Extra Life 2016 – Five years of helping kids and playing games!

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Hard to believe that come November 5th, I’ll be hosting my 5th Extra Life game day! In that time I’ve raised over $9000 for children’s hospitals and Team Troll has raised over $18000! Why do this? Not only is it a great and worthy cause, but my now nearly 11 year old daughter has spent a good amount of time at Boston Children’s Hospital and we know what good work they do. She’s also been an incurable gamer for pretty much her entire life!

First and foremost, if you’d like to donate to my campaign, click this here link! You should know that I’m looking to raise at least $2200 this year. If I hit my goal, I will (as I have the pst four years) shave off all of my facial hair. No beard, no mustache, no goatee, no sideburns – no nuthin! I’m also toying with the idea of perhaps dyeing my hair a funky color like green if I get way past my goal.

What is Extra Life? It’s a 501(3)c charitable organization tied in with the Children’s Miracle Network who raise money to help fund children’s hospitals around the world. In this event, participants go on a marathon gaming session, this year it’s 25 hours! In a row! Thanks daylight savings time! I’ll be playing games for 25 hours and you’ll be sponsoring me to do so. Together we’ll raise money and help kids get better.

Throughout the day I host a what’s essentially a small board game convention at my house. My wife and kids are a driving force behind this and we have a rotating cast of awesome folks who drop by to play games, help keep me awake and focused and help to raise money for the cause themselves! I’ve included a batch of photos from last years event at the bottom of the post if you are curious.

Over the next few months I’ll be doing several things – first and foremost I’ll be asking everyone under the sun to contribute to my Extra Life page. That’s how I raise money for this awesome charity. As I mentioned with the mini-convention, we have tons of folks stopping by (usually upwards of 40 people throughout the day). I like to have games handy for them to take home as encouragement to get them out, playing and donating! To this end, my wife and I supply some of the games but we also ask publishers for donations. These donations we use towards several purposes. We give ’em out to participants at my event and some other team member’s events. We also select a few and play them on our game day.

That’s the scoop! You’ll be hearing more about it as November 5th draws closer, I’m sure! Now here’s some photos from last year’s event!

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Game School: Creating games with kids (in mind)

I consider myself a lucky guy. I’ve got two great daughters and I can brag about all the things that father’s normally brag about. But I’ve got some extra brag here – because both of my girls harbor a love of tabletop games. I feel slightly strange saying this, but it’s like I grew my own gaming group.

First I want to talk a bit about my youngest daughter, Luca. Primarily because, as the youngest child, she most often goes second when it comes to things (other than Gamewright games of course, where she goes first).

Last fall, Luca and I were talking about making games. She knows that I have a podcast, and although I do most of my design work when she’s theoretically in bed, that’s only a theoretical state which she often disproves. So she’s seen me hammering away at the keyboard often enough.

As some kids and many adults are, she was under the impression that I simply came up with a game idea, sketched out a few things, pushed a big red button and BAMF! New game!

We started getting pretty deep into a discussion about what it really takes to make a game – design elements, rules writing, play testing, and the lot. That’s when she announced that she wanted to make her own game. I was overjoyed! But she announced this about 10 minutes before bedtime, so we had to wait for another day.

The game that she designed, called Luca’s Diary is a fairly simple one – but as far as first game designs go, especially games designed by 8 year olds, it’s pretty solid. It’s a bit like Bananagrams (which she’s never played, having only recently become proficient enough with letters to really spell). You have a series of word tiles – “the”, “and”, “sister”, “school” and more. Each player also has a play mat that looks like a blank diary. Players scramble to grab words and make meaningful sentences out of them in their diaries. You can grab only one word at a time. When all of the words have been taken (or there’s only 3 or less left) the game is over. The player gets a score based on the number of sentences, and which words were used.elephant-tile

All in all, it took us about three evenings (post-homework, pre-dinner) to get the basic design down. We play tested with bits of torn paper until she was satisfied, and then the real work began. With me running the controls and her doing art direction, we downloaded GIMP and went to town!

She discovered that much like me, she loved envisioning a game, and even play testing the game, but writing easy to follow rules was a hard task. Even with the game firmly grasped in her fore-brain, putting those concepts on paper so that other kids her age could understand them was an epic task.

Game tiles were designed and everything was uploaded to The Game Crafter. Now she has a much better understanding of what goes into making a game. We still haven’t ordered a copy yet though, because she’s coming to grasp now with the economics of printing a game. At $37 a copy for what she designed (cost+shipping) she’s hesitant to pull the trigger.

This is her first design, but knowing her as I do, I doubt it will be her last.

pathWith my older child, Izzie, game design is taking a different tack. Rather than board games (which she still enjoys) she’s been itching to try out a role playing game. These are a bit more time consuming and harder to pull off for a busy family of four but recently her and I got some alone time. We were able to sit down and she rolled up a male elven wizard named Alfonzo Moonbeam.

She’s currently toying with ‘more elven’ names at the moment though, so Alfonzo may have an identity crisis incoming.

I decided to go the Pathfinder route with Izzie, for several reasons. First, I’m fairly familiar with the system. Second, she likes big, crunchy books with complicated plots (for her age) and lots of neat things crammed inside. Her eyes lit up when I handed her the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. This is exactly the kind of thing she’s looking to sink her teeth into.

She’s decided that she’s the elven equivalent of a 14 year old wizarding student (1st level character) and I’ve managed to drag one of my 42 year old friends into this campaign as well. Now I’m not only designing board games, but I’m also putting together a wizarding school and an adventure that will (hopefully) capture the imagination of my daughter and my friend.

Even though we’re playing a slightly simplified version of Pathfinder, it’s still looking like a chunk of work to put this together! Fortunately it’s the kind of work I wished I was getting paid for and it’s been quite fun starting off.

That’s how I’m kicking off my 2014 – gaming with my kids!

Extra Life! Play Games, Heal Kids – I’m joining Ben Gerber and I could really use your help and support.

24 hours straight, all board games, RPGs and video games, non-stop because I want to help heal kids. **Donate Securely Here**

I’m on a mission to save kids through table top games, and I need your help.

Boston Children’s Hospital treats thousands of children each year, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. These kids are facing scary stuff like cancer, cystic fibrosis, and injuries from accidents to name just a few.

I have a cousin, Gracie, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis. This year I will be walking in one of the CF Foundation walks to raise money for a cure and treatment. Until then, Boston Children’s Hospital has helped Gracie and many children like her who are afflicted with CF.

With your help we can raise money that will allow Boston Children’s Hospital to treat kids no matter what kind of help they need.

On Oct. 20th, 2012, I’ll join Ben Gerber in an attempt to play an epic 24 hour table top game marathon.

It’s my sincere hope that you’ll find it in your heart to support me with a monthly pledge or one-time gift that will go directly to my hospital. We’ll be playing games, recording podcasts, hanging out on Google+ and doing everything we can to stay awake.

Your donation is tax-deductible and ALL PROCEEDS go to help kids.

Last year, Extra Life raised more than 1.2 million dollars to save kids, but in 2012 our goals, just like the needs of the kids we serve, are much, much higher.  All you have to do is go to my Extra Life page and make a donation. Donate a buck, donate more. Every single dollar helps. I’m looking to raise at least $100 – but I’d love to blow that amount away!

Whatever you can do, pledge money, spread this around far and wide or start a pledge page of your own, I, my family and all the kids who need us to go above and beyond appreciate it beyond words.

Extra Life! Play Games, Heal Kids – I’m doing this and I could really use your help and support.

24 hours straight, all board games, RPGs and video games, non-stop because I want to help heal kids. **Donate Securely Here**

I’m on a mission to save kids through table top games, and I need your help. Yup, I’m doing another charity thing. It’s a little different this time though.

This time, it’s personal

Boston Children’s Hospital treats thousands of children each year, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. These kids are facing scary stuff like cancer, cystic fibrosis, and injuries from accidents to name just a few.

For the past few years, they’ve also been treating my youngest daughter. She was born with a very large, unilateral cleft lip, which extended up through her nose.

Children’s Boston not only corrected her cleft, but they treated her and our whole family with dignity, respect and honest caring. Because of their efforts, the amazing doctors and nursing staff, my daughter will live a normal, cleft and scar free life.

On Oct. 20th, 2012, I’ll attempt to play an epic 24 hour table top game marathon.

It’s my sincere hope that you’ll find it in your heart to support me with a monthly pledge or one-time gift that will go directly to my hospital. I will be joined by my editor Jonathan, who just happens to be the guy who hosts Geeks Explicitly and Wargaming Recon. We’ll be playing games, recording podcasts, hanging out on Google+ and doing everything we can to stay awake.

Your donation is tax-deductible and ALL PROCEEDS go to help kids.

Last year, Extra Life raised more than 1.2 million dollars to save kids, but in 2012 our goals, just like the needs of the kids we serve, are much, much higher.  All you have to do is go to my Extra Life page and make a donation. Donate a buck, donate more. Every single dollar helps. I’m looking to raise at least $400 – but I’d love to blow that amount away!

Whatever you can do, pledge money, spread this around far and wide or start a pledge page of your own, I, my family and all the kids who need us to go above and beyond appreciate it beyond words.

Cheating is the natural state of play for those cheeky little gits called kids. Here's why that's okay, and why you should embrace it.

Cheeky Little Gits

This kid is a cheat and a liar!

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately creating games for kids, and playing games with kids – primarily my own two girls who are 6 and 9.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the natural state of gaming for children is to get away with absolutely as much as possible and do what needs to be done to try and win the game or shape it to their satisfaction. I kinda love this about kids too, for  several reasons. I admit that my sample pool is pretty small – my two kids who are always willing to play games in the name of science, and a few other sessions with other kids. So, take this report with a grain of salt.

For some systems, this is okay. There are a ton of kid oriented RPGs out there, my own Argyle & Crew being one of them. These tend to go a little lighter on the rules than RPGs aimed towards adults. The fact that kids seem to like to cheat is one of the reasons I built A&C like I did. Yet, rather than call it cheating, I simply call it imagination. We’ll get back to this in a few paragraphs.

Of all the kids I’ve played with over the past few years, it doesn’t matter what we’re playing – board games, RPGs, My Little Freaking Pony, many of them tend to let their imaginations really run wild.  It’s an awesome experience. I can interject something strange, such as a Martian spacecraft into my daughter’s My Little Pony play session and not only does she take it in stride, it gets incorporated into her play in a matter of fact way. That’s not cheating.

When you’re playing Quarriors though, and she opts for eight dice rather than six, well that is cheating. Really in her mind it’s a much lesser form of cheating than say introducing my Godzilla action figure and my wife’s hairy Wonder Woman doll into the Pony mix. When she watches ponies on the tube, both Godzilla and Wonder Woman consistently fail to make an appearance.  Yet here she is playing with dice already and she just wants to add two more. Sheesh, what’s the big deal?

Why when young kids cheat, it ain’t cheating

Back to my game and imagination – that’s why when I made a game for young kids, I built into it the ability for the person running the game to say “yes” as much as possible. Mixing atomic age giant monsters with golden aged comic people and talking ponies who have no hands yet somehow still build trains and stuff is perfectly okay! In a young kids mind there’s no barriers formed yet between what is, what should be and whatever. They’re still learning all this stuff about the world around them and what’s possible – to a 6 year old, just about anything is possible.

Continue reading “Cheating is the natural state of play for those cheeky little gits called kids. Here's why that's okay, and why you should embrace it.”

RPGs for Kids: The Savage Peanuts

The Savage Peanuts Title

The Savage Peanuts is a role-playing scenario for kids, in which the players must rescue a boy who has been kidnapped by feral peanut people.

I use the term scenario deliberately. This is not an adventure; the story is not linear (well, except for the set-up).

This article describes a problematic situation and the characters in it, but does not describe what happens, or how the problem is solved. That is up to the players.

This adventure can be run in any role-playing system.

Setup

Thomas, a boy in the player-characters’ home village, has gone missing. His worried parents say he often snuck out of the house at night to drink from the stream near the village.

At the stream, any sort of investigation will reveal tracks in the soft mud near the shore, leading into the wilderness. A good investigation roll will reveal the footprints of a boy struggling in the mud, but even a poor roll will reveal the tracks.

The tracks themselves look like giant bird feet. Following the tracks leads to….

The Scenario’s Location: The Clearing

Dozens of strange, tall trees surround a large clearing. In the middle of the clearing, several strange creatures dance around a bubbling cauldron. A simple wooden scaffold has been erected over the cauldron, and dangling from a rope over the cauldron is Thomas.

Continue reading “RPGs for Kids: The Savage Peanuts”

(Indie) RPG publisher? let’s get a bundle of PDFs for the Wayne Foundation together!

NOTE: I’ve turned this post into a page – please visit the Wayne Foundation Indie RPG Bundle page for the most up to date news and list of publishers!

Along the same spirit as the Humble Indie Bundle for video games, I’m looking to start up a two week indie RPG bundle on DriveThruRPG. It would contain as many heavily discounted titles as we can squeeze into it  and 100% of the proceeds would go to The Wayne Foundation.  You’ll get yourself some exposure you wouldn’t have had before, and the kids who will benefit from the Wayne Foundation win too!

Ideally the bundle would be active from September 15th through the 30th.  We have about $70 worth of product for $10!

If you’d be interested and publish on DTRPG, let me know!  If you don’t fit that bill but know someone who does, feel free to spread the word!

Here’s who’s committed so far and what they are offering.

Jon Brazer Enterprises

Book of Beasts: Wandering Monsters 1 (Pathfinder)

Book of River Nations: Exploration and Kingdom Building (Pathfinder)

Player Careers Pack 1 (Traveller)

4 Winds Fantasy Gaming

Players Aid II: Monster Summoning Cards (Pathfinder)

Players Aid III: Nature’s Ally Summoning Cards (Pathfinder)

Dig a Thousand Holes Publishing

Time & Temp: Paperless Office Edition

The Impossible Dream

Dread

Third Eye Games

Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusades

Alliterated Games

Cannibal Contagion

Pawn and Hex Games

Jumpers

Wicked North Games

Azamar (c6)

Troll in the Corner (me)

Mi Gato se Incendia! (My Cat is on Fire)

Devious NPCs and Curious Creatures (Pathfinder)

Mirkmoot I & II (Pathfinder)

World of Aruneus: Orcs, Zombies and the Herbology (Pathfinder)

 

 

Old School Podcast – I talk to the future: an interview with my daughters, ages 5 and 8

Over the past few days I was able to sit down with my two daughters, Izzie (aged 8) and Luca (aged 5) to talk about their gaming experiences, and what our semi-weekly gaming nights looked like through their eyes.

The interviews happened over the course of a week, with the first interview happening just before game night (and bed time for them) and the second interview happening a week later, after they were “in bed” for over 45 minutes.  We discuss their favorite games, what they think we do all night and how much our GM swears.

[tags]old school, podcast, the future, kids, interview, rpg, role playing games[/tags]

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