Tag: Magic

D&D Campaign Building: Magic

D&D Campaign Building: Magic

So a couple of days ago I started building out a D&D Campaign – the first part can be found here. I want to try and write on it and add in more things a couple of times a week at least, might be more […]

High or Low – Magic in Writing and RPG’s

High or Low – Magic in Writing and RPG’s

When I was writing about fantasy last, see the Not Your Normal Fantasy article, I touched on a concept that I really didn’t have time to flesh out. That what the difference between high and low magic fantasy settings are. Let’s jump into the top […]

Not Your Normal Fantasy – Concept Article

Not Your Normal Fantasy – Concept Article

We all know fantasy pretty well, at least I’m assuming that we do. We’ve seen and/or read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. We might have read the Shanara Chronicles, Wheel of Time, Mistborn, or so many other epic fantasy series or watched shows like Merlin, Game of Thrones or Grimm. And there are certain things that we generally expect from fantasy, but what happens when fantasy series aren’t the norm, and why aren’t there more of them?

Image Credit: Flavorwire

I think the biggest reason that there aren’t more of them is because publishers and writers want something that feels familiar. A writer can feel like it’s their own unique twist on something that is familiar and safe, and a publisher can look and see how well things have sold. Now there is plenty of variety within the standard epic fantasy that we often think of and that we see published most often, but there’s always some medieval feel to it that feels normal and allows us to jump into a world quickly and pick up the edge cases about the world that are different from others.

What are some of the tropes of fantasy that are used often?

While it’s less the case now, it often feels like fantasy is the clear good versus evil. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are both clear examples of this where there is clearly a good side and there is an evil side, and there really isn’t ground in between. Sometimes you really want that delineation, but fantasy can lean too much so into the good versus evil and it simply being that and nothing more.

Also there is the medieval feel, or what we attribute to a medieval feel. There are going to be knights most likely, though they might be called something else, a king, either good striving against the evil forces coming to the lands or evil keeping the people oppressed so a rebellion must rise up and there’s not all that much in between. Lots of castles, sprawling forests, and generally a lot of what you’d expect from Robin Hood shows up in your standard epic fantasy. Even in urban fantasy, there is often some leftover feel of the medieval period. In the Dresden Files, the wizarding council holds old traditions, in Harry Potter, Hogwarts is literally a giant castle.

Image Source: IMDb

Finally, while it’s not in all fantasy, there is very often some form of magic. This is often where fantasy diverges the most as different people use different things for magic. It could be that the magic comes from the divine, it could be that magic is steeped heavily in ritual and must be done at ritual locations, or it could be a quicker and dirtier magic that can be done on the fly. Magic can be fine and precise wielded like a scalpel or it can be swung around like a club, bludgeoning everything. So there’s plenty of leeway for magic, but it is something that is commonly found in fantasy.

That’s epic fantasy, is all fantasy like that or are there different types of fantasy?

While that might be the type that people think of when they think of fantasy thanks to Lord of the Rings, it certainly isn’t the only type of fantasy out there. There’s paranormal fantasy, urban fantasy, low fantasy, dark fantasy, or even steampunk would qualify as a different type of fantasy. Probably the biggest growing type of fantasy falls into that area of urban fantasy. The Dresden Files series is one of the biggest or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman are two of the better known. But TV shows like Grimm also fall into that Urban Fantasy sub-genre of fantasy.

Image Credit: Amazon

There are a few that I really want to call out, though, the first being Urban Fantasy. This is one of my favorite genres of fantasy as taking a modern world and putting magic not just into the world as a whole, but a densely populated area and really focusing the story down into that world can be done so well. In all of Neverwhere, Grimm, and The Dresden Files, there’s a grittier side of the world that you don’t a lot in fantasy. That grittier side of things is what sets it apart from contemporary fantasy which would qualify as something like Harry Potter where it’s in a modern setting, but doesn’t deal as directly with the modern nature of the world.

Another one can either be modern or not, but it’s a non-standard medieval fantasy. That’s a long name, but basically, it’s looking at fantasy that really goes outside of the normal sword and sorcery that you can see and takes us to another world or part of our world than London or the medieval European equivalent. An example of this is the Daughter of Smoke and Bones trilogy. Those books are set in Prague, so different location than normal, but they also deal with a very different subset fantasy with how they talk about a number of fantasy tropes, which you can see from above, and the creatures that you see. You don’t really have your standard goblins, trolls, and faeries. It’s often a bit jarring not to have your standard fantasy tropes, but it’s also refreshing to see fantasy step away from it’s roots and branch out into new areas.

Image Source: IMDb

Finally is a sub genre of fantasy that I want more from, and that’s the Weird West. But this can also fall somewhat into historical fantasy as well, so I’ll use that genre so I can talk about  more things. But in the Weird West genre, you’re getting something that we’re familiar with, because of westerns, and adding in some mix of magic, steampunk or advanced technology, aliens, or monsters. The movie, Wild Wild West is an example of what Weird West can be. But when you expand it to look at other parts of history, you see it around WWI and WWII, even something like Wonder Woman which falls under the umbrella of Superheroes, but the movie was as much an alternative history fantasy movie as it was a superhero movie because of Wonder Woman’s backstory and Ares being a Greek god.

Now, there’s so much more you can go with into fantasy. And a lot of what I’ve talked about with world building before for RPG’s or just in writing in general you can pull into fantasy as well and use it to help shape your thoughts around fantasy. I’m going to be doing a follow up article soon on magic and high, medium, and low magic as well as different ways of using magic that I touched on here in this post.

But I’ll leave you with the question, what are some of your favorite genres inside fantasy, and some of your favorite books or TV shows or movies in that genre?

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City Building in D&D

City Building in D&D

Building a city as a home base or where your adventure is taking place can be a cool thing to do, it can also be a daunting thing to do, because putting together a whole city can be a lot of work. I rarely go […]

My Little Board Games

My Little Board Games

Now, This is meant as more of a play on the new game that came out called My Little Scythe. To see if you want to continue reading this, this is not about small games, though I’ll probably do a post on that soon now that […]

The Jargon – Board Game Edition

The Jargon – Board Game Edition

I’m doing something that’s a bit different style, I realize that there can be a lot of terms for various nerdy hobbies that might be a bit confusing. So I wanted to, for board games, run through what some of these terms are, if they describe games, give an example of what sort of games are in that genre. It might give you a unique vocabulary to better talk about games, it might help you realize what the exact genre of game is that you like the best and what you want to get more of, and it might just be a long list of words, which isn’t all that exciting, but anyways. Here’s the jargon of board gaming, or at least some of it.

Image Source: How Stuff Works

Starting with the most popular

Roll and Write: This is a genre of board game where you are rolling dice and then filling in numbers, lines, areas, of a game board that is probably just your game board to try and get a higher score than other players. The original example of this game is Yahtzee. Yes, roll and write is that simple of a genre, but it’s having a huge moment now with the biggest game being a German game, Ganz Schong Clever. They’ve evolved past Yahtzee in their scoring, and while it’s a genre I haven’t gotten into, they tend to be a bit more clever in their game play versus Yahtzee which is just telling you the numbers.

Then moving to the classic

Euro Gaming: The next is also a genre of games, they can also often be called worker placement games, though that is a slightly separate genre. These games are the ones where the result of the game all comes down to math. You can figure out an optimal strategy and there isn’t going to be all that much that can be done to stop that strategy. They started to change that, as of late, with making the boards tighter so that you had to plan out things a bit more or taking it away from everyone having to do everything to score enough points to win.

Point Salad: I wanted to put this one next to Euro gaming as a lot of them can be point salads. What this means, is like a salad, you can have a ton of different things in there. So in a game, that means you are scoring points at the end of the game in six or seven different categories that make up your total score. Games like Five Tribes and Seven Wonders are two prime examples of those games. It allows you to customize your winning strategy based on another a things.

And now to one that’s more a favorite

Image Source: Days of Wonder

Card Drafting: Card drafting can be a mechanic in a game or the basis of some games. The idea is that you have a hand of cards, you are selecting one card from that hand to play and then passing it on to the next player who is selecting a card from that hand either until all the cards have been played, or there is one left in the hand. This can be done several hands during a game, or it can be a lesser part of the game, maybe just at the start of the game. Two games that use it as the basis of the game are Sushi Go! Party and Seven Wonders. In those games, drafting is the whole game as you’re trying to make sets and score points based off of different criteria. A game like Blood Rage uses it at the beginning of each age to help you strategize and then you play with those cards, it’s similar in Near and Far where you draft cards at the start of the game.

Hate Drafting: So, clearly tied into the one above. Normally when you are drafting, you want to draft cards that are best for you. But in games like Sushi Go! Party and Seven Wonders, you will have an idea of what the other players want or need, so you might draft a card that doesn’t really help you, but it stops other players. Generally, this isn’t a great strategy for the person doing it, unless all the cards are equally as bad for them, but sometimes you do it to stop a large number of points just to keep yourself in the game.

The another genre that was popular and still is going strong

Image Source: Wikipedia

Deck Building: It’s a genre that has cooled off a little bit, probably more so because there are fewer games coming out in the genre that are new, and more expansions instead for older games. In these games, you have a base deck, or some resources to start buying cards, that builds up your hand and your deck. So by the end of each game, the players deck is personalized to them. The biggest game in this genre is Dominion. It has a pasted on theme of medieval times and is really about quickly drawing cards, getting money, and buying victory points. There have been a lot of games since Dominion got the genre to take off that have come out like Marvel Legendary, Xenoshyft, Hogwarts Battle, Clank!, and many more. This also can include games like Arkham Horror LCG and Magic the Gathering. They take it a slightly different way in that you are building your deck before the game is played, but the deck can still be customized to what you want.

Abstract Game: These tend to be the logic based and puzzle based games. A game like Quoridor or Blokus fall into the abstract game. It’s about thinking through and figuring out the puzzle for your given game situation. They also tend to have little theme on them, or if there is theme, it’s pasted on and there is disconnect between the theme of the game and the mechanics of the game. Dominion is a solid example of a game that could be an abstract game without any theme and it would still function just as well, but the theme makes it a more visually appealing game.

That takes us to one of the last overarching genres

Ameri-trash/thrash: It’s really Ameri-trash, but Ameri-thrash is more fun to say. These games are all about theme, whereas a lot of Euro games, their big genre counterpart, focus in on a lot of minute details and figuring out logically how to win, Ameri-trash have more luck involved. They also tend to be a lot more steeped in theme and have theme tying into the mechanics of the board game. Games like Gloomhaven or Near and Far are two prime examples. Ameri-trash games also have more randomness in their games. While Gloomhaven doesn’t have too much randomness, for Near and Far, you are rolling a die quite often to find out if you can complete a skill challenge or win a fight. You see the randomness more so in dungeon crawl sorts of games, such as Star Wars: Imperial Assault.

Gloomhaven takes us into another genre of game as well

Image Source: Cephalofair Games

Cooperative or Coop: These games are as they sound, you are all playing together on the same team and playing against the game to see if you can beat it or not. There’s no special mechanical piece that is tied into this, beyond that you are all on the game team. The game that caused this genre to take off was Pandemic which has come out with a ton of version and variations on the base game. Gloomhaven and Star Wars: Imperial Assault are also games that fit this genre, but Imperial Assault only does because of an app, before it fit into another genre.

One versus All: This is the other genre. Classic RPG’s fall into this as well as dungeon crawl board games. In these games one player is playing the bad guys, or the antagonists, and everyone else is playing cooperatively against them. In an RPG, that is going to be the game or the dungeon master and it’s a similar situation in dungeon crawl games.  So Star Wars: Imperial Assasult, can be played as a dungeon crawl where one person plays the imperial characters and the other players play the heroes against the bad guys. The app changes that so that no one has to miss out on the story. There are also other games that don’t fit into either the RPG or dungeon crawl genres, like Not Alone where one person controls a monster that is trying to track down all the red shirts from a crashed alien ship.

I probably should define this category next

Dungeon Crawl: I’ve mentioned it a few times, so you probably have some idea what this is, so I’ll talk about it fast. This is a game where you are going through a scenario or going up against bad guys moving through a game board, exploring new areas, and trying to complete some objective(s). Games like Gloomhaven, Descent, and Star Wars: Imperial Assault fall into this genre. You might be thinking that you don’t remember any dungeons or many in Star Wars, but that’s more of a genre given name now that a specific.

Back to more coop games for a second

Semi-Cooperative Games (Hidden Traitor): This is a genre that is closely related to cooperative games and probably wouldn’t be as strong if it wasn’t for cooperative games. In these games you are basically playing a cooperative game where all the players have the same objective. That is, all of them but one (or more depending on the game). Those players are trying to sabotage the mission for the players or have their own objective. However, they are trying to not be found out. Games like Dead of Winter, Shadows over Camelot, and Battlestar Galactica are the biggest in the genre that really needs to get more games.

Social Deduction: This is the category that seems to be stealing a lot of the hidden traitor games. In these games, you have players who are in secret roles and you are trying to figure out who the werewolves, fascists, cannibals, or whatever the games theme says the bad guys are. It is similar in some ways to a hidden traitor game but there is one huge difference. These games are built around trying to draw out that information and all the mechanics are around that deduction piece. So games like One Night Ultimate Werewolf, The Resistance (Avalon), Donner Dinner Party, and Secret Hitler are all examples of this, but the best one, in my opinion, is Deception: Murder in Hong Kong as there is more game to it than games like One Night Ultimate Werewolf or The Resistance.

That brings me to one final trio of definitions. There are so  many more things that I could write about, and I might do a part two, but this will be enough for now.

Light Weight: Probably an area that I could have described games sooner, but games are generally put into three different categories of weight, though the last one you never really hear the weight added to it. A light weight game is going to be a game with fewer rules and fewer options in the game. There can still be more strategy to the game, but it’s simple to sit down and play that game. weight in game can refer to strategy, complexity of the rules, and length of set-up/number of fiddly bits, but generally mainly the first two. Games like Splendor and Ticket to Ride are light weight games to me. While they are a bit more complex than the standard of Monopoly, they don’t offer that much strategy and complexity. Interestingly enough, a strategy abstract game like Quoridor also falls into this category even though it has a lot of strategy and thinking too it, because the rules and game play are very simple.

Medium Weight: Medium weight games are, shockingly, a step up from light weight games. They are going to offer more complexity in their interactions. You have to think through more of what you are going to do, and you can plan out multiple turns, but are more apt to have to adjust on the fly. They still aren’t getting into the area where they are too mathy or too much strategy where you are having to plan out a lot of turns in advance. Five Tribes is a great example of this where you have a number of decisions and options that you can do, and someone can take your move from you but also might not. Century Road: Golem Edition, is another game that is a bit on the lighter side of medium weight games, but builds up good strategy in the game and gives you quite a number of options.

Heavy: Heavy games are steeped in strategy and complexity of the game. A game like Gloomhaven falls into their category. There are a lot of rules to keep track of, there are a lot of little fiddly bits, there’s a lot of set-up, and there’s a lot of strategy. A lot of larger Euro games also fall into this category because you have to figure out what is going to be your best possible turn to get the most possible points from the game. I do want to point out that these games don’t always have to be the hardest games to play, once you know how to play t hem but they can often be more difficult to learn and have strategy that you need to know to be able to play the game well.

There are a lot of definitions, are there some terms that I’ve missed (or haven’t gotten to yet), that you are curious about?

Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!

Email us at nerdologists@gmail.com
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The Wiz Kids – Concepts

The Wiz Kids – Concepts

This is something that I hadn’t really thought about writing an article on until right now. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about and this popped into my head though as something my wife and I have been talking about. How to work […]

Dungeons and Flagons Season 2 Episode 11: Too Cool For School?

Dungeons and Flagons Season 2 Episode 11: Too Cool For School?

Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons. Von’thre takes advantage of the opportunity ahead of him to gain some more knowledge, because that is the smart and safe thing to do. If you have questions for Nerdologists: Dungeons and Flagons emails them to […]

Concept: Culling the Nerd

Concept: Culling the Nerd

Let’s start by what I mean by the title “Culling the Nerd“. It sounds ominous, but I don’t mean actually culling nerds out of your life, I’m talking tips, tricks, strategies for decluttering your nerd life when your collections grow to a hoard, and you have things that you haven’t used for a long time. I’m going to be talking about board games a lot because that’s what I’m going through right now as I try and sort and cull.

Image Source: Board Game Family

Why Might You Want to Cull?

This is a tough question, and for each person it’s going to be different. The common reason is that you’re running out of room. You have a collection of something, movies, board games, RPG books, manga, art supplies, etc that you have loved and collected for a long time, but now they are taking up too much room. You haven’t used them in a while or you have another nerdy hobby you’re more focused on now. That is a good time to clear out some things from that collection. It might also be that it’s just taking up space, you have the space to store it, but you never use it or look at it anymore. For that reason you might look to free up the space just so you have more space available. Or, maybe you have a collection that has some value, for example you collect Magic: The Gathering cards for a while but aren’t playing anymore, maybe you look to move them so that you can get some funds for your current collection. That’s a great reason to cull some of the nerd clutter out of your life.

How Do You Cull?

Another tough question, how can you be brutal enough to get rid of some things that have given you joy in the past? It’s tough, going through board games, I got rid of 16 different games and it’s tough to get rid of some of the games. For some of them, it was the fact that I haven’t gotten them to the table either at all or in a long time. I got rid of the game Power Grid, which is a fun game that I have good memories playing, but it hasn’t made it to the table in a long time, and looking forward, I don’t know that it ever will again. I have other games that I prefer to play now, and if I really want to play it again, I can probably find someone who has a copy or find it on a game shelf at a game shop. I will say, you have to be brutal at times when culling and sometimes you need to do a second pass. When you go through something you haven’t seen in a while, you open up a box or find something that you’ve forgotten about and the memories come flooding back. You remember the good times you had with something and all of a sudden, something you haven’t looked at in years seems to have value to you again. Ask yourself this when that happens, if you put it back into the box or onto the shelf, is it just going to sit there again for a year? If the answer is yes, you maybe should cull it. And if you can’t quite bring yourself to do it now, set it aside, and when you are done going through once, come back to the maybe pile and go through it again. Especially if this going through the maybe pile is a day or two later, you might find that you are now ready to let go of things since you have had your reminiscing and now you can now move on from it.

Where Can it Go?

This is something that can maybe help you get rid of more. Is there a spot that you can donate it to where people will enjoy it? Or a place where you can sell it and pass on what you’ve enjoyed to someone else. In my case with the board games, I’m going to see if one of the breweries that I like is interested in the games. They have a game shelf that I could help refill for them as games at breweries end up missing pieces or getting beer spilled on them. But maybe that isn’t your scene or you have comic books you want to donate. Is there a Children’s Hospital that you could give them to, or somewhere that can donate them to people who would want them. Or, you can sell yourself.

The piece of advice I have to give when selling them yourself is that the person the comic book or movie or board game is most valuable to is you. If a game cost you $100 and you’ve played it twice and enjoyed it but won’t play it anymore for whatever reason, $80 seems like a reasonable price plus shipping to someone who is out of town. It’s going to run them $100 after shipping (shipping board games is expensive). I’d love to say that you’ll be able to get that value, but you likely won’t and as much as it might hurt, you might need to sell your memory for less than it seems worth. Spend time on Amazon and eBay figuring out the actual cost of an item used and if you are just going to list it locally on Craigslist or Facebook group, go slightly cheaper, even if it seems too cheap to you. These are things you determined you don’t need anymore and getting something for them is better than nothing, especially if you’re selling something so you can get money for your next nerdy hobby. Finally, opposite of that, there can be things that have a certain value to you and anything less won’t do. It might be because they are rare and worth that much or it might be that anything less than a certain amount isn’t worth losing the memory. However, that is a special case, don’t do that all the time.

Image Credit: Poppy Jasper Games

I’ve Tried to Cull, but I Just Can’t Do It

It is tough, sometimes when looking at something you haven’t touched in years, you still can’t get rid of it. I’m not an expert on hoarding or I’m not going to tell you that you’re a hoarder. If you are, hopefully you can find someone to help you with that. But if it’s just tough to get rid of your old action figures that are sitting in a box in the basement, recruit some help. Have someone go through it with you and ask you a second time if you really need it. Or someone who can listen to your story about the game one last time and help you be tougher about getting rid of things. This part I don’t have much advice about because it’s something that is tough and personal for a lot of people. I don’t want to belittle what you’ve gone through with your hobby and the memories you have with them. It might help to also remember that those memories are yours even if you don’t have the action figure or board game or movie anymore. While they might work as a trigger for the memory, the memory itself will always be yours no matter if you have the item or not. Finally, it might help to remember you don’t need to do all of this at once. If you have six boxes of comic books that you want to go through, go through one of them and start there. You don’t have to go through all of them at once, because that loss can seem like a lot, but doing a little at a time and moving forward on it that way can help a lot to slowly clear out the parts of the collection that don’t mean as much anymore.

Hopefully these are some helpful suggestions. It’s tough, and I’m a pragmatic person so for me, culling things is easier than a lot of people, and it’s still tough for me. That’s why, with the board games, I want to give them away somewhere that I know people will enjoy them. Instead of just giving them away randomly to a Savers, I want to put them somewhere that I know where they are going, but also with the hope that they’ll be able to get people into board gaming and be there for a lot of people.

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TableTopTakes: Star Wars Destiny

TableTopTakes: Star Wars Destiny

Have you ever wondered how it would be to fight Jabba the Hutt and Asajj Ventress against Finn and Chirrut Imwe? Or maybe something a little more conventional with Rey and Finn against Kylo Ren and a First Order Stormtrooper? You can now do that […]