Topatocon

Speaking With Woodpenny’s Pat King

Untitled3Today we were lucky enough to speak with the very nice local game developer and founder of Woodpenny studios, Pat King! Pat has lived and worked in the Valley for years, first with Hitpoint Studios and now with his own Woodpenny studios!

Woodpenny makes digital and physical objects and all of them are really neat. Right now, they’re working on a great VR music-video thing. Like, basically VR is a real functional interesting thing now, and that’s neat. So what Woodpenny did is team up with excellent musician Ben Sollee and create this awesome VR sort of music video/theme park ride called “Vanishing Point”. We got to try an early version and it is both trippy as heck and a heck of a trip!

You should fund it on IndieGoGo so that it becomes a Virtual Reality and we can all see how neat it is!

James Olchowski: Hello, thanks for speaking with me.Untitled4

Pat King: Not a problem!

James Olchowski: So, what drew you to our Happy Valley?

Pat King: Short answer – the mother of my 2 little girls.  Longer answer – My wife grew up in Northampton. I’m a Kentucky boy. When I was 25, I took on a short term contract as tour manager for a chamber orchestra in Ireland. My (now) wife was getting her masters degree at the University of Limerick. We met in Ireland through mutual friends and ended up kind of liking each other. My plan after Ireland was to attend the Vancouver Film School. Her plan was to do something other than that, preferably closer to New England.

At this point, I really liked her…and you know, Vancouver is really far away and it’s more school debt and Northampton has this place called Herrell’s Ice Cream. After weighing those options, I decided to move to the area! Now I have a beautiful family and a fantastic community. [This is adorable, readers – Ed.]

JO: Is it difficult to work on game development in such a relatively small area? I’m used to hearing about development shops being set up in major cities.

PK: Tricky question, from a studio’s perspective, there are key advantages to running a studio in both the Pioneer Valley and larger cities such as Boston.

Larger cities (especially ones with an established game, tech or other creative media presence) usually generate more resources for studios. Typically there are multiple established game studios, more experienced game professionals, more money and investment opportunities, creative agencies, culture, community, etc.

That said, the Pioneer Valley does have some stunning talent, longtime industry professionals and general resources that you find in larger cities. Game Industry Studios such as HitPoint, Anzovin, and HappyGiant have been chugging along for a number of years. Additionally, we have a huge tabletop game design community as well as numerous software, hardware, graphic, web and other creative development teams. There are other tech and software communities that offer networking events and forums. There are more colleges than you can shake a stick at that offer a constant flow of new talent to the area.

So far, I’ve found living in the Pioneer Valley works well with my style of game development. I’ve been lucky to have made some great contacts along the way that allow me to work away from the larger cities. Part of that is also attending larger events in Boston and New York and building those connections.

The most difficult part of game development is just knowing where to start. You could be a killer programmer, artist or designer, but without the experience of an active studio, it’s most likely very difficult to connect all the pieces and make a full studio.

JO: Is that why you set up the Pioneer Valley Game Developers (PVGD) group? To bring together people who might be too dispersed to meet up without an excuse?

PK: Exactly. After leaving HitPoint Studios, I found that those interested in game development were pretty dispersed throughout the Pioneer Valley. While I was able to connect with tech industry leaders, there weren’t many people being proactive in the gaming community at large. John Tuttle and I had both worked at HitPoint and wanted to find other developers interested in digital game development. We formed the PVGD in order to find others with similar interests to help make games and hopefully create the community that our area had been lacking.

JO: How do you make certain PVGD is a welcoming place for new people?

PK: Our format so far has been to offer monthly networking events called MAKE TALK PLAY. We usually host them at a “barcade” called The Quarters. We have presentations by local industry leaders covering a broad range of development topics in order to appeal to the largest range of developers in the region. Then after the presentations we hang out, talk about game development and encourage people to demo their own projects.

We’re also working on a number of events other than our monthly meetup such as our game jam we hosted at TopatoCon last month. Anyone interested should join our meetup group at www.meetup.com/pioneer-valley-game-developers or visit our webpage at www.pvgd.org

JO: You left work at a local studio to found your own – Woodpenny. Why did you set out on your own?

PK: HitPoint Studios was a beautiful place to grow as a developer. I was there from the beginning and it was probably one of the best work experiences of my life. I completely respect Paul Hake and Aaron St. John for all they have accomplished and the process they’ve gone through to create a successful studio in the Pioneer Valley. About four months before I left, my wife had started a full time job and we had been struggling to figure out how to balance our work and family schedule. The ultimate decision to leave wasn’t to start a studio, but to take some time off to let me wife focus on her work and be a part-time stay at home dad.

However…I’m not one to stay still. I had a couple days throughout the week to myself and started testing my skills as a woodworker recreating a game my father built when I was a child called penny basketball. This is where I came up with the name Woodpenny. Soon, I started taking on some graphic and sound design projects and then I was approached by an old friend about creating a simple mobile game for his marketing agency. I wasn’t really looking to start a game studio at the beginning, but at that point the work was just kind of finding me, so I decided to roll with it.

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JO: What has been your biggest challenge so far putting Woodpenny together?

PK: I think the hardest part so far has been trying to figure out exactly what to focus on. I really want to make wooden board games, but after about 9 months of experimenting, I realized that in order to make the boards efficiently, I would need a proper workshop. I’m currently working from my home basement, which is damp and dusty. This makes me constantly fear about inventory and my health. I have recently started looking into sharing space with established woodworking shops.

Since we also do the digital game development, I’ve been looking for opportunities that set Woodpenny apart from other studios. Lately I’ve been experimenting more with audio inspired digital media and games. I would love to build the studio with a focus on sound design and music which isn’t as prominent in the industry with the exception of a few great games, such as (but not limited to) Guitar Hero and Rock Band. I want to make games where music is what drives the game.

JO: What’s the most satisfying moment you’ve had working on building Woodpenny?

PK: Hard question because it’s all satisfying: Selling my first board, landing my first project, completing my first project, receiving my first paycheck and figuring out a team. All of this is worth a thousand years of education. Every project is satisfying in its own right.

I just love my work and the people I work with. I love learning new tools and playing with new technology and approaches. Probably the most satisfying aspect is that now I can still make cool projects and have a flexible schedule to spend time with my family. I’ve made that a priority from the start.

JO: Can you give our readers some hints about what Woodpenny is working on? I mean Digital AND Physical? Are you developing the Matrix?

PK: So after making the board for Ben Sollee, he ended up reaching out about game development and was interested in looking for ways to connect his music, merch or stage show with different approaches to gaming or interactive media.

Which brings me to my current project. I’m extremely excited about a Virtual Reality music app we’re making with Ben Sollee! Since August, we’ve been developing a Virtual Reality animated music video choreographed to new music by Ben called ‘The Vanishing Point’. We launched our IndieGoGo campaign about 2 weeks ago and deep in the crowdfunding campaign madness.

When we started, I thought developing the app would be the tough part, but it’s not! It’s the constant push of balancing social marketing, creating videos, tweaking the campaign, pestering friends and family and mainly educating people about what we’re actually making. Explaining VR is extremely difficult to people who haven’t tried it as it’s one of those things that you need to experience to “get”. It’s such a powerful medium for games, but also music and cinema. I’m really excited to see how VR (and Augmented Reality) will influence the various forms of digital media out there.

For those interested, please check out our IndieGoGo campaign! We need your help!

I am still working on the Woodpenny boards and hope to release them in a greater capacity at some point in the near future.

While we’re also just trying to get our act together, we just applied to the Valley Venture Mentors Accelerator program and are looking for recommendations and support. If you’re interested in helping us succeed please click this link and support what we’re doing!

JO: We got a chance to watch people play Woodpenny at a PVGD meetup. It was interesting, and the board was super pretty! We’re now getting the impression from your Facebook page (we are snooping but it is for journalism) that each board is unique. Is this a made-to-order board game?

PK: I make about 4 boards a year (again slow process). Each time I learn something new about the process. The game is called Woodpenny basketball. It’s based of a game my Dad made that my family had growing up. I still have and cherish the original board. The idea is simple, it’s a 2-player game where all you need is the board and a penny to play. Like basketball rules, players take turn flicking the penny toward their goal to score points (2 and 3 point shots like basketball). The first one to 21 wins.

About 6 years ago, I decided to make some as gifts for friends and family and realized just how much fun they are to make. Also, as a parent I realized how important it is to have non-digital or plastic toys and games. My goal is to make the boards attractive, durable and fun for families for years. I feel like I’m on the right path there, now just to figure out how to improve my process (and maybe take on less digital work for a few months).

JO: Wait wait you made Ben Sollee a custom game board? We just saw that. Ben Sollee is great, he’s so nice. Why did he want a custom Woodpenny board?

PK: Haha, yeah. I met Ben in March after seeing him perform at the Iron Horse. I brought one of my boards for our table to play while we waited for the show to start. After the show, Ben saw the board and we got to talking. He asked for my business card, I thought out of courtesy. Well about 3 weeks later, he reached out and asked about getting a board!

Here’s Ben’s board!

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JO: Is Woodpenny your sole project at the moment?

PK: Financially yes? I have a lot of hobbies. I have a family. I own a house. I have the Pioneer Valley Game Developers. I have a lot going on, but that seems to be the way I function best. Mainly just trying to make Woodpenny the most flexible and satisfying experience I can for myself, team and family.

JO: Do you remember what got you interested in playing games?

PK: Honestly, patterns & sequences. My brain loves searching for patterns that connect at an emotional level. Maybe it’s the rewiring of my brain that occurred playing Atari and Nintendo at a young age, and if so I’m very grateful. I know a lot of game developers / enthusiasts that like analyze the games they play. They like to pick them apart in a more academic approach to understanding the mechanics. Which is totally cool, but not how my brain works.

For me, I let the experience drive the games I play and develop. When working at HitPoint, often times our clients would request game designs that were similar to other popular games. We want Angry Birds, we want Bejeweled, we want a Hidden Object game like this, etc. So “for research” I would completely dive into these game examples that weren’t my usual cup of tea. But over the course of a week or two, I would have either completed the game or conquered the mechanics, again looking to connect to the emotional patterns in the design. After fully understanding the experience as a consumer, I felt completely comfortable designing a similar game, in our own style with subtle differences.

JO: Is there any one game you can remember that got you interested in the idea of making your own?

PK: Sam & Max Hit The Road – I’ve wanted to make a unique point and click adventure for a long time. I was blown away when I first played that title. The concept was so weird, the story and art so humorous and the puzzles at many times very frustrating, but super satisfying. I’ve wanted to recreate most of that experience since I started developing games.

JO: If someone was just getting into games, physical or digital, what would you recommend they play?

PK: I’d start them at Atari for a few years. Let them play Colecovision at their friends houses and the arcade once in a while. I’d move them up to Nintendo and run them through the standard titles. After a few years of blowing on NES cartridges I’d move them up to Sega and make them play Toe Jam & Earl and Earthworm Jim. They’d have to save up their money if they wanted the SNES also.

Then I’d sit them down and tell them not to invest their money in the Dreamcast even though it’s going to be wicked awesome. I’d move them on to the Nintendo 64 where they would play Golden Eye, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. When they were ready, I’d put them in a dark room at night and make them play Resident Evil by themselves on the Playstation while filming them poop themselves with a VHS camera when they encounter their first zombie or zombie dogs breaking through the windows in the effing hallway. After getting them into the Tony Hawk series, I feel like they’d be ready to fly on their own.

JO: Getting back to the PVGD, have there been any notable local games developed since you started meeting up?

PK: We’ve seen a lot of great projects under development and quite a few that have been released. The most prolific group putting out new games and being active in development has been from the members of the Owl & Raven. Hannah Shaffer, Evan Rowland and Joshua A.C. Newman have been cranking out so many great games among evangelizing their work.

It’s quite impressive to see. I’ve seen a number of great titles from other members mid-development, but am really hoping more people will start showcasing projects where we can start helping each other out whether it’s feedback, testing or collaboration. We have some great talent in the Pioneer Valley.

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JO: Are there any local creators you think more people should be paying attention to (besides yourself, obviously)?

PK: Same answer with the above group members from the Owl & Raven, I would love to see more support for what they’re doing. There’s also a few new experimental studios starting up in the area. One to keep an eye on is led by Isaiah Mann. He’s organizing a student run game studio to start in the Fall of 2016 that will be located at Hampshire College. They’ll be presenting at the next MAKE TALK PLAY on November 1st. People should definitely come out and see what that’s all about.

JO: Have you seen any collaborations develop between people who met at a PVGD event?

PK: I’ve seen some collaboration and heard discussions about people wanting to do more. For Woodpenny, we met Jess Winter who runs misclabs at one of our meet-ups early in the year. He’s the lead programmer for the VR project we’re working on. He’s been absolutely fantastic to work with and a complete surprise for finding a local game dev in the area who has been a vital part of this project. We’re working towards fostering more connections and opportunities to encourage collaboration throughout this next year.

JO: Do you have any advice for someone interested in creating games?

PK: Just do it. Use the tools available to you whether it’s Scratch, Unity, Unreal engine or just an analog prototype. Just start with a game mechanic that you would enjoy playing, give yourself some rules and just start exploring. Start talking to people. Ask as many questions as possible. Start thinking about why you like the games you play. Just start. If you want to do this, you have to be able to learn through experience and make great connections along the way. It’s Woodpenny’s philosophy and the Pioneer Valley Game Developers are here to help!

JO: Thank you for your time!

PK: Thank you James!

Remember, support Woodpenny’s IndieGoGo campaign and their entry into the Valley Venture Mentors program! They’re a nice local studio and we can never have too many of those. And be sure to make it out to a MAKE TALK PLAY event! They’re always good times, and there are a ton of intelligent people to talk to at each. You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, you’ll make fast friends. It will be distressingly delightful.

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TopatoCon 2015 Post-Show

IMG_20150926_113949728Hey guess what, a special edition of the Nerd Watch is going out tomorrow. Special and late, even later than this thing! Because man, we’re tired as the day is long (the day is 24 hours long) and did not have much time to work on the actual Nerd Watch this weekend due to going to the magical land of wonderment known as TopatoCon! It was a lot of fun.

So we’re going to try to give you some concept of the show and what was neat about it. Partly by talking about what we did and who we spoke to and partly by showing off some of the items that were purchased by James, our weakest-willed member.

IMG_20150926_160956742So first of all, thanks to Holly Rowland and Jeffrey Rowland! They put on a neat show, and it seemed like a hard thing to do. Also, thanks to Melissa Lewis-Gentry and Baily Kung, who organized volunteers. They were both helpful and on point about what needed doing, and we really appreciated having them around to let us know what was up and when it was up!

So anyway James volunteered to do two things at the con: run some game demos and act as a “ranger” that did whatever it was the con needed at any given moment.

Let’s talk about the game demos!

Breaker Blocks: A couple of extremely nice people made this extremely cool game that James bought right after the demo because it’s really, really fun. It’s a very simple sort of domino-like competitive strategy puzzle, and it’s just so easy to get the concepts and move right on to having fun trying to outfox whoever you’re up against. It’s a contained 15-20 minutes during which every single action is significant. Plus, it’s something you can play without fear at a friendly local booze or coffee-atorium because it’s got pieces that are cut out of some sort of space-age material that isn’t cardboard. We really, really recommend you get it.

IMG_20150926_125622317Sawbones: good, but slightly less good than Breaker Blocks. James did not immediately buy it. Basically it’s a game about going in one of two directions on a victory track: either you’re healing a patient or killing a patient. Either way, you’re accruing blame tokens. If you’re killing them, you want the least blame. If you’re saving them, you want the most. The thing is, your cards are almost uniformly going to make it hard to keep someone alive. It’s clever, but there are some play and pacing issues. It ramps up a bit slowly, and it can be confusing to need to check things like “the last person who played a [thing]” because who was keeping track of that? Still, decent time and also Sawbones is an amazing podcast you should check out.

IMG_20150926_140649403Special note: We were next to people playing Children’s Crusade, a tower-defense board game about children protecting the world from evil toys, and it was uniformly a joyous experience for the table. People loved it, and we think that indicates it’s probably a thing people will love. People… like you.

IMG_20150926_120824768Also of note in the boardgame area: A.E.G.I.S, produced by extremely friendly folks from Worcester. It’s a combining-robots tactics game and it just seems… real nice? Like, if you’re the sort of person who likes to think about how to move A Thing all the way from Here to There while still being able to do This it seems like it would be up your alley. Plus, how cool is the idea that you can just squish your team into a big old Mega Zord whenever you want?

IMG_20150927_203653779Speaking of tabletop games: what about Role-Playing games? Friendly local folks and noted people interviewed at previous junctures by the Nerd Watch Hannah Schaffer and Evan Rowland were there with some of their brilliant works like Questlandia, alongside Joshua A.C. Newman, the person behind a lot of neat things like Mobile Frame Zero and Shock: Social Science Fiction.

IMG_20150927_203640470James bought a nano-game from each of Hannah and Joshua: birds are amazing and Lover of Jet & Gold. They neatly encapsulate what it’s like to be around them. On the one hand, Hannah’s game consists of tweeting made-up bird facts and the game rules stipulate that once you begin, it will never end. On the other hand, Joshua’s game is a miniature yet elaborate game about being a sorcerer who entreats the spirits of the world via the power of True Names.

Oh oh oh and there was a neat card-game and also faux RPG sourcebook thing from Nerdcore Medical that was all fantasy bacteria fighting fantasy antibiotics and it’s kind of great! We got a poster.

IMG_20150927_204122900After demoing for a while, we stopped by the TopatoCo store for a second to squish fuzzy T-Rexes and Yelling Birds before checking out the Pioneer Valley Game Dev TopatoJAM! It seemed like the sort of time that people who find real enjoyment in the fraught process of pulling a creative work from the void and melding it into something interesting. They were all working on a bunch of different concepts, tied together by the general theme “it is dangerous to go alone, take this”. They were still kind of getting into gear and so we stopped bugging them and went over to the exhibitor space.

Look at these titans of design!

Look at these titans of design! “Magic” you can hear that guy with his hands out saying. “We’re making… Magic!”

We've invented a game we call... Poker!

“We’ve invented a game we call… Poker!”

We had kind of forgotten that so many of our most favorite people were at this con, everyone! It was jam-packed with luminaries of the field of things that we’ve been reading on the internet obsessively since childhood.

But first, some of the locals! Alexis “Lex” Cornell writes and draws a neat comic about a monster town. It’s cute, and we got some of the comics because of how cute it is. Also, Lex was really nice, as was co-table-person Sarah Tacey. They made cookies and were just handing them out like it was no big deal! We got a free cookie, a first at any con we have ever attended. The tops, both of these exhibitors.

IMG_20150927_203822012We also spoke to real nice people Jedidiah Berry and a second person whose name we cannot recall because we didn’t get a card, sorry second person! If anything, you were the better conversationalist, second person. They made the Family Arcana! A story told in 52 cards, it’s a very cool concept delivered in a very cool manner. It was a big Kickstarter success story, and they publish out of Amherst! Our very own little Amherst!

IMG_20150927_203710102Aaron Wood was there, with his posters which all sensible people will want to install in a prominent location in their abode. We have the Mercury travel poster because it’s the best.

So now, a bunch of memories from the exhibitor floor that we can only really clearly recall because James bought some physical item, locking the moment in a prison of time:

We had the pleasure of watching brilliant artist Maki Naro create a unique Totoro for us! He is, after all, The Best At Drawing Totoro.

We had the pleasure of watching brilliant artist Maki Naro create a unique Totoro for us! He is, after all, The Best At Drawing Totoro. It was amazing watching him just… know where to put things in order to make it work. Obviously, that’s kind of the experience of watching a lot of artwork get produced, but he made it look so effortless! Plus, check out that awesome shading work.

Some extremely cute doggie stickers made by Amanda Scurti, which James got because he loves doggies.

Some extremely cute doggie stickers made by Amanda Scurti, which James got because he loves doggies. Amanda seems pretty neat and her webcomic “Hey, Jana J!” looks interesting!

We regret not getting more from David Malki. Not only is almost everything he produces extremely funny, he's a kindly person.

We regret not getting more from David Malki. Not only is almost everything he produces extremely funny, he’s a kindly person. We saw him speak with a fan at length about how and why successful collaboration works, and it was really enlightening.

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Karla Pacheo – notable creator of hard-boiled noir murder mystery/children’s book Inspector Pancakes – created a machine that spits out magnets with horrible phrases written on them. In a display of what we can only assume was open malice, she offered each volunteer who was cleaning up trash post-exhibit a go on the machine. This is what James got. It is on the refrigerator now, despite everything.

Notable local Hazel Newlevant created this really neat anthology and we finally got our hands on it! Yay!

Notable local Hazel Newlevant created this really neat anthology and we finally got our hands on it! Yay! We got it from Sarah Winifred Searle’s table, and she was super nice and signed it. She even pointed out which of the people in the hall had pieces in the anthology!

James got this from Sara McHenry, @yellowcardigan. Even though, as we previously established, James likes doggies best. These are top-quality cat comics.

James got this from Sara McHenry, @yellowcardigan. Even though, as we previously established, James likes doggies best. These are top-quality cat comics. Sara was really nice to talk to! She also had an awesome walky-talky.

Travelogue is such a good comic. It's pleasant in a way that's difficult to describe. We know this because James spent a few halting minutes trying to describe what he found so nice about the comic to the extremely kind creator, and he had a lot of trouble. Suffice to say it is great and the creator is really nice.

Travelogue is such a good comic. It’s pleasant in a way that’s difficult to describe. We know this because James spent a few halting minutes trying to describe what he found so nice about the comic to the extremely kind creator, and he had a lot of trouble. Suffice to say it is great and the creator is really nice.

We're really big fans of the interesting near-future/slightly-less-near-future comic Oh Human Star. Creator Blue Delliquanti is super nice to speak with, and James got a super cool print. Look at that! Neat.

We’re really big fans of the interesting near-future/slightly-less-near-future comic Oh Human Star. Creator Blue Delliquanti is super nice to speak with, and James got a super cool print. Look at that! Neat.

Anthony Clark makes wonderful, extremely funny comics at Nedroid.com. We have our trusty gigantic Beatato plush and it is not even a joke to say it is the best. He also does a lot of work as a colorist and does the comic Back with KC Green. He's a nice person, also!

Anthony Clark makes wonderful, extremely funny comics at Nedroid.com. We have our trusty gigantic Beatato plush and it is not even a joke to say it is the best. He also does a lot of work as a colorist and does the comic Back with KC Green. He’s a nice person, also! Got to speak with him for a bit and well basically it boils down to: give this nice person who makes funny comics some money so that he can stay indoors. He can’t make comics unless he’s indoors.

This is just beautiful work from kindly Floridian M. Dean. All the way from Florida! How about that. Look at that art! It's beautiful. All of the art on the table was beautiful, plus M. was super nice to speak to for a bit.

This is just beautiful work from kindly Floridian M. Dean. All the way from Florida! How about that. Look at that art! It’s beautiful. All of the art on the table was beautiful, plus M. was super nice to speak to for a bit.

James got this from Allison Bannister because he likes dinos doing incongruous things.

James got this from Allison Bannister because he likes dinos doing incongruous things.

James is also weirdly into Cyclops. So, you know.

James is also weirdly into Cyclops. So, you know.

So that was it for the convention floor for a bit. Then, James volunteered for a little while! Got to meet Dr McNinja creator Chris Hastings and that was a delight, got to speak with spectacular artist and world-smith Evan Dahm a little bit, which was also really nice! Manning a table was interesting. It was a window into how desperate and strange it is to have all these wonderful wares lined up and to just have people briefly pass over them whilst avoiding eye contact, then running away. It’s understandable, no one has money for everything, but it was interesting to see from a different angle.

After working a table for a bit, James got to clean up trash! By cleaning up trash effectively, he avoided being put in the “forgetting hole”.

IMG_20150926_202124567After that, it was nearing the end of the first day, and we stuck around for Monster Milk, during which we were subjected to what can only be described as definitely crimes. KC Green and friends held our collective hands as we were led through two horrific animated features: The Wizard So-So, and The Search for the Titanic. Each was horrible and hilarious in ways that are impossible to get across via text.

IMG_20150926_203451096The next day, we did some more demoing, and we checked in on some of the PVGD TopatoJAM work that had been done! Some interesting stuff came out of it.

A game about falling out of an airplane and killing aliens.

A game about falling out of an airplane and killing aliens.

A dungeon adventure with a map randomly generated by a deck of playing cards!

A dungeon adventure with a map randomly generated by a deck of playing cards!

Really neat stuff. Oh! And speaking of local games: there was an awesome map created by demo players of The Quiet Year on display in the Game Labyrinth!

IMG_20150927_114843616We also saw the excellent Pleasure is the Measure panel, hosted by local notable Emily Nagoski and featuring several of the greatest cartoonists in existence: Kate Leth, Jess Fink, Spike Trotman, and Danielle Corsetto. They talked about interesting things including what awful bullshit they hated, funny sex things, where the clitoris is as demonstrated on a giant vulva puppet, trans representation, the definition of female, dealing with the fact that people get on your case if you do both kid comics and sexy comics, teaching secret sex ed classes, and much more! It was awesome, and everyone loved it.

Here's a horrible picture to prove it!

Here’s a horrible picture to prove it! Look at all those interesting head silhouettes!

A bit after that panel, we went home for a nap and then verrrrry slowly put this together.

All in all, TopatoCon was real fun. We hope it was worthwhile for the creators who attended, because really that’s the point of conventions. To put you in direct contact with people whose creative work you’d like to support. It was certainly a very fun time for us, and we really cannot wait for next year!

September 21st – September 27th

XMen150CoverThe Valley Nerd Watch!


First of all, Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day! You should definitely register to vote. It’s not that hard, and until you can enact your brilliant scheme to become ruler of this foolish planet it’s probably the most effective way to work your will on the nation. Remember to vote in small local elections! They seem unimportant right up until you realize some real jerk of a person is in charge of some vital local resource for another four years.

Second: Oh goodness TopatoCon! It’s here! It’s finally here! It’ll be so delightful. Lots of great people have come from all over to show you their wares and generally chat a bit. We highly recommend that if you have funds available, you purchase as much as you are able from people who produce art that you like. Not only is it helpful for things like making sure they can eat and live indoors, it also allows them to experience some relief from the crippling anxiety that can arise from doing a bunch of cons.

“Aaah.” they sigh contentedly as you leave their table “I made like, lots of money. I can relax.” Help these gentle artists achieve a state of relaxation, won’t you?

There are far too many people attending to list here, but suffice to say there will be a lot of great people you will enjoy. Anthony Clark is one of our favorites for instance, and local hero Joshua A.C. Newman will be there exhibiting his fabulous games.

Finally, we’re doing a fun thing! A Towerfall Tournament at The Quarters with the help of the nice folks at the Pioneer Valley Game Developers! It’s going to alter slightly based on the number of participants, but you can expect several pulse-pounding rounds of competitive arrowing each other to death!

What is Towerfall, you might ask? One of the best local competitive multiplayer games since Super Smash Bros is what! It’s a fast-paced one-hit-kill free-for-all single-screen deathmatch starring a colorful cast of pixelated pincushions! Not an expert? No worries! Come early and we’ll have a bit of freeplay practice to acquaint people with the basics. It’s also very, very simple to play. Sign up on our Facebook page!!

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week! And don’t forget to check out the updated Book Clubs List!

THIS WEEK


All Interests:

Saturday, September 26th
Eastworks [116 Pleasant St., Easthampton, MA, 01027] at 10:00am – 6:00pm
Too much is going to be happening to really cover here but how about listening to the brilliant Evan Dahm talk about world-building? Why not check out neat old things with funny person host David Malki? Why not check out extremely cool person Kate Leth record one of her Kate or Die podcasts? There’s so much! That’s not even the exhibit hall, that’s just panels!
Sunday, September 27th
Eastworks [116 Pleasant St., Easthampton, MA, 01027] at 10:00am – 6:00pm
Gosh or you could see Kate Leth along with fellow awesome artists Jess Fink, Danielle Corsetto, and Spike discuss women, their bodies, and comics while being moderated by local nerd and author Emily Nagoski! Or head to a Comic Jam! Or a Game Jam! We’re so excited everyone it’s all happening!

Board Games:

Thursday, September 24th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Board Game Night: Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is an award-winning classic about trying to control train routes across North America. Complete routes in complex patterns to gain the most points and wrest victory from your friends. Players of all experience are welcome, though children under 15 will be asked to play at the same table as their parents or with peers.

Books:

Monday, September 21st
Hooker Auditorium [Mount Holyoke College, 9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 6:00pm
Holly Black and Cassandra Clare: The Copper Gauntlet
Join the Odyssey Bookshop in welcoming these two wonderful authors and celebrating their latest collaboration! The second in the bestselling Magesterium series, it sounds pretty neat! Magic and the nature of good and evil and a healthy mistrust of authority figures.
Thursday, September 24th
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 10:00am – 12:00pm
What’s Your Story? Memoir Writing Group
Memoirs! Everyone’s got memories, only a select few have memoirs. Join that elite group! Presidents, kings, the titans of our time… and you! This program explores memoirs in many forms and uses exercises to help spark memories and encourage writers to experiment!
Saturday, September 26th
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Quidditch Club for Kids
Quidditch! The sweet science. The most dangerous game. The game where really, doesn’t the golden snitch basically invalidate most play? It seems difficult to balance. You can play the Muggle variant of Ground Quidditch and take Hogwarts Extension courses with Professor Minerva “Hardcastle McCormick” McGonagall!

Card Games:

Friday, September 25th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 11:59pm – 4:00am
Battle for Zendikar Midnight Pre-Release
A new 2-set block of Magic: the Gathering cards! Come check out new full art lands, brand new dual lands, and amazing Eldrazi! You know what they say about Eldrazi: “Their nature is ceaseless hunger”! Check out the latest MtG set a week before it goes on sale in a sealed deck tournament. Build the best 40-card deck you can, and compete for promo cards! It’s $27 in advance, $30 at the door!
Saturday, September 26th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Battle for Zendikar Saturday Pre-Release
Are you the sort of person who doesn’t want to stay up until four in the danged morning playing in a MtG tournament? Try doing it on a sunny Saturday afternoon instead! Grab lunch at the Roost first. Same as above, $27 in advance, $30 at the door.
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] 11:30am – 4:00pm
Battle For Zendikar Pre-Release Morning Slot
Battle for Zendikar! We think this means you’re battling in order to possess Zendikar, not that you’re a Zendikarian patriot attempting to promote the interests of Zendikar. That is, assuming Zendikar is a geographic area. This is a $25 sealed-deck tournament that includes a Pizza Lunch!
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] 5:00pm – 9:00pm
Battle For Zendikar Pre-Release Evening Slot
Have something besides MtG to do in the morning? Try the evening! It is essentially the same except that everyone in this tournament has bargained with one of the fey folk to gain perception beyond mortal ken. Again, $25 sealed deck, and a Pizza Lunch dinner.
Worlds Apart Games [48 North Pleasant Street B2, Amherst, MA 01002] at 12:00am – 10:00pm
Battle for Zendikar Pre-Release
Another one! Jeez. Well, this one has a few more details. It’s $25 to register for a four-round sealed tournament with free pizza as supplies last. Players with a 4-0 record get $50 in store credit in addition to lots of prize packs!
Sunday, September 27th
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] 11:30am – 4:00pm
Battle For Zendikar Pre-Release Morning Slot
Ah, you unlucky fool. You couldn’t make it on Saturday. Saturday was… well. It’s cruel to discuss it with you. You’ll never see the golden shores of that happy day. Again, a $25 sealed deck tournament with a Pizza Lunch brunch.
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] 5:00pm – 9:00pm
Battle For Zendikar Pre-Release Evening Slot
This one is interesting, actually. For the final pre-release event they’ve secretly replaced all the cards with standard playing cards. Lets see you incinerate your foes when all you’ve got is a 1/1 Club! Again, $25 sealed deck tournament, with a Pizza Lunch second breakfast.
Worlds Apart Games [48 North Pleasant Street B2, Amherst, MA 01002] at 12:00am – 10:00pm
Battle for Zendikar Pre-Release
Is the handsome guy in armor Zendikar? Are we battling for him? Possible for his hand in marriage? We’re really not certain what MtG lore is all about. Either way, yet another tournament with again a $25 entry fee plus a ton of prizes and free pizza. This is a busy weekend for people who play Magic!

Entertainment:

Thursday, September 24th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 2:00pm
Cookies with a Curator
Stop by Forbes for some informal conversation and show and tell with also cookies that you can eat! This Thursday, see Lost Northampton with Dylan Gaffney. Lost Northampton consists of images of buildings and homes that are no longer standing, trapped in the mists of time. Professionals are on hand in case anything breaks out into our era during the viewing.
Friday, September 25th
Academy of Music [274 Main St., Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:30pm
TopatoCon Presents: The Doubleclicks featuring Molly Lewis
Two excellent musical acts! The Doubleclicks sing stuff that’s often nerdy and comedy. They wrote the theme song for Cards Against Humanity, in defiance of the fact that why does a card game need a theme song. Molly Lewis won “Ukulele Video of the Year” from UkuleleHunt.com. She also sang to Stephen Fry a song she wrote about wanting to have his children. Fun stuff! Tickets are $15.
Sunday, September 27th
Jones Library [43 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Avtivated Story Theatre
Two folktales from Eastern Europe will be presented! The Dragon of Krakow, from Poland and Something from Nothing, from the Jewish tradition. Apparently the Krakow dragon might be due to people finding some fossils that they mistook for Dragon bones! Neat! For Children 4-10 and their families.

RPGs:

Friday, September 25th
Chesterfield Scout Reservation [22 Sugar Hill Road, Chesterfield, MA] at 7:00pm
Magestry LARP Autumn Game 2
Live Action Role Playing! The most intense and interesting experience you’re likely to have playing an RPG! Magestry has just altered some rules to make things easier for new players, too! The fee is $30 for first-timers, including a Saturday dinner, and it’s free for volunteer staff! Email Info@Magestry.com to get a free account for the online character generator.
Saturday, September 25th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Public RPG: Pathfinder Pirates
Piracy, a life consisting primarily of exactly the things you do not want, plus scurvy. But not in fiction! In fiction, mostly you get to swash on a good day and buckle on a great day. We recommend playing a pirate whose sole motivation is to possess the most exciting warddrobe. New players are welcome to join at any session! Pre-made characters and dice are provided, and host Tim Shields knows what’s what.
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 5:00pm – 8:00pm
Public RPG: Mutants and Masterminds
Super-heroes! They’re great fun to observe, because their small interpersonal conflicts tend to lead inevitably to visually impressive brawls. Play one in a monthly RPG! New players are welcome, pre-made characters are provided. Hosted by the enigmatic and possibly super-powered Crispy/Nola.

Science:

Wednesday, September 23rd
Jones Library [43 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 6:00pm – 7:00pm
Science Cafe
Gut Feeling: A diverse and healthy microbiome, with Dr. Jeffrey Blanchard. Have you considered that you’ve got millions of tiny creatures living in you? Human gut bacteria outnumber your own cells ten to one! Life is a parade of horrors! These bacteria determine a lot about your and how you live. This cafe will explore how our lifestyle influences and is influenced by gut bacteria! Free and open to the public.

Video Games:

Friday, September 25th
The Quarters [8 Railroad St, Hadley, MA 01035] at 6:00pm
The VNW/PVGD Towerfall Tournament!
Towerfall! A great gem of a game that everyone loves or WILL love. Challenge your friends and some friendly strangers to a match, and win fabulous prizes! It costs $5 to enter, and two winners will split the entry fee pool 60/40. The two runners up will receive prizes as well! Be sure to sign up on the Facebook event!
Saturday, September 26th
Eastworks [116 Pleasant St., Easthampton, MA, 01027] at 10:00am
TopatoJAM!
Want to hang out at TopatoCon BUT ALSO make a game in a stunningly short period of time? You may! You must! TopatoJAM will let you do that! Open to developers of any skill level with a suggested $5 donation. You MUST REGISTER

August 31st – September 6th

XMen131CoverThe Valley Nerd Watch!


OH GOSH OH GOLLY IT’S ALMOST TIME

TOPATOCON! THE BIG EVENT! SEPTEMBER 26th – 27th

For real though we’re incredibly jazzed about TopatoCon, what fun it will be! Lots of nice artists and writers and designers and other creative types will be there hanging out with their wares. You can contribute directly to art you find enjoyable!

You can have that pleasant but kind of awkward conversation you have with a person you feel you know via their artistic output but who does not feel the same way about you! You might not be able to become fast friends with your idols, but it is still thrilling to have an opportunity to speak with them!

Also, guess what? Nerd Nite is the middle of the month this month! September 14th, put it in your calendar! It will be about cool artwork and implicit biases, you’ll like it. It will also have a shocking announcement! Your minds will collectively blow! If you only go to one Nerd Nite… please don’t do that, go to all the Nerd Nites they’re all fun.

Finally, if you are currently playing Rocket League – the excellent game about cars in hats with rocket engines playing soccer with a giant bomb – let us know! We’d love to play on a team with our wonderful readers.

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week! And don’t forget to check out the updated Book Clubs List!

THIS WEEK


Board Games:

Sunday, September 6th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Sunday Heroclix!
Heroes that click! Heroes that fight! Also villains! Also just like, background characters at this point. BUT the point is here’s a miniatures game where you can make Wolvering team up with Venom to fight Shatterstar and Spiral, it’s awesome and you should give it a shot… bub! Hosted by Jaimie!

Books:

Friday, September 4th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Crafternoon: Book Bags!
Hey, you. Yeah, that’s right. Come over here. We here you like…. <__>… booooks. Yeaaaah. Yeah, you’re into books, we could tell. Well if you love books so danged much you sometimes have trouble carrying them home, head to forbes to get a library bag and then decorate it!

Card Games:

Tuesday, September 1st
Greenwood Park Senior Center [231 Maple Rd, Longmeadow, MA 01060] at 6:45pm
Longmeadow Cribbage Club
Some people at a senior center are looking for cribbage players! Cribbage is sort of like Magic the Gathering or Netrunner except it is considered classier because the pictures on the cards are more boring. And you don’t tap anything. Co-ed, 21+, call (413)848-2147!
Sunday, September 6th
Worlds Apart Games [48 North Pleasant Street B2, Amherst, MA 01002] at 12:00pm – 5:00pm
GPT Pittsburg – Modern
Alright we’re going to play Event Detective here. The only thing in this event description is a little gerblin with a lamp made of thorn vines. We assume this is Pittsburg, the Modern Gerblin. Your task is to play enough Magic the Gathering to make him happy again! Try to help out good old Pittsburg this Sunday!

Computers:

Tuesday, September 1st
The Foundry [24 Main St., Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:00pm
Northampton Webdive – After Work
Do you web-code? Do you gleam the cube? Hack the matrix? Are you Zero Cool? Well come meet up with other super cool um… phone phreakers? We’ve been putting up a false front everyone we got no clue about computers. If you do, meet up with fellow coders for a drink!

Entertainment:

Thursday, September 3rd
Jones Library [43 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Jones Library TRIVIA!
Mark “Harpo” Power has offered to host trivia on Thursdays now! Lovely! Do the Art Walk and then join everyone for a Trivia Night. Bring your friends and family if and ONLY if they will contribute to your team. If they aren’t trivia buffs, force them to wait in the car. Five people per team, $5-$10 suggested donation!
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Anime Club
Teens! Young adults! Anime fans! But we repeat ourselves. All cool teens and youngsters are anime fanatics. Meet to discuss and watch and read and enjoy anime and manga! It will be delightful.

Movies:

Wednesday, September 2nd
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:45 – 9:45
Beetlejuice on the Lawn
Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice is playing on the lawn! And beforehand, a band that plays unplugged movie soundtrack songs, the Super 8 Players, will be playing a short set. Bring snacks and a blanket and friends! We either accidentally put this in last week’s Nerd Watch or it got moved, we forget!

RPGs:

Thursday, September 3rd
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 4:00pm – 6:00pm
RPG Club
Come hang out at the Palmer Library and play some sort of a Role-Playing Game with people who are nice! Create your own character or even characters! Describe their adventures until someone says “wait wait no roll a die first… okay yes continue”!
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Indie RPG Night: Night Witches
Indie RPG Night is a great way to play interesting games with wonderful people. And what an interesting game this time! Players take on the role of a member of the brave Night Witches, Russian female aviators in WW2 who flew 1920’s-era prop planes in some of the most daring missions of the war!
Friday, September 4th
Chesterfield Scout Reservation [22 Sugar Hill Road, Chesterfield, MA 01096]
The Market of the Moons
Two days of fun for the whole family inspired by fairies! Don’t worry, bring your kids to this fun LARP! It isn’t like fairies are know for child-theivery! They assure us they’re just going to have a fun camp, vend interesting materials, and lead people on a fun dungeon advenutre! Ten dollars gets you access for the entire weekend. Bring your own tent or sleep in a group cabin! Come dressed in costume! Definitely don’t worry about fae folk robbing you of your little lones!
Saturday, September 5th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Pathfinder Society
The brave and mysterious Pathfinder Society has come to Comics N’ More! They all work toward a single goal… for now! Who knows what plots the people pulling their strings have cooked up? Join up now to find out over the course of a long and eventful official adventuring season!
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 5:00pm – 8:00pm
Public RPG: D&D 5th Ed
Join the dark and mysterious Master of the Dungeon LEX MANDRAKE as he weaves his spell of mystery and adventure around and about the crenelations of your brains! This is a single-session spectacular hand crafted by the Comics N’ More staff! New players are welcome and pre-made characters are provided!
Sunday, September 6th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 10:30pm
Saga of the Icelanders RPG
Based on the popular, extensible, fun, and LOCAL Apocalypse World system by Vincent Baker, this game is all about managing to settle the harsh environs of Iceland in 874! Play a Norse settler dealing with honor, blood feuds, and harsh winters! Build a new society from scratch and write your own Saga this Sunday!

July 27th – August 2nd

XMen96CoverThe Valley Nerd Watch!


Kind of a light week this week! As always, be sure to inform us about events if we’re missing anything! We’ll carry the shame with us for eternity, but it is no more than we deserve for failing you in your time of need.

Big-time news in the world of TopatoCon! The con is now going to be September 25th – 27th in Eastworks! Which frankly makes sense, nice as the Clarion is. It seems that there’s just not enough room at the proveribal in and literal hotel, so the vast open spaces of Eastworks will be a more functional area to host things! Should be a wonderful time!

To get sufficiently hyped for TopatoCon, why not check out this extensive and excellent exhibitor list?

This past Friday we had the pleasure of hanging out at Comics N’ More for their sign-lighting party! It was a time and a half, with free champagne (Well, Brut. Comics N’ More isn’t MADE of money. It’s made of comics.) and crackers and cookies and chips. It was a really nice opportunity to speak with the owners and meet new people.

The owners, Christian William Zax Reader and Phoebe Rasmussen Reader Zax, are really great comic shop owners! They’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to improve the shop since they moved to Easthampton, and it’s already wonderful! They’ve painted, cleaned, and renovated the heck out of the place. And that’s just the start! Thanks to a successful IndieGoGo funding campaign, they plan on creating a delightful little lounge area for gaming, and expanding their selection board game and RPG products!

Also nice about Comics N’ More? A really solid subscription plan! If you’re a regular comics reader, you can’t really do better than what they’ve got on offer! They’ve got three tiers:

Tier 1 – 9 or fewer books a month, 10% off cover price for new comics and collected editions

Tier 2 – 10+ books a month, 20% off cover price

Tier 3 – Previews orders, 25% off cover price

If you’re interested in reading comics, it is a good idea to go check out Comics N’ More in Easthampton! Also there’s this real nice bakery right across the street, so you could make it a whole thing.

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week! Also check out the book clubs on our Master List! Get a heads up on cool books to read and talk about with other people!

THIS WEEK


Entertainment:

Tuesday, July 28th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 2:30pm – 3:30pm
Superhero Training Academy
Do you want your child (grades 3-5) to become a vigilante without all the hassle of having yourself tragically murdered in an alley? Check out Rich Clark’s training academy! Guaranteed to turn your child into an engine of justice! Pre-registration is required, as space is limited! Contact rclark@palmer.lib.ma.us!
Thursday, July 30th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Anonycon
Join some fine people at Palmer Public Library for their second annual fan convention! Snacks, games, a cosplay contest, a panel by Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe! It sounds like a great time. Though oddly short!
Sunday, August 2nd
Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation [300 Sugarloaf St., South Deerfield, MA] at 4:00pm – 7:00pm
Pioneer Valley Game Developers: One Year Anniversary Cookout & Potluck on Sugarloaf
Free food! But also you need to bring some food or you’ll be considered a big jerk. Join the PVGD to celebrate a year of good times by heading to the top of Mount Sugarloaf to eat, drink, play games, and climb a real cool tower! Note that the park charges $5/vehicle to drive to the top! Bring a side-dish, no alcohol, games, family and friends, sunscreen, and a good attitude!

Movies:

Wednesday, July 29th
Forbes Library (lawn) [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 8:30pm
Cinema Northampton Presents The Goonies on the Forbes Lawn
Come to the library to watch the classic film “The Goonies” on a screen that you’re a bit too far away from to see clearly because you didn’t come early and you feel weird about walking over people! It’s a really fun time for all. Important: you can pee at Pizza Amore. Tip them to show your appreciation!

RPGs:

Monday, July 27th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 3:00pm – 7:00pm
Public RPG: Dungeons & Dragons
Neal Robinson is hosting a game of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons at Comics N’ More! This time, throw him for a bit of a loop and play as an adorable golden retriever! There’s nothing in the Dungeon Master’s Guide that says you CAN’T!
Thursday, July 30
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Public RPG: D&D 5th Ed
A special little one-session adventure! You and your companions have been shipwrecked during a terrible storm, and washed up on a desolate shore! Is the island uninhabited or is it more than it seems? SPOILER: IT IS PROBABLY MORE THAN IT SEEMS. New players welcome, pre-made characters provided! Hosted by Lex Mandrake!
Saturday, August 1st
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Star Wars RPG
Star Wars! We know you’ve probably never heard of this obscure 70’s film but trust us it’s worth a look! Sure it’s a bit cheesy-looking now, but we think it’s had a subtle but noticable influence on later works! If you like it, why not continue the adventure by playing the RPG with friends? There’s a $5 entry fee that’s immediately converted into store credit!
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Public RPG: D&D Planescape
Join host Christian Haining for a spectacular 5th Edition D&D adventure through the planes! It’s for 5th-level characters, and you’ll be provided with pre-built ones if you like OR you can build your own with 800gp starting wealth, one +1 item (purchased with the gold). NO AARAKOCRA! Whatever that means! Don’t you dare make Christian angry, don’t bring up Aarakocra!
Sunday, August 2nd
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060]  at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Pathfinder Society Organized Play
Pathfinder! You’re an adventurer in the classic mold, seeking fame and fortune across the face of Golarion! We like to think that Golarion is just a very very patient person, who’s alright with adventurers plotting routes across their face. Join in an epic adventure by participating in a short scenario this week! There’s a $5 entry fee that is immediately converted into store credit!

March 23rd – 29th

VNWGameofThronesGameTTD

The Valley Nerd Watch!


Big Convention News this week! First of all, our own local heroes the Smith ConBust! This convention is a huge deal on account of being an All Nerds Event and also being probably the only successful local convention for the past few years. UMass tries once in a while but never seems to completely get off the ground. Poor UMass. Anyway! Attend this neat event.

Second big convention news item is that Topatocon was announced! For those who weren’t aware, webcomics retailer giant Topatoco is located in Easthampton and is great. They know a lot of wonderful people like local webcomic wunderkind Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content fame, and they are putting that to use. This September will be the first annual Topatocon, a convention of comics, webcomics, indie games, podcasts, indie music, just generally nice things that you’ll probably enjoy.

The best part is that it is happening in Northampton! Luxuriate in the knowledge that people from NYC and Boston will be griping about how they don’t want to drive up here.

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week!

THIS WEEK


EVERYTHING:

Friday, March 27th; Saturday, March 28th; Sunday, March 29th
Seelye Hall, Smith College [Northampton, MA 01063 (it’s hard to miss)]  at 5:30pm – 12:00am Friday, 9:30am – 11:00pm Saturday, 9:30am – 4:00pm Sunday.
ConBust
Come one, come all, come to Smith College and attend a fun fan convention for all ages and all fandoms! All will be welcome to see cool things, speak with cool people, meet artists, and listen to interesting presentations on topics like “Dragons Are Awesome”. You can register at the door, too! General admission is $30 for the full weekend, or $8 Friday, $12 Saturday, and $10 Sunday. It’s cheaper for Smithies and other 5-college students, too! This is the big event of the week, be sure to catch at least one day of this celebration of springtime nerdery!

Board Games:

Wednesday, March 25th *NEW WEEKLY EVENT*
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301]  at 5:30pm – 8:00pm
Chess Club
CHESS! The Sport of Barons! The most exciting game in the world 6000 years running! The game that you are presumed intelligent if you can play, even though Magic is also hard GUYS! CHESS! All ages and all skills welcome, come to play and to learn!
Sunday, March 29th
Greenfield Games [228 Main St Greenfield, MA 01301]  at 1:00pm – 6:00pm
Dungeons and Dragons Attack Wing: Tyranny of Dragons Month 1 Tournament
Humans, elves, hobgoblins, wizards, giants, dragons, aunts, boghoblins, dave, uncles, and the barony of skullfeast have assembled on a windswept field into two armies of roughly equal strength and are ready to commence whaling on each other. This is the start of a six-month Organized Play and you’ll have the opportunity to win prizes! Entry is $5! Attack Wing is perfect for people who like minatures battling but not painting or spending $11,000 on figures.

Books:

Thursday, March 26th
Packards Library Room [14 Masonic Street, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:30pm
Old Man’s War Book Discussion and Dinner
The Western Mass Sci-Fi Meetup Group will be meeting to discuss one of John Scalzi’s finest works! They’re going to meet in the Library Room of packards, which is a separate room in the far right corner, just ask the staff if you can’t find it! There’s no cover, but there is an expectation that you’ll order a meal! There are only 3 spots left for attendees, so sign up fast!

Card Games:

Friday, March 27th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 11:00pm
FNM: Dragons of Tarkir Release
A special Friday Night Magic! It’s a draft format (open boosters, construct a deck from those boosters) with two packs from the just-released Dragons of Tarkir, and one from Fates Reforged! Prize pool: 1.5 packs per player, with everyone getting at least one and top players getting a few more. Entry fee is $16!
Saturday, March 28th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Commander 101
A special session where you’ll learn how to play the popular format know as Commander! If you think Magic is a fun time, it’s probably good to know how to play this format!
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Commander Open Play
Bring your own Commander deck and compete for prizes including packs and promo cards! Admission is $5 that you get back in store credit.

Comics:

Thursday, March 26th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Graphic Novel Book Club
Join the Mythketeers (you can use that, no charge) as they discuss the best in 4-color literature! BIFF POW ZOK Comics aren’t just for kids anymore! Entry is $5, but that gets you a voucher good toward purchases in the store. This month is Ms. Marvel Volume One! The adventures of Kamala Khan and her transition from standard-issue teen to shape-shifting super-teen are truly excellent reading that we at Valley Nerd Watch 100% recommend you get on. Buy it at Modern Myths!

RPGs:

Saturday, March 28th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm
Mutants and Masterminds
Come join the superheroic fun! Play in a comic shop as comic-book superheroes in an RPG! Immerse yourself in a terrifying ouroboros of nerdery! Pre-rolled characters are provided! Pre-rolled dice, too!