Category Archives: Culture Talk

DM Ultimatums

As a player, I have always had an enormous respect for the game-runner at whatever table I take a seat at. When I first stepped into the world of role-playing, the biggest challenge I had was adapting to the rules of the various systems I was learning (I started D&D as an adult and decided to try and learn Pathfinder, D&D 4E and Cthulhu at the same time– not exactly advisable). Thankfully, most of the tables I played at were run by friendly and supportive game masters.

When I finally began running games on my own I realized the difficulties that came along with hosting tables were more than simply a knowledge of the rules. The biggest challenge came when trying to solve issues completely outside of the system, issues related to player engagement and player interactions, both one-another and on how they wished to have me adjudicate certain scenarios and scenes that were unique and outliers from basic rulesets.

Recently I attended an open gaming session for a D&D 5E adventure. The players, including myself, and the GM signed up on a website and attended the session on a first-come-first-play basis. This is the format that brought me into the hobby, and I am very familiar with the casual  nature of these type of pick-up games.

I have greatly enjoyed these types of games — I have made long-term friends and played in many, many home-games because of these PUGs.

At this most recent PUG, the DM made a call that seem largely incongruent with the certain members of the table overall and asked a player to agree with the rule, or leave the table. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a DM give an ultimatum like this and was actually quite taken aback by this decision. The table also seemed largely uncomfortable with this ruling. It made me realize the unspoken ‘rule’ regarding DM adjudication’s not just in the rules but in the behaviors of the players at the table itself. It immediately made me think back on a player I had to remove from one of my own home-games due to excessive behavioral issues– this was a decision I thought and agonized over for weeks and asked multiple friends advice on how to handle. The immediacy of PUGs seem to make such decisions much more significant, but still–

Have you ever given a player such a straight-forward ultimatum? 

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A L.A.R.P. by any other name – ABC’s The Quest

ABC's The Quest - Reality LARPingCopyright ABC*

ABC’s The Quest – Reality LARPing
Copyright: American Broadcasting Company*

Quite by accident the other night I found myself staring at a television set tuned to a channel of which I did not know and was presented with the opening scenes to a show of which I was not familiar with.

As the scenes unfolded, with contestants introducing themselves, their names in flowery almost Celtic-like patterns on the bottom telling personal stories of their earlier years, at first I thought this had to be a History channel snippet about Medieval times. Researchers perhaps? Historians or even, dare-I-say-it, Mythologists?

But as the scenes switched into talk of fantasy and the unknown world around us I began to suspect it was perhaps a behind-the-scenes look at the latest Hollywood fantasy flick I was not even aware as being in production.

Wrong on all accounts.

The show, which became apparent to me after watching a few minutes, was a reality series where contestants vied to become the Hero of a group of Paladins in the Kingdom of Ever-Realm.

Heroes in the Lands of Ever-RealmABC

Heroes in the Lands of Ever-Realm
ABC

Wha-?!

Upon seeing this I can only suspect that you would have immediately jumped to the same conclusion I did about the show—the people are LARPing!

And indeed that is the unspoken premise behind ABC’s reality television show, The Quest.

In this new series, twelve contestants venture into the mystical world of Ever-Realm to become the Last-Hero-Standing as they battle it out against the evil forces of Verlox in the kingdom of Saenctum. All of this action takes place in a fully immersive and completely constructed landscape around a castle and populated by costumed Medieval citizenry as well as witches, wizards, monsters and more.

The expanded canon of the world includes the Fates, three mystical beings who banished the historically nefarious being of Verlox, a cross between Middle Earth’s Sauron and Harry Potter’s Voldemort, with the help of an original group of heroes, a dozen Paladin’s from ages past, testing them through various Labors (like Hercules) until a Legendary True Hero emerged. And every time this V’lox fellow returns, the search is reset, with new pallys sought out by the three Fates to do battle with the Sun Spear against the evil Verlox.

The Evil Verlox

The Evil Verlox of the Ever Realm
ABC’s The Quest

The show itself follows the typical format for reality fare: contestants vying to become the-last-man-standing through a series of challenges. The twist to The Quest however, is the blend between fantasy and reality- or as ABC bills it:

“from the producers of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, paired with the producers of “The Amazing Race,” “The Quest” will be a fully immersive experience. In and around this castle, our fantasy realm will come to life with state-of-the art projections, animatronics, prosthetics, real-time motion capture and art direction. The narrative and mythology of “The Quest” is deep and fully imagined, and it has been designed to incorporate seamlessly with the unexpected actions and decisions of our contestants – fantasy comes alive as it never has before in this genre-bending series.”

And as for the folks behind it:

‘“The Quest” is executive produced by Bertram van Munster, Elise Doganieri, Mark Ordesky, Jane Fleming, Rob Eric and Michael Williams. It was filmed on location in Austria.’

In the first episode, which was in all, a rather timid beginning, the contestants entered the Kingdom of Saenctum hounded by horsemen and were given their first challenge which turned out to be, get this:

Firing ballista’s into wooden dummies.

Ballista Challenge

Challenge: Ballista Practice
ABC’s The Quest

That’s right; they suited up in Medieval gear, got behind wooden barricades and fired FRIGGAN  ballista’s!

How medieval is that?

Can you get anymore LARPed out than firing a FRIGGAN ballista?

I’ve been to LARPS and I’ve never fired a ballista, let alone did so in a challenge, let alone did so against wooden dummies, let alone did so more than once– Have you?

Aside from firing FRIGGAN ballista’s, the real intriguing things going on with the show however, and unfortunately it is not the shows chemistry or super engaging contestants themselves or camera-work, is the backgrounds of these ‘contestants’.

Self-professed dreamers and superhero fans, the contestants are, so far as has been revealed anyways, not exactly cut from your typical Gamer cloth.

The Paladin's Assembled

The Paladin’s Assembled
ABC’s The Quest

They are regular people, and by regular, I mean non-RPG/LARPers: i.e. non-Gamers. They are waiters, real-estate folk, teachers, an MMA fighter (that’s right a Real-life FIGHTER, (Level 4+ I imagine)), assistants and other non-gamers galore.

Now given this, I’ve already come across a review about the believability of these folks’ commitment to their roles.

Which reminded me of the mild outcry over Porn Stars playing D&D as being a horrible representation of the hobby to the public at-large, which was simultaneously seen as  disingenuous all-the-same (never mind the creators own inflammatory history within the community itself).

The issue is really though, and always is, about the legitimacy of the ‘non-gamer’ who engages in Gaming culture.

The World of Ever Realm

The World of Ever Realm – Non-Gamers as LARPers
ABC’s The Quest

This is a reoccurring and thorny issue amongst any group that prides itself on exclusivity and uber-competence. But for me what is so potentially exciting about the show is the fact that it is precisely because it is about non-gamers adjusting to a fantasy setting that makes it something worth consuming and encouraging.

There are always the two sides to this issue of non-Gamers entering the Gaming sphere, those who wish for the hobby to remain exclusive and purist, and those who believe it should be more inclusive and welcoming—I believe it isn’t too hard to imagine which part of spectrum of that argument I stand upon, firmly.

Which, despite the lackluster excitement of the show itself, leads to the biggest and coolest thing about the show that I saw (aside from the ballista’s of course)—the FIGGAN diversity!

Take a look at some of the paladins, i.e. the shows Contestants (Heroes):

The Quest - ChristianThe Quest - BonnieThe Quest - ShondoThe Quest - LeticiaThe Quest - AdriaThe Quest - Lina

The show is set in a fantasy realm modeled after the Middle Ages in Europe. But these don’t exactly typify the images of people ripped from settings of this standard archetypical D&D world (well maybe some D&D Worlds)—yet here, on one of the biggest Networks in the world, they pushed aside all the historical ‘sameness’ of Europe and went for contestants who looked like this:

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What can I say? Awesome; that’s one thing I could say. And I will say it- Awesome. (Care to give it a try?)

But it wasn’t just the Paladins who were of eclectic origins, I also noticed Non-European stock in the extras too (apologies, Background Actors), and check out the three Fates of the realms, the mystical women, more than likely modeled after the Greek Fates and transported Ever-Realm and the ones responsible for overseeing the original Heroes who triumphed over Verlox in the first go-round:

The Three Fates of Ever-Realm

The Three Fates of Ever-Realm
ABC

Notice the ethnicity of the one on the left and of the one in middle (at the highest podium I might dare add. Well La-de-da!)  I wonder who is clearly leader of the group? Can you say, INCLUSIVE? (No seriously, say inclusive—come on now, I know you can)

It was astounding to see, not just see, but how little the show seemed to give a damn about portraying these folks in a medieval setting according to ‘historical’ notions. It immediately reminded me of a website I’ve recently been pointed towards, called People of Color in European Art History—a site that explores how apparently ingrained and pervasive (yet ridiculously ignored) people of color were throughout European history.

Don Miguel De Castro, Ambassador from Kongo to Dutch Brazil(c. 1637)

Don Miguel De Castro
Ambassador from Kongo to Dutch Brazil
(c. 1637)
People of Color in European Art History

But unlike actual history, ABC didn’t stop simply with representations; they seemed almost gleefully joyous at the idea of promoting female stars as the main draw, with over half (seven) of the twelve contestants not just being women but women of various backgrounds.

In fact one of the coolest and most interesting and candid moments of the Pilot episode was when the contestants were discussing their motivations for coming and one of the female paladins said she hoped that one of the ladies ended up winning, just to show that it could be done (paraphrasing)—What!?

Bonnie Gordon

One of the Paladin’s hoping to wield the Sun Spear
ABC

For all this talk recently about inclusion in the gaming world and community, what amazes me is that mainstreaming execs of the show didn’t even blink at the discomfort these icons might cause. The reason? I suspect because unlike the real Gaming world, ABC realizes that they aren’t catering to a select group of folks who may or may not dominate a particular past-time: the past-time of tv watching.

Rather by simple profitable design they are clearly seeking a broader fan base than the traditional Gaming industry caters to, i.e. the actual landscape of the American population and not some rapidly shrinking minority group who for the moment still holds the majority.

Right now though, there doesn’t seem to be much discussion out there about the show. But I imagine if the series continues it just might start showing up on the radar big-time in the hobby, more than likely controversially so on both sides, for and against the depictions, and of course for and against the mainstreaming of LARPing in general and for and against [insert minutia by which Gamers will inevitably find to pick the show apart].

The World of Ever Realm

The World of Ever Realm
ABC’s The Quest

For me though I can think of no greater spearhead than such a show as a wedge for the hobby to gain further traction into the consciousness of the world beyond the Gaming community itself.

Game of Thrones made medieval cooler, even as Lord of the Rings made it cool in the first place. Take a look at the new movie Hercules which stars Dwayne Johnson as the Son of Zeus; you have a mixed-American male playing a European historical Icon and folks didn’t even seem to raise a Rock-like eyebrow (even as they vociferously howled over Idris Elba’s Thor).

If the folks out there interested in widening the tent in Gaming really wanted to show off their gaming pride, and especially those LARPers out there, why not mention the show to everyone you can, inserting subtle little questions in the conversations like “Wouldn’t it be cool to be on vacation in a castle like that?” or “Imagine if Halloween was more than once a year, and you could dress up like a Knight?” These questions and discussions aren’t’ so far off from nudging them ever so slightly into “So I’m heading out to this medieval festival this weekend, you wanna’ go?” If the gaming hobby needs more of anything, it’s that it needs more Gamers.

So when you get a chance, why not tune in, download, stream or just pirate (don’t pirate- say no to pirates, they have Beards) ABC’s The Quest and

Watch forth?

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Independent Game Designer Spotlight & Interview: Tom Tiernan

Tom Tiernan Vice President, Everything Epic Games Demoing his successful Micro-game Raiders of the Lost Tomb

Tom Tiernan
Vice President*, Everything Epic Games
Demoing his successfully KickStarted micro-game
Raiders of the Lost Tomb

For the seventeenth year in a row, Double Exposure hosted  DexCon, what many consider the premier table-top, role-playing and LARP convention in the North East this past July 4th weekend.

In attendance were a bevy of Gamers, vendors, authors, developers, artists, LARPers, organizers and all manner of creative minds.

One such mind among those Gamers present belonged to Tom Tiernan, Vice President* and Lead Writer *for his gaming company, Everything Epic Games.

Tom, an author, self-professed blogger, entrepreneur, traveler, scratch cook and general all-around good guy was there promoting his company along with its table-top Games.

I had the chance to speak with Tom while I was at DexCon this year, my second outing to that particular Convention. He and his team were showcasing their newest Kickstarter success, Raiders of the Lost Tomb, a micro-game that was successfully funded back in April. Along with this mini-game they were also tweaking their premier board-game, Secrets of the Lost Tomb (of which the micro-game is based on and which was also successfully funded thru Kickstarter) through several rounds of play-testing by eager fans of the game along with a host of new players.

Despite his busy Con schedule, Tom was gracious enough to answer a few questions and show me his wickedly fun micro-game Raiders of the Lost Tomb while also offering up some inspiring glimpses into the mind of one of Gamerdom’s newest Publishers to the industry.

(Excerpts and paraphrasing from our conversation)

Everything Epic Games Main title:
Secrets of the Lost Tomb
Image Copyright: EEG

1.    So where you are from and what are brings you to DexCon 17?

  •  Woodbridge & Montclair (New Jersey) and soon to be Woodbridge and Kenilworth (Also New Jersey). And Dexcon is the place to be for Gamers.

2.    What do you have to show here at Dexcon?

  • Two games—our main board-game, Secrets of the Lost Tomb, a game similar to Betrayal at House on the Hill but with an expanded universe that includes Cthulhu, aliens and pulp themes from the early 20th Century. Also our micro-game, Raiders of the Lost Tomb.

    Raiders of the Lost Tomb Everything Epic Games Mini-Game Game-play includes tiles and coins

    Raiders of the Lost Tomb
    Everything Epic Games Mini-Game
    Game-play includes tiles and coins

3.    How is the micro-game played?

  • It’s a simple game that only requires some change from your pocket, quarters, nickels, pennies and dimes, and the boards that come with the game itself. The whole thing can fit inside your breast-pocket. The game-play is simple; players ‘roll’ their movement scores with pennies and can spend nickels, called Audacity, to increase or decrease their roll all while trying to get out of the tomb and not be chased down and beaten up by the Tomb’s boss monster.

4.    Why did you guys at Everything Epic Games decide on a micro-game?

  • We felt enough time had gone by that folks were ready and interested in a new iteration on our main game, Secrets of the Lost Tomb—also to give folks who hadn’t heard about the game, we felt the micro would be a great introduction for them.

5.    What kind of genres are the games about?

  • 1930’s pulp adventures, Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos and stories and movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Kong and Pirates of the Caribbean. High adventure stuff set in the 1930’s, between the World Wars, when there was still a lot of high adventure around and before the Modern World set in.

6.    What kind of design process went into the micro-game?

  • Designing something simple and easy to carry. Each space is a single card, and we shrunk it down from the main board-game but included enough tiles to make a fairly large size dungeon.

7.    Who is the target market for the micro?

  • Everyone! An easy game, introductory level from 10 years old and up. It’s not too hard but also is difficult enough for your serious gamer out there too—we like to consider it a ‘gateway game’.

8.    What do you hope gamers get out of the game-play?

  • Tons of fun and replay-ability. You can play it 5 or 6 times in an hour with different outcomes each time.

9.    Describe the artwork.

  • Done by Jim Samartino, our Staff Artist, without who we wouldn’t have anything. He gives the game a great pulp feel.

Raiders of the Lost Tomb Mini-game Logo
Copyright: Everything Epic Games

10.    What types of games do you personally play?

  • Card-based, beer-and-pretzel games like Fluxx, Betrayal on House on Hill, Ticket to Ride and Quarriors.

11.    So what does Everything Epic Games have on the horizon?

  • That’s a secret—however I can tell you we are working on a simple board-game with a deck-building mechanic. After Tomb we wanted something simple. We also have Gaming systems for other products of adventures in different genres, and that you can find at our website everythingepicgames.com

***

Well there you have it, the mind of another busy Game designer and publisher!
When you get a chance, check out the Everything Epic Games website and,

Game Forth!

 *EDIT: As of this post, Tom Tiernan was former VP of EEG and at the time Free-lance Writer and Play-tester. His design credits included only Secrets of Lost Tomb and not the micro-game

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Beyond the Con – DexCon 17

IMG_0280

Double Exposure’s DexCon 17
Play-testers for Grifter

Maybe it’s the because the arguably most well-known Table-top/Role-playing convention in the North-East falls on the July 4 weekend, the country’s Independence Day, but my recent trek out to Jersey for this years Dexcon brought with it a strange but welcome moment of reflection about the landscape beyond the Convention itself.

First, DexCon 17 was a great experience—I spent most of the time there play-testing my upcoming Kickstarter card-game, Grifter, which got universal thumbs up. When I wasn’t getting valuable feedback about the game, I managed to play a few scenarios of Pathfinder, sit for a little D&D Next adventure and round out my stay with some group-talks and seminars.

Besides myself, also in attendance at the packed Con were a bevy of Gamers, vendors, authors, developers, artists, LARPers, organizers and all manner of creative minds. And from what I saw the collection was eclectic, all-encompassing, and very inclusive–a great turnout.

Not one for spending their entire daylight hours cooped up inside I felt the urge to head outdoors for some lunch during my second day there. My walk through Morristown, the town where Dexcon was situated in, gave me an odd chance at reflection about the world at large and gifted me with a peculiar set of lenses through which I afterwards returned to the convention itself with.

Though this wasn’t my first Dexcon or my first trip to Morristown, it was the first time I ventured out of the oasis and into the small city surrounding the area in which the mecca of gaming occurred. What I found was an interesting mash-up of Americana.

Morristown Key1

Map of Morristown NJ
Site of Double Exposure 17

Directly across from the Hyatt hotel, where Dexcon takes place, is a host of restaurants– noticeably Latin ones.

IMG_0302

Galapagos Latin Cuisine Eatery

A short walk North along Speedwell which is the boulevard where the Hotel sits on, one will find many eateries of Spanish cuisine.

The neighborhood itself, judging by the make-up of the individuals walking around seemed to be composed of many inhabitants appearing to be largely of Latin American ancestry. In fact the further one walks this way the more pronounced this appears to be the case. My New York City eyes saw the Jersey equivalents of Bodegas along with attorney storefronts, supermarkets and shops catering to an evidently manifold Hispanic population.

Intrigued, I decided to scout out the rest of the area around the Convention, several gaps in my play-testing, seminar and gaming schedule allowing for this amateur sleuthing.

IMG_0307

Another Morristown Latino establishment

Directly behind the Hyatt, no more than a block East were small, closely built houses. Unlike two streets over, the demographics here seemed to suggest a neighborhood of largely African decent. There was a nice sunny ball-park I passed on my brief walk-thru where some children were playing and individuals along my path nodded as I strolled by.

To the West and South of the Hyatt I found municipal buildings and a small low-built commercial section of the town that reminded me of a less dense version of Brooklyn.

The municipal buildings included an armory, a court house and an amusingly titled Fort Nonsense. Investigating Morristown when I returned home yielded the fact that the town proved to be a decisive location in the War for Independence from Britain—a fine choice for the Con given the date of its occurrence.

IMG_0291

Shops in this quarter were plentiful, with restaurants of a decidedly American and European flavor. It was also here that I found an abundance of churches, from Baptist to Episcopalian to Methodist (One Episcopal site had a welcoming LBGTQA sign outside). Just for comparison, in the apparently Hispanic community to the north of the Hyatt I did see a church as well as an old and apparently historic Synagogue.

IMG_0316

Episcopal Church with an LBGTQA sign

IMG_0293

A Baptist Church a few blocks away

IMG_0295 - Copy

Morristown Municipal building

IMG_0303

A Synagogue

The mix of peoples in this clearly more affluent area largely appeared to be wealthier and of a more European descent. There was a small square with a statue of a man walking a German Shepard. Stopping to read the two plaques beside it I found that this scene depicted Morris Frank & his Seeing Eye dog Buddy. They were it seems, some of the first pioneers in the Seeing Eye dog movement in the United States and Morris, the man, lived in the Morristown area until his death in 1980.

FrankBuddy2

Statue of Morris Frank and
his Seeing Eye dog Buddy

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Continuing along this boulevard I saw many small specialty shops like Yoga Spa’s, jewelry stores and organic eateries. Waiting at a cross-walk a car honked by in several beeps as its occupants, four young ladies of potentially Latin decent waved the Columbian flag from one of rolled down windows. Smiling at them and receiving a smile back I continued on, encountering more homes and stores before heading back to the Con to continue on with my gaming fun.

IMG_0317
It was a ponderous walk through the town, one that got me thinking about the convention and the folks in attendance there.

The Convention and the Hyatt hotel it was hosted at were clearly situated at the convergence of a number of different neighborhoods. But not just in terms of population, so too did the area seem to be a nexus of various religious, historical and alternative viewpoints that were the entire backdrop amidst which the Con itself was occurring.

It got me thinking about the world outside the gaming one and how so much of what Gamers, including myself bring to the table comes from their world experience beyond the board.

Perhaps it was fitting that the Convention was happening along the border of an extraordinary intersection of peoples, ideologies and history so too like gaming itself which occurs at the crossroads of fantasy and reality whose blurred lines occur in the minds of its players. Incorporating all those different factors into a unified story, or Country is kind of what the hobby is all about. The suspension of the familiar in hopes of creating something new and different—at the junction of all things varied. America, like Gaming, was and is something birthed by the notion that ideas can trump everything that has already come before. Something new, something unique and something inclusive of All Men, and now Women too, Created equally: a fitting food for thought on Independence Day. Take it or leave it, but always,

Game Forth.

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Doubly Exposed to a Maelstrom – An Alternative Review

Double Exposure's Logo for their first 'Inclusive' Convention- MaelstromImage Copyright: Double Exposure Inc.

Double Exposure’s Logo for their
first ‘Inclusive’ Convention- Maelstrom

Image Copyright: Double Exposure Inc.

In the spirit of positivity, by way of a certain icon of Geekiness, Curt Thompson, I have decided to post a follow-up to a previous blog that was quite the opposite of this idea of One Love– one that at the time was a politely justifiable rant.

You see, a couple months ago, not long after I formed my Meetup.com group devoted towards bringing more inclusivity to the gaming world, I caught wind of a Gaming convention that was being formed around that very idea: Double Exposure’s Maelstrom.

Needless to say I was slightly peeved when I contacted the organizer to the Convention and got little by way of a response (okay more than a little peeved), especially considering its seemingly recent and coincidental abiogenesis.

It’s never an easy thing to step out of the shadows and admit you’ve got some issues with the way the world is being run, especially the Gaming world where the whole Knowledge Is Power concept is the epitome of elite Gamerdom (see: Uber-pwnage).

Image Source: ???

Image Source: ???–

But as I consider myself generally the optimist, and as the Convention drew near and I was continuously reminded of its approach, I decided to once again reach out to the organizer and start a dialogue. This time, results varied.

Vincent Salzillo, the President and Founder of Double Exposure Inc. personally invited both myself and the members of my fledgling Meetup group to the con, gifting the lot of us with discount tickets and a warm welcome.

Needless to say, the skeptic in me viewed this as a payoff of sorts; the more positive person in me viewed it as an opportunity.

#

In Maelstrom, regardless of the why, I saw a chance to add to the discourse on Inclusive Gamerdom that, aside from glad-handing and talk, have personally seen very little of first-hand.

So, taking up the offer, I headed out with a few comedic friends in tow and adventured out to the wilds of New Jersey, embarking on a quest most geeky into a Maelstrom…

And the results?

Varied.

A fellow (and thus independent from my own sensibilities)Gamer's own image of the 'diverse' crowd at Maelstrom Image Copyright: VB Wyrde

A fellow (and thus independent) Gamer’s
own image of the ‘diverse’ crowd at Maelstrom
Image Source: VB Wyrde (check out his blog!)

While not as eclectic as I had hoped it to be (see photo above), there were a few good signs that the Inclusivity agenda was an important stone in the Con’s foundation. Most obvious and notable to this effect: the panels.

With Seminars set up to cover the idea of Inclusivity, and a huge emphasis on ‘The Other’, a concept I dealt with in a panel I myself hosted (“Kill the Orc!“), there was at least a sincere effort to address the disparity of Gamers in the world of Gaming.

The Black CoyotlYours truly, hosting "Kill the Orc!"

The Black Coyotl
Yours truly, hosting “Kill the Orc!”
-A Seminar about Race & Gaming

The medley of panels and their hosts covered topics ranging from gender issues and religion to sexuality, orientation and the all important, yet somehow nebulous concept of ‘The Other’.

But beyond the panel area, the actual implementation of inclusivity fell somewhat short.

First I’d like to say that points go to the overall attempt at addressing gaming under-representation.  But for actually getting non-traditional Gamers to show up and Game, I didn’t see too many other -ahem- non-traditional looking gamers strolling the halls (see photo above, again).

There were a few, other panelists to be sure, and a handful of other non-trad Gamers, but the bulk of the goers seemed to be cut from the same cloth as other convention-goers.

Now I’ve been to my share of conventions, especially considering the short amount of time I’ve been gaming and the lack of diversity I generally encounter at the gaming table can be both disheartening and hostile at times, sometimes concurrently. So it was a bit disappointing seeing the turnout, however, its something that I’ve come to understand as an Organizer myself is something you really can’t blame entirely on the Convention runners themselves, no matter how much apparent outreach.

But having said all that, and with my critical eye of the overall goals of the convention satisfied, I’d like to put away my  ideological lens for the rest of this long-winded blog and simply describe my experience at the Con itself (which I believe was the point of Mr. Thompson’s Day of 9th)– in short, I had a blast.

Grifter: A Game of ConsMy upcoming 54-card game

Grifter: A Game of Cons
My upcoming 54-card game

The first thing I did when I arrived was get in a play-test of the game I’ve been working on for the past couple of months and am looking to KickStart soon, Grifter with a bunch of great folks who walked over to my ‘lane’ and signed up to play.

You see Maelstrom adopted a basic organizing room where folks could print out the names of games people were willing to run and whoever wanted to, could sign up and play.  So I posted my game to one of these ‘lanes’ and was psyched when four Gamers strolled over, inquired about the title and sat down to play.

Two games in and I got some great feedback and was amazed to find out that one of the Gamers was Tom Tiernan of Everything Epic Games whose partner in crime, Chris Batarlis I’d met at a James Bond LARP event  a year ago and blogged about afterwards (and who was, apparently as pictured above, also at the Con).

After finishing up some great play with my game Grifter, I jumped at the chance to test out his and Chris’ successfully KickStarted Secrets of the Lost Tomb, a Betrayal on House on the Hill homage game. But before that, I gave my Seminar entitled ‘Kill the Orc!’– a not so subtle look at the parallels between fantasy and real-world race relations.

A Ubiquitous Orc...Who regardless, has to die.

A Ubiquitous Orc
Who of course, has to die.

The Q&A feedback I got from the session was again a great experience and it was amazing to be able to openly talk about a lot of the issues that I encountered throughout my short career thus far in gaming.

I heard from folks who told me about their own experiences about inserting taboo topics into their games in an effort to bring awareness of real-world understanding to the gaming table and was delighted to engage with people who described their own discomfort at times over the language used in gaming literature concerning race and gender.

I also got a chance to meet Ajit George and Whitney Beltran, whose own panel seminar on Gaming as the Other dealt with their personal experiences in the world of gaming.

It was through these great gaming folks (GGFs) that I was introduced to the game “How We Came To Live Here“.

Brennan Taylor's Native American RPG A story-telling game of community and consequences Image Copyright: Indie Press Revolution

Brennan Taylor’s Native American RPG
A story-telling game of community and consequences
Image Copyright: Indie Press Revolution

Put out by Galileo Games |Galileo Books, How We Came To Live Here is a Native American story-telling game written by Brennan Taylor that deals with the myths and legends of Native American peoples. Centered around family and the tribe, the game is a surprising answer to the concepts I raised in a blog I posted not too long ago about Native American Druids.

Following this exchange I finally got to test-drive Tom’s Secret’s of the Lost Tomb with my comedy bud, admiring the great art and narrative character backgrounds, and after that I joined a one-shot table of Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG by Fantasy Flight  Games– The Long Arm of the Hutt. Playing a Twi’lek bounty hunter at a table comprised of overwhelmingly non-traditional gamers, it was a great way to end the con.

(Somewhere in all that action I also got in a few minutes of D&D Next as a Drow assassin, but I forget now the order of the affair, only that I Sneaked Attacked the funk out of an undead Dwarven Skeleton – UBER-PWNAGE!)

So all in all,  it was a great con–and a Positive Experience, something that truly made me, as a Gamer, Happy (Nerd Love Post: Owned).

And while the bar Maelstrom set for Inclusive was in my critical eye nowhere near met, nor even analyzed as to how to approach it, the actual outcome of the Con was in my ‘Other’ more positive eye a success– the conversation about inclusivity was started.

So when you get a chance, why not Head Out, Game Out, Roll out with your Gnoll Out and find some reasons to incorporate Inclusivity, in whatever form it takes into your own gaming experiences and

Game Forth!

Game Positively.

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Independent Game Designer Spotlight & Interview: Paul Roman Martinez

Paul Roman Martinez Indie Artist/Novelist and Game Designer Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Paul Roman Martinez
Indie Artist/Novelist and Game Designer
Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Success on Kick-starter is an elusive beast.

With only 43% of all projects reaching their funding goals and Gaming projects even lower down the scale in terms of hitting their targets, some Project Creator’s have nonetheless figured out the secret elixir to success on the crowd-funding site.

One such alchemical master of the world of Kick-starter is Paul Roman Martinez.

Paul has launched not just one successful Kick-starter campaign but managed to spark the imagination of enough admirers to fund four completely unique and varied Kick-starter projects that have consistently bounded past the goal of each endeavor.

Starting in 2012 with the Graphic novel The Adventures of the 19XX: Montezuma 1934, Martinez began the first in his series of Kick-starter campaigns. The comic, a first printing of his successful web-series that he started in 2009, follows the exploits of a band of adventurers, explorers and scientists in the aftermath of the Great War as they try and change the course of history.

Adventurers of the 19xxIndie-pulp styled Web-comicImage Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Adventurers of the 19xx
Indie-pulp styled Web-comic
Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Fused with a mix of pulp, magic, and history, The Adventures of 19xx is a world-spanning mash-up of influences as varied as Duck Tales, Aleister Crowley, Montezuma and Indiana Jones that captures the exuberant futuristic expectations of the world in the beginning of the early twentieth century with a heavy nod towards Steam-punk.

Adventurers Circa 19xxThe Heroes of PRM Web-comicImage Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Adventurers Circa 19xx
Some of the Eclectic Heroes of PRM Web-comic
Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Following this initial success, Martinez delved further into the world of Kick-starter with another Graphic hardcover novel compilation of his Adventures 19XX web-series. Soaring far past his target funding, Martinez next moved into the world of game design with his Assault:19XX Game.

Assault 19xx GamePulp-styled game between the Black Faun Order and the Adventurers 19xxCopyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Assault 19xx Game
Pulp-styled game featuring a conflict between the ancient Order of the Black Faun and the heroic Adventurers 19xx.
Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Set in the world of his pulp comic Adventures 19XX series, the semi-cooperative tabletop game pits 2-6 players  on either the side of the good-guy 19XX Adventurers or as members of the ancient Order of the Black Faun who seek to start the next Great War through mystical means.

Martinez’s most recent Kick-starter campaign, a Bicycle playing card deck set in the thematic style that Paul has perfected over his career was successfully funded this past April and like his previous runs, demonstrates Paul’s ability to set achievable targets and spur enough interest to see that his goals are fully realized.

This continued success has allowed Paul the ability to speak with confident authority to other would-be Kick-starter aspirants. Whether talking about difficulties over Mailing, or his recently and already legendary 11 Things All Failed Kick Starter Projects Do Wrong post, Paul is definitely an artist with a pulse on the Kick-starter beat.

PRM Kick-starter AdviceImage Image Copyright: BleedingCool.com

PRM Kick-starter Advice
Image Copyright: BleedingCool.com

Yet even with all the projects he has going on, Martinez is ever the consummate respondent to backers, fans and Kick-starter aspirants. Taking some time away from his hectic schedule Paul was gracious enough to provide some insights into his inspirations and the processes that go into producing the awesome work that a Kick-starter champ has going for him:

(1) Do you consider yourself a gamer? If so what type?
I love games, but I hate labels. I don’t know why, I just can’t put a label on myself! But I do love games. Boardgames, video games, sports, death races, whatever.

(2) What lead you to being an artist?
Aaaakk! Another label! I don’t know if I consider myself an artist. I just spend too much time doing pre-press and searching for suppliers to feel like an artist. But I’ve always drawn. I still have my first drawing book I received in first grade. I never wanted to be an artist, I just couldn’t stop drawing. No matter how many times I tried, I always kept picking up a pencil and drawing.

(3) Was there a specific moment you considered a career in art?
I’m still considering a career in art, ha! Most people ask, “how can I break into comics or games?” But really the question is, how do you stay there? With every drawing I do I try and get better and develop my style. I will have a career in art as long as it keeps making people happy. As soon as it doesn’t, I will do something else!

(4) What led you to developing the Adventures 19XX series and is the era and motif your favorite genre?
A few years ago I finished college and I was considering getting a masters degree in graphic design. But I thought, what if I just came up with a master’s level project. I figured I could learn just as much and have a great portfolio to show for it. So the 19XX series just started as an experiment. I knew almost nothing about the period and I knew nothing about pulp stories. When I started doing research I didn’t even look at those early pulp comics. I wanted to read books and biographies from the 1930s and see what came out. I don’t think I have a favorite genre. Just like labels, I hate being confined to one thing!

Adventures 19xx Web-seriesPanel from the online comicImage Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Adventures 19xx Web-series
Panel from the online comic
Image Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

(5) What other genres’ would you like to create in? Game in?
Sometimes I think of doing something strictly for kids. My book is fun and appropriate for younger people but to do something only for kids would free me up to do something truly positive and magical I think.

(6) Do you have a specific mythological setting/world that you most feel a kinship with, and why?
Right now I feel a strong kinship to the religious/lovecraftian/historic world my comic is set in. I’ve always been fascinated with world religions and how they interconnected thousands of years ago with a handful of prophets wandering around the Earth. And I’ve always loved the epic sense of scale that Lovecraft imparted with his tales of the older gods and the races before mankind.

(7) Are there any specific cultural histories of your own that you bring to the mix that you feel are different from the standard pulp comics out there?
There is an epic story that is unfolding in my book series that is unlike anything I’ve ever read. And part of it is simply that my books take place in a realistic chronological time. Each book takes place in a different year and the characters will actually age as the series progresses. And just like in life, some of the best loved characters won’t make it to the end of the series. Most comic books take great pains to make sure no one ever grows or changes. My whole goal is to watch these characters grow and change. Because to grow and change is life. And how can you truly capture life if nothing changes?

(8) What projects/styles do you currently follow? What emerging scenes most intrigue you from an artistic standpoint and a gamers?
I like this atmosphere in tabletop games that is leading to a lot of truly unique voices creating their own games. These are games that never would have made it to market 10 years ago. Games like mine! Even independent comics have always had a way to produce a few issues cheaply to see if a series was going to work. Now with Kickstarter, the truly independent board game maker now has that same chance. I am fascinated by the way all media forms can connect now. That’s why I have a tabletop game that ties in so closely with my series. I’m trying to create something new. I want to create an entire world and story that you read and play through. I know the big corporations have done this on a larger level with hundreds or thousands of employees and dozens of executives each adding input along the way and lawyers making sure all their IP is used properly. But I’m one person. I’m one person who has control over everything. I’ve drawn every single page of my comic, colored it, wrote it, and I produced the board game. I drew every single card, play tested the game, and found a factory to produce it. I don’t know of any other single person who has done so much in such a short time by themselves. And the result is a truly cohesive vision across all my books, games, shirts, prints, and whatever else that comes along.

Paul's Most Recent and Successful KickstarterAviator themed playing cardsCopyright: Paul Roman Martinez

Paul’s Most Recent and Successful Kickstarter
Aviator themed playing cards
Copyright: Paul Roman Martinez

(9) Do you have any upcoming projects you’re working on?
I always have upcoming projects and I keep a list of projects that could potentially sidetrack me. I make a list so I can keep moving forward with the 19XX and come back to those ideas later.

But right now I just finished my Flight Deck aviation playing card project and I’m now throwing myself back into finishing the third graphic novel in the 19XX series. The book will be coming out at the same time I release an expansion for my game that will correspond to the book. When that happens the game really will become something more. A serialized story that you play through as a group. The story will become something you experience with your friends, not just read in your room by yourself. I can’t wait for that moment because it’s something I’ve pictured since the series first began in 2010. That’s when I will be able to look someone in the eye while handing them my book and say, “you have something really great here.”

***
So there you have it, some thoughts from the creative and trailblazing mind of a successful Kick-starter artist, novelist and designer.  Why not head over to his unique corner of the web, take a peek at his ongoing series The Adventures of the 19xx, pick up a copy of his Assault 19xx and,


Game Forth!

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Rush to Judgement – A Vampire in Congress

Republican candidate for Florida’s 3rd congressional district :
Jacob A. Rush, A.K.A. “Chazz Knuckles” A.K.A.“Chazz Darling,” A.K.A. “Staas van der Winst”
Image source: Slate.com

Down in Gainesville Florida, there might could be a new sheriff in town.

Or rather– a Sheriff’s Deputy.

And he happens to be a Vampire.

This week, marking off a splendid April Fool’s Day, Peter Schorsch of the  online Saint Peters Blog reported that 35-year old attorney and Congressional hopeful former Alachua County Sheriff Deputy Jacob A. Rush moonlights during his off hours as a regular member of the Camarilla.

This ‘Camarilla’ happens to be a clandestine Vampiric Order who perpetuate a world-wide Masquerade in an effort to prevent mankind from learning the uncomfortable truth about the presence of the undead living amongst us.

At least, that is the main plot behind the Live-Action-Role-Playing fantasy world where Jacob dons his fictional characters in. It also happens to be a setting of which I am very familiar with.

Vampire the Masquerade, put out by the venerable White Wolf Publishing has been around since the early Nineties. It is a Role-playing setting built heavily around influences like Anne Rice’s Vampire series, and set in a modern Gothic Punk universe called the World of Darkness.

In this parallel world Vampires, Werewolves, Wraiths, Mummies, Faeries, Mages and other bizarre supernatural beings share and manipulate the world of ordinary humans in ways that paved the way for the likes of Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs.

It is a role-playing world devoted towards darker real-world themes and deals with mature issues, all while players don costumes of their fictional characters and act out their sometimes grisly parts.

Mind’s Eye Theater
Image source:
mindseyesociety.org

And this is the main source of Mr. Rush’s woeful uncovering as a would-be Congressman who also happens to be a Gamer.

While my first impulse was to rejoice at the possibility of a Bona Fide Larper running for Congress, regardless of their affiliation and views, some of Mr. Rush’s comments unearthed by the article detail a certain strain of gamer that hits a little too close to home.

The article details some of Mr. Rush’s in character (Chazz Darling) conversations he had online with an unidentified presumable female member of the community. Without listing verbatim what was unearthed (you can find the full quote here) the gist of the article was a rather irate response to another member within the Gaming group of Gainesville that he belonged to that ended with implications of the other individual being abused and left as “Free Candy”.

From a gaming perspective, the statement is clearly, from my own experience and knowledge of the WoD (World of Darkness) very much in keeping with how Vampires view humans:

  • As cattle.
  • As foodbags.
  • As victims.

Mr. Rush’s characterization of the other is in keeping with these sentiments, although the earlier commentary referenced in the article concerning body parts is less so (Kindred [vampires] are generally asexual once they are ‘Embraced’), and the fact that they are directed towards a fellow Kindred is apparent.

The overall tone of his comments though are really very much aligned with the overtly egoist ‘tripping’ that is common among Gamers– what is known as Power-gaming. This is an individual so immersed in the mechanics, story, etcetera of the gaming world that they adopt all of its values above normal behavior and generally brow-beat less ‘informed’ members of the community with these aspects (hence Darling’s derogatory comment about torpor, a situation where a Kindred, who are in the game effectively immortal, can be easily killed, and therefore a condition that only an amateur would find themselves in).

Now far from defending Mr. Rush’s words in this particular instance I simply would like to put forth the context.

In the gaming world, such power-gaming, egotistic trips are par for the course– they represent mastery of a system. It is very much like a couple of football fans talking about how a particular player deserves to get traded for failing to catch a pass, or that a particular team got destroyed or ‘raped’ by another team. Which leads into another of Mr. Rush’s comments; his Rape Face (again, see original article).

‘Chazz Darling’ – Mr. Rush’s Rapey-minded Kindred
Image source: http://www.bilerico.com

In keeping with the tone of the World of Darkness, and its Live-Action game system, the Minds-Eye Theater, the darker aspects of gaming are explored in this particular brand of LARPing, one that lends itself towards such outlandish and abhorrent phrases like Rape Face. For Mr. Rush, donning costumes is comparable to a Hollywood actor stepping into character– in fact it is exactly like that. And, as delicate as some people’s sensibilities may be, Vampires in the World of Darkness are very dark characters. Kindred in that world take what they want. Brutally. While rape jokes are not the most endearing to me personally, the gaming world, just like the real world, has its share of asinine and schoolyard humor (see, Dickwolves).

This is unfortunately the mentality of many Gamers. This is the mentality of individuals who spend copious amounts of time analyzing imaginary worlds and systems of these worlds and look to escape into them. Not all gamers are like this and in truth I enjoy gaming with folks who are less so. I myself am guilty of machismo at the gaming table– but again the jokes and stories around a gaming table aren’t all that much different from what gets told while watching a game of baseball or football, or in a break room at work. There is a certain level of testosterone and political incorrectness that goes with the territory. The gaming world, despite the costumes and burning books and occult trappings, is just another venue for people to do what they do best– communicate with one another.

And what’s more, Mr. Rush’s comments are, artistically not so different from other forms of expression. As a passing comparison, there’s a very strong kinship with the colloquial ‘gangster-rap’ that Mr. Rush’s words evoke and that were embodied in his character’s sentiments towards his fellow gamer.

Both are characterizations of individuals in a dark world, doing dark deeds to achieve dark ends. But in both (hopefully) the purpose is the same– expression. Expression of elements of life that aren’t easily discussed in society, in a safe (hopefully) environment where one is able to freely interact with others of similar mind (hence, the shared Mind’s Eye). Much like rock and roll, which came with the ancillary epithets sex and drugs, rap has its guns and ‘loose women’, and Vampire has its Kine and victims– all different forms of the same, predatory, masculine fantasizing. All things which, despite their supposed offense, attract a good deal of admirers ( Kid Rock is to Chazz as Chazz is to L.L. Cool J). The real question, which the story itself raises, is the publics ability to look at these traits as what they are, personal expression– and nothing (hopefully) more.

And much like the ‘street cred’ of gangster rap, Gamers can and do speak derogatory to new or clueless initiates, in ways very much against the grain– and very much politically incorrect.

A Clan Novel for Vampire the Masquerade–
What would literature be without a little vice?
Image source: Amazon.com

And now having said all that, the real joy is simply in the exposure, albeit less than positive that the story brings to the gaming world. And that Mr. Rush even decided to run for office, given his gaming affectations.

As Mr. Rush expressed in his statement following these revelations, he is a Gamer. A simple enough term but one that brings into the public discourse a very meaningful step towards recognition. And as much as the media is want to label him all manner of perverse and illicit terms, the facts are that he was a deputy sheriff and attorney, both of which are serious bid’nez. But his private life, done with other consenting adults is his own business and one that I have a shared passion for.

Because what I see isn’t a guy who likes to rape people or burn books or drink blood (hopefully), but a guy who likes to get together with a bunch of folks accepting of each others quirks and personalities and spend their time engaged in harmless fun.

So when you get a chance and if you’re a gamer yourself, political affiliations aside, why not head over to his Facebook and let him know you too like to

Game Forth!

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