Tabletop Gaming Feeds

A Darker Sun

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 09/23/2018 - 14:00
My idea for what to do with Dark Sun is more fully formed that my Ravenloft riff. Mainly, I would play up certain things that are already there:
Post-Apocalyptic Dying Earth. At some point in the future, the sun will sputter and fail, and the world will die. Civilization may not even survive until then. As in the Zothique, stories cities continue to die or be abandoned. However, the decadence and lassitude of the dying Earth genre is not as much in evidence as the grim struggle and sporadic madness of the post-apocalyptic story: the aesthetic and weird tribes of Mad Max, the savagery and cannibalism of the comic The Goddamned, and the horrifying monsters beyond the walls of Attack on Titan or zombie films.
Paolo Eleuteri SerpieriBody Horror. Weird, disfiguring plagues; parasitic monsters; icky organic technology; body-warping magic/psi powers (Sorcerer Kings should be more Guild Navigator from Lynch's Dune) and drugs.
Weird Stone Age. No/few metal weapons; lots of tattoos and body paint; primitive tribesfolk. Clothing somewhere between Barsoom and 10,000 B.C. A light Masters of the Universe flourish, perhaps. Hok the Mighty as an HBO series.
Psychedelic Metal. Did I say no metal? I meant not much metallurgy, but there should be plenty of barbarian badassery. Also, though, there should mind-warping weirdness like strange monsters, drugs, and powers. It should be like Heavy Metal of the 70s-80s,encompassing the hypertrophic anatomies of Bisley and the trippiness of Druillet.
Simon Bisley

OSR Film Review & Commentary On The 2018 Film 'Mandy' For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 17:03
There are times in my life where film crosses a bit of a line with me, the line into memory, feelings, etc.. Mandy seems like a simple revenge picture suffused with elements of 2018 phantasmagorical CGI & beautiful technological film techniques. And it is. Check out the trailer. But last night I sat down to watch this film.I rewatched it a second time to make sure that the brutal head traumaNeedles
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The Future of Wizardawn

& Magazine - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 13:05

A few years back the & Publishing Group was given custody of the Wizardawn site. The original author had stopped maintaining it and taken the site down. He was kind enough to give the site to the &PG and even installed it on the new URL we created for it. Since then we have hosted the site, although no updates are being made.

Wizardawn will continue to be hosted as long as this site is, as the two are connected. We do not anticipate making any updates, but the current functionality will remain.

At such time as this site is taken down (which is likely to be years), we will seek hosting for Wizardawn. It’s a PHP/MySQL application and can easily be hosted on any ISP that provides LAMP.  [English translation: “Wizardawn is written in a common technology and can easily be hosted elsewhere”.]

The post The Future of Wizardawn appeared first on & Magazine.

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Madness & The Moon New OSR Relic - The Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis Spear For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 02:35
“Her antiquity in preceding and surviving succeeding tellurian generations: her nocturnal predominance: her satellitic dependence: her luminary reflection: her constancy under all her phases, rising and setting by her appointed times, waxing and waning: the forced invariability of her aspect: her indeterminate response to inaffirmative interrogation: her potency over effluent and Needles
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The Big I - ATZ Evo Scenario Book now available!

Two Hour Wargames - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 21:49

Two more Battle Boards and ten new Counters.Twelve “use them as you want” Encounters to help you build your Story.Sixteen linked Encounters that tell you what’s going on in the Big I. Each builds off the other, like scene sin a movie.New pre-generated NPCs that you can use over and over in other Scenario Books as well as when you visit the Big I.All this and a bit more.
Get it here!
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The Big I - Part Three - 1st Encounter - Find

Two Hour Wargames - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 21:44
Another new counter in the Big I.

The Big I - released today!
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Castle Ravenloft

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 11:00

I've been thinking of maybe doing a series of posts on re-imagings of old TSR settings. First up is this admittedly not fully formed idea about Ravenloft.

I think it might be cool to make Ravenloft a little more Gormenghast: the castle is bigger and more dilapidated (visual reference: the castle in The Fearless Vampire Killers) and becomes more central to shrunken Barovia, which is maybe no more than a valley. The castle and environs would be a bit like Dark Shadow's Collinsport. There would be a lot of weird doings in just the house and area. Strahd would be perhaps a bit toned down in villainy, more like early, non-protagonized Barnabas Collins. Strahd should probably have some bickering, eccentric, and likely inbred human family inhabiting the castle as well.

The outside world would exist, but necessarily be vaguely defined. Barovia would be a hard to get to place, somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. The strange doors of Castle Ravenloft would open onto other Domains of Dread, though.

The play of the Gothic horror, I feel like it would work better with a funnel type situation, where characters of humble backgrounds either work at the castle and discover it's horrors or are visitors to Barovia.

OSR Commentary On DDA2 Legions of Thyatis By John Nephews For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 05:37
I've been reading through Clark Ashton Smith's Xeethra once again & its a 'pact with the demon' story set during the dying earth of Zothique's era of the Earth era. There are strong connections here with "The Empire of the Necromancers", as Cincor is still a living, massive desert country. This story takes place millions of years in Earth's future & almost immediately I thought of Lord Needles
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The Big I - Part Two - 1st Encounter - Find

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 09/20/2018 - 19:48
Part One
Map of the The Big I. Our adventure starts in the Northeast area of Albuquerque. Our SurvivorsSpence
·        Star or a Grunt? Star.·        Reputation? 5.·        Skills?Savvy 5, People 4.·        Class?Survivor.·        Weapon?BAP – 2 and SG – 3.·        Age?Grown Up.·        Gender? Male.
Bee·        Star or a Grunt? Grunt.·        Reputation? 4.·        Skills?Savvy 4, People 3.·        Class?Survivor.·        Weapon?BAP – 2 and SG – 3.·        Age?Grown Up.
·        Gender? Female.
Spence and Bee are two of the new counters in the Big I along with SWAT, Military, EMTs and Civilians.
#1 FindYou come down the Sandias and hit the outskirts of town. These Northeast houses were high end back in the day. Many are empty now. You need to find someone, a human, you can interact with that can get you hooked up with supplies and maybe a recruit or two.************To advance to the next Encounter, you must first successfully Interact (All Things Zombie – Evolution page 16) with a human NPC, then successfully Further Interact with that NPC. 
We start the 1st Encounter - Find - by going down the Sandias and into the Northeast area of ABQ.I roll 1/2d6 and score a 1. There will only be 2 Possible Enemy Forces (PEFs) to resolve.

I roll 2d6, of different colors, to see what the 1st PEF will be. Why two different colors? Because if they double up, I have met Sheeple (ordinary people). I score double twos. Al right, Sheeple!
Rolling for how many, I score a total of 3. Here they are.
Type Rep People Savvy Weapon  Leader 4 4 3 BAP – 2 Grunt 3 3 2 P – 1  Grunt 3 3 2 P – 1

Spence and the Sheeple Interact.

Spence and the Sheeple Leader Interact. Sheeple that interact with non-Sheeple have a -1d6 penalty.  That means the Leader will roll 1d6 versus its People Skill of 4 while Spence rolls 2d6 versus his People Skill of  4. I feel pretty good about my chances, especially after the Leader rolls a 6! Hahahaha! I roll, for Spence and score - BOXCARS! Are you kidding me?! The Sheeple are not impressed, ignore Spence and leave.
Only one PEF left to resolve and here it goes. Roll the 2d6 to see what we've run into and it's one Rep 4 Militia man. More importantly his People Skill is 4, and he'll be using 2d6, unlike the Sheeple.Spence and Bee meet a Militiaman, one of the two new Militia counters in the Big I.Spence and the Militiaman Interact, Spence throwing in a little Sweet Talk  (gaining 1 Decreasing Rep d6), but this is important. Spence passes 3d6, the Militia man passes one. Now I can Further Interact with the NPC. Again Spence Sweet Talks (that's 2 Decreasing Rep d6). Both Characters pass 2d6 even though Spence rolled 3!
That ends the Encounter. But when playing the Big I, the Encounters combine, representing less than a month. So instead of limiting the players to two Encounters per month like normal. you can play all of the Encounters, more than once if directed to, and count it as one month. This also means you only cash in the Increasing and Decreasing Rep d6 once, at the end of the month - after all Encounters are done.
So night falls and Bee and Spence find a place to crash. Tomorrow, they'll go at it again.The whole adventure only took about 10 minutes and some dice rolls. ************
That was an eye opener and good example of why I  love the THW gaming system. You never know what's going to happen and where your Story will go.

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J. Eric Holmes Yearbook Entry

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 09/20/2018 - 12:38

This is John Eric Holmes' yearbook entry from his senior year of high school, from the 1947 issue of The Oahuan, a publication of the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii --- the same school President Obama would graduate from several decades later, in 1979.

The bio is neat as it attests to his long interest in the pulps and writing --- "Eric keeps busy trying to crash the pulp market" and is "planning to make writing a career". It also suggests he will study chemistry in college, although he ended graduating from Stanford in 1951 with a degree in psychology.

Posted with permission of Chris and Tristan Holmes.

I've added this to the J. Eric Holmes Photo Gallery
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Weird Revisited: Random Zonal Aberrations

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/20/2018 - 11:00
This 2015 post was a follow-up to my recently ressurrected post about Zonal Anomalies.

Aberrations (not to be confused with the D&D monster type) are a type of hazard encountered in zones. The resemble mobile anomalies in some ways, but they exhibit wider patterns of behavior, resembling (at least in limited observation) living things. They are abiologic, however; their tissues (if they have them at all) appear undifferentiated to close inspection, or they may have simulacra of organs that are clear nonfunctional. They do not appear to eat, grow, or reproduce, though they sometimes mimic behaviors associated with these activities. They can not be destroyed or driven off by "wounding" them (in most cases, it's unclear if they can be wounded) but must be completely destroyed.

Aberrations have a substance (similar to the manifestations of anomalies), a behavior pattern, and effects/abilities. A lot of D&D monsters would make good inspiration for aberrations. So are some paranormal or folkloric entities but keep in mind in their game usage they are more like obstacles or traps than monsters to be fought. Slimes and oozes are good models. You could destroy them, but it's generally more fruitful to just avoid them.

Unlike most anomalies, aberrations can spot/notice things approaching them as well as being noticed themselves--though the sensory modality by which they do this isn't clear. They are not usually as tied to as specific an area as anomalies, but most will have a specific territory, in the way an animal might.

1  Apparition
2  Construct
3  Crystalline/Mineral
4  Flesh
5  Fluid
6  Gas
7  Growth
8  Light
9  Ooze/Slime/Gelatinous
10 Shadow

1  Ambusher. Lies in wait, sometimes in a dormant or indolent state, until approached.
2  Builder. Involved in some sort of construction project like a nest or nonrepresentational sculpture.3  Chaser. After detecting target, follows targets at a high rate of speed.4  Collector. Forages for particular objects or objects with particular characteristics.5  Follower. Loosely joins with the target, following at a respectful distance without overt hostility.
6  Guard. Only active in a certain area. Patrols and menaces those who enter.7  Harbinger. Appearance precedes some other event.8  Lurker. Follows targets, but furtively, as if shy.9  Mimic. Seems to repeat the actions or behaviors of a target.10 Ritualist. Performs certain fairly complicated but perhaps mundane actions over and over.11 Swarm. Smaller entities surround targets.12 Snooper. Curious, possibly annoyingly and intrusively so, but not threatening.13 Stalker. After detecting target, hunts it over distances.14 Watcher. Stays in plan view, but at some remove as if only there to observe. No direct interaction.
Effects: Use the table for Zonal Anomalies--or borrow from a monster.

chasing shadow: Too thick and deep black to be natural, the chasing shadow is nevertheless able to lurk unseen in normal darkness. It slides out of hiding when a living thing draws near, and if not stopped, attaches itself to them at their feet like a normal shadow--though does not also flow out in the same direction as the natural one. It slowly begins to crawl up the victims body and if not stopped, will cover a person complete in darkness in 20-30 hours. Over the next 30-45 minutes it will contort and collapse their body until only the flat shadow remains. What happens to the victim is unknown. If caught early, the shadow can be removed but only if the victim is surrounded by bright light and a small laser (like a laser pointer, for example) is used carefully "cut" away from the chasing shadow.

grim: Something like the featureless, white quadrupedal shape, surrounded by blotchy redness, like the silhouette of a large dog outlined in red spray paint. Grims simply appear on high ground, never approaching, and retreating if they are approached. They usual appear after someone has been seriously wounded, and Zone hunters fear them as a harbinger of death.

memory flashes: Groups of will-o'-the-wisp-like flashes of light with colorful after-images. They move quickly to swarm around a person, typically for no more than a minute. After the flashes pass, a person so caught will have one or more new memories of things that happened to someone else instead of them. They will also likely notice at some point that one or more of their own memories are missing--always small, discrete things, but perhaps important (like a telephone number of the location of something).

Blood & Webs - An Alternative Ecology For The Ettercap For Dungeons & Dragons

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/20/2018 - 06:28
I'm an unapologetic AD&D first edition Fiend Folio fan & user of all of the insane monsters within that incredible game book. The monsters in the Fiend Folio have served me very well & perhaps a bit too well. I've used all them from the first time I got the book & thumbed through it again & again for hours on end. Among my absolute favorite Fiend Folio monsters is the Ettercap created from Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

In Memoriam: George Nadeau

Cryptozoic - Thu, 09/20/2018 - 02:33

It is with heavy hearts today that we are reporting the loss of our friend and colleague George Nadeau. George has been a part of the Cryptozoic team for over eight years and, during that time, became one of the preeminent experts in the trading card industry. George oversaw the release of all our major trading card releases and always strived for the highest quality products for our fans. He took his work personally and did it professionally. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Atomahawk

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/19/2018 - 11:00
Atomahawk by Donny Cates (script) and Ian Bederman (art) was first serialized in Heavy Metal, but has been collected by Image into a volume numbered "0" for some reason. Atomahawk is a very metal story, in fact it is more metal than story. This panel is representative:

I kind of goes on like that. I lot of threats with the evocation of Masters of the Universe or Kirby Cosmicism as interpreted in an Iron Maiden concept album. It tells the story (or part of the story) of a warrior of flesh and blood (perhaps a Neanderthal, but the story is set "millions of years ago") resurrected in a robotic body by a futuristic god. Now known as Cyberzerker, he wields the intelligent axe known as Atomahawk, powered by crystals left over from the war of the gods.

Cyberzerker goes through the story slicing away and robots and people who get in his way in an over-the-top way until the ride ends, with teh story unfinished. Hopefully, there will a a 1 to follow the 0.

Rats in The Walls - Tegel Manor Session #12 report

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/19/2018 - 06:49
So its two A.M. & I've just gotten back from putting my players through their paces within Tegel Manor. They almost came within a hair's breath of encountering 'puffy' the ghost beholder down in the secret dungeons of the manor.Some quick thinking on their part & they made their way through an alternate route through the manor. The party went back up & into several of the corridors ofNeedles
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The Big I - All Things Zombie Hits Albuquerque - Part One

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 09/19/2018 - 00:46

Albuquerque New Mexico, home of the Big I. *
“Go West, young man.” You’ve probably heard it before, but you feel it applies even more so today. The whole East Coast is Zombie land, and not like the cool movie. You took off a few weeks ago, mostly walking, but riding whenever you could find that rare vehicle that’d stop for you. And then it always ran out of gas.
Now you’ve come into Albuquerque on Interstate 40. Weathers’ nice, not too crowded from what you can tell, looking down from the Sandia Mountains. The tram’s not working any more so it’ll be a bit to get down into the city. You wait until daylight and off you go.
 *Where I-40 and I-25 meet.

Part Two

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Preview one of the 18 Game Kickstarter!

Two Hour Wargames - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 20:37

Coming in October, but here's a look at one of the games. 

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PRESALE: Leopard Catwoman DC Pumps Vinyl Figure (New York Comic Con Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 17:00

You’ll never want this leopard to change its spots! Get ready for your chance to own the Leopard Catwoman DC Pumps vinyl figure created exclusively for New York Comic Con 2018! You can make sure you get this extremely limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #244 during the event.

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D&D Locations and Tactics that Encourage Dynamic Combat Scenes

DM David - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 11:20

Last summer, I played in the Dungeons & Dragons adventure Hecatomb. The multi-table event put numerous parties on a massive battlefield. Our characters scrambled to destroy arcane obelisks while fighting monsters. To start the event, the dungeon master pointed to the empty grid, “There’s your part of the battlefield,” then he set markers for the obelisk and monsters. Now fight.

I’ve played countless battles on that same featureless grid. Sure, sometimes the blank space represents an open cavern, a desert, or a hilltop, but in every case, the empty field adds no interest to the scene. At least we had squares to count.

The dull setup turned duller when we realized that our party’s sharpshooter could safely destroy the obelisks and the monsters lurking two maps over, without ever letting threats come close enough to strike back. Our melee characters could only “ooh” and “ahh” like an audience for Annie Oakley.

In D&D, the empty grid has an equally humdrum opposite: the square dungeon room with doors on either end. I’ve played that map countless times, and I know how that goes as well. If the monsters win initiative, they crowd the door and nobody moves again. If the players win initiative, fireballs and hypnotic patterns cull the weak, while the sharpshooter drops the boss. Only the monsters who make saves get to crowd the door.

Perhaps some of these combat scenes prove fun. Sometimes players enjoy a chance to revel in quick victory. Mostly, they make DMs consider dismissing the fight with a quick visit to the theater of the mind or they consider altogether fewer fights. This makes me sad because while I enjoy exploration and role-playing, I also enjoy dynamic, tactical battles.

To map locations that lead to exciting battles, take my suggestions:

Monsters deserve cover

In a fantasy world with D&D sharpshooters and fireballs, combatants would hunker down in trenches like soldiers at the Somme. Melee fighters would advance under cover of Fog Cloud. Such tactics probably lack the heroic flavor you want, but you can give monsters a fighting chance without getting too tricky. Just add some total cover, and play creatures with the good sense to duck between their turns. This hardly counts as high strategy. If you throw a rock at a rat, it runs for cover. Faced with melee and ranged attacks, many foes will stay out of sight and let intruders come into reach. That usually works. By reputation, treasure hunters are bloodthirsty and undisciplined.

Such tactics encourage characters to move to engage. Melee fighters get more to do. They deserve to shine.

Total cover takes just few columns or stalagmites.

One caution: Newer players can find foes that duck behind total cover frustrating. You may need to dial down the tactic or explain the rules for readying actions.

Start some monsters out of sight—especially the boss

In the typical D&D battle, all the party’s foes start in plain sight. This makes the strongest monster an easy target for focused fire. Too often the mastermind dies before acting, or even before finishing a monologue. The players never learn of the fiendish plan that will end their pitiful lives. Consider starting that climactic battle with the main foe out of view. Let the characters spread out to attack the guards and lieutenants, and then have the biggest threat appear on its turn. In D&D, villains must fight and monologue at the same time.

When some lesser foes begin out of view, fights benefit. First, this gives some total cover. Plus the battle feels more fluid; the situation more uncertain. As characters move into the room, they spot unseen foes. As monsters emerge, the players wonder what other surprises wait.

Give flyers some air

Cover plus room to fly makes a good lair for a beholder

I find beholders irresistible. Who doesn’t? But just about every showdown against a beholder that I’ve played or run ended in disappointment. Too often, scenarios put them in a room with low ceiling, letting melee attackers rush in and smack them like t-balls. Any beholder worth its 17 intelligence finds a lair with a high ceiling and elevated places that provide total cover. A hole in the roof or some high columns will do. Between flying and antimagic, Beholders should frustrate every do-gooder.

What works for beholders works for every other flyer. Don’t ground flyers under a low ceiling. Let them fly over the melee ranks and bite the lightly-armored spellcaster attempting to concentrate.

Let the monsters intrude for a change

In an earlier post, I suggested an easy way to make dungeons feel vital. The method reverses the tired pattern of monsters that seem to wait in rooms for their chance to be slain. Pick a room where you would normally put monsters. In a published adventure, the room might already include some. Then assume the monsters have temporarily left the room. As the characters interact with other features of the room—the fountain or the bookcase—the monsters return. This trick begins fights with characters spread out instead of in a defensive formation. Characters who avoid melee may land in harm’s way. Some character may be surprised. The dungeon feels active.

Watch Counterspell range

Counterspell ranks as one of the 4 most annoying spells in fifth edition. Any encounter centered on an enemy spellcaster threatens to turn into a Counterspell duel where the foe does nothing. All that nothing amounts a boring encounter. Spellcasters can avoid Counterspell two ways: Either cast outside the spell’s 60-foot range or cast from out of sight. So place enemy casters in locations big enough for more the 60 feet of distance, and then favor spells that work from that distance. Fireball delivers again. After casting, duck behind total cover and let the melee characters come for a taste of shorter-ranged spells.

As for casting from out of sight, non-player spellcasters typically lack Greater Invisibility, but a few of their buff spells can be cast from total cover.

Love the small loop

The opposite of the static, bottlenecked encounter comes from encounter areas built around at least one tight, looping circuit through the dungeon. Such a layout enables foes to circle around and bring the battle to characters in the back—the characters who so rarely enjoy the chance to face foes up close. Meanwhile, melee characters rarely resist the temptation to chase skirmishers. The layout invites active battles.

Make encounter areas from clusters of rooms

D&D brings a long tradition of dungeons filled with square rooms with a door. Once upon a time, that game felt new enough to make even the 20-by-20 room a fitting battlefield. In today’s game, that worn setup rarely works. Don’t just draw a big square on a grid and call it a battlefield. Dynamic encounters demand more thought.

Rather than confining encounter areas to a single room, consider building sites from clusters of small rooms with one or more paths that circuit the location. Groups of rooms add places for total cover and for hidden foes. They encourage characters to pursue enemies, adding movement and excitement. On these maps, make the distances small enough so characters can move from room to room, and from attack to attack, with a single move.

Out of marching order

I pity players who favor melee characters. Fifth-edition D&D delivers too many advantages for ranged attackers. Spellcasters get fireball and hypnotic pattern. Ranged rogues can more easily attack from hiding. Archers get sharpshooter and crossbow expert. In addition to getting the best feats, ranged attackers get to fight out of harm’s way.

But battles with movement end cover tend to play to the strengths of melee characters. The monk finally gets to flaunt her speed! The backstabber gains places to dash, disengage, and reasons to engage. The paladin can drive foes from hiding. Sure, these sort of encounters may frustrate and threaten sharpshooters, but that just adds an extra benefit.

Don’t follow this advice for me. Do it for the beholders. Those characters won’t disintegrate themselves.

Related: In my side trek “To Steal a Primordial,” the party attempts to intercept a group of drow before they can escape to the Underdark. To foster a moving battle, I designed the scenario’s last map using much of my advice here.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Royal Treatment Of CM3 Sabre River By Douglas Niles and Bruce Nesmith For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 06:53
"Have all of your characters settled down and started dominions? Have you wondered if they'll ever get a chance to fight their way through an old-fashioned dungeon again? Yes, they will!" The CM series of modules isn't really one that you hear to much about today even with the OSR raging on about classic modules. I first encountered CM3 Sabre River in about '85 when I got involved in Needles
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