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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

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

Missed

Quite often, we get pretty goofy on this blog. That's no surprise, with our focus on games and the occasional dive into nerdly music , movies and other media storytelling pursuits . This week, though, and in particular on the day this will be posted, I’d like to talk about something a bit more serious. (Though I promise we will touch on gaming somewhere in here. I can’t seem to not do that.) Perhaps the topic has become more visible in recent years, or maybe I’m seeing that because I’ve grown closer to it, but I still don’t feel like it's talked about openly enough. Especially in today’s political climate with an openly biased Supreme court, and the push to take away the rights of women and other minorities, I think it's important to discuss. Unfortunately, even beating around the bush, this is still pretty vague as to what I’m talking about, and could be any number of important topics. To be clear, I’m writing about miscarriage. (If any of you wish to skip this one, or j

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

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

Popular Perception Check

For almost as long as we’ve had tabletop games, they’ve been depicted in various media, from movies and TV shows to news and print. Arguably, at least until the most recent gaming renaissance we’ve entered, that portrayal in mainstream media has mostly been negative. If you lived through the Satanic Panic like the two of us at Never Say Dice did, you’re likely to understand what we’re talking about. For those newer to the hobby, tabletop game fans were depicted as socially-inept, sloppy nerds at best, and Satan-worshiping murder cultists and at worst. (Can’t we just be both in peace!?!) Perhaps as the hobby, and those who partake of it, have matured, these portrayals have softened a bit. Or perhaps positive representations in streaming media have made a significant change. Maybe it's both. This week, we thought we'd talk about how we've seen these depictions change, and how has they've affected our shared hobby and the preconceptions newcomers bring to it?  - A A : C

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

Enter... the Scary Door!

"You are entering the vicinity of an area adjacent to a location. The kind of place where there might be a monster, or some kind of weird mirror. These are just examples, it could also be something much better. Prepare to enter... The Scary Door!" - Futurama , "A Head In the Polls" (1999) The Twilight Zone was created to be a disturbing mirror held up to our own reality, something we've brought up in this blog a few times during our past trips beyond The Dimension of Imagination and into the Fifth Dimension , and sometimes, especially lately, it can feel a bit too much like we’ve already slipped into the other side of that mirror. But Twilight Zone was always meant to have us think about the world around us and perhaps teach a lesson or two about it. And while  The Scary Door may have just been a parody bit, that can teach us too, even if it's just to laugh at the things we love and at our own seriousness. Certainly, our own stories, tabletop and otherwi

Combat Culture

For the past two years, this weekend has seen “ Moments of Silence ” posts, the first in response to the murder of George Floyd, and the second to comment on what had taken place in the ensuing year. This year, the weeks leading up to the anniversary have seen a number of brutal, preventable, man-made tragedies, and, given their nature, the standard litany of finger-pointing -  particularly from those desperate to draw attention from the obvious connection between mass shootings and the ready availability of firearms. In addition to their current favorite targets, both human and conceptual (funny how the blame always falls on the people they were already mad at), and something that can only be described as “architectural victim blaming” (at least Ted Cruz’s comments about doors are being roundly mocked), the old classics were trotted out, including that aging recurring villain: video games. Both of us at NSD were in the same graduating class as the Columbine shooters, so, while we wer