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Geek and Sundry

Celebrate The Legacy of Greg Stafford By Playing His Games

Oct 16 2018

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Friends, family, colleagues, and fans have spent the weekend mourning the passing of Greg Stafford on October 11th, 2018. Stafford founded Chaosium Inc. in 1975, making it one of the oldest roleplaying game publishers still in existence. Chaosium has become synonymous with Call of Cthulhu and keeping the works of Lovecraft alive through play. Stafford had a hand in the creation of that classic RPG, but he also created several other games that changed what tabletop roleplaying games could be. His visionary designed helped RPGs grow beyond dungeon crawls and piles of imaginary gold and pushed into the realms of storytelling and oral tradition. We’ve collected some of his most influential designs in this article for fans that may have played these games in the past who want to spend some time honoring Stafford with new tales in old settings as well as new fans that never got a chance to see the artist in action.

Glorantha

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Chaosium began as a way for Stafford to publish White Bear and Red Moon, the first game set in his expansive Glorantha universe. Most roleplayers know Glorantha from a variety of RPG incarnations including RuneQuest, Hero Wars and HeroQuest. Glorantha is a beloved fantasy world that rivals Middle Earth in depth and development. While early editions of Dungeons & Dragons focused on low fantasy and emulating medieval worlds of adventure, Glorantha drew its inspirations from Bronze Age mythology and high fantasy. RuneQuest players walked with gods, battled sentient dreams and became the center of tales it took D&D characters dozens of levels to get to.  The setting offered players who loved luxuriating in ideas for their own worlds a veritable waterfall of them in each book. The most recent game to enter the world was 13th Age Glorantha which combined the shared creation of 13th Age with a setting uniquely created to bend.

Ghostbusters

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We covered this influential RPG in a recent article, but it bears mentioning that Stafford along with most of the design crew from Chaosium at the time were hired by West End Games to create the game. Ghostbusters pioneered many modern day game elements like dice pools but it’s the rare blend of influential game that’s easy and a ton of fun to play to this day. Hilarious, spooky adventures are also a perfect fit for the season as the cold creeps in and Halloween looms on the horizon.

Prince Valiant

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Stafford’s life long love of the Arthurian myth caused him to create a pair of role-playing games using those tales as backdrop. Prince Valiant The Storytelling Game was created with kids in mind, using a simple pair of statistics (Brawn and Presence) and coin flip to determine the outcomes of character’s action. The Hal Foster comic strip veered more toward the King Arthur of pop culture and the colorful adventure epics of mid-century Hollywood and the RPG followed. A second edition came out this year featuring a full-color corebook full of Foster’s fantastic art along with new content created by several modern designers that considered this game a major inspiration.

Pendragon

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If any design was considered Stafford’s magnum opus it was 1985’s Pendragon. This game steeped in Arthurian lore that took a dynastic look at knights during the rise and fall of King Arthur. Stafford used Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory as the basis for this game featuring players as knights in the legendary king’s court. Characters are defined by their passions with their actions shifting those passions between two extremes such as Mericiful and Cruel or Just and Cowardly. These values put the emotional core of the character front and center of the game instead of how strong or skilled a character was in battle. A second game also layered on top of regular adventures as knights managed their households, aged out of adventuring and passed their lineage on to their children, also played by the same players. The most recent edition of Pendragon showed that Stafford never stopped thinking about the game by offering some additional rules refinements and clarifications.

In 2007, Stafford took the dynastic element of the game a step further with the release of The Great Pendragon Campaign. This massive tome featured an 85-year campaign that stretched from before Arthur was born until after his death. Stafford’s meticulous eye for detail allows for the book to help Game Masters with minimal knowledge of the legends weave a tale that feels like it’s a lost chapter of Mallory. It also offers great advice for how to handle players that want to elbow famous characters out of the spotlight and become more central to the myth.

Everyone at Geek & Sundry offers their condolences to the Stafford family and Chaosium for the passing of this historic designer.

What’s your favorite moment from one of Greg’s games? Let us know in the comments!

All hail the Once and Future King!

Images Credits: Rob Wieland, Chaosium Inc. Nocturnal Media

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. 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.

Capcom Announces MONSTER HUNTER Movie

Oct 16 2018

Each week on Twitch and Alpha, hosts Erika Ishii and Trisha Hershberger talk video games with special industry guests, insightful coverage and a ton of audience interaction on our show Game Engine. Be sure to tune in every Tuesday starting at 4 PM PT to learn about what’s new and cool in the world of video games.

Capcom has announced that they are currently developing a film for their popular video game series, Monster Hunter™! Paul W.S. Anderson, known for writing the screenplays for the Resident Evil series films as well as AVP: Alien vs. Predator, is adapting the action role-playing game for Constantin Film.

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“After living and breathing in the universe of Monster Hunter for 14 years we are thrilled with enormous anticipation to see our creations adapted for a theatrical release,” said Monster Hunter Series Producer, Ryozo Tsujimoto “Monster Hunter’s fan base has exploded over the past year with the runaway success of the game Monster Hunter: World™. It is our hope long-time fans and new alike will join us on this exciting exploration of the Monster Hunter universe.”

The film, so far just named Monster Hunter, will follow two heroes as they explore the world and face-off against the impressive host of monsters that threaten it. Fans of the series will be happy to hear that there will be plenty of familiar faces and popular characters from the games like the lion-haired Admiral, who according to IMDB, will be played by the delightful Ron Perlman.

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Seeing as Paul W.S. Anderson is not only writing the screenplay but is also producing it alongside Jeremy Bolt from Impact Pictures, it’s no surprise that Resident Evil’s lead actress, Milla Jovovich will be starring in MONSTER HUNTER. Joining her will be Diego Boneta (Rock of Ages), Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior), and T.I. (Ant-Man).

While you may love or hate Anderson’s previous work with the Resident Evil film series, it is awesome to hear that Capcom is producing more video-game based films. The Monster Hunter games are so rich with lush landscapes and fearsome creatures, that I cannot wait to see how they bring it all to life.

What do you want to see in the MONSTER HUNTER movie? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to tune into Game Engine on Twitch and Alpha for more video game goodness every Tuesday starting at 4PM PT.

WANT MORE VIDEO GAME FUN?

Hailing from New York, Jessica Fisher is a writer, artist, and all around geek. In addition to Geek & Sundry, she writes for Gameosity.com and produces the Gameosity Reviews Youtube Channel. Find her talking about all things geeky on Twitter as @miniktty.

Image Credits: Capcom, Milla Jovovich

 

The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: Dungeons & Dragons

Oct 16 2018

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics. This week, hosts Matt Key, Taliesin Jaffe, and Amy Dallen were joined by B. Dave Walters and Tess Fowler to talk about Dungeons & Dragons comic books of the past—and the future.

Role-playing games have played a big part in the lives of both The Wednesday Club hosts and this week’s guests, and when the love of RPGs combines with comic books, magic almost always happens. Dungeons & Dragons has had a number of officially licensed comic books in years past, along with series currently running like Rick and Morty Vs. Dungeons & Dragons and Evil at Baldur’s Gate.

“The whole thing about these comics is that they’re connected,” Tess said. “They’re connected to the [Dungeons & Dragons] art at the time. There’s a faction of us that knew every artist on every cover, like Larry Elmore.”

B. Dave, Tess, and The Wednesday Club hosts talked about two classic Dungeons & Dragons comic books in particular: Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms.

Dragonlance

The Dragonlance comic books are adaptations of the fantasy novel series of the same name. The book series started with Dragons of Autumn Twilight in 1984, and is now considered a common introduction to the genre. (The books themselves were based on Dungeons & Dragons game modules.) In the story, a group of companions in the world of Krynn encounter a young woman who needs their help. Their journey will take them to places with dangers they’ve never even dreamt of on a quest that will change the world.

Tess, a veteran comic book artist, discussed the panel layout in the Dragonlance Classics book originally published by DC Comics.

“I just thought these layouts were amazing,” Amy said.

Taliesin had the Tasslehoff Burrfoot action figure, he revealed.

(IDW Publishing, Dan Mishkin, Mike Collins, and Ron Randall)

Forgotten Realms

Another classic Dungeons & Dragons series with a similar aesthetic to the classic Dragonlance books were the Forgotten Realms comic books also originally published by DC Comics.

Taliesin found himself liking the (slightly problematic) 90s vibe of the books more than he expected. “This is just warm toastiness,” he said with a smile.

Amy enjoyed the action and cute funniness of the book, she said. “I love this whole [gather your] party thing… I was into it.”

(IDW Publishing, Jeff Grubb and Rags Morales)

B. Dave, Tess, and the hosts also talked briefly about the out of print “D&D in space” comic series Spelljammer.

On this episode of The Wednesday Club, B. Dave and Tess had an exclusive reveal: They’re the new creative team on an upcoming official Dungeons & Dragons comic set in the Forgotten Realms! Stay tuned to Geek & Sundry for more news and info about the incredible new series.

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.

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

MORE COMIC AWESOMENESS!

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: IDW Publishing

WATCH: How to Play – FANTASTIC BEASTS PERILOUS PURSUIT by USAopoly

Oct 16 2018

Join Game the Game host Becca Scott as she shows us how to play awesome tabletop games here on Geek & Sundry!

Newt Scamander’s magical beasts have escaped his suitcase! Learn How to Play Fantastic Beasts Perilous Pursuit, where 2-4 players roll dice and capture beasts before the muggle world is overwhelmed!

You can learn more about the game on USAopoly’s site, and capture a copy of the game at any quality game retailer.

More Gaming Goodness!

 

Take It Back To Where It All Began With FOUNDERS OF GLOOMHAVEN

Oct 15 2018

Gloomhaven has become something of a legend in the board game community. From the price tag to the amount of time one can spend playing it, and its (currently) unassailable place at the top of the Board Game Geek’s charts, everything about the game seems larger than life. After a game like that, designer Isaac Childres was left with a question: where to go from here? And due to that game’s success, and the time and freedom it afforded, the answer seems to have been, “wherever I damn well please.”

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Founders of Gloomhaven is not a sequel or an expansion (those are in the works, but are a little ways off). In fact, in terms of gameplay, Founders doesn’t seem to share a single thing in common. Instead, this game is strictly connected to the lore of Gloomhaven by way of its titular town.

Here you will play as one of the series’ various races, like Inox, Vermlings, or of course, Humans (we do seem to be everywhere, don’t we?) who are working together to build a new town after surviving a great war. Each race brings a different resource with them, such as metal, wood, gems, etc. and you’ll need to share these resources in order to get anything done.

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The game plays using cards to fuel specific actions: earning money, hiring workers, and funding construction until six Prestige Buildings have been built, at which point the player with the most points is declared the winner. As it stands, this might not sound particularly different from a lot of Euro-style city building games, but there’s one element that sets it apart. Now, at first it’s going to sound like nothing, but bear with me because this twist is what ties everything together. I mentioned that each race brings a couple resources with them. Throughout the game, that player is the only one who can ever produce that resource. So what, right? Well let me take you through what this means.

Let’s say you’re playing as the Orchids, who bring gems and, in this game, knowledge. Oh yeah, knowledge is a resource in Founders. So you want to use your knowledge to make a more advanced resource: books. But you need more than just knowledge, yes you need crops to make the paper that you’ll print your precious words onto. The Harrowers have the crops, so in order to build your printing press, you first need to buy the crops by connecting to the building that produces them and paying for the privilege of access. Then you slide a claim token under the original owners’ and boom, you have access to his food.

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So now you connect a few more roads and build an advanced building to make books. You get two points for that. Huzzah! However, because the Green player provided you with the crops that you needed, you have to give them one of those points.

This is the crux of the game. Almost everything you make is at least partially reliant on what other people have. And when you build even more complex and valuable resources like weapons or government the cogs of this intricate point machine start to fully reveal themselves. You connect a resource you technically own to a Prestige Building, bringing in eight points (!) only to realize that everything you used to make that resource belonged to other players, meaning that you get to keep a few of those points and the rest gets distributed to everyone else. But it was still worth it because if you hadn’t done it, another player would’ve reaped even greater rewards. The mental gymnastics you have to do to keep each supply line in your head is at the same time one of the hardest things I’ve had to grasp in a game, and the reason I want to keep coming back to it.

Founders of Gloomhaven looks cooperative at first. And it seems friendly enough, sure. Several different races coming together in peace to build a new city. But once you get a few rounds in, the mercenary nature of the game starts to reveal itself. You might put a resource that another player can use next to one of their buildings, that sounds nice. Of course, they’ll have to pay you to use it but hey come on, we’re all just working together here. What’s that? This resource building I placed blocks you from ever reaching the higher value building behind it? Oh no! Well, at least now you can borrow my machinery and it’ll earn me points every time you do. It’s passive aggressive in the best way possible. Everything in this game is done with a smile on your face and greed in your heart.

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Founders may only be thematically tied to Gloomhaven, but fans of the original will still find a lot to love here. The aesthetic is perfectly captured, with several design choices mirroring the look of Gloomhaven, but with a refreshing splash of color mixed in with the muted earth tones. And the representation of the different races is more than just window dressing. Owners of both games can play a single game to decide which race contributed the most to Gloomhaven’s founding. Adding one of nine unique event cards to your City event deck. It’s a small touch, but a welcome one.

As for the complexity of Founders, fans of heavy euro games will feel right at home. The strategy is deep and rewards careful thought and canny planning. And considering how complex Gloomhaven can be, veterans of that game shouldn’t have too hard of a time jumping into Founders either. It’s an immensely satisfying experience that might not be for everyone, but those who put the time in will find it well worth the investment.

What’s your favorite heavy-weight game? Tell us in the comments!

More Gaming Goodness!

Image credits: Shea Parker

As well as writing for Geek and Sundry, Shea teaches board games on his YouTube channel RTFM. You can also talk to/follow/stalk him on Twitter @Sheasayswords and Instagram @RTFMshow

WATCH: Critical Role – Welcome to the Jungle (Campaign 2, Episode 38)

Oct 15 2018

Delving into the jungle island of Urukayxl, the Mighty Nein must utilize new tactics in order to contend with the dangerous denizens of the jungle…”

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

6 Scary Board Games for a Spook-Tacular Game Night

Oct 15 2018

Whether you’re a witch or warlock, ghost or ghoul, there are plenty of great games to play this October 31st. Simply grab your favorite scary snacks and drinks, cue the Halloween theme song, and get these games onto your tabletop.

Play one (or all!) of these games that range from tried-and-true classics to recently released titles for a memorable Halloween game fright.

Werewords

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Werewolf is a classic hidden identity game that can be played any time of year, but it’s especially fitting for a Halloween game fest. Werewords is the next step in the Werewolf series, mashing up a word game with social deduction. Using simple yes/no questions, you’re trying to figure out the secret word before time’s up. Only the Seer and the Werewolf know the word and they’ll try to steer you toward or away from the word. And if you can’t figure out the word, then you can guess who the diabolical Werewolf is! Like the other Ultimate One Night titles from Bezier Games, Werewords comes with an app to make your game go smoother and faster.

Elder Sign

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No good Halloween celebration is complete without a visit from otherworldly beings and you’ll get plenty of that in Elder Sign. As investigators trying to get down to the bottom of the strange happenings at the old museum, you and your fellow detectives put your stamina and sanity to the test to find elder signs. These eldritch symbols allow you to fend off the Ancient Ones from another dimension. From the designers of Arkham Horror, Elder Sign is a slimmed down and more accessible version of the original game and includes lots of fun dice-chucking and a much shorter game time.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

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This classic horror game starts off as a cooperative romp through a haunted mansion, as players take turns adding tiles to the expanding house, opening up rooms filled with items and omens. It all leads to the inevitable haunt, when it becomes a one-versus-many game as one player betrays the rest. Betrayal at House on the Hill oozes theme, especially if your guests relish a creepy and tension-filled tale. With 50 unique scenarios, you can play this before, during, and after Halloween for a good scare.

Tiny Epic Zombies

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Gamelyn Games’ Tiny Epic series continues to wow gamers with a huge amount of play tucked away in easily portable boxes. Tiny Epic Zombies is the latest to hit the tabletop, with everything you’d ever want from a zombie game. You and your guests select one of several game modes: cooperative against an A.I. or cooperative against a zombie player, competitive against an A.I., or competitive against a zombie player. Whatever mode you choose, you’ll be in stuck in a mall trying to complete three objectives before being overrun by the undead. Using Gamelyn’s patented ITEMeeples, you’ll attach items and weapons to your meeple and use them to kill those pesky walkers. It’s a surprisingly engaging horror game in a tiny package: perfect to take along with you if you decide to go out for the night.

Mysterium

Mysterium

In Mysterium you and your guests are transported to 1920s Scotland for a seance. One player takes on the role of the ghost who you’ve contacted. Since spirits can’t talk, they’ll use picture cards to convey clues as to who murdered them. Like the perfect mix of Clue and Dixit, you and your fellow mediums piece together the crime, pinning down the suspect, weapon, and location. If the majority correctly identifies the killer, the ghost can finally rest in peace. But if not, then it’s time for another seance.

Nyctophobia

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A recent smash hit in the gaming industry, Nyctophobia is a scary good time thanks to its unique gameplay. In this one-versus-many game you and your teammates are work together to escape a killer in the pitch-black forest. There’s a twist, though, and it’s a big one: you’re all wearing glasses that prevent you from seeing the board so you’ll rely on your sense of touch to find your way through the maze. Communication is crucial, of course, as is relying on other players for the information that’ll lead to your escape … or demise.

MORE SCARY GAMES! 

Image Credits: Charlie Theel, Ruel Gaviola

Ruel Gaviola loves board games, books, food, travel, Star Wars, and date nights with his wife. He writes about games for iSlaytheDragon and tabletop-test.com, podcasts about games for The Five By, and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog here.

DIY: Reap a Pumpkin From Caduceus Clay’s Blooming Grove This Halloween

Oct 15 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.

There’s no member of the Mighty Nein better suited for a Halloween homage than Caduceus Clay, grave cleric in service of The Wildmother who first meets the hapless heroes in a spooky graveyard. (But he might argue that his lichen-covered house isn’t spooky at all.) Clay calls the Blooming Grove–also known as the Bone Orchard–and its gravestones home.

Caduceus Clay, Art by Ariana Orner

“From what you know, [the Blooming Grove] is this strange, ancient gravesite that’s been on the outskirts of town, a few miles out, since before the town was built,” Matt Mercer described.

Reap a pumpkin that looks straight out of the Blooming Grove with just a craft pumpkin, plastic succulents, and of course, lichen as green as the foliage that covers Caduceus’ temple home.

What You’ll Need

  • Small black craft pumpkin
  • Pumpkin carving knife
  • Plastic succulents and Halloween greenery
  • Preserved green moss
  • Pink glitter (optional)
  • Floral foam
  • Grey spray paint and black and pink acrylic paint
  • Air-dry modeling clay
  • Toothpicks
  • Paint brush

Get Started!

Begin by spray painting some or all of the succulents grey. You can paint the others black or pink, if desired, or add either color as accents once dry. You can also sprinkle pink glitter on any wet paint. Let all paint dry.

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Remove the top part of the pumpkin by carving a small circle around the stem. Use the black paint on the carved edges and let dry.

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Shape the air-dry clay into mushrooms, pushing the toothpick into the stems before the clay is dry. Let the clay dry, preferably overnight, and then paint them as desired.

Cut the floral foam to fit and slide it into the pumpkin.

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Begin by adding the succulents first, and then the clay mushrooms and Halloween greenery. Fill in any empty spots where the floral foam shows through with the preserved green moss.

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Once all plants and greenery are added, your Caduceus-inspired pumpkin is complete!

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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 Photos: Kelly Knox

Caduceus Character Portrait: Ariana Orner

The Currency of Vampires, Mario Party’s Worst Minigames, and More – G&S Weekly Wrap Up

Oct 12 2018

Welcome to the Weekly Wrap-Up, where we highlight some of the articles and videos that have gone up over the past week that you might have missed!

Prestation in Vampire: The Masquerade, Explained

Vampire Boon Article

In this overview of a specific mechanic in Vampire: The Masquerade, Rick Heinz shows how this system of boons and favors is a fantastic roleplaying element, recently seen in our RPG show L.A. By Night. “Prestation is the primary form of currency among the Damned, second perhaps to direct power over each other. Boons and favors, debts and obligations, a solid job or a major debacle all get wrapped up in the Christmas present box that is called Prestation.”

Western Legends on Game the Game 

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Writer Raf Cordero sums up the game: “Western Legends is a sandbox-style adventure game, set in the rootin’-tootin’ wild west. Players take on familiar Western Heroes like Billy the Kid or Annie Oakley, and set off to become legends. ” Read his full overview of the game, and watch it played on Game the Game right here.

Super Mario Party’s Most Fun & Frustrating Games

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Eric Ravencraft jumped in headfirst and played all the games in the newest installation of the Mario Party franchise. “Nintendo has cranked out over 80 new minigames for this title alone. But they can’t all be winners. These are the best games we’ve found, as well as the worst.”

Engine-Build with Marbles in Gizmos

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Grace P. took a good look at a recent CMON Games release in the engine-building genre of games: “The goal of Gizmos is to earn the most victory points by building the most powerful Gizmotomatron you can. (Okay, I made up that name, but maybe we can make it stick.) The game is stunningly simple, which should come as no surprise given it’s designed by Phil Walker-Harding (the mind behind Sushi Go!Bärenpark, and a ton of other simple-but-excellent games).”

Amy Okuda vs. Day[9] On Spellslingers

The Guild alum Amy spins the wheel of fate and ends up with the aggressive Boros Deck, taking on Day[9]’s 3-color Abzan Deck. Check out the episode and find out who comes out on top!

Want to stay up-to-date with what’s going on here on Geek & Sundry? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

Image Credits: White Wolf, Nintendo, Grace P. 

 

CHIBIS Adds Strategy, Depth, and, Yes, More Pandas to TAKENOKO

Oct 12 2018

Return to ancient Japan, when the Chinese emperor gifted to his Japanese counterpart a giant panda bear. In Takenoko, players cared for this precious gift by cultivating land, irrigating it, and growing bamboo for the ever-hungry panda. We recently played it on Game the Game, in its adorable glory:

The Chibis expansion maintains the elegant play of the original, but this time its mating season. Along with new land tiles and objective cards, Miss Panda is now an integral part of the game, which means only one thing: panda babies!

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Like the original Takenoko, the Chibis expansion puts you in charge of taking care of Panda, watching him as he happily makes his way around the royal garden, eating bamboo. You’ll still need to irrigate the garden and move the farmer to grow the bamboo so that Panda doesn’t go hungry. And points are scored just like in Takenoko, by completing Panda objectives, gardener objectives, or plots objectives.

What Chibis adds to Takenoko are new objective cards, new land tiles, and Miss Panda. Secret objectives are still completed by eating different combinations of bamboo, building land tiles to a specific layout, or growing bamboo to certain heights.

Best of all, Miss Panda adds a new (and even cuter) element. After one of the new land tiles with the Miss Panda icon is placed, she’ll show up there.

Just like her male counterpart Miss Panda can be moved in a straight line and if she ends up on a space with Panda, then cue the music because it’s baby-panda-making time. Simply discard bamboo to receive the corresponding baby panda token and gain an immediate bonus. Each baby panda token also worth two points each at the end.

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What’s great about Chibis is that it’s an expansion that keeps the game fresh without bogging down the original game’s smooth game play.

Do you let move Panda to eat bamboo to fulfill an objective? Or do you move Miss Panda instead, thus giving you a baby for fewer points but an immediate bonus? And do you use your bonus ability to swap out an objective? Unlike the base game, you’re not stuck with unreachable objectives; by having a baby you can use its ability to discard an objective and select a new one.

It’s these types of decisions that adds depth and replayability without a bunch of unnecessary or over-complicated mechanisms.

The new objectives and tiles are easy to understand and Miss Panda is a simple addition since she moves in the same manner as Panda. Veteran players will easily incorporate the expansion into Takenoko and new players shouldn’t hesitate to play with it, either.

Doubling the amount of panda miniatures and interesting decisions without changing the basic gameplay makes Chibis a no-brainer, must-have expansion for a classic gateway game. And it goes to show you that there can never be too many cute pandas in a board game.

What board game do you think is the cutest? Tell us in the comments below!

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Image Credits: Ruel Gaviola

Ruel Gaviola loves board games, books, food, travel, Star Wars, and date nights with his wife. He writes about games for iSlaytheDragon and tabletop-test.com, podcasts about games for The Five By, and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog here.

Debt and Favors in VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE, Explained

Oct 12 2018

Twenty-seven years ago Vampire: The Masquerade was released in 1991, and it’s been through a few iterations thus far along its journey. Our newest RPG show, Vampire: The Masquerade – L.A. By Night is diving into the Vampire: The Masquerade’s Fifth Edition and the World Of Darkness it resides in. If you’re as excited about it as we are, but aren’t familiar with the universe, here’s a crash course get you up to speed.

Prestation is the primary form of currency among the Damned, second perhaps to direct power over each other. Boons and favors, debts and obligations, a solid job or a major debacle all get wrapped up in the Christmas present box that is called Prestation. In every vampire game since the late nineties, vampire players have done everything in their power to ignore Prestation. In LARPs most players squirm and squee, plotting every trick they can to get out of owning anyone, any favor, ever. Many games devolve to physical violence among characters at the mere mention of being in debt to another.

Players do not like having to roleplay debt, even though they enjoy holding it over another. It’s a tricky psychological game that has plagued Vampire: The Masquerade chronicles since its existence and recent rewrites in both V5 and the By Night Studios Live Action Books have overhauled outdated systems to make Prestation something meaningful, desirable, and fun to play with.

In L.A. By Night, we’ve finally begun to see boons be traded among Anarchs of all factions, and their gravitas explained to Annabelle, so here is your vampire pocket guide to Prestation.

Step 1: Get In Debt

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They say a clever vampire grants favors while a foolish one incurs them—and becomes a servant to their promises and their debts. Indeed, too many debts to the wrong people can embroil even the most powerful elder vampire into a byzantine knot of favors, politics, and obligations. Yet those debts owed don’t just generate out of thin air. Kindred trade in four types of boons (Trivial, Minor, Major, and Life), and in order to owe someone a boon, you probably got something in return.

Getting into debt can be fun and advance your character. Trivial boons, the easiest boons to both acquire and to satisfy can help your character get blood in a pinch, or an invitation to an exclusive soiree where you earn ten times that boon. If you think of boons like investments, they feel less hostile to you as a player and you’ll have more fun. Even if they are truly debts, like an unfortunate life boon because you killed someone on accident, that can work in your favor.

If anyone kills you, whoever you owe a boon too, they have to own your debt. Which means that owing boons to powerful and feared old vampires is one of the best forms of protections you can get. In short, don’t be afraid of debt, it’s an advancement of your story and a tool, not a punishment.

Step 2: Get Your Own

So what can you do with the boons you owe and own? Anarchs, Camarilla, and dare I mention the infamous Sword of Caine, all honor boons among vampires. It’s the backbone of currency when you will outlive a nation’s local economic system after all.

Trivial boons can be earned by helping new kindred in town make introductions, or the even helping make sure new players to the game meet the right people first. Mechanically, your character may earn a few extra social dice to win a roll thanks to the assistance from a trivial boon.

Minor Boons require vampires going out of their way to earn or pay off. Killing off an inconvenient but not very important human, or casting a vote in the court of Kindred a certain way tends to earn you a minor boon. Mechanically, your character might automatically win a roll without question thanks to someone with a minor boon helping you out.

Major Boons get a tad larger; at this point, some character is really in debt or has done a major service for someone. Doing a campaign for the Prince and getting awarded prime feeding ground is a great example. Major boons can often be a win/win scenario; so never be afraid to consider an offer to both earn or take on one.

Life Boons are the rarest, and truly, the only boon on this list you never want to be in unless it saved your life. You might earn a life boon by killing another powerful vampire as a reward from your sect or the court itself, or you might swear a life boon for the protection of yourself and your mortal family that’s left. Life boons being cashed in might award your character permanent backgrounds or even change the scope of a chronicle.

Step 3: Profit

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By the time your character is both in debt, and has a few favors coming his way, they’ve become a player on the Kindred social scene. It’s at this point that you see characters like Victor Temple hosting nightclub court gatherings with other licks, or garner the attention of more public and powerful figures like the Harpies and Sheriff’s of the Camarilla world.

This is where the meat of a vampire chronicle lies.

Embrace this moment in time where your character has options. Take a survey of what you can do, and then, unlike the majority of players—use your favors. Vampire mythology paints a world where Kindred vampires hold on to their boons for centuries, waiting for the right moment in the eternal war to foil their rivals like a cunning predator. Most games end after eleven game sessions: be real, use your boons. Not only does cashing in your favors help advance your story, it gives the storyteller amazing guidance into the direction of your character. Unlike linear campaign settings, the World of Darkness is a fluid sandbox, and Prestation helps shape that.

What are your best and worst boon stories from Vampire: The Masquerade? Let us know in the comments below!

Are you ready to jump into the World of Darkness? Be sure to join us for Vampire: The Masquerade – L.A. By Night at 8 PM Pacific this Friday, September 14th for the premiere airing on Twitch and Alpha! Not an Alpha member? Get a free 60-day trial at projectalpha.com with code BITTEN!

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More Vampire: The Masquerade Gaming goodness!

Image Credits: White Wolf

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.

Grab Your Ten-Gallon Hat and Win the West in WESTERN LEGENDS

Oct 12 2018

You squint your eyes in the harsh light of the gaming store, stalling for time. Your opponent adjusts his cards with itchy trigger  drawing fingers. You can almost see a tumbleweed roll across the table, and you’re almost certain you can hear the whistle to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly somewhere in the distance. In your hand are a couple of poker cards – a Jack, a 10, maybe a King – and you’re stalling because you’ve got an important decision to make. Your opponent’s got a pile of cash, a few gold nuggets,  and you want it all. You’ve got the Johnny-Law reputation of a Marshall and now you’ve got a choice: throw that reputation to the wind and rob your opponent? Or move on, content to deliver your cattle to the Rail Station and collect your money honorably.

This is Western Legends from Kolossal Games, and it’s full of cinematic moments like this.

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Western Legends is a sandbox-style adventure game, set in the rootin’-tootin’ wild west. Players take on familiar Western Heroes like Billy the Kid or Annie Oakley, and set off to become legends. As the name implies, the goal of the game is not merely to survive or thrive in dusty Darkrock, but to become a legend and Western Legend provides you ample opportunity to do so. “Legendary Points” (LPs) can be earned in a number of different ways. There’s gold in them hills, and it’s possible to go prospecting and become a legend by mining for ore that you sell back in town. If you prefer a more traditionally minded brand of capitalism, you can wrangle cattle on behalf of local farmers. Money talked in the west as much as it talks now.

More adventurous buckaroos may decide to clean out the local bandit gangs. NPC bandits populate the outskirts of the two cities, making life tough for the good folks of Darkrock and Red Falls. Loading up a 6-shooter and taking them out is a great way to etch your name into the history books. In fact, facing down bandits will earn you Marshall Points. Players who walk a lawful path can advance along the Marshall Track. This track provides steady cash and LP as you perform good deeds. Bandit hunting is a great way to accomplish this, but more fun is to hunt down and arrest Wanted Players. Yes, life was tough in the in the American West and sometimes it was easier to let your shotgun do the work.

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Some character choices, like Billy the Kid, begin the game Wanted but most have to make the choice to turn to a life of crime. There’s a bank in town just asking to be heisted, and you can always deliver cattle to a different farmer rather than make the legal delivery. Even other players aren’t safe. If Ms. Oakley is sitting on a stack of cash from her mining business, you can always mosey on over and tell her to stick ’em up. Like the Marshall Track, a Wanted Track keeps count of your illicit deeds and provides bonuses for those who aim to be infamous.

While Western Legends‘ red-sandbox is broad and offers lots of options, it never goes off the rails. Rules are simple, and nothing is too complex. Bank heists are not all that different from fighting a bandit, which is not all that different from fighting off a sheriff. Turning in cash to earn LPs through revelry differs from turning in gold nuggets only in how you obtained your valuables. While it does make various systems feel samey, it does make some of the richer systems stand out. Western Legends comes with a deck of 52-poker cards. These cards could be used to play any standard card game, but they also have bonuses printed on them that provide options while you play. They’re also used for combat, where you’ll play a single card face-down in battle hoping to have a higher card than your opponent. You can even play a modified form of Texas Hold Em against other players or the dealer.

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In short, Western Legends provides a wild wild west adventure by letting you live out scenes familiar from any western. You can hop on your horse and ride across the desert in search of gold, or you can chase bandits and outlaws. No matter what you do, the simple systems ensure you’re working to build your own Legend. They also allow ample room for expansions. Western Legends does not feel incomplete and you can come back to this box over and over. However, it also feels imminently expandable and we’re looking forward to adding new options for our cowboys and cowgirls.

You can see the full game in action on Game the Game:

Learn more about Western Legends on the Kolossal Games site, and ride over to your local sasparilla-slinging gaming store to pick it up.

Image Credits: Kolossal Games, Raf Cordero

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

WATCH: Shield of Tomorrow – Strange Friends (Episode 38)

Oct 12 2018

Eric and the crew of the Sally Ride have blasted off on a whole new adventure! Callisto 6, our brand new cyberpunk superhero RPG series, streams Fridays on Geek & Sundry’s Twitch and Alpha at 7pmPT!

As the crew of the USS Sally Ride begins to unravel the conspiracy at Narendra Station, they are suddenly surprised by an impromptu Audience Q&A!

Want to catch all the episodes of Shield of Tomorrow and the after aftershow, Behind The Shield? Log into Alpha! Don’t have an Alpha subscription? Sign up now for a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com.

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Catch Up With We’re Alive: Frontier With This Season One Recap (Part 2)

Oct 11 2018

We’re Alive: Frontier was a huge hit this year! The show, based on the We’re Alive podcast and using the Outbreak: Undead survival horror tabletop RPG, followed a group of expeditionary survivors on a mission to establish a new supply line from post-apocalypse St. Louis to Kansas City, Missouri. The Survivors had twelve thrilling episodes but didn’t accomplish their mission. No worries, though: that was only the first season.

We’re Alive: Frontier Season Two is scheduled to begin later this month, and in the lead up, the team released a scripted short, ZERO HOUR, which you can watch above.

In case you missed it, there’s still time to catch season 1 on Alpha. If you watched season 1 and need a refresher before season 2, we’ve got you covered! This is part two of the recap, and you can catch the first part right here.

*SEASON 1 SPOILERS BELOW*

When we last saw the Survivors, they had arrived in the frontier town of New Haven, where their help was requested in destroying an Infected-built dam that’s causing the Missouri River to back up, threatening to flood the town. The Survivors accepted, and planned a mission to a local salt mine to search for explosives.

Episode 6 – Into the Mines

The next morning, the team make the 10-or-so-mile trek to the mines. They warily walk through the long mine entrance cave until they reach a wall with a door that opens into the actual mine, Stingray spots a small crate marked ‘Danger: High Explosives’. Jenny goes to check that the crate does hold the dynamite they’re looking for. The nearby door shatters as arms of Infected begin to punch through it and the wall. They run all the way back through the mine entrance and hurry down the mountain, back toward New Haven.

Episode 7 – The Damned

The Survivors recon the damn, and with Jenny using her engineering knowledge to assess the weakest point, the team develop their plan.

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As evening nears, they begin moving into place. Unfortunately, Infected spot a couple Survivors as they are doing so. A few Infected move into the riverbed to attack. Stingray and Bandaid shoot a few dead, giving Jenny just enough time and clearance to move in and place the dynamite. They have a couple of close encounters with a few Infected as they run away from the dam, but are soon rewarded with the sound of the dynamite exploding.

Episode 8 – The Toll

The Survivors return to a hero’s welcome at New Haven, and the mayor gives them permission to make the town a part of the UA / Missouri River Runner Route. They are treated to an evening of food, drink, and celebration, and then return to the rail driver for a night of rest.

The next morning, they leave New Haven, and soon approach the burned-out suburbs of Jefferson City. Another bridge / guardpost is seen ahead, and the guards there signal to the rail driver to stop. A guard tells them they have come to Osage, welcomes them to the Redeemed, and that they have come to a place of glory. He adds that strangers are not allowed into Osage, not without a proper toll. In order for them to travel through Osage, they must leave someone behind.

Jenny slowly drives the rail driver beyond the gate and into the city. They spot men moving a city bus onto the railway to block their path. Hurriedly trying to make the decision on whether to stop or attempt to blast through the bus barricade, Jenny decides for the team, and goes full throttle.

Episode 9 – Osage

Jenny slams the rail driver directly into the bus blocking their way, and begins pushing it along the track. It’s too much for the rail driver to push, and they come to a stop. A group of militia quickly converge on the rail driver’s location, surrounding it. The team hastily gather vital supplies, then escape through the rear of the sleeper car. Wraith leads them into a nearby tent, where they make another gruesome discovery: human bodies that have been skinned, dismembered, and drained of blood.

The team briefly discuss escape plans, and they decide to follow the tracks on foot. Bandaid gets shot through the shoulder, so the team stops behind cover while they treat his wound. Stingray spots one of the militia guards with a sniper rifle on the roof of a tall building, and as she does, the sniper fires again, striking her in her side. The Survivors hurriedly continue their escape from Jefferson City.

Episode 10 – The Outcast

On the other side of the Missouri River, Bandaid finally notices Stingray’s wound, and stops the group immediately so he can treat her. Wraith searches for a safe place. He spots an abandoned barn not far away, and the team make for it. Once inside, Bandaid and Kent treat Stingray to a stable condition. After some intense discussion and morale support, Jenny takes Wraith and Kent on the mission to kill some cannibal bastards and rescue their rail driver.

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The now smaller team of three scope out Jefferson City from distance. Moving south, they come upon a water treatment building, just as they spot a patrol crossing the river and headed in their direction. The Survivors dash into the building and search for anything useful. Kent finds a Jefferson City waterworks map that shows a quality layout of the city. As they work to sketch down a copy of the map, they hear the front door burst open, as the patrol enters. Combat ensues, bullets fly, swords slash, and gas grenades are thrown. The team overcome the patrol, but not without help, as the last patrol member is downed by a mysterious crossbow bolt that the team sees just before the gas grenades knock them out.

Episode 11 – Return to Osage

The three Survivors awaken next to each other, and notice Chato towering over them. Chato explains that he was exiled from the city, and claims the Infected (the chanoo) are the Earth Mother’s immune system, an answer to the infection of mankind. He tells them that, perhaps the Great Spirit has set them in each other’s path for a reason. He also says he seeks to face Caymon, the leader of Osage, alone. Chato explains the chanoo have a leader, Malsumus, the Dark One. Caymon has lead others in an alliance with Malsumus, and they do as Malsumus does. Chato knows that he can call out to Caymon, and he will answer, drawing him out into the open.

A plan is devised, where the Survivors, with Chato, hope to set free the prisoners they saw when they came into Osage, arm them, and have them help fight in order to get closer to Caymon.

The Survivors approach the city near the state penitentiary, with guards on the high walls, and slaves being moved to and from. They eliminate the guards, and together they rally the prisoners into becoming warriors against Caymon.

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Episode 12 – In the Shadow of Lewis and Clark

Those set free from the penitentiary are now scurrying through Osage, looting, lighting fires, and creating a bit of chaos in starting a riot. The Survivors fight their way through the city alongside the rioters, as they make their way towards the capitol building and Caymon’s location.

Once they arrive, Chato says he will call out Caymon and confront him here, while the rest of the group moves into ambush positions. Chato is successful, and Caymon and his group of heavily-armed guards come into the square before the capitol. Chato and Caymon exchange a few words, and the battle begins. In seconds, Chato is victorious.  The crowd who had gathered erupts in cheers, and Chato renames the town to Jennysburg.

They’re alive – for now.

What predictions do you have for the characters of We’re Alive: Frontier Season 2? Tell us in the comments!

More We’re Alive Goodness!

Jim has been a video gamer since 1977, a tabletop RPG gamer since 1980, and a freelance journalist online since 2003, covering his favorite geek topics of video games, entertainment, military history, tech, martial arts, and tabletop gaming. You can find and chat with him about all geeky things at Google +Twitter, and Instagram.

Header and article image credit: Geek & Sundry

Rise From The Flames with the Phoenix Clan in LEGEND OF FIVE RINGS LCG

Oct 11 2018

As the masters of magic in Rokugan, the Phoenix Clan are dedicated to peace and harmony, with little interest in warfare. They teach the Tao, work to preserve the harmony between the clans and kami, and maintain the shrines throughout the Empire. Far from weak, they wield immense power. When roused, they will defend themselves and their way of life to the death.

Disciples of the Void is the first clan pack from Fantasy Flight Games for Legend of the Five Rings LCG and it focuses mainly on the Phoenix Clan. If you play another clan, don’t despair, there are new characters for you as well (except the Scorpion) as well as a few unaligned spirits and spells. There are multiple copies of all the cards that you can have extras in your deck, so you don’t need to buy more than one pack to get everything you want. You will still have to do a bit of deckbuilding because there aren’t enough cards to have a full deck while having too many characters in the conflict deck, but I fully expected to do a bit of tinkering.

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The first thing I did was swap out my core set Stronghold for the new Kyuden Isawa because there were a bunch of new spells to play with and the ability to play them out of my discard pile was too tempting. The loss of 1 strength of the province stung a bit, but I found the ability to be very worth it. I also swapped out an unaligned province card for the new Sanpuku Seido. It’s a fairly week province (1 strength), but the fact that it forces your opponent to use their glory instead of military or political skill seemed interesting.

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I sat down across from the Scorpion Clan and we got down to business. I noticed right off the bat that Phoenix felt very different from all the other decks I’ve played. There was a lot more paying attention to what ring was being used and having to hold back fate to buy spells. I wasn’t thinking in the first few rounds and didn’t hold back enough fate nor did I bid aggressive enough to cycle new spells into my hand, but that is completely a failing on my part, not the cards.

Once I got the hang of using shugenja and spells, that’s when the deck started working. Sanpuku Seido really tripped up my opponent when it came into play because his deck was very low glory and I could easily hold him at bay. Pacifist Philosopher very much played to the clan because I gained fate for passing on conflict (which I totally used to power my spells when the Scorpion attacked me). I spent most of the end of the game manipulating the elemental ring in play (and switching out my claimed rings), which is a very Phoenix thing to do as they are Elemental masters.

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Spells are a huge focus in this pack, which is to be expected. A lot of the characters have abilities tied to using spells, playing very much into the lore of the Phoenix Clan. Warriors and priests live and fight side by side, acknowledging the strengths and bolstering the weaknesses of each other. Following the wisdom of the Kami, the clan’s members serve as the spiritual advisers and protectors of the secrets of the Tao.

One of the things I love about Legend of the Five Rings is all of the lore that goes into the game. Inside the clan pack, there is also the first chapter of a novella about the Phoenix. Characters and places in the novella also happen to appear in the clan pack. Having read the first chapter, it gives me a little more insight into the places I have in my deck, as well as some of the characters. It’s great to see the game come to life in stories and be able to tell my own.

I need to come clean: I did not rise to the glory of the Phoenix Clan. The Scorpion broke through my stronghold and defeated me in battle. It took me too long to get out of the mindset of another clan and into the correct one for the game. By the time I figured out the power of my deck, it was too late. But, like the mighty Phoenix, I will rise from the ashes and build again.

What clan pack are you most excited to see? Show me your clan love in the comments!

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Feature Image Credit: Fantasy Flight Games

Other Image Credit: Dawn Dalton

The Five Best (and Worst) Minigames in SUPER MARIO PARTY

Oct 11 2018

Super Mario Party just came out and that means minigames galore. Nintendo has cranked out over 80 new minigames for this title alone. But they can’t all be winners. These are the best games we’ve found, as well as the worst.

The Five Best Minigames

First, we’re going to take a look at the best ones. These are the games that aren’t just fun, but they capture the spirit of Mario Party. More specifically, the ones which understand that if the players still have friends left after playing the minigame, then they’re not doing their job right. These are the five best, most fun minigames.

Slaparazzi

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The Mario Party franchise is about chaos. It’s about sabotage, turning on your friends, all so you can be the star of the show (both metaphorically and literally). Slaparazzi is that essence distilled down to a single minigame. In this one, all four players compete to be in the center of photos taken by the Koopa Troopa paparazzi. You can punch the other players to stun them, knock them aside, or keep them away from the camera. The closer you are to the center of the camera when the Troopa snaps the picture, the more points you get. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter much how good you look in the picture, as long as you’re in the center of it.

Train in Pain

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Super Mario Party borrows the ally system from Mario Party: Star Rush so you and other players can group up with as many as three other characters each. Get enough allies and you’ll open up team minigames, where everyone participates, including your supporting cast. In Train in Pain, for example, you drive a train with a spring-loaded boxing glove on the front. For every ally you have, you get another car on the train. Two teams face off, driving around punching each other in the caboose. Each punch knocks off the last car on the train, including the cars on your teammates’ trains, so be careful! Last train standing wins. Like Slaparrazi, this game is all about surviving the wrath of your merciless friends, but with up to four times the friends. It’s overwhelming, chaotic, and a total blast.

Smash and Crab

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Most of the 3v1 minigames in Mario Party games aren’t very fair to one side or the other. In Smash and Crab, it’s very fair. Both sides have an equally ridiculous job. For the team of three players, one player controls the legs of a giant robot crab, while the other two each control a large mallet. The goal is to smash the remaining player. Sounds easy, right? It’s not, but it’s sure fun to try. This game gets silly fast, as the three-player team gets increasingly frustrated trying to smash one measly player. And as the player outside the robot? It’s hard to top the feeling of frustrating the entire room as you sandcrab about.

Air to a Fortune

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Not every minigame has to be a brawl. Nintendo already has a game for that. Instead, Air to a Fortune, lets you play some mind games. The four players are spread out across nine clouds. Each cloud without a player has some number of coins on it. Some have more, some have less. Each player chooses a cloud to jump to, but other players can choose to jump to the same cloud. If two or more players choose the same cloud, they all get nothing. You can choose to take the safer bets with fewer coins, or you can go for the center cloud that has the most coins of all, but it’s also the one every player can reach. It’s a deceptively simple game where outsmarting your friends and taking the road less traveled can reap huge rewards. Or you can all pick the same strategy and lose to the computer-controlled Luigi together.

Bumper Brawl

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Ever since the original Mario Party for the N64 introduced the Bumper Balls minigame, it’s been a fun, frustrating, competitive mainstay of the franchise with dozens of variations on the theme. In Super Mario Party, the game gets turned up to 11. Or, more accurately, up to 16. In another team game that utilizes your allies, up to 16 characters all get their own hamster-style balls to roll into each other. You can also charge up your ball for a sudden burst of speed to knock your opponents off the field. If even one member of your team is left standing when all the other teams have been knocked off, you win. It’s exactly the kind of absolute madness you expect from a Mario Party minigame.

The Five Worst Minigames

These are the minigames you dread. The ones where they come up randomly, the entire party groans. Some might be frustrating, some might just be less inspired than the others, but a few are outright broken. The only thing worse than getting one of these games would be Lakitu stealing one of your stars.

Sign, Steal, Deliver

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A good 3v1 game is balanced so that even though the teams are uneven, both groups have fun. This minigame is not like that. The lone player gets to control a drone, flying from door to door collecting packages from residents of a Mushroom Kingdom apartment complex (which is, apparently, a thing). The team of three players, however, have to take the stairs. The drone can only carry one box at a time, while the other players can carry two. However, the drone can steal a package from the other players. From a gameplay perspective, it’s pretty fairly balanced, but it’s not very fun if you aren’t controlling the drone. Just like in real life, the stairs take forever. Getting to the fourth floor only for a drone to steal your package is tedious and disheartening, and not in the fun way.

Don’t Wake Wiggler

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Remember Don’t Wake Daddy from the 90s? Nintendo sure does. In this variation on the classic board game, four players take turns petting a sleeping Wiggler. The more you pet the Wiggler, the higher the chances it will wake up. If you’re the one to wake it up, you lose all your points. It’s a slow strategy game that leaves most players doing nothing while it’s not their turn, which isn’t too bad. You can employ a little strategy, playing it safe to keep your points, or risking it all to gain more points. It would just be a middling minigame, except for the horrifying monstrosity the Wiggler turns into when you lose. It takes the game from Don’t Wake Daddy to Five Nights at Freddy’s real quick.

Pull It Together

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The original Tug o’ War was such a deeply frustrating and painful game that it led to an $80 million settlement and free gloves from Nintendo. Naturally, Super Mario Party features a spiritual successor in the form of Pull It Together. Mercifully, this one uses simply button mashing instead of spinning the control stick. On the other hand, this is a team game where you can bring your allies. Which means that teams can be wildly uneven. If your opponents have more allies than you do, then good luck having anything close to a fair fight.

Fiddler on the Hoof

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First off, great name. Unfortunately, this is one of Super Mario Party‘s ten rhythm minigames and most of them are pretty bad. Nintendo, perhaps not fully understanding the appeal of rhythm games, has tried to merge beat-matching mechanics with the full array of motion controls the Joy-Con is capable of. The result is awkward. In one game, you have to swing a baseball bat to the beat. In another, you pull a tablecloth out from under a stack of glasses. Again, to a beat.

This horse race rhythm game, however, is an extra level of uncomfortable. As you pull on your horse’s reins to the beat successfully, your horse gets further ahead. This shifts your row of purple circles out of sync with your competitors. It’s visually disorienting. On top of this, the camera is shifting back and forth. It might not be too bad, but the practice rounds at the beginning of rhythm minigames don’t play the music you’ll hear when you play for real. It’s a lot to take in, and mistakes only compound on each other. Overall, the rhythm games are kind of annoying, but Fiddler on the Hoof is an exceptional example of why they don’t work.

Sort of Fun

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There is no more appropriately named minigame in Super Mario Party than Sort of Fun. This is a cooperative minigame as part of the River Survival game mode. In this game, all four players are in front of a bin that holds a specific ball type. One ball drops at a time and you pass them to the right player who…calmly drops the ball in a bin. If you’re on the ends, you can sit tight for a good chunk of the game. If you’re in the middle, you will occasionally have to wake up to do something for a second. If this one had a less clever name, it might be worse, but at least you can get a giggle out of it.

There are over 80 minigames and we only covered 10 of them. Did we miss your favorite? Or your least favorite? Let us know in the comments! Be sure to tune into our video game show, Game Engine, on Twitch and Alpha every Tuesday starting at 4PM PT!

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Image Credits: Nintendo (gifs captured by Eric Ravenscraft)

WATCH: Game the Game – WESTERN LEGENDS by Kolossal Games (Playthrough)

Oct 11 2018

Join Game the Game host Becca Scott as she’s joined by fantastic guests to play awesome tabletop games here on Geek & Sundry!

Saddle up! This week on Game the Game we’re playing Western Legends by Kolossal Games. Explore the frontier as you and up to five friends duke it out in the Old West! Featuring many paths to becoming a legend — players rob banks and rustle cattle to become a notorious criminal, or become a Marshal and round up those wanted evil-doers!

Learn more about Western Legends by visiting Kolossal Games’ site, and pick it up at any quality gaming store!

WATCH: Critical Recap – Episode 37: Dangerous Liaisons

Oct 11 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 gives a super-sized recap of the Mighty Nein’s sea-faring exploits at the New York live show in Critical Role Episode 37: “Dangerous Liaisons“!

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!

6 Monster-Hunting RPGs That Kick Undead Butt

Oct 10 2018

Fall is the spookiest time of the year. The days get colder, the nights get longer and everybody gets more and more hyped about Halloween. It’s very easy to get into a monster-slaying mood after all those scary movie marathons.

Luckily, there are several monster-hunting tabletop RPGs that give players plenty of opportunities to slay vampires, headshot zombies and otherwise put the bad buys back in the ground from whence they came. We’ve put together a list of our favorite horror RPGs that are available and in-print to allow you and your players to hit your friendly local gaming store and then start helping people and hunting things.

Monster of the Week

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Fans of The Adventure Zone already know about Monster of the Week, but for anyone still in the dark, it’s a great game that emulates your favorite monster hunting media. Each playbook features a classic archetype that helps hunt creatures in their own way and at the end of character creation, everyone connects the crew together so you all can come together and fight the creatures terrifying normal folks. As one of the best Powered By The Apocalypse games out there, it puts all of the rules on one or two pieces of paper right in front of the players, and the book is a wonder guide to the genre that’s useful even if the GM runs a different system.

Tables wanting to know what a TV show where Buffy, Mulder, Dean Winchester and Hellboy team up to fight monsters would look like should check this game out ASAP.

Night’s Black Agents

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This amazing game from genius developer Kenneth Hite applies the excellent GUMSHOE investigation rules to turn players into expert secret agents like Jason Bourne. They’ll need every trick of the trade they can find because they are going up against a global vampire conspiracy that has them outmanned, outgunned, and undead. The main book provides plenty of resources to allow the GM to make up their own vampires that range from the classical cross-and-garlic haters to weird transdimensional entities from an alternate future while also giving players rules that let them improvise vampire killing solutions that will look even cooler in slow motion.

Night’s Black Agents also happens to have one of the greatest horror campaigns of all time: The Dracula Dossier, a campaign that supposes that Bram Stoker’s classic story actually happened. If the players can decode the cryptic notes in their copy of the book, they might have a slim chance to save the world in a thrilling chronicle that blurs the line between real life and spy fiction.

Call of Cthulhu

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Speaking of classic horror campaigns, the granddaddy of horror role-playing has several to choose from. It’s a great gateway from the excellent Arkham Files collection from Fantasy Flight Games to hook friends into roleplaying who are currently just board gamers. The excellent Call of Cthulhu 7th edition offers a classic 1920s setting that still has a lot of modern conveniences for familiarly like guns and cars but the historical settings offer a hint of pulp exoticism.

Masks of Nyarlathotep brings together both of these elements in a grand campaign that spans the globe as players go searching for the lost Carlyle Expedition by chasing down clues in newspaper clippings, photographs, and other resources. The campaign lets the players determine their direction and while it has a deadly reputation, its one that most fans of Call of Cthulhu remember fondly as they talk about how they died or went insane.

Delta Green

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This critically acclaimed RPG recently updated its 90s government conspiracy setting in a shockingly relevant way. Delta Green offers a bleak take on not just the Cthulhu Mythos but how agents corrupted by the Unnatural have slipped inside our institutions to steer humanity toward ruin. Players have to protect their sanity as they root out this evil, of course, but they have a new resource they can burn to keep the fight moving forward; bonds. Bonds represent the reasons why the agents of Delta Green continue to fight but they also can wither and die as agents get sucked into the darkness of their battles. Losing a bond shows the cost of protecting humanity like few other games in the genre. Fans looking for a little historical perspective can also check out The Fall of Delta Green which mixes 60s counterculture, 70s paranoia and the titular organization at its highest point right before it flies too close to the sun.

Inspectres

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When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who are you going to call? What if you can’t afford the brand name GhostbustersInspectres suggests that, just like any growing industry, paranormal investigations and eliminations allow for many franchises of differing quality to exist.

Your players are part of one of the more budget minded companies. Players build their franchise and personnel by budgeting dice which they roll when they need the equipment and skills to bust whatever spooky things lurk in the shadows. The light rules system offers plenty of laughs aided by a very clever mechanic inspired by reality TV; your character can hop into a confessional chair to talk about their feelings and have a chance to influence the narrative by revealing something new!

CHILL

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In the world of CHILL, all the strange supernatural goings-on are connected to a malevolent force called The Unknown. Many of the people who survive a brush with the darkness do their best to forget it happened but a select few dedicate their lives to protecting the innocent by joining an organization called SAVE. SAVE can be a full-fledged monster hunter organization, a loosely connected group of cells or even a shadow of its former self that’s slowly being crushed by the forces of evil.

The players and the Chill Master take some time to talk about what sorts of horror they want to see in the game, and the books provide some excellent discussion about proper techniques, different kinds of horror and how to push buttons without pushing too far. The most recent edition also features a powers mechanic where players flip tokens between a light and a dark side that models the tension of games like Dread.

(If you want to see this one in action, check out my Twitch stream for past and upcoming games.)

What’s your favorite spooky game? Let us know in the comments!

These articles are coming to get you, Barbara

Images Credits: Warner Bros, Pelgrane Press, Memento Mori, Chaosium, Growling Door Games, Arc Dream Publishing

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. 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.

GMs: Fill Your Campaigns with Holidays Using These Tips

Oct 10 2018

GM Tips is our series to help Storytellers and Game Masters improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last week, we got touched base on GMs that have gone a tad crazy with power, and this week we move into creating lively worlds filled with festivals and wonder!

Holidays are a time where myth and legend stretch the barrier between realities and bleed into our world. The dead are allowed to walk among the living for an evening, a demon stalks to streets in winter to kidnap misbehaving children, and a great hunt to celebrate fertility before a long winter; all mark times of the year where everyone has a little more imagination. Would your characters not also feel these impacts? Adding a calendar of holidays to your chronicle does more than showcase culture (like Shouting Day or Dragon Piss Day) it can actually bring players closer to their imaginary half.

In any RPG setting, the life of commoners, serfs, NPC’s, always tends to be rather bleak. We didn’t have tetanus shots and indoor plumbing in Greyhawk campaigns, the World of Darkness is bloody horrible to live in, and games like Shadowrun are based off the bleak systems of inequality. Festivals days and holidays offer a welcome release from this endless torment and often come with a respite from labor. In some holidays, local governments may pay for food and entertainment (to the detriment of the empire), and others are targets for assassinations or villain attacks. With so many reasons on why you should include holidays, here are some ways to make them feel alive.

Even Henchmen Celebrate

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I’ve found it particularly adorable to have the villains celebrate any holiday you throw in your world. Everything from Shadowrun corporate parties, where Betty over in accounting gets way to drunk and spills the secrets about company A.I., to a single lone goblin by a campfire eating a cinnamon tree bark and singing goblin folk songs to himself. Not every aspect of any holiday needs to be some giant celebration with kings and queens and it’s important to slip in the subtle signs that have little-to-no bearing on the players. Granted, my team would not dare lay a finger on that lucky goblin scout because of the description I gave him.

When you start adding small stories or flavor to your henchmen, guards, soldiers or otherwise uniformed NPC’s, they flesh out the setting with the five senses. It’s a good idea to have a checklist next to your GM screen of sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound since holidays are one of the few times you can check those boxes. The only warning about having your henchmen celebrate, even in secret, is to be ready for players to form attachments to those characters and invent side quests out of thin air.

This isn’t a bad thing, even if it did cause a nine-month-long sidequest in one of my tabletop games…

Go Big With Myth

Campaigns can be launched with holidays and there is no reason they can’t be real in our settings. Take Samhain for example. What if in your campaign, spirits really did cross into the character’s world and cause havoc? The coronation of a king might have actual celestial descending from the heavens to pay tribute, or on the start of spring, nature spirits could actually be visible doing their work.

Folklore is filled with crazy stories about leaving bowls of spoiled milk out, or ravenous hunger spirits hiding in castles during winter. What may seem like a fruitless hearth wisdom to us, could have actual consequences for your characters and holidays are a great time to loop legends back in. I’m rather sure that with all the looting and slaying most adventuring parties do, they won’t get gifts during the holidays, but might have to run from Krampus as he stalks the streets hunting them.

Dedicate A Session For Payoff

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Any story needs a climax or tension release in order to begin the epilogue and wind down. If you take the above advice and start having henchmen prep for a holiday season and showcase little signs all through a few game sessions—you’ll need a dedicated session for the holiday. Let your characters have a session where they can give each other gifts, or engage in holiday shenanigans and develop their characters. For clerics, this is a particularly important time to touch base with their gods in a manner other than a source of spells.

Make it fun out of game, host with tasty foods and good music for extra brownie points… but it doesn’t need to be all fun and good times either. Equinoxes and solstices could mark the coming of a great evil into your world, shattering the sky and having your characters react in the world. The commemoration of a military victory could be a game session filled with protests and giving life to shop-keep NPC’s the players frequent for example. Good or evil, when it comes to celebrate the actual festival—make it front and center.

What holidays have you brought into your campaign? Have you made any custom home-brew ones? Share your story in the comments below!

MORE RPG GOODNESS!

Featured Image by: Wizards Of The Coast

Image Credits: Elm

Headhunter Goblins by Hugo Cardenas. Art and animations at: Takayuuki.deviantart.com and Youtube

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.

GMs: Build Quick & Easy RPG Maps With DungeonFog

Oct 10 2018

I run a minimum of two games per week given my privilege as a writer and my location in Colorado being as steeped in nerd culture as it is. Unfortunately, I often found myself without enough time to properly prepare my games when it came down to set the stage properly. I was always rushing to make maps last minute which diminished their quality or I simply used theatre of the mind to orchestrate my sessions. When I had the time, I would make illustrious maps with great detail and so forth, but it took me forever to accomplish.

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That’s when I was made aware of DungeonFog.com and how easy and streamlined it can be to use. They’ve just opened up their platform where anyone can make a free account and I cannot stress how easy it will make your life no matter how you run your games. Whether you like to use virtual tabletop, play with projectors, or just want to give your players some idea of what they’re walking into then DungeonFog is for you.  I already spent a weekend playing around with it and I definitely went a little overboard for the next couple months of my games. Here’s why I’m digging this tool:

Ease of Use

The first barrier to entry for many is just how easy something is to use. The easiest part with this service is that you can copy any map into your own library as long as it has been shared with the community. There have been a lot of community contributions so far, but the community grows so will the resources! You can take those maps that have been made and easily repurpose them quickly and efficiently for your own uses. On top of that, if the person who made it was using it for a single-night adventure (or one-shot) or if they just loved detailing everything, then you’ll get all of those notes as well.

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The Tools

If you’ve used any kind of photo editing software then you’ll be able to jump into making maps right away. Everything is set on a stage where can customize the material you’re building upon or in (if you’re designing caves or dungeons).

Room Builder: When you’re building your rooms, everything is just point and click. This leads back to the ease of use, but by default, everything is attached to the gridlines. You can hold shift when you’re drawing your rooms or whatever else you may be doing to freehand at your leisure if standard angles aren’t your jam. Once you’ve put your lines down, you can quickly and easily adjust the thickness of your inner and outer walls. They’ve also built in a hand curvature tool so that you can round out walls, make them concave, or shape them however else you might like with a simple click through. This makes building those balconies or sky prisons even easier by taking the walls away and exposing those rooms to open (or subterranean) elements.

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I just put together 2 different sized rooms in a matter of seconds and adjusted the thickness of their inner and outer walls.

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In this wonderful provided photo, you can see the curvature they’ve created with the tool as it is highlighted. It allows for sure easy angles.

Paint Room: After you’re done setting up everything just the way you want, then you can use the pipette tool (like a paint dropper) to copy the coloring of that room and just apply it to every other room you want. Once you’ve got that done, you’re ready to start customizing even further!

Props: Props have a number of fun features to them. You can adjust every aspect about them just like you could with rooms. You can adjust the colors, size, rotation, and more. On top of that, if you’re placing something like a bunch of trees you can actually set them to randomize within a certain set of parameters. You can set it so that it rotates, changes size between a certain range, and more as you click a forest into existence. You can also build a quick-access library that contains your most used or favorite props for easy and quick selection. This method is actually the standard method when opening a new map as there are so many props (and more as people make them) that you have the manually access all of the props via the “assets” function at the bottom of the page.

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Draw Shape: You can draw whatever you want. It behaves like a prop, but you can apply inner shadows to make it look like it is carved out of the floor or an outer shadow to make it look elevated. You can apply textures however you’d like. Like before, if you hold down shift, you aren’t bound to the grid and do what you want. This is a great tool for creating platforms or pits in the center of rooms or whatever you may need.

Brushes: One of my favorite tools in general. This tool adheres to whatever has already been established. For example, I used it to paint a river of laver under a stone bridge that was in the middle of an underground city for one of my games. The paint tool didn’t override the buildings (but it could if I wanted) and was exceptionally easy in getting the effect wanted. You can also use it for making floors feel more distressed or adding various other elements to the floor like making it exposed ground.

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Lighting: One of the coolest features is the lighting. Every item you put into the map can have a shadow effect turned on or off (on by default) and when you add light sources or adjust the ambient lighting, all of the items will be affected. They also render 3D shadows out of 2D objects which is pretty awesome. It isn’t necessarily perfect (yet), but it is something I haven’t seen from other offerings out there.

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(This map took the creator 20 minutes to make. That’s so fast!)

GM Notes: You can label all of your rooms and layer all of your notes here. Give those rooms a number, letter, or a title. This helps me as a GM because it allows me to fill in all of those extra components that a visual description that isn’t necessarily there. But, when you go to your GM notes, they already give you a summary of the room based on how you built the room. Currently, it’s a list of properties. If you share the public gallery, other people will see your notes. However, when it is being viewed for a game the players won’t see your notes.

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Final Thoughts

I am really excited to use this tool. I was able to pull together maps for my games (not shown above) in a matter of hours. I’ve been relying on a lot of theatre of the mind lately, but I know this is going to help me take my GMing to the next level. An important note is that this is only a map editing tool. It is not a virtual tabletop, but you can share pictures with your players and otherwise. If you share your maps then they’ll see all of your notes so be careful! That said, this easily exports to whatever virtual tabletop you are planning to use in case you use those for your games.

Creating custom RPG maps has never been easier. DUNGEONFOG lets you focus on your story while creating marvelous maps for your adventures. Check it out for free on www.dungeonfog.com/geek-and-sundry or use the promo code GEEKANDSUNDRY to get 10% discount on your first annual premium subscription!

This post is sponsored.

Image Credits: DungeonFog (featured image map Cityscape by DungeonFog user @BGSimplified)

WATCH: Day[9] vs. Amy Okuda | Magic: The Gathering: Spellslingers | Season 5, Episode 2

Oct 10 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. 

COPY: Join Sean “Day[9]” Plott as he plays Magic: The Gathering with The Guild actress Amy Okuda in the latest episode of Spellslingers!

More Magic: The Gathering Goodness!

WATCH: The Wednesday Club One-Shot – Who’s Your LGBTQ Dream Date?

Oct 10 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.

Na na na na na na na na BAT BABS! Batgirl illustrator Babs Tarr joins Amy Dallen, Taliesin Jaffe, and Matt Key to dish about what LGBTQ comics character they’d enjoy a night on the town with.

Who’s your LGBTQ comics dream date? Shout ‘em out in the comments! 

Be sure to join The Wednesday Club Live every Wednesdays at 7pm PT on Alpha or Twitch. Don’t have an Alpha subscription? New members get a free 30-day trial at projectalpha.com!

MORE COMIC GOODNESS!

WATCH: Critical Role – Dangerous Liaisons (Campaign 2, Episode 37)

Oct 9 2018

Live from New York! The Mighty Nein are taken aboard the Squall Eater, and Fjord learns more about his mysterious patron…

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! To celebrate Critical Role live in NYC, D&D Beyond have setup discount code “SAMISOURHERO” (no really, that’s the code…) for 25% off digital books in the D&D Beyond Marketplace!


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

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