Monday, Wednesday, Friday for articles. Wednesday and Saturday for Noob’s Book Club. Seems like a reasonable schedule to get everything done for the page weekly, right? Ah, but best laid plans and all that, I suppose. And, so Noob’s Book Club went almost an entire month without and update. Yesterday, we took Quinn to his first swim meet. So, instead of Friday, you get Turn of Fortune’s wheel (the last Planescape book in my series) on Saturday.
I never know how to properly review adventures on the page. One time, when I thought I might be able to follow up the Noob’s Book Club series on Ready Player One with a series of the trials of Wade, I looked through the whole adventure. Also, as you know, I care nothing about spoilers. However, since 99% of the fun of these is the surprise for players, I want to keep that surprise for them. So, I’ll just talk about the introduction.
Beginning of the End
What a better way to start something. Juxtapose it with the end. And, so it is that the writers of this adventure took that advice. The further up the ante by giving lower level characters the chance to help correct a glitch affecting the whole multiverse. I must say. That’s quite the hook. Especially when you consider that Quinn and I collected dinosaurs for a prince and then I wrote a classic haunted pirate ship adventure for our second time playing when we get a chance to sit down again.
Third level characters traveling through portals to a city that allows them to then travel through a multiverse of other realms. I must say that’s pretty amazing Add to it that it says that they will brush shoulders with immortals. I might take a break from writing for a while and use this one as our third adventure. Perhaps I can even get the rest of the family hooked on the game finally.
Turn of Fortune’s Wheel sounds like so much fun. Over the next couple of weeks, I want to read more to prepare for a possible play session with the whole family on Christmas break. I need to have them create characters and level them to three. But, other than that, I don’t see much of an obstacle to making that happen. Look for the follow up next year.
A few weeks ago, a post came across my Facebook feed from That’s Entertainment, the best local comic book store within 50 miles of my house. They said that they planned to host a miniature painting contest that was beginner friendly. I, very much a beginner when it comes to painting miniatures, immediately followed the link and signed up. And, so starts the story of how I entered a painting contest.
Technically, I actually entered nothing. They gave us 3 hours to start painting at the store. I took advantage of two of those hours and then wandered around the store for about 45 minutes to look for some back issues and find some new series to read. The latest TMNT story looks awesome and now I think I might order some older trades like the one for “The Last Ronin”.
The Miniature in Question
A few other competitors recognized this monster from their travels in Dungeons and Dragons. They also seemed to come in with plans and color schemes. Since I mostly just played with Quinn and the kids at school, I never encountered a hellwasp in game. I came in with the plan to try to make it look as much like the instructions as possible. To borrow a phrase from The Lego Movie, “I like to follow the instructions.”
I went with what I knew and primed the model black. Some others primed in their primary color and I think I might try that technique on some of my models because I like the look of their models. Also, the black base swallowed some of the highlights from the drybrush and made the model look dark. Another painter said the same thing about his.
Image 1 of 6
I like that the camera picks up some of the detail that my eye misses. Makes me feel better about my technique. Because, looking at it while I was painting, I felt defeated. Nothing worked out the way I wanted and I started to think that I wasted 15 dollars. Then I saw the pictures and I found the inspiration to keep going. I felt excellent after painting the wings. I really like how they look.
The Finished Product (For Now)
I still have to do some work. It looks too blue for my liking. The actual one has more of a purple look, but that’s not too big a deal. I also want to blend the wings better. But, when I showed it off to my family, Liam said, “That looks cool!” So, I felt even better about it. Join me in a couple of weeks so you can hear the actual story of how I entered a painting contest.
I missed a couple of days of updates. I planned on doing this one on Thursday and 2022 Console GOTY yesterday. If I’m being honest, which I often am, console GOTY would be only slightly less difficult than choosing PC GOTY was. I played about an hour of the Red Dead Redemption II prologue this morning. Great game. Also, released four years ago. Other older games we enjoyed this year; Mario Kart and Mario Party on the Switch. Liam and Quinn played a ton of the new Pokemon, so I could have them write a guest article about that one. Thankfully, 2022 Tabletop GOTY is much easier to pick.
An argument that the choice is virtually automatic has merit. But, we tried other games this year. Quinn and I played Roll Player Adventures a couple of times. Our family broke out several family trivia games during the year. I know those aren’t traditionally thought of in the same category as Dungeons and Dragons, but they are all tabletop games. So, let’s explore why the old lady gets our 2022 Tabletop GOTY.
Dungeons and Dragons with Quinn
We started the year with momentum on the D&D front. I wrote one adventure that Quinn and I played through. That gave me ideas for other adventures. I finally followed up by writing almost all of a second adventure that starts on a haunted ship and ends in a harpy cave. I wanted to play that adventure during this vacation, but most of our plans went for naught this vacation.
Just looking at that map makes me want to finish the adventure the whole way through and play it with Quinn. In fact, I just searched for the Starter Set box with all of our characters in it. And, I found it! So, after I finish this article, time to finish that adventure. We still have a couple of months until February vacation, but maybe I can convince him to play one of these weekends. I think this one might take a couple of play sessions to complete.
Dungeons and Dragons at School
I started running the D&D club at the high school at my old job a couple of years ago. Mostly, I just sat there and planned or corrected as my faithful group of 4 to 6 gathered in spite of the threat of Covid to play their favorite characters. The group expanded to 8 regulars last year and even grew as much as 12 during a couple of the meetings.
This year, they talked me into taking the middle school club as well. Before I left the job, my reputation (and, more likely, Stranger Things) helped grow the club to two high school groups of about 6 to 8 and three to four middle school groups. One played consistently from week to week. The other groups moved, merged, and sometimes fought among themselves. Mostly, we enjoyed our time together. I even ran a group for several weeks. We finished most of the prologue for Curse of Strahd and then played through some of the Dungeon of the Mad Mage in my last session with the group.
I think I made a case for Dungeons and Dragons as our 2022 Tabletop GOTY. Looking ahead, there might be some competition for the old lady. I bought a Pathfinder starter set from Humble Bundle that has a solo adventure that might inspire me to play that more. I also bought some Warhammer 40k books and want to make some characters for that game. Finally, I somehow acquired a starter set for a Fallout RPG that might or might not be discontinued. So, look out for them in addition to D&D in 2023.
At the beginning of the month, I realized that I needed to play the role as DM in our humble school Dungeons and Dragons club. Thanks to Stranger Things, the game blew up this year and everyone wants to play. In a flash of inspiration (or dorkiness…or both), I decided to pick up a Halloween related adventure to lead a group through. This is the last week in October, so I expected to go out with a bang with our Curse of Strahd finale.
Best laid plans and all that. The sixth grade and, my entire play group, went on a field trip to the Museum of Science in Boston. They told me the day before that the trip would end around 3:30, which is when the group usually started to get antsy and disbanded for the afternoon. So, imagine my surprise when I heard a knock on the door at about 3:15.
Sometimes Teaching is About Cutting Your Losses
Initially excited to be able to lead the group again, that quickly changed. They took almost 20 minutes to settle down. One would say, “Let’s get started.” to the others, then jump up and another would repeat the process. So, I should have known that things might not go well.
When we finally sat down to play, things initially went okay and my fears started to subside. Then, one of the players tried “massaging” a die roll here and there. I called him out on it once during a “hit roll”. Towards the end of the session, I let one go. It was only an initiative roll. It felt like the right thing to do, but it clearly wasn’t.
Another player got angry about it and refused to roll for his turn during combat. When we finally convinced him to do so, he rolled a hit and then intentionally knocked the die over to a miss. I threw my hands up and said, “Sorry, guys, I can’t do this today.” They started some in fighting and I laid my cards on the table. “No, it’s all of us. This just isn’t working right now. We’ll try again next week.”
If this ends up being the Curse of Strahd finale, it ends not with a bang but a whimper. I knew from the beginning that things might go sideways and they ended up doing just that. The fear that I ruined D&D for my family by not being a great Dungeon Master the one time that we tried to play is now rising with these guys. They asked the last couple of weeks to play more on Friday and now I leave them with this bad taste for week. Maybe I’m overthinking things. Even so, I think I might try to find another adventure to run for next week. One of them said that they wanted to fight dragons.
Last week, I played the role of dungeon master for three middle school students in my Dungeons and Dragons club at school. I got the idea to play through the Curse of Strahd module with them because…Halloween. Later in the week, I then worried that they might get bored with the adventure because it is mostly story and, being middle school age, they’d want to beat stuff up. I need not have worried as they enjoyed it so much, they wanted to play again on Friday. Alas, I told them to wait until this week for Curse of Strahd Part 2.
Well, cut to this week. Because, well, middle school, many of them never showed up for the club this week. In my group alone, two of the three ended up as no shows. To his credit, the one who came still tried to convince me to let him play the adventure by himself. Granted, I probably could have pulled it off, but that’s bad D&D etiquette to play without your group.
Hack and Slash One Shot
Looking through the resource books I brought to school, I stumbled on a map for a goblonoid war camp. I quickly came up with the idea to allow the player to hack and slash his way through some goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears in a one off adventure. I know this doesn’t have a Halloween theme, and halfway through the adventure, I could have added Halloween and made it funny by making the hobgoblins throw pumpkins like the comic character. But, I kept it straight.
The player appreciated my efforts and played along with the bare bones story that I told to keep the narrative going. I even got two other players to join us briefly. I told one he couldn’t play because his character was too high level. The other played a level 1 character but ended up meeting his ultimate fate at the hands of two bugbears. These kids are too young to watch “Stranger Things”, so I should have given them the advice. You never split up the party!
We were both bummed that the other kids didn’t show up. But, thinking quickly, I made the best of it and enjoyed my experience being a DM with limited preparation. I need to take in some of my other resource books, though, so I have more ideas for when these things inevitably happen again.
I can also write down ideas as I get them and flesh them out over time to make them more entertaining and engaging. Sure, I got away with it this time, but I might not be so lucky next time. So, with all of this being said, hope for Curse of Strahd Part 2 next week.
I teach middle school and high school this year. Granted, I have more middle school classes than high school, but I prefer high school for now. I taught middle school over a dozen years ago and that ended in disaster, so maybe there is some residual processing that still needs to be done on that end. Last year, I took over for the Dungeons and Dragons club in the high school. This year, I also took on the middle school. A couple of the newbies wanted me to DM for them. I took advantage of Spooktober to lead them in a campaign with the adventure Curse of Strahd.
Session 1: Tarokka Cards and Creepy Kids
Another kid decided to join us for the session this week, so I had three players to DM. Even though they are all relatively new to the game and middle school kids, I felt nervous. When I tried to DM for my family, it went poorly and only Quinn asked to play again. I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t be repeated this time.
So, I took about an hour to read through the adventure ahead of time. I’m glad I took the time. I set the mood by reading from the Tarokka cards for them during the introduction. They loved it. I then wasted no time in getting them to Barovia by using the shortest method and dropping them right into the Death House mini adventure.
I worried I might lose them because, as the introduction says, “Curse of Strahd is more of a story driven than combat driven adventure” and they seem more like a hack and slash group. Plus, they missed many of the secrets in the beginning of the house. However, they got fixated on the stairs and ended up on the balcony fighting an animated armor. I also allowed them to loot the rooms along the way. That kept them going.
I finally got them to the point where they knew to look for secrets as much as possible. They got one of their partners to squeeze into a dumbwaiter to go up to the master bedroom. They looted the bedroom and are now in possession of almost 1000 gold worth of jewelry. I had so much fun and they did, too. They actually asked me to stay after today to continue the adventure.
I took the books home to do more research into the adventure so that it goes more smoothly next time. I ended up searching a little bit too much. Granted, they didn’t mind at all, but I want to get better as a Dungeon Master. Aiden said he’d play again if we got the Stranger Thing module. Of course, it now is a collector’s item, but I (*shhhh*) found a PDF of it. So, now I can use Curse of Strahd (and Quinn’s ghost pirate adventure) to continue to hone my skills for the next time we play as a family.
Our better half got married last night. I served as the best man and had to give my second speech of the year. I also spoke at the graduation for my school at the beginning of summer. As someone who doesn’t like public speaking (yeah, weird for a teacher to say), that’s a new record. During the speech, I used the introduction of the page. And, now, I’m back with our Introducing Spooktober 2022 post.
Introducing Spooktober 2022?
Ever since I started the page, I wanted to do theme months. Spooktober goes all the way back to the start of the page. I might have even done a post like this all the way back then and never followed up on it. I’m took lazy to check right now. Okay, my curiosity is stronger than my laziness. I found no evidence of Spooktober 8 years ago during the month of October, but I found my old Zombie Mill Deck post.
So, now, kids older, working less than I ever have (even if I have taken on a ridiculous amount of stipends this year), I feel ready to unleash the magic of Spooktober onto the page. It will start with a redesign, including new graphics and a new color scheme at some point over the next week. It will continue throughout the month with themed posts, including my first foray into DMing my middle school D&D group through the Curse of Strahd module.
Quinn and I still have to play the ghost pirates adventure that I wrote over the summer. I have one horror novella that I wrote and I can pepper in some teasers from that and also planned on writing some Dungeons and Dragons or Magic the Gathering fan fiction.
I have plenty of content planned for the month. Who knows, maybe I will come up with more and try to expand into YouTube or TikTok videos to help expand our reach. As I also said in my speech last night, things happen in their own time. Stay tuned.
We unintentionally took 2 months off this year. We played the least amount of games by far this year than any of the other years since starting the page. I can’t explain either of those. It also defies explanation how, in spite of them, we had one of our best years as 2 Guy Gaming. I heard someone say that they just blame everything on Covid. So, let’s go with that and continue with our Top 10 of 2021.
Top 10 of 2021 (Honorable Mention)
Atari 2600 – If I remembered earlier to hook it up, this might have actually made the list. Instead, I just hooked it up the other day and played through a few games of Circus Convoy. The games are so simplistic, but o much fun. Look for this to be on the list next year.
Jackbox Party Pack 8 – I talked about this one in the last article. We played it a couple of times as a family and had an absolute blast. I would have liked to have gotten it working on Christmas to play with a larger group, though.
Top 10 of 2021 (#10-6)
10. Comic Books – Like most of my hobbies, I lost the time I used to devote to comics. I dedicated more time to my job (which, if you’ve been reading the other page, you know didn’t ultimately pay off) and family (worth the investment always). Comics were the first to go. Still, I collect them and enjoyed the storylines when I stopped. I will pick them up again at some point.
9. Football – I swore of the NFL about a decade ago. I simply found less and less enjoyment from watching. Perhaps, as a result, I leaned more heavily into college. It helped that my friend Craig liked college football. More recently, Chris texts me about the NFL. As a result, I watched more the last couple of years and enjoyed it.
8. Hades – This might be higher on the list if I played it before today. As it is, I think being number 8 solely on the recommendation of Chris is pretty good.
7. Geocaching – I found a cache on a whim during our trip to the museum with Quinn in late summer. That triggered something because I started hiking/caching after school and on the weekends. Then, I got the silly idea to try for a full year (366 days) streak of finding geocaches. I’m currently at 118 days. You can follow those adventures here.
6. Dungeons and Dragons Duet – When we tried playing D&D as a family a few years ago, it met with limited success. I wasn’t prepared to be an entertaining and engaging DM and, frankly, maybe the family just didn’t enjoy the game that much. Quinn did, though, and on a whim I bought him some D&D dice. I have also been reading a page on how to play 2 player D&D, called Duets.
Top 10 of 2021 (#5-1)
5. Battlegrounds – I have a love/hate relationship with Hearthstone. Every now and then, it evolves to hate/hate. However, I admit they did something right when they designed Battlegrounds. It takes little time or brain commitment and is a good way to kill 10-15 minutes.
4. Magic the Gathering Arena – In spite of the fact that I played less games this year, I still logged in to MTGA on a daily basis to complete quests and get my “free” loots from the reward track.
3. Disney + – From the best show to come out in recent memory, WandaVision, to the Covid shortened and potentialy ruined Falcon and the Winter Solider. From the Mandalorian to the new Book of Boba Fett. From What if to Hawkeye. I even splurged for their premier access to be able to watch Cruella after prom earlier this year. As with most things, Disney took the streaming service and improved it by leaps and bounds.
2. Marvel Movies are Back – We saw Black Widow in the theaters. Christine, high on girl power, enjoyed that one more than the rest of us. I liked it, but it wasn’t necessary and a huge let down after the last two Avengers masterpieces. Then, we just saw the new Spider-Man movie. Those who say it is the best Marvel movie ever are engaging in hyperbole (both Infinity War and Endgame are better stories and movies), but it is the best live action Spider-Man.
Commander – I wrote several times in the last few months about my adventures in Commander. Chris and I finally played face to face while eating pizza and watching Alabama destroy Georgia in the SEC Championship. He Alabama’d me in the games, but it inspired me to improve my decks for the rematch next month.
As you see, even though we weren’t active on the page as much this year, we still found time to do the things we enjoy. Maybe this will inspire us to do more of them and write more and, who knows, podcast (inside joke, haha) more. Or, maybe this is one last hurrah and we fade into obscurity. Only one way to find out. Stay tuned.
Welcome back (after an unintended and extended layoff) to my Forgotten Realms Esper Edition article. Those of you who frequent the page on a semi-regular (as I make it difficult to visit on a regular basis due to not having a proper posting schedule the last couple of years) basis know that these articles are ways for me to highlight the “notable cards” of a set. If you want competitive cards, search for them. There are plenty of those articles.
Okay, now for a quick explanation of where I’ve been. Again, those who are regular readers of the page know that I get busy at the end of school, so that is often a time that the page is lacking content. Usually, though, I make up for it by starting my summer blitz that lasts until about February, where updates become sparse again. This year, my wife and I went to the Florida Keys almost as soon as school ended. So, the dark period lasted a bit longer this year.
Know that we still thought and cared about you. And, yes, I meant to say “we” there. Twice, Chris and I planned to talk about the new Modern Horizons set. The first time, I flaked on the recording and the second, we planned it for Father’s Day, which interfered with my plans. And, so, unofficially, 2 Guys Gaming is dead. But, I put a few hundred dollars into this page, so why not continue to throw bad money after bad and keep seeing if something ever happens here. Besides, I like writing and I like writing about games. On to Forgotten Realms Esper Edition.
White: I want removal, a planeswalker that turns into a dragon, and a pet gargoyle that enters the dungeon
Honorable Mention: (Cloister Gargoyle and Minimus Containment): I start with containment, even though it is right most in the preview. I sent this card to Chris and he replied about not liking giving the other person mana. I can respect that, but it hits literally everything. Having played against far too many Ugins in MTGA, I replied, “Eff your Ugin.” “Ooooh, he said, that can be powerful.”
I chose Cloister Gargoyle because I don’t think I’ve ever previewed/reviewed a gargoyle card, but I often think the cards are neat. This one also showcases a new mechanic in Forgotten Realms, the dungeon. After all, the set is named after the iconic RPG, Dungeons and Dragons. How are you not going to incorporate both into the set? Well, they have, as you’ll see in future installments of this series.
Grand Master of Flowers: I doubt this card has very much utility. However, I became enamored with the fact that it turns into a big old indestructible dragon god. I also thought, what if we combined this with the new Kasmina in a Bant deck. Oh, what the heck, my Timmy mind went crazy. Why not put together a five color EDH Superfriends deck and have all the Planeswalkers. Look for that deck in the coming weeks.
Blue: Give me another planeswalker, an almost lich, and some card draw
Honorable Mention (Mordenkainen/Contact Other Plane): I also sent Mordenkainen to Chris, this time with the comment, “Overcosted as hell, but a fun card.” This one is definitely going in my Superfriends deck. I mentioned in a previous article (and never finished the cycle) that I like drawing cards. Contact Other Plane lets me draw cards. It also brings another iconic D&D action to MTG. Roll a d20. Not a spindown counter. An actual, factual d20.
Demilich: You guessed it. This one went to Chris. I actually sent it to him while we were walking through Laguardia airport to catch our connection to Key West. That’s how much I liked this card. I said something along the lines of, “It’s not Legendary, either, so you can chain them.” I don’t think it will be as powerful as Narcomeba or anything, but it is going to be a fun, fun card to play in many formats.
Black: Give me a warlock, an indestructible zombie god, and some card draw.
Honorable Mention (Warlock Class and Deadly Dispute): Another mechanic integral to D&D is the class system. After picking your character’s race, you inevitably pick their class. This card showcases one of those classes and also a leveling curve to improve the quality of the card. Very cool design.
This episode of “this card is black?” features Deadly Dispute. Look, I understand that they’ve adjusted the color wheel recently to include different strategies for each of the colors. I’m just having some difficulty adjusting, I suppose. This card is really just Village Rites with upside. Even so, I still think it should be blue. Of course, I do.
The Book of Vile Darkness: I might have shared this card first with Chris. I definitely shared it early in the spoiler cycle. They took until the end of the cycle to share the Hand and Eye of Vecna, so I had no idea even what abilities that zombie might have. As you see, they’re pretty damn good abilities. Fun stuff!
The Verdict (Forgotten Realms Esper Edition is good, but not great)
A few of the cards previewed here are fun. I definitely want to build that Superfriends deck now and go off with some Planeswalkers. Also, I love the idea of building a stupid Vecna deck and trolling MTGA players with that one. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones to see me in casual with it. Until then (and until next time for the Gruul cards), have fun out there, fellow MTG nerds!
Okay, this one is a lie, too. Sort of. Remember last time when I said that I would take this week to discuss games that we received for Christmas. Well, that’s not strictly true. I actually just pressed purchase on the D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library about an hour ago. Since then, I’ve been looking at the adventures to see if they will, in fact, be good to try to get the family to play D&D again.
If this all seems to have come out of left field, you’re not entirely wrong. I mean, if you followed us on Twitter, you’d have seen that I was searching for an appropriate adventure to try to get the family hooked on Dungeons and Dragons. I want to get a weekly session going, if possible. This led me to purchase The Lost Mine of Phandelver on D&D Beyond before realizing that was the adventure we tried to play last year from the beginner’s set. Oh well, WotC can use the cash, I’m sure.
Well, Facebook ads finally got me this time. I saw an ad for The Arcane Library and visited it. Rarely does this ever result in me purchasing anything. However, this time it did. First, I downloaded the free adventure to see if the writing was any good. It’s very well designed. More on that in the review, obviously. Then, I bought the bundle meant to follow characters from 1 until level 20, I think. There may be some gaps needed to fill. Not entirely sure on that one. However, I then saw the D&D horror bundles. As the lone hold out from the first time, I think Aiden will get a kick out of some horror RPG. Let’s see if I’m right.
Writing: This doesn’t come as a surprise now that I’ve read the author’s biography on the web page. She’s a former journalist and English teacher. Nevertheless, and this will come as rich from someone who hasn’t edited a single post on this web page in several years, it is good to find web based content that isn’t riddled with spelling and grammar errors. Especially in a D&D adventure, that takes you right out of the fiction.
Well Organized: Along with the good writing, the adventures follow the well established outline for adventures set by the official versions. Each adventure starts with a synopsis and some background. This is followed by some nuts and bolts to further explain. Each encounter flows smoothly, building a rich tapestry of the story. As I read, I saw how the encounters worked and, more importantly, how they worked together.
Minimalist: Piggy backing off that last point, the books contain only the information needed to continue the story. I feel like part of the reason our play session last year got bogged down was all of the reading necessary to run the adventure. As a DM, I try not to be a rules extremist when playing D&D, but I think I might have just been nervous. I really wanted my family to enjoy playing D&D with me. It just felt like a natural play group.
Horror: Granted, it is mostly up to me to set the proper mood. However, if you’re going to advertise an adventure as horror, there should obviously be the seeds of that horror in the adventure. These accomplish that quite nicely. I already said that I saw the story grow as I read the notes. The same can be said for the horror setting. These stories have great creep factor.
Story: This may seem strange given all the nice things I’ve already said. However, even as a criticism, please understand that this is minor. To be fair, it’s said that there are only 7 types of stories that can be told anyway. This may even be more limited in science fiction and fantasy settings. Even the official adventures are limited in their scope. Just know that these stories aren’t terribly original. But, they are still very good.
Not beginner friendly: Look, I also understand that if you are considering a non paying career as a D&D DM, you probably aren’t a beginner. With that being said, everyone gets their start somewhere. But, if you are getting your start as a DM, I wouldn’t recommend these adventures as your first campaign. They’re just so sparse in their notes for DMs.
The D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library are, overall, very good. The stories are compelling enough. They have a definite horror vibe, even just from reading through them. That can, obviously, be tuned to your individual play group. I don’t regret purchasing them or the other bundle one bit. Now, I just have to get my family to want to play them. Stay tuned for that.
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