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      Stephen Colbert plays D&D with Matt Mercer for Red Nose Day

      There are so many things to love about Stephen Colbert. For me, his unapologetic nerdiness is high on that list. His obviously large and tender heart is, too. These two impulses come together in this Critcal Role video, done as a fundraiser for Red Nose Day, dedicated to the fight against childhood poverty in America.

      In the 52-minute one-on-one D&D adventure, Matt Mercer does a masterful job of taking Stephen, as the half-elf bard, Capo, and his bee sidekick, Eric, on a harrowing adventure in search of the Crimson Sphere of Generosity.

      Besides the fun D&D adventure and the do-gooder intent of the episode, we also get to see Stephen play D&D for the first time in some 30 years. His joy and sense of wonder are palpable. He even has to stop to tell Matt how much he's freaking out as childhood memories of playing with friends overwhelm him. "I can feel the chest hairs growing as we speak," he jokes. At one point, Stephen laughs at one of Matt's colorful descriptions of a gory encounter with an undead beast. "I haven't heard the word ichor in over 30 years."

      We also learn more about the origins of Stephen's gaming past. He was a Metamorphosis Alpha player before D&D and he got in on D&D early. He even says that he went to GenCon the year that the first AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide was released. And he admits that he still has his friend's copy (they got switched at the con) which was signed by Gary Gygax. Read the rest

      What's new in tabletop gaming (April 2019 edition)

      Battletech: A Game of Armored Combat BattleTech Beginner Box Catalyst Games, $60 (core set), $20 (Beginner's Box)

      Catalyst Games was kind enough to send me a bundle o' new BattleTech goodies. They sent the new BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat (the core game), the BattleTech Beginner Box, the BattleMech Manual, and the Map Pack expansion.

      The Beginner Box is positioned as a convenient and cheap way of getting people into the game at a third the price of the new core box. In the Beginner Box, you get 2 Mech miniatures and 8 cardboard standee Mechs. The stater rules are somewhat streamlined with no heat management/Heat Phase, no Internal Structure Diagram (ISD), and no torso movement. All of the movement and attack modifiers are retained from the original game. The rules still have those clunky and crunchy old-school mechanics under the hood, but like OGRE and Car Wars, for those of us with fond memories of this game, however cumbersome, that's maybe now part of its old-school charm.

      The hardbound Mech Manual is lovely, well-designed, and laid out for easy reference. The Core Box comes with 8 beautifully sculpted Mech miniatures, a 56-page rule book, a 16-page Universe Primer, Pilot stat cards, a pad of Mech record sheets, two terrain maps, dice, and additional standees and terrain markers. The core system does retain the ISD, heat manangement, and torso movement rules. Both boxed sets also include novellas, which is kind of a nice way of immersing oneself, especially newbies, in the BattleTech universe before play. Read the rest

      Deborah Ann Woll and Joe Manganiello talk about acting, roleplaying, and D&D's unique form of storytelling

      I really enjoyed these two interviews on the D&D Beyond channel with actors Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood, Daredevil) and Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Justice League, Magic Mike), both D&D fanatics. In Deborah's interview, she talks about how she got started in the hobby, what kind of characters she likes to play (fighters, surprisingly enough), and her thoughts on the current D&D renaissance.

      One interesting observation she makes about RPGs as a unique form of acting/theater: When a party saves a character or survives an ordeal, or otherwise experiences a dramatic moment, there's often an intense, visceral response from the players that she says she doesn't experience in any other type of acting. As an actor, she longs to evoke this kind of response in people, so that's one of the things that draws her to D&D.

      In the Joe Manganiello video, we get a tour of his E. Gary Gygax Memorial Dungeon (think: MTV Cribs for nerds) and hear about how he got back into the hobby after a long hiatus and how he went about converting his basement wine cellar into this enviable game space. The large dragon, beholder, and mind flayer sculptures are very cool. Joe also talks about the impact that D&D had on him as a kid and how he learned foundational skills in storytelling, world-building, and acting that he later employed as a professional actor. D&D was his gateway drug.

      In mid-December of 2018, Geek & Sundry announced a new D&D-themed show, coming in February, starring Deborah Woll. Read the rest

      Tabletop gamer's gift guide for 2018

      If you have an avid gamer on your holiday gift list, here are some great game gift recommendations for 2018. You can also find plenty of other candidates in the "What's new in tabletop gaming" pieces I posted this year. Also, check out the Boing Boing Toys and Games gift guide for a few additional suggestions.

      Wildlands ($57)

      Game design doyen Martin Wallace is probably best known for railroad and civilization-building games (Age of Steam, Railways of the World, Brass, London, Struggle of Empires). His latest, Wildlands, is a grand and glorious departure. The game, published by Osprey, is gorgeous, easy-to-learn, fun to play, and very replayable, with lots of play choices and tactical depth (and already emerging expansions). Designed for up to 4 players, Wildlands is a card-driven fantasy skirmish board game with 20 beautifully-detailed, primed, and pre-washed miniatures. Four different factions, with different strengths and abilities, attempt to collect “arcane crystals” scattered over one of a two-sided game board. A hand of action cards, with multiple choices on each card, determine what each faction can do on each turn in their quest to vanquish foes and acquire crystals. The mechanics are elegant, the action, relentless and tense. Like last year’s Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, Wildlands is a great way to introduce timid newbies to the world of fantasy miniature gaming and light dungeon delving.

      Buy

      Axis & Allies & Zombies ($33)

      If you like Axis & Allies and want to try throwing a wrench (or in this case, hordes of brain-eating undead) into the typical mechanics of the game, then you'll likely find Axis & Allies & Zombies a fun new twist. Read the rest

      Fantastic thematic wall displays for your gaming miniatures

      On Game Terrain Engineering, Jim Kelly posted this great tutorial on building a wall-mounted display for your lovingly-painted fantasy miniatures collection. The display, while looking quite elaborate and substantial, is little more than a cheap wooden picture frame, some foam board, and lots of time and hot glue. The Archdevil Moloch statue in the middle was 3D printed. That is, of course, optional.

      Months ago, well-known dungeon crafter, DM Scotty, posted some similar wall displays on Facebook that used a printed image on their back walls (relevant to the theme of the minis on display) and simpler shelving. Scotty's might be an overall better solution for displaying your minis in a less busy but still thematic way. Jim admits that the lighting/viewability of some of the miniatures on his dungeon-themed display is not the best. He’s considering adding LED lighting.

      I am definitely going to build some of these displays. With all of the time I’m putting into painting minis these days, I don’t want to hide my hard work away in cases when it could be enjoyed by others. I think this is a really fun way to do it. I can’t wait to plan out and create thematic frame-displays for my Frostgrave, Gaslands, Blood Bowl, and All Quiet on the Martian Front minis. For displaying years of collected Warhammer 40,000 armies? We’re going to need a bigger boat.

      BTW: The latest D&D game book, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, includes the exiled Archdevil Moloch in its bestiary, with great artwork, background, and stat block. Read the rest

      Great advice for those getting started in miniature painting

      I have been a tabletop/roleplaying gamer, off and on, for most of my life. Miniature modeling, painting, and terrain building have always been my favorite aspects of this wide-ranging and very maker-friendly hobby. As I've given in even more completely to my game-related obsessions these past few years (I may be in line for an intervention), painting minis has become my daily go-to activity for relaxation, creative expression, and escapism. I pretty much live for my painting and modeling sessions each night.

      I'm really enjoying focusing on painting and trying to get as good at it as possible. I am currently painting up a bunch of Frostgrave wizard warbands, adversaries, and terrain, several teams for Gaslands (and suitably Mad Max-ian terrain), and the recent plastic OGRE miniatures.

      After several years of nearly daily painting, I can now look back on my experience with some sense of what I did wrong. I was struck when I saw this video on Miniac because Scott touches on most of the key tips and cautions that I would share at this point.

      Besides what he listed, I would add a few of my own.

      You really only need one good brush There is a trap that new or inexperienced painters fall into of thinking that they need a different size brush for each type of painting operation (e.g., a size 1 or 2 for base coating, a 0 for highlighting, a 00 – or ridiculous sizes like 5/0 or 18/0 – for painting eyeballs and super-detailing). Read the rest

      What's new in tabletop gaming (June edition)

      Here are some recent game releases of note and some of what I've been up to in hobby gaming over the past month or so.

      The Grimoire Osprey Games, $20, 2-4 Players, 12+

      One of the hallmarks of the highly-successful miniatures skirmish game Frostgrave is that it has a fairly simple, elegant rule set. But like all games that become this popular, Osprey has been cranking out the supplements, accessories, and even a spin-off game (Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago). With such rapid expansion, it quickly becomes difficult to keep track of all of the new magic spells, monsters, treasures, new characters, and the like. Because the game is basically about dueling wizards and their warbands fighting over treasure, there were already a lot of magic spells to choose from in the core rulebook. But after four major supplements, the spell lists were getting a little unwieldy. Enter The Grimoire, a lovely boxed set of 122 magic spells cards which includes all of the spells, from all of the wizard schools, from the core rules and all supplements to date. This includes the just-released Maze of Malcor.

      Airfix Battles Introductory Wargame Modiphius, (as low as) $23 1-4 Players, Ages 10+

      Airfix Battles Introductory Wargame is not a new game, only new to me. It was recommended by my friend Rodney Orpheus when I started asking around for a modern version of an old school map and chits wargame. And that's exactly what this game is. It's also an amazing reminder of just how far wargaming design has come--at least in terms of playability and quality of components--from the Avalon Hill/SPI games of yore. Read the rest

      Gamer makes edible polyhedral dice, scores a crit hit

      German pastry chef, gamer, cosplayer, and Twittizen, Sonja decided to make a batch of edible candy RPG/polyhedral dice. She posted pictures on Twitter and all the nerds came running to her yard. Realizing she might have a hungry market on her hands, Sonja has quickly opened up an Etsy store, the cleverly-named, Sugar and Dice.

      Batches of the dice are Isomalt sugar and are edible. They can either be "eaten as a hard candy bonbon or dissolved into a hot cup of tea or coffee." Sonja points out that they are not balanced and not perfect on all sides, so they can't really be reliably used in gaming.

      A set of 7 dice (1 each of d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d100, and d20) will run you £18, shipped to the US (and take 1-2 weeks). Not exactly penny candy, but a cool novelty and a unique, fun gift for a gamer friend. I will definitely be getting some. A set of these will make a nice gaming night prize. Read the rest

      Historical Dungeons and Dragons artifacts and an unreleased pilot for an 80s D and D radio show

      I am a huge fan of Jon Peterson's beautiful doorstop of a tome, Playing at the World, an exhaustive history of D&D, RPGs, and wargames. So, I was delighted to discover his YouTube channel. Even though he only has a few videos on it, I found them all very interesting.

      In "A History of D&D in 12 Treasures," Jon looks at 12 artifacts (I assume from his personal collection) that help in understanding the early development and history of D&D. It it so cool to see early correspondence between Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, early newsletters, rules for pre-D&D games that influenced D&D, and of course, the first printed, 3-booklet edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

      Before there was Critical Role, HarmonQuest, D&D With Pornstars, and Wizards of the Coast's own Dice, Camera, Action, there was The D&D Radio Show. Or, there would have been if it had ever been broadcast. Back in the 1980s, TSR created a pilot for a D&D radio show that never saw air. Jon got a hold of the pilot episode. It's fascinating to ponder what RPG entertainment, now in its infancy, might be like today if it had taken hold over 30 years ago.

      In this video, Jon sits down with fellow D&D history nerd, Bill Meinhardt, to go through the early boxed set editions of D&D to discuss how you can tell which printing is which. Read the rest

      Gift Guide for Tabletop Gamers 2017

      It was another exciting year for tabletop games and the nerds who love them. This was a year (plus) for re-releases of classic titles (Necromunda, Blood Bowl, Escape from Colditz, Axis & Allies) and one that saw a growing trend in pirate, tropical, jungle games and settings. Crowdfunding, 3D printing, and CNC small-scale manufacturing all continued to have a significant and growing impact on the gaming industry, as did the expanding number of YouTube game- and dungeon crafting-related shows. Game component and miniature quality continued to rise and astound, and game design and play mechanics seem slicker and better than ever.

      With all of that in mind, here is my 2017 guide to tabletop wargames, RPGs, card games, board games, and more. This is not necessarily a tops list or an exhaustive one. These are mainly games that I played or acquired this year and that I personally recommend. If you have others, add them in Comments. (Where available, Amazon Affiliate links are used to help support Boing Boing.)

      Board Games

      Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate

      D&D's Forgotten Realms setting, Baldur's Gate (immortalized in the late 90s video game of the same name), gets a chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter mash-up with the hugely successful horror game, Betrayal at House on the Hill, in Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. In this cooperative tile-building game, you and your party try to remain alive while making your way through the dark passageways of this iconic D&D city. Collect too many bad Omens along the way and a Haunt happens, turning one party member against the others. Read the rest

      Gorgeous, free, and downloadable DnD Character Sheets

      Someone on the D&D 5th Edition Facebook group posted a link to these really lovely and very playable-looking 5e character sheets. The designer of the sheets, William Lu, posted them on ArtStation and writes:

      Custom, combat-oriented character sheets for the Dungeons and Dragons 5th ed. tabletop game. Designed to be a familiar sheet for veteran players, while retaining its unique look and strengths.

      Features a design inspired by Celtic interlace art. Incorporates the feedback from many hours of playtesting to make sure the sheet's utility matches its beauty.

      You can download the 7 pages of the character sheets here. Read the rest

      Gamer gifts ultimate homemade Dungeon Master screen

      I posted this on Make: yesterday, but thought it was too good not to share here. A gamer named David Henning is in a gaming group and they exchanged gifts this past Christmas. Dave wanted to do something really special for his recipient, their new Dungeon Master, so he made him this amazing castle-themed DM screen. Not only does it act as a screen to hide the DM's dice rolls and campaign info, but it also includes a built-in dice tower, a lit dice display area, a place to mount quick reference material, a place to store non-playing characters (NPCs), and holders for pencils, erasers, and sharpeners.

      The screen was made almost entirely of foamboard (three 2' x 2' pieces) with all of the stonework made by drawing on the bricks and then using a foam cutter to burn in the mortar lines. The bricks were distressed with a ball of aluminum foil and a hobby knife. Popsicle sticks were used to create the wooden doors and hatches. The whole thing was primed black and then painted and drybrushed with lighter hues of gray up to white (with some green wash thrown in to add a hint of organic funk).

      More pics and information about the build can be found on Make:. I found out about Dave's project on the highly-recommend Facebook group, DM Scotty's Crafts N' Games (closed group, ask to join), a great place to find D&D-related terrain and accessory builds, miniature painting show n' tell, and gaming-related craft projects. Read the rest

      Dungeons and Dragons burger alignment chart

      Illustrator Noah Stacey (Zen-Master on DeviantArt) created this fantastic burger alignment chart after nearly writing off his inspiration: Read the rest

      Super 8 video of Dungeons & Dragons session in 1981

      Boing Boing contributor Ethan Gilsdorf -- author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest For Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, And Other Dwellers Of Imaginary Realms -- posted this geekily nostalgic Super 8 film he shot in 1981, at age 15, of his buddies playing Dungeons & Dragons. "Look for the classic Mountain Dew can at 1:53," Ethan writes.

      (via r/ObscureMedia, thanks UPSO!)

      Read the rest

      The awesome glory that is Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition

      How imaginary worlds can help save the real world, by Jason Louv

      D&D 5th edition Monster Manual review: a deep resource for DMs

      What should you expect from the D&D Fifth Edition Monster Manual? Matt M. Casey says depth, texture, and story. "It may be Wizards’ best Monster Manual ever."

      Dark Dungeons: Seduced by the exotic and sinister world of role playing games

      Dark Dungeons is a crowd-funded movie based on a Jack Chick religious tract of the same name. Cory posted about the Kickstarter earlier, and now it's finished. Here's the first 8-minutes. You can buy the full movie for $5. (Thanks, CN!) Read the rest

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