The Geek Emporium

The Great Geek Revolution is NOW!

This Is The End…My Only Friend, The End

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Well folks, this is the very last post on this particular web address.  Everything else will be at the new site, located here!  It’s been a blast here at my free wordpress site.  Like Lori Petty said in Tank Girl, “It’s been swell, but the swelling’s gone down.”

Seriously, I hope everyone comes and checks out the new site and joins in the fun there.  There will be more than just RPG stuff, though there should be plenty of that as well.  Video games, anime, movies, comics, the works!

We’ll be ramping up everything over the next several months.  You’ll still be getting what you’ve been getting, but we’ll be adding to it all the time.  So, tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM Eastern time, you’ll have the first of the new posts on the new Geek Emporium website, and I certainly hope you like it.  I’ve worked very hard on all of this, and hope that you all continue to come and check us out!

September 12, 2008 Posted by | RPG | 2 Comments

The Next Horizon

As I gear up for the new site, which I’ll start taking live in about 24 hours, I can’t help but wonder what else is over the horizon. What niche has yet to be filled.  Seriously, I woke up at 3:30 this morning with a concept that’s one step in that direction, and yet there are others yet to be discovered.

Now, I’m not talking about some new system that let’s you play elves or vampires.  I’m talking brand new stuff.  Stuff that, if it exists, isn’t well known amongst the general geek community.  So, here’s my humble contribution to the future of gaming:

Highschool: The Role Playing Game

That’s right.  We all either survived it, or will survive it, so why in the hell would we want to go back and live it through a video game?  Simple…because then we could do it right!  Imagine being the jock instead of the computer nerd?  Imagine being the captain of the cheerleaders rather than the wierd goth everyone laughs at?  Or, conversely, imagine you’re just the way you are, but are able to torment the living hell out of those who made your life difficult?

Think about school for a moment.  You have combat (fights in the cafeteria), A ruler who expects you to do things a certain way and to help him out from time to time (a principle), minor rulers who give you tasks on a regular basis (teachers), and evil creatures bent on destroying you (schmucks who gave many of us crap in school).  Let’s face it…you lived D&D!  So why not take it into a new venue?

Now, this would need to be a skill based system, rather than a class based system…at least that’s my thinking.  And, I think it could be fun.  Of course, class based could be fun too.  The Jock class, and AV Geek class, the Goth class, the list is almost endless.  Or, I guess you could all play drama geeks and reenact High School Musical…but why would you want to?

I’m not going to bore you to death with details, because mostly I don’t have them.  Seriously, this idea is a mere two hours old, so who knows.

But this idea alone makes me wonder what’s over the next horizon.

September 12, 2008 Posted by | RPG | | 6 Comments

The Alpha and the Omega

This is it!  The beginning and the end of a era.  Now begins the new.  It is the alpha and the omega.  It’s Skeletor in a bad He-Man.  It is all of those things and many, many more.  You are witness to the greatest moment in human history!  OK, so I’m being melodramatic!  So what, I’m freaking excited!

I had originally thought that it would take months of hard, laborous effort to develope the new site, but I was wrong.  the new Geek Emporium site is up and ready to receive new updates very soon.  So, the tentative plan is for the effective change to take place early Saturday morning.  Here is the basic schedule, just so everyone knows what’s going on:

Tomorrow’s posts will go up as normal.  The only exception is that tomorrow night’s post will be the last on this site, and will probably be the about being the last on this site.  If you receive feeds from us, then you’ll want to update your feeds.  The new site can be found here.

Other than that, the weekend will operate just as normal from your ends if you update feeds.  This is a big deal for me, and the whole Geek Emporium organization (man that feels wierd to type).  I’m hopeful that this will be a huge success.

Cliff jumping is never easy, so here’s hoping things go along well!  Wish me luck! 😉

September 11, 2008 Posted by | Movies, RPG, Television | 2 Comments

Busting Stereotypes Part 6 – The Bard

They’re dandies in fine clothing, carrying the obligatory lute, and always ready to give a chipper song.  Sure, they’ve not made their way in with 4th Edition, but word on the street has them coming in the PHB II.  That’s right folks, I’m talking about the good old bard, one of the most maligned classes in all of D&D.  However, bards are incredibly useful and don’t have to suck quite as badly as people think!

Of course, the first thing you need to do before playing a bard is make sure there’s plenty of role play opportunity for your character.  Bards tend not to excel in combat, and players get bored inspiring their companions alone, so if you’re playing a hack & slash type campaign, take my advice.  Play a rogue instead.

However, if you’re fortunate enough to have a heavy role play campaign, the bard can be a very useful class.  With the typically high charisma, they make great diplomats.  The 3rd Edition bards had healing spells that could serve a party well also.  Bards aren’t completely useless in combat either, though to say their useful is a bit of a stretch.

Yep, but bard is a pretty cool class when played to it’s potential.  But the stereotype is that of a performer who seems to want to play his lute more than anything else.  So, how do you stay true to what a bard is good with, without playing the stereotype up to the hilt?  Easy.  Storyteller.

Most of the bards abilities are based on CHA.  By making him a storyteller, you eradicate the dreaded instrument they typically lug around.  He also has more chance to interact with people, possibly encouraging a DM to give them a plus to his bardic knowledge check.  In addition to that, he may get synergistic bonuses to diplomacy, bluff, and intimidate!  In short, the bard can be the “mouth” of the party!  He’s definitely better suited to it than the arrogant wizard who thinks that everyone should kiss his feet anyways, right?

His dress can be muted, and he can carry a typical adventurers equipment. Perhaps he has multiclassed as a fighter or something, and therefore has some skill with a sword that even the average bard doesn’t have.  So, what people would see is a man in regular clothes, carrying a sword and regular gear.  Maybe some leather armor.  NPCs would think “low level fighter” (if the DM wants them to anyways).  Or, if dressed in finer clothing of a non-bard nature, perhaps a lower noble traveling through.  Either way, nothing necessarily screams “bard” to anyone.

The bard, to break the stereotype, must be played against the stereotype.  Most of what makes the bard unique is in 3.5 class abilities.  As we still don’t know what they look like in 4th edition, no one can really speak of how that all will work, but I suspect they’ll be powers instead.  Same difference really, as far as playing a bard.  Those powers/abilities are necessary since they are what makes a bard!

However, the crunch doesn’t dictate how you play them.  In truth, it’s trickier to play a bard against stereotype because the crunch doesn’t make it easy.  However, if it were easy, the stereotypes would have been crushed long, long ago 😉

September 11, 2008 Posted by | RPG | , | 5 Comments

The One Less Traveled By

I remember it like it was yesterday.  My wife and I had been playing a good amount of D&D, and she was a little depressed.  I asked her what was wrong, as any good husband should.  She looked at me and said “You know how we pretend to have these adventures?”

Not knowing where this was going, I answered “Yeah?”

“I just wish they were real!  That we were really doing something like this stuff!”

Now, on the surface, that just sounded like crazy talk.  But I thought for a moment and realized that it wasn’t really.  We talked a bit more, and she was basically just a bit bored of talking about doing cool things, when we just sat around watching TV when not role playing.  I really couldn’t argue with what she was saying.  We were both working crap jobs at the time, and money was always tight.  Short of living in a parent’s basement, we were damn close to fitting the dreaded gamer stereotype.

I didn’t really act on anything then.  It took several years, but I took up backpacking.  I started off as an ultralight backpacker, which is sort of a more extreme backpacking.  Less gear, more skill required since gear can bail you out of a tough spot, etc.

My first trip had all the makings of a disaster.  I had overestimated my ability and finally made it into camp that first night well after dark.  I set up my camp and crashed, my feet hurting in ways I didn’t think possible.  The next morning, I ate the nastiest eggs in the history of man (I’m telling you folks, freeze dried eggs are awful), and started back out.  I was exhausted, and glad to start the long, long drive home.

I had a deer walk less than 10 feet in front of me.  I scrambled around rock faces where, quite honestly, a wrong step would have resulted in some fairly serious injury, if not worse.  I drank from streams, and had to ration water due to drought conditions on the mountain.  I sweated my butt off by day, and was cold at night.

I had done it.  I’d actually become a real-life adventurer.  My wife’s passing comment years ago, one that she’s never really acted on herself, lead me down the road less traveled by.  It’s not for everyone, but it was for me.  Despite the times on the trail when my feet were killing me, I never gave in.  I finished what I started, and despite the pain, I had the time of my life.

I won’t sit here and tell you that you should take up backpacking, or anything else, but I do urge you to take that road less traveled by, whatever it may be.  Not only will you be doing something you can be proud of, but it may actually help your role play.  You’ll know what it’s like to walk 15 miles in a day with all your gear on your back, or you’ll know what it’s like braving white water rapids, or climbing a rock wall that goes straight up, or any number of other things.

Why stick solely with pretending to have adventures where there’s so many real ones you can have as well?

September 11, 2008 Posted by | RPG | , | 9 Comments

Keeping Up With the Indiana Joneses

Through gaming, I’ve visited ancient tombs, ruins of great civilizations.  I’ve hacked my way through jungle, slogged through swamp, and nearly died in the desert.  I’ve ridden horses across the plains, and sailed across the oceans.  My characters seem like they’ve done it all, and are still ready for more.

But theres one trick I personally don’t see used enough.  It’s a little late for the current campaign I’m playing in to try it, but it’s something I may keep in mind for the next campaign I run.  Why don’t more adventuring parties have rival parties?  Not necessarily enemies mind you, but straight rivals?  Here’s how I see it shaping up.

First, the party would have to be similar in make up to the PCs.  Otherwise, and advantages the new group would have would be discounted to that difference alone.  That would be bad.  PCs need to understand that these guys are just good.  Nothing more, nothing less.  If there isn’t a PC rogue, then the rivals shouldn’t have one either.

Make them arrogant, loud, obnoxious, whatever you have to do to make sure the players don’t like the rivals.  Friendly rivals is fine, but to really have fun with it, you need someone they hate.  Remember, they don’t have to be evil, just annoying competition.  Once you’ve done that, they’re ready to go.

Now, how you deploy them is really fun.  Let’s say the PCs are dragging their butts getting to the Liches lair.  NPCs keep advising them that they need to hurry, he’s almost done with the ritual, but they’ve been saying it for days (in-game time…but out of game time is possible to with some groups I’ve played with ;)).  No matter what, they still keep dragging their butts.  They know that the DM won’t let the Mondo-Bad-Thing-Monster-Beasty out into their precious homebrew world, so they’re not sweating it one bit.

Then, finally they decide to enter the Liches lair.  They’ve buffed up, readied a plan, and bust through the door…

…only to find their rivals have already dispatched the Lich and are looting the room.  Perhaps they make some quip about the PCs being late to the party, or even thanking them for clearing the way to the Lich, but leaving the fun stuff for them.

Now, in future games, the PCs will have the idea that time really is important because otherwise the rivals will get the XP and loot.  Even the metagamers in the group will start acting with some haste now.  After all, now there’s something they can’t account for, either in game or out of game.

The most important thing a DM must understand is how rarely to use this tool.  Frankly, using it will piss off the players if you use them in the way described above.  That should really be the “nuclear option” as a DM, so keep it in reserve for only the most dire of times.  Either that, or it’s a hook for something else.  Other ways the rivals can be used, and will make sure the rivals are kept in the PCs minds is:

  • PC mistakes are retold as stories in taverns all over the lands, making them look bad.
  • PCs often have to make moral choices.  The rival group can take the path the PCs don’t, then make them look bad by not taking that path.
  • The rivals can convince the local ruler that the PCs are evil adventurers looking to overthrow their rule.

Those are just a few.  The possibilities are endless.  They can provide a foil for the PCs that they can’t just outright kill (unless they want to deal with the results of such an act).  Even creating a situation where the PCs need the help of the rivals can be a blast as well.  Just don’t over use the rivals, or else the players will resent the hell out of them and you.

So, if your group is one that could benefit from this idea, give it a try.  It could be just what the Doctor (Jones) ordered 😉

September 10, 2008 Posted by | RPG | , | 2 Comments

Required for Fun: Do We Need All That We Think We Do?

Yesterday, while talking about the future of gaming, the question was asked by Ravyn if all the technology I mentioned was really necessary.  Obviously, the answer is “no, it’s not needed at all.”  However, that got me to thinking, which is always a scary thing.  What do we need to role play?

Role play is quite possibly the oldest form of play in our lives, if not in history.  Early role playing games for many of us were the classics: Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians, etc.  Rules consistent of nothing.  The arguement we all heard started with “Bang! You’re dead!”  And was followed with the inevitable “No I’m not” response.  The typically female equivelant was playing mother to their dolls (even then, girls were ahead of the curve!  They played with miniatures while us boys were LARPing ;)).  Even with the freeform nature of what we were doing, we loved it in spite of the arguments.

All we needed was a rain-free day, some friends, and plenty of time before the street lights came on.  We might have props (toy gun for example), but we adapted well enough without it (fingers make good enough guns after all).  Rule disputes were handled simply by letting it go.  We could do anything we wanted to so long as the laws of physics were obeyed.  After all, 8 year old kids tend to not defy gravity very often.

With the lack of crunch, we all enjoyed ourselves.  It was the purest form of role play, and it planted the seed that lead many of us to take up role playing as a hobby.  We didn’t need dice to tell us if we shot the bad guy, we just shot him.  We needed need a DM to determine if we could do something, we just did it (or said we did it).  We needed need to reference books to see what spells we could cast, we just cast them.

Amid all the edition wars, both on this blog and others (and I’m just as responsible as anyone else),  I think we’ve lost sight of the simple fact that we play a game.  Nothing else matters so long as we have fun and don’t ruin anyone else’s fun along the way.  So long as we do that, we’ll be in good shape.  Not just for today, but for ages to come.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | RPG | , | 13 Comments

Crafting a Good Back Story

“So, tell me about your character,” the GM says to Bob. 

 

Bob stares back blankly.  “Well, he’s an elven wizard.”

 

Politely, the GM smiles and says, “No, tell me about him.  Give me his background.”

 

“Background?” mutters Bob.  “I didn’t know anything about a background.”

 

Have you ever been in this position?  I have, a long time ago, and frankly I’m glad I do this well before the game now.  It gives me more time to answer the questions I tend to ask myself when forming a character of any type, for any purpose.  The question some may be asking is, why bother?

 

Well, for one thing, I personally like to have a typewritten back story in the GM’s hands so they know the plan for the character.  It lets them figure out hooks for my character’s story, and if enough others submit their backgrounds similarly, the GM can find connections between the stories that make forming a group so much simpler.

 

Some GMs seem to prefer the background info come up in a group session, while others want the character to do it on their own and pass it along.  There’s no wrong way for the GM to do this, so don’t sweat it either way.  However, here are the questions I tend to ask myself when starting a new character.

 

What were his birth circumstances?  For example, was there something that can be used by the GM to use the old “Chosen One” trope on your character?  Perhaps you’re playing a 4e warlock and a wolf howls just as the character is born, foreshadowing his few pact later in life.  In contrast, there doesn’t have to be anything.  Not every character has some unusual circumstance at birth.  Birth circumstance could be something pretty mundane, but tragic like mother’s death at birth, etc.

 

What was his childhood like?  Was he a popular kid, talented musician, a bit of a bully, what?  Our adult personalities are formed in childhood, so why would your character be any different?  Just remember how you want to play the character and make the childhood fit.

 

Why is he adventuring?  Since most RPGs assume some level of adventuring of some sort, there has to be a reason.  It could be anything from poverty leading someone to seek fame and fortune to revenge.  The important thing is to have a reason that makes sense.  A cleric seeking to spread the word of their God makes sense.  A cleric seeking fame, fortune, and a kingdom to rule doesn’t.

 

What I like to do is try and type up the answers to these in a story format, usually running from 4-5 pages double spaced to make it an easier read.  Of course, it can easily be shorter, especially if you don’t try to flesh out the character more with details like hobbies, love life, enemies, or anything else.  A finely crafted back story contains a great deal more information that those three questions can possibly answer, so go ahead and ask your own questions.

 

Once you’ve written up the back story, let your GM read it.  Make sure they understand that you’re willing to revise to fit into their story/world better.  Flexibility is the key here, because you’re asking the GM to read your writings and plug them into their story.  That’s not easy at all, so be prepared to revise the heck out of your back story so that it will fit!

 

Obviously, there are other questions to be asked out there, and other approaches to a well crafted back story.  I look forward to hearing some of those!  Just write it up and let’s see what happens!

September 9, 2008 Posted by | RPG | , | 7 Comments

The Future of Role Playing

I’m going to take a moment and ponder the future.  Where will role play go, and what form will it take when it gets there?  What will influence the future generation of gamers?  Let’s face it, even if you play your first session ever this week…of any game…in a few years you’ll start to experience some of what I have in the last 15 years.  You’ll experience the hobby change.

Change is inevitable.  It’s just going to happen.  However, I’m not talking about a switch from D&D 3.5 to 4e.  That change is inevitable as well, but D&D doesn’t shape the entire hobby by any stretch.  While it is probably the largest and most played role playing game in the world, there are tons of others that owe little homage to Wizards of the Coasts offering.  So what all will be happening.

First, where will future gamers come from?  After all, publishing role playing games is a business, so they want to get new players as they’re able to.  The thoughts seem to be to get MMORPG players to convert over to tabletop RPGs, thereby bringing new blood into the role playing fold.  4th Edition seems to be well suited to ease this transition over for this group, but in time that field will dry up as well.

For my money, I see the future gamers of the world all the time.  Every time I go see a Narnia, or Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter, or any other fantasy-type movie in the theater.  Our future players are cutting their teeth on some of the same works of fiction we did, only in a film format.  People who don’t necessarily enjoy reading still make these movies hits, and the numbers that flocked to Lord of the Rings is indicative of the fact that no matter what, the hobby is still going strong.

The biggest phenomenon in literature in the last 50 years or so has to be Harry Potter, and so I figure it’s just a matter of time before someone convinces J.K. Rowling to license her beloved wizards to some game company and we’ll have Harry Potter: Role Playing Game.  I can hear some of you cringing right now, but I really think that it’s inevitable.  In fact, without having even done a Google search at this point, I still can’t help think there’s probably a couple of home brews floating around out there right now.

Technology is another new area that I see changing the shape of things to come.  Despites Wizards of the Coasts lackluster performance, computer technology will take on a more active role in even table top games, and here’s the example I envision.

A group sits around the table, all with laptops open and running.  They’re not connected to the net, just each other.  The DM has access to all character sheets, so no more asking “what’s your AC?”  Instead, he just looks at your sheet.  Firewalls prevent anyone else from seeing your sheet though…that’s only between you and the DM after all.  He can also deduct gold after dealing with a merchant automatically, making it one less thing a player can forget about.  Dice are still rolled as usual, but the computer can calculate all the buffs and such a player might have (who knows what future editions will have as far as buffs go), so all a player has to do is roll and enter their roll (or an alternate setting as the DM do is to prevent cheating).  When the DM has a note to pass along, it takes the form of an instant message to the player instead of physically passing a note, creating suspense among the players.

I don’t know if any of this will happen, but it’s just one thought I’ve had.  Since I wasn’t sleeping well anyways, why not dream a bit while I’m awake?

September 9, 2008 Posted by | RPG | , | 15 Comments

The Burned Lands Part 4 – The God Wars

The God Wars were the worst event in the history of The Burned Lands.  As the Gods decended into madness, their followers followed suit, creating a world where great knowledge, art, and magic were lost for all times.  For a thousand years, the war killed and maimed generations of people.  Thankfully, that madness has been over for a century.  No one knows what started it, but they all know what ended it.

By the time the war was over, only three gods were left.  Today, I’ll introduce you to each of them.

First there is Antarus, God of the Sun.  Antarus was a philosopher and artist prior to the war, but he turned into a fierce combatant after his wife, Lura (Goddess of Magic) was killed when her temple at Ka-Saroth fell.  He was responsible for killing the last of the Dark Gods to fall.

Next is Vania (pronounced van-EYE-uh), Goddess of Elves.  Originally the elven goddess of war only, she was the last of the elven gods early in the war.  It was then that she created her chosen people, the Vandrosin Elves, fierce warriors who are devoted solely to her.  As such, she was able to secure the safety of her people and ensure thier survival.

Last is Darketh, God of Hell.  Darketh is the last of the Dark Gods.  Originally, he was a God of Torment, but took over the realm of Hell after the rest of the Dark Gods fell.  He too is a fierce warrior, but he is also practical.  It became clear that Antarus was working to get Vania to rejoin the fight against him, so offering a peace was the only choice.

Now, the gods rest in an uneasy peace.  Only their numbers keep them in check today.  Instead, they wage any wars by proxy, through their followers, creating an uneasy world power struggle.  In time, perhaps this too will end.  But only time will tell.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | RPG | | Leave a comment