Thursday, May 21, 2015

Katie's Amazing World: A Minecraft Birthday Party

By Angie

Note: Here's our first special THROWBACK THURSDAY!
(In which I finish and post a draft of an article I started a couple years ago! This party was thrown in 2012, but my kids STILL love and play Minecraft daily so I felt it would be worth sharing. Enjoy!)

I previously wrote an article about bringing your favorite games and video game characters to life in party form: "How to Throw a Great Character Game Party", and this time we took on the kids' favorite open-world creative game Minecraft! Here's the basics of how we did it broken down into the 4 essential steps:


The first step to any party or event is to set the mood, and in this case we wanted a fun Minecraft feel, with the block-y pixel charm, and since it was a party for 7 year olds (some of whom might not be familiar with the game) we wanted it to feel fun and accessible as well. Katie was all in on making decorations, and had some help from a friend before the party. This was great to have the girls set on this task while we were busy with other preparations..

Steve-heads and Creepers were an easy choice as they were easily recognizable as Minecraft, and relatively easy to make.

We used the Steve-heads and Creepers to decorate our favorite Happy Birthday banner (with some lights to draw attention to their handiwork!)

While the girls were lining the house with Steve's, creepers, and other blocks, we set to work on making another Minecraft staple: the Crafting Table. We wanted something that served as a decoration and also was part of the activities part of the party, so we printed out some patterns which were used in some of the crafts and had them stewn about the table.


Building is such a core part of the Minecraft experience, we knew we had to come up with ways for the kids to build stuff at the party if we wanted to capture that Minecraft feel. Because of their age, "melty" beads (also called Pearler Beads) seemed like a great fit for a craft project. They were bright, colorful, presented lots of options for following patterns, and are just really fun!

Some of the kids made their creations without help, but we had adults standing by for crafting assistance. We also had keychain loops to turn the finished product into something that could be hung off of a backpack zipper of otherwise displayed. 

We also had paper available for collaging, as Pearler beads require a lot of manual dexterity (and patience) and we had some younger kids at the party, so we wanted to make sure there was something they could craft with the patterns as well. 

Even the older kids got into the crafting, and we saw some really elaborate creations made throughout the course of the party. Of course there was a Diamond Sword, the pinnacle of Minecraft weaponry. 


Immersion into a world is one of the best parts of gaming, so we also wanted to make sure there was a way for the kids to jump into the Minecraft world and play the role of the survivor, striving to build a life and drive back the bad guys. Our first goal was to make some bad guys, and of course some weapons with which to fight them!

"Do you like my sword-sword-sword? My diamond sword-sword! You cannot afford-afford, afford my diamond sword-sword"! You've all seen that video, right? My kids sang that for months. Anyhow, back to the party!

We made a Ghast pinata, and a Diamond Sword and a Diamond Pickaxe with which to break it open, and the kids were beyond excited to take their turns attacks the "mob" and of course hoping for candy! (They all used the sword though, who wants to fight a mob with a pickaxe? What were we thinking?)

To simulate the survival and build aspect, we filled our house with cardboard boxes for the kids to use as building blocks. They created houses, castles, forts, walls, and many other things (to inevitably knock down and rebuild!). If the party hadn't been in November in Oregon (both cold AND raining) this part would DEFINITELY have been outside! 

We also had a few computers and the Xbox set up where you could actually PLAY Minecraft, but the kids were so busy with the party activities they only got used by the cousins before and affter the actual party. But you can see that lure...


Of course, all heroes need to eat. Much like decorates, food can help set the feel for a party. We decided to go all in on the blocks and do all cube foods, then let the kids have the fun of playing with their food AND building some more! One of the challenges was finding foods that could be cubed and could at least sort of be eaten together. Our menu consisted of fruits, veggies, cheeses, crackers, and breads, all of which are favorite snack foods for busy kids. We also did our best to replicate the Minecraft cake that you can craft in the game, which scored bonus points with the birthday girl! 

Maybe some grownups played with their food too....

The cake is a lie! Wait, wrong video game reference. This cake was amazing. 

So that's how we pulled off an amazingly fun, memorable Minecraft themed party for our little adventurer. I feel that a game makes a pefrect theme for a birthday party (or other type of celebration) because it is already structured around doing something fun, usually has a rich world to draw from, and gives the party-goers a great way to socialize and engage in something more memorable than some of the typical party fare.

Hit us up with any questions, comments, or let us know what your favorite game-inspired party ideas are in the comments! Have fun playing!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

That's How I Role: Baela the Immovable!

by Randy

Hello there! I would like to start off with an apology for not updating recently. It's been pretty hectic for us, and we've been focusing on a lot of other things. Thanks for coming back!

What I have today is a Pathfinder character that I believe would be very fun to play. She's one tough dwarf. A single-class monk, this character shows the fun stuff you can do with archetypes. Archetypes for the Pathfinder system were introduced in the Advanced Player's Guide. Archetypes swap out features of the base class with a set of themed abilities. Some are minor, and some make it feel like you're playing a whole new class.

Baela is themed on the immovable power of stone, befitting her Dwarf heritage. The archetypes used are Monk of the Sacred Mountain, Monk of the Four Winds and a splash of Qinggong Monk. The Monk of the Sacred Mountain trades some of the movement-based monk class features for ones themed on immobility & toughness. The Monk of the Four Winds is for monks more connected to the natural world, and the elements. Quinggong monks are disciplined users of Ki magic.

Baela Duerstan is a dwarf ascetic from Highhelm. Her mother, a caravan guard, died when she was in her teens, and she was taken in by the temple of Torag. Upon coming of age, she chose to leave the area and see the world. She now wanders from town to town, sometimes a caravan guard herself.

Baela Duerstan Dwarf Monk (Monk of the Sacred Mountain/Monk of the Four Winds/Qinggong Monk) Lawful Neutral  Level 10

Str 14, Dex 12, Con 18, Int 10, Wis 20, Cha 6

AC: 28 (+2 Dex +5 Wis +6 Natural Armor +3 Monk +1 Dodge +1 Deflection) 30 (+2 Shield if she does not move)
HP: 113 (10d8 + 50 Con + 10 Toughness +9 favored class)  DR: 1/-
Saves: Fort +11, Ref +8, Will +12
Move: 50

Unarmed strike +11/+5 2d6+3
Flurry of Blows +12/+12/+7/+7 2d6+3
+1 Shuriken +10/+5
+1 Shuiriken (flurry) +11/+11/+6/+6 1d2+3  10ft

Skills: Acrobatics +15, Stealth +15, Knowledge: Religion +13, Perception +18

Feats: Ironhide, Toughness, Dodge, Scorpion Style, Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike), Shaitan Style, Gorgon Strike, Improved Natural Armor x2, Medusa's Wrath, Improved Unarmed Strike, Elemental Fist

Magic Items: 
Belt of Physical Perfection +2, Headband of Inspired Wisdom +4, Monk's Robe, Amulet of Natural Armor +2, 50 +1 Shuriken, Ring of Protection +1

Baela is, simply put, tough. Though she is highly mobile, she shines most when she can stand still and hit things; she is not subtle in the least. Her Scorpion Style feat will allow her to stop opponents in their tracks (and open the possibility of using Gorgon's Fist & Medusa's Wrath). The Elemental Fist feat is her go-to move for dealing unarmed strike damage. It will allow her to use any element, but it is best employed for acid damage, which is boosted by the Shaitan Style feat (which she should activate in every battle at the beginning). When she needs to withstand a barrage of attacks, standing still and using a Ki point for her monk dodge bonus will get her to Armor Class 34. And don't forget that her Damage Reduction (DR 1/-) is always active (she can double this with a Ki point).

For advancement, Baela should take Stunning Fist next level. As a monk, she will get one use per level (and an additional use from her Monk Robe). If she uses Stunning Fist in a Flurry of Blows attack, she can get two additional attacks at her highest base attack bonus (assuming the opponent fails his save). At 12th level, her Monk of the Four Winds archetype replaces Abundant Step with Slow Time, the ability to use a swift action to spend 6 ki points to get 3 standard actions that turn instead of one. At 13th level, either Crushing Blow or Hammer The Gap are good feat choices. You may also use the Qinggong Monk archetype to swap out Diamond Body for another power not replaced by one of the other archetypes: Restoration is a very good choice.

Alternately, a one-level dip into Fighter with the Unbreakable archetype would round out the prerequisites for the prestige class Stalwart Defender anytime after 9th level. Though a Monk is not the ideal path to get there, it offers a lot to Baela: a larger hit die, a dodge bonus to AC, damage reduction (it won't stack with hers, but will eventually surpass what she has), the defensive stance and a variety of defensive powers.

Note: All of the links above go to, an excellent fan-made resource for Pathfinder rules run by John Reyst. I use this every time I make a character or plan an adventure for Pathfinder. John is currently running a Patreon to support maintaining this excellent resource. Please consider lending your support.