Thursday, February 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday: 1983 Nostalgia

Nineteen-eighty-three… I was ten years old. A lot happened that year. Ronald Reagan was president, Return of the Jedi was in theaters, the A-team promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade, Michael Jackson was thrilling us, and I learned about Dungeons & Dragons. 

It all started when I was invited to an amusement park with my best friend and his mother. Just like the kids in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, an amusement park would end up taking me to a new world of imagination. We had about an hour ride that day and back then there were no Kindles, smartphones or any other sort of technology to distract us. Instead my friend and I would spend the time talking about things we liked and the excitement of our destination. 

As we sat in the back of that Mercury Lynx station wagon, my buddy Ike started to tell me about this cool game he played with a relative recently. He went on to explain how there was no board; no playing pieces just imagination and some really cool polyhedral dice. Polyhedral? Wow that sounded like something from outer space! Soon the constant hum of the road and even the car radio playing in the background faded into nothingness. Ike told me he battled some goblins and found a pile of gold and other treasures during his adventure.

I was enthralled by the idea of this game since I was craving distractions from my home life. You see my idyllic suburban childhood was being torn apart, because my parents were divorcing. It was a time of great confusion for my ten year old mind and I desperately needed an escape. On the way home from the amusement park that day I kept probing Ike with inquiry about this game he coined Dungeons & Dragons. I think at one point he may even have become exasperated with answering my siege of continued questions.

You never forget your first game session. I know I recall mine with great ease. It was in the den of our house and I had enlisted my younger sisters to play. As a child I loved to draw and spent an enormous amount of time sketching knights, dragons and anything fantasy related. I did not have any published Dungeons & Dragons material and in fact had not even seen it yet. My grandmother gave me a pack of 3x5 cards and I created my own version of the game, based purely on my conversations with Ike.

It was nothing special. Just some monsters and treasures penciled on the cards. We used some silly random mechanic to flip the cards and lots of imagination. I wish I still had them today. It was then that I fell in love with role playing games. Life at home was chaotic. Spinning incredible tales and stories in fantasy play with my sisters was a great buffer. Soon however they became disinterested in my silly card game and summer was fast approaching.

With family life spiraling out of control, my aunt invited me to stay for two weeks with her during the summer. This sounded great since I really enjoyed spending time with my cousins and my aunt was an awesome cook. Add to that being able to stay up later than normal, and being exposed to a stable household was all a good thing. 

But there was another reason for my excitement. My aunt was notorious for having a massive collection of board games in her house. This may be my big break. If anyone was going to have Dungeons & Dragons on the game shelf, it was her. 

I still remember being dropped off that day and feeling as though I was on a quest. After the formalities of hugs and kisses were dispensed with I was eagerly greeted by my cousins. I think we may have played outside for a bit and then settled in for some lunch. As I drank Hi-C from an E.T. mug my gaze was drawn to the basement door. The games were down there.

After lunch I asked my aunt if I could go downstairs and look at the game collection. I will never forget opening that creaky door covered in family photos. Down the stairs I went. My stomach was in knots. Would my quest be realized on this day? There were literally three huge shelves filled with board games. My eyes darted to and fro and just as hope dwindled... I saw it! A red box which proclaimed Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules.

Much to the dismay of my cousins, I spent almost the entirety of that two weeks engrossed in the red box.  I must have played the solo adventure a dozen times and created an equal amount of characters. I was now officially a gamer. This was a rite of passage. I was using my imagination and learning words like portcullis and quarrels. Math was suddenly not that bad as I carefully purchased equipment for my characters. This was cool. 

Later that summer I had my eleventh birthday, and I my aunt and grandmother had a surprise for me. I was the proud owner of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual. I tried playing with some older kids in the neighborhood but was quickly turned down because of my age. But that did not stop me. Instead I decided to make my own world. An amalgamation of everything I loved at the time. Soon Ultanya was born and I was running games after school inside the family garage.

Eventually I would move away when our house was lost because of the divorce. For a suburban kid in the 80s this was devastating, since there was no way to stay connected with friends when distance was involved. But Ultanya came with me and I made new friends everywhere I ended up hanging my hat. The one unifying thing about those friendships is almost all of us came from broken homes. Every kid seated at that table was looking for an escape. With our characters and adventures, we were getting through some tough times together and did not even realize it.

I will always standby the fact that I met all my best friends while gaming. The great thing about games, whether an RPG or just a card game, is they transcend everything. My friends come from all walks of life and a myriad of backgrounds and experiences. My wife is a gamer and so are our children. I would have it no other way. 

You could almost say that was the foundation for creating the Game Tavern. I wanted a special place to gather and play games with friends and family.  As a matter of fact this Saturday night I will be running a session for one of our current ongoing D&D campaigns. Oh and remember my buddy Ike who introduced to me to Dungeons & Dragons over three decades ago? Well he will be present along with his wife ready to roll some dice and spin a tale!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Introducing The Game Tavern

This past weekend my wife and I officially opened the Game Tavern to our family and friends. After six months of design and construction we are left with a place of warmth and camaraderie to game in. I wanted to share some pictures with everyone because we are very proud of the Game Tavern. Two very dear friends of ours are the architects of this beautiful game room. So have a seat and let me pour you a frothy tankard while you take a look around!



5E Player's Handbook Original Art



Hmm what's this a secret door?
Just a glimpse of the rare collection

The beer fridge and other healing potions
Gumball machine of d20s for chronic 1 rollers
Coat hooks...or are they?

Still unpacking all our games for the closet!

These make a great molotov also if Z day comes!


A stone wall keeps our dwarves happy

This beautiful hand made sign crafted by a friend

Dungeon keys

The sign of meetings and journeys next a door

100 year old Wisconsin barn wood has interesting character
Iron plates made by a blacksmith

My seat!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Candy Hearts

Candy hearts have always been a guilty pleasure since I was a kid. Who did not enjoy passing these out at school and laughing at the goofy sayings on them? The little heart shaped sweets have been around since 1866 making them a real Throwback Thursday item. Necco produces literally billions of candy hearts every year for our confectionery consumption. 

There is several easy to use online tools which allow you to generate your own as an image. To piggyback off my most recent Valentine’s Day post I thought it would be fun to create some tabletop related conversation hearts.
Last year dice shaming became a very popular thing to do. In fact there is even entire are Tumblrs for it. I propose for the month of February we do something similar with conversation hearts and RPGs. So if you feel up to it go ahead and get creative with the hashtag #rpgcandyheart

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Love Potion Table

The Philter of Love is one of those potions that can provide for some great role playing at the table but remains mostly glossed over. With Valentine’s Day around the corner I thought spicing up a much underused Dungeons & Dragons potion may be fun. I still chuckle every year thinking of my dad poking fun at all the panicked people buying their last minute “liar cards” on February 14th. Granted Valentine’s Day really is a "Hallmark holiday" but Cupid does play a large role in classic mythology. So below find a new table of love potions with a twist for your campaign. Potion durations were mostly left out so each Dungeon Master can tweak as needed for their own games.

 Love Potion Table (d10)

1)    This potion causes the imbiber to become infatuated with their appearance to the point of obsession. Hours will be spent bathing, perfuming and preparing any garb to be worn. Being charmed by this potion will make it impossible to pass a mirror without indulging in a twirl of one’s countenance. After all nothing is quite as beautiful as your own visage!

2)    After drinking this potion you suffer from erotomania immediately. You become charmed into believing someone else is madly in love with you. This person will always be of very high status such as a noble or other important campaign figure determined by the DM. This belief is unshakable and will consume the thoughts and actions of the imbiber for the duration of the potion.

3)    This potable infects your mind with a sorrowful broken heart. You believe and act as if some great love has been lost although you have no idea what is was. You remain charmed into a melancholy mood lamenting your loss for the duration of the potion. There is a 10% chance a memory of some ancient lost love will be presented to the imbiber. This could potentially be used as a quest or adventure mechanism.

4)    Soon after quaffing this potion you become charmed with an obsession to hoard valueless trinkets and baubles. You develop a true love for these items and have the inability to discard these worthless possessions you deem to be great treasures. You also develop suspicion of other people touching your hoard and will guard it for the duration of the potion.

5)    This potion smells like the most delicious five course meal ever encountered when uncorked. Anyone drinking this scrumptious smelling potion will immediately be charmed with the desire to eat fine foods.  Anything less than a royal feast will seem completely inadequate for any meal the imbiber partakes in. The love of high quality food and finding it for consumption will supersede any other activity for the duration of the potion.

6)    The liquid in this container swirls with benign magical sparks. Drinking this potion causes a heightened sense of magic appreciation immediately. Even the most stalwart naysayer of magic will feel compelled to love it. Being charmed by this brew causes the imbiber to emphatically love magic spells, items and lore for the duration of the potion. They will go to great lengths to both find and acquire magic, the more powerful and legendary the better.

7)    This honey tasting elixir will cause a blank stare upon the face of anyone who drinks it. They will seem to be lost in deep thought or almost a waking dream. Soon thereafter the imbiber will realize they are hopelessly and romantically addicted to the powerful implications of love. For the duration of the charm they will actively preach to anyone who will listen (friend or foe) about the benefits of love.

8)    This potion has a sickly sweet metallic odor when uncorked. According to legend Cupid also carried blunt tipped arrows of lead in his quiver. A target struck by one felt aversion and the desire to flee. Anyone drinking this potion will be charmed with fear of whatever living creature they see immediately thereafter. The mere thought of their active aversion will cause panic attacks and a terrible blunt headache.

9)    This is the classic Philter of Love as presented in the 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide. The next time you see a creature within 10 minutes after drinking this philter, you become charmed by that creature for 1 hour. If the creature is of a species and gender you are normally attracted to, you regard it as your true love while you are charmed. This potion's rose-hued, effervescent liquid contains one easy-to-miss bubble shaped like a heart.

10)    This potion usually is found inside a clear vessel and upon closer examination a small cracked heart can be seen floating in the liquid. Drinking this antidote will instantly break the charm effects of any love potion. That being said, if quaffed while not under the influence of a love charm the imbiber will suffer from a bad memory of their past. This will haunt them during the duration causing a -2 to all Wisdom based saving throws.

Madmartigan: You are my sun! My moon! My starlit sky. Without you I dwell in darkness. I love you! Your power has enchanted me, I stand helpless against it. Come to me, now. Tonight, let me worship you in my arms. I love you!
Sorsha: Stop saying that!
Madmartigan: How can I stop the beating of my heart? It pounds like never before.
Sorsha: Out of fear!
Madmartigan: Out of love!
Sorsha: I can stop it. I’ll kill you.
Madmartigan: Death, next to love is a trivial thing. Your touch is worth 100,000 deaths.