Player Character Spotlight - Rick Baer

Comment

Player Character Spotlight - Rick Baer

IMG_0136.JPG

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.

Comment

Player Character - Mike Fehlauer Hayes

Comment

Player Character - Mike Fehlauer Hayes

Player Character Level 1, Episode 9.

"Gathering around in person - with a table - is humanity. We are a tribal species. We want to gather around that fire."

Meet Mike Fehlauer Hayes, Treasurer of Board of Directors at Child’s Play Charity.

Created by Anne Richmond and Active Player Network

Special Thanks:

  • Mike Fehlauer Hayes

  • Penny Arcade

  • Child's Play

  • PAX

  • The PAX Unplugged Enforcers

Comment

Player Character - Kate Welch

Comment

Player Character - Kate Welch

"Dungeons & Dragons has the best community in gaming." - Kate Welch

Meet Kate Welch - Game Designer on Dungeons & Dragons and Rosie Beestinger on Penny Arcade's Acquisitions Incorporated: The C Team.

Player Character Level 1, Episode 8.

Created by Anne Richmond and Active Player Network

Special Thanks:

  • Penny Arcade

  • The PAX Unplugged Enforcers

  • Elyssa Grant

  • Kate Welch

  • @archimer

  • @iscaneus

  • @kristielpond

  • @maxwellsdeamon

  • @mcboots42

  • @robinachilds

  • @somethinglkthat

  • @thescarletmoth

  • @vonkamelon

  • @wondersanta

Comment

Player Character - Ivan Van Norman

Comment

Player Character - Ivan Van Norman

Meet Ivan Van Norman - Producer/Publisher/Host at Geek & Sundry, Exec. Producer for International Tabletop Day, and Owner of Hunters Entertainment.

Player Character Level 1, Episode 7.

Created by Anne Richmond and Active Player Network

Special Thanks:

  • Ivan Van Norman

  • Geek & Sundry

  • PAX

  • The PAX Unplugged Enforcers

  • GTS Distribution

Comment

Player Character - Kris Straub

Comment

Player Character - Kris Straub

"There are a lot of characters and a lot of ways to exist. I don’t feel like it is a necessary touchstone for every single character to have romance."

Meet Kris Straub - Cartoonist, Animator, and K'thriss Drow'b on Penny Arcade's Acquisitions Incorporated: The C Team.

Player Character Level 1, Episode 6.

Created by Anne Richmond and Active Player Network

Special Thanks:

  • Kris Straub

  • Penny Arcade

  • Elyssa Grant

  • @deggey

  • @brosephene_

  • @dragon_

  • @iscaneus

  • @kristielpond

  • @maxwellsdeamon

  • @tobyricher

  • @wondersanta

Comment

Unpacking the Pathfinder Playtest

Comment

Unpacking the Pathfinder Playtest

The Pathfinder Playtest ended November 18th and according to Paizo Inc., it was huge in terms of the number of players and incredibly useful to the designers!

Jason Bulmahn updated players on the findings from the Playtest and thanked them heartily for their participation in a video missive from the Paizo Studio.. He talked about data, surprises, and even gave a few spoilers as to what the final version of Pathfinder Second Edition will be like. 

The Paizo team was very clear that Pathfinder Second Edition will not be identical to the Playtest. The Playtest made bold choices to test various options and players will absolutely experience the game differently when the Second Edition is released in August.

While still being written, Pathfinder Second Edition will add storytelling flavor and polish, provide a better introduction for new players, include more useful GM tools, do away with magical Resonance, and refine the Proficiency system. All of this moves towards making a game that is easier to learn, faster to play at all levels, providing the depth of character customization that Paizo is lauded for, and giving GMs the tools to tell the stories they want to tell. Getting the rules just right allows players to focus more on the story at gaming table.

Even though the Playtest is at an end, the Pathfinder Playtest books still create a fascinating and challenging adventure - especially for any party who might want to gain an deeper understanding of game design, compare their experience with the final version coming this year, and of course explore the vast World of Golarian. The chapters of the Doomsday Dawn adventure take place in many of the same locations as Pathfinder’s previous Adventure Paths, giving a sampling to new players and a sentimental journey to veterans. Let’s be honest, it’s just plain fun. Reach out to your FLGS to see if they still have copies available!

Paizo has plans to make the buying experience special for customers who plan to buy Pathfinder Second Edition at their favorite local gaming store which they plan to announce in March.

Comment

Comment

Player Character Spotlight - The Teacher

I sat down with Ken Grazier at PAX Unplugged this year to learn a little more about him, his company Geek-Craft, and the work he is doing as an ambassador for hobby gaming with the general public.

In 2004/5, when Ken was attending Pennsylvania State University, he explored events offered by the Student Programming Association to enhance the co-curricular experience of students. One of the clubs that offered activities was called the Gaming Association of Penn State (GAPS).  

“When I showed up for the first time, they had four eight-foot tables covered with games that I had never seen before. I thought to myself – THIS is interesting. Three years later, I’m the president of the club, and we’re using many of my own games because it provides different options from what they traditionally offered.”

In addition to taking on a large role within GAPS, Ken also began offering his teaching skills to game publishers – starting with demoing for Steve Jackson Games. From that experience, a desire to work with more producers (and more importantly – more games) lead him to the creation of Geek-Craft in 2007.

“Since I wanted to work with more companies, Geek-Craft was born. With my wife’s help (she’s very crafty), we began celebrating the craft of being a geek.”

In addition to spreading knowledge about games themselves, Geek-Craft makes buttons, dice bags, and are commissioned for plenty of custom items as well.

“Whatever people need to make their game better, we enjoy doing. Whether it’s playtesting, editing, proofing, adding chrome to a game, helping publishers with merch for events…”

In addition to making physical items for gamers, Ken has also attended UnPub (the Unpublished Games Network) events for the last seven years, and loves playtesting and offering feedback to game designers to help massage their products to the next level.

“I like the idea of making my own game, but I think that everyone who plays board games at a higher level does. I work in QA for an insurance company by day; so, I guess I like breaking things. That’s why I partake in a lot of playtesting in the hobby.”

When we discussed how to tactfully offer advice about unfinished games to creators, whether though playtesting feedback or rulebook editing, Ken has a no-nonsense approach:

“I don’t tend to care about feelings. If it means that their game is going to be in front of more people, it’s worth it. If they’re hard-pressed to do things their own way, that’s fine with me. I’ll still offer feedback.”

Ken’s extensive work within the community means that he has gotten to know a lot of board game designers, publishers, and players. He writes reviews, volunteers to demo frequently for several publishers, and truly loves getting to know people and being able to see what’s coming next, and where the hobby is heading.

“In the next five years, co-ops and story-driven games are going to continue to shine. I think games that provide narrative and experiences in place of competition are going to grow in popularity.”

One of his favorite jobs when teaching at his FLGS, Critical Hit Games in Cleveland Heights, is helping new gamers find out what sort of products and experiences they enjoy.

“We’ll sit down with a curated selection of introductory games, and I’ll explain – you might not enjoy this game, and that’s FINE, but I want you to play it anyway so you can tell me what parts you did like, or things you hated, so that I can tailor my next round of recommendations. Anything that is easy to teach and learn means they can invest in playing the game and learning to understand whether it was for them or not.”

He suggests that gamers, new and old, that struggle with learning new games rely on help from outside sources without shame or apprehension.

“Find online videos. Find someone in a local group or store who enjoys teaching. If someone tells me that they want to learn something, I can sit down and teach it faster than they can teach themselves. They can then focus on the game and enjoy it, while I focus on the teaching. Finding ‘that person’ (while respecting them and their time) is wonderful. It’s helped grow a lot of connections and friendships.”

As part of his mission to bring new gamers into his community, Ken often references a practical example of gaming as a form of entertainment when speaking to customers. Instead of a family of four going out to the movies for, say, $80… they could purchase a $50 board game, order $30 worth of pizza, and have an interactive fun time with one another. The next time they want to play, all they’ll need to do is provide some food – they can reuse the game and play it again.

“We have so many options for entertainment as a culture at this point, that I think board games really need to become more of an option for the public. I want to foster that growth.”

To learn more about Ken or Geek-Craft, visit http://geek-craft.com/wordpress/.

Comment

Sneak Peek! Munchkin: Warhammer 40K

Comment

Sneak Peek! Munchkin: Warhammer 40K

Munchkin: Warhammer 40K is slowly making its way to us, fam! If you have been thirsting for it since it was announced at Gen Con last year, then you’ll be super jealous to know that our friends at Steve Jackson Games gave us a sneak peak at the cards in production.

Don’t stay mad at us though, because we are passing them along to you!

IMG_2791.JPG
IMG_2790.JPG

That being said… this did just arrive on my doorstep.

IMG_4507.jpg

So, the green-eyed monster may have returned - and frankly, I understand if it did. The art will delight and tantalize all Warhammer fans and Munchkin fans alike and there are 168 new cards to explore in the box. It comes with a game board as well as a custom six sided die and twelve standies with even more of that classic Munchkin art from John Kovalic.

Dare I open it on APN for all to see? Tell me in the comments if that’s something you’d like to see!

BUT! Don’t let me have all the fun! You should head to your FLGS and preorder because this game will be hitting shelves in March!

Comment

Player Character - Amy T. Falcone

Comment

Player Character - Amy T. Falcone

"It's me taking a really hard look at myself - having self compassion."

Meet Amy T. Falcone, creative streamer, illustrator and Walnut Dankgrass on Penny Arcade's Acquisitions Incorporated: The C Team.

Player Character Level 1, Episode 4.

Created by Anne Richmond and Active Player Network

Special Thanks:

  • Amy T. Falcone

  • Penny Arcade

  • Elyssa Grant

  • PAX Unplugged Enforcers

  • @nurse_normal

  • @iscaneous

  • @becdar

  • @robinachilds

  • @willthecoe

  • @mattwhodraws

  • @elithecartoon

  • @archimer

  • @parsonssi

  • @nanovarose

  • @thatscarletmoth

  • @lady_zel

Comment

Player Character - Mike Selinker

Comment

Player Character - Mike Selinker

"If I can get people into my games and just throw them into my world - I think that's the most fun I can have."

Meet legendary game designer and President of Lone Shark Games, Mike Selinker.

Player Character Level 1, Episode 3.

Created by Anne Richmond and Active Player Network

Comment

Comment

Player Character Spotlight - The Psychological Player

Amanda Lashua works in the Scientific Software industry in New Hampshire. While she has only been playing ‘heavy, euro-type games’ for a few years, she certainly isn’t new to gaming as a hobby in general.

“My parents separated when I was four, and I would go to visit my dad every other weekend, one of those deals. And we would always play Monopoly, and five-card stud. Some of the skills he taught me were important: like how to play against other players, and how to psychologically get them to do what I want.”

Those skills, coupled with sessions of penny-Poker during family gatherings, and her experiences playing D&D 3rd edition in middle school, ended up feeding a curiosity that eventually shaped a huge part of her grad school experience.

“I’ve taken a lot of the skills that my dad taught me and incorporated them into modern gaming. It wasn’t a big leap for me.”

At a ‘getting to know each other’ party at Syracuse University, she was introduced to Settlers of Catan, and liked it so much that she tracked down a friendly local game store that sold it. It turned out that the FLGS held regular Settlers and Munchkin Tournaments, so she and her friends signed up and started participating regularly (she even won a few times!).

“People see strategy games and think, oh, I’ve got to get points. I’ve got to build my engine. I’m not into sabotaging people, but I’m not above manipulating them to do the things I want them to do in order to help me. Sometimes if you stack hands the right way, you can force opponents to pick the card that you want them to pick – one that benefits you.”

In addition to her involvement with local tournaments throughout grad school, Amanda also took part in a two and a half year long Dungeons & Dragons campaign with her friends.

“We were really nerdy about it. It incorporated rotating DMs, and time travel. We went back in time and invested in a tavern. We even calculated the compound interest on our investment. When we got back to the future, we had so much gold that we could buy anything.”

After grad school, Amanda found herself surrounded by a new crowd of hobbyists, some who even design their own games. They mostly spend their time playing titles like Great Western Trail and Terraforming Mars.

“I prefer board games and RPGs over other games, really, because it forces people to be together and honor commitments. It’s a social obligation, and it’s been really good for maintaining our friendships. Even though we’ve all gone in our separate directions, it’s something that keeps us in contact and meeting every month.”

When we sat down at PAXU in December, Amanda was making the rounds and enjoying the growth that the convention had seen in the last year. She had a lot of positive things to say about attending conventions solo.

“Going to cons alone forces you to meet new people, make connections, and join games that you might not be able to if you have someone else with you. Breaking away and doing your own thing is a completely different experience.”

She mentioned that she sees people wandering around in groups and can’t help but wonder if they miss out on some of the experience by staying within their bubbles and comfort zones.

“I like playing games against people I don’t know because they usually underestimate me…. to their own peril.”

 

Comment

Comment

Player Character - Ryan Hartman

"Family board game night is a thing for a reason. I'm excited for this tradition to grow in our house."

Meet Ryan Hartman, the man who makes PAX and made his D&D debut with Penny Arcade as Donaar Blit'zen on Acquisitions Inc. The C Team.

Player Character Level 1, Episode 2.

Created by Anne Richmond and Active Player Network

Special Thanks:

  • Ryan Hartman

  • Elyssa Grant

  • Penny Arcade

  • @bernadettemeeke

  • @encifer

  • @mattwhodraws

  • @nurse_normal

  • @robinachilds

  • @doonami

  • @elithecartoon

  • @iscaneus

  • @kaldrenon

  • @knitpixy

  • @maxwellsdaemon

  • @shinybatgirl

Comment