Lessons Learned by a D&D Newbie


Having awesome pencils that match your dice makes your game more stylish!


This winter the other Ladies and I took a huge step and started our very own monthly game of Dungeons and Dragons.  For quite some time, I personally had been avoiding tabletop RPGs for a couple of reasons. The most pressing of those reasons being that I was nervous about playing as a newbie. I was concerned that playing would feel like a struggle as I attempted to juggle both the mechanics of the gameplay with actual improvisation and role-playing. It felt like too much at once and that I was going to be a burden to the DM and other players.

Several sessions and a second game group addition later, I am happy to report that I’m now addicted to this game. I spend a good deal of time working on my character, reading about the game rules, and even listening and watching other people’s games via podcasts and YouTube. And yes, I’m starting to get into the miniatures as well.

If I’m to be completely honest, I wish I had played when I was first asked. If I had, I might not have missed out on other opportunities to branch out and play other games. The good news is that if you also find yourself curious but on the fence about taking that dive into the world of D&D, I’m happy to share the lessons I learned. You might also find that there’s a lot of love about this game.

Lesson #1: The right DM

Your Dungeon Master (or DM) sets the tone for the game. This person’s job is to lead you through the story, challenge you, guide you, and at times even get you into some serious trouble. When you have someone who is so in control of the direction of your game, you want to make sure that person is both someone you trust and a person who has the interest of their players at heart. Both of my current D&D campaigns have amazing DMs with different strengths. One is extremely gifted at improv while at the same time is a patient and clear teacher as many of us navigate the gameplay for the first time. The other, while also amazing at improv, wants the game to be immersive and directed by the players as much as possible. This leads to a lot of hilarious situations and unexpected twists.



Brace yourself, ladies. I think the DM is smiling. That’s never a good sign. Have your weapons ready!

The point is that both of these DMs have one very important trait in common. Neither of them walks into the room with a specific agenda and both of them put the needs of the players first. The idea is to have fun, not conduct an experiment in power play. I can’t stress how important this is for the newbie player. Newbies (or even more experienced players for that matter) aren’t going to stay around if there is tension or their character spends most of the game frozen or unconscious.

Lesson #2: The right team

While the DM is the leader, they aren’t the only one who can affect the overall feeling of the game. If you’re going to start playing a role-playing game for the first time, there is a very good chance you’re going to find yourself getting stuck, asking a lot of questions, and needing space to explore your options. So while I’m not saying that newbies should only play with other newbies, I’m suggesting that you make sure that the other members of your party are patient and understand that the success of one character often means success for everyone. You’re in it together, and things are often more fun when you can all joke around and bounce ideas off one another. A simple comment from one person can spark a brilliant idea in someone else.

Lesson #3: It’s ok to bring in other elements you love

Each game and group you play with can be completely different. There is no rule mandating that you need to play late into the night or can’t take breaks. Both of my games have become something more akin to Brunches and Dragons. We take time to chat before playing. We discuss elements from the last game and spend some friendly time catching up with each other before diving in. The food is yummy, cocktails are themed around the game, and some of us even wear elements of our characters blended into our outfits. To make the games even more immersive, we use more than just D&D figures. Our bard plays lute music on his phone, our cleric takes notes in form of amazing drawings in her notebook, one DM uses soundscapes and props, while my other DM other actually creates different voices and accents for the characters we talk to.



Corpse Reviver Cocktail, imperative for fighting off the zombie hoards

Lesson #4: It’s ok to be you

Creating a character can be a challenge. It’s natural to want to put elements of yourself in the character because it’s familiar and can feel more comfortable. This is especially true when your character has to make those hard choices. It’s much easier to think about what you would want to do rather than what your character actually would do. At first, I was worried this was lazy storytelling on my end but then realized that it was ok to ease into things. Start how you want to start and remember that it’s just a game. Oh, and if your DM or group have problems with this, please refer back to numbers 1 and 2.

Lesson #5: Dive in as deep as you want

Some of us spend time working on our backstories, while others kinda wing it based on their alignment and a few story elements. So long as the game keeps moving and everyone is having a good time, not everyone in the group needs to write 5 paragraphs on why their character is afraid of chickens and refuses to eat eggs. Not everyone is there for the storytelling, and not everyone is there for just the strategy elements either. For most, it’s a mix of both, so it’s not a good idea to make assumptions or think someone is slacking off if they don’t submit a family tree to the DM.

I personally have been spending a lot of time working on my own characters and their relationships with others. I find this not only fun but also extremely helpful for me when playing. If I know a character, I care about them more. This results in feeling more engagement during the gameplay.

It’s also a great chance to be a bit silly and share things with your friends/other players. For instance, my druid elf character can be a bit flighty and off-kilter. Recently I decided that since elves don’t need to sleep, she spends a lot of her party’s rest periods making drawings of herself and her friends. What she lacks in skill, she makes up for in enthusiasm.


Dogs might be man’s best friend, but this elf prefers wizard frogs!

The point that I’ve been taking forever to make can be boiled down to a very simple takeaway. If D&D sounds like something you want to try, there are a ton of ways to create a comfortable space for newbies. If you play with the right people, you can build in the freedom to explore the aspects of the game that speak to you the most. Hey, everyone had to learn how to play at some point, right?

If you’re looking for a more concrete opportunity to try some tabletop RPG playing in an open and friendly environment, I would recommend joining us at Comicazi for the next ELS Game Day event. On April 29th, they will be highlighting RPGs specifically, giving both new and more seasoned women and girl gamers the chance to explore some more unique game options, including a bunch created by women as well. More info will be available on the Ladies of Comicazi Facebook page as we get closer to the event.


Awesome Games created by Amazing Women




It seems only fitting that our first blog post for the Ladies is going to highlight games designed by women. Our game day is dedicated to getting women together to game and introduce little girls to gaming while being surrounded by confident women who share the hobby. There are some amazing woman-created games out there. We are going to highlight just a few for you here. Each one is highly recommended and odds are that the games are on one or both of our game shelves.

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Love to Hate: Rock-a-Doodle


Edmond the kitten and his animal friends. Copyright MGM

Author’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on my old site, The Ink and Pixel Club.

Back when I was blogging solo, I posted about a “How many of these animated movies have you seen” meme. Afterwards, I got an e-mail from my dad.  He mostly wanted to share his reactions to animated films he had enjoyed, such as The Incredibles, The Triplets of Belleville, and WALL-E – which Dad thinks should have won Best Picture.  (Have I mentioned that I love my dad?)  But it wasn’t all praise.  Dad also wanted to chide me for awakening his long dormant and thoroughly unpleasant memory of Don Bluth’s Rock-a-Doodle, a movie which he now remembers as being “god awful.”

After reading his e-mail, I decided that I had to rewatch Rock-a-Doodle and write about my impressions.  Despite Dad’s negative memories and my own vague recollections of it being less than stellar, I tried to watch it with an open mind. I hadn’t seen it in over fifteen years.  Had my father and I been unfair?  Was this movie actually a flawed gem like The Secret of NIMH?  Or was it really the cinematic disaster that my dad remembered?

The short answer?  Dad was right. Continue reading

The Ladies Podcast – It’s All About Love

The Ladies Podcast is back with a brand new episode! This month, we’re taking on love – with a twist. We’re sharing a few of the things that we love to hate – favorite ranting topics – or hate to love – the guilty pleasures.

Smalerie discusses the musical version of The Phantom of the Opera and its less than stellar sequel.

Cartoon Sara dishes on the much loathed episode of the original Star Trek that she can’t help but enjoy.

Check out our previous episodes on our Podcast page.

40 things I learned by 40

If you have been reading along you know that we have been focusing on love this month….not necessarily romantic love, but rather those things you might be a little embarrassed to love, and well, love filtered through the eyes of some dinosaurs. This month I am going to tackle what is probably the most difficult type of love. Loving yourself.

Two of the ladies hit big birthdays this year, and hitting a big birthday can trigger a desire for introspection. You’ve made it this far, so what did you learn? What would you tell 20-year-old you? This, plus, have any of you seen this Vogue list? Frankly, I barely got through the thing. It’s astounding in its lack of relevance and practicality. But it did inspire me to , as our Honorary Lady Gary says, turn inward, and take a look back at what I did right, what I did wrong, and what stuff makes me realize that yeah, maybe I’m doing all right.

Your mileage to this list will vary, you might think it’s terrible, or just as irrelevant, but I hope it inspires you to make a list of your own so you can take stock of what you learned, how you have grown, and what a long way you’ve come baby.

Tiny Doom’s 40 things I learned by 40

  1. Don’t listen to your High School Guidance Counselor
  2. It’s ok not to want kids
  3. You are just as valid if you are a mother of pets, plants, other humans, dragons, or nothing
  4. Be reliable
  5. Be capable
  6. Be open to compromise
  7. It’s never a good idea to idolize someone, everyone is human
  8. Know what colors look good on you and wear those
  9. If you want a tattoo, get a tattoo
  10. Do your research
  11. It’s ok to be a little weird at work so long as you can back it up with #’s 4 and 5
  12. Friendships drift and that’s ok
  13. Pay your bills on time
  14. You can adapt to almost anything so don’t be so afraid of change
  15. Put stuff in your Amazon shopping cart and then give it 24 hours before you hit buy
  16. Look forward, not back
  17. Avoid self-help books
  18. When it comes to skin care most expensive stuff isn’t always the best stuff
  19. It’s ok to drink most of your liquid in tea form
  20. Eat your vegetables
  21. Scarves really do keep you warm
  22. Take care of your feet! I cannot stress this enough
  23. You don’t have to smile when someone tells you to
  24. Always act like you are supposed to be there-it’s ok to fake it
  25. Watch all the crap movies and TV you want
  26. Say no
  27. Red lipstick
  28. It’s not bullshit that doing nice things for other people can make you feel better
  29. Bring your lunch to work as much as you can
  30. Make a family that’s not related to you by blood
  31. Mittens are better than gloves
  32. Just do the thing, you’ll feel better when it’s done
  33. Walk there when you can
  34. There is a certain joy in day drinking (as long as you don’t make it a habit)
  35. Don’t be afraid of new technology
  36. Always keep your own bank account no matter how in love you are
  37. Try to travel if you can
  38. Learn to make things-food, socks, plans
  39. If people make you feel bad about yourself, don’t hang out with them
  40. Never turn down a piece of pie

Ok, if anyone else feels like taking on a list, I would love to see it.

Advice for the Lovelorn – Raptor Style

Happy Valentine’s Day, Ladies fans! In honor of the holiday, we’re bringing you a very special Fashion Raptors column. You see, our friend and Honorary Lady Gary had this blog years ago where he talked about some of his collectibles. His great passion is for Bobby Orr paraphernalia, but he’s no slouch at comic collection, either. A subset of that collection is romance comics – those treasured tales of the 60s and 70’s. Part of these books involved advice columns – the mostly teen, mostly girl readers could write in and lay out their romantic and other dilemmas for the book’s agony aunt to solve. Gary shared a few of these, and we thought that, beyond the historical interest, there was an opportunity here for the Fashion Raptors to weigh in with their own take on the questions. So here it is, the Fashion Raptors’ advice to the lovelorn, next to the originals. Enjoy!

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True Lady Confessions: I Love Musicals, Even the “Bad” Stuff

Quick Note: Hey everyone! We ladies so enjoyed working together on our themed posts last month that we decided to choose a theme for this month as well. We’re taking a cue from Valentine’s Day and writing about love in all its splendid and sordid forms.


I suppose we should get into the Way-Back Machine this month to talk about where my corny romantic soul really discovered love for the first time – musicals.

In fear of aging myself, I can tell you that I remember when my father came home with a VCR for the first time. In his hands, two videos: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and the MGM classic musical Singin’ in the Rain. And now, over 30 years later, these remain two of my favorite movies. And you guessed it, they’re both musicals.

It isn’t surprising that a young Smalerie would lose her mind over a Disney movie – especially one that’s so darn pretty to look at. What is slightly more uncommon was that I would also become OBSESSED with musicals. I would watch whichever ones I could get my hands on, spending way too much time during my teen years trying to explain the difference between Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire’s dance styles, and begging my parents to gift me with Show of the Month Club tickets. Back in those days, my taste wasn’t as discerning as it is now and I’ve lost my taste for most Rogers and Hammerstein, but that doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t still swell when a character spontaneously breaks into song.

I often find it hard to explain to people why my love for this genre is so ingrained in my system. I think it has to do with how music is linked to our emotions. Things that can be hard to express in just words can now be done with music, movement or dance, and words.  Feelings (good and bad) are exaggerated and heightened in a way that can often feel so much more genuine that we expect. Almost as if music helps distill them to their very essence. Sure, some musicals are simple and can feel trite or silly, but others can capture a culture or moment in time. Look, not every musical out there is any good, but if you’re open to perhaps making a new discovery, I’d be happy to point you in a toe-tapping kinda direction.

3 Musicals for People Who Might Not Like Musicals:

Little Shop of Horrors – I feel as if this musical is practically perfect in every way. It’s funny, dark, and filled with catchy tunes and clever lyrics. There’s also a lot to see in this show whether you just stick to the movie or see it live just because you want to see how they pull off the plant. This show is the reason why I loved Alan Menken and Howard Ashman before they left for the fluorescent lights of Disney. And I will always love Little Shop, original disaster ending or happy Hollywood one.
See also: Avenue Q, Bat Boy: The Musical, The Book of Mormon

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (TV Series)
– A masterclass on the human condition, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is hilarious but often almost painful to watch due to its accuracy on how people treat others and themselves. I think what makes this show work is that it can often be easier to sing about your issues than actually confront them. Songs are used as internal monologues, highlight particular emotional arcs in the story, and can just be so honest and funny. People who don’t like musicals might enjoy watching this show just for how clever it is.
See also: Garfunkel and Oates (TV Show), Heathers: The Musical


Hedwig and the Angry Inch – A great rock show that’s funny, heartfelt, and heartbreaking. The film version is great, but this is one of those shows that I would love to see live at some point. The main character talks directly to the audience and in the right venue, that’s a great opportunity for the performance to feel personal and intimate. I can’t remember how I even heard about Hedwig originally, but I do remember being so charmed by the music.
See also: Tommy, Phantom of the Paradise, Rocky Horror (Picture) Show


When Less is More: A Tale of Two Bats


The animated and live action Flying Graysons. Copyright Warner Bros.

Author’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on my old site, The Ink and Pixel Club.

Comparing two works based on the same source material can lead to interesting discoveries.  Seeing how the same story is handled can reveal the differences in the filmmakers and their approaches to their craft.  If can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of different media.  Or, as with the two works we’re going to look at today, it can reveal a much broader concept, like the positive side of limitations.

Batman is an ideal subject for this kind of comparison.  DC’s dark knight has been repeatedly reinterpreted for different media, different audiences, and different times.  Yet in nearly every new version, a few key elements remain the same, keeping the result recognizably Batman.  The part of the Batman mythos that we’ll be examining today is the death of the Graysons, a key moment in the origin of Batman’s sidekick, Robin.

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Beat the Winter Blues: Get Crafty

If you’ve been reading along you will have seen both Smalerie, and The Red Menace give their tips for beating the winter blues; coping mechanisms are so important y’all! Now it’s my turn. Those who know me IRL know that my crafting obsession almost borders on manic. If it’s crafty, I want to try it. Yarn, glue, paper, wood, beads, it’s all my jam. For me crafting can really hits my goal oriented brain center, plus then you have a cool thing to show for your work. That sense of accomplishment can be critical when you are cooped up inside feeling like you may never get outside again.

Because the general realm of crafting is so vast and wide there are thousands of options, and price points. You don’t need to drop a mint at Michael’s or some other craft store to take on projects. One of my favorite things to do is to comb thrift stores or dig around though what I already have and then re-purpose it into something better.

Someday this will be a mitten.

Ah, my old standby. When I was little, my grandmother tried to teach me to knit. It’s didn’t go well. But I picked it up again in college and things really clicked. Knitting has a relatively low start-up cost, especially if you can get your hands on some used needles and sale yarn (it’s always on sale). Knitting has also become much more popular so chances are you know someone who knits and can teach you, otherwise, YouTube. I’ve learned many new stitches and refreshed myself on some basics via the internet. All you need to know is the basic knit stitch and you can make a scarf. I personally find the repetitive action of knitting soothing and a bit meditative, maybe you will find it the same.


Gluing things to things-
Oh yeah! This is probably my favorite type of craft because it’s the broadest and I think most fun. Get yourself some good glue (I like e-6000), some found objects and go to town! Cover old containers with buttons or rhinestones, decorate a lampshade, make magnets…below are two of my favorite gluing projects. I wanted a 3 tier plate for a Downton Abbey themed tea party I was hosting, however I did not want to spend the money on one. Take one trip to a thrift store, plus one thing of glue, et voila, a 3 tiered plate that cost less than $7! The “bug” is the result of a broken clock I bought at a yard sale, dismantled, and then spent a very focused afternoon turning the pieces into some sort of sculpture. Again, super affordable and very rewarding!


Paper crafts-
I can’t draw, at all. But I can cut, glue, arrange, and stamp. Plus, making your own cards is much more fun and flexible than ones you get at the drugstore. If you’ve ever even walked past a Paper Source you can see how vast and varied the things you can do with paper are. I also think paper crafting lends itself to being social and sharing supplies really well….(prepare for shameless plug), and that’s why we are hosting a Collage Card Workshop at Comicazi on February 10.

If paper crafts are something you are interested in join us at our Collage Card event! We bring the supplies, you bring the creativity.

General craft resources-
Ready to dive into the sea of crafting? There are tons of resources out there but here are 2 of my favorites.

Craftster– The Old Dame of craft resources! I think every craft possible exists here. From knitting, to food, to soap, to cross stitch this bulletin board community give tutorials, help, discussion and general encouragement about crafts.

Possibility of falling down a craft based rabbit hole for the rest of the winter: HIGH

Pinterest– If you aren’t quite sure of the project you want to tackle, go to Pinterest and search “crafts”. You will get an amazing array of option, all visually lovely. So yeah, there are lots of pictures of possible crafts on Pinterest, but the directions and links are not always super reliable (see Pinterest Fails). I like to cruise the pics for ideas but then maybe head to another resource for a second opinion on reliable directions.
Pinterest is a particular danger zone because it doesn’t just have crafts…it has everything! You could start looking at it at the start of the next snow storm and not come up for air till the plows are done.

Possibility of not emerging until the hibernating bears do too: HIGH

Beat the Winter Blues: Theme Party Edition

Last week, Smalerie mentioned that we’d be doing a series on how to stick it to Old Man Winter and actually get some enjoyment out of a season that, here in New England anyway, can be best summed up as “grey.” Sometimes the outdoors is a frozen wasteland, other times it’s warm but muddy, but no matter the temperature and precipitation, winter can just seem a bit ho-hum. Once the holidays are over, there’s just a lot of staying indoors, dreaming of warmer, drier days. BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. The depths of winter are scientifically* proven to be the best time for a theme party. Plus, planning a party fits in well with several of Smalerie’s blues-busting tips, including starting a project and having accountability. And hey, if you host, you don’t need to actually leave the house!

We’ve had a few posts on this subject before, but here are a few we haven’t yet shared that you might consider specifically for shaking the winter doldrums.

Stalingrad, 1942

Granted, this particular theme appeals to a slightly morbid sense of humor – unsurprising, given that my husband, Mr. Menace, was responsible for dreaming it up. When the snow is thick on the ground and the air is frigid, what can be better than a reenactment of the Soviets surrounding the Germans at Stalingrad?

We were fortunate to have this party hosted at the home of our dear friends, who have a spectacular fire pit in their backyard, which allowed us to create a hard-core bonfire. If you are not so lucky, even a small fire pit will add the right amount of flare and sell the idea that you are huddling for warmth on the front. (We were also aided by the fact that this party took place in the February 2015 – winter where the Boston area saw about 8 feet of snow pile up on itself in rapid succession, followed by a deep freeze. Authentic!)

Cheap fur hats from the party store are also a must. Here the goal is less about authenticity, and more about a sense of fun and staying warm.

The Red Menace and Tiny Doom stayed in the warmth, mostly.

As for the most important part of any theme party, the food, this is your chance to put out an assortment of hard meats, cheese, and vodka, and call it good. At our hosts’ request, I also made piroshki, which are Russian buns filled with meat and onions.

Tasty meat and onion buns.

Meat, cheese, vodka, and hats – a recipe for pulling anyone out of a slump.


The Red Menace and Tiny Doom as Glamour Vikings.

The very next winter, our friends with the fire pit hosted another vaguely historically themed party – a Viking raid! This was a ton of fun to figure out costuming for – and a great excuse to break out the fur and cape from my Red Sonja costume from a Halloween party long past.

To host a good Viking party, consider offering mead, more of that wonderful meat and cheese, and an assortment of dried fish, if you’re feeling fancy. Horned helmets are not historically accurate, but if you change the theme a tad, you can host a 19th-century Romanticist opera revival party and the helmets are totally on brand.


The giant seeks her chicken.

Our latest party was a long time coming, and one of my favorites to date. For years, Tiny Doom has dreamed of hosting a “giant” party. The concept was that everything at the party would actually be extremely tiny – thus allowing the party participants to feel like giants. (Tiny Doom is, as her name suggests, pretty small herself, so getting to be big is a novelty.) For years, we discussed this party – what food we would serve, the tiny plates we could use, the props that we’d have – and we kept not hosting the actual party. Finally, after nearly half a decade, I decided to make it the theme of my annual New Year’s Eve gathering. 2017 was a pretty tough year all around, so I thought we could all use an excuse to feel bigger.

Tiny Doom devours a whole baked potato in one bite!

This party was heavily centered around two things – the food, and the table-scape. What’s great about this theme is that many appetizers are already small, bite-sized versions of regular food. You just have to make sure to play up that similarity – so cocktail weenies aren’t served in sauce, they’re lovingly encased in tiny buns. Sliders are regular burgers, a Cornish game hen is a whole roasted chicken, and so on.

The Burger Patrol serves the giants.

Mr. Menace helped with the decor by getting two different sizes of figures – 1/6 scale GI Joes and 1/16 scale Star Wars figures – and strategically placing them around the food. The result was a sort of Lilliput-England-Brobdingnag vibe with the Star Wars guys as Lilliputians, the Joes as the humans, and us as the Brobdingnagians. It was pretty darn magical, and shockingly simple to pull off.

Guarding the forest of pie.

Ultimately, that simplicity makes this a perfect winter project – you don’t need to dress up or get too fussy with the decor to create a good time for your friends and help snap everyone out of a funk. After all, everyone needs to feel big sometimes.

These cakes were beautiful but less edible than one might want.

Finally, it’s important to note that while we did this party on New Year’s Eve, it works on any random winter night equally well. How about you all – any other whimsical ways to punch Old Man Winter in the face?

*The science is extremely limited.