Jul 27 2017
Every picture in this gallery is hand-picked by the Critical Role cast. How does one get their prints in front of Matt Mercer and the rest of the cast? You can throw it on Twitter and direct your drawings at #criticalrole. Sometimes it helps to include Twitter handle of your favorite cast member. You can also send your picture to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you include your name or Twitter handle with the art. You can also head down to our forum page to post it as well for others to see and admire your talents.
Go forth and start fighting against that negative space. Keep your brushes and pencil at your side at all times. Maybe one day soon, you will see your own masterpiece on the wall.
Feature Image Credit: David Rodrigues @3rdclover
Jul 26 2017
In Vast, the narrative evolves from minute to minute. Both the GM and the players can send the story spiraling off in wild new directions at a moment’s notice. For us writers, that often means that for every idea we get into the show, there are two that never make it off the pages of the game doc. We talked with two of our fellow Vast writers (and contributed a bit ourselves) to bring you some stories about the Vast that could have been.
RICK BAER, Season 1 Episode 4, “THE CORSAIRS”
I designed the episode around a timed mechanic where the invading pirates would, in quick succession, disable vital systems (engines, weapons, life support, etc.) on board the Screaming Valor. Which systems went down and when would be determined by dice rolls. The idea was to create an episode driven by intense combat in claustrophobic quarters. The players would be spread thin and have to decide which parts of the ship to save and which to let fall to the pirates, which boarding parties to engage and which to ignore, which crew NPCs to sacrifice and which to let live. It was meant to be a test of their resolve and teamwork, and of Visionary Destroyer’s command abilities. I wanted to leave the Screaming Valor critically damaged and its crew beaten, so that they’d have something to work back from in subsequent episodes.
Of course, all this was dependent on the crew staying aboard the Valor, which very much did not happen. While some aspect of this mechanic remains in the episode, the players were not really able to engage with it as I had planned, and the episode took on a much different shape, culminating in an ending that left the crew of the Valor not beaten, but triumphant. But even though the cast largely ignored what I built for the episode, I do take some comfort in the fact that the episode set up story threads that continue to play out, even in Season 2.
EMMETT FUREY, Season 1 Episode 10, “THE HUNTED & THE DYING”
In episode 7 of VAST’s first season, Nydar the Mind learned that, in the process of enslaving his people, the Brightest Eye committed genocide against millions of Mind. There was some question if Nydar would remain loyal to his Brightest Eye captain, Visionary Destroyer, in light of this revelation. So in “The Hunted and the Dying,” I thought I’d give Nydar the opportunity to be disloyal. The crew of the Screaming Valor found a planet overrun by a colony of Brightest Eye at an earlier stage of their evolutionary development. Nydar was abducted by these “Bountiful and Thriving” and had a chance to become the queen of these sentient beings.
There are a couple of reasons why it would have been interesting to see how the Nydar mutiny might have played out. Visionary Destroyer was the only Brightest Eye serving aboard the Screaming Valor, because at the time no Brightest Eye would serve under him. Without Brightest Eye crew members under his command, the Screaming Valor would almost certainly have fallen to a Nydar/Bountiful and Thriving onslaught.
And the Screaming Valor entering the two-part finale with a mutinous Nydar in command could have had very fascinating ramifications. How would Captain Nydar have dealt with Lucy Bard? Would Visionary Destroyer have allowed regaining control of his ship to take a back burner to resolving the Slate crisis, or would he have complicated matters by trying to reclaim his captain’s seat while all of that chaos was still going on? We’ll never know for sure.
NICK GILMAN/RICK BUDD, season 1 episode 11, “LINKS”
After the loss of Sira and Good idea, the 11th episode of season 1, “Links,” was designed to be a chance for the crew of the Avalon to come together and start figuring out who they are as a team before facing the ultimate showdown we knew was coming in the finale. The crew was sent to an area of space that had been rocked by a civil war for hundreds of years and through their adventure managed to end that conflict. In the end, they were contacted by a representative of the previously warring factions.
In actuality, the crew accepted his gratitude and moved on, but this interaction could have gone so much further. If the crew had stayed and talked, they would have learned that the the factions of Links were not just grateful, but in fact, felt they owed a debt to the Avalon for helping them. The admiral was going to put the whole warfleet at Lucy’s disposal. With these forces at their back, the confrontation with the Screaming Valor and the Pac Ha flame ships would have looked totally different. Instead of being on the back foot, our heroes would have had a position of strength. And going into the future, Lucy would have always had an ally in the Admiral and his fleet.
Let us know what you think of these alternate visions of what could have been in the comments below and watch VAST on Alpha, Monday nights at 7:00 PM PDT — because even the writers honestly never know what’s going to happen.
Jul 26 2017
Join Dave & Molly and a panel of creatives as they work along with audience chat to write and finalize a short sketch during the show’s two-hour run time. Between episodes, the sketch will be recorded and presented to the audience the next week! Tune into INT. Writer’s Room every Monday at 4PM on G&S Live!
There are few things in life more satisfying than a good session of Dungeons & Dragons. Unfortunately, that satisfaction is treasured because there are so many things that can get in the way. The Dungeon Master might be busy. There isn’t enough time to schedule a full game during the week. The players still might not be clear on the rules. Several games offer a D&D-style experience that covers one of these issues. A few get two. One of the few that covers all three is Expedition: The Roleplaying Card Game. This card game packs all the story, combat and fun of a D&D session into the time it takes to watch an episode of something far less interactive.
“First,” said Todd Medema, co-designer of the game, “both my partner and I are software engineers. So, when we brainstormed “What can we do different than other games? What unique skills do we bring to the table?”, doing something with technology was at the top of the list. Of course, we didn’t want to make something just for the sake of making it.”
The card game offers four categories of abilities; Magic, Music, Melee and Ranged. Players build a small deck based on the character they select. The Dutiful Solider, for example, gets six Ranged cards, while the Alcoholic Diplomat gets three Music and three Magic cards. These abilities are played during combat rounds and require a successful d20 roll to trigger. They also have additional things happen when the dice come up as 20 or as a 1. Because it’s a cooperative game, the players choose when to take their turns, which makes buffing characters and timing less of an issue. The laid-back mechanics offer players a chance to get into their characters a bit. The Alcoholic Diplomat might read their cards with a bit of a slurred voice, while the Fretful Bard might sing a song about how much she’s worried to die. The light mechanics also encourage the table to interpret results into a different story, like a backfiring ice spell causing the caster to speak between chattering teeth for the rest of the encounter.
The secret to Expedition is the free app that’s available for Android, iOS and on the web. The app explains how to play the game, runs tense encounters and offers story branches for the players to choose. Players draw three ability cards face down, tap the app, and the timer starts. The longer the players take to play one of the cards, the more damage the monsters will do on their turn. The app might also trigger a surge, which cause players to spawn more bad guys drop loot or deal with other unexpected complications. Winning encounters gives players back their full health and allows them to draw Loot cards that help later in the game. All in all, a full game can take place in about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much in-character chat goes on during the battles. It’s little elements like the general humorous nature of the quests and evocative character names that pack a lot of roleplaying into a short period of time.
“We believe software can add a lot to the world of tabletop gaming,” said Medema. “Not only can it handle the math, but it can make games faster and easier to learn, and create the ability for unlimited, free, community-generated content. Just think about the experience of starting a new board game versus a new video game. With a board game, you have to carefully read a book of rules, constantly double checking yourself to make sure you’re following the rules properly. With a video game, you’re immediately dropped into the action, with the code making sure you’re staying on track, and slowly introducing you to new rules as you progress. We think that well-done apps have the ability to bring that easy to start nature to board games while keeping the social aspect that we love about board games.”
The app has a tutorial and two pre-selected quests, but also gives access to community building tools for anyone to upload quests to the app. The app also offers a custom encounter option for Dungeon Masters who want to run hybrid adventures that offer the choices of a full tabletop session with the app merely managing combat. Potential explorers don’t even need to buy the game right away; there is a print-and-play edition available to those who sign up for the game’s email list. Tedema also returns to Kickstarter next month to launch the game’s first expansion.
“Expedition is coming back to Kickstarter on August 17th,” he said. “We’re launching our first expansion pack, The Horror, which we’ve developed with the help of our community of players and quest writers. If you’re interested in supporting Expedition and our mission to introduce more players to RPGs, backing and sharing the Kickstarter on launch day would be a huge help!”
Watch and see how the crew on INT. Writer’s Room on Twitch uses these rules to make their sketches work!
What is your favorite D&D character? Let us know in the comments.
Feature Image Credits: Fabricate.io
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.
Jul 26 2017
If we told you that Shaun Gilmore was teaming up with Raishan the Deceiver, you probably wouldn’t believe us. And they’re not alone. Earthbreaker Groon, Kynan Leore, Jarrett Howarth, Taryon Darrington, and Doty are also part of this unlikely alliance, all joined together in one goal: To celebrate Critical Role.
The real people behind the Twitter accounts of Critical Role NPCs have banded together to organize Tal’Dorei Day this October. Tal’Dorei Day is an event “by Critters for Critters,” celebrating the release of Green Ronin’s Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting by encouraging everyone to play in Exandria for three days in October.
The idea began with Raishan, AKA Alm, who started with a simple idea. “I had been thinking that it would be really cool if there was a day or event where Critters could come together and all play D&D together since that’s something we all have in common,” Alm says. But he realized he didn’t have to go it alone.
Rather than teaming up with the Chroma Conclave, this Raishan reached out to similar Twitter accounts based on characters from Critical Role. “I sent out a group message explaining my idea and asking for their help,” says Alm. “I can’t explain in words how overwhelming it was to gain their immediate support.”
“We spoke at some length about what Tal’dorei Day would mean and how we wanted to handle it,” Shaun Gilmore recalls. Rather than over-plan or overload themselves with details, the group simply picked the dates and a hashtag. “The Critters did what they do best: took it and ran,” Gilmore says.
“Tal’Dorei Day itself is a way to thank the cast of Critical Role for sharing their game with all of us,” Alm says. “It’s a holiday that Critters can call their own.
“When I came up with the idea to organize this, it was just a way to play more D&D, honestly. But meeting the other Twitter NPC accounts made me realize that it’s so much more: It’s a way to get all the wonderful people who have supported Critical Role to interact and make new friends they never knew they had.”
“I love the idea of Tal’Dorei Day bringing Critters together to play in the world Matt has so graciously provided us,” Gilmore says.
Alm has been watching Critical Role for over a year, and the show and cast helped pull him through chronic depression. After falling in love with the show, he was inspired to pick up Dungeons & Dragons again. “Through Critical Role and D&D I found my way out of that depression and found a community of hugely supportive Critters there to help me,” he says.
“We love playing D&D, being NPCs, and we love Critical Role,” Gilmore says. “We just want to give back to the community that has allowed us to connect with so many amazing people, and let us play the roles of some of Tal’Dorei’s most legendary NPCs.”
Both Alm and Gilmore plan on playing on Tal’Dorei Day as Dungeon Masters on Roll20. “Roll20 is a great way for people from all over to play together,” says Gilmore.
“In a way, Tal’Dorei Day is my way of thanking Matt Mercer for teaching me to be a Dungeon Master, the rest of the cast for being so amazing, funny, and passionate, and the Critters themselves for being so caring,” says Alm.
Tal’Dorei Day is planned for October 13-16, 2017.
Special thanks to Alm, Gilmore, Craig, Leif, Laurel, and Drew for organizing Tal’Dorei Day.
Will you be playing on Tal’Dorei Day? Let everyone know in the comments below.
Featured Image: Colleen Frakes
Other Images: Joma Cueto and Geek & Sundry
Jul 26 2017
With GenCon just around the corner, we thought it might be a great time to go back and look at some of our favorite games that captured us for the first half of the year. This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it certainly is some of the high points we’ve played this year (January through June inclusive) in no particular order.
The 21-pound legacy dungeon crawl was not only heavily praised by writer Charlie Theel in his original review, but was so thoroughly enjoyed that it was revisited in an article recounting the experience having played the game 30 hours in. “You push forward, you explore, and you never stop. With 90 quests, the game is not lengthy, it’s virtually interminable.”
It’s a bloody fantasy battle game the whole family can enjoy, provided your family is into that flavour of awesome. Writer Raf Cordero summed up his thoughts on the game as, “It’s not just simple, it’s elegant and elegant games are worth heaping praise on because they get played over and over. The strategy is rich and will change every game, yet it’s immanently approachable.”
The review for this compelling game describes the play experiences simply: “For the Eurogamer who loves maximization, efficiency, and reasonable play time, Yokahama is a hard one to beat. And one of the best of the year so far.”
Battle Bots meets anime characterization in this dice-rolling robot arena fighting game. “Gekido is a joy to play. It revels in the presentation and tactile experience of slamming beautiful toys on the table, while providing an engaging tactical combat system for the gamers at the table.”
The escape room experience from the comfort of your home is basically the promise of the Unlock! games, and one it does very well, as we outline in our review. “If you’re looking for an abstracted Escape Room experience, Unlock! is here to toss you in a cell and throw away the key. It’s one of the most creative designs of the year and absolutely earns its wings through a consistent flood of creative and satisfying puzzles.”
Century Spice Road
Ruel Gaviola went so far as to call Century Spice Road an improved version of Splendor in his review of the game. “Century: Spice Road takes the basic premise of Splendor and ramps it a notch to offer a bit more depth while maintaining an easy-to-learn turn structure and goal.”
The visceral play experience of this game was admittedly hard to describe in a written review, but Charlie did seem to capture the feeling of the game successfully: “[Techno Bowl] pins you to the turf and fills your mouth with dirt and blood. More often than not you’ll come away with a toothy grin choking back the grit.”
This game can be a family-friendly engine building romp through an amusement park, or a cutthroat game of industrial sabotage, revealing the seedy underbelly of the amusement park industry. How you choose to play is up to you, and that variation is why writer Nathan Pullan lauded it in his review, “There are many different ways to score points so if every player is chasing a different path to victory, it can easily be anybody’s game until the final scores are tallied.”
Warhammer 40,000: Dark Imperium
This release is an unrepentant expression of the best of miniature wargaming: incredible miniatures, narrative-based gaming, and a focus on making the hobby and game accessible. As this box set heralds the newest edition of Warhammer 40K, our review reveals all the things we love about this box set: “[It] plays with renewed speed and feels fresh and delightful amid a sea of competition. Fun is of primary importance and fun it is.”
Which games have been you favourites this year? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credits: Teri Litorco, Raf Cordero, Charlie Theel, GeekyInsight, Games Workshop, Asmodee
Featured Image Credits (Composite): Geek & Sundry, Teri Litorco, Raf Cordero, Charlie Theel, GeekyInsight, Games Workshop, Asmodee
Jul 25 2017
First off, let’s just state the obvious. Yamatai is strikingly beautiful. It’s the kind of game you would place lovingly on your mantle whilst scowling at the other games on your shelf like they’re bastard step-children. “Why can’t you be more like Yamatai!” You may gasp when you open the box and see the brilliant illustrations for the first time. Oohs and Ahs may very well escape past your lips as you marvel at the well thought out insert that holds all the components snugly just like your favorite aunt embraced you when you were little. That’s right. Yamatai’s production quality will enchant you like you’ve never been enchanted before.
But what happens when you actually sit down to play? Sure it’s a beauty, but what about Yamatai’s personality? Allow us to get you two a little more acquainted.
As with many complex games, this mat saves you from keeping your head buried in the rule book. Though even with this handy little mat, the options can be dizzying to say the least. There are 5 actions that you may do on a turn.
Choose a Fleet Tile
This is when you bust your brain to choose the fleet tile that will set you up for the rest of your turn. It’s an auction mechanic, and as players choose their fleet tile they are determining three things; which boat/s they will acquire for free, which special power they can use and what their turn order will be for the next round. Lots to think about in just one little tile.
Remember how you got some free boats on that last step? Well you might need another to be able to build. Or maybe you want to sell one and get some coinage. Up to you, my friend. But you can only trade or buy ONE ship. So, proceed with caution.
Place Boats on the Board THEN Collect Culture Tokens or Build
Now that you have your boats, you can place them accordingly on the map so long as you’re moving from west to east and placing your boats in a chain. But by god be careful. Because once you put those boats down, any player can reap the benefits of their presence on the board.
After you’ve finished that, you have a pretty big choice. You can collect as many culture tokens as boats that you’ve placed, making it possible for you to recruit the help of a specialist down the line. Or you can construct a building on one of the islands, which grants you prestige points and lots of other opportunities.
Place remaining boats on your mat
Yeah, you can’t save your boats. Well you can save one of them but the queen makes you burn the rest, and at a cost to you. Such a waste. But hey, it’s either that or help your fellow man, so…
Recruit a Specialist
Remember those culture tokens? This is where you can use them to buy an all powerful specialist! These babies can really help you decide what your winning strategy will be since they can bestow some game changing conditions. And there are lots of fun options to choose from. But, don’t be distracted by their beautiful faces. Or be distracted, but hurry up already because your turn is taking for-ev-er.
And there you have it. The rest of the players take their turns, then the round ends and you’re ever so much closer to making Queen Himiko smile and becoming her favorite architect in the world by gaining the most prestige points.
While you were doing all that thinking, the other players were likely checking their phones, tuning in now and then to see if you nabbed the tile they wanted and so on and so forth. The interaction between players doesn’t go too much further than that. Sure there are moments, but mostly it would be cruel to interrupt someone while they’re pouring over the board, gnashing teeth and tearing hair trying to craft a perfect turn. Of course there is much to think about, but another contributing factor to the inevitable analysis paralysis that might seize one of your compadres is that it’s pretty difficult to plan ahead in this game. Setting yourself up for the next turn too well will just ensure that another player will whisk that island away from you. All the cards are literally on the table, so it’s not possible to plot your next move under the radar. That means that during your turn, you not only have to be painfully present with the state of the board, but also cognizant of the trail of boats you’re leaving behind and how they may help or hinder your opponents.
But don’t worry. Even if you make a few missteps here and there, Yamatai brilliantly leaves you little dopamine treats around every corner. Even on a turn where you just didn’t quite get what you wanted, you always have an opportunity to make some kind of a gain whether it’s in boats, culture tokens, buildings or specialists. The game remains somewhat addicting for that reason. Well, for that reason and because it’s super pretty.
While the theme lends to some truly fantastic artwork by illustrator Jérémie Fleury, it’s less prevalent in game play. You’re certainly intent on building palaces and structures to beat out opponents, but one hardly thinks of Queen Himiko. One forgets that the boats carry goods such as coal, wood and gold and refers to them as simply black, brown and yellow. This is somewhat disappointing since the history behind Yamatai is fascinating. It is said that Queen Himiko was a powerful shaman who ruled over her utopic Kingdom with magic. Not unlike the story of Atlantis, Japanese historians argue over the location of Yamatai. The game kind of misses the boat on integrating the rich story into gameplay. But, Kudos for the flare text that makes the theme a treat despite its less than stellar presence. Ultimately, it’s a game with great bones that would work well with many different themes.
All in all, Yamatai is a fun Euro-style game. And by golly did Days of Wonder knock it out of the park with the top notch production quality. Not too social, but also not too heavy. In fact, it is a great game to lure a lighter gamer to the next level of difficulty without being too overwhelming. And if during the game you start to feel a little cross-eyed then it’s perfectly okay to stop and gaze at the artwork for a little brain break.
Have you played Yamatai? Tell us what you think in the comments below!
Image Credits: Christina Aimerito
Jul 25 2017
It’s time to try a brand-new match-3 style game that’s fun for the whole family that just hit crowdfunding! You just need 100 painted water cooler jugs, a whole bunch of lumber from your local dump, a couple of boxes of nail, two 6-foot ladders, and some good insurance. Don’t worry – one of the stretch goals is 6-months worth of minor accident insurance.
Or you could just download Magic The Gathering: Puzzle Quest. You get all the action of matching tiles along with the ability to sling spells and call on creatures to defeat your foes. Thanks to Magic The Gathering: Puzzle Quest for making this video possible! The game is free to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
This post was sponsored by D3 Go!
Jul 25 2017
Cool Mini Or Not might be looking to crash Kickstarter (again), releasing the much-anticipated Song of Ice and Fire 2-player starter box on the crowdfunding platform. Backers will get the core box and stretch goals for a pledge of $150.
We’ve previewed some of the game’s painted miniatures shown at CMON Expo, as well as given our first impressions of this 2 player box’s gameplay. Miniature wargamers familiar with Warhammer Fantasy Battles will be very familiar with the basic mechanics, but designers Michael Shinall and Eric Lang have streamlined ranked battle mechanics such that players who are completely unfamiliar with pushing around miniatures in trays can still pick up the game with ease.
The box features the Lannisters vs. Starks, with characters like Jamie and Robb (with Greywind, of course) leading their troops.
The Kickstarter has given us a pretty clear idea of what miniatures we can expect in the box. The resin samples we had our hands on in our demos were highly detailed, but if the casts are remotely like the resin samples, the 3D renders are as good as what you see is what you get (as you can see in the composites in the gallery below, with our photos of the painted minis on the right and CMON’s 3D renders on the left.)
All in all, we’re really excited. If you haven’t pledged your banner to either house of Westeros, fear not: CMON has said they’re planning a full retail release next year with more than what’s in this core box. Additional houses and characters are definitely on the table (pun intended).
If you want to know what we at G&S think about the game, check out our full rundown. Don’t forget to let us know in comments which character you love the most from the universe!
Feature Image Credit: Teri Litorco
Image Credit: Teri Litorco, CMON
Jul 25 2017
Have you seen Sagas of Sundry: Dread yet on Alpha? It is, no joke, creepier than finding a cockroach nest in your pillow. But what to do between episodes? We here suggest you turn to the bleeding edge of 15th century technology: the printed book. These tales have been made role-playing games, television shows, and movies. They are scary enough to take the edge off while you wait for the next episode of Sagas of Sundry: Dread to drop!
The Laundry Files
One day, you are working on some advanced calculus on your computer, and suddenly an inter-dimensional gateway opens in your dorm-room and you run screaming into the night, but not before you see your business major roommate swallowed by an angle that shouldn’t exist. Shivering in the cold, you reflect on the money you loaned your roommate, and the unlikelihood of you ever recovering the cash when representatives of Her Majesty’s Government arrive to deal with the slathering horror. You are told that the calculations you performed inadvertently opened the gateway, and that they are recruiting you into their ranks. At least, as soon as you fill out this form in triplicate.
The Laundry Files novels by Charles Stross, which begin with The Atrocity Archives, are a heady brew of HP Lovecraft, James Bond, and The Office In an interview, Stross described the Laundry Files thusly:
Magic is a side-effect of mathematics, Lovecraftian elder gods have noticed us using it and are coming to eat us, but don’t worry: Her Majesty’s Government has a plan for that. There are a lot of committee meetings involved …
Our hero, Bob Howard, was forced into the Laundry, a super-secret British government agency designed to defend against the supernatural, when he accidentally contacted another world via math. Bob says of the experience, “I thought I was just generating weird new fractals; [the Laundry] knew I was dangerously close to landscaping Wolverhampton with alien nightmares.”
And Case Nightmare Green (the time when the Old Ones return to make amuse-bouche out of humanity) is rapidly approaching…
Published in 1980, Night Shift is Stephen King’s first collection of short stories. Short story collections by major novelists can often be considered an afterthought for readers. But some of the greatest writing of King’s life lurks between the pages of Night Shift. Six feature films have been adapted from stories within the collection. King himself has raided the collection for material, expanding the concept of a short story entitled “Night Surf” about a disease called Captain Trips into The Stand.
Authors, as the become famous and rich, have a tendency to become long-winded. After all, if their novels are selling, who is going to argue with them? (See J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series for but one example, and watch as the books get fatter and fatter as the series goes on.) Yet shorter, tighter, works often allow all their elements to shine out the brighter without the burden of bloat, and that is why this book is a must-read. The short story form takes King’s genius for writing, and forces him to polish it down to a diamond.
My favorite story from the collection is “Children of the Corn,” which was made into a just-okay movie in 1984 starring Linda Hamilton. The film, to say the least, does not do it justice. The story is a catalog of abominations that will keep you up at night, and a master class in good writing.
The Last Werewolf
For a chance to see things from the monster’s perspective, there is The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan.
The title of this 2011 novel, while certainly encapsulating the premise, simply hints at the horrors within. The novel is by turns sexy, disturbing, horrifying, funny, and reflective. The novel covers the trials and travails of Jake, a 200-year-old werewolf, the last of his kind, who is trying to make his way in the 21st century.
Author Glen Duncan said in an interview that he wrote the novel in a “foul mood I got into when, having published seven overtly literary novels that had been read by virtually no one and hadn’t won a prize, I learned from my agent that my chances of finding a publisher for an eighth were nil.”
Duncan brings a powerful instrument to horror fiction, using words the way Van Gogh used paint, but what Duncan reveals to us is a sky of clotted blood. Most of the time, Jake is an erudite, wealthy, jet-setter, but when the moon is full, he kills and eats people. And the most disturbing feature of this novel is that when Jake transforms and takes to the night to eagerly consume some unfortunate, Duncan’s writing is so compelling that the reader roots for the kill.
What to you read to send a chill down your spine? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature image courtesy Geek & Sundry
All other images courtesy: Ace Publishing, Penguin/Random House
Ben Riggs speaks five languages and has lived in four countries on three continents, but still manages to lose his keys in the bathroom. A friend to man, animal, and werewolf alike, you can discover more of Ben’s thoughts on game, the universe, and everything on Twitter, or on the Plot Points podcast. He is also the liberal voice on Across the Aisle, a podcast where a liberal and conservative work together to solve the 21st century’s problems.
Jul 25 2017
Imagine being pulled apart atom by atom as the very core of your being goes whooshing (scientific term) across the cosmos to be reassembled elsewhere. Don’t worry about leg room on this trip. You won’t have any legs, arms, or other vital organs to get in the way. But what happens when there’s a blip in the system and you find out that the computer assembled a second you elsewhere in the world. Between the pages of The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein out today, Joel Byram encounters that very predicament along with a shadow organization at his heels and a marriage falling apart at his feet.
Last year, Geek & Sundry and Inkshares held a contest to find the very best in Hard Science Fiction written by people with little more than a dream and a word processor. Keep that fluffy science to yourself. We wanted the best of the beakers when it came to stories that looked into what made the universe tick. Hundreds entered, but only one would carry the G&S literary seal of approval.
Tal managed to not only to find an intriguing premise that would get you thinking at page one, but he also managed to do so with compelling characters that managed to breathe life into every moment. But, you don’t have to take our word for it. Before the pages even cool or the digitized bits can reassemble on your screen, The Punch Escrow has already been picked up by Lionsgate to become a major motion picture. Now is the perfect time to pick up your copy of the book, so you can wear that sly smile and tell everyone that you already read the book before it hits the local marquee.
What ideas do you have for a book that you’ve always wanted to write? Let us know in the comment section below.
Signal Boost!: Impro Theatre, Starlight Crystal, Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe (w/ Aliza Pearl)
Jul 25 2017
Transmission incoming! Signal Boost! is our weekly love letter to all fandoms, be it books, podcasts, indie games, Etsy shops, soundtracks, websites, or events. Come see what wonderful, crazy stuff is out there and connect with a community of fans who knows what it’s like to like the wonderful, crazy, and unknown.
Do you like improv? Aliza Pearl wants to tell you all about Impro Theatre, a company of actors who perform all over the world. Then, she boosts Christopher Pike’s The Starlight Crystal. Finally, she boosts J. Richard Gott’s Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe!
Check out Aliza’s Recommendations this week:
What things would you want to Signal Boost? Let us know in the comments below and tune in every Tuesday to find out what’s hot and potentially unheard of in the land of geekdom.
Jul 25 2017
If you’ve been watching Game the Game on our Twitch channel, you’ve heard Becca and Ivan speak the names of a few of the Snack Gods, but who are they? What do they want from you? And what do they want from each other?
Azaque: God of the Barbecue
Also known as: Father of the Gods, King of the Grill
As the Father of the Gods, Azaque hosts the gatherings of the gods. He spends his time with Huuzeer by the grill, making the perfect steak with a beer in his hand and leaving his wife, Rachotep, to make sure the party goes off without a hitch. He keeps the other gods in their place and tending their roles.
Rachotep: Goddess of Hosting
Also known as: Enforcer of Manners, Socialite
Rachotep rises to the challenge of any party, always setting the perfect table. She leaves Azaque to the grill because she knows people will remember her contributions more. Her ire is raised by bad manners, not rsvp-ing, and arriving late. She throws coasters like throwing stars at offenders.
Ushnux: God of Sweets
Also known as: The Bringer of Sweets, The Decayer of Teeth
Everyone’s favorite god, Ushnux is as sweet as pie (and would love it if you had a slice of pie). He makes sure dentists stay in business and is up for anything, so long as it’s sweet.
Also known as: The Tasty One, The Filling God
On the other side of the coin, Sizzlork is as tough as Ushnux is sweet. She is all about experiencing life and getting the most out of everything.
Huuzeer: God of Libations
Also known as: Master of Ill Choices, Lubricator of Social Affairs
Always the life of the party, Huuzeer is laid back unless there is a keg in need of being tapped. He is the first one to do a keg stand and can be found mixing drinks behind the bar (and having a few sips for himself). If you want to invoke him, just say, “Watch this. Hold my beer.”
Also known as: Our Green Lady, The Untouched
Avatar: Veggie Tray
Bistoe is the most overlooked of all the gods. She can be found in the corner, arguing with her sister, Bana-ra.
Bana-ra: Goddess of Fruit
Also known as: Mistress of the Melons
Bana-ra is just a step or two above her sister in the hierarchy of gods. People don’t go out of their way to avoid her offerings, but neither do they go for it first. There is an ongoing argument between Bana-ra and Bistoe over who gets the tomato.
Also known as: The Yeast Master
Carbonella is the daughter of Ushnux and Sizzlork. She was conceived during the Festival of Great Repute (the most successful of Rachotep’s parties). She is purported to rise to heights unseen by either of her parents and even holds sway with Huuzeer.
Diptune: God of Dips
Also known as: Chip Master
Diptune can be warm or cold, depending on what the situation calls for. He’s good friends with Carbonella and Tog’itii.
Tog’itii: God of Spices
Also known as: The Hot One, Flavorful
Avatar: Jalapeno Pepper
Tog’itii knows life would be bland without him. He’s constantly trying out new mixes and blends to keep you guessing.
Bynar: God of Fried Foods
Also known as: The Versatile One
Avatar: Fried Oreo
Bynar gets along with everyone, because you can fry anything (even beer). His reach is universal which makes him chafe at his minor status. One day, he hopes to be elevated to the ranks of major deity.
Also known as: The Chocolate One
Avatar: Chocolate Bunny
Nyadon is the smallest of the gods. She is as sweet as Ushnux, but has a core of strength that keeps her from being trampled by the other gods. They may still make pocket size jokes, but it is done in a loving way.
Vishnaarl: Goddess of Food on a Stick
Also known as: The Portable One
Vishnaarl is everyone’s favorite god when they go to fairs. She believes that everything is better if you can walk around while eating it. She loves finding a way to make food portable for the masses.
There have been whispers of other gods in the pantheon and those of the under-pantheon, evil gods of hangovers and food poisoning. They shall not be named at this time for to do so will give them more sway on the world.
Do you have a favorite Snack God? Is there a snack that you feel deserves its own God? Drop me a comment below or show off your art skills with your interpretation of the Pantheon!
Image Credit: @TabletopOwlbear
Jul 24 2017
Gamers have largely been victorious in conquering popular media and culture. What was once the realm of satanic panic is now (at least in most areas) our mainstay of entertainment. But it wasn’t long ago that Dark Dungeons, in 1984, tried to shatter our fantasy hopes and dreams.
I spent the better part of my early teens with an AD&D players handbook and nobody to play with… and that’s not uncommon. Thanks to our pioneers in the gaming community, fighting for the right to be dark elves, we can laugh at the past. For me, the gaming community shifted in the nineties, with the rise of Cyberpunk 2020, industrial music, and jrpg’s becoming popular. Secret of Mana, plus Nine Inch Nails, and a roleplaying game of like-minded people bothered by the daystar (it burns the flesh, seriously).
This week, are going further into GM Tips w/ Satine Phoenix and looking at the importance of community building for storytellers. If you haven’t seen it, Maze Arcana co-founder Ruty Rutenberg and Satine discuss the merits of Adventurer’s League and the benefits of organized play.
So let’s look inside the guts of this beastly topic. Because if storytellers and TSR didn’t step up in the 80’s and rally the community…we might not have had one.
If you are part of any local LARP group, this is old news for you. Everything from the Mind’s Eye Society, to One World By Night, to the fine folks over at Dystopia Rising or even any troupe game push the importance of community. Not pissing off 50% of your playerbase is generally a good thing, and without people involved… you don’t have a game. For me, I’ve fostered a group of players who keep coming back for dark, personal horror, and Machiavellian plot stories in a custom campaign. That took a decade (and a lot of Denny’s). Building your community takes time. Help each other out as people first, then as players second. Otherwise… you’ll just be 3 kids in a parking lot looking strange. But tabletop is different, so I asked Satine this:
Satine, why do you feel it’s important for storytellers to even care about their local community and game store? Aren’t most games really just a few people in one house?
“I can only speak for myself and make recommendations for others. For those people who are lucky to have a home group that they play with on a regular basis, perhaps the gaming community isn’t important. But for those of us who like to learn from other players & GMs, who like to talk about similar things and debate game theory we should encourage creating a safe place for us all to do that in. Whether it’s in local gaming stores or on websites’ forums and groups. The key is community awareness and safe spaces. Nurturing your local game store will encourage those who’ve always wanted to play with others to feel safe enough to try their hand at table top gaming”
The Con Circuit
In most con’s now you’ll find the tabletop room filled to the brim, or those impromptu tables outside the hotel bar. Storytellers are doing their thing (for better or worse) to hapless players on pre-canned modules…for the most part. Storytelling at a con is exhausting. (24 hours in 3 days for that free badge… booyah!) and each company handles their GM’s different. Eclipse Phase (Posthuman Studios) has always treated their storytellers well, and it shows through; with ecstatic storytellers building the enthusiasm of its players. Running the con circuit for a few years is a great way to build up YOUR storytelling skills. You’ll learn what you like, what you hate, see problem players, and see the best there is.
Okay, so, you’ve decided to run a game at a convention or through organized play, Satine, what are is your advice for a storyteller that’s just getting started?
- “No one knows what you don’t know, so keep cool, breathe, drink water and just move through the adventure.
- As long as you have an idea of where you’re going, the players will go with you.
The module you are running is an outline. You have the freedom of filling the outline with life and color. As long as you hit the main beats, NPCs & magic items, you can fill the game with anything you want to make the adventure yours. Move pieces around, rewrite box text. Give your players more to interact with.
- It might seem daunting because you want to do it right and not mess it up. The writers have done the heavy lifting creating the mechanics of the story; you breathe life into it.”
Organized play and the con circuit have their merits, but you’ll also figure out when it’s time to move on. Eventually, you’ll have played through or ran the same content so much, or found that you just don’t like what they are offering. If that’s the case, you don’t need to hang the hobby up, there are tons of other tabletop games that are keeping organized play fresh. Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds offer virtual tabletops as well to get you matched with people. Good companies will also let their storytellers create custom content or start running what you want to run as well. I almost always deviate drastically from modules and add in my own twists. Wizards of the Coast has been pumping out tons of new content for their Adventurers League to stop boredom. After all, even the GM’s need their own guild and to have a good time. So that’s what sparked this question to Satine:
Running the same module over, and over, and over, again can sharpen your skills, but organized play locks you into providing the same experience. If you are at a con and working the Adventurer’s League, it can turn into a full-time job and get boring running the same module. What do you think is a fair amount of leeway to deviate from the printed material? A little? A lot?
“Those Writers have spent amazing amounts of time writing these adventures to get them balanced and timed for play. Deviate a little, move pieces around. The majority of deviation will probably be in the life you breathe in the characters. The modules I’ve run, there were only a few that needed a lot of adding in. But it was in how creative I played NPCs that made the biggest difference for those who had played the modules before.”
What’s your con experience? Or have you been a Storyteller that built up your local gaming groups? Hit us up with questions in the comments or stalk us on Twitter!
Featured Image: Geek & Sundry
Image Credits: Teri Litorco
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.
Jul 24 2017
“Delicious Sun Treats, Bear Claws, Angel Food Cake… So many treats and treasures.” Pike Trickfoot, One Year Later…
During their year off from grand adventures, Vex’ahlia, Pike, Taryon, and Keyleth decided one drunken night to open up a bakery. The Slayer’s Cake in Whitestone was up and running in no time. Inside you’ll find warm glowing lamps, an atmosphere so cozy you’ll just want to snuggle next to the fireplace, sweet aromas, and delicious baked delights that will bring a smile to your face.
While you might not be able to travel to Whitestone in real life, you can turn your own kitchen into The Slayer’s Cake (temporarily) with this Critical Role-inspired recipe for Sun Treats.
Sun Treats (Iced Sugar Cookies)
What You Need
- Your favorite rolled sugar cookie recipe
- Leaf-shaped cookie cutter
- Green cookie icing
- Yellow candy melts
- Yellow sprinkles
Begin by making the dough for your favorite rolled sugar cookies. If you don’t already have a favorite, this sugar cookie recipe from AllRecipes works well for bakers of all levels. Be sure to chill the dough for the recommended amount of time.
Next, flour your baking surface and roll out the cookie dough. Use the leaf cookie cutter to cut the dough into leaf shapes.
Arrange the leaf-shaped dough on an ungreased cookie sheet and follow the baking directions from the cookie recipe.
Let the cookies cool completely.
Next, use a knife or spatula to cover the cookie in green icing.
Place the yellow candy melt in the center of the cookie, pressing it firmly in the icing. Arrange the sprinkles as rays of sunlight around the yellow “sun” candy melt. Your Sun Treat is complete.
To finish your kitchen transformation, stop by the Geek & Sundry online store to order a Slayer’s Cake apron. You’ll feel like you’re in downtown Whitestone whenever you slip it on!
Tune into Geek & Sundry’s Twitch channel every Thursday night for the next exciting adventure in Critical Role.
Image: Geek & Sundry
Photos: Kelly Knox
Jul 24 2017
In the realm of anime dubbing, voice actors hardly ever get to meet their counterparts. At Anime Expo this year, however, two of Attack on Titan scene-stealer Mikasa Ackerman’s voices were on hand to promote the series’ long-awaited second season. Yui Ishikawa plays the heroine in Japan, while Trina Nishimura plays her for American audiences. In an exceptionally rare joint interview here, the two actresses share their insights on the character, the show, and the unique particulars of their multinational, multi-media craft.
The anime debuted four years ago, at this point, but have you two ever seen each other in person prior to today?
Trina Nishimura: We just met!
Yui Ishikawa: We did a panel together, only the day before yesterday.
Having had to live with Mikasa for this long, how would you both describe her as a character?
Yui: She’s very strong and very cool, but her strength and coolness does come from her weaknesses. What she went through when she was a child… witnessing her parents being killed in front of her… she became strong. And she became cool, calm and collected in order to protect herself. That’s where her feelings for Eren – wanting to protect him all the time – and her love for her scouts came from. Wanting to be strong.
Trina: I totally agree. I think that Mikasa, as a character, endured so much when she was younger. And she did make a choice – in that moment, in that scene – that she wanted to live and that she wanted to fight. People frequently perceive her as emotionless, and I think that’s incorrect. All of her strength, and all of her bravery, and coolness… it’s all in order to maintain the well-being of her adopted family units, since her family is gone. It’s all like a shell. On the inside, she really is vulnerable, and she really is sweet, and she wants to be. But the world she lives in doesn’t allow for that obviously. She’s a really interesting character, and I love her.
Are there specifics aspects of Mikasa you found you could relate to in your performance?
Yui: Unlike Mikasa, I’m not strong, nor cool. But in the sense that she has a hard time expressing herself – and in words especially – I think I’m so much like her. I can understand her feelings about not being able to express yourself verbally. In that part, I feel very connected with her, and I think I was able to reflect that in the acting.
Trina: I feel like Mika as a character is so dynamic ,and she has so many sides. For me, the most relatable aspect would be her devotion to the unit – to the family unit. I come from a big family, and I was raised in single-parent household with four kids, and it was totally us against the world. So, that sort of pack mentality is totally something I relate to. That love and devotion – I’m very lucky to have had have that in my life.
I relate to her in that way in a lot.
When you prepare for this role, is it best to to stick with the script and what the director asks? Or do you do outside research, looking at the manga – or the original version of the anime, in Trina’s case?
Yui: I read the manga as it came out. In Japan, when we record, a lot of times it’s based on animatics. It doesn’t have a lot of animation attached to it. So, in order to expand my imagination, I try to re-read some of the scenes from the manga that I’ll be acting out.
Going in first, I’ll play her as I understood the scene to be. But sometimes, the director has a different take and I’ll get different suggestions. Sometimes, there will be a discussion of how that scene should be played, but most of the time, I do get it O.K. with my first take.
Trina: Get it, girl! That’s awesome.
I prefer not to read the manga until after I’m finished with that portion. For me as an actor and a performer, going into the booth cold allows me to be in that moment so much more than if I knew what was going to happen the next day in recording. That’s a choice that the director also prefers for me as an actor. I’ve worked with Mike McFarland – who’s amazing! – many times, and it’s his preference. And I’m cool with whatever he wants me to do, ’cause he’s the director!
Does he ask that of all the voice actors?
Trina: Not all of us. But I’ve worked with him on so many other projects, like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Evangelion. So, that’s what he’s asked of me, and I am completely cool with that, ’cause that’s what I prefer anyways. But I’m very excited to see what happens. It’d be dope to be able to know how everything ends. I mean… nobody knows that! But you get the gist.
One major difference when you’re doing a dub, versus the original recording, is that you must fit your performance to very precise mouth flaps . How do you hit a performance while still fitting into very narrow parameters of timing?
Trina: It can be challenging, but most of the voice actors I know who do dubs have been classically trained in theater. A lot of them have musical experience. Personally, I have a lot of dance experience. So, it’s really a rhythmic sort of thing, figuring out how to manipulate your performance to be believable, and real, and true to that character, and still fit pre-animation. After a while, I guess it just comes to you. It helps to have amazing directors and engineers that are bananas great.
I can’t even express how talented the engineers at FUNimation are, and how sweet they are. Please include that. They’re amazing people. I really really care about them. It’s mostly their sorcery. I’d like to take all the credit, but I can’t.
There’s also a live-action version of Attack on Titan, with its own angle on Mikasa. Have you seen it?
Trina: I have! FUNimation has the property and we dubbed it. It’s definitely a different take on the world. I think if you go into the movie, thinking it’s going to be exactly the same, then you’re going to be disappointed. The characters are different. If you want to see kaiju movie, that is a dope kaiju movie. But if you want to see Attack on Titan, like the manga or anime, it’s not the same. It’s a re-imagining.
Attack on Titan‘s been a juggernaut hit for years, now. Why has it so resonated with audiences?
Trina: I can’t speak for worldwide viewers, as I live in the US. But I think in the US, socio-economic issues we were facing as a country kind of laid the groundwork for people wanting to see something that expressed what they were feeling. Four years ago, there was a lot of anger, and there was a lot of frustration.
Attack on Titan has so many themes layered inside of it, but one of the overarching themes is the social and economic disparities between the classes. I think that’s also why franchises like the Hunger Games and the Walking Dead have caught on. Those are all shows expressing an anger for how different life is for the rich versus the poor. I think it just was a hotbed, and people want to see average kids rising up and fighting against things that are awful. Because as a people, we want to fight against things that are unfair or awful. So, seeing that reflected in art is moving. I think that is a big part of why people responded so well to it.
I mean, we don’t have to worry about giant, naked, genital-less monsters reaching into the building and eating us! But everybody has a “Titan.” Maybe that is food insecurity, or economic insecurities, or bullying, or illness, or war, or any number of things. And seeing these three kids band together to fight a Titan, I think it gives people a lot of hope.
Off my soapbox, now… ha ha.
Yui: I think it’s based on the great story of the manga. Each episode has new surprises, and those surprises are actually building on previous episodes – making connections. New discoveries develop new mysteries, and the plot takes unexpected turns that are intriguing for viewers.
Trina: Yeah, totally.
Yui: After it’s animated, there’s not just the meaning of the text, but there are other elements, like music. Voice actors add to the characters, making the original work more interesting. Collectively, more people are involved – and they’re all very passionate about the project. They want it to be successful, and that translates into the work we put out. Also, we always end on a cliffhanger. People always wants to know more!
Trina: I know!
Speaking of cliffhangers, the last season of Attack on Titan ended on a big one, and fans have had to wait on it a couple years, now. Any teases about what’s in store for Mikasa in Season Two?
Trina: I don’t know yet, because I don’t read ahead. I would like to know! But Yui will probably have more insight than I.
Yui: So, for Season Two, you can definitely expect Mikasa to be more… girly? We use the word “otome” in Japanese. Mikasa will be more otome. Because in Season One, she was hanging out with in a trio, with Eren and Armin. But in Season Two, she feels like she’s getting left behind by Eren. He’s moving forward, trying to save the humanity, and she feels like she’s getting left out. Her feelings come up more as she tries to catch up with him. You can see her being a bit more startled in those scenes – they bring out new aspects of Mikasa’s character.
You both mention how, sometimes, you don’t even know what’s coming next for Mikasa yourselves. If there’s a mystery in the show, and you’re unsure what a particular scene is leading to, will the director tell you, or do you just have to focus on the script-at-hand?
Yui: It’s case by case. If the director thinks the particular actor involved in a sub-plot should know at this time, individually he’ll provide information. But for some characters who will eventually die off… if you were told that you’re going to die a few episodes along, then your acting might be effected. The director can’t stop them, but he wouldn’t want them to read ahead in the manga to find out their character’s going to die.
Trina: Totally the same answer! Straight up.
Hearing both actresses’ perspectives, are you more amped about what Mikasa will face in Attack on Titan Season Two? Sound off in the comments!
Image Credits: FUNimation
Jul 24 2017
Warlocks are the magic users who cheated their way through Final exams. They’re a really cool class who have made a Pact with a powerful entity, for some greater purpose; be it their soul, influencing events in the mortal plane for their chosen patron, or even cookies. A fun part of building any Warlock is developing a backstory for who this person was before they made the Pact, why they thought it was a good idea, and even what the terms of the Pact are. Even though Warlocks come with some great character building baked into the class, make sure you check out our tips for new roleplayers to make sure you have a character that is both interesting and fun to play.
PACTS AND PATRONS
Warlocks have a ton of variety and customization available with their 3 different Pact options, as well as their 3 possible Patrons. The best part of a game like D&D is that there is no “best” option; just the one you like the most. When selecting your Pact, keep in mind that both the Pact of Chain and the Pact of the Tome lend themselves to staying out of the fight and using Cantrips and ranged options to contribute. Pact of the Blade allows you to fight any way you want; just because it is called Pact of the Blade doesn’t mean your Pact weapon can’t be a bow.
In terms of your Patron options, each one should influence the way you play your character. A Fiend will have different goals than an Archfey, and this will influence your character. Each of the Patrons offers an expanded spell list, as well as benefits for being in their service.
Statistics in D&D represent how your character interacts with the world and what they can (and cannot) accomplish. Work with your DM to ensure you are generating your statistics the same as the rest of your group and whatever method chosen, you will generate 6 different numbers; 1 for each attribute. When you have your numbers, it’s important to prioritize your statistics to get the most out of them.
Warlocks are magic casters who use Charisma as their main spellcasting ability. As such, Charisma needs to be your highest attribute. The best part about having Charisma as your primary attribute, is that it buffs all of your incredibly useful Charisma skills by default (like Persuasion). If you select either the Pact of the Chain or the Pact of the Tome, Constitution should be your next highest ability as you are going to be spending most of your time lobbing Cantrips. For Pact of the Blade, make sure you pick either Strength or Dexterity, based on the type of weapon you plan on using. Your statistics breakdown should look like this:
Charisma -> Constitution -> Dexterity -> Wisdom -> Strength -> Intelligence
If you are using Pact of the Blade, it should look like this:
Charisma -> Strength/Dexterity -> Constitution -> Strength/Dexterity -> Wisdom -> Intelligence
If you choose Dexterity to be your second place attribute, bump Wisdom up a spot to make sure you gain the bonuses to your Insight and Perception which are way more important than Strength.
Warlocks have a much more limited number of spell slots than all other dedicated magic classes. This means that they need to rely on their Cantrips, and at later levels, their Eldritch Invocations. At first level, Warlocks know 2 Cantrips and 2 Spells. Unlike spells, selected Cantrips cannot be swapped out at later times so make sure you are happy with the ones you select.
The first Cantrip every Warlock should grab is Eldritch Blast. It’s a fantastic Cantrip with an incredible range and a great damage dice. The other reason this is a must-have spell is that Warlocks have three different Eldritch Invocations that improve Eldritch Blast in some way. As these Invocations are always on, being able to improve this Cantrip is a huge reason to select it; even if you plan to run Pact of the Blade and stab things, Eldritch Blast is a great option. Ask your Barbarian friend, sometimes you can’t reach the thing you want to stab and this is a great backup. Considering Warlocks are Charisma based casters, my next recommendation is Friends. Gaining advantage on all of your Persuasion attempts can be the difference between a positive or a negative outcome. Sure, the target knows you used magic on it, but you’re the kind of person who makes Pacts with powerful entities, future planning was never a strong suit.
For this article, I am not going to consider any of the expanded spell lists from your Patron. Feel free to trade either of these options for those presented with your Patron. Because Warlocks have so few spell slots, you should look for spells that have prolonged effects or longer durations. There’s no sense using one of your two spell slots for a quick, one off effect. The first spell every Warlock should have is Hex. This has a concentration time of an hour, deals additional damage every time you attack them, only costs a bonus action to cast, and allows you to hex a specific ability which imposes disadvantage on the target every time they make an ability check (using the hexed ability). The best part is that you can curse a new creature if the target is ever reduced to 0 hit points. Cast it early in a combat and you can hex every single creature you fight.
The next spell you should grab is Arms of Hadar. While there are better multiple action spells (like Witch Bolt), Arms of Hadar does not require concentration, and thus won’t end your Hex spell early. It also combines with Hex quite well because you can Hex a creature’s Strength before casting it. The other great thing about this spell is that it is an area of effect spell affecting all creatures within 10 feet of you (including allies!) and they still take damage if they pass the save.
Do you have any tips for new Warlocks? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast
Jul 21 2017
If you’ve wanted to get into manga, but have been intimidated by various barriers to entry, it’d really be best to take your first taste with titles that are a wee more accessible. These comics don’t ask you to know the idioms of sub-genres, or ask that you enlist for dozens and dozens of volume. A few can even be compared rather easily to familiar Western titles. This isn’t “Manga 101.” These are far from elementary. But with more cinematic storytelling throughout, they’re definitely some of the easiest to get into.
Lone Wolf & Cub
The archetype of child endangerment in adventure fiction, perhaps. Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s samurai series revolves around the iconic image of a deadly swordsmen rolling his son along in a baby carriage up to, in-between, and even during bloody battles with the feudal era’s nastiest scoundrels. While there’s the ongoing plot thread of this double-crossed executioner seeking revenge on the disgraced clan that murdered his family, like an old school TV show, most yarns are pretty self-contained. And surprisingly educational, given the thorough research into Edo life that’s woven into every panel.
It’s a safe bet you’ve heard of the anime, but this is one more case where the book is better than the movie. Leagues better. At the same time, the two endure as fascinating companion pieces since mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo directed an adaptation of his own story–and a blockbuster film budget still wasn’t sufficient to capture all the imagination he’d unleashed on the page. Akira starts as a seemingly-straightforward yarn about biker gangs versus mutant telepaths but, in three whole volumes set after Neo-Tokyo is leveled, it steadily ramps up into a striking mash of Lord of the Flies and Gangs of New York.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Otomo isn’t the only director to have based a movie off a comic he wrote and drew himself. Indeed, while Hayao Miyazaki is famous almost exclusively for his works in anime, he actually has a sizable catalog of manga to his credit, having penned adaptations of Puss in Boots and Animal Treasure Island among others. Ironically, he took on the publishing contract for Nausicaä with the proviso that it wouldn’t be turned into a film. Like with Akira, the manga offers a much longer story, showing the titular Princess’ continuing adventures, and exploring many more complex facets of her feudal, post-Apocalyptic world.
20th Century Boys
Manga’s master of moody, menacing mysteries, Naoki Urasawa, weaves an epic thriller here that’s easily recommended to fans of Stephen King. 20th Century Boys posits the actually-rather-troubling-when-you-think-about-it question of what might happen if a “club” of kids actually shaped the fate of the world. Like, if you and your pals went around pretending to be Ghostbusters, fighting “ghost” in the backyard, for example, and the made-up details of your play sessions took root in reality decades later. Wouldn’t that be scary? That’s the lure, and what lurks beyond that initial premise is one mind-bender of a conspiracy.
Junji Ito shares what could be the worst bad hair day here. When a young woman’s do starts curling into an unnatural spiral style, she naturally tries to cut it off. Of course, the fearsome follicles rebel against her, taking on a life of their own and trying to choke her out. Turns out this isn’t the only ominous incident with spirals in town. “Dangerous curves” appear ominously everywhere. And the weirdness that follows takes some very Twin Peaks turns as the townsfolk join in, getting to the bottom of this mystery.
Comic books have the power to put you in the shoes of any hero imaginable. Roundtable Season 2 invites various comic book creators in to discuss the ever-changing, ever-expanding world of one of the most popular forms of media – comic books.
Featured Image Credit: VIZ Media, Kodansha USA, Dark Horse Comics
Image Credits: VIZ Media
Jul 21 2017
This week on The Wednesday Club, hosts Taliesin Jaffe and Amy Dallen were joined by guest Erika Ishii to talk about successfully navigating San Diego Comic-Con. Rather than comic picks this week, the trio gave their best tips and suggestions for making it through Comic-Con weekend, along with a few favorite memories of cons past.
“Conventions are really interesting, and San Diego Comic-Con is the weirdest of all of them,” said Taliesin.
Here are just a few of The Wednesday Club’s tips for making the most of the country’s biggest comic convention. They also apply to your smaller, local cons, so read on even if SDCC isn’t in your travel plans this year.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Ask any experienced convention goer what you should bring along, and they’ll always have these three things on their lists: Bottle of water, hand sanitizer, and comfortable shoes. Your shoes can make or break an entire con, so plan ahead.
“Don’t even kid yourself,” said Taliesin. “You’re going to be walking… Comfortable shoes are a big plus.”
Follow Taliesin’s Three Rules
Taliesin has three rules to surviving and thriving at Burning Man that also apply perfectly to Comic-Con:
- You are not responsible for anyone else’s good time.
- No one is responsible for your good time.
- Every time you make a plan, God laughs.
Don’t worry about what your friends are doing, and don’t depend on them to entertain you. And be flexible in planning every day, and accept ahead of time that you simply won’t be able to see everything you want to at the show.
“Cosplay is dressing up as a character that you like,” said Erika, “replicating the costume as closely as you can.” While some cosplayers prefer to put their own spin or an alternate take on a character’s costume, details and accuracy are vital to cosplay.
“As much as a joy it is for the rest of us when someone dresses up in a costume… make sure you’re treating them with respect,” said Amy. Cosplay is not consent. Always ask before taking a photo of a cosplayer, and always keep in mind that no matter how scantily clad their costume may be, it’s not an invitation to touch them.
“Cosplayers are dressing up because it is, in the end, for them,” agreed Erika.
Find a Quiet Space
At times the crowds at San Diego Comic-Con can feel crushing, so take the time to recharge your energy by moving to a quieter space. “If you’re feeling overwhelmed,” said Taliesin, “get out of the Gaslamp District.” Taliesin also recommended finding a hotel lobby just beyond the convention, the art show, or Sea Port Village.
Erika added that the sales pavilion is another good spot to escape the crowds when you’re ready for a break.
Go to the Eisner Awards
If you are at San Diego Comic-Con, Amy has one impassioned plea for you: Go to the Eisner Awards ceremony.
“Did you know that if you have a badge from San Diego, any badge, you can go to the Eisner Awards?” asked Amy. “Did you know the Eisner Awards are the premier awards in comics, and anyone with a badge can go? Did you know that many of your favorite creators and nerd celebrities will be there, and anyone with a badge can go?”
The Eisner Awards are typically held on the Friday night of the convention in the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
Some of the experts’ other quick Comic-Con tips include:
- Use the bag check service (“It changed my life,” said Erika)
- Pack a battery phone charger
- Bring poster tubes to carry artwork home
- Hygiene is important
- Be nice to the volunteers
- Don’t ask your friends to get you con exclusives
- If you’re going off on your own, make sure someone knows where you’re going
Hang out on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel every Wednesday night to catch the next amazing episode of The Wednesday Club.
All Images: Geek & Sundry
Jul 21 2017
This week on Mines N Crafts, hosts Stef Woodburn, Gina DeVivo, and Amy Dallen got to work finishing an Ender Dragon that they had previously started crafting. Once complete, the black dragon’s head will forever take its place on the swanky new Mines N Crafts set.
Here is the how-to to follow along at home and add a dragon to the walls of your own lair.
What You Need
- Wooden plaque for mounting
- Large square cardboard box (check that it will fit on the plaque)
- Two long, medium size cardboard boxes for the mouth
- Two tiny cardboard boxes
- Roll of black paper
- Purple and pink paper
- Light blue paper
- Hot glue
- Craft knife
Begin by assembling the large square box for the head and gluing the edges to keep it together.
Next, make one long medium box for the top block of the dragon’s mouth.
Create a trapezoid shape for the bottom part of the mouth so that it is attached at an angle. Don’t worry if you don’t get the edges lined up and glued exactly, said Gina. “It’s going to get covered with paper.”
Wrap the three boxes in black paper.
Next, make the two tiny boxes that will serve as the dragon’s nostrils. Gina simply folded cardboard into a C-shape with an open side since the box would also be wrapped. “You could make another [side], but you don’t need it since we’re covering it in paper,” she said. Wrap the two tiny boxes in black paper.
Use a craft knife to cut the wrapping paper where the two boxes for the mouth will attach. “We need the structural integrity,” Gina said. “We don’t want the paper to be glued to itself. It’ll be too heavy and eventually will rip.”
Hot glue the angled bottom box to the large square box to create the mouth.
Repeat with the other box to create the top of the mouth.
Next, glue the nostrils on top of the mouth.
Cut an L shape in the purple paper to make the bottom layer of one eye, and use it as a template to make another for the other eye. These will be the dragon’s pupils. (Use one inch squares as a guide.)
Cut a slightly larger L in the pink paper that will line up exactly on the top and bottom with the purple L shape. Glue the pink paper on the dragon’s face, then purple L on top.
For the horn, Gina said, “I’m making a rectangle that tapers on one side.” (Or a trapezoid, argued Amy.) Use that tapered rectangle as a template on the light blue paper until you have eight shapes.
Hot glue the lengthwise edges of four light blue trapezoids to make one horn, and repeat for the other horn. Trim the end to line up the edges as needed. Use the end of the horn as a template and trace a square on the light blue paper, cut it out, and glue it to the top of the horn. Repeat on the other horn.
Glue the horns on top of the dragon’s head.
Finally, use the pink paper to make the dragon’s tongue. Cut a large triangle, and then fold it in half. The Fold and glue the edges down underneath, and glue it inside the dragon’s mouth.
The dragon is almost complete!
Catch Gina, Stef, and Amy on Mines N Crafts every Wednesday at 4PM Pacific on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel, and become a subscriber to hop on the sub-only Minecraft server.
All Images: Geek & Sundry
Jul 21 2017
Signal Boost! is our weekly love letter to all fandoms, be it books, podcasts, indie games, Etsy shops, soundtracks, websites, or events. Come see what wonderful, crazy stuff is out there and connect with a community of fans who knows what it’s like to like the wonderful, crazy, and unknown. Signal Boost! airs every week on both YouTube and Alpha. This week we take a deeper dive into Sufjan Stevens – Boosted By Dave Reynolds.
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens produces music from deep within the cosmos, ethereal sounds that envelop you via your headphones. Think folk music done with a grand, expansive vision of the universe.
Stephens co-founded the record label Asthmatic Kitty, where his music “mixes autobiography, religious fantasy, and regional history to create folk songs of grand proportions.” This epic focus is found in his discography, which include albums about states (Michigan and Illinois) to a collection of biblical songs (Seven Swans).
He continued his exploration of larger topics on his latest project, a collaborative effort with with Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, and James McAlister called Planetarium. The self-titled album from the band was influenced by the solar system, as evidenced by its track listing: Neptune, Jupiter, Black Hole, and 14 other songs are all similarly titled.
Planetarium was featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where they played the song Mercury. The band recently completed a short tour with stops in Paris, New York, and Los Angeles, and although there are no plans to tour outside of our galaxy, Stevens’ music has already taken his audiences beyond the limits of their imagination.
What otherworldly music is currently in your headspace? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credits: Sufjan Stevens
Ruel Gaviola is a writer and educator based in Southern California. He loves board games, books, cooking, traveling, date nights with his wife, and Star Wars. He reviews games and reports news for iSlaytheDragon.com and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter.
Jul 21 2017
Every Wednesday at 9:30 PM , a talented crew roleplays their way to fulfill their mission and boldly go where no one has gone before. Join the adventures of the USS Sally Ride on Shield of Tomorrow on Twitch.
Star Trek Adventures finally gives us an outlet to live out our Trek fantasies. With this in mind, I wondered how my favourite, awkward chair sitting, first officer would look as a Star Trek Adventures character sheet. In creating a sheet for a character that’s familiar, it helps give a clear idea of the process and show how unintimidating it is. In the end, you can get dice rolling pretty quick if you’re as eager to play the game as a newly-assigned Ensign is to embark on their first mission.
STEP ONE: SPECIES
When making a character in Star Trek Adventures, there is a 7 step process to follow. With Riker being an established character, some of these steps will be shorter than others. Species for example, is Human. Duh.
Where this matters, is that each species improves 3 of their Attributes and increases them from the starting value of 7, to 8. As a Human, instead of the Attributes being determined, you get to choose them. So which Attributes really encapsulate Riker? Presence, Fitness, and Daring. We get a Talent, but we’ll choose all 4 of our Talents during Step 7, as our character will be holistically created at that time.
STEP TWO: ENVIRONMENT
When considering the Environment for your character, this has to do with where your character was born. In the case of Riker, he was born and raised in Alaska, so for this, we choose Homeworld (Earth).
After choosing Homeworld, we get to improve one of our 3 selected Attributes, as well as add 1 to the Disciplines of Command, Security, or Science. Additionally, we add our first Value. As Riker is oozing charisma, we’re going to go for Presence and the Discipline is an obvious one; Command.
Values in Star Trek Adventures describe the attitudes, beliefs, and convictions of the character. So a Value at this stage, should reflect this environment. For Riker, who was raised by his mostly absentee father, it forced him to take on responsibility at an early age, and instilled in him a drive of excellence. Don’t just do something, be the best at it. For this reason, I’ve selected a Value of, “Always be the best.”
STEP THREE: UPBRINGING
Upbringing represents the environment in which a character was raised. Riker, growing up in Alaska, far from the population centres of Earth, should select “Agriculture or Rural”. When choosing an upbringing in Star Trek Adventures, you have to decide if the character accepted or rebelled against this upbringing. Unlike Captain Kirk who rebelled, Riker looks fondly on Alaska and his time there. By accepting this upbringing, you increase your Control by 1 and your Fitness by 2.
This upbringing also allows you to increase a Discipline (Conn, Security, or Medicine) by 1. As I’ve never seen Riker pilot the ship but he can definitely handle a phaser, I selected Security. This upbringing is also reflected with a single Focus, Focuses represent specialization and expertise stemming from practice and deeper study. A fitting Focus would be Athletics, since he engages in a variety of extra-curricular physical activities.
STEP FOUR: STARFLEET ACADEMY
At this stage in character creation, you choose the track (Command, Operations, or Sciences) that your character took through the academy. As a first officer, who is frequently being offered his own commission, he obviously took the Command Track. Your time at Starfleet Academy is incredibly formative and as such, a number of things happen.
First, you earn a new Value, reflecting your time at the Academy. For Riker, and this is especially true of his early career (The Pegasus), this Value is clearly, “My duty is to my captain.” This reflects his unquestioning loyalty to his captain, and combined with his previous Value, explains why he is commonly referred to as an excellent officer.
For Attributes, you gain 3 points that you can spend on either 2 or 3 different Attributes. As our character is not, Riker-y enough yet, I think Daring should get +2 points and Presence should get +1. This brings our Riker trifecta up to 10 points in each.
For Disciplines, you have to choose a major (+2 points) and two minors for your study at the academy. Obviously Riker majored in Command, minored in Security and Conn (which may have been intnetional since shuttles to Risa won’t fly themselves.)
The Academy also brings three more Focuses, which should be used to represent things he excels at, and reflect things he excels at; Composure, Inspiration, Team Dynamics.
STEP FIVE: CAREER
This is the part of character creation where you choose how long you have served in Starfleet. Are you a new graduate, like Riker on the Pegasus? An experienced officer, like Riker at Farpoint? Or a Veteran Officer, like Riker at the end of Nemesis? The Riker I’m imagining is one from the TNG run and Experienced Officer fits best for what I am imagining.
Selecting Experienced Officer grants another Talent, and a Value. The best Value I can imagine for this point in his career is, “Married to the Enterprise.” This reflects the numerous commissions he turned down, just to remain on the Federation flagship.
STEP SIX: CAREER EVENTS
This step is performed twice to reflect significant events that have occurred throughout the career of your character. If there was a monumentally important event, you can wrap up both of the situations into one larger one and this is the best way to represent the situation Riker was put in, as an Ensign, under the command of Captain Pressman on the Pegasus. When the crew mutinied, Riker betrayed his own ideals to protect the Captain (who was illegally experimenting with cloaking technology); a decision that Riker has come to regret. Betrayed Ideals for a Superior increases his Command discipline by 1, his Presence attribute by 1, and gives him a Focus representing what Captain Pressman taught him, Persuasion.
The mutiny of the Pegasus culminated in its destruction after Captain Pressman, Ensign Riker and several other crew had escaped on an escape pod. This segues well into the Ship Destroyed event. This increases your Daring attribute by 1, your Security discipline by 1, and a Focus related to the incident, in this case Survival.
STEP SEVEN: FINISHING TOUCHES
This is the section where you finish up your character (obviously, look at the title). First of all, we add our final Value that rounds out the character. Due to Riker’s…extensive extra-curricular’s, combined with a career of “firsts” (like participating in an officer exchange program with the Klingons), the Value of, “To boldly go where no one has gone before” is fitting.
For your attributes, none can be above 12 (Riker is good for this), and you get two final points to allocate. As Presence and Daring define William Riker, I am going to bump both of those attributes to 12.
Next, you check your disciplines. No discipline can be higher than 5, and you cannot have two disciplines at 5. As Riker’s Command is currently 5 and his Security is 4, this means that both points we get to finish should go into Conn.
Finally, let’s grab those 4 Talents. Talents are game abilities, providing bonuses to gameplay that reflect things the character excels at. For Riker, the best Talents are Bold, Dauntless, Advisor, and Follow my lead.
At this point in Star Trek Adventures, characters would fill in their Stress (Fitness + Security), other personal details and equipment. For now though, Riker is ready for new adventures.
Hopefully this process has made it clear that character creation in Star Trek Adventures can give you a rich, layered character with lots of options, without being overwhelming. If you’re ready to catch the game in action, the crew of the USS Sally Ride flies every Wednesday at 9:30 PM PT on Twitch.
Image Credits: CBS
Jul 20 2017
Often times in the past, tv shows based on video games have been underwhelming to terrible. I still have flashbacks to the old Legend of Zelda cartoon. The words “Excuuuuse me princess” haunt my dreams to this day. So it was delightfully surprising that Warren Ellis’ Castlevania, which came out earlier this month, is really freaking good!
The show took influences from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse as well as artistic inspiration from animes like Cowboy Bebop and Beserk. The four episodes of the first season are dark, gruesome, and yet laced with a biting humor (sorry for the vampire puns). Four episodes is not enough to sate our sanguine thirst for more (ok really I’ll stop with the puns). There is so much to cover in the series and Ellis has just dipped his toes into the show. So what can we hope to see in next season? Erika and Trisha will be talking to Adi Shankar, filmmaker and producer of the Netflix Castlevania series next week to see if we can wring some details from him. Until then, here’s my wishlist for Castlevania season two.
Grant Danasty is the third ally that teams up with Trevor Belmont. He’s got a super acrobatic fighting style that would be amazing translated on screen and since the show has introduced the ally characters in the same way Trevor meets them in the game, that would mean a fight between him and a possessed ninja-pirate, and that sounds awesome.
Ellis originally cut Grant from the series for two reasons. One, he didn’t have a lot of time to work with in the series. There were only 80 total minutes to pack as much in as possible, so Ellis decided to focus on fewer characters so that they would have their time to shine. Two, as stated in an interview “Grant DaNasty is a stupid name that I cannot take seriously. When he does turn up, I’ll probably use the alternate spelling of Grant DiNesti.”
How can Dracula’s BFF not be a part of the series? This iconic enemy makes an appearance in virtually every game in the series including Castlevania 3, so it just makes sense that our favorite horseman would pop in for a cameo. Death could be a monstrous counterpoint to the surprisingly likeable Dracula and just imagine Trevor’s desperate fight against Death’s flying scythes and what horrors the animators could do with Deaths transformation into a disembodied head of doom.
Speaking of Scythes, let’s talk weapons. A Castlevania mainstay is your choice of sub-weapons. Trevor uses are each an opportunity to make the show’s already-great fight scenes even cooler. I like the addition of the sword to Trevor’s arsenal, and we’ve seen him make awesome use of the dagger, especially in his fight with the cyclops (ironic, since it’s basically the lamest of the subweapons). The axe makes a brief cameo, but we’d love to get a look at the flaming holy water, the shockingly powerful boomerang cross, and the awesome (and inexplicable) time-stopping pocket watch.
Castlevania 3 has some truly phenomenal 8-bit music (in particular the absolutely amazing Japanese OST). The music in the show has been great – moody and atmospheric – but there are so many great tracks to be enjoyed in the game OST, we’d love to get some more adaptations in there
Ok, so this one’s cheating, since we get plenty of the guy in the course of the show, but Ellis does such a good job of making us identify with our supposed big bad at the outset of the show, we find ourselves just wanting to spend more time getting to know the befanged Lord of Shadows. We all know a confrontation with him is inevitable, but wouldn’t it be great to see what he’s doing in the interim, or how he and Lisa spent their time together before that comedically evil church stepped in and doomed everyone and everything?
What do you want to see in the next season of Castlevania? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to know more about the Castlevania Netflix series? Check out next week’s Game Engine on Twitch Tuesday at 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm Pacific Standard Time.
Image Credits: Castlevania/Netflix, Castlevania 3
Jul 20 2017
Head over to G&S Live and subscribe to catch up on ForeverVerse as well as many of your other Twitch favorites.
Love the tunes you hear at the beginning of the show? We have a way you can take them with you! The Deadly Grind has released all of the songs you know from there series and more. Check them out on Apple to start downloading.
Jul 20 2017
Welcome back to another exciting season of Game Master Tips! Our Game Master extraordinaire, Satine Phoenix, shares with you some of her tips for creating amazing adventures, dealing with difficult parties, or what it takes to sit behind the GM screen. Even if you are a first-time storyteller or a veteran of the field, Satine helps you to become a better player at the table.
This season, Satine brings in some of the best minds to craft an adventure to the show to tackle the issue of the day. In part one of a two-part episode, Satine brings in Matthew Colville to discuss the details on designing an encounter.
Check out GM Tips with Satine Phoenix every Thursday at 10AM or find more tips by checking out the past seasons here at Geek & Sundry.