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Influental Women in the Gaming Industry: Ember Moon

EMBER FEATURE

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.

EMBER TITLE

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.

EMBER DICE

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!

 

You’re Not Alone: My Tribe

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I’m sitting here listening to Danny Don’t You Know by Ninja Sex Party for the millionth time. If you haven’t heard the song, you should give it a listen. There are a few lines that always hit close to home for me but it reminded me that I was supposed to write something for Vanri. (Sorry, Vanri!)

When I was a kid, I had zero friends most of the time. There were a few people that I’d hang around but, no matter what I did, or tried, I never fit in. I never fit in to the point of relentless bullying, severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and attempts. I had a plate overflowing with shit. It was so full, so awful, so heavy that I couldn’t see the other side of it. I just imagined that this was going to be the rest of my life and who the hell wanted that.

I was into D&D, Magic: The Gathering and video games as I became a teenager, but at the time those got you bullied more. I made some friends, but nothing really changed for me. I still dreaded life nearly all the time.

Let’s fast forward because this went on into my 30s. I met Vel, we got married, and I started to figure out what I was and what I wanted to do with that. Five years ago, I kinda got mad. I liked games and I happen to be female, but I couldn’t find myself being represented anywhere. So I, metaphorically, kicked down my first door and said, “Alright, bitches, who wants to form Real Women of Gaming.”

I didn’t see us past a Facebook page, but something amazing happened. Here were people that (most knew me, some didn’t) were listening, supporting some ideas I had, investing themselves in this thing I started. This amazing group of people that were uplifting. This is My Tribe.

All of the things I was bullied for when I was young were now helping me kick down doors and expand this amazing thing. Being loud, excitable, talking about literally anything to anyone. Overweight, mental health, video games, nerd stuff. Everything that I really am helps me and these amazing people helped me find that and show the world that I’m an amazing person.

I get to spend nights laughing while playing Creativerse, Stardew Valley, Gears of War. I plan parties around board games and amazing new foods that my friends bring over. I make new friends that I’m excited to find because we both love specific games. These are things I look forward to. This is my crazy awesome wonderful life.

Now I will side note, that doesn’t mean that I don’t suffer from depression, anxiety and a host of other issues. Those are chemical imbalances in my brain that I am in therapy for, and I take daily medication. The support of my friends, of our fans, helped me get into therapy, helped me ask for medication. They helped me seek the appropriate help I needed to work on a healthier me. Life is no longer unbearable, it’s amazing and I am blessed.

The You’re Not Alone Anti-Bullying Fundraiser was on July 21st and we raised $1,075 for PACER’s Bullying Prevention Center.

How Gaming has Helped Me Cope with Bullying

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Be sure to join Real Women of Gaming for their 4th annual Anti-bullying fundraiser, You’re Not Alone on July 21st. The event takes place from 10am-9pm at Uncanny Comics and More in the King of Prussia Mall. You can also catch the event at mixer.com/realwomenofgaming and twitch.tv/realwomenofgaming.

I was bullied my whole childhood. We never had a lot of money for me to have the latest things, though my parents tried very hard. I was overweight, which seems to be some kind of cardinal sin to kids. I also grew up very religious which I feel stunted some of my social skills. Despite going to Catholic school very quickly it was considered “not cool” to be as religious as I was. I also didn’t get to join a lot of clubs because I was helping as a caregiver at a young age for my mother, my younger brother and later my grandmother. 

I had undiagnosed mental illness as well as learning disabilities. I could never seem to say the right thing. I was “stupid.” I was always “ugly.” I was the kid who got asked to play only to be made fun of or physically hurt. No one wanted to come to my parties except to make me feel bad which was really lame considering how hard my parents worked to have these birthday parties. I would be invited to birthday parties but it was well known that it was just because parents forced kids to do so. I was also bullied by some teachers. I hated school. I wanted to die.

I did have my family. The good thing about lots of cousins is that you have built in friends and we all loved playing games. My younger cousin Kelly was my only real friend till high school. We are still very close. I also was very close to my mom. She played a lot of games with all of us kids. The awesome nerd family made of friends that I met in high school helped me a lot and we have also always loved games. We still play a lot of games when we get together. 

me and kelly

Gaming has also led me to meet some of the rest of my made family. Crymson and Vanri have told the story of how we met many times. In short she was friends with one of my best friends and she had invited us all to come play games on New Years Eve. I didn’t want to go. I was, honestly pretty terrified that this would turn into some other trick. Or I would say the wrong thing, like I always did and no one would like me.

Thankfully I did go. I became friends with Crymson and Vanri quickly and I am so glad that we clicked. Crymson invited me to join Real Women of Gaming and my social circle grew. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with Oresan running a small group as the Dungeon Master. Soon we were playing with a slightly larger group on Mondays. Then I was lucky enough to become a part of The L.O.S.T. A Dungeons and Dragons Tale.

Dungeons and Dragons has given me so much more confidence then I had when I started. It has given me a way to problem solve within a group that I didn’t always have growing up. It stretches my creativity and has made me a better world builder. It has forced me to look at why I am making my characters the way I am. It has challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone when I play my characters.  

Gaming gives me set scheduled interaction with others that, as a person who had such terrible experiences with people in the past, I value beyond worlds. It gives me challenges. It gives me a way to look at my own growth as a person and player. Gaming has given me friends who help me through difficult situations. They celebrate my vistories with me.

Gaming has given me some of my only fond memories of my childhood. It has given me more confidence. Gaming has given me friends and a way to connect with others. Gaming has helped me become the strong woman that I am. I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have been given by gaming to help me realize that I am so much more than what bullies tried to make me believe. I am worthwhile. I am funny. I am not stupid or worthless.

Gaming has helped me in so many ways to cope with the bullying that I experienced.

us

Always keep sparking!

Dungeon Crawling: The Adventurers League

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Dungeons and Dragons is a social game. Sure, you can play video games based on the source material that is solely single player, but at its core it’s meant to be enjoyed with friends. Sadly there are those among us who have no friends to play with. What do they do? First off, I suggest checking out our previous article on just that question (LINK).

So you’ve decided to find an Adventurers League game to join. I’m not sure of its reach, but I suggest signing up on Warhorn You can use it to find what local game shops are hosting AL games. With it, you can sign up and grab a seat at a level appropriate table and be on you way.

But is it worth it? Is the AL enjoyable?

Yes…and no.

There are pros and cons to everything. As a player the AL can scratch that need to play. You’ll find monsters to kill, puzzles to solve, and treasure to loot. All within a time constraint. That’s the problem.

In a home game we gather for a few hours, do the dungeon thing, talk to NPCs, and all the other fun stuff. If we run out of time, well there’s always next week. Not so with the AL. Each adventure is a published module available for purchase from the DM’s guild website. It has a listed average level, and the amount of time it should take to complete it. That’s all they allow for, because there are rewards for playing based on the length of the planned adventure. No one likes to go over because you’ve passed the limit and aren’t earning more Downtime or Renown. Downtime is a special type of currency that allows you to purchase goods from your Faction, or to skip a level and catch up to the other players that have hit the next tier. Renown are marks of honor that give you rank and privileges within your chosen faction.

Still sound like a fun time? Cool. Now you show up and either grab a pre-generated character or create one prior to the event using the AL rules. You must use the point buy system, no rolling for gold (choose from the equipment offered by your class and background), and you’re limited to the Players Handbook plus one other book. That means no taking a race from Volo’s Guide and a subclass from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. It’s only slightly limiting, but it can be a downer when you realize your cool idea isn’t legal.

The good news is you meet new people and have a chance to make new friends. It’s also pretty much a guarantee that your local shop has the AL scheduled on the regular, no matter who shows up. As long as at least three players show up in addition to the DM, the game will be good to go. Every session is its own self-contained one-off, so there’s no need for continuity. Sure there might be a series of adventures that follow an arc, but each one is an individual run.

That’s what it’s like to play in the League, but what about running a game?

Well being a DM in the League is interesting. Each location usually has one person in charge of organizing the events and he/she will let you know what’s being run, if they have a copy of it, or if you need to purchase a copy for yourself. The DM’s Guild is a website PDF store full of official adventurers and fan made ones. In addition that is were you find the current season’s Dungeon Master pack. This is a listing of the achievements and rewards you will unlock for running games.

Yup, you earn experience, gold, and treasure for running AL games. You can hold onto them, keeping track of each one on a log sheet, and dole that out to your characters leveling them up while you run the games. Even downloading the packet, filling out the achievement card, and sharing it on social media will net you rewards. There’s also usually a fair number of DMs around so you’ll eventually get to play said characters.

Eventually.

In the meantime you’re prepping a prewritten adventure with probably less than a weeks notice. If you have a desire to take on multiple roles, to learn the lore of the latest product that Wizards of the Coast is selling, or to enforce your power over a table of strangers…than being an AL DM might be for you.

I have fun with it, more as a player though. I have a regular group, and life gets in the way, so to fill the hole I started playing in the Adventurers League. Then PAX Unplugged happened to be nearby and I decided to take a crack at being a League DM. An organization called The Role Initiative was looking for volunteer DMs on Facebook. I signed up, then asked my local AL if I could join them in DMing. They were more than happy to add me to their ranks, and in fact had been considering asking me anyway. I ended up having a lot of fun at the convention, and from time to time still DM at my local store.

So if you’re not getting enough D&D, if your regular group has become less than regular, or if you’re new in town and looking to make friends give the Adventurers League a try.

 

 

Oresan’s Magnificent Foes: The Bloodsail Scavenger!

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Arrrr me matey! You be seeking some sunken treasure in the depths of the deepest darkest oceans? Well pirate captain Oresan has a story for you… ::cough:: ::Clears throat:: Weird. Sorry about that. Sometimes national talk like a pirate day is every day…

If you couldn’t tell I’m going to talk about a foe I used in an adventure of the High Seas variety. This is my first 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.

Bloodsail Gnoll

What? What exactly is a Bloodsail Scavenger?

 

Imagine sailing the open ocean. Your comfortable with the systematic rocking caused by the endless rolling waves. Your not far from shore, trolling along the coastline for schools of fish. You do; however, find yourself scanning the horizons  as the sun begins to set. You know that these waters are infested with the Bloodsail Gnolls, horrific humanoid hyenas that capture forlorn fishermen and merchants. Rumor has it they take those that live back to their bone filled dens and sacrifice them to their god, the Ever Hungering. They keep their prey alive so they are fresh when they are devoured by the Bloodsail clan.

Its said they attack ships near the coast during the early hours of the night. The row out on speedy longboats, using red sails that seem to blend in with the light from the setting sun. By the time you see them coming, it’s already too late. They hulking beats, standing nearly 8 ft tall, have already boarded the boat. They attack with gnarled spears capable of piercing through heavy armor. These sadistic creatures carry nets used for ensuring the capture of living meat. They kill the strong mercilessly and capture the weak; the children and the old. If you have the foresight to give up before they get a chance to fight, your fate is sealed and far worse than a quick death by being run through.

 

Why? Why did I create these Abominations in the first place?

 

I have always loved Gnolls as a foe in my campaigns. They are sadistic and nasty and have a great tribal feel to them. As such I often try to include them in some way. I took it upon myself to run an island hopping adventure in a homebrew setting called “The Shattered Isles” for a few strangers online. Early on in their adventure I wanted to introduce them to something that was going on in the world around them. I wanted this to be subtle and not necessarily centered around something they would have empathy for.

Why not Gnolls? I could have just thrown some regular old Gnolls at the party, however they were level 1 at the time. So i needed to scale them down and give them a bit of High Seas flair.

 

How? Everybody has a process, what was mine?

 

The Bloodsail Scavengers are at their core a standard Gnoll, however they do not share the CR of one. (A Gnoll in the Monster Manual has a CR of ½ whereas the CR of a Bloodsail Scavenger is ¼) I took the hit points and lowered them by about a ⅓. The other abilities are nearly identical in damage and scope, however; I took away their Longbow and replaced it with a net.

The Longbow needed to go. This weapon alone could take early fights and make them significantly lopsided in favor of these ferocious beasts. These Gnolls still have a ranged weapon by throwing their spears as well as the addition of the net. They can use the net to restrain characters and drag them into the depths causing them to drown or to simply restrict their movements.

(Important note about nets: Though they are ranged, their distance is 10/30 which means if they throw the net any distance 10 or beyond they are at disadvantage. This means that their effective range is 5 ft with net without suffering disadvantage; however, to 5 ft is melee range and when you use a ranged attack in melee it suffers disadvantage. All attempts to net a creature are at disadvantage!)

Once again this was the inaugural entry into Oresan’s Magnificent Foes, an evolving Monster Manual of sorts. If you have any comments, suggestions, or have a foe you’d like to see created please let me know in the comments below.

Adventure Framework Part 3: The Pillars of the Adventure or The Art of Leaving Blanks.

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We built this city on Rocks and Rolls. We did! It’s the parody that plays in my head on a nearly endless loop whenever I think of a completed adventure. Following my methods from the previous articles allow you to do just that: make a city. We made a city full of foundations, roofs, and above all else, pillars. That’s the way it should be. The adventure you take your players on is not as simple as coming up with a single idea, a single building. It’s about creating numerous buildings.

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Imagine a city block, and within that block there is a single building. It’s nice. Has some cool features. People come and take pictures occasionally, but eventually people stop showing up. “It was nice the first time I was here…” Now it’s old news. Imagine now that a local man built a coffee shop next door, and a young entrepreneur decided to create a hanging garden. Another builds a building full of studio apartments, a small museum… People nearby that love the building see the potential of the space and create something grand. Before you know it the city block becomes a bustling hub for creativity and community spirit.

 

You, the GM, owned that block. You created the first building. The inspiration. The others: They built on it and created something for themselves. You were successful in spurring their ambition and helped them create their own community. That’s how it works. The GM creates the Building on the empty block, the players fill it up with and make its surroundings come to life.

 

How do we let them build their own city block?

Read the rest of this entry

Top 10 D&D Foes (You Probably Already Heard Of).

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You gather your party and head into the darkest depths of the dungeons. The sirens song of fame and riches pulls you ever deeper. In a particularly dark corner you and your companions turn the corner and are met by a massive unblinking eye, glowing yellow in the dark. As you reach for your weapon numerous smaller eyes illuminate and circle the center. Your friend, a mage, begins casting a spell, and though her motions are familiar the spell crackles fruitlessly  and in an instant she is turned to dust in a brilliant flash of green. The rogue bravely leaps forward and is caught by an invisible force and thrust against the nearby wall collapsing in a lump. You draw your sword a try to take a step forward but you feet are stuck firmly in place. You look down to see your body turning to stone and as you take your last breath before becoming a permanent fixture you see your final companion, a paladin, bow before the beast and offer up his sword to it. You see a ghastly and toothy grin open up into a maw as the beast devours your friend.

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  1. Beholder (Should be higher, but works better with the intro…). You’ve meet the same fate of countless foul hardy adventurers. The Beholder is a fearsome and respected being, and any adventurers worth their weight know to avoid them at all costs. They combine heightened intelligence with willful destruction. Their anti-magic cone emanating from their central eye makes short work of magic wielding foes. Their eye stalks are especially deadly with effects ranging from massive damage that makes it impossible to resurrect your friends to powerful charming effects. They are not to be trifled with.

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  1. Displacer Beast. On your travels, you may have heard tell of many legged cat like beasts that seem to exist between our world and the ethereal plane. The Displacer Beast is a monstrous predator that lashes out at its enemies with barbed tentacles protruding from its back. It’s also blessed with a permanent displacement effect causing players to have disadvantage to strike it with attacks.

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  1. Medusa. You’ve heard the legends of these ancient beings locked away in temples and long forgotten homes. They are surrounded by numerous humanoid statues, their only companions, created by their petrifying gaze. Though not particularly adept at hand to hand combat they are capable in their own rite.

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  1. Treant. The living forests have powerful protectors. The ancient Treants, the awakened watchers of the forest, are powerful entities  are capable of powerful attacks, especially against constructs and walls. They are also each capable of giving sentience to trees in the area giving them potent allies.

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  1. Elementals. Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. The classics. Anywhere there are unstable elemental energies a powerful and chaotic Elemental could exist. They fit a number of roles from powerful siege monsters to balls of swirling energy. They are capable of popping up in many instances and make a great addition to any dungeon.

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  1. Giants. These lumbering titans are powerful and numerous in scope. From the Nordic inspired Frost Giants to the dumb and dangerous Hill Giant, they fit numerous roles. The recent Storm King’s Thunder adventure and Volo’s Guide to Monsters adds a number of unique Giants to the DM’s arsenal.

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  1. Dragons. The come in good and evil kinds. The have breath weapons… Nuff said.

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  1. Zombies. BRRAAIINNSS … The horde of nastys shamble forward. Though they aren’t particularly interesting on their own they often to lead to magnificent mysteries and stories. The Shambling horde of Zombies is a great trope and their Undead Fortitude keeps them coming back from the dead to pester the players. Also, there’s a beholder version… Talk about scary.

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  1. Vampire. One word: Strahd. There is an entire adventure based around the manipulative power of the Vampire. These creatures of the night have a plethora of abilities, legendary actions, and an eternity to plan. Play them smart and ruthless and you have yourself an iconic and memorable story and villian. Their weaknesses are one of their greatest strengths from a story standpoint, giving the players hope to defeat these powerful foes.

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Finally, and although it may be unexpected they are by far the most dangerous enemies in the world surrounding the players… Player Races. Countless of my adventures center around the desires of seemingly normal folk. You can create powerful wizards, destructive barbarians, and devoted and evil clerics. They are the center points of cities and dangerous locales and their ambition knows no boundaries.