Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes – Spring 2018

Coming to your shelves this Spring Wizards of the Coast brings us Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes!


It looks like WotC has decided to continue its recent trend of shying away from Adventure Paths\Campaigns and is providing another resource for those playing Dungeons and Dragons. This time it looks like they are focusing mostly on the Dungeon Master but with a nod to the players as well mentioning potential hooks they can use to round out their character. Who doesn’t love a mortal enemy eh?


I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on this book of tools, should be some fun stuff. Maybe I’ll find somone sinister to throw at my library kids (insert evil and\or maniacal laughter).

A few key links for you:

Main Site Page: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Keep your eyes on Twitch:

D&D Beyond YouTube Channel:


The RPG Academy Network Presents: For the Players


Welcome to the New Year folks! I just wanted to shoot you all a quick notification that I, and a fair number of other members of the RPG Academy Network will be hosting a panel tomorrow night (Saturday, January 9th) from 8:00 CST to 11:00 CST!

In our last Panel the network members chatted up the GM’s point of view. I covered it on the site, as I was sadly unable to join them. You can read about that HERE and watch it HERE! This time we’ll be tackling aspect of being a better player at the table. Hosted by the illustrious Jim McClure, of Talking Tabletop fame, as his last hoorah with our network before beginning his tenure with the One Shot podcast.

Hopefully you can join us, but even if you can’t you could always join us in spirit by sending a question or two to Jim on his Twitter account. Hope to see you there folks!

Here’s the link to the Hangout!


Kickstart That GEEK! Neon Sanctum RPG


I feel like I’ve got my finger on the pulse of these Card Based RPGs man!  This is the second one I’ve done a write-up on in less than two months!  Better yet, I actually got to play this one, but more on that later.  Lets get right into Neon Sanctum shall we?

The World


Neon Sanctum is set in the far flung future and if I had to compare the feel of the game’s lore I’d go equal parts Numenera, Shadowrun, and Gamma World.  We have a society that has seen a collapse of its golden age of technology into a world run by Megacorporations that all vie for control of what little Golden Age tech is still lying around and use said tech to create more and more marketable items to continue to grow their stature.  Typically the players in the game might end up working for or against one (or more) of these Uber Corporations, or they may even end up just trying to eek out a survival in the wastelands.  Oh, and they’re mutants too, like big troll guys!

The game is very cyberpunk meets apocalyptic.  This can result in some wide variety of interesting adventure schemes, makes it easy for a GM to shake things up. 


The Look 01

The Grenade Punch Games crew sent me a sample deck of cards so I got to see first hand what the finished product will look like and it’s quality stuff.  Good stock for the cards and the artwork is well drawn.  Early on I labored under the impression that the cards looked a little messy but I soon learned that once you’ve learned the flow of the game they are actually set up in a very logical order.  I found myself breezing through the boxes of text whenever I would use a particular skill. 

The Look 02

Though I’ve only seen the artwork meant for the book and box online it appears to be of the same caliber.  The layout of the Play-Test rules that I had on hand to work with the cards was very detailed and almost a bit much.  Explanations got a bit heady and hopefully the finished product explains the game a bit better, it is plain to see that playing the game is (at least for the time being ) the easiest way to parse it.  It’s honestly an easy game to “get” once you do.



I was fortunate enough to get to play this game before doing this write-up.  I was even more fortunate in whom I was able to play it with.  I played in a game run by none other than Adam Waite, one half of the creative team for Neon Sanctum, and a few fellows brought in by the RPG Academy team.  Caleb(@TheCalebG) from RPG Academy ran the podcast and we were joined by Matthew Parody(@MattParody) and Jon Serritos (@Renakku) as well.  I was a bit nervous going in, not because I was playing with people I’d never met (that ship sailed long ago), but mostly because I’d had a bit of trouble trying to understand the game up to that point.  If I’m to be honest I’d only taken about an hour to skim the material though.  Thankfully Mr. Waite walked us all through a quick run down of the rules and it just clicked, this game is pretty dang easy I was certainly over thinking it.

The Look

The cards you have are essentially your character sheet, any and all of them are available for use right away.  All the rules for using a card are found on the actual card and there are only a few extra “all-encompassing” rules that help make the whole game function.  Once you know the overall rules of the game you can easily make out what cards to use for certain situations.  One aspect of the game I really enjoy is the flexibility allowed for using cards.  Most every card has a specific role for use within combat but when you are out of combat they become useful in a more generic way based on the type of skill they are.  That way you can use the additional bonuses granted to your roll (this game utilizes two d10’s) by being a little creative in using a card.

Combat itself allows for a lot of versatility as well, in fact there are a lot of things you can do with one turn.  Without getting too technical the four big things you can do are deciding whether to Sustain something, choosing an Attack Style, a Defence Style, and your movement.  Instead of just having a static list of things you can choose to do you actually allocate points (that refresh at the start of every turn) so you can choose where to put the most emphasis but you can still do it all.  It seems like this would lead to lengthy turns, an issue all too often problematic with another Tactical RPG I recall (4th Edition D&D) but we found ourselves flying through turns pretty quick once we got the shake of it.


I really had a fun time with this game and earnestly hope you will give it a good look. The Kickstarter’s fund point is crazy low too, only £12,000, so it’s likely to make it.  I’m in full-bore, I’ve backed at the following level (My assessment of the best value):

Core Box


£34 (Roughly $50.00)

Get the complete Neon Sanctum Game. Over 300 cards, a Rulebook, tokens, battle maps and dice. Enough for four players and a DM to play the game.

Backers also get the Print and Play and may purchase products from the add-on list for the amount listed.

A Solid value for a lot of good product.  If you think about it most RPGs have you spending $50 for just a Rulebook so this is easily a bang for your buck. 

Neon Sanctum has the old world tech of Numenera, the Mega Corporations of Shadowrun, and a touch of the goofy fun of Gamma World. It brings all of that together into a fast paced, fun tactical card based RPG that offers players and GM’s a ton of versatility in play style and world lore. My favorite Card Based RPG to date.  Hopefully you’ll check it out, and there are a few ways to do so.

The Kickstarter
The Website
The Play-test Kit

I’ll be sure to post the link to the Podcast of my play through with Adam Waite and the RPG Academy folks soon!  In the meantime, check the game out. My money’s in the pot, I want this thing to fund!


This Unleashed RPG Adventurer Kit Was Involved in a Car Wreck & You Won’t BELIEVE What Was Pulled From the Wreckage!!

Clickbaity enough for ya? Thought so. The story is true though. My family and I were involved in a fairly substantial car accident merely a day after receiving my review copy of this game.  We are fine (the car isn’t) but I was also pretty impressed with the fairly limited damage done to this solid hunk of gaming!  I mean, it was at the impact point, perhaps it even absorbed an outrageous amount of the blow, just maybe… it saved our lives!.. Okay that last one stretched things a bit, still, kudos on Privateer Press for crafting such a stalwart game.

Only a mite roughed up!

Only a mite roughed up!

Anyway, on to the actual review.

The Unleashed RPG Adventure Kit!  More Fun Than You Could Shake a Half-Gnawed Severed Limb At!

I should have lead with this title.


I know somewhere on this blog I’ve mentioned a love for Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms RPG, despite never doing a full on review of the system, and if I haven’t I know I’ve lauded it on my favorite social media platforms.  With a rule-set modeled after their equally fun tabletop wargamming platform Warmachine, you find yourself dropped into a surprisingly easy to parse strategic fighting RPG with a rich backdrop of lore.  The Iron Kingdoms Core Rulebook introduced players to warring kingdoms of people we find a bit more familiar; Humans, Elves, Dwarves, etc. all vying for power in civilized lands constantly at war using both powerful majicks and technology.  Metal on metal fantasy full scale warfare.


We aren’t here to talk about civilized lands though, we’re here to talk about the wilder lands of Western Immoren.  Unleashed will be a companion rule-book, fully compatible with the one that proceeded it, but will detail the sentient creatures of the wilds of Western Immoren.  Just prior to its release though we have this surprising little gem show up, the RPG Adventure Kit. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard this was coming out a month or two before the full on Core Rulebook but I was willing to give it a try, especially because it was going to come with some Minis.


My experience with “kits” lately has been limited to the D&D Starter Set for 5th Edition, something I’m in the process of using to introduce a few kids to D&D.  The Starter Set is very much worth the dollar figure, roughly $12 on Amazon, but as that’s a rather low price point you don’t get too much.  A rough set of rules, an O.K. adventure, a few pre-gens, and some dice.  Certainly serviceable, I’m still using it after all, but nothing really catches the eye to draw in new players in my opinion.


This boxed set though?  Everything catches the eye. Privateer Press held nothing back and has come nowhere near doing a slipshod job when putting together this introduction to Unleashed.  The first thing you notice when opening are some punch out tiles with terrain printed on them.  You think there’s a few for garnishment but then you keep pulling tiles out and realize that you’ve got tiles for days man!  Every single one has an image on both sides too effectively doubling the already impressive amount of terrain you can use.  The Rulebook and Scenario are both very appealing to the eye and the character booklets are huge four page spreads that really detail who you’ve chosen in both art and letter.  They round things out with a fist-full of excellent minis for use with the Scenario provided, a simple set of six-siders, and lastly, the only thing I scratched my head at, a truly pathetic ruler (had to have been added as an afterthought).


Look at this ruler… I mean, I know people should own better ones but bleh

The artwork keeps in theme with every product put out by Privateer Press in this world, I’m glad I like it because they are consistent.  With Unleashed they get to play around with the brutal nature of the game and really craft some nice looking characters.  Sadly there isn’t much art in the actual books but they do have a bit more than other kits I’ve seen.



I’m already a fan of the system. As mentioned before it’s very similar to the Wargaming system it’s spurned from so there is hardly any gap in playability for those familiar with Warmachine and Hordes.  Unleashed is the “Hordes” version of the RPG system so it is is incredibly brutal.  You have characters that use body parts for food, or even to spruce up armor.  The world of Unleashed is very much a survival of the fittest landscape and I think that lends a lot of fun to the players of the game.  Killing a foe and eating their flesh isn’t an evil act, it’s an act of survival.  In fact I’d be surprised if there’s a GM who’d even consider worrying about the alignment of characters in this dangerous setting.


The scenario provided with this game does a good job of explaining why all of these denizens of the wilds would form an unlikely partnership.  Much like it’s predecessor you need to do such things as this world can easily slip into a faction-like mindset where it might be odd to see a Bogg Trogg working with Gatorman but when the four characters in this setting want to move against a powerful enemy differences, and appetites, are set aside and respect for ability sets in. The scenario offers up five large scenes and to me it looks like it would take roughly two to three nights to play it out.  A nice caveat is added at the end to describe some possible continuation adventures.

So, I’m very impressed with the Scenario provided.  No corners were cut and the punch out landscapes will go a long way in setting the stage, not to mention you can use those punch outs for some Hordes fighting in the future.  The character pre-gens are all very flavorful and players will have a blast role-playing their brutality.  If you want though the streamlined Rulebook provided with the game will help you craft new Player Characters.  Other rules set out in the book do the job of explaining how to play very well.


I already knew I was going to be a fan of the Unleashed Core book but I’m pretty surprised how much I like this RPG kit. The best thing about it has to be the tile pieces and the miniatures though, once your players have done the scenario no matter how good it is there’ll never be a really good reason to run it for them again.  The physical stuff though?  That will keep and can be used for Unleashed adventures for years to come.  My advice is to get both Unleashed and the Kit if you can.  If you have to choose between the two I’d lean Core Book, but that’s me.  Take care folks!

Pre-Order the Kit


I mean, I say Id lean Core Book… BUT LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF!!

Keeping Destiny Weird


I spend just about every word in this blog espousing my love and adoration for Tabletop Gaming but anyone who knows me outside of social media knows I’m every bit as enthusiastic about Video Games, and no other game has grabbed my attention in a long time quite like Bungie’s first-person shoot em’ up MMO Destiny.  You may recall that on of my friends contributed an article on the game right around launch and sadly I wasn’t even playing it at the time.  It took until December for me to finally get in on the fun.  To date I’ve logged nearly 300 hours, have gotten three characters to level 31 (merely waiting for the right raid drops to get to 32), and have played every aspect of the game…many times over.

There are countless people chatting about this game on the net.  Players complaining about certain aspects of the game that are still funky, folks finding clever ways to “cheese” (a term to denote finding an unusual way to cheat the regular play) their way through levels, in-depth reviews on weapons, farm locations, etc. etc. etc.  My personal favorite stories though?  Weird things people get away with that were likely never anticipated.

I think the fact that Destiny remains a somewhat small-scale MMO in regards to actual playable maps and missions ends up fostering the desire to find new and creative ways to play the game.  My favorite things to hear about are the players that challenge themselves to complete portions of the game in crazy ways that were in all likelihood were never considered to be something anyone would ever try to do, or even possible to accomplish.  Thus, I’d like to showcase some of the best stories I’ve come across.

Gaurdians sitting


Destiny has more game beyond its main storyline than during and the toughest chunk of PvE in this endgame content lies with its Raids.  The one I’m referencing here is titled Crota’s End and the guy who soloed it is a Youtube user known as “The Legend Himself”, aptly named considering his achievements. Crota’s end is no joke.  You start out in an area of almost solid darkness with small beacons of light you have to get to in order to continue onward as a “weight of darkness” constantly piles up slowing you down and removing your jumping ability.  All the while enemies known as Thralls harass you from the dark and try to slice you up.  The remainder of the Raid is no less difficult, actually more so.  For example when you get to parts like the Deathsinger where you have a time limit to take her down before she just outright kills you, or the final fight where you can’t even hurt Crota without dropping his shield first to get a few shots in with a giant sword!

Solo Crota

Difficult enough for a team of six (the recommended number) but this guy did it solo.  I have watched the video he was kind enough to make and it’s just insane that he pulled it off but what’s even more insane?  He did it again when they finally added the Hard version of the Raid into the game.  I haven’t even been able to join a team that’s beaten “Hard Crota” yet and he soloed it.  Hats off to The Legend Himself!





I laughed really hard when I heard about this because I immediately pictured how that did it.  I was right too.  One of the playable characters in the game is the Titan Class.  This class can switch between being a Defender and a Striker type and plays some really good support for the team all while also being the most heavily armored.  The main super ability of the Defender choice is a Bubble of force that players can hide beneath to stop incoming bullets.  It allows players and enemies to pass through the walls and thus would normally not provide any protection against those Thralls I mentioned above.  However, there is a piece of armor you can equip that will cause any enemy that passes through the Bubble to be temporarily blinded.

Using such techniques we witness this group crawl its way through the raid only meleeing enemies, using supers, and throwing grenades.  Not a single shot was fired.  Truly an incredible feat, not to mention hilarious.



The other Raid available in Destiny is called the Vault of Glass.  This one features the mechanical yet biological enemies known as the Vex.  It is also well-known for long drops, platform jumping, and insta kill enemy dodging.  Needless to say it’s hard enough to get through this thing on your own two feet but these guys managed to fly one of the game’s hover bikes (known as a Sparrow) through the entire Vault of Glass Raid.

To get an idea of the feat that was accomplished here you need to understand how players utilize the Sparrow.  First you need to know that the Sparrow is summoned via some form of teleportation from your character’s ship but only in areas where such a thing is possible, so yeah you can summon it outside the Vault of Glass but once inside you’re out of luck.  Second, the Sparrow doesn’t just sit around if you jump off of it.  The thing will disappear (presumably back to your ship?) in a matter of seconds after you dismount so they couldn’t just park the thing and return to it.  No, for the most part the player(s) riding the Sparrow needed to remain out of combat altogether.  Lastly the ways to lose your Sparrow otherwise are typical, it can be blown up, if you fall off one of the many cliffs it is also gone.

Seeing these guys dancing around the burning (nearly destroyed) Sparrow at the finale of the video was great to see!




Bungie has put together a fun game and has certainly added in a lot of material to challenge us… so naturally players have learned how to exploit things so those challenges are minimized!  “Cheesing” something is the term players use to describe the exploits they’ve uncovered in-game that help them defeat certain portions without the actual effort of completing them the “right way”.  It boggles my mind how some of these things were ever figured out in the first place.  here are a few examples I’ve heard of, some I’ve even used myself.

  • Scaling the side of a cliff by jumping to tiny landing points in order to get on top of a building where mobs of enemies with eventually despawn because you are no longer on the map.
  • Ledges you can jump to under a portion of the map where nothing can harm you so two other players can finish off the main baddie while waiting to revive if they both go down.
  • Using in-game explosions to launch yourself to various parts of the game where either enemies can’t get to you or to clear a gorge where you were supposed to spawn a bridge.
  • Pulling out your LAN cable at precisely the right time so Crota freezes and you can take him out without worry (Heard this one was fixed though).
  • Hanging out in a side room reviving your fellows while they shoot at the main boss and go down over and over.  They don’t care, you’re off to the side where she can’t hit you!

Honestly, all of this makes me feel like there are three styles of play in this game; Player vs. Environment, Player vs. Player, and lastly Player vs Makers!  It seems every time Bungie chuckles at our cheesing and claims to have patched it a whole slew of new exploits appear.  I love it!


Don’t believe me? Just watch.

The other day I landed in the tower (home base for all us Guardians) and what to my wondering eyes did appear?  Roughly ten Guardians surrounding one other guardian who was standing still (presumably away from their controller) dancing, squatting, pointing, waving, pushing that Guardian around.  It made me laugh rather louder than I intended to at nearly midnight, but damn was it funny.  I also learned how to kill myself by standing in water and shooting my foot from my good buddy Topher.

Shoot foot

I’ve gotten to do some wonderfully creative stunts myself playing this game, even if they aren’t of the caliber as those above.  There’s been a number of times I’ve taken out the enemy targeted by a Patrol Mission using only my Sparrow as a ramming instrument (my favorite was the Ogre I launched into from a high platform).  I enjoy grabbing the sword that a certain enemy drops and attacking the giant mechanized Spider that appears in the area known as “The Divide” on Earth.  My friend and I even managed to get the purple rubber ball found at the tower onto a roof where you could blow it into the air using a fan…maybe you need to be more familiar with the game to understand that last one.

Bottom line is this game is tons of fun, even when you aren’t playing it “by the book”.  It also shows that the player base might just be getting a bit antsy for more content.  I’m happy to report though that an update is coming down the pipe and I get the impression we will be seeing Destiny 2 sooner rather than later, just a hunch.  If there’s a story out there I missed let me know about it, or if you have something you or you and your friends pulled off I’d love to hear about it!  Here’s to good drops folks!


-Melvs (Shout out to my Clan! Hey Dads Gaming!)

P.S. All this talk about playing Destiny by not playing Destiny has me remembering some fun things my friends and I pulled off in those older Bungie games, the Halo series.

We quickly tired of the standard multiplayer and decided to get creative with our own challenges.  A few of my favorites include:

  • Getting every vehicle (in Halo 1) on top of the bunkers in Blood Gultch using rockets and grenades.
  • Creating a Multiplayer game where we shot skeet by having people ramp Ghosts off the back of one Tank and trying to shoot them down with the other.
  • Creating a Team Deathmatch Multiplayer game called “MechaWarZ” where we were only allowed to kill each other using vehicles to run them down.  No guns, no melee, no grenades.  If someone else was in a vehicle you had to flip them out of it!
    • One of my favorite ways to play, fully ruined by making it so you could destroy vehicles in later iterations of the game.
  • In whatever Halo first allowed the sword we created a Multiplayer game we called “Bat Leg Rounds” where we only used the sword and could only fight in a specific spot.  You had to run immediately to that spot and then try to keep it as long as possible.  Screaming “There can only be one!” constantly was encouraged.
  • Golf… Yes a buddy and I created a way to play golf where we… ok, this is kind of complicated.  There were four players, two teams.  Two guys were Red and two guys were Blue.  Then you pair off by making one Red guy the caddie for a Blue guy and vice versa.  What you needed to do was kill the other persons caddie. By game standards they were your teammate thus it gave you negative points.  However if you accidentally killed the opposing golfer you’d naturally gain points off setting any negative points gained by killing their caddie.  Just like in golf, the person with the fewest points won!  This was more of a chance for my buddies and I to drive around Blood Gultch pretending it was a golf course…and yes we did this at like four in the morning…shut up.
We got a tank up on one too.

We got a tank up on one too.

Other than my buddies attempting to get the Warthog as far into EVERY mission it was made available in, much further than it was meant to go I assure you, I can’t recall anything else for now.  Oh well, long Post Script for ya!

The Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator and The PC: Part Two of a Two Part MTBI & RPGs Review


In Part One of this amateur study of the MBTI I spent a great deal of time on how this test could help a DM characterize the players in their game and how they might use the Types discerned in order to better run a game.  That use of the test actually runs a bit counterpoint to how many actually use the MBTI.  In actuality, a more common method for using this test in today’s world is to take it yourself and get a better idea of where you fall along the scale.  Once you discover your leanings it is a common strategy to use that knowledge to better understand yourself and where you preferences lie.  Once you know these it may help you to understand why you don’t work as well with a certain other type.  Going even further, you can use this knowledge to know where you might strengthen yourself too.

I would like to posit that games like Dungeons and Dragons, and other Tabletop RPGs, are very strong methods for training up a Type or Preference you don’t commonly adhere to.  People often call D&D an “Escape Mechanism” but what if it can be more than a simple release from your troubles in reality?  What if spending time “in-game” as a different persona can be used to help, say, an Extrovert better understand how to think as an Introvert?

Businesses spend tons of money on team building and training every year trying to get a group to work together.  In fact, this entire two-part blog post stemmed from a leadership training I undertook where we had ourselves evaluated using the MBTI with the intent to help us better understand ourselves, coworkers, and to finally point out areas we might wish to “improve” ourselves in.  Games in general sometimes show up in these types of training endeavors.  Typically they might be games that rely on teams to work together to solve problems or even learn to trust each other.  Is any og this sounding a mite familiar?This is why I think RPGs could be great training tools in the business world in general.  You have groups work together to solve problems all the time in RPGs, and you certainly have to learn to trust one another to make sure you all get out of dangerous situations in tact. 

I could go on about my desire to one day start a team building franchise where businesses have their employees play Dungeons and Dragons for a day but I’ll get back to the point of this post instead.  I’m talking about growing yourself on a personal level by playing D&D.  By pinpointing where you excel along the MBTI you can also see where you may have difficulties relating to others who fall along much different paths.  If you have the desire to practice acting in a manner contrary to your typical type, it can be as easy as rolling up a character much different from you yourself.



An easy example to use would be for introverts.  This time around try being the party’s charismatic leader for a change, or maybe the loud brash Barbarian who wears his\her feelings on the…errr loincloth.  By being vocal and extroverted in the game it may make it easier for you to swim in those circles in real life.  Of course that doesn’t suggest you’ll change to being an extrovert, or even that being one or the other is preferable, but rounding yourself out as a person can certainly be a benefit.

As a fun practice, maybe try to think of your own examples of characters to play that could satisfy a little growth in another direction.  If you wish, lay them on me down below in the comments.  I always love to hear from you all!  Take care folks, hope you’ve enjoyed this aimless blathering of my interpretations of the MBTI!


The Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator and The DM: Part One of a Two Part MTBI & RPGs Review


Anyone who has taken a semester or two in college has likely been introduced to the Meyer’s Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test. Despite typically being classified as a Psychology exercise it will also routinely crop up in the business world as a way for employees to be either classified or be more introspective of their own “type”, which explains why the last time you applied for a job at Burger King you had to answer roughly 300 “personality” questions.  The MBTI breaks down an individual’s personality preferences across four spectrums:

  1. Extroversion or Introversion – How someone prefers to respond and interact with the world. Outward turning, action oriented, and a seeker of wide social interaction (Extroversion) or inward turning, thought oriented, and prefer limited, deeper, social interaction (Introversion).
  2. Sensing or iNtuition – How someone prefers to see the world around them. They may focus a great deal on reality, what the sense (Sensing) or prefer to pay attention to patterns and impressions, the abstract (iNtuition).
  3. Thinking or Feeling – How someone makes decisions with the information they have. Do they place a greater emphasis on fact & objective data (Thinking) or do they prefer to consider the feelings of others when making a decision (Feeling)?
  4. Judging or Perceiving – How someone deals with the outside world. A preference for structure, firm decisions, and timeliness (Judging) or a preference for being more open, flexible, and adaptable (Perceiving)

There are countless ways to become intimately familiar with the science and research regarding this system but I’d rather keep the description less complicated for our purposes, thus you get the limited descriptions above. (Here is a good place to take this test)

I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about this test and its uses in the business and psychology realms and had something of an epiphany the other day.  Why can’t this test be useful for a group of Tabletop Role-players?  My answer is, of course it can!  Any manner of breaking down RPG play is interesting to me so I went ahead and applied my own thoughts on the matter into the below.


I needed to get this out of the way first.  Within the MTBI there are no wrong answers.  There is nothing wrong with your results, post taking one of the tests.  The preferences you receive help to indicate where your strengths lie and to indicate how strongly you prefer those “types”.  Take my recent test I took through my job.  I came back as an ENTP (Extroversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Perceiving)(Also the same as Theodore Roosevelt’s, so Hell yeah!) .  I think this type fits me well, especially when I look at the numbers behind it.  There were 120 questions, 30 for each spectrum.  Some of my results strongly indicated a preference i.e. Extroversion: I answered all 30 questions like an Extrovert, showing that I am, very much and Extrovert.  Others maintained a slimmer margin i.e. Perceiving: I answered 17 questions as Perceiving and 13 as Judging, this means I’m practically undecided on whether I prefer being flexible or structured.

So to reiterate, no wrong answers, these are just preferences of mine.  They are where my strengths lie.  If a situation arises that requires someone good in a crowd of people, I’ll likely thrive.  Put me in a situation where I need to be more thoughtful and deliberate and I may falter.  There are strengths on both sides, and I suppose weaknesses as well.  In fact, part of reason we go about discovering our preferences, at least in the business world, is to learn about the areas you may need to work on.  That is going to be a later topic though.


Perhaps you’re preparing to run a game for a brand new table of players, and you want to gear things toward a successful cohesive nature.  Why not give your players an MBTI test prior to the game?  See where the dominate preferences show up within your collective of players.  After you have that information you may have a better idea of how to run the game.  This may also be of use for a table of players you’ve played with for years as well.  Perhaps you’re finding that your style isn’t working for them anymore.  Give them the test, maybe you just aren’t bringing the game to them in a way they prefer.  Let’s look at some examples shall we?


With Extroversion and Introversion we will be discussing how your player’s characters may wish to interact with NPCs and some of the decisions they may make within the campaign.  Namely its a question of where they derive their energy to play the game from.

If your players lean in the direction of Extroversion you may wish to run your table in a far more raucous manner.  Allow for a lot of verbal communication between them and NPCs, allow more actions for call-outs in combat.  Keep them engaged and expect them to take immediate action.  An Extrovert table is going to thrive under speed and immediate results.  Figure out a way to provide this without allowing them to just roll over your plans.  Plan for it and it will just be part of the action.  Not to mention they’ll want that spotlight a lot!

Do you like to run games of intrigue and complicated details to be pondered? Perhaps your perfect group would be mostly in the introverted category.  They will enjoy a slower pace of play, one that rewards someone for taking a more cautious route to a solution.  They may enjoy communication in writing prior to a game, something for them to ponder coming into a big decision.  They likely won’t care to be rushed, especially when something big is at stake.  You may have trouble drumming up a “face” for the group though.


For Sensing or iNtuation driven players the focus will lay with how you present the game to them.  This is how they perceive your world and it can be important to present it to them in a fashion they prefer to take it in.

For someone who prefers a Sensing approach, they want to see this world in a literal fashion.  This doesn’t mean they only want games with little to no fantasy but rather it means they want to see this game, and see it in a precise manner.  Your descriptors should be less analogous, and more to the point.  Use props, miniatures, battle-mats etc., these types of physical items give them a real item to latch onto.  When they interact with NPCs perhaps those NPCs can present information in a step by step fashion rather than wax and wane with metaphors and the like.

An individual that thrives on iNtuation would rather have the bar keeper tell them the story of the haunted cave atop the hill rather than explain that a few townsfolk have gone missing lately.  These are your players that thrive on visualizing the big picture and will be more likely to think of what they will do with all the treasure a dungeon may have than what steps they need to take to make it through.  Engage them with metaphors and analogies, use colorful language when explaining landscape or weather.  Feel free to embellish a mite as well.


It gets a bit dodgy here because a fantasy world may skew how someone would naturally respond using these two items.  In real life a Thinking individual will tend to make decisions based on the cold hard facts, and someone with a Feeling slant would take another’s emotions into play.  I would have to surmise that almost everyone skews a bit closer to the Thinking framework when playing about in fiction, but you may still get some Feelers at the table.

Thinking players will be the easiest to work with for a DM, and, as referenced above, likely the most prolific.  They are going to look for measurable details and facts that they can pit against one another to discern the most likely avenue of success or the most utilitarian approach to a social challenge.  You can use this to mess with such players as well by presenting something that may look better on paper but in the end results in a less than optimum outcome because they didn’t take the emotional response into account.  It can be a fun way to shake things up when used sparingly against a Thinker, but could alienate them if used too often.

A player who makes decisions based off Feeling will take NPCs and other Player Character’s emotional well being into account when solving the various problems you throw their way.  I’ve completely inferring this but it’s my gut instinct that even those who are Feeling based in life often change when faced with a fantasy world to play in.  I can cite my own wife, very much someone who makes decisions based on her feelings in day to day life, in game she is often one of the coldest, “Thinking” players I’ve ever seen.  Many an interrogated monster lay slain at her feet just to not have an enemy at her back.  If you do get someone like this you’ve got a rare bird!  They may shake things up constantly in your group.  Other players may feel they work against the grain.  You can use this to add a little more emotion into the game.  Try to reward them from time to time for taking the road less traveled.


With these two frameworks your focus will be on how you approach your timing of game day and how you may present the flow of your game.  It’s all about the structure here, or lack there of.

If you have a player that falls along the spectrum of a Judging individual you can certainly be happy that this person is likely to show up on time and prepared.  Judging aligned folk tend to adhere to schedules, enjoy lists, and love to be prepared ahead of time for anything.  These players may actually enjoy when you pay strong attention to aspects of the game sometimes brushed under the rug.  Things like keeping track of arrows or rations might be interesting to them and they’ll pay attention to such things. Try to reward times where their characters prepped well for a situation (i.e. a long wilderness journey).  If you want to shake them up a bit, have a moment where no amount of prep can protect them.  Keep that limited though, it may frustrate.

For someone along the Perceiving line of thought you’ll have a player who lives and dies by the credo “Let’s play it by ear“.  These players may frustrate you by showing up late or not at all and if they are really poor about keeping to your schedule may need to be relegated to pickup games.  Within a game they are most likely the players who wish to “fly by the seat of their pants” and may be an element of chaos for the group.  This can actually be a bit of fun and you can certainly let it play out from time to time to liven up any situation, and can be perfect for pickup games as referenced above.


I’ll admit, this is all a bit heady, and most people can discern the types of players they play with and their styles anyway.  It is an interesting idea though.  This article isn’t actually the meat of what I came up with for using MBTI for Tabletop RPGs, or rather, how you can use Tabletop RPGs to adjust your MBTI.  What I found when I looked at my “types” when it came to RPGs it surprised me how often I went another way, highly interesting stuff there.  I plan to get into that in Part 2 of my lecture series*, so stay tuned!

*Melvin Smif is not considered by anyone, but himself, to be qualified to do “lectures”.


Hey Everyone

So the Blog is live.  I still have some kinks to work out but, here it is.  I’m not overly certain what I’ll do with it, beyond obviously using it as an area to delve even deeper into analyzing my various hobbies that is.  I can’t imagine everyone who has ended up with a successful blog started out with a firm idea of what they intended to do with it, so I feel like I’m fine just posting about junk I like.  We’ll see where it goes from here.

I can certainly attest to one thing though.  Without Twitter, you likely wouldn’t be reading anything I’ve already placed on the blog (some of my older contributions to other sites) or what I may write in the future.  Twitter has been this crazy wonderful addition in my life.  Not the app itself mind you, but the awesome people it has introduced me to.  There are too many to even list here, and I know I would leave out some important ones so I won’t even try.  Suffice it to say, the people I’ve met over the last few years since joining Twitter have pried my eyes open to so much more in the hobbies I love with dynamite, and have even encouraged me to pursue things I’ve only considered in daydreams.  All of this is just making me all the angrier that my flipping Twitter Widget doesn’t seem to want to work though… so I’ll move on.


So settle in folks, and follow me if you wish.  I hope to bring new, interesting content your way.  Or maybe even a new take on a topic that’s being regurgitated all over the place.  Likely I’ll just spew the same stuff but with like jokes or something.

P.S. You can add a Post Script to a blog right?  I think that’s a thing… Anywho, the whole “Melvin Smif” thing.  It’s a nickname given to me by my best buds growing up who are all members of “The Krew”.  Maybe one day I’ll write up a post describing what exactly The Krew is, though that particular rabbit hole can be delved at a later date.



A Q&A with Hugh Howey, Author of the Popular Self Published Work “Wool”

Posted to the Monkey in the Cage Website on August 9th, 2012

wool2 600

Hugh Howey is best known for his series of Novelettes that resulted in the Wool Omnibus Edition a self published, and still ongoing, series on Amazon. This Omnibus spent a span of time at the number one mark on Amazon’s Bestselling Science Fiction list and is currently sitting at number 7, months after its debut. The individual Novelettes all took their turn as well. The most unique aspect of it all is, every one of them were self published and were electronically available via Amazon.

After arriving late to this party I picked up the Omnibus for my Kindle and was very glad I did. I was treated to a unique Science Fiction adventure that allowed me to surrender myself to both a thought provoking and seriously fun ride. Hugh Howey has proven to be very receptive to his fans and immediately agreed to my proposal for a Q&A to let our fellow Monkey Lovers learn a bit about his process, influences, and even some tips for others looking to enter the Self Published world. In any event, less from me and more from Hugh Howey-



Kevin Smith: Reading the “About You” section on your webpage one gets the impression that you’ve always had a desire to write but only recently capitalized on that desire through the ability to Self Publish via Amazon. Did you ever attempt to work through publishers at all or did you set out to Self Publish from the beginning of your work?

Hugh Howey: When I completed Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue, my first-ever manuscript, I assumed it would be self-published. It wasn’t until I let friends and on-line acquaintances read the work that I was urged into publishing it through someone else. So I sent the manuscript off with a query letter to dozens of agents and publishers. Surprisingly, a few expressed interest in short order; I had an offer from two publishers within a couple of weeks, and I went that route.

After seeing what was involved in producing the book and getting it off to readers, I decided to try my hand with the sequel. Even though I had a contract and offer for the next work, I realized that the vast majority of the effort behind selling a book fell to the author no matter how they are published. Only a tiny fraction of writers have real marketing muscle placed at their disposal. I never dreamed of becoming that fraction, so it made sense for me to shoulder a little more of the work in order to keep a lot more of the profit. The goal wasn’t to get rich, but to at least make enough money to not have two full-time jobs.

KS: Wool, and the following Novelettes (5 in all) collected into the Omnibus Edition, is by far your most well known, and loved, body of work. Is it your favorite as well?

HH: As a reader, it is probably my favorite. I think it’s technically and emotionally my best work. But as a writer, I would have to go with the first Molly book. The plot in that story is something I’m so proud of, and you never forget the feeling of completing your very first manuscript. It’s always a rush, but never again like that first time.

KS: I read on your webpage that Wool began as a single short story and you wrote more because of the rabid love of your audience. Does this mean you initially intended to stop with just that one story, or did you always intend to expand?

HH: I had no real intention of expanding the story, but I do leave that as a possibility with all of my works. I have sequels in mind for Half Way Home and The Plagiarist. But time is limited, and I have a ton of stories I want to tell, so most of these follow-ups will never see an opening sentence.

The demand for more Wool was something else. It’s remarkable, looking back, because the tenor of the rest of the story and the main characters that come later are nothing like what people were demanding more of. I had these high expectations from readers, I delivered something radically different, and it miraculously worked out very well.

KS: Did you ever expect this kind of response to your novellas? Did you do a final read through of Wool and say to yourself “I’ve got something here”?

HH: When I finished Wool, I knew I’d written something that really pleased me. It was the kind of story I love to find as a reader. What I didn’t think was that anyone else would enjoy it. It was almost like a writing exercise, like a surfer going out on a perfect day with no audience and just carving waves for the pure thrill of it. When you find out later that it was caught on film and other people took sublime pleasure in what you did – it makes it a completely new experience. That’s what Wool feels like to me: a work written for very private and personal reasons that then resonated with a crowd of like-minded people.

KS: A complaint many have with the Self Published community is how poorly edited much of the prose offered there is. A repeated compliment in the reviews I’ve read refers to how grammatically sound your fiction is. Did/Do you have an editor that you work with, or is it all you?

HH: Oh, if it were all me, there would still be tons of errors in there. Having said that, I have received compliments from professional editors that my rough drafts are very clean. I credit this with all the great editors I’ve worked with over the years. Lisa Kelly-Wilson and Nadene Carter taught me a lot. And I didn’t just correct the mistakes they found – I tried to learn from them.

When I was working with NorLights Press on my first manuscript, I started noticing that the same mistakes accounted for most of the corrections. We were editing the work a chapter at a time, so I rushed ahead and tried to fix these bad habits so I could send new chapters across and make Nadene’s job easier. In a way, I’ve just kept doing this with each manuscript. I made a note of my weaknesses and tried to improve in these areas.

I think my work ethic helps. I do five or six revisions and complete passes before I hand the manuscript off to my wife and mother (and anyone else offering to take a look). The more eyes the better. And when readers email me with a typo or a suggestion, I try to take these into account and update my e-books. That’s another advantage of digital publishing: you can make changes much more easily. A work doesn’t every have to be “done.”

KS: When did you really “get” that Wool was making a big splash? Was it when people started demanding more or was it when the likes of Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian started speaking with you about potential movie rights?

HH: It was the foreign deals that really made me sit up and wonder what in the world was going on. The enthusiasm from so many markets and cultures overwhelmed me. We went to auction in the UK and Germany, and the pitches from all these editors detailed huge plans for Wool that really blew me away. In order for a book to land deals like this, it has to be read and enjoyed by a lot of people who are difficult to please, who read a ton of work that they pass on. I finally started believing this was real when those people came at me with such strong offers. We’ve agreed to terms with sixteen foreign countries as of this writing. Another country made an offer today, in fact!

Another sign that something is taking place has been the recognition of my peers. I was at a book conference recently as an attendee, not a guest. Wool had taken off, but it was too late to ask to sit in on any panels. I spent my time trying to learn as much as I could from these other authors, not telling them who I was or even that I was a writer. I was buying signed copies of their books and sitting in the audience and taking notes. What freaked me out was when a few authors at the conference did a double-take at my name badge and asked me if I was who they thought I was. That amazed me. It made me realize word was spreading further than I had thought.

KS: Wool is so claustrophobic, not just because of the physical location, but even in some of the more tense situations. Was it a challenge limiting yourself to such a small a tiny environment?

HH: Not at all! I spent five years living on a 27’ sailboat. My last house was 750 square feet, and my current one is a palatial 900 square feet. In a lot of ways, creating a tight environment simplifies the writing process. There isn’t a sprawling empire with a dozen lordships and dark forests and mountain ranges to manage. And a small place also gives the reader a feeling of being trapped. Look at Alien or any of the great haunted house films. There’s no place to escape to. The action is contained, which makes it even more intense.

KS: Do you think you will ever spell out exactly what happened to cause the apocalyptic world the characters in Wool live in? Readers now know who caused it but not how or why.

HH: I already have! The first prequel is out right now. It’s called First Shift: Legacy, and it tells the story behind the creation of the silo. It’s an end-of-the-world scenario that I think is far more likely, and it hasn’t been done anywhere else that I know of. It’s always some vague environmental collapse or nuclear holocaust.

The former I find highly unlikely; nature is more resilient than we give her credit for. The impact that wiped out the dinosaurs (and most other species) created a devastating nuclear winter that nature recovered from (and some mammals thrived through). The nuclear threat diminishes with each passing year. I find it cliché and less terrifying than it was in my youth. The disasters I can believe in are quieter and less dramatic: a virulent virus, nanotechnology, a genetically modified disaster. If our end comes, I fear it will be nearly invisible and not worth seeing in IMAX 3D.

KS: So it seems I should have done more homework then! So are you going to continue writing in Novelette form?

HH: The first of three prequels is already out (First Shift: Legacy). These will all be novel-length at 60,000 words each, which is about 240 pages. The third act will combine the storyline from Wool with these prequels, and it will either be short novellas or one big honking book. I haven’t decided yet.

KS: What tips would you give to others interested in Self Publishing?

HH: Five things I wish I knew before I got started:
1. Keep it short and simple. I think 80,000 words is a good ceiling to set for your first work. You’ll find editing and revising a work of this length is much easier. If you can, start even shorter than that. Write a 15,000 word work with a beginning, middle, and end. Get used to finishing what you start.
2. Don’t write a series. After you publish that first novel or short story, go write something completely different. Otherwise, you’re always selling book one of the series, which will not be your strongest writing. Diversify. You never know what will take off.
3. Your book is never ready when you first think it is. Take some time away from it before giving it another read. And believe all the criticism from beta readers. Use their objectivity to make the work stronger. Doubt those who love you.
4. The plot is more important than the writing style. If you have a good story, just tell it. Don’t try to get fancy or flowery. Pretend you’re writing an e-mail or chatting with a friend. The harder you try, the more it’ll show.
5. Stay focused on your goal. When you sit down to write, don’t get distracted. Force yourself through to the end of the story and trust the revision process. Don’t get sidetracked! Write a horrible first draft if you have to. It’s better than no first draft.

KS: What is it about the Novelette format that keeps you writing your stories this way?

HH: It was an accident, really. I wrote The Plagiarist as an assignment for a class I was taking, and I really fell in love with the length. I was able to tell a full story in 60 pages, and I was able to edit and revise it in much less time. After finishing this book, I was inspired to write a story I’d been sitting on for at least five years. It was originally going to be much longer, but I’d seen what was possible with an economy of space. And so I wrote Wool just to excise it from my system, to get it out there. Its popularity is what led me to explore the novelette further.

KS: Tell me about some of your other works. Which ones would you suggest to someone who has just put down Wool?

HH: I would start with The Plagiarist. It costs a buck, is a quick read, and features similar philosophical questions. And then I would check out Half Way Home, which is Lord of the Flies meets Starship Troopers. And while I’m cautioning most people away from I, Zombie due to how disgusting it is, I think the underlying metaphors are worth enduring the messiness.

KS: Will I, Zombie be a single story, or do you intend to continue with that as well?

HH: I have two follow-ups to I, Zombie in mind. There’s no telling if I’ll find the time to write them, but I want to tell the story from the other side. When you read I, Zombie, you’ll see all these survivors and hints of their perspective. A book that mirrors I, Zombie but is more conventional begs to be written.

The other sequel is a post apocalyptic tale that takes place well after the events in I, Zombie. This book would follow the grandson of one of the characters in I, Zombie as he searches for the legendary “talking zombie” that his grandmother once whispered about but no one has ever been able to prove exists.

KS: What has been the greatest thing about this whole experience for you?

HH: Connecting with readers and having an audience. When I started getting emails from fans — and people began reviewing my book on their blogs because they wanted to, not because I sent them a free copy and begged them to — that really reinforced what I was doing. Now I get to spend my day crafting stories that I enjoy telling, and I have an eager readership waiting on the other side. It’s an amazing feeling. A lot of pressure, but an amazing feeling.

KS: Were you a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy prior to writing Wool? Is there any body of work that you could point to as hugely inspirational?

HH: Absolutely. I grew up on science fiction. I loved the Foundation series, Ender’s Game, 1984, all the works that made you think about deeper issues while they entertained you. I’ve also been influenced by the thousands of comics I’ve read and all the TV and film I’ve watched. There are so many ways to absorb stories, and I’ve learned from them all.

KS: Did/Do you draw on any people in your life as inspiration for your characters?

HH: Oh, yeah, I think all authors must. You have to draw upon what you know. But it isn’t like you take someone and drop them into your story; you pick a slice of their personality, a physical trait, and you combine it with a half dozen others that you’ve picked up on. Every character is an amalgamation of multiple people.

Except for the bad guys, of course. Those are all people I’ve worked for.

KS: You’ve had an adventurous life yourself. You spent some of your time as a young adult sailing through islands in and around the Atlantic Ocean. Any chance you’ll ever write a sea faring adventure?

HH: In a lot of ways, my Molly Fyde series is a seafaring tale. The planets they visit were inspired by islands I’ve hopped between. And running a large yacht is a lot like captaining a spaceship. You have to be able to cobble together repairs in the middle of nowhere, stock food and spares and supplies for long journeys, and know a little bit about electronics, diesel engines, plumbing, and so on.

I do plan on writing something like my memoirs one day. It will focus exclusively on events that occurred near or on the water. I’ve had enough crazy things happen to me that I think it’ll only be mildly boring, not full-on mind-numbingly boring.

KS: Are there any other Self Published writers you would recommend?

HH: For sure. I’m a huge fan of Matthew Mather’s Atopia series. I like Cole Drewes and David Adams. There are so many wonderful writers out there (Ryk Brown is another) who could easily be with a major publisher, they just don’t want to take the pay cut that would entail.

KS: Many of the readers on this site enjoy gaming, whether it is Pen and Paper Role-playing, board, or video games. Do you partake of any of these hobbies currently or have fond memories of doing so?

HH: I was a huge pen and paper role-player in middle school and high school. I’ve been dying to get back into it, but it’s hard to find a steady game. Me and my geeky friends aren’t forced to sit together for an hour every day at the same cafeteria table (I wish we were!)

I then moved to computer RPGs. My favorites are the single player games with turn-based combat and great writing and characters. Baldur’s Gate, Fallout 1 & 2, The Temple of Elemental Evil, Divine Divinity, and Arcanum are some of my favorites. If they still made games like this, I wouldn’t get any writing done at all.

KS: If someone approached you with an idea to create a role-playing universe or video game based off of Wool would you like that?

HH: I wouldn’t kill for the chance, but I’d certainly maim someone. I do have an idea for a video game that would break all the rules and bring realism to the medium that hasn’t otherwise existed. One of the things that’s always troubled me with video games is the fake ratchet of difficulty. You fight the weakest baddies at first and gradually work your way up. Why doesn’t the evil mastermind send his ninjas or dragons after you right away rather than train you up on rats and weaklings? The game I want to make handles the difficulty ramp in a believable way. It also tells a story about the human condition that I think would move players like few games have.

But of course, all game developers set out with these ambitions. And at the end, they are rushing a product out the door and writing the first of many patches at the same time. Still, I’d love to give it a shot. Or at least draw up the plans so someone else could make it and I could play it!