AcadeCon 2017

The Kickstarter is winding down, and they are looking good to fund. I opted to write my post a little later than usual this year, and hopefully I can urge a few readers to join us at the coolest (not quite as little anymore) gaming convention out there! 

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AcadeCon is the realized dream of Michael, Caleb, and the whole RPG Academy Podcast crew. This year will mark the fifth such time the convention has been put on but 2015 was when they truly threw caution into the wind and put forth the first publicly open AcadeCon, held at the Hueston Lodge in Oxford, Ohio. I had the pleasure of attending and it was some of the best gaming time I’ve spent at a convention to date! There’s a deep love of gaming that bubbles within every attendee I’ve encountered at AcadeCon. In 2016 AcadeCon was growing, thus they moved things to a bigger venue, the Dayton Convention Center, in Dayton, Ohio where they will also host this year’s event. Sadly I was unable to attend AcadeCon 2016 due to the wedding of a friend, but by all accounts it was yet one more step up for the group.

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One of the hallmarks of any AcadeCon is the special guest list. RPG Creators, Authors, Podcasters, and Bloggers adorn this list. I can attest to playing beside some really cool people at AcadeCon 2015. It almost feels like a bit of a retreat for those in the industry at times. Instead of panel after panel they can play side by side with the people who love their games.

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Some of the other perks are possibly getting into a game with the You Too Can Cthulhu crew, back again for the third year running. This group really knows how to pull together some great Lovecraftian Horror for you to play, often corralling the players into secreted locations to really up the ambiance.  The Double Exposure Envoy program is joining AcadeCon this year, allowing con attendees to play brand new games. Every time you play a demo, you are entered into a drawing to possibly win that game. According to the Kickstarter continued plays net you more chances at the same game, or maybe you just try your hand at all of them.

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Honestly I could drone on all day, espousing the joys of gaming with this crowd, but you would be even better served just visiting the Kickstarter, helps get you closer to that pledge button anyway. I’m truly hoping to attend myself this year but more weddings seem to be in the way (I have one the weekend before and one the weekend after!) and I’d not miss these weddings for the world. However, I hope you get the chance to attend, I really do. You’ll not find better gaming anywhere in my opinion!

-Melvs

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The 2017 Geekery New Year’s Address!

Welcome 2017! Also, welcome back to the Geekery. I’ve been absent for quite some time, I know, but I feel refreshed and ready to bring you all the gaming news, reviews, and tidbits from my day to day gaming you desire. There are plenty of things in the pipe for this year for potential changes to the site, I’ll get to those in a moment.

GIFTS!

I hope all my fellow gamers, who celebrate the holidays with gift giving, received gifts as cool as what I received. I figured I’d do a little bragging about these right up front, this is my blog and all.

Dungeonology

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This book is an interesting little bird (big thanks to my awesome sis in law for getting it for me!). Obviously it’s more for beginners or collectors of cool D&D books than for the use of a seasoned Dungeon Master, but it has some really cool features on the inside that bring me back to the days when the concepts of D&D were shiny and new. I’ll be giving this book a more thorough run down in a later post but it’s certainly a fun book to own. A great way to introduce new players to the concepts and challenges of a good dungeon delve.

Board Games!

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Sarah and I love them, and you can never have too many. This year we received two and an expansion to one. Sarah made out huge in the board game arena, Machi Koro is one of her all time favs and as much as we both love Smash Up she typically has the edge on me so our good buddy Jake got her the Pretty Pretty Expansion. We also received Forbidden Island, which if you’ve never tried it it’s a great game for introducing others to the newer generation of games, especially because it’s cooperative.

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Chessex Gaming Mat!

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Thanks go to Uncle Grumps for this bad boy. My old mat was tiny, and stained to Hell. We’ve been using a dry erase board for a while now. Awesome to have this now.

Dice and Dice Bags

So my sister in law and my mother in law teamed up here. My mother in law is an enormously talented crafter, who actually has a crafting business now that she has retired. Well, she took some time to make me a bunch of dice bags and then they got me a Big Bag of Dice so I can put together some dice bags to hand out to the kids in my Library games who don’t have dice yet! Giving me the ability to gift to others makes this probably one of the best gifts I received this year.

Cool Notebook

I saw this cool little journal in a hole in the wall bookstore that Sarah and I love to visit near our church. I mentioned offhandedly that someone could use such a thing to keep notes on gaming campaigns, and look nerdily cool whilst doing so. She bought the thing right under my nose. I tried to take a pic of the note she wrote me but It’s hard to get it in focus. It reads:

Kevin,

With love and admiration, I give you this journel to keep your adventures, creativity, and words of a world full of wonder! Best wishes on all your journeys beyond our realms.

Love,

Your wife Sarah

I’m a lucky guy ♥.

Secret Gift

There’s one gift I’m not going to picture just yet but will at a later date. Suffice it to say it’s my favorite and I hope to premier it at Gen Con 50. May have tipped you off with that last sentence though ;P.

IN GAMING NEWS

I haven’t spent much time talking about it but I’ve been running a game of Storm King’s Thunder for my group. It’s been a pretty fun experience so far, even if we have been plagued by the inability to truly string together consistent play time (people have lives apparently 😛). Despite our issues getting together we’ve moved along at a decent clip, just now beginning the gargantuan chapter three. It’ll be a challenging portion of the game, for a pre-made, there’s a lot of information for the would-be Dungeon Master to digest and organize for the players but, it’ll also be the most sandbox portion of the adventure and my players will certainly dig that. After all, it took a lot of convincing to get them to take a ride in Zephryos’ Tower (and after they were aboard they mentioned if they’d know about the wizard hat that crowned the thing they would have flat out refused on principle lol).

A couple of cool things about this campaign in general is that one of my players, Nick (you may know him as Uncle Grumps from his previous contribution efforts), is running a descendant from a game we played together back in our High School days. In fact the way I got their party to board Zephryos’ flying tower was by having my old character (still alive because..elf) be already aboard and waiting to meet the grandson of Rizzen the Great. Another cool aspect of the game is the return of an old friend to our gaming group who’s been out of state for a long time as he is in the Navy. Somehow he landed a recruitment position here in Missouri and we are all very thankful to have him back with us.

I continue to run my once a month game at the local library for teens interested in learning about D&D and I’m happy to say that, despite the fact I still run the game for about 10-15 kids at a time, the legacy players are getting really adept at the game and are very capable of assisting newcomers. There were a number of times in the recent past I couldn’t make it to a session and they had no issue picking up the slack and running a game themselves. I’m now entering my third year of doing this and I’m happy to report that I’m probably not even necessary at this point. Still, I love going and the kids are enjoying my run through of Hoard of the Dragon Queen so I’ll keep at it! Now that I have some extra Dice Bags to hand out I can’t wait to see the kids again.

COMING SOON IN 2017

There are so many cool things coming this year that I’ll likely forget a bunch while putting them to print here. I’ll give it a go though.

CONS

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Right off the bat I feel I need to mention Geekway to the West 2017. The 13th Annual Geekway to the West is set for May 18-21, 2017 at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri. If you love Board Games I can’t name a better convention to attend. They’ve only got a little over 400 badges remaining though, and considering badges went on sale on January 2nd they will sell out, and fast. For $60 you can attend the con all four days, you receive a random free board game (a quality one at that, twice now the game I received had a Market Price that matched my badge fee), and so much more. Seriously check out the site, make the trip and visit me in Missouri.

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Gen Con 50 folks. I fully intend to be there this year and, with a  little pressure and luck, I might bring a few buddies with me this time (buddies beyond what twitter and the blog have helped me garner that is).

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Really, Acadecon is one of the best little big cons out there. I truly wish I’d of been able to make it to Acadecon 2016, but I wasn’t going to miss the wedding of a good friend. Two of my best friends are getting married to some awesome gals in the fall of 2017, one wedding is in late October and then the other takes place the week after Acadecon 2017 so chances might be thin I can make it but I’m sure going to try! I love the good folks of the RPG Academy Network and the other attendees of this Con are fantastic as well. Here’s hoping!

GAMERSTABLE PODCAST COMING TO A CLOSE

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After years of podcasting, and 300 episodes, the Gamerstable Podcast is ending its run. Back when I first started really getting into the world of folks gabbing about tabletop RPGs on social media it seemed crazy to me that regular folks were coming together and podcasting about this game I love so much. First it was the Monkey in the Cage podcast who really welcomed me into the fold (I will always have a special place in my heart for Matt, Robert, Karen, and Ramses) but soon to follow was a crazy group of gamers who I was surprised to find lived just across the river in Illinois. Matt Fuller introduced me to them, and they didn’t have to give me the time of day. Instead they became close friends.

The Gamerstable Podcast has put forth some of the coolest content over its run. Frankly I find their style of taking actual play content and editing it to sound like a radio drama to be the best in the business. That’s beyond the discussion roundtable style they cut their teeth on though, and you can find a ton of great gaming advice throughout their many episodes. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed their bite sized chunks (most eps. are about 30 mins in length). Feel free to catch their last episode here, and when you’re done check the rest of the site.

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I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that this won’t be the complete disappearance of what I call the “Gamerstable Crew”. Eric Austley, the initiator and leader for Gamerstable, is going to pour more of his energy into his newest project that builds on the success of the Actual Plays put out by Gamerstable. Openly Gamer Theater currently houses a ton of great content and will more than likely feature many of the voices you heard over the years on Gamerstable too! Also, OGT is a yet another proud member of the RPG Academy Network, so you know it’s quality.

STUFF FOR MY SITE

So I need to pull this article to a close and nothing fits better than detailing a few things about the site!

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In late 2016 Privateer Press increased its level of involvement with my site for review of their materials and this means I will hopefully have even more Warmachine\Hordes models and products to review going into 2017. To help with this Nick, a.k.a. Uncle Grumps, has made mention of the desire to continue writing pieces on various items associated with WarmaHordes, and hopes to even run something big for our group of players. Also, if you’ve paid attention to the photo gallery on my Warmachine\Hordes page on the site you will have likely seen some of Mike “The Meatfist” Bortz’s excellent work painting his miniatures. Not only will he continue to send me photos of his art but he has promised me a step by step painting guide of one of the newer models to come out for the Trollbloods hordes unit, Madrak, Great Chieftain (Madrak 3). I hope to unveil this soon! Lastly, Topher has been talking about throwing a post or two on here about board games, an excellent candidate for such a thing. I hope he can get around to it (he is getting married this year, me might be somewhat busy).

Here’s to some great gaming in 2017! If you feel I missed some news, hit me up in the Comments. What are you excited about this year?

-Melvs

Gen Con 2016

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

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WEDNESDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY

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

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

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The early access line(s)

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

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

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So lovely

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

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

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Eric presenting Monte Cook the coveted Gamerstable Award

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

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

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

FRIDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SATURDAY

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

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Michael claimed this guy looked like Freddie Mercury

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY

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

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

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

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

-Melvs

PICTURES!

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

 

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The Porkchop Express was in town for the event

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

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Always awesome catching up with author Hans Cummings

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The RPG Academy Podcast pre-con meetup

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

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The ODAM team drops by The Ram

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

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Toju and Shannon

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More shots of the Gamerstable meetup at The Ram

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One of many fine brews I had the pleasure of sampling

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Dan and Mike strike a cool pose

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Pete and Jayson.

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Shannon and Rob

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Be proud of carrying that thing man!

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THE RAPTORS!

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The Pathfinder room was HUGE

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

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Had great fun with this crowd all weekend

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

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Dogmight Games always has me salivating over their products

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My actual roll at the Crit for Success booth

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Cardhalla

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Anna Myers’ full map!

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Brandi & Toju

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The dance was most excellent

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Toju & Mike

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Shannon and Babs got to meet Andy Looney!

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Shannon’s Ash Ketchum was great!

COSPLAY PICS

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

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AcadeCon 2016: Leveling Up!

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Kickstarter Link

More than a year ago I found myself lucky enough to have been introduced to Michael and Caleb over at The RPG Academy and, by happenstance, join them on a few recorded actual plays, namely featuring projects introducing themselves to the world via Kickstarter. At the time The RPG Academy was doing pretty well for itself as a Podcast, but it was also pretty apparent that these two guys wanted to do more. Honestly, as someone who barely keeps up with Melvin Smif’s Geekery and my games stewardship work I have a hard time fathoming the work put into “just” a podcast, let alone tacking more on top of that. They had the hunger though, that much was easily visible.

In late 2014 I made a promise that I’d attend their 2015 AcadeCon convention. It sounded great to me, even if it was set to simply be held in one of their basements. I mean, Ohio was only about 4-5 hours away and I wanted to meet these guys face to face. Then… the rest of 2015 happened. Suddenly I’m an early member of The RPG Academy Network, and soon following I find they have bigger and better plans for AcadeCon than I could guess. A date is set, a venue (beyond the basement) is chosen, a Kickstarter is set up, and AcadeCon 2015: Into the Wilds is suddenly upon me roughly a year after I started even speaking with these two guys who I now considered fast friends.

Acadecon

AcadeCon 2015 was wonderful, a perfectly secluded gaming retreat that the new AcadeCon attendees of this year and future years will always kick themselves for missing out on. Truly it will be the “I was there when” place for AcadeCon. I adored the Hueston Lodge and wish I could get a few more years there but, as I’ve come to find with Michael and Caleb, the bar needs to be raised. This year things are growing, not too fast but we are certainly going to see a bigger, better convention. I for one am more than excited for the growth.

They don’t have it yet though, that’s where you all come into play. You see, for a convention to be successful you certainly need the things they already have lined up, merchants, a crazy fine list of special guests, a dedicated staff, a great venue, etc. They just need one last thing…you. The last puzzle piece to making AcadeCon 2016 as fantastic as possible is to rustle up some actual attendees!

The Kickstarter can do the best job of detailing everything you need to know about the convention on a macro level, like its truly inspirational abundance of special guests (I know I mentioned this before but it is really staggering all the cool folks they have lined up), but I want to mention a few things Melvin Smif’s Geekery specific you can enjoy.

  • The number one thing is that I’ll be there in the flesh if you’ve every wanted to meet me…or use me as a gateway to meeting someone else I know :P. To add to this I’m going to run something or many things depending on how things shake out. Hell, this year I’m bringing my Warmachine faction so if you’d like to whoop up on some elves come fight my RoS!
  • I’ll be running a contest connected to AcadeCon again, though I haven’t decided what that will entail just yet. So keep your eyes on the blog! Attendance of the Con won’t be necessary of course but it’d be awesome to hand you the prize(s) in person!
  • I’m one of the folks you can choose to run a virtual game for you and some friends. You can see it on the KS page but essentially for $100 (up to 5 people) I’ll run at LEAST a one shot adventure online for you all. If you buy my services we’ll chat about what we want to play, I’m open to just about any system, and set a date! I’m willing to travel a bit for this too mind you, if you live close enough I’ll show up in person.

This year is going to be awesome, I just know it. Can’t wait to see you there!

-Melvs

 

I’m Back!

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…and boy do I have some exciting articles\plans incoming over the next few days, weeks, and months!

I know I’ve been gone a while, but I needed the break. I’m a lone writer out here folks and though I endeavor to keep the posts flowing week to week I needed the downtime to recharge. You probably want to hear more about the teased plans mentioned above though right? Well, I can’t spill all the details just yet but I can offer a taste.

  • in just TWO days the Kickstarter for AcadeCon 2016 will launch. Most of you are aware that I am a proud member of the RPG Academy Network. Due to this I am heavily interested in seeing this convention fund. Though honestly I’m probably less involved in the process than you’d assume due to my membership and I stand to gain less than you likely believe from its funding. When I write my article later this week know that my cheer leading for Michael & Caleb’s little-big convention is coming more from a place of love for the convention and its leadership itself than from anything I actually stand to gain from its funding. I want it to succeed so I have an awesome convention to go to in November, and I want to see you there. As many of you as can make the trip. Let’s sell this thing out folks! I’ll be putting some of my hard earned money toward it even though I don’t have to, I believe in seeing it succeed that much!
  • I have an article to write for Wizards of the Coast. It has taken me a while but I finally finished looking over Curse of Strahd. You may have caught some of my thought’s on Twitter recently but they deserve a full spread.
  • Privateer Press is rolling out a new edition of Warmachine and Hordes. This is huge, the latest edition was released back in 2010 people, it is time for an update. Details are flying around about this new edition and I want to get on top of things and begin to parse down the nitty gritty that you need to know in case you’re interested in how it’ll effect your factions now or, even better, you are just taking notice of this tabletop skirmish game and want to know the best time to get into it (hint: soon).
  • Speaking of WarmaHordes. I’m currently embroiled in an exciting Map Based Campaign titled “The Battle for the Athanc” (basically a high octane version of Risk where actual battles are fought using our WarmaHordes factions). I and my buddy who is running the Campaign have been keeping some battle report type notes and if we actually get our business together I hope to set up a bit of a battlelog for what we’ve done thus far and for how the remaining turns play out. It’s been a blast, even if I’ve had some of the the worst die rolling luck ever throughout.
  • A few fastballs here. I’ll be back at Gencon this year, once more rising with the Gamerstable crew. I’ll be rocking some games at Geekway to the West with Toby from Roll and Groove. I hope to get a bit more serious about writing some helpful essays on how volunteering and\or just gaming with the youth in your community can help foster growth in our hobby. I might even sneak in a post about The Division since that game currently has its talons in me.
  • This last one is going to be vague and for that I’m sorry (well…only a little sorry). I have some plans for the site, I want to become a little more polished. The one thing I can say is I want to drop that pesky little “dot wordpress dot com” from the tail end of my web address. Other than that there are just some things I want to work at for making this site a better place to get gaming information, and more frequent information. Hopefully I can fulfill these self-imposed demands, but one good thing about not running a Patreon or some other form of “actually getting paid for any of this” is I am only really beholden to myself eh?

So there you have it folks. Hope you’re excited to have me back, I’m at least excited to be writing again whether or not you all are happy to have me! 😛

-Melvs

 

 

 

 

The Dragon Sheath by Dog Might Games

I know I’m on a hiatus here but when a company like Dog Might Games offers up one of their gorgeous products for review, you take a bit of time to accommodate.

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Dog Might Games will tell you they make “Kick-ass gaming gear” and I’d be hard pressed to attempt to repudiate that claim. Their website is a cornucopia of luxurious wood-worked gaming related tools. From items as small as well crafted card stands to full on “Adventure Cases”. All of these items are carved from gorgeous selections of wood, an appear to be of the highest quality. You should really take the time to check out their site.

I’m not here to just talk about the company though, I’m here to talk Kickstarter! Right now Dog Might Games is running a Kickstarter for their Dragon Sheath product line. The Dragon Sheath is “A sculpted customizable carrying case for your gaming gear. Available in a variety of woods, colors, and interiors.”  Here’s the one they sent me.

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I was very impressed with the quality of craftsmanship first and foremost (being something of an amateur wood-worker myself). Excellent durability, sleek design, and really functional.

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Not to mention the magnets that hold the two pieces together are really strong, ensuring it won’t just fall apart loosing your dice all over the place.

I can see Th Dragon Sheath as a first step into an obsession here. Love the concept of mixing handcrafted tools like this into my gaming. Sure its a luxury item, but tabletop gaming has a pretty cost entry point, why not spruce up you tools?

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The current Kickstarter run only has 6 days left. Head on over and pick up one of these fantastic pieces!

THE DEETS!

The Dragon Sheath Kickstarter – FUNDED

Best Pledge Level for the Cash Strapped: $35 Classic – You get a great holder for dice with a simple, non-carved surface. Interior E is just a big area for dice.

My Favorite Pledge Level: $60 Custom – You choose your carved surface on the outside, what interior you’d like, and what stain finish. There are over 50 carvings to choose from and 13 interiors.

-Melvs

 

Unboxing & Review: FAITH The Sci-Fi RPG

The Book

Last night I finally got around to completing my Unboxing of this unique RPG. I’ll jump right to the meat of it, here’s the link.

 

 

Now, this was a great chance for you to see some of the excellent craftsmanship that went into this game (and a little plug for AcadeCon of course). I make no secret in the video that I feel this product is of the up-most quality. However! Doing a blind Unboxing like that has its pitfalls, I couldn’t recall how to play the dang game… and it showed. A smarter Kevin would have gone back to his original review that came out during the Kickstarter run of FAITH, and done a little refreshing. That guy wasn’t around last night, he wanted to try his hand at the Unboxing and chose to dive right in. Well, for those who want to know a little more about the actual game, you’re in luck. The Kevin of today is feeling a bit more polished. Let’s review this thing shall we?

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Flip the gameboard over and the other side is in Spanish, nice touch!

The punch-outs mentioned in the video (which I’ve just now taken a break and gleefully punched all of them out, flipping love punch outs!) are all for the players. Four boards of punch-outs contain this game’s version of a character sheet, only here it is a game board. Almost all of these pieces you can punch out have homes on this character game board. Utilize them to change stats with adjustable numbers, add or remove upgrade tokens, or when starting any game use the various character portraits to choose a look. Highly customize-able and useful for streamlining various aspects of the game.

Another item I got a mite wrong last night was a side comment where I mentioned that the cards in the player decks might be something that works alongside your typical dice mechanics. This was wrong, there are no dice mechanics, only cards are used. The cool thing about this is it will allow players to manage their own luck in a way. They have a hand of cards to choose from, if they really want to succeed they likely can. That’s not to say they might not also take chances with lower valued cards, or even get a bad draw. There is still an element of chance, the players just have a bit more control. One of the only things I have a quibble with in this aspect is that there isn’t a GM’s deck of cards as well in order to get a bit of the same fun. I know why things like this are done, it streamlines the GM process, but I like it when I get to roll dice, or in this case deal cards. Some will very much appreciate the way the GM gets to run things though. We do get the NPC deck, that is a really cool toy, so maybe I should just be happy and shut it eh?

You’ve seen all these physical items already though, I spent 19 minutes showing them to you (despite a bit of terrible lag… man I’m kinda bad at this). I want to chat a bit about the world of FAITH. Very much the Sci-Fi game it claims to be, FAITH takes place in a setting rich with multiple planets, sentient species (many playable races), and gods. Travel through space is done via a group of wormholes known as the Labyrinth. This connective travel network is alarmingly well put together, allowing for many theories to suggest intelligent design. A myriad of planets make up the habitable worlds that the six species you can play as live, work together, war together. The gods of FAITH are ever-present and have little to do with faith as we know it (despite the title of this game). They are attached to a believer via personality rather than choice and the gods expect you to follow their commandments. You are still left a choice however, you just might run into a very real consequence for disobedience. Some really interesting role-play opportunities there.

If I had to compare FAITH to anything in its “feel” I’d go with the Mass Effect series or maybe even Destiny. Fully Sci-Fi with a hint of supernatural flair to it. The game is it’s own deal though, a ton of newness surrounds FAITH. Both the mechanics and the fluff turn some typical RPG tropes on their ear. I fully suggest you give it a chance. I know I’m going to get around to running a game someday, let me know if you’ve been able to or if you have any more questions about it below!

Want to learn more about FAITH The Sci-Fi RPG? Check their site!

Want to buy it? Here’s the Webstore.

-Melvs

 

AcadeCon 2015: Into the Wilds

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I had been eagerly awaiting AcadeCon 2015 for longer than it had even existed in its current format. Back about a year ago it was slated to be a convention in only name as it was likely going to be held in a basement in Ohio in either Michael or Caleb’s basement, I can’t recall who’s. To think it has now come and gone, and supported a group of roughly 150 badgeholders, faculty and Network members, and VIPs, is frankly staggering. The RPG Academy crowd is beaming, and have all rights to do so.

Since the day their Kickstarter funded I had a good feeling about the con (if I’m to be honest I had assumed they’d fund from day one). I wasn’t let down in the least, well worth the nearly six hour drive from Missouri to Ohio. When I arrived late Thursday night I was immediately impressed with the venue, the Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center provided a gorgeous, rustic vibe that only added to the feeling that I was “getting away from it all” for some solid gaming. I arrived at the cabin I was sharing with the creators of the con and was thrown headlong into a game of Mysterium right away.

Very rustic... plenty of "well fed" vultures atop roofs!

Very rustic… plenty of “well fed” vultures atop roofs!

For those who may have missed my recap of Geekway 2015, Mysterium was easily one of my favorite board games. At Geekway I played the Polish version of the game, it hadn’t been ported to the States yet. The game places one player as the ghost of a murder victim attempting to encourage others to solve their murder. Using cards to represent images sent during the player’s dreams the ghost is essentially sending clues as to the place they were murdered, the person and the weapon. The ghost cannot communicate in any other fashion and has to hope the players interpret the image cards correctly. This copy was the Asmodee version of the game, made for english speaking players, and I have to say I was impressed with the little touches they added to the game. Especially adding a shield for the ghost to use that keeps the various places, people, and weapons organized behind it. We won the game solidly, I made for a much better ghost than I have in the past!

After Mysterium we played a game of King of Tokyo and chatted until about 2 am and the next thing I knew it was Friday morning, time to start the con! I helped set things up a bit and, after the opening ceremonies, I got ready to run what would end up being my only game GM’ing during the con (despite bringing just about every game I own). I simply had to run it though as it was one of the adventure concepts sent in for my contest back in August. I ended up using Garrett Weinstein’s Savage Worlds Deadlands Reloaded adventure The Lady and the Caskett rather than Aaron Tudyk’s The Leeching Jug for 5th Edition D&D because there were already a ton of 5e games being run this year. I plan to craft a One Sheet for the adventure I crafted using Garrett’s concept of a woman collapsing in a small town, handcuffed to a coffin she’d been dragging through the wilds. The concept remains great and I hope I did it justice! Just you wait for the One Sheet.

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I swear they aren’t bored. At this point they thought they’d been beat! They were scrounging for ideas and lamenting their fate. (No worries, they pulled it off)

My game

Running my game, which I think went pretty well, was the only planned activity I had for the rest of the weekend so I was free to pursue games run by others. I ended up running into some friends from Gencon (Dani and John) and was invited into John’s Numenera game for that evening. Highlights include Dani’s animal loving character constantly learning the hard lesson that animals in the world of Numenera don’t love you back, they only hurt you, my Nano evolving into a foodie interested in preparing, and serving, inter-dimensional cuisine, and many other laugh out loud moments. It was the best game of Numenera I’ve ever had occasion to play.

John, you ran a damn fine game sah'!

John, you ran a damn fine game sah’!

To round out Friday night Lucas, one of the creators of City of Brass and fellow member of the RPG Academy Network, and his buddy Aaron, joined me for a game of Arkham Horror. I didn’t have a lot of hope, there were only the three of us, but surprisingly we pulled it off! I believe by the end of the game we had a total of five rumors going and the next turn spelled certain doom. Not sure if I can ever top that game of Arkham Horror to be honest. I called it a night once more at roughly 2 am, knowing I had to be up again in roughly four hours. It was worth it though.

I almost skipped Saturday morning’s game, but I’m so glad I didn’t. I was fortunate enough to get a seat at Rob Schwalb’s table to play in a game run via his newest Tabletop RPG Shadow of the Demon Lord. The game was raunchy fun, and downright difficult to survive. If you get a chance to play a game of this run by Rob, I say go for it. Great times… though my Goblin PC had to change his pants after the game was over.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

Middle of the day antics included me joining a game currently in beta testing called Measure of a Badass. The concept is that you play iterations of action heroes, not specific ones but their aspects. This game was loads of fun. Our GM was was Heather Brooks, one of the Co-Creators of the game. I didn’t know it at the time but this was her first experience running the game solo for a group and I’m not certain she was expecting just how much we were willing to run with the concept of being 80’s action heroes. Many times we took the most outrageous approaches to resolving even the smallest of problems our characters faced, simply to add that 80’s action star gleam to things. The best part hands down was how utterly ridiculous our Wheelman flying our helicopter and our Eagle Eye on board with him handled things. They were all over the place, no helicopter should have been able to do the things they made it do. It was great!

Measure of a Badass

Heather Brooks everybody

So sadly I had to work on Monday, and part of me really wanted to get home and go deer hunting the next day so I made the difficult decision to cancel playing in a game run by a new friend Rob Stith, a horror game using a system he was designing. By all accounts it sounded great, but if I’d left at 10 pm I wouldn’t have gotten home until  4 am. I’m adding that to a pile of regrets actually.

Biggest regrets, beyond canceling on Rob last minute, would include missing Rohit’s game Sunday morning due to having to leave Saturday night (something I’ll avoid next year hopefully),  not taking advantage of the celebrity game designers more, and only gaming with one other RPG Academy Network member (Lucas played in my Deadlands game). Being part of the Network granted me Faculty privileges but other than a few short conversations with the likes of John Wick and Rich Baker, I only really got to meet with Rob Schwalb (no small thing mind you). Even then I didn’t really make huge use of the time for this blog’s purposes. Oh well, I spend Gencon hitting things up for the blog. I was happy to just game at AcadeCon. I was also put out that i once again missed a chance to play a game with the You Too Can Cthulhu gang! I try to get in one of their games every Gencon and fail. Here I had a much better chance and missed it again!

One last regret, I swear. I had really wanted to run a game of ODAM (Of Dream And Magic). Ever since they fulfilled their obligations from their successful Kickstarter I’ve really wanted to either play in a game or run one. I thought about it too late to schedule a game and it just didn’t work out to run a pickup game either. I need to rectify my lack of playing and/or running this system. It looks awesome!

Bottom line I had a blast, I really enjoyed the rustic setting and even the hordes of vultures perched atop the conference center. The lodge was the only source of food nearby, and they made you pay for it, but having a bar on site was pretty slick. The cell service was awful but free WiFi made that manageable. I made a lot of new friends and feel like I deepened my relationships with my network colleagues and friends of cons past. 100% intend to attend again next year. I hope you join me! I feel like AcadeCon can only grow, it’s got a strong team backing it. Trust me when I say they are already planning 2016. Our network channels are humming!

Some epic games of Dread were had

Some epic games of Dread were had

-Melvin Smif

P.S. Thanks especially go to Tressa who not only came through with Ibuprofen to cure an impending migraine but also purchased some metallic markers so I could get the network members to sign the copy of Hoard of the Dragon Queen I still need to send off to Aaron Tudyk! Thanks Tressa!!!

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P.P.S If I played a game with you and neglected to mention you by name drop me a line in the comments!

RPG Academy Network Panel

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A few Fridays ago a number of the excellent folks within the RPG Academy Network got together to do our first ever YouTube panel. Titled “The RPG Academy Network: A GM Summit” the panel was dedicated to the minds within our Network discussing, and oft times debating, their different methods for being a Game Master. Through pre-prepped questions and some excellent audience involvement they were able to give some great advice. If you haven’t seen it (or heard it in my case), and have two hours to kill, I’m embedding the link right here:

Sadly, as you may have noticed, I was unable to attend the GM Summit so you didn’t get any of my right\wrong opinions on some of the questions. Well, I copied down the questions as I went along so I can answer them right here. Hopefully I can offer up some advice just as useful as my peers!

What is my favorite system and why?

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Things began with this nice little warm up question, one I find very difficult to narrow down. Should I focus on pure nostalgia and go with Dungeons and Dragons? It has been the staple system in my core group and certainly the game I’ve played the most. However, I think if I really had to choose a system to dedicate the rest of my gaming on I’d go with Savage Worlds. I’ve spoken on it many time in this blog so if you’re a committed reader, you know I love it. It’s just the best little generic system money can buy, and it slips oh so perfectly into damn near any genre.

What are some tips on handling feedback from your players?

I think most of the group hit the nail on the head with this one by mentioning that if you are honestly looking for feedback you need to be ready to receive it. This doesn’t mean you need to sit there while someone lambastes your game but you should certainly take the time to consider if their critiques might actually hold some constructive value. In the past I’ve been very easy going with how I sought critiques and I get them but they are almost always positive in nature, I may need to be a bit more formal with my requests if I plan to get any true feedback.

How do you set expectations for your games?

I rarely run something that is limiting to my group. I choose a system and let them pick from all available options. The only time this will change is if whatever group I’m planning to run a game for collectively with me decide we want to run something very specific. For example I ran a one shot game where the players were all Bullywugs trying to protect their swamplands from humans. Obviously my players would need to know going in that they are restricted to that race. I can’t really point to a time where I sprung a long list of expectations on anyone. To me deciding the next game is highly collaborative.

For a first time GM how much should be planned/not planned. Thoughts on houseruling?

I am a terrible person to ask about planning anything. From day one my games have been highly improvisational, and I plan very little beyond a core concept of the first adventure. I will usually have an idea where that first game will go, and usually have a group of enemies set aside, but I am blessed with being very quick on my feet in game and few can even tell I’m flying completely off the cuff. True story, one night my entire set of notes for the upcoming adventure were the words “Giant Vultures seem cool”.

This approach is not for everyone, and certainly not a beginner, unless you have a solid knowledge of the game world you are playing around in. I’m hardly perfect either last year I had the players fight against a werewolf as a random encounter in my Eberron Campaign only to recall midfight that the Church of the Silver Flame had long ago eradicated lycanthropes (and all other –thropes for that matter). Most of the time I do a pretty good job though!

With this approach I usually take copious notes during my games and utilize the direction the players are driving the story to set up for the next adventure so I can avoid any plot holes by omitting some info (or an NPC’s name) the next time around. The best use for this method, if you’ve a solid grasp of it, is to use it during one offs. You don’t need to worry about plot holes there!

As far as “houseruling” I would avoid actively houseruling prior to starting the game. Meaning during PC creation and the like. During the game though, don’t be afraid to break a minor rule here and there to do what makes sense to the group if you can’t immediately recall how to do something. Just make a note of the confusion and come back to it during a break or something. Lengthy rule searching can bog things down and your table might even adapt the new style of doing things after all.

Improv Game, scenes from a hat.

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I wish I’d been on the panel for this question. As mentioned above I love improv, I have a lot of experience with the theatrical improv scene on up to the collegiate level and honestly RPGs are a way I specifically scratch the itch I have to act and play an improv game. I think the creation of a game using a “Scenes from a Hat” method could be fun but it would really depend on the system and if the players are also game.

There are games that essentially do this anyway, Fiasco specifically comes to mind. You could easily draw a scene at random there and then the rest is practically random generation anyway. If you’re hell-bent on doing this with D&D recall that there are a lot of random generation tables in the DMG this time around.

What keeps a game from falling apart?

I’ve GM’d a lot, and I’d call myself a strong GM. This does not keep every game I run from falling apart though. Sometimes it just happens and you need to be prepared for it. It happened far less when I was a teenager and a college student naturally because a big part of the problem these days can simply be attributed to having to adult. You will never be able to fully stop this from happening and really you shouldn’t try. I feel people need to be honest with themselves whether they have time to game, and it is a commitment. If you feel shaky about the group just do short stories or one shots.

Beyond the unavoidable pitfalls of life keeping the player’s interest in your game mostly boils down to player investment. If even on player isn’t invested they have the capability to bring exciting moments to a dead stop and even sour the rest of the players’ excitement levels for the game. The next question seems like a good place to expound on this!

In a long Campaign how do you keep things fresh?

So how do you keep things fresh, for everyone, all the time? Well… you likely won’t but you can sure as Hell try! I really attempt to work a player’s background into the game early on and make their character’s choices from that background and in game going forward matter. It usually does the trick for some of the more story loving types, and it’s why I usually suggest at least a bit of a background (and love seeing the 3 pager backgrounds!).

There are players who are just there for the boardgame aspect of the game though and it is important to shake things up mechanically from time to time. If you run the same combat over and over (doesn’t matter if it’s against different monsters) you won’t grab these folks’ attention. Mix it up, be sure to have a fight that really showcases a certain PC’s style sometimes. You’ll catch their eye!

How do you deal with being thrown for a loop by the players?

I think you can likely surmise my method for this. It’s hard to be thrown for a loop when you go into a game expecting the players to do a lot of driving the story for you. I run into the opposite issue sometimes with newer groups that expect me to drive things exclusively so that’s something I personally need to be aware of.

Where do you start writing a campaign?

So my style doesn’t allow for pages upon pages of prepped material going into a campaign but I have gone into a new game with a minimalistic view of the story I’d like to tell. I might conceive of a big bad for example that I want to be the final showdown and then let the game organically include them. I sometimes make a bit of a plot point graph where I want certain events to occur and, as stated above, let the game pull me to them (or sometimes change them completely). I just don’t spend a lot of time on prep unless it’s an encounter, a trap, a skill challenge I want to add in, or maybe even an NPC. Even then I sometimes don’t know when those items will show up until it just feels right.

What’s one extra piece of advice for new GMs?

Take notes during the game, especially when something appears out of nowhere. Some players are really interested in continuity so if you called a last second crafted innkeeper Mac last session and described how he spit polished a glass with only 9 fingers gripping the rag you don’t want to accidently forget these facts. Some will certainly call you on it.

Most of all, have fun with it and be ready to be a bit self-deprecating. When I admitted my error with the werewolf my players started calling my campaign setting “SmEberron” (Smith’s Eberron) claiming, in a tongue and cheek manner, that I wildly detract from the setting all the time. I got a good laugh out of it as well.

Essentially Tabletop RPG’s are ultimately games. They can be very personal games and hold some powerful sway in our lives if you’re one of the die-hard fans, but if at any point you aren’t enjoying yourself, the majority of the time, take a step back and analyze why that might be. Things should be fun. As the flagship folks of The RPG Academy Network say “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right”.

You know what, I say one more thing. Bring folks into the fold, be open to new players. The impetus to grow our gaming community lies with us for the most part. So if you’ve a gift for sharing this awesome hobby of ours, do so please!

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I can honestly say it has been a very rewarding experience for me!

Take care folks, have a blast, and feel free to hit me up with any other questions you may have!

Hope to see some of you at AcadeCon!!!

-Melvs

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Melvin Smif’s Geekery 2015 Contest Winners

Roughly a month ago I celebrated my birthday, and the successful funding of AcadCon, with a contest. I tasked folks with an adventure write-off seeking two concepts, one for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition and one for Savage Worlds (originally just the Deadlands setting, and then later any Savage Worlds setting).  After numerous submissions and two weeks to review them all I’ve chosen the winners! A big congratulations Garrett Weinstein and Aaron Tudyk.

Garrett  is the proud new owner of a copy of the Savage Worlds Explorer Edition, signed and personalized by Shane Hensley. Garrett brings us a Deadlands adventure that caught my attention namely with its initial hook, see if it catches yours – “A woman stumbles into town, half-dead from thirst and exhaustion, and shackled to a pine coffin that she’s dragging behind her. She has a rather fresh-looking bloody scar on her forehead that has been bleeding into her left eye, and an empty holster at her waist. Her gun-belt is also empty of bullets.”  Tell me that doesn’t grab your attention, make you want to saddle up, and save the day?

Aaron’s entry was by far the most involved. While it doesn’t lay out any of the adventure itself but it did come with an incredibly detailed backstory leading up to the beginning where the players would first encounter the issue at hand. Starting with the common trope of a small village besieged by an unknown threat the concept makes for a great adventure that will flip some expectations on their ear.

Now I can’t go into great detail because I plan to run at least one of these at AcadeCon, both if I have time. After that, with the authors’ permission, I’ll be sure to post both to the site with my full write-ups on each. Hopefully my changes won’t rankle too much ;).

You can find Garrett at his site Ninjas Riding Dinosaurs and Aaron on Twitter @Skydut. Me you can find here of course or on Twitter @SharnDM

-Melvs