Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Improvement Comes Through a Concerted Effort, Not Through Happenstance

I'm often trying to find new ways to improve myself - not in a self-help, get rich quick way, but in a concerted effort to become the sort of person I dreamed about being when I was a child up on top of that mountain. When I was little I wanted to be one of the smartest people in the world and for a long time I valued "book intelligence" as the paramount of human achievement. 

So I read, a lot.

There were days where I would spend every waking moment reading the words of great men and fooling myself into believing that because I read them we were on the same level. Yet for all my pompous, self-congratulatory preening I wasn't on their level. Yes I could read the Theory of Relativity and understand it but so can every high school graduate. We've internalized that knowledge and made it a part of our everyday understanding of reality so it isn't a great intellectual hurtle anymore; because I read it I would say to myself, and anyone foolish enough to listen to me, "I have read the Theory of Relativity and understood it. I'm a god damned genius, son!"

I allowed myself to operate under the delusion that reading the works of great men and understanding them meant that I was great too because I was not. I was a small and shallow echo of their thoughts and of what I would become later in life.  At that time though I was struggling to find a depth within myself that eluded me and so I latched on to the vastness I saw in antiquity and clung to it even though it was drowning me. It would take me years of growth before I understood that while reading the thoughts of these great men was a good stepping stone to my own greatness, it wasn't a stopping point


For years I labored under the delusion that in order to be great myself I had to parrot the thoughts and words of antiquity. I was so committed to the idea that I actually became a philosophy major. I spent countless hours reading the works of some of the greatest minds to ever come out of Asia and Europe; yet no matter how much I read I was left unfulfilled. Why? Because I wasn't thinking for myself.

See if you're not pushing yourself to become more than you were, and you're just parroting the words of those who came before, then you're not really doing anything but pissing in the wind.  I came to that conclusion before I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. So when I started running my dungeons and wilderness encounters I never realized that there was a 'set way' to do things. I didn't realize that boxed text and read aloud text weren't supposed to be ignored on principal. Hell I didn't even realize that going left would let you avoid the most dangerous monsters.

I filled my dungeons up with the creatures that I wanted to see. Goblins, Trolls, Owlbears, Grell, and Lizardmen populated my first dungeons because I love those monsters. I never threw a single magic item from the registered list because I thought those items were the sort of trite noise you saw in children's novels that embarrassed you when you were an adult. So imagine my surprise when I first started reading blogs back in 2008 and found people arguing about which monsters to realistically populate their worlds with.
As you're well aware the Tiger Nomads are only found in the Northern Mountains, so it's clear to me that you've fucked up your table by placing them in the Hepmonaland jungles!

I'm still find it hard to understand people who complain about this faithlessness with the realism of Dungeons and Dragons. I mean, it's a game. A game that literally tells you that if you don't like a rule that you don't have to follow it. So why the fuck are you making grandiose statements about boxed text or about the creatures used in an adventure not being realistic?

Like the man said, "If you don't like it, don't use it. No skin off my teeth."

Wait, What?

On my twitter I just got spammed by the weirdest shit. Some company off in china that wants me to buy their board games . . . That's neither here nor there though as I'm doing art today. So fuck yeah!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Plunder the Depths and Return with Her Soul!

I was sitting on the park bench listening to the birds raise hell on each other when an acorn caught me clean in the temple. I jumped up and started searching for the lousy mother fucker who attacked me and there they were up in the top of tree. Two grey squirrels jumping up and down, chittering away.

You think you're safe? I'll be back later with a flame thrower and I'll burn you all up!

Sadly that never happened as the dorm next door had a meth lab busted and the cops wouldn't let me burn the tree down. Next time though, next time . . .

Monday, April 28, 2014

Be Safe

Everyone be safe out there tonight. Tornadoes are popping up from Arkansas to my back yard.

See ya'll in the morning!

Stop Being so Damned Boring.

It is easy to become boring when you're playing Dungeons and Dragons. All it takes is for you to become comfortable with your Game Master's style and the system. Then you begin to develop a standard routine for dealing with the world about you. You march in a standard order; you interact with non-player characters (npcs) the same way each time you meet a new one; you choose to roll your dice instead of announcing your actions. Face it, you're in a rut and the game is dull as hell as a result. 

As a Game Master when you realize this has happened to your game you'll probably find yourself staring at your notes and wondering where you went wrong. Should you have used music? What if you had used two Ogres and a Mindflayer instead of the Hill Giant? Maybe you should have sprung for that fifty dollar game mat and deluxe box of miniatures? Or maybe you should have stopped taking the easy way and started stretching your gaming limbs. 

Your players take their lead from you. If you ask for dice rolls every time that some minor challenge comes along then they'll soon be calling for their own rolls. What to find out rumors in town? Roll a Knowledge (local) check. Trying to find food out in the wild? Roll a Survival. Do you want to ask that bar maid back to your room for a nightcap? Roll a Charisma check. 

Do you see how boring that becomes? 

To break up that monotony the first thing you have to do as a Game Master is to stop letting your players roll for everything and start asking them what they're actually doing. If they want to screw the waiter till he can't remember his own name then have them actually approach him and talk out the scene with you. You don't have to be graphic, but having that player actually think about what they're going to say and how they want to engage the situation takes it from a d20 roll to a memorable event that the player will talk about after the game.

In a recent session I had a new player. He was incredibly shy around so many new people and was really hesitant to get involved in the goings on of the game. Yet when they went to the inn to get rooms and he had a waitress flirt with him he got involved. He moved from leaning back into his chair to sitting on the edge and describing to me how he wanted to try and woe her. She was a throw away npc and he still remembers her name three months later because he had to think about what he was doing and that made her something special.  

After the inn he understood how this game was played and didn't just ask for the d20 roll to determine his successes. Instead, like most of my players, he would begin any situation by telling me what he wanted to do and then we would work it out. Sometimes we rolled to determine success, but more often than not the way that success was determined was by talking out the interactions. Choosing to interact with the events of the game rather than mechanically determining results is the difference between a boring game and a memorable one. 

Monday Morning Clearing House

The last couple of weeks have been really hard on me and I couldn't point to any one thing that's made things so difficult. My wife has been suffering through some terrible asthma attacks that have made our plans practically impossible to follow through and my son has solidly entered into the terrible twos nearly a month before his birthday - he's an over achiever, you know.

Anyway I've begun working on an overhaul to the blog that should make things a lot more functional and easier to navigate. Currently I'm going through and redoing each of the tags on my posts. I'm also going to be grouping all of the short fiction and actual play reports I've written together on their own page. The Art Page is going to have a big update so that I can go back to updating that series on a regular basis . . .

I'm working on a new header for the blog that, hopefully, will be ready some time in the next couple of weeks. The idea is to get the blog completely away from using anything that might get me in trouble and solidly into the clear. So I'm going to make a header using some sketches I made and some Photoshop stuff. My plan is to integrate the header with the background I'm making which, if everything goes to plan, should be a great introduction to the blog. 

I mentioned last week that I had ordered the Blue Yeti. It should be here some time this week and I'm looking to start doing some recordings that I'll be releasing. A friend of mine is currently writing a song for a project that will involve my microphone and his talent. More on that when there's more concrete information to reveal.

A Question

I want this thing to be a great resource for anyone who finds it - no matter how they come to read the thing. That said is there something I could add to the blog that would make it easier for you to use it and share it with your friends? Is there something you'd like to see added to the blog that you feel is missing from it?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Watch Me Fall through the Heavens and Straight Down to Hell

The Barn looked like this, only larger and with a lean-to on the side. (source)
I was creeping through the back yard with a crescent moon high overhead when I heard the door to the barn slam hard. I dropped to the ground and hid in the high grass watching the spot where I knew the door was and waited. Straining my ears against the stillness of the night I could hear him clearing his throat as he moved about the old barn, and then I saw the light come on.

I made my way to the field just north of the door and laid down in the tall grass so I could watch the old man opening dresser drawers and flip over cushions. He's dump out all the contents of a drawer onto the steps leading up to the second floor and then scatter them about as he muttered. "Where the fuck did he hide it all? She gave it to him and I know it's here. Damned fool's kids took everything in the house and none of those bastards had it. Where is it A Lee?"

Laying on my belly in the high grass and watching the old man through the cracks in the barn I found myself listening to the night breath about me. After he turned away from the doorway I pulled out my little map and marked down his path. He'd been making his way steadily along the right side of the barn, moving furniture and grumbling to himself. The center and far left had avoided his groping fingers so far but it was only a matter of time before he started working through that side of the barn.

It's fun watching a murderer work his way through your barn when he doesn't know that you're there. He uses words that never made their way into our house and spits, a lot. Tobacco dribbled down his chin as he shoved his fingers into every nook and cranny. "God damned Feds. Probably watching me . . ." 

He was turning against the federal government early tonight. Usually he'd spend an hour searching through the barn, sipping moonshine out of a mason jar, before he'd start ranting about the Feds setting him up. It had only taken him twenty minutes this time and it had me worried. Had he seen me? 

I crawled back another fifteen feet to put a bit more distance between me and that doorway when he began to throw stuff about the barn and roared, "You think you're smarter than me? I'll find all you mother fuckers and a bullet in your god damned heads! Then I'm coming for your families!"

He kicked the door open and I kept my eyes on him as paced along the side of the barn. He was a small man but the years in prison had made him hard beyond belief. The whiskey had made him wild; that made him dangerous. Then the wind blew over me and he stopped to look at my spot. Jesus! He's seen me. Oh God I'm dead!

"That you? Huh? You think you can hide from me?" He pulled out a pistol and pointed it right at my hiding spot. "You ain't fooling no one mother fucker!"

He pulled the hammer back on the old revolver and started to aim at me when the helicopter came over the tree line. He swung the pistol up at the chopper and screamed, "God damned Feds! You'll never take me!" as he fired two shots at the helicopter and fled into the forest. He was deep over the waterfall of his delusions as he raced though the woods shouting about the hounds on his trail. 

I watched his light race towards the pond and his property line for a good two minutes before I turned back up the hill and ran towards the safety of our house. By the time I had made it in the front door I was trembling. My legs were like jello as I laid my back against the door and flipped the deadbolt in place. Fuck. Did he actually see me or was it like every other time? If he'd seen me he would have called my name. He always called my name when he saw me. Did he see me?

Morning found me in the bed still wondering if the Murderer had actually seen me when I was called to breakfast. We were all around the table when a knock came on the porch door and I got up to answer it. It was him. I caught my breath as he smiled at me, "Charlie!" he boomed out, "how you doing, son." 

Fine, sir, I said as I closed the door behind me. No point in letting everyone see me get shot right here in front of them.

"I've got some squash and cucumbers for your mother."

Thank you, sir.

"Did you see those god damned Feds come by last night?"

No sir.

"Sons of bitches poisoned my crops!"

Those mother fuckers!

We talked for a little while and finally I told him that I had to get back inside. I played a bit of Nintendo after breakfast and began plotting out the map in my head as I shot pixelated ducks out of the air. He'd been searching the right side of the barn for a month without finding anything. Why did he keep going over there? What could A Lee have hid that would warrant him sneaking up there night after night?

Finally I looked over at my brother and said, "Let's go play outside."

We took off and went wild like the little heathens we were, pretending to shoot each other and picking up sticks to sword fight. Our neighbors came over and we played football till the girls came over and then we chased them about the yard playing tag and hoping that one of them would let us kiss them - they never did. All the while my mind was working on that barn and old A Lee. 

The old man had never thrown anything away and his children had been convinced that he kept the fifteen old mattresses on the car port because he'd hid his vast fortune away in them. Of course none of them realized that A Lee didn't have a dime to his name. Hell, he didn't even own the house he'd lived in for the last ten years; our family just didn't have the heart to kick an eighty year old man out on his ass.

We were playing hide and seek when I made my move and snuck off to the barn. I scanned the area where the Murderer had been searching and figured that nothing would ever come out of there. The place was filled to the brim with old furniture and empty whiskey bottles piled nearly five feet high. No, nothing is ever going to come from over here, I thought.

I tried to imagine being as crazy as A Lee and where would I hide something valuable. Then I remembered the upstairs loft. There was a wasp nest that had been there for longer than I had been alive and it covered nearly seven feet of the corner. I crept up the stairs listening to them creek with each footstep until my eyes came level with the loft floor. 

Most of the hay had been cleared out a few years before but there were three big piles left up there. Two were in the south side of the barn, but there was one right under the wasp nest. I sat there looking at it, and then that massive nest with those red paper wasps flying in and out of it, and then back at the hay pile. That's where I'd hide something I didn't want anyone else to find.

I made my way back down and started hunting for the pitchfork that we'd used last winter to stab the snowman. I found it in the front lean-to and slipped back upstairs. I took a deep breath as I watched those wasps flying about and slowly made my way over to the hay pile. So far so good, I whispered as I slid the pitchfork under the hay. Three deep breaths and I hadn't moved. I could hear the wasps flying lower, checking me out and I knew my time was running out. I turned to the left and slid the pitchfork under the pile and pushed it all out the open bay doors, nearly following it when I forgot to let go of the pitchfork! The noise had the wasps stirred up and I was running down the stairs and fleeing up the hill as the little bastards swarmed out the bay doors and blurred the side of the barn for the next two hours. Play outside was officially canceled as we watched them from the safety of our back porch. 

"Wonder what got them all riled up?" my brother asked. 

I was up there and showed them your picture. 

"Fuck you."

As the evening sun started to set the wasps had finally calmed down enough to where we were allowed to get back outside. I made my way to where I'd thrown all that hay out and started looking through it for anything of value while my brother stabbed the side of the barn with the pitchfork. 

"Do you think the Murderer knows he's crazy, or do you think he believes we're the crazy ones?"

Don't know, but I really hope that he's able to tell he's going crazy.

"Why?"

Because otherwise it's just too sad. 

There it was! Glinting in the sun just inside the tall grass was a large mason jar filled with silver coins. Must have been a hundred or so in there and as I picked it up I couldn't believe how heavy it was. I turned towards my brother with the jar in my hands.

You see this?

"Whoa, where'd you find that?"

Up in the loft. The Murderer's been creeping in the barn every night trying to find it.

"Seriously? Charlie, we don't need to be messing with that if he's looking for it."

Fuck him. It's not his and I'm not keeping it. 

"What are you going to do with it then?"

We're going to bury it in that field over there so he can't have it.

My brother's face lit up as he put the pitchfork up and grabbed a shovel. "You know, I think we'll go to Hell for this."

Nah, he's a dick. We're just giving him what he deserves. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Just a Quick Note for You Future Podcasters Out There

I just got off the phone with Blue microphones, who make the beautiful Snowball and Yeti mics, and all of their microphones - except for the Snowball Ice - work with Windows 8.1 and earlier. So if you've been looking for a good introductory microphone the Snowball is currently $56.95 on Amazon.

I bought the Yeti because fuck yeah.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's About Time that Google+ Started Going to Hell!

This morning Vic Gundotra, the head of Google+, has left the company. The reason behind his departure seems to be anyone's guess, though there are some really strong rumors that Google+ is about to get drop kicked in the head. According to TechCrunch, ". . . Google+ will no longer be considered a product, but a platform — essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter . . ." (Google+ Is Walking Dead).

This rumor has been denied by Google representatives. ". . . Today’s news has no impact on our Google+ strategy—we have an incredibly talented team that will continue to build great user experiences across Google+, Hangouts, and Photos . . ." (Google to end forced G+ integration, drastically cut division resources).

TechCrunch claims to have two anonymous sources within Google that have confirmed the following details in regard to upcoming changes with Google+:
  • Between 1,000 and 1,200 employees will be moving from Google+ to other departments within the company.
  • The Google Hangouts team will be integrating with the Android team
  • The Google Photo team is likely to follow Hangouts to Android
  • The teams from Google+ will be moving to building 'widgets' for the platform rather than improving Google+
 Here's the thing though, some of these moves don't make sense. In regards to the Hangout and Photo teams joining the Android team Ars Technica pointed out that, ". . . The strange part is that both of these teams create cross-platform products, so, if the report is true, there will be a group inside the Android team making iOS and Web apps, which doesn't seem like the best fit . . ." (Google to end forced G+ integration, drastically cut division resources).

While it could well be that TechCrunch has the inside track here; it's just as likely that they're listening to the sorts of rumors that run rampant through a company after a major shake up. The only way to know for sure will be to wait and see as a move of this level will have to be announced in short order. After all, you have to let all those android users know how much better their services are about to get . . .

[EDIT 4/25/2014]

The Chief Archetect of Google+, Yonatan Zunger, has come out and directly addressed the TechCrunch article.


Can't get much more direct than that.

What's Up With Wizards of the Coast?

Yehuda Berlinger
Last Friday Yehuda Berlinger of PurplePawn.com released the 2013 Global Game Industry Survey to the public. When this survey first went live it brought on the usual chorus of cheers from certain sections of the hobby as Wizards of the Coast did not lead the market for role playing games. This seemed to confirm the ICv2 surveys that have continued to show a decline in Wizards' market share (see The Continued Sales Decline of Dungeons and Dragons and Other Stories of Note for more). The problem with using these surveys to asses the health of Wizards of the Coast is that neither of them have direct, internal numbers for the company. So what are they using to evaluate it in relation to its competitors?

Both ICv2 and Yehuda Berlinger are inferring a lot about Wizards through retailer communications. Essentially what that means is they talk to a retailer about what's selling best in their store and use that to determine the health of a product line such as Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons. Yet to definitively speak on either Paizo or Wizards of the Coast you would have to see their internal numbers. That would allow you to see how much they're making from on-line sales and other gaming ephemera which is omitted from both surveys. Without that additional data what we're observing provides us with such a small piece of the overall picture that we're likely to see a distorted vision of reality. That said there are things we can tell from the actions that Wizards of the Coast is making in the lead up to this summer's Fifth Edition launch. 

Anecdotal evidence is continuing to mount towards the conclusion that online sales are working very well for Wizards of the Coast. The Dungeons and Dragons Classics website has an ever growing catalog of products which suggests that it is doing well - after all Wizards wouldn't go through the effort if it wasn't turning a profit. Further evidence of the success of this platform came earlier this year when the newest Encounters program, Dreams of the Red Wizards: Scourge of the Sword Coast, was only a digital release. The three previous encounters programs (Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, Murder in Balder's Gate, and Legacy of the Crystal Shard) all had physical products released into the market. 

Admittedly changing the encounters program over to a digital exclusive enterprise could be an indicator that Wizards of the Coast's sales are in a nose dive where they're trying to cut overhead by any means at their disposal. One of the major indicators that this isn't the case is that you're not seeing people jumping ship left and right, nor are you seeing massive layoffs. Instead you're seeing the President of Operations, Greg Leeds, putting forth an aggressive agenda (see Greg Leeds, C.E.O. of Wizards of the Coast, On the State of Everything for more) and the company advertising in unfamiliar areas (see News for the Sundering: Chapter 2 for more) to bring in new players. These moves don't reek of desperation nor do the 2014 Q1 management remarks from Hasbro indicate that the Dungeons and Dragons brand is in any immediate danger of being shuttered; though it was one of four gaming brands that did not beat last year's numbers.

So what do you think? Is Wizards in a death spiral, or is everything getting blown out of proportion?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Empty Belly and Stinging Brains Serve You Righteously

Since I'm read by quite a few people that view the barren wastelands in between strip malls as the "wilderness" I've decided to provide those of you in that camp with four relatively easy ways to feed your characters during those desperate times when your Dungeon Master actually makes you keep track your resources and you run out of food and water. 

Roots and Needles

One of the easiest things to have happen is to run out of drinkable water. It happens to the best of us. Now most every explorer worth his salt is going to have a metal cup in his bag and pan to cook on - and if he doesn't have one he's a fool - so making the water drinkable by boiling it over the fire isn't usually that difficult of a task. 

Unfortunately there are times when your water may have a foul taste, even after a purify drink spell. The foul taste can be the result of your water being in a particularly acidic region, your pans and mugs being unclean, muddy water, or your Dungeon Master being a jerk. Whatever the case, once the liquid is safe to drink you're going to need to make it something your character can actually keep down. There are three really common plants that you can harvest to make the water more palatable: dandelions, pine needles, and mint. Of the three dandelions and pine needles will probably be the easiest to come by, though mint will be the most enjoyable of the three. 

Pine needle tea (source)
What you're going to want to do is to place some leaves in the water (roots if you're using the dandelion) once you've brought it to a boil as you would with tea. Now the longer you leave the leaves in there the stronger a taste you're going to find developing. This strength of flavor can mask not only the foul taste of the liquid but also the tell tale odors and tastes of certain poisons so if you're playing with a bunch of vipers prepare your own drink and offer to make theirs as well. You never know, they might remember that kindness and gladly take a bullet for you when you use them as human shields later.

The Sock Hop

Whether you're in a cave or out walking in the evening air bats will be fluttering by. Most of us see them skirting overhead in a crazy zig-zag pattern and avoid them like the plague, but in a pinch you can kill them fairly easily and eat them. The methodology for pulling this off is much the same as you could use for catching pigeons and other small birds.

Take a burlap sack and cut off a two foot section. Using the needle and thread you bought to help maintain your clothing - you did buy them right - sew the sack into a similar form as you tube sock. One end needs to be sewn shut and the other left open. Now you want to drop a handful of rocks into your burlap sock; tie off the other end. What you've effectively made is a cheap bola that you can now use to drop the flying appetizers from the sky and into your frying pan. 

A word of caution in using this method. Your Dungeon Master is likely to try and get you with a disease carried by one of these small flying creatures. To reduce the likely hood of this occurring announce that you are going to skin, gut and clean the catch. After each step you're going to clean your hands to prevent yourself from getting sick. Then you're going to cook the critters on a stick over the fire. Cook them thoroughly, have the cleric cast purify food as an extra measure at the end and you can eat in peace.

Spoil the Child

A lot of people tend to look at fishing as something where you need to spend two hundred dollars on a rod and reel. Then of course you need the hat, vest, tackle box, and as many synthetic lures as you can stuff in them. Truth is you don't need any of that noise. 

Cut a length of wood approximately six feet long. You want the limb to be about an inch thick at most (so about the length from the tip of your thumb to the first joint). For the line you can do a couple of methods that range from tearing blades of grass and weaving them together into a line; to finding thin vines that you can find in most every forest in the world; to using the thread you sew with (my preferred method). Making a hook requires that you either forage really well, bought one earlier, or like to carve. Whether you forge a piece of bone that you can fashion into a hook or widdle one from the river birch the end goal remains the same: you need the hook to form a J with a sharp point on the end.

What kind of bait you use is going to depend on how small you can make your hook. If you can get it small enough to use worms you'll just have to dig around any piles of leaves or old stumps. If you need to use something bigger to catch fish with you'll have to go hunting for grubs, large spiders, dragonflies and the like. 

Once you have everything together toss it in the water, preferably in an eddy if you're on a river or near an embankment in a pond, and wait. If the fish are hungry you'll be in luck and if not well, there's always dynamite . . .

Cane pole fishing (source)

Rules, Rules Everywhere and Not a Soul to Abide by Them.

Sitting on the dock listening to the crickets chirping and the peepers striking up a hell of a tune I found myself mulling over how damned foolish we tend to get in this hobby over wilderness exploration. As a group we take ourselves out of the reality that exists just outside our walls and create, often out of whole cloth, rules that no natural world could exist by just so that we can vainly proclaim our mastery over the mercurial games we play. It's a vanity game we're playing when we go down that avenue and as group we need to stop wasting our time pretending like it's anything else.

Look you can work on your game maps for decades and post them to your blog along with your countless pages of excel formulas that detail every minute detail of your world. I'm sure that someone out there will be really impressed with the volume of work you've put out and they'll probably fellate your ego. The problem is, you're just wasting your time. 

I'm all for knowing the broad ranges of creatures that exist in your gaming region. I'm just not for wasting my time drawing out useless charts that will never get used by anyone - let alone me. See I'll make disease charts and invent crowd movement rules to simplify my life and to make my games run smoother, but I'm not going to spend my nights creating excel charts that will let me know when the buffalo herd is going to be hit with a massive sexy-time-tornado the likes of which will make Havana seem like a timid and sexually repressed area.  

If what you're working on is not germane to the game stop wasting your time fooling with it. Put your efforts into avenues that will actually make things easier for you. The game is hard enough without adding complexity just to stroke your own metaphorical prick.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Because Some Days It Shines Even When It's Raining!

Google Screen Cap 4/22/2014

I was having a pretty shitty day today and really wasn't feeling much like poking my head out of the covers when I thought I'd google the blog. Guess who's the number one result out of the 44,000 + results for the word Dyvers?

This fucker!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Catching Up isn't Easy to Do.

Got in late last night and sat down to write a post talking about the fish I caught and to relate that back to the ease with which an individual can catch fish if they find the proper environment (and no, dynamite wasn't involved) when I discovered that I had twenty comments to respond to, forty e-mails, and sixty blog posts to read from a slew of great authors. So instead of writing that post I spent most of last night reading through the blogs and playing catch up with the e-mail slog. Lots of good ideas circulating out there, folks. 

Oh, and just in case anyone was curious, I caught two large mouth bass - while teaching a seven year old girl how to fish - in an hour. Fuck I love spring!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Traveling on a Car that's on Fire!

I took off up the mountain this morning to see the family for Easter and to drink while pretending to fish. I'll be back to posting on Monday, so until then, have a great weekend!

-- Charlie Akins

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Those New Monsters Look Great

Over at the Escapist - which I generally avoid because of their hijacking advertisements - some of the art from the Tyranny of the Dragons panel at PAX East has been released, and I'd like to comment on three of them. 

The new Beholder
I've been looking at this picture most of the morning and I can't decide if I like or hate it. Without a doubt the artist is an impressive individual who has really made this bad boy look like something that could jump off the page. But if you cover the eye and mouth it looks like a giant testicle with ten fleshy dicks writhing about it. I hate saying that because this is one of the best beholders I've ever seen, but it's all can see.

The new Cloaker
This picture is what a Cloaker should look like and if you had asked me what was in my head when it came to one this would have dropped out. The colors are amazing on this guy and I fucking love the Frazetta influence with the creature's body texture. He's gone from being a nondescript, flying stingray into a creature that fucking rocks. 

I want to fight this thing and I want to win. 

This is the sort of art I wished for when Third and Fourth editions came into my hands. I'm loving this shit!

The new Ogre?
I believe that this is the new Ogre and all I can say is FUCK YES! There's a clear influence from Warhammer - which is not a bad thing at all - as this guy is the sort of brutal son of a bitch I've wanted showing up in my games for years. 

Wizards keep giving us this more of this shit! I fucking love this art style!

PAX South Coming Soon!


Just days before PAX East, Robert Khoo posted this picture to his twitter account. Khoo is widely regarded as the the business genius who has taken Penny Arcade from a webcomic into a worldwide phenomenon and so when this picture appeared many onlookers were anxiously awaiting the forthcoming announcement of a new PAX. Rumors of possible locations sprang up and everyone seemed to have a favorite location for the wildly successful convention.

On the second day of PAX East, April 12, the announcement was made: PAX South would premier on January 23 - 25, 2015! The convention would be held in San Antonio, Texas in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. This brings another major convention for gamers of all sorts - whether you play video, board, or role playing games - to the south. Yet unlike ever other major southern convention this one doesn't occur in Atlanta, Georgia.

No word yet on ticket prices, when they will go on sale, or which celebrities and noted guests will be attending.

Let's Rock The Star Cairns and other Misadventures Part 2: Hurry Up and Do Nothing


After giving us a short background for the adventure we enter into the Recent Events phase of the module. Like most published adventures I've read over the years this one suffers from the flunky syndrome. 
. . . Jallarzi Sallavarian of the Circle of Eight has recently discovered omens that predict imminent doom for Greyhawk. Among the more mundane omens are an increase in the number of derro sightings in the Abbor-Alz, and the uppermost sail of the mysterious Doomgrinder approaching the zenith by another degree. Other signs indicate that one of the ancient cairns known as the Star Cairns may be the key to averting the doom. The Eight have warned the city about the possible doom (and its possible prevention); they urge adventurous souls to scour the Abbor-Alz for anything that might be the key to saving the city . . . (Reynolds, pg. 2)
This first paragraph is a prime example of the sort of foolishness that made me hate the Forgotten Realms and has me agitated two pages in. Instead of telling us that a low level mage - someone who is essentially powerless to do anything about the oncoming doom - is prophesying the utter destruction of Greyhawk we're told that a member of the Circle of Eight is sounding the gong; only they're not going to do a thing. For my non-Greyhawk readers let me put that a different way. The Circle of Eight finding out that Greyhawk is about to be destroyed and doing nothing is the equivalent of the Justice League finding out that Las Vegas is about to be destroyed and sending Aquaman to take care of it. 

This is how I picture Jallarzi Sallavarian (source)

When I run this module I'm utterly abandoning this connection with Jallarzi Sallavarian as the discoverer of the upcoming cluster. It makes far more sense to have a scribe or local eccentric that the players have made a connection with to discover the troubles than to have one of the planet's most powerful magi. That doesn't mean that I'm not going to bring her in later in the adventure. The players will need someone to confide in and they need someone who will be able to help funnel them resources during key times. 

The next portion of the module deals with establishing the power groups in each of the cairns and foreshadowing a possible war between a group of bandits and a beholder; because if you're a group of bandits the first thing you think about doing is killing a damned beholder. I realize that this background conflict is designed to provide a greater depth to the module and to create a sense of verisimilitude in the world but it makes about as much sense as having the Circle of Eight knowing about a major threat to the world and deciding to do nothing about it.

 The Rumor Mill
Bandits with magic weapons and humanoid allies have been attacking caravans and travelers near Hardby; sometimes the bandits just take the cargo and let the caravaneers go on their way, sometimes the travelers are dragged away; other caravans have simply disappeared completely. (Reynolds, pg. 3)
This first rumor has been used so many times that I think people forget that it occasionally has to make sense. How would we know that the travelers are dragged away? Are their survivors? Or are there witnesses? And if their are witnesses, why isn't anyone actively trying to stop it?

Remember, at this point in the actual module the Circle of Eight and presumably the Lord Mayor of Greyhawk knows about the portents of doom. Yet that isn't even the biggest concern in this regard. The powerful Merchant's Guild has to know about these events and I can't imagine a scenario where these guys are willing to let people mess with their money. Instead I'm seeing armed caravans and trapped caravans heading down that path looking for a fight. I'm seeing big named adventurers and people just starting out heading out looking to earn some serious coin and to put some bad men in the ground. This isn't a rumor, this is a god damned gold mine.
A necromancer has broken into one of the Star Cairns and plans to use the dead buried there to start an undead army in order to sack the city. (Reynolds, pg. 3)
If I drop this rumor then you can damned well bet that every temple and church for a hundred miles is going to be talking about this. Every passing conversation will have someone talking about the son of a bitch raising the dead in the cairns - and there will be blood. Oh, glorious fountains of blood as every fanatic on the continent moves south in a holy crusade against that necromancer whether or not he's even there.
Stone statues of animals and humanoids have been found in the southern Abbor-Alz; a medusa or basilisk is suspected to have moved into the area. (Reynolds, pg. 3)
So far this is the only rumor that doesn't require me to beat the bushes. Essentially it's a meaningless rumor that might have some rich merchant concerned enough to hire a group to clear the area out. Not very inspiring. Though I wonder if one of the best ways to spring a major adventure on everyone is through this path?
A dozen rampaging golems have attacked Hardby, sent by a vengeful wizard living near the desert; Greyhawk is his or her next target. (Reynolds, pg. 3)

Unless the Golems look like this I'm not getting excited. (source)
While this has the same sort of appeal that the medusa has as far as an adventure hook go it seems more like something that the guard should take care of than something my group of adventures should really be involved in. After all, the better part of valor is discretion . . .

Greysmere is A dwarven stronghold at the tip of Cold Wash Lake, South of the Mistmarsh, South East of Greyhawk City and West of the Abbor-Alz Mountain (map originally drawn by Darlene)
A beholder attacked Greysmere and was last seen heading north. (Reynolds, pg. 3)
That's good information to know. 

It's also the sort of information that would send every party I've ever been a part of, or Dungeon Mastered for, in the opposite direction. In fact I ran this rumor by one of my players and he said, "Beholders are the sort of thing you survive when you run across, not something you go out looking to fuck with."
 Lizardmen in the Mistmarsh have been seen patrolling the borders of the swamp. (Reynolds, pg. 3)
This is the sort of thing that isn't going to even phase my players. That means this rumor is useless for me. 
The Rhennee have started to drop pearls and jewelry into the Nyr Dyv, suspecting doom will come from the depths of the lake. (Reynolds, pg. 3)
Now we're fucking talking. 

This is the sort of rumor that sends chills down the spines of my players and gets them racing off for a source. You can kill all the babies you want; burn down entire villages in front of them; they'll pass on by without so much as a second look. But you start throwing treasure into a bottomless lake and they'll get to the bottom of it before you can say, "How much is this pearl worth?"

Dropping Adventure Hooks

The next section we're going to cover is the Adventure Hooks. Reynolds does a really neat thing where he provides the Dungeon Master with three levels of hooks (low, medium, and high difficulty). They range from the mild bandit attack to a direct confrontation with the Beholder. Each hook is only a line or two so there's a lot of room for the Dungeon Master to take off and do his own thing. Personally, though, I'm more likely to use that first rumor and let the players push themselves into the adventure as they seek easy money. 

Next time we'll be looking Common Features of the Cairns, The Rune Pairs, and Encounters in the Abbor-Alz Mountains. See you then!

Works Cited

Reynolds, Sean K. "The Star Cairns." TSR, Inc. 1998: 2, 3.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reboot Greyhawk? But Who?

Since PAX East we now know for sure that Wizards of the Coast is going to be bringing back some of the most beloved settings (see 97% is Still Failing 3% of the Time for more); and they're doing it with many of the settings creators. Greenwood is with the Realms, Baker's back with Eberron, but who would come in for Greyhawk? Viable big names attached to the setting in the past would include Robert Kuntz (Gary's co-dm), Len Lakofka,  Jim Ward, Carl Sargent (unheard from since the mid-90s), Roger E. Moore, Sean K. Reynolds, and Erik Mona. So who would you like to see come back to the setting and relaunch it with the new edition? 

Or would you prefer a new author altogether?

Do You Remember that One Time?

In life there are times when a rock is just a fucking rock and not the tip of a gigantic titan long ago transformed into a mountain that's just waiting for some dumb hero to come along and wake it up. Yet when I tell you that I stood in the Hermitage, listening to the house breathe, and waiting for Jackson to come barreling down the hall to kick out all these god damned interlopers I don't want you to think me given to flights of fancy. All the same I stood there on the steps leading up into the second floor where his darling bride made their bed rock and held my breath waiting for him.

He never came though I waited an hour and listen to tour guide after tour guide traipse though the house. This wallpaper is original to the house. And if you look in the living room you can even see the actual furniture that was here when people still lived . . .

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

For All the Parents Out There

Making Mistakes Can Leave You Sleeping Alone at Night.

This morning I was reading Your Google+ Audience - Who Are You Writing For? and a thought occurred to me: who am I writing for?

I've written posts that were really successful by my own standards, but when I try to mimic those posts to replicate their success they always fall flat. For a while it bothered me that this would happen as it seemed like I should be able to see similar results. Then I realized what was causing the problem; I was following trends.

It's easy to look at other people who are successful - and even more so when it's your own successes - and delude yourself into the belief that if you just write a post like Grognardia, Playing D&D with Porn Stars, or if you write one more series like If You're Going to Be Evil that you too can have that same level of success. So you write a post that covers the same territory and you post it. Only your page views aren't going up. Now you get all pissed and discouraged and in your darkest mental state you make your second mistake by either disparaging the very things you're emulating or walking away completely. 

Instead of showing your ass or walking away what you needed to do was recognize that the authors you want to emulate have found their own voice which is why they were successful. Finding your own voice isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. Let's just look at the evolution of my own blog. I started out doing my best imitation of James Maliszewski, working my way through Dragon, White Dwarf, and doing product reviews. Only I wasn't nearly as enjoyable to read as he was because what I was doing wasn't where my heart laid. Eventually I tried to emulate +Zak Smith but I couldn't pull that off either because I'm just too direct.

When I finally started writing and finding my own voice I had a really big success with the If You're Going to Be Evil series. It was shared on twitter, Facebook, and reddit (where it remained in the top ten D&D items for nearly a week). I thought, "Oh! This is what everybody wants to read!" So I chased that series and fucked it all up.

Why?

The truth is that you can't chase your audience by emulating your own past triumphs or the successes of other authors. Instead what you have to do is be yourself and break your own ground.You have to write about whatever is interesting to you on that day. Whether it's a short story about a sentient dungeon or you talking about sharing. No matter what you do though, you have to be yourself because there is only one +Zak Smith, only one James Maliszewski, and only one you.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Two Quick Hits

1. I love seeing one of my posts get shared on a forum and not seeing a bunch dicks be all, "Fuck that guy, I hear he has sex with women. Yo, mother fucker best recognize that if she ain't on top he's subjugating her and that's a sexist dick move!"

Maybe that's just the sort of conversation that goes on in my head. 

2. I've invented a new drinking game: download the The Steve Austin Show podcast and take a shot every time Austin says "Mother Fucker." I've died twice from alcohol posioning in the last two days. I should probably stop playing but I really want to hear what happens after the first five minutes of the show . . .

Oh My, there He Goes Again.

There is a strain of thought out there that in order to be 'important' or 'relevant' to a topic you have to be original. In our hobby of role playing games this translates to the belief that you have push the limits of what people can accept. Weird settings where mutations and death are considered a bonus feature and not a detraction abound; and neigh indestructible monsters roam every blog and forum with their avant-garde creators behind them proclaiming, "Look at me! I am a creative genius! Gaze upon my glory and weep for your own failures."

Yet for all the noise this clamor of being original is nothing more than idle talk. The paintings you've done are derivative of other artists and the books you've written are just two steps away from plagiarism. Stop pretending that what you're doing is new and has never been dreamed before. Instead acknowledge that you follow other ideas but that you do them through the lens of your own vision. Your orcs are not the same as mine, nor could they be. Each of us creates a unique world where the creatures, inhabitants, and structures may share names and tangential connections but the reality is that they are different in fundamental ways. 

My Dyvers is not the same as the one described in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. I admit this freely and without trepidation. It's cruder, deadly, and as brutal as the worlds I've inhabited in my own head since I first picked up a novel and said, "Fuck yes." I mix technology and science without fear or care for your judgements.

This isn't a manifesto and it certainly isn't me bitching about your latest interpretation on the wastes to the east. This is about the people who pretend that they're so god damned original and yet they can't admit - even to themselves - that what they're doing is no more original than drawing a circle and coloring it blue. 

Own who you are and stop with the pretense.

97% is Still Failing 3% of the Time

PAX East Exhibit Hall as photographed by Kiko Villasenor
This weekend PAX East happened and more information about this summer's release of Fifth Edition was revealed, as well as, some really interesting bits on the Tyranny of Dragons program. Now speculation going into this weekend's convention had many observers predicting that not only would the launch date for Fifth Edition's Starter Set and the core books be announced, but that the prices for them would be confirmed (see Release Date for Next Leaked? for more). Neither prediction occurred. Instead we learned a lot about what the Tyranny of Dragons program was, a bit about the current state of Fifth Edition, and a lot about the upcoming art for the program.

Fifth Edition and the Return of the Multiverse

The panel was mostly about the new Tyranny of Dragons program yet some information about the new edition was revealed. The panel was asked about the current state of the new edition and Chris Perkins stated that the game was about 97% done. This number sent some people into a tailspin of despair about the new edition as it seems impossible that 3% of the process could get resolved into a finished product in time for Gen Con on August 14, 2014

Chris Perkins at PAX East
While many commentators lamented the missing 3% from Fifth Edition they missed a huge revelation that has confirmed a rumor that many of us in the hobby have been hoping was true since it first appeared. In August of last year Ain't It Cool News contributor Abstruse reported, ". . . A rumor has been going around that . . . [Wizards of the Coast] is approaching the various creators of their most iconic game worlds to bring them back in some capacity as the worlds are re-created or re-imagined for the next edition of D&D . . ." (AICN Tabletop! A Ton Of Stuff About D&D Next! This Week's RPG Kickstarters! And More!).

The rumor reported by Abstruse in August was given new life when James Wyatt wrote his December 18, 2013 Wandering Monsters column
". . . Pretty early on, we agreed that the core rules for D&D Next had to acknowledge the existence of all the worlds of D&D—not just the Forgotten Realms we’ve been talking a lot about, but also Greyhawk, Eberron, Krynn, Athas, Mystara, Ravenloft—and, most importantly, the thousands and thousands of worlds created by DMs for their own games. So we’re writing from that perspective, and you’ve seen snippets of it in the playtest materials—for example, the inclusion of the kender and the warforged in the last races document, with explicit mention of the worlds they come from . . ." (Worlds of D&D)
We now have confirmation (see Secrets from the Tyranny of Dragons for more) that all of the key settings are coming back with some major names attached to them. Ed Greenwood, who has been contributing his Forging the Realms column on the Wizards website, is involved in the creation of the new edition's version of the Forgotten Realms. We also know that Keith Baker is back on board and that we'll have more on that soon thanks to Jon Bolding. Then there's Raveloft which was confirmed to be on the way by Forbes

While Dragonlance has not been confirmed there is strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that this setting will be revived with the new edition as well. Kenders, the iconic Dragonlance race, has been playtested for the new edition. Chris Perkins stated that Dragonlance was not dead, but that they would need a specialist to revive it. Tantalizing bread crumbs but nothing substantial. 

What we do know for sure is that of the major settings - Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Eberron, Dragonlance, Mystara, and Ravenloft - three of them are confirmed for the new edition with one that has been strongly hinted at being involved as well. Dark Sun's recent revival with Fourth Edition was really well done so it would not be beyond the pale to assume that it will continue its revival with the new edition. That leaves us with two settings not mentioned publicly since Wyatt's World of D&D article: Greyhawk and Mystara. Will they make a return?

The Art of Fifth Edition

Unlike the art of Fourth Edition, which was highly stylized and manga influenced, the new edition seems to be harkening back towards the realism of Second Edition art while avoiding the foibles of that earlier age. This change in style has been abundantly clear during the Sundering event but many were worried that the art might turn away from this style and back towards the cartoonish art of Fourth Edition - or worse, the hit or miss styling of Third Edition.

Happily that does not appear to be the case.  

Zhentarim.

Cultist of the Dragon


A Harper Bard

There were many more photos of monsters and of some items but sadly none of the pictures were of very good quality. Hopefully in the coming days Wizards will release more images and I'll be able to post those as well.

The Tyranny of a Stand-alone Product

While many of us were hoping for more concrete news on Fifth Edition, Tyranny of the Dragon was making news of its own. This product, unlike so many others Wizards of the Coast has released, does not require that you own the Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, or Dungeon Master's Guide to play. In fact, ". . . [Tyranny of the Dragon] adventures will be separate from the core system rules coming out this summer, but will be closely tied into those rules, and the first major adventures . . ." (Secrets from the Tyranny of Dragons).

This tied in, yet separate, structure for Tyranny of the Dragon seems to be reinforcing the goal Wizards of the Coast established when they announced that Fifth Edition would be a modular game. It also has led some to speculate that the very nature of Tyranny of the Dragon may make it easier for Wizards to get the game in the big box retailer stores, like Target, Wal-Mart, and Toys 'R' Us. 

Wizards of the Coast has done a lot to reinvigorate the game by integrating it in a wider market, however, it has not been their stated goal to get the game in the big box retailers. Instead the company has been focusing on their 'transmedia experience.' With Tyranny of the Dragon we're seeing the fulfillment of a goal established by C.E.O. Greg Leeds (see Greg Leeds, C.E.O. of Wizards of the Coast, On the State of Everything for more) and the continued evolution of their marketing strategies since the release of the Sundering. In September he laid out a vision for how the company would increase the presence of Dungeons and Dragons that included not only the standard novels and splat books that dominated Third and Fourth Editions but would also include video games, organized play events, and more.

That more has always been a tantalizing prospect as we have yet to see it materialize during the Sundering. That more, though, may show up with the Tyranny of Dragons as in the Forbes piece this line sticks out, ". . . We’ll see parts of the story not only in the tabletop RPG, but in the organized play program, in the Neverwinter MMO, and in other outlets Perkins can’t talk about yet . . ." (Secrets from the Tyranny of Dragons).

What other outlets might there be? 

Could we expect to see a new comic book? Perhaps we might expect a board game tie-in as we saw with the board games Castle Ravenloft and Lords of Waterdeep. Would it be unreasonable to expect an app of some sort that ties in with the Tyranny of Dragons? 

I expect all of those things to be around sooner than later; it only makes sense given what we've seen the company do so far. Still I cannot help wondering, in this day and age when Game of Thrones has millions on the edge of their seats, why are we not hearing about a television series? Why aren't we seeing Hasbro putting some of their best minds to work in developing a series that would capture the imaginations of millions? Why isn't there an HBO deal in the works that will finally break this hobby wide open and show the world how amazing it is?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Courting Disaster was How I Used to Talk About Sleeping with You

I was laying bed one night talking with a girl I'd never met who lived out west but desperately wanted me to come see her for a night of awkward groping when the second earthquake I'd ever recognized hit and knocked the phone off the wall, cutting her off. Well, fuck, I said as my roommate raced out the dorm in his boxers screaming "We're all going to fucking die!"

The whole dorm was moving as I stuck my head out the door and saw young men racing down the hallway, jumping floors, and panicking like a flock of chickens that just saw its shadow. I was too drunk at that point to panic so I picked the phone off the floor and started trying to hang it back on the wall. I did not succeed by the time the building stopped shaking so I figured that I must have failed the test and went back to bed. 

When the morning came some asshole pulled the fire alarm to chase us from our beds. My roommate poked his head from under the covers and groaned, "I'll pay a thousand dollars for that mother fucker's head!"

I sat up and laughed. Still won't be enough.

He got out of bed and started getting dressed. "Then two thousand - but I get to skull fuck the bastard afterwards."

We made it outside just as the fire truck pulled up and our Dorm Assistant stomped over to us. "You two should have been out here five minutes ago!"

"I'll be damned if I let you talk to me like that," my roommate growled. "Pistols at dawn you shit fucker!"

"Are you calling me gay?"

"Hell no, but the guy you blew last night sure as fuck is!"

The two were still going back and forth as I made it to Bear's jeep. Tell me you have a beer with my name on it?

"Shit," he said as he handed me a Miller Lite, "this is a dry campus sir and I'll have you know that I find it highly offensive you would even suggest that I might posses such a substance."

I leaned against his jeep sipping the beer while a group of future engineers worked on a bomb they assured us wouldn't go off until they were ready. "So did she call again?"

Who?

"You know, the girl from California."

Yeah.

"What's going on there?"

Fuck if I know. I'm fairly certain she's just trying to lure me out to California to steal my kidneys

"Best make them worthless then," he said as he tipped his beer towards me.

Best.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Look at That, I've got a New Blog Thingie

I just finished organizing all of the questions I've gotten on the blog in one place. You can now find them all on the Dear Dyvers page.

One of the really cool things I noticed over the course of compiling them is how varied my readers' interests are. I've got questions that range from the nature of our society's collapse to how do I tell my friends to stop being a bunch of mooching bastards. I really love getting these sort of questions and e-mails from you guys and hopefully putting up the Dear Dyvers page will just make it even easier for people to play along.

Origins Award Nominees Announced! Who's in Your Bracket?

This evening ICv2 has posted the complete list of Origins Award Nominees. Since I'm completely okay with being wrong I've decided to go through each category and pick which ones I think will win in 14.

What to play along? Copy the list, pick your favorites, and drop me a link. I'll add you to the bottom of the page and we can see who has the best nose for these awards!



2014 Origins Award Nominees

Best Roleplaying Game
13th Age – Pelgrane Press
FATE Core System – Evil Hat Productions, LLC
Mummy: the Curse – White Wolf Game Studio
Numenera - Monte Cook Games
Shadowrun: Core Rulebook – Catalyst Game Labs 


Best Roleplaying Supplement
DC Adventures Universe – Green Ronin Publishing
Heart of the Wild – Cubicle 7 Entertainment
Transhuman – Posthuman Studios
Night’s Watch – Green Ronin Publishing
Eternal Lies – Pelgrane Press

Best Board Game
Trains – Alderac Entertainment Group
Time n Space – Stronghold Games
Space Cadet: Dice Duel – Stronghold Games
Krosmaster Arena – Japanime Games
City of Iron – Red Raven Games

Best Collectible Card Game
Pokemon Black & White -Legendary Treasures – The Pokemon Company, Intl.
Pokemon Red Genesect Collection – The Pokemon Company, Intl.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Battle Pack 2 – Konami Digital Entertainment
Yu-Gi-Oh! Super Starter V for Victory – Konami Digital Entertainment
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legendary Collection 4: Joey’s World – Konami Digital Entertainment

Best Traditional Card Game
Love Letter– Alderac Entertainment Group
DC Comics Deck-Building Game – Cryptozoic Entertainment
Boss Monster - Brotherwise Games
Clubs – North Star Games
Marvel Legendary:  Dark City - Upper Deck

Best Children’s, Family, Party Game
Walk the Plank – Mayday Games
Three Little Pigs – Iello
My Happy Farm – 5th St. Games
ROFL – Cryptozoic Entertainment
Choose One! – Looney Labs

Best Game Accessory
Krosmaster:  Fire & Ice – Japanime Games
Shadowrun GM Screen – Catalyst Game Labs
Fate Dice – Evil Hat Productions, LLC
Space Gaming Mat – HC+D Supplies
Pathfinder Battles: Skull and Shackles – WizKids Games

Best Miniature Figure Rules
Marvel HeroClix: Avengers Vs X-men Starters – WizKids Games
Battletech Alpha Strike – Catalyst Game Labs
Judge Dredd – Warlord Games

Best Historical Miniature Figure/Line
Fife & Drum: Revolutionary War -– Fife & Drum
Highlander Force – North Star Military Figures
Fate of a Nation: Arab Israeli Wars – Battlefront Miniatures
Red Army: 28mm Russian Infantry – Wargames Factory
Devil Dogs and Dragons – Empress Miniatures

Best Historical Board Game
SOS Titanic – Ludonaute
Navajo Wars – GMT, designed by: Joel Toppen
Freedom: The Underground Railroad – Academy Games
1775: Rebellion – Academy Games
Francis Drake – Eagle Games

Best Historical Miniature Rules Supplements
SAGA: Varjazi & Basileus – Gripping Beast
Flames of War: Fate of a Nation – Battlefront Miniatures
Force on Force: Classified – Osprey Publishing

Best Historical Miniature Rules
Fields of Fire 2nd Edition – Proving Ground Games
Fire and Sword – Wargamer
Chain of Command –Too Fat Ladies

Best Miniature Figure Line
Malifaux: The Guild’s Judgement– Wyrd Miniatures
HeroClix: Wolverine and the X-men – WizKids Games
MERCs Mini’s (Shock Trooper, Spy, Eagle, Beacher) – MegaCon Games

Best Game Related Publication
Khan of Mars – Evil Hat Books
Fire for Effect – Catalyst Game Labs
ICv2 - Editor: Milton Griepp
Dork Tower – Editor: John Kovalic
TableTop – Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day 

Other Origins Brackets