HopCon is coming!

It’s become an annual San Diego Comicon tradition: HopCon, at Stone Brewing’s Liberty Station. We release W00tstout, have a big old party, and tap a bunch of rare kegs and interesting casks for fans of great beer to enjoy … and the whole thing is a fundraiser for The Hero Initiative!

This year, something special is happening, and I’m turning it over to Mike Palmer to tell you exactly what that is:

Among the über-cool upgrades we have in store for Hop-Con 3.0, we’re taking the giant plot behind building 12 (aka the garden bar) and turning it into the HOP-CADE! Our dream of creating an outdoor arcade and beer garden from last year has been realized. We’ll have only IPAs on tap, our oversized lawn games (Jenga, Connect Four, etc), two pinball machines (Twilight Zone and Theater of Magic), Donkey Kong, Miss Pac-Man and a Skeeball machine. Not enough? How about an arcade game with a 25 foot screen driven from a used beer barrel converted into a vintage arcade console? This last feat will be created by our friend Hunter Bond, Troll Slayer and resident Pinball Mechanic at J!NX, with custom metal routing by San Diego’s ReproHaus. This is all in addition to the five vintages/variations of Stone Farking-Wheaton w00tstout, exclusive beers we brewed with Aisha Tyler and Kevin Eastman, epic food and all-around geeky good times. See you on July 8th!

Tickets and more deets can be found here…

I think this is pretty great. This year, HopCon is not just for people who love great beer, it’s also for people who love great beer and classic arcade games, which is basically a Venn Diagram describing me.

Tickets are going fast, so if you want in, go get yours today!

chewin’ gum for something to do

Chapter 3 of Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is online, like, RIGHT NOW.

The Beer Baron and Keg-E bid farewell to the party after considerable celebration and revelry. In an attempt to learn more about their mysterious orb, the group heads to Nestora in search of Farkiah the Antiquarian. Excited for an opportunity to bargain, barter, and more importantly, shop, the heroes quickly head to the market district, but they soon find that it holds more than goods. What does the city-state have in store for our heroes? Tune in to find out.

Looking for sweet Titansgrave loot? Check out the store here!

This is a reminder, because we think this seminar will fill up quickly, and if you care about that sort of thing, I want you to be able to join us:


And if you do care about that sort of thing, you probably want to be reading Chris Pramas’s blogs about the game design. for Titansgrave.

This happened last night:

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 20.46.50

I was checking my network speed, because Netflix was trying to stop me from watching the end of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and nothing would stream off my media server in the house. I couldn’t figure out exactly what was wrong (I even tried turning it off and back on again), and the whole troubleshooting experience felt like trying to get the Babel Fish. But, eventually, things sorted themselves out and I got that insanely fast network speed, so I could finish the show.

In general, I liked it. The first few episodes were fantastic, and some of the middle ones were real stinkers, but I kept watching all the way to the end because Ellie Kemper is just so fantastic and such a joy. The show has a lot of problems that have been discussed to death elsewhere, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Finally, this is a show I’m doing for Playstation Network:CwCWithWilWheaton

We’ll release new episodes, every Tuesday in the US and Canada, on PlayStation Store. You’ll get them for the low, low price of FREE on your PS3, PS4, and PS Vita. What’s that? You loaned your device to your cousin and she went out of town, locked it in her house, and didn’t give you the key? Don’t worry. If you don’t want to try out those lock-picking skills just yet, we’re also going to make our episodes available on PlayStation’s YouTube channel.

So, I hope you’ll join me and some really interesting people as we talk about games like Destiny, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Uncharted, The Last of Us, God of War and more. I’ve already taped a couple of episodes, and I’ve had some really fascinating conversations about the similarities and differences between videogames and movies, the origins of Destiny, and exactly how The Last Of Us scared the hell out of us all, while simultaneously making us care about Joel and Ellie more than we care for actual people we work with in our real lives. Yes, Mark, I’m looking at you. You are never going to get a spot in my zombie survival compound, Mark.

I’m actually on my way to the studio in about ten minutes to do interviews with the team that brought us Black Ops, and the Santa Monica Studio team, who brought us God of War and Journey, among others.

Let me tell you this: I am profoundly late to the party on Journey, but it’s maybe the most beautiful and emotional experience I’ve ever had playing a game. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

The joy of reading RPG books

I came across this fantastic article at The Guardian about RPG books as, well, books (as opposed to game manuals).

“By putting aside simple narrative storytelling and replacing it with detailed description, the RPG offers the total immersion in an imaginary world so valued by geek readers. The elaboration of leading characters, political factions and major historical events is sometimes a very dry exercise in world building, but done with enough skill it can spark a deeply satisfying response”

It’s a short read, but thought-provoking, and will hopefully inspire some people to pick up an RPG book, and just explore the world within its covers.


I’m terrible at mornings. As long as I can remember (and according to my mother, even when I was a baby) I was a nite owl who preferred to go to sleep at 2, and wake up at 10. For whatever reason, that’s the way I’m wired.

When my kids were little and the whole time they were in school, Anne and I took turns getting them to school, which mandated that I diverge from the sleep schedule I’d used successfully for almost my entire life (with brief breaks from routine when I was working on a production).

I realize how privileged I am to basically set my own schedule now, and I’m very grateful that, for the most part, I can sleep when my body wants to, without having The Man tell me when I have to set an alarm.

But last night, my son, Ryan, asked me if he could take me out for bad golf this morning, since it was father’s day. “You’re an incredible father, and I want to do something cool with you,” he said. “But I’m not going to play golf in the middle of the day, when it’s 100°.”

“So come over at 830, and we’ll leave then,” I said.

I went to sleep “early” last night, at about midnight. Then I got to have nightmares all night, so when I woke up 7 hours and 43 minutes after I finally fell asleep, I was feeling, as they say, like ass.

Still, I coffee’d myself up, put on my magnificently obnoxious golf trousers (which I actually use for curling), and Ryan and I headed to the golf course. We texted Nolan, but without response, decided that he was probably choosing to sleep in like a normal person, and would probably join us for lunch.

We got to the golf course — the Los Feliz Par 3 — just as it was really filling up. We rented two 9 irons and putters, and bought two sleeves of golf balls.

“You sure you’re going to need six golf balls for the two of you?” The starter asked us.

“We’re really bad at golf,” I said. “This may not be enough.”

“Suit yourself,” he said, which I think is a thing that only Boomers say when they’re working as the starter at a Par 3 golf course and a couple of dorks show up in obnoxious golf gear, declaring how bad they are at the game.

We headed to the first tee. The course was a little backed up, but neither of us was in a hurry, and the whole point of the thing was to spend the time together, so we enjoyed the view, the birds, the squirrels, and the fact that we had not yet lost any of our golf balls.

It was my turn to step up to the tee. I put my ball on the mat, and addressed it, which is golf-talk for preparing to swing the club.

I shuffled my feet, relaxed my shoulders, exhaled, and swung the club. There was the smack of the club against the mat, the crack of the club against the ball, and a few seconds later, the thunk of the ball against a tree. It landed behind that tree, in some thick grass.

“I’ve left myself in good position,” I said.

“Nice work,” Ryan agreed.

He sliced his first shot onto the 18th green. After he retrieved it, he put it back on the tee, whacked the hell out of it, and we both watched in amazement as it spun along the grass for about 85 of the 92 yards to the hole.

“I see the Scottish method is working out for you,” I said.

“Thank you,” he said. We walked to our balls, and took our second shots. Mine went over the green, rolled up a small embankment, then back down that same embankment back onto the green.

“That’s one green in regulation out of one,” I said.

“Truly a masterful stroke,” he said.

“Truly,” I replied. We were very fancy, as the situation clearly demanded it.

Ryan hit his second shot up onto the green. He four-putted, I three-putted, and we walked up to the second tee.

“We’re really bad at this,” I said.

“Spectacularly bad at this,” Ryan agreed.

On my next tee shot, I lost my ball into the LA River. Ryan’s hit a tree and bounced into the center of the fairway. My mulligan tried its best to go into the river, but got caught by some thick bushes. My third shot went mostly straight, ending short of the green.

“I can’t believe nobody sponsors us,” I said, as we walked down toward the green.

I scored a seven on the hole. Ryan scored a five. And so it went for the rest of the round. I eventually lost all my balls, and finished with a ball that I found in the rough, which none of the other golfers wanted to claim.

Ryan made par on one hole, which was the required condition we had decided upon for victory. On that same hole, I recorded my score as a frowny face. We will never speak of it again.

At the end of the round, we tallied our score. Ryan was the victor with 45 strokes. I was in second place with fifty sad faces.

Around this time, Nolan got in touch, and we met up at Golden Road for brunch. After our food arrived, I told them, “I don’t care about holidays, and I really don’t care about made-up holidays like Father’s Day … but it means a lot to me that you wanted to spend this time with me today. I understood why I didn’t get to when you were kids, and I respected that, but it makes me really, really happy that you both wanted to do this today.”

“I don’t care about holidays, either,” Ryan said, “but this is a great excuse to spend time together, and spending time together is really what’s important to me.”

“Yeah,” Nolan said, “and that’s why it’s bullshit that you didn’t wake me up to go with you this morning!”

“Awww, man,” I said, “we both thought you wanted to sleep in!”

“It’s okay,” he said. “This is still cool.”

“I love you guys,” I said.

Being a parent is never easy — if it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong — but it’s especially difficult to be a step-parent, especially when a bioparent is a jerk. But it’s so worth all the pain and hurt and frustration when the day comes that you realize that they may not carry your DNA, but you’ve raised them so well, they are your children in every way that actually matters.

Happy Father’s Day, dads, and a very special secret handshake to my fellow step-parents.

critical failure

For months, whenever I visit gaming sites I care about, someone is laying into me about Tabletop. Things like, “He doesn’t care about the fans” and “He took everyone’s money and didn’t spend it on the show” and “Nobody who is a real gamer takes this show seriously” or “I hate Tabletop because [thing someone decided I did, whether I actually did it or not.]”

I’m pretty good at not having a fuck to give about things, especially from power gamers who aren’t in my target audience, and who will probably never be happy with what I do. For the first two seasons of Tabletop, “Thank you for your comment. Please direct any further comments to that brick wall, and remember that we made this for free,” was my standard response. The people who loved what we did vastly outnumbered the people who complained about the show and about me and about all the delightful things people complain about. And that’s fine. Not everyone likes everything. My goal was to make more gamers in the world, and we’ve certainly succeeded in that. If we never make any more Tabletop, I’ll always feel very good about that.

There’s this thing that we talk about in production, in acting classes, and on the set. It’s this idea that if you feel good about something you made or worked on, and someone shits on it, who cares? You’re happy with it, you made the thing you wanted to make, and they made comments. You can stand by your choices. But there’s another side of it, and it’s why so many of my fellow creative people are as selective as they can be about the projects they do: when you do something that you don’t feel good about, whatever the reason was that you did it, and someone shits on it, it strikes a nerve. When you should have known better, and you didn’t trust your instincts, it strikes a nerve. When you count on someone to do the thing they were supposed to do, and they didn’t, it strikes a nerve.

So when I am accused, over and over and over again of not caring about Tabletop, not caring enough to get the rules right, not caring about the audience, or feeling complacent because of reasons — it strikes a nerve, because I work incredibly hard to be good to our audience. It strikes a nerve because I care a lot, especially this season, because for over twenty thousand people, it wasn’t free, and the only brick wall I care about has all their names on it. Written by hand, by amazing production assistants.

Yesterday, after being beaten up on r/boardgames yet again, I wanted to address that, and explain how things happened this season that are not up to my standards. It wasn’t my intention to do any of the things I’ve been accused of doing, but enough people I trust and respect have all said the same thing to me, so I clearly didn’t communicate my feelings clearly.  I counted on someone who had never let me down, and they profoundly let me down, when it mattered the most. I feel that the backers of the show deserve to know what happened, why it happened, and how it made me feel. What I wanted to say was: this is what happened. This is why that happened. This is how it made me feel. I am angry, and embarrassed, and I kind of don’t even want to do another season of the show.

I didn’t do that well. I stand by telling the truth about what happened, but I wish I’d done it in a better way. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy Tabletop, because a lot of people worked very hard to make it the best show we could make it. In a lot of ways, I believe we have succeeded. In some other ways, we’ve clearly fallen short. I want you to know that I care. I cared during production, and I care now. I realize that this will continue to not be good enough for some people, unnecessary for others, and is unlikely to do anything other than prolong the Internet hatefest I’m presently receiving. But this is one of those things that I need to write for me.

I accept responsibility for my tone, and my words. I don’t apologize for being angry, embarrassed, and disappointed.

I feel like I managed to alienate myself from a community that I love and care about, and I may never be let back in. That hurts a lot, but if it’s a self-inflicted wound, I have nobody to blame but myself. I can’t even blame the dice.

Titansgrave: Chapter Two

Here’s the second episode of Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana.

Join Aankia (Hank Green), Kiliel (Alison Haislip), Lemley (Laura Bailey), and S’Lethkk (Yuri Lowenthal) in the second installment of Titansgrave: Ashes of Valkana. When we last saw our heroes, the beer had been saved and celebrations had ensued. The Beer Baron, having made the last stop in his yearly delivery trip, asks the party to escort his caravan to his estate. Aankia, Kiliel, Lemley, and S’Lethkk find themselves surrounded not only by the rarest of beers, but also by a threat so ancient that it hasn’t been seen since the days of the Chaos Wars. How will our heroes handle themselves?

You should be able to embed, screencast, share, and all that stuff. I hope you like it!

Tabletop, Kingdom Builder, and Screwing Up the Rules

There’s a new Tabletop today, with Paul Scheer, me, Yuri Lowenthal, and Tara Platt. We played a game called Kingdom Builder, and we had a lot of fun when we did it.

We also completely screwed up the rules. For I think the 10th time this season.

I am furious, I am embarrassed, and I need to put there here so I can just refer to it when this almost certainly happens again this season:

We had a producer whose primary job was to make sure we knew the rules to the games, and played correctly. I trusted this producer to be on top of these things, and I trusted this producer to ensure that we played the games properly.

For the first two seasons, this producer did a fantastic job. A couple mistakes got through, but it wasn’t a big deal. Everyone makes a mistake now and then, and the show has always been more about the fun of playing the games than anything else. But something happened in the third season. I don’t know if this producer was careless, overwhelmed, didn’t care as deeply as previous seasons, or just didn’t do the same amount of preparation that was done for the first two seasons. I don’t know why this producer failed to do the most important part of the job so many times this season, but I’m pretty fucking pissed off that the person I trusted to make sure we played the games correctly let me down. I trusted this producer so completely, I spent my time and my energy on other aspects of production, instead of diligently reviewing the rules before every game like I’d done the first two seasons. I feel really, really awful about this. I feel embarrassed by this.

We have a very ambitious production schedule. It’s grueling for all of us, but this season wasn’t any different than the previous two seasons. There is just no excuse for something so fundamental to the show to have been so completely screwed up almost half of the time this season. My trust and reliance was misplaced, I guess, and for that I am embarrassed, I am angry, and I am sorry.

Tabletop is more than just a show where we play games. Tabletop is where millions of people from all over the world go to see how games are played, and to discover new games. We have a responsibility to our audience, and we have let a lot of you down. This is even more infuriating to me this season, because this season was literally made possible by people reaching into their own pockets and trusting us with their money. We had a responsibility to take good care of that, and we didn’t.

Ultimately, I am the host and the face and the identity of Tabletop, so ultimately this falls on me. I take responsibility for these mistakes. I am the executive producer and creator, and it’s my responsibility to ensure that everyone is doing their job. It’s my responsibility to deliver the best show I can, and too many times this season I failed to do that.

To the developers whose games we’ve messed up: I am profoundly sorry. I sincerely hope that your sales aren’t hurt by our mistakes, and I sincerely hope you will accept my apologies.

If we do another season of Tabletop, I will ensure that this never happens again. If we do another season of Tabletop, I’m going to very carefully vet a couple of experts and producers to take on the responsibility of ensuring we’re playing games correctly, and I’ll spend even more of my own time getting up to speed on the rules for each game.

So all of that said, please know that Kingdom Builder is a really great game. We had a lot of fun when we played it,  even though we completely butchered the rules.

Games (still) Matter

I’ve been playing a lot of video games for work (I can’t say exactly what, but I should be able to pretty soon), so in addition to being late to the party on Journey, I’m also late to the party on God of War (I know. I know.).

These games couldn’t be more different, but I loved them both for their own, very different reasons. Journey felt like a meditation, and I found myself actually feeling pretty emotional toward the end of it. It’s so beautiful, I’m going to play it again when I have time.

God of War is so intense, and so fast-paced, it’s not something I could play to relax or unwind the way I could with Journey, but holy crap is it fun to level up skills and beat up on the bad guys! In fact, I had so much fun playing it last night, I completely lost track of time and it was 4am when I finally realized that I should probably go to sleep.

And my thumb hurts in that video game controller pad way that I haven’t experienced since the old Sega Genesis days and their attendant marathon sessions of NHL 94.

Just a quick thing to think about and consider, because if this hasn’t occurred to me in a long time, maybe it hasn’t occurred to some of you who are reading this: video games are supposed to be fun and entertaining. Games can certainly be art, and games can and do run the whole range of experiences from simple narrative experiences like Dear Esther to complex experiences like Civilization to challenging team-based experiences like Destiny or WoW. Games can and do entertain us the way a movie or TV shows does, but I don’t think I would have stayed up until 4am watching movies last night.

I’ve said before that games matter, and I continue to believe that (whether they are tabletop or video games). I also continue to believe — and this is the point I am taking a very long time to make — that games are supposed to be fun, entertaining, distractions.

A lot of the oxygen in the world that supports video games has been taken out of the room in the last several months by dickwagons, and I know that I lost interest in spending lots of time playing games, and didn’t even want to identify myself as a gamer.

But when I spent some time actually playing some games, I remembered why I identified myself as a gamer in the first place. That’s something I’d forgotten about, and if you’ve forgotten about it, too, maybe this will inspire you to dust off a controller and dive back in.

50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong

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