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Women in Gaming: Laura Bailey

lb_1950When I started to get back into gaming, it was through Dungeons & Dragons. My friend and DM suggested I watch a stream of a show called Critical Role. He hoped that by watching, I would get a better idea of how to play. To get out of my head, stop worrying about the grid on the map and start being my character. I really enjoyed watching the stream. One of my favorite characters was the Half-Elf Ranger who snarked her way through most of the game. That was my first introduction to Laura Bailey.

Laura is a voice actress by trade and gamer for fun. She was one of the first really successful female gamers I had ever seen. She is what I strive to be when I play. In character and having fun. She is so good at playing in the moment while being filmed. Let me tell you, it is difficult to focus on playing a character while you know you are being filmed.

Laura is as talented as she is funny. As a voice actress she has given her voice to many characters in different mediums. She loves anime, which is where she got her start. Laura voices characters in different cartoons as well. She, of course, also voices video game characters which must be fantastic for a gamer to get to do.

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I have gotten to enjoy watching Laura play other games as well. Mostly she can be watched on Geek and Sundry. As I stated above, every Thursday she and other voice actors play D&D under their DM and fellow voice actor, Matt Mercer. Laura plays Vex’ahlia, who has gone through so much character development on Critical Role. I really enjoy Vex. I love her humor. I love her bear, Trinket. Laura does an amazing character who could have easily been annoying in the start. She gives Vex a lot of personality and emotion. She never holds back while she games and it is amazing to watch.

Laura teamed up last year with fellow Critical Role mates to game for a charity livestream to support MDA. Matt Mercer was the Sheriff, or basically a game master, and led the group through a thoroughly entertaining game of Deadlands. Laura played a gunslinger named Stinky Jules who was basically a Calamity Jane-esque character. She was hysterical and wonderfully inappropriate. The group helped tip Geek and Sundry over its monetary goal. Laura and her husband Travis also played Hearthstone in an episode of Worthy Opponents, which is a great way for newbies to the game to get to learn while being entertained.

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She has also played different games with Wil Wheaton on his Geek and Sundry show, Tabletop. Tabletop is a great show created by Wil to showcase different kinds of tabletop games. It has given me lots of ideas for games to try and also for games for friends in different stages of gaming. Laura also teamed up with Wil to play a character in his homebrew game called, TITANSGRAVE: THE ASHES OF VALKANA.

In Titansgrave, Laura plays a human cyborg named Lemley. Get ready for feels and lots of laughs when you watch this one. Lemley made me realize just how talented Laura really is at RPGs. Lemley is so different from Vex, and Laura gave her just as much love and attention. Titansgrave is also a really great series to watch for new RPGers. Laura and the rest of the cast do a great job of bringing you into the game. You really root for these characters as they try to accomplish their missions, which is a testament to the players.

Laura Bailey is a talented and hard working woman in the gaming industry. She tries to give back to the community. She makes mistakes and, literally, keeps on rolling. Laura really is a great role model for those of us trying to find our gaming style in the world of RPGs. I really admire her for her courage to be so expressive with her characters’ emotions. She also brings so much real joy to her gaming.

Always keep sparkling, my friends!

My First TPK | OMG THE FEELS!

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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.

From Table to Real Life: How RPGs Benefit Players

From Table to Real Life: How RPGs Benefit Players

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Tabletop gaming is definitely fun, especially if you find the types of games you really like.  Whether it be RPGs, card games or board games, there is something out there for just about everyone.  Games are also great for teaching skills, and maintaining those skills throughout a person’s life.  It’s a great way to teach children early, and in a fun way, skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.

Creativity and Imagination
You’d be surprised how much being able to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems will help you as an adult.  Creativity is not just a great skill for artists, writers, and designers, but anyone who has a job where problem solving is key will benefit from this.  Being able to come up with unorthodox solutions can often be the difference between just having a job and excelling at a career.

It’s a given that creativity and imagination are necessary for artists, writers, and any other job where someone has to create something from out of their mind’s eye.  Gaming, especially the imagination intensive tabletop RPGs like Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons, are a great place to get kids started learning how to tell stories and develop characters with interesting backgrounds and personalities.  Whether it’s creating their own stories as a game master, or acting out the stories of their characters as a player, they’ll get plenty of practice coming up with great tales all on their own.

Art and graphics are another source of inspiration for young people when it comes to tabletop.  There’s few entertainment mediums that have such a plethora of amazing art and graphics design as tabletop games.  Painted, or unpainted miniatures, character sketches, book covers, and playing cards are all great sources of art inspiration.  People literally have an art gallery at their finger-tips whenever they pick up a game, and that can translate to a study and love of art that benefits a lot of creative folks in future years.

Just the Basics
Math and reading, two skills that will serve anyone throughout their lives, are key to almost every game that you’ll come across.  Whether it’s calculating damage and points, or reading rule books to learn a game, tabletop will expand any young person’s skills with both of these.  Often with tabletop games, especially RPGs, people will come across words they’ve never seen, and terminology they won’t come across in school or on their favorite cartoons.  They’ll be exposed to complex ideas and references that may lead them to expand their study into things like history and sociology.

There’s no mistaking the need for even basic math when it comes to gaming.  Even the simplest game mechanic, like keeping score, will often involve addition and subtraction, and while kids are having fun playing a game they won’t even bat an eye that they have to tap into mathematics.  More complicated wargames and RPGs can get into time, distance, area, angles, and the dreaded thac0 formula of Advanced D&D.

Besides math, reading and vocabulary are two basic needs for gaming, and skills that will be vastly improved if this is your hobby.  Even down to the simplest card game, reading is necessary.  Rules, card descriptions, character backgrounds, and stories are all part of gaming.  Even board games have rules and often cards of some sort.  Starting with gaming early is a great way to make reading and learning new words fun.  Get kids involved and you’ll see a marked improvement, as much as you see when you read to, or read with children.  Even in later years gaming helps improve and strengthen vocabulary skills.  I still run into words I don’t often see, and new words I’ve never seen used before.

Socializing
Probably the biggest benefit of tabletop for me has been learning to socialize and break out of my shell.  Often us geeks and nerds, as proud as we are of the things we love, are introverts and quiet individuals.  Young people need socialization, but we tend to think this means sports, playing outside with other kids, or play dates with coworker’s kids.  Not every child is into these things.  Sometimes gaming is what they’re into, and just don’t know it yet.  Learning games with family, or visiting local game shops to learn to play board games might be just what’s needed to crack that shell.

Learning to interact with others in a competitive environment, sportsmanship, losing and winning gracefully isn’t limited to actual sports.  These are important skills to have under our belt when we get out into the real world as well.  Getting and keeping a job, or working in the art fields are competitive.  They don’t have to be negatively so, and teaching kids to compete fairly but also gracefully can mean the difference between success and failure.  Cheating to win can be just as self-destructive as failing and throwing a fit.  With gaming we can find a balance between teaching kids to win and lose, and teach them that having fun is just as important.

Besides the competitive factor, you usually have a group around any game.  Unlike video games, tabletop games are very rarely single-player.  It gets people around tables, talking, laughing, having fun, and most importantly just socializing.  Sometimes finding a way to make a person’s comfort zone also a social affair can bring the extrovert out of the introvert by giving them an environment where they feel at ease.

In the end, gaming may not be for everyone, but I think it’s something a lot of people would enjoy.  I think it’s a great way to help kids develop skills useful in the real world, not just to have fun.  It’s also a fantastic way for adults to hone skills useful in their careers, whether they be in the artistic fields or more run of the mill.  So, get out there, find your niche, and if your kids take an interest in the imaginative hobbies join in the fun.  It makes for some great family time.

Thia’s Top 10 Upcoming Games of 2016

Well, with the New Year, winter is also here. Thankfully, with it will be coming some new games to keep us entertained. Here are ten games, in no particular order, to get excited for in 2016!

1. One Night Ultimate Vampire by Bezier Games
vampire
Okay, so those of you who follow our Facebook know that I love tabletop games. You also will know that Werewolf is one of my absolute favorites. One Night Ultimate Vampire is similar, but with Vampires. Like with Werewolf this is a 3-10 player game where everyone gets a role and it only takes one vampire to win the game. Best part is that it is available now. Bring on the Vampires!

2. Firewatch
firewatch
Due to be released on February 9, 2016 for PC, Mac, Linux and PS4, Firewatch is going to be a first-person adventure. It has a few twists, including that it is decision-based, which I always enjoy. You start off playing as Henry, who is searching for two missing women, which sounds easy enough, but I’m sure has a few twists. I have heard teasers that it will also be spooky.

3. Dues Ex: Mankind Divided
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Due to be released February 23, 2016 for PC, Xbox One and PS4. Yes, it is here. The remake of the game from fifteen years ago. Set in the year 2029, it is an open world game. There will be different endings for every player since this game will also be decision-based.

Read the rest of this entry

This Month in Gaming History: February

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Ah February. A month of extremes. On one hand, we have declarations of love and warmth. On the other, we have the soul crushing reality of winter (well, unless you like being snowed in, that is). Whichever side of February you are on, games are a good thing. They are a go-to gift for loved ones and they more than help pass the time.

This month is a little thin because, for whatever reason, not many games seem to have been released in February. Upcoming game developers, fix this. Think about it. Valentine’s Day. Snow Days. This is a great month to release new games.

In the 1980s, there was a pretty gnarly crash for video games, which is what I think adds to the lack of games released into the market that I could find for February in history. Let’s face it. The market was over-saturated. There was just so much happening and so many movies that games tried to work with, like with ET, which I will get back to in July (spoilers!). Yes, we did have a resurgence of games in the later 80s, but most of them were, sadly, not released in February, or at least I couldn’t find much in my research.

Here are some games that were released in history this month.

Shark Jaws.
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This one player game was in arcades in 1975. It was a horror game tied in with the movie Jaws. Yes, it was a game about sharks eating people. The problem was that the developers hadn’t secured a license from Universal Pictures for rights. The game was released anyway by getting creative with fonts and the sizing of certain words. The game had a joystick and the player was a deep-sea diver trying to catch small fish while avoiding sharks.

Super Mario Bros. 3.
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It’s Mario! Yes Super Mario Bros. 3, which I used to play with my family, was released on February 12, 1990. Once again, Mario and his brother Luigi are trying to save Princess Toadstool. Now, they also face Bowser’s children,  Koopalings. They also were given new magical abilities to help them defeat their antagonists, such as flying. In addition to that, they got a rad new world map that I enjoyed. This game comes with a lot of critical accolades and even helped spin off a short lived TV show.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game.
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Yes, we have jumped a bit. For the 2000s, I wanted to feature a game that I really like. Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game was released February 10, 2015. Yes, just last year this zombie apocalypse themed game started to grace our table tops. It is a tabletop game that puts 2-5 players in a small colony trying to survive after the zombie outbreak. You pick a character and play. The cool twist is that everyone also picks a secret objective as well as trying to cooperate with the other players in surviving. So, is someone acting strangely because they just need to collect gas or are they planning to sabotage and burn the colony down? The only way to know is to play and see how good at bluffing your friends really are.

Happy gaming this month!

Gaming: It Brings People Together

Gaming: It Brings People Together

I’ve been playing games for as long as I can remember. I remember late nights playing Monopoly with my siblings, playing Uno at the dining room table with the whole family, and challenging my brother to Mortal Combat. My childhood was filled with my brother or sister teaching me how to play games like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario and more. It has always been my experience that gaming brings people together.

This is my experience even now that I’ve graduated to playing MMOs and Tabletop RPGs. All types of gaming are designed to cultivate friendships. Friday Night Magic and L5R events help players meet people of like minds who challenge them at something they love. LARPing events create an environment where you feel safe doing what you love with people who have similar passions. MMOs and programs such as Xbox Live allow gamers to connect with people across the world. This is a beautiful medium that encourages teamwork as well as challenges that can help us grow as people.

More recently, I’ve started gaming with a friend I’ve known for several years. This friend and I met online through a Facebook group and only spoke through comments and the occasional message. Last week, we decided to play Lord of the Rings Online together. This has given us the chance to get to know each other outside of Facebook, which will help our friendship grow into more than just liking each other’s posts.

A love of gaming helped to cultivate the friendship I have with Crymson Pleasure. It’s helped me meet new people and become closer with those I already knew. If it wasn’t for Dungeons & Dragons, I wouldn’t have some of the friends I have today. If it wasn’t for World of Warcraft and LOTRO, I would still think of some people as just Facebook friends I never talk to. Gaming is a way that I can stay close to my best friends, even though I live across the country. It’s a way for me to meet new people, both near and far, and create new connections across the globe.

I know that gamers get a bad wrap. We’re called nerds and geeks and losers who have no friends. We’re told that there’s something wrong with us because we have a passion for video games or card games or tabletop RPGs, which will result in a lonely existence. Well, I’m here to tell you that those people who put us down, they have no idea what they’re talking about. They don’t have access to the vast network of gaming friends around the world that we do. They don’t understand that gaming is an amazing connection to the rest of the world.

So, let’s ignore the haters and continue being a close-knit community of like-minded individuals. Let’s continue having fun and showing the world that we’re happy with who we are. Let’s continue making new friends and coming together to make sure everyone’s having a good time doing what they love.

And, while we’re at it, tell me about some of your experiences with how gaming has brought you closer to the people you love in the comments below!

-Vanri the Rogue

(image source)

Women were a rarity, A Guest Post

Magic: The Gathering

Hi there, everyone!  I was asked by my friend Crymson Pleasure to write up a guest post about women in gaming. A little about myself first.  I have been playing tabletop RPG’s since around 1985-86, Magic: The Gathering from 1993, and MMORPG’s since 1999 with Everquest being the one I have played the longest.  

What are my feelings on women in gaming?  There aren’t enough!  Gaming of all types is lacking in female representation, and it shouldn’t be as it’s something that anyone can do no matter their sex, age, color, or any other factor.  There is no reason for women to feel excluded from gaming or made to feel like it’s for boys only.  If more guys would put an effort into welcoming women or getting them to try the games it would expand the amount of available players, and bring more creativity to them.  A great example is my friend Kate.  I met her through my friend Justin, and have introduced them both to Pathfinder and the wonderful world of tabletop RPG’s.  We ended 4 books into a 6-book module set, and they were both enjoying it greatly.  It was first time either one of them have ever played anything like it and she is having as much fun as he and I are.  She asked just as many good questions as he did, and got just as mad as any other player when the dice won’t fall in her favor.    

While I was growing up and playing Magic and early D&D games, women were a rarity, and I think that was at least partially the fault of gamers, and also of the companies making the games.  It wasn’t that we were purposely excluding them, but more that it wasn’t “accepted” as much for them to ask about, and join games.  The advent of online MMORPG’s helped break that mold as – unless you asked – you never knew if the persons you were playing with were guys or girls.  More women started playing games and taking their love of them to the outside world and into tabletop/LARP games.  

Pathfinder Table Top Game

When you look around today you can find women playing and running D&D games, and competing at magic tournaments.  Feline Longmore, and Jadine Klomparens are both women who play Magic at the competitive level and consistently get high placings at the tournaments they go to.  I hope to be that good myself one day.  I am sure there are many more that show up at the individual tournaments and Friday Night Magic in their local area, but there is still not enough.

All in all, we as gamers need to take it upon ourselves to bring more women into the games we play, as they are made to be fun and enjoyed by everyone.  We need to share our love of the games with our friends and loved ones.  Maybe they haven’t joined you in playing because they haven’t felt that rush of a critical hit rolled at just the perfect time, or pulling off the perfect play to a win a game of Magic.  All it takes is that one moment and boom you have them hooked.  

-Henry