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Top 10 Gifts Under $20! (For Your Nerdy, Fandom loving, DIY-er)

Growing up I had a plethora of hobbies and I know my family had a hard time figuring out what to get me. It was often daunting for them to figure out what exactly I’d like. It’s hard not knowing what to get your super nerdy cos-player friend, or your hardcore gamer, or that cousin that sits around a table with his friends and talks about dragons while tossing strange looking dice all over the place. Now try to make it happen on a small budget… That’s what this list is for! We’re here to help you figure it out, and maybe (just maybe) you’ll surprise them with something wonderful.

Firstly, a bit of advice: Identify their hobbies and the things they love. If you don’t know, ask them or their friends. Find someone that knows. This is important. Taking this tiny little step can go a long way to figuring out what you should be looking for in the first place. Do it.

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10. Elegy for a Dead World. ($14.99)

You find yourself in a peculiar situation. You’re friend is both a writer AND a gamer. What to do? Elegy of a Dead World solves that problem with one fell swoop, in which you take the role of a writer filling in prompts given to you through the imagery of various worlds you explore. The game is short and really only sits well with this particular geek.

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9. Google Cardboard. ($15)

VR is expensive. Plain and simple. This is an inexpensive alternative that can turn any phone (with the proper applications installed) into a portable VR experience. Plus, cardboard is in right now, just look at Nintendo Labo.

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8. Gift Cards. ($NA)

Gamers are often creatures of impulse. Having a little extra green in their steam wallet for that game that just went on sale or in their blizzard account for some packs of Hearthstone cards, can go a long way.

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7. Dice. ($5 – $20)

For those D&D (And other Tabletop RPG) aficionados. Their collection of brilliantly colored polyhedral gems are an extension of themselves and often considered sacred ground. Don’t you dare touch their collection, however, take a peak and look for their favorite color. From there take a look online or at your friendly neighborhood gaming store and see what you can find!

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6. Supplies. ($NA)

You’ve identified their hobbies right? Then ask yourself: “What do they need?” If you have an painter, do they have enough paint? Maybe a few canvases. Do you have a Dungeons and Dragons player? Maybe they could use some #2 pencils or index cards. A cosplayer could use more makeup or fabric. What’s your kids favorite gamer fuel? Mountain Dew? Water? Make it happen.

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5. D&D starter Set. ($19.99)

Do you have a buddy interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons but has no idea where to start? You’re looking at all the books and seeing $50 price tags and your not really sure which ones they need? Get them this. The D&D Starter Set includes everything they’ll need to get going, including some dice, a starter adventure, and a basic copy of the rules.

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4. Smart Cooler Mugs. ($19.99)

“A mug, really?” Yes dammit! These mugs are cool… errr warm… hot? They keep things cold or hot, depending on what you’re looking for. They are made from stainless steel; including the straw, have a no sweat exterior, and a vacuum sealed lid. You can choose from many colors and hold up to 30 oz of liquid! Awesome…

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3. Board Games. ($5- $20)

There are a plethora of board games available that are not only high quality, but inexpensive as well. They cater to a large range of gamers and nerds and very few will be disappointed by a quality card game. You’ve got titles like Chrononauts for those interested in time travel and history, or Bang! For your Red Dead Redemption fan. Codenames, Forbidden Island, Guillotine… The list goes on.

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2. Skrewdriver Pen Pocket Multi-Tool. ($12)

Multi Tools are super useful. From someone that likes to build their own computers to cos-players and artists. This handy pen comes with a level, screwdriver, ruler, and stylus! Super convinient. 

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1. Show interest in their hobbies. ($Free, usually…)

Far too many gamers are out there feeling all alone. I know I was. I would have been ecstatic had my grandparents come over and asked me about those cardboard cards I’m playing with or that game I play in the basement with my friends once a month. Offer to learn about it or have them show it to you. Take an interest in their hobbies. You have no idea how much it could mean to them.

Influential Women in the Gaming Industry: Marisha Ray

ray-marisha-image Marisha Ray has done almost everything. She is a voice actress, producer, actress, host and stunt performer. Sher is also an avid gamer.

Marisha has been playing games and kicking butt since she was a small child. She loves all kinds of gaming. This passion has been able to help fuel her career and take her on the path that she now walks. Marisha has an impressive resume. She has been voice acting for years and has given us many fantastic characters.

Before she could start acting though Marisha tained at many companies such as; Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Academy of the Dramatic Arts, Point Park University Conservatory of Performing Arts, and the Governor’s School for the Arts. These companies helped Marisha hone her craft.

In 2012 she was able to star in and help create a fantastic series called; Batgirl: SPOILED. Ps I would LOVE to see more of that story. Batgirl is a great example of the creative nature of Marisha. Taking something she loves and building upon the story for others to enjoy. From there she has only gone forward. Including what most of us are most familiar with.

Critical Role is a show that has is a fan favorite for many tabletop gamers. It has also been a way for so many to get a start in Dungeons and Dragons and as a tool for Dungeon Masters with new players. Marisha has been on both campaigns and the one shot adventures of this nerdy group of voice actors. She has given players an excuse to be awkward and to make mistakes as they play through her characters. Marisha brings a real sense of fun to Dungeons and Dragons. I have written before about one of her characters Keyleth and how she inspired me as a gamer. 

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Marisha also is in charge of the Critical Role Podcast. She has been the producer of an awesome show called Signal Boost! Which is a really fun project that showcases everything from comics to music. Every episode has a different host. Which means viewers get a plethora of different interests to look into.

Marisha is a free spirit and an uber nerd. She has made space for herself in the gaming world where she can be totally herself. Marisha has made more space for women as well.

Marisha is proof that creativity breeds success. That you can be yourself, take your interests and make a career that you love out of it.

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You can see Marisha every Thursday night on Critical Role!

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!  

 

Dungeon Crawling: Bards

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Lords, Ladies, Lads, and Lasses, today I present my take on Bards.

A class I have never played.

You may ask, “How the heck can you have an opinion on Bards if you’ve never played one?!” Easy, I’ve played along side them, and I’ve DM’d for them.

The Bard class is a charisma based spell caster, a jack-of-all-trades, and mainly considered to be a support class. Their sub-classes are broken up into Colleges, with two in the Player’s Handbook, and three more waiting within the pages of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. 

The basic class uses Charisma as their casting stat, can use a musical instrument as their spell focus, and is also a ritual caster. They are performers, and if you have a problem being the “face” of the group, coming up with witty one-liners for your Vicious Mockery cantrip, or can’t parse together a quick ditty to sing inspiration for your fellow party members, then you’re playing the wrong class.

They have access to all skills from the get go, and those they don’t choose they can add half of their proficiency to any way at 2nd level. At 3rd level they can choose two that they are proficient in to gain double proficiency in as well.

And 3rd level is when you choose your Bardic College. This choice will slightly alter how you use your Bardic inspiration. Lore bards can distract with their words, protecting their allies in combat. Their foe’s attacks will strike with less impact, or sometimes even miss altogether.  Valor bards on the other hand can help add to their allies damage, or their AC. Those bards who enter the College of Glamour from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything can grant a group of people temporary hit points, and a free move. Sword college bards are master of the flourish, their bardic inspiration helps them dance around their foes, pushing them about, striking a second enemy, or even simply boosting their own AC. Those bards that join the College of Whispers can literally strike terror into the minds of their foes. Their Bardic Inspiration dice can be used to do psychic damage along with their melee attacks when they so choose.

Each of the five current official colleges only expand upon their themes as you level. Lore bards gain greater expertise with their skills, add spells from other classes to their repertoire. Valor bards gain training in medium armor, shields, martial weapons, and an extra attack. Eventually they can even cast a spell while making an attack with their weapon. Glamour bards gain power over the crowds, charming the masses, enthralling them, and dissuading them wanting to harm the bard in the first place.  Sword college bards gain extra attacks, medium armor training, and proficiency with the scimitar. Eventually they can use a free d6 for their flourishes instead of using up the finite resource of their Bardic Inspiration. Finally the College of Whispers allows it’s bards to steal the visage of the recently deceased, gaining the general knowledge and memories they would share freely with a casual acquaintance, and allowing the bard to pass themselves off as the deceased with greater ease. Eventually they can convince a target that they know a deep secret and charm them for an extended period for fear of revealing said secret.

So if you wish to sing, and cast spells whilst playing at being a Skill Puppy, a Duelist, The Center of Attention, a Dervish, or an Assassin they maybe, just perhaps, the Bard is the class for you.

 

Influental Women in the Gaming Industry: Christie Golden

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Christie Golden joined Blizzard Entertainment in 2017 where she has become a senior writer for the company. Prior to that Christie made a career of writing. She has written fifty novels and even more short stories.  

A native of Atlanta Georgia Christie was born in 1963.  She spent most of her young life in Arlington, Virginia. There she went to high school with Sandra Bullock. Christie went to the University Virginia. After earning her degree in English she traveled.

Christie used her degree and her experiences to help her start her career. At first it didn’t seem like it would pan out. Seven years after receiving rejection letters for her first manuscript Christie was able to use the connections that she had made to help her get the first break of her career. From there she was able to sell her first book; Vampire of the Mists, a Ravenloft book. Yes Ravenloft, as in supernatural Dungeons and Dragons campaign that kills so many of us Tabletop gamers. Thus began a beautiful relationship between Christie and writing novels that take place in the worlds of games.

Writing what are known as “tie in” fiction has been good for Christie. It has also been good for us. She has given the world a plethora of novels to dive into. From there gamers can get a more in depth knowledge of the worlds of their favorite games. Also for some people a love of books does not come easily. Books based in the settings of their favorite games can be a wonderful invitation to a world of reading that some may never have received otherwise.

Fiction of this subgenre is also inspiring for writers. Learning how to channel your interests, such as gaming, into your own projects is always a good skill to obtain. However the only way to achieve that is just to sit down and write. It is a tough enre to get into but Christie has proven that not only can writers make the cut but that it can lead to bigger things from companies that give us the games we love. If you are willing to put in the work the work will work out.

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What Christie has really taught us is do what you want. Game how you want. Write what you want. Put that passion into a career and you will get there. It may take time but you will get there.

You can also keep track of what Christie Golden is up to though her Twitter.

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Dungeon Crawling: My First Hero

…Or Dungeons and Dragons for Beginners.

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So you want to play Dungeons and Dragons, but you don’t know where to begin. There are so many books, so many rules, and so many choices that the options can be a bit overwhelming. Fear not for I shall simplify it for you.

Before you worry about what books to get, and what rules to learn, you need to find a Dungeon Master. They’re the arbitrator of the rules, the referee if you will. They are also in charge of all the monsters and characters not in control by a player. The will have a story in mind (also called a campaign). You need to check with them to see if there are any classes or races they don’t want you to choose from when creating your hero. Most likely, they will also have all the books you’ll need to make your hero.

So now you know what you can’t choose for a race, or a class, if there are any restrictions at all. This means you still have quite a few choices to make, and even though you’ve seen Lord of the Rings, you’re still not sure how to narrow it down. D&D is a game of “let’s pretend…with rules” as such most it is left up to your imagination. There is a mental exercise called The One Room Dungeon.

Before you stands a long corridor. Torches light the way every ten feet, and somewhere in the distance you hear the constant drip of condensation on the flagstones. At the end of the hall stands a solid oak door. It is closed, but flickering lamplight can be seen shining from the crack beneath it. There is a treasure chest behind the door, but also an Orc Warrior guarding it. How do you approach the door? Do you use stealth to sneak up? Do you stride confidently down the hall, clad in your heavy metal armor? Do you cast a spell that silences your footsteps? Once you open the door, do you sneak attack the orc, face him head on with a deadly weapon, or blast him with arcane spells? Which of these choices excite you the most? Are you feeling like a rogue, a warrior, or a spellcaster? Maybe you’re a combination of two or three. When you can imagine how you deal with the orc and gain the treasure, you should begin to have an idea of what class you want to play.

So you’re beginning to have an idea in you head of what your hero is. Great! Borrow the Player’s Handbook from your DM. Flip through the races and see if any jump out at you. There are quite a few to choose from, and you should be familiar with the basic idea of them if you’re into the fantasy genre at all. D&D tries to balance them all out, but if looking over their mechanical benefits helps you decide, then by all means do it.

Next you’ll want to narrow down your class. There’s more than three in the PHB, so the choices you made in The One Room Dungeon are just the tip of the iceberg. Did you choose stealth, using your skills to overcome the orc? There’s a Rogue, a Monk, and a Bard to choose from. Maybe weapons were your go to solution. Fighters, Barbarians, Rangers, and Paladins await you. Or if spell-casting was your thing there are Wizards, Warlocks, Sorcerers, Clerics, and Druids waiting to be called upon. There is no wrong class, race or combination of the two. Sure, you’re choice might not seem optimal mechanically, but if you have fun that is what matters.

The final choice is your Background. What’s your story? Who were you before you took to the life of adventuring? Were you a sailor making a life on the open seas? Did you grow up in the posh life of a Noble house? Were you a criminal thumbing your nose at authority?

Between your race, your class, and your background you have you’re starting equipment and skills. You’re almost ready to play.

You need to generate your ability scores. Ask your DM what method they want you to use. Are you going to roll six-sided dice, spend an allotment of points, or place a static array of numbers? Your class choice will determine what score is important for its features.  Do your weapon skills rely on Strength or Dexterity? Is Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma your spell-casting stat? Perhaps you just want to have a high Constitution and be healthy as an ox.

All those choices made during creation and you’re finally ready to play. “How do I play?” you ask. Improvisation. The Dungeon Master will describe a scene and ask you what your hero wants to do. You can respond descriptively or in character. “My rogue sneaks up to the door and attempts to pick the lock.” or “I’ve seen harder locks in my mom’s cupboard” and I take out my lock-picks. Whether or not you do it is another story.

Anytime there is a chance of success or failure you’re going to roll a twenty-sided die and add a number to it. The higher you roll, the better the outcome. What numbers you add to it depend on the task being attempted. If it was an attack or a spell you’ll need to roll another smaller die to determine how much damage you did. Don’t worry about rolling the wrong one, or forgetting which one is an eight-sider and which is the ten-sider. We all had those same stumbling blocks when we first started.

Mistakes will be made. Heroes will fall. New ones will rise in their place. It is a game. Have fun, and make their tales legendary.

 

Oresan’s Magnificent Foes: The Necromancer Dance Party…

You step gingerly into the dust covered room of the depths below. You’ve entered a long forgotten temple. As you scan the room for dangers you notice above you a faint light flickers into existence. The orb pulses lightly. Suddenly brilliant prismatic light pours outward in swift moving rays. The room comes alive. Near the back of the room a single spot light bathes a hooded figure in light, showing them off to the world. It displays enigmatic footwork, swiftly turns on itself with a deft twirl, and quickly thrusts one finger skyward! It begins to sing… Unerringly you watch. Drawn in by this presence.

I’m inspired daily. Books, Youtube, Movies… and Games. Specifically video games. Video games have done a ton of creative legwork and created iconic and influential monsters and villains for our every need. You just need to take the time to convert them. This particular foe was inspired by the Crypt of the Necrodancer videogame. This is my second entry in a series called “Oresan’s Magnificent Foes” in which I will be detailing entries in a personal Monster Manual of sorts. Each entry will include a little blurb about What the foe is, Why it exists, and How I went about creating it. I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any suggestions, comments, or would like to see me create a foe based off something you love (or loathe) please let me know in the comments below. Read the rest of this entry

Influental Women in the Gaming Industry: Ember Moon

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Every group needs a war goddess. Someone who embodies skill, honor and heart. Or other such values that people hold dear. We nerds have such a goddess, her name is Ember Moon and she is currently battling her way through the WWE. Yes, a professional wrestler.

Some of you may not know her or much about the WWE. Those of you who do may not know that she is a proudly self proclaimed nerd. Also a proud gamer.

Ember was born in Texas. She started her love affair with wrestlingas a child, watching with her grandfather. She also grew up with a love of gaming. Ember especially loved Dungeons and Dragons. However that was a time before it was so acceptable to be a gamer. There were no Esports or livestreams. So Ember, like a lot of us, didn’t get to let her nerd flag fly.

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Ember started to train under Booker T in his wrestling academy. With a lot of hard work she was able to start her career. She began in the WWE’s developmental show called NXT 2016. Ember suffered injuries but still her star rose in the ring. By November of 2017 Ember became the NXT women’s champion. After Wrestlemania 34, the grandest stage of the WWE, she was “called up” to wrestle on their oldest running show Monday Night RAW.

Ember has also been gaming. She and other WWE superstars compete against each other on UPUPDOWNDOWN, a gaming channel created by Austin Creed, who wrestles under the name Xavier Woods. The channel is a great place to watch these superstars talk about gaming and other nerdy things that they love. For example we also found out that Ember also used to write fanfiction in an episode. There is also a new episode featuring Ember and other superstars playing Dungeons and Dragons. Ember also was recently in a celebrity SmashBros tournament where her team won second place.

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Ember Moon is another gamer breaking down stereotypes. Whether she is flying off the top rope in the ring or gaming online she does it with heart.

You can watch Ember fly on Raw on USA on Monday nights.
You can also keep up with updates on her Twitter.

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!