Join us for this month's SPOTLIGHT Saturday May 20th at 1pm - 5pm!
Rise of the Dungeon Master
Written by David Kushner and illustrated by Koren Shadmi, RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER tells the story of Gary Gygax and the creation of Dungeons & Dragons in comic book form. Like the game itself, the narrative casts the reader into the adventure from a first person point of view, taking on the roles of the different characters in the story. Based on David Kushner’s 2008 Wired profile of Gary Gygax and exclusive interviews with both Gygax and co-creator Dave Arneson before they died, RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER is the remarkable story of one of the most influential games ever created.
Dungeons & Dragons
Play an original Gary Gygax D&D Adventure - Tomb of Horrors.
Twenty Sided Store Dungeon Master Chris Wood has prepared a gauntlet style adventure that is beginner friendly and novice approved!
Meet The Creators!
David Kushner is an award-winning journalist and author of many books, including three on gaming: Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids, and Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone and the 2016 Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, Kushner has written for GQ, the New Yorker, the New York Times, and elsewhere. Rise of the Dungeon Master is based on his 2008 Wired profile of Gary Gygax and extensive interviews with both Gygax and Dave Arneson—Dungeons & Dragons’ co-creators—before they died.
Koren Shadmi is an American Israeli cartoonist and illustrator. His graphic novels have been published internationally, and include In the Flesh, The Abaddon, Mike’s Place, and Love Addict: Confessions of a Serial Dater. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, Village Voice, Playboy, Washington Post, Wired, and elsewhere. Koren’s work has won several awards at the Society of Illustrators. He teaches illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Find Dave & Koren on Twitter:
It seems like just yesterday and a lifetime of memories since we opened our doors. We've had celebrities, independent game designers, dedicated game masters, loyal staff, and a relentless community make Twenty Sided Store what it is today. We are proud to have successfully built a haven that feels like home to so many people and continues to bring humanity together.
Thanks for the past six years! - Lauren & Luis
TUNE IN TODAY
MTG Duel Deck: Mind vs. Might
The new Magic the Gathering Duel Deck attempts to answer an age-old question: which is better? Wits and Cunning or Brute Strength? Choose your side and dominate the battlefield with barbarian hordes or clever instants and sorceries. Also, Storm is back!!!
Welcome to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters! Players work their way to the top of the class by allying with famous mutants like Storm, Cyclops, and Wolverine, joining powerful X-Affiliations, and taking on foes like Sabertooth, Mystique, and Magneto. Climb from Level 1 to Level 10 (it is still Munchkin, after all) and become the next savior of mutantkind!
Smash Up: What Were We Thinking?
For the tenth expansion of Smash Up, AEG decided to get... weird. Four new factions come in the box: Teddybears, Grandmas, Rockstars, and Explorers, oh my!
D&D: Tales from the Yawning Portal
Step up to the bar and hear a story of far-away lands and deadly perils. Tales from the Yawning Portal features adaptations of seven classic D&D dungeons updated to 5th Edition. Whether your an old-school gamer looking to re-live past glory or visiting for the first time, there's always a seat for you at the Yawning Portal. (And yes, it has Tomb of Horrors, and that makes me very happy.)
Designers and Dragons: The '70s
Speaking of classic D&D, this awesome book by Shannon Appelcine chronicles the history of the game companies and designers credited with creating the role-playing game as we know it today. Learn the backstory behind TSR, Chaosium, GDW and many more, and see how the RPG grew from a wargaming off-shoot to the most prominent game genres in the industry. A must-have for any game historian or gamer interested in the old-school.
Netrunner Data Pack: Station One
The second in the Red Sand cycle continues the story of Corps vs. Runners on the red planet, Mars. With resources dwindling, both Runners and Corporations will have to do more with less, and contend with with powerful Clans, whose loyalty can be very fickle at times.
King of Tokyo/New York Monster Pack: Cthulhu
You knew this was coming, but iELLO couldn't release it until the stars were right. The first in a series of Monster Pack expansions to the King of... line brings the Old One of Note into your game, complete with evolutions (if you have the Power Up expansion), cultists, and ways to drive the other monsters insane.
Back in Stock
The Bloody Inn
Welcome back to the Bloody Inn, where times are tough and you'll get rich over your guests' dead bodies. Careful planning and ruthless ambition are what you'll need to stay wealthy and avoid prison.
Jim Henson's Labyrinth
This game has been out of print for a while, but it's finally back. I'm still really impressed by the quality of the minis and the design of the labyrinth itself. Perfect if you're a fan of the movie, or want to live out those Bowie fantasies.
Unpainted D&D Minis
With the new D&D book out, there's no better time to get some minis for the start of a new campaign! We just got a huge restock of Reaper Bones and the excellent new line of unpainted minis from WizKids. Both are pre-primed, ready for custom painting, and perfect for your next tabletop encounter.
I enjoy attending gaming conventions, I always return home brimming with ideas and thoughts about new games, new game mechanics and new ways to adapt familiar rules systems. This year’s Dreamation, a wonderful little gaming convention in Morristown, NJ, was no different. I had the opportunity to play some excellent games, and I even ran sessions of Numenera, and Monster of the Week(which are available at Twenty Sided, and I highly recommend them!). I also had a unique opportunity to run a freeform Live Action Roleplaying Game (LARP) by Emily Care Boss called In the Arms of the Pack.
Running a LARP was a big deal for me, because it was my first! For those unfamiliar with the genre, in a freeform LARP the Game Master (DM) usually has absolutely no preset plan. This is in contrast to traditional models of tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs), where the assumption is that the DM creates a detailed world and meticulously crafted adventure for players to react and respond to.
So, I walked into the convention room, set up the scenario, and let the players go hog-wild. Occasionally I would nudge the action, whisper suggestions to heighten drama, and frame new scenes. As DM, I had little say in the narrative flow, and the story was driven entirely by the players.
When I got back to the table I decided to test out this technique of freeform LARP with Monster of the Week. I sketched out the barest hint of a setting, painted in a main villain, and slathered on some Non-Player Characters (NPCs) in broad strokes. Details were added when and where the players needed them, often in conversation. One player needed a fancy Faculty House because they made a character who’s a visiting scholar... BAM, done. Another needed a side-mission that their cult assigned to them... What do you know, the nearby museum has some mystical coins that are ripe for…err…acquiring…
You may argue that this only works in rules-lite games, or games in non-convention settings. However, even in games like Numenera - which one might argue is all about players discovering truths about the weird world whose secrets only the DM knows - there is room to modify your game depending on what the players want. In fact, I would argue that this is the most important part of the DM’s job!
For example, when I ran a game of Numenera at the Dreamation Convention, I created an adventure about exploring a village that was built vertically upon a massive Stone Head emerging from the cliff side. I had NPCs, encounters, and locations all planned out. I planned for there to be two big fights, they would occur in a certain order, blah blah... but of course the players wanted to do all kinds of things I had not planned for. They loved the NPC kids I introduced and spent a considerable amount of time wanting to play make-believe with them, instead of exploring an underwater ruin and where I was staging the main fight. In fact, what the players found particularly fun was describing precisely how each of their characters plunged, dove, fell into, or otherwise entered the water that contained aforementioned ruin!
The water-entering descriptions were actually pretty compelling and humorous! It was an absolute blast and the players clearly LOVED interacting with the weird world of Numenera. I made a point to observe what they enjoyed about the game and made adjustments on the fly. For them, trading jibes with the mutant mayor trumped trading blows with dimension-hopping aliens. I cut the first fight short, and changed the location of the main fight into a weird puzzle room because that’s the direction the players took the narrative.
Whatever system you are running, be it super rules-lite or insanely crunchy, it is important to go with the flow. Let yourself be driven by the currents the players create, even if you’ve detailed a course for them, even if it means killing your darlings. It’ll be more fun for them, and probably more fun for you too! Remember the Game Master is a player at the table as well and all roleplaying games are collaborative storytelling experiences at heart.
Session 1 - 3/1/17
My longtime readers will know that I never miss an opportunity to road trip. So you can bet that when Starr Wrestling Alliance gets on the Countdown to Showdown, I'll be following them like a VW Bus following the Grateful Dead, only with more steel chairs and less "noodling."
This week, Monday Night Mayhem stopped in Orlando, FL, home of Disney, Sea World, and this week, one of the biggest bombshells to hit the wrestling world in years. Rumors had started to swirl that SWA CEO Benjamin Starr would be making an announcement about this year's Ultimate Showdown in Brooklyn. But no-one could've expected that the Boss would strip Nate "The Money" Moore of the SWA title after almost two years of holding the belt. Apparently, Mr. Starr is as fed up with Moore's dirty tricks and flim-flam as we are and decided to do something about it. So as of Monday, SWA has no champion. A new champion will be crowned in Brooklyn at the Ultimate Showdown, and we'll find out who will fight for the title soon.
Monday night also saw action between the cyborg D-Bug and the mysterious Nocturne. Before the match, Nocturne gave a rare and cryptic address to the SWA crowd, railing against the corruption in the company, and promising a reckoning. Could he have known that The Money would be stripped of his title? Can we add clairvoyance to his list of abilities? I don't know. But if he can see the future, he couldn't see the brass knuckles D-Bug used to finish him off and win the match.
The other match of note was between Diane Lowry and Jimmy Steel, a match of red, white, and blues. Diane, with the crowd behind her, mounted a solid offense against the All American Boy and looked to be close to taking the match. But unfortunately for the French Phenom, the match was interrupted by the monstrous Dietrik the Dominator. She still picked up the win, but the word from backstage was that Diane left the building in the back of an ambulance. It would seem that Steel made a deal with Dietrik and the House of Pain. Something tells me he may not like it when Dr. Moreau and his monsters come to collect.
That's it for me from sunny Florida. See you in Raleigh, NC for the next Monday Night Mayhem and the return of Stalwarth Jackson as the Countdown to Showdown continues!
As Dungeon Master Appreciation Month 2017 comes to a close, we turn our attention to roleplaying games that do not require a Dungeon Master (DM) to play.
Dungeon Masters spend so much time prepping our games to spin stories and introduce us to memorable places and characters each week that we forget that they are players at the table too.
DMs love to create so much that they take on a lot of work and often forget to take a break. Every now and again, even the DM deserves the relatively carefree life of a player! Give your DM an opportunity to refresh their creative juices by returning some of those enjoyable offerings at the table.
Don't worry! I am not asking you to take on Dungeon Master responsibilities in order to give this gift to your DM. There are so many great RPGs out there that don't require a DM. Such games benefit from collaboration and improvisation from each player equally because they don't require an all knowing Dungeon Master to lead the game.
My TOP 5 List!
In reverse order, the top five DM-less RPGs recommended to give your favorite Dungeon Master a day off!
5 - Misspent Youth
Set in a dystopian future, in Misspent Youth you play as teenagers who rebel against the Authority. There are so many ways a group can go with this setup! Generate the dystopian future you would most like to play in by collaborating with your fellow players on who the Authority consists of, how they oppress society, and what their goals are. Create kick-ass heroes who struggle against the Authority and then play out scenes as the rebellious youngsters try to take down the system. A very cathartic proposition!
4 - Atomic Robo
Based on the popular, quirky, and hilarious graphic novels, Atomic Robo is all about ACTION SCIENCE! Play as an immortal robot or an action scientist from any era or dimension you can think. Engage in pulp action adventure as you battle aliens, cyborgs, intelligent noble gasses, travel through time, ride dinosaurs, and any other wild idea your group can think up. Create your heroes, decide who the antagonists are and in which era, then play out gonzo scenes of science fiction fantasy!
3 - Monsterhearts
Think Monster High. Yup, you in Monsterhearts play as a teenage monster confronted with their burgeoning sexuality, desire for their peers, and the (in)compatibilities of monstrous anatomies. Players put their characters' hearts & souls through the ringer as they explore what it truly means to be monstrous. Yes, this game would be best for more mature audiences who want to explore the whirlwind of feelings, discovery, and heartbreak that adolescents experience in high school. But with fangs.
2 - Kingdom
The Kingdom can be anywhere, any time, and made up of any society you can imagine. Want to play as a group of settlers in the mythic American West? How about astroid miners in a far off solar system? Undead creatures who've haunted a theme park? Kingdom concerns itself with the challenges a society faces as it exists, how those challenges are overcome, and what repercussions those decisions have on the kingdom itself. Players take on different abstract societal roles such as Perspective & Power that are expressed through their character's actions and reactions. A night of gaming could span centuries in a kingdom as time goes by or just one day as the kingdom falls into ruin or anarchy.
1 - Fiasco
If you haven't heard of Fiasco, think of a Cohen Brothers film: odd characters in quirky settings, farcical, mysteries and betrayals, as well as a good dose of murder and mayhem. In terms of flexibility, simplicity, and approachability you really can't find a better DM-less game out there.
Whereas the rest of the list asks players to come up with their own playgrounds, Fiasco provides Playsets in whatever genre you're interested in. Whereas the rest of the list often leaves the onus for scene resolution on the narrative timing of the players, Fiasco forces resolutions through it's rules so the players don't have to do all "narrative heavy lifting". Fiasco even has an elegant conclusion mechanic where every player rolls on a chart to figure out how the story ends for their character.
Until Next Year!
As DM Appreciation Month comes to a close, make sure to thank your DM for all they do to make your games great. They would no doubt love a bit of thoughtfulness in return. Thank you, Dungeon Masters!