If you are new to the PAX Phenomenon, you could easily mistake it for a big computer game nerd hub. But no matter how many flashy-lights and big badda-booms you saw, almost everybody there spent some time recharging with cards, miniatures, or boards.
“Journey to a distant land where bold adventurers wield magical blades against dark creatures from the shadowy depths. Thrill to the arcane power of enigmatic sorcerers as they master forbidden arts to strike down their diabolical enemies. Marvel at the courage of common folk who refuse to surrender to the tide of evil sweeping over the land. These, my friend, are the CHAMPIONS OF AETALTIS!” –Marc Tassin
I’ve been working on a really exciting project for the past couple months alongside the folks at Mechanical Muse and Aetaltis. Champions of Aetaltis is a heroic fantasy anthology that is set in author/game designer/creator Marc Tassin’s world of Aetaltis. It’s going to include stories by some of the top authors in fantasy today, and will develop the already wonderful world into something truly spectacular.
What is Aetaltis? Well, above all, it’s a fantasy world, much like people are used to seeing in Dungeons and Dragons, Forgotten Realms, and Pathfinder. What makes Aetaltis exciting is that it is a platform upon which many things can be built—games, stories, comics, art—and as we are learning, the possibilities are endless.
With the anthology, 20 popular authors, including Michael A. Stackpole, David Farland, Lucy A. Snyder, Larry Correia, David Gross, Elaine Cunningham, Ed Greenwood, Cat Rambo, and more, will be exploring the different aspects, areas, cultures, and legends of the world of Aetaltis and creating a rich story base concerning the people who live there. What excites me about this project is that it takes the tropes I grew up loving, and runs with them instead of fighting them or trying to reinvent them. Yet, the world still manages to be fresh and exciting. I asked Marc Tassin, the world’s creator, to explain this concept a little better than I can. So please, welcome Marc!
GeekMom Melanie: What makes Aetaltis different?
Marc Tassin: I’ve been asked this question a lot since I launched the Kickstarter, so I figured I’d better address it. So here we go…
Readers: What makes Aetaltis different from other classic fantasy settings?
Marc: It’s not! <Use your imagination to insert the screeching noise of the needle scraping across a record!>
Not the answer you were expecting? No problem. I’ll explain.
Anyone can break the rules, because breaking the rules is easy! Sure, it takes skill to break the rules in an artful way, but it’s not hard to smash the norms. You just go in and swap out a bunch of stuff and kick the rest over. Boom! You’re done!
But taking something beloved, embracing a long-held tradition, or working with ideas that are so deeply ingrained in our imagination that they’re the stuff “everybody knows”—taking those things and then doing something really wonderful and compelling with them? Now that is hard. In fact, it’s really hard.
That’s why Hollywood often avoids the hard thing. For example, trying to present Superman in his purest man-of-steel, heart-of-gold, “there’s always a better way,” boy scout in red underpants form without looking stupid is really, really hard. Do it wrong and it comes out really wrong since, like I said before, “everybody knows.” Hollywood can’t afford that risk. It’s way easier to skip all that and just change things up a bit. Doing it the other way is hard!
But… it’s not impossible.
Which brings us to Aetaltis. I decided that I wanted to embrace the traditions and tropes that we love about fantasy, and I took the hard road. After all, I love that stuff! I just wanted to see it done right! It’s like the artisan food movement. It’s not about avant garde departures from the norm—it’s about doing the classics exceptionally well.
So if I’ve done my job right—and if the reaction I’ve received from the authors and pre-readers is to be believed, I have—Aetaltis will give you even more of everything that made classic fantasy classic in a way that you’ll absolutely love. It will do it so artfully and respectfully that you’ll give it a place in your imagination, along with all the other wonderful worlds that it was borne from.
This is also why I turned to the authors I did. I’m not ignorant to the fact that having a New York Times bestseller on your project is a good thing (it is), but that isn’t why I asked the authors I asked. I asked them because they’re really good authors, and you need a really good author to achieve the goals I’ve set out to achieve. Like I said, doing this right is hard. Not just anyone can pull this off.
So there you go! How is Aetaltis different? In the ways that count, it isn’t—and that’s a good thing.
Thanks for reading! I hope I helped to shed some light on my goals with this ambitious project.
Thanks so much for joining us, Marc, and for explaining why Aetaltis brings the best of the old and the new together into one world. The Kickstarter campaign for Champions of Aetaltis will end on June 23, so if this sounds like something you would enjoy, I encourage you to head over and back it!
Gather your family at the table with paper, pencils, and dice.
First tell them to draw a quick picture of themselves—stick figures are fine. On the same paper, they should draw their shadow: the person, monster, or alter-ego that is longing to get them in trouble, to do whatever they want regardless of the consequences. Then assign one die (different colors) to each of these drawings. Finally, say to your family, “You are asleep in the house. Suddenly you wake up to a strange sound.” And so the Shadows game begins.
This is one of the simplest role-playing games around, which makes it great for kids. And perfect for adults who are interested in RPGs, but don’t know where to begin. Shadows, by Zak Arntson, is a group storytelling game with a fun twist. Whenever the leader of the group asks about a move, the player has to answer twice—what they want to do in a situation, and what their shadow wants to do. The decision is made by dice.
My children and I have played the Shadows game many times, and this was the game I chose when I did an “Intro to RPG” event at my local homeschooling group. I wanted a game with a short prep time, so we could jump right into the action. Experienced gamers really, really enjoy character creation, spending weeks on stats and backstories. But with kids, they just want to play.
There are many systems out there (feel free to comment below with your favorite) that are quick on the start-up. Risusby S. John Ross is one I like. It has enough structure to satisfy kids who want more than Shadows, but with a twenty second character creation, there’s no waiting. My favorite part of Risus is how characters are defined by cliches. You can make up your own or be inspired by their example list:
Gambler: Betting, cheating, winning, running very fast.
Computer Geek: Hacking, programming, fumbling over introductions.
My kids enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, so one afternoon I took out Risus, a list of Greek gods, and a list of Greek monsters. I told the kids they were demi-gods, and monsters were ravaging our downtown. They grabbed their dice, picked whom their powerful parent was, wrote down a cliché or two, and we were off on an exciting adventure.
Now perhaps you are an experienced gamer and want to bring your geeklings into the fold of serious RPGs. There are also many systems that allow for expansive character creation and detailed worlds (again, list your favorites below.) Anything with the PDQ# system by Chad Underkoffler is creative and easy to run. I once ran a long campaign with my kids and their friends in the Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies world with great success.
My husband did a few one-shot Dungeons and Dragons games with the kids when they were younger. But he made their simple character stats for them, “I want to be a really cool warrior with a big sword!” I had asked if he ever wanted to run a family game, but he remembers the amount of time it took to create a satisfying game week after week for his friends way back when. So that was a “no.”
My personal introduction into RPGs is a system called GURPS (generic universal role playing system). However, I will never read all those books for the GM (game master). Luckily, there’s this handy-dandy version called GURPS LITE. It’s perfect for playing with kids, and I used it for a short series with my own kids a few years back. The character sheets were still too unwieldy, so I wrote up my own called BURPS (beginner universal role playing system). Please feel free to grab it for your own game.
Not enough suggestions? Go here. Spend an afternoon on an adventure with your children using your collective imagination and the clattering of dice.
Fantasy Life, out October 24 for the Nintendo 3DS, can perhaps best be described as a cross between Final Fantasy and Animal Crossing. The game is a blend of RPG and life simulation, giving you the opportunity to choose a Life (or class) that best suits your play style. If you prefer fighting, magic using, crafting, or gathering, there’s a Life for you.
With a title illustration by Amano Yoshitaka and music by Nobuo Uematsu, Final Fantasy fanatics might be tempted to pick the game up on that pedigree alone. While there is an overall quest with a standard RPG story line, you’re not in any rush to complete it, so the similarity to Final Fantasy pretty much ends there (give or take an airship). If you would like to merely stand in the blacksmith shop and work for two hours, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ll level and complete tasks for your Life master all the same.
12 classes, or Lifes, are available in Fantasy Life. I chose Angler for my first Life, as I often enjoy gathering and crafting classes in games. After working my way through the first two chapters of the main quest by mostly dodging enemies, though, I decided to try a new Life. My days of being an Angler weren’t all that terribly exciting as they were, although Applefish did tremble at my expert prowess with a fishing pole. Okay, not really. Once I switched to Magician, though, I started progressing through the main storyline at a more enjoyable pace. But I keep eyeing the cooking Life…
If you switch your Life at any point in the game, you keep the skills you’ve already learned, so you have the opportunity to master all 12 Life classes in Fantasy Life. Sorry, Applefish, but you shall keep trembling. This gives the game a large amount of playability and bang for your buck, always a welcome feature when buying any video game.
The localization team deserves a special shout-out for the clever wordplay and jokes in the character dialogue, which couldn’t have been an easy task when translating the original Japanese release. More than once I’ve caught myself grinning at the in-game text, which is well-polished and flows well.
If you’re a lifelong JRPG fan, or the type of gamer who fishes and tailors more in games like EverQuest than you do hunt, Fantasy Life might be right up your alley. It’s a quiet, colorful game that even kids 10 and up can play, making it a great diversion on those long road trips you have coming up for the holidays.
Fantasy Life is available October 24, 2014, for the Nintendo 3Ds at a suggested retail price of $39.99.
GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.
Since 2011, the Kaleidoscope track at Dragon Con has added a special place for kids 9-13 and their parents at a convention that can sometimes otherwise have a more adult feel (especially at night!).
One of the best things about the track is that it offers those families a place to meet each other and talk about the great geekery that they find they don’t have in common with most of the other people on the playground or PTA meeting. This year I attended one of these, “Gaming for Kids,” which brought together Jodi Black of Beautiful Brains, dads Bryan Young and Jonathan McFarland, and 12-year-old Sam Rittwage.
The panel had a lot to say about video games, especially, of course, Minecraft. It served as a perfect example of a game to use to teach your kids about online interactions, as well as a way to give them a safe space for their first online gaming by using servers to which only they and their friends have access. Through this method, the panel encourages teaching them proper behavior in online gaming, including saying only things to one another that you would say if you were with them in person.
“If you’re the parent of a young boy, talk to them about the rules, and make sure they know,” McFarland said. “My son said something that would be common for adolescent boys, and I asked him if he knew what it meant.”
Kids easily pick up language from other players in games as well as from other kids at school, but they often don’t realize the nature or severity of the language, particularly the violent imagery often brought into online gaming chat. The panel recommended playing with your kids or first playing through the games they want to play, even if they’re not particularly appealing to you. It will give you the opportunity to both understand the content as well as to lead them in appropriate online interaction.
The range of games recommended for kids varied somewhat with age but ranged from the distinctly kid-friendly Skylanders and Disney Infinity to M-rated games like Assassin’s Creed. Young noted that he chooses games not by the rating but by the actual content. For example, slaughtering zombies is different from Grand Theft Auto, where the focus is entirely on real-life illegal activities.
In the second half of the panel’s time, they moved on to tabletop gaming, largely with a long list of recommendations for all ages and interests. Many were old favorites for us, but some where new. I suspect our family’s new favorite (which we picked up in the dealers’ room after this panel) will be Call of Catthulhu! If you’re looking for something new to try out, here are the rest of their suggestions:
We all know how hard it can be to find a game that’s interesting for you but easy enough for your little ones who can’t read yet. For that problem, try:
⚫ Telestrations is a mashup of Telephone and Pictionary. (Of course, you can also play this with a notebook and your own list of words without buying the box.)
Finally, the panel had two great suggestions for your general family game play enjoyment:
⚫ Institute the 20-minute rule. You can play anything for 20 minutes. After that, check to see if everyone’s still having fun. No? Time to move on.
⚫ Make old games new again. Create your own rules. Young suggested the example of adding dice and action figures to Candyland, calling it “Siege of Candy Castle.” Make the kids figure out the mechanics and why the pieces are there, which also gives them insight into why rules exist in games and how they can change the outcome.
Do I really want to be a large, bearded Scottish warrior with a quirk called, “Piss and Vinegar”? At the moment, that’s my role-playingcharacter in a GURPS game. His name is Guy McNorm and his only goal is to live quietly as a blacksmith in a small town. Unfortunately, he’s a Weirdness Magnet, so that’s not possible. Which is why he’s really grumpy all the time. Yet when the crazy starts to happen, he’s the first one in the mess of things swingin’ his blacksmith hammer. Fun character to play. Totally unlike me…well…huh, come to think of it:
I fantasize about having quiet days, but they rarely happen. Honestly, when I have too many days in a row without kid interruptions or mad dashing around, I’m itchin’ for something. And when chaos strikes in my family or friends, I’m right in there.
Darn. Going into this post, I was going to say how I was the opposite of my character, how our fantasy life is a way to escape. And that’s true too.
I’m not physically strong—Guy is. I’m the least intimidating person I know in real life—Guy is a six foot four, large man with long white hair and a kilt; he has lots of points in “Intimidation.” So, perhaps there is some fantasy happening. Unlike in my real life, Guy punches people in the face when they annoy him. He doesn’t care if you’re crying or hurt; he’ll just tell you to keep moving. He doesn’t cuddle. He’s not romantic. Guy eats whatever he wants, whenever he wants. And very unlike me, Guy curses a lot.
However, Guy also writes bad limericks. We share that in common.
There is a survey that can tell you what you would be if you were a Dungeons and Dragons character. But that’s “what kind of dream will I have according to who I am?”, instead of “what do my dreams say about me?” If you are interested in taking it, or seeing results of over a thousand other people taking it, go here.
Each game system is different in character creation, whether it’s online or tabletop. GURPS has a wide range for types of characters, which makes it very revealing about what you choose. Some people take on similar guises from game to game, while others (like me) never have the same type twice. My theory is that my character creation is less about overall personality, and more about what’s happening in current situation.
What about your characters? Do you agree?
Let’s look at my characters over the years and what was going on at the time:
Kira: A beautiful, red-haired female mage, very nice and shy. I didn’t create this character. She was an NPC I took over as my first introduction into RPG gaming with friends in college. That sums up my life at the time since I didn’t feel much control of any part of it either. Yet I managed to be happy with what I had anyway.
Essie: A small, quiet female exotic dancer, deadly with knives, with a horrific past that gave her a death wish, and wore only black. This was my first original creation. My life at the time was homeschooling two small children in a parenting world where everyone was ten years older than me, while going back to college with students ten years younger. I didn’t fit in anywhere and was kinda angsty about it. That’s reflected in my character. Not sure about the exotic dancer part…
Lindor: A pre-gendered teen with awesome magical powers, dewy-eyed and ready to explore the world. I had graduated college and was amazed at how much time I suddenly had. I was also teaching music to a great group of kids. So, I guess my character reflects my happiness? The pre-gendered thing was an odd, but interesting concept I made up with dangerous herbs Lindor’s people took to delay any knowledge of gender until firmly established as an adult. Maybe having two kids on the verge of puberty made me realize how much our culture pounds in gender-specific stuff?
Percy: A squeamish male vampire dandy who had sex with pretty much anything that moved. This is less about my life at the time, and more about acting as one of the callous jerks I have met too often in reality. He is probably one of my favorite characters ever, and you can read more about him here: How To Get Laid in Every RPG Session.
Takamina: Tak! Tak! She’s a pyromaniac! A short, young woman with two long braids, who made exploding potions that she wore in a bandolier. She was cute and dangerous. In the midst of playing this character there was a lot of stress financially and career-wise with my husband, and then my social network collapsed. Or exploded. Exploded is probably a better word since I felt like my life was daily picking up pieces.
Guy McNorm: See description from beginning.
So what’s next for me? In two years I will have both kids away from home, and I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I’m curious how that will manifest in a fantasy world. Maybe someone with wings…
Once, long ago (circa the year two thousand and ten), in a faraway land known as “Hollywood,” a film calleth Knights of Badassdom was born unto us all. But nay, dost thou wit what vile knave durst keepeth this greatness from yon public til now?
Well, it’s complicated. At San Diego Comic-Con 2011, screaming fans-to-be got to see a glimpse of KoB. And then hardly a word about it was heard until last year when there was a buyers’ screening in March. Fast forward to July when Entertainment One acquired its distribution rights, and fans started hearing that there would finally be a release. And that is about the shortest synopsis possible of a lot of mostly uninteresting drama.
Fast forward again to last month when Entertainment One announced there wouldn’t be a regular release, but instead a limited release through Tugg.com.
Tugg works by being the middleman between anyone at all and local theaters. When the opportunity was announced, I filled out Tugg’s brief request form, asking for a screening of Knights of Badassdom in my area. A week later, they contacted me having also made contact with a theater willing to host the screening. At that point, Tugg posts an event page where people can buy tickets. If a minimum threshold is met (set by the theater), the screening is a go.
Our local screening, like many others, sold out easily. Though many of the screenings were held Tuesday, others have not yet happened and tickets are still available.
It’s not the director’s cut, but it’s the movie, and sometimes you take what you get.
Is it worth it?
If you already knew all that and haven’t yet bought a ticket, then you probably are wondering whether those 85 minutes are worth your cash. I can answer that with a single-question quiz:
a) have you, or someone you love, ever played in a LARP?
b) have you ever played an RPG?
c) were you tortured by the Ye Olde Butchered Englishe in the first paragraph of this post?
If you answered a and—and this is critical—have a sense of humor about your beloved activity, then yes, you should absolutely see this movie. If you answered b, you are likely to enjoy it as well. If you answered c, it’s going to be a long 85 minutes. And if you’re not familiar with RPGs, much less the world of LARPing, you’re going to get a little fun out of Peter Dinklage and his swords, and then you’re going to spend the rest of it wondering if people actually do this and WTF is going on on that screen.
Is this going to be the greatest piece of cinema of the year, nominated for eight Academy Awards and inspiring children everywhere to stop bullying and love the LARP? Nope, not even a little bit. What you are getting is precisely what you expect from the trailer, so let me summarize:
Imagine Tyrion Lannister and Steve Zahn get Jason Stackhouse to pass out from a wicked bong/bourbon combo, drag him unwillingly into a LARP, and then accidentally summon an actual succubus, which they fight with River Tam and a Viking who doesn’t know how to break character. Throw in a George R. R. Martin body count, the fake blood budget of The Cabin in the Woods, a rubber monster suit similar to the effects quality of the Golgothan in Dogma, and a shiny glaze of metal (both weapons and music), and there you are.
If that’s not the funniest thing you’ve heard all day, then you should absolutely not see this movie. And we probably shouldn’t hang out.
Further, if you don’t have a sense of humor about your nerddom (and I fully expect to see some blog post somewhere to this effect), you’re going to rant about how it’s actually a movie about two people who didn’t want to be in the LARP, that they’re really making fun of LARPers, and that the pretty girl with “+3 ass of perfection” (Summer Glau) is only there because she came with a guy (who is her cousin, not her boyfriend), and something something stereotype something. Lighten up and go see something from a foreign film festival. This one’s not for you.
The alternate nerd rage option is something about how they’re just pandering to nerddom. To which I say, pander away! Amuse me in ways I like to be entertained! Those of you who object can go watch another generic movie about a handsome guy with a gun that you won’t be able to distinguish from all the other handsome-guy-with-gun movies in six months.
If you love the game Munchkin because of what it was designed as—playful humor about that one person in your game group who’s taking it all a little too seriously… If you’ve been in a LARP with that guy who seriously just refuses to break character even in the face of actual danger… If you want to see Peter Dinklage on shrooms swinging a pair of swords… Then. This. Movie. Is. Yours.
Yea, verily, get thee to a screening. And further, let’s hope that someday we might get a director’s cut.
As a female gamer, I am acutely aware of the lack of interest gaming companies show in what interests and attracts me. Certainly I find games that I enjoy, but historically women have not been the target audience nor the participants of most game development. If we were, there would be more female characters with more role playing options and we would have the sensible option to don yoga pants and running shoes in fight mode. Fortunately, there is a new girl in town: 3 Turn Productions.
A new game development company focusing on women and gaming, 3 Turn seeks to produce games that extend the female imagination and play preferences. How the company came about is just as interesting as its founder. Judy Tyrer, mother and English Literature major, had always been a gamer. When she found programming, however, she found her calling. Rather than listen to statistics, she launched herself into a game development career at the age of 50. Being over the age of 30 and a female in the game development world is unique in itself, but Judy committed to her new life and learned everything she could. By six months in, she was pitching games to the company she worked for, gathering experience and information as she went. Eventually, her belief in doing what you love turned into a belief in creating what you love and she decided to embark on a new adventure.
“Games are an extension of our imagination,” Judy explains, but if 99% of games are focused on the male imagination, women are marginalized as an afterthought. Her love of virtual worlds and role playing, combined with her fascination around what inspired women and how women choose to obtain power, led her to form 3 Turn Productions and begin prototyping their first offering: Ever, Jane.
Ever, Jane is a virtual RPG based on the collected works of Jane Austen. A life long fan of Austen’s work, Tyrer knew it was the world she wanted to begin with. The basis of many women’s fantasies, the world of Austen is intriguing and proper, seductive and clever. Players can create their avatars based on the personal and physical traits of beloved characters from the books. The objective is to improve one’s station, solicit invites, and ruin your enemies by getting noticed, either through gossip or actions, but not too noticed. Blatant misbehavior will backfire, and so just as in Austen’s society, propriety is a delicate dance.
A prototype quality version is already out and available to download and play. According to Tyrer, this initial phase is all about forming community. So far, people are loving what is available, with many individuals spending time in the game to help newer players assimilate and build relationships. She tells the story of a player who jumped in and immediately began using inappropriate language and more. Instead of feeding the troll, the other players began questioning, treating him as a foreigner, asking what land he came from and pretending to look up translations. Eventually, he left. That seemed like a very Austen (and hilarious) way to handle the situation to me.
3 Turn Productions has recently launched a Kickstarter to raise development funds. You can access the game from there to try it for yourself, and become a backer for game perks once it is released. I asked Tyrer what characters she has developed herself and she said she had created an Emma-type character to be a liaison to new people in the game. This kind of character would be well acquainted with the village and rich enough to not have to participate in the quest for marriage. She also created a Mr. Collins type character so that she could be awkward and appropriately inappropriate. She is attracted to the weird characters, and I can’t blame her. I myself would jump at the chance to play someone who exemplifies the ridiculous or oblivious like Mr. Collins or Mrs. Jennings. It is, after all, these characters that reveal some of the best traits in our heroes and heroines.
But the most important question, the one I was sure my dear readers would be most interested in hearing, is whether or not we will be able to virtually watch Mr. Darcy emerge from a lake, soaked and deep in thought. It may not be in the books, but has certainly become part of the fantasy. Tyrer laughed and assured me it was possible, but this idea, like much of the Ever, Jane world, relies on getting enough funding to support the beautiful graphics they want to cultivate. If you are a gamer (or not) and a fan of Austen, I encourage you to check it out. I’ll see you in there, with a character based on the naughty Crawfords.
The guys behind the Accursed RPG clearly have a sense of humor, choosing to launch their dark fantasy game full of monsters and witches on Friday the 13th of 2013. I suppose that gives this wonderfully dark RPG an extra dose of wickedness.
The world of Accursed is one with Witches that have ruled the land and turned innocent humans into monsters forced to do their bidding. These monsters are the Accursed and now that the Witches have lost their hold on the world, the Accursed have turned from minions to adversaries.
Their terrible forms prevent them from ever returning to the lives they’ve left behind, but it doesn’t stop them from working against the Witches. The Accursed now try to help the humans they once hurt and to lift the world from the darkness cast by the evil Witches.
Accursed is an officially licensed Savage Worlds product and the plan is to produce two core rulebooks for the game. They’re currently seeking funding to produce those books, complete with beautiful artwork created just for Accursed.
You can check out the Kickstarter for Accursed and make a pledge to get PDFs, hardcopies and even a chance to have the designers GM a game for you and your friends.
ConnectiCon is such a visual treat. As Corrina mentioned in her post, the cosplay is fantastic, usually homemade, and enough to keep you entertained if you just sit and watch the crowd. I kept my giggles in check on the elevators in the hotel because they were always filled with random cosplayers having banal conversations.
Zombie: Have you tried any of the hotel restaurants?
Power Ranger: Not yet.
Wonder Woman: The one near the front desk is pretty good.
But there’s so much to do! I’ve written about this con in the past, but this year I did something I’ve always wanted to do: play a long RPG. In previous years, I did performances and panels, which made it hard to commit to anything that took up a huge chunk of the day. But this time, I was there to help my daughter at artist alley, make sure my son was busy, and enjoy myself. Part of the fun was getting to talk with some of the guests. I kept exclaiming in delight while reading Jim Cummings’s bio. I had no idea he was the voice of so many characters! And a delight in person. I did not have a chance to see Marina Sirtis, but several friends did and filled me in with how cool she is.
I played Caravan on Friday and after four hours the group was in a walled, rat plague infested desert city surrounded by a tribe of gnolls, and huddled in a ziggurat where we just found a giant spider. Of course I had to go back on Saturday and figure out how to get out of that mess! Lots o’ fun.
I also met up with friends I only see at this convention, juggled, danced, danced, and danced some more (with glow sticks!) A nod to the first DJ of Friday night who really kicked off the party. ‘Til next year!
The Mistborn Aventure Game, developed by Crafty Games, is based on the Mistborn trilogy written by Brandon Sanderson. The original three book series follows a band of heroes put together to accomplish the impossible and defeat a god. The world of Mistborn is populated with memorable characters, a setting where ash falls from the sky every day, and a magic system that is compelling and unique.
Mistborn seems to be tailor-made for creating a game in that universe, so when I had the chance to ask one of the Mistborn Adventure Game creators, Alex Flagg, some questions about the game, I just had to know what it was like. He talked about developing the game, the world of Scadriel, working with writer Brandon Sanderson, and more.
(Warning: Some spoilers for the novels follow.)
Mistborn seems like a setting perfectly suited for creating an RPG. Did you find that to be the case, or were there some unexpected challenges?
It was Mistborn’s suitability as an RPG setting that drew me to the series in the first place. After I read the first 30-40 pages of Mistborn: The Final Empire (the first novel in the series), I said to myself, “This guy’s a gamer.” The fundamental conflicts of the Final Empire’s society, the well-thought-out and highly detailed magic system, and challenges Kelsier’s crew faced seemed almost purpose built for a tabletop game to me. The world was just bursting with possibilities for fun and adventure. As it turns out, I was right; Brandon was indeed a player, and jumped at the opportunity to have an RPG made of his books. And he’s been highly supportive of all our efforts since.
We are pleased as (absinth-spiked) punch to welcome our new sponsor for the week, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab; “Purveyors of Fine Esoteric Goods, Purfumes, and Oils.” The lab is a great, geeky, gothy store featuring unique scents formulated in the spirit of some beloved genre institutions.
We specialize in formulating body and household blends with a dark, romantic Gothic tone. Our scents run the aesthetic gamut of magickal, pagan and mythological blends, Renaissance, Medieval and Victorian formulas, and horror / Gothic-themed scents.
To give you an idea of the whimsical potions they produce, we’ll be featuring a different (and especially geeky) product each day this week. Today’s featured item: their RPG series of scents:
In most pen and paper fantasy RPGs, three of the primary attributes that you must choose for your character are race, class, and alignment. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s RPG scent series was designed to emulate the character creation process, and are meant to be layered in order to create a character concept. In short: you layer your class, race, and the two fragrances that compose your alignment to construct your character scent.
After signing myself up for Glitch, I decided to let my kids develop characters of their own (under my e-mail addresses and with my close supervision). Over the weekend my oldest son took a trip to the dark side of Glitch: “Glitch Hell“.
Simply put, you visit Hell by dying. You can visit Hell several times, and there is even a separate set of achievements you can earn from multiple trips to Hell. Those who are experienced in the game might think that my son simply walked away from the computer, forgetting to “Exit the World.” But in my son’s case, he was mining rocks with another character who offered him a substance called “No-No Powder“.
No-No Powder is Glitch cocaine, my friends. You sniff it, get high, and then encounter this horrible crash that can only be saved from death by another “hit” of the No-No Powder. I have some in my backpack, picked up from someone who left it on the ground. I haven’t used it, but instead was planning to sell it for money.
His avatar sniffed the stuff, experienced the 6 minutes of maximum mood and energy, and then crashed HARD. The avatar died, went to Hell, then resurrected upon completing a task (my son crushed grapes). Upon resurrection, you have zero mood and near-zero energy and are very close to dying again. My son had very little food, very little currants (money) and no skills to make anything.
Sounds like a textbook drug addict…rehabilitation time!
This was not something I expected to have to do so soon, but I grabbed my arsenal of inspirational, lesson-teaching messages and quickly took over the computer control of my son’s Glitch character. We got Mace Windu fed, educated and built up his account a little under my direction. Then we had to discuss drug use, Internet chatting, the existence of hell and responsible gaming all at once on Saturday night.
“What did we learn?”
“Don’t sniff the no-no powder….”
“When is it a good time to use drugs?”
“When a doctor says so….”
“Will we ever sniff no-no powder again?”
“Do we take stuff from strangers?”
This whole experience — which took about an hour of our Saturday night, also got me thinking about how family-friendly this game might actually be. There’s a lot of…um, sophomoric humor scattered throughout the game that my sons probably won’t understand, but I feel nervous just the same about exposing them to it.
My feelings about my kids seeing Glitch are becoming similar to my concerns about my sons watching The Simpsons, by the way. They really enjoy the humor, but (a) Mom and Dad have to be nearby when they’ve watched it and (b) it has to be a rerun that Mom and Dad are already familiar with so they know what adult themes to expect.
I refer to role-playing, not actually having sex with your fellow gamers (unless it’s a whole different kind of role-playing group.) I played a character for about a year that had had sex every single gaming session (not alone), and you can do it too!
I did not set out to make such a stud, but it became a highlight in my role-playing career. He was a good guy, but a total jerk. I had the fun of acting like a villain in my personal life, but plot-wise I always did was the hero (so the party wouldn’t kick me out.) I’ll tell you my experience and I encourage you to steal any part of my character for your own sordid enjoyment.
First of all I played a guy. I had always played girl characters because I am a girl, and feel we need to be represented in the traditional male-dominated fantasy setting. But I had just played a couple of girls, and one pre-gendered teen (long story for another post) and was in the mood to try something different.
Into my imagination waltzed Prince Percy (Percival, but don’t call him that) Victors, complete with 18th century pink satin and ruffles; looking at me with a bored expression. He was a royal, pampered, wealthy “dandy”, a squeamish vampire (hated the sight of blood- yes, it made for interesting moments), was lecherous and very, very charming. He was also bisexual, but preferred women. Percy was an impeccable dresser and carried a black-lace Hello Kitty parasol to keep off the sun. Oh, and he was a complete asshole.
I announced quite early on that I planned to seduce the entire party one way or another. Some of that was because I needed blood to survive, and it was convenient to feed during sex; I was distracted from the icky blood thing. But I also enjoyed the conquest and told them that letting me screw them would be the best night of their lowly peasant lives.
We had three women and three men in the role-playing group. In the first game, I rolled a critical success for charming one of the ladies, along with her critically failing any resistance. This meant that she was desperately in love with me. I used her on a regular basis, and the rest of the party was immediately disgusted. Yet, I still managed to make one of the other women drunk enough to come to my bed, another was tricked into sexual favors from some plot episode where I helped her, and I did manage to kiss one of the guys (though he tried to punch me afterwards.) Along with having sex with every NPC (girl or guy) that came along, Percy was perfectly promiscuous.
I had a great time, and the other players couldn’t help but laugh (out of character of course.) I also had a ridiculously lucky set of dice. In the entire year of playing Percy, I only failed a seduction role once (and the barmaid poured water over my head) and had regular crits for how good the sex was. So although I was just being my egotistical self when I said the sex would be fantastic, it turned out to be true. Even the party members I tricked had to admit I made them very, very happy.
The best part was constantly flirting with the girls in the group. In every role-playing game I’ve played, flirting is awkward or silly because no one wants to make anyone think they’re “really” trying anything. Flirting and sex were always with NPCs or glossed over like a movie where the actors fall into bed kissing and the camera moves to the flowing curtains and CUT! But my real life sexual orientation is heterosexual, and the other players know that. So when I was flirting with the girls, it wasn’t awkward, it was hilarious. When I flirted with the guys, they got annoyed. I think this was because my character was having more sex than they were in real life, but that’s just a guess (heh.)
The only part of it that annoyed me, was how much the girls liked my character. He was a jerk. He used them and was proud of it. And yet, they still giggled (in and out of character) and flirted back. And even though the two girls I tricked into sex were mad for a few sessions, they quickly wanted a real relationship with the guy, and tried to “get” him. I (Rebecca) was incredulous.
Girl Player: My character secretly wants to marry Percy. Me: Marry Percy?! You know he’s a jerk, right? Girl Player: Yes, but there’s something good in him. Me: Of course, but don’t think he’s going to change for you. Girl Player: We’ll see.
So there you have it role-players. Be a rich, sexy, blood-sucking, egotistical slut (with good taste in clothes) and other characters will not only succumb to sex, but also secretly wish to marry you. Who knew it could be so fun to be a guy?