The Day the Horns Sounded

If someone had told fifteen year old me that one day I was going to sit at a laptop computer and watch a bunch of D&D players wrack up over four million dollars sponsoring an animated film I would have laughed and thrown my lunchroom pizza at you.  I grew up in a time and place where playing role-playing games were looked down upon. It was a fringe and misunderstood hobby. Some people even thought it was a dangerous cult.

Even with the derision aimed my way, I never understood why more people couldn’t understand how fun it was, what it could be used for, the level of joy it could bring.  I think a lot of us, regardless of our age, have dealt with that at one point or another.  Regardless, we have held on, found our friends, played, created, and continued to run with our dreams.

We’ve done that for a long, long time.

Flash forward to today.

Like many of you yesterday, I watched the Critical Role Animated Special Kickstarter page funding amount roll upwards at an insane speed. It felt like a rocket launch as it blasted off, arched upwards, and sliced through the atmosphere. It funded it’s $750,000 goal in less than an hour and, well, it just kept going.

And going.

And going.

I cannot imagine what it must have felt like with the Critical Role team. To see that much support swell from everywhere? So quickly?  Watching this play itself on Kickstarter, seeing that #Critters was trending on Twitter in the United States, I realized something far more powerful was happening than just an animated special getting funded.

As mentioned, this is a misunderstood hobby, a fringe bastion of geeks and nerds who didn’t fit in.  Who play “that dumb game” in the basement.  To watch a troupe of talented entertainers carry their story forward with so much joy has moved us. Their laughs, sorrows and adventures have become ours because we carry that same passion. We love to see them succeed because they echo that success back to us.

As gamers from the basement, we’ve never really had that before, have we?

And though they’ve blazed the trail, this isn’t just happening with the Critical Role team. It’s now happening with other troupes, other game streams. We are finding each other in ways never before seen with the hobby. Go to Twitch and look at the Dungeons and Dragons or Tabletop RPG category. The numbers there have doubled, possibly tripled lately. Spend some time on the #Critters hashtag on Twitter and look at the outpouring of artwork and support.

This has been going on, building steam over the past five years and then, yesterday, this fun group of voice actors and D&D players called Critical Role said, “Hey, we have this idea about an animated series for our characters and could use a little help making it happen.”

That was all that was needed and we have now become a part of something much bigger than ourselves.  This would not have happened five years ago, a decade ago.

This isn’t just about funding for an animated show.

The horns have sounded and this feels like a gathering of a tribe.  Not just #Critters but a much larger tribe of role players, gamers, geeks and nerds.  A tribe looking at some leaders and saying,  “You’re doing good work. Lead the way for us. Keep doing what you are doing. We love you.  We have your back.”

Money garners attention and changes everything.  This will gather a lot of attention, some good, some bad. (For instance, when was the last time something about roleplaying games featured in Fortune magazine?) That “silly game in the basement” just rolled in 4 million dollars in approximately 24 hours.  Some wise investors are going to start asking, “What other games can do that?” Dungeons and Dragons and role-playing is going to be on the map like never before as producers and studio heads begin to fully understand the stories that get created around the table can also be marketable, that there is actual value there.  We already knew this but now THEY know it too.

Like I said, good AND bad attention.

It’ll be several months before we start to get an idea of what the effects of this might be.   Hopefully, this helps the entire hobby including those folks that create these very games we play.  Not the manufacturers and producers but the writers, the designers, the artists.  We need that to happen.  We cannot forget them.

We are entering brand new territory and, in one way or another, we all understand this.  It’s an exciting feeling that the party, whatever it may end up being, is really about to start.  I am so very excited for the Critical Role troupe and I hope they keep their head and stay true to their hearts in all of this.  I’m even more excited for the roleplaying game community, industry and tribe.

We cannot forget the openness, caring and support that got us here.  Let’s not forget where we’ve been, what we had to deal with and how we arrived. Let’s keep enjoying each other’s stories and lets keep looking out for each other, young and old.

And, lest we forget, we should get ready to watch a really cool, kick-ass cartoon late next year.

Get your dice bags ready, gang.

Tomorrow is a brand new day.

Map Creation with Rory Story Cubes – Part 2

Be sure to read Part 1 which covers what you need and the initial idea.

Follow the link above if you’re not sure what I’m talking about here.  The short version?  I’m using Rory Story Cubes to create a fantasy map at random.

Here is a detailed write-up of the process I used to generate a map with 7 rolls. I used all three of my Story Cubes sets and simply grabbed the cubes randomly from the pile. The amount varied on each roll from 8 to 3 Cubes.

I started with a blank piece of watercolor paper. I use the thicker paper for mapping in case I want to lay some watercolors down on a later date. You should use whatever you like or have laying around. (My first test runs were on lined notebook paper!) For this run, I threw in two coastlines on the Eastern and Western sides of the map and then started rolling Cubes!

Round 1

My first round was with 6 Cubes. After the roll, only 4 were still on the paper. I rolled, from left to right, a tower, a city or a temple, a set of scales and a pot of gold.

Continue reading “Map Creation with Rory Story Cubes – Part 2”

Map Creation with Rory Story Cubes – Part 1

I’ve enjoyed using Rory’s Story Cubes for all kinds of inspiration for my RPG and storytelling games. Typically, I’ve used them to help me with adventure design and NPCs. I’ve also used them for my solo RPG projects as well.  I currently own the Original set as well as Voyages and Actions and they are worth having in your GM toolbox.

I love coming up with ways to randomly generate adventures, NPC’s, locations, etc.  This weekend I had the fun idea to use the Story Cubes to randomly generate a fantasy map. I ran a test run just to see if my idea was valid and was thrilled with the results. So, in order to better illustrate how to do this I decided to build a map entirely from scratch and show you how to do it.

First off, you will need to pick up a set of Rory’s Story Cubes. They can be found online and at department stores like Target and Walmart. They are a set of 9 dice with graphical images on them.

Next get a blank sheet of paper which will be your map, a pencil, a good eraser, and a notebook or scrap paper. You might also want some fabric like a towel or maybe do the rolls on a carpeted floor to keep the dice from bouncing too badly. I did the example below on a hardwood coffee table and, as you will see, everything worked out just fine!

Continue reading “Map Creation with Rory Story Cubes – Part 1”

Roll for Self-Doubt

This isn’t an easy post to write but in order to jump start my writing on this blog again, I feel it’s important.  The new year has been tough for me and this blog.  No posts and, even worse, little inspiration to write them.  I’ve been struggling with something and I finally thought it would be best to just get it out in the open in hopes that exposing the blockage will remove it.

I’ve been involved in the hobby since the early 1980’s.  I’ve talked about it in past posts and have a bit more to say in the future as well.  I started the blog because I feel I have some knowledge from my experiences and wanted to share.  I followed my instincts and thought I had a good plan.

Continue reading “Roll for Self-Doubt”

Tis The Season! Holidays for your Campaign

Holidays help provide us with important breaks, excuses to party, to meet up with old friends and family as well as offering times of reflection and peace.  More so, the mid-winter season is a special time since it’s the time of year where a host of different holidays combine to create a juggernaut of a holiday season.  I enjoy diving down into the histories, traditions and folklore surrounding it.  From the ancient party of Saturnalia, to the Irish horse skulls of Mari Lwyd to the more modern Kwanzaa, it’s always a fun ride.

This year, it got me thinking about fantasy worldbuilding and the importance of festivals and holidays in a game world for a gamemaster.  In table top roleplaying, holidays can often be treated as throw-away events for a game, typically being used as a backdrop for a one-shot game.  However, I think holidays and festivals  can serve the campaign, and a game’s host, by providing more depth to the game world with not only the build up towards a holiday but the holiday itself.

If, as the game host, you already have a calendar for your world then your set.  If you don’t have a calendar it’s not necessary but it does help to give the players a sense of time.  In the game world, the cycle of annual holidays can help a community or society to understand the flow of the year.  Holidays, festivals and feasts are like sign posts letting communities plan a planting season, a harvest season, special moments of import to be celebrated, etc.

Though I’m mainly going to talk about a fantasy setting this can serve just as well in science fiction as well.  We are going to look at five components to review for inspiration in crafting a holiday for your game; Culture, Survival, Celestial Events, and Themes.  At the end of the post, I’ll present a sample holiday made up with these components.

Continue reading “Tis The Season! Holidays for your Campaign”

Extra Life Birthday

Just a quick announcement and then I promise we will get back to the gaming.

For my birthday this year I will be celebrating by running a 24 hour Extra Life marathon of gaming.   I was unable to make the main event on November 3rd but I decided, at the time, I would figure out a date before the end of the year.   What I’ve decided is it will be this weekend (a few days before my birthday to be exact) on Saturday/Sunday, December 8th/9th.  My start time for the 8th is scheduled for 9:00AM EST.

What is this all about?

Extra Life is a wonderful charity which allows gamers to do what they do best while supporting children’s hospitals all over the country.  This takes the form of a 24 hour fundraising gaming marathon.   It’s simple, really.  Like a dance marathon for charity or a charity race,  I play games and try not to fall asleep while you cheer me on and show your support by donating at my charity page.

I’ll be playing for my local children’s hospital, Riley Hospital for Children and my goal for this year is $500.

This will be my 3rd year doing the event and this time, barring any tech issues, I’ll be streaming the entire, embarrassing day on Twitch.  I’ll be taking breaks for food (maybe) and, due to health reasons, taking a few hours for sleep.  However, don’t worry, any time taken will be made up to equal a full 24 hours!   I’ll be playing a mix of video games including Skyrim, Kynnseed, X-Com and whatever I can get to work for the stream.  I’m even considering doing a bit of RP on the channel as well but I’m not sure how well that will work.

If you have a second this Saturday/Sunday and want to say hello stop over at the Twitch stream anytime during the marathon.  I will also be posting on Twitter throughout the event so feel free to reply there and be sure to retweet me to get the word out.  If you’d like to help me celebrate my birthday and have a few dollars to spare, please head over to the charity page and donate what you can.

I will hopefully see you there!

My Charity Page for the marathon

Extra Life Webpage

 

5 Easy Ways to Be a Better Gamemaster

For someone just testing out the waters of running their own role-playing game, I’ve boiled down the top 5 things (in my opinion) you can focus on in order to run a successful session.   I’ve skipped over the obvious ones like “know the rules” and “have dice handy for players.”  These focus on more non-obvious elements of the craft.  Keep them in mind and it will be very hard to go wrong.  The numbering of these means little.  None are more important than the other and each of them, individually, actually work hand-in-hand with the other 4.

As a side note, I actually don’t like the word “master” in these titles because I think it separates that player out from the other players at the table.  I prefer to use Gamehost and will use this interchangeably throughout the article.

Continue reading “5 Easy Ways to Be a Better Gamemaster”