Gamer vs. Non-Gamer – The Married Life

Considering the fact that I just had my fourth wedding anniversary, I’m dedicating this post to my wife, Nikki, for putting up with my crap so far.  Boy did she not know what she was in for!

So, I was a table-top gamer well before I met my wife.  Thankfully, this fact did not impact our relationship in the slightest while we were dating or through the first four years of our marriage.  Even better, she has been extremely supportive of the time, energy, and financial contributions related to the Monkey in the Cage Podcast Experience (it’s just like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but with less guitars and not quite as many psychedelics).

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Episode 25 – Unique Gaming Ideas

Have you ever wanted to completely expand your gaming horizons, but never really had the courage to?  Well, you’re not alone!  Join us this week as the Monkey in the Cage crew brainstorms over all manner of gaming and storytelling ideas we have yet to face.  We’ve got a little bit of everything to pique your gamer curiosity.  While all the ideas may not be new or untested, they sure are strangers to us!  So, shine up your non-genre specific armor, ready your temporarily indiscernible  weapon, and prepare your as yet determined dice and /or card-like implement as we delve into this week’s discussion on unique gaming ideas!

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Game Mechanics, Game Mechanics Everywhere!

Game mechanics, rule sets, whatever you want to call them, they for the foundation and the underlying laws of the games that we play.  I used the image of the Rules Lawyer to point out that while the rules are essentially what make the game world turns, it’s my belief that most of us gaming out there tend to follow the concept that the written rules are more a set of guidelines rather than the be-all-and-end-all of the gaming table.  For all of you Rules Lawyers out there, I say cool it!  We all get it, but really, just stop.

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Episode 17 – Co-Op Experiences

In this day and age of online gaming and social media, we geeks have it sweet in the ability to jump on our PC’s or consoles with people from around the world and wreak havoc upon AI foes or one another in any number of settings no matter what time of day it is. Whether it’s banding together for a raid in World of Warcraft, or failing miserably to save the world in a game of Pandemic, one of the best gaming experiences a gamer can have is when teamwork with you closest friends brings sweet, sweet victory or amusingly humiliating defeat.

Join us this week as we shotgun blast your ears with our numerous (and we mean numerous!) experiences with Co-Op gameplay. From video games to board games to tabletop RPG’s, we hit it fast, hard, and chaotic, just like Leeroy Jenkins himself. Plug in and listen up, because the Co-Op memories just keep coming!

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Gaming vs. Gaming

Lately, we have gotten some great feedback regarding our loose coverage of tabletop roleplaying games.  A big part of this is that we are currently between RPG’s, but have four exciting potential games on the horizon, some closer than others.  Because of this, we at the podcast have spent time covering a number of video games, and to be honest, we were all playing video games well before any of us ever rolled up our first characters.  Unfortunately, I find myself, 18 years later, devoting a far greater amount of time pulling trigger buttons on my PS3 than rolling d20’s to attack.  I love to game, in all forms, and find an escape whether I’m delving through a dungeon with a character sheet in hand or trying to maintain my humble 1.84 kill ratio on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.  A few years back, I even sacrificed around 8 months of decent sleep to leveling a Dwarf Fighter (or Tank) in World of Warcraft, but no matter what format I choose to engage in, I find that a solidly run campaign with my closest friends is the most rewarding gaming experience to be had.  All forms have their benefits, and all have their drawbacks, and in this post, I’m going to toss out a few of my observations, based on my personal gaming interests and experiences.


Okay, I admit it…. the picture is a cheap-shot at World of Warcraft, but the truth is Dungeons & Dragons has had the advantage for  a lot longer and at far greater cost.  I enjoyed WoW during the relatively brief stint I played it.  A friend and co-worker of mine purchased the original version for me as a birthday gift after months of urging (he had been playing for about 2 years at that point and was hooked…. like, REALLY hooked….. like getting close to crackhead-level hooked…), so I installed it on my dinosaur of a Dell Desktop and proceeded to spend from around midnight to 4 am, 6-7 days a week running through Azeroth and doing my best to level up and make sense of all the abilities and equipment tiers and whatnot.  I hit around level 45 or so and then finally called it quits.  I had fun playing the game, but compared to others out there, I didn’t have the energy for it!

I wrote about the commitment it takes to be a GM and running your own game, but the time and energy expended to do so is NOTHING compared to what it takes to be even a half-decent and marginally respectable player in an MMORPG like World of Warcraft.  MMORPGs are a powergamer’s wet-dream come true, with everything from maxing out DPS to cornering the silk market in the Ironforge auction house to orchestrating raids containing dozens of players… and don’t even get me started on Guild Management!!  I’m going to have to say that the best players in WoW are either incredibly smart, incredibly insane or a little bit of both.  I’m sure in the next decade or so, we’ll be seeing individuals graduating with MBA’s due to their ability to multitask in World of Warcraft… kinda like this guy.  I’m going to say that this guy falls into the incredibly lonely category.

All in all, I found WoW entertaining, but I’m seeing more former players like myself turning away from it but still finding enjoyment in the comfort of character sheets and polyhedral dice.  However, if some developer out there decides to make an MMO based on the Battlefield or Call of Duty series, I may just have to retire from the real world itself.  Speaking of which, that leads me to my next topic!

First Person Shooters

Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re one of the most popular genres there is.  I’ve been hooked on FPS’ since the original Medal of Honor on Playstation One, and it will undoubtedly remain my favorite genre until the end of time.  While I’ll never get tired of blowing away Nazis through the scope of an ’03 Springfield, Activision‘s Call of Duty franchise finally broke away from the tired Second World War setting when it released the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series developed by Infinity Ward, leaving me awestruck with endless (and admittedly monotonous) multiplayer madness.  Nothing helps me shake off a rough day at work better than sitting down and racking up some headshots on my favorite maps, despite my sub-par performance most times out.

However, one of the most important aspects of any online gaming an individual engages in, be it MMO’s or FPS’s, no matter how good you are, there is always someone better, and that can turn your evening of relaxation or excitement into one of frustration, complete with swear-laden couch cushion beatdowns.  Gaming is about escaping the frustrations of the real-world, and if I’m getting seriously worked over by players on the opposing team, my gaming session can prove to be more stress-inducing than the day of work I’m trying to shake off.  Fortunately, it’s a byproduct I’ve never felt while sitting around the gaming table.

Tabletop / Pen-and-Paper RPGs

I’m going to close with my (obvious) favorite, being tabletop RPGs.  While the vast majority of Monday’s posts will be devoted to discussing the positive points of the pen-and-paper format of gaming, there are drawbacks to it as well.  One of the hardest things for (most) players is to join and/or establish a regular gaming group.  Obviously, a gaming group is needed, and I think that the difficulty some face in finding a group is what leads them to MMOs.  There is hope out there for those that want to find a group and experience gaming as it’s meant to be!  I’ve referenced the site on the podcast, and I’m throwing more love their way, because at Obsidian Portal there is a “Map” feature, which will display the locations of registered campaigns.  Any players down and out with setting up there own group can use this function to find a local game, and hopefully ingratiate themselves into a game and make some new friends.  Just beware a group headed by someone like this, you may get more than you bargained for!

The second greatest challenge of tabletop RPGs is the time factor.  One of the greatest aspects of videogames, especially WoW and other MMORPGs, is 24-hour availability.  If you’ve got a hankering to gain a level, just log on and have at it.  Self-perpetuating servers will be happy to provide an adventurer with a preformed world filled with plenty of opportunities to kick some ass.  Traditional roleplaying games, however, are at the mercy of the GM, particularly if the game world is a unique creation.  Gaming sessions can be anywhere between 1 week to 1 year or more, depending on any number of factors provided by life in general.  And while the waiting for a player (and a GM!) can be excruciating, the end result has the potential to be rewarding beyond anything imaginable in a videogame.

Protip #5: Instances can be run and re-run, raids can be conducted over and over, and eventually everyone finds every single one of your sweet camping spots on those multiplayer maps, but there’s only going to be the one time when your character faces their destiny and comes out on top.

“Pen-and-paper role-playing is live theater and computer games are television. People want the convenience and instant gratification of turning on the TV rather than getting dressed up and going out to see a live play. In the same way, the computer is a more immediately accessible way to play games.”  – Gary Gygax


New Year, New Game

The brilliant minds over at Gnome Stew have offered a challenge to GM’s:

Run a new game this year!

Their reasoning behind the challenge is, “To inspire game masters to run at least one new game each year, because trying new games broadens your horizons, challenges your skills as a GM, and can deepen your enjoyment of gaming as a hobby.”

I have to say I love this idea!  I cut my GM teeth on AD&D 2nd Edition, had a very short stint running a Buffy RPG (stop, snickering), and currently run a World of Darkness campaign, more specifically Hunter:  The Vigil.  While my experiences as a player are a little more varied, I have to admit that the list is not much longer.  D&D and WoD are two very different games.  I was drawn to the WoD game because of it’s storyteller game system and at heart I am a writer that uses games as vehicles for my ideas and WoD seems to fit that well.  My players on the other hand enjoy the dice-rolling more than I do and a 10 D10 dice pool  doesn’t always scratch their polyhedral itch.  So, I encourage the GM’s in the group to run their own games as well so everyone can be satisfied.

All that being said, I wrapped my current WoD storyline back in September, we played a few D&D 4E sessions with Robert where the group failed to find a groove, and we’re now waiting to start Matt’s home-brewed Society of Odin campaign… and if you listened to episode #13 you know how that’s coming along ;-).  So, what does that mean, folks?  We ain’t playing a darn thing right now and this girl is anxious!

But there are good things on the monkeys’ horizon.  Matt will get his game going soon… new game #1.

Ramses has had his eye on Mouseguard for a couple months now… possible new game #2.

I’ve politely demanded asked Robert to run a Shadowrun campaign… possible new game #3.

And what about me?  Well, while I am attached to my current story,  I am not opposed to maybe running a Pathfinder campaign… so that would make new game #4.    And despite the announcement of D&D 5th Edition being developed I could always try my hand at 4E… you know, since I turned into a rabid consumer and bought so many of those darn books and miniatures!

Change is good.  Playing is better.  So let’s do this, monkeys!  Oh, did I mention that if you submit your new game ideas to Gnome Stew between now and January 23rd you could win some nifty prizes?

Go to Gnome Stew for all the details and game on!