RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

I am a self-professed nerd. I blame (or should I say credit?) my parents, whose family vacation plans alternated visits to educational destinations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Washington, DC (No cruises to Aruba or trips to ski resorts for us, thanks. One spring break, my dad took my two brothers and me to a coal mine.) I devoured stacks of books from our town library each week—after completing my homework, of course. My school’s honors program generated plenty of extracurricular activities to keep our buzzing teenage minds occupied. I regularly skipped study hall or stayed after school to rehearse for mock trial, build a papier-mâché castle, or participate in a SimCity competition. Outside of the honors program, though, I tried to stifle my eagerness to skip ahead in our history textbooks and griped along with my classmates about difficult French assignments. I had watched enough ‘90s sitcoms to realize that being a nerd wasn’t “cool” and that I should attempt to blend in.

Bob’s Mage Knights, 2015, courtesy of Diana L. Novakovic. (Bob would like to point out that this layout is a “tactically terrible combat formation” but that our mom did the best she could to take a photo for us.)

My younger brother Bob, however, had no such qualms; he embraced his own kind of nerdom, freely advertising his hobbies of fencing, partaking in Civil War reenactments, and playing Mage Knight (a collectible miniatures wargame). Bob crafted elaborate tablescapes for Mage Knight, deliberately positioning the tiny figurines on moss-covered rocks or under tiny trees. This miniatures wargame utilized figures called “warriors” which had pre-assigned points and statistics, eliminating the need for in-game reference books. Bob became so adept at combating enemy armies that he competed in—and occasionally won—Mage Knight tournaments in the Pittsburgh area. By the time I left for college, Bob had moved on to playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with his gamer friends.

Rock On, Gary Dahl

Rock On, Gary Dahl

Staff at The Strong passed around several emails this week noting the passing of Gary Dahl, inventor of the Pet Rock, a wildly popular fad from the mid-1970s. In 1975 Dahl, a California advertising man, dreamed up the notion of a Pet Rock and shipped it to a San Francisco gift show that August. His…

Scrabble: Oldest, Newest, Biggest, and Smallest at The Strong!

Scrabble: Oldest, Newest, Biggest, and Smallest at The Strong!

The National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong inducted Scrabble in 2004. Since then we’ve made efforts to collect many different versions of the famous “scrambled word game.” Oldest Visit The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame web page for Scrabble, and you’ll learn that unemployed architect Alfred M. Butts invented the game during…

Screen-Play: Succession Planning in the Playroom

Screen-Play: Succession Planning in the Playroom

When I leave The Strong this week after almost seven years, a shiny, new collections manager will take the helm. I feel like the well-worn toy Margery Williams describes in The Velveteen Rabbit who becomes Real when the Boy loves him and when the nursery magic Fairy sets him free. Except for the trials of…

Well, That’s Different! Conservation Challenges within The Strong’s Unique Collection

Well, That’s Different! Conservation Challenges within The Strong’s Unique Collection

During our training, conservators usually specialize in a specific type of material, such as paper or paintings. As we become professionals, we find ourselves in institutions with diverse collections which requires broad conservation knowledge for all of the artifacts under our care, not just those comprised of our favorite material. Nowhere is this truer than…

Glow-in-the-Dark Toys

Glow-in-the-Dark Toys

As a kid in the late 1970s and early 80s, glow-in-the-dark toys fascinated me. During the summer months, my friends and I would play outdoors as much as we could. Even after the sun went down, we tried to cling to every moment we had to play. Toys that “lit up” in the dark furthered…

100 Years of Tinkering

100 Years of Tinkering

Toys reflect the times in which they are made, and it follows, that as time passes, these toys fade away and are often replaced by newer toys. A few toys—like many in the National Toy Hall of Fame—though, remain popular for decades. Some even endure for several generations—like Tinkertoys. The Tinkertoy chronicle began more than…

Simon Says: Thanks, Ralph

Simon Says: Thanks, Ralph

I was deeply saddened to hear that Ralph H. Baer had died on December 6, 2014, at the age of 92. As numerous other writers have noted, Ralph invented the “Brown Box” home video game console (produced as the Magnavox Odyssey) and the electronic game Simon. He donated his professional papers to The Strong, and…

Four Dolls, Three Bears, Two Bunnies, and One Plastic Guy: Books about Play Pals

Four Dolls, Three Bears, Two Bunnies, and One Plastic Guy: Books about Play Pals

As Director of Libraries at The Strong, I acquire scholarly books on the study of play for the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Although tracking down weighty academic tomes is quite fulfilling, I would be dishonest if I said that selecting children’s books for the Grada Hopeman Gelser Library didn’t liven up my…

Screen-Play: Hey There Hi There Ho There, Mickey Mouse Club!

Screen-Play: Hey There Hi There Ho There, Mickey Mouse Club!

I’ve struggled to catch Saturday Night Live’s 40th season because I’m either out and about or asleep on the couch (usually the latter). But there’s a variety show that’s made for me—particularly due to its time slot and content—and it’s also celebrating an anniversary this year. The Mickey Mouse Club is turning 60. Walt Disney…