Competing D&D Documentaries: Continuing Coverage

*As noted in my previous blog post I am not a lawyer and none of this is to be considered legal advice in any form.*

Short post today but hopefully informative.  Looks like things are heating up in the Lawsuit between the two competing, or non-competing if you feel there’s plenty of room for two, Dungeons and Dragons Documentaries.

First, here’s a boiled down refresher of the situation if you missed my last post on this:

  • In late summer/early fall 2012 a Kickstarter for a Documentary regarding the history of D&D ran, the film is titled “Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary”.  It funded on September 17, 2012.
  • I wrote a blog piece about it on September 3, 2012.
  • There were two primary groups tied to the project. Iconoscope Films and Westpaw Films
  • A falling out occurred at some point during the making of the film and the primary groups formalized an agreement through the courts that dealt with remaining ownerships and duties to the film so that it could still be made to satisfy the investors (we Kickstarter Backers etc.). This Settlement Agreement was signed December 5, 2013.
  • This Summer another Documentary purporting to be a “true tale of the rise and fall of the creators Dungeons & Dragons” thus a film also concerning at least a portion of the history of D&D appeared on Kickstarter under the title “The Great Kingdom”
  • “The Great Kingdom” is helmed in part by individuals who were involved, and still are to an extent, with “Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary” as Iconoscope Films.
  • On or about June 20, 2014 Westpaw films filed a Complaint with the intent to keep “The Great Kingdom” from being made, rescind the original Settlement, and other forms of relief (some monetary) to be extracted from the defendants.
  • “The Great Kingdom” funded on July 20, 2014

Well that ended up being more verbose than I intended but does the job nicely.

I’m not going to pass judgment here, as I’ve stated before.  I simply mean to pass along some details to those interested.  Firstly, “The Great Kingdom” has funded so apparently the lawsuit did not detract people from contributing.  This says to me that the lawsuit likely won’t go away as simply as it might have if the second film hadn’t funded.  This is pure conjecture but I think settlement would have been far more possible if there was no Kickstarted second film.  Now though, we certainly have two projects vying for existence here so it may mean that we might see a decision via Summary Judgment or even a full blown trial if there’s an issue of fact.  Things may get really interesting.

Honestly, I know too much about lawsuits to wish this situation on anyone.  There’s going to be a lot of difficult times ahead for both parties and I can only hope they come to a peaceful resolution where no one really comes out a villain here, but that can be hard to achieve.

Well, I need to wrap this up with the real reason I sat down to write this post.  I wanted to provide my readers with the information regarding how to follow along with this suit via the publicly available court documents.

  • Step One: Visit the New York State Unified Court System website Link
  • Step Two: Click “Search as Guest”
  • Step Three: Do the CAPTCHA
  • Step Four: Do a Name search for “Westpaw”

There you have it.  That will lead you to where you may peruse the court docs and make your own decisions.  A good thing to remember when going over these documents is that everything you read is merely an Allegation.  Even the Affidavits, which amount to sworn testimony, are to be considered “truths” as to the person swearing to them.  I know the situation isn’t really all that fun but it is nice to be able to keep up with it.  I’ll try to post anything remarkable I discover throughout folks.  Good day and good gaming!

UPDATE: 10-06-2014: There have been some fairly heavy developments so I’m updating rather than adding an entirely new post.

  • Since July the court case has proceeded.  Both sides presented their story before the court during the month of July.
  • In Early August an injunction was Ordered against the Defendants (those behind The Great Kingdom) that essentially shut them down completely.  They are restrained from “taking any action in futherance of the creration, production, manufacture, etc. for any documentary film about the fantasy role-playing game “Dungeons & Dragons”.
  • Oddly enough (in my opinion) the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint around that same time despite the Injunction Order. (I say oddly because that Injunction Order seems fairly telling re the opinion of the court.  This is only my inferred feeling though, not anything concrete.)
  • The Defendants have file an Appeal of the Injunction
  • The descision on the Motion to Dismiss has been adjourned to October 29, 2014 marking the date for the Plaintiff to respond to it for October 22, 2014.

UPDATE: 05-22-2015

Some shocking news to relay on this matter. Seems the Defendants have concurrently had their counsel withdraw and have filed an Answer to the Complaint (presumably Pro-Se) stating that they “deny all of the substantive allegations in the Complaint”. This move is far removed from where I thought this was headed if I’m to be honest, I had really put my hopes into settlement. This has the potential to really draw things out for this litigation. The Answer to a Complaint is really early in the litigious process were this to go all the way to some sort of Jury/Non-Jury outcomes. Not looking good for a quick resolution anymore sadly.

UPDATE 09-15-2015

At this time it appears an Order has been issued after a Preliminary Conference detailing further Discovery (Interrogatories & Document Production) to be handled by the end of November. Chances are good we see some continuances but at least things are moving along.

UPDATE 08-17-2016

Here we are almost a year after my last update and it seems things are moving again. At least, looking at the court documents it appears so. Let’s see what is out there and what it may mean for seeing this come to a resolution.

There was an Order for Mediation issued by the court back in January 2016 to be held in April. While I have no insight as to what was discussed withing that Settlement Conference I can say that it appears no resolution was reached.

A new Judge has taken over the case and we are now deep into Discovery and Depositions. For those unfamiliar it means that each side is now presenting paperwork and verbal testimony in an effort to prove up their end of things. A Deposition works just like giving testimony on a witness stand in a trial but it is handled outside the courtroom and the whole thing is recorded by a stenographer, sometimes it is also recorded by audio or video tape as well.

What this means is we are gearing up for one of two things. Either this case will be decided “Dispositively” meaning the judge will review all the Discovery and Testimony and then render a verdict if the judge feels enough information is available to comfortably do so or some or none of it is decided Dispositively and it goes to trial.

The best result for backers of Dungeons and Dragons a Documentary would be for the judge to rule in favor of the Plaintiff (Westpaw Films, Inc.) on the Dispositive Motion, which is returnable in December (barring further extensions surrounding Discovery, etc.) This would finally free them up to finish the film and get it out the door. I’m not familiar enough with this type of suit to know how long it might take to rule on a Dispositive motion here but…I don’t hold out hope of it being quick.

Hey, there’s always the chance they finally work out some kind of settlement.


Spirit of ’77: The Funkiest RPG

*Third Blog post this week!? Crazy stuff folks, I know. However, I just noticed today that Matt Fuller over at Monkey in the Cage finally put up the Actual Play recording of the Spirit of ’77 game he ran for us so I just knew I needed to give folks a heads up on what I got out of the game, so here we go!*

Can you dig it?

Can you dig it?

If you run over to the Monkey in the Cage website right now you’ll have a chance to treat yourself to an Actual Play recorded gaming session I was a part of. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of an Actual Play it is where a group of Tabletop Role-players sit down with a game and record themselves as they play the game and later edit the material so it runs somewhat like a Radio Play. You have folks who do it in an amazing fashion, like the Gamerstable Podcast who to date has the best Actual Plays I’ve ever heard, and then you have folks like us. Now, Matt did a fine job with what he was working with so it is fully enjoyable, we just ain’t Gamerstable quality yet.

The game we are playing is a one shot adventure named Cruise Ship of the Damned, based in a game setting called Spirit of ’77. Spirit of ’77 is a setting based in the 70’s with all the tropes and power figures you recall from those days. If you’ve ever wanted to fight vampires as the Bionic Woman or perhaps wondered how Shaft would handle a brawl with Sasquatch, here’s your system folks. It is everything about the 70’s that made it great, horrible, and goofy all at the same time. I want to see this
Damn…now I want to see this







The rules system that provides the backbone for Spirit of ’77 is the relationships driven game engine known as Powered by the Apocalypse most notably known for being the system used for such games as Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, and Monsterhearts. Powered by the Apocalypse has a seemingly simple dice mechanic to it where the players only need roll two six sided die with three potential outcomes. A roll that nets 10 or more equates an automatic success at whatever they were attempting, a 7-9 is considered a partial success with possible consequences, and anything 6 or lower is considered a failure that could result in just about anything the Game Master decides which can even be damage to the character. The system gets more complicated by having certain “moves” character can employ and by putting a strong emphasis on role-play, sometimes coerced by the GM to the players. This is a scaled down explanation but I found I was droning on and on so I’ll leave it as thus. The system is overall very simplistic when compared to some of the stat heavy constructs out there so it is certainly worth a deeper look into if you wish.

Spirit of ’77, created by Bob and Dave from Monkeyfun Studios, is in playtest mode at the moment, and the game we ran is freely available on their site. They reached out to Matt Fuller, one of our fellow Vagabond Gamers and asked him if he’d run the game for us in order to get feedback. He did them one better by recording our session. I won’t go too in depth on the story of our game that night, because you can easily listen in, but I can certainly say it was a treat. Matt ran the game and three of us made up the Player Characters.

Get 'em girls!

Get ’em girls!

Brent chose Sammy Summers, leader of the Texas Tornados Cheerleading team (a play on the Dallas Cheerleaders, popular in the ‘70’s) who besides being capable herself was also the head of a gang of cheerleaders at her beck and call.

Don't try to put a label on me baby! I'm indefineable!

Don’t try to put a label on me baby! I’m indefineable!

Jason picked the character Gemini, a glam rocker to the extreme (essentially David Bowie only Jason’s David Bowie might be my favorite ever) he even had a magic flute, that isn’t a euphemism either it’s the real deal.

Listen to me jus' a waxin an a wanein' on throughout the eve.  let's move on shall we?

Listen to me jus’ a waxin an a wanein’ on throughout the eve. let’s move on shall we?

For my character I played to my strengths and chose Colonel Rosco W. Colgrove and if his military rank isn’t a giveaway I’ll fill you in, this guy was Colonel Sanders. I got to play as a version of KFC’s Colonel Sanders, who also happened to pack a pair of .45’s, in this game and I couldn’t have been happier for it.


There were other character choice concepts out there from a Daredevil Stuntman, a British Intelligence Special Agent, to a Criminologist Author. All the character choices touched upon some of the tropes surrounding book, T.V., and film characters from the ‘70’s. They were all smooth in some manner, hard hitting, and fully capable. It was a real treat to play mine and certainly a lot of fun to see the other guys play out theirs. Not to mention how fun it was to see Matt try and keep up with our shenanigans. Also, though Brent and I played our characters well, the real treat of the evening (and the main reason to listen to the recording) had to be Jason playing up his character to the extreme. It was both hilarious and awe inspiring. Seriously, listen for Gemini.

Spirit of ’77 played well and quickly. Combat was less about crunching numbers and more about crafting great ideas and resolving them through a few rolls of the die, sometimes with better failure outcomes than successes. Matt remarked on an earlier podcast that he wondered whether the Powered by the Apocalypse rule set really was the best backbone for this system, but I spent a little time with the rules post session and really got a good feel for how it might run if some folks more familiar with the Powered by the Apocalypse could really give it a better go than us. None of us had much experience with the system, and though that did allow for some really fun Role-play I feel if we’d had more time to better prep ourselves with the rules we’d see that Powered by the Apocalypse really is a great system for this crazy little project.  I say crazy with all love too, I mean they suggest you use a ’70’s music playlist with this game for heaven’s sake!

It ain't exactly the Love Boat folks...

It ain’t exactly the Love Boat folks…

Bottom line, I loved it and look forward to playing more if I can sometime. Of course all that means is it joins my list of a legion of games I’d like to play again which rests under my legion of game systems I’ve yet to try and want to. In any event, you can’t beat free and right now a great look at this future game system is available on their site. I urge you to check it out. I understand a Kickstarter is coming down the pipe in September and I’ll certainly be giving it some lip service, and likely a bit of my own precious coin. Have a good day and some good gaming folks! If you listen to the recording, give me your thoughts either below or on the Monkey in the Cage site!


Lady's bad!

Lady’s bad!

P.S. I realize that this may be the first time I mentioned the Vagabond Gamers on this site, this is a bizarre oversight on my part. I need to write a blog piece about online gaming and the Vagabond Gamers sometime…

Not THATman on Batman – Batman’s 75th Anniversary

*Throughout this piece I reference a lot of great contributors to Batman, I also praise THAT Kevin Smith’s podcast “Fatman on Batman” a lot. I found that I was telling you to check out this or that episode of the podcast a lot so I’ve actually decided to just link certain episodes to the names of interviewees as they appear in my write-up below. Check the podcast out folks, you won’t regret it

I may not be THAT Kevin Smith (for those not in the know Melvin Smif is a nickname, my real name is Kevin Smith) but he and I share a number of passions. Sadly not Tabletop RPG’s but who knows maybe one day he’ll want to talk to someone about them and maybe then he’ll say “hey here’s a cat who shares the same name as I, he’s has been on a few podcasts, and knows a lot about Tabletop RPG’s I should get him on SModcast and we can…” I’m trailing off here, let’s get back on focus. That’s right, shared passions! Well, as a lover of fictional prose in any form I’ve always been a fan of comics. Not one who follows intensely, you’ll never catch me buying comics up week to week, but I do love a great graphic novel or collection of trade paperbacks that collect some of these great stories up for me to read in larger chunks. Thus I’ve been a fan of a certain Dark Knight for years now and today folks, is his official 75th anniversary. So I decided to put my rambling about Tabletop gaming to the side to give a bit of homage to THAT Kevin Smith’s favorite caped crusader, Batman!

This guy ^

This guy ^

Right off the Bat(<–PUN), I want to dive into something that has transformed the way I view Batman. I’m talking about the reason I brought up THAT Kevin Smith in the first place. I’m talking about his podcast “Fatman on Batman”. I was always a cursory fan of Batman. He’s got some great stories out there, a few fantastic animated cartoons, some nifty films, and even some excellent video games (wearing out the thesaurus here). However, I can’t say I felt the same way about him as a symbol until I started listening to THAT Kevin Smith lauding his comic book hero on his podcast. I only really gave it a listen because I loved SModcast already and wanted more laughs, but THAT Kevin Smith delivered much more. He’s a born interviewer folks. He has this ability to really get to the heart of what his interviewees came to share, whether they even knew they wanted to share it, and somehow THAT Kevin Smith fades into the background of the conversation. Hell, sometimes I forget he’s there! The many guests he’s had on the show, ranging from industry folks who’ve worked on Batman’s various comics to people whose lives have literally been changed by Batman as a symbol in their lives, have been excellent and really gave me a newfound respect for Batman in our culture. One of the best episodes I ever listened to was the one with Dean Trippe. Not only did Mr. Trippe discuss how Batman was able to help him through his own harrowing experiences in life but he also related a story of meeting children in a foreign country who actually knew who Batman was, it is kind of crazy how immersed The Dark Knight is in our world’s culture. I can’t give enough lip service to THAT Kevin Smith’s podcast and still remain on the topic of generally celebrating the character so I’ll just suggest you check it out.

My Batman, because everyone has one, could either be Batman from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” or from “Batman: The Animated Series”.


250px-Dark_knight_returnsThe Dark Knight Returns was the first thing I ever read about Batman, I had seen a smathering of the old Alan West episodes and had seen Batman as part of the older Justice League cartoons but he wasn’t all that interesting to me. Reading Frank Miller’s work though… it had an impact. It was dark, it was brooding, and it was certainly not a colorful romp. This was solid storytelling of an imperfect man trying to do good who faces not only the dark forces of crime but even faces an old friend of superpowered proportions who is fighting for all the wrong reasons. It adds a possible ending of sorts to the Batman legacy that works on so many levels, and I loved it.

Likely my main love for Batman comes fromBatman_the_Animated_Series_logo Batman: The Animated Series. It gave me many things to love about Batman but first and foremost it gave me a voice for Batman and the Joker. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are the voices for The Batman and The Joker, respectively. I can’t imagine mentally hearing another pair handle the voices whenever I pick up a comic featuring either. It is still weird to me to see others’ voices at work in cartoons and even movies, save for perhaps Heath Ledger’s Joker but more on him later. Kevin Conroy is Batman to me. Whenever I catch a flick, even the excellent Nolan films, I can’t really buy that whoever is playing Batman pulls it off. This isn’t a dismissal of the work the actors who have played The Bat, more so an accolade to Kevin Conroy. His voice work is just that good. Mark Hamill is certainly no slouch either, and when they work together, it’s really wonderful.

Beyond fantastic voice work, for all the characters really, Batman: The Animated Series was special to me as a kid in other strong ways. First, I never felt like it was treating me like a kid as I watched it. The show, at times, dealt with some pretty dark subjects and never really pulled any punches. A strong example of this could be pulled from the introduction of Mr. Freeze in the 14th episode of the first season titled “Heart of Ice”. Mr. Freeze was a character that was originally introduced as a campy villain from the Alan West show, and he was transformed here into a tragic villain whose crimes were usually motivated with the focus to heal his terminally ill wife. Victor Fries would not be the first character changed or fully invented for the show whose story would become canon for the comics, something rarely done. Even Harley Quinn did not exist before the show, and it is hard to imagine The Joker without his ever present highly unstable sidekick. What else can I heap on as praise for this show? The art was fantastic, characters handled with care, many storylines carried over throughout the story, and so much more. Certainly a fantastic handling of the hero in a time when many cartoons featuring Superheroes were downright lame, and I’ll thank it for setting the tone for some of the great Superhero cartoons my children currently enjoy.

dark knightI mentioned Heath Ledger above and would be remiss if I neglected to go into the Nolan films a little bit, specifically “The Dark Knight”. Nolan did what he could to bring Batman to life as realistically as it could arguably be done. While I like “Batman Begins” and “Dark Knight Rises” neither comes close to the love I have for “The Dark Knight”. By that I mean my love for Heath Ledger as That Joker. If you had told me prior to the film that Heath Ledger would gain an equal respect from me as The Joker as Mark Hamill has I’d of dismissed it, I also might have gotten way to nerdy and raged a bit (would like to think I wouldn’t but I can’t promise that). Heath crafted a terrifying creature with his Joker, one that still elicited laughs every now and then but far more cringes. His final showdown with Batman, and the truths he spits about Batman creating him just because he took up the cowl was perfect, even if it was the first nod to that.

I’ve written a ton and feel like there is so much more I could say about this pervasive figure in our modern day mythology, the current crop of video games have been great (if a bit redundant past Arkham Asylum), we are now expecting a T.V. show in the near future based on a Gotham before Batman (which I maintain parts of were cribbed from this “Fatman on Batman” episode), and the litany of comics and graphic novels I’ve read with Batman, his Family, and his gallery of rogues at the center of numerous excellent stories. Actually, one of my favorite Batman stories doesn’t even feature him as a main character, this Swamp Thing arc is fantastic and Batman only features nominally.  I can’t imagine my story is all that different from many others’ stories today so I’ll likely be just part of the hurricane of people lauding Batman for his 75th anniversary but I felt I had a story to get out so here it is. Thanks to those who took the time to read. We’ll get back to gaming soon, no worries! Maybe I’ll do a write up on the many Superhero RPG’s out there sometime.

A Taste of the Starter Set

I meant to do a large write-up of the Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set, focusing on the outcome of my player’s run through the Lost Mine of Phandelver module but it seems they set out to prove the 5th edition’s lethality by up and dying pretty early in. So instead you get a taste, Hell that’s all we got. Last night’s game was still a blast though, and it did allow me to get to bed early.

The guys leapt right in and chose their premades, as expected they made mention that they would like to write up their own PC’s at some point but the idea was to try out the provided stuff. Thus the people of Neverwinter were graced with the presence of Thuz BunkertonHuman fighter & hero of the Folk, Barrion WhispershadowWizard and acolyte of Oghma, Throngar RocktaintDwarven Cleric and cousin to their patron Gundran Rockseeker, and finally Fingle StinkfeetHalfling Rogue who is fully committed to the team who’s name lends some credence regarding the stentch of his feet.

I set the stage for them so they found themselves guarding a wagon loaded with supplies, owned by Gundran, & driven by a man who was constantly being pestered by Fingle Stinkfeet. Throngar Rocktaint loudly informed the others that he had come by his last name honestly by taking a pickaxe to an uncomfortable portion of his body and didn’t even wince, and everyone else seemed to just cringe and move on from that. Not much else to say I suppose.

Introductions were made and they laid waste to a few goblins attempting to take their wagon by force. Thuz took the brunt of their damage but didn’t let it bother him much, he used one of his Bonus Actions to get a bit of healing (Bonus Actions are cleverly disguised one use Minor Actions, can’t let on that they borrowed from 4e too much now can we). They wasted no time charging up the hidden goblin path once found, namely because Throngar was afraid for his cousin and wanted to waste no time. They sprung two traps and only suffered for one of them.

They found a cave and took out the two goblins guarding it. After crossing the stream, Thuz made sure to leave his wet socks on the ground to dry, this is somewhat important. They then made the choice that might have cost them everything. They decided they didn’t want to take a short rest because an hour was a long time and they feared for the captured folk. So they went into the cave to save the captured dwarf and human warrior. They bypassed the first room on their right, adhering to an ancient adage of our group known as “lucky left”. This ensured they had to try and climb up a horribly steep tunnel that actually cut through most of the cave and directly to the final room. They made way too much noise doing so and alerted the Goblins above to their presence. In the end they miraculously made it up but were met with six bow wielding Goblins.

The rest did not go well for them, my rolls were solid and the arrows struck home. Thuz the folk hero, after noticing two members of the party go down, loudly proclaimed he had to go check on his drying socks but sadly did not make it out. Fingle was the last standing and attempted to take cover behind Thuz’s body but a critical hit took him out as well.

So it seems we suffered a Total Party Kill, quickly too. One of the finer things we noticed about this new edition was the speed of combat. Things were fast. This entire gaming session took less than an hour and a half, even with all our joking around and decision making. Weirdly enough playing Theatre of the Mind style felt odd to me. I haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons that way in a very long time as 3.X and 4e remain my most played iterations of the game. It worked well though. It was refreshing to divorce myself from the grid. I’ve been playing a lot of TotM games lately and bringing that back to D&D is great. I imagine even the grid based stuff would flow a lot faster though.

The game is certainly more lethal, at least we’re back to it being so at early levels.  Those who were craving that have certainly gotten it back.  I can say though that the addition of a bit of extra healing during short rests (again we crib a bit from 4e, but don’t tell anyone.  If we don’t call them healing surges no one will know! :P) players have a bit of extra to lean on hit point wise so they aren’t super squishy like they’ve been in some past games.  It’s a solid compromise in my opinion.

So sorry folks if you were hoping for more! Honestly, there are some great play throughs out there if you want to look them up. My next game may not even be this module anyway. I like to make my own stuff usually. We’ll see though. If anyone wants to ask me some questions about what I did or didn’t like about the system, hit my up in the comments or on twitter! I’m easy to find and I’ll talk your ear off on this stuff. Take care folks, and good gaming!

Backpacker Gaming

*I know I’m supposed to be talking about the 5th Edition of D&D, but that’s all anyone else is writing about. So you get this instead!”*

If anyone’s read my “About Me” section they will also note that beyond Tabletop RPGs, geek culture, and board games I’m also an outdoors and fitness enthusiast. I grew up on 30+ acres of country living goodness and have developed a taste for spending time in the woods, I hunt, fish, ride various 4 legged/wheeled things, and even have my own garden. Needless to say, I love it outside.

That's right folks, I even do amateur chainsaw carvings...well I did a few times :P

That’s right folks, I even do amateur chainsaw carvings…well I did a few times 😛

Soon I will be embarking on a trip I’ve wanted to take for a while now, not a specific location but a specific style. I’ll be heading to Colorado with a few friends to go backpacking in an area just north of New Mexico. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at overnight hiking, I’ve done may day excursions through various woodlands but have never just thrown on a pack and lived in the woods for a few days. I’m pumped up, as you can tell, but it also got me thinking. What sort of gaming could one do on a trip like this?

Obviously, your choices would have to be something light. When it comes to overnighters where you’ll be walking for most of the day you aren’t going to want to pack say, the three core Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks, reams of paper, and a pound of dice. No, light packs are key. It gave me some interesting things to ponder. So here we go folks, I’ve compiled some lightweight games and systems you may want to consider when you catch the bug to encounter yourself some nature!


...Probably not packing Cones of Dunshire...

…Probably not packing Cones of Dunshire…

Well not so much true “Board” games, but rather their lighter cousins the Pocket Games. I’m talking those games that come fully packed into a small box. These smaller games have been getting more and more popular in the last few years, and they typically weigh at most a half a pound. They are typically card based, though some sport dice or other tokens. There are very popular titles out there like Fluxx or even Cards Against Humanity, but I’d like to focus on two of my personal favorites.

Chaos and Alchemy

An old standby

An old standby

I wrote a blog piece about this game back in October 2012 for the Monkey in the Cage website and to this day it remains one of my favorite pocket games. You can read my review here. The game is currently out of print but after a tremendously successful Kickstarter it will be in print again in early 2015. If you want to play it, track me down at Gencon or something I’ll be likely to have the game on hand!


2-4 Players, Ages 10+, Average Play Time = 30 Minutes

2-4 Players, Ages 10+, Average Play Time = 30 Minutes

Here’s one that’s perfect for a backpacking trip! The entire theme of the game surrounds surviving, mostly off the land, after an Apocalyptic event. Here is a great write up for the game, since I never got around to one. I got to meet the creator at Geekway to the West this year and enjoyed the game so much I was happy to buy a copy off him. Only trouble I foresee is that the box itself isn’t that great of material so it may not do so hot rumbling about in a pack, but otherwise it’s a great pick up. You may purchase it here.

Tabletop Role-playing Games:

Chances are very good we aren’t going to have an actual “Tabletop” to play on, so I used the term loosely. What we likely need to look for would be a game that can be run from one book and largely in a Theatre of the Mind style. Not saying we can’t use twigs and acorns but I think I’d rather not. It is an even bigger plus if the game can be run with largely no character sheets. I think I can drum up a few good choices here.

Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorers Edition –

To date my favorite "one shot" system.

To date my favorite “one shot” system.

I got my copy of this book from a Character Creation contest the good folks over at Gamerstable ran. It may be one of my favorite RPG source books ever. Namely because I love the system, and it’s flipping tiny! Savage Worlds can be played Theater of the Mind easily enough, and characters can be drawn up on something as small as a Note-card. You will need dice though, a variety of them, but one set could suffice for an entire group if you don’t mind sharing. The system is a generic one, so really the sky is the limit for setting choices. Certainly one of my main choices.

Fiasco –

Ever wanted to rewrite Fargo?

Ever wanted to rewrite Fargo?

Much more a Narrative RPG all the players help to set the scene and play their own characters. The main rules are found in a small paperback book and game play is almost exclusively Theater of the Mind, I think there may be some dice work pre-game. This game basically helps you to create a Coen Brothers movie, so sometimes you can even get some of your buddies who would normally scoff at “D&D” to test the waters with Fiasco. In any event, it is compact so it certainly travels easy and the chaos it creates in game can be oh so fun!

School Daze

Go back to High School!.. Only in your mind thank goodness

Go back to High School!.. Only in your mind thank goodness

I won this game too actually, in a Halloween themed contest run by its creator Tracy Barnett. The game is set in High School and your characters will typically all be students. It can be any iteration of a High School you could imagine, heck make it a High School set in a fantasy realm, honestly only the teen angst and problems need remain. The Core Mechanic of the game relies on a solitary six sided die and it is run fully Theater of the Mind. With its light rulebook and reliance on a single die it is highly travel friendly. Characters can likely fit on Note-cards too. So re-live some of those high school memories, or make some new ones!


If I spent more time on this I could find some more examples but this gets you a good idea of what to look for.  Basically, keep it light in weight and simple!  Sadly, I’m not certain any of my co-hikers would go for an RPG but I think I may take Chaos & Alchemy and Survivalistic. Those are awesome games and wouldn’t weigh me down too much. We’ll see though. I’ll probably bombard you all with some pics when I get back from the trip though, so I hope you are anxiously awaiting it!  Now, if only I could convince someone to carry a Jenga Tower so we could play Dread

If you think of any great examples hit me up below!

Lastly, I get my copy of the 5th Edition D&D Starter Set today! I plan to run a game of it on the 20th of July for some buddies. Hopefully I can give you all a good write up!

UPDATE: I recieved my copy of the 5e Starter Set and could actually see it being light enough for a hike too! Shame my buddies on this particular trip aren’t RPG gamers.