Avoid Stereotypes with your D&D Character Aug11

Avoid Stereotypes with your D&D Character...

Dungeons & Dragons is the most popular tabletop RPG on the planet and offers a nearly endless list of races, classes, and adventuring archetypes to choose from. And because certain races offer certain bonuses, there are a lot of common combinations that you’re likely to see at a tabletop near you. Half-elf paladins, wood elf rogues, and half-orc barbarians are great builds that maximize the strengths supplied by their lineage. But why not do something more interesting? Here are a few examples of characters that play against their racial typecasting and offer a whole new world of heroic story options. Jebeddo Ningel  – Gnomish Barbarian Barbarians are often created to be colossal meat shields: soaking up and dealing a ton of melee damage. What about a character whose physical size isn’t that impressive, but finds their power from another source? Jebeddo had lived his whole life in Springwood Forest. For generations, his family has acted as guardians of the secluded wood, keeping the spirits of the forest in harmony and dealing with whatever minor threats would occasionally bare their teeth. Jebeddo wanted nothing more than to be a druid like his grandfather, Darmic, and spent countless hours meditating with the spirits of the forest in hopes of forging a bond with them. During one of these sessions in the serene surroundings of the Springwood, a towering bear spirit crashed through the trees and spoke of a coming danger—an orcish horde bent on harvesting the forest into firewood and instruments of war. The bear spirit offered itself to Jebeddo to aid in the defence of its home. “At last!” He thought. His moment as a druid of the forest had finally arrived. But instead, the spirit caused an eruption of strength to course through his...

Things You Don’t Want Your DM to Say Jul21

Things You Don’t Want Your DM to Say...

It doesn’t matter what host of deities are included in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign—the Dungeon Master is lord of them all. It’s true, we wouldn’t have a game without a DM… but sometimes we wish they were a little less exultant about putting our characters through hell (sometimes literally). Here’s a list of things we’d rather not hear our DMs say. Add your additions in the comments section! “Everyone roll a perception check.” *Everyone rolls below 10.* “You notice the sun is rather bright today.” “So, everyone’s up to level 3, right? No one lower?” *announces random encounter* *Rolls dice and looks at the result* “Ooh, this will be fun.” “How many hit points do you have left?” *To players* “What time do you all need to leave tonight?” “Oh hey, I rolled a crit.” *After a really low roll on an investigation check* “You think it’s perfectly safe.” “More damage, I like it.” *After figuring out who’s keeping watch* “So you’re the one awake at midnight then.” “I’ve been thinking about your character this week . . .” *After a critical fail on a persuasion check* “Roll for initiative.” *On an NPC’s turn* “Can I borrow eight D6 from someone?” *Posted in the group chat before game...

Seven Ways to Mess with Your Party Jan13

Seven Ways to Mess with Your Party...

So you’ve been running a few sessions and have a pretty good handle on how this whole DMing thing works. However, your players are also getting a good handle on how the game works. In the routine of gameplay, you have lost the element of surprise and can no longer catch your players off guard. They’ve started to predict your every move! While I disagree with the “DM vs. Player” mentality, I do enjoy messing with my players from time to time. This is a fun list of strategies I have used in my Dungeons & Dragons games to make things more… interesting. There’s nothing wrong with freshening up a stagnant session and adding some surprises. 1. Conduct early planned skill checks. There are two kinds of skill checks in D&D: spontaneous and planned. Spontaneous checks are in-the-moment actions that your players initiate without prompting from you. Planned checks are ones that you, the DM, initiate and don’t require action from your players in order to happen. These planned checks are where your control lies. You have prepared for them and the players don’t need to know why you ask for them. The results do not need to be immediately obvious. For example: You know that a monster will attack one of your players at night. Ask all your players to make a will save well before nightfall and then continue through the day as though nothing has happened. It hasn’t… yet. 2. Hide the results. Most of your players will get to the point where they start predicting the results of your skill checks. It’s obvious whether a player leaps across the chasm or falls to his death, but whether the thief noticed the treasure in the corner can be a mystery. If...

Determine Your Character’s Name with a D20 Oct28

Determine Your Character’s Name with a D20...

One of my greatest struggles when making a new character for roleplaying games is coming up with a good name. There are two factors that I always look for in a good name; it must sound cool and it must have a significant meaning for my character. The Bible is a treasure-trove of interesting names that should not be overlooked when considering a name for your latest character. These names are cherry-picked for their amusing meanings and peculiar pronunciations. Roll your D20s and enjoy! D10 Name Meaning D20 Surname Meaning 1 Chedorlaomer Roundness of a sheaf 1 Nicanor A conqueror 2 Cilicia Which rolls or overturns 2 Raca Good-for-nothing 3 Dabbaseth Flowing with honey 3 Abagtha Father of the wine-press 4 Epaphras Covered with foam 4 Ira Watchman of the city 5 Vopshi The fragrant 5 Pethuel Mouth of God 6 Uphaz Pure gold 6 Abida Father of the judge 7 Haahashtari A runner 7 Baal-Tamar Master of the palm tree 8 Gaddiel Goat of God 8 Shaashgaz One who shears the sheep 9 Shashak A bag of linen 9 Elika Pelican of God 10 Trophimus Well-educated 10 Beneberak Son of lightning 11 Halah A moist table 11  Epaphroditus The handsome 12 Sennacherib Bramble of destruction 12 Reelaiah Shepherd of the Lord 13 Bithynia Violent precipitation 13 Onesiphorus One who brings profit 14 Puteoli Sulphureous wells 14 Ahimelech My king’s brother 15 Homam Making an uproar 15 Jidlaph He that distills water 16 Telabib A heap of new grain 16  Zeruah The leperous 17 Tabrimon A good pomegranate 17 Gallio Who sucks on milk 18 Josabad Having a dowry 18 Archippus Master of horses 19 Og Bread baked in ashes 19 Philemon One who kisses 20 Diblaim Cakes of pressed figs 20 Elymas A...

Play D&D with Mass Effect Characters Sep01

Play D&D with Mass Effect Characters...

It’s the Mass Effect/Dungeons and Dragons crossover you’ve been waiting for! Perhaps you’ve always wanted to roleplay as Garrus Vakarian, or perhaps you only want to be inspired by Jack’s character with this build and her personality. Whatever the case, I’ve put together some build suggestions. These characters are all Level 10. Jack – Wild Magic Sorcerer Human, Chaotic Neutral Background: Criminal AC: 12 (15 with mage armor) Hit Points 70, Speed 30ft. Stat Block: STR 9 (-1) | DEX 15 (+2) | CON 17 (+3) | INT 11 (+0) | WIS 9 (-1) | CHA 19 (+4) Skill Proficiencies: Deception, Intimidation, Stealth, Arcana Equipment: Boots of Haste, Ring of Spell Storing Notable spells known: mage hand, thunderwave, crown of madness, shield, hold person, levitate, counterspell, fear, dominate person, telekinesis, hold monster, Urdnot Wrex – Berserker Barbarian Half-orc, Chaotic Neutral Background: Pirate AC: 17 (unarmored defense) Hit Points 100 Speed 40ft. Stat Block: STR 25 (+7) | DEX 15 (+2) | CON 18 (+4) | INT 8 (-1) | WIS 8 (-1) | CHA 10 (+0) Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Perception, Intimidation, Survival, Animal Handling Equipment: greataxe, handaxes, Belt of Fire Giant Strength, Bracers of Defense Battle Techniques: Rage, Frenzy, Relentless Attack, Brutal Critical Thane Krios – Assassin Rogue High Elf, Lawful Neutral Background: Acolyte AC: 16 (studded leather) Hit Points 50 Speed 30ft. Stat Block: STR 8 (-1) | DEX 18 (+4) | CON 8 (-1) | INT 11 (+0) | WIS 14 (+2) | CHA 16 (+3) Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Insight, Religion, Acrobatics, Deception, Stealth, Sleight of Hand Equipment: longbow, hand crossbow, dagger, Boots of Elvenkind, Bracers of Archery Battle Techniques: Sharpshooter, Sneak Attack (5d6), Assassinate, Infiltration Expertise Samara – Oath of Vengeance Paladin Half-elf, Lawful Neutral Background: Sage AC: 20 (plate armor and shield) Hit Points 80 Speed 30ft. Stat Block: STR 18 (+4) | DEX 10 (+0) | CON 14...

Not Just a Board Game Design Class Aug15

Not Just a Board Game Design Class...

MITx-11.126x Introduction to Game Design The title intrigued me and tuition was free. I clicked “enroll” and started off on seven weeks’ immersion in game mechanics, themes, prototyping, playtesting, meaningful choice, constraints, player experience, and finding the fun. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that board games can teach a lot about life. Just Get Started In the first exercise, I had ten minutes to create a pen-and-paper prototype. Seriously. They made us set a timer and we had to have a completed, ready-to-play prototype. I doodled a series of circles on a sheet of typing paper, decided they looked like lily pads, and declared it a game about frogs crossing a pond. In a fit of imagined literary cleverness I named it Calaveras. Was it playable? Technically. Was it interesting? No so much. As a game it offered all of the excitement of sorting mail. What mattered, though, was that I had actually done something. Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Too often in life—mine, at least—I’ve been stuck in the “wanting something” stage. It’s easy to want something. It’s much harder to actually do something. It’s impossible if you never start. Failure can seem like a sign that I’m on the wrong track. Think something should be done to help the homeless in your area? Splendid. That makes you the perfect person to do something about it. Come up with a plan and get started. Think your church needs a new prayer group or Bible study? Excellent! Take that “want” and make it an “action.” Embrace Your Failures, They’re Part of the Process In the class, we had to take a mechanic which interested us and turn it into a playable game. Working...

Confessions of a DM: Assuming the Enemy May16

Confessions of a DM: Assuming the Enemy...

In Dungeons & Dragons, it is very easy for players to categorize the beings they encounter into “us” and “the other.” “Us” are often seen as the playable races of Dwarves, Humans, and Elves, and are usually good-aligned individuals who are friendly and easy to get along with. “The other” consists of the races typically characterized as evil: Drow, Orcs, Goblins, and anything else classified as a monster or described as ugly. This concept is further aggravated as the book that contains the stats and descriptions for these “other” creatures is called the Monster Manual. Upon encountering one of these monsters, most players’ first reaction tends to be kill first, ask questions later. In a typical fantasy hack-and-slash game, this kind of thinking and method of gameplay can be expected and accepted as the way things are. As a Dungeon Master (DM), this binary trope is often the easy way to let the players know what I want them to do. I recently set up an encounter where a human merchant was being attacked by a band of hobgoblins. It was easy to predict what my players would do; they assumed the hobgoblins were evil, attacked them, and saved the merchant. After this encounter, I realized that I could continue this trend, but it would morph into a predictably boring game. The cycle of attack, loot, and ask questions later is easy, but not very interesting. There’s a whole lot of hidden fun that is left unexplored and ignored. I don’t have to hide in the safety of my bubble with other like-minded people. I could blame this tendency on my players, but the responsibility falls equally on my own shoulders. The players will often react in the ways that I train them. If...

Keeping it in the Game May13

Keeping it in the Game...

It’s another game of Settlers of Catan (with the Cities and Knights expansion). I am seated at the table with three friends. The mood is tense, as during our quest for thirteen points, they are tied with twelve points apiece. I, on the other hand, only have seven, but it is my turn. I play the Alchemist, which allows me to choose the numbers on the dice. I’m going with five. Five seems good. Five means everyone at the table produces wheat. Naturally, I follow that up with the Resource Monopoly, forcing the other players to give me two wheat. After playing Irrigation (more wheat) and the Merchant (ability to trade, and one point), my turn has become an epic tale of underdog victory. Taking the cloth citadel (2 points) and longest road (2 points), I build one final settlement for the win. Victory is mine. With that comeback, I win my fifth game in a row against those friends. My victory is even more satisfying because they had spent the first 95% of the game making sure I had a tough time getting anywhere. However, once they had decided I was no longer a threat, one of them moved the robber, allowing me to produce exactly the cards I needed to win. Their mistake. (The next game, that same player sacrificed a chance to win just to make sure I didn’t, but I digress.) I’m sure I have played over 100 games of Settlers with these particular gaming buddies. Each of us has won our fair share of games, and unspeakable acts were done to ruin strategies and destroy cities. Yet, throughout, our friendships remained intact. Many popular websites have devoted articles to the idea that board games ruin friendships. “6 Great Games (For...

Confessions of a DM: Player vs. Character Apr22

Confessions of a DM: Player vs. Character...

The thing that sets Role-Playing Games apart from other games is—surprise, surprise—the focus on role-playing! Role-play happens when a player assumes the attitudes, actions, and discourse of another person. Instead of moving a pawn across a board to accumulate points and win the game, the player creates a character, steps into their shoes, and interacts with an imagined world. A player does not lose the game if her character dies; she can create a new character and continue contributing to the shared story. There are quests and goals to achieve, but completing them does not automatically end the game, it propels the story forward. Creating a believable, life-like character can be one of the most delightful parts of RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. Aside from optimizing stats and customizing a build, the player also gets to create a personality and back story. Often, a player will begin with a set of ideals and traits in mind for his character that will evolve as the game progresses. Being true to your character and role-playing is one of the rewarding challenges in D&D. Players are encouraged to make decisions through their character’s eyes and can be called out for using information that they possess but their character does not. Just like their players, characters have diverse personalities and goals that don’t always match up with the rest of the party. The Chaotic Druid will call down lightning on anyone who threatens his way of life while the Lawful Fighter is reluctant to kill anyone who is not first proven guilty. The Sneaky Rogue wants to hoard all the treasure for herself while the Compassionate Cleric wants to give it all away to orphans. And the Neutral Bard just wants everyone to sing a song and get...

NPCs Are People Too Feb29

NPCs Are People Too

One of my favourite parts of being a Dungeon Master is creating and playing the characters that the players interact with. An NPC (Non-Player Character) can be a person, creature, deity, or any other inhabitant of the world who is not represented by a player. It is part of the DM’s job to not only create a world for the player characters (PCs) to explore, but also to fill the world with living beings for them to interact with. The nature of the game puts the PCs at the center of the story. For all the players know, the world appears to revolve around their characters. Players can become conditioned to see NPCs as either quest-givers, loot fodder, XP farms, or final bosses. The world ends up being a vehicle to carry the heroes to fame, fortune, and victory. I am no more special than any of them, I just happen to be the one playing me. Very often, players are surrounded with NPCs that pop in and out of existence based on whether a player chooses to interact with them. All the shopkeepers in a market are glossed over unless a player wants to buy something. The beggar on the street is ignored unless the players think she has a quest for them, or is somehow significant to their story. Hundreds of guards can be killed and looted without a thought, but if a PC’s life is endangered, no power in the multiverse is going to keep his friends from trying to save him. Usually. If he brings snacks. This perspective can lead to a very black-and-white view of the in-game world. The people are immediately divided into two categories upon meeting them. The first is “useful.” This NPC is identified as friendly and...

Monopolizing My Integrity Dec18

Monopolizing My Integrity...

It’s not often that you see a boot, a dog, a thimble, and a battleship compete for economic domination. Nor is a car crushing the hopes and dreams of a down-on-its-luck wheelbarrow as it demands $2000 for staying at the luxurious Boardwalk hotel for the night a common occurrence. Unless we’re talking about Monopoly, of course. Monopoly may be the single greatest board game out there. Here’s why: its gameplay is simple enough to be understood by children, it teaches basic economics (it’s fun and educational!), and while luck plays into it, it’s a largely strategic game. Will you wheel and deal your way to victory? Or will you crumble under the pressure, hoping to be sent to jail so you can avoid another rent payment? However, house rules generally allow for a different way to avoid paying rent, and here’s how: We very easily allow ourselves to suspend our own integrity when it benefits us. You rolled a seven; you knew if you were going to survive another round you needed an eight. But rather than landing neatly on ‘Free Parking’—which would have scored you a sweet $735—you’ve landed on New York Avenue, which incidentally has a hotel on it. You know you don’t have the $1000 to pay rent, but look! The owner is checking their phone! You quickly pass the dice to the next player, abruptly ending your turn, saving yourself from bankruptcy. Here’s what the game manual says, with our house rule added in brackets: “When you land on a property that is owned by another player (and that player notices), the owner collects rent from you in accordance with the list printed on its Title Deed card.” The same house rule can be applied to Settlers of Catan, where players...

Confessions of a DM Nov27

Confessions of a DM

I had what I thought at the time was a brilliant idea. To solve the conundrum of adding a fourth player into the party midway through a campaign, I would make the new character a spy. He would be offered a substantial amount of money to keep an eye on the original three characters. Then the agency he worked for would betray him, and he would end up working with the three as a double agent. I had high hopes for this plan, and was rather proud of it. The day of the session rolled around and I put my scheme into action. Everything was going fine, until the dice betrayed my spy and the other characters found out he was following them before I’d had time for his employees to betray him. The other players’ characters—a wary paladin, a druid with guarded emotions, and a warlock with a penchant for distrust—were, naturally, suspicious. The poor new character was caught, searched, interrogated, and tied up by the others. The session ended with him sitting alone in a tavern, unsure what to do next, and the other three players leaving town. If I see my life as a tug-of-war, I will always lose, wishing I had put more points into my strength attribute. Things certainly did not go according to plan. If there is one thing I am learning as a Dungeon Master, it is that whatever plans I make, the players will find a way to spectacularly ruin them. I try to plan for how my players will react to what I throw at them, but I cannot prepare for everything, and they will most likely pull something that hadn’t occurred to me. The consequences are often interesting or hilarious, but it means that...

Player vs. character: a D&D tale Sep28

Player vs. character: a D&D tale...

After several months of playing my character, Aravahn—a human fighter who hates goblinoids and searches tirelessly for his long-lost love, Kaitlynn—I made a drastic decision during a turning point of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Reflecting upon this decision later, I began to wonder: Does a player more deeply influence their character, or does the character have a more profound impact on the player? At first, the answer seems quite simple. Of course I influence my character more—I created him so therefore he must think what I think and do what I say. It is true that a character is, at the very heart, a work of fiction. However, all fiction is based on some fact. It would be intellectually dishonest not to recognize the facets of a character I’ve created without recognizing the influence of my own personality upon it. I don’t believe I can breathe life into a new character without some part of me going with it. Even if the designed back story, race, features, traits, class, and skills would otherwise create a character devoid of any trace of their creator, once they begin to actually role-play, evidence of the creator becomes obvious for all to see. I played him for so long that the part of me that went into him became him. For example, one of my D&D buddies plays a paladin (an expedient choice for any Christian role-player) in one game and a rogue in another. However, his mannerisms come through in both. The biggest one is his propensity for ending sentences with the phrase, “so yeah.” He does this whether he is speaking in-character or out-of-character, which I find incredibly amusing. It should be noted that this individual is fairly new to role-playing, but even for veteran role-players,...

Magic the church gathering Aug31

Magic the church gathering...

Ever since one of my friends hauled out a huge cardboard box filled with Magic the Gathering cards, I’ve been intrigued by the game. The creativity required with each new set, each new mechanic, and how they interact with everything that has gone before is pleasantly overwhelming. While I cannot possibly play every set that comes out (because… money), I love analyzing the creativity with which others craft their decks and strategies. So like any artist, my imagination sometimes works in overdrive (usually when I should be sleeping). After a series of game-related thoughts involving Smash Up and A Game for Good Christians, I began pondering: what if there was a themed Magic the Gathering deck based off of a biblical story? What story would I pick? What colours would they be? Would I be cast out for heresy for even considering it? Throwing caution to the wind and deciding this was an equally good and terrible idea, I recruited help. I ventured down to a local board game shop known for their care and support of the gaming community, A Muse N Games. I sat with Brian, one of the owners of the store, to begin our journey. I selected four stories that I thought might be good plausible starting points and, armed with a Bible (yes, I brought a Bible to a gaming store), I told these four stories and together we started crafting the decks. A few loyal customers who happened to overhear our quest piped up with some suggestions. We jumped off the deep-end by starting with the story of Noah. “Noah and the Flood” Deck The theme of this deck is based mainly off of three verses around the Noah and the Flood story: Look! I am about to cover the earth with a...

Don’t bounce Burgundy Jun22

Don’t bounce Burgundy...

Burgundy. This word could refer to a few different things: a dark red that is one of my favourite colours; a fictional news anchor by the name of Ron who is kind of a big deal; or a region in France, known for its wine and mustard. The latter Burgundy was also the place Nazi Germany dreamed of using as their base for western expansion. Those dreams are the reason many a Diplomacy player has ordered a bounce by sending two units to Burgundy with the sole purpose of keeping Germany out. Diplomacy is a game that has been around for years, existing on the fringes of board gaming culture since 1959. It differentiates itself from other war-based games with its intense periods of negotiation and an absence of dice. To win a game of Diplomacy, a player has to control eighteen of the thirty-four supply centres. Working together with other players is necessary in order to expand. Negotiation and trust are critical to success. People might break that trust, but the alternative is far more terrifying. The thing is: trusting someone in Diplomacy can be very hard to do. If you ever leave yourself vulnerable, you’re suddenly open to an unexpected attack from someone you thought was an ally. And that’s why, when playing France, no matter what Germany says, the possibility of Munich-Burgundy is a very real threat to start the game. So then, the question remains: given that threat, what should France do? And many players default to the defensive option: self-bounce to keep Burgundy open. But playing on the defensive means you don’t move anywhere and your progress is delayed. If you ask me, in order to get anywhere in Diplomacy, you have to trust someone and as an extension...

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 2) May27

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 2)

There were boulders lining the top of the cliff, and enemy cutthroats hiding behind them. I counted at least four, and recognized Varis among them. They all wore the same black garb, so it was understandable, though incredibly stupid of them, that this group had mistaken Varis for one of their own. Varis must have just gone along with it. I padded forward so I was directly in front of Varis. He noticed and made clicking noises with his tongue at me, patting the ground in front of him as though I was some sort of pet that had come by for a scratch behind my ears. If squirrels could roll their eyes, I would have. I darted up to him and put my paw on his hand. He jumped back in surprise. “What are you doing? came a hiss from the shadows beside us. “Stay down or you’ll blow the whole thing.” An arrow pierced my side as I lunged forward. It barely tickled. This was getting me nowhere. I left Varis to make up some excuse and scurried as fast as I could back to Kriv, transforming back into my half-elf self. I explained the situation, and we came up with a plan. “Good luck,” I whispered to him as I walked back to the cliff base, ready for his signal. But before we could put the plan in place, there was a commotion at the top of the cliff, a yell, and a body came tumbling down, bloody, dead. I didn’t recognize him. I did, however, recognize Varis, who stood at the top of the incline with his sword dripping blood. More shouts pierced the silence and shadows flitted behind him. I took that as my cue and transformed into my most powerful form: a huge, white dire wolf. I leapt up the incline in several bounds to stand by Varis’s side, teeth bared at the oncoming enemies. If the situation hadn’t been so serious, I would have laughed at the surprised expression on Varis’s face as I bounded up the cliff. The enemies didn’t look too keen on approaching Varis now that he had a snarling wolf at his side, either, but we didn’t give them much chance to do any thinking. An arrow pierced my side as I lunged forward. It barely tickled. I was tough. I was winter. My claws were ice. my fangs were knives. I ripped the first enemy’s head off and tossed it over the cliff edge with my teeth. If squirrels could roll their eyes, I would have. Varis swung at one of them with his sword, but the enemy ducked and Varis lost his balance, keeling at the edge of the cliff. Then he pulled his dagger out of nowhere and stuck it in the enemy’s leg, pulling himself up from what would have been an untimely tumble, and causing the enemy to fall off the edge instead. I let out a heaving snort, the equivalent of a wolf chuckle. Rogues certainly were resourceful. Another arrow sailed past me from out of nowhere. The last of the cutthroats, wisely, turned tail and ran. “Oh no you don’t,” Varis growled, pulling out his longbow. I left Varis to deal with the runner, leapt across the chasm to the other side where the arrows were coming from. A second group of four enemies lay in wait, though by that time Kriv had made it up that side of the cliff as well, and they were no match for a dragonborn and a dire wolf. We met up after it was all over, dragged the bodies to cover and looted them. Exhausted, Varis and I collapsed for a quick rest while Kriv stood watch. Then the DM proclaimed the session complete; I got up from the table and went home thinking druids were pretty darn awesome. And that I still should never trust a...

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 1) May26

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 1)...

The DM led our party of three down a path to infiltrate a camp of enemy soldiers. It was just nightfall, and up ahead loomed cliffs that jutted above either side of the path. “We shouldn’t walk through there. That looks like a perfect spot for an ambush,” said Kriv, a dragonborn whose scales glinted in the light of our torches and whose armour weighed more than I did. He probably made an intimidating figure to outsiders, which is a nice trait for someone who had my back. I glanced at Varis; the rogue’s hooded eyes revealed nothing of what he was thinking, as usual. Never trust a rogue, I thought. Just because I couldn’t forgive him for what he’d done in the past didn’t mean I wanted him to get his throat slit. I could’ve volunteered to survey the cliffs, but I was loathe to waste one of my druid transformations. And besides, with our luck we would be outflanked later on by kobolds somewhere; everyone would look at me for bear-fueled tankiness and then I’d have nothing but my staff to hold them off with. While I didn’t trust Varis to maintain his composure anywhere near a keg of ale—plus, never trust a rogue—he was a very good scout. “I’ll do it,” Varis said. Kriv and I nodded in agreement and the rogue left the circle of torchlight, his black cloak merging with the surrounding darkness. Kriv turned to me. “So, got a deck of cards, Lux?” he asked. “I do,” I replied. “Best two out of three?” “You’re on.” Five rounds later, after Kriv had proven he’d spent much more time in taverns gambling than I did, I glanced worriedly in the direction that Varis had disappeared to. The night was eerily silent. “He’s...

D&D: The Last Supper Apr03

D&D: The Last Supper...

DM: Your adventure begins at the local tavern. Lots of trials and executions were going on in the kingdom this time of year so it was quite full. Each of you got relegated to a side room. The room was an awkward size, about 20 feet by 10 feet, and held only a single wooden table. Chairs were scattered about the table, 13 in total, and strangely only lined up on one side of the table. You all take your seats and await a drink and a meal when one well-spoken man, who sat in the middle of everyone, stands to talk. He’s familiar to everyone. “I have eagerly desired to eat this symbolic meal with you before I suffer,” he says. Jude: I want to slip some poison into his wine glass. Jim: What!? Seriously!? We’re just getting started and you’re already trying to sabotage the whole thing? Jude: I love playing chaotic neutral. DM: Sneak check. [DICE] 18 DM: Success. Jude: Dance puppets, dance. DM: He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it. He passed the bread around to be shared. “Take this my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” He shares the bread and then picks up the wine. Jude: Uh oh. DM: “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you,” he says. He gives thanks for the wine and passes it around. Inspired by his speech you all take a sip; everyone make a Con check. Jim: 14 Jimmy: 12 Jon: Natural 20, BAM. Don’t mess with me. Drew: 19, I’m no Jon but I’ll take it. Tom: 13, I think. Sam: 18 Theo: 17, DOMINATION! Bart: 16 plus 2, noble blood baby! Mack: 11 Phil: 8, GAH. I better...

The double-x representative Mar09

The double-x representative...

I was at a board game event when a friend came up to me and said “Thank you for being the double-x representative.” Sure enough, as I looked around, I saw that she and I were the only two women in attendance, but she was on her way out. I don’t mind hanging out with guys. The men in my board game circle are my friends and I’m happy to play games with them. But lately I’ve been noticing something: more and more often I am the only woman who shows up. I remember a time when the numbers were more even and more women participated, so I’ve started wondering where they’ve gone, and questioning why they don’t come anymore. Area of Effect Commander Allison Barron also noted that she is in a similar situation, and I’ve read enough to know that a lack of women in board game circles is not an uncommon thing. If you’ve noticed an imbalance in your group, ask “who’s missing?” and then ask “why?” I found a study on Women and Games by Dr. Erin Calhoun Davis, a sociology professor at Cornell College in Iowa, that explores the reasons why women like playing board games but feel unwelcome in board game circles. Davis found that the women she interviewed play games for very much the same reasons I do: they find games fun, social, and intellectually challenging. Most self-identified as gamers and had been playing for many years. So why are there still so few women in board game circles? The interviewees cited a number of reasons for this. One was childcare, which is still mostly done by women. The women who had children felt they did not have the time to play a four-hour board game while...

Game comments that may end in your death Mar06

Game comments that may end in your death

Board games have the potential to bring people together in genuine and beautiful community. But once in a while, a single phrase can tear down everything. So listen. your life depends on this. Don’t say them. Don’t even think them. Say them and you’re dead. They might come to you fast. Faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back, don’t look away, and don’t say them. Good luck. 1. “I will sell you all my properties for $1.” 2. *halfway through the game* “What time is it? Oh, I should go.” 3. “Oops, I bent your cards.” 4. “You realize Alli’s about to screw you over by [insert ingenious plan and ruin it here], right?” 5. “Well if you trade with me I’ll give you a brick and a back rub later.” 6. “I’ll just throw all the pieces into the box. You can sort it later.” 7. “Well I only lost because [insert long whining rant here].” 8. *Five minutes of silence goes by* “Oh, it’s my turn?” 9. “I’m not going to trade with you because you always win.” 10. “Let’s gang up on...