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Showing posts from 2023

Santa's Gifts of Love and Forgveness

The methods of Claus, the Great and Powerful are universally known, told, quite literally, in song and story. (Much of the established canon comes from one particular poem , in fact, making it both a song and a story.) Long before the Elf/Shelf Surveillance Network was set up, we were assured that Santa simply knew if we were "bad" or "good," and admonished to be the latter if we had any hope of receiving the presents we were expecting. The punitive lump of coal is an interesting holdover from an era when the stuff was commonplace - but it persisted long after most children had ever seen a lump of coal, let alone had to help carry it or feed it into home furnace (there also being an implication of punishment and drudgery for those benighted children unfortunate enough to find themselves part of an anthracite yuletide). But... you never actually hear about those, do you? That's a side of St. Nicholas rarely seen. Some regional traditions pass these duties off t

...And Services

Twenty dollars?! I wanted a peanut! Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts. Explain how. Money can be exchanged for goods and services.   When we talk about tabletop roleplaying games, one thing often featured prominently (usually via tables) is all the things you can buy in-game. You’ve got standard adventuring gear such as rope, backpacks, and bedrooms. You have arms and armor from rapiers and plate mail to blasters and jumpsuits. You can find specialty consumables such as scrolls, potions, ammo and energy packs. You might even have magical, or mystical, items such as bags of holding or kyber crystals. There are also the purchases that almost split the difference between "good" and "service" - for example, the meal you might eat at an inn includes the not only the food itself, but also its preparation, having it served to you, and the clean up. So for all the talk about purchasing goods, you ever hear about other services far less often. (And no, we’re not talking a

Raiding Winter

We’ve talked previously about the various holiday specials that may make their rounds at the Never Say Dice households on a yearly basis. We’ve even looked at gathering inspiration from a few of those specials with dives into How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer . Lately at the blog, perhaps due to the passing of Jules Bass last year, our collective minds seem to be gravitating toward Rankin-Bass 's holiday productions. Fortunately, there are a number of these holiday stories to choose from. As a child, one of my favorites was Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town . Maybe it had to do with being exposed to Fred Astaire movies at an impressionable age, as he serves as narrator here. It could just be that it's another Rakin-Bass classic. Perhaps, though, it's more about the magic they included in the story. (No Bugsy, I'm not talking about the yo-yos.) While you can take "magic" in a more generic literary sense to describe the supernatur


There are many ways to play a TTRPG solo. There are many ways people solve this , and you can see some of these ways in previous posts - all with their own pros and cons. What we’re doing in this series, though, is use AI to create a solo RPG experience that's less bound by the limitations of pre-scripted offerings. While AI has been around for awhile, we’ve really only recently started to see big advancements become available to the general public. In our last discussion, we decided that we’d begin our experimentation using Google's AI Bard . It even gave us suggestions on the ways it might help us: setting the scene and describing the environment, creating NPCs and their interactions with the player character, narrating the story and providing feedback on your actions, generating random events and encounters, and giving you prompts and questions to help you brainstorm ideas and develop your character. Though this wasn't one Bard's suggestions, in this post we’re goin

The "Thanksgiving Story" Story

Thanksgiving really is one of the most American of holidays (if you ignore that weird Canadian version , anyway). Even more than, say, Independence Day, there's a clear disconnect between the celebration itself, the story it's commemorating, and the actual messy history. It is, in its own way, an origin myth of (white) American identity - of Europeans fleeing persecution to a new land, which welcomes them through both a bountiful harvest and the kindness of a native population willing to share it with them. It's the pilot episode for Manifest Destiny , blatantly ahistorical to even most elementary school students, and, weirdly enough, genuinely accepted as such. Most depictions of the holiday, at least prior to the rush of Cold War hagiography that presented American history as a theatrical attraction with a "NO COMMIES" sign at the entrance, was focused on the imagery of food and family. Specific foods at that, making this one of the few ritualistic meals to surv

DMs, GMs, and AIs (Oh, My!)

Playing TTRPGs solo has been around almost as long as TTRPGs have been a concept. While a traditional TTRPG is a social group activity, solo roleplaying games can be more like a journaling experience or guided storytelling through a gamebook (some of which involve dice and stat-tracking, and even modified versions of rules from group-centered games). We’ve talked a bit about solo-tabletop RPGs before - the trouble with solo gaming when want to go beyond the limits of what's been written into a gamebook or published electronic RPG is the GM/DM. There are, of course, many ways people have attempted to solve this . There are the Mythic Game Master Emulator books . There are storytelling dice if all you need is a nudge in a direction. There are even systems that attempt bring in a few different approaches into a single package like RPG Solo . While these are all fine solutions, they all came out before we had AI, or at least before we had what we currently refer to as "AI"

Dual-ing Personalities

Playing in a tabletop game can be challenging, even when you have just one character to control. Your options tend to open up much further when you can add even just one more to the mix, a nearly overwhelming feeling most GMs know all too well. Almost all of us have run into the situation where we have a friend who can’t make it to your gaming table that week, and we've all had to come up with ways to mitigate that absence. You might cancel the session, have the missing character off on another mission, etc. We’ve even mentioned those options in previous posts . We could even duel over which solution is the best - the answer will change from person to person and table to table. This week, we'd like to talk about one solution: dual character playing. As we said above, one character is challenging enough, so what issues can a “second personality” cause, and what are some tips to make things run a bit smoother? Buddy up with Never Say Dice as we discuss just that. There are a lot

Partyin' with the Party

Celebrate good times. Come on. It’s a celebration. (I will.) Between birthdays (and births), deaths, adoptions, holidays, graduations, engagements and weddings, honors of all kinds, personal milestones (like a 100th blog post ), and everything in between, our regular lives are simply filled with opportunities to celebrate. Just looking at the month of November in the US we have Dios de Los Muertos, All Saint’s Day, All Soul’s Day, Daylight Savings, Election Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving... and that's just hitting the “big” things in the US. That leaves out all sorts of official (like Native American Heritage Month) and unofficial (National Fast Food Day) recognitions. It also doesn’t recognize that Halloween just passed and holidays like Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa as well as many others are on their way. While we may have touched on adding holidays in other posts, it would be good to talk about celebrations in general. So take a moment to celebrate with your parties an

Hitching a Ride on the Ghoul Bus: Treehouses of Horror and the Freedom of Halloween Episodes

The Halloween Episode is a rarity among rarities, a riddle wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in wax paper. In episodic shows, the passage of time is generally ignored - it draws too much attention to the artificiality of the premise and questions how the world of the setting syncs chronologically with the world of the audience. On top of that, when holiday episodes do come along, they generally have certain expectations of tone and theme - particularly when it comes to Christmas. Halloween episodes, though, are something different: the only real expectation is that they’re going to break from the normal “reality” of the show. They don’t necessarily have to be scary (or even have the trappings of scary things), but they do have to be weird. In some cases, particularly with more serialized shows, this shift allows for a new perspective in the ongoing story, a different way of seeing the narrative that will put past and future events in a new context. My favorite example of this would be Mill

Analyzing Analyzing Horror

There's something of a cottage industry in dissecting people's interest and love of horror media - I've certainly delved into the discussion , myself. Nonetheless, the sheer number of words put into understanding the genre's appeal is simply staggering , to the point where I find myself asking why horror is widely subjected to unique scrutiny rarely applied to other genres. (Well, maybe porn, but I'm certainly not going to unpack that here.) So, for today's Spooky Season post, we're going to look into why the quest to understand horror's popularity remains a topic as perennial and evergreen as... well, as horror itself. After all, what's scarier than getting meta with media? To start with, a lot of these articles present an engagement with horror that I find... odd. Many focus on the psychological effect of the fear response, the adrenaline rush that comes with being scared (from the safe distance afforded by being an audience), and even some weird

Some Great Pumpkins (We Think) For Your Games

Orange gourds and their kin are popping up all over. Halloween decorations are starting to dot the North American landscape. “Basic" people (we're told) are rushing to the shops to get themed lattes. The smell of the fall season is in the air, and the time has come to bring that fall feeling into our tabletop games. And I’m not just talking about the Risus Pumpkin Spice Edition ... no, this week we’re talking about the pumpkins themselves! From the smallest squashes to the greatest of orange fruits (yes, pumpkins are a fruit, not a vegetable!) pumpkins dominate the fall season. And what better way to bring all that autumn-ness into our games than by incorporating this old favorite. And just how will we do that? Grab yourself a slice of pumpkin pie or bread (or maybe some pumpkin soup? Roasted pumpkin? You pick!) and join Never Say Dice as we do a little picking at our pumpkin patches. - A Flavored Text The quickest and easiest way to get fall, and pumpkins, into your game is t