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I’m thankful for colleagues who inspire me to embrace my cranky inner geek

During a staff meeting last week, VentureBeat writer Jordan Novet talked about writing a gift guide full of items that appealed only to him — gadgets and gizmos for someone who loves A.I. and cloud computing.

“Bah, I could do better,” I sneered. Who wants computers and dongles when you can have cool gear from Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars, video games and the 1980s, and (of course) beer? Let’s see if these suggestions are as glorious as this geezer geek thinks they are.

RPG Crate

RGN goodness in one box!

Above: RGN goodness in one box!

Image Credit: RPG Crate

I once dipped into subscription boxes for clothes; hey, it was a 66 percent off for two months deal. I got some OK stuff, but it was nothing special. I’ve found my experience with the RPG Crate to be more than OK — it’s fabulous.


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For $30, I got a cool haul of role-playing accessories and other trinkets:

  • Two miniatures to paint (or just play with)
  • Three sheets of cardboard monster pawns to use in tabletop games or as desk decorations, and stands for small, medium, and large tokens.
  • A T-shirt (OK, this I don’t care so much for).
  • A 5th Edition-compatible adventure module.
  • Codes for a book and music.

Anyone into RPGs and tabletop gaming would appreciate even one month’s worth of loot from these boxes.

Volo’s Guide to Monsters

It may not have an eye ray that turns you into stone, but when you piece it with a sword and it's lightning blood fries you, it may petrify you in fear. Imagine your adventuring party is skulking through a dungeon. Dark passages line the tunnel you're exploring. Suddenly, a host of tentacles flash out of the darkness, hurtling at you like the chains that Pinhead summons from hell. Then image a floating horror, its eye staring at your with hunger, as it emerges from the darkness ... and the mouths at the end of the tentacles start draining your blood. The Deathkiss Beholder makes a great dungeon guardian for any evil mastermind you want to throw into your video game.

Above: The Deathkiss Beholder will suck you dry.

Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast

This may be my favorite book yet from Dungeon & Dragons‘ 5th Edition line. I’ve missed the deeper detail about monsters that came in the bestiaries from the 1980s. Volo’s Guide expands on the cultures of many of D&D‘s iconic bad guys, and in many ways, it presents these monsters in new ways: Beholders, Illithids, Giants, and even lowly humanoids like hobgoblins feel new thanks to this book. It also introduces a number of new monsters as well, bringing in some old favorites from AD&D‘s Monster Manual II and giving a new spin to others (the Firbog race of giants sure isn’t like the 2E version that Tavis Burdun embodies in The Twilight Giant Saga).


This is a rebirth of the fantastic “Ologies” books of a decade ago, only this time, author Matt Forbeck explores the Dungeons & Dragon world of the Forgotten Realms’ Faerun. Dungeonology lays out all the basics of being an adventurer: the races, the powers, the gear, the monsters, and the dungeons. It’s a great primer on D&D for the young’uns, with maps that fold out and small books with spells and monsters, making this an ideal gift for parents looking to introduce their kids to high fantasy or role-playing.

Masterpiece Megatron

Masterpiece MegatronNow, this is what a metallic menace should look like. Hasbro’s Masterpiece Megatron captures the dastardly despot at his very best, with his Generation 1 sneer, his gun-metal look and feel, and even his pulse cannon. Yes, I’m silly enough to be a grownup who likes having toys around his workspace, and Megatron is an ideal taskmaster to keep me on my editing game.

A silly sweater

I’d love to celebrate Christmas wearing a Critmas sweater this year! And no, this $27 piece of clothing has nothing to do with the “Ugly Christmas Sweater” phenomenon, at least for me. As a Jew who celebrates the holiday as a time to embrace family and friends, I couldn’t think of anything better. My brother, closet friends, and I all played D&D and other tabletop games — we still get together for a Talisman marathon every now. To me, Christmas is Critmas.

Welcome to my inn ... have a beer!

Above: Welcome to my inn … have a beer!

Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Harth Stonebrew bottle opener

OK, we’ve established that I enjoy kitsch. And you don’t get much kitschier than a talking bottle opener based on the innkeeper of Blizzard’s Hearthstone, the market-leading digital card game. I play this card-battler daily, but the only time I get to interact with Harth is when the game starts and greets me. It’ll be nice to open a bottle and hear his cheery, welcoming voice each time I enjoy a cold one. And it’s on sale for $10 right now!

"It was an overworked, underpowered vessel, always on the verge of flying apart at the seams."

Above: “It was an overworked, underpowered vessel, always on the verge of flying apart at the seams.”

Image Credit: Eaglemoss

Star Trek ships

I have plenty of action figures and other collectibles littering my desk. But I don’t have any little ships. It’s time to change this. The Star Trek Collection from Eaglemoss sends you a ship and a magazine each month. But we all know it’s about the ships. I’m hoping to find a U.S.S. Stargazer (that’s the first ship that had a Captain Jean-Luc Picard) under my Hanukkah bush this year.

But now you’ll have a new problem: Worrying someone will tell you that “you broke your little ships” after flying into a rage about The Borg.

Home One

"Concentrate all firepower on that Super Star Destroyer!"

Above: “Concentrate all firepower on that Super Star Destroyer!”

Image Credit: Fantasy Flight Games

This next suggestion isn’t a trap — unless you view falling into the rabbit hole of miniature games more perilous than facing down the Imperial Fleet. Star Wars: Armada is one such game, where you play out what happens when groups of Star Destroyers, Mon Calamari Cruisers, and other vessels meet in combat. The base set doesn’t come with a big Rebel ship, so the $40 Home One — Admiral Ackbar’s flagship at the Battle of Endor — fills that role. Plus, when you’re on a call with your colleagues, you can always point to it and say, “We can’t repel firepower of that magnitude” when they ask if you can handle a task.

A warm robe

Now, anyone can be the galaxy's best-known walking carpet.

Above: Now, anyone can be the galaxy’s best-known walking carpet.

Image Credit: Think Geek

I’ve lost 116 pounds this year, and as we get closer to winter, I’m realizing one thing: Damn, I’m cold! I’ve never had much use for a comfy robe before, but now I want one. And this Chewbacca getup looks quite cozy. I look good in brown, and if I don’t shave for a few days, I already look a bit like a walking carpet. This $80 robe would complete that look.

A worthy word tome — on my phone

Garner’s Modern English Usage is one of the best books on our language. This app turns the book into a searchable database, plenty of examples on word use and evolution, and even quizzes. As a copy editor, it’s one of my go-to books when I face an odd example of English use. And as a language nerd, it’s also a fun read.


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