Playing Neverwinter Online

My drow rogue as of today
Despite multiple attempts to get game night rolling again, I still haven't gotten the chance to play D&D Next. In the wake of that frustration, I have resorted to playing pseudo-D&D online by downloading Neverwinter, a free-to-play massive multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG). I have long been a critic of monthly subscription MMOs, but a free-to-play game is one that I can sink some time into without feeling guilty. 

If you're interested in giving the game a shot, download it here, shoot me a message (screen name theoutsyder83), and let me know you saw this blog post.

Sweet Dwarven Forge Setup

I don't think I've ever seen a gaming table this sweet before. Even though this looks to be set up as a display piece rather than an actual game accessory, I can just imagine putting a black tablecloth over sections the players haven't seen yet and revealing this map bit by bit as they descend. I borrowed one of the images to give you a little preview, but you have to click the link (or the image) and see the rest of pictures. Seeing this one alone just doesn't do it justice.

Click here to see more images of this work of art.

Hire Me, WotC! Part I - Defining the Goal(s)

When was the last time you took the time to turn one of your childhood dreams into a reality? For many of us, these fantasies get sidelined for "real" life. They don't disappear, but the older we get, the less we feel like they are possible. At some point we write them off altogether, and settle for what has been convenient or what has seemed most stable.

I'm sick of convenient and stable. I want to be passionate about my work. I want to feel fulfilled by the work I'm doing. I want a dream job.

Last week, I shared a childhood dream of mine: working for Wizards of the Coast. This week is the kickoff of a series called "Hire Me, WotC!" In the coming weeks, I'll be spending a great deal of time on that childhood dream. I'll explore the possibilities of making it come true, develop a plan to make it happen, and track my progress on the path. Today we begin with a deceptively complex step: defining the goals.

"But Josh!" you ask. "You already said what your goal is! You want to work for Wizards of the Coast!"

Technically, that would be correct. I have stated that I want to work for WotC. However, that statement is extremely broad, and I'm likely to stray from the goal without more focus. I need a clearly defined long term goal, and some short term goals that I can achieve on the way. Clearly stating the long term goal helps to maintain focus, and developing short term goals along the way will give me positive reinforcement, which in turn will help me stay focused.

We'll start with one long term goal and two short term goals. Each one is listed below, with a bit of the rationale behind each one.

Long Term Goal: I want to work as a writer/designer for either Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering.

These are the two games that I grew up loving, and that still play a significant part of my adult life. I have shared many great times with a lot of great people while playing them, and I want to be a part of their continued success. By contributing to the development of these games, I'll be helping my fellow gamers, as well as a future generation of gamers, continue to share awesome experiences with awesome people.

Short Term Goal #1: I will create a game design resume and critique it.

Even though I don't feel prepared to create a resume for a game design position, this will force me to assess myself realistically. It will probably be on the short side, but I will at least get an idea of what areas I most need to work on, and I can share it with others for feedback.

Short Term Goal #2: Write five articles about my quest to work for Wizards of the Coast.

This might end up being more than five articles, but I think five is a good place to start. Five is a high enough number that it won't be easy to achieve, but a low enough bar that I can meet the goal and feel some early success. 

Obviously, these goals are not static. Short term goals will be achieved and replaced, and the long term goal might change slightly as I continue. Who knows? I might find that there is some other niche of the gaming world that I'm better suited in, but only time and experience will tell. These will do for now.

Join me next week for the next step of the journey.

Look out, Wizards. I'm coming!

Lazy DM Tools

I stumbled across this video a few days ago, and found it quite interesting. Some of these suggestions I've been using for years, but others were new, interesting, and useful. If you're interested in being a DM without burning out on the preparation component, this video is for you:

In Pursuit of a Childhood Dream

Sometime late in elementary school, I decided that when I grew up, I wanted to move to Lake Geneva and work for TSR as a writer for Dungeons & Dragons. I had been playing the game on and off since the tender age of six, mostly with my dad, and it had hooked me in such a profound way that no matter how many other games I played, I always found my way back to D&D.

I can't say that I remember those early days of D&D very clearly, but by the time my dream of working for TSR had fully developed a few years later, I was captivated. I remember reading Dragonlance novels as quickly as my allowance would allow, and debating the "safety" of the game with concerned adults in my life. I recall skipping homework assignments to draw maps on grid paper, and buying my first Magic: The Gathering card (a Revised White Knight) just so I could cut out the art and tape it to a character sheet. In sixth grade, I started DMing for the first time, a bi-weekly Friday night game with some of my neighbors. I was writing my own adventures, and I even wrote a short story for Dragon Magazine - they sent it back to me with a nice note telling me it wasn't what they were looking for, but that I should keep up the hard work.

I could reminisce for days, but I'll spare you that. The idea of working for TSR someday was never a question back then, but at some point I lost focus. I never strayed from being a gamer, although I took long breaks from D&D. Rifts stole my attention, as did Warhammer 40K, and a laundry list of video games. I finally stopped cutting up Magic cards for character sheets, and actually learned how to play. Magic would eventually come to rival D&D as my top game of choice, as it was so much easier to find people to play, and it satisfied my competitive side in a way that D&D couldn't.

High school and college came and went. After graduation, I found myself teaching English during the day, while playing D&D on Tuesday nights and Magic: The Gathering on Friday nights. It wasn't quite a gamer's dream, but I was having a blast. A few years later, I decided to go back to college again to become a counselor, and the combination of work and school pushed a lot of the gaming out of my life entirely. I managed to play Magic from time to time, but anything else was rare at best.

Now, in my fourth year as a school counselor, I am finding myself more and more frustrated with public education, specifically the way certain things are handled in North Carolina. Because I'm still employed by North Carolina, I'm going to stop there to avoid trouble, but it suffices to say that I'm currently looking for an exit strategy for this career. Unfortunately, I'm finding that degrees in English education and school counseling aren't as versatile as I would like them to be. What's worse, I am in dire need of a break from college, so pursuing another degree is out of the picture for the foreseeable future. I don't want to stay, but I don't know where to go. So what do I do?

As you might guess from the title, my mind and my heart keep pointing me back to that childhood dream: move to Lake Geneva and write for TSR. Obviously, it can't come true in the literal sense. TSR doesn't really exist anymore, and there are no D&D designers in Lake Geneva (at least as far as I know). However, Dungeons & Dragons is still a force to be reckoned with in the gaming world, and Wizards of the Coast has done a remarkable job with the brand since purchasing TSR back in 1997. Even more conveniently, my other favorite game is owned by the same company, and I would relish the opportunity to work on either line.

How likely am I to actually get a chance at making this dream come true? Not very, if I continue down the same path. In the time since that childhood dream was first formed, my life has taken quite a few twists and turns, but I'm not much closer to getting into the gaming industry than I was eight years ago when I graduated with my bachelors degree. Aside from being an avid gamer and piddling around with this blog, I haven't exactly done much to maximize my chances of getting a job at any gaming company, much less Wizards of the Coast. Being a gamer and doing a bit of blogging hardly set me apart from the crowd, and it's time for me to figure out how to stand out. Next week I'll start discussing my first steps toward realizing this dream in a series called "Hire Me, WotC!" I'll be putting on my career counselor hat, and breaking down the steps I need to take in order to make this dream most likely to come true.

I hope you'll join me for the ride. If all goes well, I'll be able to apply for a job at Wizards of the Coast with a realistic shot at an interview. And even if I come up short, you might learn something from my blunders that gives you an edge with a similar goal in your life.

Look out, Wizards. I'm coming!

Born of the Gods Spoilers

Born of the Gods is just around the corner, and spoilers are starting to pop up online. Here's some basic info from the Wizards of the Coast website:
Set NameBorn of the Gods
BlockSet 2 of 3 in the Theros block
Number of Cards165
Prerelease EventsFebruary 1-2, 2014
Release DateFebruary 7, 2014
Launch WeekendFebruary 7-9, 2014
Game DayMarch 1-2, 2014
Magic Online Prerelease EventsFebruary 14-17, 2014
Magic Online Release DateFebruary 17, 2014
Magic Online Release EventsFebruary 17-March 5, 2014
Pro Tour Born of the GodsFebruary 21-23, 2014
Pro Tour Born of the GodsLocationValencia, Spain
Pro Tour Born of the GodsFormatsSwiss:
  • Modern Constructed
  • Born of the Gods / Theros / Theros Draft
Top 8:
  • Modern Constructed
Official Three-Letter CodeBNG
Twitter Hashtag#MTGBNG
Initial Concept and Game DesignKen Nagle (lead)
Ethan Fleischer
Billy Moreno
Mark Rosewater
Ryan Spain
Final Game Design and DevelopmentTom LaPille (lead)
Chris Dupuis
Mark Gottlieb
David Humpherys
Billy Moreno
with contributions from Matt Tabak
LanguagesEnglish, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
Available inBooster Packs, Intro Packs*, Event Deck*, Fat Pack*
And if that won't hold you over until February 1st, check out the MTGSalvation spoiler.

Real Life Hobbit Hole?

If you've ever wondered what it might be like to live in a hobbit-inspired home (a hobbit hole, if you will), you could just ask Simon Dale. He built one himself, and lives there with his family. Check out his story, including how he did it, at the link below.

Custom Satyr Tokens for Xenagos, the Reveler

Last weekend, I showed you how to start creating custom tokens for Magic: The Gathering. Today, I'm giving you another example of what you can make with Daz 3D's free tools and content for 3D artists and Magic Set Editor.

For a pdf file with nine satyr tokens ready to be printed and cut, click here.

2014 Gaming Resolutions

It's time for the good old "year in review" and resolutions post. To be honest, this year I've barely even looked back at what my goals were at the beginning of the year. In fact, when I opened my browser to start writing this post, I couldn't even remember what they were! I know. It's kind of pathetic.
  1. Top 8 a Magic tournament with 100+ participants. Fail. Unfortunately, this did not pan out the way I wanted it to. I only attended two large events over the course of the year, an SCG Open in February and an SCG Classic in November. I didn't do well in either of these tournaments, placing 159th of 445 in the open and 147th of 274 in the classic. I did top 8 a Modern PTQ, but it only had 82 players so I can't technically count it for this goal.
  2. Downsize the Man Cave. Fail. I made this goal because of my intent to move, and I have gone through several purges this year. Unfortunately, things just keep piling up in there. I have thrown out and given away a ton of stuff, but the room doesn't feel any less junky because I keep replacing old stuff with new stuff. This is something I need to continue working on.
  3. Write for my Audience. Semi-Success. I'm not sure how to judge this one, to be honest. I started out the year by posting a lot more content that would be usable by my readers (original content for Pathfinder, links to cool stuff, etc.). As the year went on and I got more and more wrapped up in college, I wrote less and less - and what I did post was random projects I've been working on. Was my blog more audience-friendly this year? I'd say so... but only by a small margin, and the quality of my posts took a steep decline after August.
For 2013 I scored a measly 0.5/3. That's worse than I've done any year since I started writing these gaming resolutions at the beginning of 2010. So where does that leave me this year? I suppose I need to step up my game for 2014! Here's what I intend to accomplish this year.
  1. Host one big game night before I move to the Seattle area. It'll be good to get the guys together for one last D&D (or Pathfinder, or Rifts) game before I move across the country. Depending on how the job search goes, it could be as soon as January, but summertime is more likely. I might not have much time to pull this off, but I'm going to do my best.
  2. Finish Bastion: Infiltrator. I started this novel over the summer, but haven't written much since school started back in August. I'd like to complete it in 2014 and, if all goes well, get it published - even if I have to self-publish.
  3. Start (or join) a gaming group after the move. Even though we don't hang out as often as we used to, my gaming buddies in North Carolina are awesome. Once I move cross-country, our gaming will probably be limited to online games and the occasional home visit. However, I'm looking forward to meeting new people after the move, and I'll definitely be looking to surround myself with some gamers.
  4. Publish something! Even if it's a children's book or a short ,pdf RPG supplement, I want to get some of my writing out there. I have a tendency to write most of a work, and then get cold feet when I'm almost finished because I want it to be perfect before publication. This year, I want to get past the idea that I can produce anything perfect, and stop letting my flaws keep me from taking the next step. It's time to put myself on the map.
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