RPGaDay August 19

Best way to learn a new game?

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgI don’t know if it’s the best way, but it works for me. After I’ve skimmed the rule book to get an idea of the mechanics and setting feel, I roll up a character. I don’t worry about min-maxing or making the “best” character for the game. Instead, I focus on making the character I want and I see how much the system “fights” me. If I’m getting a lot of push-back from the game, I look at why. Is the game not what I thought it was? Am I missing some aspect of the system? Is it just a clunky system? If I’m not getting any push-back, I also look at why, because maybe I’m still not getting some aspect of the game.

I’ll make a few characters of different types, just to get a feel for the different aspects of the game’s mechanics and setting. Taking D&D 5e as an example, I rolled up one character for every class and tried to keep an even spread of the races throughout. Each class’s abilities make you focus on different aspects of the rules, and gives a good basic grounding in the game.

There are also two benefits to this from a game master perspective. One, I can see what each class is going to be focused on in-game, what that class will want from the world around them at least in general terms. That can help me figure out what will entice/repulse my players, since they picked that class for a reason. Two, I now have the bones of an NPC of each class, ready to be fleshed out and dropped into my game. Why yes, that stone did ricochet off that bird and hit another bird. Fancy that.

Plus, I really enjoy making characters. I remember sitting in my room when I first got a hold of the Star Trek RPG from Fasa, making character after character. I filled a binder with my starship crews, all ready to explore new worlds. When it came time to run the game, I amazed my players by having this fully realized crew for their ship.

What do you do to learn a new game? Drop it in the comments below.

Humpday Links for March 13

The Ides of March draw ever nearer, and while you may not be worried about getting gang-stabbed at work, you could likely still use a tension reliever.  Allow my links to carry you away, O Caesar!

– As part of their Centennial celebrations, the Edmonton Public Library is giving everyone free library cards!  Followers outside of Edmonton won’t care, but those inside should get on this now!

This link came to me courtesy of my pal Leah, and it excites me for many reasons.  Not the least of which, think how easy building a hobbit-style home will be now…

– If you have ever struggled to make realistic fantasy city/town maps, and I know I have, this tutorial is for you.

– Designing a little bigger than a town or city? Space Engine is for you.

– My pal Brittney might like this: The Loneliest Unicorn.

This article raises some interesting questions regarding C.S. Lewis and Narnia.

– Last week I wrote a thing about Kickstarter and mentioned Monte Cook’s projects.  Here, Monte Cook talks about David “Zeb” Cook and one of his earliest projects/loves, Planescape.

– Speaking of earlier D&D, here is every issue of Dragon Magazine, digitally archived.  It appears to be above board. Maybe…

Star Trek: Into Darkness has a new teaser trailer, and all I can say is, “Engage!”

– There’s a Canadian werewolf drama a-comin’, and they’ve cast a familiar face in the lead role

– If you scroll past my links muttering, “Know that, seen that…” then maybe you are ready to ascend the throne of Nerds as our King.  I’d do it, but I’m more of a “power behind the nerd” type of guy.

– Know a nerd in Boy Scouts? The American Scouts just added a Game Design merit badge.  Hey Scouts Canada, you seeing this?

– Courtesy of Cracked.com, 6 board games that sucked, with suggestions of ones that don’t.

Iron Man 3, everybody.  Can I get a “Squeeee!”?

– And while we’re on trailers you’ve likely seen but will watch again, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.

– Speaking of Nathan Fillion (we were, watch the Much Ado trailer), there is a charity auction on the go that will let you hang out with him for a day.

– And finally, a review of the “geeksploitation” film, Zero Charisma.  When I get a hold of this I’ll have a movie night, promise.

And that’s your links for another week.  Keep on ignoring those seers, and we’ll see you next week!

Humpday Links for May 30

May comes to an end and we slide into June, just in time for the weekend.  Have some links to get you through, and then get ready for summer!

– If you’re like me and you spend a lot of time contemplating the coming zombie apocalypse, you might want to check out these homes.

Jonathan Coulton has a new song, Redshirt, the theme for the upcoming John Scalzi novel of the same name.

– This is a touching little tale of how R2D2 allowed a dad deployed overseas to still have dinner with his family.

– I have to believe this 10-year-old is being raised up right.

– I happen to think the character of Hawkeye makes total sense in the Avengers universe.  But the Avengers don’t seem to agree.

– So apparently there are some things they won’t let you talk about at TED. So…what’s the point of TED, then?

– Are you someone who loves supporting RPG projects on Kickstarter?  Hate hunting for them?  This site has your back.

– If Heroclix is your bag, then you need to get some HeroSnapZ.  I think @Doctor_Teeth might get a Christmas surprise…unless he reads this blog.

– If you are in the market for a tattoo, you’re tattoo artist has some helpful tips.

– Maybe we don’t want the Singularity, if lawyers/corporations will be involved.

– This Joan of Arc armour is made from bicycle tubes and cardboard.  I know, right!?

– Have you ever thought, “Man, I wish John Hughes and George Lucas had made a movie together.”  If you did, it might look a lot like Hughes the Force.  If not, what is wrong with you!?

– Ever wondered why the Doctor’s companions are generally young, attractive females?  Steven Moffat has your answer.

– Why just have tea, when you can have EPIC TEA!

Want to turn your living room into the bridge of a starship?  If you answer no, good day sir.  I SAID GOOD DAY!

– And finally, This a great treat from the Nerdist Channel: an interview with Leonard Nimoy.

Have anything you want to share from the web?  Drop it in the comments below.

Update: The Year of the Con

Those of you in my inner circle (anyone who reads the blog even once) will know that I declared 2012 The Year of the Con.  I am still on track to attend more cons this year than I have in years past.  But as with many great plans, the exact details have changed since implementation; life has decided to step in and deliver a few curves.  Am I still going to a metric @&%$-load of cons this year?  Yes.  But I’ve had to focus and sort out my priorities, and that has led to some changes.  Let’s take a look…

Emerald City Comicon – Unfortunately, I’ve had to drop this con from my list.  Looking at finances, I could have made attending this con work, but at the risk of missing out on one of the two other US cons I have this year.  As much as I wanted to hit a big con with my buddies, the other two cons now have a higher priority (I’ll tell you why when we get to them).  Since I’m not willing to risk missing out on the other two, this one had to go.  But it is definitely pencilled-in for next year, because there are definitely things I want to see at this con.

Calgary Expo – Given their big announcement recently (all the ST:TNG principle cast? Yes please!), it breaks my heart to have to drop this one.  But my new job at Wizard’s Comics means that I have to stay behind and watch the store while the owner and my boss are flying the Wizard’s flag at the con.  Such are the trials and tribulations of geekdom.  There are two silver linings to this cloud: 1) there is an outside possibility I can make it down for at least the Sunday, which would be cool; and 2) there are people attending that will allow me to give them money to get autographs from some of the guests.  So the Calgary Expo won’t be a total write-off, but my participation is definitely diminished.

Paizocon – Okay, here’s the first piece of positive news!  I am all registered, and locked in to run some games at the event.  I have transportation worked out, thanks to the Venture-Captain from Winnipeg; I’ll join him and a few friends in their road-trip to the con.  The only thing I haven’t done is book my hotel room, but I can now divert the funds I was saving for ECCC (*sniff*) to do this sooner rather than later.  So Paizocon is a definite go, and I am looking forward to hanging out with the company for which I volunteer.  Plus, an entire weekend of Pathfinder? Yes please!

Gencon – This con is a definite go as well.  As a Venture-Captain I get advanced dibs on volunteering to run Pathfinder events at Gencon, and I have volunteered for enough slots that Paizo is taking care of my weekend pass AND putting me up in a hotel room (with 3 other GMs).  So all I have to do is get there.  Which is where the Nerdbus comes into play.  Kris over at Warp One Comics is organizing a road trip from Edmonton to Gencon for any nerds that want to make the trip.  You can get the full package (weekend pass, hotel and transport) for a staggeringly reasonable $650.  Since I have two out of three covered already, I am opting for just transport which gets me a price reduction on that.  And looking at the latest update, it looks like it’ll be Nerd RVs as opposed to a Nerdbus.  Which makes a heck of a lot of sense, both for comfort and scale-ability of the trip.  So if you were thinking of going to Gencon, I think Nerdbus might be your best bet.

At this point you might be thinking, “Okay, but so far that is just two cons.  How does two cons equate to the Year of the Con, slappy?”  First off, that “slappy” was hurtful and unnecessary.  Second, I am adding some more cons to the list.  I’ll post later with details, but I have added the following conventions to my Year of the Con: Pop Culture Fair (March 4);  Edmonton Collectible Toy & Comic Show (April 1);  Prairie Con 33 (June 1-3); Underground Con (June 9); Animethon (August 10-12); and of course Pure Speculation is on the list as well.  So fret not, fair reader, I am packing the year with conventions big and small.

What conventions are you hitting this year?  Talk them up in the comments below…

Humpday Links for December 21

If I were pandering to the season, I’d try to do a holiday-themed list today.  The Twelve Links of Christmas, or some such.  Well, I’m not that kind of guy and I figure you might need a little break from the incessant holiday crush, so this is just my usual amazing links from around the internet.  Enjoy!

– We’ll start with something near and dear to my heart, The Hobbit trailer. I can’t believe I have to wait another year!

– Courtesy of The Mary Sue, here are 12 Christmas Trees made from Books.  Hey, I didn’t say there would be no holiday stuff, and these are pretty cool…

– This may just be the best thing ever: a Community/MacGyver mashup.

– Here is a list of the Nine Greatest Nerd Fears Today.  I’m not certain which ones scares me the most…okay, definitely number one.

– This bit of speculation about Netflix making new Firefly possible is made more interesting by the fact that Nathan Fillion posted a link to it on Twitter…

– Here are the 30 steps necessary to master anything. It really is this simple…

It appears Comic Sans has a new defender.

– So Jeff Grubb had a few interesting things to say about the Wizards of the Coast layoffs.

– In case you are a Star Trek geek that wants it to sound like you are on a starship all the time, I give you the ambient ship noise from ST:TNG and ST:TOS.  You’re welcome.

– Speaking of Star Trek, warp speed to Christmas!

– There are some truths which are held to be self-evident.  This is one of them.

– China tried to build a faux-Disney theme park, and it just didn’t work out.  I don’t know about you, but I want to go to there!

– George Takei is starring in a new Broadway musical, and all I can say is I hope he tours with it.  Or I can see a trip to New York in my future.

– Later turning out to be a joke, this #BlameTwitter info-graphic is a bit chilling, since I could see the GOP adopting it as official policy…

– I know I posted this before, but with the holidays upon us it is worth a second look: How to Make Chocolate Dice.

An Autobot Transformer Ukulele.

– Back to The Mary Sue (man I love that site!) we discover that Google is working on a rival for Siri.  Maybe this one will marry you!

– And finally, I give you Doctor Who “Yo Mama” jokes. You’re welcome!

That’s all for today!  Tune in tomorrow when I’ll have more gift giving suggestions.  And yes, @erinefraser, there will be comic suggestions on the list…

How to Shop for your Geek

We’ll get to shopping for your geek in a second, but first: I wrote a guest post for Beyond the Farthest Blog!  I was honoured to be asked to write something about the initial Star Trek pilot “The Cage” by the blog’s owner, Mike.  Thanks so much for the invite, Mike!  And all you what love Star Trek should definitely follow his blog. It is up an alley firmly in your wheelhouse.

*     *     *

It can be really hard to buy gifts for geeks.  I know this because I am a geek, and I have received many well-meaning gifts from people that didn’t understand my hobbies.  I have received “Twilight” because I like to read fantasy books, numerous children’s games because I play board games, and some really bad party murder-mystery games because I play RPGs.  If you are a non-geek buying for a geek, or even a type of geek buying for another type of geek, the most important advice I can give you is, know what your geek is into.  If you are buying for a Star Trek geek, My Little Pony is not going to cut it unless you know they are also a fan of that show.  You don’t need to understand it like he or she does; if you did, you wouldn’t need help buying for them, right?  The point is, geekdom is not generic, so you need to know your geek’s interests.

Edit: A bit of advice from @soupytoasterson on how to know what your geek is into: “Bonus tip: Ask the person you’re buying for about books they would recommend you read. Good way to get their tastes and, somewhat more importantly, what they already have.”  Advice so good I wish I’d thought of it…

Another Edit: @thinkgeek has provided a handy chart to make your shopping easier.

The second piece of advice I can give to the non-geek is: go to your local comic, game or tech store for your gifts.  Outside of the potential benefits of shopping locally, the best thing about these places is that they are generally filled with geeks, specifically geeks that are like your geek.  They have knowledge you don’t, and you should be able to walk through the door, say “I’m buying for someone into Star Trek/Superman/first-person shooters, what can you recommend?” and get an informed response.  (Note: if you don’t get an informed response, the problem is not you. Ask to talk to someone else, or leave and find another store.)  That simple question will save you from the heart-ache of the forced smile on Christmas morning, and likely result in your basking in the warm glow of geek love.

A third piece of advice, and I might be on my own on this so your mileage may vary: a gift card is perfectly okay.  If you don’t really know what your geek is into, and don’t have the time to look around the geek shops for gifts, buy a gift card. Really. Please. I would rather get a handful of local geek shop gift cards from my friends and family than, say, a Strawberry Shortcake Board Game (yes, it happened. No, I don’t still have it, it went to the Stollery).  I realize that people aren’t always comfortable giving gift cards, feeling they are too impersonal.  And I’m sure there are people that feel that way receiving them.  But speaking for myself, as a geek, a gift card tells me that: a) you know me well enough to understand what I like, and b) you want to make sure I get an item I will definitely love, so you are putting that choice in my hands.  And I respect that.

Okay, those three pieces of advice should help you buy a gift your geek will love this Thanksmasween.  Tomorrow I will have some specific gift suggestions for the various types of geek in your life, just in case you are really desperate.  In the meantime if you have any shopping advice of your own to add, drop it in the comments below.

Quiz Winners!

Thanks to everyone that submitted an entry to my Centurion Quiz.  It was highly entertaining to see how much, and how little, you know about me.  The time has come to announce the three winners, but first the answer key:

  1. Let’s start with an easy one: I changed my Twitter handle to match my blog title. What was it before that?  DorklordCanada was my original Twitter handle.
  2. Another easy one: I freelance as administrative support. What is the job title I use for that work?  I consider myself a White Collar Mercenary, since administrator just doesn’t sound cool enough.
  3. Now we come to the math question:  If I copy-edit your 27, 483 word manuscript how much will I charge you?  $151.16. And cheap at twice the price. 😉
  4. In what municipal location did I first learn to play D&D? (Need the name of the city as well, please.)  A lot of half-answers, but I was looking for city and building. So Fort McMurray Public Library was the correct answer.
  5. What is the web-comic I have followed the longest, and why?  The correct answer is PVP, because one of the main characters is named Brent.  The first part you could get from my post on webcomics, the second part…you needed to know how vain I am.
  6. Name the only character to make it into Star Trek’s second pilot.  This was on my mind because of the guest post I had just written, but the answer is Mr. Spock.  Although his character changed a bit, he was the only one brought forward from the first Star Trek pilot, “The Cage”.
  7. I am a huge fan of this Star Trek: The Next Generation alumnus, and I gave him my best Killer d20 at a Gen Con.  Who is he?  My fancrush on Wil Wheaton is no secret.  And when he put out the call for dice at Gencon 2010, I was more than happy to respond!
  8. Okay, I’ll slide you an easy two-parter.  Fill in the blanks: ___________ is my favourite RPG, and I just became a ____________ to support it.  In order, the correct answers are “Pathfinder” and “Venture-Captain”.  People did get very creative with this one, though. I didn’t even know they made a Hide the Monkey RPG…
  9. If I could be swept away on one vessel from science fiction, what would it be?  Many good answers to this one, and the truth is I wouldn’t turn my nose up at any of them.  But the correct answer is the TARDIS.  PVP shows my reaction the best…
  10. What is your favourite colour?  I was surprised, I actually got a few people with this one.  Since I am asking for your favourite colour, there was no wrong answer.  But to the person who cursed me out for not providing the answer anywhere in my blog…the answer was inside of you the whole time. Also, reading comprehension, look into it.

Okay, I can’t put it off any longer, mostly because a few of you will organize lynch mobs.  Though no one rated a perfect score, but the top three scores belong to: Michael M., Josh B. and Kirk M.!  Congratulations you guys, I’ll contact you via email to discuss your prizes.  And a big thank-you to everyone that entered; it was heartening to see so many entries from new people.  Welcome to the blog, and I hope you enjoy it for a hundred more posts.

I do have another post that will go up later this afternoon; I wanted to end the quiz suspense as soon as possible.  So stay tuned!  The afternoon got away from me, so you’ll have to be patient and wait for tomorrow morning. Worth the wait, I promise…