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! 


Goodwill and Gamers: What happens to your donations?

Full Disclosure: I am an employee of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin. My views and opinions are my own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Goodwill.

I’ve known many gamers and cosplayers/costumers who have found some amazing pieces at Goodwills across the country. It is a staple store for artists and creative types to find materials and inspiration for their works. And it makes sense. In essence, you take something that someone no longer wanted, and you turn it into something new. And the cost is generally a lot less then what you would pay for brand new. And sometimes you can even find brand new items around the stores.

One of the things I gravitated toward with Goodwill was the fact that they were a non-profit organization. My Master’s degree had a huge emphasis on ethics and service of self, which is why I felt Goodwill might be a good fit for me. They helped others through their…..well, that I wasn’t actually sure on. I knew they helped with job training, but I had no idea how they did that. Thinking on it, I had no idea what Goodwill actually did except take my old things and sell things at a very reasonable cost.

So once I started working for Goodwill, I slowly found out that not many actually know what Goodwill does. So I figured I’d write a post about my personal discoveries on Goodwill and its overall mission. This has been a continual process, and new discoveries are always being made. I’m hoping to do some further posts and interviews on this in the future, but let’s get through the biggest part.

The interaction that prompted me to investigate this further was meeting an older woman making a purchase in my store. She told me she is an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter and teacher. Her job through Goodwill is to teach non-verbal adults ASL for things like ‘toilet’ and ‘eat.’ She said it was something so simple, yet it is rare that anyone will teach an elderly person how to sign that they need to use the restroom. ASL is frequently used with younger children to help them communicate when they aren’t able to speak because they can acquire language quicker than they are able to speak it, so ASL helps them ‘show’ what they are trying to say. It never occured to me to use ASL with adults who cannot communicate, and this simple act can increase their comfort, health and quality of life. It is a seemingly small service that has a huge impact on the community. This woman was so interesting to me, and I thought it was amazing that Goodwill would provide this type of service.

The Goodwill Mission is to provide training, employment, and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence. Without getting into extreme depth of this statement, provide a hand up, not a hand out. Goodwill is a non-profit, and the services they provide are either no cost or low cost. Goodwill does not donate their money to outside charities, instead, they employ people to provide these services. A list of services can be found on the Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin website.

There is sometimes confusion about the mission because of how it is approached. Since Goodwill does not donate to outside charities, and a lot of the mission work happens at locations outside of the retail sites. There are also meme’s on the internet sparking confusion as to where to money goes. Since Goodwill is a non-profit, their financial information is available for the public to see and you can find the 2016 financial report on their website. Charity Navigator, which looks at the financial spending and transparency of Charities, has rated Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin as a 4 star non-profit, which is their highest rating possible.

So, when you donate or purchase items from Goodwill, the money is then reinvested in the organization to support the mission service and operations that train people and provide jobs. The whole purpose of Goodwill’s mission is to help get people to a place where they can move forward. Goodwill has helped so many people with their work, and I think it is important to know how your donations or purchases go to help those in your community. Goodwill is regional as well, meaning that each regional Goodwill can determine how best to serve their area. Goodwill is unlike any other retail store, as revenue goes towards funding its mission.

So when you donate a game or purchase costume pieces, your money goes back to your community and helps local people get a hand up and empower them to better themselves. Even small purchases have huge impacts and I cannot wait to explore this further with all of you.


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!