Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ask Jetpack Jack! - Of Toppings and Tarrasques

Welcome to another scintillating installment of Ask Jetpack Jack!

Since this the first installment of 2016, Jack thought it would be great to help out those who were kind and/or hopeless enough to send in questions about how to better in the upcoming new year. (JJ: I know, I know, we’re two months in already, but I’m trying to be topical here, so just grin and bear it, okay?)  As stated before, if you have questions you would like answered about gaming and tabletop etiquette, send them in to with "Ask Jetpack Jack" in the subject line! (Note: emails may be edited for content, but as little as possible) 


Dear Jetpack Jack,

My gaming group consists of a vegan, a person who is lactose intolerant, a person with nut allergies, a person who eats only kosher food, and a person who is always trying fad diets like "grapefruit and garbanzos" or "figs and flatulence".  What kind of pizza should we order for game night?

Pepperoni and Mushrooms

Dear Pepperoni and Mushrooms, 

When food becomes a part of the gaming experience, it can lead to disagreements about what to get. Your group is admittedly more diverse than most, but when you can’t come to agreement, the best option is the one my group usually takes – everyone can bring their own food/snacks to the table. That way, everyone gets what they want, and you aren’t stuck eating paleo-matzo-grapefruit pesto pizza. If everyone does insist on getting food as a group, there’s always hot wings and garlic bread…


Dear JJ,

I have terrible dice luck, especially with d20's.  I have had multiple game sessions where I went the whole game without rolling a double digit result on the die.  Can you recommend some suitable ways to punish my dice?

Best regards,
Natural One.

Dear Natural One, 

It’s always a bad time when your rolls make you look like a complete goober. Aside from the old standbys or yelling, throwing things, and cursing, some people started using shaming tactics (google it if you are curious). Personally, if my dice are acting up, I would first check and see if the dice are balanced correctly. 

Even with modern manufacturing techniques, dice sometimes are as crooked as politicians. To check, use a cup of water and place your die inside and give it a spin. If the die keeps coming up with the same number, it’s not balanced. If it’s rolling low, maybe your DM would like a new die? [Ed. Chippewa Valley Geek does not endorse giving loaded dice to your DM.] 


Dear Mr. Jetpack Jack.

So you know how sometimes when I'm at Kwik Trip and there's two registers open but one line for them?  Y'know the one guy who comes along and tries to line jump by standing right in front of the one register, like there's a line of 20 people all waiting for the left side but no one thought to go over to the right side?  Is it ever morally or legally permissible to just set that asshat on fucking fire?

Late for game night

Dear Late for Game Night, 

Unfortunately, it is not permissible to alight your fellow human beings, even if they really, REALLY deserve it. However, I do have some tips to help you be at the gaming table in time. First, try leaving a little bit earlier, if you can. Extra time on the front end will make you more able to exude zen-like patience as the fetid, self-important little carbuncle shows no regard for anyone else. Or, you could do what I always do, and picture their face the next time you crack orc skulls (it works great for bosses, too).


Dear Jetpack Jack,

There is a squirrel in my garden, and I swear to Nyarlathotep he is always watching me whenever I leave home.  Even when I'm in the house, I can feel his beady little rodent eyes peering at me through the window.  I'm often losing hours of sleep worrying about this and I no longer have any appetite. So my question is, what's the best way to defeat a Tarrasque?

And will it work on squirrels?

Dear AWIWOS?, 

First off, that’s one heck of a name you got there. Second, do you want to kill the Tarrasque? Come on,I’ll show you how to play. You can try to cheat, and use a Wish, or you can try my wayyyy… okay, that’s the last time I watch Frozen with my kids. 

The standard answer for this is to use Wish once you grind down its hit points, but it depends on the system. Dungeons and Dragons v3.5 will allow ability damage, so take down either its Wisdom or Constitution (Allips and Bebeliths are monsters that are great for summoning to fight this beast). Pathfinder, however, got rid of those oversights, so the only way I can possibly come up with to kill the Tarrasque for good is to get a Great Old One to do it for you. That’s right, I said Cthulhu! Cthulhu, I say! IA! IA! CTHULHU  FHTAGN!!!!!.....sorry, what was I saying?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Monster Mike's Geek Reads: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Okay, picture this.  

It's 2044 and the world is a post-apocalyptic dystopia.  Yes, yes, you think.  I've seen this one before.  There was a nuclear war or a killer virus or an alien invasion or global warming or some shit and now everyone is running around in souped-up killer cars fighting over the last few drops of gasoline or clean water or Mountain Dew Code Red, right?

No.  The dystopian future is actually one based on increasing economic inequality.  The masters of capital have won completely and the 1% have everything.  Everyone else is left with scraps.  Many people live in "the stacks" - shantytown high-rise structures of aging mobile homes - and daily life is a struggle for survival in a barely-functioning economy where all public goods and resources have been privatized and precisely calibrated to wring every last drop of life out of the huddled masses.

On the bright side, there is OASIS.  Part MMORPG and part virtual life, people escape their reality in this simulated world.  OASIS brings education to the youth, and OASIS virtual currency is the most stable medium of exchange on the planet.  Invented by the brilliant but eccentric James Donovan Halliday, OASIS is where our hero, young Wade Watts finds meaning and purpose in an otherwise hopeless existence.  You see, when James Halliday died years before, he created an Easter egg hunt within OASIS.  The first to find all the clues and pass all the tests would inherit Halliday's multi-billion dollar fortune and become the wealthiest person on the planet.  Millions of egg hunters, or "gunters" as they would later be called tried for years to even find the first clue, but no one could.  After some time, most of the world gave up on the hunt as being either impossible or a hoax, but not Wade Watts and a few of his virtual friends.  Halliday was known for being a huge fan of 1980's pop culture, and these die-hard gunters obsessively study every clue, every nuance of this era and the relationship to Halliday's life in order to understand the keys to the great uncracked puzzle.

However, when Wade finally thinks laterally enough to discover the first clue, the race is on.  Teams of mercenary gunters with powerful corporate sponsorship will stop at nothing, including assassination attempts in the real world, to beat the independent gunters to the prize.  Wade and his friends and fellow gunters Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Shoto have to make careful decisions about whether to compete or cooperate with one another against the powerful and ruthless Innovative Online Industries over the next several months as the search heats up and more clues are unraveled.  Wade and his cohorts have to resort to truly desperate measures in both the virtual and meat-space worlds to survive.

This book has a lot going for it.  Though the premise is kind of silly, it pulls you in and keeps you there.  The writing is absolutely gripping, the characters are compelling, and the book is very hard to set aside for little annoyances like sleep, eating, your weekly RPG session, or the house being on fire.  The action and the stakes keep rising throughout the story and the ending pays off well.  However, you might find the persistent love of all things 1980s a little grating if you are too young to remember Zork and don't geek out on old Commodore 64 games.  Even so, it's a fun book and a super-solid read.  If you really like it, check out Armada by the same author.


The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast 010 - The One Ring: The Darkening of Mirkwood - Session 07: The Easterly Inn

Episode 10 of The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast is up and in stores near you (i.e. iTunes)!  

Remember: it's on a different feed from The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue, so you will need to subscribe to this feed separately if you're into it!

The game is The One Ring, by Cubicle 7 Games!  The campaign is The Darkening of Mirkwood!

Don't remember much about The One Ring?  Check out the Geek's game review of it here!

Or check out the TOR community forums here!

Here is Tales from Wilderland!

And now a quick breakdown of our characters:

PC:  Denethor Lightbow
Player:  Nick
Culture:    Elf of Mirkwood
Background:  Diligent Defender

Calling:  Scholar

PC:  The "Boarslayer"
Player:  Monster Mike
Culture:  Woodman of Mirkwood
Background:  The Hound

Calling:  Warden

Remember to show your love and support for the Geek out on Patreon!  Actual play episodes don't count for our Patreon contributions, so every time we play a game, you get a freebie!

Music:  "Wake Up" by Rage Against The Machine

Friday, January 15, 2016

The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast 009 - The "Baker Street" One-Shot: The Adventure of the Empty Warehouse!

Episode 9 of The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast is up and in stores near you (i.e. iTunes)!  

Remember: it's on a different feed from The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue, so you will need to subscribe to this feed separately if you're into it!

The game this time is a one-shot of Baker Street: Roleplaying in the World of Sherlock Holmes from Fearlight Games!

It's The Adventure of the Empty Warehouse!

Be sure to listen to game designer Bryce Whitacre appearing on Episode 16 of 
The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue.

Ladies & Gentlemen...
Sgt. Biggles McGillicudy!

Never f*** with an antiques dealer

Music:  "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty

The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue - Episode #016: Baby Please Come Holmes!

Episode Sixteen of The Chippewa Valley Geek Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue is complete and can be found here or on iTunes and Stitcher.  

We've got a three-pipe pod for you this month and it's all about mysteries and Holmesian gaming!

0:00:00 Intros
0:01:10 The Up Front: On the Tyranny of Excellence and Just Watching The Damn Movie Already
0:04:57 The Interview:  Game designer Bryce Whitacre clues us in on Baker Street, muses why Sherlock is a cultural touchstone, and takes on the Geek-del Test!

0:29:26 The Roundtable:  Monster Mike and Jetpack Jack discuss mysteries in RPGs, steal a time-honored podcast game, and bear witness to a drive-by gifting...
2:04:29 The Community Calendar and
 The Monthly Marathon: I'm still stuck in Season Two of Twin Peaks, but I'll start watching Dune right away too

2:08:39 Outro & Credits

Some Show Notes and Links!

Catch 22

The Village

Baker Street: Roleplaying in the World of Sherlock Holmes from Fearlight Games

Also by Bryce Whitacre:  Colonial Gothic: The Defeated Dead

Go read some Sherlock Holmes!

More on Sidney Paget

221B Baker Street (The Boardgame!)


Call of Cthulhu

Coffins & Tombstones

Why not get your Jeremy Brett on?  Or maybe your Benedict Cumberbatch or your Robert Downey Jr.?

More on Jack The Ripper

Check out the Baker Street RPG Google Group and Fearlight Games Facebook Page!

Reach out to Bryce directly here!

A search for Detectives!

Obsidian Portal

Delta Green

Conspiracy X


Tunnel and Trolls

Speak Friend and Enter...

Clue as simple as a candle

Star Trek 3D Chess  (See the rules here)

Young Sherlock Holmes

The Philo Vance Mysteries

And now a round of One True Three from the Tell 'Em Steve Dave podcast...

Check out the original game here!

Based on our own One True Three stories, it appears the CVG staff has some generalized authority issues...

Good old fashioned pancakes!

The Dresden Files

Dave Robicheaux


Ladies and Gentlemen, Dixon Hill:

Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Murder by Death

Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore

Adventures in Oz:  Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond The Yellow Brick Road by F. Douglas Wall and Amanda Webb

Here's the Atomic Array all about Adventures in Oz

The backing sound effects used in this episode included:
-  "sleigh bells.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Smashing #1.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Noncommercial license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Musical Snow Globe - We Wish You A Merry Christmas", obtained via via a Creative Commons 0 license.  The original file can be found here.

My kind of detective...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ask Jetpack Jack! - Dice Rolling With Authority!

Here at long last is our first installment of the Ask Jetpack Jack advice column on the CVG!

Remember, you can submit your own questions for the man by emailing with "Ask Jetpack Jack" in the subject line!


Welcome to the very first installment of Ask Jetpack Jack, where I will try to answer your questions about life, the universe, and everything. Except, you know, about games and the gamers who play them. I can already hear you, dear reader in the comments, saying “But JJ, why would we want to get advice from you? You can’t even stop yourself from singing about montages!” I’ll tell you why.

I have been an avid tabletop gamer for over a decade, a video game fan for over 25, and a Dungeon Master for almost 10 years. I have run dozens of games over the years and have done so with a very diverse group of people. During this time, I have found that some things just aren’t seen as good etiquette when it comes to gaming in general and tabletop gaming in particular.

One of these contentious things is at the core of most games – dice rolling. It’s almost as ubiquitous as books and pencils for games today, and so many people just seem to do it wrong. Whether it’s palming dice to try and get a higher number on the drop, or tossing dice like they’re at the craps table, there are a lot of wrong ways to roll these little polyhedrals. With my help, you will be gaming faster, more efficiently, and with less arguments at the table.

The #1 problem when it comes to dice rolling is taking forever with your dice rolls.  Combat in games is by far the slowest time for a game, taking up over half the time of every session. When it is your time to roll, try and do so quickly. You don’t need to shake your dice for a long time to get a result, and doing so will take up more time, making the combat drag on even longer, so keep it brief. For most people, the modifiers for their dice rolls do not change much from roll to roll, if at all. In order to make the game flow better, take the time beforehand to write down your total modifiers for your rolls. Your DM, and the other players, will thank you.

This does not mean, however, that you should roll your dice ahead of time. While you might be tempted to do so, rolling ahead of time does two things that will cause problems – it distracts the DM when he is trying to resolve actions made by the other players at the table, and it ends up interrupting the playtime of the other players. It’s as bad as interrupting the DM or players in the middle of describing a situation or location, and can be even more distracting.  Planning your move in advance, however, is a good idea. You show to the DM that you are engaged in the game, and it also keeps lag to a minimum.

Unfortunately, whenever you talk about gaming and rolling dice, you also have to talk about cheating. Some people (and you know who you are) will ‘fudge’ dice rolls, or obscure results in order to improve their roll. This not only makes the DM not trust you, but it also removes some of the fun of the game. Dice are supposed to introduce the effects of randomness to a game, and if your character never, ever fails, that randomless is lost. So, be the bigger gamer and let the dice fall where they may. This is Jetpack Jack, signing off.