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

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The Future of WotC

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Yesterday I heard that Wizards of the Coast planned to shut down their forums, including those for Dungeons and Dragons. The cited reason was basically that other versions of Social Media were so prevalent that the forums were essentially redundant and that sites like Reddit were handling discussions of the product better than the WotC forums could. So basically, “Why are we paying all these costs associated with running the forums when people can just chatter about our stuff elsewhere?” Does that seem like a cold reason to shut down a place that’s been around since the early 2000’s? A little bit, but given the current course of the most popular Tabletop RPG out there I really don’t find it surprising.

Everything about the Dungeons and Dragons brand of late has been a consideration for the almighty dollar and less about anything resembling community involvement. Oh, Mike Mearls gets out there and does an “Ask Me Anything” once in a while but that’s about it. The level of desired feedback from us that we saw in the “Pre-5e” days is simply gone for the time being, and I don’t know if I blame them completely. The hard truth is that this model appears to be working for them. By all reports they are selling well.

Currently we see a model that slims down the internal content creation and farms out the bulk of it out to 3rd party groups like Kobold Press (Tyranny of Dragons) and Sasquatch Game Studio (Princes of the Apocalypse) for its product line post the core three books. In such an environment the removal of the costs associated with running forums on the site is hardly surprising. Unless you are a handpicked content creator, your voice is only mildly important to them. Keep in mind I speak in generalizations when I say this. I refer to the company as a whole, not individuals who may actually care a ton.

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Comic on loan from Steven Joy’s site “From the Whiteboard” http://www.fromthewhiteboard.com

 

The problem is this. Wizards seems to be Hell bent on being a company that simply sells a product, with no real community involvement on their part within a hobby that really thrives on community involvement. When you consider the fact that, with very little exception (the fact that I and other bloggers receive review copies), their entire advertising model depends on word of mouth from their own customer base retreating into a shell is frankly a dangerous long-term proposal. How do they plan to bring new people into the fold? Currently they rely on us to do so, there is no push for new players on their end, the impetus to create players and DM’s lies solely with people who already play the game.

Granted there is the Adventure League, that’s a bit of an advertisement where game shops are tasked with selling the idea to their customers to play D&D. Of course that’s like advertising a new fish in a fish market, everyone’s already there for fish, it’s not going to endear the beef lovers because they aren’t at the fish market that day… or any day.

The bottom line is that Dungeons and Dragons is a community driven product, it always has been and I can’t see a day where it won’t be. Sadly Wizards just doesn’t seem to know how to manage a community driven product line, or they don’t want to and they are content to see how long they can survive by being “the one and only D&D”.  Other RPG companies don’t get to do that, they have to actually endear players to them because they aren’t riding the coattails of being the first in the business. Only time will tell if Wizards can survive on its printed content alone. I mean, thus far 5e stuff has been excellent.

I doubt there will be any further push by WotC to foster more community development, they didn’t even have a booth at Gen Con there’s a ton of hubris there. Maybe I’m wrong and Wizards will do just fine becoming a printing press for its content, and maybe it will survive perfectly well relying on us to spread the word. I mean, look at me. I run Dungeons and Dragons for kids at the library despite receiving nothing in return for it beyond the satisfaction of spreading my love for the game. Maybe I’m the schmuck? Maybe the folks at WotC are nodding their heads sagely at each other saying “another one of our minions has brought in more sires!”. Good lord…maybe D&D is a cult…

I'M SO SORRY KIDS! ;P

I’M SO SORRY KIDS! ;P

-Melvs

P.S. If forum users are looking for a new place to hang out EN World has extended an invitation.

CONTEST! From Me to You on my Birthday

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

Melvin Smif’s Pitch Me a Game 

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

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

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

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

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

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

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

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

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

-Melvs

Pre-Release Review of The Rise of Tiamat: A Grand Draconic Finale

The full cover art for The Rise of Tiamat. Illustrated by Michael Kormarck

The full cover art for The Rise of Tiamat. Illustrated by Michael Kormarck

Wizards of the Coast has not been idle.  Granted, I think we would all like to see the third Core rulebook in our hands but that doesn’t mean we’ve a lack of content.  The team up with Kobold Press to produce campaign content for 5th Edition D&D has certainly been of epic proportions.  The Rise of Tiamat comes to us as the second piece of a puzzle, the first being the popular Hoard of the Dragon Queen, designed to take characters from first level to fifteenth and all up and down Fearûn’s Sword Coast while doing so. 

I had occasion to speak with a local Game Shop owner the other day and I inquired how organized play (D&D’s Adventurer’s League for which this campaign arc is made for) was doing under the new system.  His eyes lit up and he revealed that things were going really well.  Under 4th’s Encounters he said he had roughly 3-4 tables but currently he’s been seeing just around double that number of players.  Interest has been sparked and looking at the quality of this book it is easy to see why.  I’ve already spoken to my love for the new systems’ rules and lore but this is the first time I’ve gotten my hands on some prewritten adventure work (I never got the chance to look at Hoard of the Dragon Queen sadly) and I’m liking what I see.

QUALITY OF PRODUCT

I haven’t yet had a complaint about the physical quality of any source books produced by WotC in this edition and I’ve none here.  This is the first time I’ve been able to comment on the layout of an adventure however, so I took my time digesting that. 

Glossy in the front, textured in the back.

Glossy in the front, textured in the back.

Like the other books we’ve seen thus far the new book’s binding feels strong, sports a glossy cover, and a textured portion on the back that I’ve come to really like.  Grabbing a book and feeling that texture just feels right to me in a way that a full on glossy book would not.  I’m not certain who decided to add that small piece to the craft of these books but I’d like to thank them.  I know it may seem odd for me to spend a lot of time remarking on such a small addition, but I really do like it!  We aren’t looking at a small book as far as prewritten adventures go, it’s a fair size bigger than most.  Considering the plot intends to take characters from level 8 to level 15 before they finish things up I’m certainly not surprised at its girth.  Lastly I’m a big fan of the type of paper utilized.  It has a heavy, textured feel to it that glossy paper just can’t compete with. 

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Finding your way around the pages of TRoT won’t be too difficult.  The table of contents does a great job of not only pinpointing key episodes but it also lists out key events within said episodes.  The Appendix’s are helpful for certain points in the game and the only thing truly lacking is a good index.  It could be argued though that an index isn’t as necessary in this kind of book.

The artwork in The Rise of Tiamat holds up with the quality we’ve seen in this edition easily.  The cover is adorned with a Hellish scene of Tiamat herself being summoned into the world of Fearûn, ready to wreck havoc with its poor souls.  The only complaint I could have with the artwork is the lack of it.  In reviewing the recent core books I’ve been bombarded with gorgeous artwork on damn near every page but here we see more “walls of text” than pages with art.  I’m not sure why this is the case either, the book is big for a premade adventure book but after seeing the sheer mass of the Monster Manual I know we can go bigger…much bigger.  Why not add just a few more pages to add more imagery?

RUNNING AND PLAYING THE GAME

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I spoke about the book being easy to meander through in the above paragraphs and I did mean it.  A Dungeon Master, albeit an experienced DM as this is not all that approachable for a newbie, will find the storyline logical and fun to work with.  We are cautioned about party size and how to adjust for more or less than the recommended party of four and there is even a bit of a reminder that certain NPCs are intended to re-occur.  If your group killed said NPCs there’s a suggestion that having those NPCs raised from the dead may actually drive home just how vast the resources of those the players are up against might be.  A small annoyance I ran into was the many references to Magic Weapons not actually availiable to us yet, what with the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide not showing up until December (presumably), but I imagine we will see some sort of excerpt from WotC detailing these like we did with Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

Not only useful, this tool could also be used as a form for creating your own factions.

Not only useful, this tool could also be used as a form for creating your own factions.

Things still take place along the Sword Coast and as the players have “grown up” from their experiences in Hoard of the Dragon Queen they are now working with various factions interested in the similar goal of protecting the Sword Coast.  One of the neater additions to the campaign is a reference tool for the DM called the Council Scorecard.  The DM can use this to measure the actions of the Players against the Council in order to see if they have either curried favor or caused mistrust with certain groups.  It is plain to see that a little bit of advanced role-play may be necessary as the levels rise.  As with the mention of needing an experienced DM it seems players may need to be fairly experienced as well. Things seem a mite tougher in this edition’s organized play than what we saw with Encounters.  Players themselves will gain levels via a completion style rather than by adding up experience points.  This seems not only fair but very useful to me.  You’ll need those players to be a certain level prior to the big finale, it holds nothing back.

Tons of useful, and flavorful maps adorn the pages.

Tons of useful, and flavorful maps adorn the pages.

On the whole this entire campaign arc seems to be on a very grand scale.  Even if you don’t plan to run the game there are certainly useable details in this book, and presumably HotDQ (now I want that book too) as well.  If you’re looking for a premade adventure to introduce yourself and/or your players to 5th edition and Fearûn I can’t speak highly enough of the quality here.  It doesn’t seem to work well as a standalone book, but I don’t think that was ever the plan, you should really have HotDQ if you plan to run the campaign.  I would say you could use adventure arcs from within as standalones with some minor tweeks though. WotC‘s progress out of the gates of this new edition continues to be pretty strong, despite the setback with the DMG.  I know I’m hungry for more and seeing the time and care they and Kobold Press put into this product only makes me hungrier.  Also, kudos on the funny little disclaimers I’m seeing in every book.  Love those!

-Melvs


The Rise of Tiamat (5th Edition D&D) – Release Date 11/04/14
Designers (Kobold Press): Steve Winter & Alexander Winter
Adventure Contributors: Mike Mearls, Christopher Perkins, Matthew Sernett, Chris Sims, Rodney Thompson; Jeremy Crawford
Cover Illustrator: Michael Kormarck
Interior Ilustrators: Jean-Paul Balmet, Nicole Cardiff, Guido Kuip, Marcel Marcado, Bryan Syme
Cartography: Jared Blando
Publisher: Kobold Press / Wizards of the Coast
Year: 2014
Media: Hardbound (96 pages)
Price: $29.95 in the store or $18.94 on Amazon