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Player Character Spotlight- The Meta Game Designer

Gamers are all around us, and I was reminded of this when I was chatting with a co-worker of mine from when I was a bartender. Aura and I had known each other for weeks, talking about all sorts of random nonsense, before I even knew they played games. So it seemed perfect that they would be one of the first people I chatted with about prioritizing play in your life. I’m so glad I did, because I was reminded about how problem-solving in games can help you problem-solve in real life, which is a much needed reminder for many. Active players, I present to you my interview with Aura Belle, game designer and podcast producer in Savannah, GA.

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RP: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into the gaming hobby?

AB: My name is Aura Belle, I'm a non-binary femme (they/she pronouns), and I've been role-playing since I was very, very young. My brother used to play D&D with his friends and I would watch, trying my best to understand a game with no board or pieces, yet dice for some reason. And people just kinda saying whatever they want. I started playing all kinds of games as I got older, then eventually got into the game design scene a few years back, as well as publishing an Actual Play podcast with my group called Vantage Point of Death, which you can find on iTunes, Google podcasts, and most other places.

RP: Cards on the table, you and I know each other from a previous, unrelated job, but you never told me you were in game design! Tell me more.

AB: I made my first official game called Producers back in 2014. I still play it at parties. You play the part of movie idea pitchmen, suggesting movies to the group at large, except the specifics are fed to you by the other players so you get these really stupid, off-the-wall ideas that you have to defend. It's a lot of fun and the success and support of it led me to keep going with other things. I had a long-running Patreon which gave me about 1/3 of my monthly net income. There I made games about queer sex, gender identity, loneliness and connection, and our expectations of each other as people.

In addition to the podcast I've published several games (most under the name Caitlynn Belle) including Our Radios Are Dying (which has been played on multiple podcasts), Singularity, a transhuman and gender non-conforming dating sim released through Ginger Goat Games, and A Real Game, which won the 2016 IGDN Game of the Year award at Gen Con. It's a game rulebook that you print out that instructs you how to play itself, except as time goes on, this stack of paper gets existential dread about its purpose and fear about its inadequacy as a game. It gets really meta. 

RP: Your games sound super unique, where do you get your inspiration?

AB: As I was making games, I was interested in playing with the form of "a game" itself, trying to find new ways to present play and new topics to explore. I talked about my stuff early on in an episode of the Backstory podcast (which is a very good podcast) hosted by Alex Roberts. I took a lot of influence from performance art and works of art that played with their own physical form or demanded special interaction from the viewer. I was looking for something that engaged back instead of simply being on display.

Queerness is a big part of everything I make. I have trouble viewing the world through cishet eyes, so I make characters that see the world how I do. I want beautiful, messy queer entanglement, gender exploration, non-traditional relationship structures, and really just people who look like my wonderful queer friends. A lot of what I make demands that you make it queer and abandons you if you won't. A lot of them require movement, because I need to move to think. And they're all more or less about one person needing to communicate someone with others but not necessarily knowing how, and the problems that arrive from that.

 

RP: What are some of your favorite games and why?

Fall of Magic is a big favorite of mine and my group. We play it once a year in the holiday season, it's become tradition. It's a role-playing game about how magic is dying in the world and this powerful wizard is travelling across the lands and the ocean to the birthplace of magic to try to figure out what's what, and everyone plays their companions accompanying them. You play the game on a large scroll map, unraveling it as you go to explore new lands. It's absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking and conjures such strong visuals. It lets you play with metaphor and imagery naturally and lets you dig into the identities of these characters who start out as vague brush strokes and become just these beautiful, heart-breaking narratives by the end of it all. I've cried so much playing that game.

RP: Are there any types of games you haven’t played that you would like to?

AB: I have a soft spot for games about armies and conquests, things like War of the Ring or even Twilight Struggle. I'm not really a history or military nerd so I don't know why I like them so much, maybe it's just the scale. But I'd really like to dig into more of those. Especially miniature games, I'd love to build and paint squadrons and move them around these big, tactical maps, I'm all about that. 

RP: Do you consider gamer an integral part of your identity?

AB: I consider myself someone who sees "play" as a necessary part of human life, be you child or adult. It's something you need to tease your imagination with. You never stop needing to play, but most people fall out of it. So, in the sense of looking for ways to filter life experiences through mechanics and narrative, I would say so. 

RP: What is the relationship between gaming and your mental health?

AB: A lot of my gaming history and design philosophy comes from the indie publishing scene that surged out in the mid 2000s. This kind DIY ethic of making sad, strange little games that examine what big publishers wouldn't. All of the games I've designed have, in some way, been about myself - about personal trauma, or loneliness, or my need to communicate, but my desire not to. Embodying a character and playing out experiences I can't parse effectively helps me get a new perspective on it, and writing about things I don't know how to talk about has been invaluable. I'm an anxious wreck, but I would be more of one had I not had a bunch of weird game designer friends out here making weird games about queer identity, love, and isolation. 

RP: How do you balance gaming with your real life?

AB: Not very well. I used to attend regular board game meetups, but with working multiple jobs and everyone getting older, those fell by the wayside. My podcast group and I basically force ourselves to find time to get together and record, but it's not always easy. It can be hard! That's a running joke about role-playing groups, the hardest part is getting together on a schedule that works for everyone. You have to make concessions one way or the other. 

RP: Do you have any advice for people looking to get started with gaming?

AB: Hit up game stores and meet people and try to go to a local con if you can. Cons can be stressful, but they're also usually fun. You get a lot of energy and inspiration from it. Try different things also - I know several role-players who have never tried any other games besides D&D, for example, and are shocked to find out there's this entire world of millions of cool games out there. Keep yourself open.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this interview, please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. If you would like to be featured as a Player Character, please fill out our application here!

 

 

 

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Great Games to Play for Father's Day

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Great Games to Play for Father's Day

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 16, and I don’t know about you but I think games make great gifts. Getting together to play a game is a memory-making experience, and one that you can enjoy whether you’re a gaming family or you just want to try something new. Here are a few suggestions for games to play with your dad this weekend, or any weekend because who needs an excuse to play games?


Forbidden Island- GameWright Games

Cooperative games are great if you’re trying to get people into gaming. You’re all working towards a common goal so you’re helping each other rather than competing against each other. I like Forbidden Island in particular because it’s easy to learn, there are great moving visual pieces, and you can adjust the difficulty level. You play as two to four treasure hunters traversing a sinking island, and you have to locate four artifacts and get them off the island before you find yourselves in a watery grave. Leave no man behind (no seriously, if one of you gets trapped on the island you lose). If you have a group larger than four playing or you want to add additional rules and variants, try Forbidden Desert or Forbidden Sky.

How the last game we played wound up. Literally JUST made it.

How the last game we played wound up. Literally JUST made it.

 Hanabi- R&R Games

Hanabi is another cooperative game, but it has such a fascinating game mechanic that it truly is unique even amongst other cooperative games: you don’t get to see your own cards. Your goal is basically to line up 25 fireworks cards (5 different colors in order 1-5) by giving clues about what is in each other’s hands. If you play the wrong card, such as the red 3 before the red 2, your fuse gets shorter. 3 mistakes and your fireworks explode. Hanabi is a great game for communication and one of my favorites to play with new people for that very reason. You get to learn how they think. Theoretically, playing this game as a family means you’ll be in sync because you know each other, but let’s be honest, someone’s going to wind up shouting “Why didn’t you warn me I had a 5 in my hand?!” and as long as no one is super competitive, that’s part of the fun.

What do you mean you  forgot  which card was the white card?

What do you mean you forgot which card was the white card?

 Munchkin- Steve Jackson Games

Okay enough with being nice, let’s start throwing monsters at each other! Munchkin’s original concept is building characters and traversing dungeons trying to be the first to level 10, and using cards in your hand to achieve your goal and stop other players from achieving theirs. It rapidly evolved from a Dungeons and Dragons theme to over 30 different genres and expansions, from pirates, to Marvel, to Rick and Morty, to Shakespeare. It’s an easy to learn game that is guaranteed to have a theme that dad will like. 

Our community manager Anne got to sit down and discuss two of the newest editions: Unicorns and Friends, and Warhammer 40K at Essen Spiel

Coup- Indie Boards and Cards

Bluffing games! We all fudge the truth with our families, why not make a game out of it? With Coup you’re playing various influential figures in a dystopian future and you want to be the last one standing. Each card has a different ability, but nobody knows what card you have, so you have to call people out if you think they’re using the ability for a card they don’t have. Clearly, I have a running theme here, which is Short and Sweet, but if you like the idea of any of these types of games but want a longer version, they exist, and Coup is no different. If you want a longer bluffing game, try ResistanceResistance: Avalon, or Ultimate Werewolf (and if you want to really make a commitment, try Ultimate Werewolf: Legacy

I knew you weren’t the ambassador!

I knew you weren’t the ambassador!

 A Role-Playing Game. Any RPG (as long as you like it)

RPGs are great for family nights and great for all ages. You’re using your imagination, you’re communicating and thinking critically, and best of all, you’re telling a great story. If you’re an experienced player (or you’re a gaming family) you can consider a higher commitment game like Dungeons and Dragons or Starfinder. If you want something with more structure you can try an RPG in a box like Thornwatch. If you’re short on time there are plenty of one-shot options for a single game with easy-to-learn mechanics.

 

 Okay, not all dads are going to agree to this one (mine, for example, can’t bring himself to be creative, and doing so is NOT his idea of a good time) so use your best judgment. But if you think this is something your dad would agree to, give it a try! You might be pleasantly surprised.


What games will you be breaking out this weekend?

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It's a good day to Die Hard Dice

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It's a good day to Die Hard Dice

Our friends at Die Hard Dice gave us a chance to check out some of their awesome products this past weekend, and we wanted to let all our active players in on what we found. 

Dice Trays

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Dice trays are necessary for a lot of reasons: they save your dice from falling off the table, they protect your table from getting scratched or dinged up if you’re using a heavier material dice, and it is scientifically proven that you’ll get the most random dice results by letting your dice bounce off at least 2 surfaces after you let it leave your hand. Die Hard Dice’s dice trays lay flat for easy storage and transport, and then snap into tray form when you’re ready to use them. They come in multiple colors and three different shapes so you can get the exact style you’re looking for.

The Dire d20s

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For the big important rolls, you need a big important die, and that’s where the dire d20 comes in. At 25mm instead of 20mm, it’s got a bigger size that makes it easier for the rest of the party to see what you roll. It definitely adds to the excitement when the entire party sees that natural 20 (or the natural 1!). One important thing to note is that if you’re going to use one of these dire d20’s you’re going to want to use a dice tray to protect your table-- these things pack a punch due to their bigger size and their metal material. Speaking of which…

 

The Metal Sets

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There is something so immensely satisfying about the feel of heavy dice in your hand and the thud they make as they hit the table. It’s like that moment in Fellowship of the Ring when Bilbo drops the One Ring on the floor at it just stops. Not a lot of bouncing or rolling. Finality. If you want to feel that powerful, then these are the type of dice you want to own. They also come with a metal carrying case with foam inlay to keep them nice and protected. And with full sets ranging from $35 to $55, they’re not going to break your bank. Just your enemies. 

 


The Polymer Sets

Of course, not everyone can afford the fancy metal dice, and that’s okay because Die Hard Dice also offers a huge variety of affordable, lightweight polymer dice. If you’re like Critical Role’s Laura Bailey (or APN’s own Risa) you can horde dice to your heart’s content and select the ones you’ll use for each night’s session based on how they roll or what color you’re feeling. The purple moonstone ones, in particular, have a way of glowing that we haven’t seen in polymer dice before.

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If you’re looking to add to (or start) your dice collection, hit up your FLGS and pick up your own! If you do, make sure to take a picture of them and use the hashtag #activeplayer so we can see! Happy rolling!

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Happy Pride Month, Active Players!

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Happy Pride Month, Active Players!

Happy Pride Month, Active Players!

 Queer representation in the gaming community has always been significant, and in a lot of ways, this seems natural. Like people who are LGBTQ+, people who game feel that they are just outside of society’s “accepted” view (though to our credit this is changing), and gamers find community together through FLGS, online communities, and conventions. And of course, manymany people who game also identify as LGBTQ+, and the combination of these two communities means a safe space for people to be who they are without fear or intimidation. Both communities talk greatly about chosen families, and that really speaks to the depth of love and acceptance we find together. Naturally, with more and more LGBTQ+ individuals not only playing games but making games, we’ve seen an encouraging increase in representation within the games we play.

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RPGs have really been leading the way, with both player characters and NPCs providing a much-needed amount of diversity. Here you can find a list of 50 LGBTQ+ characters in Pathfinder. I recently finished DMing Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the scripted NPC characters included a gender-neutral elf, a same-sex genasi couple (male in the book, changed to female in my campaign to include more female representation as well), and a trans drow. Both homebrew and official campaigns are becoming more and more inclusive, and as they should be. We’ve got worlds with magic, spaceships, shapeshifters, and fey. It’s not like you can say a queer character would be “unrealistic”. The question that seems to be on people’s minds is “Why not? If being cishet isn’t integral to this character’s story, why not write them as something else?” And in that way we are seeing a wonderful increase in both flat and round characters (“flat” meaning just-here-to-drop-a-quest-and-then-I’m-out, “round” meaning dynamic characters with growth and character arcs) that are just as representative and diverse as the world we live in. 

It is admittedly a bit harder to include LGBTQ+ representation in board games because a lot of times the characters just aren’t as well developed, if they are true “characters” at all. For example, in Hanabi, you play “absent minded firework manufacturers,” but no more is said about your characters, in Tsuro, you’re abstract pieces of stone on a path, and in Sushi Go! you’re just you. There is nowhere to include representation because who you’re playing just isn’t important to the game! But for all of those examples, there are certainly times where character identity is a vital part of the game, giving you different abilities, stats, jobs, etc. Sometimes you get to flesh it out yourself and create your own character, so including representation is easy, like in Betrayal: Legacywhere each game you’re playing another member of a family through generations.  However, there’s no reason that when characters are laid out for you that game developers can’t include LGBTQ+ representation. Like in the original Betrayal at House on the Hill, there could be a mention that Flash Williams has a crush on a boy in his class. I have seen the argument that in Pandemic, the Dispatcher represents a trans person through both the gender-neutral character design and the pink totem matching the shade of pink in the trans flag. Why not? It hurts no one and helps everyone who longs to see themselves represented in the games they play. Fog of Love has two alternate covers for same-sex couples. Sentinels of the Multiverse contain several LGBTQ+ characters, as noted in their bios. We’ve come a long way but we can always go further. It’s up to us as gamers to insist we go further. 

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For more information check out Tabletop Gaymers, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to address homophobia in the tabletop gaming community; I Need Diverse Games, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing awareness to diverse games, game designers, and intersectionality; this list of queer tabletop resources; APN’s feature on the PAX Diversity Lounge that exists at every PAX event and, of course, check with your FLGS to see if they offer any LGBTQ+ game nights or events (and if they don’t you should tell them to).

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Why You Should Consider Hell for your Next RPG Vacation

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Why You Should Consider Hell for your Next RPG Vacation

If you’re a fan of Dungeons and Dragons you’ve probably already heard about the new campaign coming out in September: Baldur’s Gate, Descent into Avernus. And if you haven’t heard about it yet, congrats! Now you have. Announced on May 17, 2019, Descent into Avernus takes you right into the first level of the nine hells as you find yourself smack in the middle of the blood war between devils and demons. We are super excited to get to explore these new campaign settings and all there is inside.

Coins coins coins

Devils don’t deal in something as unremarkably mortal as gold and platinum. Down in Avernus you’ll be bartering in Soul Coins. And no, that’s not just a cool name. You’re literally going to be carrying the souls of the damned in your pockets. And they have more than just purchasing power. You can release the soul into a Lemure to be your servant, you can leech it for HP, or you can talk to it for information about your new hellscape. But the most exciting way to use it (for you, not the soul in the coin), is to power your new Infernal War Machine.

Mad Max: Avernus

In case you ever wanted to be Ghost Rider

In case you ever wanted to be Ghost Rider

If you’ve gotten to take a peak at the Ghosts of Saltmarsh adventure book, you’ll already know that vehicle rules are becoming the new Thing, and Descent into Avernus gives us a new type of vehicle with all new rules: The Infernal War Machine. From the giant Demon Grinder to the motorcycle-like Devil’s Ride, there are all sorts of customizable options to choose from as you traverse this hellish landscape mowing down demons, creatures, and anyone else who gets in your way. Don’t worry about their dying screams piercing your ears, they’ll be drowned out by the sounds of the soul in your Soul Coin literally burning up. For the righteous adventurers you can fight the warlords who drive these giant War Machines, or for the more adventurous, you can BECOME one of these warlords.

 

Your soul (and pretty much anything else), is up for trade 

Souls are the most powerful currency in Avernus, and you have one to barter with. You’ll be encountering tons of devils, and each one has something better to offer than the last. You can gain levels, special powers, hit points, or anything else you can think of to negotiate for. There is even talk of an archdevil that will guarantee you a natural 20 on your next death saving throw if you’ve already failed 2. Now who could say no to that? But beware: while deals may keep you alive, they may also keep you in Avernus forever. But is that really such a bad thing?

 

A literal fallen angel

So we’ve got cool trade mechanics, cool vehicle mechanics, and an incredible world to explore. But a story is only as good as it’s villain, and Descent into Avernus brings us Zariel: former celestial turned Archduchess and ruler of Avernus. She went into hell to end the war on her terms and wound up being so good at killing demons that Asmodeus himself offered her a job doing it full time. Whether you choose to fight her (good luck level 1-13 adventurers), or redeem her (good luck, she’s a devil), you’re sure to have some incredible roleplay encounters.

Yeah, our team can totally defeat her….

Yeah, our team can totally defeat her….

 

What’s got you most excited for Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus? Do you already have a character in mind? Let us know! And make sure to grab your copy from your Friendly Local Game Store when it releases September 17, 2019.



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New announcement from WizKids: My Little Pony miniatures!

If you grew up in the late 80s/early 90s, you probably played with My Little Pony toys and/or watched the television show. If you existed at all in the 2010s you probably heard of/watched My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and perhaps again, played with the toys. This is a long-running fandom with a huge fanbase that encompasses all sorts of people. As for me, I got my very first pony, Lickety Split, when I was 6 years old, and started collecting and playing with them with a relentlessness that would be seen culturally years later with Beanie Babies (ironically, I never cared about those).

Fast forward to a few days ago, when I heard that WizKids is partnering with Hasbro to release a line of My Little Pony miniatures for painting. I was pumped! I mean, we should have seen this coming; a few years ago we saw the release of the Tales of Equestria RPG game (which Critical Role just did an AWESOME one-shot for, check it out here), the toy collection is going strong, and what’s the perfect combination of those things? Minis! 

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While I’m not new to RPGs, I am new to miniature painting (I’ve painted exactly one, it was at PAX Unplugged 2018; he’s a goblin named Marv, and I love him). And while I enjoy it, most of these minis are So. Darn. Tiny. My hand shakes, I’m nervous, and sometimes it’s difficult to really grasp a character when you’re just staring at a blank mini. Not to mention all the little accessories the mini holds need different colors so if you’re a casual painter you still need a good variety of paint colors. So you can understand my excitement about these MLP minis. They’re going to be bigger, they only need a handful of colors (and they’re pre-primed, so you don’t even have to worry about that!), and you can paint either your favorite Pony (announced so far has been Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Apple Jack, and Rarity) or use the base to paint your very own Pony character, perhaps for a night of playing Tales of Equestria?

What I love most about these minis is that it makes the mini painting hobby more accessible to a whole new market: kids and families. Parents and children, older and younger siblings, cousins during get-togethers, these are all great groups to paint minis with. And now you have a subject that is already in a child’s knowledge pool, (which they love talking about) so they can be even more excited to paint and spend time with the family (which adults love). It’s a win/win. I can’t help but feel that if I had started with something like this I probably wouldn’t be as intimidated by mini painting as I am today.

If you too are new to miniature painting, check out this Geek and Sundry article about how to get started. The WizKids My Little Pony miniatures release in October 2019, so make sure to let your Friendly Local Game Store know you want some in stock! Are you as excited about this as I am?

 

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Player Character Spotlight - Armaria Cosplay, Turnfolio Cosplay, and Caketastrophe Cosplay

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Player Character Spotlight - Armaria Cosplay, Turnfolio Cosplay, and Caketastrophe Cosplay

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One of the best parts of being a gamer is that games and the stories they tell inspire incredible amounts of creativity. Making good on that exchange, are the many cosplayers around the world who bring characters to life at conventions and events throughout the year.

Today you’ll meet three such crafting crusaders! Armaria Cosplay, Turnfolio Cosplay, and Caketastrophe Cosplay chatted with us about how their cosplay identities intersect with their life as active players.

Do you consider gamer an integral part of your identity

Turnfolio: it’s generally just part of things I do as a nerd. 

Armaria: There’s so many definitions of gamer - no matter what you’re into. 

Caketastrophe: Video games, board games - whatever you’re into - it takes up at least half of my day every day. So I would consider myself…yes. (laughs)

Turnfolio Cosplay as Nott “The Brave” from Critical Role

Turnfolio Cosplay as Nott “The Brave” from Critical Role

Why are you a gamer?

Caketastrophe: It gives me a bit of happiness in my everyday life. It’s a constant source of fun and creativity. 

Armaria: The type of games I’m into include a lot of interactive story telling. For me it’s all about escaping reality and living in a fantasy, sci fi, or slightly altered world. I want an escape from every day monotony. 

Turnfolio: I always am here for a good story that allows me to experience the world in a way I don’t normally. You might be limited by your own circumstances, but games open up the world so you can experience something new. 

How does cosplay interact with your gamer identity? 

Turnfolio: This is a way for me to experience the game that someone else is playing and then put myself into it. 

Armaria: The best thing is to bring these characters to life for people who aren’t cosplayers.

Turnfolio: And! It reminds you that while we’re all watching these stories separately - we’re not alone. 

Caketastrophe: it’s really nice when you get to bring a character to life that means something to you and then you get to connect with someone who also enjoys that character and they get to see it close up. It’s priceless. 

Armaria Cosplay as Caleb from Critical Role

Armaria Cosplay as Caleb from Critical Role

How do you balance gaming with your real life. 

Caketastrophe: Eeeeeeerrrrrrrragh. It’s a lot of not prioritizing for me. I have a hard time balancing. I really need to start scheduling my time. With D&D, I have scheduled meetings. Whether or not I campaign prep more than two hours in advance - that’s another question. I run two games right now and participate in three others. I should probably prioritize real life a little bit more…

Armaria: For me, my work time is my work time. My home time is my home time. As soon as I’m out of work - that’s my time to work on cosplay or play a game, or D&D. It’s about all of my escapes and it’s more of a hard line. 

Turnfolio: It’s a matter of finding my creativity and using it as an outlet. I have a serious 9 to 5 job and I am dedicated to it. I use games to recharge and to get out stress and express emotion. It’s a release. 

What significance do conventions play win your life?

Caketastrophe: Conventions offer you a place to connect with people who share similar feelings about games. As a cosplayer, it’s a chance to show off your work - the hours you’ve spent in your craft room swaddled in fabric and trim. And tears. Sweat. Blood. Here, we get to emerge from all that!

Armaria: I’m so bad about finding new board games. But at cons there are all these people asking me to try new things and I find so many opportunities to explore. 

Do you like cooperative games or competitive games?

Turnfolio: I won’t lie. I really like winning. (laughs) I love channelling that into a cooperative game though. We grow up competing - it’s the easy thing. Everyone for themselves - it’s important to get cooperative play in there. 

Armaria: Sometimes it’s nice to compete, but cooperative story telling Is great because it’s about everyone working together to make things better. 

Caketastrophe: Welp, I like sabotage games. Werewolf. Resistance. Social sabotage is cooperative in a deceptive sort of way right?

Caketastrophe Cosplay as Mollymauk from Critical Role

Caketastrophe Cosplay as Mollymauk from Critical Role

What is the relationship between gaming and your mental health?

Caketastrophe: Gaming is a big part of my mental health. Cosplay is a huge creative outlet when I’ve had a bad day. If I don’t want to sew or play games, it’s actually a big sign that I might want to check up on my meds. It’s a good point of reference. Did I make as many costumes this year as last? How long has it been since I went out to play with friends? Gaming and cosplay and cons really help me with my social anxiety. 

Armaria: I work a very left brain job while cosplay exercises my right brain. After so much work and hours of sewing - gaming is my escape from both factors. It keeps me sane. I’m an extreme extrovert so when I’m sewing and crafting alone, I need and crave that social interaction that comes with gaming. 

Turnfolio: Board gaming is also nice for compartmentalizing. They’re so practical and tactical for when I don’t want to deal with stress and emotions. 

How do you find people to play with?

Turnfolio: I suppose it’s whoever looks approachable at cons. In real life, I ask a lot of questions. I find out what people are into and figure out where it matches up. We have to be compatible in a way.

Armaria: Honestly half the time I find people to play D&D with through cosplay. 

Caketastophe: I build solid friendships and then bring games into the friendships. I share a game and then they will share a game with me. Then the friendships build along with the games. 

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Player Character Spotlight - Rick Baer

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Player Character Spotlight - Rick Baer

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At Gen Con last year, I sat down for a chat with Misfit Toys Inc. President and Creative Director, Rick Baer. I wanted to learn about how someone who has made a career out of producing narrative webseries as well as streaming RPG entertainment for Saving Throw Show and Project Alpha prioritizes play in his own life.

“On the video game front, I’ve always been a gamer for as long as I can remember - computer games and Nintendo were staples.”

When asked about whether his gaming pastime is something he shares with his family, Rick described his gaming life as being very separate. The hobby is something he developed on his own. .

“I’m the gamer in the family. There might be occasional board games - classics like Monopoly.”

I was very interested to find out more about why RPGs have really taken over his personal and professional life.

“In terms of tabletop RPGs, gaming has become important to me because the collaborative story telling and world-building is a lot of fun. Anyone becomes a storyteller and writer when they play an RPG which is awesome.”

His passion for story telling is something he describes as intoxicating.

“I do find myself kind of craving it if I haven’t played in a while. I don’t know if you could say I do it for my mental health, but I get endorphins like crazy when I’m playing RPGs - especially if everyone is as into it as I’m trying to be. I’m totally committed and I play with a lot of committed players. “

With a busy life, it can be hard to get a group together, whether producing content or prioritizing play in his own life.

“Finding people who are just as passionate and interested and make a time for when we play is important. If you have a loose “let’s play a game together” deal, it just doesn’t work. You have to actually get out a calendar and figure out when it’s going to happen. You have a much better chance to follow through on it.””

Rick admits his situation is pretty optimal when it comes to finding players and that it may not be the case for everyone.

“I’m really lucky in that I’m part of a thriving RPG community. I know lots of different people who play in each others games. If somebody doesn’t make it into one then they’ll be in another one - theres definitely too many of us to play in one together.”

Tabletop role-playing games speak to Rick because he enjoys cooperative play and doesn’t enjoy the psychology of putting others at unease, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy collaborating with the table to create narrative tension.

“I won’t necessarily go along with everything anyone wants to do in the narrative, but I try to support what’s happening in interesting ways. I played a game of 10 Candles and I elected to be taken over by this horrible creeping darkness that was pursuing us. It created interesting tension because without having to turn against them at any particular time, there was always the chance that I could which was a lot a of fun.”

Rick Baer was also instrumental in the development of the VAST Star Trek RPG show for Project Alpha.

My favorite game that I play in is a home-brew Star Trek setting run by my friend Jackson Lanzing. It runs on a heavily modified version of White Wolf’s Storyteller. It started 6+ years ago. It was my first ever RPG. I came into the game as a star ship captain and went from that to somebody who accidentally caused the death of most of his species, to a crime lord, to the… Pope? It was crazy.

That game gave birth to VAST, the game I work on for Project Alpha. The system is essentially the same. I got to see a different aspect of creating games from that production side. I had been a player, but here I was a writer most of the time - creating modules for the campaign.

Rick has also come to enjoy the empathic side of story telling - giving him a chance to get behind the wheel of characters with totally different values.

“Playing my second character who is the polar opposite - a horrible awful racist, sexist, psychopathic smuggler and switching between those two extremes with my original Star Trek character gave me this whole range of things to explore and got me comfortable with playing lots of different kinds of characters - not just another version of myself. That’s what I really enjoy now.”

Follow Rick on Twitter as well as Misfit Toys, Inc. to get in on the action and support all the incredible stories he’s telling.

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