New Moon Rising update and art

Welcome all! Thanks for waiting a super long time for our second episode. It’s my goal, as a podcaster and professional broadcaster, to put out quality SOUNDING material. These first three episodes are a little rough, quite honestly, and do not sound as good as I’d hoped they would. Truth be told, I am learning how to best record gameplay and not alter the dynamic of the game. In other words, I want my players to have fun more than I want them to be broadcasters. So, as we collectively work on that, I will work to provide the best quality material I can to you, the consumer.
All that aside, I am more excited to tell you that we will now have a regular posting schedule (provided that life doesn’t have better ideas.)

New episodes will be posted every other Thursday! Starting May 30th, you can expect new episodes twice a month. Considering we only play once a month, this sounds like a pretty good deal.

Cool, here’s some artwork related to the game:

Logos belong to White Wolf and Paradox and are not intended to challenge any existing rights. They are intended for fan purposes only.

Updates. Why else blog?

"Hey Nate, how come you haven't recorded any video since your move? What's up with your YouTube channel and when will we get that stuff back?"

Well, nobody specific, I'm happy to answer your question. Video is... time consuming. Even a simple video with stills takes as much or more time to edit as a normal podcast.

HOWEVER!!! Our problems are not YOUR problems. That just means I have to find more time to carve out of our already-jam packed days and nights to make this happen for all of you. I'm ok with that.

Long-to-short: Expect more Playing Hooky Podcast videos returning in late June. As far as the other casts, I can't say when or if those will transition to actual video in the near future, but I am trying to make it happen. Time and distance are a factor. As much as others would like to see Bob and I on video, I would rather present a solid podcast than a sub-par Youtube video.

Regardless, I hope to have all of our casts on Youtube by summer, in one form or another. Consistently and timely.

Also, we are planning on setting up an event at GenCon (or adjacent to, more likely) and will post all the details here on our site. Keep your eyes on our blog and feel free to share your ideas with us in the comments.

Thanks! 
Constantly striving to maintain conformity, 
Nathan

New Moon Rising: An Actual Play

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We’ve put it off and put it off, but we’re finally doing something in the Actual Play space. This Friday, April 26th, we will be releasing our very first episode of New Moon Rising, recorded here in Indy. Unfortunately, due to geographic limitations, Bob was unable to participate. However, he will be involved in other AP endeavors in the future so don’t you worry!

Anyways, let’s get down to what the game is…

New Moon Rising is an Anarch game that takes place in the Chicagoland area around Gary, the Chicago suburbs, and Madison, Wisconsin. This game takes place in ‘current’ day Chicago, as in, 2019. 

Genre-specific Chronicle Information:

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  • Clan Brujah has seceded from the Camarilla after the Convention of Prague in 2012 and are now considered an Anathema to the sect. Like the Gangrel before them, not all Brujah have left the Camarilla. Indeed, A faction of Brujah remain in the Camarilla, and they still have representation in Chicago on the Primogen council. 

  • The Anarch Movement has exploded in the last 5 years. With the rise of the Unbound and the Red Question, the Anarch Movement began to spread like wildfire across cyberspace. A major side-effect of this activity was the NSA cracking Schrecknet in 2004. The Nosferatu rapidly decommissioned this network and transitioned to Schrecknet 2.0, opening the virtual structure to those of sufficient status, prestige or notoriety. Schrecknet 2.0 works as described in V20 Anarchs Unbound. 

  • The fall of the original Schrecknet led to a massive cache of Masquerade-breaching data falling into the hands of the NSA. In turn, this revelation spawned a covert, multi-national organization dedicated to the eradication of "Negative Bodies" called Project: Firstlight. Firstlight poses as a multi-jurisdictional anti-terror taskforce with members comprised of various autonomous cells without central leadership. A small cadre of key figures inside the US, British and allied International governments (including the Vatican) work to keep this conspiracy from reaching the public, as well as keeping the conspiracy properly funded.

  • The Camarilla has suffered serious setbacks due to what they've called, "the Second Inquisition."  The Inner Council's spies have claimed that this Inquisition is the result of Kindred internet activity and have declared electronic activity profane, an a violation of the First Tradition. In doing so, they've placed blame for this Inquisition squarely upon the shoulders of the Anarch movement. In retaliation, many Anarch leaders have declared open war with the Camarilla, calling for global revolt, as many cities of both the Camarilla and the Sabbat fall to the covert actions of Project: Firstlight. What was once a sub-sect of the Camarilla has now been declared abomination in this new Anarch Revolt.

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  • Little is known about the current state of affairs within the Sabbat. Rumors range from the complete fall of the sect, to the feared "Black Hand" faction purging the bulk of the sect, to a mass exodus to the Middle East. Most Anarchs still avoid rumored Sabbat territories out of habit, but those that claim to have passed through Sabbat territory tell similarly ominous tales. Interestingly enough, many younger, so-called “Loyalist” members of the Sabbat have defected to the Anarch Movement in the recent years. Many younger packs, weary of the bloodlust of the Sabbat and make mention of a bloody civil-war. These Sabbat refugees have brought some strange new rituals and rites to the Anarch Movement. 

  • As a result of shrinking territories, open rebellion and increased danger from external forces, the Camarilla has become increasingly conservative and sectarian. As if in syzygy with its main enemy, the Sabbat, many Camarilla members have turned to old religious ideals and ancestor worship. A number of vampiric religious orders have begun to emerge, spreading out to the Anarch movement with the emergence of "The Ministry" ( known locally as the Ministry of the New Moon) - A large faction of Setites who have a very different perspective on Set, and religion as a whole, in the context of the modern nights. 

  • In October of 2018, Clan Ventrue staged a massive takeover of Chicago. For many years, the Primogen council had controlled the city with an iron grip. Former Prince Maxwell was able to claim domain, but his reign was considered ineffectual by most elders in the city. The Prince fell victim to the Second Inquisition, or so the Venture claim, and Praxis was seized by Kevin Jackson. With Justicar Lucinde standing in solidarity with clan Ventrue, Prince Jackson declared the blood hunt on Brujah Primogen Tyler. She has remained in her veritable fortress, O'Hare airport, exerting her influence and fighting against Ventrue dominance in Chicago. She recruits others to her aid, unable to fight the singularly focused clan Ventrue on her own. 

  • Revolution has utterly disrupted clan Tremere. In 2008, the Tremere chantry in Vienna was raided and destroyed by various agents of the Second Inquisition. Now, clan Tremere has split into three factions - House Schrekt is comprised of those remaining loyal to the Camarilla (note: House Schrekt is considered an insult. Camarilla loyalists claim to be THE parent clan), rumors swirl about the resurgent House Goratrix, and many of those in the Anarch Movement refer to themselves as House Carna. However, there is virtually no true central leadership of clan Tremere. The pyramid of old has crumbled and there are literally dozens of smaller factions and houses littering the remnants of clan Tremere.
    Many of the Tremere have become mercenaries, selling their services for protection from rivals, or offering what little power they have to the highest bidder. Those Tremere that remain in the Camarilla have taken a front-line position against the Anarch and Sabbat in hopes of proving their remaining usefulness, as well as hoping to recover any possible lost assets to the Anarchs. This has caused two recent concerns for the Camarilla and the parent Tremere clan. First, Thaumaturgy has become much more available in non-traditional circles. As there is much less potential for reprisal from those outside of the Tremere clan using Thaumaturgy, Anarch Tremere have been much more willing to teach and exchange their secrets with others. Second, a massive black market for former Tremere secrets has emerged. With the Tremere on the ropes within the Camarilla, many Tremere have begun to deal with outsider clans, sects, and even worse now that the standard process for advancement no longer exists. To the Camarilla Tremere's credit, elders of the clan work nightly to reign in the clan and recover from this chaos. Until that point, those that belong to House Carna or any of the smaller splinter anarch houses fight for freedom from blood oppression and bring strange and powerful rituals to the cause. 


So that’s BASICALLY the important stuff our players will need to know going in. As with any game, I’ve tailored some of the printed story to fit our needs as a game. As such, you may notice that not everything is strictly canonical. That’s ok.

also, I’ve decided to use this opportunity to play-test a background I’ve adapted for V20 called Pedigree. Pedigrees are based on and influenced by Loresheets from V5. In fact, that’s what I call them throughout the game. If they work well in our Chronicle, they may be made available to the public via Storyteller’s Vault in the future. I do not go over the specifics during the game sessions, so more info can be found below.

This individual sessions will be broken into about three episodes, each between 60 to 90 minutes. Since recording gameplay has never been our forte, these Actual Plays are also intended to be a bit exploratory. In other words, we’d love to hear your feedback, criticisms or anything else you’d like to offer.

Thank you all for your indulgence and I hope you find the show entertaining. The episode will be available Friday, April 26th in place of our normal review. we will return to our normal review schedule the following week with Libellus Sanguinis 1: Masters of the State!

Alternate Background: Pedigree
Every character that’s created for the World of Darkness should populate a special, unique place within the world. Often, it can be a daunting task finding ties to the deeply complex, rich and intricate world of Vampire: the Masquerade. With Pedigrees, you have the built-in ability to add key plot points to your character, reap the benefits (and drawbacks) of storyline inclusion and make your character a more dramatic and important factor in kindred and Cainite politics in the World of Darkness while using V20 rules for your chronicle. 

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Pedigrees are a special type of Background that connects your character straight into the rich metaplot(s) of Vampire: the Masquerade. Each player may choose to select a Pedigree and allocate dots in it just as they would with any other Background. Pedigrees are not a requirement, and they are meant to be used with other character advantages. Beware, however, that these Advantages are often very different in nature and may not be appropriate for all chronicles. The Storyteller always has the final word on which Pedigrees are available for player characters and what levels are acceptable. Remember to add any supporting characters mentioned in or created by your Pedigrees background to your coterie maps, character backgrounds and any other tools you use during character creation. These Pedigrees are meant to add dimension to your character and chronicles, not as another dot of power to add to your arsenal of powers. 

Pedigrees should be chosen at character creation. As such, there is no experience cost to purchase them after the fact. However, storytellers should feel free to award additional points in Pedigrees, or even new ones as they see fit, based on their chronicle needs and the roleplay of the characters. Pedigreesare not necessary as markers of your chronicle progression but could be an interesting bonus in addition to experience points. Feel free to play around with them as they work for your chronicle. 

Pedigrees do not typically provide for pooling as some other backgrounds might. Pedigrees are meant to be a dynamic system for making individual characters more unique. Due to this, there are no rules for pooling provided here. Feel free to make your own systems if you feel it’s appropriate for your chronicle. 

Below is an example Pedigree that has not been used during gameplay. It is inspired by and adapted from the Vampire: the Masquerade 5th edition Loresheet. Reproduced text is not meant to challenge any existing copyrights owned by White Wolf Publishing or their parent company and is for entertainment purposes only!


Pedigree: Bahari

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Vampire adherents of the Path of Lilith, otherwise known as the Lilin, Lilitu, or Bahari (singular: Ba'ham), revere the progenitor vampire as primal femininity. They believe Lilith is the first, usurped vampire, the mother who births the vitae, and that all Kindred are her children. Stagnant, patriarchal vampire society perpetuates the lie of Caine as progenitor. The Bahari are a heretical cult; hunted by the Sabbat and shunned by the Camarilla. In the modern nights, they’ve found themselves incidentally aligned with the Anarch movement. After all, the Ba’ham believes, the old ways are Caine’s ways. 

The Bahari seek enlightenment through pain and conflict, turning this masochistic urge into the strength to endure and overcome. As Lilith rebelled against God’s commands and fought against her curse, her followers defeat the weaknesses and curses upon them to become something else. Some Bahari lead other Kindred to enlightenment, others become perfected predators. Bahari deprecate compassion in favor of fleshly pleasure, transient love, and strict parenthood over lesser Kindred. 

As a Bahari, you fulfill the role of torturer, student, teacher, or lover to other Kindred. All evidence you have seen points to Lilith as the first, usurped vampire. 

Note: Characters using this background must follow the Path of Lilith. As such, those that forsake the Path of Lilith lose all benefits of the background. 

•           Dangerous Reputation: Bahari intimidate vampires not of their order. Vampire who know of the Bahari legends and reputation of Ba'ham are uncomfortable in your presence. Once per game session, you may add two dice to Intimidation pools in tests against kindred, assuming they know of your allegiance and Path. 

••         Ritual Scarification: You know pain leads to enlightenment. Specifically, the Lilitu preach that bringing one’s physical shell to the extremes of sensation grants greater insight. Once per game session, you may scar yourself with one point of lethal damage to recover a point of willpower. For every hour your Ba’ham spends in contemplative meditation, scarring yourself and causing yourself intense pain, your character regains one point of willpower. Extreme acts of scarification (causing aggravated damage) refresh all lost willpower. Ritual time is the same for aggravated damage. 

•••        Hierophant: The Bahari maintain a loose network of vampires who trade lore and mystical knowledge, even dealing with wizards, ghosts, and other keepers of ancient secrets. Once per game session, your Hierophant may call upon this obscure knowledge and add two dice to any roll dealing with mystical knowledge. 

••••      The Seeds of the Garden: As Lilith did before you, you maintain a great garden in the form of devout followers. This cult, like all gardens, requires work and maintenance to bear fruit, but the bounty of your harvest can be sweet indeed. Once per story, you can call upon your cult to do a number of actions, equivalent to the more common backgrounds, at a high level. For example, you could call upon your cult to act as your eyes and ears around the city, acting as a Contacts of five. Alternatively, you could use your cult to feed your coterie, borrow resources from them and call upon them to exert their influence in their daily lives for you. However, your cult requires great attention from their Hierophant or they will wither and die. For every point in a background you call upon (for up to a maximum of five per story), you must perform an equivalent religious ritual. Work with your storyteller to determine the details of your cult, including the gritty details of your teachings, torture and love. Remember though, to get you must give. 

•••••     Revelations of the Dark Mother: Lilith’s worshipers maintain that she was the first living being cursed by God, before Adam, Eve, or Caine. The Bahari strive to emulate Lilith’s lesser curse, and in so doing find their Cainite weaknesses lessened. Because of this, highly enlightened Ba’Ham radiate danger and suffer a +2 difficulty on all social rolls with mortals and humane kindred that aren’t intimidation based. However, your faith in Lilith is so devout, pain actually empowers you. Instead of having a dice penalty when you take damage, you now have an equivalent dice bonus until incapacitated. For an example, when your Ba’ham is Crippled, she gets a bonus of five dice to all pools (except soak) instead of the standard 5 dice penalty. She is truly enlightened. However, incapacitation is simply that, and confers no bonus. Many deeply devout Hierophants will spend untold nights starving themselves and flagellating themselves to find new doorways to enlightenment. Who can conceive of Lilith’s greatest revelations? 


News and Updates

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News:
Alright everyone, small update for all you podcast fans and followers! Currently, we are prepping for our return of VTM25 and our transition to Dark Ages. Additionally, we will be returning to Nerd Words with some full game reviews. We’ve kinda lagged behind with Nerd Words over the last few months and we are aware of that. We are going to be using this podcast more proactively to do game reviews, Storyteller’s Vault reviews and post-VTM25 discussions. We are now in the preparation stages.
During this process, both Bob and Nate have some IRL stuff to handle as well, including a move to a new location. In other words, this is a good time for us to break, but it might be a little longer than we anticipated.
Below, you’ll find our tentative schedule for upcoming podcasts.

So, here's what you can expect:
VTM25 Vampire: the Dark Ages Core Book review - March 8th, 2019
Nerd Words Podcast review of the upcoming Onyx Path game, "They Came From Beneath the Sea" - March 11th, 2019
VTM25 Dark Ages Book of Storyteller Secrets - March 15th, 2019
Nerd Words Storytellers Vault review (Madison by Night) - March 18th, 2019

We intend to have a new podcast every Friday (VTM25) and Monday (Nerd Words), weekly. Set your watch and get ready for more fun stuff coming soon! We will also be 100% diving into actual play material as well! We are expecting to start that in mid-March and we will be doing two different shows with a rotating crew of players! Expect to see us play a host of different White Wolf and Onyx Path games, as well as other stuff! It's going to be a ton of fun and we hope you all like it!

Thanks for your support while we do all our busy work stuff! Always, Nate and Bob - Utility Muffin Labs!

Thank you!

The original logo from 2016

The original logo from 2016

We don’t generally blog too often here at the labs. With Discord, all the podcasting and social media, there’s not much that remains unsaid. However, we are finally coming to the finale of the Vampire: the Masquerade line and nearly ready to switch to Dark Ages.

Some things I want to address:
First, we will continue to keep the name VTM25, 25 Years of Vampire: the Masquerade, and any other variant on that line. You won’t need to search for a new podcast or change your RSS feed.
Second, we will go back and review any NEW Vampire: the Masquerade material as it’s released. Think of this as adding a new title to our repertoire and less closing a book on an old one. Some day, we will review all the titles as they come out.
Third, I’ll be working on getting the first nine podcasts back up. Stay tuned.

This is a major step for us. As you may be aware, we are taking a small break to prepare and consume some important material. We are going to be doing some behind-the-scenes equipment adjustments to help (hopefully) improve our overall sound quality. We will be creating some new intro and outro material as well.

We will be back in full force with Nerd Words and doing more RPG reviews, as well as bi-weekly reviews of Storyteller’s Vault material.
Expect us to return the last week of February, 2019 with a ton of new stuff.

Well, here we are. It’s been a very interesting 2 years of podcasts, growth, reading, consuming, and role-playing with some of the coolest, most interesting people you could hope to know.

So, finally, a nod to the people who we’ve met and who’ve supported us since the start:

Jason Carl, Matthew Dawkins, Justin Achilli, B Dave Walters, Dixie Cochran, and everyone at White Wolf and Onyx Path Publishing. You’ve chatted with us, wrote books we love, bled onto the pages for us, and even been on our podcasts. Thank you for sharing your passion with all of us! We know that the waters have been rocky, but you’ve all done your best to keep the boat afloat! For that, we are grateful.
Thanks to Brandon Wood. Your insight helped us more than you’ll ever know.

Thanks to all our Patreon Backers:
A. Jones, Aaron Aardvark, Adam Bysko, Alexis Wolfe, Anders Tibbling, Andrew Dear, Andrew Kempf, Anne Wagner-Stoll, Antti Markkula, Austin Ricketts, Blake Howard, Brandon H, Brena, C. Rustovich, C.T. Phipps, Carrie, Chad Register, Chris Finlay, Chris Recoskie, Chris tyk, Chris Webb, Christof Jacques, Christoffer Hagstrom, Christopher Wong, Crystal Chappelle, Curt Goble, Dakay, Daniel Shorman, Daniel Weber, DantePD, Dead Games Society, delphine colman, Dominick Martino, Donald Weller, Dylan Brannigan, Edward Robert Palmer, Ellen Chattan, Eric Carlson, Eric Lucas, Eric Topp, Ezequiel Loubriel, Go Go Baccala, Greg Collins, Gremlin, Heather Rossmann, Henrique Hoffmann, Herbert Gilberto Villon Sanchez, Hrafn Raudi, Havard Skjevling,  Ian A Cannon, Ian Hammon-Hogan, Ira Grace, Isaac H. Page, J. M., James Mackinder, James Sweetland, Jason MacKeen, John Felts, Jon Sprang, Jonathan Arend, Joost Vervoort, Jordan Beall, Jordan Etherington, Jordan Hawkings, Joseph West, Joshua Chapa, Josie Siino, Juanita Nesbitt, Justin Jones, Justin Kean, kaine fenton, Kelly Jacobson,  Kevin J. Parker, Kumena, Lacey Anglin, Larry Determan, Lee Morrissey, Lukas Ascher, Marcel Fontanez, Marcelo Gusmao, matt botts, Matthew "The Gentleman Gamer" Dawkins, Matthew Lindsay Payne, Maxime Boucher, Michael 'Bubba' Snapp Michael Bourbon, Michael Brosens, Michael Moore, Moa Bath, Mr. Adelaide, Narcie Ferreira, Nicholas Muehlenweg, Nicholas r Alongi, Nick Cler, Patrick Meehan, Patrick Sandoval, Paul Duckmanton, Phil Clark, Phil Lazzari, Pim Tournaye, Podcast by Night, Rachel M Richardson, Raef Gall, Rippir, Rob Allison, Robert Ruggles, Ryan Neff,  Sam Damon, Shawn Johnson, Spiros Lukas, Soren Hjorth, Tandy Moore, Thomas Douglas, Thomas Flores, tim walker, Tony McMahon, Walter Cardinal, Will Crosswhite, william carson, William West, Wilson MacGyver, Yves Cambron, Zachary Kelsey…

Thanks, PaytheIronPrice. You are an eternal pain in the ass hiding what just might be a stellar human with heart, passion, and loyalty.
Thanks to Santiago Crespo. Your encyclopedic knowledge of this game and setting has constantly kept us on our toes.
Thank you to Matt Webb and Jackalope LARP for all their support and hard work in 2018.
Thank you to everyone we’ve ever LARP’ed with. Good or bad, every character played (and every character playing it) has inspired us, forever.
Thanks to One World by Night, Holly Race, Tyler Ortmeier, Ian, Curt, Mallery, Chris, Jason, and everyone at Stars Never Rise. You all rule. Thanks for letting me talk about this at game.

Thank you to all the other podcasts out there doing what we do or doing something similar. Thanks to Chris, Andrew and the entire Twin Cities by Night crew, Podcast by Night, Dead Games Society, Darker Days Radio, Midnight Express and every other podcast in the genre. Thank you for any kind words you’ve said about us or with us!

Thanks to all White Wolf and Onyx Path fan groups on Facebook for letting us spam our episodes every week!
Thanks to Josh Heath and his obsession with gaming, inclusion, and all things World of Darkness. Thank you to every Discord group and fan page for letting us occupy the same space!
Chris Zac. You get two for cold brew and Ju Jitsu.
Thank you to every Storytellers Vault author for keeping the game vibrant and expansive. You are bringing interest to the game through your imagination and creativity!
Thank you to every person who came back to tell their story after hearing our podcast. You took the risk to sit at a table and tell your story.
Wow.
I could go on forever.
However, this isn’t the end. This is the beginning.
Welcome to chapter two…
VTM25: Dark Ages, coming soon!


Utility Muffin Discord

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Hey folks,

Well, this server has exploded in the last year and a half! It’s incredibly exciting to see how much growth there has been since the inception of our humble, little game. With all the dynamic, unique, and detailed character role play, Curse of Caine is getting even bigger than the LA by Night book.  As a side effect, the server has become unmanageable from a podcast perspective. It has simply become too big to properly reward folks at all patreon tiers and keep them feeling like part of the Utility Muffin Labs community.

The purpose of the game is to offer a reward to our patreon backers, but we also want to build a space for all of our fellow muffins to interact regardless of their level of support. In order to enhance community engagement for all listeners we are going to have two separate servers; one for Curse of Caine and one for Utility Muffin Labs podcasts.

What does this mean? It means, going forward, Curse of Caine will be an invite only server. No worries, we won’t kick anyone out who’s already here – consider this your reward for following us for as long as you have.  The biggest change you’ll notice is that the OOC rooms are going to be phased out. They just won’t be relevant any longer with the new server. As these rooms are slowly trimmed down, it will make traversing the game and storyteller announcements easier for staff and players to follow. 

We assure you this is a necessary and good change for all Muffins, regardless if you are a die-hard CoC player, or a member of the larger podcast community. If you are only interested in the podcasts, you’ll now have a small, navigable server where you can interact with other listeners and podcast staff. If you want to concentrate solely on the Curse of Caine game, you can now avoid the many cumbersome chat channels that have sprung up over the last year. 

In the future, those that support us at the Curse of Caine level on Patreon will still get their invite to the original game server. If you don’t support on this level but are observing the game on the CoC server, that is fine. Be aware that the OOC chat is going away. If you want to engage with the community, then you should go to the Utility Muffin Discord server. Also, if you don’t support at the CoC level and leave the CoC server, you will not be granted an invite to rejoin this server unless you change your Patreon donation to that tier. 

Our goal is to make an open and engaging community where people have access to their rewards and are able to engage with the podcast hosts without having to fork over cash. This new server will be a place to discuss our various podcasts, creations, and the other consistently adequate material you’ve grown to consume regularly. We hope that this step makes all of your experiences with us better and even MORE consistently adequate. 

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. 

JOIN OUR SERVER HERE!

Greetings From Indy

Wow! What a year! Well, hello from my new home in Indianapolis! Bob and I have seen a ton of growth in listeners and podcast participants, we've seen another year of success on our Discord, and we've met a ton of new people. 

A few of the cool things that we've seen and experienced so far (this isn't exhaustive, and I know I'll forget stuff): 

  1. We've seen our podcast, "25 Years of Vampire: the Masquerade - a Retrospective," grow in size tremendously in the last year. We have over 100 Patreon backers, over 25,000 RSS subscribers and more than 200 members on our Discord! For some people, that's nothing. But for a little podcast about V:tM, we think that's huge! We've really been blown away by how engaged the community seems to be and we've met so many great, creative, kind and awesome people since we started this 2 years ago! 
  2. Everyone has moved away! Yes, that's right, we are all in different locations now. After nearly 10 years in the same old apartment in the Chicago suburbs, the Labs have taken up new residency. Nathan now represents the Eastern faction of UML in Indianapolis, with Bob keeping his roots in Chicagoland! We make it work through the power of the internet! 
  3. Nerd Words has had its 3rd birthday! Yes, the podcast that started the whole deal is still going strong, mostly because we're unwilling to give up! It continues to grow and draw interest, and it will be around for a good, long time! 
  4. Gen Con 2018 and the UML meet-up! We finally got it together and had our own fan meet and greet at Gen Con 2018! A bunch of our listeners came out to show support, play some rock-paper-scissors and win some cool prizes. Folks from California, New Jersey and even Belgium came to hang out and get nerdy! Pictures will be included below. 
  5. We are swiftly approaching the finale of 25 Years of V:tM, but that DOESN'T mean we're done with the podcast! We will need to change the name, but we'll still be your regular Nate and Bob! Coming early 2019, Dark Ages Vampire! We can't wait to explore all the history of Vampire: the Masquerade and the origins of the Camarilla and the Sabbat! 
  6. Speaking of those two august sects, V5 is out and for sale! Man, we didn't even remotely think that we'd get to see our favorite game have the sort of revival it has, let alone, we'd get to be there when a brand new edition launched! It's been awesome to experience! Check out our V5 review on Youtube or here on the site!
  7. Nathan is working as a broadcasting professional. This is all we are at liberty to discuss. 
  8. We've started a brand new podcast, "Playing Hooky Podcast," with our newest Labs technician, Rachel. As a full-time nerd, she is highly qualified to lead the PHP team to success. 
  9. We've had the opportunity to meet a ton of great artists, writers, storytellers, podcasters and gaming industry professionals over the last year. It's been incredible to make new friends, interview and just chat with some cool people like Matt Webb and his awesome team over at JackalopeLARP, Chad Parish from Dead Games Society (I love playing a Prince at a D&D convention and I'd do it again in a second!), Dixie Cyanide and Mathew Dawkins (who has gone so far as to actually call us entertaining!) from Onyx Path Publishing, Jason Carl and Dhaunae De Vir from White Wolf, Conan from Voluta Tattoo, and so, so very many other people from all over the world! 
  10. Speaking of Jackalope LARP, we will be heading to their Blockbuster LARP, The Night in Question, in November. Nathan will be getting on an airplane for the first time. Shut up. 

Here's to another year of gaming, growth, podcasts, art and friendship with all of you cool people! We've had an awesome year so far and it's all because of you! Keep you eyes open for more new stuff, interviews, podcasts and adventure in 2018, 2019, and beyond! 

Check out some of our pictures from Gen Con 2018 Below! 

Thanks For an Amazing Year!

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For a lot of you reading, this will probably be the first real blog update you’ve read from the Labs. We’ve been working hard over the last year to bring quality content to our podcast listeners, and constantly improving our product. One of the most difficult aspects of podcasting is growing and maintaining your audience. In all reality, making the product is probably the easiest aspect of podcasting. However, if you have no listeners, what’s the point?

Today, I wanted to thank everyone who’s listened to us and supported us over the last amazing year of growth. In September of 2016, we launched “25 Years of Vampire: the Masquerade – a Retrospective.” The podcast is a passion project for Bob and me, and that’s how we wanted to approach creating the content. We’d been doing Nerd Words for about a year prior, and we’d never really found an audience. We’d been plugging along, grinding out podcasts, but we never really connected with a large group of people. A friend of ours suggested that we do a podcast specifically about Vampire: the Masquerade, and the rest is history.

In the previous year, we’ve recorded 42 episodes of our Vampire podcast. We’ve seen our listener base grow by literal thousands for both of our podcasts. We’ve attracted dozens of loyal Patreon backers, started our own online V:tM game online using Discord and met hundreds of awesome people. This podcast has changed our lives in the most positive way possible. The love and support we’ve received from all our listeners is staggering. We are fans, just like our listeners, and our aim has always been to provide entertainment and knowledge to a community we’ve been a part of since childhood. You’ve all made that possible for us. We’ve met amazing, smart, dedicated and passionate people from all over the world thanks to this podcast. We’ve connected with people from China, Norway, Brazil, Germany, Australia and right here in the United States. If we never did another thing in our lives, we’d be proud to say we’ve been able to touch so many different people from so many different cultures, all connected by their love of gaming, White Wolf products and Vampire: the Masquerade.

For as much as we’ve grown over the past year, we don’t intend to rest on our laurels. We want to see this podcast to continue to grow further beyond our expectations. We plan on growing beyond the constraints of podcasting with more multimedia projects, storytelling projects and even live events. With your help, we intend to make Utility Muffin Labs our full-time jobs so we can bring you more content with ever-increasing quality.

Thank you all for making this year and amazing one! We truly love you all and can’t begin to thank you enough for the love and support you’ve given us! Cheers to many more years of podcasting, Vampire: the Masquerade and gaming from us at Utility Muffin Labs. We’re Consistently Rated Adequate.


If you want to reach out to us, chat or support what we do, click one of the links below: 
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We don't hate D&D

In the last couple of days, it was brought to our attention that some comments we made in a previous podcast may have been degrading and kind of marginalizing to our fans that play and enjoy Dungeons & Dragons. After careful consideration, I’d like to apologize to anyone who took offense to our statements. We both got our start roleplaying with D&D, and as time has gone by, we’ve drifted away from the game. While we may have said some disparaging remarks or seemed back-handed about the game, we truly come from a place of love. I assure you, we don’t think any less of you or anyone who chooses to play any game we might not enjoy. Our remarks were not intended to denigrate fantasy role-players or any of our listeners.

I thought it would be important to share the correspondence I received from a listener who took exception to our remarks. Included is our conversation:


Name: Lucas Greene

Subject: Backhanded Apologies

Message: I'll start this off by saying I really enjoy your analysis of the WoD books. It's obvious you have a lot of passion and knowledge about the subject and it has been great getting a history lesson about the system I've been playing for the last decade.

That being said, I really want to address your commentary at the end of your Gangrel episode about Dungeons and Dragons. Your earlier commentary on Dungeons and Dragons exactly what you proclaimed it to be, disparaging of the system but not the people playing it (outside of the Professor Frink voice). Your apology/explanation, on the other hand, was condescending and significantly more offensive.

I understand your commentary about Dungeons and Dragons being a system with too many charts and not enough moral grey area or encouragement of nuanced roleplay. Those comments are absolutely true. However, your soapbox basically concluded with "I pity people who play Dungeons and Dragons" and "Dungeons and Dragons is for people who aren't mature enough to play REAL roleplaying games." You of course followed this with what came off as "and if you don't like it, fuck you, I say I'm right."

I think the thing that pisses me off the most, however, was your ending comment of "we're all the same here." Your soapbox made it very clear that you don't agree with that, that you consider yourself better than those other nerds.

It may not have been meant to come off that way, but it did. I have two short replies. One, you stated in earlier episodes "each to his own," even mentioning more explicit games like Warhammer with more respect, and I would respect your right to your opinion a lot more if you held it consistent. Two, it really seems like your issue is more with modules and the stereotype of D&D than the game itself. I'm sorry your dungeon masters weren't up to the task of telling a nuanced story. I've seen plenty of ham-fisted WoD storytellers who drove everything to mass combat, and plenty of D&D dungeon masters who knew how to promote character development and nuance.

I'm not expecting for you to change your opinion of D&D, but I hope that you take a moment to think before you make these types of statements in the future. If you want to continue saying "fuck off," then I'll be happy to find something else to listen to (and potentially donate to) that isn't going to shit on me.

UML:
You're absolutely right.
I could say something to the effect of, "if you knew us, you'd know we come from a place of love," but that really doesn't cut it. Our statements being what they are, our intent - my intent - is not to alienate. Having said that, I offer you a sincere apology for offending you. We will address this. I don't want my brand or product to be known for shitting on what others enjoy. That's not the point or goal. Sometimes, we forget that we aren't just shooting the shit with our buds in the living room. I will personally make it my goal that this doesn't happen again. I appreciate your patronage and loyalty, and hope to keep you as a fan.

Know this, at least half of us spent our Saturday night playing D&D.

Thank you for being forthright about this.
Sincerely,
Nathan

 LG:
Nathan,
I appreciate the quick and candid response. I totally understand where you're coming from, and I hope to get to get to know you better continuing to listen to your podcasts. This kind of response definitely helps show your character.
Thanks,
-Lucas


UML:
No problem. We are opinionated, to be sure, but that doesn't mean we have to make people feel inferior for what they enjoy.  Thank you for bringing it to our attention. 


For our fans, I want to reiterate, we do not intend to alienate or offend any of you. If we’ve done so, it has been unintentional and we are deeply sorry for it. In the grand scheme of podcasting and just spewing words for hours on end, offending someone is virtually unavoidable. Having said that, it’s not our goal to overtly (or covertly, for that matter) offend our fans. Our promise to you, the listener, is that we will make the greatest effort to refrain from making you feel like you’re unwanted. Our request to you, our listener, is that you please let us know if you feel this way.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for being a fan.

Nathan
Utility Muffin Labs  

Updates!

This image has nothing to do with this update!   Movieposter.com

This image has nothing to do with this update! Movieposter.com

So, I know what you're thinking, "What's the point of a blog if you never update it?" Yeah, that's what I was thinking, too. Well, it's been almost ten months without an update to this blog, and that just will not do! 
So let's just get into the damn updates already. On the podcast front, things are going well. We are consistently posting one new Nerd Words a week, and have been now for quite awhile. We are about to record episode 54 this coming Friday, October 21st. We appreciate all of you that listen and share it regularly, and your comments are always welcome. When doing this sort of home-grown production, fan support is super important. We currently spend about $1000 dollars a year of our own money, give or take, and thus far we have not made a penny from doing this. That's okay. As much as we'd love to do what we do professionally, it has not turned into that yet. Podcasting remains a labor of love. 
As of this moment, our biggest task is to generate interest and fans. We continue to push out our product, however goofy or crude it might be, in hopes that new people discover it and enjoy what we do. You, the close personal friends or family, are integral to that process. Online entertainment is very much a communal endeavor; if you enjoy it, spread it around! 
We've recently started a new podcast as well. We got a bug up our butts (thanks to a brilliant, if not daunting idea from a friend) to review the entire catalog of Vampire: The Masquerade game books. We decided to start all the way back in 1991 with the very first edition of the Table-Top game book and do a podcast review for each release. This podcast is released every other week, is a bit shorter than our standard podcast and is a little bit more structured that what you might be used to if you are a current fan of Nerd Words. This is done intentionally. We wanted to create a product that showcases our ability to produce a more professional product and not just record two hours of potty humor. Give it a listen if you're into gaming, vampires, or just enjoy listening to 2 grown men in their 30's wax nostalgic. 
If you're into what we do, come and check us out at some of our other online locations. We are on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Twitch, and Soundcloud. Eventually, we might be able to turn this happy little website into career, whatever that means. We love you all. Expect to see more consistent updates in the future. If you comment, I'll post. Deal? 

Over a Year of Conceptual Continuity,
Utility Muffin Labs

Fallout 4 - The Commonwealth Needs You

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/16404467908

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/16404467908

When reviewing a game like Fallout 4, it’s incredibly difficult to find a place to begin.

Do I wax poetic about the new story? Do I ruminate about the improvements to the gameplay or the graphics? Should I rant about the sheer scope and size of The Commonwealth? It’s hard to say. I find the prospect nearly as overwhelming as playing the game itself.

The one thing that must be emphasized about Fallout 4, before you pick up a single controller or slide a disc into your preferred gaming receptacle: you’re going to lose a LOT of time. I know we’ve all played games with deeply involved story and exploration. Hell, if you’re a gamer like me, you’ve sought them out. But this… This is something else. This game will consume your free time. This game will swallow your daytime. This game will make you late for work. This game will ruin your relationships. Like a deeply satisfying addiction that leaves you feeling ashamed because you can’t kick it, even though you tell all of your friends you have, this game will not let you go.

Bethesda has become known for its overwhelmingly engaging core titles. The Fallout series, (much like its cousin series, The Elder Scrolls) has been the go-to open world game series for quite a few years now. Much like 2011’s Skyrim, Fallout 4 seems to be filled with unlimited potential. It’s brilliant and colorful. There are secrets buried around every corner. Having said that, Fallout 4 is deceptively large. A quick glance at your ever-present Pip Boy presents a map that looks almost… intimate. It’s not. It’s vast and it doesn’t care about you. It will try to kill you at every turn.

If I haven’t established how incredibly massive this game is, let me say it again: This game is huge. Not to be braggadocios, but I’ve beaten the main questline 3 times. I’m on my 4th play-through with a fourth play-style, and I’m STILL finding new things. For a completionist like me, this is a massive draw. This directly translates to replay value, which this game has in spades.

Fallout 4 is a vast improvement over Fallout 3, in nearly every way. While this should go without saying, I feel like this is an era of gaming that requires this to be said. In a time of yearly franchise titles being rushed to release and half-finished games being sold at full-price, it’s refreshing to play a game that feels complete. Now, allow me to qualify that statement: This is by no means a perfect game. Fallout 4 is fantastic, perhaps even the best game of 2015, but is by no means without flaw.

Let’s get real. If you’ve played a Bethesda title, you know about their renowned flaws. Sometimes, the collision can be a little janky. Occasionally, something might just fall through the floor or shoot into the sky like a rocket.  There are even the rare game-breaking save glitches. In most titles, this is a sin most unforgivable. For some reason, with Fallout 4, it’s just a part of the charm. With the amount of time I’ve spent on this game, I can honestly state that I’ve seen much less glitchy behavior than I have in previous Bethesda titles. The glitches exist. Oh yes, the glitches are here. Simply, they just seem to occur less often and with less drama than in past Bethesda iterations.

When you have a game as involved and expansive as Fallout 4, there seems to be a tendency for people to focus heavily on what isn’t in the game. In conversation, you’ll often hear banter start with something like, “You know what they should have put into the game?”  I can’t exclude myself from this; I do it all the time. I think there are some simple concepts this game could have benefitted from.

You’ll find a new building system in the game that allows you to grow a settlement. This settlement system is not explained well, and that concept remains throughout the game. Much in the way you have to fend for yourself in the Wasteland, you’ll have to fend for yourself as you play the game. You cannot build weapons in the game; you can only customize them. You cannot build ammo in the game; you can only find it. You can’t build armor; you can only improve it. Small gripes, to be sure, but annoying none the less.

I’ve read other reviews about Fallout 4. One of the main criticisms about the game, and a fairly easy complaint to make about a lot of Triple A titles as of late, is about the graphics. Personally, I think this is a steaming heap of nonsense. This game is gorgeous. The aggressive push for 60fps, 4k quality, etc. seems like a lot of nonsense to me. Perhaps there’s something I just don’t get. Perhaps I’m just more interested in playing games that are fun than I am playing games that bleeding-edge visually dazzling. Fallout 4 has a look that is fun, interesting and consistent with the world the developers created.

So much more could be said about Fallout 4. At this point though, I think I’ve done a fair job emphasizing the epic magnitude of the game. Would I call this my “Game of the Year”? Yeah, I suppose I would. I might even go so far as to say, this is the must-play title of the current gaming generation. This is the game you’ll spend days and weeks exploring. The only advice I can give you before you start playing the game: Take some vacation time. Trust me, other things in your life will suffer once you start playing Fallout 4.

NHL 2016 - Giving it a Sporting Try

By ArtBrom [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By ArtBrom [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A tiny bit of background about me: I love video games but I don’t enjoy sports. I don’t follow them at all and I couldn’t name you five athletes that play organized sports. I know that baseball has home runs, football has touchdowns, and hockey has goals. That’s about the width and breadth of my knowledge. Consistent with my lack of interest in sports, a lack of interest in sports games has always been a natural side-effect. My distaste for sports has been mostly passive, but at times, it’s been actively aggressive – especially during football season.

This review, however, isn’t about that. This review is more about how my anti-sports walls were recently crumbled, if ever so slightly. I have a decently sized community of friends I game with, and the majority of them are sports fans. The one game most of them agree upon playing, typically without fail, is hockey. After years of hearing them play and talk and grouse about it in the Xbox Live party, my intolerance finally crumbled this week.

I started playing EA’s NHL 2016, and I had no expectations when I fired it up. I have no previous experience with EA sports games, and the last sports game I played was Ice Hockey for the NES back in 1989. Needless to say, I came into the game like a babe in the woods. I can say, as a matter of fact, there’s a lot to this game. There’s a decent learning curve to understand the nuances of the title, but I found I could pick it up and tap a few buttons to play with varying degrees of effectiveness.

NHL 2016 has a number of game-play modes for fans to choose from. As I am woefully unfamiliar with previous iterations of the game, I couldn’t tell you what’s new and what’s a holdover from last year. While the game can be incredibly complex (and you’ll have to learn those complexities to be GOOD at the game), even someone with no experience can jump online and skate with their friends with very little practice. I learned very quickly that hockey doesn’t allow players to skate full-speed into opponents and level them to the ice like a Mack Truck. Food for thought!

After playing NHL 2016 for about 12 hours, there hasn’t been a revelation for me to become a sports fan. I’m not going to run out and buy a Black Hawks jersey and watch the games on TV. It’d take a lot more than a video game to drive me to that. However, I will keep playing NHL 2016. The game-play is exciting and addictive. There’s a great deal to learn about the game and a ton of modes to try out. It’s a social game that I can play and learn strategies with my friends. If asked, at this point, I’d suggest to others who don’t follow sports to give a try. You might be surprised like I was.

Final score for NHL 2016: 3.5 out of 5.  

Our Muffins are considerably uniform

Hello, people who care. Blogs can be so neglected sometimes, and this one is not exception. Things just get moving, and sometimes, this little space drops off my radar. 

Here's the info, for those who need to know. 

First, I won the coveted second place spot with my video. If you're unfamiliar with my previous blog post, I had submitted a video to the Illinois Student Silver Dome awards, Presented by the IBA, which honors excellence in broadcasting among students in Illinois.  My video, which is a 30 second TV spot PSA, can be found here. It had a whopping 44 views on youtube, so give it some love and share it if you watch it. 

Next thing, I'm about to graduate from IMS. Nine months down, and I'm about to exit the scholastic portion of my broadcasting career. It has been a great time, and I've met a lot of really great people. 

On that subject, I'm about to start a production internship with Digity Media. I'm incredibly excited about this, and it should open up a lot of opportunities for me to learn and meet new people. I'm working on demo material, and I should have a new demo uploaded within the next couple of weeks. 

Coming in the next few days, you'll see a brand new podcast. This podcast will be a free-form conversation about things going on in our country, city and state. We'll chat about politics, work, news and more. I'll still be doing the Nerd Words podcast, but we'll be doing it twice a month. Check back here for more info. 

Much love and thanks for the support. 

Things are moving along...

In Utility Muffin news, I've been working on the home studio setup, and things are chugging along quite nicely. I plan on going live from home with The Metal Mortuary Radio sometime here in early October. I'll be attempting to connect the station to TuneIn, although I have yet to investigate that concept as of yet. It's very cool to be able to produce, record and edit content from home, without having to rely on other resources. 

The live stream will be available 24/7, and I'm planning on doing three live on-air shows a week, for fans of metal and extreme music. We may even do some live podcasts on the show as well, so keep that in mind. 

I'm working on setting up live calls as well, and I'll post the information about that in the near future. I'm very close to being able to do Skype interviews too, so that's very cool. 

I'm a finalist for the IBA 2015 Student Silver Dome Award which is awesome! Click the link and check it out. 

Here's the video I'm nominated for: 

I conceptualized, wrote, filmed (with Mitch Tyton) and edited the video, which stars Jamie Newell. It has a whopping 41 views on Youtube, so you should check it out! 

 

Updates, Pictures, FTA, etc.

Welcome back to the blog, friends and whatnot. It's been two weeks since last we spoke. Some things to check out: New videos in the video section, new podcasts in the Nerd Words Podcast section - including my sordid review of Full Terror Assault, new interview with Matt from Behold! The Monolith and assorted random other things. 

Here are some pictures I took during my camping trip: 

Here's the almost fully erect tent that housed two people. 

Gas powered stove boiling water in preparation for coffee. 

Inside crazy tent. 

Friday morning picture of the FTA MetalSucks stage. 

The elusive Elizabethville. 

Nuclear Age during their set on the Last.fm stage @ Full Terror Assault

Nuclear Age during their set on the Last.fm stage @ Full Terror Assault

Altered Existence During their set on the LAst.fm stage @ Full Terror Assault 

Altered Existence During their set on the LAst.fm stage @ Full Terror Assault

Coathanger Abortion During their set on the NRR stage @ Full Terror Assault

Coathanger Abortion During their set on the NRR stage @ Full Terror Assault

Coathanger Abortion During their set on the NRR stage @ Full Terror Assault

Coathanger Abortion During their set on the NRR stage @ Full Terror Assault

Coathanger Abortion During their set on the NRR stage @ Full Terror Assault