Month: November 2016

Inspiration Alley

With the passing of Thanksgiving, black Friday and cyber Monday, we are in the full swing of the holiday season. Which means several things for most of us, extra shifts and overtime for extra money for holiday gifts, visits from family, and ultimately, less time for the games we love.

 

But don’t despair just yet. Why not use this time to recharge creative batteries and find new sources for inspiration? Not the usual ones like Stranger Things, Walking Dead, and all the other things that 90% of us know about. What about the odd things that each of us sees and finds inspiration in? Lots of these don’t get passed on. So that’s what my next few blog entries will be. Art, film, graphic novels, and stories that, with a little luck and game prep, will kick start the year with fresh and newly inspired story lines.

 

Lacey and I met Vincent Marcone in the artist section at GenCon 2016. His artwork immediately caught our eye. It has a whimsical and dark style that demands a second look. Long story short we left GenCon with several pieces.

Hung by the chimney with care.

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Art is one of those funny things where what one person loves another just sees junk. So find what you like and explore websites like beautiful bizarre for contemporary artists. If you prefer the impressionism of VanGogh, Google modern impressionism to see new artwork to draw ideas from. The same is true for Dali and surrealism.

 

I suppose the point of all of this is, if we continue to go to the same places for inspiration we are inevitably going to tell the same stories. So follow the white rabbit down the hole into the limitless land of Google and find something new. Something that sparks that exciting new story and if it’s truly amazing share it with the rest of us.

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James, Kurt and Lacey review Conspiracy X 2nd edition. Conspiracy X is a game about dark secrets and hidden agendas inspired by shows like X Files and Fringe. Conspiracy X is produced by Eden Studios.

I was unable to find a Con X character generator. My google fu may just be weak. If there is one out there please let me know and I will add it here.

For us in the US, the arrival of Thanksgiving signals the beginning of the holiday season. Which, for a lot of us, means seeing family, big meals and time spent traveling. The unfortunate consequence of all the holiday activities is that our gaming time gets sidelined until January. Campaigns fade away and excitement about the new game fades. Once January arrives, the first few sessions are spent recapping and trying to recapture the excitement of the games we left behind.

 

So this is the part where I am supposed to make suggestions about how to keep the excitement for the games we have alive. Send emails and texts, think of new adventures and what your characters can do during the downtime. The reality for most of us is that finding time to do this is difficult because of all the extra things that are taking away from our normal game time. Now I have to make time to do something else that just reminds me of what I am missing out on.

 

How about some real solutions that might actually work.

 

On Wednesday you’re going to hear us talk about ending games. So why not put this to practical use and play an ending chapter for the games that you are running now. It may give you and your players a chance to come back in January refreshed and excited for chapter 2. Short notice I know, but then again there’s no time like the present.

 

If you know that your gaming is going to wind down for a while, why not try and introduce some of your non-gaming family to the board game and RPG world.

 

<Gasp> You mean game with granny?

 

Well why not? There are lots of zero prep party style games out there that are lots of fun. Fiasco, Juggernaut or if you’re feeling brave maybe Apocalypse World or one of its derivatives.

 

Maybe you’re not ready to take the plunge with the fam. Then the answer could be some of the board games that are out there: Catan, Flick ’em Up, or Cash and Guns. Nothing beats getting held up and shot for 20k by old Auntie Muriel.

 

The point is almost everyone likes having fun and people will surprise you. Instead of sitting around and talking about how school or work is going or the myriad of other conversations that we have over and over, why not introduce your family to the hobby that we all love and spend so much time enjoying?

 

Watch some videos of grandparents playing Cards Against Humanity, and you will realize that everyone enjoys having a good laugh and playing games. You just have to get them to relax and give it a try.

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Lacey, Carrie and James sit down to talk about getting into 3D printing and tabletop gaming. How to get started and where to find amazing models to print.

These are the three sources talked about in this episode.

Fat Dragon Games
Printable Scenery
Thingiverse

Here are the Dragonlock tiles that I have printed. The two tiles on the left have a layer of grey spray paint primer on them. The others have one off set brick color and a dry brush highlight. The minis in the picture are from Dust Tactics.

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Stern of frigate from Printable Scenery with a close up to show details. This is straight off the printer.

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Dice Box from Thingiverse, closed and open.

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Dwarven Mini from Thingiverse. The larger one is 28mm the smaller is 15mm, with a 28mm Reaper mini for scale.

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Dr Doom mask from Thingiverse. This was printed as two pieces, glued together, primed and painted.

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And finally a Guy Fawkes mask from Thingiverse. Printed as one piece, primed and mostly finished paint.

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Recently I had a discussion about the state of gaming. It wasn’t the worn out “is gaming in decline” discussion. It was much more positive than that. Is this the best time in gaming or has that already passed? My answer, yes this is the best time in gaming, by leaps and bounds.

 

Are you still there?

 

If you haven’t thrown your phone or laptop across the room in a grognard rage, hear me out. Whether you are an indie or story gamer, OSR gamer, D&D, Pathfinder/3e gamer, GURPS or something else or in between, there are more games out there for every niche and genre than ever before.

 

Mystery suspense spy thriller Night’s Black Agent

Surreal dream city Itras By

Updated high fantasy D&D 5e

Old School Gritty Fantasy Lamentations of the Flame Princess

 

The list goes on and on. If there’s a genre you want to play in, there’s probably a game for it. If there isn’t and you have the creativity and desire the barriers to design and publication have never been lower. With Drive thru RPG, kickstarter and independent publishing, a little technical skill learned on youtube and you’re on the way.

 

Or maybe you think the best games have already been made. Guess what… still the best time right now. Old rare modules are being reprinted and scanned as PDFs. New modules for old games are being made. You don’t have to search on auction sites or hope for the lucky find at yard sales. An internet connection and $10 and you’re ready to relive those deadly adventure or play new interpretations of them.

 

So here it is, my bold statement of truth. More games produced means more diversity and quality of games. Now this doesn’t mean that everything that comes out hits the mark or is even the target but they do all move game design and inspiration forward. This has caused some of the most interesting games that exist to be made and more are sure to come.

 

So go support the games you love, try new ones and maybe start to work on that game you’ve had in mind for years. I’m sure there are people out there who would love to see it.

 

Game Master Burn out.

I began my career gaming at the age of 13 My my early 40s I had been behind the GM screen for decades. I was now living in the golden age of table top. The Satanic Panic of the 80s was long over and now forgotten.
Dungeons and Dragons was now in its 5th edition. GenCon Indy had become so big it now occupied a convention center, several hotels and a sports stadium. New games were everywhere and old ones were undergoing a renaissance. My personal favorite, Traveller finally released its definitive 5th edition. Polyhedral dice were available by the pound on Amazon.com and RPG books are everywhere.

 

We had become a legitimate hobby.

 

I have even had a steady game group for the last seven years. A table of good people who share my interests and despite a gap in ages are in a similar stage of life. We went to GenCon together, stayed in a hotel room for days and we are all still friends.

 

I play in an excellent venue consisting of a well appointed and finished basement. Yes a basement. There we have a library of the best gaming books, fridge, sink and stove for making frozen pizzas. We roll dice on a table that is a credible copy of those fancy gaming tables you see at GenCon. It’s nearly perfect.

 

Then it happened.

 

At first it seemed that my pacing was off. Then I noticed my plots were getting bit thin. Then I stopped bringing plot every week to the game. Then it was every other week. At work I run a club where table top is one of our activities. It trailed off. Before long I had stopped seeing many of my regulars and when yearbook photo time came around in the spring not many kids showed up.

 

It felt for a time as if I was failing. I would sit down at the table with pages of notes, plans, a directory of NPCs, plot twists, and all the fixings. I felt that the experience I was providing was flat, uninspired. The spark was gone and I couldn’t get excited about my own plot. It was as if I had simply run out of ideas.

 

For over two decades I ran far more than I played. I was proud of that. I would have a game ready to go. I had the plot planned weeks in advance. I was ready to turn on a dime when they made decisions that broke the world. But now it was just a wasteland of tired tropes and stock NPCs. I felt I could not inspire others or myself. I spent months vaguely cranky as a hobby I have loved for decades now did nothing for me. I went to game night. Played and had a good time. But in my mind I knew that I had no ideas and no game to offer. I even skipped GenCon this year. It was distressing in the extreme. I’m not a master of the craft nor do I possess any special talent but I can run a game well enough to entertain myself and my friends. At least I had.

 

I was suffering from GM Burnout.

 

There is no easy cure for GM Burnout but it can be treated.
First tell your group. They are there for you. Don’t make excuses or say you are going to run and then wimp out.

 

Put the plot down. Step away. Don’t feel pressured to run anything. Just play. If you don’t want to do tabletop try something else for a time. Don’t get bitter.

 

You may also want to reassess you group? Have times changed? Do you still meet each other’s needs? Perhaps you started playing together in high school and now times have changed. Perhaps a new baby or spouse has changed the dynamic and thing just don’t click how they did at one time. Is it you? Have you experienced a life altering event that has left you changed? If you live in a major metropolitan area and you have the chance to try another group. Communicate your concerns with your group but be tactful. Remember this is a game, a hobby and it is about having a good time.
I think the Fear the Boot crew articulated well what we all already knew. “Don’t be a jerk.”

 

When the time is right you will know. Could be weeks, or months. You might even walk away from it for years.

 

On your road to recovery you may need some support.
Go to your local library. Get books you have never read before. Watch movies outside your comfort zone. When the time is right go to your FLGS or Amazon. Get just one book from Indy Press Revolution. Read something new.

 

Podcasts. If you are here give us a listen. Hit the major services and mine them for inspiration and steal ideas. Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff and Fear the Boot are excellent places to start. Since you are here give us a lister as the price is right.

 

Go to a gaming convention. If you can’t make it to GenCon Indy or don’t want the hassle of a big convention go to a smaller convention like Fear The Con in St. Louis. Meet new gamers and get some fresh ideas and inspiration. Most of all, take your time. Don’t force it. In time you can return to a normal life.