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BTTD #36: Tales from the Loop, The Magicians and the US Post Office

Probably one of the games I’ve never played, but OH DO I PLAN TO, is Tales from the LoopIt’s set in a world where you play kids (think Stranger Things age, Season 1) and there is some really advanced technology pouring out of the factory/business/strange construct in your town. Your town has robots. It has weird portals. It’s fine. It’s also the 1980s. You’re used to it.

What’s nice about this is that when you play Tales From the Loop, you can’t die. You can be knocked unconscious, but you can’t die (unlike Barb in Stranger Things. Sorry Barb.)

So I thought I’d come up with some ideas for Tales from the Loop. They have some initial ones so I thought I’d use be inspiriational!

Credit: Simon Stalenhag
  • A child disappears: The Vice Prinicipal of the school’s kid has disappeared. He was working on his science projects about algae, getting samples in the local swamplands. He was out last night, when a storm came up off the lake, and no one has heard from him. He also borrowed on of the character’s notes for the test on The Scarlet Letter so there is a big motive to find this kid. The test is Monday. The kids have the weekend to find them.
  • Rumors spread about a runaway robot that wanders the land. A small robot, a robot from the mailroom has gotten out. There is a reward for retrieving the robot and that money could go along way towards buying whatever the kids are into these days. On Halloween night, the kids spot the robot and track it down (but they have to give up trick or treating.) The robot leads them to an iron door set against a small rock enclosure. The robot is constantly banging on it and making a lot of noise, grabbing people’s attention (it’s too weak to make a dent.) Do they capture the robot or find out what’s behind the door? Who else is after the robot? Who sent it?
  • A strange house appears in the middle of town, and the adults behave as if it has always been there. The empty field where the kids had a community garden now houses a very large house. It’s a bright neon blue with a ton of LED lights everywhere built in. “It’s always been there!” the adults answer. When asked other questions, they dodge and change the topic and some will get a massive headache and go and lie down. At night, there are robed figures seen walking around and a large “whirring” sound. They are building something in the backyard. Good luck with that.
  • One of the Kids find a gap in the ground, leading down to a huge network of paths. After some small tremors, one of the kids find a a lose iron cover built into the ground. A ladder leads down to a series of tunnels. Clearly someone is yelling for help down there, but it’s too hard to hear from where exactly.
  • A strange girl starts in school. Andrea just started school and she says she’s from Florida, but she’s super pale. She has zero issues adapting to the school and she even answers a question in Swedish instead of English (most people speak both in this setting or not, up to you.) No one has heard of her before, and when someone asks her to go get ice cream with them, she flat out refuses and accidentally reveals a strange metallic band around her upper arm with a timer counting down.

Alright. That should get you a bit started on a game (and you can probably change it to whatever setting you all are in right now.)

Ideas I Have For This Weird Time​

If you have a bunch of gamers you haven’t seen in awhile, you know, because, you might want to try some things:

Friends of mine and I are playing Exploding Kittens on our devices tonight while we Facetime. So that’s nice. And I’m pretty ruthless at the game. You send each other kittens that explode. I mean, it’s not a deep game.

Maybe you send your players something in the ACTUAL mail, but don’t like, go to the post office if you don’t have to. They might enjoy a letter or some random package of dice or tid bits of hot goss from your setting.

Just get on some kind of video app and just say hello. If you don’t feel like running a game, that’s fine. Just hang out.

What I’m Enjoying​

I’m still enjoying The Magicians. You can tell in a series when they are wrapping up though. In this most recent episode, they sang the song, Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. It’s one of my favorite songs and well, it just struck a deep, deep chord.

Journaling. I have gotten back to journaling, just for journaling’s sake. I struggle with doing stuff that appears idle. I’ve journaled off and on, but now I’m like, well, here we are. So that’s helping.

I made a habit tracker in a Field Notes notebook so I can make sure I’m doing the stuff I need to do: working out, writing, reading, and all of that. Keeping me sane.

BTTD #35: How to Socially Distance as a Gamer

What is a Gamer to Do During This Strange Time!

Here’s a small list of ideas that I have for gamers out there during this time of quarantine and social distancing. Some of these are gamer specific and just overall mental health help. Would love some more ideas to share.

  1. Grab a notebook, a freshly sharpened pencil, and that new RPG game you’ve been wanting to tackle (for me it will be City of Mist as soon as it comes in.) Now you can study it, take notes and have a good time.
  2. Use Skype, Zoom or Facetime to game with your friends. There’s a bit of trust (did you really roll that?) Just have it be for fun and break the doldrums of staying home. I would suggest more lighthearted games like Paranoia or Dungeons and Dragons. But if you need a gothic fix, I get it.
  3. For me, I’m staying away from most news and especially social media. Man, some people have opinions. So I’m taking a bit of a break. Some of my friends are making cute videos on Instagram and that’s the content I am here for!
  4. Here you go: . This will brighten your day. Guaranteed.
  5. Teach your kids a role playing game like No Thank You Evil! You will thank me for it. It’s super fun and it involves drawing!
  6. Bust out the boardgames. I can’t recommend Ticket To Ride enough with all the expansions. Throw Throw Burrito is also one that will break up the boredom of the house.
  7. Start a newsletter about whatever you want. I simply do this one because I enjoy writing and I like to share what I find on the internet as well as my thoughts on gaming. I have tools located here if you need help. Hit reply and I’ll shoot you some re
  8. That LEGO set you haven’t touched in awhile. Yeah, get cracking. I have some things to build/rebuild.
  9. Support your local gaming/comic shop. Call them and see if you can somehow help. If you want to buy something, I’m sure they can figure it out and they can have it shipped to you. I just don’t want to see gaming stores hurt by this. Give them a call.
  10. And on that, if you have any independent dice makers that need some help, let me know. I’d like to do what I can. Just reply to this and let me know. A link and a contact would go far.
  11. Dig a podcast like Adventure Zone and listen to it while you do chores!
  12. I’ve actually made a list of all the things I’d like to get around to! And now I have the time!
  13. Grab some free stuff over here (RPG stuff!)
  14. Ever wanted to learn a language—Duolingo is the answer on that.
  15. Develop a schedule. It doesn’t have to be set to a certain time, but maybe just a checklist of every day.
  16. Animal Crossing? Be my friend! I’ll let you know when it starts.
  17. Check out this article on best two player games.

Hit “reply” and let me know what you are doing! And I’d love some pictures!

And hey, I know some of us are struggling during this time. If you need to curl up with your Switch and just get through the day, do it. If you need to bust out Sorry! with the kids to make it, do it. If we don’t do certain things, tackle projects, etc, and we are dealing with the stress of times, it makes it worse.

I hope all of you are well and you want me to get a little get online zoom meeting or facebook or instagram whatever, just to talk gaming, let me know. Just to check in and say hello—let me know just by clicking here if that interests you. (It will send you to my favorite music right now on Youtube. It relaxes this nerd.)

Just feel free to shoot me a line—we got this. We are gamers.

BTTD #34: Don’t Play the Comparison Game

Chose Well, Not Fancy

A lot of my friends, and I mean a lot will go hard to the paint when it comes to gorging on content, specifically gaming content.

Maybe they have every book, or they are digging every Twitch and Youtube channel out there.

And here’s my opinion when it comes to RPGS and that sort of content: less is better.

I don’t watch people playing D&D or Pathfinder. I might watch the ocassional “how to play this” but I find the quality isn’t that great most of the time.

I have to explain to my friends that someone with a huge disposable income started this stream and had a ton of production value at their fingertips. Watching huge props, long storylines, and other fancy sundries can make your game seem ordinary, even bland.

A lot of us are playing at night; we’ve worked a full day and our responsibilites are hanging over our heads. We play our games to tell a story and see our friends. And what we don’t (bleeping) need is this huge pressure to produce this all encompassing production.

When people are wanting to start playing an RPG it looks like this monstrocity of rules and dice, statistics and equations. But it’s about stories. It’s about being the person that saves the day. (If RPG ever resembles your job, then something is a bit broken. Unless you have a really cool job.) It’s this new potential—this new possibility at every turn. You can use magic, fly a spacecraft or have a secret identity full of power and hope.

Something I try to remember is that comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t compare your game, or your future game, to anyone else’s game. Are you having fun? Yes? Keep going. As long as it is fun even if the rules aren’t perfect, keep doing that. I’d rather create than consume—so create those adventures, that backstory, or that city.

In a world of disconnection, I believe that gaming RPG and board games is foundational to community, friendship and togetherness. Especially now, more than ever.

Things I’m digging right now.

(And when my friends make cool stuff, I share it.)

Florida, a small novella from my friend Matthew.

A newsletter I dig is James Clear’s newsletter on systems and habits. You can find that here. It’s one of my favorite ones (and I read a ton of them per week.) And I can’t recommend his book, Atomic Habits, enough.

Monte Cook is doing this Kickstarter, so if you are looking for a setting that won’t disappoint (and that is massive), here you go.

That’s about it. Have a safe week and wash those hands (and dice!)

BTTD #33: What ELSE can do we with our games?

I’ve had some responses to my last newsletter about getting rid of games you don’t play any longer. I simply talked about how if games are gathering dust, there are going to be people out there that would like them. Perhaps give them away by finding a library or school that would take them.

One person responded and said, “I’m keeping them because I love them and I want my kids to play them. It’s nostaglia for me.” One friend of mine is getting rid of 50 games this year. He just doesn’t have the time for all of them.

Here are other suggestions:

  • There’s a teenager somewhere in your life that could use some money. Hand them a stack of games and say, “Sell these on ebay (or wherever) and you take 30% of the sales.” They get to learn a little side hustle and some negotiation skills if they can you to agree to 35%.
  • Find any games clubs in your area at a library or college and offer the games.
  • Ask your local comic shop if they buy used games or if there is anyone in the area needing some games.
  • (I reluctantly offer thrift stores because I’ve had disappointing buys with pieces missing and then I just sit in my house all sad eating ice cream.)
  • If you know the game isn’t going to find a home, strip it down for parts. Give away or use the dice somewhere else. Turn the board into a giant greeting card. Use the figures in a D&D match or paint them and leave them around your town. “Oh, look. There is a goblin guarding this stop sign.” Take pictures. If I was a skilled woodworker, I’d turn the board into a small box.

Whatever it is, if you know the game won’t be enjoyed, ever again, grant it a chance at a new life. You’ll feel a bit lighter and someone will have some kind of joy from it, one way or the other.

One of the games I’m dying to run and enjoy is Tales from the LoopAnd it’s on sale, which I never see.

But Amazon Prime Video is doing a series about the RPGAnd when I saw this I was whispered, “This was made for me.

It’s in April and I’m going to talk about it a lot.

BTTD #32: Making Room for More and Having Less

I recently moved stuff in my apartment around and had to organize a load of stuff. I rolled up my Kondo sleeves and got to work.

One bookshelf is all fiction and one is all non-fiction. I have a stack of RPGs and a stack of board games. Here we are.

Now, I love my RPGs. I have some beautiful books mostly from Monte Cook: Numenera, The Strange and the Cypher System (I backed them on Kickstarter.)

But I looked at my board games and I had a sad. Some hadn’t been played in over 5 years. I had good memories of the games, but I just didn’t remember the rules and I doubted I would pick them up again. I had other games, other things I wanted to try.

And I have so much I want to try and dabble in.

So these long forgotten games have to go.

Now, I get some people like to collect, they like to have a wall of games. But I’m not really that guy. I used to have a big collection, but I went to Afghanistan and sort of gave it away (I still have some gems from that. . .somewhere. . . )

I honestly believe someone out there would love to have the games that I might give away. First I’m going to see if libraries need them so that people can check them out. Second, if there’s a local game store that takes donations for their little game area, I might ask there. I just don’t want to pile up games on games on games. Just like I fight to have no more new books (such a weakness), I don’t want to simply keep and consume, keep and consume and keep and consume.

I just think that keeping games you haven’t played in 10 years might find a better home somewhere, even though they are dripping in nostalgia.

What in your closet, shelf, basement, garage, shed, or dungeon needs to go because it’s gathering a lot of dust instead of friends.

BTTD #31: And now for something completely different. . .

A Different Kind of Gesture

I bought lunch for a friend the other day. I live in the city so lunch is like $12-15 normally. Sometimes it’s higher and it’s never, ever less than that.

It’s lunch. It’s a nice time! I paid and well, we just went on our way.

Buying someone a meal is a long-time gesture of kindness. You get this one. I’ll get the next. Forever.

But I want to sort of bring that cycle to a close and here’s my bold premise, and this issue of the newsletter stands as my lone manifesto.

Buy your friends, your loved ones, and even complete strangers books instead of meals.

Most of the books I buy at my local bookstore (and I’ll be honest, Amazon) are around $12-15. Sure, some are more, but rarely are they less.

Books last much longer than the memory of that meal. And by not placing a OMG YOU HAVE TO READ THIS caveat on this gesture you can have a better connection, a better relationship and impact (especially if you write something in it.)

I have friends who were introduced to the fantasy or sci-fi world because someone handed them Dune or Lord of the Rings.

Now, gifting boardgames or role-playing games is tough because there’s something more to the reading and it isn’t passive enjoyment like a good ol’ book. But I’m not against it, but I’d pick a nice card game to start and go from there. That’s more of the gateway experience people respond to.

Now I have some authors that I follow and when I see that one of their best books has dropped in price at Amazon, I will buy 3-4 copies of the book. I keep them handy (sometimes at the office) and if someone needs a little pick me up, I sign the inside of the book (if it’s their cup of tea) and hand it over. (I also keep stationery on hand because I’m that guy. )

I just think as gamers, we are naturally readers (I have a hard time finding people who don’t read very much and who loves RPGS and boardgames.)

Here are a couple of books I’m going to give as gifts or I already have.

Coming in at #1: Atomic Habits by James Clear. I used to dwell in the productivity realm as a writer. This book by far has made the biggest impact in my career and overall life. Down with goals. Up wtih systems. Can’t recommend it enough.

Fiction book: My friend Tim Grahl is coming out with a fantastic work of fiction. Take Hunger Games and then smash it into The Matrix. It’s called The Threshing and it’s the book that everyone is going to be talking about very, very soon. I got an ARC and I’m excited to dig into it.

Long time favorite: Amazing Things Will Happen by C.C. Chapman. I read this book while in Afghanistan and it inspired me a lot. In Afghansitan! It’s great for graduates or people going through any transition. Highly, highly recommend.

Start gifting books, not meals.

Next Week!

Next week I’m going to talk about my journey in attempting to get a gaming group together. As well as some board games and RPGs that I’ve been digging and want to dig in more!