So here we are. Everyone has their mandatory one liter of Mountain Dew. Crown royal bags have all been relieved of the dice-hauling duties and you know everyone’s got their mechanical pencil. This can only mean one thing: It’s time for D and D.
Buy inflatable water slide Canada
Seriously, the CEO of Crown Royal MUST have played D and D.
Ah, yes, good ol’ D and D. For the DM, the days leading up to a session can be as excruciatingly long as the last days before Christmas are for kids. The anticipation is insufferable. The wait to see the fruits of your labor completely wracks your brain. Will they go into the cavern with the trolls? Will the even find the hidden passage? Did I really spend three days designing an elaborate system of traps that they by blind luck manage to completely bypass? These are my nightmares. These are the questions that keep me up at night. Okay, it’s probably the Mountain Dew that keeps me up at night.
I know its bad for ya but once it hits your lips its so good.
It is natural for the DM to fret over the details. However, it is important to not get too caught up in trying to micro-manage the campaign. No matter how much planning you do, your players will eventually and invariably totally derail your plot. Simply put, you can’t plan for everything. Through sheer brilliance or simply dumb luck, at some point, your players will conjure something that you, the omnipotent DM, didn’t see coming. Before you let your ego get too bruised, just pick yourself up roll with the punches.
In previous articles I have advocated the importance in striking the right balance. This situation is no different. It is crucial to aspire to maintain the momentum that was established in the first few sessions of a campaign but not at the cost of character development. The continual progression of a linear story arc is essential to keeping the group focused on the grander scheme, yet each player still needs a sense of freedom.
Posted in: El CurtoGuest Authors
Our friends at MAGE Company are, once again, entering the Kickstarter arena with the next chapter of the 12 Realms saga;
12 Realms: Dungeonland!
A big box, miniature laden, dungeon crawler with several modes of play, this is sure to be a favorite on game night. As with previous titles in the 12 Realms line, familiar faces from fairy tales and lore are in the cast of playable characters (as well as some of the baddies). I’ll have a more in-depth breakdown of mechanics and gameplay in the coming days, as there is a Print and Play trial version of the game available here. (Spoilers! it’s a lot of fun!)
Also, once it’s live, you can find the kickstarter here.
That said, I asked the fine folks at Mage Company if they’d like to write an article about the game and how it’s different from previous iterations in the 12 Realms line.
So strap on your little riding hood and grab your axe because over the hills and through the wood, to Dungeonland, we go!
Exploring 12 Realms: Dungeonland
12 Realms: Dungeonland is a standalone game set in the 12 Realms Universe. It is a cooperative dungeoncrawler, where each player takes the role of a Hero from fairytales and explores dungeons and magical locations. They battle against evil monsters and epic bosses controlled by AI, and evlolve through the way. So no need for anyone to be the bad guy. In Dungeonland everybody is a Hero. But what makes 12 Realms: Dungeonland different from the other 12 Realms games and what are its key features?
1) Not an expansion. 12 Realms: Dungeonland is a standalone game. This means you do not need to have any of the other 12 Realms games. This is not an expansion. You can just grab a box, gather with friends and start your epic battles!
2) Cooperative, but not as 12 Realms base game. 12 Realms: Dungeonland is a cooperative game too, but it offers a completely different experience from 12 Realms base game. The only thing these two games have in common is the theme. They are both set up in a fantasy fairy tale world, so Heroes, items and monsters will be inspired from this theme. However the gameplay is totally different and the two cannot be compared.
3) The Campaign Mode. The main way to play 12 Realms: Dungeonland is through the campaign mode. The Heroes explore their way through multiple scenarios. All of the scenarios all linked to each other and the decisions you make will affect the plot of the scenario. This means that your decisions affect the story, so be careful what you choose and what you do!
4) The Arena. The game also includes an Arena board, where up to 8 players can involve in battle. The Arena offers 2 different game modes: The Duel: Players create 2 teams of 2, 3 or 4, depending on their number and battle each other. Which will be the team to be the last one standing? Waves of Enemies: This is a tower defense type mode, which will be used as a bonus stage between the different scenarios. In this mode, the Heroes battle against waves of enemies. The more waves they manage to defeat, the more rewards the get to continue their campaign.
5) The Master Quest. This is one of the unique features of 12 Realms: Dungeonland. You want to get the feeling of a complete campaign, but you do not have the time to play all the scenarios? 12 Realms: Dungeonland will feature the Master Quest, a single scenario that will give you the feeling of a complete campaign. This means that you will get the chance to experience the Hero development, the different choices that lead to different story endings and the Boss battle, all in a single session. No need to arrange several meetings with friends, experience everything in a single go.
6) Character Development. Each Hero has their unique starting gear and ability. During the campaign you can evolve your Hero by finding new items, weapons, spells, potions etc. At the same time, you can unlock new skills from the various skill categories that are offered through the game, to suit your playstyle. This means that even if you play the same Hero twice, they can be a totally new character and offer a different experience.
7) Exploration. The exploration mechanism is one of the key features of the game and offers great replayability. Through this clever mechanism, the dungeons and monsters are randomly generated each time, which means that two playthroughs will never be exactly the same. Furthermore, this mechanism is designed in a way to make you further immerse in the exploration of the magical dungeons, thus enhancing the game experience.
8) Gameplay. 12 Realms: Dungeonland is designed in such a way that it is streamlined and easy to learn and play making it suitable for families, without taking away the depth and strategic options that gamers would like to experience in a dungeoncrawler.
9) The perk of having the previous 12 Realms. As we said, you do not need to have the other 12 Realms games to play Dungeonland. However if you own any of the previous games, a conversion kit will be offered through the Kickstarter campaign, that converts all Heroes and their starting gear and abilities from the existing 12 Realms titles, making them suitable for Dungeonland. This means that you can take your favorite Hero and their miniature and use it in the game.
Posted in: Dan WhorlGuest Authors
Street Fighter V & The Games That Don’t Change
Fans who are eagerly awaiting the release of Street Fighter V on PS4 and PC next spring got a bit of a disappointment a couple of weeks ago when the game’s first betacrashed and burned. Available to customers who had already pre-ordered the upcoming game, the beta more or less failed on every level. An article in Geek made the point that while this is actually a good thing for Capcom, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun for gamers. The positive is that by experiencing failure, Capcom essentially achieved what a beta is actually meant for – a test run that can be used to work out the kinks.
But what’s caught my eye in the growing anticipation for Street Fighter V – the game, frankly, looks incredible – is just how much people want to play a game that at its core really hasn’t changed since its birth in the late-’80s. Sure, the systems on which we play Street Fighter have been updated, the graphics have gradually improved, and a few characters have come and gone; but really, we’re all getting excited about the upcoming release of a game we’ve been playing for 25 years!
This got me thinking about some of the other games we keep coming back to without pause, despite their familiarity and unchanging nature – and when I stopped to think about it, there were more than I would have thought.
Naturally, the first similar franchise that comes to mind when talking about Street Fighter is Mortal Kombat. It doesn’t have quite as long a history but, as the main counterpart to Capcom’s gold standard fighter, the series has remained similarly unchanged over the years. It’s also remained similarly popular. Just as the upcoming Street Fighter V release is starting to create something of a frenzy of anticipation, Gamerant recently reported that Mortal Kombat X – the latest game in the series that debuted earlier this year – is already the fastest-selling Mortal Kombat game ever!
So it seems that with some long-tenured games that don’t change the format too much, popularity can actually increase over time, as opposed to waning due to a lack of innovation. And it’s not something we only see in traditional fighters, where the characters keep players interested due to a certain nostalgia factor.
In console gaming, the best example outside of the fighter genre is perhaps in sports gaming, where various franchises – in particular the Madden NFL series – have lasted for decades. I wouldn’t point to iconic adventure games like Prince Of Persia or various Mario series, because while they’ve endured for many years, they have also survived via evolution. Madden, on the other hand, while adjusting to new graphics and systems as well as welcoming online multiplayer, has more or less been the same game for its entire existence.
Moving away from consoles to consider other branches of gaming, one of the first titles that came to mind was Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise. The series is built on a wonderfully engaging and addictive core concept that hasn’t changed through countless editions and mini-upgrades. The game now has a bigger focus on visual quality than it did in its earlier days, and players have more options when plotting out civilizations. The latest versions of the game (which you can download online) even allow specific focuses like outer space expansion or a world driven by religion. However, the basic idea of navigating a civilization through history has stood the test of time with astounding continuity.
Online gaming circles, too, have been a branch of gaming in which we see a lot of examples of games so pure and enjoyable that they don’t really need to adapt. In this category, the key player is perhaps the simplest arcade game in existence – simple, repetitive, thrilling blackjack. If you’re not one to play card games online, you probably think of this more as a live casino game that was eventually translated into a digital format, but the truth is online blackjack has been around for years. Intercasino‘s online gaming platform was established all the way back in 1996, at the inception of online casino gaming, and has a busy blackjack section. Years later with more than a dozen different versions and variations of blackjack being offered, the gaming practices have never changed.
And then, finally, there’s the timeless classics that are a true gamer’s best friends. These are the arcade titles that have stood the test of time, moving from independent machines to original game consoles and now into app form (perhaps the closest thing to a modern arcade). This category includes games like Tetris and Pac-Man, and it is perhaps the best demonstration of all of why a truly great game doesn’t need to be changed and refreshed to remain popular.
This is all just something to keep in mind in the wake of the Street Fighter V beta flop, and the inevitable negative press that has followed it. This is one of a handful of games that’s truly retained its original quality over the years – and there’s no reason to expect that to change!
Posted in: Guest AuthorsUncategorized
Finally, it’s all in place. You’ve done the bookwork. The characters are all rolled. And after much introspection and contemplation you’ve sewn the first strands of a web-like plot in your head. Now, every great adventure needs a grand beginning. So how do you bring this all together? You want to get your hooks in early and keep them on the line, but how? Too many campaigns commence in a tavern. A group of adventurers just deciding randomly to throw their lots together just doesn’t offer that explosive start you’re seeking. Wait a minute, that’s it! Start with a bang, literally.
Nothing will get your players attention quite like a fight. In fact, I think a good skirmish can be exactly what is needed to really kick things off right. It sets an exciting tone for the rest of the campaign. Immediately, and without remorse, the characters are put to the test and are instantaneously inundated with a sense of fear and anticipation of what awaits them beyond each turn. That sense of anxiety and curiosity works fantastically to a DM’s advantage in a number of ways. Similarly, the scuffle itself can be used to several ends.Inflatable bouncers
Characters and players experience will vary. Some players may be seasoned vets, or as with my party, most are quite inexperienced and green. A good scrap right from the start is great because it provides an immediate opportunity to explain the rules and mechanics of the game itself. It’s a lot easier to teach someone how THACO (old school D and D battle mechanic) and Armor class work when it’s in game and they’re rolling dice as opposed to in a conversation. The fight can be a clever way to give your players a tutorial without them realizing because it can simultaneously kick off a grander story arc. It doesn’t have to be a semi- random onslaught of kobolds upon a quiet farming community. However, there is no shame ever in a random kobold offensive.
Many good lads were lost to the Great Kobold Incursion of 987 DR.
For my group I had arranged a delightful little ambush by thugs. Though it should be said, this was not just a lame attempt at extortion. The opening sequence of the campaign came together as something of a theatrical production. I had given each player a few specific lines or actions there were to take to get things started and then they take over with their role-playing and off we go.
So it was, the paladin of the group is a young nobleman named Dhagan who had recently been promoted to captain of the guard of Copperkeep, the city in which this is all set. He and his trusted counselor, the wizard Vaerzaal, were at the barracks awaiting the arrival of a bounty hunter, a ranger of some renown by the name of Ulderic the Blackbear. The ranger was bringing to justice a young and naïve halfling rogue known as Longbelly who was involved in the robbery of a powerful and influential mining guild. As the gruff ranger pushed the bound Longbelly into the captain’s chamber he declared with a wry smirk on his weathered face, “It’s not so hard to track a Halfling.” So there they were, the four would-be companions. The first interaction wasn’t particularly amicable as you might imagine.
The halfling revealed that he was the “patsy” in a grander scheme. He offered up anything he had on the local thieves’ guild, and was even willing to help in the capture and disposal of the rest of the bandits in exchange for his own neck. (A truly typical amount of loyalty shown by a thief) However, no sooner than he had struck his bargain, they were all ambushed by a group of thugs hired to assassinate the halfling should he be bold enough to show his face or portly belly. To the little round one’s credit, he did immediately endear himself to the group by saving Sir Dhagan’s life in the onset of the ambush. The halfling, gifted with great dexterity and freshly unbound, unsheathed his sword in a flash and deftly batted away an arrow bound straight for the knight’s head.
Fear not though, after some tense moments the group did successfully overcome the thugs. It is important to remember not to overwhelm your party right away. You want to challenge them, but you don’t want to set a climate of defeat within the group. Certainly not in the beginning anyway, sometimes you will need to crush them just to remind them they’re not the biggest kids on the block. But, a nice clean victory over some brutish assassins to get things started, that sounds about right.
They’re getting a little cocky, it’s time for them to learn what a beholder is.
And that was our first session. They came together, they fought together, and they learned together. After all, anyone who plays or played old school knows THACO takes some getting used to. All in all, it went really well. It’s all about finding the right blend, my friends. You have to have a good mix of story-telling and the hack and slash. Once your players get the hang of what dice they need to roll when, and the web really starts to unwind, it becomes like your new favorite show and you can’t wait for the next episode.
Posted in: El CurtoGuest Authors
Wow, it even has an otyugh. Wait, what the hell is an otyugh?
After an extended break, rules and tables that were once etched in your mind are perhaps not so easily recalled. Cracking open the old books can be like rediscovering some lost knowledge from an ancient tome. After the dust settles what lingers is a nostalgia and invigoration from thumbing through page after page of the beloved core books. The Monster Manual has that sense of grandness once more. A new creature and idea to test and torment your players lurks on every page.
Indeed, as with any DM worth their weight in copper pieces, it is important to spend time familiarizing yourself with the rules and creatures at your disposal. However, I think it to be of equal importance to spend time crafting a story and preparing a narrative. In my humble opinion, the biggest challenge of the DM is to be entertaining. If your players are not engaged, then everything you’re trying to build will crash down around you.Water bounce house
As mentioned in my first entry, I prefer to make an effort to create an extensive backstory for each character. I think that this is paramount in the successful immersion of the player into the character. If your players have a sense of depth, it becomes easier to imagine the character and perceive it as being the hero or villain they desire. That is truly what players want to play. Players want to have a taste of grandeur. After all, this is fantasy. No one wants to be average in a game. We all have plenty of time to do that in real life.
So as stated previously, when it came time to making characters for the impending adventure, the first thing I set about doing was shaping each character one on one with their respective players. My friend Joe established early that he had wanted to play a rogue because that was something different than he had played before. In fact, most of the party was of limited playing experience and so the idea of them all trying something new was appealing. The point of a Role Playing Game is to act as your character, not as yourself. D and D shouldn’t just be about the hack and slash element of rolling dice. The creation of an interesting personality can be an equally if not more satisfying experience.
I don’t expect Shakespearean subtlety or the Oscar worthy intensity of Daniel Day Lewis, but my players actually have to play their role.
When each character was being rolled, I would store pieces of information about each character for ideas for the overall story. You never know what can spark a great wrinkle for the campaign. A magical item that the characters had, or a certain attribute being considerably low. For example, Ulderic, the ranger of the group has a very low charisma, and a long forgotten stat called comeliness (only used in forms of 1st and 2ndedition, yeah I’m old school) which we determined was because of a physical deformation. His face is horribly scarred from a harrowing encounter with a giant black bear. This same story became the idea behind the nickname of the character and his current garb. He is adorned in the beast’s pelts and is known as Ulderic the Blackbear.
This is the most ridiculous example of an extremely high comeliness.
This is the most unfortunate example of an extremely low comeliness. However, Tiny Tim is an 8th level bard and that’s not too shabby.
That is really only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to these stories. And that, my friends, is the point I’ve been working towards. The smallest aspect can spark a multitude of story ideas and that is the essence of creating an entertaining campaign that your players can’t wait to play. The more depth, the grander the narrative, the more your players want to see where the adventure takes them. And that’s the terrifyingly fun part of being the DM, it’s up to you to get them there.
Posted in: El CurtoGuest Authors
Mmm, delicious face.
Getting back on the imaginary saddle shouldn’t be difficult, right? What exactly do I mean, you say? Well, it’s not as weird as it sounds, I assure you. Look, I am a life-long nerd. Yeah, a pretty big one. There are many facets to my nerdiness. Perhaps the biggest of all being that I play the archetype of all nerdy games: Dungeons and Dragons. I just recently started a new campaign with a group of friends where I am to be the Dungeon Master. Despite the fact that I have been playing for over 17 years, I haven’t actively played in a few years and I am still somewhat nervous to be taking the reins once again. You might think that it would be just like riding a bike, Inflatable water slides Canadabut it’s a bit more like getting back on an imaginary horse and there’s a terrifying dragon swooping down to EAT YOUR FACE.
Apprehension aside, it is exciting to be at it once more. As mentioned previously, I have spent over a decade and a half playing this game now, which seems wild, because that is the VAST majority of my life. (I’m 26 if you were curious.) I’ve been playing long enough that I actually remember a time before a sultry-eyed Elijah Wood made Frodo Baggins and all things fantasy accepted parts of pop culture. I still remember a time when wizards were not scarf-toting, hipster British children and you got stuffed in a locker if you owned anything other than six sided dice. Despite that lingering threat of confinement and anguish, I had an interest in the middle ages and tales of sword and sorcery from an early age. It was only a matter of time before I picked up the dice.
Those are some serious peepers.
Even in those early days of playing with my friends it became clear that I was going to DM. I loved every aspect of the role. When you are the DM, you control everything. Every morsel of flavor, every nuance is shaped and crafted in the mind of the DM. You must weave an elaborate web of personalities, places, and perils. It is the DM’s job to make an imaginary world as colorful and vivid as possible. The ideal is that your players are able to completely immerse themselves in a world that is conjured from nothing but a collaboration of imagination. However, making the imaginary seem tangible is a colossal undertaking. So, for the sake of posterity and science, this and the following articles will be a discussion and dissection of the trials and travails I may face through the inception and commencement of the new adventure.
For this new escapade, I decided to run the campaign in a world that was very familiar. Having previously DMed and played in the Forgotten Realms it was an easy fit. For those who aren’t familiar with the Realms, it’s a very popular fantasy campaign setting created by Ed Greenwood and popularized by many video games and novels including the Baldur’s Gate games, and R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf series. The Realms are extensive and filled with vast intriguing lands each with their own histories and legends. By comparison, any of the incredible open-world video games that are so popular, the Realms dwarfs them all. That is the beauty of D & D compared to video games; there are no limits, and there is no set finale. The game is truly what you will it to be.
Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden battles nemesis Artemis Entreri
After having decided upon a setting my next course was to determine with my players what kind of party and characters they had in mind. D & D characters can come together in many fashions, but I prefer to let my players have a great hand in the creation process. In traditional forms of the game you roll your stats and choose a class based on your rolls and the rest essentially is to fall into place. For me, I want my players to enjoy playing their character. Therefore I got together with each of my friends individually to create their characters. This allowed me to focus on each player and the character they wanted to develop. Also, when it comes time to start the adventure there is a sense of mystery about what role everyone is going to be taking, consequently, the party coming together must actually be played and experienced by the group.
In the end, we wound up with a fairly well balanced group. There is a gallant and noble young paladin named Dhagan. The spellcaster of the group is a brooding and cunning wizard by the name of Vaerzaal. Also, there’s a mischievous and inquisitive halfling rogue they call Longbelly, but his kinfolk would know him as Hugo Humblepot. Rounding things out is the reclusive and tormented ranger Ulderic the Blackbear. Each character has a distinct and extensive back story that was shaped together with my players. For me, this is an essential element of the game. Making the characters layered and giving them as much depth as possible is a fantastic tool. Not just for making your players feel more absorbed in their character, but also for later in the campaign. There is always something to go back to and build upon. You can only rescue the princess from a tower so many times, right?
And now here we stand, metaphorically of course, on the cusp of a great journey, poised for the task at hand. So stay tuned, my new friends, for there will be many adventures and headaches to be had. Though the glory of the quest and the fruits of my labor may be completely imaginary, the good times shared by a group of friends are fortunately real and often quite memorable. Suddenly I’m reminded how much I love this game. It’s good to be back on the imaginary saddle.
Posted in: El CurtoGuest Authors
Halloween is my favorite holiday. What could be better than dressing up how ever you want and eating tons of candy? I’ve made a few Halloween costumes over the years for myself and others that were quite nerdy. I helped my little brother be Darth Vader too many years in a row and made a Link costume one year. Even if you’re not handy with a sewing machine there’s still hope for you to portray your favorite character accurately through the magic of online shopping.
The Link costume I made wasn’t too difficult. It was comprised of a green nightgown, a brown belt, brown boots, hand painted foam board shield, and a handmade hat. If you’d rather be the Hero of Time in 4-10 business days, I’d recommend getting this Adult Elf Warrior costume.
Costumes are a good investment if you go to conventions throughout the year. I start buying the materials for my costumes in July so there’s plenty of time to work out the kinks and think of a backup plan in case it doesn’t work out. Mid-summer or pretty much any time that isn’t Halloween is a good time to buy costumes online. They’re cheaper then and you don’t have to worry if the shipping takes a while.
Don’t hand out the same old, boring Tootsie Rolls to your trick-or-treaters, send them home with the best thing in their Batman candy bucket! These gummies are delicious and fun. I found them at Aldi but you can also buy them online.
If you want to celebrate Halloween all year long, store your files and have some candy too with this Spiderman Pez dispenser flash drive.
No matter what you decide to dress up as or what candy you eat or handout, have a happy Halloween!
*Notes from Dan*
Our resident gamer girl does it again! If you like Kayt’s ideas, you can see more of them at at her Etsy Shop. You really, really should stop in and look around!
Posted in: chzburgerenthusiastGuest Authors
Translating your geeky interests into a decorating style is so much fun. If you’re not a fan of DIY projects, there are all kinds of things you can buy to make your domicile as awesome as it can be. If you don’t pay your bills for the next few months and feel like saving up for this instead, no one would blame you. This functional NES controller coffee table would make for way more than just a conversation piece!
One of my favorite ways to display my action figures is on a simple shelf. I really like the floating shelf style if you anchor it to the wall securely, you don’t want your valuable treasures falling to the floor the next time you see a Game Over screen and throw your controller at the wall. Here are some examples from my living room:
If you are a fan of projects you can do at home, you can make your own wall art pretty easily. All you need is a blank square canvas and something to put on it like a quote from your favorite movie or a printed out picture of your favorite superhero. Just add glue, markers, or Mod Podge to make a unique work of art. The space you live in should reflect your interests, so don’t be afraid to frame some posters.
Make that mint condition Millennium Falcon replica the focal point of your wall or china cabinet!
*Notes from Dan* :
This is the second blog from our resident gamer girl! You can see more of Kayt’s work at her Etsy Shop. You really should stop in and look around!
Posted in: chzburgerenthusiastGuest Authors
It can be easy to assume that all things geek are the same if you’re not really aware of how vast the genre is. There is such a diverse variety of things in any comic shop that you’re sure to find something you’re interested in on your first visit. Even if you aren’t personally interested in gaming and geekery, you are almost guaranteed to have someone in your life that is. If it happens to be your significant other, don’t blow off their interests, embrace them! I would have a hard time sitting down and trying to join a D & D campaign, but I really enjoy a fantasy board game.
There are so many crafters and artists out there inspired by all things nerdy. If you aren’t familiar with a particular franchise, it’s still easy to get excited about the fun, tangible items that come from it. You don’t have to have seen Evil Dead to appreciate this awesome dress available on Etsy.com!
I love nerdy crafts and am always looking for fun new things to make. Just like when I watch the Transformers cartoon I get excited about the toys and try to find them on eBay,
I can’t wait to find adorable plush Koroks when I watch my boyfriend play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. As a kid, when you saw a show you wanted the stuff. I don’t think that ever went away for me.
I love to get creative with gift giving. Don’t get the gamer in your life cologne or a stock xbox controller, No one wants cologne. To avoid the traditional trip to Wal-Mart December 24th to get that special someone a heartfelt DVD of that movie they mentioned once, I buy presents for the people on my list all year long and keep them in a closet. That way, when the time for gift getting arrives, all I have to do is attempt to wrap them.
*Notes from Dan* :
You can see some of Kayt’s work at her Etsy Shop. You really should stop in and look around!
Posted in: chzburgerenthusiastGuest Authors
[cc_full_width_col background_color="141314" shadow_color="000000" border_color="0a678f" radius="6"]There are many forms of nerds in the world. Different geeks have different streaks, and we tend to run in packs. There’s the Sci-fi crowd, setting their phasers and channelling the force when not hunting replicants or bringing glory to the God Emperor of Man. And then, there’s the Fantasy crowd who spend their nights slaying dragons, fending off the nefarious forces of Mordor, or conquering the land of Westeros. There are even more types and sorts, but at bottom there is something integral to us all.
That something is how we interpret and organize our data of choice. What separates a true nerd or geek from someone who is simply enthusiastic about something is how they organize the data. For example, I am an enthusiast of flight. I love planes of all shapes and sorts because to me they are a true symbol of man’s ambition. We cannot live in the sky, there is no food or resources… even the water there is in a form that we cannot easily make use of. But the allure of flight is one that I enjoy. I will not, however, claim to be an expert of aerospace engineering. I may know a thing or two about physics and the basics of aerodynamics, but I doubt Boeing is looking for someone of my qualifications. I am enthusiastic about flight, but I am not an expert, and expertise is where gaming can truly shine.
There are other bloggers and contributors to this fine website who I can vouch for being exceedingly knowledgeable in the fictional histories of their choice. The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Fire Fly… these are mythologies in the truest sense. We tell stories of the Batman and Joker, Elim Garak, and The Doctor and the Daleks as if they were tales of Zeus and Hades or Thor and Loki (well we tell stories about them as well). But we do not simply tell stories, we also nurture and craft the setting in which they are told.
The amassed history of some of the settings in which some of our games take place is as lush and varied as that of real world civilizations. But what makes a history?
Certainly, the major events must be recorded, hewn into the stone of our minds with great care and precision. All the dates, the details, who were the heroes? Who were the villains? This deep set memorization is quintessential to being a “proper” nerd. But a civilization is much more than just a history, and there are some details which are often overlooked, even by some of the most learned members of our community.
Lets talk about Fashion, come now… it’ll be Fabulous.
Everyone KNOWS what Sauron looks like. Ring Wraits, Nazgul, Uruk Hai… all of these vile entities are quickly recognized even by children. And why is this? Well, the answer is simple. A number of very talented people took the time to truly think about the sort of symbolism that was the stuff of nightmares across multiple cultures. We’re seeing this more and more, an emphasis on making the costumes in our favorite television shows and films not just seem cool but seem “right”. For example:
-Bronn of Game of Thrones. Bronn states in multiple instances that he refuses to wear a golden cloak, the symbol of House Lannister, his employers. He wears simple, hardworn leather armor over the peasant’s clothes that have been permanently darkened by dirt, mud, and blood. This is integral to his character. Bronn is no high-born Lord or a Knight. He is not a rank and file soldier either. Bronn is a mercenary. The manner in which he dresses is such that he will not draw attention, and so that he can move and fight without being hindered. He has been known to fight with a sword, and a bow, but the one weapon he always has with him is a knife, kept at the small of his back (a place that he could reach it even if he were flat on his back). The knife itself is a Kukri, a blade of Nepalese origin that can be used to clear brush, skin animals, chop meat and vegetables, pry things open, take a man’s head off, and even to dig with in a pinch. The blade is still issued to the Nepalese Army for its use both as a weapon, and as a utility tool. So every part of Bronn, from his outfit to his selection of weaponry, says, ”I’m not just hear to fight, I’m here to survive.”
And now for something COMPLETELY different…
A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about The Phantom Menace. I won’t go into those here. But one thing that many overlook is the costumes of Queen Amidala. In her portrayal of the Queen, Natalie Portman wears some of the most spectacular and over the top outfits to be featured in the franchise. They feature lustrous silks, intricate beadwork and embroidery, feathers and furs. They speak of opulence and wealth, but it’s the smaller details that say the most about the character.
Rangaswamy Satakopan, a winner of the George Polk Award, has been quoted saying that the Sari is the most impractical garment known to man. For those of you unaware, a Sari is a garment from India. It consists of little more than folds of silk, always lovingly embroidered and detailed with all manner of jewelry, and in some cases gems. A sari is a garment of beauty and elegance, but in terms of function it is sorely lacking. Satakopan wrote:
“In summer, the folds stick around the legs. In winter, it affords no protection from the cold. When it rains, it can collect mud and filth at the hem. Only one hand is free while wearing it. It has no buttons, so if the hem is stepped on or slips, the whole garment may slip down. It cannot be worn during sport.”
I’m paraphrasing, but, the point is that a Sari is a garment for someone who does not work. The same can be said of nearly every one of Queen Amidala’s gowns. The long and full sleeves, the full train, the beads… these are not the sort of things that you would find in the outfit of someone who works.
I have been in far too many games where, the one conducting the narrative, simply describes someone’s outfit as “they’re wearing armor” or “they look nice.” Some authors even resort to these descriptors. Simply put, with the kind of freedom that magical or science fiction settings can afford, we must go beyond simply “nice looking.”
Tabletop roleplaying games are amazing things. But, where they can break down, is when the categorization and classification that is required when amassing the information of the setting and the narrative do not have a visual component. As a Dungeon Master, Game Master, or Keeper, it is someone’s duty to be able to describe what’s going on. Not just the gore and magic, but the characters themselves. Even players could take heed, after all, they are the ones that dress their characters.
I hope you found this first commentary thought provoking. In the weeks to come, I intend to expand on some of the points outlined here. The contrast of functional and non-function outfits, the usage of different materials, concepts of uniforms, and some of the historical aspects of each.
Thanks for reading. I’m Mike and I make pretty dresses.[/cc_full_width_col]
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