Friday, March 30, 2012

10 Posts to Get To Know Us.... and a Contest!

The Big 1-0-0!

This is our 100th blog post! We've got a list of links AND our first contest, with several prizes!!! To celebrate that we're still going, and (in my opinion) getting better at this blogging thing all the time, we thought we'd provide a short list of a few slightly obscure posts that we think really capture what we're about. If you're a new reader, these links will help you get to know us a little, and if you're a returning reader these might be a few you missed along the way.This isn't a "best of" list, just a smattering of posts we enjoyed writing and think captures our personality and varied interests. Enjoy!

10 Posts to Get To Know Us

1. The 4th Generation This is a post about Angie and her family of multi-generational game players, and how Katie and Jack are 4th generation (!!!) video game players.

2. Our First Guest: Uncle Rob We're excited to share personal stories about gaming, and in this post Angie's Uncle Rob shares his favorite game. This post is written as a letter from Rob to his great niece Katie, and has some insights about how our family uses games to strengthen the bonds between us. 

3.  Say Anything Family Our families review of Say Anything Family, a great party game to play together and get to know your people even better. We have had so much fun with this game!

4. Playing with Trains: Railways of the World Card Game Our first experience with games from the train genre, and we stumbled into a really great game with a lot of depth and replayability!

5. Playing with Steam Randy takes a look at the Steampunk genre, and describes some games inspired by it. By the way, Steampunk stuff is really cool!

6. Review of Stick In this April 1st review, Randy shows off his sense of humor with a fun post about a classic kids toy. 

7. Mastermind One of the reasons we started this blog is because Katie (then 4 years old, now 6!) had decided she wanted to share her opinions on games with people "on the internet or facebook or something". Her reviews are very authentic glimpses into her experiences growing up as a gamer, and they're pretty cute. Here's her take on a classic children's game.

8. Castaways of Deadman's Bay Once in a while Katie comes up with stuff that just cracks us up! Here's a review of a pirate themed game she really enjoys! I especially love her unique rating system for games. :)

9. Cool Night, Warm Glow Julian just officially joined the Growing Up Gamers crew recently as a contributor, but he's long been a source of inspiration for us and a longtime gaming buddy. When we were first getting started with this blog, we ran a series of parallel posts on similar topics, and this is one example of his style and take on games from his previous blog.

10.  5 Signs Your Kids Might Be Growing Up Gamers We're pretty sure our kids are well on their way to an "acceptable" level of geekery and gamer-ness, are yours??? (And yes, we'll be loving and accepting EVEN IF they don't end up as gamers, we're just enjoying the experiences together now!)

And Now For the Contest!

To celebrate our 100th post, we're giving away some games, and planning some other fun surprises! You may have noticed we have a new background and site layout. Our brilliant webmaster Chrissy from Muse of the Morning created this look for us by taking a picture of a bunch of games we like to play, and we thought it would be fun to play our own I-Spy game with our readers! Enter our contest and get a chance to win a copy of one of the games shown below or another fun prize!

We're DEFINITELY giving away the following:

  Crappy Birthday from Northstar Games

 Carnival from Dice Hate Me Games

   Eleminis from SmileyPop

...and we're cooking up some other ideas, so check back as the contest continues!!! All you need to do is send us an email listing as many of the games as you can spot in our background image. To make sure it's fair with different browsers and such, here is a full size version of our background so you can see the full image on both sides:

Take a peek and see how many games you can spot (look carefully!) and recognize, and then send us a list of your finds at The person who identifies the most correctly will their choice from the games offered! If more than one person gets the most, we'll randomly decide from all the top entries for the Grand Prize (1st choice of game), and enter the remaining entries into our additional prize drawings. Just for entering you'll have a chance to win some other fun prizes, which may range from brand-new games to a gently used game off our game shelf to whatever other cool ideas and surprises we can come up with before the contest ends. This contest will run for the next 2 weeks, and we'll announce winners and prizes on April 15th!

We'd like to give a special thanks to Game Salute and Northstar Games for providing prizes for this contest! If any other publishers out there want to throw in some extra games to our prize pool, drop us a line ;)

Parting Thought: 

YOU, the readers, are really great. As I put together this list I looked back through our old posts and reread a lot of the awesome comments we've received from readers since we started this blog. We've had amazing of support and enthusiasm from you all, and it's encouraged us to keep doing it and try to continue to build up our blog and offer new insights and content all the time. Here's a link to a video Katie made to thank our readers after her Settlers of Catan review was read by over 1000 people in the first day, and I think it pretty much sums up how we feel every time we get excited responses from our readers. We all just love that you're here and keep coming back! Happy gaming!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Introducing... Escapade Games!

by Randy, Angie & Julian

Hello, everyone!

We here at Growing Up Gamers love games. We grew up with them. We play them. We talk about them, and write about them. Games are an important part of our life. We've just made a big step. Now... we design them! Introducing... Escapade Games!

Who is Escapade Games?

Technically, the three of us have been designing games for about 10 years together. Over the years, we've put hundreds of hours into this and have learned a lot about games and the game industry. Now, we've gotten to the point where we have a game that we're ready to get to market. And that game... is Story Realms!

This is it... Story Realms!

Story Realms is a cooperative storytelling game in which players take on the roles of heroic characters called to a grand adventure. One player assumes the role of the Storyteller and is responsible for describing and bringing to life the world and the problems that face it, while the other players team up to save the day. Each adventure provides a full immersive story experience with players’ decisions and actions determining the course of the events and filling in the details of the story. The world of Storm Hollow is a rich and detailed setting, with infinite stories to explore and discover. Adventures should take about an hour to play.

Making it a Reality

Exciting, eh? We're pretty excited about it, too! And we're not the only ones. We have teamed up with Game Salute to help us make this a reality. Game Salute is assisting us with publishing, and we'll have a Kickstarter campaign later this year for everyone who wants to preorder.


Additionally, this past weekend we went to GameStorm, a game convention in Vancouver, Washington (just across the bridge from Portland, Oregon). We had the opportunity to playtest our game, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People LOVE our game! We can't be more excited about how this is going. (We also show up in GeekDad Jonathan's article on the second page here!)

The Next Step

We're still hard at work, but we're going to keep you informed at every step of the way. For those of you who think this is super cool and want to get involved, we are looking for beta testers to try it out. More info on that can be found at the Escapade Games site. Also, at GameStorm, everyone kept asking about our cool shirts. We had no idea people would be so excited, so we put together a Cafe Press Store to bring you logo wear for both Escapade Games and Growing Up Gamers.

So that's our news! We are so very excited to make this next step, and we appreciate all the amazing support we've received so far. We'd like to thank our readers, families, Game Salute, GeekDads Jonathan and Erik and the wonderful people who playtested our game. We couldn't have done it without you!


Be sure to come back Friday for our 100th post... and a giveaway! We'll be giving away a game to celebrate 100 posts! Details on Friday!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

7 Reasons To Role

By Julian

Roleplaying games (RPG’s) are strange beasts.  In their instructions, they don’t start out with how to play or what’s different about this particular RPG from another.  They literally start out with an explanation of what the heck an RPG even is because if you’re new, they expect you probably have no idea.  Can you imagine starting up a game on your Xbox and instead of being confronted with a tutorial about how to play this game, you get a tutorial about what makes a video game a video game?  Not “press A to jump” but “by the way, pictures, called graphics, will display and move about on the television and you can interact with them by pressing buttons on a controller!”  It may sound absurd, but this type of explanation is right there at the front of the D&D player’s handbook even on the most recent edition.  This is not because RPG’s are anything new.  Dungeons and Dragons, granddaddy of the entire genre, has been around since 1974.  Having come out just 2 years after Pong, that means RPG’s are older than post it notes, cabbage patch kids, and personal computers.  But, despite their long history, RPG’s remain a fringe genre of games and they are absolutely a unique experience.  You just can’t explain them well.  Wikipedia tries to liken them to a radio play.  A recent article in the Oregonian newspaper called D&D a classic strategy game.  My old “go-to” explanation used to be that they were like video games except instead of a computer you have a person running the world and telling you what’s happening.  Which makes RPGs sound like video games with no graphics!  Not a great sell.

I guess these are similar?
So I say “Bah!” to metaphors and detailed attempts at explanation!  RPG’s are simply games where you go on adventures with your friends.  Rather than blather on trying to make you understand what they are, I would rather tell you why you should play them if you have not already.   Role-playing games are an entirely unique and wonderful experience that I would recommend to anyone to try out at least once in your life (particularly with the right group of friends).  RPG’s are my absolute favorite type of game.  Here are 7 reasons why.

Everyone loves a good story whether it’s a gripping novel, an amazing movie, or your favorite television show.  RPG’s are often most associated with the fantasy genre because of the popularity of D&D, but there is a RPG out there for any genre you like.  Swashbuckling, horror, old west, steampunk, cyberpunk, space adventure, spies, super heroes,   or any other type of adventure story you can think of.  What’s more, you actually get to go through and control a character on of these stories.  Now it’s true, video games offer much this same variety and the ability to control a character.  However, I feel the best stories in a RPG are for more engaging and memorable because you have something that no video game can provide, and its reason to role number 2.

This is my favorite aspect of RPG’s.  Board games have strict rules about what you can and cannot do.  Video game characters cannot take any action that was not programmed into the game from the start.  However, in a RPG, you can do anything you want.  That doesn’t mean every choice is a good idea or that it will even work, but you can try it.  I have seen players raise entire armies, solve impromptu murder mysteries, and fend of brigands by chucking fresh fish.   All of these were completely unscripted scenarios that resulted from players decisions.  RPG’s can handle this type of choice because they have the best AI ever, an actual person making decisions about how the story will react to you.

Some people have the misunderstanding that the game master (GM) running the world of a RPG is out to try and get the players.  Worse, some people think that the GM doesn’t really get to play the game because they have to run the game.  In truth, all the players work together to tell a great story and have fun.  The game master isn’t out to kill the heroes of the story; they are there to make sure the story is exciting.  The GM doesn’t play one of the heroes (usually), but the GM gets to play all the rest of the characters: the funny sidekicks, the treacherous villains, the scary monsters, and the shady shopkeepers.  It’s a strange sort of magic, but a game can be incredibly entertaining even when no one is really trying to win.

Now this might sound silly, but it’s fun to play a game that lets you pretend to be a different version of you.  Most people think that a RPG centers around everyone being a rampaging do-gooder that smiles with bright white teeth and sings “here I come to save the day!” …or something like that.  However, RPG’s let you try out any personality you want.  Want to act a little more sassy?  Ever wanted to just lie straight through your teeth?  Want to be an insufferable know it all?  Slick?  Charming?  An intolerant religious zealot for an absurd cause?  All these and more can fit into a heroic archetype and you can try them all on for size.  It can be fun to play a heroic version of yourself, but sometimes it’s even better to play as someone completely different.

One of the reasons Magic the Gathering players like magic is that it provides a lot of entertainment even when you aren’t around your friends playing the game.  You can search through your cards, build decks, and think through different combos and strategies.  RPG’s provide a similar mode of entertainment.  It can be fun to just sit back and read through an RPG book and imagine the stories you might have when you play.  Some RPGs have highly detailed character powers and advancement methods so in the off time you can spend hours thinking about how you want your character to level up, what powers you want to take, and what treasure you want to get your hands on.

You may have heard that playing an RPG takes a long time.  This is often true.  Most of the time a single session takes at least 4 hours.  I have played as long as 14 hours in a single sitting (this is highly atypical and not at all required to play an RPG).  On the face of it, even 4 hours can sound like quite a commitment, but then that’s missing the point.  Every session of a RPG is an event you look forward too.  It’s something you and 3 or 4 of your friends set aside an afternoon to do.  You coordinated schedules, people bring snacks, there may be a dinner plan involved and you all look forward to it for weeks (or at least days if you’re in a weekly gaming group).  You wouldn’t whine about spending hours and hours at a rock concert, a play, a day at the fair, or an afternoon picnic with your family.  If you enjoy the RPG you are playing, you won’t whine about it taking so long either.  You will feel grateful everyone could set aside the time to have so much fun.

I love games, but to be fair, most of them don’t generate strong memories about the game itself.  I will recall a great night of gaming with family and friends.  I will remember that I had a wonderful time.  I will remember, vaguely, which games we played and maybe even who won.  But even 1 year later I’m unlikely to be able to tell many of the specifics that happened during the course of the game.  However, I can report with great detail the time that, years ago, my friends and I explored the Bane Warrens or saw all four corners of the world in The Diamond Throne.  I still lament and laugh about the time in Junior High that our entire party followed a stupid paladin into a watery deathtrap.  These aren’t just movies I watched or games I played.  These are things my friends and I did together.  We haven’t gone crazy or tricked ourselves into believing we really saved a magical land from disaster.  But the way you feel when you play a RPG that you love is something beyond a satisfying game or a good story.  You feel a sense of accomplishment.  You feel that you and your friends, in some way, went on a journey together.  You will remember those journeys fondly and forever.

Anything I missed?  Leave a comment and let me know why you love to role-play.  Or...if you don't role-play, leave a comment about why it hasn't appealed to you.

Friday, March 9, 2012

That's How I Role: My Zen Archer at Level Five

by Randy

Hello, all!

I decided that this post was going to be about the Pathfinder character that I'm playing in my current campaign. I introduced the guy Hallyr first in this post. And since then... he's been pretty busy. Trekking around Varisia, righting wrongs, freeing the unjustly imprisoned, etc... you know, rampant do-goodery.

Hallyr Narcissar
Male Elf Monk (Zen Archer archetype) 4 / Inquisitor of Sarenrae 1
LG  Medium humanoid (elf)
Init +5; Senses low-light vision,  Perception +14
AC 19, touch 18, flat-footed 16
(+1 armor, +3 Dex, +4 Wis, +1 Monk)
hp 35 (5d8+5, +4 favored class) 
Fort +7, Ref +7, Will +10; +2 vs. Enchantments, Immune Sleep
40 ft.
Melee Dawn (+1 Cold Iron/Silver Scimitar) +6 (1d6+2, 18-20) Ranged Malachiel (+1 Composite Longbow, Mighty +2) +10(1d8+3, X3)
Special Attacks Flurry of Blows (bow only), Judgement 1/day, Perfect Strike (bow only) 4/day
Healing; Rebuke Death 7/day (heal 1d4 damage to a creature under 0hp)
Spells Known
(CL 3rd):
1st (2/day)—cure light wounds,  true strike
0 (Orisons)—detect magic, detect poison, guidance, light
Str 15, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 18, Cha 11
Base Atk +3; CMB +5 CMD 18
Feats Additional Traits, Perfect Strike, Improved Unarmed Strike, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Breadth of Experience, Weapon Focus: Composite Longbow, Point Blank Master, Deadly Aim
Skills Acrobatics +11 (Jump +15), Climb +9, Craft (Bowyer) +7, Escape Artist +7, Intimidate +5, Knowledge (Arcana) +9, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +9, Knowledge (Geography) +9, Knowledge (History) +10, Knowledge (Nature) +9, Knowledge (Planes) +9, Knowledge (Religion) +9, Perception +14, Sense motive +8, Spellcraft +7, Stealth +11, Survival +11, Swim +6

Traits Warrior of Old, Magical Knack (Inquisitor), Rich Parents, Heirloom Weapon (bow)
Languages Elf, Common, Orc, Celestial, Draconic
SQ Fast movement, Ki Pool (6 points, magic), 
Slow Fall 20ft, Monster Lore, Silent Hunter (alternate racial ability)
Combat Gear Dawnflower 
Sash Other Gear Bracers of Armor +1, Efficient Quiver (60 arrows), Dagger, Antitoxin, silver holy symbol (Sarenrae)


That's him! Everything there should be accessible in the Pathfinder SRD. Which, by the way, is an awesome reference that you should make use of if you play Pathfinder at all.
I hope you all enjoyed that! Goodbye for now!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Lorax, Pathfinder-style!

by Randy

Did you know... that today is the birthday of Theodore Geisel, more popularly known as Dr. Seuss? Well, it is. His books figured very prominently into my childhood. My favorite has always been The Lorax. This is a story about a businessman moving into the idyllic land of where the Truffula Trees grow. This businessman, the Once-ler, decides to set up shop and make garments from the tree tufts called thneeds. After making his first thneed, the Lorax appears from the tree's stump and tells the Once-ler he speaks for the trees. The Once-ler blows him off and calls in his family and upscales his operation. Soon, the animals no longer have food, and the air and water get polluted. Eventually, the Once-ler chops down the last of the trees, and the Lorax leaves. The Once-ler is sorry for what he has done, eventually, and bestows the last of the truffula seeds to a young boy who visits and asks him to grow the trees again and protect them. It's a classic story of environmentalism, and is particularly relevant today.

So what does that have to do with gaming? Well, very little. But I'm going to make it relevant. Using the Pathfinder rules, I created a familar character who would love to come a-visiting Golarion, or whatever campaign world you run!

He's shortish.
And oldish...
And brownish. And mossy...
And he spoke with a voice...
that was sharpish and bossy.
-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

The Lorax

Male Gnome Oracle (Wood) 8
NG Small humanoid (gnome)
+1; Senses low-light vision; Perception +4
AC 12
, touch 12, flat-footed 11 (+0 armor, +1 Dex, +1 size)
hp 63 (8d8+24)
Fort +5, Ref +3, Will +9; +2 vs. illusion, +4 vs. disease
20 ft.
Melee Unarmed Strike +5/+0 1d4-1
Ranged -
Special Attacks -
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th):
1/day—dancing lights, ghost sound, prestidigitation, speak with animals
Oracle Spells (CL 8th):
4th (3/day)-Air Walk, Thorn Body
3rd (6/day)—Daylight, Cure Serious Wounds, Minor Creation
2nd (7/day)—Aid, Cure Moderate Wounds, Soothing Word, Barkskin
1st (7/day)—Bless, Command, Comprehend Languages, Cure Light Wounds, Sanctuary, Shillelagh
0 (at will)— Create Water, Detect Magic, Detect Poison, Guidance, Light, Purify Food and Drink, Resistance, Virtue
STATISTICSStr 8, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 15
Base Atk +6/+1; CMB +4; CMD 17
Feats: Eschew Materials, Skill Focus: Knowledge (Nature), Improved Unarmed Strike, Breadth of Experience
Skills: Knowledge (Nature) +15, Diplomacy +9, Heal +13, Stealth +5
Languages Common, Gnome, Sylvan
Oracle Revelations: Wood Sight, Tree Form, Woodland Stride
Oracle's Curse: Wasting
Combat Gear - none

I used a Gnome as his race, mainly due to their feylike nature. Though a Druid would have been a good choice for class, I went with a Wood Oracle. The fatalistic flavor of the class seems to do well for the character, and gives some good nature-based abilities. I made him high enough level that he could get Air Walk as a spell, so that he can make his sad departure by lifting himself up by the seat of his pants at the end.

And what would the story be without supporting characters? Here is a write-up for the Brown Bar-ba-loots, who frolic about in their bar-ba-loot suits!

And, under the trees, I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots
frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits
as they played in the shade and ate Truffula fruits.
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Brown Bar-ba-loots
CR 1/8
XP 50
NG Small Fey
+1; Senses low-light vision; Perception +3
AC 12
, touch 12, flat-footed 11 ( +1 Dex, +1 size)
hp 3 (1d6)
Fort +0, Ref +3, Will +1
20 ft., Climb 20ft
Melee Claw -1 1d3-1
STATISTICSStr 9, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 4, Wis 9, Cha 8
Base Atk +0; CMB –2; CMD 10
Feats Skill Focus (Climb)
Skills Climb +13, Swim +3, Perception +3
Languages Sylvan
SQ none

Brown bar-ba-loots are a peaceful race of furry humanoids who frolic in forests. They have no natural predators, and usually can be seen lazing about, frolicking or eating Truffula fruit.

Also, here is a magical location that these guys can live in...

Those trees!
Those Truffula Trees!
All my life I'd been searching
for trees such as these.
The touch of their tufts
was much softer than silk.
And they had the sweet smell
of fresh butterfly milk.
-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Truffula Grove

Truffula Groves are magical places, and are usually teeming with life. Animals, particularly fey, love the sweet fruit they produce. Additionally, the fruit itself bestows the effects of the spell Sanctuary upon those who eat it while they remain within 20 feet of a Truffula tree. The tufts of the truffula trees may be used to make garments that bestow the wearer with Endure Elements, and occupies the Cloak slot, although their bright coloration applies a -2 circumstance penalty to Stealth checks.

Well, I hoped you liked my little homage to Dr. Seuss. I'll leave you with another quote:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss