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Marcus Stewart
Daylight begins creeping through the blinds. Your eyes beg to be shut. Your butt aches. The lifeline of snack food has been exhausted. Monopoly night has claimed you and your friend’s collective souls, and now you’re wondering how to pull yourself out of its abyss. Unfortunately, your buddies still seem committed to seeing the game to its end (if you took hours to capture Boardwalk and Park Place you’d want to milk it too). You don’t want to be the party pooper. Never fear, though, for I’m here to offer some fool-proof tips for ending a Monopoly session in the least table-flipping way possible.
Keep Getting Up Until People Get The Hint
Whenever someone gets up during a board game to go to the bathroom or grab a drink, it can bring everything to a halt or, at the least, disengages everyone a little bit. Do this repeatedly, as in every couple of minutes, and people will get anxious. Throw in an obnoxious yawn or two while you’re at it. Eventually they’ll feel like stretching their legs, which then leads to the realization that the game has lasted the length of a Lord of the Rings marathon. It soon dawns on them that they promised their spouses at they’d return home at a reasonable hour, especially since they’re already on thin ice after their last all-night escapade. It only takes one person to vamoose for the rest of the party to crumble to pieces. 

Offer to Suspend the Game Intact for Another Session
The group has invested too much time and fake money into this game to see it end without a winner no matter how fatigued they may be. Throw out that you’re tired, BUT you’ll be more than happy to leave the game in its place for a return session. It’s like suspending a video game except more inconvenient (for you). Still, doing so staves off the worst part of any board game: the clean-up. In reality, you’re likely good on Monopoly until the next, next Olympics, so play this card only as a Hail Mary compromise. Otherwise, prepare to spend the next week enjoying all of your meals on the floor if the group takes up the offer. 
Form Convoluted Alliances
Savvy Monopoly players know that sometimes the only way to get ahead is to make deals along the way. Greatest hits include swapping a utility for that crucial missing railroad. Such agreements can annoy other players so dial this idea up to 11. Start by making a deal with Carrie to only charge half the fee for landing on each other’s properties. Then later strike an agreement with Derek to split the $200 Go reward if he’ll waive any fees on his turf. Unbeknownst to all of them, you’ve already arranged for Samantha, the banker, to have her regularly slip you money under the table in exchange for dinner and a movie. What does this George R.R. Martin-esque web of alliances accomplish? I’m not sure, but it’ll probably ruin the game due to the sheer chaos it would cause. 

Try Switching To A Video Game
Video games are the natural predators to board games; the mongoose to its king cobra. Simply put, interactive entertainment is, arguably, more stimulating, takes up less table space, and always has all of its pieces in the box. Instead of merely suggesting Mario Kart or Jackbox, boldly fire up a game during a supposed bathroom break. When your friends wonder where you’ve disappeared to they’ll follow the siren call of digital merriment like a moth to a bright TV. This is another emergency option as it won’t actually get these people out of your house. But hey, it’s progress. 
Claim A Medical Emergency
True story: in middle-school my friends and I were more or less abducted by a neighborhood gang over a now-humorous misunderstanding. They shuffled us back to their “crib” and made various threats until I came up with an ingenious solution. Harnessing my best fake tears, I pleaded with the hoodlums to let us go, claiming I needed to visit an ailing grandmother in the hospital who suffered from an ulcer (which was actually kind of true). To my surprise, the gang experienced genuine empathy and let us go. If such an excuse is good for diffusing potential gang violence, I’m fairly confident it can rescue you from this accursed board game. 
And that’s that! Now that you’ve escaped Monopoly’s black hole you’re now free to dive into the wealth of tabletop games! Enjoy the rest of the month!
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
From its imaginative roots in tabletop gaming until the present day, games and the people behind them have built fantastical worlds full of wonder and magic. Those worlds often reflect the political realities and attitudes found in the real world. The history of game development has been weighted with certain perspectives that have shaped the medium, sometimes in problematic ways. Those issues are worthy of critique so that games can continue to improve and tell stories that include everyone. 
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Tanya DePass, the founder and director of I Need Diverse Games. She was gracious enough to give me an hour of her time to pick her brain on diversity, feminism, and how to avoid alienating marginalized people in tabletop gaming. It's a really fantastic conversation, so I hope you all enjoy hearing all of it!

The final words of I Need Diverse Games' mission statement does a great job establishing why the organization fights to elevate the perspectives of people marginalized on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, disability, and more:
I Need Diverse Games is a non-profit that works to elevate the work of marginalized people in the game industry. That work often involves providing honest criticism from voices that aren't often given space on other platforms. They sponsor marginalized scholars to attend the Game Developers Conference every year. The organization also provides speakers for convention panels on diversity issues or additional assistance for those who would normally be unable to attend conventions like GaymerX, OrcaCon, or HavenCon. 
A huge thank you to Tanya for taking time out of her swamped schedule to talk with me. You should all give her a follow and support her work on Twitter: @cypheroftyr
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Tabletop RPGs can be a wonderful and imaginative way to create unforgettable memories with friends. Everyone involved helps to create an adventure together and that process can be some of the most fun games have to offer. However, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start if you are a new Dungeon Master, the player tasked with shaping and running the game. Even experienced DMs can find themselves at a loss on how to spice up their existing campaigns or where to turn for inspiration for new ones.
The good news is that Wizards of the Coast has been putting together fantastic adventure modules for decades and there are some great ones out there that either use the current game system, 5th edition, or can be easily adapted to it.  We’ve gathered together some of the greatest modules to use as a spur for your creativity whether you are just starting out or are a veteran looking for some fresh ideas.  

Keep on the Shadowfell
I’ll come right out and say it: Keep on the Shadowfell is one of the best introductory adventures for Dungeons & Dragons. It has everything players and DMs could ask for. It was designed to be a flexible module that introduces new players to the town of Winterhaven. The small village houses a number of colorful characters, some of whom have mysterious motivations. More importantly, Winterhaven has problems with the local kobold population and a mysterious, dark power that has arisen in the ruined chambers of the long-abandoned Shadowfell Keep.
A lot of thought went into Winterhaven. It has unique supporting characters that make the town come alive, some with little to nothing to do with the adventure itself. They provide the town with a sense of life and vigor that can sometimes be missing from adventuring towns. Even if you are a veteran role-player, there’s a lot that can be learned from how the town has been crafted and the characters who live there. That same care extends to some of the villains in the adventure who, if played right, can provide some unforgettable moments.
While Winterhaven stands out as a compelling location, the small dungeon of Shadowfell Keep provides a great, easily digested dungeon delving experience for players while giving DMs enough pieces to keep things spicy. Players who want to improvise and explore the relationship between the townsfolk and the various factions both in and around the town will find that there are plenty of intriguing relationships that can be made into fun diversions. By the time the adventure concludes, if everything goes well, players might want to use Winterhaven as a base of operations while adventuring into the wilderness. Keep on the Shadowfell provides plenty of potential plot threads that could link to other modules or awesome homebrew content.
The main downside of Keep on the Shadowfell is that it exists as a 4th edition D&D adventure. That means DMs will have to do some work if they want to directly adapt the adventure to their campaign. However, it serves as a great template for designing future towns and introductory campaigns of your own. It actually served as the basis of the Verne, the town central to the plot of the Dragonguard that only just concluded. It’ll take a bit of work to get it up and running, but Keep on the Shadowfell is an absolute must if you are looking for direction on how to begin a D&D campaign right.

Tomb of Annihilation
A fantastic, self-contained adventure, Tomb of Annihilation is one of the special adventures made for 5th edition that can be rolled into most campaigns with ease or serve as the setting for an entire campaign in its own right. The adventure serves as an excellent excuse to get players out of the comfortable environments of traditional fantasy and into tropical settings filled with dinosaurs and a need to track resources for survival.
Experience stands out as one of the big downsides to Tomb of Annihilation. DMs looking to run a campaign with it should probably have a few adventures under their belts before trying it out. The book provides so much information that newer players might find it to be daunting to run.
For the experienced or bold newbie, Tomb of Annihilation makes for a really cool trek into the unknown. Magic cities, devilish curses, zombie dinosaurs, and more hide in the forests and remote reaches of Chult, the island nation where the campaign takes place. Compared to Keep on the Shadowfell, Tomb of Annihilation is massive, designed to take players from level 1 to level 11. The adventure allows for higher level characters to be rolled into it, giving it a degree of versatility for DMs looking to roll less vulnerable characters into the action.
The other big downside to Tomb of Annihilation lies in its central hook. Something on Chult has disrupted the effectiveness of resurrection magic and the players have been hired to uncover and put a stop to whatever might be causing the problem. This means that players who die will have to create new characters, something that can be off-putting to players who aren’t prepared for perma death in Dungeons & Dragons.
Tomb of Annihilation contains many intriguing scenarios that a DM attempting to homebrew will find interesting and helpful. If everyone is on the same page and down for a campaign where lethality and danger take center stage, Tomb of Annihilation presents a fantastic change of pace and a unique opportunity that can’t be found anywhere else in 5th edition.

Death Ascendant
Ravenloft has a long history in Dungeons & Dragons. The setting first appeared in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons back in 1983 in an adventure simply titled Ravenloft. It gained popularity for its emphasis on a creepy, horror-focused atmosphere. This stood in stark contrast of the traditional fantasy D&D had offered players up until that point.
Beginning in 2nd Edition, Ravenloft became a full campaign setting, full of factions and unnatural powers. The setting draws heavily from Gothic horror, drawing players into a pocket dimension full of macabre domains ruled by cruel and twisted overlords. These rulers have all been trapped in the realm by strange and inscrutable wills known only as The Dark Powers that use the drama and pain inflicted on the unfortunate souls for their own unknowable purposes.
Over the decades many adventures have released set within Ravenloft. In fact, one of the most popular adventure modules Wizards of the Coast have released for 5th edition is Curse of Strahd, which make use of the Ravenloft setting. This means that a lot of people who have played through Curse of Strahd might be thirsting after some more horror-oriented content.   
Enter Death Ascendant. The adventure originally released in 1996 as a module for 2nd edition D&D. The adventure kicks off with the players in pursuit of a band of assassins from an organization called Ebon Fold. The dastardly villains have been slaughtering everyone in their path, leaving strange, desiccated husks in their wake. The party happens upon a lone survivor gifted with the ability to see glimpses of the future. The path takes players to the city of Nartok where several secretive organizations have made a play for power at the expense of the people living under their influences. Players have to uncover the secrets of the city and figure out how to put a stop to the mysterious machinations of the city’s three major factions.
By simply adding a plot hook at the end of Curse of Strahd, players could find themselves embroiled in another fantastic Ravenloft adventure. Unfortunately, players looking to do that will have to put in a not insignificant amount of work. Converting from 4th edition like for Keep on the Shadowfell doesn’t stand out as a particularly cumbersome challenge. However, the deep combat system and complicated rules mean that DMs might struggle to find equivalent stat blocks for enemies. The result is that a shoddy attempt to convert Death Ascendant could result in incredibly unbalanced encounters, making it either too difficult or too easy.
Despite the difficulty, the Yojimbo-like scenario with multiple factions, vile magic, and hidden secrets could prove to be an amazing inspiration for a homebrew adventure. Since it’s an older adventure, PDC copies are available online for about $5 USD with soft cover books going for $10.  

The Tortle Package
At first blush, The Tortle Package seems like it was designed as a supplement for Tomb of Annihilation. It offers a lot in a relatively concise bundle for players either looking to start out a campaign in a remote and uncharted area or for people who want to take a short break from their main campaign. Not only that, but it introduces tortles to D&D 5e.
If you aren’t familiar with tortles, they are basically humanoid turtle people. Think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They’re fantastic and offer some fantastic roleplaying opportunities for players who have been everything else in-game up until this point.
The Tortle Package isn’t really an adventure per say. Instead, it’s better to think of it as an adventure tool kit. It includes a lot of information about a region called The Snout of Omgar as well as a dungeon called Dangwaru, the Typhoon Palace. On top of that, there’s a great small village and many points of interest for curious players to explore. All of the pieces are provided for players to make a fantastic adventure of their own in The Snout of Omgar.
In addition to being an affordable and fun addition to almost any campaign, sales of The Tortle Package also support Extra Life! Wizards of the Coast has generously created a series of modules over the years as special promotional materials for their Extra Life fundraising efforts. For giving players the ability to run around as literal Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while also helping real world kids, The Tortle Package gets a big ol’ stamp of approval.
What are some of your favorite modules you use to inject some excitement into a campaign? Let us know in the comments!
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
It has been a long day in the mines. The village hired you and your party to investigate a series of digger disappearances in the deepest parts of the mine. Of course, once you found out that the mine served as the ancient entrance to a mind flayer lair, your contract obligated you to put a stop to the mind-eater’s machinations. Between the giant spiders and the inky darkness of the mines, it wasn’t an easy battle. In fact, the encounter with the flayer itself proved a struggle that nearly cost everyone their lives. In the end, you all managed to scrape by and return to the surface. The reward for this feat will surely bring in a pretty gold piece or two, but the real prize is the town’s inn, The Red Dragon Inn, the best place to laugh and drink possibly in all the land. 
The Red Dragon Inn isn’t just a fantastical place for adventurers to kick back and relax, it’s also an insanely popular tabletop board game. Developed by SlugFest Games, The Red Dragon Inn tells the story of what happens when the quest has finished and the heroes have a chance to unwind. The open and simple design allows for players to get into the game on whatever level they’d like. This has enabled the game to reach a wide and enduring audience that has supported the many expansions to the base game through Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns.

The rules of the game set up a scenario in which anywhere from 2-4 adventurers (expansions enable more people to play together) meet at the titular inn to have a good time and drink while spending their hard earned gold. The goal of the game is to be the last conscious player who still has gold. If your character becomes too drunk or loses all of their gold, they are out of the game.
Each player’s turn consists of a draw phase, where they maintain seven cards in their hand. Following this, the player has an opportunity to take an action using an action card from their hand to either help themselves or backstab a rival. After an action is either taken or passed, the player must give another player a drink and then resolving the effects of their own drink. Each player has a fortitude and drunkenness meter; if they ever end their turn with their drunkenness greater than or equal to their fortitude, they lose consciousness. If a player passes out, their gold is divided between the inn and the remaining players.
Other wrinkles to play also occur. For example, occasionally a player will play a card to initiate gambling. This causes normal play to halt until someone has won the pot with a good hand of cards or a dastardly cheat card. Some characters in the expansions also have their own unique mechanics that make gameplay even more interesting.
Each player must have a character deck from either the base game or one of its expansions. Each character in The Red Dragon Inn has their own sets of strengths and weaknesses that are brought to life through their personalized decks. The characterization of the character decks have become such a staple of the series that some fans enjoy roleplaying the characters while playing to create unforgettable game sessions. Alternatively, some players find a deck that corresponds to how their D&D roleplaying might act in a tavern setting and bring their own flavor of role-playing to the game.
In fact, due to the blending of social and fanciful elements in The Red Dragon Inn, players have invented all sorts of rule variants to make the experience more immersive. One of the most straight forward variants involves drinking actual alcohol along with the characters in the game. You can find the rules here, just be sure to be a responsible adventurer. Another variant involves giving the gold piece real money value to up the stakes for the rounds of gambling.
Of course, for players looking to mix things up in a more official capacity, there are numerous expansions. Each officially numbered expansion set can be played on its own and contains four completely different character decks. As mentioned before, each character has their own set of strengths and different styles of gameplay. This means that any time a new character or set is introduced into play, the dynamics of the game shift dramatically, especially if those additional decks mean that there are more players taking part in the game. Each of these expansions adds additional rules and events as well, so it’s definitely worth looking through all of them to find the stuff that you think would make for the most interesting sessions.

These numerous expansions have been made possible by the passionate community that has sprung up around the game. The series’ history of crowdfunding expansions dates back to 2013 and The Red Dragon Inn 4. Since then, there have been 9 different expansions, each shattering their fundraising goals. These include the fully numbered releases, duo hero deck expansions, and a spin-off game called The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport along with its expansions. Battle for Greyport sees the heroes from The Red Dragon Inn battling to defend the inn and town from dastardly villains and monsters – and you can try it for free if you find yourself inclined!
Without knowing the rules, I was able to get The Red Dragon Inn up and running about 10 minutes after opening the box for the first time. Whether you’re taking on the role of Zot the Wizard with his sullen familiar Pooky, Gerki the conniving rogue, Deirdre the snooty elven priestess, or Fiona the unpredictable barbarian, you’re sure to have a great time at The Red Dragon Inn.
If you think you might want to play The Red Dragon Inn while streaming during Extra Life 2019, you should reach out to SlugFest Games! They are currently running a promotional campaign to support Extra Life where they have developed a special card called Water of Life. If you reach out to them with your name, address, description of your livestreaming plans, and a link to your Extra Life fundraising page, they’ll send you a card of your own, as well as a number to distribute to stream viewers.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Stranger Things remains fresh in the collective pop culture consciousness after three seasons full of unwitting people unraveling the secrets hiding beneath the veneer of their small town lives. While the characters have faced down supernatural threats, they’re also (for the most part) normal people. They laugh, cry, and play games, just like the rest of us. They’re grounded in a world very much like our own, and that can make them seem divorced from the fantastical settings typically associated with tabletop role-playing games. That being said, there are plenty of fantastic options out there if you want to have a night or even a campaign full of adventures inspired by Stranger Things!
For the uninitiated, Stranger Things tells the story of people, primarily kids, living in Hawkins, Indiana during the 1980s. Things initially get strange following the disappearance of Will Byers and the sudden appearance of young girl with apparent supernatural abilities. Without going into spoiler territory, monsters and strange portals play prominent roles throughout the series, not unlike the tabletop role-playing experiences many remember fondly. The first season takes place in 1983, with subsequent seasons taking place about a year after one another. After several years of things being strange, things never really go back to normal.
Dungeons & Dragons has been an integral part of the series from the beginning. The kids on the show find it to be a fun way to blow off steam and work through their various issues. However, that’s not the only connection D&D has to the show; one of the legendary tabletop’s most iconic monsters even comes directly from the game itself. However, many associate D&D with magic, elves, and dark lords marching armies of evil against the realms of good, things that seem far removed from the sleepy town of Hawkins, Indiana.  
Thankfully, there are several great options at your disposal if you are itching to inject your role-playing sessions with Stranger Things. These range from official Wizards of the Coast adventure sets to free modules designed to capture the spirit of Stranger Things. So, let’s get down to it; where should you turn if you want some Stranger Things in your tabletop sessions?

Stranger Things D&D Starter Set
Let’s start by looking in on the official Stranger Things D&D Starter Set. This short adventure comes in a box designed to recall the original red box release of Dungeons & Dragons back in 1983, the same version the kids played in the show. Such is the ubiquity of D&D that many people who have never rolled a 20-sided die will recognize the reference in the design of the box itself.
Much like the red box release, the Stranger Things D&D Starter Set comes with all of the tools necessary to start rolling out of the box. Inside, players will find a rule book for 5th edition D&D, an adventure book, and dice. There are also five pre-made Stranger Things character sheets and two miniatures of the show’s Demogorgon. The adventure itself will probably be the main draw for fans of the show. Wizards of the Coast describes it as an adventure created by the in-fiction character Mike Wheeler for his friends.  
The game technically takes place in the Stranger Things universe with players taking up the character sheets of the kids from the show, but the game itself is set in the universe of D&D. The adventure is titled Hunt for the Thessalhydra and seems to be based on the adventure the kids were playing on-screen during Season 1. All characters begin at level 3 and the adventure has been designed to be a short, entertaining romp to get them to level 4. The length seems short when compared to many of the other published Dungeons & Dragons adventurers, but that might be perfect for beginners or for shaking up the routine of regularly scheduled gameplay sessions.  
Perhaps one of the most interesting elements about this particular boxed set is how it was designed to bring players into the minds of the characters from the show. Each season puts the kids through an awful lot of trauma, trauma that never seems to be fully addressed in the show itself. However, Hunt for the Thessalhydra offers a unique window into the way the kids view what has happened to them.
According to Mike Mearls, the lead designer of D&D at Wizards of the Coast, that was the intent. In an interview with Inverse, the legendary designer described the need the team felt to design something that felt “like there was something that originated in the world of Stranger Things. Something the characters interacted with, an artifact from the world.” Since this adventurer supposedly exists within the world of Stranger Things and was written by one of those kids, what sorts of things would they put into that game to help them through dark and troubling times?
Mearls answers that the writer of the adventure, Stan Brown, really tried to dig into what kids looking to heal would put into a D&D adventure:
“Mike is drawing inspiration from what just happened to him in real life. We send the players into Mike’s take on the Upside Down and that’s where you confront the Demogorgon. […] He’s trying to capture it as a monster that players can fight. You can imagine thinking of this as the adventure that the kids played, maybe this is them working through some of those fears. They’re afraid of this thing, so in the adventure, they meet it and defeat it.”

Kids on Bikes
If you are looking for a fleshed out tabletop RPG geared exactly toward people interested in role-playing after the adventures of the characters from Stranger Things, Kids on Bikes was basically made for you. The game puts players in a small town that the party works together to create. Each group comes up with rumors about their town and work together to develop the bonds between their characters. Much like the full cast of Stranger Things, players can take on the roles of kids, teens, or adults. The collaborative world-building makes each campaign unique and draws out the creativity from everyone playing.
Once play starts, the group will work together to solve the strange mysteries going on in their town. This largely revolves around role-playing with a sprinkling of simple rules. While plunging into the unknown and creepy depths of the story, players might discover a character with some sort of special power. When those characters come into play, everyone in the group collectively controls the character and their power making that individual a unique and unpredictable element in each game.
Unlike a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, Kids on Bikes isn’t meant to be empowering. Instead, players are pitted against overwhelming odds, monsters and forces far beyond mortal ken. It’s a game that relies on players to know when to run and how to play to their strengths.
Much like Stranger Things, the ideal timeframe for Kids on Bikes takes place during the 80s, though it can take place during earlier decades, too. The main rule of thumb for Kids on Bikes is to create a setting and characters where cell phones can’t be used to easily snag disturbing evidence of monsters. Using GPS to track threats won’t be an option. Historical records aren’t just a Google search away. These things or comparable information might all be possible with tools available in the town, but they shouldn’t be easy to obtain.
If you’re interested in seeing the game in action from start to finish, check out this playtest from Hyper RPG.

Stranger Dread
If neither Kids on Bikes nor Wizards of the Coast’s official Stranger Things box scratch that itch for paranormal horror, Ian Fraizer might have just what you’re looking for. Fraizer, the lead developer on Mass Effect: Andromeda, put together an adventure in 2016 called Stranger Dread. The journey into darkness takes about 2-4 hours to complete and was designed to be a chilling horror experience.
Stranger Dread makes use of the Dread rule system. Dread makes a shorthand version of its rules available for free and sells the full books for $12 USD or $24 USD depending on whether one wants the PDF or the physical book. The system of rules itself will be pretty different from what most tabletop role-players are used to: Instead of using dice, players must take one or more blocks out of a Jenga tower as they take actions. When the tower falls, something unfortunate happens to the character unlucky enough to cause it to tumble. This mechanic ties the tension and horror of the scenario to a tangible object that steadily grows more unstable as the game progresses.
The scenario of Stranger Dread takes place in the town of Mt. Pleasant, Illinois circa 1984. A 12-year-old boy named Cory Settler disappears from the local fair on July 12. Players take on one of six playable roles and begin searching for their missing friend. The story quickly becomes a descent into shadowy government conspiracies and an even darker evil lurking at the heart of Mt. Pleasant.
Much like the collaborative Kids on Bikes, players work together to create the fiction of the town and the relationships their characters have with one another. There are some directions and abilities between the different roles, but beyond that Stranger Dread seems to be a very flexible adventure. Fraizer designed the adventure to be very friendly for newcomers to run as well as experienced tabletop gamers, so if you’re looking to satiate that hunger for more Stranger Things, Stranger Dread might be just the game experience for you and your friends.
Plus, it’s free, so give it a look and see if it is your cup of tea.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
One year ago to the day, I put together a short campaign with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition called Dragonguard as a part of Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend. Since then, there have been 23 episodes spanning 27 hours of shenanigans from the tabletop to your ear holes. The final two episodes have finally been edited and sit ready for your listening pleasure. Join us one last time as we enter the finale of the Dragonguard campaign. 
Join Naomi Lugo (Nomsooni the druid), Marcus Stewart (Scratch Mangy the ranger), and Kyle Gaddo (Barphus the bard) as they don the armor of the illustrious Dragonguard, sworn to defend and protect the realm of Alterra from the dragons at its doorstep. Jack Gardner serves as the Dungeon Master, guiding our heroes through their journey.
Dispatched to the small town of Verne, the party began investigating rumors of draconic activity in the area. Learning of a kobold encampment deep within the Morrithil Wastes, they made their way into the vast swampland only to find a largely abandoned village built in the shadow of an ominous dragon skeleton. Encountering a number of old and infirm kobolds in the heart of the town, our heroes learned of an impending attack led by the vengeful dragon, Fallowfell. In an effort to convince Sir Rothurt, Verne's leader, to take the threat seriously, the party made an attempt to rescue his recently kidnapped son, Charles. Risking life and limb, they were able to save Charles only to be met with the awful revelation that Fallowfell had allies in the town itself. Now, Nomsooni, Barphus, and Scratch attempt to consolidate their power in the areas outside of Verne only to find themselves in ever-deepening danger from draconic evils, cunning opportunists, mystical threats, and (of course) themselves. The danger only increases when the party consult the wise oracle they had rescued from the dragon's forces, uncovering its secret identity and perhaps a means of thwarting its plans. After a catastrophic turn of events, the party finds themselves transported to another world where they are offered the chance to decide the fate of the world, as well as their own futures. 
If you want to get a sense of how great a time tabletop roleplaying can be, you're invited to enjoy the adventure along with us. Here's to the amazing things the gaming community accomplished over the past year and to the even greater things we will all do together in the years to come! You can listen to the new episodes below or start at the beginning with this handy SoundCloud playlist. 

"Furious Freak"
Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Shadowlands 1 - Horizon" "Super Power Cool Dude" "Bittersweet" "Dreamer" "Furious Freak"
Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
Thank you to everyone who joined us on this crazy adventure. We hope you enjoyed the ride! 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
The prison break operation begins in earnest. Sean discovers an important secret about the prison while schmoozing with one of the guards. Pribi runs into an old enemy now in chains. Arakiel contemplates breaking from the plan in order to break through the walls of the prison itself. 
We Wanted Adventurers is a liveplay Dungeons & Dragons podcast that follows a motley trio of unlikely heroes as they bumble into adventures both big and small across the fantastical continent of Nevarrone. For the uninitiated, a liveplay podcast features an unscripted recording of a traditional tabletop roleplaying game, with all of the goofs and drama that comes with the territory. If you've never listened to the show before, here's a handy playlist to get you caught up.

You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. You can follow the show on Twitter for updates. Let us know what you think of the show! We know that some parts of it are a bit bumpy, but I hope it doesn't get in the way of your enjoyment as we all learn and grow together. Thank you for listening! 
New episodes of We Wanted Adventurers will be released every Wednesday
One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Having been in development since 2015, Eastward's train finally seems poised to pull into the station. A new trailer has been released pinning the visually unique indie RPG down to a 2020 release window and revealing that the title will be coming to the Nintendo Switch. Developer Pixpil's latest peek at the world of Eastward reveals a stunning landscape rich with character and incredible animated details. 
We last saw Eastward at the beginning of 2018 when Chucklefish, the publisher behind Eastward, Starbound, and Stardew Valley, released an impressive announcement trailer. With the reveal of Eastward, we learned that it tells the story of John, a miner who uncovers a scientific facility while working his claim. Inside the dark facility, John encounters Sam, a strange white-haired young girl. This discovery sets the pair on a journey across the ruins of a world plagued by monsters. Their adventure will take them through towns where the remnants of humanity band together for survival, scavenging resources from ruins and creating bold new technologies. The mysteries behind Sam's origins propels the story forward as John struggles to care for the young child and get them through just one more day.   
A new trailer surfaced at Gamescom offers such an intriguing look into the world of Eastward. A pristine train takes viewers through a world where a boat has been made into a salvaged house on top of a mountain, complete with a beached whale on its roof. Bustling tent markets sit among the ruins of metropolises, with some stalls run by steampunk androids. We watch as John leads Sam through a wilderness populated by aggressive vultures and multi-legged mushrooms. Skeletons with gatling guns, rampaging mechanical monstrosities, carnivorous snake plants, flaming slugs, sentient bundles of electrical cords, and a robotic eyeball boss all inject Eastward with a sense of danger and wonder. 
The combat shown so far seems to revolve around John swinging his frying pan into monsters, dodging attacks, and solving puzzles. There are brief snippets of John wielding a shotgun and charging up a melee attack, but the lack of focus on the battle mechanics implies Eastward has other ambitions. While we haven't seen nearly enough of the game yet, Eastward's priority seems to be presenting a narrative journey through a world rich with detail and history. We see glimpses of charismatic supporting characters like Alva and the antagonistic Mayor Huffman along with a slew of unnamed and intriguing characters. 
Pixpil set out to create a modern pixel game that took inspiration from Earthbound and The Legend of Zelda as well as more recent releases like The Last of Us. Eastward seems like a near-perfect realization of that goal. Shockingly gorgeous, imaginative, and armed with an intriguing narrative, Eastward should be on your radar. It's clearly something special.
Eastward releases in 2020 for PC and Nintendo Switch.  
One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
In November 2017, Trinket Studios released a unique puzzle-fighting game onto PC and Nintendo Switch. The title, Battle Chef Brigade, had garnered a colossal amount of support following a successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $100,000 in 2014. The game focuses on Mina Han, an up and coming chef who leaves her rural home to make it as a member of the Battle Chef Brigade, an elite group of chefs who battle monsters and use the spoils to make the most delectable dishes in all the land. Battle Chef Brigade currently sits with a spotless rating of 10/10 on Steam and has earned itself a persistent cult following since release. 
This week we are joined by game critic and noted Battle Chef Brigade evangelist Caitlin Galiz-Rowe to talk about the wild world of culinary contests. Is Battle Chef Brigade one of the best games of all-time?
Each week on The Best Games Period, we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative.

Outro music: Fantasy Zone 'Opa and Over' by Rexy (
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available, as well!
Follow Caitlin Galiz-Rowe on Twitter: @CGRRRRRRRR
If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Marcus Stewart
A middle finger usually conjures less than pleasant responses, but in Freedom Finger’s case, the infamous gesture stands for fun. This over-the-top take on the arcade shooter drops players into the cockpit of a spacecraft modeled after “The Bird” to battle foreign threats on behalf of the U.S. government. Freedom Finger comes from the minds of Executive Producer Jim Dirschberger, co-creator of the Nickelodeon series Sanjay and Craig, and his studio Wide Right Interactive. 

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first: why a middle finger? Dirschberger says they chose it simply because it’s funny and, more importantly, recognizable and relatable. “There's no gesture or outline in the English language that probably reads better than a middle finger," he explains. "Everybody knows how they feel about it when they see one. So for me, not only having just that readability of a giant middle finger but the absurdity of the giant middle finger flying through space trying to save the human race, I just wanted to do something that was really absurd.”

Freedom Finger takes cues from classic arcade-style shooters such as Gradius with players zapping obstacles from left to right. The ship, dubbed the Gamma Ray, fires rapid fire lasers from the tip of the offending digit. In a twist, players can also perform a melee punch to destroy targets or knock objects into enemies. Furthermore, the Gamma Ray can even grab a hold of enemy vessels to use their firepower as your own. Shooting and movement feel good, which is reassuring given that adversaries come at players in serpentine patterns and can unleash volleys of deadly projectiles. There’s also strategy in knowing when to fire from a distance and when to go in for a punch or capture. 

Levels take advantage of the unorthodox melee mechanics with designs rarely seen in the traditional shooter. One complicated area requires players to punch through blocks of sand to advance forward in an idea that feels more akin to a platformer. Another stage tasks players to hit switches in order to open gates and manipulate traps. They do a good job of breaking up the monotony of simply blasting oncoming foes, and Dirschberger promises a steady stream a level variety throughout the adventure. 

A melting pot of licensed music, ranging from punk to electronic to hip hop, plays a pivotal part in the experience. Wide Right designed trap patterns and overall level intensity to match the music tempos. Songs come courtesy of a roster of artists including Male Gaze, Aesop Rock, Red Fang, and many more. If the tunes didn’t add enough personality, the juvenile (in a good way) art direction certainly picks up the slack. The hand-drawn illustration and animations have an intentional, rough look to them–think a 2D version of David Jaffe’s Drawn to Death but more colorful and less disturbing. The aesthetic strongly evokes the vibe of early 90’s MTV, and Dirschberger even goes as far to describe it as a “crappier Cuphead.” 

“Cuphead is the AP art nerd. We're like the punk kid in the back of the class scribbling in a notebook.” says Dirschererger

Wide Right has also invested a lot of time fine tuning Freedom Finger’s difficulty. Although on the surface it appears to follow the template of the typically tough-as-nails Bullet Hell genre, Dirschberger wants the experience to be approachable to everyone. The game features multiple accessibility options, like turning off collision damage and increasing overall health. Playing on an easier setting lets players enjoy the game in a more leisurely manner (at the cost of leaderboard progress). Freedom Finger ultimately emphasizes its zany story and writing more than anything, and the team at Wide Right wants to ensure that every player is able to soak it all in. 

Dirschberger once again refers to Cuphead as an example for the team’s direction:

Speaking of story, Freedom Finger’s irreverent, satirical writing feels like it’d fit in great as an Adult Swim show. A blowhard commander seems more concerned with patriotic grandstanding and calling for beers more often than Stone Cold Steve Austin than being a reasonable strategist. In one humorous scene, the commander implores the player to destroy a mysterious craft despite a mild-mannered mission control worker pleading that it’s, in fact, a Russian space station. Turns out he was right, and the Russian commander takes great exception to seeing his men needlessly slaughtered by a flying vulgarity. Freedom Finger is an unsurprisingly adult experience, though it features a censored option as well as humorous, cable TV style overdubs of swear words. A talented voice cast featuring the likes of Nolan North, John DiMaggio, and Sam Riegel bring the characters to life. 
Freedom Finger marks Dirschberger’s first foray into video games. A lifelong gamer, he states the itch to get into the game industry came after meeting indie devs at events like GDC and E3 and realizing the overlap between television production and game development:

After 2+ years of development work, Freedom Finger feels like the epitome of dumb fun. It’s goofy, it’s loud, it’s uncouth, but it’s also entertaining to play. As you might expect, the game has already turned heads. “It's been hilarious because when we were at PAX East the reactions of people that would stop by, they would either laugh and immediately want to play the game or they'd be totally disgusted and shake their heads like ‘what are you doing?’” chuckles Dirschberger. 

Gamers looking to put a middle finger to good use should keep an eye on Freedom Finger when it lands on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC sometime this fall. 
One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

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