Category Archives: Events

An interview with ghost busting gamers, Grant Wilson and Mike Richie

Mike Richie and Grant Wilson from Rather Dashing Games
Mike Richie and Grant Wilson from Rather Dashing Games

Grant Wilson is best known as one of the co-founders The Atlantic Paranormal Society from which sprang the shows “Ghost Hunters”, “Ghost Hunters International”, and “Ghost Hunters Academy.”  In recent years Grant and his childhood friend, Michael Richie joined forces to form a gaming company, Rather Dashing Games.  These industrious gentlemen now have published five games, a steampunk novel and much more to come.

John N Collins (JNC):Could you give us a quick lineup of your products?

Grant and Michael: As far as books go, we have only released the first one so far. Our second book should be out late summer/early fall. As for products from our company Rather Dashing Games, we currently have five games out with two more to be released sometime this year. Our two bestsellers, Dwarven Miner and Pirates, Ninjas, Robots, and Zombies are fun, approachable titles that scratch the itch of more complex games. Our next game, Graveyards, Ghosts, and Haunted Houses is going to be a blast!

JNC: You also have a novel that you co-authored that is of the steampunk genre. Tell us a bit about it.

Mike: It’s called “Brotherhood of the Strange”. It’s the first of our hopefully many Steampunk adventures. We both love Steampunk, and wanted to make an immersive sandbox style world that included the many various aspects of the genre, rather than only focusing on one or two of them. The story focuses around an inventor named Degory Priest who is trying to secretly undo the damage done by the Brotherhood of the Strange, a secret society to which he and his estranged brother Edward belong.

JNC: How did you two become involved in steampunk?

Grant & Mike: We have always loved Jules Verne, Sherlock Holmes, & H.P. Lovecraft, as well as old machinery and clockwork. Once we saw this emerging genre at cons such as Dragoncon, we both fell in love and dove head first into it. Grant even cosplayed as a steampunk ghostbuster. A “Spectral Eradicator” if you will. Mike enjoys prop making and coming up with believable ways that the fictional technologies could work in the world of Steampunk.

JNC: Now Grant, this may surprise some of your fans, but I hear you also have been pursuing another career, this one in music. Tell us about that.

Grant: Well, I taught myself how to play piano and guitar when I was 14. I’ve been composing every since. I’ve been in a few alternative rock bands over the years but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I was able to focus on it. I have my band, Carpetshark, that is currently on hold for a few, but my big push is with my solo piano music. I have one album out right now “1.618” and another on the way “Liquid Earth”. It’s just very relaxing piano music. I was really surprised by how people reacted to it. I get emails from people saying they are getting married to it, meditating to it, and how it helps kids focus, or rest. All good stuff!

JNC: Will you be bringing CD’s and Games to sell to the convention in addition to copies of your books for signing?

G&M: I imagine we will!

JNC: Games, Books, Movies, and Ghosts! Do you have any other surprises coming our way?

Grant: I don’t know about any more surprise categories but we will have many surprises in each of those categories. After our the Kingship series, we plan to write our baby; our series of high-fantasy novels we have been working on since we were teenagers. It’s an epic story that has grown and matured over the years. One we are very excited to tell.

JNC: Where can folks find more information on your games, books, music, and such?

Grant:
Rather Dashing Games
The Brotherhood of the Strange Books
Grant Wilson on CD Baby
Grant Wilson’s official website

JNC: Many of us were disappointed you couldn’t make it to the Wizard World Fan Festival in Chicago a few weeks ago but we are looking forward to seeing you in Cincinnati in a few weeks! Thanks so much for the update!

Grant: I was just as disappointed. Let’s collectively blame the weather!

Grant and Mike will be at the International Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati this weekend April 24 to 26, 2015.

Grant and Carpetshark will be performing at Origins in June and Gen Con in July.

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Ascension at The Throne of Games – Long live the King!

The ENnies at GenCon 2014
The ENnies at GenCon 2014

As formerly noted, one of the secrets of the gaming industry, comparable to “The Emperor has no clothes!”, is that the former King of roleplaying games, Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons and Dragons, was deposed from, or more abdicated from the Throne of Games and dropped out of the top five roleplaying games.  The gaming mega-con, GenCon 2014, was held August 14 through 17 and it was clear there was no vaccuum of power left in their absence at the ENnie Awards.

Evil Hat Productions, publishers of the Fate Core System, ranking #4 in ICv2’s top five role playing games, received eight ENnie awards at GenCon, including the Silver award for Best Publisher.

Monte Cook Games, LLC, Numenera ranked number five of the ICv2’s top five role playing games and took nine ENnie awards including the gold for Product of the Year.  Monte Cook formerly worked on Wizards of the Coast’s on their newly released version of their dungeons and dragons genre game, “Next” but left due to differences of oppinion with the company.

From this year’s ENnie awards it is clear that Evil Hat Productions and Monte Cook Games have truly risen to the level of Lords of Gaming but who has risen to the top?

The Paizo Publishing Company‘s Pathfinder ranked number one on the ICv2 list of the top five role playing games and at the GenCon Ennies their pathfinder products took eight ENnies for Paizo as well as two for Whiz Kids for their Pathfinder miniatures.  Among their eight awards, all gold, was the gold award for the Best Publisher.

According to the ENnie Awards website:

“The ENnies were created in 2001 as an annual award ceremony, hosted by the leading D&D/d20 system fan site, EN World in partnership with Eric Noah’s Unofficial D&D 3rd Edition News. Since they were originally conceived the ENnies have expanded from an Internet-based awards selection to an annual award ceremony at Gen Con Indy.”

So, while Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast failed to produce anything worthy of a nomination by the dungeons and dragons playing community at GenCon’s 2014 ENnie awards, Paizo’s Pathfinder has clearly risen to claim the throne with Monte Cook Games, LLC and Evil Hat Productions at their sides.  While Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast struggles to keep their brand alive, the dungeons and dragons genre thrives on without them.  So, in the meantime, if your kids say they are playing dungeons and dragons, chances are high that it is Pathfinder from Paizo.  The King is dead!  Long live King Paizo!

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The King is dead! Requiem at the Throne of Games

Winners of the Ennies at GenCon 2014 - Can you find Wizards of the Coast? Nobody could.
Winners of the Ennies at GenCon 2014 – Can you find Wizards of the Coast? Nobody could.

On Friday August 15, 2014 at GenCon in Indianapolis, Indiana the Wizards of the Coast held a party to mark the launch of Tyranny of Dragons for their latest release of their dungeons and dragons genre role playing game.   Wizards of the Coast are copyright owners of the original Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game, once the undisputed king of role playing games.  Now the Wizards of the Coast roleplaying division doesn’t even make the list of the top five role playing games.

GenCon 2014 attendees hit the food trucks while the Wizards of the Coast music drones on
GenCon 2014 attendees hit the food trucks while the Wizards of the Coast music drones on

The Wizards held their launch party under a tent on Georgia Street where the food vending trucks were selling their wares.  As far as parties go it was more lively than a typical wake but less celebrative than a New Orleans funeral procession.  They had distorted music blaring on substandard speakers and it was difficult, at best, to enter the tent without earplugs.  The exciting gift for those attending was a cardboard face mask.  While most of the folks on the street were there for the food trucks, the attendees of the party were kept moving as they looked at the few cases of items on display, much like an open casket viewing.

A few members of the press were on the fringes of the tent discussing how much Wizards of the Coast had dropped the ball in terms of marketing and, indeed production of quality gaming.  In 2012 they put on an extravaganza that impressed all who attended even though it was all smoke and mirrors with no substance and was followed by problems and delays in producing a replacement for the much maligned fourth edition.  This year at GenCon 2014, Wizards of the Coast doesn’t even have a booth in the Exhibition hall.  As far as the demonstration gaming, Michael Tresca, veteran gamer, respected game reviewer, and National RPG Examiner commented that he had played  one of their adventures and experienced TPK, total party kill.  Even though the players had played intelligently, they were slaughtered without mercy.  This is not what one might expect from a company that is trying to gain new players for their system.

A Wizards cardboard mask rescued from the trash
A Wizards cardboard mask rescued from the trash

After paying appropriate respect to the Wizards of the Coast the next stop for the evening was the Ennie Awards.  While it was no surprise that Wizards of the Coast didn’t take any Gold or Silver awards, it was a bit of a surprise that they didn’t even place in the top five in any Ennie category.  The Wizards’ “party” had already disbanded and the displays were being packed up after the Ennies had ended.

Cosplay at GenCon 2014
Cosplay at GenCon 2014

Will 2014 truly mark the end of Dungeons and Dragons as a viable brand as the dungeons and dragons genre continues to expand with Paizo’s Pathfinder, Monte Cook’s Numenera, Evil Hat’s Fate Core System, and others?  Will Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast pull a true resurection or are they just pumping good dollars after bad and doomed to earn the titles of Hasbeens and Withereds of the Coast?  While only time will tell as it is not yet a total flatline, the future looks pretty grim for the brand.  Speculation has already begun on who will next own the Dungeons and Dragons name when Hasbro pulls the plug.

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Games, movies, costumes, shows, and even girls at Gen Con 2013!

Shawn LeGrand and Eric Federonich from Dubuque, Iowa
Shawn LeGrand and Eric Federonich from Dubuque, Iowa

It is likely that most every motel within twenty the Indianapolis area had gamers arriving last night.  Many of the folks in line to check into the Indianapolis Northwest Days Inn had official Gen Con badges already and others were excited waiting to get theirs for Gen Con 2013.

Shawn LeGrand and Eric Federonich left their jobs and families in Dubuque, Iowa for the next for days of awesome gaming.  Check out the Gen Con eve interview.

While the gaming goes on around the clock at Gen Con there are many other great things happening including great opportunities to cosplay, a zombie walk Friday at 8 p.m., and the film festival.

The Costume Parade is Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. with the 28th annual Costume Contest following from 4 to 6 p.m.

9 p.m. looks to be a great time to catch a movie this weekend with the award winning indie science fiction film, “Found In Time” on Friday, “Death In Charge” on Saturday, both at 9 p.m.  Tonight at 9 p.m. is the world premiere of the new indie film “O.G. Original Gamester.”

Of course the beautiful but bawdy Damsels of Dorkington return to tickle your funny bone and many other great entertainers will keep you entertained between games.  More on that later!

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Join the world in a game – International Tabletop Game Day 2013

Don't get trapped, come to International Tabletop Game Day!
Don’t get trapped, come to International Tabletop Game Day!

 

On Saturday March 30th, 2013 around the nation and across the globe men, women, and children will be gathering at their favorite, local game stores for the International Table Top Game Day to play their favorite and soon to be favorite games! International Table Top Game Day is the brain child and passion of well known actor, gamer geek extraordinaire, and creator of the hit Youtube show “Tabletop”, Wil Wheaton, and falls on the one year anniversary of his show “Tabletop”.

The show promotes taking the time to set aside our cell phones, iPads, laptops, and to sit down and interact with real live people over a tabletop game. Dice and counting games are a great way for kids to learn to count. Miniature games are great for learning strategy, and roleplaying games are great for learning social interaction as well as acting skills. Games teach kids of all ages to interact, reason, and grow intellectually while having a great time.

Enjoy the International Tabletop Game Day but please stay off the tabletops!
Enjoy the International Tabletop Game Day but please stay off the tabletops!

This year on International Tabletop Game Day Felicia Day‘s Geek and Sundry will be broadcasting live and one hundred stores will be streaming their events live and will be contacted by one of the Geek and Sundry folks during the day. The Weird Review will be at one of those premium locations, White Cap Comics at 430 Cummings Avenue NW Grand Rapids, MI 49534 where folks will be sharing the table top love with Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day through photos and video.

Lots of games will be available to choose from including  Settlers of CatanChez Geek, and Ticket to Ride or fresh off the line and out of the box games like The Resistance and Jennisodes Project Ninja Panda Taco.

Cosplayers and family friendly costumes welcome!
Cosplayers and family friendly costumes welcome!

For the Western Michigan Cosplayers, this is the weekend before Shuto Con so it would be a great time to try out your new cosplay or say good-bye to an old one with one last appearance (just keep it family friendly as there will be children present!)

So come on out to White Cap Comics and join the world in a game from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday March 30th!

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The Throne of Games, an interview with Gen Con’s Peter Adkison

Peter Adkison at the Gen Con 2012 Keynote address
Peter Adkison at the Gen Con 2012 Keynote address

 

There is a place of dragons and demons, angels and avatars, Knights and knaves, in which the Kings and Queens of the gaming industry gather every year to present their best to gamers from all over the world.  This, The Throne of Games, is Gen Con in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Gen Con was founded by the Grandfathers of roleplaying games such as the Great Patriarch, Gary Gygax.

The Council of Wizards at Gen Con 2012
The Council of Wizards at Gen Con 2012

The name Gen Con is from the original location of the convention, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  The name is more to those gamers who know and love it as a true Geneva Convention of gaming where all games and gamers can come and play their favorite games that have been out of print for years and games that are not yet available.  Where every gamer has a chance to play and every game has a chance to be played – where no game is left behind.  Peter Adkison is the former CEO of Wizards of the Coast and of Gen Con L.L.C. and he remains as the primary shareholder and member of the board.  He is The Man behind The Throne of Games.

Tens of thousands of gamers flock to Indianapolis for Gen Con every August
Tens of thousands of gamers flock to Indianapolis for Gen Con every August

John Collins (JC): Thanks for agreeing to do an interview with me Mr. Adkison.  As a roleplaying gamer I have known about some of your major projects for decades and have lived under its influence from playing Dungeons and Dragons to attending and then covering Gen Con as a photo journalist, so thank you for years of enjoyment!

Peter Adkison (PA): You’re very welcome!

(JC): Could you tell us a bit of your background?  I know your business background, but what turned you on to gaming at the outset, and what led you into games and gaming as a career?

(PA):  I was blessed with being born into a family that loved games.  Some of my earliest memories were playing Rook with my grandparents as a child.  At least I thought it was Rook.  It turns out we were really playing Pinochle rules with Rook cards, which I discovered to my embarrassment when I went all rules-lawyer on someone years later.  When I was in 5th grade my dad was teaching high school and one night some of his students brought a game of Risk over to play.  That’s when he and I both became hooked on board games.  Within a year we had a small collection of Avalon Hill board wargames and within a couple years of that we were playing the big ones like War in the East and were subscribers to The General and Strategy & Tactics.  In 1978 I discovered Dungeons & Dragons and that really rocked my world.  RPG’s have been my primary pastime ever since.

I’ve always been a rules tinkerer.  When I founded Wizards of the Coast our primary motivation was to publish various roleplaying systems, adventures, and sourcebooks.  The first product ever released by Wizards, called The Primal Order, was written by yours truly (with a lot of help) and contained a “capsystem” for running deities, divine artifacts, and so on using many of the popular RPG’s of the time.  If not for Magic: The Gathering, Wizards would probably have lapsed into the nostalgic but forgettable, heavily-littered battlefield of dead RPG companies.

From Anime to Steampunk, Gen Con has one of the biggest and best costume contests in the midwest!
From Anime to Steampunk, Gen Con has one of the biggest and best costume contests in the midwest!

(JC): Before we get to your current projects I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you to tell my readers a bit about Gen Con.  So could you tell us a bit about Gen Con?

(PA):  Of course!  Growing up as a fan of D&D in the 80’s I, of course, heard of Gen Con frequently.  I’d read the event listings and fantasized about what games I’d play if I ever got to go.  In 1992 that dream was realized when Wizards of the Coast exhibited for the first time at Gen Con.  We were selling The Primal Order and Talislanta and we booth-shared with AOL!  This was before Magic and our booth was homemade and looked sort of like a castle!  It was grand.  I fell in love with Gen Con and haven’t missed it since.

In 1997 of course we had the good fortune of buying TSR.  Obviously, D&D was the real prize – or at least we thought so at the time – but Gen Con was part of the deal and that was always the cherry on top of the deal in my mind.  When we sold Wizards to Hasbro in 1999 that deal included Gen Con.  When I left Hasbro a couple years later I said, “If you ever divest any of these businesses let me know.  I’d be interested.”  A year or so later I got the call that several businesses within Wizards were for sale and that’s how I ended up with Gen Con and Lisa Stevens ended up with Dragon Magazine (which is gone now but that’s how she got the momentum to start Paizo.)

Gen Con has turned out to be more than “a bonus”.  It’s an awesome event that has turned into a great business too.  The attendance has almost tripled since I acquired it in 2002, but at the same time it hasn’t drifted away from its original charter.  It’s still primarily about tabletop games, yet has programming to appeal to nearly every facet of geek culture.  It’s had basically the same format for 20 years, just scaled up bigger.

(JC): In your personal life you have taken off in an entirely new direction and as of Gen Con 2012 it is expanding into your public life.  Could you tell me and my readers about your current projects?

(PA):  After winding down Hidden City Games in the spring of 2011 I was looking for something new to do.  I was tired of the publishing grind but I wanted to find something that would keep me active in hobby games.  After quite a few twists and turns I decided I wanted to get into filmmaking.  So I enrolled in film school and I’m excited to report I’ll be finished in mid-December 2012!

As soon as I started film school I immediately started a web series called The First Paladin.  I’m very interested in exploring the intersection of my first love, roleplaying games, and filmmaking.  I figured I’d start by filming a roleplaying campaign.  I admit this sort of thing has limited appeal – as Jeff Grubb told me once, a roleplaying session is 20 minutes of excitement crammed into four hours.  But I have this morbid fascination with the topic and it’s turned out to be a fabulous “first project” web series.  I’ve had a ton of fun figuring out how to spruce it up by adding illustrations, celebrity appearances, testimonials, and so on.

Then it occurred to me that what might be interesting in this vein would be to film one-off RPG sessions featuring great game designers or great games (ideally, game designers running their own games).  For example, I’ve filmed Luke Crane running Burning Wheel, and I have Vince Baker coming out in early December to run Dogs in the Vineyard and Apocalypse World.

I’m also interested in making narrative films that tie to roleplaying in some way.  You’ll start to see some early attempts at this within a couple months and I’m hoping by the end of 2013 I’m decent at it.

(JC): Where do you think your dreams and plans will take you from here?

(PA):  My fantasy now is to get good enough at narrative films over the next year or two that I can move on to feature length movies.  And my goal is to make movies that are inspired by roleplaying games, settings, and stories created through actual roleplaying.  As an early test in this direction, my first short film in 2013 will be based on a screenplay that we will adapt from a Fiasco game run by the designer, Jason Morningstar.

(JC): In addition to writing for Examiner.com, I write for my own site, The Weird Review, and I like to close my interviews with giving my interviewee the opportunity to tell my readers something weird and wonderful about themselves that there fans wouldn’t otherwise know.  Do you have anything interesting about yourself that you would like to share?

(PA):  I regularly attend Burning Man.  I started attending in 2001 and am a staunch believer in the “Ten Principles of Burning Man.”

(JC):  Awesome!  Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with me and perhaps I can catch you for a video interview next year at Gen Con.

(PA):  I’d love to do a live interview with you at Gen Con next year!

(JC): Thanks sir!  I will look forward to seeing you at Gen Con 2013!

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Author’s note – For years I had wanted to attend Gen Con but it was not until 2009 that I first attended the event and I was hooked.  In January 2010 after working with a photo journalist in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, I was hooked on photo journalism.  It was only natural for me to combine these and request a press pass for Gen Con 2010.  As I applied I knew that I didn’t meet their requirements for a press pass and so did their Director of Marketing, Megan Culver.  She, out of kindness, granted me one.  In January 2011 I started working on my site in earnest and used Ms. Culver as a resource.  After several months she asked if I intended to take on advertising and if so, to let her know.  So Gen Con became my first sponsor beginning January 2012.  For the sake of full disclosure it was necessary to mention this relationship, but I have been a big fan of the event for a few years and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for an interview with Mr. Adkison and to write about my favorite gaming event, Gen Con.

The Weird Review and Contents ©2012 by John Collins
The Weird Review ©2010 – 12 by John Collins

If you enjoy the following photo gallery from Gen Con 2012 check out The Weird Review’s Gen Con Photo Gallerys from 2010, 2011, and 2012

Toys, Games, Comics and Santa Claus came to town!

Santa and his sleigh arrive at the Branns on South Division
Santa and his sleigh arrive at the Branns on South Division

Saturday morning December 1st 2012 Santa and his sleigh arrived at the Branns Restaurant on South Division.

Cub Scouts Trooping
Cub Scouts Trooping

There were Cub Scouts in their troop, trooping down the street…

Lovely, young dancers
Lovely, young dancers

There were lovely young dancers, dancing to the beat…

Members of the Godwin Marching Band relax after their performance
Members of the Godwin Marching Band relax after their performance

The Godwin Marching Band needed no applause as down division they preceded Mr. Claus…

Sharing secrets with Santa!
Sharing secrets with Santa!

At the end of the Santa Claus Parade, the children had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Santa while their parents flashed pictures.

Christmas merriment!
Christmas merriment!

It was a delightful event by the Wyoming-Kentwood area Chamber of Commerce!

 

A sinisterly, spider suited spectator spied across the room...
A sinisterly, spider suited spectator spied across the room…

Meanwhile in another part of town…

Tina Smith shows her latest cosplay
Tina Smith shows her latest cosplay

The Grand Rapids Toy and Comic Expo had games, toys, and comics galore for the patrons, costumed or otherwise.

Scott Rosema, artist for Space Ghost, Tiny Toons, Batman
Scott Rosema, artist for Space Ghost, Tiny Toons, Batman

Scott Rosema, artist for Space Ghost, Tiny Toons, Batman, and more was on hand to do sketches and sign copies of his work.

The Killustrations Crew
The Killustration Studios Crew

The Killustration Studios Crew were also at the ready with pen in hand and a ready smile.

A hero to vanquish the villainous viewer
A hero to vanquish the villainous viewer

As one would expect at a toy and comic expo, a hero came to confront the villainous viewer who was spying over the crowd in his spidery suit.

Comic confrontations!  The Cosplayers unmasked each other!
Comic character cosplay confrontations! The Cosplayers unmasked each other!

The comic character cosplayers confronted in the corner and as one would expect, an epic battle ensued.

 

An epic battl... er, kiss
An epic battl… er, kiss

Well, maybe not, but they were just cosplaying and the couple that cosplays together?  Will probably have a lot of fun with their kids.

For more photos check out The Weird Review photo albums for the Santa Claus Parade and Comic Conventions.

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