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D&D Fluff and Mechanics Make the RPG Go ‘Round

D&D fluff and mechanicsDebates swirl around the various forums and subreddits in the Dungeons & Dragons community; they’re chief among the interactions we have with each other. These debates often vary in their complexity, but a lot of the disagreement with how to even proceed with the debate itself is based on a misunderstanding some have about what the debate is even about. Is this a ‘flavour’ issue or a ‘rules’ issue? What’s the difference? Does it matter?

In this article, we’ll be delving into what ‘mechanics’ are, what ‘fluff’ is and how changing either can change your D&D game, for good or ill. The hope is that after reading, you should feel a bit more confident in your ability to discuss things, possibly even change things, in your games. Continue reading D&D Fluff and Mechanics Make the RPG Go ‘Round

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DC Universe Online Is Experiencing A Rebirth

In the great big world of massive multiplayer online games, the market is very make-it-or-break-it. Yeah there are some games that are bigger than others, but the ones that really catch fire hit a specific market and consistently update the content. DC Universe Online, or DCUO for short, had hit the market so hard they beat out the market leader to become the ruler of the roost.

From going free to play, to the consistent new powersets that are given to the new players, DCUO has kept it coming. The MMO visits not just content inspired by hot topic events like various movies, huge comic arcs and cosplay fads, but also brings in things from the fringes of the comics to entertain. Truly, DCUO has got it on PS3, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Continue reading DC Universe Online Is Experiencing A Rebirth

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GM’s Can Create an Adventure in Five Easy Pieces

adventureIn the video above from the Nerdarchy YouTube channel Nerdarchist Dave, Nate the Nerdarch and Nerdarchist Ted explore an approach to creating tabletop roleplaying game adventures. Based on the Five Ws – traditional basic information gathering and problem solving steps – this method makes creating adventures for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons or any RPG much easier.

By asking yourself who, what, where, when and why a Game Master turns what could be a daunting task into a quick process. Preparing RPG adventures this way provides a solid foundation for both GM and players. Building on the basic structure you create is absolutely possible. But this simple method alone offers ample material to work with at your gaming table for fun, rewarding experiences. Continue reading GM’s Can Create an Adventure in Five Easy Pieces

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A D&D Player Needs All the Stuff, a D&D DM Needs Even More Stuff!

D&D stuff

In this video Nate the Nerdarch and Nerdarhchists Dave and Ted approach the idea of bookkeeping for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons or any tabletop roleplaying game from several avenues. Pregame preparation, character maintenance and efficiency during play are some of the topics discussed.

The standout aspect for me is preparing for a game session by making sure you have all the materials you need. My group meets to play D&D or whatever game we get into at a local coffeeshop. There’s a private room we reserve in the back to while away the evening rolling funny-shaped dice and speaking with funny-sounding voices. Every session requires a mental checklist before heading out the door to account for all the necessary stuff. And then a double-check. And then a quick assessment of more stuff that might be needed. Continue reading A D&D Player Needs All the Stuff, a D&D DM Needs Even More Stuff!

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Marvel Super Heroes RPG Live Game All About the Chat

Hey, guys, Professor Bill of Comic Book University and I want to talk about you.
No, seriously, all of you guys who appear in the chat for the Marvel Super Heroes Roleplaying Game FASERIP live game I run for the crew on Mondays. Also, all of you who comment afterward in the comments section of those videos, I try to go back to the videos once in a while to see if there are questions I can answer or see your opinions.

Continue reading Marvel Super Heroes RPG Live Game All About the Chat

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Improv is Critical in RPG Storytelling


Improvisational theatre in progress. [Image by Aude Vanlathem/]
Tabletop RPGs are deeply rooted in improvisation. After all, they’re games where people do things by saying they’re going to do them, and everyone else has to react to what’s being done by saying what they’re going to do.


This process repeats for two to four hours, or until there’s a good stopping point. Even Game Masters who prefer a more structured style are going to improvise more dialogue than they’ll use their actual prepared material.

This does not even include all the improv for the inevitable unplanned encounters, or how the GM has to improvise describing the outcomes of rolls – especially in combat. Technically you can just say what you’re going to do and exchange numbers across the table to determine success, and not describe what’s being said or done, but what would be the fun in that? Continue reading Improv is Critical in RPG Storytelling

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Hail Hydra! Marvel FASERIP’s Mr. Cyber Explained

Hey, guys, Professor Bill of Comic Book University and I’m going to explain Mr. Cyber, the main bad guy in the Marvel Super Heroes Roleplaying Game (FASERIP) I’m running every Monday for the Nerdarchists. Mr. Cyber is, well, me.
That’s right, Professor Bill is the ultimate evil in the Nerdarchy game. How did he get there? What did he do to gain his powers? Why is he so evil? Let’s read.

Where he’s from

Professor Bill was doing what every nerd was doing on that Thursday afternoon; he was watching the Nerdarchy live chat as Nerdarchist Dave was talking to one of his nerdy guests. The conversation is going one way and the chat is going another; just a typical live chat.
Dave says, something to the effect of, “We’re going to need to petition Professor Bill of Comic Book University to run a Marvel FASERIP game for us.”

Continue reading Hail Hydra! Marvel FASERIP’s Mr. Cyber Explained

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Yes, YOU can take part in a Marvel Superheroes RPG online!

MarvelHey guys, Professor Bill from Comic Book University, and I’m going to talk (write) about the game I’m running for Nerdarchy on Thursdays. Marvel Superheroes Role Playing Game is an old love for many of us, but that’s not the crux of what I want to talk about.

Rather, I want to discuss the audience participation technique I’m employing.

You see, I remember someone talking to Dave about involving the audience as much as possible. I don’t remember who the speaker was who said this (comment the answer below if you know), but I thought this was a great idea. Now the guy didn’t give any examples, but just the concept was fantastic, and it really stuck with me. Then Dave called me out in the chat and dared me to run an MSHRPG game for him and some peeps.

What’s funny is that the story came to me pretty quickly. I initially thought of a trilogy and then quickly thought of a way to make it nine stories broken into three chapters. Also getting players to be their own heroes without just assigning them pre-existing heroes or allowing them to pick their own.

This, I thought, would get boring quickly. They would have to play the characters “the right way.” No one would believe an Iceman who just went around killing people or an Iron Man who didn’t think out a solution rather than just blasting everything with his repulsors. So, sending them into the world as themselves was a fairly easy decision, too.

Rather, it was the audience participation that weighed heavily on me.

I mean, why would people want to watch a game that doesn’t involve them? There’s not much of a participation rate if you’re watching and there’s no involvement. When I’m doing my own podcasts (live on Saturdays on YouTube at 10am or 12pm, Comic Book University -cheap plug) I talk with the audience all the time. I don’t let a single comment go unmentioned and I make sure to call on the person by name, because it’s a good feeling to be involved in a conversation and have your opinion heard and mentioned.

So, how could I turn this participation that I foster to an RPG? That’s when I came to the revelation that I could just call on the chat to play some of the enemies in the game. I know there’s a delay, so I make sure to call on audience members as soon as possible to give the chat time to hear, respond, and get their ideas ready.

There’s a bit of quick-thinking necessary on my part (minor pat on the back) because I have to adapt to what the chat member wants to do, find a way to combine it with what the other members called upon want to do, and make it relevant to the game.

The bank scenario was probably the best part so far. I had five bank robbers with a hidden agenda, so I needed to control the leader, but the other four I surrendered to the chat. I told them what the bank members had as far as equipment and let them do what they wanted. No one had dice on them, so I had to roll for them, but we had attacks flying and threats made and intimidations delivered.

All-in-all I’d call that dangerously productive. And that’s important to me. It’s why I wanted participation on the building of my character for the Open Legend game I’m in on Fridays with most of the same Nerdarchists. It’s the same reason why I wanted your participation in building the city map for the same game (I can’t wait till we get to play in that city).

I have a few other ideas planned for how I can get you guys involved in the Marvel game if you’re watching the chat, so by all means, bring your d10s and be prepared to participate.

Professor Bill
Comic Book University
Class Dismissed

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Nerdarchy Invades the Marvel Universe

Class was in session when Professor Bill from Comic Book University (aka Nerdarchy staff writer William C.) took a group of mild-mannered nerds for a trip to the heart of the Marvel Universe for a game of the Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game.

Role-Playing Game
Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game was produced by TSR in the 1980s.

Nerdarchists Dave and Ted, staff writers Megan R. Miller and Doug Vehovec and Intern Kyle sat down for the daily live chat and found themselves on a journey into mystery. Transported to New York City with only the clothes on their backs and whatever they had in their pockets, they’re confronted by a world filled with purse snatchers, Purifiers, bank robbers and a crime family well-known to Marvel fans (just don’t say their name out loud).

Bumbling their way into super heroism, the Nerdarchy crew uses the awesome power of meta-knowledge and slowly discovers their own superhuman powers on Earth-616 – at least, that’s where they think they landed. With Class 1000 knowledge of the Marvel Universe, our heroes might know they can survive the Good damage of a criminal’s gunshot, but who knows what will happen when they run into beings of Incredible, Amazing or Monstrous power?

Marvel Universe
The Universal Table determines the outcome of all the action in the Marvel Super Heroes RPG

In this first issue, the crew meets a few established Marvel heroes on a rollicking romp through NYC. Like your favorite Marvel superheroes, these Nerdarchists share plenty of foibles to balance their Remarkable abilities. Only time will tell if they rise to the occasion. With Karma on their side, they’re just a spandex suit away from taking their place among the icons of the Marvel universe.

In the next incredible installment of this new adventure, will the crew unlock new powers? Will they get any closer to finding out why they’re here? Will Ty Johnston find a sword hanging on a wall somewhere?!

Watch the video for a +2 column shift on getting caught up and be sure to like, share and subscribe to the Nerdarchy YouTube channel so you don’t miss the next issue or any of the other marvelous content. Live viewers will have opportunities to jump right into the fun by helping Professor Bill direct the action.  Get out your percentile dice and Universal Table and follow along as the Nerdarchists discover the great responsibility that comes with great power.

And until next time, Excelsior! Uh…um…that is…stay nerdy!

Feeling a Shift Z compulsion to pick up your own copy of this legendary role-playing game? Head over to Amazon and pick up your own copy (fair warning – may require Excellent Resources to justify purchase).


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Villains, the gift that keeps on giving

Greetings and salutations, Nerdarchy readers!

Jim Carrey as Count Olaf in the 2004 film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was watching a show on Netflix while I was deathly ill (or so it felt to me) and could not help but be inspired to write on a subject I seem to be gathering a reputation for. Namely, villains who inspire the protagonist to excel into feats of legend. You see, like the villainous Count Olaf, a good villain will be a thorn in the protagonist’s side for a long time and alter their lives on every level. The thing is, in gaming it is too easy to create a villain who is a one trick pony or is killed in a single fight. For this reason, I am going to list a few things to keep in mind and a few things to avoid all together. Let’s dive right in, shall we? Continue reading Villains, the gift that keeps on giving

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Play Report – DC Comics Fate Accelerated Tabletop Roleplaying Game One Shot (Tanyar Discovered)

DC ComicsGameFate Accelerated RPG, using Fate Accelerated Justice League to see how DC Heroes can be built in Fate Accelerated and then using the DC Comics Encyclopedia (Updated and Expanded Edition) to add lots of villains and heroes as options for both the Game Master and Players.

Game Attributes – All players physically gathered around a standard gaming table at the Friendly Local Game Shop Alternate Universe in Holmes, Pennsylvania.

Game Setting – The DC Comics Universe with players able to select any DC Hero or any DC Villian (if they had a reason to serve on the side of the Angels for a One Shot). Continue reading Play Report – DC Comics Fate Accelerated Tabletop Roleplaying Game One Shot (Tanyar Discovered)

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Comic Book University: YouTube for the super hero in all of us

The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). Cover art b...
The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t normally do a shout-out for a solitary YouTube channel, especially one that is fairly new, but the channel called Comic Book University has quite impressed me with its depth, number of videos, and its range of subjects.

Headed up by Professor Bill, so far the channel has taken serious, in depth looks at The Incredible Hulk, Doomsday, Killer Croc, and the unforgettable talent of artist Jack Kirby. Besides the series videos on those topics, there have been a handful of individual videos, including a memorial for Kenny Baker, known as R2-D2 from the Star Wars films. Also, Professor Bill’s videos have hinted at more to come, possibly including videos on the X-Men, Captain America, and other characters and topics.

Basically, there’s already a lot of good stuff here, and more should be on the way.

The series about the Hulk includes nine videos, each running from about 10 to 20 minutes, not including an intro video of a minute and a half. The Hulk’s origin as Bruce Banner is covered, as well as the Hulk’s powers, some of which are somewhat rare and not commonly known. For instance, did you know the Hulk could see ethereal or spiritual beings? I did from my early readings of The Defenders comics, but that had been long ago and I’d forgotten it.

The Hulk videos also cover a number of major story lines over the years involving the big green guy. The gray Hulk, Planet Hulk and World War Hulk are covered well, but plenty of other tales are mentioned.

The series of four videos about Jack Kirby are quite educational, going over Kirby’s earliest days as an artist, his time with Marvel, his brief stint with DC, his return to Marvel, and his later works. The final Kirby video features a nice tribute to this famous comic book artist.

Comic Book University isn’t just about the history of comics, however. It also looks to the present and the future in interviews with some of today’s comics creators and others working in the field. So far there have been interviews with Jonathan Miller of Outpouring Comics and Luis Zambrano of The Geek Fortress. More interviews can be expected in the future.

One of the nice details about the Comic Book University channel, and its companion Facebook page, is the sheer love for the topic that Professor Bill brings to his subject material. Not only does he love comics, but he appears to be a long-time fan and is quite knowledgeable of the medium.

There are other YouTube channels related to comic books and the comic book industry, but Comic Book University has quickly become my new favorite. If you have a personal favorite, please let others know about it in the comments section so Professor Bill and the rest of us can check it out.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to Stay Nerdy!

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Blast from the Past: Marvel Comics Pocket Books

ALL books
They’re looking a little rough around the edges, but I’ve had these Marvel Comics Pocket Books nearly 40 years.

FFLong before Civil Wars, Spider-Man clones, Infinity Gauntlets, Secret Wars and movie franchises, Marvel Comics drew in readers with what today would be considered relatively simple story telling, but story telling that packed a punch. Most issues of a comic book told a story that could stand on its own instead of branching out across multiple issues or even into other titles. The colors were bright, the good guys were easy to tell from the bad guys, and quite often a super hero’s private life was just as interesting as his or her time battling dastardly villains. All this and more in less than 30 pages, and only super special editions ever cost more than 50 cents.

However, one hurdle comics faced was drawing in new readers. In the 1960s and ’70s and to some extent the early 1980s, Marvel’s collection of super beings hadn’t quite reached beyond the scope of comics fans and into the wider, broader culture. This would change when super heroes began to appear more and more on television and in movies, and later in the ’80s when material deemed more adult or mature began to appear in comics pages, but early readers often had to pick up a title without knowing much about the title character.

Nowadays pretty much everyone knows Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider, and that Captain America received his powers from the Super Soldier Formula during World War II. Most people are aware of the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Thank you, Hollywood. But that was not always the case.

Marvel tries something new

spideyTo help ease readers into popular titles, in 1975 Marvel began to release paperback-sized editions which retold some of the earliest tales of many of its super heroes. Teaming up with Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Marvel released 10 such collections, the last one coming out in 1980. Each was sized roughly 4 ¼ inches by 7 inches, consisted of 132 pages or more, featured bright colors, and held six or seven issues from a comic book.

The first Pocket Book from Marvel was for Spider-Man, even then the best-known of all Marvel’s characters. All in all there would be three Spider-Man Pocket Books, following the young Peter Parker from his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 and then in issues 1 through 20 of The Amazing Spider-Man. Here could be found Spidey’s origin story as well as his first encounters with the likes of such infamous characters as Doctor Octopus, Doctor Doom, the Chameleon, the Green Goblin, the Scorpion, and the Vulture.

spiedy womanFollowing the success of that first Spider-Man Pocket Book, Marvel followed up with two collections for The Hulk, one for Captain America, one for the Fantastic Four, two for Doctor Strange, and one for Spider-Woman. Like the Spidey books, these told the earliest stories of these characters, showing how they gained their powers and their earliest foes.

My collection of Pocket Books from Marvel

Unfortunately, I only ever owned eight of these books, which I still have to this day. I was not yet a teenager when they were available at stores, and I never managed to find the second Doctor Strange book or the Spider-Woman book. Four of the books I was lucky enough to find in a boxed set, but the other four I picked up individually.

Over the years there have been other paperback-sized books from Marvel, including early tales in the Star Wars universe, but those first ones hold a special place in my heart and have become something of collectors’ items. The eight Pocket Books I owned provided backgrounds for characters which were already familiar to me, and allowed me to learn about characters I barely knew, such as Doctor Strange.

hulk1The earliest tales of a super hero, or any serialized character, can be quite important, letting the reader know about not only the hero’s past, but about his or her attitudes, their character, even their powers. I’m glad I had those early tales, for they brought to life for me the likes of The Thing, Bucky, Baron Mordo and many other Marvel characters, good and bad.

Plus, these were great stories that didn’t take a lot of time to read and didn’t cost a bunch of money. If you’ve never read the earliest stories of some of Marvel’s best known heroes, I suggest you look them up. I think it will be worth your time and effort.

Maybe you’ll even run across some of these old Pocket Books.

But until then, Stay Nerdy!

doc strange

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Mutants And Masterminds, An Awesome Table Top Role-Playing Game!

I’ve been lucky enough to experience four different superhero role-playing games; two editions of Green Ronin’s Mutant and Masterminds, the original Marvel Superheroes FASERIP system by TSR, Mayfair’s DC Heroes, and Heroes Unlimited by Palladium, but Mutants and Masterminds has been my favorite by far.  It was actually during a Heroes Unlimited RPG session that I was inspired to seek out a different superhero role-playing game. Continue reading Mutants And Masterminds, An Awesome Table Top Role-Playing Game!