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NEWS AND UPDATES - 2006 Archive

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December 31st, 2006 (link to this)


As usual, I have fallen a little behind in the front-page updates. 2006 was a good year for The Escapist - the 10th anniversary and new features went over very well. Hopefully, 2007 will be just as good, and allow me enough time to keep them current, as well as unveil things I haven't been able to yet - like the Reading, Writing, and Roleplaying project, and things that still need a push to get off the ground - like my share of the Square One podcast.

FORUMS ARE DOWN - It seems that the service I was using for the forums fell victim to some sort of internet attack - then, when they recovered, the Escapist forum disappeared. I'm weighing options on setting up a new set of forums. If anyone is willing to offer any advice or suggestions, please contact me at - Thanks!

GOD LOVES THE FREAKS - The Escapist was mentioned in a book on Christian outreach entitled God Loves the Freaks. Here's a brief synopsis straight from the author, Steve Weese, himself:

"God Loves the Freaks points to a serious issue facing the church today -- reaching out to subcultures and those who are considered the freaks of society. The "American Christianity" cult that many churches belong to accepts only members who dress, speak and act exactly the same way. We have somehow turned the church into an elite club where only those who follow man-made cultural rules are welcome. Why is it acceptable for someone to show up in church in traditional Chinese clothing, for instance, but not for someone to have a pink mohawk? The church tries to change the freaks of society, or worse, turns them away at the door. Jesus reached out to those in society who were different, who were outcast -- the freaks. Stephen Weese paints a vision of a church living by grace, in unity; without the legalism that divides and causes us to shun others based on outward appearance. God looks at the heart and he loves everyone, including the freaks. If God loves the freaks, shouldn't the church as well?"

An appendix on role-playing games mentions my Spellcasting 101 experiments in detail. To find out more, visit

THE ELFISH GENE - Speaking of books, I just spotted a review of the upcoming memoir The Elfish Gene:

"Mark Barrowcliffe has a shameful secret. He spent his entire youth hiding from the grungy tedium of Coventry, in an imaginary world of elfs, dwarfs and magicians: he was a "Dungeons and Dragons" fanatic. In this very sharp, very funny memoir, Mark recounts these troubled years, when he knew more about how to kill a dragon than talk to a girl."

It appears that the release is slated for April of 2007. Check out the Amazon UK page for ordering information.

GAMER MOVIES - Speaking of movies (okay, I wasn't, but I don't have a decent segue here), I recently saw a banner ad for Geekin': Love, Jealousy, & Twenty-Sided Dice, which seems to be yet another in a series of recent gamer movies - like Knight Chills, and Gamerz and Gamers, and (starting to see a theme here...) The Gamers, and its sequel, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. Not to mention the controversial short film Fear of Girls (and its rumored sequel). I've done what I can to see all of them, but there are still a couple I haven't gotten to yet (review copies are always cheerfully accepted, of course!).

So, is that all of them, or did I miss some?

BEST. HIGH SCHOOL. EVER. - This little nugget of gaming-positive news comes from New Hampshire's Citizen of Laconia:

From the dungeon to anime convention

FRANKLIN — The Dungeons and Dragons and Anime clubs of Franklin High School held an all-night Dungeons and Dragons game to raise funds for a trip to an anime convention in Boston.

According to Dungeons and Dragons Club adviser Molly Horn, students spent all night playing the popular role-playing game, watching anime, which are Japanese cartoons, and playing video games, among other activities.

"They're basically locked in," Horn said of the event, which ran from 7 p.m. Friday through 7 a.m. on Saturday.

It was the first lock-in for those clubs, though the fundraiser has been done by the school drama club. Funds raised will go to the clubs' trip to the Anime Boston convention next May.

Horn said between 18 and 20 students, from freshmen to seniors, will be taking part.

It's nice to see a school that embraces gaming, rather than shunning the activity as dangerous and detrimental. Let's hope it becomes more commonplace.

WHAT DID THEY DO WITH THE OLD HAMPSHIRE? - Speaking of New Hampshire (Segue! YES!) I've been invited to be a Guest of Honor at OGC Con in Southern NH - and, I'm hoping to accept my standing invitiation to Econocon in 2007, as well. So, if you're planning on attending either of these two conventions, be sure to look me up!

HAPPY 100d20+7! So, it looks like the update that I started writing in 2006 is finally finished in 2007. To those of you who recognize the Gregorian calendar - Happy New Year!

October 26th, 2006 (link to this)


For several years now, I have batted around the idea of creating a section for the site aimed at helping people interesting in gaming to get started - explaining the terms without adding to their confusion, suggesting the best games to start out with, where to find groups to play with, and all that sort of thing.

Many times I scrapped the idea, not because it wasn't worth it, but because I wasn't happy with the way I was approaching it, and I would start at it again later, trying to find another way to get to Square One.

Earlier this year, I was approached by Sam Chupp, who suggested a new approach - put Square One out as a podcast, hosted by the both of us. Sam, as you may know, is the author of many RPG materials (including my favorite RPG ever, Changeling: The Dreaming), is a long time advocate of gaming with kids (and founder of the Kids-RPG mailing list), and is an absolute podcast junkie, with three 'casts to his name before he even came to me to start another - The Bear's Grove, Dragonkin, and Bardic Circle.

Sam didn't give up on the idea, even though we had to shelve it for a little while until I could sort out some real-life things. Once the time was right, we got together and recorded our first teaser episode.

Sam even set up a page just for the podcast - - and you can sign up for the feed at

So give it a listen, send us your feedback, and - most importantly - share it with those people you know who might like to get started in the roleplaying hobby, but aren't sure where to begin. Just tell them to start at Square One!


August 27th, 2006 (link to this)


'Nuff said.

July 29th, 2006 (link to this)


The most recent installment of Tell Me About Your Character features someone special - one of my favorite gamers of all time. Go give it a look!

July 12th, 2006 (link to this)


The BeQuest project's page has just received a new makeover. I have always gone the low-design route with BQ, and this new look doesn't stray too far from that, but it does divide the information up into several pages, rather than packing it all into one page as before. Give it a look and let me know what you think.

Over on, James Wyatt tells us a tale of playing D&D with his young son and learning a thing or two from him about letting the players have some control every now and then. Read for yourself: D&D: The Next Generation.

While the family and I were attending Origins (which was a blast, by the way), I received an email from the producer of a documentary on various forms of role-play who asked if I would be available for an interview. We're meeting up early next week, and the film is scheduled to air on PBS sometime in 2007. I'll be sure to post updates on where and when you can see it once it's released.

June 25th, 2006 (link to this)


Back in February of 2004, I was interviewed for a documentary on the role-playing hobby by a director named Louis Roth who wanted to cover some of the history of the urban legends behind it. Since that time, I have recieved regular emails from Louis, each one a little more hopeful than the last that his vision will make it to as many screens as possible.

Earlier this year, things really started looking up. Louis was able to get the movie screened at a convention in California, and is currently attempting to have it shown at Gen Con. He's also looking into self distribution to make it available on DVD to anyone who wants to see it.

He was also able to get a copy of it into my hot little hands this week, and send me a few stills from the film to slap up on the page to get more people interested. If you'd like to see them, read a short synopsis of the film, and find out how to get a copy of RPG, check out the Scenes from RPG page. If you happen to be going to Origins next week, I will be there with my copy and a portable DVD player in tow, so you'll be able to check it out right there at the con. Drop me an email - - and we can arrange a time and place to get together.

Yep, you heard right - the family and I are going to Origins this summer, so if you'd like to meet up for any other reason, feel free to drop me a note and I'll do what I can to make it happen. I'm going to be doing a lot of 'networking' this year - meeting with educator David Millians about the upcoming Reading, Writing, and Roleplaying project, and with NERO president Joseph Valenti about organizing a section on LARP advocacy, just to name a couple. So if you have an idea for the site, or are interested in contributing something, or just want to say hello, send me a note - - and we'll meet up!

June 6th, 2006 (link to this)


One of the many claims of satanic influence found in Dungeons & Dragons and other early role-playing games is the fact that when generating a character, three six-sided dice are rolled, and the best possible result is three sixes - the number listed in the Book of Revelation as the one to look for if you're looking for the Antichrist.

Of course, we gamers know that three sixes on the dice don't make 666, but 18, and the first thing you do when you roll one is not to praise the Horned One, but rather assign it to your character's most important stat and try to roll a couple more of them.

So, instead of concerning yourself with the birthday of the Antichrist, consider this a great day to roll up a new character!

...or a really lousy day to play GURPS...

May 31st, 2006 (link to this)


The newest addition to the Young Person's Adventure League project - The Adventurer's Atlas - is up and ready for you to explore!

The Atlas is a collection of the best RPGs to play with kids, with tips on where to find them, what their high and low points are, and any content in the game that parents should be aware of. If you're looking for just the right RPG to introduce your kids to the excitement of roleplaying, or you all want to try out something new, you may find what you're looking for at The Adventurer's Atlas!

May 23rd, 2006 (link to this)


Stories like this one are difficult to comment on. On one hand, the story is about a terrible crime: a grown man preys on the innocence of a young boy, meeting him online and then in person at a game store, using the promise of rewards of gaming books and figures. Now, the man is at large and the parents are trying to cope with the violation of their child. This cannot be seen as a positive story in any way.

On the other hand, the coverage of the story has been gaming-neutral, possibly even gaming-positive. Rather than lead with a headline like Dungeons and Dragons Linked to Child Molestor Case or Child Falls Prey to Dungeon Master, the story sticks to the facts at hand, and even lets a local gamer share some unconventional wisdom:

"(If) there's a 16-year-old girl, he's about 40 and he keeps staring at her through the entire game, she probably won't have to say anything because the rest of the group will probably drag him outside," said Stafford.

"If your kid walks in with all sorts of new books and what-not, you've got to wonder where it's coming from," said Stafford. "I've never been able to stress parenting enough."

"Know who your kids are with - gaming shops are not a babysitter. The mall is not a babysitter," said Stafford.

It's hard to call this a positive story because of the terrible crime involved. I'd much rather have seen a scenario where the culprit was captured before he could harm anyone, and everyone learned something from the situation. But it still needs to be recognized as an example of how to handle a gaming-related story without resorting to the old standards of spewing up myths and heresay and seeding everyone's paranoia.

Well done, WMCTV and Ed Stafford!



Check out the BeQuest page to find out more, and see how you can help.


May 19th, 2006 (link to this)


After stealing my identity and profiting from it, then physically abusing me at Origins 2000, Jolly Blackburn has finally decided to bury the hatchet. Here's a little strip he put together in honor of the 10th anniversary of the site:

Apology accepted, Jolly. And thanks for the awesome strip!

May 16th, 2006 (link to this)


Sam Chupp's wildly popular podcast on gaming with kids was hacked recently by a small band of scheming podcast pirates - someone using the alias Dr. Awkward, and two companions calling themselves Agents A and N. After dominating the show for about twenty minutes, they graciously relinquished it back to Sam, but not before threatening to do it again sometime soon.

To hear the pirated podcast in its entirety, visit the Dragonkin podcast site.



Police have issued an arrest warrant for a man responsible for the 1997 murder of Kristopher Olinger. Olinger, who was 17 at the time of his murder, was a roleplayer, and because of this his parents encouraged police to investigate local gamers for possible leads, believing one of them could have gone "over the edge" and killed their son. Instead, police have determined that robbery was the motive behind the murder, and not a case of "over the edge gamer syndrome."

This is yet another "victim by association" case put to rest - a case where gaming is seen as a cause because the victim was a gamer. I encountered this story in 2001 - not when it first ran, but a few years later after another murder occured in the same area. Two Marines based in Monterey, Jason Blad and Jesse Carson, attacked a woman on the same trail where Olinger was killed three years before. Police considered the "gamers gone bad" scenario, but were never able to prove it, and the lawyers on both sides of the case admitted that they had no evidence linking the crime with gaming.

But none of that would stop Andy Rose and the Monterey Herald from printing a story with the headline "Stabbing may be linked to role play." In it, the Olinger case gets a mention, and when I wrote to the author himself, one of the comments he made in his defense was that he mentioned gaming because of that earlier case and the leads they were investigating in it. He also mentions that "the article in NO WAY said the games themselves were responsible" - the article, you may remember, that had the headline "Stabbing may be linked to role play." (Sure, it didn't come right out and say it or anything like that...)

This is an example of how the whole concept of roleplaying as a dangerous pursuit first came about - a little bit of misinformation fed to the media (in this case, a little white lie told by a private investigator who didn't want to upset his clients), and carried over into later stories, columns, and editorials - not because it has any basis in fact, but simply because it's been covered before.

Blad and Carson, by the way, were each found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, and during the trial it was revealed that the 'game' they were playing was actually a combination of Carson's fascination with serial killers and a session of 'night ops,' where Marines conduct mock nighttime recon maneuvers wearing dark clothing. Such maneuvers are not sanctioned by the Marine Corps, but instead are easily mistaken for the sort of thing that roleplayers with "over-the-edge gamer syndrome" participate in.

I never saw the article that Andy Rose promised, letting everyone know it wasn't roleplaying that caused Blad and Carson to suffer from OTEGS. I'm considering writing to the Herald to see if he still works for them, and asking if he or anyone else there will honor their promise to write a piece on how roleplaying games and gamers were not involved in these stories, and how both have an unfair reputation in the media.

I think I already know what my answer will be.

April 29th, 2006 (link to this)


I've been poking at it for the better part of a year, and now the YPAL is ready! The Young Person's Adventure League is a section of the site devoted to getting young people involved in tabletop RPGs. Old-school pencil-and-paper, dice-and-books roleplaying is a great intellectual activity for kids, tweens, and teens. It is a social activity that feeds imagination, helps build problem-solving and teamwork skills, and encourages reading, writing, and math at the most basic level. More specialized games can be used to sneak some knowledge of history, art, geography, mythology, and science into those brains (which will also be the subject of another upcoming Escapist project, Reading, Writing, and Roleplaying).

The problem is, most of the kids these days think that roleplaying games require a computer or videogame console, and while MMORPGs are a lot of fun, they don't offer much in the way of stimulating brain activity. The YPAL project is aimed at getting more kids involved in tabletop RPGs, both to get that grey matter moving, and to help spawn future generations of gamers to keep the tradition alive.

"Gimmie that old time roleplayin', it's good enough for me..."

The site will feature a FAQ file aimed at explaining the concept of RPGs to kids, reviews of age-appropriate games, links to other great online resources, and articles by young people and older gamers with tips on how to keep RPGs fun, engaging, and (shhh!) educational.

If you have young people, or know someone who does, or you work with young people, or you are a young person, or ever were a young person, you should check out The Young Person's Adventure League.



Spike and Tyler of the gaming podcast The Gamestas recently had me on the show for a little interview on gaming advocacy. Check it out at - my interview is featured in Episode 6 (which is supposed to be available on Tuesday, May 2nd - so if you don't see it when you visit, keep checking back).

(Just a brief advisory - Spike and Tyler use quite a bit of colorful language in their show, so please listen with discretion.)



I have been invited to be a guest at Dexcon again this year, and if things work out well, I will be there for at least one day (hopefully more). Dexcon is a great con held at the East Brunswick Hilton in East Brunswick, New Jersey - we attended last year and had a lot of fun. This year, the con will run from July 12th through the 16th.

The folks at Dexcon have even 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-DEX9 in the SPECIAL DISCOUNT CODE field, and $10.00 in the DISCOUNT field.)

Hope to see you there!

February 26th, 2006 (link to this)


Three new Escapist shirt designs are now available -

Face it - if you confess to anyone these days that you play RPGs, the first thing that they'll ask you is "What guild are you in?" MMORPGs are great, but sometimes you just want to make it clear that you do your role-playing with dice and books - and maybe even some maps and miniatures if things are getting REALLY wild.

The same sort of message as the "analog gamer" shirt, above, but expressed with some of that hip street lingo that all you kids are using these days.
It's a little known fact that the reason D&D included the dice that it did was because, at the time, it wasn't possible to obtain specific dice in bulk - you could only purchase a full set of "platonic solids." Impress the math geeks in your life with this logo that leaves out the d10 so that you won't get into any more arguments like that really big one about when the millenium really begins.

Click any image to go directly to the respective CafePress store. And you can still get the classic Escapist favorites, like the original HG Wells, Undercover Goth, and "I Came I Gamed I Conquered" merchandise. While I'm at it, I'll even make the 10th Anniversary "D&D Confession" shirt available to everyone - up until now, I've been the only one sporting one of these babies. Fly your geek flag high! (Disclaimer: Geek flags not yet available.)

February 8th, 2006 (link to this)


Or so Pastor Steve Van Nattan of Blessed Quietness seems to think.  While poking around for sites that link to The Escapist, I found a page on his site* that links to my page about the Chick pamphlet Dark Dungeons - with the title "OCCULTISTS UNDER PAIN."

The name of the site sounded familiar for some reason - and after some poking around, I realized I had seen this site listed on Portal of Evil almost a year ago.  Here's the listing, and a look at the comment section reminded me what stood out in my head about this guy - he's the one who posted a short film of himself dancing and singing "Hallelujah!" after Pope John Paul II died - while holding a picture of JPII upside-down and pointing to the ground, suggesting that was his final destination.

I couldn't find the film on the site anywhere, but it does get a mention in the PoE forums, and I think I may even have a copy of the movie backed up to disc somewhere - if anyone wishes to see it, and has enough intestinal fortitude, drop me an email - - and I'll see what I can do.

(On a positive note, his coffee page is an interesting read, at least for a devotee of the bean like myself, with lots of interesting facts and links.  Yeah, I still try to look for the bright side, when I can find it.)

Here's the truth: I'm not an occultist.  I'm not 'under pain' over Dark Dungeons - anyone with a rational mind reading that page will see it for what it is, my own critical commentary on the accuracy and quality of the pamphlet.  I'm also not very offended at Pastor Van Nattan's song and dance - he certainly has the right to be as happy as he wishes over the death of anyone, and express it in any way that he chooses, as does anyone else.  I only point it out to give a clearer picture of the type of mentality that would take a single glance at my work, point accusingly and bellow "Occultist!", and move on to the next sinister threat to decent, God-fearing people everywhere.

(And if I am, in fact, an occultist - I must not be a very good one.  Maybe this is the pain he's referring to?)

* UPDATE - 04/27/07 - The entire page is now missing from the Blessed Quietness site. This doesn't come as a big surprise - judging from the above mentioned "Pope death dance" video and other statements made by Pastor Van Nattan in the past, it's easy to imagine some things being done and said that would later need to be covered up. In fact, it seems that the entire site is blocked from being archived at - a tool that the Good Pastor has used himself in many of his online sermons.

Regardless, I will keep the link back to Pastor Van Nattan's site on the Dark Dungeons page, as a gesture of goodwill for directing so many people there in the past.


This is just a reminder that the Tell Me About Your Character column is still going strong, with a new interview posted every Friday (or thereabouts). If you haven't read it yet, read it, and if you haven't submitted your self-serve interview yet, submit it!

January 10th, 2006 (link to this)


Due to some internet connection problems at home, the updates to the site will be a bit erratic for a little while. As many of you know, it's always one thing or another when it comes to me keeping the site updated - hard drive crashes, server downtimes, Canadian hackers, and even curses from pseudo-Satanists. I'll do what I can to stay on top of things, though, and try to get as much of the new 10th anniversary material up and running.

On that note, the Tell Me About Your Character column is all caught up now, with several interviews that were backlogged during the December downtime. Check them out, and if you'd like to be featured in the column, download the questions and send them back to me!

Aaron Williams, the creator of Nodwick, was kind enough to send along this special strip to celebrate the 10th anniversary:

Thanks a bunch, Aaron! And to everyone - I wish you a happy, safe, and prosperous new year. Look out for that Twilight Zone justice!

You are currently reading archived Escapist updates.
To see the latest news items, go to the Escapist blog.
Previous updates by year: 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005 - 2003 - 2002 - 2001 - 2000 
1999 - 1998 - 1997 - 1996.