Monday, May 4, 2015

The stories that never were....

The NeoExodus Legacies campaign had a number of storylines going. Obviously, these will not reach their climax, some may be transformed and reintroduced into SPX. Most I will simply abandon. Most are just a directing line without clear destination.

That was on purpose. I don't want to predetermine the storyline too far in advance, just have a rough idea of where I am going and take it from there. Work with the best, most current idea until an adventure is ready to roll out to the players, and extend the storyline itself.

When I started this campaign, I promised the players that *THEY* would determine the direction of the campaign. Therefore, I chose to avoid determining a path or a firm destination. Instead, I thought and designed a few high points along the journey.

Battle Of Gytha

The Battle of Gytha where the players unexpectedly won at Zcerkov's Farm had me spinning my wheels to find a way for Cazimir and Ulf to strike back and put the Protectorate on the defensive. The loss of Spluburg was a big blow. I hadn't yet come up with a replacement character or idea.

My next step, at Origins was to have the PCs explore and old (First One-era) cavern under the swamp trying to look for an item of the ancient Sametian and simply deny the enemy access to it. This cavern had some cool tidbits about the creation of the Kaga (or the attempts made that led to).

The next adventures would have featured a more war-like setting (what follows are a series of encounters/ partial plots). In the planned Gencon special, the PCs were going against the Sahuagin under the waves.

They would head into the ironforged graveyard to stop a mad machinesmith turning the rusting creatures into junk golems. The PCs contact the druids of the compact to turn them against the Horde. Those are just a few of the basic ideas.

The Crusade

The Crusade arc was turning into a power struggle for the control of the Caneus Empire between the Empress and the Cavian Hive mind. Whereas the two had worked together before, they now fought for supremacy. Cavian interests used (and abused) the weak-minded Janus Horde to do much of its dirty work.

This storyline featured our two Crusaders and favorite knights: Lady Maud and Lady Sofie, two characters who have grown and changed since their first appearance at the Genghis Con 2012 special "Opening Moves".

This storyline had a lot of psionic-based themes and unlike the Gytha/Sametia storyline, I saw as a number of vaguely linked adventures until it reached its climax. Some adventures that I linked to this was James M's excellent Need of the Many.

This climax would've featured a chase through many planes with the PCs trying to stop or aid the Hive Mind achieve its goals.


In something of a twist Brutchek was going to go around stealing a number of items before trying to take on Arem'Shehr in a revenge bid for what the Khaynite did to him in the prologue to Flames of Yesterday and leading into Dousing fire with blood.

I envisioned a scene with both he and Preest together asking the PCs to take on Arem'Shehr. A top criminal and the top agent of the Imperial Alliance was such a fun scene to imagine. They would argue and present their case to the PCs about how to proceed.

Lost Child of Hasani

The lost child, presented in Sugar and spice, a tale of a lost little girl all alone in the world. This story featured gevets in the Dominion, and a fair amount of demons involved in an unclear conspiracy. These demons appeared as "random" encounters in other adventures set in or around Hasani. This story was one that was very slow-growing, almost foreshadowing.

As Sugar and Spice is an adventure I love to run, I fully plan to re-release as part of SPX. The core of it is very interesting and people have described themselves as "slimy" after playing the adventure.

Flattery? You bet!

The Tsarina's pregnancy

I made no secret that I did not know anything about the child: boy or girl. Its name would be Vladimir or Vladimira (IIRC). Since the child was born out of wedlock, I planed to put out a major challenge by some of the princes NOT to recognize the child as Tsarevich/Tsarevna (Crown-Prince/ss) and have the Tsarina turn into something of a Red Queen: one who eliminates all her opponents in a Vlad Drakul type repression. Which in turn, creates more resistance.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

JP's Moving Sale

With the move from Kentucky to Nashville imminent, I have decided to sell a number of books I haven't used in a long time. Hence: spring cleaning!

I will be selling those to locals (KY or TN) first before putting the rest on Ebay. I am accepting any offers. These will be sold in lot, not individual books. They are not new, but in good shape (no torn covers and the like)

If you are interested, just let me know:

Lot 1: Low-level Pathfinder Adventures

   -  Second Darkness Map Folio (shrinkwrapped)
   -  Faiths and Purity
   -  Adventurer's Armory
   -  Pathfinder Society Field Guide
   -  We Be Goblins
   -  Dawn of the Scarlet Sun
   -  We be Goblins Too
   -  Master of the Fallen Fortress
   -  From Shore to Sea
   -  Carrion Hill
   -  Hall of Bones (Frog God Games)
   -  The Godsmouth Heresy

Lot 2: Complete Second Darkness AP

   -  Curse of the Crimson Throne Map Folio (shrinkwrapped)
   -  Second Darkness Map Folio (shrinkwrapped)
   -  WayFinder magazine #9: The Darklands
   -  Second Darkness Player companion
   -  Complete Second Darkness (#1-6)
   -  DCC #71 The 13th Skull

Lot 3: Higher-level Pathfinder Adventures

   -  Curse of the Crimson Throne Map Folio (shrinkwrapped)
   -  Second Darkness #1 Shadow In the sky (great for Riddleport)
   -  Pathfinder Society Field Guide
   -  Cult of the Ebon Destroyer
   -  Tomb of the Iron Medusa
   -  Song of Storms (Monkey God Enterprises)
   -  Blood of Dragonscar
   -  Pact Stone Pyramid
   -  Vault of Souls

Lot 4: 4e Core stuff, signed

   -  4e Player's Handbook (Signed by designers)
   -  4e Dungeon Master's Guide (Signed by designers)
   -  4e Monster Manual (Signed by designers)

Lot 5: Pathfinder Core Books

   -  GameMastery Guide
   -  Bestiary 2
   -  Ultimate Magic
   -  Advanced Player's Guide
   -  Inner Sea World Guide

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Going out in style! NeoExodus product fire sale!

In order that more people can see how awesome Legacies was in NeoExodus, I made ALL of the NeoExodus Legacies material and adventures on RPGNow "Pay what you want".

I had originally planned a 41% off sale (as May is by birth month and I'm turning... 41) but this is fitting. So enjoy

This price will remain until June 29th (when they no longer be available). Although not for myself, I would ask that you think of the other authors (John, Linda, and James) when you get your goodies. These guys worked very hard on their adventures.

To prove I'm not blowing smoke... Check out this Link to the goodies!


Friday, May 1, 2015

Legacies: What now

After yesterday's announcement, there seems to be a fair amount of confusion regarding the future of the Legacies Campaign. The first thing is that its official name has been changed to "Legacies Organized Play By First Ones Entertainment" instead of "NeoExodus Legacies".

The campaign itself is not dead, stopped, or ending. In fact, Steven-M will be running a table of it at CanGames in Ottawa tomorrow (Saturday morning). And I am still running the adventures I committed to run at Origins. Gencon will not see any Legacies events set in NeoExodus: all the adventures there will be set in Secret Project X.

However, no *NEW* material set in NeoExodus will come out. The plots will simply stop. I know many were getting to be pretty cool:

What does this mean for *MY* character?

All current characters, LRs, special certs, that were issued by the campaign remain legal and valid. I will be posting a few extra goodies detailing the in-game reason. The seeds of this were already planted in the campaign (usually to expletives of "OH NO! That's what she's doing! The B***H!"). It would have been awesome to be able to have the storyline run so completely differently on two sides - and have you the players be... ON BOTH SIDES! I was getting really excited for the Yr 5...

In short: you will continue to be able to play your character in the campaign.

When will the new rules be available?

"Soon" until then, use the same campaign guideline published by LPJ Design. The new one will introduce new concepts, but still be pretty similar: what we had before was good.

Will any of the NPCs continue on through the campaign?

Yes. Some of them will re-appear. I won't say which ones just yet, but there have always been plans for this.

What about those adventures I purchased?

Those adventures are still yours to keep (obviously). If you wish to run them to your friends, albeit using the new guide, the Legacies campaign will still recognize these adventures and your play experience. We will no longer be able to provide you with anything that has a NeoExodus or LPJ Design Logo

What other changes do you foresee?

Well... Not much to be honest. I plan to revamp the LRs to simplify them some.

Factions: I plan to lower their number from 6 down to 4 or 5. Right now I have 4 baked into the new iconics. These factions are much "darker" than the greyness of the NeoExodus ones. I will be posting about them shortly.

What about the current storylines? What did you see happening?

They are stopped and won't have any new elements to them.

I will post something of a "this is where this thread was going" post next week. To be honest: I started doing so here and the

I want to be involved!

Great! I want you involved. I need people to do little of everything: editing, writers, GMs, play-testers... I need help to get all of this done. Just get in touch with me. We've got a great big world ahead of us... And this is where we take those first steps into it together.

It is an exciting time. I'm excited about it.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

NeoExodus off into the sunset

At 8:30 this morning I spoke with LPJ and after a frank conversation, he notified me that my license for all NeoExodus Legacies products was to be terminated effective on June 30th 2015.

While I am extremely saddened by this, I can't say it was much of a surprise. The two of us have been drifting apart, on a professional level. He's been off working on other projects as I moved Legacies forward. Then he returned to redo NeoExodus without any input or insight from me or the campaign. What I needed from an organized play campaign's perspective and what he wanted to produce as a publisher matched less and less.

Things had to come to a head.

So we had a frank discussion in which he decided to remove the NeoExodus license from FOE. It is his right to revoke, and this means that I have to remove all of his IP from FOE products before June 30th. This of course means that no further NeoExodus adventures will be written. The storylines

I guess sales haven't been what we both wanted them to be, but they were enough to keep me interested in putting out more material. But from a business perspective, he did not see it that way. I maintain that it is one thing to sell products, it is another to create fans. One requires a good salesman (which LPJ is a great one) while the other requires community engagement (which is more my thing). I thought we did a good team while it lasted, but it had to end.

A year ago, this would've meant the end of FOE, however, with the work being done on Secret Project X, the "replacement" will be in place by then. I planned to unveil everything for Gencon, but that will move up to Origins.

The very important adventure I had planned for Origins, "The Bastard of Mureath" will no longer be set in NeoExodus. I will bring other adventures with me for people to play.

Of the four years of NeoExodus Legacies, I leave with a very positive track record.

   -  Twenty eight written and ran adventures
   -  Three additional adventures (1 playtested and 2 in "advanced drafts")
   -  Many tables, conventions, friends

What of the campaign, you ask? Part of SPX was to have a campaign that could include and span multiple worlds, which was to include a storyline in NeoExodus, one in SPX, and I was in talks with others to have them write their world into the campaign. The story line of NeoExodus ends as of this moment.

I will update the Campaign tool kit to remove all of the NeoExodus products. However, just because FOE will no longer be allowed to distribute them, the campaign will keep recognizing these adventures, whether they were initially published by FOE, LPJ Design, or others. So if you purchased an adventure, feel free to enjoy them.

So it is with a sad heart, that I bid LPJ good luck on his future ventures.

I realize some of you may not be overly happy about this and the internet's natural reaction is to flame the world. I will ask you NOT to flame LPJ. Although he and I are no longer in business together, I still consider him a friend and plan to work with him in the future.

I plan on making a huge sale of all the NeoExodus stuff so we can start afresh with SPX. Which also coincides with my birthday! Woohoo!


PS: Again, Louis is a dear friend, and one I value very much. This business decision sucks, but that diminishes neither the respect or the personal esteem I have for him, so PLEASE do not flame him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ablaze went the swamp AAR

Players are a surprising bunch! One of the reasons I love to GM Legacies adventures is the fact that players are given the choice to influence the storyline. To allow them to do so, the campaign material is open-ended, and although I sometimes guess where the PCs choices will go, I usually end up surprised.

Ablaze went the Swamp, the first interactive battle of the Battle For Gytha series kicked off a little late on Saturday night. I will admit to have stacked the deck against the players.

A lot.

Before I give you some of the stats, allow me to talk to you about the format. The game could accommodate up to twelve players (I only had six, which I believed turned out in the players' favor). This was a battle interactive-style, so it was not so much a political or social scenario as a battle, or in this case: two battles! Almost everything was designed not around CR, but based on PC levels and numbers.

For example, the first battle had 1 hordesman per PC, 1 wolf per PC lvl 3-4, 1 dire wolf per level 5-6, and 1 bulette per level 7+. These would "appear" at the same time, but they would not all reach the PCs together... Yes, it was brutal.

The adventure opens on the PCs escorting a number of wagons (the number of wagons was 2 per 3 PCs). Unsurprisingly, the Janus Horde showed up and attacked the PCs. My secret target: destroy the wagons. I will admit that I came REALLY close to destroy all four of their wagons. I destroyed three and the final one was damaged some. I used a simple dice system to determine where the archers fired and if their arrows damaged the wagon/content with their flaming arrows. It allowed me to do this quickly on my turn without using a pre-determined outcome.

New players often react negatively to the Protectorate's brutal and genocidal approach to conquering the Janus Horde. However, after one or two skirmish with the Horde they quickly understand why they do so and in turn perpetuate the brutality. This was no different.

Next, the PCs reached their intended destination: an outpost on the edge of the Merzkyi Bog. A little bit of social interaction and the PCs were sent to reinforce a minor garrison to the north. Bring the troops a few supplies.

However, the small outpost of Zcerkov's Farm was under attack by a large force of creatures. There were a number of elements on the board the PCs could see: large wereboars with cannons on their backs in a village, an enormous dual-axe wielding wereboar, and a family of ogres. They had

Here the PCs' Notice scores (remember the Notice/Damage from this post?) came into play. Thanks to Nate's excellent and off the chart score (24), I didn't have to worry about it. I had a few extra goodies: one group of lycanthropes, my ogre wereboar rangers, were natural lycanthropes instead of afflicted, and the first major NPCs (the General, the clerics, or the artillery) the PCs activated went for him as a priority target.

The PCs' highest Damage score, held by Randy's character (who was on his second adventure), controlled the speed at which I could activate my more mundane forces (I could bring 1 hordesman per PC or 1 wolf per PC, or any combination thereof). With a Damage score of four, it was rather slow.

My goal for the Horde victory was to delay the PCs. The PCs' victory conditions, which I did not tell them ahead of time are as follows:

  -  Defeat general Sublurg
  -  Keep the flag of the Protectorate flying
  -  Defeat the horde artillery
  -  Defeat three Clerics of the Dragon

The players really worked well together and in spite of taking the Horde's beatings from a variety of sources, they managed to return the flag of the Protectorate to its glory and defeat general Sublurg, a wereboar marsh giant.

The Janus Horde went down fighting, forcing the party to take a LOT of healing... The enuka wererats, the ogre wereboars, all of them did a fair amount of damage to the party. But they did not panic or did anything foolish and thus managed to live through the onslaught. Forcing the wereboar to move and prevent him from getting a full attack:
Melee +1 handaxe +18/+13 (1d8+12/×3) and +1 handaxe +18 (1d8+6/×3) and gore +13 (3d6+5) and that is without Power Attack!

The deck was clearly stacked against the PCs and they pulled one out of their rear end.

On the "new stuff list", I premiered something that I never offered before: tradable certs. A small, limited number of these certificates can be traded between players. While I do not want to open trading of everythingh, these items made some sense to allow them to be traded. So I decided they should be. They add some variety, I think.

To make those of you who missed it, here are some of the goodies to make you salivate... there was a unique title, one-time access to a cohort*, an illegal item giving the wearer access to combat feats 1/day*, a slaver's license with additional benefits/drawbacks*, and title of Hero with a set of courtier's outfit that provides additional benefits when worn*. Only one of the titles was not given as no one worked for the patron that offered it.

I have posted the epilogue to the battle as part of the campaign narratives (which are free if you purchase the yearly bundle! it includes something an NPC never does...)


PS: Thanks to Nate for the pictures!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Legacies to rock Lexicon

This weekend is Lexicon in Lexington KY. I will be there all day saturday to run some Legacies. The first two parts of the Battle for Gytha series: Plains of Sametia and Knee Deep.

But also Ablaze went the swamp, the first battle interactive of the series. I have most of my boxed text written down and have some of the unique certs to give out.

Having run the first two parts a number of times, I feel confident in their quality. They build up to where I want to go with it. The next part of the series will come as the Origins special.

Now for the BI to rock. I have my terrain AND my miniatures ready and packed. I will need to use my daughter as an extra pair of hands to carry my stuff (no, I am not opposed to the use of child labor, especially my children).

I know I'm late. But I should have most of it done and printed tonight when I get into Louisville. With hockey playoffs going on and my team (the Canadiens de Montréal) being in it, I find it hard to focus on anything.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

I love this campaign: Legacies, past and future

From the first table I ran at Enchanted Grounds in the early summer of 2011, I knew what was to become the Legacies campaign was going to be something special. Although for the first year of the Campaign, it was just an adhoc side-project. Something I did for fun, to keep me writing. Something to do with friends as a change of pace.

Here we are, almost four years later, well over twenty adventures and event written, hundreds of table run and now is time for me to evaluate the campaign. What it is doing right, where it can improve, what is my plan for the next years, you know the sort of things people wonder about every day!

The Good

When I started working on NeoExodus, one of the things I kept telling LPJ is that the setting, though great had no mythology. By mythology I did not mean that it lacked NPCs or deities or villains. All of that was in there. However, a campaign setting is just an empty set of stat blocks without experience. What it needed was its own series of people. Someone the PCs could grow to hate, but also to love and be passionate about.

Those who play more than the occasional event see the flow and pattern of the NPCs actions and reactions to events. These no longer come as surprises, and more than a few times players correctly guessed what their patrons was planning (of course I'd never admit who). The campaign now has a flow of its own. It has an identity of its own.

An area where I am quite happy is that the campaign has drawn a number of PFS VO. For many of them, Legacies is a opportunity to play the game they love. So they can burn and GM all the PFS they have to, then turn around and play some Legacies. In turn, I get to play PFS when I want, or when I have the girls with me. This collaborative effort has been very good for the campaign. I pimp their work out, they pimp my stuff out: quid-pro-quo!

The Improvable

The campaign remains small, but that's something I believe each game run changes that. I think this is really something that can be improve.

Quality is always something I seek to improve. This past year has seen some fairly creative writing in a number of our adventures. The addition of Minions to our arsenal this year has given us a lot of options to create new and different encounters.

The Plan

My plan, as it has been from the start is to play the pusher: although talking about and selling the high points is one thing, I feel it's like someone telling you about their character: after a minute, you just stop caring. However, when you PLAY... That is when you form an attachment. The experience of playing sells it (or not). By then, you have first-hand experience of the setting and can make an informed decision.

One of the things I really like to hear is why someone does not like the campaign, after having played a game or two. It has been very instrumental in improving the campaign. Not only does it forces me to re-evaluate what I am offering, but also whether what I am trying to put forward.

Some good friends have mentioned that they disliked the use of mob/minions. Another wanted the patrons to be carbon copies of what they were in early PFS (ergo the "only" focus of the campaign). Another player told be he did not like having to worry about where he was from (and I kept telling him that his character was not his country, but he ignored it).

This process of review and improve is something I hold dear and have been working on in my professional life and as a writer.

Next, I plan to attend as many local events as I can this year to present and introduce people to the campaign. More offerings means a healthier gaming community.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Secret Project X vs Planescape

Planescape, just saying the name brings to mind images of extraplanar shenanigans and adventurers from diverse races, such as modrons, tieflings and the like. The city of Sigil, located at the center of the D&D cosmology served as a rallying point for this disparate army of unique characters. Like many of the 2nd edition settings, it has a following that swears by it.

I will admit that it came out during my years of not playing D&D (1993-2003), so I did not really get into it. However, during LG, I got to use a fair amount of the material created for it, as source material for our extra-planar adventures. Of which, many of our later adventures had a fair amount. Our final interactive had a full section set in the town of Ribcage.

That said, I was a big fan of AD&D's "Tale from the outer planes" which featured mini-adventures on a series of planes. And the outer planes to me were always part of D&D's "game progression". Something along the lines of levels 1-6: local, 6-13: world wide, 13+: multi-planar. Still, I played a number of very fun adventures on other planes that they have a special place in my heart. From meeting gods, to defeating demon lords, to tricking the lords of Limbo..

Now whenever I talk to people, it is one that seems to ring a positive bell to the most people. I heard a lot of stories.

So it got me thinking, what makes it so attractive?

I first thought that the races could be the biggest draw. Although, at the time, many of these races had never been widely available as character races, I don't think that's it. After all, many told me about their dwarf or elf (this was 2e, no one ever played a human). So that could not have been major draw.

So I thought about the adventure possibilities where one week the GM could have you in the Abyss and the next you could be in Greyhawk. Now this one provided me with a strong option. Although, I could easily blame this on GM laziness: a good GM can make whatever setting he likes come to life, especially if he runs the adventure in a style that suits him (I consider myself a decent GM, but running a string of dungeoncrawls bores me to tears). Perhaps some GM at the time felt that Planescape allowed them to change the mold, to alter their offerings. After all, it was the time of the World Of Darkness and of greatly customizable characters... These "possibilities" could really have been GMs feeling they could do more than door-monster-loot adventures.

Then I got on a tangent of the above and began wondering if it was the versatility of the setting itself. Here the PCs could serve demon lords or devil princes, or angelic generals. Again, the tropes were shaken to the core, as service and political dealings became part of D&D. Now, the PCs could deal with the big guys from day 1.

I read a number of 2e-era plots for the setting. I have to say the adventures I read felt like their scope and feel felt much bigger and grander than other D&D products of the time. Dragonlance being the only setting with similar "rub shoulder with the big guys" however, DL was VERY heroic/ good-aligned focused whereas PS was less alignment-restricted.

So now that I am looking at Secret Project X (SPX) and ways that it inherits the best elements from other setting.

Races I think my mix of races is exciting and should create interesting conflicts and a unique mix of characters. Not just individuals, but a collectivity of them.

Adventure Possibilities From the start, I am willingly limiting myself to a small subset of locations in SPX with an eye to grow it in time. However, within this scope, I still have a large variety of adventures.

Versatility SPX's gimmick allows the PCs to travel through planes, conduct business and involve themselves in all sorts of ploys and return home without remembering about them. So again, a GM can set up a "guest-star adventure" that has nothing to do with the current plot, set in the setting of his choice. Imagine, a campaign in SPX, then an adventure on Golarion, then back home, then off to NeoExodus, etc. Wouldn't that be a great campaign? No need to worry about character background too much for certain plots and such...

Scope and Feel This is one thing that threw me a little. My natural tendency is to isolate the PCs from the big name NPCs. However, PS placed the PCs right in the middle of the fray. That's something I have to think about some more. I need to make it all come together so that a starter characters CAN naturally be involved with the big boys... This one threw me for a loop for the longest time as the answer I came up with I was not sure if players would be willing to go with that premise. I will have to think about it some more. Give me a few days to put this post together.

I think that SPX does take the best elements of Planescape, dare I say it fits the elements better in some ways... Still always good to compare one's ideas with the best.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Five songs of the First Ones

As I wrote "Service is Eternal", I drew inspirations from a number of sources. I listened to many records. A few songs were my "MVP" and provided me with a lot of insight. In addition to the more generic inspiration list I posted last week, this list is specific to the First Ones.

Genesis' The Knife, 1970. Perhaps the easiest song to put on this list. The Knife is a song about revolution and mayhem. The song's narrator places himself above all consequences as he orders the death of all his enemies, without mercy. The song is powerful and quite move. I especially find the ending ironic, as after his "victory" he again tells his follower that they are to become martyrs.

Rush' The Enemy Within, 1984. This song written as "Part 1 of the trilogy of Fear" (to which a 4th part was added in the early 2000s) deals with one's inner fears. Driven by Neal Peart's awesome lyrical ability, we end up on an internal trip of fear, these fears are in our minds, in the shadowy corners of our minds. It is where I find the First Ones to be most effective: when you guess their hidden hand, but do not see it.

I must admit that I considered Witch Hunt which is the 3rd part of this tetralogy whose theme deals much more with the group fear. Mob mentality and group panic, however, I went with the invisible, hidden hand instead. Both good choices.

Iron Maiden' Fear of the Dark, 1992. This song has been a favorite of mine since I "discovered" Iron Maiden back in college. Similar in theme to Rush's The Enemy Within, this one places us in alone, on a dark road. Having once been in such a place, I can definitely relate. How the minds forms all types of creatures and movement. When the simply rustle of leaves or running of a small rodent turns into... Fear of the Dark.

Sonata Arctica' Wolf and Raven, 2001. This song is definitely a strange one. Here, we find someone who hates but seeks acceptance of a superior. The "Master" is clearly uncaring and demanding, just like I imagine the First Ones to be. They don't care about you, don't worry about your feelings. They care that you obey. The narrator does horrendous things and worries about his soul, but the Master does not care.

Gowan' Criminal Mind, 1985. Every good list needs an odd-man. This is it. As a Canadian, I did see a lot of Gowan on TV in the 80s. It helped that a friend of mine was big into music and bands of all kind and he introduced me to a lot of stuff I had never heard before and still love today (Rush, Genesis, Yes, Queen, Heart). This song can be qualified of a prog-rock, but one that fits very much in the 80s. It features someone who is completely unapologetic, remorseless whose only crime was "getting caught". Put on display in a show-trial, and being completely without fear of the consequences. Whenever this songs come on, I keep thinking of Arem'shehr in chains and presented before an open court. The video has not aged particularly well, but as a child of the 80s, the music still strike a cord. I was really happy to hear that Gowan now plays the song with Styx. (Note to self, look for Styx tickets in Nashville).

Which song(s) make you think of the First Ones. And why?


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Secret Project X: Service is Eternal content

Earlier this week, I posted the teaser for the Secret Project X (SPX) product line... It is coming along quite nicely and have been heavily involved with my editors (shout-outs to Chad, Isabelle and Joshua) to tighten up wording, fixing typos, improving syntax and tightening everything with a neat bow. A lot of work to be done, and a big thanks to the team for making this a really nice product. Full of nastiness for a GM to spring upon their players.

"Why come up with a book of villains when the setting is not out yet?" I hear you asking, and rightfully so.

SPX came to life (among a number of of other things) in a collection of half-written books and ideas (remember, I keep telling you never to throw away any piece of written material? SPX cleared out a LOT of my files). As I presented the original, rough, uncleaned, draft to other writers, one of the questions they kept asking me was "Who are the First Ones?" and "How do the First Ones here differ from the ones in NeoExodus?" I felt I had to provide an answer to that question. I did not want them to be a carbon copy of those in NeoExodus, but neither did I want them to be completely different. I envisioned them as being complementary. I knew many of you already own a copy of the Enemies of NeoExodus: The First Ones, a book I really like (I liked writing it and I like using it on players) and just copying everything would be pointless. I wanted NEW material for the First Ones. I wanted them to remain scary and mysterious.

Service is Eternal answers that. It keeps the "what is really the truth" element of the NeoExodus book, but also expands into new SPX-specific territory by presenting them in a different light and situation than the one they "enjoy" in NeoExodus. Here we find them as the rulers and masters of the world...

As it stands right currently (should be a good approximation of the final product)

Warning!1 page
The Tyrants 2 pages
First Ones Concepts 3 pages
Religion 3 pages
Relations 4 pages
First Ones of SPX 8 pages
New Class options 1 pages
New Feats 5 pages
New Items 2 pages
New Prestige Classes 6 pages
New Spells 6 pages
New Monsters 4 pages
New Traps 2 pages
 52 pages

The Concept section is my way to get the GM's imagination going on how to incorporate the First Ones into their game. The First Ones should be scary, but they should not be bland or cookie-cutter. They are creatures of ambition and maddening drive, as such they work towards their goals with utter dedication. To accomplish this, they are willing and able to adapt. Does a First One appears friendly or threatening? Is he working for someone else? There are a number of concepts presented here.

One of the things that I was seriously worried about when writing this: I did not want to copy the text from the NeoExodus book. I wanted it to be all-new stuff. However, a few things did have to be copied from the original: only one race of First Ones made it into this book. Feats related to that race were also ported, but were re-evaluated, their wording cleaned up after four years of playing.

A few spells had to be drawn in: notably the minion mark spell. This spell, acts like an arcane mark but it affects a willing individual, allowing the mark to be read with a simple read magic spell. A few in-game questions were addressed here: what if I dispel the mark and get re-marked later... New spells were created to enhance this master-slave relation.

The Religion section departs massively from the First Ones' faith found in NeoExodus. Here, the First Ones worship not a god, but effectively themselves! There are three aspects of the faith, that evolves as a First One matures. I pondered about personifying them, but it made much more sense here to keep them as a concept rather than a deity.

The First Ones of SPX are every bit as dark, evil, conniving, scheming, deceitful, driven, obsessed, merciless, ruthless, and diabolical as they are in NeoExodus. Service is Eternal provides them with some new toys. It is a GREAT complement to the original, but can be used on its own as a complete supplement.

It should be out "soon". And remember:

Service is Eternal.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

[Secret Project X] Service is Eternal cover preview

So I've been teasing you all with talks of Secret Project X (SPX). I'm very happy to present to you a mock up of the cover of "Service is Eternal". This new cover marks a firm departure from our previous look which evolved over the last 2 years. I really like how it looks. It seems quite professional if I do say so myself.

The piece of art is a placeholder (until I actually pay for it) drawn by Irene, the artist that fires my imagination with her great art. She is also the one who drew SPX's con banner also.

*Nerd crush*

What do you think of this new look? Any thoughts? Advice? Before I wrap it all up.

What's inside, you ask!? You will have to wait for the next update of SPX!


Monday, April 6, 2015

[Rant]ish Should Gencon Break up?

I realize it is a Monday and that you are all excited but this has been on my mind all weekend.

I have been thinking about Gencon recently as a number of people have mentioned to me that they did not plan to attend because it became too big. Now being a first timer in 2013, Gencon was always "that big" to me.

Probing deeper into their motivations a few trends quickly became apparent.

First it had become so big that to merely go from one site to the other required some quick travel (I'm not talking about people located in the same room like 5e or PFS. Having tried to go from NeoExodus to Legends of the Five Rings on a last minute decision sucked. So I can see their point.

Next people don't have time to talk or meet as they fill their schedule with a large number of events. Well, dear attendee, *You* filled *your* schedule. No one forced you.

Another one was the hotel situation. It has gotten so bad with everything disappearing in under an hour. This year was even worse. With rooms going for the price of presidential suites. That is a big big minus. If the con is to grow it needs to have a way for people to attend.

But perhaps what made me think about this the most. "I can go to Gencon and play the same adventures OR I can attend four to five regional cons. Why would I go?"

Dear readers I could not find a flaw in that logic. It was flawless. True. I spent more for Gencon then I would've at five smaller local cons.

So I had to ask myself: Is Gencon too big? Should it break off into a few smaller pieces? Years ago they had a GenCon SoCal which folded after a few years. I'm not privy to the internal workings or the exact numbers as it folded the year I planned to attend. I wonder if it might be worth looking into a "second Gencon"? A eastern/central/western might be options. I may be partial but having something in Denver or Las Vegas or Salt Lake City might work too.

Then comes the 'when' question. Early November? March? I don't know. But I think either might work.

Perhaps making Gencon smaller by moving traffic to other venues might keep it fresh. Plus it would allow for more play opportunities overall. I started this post seriously trying to come up with a proposed solution, but I find myself in a situation where I'm not really sure about the choices one way or the other.

I don't think it can maintain the level of growth it has seen these past few years and I'd rather see it break up as it grows rather than as it shrinks.

I remain unconvinced on both sides of the equation...


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Farewell to a beloved character

It has been a long time since I posted - eighteen months or so since I posted a I retired a PFS character post. This time, I retired a character that really closes an era among my PFS characters.

Sahba, is the middle sister of the al-Zawree sisters, between Naadhira, the eldest and self-proclaimed prophetess of Rovagug; and Katharan, the youngest and a fire caster. The other 2 have played a lot at first. With their self-centered focused of the other two sisters, I wanted someone who was very different. So I came up with the following concept. This sister, unlike the other two who were very forceful, I wanted someone who was reserved, quiet, and somewhat beat down.

The idea for Sahba, came from, I believe, one of the movies on the Wifetime Movie Network my wife enjoys so much. The "third sister was really depressed and beat down by the other two. So when I built Sahba, the idea of a hero character who was constantly depressed called to me. So Sahba became a hero. Then I imagined the following story for her: she and her mother were sold to Taldane slavers and told her she had to serve the Taldane. So Sahba - who is not the brightest tool in the shed - ended up in the Taldane Slave-Legions.

Sahba is a "traditional" paladin (no special archetype) who went around with her head hanging low, insisting on taking all the risks herself.

So, as you head off to retirement, I bid thee farewell, Sahba. I expect that I will see you in the upcoming retirement story arc. Although I debated for the longest time about whether I should take her or Sir Alexite, I believe that she is both simpler and more useful than Alexite. Plus, I haven't played Alexite in 18 months! I keep hearing about this new arc but have yet to see anything coming out. It has already been years since we had a proper conclusion...

Having greatly enjoyed - and calling that storyline "The best of all PFS" - the original retirement/ seeker arc, I look forward to the next arc.

Farewell Sahba! It was fun!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Five inspirational songs for writing

The following list was compiled by looking at my playlist for songs I found put me in the mood for writing. Oddly enough many of these songs are not my favorites by these bands.

To make the list, a song had to be on my playlist for at least one year, had to be a song I look forward to, and it has to evoke something that sparks my imagination.

There are many great songs but I had to limit myself to five. Its a lot harder than it seems.

Genesis The cinema show It might be possible to read a lot into the sexual theme of this song as to the reason it is on this list. However the truth is that I find the instrumental piece in the middle just awesome. Phil Collins' drumming is spot on. And this awesome piece just keeps going on and on. The awesome doesn't end.

Lost Horizon Cry of a restless soul This song - just like Twisted Sisters' We're not gonna take it should never be listened to at work. Daniel Heyman's screaming is just great and delivers the song with drive. I find myself thinking of adventures and overcoming tyrants.

Marillion Grendel How can I pass by this 20+minutes epic. With Grendel, the monster of Nordic lore returning to Hroatgar' hall for its revenge. However the beast is back to avenge the slights mankind blamed on it. And let the blood flow.

Chris de Burgh Revolution/Light a fire/ Liberty There are few songs I know that can detail the revolutionary's plight than this one. This three part epic goes from the whispers to the shouts to the soothing words.

Iron Maiden Fear of the dark This is the song that really grabbed my attention. This paranoia story about things crawling in the dark always fascinated me. Back in College, I used to conclude my radio show with it.

Those were five songs that get my creative juices . What are your inspirational five?