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Created by WJWalton4753 points  on Tue 26 of May, 2009 11:35 PDT
Last post Mon 15 of Dec., 2014 04:09 PST
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RPGers occupy the Occupy events

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Sat 19 of Nov., 2011 05:42 PST
Last week, I posted a moving story about homeless gamers, one of whom finds an escape in his GURPS books. This week, in following the theme of spotting gamers in topical situations, my news feeds bring me not one, but TWO stories about D&D players at Occupy events.

Demotix: Occupy Tampa Day of Action Lightly Attended

Salon: I brought my kids to Occupy L.A.

Also, game designer Chris Pramas participated in an Occupy Seattle event, which inspired Wade Rockett to create this gamer-themed Occupy graphic:



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Teaching my kids how to play a roleplaying game

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Wed 16 of Nov., 2011 07:12 PST

Though I am doing all I can to help promote it, I will not be directly participating in Teach Your Kids to Game Week. I hope that doesn't sound hypocritical, but my current circumstances prevent it - I've got a heavy work week, and my time off this week will be spent helping my partner Paula get a job, and working on some other time-sensitive projects.

Also, there's another reason - I taught my kids to how to play a roleplaying game a long time ago. In fact, I think I'll share that story, and maybe it will inspire someone else to do the same. And maybe that will count as participation.

It was a rainy day, not much different than today, and my daughters were cooped up in the house, watching the same DVD they'd watched maybe a hundred times. I had been thinking about trying some sort of simple RPG with them in the recent weeks, but I wasn't sure if they were really ready - Aylish was 5, and Nolah only 3. But they were already somewhat accustomed to interactive storytelling, since one of our favorite pasttimes involved me making up a bedtime story on the fly, with the two of them interjecting characters and places and names and events whenever I stopped for a moment.

So, I switched off the TV and told them we were going to play a storytelling game. Ignoring their moans of despair, I pulled my copy of Teenagers From Outer Space off of the shelf, and handed them photocopies of the character sheets to look over, so that they could choose a character that they liked. (Yes, I had copies all ready to go. Remember, I said I had been thinking about this!)

I had even prepared for the possibility that both would choose the same character - "Okay, fine, you're twin sisters. We'll just rename one of you. You look exactly the same, and everyone always gets you confused, even your parents!" But they both managed to latch on to different characters that they liked, based on the pictures on the character sheets. One of the benefits of running TfOS for kids is that the character sheets all have illustrations of the anime characters on them.

For the benefit of those not familiar with the setting of Teenagers From Outer Space, it's an anime-themed RPG based around teens from various planets (including Earth) who go to a high school in space and deal with typical teenaged-type situations, but in a more humorous and outer-spacey way.

Another benefit of the game is that it comes with play money that you can photocopy and hand out to the players as allowance, pay from their summer jobs, and so on. Which I did, and told my two teenagers from outer space that they had just received their allowance money, and were taking the public shuttle to Planet Mall

What's that? Explain the rules of the game to them? Tell them how the dice work, and what their skill ratings mean, and all that? Yeah, sure, I got around it eventually. But by giving them a character sheet with a cool picture on it, sticking some play money in their hands, and telling them where their characters were and giving them a place to explore, I thrust them into the story in a way that was irresistable to them. They couldn't help but start exploring, and looking for places to spend their money.

After poking around in some shops to find something interesting to buy, the girls noticed that some of the people wandering about the mall concourse looked odd - they were moaning, shambling around like zombies, and were blue all over (not that it's particularly unusual to see blue folks at Planet Mall, mind you).

Eventually, they came to the plot of the story - someone was creating a mind-control serum and sneaking it into a slushie machine in the food court - and the victims were trying to force others to drink the blue-colored slushie so that they could become blue zombies, too!

Once the real story was underway, my girls had an opportunity to use their skills. That's when I explained how the system worked, in the simplest possible terms - roll the dice, add the number on your sheet to the number you rolled, and if it is higher than the number I told you to beat, then you did it! Nolah, who couldn't read yet and was still pretty shaky with adding, needed just a little help here, so I just told her to count the dots on her dice. I told her how many dots she needed, and let her tell me if she had "rolled enough dots" or not. At one point, she was looking at her character sheet at the list of skills, asking me what all of them said, and what she could do with them - she was completely on board with the concept of an RPG, she just couldn't read the words yet!

Eventually, they took down the bad guy who was poisoning the slushie machine and trying to take over Planet Mall. Aylish surprised me with a bit of ingenuity when she said she wanted to get one of the slushies and dump it over her head so that she would look like one of the blue zombies, so they would stop trying to attack her. (I hadn't even thought of that! Of course, I let it work for her - how could I not?) The poisoned mallgoers all recovered from the mind-control serum, the bad guy was arrested by the Interplanetary Police, and our heroes even got a cash reward for helping catch him!

And that is the story of how I taught my kids - ages 5 and 3 - how to play a roleplaying game.

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Teach Your Kids To Game Week is here!

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Tue 15 of Nov., 2011 05:21 PST



It's Teach Your Kids to Game Week! DriveThruRPG has set up a special page with excellent suggestions of RPGs to play with young people - and they've brought in a few very cool guest writers to share some suggestions on running RPGs for kids!

I'm also unveiling something here as well, in honor of this special week. For some time now, I have been revamping the Adventurer's Atlas of the Young Person's Adventure League, adding several new kid-friendly RPGs and reorganizing the entire section. It's not quite finished yet, but I'm hoping to have it up very soon. So keep an eye out for it.

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Homeless gamers

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Sat 12 of Nov., 2011 06:50 PST
In Life Out Here, an article for the Harvard Crimson, Samuel F. Wohns spends some time talking to two homeless men, Justin and Ralph, about their experiences living on the street - "spanging" (begging for spare change), making shelters out of tarps, trying to hold on to their personal possessions, and other day-to-day challenges.

It's a life with very few healthy escapes - but Justin has one that doesn't involve drugs or alcohol:
With his legs extended and his back against the wall, Justin reads instruction books on different systems for hours at a time. In recent weeks he has been developing a Generic Universal Role Playing System (GURPS) campaign of “high fantasy with steam punk and sonic elements, as well as traditional magic and swords and sorcery.”

...

Living on the street, he does not have as much freedom as he used to, he says. But in GURPS he calls all the shot and makes all the rules; it’s a drug-free escape from a life where he can’t even choose his own bedtime to a world where he’s in charge of everything.


Read the full article here. (Due to mature themes and coarse language, reader discretion is advised.)

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Two upcoming events: National Gaming Day and Teach Your Kids to Game Week

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Thu 10 of Nov., 2011 15:09 PST

This Saturday, November 12th is National Gaming Day @ Your Library. Check with your local library and see if they are participating. If not, ask if they'll let you volunteer, or if they'd like you to organize something for them next year. For more information, visit ngd.ala.org. (Thanks to Michael Tresca for the reminder!)

Right after that, Teach Your Kids to Game week starts on Monday November 14th. This is a new event organized by the folks at DriveThruRPG to encourage parents and other grownups to get kids involved in roleplaying games. They've invited me and Kevin Kulp to contribute essays for their weekly newsletter, and they'll be featuring great RPGs for kids. To find out more, see their newsletter (the current edition will be live soon), and their Facebook page.

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The Five Ws of RPGs

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Thu 10 of Nov., 2011 14:17 PST


For a little while now, I've been working on a something - a page that I hope will become the go-to page for anyone who is trying to explain the roleplaying hobby to others, without getting into too many complexities, talking down to anyone, or getting bogged down with the urban legends and other negative stuff.

I finished it up today, and I'm hoping to get some input on it from experienced roleplayers and newbies alike. You can find it at www.theescapist.info (external link)

If you like it, please consider linking to it and spreading the word!

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Dork Tower's 1000th strip

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Fri 04 of Nov., 2011 17:00 PDT
Dork Tower recently hit the 1000 strip mark, after 15 years of publication - and to celebrate, John Kovalic did something of a call back to a classic strip:





Congratulations John, and here's to 1000 more strips!

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Random Article Table: Slaying stereotypes, roleplaying soldiers in Iraq, and more

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Wed 02 of Nov., 2011 08:56 PDT
October is always a busy time for me, and this year was no different - which means I have another backlog of articles to post to the Escapist blog! So, without further ado, and in no particular order:

Slaying the Stereotypes - Following in the tradition of positive RPG coverage in college newspapers and websites, Jason Krell writes about the roleplayer stereotype at the Daily Wildcat, the news organization of the University of Arizona. Read his full article here.

Soldiers escape to magical world - This article from DVIDS, an organization that provides news for and about the military, explores a group of roleplaying soldiers based in Cob Adder, Iraq, and the benefits to teamwork and camaraderie that tabletop roleplaying games provide.
“Everyday I walk around post as Pvt. Anderson, but a few times a week I get to be Zander, the magic-user, and fight on the various quests he is on,” said Anderson. “For those few precious hours I get to forget the day-to-day worries of a solider and be somebody else; and at least in my head, be somewhere else.”
Read the full article here.

Interview with the LARPer - The Onion's AV Club featured an interview with Anne Zellmer, Head Storyteller of a Mind's Eye Theatre LARP group based in Milwaukee. It's an interesting look at the challenges of organizing such a club, trying to draw new players into it, and creating stories in a fictional world that has gone out of print in the real world. You can read the full article here.

CNN Geeks Out on RPGs - And last but most certainly not least, CNN Geek Out featured an interview with Enrique Bertran (NewbieDM) about his made-for-kids RPG titled (appropriately enough) RPGKids, and the benefits of playing RPGs with young people. You can read all about it here.

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Reminder: Two days left to vote in the Ogre Awards!

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Sat 29 of Oct., 2011 21:17 PDT
Just in case you've been procrastinating, this is a friendly reminder that there are just two days left to vote for my website, The Escapist, in the Ogre Awards! The Escapist has been nominated in the Website of the Year category for the 2011 Ogre Awards, a series of accolades given by the Organization of Gamers & Roleplaying Enthusiasts (O.G.R.E.s).

Here's more about the "Oggies" from their website:
The OGRE Awards, most commonly known as The Oggies (after our mascot Oggie the Ogre), are a grouping of awards presented by O.G.R.E.s annually to leaders and members of the tabletop, card, live action, and party gaming industry for their products and services. Unlike other tabletop industry awards like the ENnies or Origin awards, the OGGIEs are not all limited to annual releases. Instead, they reflect the cherished games and people that members of O.G.R.E.s - around 3,000 across three countries - care for. The program began in 2010, and the first actual awards will be up for open voting beginning on September 1st, 2011.
Check out the voting page and, if you are so inclined, please consider voting for your favorite roleplaying advocacy website in the Website of the Year category! The voting page can be found at ogres.wikia.com/wiki/The_Oggies/2011 and voting closes on October 31st.

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Random Article Table: Big Bang Theory, celeb gamers, murder retrial, Google+, and more

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Tue 11 of Oct., 2011 10:05 PDT
Sheldon Rolls Dice with the Universe - I missed the most recent episode of Big Bang Theory, but from what I hear, the episode began with the group playing a game of D&D, and continued with Sheldon using his gaming dice to make all of his life decisions. I'm hoping to catch it in reruns.

YA Author was a "secret gamer" - In an interview for the Daily Herald, Paul Talbot, author of the young adult novel Wizard Magic, discusses his childhood interest in fantasy, and how he was able to work around a parental ban on Dungeons & Dragons:
In the late '80s as Dungeons and Dragons grew in popularity, Talbot's parents deemed it as "bad" and Talbot and his brother Adam Talbot were banned from playing the game. However, creating fantasy worlds was what Talbot did best, so he and Adam created their own role-playing game.

"My brother came up with the character's race, class and the types of monsters while I thought up the spells and magic items," he said.

They referred to their game as "A.P's Quest" or "Adam and Paul's Quest."

Read more here.

John C. Reilly and his D&D past - Actor John C. Reilly briefly mentions how he founded the Dungeons & Dragons club at his high school in an interview for MovieFone: article here.

New Evidence in Savannah murder case - The Savannah Morning News brings us the story of new evidence found in the 1992 murder case of Marine veteran Stanley Jackson. The three suspects, Mark Jones, Kenneth Gardiner and Dominic Lucci, were called "thrill seekers" by prosecutor David Lock, who also said that the three were "acting out a scenario from the game Dungeons and Dragons." Now the sole eyewitness to the crime has come forward to claim that he was never able to identify the suspects, and other facts about Jackson's murder have raised questions about the guilt of the three suspects. Read the full story here.

Something fun for once - Southern California attorney Burt Likko (not his real name) has been asked by some friends to run a role-playing game for them. Rather than go with a published RPG system, Burt has opted to create his own RPG rules, and is asking his readers what they like to see in a set of roleplaying rules. Hopefully, there will be future updates on his progress - I personally think it would be interesting to see the developments as a lawyer sets about creating a set of RPG rules. Read more here.

Google+ gets the D&D test - This is a totally biased opinion: The true test of any new tech gadget is how it can help you play Dungeons & Dragons. Over at DigitalTrends, they put Google's new social network, Google+ to the ultimate test: Read about it here.

And lastly, I have two excellent stories from university newspapers about roleplaying. In Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, the Baker Orange has a story about the Baker Vniversity Lifeless Langvage Association (BVLLA), a language club that hosts the occasional LARP event. (link), and from Dixie State College in Utah, the Dixie Sun has a great article about their Dungeons & Dragons club: (link).

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An interview with Cameron McNary, author of Of Dice and Men

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Fri 30 of Sept., 2011 10:43 PDT
Cameron McNary is the author of Of Dice and Men, a play in two acts about a group of friends and roleplayers who find themselves having to cope with some life-changing, real-world decisions. The show has found some critical acclaim, and even changed some minds about the roleplaying hobby and the people who play it.

I had the opportunity to talk to Cameron about his inspiration for writing the play and the issues that it addresses. You can read the full interview here.

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Romach: Helping troubled youth in Israel with RPGs

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Wed 28 of Sept., 2011 10:25 PDT
From Purple Pawn comes the brief but positive story about an organization called Romach in Raanan, Israel that uses role-playing games as a form of therapy for troubled youth:

The organizers have enlisted a psychiatrist and some therapists for the project. They trained them as to how RPGs work (their RPG of choice is Warhammer Fantasy; 4e is too combat oriented) and they received training on how to run the sessions to ensure that each child encounters situations that can help them work through issues. The sessions, and the club, look nothing like therapy, which is the point.


This is refreshing news coming from Israel - some of you may remember an article from 2005 about how the Israeli Defense Force considers roleplayers a security risk, and how soldiers who admit to playing Dungeons & Dragons are "sent to a professional for an evaluation, usually a psychologist."

It seems like Romach is sort of a logical response to this sort of ignorance - especially since, as the Purple Pawn article suggests, there are plans to expand the program to give leadership training to the military.

Read the full article here - and here's hoping we'll see a lot more about this!

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Indie RPG bundle supports the Wayne Foundation

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Thu 15 of Sept., 2011 09:00 PDT
The Wayne Foundation Charity Pack - Fifteen dollars gets you an incredible pack of indie RPG products, including Argyle & Crew, Azamar, Toypocalypse, Adventure Idea Factory, and much more - and all of the profits go to a charity that helps victims of human trafficking and child prostitution. From the page:

The Wayne Foundation's vision is for a world without child slavery. Our mission is to provide young women who have fallen victim to commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking with a means of leaving the sex industry for good. The Wayne Foundation is committed to fighting human trafficking, child prostitution & child sex exploitation one victim at a time by providing individuals with a safe home environment that will empower them with the tools they will need to stop the cycle of abuse.

It is our intent to stop commercial sex exploitation within the United States through direct victim assistance, public outreach, and by directly working with those who shape the policies and statutes which impact victims and their abusers.

Every cent of profit made from this bundle will go directly to The Wayne Foundation to help them accomplish this mission. Not only will you get some great RPG and board game products, but you'll be helping Jamie and her foundation get off the ground and in to action.


It's just another example of gamers doing good things in the real world. Please consider contributing.



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Shelly Mazzanoble interview in Forbes

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Wed 14 of Sept., 2011 09:51 PDT
Shelly Mazzanoble, author of Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress, has published a followup: Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons. David Ewalt from Forbes has an interview with her:

I remember taking this psychology class in college and learning that you should watch how people are with waiters and in traffic because that is a good indication of their “human shadow”—the part of ourselves we try to hide from everyone. I think D&D is probably the best telltale for that. I’ve made some of the best friendships of my life because of the relationships my character had in the dungeon.


You can read the full article here

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Three quick updates

Posted by WJWalton4753 points  on Tue 13 of Sept., 2011 15:08 PDT
- The Grand Masquerade, which is the 20th anniversary celebration of the Vampire: The Masquerade RPG, starts this Thursday and runs through Sunday. Whether you enjoy the game or not, it's still a very impressive event centered around a single RPG. I'm hoping we'll see some great pics and video of the celebration in the coming weeks.

- Chuck Wending explains why writers should play roleplaying games. Chuck uses a lot of grownup words, so please click with discretion.

- Dungeons & Dragons has once again landed a nomination for the Toy Hall of Fame, and again, the other nominees present some stiff competition - the dollhouse, Hot Wheels, Jenga, Pogo Stick, Puppet, R/C Vehicles, Rubik's Cube, Simon, Star Wars action figures, Transformers, and Twister. Only two nominees will make it into the Hall of Fame, and they will be announced on November 10th.



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