Playbook! The Immersive Gaming App


A new app is in town from some old friends of ours. Trapdoor Technologies now brings you Playbook, a fee app available on iOS systems. Playbook represents a platform for Tabletop Gamers to generate characters, purchase adventures, and eventually forge their own worlds all within their linked iOS devices. In its current iteration we see a fully developed character generator and burgeoning bookshelf of, for purchase, adventures compatible with the system. Though still in Beta this is a free app that has some incredible potential for any Tabletop player utilizing the free rules from the Pathfinder Reference Document.

7 integrated modules.

7 integrated modules.

As mentioned above, Playbook comes to us from Trapdoor Technologies. The name may sound familiar, certainly so if you were ever excited for the Dungeonscape App that was being developed for D&D 5e. Trapdoor Technologies was the company behind what seemed to finally be a step in the right direction for Wizards of the Coast in the technological field. We were going to get an app that would finally garner us access to the books we buy in pdf form and it was being handled by a team of dedicated folks who loved gaming and had a knack for community involvement. Wizards botched things by dropping the project with no real reason stated. This blogger knows that it likely harkened back to their distaste for any kind of official pdf being out there and probably had a lot to do with how open Trapdoor Technologies was (is).

GM - Parties

This isn’t a bash on WotC article though, when it comes to their staying current in the technology realm that is way too easy a target. I’m here to talk about why you should check the app out. First of all, it’s a free character generator for games like Pathfinder and other OGL games. It’s smooth, and produces great content. If you and your friends all have the app you can create characters and the GM can run the game through their own iPad. Your GM may even use an adventure or two that you can purchase from the app, currently the only thing that associates cost so far as I have seen.


One of the more endearing aspects of the Trapdoor Technologies team has always been it’s “Open Door Policy” when it comes to fostering community relationships withing our hobby. I see this playing a huge role in the fact that they have already worked with community members to create adventures based on the Pathfinder Ruleset that are currently for purchase in the store associated with the product. It appears that content creators can craft a solid adventure and then sell it through the app for others to play. To me this is an exciting prospect, I may even try to write something myself. Currently you have to approach them about it but there may come a time where this is a bit more automated. I also want to mention that they have also forged a partnership with Ed Greenwood to support the rule-set for his upcoming Roleplaying game Hellmaw!


The app is currently in beta, but it works great for what it does now. If I’m to complain about anything it’s how difficult it can be to find in the Apple Store, hopefully as popularity grows that changes. In the future you will see additional content like the oft mentioned Forge where you will use the interface to create your own adventures, linking within your docs to maps, NPCs, enemies, tables, etc. I have also heard of work being done to bring the app to Android and even web based operating systems, which greatly interests me. After borrowing an iPad for a span of time I can safely say they’ve interested me and I can’t wait to see where it develops. Growth with this product has some incredible potential.

Adventures - Enemies


P.S. If you wish to approach the Playbook staff regarding publishing one of your adventures (or for really anything else) a good place to start would be their Twitter handle: @__Playbook__ Careful, that handle contains two underscores before and two after the name Playbook.

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.


DungeonScape, I Hardly Knew Ya


When I first heard of Project Morningstar, the conceptual title for DungeonScape, months ago my interest was peaked enough to engage.  What I discovered then was a team of people who had an earnest love of gaming, excited about their future with the largest Tabletop Gaming Company out there.  I loved the excitement and I’ve yet to come across a company as engaging as the folks over at Trapdoor Technologies.  Initially, despite my enjoyment of their community involvement, I was skeptical that I would ever use their product.  I’ve never been enamored with Character Builders much, I like paging through the books, and frankly I’ve never seen any digital tools put out by Wizards of the Coast that have earned much more than a “meh” from me.  This was a third party developer though, a chance to do things right, so I stuck around for more information.

I’m glad I did.  I can’t lie and claim that being invited to the DungeonScape Press Invitational at Gen Con wasn’t a huge boost to my presence here on the net as a blogger about the games I love.  It’s easily been the biggest thing that’s ever happened to my blog and I’ve since used the boost it gave me to garner more attention from the gaming companies whose products I wish to review, and to meet so many more great gamers out there.  I think this all needs to be said because while I shall attempt to come across as unbiased as possible here, I want you all to know that I consider the people at Trapdoor Technologies friends, and really owe them one for picking a small fry blogger out of St. Louis to be one of their Gen Con reveal agents.

I’ve spoken about what I saw at Gencon here on the blog of course, and from the tone of that article it is easy to see that I was excited.  Given what I saw at Gen Con hearing that Wizards of the Coast has ended their relationship with Trapdoor Technologies is frankly baffling.  In regards to the iOS they basically had a finished product, without the yet to be released books of course but still mostly complete.  I felt the beta process was moving along well enough and we’d of likely seen a launch a little after the initial suggested launch dates but I’m not certain WotC is currently in the place to throw stones regarding delays.

I really don’t get this move.  5e isn’t even done launching and Wizards is scrapping some promising Digital Tools that haven’t even made it out of Beta, hence the title of the post.  Does WotC even know what it wants to do with a digital toolset?  If it’s more of the same I’m out.  If I get a sniff that they are going to try and hand us another lame subscription based Digital Toolset my eye-roll will make the locals think the New Madrid Faultline has finally quaked.  I don’t want to be too harsh but the 4e digital stuff was largely crap and certainly not worth a monthly subscription.  The stuff I saw Trapdoor Technologies presenting was great and I really hope I get to see some more come from them, but even they would never get a monthly subscription out of me.  I stand by my earlier words that choosing a third party to handle the Digital Tools for 5e remains the best course WotC can take.  Who knows, maybe they’ll surprise me, though I’m not holding my breath.

I’m truly saddened by this and certainly wish everyone at Trapdoor Technologies the best, hoping madly that they end up creating some really cool stuff for me to use to enhance my games (damn I really wanted to see the Forge in all its glory!).  If I were to conjecture my opinion would be that this split was over either the amount of 5e content that would be available within the tool and WotC may have been uneasy thinking folks would stop buying the books, or maybe they just really love that subscription based price model.  I’m still going to support WotC because I honestly love 5th Edition and up until this point they have really seemed to have an ear to the community with the intention of making the game we want to see.  This isn’t a death blow to the game at all, just a huge missed opportunity in my opinion.

My message to Wizards of the Coast can be summed up by Mr. Tim Heidecker himself-




The D&D Monster Manual – Hundreds of Bestial Flavors

Monster Manual 5th
We are 2/3 of our way to a complete collection of core books for the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  If you read my review of the Player’s Handbook you could easily tell I was gushing over the product and my review of the Monster Manual will likely show that the second core book instills the same level of adoration for this edition in me.  What I have before me is a solid catalog of rich creatures to pull from to flavor a world.  The book is massive, and it contains so many of the iconic creatures we’ve loved over the years. The cursory read through I’ve done for this review will certainly be one of many.


The book itself is solid and huge.  So many monsters have been shoved in this beast that I’ve heard some wonder about whether we will see binding issues in the future, so far I’ve seen none.  I can say I’ve flipped through every page and haven’t had an issue with even one of them, everything is nicely knit into the body of this manual.

Rust Monster 5th

I’ve really become enthralled with Rust Monsters in this edition. My players are going to be so very annoyed.

I thought the artwork in the Player’s Handbook was gorgeous, and still do with few exceptions, but the Monster Manual outpaces its predecessor easily.  Perhaps it’s just because a bestiary ends up being a feast of work for artists, I’m not certain the reason, but it just seems wonderfully drawn and inked.  With a Monster Manual it can be easy to follow a formulaic approach to pictures of the creatures, but we certainly don’t have that here. Artwork varies from large splash pages to smaller corner pictures that always brings to the fore what’s important about their appearances.  Truly some great art direction is evident.


There was an approach to this editions’ monsters that truly humbles me.  I have caught little snippets of information about certain creatures that smacked of their iterations through the years across the board.  The team behind the book obviously poured over older editions and supplements to grab the best of the best when it came to the lore surrounding the additions to the manual.

The notable standout addition to lore lies with terming certain creatures “Legendary”, and with that keyword comes extra benefits such big baddies can pull from to challenge players.  Legendary creatures get these things called “Lair Actions” that occur on a certain initiative count and can do some serious work.  Earthquakes, Stone Spikes emerging to harm players, or even Freezing Fog can add some extra difficulties.  I also love how these Legendary Creatures get some Regional Effects as well.  Now, Regional Effects could certainly be something an intuitive DM might come up with on their own, even I came up with the idea of a Red Dragon’s surrounding land being somewhat blighted by ash, but the addition of some actual rules and ideas for what to use for these creatures will be nothing but helpful.


The Stat Blocks are easy enough to read for anyone who’s done this before but I can’t say they’ll be all that approachable for a novice.  It can be a bit jarring at first to only have numbers for skills or saves a monster is actually proficient in but given enough time handling that will be easy enough if you just recall what stat handles what save/skill. Monsters are given a “Challenge” number meant to indicate what level a party of four to five PC’s needs to be before having a fair go at it, and if you feel you need to brush up on how to parse these numbers into fair encounters and XP my buddy Scott actually made a very informational video about it. Here’s the Link.  It’s 40 minutes long, because Scott is not one for being light on content, but well worth the watch.


There’s one big issue with the whole thing, and that’s been well referenced (and fixed) by the community at large.  There isn’t an index for creatures listed by their Challenge number.  Frankly this is minor now, as good Samaritans within our community have drafted a strong solution to this issue, but I still consider it an oversight.  What I’ve heard through the grapevine is that the index might be in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.  This will be superbly useful as we can then have both books open and have an easier time flipping about (don’t need to keep going back to one page in the MM), but as far as I’m concerned it shouldn’t have been that hard to have it in the MM to begin with to compensate for the fact we’ve got months to wait for the DMG.  Alas, like I said, this issue is resolved though.  Here is the link to the fan made index, I find it really useful hopefully you will to! (LINK)


Look.  If you’re going to run a 5th edition D&D game, you’ll need this book (or perhaps the DungeonScape download of its contents, but I’ve yet to see those).  Most anyone who’s interested in D&D 5th Edition will want it anyway so one might ask what use my review is in the first place.  Well, I can say that even if you aren’t a big D&D person there’s lore abounding in this book for some very iconic creature to be used in any RPG.  Pick itup, it’s beautiful.  You won’t regret the purchase no matter the RPG you frequent.


Gen Con 2014

Gen Con has once again come to a close and I can barely come down from the high. So many memories were made as I met up with new and old friends, ate great food, attended some spectacular panels, and, of course, played some fantastic games. This recap will be lengthy, and I intend it to be all inclusive so if I forget anything call me out on it! Here we go folks!




This year I had the honor of attending the con as a guest with the good people of the Gamerstable Podcast & Sidetangent Productions. If you follow my Twitter feed you may recall that I wasn’t going to be attending this year, I couldn’t see myself affording the hotel by myself. Thankfully the offer to attend and room with the group was made and I jumped at the chance, they really are the biggest reason I was able to make the con. So thank you all! I’m honestly eternally grateful. This trip has been the most important thing to happen for my work here on the blog since I started only a few months ago.

Crazy enough, we only played on pickup game together this year, and that was on the drive to the con when we played a rousing game of Fiasco. The setting was a country club and we were just a bunch of High School kiddos trying to make it in this world being as cool as we could be. I’ve owned Fiasco for a while now and had never gotten the opportunity to actually play so this was an awesome time. I’ve stated before that no one really cares to hear a play by play of someone’s game so I won’t bore you with the full recap. Being Shawn’s twin brother Ritch Cambell (to his “Ditchweed” Mitch Cambell) was fantastic, and stayed a running joke all con. Also, having Shannon give Jayson and I wedgies near the end of the game gave the perfect ending to the drama. Good times.


dungeonscape_render_16x9DungeonScape is set to be the Digital Suite of tools for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition being handled by Trapdoor Technologies. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invite to their small gathering of press, where we were given the opportunity to view a presentation, test drive the product, and ask the hard questions. Well, I don’t think we were that rough on them.

The DungeonScape Press Invitational set the bar high for the rest of Gen Con. When I said that this con was important to my work as a gaming and geek culture commentator it was mostly in reference to this activity. I approved_screenshot_05droned on and on about it once and you can find that post here. I really do suggest you read it if you get the time. I found my experience with the team behind the project both insightful and exciting. Their passion for the project is infectious and they seem to have the skills to back it up. Can’t say I’ve ever been all that interested in an “at the table” digital aid, but I certainly am now.

The rest of the night was spent with Gamerstable, as most nights were, at their yearly meet up at The Ram. Unfortunately I spent a long time chewing the ears off the Trapdoor Technology crew so only a few minutes of hang time were possible. Hell, I was rooming with them so the whole weekend was a meetup for me, so I wasn’t too bothered.



August 14th is my birthday and Gen Con’s opening day was quite a gift! I awoke and arrived very early to apply and obtain my Press Badge. Once obtained I and the Gamerstable crew made our way to the Exhibit Hall so we could hit the floor an hour before the actual opening of the con. The Exhibit Floor was every bit as gorgeous and well design as it has been every year. I couldn’t wait to hit up some favorite booths.



My first stop was the Blind Ferret booth so I could handle something that had been bugging me from the prior year. R.K. Milholland is the creator of the Webcomic Something Positive and I’ve been a fan of his work for some time now. Last year when I met him for the first time I was nervous as Hell and when he asked me if I wanted a sketch I mumbled something in the affirmative apparently because he drew me an awesome Choo Choo Bear. After he had done that I walked away smiling…and completely neglected to tip him for the gesture. Well this year I was able to rectify that error of judgment and got to chat a little, still nervous of course but I may not have shown it much, and score another cool sketch, of Fluffmodeus this time. Check out the comic sometime, it’s great!

My next order of business was the purchase of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook. I picked it up from the Cool Stuff Inc. booth for a little cheaper thanks to a page they had placed in the coupon booklet. All I can really say about the PHB is that it’s a gorgeous piece of work. The art is beautiful and the layout is tidy with a natural flow to it. It’s D&D folks. It has the mechanical feel, the art, even the FONT that screams D&D. Hell I’ll bet if I took a deep sniff it’d even smell like D&D (not sure what that might be though). I can’t wait to get a deeper look into the book but my initial page flipping scores it big props!

Gencon Dice

I stopped by to get my Crystal Caste Genon D6 and ended up splurging on the whole set, a mere $10! Then I just moseyed around looking for something to do, as my “go to” booths had been satisfied for the time being (with one glaring omission, but more on that later). I decided to stop at the first booth I saw where someone was Demoing a game. That booth ended up being Booth 2830 within the Entrepreneurs’ Avenue. The game company Imbalanced Games LLC was running their demo of Titan Tactics.

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Titan Tactics was a fun little 30-40 minute game where two players are pitted against each other as titans controlling their earthly avatars in an arena-like situation. The Avatars cannot die but points are scored for damaging them and you essentially play tug of war vying for the most damage dealt during each turn to earn a victory point of sorts if you come out on top. There are two ways to win, either one person deals enough damage to reach a winning threshold of damage or they win enough rounds. I liked the game a lot, each faction was known for a certain style of play and there were more characters in each faction that can be played in one game. These simple changes create a lot of potential ways to play and change tactics. I’d encourage anyone to check it out if they like skirmish PvP games.


After the Exhibit Hall allowed the general public in I hooked back up with some of the Gamerstable clan in the lobby and began writing my DungeonScape article. I really was grateful for the opportunity to test drive it for them and wanted to churn that out! Plus it gave me a chance to relax and catch up with what everyone else had bought or done in the Exhibit Hall.

By the time I’d eaten lunch and finished writing the blog piece, to be edited and posted later, it was 1:00pm which meant I needed to get to the Union Station so I could pick up my Race Packet for the Orc Stomp 5k! I was really excited for this race. Rob Orc Stomp Map 02Hall, who writes for Ideology of Madness, had sponsored the race on the site’s behalf and had scored some free race slots for it. When he offered them on Twitter I jumped at the chance and scored a ticket! The race packet offered a few discount goodies and a pretty cool shirt. They also handed out some maps of the course, didn’t realize it then but I was in for a beautiful view.

I finalized the blog piece and hit the Exhibit Hall one more time.  Then realizing it was nearly 5:00pm I raced off to another highlight of the con, the Gamerstable Awards Dinner!


2014 Gamerstable Appreciation AwardsWhen I was invited to attend the con as a roomie with the Gamerstable group it came with another sweet perk, I was also invited to be a guest at their Awards Dinner at the St. Elmo Steakhouse. This year there were two award winners.  The first was Shane L. Hensley, author, games designer, and CEO of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Shane is best known for his work designing the Savage Worlds Role-Playing Game.  The second was John Kovalic who is best known for his Webcomic Dork Tower and his work illustrating the various versions and expansions to Munchkin.

2014 Gamerstable Appreciation Awards

Not only was the dinner superb, though certainly pricey, the company made for a rousing good time.  I was especially glad I got to meet Michal Tresca, RPG Examiner for and all around nice guy.  I was able to pick his brain about a few industry tips and he unfortunately gave me carte blanche to reach out to him post con for more tips of the trade.  He may regret that!  Also, I have to commend one member of Gamerstable, Mike Bridges picked up two of my drinks for my birthday.  The man is a class act!

2014 Gamerstable Appreciation Awards

I didn’t bend the ear of Shane Hensley or his friend and coworker Clint Black, who I discovered was not the country western star but rather Savage Worlds’ Brand Manager, much.  I wanted to leave that to the people who had invited them to dinner.  Also, there was an unfortunate scheduling conflict for John Kovalic so he was unable to attend.  As you can see via the link above though the Gamerstable Team was able to meet up with him later.


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I’ll just stop calling things “highlights” of Gen Con 2014 because it’ll just get repetitive fast, but my friend Pierce’s, you may know him as @Sorcerer_Blob, Dungeon World Hack of that age old D&D Module Ravenloft was certainly a highlight!  The main reason lies with the fact that Pierce and I talk, a lot, on Twitter and have forged a fast friendship over the years, but at Gen Con 2013 our meet and greet was limited to a ten min chat at the very end of the con.  Getting to spend a few hours with him, and some new friends, gaming late into the evening was a spectacular way to close out the night and my Birthday.  I also got to play the Dungeon World equivalent of my favorite character ever Caul Rickrak. Now we just need to finish the game!  Thankfully, Pierce has promised a G+ Hangout just to do so.



I awoke with a start from a dream where I had been being chased by bees that just kept humming and buzzing to discover a few things.  One, the “buzzing bees” were likely a dream manifestation of my phone’s alarm that had been vibrating (not playing “Frog’s Song” from Chrono Trigger loudly as it was supposed to be doing) for a long time.  Two, that my friend Scott (@TheAngryDM) was tweeting me asking me where I was.  Because three, I was late for the Orc Stomp 5k!

It was roughly 5:55 am, I was roughly 12 miles from the Con, and I thought the race started at 6:00 am.  I was embarrassed and furious with myself.  Mostly I was feeling like I had let down Rob after he had so kindly reserved me a spot.  Well, to make a long story short I discovered the race actually started at 6:30 am so i decided to try my luck at making it and I am certainly glad I did.

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I mean, look at that view!

I arrived roughly 20 mins late and luckily found the starting line easily enough.  I took off like I’d taken the Run feat at my last level up and quickly realized I’d be very alone for most of the race, though I did see Rob wearing his Flash shirt heading for the finish line.  That was fine though, it was a gorgeous day with some truly lovely views as you saw above.

In the end I caught up with the tail end of the other racers, earning some odd looks in the process.  It looks like I ended up right around my usual 30 min 5k time and I’m more than with that considering I hadn’t even gotten to stretch, eat, or drink before the race.  Sticking around to chat with Rob, Scott, and a few other runners made the whole thing worth it honestly.  Not to mention I got some good exercise in.  I will say, being in shape enough to run a 5k gets you in plenty good shape for surviving all the walking you do at the con.  I fully recommend everyone come out for the Orc Stomp next year!


After the race I went back to the hotel and got ready with everyone else for the day.  Upon arriving downtown we had trouble finding a parking spot and ended up parking a fair distance away.  This was okay though because it helped us stumble upon a wonderful Indian Restaurant that’s off the beaten path for most Gen Con attendees. Haveli Indian Cuisine has a lunch buffet that’s just $8 and it just plain rocks.  Likely the dining experience of the Con for me, and I had eaten NY Strip Steak two nights in a row.

DL NOIRThe Iron Kingdoms panel wasn’t until 4:00 pm so I had time to kill.  First I went to the Exhibit Hall to catch a few booths I had missed.  I wanted to stop by the Pinnacle Booth to possibly get my Savage Worlds book signed by Shane but he wasn’t there.  Clint was though and while he and I chatted he introduced me to John Goff, writer and game designer for Pinnacle and the designer for one DL NOIR SIGof the newest properties out of Pinnacle Deadlands Noir.  So naturally I bought a copy, had been meaning to anyway, and had John sign it.

Another booth I endeavored to visit was the Harsh Realities booth so I could meet and chat with Ben Rogers, one of the men behind Sixcess.  Ben actually resides here in Missouri, than ten miles from me actually.  So I just had to meet up with him and pick his brain about the system.  I’ve always thought it looked solid and it also has a lot of supporting campaign settings.  We had a nice chat and I mentioned possibly meeting up later for a longer interview.  Looking forward to that!

The last booth I hit up on Friday was Hirst Arts so I could add to my collection of molds to use for future 3d Dungeon projects.  I’ve written about my love for these before and was more than ready to pick two more of the beauties up.  I now have enough of my own to get work done without having to borrow from my cousin’s husband.  It’s exciting!

Hirst ArtsFrom there I spent a good deal of time just outside the Press Room so I could use the Wireless they allotted us, and to rest my back from carrying that backpack around all day.  Not long after I’d sat down though, who do I see but Shane Hensley coming down tot he press room to do an interview, he actually recognized me from the dinner too.  It was nice to get to chat with him one on one finally and I even bothered him for a signature in my Savage Worlds book.  Turned out the folks he was supposed to meet weren’t there so he took off.


Next up to bat were some back to back panels, the first being Iron Kingdoms Unleashed.  I’m glad I had my laptop on me because the one they had brought didn’t support the Video hookup for the slideshow they had for us.  I plugged mine in and off we were!  I plan to write an entire post about this little gem but I can give it some love right now too.  The game looks fantastic.  For those who aren’t familiar Iron Kingdoms is Privateer Press’ RPG ruleset and Campaign Setting for their tabletop skirmishes games Warmachine and Hordes.  Their first entry into the scene was the Full Metal Fantasy Core Rulebook, and its various supplements, and the best way to describe it would be to say it represents the Warmachine factions in RPG form.  Unleashed is slotted to represent the Hordes style creatures.

It’s going to be really cool folks.  Not only will it be its own stand alone RPG its rules, despite representing a quite different tone, will be fully compatible with Full Metal Fantasy.  I for one can’t wait to get my hands on it.  The cover art we got a sneak peek at may be an ENnies contender!  Anything in that rich world they’ve created is worth looking into for Fluff alone.  Love the mechanics too!  Look for a longer post later hopefully.  I somewhat cornered Ed Bourelle, the Creative Director for Privateer Press, and asked for some slideshow pics to share during that review.  Maybe I’ll get a review copy *fingers crossed*.



Brian Patterson invited me to his panel at the DungeonScape Press Invitational so I felt obligated to be there (just kidding Brian).  I had a good feeling about what was coming down the pipe here after watching Tracy Barnett and Brian tease a co-secret on twitter for the last few months and I was pleasantly surprised to see I was right.  Brian and Tracy have joined to forces to form the company Exploding Rogue and their first order of business is to kickstart Brian’s Campaign World Karthun.  If you’ve read his comic at all you’re likely as eager to get your hands on it as I am.


Hooked up with my buddies and grabbed dinner then we all headed over to the D&D Launch party while still trying to decide if we would go to the ENnies or not.  I got my Tyranny of Dragons poster and unweildly dragon hat then got a few rounds of Sun King Brewing Company’s Froth of Khan, the official beer of Gen Con and a delightful Brown Ale with a creamy coffee flavor.  We all decided to go to the ENnies, heck I’d never even been before so I was certainly interested.  Plus the Gamerstable folks had a friend nominated in the Best Cartography section, Anna B. Meyer with her Map of the Flanaess.

Union Station is a great site for an awards show.

Union Station is a great site for an awards show.

The ENnies were well run and never felt as slow as you would expect an Awards Show to be.  Plus the presenters shied away from making it an opportunity for stand up and really made sure to put on a fine show, with a touch of humor, but mostly stayed out of the limelight.  Anna sadly did not win her category as she was not given either “Pathfinder” or “Numenera” as a name at birth (a glaring misstep in hindsight).  It was actually pretty much Paizo and Monte Cook Games’ show this year, cleaning up in any category they were nominated in.  To the point where they were thanked at one point for not entering one of them.  So I had fun at the ENnies, despite one accident with a beer cup sporting one of those weird magnet bottoms…but we won’t get into that.



Saturday we got to sleep in some.  This was a good thing considering my last two days had involved me staying awake for over 18 hours each!  My first item on the agenda was one of the few gaming items I had actually scheduled for myself, a Mistborn RPG called “The Good, The Bad, and The Alloy”.  The Mistborn RPG is set in the universe created by Brandon Sanderson, and really has a unique setting to play in.  Most everyone has some sort of power influenced by metal they either ingest or have on their person, with some really unique options.  take a look at the series if you want more, or the RPG.  Both earn a  Melvin recommendation.

If you guessed the game was a spin on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, give yourself a cookie.  It went well and, unlike most con games, it seemed like most of us were roleplayers who wanted the best outcome rather than just a bunch of fisticuffs.  We were careful with out resources and approach to things, we made sure to try talking things out most times before heading straight into the fight, and the one time we knew we had to start a shoot out we used caution to set up a damn near perfect ambush and won in a way better than the game actually considered possible!  In the end we found what we were looking for and had circumvented the big showdown with our earlier win.  We pulled off some good stuff there!


Oh look! He’s talking about THAT again!

This panel was a highly anticipated event for me.  Not only was I getting to catch a sneak peek of a film I had kickstarted and given loads of lip service to, but I was getting to meet some of the people behind it that I’d been talking to (mainly over twitter) for some time now.  The film looks great and will certainly provide a wonderful narrative of the origins of Dungeons and Dragons, it’s impact on gaming in general, and will certainly display individuals that simply love gaming!  The film also didn’t display itself as a typical “talking heads” fare but rather it felt free flowing with its imagery and focus on dynamic on screen action, far more than what you would expect from a historical piece.  I can’t wait to see it and every day that seems more and more likely.  There was even talk of a theatrical release!

While there I got to catch up with Michal Tresca again, who’s apparently in the film, and then D&D a Doc 01got to meet with Jon Peterson.  Jon is an affable guy who can easily be distinguished as one of, if not the, leading historian for Dungeons and Dragons.  At one point he informed me on a piece of lore surrounding the 4th edition digital tools that I’d previously been unaware of and the recent stuff isn’t even his forte!  After Jon I finally cornered Anthony Savini, the director of the film, and was surprised when he was genuinely excited to meet me and had a lot to talk about.  I mean, we’d spoken before but “can’t wait to meet you at *such and such event*” doesn’t always mean that someone earnestly awaits shaking your hand, but Anthony was that type of guy.  I left knowing the film was in even better hands than I’d earlier assumed.


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You were robbed Kat!

I hadn’t gone the previous year but certainly enjoyed seeing everyone march about the con in their finest Cosplay.  This year was no different but I had incentive to catch the actual show this time.  Gamerstable Eric’s daughter had crafted a truly killer costume and routine for the show and having seen it I honestly thought she was a lock.  She was Maka from Soul Eater and her costume was utterly fantastic.  Not to mention she had an honest to God black belt (because she is one) level martial arts routine tied together with audio and music she had ripped from the show.  She had done all of this on her own, and when I heard she’d gotten second after a pair of kids who played Tuffnut and Ruffnut Thorston, from How to Train Your Dragon, in a decent performance I was frankly confused.  That’s the kids division for you though, cuteness often overrules quality.



There was one last item scheduled for my trip to Indy and that was a LARP.  Now, I’d never done a true LARP before, but I was big into theater and drama all through high school and a decent chunk of college so participating in what boils down into essentially an improv game didn’t seem too tough.  Little did I know getting to put my acting chops back on turned out to be one of the funnest things I got to do at the Con!

The setting was in a big city place of entertainment called the Magic Mansion and I was a private investigator named Johnny Modesto.  I was just there to tail some broad who was steppin’ out on her guy.  She never showed but I caught a look at some dame who bore a striking resemblance to someone from a previous case but I just couldn’t put my finger on it!  From there my character just enjoyed the evening while putting the worm in a few people’s ears to try and get some dirt on the new mark I had.  Of course, my story was only one of many people’s that night and when things (and people) started going crazy from odd supernatural events, my problems started piling on!



I had some company along with me in the form of Shannon and Eric from Gamerstable, who both played their characters great!  An added benefit of their attendance is that sometime down the road we plan to get together and give a good play by play of the whole thing.  I’ll end up linking it here for your enjoyment!


Its always bizarre to wake up on the last day of Gen Con and suddenly realize it’s basically over.  We packed up and hit the Con for one last buzz through the Exhibit Hall where I bought a copy of King of Tokyo for my wife.  After that I endeavored to return my Generics but upon discovering the line I handed them off to a few new found friends who I met through catching up with Pierce one last time.  Then, we hit the road.  I was eager to get home to my family.


I know I need to thank the entire Gamerstable crew for inviting me along for the ride this year, I likely wouldn’t have even gone to the con without their kind inclusion. Also, I need to remember to use my early hour on the Exhibit Floor, granted by my press badge, wisely.  This year I should have grabbed King of New York while I was out there!

I missed a bunch of people this year, some at the con but mostly those who couldn’t make it.  Next year I’ve been told by the Vagabond Gamers that many of them intend to show and that would be some awesome stuff!  I definitely want my buddies here at home to come with me some time, I love hanging with all the online friends I’ve made but wish I could introduce the friends I grew up with to the con as well!  Most of all, I missed my wife.  Sarah made it last year and that meant I got to see the con through two sets of eyes.  Next year the con starts at the end of July though and that means her school schedule won’t get in the way!  So here’s hoping she can join me!

It was a banner year for me at Gen Con and it also marked a true change in how I see this blog.  I’m hoping to get a bit more serious about tracking down some real stories out there and trying my hand at reviewing games and game related items.  Onward to Gen Con 2015!  It’ll be a blast seeing what changes in the industry between now and then!

As always, take care and good gaming!


Here’s What I DO Know About DungeonScape! *Formerly Codename: Morningstar*

I typically don’t care for technology at the table. It tends to distract my players from the game at hand and I personally find myself checking my Twitter account for what’s going on when I should be running a fine adventure. Considering my feelings on having a Tablet, Smartphone, or Laptop on hand at the table I was initially hesitant to endear myself to the whispers of the Digital Tool for Dungeons & Dragons that showed up on the social media scene under the moniker of “Codename: Morningstar” from this company I’d never heard of, Trapdoor Technologies. You may recall my initial post on the subject where I essentially ran down the list of my suspicions of what it might be like and how I felt it may measure up the D&D Digital Tools I was most familiar with, the fairly good 4th Edition fare we were able to rent monthly through having a D&D Insider account. After posting my thoughts I spent a little time reading their blog and paying attention to the social media marketing I warmed up to the idea enough to muster some interest in what it would be like. Well, it appears they thought my ramblings and wild theories to be more dangerous than giving me the straight dope because, against all better judgment, the good people of Trapdoor Technologies invited myself and a few others to an exclusive Press Invitational to kick off Gencon and help reveal themselves a little to us all.

Pictured Clockwise: Chris Matney, Brian Patterson, Jon Bolding, Ed Grabianowski, Evan Newton, Scott Rehm, Myself, & Rodney Thompson. Not Pictured: Trevor Kidd & Rachael Bowen

Pictured Clockwise: Chris Matney, Brian Patterson, Jon Bolding, Ed Grabianowski, Evan Newton, Scott Rehm, Myself, & Rodney Thompson. Not Pictured: Trevor Kidd & Rachael Bowen

I arrived somewhat early, considering some painful Indy traffic, and was met by three members of the Trapdoor Technologies team, Evan Newton, handled the bulk of the web presentation, Rachael Bowen, the team’s Community/Support Manager, and Chris Matney, the Managing Director. It was easy to see early on that these three were very invested in presenting a labor of love, not just something that would eventually be sale-able. This was a project near and dear to them, and no one more than Chris.

We had some meet and greet time and then launched into the Web Presentation run by Evan. Right away we discovered that the name “Morningstar” was to change, and as many likely already know we learned it was to be called “DungeonScape”. I have to say that beyond being an apt name for the tool it also happens to reference one of my favorite D&D 3.5 supplements, so points for them!

It's not just "An Essential Guide to Dungeon Adventuring" anymore!

It’s not just “An Essential Guide to Dungeon Adventuring” anymore!


There will be a three tiered release of the app, much like the rules set it will be servicing. The releases are to be

  • The Player’s Release: Which will cover Character Creation and management including full use of the library search capabilities for books currently available.
  • The DM’s Release: That will include adventure/campaign tracking, player management, and the sharing network
  • The Creator’s Release: All the customization, The Forge.


First we were introduced to Character Creation, by far the most fleshed out portion of the app. The entire Players Handbook has been integrated into the system so we were shown the full list of options available to date from the 5th Edition Set of D&D rules. Creation was fast and would require little outside guidance for anyone familiar with the options laid out in the physical book. Actually, I only just today purchased my Players Handbook so it seems anyone with any D&D familiarity can easily navigate creation.


It was here that I first noticed that the layout of the tool, though on a tablet for the event, definitely appears to have Smartphone users in mind as well. Everything menu or graphic during the creation of a character, or post creation, can be is viewed on vertical rectangles that will obviously later be entire screens on a Smartphone to be easily flipped about. It will be a lot of screens for someone not on a Tablet or Laptop but each one will be rich and functional.

Notice the three sections

Notice the three sections

During the creation process you never feel truly led by the hand, it just flows naturally. Stat options include Point buy, Rolling, or entering of the numbers. The selection of skills, spell choices, or feats are step by step and interact seamlessly with process by changing the character’s stats as affected. There aren’t a bunch of dropdowns for things like Gender, age, or weight you’re allowed to write in what you want or roll randomly in some instances. It basically becomes a quicker way to fill out a character sheet.


Once you have your character the sheet is broken down into the vertical rectangles I mentioned before. On a tablet, and presumably a Laptop, it will look like this

You’ll get three categories on screen and can flip between six pages. By “pinching” (is that a technical term?) the screen you will back out and be able to rearrange where you want the categories to be laid out on the pages. This is a nice feature, say you run a fighter and don’t need those categories related to spells just push those to the back of the line to never be used. If you have a question on how a certain stat came to be the number it is tap it and a breakdown of the affecting items\proficiencies will be brought up for you. All throughout there are a ton of small considerations like this that I love to see.


More character gen items, the DM stuff isn't quite ready.

More character gen items, the DM stuff isn’t quite ready.

This portion of the presentation was the most impressive to me. I have seen well crafted character creation engines in the past, many freely available, but tools to assist the DM have been far more lacking. Granted you have things out there like Roll20, but those are aimed at assisting with an online game and Chris was quick to point out that DungeonScape is to be more of a quick\compact reference aid than something that goes too far toward running the game for the DM. This was stressed, it’s a tool but not a video game. You can even reference this piece from their blog where they go even further into discussion Automation vs. Customization.

So it is plain to see that while the DM’s Release is going to provide all the tools a DM needs to run his game, the DM is still running things. A great example commonly referenced goes thusly “The DM rolls for and informs a player how much damage they receive and the player follows by entering that deduction of Hit Points from their total. The game doesn’t roll and apply damage for you.” I really like this, obviously, because if I wanted a video game RPG, they are widely available. I would like to see this as a possible option in the future perhaps, mainly for online play, but for now what I want to see is exactly what’s been laid out.

The DM’s tools might be useable by Smartphone, but I doubt they would function nearly as well. You have large screens with your notes and story, coupled with as many hyperlinks to maps, NPC’s, and Encounters as you wish to add. Bookmarks can be placed within the notes for quick returns to a page and there is even the ability to add annotations if you need to remember something, like maybe the tavern in “such and such town” was burned down by the PC’s and returning to that town could be trouble! The thing is, these screens are mostly larger so a Smartphone wouldn’t be the best bet for usage here. Still, even with that (perceived, I could easily be wrong) limitation I’ve not seen a better set of DM’s tools ever. You could easily run a game from your Tablet or Laptop, needing little else.


A neat feature of the DM’s set of tools lies with the fact that published adventures will download to the tool fully fleshed out and beautiful but if we’re to be honest most DM’s out there love to craft our own stuff. This is where the Creator’s Release comes in, and I think this portion will make or break my interest in this project. Sadly, as the third and final release, it was the part of the project we saw the least of but there were assurances made and a few kernels of possibility that certainly peaked my attention.

One of the best parts of the 4th edition D&D digital tools was the Encounter Generator and DungeonScape stands to be every bit as good or better when it comes to creating your own enemies and encounters. That customization of creatures will be one an even more micro basis and your custom enemies will save in your account for future grabbing, you will know they are custom but their stats appear in the system looking just like any other creatures. In fact, there is little that is left out of the promised customization availability and I can’t wait to see how it works out.


  • The network will be cloud based, this way it won’t matter what manner of tech you use to access your account it will work seamlessly with the rest of the table’s chosen devices.
  • The DM will be able to communicate to players through the app and can even send secret messages.
  • There will be guided tutorials available
  • Adventures can be purchased via the Library tab
  • Awards, akin to achievements, will be awarded to players of official WOTC events like the ones at Gencon, or Adventurer’s League that will stay with the player’s account.
  • The loss of Wi-Fi will only affect interconnectivity
  • There will be a Die Roller on the app of course, though I still prefer real dice (pssst Chris does too)


I have to say I’m impressed, I’ve never really wanted to have a tablet to run things from but they are making it very enticing. I may have to give it a try. There is a danger with creating a tool like this to just hire a tech guru to flesh something serviceable out so the company can say “Yeah, we’ve got digital tools…sure” or worse yet just have someone in house code something up so again something is out there. While there were many things good about the 4th edition digital tools there was nothing like this, this is something special.

It all comes back to Chris Matney. I said it above, everyone attached to the project seems in for the sake of the game but no one more than Chris. I meant this. Chris has been playing D&D and other RPG’s for longer than I’ve been alive and when he says this is a something he’s always wanted to do with D&D there is an earnest truth behind his words. He is fully immersed into making this the perfect additive to the game, not a distraction and not something that runs the game for you. When he ran us through his game at the end of the night I became a believer too. Once the wow factor subsided I was as involved with the game on the table as I would be as a player in any pen and paper exclusive game. Not to mention I envied the fact he could pace the room, moving in amongst us to add further suspense. All while keeping a natural DM’s screen handy in his hands.

You have my attention DungeonScape, I look forward to trying you out in Beta and beyond.

Live from Gencon, Mel.


Scott Rehm (@theangrydm) Angry DM & Mad Adventurers Society: My Dinner with Chris (and Evan and Rachel): A DungeonScape Preview

Jonathan Bolding (@JonathanBolding) Escapist Magazine: Hands-On With D&D‘s New Digital Companion DungeonScape