BATTLEBARDS-PREMIER TABLETOP AUDIO & TOOLS FOR YOUR CAMPAIGNS

Battlebards

Over a year ago I had the chance to do a Q&A session with the team behind a little Kickstarter project trying to give us the auditory means to shape atmosphere at our gaming tables. Today the Battlebards website finds itself deep into its Beta launch with a slew of new options coming to the fore. Thus, though I’ve been using music and sound effects from the site ever since launch, I felt know was the perfect time to do a bit of a deep dive into the site and see just what new tools I can play around with.

Before I get into the music I wanted to give some props to the site’s blog (because of course I’d be interested in the blog portion of any site, even one dedicated to awesome musical additions to gaming). When crafting an article for the blog the site creators don’t simply note that a new track is available, or that an update has occurred. Instead the pieces are usually really engaging write-ups. Currently at the top of the page you’ll find a post that gives us insight into one of the composers used on the site. The composer is Stefan Totsev, who crafted the haunting\uplifting melody “Monks of the Sun God”. I love gaining insight into people’s backstories and this is just an excellent treat. Beyond that there are numerous mentions of new tracks, deals on the site, and even a few guest spots from other notables. Even if you aren’t a subscriber (yet), the blog has a lot going for it.

Store

Let’s get into the music though, shall we? When I backed the project I actually purchased a decent chunk of tunes but after actually paying attention to the store I now see that my library of nearly 200 tracks is a paltry sum. There are currently 871 tracks available for purchase individually or you can pick them up in bundled forms by choosing from 77 albums. The albums are broken down into categories so you can easily pinpoint what you might want. If you just want mood music (the arena I’ve been most successful in) simply do a store search for “Music” under Albums. If you’re a bit better about adding actual sound effects to your games you can grab from things like “NPC Scripts”, or “Sound Effects” (Shields breaking, bowstrings, sword clangs etc.).

One thing Battlebards is not is stingy with their sampling. To my knowledge you can listen through the entirety of an album before deciding to purchase it. You can hit play on anything you wish to sample and throughout your stay on the site the track(s) will play using an audio player that remains stationary on the bottom of the site, until you decide to try out another sound. I’ve been listening to the Underground Lake City album the entire time I’ve been writing this, I own one of the four tracks and want to know if I need more (I was running Out of the Abyss at one point, the track “Underground Lake City – Lightness Shores” was used often). If you listen long enough you’ll notice the phrase “Battlebards dot com” being intermittently cropping up to break the immersion, can’t have you just playing from the site for game night eh?

Sample

I will say that the ease in which you can search for music in the store holds gives way to validating one of my frustrations with the site. In the section housing what you’ve purchased, the “Library” tab, you don’t get that same level of functionality. What I have on my end is a list of my 192 tracks, that appear to be sorted by artist, with no other method of sorting available. Granted, the idea is to download tracks into your own audio playing software, and I have done this, where you can sort with greater ease. It still bugged me that I couldn’t do a quick search for a specific track I wanted right then and there though. If you have a full albums of something you can go to the Albums tab where you can click on the “tracks” number to give an album breakdown, but I don’t think all of my tracks show up here. If I’m ever to make a playlist on the actual site to be used on their Soundboard, I’d really like to be able to break things down into smaller chunks.

Library

I keep wanting to click “Audio Type” to re-organize this list!

Speaking of the Soundboard, it is one of the newer aspects of the site. In this area you’ll be able to bring up a fully completed playlist to incorporate into one of you games. I played around with this a ton and this is exactly what I’ve been missing when trying to have something on hand to incorporate multiple sounds at a time in my games. You can pull up to two playlists up at a time, perhaps one for Music and Soundscapes while the second incorporates your favorite Sound Effects. Here’s another deal, in the Soundboard there’s a MUCH easier way of adding to a playlist than using the Your Playlist tab. I can simply add tracks to a playlist using the option on the left, and lo and behold they actually have it broken down exactly how I wanted it done in my library too. So while my ire with the library still stands it is greatly lessened by the ease in which I can utilize the soundboard. There are still some bugs here though as it appears one of my recently chosen tracks seems to have disappeared behind the “Play All” banner in the second column. This is going to be a huge boon to my audio usage at the table though.

Soundboard

What a few Playlists look like

Adding Soundboard Tracks

Clicking the “plus sign” to the left opens up your tracks

The last new item I wanted to talk about is the Mixer. This is something I’ve been very excited about since day one. I always pictured myself making some killer tracks on this thing and it seems I’m fully able to do so! That is…if I had a single skill in my body to do so. Seriously, I played around with this and it is apparent I’ve a long way to go in order to make use of it myself. That’s on me though, the mixer seems very intuitive. It is still in development so the ease of adding tracks can be tricky unless you know to actually create a mix first (would love to be able to play around with mixing then save a mix after, but that’s only a quibble). One of the mixes I did recently was adding a few extra sound effects to the Monsterscape track “Common Giant – Combat – Fighting the Hill Giant” It was a real simple mix that makes it sound as if an Arrow Barrage takes the giant down.

Mixer Demo

Obviously people are going to do far better than I at crafting some seriously awesome sounds with this mixer, even if I never do. Stands to be seen how exactly Battlebards allows the mixer to be used. Will we one day be able to import our own sounds and sell through the site? Either way, even if it is only ever for private use, I’m having a blast toying with it.

Frankly, I don’t know how much longer Battlebards will have the right to keep that word Beta on their site. Things are beginning to be very well polished over there. I imagine once they finalize the Mixer they are going to have to consider themselves fully fleshed out. I’ve had a blast on the site during this review and I think you will too. Signing up on the site is 100% free, i’d suggest anyone to so it if for no reason other than to listen to some of the cool works they have. Once signed up, you’ll probably want to buy a track or two and for that, you’re in luck.

There is currently a coupon code for some great free tracks on the Battlebards site, exclusively from The RPG Academy Network, to celebrate the upcoming release of an Album called “Pirates – And the Grand Ocean“, but you can’t get it right here sadly (don’t want to just throw a Coupon Code into the wilds of the net for easy Google searches!). Here’s what you need to do, check out one of many fine podcasts in the RPG Academy Network because this code is going to crop up in some, maybe all of their shows. I know for a fact that the newest line of podcast material from The RPG Academy called “Detention” (hosted by The Caleb G.) will house the code info soon, if not already.

Another way to get the code? Leave a comment below and I’ll get you the list of codes by another means!

The codes will get you the following discounts, they are good through the end of the year (Happy hunting!):

If you buy the $10 or $24 package, the first code gets you 1 free track
if you buy the $50 or $100 package, the second code gets you 5 free tracks
If you buy the $150 or $300 package, the third Code gets you 16 free tracks

You have to have a battle bards account to claim anything. it’s free to set up with an email

That’s all from me folks, let me know if you have any tidbits to share from your own Battlebards wanderings. Remember, comments will get you Codes!

-Melvs

P.S. Battlebards has also produced 16 videos thus far on their YouTube Channel, many of them go to great lengths to showcase how to use certain functions on their site. If you are having trouble with something they may have produced a video on it! I know I need to check out this video right here to learn more about mixing.

Meta Arcade Brings Tunnels & Trolls to the Small Screen

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Meta Arcade teamed with Tunnels and Trolls for a cool app I’ll explain in detail later

Tunnels and Trolls has the prestige of being the second tabletop roleplaying game to ever hit the scene, and is working on being something of a first adopter in the digital age by teaming with Meta Arcade and the Meta Arcade Adventures Platform. T&T is well known for its “choose your own adventure” games that first allowed players to run themselves through a solo adventure of their own making equipped with all the same rules you’d know from any tabletop rpg. Now Meta Arcade founder and CEO David Reid has created the bones of a platform where players can run through digital adventures that utilize the Tunnels and Trolls rule-set, bringing these adventures straight to your phones, tablets, and home computers.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Reid at Gen Con about the partnership and their plans going forward, and had a chance to test drive the game itself (more on that in a bit). His excitement for the project was palpable, in fact he grew up playing T&T, he explained plans to not only bring its users games to play but open up access for anyone to publish their own works for others. The adventures, or even campaigns, would then be for sale through the app allowing for creatives to market their own work. Players will also be able to keep the PCs they create, the treasures they earn throughout, and the levels they amass taking on adventure after adventure.

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Playing the demo at the Gen Con booth was excellent fun. I expected a strong game play experience but was even more impressed by the pure immersion I was allowed once I donned the headphones. The sound effects and music blended with the on screen game play excellently and I soon found myself rooting for my poor hapless PC as she attempted to survive the rigors of T&T’s Naked Doom. The adventure was grueling as my character attempted to traverse through a dungeon she was dropped into with nothing, not even a stitch of clothing, to protect her. I defeated a cave troll, survived a number of traps, and actually made it to the end on my first attempt! I made one last poor choice however as I attempted to take on the guards at the end. I ended up facing nine and for once even lucky dice rolls couldn’t save me.

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Dead. But hey, look at those adventure points! 3,399!

Once this app is widely available I have every intention of owning it, hopefully I can even craft an adventure or two myself. Be on the lookout for a followup as I make my attempts on the final app, I signed up for the beta after all.

About MetaArcade
MetaArcade, founded by industry veteran David Reid in 2016, is a Seattle area indie developer dedicated to empowering communities of creators through accessible self-
publishing platforms.
For more information, follow MetaArcade on Facebook and Twitter @MetaArcade, and visit www.metaarcade.com
About Flying Buffalo
Flying Buffalo, founded in 1970 and based in Scottsdale, AZ, stands amongst the industry’s most veteran publishers of tabletop games. Among its many notable series and titles are Tunnels & Trolls, Grimtooth’s Traps, Nuclear War, and Mercenaries, spies, and Private Eyes.

-Melvs

P.S. The fine folks at the Flying Buffalo\Meta Arcade booth were handing out some sweet swag, each person who test drove the app got to take home a copy of “Grimtina’s Guard” a solo adventure written by Ken St. Andre himself (pictured below). Here’s the deal, they also gave me five extra copies! First come, first served. Leave a message in the comments telling me either why you wish you could have gone to Gen Con or what your favorite part about it was and I’ll mail you a copy (we’ll work out the details somehow).

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Invisible Sun-Luxury Gamecraft in an Age of Minimalising

When Numenera burst onto the scene back in August 2012 it was apparent that Monte Cook Games endeavored to be different from the status quo, and ever since that day their efforts to bring us games that border on the surreal has been met with success. There is something about every project they’ve put out that screams “care and attention was paid here”. Certainly they aren’t the only company that does so, but anyone who has ever spent much time reading their thoughts on their games, watched a panel prior to introducing a new one, or even met the MCG team knows they put more than a little of their soul into a product. The Invisible Sun RPG is going to be an interesting beast to say the least. I have to imagine the Kickstarter campaign will succeed, it is already well on its way (currently $153,984 pledged of a $210,653 goal with 557 backers). I also feel it has a lot of potential to be pretty divisive, not necessarily in a negative way but it is definitely going to get a conversation started regarding the trade offs of quality game craft and the accessibility of your game. It’s going to be an interesting ride.

invisiblesun

That damn cat

WHY DOES IT HAVE HANDS!?

At Gen Con MCG announced Invisible Sun, and it was immediately apparent they were going gamble hard with some real innovation. Promises have been made to up the ante with modes of play (Action, Narrative, and Development), all things GMs may have utilized before but from what I can tell this game will have rules built into the system for such things.  Players, and their stories will take the lead here with a GM that guides them through a world they have “awoken” back into. The world we know is referenced as a “Shadow World” and the players are trying to get back to the “Actuality”. Other than that we know the game will be based in a “surreal” fantasy setting, & their marketing prior to the Kickstarter was filled with cryptic messages, hidden real life geocaches, and fantastic concept art (except that damn cat…*). Needless to say I have been very impressed thus far.

many face

Character Concept

 

The Kickstarter itself launched today and at first I was confused. Whenever I check out a Kickstarter for review my first step is always the backer levels (not uncommon), I like to have an idea of my preferred backer level and the best bang for your buck. You won’t get that from me this time. The Invisible Sun Kickstarter makes it plain, this packaging of the game is the luxury model. I have no clue if later iterations will be priced for the individual purchaser but for the time being it seems the lowest price point, the “Call the Black Cube” level, is set at $197.00.

My first reaction at this lofty price was to scoff, but I dug deeper and realized they intended the Black Cube to be something an entire game group can go in on and have ownership over. Not the first game company to encourage a backer level that involved multiple folks chipping in, but I’ve never seen someone make it their opening act. After that the price just skyrockets until it reaches a price just south of 6 grand (and someone has actually laid that grip down). When the inference was made that they were going to bring a lux product to the table, they didn’t disappoint. From the looks of things, even the $197.00 model will be packed with great stuff…and just what’s in that box you ask (perhaps with feigned terror as you quote a certain Fincher flick)? Well, they answered that just today, and, in my opinion, it is worth every penny.

Black Box

This is everything you get in the Black Cube

The Books: The box contains four beautifully, intricately presented rule and setting books called The Key, The Gate, The Path, and The Way. These contain everything you need to start an Invisible Sun campaign. You’ll also find them to be filled with hidden puzzles, codes, and mysteries all their own. While solving these isn’t crucial, it will enhance your experience.

Sooth Deck: A special deck of 60 round cards used to facilitate gameplay and inspire GM creativity.

Board: A durable, folding cardstock board featuring the Path of Suns, on which the GM plays the Sooth cards.

Testament of Suns: An imposing resin sculpture that holds a Sooth card that is active long-term for all to see.

Spell Cards: 200 cards detailing the spells characters will cast in the game.

Ephemera Cards: 300 cards detailing the minor magic and one-use incantations characters will use in the game.

Artifact Cards: 100 cards describing the magical accoutrements characters will obtain and create in the game.

Tokens: More than 100 tokens of different types to use for the different kinds of player rewards, Vance spell management, and more.

Dice: 4 gorgeous 10-sided dice marked with game-specific symbols. One is a “mundane” die, while others are special “magic” dice.

Secrets Envelope: A sealed envelope with some of the deepest secrets of the setting. This is different than the secrets that all vislae (backers) will get in addition to the game, tied to the active sun on the day that they cast their spell to summon the Black Cube.

Cloth Map: A gorgeous map of the City of Satyrine.

Poster Map: A two-sided map showing the Actuality and the fantastic realm of Indigo.

The Guiding Hand: A GM’s notebook that guides the GM through creating a campaign of their own, with ideas, suggestions, and prompts.

Player Handouts: Dozens of useful things, from quick-reference rule cards to a plethora of handouts and clue-laden props.

Character Tomes: The four orders of magic, plus the order-rejecting Apostates, each get their own unique four-page character tome. The game contains six blank copies of each type of tome, ready to use to create characters.

Grimoire Pad: A pad of 30 handy sheets for players to record their spells, secrets, and more.

Bookmarks: Four special bookmarks, each tied to a different book, not only help mark important pages, but list frequently referenced pages for important topics. And might they be part of a larger clue to yet another mystery? Everything’s fair game.

Pregenerated Characters: Five iconic characters for the setting, ready to use as player characters.

Sun Medallion: Every game contains one of eight metal medallions, each tied to one of the suns of the Path of Suns. Fate will decide which medallion you get, as there will be equal numbers of each made.

The Cube Itself: The Black Cube is a mystery box taken right from the game’s setting. This incredibly sturdy box folds in a unique design, and it includes a special compartment for the books and a plastic tray to hold the cards and components of the game.

Searchable Electronic Reference: Every copy of the game comes with a digital download of the rules and setting material. You can read it on a tablet or other screen and easily search the file to find what you need.

Secrets: Are there still more mysteries hidden in the box somewhere? Probably, for those who look carefully.

A hallmark of this Kickstarter campaign, and frankly the game itself, is mystery, magic, and secrecy. MCG started strong with ciphers and geocaches and promises that the game itself will contain many secrets to be unveiled. There is even a difference in what backer secret you’ll receive based on what sun, of the nine suns, was “active” during the time you backed the project. From what I understand the books will likely hold puzzles and ciphers as well. It all just sounds so cool!

literary geocaching

When referencing the game on the Kickstarter page the opening line reads thusly

Invisible Sun is a tabletop roleplaying game of surreal fantasy. It’s dark. It’s moody. It’s adult.

keys

This image here really grabbed me.

They play up the immersion factor, claiming it truly isn’t for everyone. This will be a game for a group to really dig their teeth into and develop some damn story arcs! It really seems to go about checking off every box in my personal list of desires in a game. One aspect I find very interesting is what I touched on above regarding the third mode of play the “Development” mode. Essentially this is something many of us GMs have handled on an ad hoc basis, a player may want to have their character accomplish some task or flesh out a bit more of their backstory away from the table. There’s been many times I’ve exchanged a few emails with my players about such things and we’ve come up with something cool that may effect the game once we get back to the table. Well Invisible Sun purports to have this as a far more literal aspect of play. I’m truly intrigued to see how this is actually implemented. It seems there will be at least some concrete rules surrounding this mode of play because, as mentioned in more depth here, Monte has explained that these actions taken away from the game table will have in game consequences. I love the idea, enough to have done it myself in my own way, so I’m fully on board to see how it can become a full on addition to a game.

Path of Suns

Really wish I’d caught on to all the cool Geocaching before the Kansas City one got found.

I’ve been digging around the internet all afternoon, researching the many aspects of this Kickstarter, and I could probably come up with far more interesting tidbits to bat around but honestly, do yourself a favor and check things out for yourself. Even if you’re currently priced out like so many others, it’s all worth looking into. I’d also like to say I’ve been very impressed with the reaction by many of those who simply cannot figure out how to afford to get in on this. It has mostly been a message of “I can’t afford your product, but I still believe in your message here, and wish you the best with this deluxe game.” It would be oh so easy to get angry, and frankly jealous, that you can’t afford to get in on the fun, but I’ve seen very little of that. I hope the tenor of feedback remains that positive. I even saw one commentor who believed in the vision so much, despite being unable to back at even the lowest level, that he paid in $10 just to help MCG succeed! I’m not recommending such an action, but hey kudos to that guy.

So if you are interested in a big, luxury, gaming product, in this era where new games on the scene have been marketing in a more streamlined fashion, Invisible Sun seems to be your bag. If you can afford to, I’d suggest taking a chance on this beautiful project. In just over a year’s time your players could be free of the Shadow and in the realm of the Acuality!

BAKER LEVELS OF NOTE

Baker 01

Initial level, that Cube does indeed come packed!

Baker 02

Here’s the real deal item. I say that because of that little bullet point in the middle. You know there will be Stretch Goals folks, you know there will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Melvs

 

*The cat is actually really cool it just creeps me out.

Gen Con 2016

Just like that the thunderous rolling of thousands of dice has finally ceased as the 49th Gen Con has come to a close. Once again I had the privilege of attending, and once again I more than enjoyed myself as I dabbled in old traditions and fresh wonders. Every year has its reasons to be memorable, and maybe it’s simply because I am fresh from attending but this one feels like it may go down as one of the best ever, well… for me at least. I’ll try to unpack everything as best I can but to be honest, with so much having occurred, I’m certain to leave a few things out.

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WEDNESDAY

Once again I had the pleasure of hooking up with the gang from the Gamerstable Podcast (whom I understand will be ending their podcast run in roughly 20 episodes WHAT!?) for some shared driving, room, and board. After a lengthy goodbye to my wife and two lovely kids (I missed them terribly all con), I made the trek to Illinois for the carpool. We left mid-morning and made Indianapolis in good time and the first thing we noticed was dear sweet Drowzee was Indy a hotbed for Pokestops and ‘mons! After a quick check in at the Sheraton we were off to The Ram!

The Ram has become the go to watering hole for the yearly Gamerstable meetup, and historically I’ve always had something else to do that night. This year I was free and clear to join the festivities though and I’m certainly glad to have done so. Getting the chance to catch up with the guys and gals of Gamerstable was a highlight for me the entire convention. I live within and hour or two of most of them but typically during the year life gets in the way of spending all that much together. I spent the night meeting up with old friends and made a number of new ones. Highlights include having the entire Of Dreams and Magic (ODAM) team come by to pay a visit, meeting Pete Petrusha in person finally, and Toju…TOJU my awesome buddy, and fellow Vagabond Gamer, from Australia that I finally met in person as well!

The Ram was highlighting the new EATdition from Privateer Press this year! ;P

The Ram was highlighting the new EATdition from Privateer Press this year! ;P

The Ram was an awesome hangout spot but that was the only place I needed to stop by Wednesday night. So I took a leisurely walk down to the Union Station Ballroom to catch up with Michael Ross from The RPG Academy. It felt like I was walking into a pocket plane wherein AcadeCon lay within Gen Con. I happened to walk into numerous games already in progress and, not seeing an opening anytime soon, I made due with some brief “nice to see-yas” and made my way back to The Ram to finish the night. I had kind of ditched the ODAM team anyway, so I wanted to get back and resume chatting with them, and others.

The night ended with a glance at the Will Call line and a hearty “Hell no I ain’t standing in that!”. I made my way back to the hotel and collapsed, ready to awaken in like 4-5 more hours to jump in the Press line!

THURSDAY

Thursday morning came real early for me. I woke at 5 a.m. and quietly stole from my hotel room into the dark morning. This year someone made the decision to limit press access to the con floor to just the first 90 press badge holders to jump in line that morning at the press room and I wanted that early access. As I was walking to the line I noticed there was an absence of a line for Will Call so I walked up and got my tickets in less than five mins (looks like skipping it the night before was the right call). I was fortunate to get in line as the number 29th line guy and Michael Ross was number 27! He willingly slid back a spot in line so we could chat about our excitement for the convention. The press line is always a fun time, I get to see a lot of familiar faces. Later on a few other buddies showed up further down the line so Michael and I had some fun tweeting back and forth with Rohit from Gamersplane and Bryce. Bryce made a crack about my beardless face & it hurt me deeply.

Press Badge in hand I realized I left my camera back at the room (I’m really good at this “reporting thing”) so I hoofed it back to the hotel. The trip back and forth from the hotel clocked in at .6 of a mile one way. Perfect distance in my opinion, just far enough away to dissuade me from spending too much time there but close enough for a walk.

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The early access line(s)

After grabbing my camera I made it back to the early access line just in time to discover the snafu that had occurred regarding it. Two lines had formed, I had no way of discerning which was the “true line” so I made the call to just sit near a wall outlet and charge my phone figuring I’d get in early no matter what line I was in. This marks the only time at the convention I ever noticed people actually seeming frustrated enough to cast aspersions on others. I totally got it too, see most of the early access folks were VIG’s (Very Important Gamers), they had paid good money for the privilege of early access and they wanted to ensure they got to the booths they were interested in in order to buy the games they feared were limited. So this two line business meant that effectively many were cutting in front of others. I wanted no part in that, had no interest in buying things right away anyhow.

As and aside, and I’ve struggled with whether or not to even bring this up, I feel Gen Con has an issue with the various access levels that they give Press. Now, being a member of the press pool at Gen Con it may seem like I’m complaining from a bit of a “first world standing” but hear me out. Right now the best access the press has to those on the exhibit room floor is the one hour early access on day one of the Con. We are given the same one hour that the VIG’s and various other specialty groups are given, and this year only 90 of us were even given that. The VIG’s are there to shop, they are going to storm the doors and fill up lines and time with the biggest names out there the second they get through those doors. While I have no qualms talking with some of the smaller groups out there, this is an impediment to our ability to catch some of the bigger fish ad hoc. We are certainly capable of setting up our own interview times, mine you, but it just feels like we should have a bit more access. In my opinion Press should be allowed in an hour early or an hour later on some other day. Give the VIG’s their initial day and let press have a day all their own. Maybe even one hour early on Sunday. Right now, other than the novelty (though I really love and appreciate that novelty!), there isn’t a lot of reason for press to be in there with the horde of VIG’s.

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So lovely

Moving on. That first hour on the floor was nice, if not particularly useful. I got to take in the sights without the crush of people you usually run into. I also noticed immediately that the fine folks of Gen Con made huge efforts to lower the crowds with a large increase in exhibit hall space! Later on in the con weekend I noticed the extra space made for a much more open exhibit floor.  I did get to speak with the creators of one particularly interesting game I’d never seen before. Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok has actually been around in some way since 1993 but it’s most current edition originates in 2005 and now has a second edition that came out in 2012. The books are gorgeous and the mechanics rely on the pulling of runes rather than die rolls, this style is called the “Runic Game System” or RGS. Looks like they were there repping their new book FotN:Ragnarok: Denizens of the North on top of their older, core books. Man these books looked very cool and I wish I’d been able to lay down cash right then and there!

The early access hour evaporated very quickly and after watching the hordes descend onto the con floor I grabbed some lunch, headed back to the hotel to chill for a bit, and then grabbed my Orc Stomp 5k packet! I’m always excited about the 5k, despite some thinking I’m nuts for even doing it. It’s fun just chatting with others getting ready for it too, so packet pickup is a nice easy going experience. After that I hit the exhibit hall floor for just a little longer and then it was back to the hotel yet again to get myself all dressed up for the annual Gamerstable Award Dinner at St. Elmos Steakhouse.

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Eric presenting Monte Cook the coveted Gamerstable Award

This year’s award recipient was Monte Cook, and his plus one was none other than Shanna Germain. I am consistently impressed by the ability Eric Austley has to draw in big names for this award, his recipients all deserve the accolades too. Monte and Shanna were excellent dinner table companions, despite the fact Monte convinced Shanna and I to try a Sichuan Button.  Don’t get me wrong, I like trying new things but… let’s just say it was not for me, not big into “electrocuting” my tongue. There were numerous folks I enjoyed chatting with in attendance as well. I got to meet Chris Hussey, in fact I sat next to him having a pleasurable conversation for about an hour before I finally realized who he was! I was able to catch up with my buddy Scott, The Angry GM. Running back into Michael Ross & Pete Petrusha was great too. Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this was the prime spot to run into Eric (and of course most of the Gamerstable crew; Shannon, Jayson, Mike, Dan, etc.) who was apparently super busy all con because he disappeared like a ghost after that night!

In the afterglow of the dinner I offered to run a pickup game of Savage Worlds: Sundered Skies for a group of us in attendance and I had a blast doing so. I witnessed a new friend of mine, Jason Butz, roll up one of the biggest exploding die continuations ever. His sorcerer meant to just freeze a railing in order to bust it and the grappling hooks attached to it but ended up freezing the entire side of the ship! They lost the cannons on that side of the airship but the pirates who were after them lost 3/4 of the men attempting to board. It was crazy!

Realizing it was midnight and Shannon and I both had to be up at 5 a.m. to run a 5k we called it a night.

FRIDAY

A mere 4-5 hours after going to sleep I found my eyes creaking open and somehow willed myself from my bed to get out the door and head to the Orc Stomp 5k. The second I was out in the cool morning air I found myself waking up instantly, it was a damn fine morning. As with every other time I walked to and from the hotel I casually had Pokemon Go running to grab stops and the myriad of Pokemon that crawled across the city streets of Indy. Many feel like you can’t truly enjoy your surroundings while playing the game but I find I can easily glance at the game off and on while taking in the sites quite well. not to mention I was made aware of some cool historical markers in Downtown Indy that I would have never paid any mind to before. Somehow I wasn’t even aware the Capitol building was right there near the convention center but, I know now!

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The Orc Stomp 5k was held, once again, along the White River Trail. Honestly this is one of the most gorgeous 5k runs I do every year. I met up with a fellow blogger friend of mine, Rob, who two years ago introduced me to the race by letting me run it under one of the free passes obtained by his sponsorship of the run. It was great catching up with him while we all prepped for the race. We had a few laughs about the last time I ran, where I overslept, drove frantically to the race, and then posted my best 5k time ever (something like 27 mins) just trying to finish the already started race! I enjoyed all the costumes immensely and reminded myself I’d like to dress up one year, I then found out that one of the costumed groups actually had a role in the run itself. The “Raptors” were associated with Exile Game Studio, specifically their game Hallow Earth Expeditions. As you can see in the image they dressed up like Raptors and “chased” us throughout the race. Essentially there were two main raptor types, fast and not as fast. If you beat the faster raptor you’d get a gold ribbon, and if you beat the next fastest you’d get a green ribbon. I loved this concept because I’m never going to win a 5k but I can sure beat at least one of them raptors!

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Waiting for the race to start was pretty fun. We discovered the starting line camped two Pokestops and we made use of them while chatting with fellow racers. I never got the name of the racer wielding the giant mallet, but I learned the next day after speaking with my buddies at Dog Might Games that the mallet was theirs, it was pretty damn heavy, and the guy who held it through the entire race had won the 5k the year before. Needless to say he didn’t win this year but man what an achievement to run 3.1 miles carrying that monstrous thing! Soon, the race was off. I made the mistake of running the thing as if I were actually in shape and earned myself a pulled calf muscle for my hubris. Still, I clocked a time of 33 mins, only three mins longer than my average. I was a blast and I even earned myself a green ribbon! I stuck around for the rest of my buddies finishing the race and then we headed back to the hotel.

I was very fortunate to have plenty of time to shower and ready myself for a very exciting portion of my day, the RPG Academy Network Panel.We had a decent crop of network folks at the con so Michael had decided to set up an open panel. It was a lot of fun, the podcasters fielded the majority of the questions early on because, let’s face it, podcasting is sexy as hell. Later in the session though we started delving into some blog, game mastering, advocacy, and regular old gaming questions that I was more than happy to jump in on. Little pleases me more than chatting with others who hold a reverence for this hobby and I enjoyed every moment of it (finally got to meet @theworstDM in person too!). Not to mention after the panel we got to get a little bit of gaming in as Senda and Emily introduced us to their 5 min RPG concept, and by “introduced” I mean slaughtering us mercilessly one after another…in 5 mins or less! This was recorded so you might later hear our downfalls.

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Left to right: Chris, Lucas, Senda, Michael, Emily, Myself

After lunch I stopped by the press room to debate drinking coffee or going back to the hotel for some sleep. While there I ran into Michael Long from Tribality and had a nice chat, then saw Rob Stith in the hall. By then the general lack of sleep had finally caught up to me and I trudged back to the hotel for a nap. Sadly this meant I ended up sleeping through the Phoenix Dawn Command & Shes’s a Super Geek panels that I wanted to attend but I know I needed it!

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I did make it to one of the panels I scheduled that day though. Privateer Press put on a development panel regarding Warmachine and Hordes. In years past I’ve attended panels by these folks regarding new upcoming products so it was interesting to listen in on one that comes on the heels of the major release of the third edition of the game. Many in the crowd, myself included, were hoping for a reveal of the newest faction that has been teased for some time now but we were left wanting. The majority of the panel consisted of some discussion regarding the way they go about creating a concept and the various channels it then goes through before becoming a retail piece. I could tell the room wanted to know more about upcoming items but frankly they didn’t have a ton to show off. If you recall two years ago, in the Unleashed panel, they had computer issues and luckily were able to use my computer to show off their images and such. Well, they had computer issues again and this time I did not bring my own so i couldn’t save the day. One tease we got for the new faction was that they intend to have them use feats completely differently from the other factions, but this is all still in development.  I asked about the Roleplaying Game (because of course I did) and I learned they want to expand on Piracy some more, which sounds fantastic!

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One thing I knew I had to do at Gen Con this year was visit with my friends behind Trapdoor Technologies and the Playbook app. In case you are unaware they have now aligned themselves with Paizo and Pathfinder (their app is even more polished  now than ever before). They were holed away in the Sagamore Ballroom with the rest of the massive Pathfinder realm. The place was truly daunting in size. It was great catching up with Chris and

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The last scheduled event I had for the night was the big one for me, the ENnies. If you are a regular reader you know this but this year I had the esteemed pleasure of actually being nominated for the Best Website category. I was pretty damn certain I wasn’t going to win even the Silver ENnie but I knew I needed to go to the event if only to see my site’s banner flash across the big screen in the front (which I totally neglected to get a photo of… luckily someone else did)! The best part for me was when my site popped up on the screen Kevin Kulp made the comment that my banner was the “Happiest he’d ever seen”, high praise to Wes of Nameless PC’s! Well folks, I didn’t win anything but I am certainly excited that I’ll forever be an ENnie nominated writer. Can’t take that from me eh? I sat there just long enough to see if Michael won Best Podcast for The RPG Academy (sadly he did not), and decided to catch the rest of my group at Giorgio’s Pizza for some excellent deep dish.

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We finished the night with a pick up game of ad-hoc Pathfinder run by Mike Bridges, of Gamerstable fame, where I was so slap happy tired that I ran a rogue modeled loosely after Emperor Norton , the first and last Emperor of these United States. His name was Vernon Lundman, he dressed in the finest of rags, knew everyone, and even minted his own currency known as the “Lundmark”. It was an awesome ending to a crazy day.

SATURDAY

Saturday was much more laid back than the previous two days. I spent most of my time running into friends and chatting a bit. Forgive me if you’re one of those I ran into and you aren’t getting a mention! I really had nothing planned until early afternoon. I ate an awesome Gyro from the Ali Baba’s food truck, which is starting to become a tradition for me. Then I spent some time in the park near the JW Marriott catching Cubones on Pokemon Go until I could evolve to a Marowak, as one does. Soon it was time for me to head to my scheduled game run by none other than Chris Hussman!

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Michael claimed this guy looked like Freddie Mercury

I was joined by Michael Ross and one of his podcast’s faculty members Brad. It ende dup being just the three of us as we weaved our way through a story filled with heartache, high adventure, and good old fashioned “end of days” stopping. I don’t want to go into too much detail, just in case some of you have the chance to ever play in this specific game. I really wouldn’t want to ruin it’s many twists. Suffice it to say it was my favorite game of the con. Michael, Brad, and I played really well off one another and in the end Chris even had some high praise for our roleplay and decisions throughout. I really got into character and loved every moment of it. Reminded me of why I love these games in the first place.

After the game we ran through a playtest of a neat game concept Michael is working on and I went looking for my crew for dinner. At this point, basking in the glow of completing all my scheduled fun I got to be a bit homesick if I’m to be honest. I missed my family a ton but knew I still had some fun times in store.

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Dinner was fun, we sat with the incredible Anna Myers at Champs where she had hung up her massive map of Greyhawk that she had crafted on her own. She is truly a master Cartographer. It was at dinner I where I was convinced to go to the Gencon dance, namely because Toju was going and I hadn’t spent nearly enough time with him. It was one Hell of a way to end the day, I’ll tell you that. The Union Station was filled to the brim with scores of us nerds just dancing (and drinking) the night away. Tons of fun, I only wish my wife could have been there, some of the most fun we have together is hitting the dance floor!

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The dance ended and I hit the hotel, instead of going to sleep I sat up with a number of my roommates. Shannon’s boyfriend Brandon and I chatted about how Goku is kind of a jerk among other awesome anime talk. After that it was lights out.

SUNDAY

Hard to believe the con ever really came to a close. I wandered around aimlessly with Shannon, Brandon, and Jason B. for a bit, then tracked down Michael at his Post Con deal where I ran into Dani and John. We sent a little love via snapchat to our buddy Pierce, who should have been at Gen Con running a Ravenloft game for us (had some weak excuse about buying a house). I then headed back to the con floor to debate once more if I’d make my one purchase of a Hirst Arts Mold but decided against it as I figured I’d spent plenty that weekend already. Thus, I made it through all of Gen Con purchasing nothing but food and lodging.

Lastly the gang and I met up with Toju, where we quietly chatted in the back of the exhibit hall until they shut the thing down signaling the end of another great year. After that the car ride home seemed to take forever as I yearned to get back to my family. Man, what a great time though.

Last thought? Sure wish Wizards of the Coast had been there this year…

Feel free to share Gen Con stories in the comments! Also, if you’ve got a hankering for another con, check out AcadeCon (meet me there!)! There are still passes availiable

-Melvs

PICTURES!

So there were a number of things I now realize I forgot to mention, namely because I can’t recall what day they occurred! I’m going to be lazy and simply put the pictures up with some blurbs.

 

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The Porkchop Express was in town for the event

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Some cool cats eh? Left to right The Carpe DM, myself and Rohit from Gamersplane

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Always awesome catching up with author Hans Cummings

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The RPG Academy Podcast pre-con meetup

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Finally worked up the nerve to shake Jolly Blackburn’s hand

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The ODAM team drops by The Ram

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TOJU! We look eerily similar in the face in this picture.

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Toju and Shannon

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More shots of the Gamerstable meetup at The Ram

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One of many fine brews I had the pleasure of sampling

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Dan and Mike strike a cool pose

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Pete and Jayson.

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Shannon and Rob

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Be proud of carrying that thing man!

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THE RAPTORS!

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The Pathfinder room was HUGE

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Got to the ENnies early enough to get a picture of the empty hall

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Had great fun with this crowd all weekend

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I witnessed the CarpeDM win a goblet scoop of dice from these guys

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Dogmight Games always has me salivating over their products

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My actual roll at the Crit for Success booth

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Cardhalla

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Anna Myers’ full map!

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Brandi & Toju

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The dance was most excellent

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Toju & Mike

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Shannon and Babs got to meet Andy Looney!

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Shannon’s Ash Ketchum was great!

COSPLAY PICS

Here are some great cosplay pictures that Shannon’s cousin Brandon was more than happy to pass my way.

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Gen Con Schedule

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If you follow me on any social media you are likely quite aware that I will be in Indianapolis August 3-7 for Gen Con 2016! Just wanted to put out a little schedule of events in case you want to try and catch up with me somewhere, which I fully support you doing.

WEDNESDAY 8-3

Early Afternoon: Arrive in Indianapolis, check into hotel

Rest of the night: I plan to swing between two events.

  • A: Hanging out with the Gamerstable folks at The Ram
  • B: Playing some games with folks over at The RPG Academy Podcast’s Pre-Con Gaming event ZED16102815

 

THURSDAY 8-4

6:00 am (likely earlier): Get in line for my Press Badge and hopefully one of the early access passes to the Exhibition Hall

8:00 am-5:00 pm: At some point grab my Orc Stomp 5k Packet, other than that I’m free!

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Gamerstable Award dinner at St. Elmos Steakhouse. Every year at Gen Con the folks from the Gamerstable Podcast award one or more in the RPG industry for their contributions to the gaming world we love. This year they will be presenting their award to Monte Cook of Monte Cook Games. I look forward to sharing some good times and good food with this industry legend.

7:00 pm – Midnight (and beyond): I’m torn between two events:

  • A Deadlands LARP: I love Savage Worlds, I love Deadlands, and good friends are also set to play the game.
  • VIP Kickoff Party @ the Playbook Mansion: I met the Trapdoor Technologies folks at a press event back in 2014 for their then Project Morningstar…err project. So most of us know Wizards dropped the ball there but another company picked it right back up. Now they are with Paizo and they are kicking off their Pathfinder Gaming app, known as Playbook, in style. It would be really great catching up with them as I count them as good friends as well as interesting tech designers.

FRIDAY 8-5

6:00 am – 8:00 am: Orc Stomp 5k: Oh lord what was I thinking… why can’t I ever just see a run and not sign up for it? The BEST case scenario for the 5k is I choose the LARP the night before so I don’t have a hangover. Though… I will say that a three mile run has often kicked some of my hangovers to the curb. I have many friends running this with me. Shout outs to Shannon, Rob, and anyone else I might be forgetting!

9:00 am – 11:00 am: RPG Academy Network Panel SEM1686145! Join a group of us from the RPGAN, we’ll be fielding questions and generally just chatting with you all about whatever you want to know. Come ask me questions about starting a blog and learn how little I actually know about it!

2:00 pm-3:00 pm: All About Phoenix Dawn Command SEM1689664: I’ve been a Keith Baker fan since Eberron first appeared on the scene. It remains the Campaign Setting I’ve run the most games in. So naturally I’m interested in Phoenix Dawn. I’ll admit, I only know a little about it at this point. Excited to learn more!

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: She’s a Super Geek Panel SEM1689926: My friends, and fellow Network members, over at She’s a Super Geek are having a panel. I urge you to join me there too!

5:00 pm – 12:00 am – The ENnies & more: The ENnies starts at 5:oo pm and runs until at least 10:30 pm. You probably know this but I have been nominated for “Best Website” so even though I always go to this I actually have a vested interest in attending this year! Even if I wasn’t nominated though I have good friends nominated all over the place (even some in my own category) so I’ll have plenty of folks to root for!

SATURDAY 8-6

I literally have nothing scheduled except for a pickup game in the afternoon.

SUNDAY 8-7

Zero scheduled.

 

Overall I’m really looking forward to this year’s Gen Con. I’m very unscheduled so pickup games will be a must I’m sure! Looking forward to seeing a bunch of old and new friends, even a few that I’ve never actually met in person (looking at you Toju)! Hopefully I’ll get some great gaming in, because I know I’m going to get some great face time with buddies.

Take care and good gaming!

-Melvs

 

Pokemon Go

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Melvin Smif’s Geekery is nothing if it isn’t a weird amalgamation of various nerdy interests. So while I typically delve into Tabletop Gaming, I need to speak about my latest passion, Pokemon Go. This little app game has it’s claws in me so deep I can cite more than one late night excursion into the wilds of my suburban neighborhood seeking one of the more elusive Pocket Monsters. It’s a genuine worldwide phenomenon. Its popularity likely surpassing even the expectations of its creators, and we’ve really only seen the beginnings of this game.

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Pokemon Go is the team effort between Nintendo, The Pokemon Company, and Niantic, inc. that utilizes GPS tracking to pinpoint a player’s location within the real world to overlay an Augmented Reality fictional Pokemon universe. Pokemon are randomly placed throughout the world, often even generating based on regional types, water Pokemon tend to be near Lakes, Rivers, Ocean etc. & if you want a Scyther, head to the park. On top of catching these critters players are also encouraged to visit landmarks, derived from data gleaned from Niantic’s previous AR game Ingress, to collect items (from areas deemed “Pokestops”) or battle against other teams (in areas known as “Gyms”).

Augmented Reality can be fun.

Augmented Reality can be fun.

Pokemon Go’s mission seems to be to get people outdoors, visiting landmarks, and interacting with fellow players. There’s even a method for rewarding movement via the inclusion of Pokemon Eggs that react through a pedometer function to log the distance you travel, hatching a Pokemon when that distance is reached. I can say earnestly that, in my experience and via much of what I’ve seen online, this mission has been met, and exceeded! It is safe to say this game has been an overwhelming success.

Central Park in NY City

Central Park in NY City

I’ve had some truly great personal experiences since the game’s launch on July 6th. My wife and I have both been playing , it’s gotten us out the door walking more and our kids love helping us catch the Pokemon around our neighborhood. You can easily enjoy an afternoon stroll paying casual attention to your phone, via glances or awaiting a telltale rumble signifying that something is near. We’ve seen a bevy of others out walking and playing too. It has also been a blast taking on a Gym together!

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At the time of this pic it was lvl 8. Now level 9!

This past weekend my wife and I had the pleasure of attending a good friend’s 30th birthday party in Columbia, Missouri. Amid the usual activities like going to dinner and catching up with friends were sprinkled moments of “Guys! There’s a <insert Pokemon here> outside!” followed by the bulk of the party hitting the neighborhood streets in search of it. Later that night (and by later I mean midnight until 3 am) we drove through the downtown district catching Pocket Monsters and hitting up Pokestops. We also took on a number of gyms throughout the weekend, smartly collaborating early in the game to all choose the same team (Team Instinct baby!). We even crafted a monstrosity of a gym on the outskirts of town, pumping it up to level 9. That gym is still holding strong three days later. Some other great memories from this weekend are.

  • Watching someone from either team Valor or Mystic drive up to our beefy gym, see a carload of Team Instinct players then decide he was never going to do any damage to us and drive off with a wave of defeat.
  • My friend and I sprinting (unnecessarily) to add some extra Pokemon to another yellow gym we came across.
  •  Me yelling “Get that Puff!” to a stranger whom I knew was trying to catch the same Jigglypuff we were after.
  • Hunting down a Nidoqueen!
  • Me threatening to use my phone as a hammer “for all the good it was to me” because it wasn’t loading the game.
  • Driving a car full of happy, grown ass, adults around the same area we use to hit up bars at midnight so they can hit the various Pokestops (I had someone working my phone, I don’t drive and Go)
  • Having yet another shared interest with my wonderful wife:)

Honestly there are so many fun things I’m forgetting, I’m certain. It was all just a blur of gaming and friends.

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Now, Pokemon Go is a solid success, but it is far from a perfect specimen of gaming yet. I have plenty of issues with the gameplay and reward system alone but the true monumental task Niantic will need to be dealing with over the next few weeks and system updates will be simply getting the game to run correctly. Server outages are the main complaint people have, followed closely by the game freezing up and generally being difficult to get into. On multiple occasions over the weekend, and before, just getting into the game long enough to enjoy it was a hassle. Often at least one, if not more of our group, was blocked from getting into the game. Gym battles were always tough for me. For some reason I freeze up in those constantly.  The game also comes with a supposed tracking system for nearby Pokemon but it hardly ever works correctly, for a bit I would see one or two footstep Pokemon, but lately it’s always been a three steps away symbol. The game is sadly ripe with glitches and bugs, but honestly much of that is just a company attempting to meet overwhelming demand. It stands to be seen how well they do fixing these issues. For now, I’m content to deal with them.

My wife in Downtown St. Louis

My wife in Downtown St. Louis

Our home town... the wasteland

Our home town… the wasteland

The major issues to fix are bug and server related, obviously, but I’ve also been pondering the game-play itself. They do a lot of things right in the game. There is a pay to play aspect that the casual player, someone just seeking to catch Pokemon, can usually ignore if they wish. Items are plentiful at Pokestops, but you have to have Pokestops near you to make use of them. This isn’t an issue for people in heavily populated areas, or even rural areas with a lot of landmarks, but if you live somewhere very plain vanilla suburban (like me) you have a hidden cost, in gas, to playing the game. You have to drive to find Pokestops or you’re stuck purchasing Pokeballs. My city has a population of nearly 100k and I have only two Pokestops within a mile of me, and the next nearest one after that is easily five miles. Compare that to some towns around us we are a veritable wasteland. I was nearly dizzy with excitement to see the bevy of ‘stops in Columbia this weekend.

The gym system is fantastic fun, but if you aren’t someone who started this game week one, you’re not going to be able to even touch a gym for a long time unless of course you hook up with some buddies as there is incentive to start a gym with easy to defeat Pokemon that you then beat up to raise the prestige. The “Defender Bonus” you receive for owning a gym is paltry and makes capturing gyms more of a pride thing than anything else, the reward is so low that it’s more of a pat on the head than anything else. I also take issue with the fact you don’t get some kind of extra reward for having held a gym for the 20 hour time limit between reward collections. It really seems like they need either lower the time limit between collecting the Defender Bonus or give you more for it. Right now unless you luck into holding multiple gyms, it’s almost not even worth collecting.

One of my bigger complaints lies with the tone of the game. So much of the appeal of Pokemon in the past was about obtaining a Pokemon and then working with that Pokemon to level it up and watch it grow as you modify it’s abilities. In Pokemon Go the Pokemon you start with are quickly eclipsed and you simply cannot utilize the same Pokemon who were your starters later in the game. Hell, you can’t even use the same Poklemon from three levels ago. It’s a completely different style, and frankly a huge grind.

Sarah caught a lot of cool Pokemon at Busch Stadium in St. Louis

Sarah caught a lot of cool Pokemon at Busch Stadium in St. Louis

Other issues aside, battery draining and data soaring issues, Pokemon Go has captured me, my wife and family, and my friends in its talons and shows no chance of releasing us soon. I endeavor to catch them all, and train to be the very best, like…well… you know how this goes. I hope you all give this game a chance, and don’t let the haters get you down. Sure there have been accidents related to people behaving foolishly while playing this game but since when is that new to people in any hobby. If someone calls you silly for playing a “kids game” they are hypocrites and jerks, laugh em off.

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Have fun out there and (as my father always says) be aware of your surroundings! Gotta catch ’em all!

-Melvs

P.S. Fellow Team Instinct Trainers. Meet me at Gen Con! We shall rule the gyms of Indianapolis!

Instinct

 

2016 ENnies Awards – Please Vote!

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Gen Con approaches everyone! As usual with this impending arrival of awesomeness we have heard from the folks over at the ENnie awards. The judges have spoken and the nominees are in, and… wait… hold on a sec… my website has been nominated for Best Website!? That’s right folks. My little one man shop of a blog, still using “dot wordpress dot com” at the end of its address is up for an ENnie. I’m incredibly flattered and humbled that the judges over at the ENnie Awards thought highly enough of what I do to nominate me. Of course, that’s not the end of things. There’s voting to do!

Voting runs from today, July 11th through July 21st. So, if you would be so very kind as to head to the voting site and pick me for Best Website (give me the #1 rating). You don’t even have to vote for anything else but I would urge you to at least check out some of the excellent materials, websites, and people behind the great industry items up for awards this year. A lot of talent is out there.

I have one last request. Please consider voting for my friends over at The RPG Academy under for Best Podcast while you’re out there voting for me.

Thanks everyone!

-Melvs

 

Warmachine & Hordes 3rd Edition Opens Strong

A quick sidebar before the review. Melvin Smif’s Geekery has been nominated for an ENnie for Best Website! Voting is set to run July 11th through July 21st. I’d be very grateful for any votes received. While you’re there you may notice that one of my fellow network affiliates, The RPG Academy Podcast, was also nominated for Best Podcast. Please consider throwing them a vote as well! I’m already wildly excited and humbled to have been nominated. Thanks to all my readers for continuing to give me a reason to write. Now, on to the excellence that is WarmaHordes’ new edition! 

3rd edition

Back in April I informed you of the impending release of the newest edition of Warmachine and Hordes. Well, just the other day I received a package on my doorstep, and a press release in my email, from the fine folks at Privateer Press hallmarking its arrival! I spent time in my last post describing many of the changes in play that we would be seeing (adding the ability to pre-measure ranged shots, changes to balance units, etc.), so let’s spend a little time just reveling in the beauty of the finished product shall we?

For my review material, no expense was spared. I received the following items;
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  • Warmachine: Prime Core Rulebook
  • Hordes: Primal Core Rulebook
  • Cygnar Battlegroup
  • Cygnar Faction Deck
  • Skorne Battlegroup
  • Skorne Faction Deck

 

 

 

Now, the first thing I did with my veritable horde of new gaming supplies was call up my buddy who plays those filthy, magic wielding, god killing Cygnar humans to see if he’d be interested in some trading because… well, a man has to get his hands on his Elves baby!

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I’d like to formally welcome Warcaster Magister Helynna to my army.

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Old card

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New card. Look at the way it pops off the card!

The new edition didn’t only revise some of the rules, one of my favorite changes comes from the look of each Miniature(s)’ stat card. I’m posting a side by side below. I really adore the way they expanded the area covered in the artwork. I feel in a heated, timed, game it might really help me spot the unit I’m trying to get information from. Not to mention, it just makes the cards look all the much better.

THE NEW FACTION DECKS

Veterans have to update their faction’s stat cards for the new edition. Each box contains at least one redesigned stat card per model or unit and in the case of most Warjacks\Warbeast you’ll get multiple stat cards.

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The Faction Decks have an MSRP of $19.99 but I have seen many online going for roughly $17.95. A must have for veterans.

THE BOOKS

In recent years I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing a number of books from Privateer Press, they’ve all received high accolades from me. Great artwork, excellent binding, and chock full of information. The two core rule-books presented for this edition are no exceptions.

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Each book comes in well over 300 pages. In the first third of each book (after a lengthy history of their respective parts of the world of Immoren) you find detailed instructions on everything you’d need to know in order to play the game. From a macro understanding of basic rules and combat to intricate details like specific scenarios and terrain. The remaining bulk of the books are mostly dedicated to vast introductions to the factions you may wish to field, followed by some useful appendixes that help explain some final peices of information needed for specific faction rules, how to play Warmachine v. Hordes, etc.

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Table of Contents in Warmachine: Prime

Easily my favorite thing about these books lies with the extensive lore written for every faction. There is something unique about the world of the Iron Kingdoms, and its primal neighbors, that makes reading their histories so satisfying. You know I’ve lauded the worldbuilding present in this company’s roleplaying games (Iron Kingdoms & Unleashed), well these books here will give you the full scope of every major faction in the world. So if for some reason you aren’t into the the tabletop skirmish game, there is still something here for you. Pages and pages of juicy steampunk fantasy lore about a world at war.

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Each faction is detailed by it’s history, as mentioned above, and then has an extensive list of units touched on to give the reader a decent accounting of what the faction may play like. Obviously they couldn’t place every unit in a faction on page but I did notice that there appears to be an attempt to add a good amount of the new units out there, namely the new Warcasters and Warlocks present in the new 3rd Edition Battlegroups. The artwork remains impressive, litters the books, and often times takes up entire pages. It is some really great stuff.

Each book runs at an MSRP of $59.99, and thus far that’s been about the price I’ve seen on the various shopping options. I’d say they are worth it to the diehards. If you are just getting into the game, start with a Battlegroup. They come with everything you need to get started, in fact. speaking about the new Battlegroups…

 


THE NEW BATTLEGROUPS

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Along with the new edition, we get some new starter Battlegroups. Like I mentioned earlier I worked out a deal with my Cygnar playing friend\sworn enemy to obtain my own Battlegroup for the elves of the Retribution of Scyrah. Every one of these starter sets comes with a Warcaster (Warmachine) or Warlock (Hordes) that is exclusive to this third edition of the game, and adds in either Warjacks or Warbeasts to round out the small army. Beyond that, you are given all the tools needed to play the game with the only exception being glue to piece your new miniatures together. Each box includes:

  • • The Highly Detailed, Single-colored Plastic Miniatures w\ Stat Cards
  • • Basic Training Tutorial Guide
  • • Battle Map
  • • Introductory Guide
  • • WARMACHINE: Prime Rules Digest
  • • 18” Ruler
  • • 4 Six-sided Dice
  • • 10 Focus Tokens
  • • 3 Spell Tokens
  • • Obstacle Card

Everything in the box is of high quality with the one exception being the ruler but honestly, you likely have a tape measurer lying around somewhere. As mentioned above the only additional items you may need to provide yourself would be some kind of super glue to piece together your miniatures and you’ll likely want to invest in some paint at some point to add your own style to your pieces.

Veteran players are going to buy these starter sets for one reason, the new Warcaster\Warlock. Which leads me to my only real complaint about the sets. I really wish they would have switched up what Warjacks\Warbeasts came in the new Battlegroups. From what I can tell, with little deviation, most Battlegroups remain completely unchanged, excepting the Warcaster\Warlock of course, from their mkII counterparts. This means that the veteran players who are buying this item are typically only doing so for one miniature. I’m not saying PP needed to craft entirely new Warjacks\Warbeasts for this release but maybe they could have just switched a few out for different models. There’s no way to be certain you wouldn’t also land on some items a veteran player might have already had but at least there’s a chance that way. However, using the same models in this edition as the last ensures that a we receive the same pieces we got the last time we bought a starter set.

The Battleboxes have an MSRP of $39.99 and are the be all end all way to get started in this hobby (at least until the Two Player Battle Boxes come out in August). Pick a faction you’d like to play as, grab a Battlebox, and go to war!

-Melvs

P.S. When searching for any Warmachine or Hordes battlegroup be absolutely certain you are purchasing the third edition item of the game. Things look very similar when compared to the 2nd edition. Look for descriptors mentioning that the item was produced AFTER June 1st 2016, or that it is part of the third edition of the game. 

 

 

KICKSTARTER REVIEW: Murders & Acquisitions RPG

Hey all! I’m deeply embroiled in board games today at Geekway to the West but through the magic of computers I’m speaking to you about yet another excellent Kickstarter run! This time it’s something most assuredly a bit more “indy”. Speaking of Kickstarters though, the Acadecon 2016 Kickstarter has run its course…and FULLY FUNDED! So I will hopefully see you in November. If you missed the Kickstarter have no fear, you can still get a badge and attend. Just head over to the website and buy one. It’s also a good place to check out details for Dayton, look up hotel rooms, check the special guests, and even the schedule of events.*

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The Murders and Acquisitions RPG comes to us from Craig Cambell, you may have seen some of his work as a freelancer for various RPGs like D&D, Iron Kingdoms, or Gamma World. M&A RPG is his first foray into publishing his own work. The setting for the system is a high octane world of business where climbing that corporate ladder might entail some very devious and deadly means. In the world of M&A RPG such things aren’t frowned upon, but championed. As long as you aren’t sloppy and get caught that is!

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The system provide for quick character creation and a bevy of unique skills beyond your usual fare that utilize dice. The game really plays up the corporate structure with the skills available (i.e. Loss Mitigation ~ The ability to cover your trail). To determine your ability with these skills you’d associate a specific die with each skill, somewhat like you would in another favorite RPG of mine Savage Worlds, each skill ends up having some associated Areas of Expertise that can add some helpful perks to your skill rolls by allowing for re-rolls on failures. Your character starts the game with Employment Objectives that they attempt to succeed on too. With that, and very few other items I left out you have a character. Reading through I can easily see how quick the process can end up being.

The concept of M&A RPG and the simplicity of the system has me hooked. Especially because my day job has me well within the corporate world. The idea of being a truly crazed go-geter has me smiling. You should really try to get your hands on this unique entry into the RPG world, and the Kickstarter currently running will provide the perfect avenue for that.

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The game is already funded, even unlocking their first Stretch Goal, so you needn’t concern yourself that the game will never get made. The money for the project goes to pay for some refined artwork and to help fund some additional layout and editorial work. Having seen their product sample I can say that any extra attention to detail will only serve to polish an already solid product.

BACKER LEVELS OF NOTE

HIRED ~ $15
This is the level you back at to get a pdf copy of the game, stretch goals, and any supporting pdfs. A great entry point.

FULL BENEFITS ~ $20 (best value)
You get everything from the HIRED level but also access to one “print on demand” copy from Drive Thru RPG

I’d like to congratulate Mr. Cambell on his successful Kickstarter and simply state that you should get in there and back it while you can!

-Melvs

KICKSTARTER REVIEW:FAITH: A Garden in Hell

*Hey guys! Melvin here. So, the Acadecon 2016 Kickstarter has run its course…and FULLY FUNDED! So I will hopefully see you in November. If you missed the Kickstarter have no fear, you can still get a badge and attend. Just head over to the website and buy one. It’s also a good place to check out details for Dayton, look up hotel rooms, check the special guests, and even the schedule of events.*

Burning Games is back on the scene after successfully funding their 2015 Kickstarter run for FAITH: The Sci-Fi RPG. FAITH Core is one of the best example of blending your standard Tabletop RPG with board game elements like decks of cards and card stock character sheets. This time they are attempting to fund a Starter Set and full campaign path for FAITH named A Garden in Hell.

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Typically I start plugging Kickstarters I like day one but I took a measured approach to this one because I had a good feeling from the start that they’d hit their fund mark easily. I’m most likely not wrong either. With 23 days to go they already sit at 87% funded, more likely a “when are they going to fund” than an “if” at this point. Given the quality of  the parent system, check out my unboxing video for more on that, I have no doubt that A Garden in Hell will be one solid game. A perfect addition to someone’s library of games that wants an intro into this system for their players.

This new addition to the FAITH line isn’t just a Starter Set for those new to the game, it comes packed with new content so those who already own FAITH: The Sci-Fi RPG are by no means left out.

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What's in it

I had the opportunity to see a preview copy of the actual Campaign book. The 30 pages previewed were detailed and helped explain gameplay well. Not to mention filled with the excellent artwork I’ve come to expect from Burning Games.

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BACKER LEVELS OF NOTE (all prices are originally in Euros):

Skilled Gardner $33 ~ This is the first level that gets you a copy of the game, in addition to some preceding digital items. I like it because it creates a cheaper selection for a physical copy by removing any stretch goal rewards.

Relic Harvester $56 ~ Here’s the best choice for those truly interested in the game. You get a physical copy, all the digital items preceding, a comic book explaining the basic rules, and the RELIC stretch goals

There were some backer levels that got you a copy of the core game but those got snatched up pretty quick! Who knows, maybe a few more might open up. Keep tabs.

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Please do yourself a favor and check out this excellent game system with A Garden in Hell!

-Melvs