JP On Gaming

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Strahd is dead, Part 2

Part 1

Continuing my look back at my Curse Of Strahd 2019-20 Campaign. From the art on the top, you can see Strahd let himself go a little... That's me as Strahd... With hair! WOO!

Handouts

During the game, I created a few products to help me run the game.
- Crypts of Ravenloft is a series of handouts for the crypts so the players have something
- Dark Gifts of Ravenloft for the Amber Temple.

Expansions

I added the following sub-adventure/plots to enhance parts I felt were weak or where I had an idea that I thought was better than the material in there.
- Apple of Mother's Eye expands and re-imagines the town of Berez.
- Real Housewives of Ravenloft enhanced the Dinner at Ravenloft into a drama-filled plot.
- The Song of Aracos adds yet another tragic dimension to the tale. This one is likely to end poorly for the PCs. Very sad
- Interactive Tome of Strahd is a way for the PCs to live through the events rather than having a read of a page long story. I think this makes the story much more personal and gives added insight into what happened.

Notable RIPs

Many fell during this campaign, not all of them to rise again...
- Bando, "Maybe it wasn't such a good plan"
- Billy Bonescrusher, who almost became king of Barovia
- Donavich, who turned insane then turned to evil
- Ireena, disintegrated by a rival lover
- Patrina, She came back to life for a short time
- Ragdol, who almost TPK'd the party with a fireball
- Rahadin, ruthlessly faithful to the last

Thank You

There are so many people I need to thank for allowing this whole thing to come together.

A big thank you to Marvin-H who hosted EVERY session from the start.

Thank you to Steve-L who put together the Murfreesboro D&D group which led me to get off my rear end and run CoS "just to get people leveled up to continue the Adventure League stuff".

Thanks to the British Shark for making such awesome drawings of the team and the NPCs to enhance the game.

A special thanks to Sarah-R who played under-powered NPC character through the whole thing and made these NPCs come to life.

A thirty years-later thank you to Louis-G who ran me through Ravenloft when I was 12 or 13. Because of him, I learned to appreciate the material and kept good memories (okay, they were horrible memories, see First Love: Ravenloft and [WTF Gaming Moment] Balance Sucks). Thanks man, wherever you are.

Thank you to the Curse Of Strahd sub-reddit for giving me perspective and the shared knowledge of other GMs. There is a lot of good material there.

Congratulations

Finally, a big thank you and congratulations to the players who I really beat on and did dozens upon dozens of dirty tricks. I did not pull punches (at the end) and you guys got the job done, especially when I fully expected to TPK you all - which I came real close to doing.

You guys pulled it off!
- ActionMan who played Billy Bonescrusher, then Kasimir
- Billy-C who played Theron the albino dusk elf "I'm not albino!"
- Corey-C who played Beorn
- Dylan-B who played Ragdol, then Ismark
- Sarah-R who played Ireena, Arabelle, and Esmeralda
- Marvin-H who played Hapla

What now?

I don't know. I have a follow-up event I'd like to run but that will NOT be of the same scope as CoS. Then... Who knows?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Strahd is dead, Part 1

Part 2

After just about a year, my group emerged victorious from the Curse of Strahd campaign. What a magnificient sandbox campaign that will always rate really high in my all-time favorite and most memorable.

It has been years since I ran a bonafide, full on campaign. IIRC it was in Colorado Springs last time I did that. The other were collections of one-shots or short-campaigns. Nothing like this. With a set, constant, quite clear goal.

Quirks

Here are a number of things I injected into the campaign that made impacts.
- "It's not very far down the Old Svalich Road" Every time they got directions, they got this "not very far". And "You can't miss it, it's the first... no second road on the left." Pretty soon they began asking "So if we leave now will we make it before nightfall?"
- Never let the PCs breathe They must always feel like they have to do something. There will be no week-long rest in Barovia, no constant long rests, no time when nothing happens.
- The Weather is your friend. Let's be honest, the weather is always miserable in Barovia. It is cold. It rains. It snows. It sleets. By playing with the weather you can convey Strahd's mood or his approval or disapproval of what the party is doing.

Lessons

Here are a few lessons I learned while running the game
- Too Many NPCs This one I managed to save myself from when party members turned evil and abandoned the others. If the PCs play their cards well, they could a bunch of NPCs with them: their designated ally, Ismark, Esmeralda, the Order of the Feather. Avoid the party getting drowned in this massive mob without robbing them of these hard-earned allies.
- Sunsword too powerful. Removing its shedding of actual sunlight should be good. Alternatively, preventing it from dealing auto-damage or forcing the user to use a bonus action to make it do it would be fine. Once the PCs get it, there is very little that can hurt the PC. Most creatures here have vulnerability or powerlessness when in sunlight.
- Use Strahd smartly, kiting the party whenever possible. Move in, hurt them, bounce out. The lair ability of moving through walls and the legendary ability to move without opportunity attack is a GODSENT! Play the long game, drain the PCs of their spells, and abilities.
- Don't puss out, if people die, let them. If they win, let them. But don't take it easy on them. Let them stumble out of Ravenloft looking like Rocky I-VI: bloody, battered, bruised, and in a lot of pain.
- There is a lot to do. This is a tough one. Do not overwhelm your party with choices, especially at the start. Have them discover about one area/situation at a time then go on an on. Otherwise they may very well suffer from choice paralysis.
- A lot happens, often at the same time. This one is to help prevent the above and force the PCs to prioritize. Every few days, one of the NPC does something that may require the PCs to act. For example, at one point, Ismark left Vallaki for Barovia to check things out. At another, the PCs noticed women being herded into the black carriage.

Part 2

Friday, May 29, 2020

Eiryss II: Angel of Retribution

I may not play Warmachine anymore: no time, no players, but I still really enjoy the look of their minis. I will be re-using a bunch of them for upcoming FOE projects. This is not really one of them. I just like the character.

I pretty much painted her the same as my other two versions of her.

Now I do not like this sculpt very much. I am not really a fan of scenic bases and this one you have no choice but to use.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Introducing the Iconics: Rebel Greeks

This group of characters is composed of a rag-tag band of PCs best suited who would get together for mischief. Their backgrounds lend themselves to being outlaws, outcasts and rebels. The image of a Greek version of an "Ocean's Eleven" comes to mind.

Aktea

Female Olympian (Daughter of Apollo) Warlock of the ArchFey, Apothecary
You were born to a town physician : your mother made potions and spells to heal the sick and treat the sick and wounded . When you were of age, she brought you to meet your father Apollo at a party of the nymphs and the satyrs. They accepted you as a friend and taught you secret powers.

Kalliope

Female Amazon Cleric of Hera, Exile
Born to a princess in the lands of the Amazons, you were forced into exile because Hera herself gave you her cloak and sent you as her emissary. You grew up seeking to prove yourself worthy of that burden. Today you present yourself as a champion of Hera rather than a priestess.

Kleothera

Female Olympian (Favored of Artemis) Druid of the Order of the Moon, Scavenger
Born in poverty, you left your home for the road. One day, you killed a poacher before he shot a pregnant doe, this got the attention of Artemis who has since guided you.

Kritias

Male Olympian (Son of Ares) Paladin, Exile
When your mother, a princess, became pregnant with Ares’s child, she was sent away in exile. You grew up, dreaming of proving your family wrong for how they treated her . You spent your youth training, dreaming of becoming a legend.

Lysandra

Female Medusan Bard of Glamour, Subversive
You learned at a young age that people feared your ability to turn other in to stone, so you learned to keep to yourself. You joined a secret society called the Sons of the Gorgon, together you seek to establish – or takeover - a kingdom that will be ruled by medusans.

Thalassios

Male Olympian (Son of Poseidon) Fighter (champion), Pirate
Born to a disgraced princess abandoned at sea by your grandfather, you joined a pirate crew and took out your anger upon your prey. However, an oracle warned you that your crew would turn on you. You barely escaped with your life and the help of your father. After the destruction of your ship, you are re-thinking your place in the world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Princesses join the FOE line-up

With the recent release of Princesses on the DM's Guild, I had to create characters to showcase the variety and possibilities of the book. Best way to do that? Create a party of princesses!

I know it sounds strange to me.

So my quest started with the right miniatures. Where to look? My box of random Reaper Bones, broken Heroclix, and some limited edition miniatures Privateer Press characters.

As always... I will start with a group picture. Can you guess who's who and what their classes are? (Hint: they are all 3rd level and single-class).

Sunday, May 24, 2020

First Ones Entertainment Patreon

If you are interested in seeing more about the upcoming projects at FOE, check out our Patreon page. We publish early versions of material for all of our settings, art, races, and adventures.

Help us by joining our Patreon.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Barovia: Strahd von Zarovich

Strahd and hordes of the dead.

With my Curse of Strahd campaign coming to an end, I wanted to paint a miniature I could use for the big guy himself. Something I can use for the final fight which will start tomorrow

The Strahd model is from one of the Reaper sets and it really pleased me to find I already had him in my stash of minis.

I posed him here with the other Barovian undead I just painted. I think they look great together and form a unified unit.

Now let the bleeding of the adventurers... BEGIN.

Roll for initiative.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

[Kinda Book Report] The Eternals 1985 Issues 1-12

With out recent move, I went through many old boxes and (re) discovered a number of gems that stayed hidden in boxes "somewhere". One such thing was the complete series of the Eternals 1985.

This very much feels like comics I read as kid because... It was published at that time!

This series I bought at Moonlite in Frankfort, KY. (Shout-out to Jay and the Frankfort gang!) I loved that he would have short sales of comics whole-series and collections at a decent price. I am not exactly sure why I bought this one to be honest. I guess because I simply knew nothing about these guys and a full series is a win! I remember buying stickers for a superhero sticker album that featured these guys. I had no idea who they were but the "main" character of Ikaris (who is on the cover of Issue #1) stuck in my mind.

The story is one that is mostly isolated from the rest of the Marvel Universe. Even if there are a few cameos (because that's what they are) from the Avengers and West Coast Avengers, each in a different issue.

So... Who are the Eternals? In the distant past, humanity was split into three branches: the immortal and super-powered Eternals, mankind, and the Deviants who are mutant monsters. The Eternals inspired the Greek gods with characters names Ikaris -> Icarus, Thena -> Athena, and Sersi the enchantress (yes, THE Circe).

Now, the story in interesting with the Deviants being treacherous and sneaky taking on the Eternals. Other the Warlord Kro (one deviant leader) and high priest Ghaur (the other), the deviants are very cookie-cutter, there to get blasted by the hundred. As a group, they have little impetous. The only time they do something is at the behest of someone else: whether a priest, Kro, or an Eternal.

Even the Eternals are bland. Ikaris does have some personality and backstory but he just acts and does his thing without thinking about anyone else. Their powers are rather bland and unclear. In all, this felt like a bunch of NPCs doing something and me caring because I'm told I should care. For immortals, the Eternals don't do much more than lounge around. They have no real goals, no plans. Heck Ikaris is a pro-wrestler at the start of the story.

The one character that is interesting, is Warlord Kro. He is clever and devious. However, he is never allowed to shine truly. It's like there is such a big group of under-developed characters trying to not over-step each other and not outshine anyone. They are just... There.

So, in essence, we get a bad Superman story with plot holes and characters that don't matter: they didn't matter to the Marvel Universe before. And they don't matter after.

The art is fine and very much has that classic Jack Kirby look and feel. It's not as good as many of today's work but efficient to the story. For the first half, the story seems to go nowhere and the last half somebody seems to have gone "Crap! We need to finish this!" And the plot hurries along. It is not until issue #9 that what is going on really begins to take shape and not just have characters jumping back and forth.

So much so that by the end, I wanted to see the West Coast Avengers do something... Not the Eternals...

For a rating, I would go to a 2.25, which by my rules round down to a 2, which seems a little low but I can live with it.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

[Kinda Book Review] Le Troisieme Testament Julius - I

When I was in Paris, I purchased a book (bande dessinée) called "Le Troisieme Testament". It started with the inquisitorial tribunal against the Count of Sma&itrema;n by Conrad de Marbourgh. The drawing quality was great and plot drew you in with a series of questions. Mixing supernatural, religious, and historical elements into complex tale. I waited impatiently for the final parts to come out.

The ending delivered. The world was saved.

When I learned there was a new series related to the original, it immediately went into by cart and the book was purchased with Amazon Prime speed. And the wait began.

So this story takes place in the days of Roman Empire, in the dying days of Emperor Nero, around 66-68 AD. We are introduced to a general called Julius who represents the best and worse of Rome. He is ruthless, commanding, determined, and ambitious. He has a plan to advance himself by removing the emperor. One of the many plots against Nero that existed at the time.

After wondering for a moment where the story led, I will say it immediately took me back. The story does serve as a prequel to the later (historically) series. Leading me to believe that the stories should be enjoyed in publication order.

The art in this book is JUST AWESOME. The lines are crisp and clear, with superb panoramic shots of Rome, Egypt, and Judea. The action scenes feel super fast and detailed and engaging.

To say everything is action would be a clear lie. There are quite a few scenes where the story slows down as the characters trade meaningful glances or something supernatural happens behind the scene - maybe.

This is a book you want to look at the images slowly but can't. You spend your time going all around the page looking at the characters and what they do. Compelling storytelling at its finest.

So for a rating. Easy: 5/5! It was perhaps the easiest rating I ever had to give when rating books for this series. My only sad point was that I had to wait to get part 2... There are few things to which I say "Shut up and take my money" and this is one of those few. I will go and re-read the first series.

So.

Long.

To.

Wait.

Monday, May 4, 2020

[Kinda Book Review] Harley Quinn Vol 1: Die Laughing

I like Harley Quinn. I was intrigued by her when she first appeared in the Batman Animated Series. She made me both laugh and facepalm at once. This is another trade I got for 5$ at a sale from a local comic shop, this one for Jojo who also likes her antics.

The cover promised all kinds of mayhem and craziness. I was WAY more interested in this one than in Flash: Blitz.

Pfff... This book is a teenager boy's dream like watching the "Side-Boob Hour". The art is just an excuse to put Harley (often with Poison Ivy) in semi-porn positions for no reason. Showers, baths, massages, nighties, pantie-shots, and the girl-on-girl not-so-innuendos throughout. Now let me be clear: I ENJOY WATCHING HOT WOMEN. It is pleasing to my eye. I make no apologies for that.

BUT (only 1 T)

Now that I'm not longer 14 years old, I want the story to mean something, to add a purpose. Here it does not.

The plot is meaningless and Harley rarely has anything to do with it.

So in the first arc, an alien comes to Earth, sees a cow, shape shifts into one then get turned into hot dog meat all sent ONLY to Coney Island. Those who eat him turn to zombies. Okay. Stupid but I'm still on board. It's full-on apocalypse. Harley falls into the mob and kills and escapes it for what seems like forever as the scenes keep moving her from one scene to another. Again. The situation is resolved without any of the characters doing anything: more aliens show up and summon their friend's body back. Apocalypse over.

Then for some reason, she decides to go to India to stop call centers. She gets on a commercial plane and goes there. What follows is a 5 year old idea of stopping a call center: go see the Russian boss and kill him.

Harley Quinn. On a commercial plane.

She in NOT a good guy. She's a villain. She's the Joker's Girlfriend. She is NUTS.

The storytelling is JUST ATROCIOUS. The plot makes no sense. No one ever dares to say anything to her, they just roll with it. Sure! It's fine. You just killed people? Okay.

Oh and India Security has this bad-ass-looking robot. She whacks it (quickly but I will let it go) and out comes... A boy of about 5! WTF?

At some point she trashes the Penguin's lair IN FRONT OF HIM. And what does the Penguin do?

Nothing. He asks her if she is fine now.

NOTHING.

Next panel she is walking the street with her cop buddy.

Atrocious. Atrocious.

I will avoid any product by the horrendous team of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. These people have no idea how to tell a story.

So to rate this... The art is of good-to-high quality, the one redeeming quality of this book. However even that cannot overcome the garbage that it wraps around. You can wrap a turd in bacon, put batter around it and deep-fry it. But it's still a turd. Rating the art alone, I would give this a 4/5. But the story made me angry I spent money on this and that the paper was glossy so it could not be used as emergency toilet paper.

Yup 1/5. The lowest score I can give.

Rubbish.

Garbage.

Now I remember why I don't like modern comics. Thanks DC.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Princesses Released on the DM's Guild

A while ago, my friend Ibsen approached me asking for feedback on a game he was thinking of running. The idea? Every player took on the role of a Princess inspired by the Disney princesses. He had entries written.

I gave him some feedback to make them more balanced and tightened the rules on some. After a round or two of back and forth, I presented him with the idea of publishing a book. His ideas were solid and a few half-formed images formed in my own mind.

Long story short, we went back and forth on each of them discussing their racial features, which of the princesses we wanted to include in the book, which to leave for a second book, how to balance them with each other, in short, we went through everything about them.

Another big topic: Disney version or Original version...

Yeah.

In the end, we went with a "middle of the road" approach that takes from both sides, using whatever feature would make the princess at once unique, interesting, and able to represent either version (or close enough).

What we came up with is a book much bigger than I initially thought: 25 pages (20 pages of new, unique content).
- 8 new races including Cinderella, Rapunzel and Snow White.
- 6 new monsters like the Big Bad Wolf, the Dragon Witch, and the Wicked Witch.
- New and unique art for each race by Ibsen and Blehc.
- New character background and magic items.

Ibsen being an amazing artist, he started on the art and I focused on the writing, expanding, and completing the early drafts.

It is with great joy that I can finally announce the release of Princesses on the DM's Guild. Check it out let us know what you think! .

Friday, May 1, 2020

[Kinda Book Review] The Flash: Blitz

I never have been a fan of the Flash. Of any speedster character to be honest. Their powers just don't click. They should be way more powerful but they always come up being effectively the same and they bore me.

I bought this book at the same time as Universe X for ActionMan as a Christmas gift. Unlike me, he seems to enjoy speedsters - and the Flash in particular.

This book starts with a BANG with a massive breakout at the local prison and a bunch of villain getting out. The art is engaging and really made me go "Oh crap, this CANNOT be good," which surprised me in a very positive way. I kept on reading and reading.

I won't spoil the story but it had something I found rarely in recent trade comics like this... "But hey JP, you don't read many of them" and you'd be right. I do not read many of them because of it. So... The story presents us with a new situation for the Flash. His wife is pregnant, his friend gets hurt badly in the breakout. Wally West (WW/current Flash) tries to live up to his predecessor Barry Allen. He is convinced he does the right thing all the time. A little one-dimensional.

But as the story evolve, WW is confronted with these convictions and has to face the choices he made. You get where I am going with this. He gets placed in a similar situation where he can make the same choice as Barry Allen or something else. By then I was really torn on what I wanted him to do.

The art is top-notch with perhaps a little too many full pages depicting just one character. It speaks for itself not requiring tons of writing to explain what is happening, it is clear and obvious. I really like that.

Oh! Completely random gem... This one really endeared me to it. This is a gathering of monthly issues. At the start of everyone of them is a single bubble that very succinctly explains the Flash: his powers and background. That. That is good comic writing IMO. As a new reader coming in at a random issue, I want to get the quick low-down of who this character is.

In all, I came into this one expected NOT to like it but found it impossible to put down. So for a rating... The issues I have with it is fairly minor: too many full-pages. The characters have depth. The one-dimensional-ity of WW does not remain throughout the story and we see him vulnerable and defeated a few times. Dude loses a lot of blood!

I avoid giving a 5/5 but I cannot find faults that would drop this rating below a 4.5, which rounds out to 5 anyway. Great work on this one, DC!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

My Little Pony by Impact Miniatures

These ponies from Impact miniatures I painted years ago (2015). They are the pirate, the druid, and the witch. They stayed in my "to post" folder for five years! Now they come to light. I think many of them have been damage from a drop in the years since.





Monday, April 27, 2020

[Kinda Book Review] Marvel's Universe X Part 1

It has been a while since I read a modern comic. Most of them I find lacking in any kind of story. So when I went to a local comic book shop on one of their big sale day. We picked up a couple of modern trade books really cheap.

I let the book lie on my shelf for a few months (I received it for Christmas!) before I came back to it. I was reading a different book at the time and wanted to read a comic to change the pace.

This book took me by surprise in that it merges all of Marvel's universes into one and presented a coherent and engaging story. With humanity mutated and the world shifted, the many threads flow together into a story that drew me in, despite myself. I wanted to hate it, but could not. Although for a while, the story seemed to simply not go anywhere and meander, the link were tied up together neatly into an interesting reveal.

It was interesting to see some characters re-imagined: Captain Britain as King Britain, Colossus as the leader of Russia, Peter Parker as an older cop was interesting, and it was cool to see Gargoyle and a blinded Watcher.

Lady Thor was an eye-roll because that's just a stupid idea and the girl-Spider-man I didn't care for.

The art is top-notch, even for something that goes across a few artists. There were no awful artists. Some parts are quite wordy but it did not detract from my reading experience.

As a final rating... I would give it a 3.5/5 which rounds out to a 4/5. Seems a little high but I can live with that number. I liked it enough that I put volume 2 on my Xmas list for 2020.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Roarrrr! Lions!

A few years back, I painted these Reaper lions. Great miniatures. Highly versatile and well-sculpted.

Years ago, I created a small miniature games called Moritari Te Salutamus, which is still available on DriveThruRpg as a Pay-What-You-Want product. I have been meaning to revive and add an expansion for it. Those lions would be ideal for this.

This could be a fun game to play as a family, and add the rules for Christians I had on the back burner for over seven years.