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Jack Gardner

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  1. Today marks the day that Gearbox Software releases the latest entry in their flagship franchise: Borderlands 3. Having missed the opportunity to preview the game at events leading up to its release, I decided to reach out to Allison Kurtz, patient treated at Cincinnati Children’s, gamer and Borderlands fan.. As a life-long Borderlands fan, Allison was kind enough to sit down with me to talk about what makes Borderlands so important to her and others. She also had the chance to play Borderlands 3 back in June and was able to talk about the insights she gleaned from her time with the game. Strap in and get ready to Catch-A-Ride with this fun interview that sheds some light on both the Borderlands series as a whole and the recently released game. - Jack Gardner: Let’s jump into Borderlands 3, a game, I am told, that is created by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. Allison Kurtz: That is true. JG: It’s coming out on September 13th- AK: And my paycheck comes to me on September 15th, so we are going to ride that two day streak like… sadness… JG: Sadness is one of the names of the horses in the back? That’s a reference you kids get right? AK: Oh, if you expect me to relate to the quote un-quote kids – I’m very sorry. I know of Lil Nas X, but all I know is that he’s gay and that I support him on that front. JG: Supposedly he has horses in the back. AK: Well… supposedly. JG: All I know about Borderlands 3 is that it’s a looter-shooter. I finished the first one, a significant amount of the second one. I loved Tales from the Borderlands- AK: Ah, so you have good taste! JG: [laugh] and then there was Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel which… I am not really sure what was going on there… AK: It’s sorta like a Super Mario Galaxy 2 thing? Super Mario Galaxy came out. Good game. This was before DLC packs were a thing for Nintendo, so they essentially made more game that was the length of a game. They called it Super Mario Galaxy 2, and they released that. Pre-Sequel uses the engine and mechanics of Borderlands 2 to make a new game out of what was already there. JG: That brings us to Borderlands 3. With that background in mind, can you tell us a bit more about your experience with Borderlands? How did it start? What really gets your attention and gets you excited about Borderlands? AK: That story don’t start off in the happiest place on earth. When I was in 8th grade to freshman year, I was not a happy camper for reasons that are pretty understandable. I was pre-transition. I did not like talking. I did not like being seen. I did not like being heard. So, I would just sink myself into video games. Borderlands 1 was like that for me. Borderlands 1 doesn’t go nearly as wild with the queer content as Borderlands 2. But I played it for hours. I played it for ages and ages. I absolutely loved the mechanics, absolutely loved the gameplay, absolutely loved the design, absolutely loved everything about it. I eventually transitioned and moved on and played Borderlands 2 and it just felt – it’s really hard to explain this – it felt like a world that I had known coming to accept me because Borderlands 2 is when they went buck wild with queer representation. And so that kind of transition that it made along with me resulted in a sort of… I kind of bonded with the game, if that makes any sense? Being in that situation where both things changed it was like, “Hey, same hat. We’re in the same hole here,” and I just felt grateful to have a series that was willing to accept that I exist. Because a lot of the queer representation at that time was new stuff – like people created new properties with queer characters in them. It was really nice to see something I had grown up with embrace queer identities and learn about it as I learned about it. JG: So what in Borderlands 2, you say it had more queer representation, can you talk a bit more about it? What specific parts of Borderlands 2 really spoke to you on that front? AK: The thing is that it’s not front and center. It’s not a big plot point in any sense. It’s just little things like how it is just as common to see a straight couple as a gay couple. Hammerlock has an ex-boyfriend. Some women would talk about their girlfriends, while other characters discussed their different sexualities. It was just… normal. That was really refreshing and honest and helpful to see in a time where I felt like I didn’t have the chance. So that’s how I got into Borderlands and then I just kinda went hog wild on it. I got in because I felt accepted and then the gameplay mechanics – normal shooters bore me which sounds a little harsh, but the customizability of Borderlands along with the humor and very diverse art style and environment really pulled me in. In a way similar to how the fallout games pull me in – at least Fallout 4 and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 3 sucked, but that’s a totally different point. JG: Are you just saying that because you saw Hbomberguy’s video? AK: First of all, don’t call me out. Second of all, I had that opinion before he posted that video. JG: You fell in love with Borderlands 2 and then Tales from the Borderlands released. Did you feel differently about the narrative-focused direction or was it more of the same for you? It is quite a departure from the main series. AK: Okay, this is my embarrassment. It took me a very long time to finish Tales from the Borderlands. I just hadn’t gotten around to it because it was right around when shit started getting crazy with vis-à-vis my transition and coming out and everything. So I didn’t have quite as much time for games anymore since I was literally changing everything about myself and my environment. A lot of games from that time kinda slipped by me. Then I never went back to finish them because we got into 2015 and 2016 and got a ton of crazy genre defining games. Things that changed how we looked at games and took up my attention. Tales from the Borderlands just fell by the wayside… until I went to E3 and spoke to one of the writers for Tales from the Borderlands, Extra Life friend The Only Ryann. What he specifically said to me was, “Did you play Tales from the Borderlands?” and I said I never got to finish it, I got too busy. He gave me the most withering look in the world and he said, and I am quoting, “You’re busting my balls here, kid.” JG: Get called out! AK: Yeah, a little bit! I felt like, yeah, I should probably get back around to that game. Before I left he told me, “There is a sad point in Tales from the Borderlands. Please tweet at me angrily once you reach it.” I definitely, definitely went through with that promise. So I played that and I loved it and it was very nice to see Athena, local gay. Also, the soundtrack for that game kicks my ass. That soundtrack jumped out of my computer and put me in a headlock. In a good way. It’s well suited to the style Borderlands 1 and 2 had set up with musical theming. I especially enjoyed how well the ending fit with the beginning song. You would never guess that it was made by a different studio. JG: Thoughts on Pre-Sequel? AK: Pre-Sequel is excellent in my opinion. I enjoy it, but I am biased because it contains one of my favorite couples in video games, Athena and Janey. They’re just very cute. It’s basically Borderlands 2: More. It’s just more content and delves into backstory - I mean it is a prequel - but it delves into backstory and shows off new characters that come back later. It’s a game I very much enjoy even though Claptrap… well, I don’t know how I feel about Claptrap. That’s a thing for another day. That’s a thesis right there. Sometimes you’ll be like, “Aww, poor baby,” and then he’ll say something weird and perverted and you’re like, “Poor baby, stay five feet away from me at all times.” JG: So how are you feeling about Borderlands 3 now that we have talked about all the other Borderlands-y things? AK: I am incredibly excited for Borderlands 3. I love their voice acting choices. They have touched on sexuality a lot in the past but they have never really touched gender, so I am very excited that there is a non-binary protagonist who is voiced by ProZD from YouTube and Vine. He’s an excellent fellow and I enjoy his work quite a bit. It’s very exciting to see him in such a mainstream game. Before, the only game that I know of that he was in was 2064: Read Only Memories. JG: So the non-binary character and the voice acting excite you. Do any of the other aspects seem interesting? AK: The gameplay itself! It’s very excellent from what I’ve played. I played the E3 demo as Moze, and it was excellent. She rides in a big D.Va style mech which I very much enjoyed. It blends the Catch-A-Ride cars from the past games with a summonable ally. You can climb on the back, turret style, like you’ve been able to with every other vehicle. I very much enjoy that you can customize to the max. If you want to be a brawler or do explosives or anything of the sort, you can do it. It’s amazing how customizable it is to me. The visuals are very excellent. I love how varied the character design is now. In previous games when you fought a bunch of psychos, it was the same psycho over and over again. It was cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi fiery psycho, and cha boi psycho. But now all the psychos are a little different. They have different pants, some of them have hair, some of them don’t. Some of them are actually women now, which makes sense in-universe, but they had never done it before. And the colors. Okay, it has been a couple of months and I did not take notes, but I remember being very impressed by the colors. One thing about Borderlands that I have always adored is in a world of shooter games that tend to keep things muddy, Borderlands has moments where it can get really colorful and wild. The demo I played was one of those areas. In addition, the story seems really great, too. You have two villains who are very hateble and very lovable in the same way. They are equal parts… they are that perfect villain where you want to see them succeed and you also want to see them fail. So you love them and you hate them, you love to hate them. They are very well designed, too and they are very excellent. The four main characters are also excellent. I love how they tie into the past of Borderlands. Zane is part of one of the most gosh dang cursed families in Borderlands history because you kill every member of it throughout the series. We know Moze’s past, but I don’t remember if we have seen her in things before. Flak does what I have been wanting for the entire game series and shows us the skags, like, “Here are some nice bois that you can pet and you are expected to pet.” And I’m like yes this is all I have ever wanted! And Amara is a tall, buff GF. That’s all I have to say about her. I said, when I was at the E3 event, “Oh my god, Amara, my lesbian wife!” out loud without thinking about it. The PR person who was showing me the video laughed and then said, “I think they designed her with that in mind.” I honestly can’t imagine any other scenario, but that's because she exudes strong lesbian energy. JG: What’s your take on the story? You said it seemed good – is that impression due entirely to the villains or…? AK: One thing I can speak on is that I love how past characters are returning and they look different. Borderlands 1 to Borderlands 2, there was a time skip there and they look the exact same. Just the same dudes. But Borderlands 3, people look different. Maya, the siren from the second game, she looks different now and you can tell that a number of years have passed. Lilith looks the same, but that’s how it be sometimes. She’s one of the most, if not the most, recognizable characters for Borderlands except for Claptrap. I just enjoy how the world is changing now. We don’t know too much about the plot beyond the basics being that it has the Calypso Twins as the two villains. They run a cult called Children of the Vault, and they exploit their followers to try and unlock a vault for themselves. Lilith leads the army trying to fight back against them. Though she talks a big game, they have shown cutscenes of her being scared and beaten, so you know that it’s not as easy as she makes things seem. It’s interesting that we get to see Lilith, who is a very strong-hearted, strong willed, strong-in-general individual, get pushed to her limits, and I am excited to see that in full on the 15th, two days after it comes out. JG: Anything you hope to see in Borderlands 3? AK: I hope they show me post-marriage Athena and Janey. That’s kind of a separate thought, but there HAS been a time skip, time has passed! OH, and I totally forgot! We saw Rhys from Tales from the Borderlands in the trailer. Where’s Fiona, my dog? Where’s Fiona? Where’s the love of my life, Fiona? Where have you placed her? If they hurt Fiona, I will personally go to Gearbox and cry. Not to anyone in particular, just to the receptionist. Also, I have a soft spot for any robot that ever exists in any story ever, so Loader Bot better show up. If you tell me Loader Bot died, I will personally die, too. - A huge thank you to Allison for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me for this silly and insightful interview! 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! View full article
  2. Today marks the day that Gearbox Software releases the latest entry in their flagship franchise: Borderlands 3. Having missed the opportunity to preview the game at events leading up to its release, I decided to reach out to Allison Kurtz, patient treated at Cincinnati Children’s, gamer and Borderlands fan.. As a life-long Borderlands fan, Allison was kind enough to sit down with me to talk about what makes Borderlands so important to her and others. She also had the chance to play Borderlands 3 back in June and was able to talk about the insights she gleaned from her time with the game. Strap in and get ready to Catch-A-Ride with this fun interview that sheds some light on both the Borderlands series as a whole and the recently released game. - Jack Gardner: Let’s jump into Borderlands 3, a game, I am told, that is created by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. Allison Kurtz: That is true. JG: It’s coming out on September 13th- AK: And my paycheck comes to me on September 15th, so we are going to ride that two day streak like… sadness… JG: Sadness is one of the names of the horses in the back? That’s a reference you kids get right? AK: Oh, if you expect me to relate to the quote un-quote kids – I’m very sorry. I know of Lil Nas X, but all I know is that he’s gay and that I support him on that front. JG: Supposedly he has horses in the back. AK: Well… supposedly. JG: All I know about Borderlands 3 is that it’s a looter-shooter. I finished the first one, a significant amount of the second one. I loved Tales from the Borderlands- AK: Ah, so you have good taste! JG: [laugh] and then there was Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel which… I am not really sure what was going on there… AK: It’s sorta like a Super Mario Galaxy 2 thing? Super Mario Galaxy came out. Good game. This was before DLC packs were a thing for Nintendo, so they essentially made more game that was the length of a game. They called it Super Mario Galaxy 2, and they released that. Pre-Sequel uses the engine and mechanics of Borderlands 2 to make a new game out of what was already there. JG: That brings us to Borderlands 3. With that background in mind, can you tell us a bit more about your experience with Borderlands? How did it start? What really gets your attention and gets you excited about Borderlands? AK: That story don’t start off in the happiest place on earth. When I was in 8th grade to freshman year, I was not a happy camper for reasons that are pretty understandable. I was pre-transition. I did not like talking. I did not like being seen. I did not like being heard. So, I would just sink myself into video games. Borderlands 1 was like that for me. Borderlands 1 doesn’t go nearly as wild with the queer content as Borderlands 2. But I played it for hours. I played it for ages and ages. I absolutely loved the mechanics, absolutely loved the gameplay, absolutely loved the design, absolutely loved everything about it. I eventually transitioned and moved on and played Borderlands 2 and it just felt – it’s really hard to explain this – it felt like a world that I had known coming to accept me because Borderlands 2 is when they went buck wild with queer representation. And so that kind of transition that it made along with me resulted in a sort of… I kind of bonded with the game, if that makes any sense? Being in that situation where both things changed it was like, “Hey, same hat. We’re in the same hole here,” and I just felt grateful to have a series that was willing to accept that I exist. Because a lot of the queer representation at that time was new stuff – like people created new properties with queer characters in them. It was really nice to see something I had grown up with embrace queer identities and learn about it as I learned about it. JG: So what in Borderlands 2, you say it had more queer representation, can you talk a bit more about it? What specific parts of Borderlands 2 really spoke to you on that front? AK: The thing is that it’s not front and center. It’s not a big plot point in any sense. It’s just little things like how it is just as common to see a straight couple as a gay couple. Hammerlock has an ex-boyfriend. Some women would talk about their girlfriends, while other characters discussed their different sexualities. It was just… normal. That was really refreshing and honest and helpful to see in a time where I felt like I didn’t have the chance. So that’s how I got into Borderlands and then I just kinda went hog wild on it. I got in because I felt accepted and then the gameplay mechanics – normal shooters bore me which sounds a little harsh, but the customizability of Borderlands along with the humor and very diverse art style and environment really pulled me in. In a way similar to how the fallout games pull me in – at least Fallout 4 and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 3 sucked, but that’s a totally different point. JG: Are you just saying that because you saw Hbomberguy’s video? AK: First of all, don’t call me out. Second of all, I had that opinion before he posted that video. JG: You fell in love with Borderlands 2 and then Tales from the Borderlands released. Did you feel differently about the narrative-focused direction or was it more of the same for you? It is quite a departure from the main series. AK: Okay, this is my embarrassment. It took me a very long time to finish Tales from the Borderlands. I just hadn’t gotten around to it because it was right around when shit started getting crazy with vis-à-vis my transition and coming out and everything. So I didn’t have quite as much time for games anymore since I was literally changing everything about myself and my environment. A lot of games from that time kinda slipped by me. Then I never went back to finish them because we got into 2015 and 2016 and got a ton of crazy genre defining games. Things that changed how we looked at games and took up my attention. Tales from the Borderlands just fell by the wayside… until I went to E3 and spoke to one of the writers for Tales from the Borderlands, Extra Life friend The Only Ryann. What he specifically said to me was, “Did you play Tales from the Borderlands?” and I said I never got to finish it, I got too busy. He gave me the most withering look in the world and he said, and I am quoting, “You’re busting my balls here, kid.” JG: Get called out! AK: Yeah, a little bit! I felt like, yeah, I should probably get back around to that game. Before I left he told me, “There is a sad point in Tales from the Borderlands. Please tweet at me angrily once you reach it.” I definitely, definitely went through with that promise. So I played that and I loved it and it was very nice to see Athena, local gay. Also, the soundtrack for that game kicks my ass. That soundtrack jumped out of my computer and put me in a headlock. In a good way. It’s well suited to the style Borderlands 1 and 2 had set up with musical theming. I especially enjoyed how well the ending fit with the beginning song. You would never guess that it was made by a different studio. JG: Thoughts on Pre-Sequel? AK: Pre-Sequel is excellent in my opinion. I enjoy it, but I am biased because it contains one of my favorite couples in video games, Athena and Janey. They’re just very cute. It’s basically Borderlands 2: More. It’s just more content and delves into backstory - I mean it is a prequel - but it delves into backstory and shows off new characters that come back later. It’s a game I very much enjoy even though Claptrap… well, I don’t know how I feel about Claptrap. That’s a thing for another day. That’s a thesis right there. Sometimes you’ll be like, “Aww, poor baby,” and then he’ll say something weird and perverted and you’re like, “Poor baby, stay five feet away from me at all times.” JG: So how are you feeling about Borderlands 3 now that we have talked about all the other Borderlands-y things? AK: I am incredibly excited for Borderlands 3. I love their voice acting choices. They have touched on sexuality a lot in the past but they have never really touched gender, so I am very excited that there is a non-binary protagonist who is voiced by ProZD from YouTube and Vine. He’s an excellent fellow and I enjoy his work quite a bit. It’s very exciting to see him in such a mainstream game. Before, the only game that I know of that he was in was 2064: Read Only Memories. JG: So the non-binary character and the voice acting excite you. Do any of the other aspects seem interesting? AK: The gameplay itself! It’s very excellent from what I’ve played. I played the E3 demo as Moze, and it was excellent. She rides in a big D.Va style mech which I very much enjoyed. It blends the Catch-A-Ride cars from the past games with a summonable ally. You can climb on the back, turret style, like you’ve been able to with every other vehicle. I very much enjoy that you can customize to the max. If you want to be a brawler or do explosives or anything of the sort, you can do it. It’s amazing how customizable it is to me. The visuals are very excellent. I love how varied the character design is now. In previous games when you fought a bunch of psychos, it was the same psycho over and over again. It was cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi fiery psycho, and cha boi psycho. But now all the psychos are a little different. They have different pants, some of them have hair, some of them don’t. Some of them are actually women now, which makes sense in-universe, but they had never done it before. And the colors. Okay, it has been a couple of months and I did not take notes, but I remember being very impressed by the colors. One thing about Borderlands that I have always adored is in a world of shooter games that tend to keep things muddy, Borderlands has moments where it can get really colorful and wild. The demo I played was one of those areas. In addition, the story seems really great, too. You have two villains who are very hateble and very lovable in the same way. They are equal parts… they are that perfect villain where you want to see them succeed and you also want to see them fail. So you love them and you hate them, you love to hate them. They are very well designed, too and they are very excellent. The four main characters are also excellent. I love how they tie into the past of Borderlands. Zane is part of one of the most gosh dang cursed families in Borderlands history because you kill every member of it throughout the series. We know Moze’s past, but I don’t remember if we have seen her in things before. Flak does what I have been wanting for the entire game series and shows us the skags, like, “Here are some nice bois that you can pet and you are expected to pet.” And I’m like yes this is all I have ever wanted! And Amara is a tall, buff GF. That’s all I have to say about her. I said, when I was at the E3 event, “Oh my god, Amara, my lesbian wife!” out loud without thinking about it. The PR person who was showing me the video laughed and then said, “I think they designed her with that in mind.” I honestly can’t imagine any other scenario, but that's because she exudes strong lesbian energy. JG: What’s your take on the story? You said it seemed good – is that impression due entirely to the villains or…? AK: One thing I can speak on is that I love how past characters are returning and they look different. Borderlands 1 to Borderlands 2, there was a time skip there and they look the exact same. Just the same dudes. But Borderlands 3, people look different. Maya, the siren from the second game, she looks different now and you can tell that a number of years have passed. Lilith looks the same, but that’s how it be sometimes. She’s one of the most, if not the most, recognizable characters for Borderlands except for Claptrap. I just enjoy how the world is changing now. We don’t know too much about the plot beyond the basics being that it has the Calypso Twins as the two villains. They run a cult called Children of the Vault, and they exploit their followers to try and unlock a vault for themselves. Lilith leads the army trying to fight back against them. Though she talks a big game, they have shown cutscenes of her being scared and beaten, so you know that it’s not as easy as she makes things seem. It’s interesting that we get to see Lilith, who is a very strong-hearted, strong willed, strong-in-general individual, get pushed to her limits, and I am excited to see that in full on the 15th, two days after it comes out. JG: Anything you hope to see in Borderlands 3? AK: I hope they show me post-marriage Athena and Janey. That’s kind of a separate thought, but there HAS been a time skip, time has passed! OH, and I totally forgot! We saw Rhys from Tales from the Borderlands in the trailer. Where’s Fiona, my dog? Where’s Fiona? Where’s the love of my life, Fiona? Where have you placed her? If they hurt Fiona, I will personally go to Gearbox and cry. Not to anyone in particular, just to the receptionist. Also, I have a soft spot for any robot that ever exists in any story ever, so Loader Bot better show up. If you tell me Loader Bot died, I will personally die, too. - A huge thank you to Allison for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me for this silly and insightful interview! 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!
  3. Today happens to be National Video Games Day! To honor the spirit of the day, we've put together several awesome games that you can play right now for free! These range from being short 15-30 minute experiences to full-blown 9 hour RPGs. These are games that will make you laugh, possibly You could even play all of them in one day - or at the least within one 24-hour gaming marathon to help sick and injured kids! Butterfly Soup Visual novels aren't everyone's cup of tea, but Butterfly Soup really sets itself up as a must-play with its mix of humor and good-natured sweetness. The game revolves around a group of queer Asian girls who play baseball and bond with one another - they might even fall in love. The story takes about 3-4 hours to complete and features fresh memes from 2017. It's adorable, charming as heck, and features some of the most lovable kids you'll see in games. If you need something gay and wholesome in your day, Butterfly Soup would be just the thing you're looking for. Star Stealing Prince Star Stealing Prince stands out as one of the finest RPGs ever made in RPGMaker. It tells the story of a young prince who sets out to uncover the secrets of his future kingdom. What that journey reveals and where it will take both him and his people serves as an incredible rollercoaster of drama. Lead developer, Ronove, poured so much time and care into the story, the visuals, puzzles, and combat mechanics that it's easy to forget that this passion project is free. To top it off, it has some of the best battle music in RPGs, holding its own against even the heaviest hitters in the 16-bit field. It's fantastic, and the tale it weaves will stick with you for years to come. Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist has an objectively silly name, which should be expected from the Crows Crows Crows, the creators of The Stanley Parable. A Whirlwind Heist cheekily sets itself up as a grand heist game, but something has gone horribly wrong behind the scenes. The people who were supposed to come together to make the game work have all quit or gone on strike, leaving the player free to wander the halls of the production and see how games get made... sort of. With a desperate narrator trying to get everything back on track, this free game provides plenty of laughs. It's exactly what it wants to be, which is a silly, short game about an objectively funny situation. Escaped Chasm Temmie Chan served as the lead artist on Undertale, creating the most iconic visual moments from the game. Back in April of this year, she released a free RPGMaker game called Escaped Chasm. It tells the story of a young girl who flees to an imaginary world to escape from her isolation and loneliness. There are four different endings and each playthrough takes between 15-20 minutes. If you wanted to get more Undertale-adjacent games in your life, Escaped Chasm should definitely be in your download queue. After all, it's beautiful, well-crafted, and free! 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!
  4. Today happens to be National Video Games Day! To honor the spirit of the day, we've put together several awesome games that you can play right now for free! These range from being short 15-30 minute experiences to full-blown 9 hour RPGs. These are games that will make you laugh, possibly You could even play all of them in one day - or at the least within one 24-hour gaming marathon to help sick and injured kids! Butterfly Soup Visual novels aren't everyone's cup of tea, but Butterfly Soup really sets itself up as a must-play with its mix of humor and good-natured sweetness. The game revolves around a group of queer Asian girls who play baseball and bond with one another - they might even fall in love. The story takes about 3-4 hours to complete and features fresh memes from 2017. It's adorable, charming as heck, and features some of the most lovable kids you'll see in games. If you need something gay and wholesome in your day, Butterfly Soup would be just the thing you're looking for. Star Stealing Prince Star Stealing Prince stands out as one of the finest RPGs ever made in RPGMaker. It tells the story of a young prince who sets out to uncover the secrets of his future kingdom. What that journey reveals and where it will take both him and his people serves as an incredible rollercoaster of drama. Lead developer, Ronove, poured so much time and care into the story, the visuals, puzzles, and combat mechanics that it's easy to forget that this passion project is free. To top it off, it has some of the best battle music in RPGs, holding its own against even the heaviest hitters in the 16-bit field. It's fantastic, and the tale it weaves will stick with you for years to come. Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist has an objectively silly name, which should be expected from the Crows Crows Crows, the creators of The Stanley Parable. A Whirlwind Heist cheekily sets itself up as a grand heist game, but something has gone horribly wrong behind the scenes. The people who were supposed to come together to make the game work have all quit or gone on strike, leaving the player free to wander the halls of the production and see how games get made... sort of. With a desperate narrator trying to get everything back on track, this free game provides plenty of laughs. It's exactly what it wants to be, which is a silly, short game about an objectively funny situation. Escaped Chasm Temmie Chan served as the lead artist on Undertale, creating the most iconic visual moments from the game. Back in April of this year, she released a free RPGMaker game called Escaped Chasm. It tells the story of a young girl who flees to an imaginary world to escape from her isolation and loneliness. There are four different endings and each playthrough takes between 15-20 minutes. If you wanted to get more Undertale-adjacent games in your life, Escaped Chasm should definitely be in your download queue. After all, it's beautiful, well-crafted, and free! 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! View full article
  5. The angels are angry. The divine sword has been stolen by a couple of young thieves. The machine god's slumber nears its end. Somehow, in the middle of all of it, you've been pulled into a pink car and embarked on the road trip of a lifetime with a handful of unlikely companions. This is Get in the Car, Loser! the new RPG from Love Conquers All Games. Their previous work includes Ladykiller in a Bind and Hate Plus. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Get in the Car, Loser! to see what it's all about. The aesthetic immediately sets it apart. Vivid, soft colors make the pixel art designs pop in a way I've never seen before in a game. Brilliant pinks are complimented by a splashes of turquoise, white, and the occasional dab of black. It held my attention, communicating its deliberate emphasis on queerness through visual dedication to a palette designed to fly in the face of traditionally acceptable color schemes. This commitment carries over into the character designs themselves. Get in the Car, Loser! features women in its main cast who are beautiful while intentionally side-stepping conventional notions of what beauty. Sam and Grace are elegant despite possessing very different aesthetic priorities in their fashion choices. On top of that, the third member of the party who fought along side the two women was a striking non-binary character named Valentin. Easily my favorite of the three, they were able to dish out damage in a fight, rock a killer nose ring, and give some breezy, devil-may-care responses that I appreciated. The UI in Get in the Car, Loser! builds upon all of this. While I found it a bit tricky to navigate at times, it presents a visually pleasing collection of menus and sub-menus. It reflects the color palette and presents up-close icons of the major characters. With a few snazzy UI design choices, the unique implementation and presentation of the battle system turns into a breeze to navigate and understand. Those battle mechanics at play are really entrancing, too. Get in the Car, Loser!’s battles take place in real-time, so the faster you can input commands and make plans, the better your party will fare. Essentially, there are three different configurations of abilities and each configuration assigns a party member to a button on the controller. As the player inputs commands, each character will do their move, whether it is an attack or a heal or something else. This puts each character into a cooldown – that can be skipped by moving ahead into the next configuration of abilities. Attacking charges a meter that enables the player to use the powerful Sword of Fate. The sword does a good amount of damage, and it also fills a meter that stuns the affected enemy when full. This attack also resets cooldowns, starting the party back at the first configuration of abilities. This means that there’s always something to be doing, as fast as you are able to do it. Once I got into the groove of combat, it began feeling more like a rhythm game than anything else. It felt good to play in the satisfying way certain JRPGs can hit that unique sweet spot with timed attacks, like in Super Mario RPG. I got so into the battle system that when I came up against a boss intended to teach the player how to run away, I opted to try fighting it instead. I managed to get down a series of moves to chain the boss down in stuns as much as possible, hit a couple heals on the party, and then stun it again. I battled the creature until it lay inert at my feet. The developers were actually so impressed with that feat they drew me a sketch of Valentin. I would be remiss not to talk a bit about the inventory management system. That’s right, you didn’t read that wrong; the inventory management in Get in the Car, Loser! is actually worth talking about. In order to counter-act that strange tendency JRPG players have to hoard resources, Get in the Car, Loser! actually comes up with a use for extraneous items. Players can sacrifice redundant items in order to boost the powers of useful items. This unlocks additional information about each item to teach players about the game world while also making abilities in the different battle configurations more potent. It’s great and I wish every RPG did something similar to this. Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time with Get in the Car, Loser! I’m definitely going to be picking it up when it releases sometime next year. It’s so boldly different than anything else in the space right now. I need to see where this road trip goes. 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!
  6. The angels are angry. The divine sword has been stolen by a couple of young thieves. The machine god's slumber nears its end. Somehow, in the middle of all of it, you've been pulled into a pink car and embarked on the road trip of a lifetime with a handful of unlikely companions. This is Get in the Car, Loser! the new RPG from Love Conquers All Games. Their previous work includes Ladykiller in a Bind and Hate Plus. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Get in the Car, Loser! to see what it's all about. The aesthetic immediately sets it apart. Vivid, soft colors make the pixel art designs pop in a way I've never seen before in a game. Brilliant pinks are complimented by a splashes of turquoise, white, and the occasional dab of black. It held my attention, communicating its deliberate emphasis on queerness through visual dedication to a palette designed to fly in the face of traditionally acceptable color schemes. This commitment carries over into the character designs themselves. Get in the Car, Loser! features women in its main cast who are beautiful while intentionally side-stepping conventional notions of what beauty. Sam and Grace are elegant despite possessing very different aesthetic priorities in their fashion choices. On top of that, the third member of the party who fought along side the two women was a striking non-binary character named Valentin. Easily my favorite of the three, they were able to dish out damage in a fight, rock a killer nose ring, and give some breezy, devil-may-care responses that I appreciated. The UI in Get in the Car, Loser! builds upon all of this. While I found it a bit tricky to navigate at times, it presents a visually pleasing collection of menus and sub-menus. It reflects the color palette and presents up-close icons of the major characters. With a few snazzy UI design choices, the unique implementation and presentation of the battle system turns into a breeze to navigate and understand. Those battle mechanics at play are really entrancing, too. Get in the Car, Loser!’s battles take place in real-time, so the faster you can input commands and make plans, the better your party will fare. Essentially, there are three different configurations of abilities and each configuration assigns a party member to a button on the controller. As the player inputs commands, each character will do their move, whether it is an attack or a heal or something else. This puts each character into a cooldown – that can be skipped by moving ahead into the next configuration of abilities. Attacking charges a meter that enables the player to use the powerful Sword of Fate. The sword does a good amount of damage, and it also fills a meter that stuns the affected enemy when full. This attack also resets cooldowns, starting the party back at the first configuration of abilities. This means that there’s always something to be doing, as fast as you are able to do it. Once I got into the groove of combat, it began feeling more like a rhythm game than anything else. It felt good to play in the satisfying way certain JRPGs can hit that unique sweet spot with timed attacks, like in Super Mario RPG. I got so into the battle system that when I came up against a boss intended to teach the player how to run away, I opted to try fighting it instead. I managed to get down a series of moves to chain the boss down in stuns as much as possible, hit a couple heals on the party, and then stun it again. I battled the creature until it lay inert at my feet. The developers were actually so impressed with that feat they drew me a sketch of Valentin. I would be remiss not to talk a bit about the inventory management system. That’s right, you didn’t read that wrong; the inventory management in Get in the Car, Loser! is actually worth talking about. In order to counter-act that strange tendency JRPG players have to hoard resources, Get in the Car, Loser! actually comes up with a use for extraneous items. Players can sacrifice redundant items in order to boost the powers of useful items. This unlocks additional information about each item to teach players about the game world while also making abilities in the different battle configurations more potent. It’s great and I wish every RPG did something similar to this. Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time with Get in the Car, Loser! I’m definitely going to be picking it up when it releases sometime next year. It’s so boldly different than anything else in the space right now. I need to see where this road trip goes. 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! View full article
  7. We are very proud to say that Extra Life North will be this weekend! The event will take place in Winnipeg at the Bold Commerce headquarters from September 7-8. With the backing of dozens of organizations, Extra Life North has been created to be a focal point for Extra Life in Canada. All of the money raised at Extra Life North will go to Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. Extra Life North has been organized largely by Nadia Selby, Bold Commerce's culture and event specialist. The event will be held inside Bold's impressive headquarters which can accommodate over 235 gamers as well as support volunteers, spectators, and special guests. Between September 7th and the 8th, the gamers who registered prior to this week will be doing their own 24-hour gaming marathon in order to help the kids of Manitoba. While the gamers play and raise money, plenty will be going on in and around Bold Commerce HQ. Ace Burpee, the most popular morning radio host in Winnipeg will be lending his talents to the event. The host will MC the event with 103 Virgin Radio Live broadcasting from the gaming space. Additional guests will be spaced throughout the day. One such guest will be Nathan Beaulieu, defenseman for the Winnipeg Jets, will be on hand to compete against a number of the Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba's Champion Kids (in video games, not ice hockey). The media on hand will even get in on the competition, too! To top if off, the Royal Bank of Canada Olympians will be joining the fun. Jill Officer, an Olympic gold medalist and holder of two World Curling Championship titles, and James Lavallée, a current member of the Canadian Olympic kayak team, will be making appearances throughout the event. Spectators will be allowed into the event to watch the gaming action, talk with volunteers, and see the celebrities. Doors open for spectators on Saturday at 11:30am and close again at 6pm. Doors will reopen on Sunday at 9am and remain open until 1pm. After everyone checks in and gets settled, Extra Life North will kick off with a brief opening ceremony hosted by Ace Burpee. Gamers will begin playing for the kids at 1pm. Food will be provided throughout the event for gamers and volunteers. Special events will help break up the gaming sessions, like Champion Kids challenging others to video game competitions and a variety of yet-to-be-revealed side games. Miracle Kids and their families will also be sharing their stories periodically throughout the days. It'll be a great time to be there for gaming or just to watch! Extra Life North has set a goal of raising $50,000 USD over the course of their event. That might seem like a tall order, but thankfully the event has the support of 25 wonderful sponsors. Bold Commerce, of course, gave the event space and helped organize it. Flocker, a platform that helps streamers and influencers to design merchandise, membership programs, and take donations, is helping to elevate Extra Life North's stream to the front page of Twitch. The Royal Bank of Canada also pitched in to bring high-profile guests and eyeballs to the event. Dozens of others are helping to provide food and supplies as well as other forms of support. Our community coming together to make Extra Life North a success leaves us so hopeful about the future of Extra Life. While the registration for Extra Life North has closed, you can still participate in Extra Life along with the gamers in Winnipeg or plan your own events for Game Day on November 2nd. Join us and help kids in your local area today. 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! View full article
  8. We are very proud to say that Extra Life North will be this weekend! The event will take place in Winnipeg at the Bold Commerce headquarters from September 7-8. With the backing of dozens of organizations, Extra Life North has been created to be a focal point for Extra Life in Canada. All of the money raised at Extra Life North will go to Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. Extra Life North has been organized largely by Nadia Selby, Bold Commerce's culture and event specialist. The event will be held inside Bold's impressive headquarters which can accommodate over 235 gamers as well as support volunteers, spectators, and special guests. Between September 7th and the 8th, the gamers who registered prior to this week will be doing their own 24-hour gaming marathon in order to help the kids of Manitoba. While the gamers play and raise money, plenty will be going on in and around Bold Commerce HQ. Ace Burpee, the most popular morning radio host in Winnipeg will be lending his talents to the event. The host will MC the event with 103 Virgin Radio Live broadcasting from the gaming space. Additional guests will be spaced throughout the day. One such guest will be Nathan Beaulieu, defenseman for the Winnipeg Jets, will be on hand to compete against a number of the Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba's Champion Kids (in video games, not ice hockey). The media on hand will even get in on the competition, too! To top if off, the Royal Bank of Canada Olympians will be joining the fun. Jill Officer, an Olympic gold medalist and holder of two World Curling Championship titles, and James Lavallée, a current member of the Canadian Olympic kayak team, will be making appearances throughout the event. Spectators will be allowed into the event to watch the gaming action, talk with volunteers, and see the celebrities. Doors open for spectators on Saturday at 11:30am and close again at 6pm. Doors will reopen on Sunday at 9am and remain open until 1pm. After everyone checks in and gets settled, Extra Life North will kick off with a brief opening ceremony hosted by Ace Burpee. Gamers will begin playing for the kids at 1pm. Food will be provided throughout the event for gamers and volunteers. Special events will help break up the gaming sessions, like Champion Kids challenging others to video game competitions and a variety of yet-to-be-revealed side games. Miracle Kids and their families will also be sharing their stories periodically throughout the days. It'll be a great time to be there for gaming or just to watch! Extra Life North has set a goal of raising $50,000 USD over the course of their event. That might seem like a tall order, but thankfully the event has the support of 25 wonderful sponsors. Bold Commerce, of course, gave the event space and helped organize it. Flocker, a platform that helps streamers and influencers to design merchandise, membership programs, and take donations, is helping to elevate Extra Life North's stream to the front page of Twitch. The Royal Bank of Canada also pitched in to bring high-profile guests and eyeballs to the event. Dozens of others are helping to provide food and supplies as well as other forms of support. Our community coming together to make Extra Life North a success leaves us so hopeful about the future of Extra Life. While the registration for Extra Life North has closed, you can still participate in Extra Life along with the gamers in Winnipeg or plan your own events for Game Day on November 2nd. Join us and help kids in your local area today. 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!
  9. This past weekend, gamers from all over the world traveled to Seattle, Washington to attend PAX West, one of the largest gaming conventions in North America. Of course, where there are gamers there are also Extra Lifers! Extra Life turned out for PAX West in a big way, coming to the event with a booth, a panel, and moving stories from the kids themselves. The dedicated Extra Life booth has become a staple of events around the United States and Canada. For PAX West, we were set up in a nice corner between two of the major convention halls on the 4th floor of the Seattle Convention Center. The location afforded a degree of protection from the overwhelming noise of the show floor proper, allowing the amazing volunteers from the Seattle Extra Life Guild to have amazing conversations with con-goers. We were fortunate for PAX West to have a miracle child ambassador from Seattle Children's Hospital. Kennedy and her father volunteered at the Extra Life booth, sharing their stories with people who stopped by to say hello. Not only that, but Kennedy was able to tour the show floor and experience one of the most amazing events in gaming. Their help was invaluable in demonstrating the good that Extra Life does in the lives of those it touches. In total, over 700 people decided to sign up to participate in Game Day! That's freaking amazing! This year, Extra Life's Game Day takes place on November 2, so make sure that you've also signed up over on Extra Life. To top off the booth experience at PAX West, we were able to reveal a special collaboration with gaming chair manufacturer DXRacer. They graciously gave us an incredible version of one of their chairs decked out in Extra Life's colors and the iconic gaming controller with wings. We decided to put the chair up for auction to raise some additional money, so please check out the eBay page and place your bids before the opportunity disappears forever in only a handful of hours! A big thank you to KontrolFreek for taking on the task of organizing an Extra Life scavenger hunt, as well. PAX West attendees could obtain a card at KontrolFreek's booth and then needed to visit Astro, Gunnar, and Extra Life's booth to fill it up. Once filled, the card could be turned in for a chance to win a prize that changed daily. KontrolFreek organized all of the partnered organizations to support this event and deserve all our love and gratitude. Finally, Extra Life was included in an official PAX West panel. The talk, titled Gaming for "Charity: Inspiring Through Play," provided an informed look at how to engage communities effectively to gain charitable support for a good cause and how that scales depending on the size of a person's audience. The panelists included Extra Life ambassadors TheOnlyRyann and Deejay Knight, I Need Diverse Games' Tanya DePass, Twitch's Jon Brence, Child's Play's Erick Blandin, and Extra Life's very own director of community Lou Adducci. It was inspiring to see people turn out to listen to all of these talented and important voices in the industry tell stories about their experiences and share their expertise. With PAX West in the rear view mirror, TwitchCon 2019 approaches! On September 27-29, the streaming community will gather for their yearly celebration of their primary platform. Extra Life will be there with the customary booth in order to represent Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, but we will be bringing back one of our most popular event spectacles: The human claw machine! DonorDrive will be hosting a charity streaming area called the DonorDrive Charity Arcade. Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has been selected as one of the premier charities that the arcade will raise money for during TwitchCon. Attendees will be able to grab free prizes as they dangle above a pit of mystery prizes, suspended by a huge claw machine. Don't miss us if you're planning on attending! 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! View full article
  10. This past weekend, gamers from all over the world traveled to Seattle, Washington to attend PAX West, one of the largest gaming conventions in North America. Of course, where there are gamers there are also Extra Lifers! Extra Life turned out for PAX West in a big way, coming to the event with a booth, a panel, and moving stories from the kids themselves. The dedicated Extra Life booth has become a staple of events around the United States and Canada. For PAX West, we were set up in a nice corner between two of the major convention halls on the 4th floor of the Seattle Convention Center. The location afforded a degree of protection from the overwhelming noise of the show floor proper, allowing the amazing volunteers from the Seattle Extra Life Guild to have amazing conversations with con-goers. We were fortunate for PAX West to have a miracle child ambassador from Seattle Children's Hospital. Kennedy and her father volunteered at the Extra Life booth, sharing their stories with people who stopped by to say hello. Not only that, but Kennedy was able to tour the show floor and experience one of the most amazing events in gaming. Their help was invaluable in demonstrating the good that Extra Life does in the lives of those it touches. In total, over 700 people decided to sign up to participate in Game Day! That's freaking amazing! This year, Extra Life's Game Day takes place on November 2, so make sure that you've also signed up over on Extra Life. To top off the booth experience at PAX West, we were able to reveal a special collaboration with gaming chair manufacturer DXRacer. They graciously gave us an incredible version of one of their chairs decked out in Extra Life's colors and the iconic gaming controller with wings. We decided to put the chair up for auction to raise some additional money, so please check out the eBay page and place your bids before the opportunity disappears forever in only a handful of hours! A big thank you to KontrolFreek for taking on the task of organizing an Extra Life scavenger hunt, as well. PAX West attendees could obtain a card at KontrolFreek's booth and then needed to visit Astro, Gunnar, and Extra Life's booth to fill it up. Once filled, the card could be turned in for a chance to win a prize that changed daily. KontrolFreek organized all of the partnered organizations to support this event and deserve all our love and gratitude. Finally, Extra Life was included in an official PAX West panel. The talk, titled Gaming for "Charity: Inspiring Through Play," provided an informed look at how to engage communities effectively to gain charitable support for a good cause and how that scales depending on the size of a person's audience. The panelists included Extra Life ambassadors TheOnlyRyann and Deejay Knight, I Need Diverse Games' Tanya DePass, Twitch's Jon Brence, Child's Play's Erick Blandin, and Extra Life's very own director of community Lou Adducci. It was inspiring to see people turn out to listen to all of these talented and important voices in the industry tell stories about their experiences and share their expertise. With PAX West in the rear view mirror, TwitchCon 2019 approaches! On September 27-29, the streaming community will gather for their yearly celebration of their primary platform. Extra Life will be there with the customary booth in order to represent Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, but we will be bringing back one of our most popular event spectacles: The human claw machine! DonorDrive will be hosting a charity streaming area called the DonorDrive Charity Arcade. Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has been selected as one of the premier charities that the arcade will raise money for during TwitchCon. Attendees will be able to grab free prizes as they dangle above a pit of mystery prizes, suspended by a huge claw machine. Don't miss us if you're planning on attending! 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!
  11. The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game released last year to an eager cult following. The developers at Worm Club infused an immense amount of charm and character into the low key adventure-comedy. The story fittingly followed a detective, who happens to be a frog, called in to investigate the strange events unfolding on a mysterious island. Frog Detective managed to capture hearts and minds with its unique sense of humor and commitment to leaving every player with a smile on their face. Almost a year later, Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard has appeared in the wild with a fresh demo at PAX West. The game will continue the story that began in the previous game while presenting an all-new mystery. A welcoming ceremony gone wrong. An invisible wizard. A a town full of suspects. The amphibian sleuth will need to put all of the clues together to find the one behind it all. We were able to talk with Grace Bruxner, one half of the team working on Frog Detective 2, to get some insight into how her indie project became a reality. Bruxner detailed the origins of the project, a unique blending of nostalgia for murder mysteries, specifically Agatha Christie's work, and a desire to put games into the world that she would want to play. The overriding goal of Frog Detective as a series is to foster what Bruxner called "subtle joy," experiences that prioritize small smiles and sensible chuckles. The sense of humor required to walk the slim line between full blown guffaws and courteous acknowledgement of a witticism that Bruxner uses to bring out the heart of Frog Detective 2 comes from her experiences doing stand up comedy. The experiences she had during her years as a comedienne honed a unique and low key style that informs her work as a game developer. When asked about the artistic inspirations for Frog Detective's singular style, Bruxner gave a small smile. "I missed a couple 3D modeling classes," she quipped before going on to explain that her professor in university had emphasized finding the joy in modeling rather than achieving technical proficiency. Grace showed me examples of her earlier work that all embraced her central design aesthetic of putting smiling faces on every kind of creature. She referenced her previous games as interactive dioramas, scenes and spaces that people can explore. They all embody her central idea of spreading joy. From their visual design to their stories or layouts, all of her work has been built on making sure those who encounter it will smile. Believe it or not, the financial backing of Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard might just be one of its most interesting components. Worm Club has become one of the first components of a mentoring and funding project called SUPERHOT PRESENTS. The developers behind Superhot approached Worm Club with an offer of support for future Frog Detective games after they encountered and loved the first Frog Detective game. In a statement released prior to PAX West, Bruxner described the deal thusly: Here’s the real story of how this happened. SUPERHOT noticed my cool frog game and were like “hmmm,,, what if,,,,, money?????” and I was like “...ok fine but I will only agree if you send me lots of superhot t-shirts because I need clothes to wear around the house when I make the game” and they said “weird request but ok” and sent me a big box of shirts. And that’s all I wear now. Also my dog Noddy wears them too. That’s how business deals work in this industry baby!! Get used to it!! Anyway, Frog Detective is very good (I know this because I made it) and I think you’ll enjoy it even though it’s not even a little bit like SUPERHOT. There will be no slow motion murdering!!! See ya. Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard will be launching on PC in 2019. 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!
  12. The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game released last year to an eager cult following. The developers at Worm Club infused an immense amount of charm and character into the low key adventure-comedy. The story fittingly followed a detective, who happens to be a frog, called in to investigate the strange events unfolding on a mysterious island. Frog Detective managed to capture hearts and minds with its unique sense of humor and commitment to leaving every player with a smile on their face. Almost a year later, Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard has appeared in the wild with a fresh demo at PAX West. The game will continue the story that began in the previous game while presenting an all-new mystery. A welcoming ceremony gone wrong. An invisible wizard. A a town full of suspects. The amphibian sleuth will need to put all of the clues together to find the one behind it all. We were able to talk with Grace Bruxner, one half of the team working on Frog Detective 2, to get some insight into how her indie project became a reality. Bruxner detailed the origins of the project, a unique blending of nostalgia for murder mysteries, specifically Agatha Christie's work, and a desire to put games into the world that she would want to play. The overriding goal of Frog Detective as a series is to foster what Bruxner called "subtle joy," experiences that prioritize small smiles and sensible chuckles. The sense of humor required to walk the slim line between full blown guffaws and courteous acknowledgement of a witticism that Bruxner uses to bring out the heart of Frog Detective 2 comes from her experiences doing stand up comedy. The experiences she had during her years as a comedienne honed a unique and low key style that informs her work as a game developer. When asked about the artistic inspirations for Frog Detective's singular style, Bruxner gave a small smile. "I missed a couple 3D modeling classes," she quipped before going on to explain that her professor in university had emphasized finding the joy in modeling rather than achieving technical proficiency. Grace showed me examples of her earlier work that all embraced her central design aesthetic of putting smiling faces on every kind of creature. She referenced her previous games as interactive dioramas, scenes and spaces that people can explore. They all embody her central idea of spreading joy. From their visual design to their stories or layouts, all of her work has been built on making sure those who encounter it will smile. Believe it or not, the financial backing of Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard might just be one of its most interesting components. Worm Club has become one of the first components of a mentoring and funding project called SUPERHOT PRESENTS. The developers behind Superhot approached Worm Club with an offer of support for future Frog Detective games after they encountered and loved the first Frog Detective game. In a statement released prior to PAX West, Bruxner described the deal thusly: Here’s the real story of how this happened. SUPERHOT noticed my cool frog game and were like “hmmm,,, what if,,,,, money?????” and I was like “...ok fine but I will only agree if you send me lots of superhot t-shirts because I need clothes to wear around the house when I make the game” and they said “weird request but ok” and sent me a big box of shirts. And that’s all I wear now. Also my dog Noddy wears them too. That’s how business deals work in this industry baby!! Get used to it!! Anyway, Frog Detective is very good (I know this because I made it) and I think you’ll enjoy it even though it’s not even a little bit like SUPERHOT. There will be no slow motion murdering!!! See ya. Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard will be launching on PC in 2019. 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! View full article
  13. PAX West, the annual gaming convention held annually in Seattle, Washington, will be happening this weekend, and we'd love to see you there! This year, the event runs from August 30 through September 2. We've got several initiatives that will be of interest to people attending the show in person or observing from afar. Here's everything you need to know about Extra Life at PAX West 2019! We will, of course, have a dedicated Extra Life booth at the event. PAX West will feature a stellar area run with the invaluable support of the Seattle Extra Life Guild. Not only that, but Kennedy, a miracle child from Seattle Children's Hospital and member of the Seattle Guild, will be on hand on Sunday with her father to say hello, too. The people working the booth are volunteering their time to register participants, collect donations, and confirm when attendees share about Extra Life on social media. Doing each will net attendees distinct buttons, while doing all three will get attendees a sweet enamel pin. We are so incredibly thankful for our volunteers, without whom none of this would be possible, and our words can't do them justice. If you are attending the show in person, KontrolFreek has organized an Extra Life scavenger hunt! After visiting KontrolFreek's booth to obtain a punch card, attendees will need to track down the Astro, Gunnar, and Extra Life booths to fill it out. Once the card has been filled, head back to the KontrolFreek booth to enter to win a neat prize that will change daily. For those who won't be able to attend in person, there's still a chance to get your hands on something truly special. We have a customized Extra Life DXRacer chair for this event! We are incredibly excited about it. Both show attendees and Extra Lifers who aren't at PAX West will be able to bid on the chair via an eBay. Keep an eye on our social media channels for the announcement that bidding is live! On top of that, Extra Life will be included in an official PAX West panel. The talk, titled Gaming for "Charity: Inspiring Through Play," will be held in the Sandworm Theater. The panelists include Extra Lifer TheOnlyRyann, I Need Diverse Games' Tanya DePass, Twitch's Jon Brence, Child's Play's Erick Blandin, and our own senior manager of community Lou Adducci. The discussion will get into the nitty-gritty of fundraising and community building necessary for people to do the most good with their gaming efforts. The panel begins at 12pm and goes until 1pm. Be there or be square! Finally, TwitchCon 2019 is on the horizon, September 27-29. It's time to start getting hyped because, on top of all the usual awesome stuff, DonorDrive will be hosting a charity streaming area called the DonorDrive Charity Arcade. Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has been selected as one of the premier charities that the arcade will raise money for during TwitchCon. Extra Life will be there representing Children's Miracle Network Hospitals with the human claw machine we debuted at E3 earlier this year. Attendees will be able to grab free prizes as they dangle above a pit of mystery prizes, suspended by a huge claw machine. Don't miss us if you're planning on attending! 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!
  14. PAX West, the annual gaming convention held annually in Seattle, Washington, will be happening this weekend, and we'd love to see you there! This year, the event runs from August 30 through September 2. We've got several initiatives that will be of interest to people attending the show in person or observing from afar. Here's everything you need to know about Extra Life at PAX West 2019! We will, of course, have a dedicated Extra Life booth at the event. PAX West will feature a stellar area run with the invaluable support of the Seattle Extra Life Guild. Not only that, but Kennedy, a miracle child from Seattle Children's Hospital and member of the Seattle Guild, will be on hand on Sunday with her father to say hello, too. The people working the booth are volunteering their time to register participants, collect donations, and confirm when attendees share about Extra Life on social media. Doing each will net attendees distinct buttons, while doing all three will get attendees a sweet enamel pin. We are so incredibly thankful for our volunteers, without whom none of this would be possible, and our words can't do them justice. If you are attending the show in person, KontrolFreek has organized an Extra Life scavenger hunt! After visiting KontrolFreek's booth to obtain a punch card, attendees will need to track down the Astro, Gunnar, and Extra Life booths to fill it out. Once the card has been filled, head back to the KontrolFreek booth to enter to win a neat prize that will change daily. For those who won't be able to attend in person, there's still a chance to get your hands on something truly special. We have a customized Extra Life DXRacer chair for this event! We are incredibly excited about it. Both show attendees and Extra Lifers who aren't at PAX West will be able to bid on the chair via an eBay. Keep an eye on our social media channels for the announcement that bidding is live! On top of that, Extra Life will be included in an official PAX West panel. The talk, titled Gaming for "Charity: Inspiring Through Play," will be held in the Sandworm Theater. The panelists include Extra Lifer TheOnlyRyann, I Need Diverse Games' Tanya DePass, Twitch's Jon Brence, Child's Play's Erick Blandin, and our own senior manager of community Lou Adducci. The discussion will get into the nitty-gritty of fundraising and community building necessary for people to do the most good with their gaming efforts. The panel begins at 12pm and goes until 1pm. Be there or be square! Finally, TwitchCon 2019 is on the horizon, September 27-29. It's time to start getting hyped because, on top of all the usual awesome stuff, DonorDrive will be hosting a charity streaming area called the DonorDrive Charity Arcade. Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has been selected as one of the premier charities that the arcade will raise money for during TwitchCon. Extra Life will be there representing Children's Miracle Network Hospitals with the human claw machine we debuted at E3 earlier this year. Attendees will be able to grab free prizes as they dangle above a pit of mystery prizes, suspended by a huge claw machine. Don't miss us if you're planning on attending! 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! View full article
  15. Another Tabletop Appreciation Weekend has come and gone and the Extra Life community, as always, did not disappoint. It was truly awesome seeing you all break out your board games, pen & paper RPGs, and even digital tabletops to support the kids in hospitals across the United States and Canada. Some of you got in some incredible games with your friends and families while others in the community streamed their experiences online. The leading tabletop gamers of Extra Life came up with a ton of great ideas. We wanted to share just a few of them. By far, one of the coolest moments of the weekend were the marathon sessions of Dungeons & Dragons that were streamed out of the basement where it all started. Extra Lifers from the Milwaukee-Madison area came together to host a day filled with D&D fun in the basement of Gary Gygax's home, the place where Dungeons & Dragons came into its own. The sessions were hosted on Extra Life's official Twitch channel and spanned 12 hours on Saturday. The stream starred Larry Hamilton, Bill Allan, Fenway Jones, Grant Ellis, GM Travis, Jason O’Brien, and John Gilbert who were also joined by Alex and Mike Gygax, Gary's sons, for four different D&D one shots over the course of the day. In total, the crew managed to raise over $3,100 USD! They managed this impressive feat by giving viewers the chance to name player characters lacking for $25 USD each. For varying levels of donations, viewers could also grant a re-roll to the players, impose advantage or disadvantage on certain actions, or even turn a roll into a natural 1 or 20. If someone donated $100 USD, the DMs would grant players a magic item. The players had a blast and it was a great time for everyone involved. If you missed it live, you can find links to all of the relevant places to go on Larry Hamilton's website, Follow Me and Die. Olympian-turned-YouTuber Shawn Johnson East streamed tabletop games with her spouse Andrew to her nearly 900,000 subscribers. The duo managed to not only raise awareness of Extra Life to their colossal audience, but they also raised over $10,000 USD. That far outstrips their original streaming goal of $5,000 USD. That money goes to their local hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. To top it off, we had so many of you coming out to play tabletop games for the kids. It was a really beautiful thing to see. Sean Rooney, one of the pillars of our community and #Dominicstrong, turned up to play Root. Tabletop Bellhop organized a play event in Windsor that featured a dazzling number of tabletop games to support Extra Life. Nikki Drake reached the $3,000 USD mark with her tabletop gaming over the weekend, approaching her $3,333 USD goal. LessThanGreg, Greg Davis, streamed for Extra Life over the weekend and showed the community some really awesome digital board games. Did you know there's a digital tabletop version of Tetris that's multiplayer? I didn't! If you can't get enough tabletop gaming in your life, check out the barrage of features, interviews, tabletop games, and more that we put out over the weekend! Need to get out of an awkward Monopoly night? We've got you covered. Looking to up your tabletop game and avoid some of the unintentional racial or gendered assumptions that can sometimes make players or DMs uncomfortable during role-playing? Our interview with Tanya DePass will help you. Love Stranger Things and want to bring that to your tabletop? There are several options out there. New to Dungeons & Dragons and looking to spice up a campaign? We wrote up some modules that might give you ideas. Want to play a fun social card game? Consider breaking open The Red Dragon Inn. Want a fun tabletop roleplaying podcast to listen to during your commute? We released the final episodes of the liveplay campaign that began during 2018's Tabletop Appreciation Weekend. There's a ton for you to check out, and we hope that you all enjoy what we've put together. Thank you to everyone who rolled dice, shuffled cards, or moved around board piece over Tabletop Appreciation Weekend. All of us here at Extra Life appreciate you and the work you do that's making a difference in your community. You constantly leave us amazed. Let's all use this to get our rears in gear for Game Day which is coming up faster than ever. 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!
  16. Another Tabletop Appreciation Weekend has come and gone and the Extra Life community, as always, did not disappoint. It was truly awesome seeing you all break out your board games, pen & paper RPGs, and even digital tabletops to support the kids in hospitals across the United States and Canada. Some of you got in some incredible games with your friends and families while others in the community streamed their experiences online. The leading tabletop gamers of Extra Life came up with a ton of great ideas. We wanted to share just a few of them. By far, one of the coolest moments of the weekend were the marathon sessions of Dungeons & Dragons that were streamed out of the basement where it all started. Extra Lifers from the Milwaukee-Madison area came together to host a day filled with D&D fun in the basement of Gary Gygax's home, the place where Dungeons & Dragons came into its own. The sessions were hosted on Extra Life's official Twitch channel and spanned 12 hours on Saturday. The stream starred Larry Hamilton, Bill Allan, Fenway Jones, Grant Ellis, GM Travis, Jason O’Brien, and John Gilbert who were also joined by Alex and Mike Gygax, Gary's sons, for four different D&D one shots over the course of the day. In total, the crew managed to raise over $3,100 USD! They managed this impressive feat by giving viewers the chance to name player characters lacking for $25 USD each. For varying levels of donations, viewers could also grant a re-roll to the players, impose advantage or disadvantage on certain actions, or even turn a roll into a natural 1 or 20. If someone donated $100 USD, the DMs would grant players a magic item. The players had a blast and it was a great time for everyone involved. If you missed it live, you can find links to all of the relevant places to go on Larry Hamilton's website, Follow Me and Die. Olympian-turned-YouTuber Shawn Johnson East streamed tabletop games with her spouse Andrew to her nearly 900,000 subscribers. The duo managed to not only raise awareness of Extra Life to their colossal audience, but they also raised over $10,000 USD. That far outstrips their original streaming goal of $5,000 USD. That money goes to their local hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. To top it off, we had so many of you coming out to play tabletop games for the kids. It was a really beautiful thing to see. Sean Rooney, one of the pillars of our community and #Dominicstrong, turned up to play Root. Tabletop Bellhop organized a play event in Windsor that featured a dazzling number of tabletop games to support Extra Life. Nikki Drake reached the $3,000 USD mark with her tabletop gaming over the weekend, approaching her $3,333 USD goal. LessThanGreg, Greg Davis, streamed for Extra Life over the weekend and showed the community some really awesome digital board games. Did you know there's a digital tabletop version of Tetris that's multiplayer? I didn't! If you can't get enough tabletop gaming in your life, check out the barrage of features, interviews, tabletop games, and more that we put out over the weekend! Need to get out of an awkward Monopoly night? We've got you covered. Looking to up your tabletop game and avoid some of the unintentional racial or gendered assumptions that can sometimes make players or DMs uncomfortable during role-playing? Our interview with Tanya DePass will help you. Love Stranger Things and want to bring that to your tabletop? There are several options out there. New to Dungeons & Dragons and looking to spice up a campaign? We wrote up some modules that might give you ideas. Want to play a fun social card game? Consider breaking open The Red Dragon Inn. Want a fun tabletop roleplaying podcast to listen to during your commute? We released the final episodes of the liveplay campaign that began during 2018's Tabletop Appreciation Weekend. There's a ton for you to check out, and we hope that you all enjoy what we've put together. Thank you to everyone who rolled dice, shuffled cards, or moved around board piece over Tabletop Appreciation Weekend. All of us here at Extra Life appreciate you and the work you do that's making a difference in your community. You constantly leave us amazed. Let's all use this to get our rears in gear for Game Day which is coming up faster than ever. 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! View full article
  17. 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: We view diversity as a way to enrich the video game experience, not a quota to be filled, or a tool to avoid criticism. Diversity is essential not just to reflect the variety of our community, but also to push the limits of immersion, to present audiences with a perspective that they have never experienced before, and ultimately, to foster empathy for others. 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! View full article
  18. 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: We view diversity as a way to enrich the video game experience, not a quota to be filled, or a tool to avoid criticism. Diversity is essential not just to reflect the variety of our community, but also to push the limits of immersion, to present audiences with a perspective that they have never experienced before, and ultimately, to foster empathy for others. 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!
  19. 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! View full article
  20. 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!
  21. 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!
  22. 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! View full article
  23. 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!
  24. 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 (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ "Shadowlands 1 - Horizon" "Super Power Cool Dude" "Bittersweet" "Dreamer" "Furious Freak" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/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! View full article
  25. 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 (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ "Shadowlands 1 - Horizon" "Super Power Cool Dude" "Bittersweet" "Dreamer" "Furious Freak" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/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!
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