Friday, February 28, 2014

D&D 40th anniversary blog hop challenge - Take 2!

Moving gracefully on.

Day 11: First splatbook you begged your DM to approve. 
Heroes of the Feywild? Didn't take much begging, though. He can deal with whatever we throw his way. Including feral Pixie Barbarians. Respect.

Day 12: First store where you bought your gaming supplies. Does it still exist?
There used to be a gaming store in my home town in Hungary called New Ork. That was the first place where I have ever met fellow geeks. It was an attic space with bookshelves and tables and games. Spent a lot of time there during my last two years of high school. It closed and moved online since, sadly.

Day 13: First miniature(s) you used for D&D.
This current campaign is my first time ever using a mini. Right now Honeybadger is represented by a small shiny pebble (the kind they line fish tanks with). Alternatively, sometimes I use a mini of Marvel's Wasp for her.

Day 14: Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play? (Or just post a randomly generated monster in protest of Valentine's Day). 
Did meet my first BF in the gaming club. Current BF also plays (and all the others in-between did as well). I don't have a type, I just like shared interests, especially if they are related to gaming.

Day 15: What was the first edition you didn't enjoy. Why?
I am still not OK with 4th edition, but I am slowly learning to appreciate it. I guess after putting all the effort into exploring and learning 3.5, I felt betrayed that I have to start over.

Day 16: Do you remember your first edition war? Did you win? ;)
Did I mention that I am playing in a 4th ed. campaign now?... ;)

Day 17: First time you heard D&D was somehow "evil."
Good God yes. Not about D&D, but role-playing in general. The first time we started experimenting (ha!) with M.A.G.U.S. with my high school friends, one of the mothers went ballistic on us. Granted, I was in a Catholic school, so the only surprise is that no one else did.
(There were also urban legends floating around that two guys were expelled from the nearby seminary because they were caught playing M.A.G.U.S. at night. The rule book has a gigantic pentagram on the cover.)

Day 18: First gaming convention you ever attended. 
*Holds up the convention-appropriate version of the V card*

Day 19: First gamer who just annoyed the hell out of you. 
Moving on.

Day 20: First non-D&D RPG you played. 
M.A.G.U.S., technically. Shortly after that, 7th Sea (still love it!). And then I got hooked on Changeling: The Dreaming (my ultimate favorite, did I mention I'm a storyteller?). My first Spanish speaking system was Piratas! I am still hoping that one day I will actually have a party to play that one with.

Day 21: First time you sold some of your D&D books--for whatever reason. 
Nope! Gotta catch 'em all.

Day 22: First D&D-based novel you ever read (Dragonlance Trilogy, Realms novels, etc.)
The Dark Elf Trilogy from R.A. Salvatore. It was big in high school. One of my friends did fan art for it in class, that's how I noticed. So, technically, I read those books before I ever played D&D.

Day 23: First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

Day 24: First movie that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why? 
Guess what: Gummy Bears. Say anything. I dare you. I double D&Dare you.

Day 25: Longest running campaign/gaming group you've been in. 
We played for more than a year with the ETSU party (love you guys!). Currently, campaign has been going on since January.

Day 26: Do you still game with the people who introduced you to the hobby? 
Nope. Other continent. But I do love meeting new people!

Day 27: If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming? 
I would try more games. Back when we had tons of time to play, and a lot of energy to spare, I wish I tried more game systems. It gets harder to get a party together once you start college, and especially work. Other than that... not really. It has been fun so far! 

Day 28: What is the single most important lesson you've learned from playing Dungeons & Dragons?
ROLE-PLAYING IS NOT EVIL AND IT IS NOT A WASTE OF TIME. It creates friendships, teaches teamwork, trains your creativity and imagination, helps you learn languages, gives self-confidence, relaxes you through laughter, and blends into storytelling really well. I was a DM 8 years before I found out storytelling is a profession that exists. And I suddenly understood why I always had the urge to play Bards. It was the best training I could have ever wished for.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

D&D 40th anniversary blog hop challenge - Take 1!

I realize that I am very very late with joining a challenge 3 days before it ends, but I simply could not resist!
Confession time: I started role-playing with M.A.G.U.S., a Hungarian-made version of D&D, when I was about 14 or 15. I have played a lot of things since (I'll spare you the math, it's about 14 years). Although I attempted once early on to get my hands on a D&D rule book and read it in English (not easy!), it didn't quite happen until I was in college and studying in the USA. With that in mind, the following answers all refer to my actual D&D experiences in the past 5 years, not my role-playing history in general.
Here it goes:

Day 1: First person who introduced you to D&D? Which edition? Your first Character?
I remember hearing that M.A.G.U.S. was "like D&D" very early on. Once I got my hands on a rule book in the US, I mostly taught myself. I started with 3.5, and it's still my favorite edition. The first time I played, I was the DM. (I'm a storyteller. I'm always the DM...) The first character I made was a Factotum. Go figure.

Day 2: First person YOU introduced to D&D? Which edition? THEIR first character?
Uh... a lot of people? In 2012 at ETSU we had an RPG class in the Storytelling program, and that class had 16 people in it. Some of them were practiced, some of them were new. We played 3.5. Definite crowd favorite was Amadeus, our half-orc barbarian with an Intelligence of 3, and the heart of an angel. I also quite loved Iron Fist, our Fighter/Dungeoneer who was incapable of rolling a success whenever it came to kicking down doors. It was a running joke.

Day 3: First dungeon you explored as a PC or ran as a DM.

It was a campaign called "Eye of the Storm" I made up. Characters stuck in a guest house high in a mountain pass during a snow storm. They explored the natural caves under the guest house and discovered all kinds of nasty things. They also invented Molotovs at some point.

Day 4: First dragon you slew (or some other powerful monster). 

Whew!... Again, I am usually the DM. I guess the biggest kill I participated in as a player was the legendary Questing Beast from a couple of weeks ago. That sucker was HARD to kill!

Day 5: First character to go from 1st level to 20th level (or highest possible level in a given edition). 

Honeybadger, my current Pixie Barbarian, is on her way to fame. She just leveled to 11th. She started on 3rd, though. Again, I blame the Questing Beast. This is 4th edition.

Day 6: First character death. How did you handle it? 
None yet! Honeybadger went below 0HP once for a few nerve-wrecking seconds, but miraculously avoided death. I am also a DM with 0 character deaths on my ledger. I am not letting them get away that easy.

Day 7: First D&D Product you ever bought. Do you still have it?

Dice! Definitely dice. And yep, still got them. My players love them because they can't roll for ****. Makes my NPC's look like I got them on craigslist. But they have nostalgic value.
Also, interestingly, the first rule book I purchased was Al-Quadim. Found it in a used book store for 5 bucs. That's right, hate me.

Day 8: First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?

See above! :) Nice set of light blue sparkly ones. Bought them in New York City, baby.

Day 9: First campaign setting (homebrew or published) you played in.
Sadly I still have not gotten a campaign together for Al-Quadim (as a storyteller I have a slight Arabian Nights fixation). As a player, my first consistent campaign is happening right now, in the world of Exalted out of all places... Shaping up to be tons of fun.

Day 10: First gaming magazine you ever bought (Dragon, Dungeon, White Dwarf, etc.).

None for D&D, sadly. I got to get on that sometime. We had one for M.A.G.U.S. called Rune.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A to Z Blogging challenge - Theme Reveal Blogfest!

So, the A to Z Blogging Challenge is happening again! Either you have done it before (in which case: High five!), or you have seen me do it the past two years (in which case: Cupcakes!) or if neither, you should definitely think about doing it this year. It's the most fun you will ever have on your blog short of a nest of baby sloths moving in. 
You can sign up to participate if you follow this link
The challenge starts in April as usual, but we already have more than 600 blogs signed up!

There is one question that returns every year before the start of the Challenge: To Theme or Not to Theme?

If you ask for my own completely biased opinion: You should theme, and so will I. Last year, I did Weird Princesses as a theme, and it was the best blogging decision ever.
This year, I am doing a theme again. You want to know what it is?

Well, that is what the Theme Reveal Blogfest is for!

Last year, A to Z participant Mina Lobo started the Theme Reveal Blogfest, and it was a tremendous success. We decided that it should be repeated this year, so that it will become an unofficial tradition of revealing A to Z themes in a festive manner.

I am pleased to announced that we are hosting a Theme Reveal for the 2014 A to Z challenge! And by "we" I mean me together with other fabulous members of #TeamDamyanti, Guilie, Vidya, Samantha (who made us our lovely badge!), and Anna.

The way it works:

Sign up on the Linky list below, and publish a post on the 21st of March talking about your A to Z Theme, telling us what your theme will be, and why it would be interesting for your existing readers and A to Z Participants.

This is a great opportunity for all of you to get a jump start on your A to Z experience. You can link up with fellow bloggers, scout out and bookmark themes that you are interested in, and set out delicious themed bait on your blog to lure in wandering participants! This way, by the time the frenzied posting begins on April 1st, you will already have an audience eagerly awaiting your posts.

Sign up below, ready your theme, and mark March 21st on your calendars!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

MythOff USA - Tricksters won the Monsters, monsters won the Tricksters, and everyone is happy

And here we go again. MythOff USA rumbles on, for the first time in the North, in our very own Bowling Green, OH. New venue, new people, old stories.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about putting on a MythOff in a whole new town. I was used to organizing these in the storytelling-saturated home turf on Jonesborough, where you can't even cough without five storytellers saying "Bless you!" Bowling Green, however, is a college town, where people usually find themselves plenty things other than myths to consume on Friday nights.

And yet - spoiler alert! - the first MythOff Bowling Green absolutely kicked ass.

First of all: Our venue, the Happy Badger Café of Deliciousness, was not only kind, friendly, and comfortably perfect for storytelling, but also COMPLETELY FULL. Seriously, you could not have gotten in another person edgewise. We had BGSU students, SCA people, a vanful of international teachers from all over the world doing a training program at BGSU, and also people without acronyms. There was hot chocolate, tea, smoothies, and yes, there was also pie.

Tom, our host, put on his most dapper manners, and did a wonderful job keeping everything on track, and making everyone feel welcome (she usually hosts the weekly Open Mic evenings too). He was funny and enthusiastic, and on top of everything, from introducing tellers to dragging more tables in. Oh, and he also came up with the voting questions. Which (together with the rest of the actual program) were as follows:

Round one: Secrets
In the Hindu corner: Hannah (BGSU, PopCulture), who told a lovely story about an orphan girl pretending to be a princess until the goddess Parvati rewarded her devotion with making it so (fake it till you make it!)
In the Egyptian corner: Grace (SCA, possibly our youngest ever MythOff teller), telling the Secret Name of Ra, topping it with a great last line.
Voting question: If you had to write a memoir and choose the title from one of these stories, would it be "Without pearls for breakfast," or "A bit of Ra's drool"?
Winner: Hindu
Prize: The Mask of Mystery

Round two: Tricksters! (tricksters always come with an exclamation mark)
In the Norse corner: Dan (SCA) who told Loki's fleeting work-related romance that resulted in Sleipnir ("Loki takes one for the team")
In the Central American corner: Clark (SCA) bringing a Mayan myth of two brothers tricking the monsters of the Underworld. He included a delightful little dance number, and by proxy also won the Monsters round with razor-bats and skeleton creatures.
Voting question: If you had to babysit in two households, which line (from the stories) written on a note on the fridge would make you run screaming faster? "Strong strapping stallion" or "Burn the twins and kill the dog"?
Winner: Cental America, obviously. Someone just wrote on their voting paper "Run away from CA."
Prize: The Eyes of Innocence, a tiny Monkey King doll with large eyes saying "It wasn't me!"

Round three: Monsters
In the Slavic corner: Dwight (SCA) with a Russian tale of vampires, churches, and maidens that turn into flowers, representing transition from heathenism to Christianity. Also, vampires.
In the Chinese corner: Yours truly (as the common ground in all of the above mentioned acronyms) with a piece of Journey to the West involving demon-spider-ladies and a holy monk.
Voting question: Which one of the two hero-monster dichotomies describes your worst relationship best?
Winner: The Monkey King
Prize: The Monster Master Monstrosity (a string of fake monster teeth, fangs and claws fashioned into a necklace)

It was a fast-paced, energetic event - so much so, in fact, that the audience didn't even want to take a break halfway through. Voting was executed on notepad sheets adorned with puppies and hearts (for lack of a printer, this was what was at hand, don't judge). All in all, everyone introduced to MythOff tonight was satisfied and entertained. And so were we. Incredible turnout, incredible evening. We will have to do this again soon.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

D&D Win: How turn a Questing Beast into a Questing Feast

Once upon a time a group of fearless adventurers, long famous for their incredible feats and well respected in their world for their knowledge and bravery, their long traveled road paved with slain monsters and grateful commoners, and the weariness of a good day's work behind them, decided to gather on a Saturday afternoon at Jacob's place and play some Dungeons & Dragons.
Our chosen characters were as follows:
Item: One half-elf Ranger who secretly always wanted to learn to cook, but only managed to learn how to kill;
Item: One human witch (male, thank you very much) slightly cursed by the gods, manifesting a nasty case of "I have the left arm of a giant insect and it affects my Charisma";
Item: One shifter warden/shaman on a mission to protect life, nature, and anything that doesn't try to kill him; accompanied by
Item: One pixie barbarian called Honeybadger, completely batshit insane (embodied by a candy-fueled yours truly)
Oh, and we played in the setting of Exalted.

Nothing could possibly go wrong with this setup, ever.

Our merry gang of good-natured sociopaths (bordering on Chaotic Neutral) was hired by a noble house to act as ambassadors to a local pocket of the Feywild (or whatever the Exalted version of that is) and negotiate trading rights with a bunch of soulless murderous fairy creatures, or at least stop a rival merchant guild for negotiating their own terms. Upon arrival we delivered our killer opening statement which only a fool would refuse, and impressed Her Magnanimous Arboreal Highness enough that she allowed us to participate in the competition to win the above mentioned trading rights. Although the light political nuances were mostly lost on us, when we were pointed at a bunch of NPC's and told "defeat them and you win" we managed to grasp the gist.
The first trial was a game of riddles which was probably the most meta competition between PCs and NPCs I have ever played, but it was also immense fun. Moving on.
And this brings us to the topic of the WIN: The second trial was a cooking contest.

Admittedly, when he planned the campaign our DM managed to skim over the fact that during the previous gaming session our half-elf had acquired a +12 to Cooking. From the God of Cooking himself.

Our team had 25 hours to gather ingredients. We decided to go big or go home. Through a not-so-anonymous tip from a stag-horned fae soldier (nicknamed collectively as Swiggity Swag and probably anxious not to end up in the roast) we found out that a Questing Beast had been spotted nearby.
That was all we needed to hear: Momma was bringing home mythic meat for dinner!
It took us about 2 real life hours to trap the beast, fail at trapping the beast, get slapped around by the beast (spectacular roll of natural 1's there), resort to plan B, and finally kill the thing while the ranger was continuously yelling instructions on where we were allowed to shoot/stick/burn it in order to not ruin the meat. Once the monster had been slain, we found out that there were three baby Questing Beasts nearby, which instantly made us all break down in fits of guilty conscience (of varying degrees). We kept them as pets in the end. The DM did not expect that.
Returning to the fairy castle, we had to come up with a menu. And this is where things got completely epic. Also, completely out of hand.
Rachel, the player of our half-elf cooking master, decided that turning a Questing Beast into a five-course meal required ingenuity, precision, and preparation. So instead of declaring the general idea of "we cook the meat" and rolling some dice, here is what we ended up with:

First course: On the theme of Swiggity Swag providing us with the quest (also known as Joseph Campbell's Call to Adventure): Cream of venison soup with hart hoof stock.
Second course: On the theme of the nature of the Feywild, and us tracking the Beast through the woods: Spinach and green salad with snake neck, toasted acorns and local berry vinaigrette
Third course: On the theme of the epic fight: Trio of Questing Beast: Gyro style spit-roasted smoked lion shank, grilled marinated leopard flank steak, goat cheese and peppercorn stuffed snake tongue braised with bay leaves and local mushrooms (Bay leaves. as in, "baying of thirty hounds." Get it? Get it?!?!)
Fourth course: Butchering the beast and finding the puppies: Hash of sweet potatoes, carrots and root vegetables with slow roasted leopard rump, liver and topped with poached eggs. Also, decorated with the snake skull of the beast and its heart within the skull, floating and surrounded by fire.
Dessert: Chocolate flourless cake with a cat-fruit puree spiked with two-three drops of slightly hallucinogenic Questing Beast venom and frozen rice-cream, courtesy of the elemental ice powers of our shaman.

(We stopped for a pizza break halfway through planning)

After we spent about an hour creating this menu (during which we found out more details about Questing Beast anatomy than we ever desired to know), it was time for the cooking. *drumroll* Our two teams shared a kitchen and had 8 hours to prepare all the above mentioned delicacies (which means Rachel did not only make the menu, she also broke down how it would be prepared step by step, which is more work for an imaginary feast than I ever put into my entire nonexistent real life cooking career). This was already pretty epic in itself, but then came the kicker: The competing team decided to mess with us.
Hour after hour the pixie, who was not sanitary enough to be allowed near food but made a great sentinel, had to roll a Perception check to intercept the competition's attempts at spoiling our menu. This ranged from punting rats back across the kitchen (and into their soup) from beating demon-monkeys to death with frying pans (not allowed to shed blood under fey laws), to bursting bubbles of poison before they floated above the pots. It was a team effort, and darn did we roll like heroes to save the food!
Our cook-off was observed and broadcast by a tiny cyclops carried around in a pot by four flying pixies, which I guess is the D&D version of a moving camera. The campaign increasingly started to feel like an Exalted edition of Iron Chef. This feeling only grew stronger once we had to face the judges: A feline fey bard, a Lady of the Lake, and a Satyr version of Gordon Ramsay, which is probably the most awesome NPC I have ever encountered in a game.
The competing team put up a good fight: they even served a pie that seemed suspiciously like the final resting place of one of their companions. But even that could not defeat us! In fact, we won so hard that when Gordon RAMsay had to pay an honest compliment without snark, he lost his fae essence of sarcasm, and simply disintegrated.

These 12 hours were among the most entertaining of my life. Which proves a couple of things:
1. Rachel is a freaking genius,
2. DM Jamie is also a freaking genius, also an incredibly patient man for letting us ponder over the carcass of an imaginary beast for 6 real life hours,
3. We are all nuts and we love it, and
4. Role-playing games are not all about crawling around in dungeons and killing things. There shall come a day when you will look at a hidden, unused corner of your character sheet, and cry out:

"Hey guys, I have a Skill for that!"

D&Dinner is served.