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Remembering all my D&D and gaming pals at Thanksgiving

Here in the U.S. we are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, a holiday in which we go shopping, watch football and eat way too much. Oh yeah, and we give thanks for the good things in our lives.

As part of the Thanksgiving holiday, this year I would like to give thanks for the many people who have influenced my role play gaming over the years, mostly D&D but also other games. Here they are below:

Thanksgiving: Those in the biz

English: Image of Dave Arneson, based on Portr...
Image of Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson: Without these two gentlemen, I and millions of others would not have known the joys of not only the game of Dungeons & Dragons, but the whole role playing game phenomena. Many of us should be thankful for these two, the creators of D&D and tabletop rpgs.

Eric Goldberg, Gerald C. Klug, David James Ritchie, Edward J. Woods, Redmond A. Simonsen, Robert J. Ryer, and Brad E. Hessel: This group of fellows are responsible for one of my favorite role-playing games, DragonQuest, originally published in 1980 by SPI and later taken over by TSR. If you’re interested in some old-school fantasy gaming that is quite different from D&D, I suggest looking for an old DragonQuest rule book, second or third edition being worth your while.

We Can Be Heroes, by Scott Fitzgerald Gray
We Can Be Heroes, by Scott Fitzgerald Gray

Scott Fitzgerald Gray: Writer, editor, all around good guy. He’s helped in ways of which I know he’s not aware. Check out his books for some great fantasy and science fiction reading. Honestly, I could have listed Scott below with my gaming buddies, as he has influenced me professionally and personally, but it didn’t seem right not to draw attention to his literary achievements.

The late, great Tom Moldvay: For all he did, from D&D to Star Frontiers to Lords of Creation and beyond. I miss this man’s work.

Thanksgiving: My gaming buddies

The Dice & Decks crew: Specifically the founders, Brennan Nau and Joe Roti Roti, but also a number of the crew who were part of this online gaming group, including Nathan Thurston, Owen Mergen, Dan R. Selaja, and David Pelayo. Anybody I’ve forgotten, my apologies.

The Unnamed Adventurer’s Guild: Charles Cole is really top dog here, but I can’t forget the other great dungeon masters and players from this online group. So here’s to Dan Harsh, Da Bill, Konrad Kopacz, Jonathan Sharpling, and the many others I’ve had the pleasure to game with during the last year.

The Mohican Orc Gnashers: My northern Ohio gaming group. We’ve had plenty of great DragonQuest adventures together. Off the top of my head, I offer thanks for Steve Goble, Gere Goble, Tom Williams, Cindy Carpenter, and Greg Moore. Sorry, gang, for not mentioning everybody else, but I’ve not had the pleasure of gaming with them since I’m no longer in Ohio.

The Group Who Shall Not Be Named: This is my southern Ohio gaming group. We spent loads of time playing D&D before I moved away, but I still get to Skype in the occasional adventure. I can never forget these folks: Greg Moore (yes, he’s in both the northern and southern group), Becky Lovins, Melvin Grasswipe, Rich Shultz, Jay S. Willis, Amy Barnhart, and Dave Gibson.

Nerdarchy: Last but far from least, I can’t thank enough the Nerdarchy crew. As some of you know, the last couple of years have been tough ones for me, but the Nerdarchy gang have been a big help by allowing me to take a small role in their online gaming community. The games, the videos, the articles, it has all meant so much. This Thanksgiving I’ll be lifting an ale to Dave Friant, Ted Adams, Nate Riggins, and Ryan Friant.

Nerdarchy at the table: L to R, Dave, Nate, Ted, and Ryan
Nerdarchy at the table: L to R, Dave, Nate, Ted, and Ryan

Until next time, give thanks and roll those dice, all you Nerdarchists!

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Now for something completely different: Add laughs to your D&D game with Monty Python rules

Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail
Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Around some role-playing game tables, especially those for Dungeons & Dragons, quotes from the Monty Python’s Flying Circus television show and Monty Python movies are as common as twenty-sided dice. As might be expected considering the subject matter, quips from “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” are especially prevalent.

Who can blame us, and our fellow gamers? Those movies and the show are hilarious and often full of scenarios and one-liners just fit for a session of D&D. In our broader culture, perhaps only “The Princess Bride” comes close as being quoted, or maybe the Star Wars franchise.

However, sometimes quotes aren’t enough. Sometimes you might want to take your game to the next level by actually including Monty Python material in your adventures. Drafting some of the characters would not be too difficult, and it would be a fairly easy task to include King Arthur’s famed sword Excalibur as rules for it exist in earlier editions of the game. But what about specific rules that allow for Monty Python-esque gameplay? Continue reading Now for something completely different: Add laughs to your D&D game with Monty Python rules

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Energize your Fifth Edition D&D character classes by playing across types

D&D booksHello, Nerdarchists! Have you played all the Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons character classes, and all the archetypes, and now you’re looking for something new? Are all your characters starting to feel the same? Do you need an idea to help kick start your creativity when it comes to character creation?

If so, I’ve got an idea for you. Take one of the standard D&D classes and play it as if it were another class.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Maybe, but if you’re looking to add a little spark to your game, this might just be the ticket.

Traditionally, D&D character classes have had certain roles to play within a gaming party, and while good at such roles, they could sometimes feel limiting. The fighter usually played the front-line combatant, the cleric was the healer, the spell caster played artillery, and the rogue did the sneaky stuff. While true that some classes combined various abilities to allow for expansion of gameplay and characterization, for the most part each class did its singular role well while being abysmal at pretty much anything else.

Fortunately, Fifth Edition has done away with much of that. Obviously various archetypes allow classes to expand their roles, such as letting the Fighter play mage a little through the Eldritch Knight and the rogue to have some spell abilities with the Arcane Trickster. Also, some of the Warlock’s Invocations give strengths of non-casting classes, while a few Cleric Domans provide abilities not normally associated with the priestly class.

Breathe life into your D&D characters

To my way of thinking, however, it is the Feats which provide the most benefits in the endeavor to give cross-class abilities.

Right off the bat, the Magic Initiate Feat allows for any character to pick up a couple of cantrips and a 1st-level spell. This little touch of magic might not seem like much, but a single Cure Wounds might save a party member, and a Fighter utilizing the Hex spell can truly deal out heavy damage even at low levels. Cantrips which provide a distance attack also allow characters to go without ranged weapons, if concerned about ammunition and/or encumbrance. Even spell casters can give themselves a nice little boost by using this Feat to snag some power from another class. Also, remember that Spell Sniper can provide a cantrip, as well as doubling the range on spells that require an attack roll, so a class without magic could gain a little more power by using both Magic Initiate and Spell Sniper.

Classes generally weak in combat skills can pick up some martial abilities with the Weapon Master and armor Feats, while Martial Adept allows for dipping into the Battle Master archetype. For those who want to add a little Monk flavor to their character, Tavern Brawler and Mobile can prove useful.

Then there are the sneaky Feats. If you have a Fighter who wants some Rogue abilities without actually multi-classing, consider the following Feats: Skulker, Skilled, Athlete, Dungeon Delver, even Medium Armor Master. Such Feats combined with the Criminal Background can make a Fighter almost as good at sneaking around as a Rogue.

And any character who would like some serious healing power should consider the Healer Feat, possibly combined with Magic Initiate or Inspiring Leader.

D&D Backgrounds play an important role

character classesBesides Feats, Backgrounds can also allow a class to reach into other classes. If you have a character who wants to know how to pick locks, the Criminal would be obvious. If your Rogue wants to pass himself off as a Bard, the Entertainer could prove helpful. Several Backgrounds, such as Acolyte and Hermit, offer some magic-related skills for those who want a touch of flavor in that area.

I think about now a word of warning needs to be handed out. Keep in mind that if a character goes down the path I’ve suggested above, to some extent the character’s class might not be living up to its full potential. In other words, the class will not be fully optimized. For players who like their characters to be the absolute best of what they are, then crossing class abilities is probably not the best idea. However, giving a class some abilities from other classes can provide some interesting roleplaying, and it can help flesh out a character a little.

For instance, if you have a Barbarian who was raised by a Cleric, would it really be out of line for your Barbarian to have a few skills or even spells based upon the Cleric tradition? Using Feats and such for this might not make your Barbarian the strongest Barbarian around, but it might make him or her one of the more unique barbarians around.

I also would like to point out that another useful reason for working with D&D Backgrounds, Archetypes and Feats to create a cross-classing character is if your Dungeon Master does not allow multi-classing, or if your particular campaign does not allow for it.

Until next time, stay Nerdy all you D&D fans!

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D&D Alignments: Has Chaotic Neutral gotten a bad rap?

Dungeons & DragonsHello Nedarchists! Today I want to take a look at the Dungeons & Dragons Alignment system, specifically the Chaotic Neutral alignment.

The Alignment system in some form or other has been part of the D&D experience since the beginning, all the way back in 1974 with the first edition of the game. Even in the early days, Alignments sometimes brought about a predicament for players and dungeon masters alike as Alignments could be understood in a rather subjective fashion, giving rise to lots of different interpretations.

The occasional troubles have not abated to this day. Some dungeon masters do away with Alignments altogether, or at least ignore them. Some players consider Alignments a burden upon their characters, while other players enjoy using Alignments as a guidepost for their creations. Continue reading D&D Alignments: Has Chaotic Neutral gotten a bad rap?

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Armored Instinct: Bringing combat of the past to the future

martial artsThe ring of steel on steel, swords against armor, maces against shields, these are often considered sounds only from the far past. Today, however, that is no longer the case. With interest in the sword arts growing, in no small part due to organizations such as ARMA (Association for Renaissance Martial Arts) and HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) and Russia’s M-1 Medieval Sports League, more and more fans and athletes are taking up arms and armor to experience the thrills of historical combat for themselves.

Two such individuals are Kyle Roberts and Andrew Dunn, founders of Armored Instinct in Winchester, Kentucky, who answer questions below.

Question: What exactly (and who) is Armored Instinct? Continue reading Armored Instinct: Bringing combat of the past to the future

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Afraid you’re a bad Dungeon Master? Do it anyway

Dungeons and Dragons

dungeon mastersSo, you’ve run a couple of Dungeons & Dragons games as dungeon master, but you’re not feeling great about it. The sessions seemed to drag. You felt like you were always flipping through the Player’s Handbook.

A couple of characters bickered and you couldn’t do anything about it. Maybe there were even technical issues if you gamed online, or if you were at a table, maybe the chips tasted stale and the soft drinks flat. Maybe, dread of all dreads, a total-party-kill took place. Against flumphs.

In other words, the games sucked, and you feel like you’re to blame for all of it. Continue reading Afraid you’re a bad Dungeon Master? Do it anyway

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Gaming, RPG, Comics Collection Housed at Duke U. Library

backstory
Role-playing games
Photo courtesy of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Dungeons & dragons
Beth Doyle / Duke University Libraries

Since 2003, thousands of tabletop role playing games, miniatures, box sets, cards, fanzines, comic books and more have made up the Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Pulp Culture at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, one of few such collections in the world and the largest in the Southeastern U.S.

Role-Playing Games on Display!

Continue reading Gaming, RPG, Comics Collection Housed at Duke U. Library

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1982: Year of the first ADV Dungeons & Dragons video game

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain
Box cover for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to Dungeons & Dragons products, the tabletop games might be first to come to mind, but the brand has had more than its share of success with video games. Everyone has their favorites, from “Baldur’s Gate” this and “Neverwinter Nights” that, but those new to the franchise might not be familiar with some of the earlier digital efforts for D&D.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Video Games

Though not the first Dungeons & Dragons video game (that honor goes to “dnd,” created by Ray Wood and Gary Whisenhunt in 1974), the first such game to have the word “advanced” in the title would be 1982’s “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” for the Intellivision home console. Continue reading 1982: Year of the first ADV Dungeons & Dragons video game

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Non-gaming YouTube Channels for Nerds

So you’ve caught up on all the latest Nerdarchy videos at YouTube, and you’ve watched everything available from sr2joker, aFistfulofDice, Tabletop Gaming with Juce, and your other favorite tabletop gaming-related YouTube channels. Still, you want more. There have to be other channels out there providing helpful and fun videos for the tabletop nerd in all of us.

There are.

Below are some of the non-gaming YouTube channels I have found helpful as a player, a game master, and as a fantasy writer, and a few channels that are merely fun and could be enjoyed by all nerds. By no means should this be considered a comprehensive listing, so if I leave out one of your favorites, it is not meant as a slight. For that matter, if you’ve got a favorite channel, by all means tell us about it in the comments.

Swords, swords and more swords

Continue reading Non-gaming YouTube Channels for Nerds

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Wizards of the Coast closing forums: Where to go now?

Nerdarchy

Recently Wizards of the Coast announced it would close its official online forums for Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering on October 29, 2015, and as can be expected with any semi-major change on the Internet, some users are left angered, others confused, a handful pleased, and no small number simply going, “Meh.”

But why would WotC do this? Why give up on their online forums and part of their community? According to an official WotC news article, “Social media has changed significantly over the last ten years, and discussions about games aren’t exclusive to company-hosted forums. The majority of community conversation takes place on third-party websites … and it is up to us to evolve alongside our players.”

WotC forums to go away?!?

There is some truth that during the last decade much of social media has shifted from individual forums and sites to popular user-driven outlets such as Facebook, Reddit and Twitter. However, it would seem WotC is not giving up on social media altogether. Official WotC Dungeons and Dragonspages at Facebook will continue to function along with Twitter, as will official pages and addresses at other sites.

Also, while this change will leave no small portion of the D&D and Magic communities shuffling to find new online homes, there are plenty of options available, officially from WotC and otherwise.

First off, since you’re reading this at Nerdarchy.com, why not try the new Nerdarchy forums? Built for Nerd by Nerds, these forums allow you in on the ground floor of helping to build a fan site and an online community. You can also add to the conversations at the Nerdarchy Facebook page and Nerdarchy’s Twitter feed and Tumblr page.

If you still seek an official WotC connection to D&D and Magic: The Gathering, here are the links:

D&D on Facebook

D&D on Twitter

D&D on Tumblr

Magic: The GatheringMagic: The Gathering on Facebook

Magic: The Gathering on Twitter

Magic: The Gathering on Tumblr

Wizards of the Coast on Facebook

Wizards of the Coast on Twitter

Regardless of where you end up spending your time online, keep in mind that WotC is not distancing itself from D&D, Magic or the fan community. According to WotC Marketing Manager Trevor Kidd on his Twitter account, “Closing our forums does not in any way lessen our interactions. We’ll still be talking & lurking in your social media & fan sites.”

So WotC isn’t going away, and neither are Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering. Fan sites and other social media will continue to offer plenty of options for online users who want a community and a place for longer, more complex discussions of favorite pastimes.

Wherever you end up online, always remember to stay Nerdy!

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The Benefits of Amazon Prime for the Typical Gamer

Nerdy TV showsUnless one has been living under a digital rock the last couple of years, it is nearly impossible to not have heard of Amazon Prime. For only $99 dollars a year, Amazon offers unlimited watching of thousands of TV shows and movies, free two-day shipping on more than 20 million items for sale, unlimited music streaming and photo storage, early access to special Amazon Lightning Deals, and the ability to borrow one e-book a month from among 800,000 available e-books in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. Perhaps best of all, there is a free 30-day trial period. Then there is the fact Amazon Prime is available through numerous digital devices, from computers to tablets to smart phones, game consoles, set top boxes, Blu-ray players and more.

All that sounds great, but what does it mean for the nerd crowd?

Get Amazon Prime for All the Nerdy TV Shows

Continue reading The Benefits of Amazon Prime for the Typical Gamer

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Review – Revolution: Virtual Playspace

With the growing popularity of online tabletop gaming, more and more game masters and players are turning to sites and software for digital virtual playspaces in order to boost their fun and the gaming experience. Most of these virtual tabletops include a variety of extra functions, such as dice rollers and campaign managers and messaging and more, but to my knowledge all focus upon a two-dimensional environment.

Not so with Revolution: Virtual Playspace.

Continue reading Review – Revolution: Virtual Playspace

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Fantasy Artist Spotlight – Daniel R. Horne

Daniel R. HorneI have been enjoying fantasy art since I was a boy in the 1970s. Initially I grew to recognize and love the works of Brothers Hildebrandt, Frank Frazetta, Walter Valez and Darrell K. Sweet. Most of these artists drew my attention by their fantastic work on paperback book covers. During the 1980s, I found myself drawn to newer artists, those whose works were featured in role playing material, mostly Dungeons & Dragons products and Dragon magazine. Names like Erol Otus, Bill Willingham, Jeff Easley, Larry Elmore and Keith Parkinson became familiar to me, along with hosts of others.

Yet one artist stood out for me among all the others, that artist being Daniel R. Horne.

Fantasy Artist Spotlight – Daniel R. Horne

Continue reading Fantasy Artist Spotlight – Daniel R. Horne

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How Gaming (and Nerdarchy) Helped Save Me

Player Agency

Dungeons and Dragons2014 is a year I will never forget.

In May of that year I lost my wife of 12 years to breast cancer. Then in June my father passed away from stomach cancer. In July an uncle died from a heart attack. Even a beloved family pet passed on soon after.

As you can expect, it was quite the tumultuous and emotional year. Everyone experiences grief in their own way, so I won’t compare my own to anyone else, but it did seem for a long while I was falling deeper and deeper into a well of numbness. Also, it seemed there was no way out, that I would never be able to pull myself back up to find breathing space, let alone any peace of mind.

Dungeons and Dragons and Nerdarchy

Continue reading How Gaming (and Nerdarchy) Helped Save Me

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5th Edition – The Warlock: Are You Playing It Right?

WarlockOne of the grumblings I sometimes hear or read about Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition concerns the warlock class. Almost always these center around the fact the warlock has so few spell slots, only one initially and then only two until level 11, eventually ending with a maximum of four at 17th level.

While it’s true the warlock does not have as many spell slots as other magic-casting classes, and it’s true the Warlock does not have the diversity of spells available to many classes, the warlock has so many unique abilities that I am left wondering if some players simply are not sure of how to play a warlock.

Warlock in 5th Edition

Continue reading 5th Edition – The Warlock: Are You Playing It Right?