2019 Midwinter Review

The 2019 Midwinter Gaming Convention came to a close last Sunday at the Hilton City Center, the first of many conventions that I will likely be traveling to this year. I just wanted to give a recap of some of the things that were discussed and that I experienced at the Convention this year. Midwinter continues to be a highlight of my year and I always enjoy my time there, but this year felt different for me, and I am not sure why. I still haven’t been able to put my finger on it, which is frustrating. Perhaps by unpacking it, I will be able to figure out what is off for me and go from there.

The convention started off with the Industry Summit, which was open to those in the gaming industry who were looking to network, or those just starting in the industry and wanting some direction on where to go. It seemed very light on new attendees this year, which made 2 of the panels I was on a bit harder to do, but we still were able to accomplish a lot. We discussed things like where to get art from, what programs we use for layout, the importance of community content sites, and in general where we thing the gaming community is headed. Thank you so much Jessa of Ever After Editing, Erykah Rose, Bill Bodden, and Jessica Karels for being on the panel with me!

I was able to get in 2 alpha-tests for a card game that I have had in my head for a while now, and I got some fantastic feedback on and possible directions I would like for it to go. I’m looking to tighten up a few more spots on it, but I am very proud of how far this project has come. I will be announcing it on Facebook shortly!

I was able to run Pip System for players that have never played before, which was exciting. Everyone had a lot of fun and enjoyed playing the system. I always love introducing the Pip System to people and seeing how easily they pick it up during the course of my games. I ran Bright (based off the Netflix movie) and Gargoyles (yes THAT Gargoyles).

I was also part of the FORGE Women in Geek Culture panel, which was a great addition to Midwinter this year. It brought up a lot of good ideas, some hard discussions, and I learned some things about being a stronger ally in the community. You should check out FORGE and add your story to the group.

As always, Onyx Path continues to lead the way in the Industry by not only sponsoring Midwinter, but making themselves accessible during the convention to their fans. Not only do they host an intimate Q&A fr everyone, but they run their games, host panels and workshops, and run impromptu games with their fans the entire convention.

Midwinter is always one of my favorite conventions. I love the people. I love the conversations. I love the games. If you haven’t had the chance to check out this convention, it should be on your list. I look forward to Midwinter 2020!

And as always, Millie continues to be a source of joy throughout the convention!

Millie, the #CanineConcierge

Millie, the #CanineConcierge

Midwinter Wrap-Up: The Convention That Helped Me Find What I Wanted To Be When I Grow Up

he Midwinter Gaming Convention takes place in downtown Milwaukee usually during the 2nd weekend in January. For some reason, geeks and industry professionals descend onto the city and play games for 4 days. This year, the actual reason people would brave our winter became known. Midwinter has now moved into a spot for me professionally that will be hard to pass. It has become both a place of networking and discovery.

This was the first year for the Industry Summit, and to be very honest, it has surpassed all other conventions in what I have taken away from. Not only have I met so many amazing people within the industry, but I also learned so much. Learning that my struggles and secret wishes for support were not that far off from everyone else was comforting and I feel as if I have a new perspective when it comes to others work. The lovely Anne, owner of Daydream Productions, made sure to gather everyone’s input on what they would want to see in the future, which was great to have. I’ve been to conventions where the workshops and discussions are all the same and it gets stale.

The main take away from the summit? Celebrate others achievements and setbacks. Why setbacks, you may ask? Because failure is always an option. You can learn so much from failure that you might never notice in any other setting. And there were a lot of achievements this Midwinter, all of which I am excited about.

Kicking off my highlights of Midwinter is FetchQuest! FetchQuest is a deck building game based off the Pugmire RPG. You get to play the main characters in the book and go on adventures. The game plays well to role playing out what your character does as you fight bad guys and complete quests. It is still in the Beta phase, but even at this point, the game is very solid. The design of the cards needed some tweaking with the lettering, but looks gorgeous overall. I will be backing it on Kickstarter once it is up, so watch for that!

Next up is a super cool LARP called Sidereal Sanctuaries, which looks at social justice issues through the lens of modern fantasy. It is a gorgeous game, and has been turning a lot of heads. I’ve been watching the development and art and I cannot wait to see where it goes from here. They had their first game at Midwinter and will probably be returning next year. This game is not for the faint of heart, so come prepared, but you will leave better of then you were when you started.

Another MAJOR announcement is that Onyx Path Publishing will be publishing the second edition of Dystopia Rising! The game will feature both tabletop and larp mechanics, and expand upon the world. They are working closely with the LARP organization of the same name to incorporate as much of their world as they are able, and build off their structure. This is a huge endeavor and one that I am looking forward to seeing. This is still in super early stages of development, but it is happening, and it is good.

Saturday I got to do something really cool for the first time. I’ve had a card game in my head for some time, so I wrote it all out, got some blank cards, and started alpha testing it with a couple of people. My main concern was it being a viable card game. My secondary concern was the rules and how it affects play. This was all new to me and it was very much a positive learning experience. I made sure to get people who I trusted to give me brutally honest feedback, and while the game had some kinks to work out, they overall enjoyed it. I will continue to tweak the game and move forward with this game. I’m not sure where this will lead, but it will not be boring!

I also got to alpha test a social game for a larp setting. This game has also been in my head for some years now, and seeing it play out was really neat. Again, the players BROKE the game, and I am forever thankful for it. I’ve been calling it A Quick Game of Chess, but I might change that. It needs some revisions, but this game will be up on DriveThru at some point, which means you can adapt it for your larp! Or it can be a party game as well. I will be sharing more on this later.

Second Act has their first larp debut at Midwinter and it went very well. I helped write the plot lines and ran some scenes for players. I had a ton of fun, and I’ll let you in on a secret. That was my first time doing ST work for a LARP. Ever. I do hope it went well. I got positive feedback on the game and was told it helped them interact with the established groups of players already in the room. 

Sunday I ran several workshops and games for a bunch of Girl Scouts and kids. I did Storytelling 101, which was a total adventure. I am hoping I was able to help some young girl scouts find their way in the gaming world, and as several people stated, I look forward to having my characters face melted off by a gaggle of girls who are not afraid to go for it. Bring it on ladies!

I also ran FirstFable and Mermaid Adventures, which were both awesome games. Everyone had fun, and I even incorporated a little 6 year olds birthday into my PLOT for Mermaid Adventures. We even sang Happy Birthday as our characters to her. How neat is that?!

My loot this year was fantastic. I will be writing more on each of these as I read through them. They all caught my attentions for multiple reasons, and I fall a little more in love with them every time I see them.

Overall Midwinter is a fantastic convention. It’s growing in size every year, but is not over crowded. If you want more information, please visit their site! I look forward to next years convention and everything it entails. 

my loot!    

my loot! 

 

RAWR: The Monstrous Adventure Game review

RAWR Review

(This game is no longer available for download. If this changes, we will happily update this as we loved the game!)


Many years ago, monsters and children played together in the Land of Dreams. Slowly, something started to happen, and the children started withdraw from play. That is when the Nightmare took over, turning the Land of Dreams into dark, and making the monsters who lived there seem scary. 

Well the monsters have had enough. They want their Land of Dreams back. They want to play once more with the children in their land. They have to travel through children's dreams to fight back the Nightmare and reclaim their home. They have to face scary foes like Math Teachers and Clowns, and outsmart the monsters of the Nightmare in their own game. 

The premise of the game is delightfully entertaining. This is a game that can be tailored to any age group or experience level. The character creation system is very simple to pick up, and allows for very customized monsters. They do offer pregenerated characters as well, which are very diverse and fit well within the story. 

The system itself is very simple, offering 4 attributes, 16 skills and over 20 monster abilities as well as equipment to help in certain situations. They use a D6 system, which makes math very simple for younger gamers, and at most have 3 dice involved. Everything on the sheet is easy to interpret and has flexibility on use. In order to win, you have to meet or exceed the difficulty level. 

The book lays out dream sequences for you to play through, and encourages you to create new ones as well. Many of these are childhood scenario dreams, where you meet scary teachers, have skateboard contests or food fights. You can play through the ultimate childhood battle in the game. Many of the scenes give options for non-combat solutions as well, which makes this ideal for very young children. 

This game has the potential to be very fun for any type of gamer. It is easily tailored and has many different options to add to the plot given. I hope they expand the game in the future. I will be reviewing the play type once I get my group to play through it. 

Pentex Retreat: Midwinter Gaming Convention

Overall Impression: 

I had a lot of fun with the Pentex LARP. I enjoyed playing an NPC that had a very different agenda than what we were presenting and getting to manipulate people. It was a wonderful social experiment, and I think what made it very fun was everyone else was on board with the genre we were playing in. Given that this was the first run of this LARP, there are obvious places to improve, and I look forward to working on them with the STs to create an amazing experience for the players. 

Check In System: 

While the Check In-System was only used a few times in our 5 hour LARP, I feel like it was a great way for players to be able to have an intense scene and everyone have a say over how intense they got. I really hope the Check In-System will continue to be used in all future LARPs, and I will be talking to other LARP communities about this system. I am happy my current LARP also uses this, and I will be working on implementing this into my roleplaying style. Thank you for using it!

Paper-Clip System: 

I think this was a great way to give PCs a way to pass around favors, pay for information from the STs, and generally have a way to trade without carrying around a bunch of notecards. While I want the system to remain as open as it is, maybe explaining the paper-clip system a bit or offering examples of how to use the paperclips. 

Plots:

The plots I was involved in were great, and I loved figuring them out or being the catalyst of them. I would have liked a couple more quick sentences about the other plots so I could answer questions or work them into my interactions with PCs. I also loved that PCs made their own plots and ran with them. I think that was a great way to pull in players and get others involved, and I was glad to see the staff running with them. 

 

I also loved the fact that actual future products were used in the LARP, such as the Orpheus Device. I loved that there was a tie-in for real products and really would love to see this again if it is allowed. 

Suggestions:

The following are suggestions that I heard from players, observed myself, or found myself in agreement with when they were brought up during the wrap up. 

Maybe provide the write-up for the Subsidiaries and their ties as a download/Drive document for players to pull up. A lot of the players were having problems understanding how they fit into the system (except for Black Dog. Everyone knew them and had very strong feelings for them)

Maybe giving different goals to the characters who don’t want to be there, such as trying to cause as much headache for the others as possible. I think the players naturally did this well with the PCs that didn’t want to be there, however, several were a bit lost on how to get involved with them. 

I think we can come up with a couple more games to do for the players. If there is another interview process, we can interview while the games are going on. Or we can ‘judge’ them by standing with clipboards and such.

Character Wrap-Up: Inspirational Music Two Birds, One Stone (Wes Borland/Renholder Remix) by Drop Dead, Gorgeous

Rport: Pentex retreat was successful with the exception of the Orpheus individuals. Sterling has authorized *redacted* to retrieve any video and information from their Cloud and rewrite their systems should it be needed. 

Magadon has been taken down a peg for not following orders from the Pentex. One individual was arrested and taken away by the police. Please follow up with the department and make sure he is handled. 

Project Orpheus has several individuals stood out for selection to the Project. Kevin Clayton from Tellus Enterprises, from Magadon, Inc, and Kelly Wayans from Black Dog. Please note: more screening will be needed, as my time with them was cursory at best. Perhaps a second interview would be in order for me to determine if they will fit the project parameters. 

Avery Valentine has stood out as someone who would be very useful for the Synergy Committee, and perhaps further into Pentex. His skill set is unique and he is ruthless. He is willing to do what is needed to get the job done, which Pentex finds admirable. 

Kevin has been handled and our doctors, Avery Valentine and Angel Robertson, have made sure that all of his medical files are in order. Should a new head of the committee be needed, I would be happy to fill that role. 

Mary Ellis

Project Orpheus 

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Tale of the Dark Eras: Chronicles of Darkness Anthology Review

Tales of the Dark Eras is a collection of short stories that connect with the Chronicles of Darkness. The short stories tie into each of the genres that Chronicles of Darkness hosts. The collection is set in chronological order, starting  before recorded history and ending with the current era.

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Dread Names, Red List Review

Dread Names, Red List outlines some of the most dangerous and hunted kindred in the World of Darkness. Whether they have earned the title by their own actions or the political workings of others, these kindred have been a thorn in the side of the Camarilla for centuries. This book is an awesome resource on these kindred and those that hunt them on a nightly basis. 

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FirstFable Base Game Review

 

Edited by Michael Hansen

First Fable is a roleplaying game tailored specifically to children around the age of 6. It is designed to be run by a GU (grown-up), who leads the characters through the story and helps the players understand the rules. There are many gamers who are now parents and looking to introduce their children to their roleplaying world. This book is set up to do just that! The wonderful part about this book is that the book is written so even grown-ups who have never done roleplaying games before can pick this up and play it. 

The book starts off with the basics of roleplaying and why roleplaying can be beneficial to children. Language, math skills, emotional growth and communication skills are all built up in the process of telling a story. It’s also a safe way for children to work out social situations they may not know how to handle. We, as the GUs (Grown-ups), can help guide a child through situations they may face in school or the playground when we aren't there. I will go into this in more detail later in the review. 

Character creation is always the hardest part for new players. So how in the world do you get a 6 year old to make up a character? Well, that is where this system comes into play. There are 4 different character types outlined in the book, all of which are easily identifiable to children: a pirate, a warrior, a fairy princess and an animal keeper. Next, you get to pick any 3 things at which your character shines. They then choose one thing they are not very good at. After that, they can pick one item that does something very special; whether it is an animal that talks or a singing crown, it’s whatever they want. They can play characters that cross the different types of characters. Younger players may want to play themselves, which is fine as well! Challenge older kids to come up with reasons why they have their special items. Remember: always assist children with writing where needed! 

The rules for challenges and resolutions are also very simple. D6s (six-sided dice) are used with 4s, 5s, and 6s being winning dice. A challenge is determined as an action that has the chance of changing the story. These actions should always have a dice rolled with an action the player cannot actually do in real life. 

Tasks are simple actions that help the story move forward. Most tasks are actions taken by the players that can be accomplished fairly easily. These are storytelling opportunities where the players can give details about what their players are doing. 

Special things are actions that involve the use of the unique item they possess. Each item gets stars, which the player can use to accomplish extraordinary tasks. It may also require a dice roll, depending on the action, but it is up to the GU to decide. 

This system is one of the simplest starter systems to work with. It is open-ended, so children can pick whatever they want for any of the categories. Some kids may elaborate on their items or abilities, others may keep them simple. Always encourage children to elaborate as best as they can. They may need help with words or actions that they want to do. As a GU, help by asking them questions and helping them find the word they are looking for. 

The age group I played with was 4, 5 and 6 – so, the younger end of the spectrum.  When creating their characters, all of the kids worked together and helped each other. A couple of the kids were not good with writing, so the older kids helped them.  I also had them draw their character. The kids I worked with modeled their characters after themselves. Some used their real names, others used a character name. For their official character sheets, I did write down what they told me, so that I had a reference, but allowed them to keep their original sheets.  I ran the starter story in the book, and the kids loved it right from the start. The system for rolling dice was easy enough. With a few reminders, the kids quickly figured out how to roll their dice. The children all waited for each player to make an action, and helped each other with the story. They also helped remind each other what was written on their sheet. 

Overall, this book was perfect for younger kids. It was challenging enough to make them think and engaging enough to keep them interested for about an hour, which is long for the younger age groups I worked with. I would recommend this book to parents and teachers alike. Experience in gaming is not necessary, though it may help. Just remember: it is not about the rules but about the story the kids tell

You can get FirstFable Here!

 

 

FirstFable

FirstFable

Why use RPGs in the classroom?

Edited by Michael Hansen

So why use RPGs in a classroom? What benefit does it bring to their education? 

Roleplaying games, or RPGs, have traditionally been associated with teenager or adult crowds and will generally follow complex stories and include things like violence or other themes. Recently, there have been several RPGs have been created with young children in mind. These RPGs use simple stories and mechanics to help introduce younger children to the world of RPGs. As a grown up, or GU, leading these children through these stories, you play a very important role. To understand that role fully, it is good to keep in mind the skills that RPGs help to strengthen in children. RPGs have faced many differing opinions and have worked hard to overcome these stigmas and present themselves for what they are, a powerful tool that can be used to help teach children. As a GU, you are a very important teacher to every child. 

Kids learn best through play. Period. However, there is a difference in quality of play, directed play and free play. RPGs offer a safe environment for children to explore social situations with the benefit of an adult there to help them navigate as needed. The quality of play can be as rich or simple as you would like it. If you are new to this whole gaming thing, keep your story easy to follow. Base it off of fairy tales that the kids know and recognize. Free play options in the world will allow children to explore naturally, using language to navigate through their story. This may take some practice to get used to, but adds a great benefit to the children's experience. 

In a classroom setting, RPGs offer a much needed break from traditional classroom expectations. They provide enriched learning in math, language, social and emotional skills, and imagination. RPGs offer a very quick way to grab the attention of young minds whose attention spans have not been fully developed and uses several different approaches to help lengthen those attention spans. We will discuss each of these areas separately now. 

Math skills are the most apparent skills in this game. The use of dice helps with counting. Children need to figure out: 1) how many dice to roll, 2) what numbers are on the dice, and 3) how many dice in the roll succeeded. These are 3 very important , basic skills a child will benefit from in the long run. Counting dice. Pass/fail rates and one to one counting skills are all included in these skills children learn how to 'count out' as well. This is a skill that can be forgotten, but is a very important skill in understanding what counting is actually for. To do this, tell the child, before they roll dice, how many successes they will need to win their roll. Then have them count out how many dice meet the winning condition, then compare their numbers. The children go from counting and comparing greater or lesser numbers to counting up numbers and comparing those. The math skills for younger children are very complex and build up early skills for more difficult math later in life. 

Language skills are one of the most underrated skills that roleplaying games utilize. Children have to learn to tell stories and describe actions, which is hard for adults to grasp. Letting children do this at a young age helps to build up those skills early. Sequencing stories is a great language building skill and will help children follow grammar rules and story understanding in the future. Children love to tell stories to begin with. Think of how big of an impact that would have if their stories actually did something. Being an active character in a story and affecting the other characters around them is magical for children. It encourages them to use language to describe the world around them, what they are doing, and how they are interacting with everything. This gives them control over the story, and in turn, control over language. To have words and sentences actually have effects on things is powerful. 

Social and emotional skills are extremely important for young children to have. Children use play to work out social situations or emotions they may not yet understand; it is a safe way for them to explore these feelings. Learning how to cope with the emotions they feel, empathize with others and recognizing things that may bring out these emotions are all skills that can be strengthened through RPGs. Everything from bullying to gender rolls can be explored and, as the GU, it is a great opportunity for you to help answer questions for your children or observe and see how your children will react. These are the skills that kids will remember and take with them the rest of their lives. You play a very important role in leading them through this, and can help them become stronger individuals in this area. 

The imagination is the last skill, and one that is largely forgotten in this day and age of standardized testing, common core and fitting square pegs into round holes. Imagination drives innovation. Kids need to have a safe place to explore new ideas that may or may not work, without the fear of failure. Kids should be allowed to try and connect the dots in a story in new and interesting ways. Sometimes it will work, sometimes they forget a step and it fails. Encourage them to keep trying. By encouraging our kids to solve problems in unusual ways, we are openly encouraging them to think outside the box. New technologies, innovative practices, and many other successful endeavors stem from the creative mind. Kids are natural builders and thinkers. Sometimes they think SO far beyond our comprehension that we see it as wrong and discourage that type of thinking. As educators, that handicaps children in the future. There are many child inventors, and all of them had an adult that encouraged them along the way.

RPGs also fulfill another crucial role when used correctly. Many school districts are adopting the Common Core curriculum standards. Leaving personal opinions out of it, when used correctly, Common Core can help guide educators on teaching children of every age group. RPGs are, by their very nature, adaptable. RPGs can be used to teach in compliance with these guidelines without stifling children's creativity. You are able to tailor skills and information to what you want to teach at any level. Older children can use dice to figure out more complicated math structures. They can also write out their own stories to share with their classmates. 

RPGs present a very diverse and useful tool in every GUs arsenal in teaching children many different things in a fun and new way. There are many different ways to present information, and stories can be tailored to each child's interests, development progress and needs. RPGs have come a long way in the past couple of years, with many new games coming out with children in mind. It will be well worth the time to find one that suits your needs.