RPGaDay #28: Most Memorable Encounter

I was stumped on this one, until I decided to broaden my interpretation.

In 2010 I attended Gen Con for the first time in over a decade. I travelled down from Edmonton with a group of friends, and since it was my first time back in a while, chose to get the VIG, or ‘Very Important Gamer’, weekend pass. If you manage to snag one, I recommend trying it out at least once, it’s a pretty sweet deal.

One of the benefits of the pass is early admission to any of the big name panels; they jump us to the front of the line, and we sit in the front rows set aside for us. My friends and I were going in to see Wil Wheaton speak and read excerpts from his latest book (no, he’s not the MME in this case, though meeting him later would certainly qualify). As we were shown to our second-row seats (the very front row was reserved for industry and convention staff/volunteers), who should be sitting in front of us but Peter Adkison. Yep, Wizards of the Coast founding, Magic: The Gathering creating, Gen Con owning Peter Adkison.

A bit of back story. I was managing a gaming store during the period of TSR’s floundering and D&D’s near-death experience. I have a fine appreciation for what WotC buying TSR meant for the hobby at a retail level, because at that time we were staring down the barrel of a hobby without D&D. That was not a bullet most game stores could have survived, never mind the broader hobby in general. And beyond that, my favourite game of all time would go away (I hadn’t met Pathfinder yet). It was a bleak time.

Back to Gen Con. It meant a lot to me to meet the guy who unbleaked my hobby, and I really wanted to tell him that. Typical Canadian, though, I decided not to bother him and just bask in the proximity. Minutes after we sat down, of course, Mr. Adkison turns around in his chair and says, “Hey guys, enjoying Gen Con so far?” Buh.

Somewhere in the conversation which followed I managed to thank him for saving D&D from extinction, and went so far as to get him to sign my Gen Con badge. He was a very sweet, casual man, and a pleasure to talk with.

Now, that would have been cool enough. But over the next few days we kept running in to him at panels, and every time he would make a point to say hello, ask us how our con was going, and chat with us about…stuff. Most surreal moment: Peter Adkison talking to me about a character he’s playing in his home campaign. It was just such a perfect gamer nerd moment, and it’s one of many reasons I love this hobby.

RPGaDay, Day 6: Favourite RPG I Never Get to Play

A game I desperately want to play but never have is Fiasco. I love caper/heist/crime movies full of lovable losers, where things don’t go so well, but somehow they pull through. Or don’t, that’s part of the fun. But I’ve wanted to play this game since I first heard about it. That feeling intensified when Wil Wheaton played it over three amazing episodes of Tabletop (Setup) (Part 1) (Part 2). Watch them and you’ll get it. Also, Alison Haislip’s ‘dead eyes’ will haunt my dreams.

I don’t even have a real excuse for not playing it yet. My friend Scott is willing to run the game at the drop of a hat. He’s got every Fiasco setting book ever printed (or damn near), and I know we have friends to play with us because they’ve already run through it with him. There’s even a Fiasco scenario set at Gen Con! Everything and everyone is conspiring to make it clear I should play this game.

So it will happen. I’ll nail down a night in mine and Scott’s busy schedules, and we’ll get this played. After all, besides real life, when am I going to get a better chance to play the lovable loser?

What game haven’t you played, that you want to? Drop me a note in the comments.

Edge of the Nest

I took the bus to Gen Con this year. That choice was motivated largely by a lack of funds, but also by a desire to have a bit of isolation. My trip was three days there and three-and-a-half days back, which gave me plenty of time for reading and reflection. Okay, and a not insignificant amount of napping. But I don’t think I have to tell you how awesome napping can be, so I’ll focus on the first two things.

During my trip back I read two books in particular that fed into my reflection: Just a Geek, by Wil Wheaton, and The Nerdist Way, by Chris Hardwick. I can’t recommend these books enough. Both are inspiring enough on their own; together, they’re like a motivational haiduken. If you read them back-to-back like I did, expect a tectonic shift in your brainhole.

Taking what I’ve grokked from these two books, plus some strategies offered by Johnn Four’s Gamer Lifestyle, I’m entering the world of content production. While I am largely still in the pupal stage of game writing, you can expect to see content available for download here in the next 3-4 weeks. The first taste will be free, as they say; I’ll offer up some useful samples of the kind of products I’ll be writing that you can snag on this site (or another site, we’ll talk about that next). If you like what you read I hope you’ll then check out the content up for sale on my site and Drive Thru RPG.

As part of that, this site might be going away, at least in name. I’ll shift the content over to the new site at the very least, so everything I’ve posted here on RG will still exist in the aether. But if my content production approaches the levels I’d like, I’ll really only have time for one blog, and so I’ll have to go with the one promoting my product. But don’t worry, the new site won’t be pimping my material constantly. In fact you’ll see a lot of what I wrote on RG, with, yes, the occasional mention when I publish something new.

I honestly have no idea how far I’ll take this, but I’m going to push myself out of the nest and see if I fly. I hope you’ll stick around and watch me flap my wings. Sink or soar, it should be fun to watch.

My Dice Obsession

I love dice.

“Well duh, Brent. You’re a gamer, of course you love dice.”

Well sure, but I reeeeeally love dice. When I was 12 I typed a program into my VIC 20, in Basic, that allowed me to apply a chi-squared test to my dice. I then rolled each of my dice 100 times, entering each result into the program, to see whether my dice were returning unbiased rolls. Also, the gamer gene that makes a gamer prefer one colour of dice over another? I don’t have that gene; I will play with any dice of any colour. I also lack the gene that tells me I have enough dice. Because I Never Have Enough Dice! I could be swimming in a room full of dice, Scrooge McDuck-style (and thank-you, Wil Wheaton and Hijinks Ensue for capturing that image) and I would style want more dice. And while I respect your quaint myth regarding the touching of another gamer’s dice, I don’t personally believe it, so you can use my dice any time. Because science.

So I’m always on the lookout for cool, special and/or unusual dice to add to my collection. I thought today I’d highlight a few dice I have that are special to me for one reason or another, or just plain neato.

Of course I have d20 of various sizes…

The d20 on the left is about the size of a baseball; the right-hand d20 is regualr size.

The d20 on the left is about the size of a baseball; the right-hand d20 is regular size.

I have themed dice, depending on what type of game I’m playing:

Pictured: Steampunk d6 (left), Elvish d10 (centre), Elvish d6 (right)

Pictured: Steampunk d6 (left), Elvish d10 (centre), Elvish d6 (right)

I have dice that don’t even use recognizable numbers, because adding that layer of complexity to dice-rolling is fun!

Centre: A d10 using oriental-style calligraphy, with Yes/No markers, below.

Centre: A d10 using oriental-style calligraphy, with Yes/No dragon markers, below.

I have a set of spindle shaped dice that were a fad a while back. While I like them, I think they’re really only practical for d10 and lower; you need a really level surface to make the d12 and d20 work.

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d20 on the left, down to d4 on the right.

One of the prides of my collection is a die I made myself. When I was about 13 or so I came across a piece of gravel while digging out my Mom’s garden. At first I thought Mom had

A battered reminder of good times.

A battered reminder of good times.

thrown out one of my dice, but it turned out to be a piece of rock shaped almost perfectly like a d4. So of course I cleaned it up, painted pips on it, and used it until it became a little too banged up to be considered truly random (if it ever was). But I keep it as a reminder of my early gaming days. Every once in a while I even sneak it into use when I’m GMing. Don’t tell my players.

Okay, that’s all I’m showing off today. I was trying to figure out a way to properly take a picture of my Flashing d20 (courtesy of Think Geek), but I couldn’t capture it flashing with my simple camera phone technology.  So I’ll hold that back, along with some other special dice, for another post.

In the meantime, why not tell me about your special dice. Do you have any dice superstitions or rituals? The comments are there, just waiting for you…

Geek & Sundry

As a geek in the Age of Geeks, every day there is some new nerdy thing offered up for my amusement.  Links, images, movies, tv shows; the dork train is pulling out of the station and everyone is trying to get on board.  A lot of it is bad, no denying.  A small portion is good, and an even smaller portion of that is excellent, obviously created by one of us, a nerd with talent.

My fellow dorks, I predict Geek & Sundry will be excellent with a bullet!

Announced officially at this past weekend’s Wondercon, Geek & Sundry is a premium YouTube channel founded and Executive Produced by Felicia Day (yes, she of The Guild and Dragon Age: Redemption).  When it launches on April 2, it will feature a variety of weekly and bi-weekly programming aimed at just about every facet of geekdom: motion comics presented by Dark Horse; Tabletop (“Think “Celebrity Poker” meets “Dinner for Five”…“*) hosted by Wil Wheaton; Written by a Kid, with sf&f/horror stories by real kids brought to the screen as shorts by talented directors and artists;  and Sword & Laser, a look at the world of sci-fi/fantasy literature and hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt.  The channel will also feature season five of The Guild, as well as The Flog (“Join Geek Goddess Felicia Day in a whimsical vlog show, as she explores quirky new hobbies and shares experiences that connect her with her favorite people – her fans – in person as well as across the web.“*)  And then later in the fall will see the launch of Learning Town, a show starring the nerd-music duo of Paul & Storm.

I’m not sure I can tell you how excited I am about this.  It would be enough for me that Geek & Sundry packs a lot of what I want to watch in one neat little bundle.  As geeks, we have lived in a sort of “hunter/gatherer” phase when it comes to our internet viewing; the geek shows are definitely out there, but you had to forage for them.  I think Geek & Sundry represents the next stage, the “agricultural” stage of our geekdom.  We are cultivating our nerdiness, and we won’t have to travel as far afield to find it any more.

I also find the creation of this channel a bit of a validation for my long-held belief that the internet is the future of television viewing.  The nature of television, how it is viewed and how it is packaged and presented to us, is changing.  The portal by which many people experience small screen viewing is no longer the television receiver, but the computer.  I know people who don’t have, in the strictest sense, a television in their home; what they have is a 52″ monitor for their computer/game console.  And why not?  The computer is (legally or illegally) often the fastest way to access television content, and ease of use has played a big role in the changes to this medium.  And the major networks are slowly acknowledging this fact, if the number of television programs that can be viewed on websites is any indication.

But I never believed that the big push towards on-line programming was going to come from the networks.  I always new it was going to come from an Alpha Nerd among us.  Because on-line programming is inherently creator-friendly, in a way that the current network system can never be.  Simply put, it cuts out the middleman, allowing the creator to bring his/her creation directly to the viewers.  Thanks to the internet, if you have a camera, a website and an idea, you can put a show out.  Sometimes, as noted earlier, this results in bad (in all the many facets of that word) stuff getting in front of our eyes.  But the trade off is a wider range of shows to look at, and a greater chance that you’ll find the shows you want.

This puts some responsibility back on us, because we can’t afford to be as passive about what we support.  We have no networks to blame if a show doesn’t do well, because on-line our support (or lack of it) is direct.  If you love something on-line and want it to succeed, you need to get the word out.  You really have no excuse not to; if you dwell in the internet sea enough to watch programming here, I’d find it hard to believe you didn’t also have some form of Twitter, G+, Tumblr, Reddit, Facebook et al at your disposal.

Geek & Sundry launches its programming on April 2, 2012.  Mark that date, folks.  That date is when television changes forever.

(It should be noted that Chris Hardwick also announced the launch of his geek-centric YouTube channel, The Nerdist Channel, also launching on April 2nd.  I’ll write about them next week, but since I heard about Geek & Sundry first they got first billing.)

Opinions?  Thoughts?  Amusing tribble anecdotes?  Comments are just below…

*From the official press release on the Geek & Sundry site.

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…