The Ghost Returns for High Adventure on the Coast of Crusade

A few months ago our Call of Cthulhu DM ran a one night game of It Came from the Late, Late, Late Show.  I had never played the game before, though I had read through the rules a while ago.  For a long time now I have had a love for what I call the one-book-wonder role playing games.  My preference is for games that are low in rules as I find they are more fun to play.  When you have multiple rule books, like in Shadowrun for example, it is easy to get caught up in the myriad of rules and forget that the joy of the adventure and the interaction of the characters is what makes a really good story and therefore a really good game.

In this case the game was epic in nature and well worth writing about.  Our DM got his inspiration from the Grave Robbers from Outerspace card game, which is another great card game I will need to write more about someday.  He used the cards to help generate the plot locations and encounters, which I thought was a terribly novel approach to getting ideas; a really great way to get the creative juices flowing.  Even the name of the adventure came from the cards, which is a part of the rules of the card game but I will cover that in another post.  As per the name of the post, the adventure name was The Ghost Returns for High Adventure on the Coast of Crusade.

If you have never played It Came from the Late, Late, Late Show I would recommend it.  In it you are playing an actor that gets cast into various roles to be in a late night movie.  Needless to say, these shows are low budget so a bit of cheesiness is in order.  For example the major bad-guy in our adventure was this horrible tentacled creature, with several arms that waved about seemingly at random.  We found this large creature was only affected by sharp objects and the more that we punctured it the more that it let out a hissing sound until it eventually deflated and laid flat across the ground.

In case you are looking for more details on our adventure, or need a one night run for your group.  My DM has blessed me with his notes from our High Crusade, and allowed me to post them on my blog.


I hope you enjoy it, I know we did!

Brief Review of We Didn’t Playtest This at All

Last week, we started our regular Friday gaming night session out by playing a few games of We Didn’t Playtest This at All while we waited for everyone to arrive. It is a neat little card game, rather humorous and a very quick play. I think we played four or five games in about 30 minutes. The rules are super simple; basically take once card, play one card.
I think my favorite thing about the game is how cut-throat the game itself is to the players. Sure there is some player to player smack down that goes on, but mostly the game itself is rather ruthless. The only way to win is to be the last player not to lose, and the cards make losing a very easy thing to do.
One of our games even included a player being saved by a dragon showing up in game, just in time. How often can a person be happy to see a dragon, or have it save your butt rather than eating it?
If you ever get a chance to play We Didn’t Playtest This at All I would really recommend you take 10 minutes out of your life and do it. I promise you won’t regret it!

Crappy Birthday – The Game

Crappy Birthday

Here is a new game we played last week at our weekly gaming session, Crappy Birthday. It is a card game which is similar in play style to Apples to Apples. As the name of the game implies you are trying to give someone the worst present you can for their birthday.

Each player has a hand of 5 cards, each of which is a different gift. A person is selected to have the first “birthday” and everyone else at the table pulls the worst gift they can from their hand and places it face down in front of the “birthday” person. Then the birthday person flips over the cards and determines which of the presents given they think is the worst. So, when giving gifts you really need to consider the person you are giving them to and what their tastes are like.  Who knows they may actually think a family room wallpapered in old newspaper (yes that really is from the game) is a neat historical thing. Once a crappy gift has been selected the gift-giver gets the card back to place in front of them on the table as a token of having won that round. Then the “birthday” person rotates to the next in the table and the gift giving starts all over again. [See how it has that Apples to Apples feel]. The first person to have given three crappy gifts wins the game.

We did find the game to be fun and a fairly quick play with very simple rules. The only challenge we had was that there are a number of gifts that our gaming group does not consider crappy at all, such as a tank in your front yard for decoration. This meant you could end up with a hand of cards that you simply couldn’t win with due to their being too cool to be crappy.

I would like to see them come up with some expansion card sets, I am sure they could do at least one or two to really round out the cards. But even without that it is a fun little game and being low cost it is worth it. Additionally, this would work as a good cross-over game, you just have to remember who you are playing with.

Gamestorm 14

Last weekend was another exciting gaming convention, sure wish I could go to more of them.  As it is nearly bedtime for me this will be short and sweet.

For those that don’t know, Gamestorm is a gaming convention held each year in the Portland/Vancouver area of the PNW.  The last few years it has been at the Hilton in Vancouver, WA.  For 3-1/2 days we take over the entire convention space and fill it with RPG, RPGA, Miniature, Indie, Board/Card Games, LARPs, LAN, CCG, and console gaming.  There is something for everyone and all have a great time.

This year I ran one session of Horror Rules, and played in a number of RPGs.  I played Faery’s Tale, Monsters and Other Childish Things
, Zombie Cinema, Teenagers from Outer Space, and a d20 Modern" target="_blank">d20 modern set in the old west.  My weekend was full of all sorts of great stories and I plan to share them over the coming days.

But for now I will end with one of the many great quotes from my gaming weekend.

“I’ve been snasquatched by the hideunder!”

Geek or Nerd

A couple of months ago I got into a discussion with a friend who was trying to determine the difference between a geek and a nerd.  So while I proudly claim both monikers as my own, here is my description of both and how they pertain to me.

Geek – A geek is someone who is passionate about something to the point that they study it intensely.  For these people there is simply no end to the amount of knowledge they can have on their subject(s) of passion.  Do you know someone who could quote the all the Star Wars movies in their sleep?  How about someone that lives and breaths D&D and can provide any given rule at a moment’s notice.  Or even someone who knows every stat on their favorite sports players.  All of these people are geeks!!

Nerd – A nerd is someone who has a general thirst for knowledge.  They want to learn and do so at any given opportunity.  They enjoy the random article feature on Wikipedia just for the sake of new knowledge.  They not only ask questions but go and read until they find the answer.  Documentaries and history shows are their favorite programs.  Hermione is the epitome of a nerd, her thirst for knowledge knows no bounds.  Do you know someone that reads text books for fun?  Someone who reads everything they can get their hands on?  Who assigns themselves subjects to do reports on?  All of these people are nerds!!

So the main difference is that a Geek focuses on a subject or handful of subjects, while a nerd simply wants to learn everything they can about everything.  The other difference is that a nerd is more likely to only pull out their knowledge as needed, while a geek will happily jump up on their chosen soap box and pontificate on their given subject(s) for hours on end.

I am a geek when it comes to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  We are heading there again this December and I can’t wait to make my 8th visit there.  I could go on and on about everything there, but I will save that for another post.  There are plenty of gamer type things to write about, probably more than you guessed.

I am also a nerd.  I used the cash my grandma gave me for my 18th birthday to buy my own copy of the Calculus text book we used in high school such it was so well written.  When I was a kid I would assign myself subjects to study over the summer, such as owl pellets, Norway, or ice skating.  In fact I taught myself Calculus I the summer before my senior year in college.  I have tutored several people in math because I enjoy algebra the way people do crossword puzzles (which I also enjoy).   This is a lot of why I could be successful getting my bachelors degree through Portland State’s online program.

Hopefully this helps some to clear up any confusion you might have on the words nerd and geek.  It should also put me clearly in the nerd category with a touch of geek, a position I have learned to be proud of over the years.  So where do you fall on the spectrum, and if you are a geek what are your topics, if you are a nerd what proves that?

We are back

Hello readers!  After striking for a day in protest of the SOPA and PIPA Bills going through the US Government right now, we are back on line.  If you are in the US and you haven’t already made your feeling know about SOPA and PIPA I strongly suggest you contact your representatives and let them know how you feel, after all they work for us!

I know that I have been fairly quiet through the bustle of the holidays, but now that we are into cold, rainy winter nights I am back to blogging so expect to hear a lot more from me in the coming months.

6 Reasons to Switch to Streaming

Our Switch

About 1-1/2 years ago we realized that we were wasting money every month paying a cable bill just for fun.  The realization came on night when we looked around and discovered that no one had turned the cable on in a whole month.  What a waste of our money!

At that point we were already Netflix members as I had signed up when I took a Film and Politics class at Portland State University.  Since we were watching a movie a week and they had almost all the movies in their collection it was a good investment.  When we gave up cable we switched to Netflix for our TV viewing entertainment.

In all honesty we have not missed out cable at all.  I should share that we are not a sports watching family so there were no games for us to miss out on, and even for you sports people out there I hear that this year the Superbowl will be live streamed online so there are really no excuses anymore.

6 Benefits to Streaming

Since we gave up cable we have noted some benefits to our lives that had both been expected and unexpected.  Here is our list:

1) No more cable bill.  Even with the changes to subscriptions that Netflix has undergone the savings is considerable, especially as we dropped the DVD portion when they split them (we weren’t watching them anyways).

2) No more advertisements at Christmas time.  I have two school aged kids and while they hear about stuff from their friends they are shielded from the onslaught of commercials for the latest chunk of plastic or useless electronic that barrage our favorite shows come fall.

3) No more political ads.  For us this has been a great and unexpected benefit, especially heading into an election year like this one.  Right now we are having a special election for a new Senator and since we haven’t seen adds our decisions are based on what is on the ballot, their websites and our voter’s guide.  This allows us to make a decision without hating the idea of voting due to negative ads before out ballot even shows up.  For us this is a good thing.

4) No more missing the show.  This is great for all of us, if you doze off or have to run a kid to an event before the show is over there are no issues, just watch it later.  Sure you get this with DVR but then you probably have a higher bill than I do.

5) I know what the kids have been watching.  They have the chance to cruise the available shows and movies on Netflix and there are some that they are simply too young to watch.  Since everything you watch kicks over to a “Recently Watched” section we all know what each other is watching.  A much easier way to keep tabs on things, though my kids haven’t tried watching anything they shouldn’t.

6) Exposure to new shows.  I have found that documentaries that interest me are far easier to come by then they used to be with my cable provider.  This also means my kids have gotten into “How It’s Made” that they would have been unlikely to run across before our switch.

Do you stream?

While it is not the best answer for everyone, the switch to streaming TV has been great for us.  So tell me, have to switched to streaming and if you have what benefits have you seen, if not, why not?



Modern day wands

What is a wand?

According to my recently purchased copy of The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols by Adele Nozedar, a wand is a symbol of power.  Adele writes “The wand is an essential tool for anyone who aspires to a position of authority and power: witches and wizards, druids, bishops, and the monarchy”.   I had always considered wands to be associated with wizards and fairies and the like, but had never carried that notion over to bishops and monarchs before.  What an interesting idea.  It made me wonder what modern day items would be considered wands based on this definition of a wand as a tool representing authority and power.

Modern day wands

Gavel by creationc

The first that comes to my mind is the gavel.  I can’t help but see this as a wand based on Nozedar’s description.  Considering the authority we consider a judge to have, and certainly the authority considering they can hold your life in their hands.  Though I must admit while I can easily tie a judge’s gavel to power and authority, I have trouble imagining it providing any sort of magical ability to the wielder in the way I typically visual a wand doing.

The next that comes to mind is a school teacher’s marker.  This, of course, has changed over time and depends on the circumstances.  In many cases today it is the dry erase marker or the greatly feared red pen.   While teachers are not the figures of authority to adults that they are to school children, there is still power in the red pen that marks your mistakes and your grades on each paper you turn in.  A small wand by most standards but perhaps a stronger level of magic due to that.

I am sure there are other great modern day wands out there, what can you think of?

Bring it to you RPG

So neat idea but how does it apply to your RPG game.  I can see this being a great tie in either in a ShadowRun or Champions game.  Any of your major NPC’s could be a closet magic user, implementing their wand as a focus item without letting on to the world their true nature or abilities.  It could be used as a surprise for the characters who may not see it coming.  Back in the day I played in a Champion campaign where many of the major politicians were magic users, they just used them to gain and keep their positions and only as much as needed so that it was not well known to the general population.  Just goes to show that magic users can wield their power in a low-key, yet highly effective way.

What creative ways have you used wands or focus items in your games?

Raising a creative child

by my daughter in Kindergarten

Creativity is essential

While not everyone will agree, I feel that one of the greatest gifts you can provide for your child is the ability to be creative.  Thinking with a creative mind allows a person to not only develop novel solutions to a problem they are faced with, but also imagine what might happen should a certain course of action take place.  In our world there is quickly developing a divide between those that can imagine novel solutions and those that are the sheep that follow.  While both are required in society, in my case I don’t follow all that well or happily.

Raising creative kids

So, if I think raising your child to be creative is so important how do you go about doing it?  To start I would like to say that I am not an expert on raising kids; this is just one mom’s opinion on the matter.  What I suggest and do myself may or may not work for your family, kids or yourself, all we can do is try.

That being said, I think the first and most important step to raising creative kids is to have creative parents.  It is far easier to approach things from new angles when you live in a setting where you see the adults doing so all the time.  This is why my kids are welcome to sit at our gaming table and listen to the group try to figure out how to solve the latest challenge the GM has thrown at them.  This is also why we discuss problems that we have at work or with school at the dinner table, trying to find the best way and share our different approaches we have tried in the past with each other.

I think that the best way to bring out the natural creativity in any child (or even adult for that matter) is to ask “what if” type questions.

a drawing by my son in 3rd grade

Such as “What if your rubber duck could swim on its own, what would it do?”, this gives a young child the chance to imagine a clear picture and respond with an answer.  Now comes the hard part, respect your child’s answer by either expressing approval or by asking a question to get more information.  It is critical that you allow them the freedom to answer with something that isn’t even logical, especially when they are younger then school-age.  If their rubber duck would turn upside-down and swim with its feet in the air using its wings to paddle, then respond with a “Neat”.  Don’t shut them down by pointing out that ducks can’t swim like that.  Creativity is about imagining those things that are, combined with those things that aren’t, to generate a newness.  We cannot be creative and endlessly bound by our current reality at the same time!

My creative kids

As a result of letting my children be free-thinkers they are often praised for their creativity.  Of course there are times, such as school assignments, where we have to reign in that creative thinking some so that they can conform enough to pass.  It is a fine line to walk, especially with my daughter who is very free thinking.  In the end though, I find that it is worth the struggle.

I find that because of their creativity my children are constantly looking for ways to rework the world into something new.  Our dining/game room has 2 bookshelves in it primarily dedicated to art supplies, our recycle bin is regularly scrounged through for the latest creative endeavor.  In fact, just yesterday my son looked at his old twin mattress we are getting rid of and since it is too worn for use, he asked if he could take two of the springs from it so he could attach them to his shoes.  As you can see I work to keep up with them as they surprise me with questions I am at best half prepared to hear.

Lego creation by my son

So what do you do with this?

Start asking your kid questions about “what if” with no wrong answer.  Buy them blocks and Lego sets and let any style of car or rocket ship they build be awesome, and join them at it even if you aren’t very good in your eyes – they will think you make cool things.  Watch clouds go by and decide what they look like, cats or elephants or flying monkeys.  If they create a new creature and draw you a picture, provide approval and reinforcement by asking them what its favorite food is.  Anything you do that allows them to make new things adds to their creative pool, giving them the means to move past how it has always been to how it could be.  That is, after all, how we turn our wishes into reality.  And while you are helping your child be creative, help yourself to be creative as well.

Train your evil geekling

Welcome to another addition of Wacky Wednesday where I bring you one crazy item or article I have read online.

Doctor Who Ride-in DalekThis week I wanted to share with you the perfect way to start the early training in ultimate destruction of, well, everyone for your young geekling.  I bring to you the Ride in Dalek toy available at Think Geek.  Just when you thought you had seen it all in the Dr. Who fandom items, they dig a little deeper, but why not kids can love Dr Who also, right?

Personally, I would rather have put my kids in a sound effect laden Tardis, but I bet that is available somewhere too.  Who knows maybe your little one won’t turn out evil after all even after riding around in this ride!