Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gaming For The Holidays!

by Randy

Happy Holidays!

The Growing Up Gamers crew is getting ready for Christmas! As usual, our gift giving is heavily influenced by our gaming hobby. Sadly, I'm not going to ruin any surprises for people on our list (but we'll post pictures after the holidays of some fun game-inspired projects we've been working on!). But I will say that I hope those of you reading are enhancing your holidays with games. For parents out there, you're probably on board already if you are reading this blog, but in case you do need some convincing, here's 10 Reasons to Game With Your Kids.

You're probably already giving someone some games, though. And even if you aren't, you still may be playing some games with family members. Maybe for the first time! Julian wrote a great post about teaching games to people. It's full of useful tips for getting people to the table and gaming, and making that experience fun.

If you're gaming with the kiddos, the above tips are great, but this article by Angie is where it's at. She gives some excellent advice and considerations for gaming with the little ones. We've been playing games with our kids for years, starting very early and Angie really has some great observations to share. Common sense + teaching experience = WIN.

And also, if you happen to be into Magic: The Gathering (like us!!!), and introducing that game to others in on your agenda, you should check out this other article by Julian about Do's and Don't's For Teaching Someone To Play Magic the Gathering. Magic can be a complex game, but it doesn't have to be. I'm of the opinion that one of the Duel Decks sets would make a great gift, but make sure you take a look at that article first. Supplementing that with a couple tailor-made simple training decks could really get them up and running before introducing them to the wonderful complexity of the game.

And I want to wrap things up with a shout-out to our pals at the Wired GeekDad blog. I recommend following them (as well as our friends at GeekMom). GeekDad Jonathan has 5 Gaming Tips for the Holidays you might want to check out. The GeekDads & GeekMoms always have some great & geeky stuff up, so pop over sometime.

I hope each and every one of you has a wonderful holiday season! Spend some great quality time with your family and friends. We encourage you to play some games while you're at it  (make it a new holiday tradition!) but whatever you do, have fun and be safe. And if you have some holiday gaming tips of your own, please share them with us!

Monday, December 17, 2012

That's How I Role: Day & Night

By Randy

The Pathfinder character below is one that I custom-made for the winner of an auction for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund that ran on BoardGameGeek. After winning the auction, he challenged me to make a character that had different powers during the day and at night. He seemed to like what I came up with, which is a Mystic Theurge with an interesting but integrated dual nature. I hope he gets a chance to play this character, and I hope you all like it. During the process of making this, I made use of the D20 PFSRD, an excellent resource for open-source Pathfinder material. For those counting, Devin is a 20-point buy. 

Devin Renzik
Cleric of Sarenrae (Separatist ) 3 / Wizard (Shadowcaster) (Fire Elementalist) 3 / Mystic Theurge 2
STR 8, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 18, Wis 16 [18], Cha 13
HD 3d8 + 5d6 +3  HP  41
BAB +4
Armor Class  20   [+2 Dex, +6 armor, +2 Deflection], Resist Fire 5
Saves Fort +5 Ref +5 Will +11
Skills Knowledge (arcana) +15, Knowledge (religion) +15, Stealth +18, Knowledge (history) +20, Diplomacy +12, Spellcraft +15, Perception +12
Feats  Skill Focus (Stealth), Arcane Armor Training, Scribe Scroll, Eldritch Heritage, Theurgy, Spell Penetration, Blind-Fight
Traits Magical Knack (Wizard), Indomitable Faith
MW Sickle +4 1d6-1  20/ X2
MW Light Crossbow +7  1d8  19-20/X2

Domains Night (effective level 1st), Sun

Cleric [Caster level 5, DC 14 + spell level]: 0—4, 1st—4+1, 2nd—3+1, 3rd—2+1

Wizard [Caster level 7, DC 14 + spell level]: 0—4, 1st—4+1, 2nd—3+1, 3rd—2+1    (Shadow Spells: 3 levels) [Arcane Spell failure 10% if swift action not used for Arcane Armor Training]

Channel Positive Energy 2d6 [4/day, 2d6+3 when used to harm undead, Will Save DC 12 for half damage, channel resistance does not apply]

Wizard spells known:
0: Spark, detect Magic, Read Magic, Message, Open/Close, Mage Hand, Mending
1: Identify, Sleep,  Burning Hands, Dancing Lantern, Grease
2: Dust of Twilight (APG), Darkness, Scorching Ray, Haste, Burning Gaze
3: Dispel Magic, Daylight, Fireball, Twilight Knife (APG)

Languages Common, Varisian, Shadowtongue, Celestial, Infernal, Ancient Varisian

Equipment [33,000gp, expected starting wealth for an 8th level character]
+2 Shadow Mithril Shirt, Headband of Inspired Wisdom +2, Ring of Protection +2, Scholar’s Ring,  Wand of Cure Light Wounds (50 charges), Spellbook, Silver Holy Symbol, Masterwork Sickle,
Masterwork Light Crossbow, 2234gp

The Separatist archetype for clerics’ Forbidden Rites feature  allows the character to take a domain not normally available to his deity, which is how this character has the Night domain (Night is a subdomain of Darkness), but loses automatic proficiency with Sarenrae’s chosen weapon, the scimitar. The Shadowcaster archetype for wizards allows the wizard to store a few levels of spells in their shadow in place of the arcane bond feature.

Character background
Devin’s grandmother Calla was a shadowcaster and a casual worshipper of Zon-Kuthon. A twisted person, she sought to infuse shadowstuff into herself to gain power, but was unsuccessful. Or so she thought. She eventually married and had children, all of whom were a bit sickly and only one of whom survived until adulthood, Umbra. Umbra had little love for her mother, for Calla was aloof and neglectful.

Umbra came to learn that she manifested some slight powers over shadow, which initially frightened her. She eventually came to accept this as harmless, but it did worry her enough to seek counsel from the local temple of Sarenrae. Umbra appreciated their kindness and converted, eventually developing a personal philosophy about the symbiotic relationship of shadows and light, which she later imparted on her son, Devin.
Devin grew up worshipping Sarenrae, and influenced by his mother's beliefs. Though he found his views to not be entirely aligned with the clergy of their provincial temple, he was allowed to study there and eventually become a cleric. Upon ordination, he had all but abandoned his heretical views, but a couple things happened.

First, Devin started to manifest the powers over shadows his mother had. And shortly thereafter Calla died, and he inherited a book from her which turned out to be her spellbook. He sought answers in that book, some of which he found. He also found that he had a knack for the incantations he discovered there. To reconcile this with his faith for Sarenrae, he fell back on his mother's beliefs with fervor, believing himself to be a living embodiment of Sarenrae's dual nature as both the light, and the shadows she creates.

And with that, Devin has taken to wander to seek evidence of his revelations and spread his message. He has already seen in a vision that the chosen weapon is the sickle (which he refers to as "the eclipse"). To this date, he still is unaware of his grandmother's Kuthonite faith, though it would matter little to him. His daily routine, which may differ on the road, is to pray to Sarenrae at dawn and study at dusk.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Good Causes & the Value of "Quirky"

by Randy

Hello, readers!

A couple weeks ago I wrote about an auction on BoardGameGeek for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. The Growing Up Gamers/Escapade Games crew stepped up and contributed a couple things, and we're proud to say that with the help of the generous buyers, we were able to raise a little money for this great cause. We hope the JVMF is able to be a force for good and help many gamer families in need for years to come. I hope you all take a moment to look at the JVMF and its mission, and if you are the type who plans charitable giving for your year in advance, consider this as a recipient.

So what did we put up? Well, first, and probably the most interesting, Angie and Julian offered up an opportunity to contribute to their game, Story Realms. The winner of that item is going to be designing a custom Enemy or Ally Lore Card for the game... in addition to getting a copy of the deluxe set (available for preorder here). How cool is that? Not only an awesome game... but one they got to contribute to!

And second, a generous guy took my offer to create a custom-made Pathfinder RPG character to his specifications. I had a lot of fun with this one! I just love making characters. You can see the results of this one here. He gave me permission to share this with everyone, and I hope you find it entertaining. In addition, I want you to consider one more thing.

Everyone has their own skills and passions, and these things are not always easy to put a price on (should one even want to). Sometimes, though, like in the case of this auction, it may be worth the effort to offer up one of your skills as a service, or something you have made, or something else along these lines. I saw a few amazing-looking handcrafted things up for auction, for instance. I just want to point out that you don't need something from a store shelf nor be a game designer to participate in something like this.

I want to challenge our readers a bit, too. When was the last time you made something for someone else, or offered a minor service? How about you try doing that in the next month or so? A lot of people I know are doing handmade holiday gifts. For that matter, many are also offering a variety of services from the practical to the absurd online at Fiverr. Take a little inspiration from that the next time your child's school has a fundraiser auction, or a birthday is approaching, a friend or online acquaintance needs a hand, or even just to make an extra few dollars. And then tell us about it!

What I'm trying to say is that not everything of value has a price, and not everything with a price has a value. We are all unique, special beings with our own quirky skills. Gamers, especially... some of us have been rocking "quirky" for decades. Let's enrich each others' lives, and the ones around us. So... what have you made lately?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Good cause alert! Support the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund!

by Randy

There is a charity auction going on right now with only two days left for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund, an organization dedicated to helping out families of gamers experiencing hardships. It was started by Tom Vasel, host of The Dice Tower. As of the last time I checked, there were 513 items there. All of them are worth a look, but there's one that may interest you...

There's a copy of the upcoming Story Realms Deluxe Set (when it ships in 2013) AND an exclusive opportunity to work with the designers to create a custom Ally or Enemy Lore card that will be fully illustrated and included in the final game! You can contribute to a great cause AND have your creation immortalized in the world of Storm Hollow. Pretty cool, eh?

Check it out before it ends Nov 18th!!!!

Here is the link for Story Realms.

Example of an Ally lore card. 

Also, of much less note, I am auctioning off building a custom Pathfinder character. A tailor made PC for you or a friend, a campaign villain, a cohort or love interest, I'll build it for you. Whatever specifications you want! Here's the link to that. I'm sure you have the know-how to build your own character, but it's for a good cause.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Interview with Derak Morrell, designer of We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre!

by Randy

Craving brains? I recently ran across Derak Morrell, the designer of We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre via social media. I saw the art of his game on Kickstarter and was very impressed. We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre is in the last week of its funding campaign and I wanted to talk to Derak about this game, game design and Kickstarter. Here we go!


Growing Up Gamers: Tell me about We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre. What makes this game
stand out among similar-themed games?

Derak Morrell: In We Are Dead players are turned into zombies before the game even
starts and from that their objectives have changed. Instead of a game
where you want to flee or fight the undead, you combat the fleeing or
fighting living. With this game we also avoided the hardcore horror that
can come with a zombie game and went with a more cartoon tongue-in-cheek
art style.

GUG: What came first: the theme, or the mechanics?

DM: I always wanted to do something with zombies. For most of my games they
are theme driven as theme will usually show me what I want the players to
feel or do during the game and then I use mechanics to bring that to life.
With 'We Are Dead' I knew from the start that I wanted the players to be
the zombies and from there used elements that would stage that event.

GUG: I am impressed with the art for this game. How did you find the artists
for the game?

DM: When the game was first being worked on in late 2011 I attended several
smaller comic conventions in Southern California "shopping" for artists.
When I went by Mike Morris and Mike Colins' booth at the Long Beach Comic
Con I pitched them the game and they were excited from the start. A few
emails later and we went into art production.

GUG: One thing I learned is that when you undertake a creative project,
whether writing or designing a game, you have to make tough choices.
Sometimes, that means abandoning a mechanic or sub-theme that doesn't fit.
What was the toughest decision you made in the design of We Are Dead?

DM: In the early versions of the game I wanted the players to control a hero
character and a zombie character, but it wasn't fluid enough for the game.
The heroes fit in better as part of the hand management and as quick
reactions on other players' turns.

GUG: Why Kickstarter? Was crowdfunding We Are Dead your first choice, or did
you try the more traditional approach of pitching the game to publishers?
Why or why not?

DM: I always knew I wanted to use Kickstarter. I love it as a vehicle to gauge
interest in a game and bring a project to life. Starting my own business
has always been my ultimate goal, and I have a roster of games that I've
been developing since I was working as a game designer in the video game

Kickstarter also allows people to have direct input on a project. The
feedback is great to get before the game is pressed and I wanted to offer
ways for players to be more involved. We have pledge levels where players
can name a card or even help design one for the expansion!

GUG: Who will most enjoy your game?

DM: Tom Vasel compared the feel of the game to 'Kill Doctor Lucky', which I
think points to the casual nature of the game. The game will appeal to
casual players who like to avoid downtime in a game, and of course, great

The game plays best with 3 or 4 players and is a great game to relax and
play. The turns are quick because you never know what another player is
holding; you never know which hero you will face. The game also allows for
aggressive and defensive play styles.

GUG: What is the most important lesson you can give to aspiring game
designers, especially those looking to self-publish?

DM: Do your research. There are so many different aspects to self-publishing.
Not only do you have to flesh-out the game design (which is a skill set
all its own), you have to be a producer. You will have to balance the art
schedule with getting quotes from manufacturers and at some point inject a
marketing plan and schedule. Once all that stuff is line up (after
financing) you have logistics, which if you don't plan for correctly can
ruin all of the effort you put into the other areas if it leads to a
financial burden or you can't get the game into the players' hands.


We're looking forward to trying out We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre, and hope Derak the best. I for one am hoping to see him hit all those stretch goals for the player miniatures! Please pop over and take a look at We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre on Kickstarter, or join in the discussion on their entry on BoardGameGeek.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ruse: Steampunk Murder Mystery

by Julian
Do you like odd characters, strange stories, simple game mechanics, and incredible steampunk art?  How about all of that with a side of MURDER!?  If that sounds intriguing at all, you may want to check out Ruse, a steampunk murder mystery card game for 3-5 players that plays in less than an hour.  Ruse has a Kickstarter Project going until November 15th.  

In Ruse, players take turns trying to play evidence cards on each other.  If a player ever has a motive, means, and opportunity (3 different cards) in front of them at the end of their turn, they are unmasked as the murder.  The game deck doubles as a standard deck of cards so it has four suits that run Ace through King.  As soon as a player has one piece of evidence played on them, that establishes their suit.  Only cards of the same suit can be played on them in the future.  There are also alibi cards.  Alibi cards can be played to remove a piece of evidence that is the same number.  So if that incriminating gun in front of you is also a 5, you need an alibi that’s a 5 to get rid of it.  

The suits and numbers for evidence and alibis have two wonderful effects on the game.  First, it makes the gameplay simple to follow.  It’s easy to see where you can and cannot play cards.  Second and most importantly, it lets the evidence and alibis fit together thematically.  Cards from the same suit work together and make sense as a combined motive, means and opportunity.  Alibi cards of a certain number are reasonable ways to get rid of the evidence they remove.  For example, in the game we played I played “Clockwork Rifle” as evidence on Angie and she played “Out of Ammo” as an alibi.  It makes sense and we didn’t have to read any text on the cards or in the rulebook to know they lined up.  They were just both Aces.  The Ace method card was Victorian Pistol and the other Ace Alibi was Fear of Firearms.  You can any combination of method and alibi that’s an ace works well together and tells a story that’s intuitive.  This is important because the mechanics of Ruse aren’t really the point.
"Hmmm... that seems quite suspicious"

Now it's true that Ruse looks like a card game.  Appearances can be deceiving, however.  In reality, Ruse is an ever-changing tale of foul play.  At its heart, Ruse is really a storytelling game. You are not supposed to just play evidence on another player.  When you play evidence, you are supposed to tell a story about the clue you've discovered and how it makes them a murderer.  When I played that Clockwork Rifle on Angie, I mentioned that I had heard the victim was shot from long range and I’d seen her cleaning a clockwork rifle just the other day.  When she played Out of Ammo as her alibi, she called me a fool and said that I obviously had no idea how rare and expensive ammo was for a clockwork rifle.  She’d been out of ammo for weeks and had yet to find a way to purchase more.  These stories are not just for added flavor, they are the real fun of the game.  The simple mechanics and beautiful art facilitate an evening of wild accusations and ridiculous excuses.  The suits and number work together to make those stories even easier and more fun to tell.    

"Another piece of evidence points to... YOU!"

You don’t even play Ruse until someone wins.  You play Ruse until one player loses.  This may sound unfortunate for the loser, but Ruse actually rewards the murderous lout.  The “winners” may get to rest easy knowing they will not be going to jail for homicide, but it’s the loser of the game that gets to spin a tale using the three evidence cards in front of them about how they committed the murder and why.  In our game, it was little Katie that was revealed to be the cold-blooded killer.  She told us the horrific truth.  She’d siphoned money away from the account she had with her business partner to build a secret a lightning generator machine.  She installed that lightning generator in the back of his car and angled it so it would strike only him.  Then, in a final act of evil, she offered to drive her partner as a chauffeur and fried him with lightning after telling him of her betrayal.  A shocking tale to be sure.  So young and yet so villainous! It was really a highlight of the game to hear Katie weave together a great story from the cards she had been given, and she exclaimed after that not only did she love the game, but she thought losing was the best part!

"So, you caught me! Well, let me tell you what REALLY happened. It was a dark and stormy night..."

We had a lot of fun with Ruse.  If you let yourself get into the storytelling of it, you get to have some very amusing banter and an awesomely absurd murder investigation.  The Ruse Kickstarter Project has already been funded and they’ve reached their first stretch goal.  They’ve also recently decided to combine one of the stretch goals with another and lowered all of the rest of their stretch goals down.  This means if you decide to go back it, you’ll be guaranteed the game is getting made, and you’ll be even closer to reaching some of the fun stretch goals they have in store. 

Side note: While the instructions for Ruse state the game is for ages 12+, we had an absolute blast playing this with little Katie gamer (who is about to turn 7). She has been asking to play it again and again and really loves the theme, art, and simple gameplay. The story-telling aspect was by far the most exciting to her, so if you've got a little one who loves to tell great tales (and you feel the "murder" theme is appropriate) then Ruse can be a great family game for kids well under the recommended age of 12. The biggest limiting factor would be the ability to read the cards, but Katie was able to figure out the pictures and themes well enough with her emerging English reading skills. -Angie.N.

Friday, October 12, 2012

And the Winners of the Giveaway Are...

Even if you didn't win, please enjoy these sparkly balloons.
Well it’s been just over a week so we should probably announce who won that contest we were running, eh?  Sorry it’s taken a bit to announce.  That kickstarter was awesome and we and incredibly appreciative of everyone’s support…but it was also exhausting.  We had to recover a bit and also do a little coordination about the prizes.  We added a bunch of games to the prize pile but never said exactly how we’d give them out.

Here’s what we decided.  In addition to the $150 grand prize and the $50 runner’s up prizes, we made 4 prize packs of games.  These games are generously donated by our awesome project manager David McKenzie, of Game Salute and Clever Mojo Games.  These are games from his personal stash (still shrink wrapped and new) so we are very grateful to him for helping us out with the contest.  

The winner now gets $150 AND 1 prize pack of his or her choice.  There are now 6 runner’s up.  We’ve got 3 $50 Game Salute credit prizes and 3 additional prize packs to hand out.  In order, each runner up gets to choose between one of the $50 of game credit OR one of the prize packs. The later runner’s up may just get what they get.  If you are one of the lucky winners, you need to contact us at: escapadegames@gmail.com. Let us know your name and address where we can send a prize pack.  If you are a runner up, let us know your top 3 choices between $50 game credit or prize packs.  Please be aware, if you do not have an address in the US we may not be able to send you a prize pack due to the increased costs of shipping packages of this size internationally. 

Thank you to everyone that participated.   We very much appreciate your enthusiasm and support.   We hope you’ll still keep checking up on us for more fun blog content and more updates about how things are going with Story Realms.  (Though in the future, most updates about Story Realms will continue to be on the Escapade Games Blog). 

And now…the winners!

The Grand Prize Winner of $150 in Game Salute Store Credit and 1 prize pack is…
Ranko Miklin!  Congratulations Ranko, contact us ASAP and let us know which prize pack you want and what address to send it too.

Here are the runners up.

1st Runner Up: David Hill
2nd Runner Up: Rob Cannon
3rd Runner Up: Khyle Keys
4th Runner Up: TheDormouse
5th Runner Up: Intesesev5
6th Runner Up: Peter Schott

And here the prize packs you may choose from:

Prize Pack #1
Compact Heroes
Battle Spirits
Line's of Fire (it's very small so this guy gets the extra game)

Prize Pack #2
Kamakura (autographed)

Prize Pack #3
Super Showdown
Dead Fellas

Prize Pack #4
White Elephant

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thanks From the Bottom of Our Hearts!

To 887 Backers and  the Hundreds of Others That Have Helped Our Dream Come True...

Thank You!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

1 Amazing Community...and a Giveaway!

We've got 24 hours left on our game giveaway and the Story Realms Kickstarter!  Our community of friends and supporters has been so amazing that today's post is just one big thank you.  If you haven't had a chance to check out the kickstarter (or the contest) check out these amazing comments from our fans.  We're making some fantastic stretch goals, but we are still looking to recruit more backers to the Story Realms community.  Also, check out the bottom of this post because we are updating the giveaway with even more games.

...And to finish off the giveaway, we are adding 9 more games as additional prizes that can be won.  That's right.  Now there's $150 as a grand prize, $50 for 3 runners up, and 17 games for additional prizes.  We're not sure yet exactly how these additional games will be given out, but some additional winners will be chosen to receive them as prizes.  We'll try to give you final details before the close of the contest (and the Kickstarter) tomorrow at 11:59 EDT (that 8:59 Pacific where we are).  Here are the additional prizes that some lucky winners will get to take home:

1x White Elephant
1x Kamakura
1x Bhazum
1x Bhazum Ksari (separate game, not an expansion)
1x Kamakura (autographed)
1x Cartouche
1x Compact Heroes
1x Megamaniology
1x Battle Spirits Demo Deck

And here's one last Game Salute game to consider getting with your prize money!

Okay it's a bit cheesy but seriously, did you think we'd end on anything else?  If you haven't backed the kickstarter or you want another copy as a present you COULD save your prize money until the game comes out or use it to pre-order it.  If not...well we told you 27 other games you could spend your loot on. Thanks again for all of your efforts and support.  We look forward to picking some winners here in the next few days.