Dinovember 2017

For those who haven’t heard about Dinovember: welcome! We wrote a blog post last year that can bring you up to speed, and I encourage you to check it out. For those who followed our dinoescapades last year, welcome back! We’ve been doing this for a few years now and the dinosaurs have done everything from smearing cupcakes on the cupboards to colouring on the fridge to playing with the shaving cream in the bathroom. The kids have found them building outside, hijacking a ride to school, and having music concerts. Book forts, colouring pages, cereal across the floor – they’ve all been done at least once, maybe twice.

As Halloween approached this year, I started to hear the dreaded word murmured from the corners of the house : “Dinovember.”

Almost as scary as the house on down the road with the carnival decorations and the clown hiding behind the red balloons with a bowl of candy, the word made my chest tighten. My mind searched frantically for answers. I wondered if it was too late to take a month long vacation (or send the dinosaurs on one).

dinovember mummy

After hearing at length from the rugrats that they hoped the dinosaurs wouldn’t eat their candy *again,* I had to come up with something new.

Don’t get me wrong, I love how exciting and magical Dinovember is.

I do.

And I started the whole thing in our house.

But the thing is, I didn’t expect (foolishly) that it would be such a hit. I didn’t think through the part where I would have to come up with 30 things each year for the dinosaurs to do. Or that the kids would remember just about every single thing the dinosaurs did, shaking their heads disappointingly at any repeat shenanigans. (It really is only fair I warn you, just in case you were thinking of introducing it into your household.)

So just as the pressure of Halloween costumes begin to wane, the anxiety of dinocreativity begins to rear its ugly giant reptilian head in our house.

dinovember pumpkin snowman

One of my favourites so far this year, I fear this make-shift snowman may have been part of an elaborate snow dance done by the dinosaurs as it snowed 24 hours later.

There have already been the moments of panic where I wonder what to do tonight, and sometimes I wish I could take the same tactic as some do with elf on a shelf (no way is that creepy creature coming into our house on the heels of Dinovember).

But I digress. Dinovember is happening.

It’s in full swing.

And the dinoventures abound!

Here are just a few of the things the dinosaurs have been up to this month:

Dinovember tea party

Rugrat #1 wasn’t the biggest fan of this, but Rugrat #2 enjoyed it, and Rugrat #3 loved it so much she insisted on napping with these lovely ladies, their tea set, and the table (while chanting “Tea Par-tay!” right up until she fell asleep).

 

Counting with Cheerios during Dinovember

The rugrats enjoyed the early morning snack created by this dinosaur game. The game, not so much, but it is a bit too easy for most of them (though these poor dinosaurs struggled).

 

dinosaur nests for dinovember

The rugrats, in unison, declared this “awesome.” I liked that it was super easy (and in fact done after everyone woke up, in a tiny seldom seen corner of our second kitchen).

 

castle home for dinovember

Desperate for their own place to call home, the ground-bound dinos set off on their own adventure, far from the picture perfect bird town houses. This was the biggest hit with Rugrat #3 who has exiled the dinosaurs and minis alike in favour of her ponies.

 

After last night’s hard session of castle building and takeover, the dinosaurs elected to try something a little more relaxing.

 

 

Sick of their meat and plant-based diets, the dinosaurs decided to plant a candy garden. The rugrats were sad to see the dinosaurs had stolen their candy for this fruitless project.

 

The dinos went wild with the erasable marker, colouring all over photos and the windows. The rugrats were not pleased.

 

While the two of the rugrats enjoyed a sleepover at Nana’s, the dinosaurs went went with a movie marathon – complete with snacks galore!

 

The kids thought the dinosaurs did nothing… then we found this.

 

 

 

“Yep, that’s what they did.” – Rugrat#2   Well, that’s a late night mess… and a lot of caffeine.  

So tell us, have you participated in Dinovember?

Do you know anyone who has?

If you are looking for more inspiration than our posts offer, there is tons of material out there. (Dinovember has quite the following!)

What’s your favourite one of our dinoshenanigans?

Tell us! We’d love to know. Some of our favorites haven’t been such a hit with the kids. (But man did I enjoy colouring all over the fridge and watching the kids clean that up so the dinosaurs didn’t get in trouble!)  Some of our random/last minute adventures are beloved by all the rugrats. It can be hard to tell what’s going to be a success and what will be an eye roll. So chime in! Let us know what you love!

The Hut by Jess Door

Tangible Taverns: The Hut

This week Dire Rugrat Publishing released Tangible Taverns: The Hut (5e). This marks the first tavern released since October 2016 when The Hidden Oak came out, and we are pretty excited about it.

Wayfinder #15 coverThe Hut was initially created back in late 2015 for Wayfinder issue #15, which released in May 2016. Here it appeared set in the world of Golarion, with ties to Paizo’s Golarion canon. It was fun and flavourful, and only 1,500 words.

The Hut: A Tavern on the Sellarn River was like a taste tester.

At the time we had only created and released two taverns, The Bull and The Bear and Tuffy’s Good Time Palace. The Hut was quite different, and due to word count restrictions, was missing so much of what we put into our taverns. A rumour table gave the isolated refuge ties to the world, but there were no events ready for a GM to throw at her PCs, and while the proprietress of the establishment, a motherly figure who goes by “Mama”, had a write up, she was missing a stat block, and there were no “Faces at the Tavern.”

One of my favourite things about being included in the Wayfinder magazine was the art that accompanied my piece of writing. In honesty, I think it was partly this piece of art that stopped me from expanding the tavern sooner.

It was a Tangible Tavern in the making.

At the time The Hut was started, all of our taverns were created with black and white images. Being so small and new, we had no budget for art. The piece Jess Door created was inspired.

The Hut by Jess Door

Art by Jess Door

I didn’t see it until the magazine was published, and as I paged through the fan publication I held my breath.  It was the first time my RPG work had been published by anyone else, had been laid out by anyone else, and had been presented to a larger audience. It suddenly felt very real.

I grinned at Jess’ accompanying picture.  A few weeks later, when I held a printed copy of the magazine in my hand, I grinned again. The Hut felt alive, out there in the world.

Jess’ image of Mama welcoming new comers to the ramshackle refuge still makes me smile every time I see it, and I didn’t want to disappoint this cheerful proprietress by providing NPC patrons that weren’t as colourful as her.

For two years The Hut sat on the back burner, simmering like a pot of stew before the dinner hour approaches.

We thought of it on occasion, wondering what Mama might be up to, what troubles may have come her way, and who may have rested their weary head inside the walls of her dilapidated home.

We were busy with life, rugrats, gaming, and creating a products for some of our other lines. And so Mama and her tavern waited.

Yesterday the answers were revealed.

Tangible Taverns: The Hut (5e) cover

Mama had companions join her. The world around her began to form. Sure, the tavern remains tucked away, but it finally came to life.

Giant-slaying Tryx and her beloved animal companion stumbled on Mama and began to develop an attachment to the kind woman. Rolph, the luckiest dwarf one may ever met, awaits a new band of adventurers looking for assistance. And there’s Dexter… the capable ranger who has fallen for the oblivious caretaker.

Now available in full Tangible Tavern length, The Hut has been updated, NPCs have been added, 5e stat blocks created, and the world it is is set in has been modified, allowing it to easily be dropped into just about any campaign (including Wizards of the Coast’s Tomb of Annihilation!).  It also features a full page colour map, colour art for each NPC, and all the other Tangible Tavern features you have come to love.

Is PFRPG your thing?

If The Hut sounds great, but 5e isn’t your thing, let us know!
The smaller version of The Hut is available in Wayfinder, but if you’d like to see it in all its glory as a Tangible Tavern, let us know!

Did you try out Tangible Taverns: The Hut (5e)?

Let us know your thoughts! Write a review, sound off below, or drop us a line.

And if you haven’t picked up our other taverns yet, you can find them in this discounted bundle pack, available for PFRPG and 5e!

Tangible Tavern 5e Bundle

hats

Characters Reimagined

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day and found this post on 15 Disney Villains Reimagined as Princesses. It isn’t the only time I have seen something like this; there have been similar ones on Disney princesses later in their lives, Disney characters reimagined as adorable pin up girls, the 42 gender-bending Disney characters, the super creepy images of your favorite childhood characters reimagined as criminals and villains (I take no responsibility for ruining how you view these characters should you click on that link), and the less creepy young cartoon characters reimagined as adults.

Princess Jafar

Via Jessica Nahulan at Deviantart

While I think the art is absolutely stunning, I have a few issues with the first post (why does every single one have to be tiny and “perfect”? Surely Jaffar could have still been princess with a prominent nose), I do love this idea of reimagined characters, and these posts are evidence I’m not the only one.

PCs Reimagined

The same way companies like Paizo have their iconics, we seem to be hooked on recurring PCs. With six different campaigns played, four have used mostly the same PCs (well, the same PC – we play a lot of one to one gaming, so some of these recurring faces are “GM-NPCs”).

This particular PC has been created with different classes (rogue/anti-paladin, mesmerist, rogue [knife master], and now with SFRPG an envoy). She has always been human, and always charismatic.  There have been slight variants in her background, some differences in skill sets, and various alignments have been explored (from neutral evil to the most recent lawful good).

She’s had different occupations (albeit most were various versions of an adventurers), different friends (though many of the same NPCs play a prominent role in these different “lives”), and different goals, but there is still something about her that feels the same.

I sometimes think about how various versions of this character would fare if dropped into a different world/campaign. Each one has been built, more or less, for the campaign and the world it is set in – would that mesmerist have made a better ruler than the rogue/anti-paladin? Could the knife throwing rogue have succeeded in occult investigations? I’m fairly certain SFRPG’s envoy never would have managed to break out of prison and win the hearts of minds of the citizens the way the rogue/anti-paladin did.

The familiarity of this character, combined with the endless possibilities and fresh start of a new character sheet, has made for some interesting and enjoyable role playing. (Though the first version remains my favourite for numerous reasons.)

NPCs Reimagined

With these similar and yet different worlds, Ken and I find that many NPCs make a resurgence. While this started as a nod to previous campaigns, but it has become more than that.

Winthrop, a simple hunter who petitioned my first (and favourite iteration) PC, who was queen of a country, for the right to lead hunting trips in a nearby wood, was one of her best friends and adventuring companions in our Supernatural inspired campaign, and played a prominent role in the post-apocalyptic one as well.

Argus, a ship captain the same version of a PC had a tryst with was renamed Andy and was her best friend, and long time companion in yet another campaign. He’s made a reappearance in the Way of the Worlds campaign as her fiance, and has resumed his captain status with a star ship.

Way of the Wicked CoverTrik, an NPC who is part of a the published adventure Way of the Wicked, eventually devoted himself to this first iteration of my PC and her companions, but was a nuisance at best in a homebrew campaign, and actually threatened her and attacked her in another campaign. (Hmm, perhaps that’s not unlike his original nature in Way of the Wicked!)

Lys, the conniving young assistant at a church in Way of the Wicked (who did her best to undermine my PC) is the most devoted assistant in the current campaign, while Bill, a dedicated and determined cohort in Way of the Wicked repaid my PC for saving her from multiple zombies in our post-apocalyptic campaign by stealing everything from my PC while she slept.

The recent space campaign has even seen the Varisian pirate captain from my first solo campaign reimagined; now a space pirate NPC, she has had a few interactions with my PC and is bound to have a few more.

And of course there’s Davia. One of the four main PC/NPCs in one of our first campaigns, this savage blonde beauty remains so fierce and vibrant in every single one of her variants (no matter how small the cameo) she was reimagined as the top dog in our 5-star 5e NPCs: Bullies and Brutes PDF.

I love seeing a different side of these NPCs, and since their nature, their sense of duty, and their interactions with my PC are different with each campaign, their familiar face doesn’t always put me at ease (especially after that fateful night trustworthy Bill took everything!).

Have You Reimagined or Repurposed NPCs or PCs?

I have to imagine this can be a fun thing for a GM as well – why create something brand new when you can repurpose something you have? It’s great when an NPC from one campaign can appear in another one, where continuity is possible, but what if there is no continuity?

That favorite PC you created? Bring him back as an NPC in a different campaign.

That NPC or PC who was wiped out quickly because of a few bad dice rolls? Maybe in a different campaign he or she developed a little differently and has had a bit more success.

Let those characters try on a new hat, give them a chance to help you answer “what if” and see where is takes the game.

Comment Below!

Have you ever tried this? Have any of your characters made an appearance in different campaigns as reimagined versions of their former selves?

purse contents

Handbags – The Real Life Bag of Holding

If you play PRFPG or D&D you are no doubt familiar with the magical sack that holds damn near everything.  This bag is the answer to an adventurer’s every problem (or close to).  Loads of loot to drag home? Just toss it in the bag, it barely changes the weight.  Need a bedroll or a tent? I probably have an extra one in here somewhere.

Some GMs are more of a stickler for how much you can fit in one of these puppies and exactly what can go in, saying some items are too big to fit inside the mouth of the bag, or that the item itself could puncture the bag, destroying it and either expelling all the items, or sucking them and nearby people into a whole heap of trouble.  No matter how your GM rules, or what you use it for, no doubt this enchanted bag has made its way into more than one game session.  If only there was something like it in real life, right…?

There is.

Well, sort of.  See, during our latest solo-campaign, which was meant to be a one off during vacation, my character was busy scavenging goods to survive in a zombie-filled-post-apocolyptic world after she got separated from the group had been living with, and their secure compound.  Ken, my husband, GM, and fellow Dire Rugrat Publishing companion, hand waved the contents of some purses.  Not much in there, he said. Mints, some recipients, that’s about it, he said.  The room had been untouched to date and I found more in the cheap motel’s bathroom than I did in the middle aged woman’s handbag.  I shrugged and figured she was one of the few women I know who keeps her bag to a minimum.  I wanted to focus on playing, not raise a stink about a hand-waved handbag in a savage story, but it kept happening.

Then it occurred to me: most men have no idea exactly what lays in the depths of these mysterious containers. Indeed, dumping out the contents of my purse at any given time either causes my husband to stare in wonder or back away slowly (I have since been much more careful to remove any perishable food). There’s seemingly no end to the random junk in the bottom of an oversized purse.

Much like a bag of holding, a woman’s purse can produce any number of random long forgotten object, and can store a great deal.  From the incredibly helpful flashlight or screw driver to the useless lone child’s sock, these bags were (at least in my opinion) an untapped resource in a world four years into a zombie apocalypse.

So What’s in There?

In an effort to help him out (*cough* gain more awesome resources), I started making a list.  I dumped out my purse.  I asked around.  I looked up pictures of the content of people’s bags (oh Flickr and Instagram, how helpful you can be). I even found the random bags I’ve emptied my purse contents into before a trip (those were some random items in there I’ll tell ya!) and inventoried what I found.

The result…? Over a hundred various items with varying degrees of usefulness.  Of course, an item’s usefulness is related to the situation and the imagination of the bearer.  I’m sure, given enough pressure and few enough resources, a creative mind could put damn near every item in a bag or two to good use.

Handy Handbag or Pointless PurseThe full PDF of Handy Handbag or Pointless Purse? is now available over on DTRPG, but as a sneak peek, I’ve included one of the tables below. Being the mother of 3 charming (and exhausting) rugrats, I’ve picked the Caregiver Table. This particular list is one that only applies to certain handbags, but the contents could be useful to anyone, depending on their desperation.

Some of the items are more humorous than helpful. Rugrat #1 couldn’t stop laughing about a few of them, but I assure you that either myself, or a friend, has had any one of these items in their bag at some point.

Ready to add these items? Roll 2d4 – that’s how many items from the table will appear in the bag.  Now collect 3d12, total the results and find the matching item.  Repeat for each item and voila! Repeats are okay, unless you don’t want them to be.  I assure you, and I’m sure fellow parents can agree, when in doubt – throw another one in!

Caregiver’s Handbag Table

3 children’s pain reliever 20 1d4+1 matchbox cars
4 snot sucker 21 1d6 miniature plastic dinosaurs
5 children’s sunscreen 22 1d4 adhesive bandages patterned with various cartoon images
6 baby’s bottle with milk or formula 23 child’s hair elastic or hair clip
7 child’s shoe 24 pouch of squeezable baby food
8 partially coloured colouring page 25 small package of baby wipes
9 pair of children’s socks 26 children’s sunglasses
10 plastic spoon 27 small children’s book
11 fruit flavoured snack in animal shapes 28 sippy cup of water
12 single dirty sock crusted with snot 29 soother
13 crushed package of animal crackers 30 1d4 diapers
14 used tissues 31 hand sanitizer
15 rock 32 small bottle of adult’s pain reliever with d10 caplets remaining
16 seashell 33 antiseptic wipes
17 beach glass 34 juice box missing a straw
18 1d3 broken crayons 35 teething toy
19 1d3 small plastic ponies 36 reusable container or bag of dried cereal

Comment Below

Did you try out the table? What did you end up with? What’s your favourite item? We want to head from you!

 

z nation

Z Nation: Was it Written by Gamers?

After enjoying Van Helsing so much I wrote a post about how it was inspirational for gaming, I decided to check out Z Nation.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

It helps that I love discovering an established show with more episodes in the bank than I can shake a stick at, but even more than that, I think Z Nation must have a team of gamers behind it: the strange mix of party members given an impossible quest that keeps them together; the alignments that obviously butt heads from time to time; the way the party can stumble on people and places that have been surviving for some time, only to be destroyed because trouble follows our band of “heroes”…. let’s take a closer look.

Weapons

z whacker

Addy Carver’s weapon is one of my favourites in this show.  We see her pick up the “Z Whacker” in the first episode from a travelling duo who explain its virtues as she tries it out.  Essentially a morning star, this aluminium baseball bat with reinforced spikes (long enough to penetrate the brain, but not so long they get stuck in there, leaving you wrestling your weapon out of a zombie head) is her weapon of choice throughout the show; (spoiler alert) later in the show, her weapon gets upgraded to deliver an electrical charge. Shocking morning star, anyone?

 

Guns abound, of course, but they make noise, which attracts more Z’s.  For that reason, we’ve got blades aplenty.  And the stealthy 10K can make miracles happen with a slingshot and whatever bits and bobs he can find.

 

Basically, there is no one weapon everyone uses, because in RPGs, every character has their preferred weapon, and it isn’t often someone outfits a whole group with the same thing.

That Guy

I don’t want to give away any of the awesome plot developments, but I will say this – you know that party member who does whatever he wants? No matter the cost? The person who thinks whatever he wants is his for the taking? And you kind of want to just off them a few times over, but you can’t because in real life they are your friend and they’d be furious with you for killing their character? Plus you want to keep hanging out with your friends and enjoying game night? What happens when that character is the one that holds salvation for the human race? What happens when good people have to die to keep him safe? (Don’t you hate when your GM does that to you?)

Feats and Skills

All the characters have their own natural abilities – various skills, feats, etc. Some of these are more obvious, like Addy and Mac and their teamwork feats.  And sometimes you wonder why someone doesn’t just max out Profession (mechanic) or Craft (mechanics) when they level up (how many vehicles have they gone through?).

Character and Classes

Some of the characters in this show are easy to see as a particular class, others require a bit more finessing or a third party class.  They can also provide great inspiration for a character build. Plus they show how a kickass character sheet is awesome, but you have to have some personality as well.  I love what 10K can do; I think he’s awesome, but he’s got the personality of a paper clip. Meanwhile, Murphy (love him or hate him) has more personality and quirks than any one companion will ever want to deal with.  He’ll drive you crazy, but he’s the mission. (Side note: I’m also sure he’s a sorcerer in a world without magic.)

The Quest

z nationEvery time these guys take a step forward, they take several back.  This isn’t atypical of a TV show, but seriously – they are always trying to save someone only to leave destruction in their wake, or having their journey disrupted to land them in a heap of trouble on a side quest. Seriously, these guys often seem to happen upon a place where people are largely getting by, eking out a modest existence, and then it’s chaos.

And they don’t really care.  Characters in shows in Walking Dead take everything so seriously, but in Z Nation, it’s like this band of would-be-heroes knows it’s all just about them.   The show even takes it so far as to give over the top monologues, and have people mention off hand how trouble follows these guys and how they are easy to follow based on the trail they leave.

These guys believe they are heroes, just like every group of gamers. But it doesn’t always justify their actions, even if they want it to.

So Bring on The Game!

Z Nation was so easy to see as an RPG, in fact, that we have temporarily sidelined our other game in favor of one that takes place in a dead world.  Zombies run rampant, and with a little imagination and some reskinning, Pathfinder’s collection of undead is doing a great job of providing a variety of zombies to tangle with.

It’s easy to take snippets from the show and use them to inspire a session, a scenario, or the whole darn world.

We are now several sessions into this post-apoloyptic zombie campaign, and I cannot wait to see what comes our way.

Comment Below!

Have you seen Z Nation? Does it remind you of an RPG? Have you encountered zombies in your games? Ever played a zombie focused game?

Ruined Fence

Our World Ended (Not Really)

Our world ended. Well, not really.

Dire Rugrat Publishing has been really quiet lately, and not because of any tragedy.

What happened is this: there were day jobs taking up a lot of time (and still are), we got overwhelmed on a project (it’s still in the works, hang tight), a family vacation happened, and I (Kelly) started binge watching Z-Nation.

The binge watching happened right around the vacation, and I had an idea – set aside the campaign we have been playing for awhile and trade it in for an alternate world with similar characters.  We’ve done this sort of thing before, when a long standing campaign got to be a very high level and it became clear the story had been taken as far as we could go. Exploring alternate worlds briefly, or taking a more in depth look, is a fun way to explore a character.  I enjoy all of the “what-if’s” big time.

We thought this time, given that the world was inspired by things like Z-Nation, The Walking Dead, the Resident Evil game series, and the Fallout game series, that it wouldn’t last long. Depressing world, lots of potential for a grisly death by a swarm of zombies, plus what’s the point really, right? (Isn’t that why The Walking Dead isn’t nearly as good as it used to be?)

Turns out, it’s amazing.  We’re still not sure how long we’ll play for, but in the words of one of the NPCs: “You just have to ride that wave.”  We are playing Pathfinder with some homebrew rules thrown in to make it modern; there are some game systems built specifically for a post-apocalyptic world (Ken shared his experience running one back here), but I didn’t want to learn a new system for what was meant to be a quick and gritty long weekend campaign. We’ve been playing it more hours than I want to calculate, but we are enjoying every minutes of it.

So, we are still here.  We are just busy gaming instead doing anything remotely productive.  But in keeping with what our interests appear to be this month, you can expect a series of post-apocalyptic focused posts. Hopefully they inspire you and your gaming group.  We’re also thinking of sharing a bit more about our current campaign. In the meantime, be safe out there!

Comments? Questions?

Have your own post-apocalyptic obsession? Sound off in the comments below.

Van Helsing: A TV Show Worth Watching

A post apocalyptic world where vampires rein and mankind is little more than feed bags, Van Helsing is inspired by Zenescope Entertainment‘s graphic novel series Helsing and originally premiered on Syfy, but was picked up by NetFlix in December 2016. I checked it on a whim last week as I often enjoy some background noise while I work, and I was hooked.

Van Helsing Promo PosterIt reminds me of The Walking Dead – in a really good way. Like so many people I find TWD to be depressing now (yes, now – it used to be more intriguing). There is no hope. No chance. It’s a matter of filling time, scraping by, and watching everyone you know die until you eventually bite the bullet as well.

I have heard Z-Nation is a more enjoyable approach with a character whose very existence could be a game changer, and I think that makes it more comparable to Van Helsing, but I have not yet checked it out.

Van Helsing Promo PosterWhat I am enjoying about Van Helsing is how easy it is to see as an RPG adventure. Vanessa, or Sleeping Beauty, as she is known in the first few episodes, suddenly awakens from a coma and finds herself in an unfamiliar world with strangers. She has her own mission – to find her daughter – but the people and the world need her for something much bigger. She is immune to the poison of a vampire bite and cannot be turned. What’s more, she may hold the secret to turning vampires back into humans. (That’s a lot of pressure!)

As the show progresses, the assortment of people around her have skills as varying as you would expect to find in a party. From a coroner with limited medical knowledge, to a capable solider with a decent ability to set traps (and vows to protect Sleeping Beauty), to the kind and understanding deaf man almost everyone trusts, to a newcomer who has the tag name “Flesh” – go ahead and guess why.

With a good deal of action, compelling plot lines (including trouble among the group and between other surviving parties, plus some peeks into the BBEG’s world), and character development, this show has a little something for everyone, and while Vanessa herself is far from sexed up, Rebecca (the sexy vampire with her own plans) fits the bill for those needing that role filled.

Note: Those who like iZombie will notice a familiar face.  Aleks Paunovic plays a capable vampire lackey in Van Helsing and a simliar, but more zombie-like role in iZombie.

For the sake of honesty, I have only watched Season One. Like many shows, it could take a serious downturn, but for now, I whole heartily recommend that any GMs looking for a little post-apocalyptic inspiration, or some good old fashioned vampire storylines, check out this mother sucking tv show.

Don’t just take my world for it though: the series’ pilot episode received 4.5 stars from Den of Geek last September.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to anxiously await Season Two’s arrival on NetFlix…

Comment below

Have you seen it? What did you think?
Did you draw any inspiration for your own gaming sessions?
Ever played a character like one of the ones on this show?
Two bees on a flower

A Buzz on Spring Break – “For The Hive” Play Account

Ah spring break. A glorious time full of fun and excitement and a break from the monotony of every day life.

And as a work from home mother of three small children with no child care, it is also a really long two weeks where I struggle immensely trying to juggle work  and rugrats intent on getting up to no good (I believe it was day two that Rugrat #2 shoved half a dozen smurfs into the baseboard heater while I was showering).

Gardening, baking, colouring pictures, and Pokémon Go can go a long way, but Ken and I decided spring break was also the perfect time to break out another RPG adventure for the kids. We agreed it was time to play For the Hive, a really well reviewed adventure written by J Gray and published by Playground Adventures.  I thought it could be fun to add a fourth player to our game, and I suggested we try bringing another child into the mix. So a couple of weeks ago I called the mother of Rugrat #1’s best friend.

It was an awkward call because I have never broached the topic of RPGs with other parents. “So, uh, hi Parent! Do you have a minute? I wanted to talk to you about something.” Immediately I realized it sounded bad, like her child had done something wrong.  She was driving, using her car’s speaker phone, so there was also that awkward bit where you feel like you have to talk extra loudly while introducing role playing games to someone when you can’t even see their face to gauge their reaction.  She’s awesome though, so with the promise of letting her look over the adventure before we played it, she said it was a go.

Time to Game

A week and a half later, the first Saturday of Spring Break, was the big day.  Rugrat #1 & #2 were bouncing off the walls with the impending arrival of Friend 1, who arrived grinning ear to ear.  Getting the game started proved a bit tricky. We had gone ahead and premade the characters for the kids, guessing what type best suited Friend 1. The sheets were bang on, but the lure of the pawns, tokens, and visible map were strong. The kids kept trying to play them like a board game and had trouble listening. Eventually, with food in their bellies, Rugrat #3 safely in her crib for a nap, and pawns and character sheets sorted out, we began.

for the hive coverHere is where I jump in and say that if you want to read a review of For the Hive, you can find Ken’s here.  There are also some reviews with the product here.

Really Time To Game

With everything set, the adventure began.  Ken adjusted it slightly, setting it at a nearby library we like to visit, but as written, the adventure makes it easy for players to become invested – who doesn’t want to help a friend, and save a bee hive while they are at it?

Friend 1 sat quietly and super still, listening intently as the story unfolded.  Rugrat #1, who is seven next month, squirmed and wiggled, which is typical for him.  The key things Bzzercup had to say could have been stressed better to the kids (the Rugrats had trouble focusing), but that was not the adventure, it was our kids and the delivery of those facts – a good reminder not all kids focus as well as Friend 1! GMs playing with kids for the first time: remember your audience! 

Rugrat #1, who is an anxious child, had a lot of difficulty with the idea of shrinking in size, even when we stressed it was just pretend.  With some convincing from Friend 1, he reluctantly agreed, and we were are able to set off across the grass to the hive.  Here the beautiful map came into the play.  The kids loved this map, and we had to run off to print a few extras (how hard sharing can be).

One of the big things I noticed running this adventure for kids is how much (at least mine) needed to be reminded we were doing this together, that we were a team, and that we all had to help each other.  It’s a hard thing to learn – accepting you won’t excel at everything, but that what you may not be able to accomplish someone else on your team can.

A great example was the magical looking glass lost in the huge expanse of grass.  Rugrat #1 was super upset he couldn’t activate it, but I pointed out that without him we wouldn’t have even known what is was or what it could do. Teamwork let us jump forward across the lawn (but downside – he didn’t get to come across the praying mantis he saw in a piece of art, and there was a bit of an upset about that).

So How’d They Do?

Simply put? They succeeded in the goal of the adventure.  And not all groups do.  There were some hurdles though.

One major thing Rugrat #1 had trouble with is things not going his way.  This is a fun little educational adventure, but (much like any other RPG session) the joy gets sucked out a bit when a player throws a tantrum and storms out of the room because his dice aren’t rolling well. After being given the chance to calm down, Rugrat #1 did rejoin the party, and he was just in time for the big final show down.

Rugrat #2 remained quiet for most of the adventure, chiming in during combat to grin and yell “I hit it!” (naturally we made him a barbarian). He was feeling a bit under the weather and lounged across his chair, with his feet on me, or sat on my lap for most of the adventure.  When Ken and I game we sit in the basement on a big day bed with a table nearby.  It’s super comfortable. It’s also a space that would have kids bouncing all of the place and playing with pillows.  Be sure to find a space the kids can focus, but everyone can be comfy – sitting on our hard wooden IKEA chairs for a couple of hours with a four-year’s bony bum wiggling around wasn’t exactly ideal.

Over the course of the adventure, Friend 1 would randomly grin and exclaim “This is so much fun!”, making the afternoon so much better. He was the wild card for us as we’ve played with the Rugrats on a few occasions, and I must say he was a delight.  (There may have been mumblings afterward of sending Rugrat #1 to his house next time and having Friend 1 come by and game on his own.)

Final Thoughts

Rugrat #1 and his friend told us they had completed a unit on bees in school, and knew most of the bee facts that were shared during the adventure, but Ken and I found them interesting. I would recommend that anyone GMing to the younger crowd makes a point of these facts. It is really easy for them to get lost in the excitement of the adventure, and they are pretty interesting (plus a great educational take away).

Rugrat #1 hates conflict. And not being awesome. Obviously these are serious hurdles with Pathfinder.  On more than one occasion he stormed off, hiding in his room. I’m not sure there’s a great way to avoid this if you have a similar child in your life, but reminding him (or her) ahead of time about teamwork is a good idea.  This adventure also did a great job of not having the players “kill” anything.  Opponents were paper wasps.  Wasps actually made of paper (and it was a great tie-in to a previous PGA adventure).  This meant instead of killing a living thing, characters destroyed or ripped the paper, defeating the paper wasp – a very nice touch for children who are sensitive or otherwise upset by violence. I think this made it easier for Rugrat #1, and Rugrat #2’s favorite thing was “ripping the paper wasps.”

All in all, the Rugrats and Friend 1 had fun with this adventure, and both older kids said their favorite thing was helping the queen bee, but it seems Adventures in Wonderland is still the reigning favorite, and the Rugrats are eager for more of that soon. (More on that later!)

April Fool’s Fun

Some time last year I was browsing through stock art on DriveThruRPG when I found the Invisible Stalker.  What does a picture of an Invisible Stalker look like? I was expecting faint outlines, or a ghost like appearance, or…. well what I found was this. It is an invisible stalker.

And with that I discovered the joy and humour of April 1st product releases. There are a fair few out there, and some of them might even deserve a semi-legitimate spot at the gaming table (10 foot poles can be super useful).

I knew I wanted Dire Rugrat Publishing to be a part of the fun, and so we started coming up with ideas. Not just a gag, I wanted the release to be an entertaining read, and something GMs could use.

not so advantageous abilities coverWe’re big on role-playing here.  For us, it’s not just how the dice land, it’s not just defeating capable BBEGs, it’s about the flaws and decisions that create a memorable story: the plotting seductress who looses her cool and watches her carefully laid plans unravel because someone calls her boring; the bar owner who gets burned by an adventuring party and inadvertently becomes one of their greatest nemeses; the terrifying arbiter of justice who just can’t seem to save against those mind-affecting spells.

If you like building your 5e NPCs yourself, you might have checked out our Advantageous Abilities line of products.

This line provides Game Masters a toolkit with which they can easily add feature abilities to monsters and NPCs, giving their NPCs an advantageous edge (or just a little role-playing fun).

Each product in this line has more than 15 themed feature abilities, and instructions that allow GMs to easily customize existing creatures or create all new foes.

Currently there are three Advantageous Abilities: Humanoid Special Abilities, Charismatic Abilities and Savage Abilities.

Our upcoming April Fool’s release, (Not So) Advantageous Abilities, features twenty abilities for GMs to give their NPCs a custom Achilles’ heel.  Making the most of this weakness can add flavour and humour to a campaign, creating a memorable nemesis and a little role-playing fun. 

With a table indicating the challenge rating adjustments, this little product allows you to take a powerful, capable NPC and give them an exploitable flaw, making someone way out of your PCs league a much better fit.

Keep your eye out this weekend, and get ready to amuse your players!

vintage type writer

Why I Love Writing For Other Publishers

Ken and I started Dire Rugrat Publishing because we had an idea we thought other gamers might find useful.  Our line of Tangible Taverns has developed a bit of following with some people and we’ve had a bunch of repeat business as a result. The first time we sold a tavern was exciting.  The first time we sold a second tavern to a previous customer was just as exhilarating.  There’s something satisfying about knowing people don’t just like what you write, they like it enough to buy something else from you.

After our second tavern was released, I ended up sick in bed for a few days.  Really sick.  With no energy to get up and do anything, my laptop kept me company.  My mind couldn’t function enough to do my normal job or write any game material, and so I Facebooked.  I ended up making contact with a couple of people in the biz, and then ended up being offered work.

That was scary, but also really exciting.  Writing for myself didn’t feel real.  It was fun, but felt a lot like a hobby. And just a hobby.  Being offered paid work… that was a different kettle of fish. I love working for myself (most of the time), but writing for other publishers is pretty amazing, and here’s why:

They Pay

Writing for a company you own (when the company is teeny tiny and doesn’t make a lot of sales) means you don’t see a lot of income from your sales. Most of what we make gets poured back into stock art and other resources.  Writing for another publishing company means you get paid for your work.  Pay rates vary, as does the the time it takes to get paid, but there is a lot less financial risk in working for someone else. Plus, money = nice.


Cool New Art

lonely pony coverWe often use stock art, and I have a hand in picking it out. When we have custom art Ken creates it, and I see it each step of the way. But when it comes to writing for another publisher, I hand over a word file and the next time I see the content I wrote, it looks pretty in a layout I didn’t create with art I may have never seen. Some companies go above and beyond here with custom art (shout out to Playground Adventures), and that is even more exciting – the characters I created are there in full colour! Art and layout being done without me ever touching it really makes me feel like a professional, or like I “made it.”


Bigger/Different Client Base

We have a couple of avid fans (and we adore you!), but Dire Rugrat Publishing is far from a well known company.  Our customer and fan base are minuscule compared to a lot of RPG companies.  Writing for different publishers means there’s a better chance of someone new picking up something I wrote and enjoying it.  (And hopefully returning to pick up something published under our own company name.)

Hand in hand with that, the promotion for a project I participated in with another publisher is so much bigger.  I see posts and shares on Facebook.  I see emails showing up in inboxes.  People talk about it.  It’s really cool that there is so much more hype.


Experience

I don’t want to say we are making this up as we go along, but we are kind of making this up as we go along.  Ken has a lot of experience gaming, and I’ve thrown myself into it head first; I’ve always loved writing, and Ken’s been GMing for years.  But it isn’t like either of us any experience designing content on a professional level before we said “Hey, let’s share this tavern with everyone.”

Writing for other publishers is a great way to fine tune some skills, or work on projects I wouldn’t be up for otherwise.  Having a developer look over my work, and make suggestions (or full on requests) steers the work to a different place.  Their experience can make for a much better project, as long as I’m willing to not take the input personally.


Set Deadline

For awhile, when I’d write for Dire Rugrat I’d write until I thought the project was done. We’ve since made set word counts we aim to hit, but either way, sometimes life is busy, and the project takes a backseat. Sure, I could set a deadline for myself, and we are trying to stick to a pre-made schedule this year (a new approach for 2017), but it doesn’t always work out.  (There are some projects that were in the works far longer than I’d care to admit.)  However, if I’ve committed myself to someone else, I make sure I get the job done.  Blood, sweat, tears: it doesn’t matter.  I. Will. Finish.

As stressful as that can be, it’s also awesome the project doesn’t (usually) drag on and on.  I write it by the deadline, I submit it, and voila! It’s off my plate (until they need revisions, which can happen depending on the publisher). And I get paid. Done.  Apparently I commit myself better to others than myself.


Different Type of Work

Household Magic coverEvery company has a schtick. Or two. Or three.  But most companies aren’t all over the map.  There’s a cohesiveness to what they publish, often with specific lines of products.  Writing for other publishing companies means I can write content Dire Rugrat would never publish. Dinosaurs are awesome, but they have no place in our collection.  Magical items are super fun, but they fit better with someone else.  I loved ponies as a kid, but an adventure about them really isn’t Dire Rugrat material.  There’s some other fun stuff I’ve gotten to work on as well, and while it hasn’t been released yet, I look forward to the day it hopefully is.  These projects don’t fit inside the sphere of this publishing company, but they were a lot of fun to work on, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

And so finally, if you want to check out other work by me, you can find a list of it here, broken out by publishing company.


Have you written for yourself? Or someone else?

What are your thoughts on it?