Episode 26: Get Uncomfortable

AlbumCoverDerek is going to tryout for the show, we answer some questions, talk about getting out of your comfort zone in gaming, and make the show’s New Years resolution.

Happy Holidays!

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Put the Fun Back Into Fundamentals

Justin Suzuki

Justin Suzuki

I was putting up my Christmas tree just after Thanksgiving was finished, and I noticed how mechanically I went through the process of putting up the most iconic symbol of tradition I could think of. When I was a kid I got a lot more joy out of putting up the tree because it meant Christmas was right around the corner. And Christmas meant time off from school, gifts, family, games, etc. It was truly a season of joy. But as I have grown some of that joy has diminished. I still enjoy the holidays and spending time with my friends and family. However that innocent feeling of experiencing excitement for the season has gone away. I thought about if this was true in other aspects of my life and I was astonished to realize that I felt the same way about gaming. It isn’t that I hate to play a game, but like the holidays, that feeling of excitement and joy surrounding this hobby has diminished.

I acted as my own gaming therapist and I asked myself what is different. What has changed that has made my excitement for gaming dwindle? Could I identify the parts of my participation in the hobby that were sucking the joy out of the hobby? I came up with the following list of items that I identified as issues:

  • My regular game group: Guys if you are reading this don’t take this as a knock against you or anything more than what I am about to type. This is the group that I could always count on to challenge me as a game master and player. They were the ones that forced me to think on my toes and be ready for anything. But as of late our games have been less than inspiring. A lot could be attributed to me I believe. I think a cycle of negativity got started and I feed into it by not giving the games I run for them my all. But in all fairness they forgot just how awesome they are. My group has lost that ability to think outside the box. It is tough to get excited for a game when you know it will just be a paint by numbers session.
  • The mechanical nature in which I treat gaming. Podcasting and working and talking with people in the industry you get to peek behind the wizard’s curtain to see how things are done. I have lived not on the player or GM side of the game, but the creator’s. It seems like a simple concept to see the games for what they are, but you do lose a bit of the wonder once you see how they sawed that woman in half.
  • Allowing negativity to seep into my soul. As in life there are people whom are negative about everything or are simply jerks. If you say you had a good time playing a certain game, these dark clouds of negativity will tell you about how you did it wrong, or they could do it better. These are the people who cannot be happy unless everyone around them is miserable. And I don’t know if this is true, but a lot of them seem to be attracted to our hobby.

So what now? I love gaming too much to ever walk away. So here are my list of possible solutions:

  • To my game group. It think we need to decide if we still want to game together and if so then we all need to work together to figure out how to get ourselves back to that crazy group that would ride a large block of ice down a set of never-ending stairs, with a sheet as a drag chute (true story). I could fill books with the awesome tales we created together, and I want that group of friends back!
  • Seeing how I won’t give up podcasting nor wanting to work in the RPG industry in some manner, I will have to just learn to enjoy the games for what they are. I know this is possible as I have seen the creators of this game sit down and just go with it. There is a balance in there that I must find. And I think it leads into…
  • Get rid of the negativity. There is a lot of insecurity in ourselves and those around us, and this insecurity manifests itself in different ways. For me I have to understand that people have their own ways of dealing with things and it has nothing to do with how I go about my daily life or gaming. After all, there is no wrong way to have fun…well it might not be legal but we won’t get into that.

I stated before that I still have a lot of fun gaming. If you listened to our previous actual play sessions you should be able to hear in my voice how much of a kick I get out of playing. I get excited for conventions or other public setting games because the energy tends to be higher than normal, and I can feed off of that. What I need to do is possible and I think my gaming resolution for 2014 is to get back to working hard at what I do in gaming but not forgetting to enjoy the ride.

If you have any suggestions or simply want to commiserate please leave some comments! And I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to gaming more with you in 2014!

Game on!


PS – We are recording an episode next week!

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Actual Play: DCC Dread Dungeon of THAC0 Part 2

AlbumCoverThe conclusion of the AP of the Dread Dungeon of THAC0 played in the Dungeon Crawl Classics system. Justin ran a motley crew of gamers through this introduction game to this example campaign. The players were: Ed Doolittle, Ed P, Wendy, Lee the God of Games, and Derek. Take a listen and enjoy.

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Actual Play: DCC The Dread Dungeon of THAC0 Part 1

AlbumCoverFinally! The AP of the Dread Dungeon of THAC0 played in the Dungeon Crawl Classics system. Justin ran a motley crew of gamers through this introduction game to this example campaign. The players were: Ed Doolittle, Ed P, Wendy, Lee the God of Games, and Derek. Take a listen and enjoy.

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ThanksGaming is Coming

Justin Suzuki

Justin Suzuki

I know. I talk about ThanksGaming and the reality is a lot of you can’t attend. RPDNA has listeners from all over and therefor I am talking about something you probably won’t ever attend. But someone on our Facebook page did suggest I talk about what it is like to run ThanksGaming. And because I have had a few of you contact me about details in running an all day game event, I figured it would be worth writing about.

For those of you who don’t know, ThanksGaming started out a few years ago as an event called, “Rise of the Wombat.” Why the weird name? WombatCast was the first podcast I was on and when it came time to name it this is what popped into our heads. Original eh? Back then fellow co-host and friend, Matthew, was instrumental in getting things going. One day he and I talked about it and the next thing I know it was happening.

Total Escape Games, RPDNA’s unofficial second home and FLGS, wanted to do charitable work in the community and were gracious enough to donate their store space for an entire day to hold this event. To this day Total Escape Games remains a strong partner, and Sheila Higgins helps out in planning and preparing anything else we need from them. As time moved on the event has evolved and grown into ThanksGaming. We run TG twice a year and always we do it for charity. We also like to play games all day too, so this creates a great excuse to game from 9am-11pm.

Running an event like this is extremely rewarding on multiple levels. First off, I believe everyone should do something for their community. You live in your community, why not help out if you can? Not everyone wants to or has the ability to organize a game day event, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find something like it to attend, volunteer for, etc. Every single person who attends ThanksGaming is stepping up to do their part to help and it is appreciated.

Then there is the gaming community aspect. I want to make connections with local gamers, make new friends with people who share a passion for this hobby I have been obsessed with most of my life. I know some of you don’t have the best gaming community around you, and I feel for you. I want to make sure that I am always surrounded by a wonderful community of gamers. It is my hope that events like TG or other public gaming events only strengthen the gaming community as a whole. I want to always be able to find a good game to play in!

Then there is just the pure sick joy I get out of planning events like these. ThanksGaming is not a big event by any means, but it has its fair share of stress. I get a kick out of that stress. I like working with my team of planners and making things work. This is like being a GM in a big game that I get to play for a lot of friends.

The future is we plan on becoming an official non-profit organization and continue to grow these events we plan. This will make things a little more business like behind the scenes, but I am hoping it won’t diminish from what my goals are: Make money for charity and have fun. It all boils down to making money to help others and continuing to have fun, if those stop then it is no longer a positive endeavor.

By the way it goes much further than just me when it comes right down to it. I have a team of planners (as I mentioned before) who have helped out. They are: Ed Doolittle, Sheila Higgins, Matthew Ward, and Linda Weygant. I also have gotten lucky to have Robert Adducci jump on board and help get the word out.

I also need to thank the prize partners who are donating something for the prize drawings: Andy’s Movie Minute, Conclave of Gamers, Denver Gamers Association, Dragon Kings Project, Dune Trader Games, Front Range Games, Kranky Kat Crochet, Margaret Weis Productions, Reality Blurs, and the Rocky Mountain Geeks.

And to all the GMs and players who are attending, you guys make this successful and I hope I can continue to count on your support!

If you are going to be in the Colorado area on November 2nd, then come by and play. You can sign up here.

Game on!


P.S. There is still space in my Escape from Night City game. This is the Dungeon Crawl Classics/Cyberpunk mashup that Harley Stroh wrote. It’s a 0-level funnel set in the dark future. What could be more fun that that?

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Episode 25: Playing in Public

AlbumCoverWe welcome Sheila Higgins (co-owner of Total Escape Games), Lee has decided to step down from the podcast, We talk about the upcoming ThanksGaming our charity game day we help run that is raising money for Broomfield FISH, Our main topic is discussing public gaming (at FLGS and conventions) and how to run for the right amount of players and how to be a polite person in general when gaming out in the open.

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The God of Games Departs

AlbumCoverWell it is with a bit of sadness that I have to tell you that Lee is deciding to step away from the podcast for now. I assure you this isn’t due to some internal issues and it isn’t because we hate each other. Lee is a good friend and a wonderful podcaster whom we will be sorry to see go. He did want me to pass this note along to all of you:

It is amazing how life sometimes conspires against us and prevents us from doing all the things we would like to. I am at that point right now in my life where, for my own sanity, I am going to need to take a step back from Roleplay DNA and get things back on track. I was honored when Ron, Vern, Ed and Justin asked me to be a part of the cast, and I do plan to return to the fold once I have “cleared my plate” of a few things. I will miss getting together with the cast and recording our show, but I know I will be back and I will continue to see you all at the events RPDNA attends, as well as the local and national conventions I have attended since before the show premiered.

So I will not say goodbye, just: See you soon and happy gaming!

Lee “God of Games” Langston

Lee will of course be welcome back anytime he wishes. I like to think that Lee, Vern, and Ron are all still members of RoleplayDNA club and they are able to return whenever they feel like there is a gaming topic that must be talked about.

As for the future of the show, Ed and I are just as committed as ever to continue forward. In fact I will be releasing episode 25 tomorrow (no it isn’t the actual play of The Dread Dungeon of THAC0, sorry) and we have upcoming interviews to do for RPDNA U.

So while we are saddened to see Lee go, for now, we are excited with what is coming up for RPDNA! We hope you will continue to listen and read the occasional ranty blog post we put up.

Game on!


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Actual Play: Accursed

AlbumCoverThe hosts of Smiling Jack’s Bar and Grill and RoleplayDNA get together for a special recording of Accursed. The Savage Worlds setting that is currently in the middle of a Kickstarter Campaign. Take a listen as Ed runs Justin, Lee, Bill, Doug, and Chris (aka The Savage Mommy) though a quick run in this richly detailed world.

Big thanks to John Dunn, Jason Marker, and Ross Watson for letting us do this. They did want me to pass along some notes:

John Dunn said this: “There was one game mechanic thing that might have changed the play experience a little bit, but it’s not huge. Specifically, when Lidiah re-rolled her d12+3d6 damage against the Baron, he probably should have spent a benny to counter her spend. He probably wouldn’t have
been obliterated quite that quickly.

Ross Watson wanted to say that the PDF we were playing off of is a playtest version and they are carefully considering feedback that they get for the final book that will be produced after the Kickstarter ends.

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Justin Suzuki

Justin Suzuki

Quick note for those of you gamers who are or will be in the Colorado area on November 2nd. The P5 Network of shows is hosting another ThanksGaming event at Total Escape Games in Broomfield. Once again we will be participating in our favorite pastime to help raise money for charity. Hopefully you can be there to do some gaming for a good cause or support us by getting the word out or donating to prize support. Look for information and registration here.

Roleplaying games can be tricky if you don’t know what you are getting yourself into. Let’s face it, the majority of people don’t comprehend what it is we do when we sit around a table and tell the story of a group of intrepid adventurers. It is hard to describe this hobby to someone who isn’t familiar with it. However, people who are in the hobby can have just as hard of a time if they jump into a game system or theme that they don’t understand.

I mentioned in my TactiCon after action report that I ran a tremulus game that went sideways. Everyone had fun, but we had to ditch the game two hours in when it became very evident that it just wasn’t what it should be. Instead of a storytelling game of Lovecraftian Horror, we were playing “Blow up the sleepy town of Ebon Eaves.”

I had a player we will call Andy, because that is his name, who wanted to give tremulus a try. Andy is someone I have known for most of my life. He is a great guy and his play style can be best described as high-energy. Being a GM for Andy is a bit like riding a bull as in your only job is to hold on the best you can and hope you can keep things upright throughout the session. In the right type of game you won’t find a more entertaining person to game with. But Andy is not a collaborative storyteller kind of gamer. Not a knock against Andy, just not something he excels at.

For people who tend to play a lot of public games with people and/or games they don’t

Deadlands the LARP

Deadlands the LARP

know, you have to take some time to feel things out. You should try to match the energy and tone of the players at the table you are gaming with. I’m often reminded of the scene in the movie Maverick starring Mel Gibson. Maverick gets into a poker game and purposefully loses at first, but the whole time he is observing the other players to pick up their tells. RPGs aren’t competitive like poker, but I think the observation and understanding of the table that you are playing at is a useful skill. It allows you to not mess up everyone else’s fun and it helps you figure out how you will best fit into the game so you can experience something new and have fun as well.

I’m not saying you should change your play style to fit a game you don’t enjoy long term. I am saying that in a public game you need to give different play styles and game types a fair chance to see if it is a game you wouldn’t think you would enjoy.

Great game masters will adapt a game tone to meet the player’s. That isn’t to say you should let a player turn a pulp game set in the 1930’s into a fantasy game just because a player wants to swing a two-handed sword. But you should be willing to take the serious tone of your game down a few notches and let the group of people having fun continue to do so.

What went wrong with the tremulus game I mentioned earlier? It was my fault as much as it was Andy’s. I was wrong in not pulling Andy aside and sorting out his expectations for the game and trying to match them up to what was going on. I let the game get away from itself. Andy went with high energy from the get go and didn’t take the time to get a feel for the tone of the game. We both had fun because he and I can make eachother laugh. And lucky for both of us it was a table of friends who know us as gamers fairly well. If it was a table of strangers I am sure they would have demanded their money back.

Convention or public games are your chance to play with new people, try out new games, and get out of your comfort zone. Don’t rob yourself of an opportunity to grow as a gamer. And if you ever game with Andy, try to just let your body go limp when you eventually hit the ground.

Game on!


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TactiCon 2013 Wrap-Up

Justin Suzuki

Justin Suzuki

If you calculated the number of hours of sleep that every gamer loses by attending a gaming convention, you get an interesting result…But I’m too tired to tell you what that is at the moment.

TactiCon 2013 went well for me. Despite construction at the con location, inability to sleep, and eating poorly it could have gone much worse. But the Denver Gamers Association and the people who attend always make these conventions worth the sleep deprivation and bad food.

My Thursday night started out with my Protocol 5: Realms of Cthulhu game. This game was made wonderful by the players who really ate up the paranoia I introduced through a series of notes that got passed around the table. At one point there was a classic standoff as everyone had guns pointed at each other because they decided to turn the paranoia up to ’11.’ But in the end they escaped insanity and destroyed a space station filled with creatures that melt your sanity away.

Friday morning started out with me running The Dependables. This Agents of Oblivion game is all about a group of retired agents who get brought back into action when a fishing trip runs afoul of two Cheyenne groups trying to either save or end the world. The best part of this game were the players who purposefully played up the Elderly hinderance. So many chases ended before they started, but slow and steady won the day.

The afternoon and evening of Friday I got to run tremulus. Both games were so very different from one another. In the afternoon I got a group who were very much into the spirit of discovery. Figuring out where the children of town were disappearing off to. Was there really a monster terrorizing the woods just outside of the old farm?

The evening tremulus game was a lesson in making sure you play a game that is best suited to you. Andy (friend, brother, game destroyer) wanted to try out tremulus so we got a few of us together to try it out. It was like throwing a stick of dynamite into a koi pond. Sure something happened, but not anything that should have. Andy admitted that perhaps a collaborative storytelling game that is more about horror and suspense wasn’t his speed. To be fair, I should have included more cyborgs to keep Andy happy.

Saturday I ran Dungeon Crawl Classics: Sailors of the Starless Sea. I took eight players and they each ran four zero-level PCs. This game was a wonderful time from start to end. It started with a massive group of angry villagers descending on the ancient keep and a large portion of them meeting their early demise in a cave-in. Near the end Mesmo the Fortune Teller went mad and tried to kill a fellow party member. Mesmo couldn’t foresee his own death and sacrifice. Poor Mesmo…We hardly knew ye. In the end only ten PCs survived to the end…I’ll try harder next time.

Savage Saturday night found me running The Dream Team. This is a game I will have to think on. I had fun but I think the PCs (all heroes from other fictional worlds) are the game’s greatest strength and weakness. This may be a topic for a future show. I ended up running it Sunday morning as well, still entertaining, but a tired group of players and GM make it hard to get the plot ball rolling. Mostly because the game relies on the players to truly roleplay the characters. And I think, as a GM, I leaned on the players too much on this concept game.

Another highlight was getting to meet Tim Brown, Patrick Kapera, and Ed Wetterman. All three are talented game creators who were wonderful to a fanboy like myself. And I hope I can get each of them on RPDNA U soon! Mr. Shane Hensley from Pinnacle was there (as we talked about on his episode of RPNDA U) and was a treat as always.

Lessons learned from this convention:

  • When I say that I should only hang out and talk for long enough to finish my drink, it will take at least two hours to finish said beverage.
  •  Free time to play other games not signed up for is a myth.
  • I can enter the vendor room without spending money, but the purchases not made continue to haunt me.
  • Convention games will live or die based on the energy at the table, as a GM I can help get people more energetic to play.
  • You should not play with the same group of people in every game. You are denying yourself some great opportunities to play in games with other people.
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics modules use words that some people have never heard of. “Menhir” got a few head scratches.
  • Even in this fun hobby there are angry people who seem to get no pleasure out of gaming. We need to give these people a name so we can categorize them.

Game on!



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