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My vampire’s hapless, disheveled, Bugles-eating professorial ghoul may die on Thursday at our game, and if not on this Thursday, some other future Thursday. Given that he’s involved in a turf war between clans in an increasingly unstable Domain, it’s really pretty likely.

Intellectually, I’m prepared for it, because it makes sense in narrative terms. Still, that doesn’t mean that I–as a player, not just as a character–am not going to be really upset when it happens. (My only consolation is that I suspect our ST is going to be upset, too, because he’s also rather fond of that particular NPC.)

Now, my ghoul isn’t a super valuable +12 sword of macguffin-slaying that ends up turning the tide of the game. In fact, the Doc has generally been more trouble for my character than he’s worth, as he has a tendency to be imbibe at all the wrong times and take books from the Tremere at all the other wrong times, leaving my character to answer drunken text messages and discuss lending library hours with a hostile clan when she ought to be running from something dangerous and toothy. Yet I like the NPC enough that I have put serious thought into retiring my PC just to move him out of the Domain to safety.

I’m just going to stop for a minute to let that sink in: I’m tempted to retire a PC I love to save a relatively minor NPC.

Part of me is really horrified to admit that. I’m fairly certain this puts me squarely into the “unquestionably insane” category. On the other hand, I think it indicates how much I’m enjoying this particular game.

Between the upcoming peril and an interesting conversation elsewhere on the internet, I got to thinking about the relationship between good RP and the extent to which any given group of players allows itself to be vulnerable around a table. By definition, all roleplaying requires a base amount of vulnerability, as you’re telling a group story. Yet some groups reveal things about themselves more comfortably than others, and some GMs/DMs/STs encourage that sharing better than others.

I have to say that my own tendencies in this area aren’t always great. When under pressure–in both RL and in game–I have a tendency to turn into a manic Oscar Wilde. This is why people like to sit next to me during meetings. If given free rein, I’ll do much the same in game. Even when I’m at my comedic best, though, those moments only go so far in furthering the storyline itself, and they invite other players to riff off of the comedy, not explore the atmosphere or the framework of the moment.

In many ways, my (and many of my friends’) impulse to be funny is a reaction against revealing too much at the gaming table. I’ve noticed that we often do it when things get rough, either when we aren’t sure how to tackle a particular difficult task or when we are being asked to respond to a story element that may get emotionally tricky. It’s an avoidance tactic, and many gamers feel they have the right to it, since we game to have fun. Yet I’d argue that many of us game to stretch ourselves intellectually and emotionally, too, and that’s where the comedy routine weakens the aims of gaming.

Let me back up for a minute. I was sitting in a meeting a few days ago next to our Vampire ST; as usual, I was being funny via text message with a handful of friends around the table. Then I was struck by the realization that I would never want to be sitting across the table on the other side of a negotiation from my ST, especially one in which we disagreed. It’s unlikely to happen, since we’re in different departments, but I suddenly realized that he knew more about my negotiation strategies, soft spots, stalling tactics, and overwhelming desire to collaborate (even when it’s an incredibly poor choice) than people who have known me for years. Ditto for the other players. It struck me suddenly that I played this particular game more honestly than I had played a game in a long time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a lot of outstanding gaming over the last few years. Yet still, I’m fairly certain our Vampire game is the most satisfying RPG I’ve played in a long time, partly because we have built a table around which we aren’t afraid to take some risks. Quite a bit of that comes from having a group whose gaming goals match so completely.

Let me give some examples of varying goals. My WFRP players were deeply invested in the bizarre storylines of that game; they weren’t minmaxers in the traditional sense, and they weren’t always all that interested in the mechanics of the game. They wanted to find out what was going on behind the scenes, and did a lot of snooping around to figure out why things were as they appeared. A handful of recurring NPCs elicited some strong feelings (the annoying orphan Waltrout was one and an actor-turned-kidnapper named Klaus was another,) and they loved lightheartedly bantering with one another, constantly egging the dilettante on to ask about getting her clothing cleaned in the Inns they visited or suggesting to the Priest of Sigmar that he indulge his desire to start fires. Overall, narrative motivated them, both the prewritten narrative of the adventures themselves and the evolving narratives they were creating on their own. The group had a lot of warm, positive interactions in character, but for the most part, they were light and without much long-term consequence. I will take quite a bit of responsibility for this as the GM, since the Warhammer world tends to fascinate me; I undoubtedly encouraged my players to look at the world and its narratives more carefully than, say, the NPCs or the combats.

The Pathfinder group I played in years ago and still play with intermittently during summers solved puzzles. Where could we best orient ourselves to kill the monster in this particular room? How might we negotiate the best deal for this doodad we need to finish the adventure or steal it if nobody had a decent negotiation skill? Was there a skill or item that negated the problematic spell just cast by the NPC, and if many of us had it, who should best spend the charges to use it? Again, we had a lot of fun tabletop banter, but a good two-thirds of it was out of character; we talked about the game much as you’d talk about a board game and dipped into character when we had to do a negotiation or somesuch.

Our current game has slightly different stakes: can we outwit and out-negotiate these NPCs, most of whom elicit pretty strong feelings? Can we keep doing it week after week, despite the drastically changing fortunes of our Domain? Can we find out what those NPCs don’t want to tell us openly? With which PCs and NPCs will each of us build relationships, and will those turn out to be short-term alliances or long-term friendships? Certainly we go “do stuff,” but the majority of things that we do in game have the reward of increasing our characters’ reputations and opening new doors to build relationships.

When pressed, most of us would say that most RPGs can encourage all of these types of play, and most games do have a smattering of each these elements from time to time. Generally speaking, though, any given player will likely have more strength in one area than in another. A given system will likely encourage one kind of behavior over another. Most of us play in groups with a split talent pool: you’ll have one player who wants to build relationships, a couple who want to solve puzzles, and one who wants to discover narrative. These players often get stuck negotiating the added complexity of the ST/GM/DM’s own vision of ideal play and the extent to which the chosen system allows that play. Once in awhile, though, you luck into a group where all the players have the same main goal and execute it equally well; once every Brigadoonish number of years, you’ll luck into a group with a unified play style that has chosen a system wisely and that has an ST who manages that play style well. At those moments, then, players can take risks at the table without worrying that their play detracts from another player’s game or from the ST’s vision of the game as a whole. For me as a player, that’s when the real magic happens, as everyone around the table seamlessly supports each other in the goal of good gameplay. That’s also when a player decisions feel truly meaningful because the scope of play has narrowed enough that events can have a genuine impact on a dynamic game world–like when it feels reasonable to retire a PC to save a hapless little ghoul.


I just saw a post about this neat ezine, which is out of the UK.. It’s got some great art and includes some unusual content. They’ve come up with a remarkable range of articles, including everything from corsets and Vampire: The Masquerade to Ticket to Ride and 40K. It also lists gaming events for the UK/Ireland. Do check it out!

I posted about the Pathfinder Minis the other day here. Since we preordered, we also got the promo dragon. It came in a separate mailing, which means it got to us…well, it got to us when it got to us. The mailroom in our building happens to be run by a disciple of Tzeentch, the Changer of Days. Of delivery.

ANYWAY, since I picked up a tabletop photo studio today, I thought I’d try it out by taking a few shots of the promo mini. It’s really a lovely little dragon; as with the rest of the set, they’ve done a great job with the painting. The sculpt has a lot of detail, and there’s a nice feeling of movement evoked by the tail and the wings. My husband tells me that these aren’t terribly expensive on eBay just yet, so if you want one, you may want to grab one before the prices go up. Here are the pics!

So, my husband is a Pathfinder junkie. Also, he loves his miniatures. In fact, he loves them so much that we have a whole bookshelf filled with those plastic D&D minis. So when he heard that there were going to be Paizo minis up for grabs, well, you’d better believe that we immediately pre-ordered a case of them.

They arrived today. I won’t go into too much detail here, but I’ll let you see for yourselves. These really are lovely. (I mean, they’re not Warhammer, which is a mark against them, but for a non-Warhammer product, they’re pretty keen.) The painting is much more precise and detailed than the old D&D minis; even the commons have lots of contrast colors and have been painted precisely. We ordered a case, and he was lucky enough to get a full set–every mini. Here are some pics of the whole shebang.

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If you’re dithering, definitely pick some up. They seem much sturdier to me than the old D&D minis, and they really do look quite nice!

NOTE: Recently, people have been asking how WFRP3e looks to people now that the game has been around for a couple of years. This is the second part of my response to that question. The first part can be found here.

Even though this post is about Warhammer, I’m going to start with FreeMarket. I finished reading the rules just before I went on vacation, and I have to say that I really liked the system quite a bit. Still, I can’t imagine running the game without seeing it in action first, nor can I much imagine my current gaming group playing it, even if I did know exactly how it should run. I suspect that they simply don’t like to push against the GM enough to make it much fun.

I often think of games in terms of how much they assume you ‘push against the GM.’ These games ask you not just to accept challenges designed for you to overcome, but to challenge the premises set forth by the GM or the gameworld. In games like these, questioning or undermining the plot hook isn’t bad playing–it’s precisely what the games mean to evoke. The extent to which rules allow you to push against the GM works on a spectrum; different games make more or fewer allowances for questioning in that manner. My group has enjoyed WFRP3e so thoroughly because it stands right in the middle of that spectrum.

I’d say something like Pathfinder Society Scenarios fall on the end of Not Welcome to Push. If I take a mission from the lodge to go investigate the Blackrose Museum, I’m supposed to take the cues given and go solve the puzzles as the GM presents them to me. I’m not, for instance, really welcome to go back to my homeland, suggest that the place is way too dangerous to continue to exist, and amass an army to raze it to the ground. That’s partly because PFS games are often designed to be convention scenarios, but it’s also woven into the fabric of many d20 games; listen to the story, follow the cues, solve the puzzles, get a satisfying climax scene. These games will always remain popular because they allow for intricate, long, overarching storylines; the give the same pleasure as reading a good book or watching an intricate movie. You can, of course, create sandbox games within these systems that allow the players some more options for reaching the final climax scene, but generally, those sandbox games give the players the chance to decide in which order they will encounter possible pre-scripted events.

On the other end of my spectrum (indie games offer even farther reaches, but I won’t talk about games I don’t know well here,) lie games like FreeMarket, or, to a lesser extent, Mouse Guard and Burning Wheel. You have to push in these games–that’s the point. Without players challenging the premises, not much happens, and in games like Mouse Guard, many of the scenarios are thin and simple because the spotlight turns on the players’ ideas. The GMs for these games are told to “say yes” to the players’ demands whenever possible, and the storyline takes its shape from the evolution of the characters’ psychologies as much as it does from the external world. The rules focus on having the players describe and shape as much of the game mechanics as possible. Burning Wheel and MG players narrate the outcome of their own dice rolls, while FM PCs play through rounds of a card game to negotiate the successes and failures of their goals. Players of all three games are seldom (if ever) reduced to a simple pass/fail (or even degree of success/failure) mechanic, because most ‘failures’ can be renegotiated in some way.

In all systems, the stories are more important than the individual outcomes; BW, MG, and FM all rely on players to come to the table with their own goals and use their background to shape game play. Sure, the GM might set a straightforward task (get the contents of the chest in the head Guard’s office,) but all three games reward straightforward and non-straightforward responses to that task equally; attacking the guard or sneaking past him works fine, but you might just as easily bore a hole through the wall or construct a thieving monkey robot which you give to the guard as a gift to retrieve it. Mechanics exist for large-scale tactics as well as small-scale tactics; MG’s negotiation rules, for instance, give examples of how to use them to amass and control an army of mice to do your mouse’s bidding. If you have a character with enough resources, creating an army isn’t mechanically much more difficult than finishing the task yourself, so your players needn’t skip it as a realistic solution to a conflict. These systems allow players to feel as though they have infinite paths to changing the world and those possibilities give them the chance to explore their characters extraordinarily carefully. The downside for players comes when they have an off night; they can’t rely on an intricate storyline or hook NPC to keep the story moving, and they can easily stall the game if they don’t have ideas. The downside for a GM, of course, is that a perfectly-planned dramatic moment may easily get sidestepped by your players. Still, if you have managed to put together the ideal set of players for one of these games, their narrative plans are probably every bit as dramatic and creative as yours were, anyway.

Personally, I see WFRP3e as a hybrid of these two types of games. Since the Warhammer universe is so rich with history and its RPGs have so many entrenched traditions, it’s not a good fit for a “say yes,” push against the GM-style of rules. The players would just have the chance to miss way too much good lore. Further, “say yes” games often allow the PCs far more autonomy and power than would really fit the “grim and gritty” feel of Warhammer; while an experienced GM could keep them on track, beginners might have a much more difficult time. So FFG’s official story material for 3e has a kind of d20 determinism to it, much to the chagrin of some players of first and second edition. On the other hand, that has allowed FFG to script some fantastically funny and dramatic moments in the official material–stuff that had my players hooked immediately and had them asking after each game, “What did we miss? What else was there in that chapter?”

On the other hand, many of the mechanics offer momentary negotiations and “say yes” moments to the players on a smaller scale. The dice, for instance, allow PCs to describe the whole a combat action outcomes without having to know any of the monster’s stats. Fortune points allow them to shift the game in their favor or direction; they’re essentially chits that invite players to negotiate with the GM. The party tension meter, while flawed in some ways, encourages players to focus on the evolving psychology of their group. Finally, mechanics like corruptions allow PCs to move outside a GM’s or a party’s morality comfort zone without breaking the system, letting each player develop his character’s psychology without allowing him to run rampant over the game world.

I find that my players negotiate with me on a more regular basis while playing WFRP3e than I’ve seen with most d20 systems, where the focus lies on solving the puzzles in the most efficient, least deadly manner possible. They feel supported enough by the game world and the rules to try creative or bizarre approaches to the problems in front of them. (For our group, these approaches often involve fire.) They will take risks, although they aren’t reckless, either, because they want to live to see what’s around the next corner.

WFRP3e isn’t the perfect system, by any means. Many of the complaints arise because the system doesn’t commit fully to a single traditional style of play, irritating players who come from both d20 and “say yes” types of games. Still, I think the rules and the pregen material do two things exceedingly well: they tell an interesting story and allow for PCs to develop their own interesting stories at the same time. Most systems err on the side of emphasizing one set of goals or the other; if WFRP3e has proven anything to me and my group in the past year and a half or so, it’s that it allows for nice a balance of both world story and player goals.


I’m in that weird post-vacation thing where there’s so much to do and so much I want to do that I can’t manage to do any of it.

My Seemingly Insurmountable Trivial Task of the Day is rearranging my RPG shelves to accommodate the signed copy of Burning Wheel Gold that I just received. We have two sets of RPG shelves here. One holds my husband’s d20 (Pathfinder, DnD 3.5) stuff, and the other holds my space-eating collection of WFRP boxes–I can’t bear to throw them out, even though I don’t really need to keep them–plus all my other wacky non-d20 systems. I suspect a trip to the furniture store for a bigger shelf is in order, but that will require a negotiation about whether or not the new bookshelf should cover the living room window that I’m just not prepared to handle at this juncture.

(Hmm…now that I look at the shelf, I realize there’s a borrowed book in there.)

In the meantime, check out this comic that one of my players sent my way yesterday. Pretty much sums it up, yep.

Lego Minis

In a related recent exchange:

Me: I made a whole bunch of buildings and furniture and props and stuff for this weekend’s game. There’s now a whole army of tiny chairs and tables!
Player: …are we playing Warhammer or dolls?

I use images pulled from the Internet for handouts, slide shows, and videos to enhance my games. It’s not hard to pull useful images from the internet–and to avoid the worthless ones–if you know a few tricks about Google Image Search.

Here are a few tricks I’ve learned from a couple of art history minors, a few years of teaching, and a bunch of GMing:

General Search Tips

  • If you want to find something for a fantasy game, use appropriate historical tags. The three best words you can add to any search are “medieval,” “Renaissance,” or “Anglo Saxon.” Medieval will often return a lot of modernized pseudo-historical stuff or very fancy late medieval French stuff, because those pictures are more colorful and gets more clicks than earlier medieval pictures. Renaissance will often get you that half-timbered architecture that you tend to see in fantasy villages, although it’ll also get you Ren Faires. If you want gritty and simple, go with Anglo Saxon.
  • If you want specific, be specific. “Castle” will get you a host of pretty pictures, but “battlements” may be what you’re really looking for. Wikipedia the article about the appropriate architecture or item if you’re not sure what to call a particular part of what you’re seeking.
  • Don’t forget to -. If you look, say, for Warhammer Orcs, you’ll find many images from WAR Online. If you’re looking for GW concept art and miniatures instead, just throw -online into your search term, and Google will filter out images with the Online tag. It won’t get rid of everything, but it will help.
  • Teach Google. When you look at your search results, go ahead and click on results you like, even if you’re not going to use them right now. This helps Google find more images like the one you clicked in future searches.
  • Use your own computer whenever possible. If your kid is searching for Disney Princess castles, (God help you,) her clicks will throw off your future search results and will filter in a bunch of animated junk you probably don’t want. Same goes for a spouse who thinks “giants” are some sort of sports team. The computer I’ve used to research and pull only historical images at work for years can practically read my mind–largely because I seldom do other types of searches on it. If you’re lucky enough to have multiple computers for your family, keeping yours to yourself will do wonders.
  • Go with the flow. Often, I’ll find an image so awesomely bizarre that I just have to work it into my game. Recently, I was searching for medieval village festivals, and found this great picture of a guy with a yellow cap and a purple face who was leering crazily at the camera. Nothing modern was in the shot, really, so in he went as an NPC. (Of course, my PCs slaughtered him instead of talking to him, but what can you do?)

Making Friends with Google

Most of us know how to type search terms into Google and then click on the Images tab at the top to bring up just images, but Google actually gives you quite a bit more control than that over your image searching.

Here I’ve used Google to search for an Anglo Saxon farm; it has already given me a pretty promising image on the right, there, that would be perfect for a poor village.

Check out the left side of the screen and you’ll find a whole set of tools that will help you refine your search. If your search has returned a set of infuriatingly useless little thumbnails, you can click on Image Size Large on the left to return only big images. If you want only purple-hued pictures, you can click on the purple box and it will filter out images with dominant colors that aren’t purple. Below, I’ve clicked on line drawing to refine my search. Naturally, this filters out a whole bunch of potentially viable pictures. In this case, it actually returned a bunch of crap–but now that I look at it, that bull in the top row is pretty nice. Maybe I could use him on a coat of arms or in a puzzle.

Finally, don’t forget Google’s Advanced Search Options. You’ll find them right underneath the little blue magnifying glass in the top of your screen. When you click the link, you get the following screen:

I sometimes find it useful to limit my searches to certain websites (the Victorian Web, the BBC, or, if you’re feeling particularly brave, DeviantArt,) because those sites will return predictable results of a certain flavor. Here’s the search for “Anglo Saxon shield” limited to BBC sites:

I’ve generally found that I can find almost anything I can imagine somewhere on the internet if I’m willing to spend the time seeking it out.

Useful Image Collections

Morguefile will give you royalty-free images of general interest. You won’t necessarily find fantasy-themed stuff here, but if you’re looking for a particular thing, (a manuscript, a cow, a mountain,) you can probably find an aesthetically pleasing and free picture here.

Olga’s Gallery is an online collection of famous paintings. If you’re lucky enough to be a part of an educational institution that pays for academic databases, check ArtStor, too.

A Feast for the Eyes has some awesome images of medieval food and beverage. The same site also hosts a gallery of medieval woodcuts.

Although I’m not the hugest fan of the style, Wizards of the Coast put their archives of PC portraits from Dragon magazine online here.

If you’re running a Steampunk or Victoriana game, The Victorian Web‘s art galleries may have what you need.

Some of your are on your way to GenCon. I’m not. It’s a bit of a touchy subject, especially since your chipper Facebook statuses are slowly eroding my sanity. Not being at GenCon isn’t going to stop me from gaming, though!

We are traveling this week, too. Although we seldom ditch our dice if we know we’re going to be playing RPGs, we often leave them behind if we’re anticipating more board gaming than tabletopping, or if–heaven forbid!–we are going somewhere there’s likely to be no gaming at all. Still, we always bring our iPads, and since we have the books for most of our favorite RPGs in PDF form, a couple of dice roller apps ensure that we can play at the drop of a hat if a game pops up.


If you play d20, WoD, or other similar systems, you’ll find everything you need in the Dicenomicon At its most basic level, the Dicenomicon lets you assemble a dice pool, roll it, then see the tally at the top of the screen. With customizable aesthetics like dice color, background textures/images, and sounds, you can make your dice set look and act just as you like. You can also have a whiteboard function as your background, allowing you to keep notes and tallies right at your fingertips. If you’re an advanced user, you can program and save formulas for commonly used dice rolls, then put sets of formulas and dice types in separate “rooms” to keep your Pathfinder and your Vampire dice separate from one another. The Dicenomicon thus allows GMs to speed up complex encounters, especially those with nonstandard mechanics, if they’re willing to put in a bit of programming time up front. A few extras like a simple tally board make this a great investment. One caveat: the documentation for this product isn’t great, so you may find yourself struggling to use all of its features as fully as you might.


Of course, some of us madmen and women play WFRP3e, and we need our special dice. The simple WFRP Toolkit serves us well. Its grandiose name might lead you to think it’s going to be more than a dice roller; it isn’t. You can assemble your dice pool, roll it, and the app will tally your boons, banes, successes, and failures. Further, you can see a record of your previous rolls and the statistics of how often you get a particular outcome. Some have complained that the Toolkit doesn’t allow you to save a commonly used dice pool, but since building the dice pool and negotiating with your GM what to put in it is such an integral part of the game, not allowing saved dice pools seems very much a part of the spirit of the game.

It’s so satisfying to roll physical dice that I’m loathe to vote in favor of electronic dice rollers most of the time. Yet if you’re GMing a complex encounter, a programmable dice roller like the Dicenomicon can make the task easier. And if your table is cramped with all of FFG’s Warhammer 3e stuff or you don’t have enough dice for everyone to have his own set, the WFRP Toolkit can come in handy.

Happy gaming during this big gaming week, no matter where you are!

Sometimes we like to get away from it all. What I really mean by that, of course, is that we pack it a whole bunch of crap from our gaming room into the car, drive to the woods, and relocate all the things we were doing inside the house to the forest. Given that we have smartphones and bring half the house with us, it’s more like changing the backdrop of “it all” than escaping it, but at least it spares us from having to clean the kitchen after cooking hot dogs.

Traveling with gaming gear can get tricky. What do you bring? On what do you put it when you get there? There’s no sense in traveling all that way just to play games in your tent unless it’s raining (and if you’re as uptight about the condition of your games as we are, you tend to leave your games in the car when it rains so the boards and bits don’t warp.) Portable gaming tables are thus a high priority. We’ve ended up with two, one for board gaming in the wild and a different one for RPGs in the wild.

This little khaki table came from Amazon. It’s made entirely of canvas, but the side straps pull down so that the top stays nice and taut. It’s just the right size for most medium-sized board games (think Alien Frontiers,) and its solid plastic feet make it sturdy enough that your pieces won’t wiggle around. Best of all, the drink holders are under the play surface, making the possibility of spillage on your precious game board highly unlikely except by the most advanced klutzes. When you’re done, it folds up into a cylindrical bag just a bit bigger than that of a folding camping chair.

Of course, sometimes you’re idiotic enough to have brought a massive game with you–the kind with a million bits that just invites the rain as soon as you set it up (think Runewars.) Or maybe you’ve decided to get seven of your closest friends together to play an RPG out in the wild, but are still unwilling to give up your battlemat and minis. Roll-top aluminum tables make the ideal solution, as their light weight makes them easy to move even though they’re large. We went with the one at Gander Mountain, although it had one major drawback: an umbrella hole right in the middle that we had to cover over with electrical tape. The big wad of tape looks kind of stupid, but at least it keeps pieces from falling through the center of the table. One bad thing about these tables, of course, are the little spaces between the slats, but a plastic tablecloth secured under the edges will keep pieces from falling through if you know you’ll be playing all weekend. You can, of course, find bigger and non-slatted tables, but you may end up sacrificing portability in order to get a flatter or bigger surface.

Speaking of the sporting goods store, if you have a host of minis you want to bring with you for RPGs, consider a fishing tackle bag. (This won’t, of course, be a solution for WFRP3e, because you need a full U-Haul for the Core Set plus expansions, but for games like Pathfinder or DnD, it’s not a bad way to go. If you’re really smart and brought Burning Wheel, then bless you for being so sensible.) Small tackle bags with sets of 3-5 plastic trays can house organized sets of minis; as an added bonus, you can take out one of the trays and put in your core rulebooks.

One word of caution, though. Don’t stand in the sporting goods store debating whether or not your large Dracolich mini will really fit in the side pocket of the tackle bag. It turns out that other seasoned fishermen within earshot will look down on your for this kind of speculation. I guess you just have to be sure.

(Second tip: no matter how much you love your gadgets, do not jokingly tell the salesperson you will buy “whichever tent your iPhone will hook directly into.”)

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