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Traditions at the Tabletop

The holiday season is trucking right along once again with stores starting to tout their Black Friday deals weeks in advance. After all, Black Friday is a tradition ( sort of) . Americans are busy celebrating their Feast of Maximum Occupancy Thanksgiving, Canada just celebrated theirs last week, and before you know it we’ll be looking at Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, etc. etc. A time of year thick with celebrations and chock full of traditions. Although for Never Say Dice, as we mentioned in Home Media for the Holidays , our traditions mostly consist of trying to take some much needed time off and spend it consuming some of our backlogged media - be it traditional films, books, TV, or games. This year though, I thought we might dig a little deeper into some of our own traditions.- specifically, those that involve tabletop gaming. So pull up a plate of leftovers, and let's all ponder while we gorge ourselves. - A B : One of the joys of gaming with other people i

Tabletop Replay

I've recently completed all the trophies in Marvel's Spider-Man That may sound like bragging, but that's not my intent. I already know that I’m a little late to the party . While I probably should have been spending time with other obligations or going through new games and storylines, I had an ulterior motive that had nothing to do with game accomplishments: I wanted to take my kids with me through the story this time. Perhaps I’ve robbed them of completing the story on their own at some point, or maybe it was a bonding experience they won’t forget. Only time will tell. Either way, it did get me thinking about the replayability of games, and specifically of tabletop roleplaying games. Dungeons and Dragons , to use the perennially popular system, is something that's revisited over and over. However, people are typically reusing it to have new and different adventures, rather than replaying the same adventure multiple times. We’ll often come back to the same books and m

Dice, Danger, Dopamine, and Delight: Balancing the d4 of Player Experience

The battle has nearly reached its climax, but the outlook is dire. The Healer just went down... along with the Tank. You’re down to a handful of cantrips, and you send out one last firebolt. Natural 20! The Big Bad Evil Guy goes down and you save the day! The chase through the asteroid field has been dangerous and the shields can’t take any more. There's one last stretch to get through before the ship can make the jump out and you need three successes on four dice. Time to roll! Your group has snuck into the base to steal valuable intelligence in the war effort, but an important general is mere feet away from you with his back turned. One shot could change the tide in this war, you pull your side arm and… hope you get that dopamine hit once again. Our tabletop games are often about risk (no we don’t mean the board game) and the rewards aren’t just in game victories. We feel the success just as much as our imaginary characters do. So how do we balance these player experiences? -A B

Putting the Howl in "Howl-loween Specials"

There are three things I've learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin. But this is our blog, and that means we can discuss whatever we want. Being the spookity time of year, it's a good opportunity to do just that. While "horror" might be the word of the month for many, there's also something to be said for the more mundanely macabre - the things that, while not horrific, blend right into the spirit of the month. Here at Never Say Dice, one thing that brings us into that space are the old Halloween specials of our childhood. While some should probably  stay buried in the past, worms crawling in and out of their corpses, others seem to endure over the years. The favorites might vary from household to household, but shows like It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown or Garfield’s Halloween Adventure are still commonly well-liked. That begs the question, though: what makes a good Halloween special work, and what can we take from t

Boggled by Boglins

Last Octoberween, we took a campy nostalgic stroll and created some creatures for 5e Dungeons and Dragons (and a hidden Risus one) out of Blurp Balls . There was a significant amount of “family friendly” macabre-influenced media in the '80s and early '90s, as we mentioned previously. I do tend to revisit some of that media around this time o'year, and that might be a discussion for a later post. Like last year, I want to focus again on the "gross" toys that came out in the time period . Other than the Blurp balls, there were a few other horror-lite themed toys in my collection as a kid. Most, if not all, have likely been donated and hopefully found their way into the hands of some lucky kid instead of a landfill. I don’t think I ever owned any Madballs , but another toy that's held out in my mind are Boglins. So let's work again to see how we might transform an '80s toy into some tabletop RPG inspiration! If you don’t remember them, Boglins were esse

Take Me Down to Parody City

The NSD Team are both 90s kids, and nerdy ones at that, so the recent passing of rapper Coolio hit us both because of his own work (near-inescapable for a period in our adolescence) and because of the odd relationship he had with "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody of his biggest hit, " Gangsta's Paradise ," as " Amish Paradise ." Al had been given permission by Coolio's record label, but not Coolio himself, who had issues with his work being parodied. To my knowledge, this is the highest-profile of a parodee being upset about Al's version, and it's certainly the one time I was around to experience it. But what makes a parody stick with us just as long as the original, and, in some cases, even longer? What do we, as audiences, get from them and how should we approach them as creators, ourselves? "Weird Al" Yankovic,as I've written about before , played a vital role in my musical journey. He wasn't constrained by genre, so eac

Divine Bovine

  As gaming groups are wont to do, mine has recently gotten into the practice of sharing tabletop TikToks and memes. The habit, and shared a-moos-ment, are surely something that can only bring a group closer together. Occasionally though, a shared nugget of media posits a question that warrants a fair amount of discussion. While the latest one the group shared might be udderly ridiculous, I did cowtow to their request and answered their question. After all, everyone at your table wants to be seen and herd (unless they’re a rogue). If you’ve heard this before, I hope you won’t experience any déjà  moo: If a cleric uses "True Resurrection" on an enemy’s leather armor, will a cow form around it? The short answer to this, of course, is... no. This will not work. If you don’t care about the why, you’re welcome to jump to the end of the post. Why won’t this work as the original joke wants? There are several issues here. Just going through the spell description in order, the first p

Storylines of Succession

Even if you’ve been keeping your nose in dusty tomes of RPG lore, word has probably made its way to you that Queen Elizabeth II has died. As heathen Americans, we’re more used to the idea of Kings and Queens (and Czars and Emperors and Kaisers and…)  from history and works of fiction than in our day-to-day lives. But those works of fiction, even the ones we make ourselves, are inspired by history and the world around us, so this week we thought we’d talk about the way that shifts in leadership (monarchical or otherwise) can affect the worlds we create for stories and games. - B B : The more you think about it, the more you see things that are affected by these kinds of changes. Whose face is on the money? Who even declares the value of said money? Even if your setting is based around bartering systems (something of an inevitability when much of the wealth the Player Characters encounter is in the form of plundered discovered treasure and artifacts) the availability of goods and servic

Goooaaaal! Finding More Objectives

It's important  to set goals is in life. You may have a long-term goal that seems nearly impossible at first: moving to a certain city, buying a new car, etc.  Or your goal may be as simple as getting out of bed in the morning and making it through another day. Steps, or objectives, on the way to accomplishing these things could be hitting certain thresholds of savings, or making sure to brush your teeth whenever you go out. Even the simplest goals are still valid. More than likely, you'll have several objectives or goals on any given day. Some may be related or even seem contradictory, depending on how you're looking at them at any given moment. (Hopefully, you'll accomplish some of them. Let’s count reading this blog as one. Go you!)  Many tabletop game sessions are based around a single goal or objective: rescue the noble from the opposing forces, take the MacGuffin to the volcano and throw it in, or find a lost sword for the knight. Setting additional goals or objec

I DO Wanna Be A Player!

This blog, at least the tabletop gaming entries, are mostly written from the perspective of Dungeon Masters and gamemasters. That makes sense, after all - the two writers here have spent significantly more time running games than actually playing in them. There's nothing wrong with this, but typically the people running tabletop games would like an occasional chance to be a player as well. So what happens when the stars finally align, and (after much convincing) one of your regular players or GMing friends offers to (gasp) run a session and include you as a player? If it's been a while since you were on the other side of the (literal or metaphorical) GM screen, the concept can feel a bit strange and even worrisome. Fear not! For this week on Never Say Dice, we have some tips to help you in the temporary transition from RPG Runner to RPG Player. - A A : You’ve made it to character creation and that backlog of unused ideas is practically screaming at you. If you’re anything lik

I Wanna Rock!

Planning out a character for your story or game can be difficult and time consuming. When you're just starting out, there are a great number of things to consider, no matter if you're working on a Player Character or an NPC. Even in digital games, there can be so much going on in the character creation process that it can be easy to be sucked in, fine tuning the looks and stats of your digital avatar to get it just how you want it... and before you know it several hours have passed and you haven’t even "played" the game! We’ve previously talked about developing characters by providing specific details, such as giving them current or previous jobs and love lives . Another thing you may want to consider is whether or not they have a pet (or even if they  should) . In Dungeons and Dragons, you’ll often see a Ranger with an animal companion, or a Wizard with their familiar. But you don't tend to see other character archetypes walking around with pets in D&D, or e