Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Judging Dungeon Designs: One Page Dungeon Contest

As I've mentioned previously, I was a judge again this year, along with fellow judges Steve Winter and Teos Abadia, for the One Page Dungeon Contest, administered by Random Wizard.

There were 97 entries this year, and each judge was asked to send over our Top 10 picks so Random Wizard could tabulate them and see which entries got the most votes so he could announce a winner. The results were... let's just say "interesting." More on that later.

Last year, after the contest, I conducted an email interview with the other judges, which you can find here, wherein I asked them their process of how they went about selecting their top picks, and any hints and suggestions they had for future contestants. At the time, I noted that ideally I would have loved to join the fellow judges at a pub, hoist a pint or two, and just chat about the contest.

We're getting a bit closer to that idea this year. When I submitted my picks to Random Wizard last week, I asked him if perhaps we could do a Google Hangout with himself and the three judges so we could more naturally about the process, and also make it more interactive by letting the contestants and other interested parties ask us questions about why we chose the ones we did, how difficult the decision was, and anything else related to the contest that people wanted to know about.

Random Wizard and the other judges liked the idea, and so based on our collective work schedules and other time management issues (I'll fess up - one day I have to be gone to take my daughter to her ballet lesson!), the Google Hangout will be held tomorrow, May 28th, at 3pm Pacific Time. Random Wizard is also going to work on recording the Hangout for those of you who can't join live, but if you do have a question, you can probably put it on Random Wizard's Google Plus Post about the Hangout at the previous link, or go ahead and leave me a comment below and I'll do my best to answer it either during the Hangout or will address it directly in the comments here.

This now brings me to - "Why do we need a One Page Dungeon  Contest?" There are lots of talented people out there, and many of you are more than capable of creating your own worlds and dungeons, and in fact might not really find much use for a "simple" one-page dungeon that might not fit into your world. This type of contest is obviously not for them.

However, having been a judge for the contest two years now, I think this type of contest offers a lot to the role-playing community. Below are just a few of my thoughts, which due to time constraints today are just stream-of-consciousness.

  • It encourages creativity. The one-page dungeon format is not easy. Trying to create a whole scenario with a map, encounters, a narrative flow, some type of objective, and a "hook", all within the constraints of one page, is extremely difficult. It takes some real creativity to make it all work without just shrinking the text so small that it's illegible. One of the things I most look forward to is not only the idea itself, but also seeing how the contestants lay out their ideas to make them work within the format. You'd be surprised what you can fit into this format if you edit yourself enough to keep from trying to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the submission. Besides layout and design, it also takes creativity to come up with something new and different that the judges aren't seeing over and over again to make your submission stand out. Reading through the submissions can give you a lot of ideas for ways to take your game that you may not have considered before. 
  • It gives you options for when you want to take a break. Maybe your whole group isn't able to get together for your regularly scheduled game, but you still want to play. Maybe you've been playing your regular game for such a long time that you never have time to try something else (a different character, a different setting or genre, or a different set of rules).  Maybe you're always the GM and while you don't want to give that up, maybe one night, one of your players could take on that role and allow you to play through a short one-page adventure just to give you a break. Any of these scenarios above could lead to even new outbreaks of creativity that you weren't expecting. Maybe the player who takes over the GM role likes doing that job so much that he or she decides to start a new campaign...
  • It can act as the springboard for a new campaign. Speaking of new campaigns, many of these one-page dungeons are so much more than "dungeons." Many of them read like mini-campaign setting ideas. Every campaign has to start somewhere. While my current campaign (of 14 years!) is based on some pretty standard fantasy tropes like Conan, some old-school D&D game worlds like Greyhawk, the Known World, and Dragonlance, and also our own world history, as I read through the submissions last year and this year, it definitely gets me interested in running a game of a completely different genre.
  • It gives players a "voice" in the community. Many might not think this matters, but I know back when I was a young teen just starting to game, it was clear that I didn't fit in with the other kids who were more into sports and hanging out at the mall. Back then, it was difficult to find people like me, and, on the whole, we tended to be smart, a bit quiet, and not that likely to have the confidence to speak up about things. But as we probably can all agree, role-playing encourages creativity and one of the first things most new role-players do is want to create things for others to look at and use. It was something I loved doing and was "good at," and where I could be in control of one part of my life. I've blogged before about doing that in my "Amateur RPG Design" columns. But, as much as I would have wanted it, I had no illusions that my designs were never going to see the light of day outside of maybe a handful of friends, because "RPGs were run by big companies." Back then in the early 1980's, we didn't have the luxury of the Internet to form a community. I would have loved for the opportunity to share my ideas with others in the form of the contest. Just knowing that somebody else was looking at and reading my ideas would have been cool. It would have made me try harder, focus more, and really work at creating something different and hopefully useful. Anybody can create home-brew stuff for their games. We do it all the time. But it takes a commitment to do so in a polished form and enter it into a contest for hundreds of people to look at and comment on. The One Page Dungeon Contest essentially empowers people who might not have a "voice" to gives them the opportunity to show their creativity and be recognized, and gives them a reason to really bring their best. 
  • It encourages young people to remain active in the hobby. This idea goes hand-in-hand with my thoughts above on giving players a "voice," but for the past two years we've seen entries by youngsters who learned of the contest and submitted their ideas. Sometimes it's easy to forget that people of all ages play these games - they're not all just like us. And while, again, for some people it doesn't matter if new people get into the hobby or not, I look at it more as a big picture thing. This is a hobby that helped define me as a person (for the better) and I'd love to "give back" to help the young people of today learn about it and give them ample opportunities to work on creating things that a larger community can see, comment on, and encourage them to keep trying, keep improving, and keep being creative. I might be a little biased as a dad whose daughter is still a bit too young to grasp role-playing games (she's getting there - she'll be six in July), but I do think it's a strong benefit of this contest. 
Those are just a few of my thoughts. To me, this contest is about so much more than just "bragging rights" for having won. But, that's just me. What are your thoughts on the contest?


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "Mercyless - Original Mix" by Waye Tennant

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Campaign Setting Anniversary

One of my players sent me a note this morning, mentioning that it was 14 years ago today that I began my World of Samoth campaign. Out of the original seven players (including me as the DM), there are three of us left, plus we've added several more over the years. Our current group is five strong and has been that way for the past couple of years.

At our "first session" all those years ago, we rolled up our characters, ate dinner, and then all went to the movies to go see the first Shrek movie. Our "true" first session was a couple of weeks later, when the group began with the old school module, B6: The Veiled Society, which kick-started a murder mystery involving some warring families vying for control of the city. One of those families still plays a very important role in the campaign to this very day.

Back when we started, my wife and I were not yet married (we were engaged, though, and our wedding was about six months later). In fact, of the group, only two of the original players were married at the time, and none of us had kids. Now everyone that's currently playing in the group is married and all but one of us has kids.

We've changed our snacking preferences a bit, as I've mentioned before. Now, more and more often, we include beer at our sessions as well. We're not a "soda and Doritos" type of group. Our frequency of play has lessened due to combinations of kids, business travel, and other reasons, but we still do get together (we played about two weeks ago, in fact).

I've blogged quite a bit over the years about these things, and about my campaign setting and our game sessions, so for this anniversary I thought it might be fun to show some pictures from my "Campaign Setting Book" that I've made. I started working on my campaign way back in the summer after my high school graduation, in 1988. It was actually a "reboot" or revision of some earlier settings I had worked on dating back to when I first started playing D&D around 1983 or so.

Back then, I didn't have a computer or of course any access to the Internet, so all of my campaign world research was done by going to the library and also going through my parents 30+ year collection of National Geographic magazines. I oftentimes would copy drawings I saw in those books as inspirations.

I've kept pretty much every scrap of paper on which I've written notes for my campaign setting over the years, and then in 1998, about 10 years after I'd started, I began collecting all of my notes in a big non-lined sketchbook. I started by actually meticulously re-copying all of my old notes but over time I found it more efficient to just cut out certain sections of my notes and paste them into the sketchbook. Below are some pictures to give you an idea - it's a mixture of hand-written notes, old pages printed from a dot matrix printer in late 1989 or early 1990, newer pages from around 2003-2004, sketches, and more. I'm still adding to the book although these days it's more of almost a "scrapbook" project, as most of my game-related notes on characters, NPCs, etc. are just on my laptop.

Hope you enjoy. Tell me about your campaign world for your games - is it homebrewed like mine, or do you use a published setting? Do you have a crazy notebook like mine full of hand-written notes, or are you more organized?

The first pages. On the right is graph paper that I pasted
into the book. It's got a mixture of dip-pen calligraphy I did
along with a regular ballpoint ink pen. I used the World of
Greyhawk boxed set as a template for my campaign note. Circa 1987-88.


Another piece of graph paper with a mixture of
calligraphy and handwriting, for a Language Tree
for my campaign world. Circa 1988.

This is a more recent creation for the campaign world ("recent" being about
10 years ago), for a calendar design. Circa 2004

Various sketches I did of weapons and architectural designs. Circa 1989.

Some more sketches of weapons and armor, grouped by culture. These were
actually for some "secret societies" that were employed by various merchant
houses. Circa 1989.

Sketch of a chainmail hauberk and a helmet. Circa 1989.

An NPC and a description of an organization that was
essentially a powerful mercantile league run by dwarves,
along with a rough sketch. Circa 1990.

"The Imperial Alphabet." This was hand-written with
a dip-pen with a special nib for calligraphy. I used to love
practicing calligraphy and applied it to my D&D stuff.
Circa 1987-88.

Some more weapon and armor designs. Circa 1987-88.

"Religious Items." I think I may have copied the idea
of the totem-like designs from an article for another
game that I read in an old Dragon magazine. You can
see how I cut out my old sketches and pasted them
in here. Circa 1988.
 
More weapons and armor designs. I used check out
encyclopedias or ancient arms & armor all the time. Circa 1987.
A product of its time: a dot-matrix print-out of some
old NPCs I had created. I've got pages and page of
these in my notebook. These were using 1st Edition
AD&D Rules, modified with Unearthed Arcana and
Oriental Adventures. Circa 1989.

Hanging: home office (laptop)
Drinking: Iced tea
Listening: "Blue in Green (Take 3)" by the Bill Evans Trio


Monday, May 4, 2015

Another Star Wars Post: New Media About A Galaxy Far, Far Away

My daughter with Princess Leia buns in her hair,
doing a Force push at lunch today at school.
They aren't allowed to wear printed t-shirts
or else she'd have a Star Wars shirt on as well.
Pretty much everyone in the blogging community has jumped onto the "May the 4th Be With You" bandwagon, and I actually think it's kind of cool. What was once a small little inside joke has become a pretty big deal in the Star Wars world, and even vendors like Internet giant Amazon are on board, with discounts on Star Wars related merchandise for today only. I would say once something's big enough for Amazon to create a sale out of it, it's safe to say it's hit the mainstream.

Below, I list a few cool Star Wars related things you might not know about that you can check out today to celebrate the day, aside from listening to the music (as I'm doing right now) or watching the movies (as I did last night - my wife, 5 year-old daughter, and I watched Star Wars, aka "A New Hope" for the second time together).

I've written about Star Wars many times before - mentioning how the old Star Wars comics from Marvel were the first comic books I'd ever read, and how my mom really helped encourage my interest in Star Wars even though she really didn't have much interest in it herself. And I've written a few times about Star Wars Day itself, in 2012 and 2013 (last year I was out of town in New Orleans for Jazz Fest, but I did celebrate by wearing a Star Wars T-shirt that day, and I saw several other people doing the same at the concert). What, if anything, do you all do to celebrate Star Wars Day?

As mentioned, if you're looking for a few other things to do, here are some suggestions:


  • TV Shows
    • I've written briefly about of this before, briefly, but you can check out "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" on Netflix, including the 6th season that never aired on Cartoon Network - the show was canceled after Disney acquired Lucasfilm before this season could be shown. Now, I'm not one who actually likes the Prequels (I've been know to say that my daughter can watch them when she turns 18 and moves out of the house, but not before then), but this series, despite taking place between Episodes 2 and 3 of the prequel movies, is quite good. It gets into a lot of background on the Force, especially the Dark Side, and shows in a much better manner than the films how Anakin is seduced. It also includes a very strong and interesting female character in the form of Ahsoka Tano, young Jedi who starts out as Anakin's Padawan but grows into herself and her role as a commander of the Clone Armies during the war. Her character arc along is worth watching the series, but there's so much more to like
    • In the same post above I linked to where I wrote about Clone Wars before, I also wrote about the new Star Wars animated series, Star Wars: Rebels, which airs on Disney XD. Originally it took me a bit to get into, as it is much different in tone than Clone Wars, but after getting used to the change, I really like the show. Yes, it's slightly more kid-friendly than Clone Wars, but the storylines are still very engaging. Watching a somewhat rogue-like Jedi Knight, who mainly tries to hide his past as a Jedi (so as not to be discovered) and is not afraid to use a blaster or to "steal from the rich to feed the poor," but at the same time also tries to honor his past by training a new Padawan, makes for very compelling drama. This is more of a "team" show versus Clone Wars, and all of the characters are interesting. The show creators also did some great work on the main two female leads, who are every bit as tough and clever as the male leads. 
  • Comics
    • The Star Wars. For those of you who are really into Star Wars, you know that George Lucas' initial script included a lot of concepts that were very different than what ended up in the movie. I'm not talking just about things like how Luke's friends Biggs and Carrie were deleted from the silver screen. I'm talking about things like how Han Solo wasn't human, the main character was named Annikin Starkiller, and he is trained in the ways of the force by an old "Jedi Bendu" named Luke Skywalker, to fights against the Knights of the Sith. There's a lot of really different stuff in here, but as a Star Wars fan it's fun to read the original script and see how different the movie ended up being. However, even better than just reading the script is reading an 8-issue comic book adaptation with gorgeous art, to help bring it all to life. Dark Horse Comics, shortly before they lost their license to publish Star Wars comics after it reverted back to Marvel, published this comic and it's one of the more unique Star Wars pieces you'll find. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available in a digital format currently, but you can still buy hard copies of the trade paperback collection over at DarkHorse.com
    • A tale of two different post-Battle of Yavin Star Wars stories. Right around the time that Disney first acquired Lucasfilm, but before Dark Horse lost the license to publish Star Wars comics, they came out with a new title called simply Star Wars. I did a review of the first trade paperback collection (which collects of the first six issues of the series) and I had very positive things to say about it. It's a refreshing look at things that happen directly in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin, before the events of the Empire Strikes Back. I really enjoyed this series a lot. And then, randomly, after Marvel re-acquired the rights to publish Star Wars comics, what did they do? Exactly the same thing Dark Horse did! Marvel's first Star Wars comic in about 25 years was called, coincidentally, Star Wars. And it takes place immediately after the Battle of Yavin, before the events of the Empire Strikes Back. You can read my review of the first issue here. So, if you want to get a sense at how two different companies and creative teams deal with the exact same premise, this is a perfect opportunity to read two different stories. And, the thing is - they are both good - different, but good. You can read the Marvel Star Wars comics digitally on Comixology or ComicStore.Marvel.com. It's not been collected in trade yet, so you'll have to buy the individual issues.
Enjoy Star Wars Day, and May the 4th Be With You! Please do drop me a comment below, or Tweet me, Facebook me, or Google Plus me and let me know how you like to celebrate Star Wars Day or if you checked out any of my recommendations above.


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "The Asteroid Field" by the London Symphony Orchestra (from The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack)




Thursday, April 30, 2015

Catching Up on Avengers History

Tomorrow, May 1st, the newest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, will be released. The new film will explore more of the Avengers rich history as new characters like the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision join the established team of Captain America, Thor, Iron-Man, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye.

As a kid, I loved reading the Avengers and while I usually became attached to certain team lineups, I always enjoyed when new members would join the team, just to see some of my favorite heroes team-up with Earth's Mightiest Heroes. I remember issue #137 in particular when X-Men's Beast joined the team and how fun it was seeing him in a different context as a member of the team.

For those of you planning to see the new movie, now might be a good time to catch up on your Avengers history. There's a new book out called The Avengers Vault, which is a great way to do that. While serious comics buffs might not necessarily learn much that's new, it's a great refresher and is also a perfect introduction for youngsters who are just learning about comics and their heroes.

I still have this issue from when I was a
kid, when the Beast joined the team.
I was giving a free comic of the book for review purposes, and wrote a review over at Comic Attack. One of the coolest things about this book is the inclusion of old "artifact" pieces, like pencil sketches, color guides, posters, and a reproduction of a vintage membership card for the Sentinels of Liberty, a Captain America fan club from 1941. These are all really cool, well-produced pieces that help to give an historical backdrop to the Avengers, and Marvel Comics in general.

I highly recommend this book - below is the first part of my review, including a link at the end where you can click-through to read the full review.

Also, don't forget that this Saturday, May 2nd, is Free Comic Book Day! Head on over to your local comic book shop and grab some free comics to explore some new characters or companies you've not heard of or read before. And, while you're there, don't forget that your shop actually does have to pay for those books - while they're free to you, they do cost the shop money. So, why not pay for a couple of other comics, a graphic novel, trade paperback, or other items while you're at your shop as a way of saying "thanks" for the effort they go to for Free Comic Book Day? One highly anticipated free comic book this year is Divergence by DC Comics, which will unveil new looks for DC's three main characters, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. In particular, given the events of what happened in Batman #40, which just came out yesterday, the Batman news should be pretty interesting.

Here's the opening part of my review of The Avengers Vault:

This spring sees the release of one of the biggest and most anticipated movies of the year, Avengers: Age of Ultron. The first movie was gigantic in terms of its box office receipts and no doubt created some new fans of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in all forms of media, from comics to animation to the silver screen.
 Just in time for the release of the movie, and to help both new and old fans to wade through the more than 50-year history of the team, is The Avengers Vault, a huge, beautifully constructed hardback book with more than 170 pages of history, biographies, art, and reproductions of posters and other items from the Avengers’ past. This is a hefty book, but it’s very approachable and is written in a conversational, but educated and informed, tone that really will appeal to new fans of the franchise without alienating those who have been following the team’s exploits for awhile.
Peter A. David, the author, really knows his stuff. Unlike some comic collection historians, David is actually primarily a fiction and comics writer, having written a long 12-run on the Incredible Hulk...  (click here to read the rest of the review)

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "Saturday Night" by Ned's Atomic Dustbin


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Tabletop RPG Show & a Science-Fantasy Campaign Setting

For those of you who follow the show Tabletop, or RPG news in general, or who still have your Tiger Beat poster of Wil Wheaton hanging in your bedroom, you may have heard that Wil's very popular online show, Tabletop, has a spin-off RPG show that will premiering on the Geek & Sundry YouTube Channel on June 2nd.

Just last week, Wil announced the "cast" for the show - basically a bunch of friends of his that are in the entertainment business who also happen to be big fans of role-playing. In the same video announcement, Wil let everyone know what system they'd be using (which is a version of Green Ronin's A.G.E. System but without all of the Dragon Age trappings), and also he talked a bit about the campaign setting and world that he and some friends created for the show.

Wil's been talking about getting this RPG show up and running for a long time, and it's kind of an interesting peak into the world of entertainment and content creation how long it takes for something like this to come together. The public perception is probably something akin to, "How hard can it be? Get someone to film you playing an RPG and put it on YouTube." Lots of people do that.

Unfortunately, most of those are actually not all that fun to watch. The trick with something with a show like this is to find a group that gels together well and can be entertaining for an audience to watch when they aren't actually participating in the game itself. You have to be careful to avoid the inside jokes that are part of every tight-knit RPG group, because those don't translate well to a larger audience. You also have to be careful about the game system you use so that it doesn't have a lot of "secret" pieces that can't be filmed well (as an aside, that's why you'll almost never see a card-based game on an episode of Tabletop, unless the cards are shown for everyone to see). Other considerations are how rules-heavy the game is - for a show like this, getting bogged down in game mechanics like skills, feats, powers, and all that kind of stuff is going to slow the game down and make for a poor viewer experience.

Aside from all of that, there's also the production aspects to take into consideration, including the funding of the show itself. The idea behind these shows, partly, is a business decision from Geek & Sundry. By having popular shows like this, it brings more viewers to Geek & Sundry's other offerings on their channel, and some of those including advertising. YouTube wins because clients buy ads in the hopes that they'll be shown on Geek & Sundry's channel to capture that exact type of people they're looking to reach ("geeks" basically). That's a very simple way of explaining how it all works, but ultimately there are a lot of financial decisions behind-the-scenes that need to be worked out.

I started talking to Wil about his RPG show more than two years ago. And almost exactly two years ago, I met up with Wil and his producer-friend, Boyan, and my friend Cal, and I ran the group through a game of Savage Worlds with a home-brewed campaign setting, as a sort of "test" for Wil and Boyan to see if the game system was one that could work for the show. So, Wil and the crew were primarily focused on the game mechanics and the "viewability" of a show that would use that system. It was a lot of fun - Wil has been very cool over the years to occasionally invite Cal and me over to test potential games that might make a future appearance on Tabletop to make sure that they'll work well on the show. It also helps that Cal and I like to drink craft beer, as does Wil, and we love to inflate Wil's ego by telling him that he makes the absolute best craft beer in the entire history of the world. We mainly do this because it gets us more beer. And now Wil has also been barrel-aging cocktails so I've benefited from samples of those as well (I have yet to reciprocate to Wil because my wife and I end up drinking all the barrel-aged ones I make before I can share them). 

Wil blogged about our game from about two years ago, and I also mentioned it on my Google Plus page, citing the fiction and entertainment inspirations I had used to create the custom campaign setting I used for our short game. In a funny coincidence, it turns out that Wil also is using Thundarr the Barbarian as one of his inspirations for his game world, but it sounds like he's taking it in a completely different direction, whereas my world had a lot more influences from early post-apocalyptic fiction as well, primarily the Horseclans series and Hiero's Journey and its sequel, Unforsaken Hiero.

Ever since that game, I've slowly but surely been working on writing a campaign setting guide for the world I used for that test game, which the three people involved seemed to enjoy. One of the things I noticed a long time ago is that, while there are a ton of campaign settings for fantasy-based games like D&D, there are only a small handful of settings for post-apocalyptic games. I'd actually started working on this setting before I met with Wil and the gang that night, using the rules-light Mutant Future rules for any game mechanics I need. I'll get around to finishing it up one of these days, and then ideally can get some cool art to go along with it.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "Gary's Notebook" by Lee Morgan




Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Here Comes the Judge

Well, one of them, anyway.

A few months ago, All Around Cool Cat, Random Wizard, asked me if I'd once again be willing to be a judge for the 2015 One-Page Dungeon Contest. I had a blast judging last year, and was honored again to accept.

Joining me this year are Steve Winter, who was a judge last year as well, and Teos Abadia (his Twitter is here), and once again I feel like the little kid who is sitting at the card table at Thanksgiving while the "big kids" get to drink wine and have adult conversations at the fancy table. But, clearly RW saw something he liked in my judging and that's enough for me.

For those who participated in last year's contest, or who read my blog, may notice that the list of judges is smaller this year. I think that's kind of cool, though - I'm hoping it will give the three of us a chance to chat more directly and see what we all think of the entries (after the contest, of course - we don't "debate" which one(s) should win - it's based purely on votes/points as tabulated by Random Wizard). When the judges were first announced on Twitter, appropriately enough on March 4th, we already had a bit of a goofy back-and-forth:


You can get all of the details on the contest (the rules, how to enter, etc.) by following the link above to the 2015 contest. Here on my blog, you can read my thoughts on judging last year's contest, as well as my interview with a few of last year's judges on their thoughts of the contest (which is also linked to on the 2015 One Page Dungeon Contest website, and which also impacted some of the rules for this year's contest).

You've got about 30 days to get your submissions entered into the contest, so use that time to think of a cool idea, get a good map, and make sure to check for typos and logical flow. I'm looking forward to reading some great entries again this year.

Good luck, everyone!


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "I Was Doing All Right" by Carmen McRae


Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Anniversary

(Note: I started writing this on Wednesday 2/11 but wasn't able to finish it until today). 

Today is actually my Fourth Anniversary of blogging here at Daddy Rolled a 1. Usually I'm late on the date, and sometimes I've missed it all together. This year I actually remembered it was coming up but I have been extraordinarily busy today, work-wise, so I didn't have a few minutes to sit down and write up a post.

A few things about the past year on the blog...

My posting was more infrequent than ever since I started the blog. When I began back on February 11th, 2011, my daughter was about one and a half years old, and she was in daycare most of the week and my mom would come over to help out on the days that my daughter wasn't in daycare. Having my mom here to help was a huge help to the entire family, and for me personally it meant that on those days I could often times "work late" as I wasn't on the clock to pick my daughter up. Those days are now gone. My daughter is in Kindergarten now and my wife works pretty far away - her one-way commute takes about 60-75 minutes. So, in addition to my work-load which has gotten progressively busier, I'm also walking my daughter to school in the mornings, picking her up after school and spending a good 45 minutes to an hour helping her on her homework (since when did they start giving Kindergarteners homework?!), then putting her in the bath, helping her apply her various prescription and non-prescription lotions for her acute eczema, and then trying to make dinner and have everything ready by the time my wife gets home. All of this has cut into blogging time (and my "personal time" in general).

While my posting has been more infrequent, I'd like to think that the quality of my posts has increased quite a bit. Each year that I continue writing, I continue to feel that my "voice" is becoming more solidified and I'm less copying other peoples' styles.

I've kept up my various "topics" each day, while slightly modifying them. On Wednesdays, usually, I write about comics. Before I used to title my posts with the name of the comics I'm reviewing. Nowadays I'm much more like to give each title a "theme" about that particular book, mainly as a way of showing how you can use the setting, characters, or other ideas from that particular comic as fodder for your role-playing games. This started with my post about the "League of Anarchic Scientists," which +Charles Akins picked up and re-circulated as one of his "Best Reads of the Week!" series over on his Dyvers blog.

Speaking of comics, I've kept up my "professional" reviews over at ComicAttack and got to do some cool things in concert with that side hobby, including going to a "red carpet" premiere of Justice League: War, DC's first animated movie taking place in the New 52 continuity, and I got to interview lots of the talent and others involved in the film, including Andrea Romano who has been the main casting and/or voice directors for DC's animated projects dating all the way back to Batman: The Animated Series. I also got sent a very interesting Rocket Raccoon "costume" hoodie - click through to see pictures of me standing in my front yard dressed like a talking raccoon.

Probably the coolest "geek-related" thing I got to do last year was be a judge for Random Wizard's One Page Dungeon Contest (and be on the lookout for another post about this year's contest very soon). It was really fun to review all of the entries and come up with my Top 10 and then compare that list to the other judges, including Ernie Gygax, Steve Winter, and Sean K. Reynolds. Afterwards, I interviewed most of the other judges about their criteria, which you can read about by following the link above. I also sent out some role-playing books to two young entrants in the contest, which hopefully will inspire them to keep playing and creating.

For more "personal" role-playing, I have kept up with my Friday night Labyrinth Lord hack of S4: Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, albeit at a slower pace due to everyone's work, travel, and family schedules. And I've also kept up with my long-running World of Samoth campaign, which will be entering its 14th year this May. Lastly, I joined a game my friend Wil has been threatening to run for years. It's a 5th Edition game and we're scheduled to play every other Sunday, which in reality means we've only played one time. I did have a lot of fun, though, and hope to play in that game again soon.

This year also saw the first "contest" here at Daddy Rolled a 1, during Movember. I offered prizes to people who donated to my Movember campaign (to raise money for men's health awareness) and then mentioned their donation here on the blog, or on Daddy Rolled a 1's Facebook or Twitter accounts. A few friends entered the contest and the lucky winner, Billy, chose a copy of Of Dice and Men, which I just realized as of writing this that I never mailed to him. That will be going out in the mail shortly. 

The year 2014 wrapped up with me posting my "Daddy's Top 10 of 2014" which did generate quite a few comments (for this blog). Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the list.

The end of my fourth year of blogging ran through January with a review of the last Hobbit movie, me asking you what was the first comic you read, and discussing some new ideas you can use in pretty much any role-playing game system or genre

Here are some stats for the past year, per Google Analytics:

  • 9,319 pageviews
  • 1.58 pages/session
  • Average session duration 1 minutes 52 seconds
  • 77.76% bounce-rate
  • 81.16% of the sessions were from English-US readers
  • 75.4% of the visits were from new visitors to the blog
Per the Blogger Stats Dashboard, two posts from the past year are now in the "All Time Top 10 Posts" in terms of views:
Over the past month, the top posts have included most of the "new" posts but also include quite a few views of my old "My Time Working with Wizards of the Coast" posts from 2011 and my post about my first visit to the Compleat Strategist in New York.

And that wraps up my latest year of blogging. I'm looking forward to another year, and hope you are, too. As always, comments/discussion are appreciated.

Cheers!

  • Hanging: Home office (laptop - finally got my old one back!)
  • Drinking: Club soda with lime
  • Listening: "Slowly" by Max Sedgley



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