Sunday, April 5, 2015

Finding the Best Fantasy RPG for You

It’s official. I’ve been playing tabletop RPGs for almost 7 years. And in that time, I’ve played a lot of different games. Classic D&D, Pathfinder, GURPS, World of Darkness, all the big names. I’ve even LARPed (more on that some other day). I’ve been both a player and a Game Master, and in a variety of genres. So you could say I’ve been around the block.

If there’s one trait that I’m proud of, it’s figuring out what type of fantasy RPG would be best for each person. I have a pretty good success rate of matching a game with a player, almost like the nerdiest matchmaker of all time.
With Slightly Less Sass. Slightly.

I bet I can find anyone’s match, just based on a few interests. All I need is a favorite book, a favorite movie, a favorite genre of one of those two categories, and your favorite hobby (that isn’t tabletop).

But first, some background.

Tabletop RPGs evolved from traditional miniature wargames when Gary Gygax brought in the concept of an individual hero instead of a grand standing army. Bringing on Dave Arneson, it eventually evolved into the first Dungeons and Dragons. There’s a lot more to the history, but for our purposes that’s all we need to know. All other games spawned from this original concept of “player as hero”, and evolved into the gaming landscape we see today from tabletop into digital with video games.

Most RPGs use character sheets, which are not nearly as scary as they look. 
It's not complicated, I swear!

There are many ways to play and improve your character with experience, and each game has their own system. Some players let their character grow organically with the story, while others plan out their end goal of where they want their characters to end up power-wise and work single-mindedly towards that. There are also min-maxers, who sacrifice some skills to be legendary in others, or people who create their character completely by random chance and work forward from there . I’m personally an organic grower, but to each their own.

Dice are a mainstay of Tabletop RPGs, even if some are used less than others. It all depends on the system you use. Some are purely played with six sided dice, or D6, while others involve many types of dice. D20 games are all based off of having a complete set of the different sizes of dice, while D10 systems usually only use D10 dice. There are some special types of D6 that only have 3 symbols on them, but you can just use the normal dice if you want. Some systems use D4 and D8. Virtually none of them use the D12 for more than a few niche cases, unless you find some way to house-rule them in like we did.
Poor d12, some day you will find someone that loves you.

If you like, you can use battle maps and figures, but it’s not necessary. All that’s really needed is a creative mind with a knack for puzzle solving, some dice, a character sheet, and at least one person with access to the books you’re using and you can play. That and any snacks you need, and you can play an entire weekend away without even noticing how fast the time is going by.

So now that we’ve got that out of the way, what RPG should you play?

The Easy Ones

Dresden Files RPG

Game of Thrones RPG

The Adventures of Indiana Jones RPG

Babylon 5 RPG

Or any other RPG based off of a very specific property.

Even the obvious ones.

If you’re a fan of the property, you’ll probably like the RPG. The upside is that you get to play in a world you love and you already know a lot of the lore. Minus side, it’s hard to find enough people to play, and certain purists won’t appreciate anything going away from canon. Proceed at your own risk, but if you find a bunch of fans you’ll probably have fun. The easiest of these might be the Game of Thrones RPG, because there’s just so many fans. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica are two other games worth mentioning in this genre.

For Eclectic Tastes


You can literally make anything in this system. Absolutely anything. This is a D6 system, so it would be the easiest dice to get a hold of on short notice as well. Anything made under the Steve Jackson Games label can be merged with the system, and there are so many splash books for different types of adventures you could spend your entire gaming career playing it.

Plus side: A lot of versatility. Easy to get D6s. Relatively easy system.

Minus side: It is very, very hard to find GURPS players. You usually have to convert some of your friends into playing it, and even then it can be difficult.

A Good Alternative:

D20 Modern

Made by the same company that makes D&D, it uses their standard system to bring a modern setting and modern elements to the table. With no defined classes, but many personality types, this game is more customizable, but also has less flavor than its famous predecessor.

For Epic Fantasy Loving Gamers

These are the gamers who love Tolkien, have probably read the Silmarillion, and whose favorite movies and books reflect this. People who were mad over changes to the Mountain song. Know who R. A. Salvatore is and have very strong opinions about him.

OR: You’ve seen The Gamers. Very good choice.

Dungeons and Dragons.

Of course this had to be on here. The one that started it all, and my first RPG love. With 5 different editions to try, you’re almost guaranteed to find someone to play with you. I’m a personal fan of the revised third edition, or 3.5. But if you’re new, I know the 4th edition is good for newer players and game masters. It feels a bit too much like WoW and too little like the D&D I started out with, but that’s just a personal choice.

Pros: A lot of worlds, a lot of version options, and a lot of people who will play with you. Created the standard D20 system, which is still popular.

Cons: Depending on the edition, it can be very intimidating to get into. Could be either too easy or too difficult depending on how much you’ve played and which edition you’re starting in. Beware of the flame wars from fanboys.

A good alternative: Pathfinder

It’s nickname was 3.6 for a reason. Great game, good balance, getting to be just as popular as the game it was based off of.

For Modern Supernatural Fantasy Lovers

You love the ideas of creatures that go bump in the night, but like modern conveniences. Anything from the 1920s through today easily apply. You love classic monster movies, have a soft spot for Lovecraft, and more than likely hated Twilight with an ungodly passion. You like a world that is darker than we have today.

If you want to play the “Villain”

World of Darkness

Oooh boy where do I start with this one? If you thought D&D had variety, step back and watch a master. While not as varied as GURPS, it is by far more popular and has one of the most robust and lasting LARP communities in the entire genre of gaming. This system stresses the story over the mechanics, and is easy for Storytellers and Players alike to learn. Spanning from everything as mundane as a normal human to outlandish as a demonic entity comprised of multiple sewn-together corpses, this game lets you get in touch with your dark side.

Pros: Easy system to learn, hard to master. Still very popular. Only uses one type of die, a D10.

Cons: D10s are not cheap. Balancing the different systems together can be a nightmare that would make any Malkavian look sane.

Want to be a “Hero”?

Call of Cthulhu

You know something is wrong. But if you look directly at it, you’ll go insane. Investigate the truth that everyone else is blind to and save the world. Set in the lush world of H.P. Lovecraft, look deeply into the eyes of the void and try to come back in one piece.

Pros: Like WoD, only uses D20s. Very lush environment that you can tailor down to even your hometown. Can be extremely personalized.

Cons: System can be confusing, especially for new players. Does like to rely on handouts.  A printer for props is really important here.

For Comic Book Lovers:

You’ve seen every Marvel and DC movie, and have opinions about the accuracy of them all. You have a favorite Joker actor, both live action and voiced. You have a favorite super-team, and a favorite obscure hero that nobody knows about but totally should. You know that Squirrel Girl is a freaking tank of a girl.

The DC or Marvel RPGS

Not really much to say about these. Want to fight alongside your favorite heroes, or even as one? There’s a game for that.

Pros: Easily recognizable characters, world, and themes. You could probably get a game of fans together.

Cons: Not as many players, and the systems can be difficult to master.

For SciFi Lovers

The Star Trek and Star Wars fight is still relevant to you. You like cyberpunk and imagine being a master hacker when you’re bored. Ghost in the Shell brings back fond memories, and you are a fan of Anonymous. You might be a part of it. Technically. If anyone really is.


The cyberpunk game that is still kicking today. The government is corrupt, and your team is ready to take them on. Whether it’s controlling your little section of the underworld, or taking down The Man from within, you’ve got a lot of options.

Pros:  A lot of options for specialties and enough room to develop some very interesting tactics.

Cons: If you’re a Jacker, you’re pretty much useless unless you’re in a certain little section.

For Fans of Action Movies and Michael Bay

Your big goal is to do the stunts in the Matrix. You don’t care how you do it, but you want to be able to run down a building shooting at badguys before kicking off and landing on a balcony across the street. You would kill to be in one of the Tarantino action scenes. As long as it goes boom, you don’t really care what happens.

Feng Shui

This game is literally putting yourself in as the protagonist to an action movie. However over the top you want to make it, you can do it. Based in Hong Kong action flics, you can tell the creators loved the genre.

Pros: Fast Paced, easy to learn

Cons: Hard to play an entire campaign of this. Hard to keep the energy up to max without some down time.

Unfortunately I’m not as familiar with war fantasies, so I can’t really recommend any of those in good conscious. But if any of these sound interesting, feel free to check them out! Maybe we’ll game together some time. Even if we don’t, I want to know what your favorite RPG story or feeling.

What’s mine? Too many to count. But if I had to choose, it’s a pretty strong tie between an out-of-game feeling and an in-character feeling. I love completely losing myself in a character for a while and love it when I remember all of the great interactions after I come out of it.

That, and finding a complete matching set of dice in the random die box at a gaming shop. There is nothing more satisfying than that.
Like this, but huge

Don’t be afraid to try a bunch of different types of games. I can safely say I’ve played  every game I listed with the few exceptions of some of the specific license titles. I’ve had to sleep sometime. There’s no telling what your niche will be, but if I could help even one person get started, I’ll be very happy.

May all your dice roll high, and a happy gaming experience to all!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How Actively Nerdy is Made: Panic Mode Edition

Hey everybody! This week has not been one of the best for productive creativity. And while there were many noteworthy things that happened this week(*cough* INDIANA *cough cough*), writers block and I were on very close terms. I am really sorry about that, but then I realized that this happens surprisingly often to me. I’ve also gotten random questions from friends as to how I actually do Actively Nerdy and choose what I write. So I figure, this might answer some questions and help you all understand my process.

HOW A BLOG POST GETS MADE: Worst Case Scenario

Now as a habit, I never write on the days I work. It’s weird, but when I get an idea it’s usually on the clock and by the time I get home my brain is, well….

So to combat this, I bring a notebook to work and write down the ideas I have in it when I have them, so I can write them when I have time. Sometimes these are very good ideas. These usually get written up very very late Friday night/ technically Saturday morning with no issues.

But sometimes, it just doesn’t work like that. Saturdays are my “I’m writing, do not disturb” days most days, and that chosen isolation time can extend pretty far into the day. This is a timeline of days like this.

Saturday Morning. Post Status: Not even a topic decided

10:00 AM: Wake up. Proceed to freak out that I’m late for work. Realize it’s Saturday. Fall back asleep.

12:00 PM: Wake up for the second time. Refuse to leave bed, but get out notebook full of blog ideas if I haven’t done it already. Start going through ideas. If lucky, find one that I had forgotten about, get some inspiration, and start writing. Most of the time, not so much.

12:08: Consider doing a Lets Play. Decide against it because voice is currently choosing to perfect its Christian Bale Batman impression.

12:37: Desperately begin search of Kindle Library and bookshelves for a good idea or a good topic.

12:52: Stop search to nurse new papercut

1:02 Find “Best Idea Ever” Post-it written some time during the night. Proceed to spend next half hour determining exactly how little sleep the previous week had seen and any new diet changes that could have caused the level of insanity written on said Post-it.
Disclaimer: I do not do drugs, but sometimes I wonder...

1:30: Realize the creative process might go better if food is acquired. Immediately forget that when an idea pops into head and begins writing.

4:30: Discover that post idea does not translate well to text format whatsoever, keeps all the notes for next week, eats lunch in disappointment.
But it was such a good idea!

5:00 Figure that doing some tasks that are notoriously boring may inspire some “creative procrastination”.

7:00 Finishes Taxes, two loads of laundry, and has sorted out entire budget and created a student loan payment schedule optimum strategy. Still no freaking clue on what to write about.
....maybe clean my bathroom next?

7:02: Starts asking advice of friends on Facebook. Gets distracted by funny videos and actually good topics. Realizes that there is nowhere near enough time to give each topic the research it deserves, writes them all down, and promises to do the research during next week’s lunch breaks.

8:00 Family Dinner. Brother and Sister team up to explain to Dad why Taco Bell is not “food”.
"I didn't want to touch anything in there." "Gee, maybe the nickname Taco Hell was a clue?"

8:45: Begins to freewrite post.

8:47 Crippling Self-doubt

10:00 Finish post and edit it a bit. Show to one or two friends minus images. Hope they don’t think it’s half-assed, because it’s too late to turn back now

10:15: Image hunt.

10:49: Upload into Blogger. Fiddle with the settings and formatting. Re-write some jokes.

10:54: Pray to the internet gods and offer suitable sacrifice that the post will upload with no problems. Also for no router issues. Or internet crashes. This is a job for Mountain Dew Sacrifice.
Until now, I had to sacrifice Doritos and Mtn Dew separately to the Internet Gods. Thank you, freakish soda flavors!

11pm-Midnight: Fret over the preview page until post actually launches, wondering if you’re doing the right topic. More self doubt. Finally post article in hopes it’s not terrible. Fall asleep from mentally-induced exhaustion.

So that’s it. That’s how a typical post under the worst conditions gets made. I’m sure there’s way more efficient ways to do this, and that’s because I’ve actually done them before. But when all else fails, this usually gets it done.

I’ll be working on some of those said good topics over the next few weeks, and hopefully the panic-writing doesn’t happen anytime soon.

Sorry if you consider this filler, I at least hope this was entertaining in some way.

(Oh, and if you want my thoughts on Indiana’s most recent….legislative decision, I’ll put it very simply. I don’t think I’ve seen a state choose the “nuke state economy from orbit and negatively impact reputation” option with policy before quite so efficiently. The intention was vaguely worded and with the Governor's reputation, I'm not surprised as to what had happened.)

Something Nerdy next time Everyone! And something near and dear to my heart. Be ready to Roll for Initiative.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Comic Characters You Should Know #1

One thing I love about my job is the down time I can get, and that nobody minds when I bring a book or my Kindle so I can read over lunch or when the janitor needs to go through with the vacuum. It means I can finally go through the backlog of some of my favorite character’s comic books. I’m completely caught up on New 52 Batgirl, Pre and Post 52 Harley Quinn, and New 52 Suicide Squad. Basically if it’s a character created in the 90s or later I’ll go through every bit of it, while Batgirl might be a bit too large of a project even for my completionist personality. But one of the things I’ve learned while going through all of the backlogs basically boil down into one thought.

“So many of these awesome characters, my absolute favorites in these titles, NOBODY knows about.”

So lets fix that, shall we? Consider this something I’ll come back to now and again. Here’s a Comic Book Character that you SHOULD know about.

With these, I’m only counting recurring characters that lasted at least two story arcs. Or one-off villains who died at the end of their arc, because while they aren’t coming back, they’re some of my favorite storylines. I might make exceptions for characters or villains that people never really seem to know about as well. If you’re wondering how I’ll test that last one, it’s pretty simple. I ask 3 friends of mine who read comics what they know about a character. If the answer is "not much at all" for two of three, I can write about it.

I’ll be playing with the format, but for now, here we go.

THE SERIES: Deadpool

The Character You Know:

Deadpool. What can be said about Deadpool that hasn’t already been said? He’s the Internet’s Darling Boy, The Merc with The Mouth, mainstay at conventions, the birth of a thousand internet memes, not crap-tier for Marvel Vs Capcom, and not nearly as weird an origin as his cinematic appearance in Wolverine Origins (I’m hopefully optimistic for 2016, as a note). This super-merc with the healing factor of Wolverine is a fan-favorite, even by those who haven’t read his surprisingly dark backstory and emotionally complex original release.

Created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld in 1991, the original run of his solo comic began in 1997 and lasted 69 issues before the X-Men related multi-series revamp occurred. Deadpool was involved because of his origins and a long-standing love interest subplot with Siryn (now Banshee), so his book was revamped as well. I’ve read every issue of the original run, and I have nothing but good things to say about the characters and the series. Those of you who know of my feelings towards Liefeld might be surprised that I have nothing bad to say whatsoever about the art or design from his very first incarnation in The New Mutants #98.

Writer Joe Kelly helmed the original run, and set the baseline for Deadpool’s eventual rise in popularity. While he evolved over time, Deadpool always had a complex relationship with morality and self-preservation. And if there’s one thing I’m eternally thankful to Kelly for, it’s for creating the person who could not only keep up with Deadpool mentally, but serve as his moral center and someone to beat some sense into the nigh-immortal mercenary and get him back on track to do what he needed to do.

Yes, even Deadpool has someone who can whip him into shape. Well, some semblance of in shape at least.

The Character you SHOULD Know.

Blind Albert

Yes, a blind old woman who was his “prisoner”/roommate. I’m not kidding. She is one of the most amazing characters I’ve ever followed.

Appearing in Deadpool #1-25, Blind Al has many names. Althea, Al, Crazy Old Coot, things like that. One thing’s for sure, the “blind” part of Blind Albert is not just part of her name. She really is completely blind. Deadpool once got her a seeing-eye dog as a goof, and she wasn’t too happy having a “mutt” around for the longest time. Until issue 17, she wasn’t allowed outside of the Deadhut and she memorized every part of the house. Unless Wade spun her around. Which was often.

Her favorite revenge for that usually involved Ex-Lax brownies. Not usually bullets. Usually.

Al is ??? years old. Yeah. Nobody really knows how old she really is, and it seems to keep changing. One issue she said she was sexagenarian. A later issue she said she never went flapper because she thought it made her butt look big, putting her in her teens around the 1920s. Another character thought she was a septuagenarian. How old is she? We have no idea. Some have speculated that she was “Golden Girl”, aka Betsy Ross, but that was never considered canon and has been discredited. Kelly himself intended her to be a Black Widow, as in the orignal Black Widow, but that was scrapped as well. The only thing we absolutely know for sure that can help pinpoint her age is that she had a relationship with Captain America back in the day. That’s right, Captain America and Blind Al were sweethearts during the war.

Al usually treated Wade like a misbehaving child, which in all honesty, was a pretty accurate response for most situations. However Wade did have his dark side, and “The Box” was the representation of that. One thing that was easy to forget was that they weren’t just roommates, but a prisoner/captor situation that made it impossible for Al to leave the house or accept visitors. Wade completely snapped one day, and threw her into the room along with her visitor, another amazing side character named Weasel in issue 14.. Wade always had great guilt for his actions, and trust me, Al got revenge on him for that eventually through passive aggressive tactics that eventually broke Wade down. At the end of that arc she was technically free to leave, but chose to stay because she had what I can only describe as a weird mix of maternal instinct and a heaping dose of Stockholm syndrome. She eventually did leave after issue 25, and became a more sporadic support character.

They had a special relationship
We don’t know much about Al’s past either, but we do know that she was in British Intelligence. Not much about what she did is actually known, but she first met Deadpool in Zambia where she was stationed. Well, it was less “meeting” Deadpool than “being his target”, but everyone else but her died and she escaped, only to get captured by him years later. Their weird relationship was one of the things that kept me hooked on the series.

For all the pranks Deadpool pulled on Al, she always got back at him. Once she even sabotaged all of his weapons before a job because he pointed her in the direction of the basement stairs after being spun around, and after the “Box” incident she used the silent-treatment on top of ultra-servile behaviors to guilt trip him so badly he was begging for forgiveness. She even ironed his underoos. But even when he was at his worst, there was still some affection for the merc.

While her major appearances lasted only 2 years, she still comes back occasionally. And anyone who gets an invitation to Deadpool’s wedding has to be really special to him. Even if he’s crap at Braille. And sent her to a mob funeral instead by accident.

She’s pretty special to me too.

Deadpool is property of Marvel Comics, and by extension Disney. I can’t wait to see the next movie with Deadpool in it, and even though I doubt they’ll include Blind Al, I hope for its success.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I'm Back, and living in Town of Salem!

And now, your regularly(?) scheduled written post....

*In the Beginning of March*

“Huh, someone sent me a video….Oh, that looks fun! I should check it out. $5 on Steam is a pretty good deal. I’ll just buy it and let it download for a bit, get some lunch, and I’ll stop when I get hungry for dinner later. Should be good for a quick game, right?”


“Ooooh...hungry. I better log off. Why am I so sleepy? It can’t be much past dinner yet.”

“Why is it still light outside? What time is it?”






So yes, This is a thing that has happened.

Town of Salem is just like the game Mafia...except online with set time-frames. It’s incredibly intense!

So how Town of Salem works is pretty simple. Someone usually dies every night. Usually. In the day, you discuss who you think is a killer, and get the chance to kill them if there’s a majority vote. They are then lynched, and night falls again. The goal of the game really depends on what team you’re on.

There’s three teams, and they each want different things. If you’re town, you want to lynch everyone who wants to kill town. Pretty self explanatory right? Within that, you’ve got investigative roles, support roles, killing roles, and protective roles. They pretty much explain themselves as well. Killing roles kill, and usually there’s some drawback so that you don’t just go on a murdering rampage. Take the Veteran, who only has 3 chances to kill, and it’s everyone who visits their house when they choose to activate their power regardless of intent. If you don’t think that can backfire, lets just say the odds aren't quite in their favor. And they only get 3 chances.

Mafia wants all of town dead, plus some of the neutrals. As long as anyone that could kill them is dead, they win. There’s usually a lot less mafia though, and they can only kill one person a night. They also have support roles, and one special class. The Godfather. He’s the only mafia member who is immune at night, comes up innocent if a sheriff looks at him, and command his men to kill a certain person without actually visiting them himself. It’s powerful, but there can be only one.
And that list is "Everyone Not Us"
Then there’s Neutral types. Those are a bit more tricky. There are good neutral characters, like the Survivor. They just want to live to the end. Then there’s the tricky ones who have to do with daytime lynchings. Jesters WANT to be lynched, and Executioners just want to make a certain person die in the daytime. If an Executioner’s target gets killed in the night, they become a Jester and if a Jester dies at night, they lose.

Then there’s the Killing Classes. Serial Killer just wants to kill everyone. Just everyone. But there’s a weird thing where if both a Survivor and a Serial Killer make it to the end, they both win. It’s sort of contradictory.
Arsonist just wants the world to burn. They douse people in gas overnight, and then once they feel the time is right, they can set everything they doused on fire. Hard to win, but so satisfying to do.

Amnesiacs can basically choose which side they want to be on, depending on if they want to win. As long as a role has died and wasn’t a unique, one per town role, they can have it. They just stare at a grave overnight, and “Oh yeah, I was a lot like THIS person! I must have the same job!”. Simple as that. They can turn games on their heads with just a click of the button.

Then there’s Werewolves and Witches. Oh yes, we’ve got supernatural elements up in here. Werewolves transform every other day, in which they are invincible for the night and kill absolutely freaking everything in the house they visit. They’re one of the Witch’s favorite toys.
Artist's Rendition of COMPLETELY screwing with Town's collective gameplan.
You know in a game named after Salem, Witches are special. They can’t kill anyone directly, but they can take control of another player and make them target another one. Sometimes they find a doctor and make it heal them. Other times, they find a Town Vigilante and make them shoot another town member, causing their death a day later. They make Jailors execute their prisoners, and Werewolves decide to go to a house of their choice. They can be killed at night, but if the Mafia is smart, they get her on their side, because she just wants town members to die.
Welcome Home
15 Houses in a Circle. 15 Townspeople going back to their homes, still alive. Night falls, and people start dying. Will Mafia Triumph? Will the Town have another night of peace again? Will the poor survivor of a horrible time actually be able to stay alive again? Will Wolves rise and Witches take their revenge? Or will the killings never end until they’re all dead?

Whatever happens, I’ll see you in Salem.

Town of Salem is made by BlankMediaGames, and there is both a browser version and a Steam Version! It’s Free to Play, and the Steam Version automatically gives you coins for customization. You can of course earn coins as well.
The browser version can be found here:

I’ll be posting more videos of my sessions, and if you want to play WITH me, comment below or give me some sort of heads up! You know you can always reach me at