RPGs on Kickstarter that I’ve enjoyed

I’m a big fan of small, independent publishing ventures. We’ve gone that way with the Second Edition of our book (shameless plug: buy it now), and I’ve chosen that path for my next project, So Far Appalachia, a book funded by backers through Kickstarter. (A project I’m about 6 months behind starting because of D&D actually.)

Because I love watching projects develop, I spend a few hours sifting through Kickstarter each week. (I know: I should look through IndieGoGo and others, but I’ve got a limited amount of time.) Here’s some of the games and pitches I’ve found interesting today.

Folks who still need some help

This is definitely one I’ll be pledging: Saving Throw combines Mythbusters and TableTop to create a how-to show for the world of pen & paper role-playing games.

I’m a big fan of the folks at Carnegie Mellon. Not only is its ETC Press publishing our book, but I’ve got a great relationship with the folks at the Entertainment Technology Center: Cradle is an open-world action role-playing game (RPG) in development by Mojo Game Studios.We’re making an all new game which offers a stunning fantasy setting, ripe for exploration, alongside a skillful and intuitive new combat system. We invite you to hit play below and listen to the original soundtrack while you learn more about Cradle.

The Godsfall: A post-apocalyptic RPG. Survive deadly encounters, explore a wild frontier, and battle epic foes in a world torn apart by the fall and impact of an elder god.

Era: The Consortium is a sci-fi tabletop RPG, created by Shades of Vengeance with the aim of bringing you a high quality game and rulebook! We want to give you something truly special, and we’re going to spend the money to complete that something special, this project. But we want to to give you extra content on top of that if we possibly can!

Bump in the Night: A Roleplaying Game of Paranormal Investigation. Investigate mysteries, debunk hoaxes, and get yourself a TV deal or die trying.

Folks with funded games, but still time left

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Love and the Time of RPGs

Thankfully I have a wife who values my life as a writer. She doesn’t mind when I lock myself in my office for hours (or days) writing about topics like role-playing games even when that falls on Valentine’s Day.

While we’re a few days removed, here are some funny posts about D&D, Valentine’s Day, and games.

Shameless plug: While you’re in the mood for love + games, don’t forget to buy our new book.

Critical Hit!, a short film about role playing

I’ve become a bit obsessed with short films about role playing this week after watching the feature film The Knights of Badassdom. I’m still in my own post-production high from finishing our book Dungeons & Dreamers (which you can buy now!) so instead of working, I’ve spent this weekend watching and reading what others have created.

So I bring to you: Critical Hit!, one of the best shorts I’ve seen.

 

If you loved the short (and you’ll love the short), you can read The Making of Critical Hit! by Kirk Demato, whom you can find on at @kirksays on Twitter.

A (Kind of Film) Review: Knights of Badassdom

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 12.17.00 AM

I’m sitting at my computer struggling to write about the film Knights of Badassdom. I bought the movie the moment it went on-sale this afternoon, and now that I’ve finished watching it I don’t know how to capture the range of emotions I’m feeling.

The basic premise is this: A bunch of people go to a Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) event, and someone accidentally summons a demon. From there, hilarity and kill-arity ensue. In the movie’s background, there’s a subtle and ever-growing series of meta-references to real people, games, and events. But none of that is really the point of the film.

Really it’s exactly the kind of movie you’d make if you were the kind of person who made movies about role-playing games, and it stars the type of actors you’d want to hang out with if you hung out with actors. In every scene, I was saying hello to the actors: Joshua Malina (Sports Night, West Wing), Steve Zahn (Everything), Summer Glau (River Tam, a Terminator robot), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones where his family kills everyone), Dani Pudi (Troy and Abed in the Morning), and you get the picture.

In other words, it’s a love letter to the role-playing community but one that’s written in such a way that a general audience can still engage in the fun. I know the first part to be true because, well, I’m one of them; and I know the second part to be true because my wife, who has suffered through months of my work on Dungeons & Dreamers, laughed with the film from start to finish.

I often felt as I did when I watched Edgar Wright’s pop-up trivia balloons in Spaced and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World only in this movie the actual pop-up balloons weren’t on screen. Instead, I found myself providing them by announcing every reference that I saw, much to my wife’s chagrin.

Fortunately screenwriter/producer Matt Wall was there to support me on Twitter, favoriting some of my posts about the meta-references.

As a writer, I know the existential horror of letting your work float out into the masses. You never know quite what you’re going to get back. I’m sure this process was doubly difficult as the layers of in-game humor and meta-references must have been a nightmare to sell to normal humans. (See the reviews below for the whole backstory on that.)

But, as my wife said: “I didn’t understand any of the references and I still thoroughly enjoyed that story.”

Here’s the one problem I had with the film: The movie never trusts itself as much as it did in the first 15 minutes when its funny, self-deprecating, smart, and character driven. In the middle of Act 2, there’s a serious shift that redirects the whole tone. It’s a bit abrupt, and it takes a few minutes to recalibrate to the new direction.

That’s a minor quibble, though. The heart of the film never goes away. It’s an enjoyable film that sets out, and accomplishes, exactly what it wants. It’s one part Time Bandits, one part Evil Dead, and one part Cabin in the Woods. 

What other reviewers have said:

Geek culture is dead; long live geek culture

Brad programming in 1985I just finished reading Of Dice and Men, a memoir-ish book that explores the history of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a quick, beach-like read that does an excellent job of exploring the people who created the game.

One aspect that bothered me was the author’s insistence on telling the readers just how much geek cred he had. Barely a chapter went by without some brief divergence devoted to reminding us that he’s a geek, and geeks play this game.

Of course, he meant that lovingly. I assume he, like I, grew up in a time when D&D was used as shorthand for geek (in the pejorative sense).

Still his insistence felt anachronistic. Thanks to my Google Alerts, every week I read hundreds of stories about Dungeons & Dragons, role-playing games, and computer games. For all the talk about how geeky these hobbies are, there’s a ton of writing devoted to the various aspects of the culture.

It’s almost like these aren’t geeky pastimes anymore.

On Communities

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Ultima Online Goes to Reddit

The downside to writing and promoting a book is this: It’s easy to forget the joyful part of what you were writing about. John and I chased down stories for so many years that even the idea of talking about Richard Garriott, the Ultima series, or computer games in general strained our relationship.

(When you read the Introduction to the Second Edition, you’ll get the whole fun story.)

However, I had the chance to remember the first time I saw Ultima Online when it was under development in 1996 when my Google Alerts sent me this little gem from Reddit today: Would you like to see few hundred screenshots taken by Roleplaying community of Ultima Online? Ok! Also, I assembled a pile of interesting facts* about the game.

When people ask why we chose Richard Garriott and why we focused so much on the Ultima series, I have a hard time explaining the depth of experience Garriott and his team created.

Almost nobody knows anything about Ultima Online anymore. Once in a blue moon somebody mentions the game on Reddit or SomethingAwful or wherenot. When this happens, talk is without exception centered around unofficial free shards. Nobody talks about the official live servers of Ultima Online. With this in mind, I figured I’d provide a small Fun Facts type of a thing about general state of the game! Enjoy! Or don’t!

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Review: Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It

Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It
Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s wildly difficult to write a first-person account of a phenomenon. The reason: Authors-as-characters only work when they become surrogates for the reader. Too often writers inject themselves into the story, which breaks the narrative flow by separating the reader from the action of the book.

When Of Dice and Men is at its best, David M. Ewalt paints an interesting tale that follows the birth, demise, and rebirth of both Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop role-playing. While the territory of the game’s history isn’t new, Ewalt nevertheless wrote a fan’s history, which painted a tough by understandable picture of the original founders. I flew through those parts of the book, oftentimes finding myself up well after my wife had fallen asleep. I wanted more of that.

Unfortunately, the book has two major narrative flaws that frustrated me. The first was the author’s injection of himself into the story, which didn’t give me a better understanding of the game, its psychology, or its community friendships. Instead, Ewalt assumed the reader understood those ideas (in contrast to his excellent descriptions of how these games are played).

The second was that the author didn’t trust the reader. Ewalt diverges repeatedly throughout the narrative to explain how much of a nerd he is (while simultaneously trying to tell us that it’s not just nerds who play), as if that’s imperative to appreciate and understand the phenomenon. He also peppers the narrative with overblown descriptors to artificially create drama.

My headlong leap into the deep end of D&D gave the trip an almost religious significance: I started to think of it as my version of the hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. An expression of devotion; a chance to seek wisdom; a time to show unity with my brethren.

It’s this dichotomy that concerned me. The book is clearly written for people who don’t understand D&D and role-playing games (RPGs) based upon the lengthy descriptions of the various games, and yet Ewalt never settles on exactly who the “people who play” are.

Despite the narrative imbalance, people who enjoy D&D and RPGs will find this a satisfying, quick read and those who have never held a 20-sided dice won’t be intimidated by lots of geek-speak.

View all my reviews

Real Men Love Strong Women

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Strong women are badass. We’re fortunate that our home box, CrossFit Broad Ripple, encourages and supports everyone who walks through the door. The CFBR culture isn’t about how you look or where you are from, it’s about achieving your personal goals.

However, I know the message that it’s okay for women to be strong as hell hasn’t reached the whole population just yet. To help better make that point, I’ve decided to forego the long, wordy blog post and instead rely upon a visual:

Strong Women

 

Review: Mitt, a Netflix Documentary

If you have Netflix and 90 minutes, I’d highly recommend you settle in for Mitt, a Netflix original documentary that follows Mitt Romney and his family through 6 years of presidential campaigning.

This isn’t a political documentary so don’t expect lots of policy wonks or behind-the-scene battles over strategy like The War Room. Since the film’s thematic subject isn’t politics, it seems unfair to critique the piece through that lens. Instead, the filmmaker seems to have made Mitt as a counter-point to Romney’s public record, which is forever implanted in the public consciousness. This is the last chapter of “A Man in Full” (if I may steal a line from Tom Wolfe).

Instead of a linear narrative that pulls us through an election, this is a series of vignettes built around very specific, very public events. By using those moments and pulling the curtain back, the film both humanizes the process of campaigning and paints a mosaic of the Family Romney.

For me, the two most interesting elements of the film:

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The Next, Next Gen

One of the ideas John and I discussed throughout the writing process was how to illustrate just how impactful Dungeons & Dragons has become. More than a few people have said the game, which once served as shorthand for “geek” in the popular culture, was an creative influence early in life.

As geek culture moved into the mainstream, D&D’s emphasis on storytelling, improvisation, and community helped shape the likes of writers, actors, and filmmakers.

The most easily identifiable influence, though, is on the modern computer game, which today has turned D&D-like games into a multi-billion dollar industry. Each game is trying to both expand upon the best parts of D&D and carve out that new, creative space that will inspire the next generation of players (and creatives).

People continue to write about what D&D means to them:

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D&D: The Book…an update

The last few days have been a flurry of activity related to the book, and I wanted to give everyone a quick update as to what’s happening.

Production

While John and I are lucky to have control over the production and distribution process this time, we’ve been even luckier to hire some talented to folks to work with us.

Thanks to our amazing designer Katelin Carter, we’ve uploaded the last proofs to IngramSpark, which is distributing the book to bookstores and online retailers. What that means is that sometime around March 1, 2014, pre-orders for the print book will go live. For those who pre-ordered an autographed copy of the book, we should get the first batch around February 16. The envelopes are pre-packaged, and continental mail takes 1-6 days.

Once IngramSpark accepts the book into its catalogue, we’ll be in touch with more than 300 bookstores across the United States as we aim to get a distribution foothold in your local, independent bookstore. (We’re selling the book through Kobo, the independent booksellers digital network.)

Smashwords

We’ve also uploaded the final version to Smashwords, which is distributing our digital content to retailers. We expect pre-orders to go live sometime around February 14. If you’re looking to secure your digital copy of Dungeons & Dreamers as soon as you add the book to your library at Smashwords. You’ll be able to buy the book in any digital format (from text file to Kindle file).

Goodreads

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