MadDnD and Pegasus Games Supports Extra Life

We discussed doing this a couple years ago and went with a 12 hour event. This year we started with two tables running a 24 hour marathon of Tomb of Annihilation. It stretched out to 5 tables when I ran out of Dungeon Masters to staff the tables. It was thus that our team of Dungeon Masters (Zombie Joe, Nick “Moonbeam”, Doc, Terese and Caleb) prepared to run characters starting at levels 1-3 (depending on their donations earned) through Tomb of Annihilation from start to finish.

To be fair, none of us expected that we would make it through to the end in 24 hours. That is a lot of time, to be sure, but this is a full book adventure. (We only made it to chapter 3 at any table… though I believe all tables made it into chapter 3.)

During the course of the night, we allowed for table donations at each of the tables. You wanted inspiration? The DM would negotiate what that donation would be. Want a boost to your healing, same thing. During the course of the night, we took in $528 in table donations across all of them. I know this as I was the one making the deposit and getting it up to Extra Life on the donation page. I had taken and announced our final tally (minus some donations that went through Facebook) to be $8766.00 for the team. I have since found at least one player that didn’t join the Dungeons and Dragons team which brings our final up to $8861.00.

That is an amazing amount of money to be raised, and we all had an awesome time playing. Even those of us that were having problems staying awake at the end. (I was oddly included in that as I didn’t take my own advice in some instances… like staying up past midnight the night before doing the printing for the event.) One of our other coordinators (the one that didn’t think that many people would jump in on this event) send me a message of “Did you mean $876.00?”

Magic items were collected, experience was earned and all players in question ended the night with Tier 2 characters (at least level 6, if not higher). Everyone was on the path, having a general location of the Soulmonger, and searching the city it was located in. Team Demon Koala (my table), I believe was first to find the location of the Soulmonger thanks to a spell earned (with nearly $10 in donations on the rerolls) from a holy statue of Ubtao and some quick thinking from my players. Team Batiri Goblins (Doc’s table) earned the first death of the team paladin at the teeth of a zombie t-rex. (And the player opted to start a new character as opposed to a surrogate.) Team Zombie Rex (Moonbeam’s table) had the most amusing death of “Death by Nanny PuPu making sandcastles”. (She buried the character alive in a shallow grave.) And Team Veggiepygmy (Terese’s table) had the first marriage between two characters. (Thank you Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.)

There are a number of folks that I need to offer some special thanks to for the event as a whole. It came together pretty quick, and being so soon after Gamehole Con, was a task to pull off.

Pegasus Games

Not only did they agree to keep the Playground open all night for us, but they offered a Pega-Minion for one of the tables. I took donations to make the Pega-Minion “it” during one or more of the encounters that night. This was done in two shifts, with Geoffrey taking the first 12 hours and James (one of the store managers) taking the second 12 hours. Geoffrey decided since the other players had been doing the donating, that they could name their character. Thus Peggy the Pirate was born. Peggy was male, and though a sailor… not a pirate. He was never one to let the truth get in the way of a good tale, so never let on to his true nature.

Dr. Hillbert from Odana Hills Dental

At the last minute this local businessman came in and donated pizza and soda for 40 players and DMs running in this event. He stopped in for a head count that night, went to get pizza, and came back to drop it off. He then escaped without even accepting credit or thanks from tired, hungry gamers. But that definitely helped to keep us all going. And left some extra bills in the pockets of the players for more table donations.

Chris Lindsey and Bill Benham with Adventurers League

They provided us with the reward cert for anyone who made it through the whole 24 hours of the event. And there were a few that almost didn’t make it. But we all hobbled through to the end. Each person crossing the finish line was granted the Extra Life from Pegasus Games cert that granted them a junior triceratops (using the rhino stats) as a mount. It is an awesome piece, to be sure. It will make for crowded streets when the parties want to finish the adventure with their same parties and DM.

Each and Every Dungeon Master

They prepped most of the book and ran a 24 hour game. Without all of them, I couldn’t have set things up for 35 players to run through the game and collect donations for the charity.

All the Players

Some of these people raised truly staggering amounts of money for the charity. Each and every one of them made the games memorable and worth completing. Most have chosen to set this up to happen in the future, with other players tagging in where other players were not able to complete the adventure.

Nix

One of our players donated dice sets to be given out as prizes. This was back when we were three tables instead of five, so I did a series of roll offs for sets of dice at some time past midnight. I believe for each table I gave away 2-3 sets for high dice rolls and one set to whomever rolled the worst. (“You clearly need new dice.”)

The Vets

The game started on Veteran’s Day. It ended on Sunday, but we started on the 11th. So we asked each of our vets in our AL community to stand up and tell us their branch of service. All four of them at our event were sitting at our marathon tables. There is no better way to spend Veteran’s Day than playing 24 hours of D&D with one of those fine folks.

“We thank you for your service” didn’t seem quite enough, so we provided each of them with a tangible (and AL related) gift to commemorate the day and thank them for playing with us.

The Fallout

My condo is still not back in order from the chaos. My puppy gave me some epic side eye for not coming home that night (she had to sleep on my recliner, but my wife was prepared for that one). And most of the players are planning the finale for the event (completing the module). But most of all, I was hearing, “Count me in for next year!”

Check out below for a short video of the event. (This was nearing the 12 hour mark.) Given a year to plan, next year we may offer a stream of at least one table.

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Can you help a Dungeon Master out?

So this Marathon Event has grown into a beast all it’s own. A true dragon in every sense of the word. We have maxed out at 5 tables. That is 40 people, assuming I include the DMs in that mix. And we are tapped out (to steal a Magic the Gathering term). I don’t have any more DMs or any more tables to expand it further.

If you take a look back, I was starting out with two Dungeon Masters for the event. And while this expansion means my team will do well (in true Amway fashion), I am now looking for some direct support of my efforts. Specifically at my table.

The Rewards

Please help my group reach its Extra Life goals; for fundraising, Zombie Joe has set the following donation rewards. Just mention what reward you’re choosing in the comments when you donate.Limited rewards will be stricken from the list if/when they are first chosen.

  • $20: DM Reroll. The DM gains a reroll to use during the game.
  • $20: DM Inspiration. A monster or NPC gains one use of inspiration (advantage on a saving throw, a check, or an attack roll).
  • $20: Blessing of the Loa. A monster or NPC of my choice gains the instaneous effect of one potion of healing.
  • $20: Curse of the Sky Ponies. DM can force a reroll of any roll on the Pega-Minion.
  • $50: That’s how it starts… DM adds one surprise encounter with a dinosaur/group of dinosaurs.
  • $50: Tag! You’re it! DM marks the Pega-Minion as “it” in an encounter of their choosing. (limit 3)
  • $75: Magic Item. DM can add a pop-up market from Meepo into the campaign. He will have standard items for sale as well as up to two magic items. (limit 2)
  • $100: Extra Life. During the course of the game the DM can choose a PC or an NPC to be brought to 1 hit point when they would have normally died. (limit 2)
  • $200: Get my gear! If anyone donates this amount, I will send them my dice used during the game, my sheets/notes, and even the copy of Tomb of Annihilation I use at the table. And maybe a couple extra goodies…

That last one puts me in the situation where I will need another book, but I am fine with that. (I do still have to run tables at our events after this one, after all.) But should someone bid for my gear, I will have the players at my table sign the inside cover. Well the survivors anyhow – if a player doesn’t make it to the end, maybe I will have them sign the back cover.

To donate is easy, just go to MY PAGE over on Extra Life. You will notice there are a couple of options in there to mess with the store employee at my table. Just sayin’

NOTE: There is a player table at the bottom of my page. Please ignore that – I placed it there for the players to cut and paste the template to their own pages.

Extra Life Fundraising is OPEN!

BOOM goes the sign-ups

There was some serious discussion to whether or not I would get 5-7 people willing to do a 24 hour D&D marathon for charity. I’m now sitting at 4 tables filled to capacity and I am looking at opening a 5th one to allow in a couple of waitlisters and balance out the tables. That is 32 people, counting the DMs running the tables. It is both awesome, and daunting…

Dungeon Master Donation Pages

I have put up the DM donation options (other than just donating what you want to support this awesome children’s charity) on my page. The other DMs will be adding a similar one shortly. If you cannot attend, or are not a D&D player, but still want to support our efforts, throw a little on a DM page. My DMs for this event are: (click on their names to donate to their efforts)

Player Donation Pages

There are 28 players so far, but the ones that have started a donation page are: (click on the names to go to their donation page)

Video Streaming

My hope is to offer a Twitch video stream of the event. We will see how possible that is. Equipment and a video person willing to do it is the key. In the event that it happens, I will post specifics here.

What It All Means

For me, it means there is a children’s charity getting some extra money and a dialog is being opened about the needs of these kids and their families. In my family, growing up as a young gamer in the making, this has always been part of what we do. For my father it was the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethons. Mine is on a much smaller scale…

It also shows there are others willing to take this challenge in an effort to raise money. Which means this is likely going to be an event we continue to do in future years. Assuming this year goes off without a hitch.

Thank You

As a preemptive strike, I want to thank all the players, DMs and donors to the event. You are making a direct difference in the lives of children and families in need in my community.

Marathon Prep – Party Builds

As I sit in Casa de Zombie, enjoying “Daddy-Ginger Date Night™” (official title of the night each week my wife is in Milwaukee and the puppy and I have a night of dinner and television together), I am left considering the upcoming Marathon Tables for our Extra Life event. Partially due to scheduling conflicts that I have little ability to mitigate and have to rely on others, and partially because of the posts the players are commenting on in the Meetup.

We are currently sitting at 20 players as of this writing. I have opened up a third table, and have offered a fourth, if more people sign in to the waitlist (event is capped at 21 currently). Some of them are posting their plans on characters, with many of them stating, “I am bringing a bunch of different options.” The first cut will be who will be sitting with who – keeping in mind that I am going to be randomly placing people on tables.

As for the second cut of options (that each party will have time to discuss prior to the event, should they wish), below are a list of my suggestions. In order of importance based solely on my opinions…

Cleric (Healer)

I originally thought about putting Healer as the header, but I amended to Cleric in light of most druids and bards (not to mention paladins and rangers) aren’t really healers. They are mostly front line or air support, and don’t focus on healing. The Death Curse is here and is totally a thing, so don’t discount healing and the spare the dying cantrip. Most people have gotten too comfortable rolling the bones on the death saves.

Tank (Fighter/Paladin/Barbarian)

Every party needs at least one. And it is up to the tank’s player to decide the style. You are either tanking by armor (fighter or paladin in heavy armor with a ton of extra water for the fatigue) or tanking through hit points (bear totem barbarian and their resistance to all but psychic damage). These are your characters that will help to protect the squishy ones that every party needs.

Arcane Support (Wizard/Sorcerer)

Yes, I didn’t include warlock in this mix. I came really close to not including sorcerer too. Typically those two classes get their magic by nature of their bloodline or their mentors. So they aren’t as learned in the arcane arts. Bards almost fit this bill better than sorcerers – even if they are only getting their Jack of All Trades on arcana checks. Detect Magic and Identify are invaluable spells over the course of a “one shot campaign” like this. It will minimize your need to return to town. And my need to hand wave the magic items found during your adventures.

Speed and travel spells are also huge. Though I am a huge supporter of the haste spell, I am talking more along the lines of Fly, Teleport, and Teleportation Circle. Speed is of the essence in this campaign, so anything that aids in that is a plus.

Rogue (Trap-Finder)

Yeah, you may want to be that killer assassin, but keep in mind the group really should have a rogue that is focused on trap-finding. And there’s nothing saying you can’t be both. Your dexterity will already be high, so maybe focus your expertise in things like thieves tools, investigation and perception. Stealth will be fine all on its own with just your dexterity modifier if you have to.

Everything Else

While the Rogue and Arcane Support are the two things you could potentially do without, or take in a back-up capacity (like a monk with a criminal background), as long as you have a Cleric and a Tank, play what you want to play. Just know that the choices you make when you sit down at the table will alter the game I (or the other DMs) will be producing for you over those next 24 hours.

Rule 32 – Enjoy the Little Things

Whatever choice you make, know that this is a game and we are raising money for an awesome charity that helps support the needs to sick children all over the country. So have fun with it.

How to Survive a Marathon D&D Game

I was excited to see the amount of response to the event as planned. As I took questions, and looked towards the future of the event, it occurred to me how many people think something like this isn’t possible. So here I am, taking a break from studying for my exam… to bring you some tips on how to make it to the other side.

Dear Mr. Elminster, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole downtime day in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a wizard… and a warrior… and a warlock… a sorceress… and a rogue. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Heroes of Phlan.

Rest and Sleep

The body is meant to get a varying amount of sleep. But it is meant to get sleep. So definitely go to bed early the night before we start. Get to the event on time, but there is no need to be up earlier than intended to get there on time.

Food and Drink

While you might think it natural to go straight for the caffeine and sugar to help stay awake, there is a case of diminishing returns. The crash from those can be hard. So, while it seems counter-intuitive, don’t load up on coffee all night. You have access to a secret weapon – Water! Your body is made up mostly of the stuff, so don’t underestimate the effect drinking it can have on you. Specifically, it can help clear your head. And it will definitely help to keep you from losing your voice. (Which is more for your DMs than for the players.)

You can also consider Gatorade, or a similar type of drink. Be aware of the amount of sugar in it, but those drinks will have the other things your body needs to avoid dehydration.

Medicine and Health

Know your body. Most people with uncommon health issues know their bodies and the signs of an issue coming on. Don’t forget to listen to those signs. Maybe bring some Advil or the like.

For example, I can tell when I have a migraine coming on. If you ever wondered why I will put my sunglasses on inside during game days, now you know. Well, that and they are my prescription glasses that I need to see distances. I also keep Advil liquigels with me so if I feel a migraine starting (as is prone to during marathon events such as this), I know to take a couple with a cup of coffee. It may go against the tips above, but it also highlights the current one – I know my body, and in that situation that is what I need.

Breaks

My plan is to run sections in about 4 hour blocks. At each 4 hour interval, the table will take a 15-30 minute break for drinks, restrooms, leveling up, etc. Definitely relax during those times, but get up and stretch out. Movement will keep blood flowing and get oxygen through the body. Maybe a late night dance break will be done.

Some people can nap for 10-15 minutes and pop up refreshed. In this type of a situation, most cannot. If you nod off and cannot be woken, that would be the “Standing Eight Count™” and could end your run in the marathon.

Keep Active

I have spoken of this at the various cons I attend to play and not DM anything. I personally find it more difficult to play for 10 hours than to DM for 24 hours. If you do not keep your mind engaged in the narrative, you will start to nod off. Don’t talk over people, but remain present and engaged in the event and you will have an easier time staying focused.

Travel Plans

If you have not done an event like this before, I suggest you have someone drop you off at the store. Definitely arrange for a ride home the next day. 24-28 hours awake takes a lot out of you, and we don’t need anyone nodding off on the drive home. This is really the most important advice of the whole post.

More to Come…

In the coming weeks, I will post some more advice on the event for those attending. This will include my advice on how to survive the module (without giving away spoilers) from my read through on it. Party makeup, character development, etc.

RSVPs

We have 14 players signed up and 1 waitlist at the time of this writing. I will let the waitlist go a little deeper before sending out the links to donate and lock in your seat. In the event the waitlist goes really deep, I may look into finding another DM up for the challenge to run a third table. Keep your eyes on the Meetup.

Extra Life at Pegasus Games…

… Or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Sleep Deprivation

Pegasus Games opened its doors 37 years ago, and we are still showing up there twice a month to hold Adventurers League events – though back in the late 70’s to early 80’s it was less about organized play, and more about play in our parents basements. Seriously, for people of my generation Stranger Things is more of a documentary. And I bought my first Player’s Handbook from the aforementioned store the first year it was in business down on State Street. (There’s an import store there now.)

And during my 37 years playing Dungeons and Dragons, I have played with a variety of different DMs. While I can honestly say I have never played with one that could do voices the way Matt Mercer can on Critical Role, I have played with those that infuse a crazy amount of history and mythology into their worlds, and I have rolled at a table with DMs that produce a simple, fun, and consistent game. It is all a question of what you’re looking for, and how much everyone at the table buys into it.

Why do I mention this? Well, thank you for asking, hypothetical player in Adventurers League that is wondering about our upcoming charity event. One thing I know I am capable of is providing a marathon game. A true test of fortitude. 24 hours of gaming with only short breaks for food, drink, and restroom breaks. And no, I cannot do this every weekend, or even every month. The last time I attempted this was Extra Life 2014. But we are doing it again, only this time bigger.

November 4th is the Extra Life 24 hour game event. The problem for the Madison folks is that this is also the weekend of Gamehole Con. Which, ironically, is where the Wizards of the Coast Extra Life games are going on. (At least two of them anyhow.) So we are holding our on our normal game day for November on the 11th, the Saturday after the con.

Pegasus Games Extra Life

Our events that day will be putting all the proceeds towards the charity of the day. We will have four to five tables running standard 4 hour sessions of Adventurers League content. You only need an AL legal character to play. There are two simple changes planned to the format for the charity event…

  1. Donations Accepted for Play: Your DM will be volunteering their time and the content to play. We are suggesting an optional $5 donation to the table’s “fishbowl” to sit down and play. (We won’t turn away anyone who cannot afford to donate for their seat.)
  2. Inspiration Donations: The “fishbowl” will remain with the DM, who will allow players to donate a minimum of a dollar any time they wish to inspire their character, or that of another player. (Limits on these are up to the DM at the table.)

We may have other offerings at the table, but if there are any, they will be included in the morning announcements.

Note: We are beginning seating at 10am that morning, so show up early. Feel free to group up into parties of 7 players before we even open the doors. Seriously, it will help me out.

The Marathon Game

The specifics at the core are we will be playing Tomb of Annihilation from the beginning, attempting to complete it within 24 hours. Characters will be starting at level 1. Death Curse is still in effect, and we will have surrogates available in the event of character death. We will seat people at 10am and we will play until somewhere between 10am and 11am Sunday morning when the playground opens up again for the Sunday games.

Please note we are intending to stream the event, so you may be on video while we play. Additionally, we are reserving one seat for Pegasus Games – meaning one of the two DMs are going to have the chance to torture a PegaMinion in game for 24 hours. (PegaMinion to be announced when confirmed, and yes… I said two DMs, so two tables are being run.)

Procedures for signing up for the marathon event are as follows:

  • I will have a meetup set up for the Marathon Tables specifically. This will be in addition to our normal November 11th meetup. It will be set to accept 14 people to it. This will allow for 13 players to sign up, with my RSVP as the organizer to account for the PegaMinion Seat. Waitlist will be allowed for alternate players (in the event of a no-show, emergency, etc.).
  • After the waitlist has hit somewhere between 4-7 players, I will close the RSVP and then send out a link to the DM donation pages through email from meetup (which will go to all who RSVP’d including the waitlist).
  • There will be a deadline for each player signed up to go to the page and donate $10 to Extra Life under the DM’s name. This will secure your spot. At the end of the deadline, I will check donations, and finalize the list of players.
  • Once set, all players (and alternates, if they so choose), will be sent a template of a donation list similar to the ones seen in use by the WotC players in Extra Life. This will include things like donation levels to give a potion, a re-roll, etc. Securing donations for PC benefits is optional, so if you don’t wish to do so, it is not required.
  • Show up on the 11th and play…

We will have a number of special offerings for the marathon table. My intention is to make them available as the event progresses, rewarding those that can last the longest. There may even be a special reward for those able to complete the 24 hours of gaming.

The RSVP will open at noon, Sunday October 15th. (It will likely be up there, but will open for RSVPs slightly sooner.

DMs for the Event

Zombie Joe: The last time I organized this (though my home group), we made it to around 22 hours before I had a player fall asleep and could not be woken up. Not only did I still have the juice to keep going, but I didn’t go to sleep for about 4 or so hours after that. So I know I will make it to the end. Can you join me?

Nick “Moonbeam” Alfano: My son, and a player in my original running of this. While he was definitely tired by the end of the event, he wasn’t running it. We are both of the opinion it is more tiring to play for long periods than run for it. Also, he is a devout night owl – one of the things he inherited from me. So we know he will make it through the night. Especially if mocha is provided.

White Trash Zombie Unchained: an audiobook review

Horror meets humorous urban fantasy in the sixth book in the White Trash Zombie series.

Winner of the 2012 Best Urban Fantasy Protagonist by the RT Awards.

Angel Crawford has finally pulled herself together (literally!) after her disastrous dismemberment on Mardi Gras. She’s putting the pieces of her life back in order and is ready to tackle whatever the future holds.

Too bad the future is a nasty bitch. There’s a new kind of zombie in town: mindless shamblers, infectious and ravenous.

With the threat of a full-blown shambler pandemic looming, and a loved one stricken, Angel and the “real” zombies scramble to find a cure. Yet when Angel uncovers the true reason the plague is spreading so quickly, she adds “no-holds-barred revenge” to her to-do list. Angel is busting her ass dealing with shambling hordes, zombie gators, government jerks, and way too many mosquitos, but this white trash chick ain’t giving up.

Good thing, since the fate of the world is resting on her undead shoulders.

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 14 hours and 22 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • Audible.com Release Date: September 4, 2017
  • Whispersync for Voice: Ready
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07577N83G
  • Purchase from Amazon

It is no secret I am a fan of the genre, or the author today. In fact at this past year’s Barbara Vey Reader’s Luncheon, I even acted as her “assistant” in setting up the table for her readers. And yes, Team Zombie (my wife, her co-workers, and one of the women from my gaming group) was the entirety of her table at the luncheon. Other folks got to have breakfast the next morning… So, full transparency, we know each other now, but it didn’t start out that way. I think it was seven or eight years ago.

For this title, let’s start off with the cover. Dan dos Santos does amazing work. There is no denying it. And the gritty, stylistic covers he does for this series frame them perfectly. Not to mention he put the gators right there on the cover! (Spoiler: There gators in this here novel.)

This is book number 6 in this series, so not the one to jump in with both feet. There are a few years worth of titles to go back and enjoy. The added bonus is that they are all in Audible and every one uses the same narrator. So there is a definite continuity to them. Which is really a good thing, as the narrator is a solid voice actor and really does justice to the writing. Definitely ranks up there with Luke Daniels who does the work on the Iron Druid Chronicles (one of my favorite narrators – especially in this genre).

I have followed along with this series from the story of a troubled young woman who was ironically saved when she was turned into a zombie, to a story of her evolving into a fully functioning member of society, one that begins to realize her own potential. And in these later installments, there is the aspect of a larger world at play. One where zombies have their own hierarchy and community. Almost like a shadow government behind the scenes. There is even a little bit of hard science behind the zombie parasite that reminds me a bit of the similar nature in Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series.

With Unchained we begin to see the effects of unchecked scientists and the harsh consequences of experimenting on zombies. The tenuous balance on the edge of destruction might be hitting a little to close to home these days, but it definitely adds to the tension in the story. Did I mention there were gators? Because there are!

While I am never afraid of the writing style or prose from Diana Rowland, the content of this novel held my attention and took me along for a ride. And it is a ride I will be signing up for as long as she continues to write them. Definitely Zombie Joe approved.

For this story, I will rate it at full on five shambling zombies… or for the non-zombie reader:

Five Stars