Tag Archives: Savage Worlds

A Conversation with …. Ron and Veronica Blessing of The Game’s The Thing!

I’m really very happy to have Ron and Veronica Blessing of The Game’s The Thing and Smilin’ Jack’s Bar & Grill podcasts as my guests this time. We’ve been trying to get this posted for a while. Well, it’s finally here.

            Tom: Hi guys. I’m so glad you both are my guests. It’s been fun getting to know you through Pulp Gamer and   your podcasts. Speaking of podcasts, you’re both very busy podcasters. Tell us about your shows.

Ron: We’ve gotten less busy–some by design, some by accident–but we’ve worked on several shows for Pulp Studios. Right now we have The Game’s the Thing, which is our roleplaying show. We have Smiling Jack’s Bar & Grill, which is our Savage Worlds fan show, but that show is ending for various reasons. There will be one last show, and that’s it.

Veronica: Yeah, we’re almost down to one podcast these days, but TGTT is still going strong. The Game’s the Thing is a roleplaying podcast that focuses primarily on the games and the people who make them.

Tom: I’m sad to see Smilin’ Jack’s fade. I like Savage Worlds and you all are the experts. It is really helpful to heard about it. But I’m sure that you will continue talking SW on TGTT in addition to many other games. Why podcasting?

Ron: I got into podcasting to talk games and hopefully get some free stuff, initially. But it became so much more. It’s become my doorway into the roleplaying industry, and it’s allowed me to really hammer out my thoughts on game mastering and design. The real benefit is the friendships I’ve made. I’ve met some awesome people. And these days, if I get a free game I really like, I buy it anyway, just to support the designers.

Veronica:  I started podcasting because Ron bribed me.  Really.  He had started TGTT with a few friends of ours.  They talked about boardgames mostly and I wanted no part of it.  Then Ron decided he wanted to shift the show’s focus and talk about more roleplaying games.  The problem was, that to do that he needed a new co-host.  So he asked me.  I said no.  Then he told me that he had already set up the first interview with…::drum roll please::….Shane Hensley.  Now Ron, the big jerk, did that on purpose because he knew that I had a rather large geek-crush on Shane.  He told me the only way I’d get to help with the interview was if I agreed to become the permanent co-host.  What else could I do?  I had to agree!  I stuck with it because I like meeting new people in the industry.  A game really takes on a new feel for me once I’ve had the chance to talk to the writer or creator.  The roleplaying world is more personable then any other fan oriented industry and I just love that.  Everybody is so friendly and easy to talk to.  In fact, most of them are gamer geeks just like you and me.  I love putting a face with a book.  I love picking up a book in a store, reading the author’s name, and knowing that person.  Most of all, I love sharing that feeling with people who may not have realized that the creators of their favorite hobby are so incredibly accessible.  

Tom: I really appreciate your stories about your gaming experiences.  I can really see how the podcasts can build friendships. Those relationships are very evident on your shows. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and ideas about game mastering. On to the next question. Why do you play games?

Ron: I love the interaction. It’s great exercise for the mind. It’s also a huge creative outlet for me, especially RPGs.

Veronica:  Board games or RPGs?  I play boardgames mostly because Ron tells me to.  I play RPG’s because I love the stories.  Deep dramatic character interaction with intense scenes that make you cry and give you butterflies in your belly until you find out how it’s all going to work out next week.  Yeah, that’s what it’s all about. 

Tom: I agree. RPG’s and game design are my creative outlets. Creating stories is so awesome. Not knowing where they are going, the sense of discovery, tension and anxiety solving puzzles. I play for the same reasons. It’s social. It’s fun. And it’s good for my mind. Ok. Standard question – What makes a great game?

Ron: That’s tough to quantify. A strong, consistent paradigm is key, I think. More than anything else, I think a great group makes a great game.

Veronica:  Any game can be a great game if you’ve got the right group.  Communication is the key.  Keep your group on the same page.  Talk about what you want and what you don’t want, change what you need to, then go for it.  If everyone is having fun, then it’s a great game. 

Tom: Those are interesting answers. A different take on the question from most. Yeah, communication is so very important.  I know you do some playtesting.  What is the hardest part about playtesting?

Ron: For me, it’s the pressure of presenting the game “right” to the players, so I can get the best possible feedback for the designers.

Veronica:  I don’t like saying bad things about people’s games.  People put so much heart and soul into these things and then when I have to tell them that something doesn’t work, or worse, that the concept or the system is lousy I just feel horrible.  That’s why I make Ron do that part. 

Tom: Ha! I agree with you Ron. I get that feeling introducing any game new to a group. Standard question #2 – What makes a great player?

Ron: Speaking of natural talent, I would say the ability to balance character perception with the fact that you’re playing a cooperative game. A little bit of improv ability doesn’t hurt either. For a player who wants to improve their art, I’d recommend reading Play Unsafe by Graham Walmsley, and try some of that stuff.

Veronica:  Agreed.  Play Unsafe is a must read.  I think a great player is defined by how much they’re willing to make a total fool of themselves at the table.  Props, cheesy accents, lots of speaking in character, stuff like that.  You don’t need to be a good actor, just have a willingness to throw yourself into a role head first and darn the consequences.  A great player also remembers that their best assets are the people sitting around them.  The greatest gamers I have played with always made me feel like a better roleplayer just by being at the same table as them.  Draw your fellow players into scenes and really get things going. 

Tom: I really need to buy Play Unsafe. I like using things to immerse people in a game setting. Accents particularly, as you may have figured out. I really like your answer Veronica – ‘A great player also remembers that their best assets are the people sitting around them.’ That is awesome. What is your most memorable gaming moment?

Ron: Probably getting a legitimate cry out of my players when I put them in a situation where they had to re-kill a loved one in a Deadlands Classic campaign.

Veronica:  Those were totally stage tears.  Really.  Okay maybe not.  I think my most memorable moment was probably when my character in the same Deadlands Classic campaign realized that she was an alcoholic after almost killing her best friend.  There was shouting, there were tears, it was great.  I also had several really awesome moments during a homebrew savage supers campaign as my android character gradually came to the realization that she could be more than her initial programming.  It was a really great character transformation that totally took on a life of its own as we went. 

Tom: Awesome, awesome! Veronica, those sound like really powerful stories. That’s what is so great about role playing – building stories. Whether they are funny, touching, or oddball, creating a cool story speaks to me in such a strong way. Seeing your character change through the story is so very cool. What’s next for each of your shows?

Ron: TGTT will roll on–five years (this past) July. We’re trying to do more topical shows, but in the end, we just like talking to creators about their games. So from a format perspective, the main thing to expect is just that–us talking to folks about their cool game.

Veronica:  What’s next?  Well, I think we’re recording next weekend…oh, you mean in general!  Ron and I have developed a very complicated and technical system for choosing the format for TGTT.  I’ll share the secret.  We do what amuses us at the time.  Right now, we are finding that doing themed shows is very amusing.  That could change.  Roll the die.

Tom: I like the format or lack of, very much. It is very relaxed and conversational. It’s comfortable. You always put your guest at ease and we all have fun with you. Almost like I’m there with you. And you get awesome guests. Really top-notch.

Out of the blue question: What out of print game would you like to see reprinted?.

Ron: The Dragonlance and Marvel Saga games from TSR. I wasn’t in a place where I understood their beauty when they came out, and now, of course, I can’t find them!

Veronica:  That’s harder for me because Ron was the one who got me into gaming, so I’ve only been gaming for 13 (it is 13, right?) years.  Most of the games I’ve really enjoyed are still around, in some fashion.  Oddly enough, I don’t tend to get too nostalgic about old games.  I don’t have cherished childhood memories of primary colored D&D boxes.  I’m always looking forward to the next edition or rules update.  Deadlands is the perfect example; I fondly remember Deadlands Classic (we have the complete set in the basement), but Reloaded is totally what I’d play now. 

Tom: Well Ron one of your wishes is coming true. Margaret Weis is doing a Marvel rpg. I’m hoping you guys will get them on TGTT about this soon. Give us some perspective on the industry and where you see things going in the next few years.

Ron: I don’t see much change in board games, but I do in roleplaying. With gadgets like the iPad, I see the industry learning to truly take advantage of digital. The barrier for new creators is continuing to thin, and I think we’ll continue to see more “indie” stuff. Because of that, I see bigger companies shrinking more, as the “big” piece of the pie is getting smaller. I see the better local game stores coming to terms with digital–Bits & Mortar and various company PDF bundling initiatives proves that they’ll need to for survival. I already don’t buy games at local stores that refuse to participate in stuff like Bits & Mortar, once they’ve been educated.

Veronica:  What he said.  Ron’s kinda the industry guy.  Me? I see changes in people.  The internet has brought fans closer to game creators and each other in a way we’ve never been able to do before.  GMs can share ideas across the globe.  Players can find other gamers in their area more easily.  Got a rule question?  Hop on a forum and ask away!  Roleplaying is one of the few areas of entertainment that I think really has nothing to fear from the internet and everything to gain.  Think about it.  You have access to a wealth of information and ideas that can make your game awesome, but you still have to sit around your dining room table to play.  Best of both worlds.   

Tom: I totally agree with all your points Ron. Anyone can be a creator and have someone play their game now. I really like how you drilled down on one of the cool things about all this Veronica. Fans are closer to the game creators, for good or bad. And I think you are right – role playing does not have to worry about the internet.

Next question: What is your current ‘hot’ game, both boardgame and rpg?

Ron: For boardgames, I’ve been itching to play A Game of Thrones again–one of my all-time favorites. Roleplaying games are tougher to quantify that way, but I have been playing a lot of Savage Worlds lately.

 Veronica:  As boardgames go, I kind of adore just about anything Flying Frog Productions puts out.  Last Night on Earth is the first boardgame I ever publicly claimed to love, and for me, that’s saying a lot.  On the roleplaying front, I’m a Savage Sister all the way.  That said, I’m still all starry-eyed over the Dresden Files RPG and am just dying to give the Leverage RPG a good long run. 

Tom: Well you guys are kinda known as the Savage Worlds folks. You moved to Denver last year. How are things in the Denver area, gaming wise?

Ron: Gaming in Denver rocks. Denver has GenghisCon, which we enjoyed immensely. Later in the year, there’s TactiCon (on Veronica’s birthday) , which is slightly smaller but run by the same folks. There are various mini-cons throughout the year as well, and sci-fi cons with gaming areas. There are several RPG groups, including the Rocky Mountain Savages and Tabletop Roleplayers’ Network. Finally, there are several local game stores.

Veronica:  Meh.  We’ll see.  Denver has great cons and some awesome groups, don’t get me wrong, but I’m the kind of girl that thrives on the weekly game.  Ron’s new work schedule has been a nightmare and I don’t know very many people yet.  I left a truly awesome gaming group to come here and was getting some great gaming action three times a week.  In my opinion, Denver has a bit of living up to do yet. 

Tom: Any chance of seeing you at MACE this year?  Veronica, we share something – cons on our birthdays!!  MACE for me and TactiCon for you.

Ron: With the recent move, I don’t see us affording to fly anywhere this year. Good thing gaming is good here! We have reason to believe we’ll want to do some con travelling next year, though.

Veronica:  :(

Tom: I’m sad too.  I will miss you.  I’ll roll some 6′s for you.  A bonus question just for you – you knew it was coming – What is something about you that the general gaming public would not know?

Ron: For the most part, I’m an open book–perfectly willing to share! I’ll keep it clean for you, Tom. I have been meditating since the age of five. It was taught to me by my allergist, who was treating me for asthma. I always made it worse by freaking out, so she taught me to control my breathing and go to a different place.

Veronica:  My favorite question!  Funny, it always seems more fun when I’m the one doing the asking.  Hmmm…okay, got it!  I’m secretly a writer.  Seriously, I’ve got dozens and dozens of stories hidden away on my computer.  All fiction, no porn, and NOBODY gets to read them.  Not even Ron. 

Tom: Sweet. It’s neat that you are able to control your asthma Ron. And Veronica is a closet writer. You really should let some of them out Veronica. I’d bet they are really good.

Ron And Veronica

Guys, it has been so fun ‘talking’ to you both. I have always felt like one of the crew with you, especially after meeting and gaming with you. TGTT is such a fun AND informative show. I’ve made several purchases based on your shows. You both make it a unique thing. Thanks for being my guests and thanks for The Game’s The Thing.

You can find The Game’s The Thing and listen to why I think this is one of the top three rpg podcasts at http://www.thegamesthething.com/. You can contact them at thegamesthething@gmail.com or call and leave a message at 720-515-2257. Please listen. You will not regret it. And let them know that you read Go Forth.

Thank you readers for visiting Go Forth And Game. Please leave a comment about this interview or any other article. I appreciate your time.

MACE part 3 – Boardgames and Savage Saturday Night

So after Fiasco Chris and I headed over to the boardgame room to play some games.  Chris had brought several games with him.  While we were deciding what to play, one of Chris’ friends showed up.  Jim also had some games. One of them was Alhambra which neither Chris nor I had played.  Alhambra is a tile laying game about building the best, most luxurious palace.  You buy tiles to put together your gardens and rooms in place.  Points come from most tiles of the same color, longest outer wall, and points on the tiles themselves.  Chris won if I remember correctly.  Alhambra is a fun and thinky game.  We both decided that it is on our buy list.

Next we decided to play Death Angel, The Space Hulk card game.  This was a fun quick game of space marines versus genestealers.  And it’s cooperative.  This went well for us.  We won with just a

hair’s breath to spare. 

By now it was time for me to head out for Savage Saturday Night and some Shiantar action.

Savage Saturday Night (SSN) started last year at MACE.  Savage Saturday Night is a Savage Worlds event.  Lots of different Savage Worlds games run at the same time in one room.   It was bigger this year.  I think there were about 12 Savage Worlds games going on at once.  This year I signed up for Sean Patrick Fannon’s Shaintar: Immortal Legends game.  Shaintar is the Savage Worlds high fantasy setting.  I got there a bit late.  To my surprise there were 11 other players plus Sean.  I had been told that Sean likes to GM large games but wasn’t ready for this.  So I sat down, got passed a couple of pre-gens to choose from, and away we went.  My character was basically Legolas – elven archer extraordinaire.  The game was a continuation from an earlier game.  So some of the players had gelled pretty well already.  I was lucky enough to be sitting next to Sean’s wife (whose name I have forgotten).  She helped re-acquaint me with the system.  I also announced that at midnight everyone should tell me Happy Birthday.  Sean then gave me a birthday present – a golden bennie.   He explained that spending  the golden bennie would allow something that I wanted to happen to happen, if at all possible.  Very cool.

We were playing a group ‘like the Texas Rangers’ (not the baseball team the lawmen).  The first encounter was on a ship headed to find a magical rock.  As the moon appeared we found out that some of the crew were werewolves.  The ogre in our group immediately swiped at one in the rigging causing him to drop to the deck, right in front of me and the priestess played by Sean’s wife.  Fortunately (kind of) Ogre’s momentum carried him onto the deck too.  He landed between my guy and the werewolf.  And Ogre’s attack was gone.  The priestess was prepping a spell but I had initiative.  So Tok (my guy) climbed up Ogre’s back, jumped off of his shoulder, flipped in the air, and nearly decapitated the werewolf with my two swords.  Very cool.  I got some high fives for that.  And that set the stage for Tok.  He assisted in killing one of the other werewolves too.  We landed on an island and were greeted by a lot of undead of various forms.  I was near the end of the initiative line so I waited and watched as Tok’s comrades took out the bad guys.  Ogre was awesome.  The guy playing him was really good, playing in character, which was a lot of fun.  A couple of bone lords showed up and things started to look bad for us.  But Tok’s turn came up.  He was still in the rowboat.  He drew back his bow and landed a head shot on one of the bone lords, piercing his eye socket, killing him.  Ogre and a couple of the others took out the other one.

We ended up at some ruins where a troll and hobgoblin were asleep in a hut.  Our captain sent Tok and two others out to scout out the situation.  We discovered some ninja elves guarding the ruins.  I stayed put while the rest of the group, in two parties, engaged the ninjas and the troll and hobgoblin.  The priestess blasted a magic user that popped up and the rest of group one knocked out most of the ninjas.  Ogre and party 2 attacked the hut with the troll and hobgoblin.  Ogre actually jumped on the hut, collapsing it on top of the bad guys.  By this time some dudes had showed up in the ruins a bit away. Along with… a giant werewolf.  The werewolf swiftly attacked Ogre’s group.   One of them turned out to be a vampire who attacked me and a crocodile guy on my team after I got another good shot on the necromancer.  As the vampire went by Tok, Tok (who had no attack) tripped the vampire.  He was not expecting this.  He face planted and slid up to the feet of the crocodile guy.  Who promptly whacked him enough to allow the priestess to finish him off with her special wood staff.

Ogre and the others had pretty much dispatched the troll but the hobgoblin was giving them problems.  Then the werewolf showed up.  They were doing pretty good against it though.  All the while the necromancer was in the process of casting some spell.  I decided that he was the big threat and set about figuring out how to do him some damage.  I decided that I would once again try for a called shot.  I rolled to hit and did hit.  I then spent my golden bennie.  And this is what I wanted to happen.  As the necromancer weaved his spell Tok’s arrow would pin his hands to his chest and pierce his wicked heart.  Cool idea I thought.  But it gets better.  Sean took my idea and made it awesome.  He described the scene.  ‘You draw your everwood bow, thinking about how much evil this creature and his like must have caused, how many had lost their lives, how many had had their rest in death disturbed by him.  As you think on this, the magic of the bow grows and engulfs the arrow, changing it to everwood and the head to silver.  And as you focus on the evil sorcerer you see a shimmering form behind him.  You realize that it is a ghostly unicorn, the spirit of Shaintar itself.  You let loose your arrow.  It flies true and hits the necromancer in the chest, pinning his hands and piercing his evil heart.  At the same time you see the unicorn drive his horn into the evil creature.  The necromancer explodes a blast of magic, incinerating his attendants.  You have vanquished your foe.  Happy birthday.’

Everyone cheered.  It was pretty awesome.  Sean then did something I had not seen.  We voted for MVP – most valuable player.  We all wrote down the names of the three characters that we thought contributed the most to the experience of the game.  I voted for Ogre, the guy playing him was pretty awesome.  I voted for Sean’s wife for helping me so much.  I voted for me as I thought I did pretty good.   Ogre won as expected.  He got a PDF package of stuff from Onebookshelf.com.   And I won second and got a dice bag and some stones from Beautiful Brains.  It was fun.

That pretty much concludes MACE for me.  It was a blast.  Can’t wait until next year.



An Interview with Jodi Black of Beautiful Brains Books and Games

This week we have Jodi Black of Beautiful Brains Books and Games, a new online game store. Jodi is also, I found out, an editor of award winning RPG’s. I met Jodi last year at MACE and found her to be charming and fun. So when I found out she had opened an online store I thought it was a good opportunity to interview her about it.

Tom: So Jodi, tell us about yourself and your store.

Jodi: I’ve been an RPG editor for the past 5 years (building on my experience as a grant writer) and when the recession hit, I looked around for another way to bring in some income for the family. It’s not a huge leap to consider selling the books I’ve worked on as an editor! Thus Beautiful Brains Books and Games was born. The store is online- and convention-only, which allows me to do everything I love: be home for my kids and go to tons of cons. . The concept for my store is to be a “FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store)… Online.” At the cons or online, I like to listen to gamers talk about games they love to play or would like to try out and why. I love trying to help my customers pick out new products that they might not have heard of. It helps that I know a lot of details on the books I’ve edited, and on the ones I carry bit did not edit, I carry them because they fascinate me. I’ve been an RPG gamer for about 15 years so I am familiar with the industry, too.

Tom: I was not aware that you were an editor. That’s very cool. I haven’t heard of a ‘convention only’ store. That’s interesting. I think your focus on the customer is awesome.

Jodi (blushing): Well, thanks! I do love meeting gamers, so it’s only natural to offer them what I’d want for myself. I’ve edited for Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Reality Blurs, 12 to Midnight, and Exile Game Studios, and there is a new Indie group that has me on task for their first book which I should receive any day now. I love it. I’ve always been a grammar Nazi, and I clean up the errors spellcheck can’t flag. I’m also rather good at helping to organize and balance the flow of the book. Rules are not my strong point, but I figure if I can help a publisher clarify the rules so even I understand them, then they’re clear for everyone else too. 

Tom: What is the most important thing you believe a retailer can do to encourage or serve their customers?

Jodi: I think customers value cost, honesty, integrity, going above and beyond on the customer service, and a selection geared toward their tastes. A lot of gamers that are loyal to a retailer expect a discount on the items they purchase, especially considering we can all go to Amazon and get it practically 50% off. I offer a flat 10% discount and also have a “Minions Loyalty Program” that is based on lifetime sales.

Honesty, Integrity, and Customer Service are all aspects of this industry that are different from most. You sort of expect your bank to screw you on the fees every once in a while; but if a game retailer messes up once they are not easily forgiven. So it’s important to follow through on what you say you’ll do as a retailer. I pride myself on doing that. In fact, I messed up with my first credit card sale and still have a note on his file that I owe him $1.05! I’ve sent him an email about it and plan to make good on that the next convention I see him.

Selection is the key point that sets me apart from other retailers. There are so many facets to gamerdom that it’s just impossible to carry everything in a storefront. I’ve been fortunate to make good friends who own game stores, and some of them admit that it’s too risky to stock niche products like “indie” RPGs. Beautiful Brains is just RPGs, just the “indie” systems I have found and like, and just convention and online communities. For some businesses this is profit suicide, but I’d rather focus on just one thing and do it well before branching out. Besides, my market research supports my theory so far. 

One last thing a lot of gamers expect from a retailer is the ability to connect to other gamers. Most storefronts do a fantastic job of this by scheduling tournaments and providing game play space in their precious square footage (you have no idea how expensive it is to maintain game space!). Ideally the people playing games there are loyal to the retailer, but it’s a gamble. Some gamers don’t have as much time to spend every week in the game store. I personally have set foot in a game store less than once a month since we had kids. I think this is why conventions have become increasingly popular. It’s a weekend away—a vacation from the real world—to focus on gaming and meet other people who enjoy the same games you do. It’s also a hard balance for the storefront retailer to maintain, between which employees will go to the convention and who will mind the store, and what to bring to sell… which is why I focus on just the conventions. I have big plans for my website to encourage the sort of community you typically find at conventions, and to begin with I have the forums. There is more coming… big plans… really cool awesome plans… but that’s all I can say for now!

Tom: I’m intrigued! I can’t wait to see what you have in store. Ha! What is one thing you would like to see game companies do to support you better?

Jodi: Well, I certainly appreciate it when they promote me as a retailer of their products to their customers, like Third Eye Games has done. Most of them already offer discounts and freebies to promote their products, so all I have to do is be creative about what to ask for, and just ask. Trust me, they’d much rather I sell their products than them keep up with it! I really can’t suggest much here that they aren’t already doing.

Tom: What sort of discounts or special programs do you offer?

Jodi: I offer a 10% discount using the coupon code “ILoveBrains” on all my products, including preorders and new releases. I also have a Minions Loyalty Program that gives you a lifetime discount; 15% off after $200 in sales and 20% off after $500. I also run some specials at conventions. When we kicked off the website at GenCon this year I gave a 20% discount!

I also bring some products to conventions that I don’t sell online, things like closeout deals I’ve gotten from the distributor. Another reason to buy at the convention is no shipping.  But most people are just happy to have the chance to peruse a game their FLGS might not carry.

I try to sponsor an event that lets people play the games I carry, such as Savage Saturday Night at MACE. I’m bringing in pizza and sodas for the GMs an hour before the game time starts so they have time to eat dinner and set up. I do something extra for my volunteers, too, but what those volunteers are doing and what their rewards are vary from event to event.

I also have some plans in the works to make my website a destination and resource for RPG gamers, but I know better than to spill something before the details are worked out. “Like” Beautiful Brains (the store) on Facebook to get the latest updates, or subscribe to my blog at the website.

Tom: Your discounts seem in line with the rest of the world. I like that you are bringing even greater discounts to the cons. That makes an impression with people. When I go to a con, I want to get a deal. That’s part of the con experience. Offering items that other FLGS may not carry is golden. I’m big into indie RPG’s. Neither of my FLGS’s stock any of them so I have to order online for the most part. I’ve had success at cons finding those games also. I attend MACE. I love it. It is, as you said, ‘a vacation from the world.’ And it is usually around my birthday so it’s my present to me. It’s actually on my birthday this year by the way. So tell me Happy Birthday when you see me. I really like that Beautiful Brains is sponsoring Savage Saturday Night. That is a great event and Pinnacle does a fantastic job with that. I will be there. I will definitely be on FBook. I have this question hanging out there. You mentioned the economic situation. Why open a store now?

Jodi: Times are tough, make no bones about it. We’ve had to make a few sacrifices in our family and dig into the savings plan, but I feel pretty strongly that what I’m offering is serving a need RPG gamers have. To test the idea, I won a grant to take the FastTrac New Venture class sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurs. I also worked with my alma mater, Lenoir-Rhyne University, to conduct a market research study. Feedback from both sources convinced me to NOT open a storefront. That was a sobering thought, because what gamer doesn’t envision owning a store full of the games they love and getting to game as much as they want? But the startup costs and overhead are just too high. Research shows people are scaling back on the nonessentials like dining out and going to movies, but still make room for their hobbies. Besides, just one $40 RPG book can provide literally hundreds of hours of entertainment with family and friends, so it’s a wise investment.

And of course, no one else in my area was taking RPGs to conventions to sell. The success of my booths at conventions in the Southeast convinced me that investing in a good website was the next step. Now the combo of convention and online sales should support me enough to keep me employed full time. And that was the goal, after all. I also employ contract employees to help with the booth and events so the grant folks are happy that I’m spurring the economy.

Tom: I admire you for doing the research. This seems like a well-informed decision. You are right. Cutbacks are a way of life now. I went from a game a month to one a quarter. Your point that RPG’s (and games in general) are a good investment is spot on. Did you get any help or advice from other store owners? If so what kind of help?

Jodi: You wouldn’t believe how helpful the storefront owners were! They gave me breakdowns on their budgets, startup costs, benefits, stocking choices, hours, pay, vacation time… I was blown away by how friendly and helpful they were. I would just like to say for the record: Please support your FLGS. It’s tough to offer that space for gamers to meet in. But if you’re not happy with your FLGS, please consider Beautiful Brains Books and Games.

Tom: In your opinion, what makes a good player?

Jodi: I’d rather see people try gaming without worrying if they’ll be good at it or not. A lot of people I know who won’t try it do so on the basis of “I’m not good at math” or “I’m not smart enough.”

If a First Grader can do it, an adult can! But once you decide to be a gamer, there are a few things that make it a lot more fun for the other gamers and the GM (so I guess those are skills to strive for to be a good player). First, of course, are a good imagination and people skills. Players need to be able to visualize the scene in their mind’s eye since the point of a pen-and-paper RPG is there’s little to help with that at the table. People skills are also important, or else the social nicety such as letting each person have a turn to speak disallows others to play. Problem-solving skills and the ability to understand the rule set are secondary since the more you play, the better you get. Finally, a little acting ability and descriptive speech patterns really make for memorable characters. It’s one thing to say “I hit with my sword” versus “I charge at my foe—AyYah!—and swing my sword at his crotch.” As for math and reading comprehension, playing also increases those skills. Some games involve less math than others, and pretty much a First Grade reading level will, given time, let you work out the rules to play (GMs need to comprehend a lot more). This is why I love promoting RPGs to my kids’ friends and teachers!

Tom: What games are you playing?

Jodi: Not enough.  Our gaming group is currently finishing up a Savage Worlds campaign using the RunePunk setting and Plot Point campaign, although since I edited that book, our GM has changed the Plot Points a tad. We also get together with gaming friends that have moved away about twice a year to play everything from 4E to M&M, but we gravitate toward Savage Worlds games. At home my eldest runs a Faery’s Tale game when she can, and Clint runs a Dragon Age RPG game when he can. I have run a Savage Worlds “Leverage” game for my kids and 2 neighborhood boys a couple of times, once co-GMing with one of the boys who took the crew to the Moon! We keep trying to institute a weekly game night and failing, but the dream is still there.

Tom: You mention your kids a lot. I think that is so awesome. My kids and I game at least once a week, board games right now. But it is such a cool thing to share with them. I know that one of your children is an excellent GM. Would you mind telling us a bit about them and your family gaming life?

Jodi: Well, we are your typical busy family (or maybe busier than some, only I would be this crazy). It seems every day after school we’re running to some dance or music lesson or church or school activity! My eldest also has the acting bug hard, so we do shows with the local community theatre every time they’ll let us. I think this outgoing creativity helps her as a GM. My youngest is very creative, too, but in a subtler way. This past year we have seen increased use of the “hand puppets.” She uses her middle finger as a head and the four other fingers as legs. The little hand puppets go on lots of adventures, flying, sliding down banisters, picking things up… It’s very hard to make them put away the hand puppets since they’re attached!

Even though we only find time to game when we’re camping or when we put it on the calendar a week in advance, we talk about it literally every day. It helps that both Clint and I are busy in the industry, so it’s just us talking about our work day at dinner. And it’s not uncommon for my kids to say “Critical!” when I score a sweet parking space, so the jargon is part of our lives. The day after we’ve been gaming with our friends (which is about once a month) they want to know the story of what happened in game.

In the latest Faery’s Tale game, we switched around the types of characters, so that my youngest was played a Brownie instead of me, I played a warrior Sprite instead of her, and Clint played a Pixie instead of a Pooka. I can’t spill the beans on what happened, though, since she’s using that scenario for her con game at HickoryCon, and maybe MACE. 

There are so many games and so little time! We do have a good number of board games, but if we’re going to clean the table off, we might as well really GAME.  I think the last board game we played was Scrabble. Or Gloom; we love Gloom.

Tom: Anything else you would like to tell everyone?

Jodi: Something people find interesting is how I got into RPGs. I have a reputation for being something of a ditz, and it must be so since I loved watching the D&D cartoons in the 80s, but never clued into the idea that it was a game you could play! I was in college when I finally convinced the guys in my Lutheran Student Movement group to let me play a D&D game with them, and I loved it so much that I told everyone I met about it. My Grand Big Sis in my sorority (well, fraternity, actually) heard me and invited me to join her group in GURPS. I met my husband in that group and we are still gaming as a group today, 15 years later! We haven’t played GURPS in a while, but it still holds a special place in my gaming history.

Tom: Any links you would like people to visit?

Jodi: Well, visit my store, Beautiful Brains Books and Games and let me know what you think. I’m very open to creative constructive criticism. Also on my forums is a thread of research supporting the positive impact reading and playing games has on brains young and old. Check them out! I also try to keep up on the forums offered by the publishers I carry, so look for “Muse” there. 

Jodi: Thank you, Tom, for giving me the chance to talk about why I started an online-and convention-based game store. I think a lot of gamers think about opening a store, but not many do the research to think it through. I did my homework, took almost a year to study it, started small, and have big dreams. I think RPG gamers will enjoy the books I carry, and I hope they’ll make plans to check me out at the booth in the upcoming conventions. I’ll be at Con on the Cob in Hudson, OH Oct. 14-17 and MACE in High Point, NC Nov. 12-14. See you there, and Use Your Beautiful Brain!

Tom: Thank you for this excellent interview Jodi. It was a real pleasure ‘talking’ to you and learning about Beautiful Brains Books and Games. And about you. I’ll definitely see you at MACE both at your booth and perhaps at Savage Saturday Night.

Please visit Beautiful Brains Books and Games. Check out their FaceBook page. Sign up for the forums and have some interesting discussions with Jodi and the gang.  And leave your Feedback right here.

Gurgacon 1 – review up at Gamerchris.com

We had a big ole blast at Gurgacon 1 last Saturday.  It was me, Terry, Cindy, Kenny, Chris, and Zachary – junior GM extraordinaire.  We played a Savage Henford scenario I whipped up earlier that week.  It involved rage ‘zombies’ and tested most of the PC’s.  Chris’ Flynn was a battle machine.  I don’t think he ever got injured.  Cindy’s half-folk mage was the heavy gun while Terry’s thief did thiefy things.  Kenny had Keel the boatman/smuggler who was instrumental in enabling the outbreak to be contained and eventually cured.  Zachary had fun rolling dice for me and providing Lego men for the bad guys minis.  Check out the Hill Giant picture that Chris posted on his blog.

Savage Worlds is my system of choice now.  It is fast and fun.  I still need a lot of GM work to get things to run smoothly.  Such as keeping track of how many bad guys are around and still active.  I have problems with this it seems.  But more practice with the system is a good thing.

Head over to Gamerchris.com to check out Chris’ take on things.  He is very kind to me.

All the players had fun and the scenario was a success.  I will write it up and include it in The Henford Project.

Smiling Jack’s #2

There’s a new episode of Smiling Jack’s Bar and Grill.  They talk about MACE ’09 with a bunch of Savage Worlds pros.

Go check it out.

Feedback on Pulp Gamer Out of Character 85

Here’s some feedback on PGOC85:

Several games were mentioned in this episode: Loot, Mesopotamia, LaBoomb, Adventures in Oz, Alpha Omega, Space Hulk, A House Divided, Terror 13, The Pathfinder System. Here are my comments on each followed by some general stuff about the episode.
Loot – I own this game. It is a card game produced by Gamewright about capturing treasure ships. Players are pirates using ships of various strengths to take treasure ships of differing value. The player with the most points/gold at the end wins.
I’ve played this with my 11 and 7 year olds and it goes over ok. Play with them tends to be slow but I believe that with an older group it would play faster and more lively. The ‘take that aspect’ doesn’t play well with these two as feelings tend to get hurt. It is a good looking game with very colorful artwork.
Mesopotamia – I haven’t played this one. It sounds interesting but too complex for my group.
LaBoomb – This one sounds like a winner with my kids. I can see this being a big hit. I like Jess’s idea of using Hershey’s Kisses. This one is on The Buy List.
Adventures in Oz – a rpg. It sounds like a lot of fun and I want to find out more about it.  It is a 2d6 based game where you are play characters in Oz.  It reminds me of The Zorceror of Zo by Chad Underkoffler and of Wonderland No More by Triple Ace Games.

Two other rpg’s were mentioned – Alpha Omega by Mindstorm Studios and the Trailblazer supplement for The Pathfinder System by Paizo Publishing.  I haven’t played either.  But both are getting good press on the forums I visit and from the podcast community.   Alpha Omega is a space setting.  I like that the monsters are ordered by power level.  Neat idea.Trailblazer is an inexpensive supplement the tweaks the 3.5 system.   I might look into AO but I am not into 3.5  so Trailblazer is out.

One of the big stories in boardgaming currently is the re-release of Space Hulk by Games WorkshopHere’s the BGG link.  This edition is a high end production with very high quality components.  The price is pretty high too, around $100.  But I hear that it is in fact sold out.  I’ve not played Space Hulk but it makes me want to try the computer version.

Terror Thirteen is an interesting sounding rpg.  There is not much info available out there though.  From the conversation the game has a  mechanism that I find interesting – bonds.  Bonds seem to be buttons that the GM can push/hooks for the GM to work with.  I’m for most things that help bring out a good story.

Last is A House Divided.  And this one is a gem if you ask me.  It moved up The Buy List after listening to this podcast.  This is a Civil War game that can be played on different levels.   Here is the BGG link.  Being very interested in the Civil War, I would really like to play this.  You ‘simulate’ the entire war, playing out different battles until the end.  There is also an alternate history aspect that sounds neat.

That’s it for the games now for some feedback on the show itself.  I like the larger crew.  JD Corley has brought a love for indie rpg’s that I appreciate.  And he really looks at a game.  It seems he learns and works games well.  I like Jess Hartley.  She brings an interesting perspective and I like how well she fits in.  I miss Ron but I see he has a new Savage Worlds podcast that must be taking up some time.

All in all, this was another great podcast.

Thanks PGers.

Go Forth and Game,



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