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NEWS AND UPDATES - 2007 Archive

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November 30th, 2007 (link to this)

DEAD RISE AT BALL STATE - Over 400 students at Ball State University participated in a live-action roleplaying game called "Humans Versus Zombies." 
 


With a horde of three zombies and a human resistance of about 400 people, Humans vs. Zombies began at midnight on Oct. 26. Zombies, identified by green bandanas on their foreheads, attempted to tag humans, identified by green bandanas on their arms, in order to turn them into zombies. Humans could protect themselves by shooting zombies with Nerf guns and "stunning" them for 15 minutes. If tagged by a zombie, the human gave ID cards to zombies, which served as food for them. If a zombie went two days without feeding, he would die.

Rules are being revised for the next installment of the game, to prevent abuse and improve sportsmanship.  Read more: article | archive

12 SIDED DIE REVIEW - Christopher Rawson, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has published a review of "Twelve-Sided Die," a 17 minute play that was part of a yearly festival of short plays called the Future Ten Festival:

Fred Betzner's "12 Sided Die" is a geekfest bachelor party, as four Dungeons & Dragons fanatics gather in honor of their buddy, who's leaving their games world ("it is not a game!") to (shudder) get married. I imagine it's funnier to those who know the lingo, but it was funny enough to me, especially when a non-D&D fan arrives, followed by a hired D&D version of what might be a stripper at the more usual bachelor party.

Just when the whining becomes repetitious, the evening tightens into what it is more seriously about all along, the importance and frailty of friendship and the relationship of games to reality, for which dramaturgic Dungeon Master Betzner has a D&D-based twist. The unevenness of director Brad Stephenson's cast doesn't much matter because the two central actors, Glenn Bailey Jr. and Josh Futrell, are fine; even the epic 17-minute length doesn't seem excessive.

YOU MAY NOW CALL HIM COUNCILMAN NEPHEW - John Nephew has won a seat in the Maplewood City Council! You may recall an earlier update where I mentioned that his opponents were using his history as a publisher of such "awful" games as Let's Kill and Corruption to smear his character.  Well, it appears that it didn't work.

Congratulatons, John - and score another one for the game geeks!

October 27th, 2007 (link to this)

IJRP CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS - The first issue of The International Journal of Roleplaying will see publication in early 2008. From their site:

The aim of The International Journal of Role Playing is to act as a hybrid knowledge network, and bring together the varied interests in role-playing and the associated knowledge networks, e.g. academic research, the games and creative industries, the arts and the strong role-playing communities.

They have put out a call for submissions for the first issue, and the deadline is January 1st, 2008:

The International Journal of Role Playing invites researchers, designers, developers, academics, artists and others involved in the growing field of research related to role playing to submit articles. The IJRP is a peer-reviewed journal, and welcomes submissions from any sphere of interest, knowledge network, research field or development sector that directly or indirectly relates to role playing interests.Potential topics include but are certainly not limited to the following:

• Role playing games, e.g. frameworks, storytelling and graphics; art, design and creative industry
• Role playing culture, psychology, media, economics, and sociology
• Role playing technology, surveys, vocabulary, training and education
• Other aspects of role playing and related research and development

Find out more at: www.play.blogs.com/rp/

WORLDWIDE D&D DAY - The fourth annual Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day is fast approaching - November 3rd, 2007:

Now in its fourth year, World Wide D&D Game Day is set to break all records for sites and attendance internationally. Last year we saw over 1300 locations provide the setting for our trip to the horror realms of Ravenloft. Over 25,000 estimated heroes from as far a field as Singapore to Iraq, from Alaska to Buenos Aires threw down their dice in celebration of this D&D extravaganza!

Participating sites will have a prepared adventure, dice, characters, and miniatures just waiting for you. Check here for a participating location near you.

Or, if you can't find one, start your own! The official page features five ready-made characters in PDF format that you could quickly drop into an adventure of your own design, or some dusty old module that you've had for years but never got around to running. Call some pals, order some pizzas, and get some adventuring going on!

Find out more - www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4dnd/gameday

JIMMY EAT WORLD OF GREYHAWK - How do members of Canadian rock band Jimmy Eat World have fun while traveling in their tour bus?

The band are currently on the road promoting their new Chase This Light album and, according to lead singer Jim Adkins, their idea of tour bus fun usually involves dice, boards or cards.

"We play Dungeons And Dragons a lot. What else do we do? Scrabble. We play a lot of Bridge."

"The craziest we did was spin the bottle," chimes in guitarist Tom Linton, launching the pair into a fit of giggles.

Read more at Chartattack.

GLEEMIN' TO THE MAX - Wizards of the Coast's new gamer networking site, Gleemax, is open and somewhat functional. There are still many improvements to be made, but if you're the patient sort, you can sign up right now and start posting and blogging away - www.gleemax.com. If you like, you can read my profile and blog posts right here.

THE FREAKS COME OUT AT NIGHT - Joe Torok of Lansing, MI's City Pulse has contributed a great little piece on joining a Vampire LARP group as a complete newbie:

I myself had a more difficult time embracing my inner geek; self-consciousness nagged. But despite some hesitation in realizing my character, I felt welcome in the game. When all else failed, I held out my hand with fingers crossed, a sign that I was temporarily removing myself from the game and going out of character — after all, vampires have no bodily functions aside from the desire to feed.

Read the whole article, and even get details on joining Lansing's Vampire troupe, here: article | archive

October 23rd, 2007 (link to this)

WE'RE LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD ROLEPLAYERS - The United States Army is hiring roleplayers to help train soldiers to be advisers in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Role players cluster in one of seven makeshift villages that stand out on the rolling Kansas prairie. Large shipping containers, tan and metal, have been modified to resemble homes, shops and even a mosque. Inside, role players have couches, chairs and tables.

Military trainers give the advisers-to-be specific tasks, such as controlling crowds, searching buildings, securing the perimeter or arresting terrorists. Role players are given a rough script that tells them what the soldiers are doing and how they should react.

Cultural awareness is the goal of each phase. For example, advisers learn that chewing tobacco or placing their hat on the ground are disrespectful acts that can spoil an otherwise promising meeting.

...

''It's pretty fun,'' [roleplayer Lee Anderson] said after his performance as an unhappy Afghan, as he kicked a small footbag in a circle with fellow role players. ''You get to mess with soldiers. And it's pretty good pay.''

Throwing beanbags at the soldiers while shouting "LIGHTNING BOLT! LIGHTNING BOLT!" is strongly discouraged, however.

As good as being a professional roleplayer may sound, don't get your heart set on joining up:

Like acting jobs everywhere, there's more than enough interest. Ty Evans, who supervises the local role players for Eagle Support Services of Huntsville, Ala., doesn't have to advertise the positions. Word of mouth has generated a stack of applications.

''If someone quits there are three or four people already in line,'' he said.

Participants work for six days at seventeen dollars an hour. If you do manage to get a position with them, please remember The Escapist's finder's fee!

Read the full article here: article | archive

ANOTHER ALL-NIGHTER - Last December I mentioned a lock-in organized by Franklin High School's Dungeons & Dragons and Anime Club, in which participants spent the evening in the gym playing D&D and video games and watching anime, with the proceeds going towards their trip to Anime Boston.

This year, they're doing it again, and the coverage in The Citizen is a lot better:

Junior Andrew Chippinelli is an enthusiastic member of the Dungeons and Dragons club, speaking about the benefits of role-playing such as learning social skills through various complex character interactions from conversation to diplomacy.

"It gives them their imagination they lost when they were younger," Chippinelli said. "It teaches you to never say everything is impossible because it could have just happened. It helps you with your self-esteem, self-confidence."

...

The club has been well received and supported by school administration. It is also sponsored by Casey Family Services as a positive after-school activity for students.

"We had a lot of questions, a little bit when we went to the school board," Molly Horn said, such as some school board members asking what the club was doing and clarifying what anyone had heard about the game. "Some of the kids were there as well."

Once again, it's good to see positive coverage of gaming that mentions the beneficial aspects of the hobby, as well as a positive after-school activity for young people. Kudos to Franklin High School and The Citizen - and if any of you ever need any assistance, don't hesitate to contact me -

Read the full article here: article | archive

A BRIEF MOMENT OF NATIONAL FAME - It didn't have anything to do with gaming, but your friend and narrator and his family were briefly mentioned in an article on drive-in movie theaters in the October 19th issue of USA Today. Click here to read it if you're interested.

October 11th, 2007 (link to this)

SQUARE ONE, EPISODE TWO - The long-awaited second episode of the Square One podcast is finally up and ready to enjoy! Tune in to Sam Chupp and myself with "Games You Will Meet" - a discussion of many different genres of role-playing games.

Square One is a podcast devoted to helping new gamers discover all of the great things about the hobby. If you know someone who is thinking about giving RPGs a try, let them know about the podcast! You can listen and subscribe at www.squareonepodcast.com

 

ATLAS CEO RUNS FOR OFFICE, GETS SMEARED FOR MAKING GAMES - John Nephew, CEO of Atlas Games, has put his hat in the ring for City Council of Maplewood, Minnesota. He has passed the primary "with flying colors," according to the Steve Jackson Daily Illuminator - but it seems that someone is trying to hold him back by bringing up Let's Kill, a card game that his company produces.

"Let's Kill" casts players in the role of deranged serial killers competing with each other for media coverage. Players draw victims, weapons and locations from two 55-card decks, using implements like weed whackers, bread trucks and even sporks to off their quarry in the most sensational way possible. It's published by Atlas Games, the company Nephew runs with his wife, games editor Michelle Nephew.

"I'm absolutely appalled by this game," says Maplewood resident Judith Franey, an early childhood educator who has worked in the Saint Paul public school system for 23 years. "Fantasy and imagination are powerful tools that fuel reality, and I worry about the effect this game will have on people's minds." Franey is also the author of "The Kindness Curriculum," an activity book for parents and teachers aimed at child development.

Critics seem to be concerned about the effects the game will have on young players, with disregard for the fact that the game is listed as "For mature audiences only" on the Atlas website and catalog.

Not everyone is missing the point of Let's Kill, however:

Council Member Will Rossbach, who with Nephew led primary voting, disagrees. "These are stick figures doing imaginary things," he says. "The controversy is being drummed up by people opposing John Nephew. He's being picked on. If this is the only thing they can find to diminish John's reputation, he must be a pretty good guy."

I wonder how long it will be before they discover that Nephew has also written and produced books for Dungeons & Dragons, and how severe the reaction will be once they do...

Read the full article here: article | archive

More information: Nephew's campaign blog | Pen & Paper's entry for Nephew

August 17th, 2007(link to this)

D&D GOES FOURTH - The official announcement of Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition was made at the Gen Con Game Fair on August 16th, precluded by numerous subtle hints (such as putting 4s in the place of the letter A in web banners and MySpace messages - INDI4N4POLIS, 4DVENTURE, etc., and displaying dice with the 4 on top).

Early reports seem to indicate that the new version will be faster, easier to run, and more attuned to online play - possibly through the recently unveiled GLEEMAX social networking section of Wizards' site. No word has been given yet on how compatible it will be with the large collection of published 3.x and d20 material.

As of this writing, the D&D section of www.wizards.com is down, possibly due to heavy internet traffic of fans looking for more information on the update..

The new books are planned for a May, 2008 release date. Apparently, that release date has been considerably tightened up since the 2001 announcement of April 1st, 2011 - and the "revolutionary d30 system" appears to have been scrapped entirely...

August 14th, 2007(link to this)

LARGEST LARP EVER - The 2007 Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) could be host to a new world record - the largest "Massive Multiplayer Live Action Role Playing Game" - MMLARPG - in history. Later this month, the Seattle-based convention will host TerraDrive Live, a LARP based on the Technomancer Press tabletop RPG TerraDrive.

A wiki for the TerraDrive Live setting was opened on June 1st, which permitted many participants to create factions and develop the characters that they would play during the convention.

"I didn't expect players to metaphorically represent different people/places/events in PAX in the TerraDrive universe," [Technomancer CEO Tony] Hellman told [ars technica]. "They created the planets La'an, Ta'leTop, the Omega T'kon Asteroid, and the W'eaton Comet." In other words, sections of the real-world Penny Arcade Expo like the LAN gaming area and Will Wheaton's keynote will have special meaning for players of the game, with different factions vying for control of different area.

Hellman hopes to get most of the attendees involved in the game by demonstrating the rules while they wait in line for registration.

"We have to have a system where there aren't a lot of rules," Hellman explained. "My goal is to teach everyone how to play while they wait in line Thursday night and Friday. If I can teach the whole convention how to play, almost everyone will. The big barrier is when you see a bunch of people doing something that looks fun, but you don't know how to get involved."

It will be interesting to see what the response from Guiness Book will be. Two and a half decades ago, a group of friends and I inquired about setting a record for the longest game of D&D (it was during our "reckless youth" days), and were informed that role-playing was not an activity that they recognized. Perhaps this event will tell us if that has changed in the last 25 years.

Read the full article here: (article | archive)
Related links: PAX - www.pennyarcadeexpo.com | TerraDrive - www.terradrive.net | TerraDrive Live Wiki - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TerraDrive_Live | Technomancer Press - www.technomancer-press.com

July 17th, 2007(link to this)

RENO COUPLE NEGLECT THEIR CHILDREN, BLAME D&D ONLINE - A couple from Reno, Nevada, Michael and Iana Straw, have been arrested for child neglect of their two young children while devoting most of their attention to online role-playing games, including one based on the classic tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons.

In the few days since the story broke, I have seen several different articles on it. Few of them can agree on the ages of the children, but all manage to drop the name Dungeons & Dragons at least twice. The Straws were involved in other MMORPGs as well, according to every article, but all chose to focus on the D&D brand. Could it be because it's such a tried and trusted scapegoat?

Expect to see this come up again later as "proof" of the corrupting nature of tabletop D&D. There won't even be a need to make a distinction between the online and face-to-face versions. You can likely count on it.

Read more: (article | archive)

DEXCON 10 - Once again, I have been invited to be a guest at Dexcon - a great con held at the East Brunswick Hilton in East Brunswick, New Jersey. I've been a bit busy lately, so this update is very late (the con starts TOMORROW, in fact). The folks at Dexcon have also renewed their offer for Escapist readers - if you pregister for the con, you get a $10 discount just for letting them know that The Escapist sent you! (When filling out the preregistration form, enter RPGADVOCATE-DEX10 in the SPECIAL DISCOUNT CODE field, and $10.00 in the DISCOUNT field.)

July 13th, 2007(link to this)

ORIGINS 2007 REPORT - This year at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus Ohio, I organized five different events: three "Intro to RPGs" events geared towards people who have never played an RPG before and are looking for an easy introducton to the hobby, and two "RPGs for Kids" events for kids of all age and experience levels.

The "Intro to RPGs" events were mostly a bust - with six seats available in each event, only one ticket sold for one of the three, and the buyer of that ticket, while very nice and a pleasure to roleplay with, was not a newbie at all and was more interested in trying out Savage Worlds, the game system I was using. (For the record, we played anyway and had a pretty good time.)

The "RPGs for Kids" events, on the other hand, were a big hit. All tickets sold out completely, and everyone had a grand time. I ran TOON and Faery's Tale, and both events were a good mix of kids and adults. As I recall, none of the players, kids and adults alike, were familiar with the game being played, and only a few had ever roleplayed before - but all of them picked up on the rules and concept of roleplaying right away. Personally, I consider that the best possible outcome.

It should go without saying - but I'll say it anyway - that I will be organizing even more of the "RPGs for Kids" events for Origins 2008. Hope to see you there!

June 6th, 2007(link to this)

GAMING WITH KIDS ON ROLEPLAYINGTIPS.COM - Katrina Middelburg-Creswell, a high school teacher and RPG club organizer in the Netherlands, wrote an article for roleplayingtips.com about gaming with kids that shares some very useful advice. She also dropped a link to an "excellent" (her word, not mine) gaming advocacy site and the Facts and Fictions About RPGs PDF! (Here's a link to it, if you have come here from there and are looking for it.)

CHRISTOPHER PRITCHARD RELEASED AFTER 19 YEAR SENTENCE - You may start to hear news stories about the release of Christopher Pritchard, who conspired with two friends to kill his stepfather, Leith Von Stein, on July 25th 1988 - stories that will describe him as "obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons," which, some will say, was the whole reason behind his actions.

The details, as usual, will be hidden well, or possibly ignored entirely. Pritchard believed he would benefit from a two million dollar inheritance if his stepfather died, and promised money and sports cars to his friends Neal Henderson and Chris Upchurch if they would help him with the assassination. Dressed in black, they infiltrated Von Stein's home and stabbed and bludgeoned Leith and Bonnie Von Stein. Leith died on the scene, but his wife survived and was able to call 911 for assistance.

Pritchard has always maintained that he was in a "fantasy world" when he planned and carried out the murders - but the promises of cash and sports cars to his co-conspirators were very real. He didn't promise them magic chariots and bags of gold. He handed his friends a map to his parents' home, not to a wizard's tower. Black clothes don't make someone a ninja, or even someone who THINKS they're a ninja - it's just the most convenient color to wear during your assassination plot.

"Fantasy worlds," however, are an excellent cover-up for any inhuman acts that you may have committed that you don't want to own up to. It's a common reaction for a person to be so offended by their own actions that they find some method of detachment from them. In Pritchard's case, he had some help.

The crime was the focus of two novels, Blood Games and Cruel Doubt, and two made-for-television movies - Cruel Doubt and Honor Thy Mother. Both movies featured misrepresentations of gaming materials in order to more closely relate gaming the crime.

Honor Thy Mother aired on CBS (the same network that brought us Mazes and Monsters) on April 26th, 1992. In it, a phony copy of an AD&D manual was featured as a prop. The cover of the manual was unlike anything TSR has ever put out for AD&D, and while reading it, an investigator claims to find a reference to "extra points for multiple hits," an obvious fabrication by the writers, as AD&D contains no rules that are even similar to such a description.

Cruel Doubt was a miniseries that aired on NBC, May 17th and 19th, 1992. In it, a copy of TSR's AD&D Player's Handbook was featured as a prop with different artwork that included a picture of a character with clothing and a backpack that matched that of one of the show's killers, as well as other illustrations that were extremely occultic and sinister in nature. This was an obvious attempt to make the book appear to be more of an inspiration to the crime.

Pritchard may have really been in a fantasy world when he planned to gain fortune by killing his stepfather, but blaming it on a game is wrong. So is misrepresenting that game to make it appear as if it was a part of the crime - even going as far as to add artwork and rules to it.

Pritchard has allegedly redeemed himself, and is now working with at-risk children. He claims to have his head "screwed on straight" now. Let's all hope he has gained some wisdom and personal responsibility in the process.

Read more: article | archive

May 30th, 2007(link to this)

HAPPY 11TH LEVEL! - John H. Kim recently ran a D&D game in a simulated crepe paper 'dungeon' for a friend's 11th birthday party. He posted a report, including pictures, on his LiveJournal. Check it out here, and get ideas for the next D&D-themed 11th birthday party that you might find yourself in charge of!

GAMER SURVEY - PLEASE HELP! - I received this notice of a hobby game survey conducted by Ohio State University yesterday. I encourage all gamers reading this to participate and help them out:

Ohio State University's School of Communication, in partnership with GAMA and The Wargamer, are undertaking a follow-up to last year's large and comprehensive study of hobby game players. The researchers are investigating patterns of motivation and usage by tabletop (card, role-playing, minis, and board game players), digital (computer, console, MMORPG), and other gamers (such as LARP). The survey takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete.

Building on lessons learned from last year, as well as some ongoing analyses of the existing data, the project is seeking continue expanding the knowledge of the games world.

We invite you to participate at www.gamesurvey.org.

The study will be focusing on these key areas of motivation.

• What do game players like in a game? What do they dislike? And why?
• What motivates continued game play and preferences for types of games?
• Where are games bought and what influences those purchase decisions in light of preferences and motivations?
• What interactions do gamers have with others?
• With whom (and where) do gamers play, and how frequently, and how do these decisions influence preferences and motivations?

Official Q&A forum can be found at http://www.wargamer.com/forums/tm.asp?m=229482

May 13th, 2007(link to this)

MORE GEMS FROM TREASURE TABLES - In Introducing RPGs to New Players, a two-part feature on the daily gaming blog Treasure Tables, Ben Finney gives all the details on an RPG he ran for a group of three that included two gaming newbies. There are a lot of great tips and suggestions contained within. Check it out here: Part 1 - Part 2

INTRO TO RPGS EVENTS AT ORIGINS 2007 - Speaking of gaming with new players, It appears that all five of the gaming events I submitted for Origins 2007 have been accepted. I'll be running three events using the Savage Worlds system - a near-future zombie apocalypse game, a 1930s exploration/cliffhangers game, and a superheroes game, all geared toward players who have never tried an RPG before. I'll also be running two RPGs especially for kids - Faery's Tale and Toon, and if all goes well, I'll also be running some grand Fuzzy Heroes battles outside of the Kid's Track room every day of the convention.

If you're planning to be at Origins this summer, be sure to look me up!

May 12th, 2007(link to this)

Wanted for questioning

POLICE INVESTIGATE GRADE SCHOOL HARRY POTTER RPG - Students involved in a "mystery suspense Harry Potter role-playing game" invoked a police investigation when a "threatening note" was found in a student's backpack.

Officers and teachers searched backpacks of students for weapons or contraband, turning up more of the game-related notes. No threats were made to the school, staff, or any students not involved in the game.

"After the investigation was complete and the true nature of the situation was determined, it was obvious this was not a police matter," (Police Chief Richard St. John) said.

Despite the misunderstanding, the students may face disciplinary action.

Next time, kids - send text messages!

Read the full article here: (link | archive)

May 8th, 2007(link to this)

CALLING ALL LIBRARY-TYPE PEOPLE - I am considering adding a new project to The Escapist, but I'm going to need a lot of input, ideas, and even some assistance. The first stage, of course, is gathering the ideas and input. So if you happen to be either or both of the following, I'd love to talk with you:

a librarian, especially one who works in the Young Adult section (or someone who knows one)

a gamer who has run roleplaying games in a Young Adult program (or someone who knows one)

If either of these apply to you, please contact me at . For more information on the project, visit www.theescapist.com/library

Thanks!

April 21st, 2007(link to this)

WE'RE ROLLIN', THEY'RE HATIN' - That's the title of the flagship exhibit at this year's Version multimedia festival in Chicago. Exhibitors Todd Bailey and Nate Murphy have created copies of an elaborate, hand crafted D&D module that will be available for purchase at the event:

Instead of using a printer or Xerox machine, they're silk-screening every one of the 25 pages for every copy. Many of the dozen or so illustrations will be in two or three colors--doubling or tripling the work it takes to print them--and include glow-in-the-dark elements. In keeping with the adventure's sun-god motif, each module will be cut into an 18-inch-wide circle. Bailey's planning to hand-sew the bindings, though thankfully that'll only take a few stitches--more would make it too hard to open a circular book, and he figures people will want to disassemble the thing when they play it anyway, if just to pull out the map.

Each copy will also come with a small burlap bag containing one 20-sided die--players will have to buy the rest of the game's usual assortment themselves. Julianna Luther, Bailey's girlfriend, is embroidering each bag with an image of the sun god. The dice are handmade too: Bailey, who works as a designer and electronics engineer at Big Monster Toys, used a large store-bought die to make a mold out of silicon-based platinum rubber, then filled it with a clear UV-sensitive urethane he formulated himself. The dice glow brilliant orange under black light, and the fluorescent orange paint he's using to fill in the numbers turns yellow.

Other exhibits at the month-long festival include a screening of the LARP documentary Darkon, a fantasy fashion show fundraiser, a functioning catapult, and a new episode by animation/video/performance stars Dungeon Majesty.

Read more here: (article | archive)

THINK 'LORD OF THE RINGS' MEETS 'THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW' - (Everyone's good buddy Nate stuck this one under my nose recently.) The Dungeonmaster is an interactive theater event where audience members can fill out a character card when they come in - and if their card is one of the six drawn before the show, then they become one of the stars! DM is slightly different than a LARP, in that there's an audience, and some scenes unfold that do not involve the characters at all - but otherwise, anything goes. You even get a discount on admission if you show up in costume (even if you don't end up on stage!).

If you happen to be in the North Hollywood area, be sure to check it out. (website | MySpace | Yahoo group | LJ)

(But please... don't throw toast at the stage!)

April 18th, 2007(link to this)

THE ELFISH EXCERPT - Author Mark Barrowcliffe has generously donated a chapter of his new book, The Elfish Gene, for you to read freely right here on the site. Click here to dig in, and if you feel moved enough by it to purchase a copy of the book, click here to do so!

April 17th, 2007(link to this)

VIRGINIA TECH - THE MORE THINGS CHANGE...

Television psychologist (and Scary Movie 4 star) Dr. Phil McGraw and lawyer (and Batman fanatic) Jack Thompson agree: April 16th's tragedy at Virginia Tech was the expected result of a society that is steeped in violent video games and movies (but mostly video games).

McGraw appeared on the Larry King show the evening of the 16th, and Thompson appeared on Fox News a couple hours after the incident, before the culprit's name was even released. Neither were aware of gunman Cho Seung-hui's background, psychological profile, or any evidence of possible motives for his actions.

It's a safe claim to make this early in the investigation. After all, if you're right, you'll get lots of calls for more interviews and you'll really look like you know what you're talking about. If you're wrong... well, no one really follows up on these things, anyway. If we would hold these people to their words whenever they mouth off like this, we'd see a lot less of this nonsense, and may even see more effort put towards finding a real solution.

No one seems to have publicly mentioned traditional RPGs as a possible cause yet. The focus has changed, but our dependency on scapegoats hasn't. Violent films will likely always be a target (and pointing a finger at them while starring in a movie that satirizes violence is an interesting career move). Just eight years ago, people were trying to connect the Columbine massacre with Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade (among many other things) with nothing to go on. Fifty years ago, it would have been Thompson's beloved Batman comics.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

April 14th, 2007(link to this)

THE ESCAPIST ON WIKIPEDIA - After a great effort by Sandy Atunes, Sam Chupp, and others, The Escapist finally has an entry on Wikipedia. You can view it here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Escapist_%28website%29

This will go a long way towards getting the word out about the role-playing hobby.

NOW PLAYING: THE ROLES WE PLAY - Aaron Andersen, an aspiring film student in Olympia, Washington, will premier his short film The Roles We Play today. (article | archive)

"It's based off the old-school type, where you sit down with your good old imagination," said Andersen, 20. "It dives into this world with these six friends who play together."

The film, though, doesn't stay in the everyday world where the friends play.

"The whole thing about role-playing is it's all done through imagination," he said. "This is providing the viewer a peek into their imaginations. The audience is able to see what they're seeing."

Movies about traditional RPGs (and the people who play them) seem to be more common than ever, even with the ever-increasing popularity of online gaming. Who knows - we may even see a major studio release someday, if it keeps this pace.

On second thought... maybe that wouldn't be such a good thing.

(Special thanks to Patrice Mermoud for sharing this story.)

HOW TO START A GAMING CLUB - Treasure Tables comes through again with a link to a great article on roleplayingtips.com - Starting and Running a Role-Playing Games Club. There's even a section on setting up a learn-to-play convention. Great stuff, as always.

April 10th, 2007(link to this)

ZIGGURAT CON - (from GameGrene) June 9th is the date set for the first Ziggurat Con, a one-day gaming event organized by and for all allied military personnel and civilian contractors.

It could possibly be the first convention held in a war zone - Ziggurat Con is taking place in Iraq.

(SPC David Amberson, the Con's organizer) "Here at Camp Adder/Tallil Airbase, we have lots of sports activities -- baseball, football, dodgeball, kickball -- and we work with many marathons across the US like the Boston Marathon. This is a great way to improve morale among the troops, but what about those who prefer Role-Playing Games?"

The con will be held in part of the Community Activity Center at Camp Adder/Tallil Airbase, and will feature RPG events and all-day anime movies.

"There is a deeper sense of camaraderie in a war zone than you see back home," said Amberson, who is a supply soldier with Alpha Company, 86th Signal Battalion. "You eat with these people, work with them on a daily basis, and can even share a tent with the same people. When work is over for the day, we can sit back, relax, drink our favorite sodas, eat our favorite snacks, and play a bit of D&D. This helps us relax in a very stressful environment. We found a place where we can go somewhere far away from the IED's, mortar attacks, and gunfire, without ever leaving the safety of our camp. The next step was only logical."

It's an interesting contrast to the attitude that the Israeli Defense Force has about role-players - that they are "detached from reality" and should not be allowed anything above a low security clearance.

The largest problem with running a Con in Iraq, of course, is that there are no local stores or game publishers, and few game books on the post. Even dice are in short supply, with many soldiers breaking the unwritten taboo held by many gamers and (gasp!) sharing dice. Thankfully, many game publishers have also lent their support, and have agreed to supply game products to help the Con along. aethereal FORGE, Sovereign Press, Final Redoubt Press, Goodman Games, Paizo Publishing and Steve Jackson Games are among those that have thrown in their support for the convention. But Amberson indicated that the soldiers could definitely use more.

"This convention is currently in drastic need of prizes and giveaways for the troops," he said. "Everything donated will go directly to the troops, or to MWR to use as loaner books for the soldiers."

You can read more at GameGrene (article | archive), and I've included contact information on the BeQuest news page for sending donations to Ziggurat Con.

(Thanks to The Bitter Guy for sharing the news)

April 3rd, 2007(link to this)

NEW SUPPORT PAGE - The new Escapist Support page is up (finally!) for those of you who may have been wondering how you can help out with the site and the cause.

March 20th, 2007(link to this)

NEARBYGAMERS - In a recent update to Treasure Tables, an excellent daily RPG blog, Martin shares a link to NearbyGamers, a great site for locating gamers with similar interests in your area (and something I'd been thinking about adding to this site for a long time now). My profile is here, if you're interested in seeing it.

Martin also cooked up a great section on Ways to Find RPG Players, which includes a lot of links to other player locators.

So go find someone to play with!

March 9th, 2007(link to this)

PANTY RUN GONE WRONG - From BBC News: Robert Boyd says that he "may have blurred fantasy and reality" when he held up employees in a Belfast, Ireland lingerie shop dressed as Buho, his female elf Shadowrun character.

Boyd wore a costume that included a blonde curly wig, reading glasses, and a beanie hat when he made off with intimate undergarments, that he had originally intended to purchase for his wife, on December 14th, 2005. He claimed that pressures in his marriage and work, coupled with his involvement in the Shadowrun RPG, caused him to confuse fantasy with reality and rob the store, rather than shop at it. Jurors rejected his defense, and Boyd was convicted on March 9th, 2007.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr. Jane O'Neill supported Boyd's claim, stating that she thought he may have some disassociation with reality, but another consultant psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick Brown, said that he saw no evidence of it.

Read the full story here: article | archive

This is yet another failure for the "role-playing games made me do it" defense. It hasn't worked once in over 25 years - so why do they keep trying it?

March 8th, 2007(link to this)

IRON DM - Brunching Shuttlecocks co-founder Lore Sj÷berg makes some suggestions on "How to Heat Up Geek Reality TV" in a column for Wired. Among them is this one -

America's Next Top Dungeon Master
In nationwide auditions, thousands of starry-eyed Dungeons & Dragons players are asked to describe their D&D campaign in eye-glazing detail. ("In my game, dwarves evolved from root vegetables and elves are made of living cellophane!") The aspirants are narrowed down to two dozen semifinalists, each of whom has to design a series of adventures for the celebrity judges, none of whom would be seen with a 20-sided die in their hand except that they need the exposure something fierce. The highlight of the first season comes when David Faustino ("Bud Bundy" from Married With Children) gets into a half-hour argument about the grappling rules.

It's a spoof, of course, but I'd probably watch it. Admit it - you would, too. Read the rest of the column here.

THE ESCAPIST VIDEO MOVIE REVIEW REPORT - I've just put up the first installment of the EVMRR, a regular feature of gaming-related movie and television reviews. You can see the new feature here, and read the first review of the Scottish comedy Gamerz here.

I UNSHEATH MY DEADLY MANDOLIN! - The infamous Dexter's Laboratory episode - the one where Dexter's game of Monsters & Mazes is ruined by his sister Deedee - is available on YouTube. Check it out here (at least until someone finds out about it and has it taken down).

February 14th, 2007(link to this)

I, FOR ONE, WELCOME OUR NEW GIRL GAMER OVERLORDS - According to a statement in "Fighting Like A Girl" on pressofatlanticcity.com (article - archive), Wizards of the Coast will be releasing a book on the subject of female roleplayers this September:

Chase, who has been working with Wizards of the Coast for eight years, has seen an increase in the number of girls attending gaming tournaments and conventions and purchasing the games. The shift has even prompted Wizards of the Coast associate brand manager Shelly Mazzanoble to write a gaming handbook titled “Confessions of a Part-time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the D & D Game.” The book will be released in September.

NOVAG NEEDS RPG ARTICLES - David Luff, editor of the newsletter for the Northern Virginia Gamers (NOVAG) is looking for articles on roleplaying to expand the focus of the group's newsletter. For writer's guidelines, email David at dluff20164@yahoo.com

February 6th, 2007(link to this)

FACTS & FICTIONS - I've just finished up a document I've been working on for some time - Facts and Fictions About Role-Playing Games, a two-page primer to what roleplaying games are, why they've gotten a bad reputation, and what is good about them. It's a brief summary of the Basic Gaming FAQ page, squeezed on to one page that you can print out, photocopy, and give to parents, customers, or anyone you meet who may have questions or concerns about RPGs. You can find the PDF on the Resources page.

Coming soon - The RPG Fact Checker, a reference document of facts about RPGs, for reporters and other writers who are covering the topic.

TIME FOR GAMING! - Here's something I just finished and put up for sale on CafePress - the RPG Dice Clock, featuring the iconic Escapist dice. Compatible with all time zones. Get yours today!

RANDOM ENCOUNTER - Holy twelve-siders! Could it be? A new Random Encounter column - the first one in four years? Yes, it's true - check out Seek, and Ye Shan't Find.

GAMERZ (with a 'zed') - I received a review copy of the Scottish film Gamerz yesterday, and popped it into the DVD player right away. It's a great gaming film with lots of laughs and some great fantasy visuals. I'll have a review up for it soon - the first review for the upcoming section on gamer films. Be sure to look for it.

January 26th, 2007(link to this)

WIZARDS GIVES GRANTS FOR D&D CLUBS - Wizards of the Coast is offering $20,000 in grants to college-based Dungeons & Dragons clubs. The Expand Your Role grants will be awarded to clubs that submit a essay of "500 words or less how a grant from Dungeons & Dragons will benefit the club, provide a brief background/history on the club, and describe how D&D has made a positive impact on your life." A minimum of 15 grants, ranging from $50 to $1000 will be awarded.

For more information on how to participate, visit the Expand Your Role page on Wizards' website: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/news/20070108a

FREE RPG DAY! - Possibly inspired by the poplularity of Free Comic Book Day, a group of game publishers have gotten together to offer free gaming materials for Free RPG Day, June 23, 2007. So far Goodman Games, Troll Lord, Chessex, Mongoose, White Wolf, Mongoose, and Skirmisher Publishing have all signed up to offer free gaming materials to participating game stores. If you're a game publisher, a game retailier, or a gamer looking to participate in Free RPG Day, you can find out more at www.freerpgday.com

ANOTHER GAMING MOVIE - Not long after I posted my previous blurb about gaming movies on the rise, another came to my attention - Darkon, a documentary on the popular LARP based in Baltimore Maryland. Screenings of the film start in February in select theaters in the United States and Canada, but you can also view and purchase the film online through AOL. From the site:

DARKON is a feature documentary that follows the real-life adventures of an unusual group of weekend "warrior knights," fantasy role-playing gamers whose live action "battleground" is modern-day Baltimore, Maryland, re-imagined as a make-believe medieval world named Darkon. These live action gamers combine the physical drama of historical re-enactments with character-driven storylines inspired in part by such perennial favorite fantasy epics like the legends of King Arthur, Lord of the Rings, and the saga of Conan the Barbarian. As role players, they create alter-egos with rich emotional, psychological, and social lives. They costume themselves and physically act out their characters exploits both in intimate court intrigue and campouts and in panoramic battle scenarios involving competitive strategies, convincingly real props, and full contact "combat." Because real life so often gets in the way, its easy to understand these players' motivations. Everybody wants to be a hero.

Find out more at movies.aol.com/truestories/darkon

GAMING ENTERS ENGLISH CLASS PLAN - That's the title of a story from Oklahoma's Edmonton News Examiner-Enterprise, where UCO English Department Director Wayne Stein will be teaching a course entitled "Gaming as Composition: Language Force X" for the first time this spring. From the article:

The class, set up as a role-playing game, uses a fictional setting based on a political campaign set in the near-future.

Students will be divided into factions and the professors will introduce various events the characters will have to cope with. Stein said the game has heavy elements of conspiracy theory as well. The class was designed by Stein, James Dolph and Shiloh Force.

"It looks at the issues that are involved in the world right now," Stein said.

Another educator recognizes the benefit of role-playing in the classroom - it's engaging, thought-provoking, and fun. For more, read the full article on the site, or in the Escapist Archives.

(Anyone else think "Shiloh Force" sounds like the name of a superhero team...?)

GET ELFISH - Mark Barrowcliffe, author of the upcoming book The Elfish Gene (which I mentioned in the last update) contacted me recently to send me a preview of the book's cover - and to offer an exclusive preview of the first chapter or two.

Here's a little taste of the jacket text:

Coventry, 1976. For a brief, blazing summer, twelve-year-old Mark Barrowcliffe had the chance to be normal.

He blew it. By day two of a new school term, the dark forces had taken him. Family, friends, girls, food - everything would become as bright images receding into a void as he slipped into a shadow world from which he has never truly emerged.

For while other people were growing up normal, perhaps cooly rebellious, Mark, like twenty million other boys in the '70s and '80s, chose to spend his entire adolescence in fart-filled bedrooms pretending to be someone else - wizard, warrior, dwarf, or evil priest - battling through realms of the imagination. This lost generation gave up on reality to invent alter egos for themselves, lived out through the craze of role-playing games that swept the world. With just some funny-shaped dice, some rule books, and pen and paper they chased trolls through dank dungeons, fought dragons in baking deserts and seduced princesses in cloud-top castles.

The Elfish Gene will be released this April. Look for a possible sneak preview here at around the same time.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SPELLCASTING 101 - It's been five years since I made a total fool of myself (while making some very valid points at the same time) with the Spellcasting 101 article - the one piece that brought the most attention to this site. It is still the most viewed page here by far, and I still get the occasional letter from someone who has just seen it for the first time. To celebrate, I'm planning something new. I can't give away too much just yet - mostly because I'm not entirely sure what it will be, myself. But you'll hear it here, first. Stay tuned.

January 2nd, 2007(link to this)

SQUARE ONE PODCAST - EPISODE ONE IS LIVE!

Episode 1 of the Square One Podcast is finally available for download!

In this episode you'll find:

- What is Roleplaying? With Sam Chupp and Cynthia Armistead

- My First Time Gaming by Bill Walton

- Confessions of an Absolute Newbie Gamer by Miranda Thomas of The Signal podcast

Download the show, sign up for the feed, and leave your comments at www.squareonepodcast.com!



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