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Created by WJWalton4831 points  on Tue 26 of May, 2009 11:35 PDT
Last post Tue 04 of Aug., 2015 21:42 PDT
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ENnie voting is open!

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 15 of July, 2011 08:02 PDT
Voting for the 2011 ENnie Awards is now open! Please visit the voting page and cast your votes for your favorite gaming products, publishers, and websites (hint, hint) for 2011!

Voting ends at the end of the day July 24th, so don't procrastinate! VOTE NOW!

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The Escapist has been nominated for an ENnie!

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 08 of July, 2011 07:55 PDT
The Escapist has been nominated in the Best Website category for the 2011 ENnie Awards!

I'm a bit too excited to say anything else that will make very much sense, so I'll just post a link to the list of nominees, and mention that I'll let everyone know here and on Facebook and Twitter when the voting starts so that you can cast your vote for your favorite 15-year old roleplaying advocacy website!

Off to do the happy dance now. Play nice, everyone!

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The Escapist Origins 2011 Report

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Wed 06 of July, 2011 10:14 PDT
The family and I - my partner Paula and our two daughers, Aylish and Nolah - were fortunate enough to take a last-minute trip to the 2011 Origins Game Fair. Financial difficulties had prevented us from attending last year after a five-year streak, and for most of the previous months it looked like we wouldn't be able to attend this year, either. But thanks to some good friends in the area that provided us with a place to stay, we were able to attend the last three days of the con.

For those who have never been, the Origins Game Fair is the second largest game convention in the country, after Gen Con. It's a five-day event held in the Columbus Convention Center in downtown Columbus Ohio, and has attracted over 10,000 attendees in recent years.

Usually, I run several RPG sessions (and at least one Fuzzy Heroes event), and volunteer for a few hours at the Kids Track to help offset the cost of my admission badge, but because of our last-minute arrangements, I wasn't able to swing it. Thankfully, the folks at Origins were generous enough to give me a press badge after I told them about the site and explained its long history of advocacy for roleplaying games.

I did get the opportunity to run two RPGs while I was there - not scheduled events, of course, as those have to be registered by the end of March, but I was able to get in touch with two of the families that I have run games for in the past, and made plans to meet up with them. For the Hazels (Morgan, Jeanette, Alyssa, and Carys) I ran something I've been wanting to run for a long time now - a Ghostbusters / Men In Black crossover adventure.

(For future reference - if you can avoid it, don't attempt to run RPGs in the Open Gaming Area, which is a massive room filled with other people playing boardgames, card games, and generally being loud and boisterous. I nearly lost my voice from one three-hour session, and that doesn't usually happen to me until I've run three or four games in a smaller, quieter room. The same thing happened to my friend Jason, who had to cancel some of his RPG sessions for the same reason. If you can, grab an open table at RPG HQ, or find somewhere else that won't interfere with anyone else's fun.)

For my friend Lauren and her mom and brother, I ran a Faery's Tale adventure on Sunday morning at RPG HQ. The area was smaller and quieter, and my voice held out much better. Lauren has played in every Faery's Tale game that I have run at Origins to date, and I was very happy we were able to get together for a pickup game. We had a great time, but unfortunately, it may have been the last time we get to play together, for reasons that I'll cover at the end of the report.

Since we missed the 2010 show, I didn't get to see the new Kid's Track room, which I was told had been moved downstairs and into a much bigger room - one of the ballrooms, in fact. It was a vast improvement over the old kids program. With the additional room, they were able to create areas for different activities - watching videos, playing with a huge pile of LEGO, making crafts, boffer fighting, and playing dozens of games. There was even a giant pile of cardboard boxes in the far corner of the room for kids to play with, and several science learning stations provided by the local Center for Science and Industry.
The RPG HQ area was quite busy every time I passed through, and the open RPG tables were frequently full of gamers. The Onsite Registration book was filled with RPG events that I was very sorry that I missed. In particular:

Spongebob Cthulhu: Come join Spongebob and gang as they investigate things man and sponges weren't meant to know as the Cthulhu collides with Spongebob!

The Maltese Fhtagn: What's with the black "bird" statue, pal? Hard boiled Mythos action in the 1930a. Bring your heater and a deck of Luckies, you savvy?

Whose Game Is It Anyways: Come watch Gnome Stew GM John Arcadian run a game with no prep. You provide the building blocks, he crafts the story on the fly.

Hellboy Versus the Hamburgler - The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense has detected a shift in the world's fast food empires and they have sent in Hellboy to investigate. name just a few. In all, I estimated nearly 800 RPG events listed for Origins, taking up over 35 of the event guide's pages, with the first events starting at the very beginning of the con (Wednesday at 8:00am) and the last event starting as the rest of the con was wrapping everything up (Sunday at 4:00pm). It was good to see a solid representation of roleplaying games.

LARP was well represented too, with about 200 events running through all five days of the convention - though it should be noted that their definition of LARP seems to cast a very wide net. Morton's List events were listed in this section (possibly because they may not fit in any others), as did sessions of the Werewolf mystery game and Amtgard sessions (which are all boffer combat, with no roleplaying at all).

I did see a good representation of RPGs in the dealer room - the Savage Worlds and Indie Press Revolution folks were there in force, and I saw a table set up for Free RPG Day. Kenzer & Company were there as well, displaying a teaser copy of their new Hacklopedia of Beasts (which looks incredible, by the way). The Arcanis RPG from Paradigm Concepts seemed to be generating a lot of buzz - I didn't get to try it myself, but I always seemed to be around people who were demoing it or talking about it.

I missed seeing Titan Games and their massive display of very reasonably priced RPG books in the dealer room - but Chimera Games had a good-sized booth that almost made up for it, which included an impressive collection of classic Star Wars D6 rulebooks and supplements.

One area of the convention that I always seem to overlook - and I mention this in case others do the same - are the seminars. I didn't get to attend any this year, but looking back through the event book, I can see a bunch that I'm sorry that I missed, and many that would be benefical to anyone involved in running, playing, and/or writing RPGs, or RPG advocacy:

Game Design is Mind Control (hosted by Luke Crane and Jared Sorensen)
Fundamentals of Setting Design (a discussion with Kenneth Hite)
GM Mastery
The Rules of Writing
Christianity and Gaming
Roleplaying Games Build Better Writers
Breaking into RPG Writing
Games for the Classroom
The Mad Taxonomy of Roleplaying Game Design
The Ups and Downs of the Publishing Industry
Game Design for Teachers

Most Origins attendees got a surprise on Saturday, when the convention center hosted the Ohio Democratic Party State Dinner, with vice president Joe Biden in attendance. The results were about what you'd expect. Police cars and news trucks arrived first, making most congoers assume that something had gone wrong (or that someone panicked when they saw a convention center full of barbarian princesses and zombie hunters). Then the Secret Service arrived, setting up portable metal detectors and (from what I heard, anyway) shutting down all Wi-Fi communication in the area.

I didn't get to see much of this firsthand (it was going on during my Ghostbusters/Men in Black game), but as I understand it, the Secret Service got very itchy about some of the cosplayers, especially the ones in any sort of military gear. But I didn't hear about any confrontations or arrests, so I assume that's a good thing.
While I'm spreading unfounded rumors, there was at least one comment on Twitter that a congoer took the opportunity to ask Joe Biden if he wanted to play some D&D, and he refused. Which is a shame. Al Gore might have taken him up on it (he did, after all, join a pickup game with Gary Gygax in that one episode of Futurama…).

Unfortunately, it looks like the fair will become less family-friendly in the following years, due to an upcoming change of schedule. The dates for 2012 and 2013 puts the fair at the end of May/beginning of June, when most kids and teenagers are still in school, and won't be able to travel. This also hurts some board and card game companies such as Looney Labs, which employ lots of educators to demo their games and man their booths. And I suspect the Teacher's Hall Pass program may suffer from this change as well.

Origins management claims the change will lower boarding and travel costs, which means companies will be able to bring more product and staff to run more events. They're also hoping to maintain the time gap between Origins and Gen Con, which will be making a move in upcoming years. It's not difficult to imagine how hard it must be to manage an event of this size, making it affordable for as many participants as possible, in an economy that isn't helping out at all.

I've heard comments from some gamers that they'll be glad to see fewer kids at the convention, but I feel such attitudes are very shortsighted. I know it has become a cliché over the years, but young people really are the future of our hobby. Origins has been a family friendly convention for some time now, and I have long applauded their efforts to keep it that way. This move, however, will unfortunately make it less so.

You can view my Origins 2011 Photo Album here

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Tucson Weekly’s Nostalgia = Classic D&D Paranoia

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Thu 30 of June, 2011 11:09 PDT
(Back from Origins safe and sound. I'll have a full report finished and posted soon, but until then...)

The Tucson Weekly's Nostalgia feature brings back a cover story from 25 years ago - "Dungeons & Dragons: Playing With Fire?"

“Many of the fantasy and role-playing games are smack in the middle of the occult, and that’s the truth,” says Jack Gracie. Gracie is the spokesman for Tucson’s Christian Awareness Fellowship, a “non-profit interdenominational Christian group primarily devoted to educating the body of Christ concerning the cults and the occult.”

“In these games, kids are taught how to invoke demons and thinks like that. And now it has gone beyond a game.”

Sadly, they don't reprint the entire article, so we don't know how balanced the story is. But given the time period, I think we could make an educated guess. If anyone has a copy of the full story, please let me know.

Full article is here

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Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Thu 23 of June, 2011 07:00 PDT
Through an unexpected series of events, it looks like I will be able to attend Origins.

I'm bringing a modest amount of RPG stuff so that I can run some totally off-the-cuff games with whoever happens to be walking by. So if you're going to be there, look me up! The best way to get in touch is through the Escapist Twitter account.

Hope to see you there!

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Teaching Gifted Students with D&D

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 17 of June, 2011 09:47 PDT
The Austin Daily Herald brings us this story on the third annual Gifted and Talented Symposium in Austin, Texas, where Educational Psychology professor Bonnie Cramond discussed her methods of using Dungeons & Dragons to teach mythology to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders:
Cramond brought the fantasy game presentation to the symposium, ready to explain how in the early ‘80s she used a barebones version of Dungeons and Dragons to get middle school students to work together and absorb the material in a different way.

Cramond split the students into groups, introduced the game and got them started on an adventure based on the 12 labors of Hercules. She didn’t make students read about Hercules beforehand, however. She simply set the textbooks on a shelf, which students eventually discovered. To Cramond’s delight, the students read the myths in order to gain an advantage in the game, figuring out what they needed to do to pass.

“They thought they were tricking me,” she said with a smile.

Sadly, most of these sorts of creative learning programs were shut out during the Satanic Panic era of the 1980s, when many parents were filled with the fear that anything related to role-playing games was evil and dangerous.

Thankfully however, we are past that era, and most people have a fair to good understanding about what RPGs really are. Now it's just a matter of spreading the word of how beneficial RPGs can be to the learning process, and trying to put programs like this one back into place in schools everywhere.

You can read the full story here: [ article | archive ]

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Free RPG Day is this Saturday!

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 17 of June, 2011 09:41 PDT
The title pretty much says it all - this Saturday, June 18th, is Free RPG Day, when RPG publishers offer great freebies to Friendly Local Game Stores, who in turn offer them to their customers free of charge.

Here are two things to remember when you head out to your FLGS for some gratis gaming goodies:

- Many stores have rules regarding how many free items you can take. This is to ensure that there is enough to go around for everyone. Please respect these rules, they are there to make Free RPG Day better for everyone.

- Someone (sorry, I don't remember who) suggested a $5 pledge - that is, if you go to a store to get some Free RPG Day swag, spend at least five dollars there, just to help out the good folks who bring you all of these wonderful games. Get some new dice or a dice bag, some minis, a magazine, or whatever catches your eye. If everyone who stopped in a store for some freebies spent five dollars while they were there, it would give our game stores a much-needed shot in the arm.

Speaking of special events designed to promote the RPG hobby - the next Read an RPG Book in Public Week is coming up in a little over a month! What better way to get some early practice than to read some of your shiny new free RPG books in public?

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Two positive roleplaying articles: one for tabletop, one for LARP

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Mon 13 of June, 2011 08:56 PDT
Two positive stories on the hobby hit my inbox recently:

First, Roll Play: Knoxville's Adult Board Gamers examines a group of gamers at a popular game store in Knoxville, TN:
It provides practice in personal interactions. “It helps you learn to deal with people, being diplomatic, speaking in public.” He adds, “Before Dungeons & Dragons, I would never have talked to a reporter. I’d be saying, ‘Please don’t talk to me!’”

Some gamers are frank about the stereotypes, some of which may be accurate. “For a lot of socially awkward teenagers like myself, D&D was a formative experience,” says proprietor Hardy. “It’s a structured social activity. If you go to a bar, there’s no rules, no guidelines. That’s awkward for some people. This is a structured way to socialize with people in a non-confrontational setting.” Hardy calls it “cooperative storytelling.”

Read the full article here: [ article | archive]

Next, published a positive story on live-action roleplayers, titled N.J. role-playing enthusiasts gather to act out games, stories [ article | archive] ... then, in a followup piece, gave LARPers the opportunity to respond to the myths and stereotypes that surround them:
It might be a bit weird - but at least these folks are out there enjoying the outdoors, using their imaginations, etc. Certainly no weirder than people who spend their weekends hitting balls into little cups with expensive sticks or casting hooks into water to catch fish you have no intention of eating!
[ article | archive] also has a great photo album to go with the article - you can view it here.

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Tools of the Mind

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Wed 08 of June, 2011 10:10 PDT
Ben at the Kids Dungeon Adventure blog made a post recently about Tools of the Mind, a teaching method that utilizes roleplaying and has been shown to reduce aggression, increase self-regulation, and promote vocabulary and spelling.

We knew all about this already, but it’s always good to have experts on our side, isn't it? Read more here!

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Wizards & Warriors needs you!

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Mon 06 of June, 2011 10:13 PDT
My friend Adam Rogers, who is the executive director of camps for Guard Up!, has a pressing dilemma. His fantasy LARP camp in Massachusetts, Wizards & Warriors, has a bunch of scholarships to give away - but time is running out before camp starts!

If you have some young adventurers in your tribe (boys and girls ages 10-15), and are near (or can get to) the Westford, MA area, apply for a scholarship today! For more info on the Wizards and Warriors camp, visit, or call 781-270-4800

(For even more info, see my 2009 interview with Meghan Gardner from Wizards & Warriors right here.)

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Vampires at UofD, LARPing in the sports section, The Blind GM, and more!

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 03 of June, 2011 10:46 PDT
I've got a bunch of articles and items that deserve mention on the blog, but too little time to give each one it's own post. So here are some quick reviews:

'Vampire' clans battle in Purnell Hall - This one is over a month old, and slipped by me somehow, even though it's from my own home state of Delaware. College papers are usually good to the roleplaying hobby, giving an accurate portrayal of the game and players, and this article is no exception. Mention is made of how LARP can help build confidence and social skills in players who need help in one or both.

Live Action Role Play: no blood, all glory - Another college paper covers LARP, this time the Seattle University Spectator covering boffer-style LARPing - in the Sports section, no less!

The Blind GM - I discovered The Blind GM when he followed me on Twitter, and clicked over to his blog to check it out. In it, he discusses the challenges of being a blind roleplayer, including finding PDFs that are accessible to the visually impaired. It's still a new blog (only two posts so far), but I'm hoping it will stick around for a while and enlighten us all even further.

Homeschool RPG Club - Update (from the Kids-RPG discussion group). Bruce Anderson organized an RPG club for homeschooled kids, and ran Savage Worlds sessions for four different groups. This post is a summary of the groups and the sessions he ran for each, and it is overflowing with awesomeness.

Fantasy lives in real-world games - As I was typing all of this up, another great story hit my inbox, this one from the Columbian in Washington, about gamers meeting at the Washougal Community Library to play RPGs and other games.

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Roleplaying games as writing inspiration

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Wed 01 of June, 2011 10:12 PDT
My friend Bob Mueller sent me a post from the Write Anything blog on the benefits that RPGs can provide to writers who are looking for inspiration.

It's actually the second in a trilogy of posts on using RPGs as inspiration for your writing. I'm not sure if they will bring much enlightenment to experienced gamers - we're already very aware of these benefits by now - but they're really geared for non-roleplayer writers who are looking for new paths to inspiration.

The first, I Am Dungeon Master, is all about the perils of world-building, and trusting your world to a group of potentially destructive characters. The second, Player of Games, discusses the great level of detail that roleplayers put into their characters, which effectively start out as a bunch of numbers on a sheet of paper.

The third installment is still pending, and I'm looking forward to seeing what it will be about!

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Yes, Girls Play D&D

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Fri 27 of May, 2011 07:17 PDT
Jeff Woodall pointed me in the direction of these two videos about a Dungeon Master named David and his all-female group of players. The original, "Yes, Girls Play D&D" was made for a school project, and was aimed at people who know very little about the hobby. The second, "Yes, Girls (Still) Play D&D," is sort of an update on the group, how they have developed as players, and how they are dealing with the challenge of balancing game time and real life.

It's always great to see any group of roleplayers having a good time at a session - but even better when it's a stereotype-buster, like this group is. (And I love the idea of a party of musicians named after classical composers, and will totally be stealing it for a future campaign.)

The sound on both of these videos is a bit low, so you may want to dig out your headphones. (Be forewarned that there is a little bit of salty language in both of these videos, so please watch with discretion around younger gamers.)

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Remnants of Satanic Panic

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Wed 18 of May, 2011 09:05 PDT
Lately, I've been doing some research for the next Escapist video, "How Roleplaying Games Got a Bad Reputation," and going through some old anti-gaming books and videos. My oldest daughter Aylish caught me doing this, and told me how frustrated it made her to see people trying to feed others their own paranoid ignorance.

I gave her the good news - that for the most part, you don't see these sorts of things happening as often these days, and when someone does write a book or get on television trying to warn everyone away from the imagined evils of RPGs, they're usually dismissed as raving kooks.

Then, just yesterday, I received an email from an Escapist reader who sent me a link to a post on the roleplaying forum RPGnet, with a story that could have easily come from the mid eighties:

So my mom took away my D&D books today because of Heroes of Shadow.

I'd bought both Heroes of Shadow and Paizo's Inner Sea Guide and had both of them on my desk (well I was flipping through the ISG) and my mom came in and asked how my day went. I told her it went great I finally got the two books I'd been waiting for.

So she starts flipping through my Heroes of Shadow and suddenly sees stuff like Soul Sacrifice and Shadow Sponsorship and things like that in big scary letters and she just freaks out. She starts yelling at me about how D&D is satanic and that I've been lying to her all along about it.

She took all of my d&d books and put them in a cardboard box out front for anyone to take =( It was gone this morning. That was over a 1000 dollars gone. I know WotC has no interest in turning our souls over to Satan (afterall they wouldn't see any profit in it, so why bother?) but couldn't they have hidden the darker themes of the book deeper inside it or something? I'm sorry. I know it's not WotC's fault. I'm just mad and looking for a target.

It's just another reminder of why this site and the CAR-PGa are here. Sadly, this is one of those situations that is hard to reconcile. I used to get emails about it so frequently that I addressed it in the Basic Gaming FAQ, with the best advice I could possibly offer in cases like these. In a nutshell: respect the wishes of your parents, arm yourself with the facts, try to explain your case as rationally and calmly as possible, and accept their decision no matter what it is.

It feels sort of strange to still be handing out this advice, because it's so hard to imagine too many remnants of the Satanic Panic era still lingering around 30 years later. But that's not the only reason it feels strange. As I write this, I'm preparing a Vampire: The Masquerade session for Aylish and her friends Miranda and Jerry, and looking forward to spending some quality time with intelligent, creative kids, telling stories and exercising our imaginations.

It's strange to think of that as something that I should be so afraid of.

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The RPG Fact Checker

Posted by WJWalton4831 points  on Thu 05 of May, 2011 10:46 PDT
One of the projects I have been working on for the site for a very long time is a short PDF document aimed at anyone who is writing on the subject of tabletop roleplaying games without much prior knowledge of what they are and how they are played - something I call "The RPG Fact Checker." I'm hoping that such a thing would be a handy tool for any writer who has an honest desire to accurately write about the hobby, with some basic facts, refutations of common misconceptions, and links to more information.

The reason it has taken so long to complete it is that I've spent so much time debating what should go into it, and how long it should be. At present, I have a pretty good amount of information compacted into three pages, and I'm fairly happy with the way it is organized.

But as always, I'm open to suggestions. Before I go public with it, I'd like some other people to have a look and tell me what they think. A link to the PDF is below. If you think I've missed something that really should be included, email me at Thanks!

The RPG Fact Checker (PDF)

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