DreamHack Atlanta Game Spotlight

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DreamHack Atlanta Game Spotlight

DreamHack is only 5 days away! We are so excited to be bringing livestreamed tabletop games to a whole new audience. We now have the official streaming schedule, so make sure to follow ahead of time so you can join in on the fun.

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And to get you even more hyped: here is a spotlight on each of the games we’ll be playing.

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Casters and Cantrips Session 5

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Casters and Cantrips Session 5

The fifth episode of Casters and Cantrips, a live, interactive D&D show at The Cauldron Magical Experience in NYC, is here! There's only one episode left! What trouble will our adventurers get into this time?

-Watch live Monday 7pm EST at https://www.twitch.tv/activeplayernetwork

Cast and Crew:

Dungeon Master: Miles Duffield

Donovaine (Fire Genasi Bard): Chris Bailey

Leiya (Half-Orc Paladin): Amy Chrzanowski

Portia (Drow Artificier): Anne Richmond

Jyn (Dragonborn Ranger): Dexter Warren

Director of Photography: Deanna Amoia

Event Coordinator for The Cauldron: Anna Hogan

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Game Overview- Escape Tales: The Awakening

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Game Overview- Escape Tales: The Awakening

So before I jump into talking about this game, there are three things you should know:

1. I should have played this before Halloween so you guys had time to get it and play it on Halloween, but instead Iplayed it on Halloween, so you’ll just have to play it on a random Thursday or something. 

2. I used to work as a “Game Master” in an Escape Room.

3. There are some darker subject matters in this game, including death, possible suicide or murder, and drug use. So if you are sensitive to any of those subjects, proceed with caution. The game does recommend ages 16 and up, so this is not a fun-for-the-whole-family game.

 

Okay! Let’s get into it!

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Escape Tales: The Awakening is the first in a series of Escape Room style games from Board and Dice. It’s a cooperative game for 1-4 players that puts you in the mindset of a man named Samuel, whose wife Jennifer passed away a few years ago, and whose daughter Lizzy recently fell into a coma. You meet a man named Mark who tells you that this happened to his own son, and he used a book to conduct a ritual called The Awakening. Mark warns that conducting this ritual comes at a very high price. And none of that is a spoiler, it’s literally on the cover of the story book. I will do my best to avoid spoilers, because the whole point of escape room games is that you’re experiencing it for the first time. 


Setting Up the Game

This game is really intuitive and there aren’t a lot of components. You’ll need the rule book, the story book (I recommend choosing one person to be the “narrator” who will read all of the paragraphs) and the game board, which has a grid system. You’ll then use three sets of cards: Clue cards (marked with a C), Location cards (marked with an L), and Doom cards (marked with a D). Lastly, you’ll need red actions tokens to indicate you’ve visited a location, and some form of internet connection (a phone, a computer, whatever) to access the “app” for riddles. You don’t actually have to download an app, just go to a specific webpage.

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The story book will tell you everything you need to know, including plot and flavor text, what location cards you’ll get and set up on the board, and what clue cards you find in each location. Side note: if you’re playing around a coffee table and sitting on the floor like we were, don’t leave the story book on the floor if you have a dog. She will try to run to the door to greet trick-or-treaters and wind up ripping the cover of the book. I know that’s an incredibly specific set of circumstances but what I’m saying is: learn from my mistakes.

 

Gameplay

The game plays like an escape room and a choose your own adventure. You are given a set amount of action tokens per room, and you spend a token to go to a location in the room. For example, if you see a book on the floor in the location card artwork and you want to read the book, put a token on B2, which is the square on the grid map that has the book on it, and then read the passage in the story book marked on the grid card (in this case, C093). Some locations will give you an item you might need, like a key, or you might go to a location because you see an item you need in the artwork. 

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You’ll probably want to literally explore every square of every location, but each time you explore, you’ll need to spend an action token. When you run out of action tokens, you can choose to take a Doom card. They’ll allow you take more action tokens, but it may come with a price. So you’ll need to pick your search locations carefully and make sure everyone you’re playing with is on the same page.

 

Sometimes you’ll go to a location thinking you’ll be finding one thing, and actually find something else. For instance, when we played I didn’t feel like solving a riddle to open something, so I saw a bunch of tools on the wall and went, “I’m just going to go get a hammer and break the lock!” But that’s not how this game works. If it’s not in the text of the story, you can’t do it. So even though the picture may have hammers on the wall, if the story text doesn’t say “You grab a hammer,” you don’t get to do it. And if only you could do that in real escape rooms. That would certainly stop people from trying to unscrew outlet covers or picking up a couch to look under it (both of those actually happened).

The other type of card you’ll encounter in the clue deck are riddle cards. They’re self-explanatory; they have a riddle you have to solve, and often times you’ll need more than one card (thus having to spend another action token to explore somewhere else in the room) to solve it. This is the only time you’ll need the app, as each riddle has a symbol in the bottom right corner of the card. You’ll click that symbol on the app, and that will take you to a page to enter your answer.  

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The cool thing about these is the app will tell you how many cards are needed to solve the riddle (so you don’t waste time guessing without all the pertinent information), and if you want, it will give you a hint for how to solve the riddle. We were incredibly prideful people and wasted far too much time trying to solve riddles without the hint. I’m not saying that’s bad or good. But the option is there if you want the help.

 

And that’s basically it! You’ll explore multiple locations, solving puzzles and trying to figure out what happened to Lizzie and how to save her. The game has multiple endings depending on different choices you make and how long you take to reach the end, so you can play again to try to get a better ending, or see what would happen if you made different choices.

 

My Thoughts

For me, escape rooms need both a good theme and good puzzles, and Escape Tales: The Awakening has both. For the theme, it threw us off a little at first that we were all “playing” one person, but we adjusted quickly because the theme was so strong. As someone used to physically moving around the room searching for clues, the grid exploration system made perfect sense, and the action token limitation simulated the time limit you face without actually causing the stress of a timed mission. And I am so very glad this isn’t a timed game the way other escape room games are. That is truly a personal choice, and some people like the added pressure as a way to force you to make decisions and move forward. I’m just not one of them.

 

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The puzzles were fun and had a nice variety of difficulty. I can’t say much more about them without spoiling anything, but I will recommend having a notepad and a piece of paper nearby. As far as the multiple endings go, I’ve only experienced one of them so far. But I am very excited to play with a new group of people and see if we get a different ending. There are times when you very clearly have to choose between one thing or another, and I can’t wait to see what happens when we pick the other option.

Now an important thing to keep in mind: this game is long. 3-6 hours, so sayeth the box. And honestly, that’s probably if you’re moving quickly. We took a long time figuring things out, because we had trouble getting on the same page and deciding in what order to do things (another recommendation I have for this game: make sure you all agree on where to go and what to do). But there is an option to pause and pick it up later if you can’t commit to 6 hours of gaming at once; they even have boxes in the back of the rulebook to fill out, so you remember what you need. Or you can just take a picture of where you left off and put those cards somewhere separate.  Either way, it’s nice to have the option to play the game in multiple sessions.

 

Overall, I would say that this game’s huge commitment to themeing and innate gameplay mechanics make it a must play for escape room enthusiasts or anyone who enjoys cooperative games. If you’ve played either The Awakening, or the newest in the Escape Tales line, Low Memory, let us know in the comments what you thought! 

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Casters and Cantrips Session 4

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Casters and Cantrips Session 4

The fourth episode of Casters and Cantrips, a live, interactive D&D show at The Cauldron Magical Experience in NYC, is here! The team descends into a stronghold to confront the Hags...


Cast and Crew:

Dungeon Master: Miles Duffield

Donovaine (Fire Genasi Bard): Chris Bailey

Leiya (Half-Orc Paladin): Amy Chrzanowski

Portia (Drow Artificier): Anne Richmond

Jyn (Dragonborn Ranger): Dexter Warren

Director of Photography: Deanna Amoia

Event Coordinator for The Cauldron: Anna Hogan



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Active Player Network is Going to Dreamhack Atlanta!

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Active Player Network is Going to Dreamhack Atlanta!

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Exciting news! Active Player Network will be hosted by tabletop titans Level Up Dice at DreamHack Atlanta to bring board games to a new audience. APN will be taking over the DreamHack Twitch stream to highlight several games for this new audience and we hope you'll grab a seat at the table.

During the show we're partnering with Leder Games, Renegade Game Studios, Brotherwise Games, Looney Labs, Iello, and more, to bring you a front row seat to:
Root
Vast: Mysterious Manor
Bargain Quest with the new AI Penny Arcade Bonus Pack
Boss Monster 3
Marvel Fluxx
Time Breaker
Bunny Kingdom
AND the new DM and Single Player Character rules featured in the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit

Keep checking back for updates on the game list and streaming schedule!







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Casters and Cantrips Session 3: An Interactive D&D Show!

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Casters and Cantrips Session 3: An Interactive D&D Show!

The third episode of Casters and Cantrips, a live, interactive D&D show at The Cauldron Magical Experience in NYC, is here! Join our four heroes as they name their new baby Owlbear and do some wild soul bargaining.

Cast and Crew:

Dungeon Master: Miles Duffield

Donovaine (Fire Genasi Bard): Chris Bailey

Leiya (Half-Orc Paladin): Amy Chrzanowski

Portia (Drow Artificier): Anne Richmond

Jyn (Dragonborn Ranger): Dexter Warren

Director of Photography: Deanna Amoia

Event Coordinator for The Cauldron: Anna Hogan



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Game Overview- Cities: Skylines

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Game Overview- Cities: Skylines

Based on the popular video game, the board game version of Cities: Skylines by Thames and Kosmos is a 1-4 player cooperative game where the goal is to plan, build, and manage a city. Join Anne as she teaches you the basics of game mechanics, and pick up Cities: Skylines at your FLGS on October 25!

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Game Preview: Wayfinders

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Game Preview: Wayfinders

Do you ever find yourself just playing the same handful of games over and over again? Just me? It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I’m comfortable. I love learning new games, but let’s be honest, I love being taught new games. So imagine my surprise when I checked out Wayfinders by Pandasaurus Games, and was able to not only read through, but understand all of the rules well enough to teach the game at my next game night. 

If you’re looking to learn a bit more about this new game before it releases at your FLGS later this month, you’ve come to the right place!

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Setting Up the Game

First, decide what color you’re going to play. You have a choice of orange, blue, white, or dark green. Take your color’s airplane, 5 worker meeples, and 10 airstrips.

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 Next, you’re going to shuffle the three different colored decks separately, then pull 9 red, 8 blue, and 7 yellow cards and shuffle them all together. Set them up on a 5x5 grid with the home square in the middle. 

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 Put all of the resource tokens into the resource bag and shake it up (Note: you’ll only need to do this the first time you play, after that you’ll likely just keep the tokens in that bag all the time). The 5 resource are: Parachutes (green), Headphones (purple), Gas Cans (red), Tires (yellow), and Propellers (navy). 

I must say, I appreciate that the resources can be done by color or by symbol, just in case you’re playing with someone who has trouble distinguishing colors. The resources will correspond with island types, which I’ll explain later, but it can’t hurt to know about it now.

 Each player draws one resource randomly from the bag.

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Now you’re going to set up the Hangar. Set it up somewhere where all players can access it, and fill up each row with three resources pulled randomly from the bag. You’ll fill double the amount of rows as players, so 4 rows for 2 players, 6 for 3 players, and all 8 for 4 players. Don’t worry if you’re confused, the board has a little marking at the top of each row to remind you.

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Last but not least, determine turn order. The person to most recently travel by plane goes first, and play continues clockwise. The first player will put one airstrip on the 1 square on home island, the second player puts one airstrip on the 2 square, and so on. Players start with their airplanes all on the home square!

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 Gameplay

When it’s your turn you get to take one of two actions: 1. Place a worker at the hangar, or 2. Collect all your workers from the hangar. 

The first action is super easy, you just place a worker meeple in one of the rows of the hangar, behind any other meeples that are already in line. You can only have three of your own workers in one row, but there can be more than three workers total

That’s all you have to do! Your turn is now over.

 

If you choose to collect your workers, you get to take 4 sub-actions, in this order:

1. Collect resources and return workers

You’ll collect all of your workers, and one resource per worker in each column. You must take the topmost resource, regardless of where your worker is in line. So in the below example, if blue chose to collect their workers, they would take the red gas can resource, even though they are third in line. This lets you be strategic about when to collect your resources and lets you cut off your competitors.

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 2. Move your Airplane and Build Airstrips

If you want, you can fly your airplane around the board to build more airstrips and collect the rewards of the square/island you build on. If there is already an airstrip on the island, even if it’s not yours, you can fly there for free. If there is no airstrip, you need to pay one resource in the color of the mountain at the bottom right of the island (think of it as having to use fuel to fly over the island, rather than landing on the airstrip and refueling). You can fly anywhere you want, as long as you are moving orthogonally, and you have the resources to do so.

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To build an airstrip, you need to have all of the resources shown on the bottom of the island (or, you can use two of the same resources to make a “wild” resource). If you’re the first person to build an airstrip on that island, you pay the resources to the bank, but if someone else already has an airstrip on the island, you pay them the resources. 

 You then collect the reward on the top left of the card, which could be everything from immediate resources, to making certain resource colors work as a sort of “wild” color, to providing extra victory points for particular island configurations. There is admittedly a lot of island rewards, and you won’t necessarily play with all of them in each game. Luckily, there is an incredibly helpful, double-sided reference card that explains all of the different rewards, and will stop all of the players from asking you “wait, what does this do?” over and over. (Well, it might. It didn’t stop the people I played with. But I did keep referring them to the card anyway.)

 

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The order you place your airstrips is another great opportunity for strategizing and messing with other players. Maybe you don’t necessarily need that island, but you know someone else does, so you go ahead and put an airstrip there so that when they go to put the airstrip down, they have to give you extra resources. And the amount of resources you can hold at once is limited, because the next thing you have to do is…

 

3. Discard down to 3 resources

So here you were thinking you could just hoard a bunch of resources and then place a bunch of airstrips in one turn, huh? Well the game has thought of that, so now you have to discard down to 3 resources. There are some island rewards that allow you to discard one less (and one of our players definitely exploited that and wound up being allowed to keep 6 resources) but without that, you’re going to have to be very strategic about when you pull your resources and make sure your plane is in a location where you can actually use your resources. Finally…

 

4. Refill the hangar

This step is super easy, just move any remaining resources in the hangar to the topmost available slots, and draw new resources from the bag to fill the missing slots. It feels natural to try to do this step right after you collect your workers, but this must be done after all the other steps because available resources may change depending on airstrips placed or resources discarded.

 

And that’s pretty much it! You’re going to keep taking turns either placing workers or collecting workers (and doing all of the sub-steps), gaining advantages based on where you’ve placed your airstrips, until one player has 2 or less airstrips remaining. This triggers the final round, where everyone gets one last turn (likely choosing the collect workers action), and then you begin the scoring phase, which is helpfully explained on the reference card. Basically, any island with a resource or a permanent effect gets you a flat number of victory points, while an island with a scoring effect gives you that number of victory points multiple times for however many times you fulfilled that condition. It’s incredibly intuitive.

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 My Thoughts

This game is a lot of fun! We played it twice in one night, and even with learning how to play, and playing it twice, we still had time to play another game after. I’d say it took us about 30 minutes per game, which is right in the 25-45 minute time slot that the box says it takes. We did have one player who was determined to place her airstrips as soon as possible, and since that triggers the endgame, that explains why we kind of sped through it. Which brings me to another thought:

Who you play this game with absolutely affects your strategy. If you’re playing with someone who is throwing down airstrips the second she gets enough resources, you can’t really play the long game plan. If the other players immediately spread out across the board, you’re not really going to be able to take advantage of collecting resources from other players for them building airstrips on “your” island. Plus, the randomness of the islands you play with, and where they show up on the board, can change up your plan from the get-go. For that reason, this doesn’t feel like a game where once you have “your” strategy, it’s the same game no matter how many times you play.

 

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For people who play games a lot, this is an easy game to learn. For newcomers to games, I think it has just enough rules to make it interesting and complex, without being overwhelming. It’s a game you can learn as you play. Just don’t expect to win that way.

 

Lastly, don’t be like us and put all of the island tiles touching each other. You lose the effect of them feeling like “islands”. It’s such a tiny detail, but it really does make a lot of difference. Plus, then you can make airplane noises as you fly from island to island.

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Wayfinders will be available on October 30th at your FLGS! Let us know if you’re planning on picking up a copy for yourself, and show us pictures of your island configurations.

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Casters and Cantrips Session 2

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Casters and Cantrips Session 2

This ain't your mother's owl bear hunt! Casters & Cantrips is back for some more thrilling heroics.

Cast and Crew:

Dungeon Master: Miles Duffield

Donovaine (Fire Genasi Bard): Chris Bailey

Leiya (Half-Orc Paladin): Amy Chrzanowski

Portia (Drow Artificier): Anne Richmond

Jyn (Dragonborn Ranger): Dexter Warren

Director of Photography: Deanna Amoia

Event Coordinator for The Cauldron: Anna Hogan

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13 Spooky Games for Halloween

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13 Spooky Games for Halloween

Hey there Active Players! It’s October, which means it’s time to get spooky! We have selected 13 games for the Halloween season, separated into 3 different categories: The Classics, The New/Not as Heavily Featured, and Your Favorite Game Mechanics but Zombie-Themed. Whether you’re looking for a quick 10-minute game or a three-hour tour, a party game or a 2-player game, we’ve got you covered.

 

The Classics

These are the games that you’ll see on several other lists, but we like them so much we have to include them anyway.

Betrayal at House on the Hill/Betrayal Legacy : Avalon Hill

If you’ve followed Active Player Network and read pretty much any of our Player Character interviews, you’ll know that Betrayal at House on the Hill is an excellent gateway game. You star as characters in a B horror movie, and as you explore the haunted house you lay out different room tiles, creating a new house every time you play. Once the “haunt” is triggered, one of you becomes the traitor, and it becomes one player versus the others. It’s a very easy-to-learn game and has tremendous replayability. For those of you who already own it and have played through all 50 of the haunts (or you just love expansions), check out the expansion: Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk. And if you want the choices you’ve made in a previous game to carry over, try Betrayal: Legacy, where you play as different generations of the same family.

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One Night Ultimate Werewolf: Bezier Games

Do you like bluffing games? Werewolf was one of the OGs. One or more of you are werewolves terrorizing the town, and the rest of you are various villagers, some with special powers such as the ability to swap or steal cards, trying to find and kill that werewolf. There’s no board, it’s just you and your friends, in a room, yelling at each other. You have a limited amount of time to argue your case about who you think is a werewolf, and you don’t want to get the wrong person accused or else an innocent villager will die and the werewolf will run free to kill again. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a short-and-sweet version, and an excellent party game for up to 10 players. It even has an app to talk you through the “open your eyes, look around, close your eyes,” opening sequence. If you’ve played this game before and you always get grumpy when you’re just a normal villager, try the Daybreak expansion, in which everyone has a special power.

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Fury of Dracula: WizKids

Another option for the one-versus-many style game, Fury of Dracula has one player as the titular Count, and the rest as famous hunters trying to work together to bring him down. The hunters will be trying to find Dracula’s trail and kill him, while Dracula will be trying to elude the hunters and increase his influence until he has taken over the world! Well, at least Europe. There have been 4 editions of this game, with the most recent being published by WizKids, and each edition has streamlined the rules and produced better components. But hey, if you’re a collector, track ‘em all down before you take on Dracula.

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Gloom: Atlas Games

Making other people happy is supposed to make you happy, right? Well in this game, you’re trying to make your characters as miserable as possible. Each player controls one family, and you want to bestow the worst possible circumstances upon your family, while preventing the other families from being too sad by giving them good things. It’s all very backwards. First player to humiliate their family enough to kill them off, wins! This game sounds super morbid, but is actually quite lighthearted and farcical due to the artwork and the nature of the mishaps. 

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The New/Not as Heavily Featured

Here you’ll find some games that aren’t as popular or well-known, but have caught our attention for one reason or another. Definitely a good place to look if you’ve played the previously-listed games or want to find something a little different.

 

Escape Tales: Low Memory/The Awakening: Board and Dice 

Spooky Escape Rooms in a box! We’ve talked about these games before, but we’re SUPER excited about Escape Tales: Low Memory, which should be hitting game store shelves on October 24th, just in time for Halloween. It looks like Black Mirror as an escape game, and we are all about it. And if it’s anything like Escape Tales: The Awakening, the game is replayable, with multiple endings and story paths! Gather yourself and up to three of your friends, and then the next night find three MORE friends. These are the perfect options if you want a cooperative, but still spooky, game night.

 Nyctophobia: Pandasaurus Games

This is a 1 vs. Many game mechanic with a bit of a twist: the many are wearing blackout glasses and cannot see the board. Your goal is to stumble your way into each other, find the getaway car, and avoid the Hunter (played by the 1 player). This is a game that involves all the senses and really gets you invested in the story, which is only aided by the Hunter player also acting as a Game Master of sorts as they guide the players’ hands on the board. The Hunter player can really get into it too, making noise on the board so that the other players hear them coming, or providing other sensory effects. Out of game talking generates noise tokens and alerts the Hunter to where you are. You are completely enveloped in the experience, and if you’re afraid of the dark, or getting chased, or just being scared in general… well you’re going to hate this in all the best ways. 

 

Kids on Bikes: Renegade Game Studios and Hunters Entertainment

You didn’t think we would make it through a list without including at least one RPG, did you? Kids on Bikes is a horror-themed collaborative RPG where you play normal people dealing with some paranormal forces. You get different stat boosts based on if you play a kid, a teenager, or an adult, and it has an incredibly accessible mechanics system good for newcomers to RPGs, or people who just want something nice and easy to change up their RPGs. It absolutely feels like one of those nostalgic 80s stories like E.T, The Goonies, or Stranger Things.

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It: Evil Below: The OP

Speaking of nostalgic 80s stories! It’s always nice to work together trying not to die, and It: Evil Below is a great new co-op game to scratch that itch. You play as members of the Losers Club trying to make your way through the town of Derry and defeat Pennywise before he amasses too much influence, too many victims, or just flat out kills you. If you like those “million ways to lose but only one way to win” co-op games, you’ll love this one. It has a strong theme, great art, and fun game mechanics.

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Disney Villainous: Ravensburger

It feels good to bad! This insanely popular game offers you a unique experience with each villain you play, and with 6 villains in the base game and 3 in each expansion you’ll have a ton of ways to be crowned the fairest of them all. Each villain has a different end goal, and you have to try to achieve yours while simultaneously trying to prevent the other players from achieving theirs. It requires a lot of strategy, just like any good Disney villain has. 

Villainous also has two standalone expansions: Wicked to the Core gives you the Evil Queen from Snow White, Dr. Facilier from Princess and the Frog, and Hades from Hercules, while Evil Comes Prepared gives you Scar from The Lion King, Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove, and Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective (where else can you find love for that incredibly underrated movie?). You can play with any of the three, but once you see how differently each villain plays, you’ll probably want to buy them all.

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Your Favorite Game Mechanics, but Zombie-Themed

Kind of self-explanatory.

Zombie Dice: Steve Jackson Games 

Zombie Dice is a press-your-luck dice rolling game. You, as a zombie, want to eat people and not get shot. You can keep re-rolling your dice trying to get brains and not get shot, or you can stop early and play it safe. It is probably the shortest game to play on this list and has the easiest rules, so it’s also a good game to play before/after trick-or-treating. 

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Zombie Fluxx: Looney Labs
Fluxx is the game where the rules are constantly changing, and you never really know what’s going to happen next. You’re trying to survive the changing rules, survive the zombie apocalypse, and achieve the goal before someone plays a new goal card and dramatically alters the direction of the game. It’s a fast-paced game that usually runs around 15-20 minutes, unless you have that one player who would rather stop you from winning at the expense of losing themselves (everyone stop looking at me okay?!). It offers great replayability and works as a good opener or palette cleanser.

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Munchkin Zombies: Steve Jackson Games
Munchkin is likely the most well-known screw-over-your-friend game, and Munchkin Zombies is pretty self-explanatory. Now you get to screw over your friends and be a zombie! This particular iteration of Munchkin has some hilarious cards, particularly for the types of “armor” you can put on. 

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Tiny Epic Zombies: Gamelyn Games 

With zombie-themed games you have to either play as the zombies, or play as the people killing the zombies. But like, why not both? The cool thing about Tiny Epic Zombies is that it is actually 5 different gameplay styles in one: you have two different cooperative modes (one in which it’s all of you versus game-controlled zombies, and one where one player controls the zombies), two different competitive modes (one in which you’re free for all-ing against game-controlled zombies, and one where one player controls the zombies), and then a solo mode! Each one has similar objectives and mechanics, but the gameplay feels different each time. As with all of the Tiny Epic games, it is condensed into a small box perfect for fitting in a purse, backpack, or slightly large pocket, so it’s easy to take around with you and bust out when the need arises. 

 

 

Which of these games are you most looking forward to trying next? Do you already have a favorite? Let us know in the comments and get your spooky on!

 

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Casters and Cantrips Session 1!

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Casters and Cantrips Session 1!

The first episode of Casters and Cantrips, a live, interactive D&D show at The Cauldron Magical Experience in NYC, is here! Join our four heroes as they enter the magical world of Fai'Dai, sitting just outside the view of humans, here in the world of New York City itself.

You can always see the newest episode on our Twitch channel (twitch.tv/activeplayernetwork) Mondays at 7pm EST. Episodes will be uploaded to YouTube the following Friday at 3pm EST.

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Player Character Spotlight: Miles Duffield, Dungeon Master for Casters and Cantrips!

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Player Character Spotlight: Miles Duffield, Dungeon Master for Casters and Cantrips!

Our final Casters and Cantrips Player Character Spotlight is our illustrious Dungeon Master himself: Miles Duffield! Miles talks about being a professional DM, the difference between a group gathered around a table and a live show, and the charity work he does with Geeks4Good!

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RP: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

MD: I’m Miles Duffield, I’m a geek, a weirdo, I love birdwatching, sword fighting, storytelling, and food and drink, but especially when it’s a secret.  I’m an ex-actor/stuntman/dogwalker from Telluride Colorado, and I’ve lived across the US, but I currently reside in Brooklyn NY, where I stream on twitch.tv/geeks4good, and am a professional Dungeon Master.  My service is specifically for the busy, the curious, and the serious: i.e. people who don’t have time to prepare and run a game, people who want to learn but are daunted by the size of the rulebook, and people who know exactly what they want, and need someone to deliver it for them.  I run a bunch of systems, and can learn any you are interested in trying. People can email me at bookagamewithmiles@gmail.com to, well, book a game with me.

RP: What is Geeks4Good?

MD:Geeks4Good is a twitch variety channel that streams tabletop RPGs, video games, and board games in order to raise funds and awareness for different nonprofits and charities.  I started G4G in 2017, confused and disillusioned with the world, and just started… Doing it! We had a great year, shot up, gained an amazing following, and raised $15,000 for various nonprofits and charities including Child’s Play, Game To Grow, and Paws and Stripes.  We went on a hiatus in 2018 when I realized that my do first, ask questions later had made a fragile structure that was going to fall down, so we’ve been restructuring hard for the last year and a half, and I’m gunning for a re-opening of our tabletop content mid-2020! Meanwhile though, I’m streaming video games, and GM musings 5 days a week from 1-9 with a dinner break somewhere in there.  Come hang out at twitch.tv/geeks4good!

 

RP: When/why did you start playing RPGs?

MD:  I started playing RPGs in freshman year of high school.  I remember seeing the 3.5 edition core pack of Dungeons and Dragons in my local Hastings, who for those of you not from the southwest in the mid new-millennium, was the Christian-acceptable Hot Topic with way more books and movies. I brought it to my mom, and told her that I thought I needed it, the 100+ dollars for the core set still being a massive expense for me. I remember her looking at me and it a little suspiciously, and saying, “are you sure,” and I said, yes, I am sure.  

I rolled up 10 characters on the car ride home.  Got so sick I puked.

 

RP: What are some of your favorite RPG systems to play?

MD:  I am in love with D&D, especially as a Dungeon Master.  It gives me the flexibility I need to shine. I’m also a huge fan of Starfinder, and the new Pathfinder, while I haven’t gotten to play it, is the future of stimulatory RPG systems. It’s brilliant. Recently I’ve developed a deep obsession with Arc Dream’s new Delta Green Edition, and the written modules for that are unlike anything else I’ve seen written down other than the maddening scrawls of my own prep.  I also have a soft place in my heart for Shadowrun, which has my favorite fictional world ever, and Rememorex, an 80’s nostalgia indie game by my friend Sean Jaffe, of Nerdy City has some of the best character creation mechanics in the business.  

 

RP: How do you find people to play with?

MD: This is something I’ve always struggled with.  I have trouble making friends, and finding friends who are also interested in playing TTRPGs is doubly hard.  But honestly, there has never been a better time than now for it! I see more people daily that I never would have expected getting into D&D!  Ask around! Be Bold! Be kind and welcoming!

 

RP: Do you prefer to be a player or the DM and why?

MD:  I am now pretty solidly a DM.  I love storytelling, I love improvising, and I love the illusion of control and shattering it, for both my players and myself.  Riding the wave of being a DM on their high is as good as the feeling of perfectly blocking a sword cut you had forgotten was in the choreography.  DMing is that feeling over and over again. Constant inspiration and expiration. Riding a strange edge.  

 

RP: Do you play board games at all? What are some of your favorites and why?

MD: I do!  I love board games!  A special favorite of mine is Everdell which is about woodland creatures making new towns around the Evertree!  It’s so precious, beautifully crafted, it merges pieces of about 6 different mechanics from other board games seamlessly, and at the end it’s really pretty to look at and everyone feels like they made something, no matter how many points they got.

 

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

MD: Yes.  I started playing video games when I was very young.  I cried over Mario, threw controllers over Ocarina of Time, and celebrated my first perfect Call of Duty win with pizza.  I found board games much later, but in-person gaming has become the part of my life I chase more and more. Tabletop roleplaying games are my favorite things in the world.

 

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

MD: This is not good, but I don’t. I love it so much, I made it work.  That has led to a bunch of personal problems and a solid degree of psychic pain as I figure out work-life balance when everything I love becomes work.  I’m finding that I am able to find greater peace when I’m actively taking time to do things that I don’t like the most, but that calm me; long walks, meditating, physical activity.  It’s been a balancing act that I’ve failed at quite a lot. But you learn to juggle primarily by dropping balls, so I’m on my way.

RP: What are you most looking forward to for Casters and Cantrips?

MD: The audience. I’m not trying to butter you up. Live audiences change everything. And with our interactive mechanics that we’ve designed, based on the metagames we played on Geeks4Good, you are going to have greater opportunities to reach into the game and change it!  I’m very excited to see where we take each other. And this weird wacky world I’ve built... I did it all live on stream on Geeks4Good, so feel free to go check out the VODs for a preview.

 

RP: What are some things you do as a DM to prepare for a new campaign? What do you have to change to prepare for a game that will be streamed?

MD: I largely write out sensations of places.  Things that help me describe the places I think we’ll end up in.  I dream a lot about problems that might arise, and solve little things before my players even get there.  I try to fall deeply in love with the ideas I have, so that adoration carries over to my players, and they love and fear the things I bring to the table.  The thing that a year of running games on stream taught me is that the only difference between running a game in private, and running a game in front of people is that you speak a little louder, and you make eye contact with the audience as well as the players when you story tell.  People want to be at the table with you. D&D is performative by nature. I don’t need to work at it.

 

RP: How do you think the interactive audience will make this game different than a “traditional” D&D game?

 MD: Chaos.  Pure chaos.  Showing favor or animosity towards the players, you are going to heighten the amount of impulses in the room, which is going to raise the stakes, which is going to be remarkably exciting.  Interactive games are my actual favorite thing in the world.  

 

RP: Do you have any advice for people just starting out with RPGs?

MD: Yes!  It took me YEARS to realize this: The game is yours.  D&D once you’ve bought it no longer belongs to the designers. Play the game your way. Find players who like to play the same way. Be respectful.  Be kind. Be understanding. Listen. LISTEN. Don’t pay attention to the FB groups or the message boards, or anyone who tells you how D&D “should” be played.  In fact, avoid people who use the word “Should.” Have fun. It is a game after all.

 

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Player Character Spotlight: Amy Chrzanowski, Leiya in Casters and Cantrips!

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Player Character Spotlight: Amy Chrzanowski, Leiya in Casters and Cantrips!

Meet Amy! A long-time cosplayer who took her love of roleplaying and put it towards a roleplaying game; Amy brings her bright-eyed, positive wonderment to the role of Leiya, Half-Orc Paladin and lover of herbology.

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RP: Tell me a little bit about yourself!

AC:  My name is Amy Chrzanowski and I’m a proud Jersey girl from Central Jersey (which is definitely a place. We’re close to the shore but still know that New York is what you mean by “the city”). I’m adopted from South Korea and totally view myself as more Italian/Polish.

In my normal, “every day” life, I work in food marketing. In my (lack of) spare time, I’m the Global Membership Director for a Star Wars fan organization called Saber Guild and am currently in rehearsals for Elf the Musical with Narrows Community Theater in Brooklyn.  I love the color purple, all things Disney, have an unhealthy obsession with dogs, and can eat my weight in popcorn.  

 

RP: So I hear you have quite the extensive cosplay history…

AC: I lived in Orlando, FL from May 2008-May 2009 while doing the Disney College Program. When I returned to the tri-state area, I wanted to find a way to volunteer and connect with others in the NYC community. 

I had just missed a volunteer meeting for Make-A-Wish when I moved to the city, which was a bit disheartening; but then, my friend Molly sent me an article about “lightsaber classes”. I mean, they had me at “lightsabers”, but watching their video about their day at St.Mary’s Hospital really touched me and it was like a sign. Dress as a Jedi and perform with lightsabers to raise awareness and money for amazing charities - including Make-A-Wish? This was my calling. 

I reached out to Empire Saber Guild on Twitter and attended a class a month or two later. It then took me a year to pull together my first costume - my generic Jedi, Kamyos Rehnard - but since then I’ve upgraded my Jedi, gotten 2 Sith costumes, joined Rebel Legion (as a Jedi and Rose Tico), and the 501st (as an Imperial Officer). 

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My time with Saber Guild: Empire Temple has allowed me to embody what I believe to be the principles of the Jedi. We have raised thousands of dollars for local charities such as St.Mary’s Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House - and we’ve been fortunate enough to perform for the families at both locations. I also aided our Local Director, Rubin Polizzi, in the formation of a kids lightsaber training program called “Padawan Training Institute”. We’ve trained younglings at high profile events such as Star Wars Celebration Chicago, Star Wars Celebration Orlando, Hascon, and Play Fair (to name a few). 

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Currently, I am the Global Membership Director for Saber Guild International and finishing up a year as the PR Director for Saber Guild: Empire Temple. I’m so proud of the amazing work this organization does around the globe. Our members are incredible. 

 

RP: How much overlap do you see between cosplay and roleplay?

AC: A ton! Truthfully, I’ve been looking into pieces to wear during Casters and Cantrips!

I’m not necessarily saying you need to cosplay to roleplay, but it’s definitely a lot more fun! To me, for cosplay (especially on a Saber Guild Level, where many of our characters are our own, unique characters), there’s an element of storytelling. One of my favorite cosplays is Rose Tyler from the episode “Idiot’s Lantern” - not just because of the pretty pink heels and skirt, but I really enjoyed the episode. Yes, it was a fun episode about the Coronation, but it also dealt with abusive families, a mother taking a stand, and a son learning to forgive (“of course, he’s your dad”). 

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 When it comes to cosplaying for roleplay, I think it only enhances who your character is on a deeper level. Knowing that my Casters and Cantrips character is into plants and botany, I purchased long, brown gloves. They felt D&D-ish to me, but I felt it would be good for her to have something to protect her arms when digging in the dirt, especially around plants with thorns. 

 Yep, these are things I ponder in my everyday life. But that’s all I’ll say about that. Sorry for talking your ear off!

 

 RP: Don’t apologize for passion! You have such an incredible insight to character building. When/why did you start playing RPGs?

AC: Unlike some of the other players, I did not grow up playing table top games like D&D. My experience with “RPGs” stemmed from online RPG forums and games like Knights of the Old Republic. I recently fell into tabletop and RPG games thanks to my friends Anne and Miles (oh hey! They’re in this show too!)

RP: Do you play board games at all? What are some of your favorites and why?

AC: My family was big on board games, especially since my parents were brought up on the classics like MonopolyClue, and Battleship. I actually just brought some 80s and 90s vintage board games home to play with my boyfriend and his kids. The collection includes such gems as The Full House Game (“Have mercy”), the Are You Afraid of the Dark Game (“I call this session of the Midnight Society”), and Disney Trivial Pursuit. My most prized game is a TaleSpin game signed by Jymn Magon.

 To me, games (board games, video games) are very nostalgic, and I have a lot of great family memories playing games. In a world of technology, sometimes it’s nice to disconnect and focus on a great game.

  

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

AC: I feel like gaming has found me just at the right time - during times when I feel like I’m missing performance or improv, and it’s allowed me to clear a space to be able to focus on something I really love with really great friends.

 

RP: How did you get involved with Casters and Cantrips?

AC: I previously worked with both Miles and Anne during Hearts of Kyber with Geeks4Good and Anne knows that I’m a big fan of the Cauldron. I’m fortunate enough to have been invited to join them on this adventure!

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RP: What are you most looking forward to for Casters and Cantrips?

AC: Learning more about the D&D system, role playing with other experienced players and quite frankly - learning from them and testing the boundaries of what mischief I can get away with!

 

RP: What was your character creation process like?

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AC: I actually first started thinking about my experiences at the Cauldron and what always stood out to me - e.g. the Tree and the herbs that were used in potions. I was watching Outlander at the time and it got me thinking about plants and herbology (especially for medicinal use - always important during a campaign) - and with Anne’s guidance, that’s how I fell into my Half-Orc Paladin character. 

Since then, I’ve started looking into herbs and the history of alchemy - which has been fascinating! 

For my character, I want her to bring a childlike wonder to the group. While I’m nervous being a newer player, I’m really excited - and I want to bring that enthusiasm to her as well. 

 

RP: How do you think the interactive audience will make this game different than a “traditional” D&D game?

AC: For players in the game, it keeps things fresh. We don’t know when the audience will choose to assist us (or possibly the DM - duh duh duuuuuuuh), but they will be an integral part to the success of our adventures and I look forward to seeing who we meet and the energy that they’ll bring to this every week!

For the audience, I think this is going to be an extremely unique experience to help influence the storytelling of this game - and I love it! You don’t necessarily have to be seated with us, but they’ll always have a place at the table - and for someone who’s a bit newer to all of this, I’m honestly grateful. 

 

RP: Do you have any advice for people just starting out with RPGs?

AC: Jump in head first with a smile on your face.   I’m not gonna lie - I’m nervous and slightly intimidated by the amazing people I will be joining for Casters and Cantrips. I think it’s important to have a level of trust with the other players, and to not be afraid to make bold choices. 

And read the Player’s Handbook. That has been really helpful. 

But there’s only so much a book can teach you - so go out there and RPG your little heart out! 

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Player Character Spotlight: Scott Morris

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Player Character Spotlight: Scott Morris

“The number one key thing I hear from the people that I work with, which are primarily retailers… It’s being unique. Whether it’s physical, or whether it’s mechanical, something that makes it stand out from the pack."

Meet Scott Morris from GTS Distribution. As someone behind the scenes in gaming, he talks about what makes a game unique, what he enjoys playing at his own table, and how games have helped him both meet new people and strengthen the relationships with people in his life.

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Player Character Spotlight: Deanna Amoia, DP for Casters and Cantrips

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Player Character Spotlight: Deanna Amoia, DP for Casters and Cantrips

The theater has a saying: without a crew, actors are just people standing on a dark stage, screaming to be heard. And Caster and Cantrips is no different! Today’s Spotlight is on our irreplaceable Director of Photography: Deanna Amoia.

Deanna talks about her excitement for Casters and Cantrips, the difference between streaming and at-the-table playing, and combining her love of nerd culture with her skills and a photographer and filmmaker.

Photo Credit: Mareson Yates

Photo Credit: Mareson Yates

RP: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

DA: Hi! I'm Deanna and I've worked as a photographer/videographer for about six years now. I'm 27 and live up in Salem, MA, but I grew up just north of NYC in Rockland, NY. My nerdom began with Pokémon cards in elementary school and grew out into video games from there. Most of my free time in high school was spent in Azeroth, and when I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in college, I was completely hooked. That's been my go-to game ever since. Because life is a little tricky sometimes, I'm just finishing up my bachelor's in Photography/Video/Film at Montserrat College of Art and I'll be done this December. I've done a little bit of everything production-wise - sound, video, stills, etc. - and that's what I'll be doing for Casters and Cantrips!

 

RP: What projects are you working on now?

DA: I started working in only still photography, but as I've developed as an artist, I've started working more and more with video. I was drawn to documentary projects in my personal work and decided to combine my two loves - video and Dungeons and Dragons - in a series of documentaries. The first was a short feature I did on the Critical Role community where I conducted street-style interviews with people at PAX Unplugged. It was a lot of fun to make and, while there are things I would do differently about it now, it had a great reception. Matthew Mercer even took the time to comment on it, and Geek and Sundry wrote an article about it! The second piece is currently in post-production and covers the length of a one-shot run by our very own Anne Richmond earlier this year. I'm hoping to have it finished by late November and start submitting it to festivals after that.

 

RP: How did you get involved with Casters and Cantrips?

DA: I was at GenCon this past summer (for the first time!) and I made sure to take some time to check out the Active Player Network booth while I was there. Anne and I knew each other from working the New York Renaissance Faire and we got to talking about current projects. I mentioned that I wanted to start streaming a live-play D&D game and when she mentioned Casters and Cantrips to me, I was really excited to be a part of it. I can't wait for the games to begin!

RP: What are you most looking forward to for Casters and Cantrips?

DA: After seeing a little bit of what Miles has in store for the party, I'm really interested in seeing the world he's built. It's such a unique combination of elements that I'm afraid to spoil anything! You'll just have to come watch!

 

RP: How do you think the interactive audience will make this game different than a “traditional” D&D game?

DA: I think the interactivity of this game allows for another layer of improvisation to the story. With the mechanics we've created, the audience feels like another player at the table and I'm excited to see how they will affect the story.

 

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

DA: I'm very classic when it comes to board games. My favorite by far is chess, but I gravitate towards anything with a deep strategy to it.

 

RP: Are there any specific types of games you look to play or collect?

DA: My friends started buying me older editions of Dungeons & Dragons and I fell in love with them. I've started a small collection of modules and other RPG systems that I add to almost every time I come back from my local comics shop. I also have a small chessboard collection.

 

RP: How do you find people to play with?

DA: My favorite gaming session I've ever been a part of came about when I asked my friends if they knew anyone who wanted to play D&D but never had the chance. I ended up running a one-shot for 10 complete beginners and it was the most fun. My advice for anyone who wants to play but doesn't have a group is to just start asking people around you if they want to start a game! I can't tell you how many times I mention D&D in a coffee shop to someone, only to find the person at the next table is looking for a group to join. Nerds are everywhere!

 

RP: How on Earth did you handle a one-shot for TEN new players? That’s incredible.

DA: Hahah, thanks! It wasn't easy, but I got very lucky with the players I found. All of them were very focused and respectful of each other, which made managing the game much easier. Honestly, looking back on it, I think the hardest part was finding a time that worked for everyone. We spent about 3 hours building characters and 3 hours actually playing. I went in with a setting - a carnival - and a few mini-games for them to play and the rest was a wild improv session. There were only one or two rounds of combat involving a few players and the rest was roleplaying and skill checks which made the pacing pretty quick as well. I also enlisted the help of a couple experienced players to act as coaches. They helped answer questions while the rest of the group kept moving forward - I definitely couldn't have done it without them. Thanks Astin and Mike!

 

RP: How do you think streaming has affected the RPG and the game communities? And for you personally, do you prefer a streamed game or the ol’ fashioned group of people around a table?

DA: Streaming and recorded games (like the very many actual-play podcasts that exist) are a fantastic way of developing a community around the game and I think it's played a huge role in TTRPG's resurgence in recent years. The diversity of the visible community does so much to dispel the stereotypes of what an RPG player looks like, and invites everyone to be a part of the game, regardless of gender identification, color, sexual orientation, or anything else. I find it very inspiring and taking in all of this media has given me the confidence to fully embrace this part of my nerdom. I personally prefer sitting around a table for my own games, but that's not always possible. I usually play in person, but GM online, and I find that works really well for my schedule and style.

 

RP: Do you attend conventions at all?

DA: Yes! PAX Unplugged last year was my first convention, so I'm no veteran by any means, but conventions are so much fun to go to. I spend a day in cosplay (usually as Beauregard from Critical Role) and at least a day taking photographs. Both things get me talking to a lot of people during the day and making some friends in the process.

 

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

DA: That's the trick, isn't it? I'm in a unique situation where I can make my hobby my job, which means I'm pretty much always involved with some part of gaming at one point in the day or the other. Sometimes I'm doing more work (editing, researching, etc.), sometimes I'm playing more (I do a lot of guest playing), and sometimes I'm just sitting on the couch doing nothing - the balance changes week to week.

 

RP: Do you have any advice for people just starting out with playing games?

DA: For TTRPGs, don't feel like you have to know everything about the game to start playing! Yes, it's good to read the books and know all about what your character can do, but no one expects you to know every detail right out of the gate. A good group will understand and help you through the session so that everyone is having a good time. That's the most important thing - have fun! 

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Player Character Spotlight: Dexter Warren- Jyn in Casters and Cantrips

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Player Character Spotlight: Dexter Warren- Jyn in Casters and Cantrips

Meet Dex Warren, the genius behind Jyn the Dragonborn Ranger, and his giant bat companion, Dame Shirley Batsy! Dex talks about being an actor that plays RPGs, how gamer and storyteller are two sides of the same coin, and what he is most looking forward to with the upcoming first show of Casters and Cantrips.

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RP: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

DW: I’m a recent college graduate trying to make it as a performer in the city. Professional actor, amateur writer, full-time shady queen. 

I was born and raised in Maryland and got my acting career started out of spite at preschool when I didn't get the solo in our class's performance of Celine Dion's Because You Loved Me. I'm currently in the cast of Rebirth of Rabbit's Foot which is an Off-Broadway Vaudeville hip-hop musical. We performed this March overseas in Amsterdam before bringing the show back home. I do the sing and act and dancy things. As for writing, I'm an amateur fantasy novelist. I grew up writing novels on wattpad though I've since taken a hiatus because life is busy. I look forward to getting back into that though. 

 
RP: When/why did you start playing RPGs?

DW: I think the first RPG I played was my brother’s Pokémon red version because 90’s. It was the coolest thing because it was like playing pretend with friends but more structured. Play at home, then play pretend battles with friends at school.


RP: What are some of your favorite RPG systems to play?

DW: D&D 5e is what I’m most familiar with in the tabletop world so it’s my favorite. 5E feels a lot easier for me to pick up than earlier editions of D&D. I like that everything seems more streamlined, and as a new player that's very helpful for me to feel confident in what my character can do. I was first introduced to 3.5e which while exciting, was intimidating. For better or for ill the 3.5e campaign never got off the ground and I was able to hop into 5e. As a new DM for my own group, I felt that character creation was a lot easier to do in this edition. I doubt that I would have felt comfortable enough with previous editions to be able to Dungeon Master a group. 

 
RP: How do you find people to play with?

DW: In college my friends found me to play. Then people got busy and scheduling became an issue so I decided to run a game if no one else would. I’ve now found that there are online groups for games which blew my mind but makes a lot of sense in retrospect.

RP: Do you prefer to play in person or online? How do you think the different playstyles affect the game you’re playing?

DW: I think they each have their benefits, and online allows you to circumvent distances that would otherwise be a barrier to playing. I personally haven't played online yet, but I'd love to try it because it means more games. My experience with in-person feels like my best fit where I can utilize body language as we go about gameplay. There's a nice intimacy with face-to-face that I enjoy. I think in terms of communication it's easier to address people quickly. In my own campaign it's a lot clearer to just speak to a character rather than letting someone know to whom I'm speaking if they have to video call in. I think if I played online then my videogame brain would kick in more in terms of strategy. 

 

RP: Do you play board games at all? What are some of your favorites and why?

DW: My family loves Monopoly and we take it entirely too seriously. My favorite board game is Betrayal at House on a Hill (not to be confused with my favorite horror tv show Haunting of Hill House).  I think I have an affinity for spooky type mystery thrillers at houses on or near hills. It’s my favorite tabletop because no two games are alike, because the board is made of tiles, and different events trigger the goal of the game which will change depending on whose side you’re on, which no one knows at the beginning until the haunt happens. 

 

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

DW: I absolutely consider gamer a part of my identity as a subset of my being a storyteller. I feel fortunate that I know my purpose in life is to tell stories. They are how I relate to the world around me and connect best with people. It’s one of our oldest and most important traditions teaching us lessons we wouldn’t be able to learn otherwise. To be removed enough to get the point without being blinded by proximity.

 

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

DW: I have a survival job and rehearsals, voice lessons and dance classes when I can afford them, and the time required to sleep so I’m not a shambling mound. That being said there are a few hours in the evenings and weekends to get some gaming in either with friends or solo. 


RP: How did you get involved with Casters and Cantrips?

DW: I recently joined a podcast and through that connection was able to hop aboard this project. 


RP: What was your character creation process like?

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DW: The team had an idea for a Dragonborn Ranger which coincidentally matched up with one of my earliest character ideas for a campaign that never happened. So in a way, indirectly I’ve been prepping this for a while. Then over the years I had an idea for a hybrid between Fallout and D&D where Shirley Bassey had a giant bat as she flew over a battlefield inspiring troops beneath. It should be said I have an overactive imagination. That turned into the pun Dame Shirley Batsy. 


RP: What are you most looking forward to for Casters and Cantrips?

DW: I think I’m most excited about the live elements of interaction with an audience. As an actor I’ve been on stage my whole life but never in this capacity which is exciting and scary. As part of my acting training we did a lot of improv, and periodically still do when certain friends visit. I feel so much of it is being flexible saying yes and to make things more interesting and juicy.  I’m relying heavily on improv skills because I’m confused about everything, but I’m just happy to be here.  That's not really a game-based thing. I just am lost with what's going on in life. 

 
RP: How do you think the interactive audience will make this game different than a “traditional” D&D game?

DW: I think the interaction will be a fascinating take on how story of each episode will go. I think our decisions have a lot more weight because the audience will get to express their support in various ways. I’m excited to see what y’all do.


RP: Do you have any advice for people just starting out with RPGs?
DW: For anyone starting off in RPGs I’m right there with you since I’ve played maybe twelve hours being generous. Listen to a podcast to see what kind of games you might like. Peruse books and see what catches your attention. And when you actually start playing, try and let go of whatever obligations you feel you have to be a certain way. Some campaigns are serious high fantasy some aren’t, some are quite campy and silly. I think a healthy portion are both. You’re here to have fun so set yourself up to have fun with your friends. Channel your inner six-year-old playing pretend. That kid’s onto something. 

 

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Player Character Spotlight: Risa Petrone

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Player Character Spotlight: Risa Petrone

"I misunderstood being good at something with loving it"

APN's own Risa Petrone talks about her previous life as a teacher, how anything can be a roleplaying game if you try hard enough, and finding her place in the gaming world.

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Player Character Spotlight: Chris Bailey- Donovaine DeMonet in Casters and Cantrips

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Player Character Spotlight: Chris Bailey- Donovaine DeMonet in Casters and Cantrips

Welcome to the first in our series of spotlights on the performers and producers of Casters and Cantrips! Today we talk to Chris Bailey, the player behind Donovaine DeMonet, fire genasi bard and king of the one-liners.

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RP: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
CB: I was born and raised in Norwich, England and moved to the US when I turned eighteen.  I've bounced around the US since, starting out in California and gradually moving Eastward until I finally moved to NYC in 2014.  It's been my lifelong goal to pursue a career in theater or the performing arts in a wider sense, and that's what I came out here to try and accomplish...and then immediately landed in the tech industry instead.  Now I'm finally starting to take steps back in that direction, which has been an exciting and terrifying experience.


RP: When/why did you start playing RPGs?
CB: The first RPG I remember playing was the old Warhammer Fantasy RPG - I have a recollection of going through that book in my Grandparents' house with my cousin and little brother.  Growing up in the UK in the 90s, Warhammer and Warhammer 40k were extremely popular, so a great deal of time (and basically all of my birthday/Christmas money...) went into the world of tabletop wargaming.  

It wasn't until years after that I found people to return to the tabletop with, at which point I started playing Changeling and D&D 4th Edition.  That caused me to rediscover the love for it and it's only grown ever since.

As for the why, I've always held a massive love for fantasy writing and worlds in general, especially the more whimsical aspects of them - my favourite author of all time is Terry Pratchett, basically the UR-example of that.  I've also always loved the role of the storyteller and beyond that, enjoy little more than collaborative creation.  RPGs scratch all of those itches perfectly.


RP: What are some of your favorite RPG systems to play?
CB: I prefer different systems for different things.  Overall, I default mostly to D&D 5e - I really love the way it's struck a balance between combat mechanics and roleplay accessibility.  I'm also a big fan of the World of Darkness setting if I'm in the mood for something more roleplay-heavy, particularly Changeling.  What I'm really keen to try out is the Dresden Files RPG system, which I've never been able to find a group for - I'm absolutely in love with the Dresden Files series and the collaborative worldbuilding approach that RPG takes is really intriguing to me.


RP: How do you find people to play with?

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CB: With great difficulty.  As much as I love living in NYC, I understand the feeling of being alone in a sea of people more than ever after moving here.  My solution?  Become a DM!  I'm fortunate in that I work with some absolutely amazing people who were extremely receptive when I raised the prospect of running a game after hours at work...which also made getting the group together far easier.  

...now I'm running two.

Beyond that, I found people to play with through shared interests.  At last year's New York Comic-Con I attended a meetup for fans of Critical Role, where I met people who have become wonderful friends of mine as well as a new gaming group.  I've also joined a few discord servers for that purpose (particular shout out to the excellent community Satine Phoenix has been building in Gilding Lights) and while I simply haven't had the time to add another game into my schedule, I've seen a lot of people find success that way.

 RP: Do you prefer being a DM or a player?

 CB: I like to strike a balance.  I LOVE being a DM but I cannot really handle more than one game at a time in that role - right now I'm running my own homebrew campaign as well as Waterdeep: Dragon Heist which is a huge amount to manage.  I couldn't do it if Dragon Heist weren't such a well laid out module.  So with that going I currently prefer to join new games as a player for my own sanity.  Should I ever wind up not actively DMing though, my preference would shift and I'd want to find a game where I could do that. 

I just want to do everything, y'know?'

RP: What was the process like transitioning from player to DM? What were your biggest challenges and your best surprises?

CB: Shifting to being a DM was honestly a LOT easier than I anticipated at first. I prepared myself by binging a lot of Matt Colville's "Running The Game" series, which I highly recommend for any new DM - it takes a lot of the nerves away and really helps pull you out of your own head. That was my biggest challenge - getting caught up in the death spiral of worrying so much about having to know everything, having to be responsible for everyone's enjoyment...which is just unhelpful. Once I actually started something just...clicked. It really helps that I have great, engaged players who respect my setting the expectation that up front that if we're unclear on a rule, I'll make a call in the moment and we can look it up later for future. Keeping the flow of the game going is by far the more important thing, in my opinion. What I will also say is that my improv experience is really paying dividends as a DM - while it's far from a requirement, I highly recommend anyone who is looking to DM long term try to take an improv class - not only will it make you a better DM, improv is just FUN.

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RP: Do you play board games at all? What are some of your favorites and why?
CB: I absolutely do!  I actually keep my collection at work these days, where I've taken on the role of librarian for a shared collection that other coworkers have been bringing in their own games to help grow.  I'm a big fan of Betrayal at House on the Hill (though the time commitment makes it a little harder to get people to play that one...), due to the shifting nature - I love games that change up things frequently, and I find Betrayal to be fantastic for that.  Recently, I've also developed a great fondness for Villainous and the various expansions.  Why Villainous?  Because it actually features Disney's Robin Hood.  Which is one of my favourite movies of all time and is amazing and never gets enough love and I will die on this hill, fight me.

 

RP: How did you get involved with Casters and Cantrips?
CB: Remember that gaming group I mentioned?  The one I found through the Critical Role meetup?  Well, Anne is also in that gaming group.  She's the one who approached me about getting involved - we'd talked about my return to performing and my experience with improv which luckily for me, made her think I could be a good fit for Casters and Cantrips.  When she mentioned it to me, I jumped at the chance.  Poor Anne, she knows not what she has done...

Terrible puns are always so much more satisfying to make when you have the largest captive audience possible.

 

RP: What was your character creation process like?
CB: I like to use my characters to explore concepts that I either find interesting, or to help figure out something I'm struggling with inside my own head.  Donovaine is a mix of both of those.  In this case, I wanted to try and do something to break out of my comfort zone - historically I almost always play rogues, or bold swashbucklers (I have something of a deep love for pirate mythology).  Usually chaotic good, really fitting the Robin Hood archetype.  Donovaine is...not that.  At all.  With Donovaine, I want to explore someone who got a taste of what they were after but fell slightly short and has settled where he is.  I also really wanted to try something different, so the idea of a bard who doesn't play music came to me and was something that really resonated - particularly as someone who loves theater and performing but can't sing a note myself.  There's a lot more to this that I'm not going to go into right now because there's aspects to the character that will only be revealed as the game goes on.  Guess people will just have to watch to find out, huh?

 

RP: What are you most looking forward to for Casters and Cantrips?
CB: Exploring the world Miles has put together, while seeing how this band of...let's face it, idiots, comes together.  Miles has been playing a lot of things close to his chest so far, but I'm really fascinated by the things he has explained to us and I can't wait to get to exploring it.  I'm also a natural extrovert (despite being fairly quiet in personal interactions) and love getting to know new people - so the fact that out of everyone at the table, Anne is the only one I've ever gamed with before is extremely exciting to me.

 

RP: How do you think the interactive audience will make this game different than a “traditional” D&D game?
CB: I have absolutely no idea and I cannot wait to find out!  I did wonder if the audience would make me feel more inclined to "mug for the crowd" but...let's be honest, as anyone who has ever had the (mis)fortune to be at a gaming table with me can attest, I generally tend to do that anyway!  I'm very keen to see how the favours and wand votes work out...

RP: Do you have any advice for people just starting out with RPGs?
CB: Don't overthink it.  RPG systems are extremely complicated and you're going to make mistakes - that's okay!  Just let the DM make a call (or if you're the DM, make it!) to keep the game rolling and look it up later if you need to.  At the end of the day as long as everyone at the table is having fun, that's really the only thing that matters.  Also - if you have a group that wants to play but can't find a DM, please just jump in and DM yourself!  I was terrified to do it at first myself, but when I finally took the plunge I found it's an incredible amount of fun.  I know I screw up rules all the time, but I learn and grow from it - and some of my most memorable experiences at the table now have been from behind the DM's screen.

  

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Introducing Azul: Summer Pavilion!

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Introducing Azul: Summer Pavilion!

Introducing the third installment in the Azul line: Azul: Summer Pavilion from Next Move Games! You take on the role of master artisans crafting the finest summer pavilion for the Portuguese royal family of King Manuel I.

Follow Active Player Network to learn more about this exciting new game!

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