Our most recent episode 'Defining your setting for Post Apocalyptic Roleplaying' (releasing on Monday if you missed the live show) was a blast. See what i did there, I did a pun, Brian would be proud. The end of the world has fairly consistently produced some of the best fiction, movies and games I've enjoyed. Whether its the slow moving end of the world found with The Walking Dead or any of the Romero movies or its the immediacy of something like the a Nuclear conflict i.e. Fallout the end of days and what comes after provide some of the richest opportunities for telling stories large and small.
In the episode we discuss a few of the most important questions we think you should ask yourself as you establish your setting and I'm going to go over them again here on the blog. Before we get too far in let me say this, my bias is going to be towards a modern or near modern real world setting, relatively close to the event, probably involving some type of conflict and with a dose of gritty semi-realism thrown in. So that's what we'll tackle this time. My interests lie in Horror, and that means the horror of an existence in a world ending as well. I'm not necessarily good at this and it may be that i'm just going to be repeating things I said in the episode... but here we go. Follow me now on a rambling journey that will probably lead no where, and will most likely be a series.
HOW did your world end?
The apocalypse has many faces. Was it economic? Did a Trade based conflict escalate to the point of collapsing your world's financial infrastructure? No? Maybe it was Environmental. Did the civilizations of the world you're creating use up resources, pollute and manipulate the environment? Did the weather become so unpredictable and intense that infrastructure collapsed? Not doing it for you? Maybe it was a good old fashioned war. Either the lasting, almost tidal flow of a global conflict or the nuclear variety. If none of these did it for you, how about something supernatural or science based? Good old fashion zombies or some type of ever evolving and seemingly indestructible robots. Oh oh! Maybe the grey goo! Self-replicating nano-bots with no guidance on when to stop breaking things down and replicating. Even the rapture or traditional apocalypse!
Answering this first question is your first step towards making something great. Mix and match to awesome effect. Maybe the world in which you are setting your campaign is close to the modern day, and everything about trade and society is based off of the reliance on a swiftly flowing and constant logistical system. Maybe that collapses, money becomes devalued in the ensuing chaos and in a bid to gain control various factions and governments decide to get a bit of the old despotism going. Maybe locked up in a lab somewhere was your equivalent to the zombie virus and it seemed like a good option to 'reboot' the system as it were if such a thing were to be released.
If it's nuclear war you fancy, maybe your world's friendly super powers decided to extend a global conflict into a nice end of days phase. Planting giant mushrooms of the fiery and destructive variety all over your metropolises and bucolic countrysides. Perhaps this leads to a late rapture or early nirvana to which your party was not invited. As various folk of faith shuffle off to meet their own versions of the 'end of days' it isn't just the ensuing nuclear winter that is threatening to come on strong, nor the radiation and raiders, but demons too! How exciting that could be for your somewhat unsuspecting band of misfits!
The How's addressed, lets talk about the WHEN. Depending on how well this is received I might write again on the different when's to consider. This time i'll focus on the Now/Recent.
Deciding the When is going to open up all sorts of fun things for you to throw at your friends. If its' recent, think about all the things you take for granted. Food, Clean water, medicine, electricity, transportation, convenience. All gone. Bye Bye. No more Amazon, No more grocery store, no more 7-11 or Jack in the Box or Game-Stop (Thank your gods as they'd probably rip you off anyway. Offering to take on all of your unused gear while devaluing it about 300%...like maybe half a can of questionable beans). Think about all those things you probably don't know how to do that well, if at all. Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you tended a vegetable garden or grew potatoes? Do you hunt? Fish? You can probably change the tires and the oil on your car, but could you reasonably repair something if it broke? A timing belt or any number of those hoses and components under the hood. Done any electrical work? Carpentry? Plumbing? How about first aid? Plenty of people probably said some type of yes to those questions. A few of you might be thinking about taking a class or two, picking up a book or asking a friend to run you through a thing. That's fine. It doesn't make you in any way inferior to anyone else and its a great mindset to have when building your NPCs and the world itself. Value has a different meaning in the world you'll be playing in. People with skills have a different type of standing as well. Think about these things as establishing new professions. For example: Mike is a car guy, was always good with his hands and loved to tinker. Mike is infinitely more valuable in a world without services than Fred, because Fred was an office drone. His hobby was Netflix because when he got home his brain was sludge. He lived for the weekend when he could hit the bars and try to forget about the upcoming Monday. Mike became the go to member of a community of survivors as the fixer of things because Mike knew (somewhat) what he was doing. Fred watches the walls and does what he can. Both earn their keep but Mike probably has more of a voice in any decisions made.
Food takes time to grow, so you'll be talking about ever dwindling resources and where to find them. The places the grocery stores and restaurants get their food from (distribution centers) will be somewhat overlooked, but stores themselves will be picked clean in good order. Medicine becomes nearly invaluable. Not just antibiotics but other things people need to live like inhalers, insulin, and epinephrine pens. Allergy medications, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics all the things! No one will be making them anymore. Medical labs and distributors are probably better off than pharmacies and hospitals for scavenging... but then you run in to the issue of a lack of refrigeration in some cases. Power generation and delivery are also probably gone or exceedingly limited. These are great opportunities for you to give your party purpose. Find those supplies of food and medicine. Negotiate and deal with the threats and groups that they encounter.
Something else to keep in mind for the NOW time frame is this; Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) sounds scary as hell, but in all reality its just not that likely. Limited nuclear engagement is a more likely scenario. first strikes and retaliatory strikes designed to achieve strategic and tactical goals, not end the world. Meaning that though losses were most likely very heavy and the world as we know it is over, the war is still on. If you'd like something to reference do some research in to the European Theater in the cold war. Some of the plans drawn-up and likely scenarios considered thought of nuclear weapons as a means of battlefield manipulation and application. For example the many thoughts put into destroying the tide of Russian tanks coming through the Fulda Gap with atomic mortars, Davy Crockett and my personal favorite the nuclear backpack or (SADM) were to be used in a constantly moving conflict. Think about that a moment. An unlucky dude in the sixties had to have one of those strapped to his back knowing that he would not be able to escape the blast area prior to detonation while facing down Russian armor with a small group of his inadequately equipped battle buddies. I'd hate to be that guy. And I'm willing to bet your players would too! Use the continuing conflict of your world as a means of providing obstacles and pressuring movement in the story itself because those tiny fiery mushrooms and tanks keep on getting closer. Think of all of those super cinematic descriptions you can make to drive everything home!
I'm going to stop here for now and pick this up again in the next few days. In the meantime, if you've read this let me know what you're thoughts are. Not just on this piece, but on the topics here in. Did i get something wrong? let me know! Want me to spout my opinion on something specific? Also let me know! either on Twitter (@Jthuluphoto) ,on our discord or in the comments on this very post.
Well now, this has been a fun development! I've been listening to the NoSleep podcast for years, and reading creepypasta off and on since forever. Getting Mark to finally start listening on his own only took a year or two but once he did the ideas for role playing found within had the pleasant effect of creating our latest show! The SGO files: The NoSleep Cases is our way of showing our appreciation to one of the best damn podcasts out there in the only way we know how.
The initial response to the pilot and the two released episodes (as of this writing) has been fantastic to see. With assistance from the wonderful and talented Nichole Goodnight and Atticus Jackson, as well as the support and feedback from the great Henry Galley (creator of Mr.Strings and many other great stories featured on the NoSleep podcast) we have begun something we hope to continue for quite awhile. This, like the rest of our latest endeavors, is available as it's own podcast but if you're reading this than you probably already knew that.
Next up is the continuation of CreaturePasta. (@creaturepasta) Sitting at episode 7 you may have noticed that we've strayed from the initial concept a bit to include traditional Cryptids and situational Creepypasta or horror themes. This is going to be a continuing trend. Our big three are going to remain our big three (Creepypasta Critters, Gaming Beasts and Horror Monsters) but as the channel and our general content has shifted more towards the tabletop side of the gaming world, we're finding more joy in providing you with our take on a wider variety of things to use in your campaigns and settings. The Russian Sleep Experiment would be a prime example and spooky to boot.
I'll keep this brief and promise to try and find a little more time to update this blog o' mine. In the meantime find me on twitter @jthuluphoto and please check out these wonderful links:
The NoSleep Podcast: https://www.thenosleeppodcast.com/
Henry Galley: https://t.co/UiRLKqSScx
Nichole Goodnight: https://twitter.com/nrgoodnight?lang=en
Atticus Jackson: https://twitter.com/theatticus?lang=en
I’m so very excited to have been able to bring this idea to fruition! CreaturePasta is an idea I’ve had for several years now, albeit toned down a bit. Every day while I’m working I tend to be listening to awesome podcasts covering Cryptids, Paranormal occurrences, Creepypastas, Horror radiodrama or legends of some type. Astonishing Legends, Blurry Photos, Expanded Perspectives, The Gralien Report, Lore, Mysterious Universe and The Nosleep podcast to name a few. When I was invited on to the Oddshaped Channel’s enCRYPTID as a cohost, I knew I had something else I wanted to present to you all that wasn’t what we already do at Digital and Dice.
It started as a want to explore the point at which my three passions; Gaming, CreepyPastas and Paranormal/Weird events meet. Kind of a catchall show where a primer or starting point could be given to people with a little bit of extra context thrown in. We’ve simplified that a bit on Creaturepasta. Focusing instead on the origins of whatever creature we are talking about in an episode and giving you, our awesome DigiDicers, our thoughts on how you might use said thing in your roleplaying games.
Slenderman was one of the bigger topics to cover and with the release of the Slenderman movie trailer it made sense to do first. After all, if you ask most people what a Creepypasta is one of the first names they’ll come up with is our pal Slender. Mark did some amazing work with the images and editing! Nearly as awesome, in my opinion, as the work he’s putting in on Hazardous Endeavors. That’s hard to beat.
Like all our projects the start is always the rockiest. It’s like breaking in a new pair of boots. The first few miles are the worst, but then they shape to you and become like a second pair of feet- or maybe a second skin? That’s not creepy at all. We’re going to become a weird second-flesh-boot-thing for your ears! There’s nothing you can do about it now! If you’ve listened to or watched the first episode it has already begun! If you haven’t… you know you want to. Look forward to CreaturePasta going for quite a while. There is no end to the things we can talk about!
I am a horrible person, and have left this to sit for weeks... This isn't polished, and may not read as well as I had intended but I figured that if I didn't post this shambles I wouldn't post anything and we're well past the time when I was still writing this fresh. Be gentle dear reader/listener. Read not for context, read for the feeling. And be sure to comment with your own awkward Convention stories, thoughts on ECCC if you attended, or thoughts on conventions in general either on your own or with a group of folk. Why do you go? Do you go? What do you do there, and how do you prefer to travel?
I had the opportunity to sweep the event space with Heather from Turn up the ladybro (find the show page on facebook at facebook.com/turnuptheladybro) on Saturday. We talked a bit about what we observed and it was good to pick the brain of someone who interacts with the events of different fandoms. ECCC and Sakuracon, both of which take place in the Seattle convention center, make up the bulk of my convention experience. Neither of these events are huge. These aren't SDCC, Pax Prime or the monstrosity that is Dragon Con, but they certainly have a respectably high attendance. This years show was the first time I have been primarily on my own at a con, and I had some time prior to and post meeting with Heather to analyze my thoughts on the whole business. Our conversation was mostly on the people and why they were there. What is the point of Sakuracon or ECCC beyond the obvious catering to fandom? Why do people do, or pay money for the things offered?
Heather's experience comes from Film festivals and Horror conventions. My understanding of which is anecdotal at best but follows like this; The attendees to be a bit closer to the mid-twenties to middle-aged range. A bit more life under their belt lending itself to a different kind of enthusiasm. Their is less of a drive to consume products and more of a drive to consume showings, Q&A's and meet and greets. Everywhere you looked at ECCC there were people hauling bags of purchases, some signed by authors and artists, some not. tubes of prints or boxes of comics. We overheard someone say what i thought was a good definition of the event as a whole. 'you'll spend 50 bucks every ten feet.' while we were wandering together I tended to concur with Heather's thinking that all the stuff people were buying, and their need to buy it made little sense when it could all be grabbed online. On Sunday I think I left that train of thought as I had the chance to peruse artist's alley and shake hands, listen to creators talk about the things I was buying and see the non-big name studio talent shine. It's a different type of thing when you get to see the passion people put into the piece of art or comic you are buying as you are buying it. To see what your interest means to them. It's something I didn't see with most of the better known folk i browsed the booths of. Best example of this would be saturday afternoon while I was hunting down the booth of Ben Templesmith (Hail Squid!). I'd been through a row twice when the awesome guy Onrie Kompan flagged me down. He was there representing his work on the comic Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender about the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 1500's. While i stood and listened to him describe his comic, he got more animated and excited when he realized that i was engaged with what he was saying. I bought all four trades and felt like it was money well spent. Made even better when I passed him again on Sunday after breezing through them in the hotel the night before and told him they were great. Spending money with the big names, the studios isn't something I do much. You can buy that stuff anywhere, and a lot of times you can find it signed on the websites it comes from. As cool as those folk are, they talk with and see so many people they sometimes just seem exhausted, and that takes something from the whole deal. Worth it to note again that this would be the same section I ran into Josh Vogt ( Author of Enter the Janitor) which I talked about on the show, who was equally entertaining and engaging. I feel like the general appreciation of enthusiasm extends out to a lot of other con-goers promoting themselves and their projects like I was. One of the good ones wasn't the most unique, but was still a good enough idea to mention. That would be Sean Antisquia and his Hexpand kickstarter. Hexagonal expandable shelving for collectibles. Good stuff, you can find it at (http://engrit4u.com/index.html)
My feelings on the Signing area were a little less than stellar. When we entered the area there were sizable lines for everyone present. And my initial comments were basically "I wouldn't even know what to say" and "I don't think I'd pay for this" were partially proven later that day when I finally found Ben Templesmith, I chatted at him awkwardly, praised his work and bought an awesome collectors coin after handing him the Podcast's promo card it was both a cringe-worthy and hilarious thing. I am equal parts embarrassed and happy that I made the attempt. That aside, paying for a photo and an autograph just doesn't feel genuine to me. I don't know that I could make my case well but celebrities, even the awesome ones, just aren't offering the same thing as creators(artists/authors) when you need to pay them. Examples; last month I stayed in Seattle to see Gogol Bordello perform at the showbox downtown. It was a good show, there are some funny and unfortunate stories around it but that's beside the point. The next day as I was walking through The market I saw Eugene Hutz( their front man) getting mobbed by a few fans. I didn't bother trying to crowd in, I waved. He pointed at me, called out ' I saw you', I called back something like ' I like your stuff!' And moved on. Just two people on the street, one of which was famous. It was good. Though that isn't the same as a Nathan Fillion or a Norman Reedus, I guess that if there wasn't a need to put down money I'd be on board. And when it comes to Heather's answer of 'they're just people.' I suppose i knew that already, but there is a sort of shock when you see someone from television and movies in person.
This year and going forward my answer to the questions I asked are that I am at these conventions to promote myself and the Digital and Dice podcast. I also go to see the things I will spend hard earned money on later, or buy prints and comics from folk who aren't on shelves. And I go to see the energy people put into their own reasons for being there. The quantity and quality of the cosplayers at ECCC was astounding this year for example was a reason unto itself.
Saturday's livestream had us playing World of Tanks. I certainly hope you enjoyed it! It was fun to get back to an admittedly better version/port of WoT after so long spent away. I've always been a history buff, with military history being of singular interest to me. I wouldn't say I was an armchair general, but i definitely theorized my way through a great many campaigns. With all of the RTS and Grand strategy games I played in the early days of PC gaming that interest was certainly intensified. Everything from the old Grid/hex based titles with their UN box symbols and sheets of stats similar to Hearts of Iron, to fantasy and sci-fi games like Starcraft I conquered or lost the world (and galaxy) many times over.
In my opinion you can almost track the progression of warfare over the last hundred years through videogames and with that progression in theaters and time-spans came a switching of genres. World War Two certainly had its' fair share of coverage in gaming, and with good reason. It was the last conflict which lent itself to a 'big picture' view for titles like Hearts of Iron. Meanwhile Medal of Honor and Call of Duty started to make inroads to providing us gamers with a 'boots on the ground' perspective and added human drama to the mass destruction and devastation. We as gamers were granted a fictionalized perspective of the many sides and stories World War 2 had to offer.
As weird as it may sound I have come to miss those experiences. Recent shooters and war games have either been in space (Mass effect, the Dawn of War franchise), a take on current events and the mess that is anything set in the current "war on terror" (Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Battlefield 2-4), or something in the near or distant future/apocalypse(Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Tom Clancy's: The division). I have enjoyed all of these but unlike those WW2 games of old they lack the comfort of knowing what the narrative was before you launched. Of knowing that what you were taking part in may be a fiction, but something close did once happen.
Neither World of Tanks or Sniper Elite 3 provided that exact feeling, but they did hit all the right nostalgia points. They were familiar from my study of history. I know what those vehicles are and can identify them at range, might even be able to tell you some interesting facts about them without needing to look at the descriptions or fluff. I know what the capabilities of some of those rifles and weapons are, and what the troops I shot from great distance were carrying and had gone through or would be going on to do. It felt good to revisit the era.
My question for you all would be this; What genre do you miss? is there a particular subject or period you 'know' well enough to get a feeling of satisfaction from when you see them take a leading role in games? Or is there one that you get frustrated about when you can spot the inaccuracies in a game or universe?
Our first livestream concluded after nearly 5 hours of broadcasting and I have to say I've developed a lot of respect for those big name Twitch and Youtube folks. It's not easy finding things to talk about or even remember to talk that long. Normal game outings can go for long stretches of silence with everyone focused on the tasks in-game. I did enjoy interacting with you all in chat though and you have my apologies again if I mangled your screen name.
As a recap, Mark and I were playing the Division for the duration of the stream. We were joined by two friends throughout that time. We knocked out several of the larger missions and crept closer to the end-game levels. The stream in general had some hiccups. Broadcasting from the Xbox One itself has some menu issues involving options that refuse to stay selected. Our party chat refused to come through so most of the time it was just one or the other of us talking to nothing. Or at least that's how it seems watching the broadcast back via the twitch app. If you were watching from our website's stream page you most likely got the full experience. These and more we will be looking for solutions to before next weekend. Also that new headset I mentioned in my last post should be in, and i wont have to nearly eat my microphone to be heard clearly over the game sound.
If you have suggestions for types of games or specific titles you'd like us to livestream let us know and we will look in to them. Stick with us and check back here to our blogs and our Facebook page for info. Much more to come!
When the Xbox One launched in November of 2013 it ran about 500.00 USD. Though the price has gone down if you want to upgrade or replace any of those things you plug or connect to it you may quickly find yourself matching your initial investment. Is it worth it?
Tomorrow evening is our first live stream, which you can watch right here on the website by going to the tab marked 'stream' or by searching us out on either Twitch.tv's website or mobile app. To say I am nervous would be an understatement. It's not that I worry about the technical aspects of the stream (they've been tested) or whether or not you fine folk will be watching, it's the quality of the stream. Specifically the audio. Regardless of the Xbox One being my primary gaming device I have never really upgraded my peripherals. Rather I had not bothered to begin the process of shelling out fractions of the original cost of the machine on things to plug into it such as controllers and a new headset. That is until last month when I purchased the Elite controller (150.00 USD on Amazon), which required some thought. I'm glad I bought it as the thing is amazing for shooters and Forza. It feels every bit like the controller that should have come with the console in the first place. But the thought became necessary when i looked at that price tag. The same thoughts crossed my mind again when I started looking at headsets today.
I have a tendency to look for the 'best' thing when I'm looking for new tech. You should see the portable digital recorder I picked up for the podcast last week, cradled in it's orange waterproof storage case with it's handle and double clasp openings the thing looks absolutely mint. It's hard to settle for the the middle of the road option, but in headsets I had to. A quick amazon search and a trip to reddit will yeild dozens of options, all supposedly the best in true internet forum fashion. The consensus seems to be that the Astro A50's are the top of the heap, and at 300.00 USD a pop i would certainly hope so. I settled on a set of Turtlebeach XO4 stealth ($90.00) which came in towards the top of the smaller heap and you'll be hearing the results of this investment by our second stream. If you've been following along so far that's $240.00, about $60.00 less than buying a second console for a controller and a headset. No external hard-drive for expanded storage. No rechargeable battery packs or fancy stands and system coolers. How would rate an additional investment such as this one? What if anything have you purchased for your own systems? Was it worth it to you? let me know!
The Division experience for me began Tuesday evening with a phone call to Microsoft's store support line. Me and the rest of the gaming world who had chosen to order a physical copy of the game were without our copies on release day. The promise that the game would arrive within 48 hours was scripted and the customer service person on the line was uninterested in providing any help. An hour and a manager later and I had been credited with enough Xbox dough to pick up the digital copy of the Gold edition. The download commenced and I promised myself that no coupon was worth the obsolescence of ordering a physical copy of anything ever again.
At 6:00pm on launch day I was finally roaming the streets of Manhattan. And I was happy to observe that there hadn't been any huge changes since the open or closed betas. The atmosphere and pacing of gameplay were still just as exciting to me as they were a month or more ago. My initial reaction was that I had made a good call and I could look forward to many days of being dead on my feet at work. That reaction stuck as soon as my squad came together. Mark and two mutual friends logged in and we painlessly joined up and were running around in the streets in no time. In two hours of gameplay we took part in some of the best multiplayer gaming I can recall in years. Full of dynamic movement and awesome firefights and a general feeling of content with the experience as a whole.
This evening that feeling hadn't changed. On your own, The Division can be a lonely experience. Not bad, but certainly lacking after taking to it with a group of friends. There is more than enough to do and match-making is fairly easy for playing with people you don't know to get some help on tougher missions..It is when you are in a group with people you know well that the developers really seemed to have hit their mark.Unlike a standard shooter where in fun is available assuming you have a good group around you and a solid lobby, or destiny where you are rolling the dice every time you want to run a strike The Division has for me at least filled a void that has been missing since the days of LAN parties or couch co-ops.And i encourage anyone looking for that to invest in this title.
There are some things missing that were prominent in the early concepts and trailers. Or if they exist i haven't found them yet. Such as the ability to play on a tablet in some roll with others on the Xbox. Or a broader variety of classes. So far it seems like its down to three tracks on the same character which come down to a medic, a support and an engineer/hybrid. I'm not disappointed enough to count these against the game.
I realize that when I have mentioned The Division on the show I've not really gone in-depth on the gameplay itself. And barring any massive problems or setbacks in my time I'm most likely not going to do so. I may have more to say on specific points as time goes by, but i feel like there are many sites and people who have already put out some quality work and pieces for anyone looking for those details and i encourage you all to go and search them out from wherever your preferred sources are. At this point all i know is this; The Division seems awesome right now. In a month I hope it will continue to be and avoid the pitfalls of its current generation console predecessors.
Check back in a few weeks after more time has gone by and listen to next weeks show where I am sure there will be some things said by the both of us.
My name is Justin, also known as Justinthulu, Those of you who have listened to Episode 69 will have heard a small bit about me, but I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself in a less 'First show I've been on' sort of way.
I am an avid fan of both traditional and video games. I've also been known to dabble in pen and paper RPGs. As I said on the show I play a lot of shooters and open world games on consoles(primarily Xbox One), but I'm not super focused on any one genre. I like my Forzas just as much as my Battlefields, and Minecrafts just as much as my occasional flings with Destiny. Steam gets plenty of my money- every time there is a sale- and PC will always be where I give indie games a solid try. Throughout my life videogames have been a constant companion, time sink and form of escapism on par with the small library of books I have insulating my home. I have enjoyed nearly every console from the Atari onward and will most likely continue to do so until they are replaced with neural implants. When we will all sit drooling while our minds wander whatever magical or horrifying place developers of the next few decades decide to send us.
In addition to games i am a huge fan of nearly all things Lovecraftian, Zombie or horror related. Books and graphic novels will never be something I don't go out of my way to enjoy. And photography and wanderlust round out my person.I look forward to sharing my gaming and geek weirdness with you all over the coming months as The Digital and Dice Podcast continues to put out new episodes for your listening pleasure!