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July 10
2014

D&D’s Bumpy Road to Inclusion

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(A word of caution. Some of the links to articles contained within contain strong language.)

On Tuesday, Wizards of the Coast released the free basic rules to the fifth and newest edition of the most popular RPG franchise, Dungeons & Dragons. Inside, aspiring adventurers and dungeon masters can find rules on how to create adventurers who are devout Clerics, brawny Fighters, devious Rogues, or worldly Wizards, and then tells them how to go out into the world, slay monsters, collect treasure, and become ever stronger.

It also included something new in a D&D product, something that gave me pause when I saw it for the first time. In fact, I didn’t actually believe it when I first saw it. The passage in question is a mere two paragraphs filed under “Sex” (as in one’s biological sex), but the content of those paragraphs are stunning to anyone used to tabletop RPGs.

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June 25
2014

Tabletopping: Monsterhearts

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Tabletopping is a series where Bryce takes a tabletop RPG he has never played before, sits down with some friends, and tries it out. It’s about his first experience with a new game. As a result, rules will be gotten wrong, confusion will arise, and not everything will make sense. Some games rise, and others fall, but either way, stories will be made and told.

Teenagers and monsters must have something in common. They’re matched together so frequently. Teen Wolf, Buffy, Twilight, Vampire Diaries…what is it? Is it the using monsters as a metaphor for the isolation that teenagers can feel growing up? Is it the gratuitous and over-the-top action that can arise? The secret lives that some have to lead? Or a confluence of all of these factors? Well, now you can find out for yourself.

Enter Monsterhearts, by Avery Mcdaldno. Monsterhearts casts the players as—you guessed it—teenage monsters, struggling to get by in a world that is either unaware or terrified of them. Monsterhearts tells you that it knows you could write a better Twilight. I mean, hell, anyone could, right? So do it.

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February 28
2014

Board Game Review: 7 Wonders

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Strategy games that span millennia and have you building up civilizations from nothing—like, say, Civilization—often can be multi-hour affairs. Sometimes they can last days if you want to play an epic multiplayer game. So one can imagine that board games that emulate this genre take an equally long amount of time with just as much concentration and strategy. And, well, you’d be right! Games like Clash of Cultures and Civilization (the board game) can be very long and intensive. However, what if I told you that there was a board game where you could build a civilization in half an hour? Even if you had the maximum of seven players? It’s true! 7 Wonders aims to provide difficult choices and requires flexible planning, all in a sleek, 30-minute package. The question is: does it deliver?

…the answer is yes. This game rocks. Sorry, I’m bad at suspense.

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January 28
2014

Tabletopping: Fiasco

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Fiasco is not your usual tabletop RPG. In fact, it’s difficult to describe it as an RPG at all. It’s more like a board game, RPG, and acting exercise all met and threw a really screwed up party. Or had a really screwed up kid.

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November 20
2013

Tabletopping: Ashen Stars

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So far, our group has played classic fantasy in Dungeon World, modern-day supernatural in Don’t Rest Your Head, and, er, 1920s Russian ninjas in Fate Core. So where else do we turn to now…but the stars? Science fiction RPGs definitely have a history, so it was inevitable that we played one eventually. The question was which one?

I had a vague plan of what games I wanted to try, and for this session I wanted to play a game that used the GUMSHOE system. The GUMSHOE system is based on investigation and mysteries rather than dungeon-crawling and explosions (though there are plenty of those too). The choices I presented to my group were to play either Nights’ Black Agents, where you play as ex-special forces fighting vampires in a superspy setting, Mutant City Blues, where X-Men meets CSI, or the game that we ended up playing, which is Ashen Stars.

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November 13
2013

Tabletopping: Fate Core

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I sit around the table with the other players. I begin, “In this game, we can basically make up what kind of genre we want to play and what kind of world we want to play in. So, what elements do you want to be in our game?”

“Ninjas,” Rick says immediately.

“Supernatural!” says Ben.

“Russians!” says Rick.

I stare for a moment. “So…Magical Russian ninjas.”

“In the 1920s,” Noah says.

“…in the 1920s,” I confirm. “This is going to be weird as hell game.”

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November 6
2013

Upcoming Tabletop: “Three Days until Retirement” and Interview with Creator Stuart Keating!

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So let’s say one crazy day you decide that you’re a bit tired of slaying dragons. Swiss Army Vorpal Swords +Whatever make you yawn. Wizards throwing fireballs? Laaaame. You have some friends over and you’ve been watching a marathon of Lethal Weapon (like we are all prone to do at some point, I’m sure). Suddenly you have the idea: what about a tabletop RPG where you play as loose cannon cops who are too old for this shit and are just three days away from retirement?!

Well, sorry to say, but you’ve been beat to the punch.

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