RPGaDAY 2015!


Last year I dutifully posted a single post dedicated to this topic daily, even during my trip to Gen Con 2014. Well, last year’s Kevin apparently had time on his hands because it didn’t even register as a possibility this year. No worries though, I’m feeding you all the info you need today. I know you’ve been waiting for this with baited breath (my answers to this…not who won the contest right?). So let’s get to it!


Pheonix dawn command

That would be Phoenix Dawn Command by Keith Baker. The premise excites me the most, player characters expected to die heroically and return from the dead to fight once more. It’s been kickstarted and I for one can’t wait for the final product!


Spirit of '77

I actually missed out on Phoenix Dawn Command so I can’t reiterate that campaign. However, it’d be hard pressed to out-due my love for Spirit of ’77 anyway! I’ve had some immense fun reading through the rule-book ever since it arrived. Easily the most groovy Kickstarted I’ve ever been a part of.



Has to be Unleashed. I wrote about it extensively here on the blog, and you should certainly check it out for yourself. The game uniquely places its players in the boots of some of the most savage “heroes” you could muster up. The concept works on all levels, and I can’t wait to run more of it at my table.


gamma world

I’d go with Gamma World, the version made with a hack of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition rule-set. What surprises me the most is how well it actually works. I’ve always been a fan of 4th Edition but I think some of the gaming concepts the edition brings to the table actually work best in Gamma World. A really fun, quick to set up, game. Still a go-to for me when I need something last minute.


I don’t purchase a lot of RPG’s from the established companies these days, perk of being a blogger. I do back some of the Kickstarters I believe in the most though as they don’t have the resources to simply gift me a review copy. Some of the Kickstarters I’ve back recently have been Spirit of ’77, BattleBards, Of Dreams and Magic, Feng Shui 2, Karthun, & Fae Nightmares. I realize BattleBards isn’t preceisely an RPG but I like them enough to put them on the list.


I took a jaunt over to Illinois recently to hang out with some of my buddies over at the Gamerstable Podcast to… help with something I’m not at liberty to discuss. Anyway, I got to play Pathfinder for the first time. I played a ton of D&D 3.X back in the day so it wasn’t anything I found myself being “introduced to”, it’s the same game really. I did get to play Greyhawk for the first time ever though. It was a huge pleasure playing games with those folks, always a good time.



Nothing has changed from last year, my favorite free RPG continues to be Old School Hack. A fantastic little pick up game with some great support on it’s website. An honorable mention does go out to FATE though. I need to dig into that a bit more.


I imagine this was meant to be “popular media” and I generally don’t care for how it’s portrayed honestly. I think Role-Play Gaming is just too personal a thing for me and any time I see someone trying to portray it they just get it wrong somehow. It can be the smallest quirk in how they decide to play and I’m out. I don’t get angry though, a poor portrayal isn’t going to ruin the game for me anyway.


Steven Universe

I kindof just let my brain leap to the first thing I’d love to play and I think I’d love an expanded world of Steven Universe to play around in. For those not familiar with the show I’d check it out. Has a great mix of comedy and an utterly intriguing world. Would be awesome to play a character as some form of Gem. I’d also love to play a crazed Rick and Morty RPG.

rick and morty


I’d have to go with Pinnacle Entertainment Group. They make Savage Worlds and a number of the Campaign Settings I love from the rule-set. I’m also a huge fan of Privateer Press these days, I mean Iron Kingdoms and Unleashed are amazing.


This one’s tough but I’ll go with Keith Baker. The guy is just so friendly to fans and he made my favorite D&D setting of all time, Eberron.


Currently I’m digging the bar fight from the cover of the Unleashed book.

unleashed bar fight


My most go-to RPG Product would be my dice I guess.

My three strongest sets of rollers!

My three strongest sets of rollers!


I’ve always been really excited by the prospect of what the folks at Trapdoor Technologies keeps trying to bring us and they seem to have found their place lately with their app Playbook. It’s a soft launch of the product with more to come but go check it out!


Back in high school our main DM Mike “The Meatfist” ran a D&D 3.5 game set in the Forgotten Realms that lasted years and took us from level 1 to level 18. Solidly long game. Wish we’d actually tied it up with a true ending.


Honestly this could be represented by any number of games I played back in college. There were times we’d start in the afternoon and leave the house with the sun peeking out for sunrise. I can’t name one single time that was the longest though.


It’s Dungeons and Dragons, it will probably always be.


I love the concepts in Numenera, and would love to play it more, I just can’t run the game. I have a mind built for fantasy and Numenera is too weird for me there!


Eh, never been a huge fan. Maybe I just need a GM who can introduce me to a game where I actually enjoy it.


Dread. I love the added thrill of the Jenga tower. I do need more exposure to other horror games though.





With friends. Cheesy as Hell, but there it is. I do prefer an in person game to one over the net.


One where everyone is involved with only slight distraction for cutting a few jokes. Plenty of role-play with characters that everyone wants to play, and interesting combat.


Not worrying about stuff like arrows or food and water.


The 20 sided die.


Conversations with friends and colleagues. I love tapping into resources like The RPG Academy Network I’m a part of or The Vagabond Gamers G+ group I helped start. We are all gifted creatives and bouncing ideas off one another rocks.


Can’t say I have tons of experience with this one but I do enjoy taking a gaming style from on area and making it work in Savage Worlds. For example when Gamerstable took Conan and used Savage Worlds to run it.


My Eberron game from a few years back. Loved the players’ characters, my NPC’s, and where the story was headed. Sadly it fell apart. Non-Revivable.


You mean other than Melvin Smif’s Geekery? I’m a huge fan of everyone in the RPG Academy Network, you should certainly check them out. Other than that I like The Angry GM‘s stuff, Gamerstable Podcast, Monkey in the Cage, and Dyvers.


Probably Steven Colbert. He wears it on his sleeve pretty heavily and I think the more you see that the more likely others are going to want to try the games.


Video Games. Without RPG’s most of the things people really dig in video games would have been less likely to ever show up. Hit Points, Experience, Levels. You can thank RPGs for that.

There you have it folks! Let me know some of you answers below! As an added note, I’ll have the winners of my contest posted by Friday September 11th! Don’t forget about the AcadeCon Kickstarter either! It’s winding down but there are still badges to pick up. Would love to see you there.


CONTEST! From Me to You on my Birthday

Hey all, it’s my birthday! I turned 30 today and I’ve got gifts on the brain, but not for me, for you! Not only that but this is my 100th post! I’ve been wanting to hold a contest for a while now and figured today would be the best day to roll it out. So with out further adieu I present:

Melvin Smif’s Pitch Me a Game 

(Just imagine I put some picture of me throwing a 20 sider to a baseball catcher or something. I…I really didn’t feel like doing that.)

RPG Academy Logo

So I’m very excited for AcadeCon, and the Kickstarter, as you may recall from my most recent post. I plan to run a number of games while I’m there and have some great ideas for all of them but I’m willing to bet some of you might have some better ones so I’m going to ask you to pitch me your best concept for a Savage Worlds: Deadlands and/or 5th Edition D&D (bonus points if you use the Eberron setting!).

The pitch can be as brief or as lengthy as you wish it to be (though I’ll admit the more creative you get the more I’ll likely dig it) and I’m going to pick two winners. One for the best Deadlands pitch and one for the best 5th Edition pitch. The winners will be receiving some source books.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

The winner for the best 5th Edition D&D pitch will receive a copy of the adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

Savage Worlds Logo

The winner for the best Savage Worlds Deadlands pitch will receive a copy of the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition signed and personalized for them by Shane Hensley himself!

If I really like the pitches I’ll probably write those adventures up and they may feature at AcadeCon with your names mentioned as Co-Authors of course. After you win you are welcome to continue helping me polish your games if you can;t make it to AcadeCon, or if you can I will run the game for you. After AcadeCon I will feature the adventures on the site.So here’s how you enter. Send an email to melsmifcontest@gmail.com. In the subject line give me “YOUR NAME – ADVENTURE NAME/CONCEPT – SYSTEM” after that it’s all you, give me a sentence, paragraph, word doc, etc. put as much into it as you want! Like I said above, more effort will earn the best chances but hey, who knows you may line up the best couple of words I’ve ever seen so don’t let that discourage you ;)!

Contest will run for two weeks and I’ll have the winners within another two weeks tops!

Feel free to ask questions below or even share your ideas. Good luck folks!


The Torch is Still Brightly Lit for City of Heroes

I’ve made no secret of my love for the MMO Game City of Heroes over the years, and even wrote a piece back in 2012 lamenting its then upcoming demise at the hands of a seemingly indifferent company.  Business is business though and NCSoft can shut down anything they own if they feel it isn’t turning the profit they wish, or if they simply feel they want to go in another direction.  That’s a danger anyone can face when their beloved game relies on a batch of servers somewhere and not a physical disc or download, someone can shut it off.  However, NCSoft’s decision to never sell the property to the myriad of interested parties always rankled me, despite it being their prerogative to turn down whatever offers they wished.

City of Heroes has a strong community even today though.  A weirdly strong community, our game has been shut down for nearly two full years now and we still fight to bring it back to life.  Some fight harder than others.  I merely write about it every now and then or lament its passing.  Others, like the folks over at Missing Worlds Media, have taken it as a charge to return us to the game in at least a spiritual capacity with works like the successful City of Titans Kickstarter.  Now though, there may be something entirely different coming down the pipe if all goes well.  Perhaps the return to City of Heroes may be less Spiritual and far more concrete!

Here is a blurb recently posted in the forums of Titan Network by Nate Downes, President of Missing Worlds Media copied word for word for ease of relay (Link to original HERE):

For those unaware, my name is Nate Downes. While I am the President of Missing Worlds Media, Inc, I am also a member of the City of Heroes community, and an advocate. A series of circumstances put me in to a unique position, to reach out to NCSoft, not as the company president, but as a member of a small group with the goal to acquire the older property in some form or another.

Early on, this group, which included a few people from MWM as well as other members of the community, made the intentional choice to not directly involve CoT in the negotiations. There are a few reasons for this. It prevented the discussions from negatively impacting the project should they go wrong. It also prevented them from distracting any development. And, most importantly, if this should work out, it would be incredibly unfair for only one segment of the community to benefit.

How it began.

In September of last year, I had lucked into a chance meeting with a few people who worked for NC Soft, including a manager. They advised me then to come back later on to talk with them. While I’d kept the dialog channel open, the general consensus was that no, the company would never sell City of Heroes complete and intact.

Then IronWolf posted the idea of buying up part of the game, but not the entire thing. This prompted me to ask my contact people, who through several discussions eventually advised me to talk to a single person, NC Soft’s Business Manager Jae Soo Yoon. In addition, we had some other people who were ex-employees and ex-partners suggest the very same person.

For those who do not know Korean business methods, it is considered highly rude to directly email someone, but to instead get an introduction from a third party business associate. This meant we had to find someone who was not part of NC Soft to formally introduce us to Mr. Yoon. Fortunately, we had two people who could do just that, a former NC West employee and a former co-worker of mine who had started a media company which works with NC Soft on developing properties for the Asian market.

Introductions in place, we made the leap from US-bound people to members of the Korean firm. This was very carefully done, very slowly orchestrated. By July, we had gotten to the point that Mr. Yoon had passed us to Sangwon Chung from NC Soft’s Strategic Partnership Development Team.

For those who are unfamiliar, this is the group which handles things such as partnering with an existing studio or the development of new partnerships. This is the group we have been working with since early July. It is a very slow process, and still will take a long time to conclude.

The proposal as it stands right now (this is not a final form, just the current proposal on the table) is this:

The CoH IP would be spun to its own company, to handle licensing. This company would itself license the existing engine from NCSoft for the creation of a maintenance mode, using a binary copy of the i23 server.

The existing user database and characters are not part of this arrangement at this time, nor is the source code.

An arrangement is to be made to license the trademarks to the various Plan Z projects, CoT, Valiance and H&V, to create a family connection, and to allow each to drop the “Spiritual” portion of successor. This means they can make references to the original game if desired, and to enable the expansion of partnerships. This could be expanded for any of them, should the desire be there.

An arrangement is also to be made for the Atlas Park Revival project. As part of the informal agreement we have with them, they would be given an official stamp of approval, and the CoT game build would be licensed to them, to create a kind of “CoH 1.5” and migrate people off of the classic game engine before it finally becomes unsuitable (we expect this to happen around when Windows 9 is released, due to binary compatibility). This can be done because both APR and CoT run on Unreal Engine 4.

By being its own firm, the licensing company can also pursue other avenues which were unavailable before.

Why this group?

Because we approached them like another Korean company. We respected their company culture. And most importantly, we were patient. We had periods where we heard nothing for weeks.

The group itself began as three people. It has grown, some people more connected to the inner workings than others. Some former Cryptic and Paragon employees have given us advise on things ranging from what is needed to run the old server binaries to how the Paragon Market worked.

So, why come forward now?

Back in March, we were advised to wait until after August as a show of good faith. It is now September, so here we are.

Since we could not give full details to anyone without jeopardizing the whole thing before now, a lot of misinformation, rumors, and flat out wrong ideas got out there. To correct them could have broken the request, and therefore the trust, built up. So we had to let them stir, and do minor nudges to fix when we could get away with it.

So where are we now?

Right now, still discussing terms, ideas, limits. The challenges we have been given we stepped up for and handled. Likely there will be discussions and adjustments right up until the moment the deal is signed. The whole thing may fall apart. For all we know, everything done so far has been nothing but a delaying tactic so they can say once again that they tried to work with the community to no avail. But until such time that becomes clear, we will continue forward in good faith.

They could have ignored us from day 1, but they did not. They may not operate at the pace we would like, but they are at the pace they are comfortable with. At this point, the ball is in their court.

Ultimately, it is not the dozen folk here who have been in talks with are important here, but all of you. Those who said what you wanted, what you’d hoped for, who did not give up. We’re still not there, may never make it there, but we are not even close to giving up. And whatever happens, we can do it together.

Thanks to all of you.

So there we have it.  If all goes well the City of Heroes IP may actually be resurrected! Granted the post by Nate is laced with a healthy dose of “Don’t get your hopes up” but this is still the best news we’ve heard since City of Titans funded.  Looks like we may still never get to play the characters we spent hours leveling up, but honestly at this point I want back in for a return to the game-play and community I loved more so than the things I “owned” there.

Many gathered on the steps in Atlas Park days before City of Heroes shut down, hopefully they can once more.

So keep a lookout for more information folks, I know I will.  Maybe one day I can Superjump across Atlas Park once more, maybe even recreate Melvin Maddock my Spines/Regen Scrapper!

Until then,

/LFG Melvs

City of Heroes Final Free Update: The End?

*Originally posted on the Monkey in the Cage Website on September 13, 2012

*Sadly, City of Heroes did indeed shut down.  I miss it terribly.

City of Heroes_Page_1_Image_0001

In April of 2004 I was on the precipice of graduation from High School. I still lived at home, naturally, and I was once again mentally ranting about the fact that my country upbringing ensured that I had only dial up internet. The reason for my venom? I had just learned of the release of a Massive Multiplayer Online Game by the name of City of Heroes. Thinking back on it now I still wish I’d been able to jump on board at the launch of the game. I did eventually join my friends in this incredible game world, with the release of City of Villains in October of 2005, and have loved the game ever since. With the recent news of its pending shut down I wanted to pay a little homage to this game that played a huge role in my young adult life while in college.


That’s right my friends, apparently NC Soft has decided to shut down Paragon Studios, with the current date of November 30th, 2012, thus ending the nearly 9 year old MMO that I feel was truly unique and apart from the world of Everquest Clones. It really does sadden me. Though I’ve not played with nearly the fervor I use to lately, I can’t begin to count the hours I’ve put into the characters out there on the Virtue Server. It was always nice to know that I could log in again and run about pummeling baddies (and goodies) with some old friends. I developed lasting friendships with people I’ve never met in real life that I only interact with in game. I may not have spoken with some of them in a few years but I know if I logged on now and they were playing we would immediately fall into a cadence of inside jokes and fun, just like the old days.

When City of Heroes launched on April 27, 2004 it was really a unique entry into the MMO world at that point. This was not Sword and Sorcery, this was a comic book brought to life. They even had a cast of supers who were there to guide your young hero all the while having adventures themselves as online comics depicted. Instead of updates you paid for once every 2-3 years they had a free one roughly every 3-4 months (later the time between updates lengthened but the updates came with far more content). Every update came with new content, mostly focusing on increasing player options.

While the game’s characters fit the archetypes of any MMO, Striker, Defender, Tanker, Controller, etc, there were always a myriad of ways you could approach those styles of play based off of a Primary and Secondary choice of powers with 5-10 choices for each. At any time there are an incredible number of options one could choose for their character. As your characters continued to grow you’d vary from others even more as you chose separate paths within you’re already varied power sets. At level 15 you could even decide whether your character could fly, run at super speeds, or jump startlingly far distances to cross miles. The variations were seemingly so endless that starting a new character became commonplace and “starting a new dude” was a frequent call to action. In the hundreds to thousands of hours I played the game I never played the same power set twice, I didn’t need to, it was all balanced well and you were nearly always an asset to any group.

I recall my first level 50 character, a Super Strength\Invulnerability Brute named Ruined Prism, a villain. I had an extensive back-story regarding the “prism” of his soul being shattered blah blah blah, it was actually pretty bad but he was so much fun to play. During the time I finally got him to level fifty we were in the midst of update number 10 aptly named “Invasion” as the game world was under siege by the Rikti, an evil alien threat to all. I can still remember fighting off the random Rikti mini invasions that would affect a zone and teams would immediately form of various strangers grouping to fight off the waves. Later I would hit the Rikti War Zone where Heroes and Villains could team up to attack the mother ship or to join the “Strike Force” mission to cull the Rikti major villain, a really nifty plot twist if you paid attention to the game’s background story. In fact it was in that Strike Force when I finally hit 50. It was a big deal because unless you knew of a power leveling group, it takes quite a bit of in game play. After that I had 3 more level fifty characters and a plethora of characters still stuck in the 30’s and 40’s but I’ll always remember my first.

Part of what made character creation so great, beyond tons of power set options, was the sheer innumerable options available to someone in the look department. Your character was truly yours. I don’t think I have ever seen two characters that looked exactly the same unless it was meant to be that way. They never stopped adding options either, every update came with new suits, gear, and other options to change up that look. To this day I’ve not met a better character creation system when it comes to options and variability. In fact I would say that the most endearing aspect of the entire game is based around options and choices. You really can make your own Super Hero\Villain. One of my favorite things to do was to check out the various Costume Contests that happened at Atlas Park. A Super Group would be looking for new talent so they invite people to strut their creative stuff, awarding “cash” prizes for the victors (heck I won a few contests myself).

There are so many things I feel like I’m leaving out when I try and recall what I love about this game. Holiday events, not deleting inactive accounts, awards for paid time, the eventual switch to free play, Double XP Weekends!!!! etc. etc. etc. There really are so many things to love, I get that other MMO’s have many of these things but something about how City put it all together just clicked with me. The little time I spent on other MMO’s always left me shrugging my shoulders and wondering at the popularity, and I’m a Sword and Sorcery guy. I love Dungeons and Dragons and anything else out there fantasy based but I never got into them the way I did with CoH. One major reason for this was that everyone is just more pleasant in CoH. It really is a team focused game, and though PvP somewhat suffers for this it makes working together on missions very fun. I’ve never met the same kind of welcoming attitude in other MMO’s that I receive when I play CoH, even when I was brand new I never got the cold shoulder that some other MMO’s give their “Newbs”. Maybe I was unlucky in those games, but I’m not the first person I know who has commented this way.

Should I be furious at NC Soft right now for shutting down a game I paid hundreds of dollars to in order to play it over the years? From everything I’ve read, Hell I even read their Quarterly Earnings Report, the decision to close down City of Heroes stems from a “change in company direction” not because City had anything to do with their recent profit loss. That loss seems to have come from having to pay out a large amount of Severance pay to recently let go employees. I’m not sure, but for some reason I only feel saddened and let down. Sure when the gates close, everything I’ve spent time on will disappear. Countless hours of work, albeit enjoyable work, will essentially drop away like it was never there. That’s the constant threat of a digital game for you. You always have to know in the back of your mind that one day it could be all gone. You really don’t own anything you paid for, you’ve basically been renting your fun for all these years. I for one would do it all over again, even if I knew the inevitable outcome. It was a blast. I regret nothing about the time I spent forging friendships and super powered characters over hours of game play that I rented from NC Soft (well maybe the fact that it played a role in my slipping to a B average my junior year of college).

I’ll end with a plea to NC Soft that they reconsider, give us an early Christmas gift this November. Of course I think that Paragon Studios has already been let go, adding some more severance pay maybe, so the feasibility of this seems slim. There is always the chance they allow someone else to run the game on private servers, though I’m not familiar enough with how that would work to really comment on it. There are many out there that have some very personal attachments to this game. In fact I’ve even heard of in game protests on the stairs of Atlas Park, it warms my heart. If you log into the game and head to Atlas Park 33 you can even join the constant “Candlelight” vigil taking place, as I did the other night using one of my beloved heroes Melvin Maddock. Throngs of heroes stand constant with torches held high, it really is a moving sight.

I and a few other friends were anxiously awaiting the chance to play again with a buddy of mine after he returned from his lengthy stint sailing with the Navy sometime in the fall. He might get back in time for one more go at patrolling the streets of Paragon City, maybe not. It is my hope and prayer that the servers are up and running when he arrives. To the folks at Cryptic and Paragon Studios, thank you for your efforts and dedication. Games can be very important to people, I think in writing this I’ve rediscovered the itch and will be playing again very soon, maybe I’ll see a few old friends and we can have some laughs before the final curtain falls.

Petition to Save City of Heroes

Save Our City of Heroes Flyer

“We are Heroes” Movement by Titan Network

Send Masks & Capes to NC Soft

Twitter – @SaveCoH, #SaveCoH