bcalica

Guilds of Ravnica Set

Back to the city word of Ravnica, with it’s 10 guilds (pairings of two colors).  This set is all about making the colors work together, so there is a ton of mana fixing, including the return of the shock lands.

Here’s what you need to get a head/catch up to the game.

The following is directly from the Wizards of the Coast description of the mechanics of the new set.

HOUSE DIMIR AND SURVEIL

The Dimir maintain their power by seeing everything from the shadows. They know what’s going to happen before it does, and they’re quick to move if they don’t like what they see. The new surveil ability gives you a look into—and some control over—the future of your draws.

Unexplained Disappearance

The instruction to surveil always includes a number, such as surveil 2 on Deadly Visit. Look at that many cards from the top of your library. From those cards, put as many cards as you like back on top of your library in any order. Put the rest into your graveyard. Surveil helps you set up better draws for the future. Even if all the cards you looked at end up in the graveyard, you’re that much closer to what you need.

Surveil is very reminiscent of the scry ability, but don’t underestimate the difference between putting cards into your graveyard and putting them on the bottom of your library. Your graveyard is a much readier resource, and plenty of cards (not to mention the abilities of some other guilds) will be quick to capitalize. If the Dimir love anything, it’s advantage, so initiate surveillance on the oblivious and outmaneuver the underprepared.

THE IZZET LEAGUE AND JUMP-START

No guild is more responsible for building (and occasionally blowing up) Ravnica’s infrastructure than the inventors and mad scientists of the Izzet. Their most recent innovation, the new ability jump-start, is based on a simple principle: if an experiment succeeds, do it again!

Sonic Assault

Jump-start is found on instants and sorceries. You can cast a card with jump-start from your graveyard by paying all its regular costs and one additional cost: discarding a card from your hand. Casting a spell with jump-start follows all the normal timing rules, so sorceries with jump-start are still limited to your main phases. A spell with jump-start that was cast from your graveyard can still be countered, and if it has targets, it won’t do anything if all its targets disappear or otherwise become illegal. After a spell with jump-start cast from your graveyard resolves, is countered, or leaves the stack in any way, it’s exiled.

Let’s talk about the card you discard to enable jump-start. In the late game, this is a great thing to do with excess lands or other less valuable cards. You can also discard a different card with jump-start, setting yourself up to cast it from your graveyard later. If you end up fighting alongside the Dimir (a risky proposition . . . perfect!), the surveil ability can dump cards with jump-start in your graveyard and turbocharge your options. If casting a spell once is good, casting it twice must be awesome. If the Izzet love anything, it’s advantage, so get a jump-start on a dizzying array of spellcasting!

THE GOLGARI SWARM AND UNDERGROWTH

Life is a circle. And the bottom part of that circle dips into the muck and mire of the dead. The Golgari have an entire plane to feed, and they know that just because something stops breathing, it doesn’t mean it stops being useful. The new ability word undergrowth is used to highlight abilities that care in some way about the number of creature cards in your graveyard.

Moodmark Painter

Each undergrowth ability is different, so read each carefully to see exactly how all these corpses are going to help you. Golgari decks are highly interested in filling the graveyard. Creature combat is a fantastic way to do that, but discarding cards and dumping cards from the top of your library into your graveyard are just as effective. Undergrowth abilities provide scaling effects that may start small, but they can be dominating in the late game. If the Golgari love anything, it’s advantage, so dig through the undergrowth and put the dead to good use.

THE BOROS LEGION AND MENTOR

Corruption and infighting threaten the heart of Ravnica, but the militaristic Boros Legion stands ready to fight for justice. In these unsteady times, they can afford no weak links. The new keyword mentor ensures a strong fighting force from top to bottom.

Hammer Dropper

Mentor is an ability that triggers whenever the creature with mentor attacks. You choose another attacking creature with lesser power as the target. As the ability resolves, compare the powers of the two creatures again. If the target creature’s power is still less than the power of the creature with mentor, put a +1/+1 counter on the target creature. If something happened in response to the mentor ability such that the target creature no longer has lesser power, the mentor ability won’t do anything.

Attacking with multiple creatures with mentor may require some coordination to get all the bonuses you want, particularly in digital versions of Magic. For example, let’s say you attack with Hammer Dropper, Barging Sergeant, and a 3/3 creature. Let’s say you want both mentor abilities to target the 3/3, hoping to pump it up to a hefty 5/5. Both mentor abilities trigger at the same time, so you can put them on the stack in either order. But be careful! If you put Barging Sergeant’s ability on the stack first, followed by Hammer Dropper’s, Hammer Dropper’s ability will resolve first. The 3/3 has lesser power than the 5/2 Hammer Dropper, so your 3/3 gets promoted to a 4/4. When Barging Sergeant’s mentor ability tries to resolve, it will see the target now has equal power to it. That makes the 4/4 an illegal target for the mentor ability, and that ability won’t do anything. You’ll be stuck with a 4/4.

That’s not optimal, soldier! By putting Barging Sergeant’s ability on the stack second (so it resolves first), the 3/3 will pass its check first and become a 4/4. That 4/4 will then pass the check of Hammer Dropper’s mentor ability, earning its second +1/+1 counter and graduating as a stellar 5/5. Well done! If the Boros love anything, it’s advantage, so help those beneath you rise up and form an elite squad incapable of failure.

THE SELESNYA CONCLAVE AND CONVOKE

Community and solidarity are everything to the Selesnya. They want nothing more than a unified Ravnica, but in a climate where that seems less and less likely, the Conclave resolves to be prepared for what may come. In this set, they employ a tried-and-true tactic, the returning keyword convoke.

Rosemane Centaur

Convoke allows you to tap your creatures rather than pay for some or all of the mana normally required to cast the spell. Each creature pays for one mana of its color or for one generic mana if it doesn’t match any the spell’s colors. If you tap a multicolored creature, you can choose which cost it’s covering.

For example, you can cast Rosemane Centaur by paying 3GW. Not a bad deal, but nothing to write your home plane about. You could also cast it by tapping a green creature and paying 3W. Or tap a white creature and pay 3G. Or tap three blue creatures and pay GW. Or tap two green creatures and pay 2W. Or tap five creatures, including at least one green creature and one white creature, and pay no mana at all!

Some things to remember: Tapping a creature for convoke doesn’t involve the T symbol, so you can tap creatures with “summoning sickness,” basically ones that just came under your control this turn. Tapping the creatures for convoke happens after you’re done activating mana abilities. This means if you tap a creature for mana, it will be tapped when it comes time to convoke. Essentially, it can’t count twice. Also, using convoke doesn’t change a spell’s mana cost or converted mana cost. Rosemane Centaur has a converted mana cost of 5 no matter how much mana you actually paid.

Convoke is a fantastic way to deploy oversized creatures way ahead of schedule. If the Selesnya love anything, it’s trees. And well-tended gardens. Go figure.


5

Magic Core 2019 Set

Core sets return with Core 2019 and it seems that the rule of 5’s is firmly in place. Five Planeswalkers and 5 elder dragons bookend a 280 card set that is all about the action.  Dragons, Elves, Zombies, and Nicol Bolas…(wait, is it the planeswalker or elder dragon?  Ah, what the hell…lets make it both!), this set may cover the basics, but basic, it ain’t.   Prerelease the week of July 7th, Release the week after.

 

About Magic Open House Sun, July 1st

Full Art Promo Guttersnipe
Promo Guttersnipe while supplies last

Magic Open House is mainly about bringing in new players to introduce to the game, and D20 Games is a great place to do it.  On Magic Open House day, Players can stop by  for fun, casual play that includes learn-to-play Magic events, free Welcome Deck tutorials for new players. It is a light and fun event.  And if you are one of those new players, you are super welcome.  Magic is a great game, (there is a reason that it’s stuck around for 25 years.)  It does take a good mind to master, but once you get the basics, it’s all in the cards.  (How to play magic) (More How to Play Magic)

(Depending on who shows up, we’ll do a mini how to play magic class at ~11)

Players who participate in any aspect of the event (bring a friend, play in the tournament, or buy one of the Intro Decks)  receive a promo card, and the new players will receive a Welcome Deck. A casual League-style Standard tournament at 12 noon.  Entry to that event will be $5 and everybody will win a pack, PLUS a bunch of extra promos that I’ll scatter around to reward the brave new folks and thank those experienced players based on how much they are doing to help the new players feel welcome.(Experienced/regular players…this is a chance to pay it forward, and we need ya to help make new players feel invited and welcome.)

Image result for core 2019 intro decks

BONUS—Get a chance to buy one of the new Core 2019 Intro decks two weeks early!  Supplies are limited.  And we’ll throw in an extra booster pack with any other intro or challenger deck bought that day.

 

So why is Yugioh Banned at D20 Games, anyway?

I just got an email from someone looking for a place to have his 12 year old son to come and play Yugioh, and I was about to tell him the tale of why it is banned at the store, and why I recommend steering him away from Yugioh when I realized that it’s been a long time since I told the story and it was probably worth putting it where everybody could see.

Yugioh is one of the big collectible card games, and was a pretty big part of the store when I acquired it back in 2011.  We would get 40-60 people coming in on Sundays, and it represented about 1/3 the business of the store.  But I gave it a partial ban in 2012, followed by a complete ban after we had the big break in that almost killed the store.

The day D20 was broken into

So Why Ban Yugioh?

So with all due modesty, I’m a good guy, and have a firm but gentle touch with people, including tweens and teens. (I used to teach Karate to kids.)  I can pull people aside and talk to them about behaviors that are not ok without shaming them or making them feel angry or resentful. And I spent a lot of time getting to know the community, participating and getting to know the individual players.  But our Yugioh days contained 90% of the trouble we had at the store. It seemed any deck or cards left attended would be stolen the moment someone’s back was turned, we had a huge amount of issues with people taking advantage of others in trades, bad language and people getting really angry, sometimes to the point of fights over games.

After the break in, I went to a big conference of game store owners from around the country and was shocked to find out that the problems we had had were present at stores as far away as Philadelphia, and were only with Yugioh.  I spent a long time trying to figure out why this was…it was just a game, after all.  Finally I came to a theory, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I became convinced it is correct.   There seems to be a fundamental design flaw in the game end’s up not only fostering, but training bad behaviors.  Those have become part of the tone/culture of poor behavior/ethics that riddles the Yugioh community.

Yugioh-Magic “fixed”?:  Yugioh was invented by a guy that was an old Magic player.  He hated the idea of what’s called set rotation. (Basically, only the last couple of years of cards are used in the most common competitive format.)  He wanted all the cards that were created in his game to be used all the time. The problem with that has to do with the nature of collectible card games.  See the cool part of these games is that there are basic rules, but the new cards get to introduce new rules that change the game.  That’s really great, but as you get more and more rules, if you aren’t careful, you get combos of the card that just came out with a card from 5 years ago that becomes powerful enough to break the game.   Games like Magic the Gathering and Pokemon spend a huge amount of time looking out for these kinds of combos, but Yugioh doesn’t do quite as good a job.  Add that by having all the cards available to play with, after a few years the game started to be defined by these game breaking combos.  What it meant was the best decks don’t just win, they utterly crush not so great decks.

Badly training the Young; So here is where things start to go wrong.  Imagine you are a 8 or 9 year-old, taking your first deck to go play with your buddies at school.  You don’t just lose, you get crushed.  You go home to your parents, tears in your eyes from the humiliation.  If your parents have means, they come to a store like we used to be and buy better cards so they don’t have to see that look again.  If not, the kid has several choices.

  • “This game is stupid, I’m not playing it anymore”.  Probably a good choice, but kids aren’t usually wired that way.
  • Trade for better cards.  This seems good on the surface, but the cards they need are worth many, many times what the cards they have are worth.  So they end up learning, at a pretty early age, to take advantage of less knowledgeable players.  This is something we deal with directly in all of the collectible card games, and when a kid gets taken advantage of, they can either decide to talk advantage of the next person or to never make anyone else feel as bad as they do now.  It is one of the fundamental building blocks to becoming an honest person or not.
  • Stealing: See the deck that beat them in the kids backpack….

This isn’t the majority of kids that end up down a bad path, but it is enough that starts to seriously influence the ethics of the community.   There are a couple of additional things about the game that complete the story.

  • Lotto Packs.  All collectible card games have the “oh, what’s in this one” aspect that has been part of collectible cards since baseball cards.  It’s true of Magic, Pokemon, etc. But Yugioh is an extreme with this.  It was well known that of a box of 24 packs had about 8 that were were worth anything at all.  It was totally common to watch people open packs, look for the ultra rare and throw the rest of the pack out if it wasn’t there.  With this level of gambling mentality, it affects how people view the ethics of trading.
  • Turn one win fury:  With all the combos that could win the game running around, it becomes almost a coin flip to see who finds their combo first.  If you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on your deck and your opponent gets his combo out first and locks you down, people tend to get, shall we say, cranky.  This is why we had so many near fights during tournaments.
  • “Dealing” trading cards:  Because the cards that make these auto win combos are so critical in playing, they become fairly valuable.  Add this to the culture of it being ok to take advantage of other people during trades, and you get people that are acting almost like the not so great version of dealers with the valuable cards.
  • Unclear Rules=different kind of players. The unspoken truth of the kids who really learn to play Pokemon and the Magic players is that it tends to attract fairly intelligent people.  Trying to figure out how to make different rules work together is a super interesting and challenging thing to do.  The rules on the Yugioh cards can be so difficult to understand and obscure that instead of people figuring out their own cool things, they hear from someone else how that new cool deck work.  That means that you get a fairly large percentage of the community that plays just for the chance to beat each other, or to try and make money off their wheeling and dealing for cards.   There is often a more aggressive group of players that joins then what you would imagine would be attracted to playing a non gambling card game.

Not all Yugioh Players are bad, but enough: I’m not saying that this affects everyone, or even the majority of players. But it does change the tone of the community, the ethics and how they treat each other.  I believe this enough that even though Yugioh was a full third of my business, I made the decision, as both a store owner and a father to ban the game utterly from the store.  This was not something I did lightly or without a great deal of thought and consideration. Not only no sales, but no Yugioh cards are allowed at the store, and I actively do my best to encourage kids away from playing the game. I’m sorry for the good folks who like the game, but after 5 years, I have never regretted it, and to answer a frequently asked question, will never bring it back to the store.  (I could use my access to sell it online and make a decent profit, but once I believed it was a bad influence, as a dad, I couldn’t do even that.)

But my kid wants to play Yugioh: For parents who’s kids (frequently Pokemon players who are looking to move on) are getting interested in Pokemon, I would strongly suggest gentle urging towards Magic instead. (You can bring them in and I’ll provide parental support.  I may be the Peanuts “wah, wah” parents to my own kids, but for other kids, I’m the guy behind the counter at D20.  I can use that bully pulpit to help with this so they don’t just end up seeing it as forbidden fruit.)   Magic was the first of the games, and has the good stuff of the collectible card games, (social interaction, really using your brain, etc.) without that level of negative side effects. Probably the best feature is they can do what is called limited play. (Basically show up and do events where they play with the cards from the packs they get as part of the event.  Everyone starts even, and it is a chance for them to play with the packs they collect.  There are even team events that can be played with a buddy or even parent.)  You still want to make sure they trade fair, and are get interested in the playing, not just opening packs, but it’s a good choice I have no problem recommending.  Tell you the truth, I hesitated talking publicly about my observations about Yugioh, because I didn’t want that to get generalized unfairly to the rest of the collectible card games.

Found Dad (& Grandpa) hiding at a garage sale…the power of old games-a Father’s day story

I didn’t expect it when I opened the box.  The intense rush of feelings that flooded over me as I not just looked at, but felt the feeling in the cards.  I’ve opened a ton of these, old games acquired in garage sales, previous loved goodies waiting to find new homes. One of the main reasons I love the store is getting a chance to find ways to get families to spend more time with each other, using the games an excuse to connect. I know this, I do it all the time.  But knowing it in your head is one thing….feeling it in your heart is something else.  I found two games yesterday, one of which turned out to have my Dad inside, the other had my grandfather.

I had a hint at how important games could be last Halloween, that I wrote about once before.  It was this tall dad (looked like a professional sports player guy) and his probably 9 year old daughter.  They came in to trick or treat, but both of them lit up like fireflies when they saw what kind of store they had walked into.  She moved from game to game with a look that, when matched with her dad’s, immediately revealed the image of days spent, sprawled out on a floor together, playing games.  For them, they looked at the games, and what they saw wasn’t fun, it was love.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I still think about them once in a while and it’s hard not to feel my heart fill too. .

The games I picked up yesterday were Mille Borne and Chinese Checkers.   This particular copy of Mille Borne was from 1971.  It could have been the copy I played a thousand times with my Dad when I was a kid, and as I felt the worn softness of the cards, it was not a memory as much as an emotional evocation that hit me so hard.    Sounds or smells can have the same effect, but I didn’t expect it from the game. My dad was a big game player, but hadn’t picked up so well that it’s not only ok for parents to lose to their kids, but that it is actually an kind of an art. But Milles Borne had this great blend of strategy and chance that evened things out. Somehow there were a ton of life lessons in that game.  Do you speed like crazy for the finish line, getting less points but going for the quick win, Putting down your super protections in advance, or holding on, waiting for the whoo  hoo moment of a Coup-fourré.  I think that’s the moment I remember most….it was satisfying as heck to beat my dad, both cause it felt good and because even then I knew that it made him proud when I could beat him.    But it reminded me in a very visceral way why playing games with your kids isn’t a extra thing to do if you have time…but something that will live with them forever. 

 Chinese Checkers is my grandfather…or at least brings him back to life for me whenever I see a set, particularly an old set.   The family legend is that he brought Chinese Checkers into the country.  I did a bunch of research and their may be some truth to it.  He was an entrepreneurial guy. An immigrant who got a job as a buyer at the May Company (think early Macy’s) based on completely made up experience.  The story of how he brought Chinese Checkers to Leo Pressman, founder of Pressman Toys (and the lawsuit for a whopping $5000 that let him open a furniture store in Denver), I’ll save for another day.

 

 

Magic Battlebond – Two-Headed Giant Set

Meet Battlebond,

This is a special Magic Set built for our very favorite format, Two-Headed Giant.  Features two new mechanics, Assist that basically lets your partner help with the “rent” (paying for the cost of creature or spell.) and Partner with, a pair of creatures (or planeswalkers) who let either teammate hunt through their deck to find it’s mate and bring it to hand. 

 

Dominaria-Garfield’s Magic Touch is Back

 

Buy a box for Dominaria is unique in two ways:

  • First 40 boxes sold include a buy a box promo card that isn’t available in ANY OTHER WAY

Release Weekend Events for Dominaria 4-27 to 29th

Friday Night Magic Draft @ 7pm $15pp

Sat THG @ 4 pm using the Prerelease Packs (6 packs and two foil promo cards per kit)

Sunday 10 am Sealed with Remaining Prerelease kits
: $30 in advance and $35 at the door

 

Karn, Scion of Urza

(Personal Note…been using Draftsim to do test drafts/sealed’s of Dominara for the last week….this set is a BLAST!!-Ben)  Dominaria, is the homeworld of Magic..the place where it all began, so it’s a special treat that when they decided to return to it for the first time since Urza traipsed around Time Spiral, that they invited a special guest to help with the set Design.  For those who weren’t around when Richard Garfield created Magic, may know him better from the last major time he lent a hand, the deeply beloved original Innistrad block.  Now the legend is back to help with a set that is both literally and looks to become figuratively legendary.

Set info: 

Song of FreyaliseSagas: The new set is all about the Legendary and includes a great new type of card called a Saga.  These are enchantments that tell their own story, by firing off a new “chapter”  over the 3 turns.  These are extremely interesting and pretty damn fun.

 

 

 

The Cards: https://magic.wizards.com/en/products/dominaria/cards

The New mechanics: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/feature/dominaria-mechanics-2018-03-2

 

 

Fun Changes for Saturday Two Headed Giants

So we are doing something cool with Two-headed Giants at D20.  Two headed giants are one of our favorite Magic events because it gives people a chance to hang out together and share something they really like.  It’s great for buddies, couples and Kid Parent combos.  (The really cool thing is that its like tandem skydiving, as long as one player knows how to pull the cord, the other can come along for the fun, without worrying about making any mistakes…its a great way to share something with someone you care about.)  THG are each Saturday starting at 4 pm (except the First Saturday which is Date Night Magic) The Changes–3 different versions of THG each month (at least) Classic, Plus, and Premium…how does that sound? Every Saturday (except the first Saturday of the month and rare special events) we do two headed Giants as a team event.  The rotating different versions  will be:
  • 2nd Sat-Classic:  4 of the current block (newest packs) ($20pp-4packs each)
  • 3rd Sat-THG Plus = Fat Pack Wars.  Each team has one member reach into the mystery box and pick out a pack that matches a random Fat Pack (or Bundle) from Born of the Gods to the latest.  ($25 pp-6 packs each)
  • 4th Sat: Premium – Master’s Chaos or Mystery box Prerelease kits.  Each month we will switch off between 4 pack per person Chaos (mystery sets that include one of the Masters packs) or a mystery box prerelease kits from as far back as Return to Ravnica/dragons maze-6 packs plus promo cards per person ($30 pp–4 packs with one masters pack, or 6 pack prerelease kits)
  • 5th Saturday-Mystery Box THG—Prerelease (rerelease) kits.  Random Prerelease kit per player..6 packs plus bonus promo card. ($30pp)
**I reserve to motify any of the events in the future, because, well, we came up with a cool idea and wanted to try it out.  The goal is to make it fun!

So I’m addicted to phones too–An(other) open letter to D20 Kids & Parents

(Kids, don’t read this*.  It talks about some things being done in the mobile industry that are designed to manipulate people into doing things for the sake of advertising and in app purchases that are actually leading to medical level changes in the way our brains work, leading to some pretty bad stuff.)

There is an elephant in the room, and it is hard to get his attention because he has his trunk stuck in his smartphone.  There are a whole bunch of really smart people working really hard to use every psychological trick they can to get me to spend as much time as possible on our cell phones.

And they are winning.

Fun that makes me feel bad. I didn’t like it before when it just made me feel bad. And I now like it way less that I’ve come to understand it is affecting my sleep patterns,  how well I think, and acting like a drug, trading little moments of feeling good but leaving me sense of feeling depressed and out of control.  So I guess I fit into the classic definition of being addicted, knowing that something isn’t good for you, not wanting to do it, and doing it anyway.

Ain’t just me. The much bigger problem is that I talk to kids and parents everyday, so I know I’m not alone in this.  In fact it’s so universal that most of us have just thrown up our hands as the new way the world works.  But there is something about it that has felt more serious for a while, so I’ve started to look at it more carefully and what I found was a much bigger deal then I thought.  In a world where it seems like there is a crisis a day, it seems almost foolish to raise up a hand and try and point to a place where you think you see the damn starting to crack.  But I don’t raise my hand like this often, and I’m raising it here…raising the hand, waving the red flag, pulling the fire alarm.  I don’t even want to list the level of damage/danger here, because I don’t want to get written off as hysterical or overreacting…so I’m just going to ask that you trust me enough to read all the way through this over-sized tome, and if you end up feeling like I do, come and help me figure out what to do about it.

I’m a dad, and I spend a huge amount of time trying to get my kids to spend less time on their cell phones, and we get into a ton of fights about it.    “You don’t understand.  Your generation doesn’t get it.  I am being social, just with my friends on the phone and not with you.” etc, etc, The very process of trying to get my kids off the phone so we can have better time together generates fights that leave everyone mad in their corners, not being social at all.  (Does this sound familiar to any of you?)  As parents, its pretty obvious to see the difference in how our kids feel and behave when they are not on the phones so much, but trying to do something about it is way harder then it should be.  Besides, everybody is going through it so maybe it’s not really a thing, just us having to adjust to a different way of being in the world.  Or maybe there is something very serious going on and we in the middle of it so much that it’s hard to see what’s going on.

Hi, I’m Ben and I’m… I’m going to make two statements, one about me and one that is so outrageous that I’m either an utter fool, or it’s a very big and very real deal.

  1. I’ve been having real problems controlling myself with my phone too.  I’ve been trying not to says addiction, but if it looks like a duck and clicks like a duck…its probably an addicted duck. 
  2. In 10-20 years people will look back on this time as an actual health crisis, the way that we look back on the cigarette industry.
Digital Nicotine. So I’ll say that second part again, and try and explain what I mean.  When we look back in 10-20 years at this time, people are going to be looking back on this time the same way that we look back on the health crisis caused by smoking.  It’s almost impossible now to imagine there was a time when people didn’t recognize either the addictive power of cigarettes, or realize how much suffering/ death it was causing. And to imagine that there were people in that industry, who once they understood both the addictive nature of what they were doing and what it was doing to people, spend huge amounts of money, hiring the best people they could, to discredit the scientists, to increase the addictive properties of what they were selling and to focus the most sophisticated techniques possible to not only get people to smoke more, but to get to teens and pre-teens and get them to try smoking, knowing that once they did, they would likely have customers for their (admittedly shorter) lives.  (Smoker’s average lifespan is 10 years shorter then then those who never smoked.

We should have known better hall of fame: There have been a number of times in the past where we did mindbogglingly stupid stuff without realizing the effects.  It’s almost unimaginable that back in the 50’s people had no idea that smoking was actually bad for you.  There were dancing cigarette packs in the commercials of TV shows, and ads talking about the health benefits of one brand over another. Not to mention the X-ray shoe store boxes:  You know how when you get an x-ray, they drape your body with lead covering and step out of the room while they flash the x-ray for the shortest imaginable time, because they know that long exposure to x-rays has a high likelihood of caucusing cancer.
There was a period where you could go into a shoe store and put your foot in a machine.  To put that in context, the a dental x-ray would expose you to 0.005 mSv of radiation, 20 seconds in the foot box would expose you to ~48 mSv.  Oh, and did I mention the day my high school physic teacher brought in a nice blob of Mercury in a film canister for us to pass around and play with to show us metal that was in a liquid state at room temperature.  But hey, we didn’t know better and with the exception of the cigarette, when we figured out it was bad for us, we stopped.  
The cigarettes were a different story, for two reasons.  
  1. They were chemically addictive.
  2. There was enough money to be made that there was a whole industry dependent on, well people being dependent.   

I’m not addicted…what is addicted anyway? There are a lot of definitions for addictive, but the best one that I know if is something that you do, that you know is bad for you, can see the bad results, part of you is aware of it and knows you shouldn’t do it, and you do it anyway.  You can feel two voices warring inside of you, one that knows better, and the other that will use any tool at its disposal to have you not think about any negative consequences, and will rebel against anyone who might get in the way of doing it.  There’s a whole brain chemistry thing with the parts of the brain that are set up to reward us for doing things that are good for us, getting hijacked by things that provide the same sensations but without the benefits.

So how does this have anything to do with cellphones, or more specifically smartphones?  I’m going to do more writings about this in the year to come, but it turns out that when you hire a lot of the smartest people in the world to try and get people to spend as much time as possible with your apps, to basically figure out how their brains work and try and stimulate the parts of the brain that will get them to do something over and over again, that you are creating addictions.  That’s not quite digital nicotine yet, because what’s the harm being done?  It’s just people spending some of their free time on their phones…what the big deal?

Image result for addicted to cell phone

Getting Mad. Here’s where I start to go from nice guy, kindly store owner Ben, to quietly furious and determined to do everything I can to do something about this Ben. 
Here are a number of the affects that the wrong kind of/too much time on the smart phones has been having. ( Everything on this list makes sense from observation and has credible studies behind them.) One note before reading this list.  I think it’s really important for each of us to be able to be honest in our own observations in how we are being affected.  Really smart people have been working very hard to get us addicted to these devices, and it’s going to take a huge amount of effort and willpower to break that.  I don’t know what all the steps are, but the first is being strong enough to really look at what is going on with ourselves.   I will be adding more links/references to this list as time goes on.   
All the list contributes to and pales in comparison to the last item.
  1. Health5 Serious Side Effects of Using Smartphones Discover the dangerous consequences of your cell phone habitImage result for effects of cell phone addiction
    1. Sleep disruption
    2. Back and neck problems
    3. Hand/Finger problems
  2. Safety
    1. Distraction while driving is massively increasing…killing about 1/3 as many people as drunk driving.
  3. BI Graphics_Bluelight effectsCognition-changing the way our brain functions
    1. Significant reduction in ability to maintain attention and focus.
    2. Memory drops-Brain shifts to not store things that the phone has stored/access to
    3. Notifications cause shockingly high drops in productivity
    4. Neurological changes based on different stimulus creates same neurochemical addiction as most drugs. 
  4.  Homework/productivity
    1. Even just having the phone next to you—with the notifications off, reduces capacity to think/focus.
    2. Notifications lead to significant drop in focus/productivity
    3. “multi-tasking” consuming other media while working reduces how effectively you think.
  5. SocialImage result for effects of cell phone addiction
    1. Smart phone use is decreasing face to face time and skills, connected to depression and sense of isolation
    2. People withhold connection/trust from other people who are engaged with phones, even if they are just on the table
    3. Issues around smart phone use are causing stress and barriers between parents and children
  6. Depression and Suicide
  7. Smartphones becoming common among teens is the only significant/attributable change leading to a 25-30% increase in teen unhappiness, depression and Suicide that has been growing side by side with smart phone use from 2010 till the present.

 

And the last one is what has pushed me over the edge.  I can’t step back and do nothing anymore.  But I also know that there have been thousands of people who are extremely smart, who have gone through great efforts to make this problem much harder 

then just triumph of the will.  So I’m going to do my best trick in terms of solving hard problems…gonna get as many other brains (and hearts) as I can working on this.  And that includes the kids too… So look for more, comment, share and show up.  It’s too important not to.

*Of course I wanted you to read this.  See, I’m smart and a little manipulative too. (When you get addicted to something, one of the effects is a splitting of the voices inside you.  There is the voice that can see what is going on and wants control back.  And there is the voice that feels it needs that endorphin rush that comes from the behaviors, that will do everything your smart mind can think of to deflect anything that might give the first voice a chance to take control back. )

 

D20 Games-Intro to D&D for Parents (and others)

By Ben Calica

This guide is designed as a simple, English translation for parents, significant others, and just those who felt curious as to what the heck D&D is all about.  We run D&D Encounters at D20 Games these days, and I’m old enough to have played the game with the first white books back in the mid 70s.  I’m also a dad of tween twin boys and a daughter who’s three years younger, so I can do the kid to parent translation pretty well. 😉

What is D&D?  Dungeons & Dragons is the game the popularized role playing.  Created in the mid-70’s,D&D was unique in casting one of the players in the role of the Dungeon Master.  A person who both kept the secrets of the world that the other players were trying to discover, and acted as a living interpreter of the rules, allowing players to try all sorts of creative solutions to problems they encounter, and not be limited by only what the original game creators set down on paper.  This was quite literally a game-changer, in that it really allowed people to use their imaginations to inhabit characters that they created and moved through the world.  It works best when the players access the freedom of their 8-12 year old selves and create characters that are ones they would have chosen to play on a playground.  (BTW…those of us who were around for the first round of this remember the media frenzy over kids in the sewers doing horrible things.  That was more made up then the game.  The truth was it was a bunch of us utterly harmless little nerd boys and girls being imaginative in the basement of our parents houses.)

D20

D20s-The rolls at the heart of role playing.  The D20 that is the name of our store refers to 20-sided dice, and are the key to most role playing games.  As much control as the Dungeon Master needs to have over the world that he/she is slowly unveiling, if they end up as the autocrat that just tells a story without any possibility of success or failure outside of what is ordained by them, the game becomes either stale or feels unfair.  Instead, based on a characters developing abilities  the Dungeon Master either consults pre-created tables of possibilities for certain types of actions (attacking with a sword, jumping out of the way of a dragon’s fire breath, getting a good nights sleep without being discovered by some roving band of creepy creatures), or makes their best guess for some creative idea a player has, and assigns a number that they must beat for that to succeed.  “I want to use my special agility to do a back-flip over my friends head to the back of the group.”  “Ok…you need to roll an 18 to make that happen.  Since you have extra agility bonus..you get to add 4 to whatever you roll.  Roll a d20!”  It is the mix of imagination and estimated chance that is the heart of what makes role playing games ongoing fun, and a story that even the Dungeon Master doesn’t know how will play out.

D&D as avengers


18 again, the birth of a character.
  The other key part of what makes role playing games fun, is the birth and evolution of your character.  A few different methods can be used, from the genetic randomness of rolling dice to determine the basic DNA of your character.  Are they quick  smart, wise, strong charming, or tough, or some combo of the above.  The first method involved rolling three six sided dice for each attribute, and then figuring out based on what you got what that character would be.

For example right now I’ll roll out one to show you.ac-muppets

Well…obviously this guy is going to be hiding in the back of the group, not swinging anything bigger then a stick.  But…with those Wisdom and Intelligence scores, looks like we might have a wizard or kind of skinny healer.
Using the more popular method of rolling 4 6-sided dice and throwing out the lowest one, we get a little better result.

This guy (or gal), could end up as a thief, or bard, or ranger, whose dexterity will make a bow sing in their hands.  How the characters start out is only the birth, because as they go out in the world and experience interesting things, they gain, well, experience.  and that experience directly leads to them increasing their levels, and with each of those new levels, their skills, toughness and abilities increase, so that the monsters that almost destroyed them in that first week of play, go running from them a few sessions later.  The greater the risks, the greater the rewards in terms of experience points AND goodies that they find along the way.  But those risks are very real (in the world of the game), in that if the hit points of your character (A number created based on your level, constitution, and what profession your character chooses), gets knocked down in battle to 0, then your character, well, dies.  Most often in the early levels, your playing buddies (your group), will drag you back to town, and find a sufficiently powerful healer to bring you back.  But that gets increasingly expensive both in terms of gold you’ve been able to collect, and eventually costing you some of those experience points you’ve been working so hard to gather.  Plus that fact that during the rest of that particular adventure, when the DM asks each character what they want to do next, the answer from you is “lying in the corner…still dead.”

DnD_Character_SheetThe DM–The guy that gets to have fun by not playing the whole time:  The Dungeon Master, or DM, has a very important and sometimes tricky role.  It is their  job to have either created or familiarized themselves with the world and adventure that the players are going to encounter.  They need to keep things moving at a good pace so people keep having fun in the world, and they have to strike a very careful balance between making the world so easy to defeat that there is no sense of real risk or drama, and making it so tough that the players feel like they are spending half their time trudging back to town to get resurrected   They need to make puzzles that are solvable, but hard enough to be challenging, and they need to be open to the players creativity taking the story in a direction they didn’t anticipate. Common mistakes are to become the great and powerful OZ, manipulating the players into doing things they really don’t want to do, or being seen as vindictive and mean..being the enemy of the players, as opposed to their guide to a world they have never encountered.   The best DM’s enjoy the story being told and it’s telling, and are open to knowing that the player’s creativity is a huge part of what makes that story fun for everybody, including them.

Pathfinder_RPG_Core_Rulebook_coverD&D vs. Pathfinder.  Both of these games were born from the original D&D.  While many people were kind of mad about D&D 4.0 (kind of an attempt to turn D&D into World of Warcraft) they redeemed themselves with 5th edition. It honors the best part of role playing games, the, well, role playing. Pathfinder is a game made by a different company that was founded by a number of people who used to work on D&D an has stayed very much in the spirit of the original D&D.  The reality is that both of these are brothers in spirit, and you can’t really go wrong with either.  There are also a host of other genres of role-playing that have been born from the same basic ideas and that speak to the different 8-12 year-olds in each of us.

Special notes from one parent to another:  First off…most any game that gets people face to face instead of screen to screen is a good thing.  Second, the game is jam packed with creative problem solving and social skills building opportunities.  The books are expensive (in the $30-40 range) and they will read them to the point of seeming obsession, but what is happening is that they are using the possibilities in the books to load themselves up with tools to solve problems when they play as well as doing creative thinking in their heads about what they could become.  The games can go from a couple of hours a time, to 2 in the morning when they get older.  It is the, “let’s just see what is behind that next door” that create that.    Obviously, the timing issues are different based on the age of the kid.

It takes a lot to get a group of kids together on a regular basis to play, and once a game is going and gets healthy it is worth encouraging.  Despite whatever “Revenge of the nerds” preconceptions there are about people who play, the reality is that the people who are drawn to the game do tend to be disproportionately bright, mostly because they don’t like the constraints that standard games place on their creativity.  The groups also tend to provide good social support.  The characters they create have different specific  ethical rules, and it is important for the player to stay true to those rules, making for a great chance to explore and understand those. For the kids who are bright but have social skills challenges, the role playing stuff is wonderful, both because it provides some set of written rules for social interactions, and because usually the DM provides a level of moderation for social issues that come up that makes the sessions mini-social skills groups wrapped in a big spoonful of sugar.

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