Two Year Anniversary!

Image: My hilarious mug and a reader-made, 3D printed, “Heavy Metal GM” D20. Jeff, this is the most amazing thing someone I barely know has ever done for me, thank you so much!

 

Up early on a Sunday, that’s the kind of guy I am. Anyway, hello! Thank you for coming to visit my humble abode! I debated calling this post the “State of the Blog Address,” but I think that’d be taking myself too seriously. Though, let’s be real, it wouldn’t have changed the informality of the content you’re about to read. As February 16th falls on a Friday (and is still some ways away), no time like the present to whip this one up! This one’s for you.

 

Surfing through all of my accounts this morning, Facebook had prompted me to write my story, how all this gaming madness came about. I wrote it, you can see it here, and it left me thinking a little. I started this thing two years ago! Already! That reality came like a slap in the face. Feeling like I haven’t done much, I’m a little disappointed in myself, but a closer look changes that feeling. For two years, I have been putting, what I like to call, “word soup” into the world; and by some divine stroke (probably not), people listen to me. As of the time this is being written, this page has seen 154 blog posts (this being the 155th, I’m weird about patterns of fives and round numbers), over 10,000 visitors, and an amount of experiences whose number and quality cannot even be measured. Because of this site, I’ve been employed for writing, experienced my first conventions (Gen Con 49 and 50, PAX East 2017), became a writer/editor for another website, met some beyond fantastic people, and have been recognized by some of the people I admire most in the industry.

That sounds like I’ve done a lot, though I’d disagree, but everything is owed to those who have supported me. And I don’t mean monetarily, the money that has been brought in by running this thing totals somewhere around like $200 since the start. That’s covered the one year, and the current one, of having my own web domain. It’s not a mound of loot I’ve produced over here, but I don’t need a mound. Never in my life have I been so proud of a little pile of stuff, this pile I liked to call my corner of the internet. People who read my content, people who reach out to talk to me about my posts, people who help me refine my posts by giving me input: you’ve built this site! All I did was provide the content to interact with. Time and time again, I’m humbled by the outright kindness and openness of this community. Of course, there are plenty of people who do the opposite, but every plank has its ugly side. Those interactions don’t matter to me as much, as they only rarely add something to my life.

In the coming years, I truly and honestly hope that this community will continue to be as awesome as it has been. From time to time I disappear, don’t post for a while on here or any of my social media, but know that it’s always on my mind. Fixing cars is no easy gig, and I’m in the actual process of switching into the office side of BMW service. Hopefully, fingers crossed, this will open up oodles of mental energy for me, as the physical wear won’t be so abrasive. Let’s make 2018 a kickass year for gaming. Together.

If you have the time and inspiration, I would love for you to comment, Tweet, or send me a Facebook Message about the first time you read this blog, first time you met me, the first time you played a TTRPG, whatever the hell you want. I just want to hear from you, so I can thank you for all the beauty you’ve helped me bring into my life.

 

Stay Metal \m/

Allegorical Gaming: Weighing Reason

Image: Plato’s Cave Allegory illustration from Mrs. Shepherd’s Classes. 

Before we delve into what the hell I’ll be yapping about abstractly for the rest of the page*, we need to understand what an allegory is. They’re scarily similar to metaphors, especially with the misuse of the word in the modern world. I read a good article that talks about it, though it’s a bit of a slog for someone not used to thinking in this frame. This is the necessary preliminary work that only the individual can do for themselves to make their work successful. Tap as many resources of thought as you can, but come to your own conclusion that’s built on a foundation of facts and reason. If you don’t want to do the work, don’t make your game an allegory. Just have fun, know that’s okay and what games are ultimately designed for. For the record, this one is more about social structure in relation to frame of mind than gaming itself. Shall we?

Using games to confront real things in a controlled and welcoming environment is a pretty good idea, but what are the challenges to this? There’s a myriad of boons and busts to this, but each subject that can be addressed has a different set of them. This makes navigating the waters of a campaign as an allegory quite difficult. Besides the creative hurtles, like choosing what you’d like to explore and how exactly to deeply convey it, you should first look at your group dynamic.

Every group is different, it doesn’t take someone with an extensive back log of experience to acknowledge and understand that fact. However, know that one, singular truth is only a tiny part of the larger one. How is your group different? In what ways do they work together or against each other? These questions are just as important at the table as they are outside of it, and serve as a basis to the final answer as to whether or not your game can be an allegory. When you decide to make your game an allegory, it’s no longer just about the game. To give you some guidance on what to do with that thought: this type of game brings things from outside inward for dissection and reflection. Therefore, you open the gateways for serious, potentially emotional conversation. It sounds good, and it can be, but it can easily blow up in your face if you have players that you don’t deeply know away from the game table. Not only do you have to be a GM in this situation, but you need to be a colleague, and an open minded one at that.

The goal of this art is to make the players turn inward about something on the exterior. If you, or anyone in your group for that matter, can’t walk up to an allegory with a mind to contemplate the entire picture and potentially have a civil discussion about it, then your game should not be an allegory.

Simple as that. When I say that finite statement is “simple,” I don’t mean that the situation itself isn’t complex, but the parameters that allow you to move forward can be boiled down to make them seem that way. When one questions that statement, they can travel down into the infinite depth of the very question itself. Calling it simple gives you a feeling of gratification, an understanding of some degree of depth to where generalization can be useful; but it’s important to be aware of the fact that it’s anything but simple in reality. When you understand a situation fully, it becomes easy to call  it simple, but when explaining it to other people, one must be thorough. The end game of your campaign is to reflect, within yourselves, about the situations presented.

I called this article, “weighing reason,” for… well, at the risk of sounding more repetitive than I already do, a reason. People have their own ways of pursuing truth through reason, which in this sense means thinking rather than a cause, though it’s abundantly clear that some methods are better than others. In order to keep peace among a group of people, you need to be aware of other people’s way of reasoning, an individual’s way of reasoning, before you present a question. What does that mean? We know that people don’t like to be challenged. One could ask the question, “Why is the sky blue?” The question is simple, direct, and neutral. You could ask that same question in a different way. Do you know why the sky is blue? See the difference? The former is a neutral inquiry, whereas the second question designated a specific target. That makes it my lack of knowledge against knowledge that I assume you have. It seems silly, as the question is the same, but take tone of voice into consideration. The way you ask that question is in many cases infinitely more important than the words themselves, or at least on an interpersonal level. Pair that awareness with an actually challenging question and it opens the flood gate of deductive reasoning. It seems trivial to be bringing all this up, but zooming in to understand individual parts of the dynamic is what helps you manipulate the damn contraption to work. Unfortunately for us gamers, people are the most complicated contraptions that we have a need to manipulate in the context of RPGs.

In the case of an allegorical RPG campaign, that manipulation is taking the form of making someone pose a question to themselves. This should be done through events in the story, character interactions, the layout of the environment itself, fictional political strife, etc. It’s a hard thing to achieve, and you can fail. Look at what parts of the situation could lead to failure and try to find a way to manipulate that as well. Starting to sound kind of creepy and personally intrusive, isn’t it? Now, I bestow upon you the thought to save yourself from this benign manipulation changing into a way for you to insert your own opinions; which may or may not be objectively wrong due to a lack of understanding of the parts, I might add.

A GM has the power to sneakily interject things that they believe into the experiences of others. It’s their responsibility and duty to not wield that belief like a weapon, but to hand it off like a good book. That way the individual can come to their own conclusion about the stance based on the information within to better themselves and, hopefully, the world around them.

This all seemingly has nothing to do with gaming. However, when we consider the impact of the questions that can rise out of the resolutions within a fictional calamity, we see that there’s more than what’s on the surface. Taking all of what I just proposed and putting it under the most powerful microscope you can find is, by far, the most important part making your allegorical campaign succeed. Is this all? Of course not, I’d be a complete fool to think so. Human beings learn best when presented with information paired with the ability to dismantle it into small parts, helping us make a better judgement of the whole. Virtuous behavior is equally as important, as having more than your own experience it build off makes for a strong foundation. Just remember not to take everything everyone says as truth without question.

* Here’s the disclaimer: I have no formal education in philosophy, social science, political science, or psychology. Or anything, really, besides automotive technology and whatever I retained from my horrendous journey through the American public school system. Everything you have just read is a product of my own deductive reasoning and personal experience, and very well may be wrong. *

I’d like everyone who reads this post to comment with an honest question about this piece. Not because I want to prove you wrong, not because I have some insatiable thirst for argument, but because I want to be better both as a game master and an individual. Hopefully, you’re with me and you do too. I expect to be met with a founded, fact and experience based challenge. The only way to become better is to make mistakes! Learning how to talk about views you disagree with, without letting your emotion override reason, is the most important skill that is the most uncommon. Hone it like the blade you’re going to go kill that troll that represents ignorance with.

Thank you so much for reading and Stay Metal \m/

Gen Con 50 Experience

My vacation is over. A week at Gen Con and a week in Scotland with only a day between the two, and now, I’m back to reality. Let me tell you, those two weeks were marvelous. There’ll be a post about Scotland later for the personal part of the site, but for now, it’s gaming!

This year I was able to string some more first timers along to this wonderful convention. The first timers: personal friend and cartoonist, Matt Albanese, creator of the NerdMantle and personal friend, Ben Witunsky, and last but not least, VP Quinn from High Level Games (who has also become a dear friend). Returning from last year was beloved cosplayer, Fancy Duckie. The last part of our crew didn’t room with us and carried a very heavy gaming schedule throughout the convention. , Josh Heath is involved with High Level Games and is the creator of his own Inclusive Gaming Network.

And what a crew it was. Having learned from my mistakes last year, this year was far more manageable and enjoyable. We drove from Boston, as opposed to flying, again. It’s always long and grueling but the people you’re with makes all the difference. Quinn and Josh flew from their respective areas, so it was Ben, Jessica, Matt and I cooped up in a car for 15 hours. Silliness ensued, as one would imagine, but it made the ride feel like nothing.

The first day of Gen Con was a bit difficult for me, where a lack of supplies/badge before I got there made things a bit complicated. Sadly, I ended up missing my first game of 13th Age on Wednesday, an adventure from Eyes of the Stone Thief called The Gauntlet. I ran this adventure last year and was really looking forward to it, but things got a little confused. For that, I’m sorry. If anybody who was supposed to be in that game is reading this, please reach out to me by posting a comment here, reaching out on Twitter, or sending a message to my Facebook Page. I’d love to see if we can wrangle everybody in that group to run through the adventure on Roll20 at some point.

After all that was ironed out, the con was smooth  as anything. I spent a lot of time separated from my group because I ran a bunch of 13th Age. The main difference from last year is that I didn’t schedule myself to play any other games. Having more time to wander around throughout the duration of the thing made the con more of a vacation than a hellish rush to have fun. All of the games I ran were incredible, especially since Michael from The RPG Academy played through the adventure, The Folding of Screamhaunt Castle. Everyone at the table agreed that we’d play it more horror-style, but as that adventure ends up doing, it descended into silly with morbid imagery. I love that adventure dearly. I feel like I didn’t run it the best way, but it seemed like everyone had a good time. I also had some people come back from the year previous, and I have to say that it was humbling. Nothing makes you feel like you’ve succeeded than forging a friendship with a random stranger through your favorite activity. Nick, Jeff and Greg, it was great to catch up!

Nick had played in my final game of the con, an adventure called Swords Against Owlbears. It’s a comic horror type adventure with some weirdness involved, and thankfully the group was able to take it and run. It was light hearted and silly, but everyone was invested in it. In fact, it was so good that I went out to dinner with all of my players after the game. It was a fantastic experience, I was really happy to meet all of you!

The first order of business when the con truly started on Thursday was to link up with Josh at the booth for Dized. They’re on Indiegogo right now, so jump on it by clicking this link. It’s an app that is designed to help teach you board games while playing it; no rules reading, just jump right into the game.  Definitely a uniquely helpful idea. HLG decided to jump right into it and interview them. Josh, being more skilled than I, led the charge and basically asked every question one could possibly think of. I only got one in at the end, but talking with those folks before and after it was awesome. You can listen to the interview here.

DizedJosh and I sitting with Jouni from Dized

For games besides my own, I was actually able to demo Fantasy Flight’s upcoming Legend of the Five Rings card game. Ben and I had carved out some time to go see what it was about. Fantasy Flight really upped the ante with the immersion aspect because they had a giant torii that you had to walk through to get to the play area. I’m not really a huge fan of card games in general so I was walking into this one a little skeptical. When I saw the torii, it helped sway me. What blew me away, though, was the sign on it.

Torii.jpg

I liked the company to begin with, but this simple gesture made me respect them even more. Good on you, guys. The card game was a little confusing, but I also didn’t really get to peek at the rules. The fellow teaching us was helpful, but I think his teaching style may have clashed with my learning style. Nothing wrong with that, especially since I’ll probably still invest some time and money into the game. After all, I did enjoy my experience. The biggest thing to come from FFG was the announcements of X-Wing’s wave XII and the new miniatures game, Star Wars: Legion. I’m less than impressed with the ships unveiled for the new X-Wing wave, and to be honest, I didn’t even buy anything from the last one. The last two ships I picked up were the TIE Striker and U-wing, and I’ll probably stay there. The game is fun, but the ships are starting to get a bit obscure for me. Regardless, prototypes of the minis were on display and they looked as amazing as ever.

And then there’s Legion. It almost seems like it’s a replacement for Imperial Assault, which is sad considering it wasn’t really that big to begin with. What I’m not sad about, however is how incredible everything looks for it. The second day of the con, they had demos of (what I’m assuming is) a prototype of the game. It’s a lot more like a traditional wargame, by the looks of it, with terrain pieces and such. Where Imperial Assault uses these little tiles for terrain, Legion has legitimate three dimensional terrain much like Warhammer 40k. For the demos, they had terrain pieces for the forest moon of Endor, Tatooine, and Sullust. All of them were masterfully crafted, the miniatures equally so. My heart was trying to punch a hole in my chest to scream to the world how exciting all of it was, but I had to pump the brakes. More information about this game is going to be needed before I decide whether I’m going to buy it, especially with the starter box carrying a $90 price tag. As it was only just announced, trying to get in on a demo was a near impossible endeavor. Someday, Legion… someday.

Legion.jpgI couldn’t get a good shot of the Luke and Vader minis, sadly

Besides that, all I played was Dread with the crew that I came with. Quinn ran it while the rest of us were horrified. The scenario presented felt a lot like something pulled from the video game, Dead Space. Pair that concept with sound effects and a group of players dedicated to immersion, and what you get is a genuinely frightening role play experience. Easily one of the best sessions I have ever played of any RPG.

For the spoils of war, I hadn’t purchased much. I got some cool stuff from Pelgrane Press, as all my games were 13th Age. A shirt with a Cthulhu Confidential design on the back, a physical copy of Swords Against Owlbears and some escalation dice. While I was in the exhibition hall with Ben, I made up this thing I called Gen Con Christmas. He was really interested in John Wick’s 7th Sea (I mean, who isn’t?) but didn’t want to buy a hundred things for it. So, I bought a core book with the GM screen, he bought a book, and I gifted him the GM screen. Happy Gen Con Christmas, Ben. Playing that game with you is going to be a blast. Jessica’s birthday was during Gen Con this year. She had bought herself a game called 4 the Birds and I had bought her this little dragon thing she wanted that she couldn’t justify spending money on. It was kind of cute, and apparently had magic powers that ensnared the attention of anyone wielding it.

Our crew ended up staying at the Mariott Courtyard, save Josh of course. It had a little patio downstairs where we got to meet some awesome people from the industry, chat, and have a beer or seven. I don’t think it got quite bad as seven, but comic relief is a good thing. The patio quickly became our safe haven, a place where we could hang out and unwind before charging headlong back into the chaos that is Gen Con. This year was amazing, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything the world has to offer. Sadly this is my last Gen Con for a couple of years. I would like to travel to Europe more and my limited vacation time kind of pushes Gen Con out of the vacation equation. So for now, cheers and thanks for the memories!

 

Stay Metal \m/

 

An Adventure: Painting Miniatures

The reason why I picked up X-wing miniatures was because everything comes pre-painted. I was always of the philosophy that war games that force you to paint your own stuff were 1). a money sink 2). a time sink and 3). way more effort than it’s worth. I still hold that opinion with games like Warhammer 40k or Hordes or something. It’s just way too much work for me. On the contrary, I have been rather curious about miniatures that aren’t necessarily essential to the game you’re playing. Many people I follow on Twitter paint stuff and put it up. Boy, let me tell you, I’m captivated by it every time too.

When a friend of mine had to leave home to join the Navy, he left behind some RPG stuff for us in the game group. Among those, I got an original box of the Lord of the Rings tabletop game (with everything from 2001!) and a metric butt-load of unpainted skeletons. Well, more like 10 of them. Originally, I had planned to just leave them be and use them the way they are. After all, I did just complain I didn’t have time for that, right? Well, a couple years later, I started to get itchy. That’s what took me to where I am now. I went to my FLGS, Battleground Games and Hobbies to pick up a starting paint kit.

Minis.jpgMy first two finished minis.

What I know so far? Money sink, check. Time sink, check. More effort than it’s worth, though? Surprisingly, not really. I found it almost felt natural to me, although skeletons aren’t exactly the toughest thing in the world to paint. Something I didn’t anticipate from picking this part of the hobby up was this feeling of completion once you throw the finishing touches on a piece. It’s almost a sort of therapy for me now, only four figures into it. It’s a process that’ll be eternally refined, but to tune out the world to focus on this little thing just has this magic to it. Luckily for me, and others who are starting out, we have these huge resources on the internet to help us out. Michael Mordor over at Reaper Miniatures has been nothing but helpful to my learning experience. Learning how other people do their painting process, what products they use and how they refine colors to get what they need is totally invaluable.

So, in short: If you have the itch, scratch it. It’s at least worth seeing if you enjoy it. Worst case, you don’t, and you can sell what you bought second hand. It’s stupidly easy to get rid of unwanted game stuff, these days. As for me, you’ll be able to see me hone my skills through my Twitter and Instagram accounts.

 

Stay Metal \m/

PAX East 2017

As Gen Con was my first last year, PAX is my first this year. Funny, I know, since I live up here near Boston, you would think that PAX was my geekly haven for years and years. Not the case, in fact, PAX was a little repelling. Not because of the content, but mainly because of the sheer number of people that attend this damn thing. I was always under the impression it would be too crowded to be fun, and I was almost correct. Almost. I started my gaming lifestyle when I was really young, around five years old. I started in video games and didn’t even know that there were tabletop RPG’s until I was eighteen. That huge gap in my gaming hobby was filled with video games. Kind of funny how backwards that works for the younger generation, eh? But I digress…

Reuniting with my gaming roots, I thought it was finally time to experience PAX. All three days, I went and whoo boy, was that an experience. It’s not called “Line Con” for no reason. In fact, if I wasn’t perusing around the expo floor, I was waiting in line. For food, to try a game, to buy merch, doesn’t matter what I was trying to do, I was in line. This is probably the most stark and shocking difference from Gen Con that lead to me deciding I prefer it over PAX. But I’m not here to tell you that PAX sucked, because it didn’t. It was very exhausting but a very interesting and fun experience.

Line Con 2017.jpg

The first day of PAX, I was a little late getting there because cosplay can be a pain. Jessica, my significant other, was wearing a ball gown type thing for a character from Odinsphere, a side scroller game. The kicker is that it wasn’t done by the time we had to leave so that ate up some of the morning. Which is ok, because damn, was it cold! I didn’t really want to wait in line so in hindsight, this was for the best. When we finally got in, I was completely and utterly gobsmacked at the sheer amount of people crammed into this place. Anybody who’s been to Gen Con knows that it’s pretty relaxed throughout the con, except for the exhibition halls. Here, there was no escaping the chaos. The second you walk into the expo hall, you’re greeted by the low murmur of gamers excitedly talking to one another and trying out games, the beeping and booping of various game screens showing you what they have to offer.

It was video game heaven, to be frank. It was almost a little overwhelming, and my experience on the first day was testament to that. I had nothing planned, I was just going to mosey on around and see what was there. The first thing I did was actually meet up with the mind behind the Twitch show Exploding Dice. We chatted for a bit and he gave some pointers to my friend, Ben, who is starting up a podcast himself called Nerdmantle. A very pleasant interaction, I’m actually hoping to open lines of communication and work together int he future. After that, I met up with Amber, a streamer and friend I met at the game I ran for Roll20 Con. I always love meeting up with people I’ve gamed with online, that personal connection is really cool. I went to three panels on the first day; The first one of which was about breaking into the industry. Mind you, they were talking about the video game industry as opposed to my preferred tabletop one. Surprisingly enough, there’s an immense amount of overlap between the two, although the two gaming styles are vastly different. It was a multi-part panel that was going to basically brush over everything, beginning to end. That initial part was simply about how to approach a company and how to handle interacting with them before being hired. Having just been through that with Pelgrane Press about their production assistant position, (which I didn’t get, congrats to Alex Roberts!) I was relieved to learn that I had handled the whole process rather well. Especially for someone with no experience in the matter.

I didn’t go to any of the other parts, though I probably should have, simply due to lack of time. The other two panels were about Indie game development and a Cards Against Humanity spoof panel about psychology in gaming. The last one was far less interesting than it lead itself to be, but the Indie gaming panel was very interesting, especially since only one panelist and the moderator showed up initially. I hadn’t played a single game but, man, was that first day tiring.

PAX xwing.jpg

Saturday was where I played some games, or one game rather. That day was conquered by an X-wing Miniatures tourney, it was actually the part of the con that I was most excited for. It was my first time playing in a tourney with an experimental Imperials list I had cooked up. While I lost two of the three games I played, it was incredibly fun and I’d do it again in a second. I walked away with an X-Wing coin and some alternate art cards from X-Wing Miniatures Maine, a company that had came down to have a small presence at the con. I hadn’t expected to win anything so this was actually a very pleasant surprise. The tourney went form 11 to 4-ish and I was pretty exhausted afterward. I wandered the expo floor for a while before finding myself in the Twitch Prime lounge upstairs to just sit back and unwind for a bit.

It had never occurred to me before how huge Twitch has become in recent years, how much video gaming is actually a big social culture now. They had a big projector up showing a panel that was going on elsewhere at the con. After that, it was some large League of Legends tourney going on somewhere. I was pretty wiped out by this time, so my attention was less than sharp.

Twitch Prime.jpg

On the third day, I was raised to gamerhood. Okay, maybe that didn’t sound as funny as I anticipated but I have to at least try every now and again. Sunday was more crowded than I expected, the original plan was to game on Sunday to avoid lines. Alas, I was wrong. Lines were still out in force. That didn’t stop me though, I bucked up and stood in line some more. I got to play a few games, one of which was a preview of the Morrowind expansion for Elder Scrolls Online. I hadn’t played ESO prior, though the interest was there because I loved Skyrim. It was set up  as a 4v4 death match thing, and I got thrashed pretty good. However, it did show me that I liked the way that ESO functions and after the con, I bought it for $20. Not bad, considering the original price tag before it was free to play.

That was really the only memorable game I played, though looking around, I’m really interested in What Became of Edith Finch , Prey, the Nintendo Switch and Mass Effect Andromeda. I didn’t get to play any of those, but the fact that they stuck out in my mind says they’re doing at least something right.

Overall, I do definitely prefer Gen Con. It’s more organized with the games, no lines or waiting unless you’re buying something or waiting for your table to fill. My PAX experience also showed me that my interests have shifted as a person. I care a lot less about video games now than I have in the past. Tabletop has taken the spotlight, mainly because of the amount of freedom and positive social interaction, I surmise. On the contrary, going to PAX did rekindle my love for video games, making me remember why I used to play them so much. Though not exactly what I have now learned I prefer, PAX was a good time and I will be going at least one of the three days next year. I can probably touch everything I want to see in one day on the con floor.

 

If you saw me at PAX and you don’t already, give this site a follow! I’d very much like to speak and maybe even game together someday. Until then…

 

Stay Metal \m/

The Road to Gen Con 2017

With the new year rolling in and badges going up in just a couple of hours (from the time I’m writing this), I’m so ridiculously excited for the amazing event that Gen Con 50 is going to be. As the same with last year, I will be attending! This year, I’m planning to shake things up a bit, learning what I have from my first ever attendance last year.

What isn’t changing is that I’ll be GMing 13th Age for Pelgrane Press all weekend long. I’m not exactly sure what time slots are going to be filled yet, but I’ll make a post with my schedule as soon as I get all that squared away. What I’m going to do different this year opposed to last year, however, is I’m going to try to have more free time during the day/nights to meet up with all of you! One thing that suffered last year was time, for sure. I perhaps over scheduled a bit out of sheer excitement and found myself running from hall to hall trying to be on time for games.

Per usual, I’ll be available on Twitter to arrange meet ups and all that fun stuff for the duration of the con. With it being so early, I don’t have a hell of a lot to announce for the con, but I look forward to it. Since I dropped the ball last year (sorry guys), I’m definitely going to make time to go to The RPG Academy’s pre-Gen Con meetup. Last time, Michael and I had a lot less time to chat than I would like, this year there shall be no mistake!

I’m really excited to meet some of you and reconnect with those who are returning this time ’round. Let’s make Gen Con 50 as special and memorable as possible!

 

Stay Metal \m/

Dust Off That Old Tome

Surely not an uncommon problem: I have a crap ton of books to read! The list just keeps growing, too. I get home from work, tell myself that I’m going to read but simply end up sitting on the couch doing nothing that truly engages my mind or creativity. It’s a tragedy, really. When I was younger, I didn’t really read much. I appreciated R.L. Stein’s work on the Goosebumps series but other than that, I only read what I was forced to in school. Here and there I got some titles I ended up enjoying, just like The Island of Doctor Moreau or Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut really did a fantastic job on that one). The first time I was really engaged intellectually was when I read The Stranger by Albert Camus.

If you read that book and take it for what it is, it’s really quite a bore. What really sparked me was all of the underlying stuff we found within it. Yeah, that crazy existential stuff. It was the first time I had felt like someone understood a lot of the emotions I had felt as a troubled teenager, and now as a troubled adult. I always enjoyed fantasy and that book gave me the itch to read, and thus I found A Song of Ice and Fire from George R.R. Martin. I liked fantasy stuff. All my video games were fantasy, my favorite films were fantasy. This was only a little bit before I found tabletop and once I had found tabletop, I found it difficult to mimic something in novels like Tolkien’s or Martin’s. I got caught up in trying to preserve their stories and settings without expressing my own creativity within those realms.

Time and time again, every podcast or interview I listen to or watch, writers and designers talk about reading stuff outside of your preferred genre. To take a new angle on the same idea, how the setting makes a difference only on the surface but ultimately all stories talk about a lot of the same stuff. This is why my reading list has gotten so damn long. Looking back at books that I’ve read in the past certainly reinforce the advice that has been given. Small details within the book The Color of Water by James McBride can easily be plopped down into a sci-fi or fantasy setting. Sometimes one simple sentence, without explicitly saying, “They hate you because you’re a half-elf,” can really hammer home a very realistic situation and feeling. You wouldn’t get that from a fantasy novel, in most cases. You’d get that sentence!

Seeing things from other perspectives within a piece of literature can really be a gold mine of ideas that can be re-purposed in role playing situations. I honestly think that it’s important. In an age of upheaval, it’s good to have an indirect outlet to talk about very real problems in a non-threatening environment. That’s a rather sidebar statement to the point of this article, but it’s crucial none the less.

The overall point is that if you over saturate you mind with a lot of the same stuff, you’ll lack mental stimulation to create something entirely new. As Kenneth Hite definitely exploits, random events in history can be completely reskinned and morphed into something nearly unrecognizable, simply because you may have thought, “Hmm… This would be really cool to play through in tabletop.” The best part about that one is that the most clever of minds can make it so everybody thinks the idea was one hundred percent original.

Take a dive into some books you may otherwise not read, see what you can dig up and create some art, ya filthy animals!

 

More importantly…

Stay Metal! \m/

New Year for the Heavy Metal GM

Now, before you get all bent out of shape and roll your eyes in the back of your head, this isn’t some overly optimistic and typical New Year’s Resolutions type thing.

Except, well, it kind of is, but that’s besides the point!

As role players, and more so as GM’s, we should always be reaching for something in our little sphere of imagination. Whether it be breaking into the industry for the first time for the more creative people, or making a person experience a very real emotion at the table, there’s always a goal. This new year, I wanted to share with you some of my personal goals, both as a gamer and as a content creator. Hopefully it will help inspire some to be productive in their own way!

First and foremost, I find that my Saturday group doesn’t get together as often as I’d like. Definitely something that can be fixed. I’m not sure if it’s because my campaign has run stale or what, but it certainly needs to happen. Going hand in hand with that concept, I want to try a lot of RPG’s this year. I’ve had the book for The One Ring forever now and have only played online at Gamersplane (sorry guys, I totally dropped out from that one too). With that I still have yet to run Night’s Black Agents, I’ve only ever played. Timewatch is in the lineup as well, but I have a couple of other non-Pelgrane games that have peaked my interest. Having something new every once in a while at the Saturday game could help me keep things fresh, have new stuff to write about and further broaden my horizons as a player and game master. All of these, very good things.

More specifically, I hope to create a much more involved and emotional experience at my table. Nothing makes me happier than having insanely invested players. I have a small idea as to how that could come about (i.e remembering to use awesome things like Syrinscape) but execution is infinitely more important than an idea. I’m also hoping to wrap up that Saturday 13th Age campaign before 2018 rolls around. This seems rather trivial, to anyone on the outside, but this game has already been running 3 years with the same people and story. It’d be a triumph to wrap it up with a neat little bow. Don’t get me wrong, I love that story with my entire being, but I already have an idea as to how it’s going to end and it’s exciting thinking about my players experiencing the final confrontation and epilogue. It’s been a bit of a slog for a while and I think my players would get a feeling of satisfaction by reaching the conclusion.

As for professionally, I’m already making moves on how I want to really break into the industry as a content creator and writer. If you haven’t read my review on Gods and Icons by Dread Unicorn Games, you should check that out here. Now, there’s a very specific reason I’m saying this. If you also play 5e and like that supplement, they’re working on the twin sister of this book for that rules system. It’s currently being Kickstarted right now and I’ll be working on one of the stretch goals! In essence, with your help, we can get a great supplement for 5e and get my foot in the door as an actually published writer! Even if we don’t reach my specific stretch goal (which I can’t tell you exactly what that number is), it’d be great to see this piece get published. Back the Kickstarter here! Aside from that, however, I am going to make a push this year to do more freelance work on products that I would buy for myself. Hell, who knows, maybe I’ll even take a dive into self-publishing some stuff that’s 13th Age compatible. I’d like to, for sure, but finding the time/inspiration is the true struggle.

I don’t really have a lot of New Year Resolutions, but the ones that I do hold are very important to me. Following through with these is probably one of the best things I could do for myself, and in some ways for you, in 2017.

Thank you guys so much for the amazing support and interaction throughout 2016. I’ve spoken with some really great people both online and at Gen Con in August. For a guy who’s wrapping up his first full calendar year of running a website, I feel like I’m doing pretty stellar. I owe you all the world, and I’m doing my best to deliver.

Happy New year and Stay Metal \m/

Why Metal?

I feel like a lot of people don’t really understand the genre(s) of music. As a reader of this blog, perhaps you do to some extent, or maybe you’re just here for the RPG stuff. Either way is fine, but this post is to talk about my experience with music and why I like what I like. You know, for the sake of understanding.

So first off, I have to lead with saying that metal music is probably the only music genre I can think of with a community. Pop just has people who like background noise (in my opinion) or just a catchy tune without much substance. Hip-hop and rap has a community, but from the outside looking in it seems hostile to the people within and its very polarizing. Classical (which I actually am also very fond of) tends to bring people together, but very much so in the sense of high-class snootiness. If someone thinks your take on a piece is stupid, they just smile and nod instead of perhaps starting a nice little debate or discussion. Mistake #1: even if you don’t like someone’s taste in music, never belittle it. Music is for enjoyment and if someone disagrees, let’em. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m guilty of this. I’ll be flat out, too, I really dislike pop and rap/hip-hop. It just doesn’t have enough meat to it and the lyrical content is uninteresting, pretty much the same across the board and too simplistic for me. That said, there are some artists, within rap anyway, that are really amazing on a lyrical level. Mainly on the stance of vocabulary or stanza structure. I can tip my hat to that, easily, but for the most part, to me it’s just a way to make a buck for some people.

Long story short, that’s how I found metal. I was bored with everything else and got back into rock music, spiraled downward from there and found myself in the depths of the sub-genre war. Well, except for classical. Classical rules and is actually very close to metal, a brother to it, if you will. That’s a whole other topic for discussion that I won’t address here but do some homework, you’ll see the resemblance eventually.

Those of you that are sharp will look at the paragraph addressing other genres of music too and ask yourself, metal doesn’t have all that? If I said that was true, I’d be lying. The perfect genre/community/group or whatever else you want to call it doesn’t exist. There’s always crap music/philosophy, fame mongers, elitist jerks and all that nonsense everywhere you go. In good conscience, I can’t lie to you and say that metal is the perfect music community, it’s far from it. What I do find, however, is that amidst all the junk in the drawer, it’s easy to navigate and find all the good bits. If you have a group of friends who are truly good people and into the genre for the genre, not to be “edgy” or “cool,” then you’ll find that metal can be one of the most welcoming communities anywhere. That may come as a shock to someone reading this who isn’t within, and I can’t say I’m surprised. There’s a really large reason for that. Statements such as: “That’s not music, they’re just screaming,” “It just sounds like a bunch of noise to me,” and “You’re going to hell for listening to that trash” are just a couple of the disgustingly closed minded idiocy we face every day. Honestly, it’s probably the reason why we look like such jerks from the outside.

We’ve been conditioned to think that this is the opinion of the popular majority. So instead of proving it’s not the case, we simply embraced it and make everybody truly think that’s the case. Was it the best approach? No, not really, but it is super funny to flash the horns at some religious nut that doesn’t get it and see the expression of horror. Just to be clear; that’s not to say that everybody who is religious is a closed-minded metal hater. It does seem to be the overwhelming majority though. So to sum up: If you’re an outsider, chances are we’re not going to be so quick to welcome you. If you’re an insider, chances are that you’re treated like family.

Now that seems all mixed up, doesn’t it? Well, yes, but look at it from the perspective. Many metalheads are jaded and annoyed with being ostracized their whole lives due to a taste in music. That bitterness sometimes doesn’t go away. That’s why there’s people like me who try to be ambassadors to the genre rather than just a grumpy outsider. I try to challenge everybody who asks about why I listen to what I do to attempt to understand the music. I don’t mean lyrically, because that comes with some practice (screaming vocals aren’t always the clearest) but just from a structural level. How a song flows, how the two guitars mingle, how the drums take a supporting role. It’s not just senseless bashing, just take a second to really pay attention.

With all that depression crap out of the way, why do I like the music simply for the music? The first and foremost reason I can think of is passion. By that, I don’t mean passion as in the enthusiasm of someone who likes the music. The sound of the music itself sounds like passion. Most seem to be confused by that and mistake it as anger or hatred, but passion has many faces both positive and negative. For example: the band August Burns Red has exclusively screaming vocals. I’ve had people ask me why they’re so angry at the world and have to make that terrible sounding music. I always laugh at that one, it’s good. Anybody who doesn’t know why that’s funny: ABR is actually a religious band. Almost all of their music is about finding God or having a relationship with Him. It’s actually happy music, cloaked in what sounds like anger to someone who can’t discern between types of passion. Personally, I’m more anti-religious in nature and it is a little ironic I like these guys. I don’t like them for their lyrics, although they are fantastic, and I don’t like them for their philosophy, although it is very well mannered and good hearted. I like ABR  because they make me feel something. I can pull whatever I want simply out of the sound, it’s not about the words. Music shouldn’t be about the words, that’s why it’s called the universal language.

Furthermore, the intricacy of metal as a genre is appealing for this reason. If you remove the vocals from most any metal song, it’ll still stand strong on its own two feet. Layer upon layer of technical guitar riffs, insane drum patterns and bass lines that would shock most other players help solidify metal as probably the most interesting music on the planet. This is where part of the parallel to classical comes from. Classical is renowned for its synergy among all of the instruments, and metal is very much the same.

So, in conclusion, do everybody a favor: before you sneer in disgust at the guy wearing an Immortal t-shirt that you’ll probably assume worships Satan, think of this post. There’s more to it than the imagery put forth.

 

 

Oh and also, that guy probably thinks Satan is at least an alright dude. ‘Cause… y’know… he’s a little demonized if you catch my meaning.

 

 

Stay Metal\m/

What Have I Been Up To?

Hello all!

The lack of activity lately has probably drawn some questions (or not) into your minds. So this post is to update you on what I’ve been doing!

So first off, I’ve been just getting pummeled by my job. By the time I get home, my brain is complete mush and I just fall onto the couch in a heap. As far as gaming goes and the creative bits of everything, it’s been more gaming than creating. The Saturday game has been going well lately, lots of good character development. I kind of fell behind on summaries (probably have five or six that I have to write to be caught up, yikes!) but one for the continuation of Omen is coming out this Wednesday.

In other news, I was involved with the play testing for 13th Age’s Shadows of Eldolan for Roll20. Huge thanks to Wade Rockett for tipping me off to the open spot, Aaron Roudabush for hosting, and Rob Heinsoo for giving me the opportunity to game with a man I truly look up to. For all of you that are interested in the Shadows of Eldolan for Roll20, you can purchase it here. In relation to that, we also recorded our play testing session for the 13th Age YouTube channel! That can be found/watched here.

So that was Tuesday. Friday, I played my first session in Call of Cthulu 7th edition with some folks over at High Level Games and am now a part of the normal Friday group! This makes three games a week for me (woof) but it’s truly the best way for me to broaden my horizons, play some games with some awesome people and just get out there.

During the time where I’m just looking to unwind, I’ve been scavenging together some people to play Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing miniatures game with me and man, is it great. I have a metric butt-load of ships (ok not compared to some people) although I’m pretty new to the game. It’s been a blast so far and well worth the like $400 I’ve spent on it since Gen Con. I like using the Imperials just because all the ships generally look the same and it’s just fun to be flying what looks like an organized unit around the table. Truly gives me that Star Wars feeling and I love it! I also played my first epic game with a friend of mine. It took three freaking hours to play but man was it fun.

As for what I have on deck to write about… well… it’s been a bit of a struggle considering my attention is so diverted. If there’s a topic that you want to see addressed, please, reach out! It’d be great to have some curiosities thrown at me to think about and get my gears turning. Leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter @HeavyMetalGM.

Guys, thanks for your patience and support as I’m flopping around trying to do stuff over here. I really appreciate the support, feedback and interaction that I get from all of you. But for now…

 

Stay Metal \m/