Chicago Geek Guy

Comics, Cosplay, LARPs, RPGs, Fiction, and more... all from Chicago

Category: Stop Chop and Role (page 1 of 4)

So… You Want to Build a Character in D&D

Turns out, there’s help for that. Christopher Green put his knowledge of Graphics Arts into good use to come up with a handy chart for those new to the experience. This graphic walks a reader through character creation in an interesting, thought provoking, and meaningful way. Meant for folks brand new to RPG’s, I think it will help those with a lot of experience in the game.

You can find more useful resources like this over in the Facebook Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition group.

 

Come Get Some! Midwest Convention Schedule

Earlier this week, a friend asked me if, as the Chicago Geek Guy, I knew of local gaming conventions scheduled for the near future. I had to confess. I didn’t. Undaunted, I reached out to groups on Facebook and Reddit to compile a convention schedule of events in the Midwest.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

October

November

I consider this a work in progress. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.

Wolfcon: The Little Con that Could

I can’t say I had ever heard of Wolfcon. In the 13 years I lived in Lombard, Illinois, little did I suspect the nearby College of DuPage hosted this little gem of a game convention. I didn’t learn of Wolfcon until Robert Lindauer reached out to me via Chicago Geek Guy looking for judges and GM’s. I took the opportunity to talk with him about the convention.

CCG: Let’s start with your personal history of gaming? When did you start? What have you played? When and how did you decide to run a convention?

I couldn’t imagine how something like that could come from a game

Robert Lindauer: My father owned a number of Avalon Hill war games, and we used to play them together. These were the old games with little cardboard chits signifying military units. We played Luftwaffe, Tactics Two, Stalingrad, Squad Leader, etc.

Then one day in High School, some friends of mine were talking about a game they played where they were battling centaurs – and they described what happened in great deal. I couldn’t imagine how something like that could come from a game, so I accepted the invitation to play D&D. That was my first introduction to RPG’s. That group of friends and I played for many years and attended GenCon when it was in Wisconsin, regularly.

So, I was introduced to gaming at a young age, and played a wide variety of games, from Risk to Diplomacy, to Star Feet Battles, to Top Secret and Gamma World, to Magic – about every game that I have come in contact with over the years. Lately, I have been playing a lot of Pandemic and Codewords.

Running a convention has introduced me to many new games.

But I also play Puerto Rico every so often, Times Up, and Settlers of Catan. It all depends on the group of friends participating. I was even playing Heroclix for a little while with my nephew. Running a convention has introduced me to many new games.

At Wolfcon, I run Call of Cthulhu and an ongoing D&D campaign set in ancient Rome that I originally started while in college.

Wolfcon itself was predated by a game day run out of a local church by John Kavain, the other principle organizer. I was introduced to him by a mutual friend. He needed judges to run some RPGA events, and I was a passable GM by that point. He convinced me to join a local game club, GB7, of which the Wolfpack was a chapter. I remember that the thing that sold me. He gave us all free t-shirts with the word “Wolfpack” and picture of a wolf.

We had a sort of “your uncle has a barn, and I have these old costumes – let’s put on a show” moment.

About 14 years ago give or take, the key members of the Wolfpack, 5 friends, John Kavain, Bill Murray, Rob Reichel, Jeff Stein and myself were sitting around talking about GenCon wondering why there wasn’t something closer. We had a sort of “your uncle has a barn, and I have these old costumes – let’s put on a show” moment. GB7 had an extensive games library we could use. We knew lots of judges. We had experience running a game day. We had connections to sponsors. Perhaps most importantly we had a venue thanks to John’s friend at the church, Father Claiborne.

We’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the years. We lost several of the original members, but also made great connections, and great discoveries. Wolfcon could never have existed without the support of judges, vendors, Mayfair Games, Days of Wonder…. There is a long list of people and organizations that gave us what we needed when we needed it.

CCG: What do you look forward to the most when the con comes around?

They are the nicest, most accepting, inclusive people I can think of, anywhere. Every year when they come together – it feels like a reunion.

Robert Lindauer: By far, interacting with the people who make up the gaming community. They are the nicest, most accepting, inclusive people I can think of, anywhere. Every year when they come together – it feels like a reunion.

CGG: What did you want to accomplish when you first started working on the convention? How far have you gotten in those goals?

this year is looking to be a growth year

Robert Lindauer: When we first started, we just wanted to see if we could do it. Still, I have always wondered if we could turn it into something larger. I always thought it would be nice if there were a family friendly convention in Chicago that matched its thriving geeky/game community in scale. By that measure, we are a failure, or at least the jury is still out. While we have had as many as 240 attendees in the past, over the last few years that number has gone down dramatically.

Though, this year is looking to be a growth year.

But as I think on it. I haven’t ever really measured success by size. Whatever scale we run at – I am satisfied if the people who come out have fun.

Miniatures at Wolfcon

Miniatures at Wolfcon

CGG: How many attendees do you expect this year? How many events total and of each type?

Robert Lindauer: My best conservative guess is that we’ll have around 80 attendees this year, give or take a dozen. We have about 30 role- playing (Pathfinder, Sparks, Call of Cthulhu, D&D) events, and a couple of different board game tournaments scheduled. There will likely be several dozens of board game sessions – but these aren’t typically scheduled. We’ll also run our collaborative computer starship simulator non-stop through the convention. I’m also hoping that we add a few more events in the next few weeks as well.

CGG: What do you hope for the future of the convention?

Robert Lindauer: I am hoping to attract more people and groups interested in collaborating on putting the convention together, and for the convention to be a nexus for the various gaming communities in the Chicago area to connect with each other.

CGG: What would you like to say to someone considering going or attending the con for the first time?

Robert Lindauer: Give us a try! We have a full slate of fun events (most free with admission) – role playing, board games, prize tournaments, a puzzle hunt, giant Jenga, a games auction, a starship bridge simulator, and perhaps most importantly, a chance to connect with some of the nicest people who play games in the Chicago area all in air conditioned comfort with free parking. AND – If the very affordable $10/day or $20/weekend cost is too much for you – send me an e-mail we always need volunteers.

Starship simulator at Wolfcon

Starship simulator at Wolfcon

Wolfcon at College of DuPage
Student Resource Center (SRC 2000),
425 Fawell Blvd , Glen Ellyn, IL 60137 
Fri, Sat, & Sun, July 7th, 8th, & 9th, 2017

Exclusively Bad for Customers – A Dark Alliance Indeed

Friend of the Chicago Geek Guy, James Nettum returns to offer some thoughts on a recent shift in the game industry.

[OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: The following is my opinion alone, and doesn’t reflect that of places I work, or the people I work for. I’m writing this on my free time, after all.]

Here’s a thought experiment:

Pretend that the Walt Disney Company makes a deal with AMC Entertainment that gives AMC theaters exclusive screening rights to all future Disney movies and re-screenings shown in the United States. Naturally, this would affect all Disney holdings, like future pictures by Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Pixar. I think that getting tickets to see the next Disney Animation/Star Wars/Avengers/Incredibles entry would get a lot harder. AMC may be the largest theater chain in the USA, but they aren’t everywhere. Wikipedia says that AMC has 7,852 screens, but that won’t nearly be enough to seat everyone who wants to see Episode 8. A deal like this would make Disney’s distribution a lot easier, and would definitely make absolute bank for AMC. And just as definite would be how much worse it would make life for everyone who wanted to go to the movie theater.

Here’s my thought process on that last part: Want to see a non-Disney movie at your local AMC? Too bad

Here’s my thought process on that last part: Want to see a non-Disney movie at your local AMC? Too bad, all screens are currently showing Toy Story 4. Don’t live near an AMC? Looks like you’re going on a road trip. (Hope you got your tickets in advance.) Want to make a complaint against some really bad customer service you got from AMC? They aren’t going to listen, because Disney, Marvel, and Pixar movies sell themselves. Your ticket money won’t be missed. This imaginary arrangement is seriously anti-consumer!

Thankfully, the above is just a thought experiment. (And as side note: I only picked AMC because they’re the largest theater chain in the United States. I don’t actually have anything against them. They’re okay in my book.) Unfortunately, something similar actually happened in the gaming industry today, when Asmodee North America announced an exclusive hobby distribution deal with Alliance Games Distributors. (ICv2 has a good summary here: https://icv2.com/articles/news/view…) Asmodee North America handles all North American distribution for Asmodee, Catan Studio, Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight, Plaid Hat Games, Space Cowboys, and Z-Man Games. Alliance, meanwhile, is the hobby games distribution arm for Diamond Comic Distributors, Incdistributor to that part later.) My initial thoughts on this pairing are fluctuating between “this isn’t good” and something comprised of 90% obscenities that I will not type out.

I feel that both the Friendly Local Game Store, and the end user are going to suffer a lot under this arrangement.

Given how my mind isn’t currently stuck on the obscenities, I’m going to explain why I think this is a bad thing. And I’m speaking both as a lifelong gamer, and a ten plus year employee of a brick-and-mortar game store. Because I feel that both the Friendly Local Game Store, and the end user are going to suffer a lot under this arrangement.

Let me start off by addressing exclusive distribution deals in general (at least in terms of the gaming industry): I don’t like them. Currently brick-and-mortar stores have several distributors available to them. If one distributors is out of an item, a store isn’t out of luck because they have other options. If a high-demand product is going to release soon and shortages are anticipated, a store can put preorders in with multiple distributors who will carry the product, helping to ensure availability. But when one distributor has an exclusive, that flexibility is gone. Every store in the nation now has the same one option, and if that distributor can’t help them, the store is screwed. Which, in turn, means its customers are screwed.

Speaking of highly demanded product, in my experience exclusive deals don’t actually help shortages at all. When multiple distributors are putting in orders for a hot item, more options open for the manufacturer. They have a better idea how much of a product to make; they have multiple warehouse to store the product; they have multiple sources of income to fund the printing, and shipping. If a manufacturer goes though one distributor only, the paperwork probably goes down. But they also lose multiple buyers, multiple warehouses, and multiple sources of revenue. Less product gets made because less product can be stored and distributed effectively. Which, in turn, means customers are screwed.

Of all the distributors I’ve worked with, Alliance has been the biggest source of trouble.

This brings me to Alliance. Of all the distributors I’ve worked with, Alliance has been the biggest source of trouble. In the interest of fairness, will first say everything nice I can about them: All of the sales reps I’ve worked with have been extremely friendly. … That’s it.

As for the troubles, I will attempt to be brief. Rarely have I checked in a shipment that isn’t damaged somehow due to poor packing. Only slightly more rare are the shipments with incorrect quantities or flat-out incorrect items. Fixing all of those problems in a long process. It takes days to get a call tag to ship out the incorrect/damaged goods. It can take weeks to get the credit applied to your account. Hope you have more money to reorder the items you didn’t get, or didn’t get in salable condition. Hope your customers are forgiving and don’t demand refunds.

Now imagine combining the problems with exclusives with the problems with Alliance. Actually, stop imagining it because it’s happening now, has happened before, and will happen again. Alliance has the exclusive deal on Attack Wing, Dice Masters, HeroClix, Mayfair Games, and others. They used to have (and soon will again) the exclusive deal on Days of Wonder, and Z-Man Games. (In a painful twist of coincidence, it was originally Asmodee who broke that exclusivity when they acquired Days of Wonder, and Z-Man.) Now that list is about to grow on August 1st. Supply problems were bad for Star Wars Destiny in the past. I can’t see them getting any better now that every store in North America only has one distribution channel to get it through. Combine this with Alliance’s history of damaged and/or misshaped product… Hello once again, customers getting screwed.

You cannot run a comic shop without dealing with Diamond.

And this leads me straight to Alliance’s parent company, Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. For those of you who don’t know, for years now Diamond has been the exclusive distributor to the comic book specialty market for Dark Horse, DC, Image and Marvel. You cannot run a comic shop without dealing with Diamond. And if you want to know about Diamond’s customer service, sit down with a roomful of comic store owners and ask about their experiences with them. I can practically guarantee that you’ll far more complaints than praise.

After all, why should Diamond change? Comic stores have no choices besides dealing with them, or going out of business. And now Alliance has just taken a big step into holding that same threat to any hobby gaming store. I cannot imagine running a store without Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Splendor, or the myriad of Star Wars games that FFG makes, among other products that have become staples of the industry. Therefore I cannot see Alliance’s customers service to those stores improving any time soon.

And once again I see the end user, the final customer, the gamer, getting screwed the worst. I hope I’m wrong, but my experience doesn’t leave me feeling positive.

And now the obscenities are creeping back into my brain. I’m going to vent them on video games now. Friday the 13th is the likely choice.

 

[REPETITION OF OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: The following is my personal opinion, and mine alone. It does not reflect that of places I work, or the people I work for.]

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

 

 

 

The Gaming Table – Mark I.V

Building the Game Table

Last year, inspired by this post over on Board Game Geek, I constructed a gaming table. I had never tried anything like it before. Of all my father’s five children, I’m considered the least handy. I’ve called myself the “anti-Bob Villa” for years. I’m a big fan of the cross-eyed view. My completed projects look great, provided you look at them cross-eyed.

Mistakes were made, but I felt satisfied by the work. I learned a lot about measuring, cutting, and different types of wood. The table wasn’t perfect, but it worked out better than expected and I felt it added a lot to my RPG sessions. The mounted monitor in particular made it easy to share high quality maps and images with the folks seated around the table and added a nice level of detail to the sessions. Using HeroLab to share information during my Pathfinder sessions helped combat move much more smoothly. 

Certain elements didn’t please me. At the time, I didn’t feel confident enough to handle the electrical work, I didn’t care for the wood stain and finish used, a layer of neoprene I mounted under the felt made the dice bounce a little too high, and the counter height of the table made it a bit more difficult to navigate around and play larger board games on. When I had to move last fall, take down, and reassemble the table, I realized I could take the opportunity to make some improvements.

Wiring the Table

Gaming Table - WiringAfter some long conversation with my brothers and the kind sales person from Home Depot, I felt ready wire up the table. I chose four USB enabled outlets, placing one on a side. I also mounted a standard outlet on the underside of the table to power the monitor. I worked slowly and carefully, checking at each step to make sure everything was connected tightly and enclosed in conduit. I’m happy to say, I didn’t even get shocked once!

Time for a Fresh Coat of Paint

Three coats of semi-gloss, black latex covered up the stained wood quite nicely.

 

Cut it Down to Size

Changing the height of the table from counter to standard required chopping off seven inches from the legs.

Gaming Table - Height

A Final Touch

The bottle opener is a crucial feature for those late night sessions.

Gaming Table - Bottle Opener

Ready for Gamers!

Some new felt, sans neoprene, for better rolling.

I’ve got a couple of sessions scheduled for the near future. I will post some pictures of actual use, soon.

 

 

The Chicago LARP Scene – A Guide

My friend Susan Weiner pulled together his list of local Chicago LARP.  It’s a living document and regularly updated. If you know of an event or ongoing LARP that’s not listed, please contact the organizer, gothiklezmer@gmail.com.

Campaign Games

Stories in the Sanguine City

  • Description: Dresden Files setting, Fate Accelerated System
  • Dates: First Saturdays
  • Location: Palette and Chisel Art Academy
  • Game Runner: Laurie Rich
  • For more information: http://ssclarp.com/

Shifting Sands: Space 1889

Ask Again Later

  • Description: Midwestern Gothic
  • Dates: First info session in April, game begins late June
  • Location: Unity Lutheran Church in Edgewater
  • Game Runner: Carly Ho
  • For more information: http://askagainlater.com/

Scion

Mage: The Awakening, 2nd Edition

One Shot LARP

Chicago One Shots Group

  • Description: Organizes runs of one-shot LARPs in Chicago
  • Dates: Sporadic
  • Location: Variable
  • For more information: Join this list https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/chicago-one-shots

Tapas

  • Description: Weekend of one-shot LARPs
  • Dates: Memorial Day weekend
  • Location: North Barrington, IL
  • For more information: http://www.fetefatale.com/ (join their mailing list, or keep an eye on the website)

Peaky Midwest

  • Description: LARP writing weekend, players welcome Sunday
  • Dates: March 17-19, 2017
  • Location: North Barrington, IL
  • For more information: http://www.peakymidwest.com/

Other Useful Resources

Chicago Gaming Slack

Find a live version of this document at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mFK2ulT5ClQPHr2AQCjC55jvMUYLiK5zPTJ7AyeTH5k/

Greenfire Games Revisited!

I had a chance to swing by my FLGS on Saturday, Greenfire Games. They’ve reorganized a bit since their grand opening. The store offers even more gaming room while maintaining wide aisles to browse product. I kept most of my money safe in my pocket on this trip, but a nice conversation with Mike Bradshaw gave me some information I had to share.

Greenfire Games YouTube Channel

The folks at the shop have started reviewing games and posting play-throughs. They tackle the Doom board game on their first outing.

Check out their channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYSlyJsloO3SpB0u0kcqxDg 

Game Rentals

Greenfire Games now allows you to rent certain games. Leaving a credit card number will let you walk out with hits like Start Wars: Rebellion and play them for a week. The store collects $10 for the service, applicable to a purchase of a shiny new copy game if you decide to buy it. If you don’t want to keep it, the shop will give you $5 back when you return it in good condition. Almost everything on the demo wall is available for rent, including Rebellion, Clank, Android Mainframe, Splendor, Mysterium, Escape from the Aliens In the Dark.

Massive Miniatures Event February 25

Greenfire Games brings in another round of game companies to show off their wares. This event will feature company drive demos of Frostgrave, Dystopian Wars, Wreck-age, 28mm Mechattack, Aetherium, and Hexplore: Valley of the Ancient Kings. Participants will be entered in a raffle for a copy of the recently re-released copy of Blood Bowl. The more demos you play, the more chances you get to win.

Greenfire Games continues to build a sense of community in the south suburbs. I can’t say I’ve met a more fervent group of people dedicated to building on the success of the hobby. If I had more money to spend on games, I would spend it there.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Scythe

I will admit. The vibrant colors of the plastic miniatures first caught my eye; then, the gorgeous art of the game board. It took a second to sink in. Oh, that’s that game my friend Dan’s been raving about.

The Midwinter Gaming Convention gave me my first opportunity to block out enough time, sit down and play Scythe, a worker placement game set in an alternate 1920’s from Stonemaier Games. The game takes its tone from the works of artist Jakub Rozalski and feels a lot like the world of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan Trilogy.

The game looks intimidating. Plastic miniatures, cards, wooden blocks, a large map, and cardboard playmats fill the box. Laid out, the materials take up more table space than there might be table. All these parts serve a noble purpose. Once set up and briefly explained, Scythe offers a relatively easy to play experience. The blocks and plastic simplify bookkeeping, allowing the player to focus on the game itself.

The combination of two different player boards per participant and hidden objective card make the game different in each playthrough. Playing the same faction will feel different from game to game, and strategies and tactics need to reflect the current setting. This game allows for all sort of different game play. Players may explore, produce, or fight their way to victory.

I greatly enjoyed my introduction to the game. Host Kevin Jung and his crew understood the rules well and conveyed them effectively. This session’s players each approached the game differently. One tried to win through conquest. Another though production. I completely failed to utilize my faction’s special abilities and flailed through the playthrough. I don’t think I impressed anyone with my gaming acumen.

Still, the group let me flounder pleasantly, providing help, support, and a sense of humor when needed. Overall, the experience left me ordering my own copy of the game right after the session so I can practice in private. Scythe calls for ONE to five players. After a few rounds with the automation, I figure I’ll be ready to face real people again.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Vendor Room

From my perspective, one of the highlights of every con is the vendor room.  As usual, I was pulled in by the vendors’ siren song of at Midwinter.  At first glance, I wasn’t all that impressed with the vendor room.  When compared to other cons I’ve attended, like Anime Boston, which has a giant hall with hundreds of tables, the smallish ballroom of 38 vendors was unimpressive. Upon further examination, I changed my mind.

The vendors were a variety of mostly smaller, individual crafters as opposed to larger retailers selling mass produced products like posters, magic cards, etc. They were selling all types of wares that would be of interest to gamers with a variety of interests including stuffed dice, weaponry and various steampunk items.  I will admit to being a girly-girl, so my own personal focus was more toward the ornamental as opposed to weaponry. 

I purchased items from a number of vendors, and sharing my favorites with you.  In my opinion, the most talented vendor was LisaSell, a 2D and 3D artist who is a magician with resin.  Lisa Sell, the owner, makes gorgeous resin masks from obviously laboriously hand-carved molds, with breathtaking results.  I had spent most of my money by the time I arrived at her table, but I happily plunked down $25 for two smaller pieces (a beautiful steampunk metal fascinator and a resin steampunk charm).  Luckily, Lisa also has an ETSY store (also called LisaSell) where I can purchase one of her lovely masks once I’ve saved up my pennies.

Another favorite vendor was Tops It Off – Custom Crochet Shop, owned by Mimi Refici, from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She makes and sells wonderful, winter, geeky creations including but certainly not limited to pokeball hats, a batman hat complete with a mask to cover the wearer’s eyes, and a variety of other characters.  If she doesn’t have the exact item you want, I understand that she can make anything (based upon what I saw, I believe it).  I fell in love with an adorable hippo hat and hard warmers that I’ve worn pretty much every day.  If you can’t wait until the 2018 Midwinter Gaming Convention, you can contact her on her Facebook Page, Tops it Off – Custom Crochet. 

If I had one complaint about the vendor room, it would be the jewelry.  Practically every vendor selling jewelry carried some form of chainmail necklaces and bracelets.  There was else to choose from, other than the not necessarily geeky beaded jewelry, although I did see one vendor selling a variety of jewelry with bones (or resin looking bones).   

My final shout out goes to the Mobile Stress Relief Unit, who did a fabulous job of massaging away my aches and pains.  In general, I have to declare the vendor room a success.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Tokaido

I did not expect to play Tokaido at Midwinter. I bought a copy at my FLGS  six months ago and haven’t even had a chance to open it.  However, Saturday evening as we headed over to the board game library checkout desk, we saw a group of three geeky hipsters opening the Tokaido box. Trusting the friendly environment fostered by Midwinter, we took a risk and asked if we could join them.

The game and the company did not disappoint.

We found Tokaido remarkably chill and seriously fun. Each player takes the role of a traveler walking the “East Sea Road.” Temples, farms, picturesque panoramas, souvenir shops, and inns dot the trail, each offering a unique experience. There’s no dice rolling, fighting, or killing. The players just walk a beautifully rendered game board, soaking up as much culture as they can. At the end of the journey, the player collecting the most local knickknacks, donating the most to the temples, eating the most expensive foods, and viewing the most beautiful landscapes wins the game.

It’s a well-constructed game, easy to understand and lovely to look at. I offer only one complaint. The subtle color scheme of the game makes it difficult to tell the difference between different experiences. The color used for hot springs looks awfully close to the color used for the panoramas.

Sharing the travels with others adds a full measure of enjoyment to the game. Our group of players chose a freewheeling ronin, a geisha, an itinerant monk, and a starving artist. Together, we carved a fun story of adventure and involvement, all in less than 60 minutes.

Tokaido, from Passport Game Studios, for 2 to 5 players, age 8 and up.

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