Inclusivity… It’s a Good Thing

I recently read this article, which coalesced a lot of thoughts I have about parenting and geekdom. The TL;DR is that a mum took her Dr. Who loving daughter to a convention and some middle-aged jackanapes took the opportunity to… um… ensure that said daughter was geek enough to show her love for the Doctor.

Which, What or, Who is Best?

Sadly, in my experience, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, nor is it a new one, though I feel that, as geek culture increasingly becomes pop culture it is becoming more widespread. I remember being snubbed by an older comic enthusiast as I eagerly bought back issues of Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, and Uncanny X-Men when I was twelve years old. Apparently I should have been reading Swamp Thing and Love and Rockets instead (incidentally, I have rarely been impressed with the work of Alan Moore… coincidence? Who’s to say). I remember being ridiculed for purchasing the Tome of Magic for 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Apparently only losers played D&D; all the cool geeks were playing RIFTS. Yes, I said “the cool geeks.”

These days we don’t even need to go to the local game store or a convention to be taunted or mocked for our loves and enthusiasms, we just need to go to our favourite website of nerdity and there will faceless people with silly names who, emboldened by their online anonymity, mercilessly troll any and everyone that doesn’t agree with their point of view. I’m not saying that everyone online is like this, of course, or even that most people are. I imagine that the vast majority of online geeks are just as awesome as I am. But we all know about bad apples and the effect they have on good apples.

Anyone who has read this blog before knows that Kelly and I are gaming geek parents looking to bring our rugrats up in the culture, and nothing makes that less likely than having some… uber-geek start questioning why they like something and suggesting they’re wrong to like it. Not everyone has a skin thick enough to shrug off the slings and arrows of self-appointed geek gatekeepers, and they shouldn’t have to.

Live and Let Love

It’s time to take the gates down and let everyone in, because there isn’t a right answer to who the best Doctor is. Or which issue of Action Comics has the most emotional value. Or whether or not Luke is too whiny in A New Hope. Or even if you should take a feat or an ability score increase in 5th Edition D&D. It’s just awesome that more people than ever before have access to the sundry geek properties that we love, and hopefully, will help ensure that we still have them in the future. Continuing to pretend that geekdom is some members-only club, however, will eventually have the opposite effect.

Sound off!

If you have any thoughts on this week’s post, or want to know why Wildats Version 3.0  is one of my favourite comic series’ produced in the last 20 years, or want to politely disagree with me that Veronica Mars was television gold (quality and story-wise if not in viewership) please do so in the comments below.

Human Star

Reviews Matter

Reviews matter!

They help writers write what you like.

They help game companies produce materials you like.

They help other potential customers discover a product you like.

They help.

And they help you since with your feedback, more products you like will potentially be created.

Ask any small 3PP company and they will tell you the same thing.

(Seriously – even as I wrote this toward the end of July, Fat Goblin Games was thinking the same thing and released a similar post before this one published!)

Ratings are great, and they do help.  They are a great confidence boost to the creators, and they might help potential purchasers make a decision, but even better than a rating is a rating with a few quick notes about what was great, what you’d like to see more of, what you’d like to see less of, etc.

But there’s already reviewers out there…

Yes, there are, but isn’t more than one person’s opinion better than a single opinion? Maybe there’s a review of a product, but you have a completely different point of view than that reviewer, or the review is skewed?

Would you rather buy a product that has one 5 star rating? Or one that has one 5 star rating and two 4 star reviews detailing what the reader liked and didn’t like?

There are lots of 3PP companies out there.  It doesn’t hurt to have lots of people writing reviews.

Reviewers like Endzeitgeist do a fabulous job of pouring over dozens and dozens of game files in a month and producing just as many detailed reviews.  Not everyone can do that (and hey, speaking of help and reviews – he can’t do what he’s doing without help, so if you love his reviews consider backing his Patreon). Not everyone should even think of aspiring to that size and volume of reviews.

Every little bit helps.

Little reviews are good too.  Well written concise reviews.  A few random thoughts.  A play account. A deep look at one aspect of the file.  Constructive criticism or praise for well written work.  All of these help the game industry.  And if you are a gamer who loves 3PP work, that means it helps you.

Bonus? Lots of 3PP companies are happy to give out review copies, especially to people who consistently follow through on their promise of a review.  (It’s something we touched on in a previous post.)

So Write a Review!

If you read one of our products and haven’t written a review yet, think about writing one!  As a special thank you from us to you for taking the time to write a review, we’ll send you a copy of any one of our products.

Seriously.

Write a review, post it to Paizo or DriveThruRPG, and then contact us with the link to the review and a request for one of our other products.  We’ll send it on over, and you will have one more resource for your game night!

How do you contact us? On our website, by email, or even over on Facebook.

But don’t just think of us.  If you have read something you loved, write about it! The little guys like us will thank you!

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?

3 Things for Young Gamers to Read

My love of roleplaying games was ignited when I received the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set (Mentzer/BECMI) for my eighth birthday. I imagine my mum picked it out for me because she knew how much I had enjoyed reading The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia the previous year. The truth is, while I truly had enjoyed these newly discovered (by me) fantasy classics, I was not a fussy consumer of the written word. I could, and did, read almost everything I could get my mitts on, from Greek myths, to The Great Brain, to the Babysitter’s Club, I read it all. And once I was introduced to D&D, all of it informed the kinds of games and characters I wanted to play.

Our eldest rugrat is approaching the age I was when that iconic red box with the Larry Elmore painting was seared into my psyche, and he is as voracious a reader as I was. We have played a few, mostly successful, sessions of Pathfinder RPG, and I am eager to keep him enthusiastic between adventures. The following is the first in a series of musings about stories that are universally excellent, and will appeal to both kids and their RPG loving parents – in my opinion at least.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizards of Oz coverLong before Narnia, Middle Earth, Prydain, or Hogwarts, were committed to paper, Lyman Frank Baum introduced the world to the land of Oz. Bordered on all sides by desert that will reduce anyone who sets foot upon it to dust, Oz is a kitchen sink land wherein Baum mashed together fairy tales and fables with a healthy dollop of imagination and a pinch of good, old-fashioned psychedelia.

I’m not going to write at length about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; you likely already know the story (or at least the classic film’s version of it). It makes my list because it is the first of a fourteen book series Baum wrote about the setting. That’s right. Fourteen. (Not including the dozens written by other authors after Baum’s death.) Each of which is better than this first one (in my opinion, of course), and all but one of which have numerous beautiful illustrations by John R. Neill.

It is also worth noting that, for a series written in the last years of the 19th and first years of the 20th centuries, the Oz books are remarkably progressive with regard to gender equality. There are numerous female protagonists, among them Dorothy, Ozma, the Patchwork Girl, and Betsy Bobbin, all of whom are the equal of any of the males in the series. In the interest of full disclosure, however, the human characters are largely, though not entirely, white and there are a few troubling ethnic stereotypes evident (which have been stripped out, along with those gorgeous illustrations in many modern editions of the books).

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the series that followed, offers young readers hours of reading that will ignite their imaginations and give them plenty of fodder to fuel their roleplaying adventures.

Bone

Jeff Smith

Bone cover imageJeff Smith’s Bone is a marvel from its hilarious beginning to its heartbreaking conclusion. The series begins with the titular protagonist, Phone Bone, travelling through a wasteland with his cousins, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, after being run out of their hometown due to Phoney’s most recent scheme. The Bone cousins soon find themselves driven into the Valley by a massive locust swarm, where they meet one of the best casts of characters ever evidenced in a comic book, and get drawn into a tale of legacy and destiny.

Bone introduces its plots very deftly, drawing the reader in with humour and appealing artwork, but peppering the trail with questions and mystery. Who is the Lord of Locusts? Why is he obsessed with Phoney Bone? Why is the Great Red Dragon watching over Phone Bone? Where did the rest of the dragons go? Why does that one rat creature love quiche so much? How did Kingdok get so BIG?

Further, from the perspective of a role player, the protagonists model the general dysfunction of every single party of PCs I’ve ever experienced. Phone Bone (neutral good) wants to help Thorn (neutral good) and Gran’ma Ben (lawful neutral) but scheming Phoney Bone (neutral evil) ropes Smiley Bone (chaotic neutral) into his capers and inevitably leads everyone into danger.

I have no criticisms of Bone. It is one of the few comic series’ that I have purchased as individual issues, collected black and white trade paperbacks, the massive black and white one volume edition, and the colour Graphix/Scholastic trade paperbacks. I don’t have the colour hardcover collections, but there is still time – don’t test me. Better yet, go get them for your kids (and read them yourself if you haven’t already).

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories

Carolyn Keene (pseudonym for various authors)

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories coverYou could replace this with Hardy Boys Mysteries if you wish, but I always preferred Nancy Drew. She was the gateway for my lifelong love of girl detectives (shout out to Veronica Mars and Liv Moore). Like many of the books I read in my childhood, I stumbled upon my first Nancy Drew mystery, The Clue in the Crossword Cipher in my grandparents’ pool (as in billiards) room. Nancy was talented, intuitive, and sassy; it was love at first read. In my first exposure to her, Nancy solves a number of mysteries, via means that would likely be considered quaint, if not antiquated, by modern standards, that eventually lead her to the Nazca Lines in Peru.

The story kept me captivated throughout, and had me scouring my grandparents’ bookshelves for other Nancy Drew Mystery Stories… of which there were several, along with mysteries featuring those aforementioned Hardy Boys. Nancy has been solving crimes since 1930, so there are hundreds of novels featuring her just waiting to be placed in your kids’ hands. I was recently perusing the shelves at a local used book store when I noticed they had a massive collection of Nancy Drew mysteries; it may be time for me to go pick some of them up.

How about you?

So there there it is, the tip of the iceberg. What material do you recommend for kid gamers? And were any of the above favorites on your childhood bookshelf? Sound off in the comments below!

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?

Piggy bank with coins

5 Ways to Game on a Budget

One of the things I love about roleplaying games is that they’re inexpensive. You only need a copy of the rules, your imagination, and a few friends to have a good time, right? But… most RPGs have supplementary rulebooks, setting books, adventures, miniatures, dice sets… the list goes on. And I want all the shiny preciousses. I needs them! My game can’t be complete without them! But I have two problems…. I don’t have time to read anything longer than your average kid’s book… and I don’t have nearly enough money to buy all the books for all the RPGs I’d like to have all the books for… finally, I don’t have space to store all the books for all the RPGs I’d like to have all the books for. I said I had three problems, right?

That out of the way, we know I’m only going to address one of my problems in this post because we all saw the title, so let’s get to it. Lack of funds doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get awesome gaming books for your collection. Sure, you may not be able to get everything in glorious print, but .pdfs will work almost as well, especially if you have a half-decent tablet. So, without further ado, here are my top five ways to game on a budget:

  1. Bundles. Number one by a long shot, are gaming bundles. While drivethrurpg offers countless bundles by countless publishers, my favourite two producers of big bundles of books for ridiculously low prices are Bundle of Holding and Humble Bundle. Bundle of Holding focuses specifically on RPGs, offering big chunks of specific publisher’s catalogues (such as Cubicle 7’s The One Ring or Catalyst Game Labs’ Shadowrun [various editions have been bundled]), or themed bundles, such as their annual Bundle of Tentacles or Old School Revival bundle. Humble Bundle originally focused on PC indie games, but has diversified into ebooks, including RPGs (such as their spectacularly successful Pathfinder RPG bundle earlier this year) and comic books. Both of these sites are awesome for gamers with limited cash flow.
  2. Raging Swan/Creighton Broadhurst‘s websites. There are numerous gaming blogs, of course, but I visit these two at least once per week. With a heap of GMing advice, countless lists of treasures, gear, locations, and other inspiring posts, both of these sites are a near limitless resource.
  3. Open Gaming SRDs. The Open Gaming movement is still going strong, and there is tons of content out there free for the taking. Paizo’s Pathfinder PRD and the Dungeons & Dragons SRD are the biggest names of course, but the inimitable John Reyst curates SRDs for Swords & Wizardry, 13th Age, and plenty of other games as well as the monstrous  d20PFSRD and more modest 5eSRD. All of these sites provide access to game rules and content, including monsters, NPCs, and equipment. For free.
  4. Eclipse Phase. This fantastic d100 based sci-fi/horror rpg is available for free under its Creative Commons license. This is wonderful for people who want to give material a try before committing their dollars to it. Additionally, the license allows homebrewers to use Posthuman Studios’ art and writing assets to create and distribute their own Eclipse Phase material so long as it is free and attributes the work correctly.
  5. Write Reviews. Publishers, particularly third-part publishers, often give out review copies of new products to get word out about their new releases.  Check out the product announcements on Paizo threads, request a copy when they are offered, and then write a review.  Often, reviewers who consistently deliver well written reviews in a timely fashion are offered the opportunity to review more products – for free.  You get to help shape future products, let your favorite publishers know what you love (and what needs work), and you get access to complimentary gaming products.  It’s a win all around.

Bonus: Your local library.  Depending on your area, and what you local library has on its shelves, this can be a great resource.  You might be lucky enough to find RPG books, but at the very least you should be able to find books, graphic novels and even movies that could be a great (and free) source of inspiration.

Have you found other great resources for gaming on a budget? Share them in the comments below!