Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gamer Bling: Mythoard Monthly Tabletop RPG Subscription Box Service


Gamer Bling is a series of posts where I share and review amazing products, services, and accessories for tabletop role-playing games that really take gaming to the next level. In this article, I will be covering Mythoard, the Tabletop RPG Subscription Box Service.

Headed by Jarrod Shaw, Mythoard is a family-run business operating out of Saxapahaw, North Carolina. The service was the first-ever tabletop role-playing game subscription box service, and has been sending subscribers monthly boxes for $25/month (including shipping) since December of 2014.

Mythoard also offers a “Mythoard Digital” subscription service for $10/month which contains a collection of PDFs and digital content relevant to that month’s physical box contents. Regular Mythoard subscribers also get these digital products each month in addition to the shipped physical box.

Many different types of tabletop RPG gaming products have made an appearance in Mythoard boxes including adventure modules, rule books, magazines, maps, miniatures, terrain, dice, decks of cards, tokens, magnets, stickers, game props, dice bags, and other gaming accessories.

The Beta Mythoard Box Contents.
Image from Mythoard.com
Gaming companies who have had products featured in Mythoard boxes include: 6d6 RPG, AAW Games, Advanced Deployment, Adventureaweek.com, Aengium, Antherwyck, ArcKnight, Awful Good Games, Bad Mike's Books & Games, Barrel Rider Games, Brabblemark, Chessex, Chubby Monster Games, Crooked Staff Publishing, Dark Naga Adventures, D-oom Products, Dyson Logos, Engine Publishing, Expeditious Retreat Press, Fabled Environments, Flatland Games, Forever People, Game Mash, Genius Loci Games, GM Games, Goodman Games, Gygax Magazine, Heroic Maps, Imaginary Maps, Inkwell Ideas, Kaplow Games, Lesser Gnome, Mentats of Gaming, Metal Weave Games, MonkeyBlood Design, Moon Dice, Oubliette, Owl Knight Publishing, Plagmada, Playground Adventures, Precis Intermedia, Raging Swan Press, Random Encounters, Rarr! I'm a Monster Publishing, Red Kobold, Roan Studio, Rogue Games, Shoreless Skies Publishing, Silver Crescent Publishing, Simian Cricle Games, Squarehex, Stormlord, Tabletop Gaming Center, The Undercroft, Throwi Games, Ultanya Publishing, Winter Eternal, Womat's Workshop, and many others.

I have been a subscriber to Mythoard since its public release, and have ordered every box offered since December of 2014. Although I do try out other related subscription box services, I always keep my Mythoard subscription active every month. In fact, as I was writing this article, I received the shipping and tracking information for the latest Mythoard box! I'm quite excited that it's on the way.

Since the inception of Mythoard there have been several other gaming-related subscription services that have been introduced such as Dungeon Crate ($35.95/month), Battle Bin ($30 + shipping/month), and Game Box Monthly ($30.50/month). These competitors are worth mentioning in their own right, and offer great services as well.

In addition to being one of the least expensive tabletop RPG subscription box services, it’s my opinion that Mythoard also offers the greatest return on investment month-after-month. 

Below is a gallery of photographs I have shared on social media showing the contents of monthly Mythoard boxes over the past year and a half:

Mythoard Contents

The Pros –

Not only is Myhoard the original tabletop RPG subscription box service, but it remains one of the most affordable, and rewarding. The content theme varies greatly to encompass a wide range of gaming genre from high fantasy, to science fiction, to post-apocalyptic, to horror, and even the abstract.

Across the board, Mythoard offers a pleasing balance between books, accessories, and digital content. While box contents vary each month, a subscriber can expect to get products ranging from game books, magazines and adventures to dice, miniatures, and cards.

The Cons –

Some of the content, particularly RPG books or magazines, can be a bit obscure or dated. For example, several boxes have included content originally published by The Judge’s Guild in the 1980’s or earlier. In a recent Mythoard box one of the books provided was published the month I was born (36 years ago). It is important to note that Mythoard subscriptions do also include new and recently published products as well as new and exclusive content.

I don’t personally find these older products to be a negative, as I quite enjoy receiving these collectable items which are always in great condition and sealed in plastic sleeves. I find the classic content intriguing and inspiring. However, if a customer subscribes to the service expecting only the newest titles being published to appear in every Mythoard box, they may be disappointed by these items.

Product Rating –

In conclusion, based on affordability, variety and quality of content, and proven track record, I rate Mythoard as a 5 / 5 Bling! service. My subscription has added many great products to my personal tabletop RPG gaming collection, and I wholeheartedly endorse a subscription to any fellow gamer. I you were considering subscribing to a subscription box service, and intend to limit your selection to one service, then Mythoard would be my suggestion.


You can find out more about Mythoard at their website: 


If you are a new subscriber, you can save 25% on your first box by redeeming the following code: 

HOARDTYROUT25

Transparency Disclaimer: I have always and continue to personally pay for my subscription to the Mythoard subscription box service, and I do not receive compensation of any kind for this review or any other endorsement I have made for Mythoard. I do not receive any sort of affiliate compensation for use of the links herein or from the provided new subscriber discount code. While I am not a professional associate of Mythoard, as a freelance game designer, I work for many game companies and as a result some products that I have worked on have appeared in Mythoard boxes (as well as in boxes from other tabletop RPG subscription services). The Mythoard website and social media accounts sometimes utilize my personal photographs of monthly Mythoard box contents with my full, royalty-free permission. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

More Mini-Dungeon Cartography

Another batch of cartography has been completed for the Adventureaweek.com Mini-Dungeon collection. These will be appearing in the near future as various authors wield their word-smithing skills to craft new adventures that can be placed anywhere in your ongoing adventure.


Here are three examples of the new maps which presently bear the "working" titles: The Gallery of Gears, Lava Rift Mine, and Stone Circle Temple.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Encounter Cards: Aquatic Deck

Encounter Cards: Aquatic Deck for Pathfinder RPG (Published by Adventureaweek.com/AAW Games) is now available for purchase.

This is the first of half a dozen themed encounter decks that I am creating. Each Deck Theme includes: (5) Traps, (5) Hazards, (5) NPC Encounters, (10) Monster Encounters (Moderate/Avg. CR5, Advanced/Avg. CR10, Extreme/Avg. CR15), and (5) Adventure Hooks.

The Aquatic Deck of Encounter Cards has 30 different encounters for waterborne adventures including floating debris, sea monsters, troublesome harbor bureaucrats, shipwreck survivors, pirates, and more!

This product is available for purchase via Adventureaweek.com, DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and Paizo.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Gamer Bling: TerraTiles Modular Tabletop Terrain by RAINN Studios


Gamer Bling is a series of posts where I share and review amazing products, services, and accessories for tabletop role-playing games that really take gaming to the next level. In this article, I will be covering TerraTiles Modular Tabletop Terrain by RAINN Studios.
 
Headed by brothers, Heath & Seth Robinson, RAINN Studios is a game company hailing from Savoy, Illinois. They are creators of the popular medieval strategy board game, "War of Kings", and makers of the fantastic line of products featured in this article: TerraTiles.

Funded by a trio of successful Kickstarter campaigns, TerraTiles currently consists of three interchangeable sets: The Misty Morelands, Coasts and Rivers, and their most recent, Tundras & Wastelands. Also available are several companion products including 3D Standup Trees & Walls, and TerraTiles Elevation Risers.


TerraTiles make use of large nine-inch double-sided hexagonal tiles that fit together seamlessly in any orientation to provide amazing flexibility and versatility as a modular tabletop terrain system. 

Each box (which retails between $59 and $70 US) neatly contains sixty tiles (120 sides) and six half-tiles (to be used at the edge of the terrain play space). Each box can cover a 6x4-foot space. One side of each tile depicts various terrain features (such as greenery, woods, boulders, streams, roads, paths, bridges, etc.), and the other side a more open expanse suited for the set theme. 

TerraTiles are beautifully illustrated by Ian Schofield. Each tile is notably durable and printed in high-quality upon a matte anti-glare surface featuring linen texture (which works well to keep the tiles from sliding on smooth surfaces).

I have backed every TerraTile campaign on Kickstarter, and currently have two boxes of each the Misty Moorlands and Coasts and Rivers, two boxes of Risers, and multiple Trees and Walls Bundles. The most recent set, Tundras & Wastelands is presently still being manufactured and has yet to ship, but from experience, I expect them to be the same fantastic quality as the two previously released sets.

Below is a video of TerraTiles co-creator, Heath Robinson, presenting an "unboxing" of The Misty Moorlands set. 




The Pros –

Not only are TerraTiles an innovative take on a tabletop terrain system, but they are a solid, quality product as well.  I have closely inspected each-and-every-one of the more than 240 tiles (480 sides) that I own, and the printing and die cuts are flawless. All of the tiles nestle snugly together to form a beautiful seamless terrain that works exceptionally as a stand-alone terrain solution as well as a base for various 3D terrain pieces manufactured by other companies.

The most poignant selling-point TerraTiles has over almost every other terrain system is a combination of its affordability and its diversity. A single box provides near-endless configurations for a terrain play space that covers 24-square feet -- all for under $75 US! This knockout one-two combo is the main reason why I plan to continue to invest in any new sets of TerraTiles that RAINN Studios releases.

The Cons

TerraTiles are a system-neutral terrain solution. I actually hesitate to list this as a negative since I suspect in many instances it is a very positive aspect of the product (especially for various war games and combat systems)

RAINN Studios has gone out of the way to ensure that various terrain features depicted upon the tiles are as scale-neutral as possible -- meaning that the features should work for almost any size miniatures.

My tabletop setup with TerraTiles
by RAINN Sutdios utilizing
Clear Map Grids by ArcKnight.
However, this neutral approach also means that the terrain isn't immediately useful for many (most) tabletop role-playing games which often utilize some sort of grid system as the basis for game mechanics.  

Presently there is no in-house accessory or option offered by RAINN Studios to alleviate this problem.  

My solution was to invest in a product called Clear Map Grids manufactured by ArcKnight which allowed me to utilize the beautiful modular terrain of TerraTiles with an overlay of the 1-inch grid needed for my Pathfinder RPG & Dungeons & Dragons games.
It would be great to see RAINN Studios eventually offer a similar product for use with TerraTiles.

Product Rating
 
In conclusion, based on affordability, usability, and quality, I rate TerraTiles as a 4.5 / 5 Bling! product. They are a fantastic addition to any game group that utilizes miniatures. They are a valued part of my personal tabletop role-playing game collection, and I happily recommend their purchase to any fellow gamer.

As a personal side note, I would love to see the addition of a Deserts & Oases set of TerraTiles in the near future.

Also, be sure to check out RAINN Studios' newest project coming to Kickstarter this Summer: Incantris -- a game of magical combat where each player controls a team of three wizards. You can sign up on their website now find out more and to be notified of when the new project launches.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Unreachable Terror

Another Mini-Dungeon I wrote is now available for purchase (yes, two released in one day!). The Unreachable Terror (published by AAW Games/Adventureaweek.com) is an adventure for 4-6 PCs of 9-10th levels.

This adventure is geared towards a party that includes a divine character such as a priest or paladin of good alignment. The devotee’s patron has summoned them, whether through visions or by missive from a high temple, to perform a holy gaes—a distant settlement bearing a sacred shrine to the deity is in dire need of aid from a dark curse that has befallen their home. Motivation to pursue completion of the quest can be either positive (the promise of favor or reward if accomplished), negative (revocation of holy magic if refused), or both; keeping in line with the personality of the specific deity.

Denizens of the island village of Unreach are being afflicted by a terrible disease (Demon Fever), and many have already died. The unknown source of this curse is a coven of three night hags (one in hiding among the villagers) who have taken to the remote island to enslave the souls of its stranded inhabitants—who are easy pickings when the few vessels that visit the isle can be weeks or months apart.

This adventure is available for purchase via Adventureaweek.com, DriveThruRPG, RPGNow and Paizo.

Mysteries of the Endless Maze

Another Mini-Dungeon I wrote is now available for purchase. Mysteries of the Endless Maze (published by AAW Games/Adventureaweek.com) is an adventure for 4-5 PCs of level 5.

In this dungeon the adventurers make their way through a series of randomly shifting maze segments interconnected by magical portals. Passage between the segments of the dungeon are completely randomized as are the contents of each area within the maze. The adventurers must recover five keystones to access the maze vault and escape.

A powerful wizard created the maze to ensnare treasure hunters who may be bold enough to seek his prized hoard of magic items. Though the maze’s creator died long ago, its magic persists and the enigmatic complex has yet to be solved. A wealth of treasure awaits any who are cunning enough to traverse the mysterious maze.

This adventure is available for purchase via Adventureaweek.com, DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and Paizo

Monday, May 16, 2016

New Feature: Tavern Sign Crafter

With the overwhelmingly positive feedback I received yesterday with the initial release of the Random Tavern Sign Generator, I also received a lot of feedback and feature requests. The most prevalent among those was the request to be able to completely customize a tavern sign in the same style that the random generator is creating.

I knew that update was going to take quite a bit of work, but I agreed that it was 100% a great idea, and promised to get it in whenever I did the next update to the software. Then others requested the same, and I decided that I would get to the update this week if I could. And then I started getting private messages requesting the same... so, I pulled an all-nighter, and built a completely new beta feature into the application.

The Tavern Sign Crafter can be accessed via the "Craft A Custom Sign" button on the Random Tavern Sign Generator, and it provides complete control over most aspects of the tavern signs including: sign shape and style, visibility of the chains, emblem image, emblem position, text, text size, text position, and background hue.

Now folks can not only generate a random tavern sign, but they can design specific ones they want or need. In the near future (in the next few weeks), I will be vastly increasing the size of the emblem library to allow selection from over one hundred different emblems.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Random Tavern Sign Generator

The warrior gruffly asks, "So, where can I get an ale in this town!?" With a friendly smile and a knowing wink, the gate guard says, "If you want good reason to loose your coin, best make your way to..."

I've designed and developed a Random Tavern Sign Generator. It builds printable signs via a series of random checks that pull various graphic elements together. Feel free to try it, print them out, and use them in your own campaigns. It was a fun little sidetrack this morning, and I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Gaming Memory #2: The Hobby Shop

Downtown Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
7th & S.Main.
Sweltering summer radiated down from the sun overhead. There was not a cloud in sight, and the heat wavered and ungulate up from spongy asphalt through the obscenest humidity. It was high noon during mid-summer in southern Kentucky. The constant rhythmic gusts of passing vehicles on the busy road provided some reprieve from the torrid broil, but was of little consolation during the exhorted peddling up the long, torturous hill. In all honesty, the journey would likely require much less effort on foot—but, logic be damned; the spokes of my wheels whirred impatiently as I grew ever nearer to my destination.

Topping the hill, the remainder of the trek promised the cool breeze of a speedy downhill coast into the focus of commerce. In our little town it was dubbed simply “The Boulevard.” The four-lane strip amassed most of the local commerce into one locale, including the local mall, which in turn housed my appointed destination.

Five minutes later, I was buzzing through the mall’s massive paved lot while haphazardly weaving in between parked vehicles and vacant spaces. Still panting slightly from the earlier efforts, I hopped off my bike, propping it lazily against the stucco-style wall near one of the main entrances and eagerly rushed inside.

Pulling out the crinkled wad of cash from my pocket, I took careful care to press out the creases and assure that every bill was facing the same direction in the stack. Twenty one dollar bills. It was time for a new adventure!

Striding up the length of the mall gallery, I took a sharp turn to my left and in an instant my goal was in sight. White light glared with bright fluoresce from behind a glass-paned storefront. Above it, in bold yellow font, where the words, “The Hobby Shop”.

To me, the place was a mecca of amazement… The place for heroes ready to begin a new quest, where wonders lurked abound, and where a brave adventurer could acquire the tools-of-the-trade.

Walking through the entrance into the crowded storefront I was first greeted by a soothing rush of super-cooled air followed by the sweet aroma of a recently smoked cigar. A whistle tootled and droned as an electric model steam locomotive chugged its way around intertwining tracks setup upon an elaborate diorama. The display was lush with greenery and quaint little old-timey buildings, and took up a sizable portion of the center of the shop.

Above it hung a display of assembled WWII fighter planes and bulky bombers that appeared poised to make a run across the mountainous terrain below.

The rickety shelves covering the back wall were stacked, floor-to-ceiling, with various boxed model sets: cars, trains, plains, boats, even stage coaches… if it had ever been a vehicle, somewhere on this wall there was a scale model representation, packaged and ready to be meticulously pieced together. In the nearby corner stood a tall wire-frame rack laden with tiny glass jars of paint in just about every color one could imagine.

Directly to my right, near the entrance, was the service counter, and from there, stretching to the back of the store, an array of wide illuminated glass displays boasting hundreds of historical wargaming miniatures. The lead figures were carefully arranged in chronological order starting with Roman legions and Egyptian armies on one end, and progressing through the eras of warfare to end with a case containing majestic Napoleonic cavalry just above a large grouping of American civil war figures, poised Confederates facing Union soldiers with their cannons in tow.

With every visit I allowed myself to soak in the environment – it seemed every time something new was added or some small change had been made to the various displays to keep them interesting. However, what I had come for was to my left.

In a corner of the shop, pressed perpendicular to the front windows – a very wide, wooden-slatted, multi-tiered rack with dozens upon dozens of tabletop role-playing game books. They were all forward facing with brilliant cover art on full display; a true feast for the eyes. Directly next to this assortment was a towering peg display bearing hundreds of pewter gaming miniatures staring out from their often crinkled plastic blisters.

It was inevitable that I would be here for hours. All of the letter-sized books were neatly packaged in tight cellophane (a requirement since often the covers were left unattached to provide easy access to the amazing maps printed within). This left only the tantalizing teaser text on the reverse to hint at what adventures awaited within the pages.

With a stupid grin and wide eyes, I began my usual routine. I wouldn’t decide what to purchase until I had diligently read the back of each and every book—even those I had read many times before.  And of course, there was the obligatory hour of closely examining each of the Ral Partha and Grenadier fantasy miniatures.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swamplight
Long after the air-conditioning had dried the sweat tight against my skin, and after I had perused every offering of The Hobby Shop, I was ready. I had made my choice. On this particular visit, my purchase would be “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, Module GA2, Swamplight” by Jean Rabe. The mishmash of characters I was running in my current game were around 8th level, and this module would fit into the story quite nicely! And just for good measure, making a correct assumption based on the book’s cover art, I snagged a blister containing a couple lizardman miniatures.

With my haul in hand, I made my way to the service desk where the gentleman there, awkwardly-garbed and boasting thick black-framed “coke-bottle” glasses, looked up from the game of chess he seemed to be playing against an imaginary opponent. In every sense he appeared as what most would have called the stereotypical nerd, but to me he was as much a mysterious dealer of arcane goods and secret knowledge.

“Player or Dungeon Master?” He firmly asked as he slid his glasses snug with a fingertip. Proudly, and likely over-zealously, I responded, “Dungeon Master!”

He grinned wide and leaned against the counter taking the sealed book from my hands and glancing it over… “Ah! Good choice here. Let me tell you about this one…”

After a thorough review of the book contents, and being rung-up and checked-out. I lugged the dingy brown paper bag back out into the summer heat, eager to get home and dive into the book’s content and prepare for my upcoming weekend of adventures with friends.

---

Sadly, The Hobby Shop long ago went out of business, and our small town hasn’t had a long-lasting local game shop in decades, but my many visits to that place during various summer vacations of my youth still prompts fond memories.

I have always said that if I ever came into a windfall of money (cue winning lottery numbers here), that I would found a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) here without the worry of having to constantly turn a profit. It would be amazing to recapture that sense of wonder and awe for future generations of gamers, and even more amazing to be able to do that in my home town.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

5-Star Reviews for "Ways of the Old" and "The White Wyrm Awakens"!


I'm very excited to have received two more 5-star reviews from Endzeitgeist plus a seal of approval! Check out the recent reviews for my IWG Mini-Dungeon adventures, "The White Wyrm Awakens" and "Ways of the Old" (published by Adventureaweek.com/AAW Games).

"Justin Andrew Mason’s fifth mini-dungeon for ITWG is friggin’ AWESOME. High-concepts, awesome benefit, evocative culture and dungeon – superb. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans any hesitation." -- EZG

"Justin Andrew Mason’s fourth mini-dungeon does it right: We have a great, flavorful build-up; evocative read-aloud text…and non-combat means to resolve the danger. Traps and even a bit of investigation set-up (optional) are provided – this is great and makes the formula work in spite of its brevity. My final verdict is 5 stars." -- EZG


You can check out the full reviews on Nerdtrek.com:

These adventures can be purchased via Adventureaweek.com, DriveThruRGP, RPGNow, and Paizo.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Even More Mini-Dungeon Cartography

This week I expanded the map elements resource for my "MapMaker" tempalte and action set that are used to create the Mini-Dungeon adventures published by AAW Games/Adventureaweek.com

Several new tools have been added to the interface that enable it to handle several new types of maps. These features include: variable scale on the same map to indicate altitude for sections of a map, secondary map overlays, elements and textures for creating "overland" world-style, and smooth water transitions that create textured, detailed shorelines that fade into and around generated bodies of water. Keep an eye out for these new style of maps in upcoming Mini-Dungeon adventures!

Here are a few examples of new cartography for future Mini-Dungeons that I put together using these new map elements and tools:



Thursday, May 5, 2016

Adventure Chronicle: Tabletop Roleplaying Game Magazine; Issue #1 (Spring 2016)

It's been a lot of work, but the big day is finally here—the first issue of Adventure Chronicle magazine has been published by AAW Games/Adventureaweek.com


The 50-page PDF is chock full of amazing tabletop RPG content for both Pathfinder and 5th Edition, including an all-new 5E adventure written by Wolfgang Baur (Kobold Press). There are literally dozens of fantastic articles: three adventures, new monsters, new magic items, new traps, a fun interview with THE Jen Page (The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, Chop Socky Boom), reviews, games, and comics!

I am the editor-in-chief for this publication, and it holds a very special place in my heart. From when I first pitched the concept to Jonathan G. Nelson of AAW Games, to the weeks we spent pulling it all together, I am extremely pleased with how everything came together, and the fantastic work contributed by everyone involved. I can't wait for the next issue—Coming Summer 2016!

For this magazine I authored several articles (some with by lines, some without), was a content editor, designed the template, created the cover design, did the magazine layout, designed several of the ads for contributors, and acted as the art director as well as the graphic designer. Sheesh, that's a lot of hats!

Again, a super huge thanks to everyone who was involved. Adventure Chronicle couldn't happen without our team of creative giants. I can't wait to work with you all again!

You can download this magazine for FREE via Adventureaweek.com, DriveThruRPG, and RPGNow.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Ads for Adventure Chronicle Magazine

I just wrapped up a new series of ads for AAW Games/Adventureaweek.com and Mentats of Gaming. They will be appearing in the first issue of Adventure Chronicle magazine when it is released later this week.


5th Edition Mini-Dungeons Now Available!

One of my Mini-Dungeon adventures that was published by Adventureaweek.com is now available for 5th Edition thanks to the awesome conversion team working away at AAW GAMES. The original Pathfinder version of Summoner's Remorse was rated 5-stars + seal of approval by Endzeitgeist. So, if you're looking to add a quick and fun 5E adventure for 4-6 PCs of Levels 5-6 to your game, go check it out along with the dozens of other Mini-Dungeon adventures that are available!

This adventure is available for purchase via Adventureaweek.com, DriveThruRPG, and RPGNow.