I can’t think of many better ways to ring in the New Year than DMing a dungeon delve. Especially when Jesse is one of the players that I can
terrorize entertain and the party decided to venture to Athas and the frankly underutilized world of Dark Sun. (Editor’s Note: LEGOs make FANTASTIC minis for use in live games.)
I crafted my delve by adapting a full campaign that I had been developing, but never had the chance to execute. In doing so it led me to consider some of the essential principles of creating an engaging and fun delve that fits into a set play time. In this case, we were going to be delving for about 4 to 5 hours.
Some of the elements of a traditional campaign just don’t fit into a delve. Have you ever had a poor delve experience? If I had to guess, the reasons may have included poor time management and the game feeling less like D&D and more like miniatures combat.So, here are some tips for successfully crafting an engaging and fun dungeon delve. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s been almost a decade since we’ve had the wonderful combination of a cinematic journey to Middle Earth and holiday season! Also, if you’re in my age group, this time around you have a real job and real money to spend on stuff! I mean, other people. Because it’s the season of giving.
Here’s my top ten list of some of the best and most unique Hobbit gifts out there! You don’t even have to fight a dragon for this wonderful hoard, just your credit card bills and weird internet connections.
Limited Edition Hobbit Moleskine Notebooks | $17
These gorgeous notebooks are perfect for recording your own travels, or your hobbit-sized grocery lists.
Read the rest of this entry »
In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit…
So begins the journey into the epic fantasy world of Middle Earth. The line was written as a fleeting thought by author JRR Tolkien as he graded papers, proving that a) even professors doodle and b) that doodles do have value. As part of our Hobbit week we decided to look back at two of the more well-known adaptations of The Hobbit, the graphic novel (recently re-released) and the animated film for television from the 1970s.
The Hobbit Graphic Novel
This was my visual introduction to Middle Earth. I found the graphic novel in a used bookstore shortly after I finished reading The Hobbit for the first time. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure this was the first graphic novel that I ever read.
If you have a young or reluctant reader who isn’t eager to pick up Tolkien’s full novel and delve into passage after passage of names and intricate descriptions of scenery I might suggest this as a wonderful alternative entry point into the world of Middle Earth.
Originally published in 1989 as a three issue comic series, the book was eventually put together as a trade paperback and released as a full graphic novel. In September of 2012 the book was re-released with some updated changes to the layout, a new cover, and a few new pages of artwork as part of the run-up to the Hobbit film.
The watercolor-esque art style by David T. Wenzel gave Middle Earth a vibrant look that in some ways mirrored the animated film, though with smoother lines and a little more age to each of the characters. Many of the panels literally bleed off the pages and swords, staves and other artifacts often push outside the boundaries of the individual panels to great effect.
The original version had some layout issues with panels appearing a bit distorted or important characters being cutoff, apparently from a desire to have consistent margins on every page. The newly released version solved this issue by allowing for adaptive margins that are based on each individual page of panels.
The graphic novel is a fairly faithful adaptation with all the major characters and events retained from the book, including the visit with Beorn and an elongated retelling of the events in Mirkwood forest leading to the dwarves’ capture by the wood elves. The “Riddles in the Dark” chapter as well as Bilbo’s interactions with Smaug look particularly gorgeous. I can’t think of a better book to have with me at the theater to help pass the time while I wait for the movie to start. Read the rest of this entry »
Is there any greater innovation in the last few years than the podcast? Other than the continuing proliferation of bacon wrapped foods, probably not. We decided to put together so lists of our top podcasts in various categories. First up, our list of the best podcasts for boardgames and RPGs, plus we threw in a few extras (because we love you).
Our Favorite Gaming Podcasts
The Dice Tower
The gold standard of board game podcasting, Tom Vasel and Eric Sumner provide an excellent podcast of news, reviews and weekly topics that cover all things gaming. Amazing production values and two hosts who know what they’re doing make this one a must.
The Dungeons & Dragons Podcast
While updated infrequently, the official D&D podcast is great for two reasons. They regularly talk about the DNDNext playtest now and give great behind the scenes stories, but the real reason to subscribe to this is to listen to the Penny-Arcade/PVP adventures. Sadly only an annual event at PAX Prime, the experience of listening to the legendary Chris Perkins lead Gabe, Tyco, Scott Kurtz and Wil Wheaton through a campaign can truly be described as epic. Go through the archive and listen to them all.
Drive to Work
Relatively new to the podcasting scene, Mark Rosewater has been the head designer of Magic the Gathering for years now. The podcast is a simple premise: he picks a topic and talks about it on his morning commute to Wizards. Fans of Magic will love the insight, history and stories, but the production values aren’t the best – mostly because Mark just records it on his iPhone while driving. Though it does mean when there is a traffic delay or he needs gas, you get extra material.
Roleplaying Public Radio Actual Play
For Actual Play sessions of various games, it’s hard to beat Roleplaying Public Radio. The band of gamers is very experienced and do admirable and interesting jobs with everything from Dungeons & Dragons to Call of Cthulhu to Wild Talents. If you’re considering an RPG and they’ve done it, I recommend downloading it to see what it can do. They also have a gaming tips podcast to add to the above.
Yog-Sothoth.com Audio Games
The Bradford Players’ Call of Cthulhu audio games have several things going for them. First of all, they’re British and those calming accents go a long way towards softening the blow of a sudden byakhee attack. Secondly, they are professional actors so count on some quality roleplaying. And thirdly… well the games are just awesome. Listen to Horrors on the Orient Express and tell me you can still sleep through the night. Read the rest of this entry »
Buying gifts for gamers can be a real challenge. They are constantly picking up the newest games, Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering might as well be foreign languages. So the Castles & Cooks brain trust joined forces to come up with 25 fantastic holiday gifts in a variety of price points.
Chocolate Dice – $8
If you need a stocking stuffer for any tabletop player, get them a delicious treat in the shape of a set of dice. It’s cheap, adorable and delicious. Available in white, 6o% and dark chocolate.
Bag O Zombies – $10
This is a bag of 100 zombies for $10, how is that not awesome? Any self-respecting DM can find a reason to use these, but when don’t you need a bag of zombies? It doesn’t matter if you play ZOMBIES or not – and they come in regular zombie gray or glow-in-the-dark!
LEGO Gandalf Arrives – $13
Lord of the Rings holds a special place in almost every geek’s heart, but as a desktop decoration, they don’t get more perfect than this. Gandalf’s cart is adorable and full of fireworks and a LEGO Frodo may be the cutest thing in the world.
Hogwarts Acceptance Letter – $15
Even if it didn’t arrive on your 11th birthday, getting a personalized acceptance letter to Hogwarts will bring a smile to any wizard’s holiday. Read the rest of this entry »
Playwright, actor, builder of America, postage enthusiast, and friend of the site Cameron McNary’s grand gaming opus Of Dice and Men is finally getting a premiere in New York City. The play about a group of 30 something D&D players has had performances on the West coast and even a college production, but this will be the first time it appears in New York City.
On July 7th the show will debut as part of the Brick Theater’s GAMEPLAY 2012, a festival inspired by gaming. The show is being performed by the Dysfunctional Theater Company and will run from July 7th till the 27th. A full calendar and tickets are available at the Brick Theater website and go for $15.
We cannot urge you enough to go see this play. Whether you are a gamer, just know some gamers, or enjoy funny and cathartic experiences, this is the show for you. Since the first PAX East, three years ago, when Jesse and I saw the first stage reading, we’ve been hooked.
If you aren’t sure (why the hell not!?) then check out the e-book version of the play. You can read an excerpt for free or just buy it (a much better option). It is available in every e-book format imaginable here.
Also here’s a trailer for the performance.
Seriously, stop reading and buy a ticket. We’ll see you at the show.
With the release of Planechase 2 just a matter of days away, I’ve noticed the schism returning between casual and competitive Magic players. As someone who hasn’t played Standard since it was called “Type II” and Dark Fires was gaining traction, I have been firmly planted in the casual side of Magic for over a decade, and playing for almost twice that long.
I started playing the game in 1994 thanks to my older brother getting into it after we went on a skiing trip. From then on, I played for a few years very casually before meandering away from the game. It wasn’t until the release of Tempest that I got back into the game in 6th grade when my best friend Adam told me about how he discovered this amazing new game. Within a few months, I was back into it. Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t know what happened to me in high school, but for some reason I stopped playing games. Aside from the rounds of Apples to Apples, Super Smash Bros Melee and Shrek Super Party, that was all I played. I barely touched Magic between my sophomore year of high school and freshman year of college. So maybe I’m just actively trying to make up for lost time – like getting addicted to Heroscape eight years after it debuted and being forced to scavenge the secondary market for parts and pieces. Read the rest of this entry »
A common refrain you will find around any gaming table or club is “you won because you got lucky.” Or, “I don’t like playing this game, it’s based too much on luck.”
Everyone would like to assume that when we sit down to play a game the outcome is predominantly based on our skills. We win because of superior tactics and decision making, and others lose because they are stupid. This is almost never the case, except for the stupid part. Stupid people lose ALL the time, and sometimes stupid people win, but usually because someone else at the table was even dumber, but I digress.
When we win we want to emphasize how much our own skill contributed to victory. Yet when we lose, many are more than happy to blame it purely on being unlucky, hence the aforementioned utterances.
Aside from being annoying, and belittling the person who was victorious, there’s a problem with constantly invoking luck as an excuse. Aside from a few exceptions, like chess and checkers, all games involve a healthy amount of luck. You might as well use the excuse, “you won because you sat down to play the game.” Read the rest of this entry »
You may have heard. Star Wars is returning to theaters with the release of Episode I today. If it does well the other 5 films might also get the 3D treatment. If it performs poorly, that is less likely. There’s neither a timetable for future 3-D adaptations, nor is there a really great explanation of what “performing well” entails.
Before I go any further, let’s get a few things out of the way. Yes the prequels are bad. Yes they pale in comparison to the originals. Yes George Lucas has done more harm than good in altering the canon several times. No he hasn’t raped your childhood. Yes it is his story and he can do what he wants with it. I hate having to waste time with that but it seems like you can’t have any sensible Star Wars discussion without all of those tired refrains being spit at you. No one ever says anything new.
With that taken care of, a question remains. How much does The Phantom Menace being re-released matter? Admittedly we could analyze that on a number of levels. How does it matter to Star Wars fans, the movie industry and box office in general, the evolution of 3D, or for future 3D conversion re releases like Titanic? Frankly, I’m more interested in the first question than any of the others, because I am selfish and that one concerns me. We’ll touch a bit on the others as we go. Read the rest of this entry »