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Why I Game – Jessica Negin

I grew up in a household wherein gaming was a near daily occurrence. My mom had my sister and I playing Settlers of Catan as early as 2000 when I was just 8 years old. I’ve been obsessed with board games ever since, and the same goes for video games.

 

Naturally, I was always fascinated by the idea of tabletop roleplaying games, but I didn’t have the chance to play until 2009. That’s when I started my first Pathfinder campaign, and I was immediately hooked. The thrill of our group’s struggles, our failures, and our victories was addictive. I obsessed over my character’s stats and backstory, I roleplayed my little heart out, and from then on, there was no going back. I went on to play the same character type for every campaign after that – basically a heightened version of myself with badass magic powers – and as a teenager, it was the most thrilling form of self-expression I had at my disposal.

 

Since then, I’ve grown up quite a bit and found a new appreciation for gaming as a means of telling a story as a group, solving puzzles together, and getting to know people better. However, there is still a small part of me that simply enjoys that self-expression. At the heart of it, these games are a creative endeavor undertaken by a group of individuals who all want to articulate something. What we create together can be altogether different from what we set out to create as individuals, and that’s what makes it so special. That’s why I game.

Labeling the Container

Dustin and I went and got tattoos together in July (pictured above) and no lie, that was easily the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, I’m including starting an actual play Pathfinder podcast with my friends online in my estimation of that. We both got watercolor D20 tattoos and, to complete the look, I had our artist add my adorable cat, Thor, to mine.

We were discussing tattoos and identity and why people choose what they choose and Jackie Rabbit (our amazing artist) said that she heard one of her other clients refer to tattooing as “labeling the container.” That statement hit me hard as such an accurate representation of what body modification can be – taking the physical body that was made for us completely beyond our control and marking it with what we know to be true of ourselves on the inside so we are better reflected and better known.

So here’s how I’ve labeled myself so far: a lover of games and my cat, a devoted sister, an anthropologist, a playful if easily distracted friend, a hoarder of knowledge and sparkly items and a fantasy superfan. I also have a #basicbitch tattoo of a flock of crows representing…something about…my wrist looking cooler with that tattoo on it, because your tattoos don’t have to have any further meaning beyond you liking how it looks. Who knows what else I’ll add as I continue to develop as a person but one thing is certain: I am getting SO MANY MORE – I have a lot of unlabeled space left.

P.S. if you want a good tattoo Instagram account to follow check out Jackie’s (@jackie_rabbit) – she does the neatest fantasy/horror/gothic art and her feed is a delight. Show yours off too, tag us on Twitter or whatever, I love seeing everyone’s ink!

I never wanted to be a DM: Confessions of a new Dungeon Master

I never ever wanted to be a Dungeon Master, I have been playing for decades at this point, but it never interested me. In part because I thought I lacked the creativity to pull it off. Additionally I thought the people for whom I have historically played with would tear me alive and that freaked me out.

Then a few years ago I was really starting to struggle with character creation. Nothing seemed exciting, I would create a character and have ZERO desire to build a backstory or develop their background. What was the point? I even started to wonder if maybe it was time to stop playing. To find some new hobby that might capture my interest once again.

Then I ran across the podcast Friends at the Table. The first episodes had poor audio quality, but I stuck with it, and was glad I did. Little did I know I would listen to a incredible world and cast of character be created in front of my very eyes.

It was a game rich in team development. A bard was not just a Bard with a spell list, he was a Bard who would explain how and why his spell worked. He was not merely a storyteller, he was a member of a group that collected and archived information across the world. The fighter came from a land where she would eventually have to choose between her people and her friends. A Paladin was not just a protector of his god, but possibly just used as tool by his god. Zombie pirates were not undead evil creatures, they were nearly immortal beings at a stage in the life cycle. These beings pillaged to bring supplies to their city. The world was not just there to exist enough to live in, it was given life by its characters and the imaginations of the players. The DMs job was to weave it all together into a rich tapestry of a game. For the first time I was excited to play again.

I immediately bought the book and showed it to my gaming friends, hopeful I could convince them to give it a try, they were all interested, but I could quickly tell their enthusiasm was not quite where I was or what was needed to build a world.

So it was at that point, for the first time ever, I realized it was time to take matters into my own hands. I had to find another group people that were as excited about building a world as I was. Almost all the people who are in this podcast now were the members of that original group. Quickly my concerns about my lack of creativity and my shaky confidence began to improve.

I will admit, at first I borrowed heavily from Friends at the Table, but it did not take long with everyone’s involvement in the creation of that world to slowly become something different. It also helped to have an amazing group just as excited about the land of Locke and the City of San Madque as I was. Before I knew it I was having discussions with the players about their characters round the clock. They didn’t just create a backstory they created entire cultures and pantheons, or in some cases, destroyed gods.

Just a few days into being a Dungeon Master for an intrepid group of friends and I found a fire I thought had been long extinguished. It found its way because of a desire to tell stories first and focus on the math second. To use our surroundings and go on Fantastic Adventures and to create new and interesting stories.

Some may wonder why we switched from Dungeon World a place where you can build unlimited worlds to that of Pathfinder game. For me it was one of curiosity, what if we put story first and math second in a Pathfinder game. I love the Dungeon World, but a part of me craved a little more guidance and Adventure Paths allow us to focus on character development and put them in an active outline of a story. We still get to put characters first, we still get to develop a world rich in history in our own way. We can take the guidance provided and make it our own. That excited me.

Whether or not we do it well? My dear reader I will leave that decision up to you.

Why I Game – Angel Espinoza

I was all about Saturday morning cartoons. Regardless of what time I went to bed the night before, I would start my weekend ritual at the crack of dawn in order catch the first show of my line up. There was no doubt in my mind: I would grow to be a cartoonist. I am currently employed as an Instructional Designer for a state agency. Not exactly in the animation business but my PowerPoint presentations are gorgeous. My Saturday line up no longer consist of Snorks, Muppet Babies, The Littles, Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Punk Brewser, Dungeons & Dragons, or Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. However, I still can recall that feeling of being part of an adventure, unraveling mysteries and foiling the villain. Those feelings still hold sway as I read a book, follow a favorite show, or on opening day of a long anticipated movie.

My mom would have never allowed a player’s handbook in the house when I was a child so I suppose it was good that I was introduced to the epic world of pen and paper RPGs in college. My first character was a lawful evil cleric of Vecna. I had the time of my life. Hanging out with a weird group of nerds that became my closest friends drinking heavily, staying up for 72 hours straight, and strategically casting blade barrier. Each new game gave me the opportunity to create a story for my characters. I was not an animator but I painted and breathed life into my creations.

Why do I game you ask? Why do you paint? Why do I host a weekly board game night? Why do you sail? It is FUN! Do you think reading is amazing? Try collaborative storytelling. Do you enjoy watching Supernatural? Roll yourself a fighter/rogue, romance it up with a cute Planetar, and fight evil alongside your tiefling brother.

Why I Game – Abigail Lammel

Short answer: I’ve always been a daydreamer. I’m a sucker for drama. And dragons. And aliens.

Longer answer: Sometimes functioning in the “real world” is an exhausting blur of work, bills, dentist appointments, and other mundane tasks or obligations. Roleplaying games let me disappear into a different place and become a different person for a few hours. It doesn’t hurt that this person is often exceptionally magical with fantastical problems.

When I was in college these games would last for several hours – sometimes all night long. As I’ve grown up we had to slow it waaaaaaay down but I still make sure I always cut a little time out of my week to game. It’s imaginative, fun, and something that you and your friends get to create together. Gaming is a way of connecting us to our inner child. It always brings up fond memories of playing pretend with my sister when we were growing up. Playing games that lasted for hours and devolved into long arguments about what a witch could actually “realistically” do.

And let’s face it – the real reason is that it’s damn cathartic having the option to light your enemies on fire instead of making nice with them at parties. Amirite?