All posts by Youseph

29-year-old working as a facility manager and living on the final frontier in Juneau, Alaska. Writing, reading, computers, drumming and playing some Dungeon & Dragons top my interest.

Gaming In Remote Locations: Juneau Alaska

A little over 4 years ago I moved to Juneau Alaska. I was leaving behind Seattle Washington for a better job. I went from living in a city with a population of around 600,000 to a city with a population of around 30,000. Compared to the emerald city, Juneau Alaska is a laid back, slower paced place to live. I have also learned that it rains farm more in Juneau then it ever did in Seattle. (Perhaps I should have checked that out more before I moved.) Nevertheless, I am here and I have enjoyed it very much. It’s a beautiful place to live and you can almost always see snow-capped mountains and the ocean from anywhere Juneau.

Juneau Alaska

Juneau is defiantly a place for the nature orientated person. Of which, I am not. Hiking, hunting, boating fishing, and skiing are 15 minutes away from each other. For six months out of the year it gets dark with as little as three to four hours of sunlight a day. Having something to do in the dark cold months was definitely a reason that lead me to learn and play Dungeons & Dragons. You can actually read about how I got started playing on my blog.

Collectors Hideaway - Juneau Alaska

You really get a sense of how small the capital city in Alaska is when you realize it only has one comic book/gaming store called Collectors Hideaway. Inside you will find the owner Dave Estes, either behind the counter looking up coins for his collectors on his computer, or over seeing games of Magic The Gathering in the front of his store.

Dave’s store has a little bit of everything. Comics, coins, baseball and football cards, Star Wars and D&D miniatures, Magic The Gathering cards, Dungeons & Dragons books and a lot of other stuff. Dave was kind enough to let me interview him for this story, an about gaming in Juneau Alaska.

Youseph: So you’re a gamer. What games do you play and when did you first get started in gaming?

Dave: I play Magic The Gathering. It came out in October of 1993. I started selling in the summer of 1994 and started playing pretty quickly after that.

Youseph: So you didn’t really have a choice then?

Dave: *laughs* yeah, Magic The Addiction.

Youseph: How did your store, Collectors Hideaway come about?

Dave: I wondered into the Alaskan Recruiting Company which was a store in downtown Juneau that sold miscellaneous hobby items. I became friends with the owner who told me that he was having trouble locating items wholesale. So I looked around and started selling to him wholesale. I became his buyer and it left him free to do selling. When he passed on I bought up his stock and opened up a store down town at the emporium mall in 1992. I moved to my current location here about 5 years ago. I have run this store for about 18 years now.

Youseph: Have you ever had any trouble keeping the your store stocked with games or other items?

Dave: No. It’s one of the things I do a lot here. Looking around the internet and trying to find where I can get stuff. I have done that for a while. I have had a least a dozen different wholesalers. Quite a few of those are out of business now.

Youseph: What would you say is the most popular game in Juneau right now?

Dave: Magic The Gathering. By a long shot. At one time I had a mailing list of over 100 people playing in Southeast Alaska. It’s probably half that now. It’s still steady. I play in a gaming group right now with a dozen people. I know there are groups like that all around town.

Youseph: Yeah, I know you have people in your store playing.

Dave: Yeah every Saturday. For a long time we where playing every Friday night. We had tournaments with as many as 30 people. Back in the day Pokémon was large and so was Yugio. I have had quite a few Pokémon and Yugio tournaments in here but that was in the late 1990’s early 2000’s. There would be 16 people in here on Saturdays playing Pokémon. But, Magic the Gathering was the first collectible card game and it’s the best.

Youseph: It still is in your opinion?

Dave: By far.

Youseph: I touched on Magic The Gathering a little bit in high school and I could not wrap my head around it. I found myself buying the cards thought because I really liked the art and I still have them.

Dave: It took a while for me to get into it. My oldest daughter tought me how to play. It’s hard to get into but after I got into it I have been playing with family and friends ever since. I have been playing with this set group every Friday night for the last 5 years now. We have 12 people that show up but their is a set 6 of us.

Youseph: Can you play a game Magic The Gathering with 12 people at one table all playing the same game?

Dave: You can… it’s a bit much. You can play with an infinite number of people. For me multi-player Magic is best with 4 or 5 people. It gives you enought time develop your deck. One on one is such a fast paced game that those games may only last 4 or 5 minutes. 3 person is still just a variation of a 2 person game because everybody is hitting each other pretty quick. Once you get to 4, 5, or 6 people it gets to be a longer turn game. It might last an hour or an hour and a half. People seem to have a lot more fun with 4 or 5 players. It’s a great social game.

Youseph: 1 to 2 hours? wow. I have been playing the same Dungeons & Dragons game for almost a year. It will be a year next month.

Dave: This summer a group of us are thinking about starting a D&D 3.5 game. I have never played before so this will be my first time but what I heard last night is that we might switch to playing online D&D. I don’t know anything about it really.

Youseph: I know there is an online version of Magic The Gathering.

Dave: Yeah. There are several people who play it in town here. It’s pretty good. I have actually played it myself. It’s not social and I play for social not for winning or losing. That’s what I like about magic is that it’s so social. I have seen it in my store where an 8-year-old comes up to a 15-year-old and says “Hey, let’s play”. You don’t see that kind of social stuff in almost any other environment really where an 8-year-old and a 15-year-old are peers. I think that’s really great.

I thanked Dave for his time and picked up a set of Dungeons & Dragons minis from him before going home to start my weekly D&D game.

Personally, having lived in Juneau for over 4 years and having played Dungeons & Dragons for almost a year now, the biggest thing I noticed was how hard it was to find people locally who are already playing Dungeons & Dragons. In this age of high-speed internet, and lighting quick search results things to the awesome power of our TUBES (Thank you Alaska Senator Ted Stevens) I was not able to find any local Dungeons & Dragons groups online. I think I went around for 4 months trying to find other local Dungeons & Dragons players.

I did eventually find them. In the one place I should have started looking from the get go. My local book stores.

In the end I  started a Dungeons & Dragons game with my fiancé and some friends from a the local theater. Everyone at the game was new to it and we have all had fun playing and learning the game.

If your in a remote location and into RPG or table top gaming and would like to be interviewed about your experiences, drop me a line.

Initiative Tracking Tools

Initiative tracking is very important when it comes to running a Dungeons & Dragons game. Gamers all over the internet have come up with some unique and creative ways for tracking initiative. I thought I would take a moment to talk about a few of my favorite initiative tracking tools.

DM’s Tracker by kbarapps
DM’s Tracker is my favorite tool to use when tracking Initiative, but I am somewhat wary to talk about it. DM’s Tracker is an initiative tracker for your iPhone/iTouch. The application allows you to set up players, monsters, and encounters. You can also use it to track each player’s condition. Whether they are bloodied, stunned, dazed, and so on. My wariness to talk about this app is because of how buggy it is. I have used it long enough that I am pretty aware of the bugs and how to avoid them or work with them. According to kbarapps twitter page the program is undergoing a rewrite and when the update gets published all the existing bugs should be squished and new features added. I am really looking forward to the update.

Printable DM
My second favorite option is the Printable DM created by Nephilim. Just download the PDF, print off the sheet and you instantly have a way of tracking Initiative order as well as conditions.

Index Cards
This is a cheep and easy method for tracking player Initiative and it certainly fits under the “keep it simple, stupid” methodology. Pull out some index cards for your players and your monsters. On the top left label each cards write the names of a different player or monster till you have enough for your encounter. On the top right of each card write down their HP and Bloodied numbers. Underneath the Characters name write down their AC, Fort, … On the bottom right of each card write down their initiative number order. (ie: 1, 2, 3…) That way if you drop your cards you can easily put them back in the right order. It’s also easy to track conditions.

What is your preferred way to track initiative? I want to know.

The Importance of Dice

Dice are a very important part of most role playing games. Without out a good set of dice you would not be able to roll up your character, let alone slay a dragon. They are just as important to people who play roll playing games as the story they are playing through. Some people take this very seriously. I remember reading a story some time back about a player who buried his dice in the back yard after a bad roll that resulted in the death of his character. Yet others are more than willing to share their game dice with a new player. It all depends on the person.

As important as dice are to players, the way they roll their dice is just as important.  Some people give them a quick shake in the hand and let them fly. Others will spin their dice  high into the air and let them drop down right in front of them. Yet, others will blow on their dice casino style before they roll. Each person is hopping that these little rituals they do with their game dice will improve the out come of what they roll. You can witness this first hand by watching Chris Perkins and the writers from robot chicken playing Dungeons & Dragons. Each person (most of which are new to roll playing and have never touched a d20 before) has their own roll style.

When I was looking at getting into Dungeons & Dragons last year I started by picking up the Dungeons & Dragons Foruth Edition RPG Starter Set. When I got home and opened the box one of the first things that poured out into my hands was my first set of dice. Up till this moment I had never owned my own set of dice. With the six multi-colored dice in my hand my mind exploded with possibilities of the other kinds of cool dice I could get. I think I spent hours that first night searching the internet for dice. That should show you how important dice are to me.

After looking though all the Steel, Bone, Hematite, Opaque, Translucent, Glitter, Speckled dice the internet had to offer I settled on a set of Green opaque dice with white numbers. Green being my favorite color and opaque making it easy to read the white numbers. Sometimes settling on the simplicity of just being able to read quickly what you have rolled is more important and time-saving then getting a crazy translucent yellow dice with elvish print that takes you way to long to read after it’s stopped rolling. That’s just my preference. Everyone has their own and that is what makes this topic so fascinating to me.

Recently my views on dice all came crashing to the ground thanks to a company called Game Science. One of the things Game Science states about their own dice is:

“My company makes polyhedral dice closer to casino specifications” (casino dice must be exact to a tolerance of .005″ – Gamescience dice have been measured with a side to side variation of .002″ to .006″)

So with a sharp edge on the Game Science Dice, your roll is truly random since their are no curvature variations. The sharp edges also allow for better stopping power.
Now, is all this true? I honestly don’t know. I think casino’s have have sharp edge dice for a reason and I think that holds some weight. Game Science has two videos on their website with the owner talking about his dice and why they are better then all other roll playing dice on the market. After watching the videos the guy lays down a pretty convincing argument. But he is such a good salesmen I also think he could sell sand to a guy living in the desert.

After watching these videos it’s hard for me to know if one brand of dice is truly better then any other brand on the market. I just don’t have enough validated facts to say one way or the other. As important as dice are to me and to roll playing games in general the biggest reason I play D&D is to have time set aside in my week to meet up with my friends and socialize. I don’t need casino grade dice to do that.

With all that said I drank the Kool-Aid and  ordered a set of Lime Green Game Science dice.

You know…

So I can review them…