Top 20 of 2016, Part Four

First I have to pour one out for the world’s best space mom Carrie Fisher, who died today drowned in moonlight and strangled by her own bra. Truly, she was a peerless stone-cold badass who showed multiple generations of women that we could be both princesses and war heroes.

Second, let’s get into it: my Top Five Things I was all about in 2016. Read Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three here.

5. The many comic stylings of Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh
They have brought us the delightful auto-bio comic Johnny Wander since 2008, during which they also introduced us to Cecilia (with her skeleton hand), the whimsical Death, Delilah and her friendly basilisk, and their wonderful cast of real-life friends. This year, not only did they publish their first (pretty sure this is true?) Kickstarted comic Lucky Penny, about a woman super into romance novels who makes her own luck, but also started two more projects that I can’t wait to invest in: Barbarous, starring a tiny angry girl and a large shy monster boy, and Is This What You Wanted?, a richly colored story about the dangers of summoning demons. If you know me, you know that I just gave you a checklist of things I am super all about.

4. Subversive social commentary in Zootopia
Let’s all agree that Zootopia has a bad name, and that the first trailers for it were dumb. Anthropomorphized animals do not usually scream “incredibly relevant social commentary” to me, so honestly, I’d written this movie off well before it hit theaters. Until the reviews started rolling in, and Twitter kicked up a storm about it, and I decided what the hey, I like going to movies! Let’s go check it out.

Zootopia was a game changer.

Not only was it breathtakingly beautiful in a way I had not expected, and not only were all the details utterly delightful (I deeply loved the fact that all the animals kept their own scale), but it was a commentary on internalized bias in society and the workplace that I don’t know has been braved in an animated movie directly marketed to children before. There is no way you can claim that Zootopia is an animated film geared to adults; and yet, Judy, Nick and the rest of the cast deal with “speciesism” in incredibly deft and sophisticated ways. What a wonderful message to leave children with.

3. “We Know the Way” from Moana
I truly did not know that Lin-Manual Miranda would be on the soundtrack for Moana – I knew he had helped score it, but when I heard his voice during the sweeping, uplifting voyager’s anthem I almost cried. I DID cry when I watched these sequences in the film (that I loved dearly and would have made a Top Ten Movies of 2016 list with no effort at all, had I deigned to make one). The music is expansive and joyful, and Miranda’s voice has a slightly scratchy quality that makes it feel a little rough-and-tumble; totally appropriate for travelers guiding by starlight. I have listened to this song about 187 times and have no intention of stopping any time soon.

2. Pokemon forging a new identity for itself
Not only is 2016 the 20th anniversary of Pokemon, but it was the year that Nintendo decided to completely redesign everything about the franchise – and made it into its greatest incarnation ever. Pokemon Go got gamers up and out of the house, and provided us the closest to a Pokemon MMO I think we’re ever likely to see. Not only that, but every update it goes through makes the game better, more immersive, and more fun.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, we got Pokemon Sun & Moon, where Nintendo threw the book out on what we’d all come to expect from our Pokemon games. No more gyms full of trainers to grind through; a more dynamic and easier to navigate world map; and no more juggling of HM workhorses with the monsters you actually wanted to be fielding, to name the most obvious changes. Other streamlined features have cropped up the longer I play, and the more I play the more I realize that we have something now that is truly unlike anything else Pokemon has ever offered us: a truly new game experience. The story mode has been the same for so long (a mode that has always been fun, I have played every one, don’t get me wrong), that getting something this new and this successful feels like the very first Red and Blue generation: utterly groundbreaking.

1. Women making horror comics (and women making comics in general)
In lieu of any coherent analysis, I’m going to assign you all reading homework.

Animosity by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de Latorre
Clean Room by Gail Simone, John Davis-Hunt and Quinton Winter
Constantine: The Hellblazer by Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV
Harrow County by Cullen Bunn, Carla Speed McNeil, and Tyler Crook
InSEXts by Marguerite Bennett and Ariela Kristantina
Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

It was a great year for comics. Particularly horror comics. Particularly horror comics by women. Check them out.

Honorable Mention: Tracer is a lesbian 
This snuck in under the wire as I was working on these entries, and I was too lazy to try and rework the whole list, but it’s 100% worth mentioning that Blizzard, a gigantic video game company, made the character who is the face of one of their largest console game and straight up said “Yup, she’s gay.” Not only did they publish a comic that shows the delightful, elfin Tracer macking on her super cute girlfriend, but they issued official statements confirming that yes, she is gay, no, that’s not just a very close friend, and guess what? Other members of the Overwatch cast are ALSO gay, so BUCKLE UP, NERDS.

Also I made a comment on Twitter about how I’ve made a hobby out of bathing in nerdboy tears, and a white knighter rose up from the ether to call me an SJW and make sure I knew that #notallmen where like that. I’d never been #notallmen’d before and I’d never blocked someone on Twitter before, so it truly turned into a wonderful learning experience.

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Top 20 of 2016, Part Three

We’ve reached Top Ten territory, y’all. Read Part One here and Part Two here.

10. The depiction of magic in Doctor Strange
I would like to say that I loved Doctor Strange without diminishing all of its issues; the fact that I enjoyed Tilda Swinton in her role does not absolve the movie of its whitewashing, nor her of her behavior in this past week. The fact that this was the first role I sincerely enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch in does not forgive Marvel the lost opportunity to splash some color into its main lineup. But enjoy it I did, and thoroughly, and most especially the way they bring magic to the screen for the first time in the MCU.

Magic is its own thing, and it is treated as such – I don’t believe you’ll find the particular effect, almost a glowing band of fire drawn in specific shapes in the air, anywhere else onscreen in this world. It is distinctly different from Scarlet Witch’s manipulation, and distinctly different from what Vision and the Infinity stones project; it has a different source, different intentions, and it made me want to learn tai chi immediately. For Doctor Strange to be the foray into Marvel’s magical world, the effect had to make an impact; it succeeded, and then some.

9. The funeral and wedding sequences in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
My sister and I grew up on Gilmore Girls, so to say that we were a little bit emotional about the revival is a WEE BIT of an understatement. In regards to the revival of tv shows that have been laid to rest years ago, I feel very torn – on the one hand, it should be nice to get more of something that was enjoyable. On the other hand, I don’t think they ever truly live up to our expectations, and maybe we as a culture need to be able to say “This has reached its ending and it’s over now.”

Gilmore Girls has been tumultuous in this respect, egged on mainly by its creator and original showrunner, Amy Sherman-Palladino. Whatever the actual circumstances of the Palladinos departing the show after the sixth season, and however one feels about the quality of the seventh season (I myself didn’t actually notice a change when I watched it originally, and only as an adult, after being told, even knew the show had changed hands – I don’t feel there was a drastic dip in quality between seasons six and seven, and feel very strongly that the seeds of the things people dislike about seven were sown in six), ASP mythologized her “real ending” by waxing rhapsodic about what she would have done, given her druthers. Which she did for, like, twelve years.

ALL THAT IS TO SAY, could the revival ever have lived up to our myriad expectations? I don’t think so. Particularly the apocryphal “Final Four Words.” Better writers than me have discussed at length the strengths and weaknesses of the revival episodes, so I will leave you with only this: Richard’s funeral was stark, emotional, and raw in a way I had not expected, and Lorelai and Luke’s wedding was a lavish dream sequence that I adored. We can quibble over the stuff in between, but those two sequences were perfection.

8. Will Patton reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys books, specifically The Raven King, which is the one that was published this year
I am a new convert to the world of audiobooks. I’ve tried a handful in the past and mostly felt impatient that the narrators read slower than I would have if I’d been reading to myself (which: duh). Once I started commuting 2-2.5 hours every day, however, they became pretty integral to my sanity, and I’ve been devouring them along with a huge number of podcasts. The Raven Boys was one of the first series I sprinted through on audio, and they are everything I want in a YA fantasy series: lovely writing, the right amount of magical realism, characters that are weird and prickly and sassy and funny and emotionally broken. Will Patton’s sleepy, dreamy southern drawl is the perfect narrator for this story, and I cannot recommend these books highly enough.

7. Misty Knight and Claire Temple in Luke Cage
As a whole, I was not as unabashedly devoted to Luke Cage as I was to Daredevil; of the Netflix Marvel shows, I think it is technically the best and also the one I connected to the least. The visuals are wonderful and the music is unreal; the actors are great (Alfre Woodard in particular is a special kind of sublime) and the show does some really interesting things with place and tone. I don’t find Luke that compelling as a main character, even while I enjoyed watching him solve the conflicts of the show. (Slight spoilers, but I was also deeply disappointed that we lost Cottonmouth as the main villain about halfway through, as the revealed big bad was nowhere near as interesting.)

However. However. MISTY KNIGHT, Y’ALL. And CLAIRE TEMPLE, the best cross-element to the Netflix Marvel universe. These two women could take down the whole damn world if they wanted to, and I would have a VERY STRONG DESIRE to see a procedural starring Misty where she fights crime and gets stitched up by her smart-ass roommate, Claire. Simone Missick and Rosario Dawson consistently upstage the superheroes they share screen time with, and they do it without superhuman abilities. They’re simply the best.

6. Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa
The Captain America films are consistently the best that Marvel makes and I will hear no disagreements – Winter Soldier continues to be the best and most relevant film of the entire MCU. Civil War was not as strong, perhaps because we’ve seen the fracturing of this team already so that doesn’t punch as hard as it might, but it’s still a feat of storytelling and character development, handling an expansive cast with aplomb while also ensuring that new players get just the right amount of attention and material. I was pleased to see a Peter Parker who, I feel, is bringing something new to the table, and impressed that one did not have to have seen Ant-Man to be instantly smitten by Paul Rudd (I mean, I did see it, but I don’t think you had to).

The brightest star of our expanding cast is without a doubt Chadwick Boseman, whose T’Challa gives you everything you need to know within three seconds of meeting him. The things he does with his face at the summit scene, and when **SPOILER** his father dies, are unreal: you can see him becoming the king of Wakanda in front of your very eyes. His arc in the film is complete, and satisfying. He’s magnetic and I cannot wait for his solo film, I think it will be spectacular.

Top 20 of 2016, Part Two

More of what I was all about in 2016! Read the first part here.

15. The J.A.P. Rap Battle from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Like Lemonade, there are MANY things about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend I wanted to include here – but most of them debuted in 2015, I was just late to the party. The absolutely glorious rap battle between Rebecca and Audra, however, not only screened this year but was also one of the funniest, most intense and telling scenes from that show.

14. Supergirl, queer visibility, and President Lynda Carter
I have been enjoying Supergirl since it debuted, but this season has really outdone itself in terms of charm, storytelling, and character development. Alex’s story in particular has not only incorporated one of my favorite background characters from the DC universe (Maggie Sawyer!), but presented a really lovely coming-out narrative. If you have ever doubted the impact that visibility makes for the queer community, particularly people just figuring themselves out, I urge you to read this twitter thread posted by @sapphicgeek (and I dare you to not cry).

Additionally, Supergirl introduced us to the president of the United States, who in that universe is played by Lynda Carter, and if you don’t think that’s beautiful I’m not sure what to do for you. (She got a truly excellent invisible jet gag in, and please writers, more Wonder Woman jokes all day, every day.)

13.The kids from Stranger Things
I was not as deeply enthralled with Stranger Things as many people – I enjoyed it, and in fact watched it all in one sitting during a sick day, but it didn’t change my life or make me sweat for another season (I actually kind of wish the Duffer brothers were doing it anthology-style). I will admit, however, that the kids, particularly our five main heroes, were THE BEST (I’m including Noah Schnapp as Will Byers because he does just as good of a job with much less material as everyone else). Child actors can make or break a project by virtue of simply not being as experienced or focused as adults, and Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Caleb McLaughlin were magnetic to watch.

I’m giving Millie Bobby Brown her own mention because, seriously, for real. This girl is unreal. With barely six words of dialogue per episode, she lets you know exactly what’s going on inside of Eleven’s head – the combination of her facial acting and the way the narrative spins out creates such an elegant bait-and-switch. Eleven is so powerful, and so raw, that she could have been portrayed as a monster; she could have been Carrie White but ends up being Danny Torrance, someone you sympathize with and want to rescue rather than being afraid of.

12. This tweet from @KevinTPorter: “Adulthood is 70% getting yelled at, 25% nostalgia, and the other 5% is you get to rent a car I guess”
Kevin T. Porter is, of course, one of the estimable Gilmore Guys. I can’t find the link to the exact tweet anymore, I think it was from August, but follow him here. He’s pretty great.

11. The women of Ghostbusters
I enjoyed Ghostbusters – it wasn’t jaw-dropping, blow-me-away great like I really wanted it to be, but I found it charming, funny, and legitimately scary in some places (which I had not expected). Some of the jokes were clunkers, and I wish the final confrontation had involved more clever problem solving than brute force, but I found it an overall positive experience.

The one thing that I found unequivocally fantastic, though, was the cast, the chemistry they had with each other, and their portrayals on screen. What we are presented with are four women who are not Hollywood beautiful, who are powerful personalities with absolutely no shits to give about personal appearance or what other people think of them, who get dirty and eat pizza and wear canvas and love and support each other. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones so clearly respect each other and had fun making this movie together that I cried just watching their friendships on screen grow throughout the movie.

Top 20 of 2016, Part One

Hello, everyone. It’s been a while and I’ve been quite busy! As per usual, I don’t feel like I saw enough movies, read enough books, or engaged with enough media that was specifically released this year to do a Top Ten List of any one thing – so instead, I’ve put together a list of my Top 20 Things of 2016, which range from my favorite new tv shows, things that happened on my twitter feed, concepts that I feel gained particular strength this year (even though they are definitively not NEW this year), and other odds and ends that I think were particular highlights of 2016.

One of the reasons I wanted to make this list was because, in general, 2016 was a pretty terrible year for a lot of people, especially the last few months. But there were also some exceptionally great things that happened, and I think it’s important to remember that, and not be ashamed to be able to think back and say “You know, maybe bits weren’t all that bad.” I’ll be releasing this list in four parts of five, so I don’t feel guilty about how much I’m about to say about the stuff I loved.

So, to steal phrasing from the inimitable Guy Branum of Pop Rocket (a pop culture podcast I have been devouring and cannot recommend highly enough, find it here), here’s what I was all about in 2016:

20. High concept folktale retellings in comics
Specifically, I’m talking about Klaus by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora, and Toil & Trouble by Mairghread Scott, Kelly Matthews, and Nichole Matthews; this also includes the lovely Snow White: The Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan, the newest Hildafolk addition Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson, and to a lesser degree Panther by Brecht Evens and Michele Hutchison, and The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. The folk and fairy tale genres really lend themselves to rich, luxe art and writing, and all of these are simply gorgeous books. I particularly appreciate the way that Morrison on Klaus and Scott on Toil & Trouble use the elements of the story we’re already familiar with (the Santa Claus myth and Macbeth, respectively) as a skeleton to hang new embellishments on – I can enjoy to comfort of a story I already know, while still being surprised by what I’m reading.

19. “Sorry” from Beyonce’s Lemonade
I was tempted to put the whole album on here, but honestly that felt kind of predictable – so I’m listing my favorite track as a stand-in for the album that came out of nowhere and changed the conversation around pop music. As a whole, I find the album breathtaking. The musical experimentation and sheer variety of things that Beyonce plays with is just wonderful to listen to, even when I didn’t particularly care for a specific track. “Sorry,” however, is just…it’s the best, you guys. I love the juxtaposition of the gentle vocals telling a guy to fuck off, I love the sneaky power anthem nature of it.

18. The way The Jungle Book re-imagines the music from the original animated version
I haven’t been crazy about the live action versions of classic Disney movies that have been rolling out (I watched the trailer for Beauty and the Beast recently, and was remarkably underwhelmed), mostly because I don’t understand the need for a shot-for-shot remake of something that already exists in a beautiful state. So I was pretty surprised by how much I loved The Jungle Book – both because of that, and because I have always been underwhelmed by the original. But the new live action version is vibrant and dark and kind of scary, and different enough that I get why someone would want to reinterpret it. And the best part, in my opinion, is how the music from the original (particularly “Bare Necessities” and “I Wan’na Be Like You”) was incorporated into this new version. It’s very organic, and says something very definitive about the characters doing the singing: Bill Murray is very laconic and daydream-like in the opening strains of “Bare Necessities,” while Christopher Walken turns King Louie’s “I Wan’na Be Like You” into a psychological nightmare. It’s wonderful.

17. How hard the cast is trying in Suicide Squad
Listen, Suicide Squad was a bad movie, and there’s really no way around that fact. It’s poorly constructed, makes less than no sense, and no one remembered to cut Jared Leto out of the final version. But the one thing you can say about it is that the main cast is trying so hard to make lemons out of lemonade – Margot Robbie and Will Smith in particular are wringing their terrible material for all its worth, which in the end did make for an enjoyable viewing experience. It makes me sad for the version of the movie that could have existed, with writers less concerned about giving Leto any attention or trying to cram 10 pounds of ludicrous story into a 3 pound bag, but I have to appreciate the enthusiasm and effort the main cast put forward and I truly look forward to watching the music video recuts that YouTubers will undoubtedly give us.

16. Pitch
I don’t remember when I saw the first article about Pitch, the new Fox drama about major league baseball’s first woman pitcher, but I’m not ashamed to tell you that I was super punk’d: for about three heart-stopping moments, I thought Ginny Baker was real and I thought a major league sport had actually decided to let a lady play in the big leagues. Alas, this was not the case, but the fledgling drama is so delightful that I’m willing to backburner that for a few more years. I love absolutely everything about Pitch: Kylie Bunbury as the unsure firecracker new pitcher of the San Diego Padres, Ali Larter as her acidic agent, Mark-Paul Gosselaar as the jaded, burned out mentor figure; the unabashed feminism of the show (the pilot is riddled with little girls holding up signs saying “I’m Next!” and I cried so much); the earnestness of the storytelling; the way the producers have gone out of their way to make all the game sequences look like actual sports tv. It wobbles in some places the way a new show will, but I am desperately hoping it finds the audience it needs to keep it on the air. I’m a sucker for inspirational sports movies, and this is the long form version – I cannot get enough.

Part Two of my list will go up in a few days!

Teen Program: Hot Pepper Escalation

So, unfortunately, this is my last week with the library I currently work with – which is sad, because I’ve been here for almost three years and deeply enjoyed everything I’ve learned and all the people I’ve worked with. But! The good news is that I’m leaving for a great, full-time opportunity at another library, and until then, I’m running some pretty cool stuff for my teens right up until my very last hour here.

Which is what I wanted to talk to you about today, because our most recent summer program was a complete winner that I intend to duplicate the absolute first chance I get – I call it the Hot Pepper Escalation, and truly it is a test of endurance among all others.

For $5 and access to a fabulous grocery store, I scored six varieties of hot peppers (I used poblano, jalapeno, banana, serrano, Thai and habanero) which I arranged in order of hotness from least to most (it’s the order they’re listed above, for reference). I put their Scoville units on labels, gave a short spiel on Scovilles, capscaicin oil, and started egging my audience on.

How did the teens feel about this?

It was a glorious chorus of “This is no big deal, I can do this easy” morphing into “OH NO WHERE ARE THE CHIPS” (I provided tortilla chips to take the burn out). Anyone who made it from bottom to the top without a chip or water break won a pass to the local movie theater.

A+, would plan again. You could also do this with hot sauces or salsas, or turn your leftovers into salsas.

My First SRP Promotional Visit

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Today I did my very first “promotional” school visit – I have been to schools before to lead programs, and I’ve had meetings with school librarians and teachers, but this was the first time I went to a school, stood on a stage, and talked at a huge group of kids who really would rather have been eating pizza.

It was quite an experience. A good one! A little overwhelming, but good.

I was at the local middle school to promote our teen summer reading program. At FPPL, we call “teens” kids aged 12-18, so we hit middle school as well as high school. This was the first time we’d been able to coordinate with the middle school librarian to come in and pitch the summer program to this age group, so I was excited for the opportunity but also feeling a bit trepidation – due to scheduling limitations, my time to talk to them was going to have to happen over the lunch hour.

I planned my visit carefully: I would get the last ten minutes of the 7th grade lunch hour, and the first ten minutes of the 6th. I brought a prize wheel, labelled with the phobias we’re using as theme weeks (our program, The Beautiful Nightmare, is themed around conquering and defeating personal fears. We’re gonna be eating bugs AT LEAST once.) with the idea that kids could spin the wheel and guess the fear for a prize (a piece of candy). I had bookmarks with the kick-off party info and our weeks on the back. I had an ally (the school librarian) and a microphone.

Things went well! They could have gone better – but things went well. For my first outing like this, I’m giving myself the win.

The scene: an auditorium-esque arrangement of chairs. Kids sitting in them scattered all about, some turned around, some busy on Chromebooks, everyone making a dull roar. Myself and the school librarian on a stage in front of them, armed with microphones. It wasn’t enough, in the end – the biggest error I think I made was trying to command attention when lunch was halfway over. Even when I asked for volunteers to spin the wheel for the promise of candy, I had trouble keeping the attention of the kids.

The second presentation went much smoother, because at that point I was SUPER fresh off feeling hoarse from the 7th graders and knew what, immediately, I could smooth over. The biggest advantage I had was that the kids were corralled as soon as they entered the lunch room; they didn’t have a chance to settle into their social time before I started talking, so I didn’t need to yank them away from each other. Instead of calling for volunteers one at a time, I picked four kids out of the audience and had them go one right after another. I let them know that 11-year-olds who would be 12 in the fall could participate (this is new, and I’m very in favor of it; summer is such a liminal space for kids, it seemed cruel of me to deny some kids our program just because they’d turn 12 in, say, August.).

I was especially grateful for two things: one, to have the chance to introduce myself to this group of kids, because while we see many of them at the library on a regular basis you never see all of them. Now they’ve had a chance to see me, hear my name, and have a person to connect to the library, so hopefully coming to the library will be a little easier.

Two, that we’re able to be building this relationship with the middle school librarian. He was so gracious and helpful in setting up this visit with me, and the school is SO close to the library; we’ll be able to do some great stuff in partnership with him, now that we’ve gotten our foot in the door.

Tabletop Roleplaying 101

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If you’re an Illinois librarian, you may have gone to the Illinois Youth Services Institute conference this past weekend. And if you went to the IYSI conference, you may have come and see me and Steven Torres-Roman (author of Dragons in the Stacks: A Teen Librarian’s Guide to Tabletop Role-Playing) give our presentation on tabletop role-playing in libraries (I hope you did! It was a great presentation!) For my first professional presentation, I feel really good about how it went (and if you were there, please, tell me how I did in the comments!); we had great questions, a good sized audience, and the demo we ran played out as well as I had hoped.

However, if you didn’t have the chance to attend IYSI, I thought I’d take a moment and give you the bullet points – why you should care about RPGs, why they belong in libraries, and how easy it is to incorporate RPGs into your collection and programming schedule.

1. Tabletop roleplaying encourages teamwork, socialization, and can bring kids together via a common interests

Tabletop roleplaying games are, by their nature, group activities – you succeed or fail together, solve puzzles and work through obstacles together. Socially awkward or shy kids united by common interest learn how to contribute to a conversation, take the lead or defer, and learn how to meet new people in a safe environment.

2. There’s a game for every genre

There’s a game for every genre – fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror, historical fiction; if you can read a book about it someone has written a ruleset for it. Additionally, there are games based off of a ton of fandoms, including Dr. Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Lord of the Rings, Cthulhu, zombies, and more.

AND, if you CAN’T find a game that works for your kids’ interests, there are systems out there that are made for customization – to start you out, let me link you to Risus, the Anything RPG, a system specifically designed to let you create your own worlds and stories.

3. It opens the door to readers advisory opportunities

Related to the above, there are MANY tie-in opportunities to introduce read-a-likes to your audience based on game genres they enjoy. Running a successful Shadowrun (sci-fi cyberpunk) group? Time to break out the William Gibson recommendations. There are even whole series of books based on or related to some titles, such as Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, Cthulhu, and Star Wars.

4. You can get started at little to now cost

Yes, core books and supplementary rule books can be expensive. The cost of maps and minis can stack up. But many games make it easy to try before you buy – three big ones; Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, and the Fantasy Flight Games line of Star Wars RPGs; all have something called a beginner’s box available. This is a kit with rules, pre-written and blank character sheets, dice and maps ready for you to run a low level adventure designed to teach you how to play the game. These are priced way below the complete rule books, and can be converted into kits or sets that you can circulate (I also learned how to gamemaster by running some teens through the adventure in the Pathfinder Beginner’s Box, so it’s a great learning opportunity for you, as well).

5. Programming is as easy as setting up a monthly session

Tabletop RPG programming for me looks like: two-hour campaign sessions every other Friday for the ongoing game, and a two-hour new player orientation and character creation on the last Saturday of the month. I run a game cobbled together from free modules I get from the Paizo, Inc. website and my own story ideas, and I use a random encounter generator quite liberally. The biweekly games are designed to be easy to rotate in and out of (because teens have busy schedules), but new players must come to an orientation meeting before they can jump into the weekly game – two hours simply isn’t enough time to teach people how to play and also get into the story.

The best part about all of this is that now my teens are starting to get into GM’ing themselves, so when something comes up for me they can still meet and play. In fact, one of my recent high school graduates is going to be running the games all summer because I’ll be tied up with summer reading.

If you have any questions about RPGs or gaming in your library, or just want to chat about gaming or share ideas, please leave me a comment!