Under the Geek Tree 2023

Christmas has come and gone. I wrote this post back in December … and then promptly forgot about it. Having remembered it, let’s see what showed up under the geek tree in 2023!

Video Games

  • Spider-Man 2 for PS5 – My daughter and I played the heck out of this game over the holiday break. It’s the follow-up to Spider-man (2018) and Spider-man: Miles Morales (2020). Unlike the earlier games, which focused on their respective Spider-men (Peter Parker in the first game, Miles in the second), this time around they team up to protect New York City. They’re up against Kraven the Hunter, a fire cult, and (based on the teasers), the black-suited villain Venom.
  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder for Nintendo Switch – The new Super Mario Bros. game trades the Mushroom Kingdom for the Flower Kingdom, but don’t worry, Bowser’s still there to ruin everything. This game didn’t get much playtime, since we were focused on Spider-man 2.

Role-Playing Games

  • Planescape for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition – I always loved the sprawling weirdness of Planescape, the dimension-hoping expansion for D&D that debuted back with 2nd Edition. The new release is a set of three books; one focuses intricacies of the planes and Sigil, City of Doors, which serves as the gateway to many of them, another provides a bunch of new monsters (and I love monsters), while the third is a campaign book.
  • Delta Green: Labyrinth – A collection of Mythos-touched organizations for use in Delta Green (the conspiracy/espionage/horror spinoff of Call of Cthulhu). I wanted to get this at GenCon 2023, but it sold out before I could buy a copy. I was very glad to see this one show up under the Geek Tree.
  • Dragonbane: Mirth & Mayhem Roleplaying – The modern incarnation of Drakar och Demoner, the Scandinavian alternative to Dungeons & Dragons (while those of us in the U.S. were playing D&D in the 1980s, our geeky brothers in Scandinavia were playing Drakar och Demoner). I saw this at GenCon and spoke with Tomas Härenstam, one of the co-founders of Free League Publishing, about the game for Lair of Secrets. Enthralled by the chance to get in touch with my Swedish roots through an RPG, I new I had to ask for this for Christmas.
  • Arkham Horror Card Game: Edge of the Earth – Ok, it’s not an RPG, but this expansion for the Arkham Horror Card Game shares many RPG tropes, including taking on the role of investigators as they introduce a frozen mystery in the heart of Antarctica.
  • Dungeonmorph Dice: Crypt Set – Another set of dungeon-generating dice for my D&D campaigns.

Books

  • Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, and the Untold Story of America’s Most Dangerous Amusement Park – I grew up in Morris County, NJ, which was 30-40 minutes from Action Park. It was a regular haunt for kids at my high school, and I experienced many of its rides first-hand (though never the notorious Alpine Slide, a long, winding concrete slide that you rode down on a cart … until you misjudged and went flying). The book is a hilarious look at a New Jersey legend.
  • Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham – Abraham is one of the co-authors of The Expanse science fiction series as well as the enjoyable The Dagger and the Coin books. Asking for this first novel in a new fantasy series (it’s set entirely in a single city) was a no-brainer.
  • This Is How You Win the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – The subject of a viral meme in May 2023, I have several friends who bought and enjoyed the book, so I figured I’d give it a try.

Technology

  • iPad Pro – My wife and mother-in-law surprised me with an iPad Pro for my birthday/Christmas. My old iPad is from 2012 – it still worked, but it was increasingly slow and Apple stopped releasing OS updates for it. I’ve wanted a new iPad for the last two years, but a variety of budget challenges (e.g the engine going on our Highlander) made that an impossibility. The new iPad Pro is a fantastic device; it works seamlessly with my MacBook Pro, acting as a second screen and letting me stream Mac apps to it. It’s already become a major tool for my RPG prep.
  • iPad Pencil (v2) – I used the money I got for my birthday to by the Apple Pencil (version 2) and I’m glad I did. It pairs well with the iPad Pro and has taken my map making the next level. This isn’t a surprise – one of the reasons I wanted an iPad was to make it easier to quickly create digital maps for my RPG campaigns. The pen and iPad combination proved to be every bit as great as I’d hoped.

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