Geek and Sundry

 

Geek and Sundry

Bring the Battle For Azeroth to Your Own Tabletop With These Character Sheets

Aug 13 2018

CelebriD&D brings beloved actors from screens big and small to the tabletop with some of your favorite Geek & Sundry and Nerdist personalities. Helmed by Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer, each of these one-shot Dungeons & Dragons adventures are unique and unforgettable.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Terry Crews recently stopped by to enthusiastically play a D&D game based on the World of Warcraft expansion Battle For Azeroth. (You’ve watched the episode already, right? Get on it if you haven’t! We’ll wait.)

Like the classic MMORPG, the CelebriD&D game pitted Horde against Alliance for an epic battle with Terry, Marisha Ray, and Ashly Burch taking up arms (and maybe an eye) against Troy Baker, Taliesin Jaffe, and Jessica Chobot.

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If you were inspired by the incredible role-playing session to turn your home Dungeons & Dragons game into a battle for Azeroth, Dungeon Master Matt Mercer is here to help.

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He recently shared character sheets for level 5 characters, complete with spells, that you can use in your own campaign. “[This was] a fun challenge to balance the teams, [and] introduce WoW Class features and Spells alongside D&D staples for RP,” he wrote on Twitter. You’ll find sheets for the following custom characters:

  • Dwarf Paladin (Alliance) – Played by Jessica Chobot
  • Goblin Shaman (Horde) – Played by Marisha Ray
  • Human Priest (Alliance) – Played by Troy Baker
  • Mag’har Orc Warrior (Horde) – Played by Terry Crews
  • Undead Mage (Horde) – Played by Ashly Burch
  • Void Elf Rogue (Alliance) – Played by Taliesin Jaffe

Click here to download the Battle For Azeroth character sheets created by Matthew Mercer.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, Blizzard Entertainment’s seventh expansion, launches in North America at 3 p.m. PT on August 13, and around the world on August 14.

Roll For More CelebriD&D!

 

All Illustrations: Aviv Or

CelebriD&D Battle for Azeroth is sponsored by Blizzard Entertainment.

WATCH: Critical Role – The Journey Home (Campaign 2, Episode 30)

Aug 13 2018

Reunited at last, the Mighty Nein journey back to Zadash, hoping to find closure with those they’ve lost and the contracts they’ve made…

If you’re new to Critical Role, each week a group of talented voice actors embarks on a D&D adventure. Players Marisha RayTaliesin JaffeLiam O’BrienLaura BaileySam RiegelAshley Johnson, and Travis Willingham jump into the world created by fellow voice actor and GM Matt Mercer. (Check out this primer for newcomers to the show. You’ll be cursing Gil with the rest of us soon enough!)

Episode Music Credits:

Battle Bards
Midnight Syndicate 
Platemail Games
Kevin McLeod
Pillars of Eternity – Obsidian Entertainment
World of Warcraft – Blizzard Entertainment
Elder Scrolls Series – Bethesda Entertainment
The Witcher Series – CD Projekt Red
Shadow of Mordor Series
And a huge thank you for all of our community music contributions!

Thanks to D&D Beyond for being a long time partner of Critical Role!  

If you’re looking to catch the action live, join us every Thursday on Alpha and Twitch at 7 PM PT. If you’re not already subscribed to Alpha, you can get a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com.

WANT MORE CRITICAL ROLE?

  • Check out Critical Recap, where OG Critter and Critical Role producer recaps episodes in less than five minutes!
  • Catch up from the very beginning of the first campaign, and keep up with the new one with the Critical Role Podcast.
  • Tune into our official after show, Talks Machina, live on Alpha and Twitch, Tuesdays at 7pm PT.
  • Follow the Critical Role crew on Twitter for news about events and signings.
  • And don’t miss new episodes of Critical Role LIVE on Alpha and Twitch, Thursdays at 7pm PT.

A Gallery of Guests Who Have Crossed Paths With the Mighty Nein

Aug 13 2018

Critical Role is Geek & Sundry’s live Dungeons & Dragons show featuring Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer and his troupe of fellow voice actors. Catch them every Thursday night at 7:00 PM PT on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and on Alpha.

The second campaign of Critical Role is only months old, but already some impressive and compelling guest characters have crossed paths with The Mighty Nein. Faces both new and familiar have graced the stage to join and assist the intrepid cast in Wildemount.

Each of the guests’ portraits has been illustrated by official artist of the second campaign, Ariana Orner. The process was similar to putting together the art for The Mighty Nein when the campaign began, but with less time to tweak the design.

“I can’t go back and forth as much as I’d like to get things absolutely perfect,” Ariana says. “Still, the process is the same: I’ll send over the sketch to the guest based on their initial character description, receive feedback, and then adjust the art as necessary.”

Take a look at the guests gallery below and learn a little more about them and their characters.

Shakäste

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Character: Shakäste, human cleric

Player: Khary Payton

First Appearance: “Hush” (Episode 7)

The first guest player character the Mighty Nein encountered was the enigmatic and charismatic Shakäste in the depths of the gnoll mines. His pupil-less eyes are as white as his hair. Shakäste is accompanied by his dark-feathered hummingbird, Grand Duchess Anastasia, and while he is mysterious, his intentions are good.

Khary might be best known as the voice of DC Comics’ Cyborg in Teen Titans, Teen Titans Go!, and DC Super Hero Girls. (Booyah.) He’s also had a recurring role on The Walking Dead.

Calianna

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Character: Calianna, half-elf sorcerer

Player: Mark Hulmes

First Appearance“Stalker in the Swamp” (Episode 21)

Calianna is a half-elf with a draconic heritage revealed by the black scales that cover the side of her body. That same heritage also gifted her with powerful acid and fire-based magic. As powerful as Calianna is, she’s very inexperienced in the ways of the world, and finds the Mighty Nein and their companion Kiri utterly fascinating.

Mark is a longtime friend of Matt Mercer and the Dungeon Master for High Rollers, a D&D live game with new episodes every Sunday. You can also find him on YouTube channel Tabletop Weekly. Mark also DMed a quick, fun game with Taliesin Jaffe and Ashley Johnson at this summer’s Stream of Many Eyes.

Keg

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Character: Keg, dwarf fighter

Player: Ashly Burch

First Appearance: “Found and Lost” (Episode 26)

Keg, a fighter from Shady Creek Run who has a history with the remorseless Iron Shepherds, wears battered and bloodied armor. She’s abrasive and finds the Mighty Nein off-putting, especially Nott. But she agrees to join forces to help find the group’s missing friends for her own vengeful ends.

Ashly is known for her roles in video games such as Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn, Tiny Tina in Borderlands 2, and Chloe in Life Is Strange. You might also remember her as an unforgettable character in the Critical Role Pathfinder one-shot “To the Poop! Goblins.”

Nila

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Character: Nila, firbolg druid

Player: Sumalee Montano

First Appearance: “Converging Fury” (Episode 27)

Nila is a kind soul who comes upon The Mighty Nein in their moment of great sorrow. She lends a sympathetic ear, but has a tragedy of her own to contend with: Her family has been abducted by the same foul slavers who struck the Mighty Nein. They team up to find her missing spouse and child in The Sour Nest.

Sumalee has a wide range of acting experience, starting with a recurring role on ER, and later major gaming voice roles like the Inquisitor in Dragon Age: Inquisition and Suraya Hawthorne in Destiny 2.

WANT MORE CRITICAL ROLE?

  • Catch up from the very beginning of the first campaign, and keep up with the new one, with the Critical Role Podcast.
  • Tune into the official aftershow, Talks Machina, live on Alpha and Twitch, Tuesdays at 7pm PT.
  • And don’t miss new episodes of Critical Role LIVE on Alpha and Twitch, Thursdays at 7pm PT.

All Images: Ariana Orner / Critical Role

GMs: Our Best Tips For Handling Time Travel In Your RPGs

Aug 13 2018

GM Tips Our series to help Storytellers and Game Masters improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last week, deviously tackled overpowered or broken characters and this week let’s try and fix broken timelines with time travel!

Going back in time to fix grave mistakes is an imagination playground. Everyone has had the thought or seen it in a medium of their choice, and most often, with a healthy amount of nerdy critique over broken universes. Let’s move beyond the obvious Dr. Who and Back to the Future references and fall into more Looper territory with this article where I’ve got some tips for running games based on time travel.

Fixing mistakes is only one way to approach time travel in a tabletop games. A critical character has died and without a means of resurrection, they race back in time to save their companion. Or even rewind time by a few rounds in an epic combat. Yet you can also use time travel to gain power, or even exploring history of your setting—and revealing untold legends. Before the characters destroy your setting and break the universe with time paradoxes, here are some tips to make GMing time travel easier.

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Start With A Fixed Point

In one of my recent campaigns, designed to stretch out over a thousand year dynasty, I knew upfront that time travel was going to be a focus. Rather than start at year one, and jump forward, I started in year nine-hundred and ninety five and had the players constantly go backwards (along with many antagonists who were doing the same). The goal was to change the outcome of this thousand-year period in its final years, and after each adventure the characters would return and see what changed.

By having a fixed iconic point for your time-traveling storytelling you reduce the strain on all the note keeping. By trying to keep track of both the past, and the future time hoping you’ll drive yourself insane after only two or three adventures. Going forward in time, witnessing the outcomes, and returning to change it is also viable. I prefer going backwards myself as a narrative, but in both cases there is a fixed point and your characters are going in one direction. Keep it that way. You need at least one grounded point in order to drive home any storyline impact.

Time Protects Itself

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Once players start flinging around wish spells and meddling with past events, you may find yourself struggling to keep certain major plot events always in place. If the Fire Nation never attacks, there is no campaign to play in the first place and characters will probably end up being farmers. You can get around this with a bit of GM handwaveum. Time isn’t a hard fast set of events, but rather more like a rubber band (daylight savings time anyone?), so it’s okay to write in a few fateful events that pass one way or another.

Let’s say that the City of Stars needs to fall for your campaign to launch, for one reason or another, it’s just that vital. If the City of Stars is sacked by an opposing army, and the players go back in time to stop the army before they march, have the city fall by economic ruin months later, or a great plague. Chances are your players will see this as a challenge, and even try evacuating everyone in the town and relocating them… and maybe you say as a GM that counts for what you need, and thus is the canon event going forward. This doesn’t mean the future outcome doesn’t change drastically, losing a city to a siege versus a great plague sweeping the land will have a great impact on the future, but in both cases the triggering event will still happen.

Breakout The Chalkboard

Once you are fully mired in the campaign of time travel, it’s time to break out the tinfoil hats and chalkboard. As a storyteller, this is the time you sit back and let your players theorycraft their own storylines to great effect. If you’ve done your job well, you’ll be equally invested in mapping out various time-break points and an alternate plot scenes. Like many Final Fantasy games, you’ll figure out just how many ways you can throw Wedge and Biggs into every place they travel back or forward to.

Get an actual chalkboard or dry-erase board and create a visual map of the storyline for both you and your players. There are a handful of writer tools on the internet available for digital pin-boarding storyline ideas, and even a public bullet list in the D&D Beyond Campaign Manager tool will work. As long as you and your players can sit around and visualize the board the theorycrafting will flow. Add in some gaming cocktails and a bottle of wine, and perfecto! Just don’t ever try to explain your crazy game in a public—without your tinfoil hat.

So how have you broken your world with time travel before? Let us know in the comments below!

Looking for More Useful GM Tips?

Featured Image by: Hyperlanes published by  Scrivened LLC

Image Credits: Rifts Board Game by Rogue Heroes

Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.

A Sneak Peek At Our Newest RPG Show – CALLISTO 6!

Aug 10 2018

All good things must come to an end. We’d like to thank the cast, the crew and most importantly, the fans for their heartfelt messages regarding the final episode of Shield of Tomorrow. The USS Sally Ride may be warping off into the sunset, but Eric Campbell and his crew of expert roleplayers will be returning to space soon enough with a brand new show, setting, and game system. Eric gave us a glimpse of what’s on the horizon in their new show: Callisto 6!

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In the world of Callisto 6, Los Angeles died on June 19th, 2078.

Forty years have passed since the day the coastline of southern California crumbled under the shockwaves of a freak, catastrophic earthquake, killing millions and pulling swaths of the city under the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Seizing the opportunities that calamity provides, the largest corporate giants in the world came together and in their “benevolence”, offered to help with the costs of reconstruction as well as provide humanitarian aid.

In return, they asked for unprecedented levels of autonomy in order to provide the medicine, shelter, jobs and infrastructure the population so desperately needed in its darkest hour. No red tape. No oversight. And from the rubble arose a new city.

The year is now 2119 and Los Angeles has become a megacity of glittering silver skyscrapers and incredible technology. Its citizens enjoy healthcare, innovative environmental engineering, and prosperity not seen anywhere else on the planet. And the price for this utopia? The pleasant opiate of oppression from their saviors, the Oligarchs.

“I love settings that take the world we know and show us a new vision,” said Eric Campbell. “We see this in Overwatch, Big Hero 6 and often in RPG worlds, where they take something that’s familiar to us and then remove what we think we can expect. With this game, I wanted to infuse it with that same concept but draw upon real issues that we are facing today, so that I could build what our world might look like and how it would be coping with the “sins of the father” so to speak. But I still wanted that idealism, that feeling that all was not lost and that in this landscape where the wounds we cause today are being healed… though that healing is being threatened.”

For the system to run this new game, Eric looked to one of our other shows, Starter Kit. Those players recently found themselves in the Ninth World of Numenera powered by Monte Cook Games’ Cypher System. Eric liked what he saw and decided to use it as the backbone of the adventures in this new world.

“Cypher is one of the most elegant game systems I’ve ever seen,” said Campbell. “I’ve played a lot of brilliantly crafted RPGs and many of them have tried to make their rules set applicable to any genre you can imagine. What we’ve learned now, as a group, is that we not only wanted to play a system that leaned hard into narrative, but something that would be easy for the group to grasp and would work well in terms of pacing on a live stream. Cypher is a perfect fit for this group. The Corebook and Expanded Worlds supplement throw open the doors for us to do whatever we want.”

Eric (and Sam de Leve, who co-created the world and will be Eric’s GM assistant on the show) found creating the world of Callisto easy enough with the Cypher System rules. But their Geek & Sundry connections allowed to draw upon a unique resource very few GMs have a direct line to contacting when planning their next campaign; Monte Cook himself.

Monte Cook FI

“Monte made himself a resource to us and it’s been enlightening hearing his suggestions. He’s given guidance on how we can use the rules to craft what we want, but more importantly, he’s given insight on how to infuse home brewed rules with “soul”. More than just making a mechanic that will serve a balanced dice roll, he’s got us asking what we want to do narrative and building our rules from there. But also… it’s Monte Cook. The dude is a legend in the tabletop world. I’m giddy as hell that I get to conspire with him.”

New campaigns are often a chance not just for GMs to build a new world and take on stories that didn’t fit in the last campaign, but also for players to change things a bit on their own. Performers love new challenges, and the players under Campbell’s directions are excited to roll out some new characters for the fans to connect with. When asked which player he’s most excited for fans to see in their new role, he could barely contain himself.

“SAAAMMMMMM,” said Campbell. “Sam is playing something so totally opposite of Junil Rue and I can’t wait to watch them in action. Sam’s become one of our most beloved hosts at G&S and beyond being a light for everyone, they’re one of the most engaging players I’ve had the fortune of running a game for. In truth, everyone is bringing something new to the table. I can’t wait for everyone to see what they’ve all created!”

Keep checking out the site for more information on the new adventures of Callisto 6. We’ll reveal more information about Lindy, Cass, Anton, Lacy, Oya and Luma as it becomes declassified!

Who’s your favorite superhero? Tell us in the comments! And be sure to tune into the premiere of Callisto 6 on Friday, August 17 on Twitch and Alpha

More RPG Goodness!

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

5 Modern Muggle Board Games We Think Hufflepuffs Would Love

Aug 10 2018

Once all of the homework is done and the plants are all taken care of, what’s a Hufflepuff to do with their spare time? You can only watch that one plant sing and dance so long (and really, someone should teach it a new song). It’s time to pull out some muggle board games from the closet and play them under the burnished copper lamps in the common room.

Photosynthesis

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You are pitting species verses species to see who’s the most dominant. Starting with the youngest player, you take turns planting two of your small trees on the outside ring of the board. Each of the game’s rounds are measured by the sun fully rotating around the board. You will gain light points based on the position of the sun, the larger the tree the more points it is worth. If you are in the shadow of another tree, you get no light points during that phase. You then spend those light points on actions (buying trees, planting trees, upgrading a tree’s size, or ending the life cycle of a large tree to gain scoring points). After three rounds, the game ends and you add up your points.

Everyone knows that Hufflepuffs are generally some of the best Herbology students, owing to the fact that Professor Sprout is their head of house and brings a collection of interesting plants into the common room.

Takenoko

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You are a gardener, tasked with growing bamboo for the Emperor’s new panda. Sounds easy, right? Well, that rascally panda won’t stop eating. On each of your turns, you roll the weather die and chose two different actions to take (placing tiles, irrigating tiles, moving the gardener, moving the panda, and drawing scoring cards). You can choose to ignore the weather die, but it gives you special actions on your turn. There are three different types of scoring cards: tile configuration, bamboo growth, and bamboo eaten. The game continues until someone plays enough scoring cards to trigger the end of game.

Hufflepuffs are great at herbology. The playing field is level, there are a lot of different strategies you can use to play and win. And let’s not forget, sometimes you’re the panda and the Hufflepuff house is right next to the kitchens.

Castle Panic

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You must work together to repel the waves of monsters that are trying to smash your castle. Every turn you draw up to a full hand of cards, trade cards with the other players, play cards to slay monsters or rebuild walls, move the monsters up a space, and draw 2 new monster tokens. Monsters are placed in the forest on whatever number you roll. The board is broken up in three colors (1 and 2 are red, 3 and 4 are green, and 5 and 6 are blue) and five circles (forest, archer, knight, swordsman, and castle). As the game progresses, you must work together to slay the monsters as they come faster and faster. If they take out all of your castle towers, you lose, but if you hold out, victory is yours.

This feels very much like the battle of Hogwarts. Every Hufflepuff stayed to fight the Deatheaters because they are loyal to the school.

Pandemic

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You are members from the CDC tasked with stopping the spread of deadly diseases. You randomly pick which role you get, each one being super useful in the management and cure of the diseases. Each turn you move about the board, stopping outbreaks and setting up research facilities. You get four actions on your turn, so careful planning goes a long way. You can trade cards with other players in the same cities to help them find cures. At the end of your turn, you draw two cards. Most of these will be useful, but there are Epidemic cards scattered throughout the deck. Those cause more diseases to spawn and move the infection tracker up. If you reach the outbreak tracker reaches the end, you lose. Cure all four diseases to win.

As the game progresses and more epidemics are spawned, the game gets harder to beat, but forces you to work together. Hufflepuffs will love the hard work and patience it takes to defeat the diseases.

Forbidden Island

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You are a group of adventurer’s trying to reclaim the four treasures from the Forbidden Island before it sinks. Each player will randomly draw one of the 6 types of adventurers from the deck, each one having a different ability. On each of your turns, you will take up to 3 actions: move, shore up, give a treasure card to another player, or capture a treasure. You can shore up a tile either you are on or adjacent to you to keep it from sinking into the ocean. You can give one of your treasure cards to another player if you are on the same tile. When you have four of a treasure type, you can go to the tile of that type and capture the treasure. But beware, in the treasure deck there are cards that make the waters rise and flood more tiles. Work together to capture the four treasures and make it back to Fools’ Landing with a helicopter cards to get your team off the island.

This game is tough. You have to work together to keep tiles from disappearing off the board for good. It is through hard work and perseverance that you can win the day!

Bonus: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

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We would be remiss to have a Hufflepuff list without adding the Hogwarts Battle, even though there are no playable Hufflepuffs. This game is completely cooperative and plays to the loyalty that Hufflepuffs showed during that fateful battle by staying to fight.

What other games do you think Hufflepuffs would play? Share in the comments!

Feature Image Credit: Arleana Holtzmann http://arleanaholtzmann.com

Image credit: Blue Orange Games, Asmodee, Fireside Games, Z-Man Games, Gamewright Games, USAopoly

Miniature Painting 101: Finding Your Personal Painting Ceiling

Aug 10 2018

I am an average painter. Maybe a little above.

I want to be really clear about what I mean by this. There are times I knock it out of the park with a painted miniature, as with my Great Unclean One (which I show off every chance I get). Mostly, though, I do a perfectly passable job which won’t win me awards or get gasps. My line highlighting can be a little too thick in spots. I can’t freehand. I inexplicably cannot highlight bone, leaving me to drybrush the omnipresent Warhammer skulls as best I can. Highlighting teeth fills me with dread, because teeth are white.

All of that is perfectly fine.

A brief history of how I worked my way up to average and why it’s fine. I tuned into Warhammer by accident, when I got a White Dwarf magazine 30 (oh no) years ago. My mother thought it was about Dungeons & Dragons; it wasn’t. I fell hard for all the miniatures and battle reports. I wanted to do that.

Here’s what I found out really quickly: the stuff I was so enthused by in the ‘Eavy Metal section was beyond my abilities as an 11-year-old. So I got frustrated with my gloppy paints and bad shading. I didn’t understand highlighting, or lighting or color theory or all the other stuff. There was no YouTube to turn to or close by store for lessons.

So I just stopped painting. The few times I did paint, it was a slapdash affair, with neither care nor patience. My basement games were scores of painted or half-painted miniatures, all because I couldn’t hit the peaks I thought I should be able to.

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Be Yourself

Two things turned this around.

The first was purely technical, though it feeds into the second. I figured out that very little of miniatures painting is raw artistic talent. It’s largely down to technique and tools. When you think of a miniature as a 3D paint by numbers set, it starts to make sense to the people (like me) the artistic genes skipped. You can learn to highlight and drybrush. You can learn a little color theory to make your minis pop. Those are skills, not mysterious talent, and they can be made better through practice. I can’t draw a straight line or make a circle, so I’m not being pithy when I say that, if I can, anyone can.

The second thing which helped me is purely psychological and way more important than technique. I accepted that I wouldn’t be ‘Eavy Metal quality and that I had my own individual ceiling on how good I could be.

That sounds like a downer, but it wasn’t. It was liberating. Once I figured out that there were some things I was never going to be good at, it made the things I was good at seem better. It let me concentrate on the good stuff more, to expand upon them and make them even better. I’m good at flesh. I can make drybrushing the sort of light touch you need to keep it from looking too streaky. I can figure out cool color schemes.

That’s all technique which I learned, first during a brief stint in Games Workshop’s retail arm around the turn of the century (oh no), then on my own, reading and watching videos. But I wouldn’t have ever done those things if I’d been sitting around bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t going to paint at the level of White Dwarf’s in-house team. The way I got to be average—and once in a while either a little or quite a bit above average—was to commit myself to first figuring out what my max was and then painting to that maximum limit. Everything was made possible after that.

You can see some of the difference just diving in and figuring it out made. Below are some Word Bearers I painted about 15 years ago:

Old Bearers
And then some Word Bearers for Horus Heresy I painted late last year:

Word Bearers

They’re still not perfect, but there’s a marked improvement. I’m still me; what’s changed is my approach to painting relative to my own skills.

It’s Not the Louvre

A friend who was relatively new to miniatures gaming called me one day, frantic about how to get a perfect blend from white to purple on some ghouls he saw in White Dwarf. I knew which ones he meant; they were perfect, delicately blended and impeccably detailed. He asked me what paints to buy and what approach to take.

I told him what I figured the proper approach would be. Shading, of course, some wet blending. But then I told him that it was probably out of his reach and that he was going to reach a state of painting paralysis if he shot the moon right out of the gate. Painting miniatures is, if not easy, easy-ish; painting miniatures like a top pro-painter is hard, even impossible for us mere painting mortals.

It helped. He went from finding painting frustrating to finding it a fun, relaxing activity during evenings. He transitioned from just a few painted miniatures to an entire army, to an army and a half. He found his realistic limit, then started seeing where he could stretch it.

By all means, watch videos and read blog posts. I swear by Duncan Rhodes, the Games Workshop stalwart. I had to train myself from scratch in airbrushing, which meant watching more videos than I care to relate; I’m still not very good at it, but it’s something new to toy with and it speeds up basecoating, even if I do nothing more complicated with it than that. Get the techniques and the tools sorted. The paints are better than they were 30 years ago, there’s more information, and there’s way more variety in tools, from LED lights to an unending cascade of brushes. Use that stuff to your advantage.

But above all else, don’t get discouraged if you don’t hit the heights of the best photos and videos. You don’t have to be the best. You just have to be you.|

What’s the miniature that best showcases your skills? Show us in the comments!

Check out G&S Painters Guild on Alpha!

Want more painting tips, tricks and techniques? Host Will Friedle is joined by master painters to learn and grow in the hobby, and you can join him on his journey.

Want to see what he’s been painting? Check out the Season 3 Lesson Guide, complete with the materials list and step-by-step galleries for each episode. On the premiere episode, airing August 6th, Will and master painter Bryan Merlonghi will cover advanced weathering techniques, to accomplish the result below.

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The new season of Geek & Sundry Painters Guild premieres on August 6th and is exclusive to Alpha. Don’t have an Alpha membership? You can get a free 60-day trial with when you sign up with code “MINI” at projectalpha.com!

More Miniature Painting Goodness!

Image Credits: Ian Williams

WATCH: Advanced Deck Building In Magic: The Gathering – Enter the Commander (How To Play)

Aug 10 2018

We’re shuffling our cars and summoning artifacts in this exclusive How to Play series featuring Magic: The Gathering. In this episode, Trish Hershburger and Josephine McAdam show off the Commander format with Becca Scott and guests Josh Lee Kwai and Kyle Hill.

Want to try out Magic: The Gathering’s new set? Head over to your local game stores to check out the new Core Set 2019! Learn more about it at Magic.Wizards.com!

MORE MAGIC: THE GATHERING GOODNESS!

This video is sponsored by Wizards of the Coast.

WATCH: Shield of Tomorrow – Hard Six Part 2 (Episode 29)

Aug 10 2018

Shield of Tomorrow is our Star Trek Adventures RPG show. GM’ed by Eric Campbell, the talented cast comprised of Sam de Leve, Amy Dallen, Hector Navarro, and Bonnie Gordon embark on weekly adventures aboard the USS Sally Ride.

Want to catch the show live? Tune in every Friday at 4:00 PM PT and follow the adventures of the USS Sally Ride on Twitch and Alpha. You can also catch the aftershow, Behind The Shieldon Alpha immediately after Shield of Tomorrow. Don’t have an Alpha subscription? Sign up now for a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com.

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Enter the Cutthroat World of Groceries with PASARAYA: SUPERMARKET MANAGER

Aug 9 2018

If you attended 2018’s Dice Tower Con in Florida you may have come across an unassuming game called Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager. This clever deckbuilder from Malaysian designer Seh Hui “Felix” Leong does not feature outlandish art or themes. It’s packaged in a cute, colorful box that looks a lot like the milk cartons found on international grocery store shelves. Our US audience may not recognize the design, as our milk is typically found in jugs in the refrigerated section but it’s a cute artistic touch, along with the “nutritional facts” giving you details like game length and player count. The cartoony graphic design belies a deep and ruthless deckbuilder about the joys and pains of running a supermarket.

Dice Tower Con is an appropriate place for Leong to have brought Pasaraya. It was a comment from Tom Vasel himself, regarding his desire to play a game about running or shopping in a grocery store that planted a seed deep in Leong’s mind. This was years ago, and design didn’t begin immediately, but the idea lay dormant until Leong played Trains and the idea blossomed into an initial game design. In Trains, players build a network of train depots and tracks but fill their deck with waste that clogs up their hands. “This seems to be the perfect mechanic to simulate real-life management. So what if there is a game where each different type of cards could potentially be completely useless when it come up at the wrong time” wrote Leong.

In Pasaraya this effect is created through a multi-layered resource system. In your average deckbuilder, there is typically one currency resource (gold, money, etc) you’re using to build your engine in a race for victory points. In Pasaraya your currency is also ultimately your victory points. The winner is the person with the most cash on hand at the end of the game, but generating cash requires converting your finances into employees and inventory. “You’ve got to spend money to make money” goes the old saying, and that’s definitely true in Pasaraya. Cash is spent on milk, clothes, and appliances which are used in turn to fulfill sales goals or contracts. The reward is more cash and the cycle begins again.

 

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The other significant departure from the norm is that your fortunes aren’t permanent. Spend cash on inventory? That cash is gone. Use inventory to fulfill a contract? Also gone. Despite the fact that Pasaraya is a resource conversion game that requires you to run an engine of employees and products, there’s never a moment where you can lean back and watch your engine run. Management is a tough job, and you’ve got to constantly work at it in order to keep your store running smoothly. Leong has accurately captured an environment of expendable resources, and poor play can leave you with a full staff of employees that have nothing to sell

While this dual-layered resource system is clever, and would be enough to recommend Pasaraya, my absolute favorite mechanism in this game is the bank. Departing again from normal deckbuilding conventions, players have a significant amount of control over the financial makeup of their decks. Rather than fall back on a perpetual cycle of cards heading to the discard pile to be reshuffled into your hands, players have full control of their cash flow. Money can be freely exchanged between their discard pile and the bank. If you’ve got a lot of inventory or employees you’re hoping to get into play you can dump your cash into the bank where it will remain (mostly) safe. At other times you might flood your deck with cash, hoping to ride an economic boom into a hiring spree or an opportunity to stockpile resources. An event deck ensures that things aren’t perfectly predictable though never feels too punishing.

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No doubt about it, Pasaraya is innovative and clever, which is impressive given the design resources Leong has in Malaysia are not as plentiful as they are in the US. “[The design scene is] in its early stages and in the last few years, more and more game designers in Malaysia have come forth to develop and craft new board gaming experiences.” Leong estimates there are about 10 Malaysian designed games in local circulation, and designers have to do a lot of coordinating via Facebook and Meetup. Even playtesting can be difficult; Pasaraya saw playtesting at previous year’s Dice Tower Cons as they afforded the opportunity to get Western players and perspectives on the design. As if that wasn’t enough, once the game is designed it’s still difficult to sell. Pasaraya is available primarily through email and Facebook sales. Leong is still handpacking and shipping individual copies!

With luck, the market will continue to grow for these internationally designed games. Oink and Pandasaurus are two publishers who make it to the Japanese Game Market every year in search of hidden gems they can bring to the US market.  “For South East Asia, I think the main factors being that the general populace only caught onto board games and game design until much recently and the lack of game publishers – considering it was a riskier business proposition back then with a niche audience. However, I can foresee this reality will change dramatically within the next five years – our neighboring Indonesia has at least two publishers that are putting out multiple games in a year and a few successful Kickstarters that is coming out from Singapore” wrote Leong.

I certainly hope that reality changes. It’s always great to play games from new designers. Designers and games that arrive from far off locations and different cultures can only enrich a growing hobby, and I can’t wait to play more of these games. Pasaraya may currently be difficult to obtain but it’s one that I think is worth seeking out. It’s cutthroat without ever being cruel, and easy to learn to play. And while it may be a tad longer than your average deckbuilder, the experience of riding a shifting economic landscape while managing a wholly unique deckbuilding system is a great one.

Pasaraya is available through BoxFox’s Facebook page.

What is your favorite indie board game? Tell us (and the world) about it in the comments!

Looking for more internationally gaming fun?

Image Credits: Raf Cordero

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Raf Cordero co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. Chat with him on Twitter @captainraffi.

Our Hands-On Impressions of Legacy Game GEN7 From Gen Con

Aug 9 2018

Dead of Winter was the right game at the right time. Zombie mania and tabletop games were on the rise. The Crossroads system offered the hard narrative choices that make zombie stories such compelling drama. Add in some traitor mechanics and memorable characters and the game helped put Plaid Hat Games on the map. Four years later, the company revealed the next game using the Crossroads System. Gen7 takes the Crossroads system to the stars and uses it to propel a mystery that may involve the fate of the entire human race. We were lucky enough to get in a demo of the game at Gen Con and chat with the lead designer, Steve Nix.

Gen7 is set on a generational colony ship full of humans headed to a distant star. The space ark will supposedly take 13 generations to get to its destination. “The choice of the 7th generation was deliberate,” said Nix. “They are the first generation that don’t remember Earth or have any connections to home. They are not likely to see the finished colony world. They have to be entirely selfless and bridge the gap.”

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Players set about placing worker to balance three main game elements: solving problems, advancing technology and resolving personal issues. Worker dice have to fix the things that keep breaking on the ship. Advancing technology gives the player merit points which give the players access to new cards that let them do cooler things. The personal issues reflect the Crossroads cards that get shuffled into the decks beyond the main plot. Each player chooses a character in their command whom they have a strong tie to. These characters bring the personal drama to the game.

“The players play the main characters, the heads of the departments that they can customize as they play,” said Nix. “The relationship cards are the B and C-level background characters whose stories reflect the struggles of the off-camera people.”

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Gen7 is a legacy game meant to be played out over several sessions. Rather than painful choices in the moment, Nix adapted the Crossroads System to show how the consequences of choices shake out in the long run. Personal events trigger that shuffle in specific event cards to later episodes. When systems break, gathering resources becomes more difficult and sparks selfishness between officers. Nix said things never get quite as bad as Dead of Winter in PvP terms, but that some storylines will definitely have a tinge of BSG paranoia to them. Merit points not only unlock additional abilities but also let characters rank up and have more influence on the direction of the story. When the time comes for main storyline votes that help determine the next episode, higher ranking characters get more votes.

Even in the short demo we played at the con floor, we couldn’t help but speculate on the direction of where things were headed. The personal choices triggered by some characters seemed to bleed into the main story effortlessly and it was intriguing to see players engaging both as active participants in the game and as audience members reacting to twists in the main story. (Don’t worry, no spoilers here but Nix wouldn’t say just how many episodes in the branching storyline were going to be included in the game other than a lot.) The mystery of Gen7 is meant to play out over seven episodes, but even after just a few turns, we were hooked.

What legacy game are you most excited about? Tell us in the comments!

More Board Game Goodness!

 

Images Credits: Plaid Hat Games

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs with the Theatre of the Mind Players here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

A First Look At NAGA RAJA: Hands-On Impressions from Gen Con

Aug 9 2018

Every year I went to GenCon before 2018 had been to work for an exhibitor in some capacity. This year, I was a rogue agent for Geek & Sundry which has its own kinds of perks. One such perk was the joy of getting to sit down with Théo Rivière who worked with Bruno Cathala to make the game Naga Raja! He thoroughly trounced me when we played but made sure to mention that Bruno beat him even harder than he beat me.

Nagaraja is a 2-player head to head adventure game where the person who receives 25 points first wins. Gaining points requires you to place tiles, similar to Tsuro, to connect you to the outer edges of your potentially changing temple! On these 9 edges, artifacts exist for the taking, but you’re managing your cards as resources to collect them and competing against your opponent all the way.

Playing The Game

Gameplay is surprisingly simple, but involved, and allows for depth of strategy. You begin with a hand of cards that have 3 key factors to them. They have a family, which can be found in the top two corners of the card. Between those two symbols are going to be a picture of dice colored green, white, and brown. These dice are what will be rolled when bidding for cards. Finally, at the bottom for the card is just some sort of activable action the card can be used for that can be anything from moving tiles around, adding extra gold value to win tiles, peeking at artifacts, or swapping the locations of your opponents artifacts to trip them up.

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To gain access to these artifacts, each turn players simultaneously select some number of cards from their hand that shares the same family to bid for a tile that has been placed face up. This tile may have a secret on it that can be picked up once found that has 1-2 points or some immediate effect, but are kept hidden unlike revealing found artifacts. Once cards have been selected, you roll the number of 4 sided dice specified on the cards played. The green dice have either a single gold value towards winning or the ability to be discarded to use a card ability. White dice only have 1 ability generating side and a value of 2 or 3 on their other sides. The biggest dice, being brown, only have a value between 3 and 5 and no ability to play cards for their effects. Once dice are rolled, values are tallied, and cards are played, whoever has the most gold wins the tile and places it on their board next to an entrance or an already placed tile.

If that tile connects from an entrance to an artifact along the other 3 edges of the board, that player flips over that artifact and considers those points theirs. Of these artifacts, 3 of them are worth 6 points. If you manage to flip all 3 over then you immediately lose! Thankfully, in playing Théo this did not happen to either of us. He did, however, throw that smoldering crater into my temple which I had to try and get creative with! It didn’t do me much good in the end.

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Once tiles are placed, artifacts are seen, and all is set the loser of the round gets to draw 3 cards. They select 2 for themselves and give the other to the person who had just won the round. As mentioned above, the first to 25 points wins.

Final Thoughts

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I absolutely loved everything about my experience and not just because Théo is one of the kindest people I’ve met. His sense of style is to die for. I wish I could rock jean shorts and shark shirts like he can.

This game plays amazingly well and has tons of depth. It’s definitely hitting a great place for 2-player games of which there are many amazing ones out there, but they don’t scratch all the places this game does. It feels like a story every time you play and no 2 games will be the same which is immensely important. I put it between Patchwork and 7 Wonders Duel in regards to the kinds of things I want out of my games. The components look crisp and clean, the rules are tight, and it’s engaging.

It was also great to just hear the stories about the game. It underwent about 3 iterations to get where it is now, starting with a dice-taking kind of risk management game to a game with coin flips to here. It’s absolutely stunning to hear about how games evolve and to get to talk to a developer who is excited about the work they do. Seeing his eyes light up when he spoke about getting to work with Vincent Dutrait who did the art for the game was simply humbling. I, amusingly enough, did not know who Théo was before playing the game, but after talking with him realized I owned and had played other games he made.

Finally, if this game seems like something you’re curious about, it is coming soon! It’ll be releasing early next year in 2019. Hurrican is producing the game, though if you can’t speak French neither can I. The game was all iconographic so you’ll be good to go. I cannot wait to get it on my shelves.

What are your favorite two-player games or favorite stories talking with designers? Let us know in the comments!

More Board Game Goodness!

 

Image Credits: Jackson Wood

WATCH: Game the Game – LORDS & LADIES (Playthrough)

Aug 9 2018

Four families enter. Only one can leave. Join Becca Scott and her guests James Hudson, Katie Michels, and Ruel Gaviola as they confide and connive with one another to become the most prestigious family head in Lords & Ladies!

More Board Game Goodness!

WATCH: Critical Recap – Episode 29: The Stalking Nightmare

Aug 9 2018

Critical Role is Geek & Sundry’s live Dungeons & Dragons show, featuring Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer and his troupe of fellow voice actors. Catch them every Thursday night at 7:00 PM PT on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and on Alpha.

OG Critter and Talks Machina Segment Producer Dani Carr recaps the live show in Indianapolis, full of danger and revenge, in Episode 29 of Critical Role: “The Stalking Nightmare“!

THE CRITICAL ROLE PODCAST

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For those of you who prefer to consume Critical Role in podcast form, or for those who may have missed it, the full podcast version of the episode Dani recapped above is available for download at 8 AM Pacific every Thursday.

Whether you’re looking to catch up on the full action, or just want to have something to listen to as you drive to and from work before the newest live episode, you can always download the latest podcast episode at criticalrolepodcast.geekandsundry.com!

Don’t forget to tune into our official aftershow, Talks Machina, live on Alpha and Twitch, Tuesdays at 7pm PT, and episodes of Critical Role LIVE on Alpha and Twitch, Thursdays at 7pm PT!

MORE CRITICAL ROLE GOODNESS!

Explore the Wonders of Drafting in MAGIC: THE GATHERING ARENA

Aug 8 2018

Curious about Magic: The Gathering? Check out our show Spellslingerswhere Day[9] faces off against fantastic guests, with new episodes every week! 

Drafting in Magic: The Gathering is one of the most fun experiences you can have playing Magic. In groups of eight, players open a pack and take a card, passing the remaining cards to the left or right. After three packs, players build a 40-card deck with cards they drafted and basic land. Drafting gets players familiar with new sets and allows cards to see play that would never make it in constructed formats. Besides that, it’s just fun. The most paper-like of digital Magic drafting experiences comes in Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering Arena, now in closed beta.

Currently, drafting in Arena has you versus seven computer-controlled drafters, so as to start drafts immediately. (Actual matches are against real opponents.) It remains to be seen whether drafting with eight actual online players is coming, or if AI drafting is a permanent part of the experience. Be that as it may, Quick Drafting in Arena is fast and fun.

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Arena has a choice between Quick Drafts and Competitive Drafts, each with different price points, difficulty level and prize payouts. Quick Drafts cost 5,000 Gold or 750 Gems. Gold is earned through daily quests, and reaching 5,000 only takes a few days of play. Gems are sometimes rewards in tournaments, but most often must be purchased with real money; 750 gems are $4.99, meaning a quick draft costs five bucks, quite a discount from a paper draft event’s $12-15 cost. Competitive drafts cost 1500 gems only, or $10.

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Once you launch the draft, you’re taken to a screen with an opened booster pack and the fifteen cards displayed in order of rarity. It’s not always correct to take the rare or mythic rare; in my case, I saw an opportunity to play a strong green deck, and chose the powerful Blanchwood Armor.

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In fact, I ended up with a good mono-green deck after I was through drafting the three packs. After building your 40-card deck, Arena offers you statistics to make sure your deck has the right number of cards for each cost, the right mana ratio and a solid quantity of creatures.

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Gameplay is just like the Magic: The Gathering you’re used to in real life; I was matched up against similarly skilled opponents based on my draft ranking. My opponent this game had a white-black, or Orzhov deck.

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I managed to finish off my Orzhov opponent; the draft ends once you reach seven wins or three losses, whichever comes first, and your prize package is based on that win total.

Overall, drafting is a fun and rewarding experience in Magic: The Gathering Arena; the nice thing is that you don’t need to build up the best-constructed deck to play. Theoretically, everyone is on equal footing and, depending on your skill at drafting, building and playing, everyone is on equal footing. Give it a try sometime.

Magic: The Gathering Arena is currently in closed beta; sign up now for your beta key.

What color is your deck? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credits: Magic: The Gathering Arena/Wizards of the Coast

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Long Live the Old World: WARHAMMER FANTASY ROLEPLAY’S New Edition is a Triumphant Return

Aug 8 2018

When Games Workshop transitioned from Warhammer Fantasy Battle to Age of Sigmar back in 2015, it marked the end of one of the oldest fantasy roleplaying worlds in existence. Warhammer‘s Old World was no more. The low fantasy world of ratcatchers and mohawk-wearing dwarves was gone, and with it a certain strain of British fantasy, one inspired by Michael Moorcock and heavy metal. Warhammer Fantasy went extinct in 2015; its roleplaying counterpart, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, followed the next year, when Fantasy Flight Games lost (or let lapse) its licensing agreement with Games Workshop.

The Old World is back, however, and it’s a welcome return. Cubicle 7, the studio behind the amazing The One Ring, snagged the license and announced a fourth edition of the venerable Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (or WFRP, which should absolutely be pronounced “woof-rip”). The question was what would inspire the new edition? Would it be the largely continuous mechanics and feel of the 1st and 2nd editions? Or would it be the radically different approach of 3rd? Something else, entirely?

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I’ve Been Here Before

The (probably) good news is that you’ll recognize this edition of the game if you’ve had any experience with the 1st and 2nd editions of the game. The mechanics of the game are roughly the same: a percentile system, with various skills and situational modifiers to make those d100 rolls easier or harder. All of the doodads which made WFRP famous for its blood-drenched lethality are here, as well—that hit location chart, with its accompanying critical hits of arterial spray and decapitation, is still prominent.

Where the moment-to-moment system has changed is in the smoothing out the randomness. Old school WFRP players are familiar with Fate, a currency meant to keep you alive in the tough moments. The new edition has more types of similar currency and more granularity. Joining the old Fate point system is Resilience, which staves off the corrupting power of Chaos. You can also get smaller, more temporary benefits from Fate and Resilience through associated pools called Fortune and Resolve, respectively.

A system called Advantage has been added to the combat system, making it a little more modern and dynamic than the trading of blows style combat of older editions. Essentially, if you attack well or stave off an attack, you get a bonus to rolls later in the combat. There’s a give and take to lower level combat in the new WFRP, where characters quite literally press their small-a advantage with the capital-A Advantage system. I’m a little worried that it might snowball at higher levels, but that’s also a worry for a later day and is very likely to prove unfounded.

The net effect is a tempering of the brutality of classic WFRP. Not enough to change the fact that this is still a dingy, deadly game, but a Goldilocks’ porridge situation where you feel just a little more heroic and can be a bit more aspirational as a brand new character.

A Renaissance Jobs Program

The big question is going to be about WFRP‘s rightly lauded career system, wherein your character is randomly generated from a variety of standard fantasy races and a host of menial jobs which, through hard in-game work, become ladders to high status. It is, I’m happy to report, fully intact and probably improved.

Character creation becomes as random as you want it in WFRP 4th edition. All the charts are still there, albeit with some careers folded into others, urging you to roll on them. But you can also just choose what you want to be; if you want that low probability Wood Elf Noble, go for it. The catch is clever: the more you give in to randomness and roll stuff, the more starting experience you get. That leads to the enticing proposition that the lowly Human Beggar might have more starting potential than an outwardly more powerful, high-status character.

It’s cool. Carrots are almost always better than sticks, and here’s one saying, “Go with what’s always been the case with this 30-year-old system and just roll, we’ll reward you for it”. My obsession with playing Trollslayers almost melted when a small cohort of friends and I sat down to make characters and play a quick session to check things out.

And for one of my friends, who always randomizes everything he can for his characters? He was in character creation heaven (Human Lawyer, if you’re anxious to know).

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The Library is Open

One of the immediate things I noticed when I opened the rules for the first time was how similar it seemed to the 2nd edition of the game. That had me looking at my stack of old books, from the classic Realm of Chaos books of the Golden Age of Warhammer to Children of the Horned Rat. How much of this stuff was translatable to the new edition and how much work would it be?

Easily, as it turns out. Talking to WFRP lead producer, Andy Law, I was told that the mechanical work is pretty negligible. NPCs would have to be tweaked just a bit and Corrupting Influences added (think specific places and situations which corrupt your character over time), but that’s it. During my brief session, we didn’t do anything with the magic system, but Law added that would probably be the most complicated bit, though that seems to be less about complexity and more that each edition of the game prior to this one has had very different mechanical approaches to magic.

This is welcome news, because Cubicle 7 put all the 1st and 2nd edition material back into print via Drivethru RPG. Why not use all that great old stuff? Thematically, of course, it meshes perfectly, and if the mechanics are there, too, that’s less work for everyone.

As for what’s on the horizon, Law was cagey, but did talk about something coming soon: what he called a director’s cut of the famous The Enemy Within campaign, being written with the help of original author Graeme Davis. Law said he’d been playing the campaign with some of “the new bits”, a tantalizing tidbit of information which should set several subsections of the RPG community buzzing.

All of which points to the best thing about WFRP 4th. It’s keenly aware of its own history. Both in the book’s writing and my brief exchange with Law, there’s a sense of stewardship of something venerable and important. It bleeds through the text, which is two-thirds exactly what we know and want and one-third tweaks to make the system feel a little more modern. And it’s fun. Warhammer stuff is always fun, if you’re willing to give yourself over to the world with only a sliver of hope left as the end approaches.

This is the WFRP of The Enemy Within, of arch class commentary and German puns, of necromancers and trollslayers. The Old World has returned in all its grimy glory. Long may it stay.

Excited about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay‘s new edition? Share some tales of your adventures in the Old World in the comments below!

More Warhammer Goodness!

Image Credits: Cubicle 7

GMs: Monte Cook Wants To Help You Run The Best Game Ever

Aug 8 2018

The role of the Game Master is central to the tabletop RPG experience. It can be immensely rewarding, creatively satisfying and emotionally powerful. But it can also be intimidating, frustrating and challenging. Finding the balances necessary for a good game is something it takes most GMs years to learn. Great GMs must be at the center of attention yet also know when to give up the spotlight to their players. They need to prepare for player actions and be comfortable throwing it all away to react to the fiction. Anyone looking to learn a skill like this would be wise to take advice from a master. Once such master has compiled their wisdom in a book of advice that’s currently on Kickstarter, ready to help GMs around the world, called Your Best Game Ever.

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Monte Cook has been in the tabletop industry for over 30 years. He rose to prominence as one of the core members of the team that shaped Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition before forming Malhavoc Press and leading the way in developing products that took advantage of the OGL. The company is most famous for producing Ptolus, one of the heaviest and most in-depth city settings and sourcebooks ever created. His next big splash was Numenera, which came on the first cresting wave of crowdfunding.

His company, Monte Cook Games, has been using Kickstarter ever since to bring new RPGs to their fans. For this book, he’s teamed up with a towering collection of industry titans including Matt Colville, Luke Crane, John Rogers, Monica Valentinelli and our very own Eric Campbell (Shield of Tomorrow) and Matt Mercer (Critical Role) to help tabletop groups make their games better every day in every way.

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Your Best Game Ever offers game advice for people who have been in the hobby for years and for people that have come into it fresh-faced thanks to its increased popularity in recent years. New fans will find great advice on how to find (or create) a solid group, determine the right game to play, how to host games and solid advice on gaming fundamentals. The first experience in tabletop gaming can be a big factor in getting people back to the table, so getting right the first time can make a big difference. Experienced readers will find topics to explore like designing their own games, advice on dealing with interpersonal drama, running games online, and worldbuilding. The book is written by industry pros with decades of experience who want to share what they’ve learned to an enthusiastic audience.

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This Kickstarter also offers an excellent gateway into Monte Cook’s Cypher System which powers two of our favorite games: our Starter Kit Numenera campaign and our upcoming follow-up to Shield of Tomorrow Callisto 6. The revised Cypher System Rulebook is also the focus of the campaign’s stretch goals by offering focused add-on books with advice tailored to specific genres such as sci-fi and horror games. The Kickstarter campaign ends on August 24th, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to learn from the best!

What’s the best GM advice you’ve ever received? Tell us in the comments!

MORE HELPFUL GM ADVICE!

Images Credits: Monte Cook Games

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs with the Theatre of the Mind Players here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

WATCH: Day[9] vs. Kyle Hill | Magic: The Gathering: Spellslingers | Season 4, Episode 6

Aug 8 2018

Welcome to Spellslingers, a show based on the phenomenally popular card game, Magic: The Gathering. Presented by Sean Plott of Day9TV, prepare to experience fun-filled, fast-talking and adrenaline-paced battles that highlight the latest MTG cards.

Sean “Day[9]” Plott and Because Science host Kyle Hill throw down for an epic game of Magic: The Gathering in the Season 4 finale of Spellslingers!

Want to try out Magic: The Gathering’s new set? Head over to your local game store to play the new Core Set 2019! Take a look at the Core Set 2019 at magic.wizards.com!

More Magic: The Gathering Goodness!

This video is sponsored by Wizards of the Coast.

WATCH: The Wednesday Club One-Shot: What Two Comics Characters Would You Ship?

Aug 8 2018

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics. Hosts Taliesin, Amy, and Matt discuss comics history, trends and mythology – offering a deep-dive into the illustrated world that’s suitable for newbies and seasoned readers alike.

OK, admit it: you’ve done your fair share of shipping in your headcanon. We have too, and so has Michelle Nguyen! She’s crashed the Wednesday Clubhouse to play Cupid with Amy and Taliesin on this week’s Wednesday Club One-Shot!

Let us know what your favorite ship is, canon or no, in the comments! Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, tell us your OTP!

Join the Wednesday Club! Watch live on Wednesdays at 7pm PT on Alpha or Twitch. New Alpha subscribers get a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com!

MORE COMIC GOODNESS!

The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: Everyone But Batman

Aug 7 2018

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics. This week, hosts Taliesin Jaffe and Amy Dallen were joined by guest and pop culture critic Joelle Monique to discuss the Bat-Family, Bruce Wayne’s closest allies and second family.

Joelle started reading comics about 10 years ago, and she’s been a lifelong fanatic of Batman The Animated Series. “What makes Gotham great is that the people are authentic, there’s an actual culture there,” she says.

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“Gotham is deep,” said Taliesin. “There’s tons of s*** that comes out of Gotham that has nothing to do with Batman.”

There’s so much going on in Gotham, in fact, that Batman has one of the biggest number of allies to help him around the city of all the superheroes. (He can’t be everywhere at once, people.)

The Batman Family includes classic characters like Robin and Batgirl, along with Nightwing, Oracle, Cassandra Cain, Huntress, Batwoman, Spoiler, the Birds of Prey, and Gotham PD allies like Commissioner Gordon, Maggie Sawyer, and Renee Montoya.

Take a look at the gallery below for specific recommendations from the episode.

The hosts also briefly chatted about Jimmy Olsen, Batgirl: Stephanie Brown, the appearance of Bat-Cow in Batman Incorporated, Batgirl of Burnside, Birds of Prey, Grayson, and more.

THE DAILY WEDNESDAY

Did you know The Wednesday Club has their own letters column with questions and comments from viewers? Send in your thoughts, comic recommendations, questions, and more to Matt, Amy, and Taliesin at thewednesdayclub@geekandsundry.com and you might just see yourself on the next episode.

Please mark your message “OK to read on air” so the hosts know what you’re comfortable with sharing.

GET MORE COMIC GOODNESS!

Hang out on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and on Alpha every Wednesday night to catch the next spectacular episode of The Wednesday Club.

Featured Image: DC Comics (Art by Mitch Gerads)

ZOMBIE WORLD Puts An Entire RPG Apocalypse In A Box

Aug 7 2018

Each week here at Geek & Sundry we’re taking a look at new and upcoming exciting titles on Kickstarter! This week’s Kickstarter of the week is Zombie World, a boxed set RPG where players build their own enclave in a world overrun by the hungry dead. The Kickstarter has exceeded their $5,000 funding goal and is currently past $29K in funding as of this writing.

For many years, the boxed set was the gateway through which many gamers entered into the world of tabletop RPGs. A great boxed set contained all the things new players needed to get into the hobby like dice, rules, setting and maybe even a cool map or another artifact. Boxed sets are often a great gift to give someone looking to learn how to play these games—or a way for a gaming group to expand their horizons beyond their current game.

The Zombie World boxed set, currently on Kickstarter, offers a double-barreled blast of zombie drama for roleplayers both old and new. New gamers will find a game that’s easy to learn, set-up and play within an hour of opening the box. Experienced gamers will find an interesting evolution of Powered By The Apocalypse mechanics that deliver the tension that the genre thrives on. The ease of play and setup make this game an excellent choice for large groups that might have challenges playing other RPGs due to having so many members.

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Zombie World is entirely card based. Characters are created by players drawing three cards at the start of the game; one detailing their past before the zombies rose, one detailing their current role within the group of survivors to which they belong, and a trauma that reflects the terrible psychological damage the character suffered to survive this long. Characters start with their past and their trauma cards hidden. These cards give characters more moves to make but can only be revealed at the appropriate moment. The cards also help the group create their enclave by filling the details of where they are holed up, like a hospital or a prison. Players choose the advantages and disadvantages of their enclave and draw a variety of NPCs from a population deck.

Once the characters and the enclave are set, the GM draws a card from the Fate deck that acts as a prompt for the night’s stories, such as a dwindling food supply or evidence of hostile survivors sniffing around the area. Both player and enclave mats are covered in laminate to allow for quick writing with the right markers…and quick erasing if the story takes an unfortunate turn.

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Cards are also how players resolve the dangerous actions they take to keep going. The resolution deck is inspired by Powered by the Apocalypse games. Players draw a number of cards equal to the score they’re using and keep the best draw. The cards are split between hits and misses with a few hits that are either not as strong or require the expenditure of character resources to turn a miss into a hit. Fans of Powered by the Apocalypse games will see a lot of influence here, mirroring Magpie’s excellent work in other genres like Urban Shadows and Masks. The deck is skewed towards more misses than hits because, after all, this is a dark genre where the living rarely win. The scarier deck, however, is the Bite Deck. This deck represents the ongoing tension and push of the shambling horde. Players must draw from this deck whenever they go up against zombies and run the risk of causing vital equipment to fail or drawing more zombies to the area. The nastiest card in the deck is the Bite card; it signs the character’s death warrant, because sooner or later they will turn. As if that wasn’t tense enough, cards come out of the Bite Deck as they are drawn, making that fatal draw more likely until it happens, when the cards are all shuffled back together again.

All Kickstarter backers get access to a print and play file where they can immediately print out and play the game. There are two main levels to back; the basic game and the Full Enclave level which adds in several new cards to all the decks to expand character, enclave and NPC options. As the campaign shambles on, the higher level becomes more of a value as additional cards are unlocked to go into the Full Enclave level. Fans of zombie media, new roleplayers and horror aficionados should consider backing Zombie World before August 12th, when the game returns to the grave until its inevitable rise in retail.

What zombie game is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!

More Tabletop Game Goodness!

Images Credits: Magpie Games

Review prototype was provided by the designer

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

THE WALKING DEAD: OUR WORLD Brings Zombies to Your Town Via Augmented Reality

Aug 7 2018

The mind-blowing success of Pokémon Go was bound to spawn other augmented reality, map-based games. One of the first on the scene to bite a piece of the Pokemon Go pie is The Walking Dead: Our World, from AMC and Next Games. Collect weapons, teammates and upgrades while you battle your way through a world of walking dead.

Walking Dead Our World

Map Integration

The Walking Dead: Our World is integrated with Google Maps, allowing players to wander their neigborhoods, shoot zombies and collect loot backpacks. You can build settlements, use non-player characters from the TV show to help you, and even work with other players as part of groups to clear missions and succeed in your zombie-smashing goals.

Walking Dead Our World

Gameplay & Missions

Actual gameplay is a very easy first-person shooter with no movement. Just tap the zombies to clear them out of the way — headshots do more damage. Your NPC companion will occasionally fire off a useful shot or stab with a knife as well. You can even toss a grenade into the mix if things get too hairy.

Missions range from clearing large zombie infestations (which require you to enter the mission multiple times) to rescuing survivors, which you can drop off at settlements for loot.

Walking Dead Our World

Frequent Rewards

The game is generous with frequent loot packs that provide weapon and NPC upgrades and resources to build settlements. Plus, unlike Pokemon Go, the game doesn’t require you to walk around to play it (though it helps for reaching certain missions). The game will frequently spawn missions and item crates right next to you, meaning the game is perfectly playable from the couch. It’s a lot more fun to play while wandering around a park, though.

The Augmented Reality Mode

There’s also an augmented reality mode in The Walking Dead: Our World, similar to the one in Pokemon Go, that uses your phone’s camera to place zombies directly where you are. It sounds better than it is, though, and like Pokemon Go, the game plays much better with this feature off.

Walking Dead Our World

Pick Up and Play

The Walking Dead: Our World is a casual, free-to-play game without a serious commitment of time required, and it’s fun to see the neighborhood fill up with armories, encampments and other settlements as more people get into the game. Plus, who doesn’t like head-shotting zombies with a cool shotgun alongside Rick or Michonne?

Will you be taking the fight to the zombies with your phone? Tell us in the comments!

Image credits: Next Games

More Zombie-Inspired Gaming Goodness!

WATCH: How to Play LORDS & LADIES (Eagle-Gryphon Games)

Aug 7 2018

Hire the butler, marry the suitor, and spread some serious gossip! Learn how to dive into this dramatic competition for supreme social status; explore Lords & Ladies from Gryphon Games!

More Boardgame Goodness!

GMs: Our Go-To Tips to Address Overpowered Player Characters

Aug 6 2018

GM Tips Our series to help Storytellers and Game Masters improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last week, showcased live-action storytelling tips and now we handle those overpowered characters your players made.

Min-maxed, broken, power-gamed, overpowered, and, etc; the list goes on but the end result is the same—storyteller stress. When a single character (or your entire table) trounces through every challenge without caring or hogs the spotlight from the table it distorts the game. Players will often get bitter over their broken companion or quit the game altogether. If your players don’t turn against each other, then an arms race often comes next. Characters become so optimized they look like lopsided weightlifters or storytellers have to ratchet up encounter difficulties that the setting warps.

These phenomena are repeated across all games and all system. Limited-point LARPs end up with character point builds and your local tabletop Shadowrun game can have a body adept that doesn’t need a team. Solving a problem player at the table is beyond the scope of the article, but I’ve got some tricks in dealing with a broken character. My disclaimer is that no amount of tips will substitute for open and honest communication about feelings and expectations with your players and that should always be on the table.

Reward Cleverness With Deviousness

Pathfinder by Thomasz Chistowski

The first task you have before you as GM is to identify why the character is broken. Is there a poorly worded rule effect? Do certain combinations among the party triple their effectiveness? Or does a magical item you gave them several levels ago exponentially compound the problem? Once you figure out why they are “broken” then you can decide to take action. Nobody likes being nerfed, and sometimes a heavy hand is required, but there is another way.

Use their incredible strength in the game. Change the meta of your storyline to acknowledge that they are slaying demon lords in thirteen seconds. Rather than engage in a challenge rating arms race, have your villains become more complex in their plans. Think more Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes. From the mind of your villain start layering your schemes like gears in a watch. If you are using pre-canned adventures, it’s time to throw those out and make your own. It takes a little elbow grease on you as a storyteller, but the rewards can be worth it.

Inject Morality

Take a page out of the White Wolf system and muddy up the worldview. It’s easy to wield your sorcerer warlock eldritch blasts to obliterate monsters on an Adventurer’s League encounter. It’s not the same when those same monsters are refugees seeking asylum in your king’s domain. Challenges become easy because us storytellers put a brick wall of hit-points in front of our players and then give them massive hammers to break that wall. They always will.

Critical Role

By changing this dynamic to a more nuanced scenario you open up the table for other character types to shine. In the above example of refugees; bards, clerics, and monks can take on a different role in offering aid. Getting players to steady their hands and see the NPC’s as full entities that add impact will make their sheets less important, and their choices more-so. The moment that happens, their power level starts becoming irrelevant.

King of the Hill

Embrace it. This is my controversial tip for this article and something I’ve done before. If one character is distorting the entire table, rather than nerf or neuter the character, embrace them and run to the hills with their brokenness. Sing their praises in every tavern, have the gods whisper their name, send corporate recruiters to them with fruit baskets and job offers. Do everything in your storyteller power to make their Rifts Mega-damage dealing Glitterboy the highlight the true power of this heroic champion.

Then sit back and watch as the player either tones down their brokenness, it becomes a funny meme at your table, or the world writes its own reaction. What I mean by the ‘world writes its own reaction’ is that I want you, the gm, to trust in your own setting. You’ve crafted an entire universe, and you should give your universe a chance to react. Will people start hiring assassin’s to deal with that person? Will bandits always take that legendary character out first? Or will the king promote him, and give him tasks expecting that same broken competence in all areas, which will serve to highlight his weakness.

So how have you dealt with broken characters before or do you have an example of the most overpowered character played at your table? Let us know in the comments below!

Looking for More Useful GM Tips?

Featured Image by: Tournament Festival by Hugo Cardenas. Art and animations at: Takayuuki.deviantart.com and Youtube

Image Credit: Paizo Publishing art by Thomasz Chistowski

Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.

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