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Starting Players on the “Right” Foot: A Dungeon Master’s Guide.


Over a decade ago, there was a defining moment that would shape my Dungeon Mastering career. The moment that nearly all tabletop gamers share has long been burned into my psyche. A reminder. Thinking about it now: my hands clench into a fist, my heart skips a beat, my brow furrows. I feel a swelling of inner rage waiting to barf forward through my fingertips as I type. This moment, that still fills me with anguish and regret nearly 15 years later, could easily have turned me off from the hobby forever. It was the dreaded horrible first game!

No seriously… That’s it. A bad game.

The whole thing lasted around an hour before the Dungeon Master laughed maniacally as my Elven Wizard lied burnt to death on the ground being eaten by ravenous goblins. I was given no choice, no interaction, nothing. He made all the rolls. He decided what I would do. I had no idea what was going on. Nothing was explained. I felt lost…

Why is this moment so important? You may say to yourself: “Hey me, you’re awesome. You’ve been in bad games before and they didn’t leave a lasting effect. What gives?” This part, it isn’t about you. It’s about the countless number of people that will never return to our hobby because of the experience they had. Whether it be with the mouth breathing creeper, the surly rules lawyer, or the “DM vs. The Player” mentality, something turned them off.

We won’t see that person again. 

Read the rest of this entry

Review: Grim Dawn

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Review: Grim Dawn (7/10)

I don’t know what it is about steampunk and muzzle loader guns that attract me so, but I do love them in an RPG. Grim Dawn (available on Steam) is just such a game.

In Grim Dawn you play one of the Taken, a victim of demonic possession in a world gone to hell. Freed from your servitude at the end of a hangman’s noose, you are left with a connection to those demonic energies. This connection allows you to use Rift Gates as shortcuts to jump to and from the hubs you’ll encounter along the way of the linear story progression.

You’ll also be able to wield magical energies, as well as martial, as you level. The combination of two classes (chosen from a variety pack of 6) each with its own multipath of trees to specialize in. The customizations available are vast, and that’s got to be one the things that draws me to this game time and time again.

To date, according to Steam, I’ve logged 97 hours in the game. I still haven’t gotten out of the second chapter, or progressed beyond the mid 20s in level. That’s my fault though, too many creation choices.

The graphics are gory, the sound squishy, and the color scheme of the first areas a tad depressing. It is an apocalyptic setting however, so I urge you to look past that. With only a single body type of each gender to start with, your gear is the sole way to make you YOU. Find a weapon that suits you in all the myriad of colored-fantasy-rpg-rarities, summon your pets, carry a few potions, and by all means loot the bodies. Iron bits don’t grow on trees.

The Aetherials won’t kill themselves. Go face the Grim Dawn.



In 20 years, I had never lost a character in any of my tabletop games.

Twenty years! Please, let that sink in for a moment. Twenty years. Depending on your age, that will hold different weight.

Any character I had previously lost was part of the story or because I left the campaign, but never for these reasons… and I lost two in a month. The second loss was the result of my first ever Total Party Kill (TPK). A TPK, to me, was a that myth that happened to other people. It was that cautionary tale that meant you should be more aware, think things through, be cautious. Let me rewind a bit.

It was like a birthday present as we sat around the table, trying to figure out what we would play next and who would run it. Colleen, Thia, Vel and Orsen. Orsen pipes up: he can run us through Ravenloft. My eyes lit up as if I’d just unwrapped my big Christmas present or loaded up a game that just came out. Crymson Pleasure, Vampire Goddess (self proclaimed) has NEVER been to Ravenloft.

When it was mentioned prior, my party mates always said it was too hard. It was unforgiving and relentless. I scoffed at every single one of them, essentially calling them noobs. The realm of vampires is where my character longed to be. Take all of my angst and goth and put me into a realm of the undead, I beg of you.

I created Tereza Lupei and fashioned her after Gretel from the most recent adaptation of Hanzel and Gretel, the one with Hawkeye (at this point in her editing process, I’m sure Vanri is rolling her eyes. I know his name is Jeremy Renner, but he’ll always be Hawkeye to me).

Anyway, I created a fighter class character and gave her archery and handed her a crossbow. I even created an order around her family, but that will come later. I dressed her in  black leathers with a thick dark braid and off she went.

She wandered into the thick fog with her new friends in tow. A mad scientist/tinkerer, a barbarian, and whatever Thia was playing (you’ll understand later). So, we went through several encounters and quickly we were given a taste of how hard it was going to be. Several of us dropped to zero HP as we struggled to try our hardest. We learned to react a bit smarter. Orsen reminded us that he wasn’t going to pull punches. It’s Ravenloft, after all. It’s meant to kill the players. We smiled and nodded, but none of us really understood what that meant.

We lost Thia’s first character. We were overwhelmed and she dropped to zero. In order to save the rest of us, Vel created a ring of fire which burned her character to a crisp. She couldn’t be brought back.

Our group traveled on and encountered another group in the woods. With that group was an NPC: Isabella. She was Reza’s sister and Thia’s new character, a druid. Both from The Lupei clan (a group of vampire hunters, so to speak – centuries old). They continued on and Vel also created a new character, a Blade Dancer with whips. Orsen told us that we moved through more fog as our new group moved along, this time transported to the campaign, The Curse of Strade.

I was still utterly excited by all of this. We lost someone, but it was only the one so we’ll be just fine. Of course, this is the lie that we told ourselves. We proceeded with some caution, but we were still a group of murder hobos, as most D&D groups are. We had a few close calls and I shaped Reza in such a way that she became my most loved character ever. She embodied more of me than any other character before her.

They reached level 8 and it happened, the utterly unthinkable. The barbarian decided to see what was really in a crate labeled junk. It appeared that the junk was vampires… lots and lots of vampires. Trying to ensure that everyone got out safely, Reza distracted them. Everyone except Isabella got away. Isabella ran straight into the fray and was devoured by vampires along with Reza. The rest of the party decided to burn their bodies to prevent them from becoming undead themselves. This was the end of the sisters.

I cannot tell you how upset I was. I loved Reza more than any other character and now she was gone. I was hurt and angry, but there was nothing I could do. There was no magic, no hope. She was dead and I actually had to grieve a little bit. I have no idea why I connected so much with Reza, but I had and now that was gone.

So, it was time to make a new character. This time I made a Blood Hunter (thank you, Matthew Mercer, for creating this class). I made Demetrea, Reza’s mother. She had received news of her daughters’ death (I created the family/house so that, upon death, an important article of theirs was returned to their home) and traveled to join the party. With the way the timeline was set up, Demetrea had gotten the two articles weeks before the event actually happened in Ravenloft. However, by the time she came to the rest of the group, not even a full day had past.

They continued on and I had more trouble connecting with this character. She has a great build, but I couldn’t find her personality. I didn’t want her to be Reza, but Reza was all I felt, so I struggled with her. I roleplayed the best I could but tried to keep quiet because I didn’t know how to act.

Then it came, I finally found her voice and it was snuffed out. I connected with her anger over the death of Reza and Isabella right as they went up against the most powerful creature they had yet to encounter and no, it wasn’t even Strade. We had all made a grave mistake that we didn’t know about until this very moment. When our lives literally depended on it, we lost.

Everyone was killed. This had never happened to me before. I sat in stunned silence, waiting for some miracle, but none came. I felt a bit numb. This had never happened and two streaks were ruined in a month. I was devastated. I swallowed that feeling and dove into the creation of my next character for our new campaign.

How could this happen? Easy, we made the wrong decisions, several times over. We were too careful at the wrong times and reckless at the worst possible times. We tried our hardest but, in the end, Ravenloft won and we learned a few things from it. Hopefully we learned the right things, but mistakes will always be made when you don’t know the outcome. Like life, everything’s a gamble.

However the most important thing I take from this is… 

Ravenloft… I’m far from done with you. We will meet again and I will best you.

There’s Something for Everyone in Gaming but Everything Isn’t for You


That statement is pretty blunt, “There’s something for everyone in gaming, but everything isn’t for you.”  I imagine you’ve had one of three reactions reading it:  you either, one, nod your head and get it right away, two, give your computer screen a confused look because you aren’t sure if you should be upset by it, or, three, get upset and start to formulate a rebuttal to tell me how offensive this is.  Bear with me for a minute while I lay this out for you.

As I write this, there is another article being written about how games need to become less violent, more this, less that, and so on and so on.  There’s always someone, somewhere, trying to make the case that games are bad for us.  There are people, whether they are being honest or not, that think every game should fit into their own set of morals and standards.  Sounds a little nuts, doesn’t it?  I do hope you think so, because, if you don’t, you probably won’t like the rest of this.

Gaming has been evolving for decades now, growing from a niche novelty item into the largest entertainment industry in the world.  We’ve gone from just a couple of consoles and PC to countless platforms including handhelds and VR.  Where once your selection of games was fairly limited with just three games released in 1972, we’ve had about 680 games released this year.  The genres available to you are more than I can list, and just about anyone can find something to play.  Maybe that’s why it is estimated that 44% of the world is playing some sort of video game.

The beauty of gaming is it has those niches.  It has genres within genres, all of which appeal to someone.  The reality is they don’t appeal to everyone, and they shouldn’t.  Every one of us has a genre we don’t like, or type of game we think is awful.  There are games we won’t even try because of platform, publisher, subject matter, or genre.  That’s absolutely normal, and we shouldn’t do anything to change it.  Just like we all have book categories we don’t like.  Do we actually consider changing those to fit our tastes?  I wouldn’t pick up a romance novel any more than I’d play a Japanese dating simulator.  I couldn’t imagine demanding romance writers start writing their books more like fantasy adventures so I would find them more entertaining.

What it boils down to is there are definitely games out there for me, but not every game is for me.  That’s actually pretty great because it means more people will have games to play.  If every game fit my tastes, I can assure you many gamers wouldn’t find something they liked.  Our tastes are different.  I like FPS games, RPGs and MMOs, and I play just one mobile game.  I know a lot of people that don’t like any of those genres.  For FPS games, I play military sims almost exclusively, but thousands and thousands like Overwatch, a type of FPS I don’t care for.

Hopefully it’s making a lot more sense now.  But what’s the point?  Point is, when you see people saying “this game shouldn’t exist,” or “I don’t like that, change it,” keep one thing in mind.  Even if you agree with their dislike of whatever game they’re talking about, the next person may say it about a game you like.  As a matter of fact, I can guarantee that whatever game you do like, there’s people out there who don’t.  Imagine if we all stood up and said “I’m offended by that, ban it,” or started a petition to pull a game from store shelves.  How many games would we be left with?  So, when someone says a game shouldn’t exist, even if we don’t like it, we have to say, “yes, it should.”  Otherwise, we can’t really say much if someone comes after the games we like.

Indie Developer Spotlight: Liege

Indie Developer Spotlight: Liege


That’s right, we have TWO Indie Developer Spotlights this month! With all the contacts we made at Too Many Games, we decided to double down this month. Enjoy!

We spoke with John from Coda Games, who we met at Too Many Games, about their upcoming game, Liege. Here’s what he had to say:

Q1. Tell us about your game.
Liege is a story driven RPG with a deep, tactical core. The game has classic JRPG influences, but:
– Modern presentation
– Seamless, fast paced tactical battles
– No random encounters, no grinding, no fetch quests, no fluff

Here’s the trailer:

Q2. What was your inspiration to create the game?
Inspiration for the game came from lots of places: Classic RPGs I loved as a kid (FFVI, FF Tactics and Suikoden) were some of the original inspirations, while more recently games like the new XCOMs and Transistor had a big influence as we developed the mechanics. Inspiration for the story and setting came mostly from outside of games (fantasy books, film and TV- too many to list!).


Q3. When should we expect to see it?
As of now we’re aiming to release on Steam Q1 next year, with console ports in Q2-Q3 2017.

Games to Get Excited About in June 2016

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Games to Get Excited About in June 2016


Ah, June! June is the unofficial start of summer fun. A month full of promises. Schools are letting out. Father’s day is coming up. What better way to celebrate than with games?  We have so many games releases coming up this month, which is why I’ve decided that, instead of writing about just one game, I’d write about several!

Here are some games, in no real order, to get excited about in June.

Oh My Goods

oh my goods

Okay, let’s start off with a tabletop game. Oh My Goods is a game set in the Middle Ages. Use your connections to become the most powerful merchant in the land. Only if you are clever will you have the most points at the end of the game. Fun bonus is that the rules are in both English and German.

Anima: Gate of Memories


Set to be released for PlayStation 4 on June 3rd, Anima: Gate of Memories is a third person RPG. Players get to explore a vast world with dragons. I have read great things about the soundtrack and the story that accompany game play.


Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter


If convenient, play. If not, play anyway. So, I won’t lie, I get excited by the prospect of almost anything Sherlock Holmes related. In true Holmes fashion, the game will be mostly centered on examining crime scenes. Then the player can add clues to the “deduction board.” These deductions  can lead to success in finding the culprit or failure.

Grand Kingdom


Grand Kingdom is set to be released in North America and Europe this month. It is a tactical RPG. Players get to play turn-based battles with magic and sword attacks depending on the specialties of the combat class the player belongs to. This will be a great game for players who like to think about a big picture, such as how to best position their whole unit.

7 Days to Die


This is a survival horror game. Set after the third world war, the player is a survivor who must find basic needs, such as food, shelter and water. Players also must scavenge and fight off zombie-like creatures. Oh, did I forget to mention that I read that the zombies get more aggressive over time?

There are so many more interesting games to look forward this month, so keep your eyes peeled for them if you didn’t see something you liked above. Really we are getting spoiled this year between remakes and new releases. Also, if you are looking for a gift, perhaps one of the above would be a good game to give.

Have fun gaming this month, friends!

How One Gaming App Can Benefit Your Daily Life

How One Gaming App Can Benefit Your Daily Life

In today’s world, we’re moving just a bit too fast. We all have 10,000 things to do and it’s hard to keep track of all of them. When we fail to do so, we start to feel overwhelmed or even awful about ourselves as people. When this happens, we become discouraged, more “to dos” fall to the wayside, and we begin to feel like we can’t get out.

I’m a personal fan of organizing my day. I have two calendars hanging on the wall next to me and a To Do List Notebook as well as a 2016 Daily Planner on my desk. I cross things off as I get them done and make sure to check my lists at least 3 times a day. This is how I keep myself from drowning under my daily to dos.

There is another way to organize, though. Calendars and notebooks and planners can be so boring and monotonous. The other day, Crymson told me about this cool app she has on her phone called Habitica.

Habitica Promo

Habitica turns your life into an RPG.

How cool is that?!

According to the website, Habitica is designed to help you improve your habits in day-to-day life. By forming healthy habits and being productive, you can build up your avatar and collect awesome loot. You can team up with your friends or even join a guild in order to keep yourself motivated and on the right path.

The app promotes good habits by giving you experience points and gold pieces for being productive and taking away HP for doing unhealthy or unproductive activities, such as procrastinating or eating junk food. You can purchase rewards with the gold you earn and get cool new gear or health potions.

Sample Screen - Equipment



I decided to download it myself and give it a test run. When I made my account, I was asked to create a custom 8-bit avatar – Final Fantasy style. She has black hair, very pale skin and a black shirt. She even has a green flower in her hair. 8-bit Vanri is adorable.

Next, i was asked which areas in my life I wanted to improve. This was easy: work, school, health and wellness, and creativity. I was then taken to my profile, where I already had tasks and to dos waiting for me! I got 6 EXP and 1 GP just for writing this article.

Sample Screen - Boss (iOS)

Boss Fight (iOS)

The mobile interface is easy to figure out. You have your home page, where you have four lists: Habits (i.e. Eat Healthy), Dailies (i.e. Do Homework), Todos (i.e. Finish Creative Project) and Rewards (things you can buy with your GP). You can go to the Tavern, meet people and “Pause your Dailies,” which will keep your unfinished dailies from hurting your over night. You can also create a party or join a guild from the menu on the side.

As a highly organized and bored individual, I can definitely say that Habitica will help bring the fun back into my busy life. I’m still going to need all my calendars and to do lists to keep everything straight, but at least now I can treat them like a video game, which takes some of the stress away.

I highly recommend it. I mean, it’s free, so you might as well try it, right?