their own personal favorites fall equally flat in execution, I can only hope the players at the online table have a good time.

So whether you're playing 5e, Pathfinder, or PotA, enjoy the gameplay, and try not to overdramatize the game when a simple 5-ft move or a timely punch in the face will do.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

(Kickstarter) Ducks Lost in the Dungeon of Doom IV: Quack Keep

Some things are great concepts, but are a little harder in ther delivery such as Darcy Perry/Star Hat Miniatures/5th Wall Games and Miniatures Ducks Lost in the Dungeon of Doom IV: Quack Keep.
The core of this campaign is in three parts.  First, an adventure module Quack Keep by the famed Jennell Jacquays riding on her on a slightly warranted professional theme that she "was pretty much labeled as that designer and artist who did the ducks."

Second, is a re-offering of the original five duck miniatures from the Dungeon of Doom III Kickstarter with five new duck characters rounding out the final portion of the offering.

I like them all, but after finally figuring out the conversion for  Canadian Dollars, Euros, and British Pounds, converting from Kiwi Dollars (with the even with Kickstarter's help) is hurting my tiny brain.  It takes a bit, but the ten dollars for the pdf of the module and six dollars or less per figure (plus shipping and handling from New Zealand) isn't too bad. 

Ballad of the Pigeon God #33: Dag and Brutus Have an Adventure

10 DuoDec 1071 Village of Welldale, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
Dag - Kobold acolyte of Akana.  Dutiful husband and father of two.
Brutus - NPC - gigantic, but not-to-bright ex-gladiator who is loyal to the Heroes of the Chateau d'Echelon.
Norm Dingleberry - Nose-picking Dwarven Warrior
Echelon -  Only the current Baron of Eding.  Nothing special.  Eccentric cleric of a distant eastern god of the sea.

Dag DiVelandro - Kobold Warrior of Akana
DAG WRITES IN BOOK.  Yaah!!!  I ate bird
too day Big man is here.  Calls me Bag and Sag.
Jeny hate Dag.  Jeny is magistrate.  Lookin for
sherif.  Go to Lowdale.  To Welldale.  I ride with
Dwarf.  He Smelley.  AAHHHH! Srceam of little guy.
Cursed town.  Scary.  Wierd peopLe.  Sand and
Magic.  Lady at well casting magi.  Bye sade lute
man!  WELL DRY.  THUD!  Little Girl!
Smelly House.  Broker House.  Norm falls in Hole.
Echemon fall to.  DAG HELP TO.  Talis Strong!
Back to town.  Bad spider hurt DAG.  Screams.
Echemon fly from hole.  All is Good?
Me Lost!  Oh Well... Bye bye!!

DM Notes: The biggest issue I had compiling this was that  it was written out of the journal, creating trouble placing this in chronological order.  The page was pretty snug in the pages that should make up episodes #35-37, but that creates some paradoxes.  Placing it during the "Baronial Duties" arc of the campaign is certainly more historically accurate.  

Couldn't tell you what the actual adventure was, but any excuse  for the simpler life in the halfling dales (Lowdale, Welldale, and Elmshire) that are under the jurisdiction of the Baron of Eding were fine with me.  Most visits to those villages were self-contained scenarios, with only the slightest drizzle of campaign continuity.  

Two more notes:  Dag is the most virtuous, most heroic character in the campaign.  He starts out as a terrified kobold, trying to hide, then defend his family.  He moves onto to comic relief and the role of the group's cute puppy, his family acting as a companion to Timmy.  Here, he's back to comic relief, being run by Velandro's (his lord's) player, but he's relatively effective.  

Second, Brutus is a one-trick pony NPC that rarely got mentioned in the journal, but he should have.  Ex-merc, ex-gladiator, picture Razor Ramon from wrestling, but with a heart of gold.   He was a bit of a simpleton that always got people's names wrong (hence Bag and Sag references above), but in world of spider-people dopplegangers, his loyalty and skill with a sword were unquestioned.  
Give him some chain mail and a bastard sword, and you have Brutus.
Next #34 - The Taxmen Delivereth

Monday, November 20, 2017

(Kickstarter) Russian Village from Things From the Basement

Tales From the Basement has produced some wonderful laser-cut buildings and accessories, but now they've launched their first-ever Kickstarter for a Russian Village. 

Whether you want the full set for $220, a mix-and-match for at least $100, or a mix-and-match starting at a buck (plus increased shipping), there are plenty of options to choose from.  

The Russian cabins are calling my name, but the campaign ends a week before Christmas.  

(Review) Games and Stuff, Glen Burnie, Maryland

The girls had yet another long-distance gymnastics meet this past weekend, and with my wife's transmission debacle for the last meet (over Fall-In! weekend), her subsequent new car, and the offer of staying over at some relatives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C, I knew I couldn't resign myself to just watch the dogs and rake some leaves. 

As is the family tradition with the drives below the Mason-Dixon line for meets, my wife always needs to acquire three things at a store the en route to the hotel (or her Aunt and Uncle's place for this event).

  • Hair ties
  • Hair spray
  • White socks
Just hitting the early dinner rush passing through Baltimore, my wife asked for dinner recommendations (insert the couple's who can't choose meals meme of your choice), and I decided to take an exit towards Glen Burnie and see where we ended up for food, and a drug store for the supplies.  

After meandering on the highways a bit, we got off, noticed a few fast food joints, and investigated a strip mall.  Initially, I was delighted to find a Dollar General for the supplies, but as I navigated around the tight little parking lot, an adjacent sign caught my eye:
Imagine it dark, and the green letters with a neon-like glow to them.
While my wife took Millie in Dollar General, Maja and I investigated this strange phenomenon.  Upon entering, we were hit by this sight:
Sweet Freakin' Jesus, I've reached the modern gaming Nirvana.

We were met by stacks of some the more recent board/card games releases, but that first rack in the front of the picture are all family games (re: normal games that mundane people can play and not get weirded out.)  The only two things that the well-visited store didn't seem to have that people inquired about?  Rubik's Cubes and Sorry, and unlike most FLGS, it wasn't that they didn't normally stock it, it was that they were current sold out and getting more. 

Keeping a close eye on an equally excited Maja, we began to explore, and found the biggest permanent set-up for mins-painting that I have ever seen. 
An actual permanent painting/modelling center. 
The minis section occupied the entire right third of the store with GW, Warlord, Malifaux, Battletech, Infinity, Star Wars, Frostgrave, and a host of other lines.  Everything well stocked and with easily visible prices. 

I peaked through the double doors of the storefront to find a gaming area of equal.  Plenty of room for wargames and CCGs, but the thing that caught my eye was the permanent counter where tourney organizers/judges could sit and take care of everything.

The middle third of the storefront could be called a safe space for beginning Warhammer moms.  The previously mentioned traditional games, stacks of non-threatening board games, and a few racks of pop culture tchotchkes and small games. To be truthful, if the Warhammer mom brought a younger sibling, this a varied and amusing version of the candy rack at the checkout that's right behind it. 

The register area was huge, with two registers and an entirely separate area for CCG singles.  I counted at least five employees working the store: one running the wargaming tournament in the back, two alternating the register, one handling the CCG singles crowd, on one fellow who's only job was to give a friendly, but passive greeting to new customers a few moments after they entered the store, and possibly be empathetic enough to those who really had a questions/interest/problem he could help out with.  For most customers, we were given a smile and a hello, and we were left to wander the store unmolested.   

The left third of the storefront is dominated by a fantastic RPG section that realizes that there have been a LOT of games made alongside D&D, and has been given the proper space.  It was the first time I could peruse a few lines in a store-environment, such as a wide array of Trail of Cthulhu products.  In fact, a number of items just solicited for next month's Game Trade Magazine are already on the shelves. 

Intermixed with all the next books was a fair collection of used or even vintage RPG material, much of it priced in the reasonable middle ground between Noble Knight prices and local con dollar auctions. Nothing was a bargain, but most items that caught my eye gave me pause to consider a budget on a return visit. 

To complicate matters for any future finances, was a section of used board/wargames. 
A used section with solid prices 
Again, nothing was dirt cheap unless it was clearance, but the prices were acceptable.
Any store with a copy of Elfquest gets kudos by me!
My wife and Millie returned, got to gaze in wonder and bewilderment all their own, and we left with some Pokemon cards for Maja and single pack of Magic for myself.  I couldn't justify adding more books to the shelves, or minis to the table, but by golly, there was opportunity.  

I don't give out five out of five gnomes for many game stores.  Pop's Culture Shop up in Wellsboro, PA was my first because it was the perfect mixture of small town gaming store that could cater to tourists and non-gamers as well.    

Games and Stuff is the realization of that type of shop in an urban setting.  I counted somewhere between two and three dozen walk-in customers and they accounted for a constant and varied amount of sales.  There was always someone checking out at the register for 30-40 minutes of my stay.  Let me rephrase that to all the other local game stores that focus on their in-store gaming and gamers.  While the tournament people played in the back, all of the store's revenue was getting generated by other people. You can have it both ways if you're willing to invest the time and the inventory.  

Or perhaps Games and Stuff should just be a template that other FLGS can aspire to be and still maintain their own identity.  

My wife's first words to me when she came in summed up my opinion of Games and Stuff:  "This is exactly the store you would have if you could open one yourself."  

I could only nod and giggle... and give them Five out of Five Gnomes.

Games and Stuff is located 7385 Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard Suite G
Glen Burnie, MD 21061.  Their phone number (410) 863-7418.

And to finish up the reason for our meandering, we found an acceptable IHOP, visited the relatives the girls earned two golds, two silvers, and a host of lesser awards at their meet, and we managed to stop at Primanti Bros. in York for a great lunch before returning home.  After back-to-back con weekends and car problems, this was a great family weekend.  

Those leaves will wait until December. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How Do You Teach Gene Simmons?

Last week was Open House at the kids school.  We have the beneift of living in a great school district, so events like this over-attended to an extreme.  Back in the day, my Mom could handle the open house for both my sister and I, but here it's seems required to have Mom, Dad, all kids, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Sid, and everyone who ever babysat the children... and all of them come in their own car.

We snuck into the school in the last twenty minutes, got all the expected accolades for our kids from the teachers, and got out before anyone noticed the PTA fundraisers.

The high point for me was spotting Millie's 1st Grade "When I grow up" story.  While they encourage the children spelling however they can sound out the words, I find it amusing that she replaced "kids" with "kiss."