What Itch is Pokémon: GO Scratching?


I never did find the Ninetales!

It’s 10:30PM on a Friday night in a quiet suburb north of Minneapolis. A friend and I have come voluntarily to walk around an American Legion parking lot – and we are not alone. We are first encountered by two teenagers that appear to have fallen out of the pages of Scott Pilgrim; tattered jeans with brightly dyed, floppy hair. The boy wipes his blue hair away from his eyes and gives us a knowing nod as I inquire, “Hey, find anything good around here?”

He easily responds, “There’s an Evee by that water tower. Somebody set a lure off so we’re waiting to see what comes by from that.” We thank him for the tip and swing by the Howitzer Statue to refuel on PokéBalls before hitting the Water Tower. We find the Evee and return to the parking to in time to be approached by a vehicle transporting a family. The driver slows down next to us, “How’s it going?”

We update him on our progress and share some stories from earlier in the day, “We found a Jigglypuff down the road, but that was a few hours ago.” The driver is not impressed, “Oh, I already have one of those anyway. I’m just going to hit all the PokéStops to get more balls.” A few more pleasantries are exchanged before we go our separate ways, “Well, good luck!”

My friend and I continue our laps around the American Legion to hit the four PokéStops. Our last encounter is with a taxi driver and his fare for the evening. The couple exiting the vehicle remarks that they have not started to play yet and advance inside the Legion Hall; so far, they are the only two people we’ve seen that are on this property for something other than Pokémon: GO. The taxi driver expresses his curiosity about the roamers around the building, “You think if I advertised to drive around PokéStops, people would be willing to pay for that?”

We informed him there is likely a market for such as service considering there are already drones available to cheat the game. He hopped back into his car while letting us know, “Yeah, I think I’m going to try that. Thanks, and have a good night. And remember my name if you need a ride for more Pokémon or whatever.”

We get back into my car, laughing at the absurdity of the past 30 minutes. We just spent quality time on a weekend wandering around a parking lot speaking to strangers that in no other context would we encounter.

What is happening with Pokémon: GO? Why did it become more popular than pornography in less than a week?

What follows is my attempt to answer those questions, and to discuss the benefits of Pokémon: GO.

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Our Exercise in Fertility


Livin’ large!

My wife and I recently celebrated our 12th anniversary; it was a lazy Sunday and our big event that day was getting comfort food at Taco John’s. We have simple tastes, and nothing says twelve years of successful marriage more than a Six Pack and a Pound! Emily and I have known each other since 2000, when we met at – what was, ostensibly – a Star Wars Prequel party. Like any couple that has persisted through 12 years of marriage, we’ve had a number of challenges and an abundance of joy. It has been a wonderful journey, and I look forward to the rest of our lives together.

We do not have children.

And here is where the story becomes a bit more complicated. We have always considered having a child. There has never been a point in our lives where we told each other, “Yeah, we’re never doing that.” We would talk about “starting a family” (more on this phrase in a moment) every 3-6 months to discover if the other person was ready for that phase of our lives. Neither one of us ever felt compelled to voice strongly, “This is something I want now.” So we agreed to wait while we enjoyed our lives together. I graduated with my doctoral degree and we moved to Texas in 2005, then bought a house there in 2006 figuring it was a good investment. (Hah!) She started working and then went back to school to earn her MBA in the following years. We developed an amazing network of friends while living in Houston and visited family in New Jersey and Minnesota whenever possible.

Life settled into a routine.

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Iddy Approved: As You Wish by Cary Elwes

As You WishI’m breathing life into the Iddy Approved series, which until this week had been mostly dead for far too long. Each Iddy Approved article has highlighted a game, book, or product that I find delightful and interesting. Today, I am strongly recommending that (after you finish reading this article, of course) you stop what you’re doing and pick up the audiobook of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. If you for some strange reason have not seen The Princess Bride before, then stop everything (including reading this article), and correct that immediately. The film released in 1987 and is quickly approaching 30 years of being a timeless classic. It’s a laugh-out-loud hilarious, touchingly sweet movie that truly never gets old.

I had the good fortune of seeing The Princess Bride several weeks ago in a small theater in town, which was showing films featuring performances by professional wrestlers; the same theater where I recently watched Predator for the first time in many years. Watching The Princess Bride on the big screen reminded me that I should finally seek out the book by Mr. Elwes, as I’ve heard nothing but good things from those that have consumed it. My thoughts on Mr. Elwes’ book follow.

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My Patreon Campaign: Who’s Coming With Me?

In recent months, I have experienced several things in my personal and professional life that have provided additional clarity as it pertains to my creative efforts with the blog. That sentence is incredibly vague, but the summation is that my job and health seem to have stabilized to the point where I can spend more time on creating content. I started The Id DM over five years ago – and while the content has ebbed and flowed – the goal has been to write articles that I could not find anywhere else. Gathering an audience over the years has been rewarding, and I hope new people find the site as my plan now is to write more often once again.

One thing that helps me to produce more content is to play games more frequently. I’m now running a monthly D&D campaign based off the material in Curse of Strahd. I already started to provide some thoughts on increasing player character relationships for such a campaign and adding props to bring the introductory adventure to life at the table. I am also involved as a player in other games such as a Game of Thrones adventure with a solid group of gaming friends, so it seems like I’ll be rolling dice more frequently. Playing and running games keeps my mind working on RPG dynamics, and that typically leads to more articles.

Another thing that motivates me to create is accountability; and this is an issue that I have sidestepped in the past. The blog has always been a leisure activity for me; a hobby. I have a full-time job that I love; I am dedicated to the people I work for and those I provide therapeutic services to each day. At the same time, the desire to create outside the realm of work is strong. Long before the blog, I created an Onion-like newsletter for my roommates and I during graduate school just for fun. I enjoy generating ideas and making them a reality. Getting feedback about articles through comments on the site or mentions on Twitter provides reinforcement to write something new and thought-provoking. At the moment, the only person I’m accountable to for producing more content is myself.

And that is something I want to experiment with going forward.

Starting today, I’m launching the above Patreon campaign for The Id DM. I’m doing this for multiple reasons. First, I’m genuinely curious to learn if some people are willing to support my efforts to write more often about gaming, psychology, and popular culture. Second, I have flirted with launching a Kickstarter or Patreon for years. I’ve had conversations with other creators about their projects and have sent drafts to some folks to get feedback on my ideas for a crowd-funding campaign. I’m tired of flirting with the idea and being anxious with questions like . . .

Should I do this?  I should focus on other things in my life.

Will anyone even care? I’m not a big-name game designer or anything.

What if no one supports it?

Are people going to be annoyed because I already have a job, and I’m asking for money?

It’s time to just move forward and find out. If the campaign does not go anywhere, then I can tell myself that I tried and keep going along as I have been since 2011. No harm done. At least I can say I tried it once and for all! Third, I want some accountability. I want a deadline. I want to know that people actively support the blog and expect an article each week. I want to be fueled by folks asking questions and giving me feedback about my ideas for content.

What are those ideas?

The first order of business is to return to writing more consistently. I have already started to do this in preparation for the Patreon campaign. As reminder, all of the content on this site will remain free. A successful Patreon would mean that I would create more content and maybe even start other projects including:

Interview Podcast. I have a couple of guests lined up, but don’t have the know-how or equipment to properly record. This is something I want to remedy going forward as it would be fun to take my Ego Check interviews and conduct them verbally instead of posting transcripts in an article form.

Interactive Streaming. My pie-in-the-sky idea is to build a call-in show while I’m playing a game like Hearthstone and take questions about gaming and/or self-help. Like the old television show, Frasier.

The Id DM Book. I don’t imagine in my wildest dreams that the Patreon will reach this level, but it would be fun to collect, edit, and repurpose my best articles into an attractive book for people to own.

To everyone that has ever read one of my articles, thank you. If you have ever commented on an article in the past or shared it on Twitter or Reddit, thank you. I hope you continue to stop by to consume the new content. If you can spread the word about the Patreon I’m working on, then that would be much appreciated!

And if you are willing to consider supporting me through the Patreon, then may you roll 20s until the end of your days!





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Clear Boundaries for Improvisation

I recently had the good fortune to play a session of Game of Thrones using Dungeon World rules. The experience was quite differently from playing or running sessions of Dungeons & Dragons because the Game of Thrones’ setting brings a different atmosphere to the game. In addition to traditional fantasy elements, the Game of Thrones’ world features a high level of political intrigue, tangled relationships, and short lifespans. It is entirely possible to run a Game of Thrones-style campaign in the Forgotten Realms. However, sitting down and inhabiting characters in Westeros a few years before the events of Game of Thrones take place forces the players into a different mindset than the average D&D session. Our game featured numerous social interactions, a brief flirtation with a combat moment, and a bevy of characters being introduced into the story.


“I’m not sure of my next move.”

Cooperative storytelling is a part of every roleplaying game session, and it requires those around the table to be willing to jump in with ideas to shape the events. Many articles have been written about improvisation in roleplaying games, and Mike Shea’s interview with designer Steve Townshend really speaks to some of the points I discuss below. There are two approaches to shaping events in any given session. The first is to plan ahead of time what a character will do in a certain set of circumstance. The person running the session could prepare a specific quest to move the players in that direction while players can build characters that always respond to situations in a prescribed manner. For example, a Cleric in D&D may always take action to help those in need; it’s not so much a choice at the table as it is a personality trait that is created before the session begins.


The second approach is to improvise as a session goes along to take the story in an infinite number of directions. The person running the game gives an outline of the setting and situation, and the players can respond how they like. It requires all players (including the GM) to be creative, spontaneous, and accepting of the contributions and ideas of each player. Every session I’ve experienced of a tabletop roleplaying game has featured elements of preparation and improvisation. I learned through my Game of Thrones experience that I need to bolster my improvisation skills, and I imagine others out their struggle with this aspect of RPGs as well. The following article offers some ideas to increase the entire group’s willingness to accept and engage in improvisation, and how to improve individual improv skills.

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A Hoard of Hearthstone Videos

As I return to playing tabletop roleplaying games more often, I have also been experimenting with creating videos about Hearthstone. In recent weeks, I’ve posted four different videos to my YouTube channel. I may start to stream while playing (if I ever get a computer worth a damn), but for now I’m tinkering with how to best present content. The first of the videos is most certainly influenced by my time playing RPGs.

Opening 126 Old Gods Packs

Since the newest expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, was announced, I started to save gold so I could spend it all on new packs when they were available. I also purchased the 50-pack preorder, which resulted in 126 packs of Old Gods. I recorded the pack opening but I wanted to add a fun wrinkle for myself. Each pack of cards contains five cards, and I decided to roll a d6 to determine the cards that I would reveal first. If I rolled a six, then I would reroll until I got a result that was between 1-5. I recorded a second video with my cellphone of the dice being rolled and synced them so they match up in the video. My phone was resting on a stack of RPG manuals while filming the dice tray. The low-tech approach worked, and I opened a few Golden Legendary cards along the way!

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A Celebration of Predator

I saw Predator in a delightful micro-theater this week, and it has triggered a flood of warm thoughts and nostalgia.

Predator Movie PosterBefore DVDs, Blu-rays, videos-on-demand, and streaming services, the easiest way to watch a movie over and over again was to get it on a VHS tape. For this, there were two options; the first was to buy the movie from a place in the local mall (like Suncoast Video because Best Buy Amazon did not exist yet) or record it onto a blank VHS tape when it played on HBO or another cable channel. The VHS tapes could hold up to 6 hours of content, which allowed for a triple feature of action movies or comedies since those tend to clock in under two hours each. As I was starting high school in the early 1990s, a weekend pastime was watching my cobbled-together collection of VHS movies while falling asleep on the floor of our den. My adult self laments the terrible sleep-hygiene behaviors that I had during this time in my life!

(And really, I slept on the floor falling asleep to DVDs some nights well into graduate school years. The last gasp of this behavior was watching and listening to commentaries for A Knight’s Tale and Fellowship of the Ring. Good times!)

The triple feature VHS that got the most rotation during those years was the lineup of Predator, Action Jackson, and Blind Fury. I would throw this tape into the VCR and doze off as it played. As a result, it is safe to claim that I have seen the first 20-30 minutes of Predator at least 100 times in my life. The other movies on the tape were also favorites. Action Jackson was an effort by Carl Weathers to become an action star after his run as Apollo Creed in the Rocky films; it features Sharon Stone in one of her first performances, has Craig T. Nelson doing some heinously evil things, and climaxes with the hero driving a sports car through a house during a cocktail party and up a flight of stairs. It was fast and furious before that franchise existed! I also enjoyed that it featured “bad guy” actors that appeared in films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, not to mention Mac and Billy from Predator. Meanwhile, Blind Fury was a Rutger Hauer vehicle with the featured him as a wounded soldier that is blinded in Vietnam during combat, trained by a small village to acquire fighting skills with a sword (even though he’s blind), and then returns home years later to help the son of John Locke from Lost. He’s basically Daredevil!

Movies like Action Jackson and Blind Fury are now cranked out by the likes of Jason Statham and other action stars. But I feel like action movies these days are missing what they had back then, and it’s why Deadpool was so successful. Deadpool – now that I think of it – reminds me of those late 80s/early 90s action flicks that had a simple premise,  relied on humor, and did not take themselves seriously. If you have never seen Action Jackson or Blind Fury, find them and give them a view. They’re bad in all the good ways.

Getting back to Predator, watching it this week gave me the same thought as watching Jaws last year in the theater. This movie is outrageously flawless and well-executed. There isn’t a wasted moment. Every shot and line of dialogue accomplishes multiple things in terms of moving the plot and developing characters. And it does not rely on huge, 15-minute set-piece battles like the endless stream of superhero flicks (which I also enjoy); the majority of Predator is sneaking around in the jungle and planning ambushes.

It’s so good!

Below, I highlight three aspects of Predator that can apply to running roleplaying games in terms of character development, pacing, and conflict resolution.

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