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Out of Character

"Has anyone seen my D20?"

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May 2015

Cafepress

Since Out of Character finally has some decent artwork I decided to try setting up a Cafepress store just in case anyone is looking for a neat t-shirt. I also thought it might be fun to get pictures of our listeners playing games while wearing one of our shirts. I’m not going to lie that would make me feel a bit amazing.

There’s a link to the store under or Shop page on the blog, but here’s a direct link just in case: http://www.cafepress.com/outofcharcter

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D&D After School: Getting Started

When I visited my local library and asked about the meeting rooms that could be used for group meetings I knew I wanted to run a Dungeons and Dragons game, but I had no idea that I’d end up running a game for teenagers. The teen specialist happened to be there, and she informed me that if I was willing to do so I could use one of the rooms for free when doing so. My first gaming group happened to have two teens in it, and I didn’t see any reason not to give it a try. I cannot stress enough how helpful Gigi the teen specialist has been in establishing this program. She makes sure that we always have one of the better rooms and that other events don’t conflict with ours.

Now this is something you may not be aware of, but your library may require that you undergo a background check in order to be allowed to run one of these programs. Unless a member of the library staff is going to sit in on all of your games. There is a fee for processing the paperwork and I think that cost might put some people off, luckily the library where I run games actually paid the fee for me because they really wanted me to run games there.

I chose to use Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition for a couple of reasons. At that time it was the edition I had the most experience with, and it was the most current edition so players could get their hands on their own copies of playing materials if they were interested in doing so. I also like that 4th edition tends to make it easier for players to survive, and I didn’t want any of my new players to get discouraged because their first character died immediately. Since then I’ve run other one-shot campaigns using different systems there and they’ve all been pretty popular. For example I also ran a Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition game set in the DC universe that went extremely well. I was really surprised because I made a ton of DC superheroes for it and we ended up with some interesting choices in that game. We ended up with a Justice League consisting of Superman, Wonder Woman (who was played with a Russian accent), Batman, Green Arrow, and Plastic Man. The players had a blast figuring how to bust up an auction hosted by the Calculator who’d created a computer program he claimed could deduce the secret identity of any superhero. Nearly all of the big DC villains had turned up to try and buy the information, leading to a huge pitched battle in the warehouse where the auction had been taking place. I’ve also run a Gamma World game, and a Star Wars Saga Edition game which were both well received by the teens. I advise choosing a system that you’re familiar with, and that you feel comfortable teaching others to play.

Since this was a public game, and I wanted to be respectful of people’s backgrounds and faiths, I decided to removed devas and tieflings. I think those are easily the most controversial races, and I would advise setting them aside to spare yourself some trouble.

I ran two one hour play sessions with huge groups just to test the waters and see if there was enough interest to maintain a regular program. I think we had something like twenty teens turn up to play that day, so we got them all signed up and started monthly meetings. Our games run for two hours and we have seven players. I think seven is a good number of players, it is a big group but I’ve learned to manage it and as a bonus it has vastly improved my ability as a GM to manage table talk and run the group. If that’s something your struggle with in your own games this is a great way to get some practice with it.

At first I toyed with the idea of walking the teens through the character creation process, we even had a character creation session. In the end I just explained what all of the options for classes and races were, and then I asked them what they wanted their characters to be good at. Then I used that information to create character sheets for them and I’ve never had any reason to regret doing it that way. Keep in mind explaining character creation to up to seven teens who’ve never seen a D20 before can take a while, and I wanted to ensure that they weren’t getting bored by spending hours building their characters, which isn’t something all adult players enjoy doing. I also made them custom power cards, and cheat sheets with information about their races and classes.

I’ve included copies of the files for the power cards and the fact sheets that I use in my game, I think that they work pretty well and help the players.

Fact SHeets

Power Cards

To get started I would suggest reaching out to your local library and just ask if they currently have anyone running RPGs for them, or ask if they have a teen specialist that you can talk to. Libraries are usually on the lookout for programs and in my experience most of them will be more than willing to hear you out.

New Artwork

The podcast officially has original artwork! I’m extremely excited, and I’m really glad that I found a great artist to work on it for us.

OutOfCharacter_Logo_01 (1)

D&D After School

As some of our readers know I’ve been running a free monthly Dungeons and Dragons program for teens at my local library for the past couple of years. When we started playing I decided to go with 4th Edition because I think it does a great job giving players the feeling of being better able to survive in combat, and I think some players enjoy having powers when they choose certain classes rather than repetitively smacking ogres with swords, clubs, and javelins.

Each of the sessions runs for about two hours, and I usually have between seven and nine players in a group. At the moment our party consists of an elf druid, a dragonborn warlord, a drow ranger, two halfling rangers, and a human fighter. All but one of the current players have been showing up for years with all the enthusiasm one could hope for, and I’ve continued to be astonished by how much they love the game. I started out running the program because I felt like I needed to give something back to tabletop gaming. It’s helped me out in so many ways, and I want to see it continue to be something younger players will take an interest in. In my experience I’ve found that it can be hard for teens and younger kids to find a place at tables in friendly local game stores in RPG campaigns, and that is nothing against those establishments. Parents are sometimes understandably nervous about the idea of their kids hanging around with a bunch of adults playing what amounts to a game of pretend. Some GMs simply don’t have the patience to work with them either. Plus a ton teens and kids are less inclined to have fun when they’re not playing with a group of friends closer to their own age. I want the teens in my program to walk away with fond memories of gaming, a few new friends, and the confidence that comes from entering a dungeon and emerging victorious. I think everyone deserves that and I truly believe the program has been a success.

I’ve been told more than once that the program I run is one of the most popular programs at the library, and one of the most well attended. There have been a couple of other programs that have been started up by others but none of them lasted for very long. Those were all being run by teens who were on the waiting list to get into our group though, and a more successful program has been running for a little while now. I’m thinking of running a Game Master workshop to help them out a bit. People have also encourage me to try and start up some sort of a business running similar programs at schools, summer camps, parties, and even as team building exercises. I’ve always resisted that idea because I don’t think it’s something that I could actually make a living doing, but I’m warming up to the idea more as time goes on.

There aren’t many things that I’d classify myself as an expert in, but running this program is one of them. So from now on I’m going to be posting little tips that helped me shape and improve it over the years int he hopes that others might start up similar programs at their local libraries, community centers, or schools as well.

Make Mine a Hero

So I read a lot of comics and I spend a fair amount of my time creating roleplaying games versions of some of the characters that appear in my favorite comic books. I know there’s a ton of crossover between tabletop RPG fans and comic book fans because whenever I off to run a Mutants and Masterminds game or any other superhero based RPG people are always on board with that idea. I thought it might be fun to start a new feature on the Out of Character blog, and I’m calling it Make Mine a Hero. People can suggest a hero or a villain by posting a comment, sending an email to trulyoutofcharacter@gmail.com, or using your psychic powers to contact me telepathically. If you want a particular version of a character from a certain universe, for example Iceman from the Ultimate X-Men as opposed to Iceman from the 616 universe please make that clear. For the moment I’m thinking this will be a monthly feature, but if it proves popular I might make it a weekly thing. I’ll be using Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition to create the characters in case anyone is interested.

Tabletop Gaming Pubs

Places like Dungeons and Flagons, Side Quest, Round the Table, Emerald Tavern Games and Cafe, and The Cloak and Blaster have slowly started cropping up all around the country. It’s a bit like having our own versions of The Leaky Cauldron popping up on one corner after another. Considering the fact that there probably isn’t a single dungeon master living whose never had a party of adventurers meet up in a tavern it’s nice to see that players can finally do it in real life. They’re a fairly recent phenomenon and one that I only discovered recently while reading an article about the Kickstarter campaign for Dungeons and Flagons. It seems like several of them have been successfully funded on Kickstarter, which is actually really brilliant when you think about it. Many restaurants close within their first year of business and when you open an establishment that specializes as much as game pubs do your limiting your potential pool of customers even further. However Kickstarter gives you a venue to get funding directly from your target market, and it also generates a buzz to get your name out there.

The themes and level of complexity seem to vary from one to the next. Round the Table and Emerald Tavern Games and Cafe are relatively ordinary looking on the inside, while others try to decorate in a sort of medieval theme making them feel like the sort of place that Bilbo Baggins frequent after supper. They do have several common factors. All of them maintain gaming libraries from which patrons can check out games to play during their visit. As far as I’m aware they’re all charging minimal fees for the games so that they can afford to expand their libraries, and to help pay for replacements when their copies suffer from too much wear and tear. Many of theme have themes nights ranging from beginner’s D&D to gaming tournaments and trivia nights. Craft beers also seem to be a common trend as are custom cocktails themed around everything from Dungeons and Dragons to Dr. Who. The food varies pretty wildly in terms of menu complexity, but they also seem to lean more towards pub food: sandwiches, burgers, and that sort of thing.

LARPing seems to be another thing which separates these businesses pretty clearly. Some allow costumes but now big props for safety reasons, and required anyone in costume to remove anything covering their face if their planning to order alcohol for the purposes of verifying people’s ages. Others have regular costume contests. Some make no mention of LARPing or costumes, but at a glance I think you’d run the risk of making other visitors uncomfortable if you turned up on their doorstep dressed like an elf.

It’s nice to see this trend and it’s also interesting to see how different people are taking unique approaches to the same business. They seem to most common in Washington state, which makes sense when you consider that’s also where Wizards of the Coast is headquartered. After all if they can’t sustain a steady stream of business there than where can they? However I’ve also heard of others located as far away as Florida, Ohio, and Texas. There are almost certainly more of them out there and I hope there will be more of them as time goes on.

Have you ever been to a gaming pub? If so what did you think? Do you have a favorite one?

Podcast Email

I’ve set up an email account for the podcast so that people can send in questions, comments, requests and whatnot without having to post them publicly. The address is trulyoutofcharacter@gmail.com, and we’re ready to read your emails.

Podcast Plans

So I have plans for the podcast and I want to make them known to the general public. Over the next few weeks I’m arranging to have people over so we can record more, and starting in June we’ll get back to the weekly episodes. Our first big project will be tackling 5th Edition and Hoard of the Dragon Queen. I’ll be posting more information about that as we creep closer to June.

Recently I uploaded three all new episodes though, so there’s something for folks to enjoy while they’re waiting.

I’m also looking for suggestions, so if there’s something you’d like us to play or review don’t hesitate to make it known.

Heroclix: Avengers Assemble Top Ten

Since the Avenger’s Assemble set has been out for a while I thought I’d try something new and do a write up for the set detailing my ten favorite figures from the set. I will say that you won’t see Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, or the Hulk on this list. They’re all in this set and they’re great too, but I have other versions of them from previous sets that I’m more than happy with already.

1) Rage

I was really happy when I heard that Wizkids was getting around to making a version of Rage for this set because he’s been appearing in comics for years without any presence in the game. He’s got some great keywords, allowing him to join a number of theme teams including: Avengers, Brute, Initiative, and New Warriors. Rage is really straightforward and he’s a great figure for a mere seventy-four points. He starts off with average stats Leap/Climb, Super Strength, and Toughness. After two clicks he swaps Toughness for Impervious and gain Charge coupled with Battle Fury. His combat abilities also climb steadily peaking at an attack value of twelve, a defense of eighteen, and a damage value of four. He only keeps his Impervious for three clicks, but if he’s used well they can be quite effective. Rage’s major weakness is a lack of any way to come back from or resist penetrating damage, so characters with Exploit Weakness, Penetrating/Psychic Blast, or Outwit can knock him out quickly. However I think Rage will be overlooked more often than not allowing him to slip in and dish out so serious damage before he gets beaten.

Rating: 5/5

2) Black Widow

I pulled Black Widow for a sealed tournament the other night, and then I wound up using her as my primary figure in the three-hundred point game. She is my favorite version of the character to date and I think she’s one of the better figures in the set. Her keywords give you plenty of options for using her such as: Avengers, Champions, Lady Liberators, Martial Artists, Marvel Knights, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Spy. With traited Stealth and Shape Change as well as Super Senses for half of her dial she has an excellent chance of avoiding any damage that might come her way. She also has a nice range of useful powers including Precision Strike, Perplex, and Outwit allowing you to adapt your strategy as play progresses. Her modified version of Poison even lets you choose when to activate it at any point during your turn. Overall I think she’s a fantastic figure even though I think you need to play her well to get the most out of her.

Rating: 5/5

3) Turbo

I’ll never forget the first time I read a comic featuring the New Warriors, they’d team up with the Scarlet Spider to take down some sort of giant robot monstrosity. Turbo’s costume was interesting and I always thought the character had a unique look. This will probably be one of those characters you’ll see a lot of in years to come, for fifty points Turbo is an inexpensive and highly effective taxi. Most of her powers are about what you’d expect including Sidestep, Toughness, Super Senses, and Close Combat Expert. However her Trait “This Armor is Awesome” gives Turbo Energy Shield/Deflection, and it allows her to use force blast as a free action after she hits a single character with a close combat attack. With keywords like: Armor, Initiative, Loners, New Warriors, and Reporter I’d be surprised if Turbo doesn’t become a mainstay figure on some of the expanded teams.

Rating: 4/5

4) 3-D Man

I’m not going to lie, 3-D Man is on my list for one reason and one reason alone. That’s his ability to shut down teams that rely on Stealth or Shape Change. If you’ve ever found yourself on the bad end of a team of Dire Wraiths you’ll understand why I fantasize about unleashing this figure against them partnered with something that can kick them around the table. Aside from that he’s still an interesting piece with above average stats. He’s got a special version of Perplex that allows him to use it up to three times per turn, but only on himself and he can’t increase his damage value more than once. At the end of your turn if you use this ability you roll a single d6 and if the result is a 3-D Man takes one click of unavoidable damage. His keywords are Agents of Atlas, Avengers, and Initiative but I have to admit I’m disappointed that they didn’t include Skrull Kill Crew.

Rating: 3/5

5) Manifold

I’m thinking Manifold is going to become a common sight on Avengers theme teams. The reason is his trait Portals of Space and Time. This trait allows him to carry up to three friendly characters that share a keyword with him regardless of their combat symbols. Then if you give him a free action you can increase the defense value of friendly adjacent characters by one until your next turn. Thankfully his keywords only include Avengers and Secret Warriors so we’re not going to see him teamed up with anything like the Marvel Zombies. He has some handy powers like Phasing/Teleport, Hypersonic Speed, Telekinesis, Precision Strike, Barrier, Energy Shield/ Deflection, and Probability Control. He’s only fifty-eight points so he’s definitely an economical support piece who can help you set up a great offensive, or pull off a speedy retreat.

Rating: 5/5

6) Justice

Justice is another longtime member of the Avengers and the New Warriors who hasn’t been well represented in Heroclix recently, the last time he got a figure was way back in the Supernova set so it is nice to see him with a more modern figure. So what do you get for sixty-four points? Justice is clearly a support piece with lots of great secondary powers like Telekinesis and Empower, and his primary defensive ability is Energy Shield/Deflection so he’s clearly meant to advance your forces from the rear. He also has a special version of Force Blast that I find truly fascinating. Basically he uses Force Blast, but if the knockback would be ignored he deals a single click of penetrating damage, and places it into a square adjacent to the one it occupies. There are so many figures that can avoid knockback in one way or another I think this would come into use fairly often.

Rating: 4/5

7) Living Lightning

Any member of the Rangers is going to end up in my collection, and I was glad to see a few of them turn up in this set. Living Lightning serves as the ranged powerhouse for the team with three targets, Running Shot, and Penetrating/Psychic Blast on his opening click. Thanks to his movement of elven and a range of seven squares he can definitely cover a lot of ground very quickly. He’s got traited Energy Explosion as well which the damage dealt to opposing characters with the Armor or Robot keyword by two, so you could potentially dish out five points of damage to a group of targets depending on what you’re shooting at. With only the Avengers and the Rangers for his keywords and his cost of a ere eighty points I think he’s going to be widely overlooked despite his potential to dish out quite a lot of damage.

Rating: 5/5

8) Falcon

I’ve had an older version of Falcon for a while now, but I was really excited when I heard he’d be getting an update in this set. For his first three clicks he has a special movement power that makes him one of the most mobile pieces I’ve ever seen. As long as he doesn’t have an action token he can be given a movement action as a free action, and he can use Close Combat Expert during that turn. He can’t use the carry ability when he moves this way, but with flight and a movement value of twelve he can definitely sail into and deal some damage quickly. He also has a special defensive power that allows you to choose either Energy Shield/Deflection or Combat Reflexes until he chooses again, and since it is a free action there’s no downside to swapping. While he has that power if he’s target with a ranged combat attack he can always use Super Senses. He swaps powers halfway through his dial and gains Charge, Quake, Willpowers, and Perplex. To me this version of Falcon is great because he’s a reasonably powerful harasser that is too mobile and dangerous to be ignored for long. He’s got some great keywords too including: Avengers, Heroes for Hire, and S.H.I.E.L.D. so you have some great options to employ if you’re looking for a theme team.

Rating: 5/5

9) Justin Seyfert

At a glance this figure isn’t terribly impressive, and since most people won’t recognize him right away I think he’s going to be ignored. However I think he’s a fantastic piece in his own way. Justin can designate a friendly figure with the Robot keyword as his Sentinel and he has a variety of abilities that he can use to improve his Sentinel’s performance in combat. His special attack power allows you to grant his Sentinel a move action as a free action and then make a close or ranged combat attack by giving Justin a power action. Beyond that he’s mostly a support piece meant to unleash a wave of powerful attacks by a robot, and for forty points he can fit with most team builds. His biggest limitations are that his keywords only include Initiative and Sentinel, and he is in serious danger of being taken out of the game quickly as he only has four clicks and Super Senses to keep him alive.

Rating: 3/5

10) Sandman

Sandman may be one of Spider-Man’s most recognizable foes, but he’s also been an Avenger and a member of the Wildpack during the short periods of time that he tried to reform himself. Sandman has one of the best sculpts in this set and he has an interesting blend of powers that can be used to deal with a variety of enemies. The always entreating duo of Sidestep and Poison is present on his dial, along with clicks of Exploit Weakness, Impervious, and Phasing/Teleport. His trait Quicksand and Concrete allows him to use Barrier and Smoke Cloud, and then place himself in one of the squares he placed either in when they’re removed. Given his low movement and lack of any sort of move and attack abilities that’s sure to come in handy, plus you can keep advancing him while reducing the combat effectiveness of your opponent’s pieces. He fits well onto quite a few teams with his keywords including: Avengers, Outlaws, Sinister Syndicate, and Wildpack.

5/5

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