JP On Gaming

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Writing Tricks: Writing Music

Every writer has his own tricks, his own way of getting the creative juices flowing. Surprise! I have mine too.

I have a number of songs I put on that put me in the mood for telling a story. It is not really something about the lyrics (what the song is about), the beat, or the artist, that get me going. I compiled a short list of five songs that whenever they come on, my fingers start flying on the keyboard and new material appear before me.

BandSongGenre
AvalonLand of New HopeProg Rock
The GatheringLiberty BellProg Rock
GenesisThe Cinema ShowProg Rock
Lost HorizonCry of a Restless SoulMetal
RushHemispheresHard Rock

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

[Patreon] New Art for Cynicea

With the Patreon up and running, I commissioned some new art. You can read everything about it on the Patreon post.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

FOE Patreon is live

The FOE Patreon is finally on-line! Before making the big announcement, I wanted to put up a few articles already so you would be able to see what you were subscribing to, not just a blank entry. I have a race write-up, and some additional background for Akhamet.

Coming in the next days: fiction, Herolab mapping, more background for the race, completing the background entry, and going from inspiration to design. All these topics will be covered, so it is more than "just" a 5e Patreon, it is something for all fans of RPGs.

Where is it? Simply click on the Patreon link!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

FOE Looking for GMs for Gencon 2019

It is once again time for Gencon planning. Yes, it is barely over that it again comes on the topic. This year, I have some very ambitious goals for FOE. I plan to have a massive showing. I would love to see if we could get three tables running at the same time! One of these slots will either be a cooperative or competitive event! Your group against another.

I am still considering the details of what we will run... Whether this be in Akhamet, Rhym, Saggakar or something else! A lot of time and work between now and then. I definitely plan to use the Patreon to provide insight into the writing process of these, but also offer additional perks and bonuses to players! Another perk of being a patron!

I have a few ideas yet to develop for what I want to do. Perhaps the return of Prince Diogenes, everyone's favorite foreign prince, and son of a god? A lot of people would really hate me for bringing this hero of a foreign land back... I would also like to work with my team of GMs in the creation of this special. Pick their brains.

I plan to run a program similar to the last two years: three slots of FOE games on Thursday and Friday, and a Sunday morning slot. This leaves me free on Saturday all day, and my GMs get two or three days off at Gencon!

Therefore, this year again, I am looking for one or two GMs who would be willing to GM for FOE for 1 or 2 days at Gencon. Last year, J-S and Isabelle did a stellar job, and received 3 days of available Genconing, a bunch of FOE products, and a set of hand-painted iconic characters for Akhamet. I offer similar perks for GMing one day for me (please I don't want to deal with half GMing here and there, dealing with the perks is a PITA)

So contact me with questions and your availability! This is your chance to run a great game AND decide what you will inflict on those poor Gencon-ians...

Thursday, January 3, 2019

[Rant] Wherein JP admits he's an a-hole

Last year, I began a collaboration with someone for a project. He is an artist whose works I've used before, and someone I like: he's a decent guy and a good artist. He has his art genre and is very good at it. He's an artist, I'm a writer...

The project was a D&D adventure that featured iconic monsters. Monsters I had not used up to now, and that I could not see myself using very much in the future. To add to that, I was in something of a funk at the time: I had many on-going projects but no direction, and no real inspiration to finish any of them.

The project seemed like a good idea: a few dungeons, a few traps, iconic monsters, and a good artist to help the illustration. He had an outline that was basic, but that could be expanded into something tangible. I found myself liking the idea and thinking this might pull me out of my funk.

"Bah! Might as well do it, could be fun," I thought to myself. So we talked some more, I expanded his outline, we signed some paperwork for compensation, and off I went. I blasted the first dungeon really fast, then completed the rest of the adventure ahead of time.

Finally, I got my first draft complete. It was not perfect, far from it, but all the ideas were there: basic formatting, with all the stat blocks. It needed work, that's why it is a first draft. It was filled with comments pointing out cool elements he might draw, stuff he might sell later as stock art. Remember when I said "iconic monsters"? Stock art, especially good stock art for iconic monsters is always in demand.

That's when I discovered my partner did not have access to MS-Word, that he wanted txt files. I was miffed because formatting is one of the things that takes longest to do, particularly stat blocks. I was greatly annoyed and broke one of my rules: never answer an IM while hot. Of course, the conversation got heated. For no reason really, I could have prevented this argument by following my own simple rule.

I did a few digs at Mac users... Which like every Mac users, he did not like... (yes that was another Mac dig there). I'm proud to say I own no Apple products!

Later, after much more work than I wanted to do, I put his comments and edits into the working document. First semi-editing run done. I tightened, cleaned up a few things, clarified a few things I thought felt wonky.

For the second draft, I went to a more universal format: PDF. During the clean-up, new mistakes crept in. Nothing bad, but they were there nonetheless. He became furious and I did not like his tone, and told him as much. Dumb-ass me. That's the second time I violated my rule.

This morning, when I got an email from him stating his grievances, I did not respond. I mean, I was working, but I could've taken a minute or two to tell him something along the line of "we'll talk tonight, I'm at work." But now I decided to follow the rule.

So he called off the project later in the afternoon. He stated his reasons for pulling out, and while I disagree with most of them, I can see how he would see things that way.

Yup, he had legitimate reasons for calling me an a-hole!

But in this whole thing, what did we learn?

- The rule about not replying when angry is there for a reason. For a good reason. So follow it, dummy!

- Email and IM are bad ways of communicating during disagreements. Conversations should happen face to face or at least with a camera (skype, hangout or even a Facebook conference). Such a call would've addressed his points and a lot would've been fixed.

- I come off as an a-hole on email and IM, even when I don't plan to. English speakers, when dealing with someone who is a native French-speaker and we use short sentences, it is not because we are angry or annoyed at you; it is because we want to make sure you cannot gather any secondary meaning to what we say. Language of diplomacy, see?

- I have an adventure in need of a final round of editing and art. I may offer it as a "Pay What You Want" on DM's Guild... I will pick it up later, just keep it on a back burner for now.

There you go, I was an a-hole.

Not really on purpose, but I was still an a-hole.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Yearly Retrospective 2018

Another one in the books, and what a year that was... Things changed, people grew, things stayed the same. 2018 was a year filled with ups and down, but overall a good one.

Family Life

Julie started volunteering at a local foodbank, and help the homeless. It gets her out of the house, which is good for her, since the kids are now old enough to stay at home by themselves (for short periods).

Jojo is still part of her school's swim team and she improved greatly from last year. She loves reading fantasy novels, especially Sarah Maas' "Kingdom of Ass" and "Hair on Fire". She goes with Julie to feed the homeless.

ActionMan did hockey during the winter and football in the fall. I think he enjoyed playing football more. The highlight of his career was to play quarterback (he is usually a lineman or an outside linebacker) and score an extra point from scrimmage.

Kitty once again was part of the city's cheer-leading corp, she cheered at ActionMan's football games. She is now part of the school band (playing flute) and is still a girl scout.

Personal Life

One of the big highlights for me this year was when I was able to reconnect with Francois-M, my best friend from the time I was ten through my teen years. Then in our early twenties, life took us on different paths, with me going out of town for College, and he stayed in Montreal. We talked a few times, and it felt like we spoke yesterday. It was such a monumental moment that it had to be mentioned here.

Professional Life

I spent most of the year working a Contractor with LKQ. That spell ended when I on-boarded and became a full-time employee. I really enjoyed this time as the team I am a part of is very dynamic and requires a lot of creativity to get things done. I am very thankful of the people at Apex Systems who found me the position. Thanks to you, Matt-V and Nick!

One of the oddest thing that happened during the year was that I returned to Eco-Energy for two nights to help them fix an issue. It was a little surreal to return to my old job, but in the end, I got them unstuck and ready to roll again. In other words, I once again worked myself out of a job! I entered talks about maybe returning, but decided not to. A decision I still stand by as I learned and did more things to further my career here at LKQ than I would have with Eco. Now, don't take this as nay-saying Eco, quite the opposite. The guy who "took my place" will have a lot of positive and very cool things to do. As for me, I learn more and do different things here, things I would never have done there.

As I said before, I became a full-time employee with LKQ. This came as something of a surprise, requiring a second, last-minute trip to Montreal to re-do my paperwork. This all worked out for the best as the family got to spend some more time with the family and I got to see my parents again. Then, we all went to the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Fun all around!

RPGs

One of the biggest thing I started doing this year was to play family D&D. I would drag the girls to the table and run games for them. Now neither Jojo nor Kitty will become big-time players. They enjoy playing once in a while, but on occasion. ActionMan on the other hand, is becoming a good, creative, and tough player who enjoys and understands the game. I have a gaming buddy!

I spent most of the year, playing D&D 5th Edition. This year, I made a concerted effort to GM more games. This meant to write and prepare games for non-Legacies and have fun with it. I really enjoyed the freedom to do whatever I want.

One game I played some, but definitely not enough, is Arcanis. I really love the campaign and its players, but do not have enough opportunities to play. They came out with their 5th edition rules, but that is, in a few words, not for me. Though I feel the wind is moving in that direction (not unexpectedly).

At a few online games and two cons: Weekend in Rokugan and Gencon, I got to play Heroes of Rokugan, using the classic AEG Legends of the Fives Rings 4th Edition. I'll keep on playing this game as long as they keep this game, but will drop off if they go to the FFG version.

After one particularly terrible game of online Pathfinder Society, I decided it would be better to simply stop playing. I haven't been enjoying myself too much, and my fellow players were just awful. I have no idea how these guys lived to 9th level... Rather than rail, I just decided to stop playing. Which, coincidentally, matched with the near-death of the local community. Sure, there are a few games, but the number of players has taken a deep dive. Pathfinder 2e has not helped.

For similar reasons, I stopped playing Starfinder. Though here, we had one good GM (Bill-A), and "the others" (who all sucked), mixed with constant tables of seven meant that I had better things to do. Here, I WANTED to play, but withdrew myself... A definite personal choice.

Publishing/ FOE

This has been a massive year for FOE, with a number of important mile stones achieved. I spent a lot of time focusing on the business side of thing, along with improving my writing.

Best Year in Sales Sales have increased by 20% over 2017, and 10% over our best year. This is very much thanks to all of you, and I am extremely grateful. DriveThruRPG, CreateSpace, and direct sales did a wonderful job for us and are our main source of revenue.

First full-color books This is one achievement I am extremely proud of was the release of our first full-color book: the Akhamet Campaign Setting, inspired by ancient Egypt.

Close Collaboration with Artists This year, FOE continued its long relation with Irene and Blehc, both of which have done awesome jobs of illustrating the many different ideas I've had over the year. I kept a relation with local artist Peter Saga, with whom we will publish an adventure for 13th level characters in 2019 called "Fortress Of Fire".

Akhamet Campaign Setting is our new setting set in a fantasy Ancient Egypt. It seems very simple at first glance, but then the complications begin: the dead rising, the first-ever chance of a succession crisis, and foreign invasions are all themes in this innovative setting. This was our yearly big sellers Akhamet Campaign Setting

Trips

This year, I make two non-gaming trips, one mixing business and pleasure, and the other one purely for business.

Montreal in May My contract at LKQ ended on May 31st. Lucky for me, it was renewed, but I needed to go back to Canada to renew all my paperwork. Since this coincided with the kids ending school, Julie and the kids spent a few weeks. However, their cousins are all still in school (Quebec schools finish around June 24th). I only spent a few days (someone has to pay the bills) before flying back to Nashville. It was great to see my parents, sister, and in laws.

Montreal in August When I got onboarded by LKQ, it meant another trip. This one was after the kids started school. Julie took the kids to Montreal for a week while I flew in. We drove down to New York, stopped at OCC and thne we went to the Statue of Liberty. I already been back in '93. Seeing the city again was fun, and still as impressive.

Wargaming

This year, I played a few games of Frostgrave, usually with Kitty who likes that game.

This year, I initiated ActionMan to not only a series of History-based podcasts, which are great to listen to while we go to and from a game (usual going TO, because he sleeps on the 'from' part of the trip). Thus he heard from the great of the late Roman Republic (Marius/Sulla, the Triumvirates), the Diodachy, the Wars of the Roses, the Three Kingdoms, the Tokugawa Shogunate, and more. With short 10-15 minute podcasts, these guys do a good job focusing on one topic. In a 2-hour trip, we get to listen to 7-10 of them, covering a wide variety of topics.

So, after a few times, I asked him if he wanted to play a miniature wargame that mimicked those battles, and he agreed. I post a Battle Report on his first game. It was great to share something like this with some kid who is pretty sharp and is going to be a tough cookie.

I also broke a years-long hiatus about playing Games Workshop games. I purchased a copy of Kill Team, a small-scale version of Warhammer 40k. ActionMan and I played a few quick games, with gangs of the Astra Militorum, the Genestealer Cult, and the Adeptus Astartes. Again, ActionMan enjoyed playing this one and we will be playing some more in 2019. Here are a few pictures of our game.

Blog

The biggest event of the year was the fact that after nearly 9 years of blogging, I reached a total of 1,500 posts.

For the first time in many years, my productivity here took a massive drop. This was a mix of fatigue, focus, and doing some gaming. Not just talk and whine about it, but play and GM. So refilling the batteries and posting the important highlights here really helps. I will finish the year with 93 posts, just short of 100. I expect next year will also be lower, as the Patreon may soak more of my time.

Books

Murasaki Shikibu - Tale of Genji I read about this book long before I got to pick it up. I had high expectations for this one. It is, after all, believed to be the first novel, written in the 11th century. Reading and playing a fair amount of Japanese material (remember... Legend of the Five Rings). After reading Lucia St.Clair Robson's The Tokkaido Road last year, I wanted to read more. Let me tell you: this book is just terrible. The plot is hard to follow and resembles a day time soap opera where Genji pursues a woman, who tells him no, then she says yes, then she is again unhappy. It is confusing and boring. At some point, his lover just falls off and dies. The following text made me wonder "Was she killed by a ninja?" No. That would have been exciting. After love, she falls down dead. I was so unhappy and hated reading this book so much, that it defeated my resolve not to abandon reading a book. But man... I thought of dropping it in the toilet, having fly away as I drove my car, forgetting it somewhere, all these schemes just so I could stop reading this book. In the end, I merely decided to give up and to leave this crap on my shelf, until I go to the 2nd hand book store to sell it for something good. Heck, a Harlequin love book would have more, and clearer action. If only there HAD been a ninja... But no...Thinking about it makes me yawn. B-O-R-I-N-G

Roger Lancelyn Green - Tales of Ancient Egypt This book of fictional tales apparently taken from the tombs of the Egyptians. Well, the stories are interesting as they present a number of historical characters and well-known gods. However, they fell unpolished, unfinished. I am certain my children will love to read this book as it has tales of the gods, tales of magic, and even of the kings and queens. Many of the stories feel like others we know today with an Egyptian flair. Not great literature, but fun nonetheless.

St Augustine - City of God (Book I-XIV) This massive treatise on God written following the sack of Rome by the Goths in 410 AD provides a great insight into early Christianity and its battle against polytheism. It is eerie to see how similar the attacks on Christianity level against it and its followers (among them, me) are basically the same today as they did in the fifth century. It provides a lot of insight into the conflict of polytheism and monotheism. I spent most of the year reading this book. Although I would not normally put it here, It is organized into a series of books, each dealing with a specific topic. This is not for casual readers. This is the most difficult book I ever read, but a read I thoroughly enjoy.

Marvel - Essential Rampaging Hulk #2 I have never been a fan of Hulk. It's a character that leaves me uninterested. He is too limited and the stories all end up the same: Banner tries to get rid of Hulk, but then turns into Hulk, smashes things and then goes away. When I bought this, was in a pile of other books, and I did not know about this particular series. Like all the essentials, they are black and white, but this art was clearly designed for color, and make many panels just unclear blobs of dark grey. The stories were very much like the TV series (of which I have good memories). Not really my thing, but the art was very good, when I could see what it was...

Marvel - Essential Thor #5 Another superhero I was not overly fond of as a child. This volume of Thor, unlike the #1 I read long ago, focused a lot more on Norse mythology and adventures in space than Thor fighting jewel thieves. I enjoyed this one a lot as it featured a lot of strange situation. Though how Thor solves things is rather repetitive. I say thee nay!

Marvel - Essential X-Factor #5 I've always been partial to X-Factor, at least its original line-up of the original X-men, and this here is the final issues of the series with them. It covers the X-tinction Agenda where the X-titles mingle into one big plot. At the time, I missed a few of the issues so I was not able to understand exactly everything that was happening, but with an omnibus like this getting the whole story in one go really helped. It was near the time when I stopped collecting and caring about comic books too. For most of this book, the X-Factor characters feel somewhat flat without much character development. Even the best parts and the big reveals aren't too exciting. The characters they are trying to push, don't hold up. I mean who cares about Forge? A few characters do stand out, but they are not X-Factor: Jubilee and Wolverine come to mind. In retrospect, I would still stop collecting comic after this... just too many characters to keep them engaged and providing a sustained, interesting contribution.

Sir John Glubb - Fate of Empires This essay deals with the stages of empires, over the last three millennia. He presents a lot of examples, from the Assyrians, to the Greek, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Mameluke, the Ottomans, and the British Empire. A lot of what is happening today out there are things that in the past have marked decadence of a civilization, such as the laxity of religion, the influx of foreigners, materialism, a welfare state, and generalized pessimism. Definitely raises eyebrows and questions about our modern civilization. To those who say this cannot happen to our modern world, it happened before. I'm not sure I fully agree with his time frame of a two hundred fifty year cycle (some of the dates seem odd), but I found myself nodding in agreement with some of his point, or looking in surprised at his example of the fall of the first caliphate in the ninth century. You can find the essay by clicking this link.

Robert Graves - The Greek Myths This is the first full-length audio book I read on my phone, during my nightly peregrinations then during the trip to and from Gencon. This is a book that includes a LOT of myths and presents them in something rather concise. It is however, more than a little dry and includes many sidebars that makes you unsure of who you are talking about anymore. Still, it was a very interesting unified look at mythology in something of a chronological order.

Ian Page - La Pierre de Lune The second tome in the Greystar series takes us through the countryside to a forbidden city and from there to a strange dream-like realm. Again, one of the things of these series is that I get the impression of doing a lot.

Ian Page - Le Royaume de l'Oubli Here, Greystar to another world to retrieve the Moonstone. The narrative feels lyrical and ethereal. It also brings back Tanid, Greystar's love interest that disappeared in the first tome of the series.

Ian Page - La Guerre des Sorciers The final tome of the Greystar sees him return to the normal world and help in the war against the Chadakine Empire. While in the other world, he finds himself returning after being missing for five years. He helps the League of the Free in a war to overthrow their oppressors. This tome is interesting because you are presented military choices that influence a full war. The final battle left me a little down, but I did enjoy the rest of the book so much that any ending going to be a sad thing.

Victor Milan - The Dinosaur Knights This book I purchased at random at Nashville airport when I realized I had no book with me for a trip to Montreal. This is exactly the sort of book I would NOT read. Why? It is the second part of a series of which I had not read the first part. By the time I realized that, it was too late to change. So I got into it. Best way to describe this book is "Game of Thrones with dinosaurs". The story presents a mosaic of characters of pseudo-European backgrounds. The stories intermingle and move about at different speeds, quite a few Mary-Sues in there, characters whose reverses only become greater for them. The story twists and turns some until you get to the main event of the book. The battle scenes are appropriately chaotic and changing but typically related by the bard character trying to tell everything at once. The battle scenes were definitely a highlight for me, with his use of light cavalry. I was going "finally, I'm done with this, I don't have to read any more." And I was pretty happy with it. But then the final sentence of the book includes a twist that piqued my curiosity for more. I may definitely look for the next volume of the series. I went from a "definite NO" to a "maybe".

Comic - Free Comic Book Day I read a lot of the offering for FCBD this year. The kids love going as they look for different titles and series that interests them. I like the variety. There are a few series I or the kids like, but nothing super-exciting. Nothing we would buy on a monthly basis, but a few things we would buy in trade format.

Comic - Halloween Free Comic Book Day As above.

DC Comics - Justice League Vs Suicide Squad ActionMan and I bought this trade book on Black Friday after we spent the afternoon playing Warhammer Ancients. I do not really like the pace of most modern comics, they feel bland. I expected this one to be like the others, but I was very positively and pleasantly surprised with the pace and story. Interesting twists kept the story going. One criticism is that with such large cast, there are many moments when some characters disappear for a few pages, especially when the two groups battle each other. Still, I enjoyed the read very much as a change of pace.

JH Brennan - La Horde des Démons (orig. Fire*Wolf) is a Fighting Fantasy book I bought for myself because I wanted to re-read the whole series, just like I gifted myself the Greystar by Ian Page and Joe Dever. This series is so completely different than the other. There are fewer choices to make, and in many ways the plot of this Conan wannabe feels more like reading a novel that has been chopped up into pieces than an adventure where you are directly involved. I remember as a kid not really enjoying this series, especially when comparing it to Lone Wolf where it seems you are making a million choices AND really make something epic. Still, a fun return many years back. This first book introduces us to Exterminor - sometimes called Salvator, his demon-sword, as well as set up the rest of the series.

JH Brennan - Les Cryptes de la Terreur The second book in the Fire*Wolf series. Unlike the first book, this one really hit what I remembered of this series as a weaker, less interesting story. Now one thing about it is that the story is not bad, but there are so many completely random choices the lead to insta-death: "You open the door, and die." OR choices that mean nothing: "You spend time searching, find nothing, go back and make another choice." Now there are a few meaningful choices: who do you go to ask for help? You have like 5 choices, but they all eventually funnel to the same thing. That plus it is VERY short, 158 entries.

JH Brennan - L'Ultime Combat de la Horde The third book in the Fire*Wolf series. Fire*Wolf's story advances, he is now a Lord and member of the King's Council. This one is different because it has a few puzzles that block you unless you solve them. The story is good, but some of the best elements feel rushed. This is really where these types of events shined in LoneWolf, but feel weak here.

Conventions

This year, I participated in a number of conventions, here is the report I posted about them.
- MidSouthCon in Memphis, TN
- Weekend in Rokugan in St Louis, MO
- Conglomeration in Louisville KY Part 1 and Part 2
- Lexicon in Lexington, KY
- Origins was 5 days of gaming, four parts of blogging Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
- Hypericon in Nashville TN Part 1 | Part 2
- Gencon was four days of awesome, four parts report Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
- Imaginareum 2018 in Louisville KY
- Post-Apocalipticon 2018 in Cleveland TN
- SuperConin Louisville, KY
- NerdLouvia in Louisville, KY


So with all this, I wish you all a very happy new year.

JP

Monday, December 31, 2018

[Cryx Monday] Seether

This is a Cryx Seether I painted a while ago. One thing I did was not to put all the spikes atop the frame to reveal the glowing green beneath.

I originally thought about using it with Starfinder. I had a partial setting idea that would require a number of dreadnaught/ warjacks. However, as I gave up on that game, the idea just went stale... When I think of a scifi game that excites me, I'll roll that one out.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

[Battle Report] Gauls vs Roman using Warhammer Ancient Battles

I initiated ActionMan to not only a series of History-based podcasts, which are great to listen to while we go to and from a game (usual going TO, because he sleeps on the 'from' part of the trip). Thus he heard from the great of the late Roman Republic (Marius/Sulla, the Triumvirates), the Diodachy, the Wars of the Roses, the Three Kingdoms, the Tokugawa Shogunate, and more. With short 10-15 minute podcasts, these guys do a good job focusing on one topic. In a 2-hour trip, we get to listen to 7-10 of them, covering a wide variety of topics.

So, after a few times, I asked him if he wanted to try and play a game where he could command a force of his own. He enthusiastically agreed to play and we were on and ready to go.

This battle report is for our second day of gaming. We played on a previous occasion for both of us to familiarize with the rules. I hadn't played in over 5 years so it was good for me to go over things...

Giving the choice to ActionMan, he chose my Gaulic/Germanic force to face off against my Early Imperial Romans. The battle featured two 1,500 points armies.

ActionManus the Gaul

This army relies heavily on masses of warriors to grind and crush the enemy.
Characters (220 pts)
- ActionManus, Warlord with throwing spear and light armor
- Shaman
Warriors (727 pts)
- 30 x Warriors with leader, musician, banner
- 30 x Warriors with leader, musician, banner
- 30 x Warriors with leader, musician, banner
- 23 x Fanatics with leader, musician, banner
Cavalry (468 pts)
- 8 x Light Cavalry with leader, musician, banner
- 8 x Light Cavalry with leader, musician, banner
- 10 x Noble Cavalry with leader, musician, banner
Skirmishers (80 pts)
- 10 x Skirmishers with slings
- 10 x Skirmishers with javelins and bucklers

Pacmanicus Gaulicus

This army relies on the legions, with support from archers to whittle down the enemy. The elephant was added just because ActionMan really wanted to see how the elephants did in a fight. I was never impressed with the performance of Roman elephants in the game.
Characters (141pts)
- Pacmanicus, General with light armor and warhorse
Legions (1020 pts)
- 15 x Regular Legionnaire with centurion, musician, and banner
- 15 x Regular Legionnaire with centurion, musician, and banner
- 15 x Regular Legionnaire with centurion, musician, and banner
- 15 x Regular Legionnaire with centurion, musician, and banner
Auxilliaries (324 pts)
- 8 x Equite alares with leader, musician, banner
- 12 x Archers
- 1 x Elephant

The battle

ActionMan set up with a strong center... that is a LOT of warriors. From his left to his right, he had light cavalry, two units of warriors, his warlord-led fanatics in from of his noble cavalry, then his slingers in front of his final unit of warriors led by his shaman, then skirmishers in the river and a unit of cavalry on the other side of the river.

With my low number of troops I had to find a defensive line and hold it. From my left to my right, I had my cavalry, then a cohort in front of my general, then my archers in front of another cohort, the elephant and two cohorts. The cohort on my far right was place in a build-up area.

The first turn saw his army surge forward as I moved to occupy the hill.

First blood went to the Romans, as the cohort on the Roman right repelled and dispersed a unit of light cavalry, causing panic in his left. After a short clash of cavalry, his force prevailed and my horsemen galloped back to Rome.

The clash in the center between the fanatics and the purple cohort was brutal as I had to move another cohort to shore up my collapsing left and I managed to break his cavalry, which cause havoc among his units. The Roman center managed to break his fanatics and his impetus broke against the steel of my pila and gladii.

With his center collapsing, Rome was going to keep moving forward and conquer more of Gaul. A tight win where a few lucky wins on his either side would've made the difference. The battle in the center was decisive as he was winning one flank and I got the advantage on the other because his forces broke and ran.

Although the Gauls had been defeated on this day, their army would certainly be able to regroup and fight another day.

ROMA VICTOR!

The Lessons

The field of battle had too many terrain pieces that prevented ActionMan from maneuvering, and it helped me with my smaller Roman force. Next time, we will have "only" six pieces of terrain - we had 8 or 9.

ActionMan wants to play a Macedonian Phalanx next.

As for me, I really like the Romans. They are versatile, solid and powerful. I most likely will play them again next time.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

FOE to Launch Patreon Page in 2019

One of the many things I have been working on to grow FOE is a Patreon page. I plan to produce some content for it: I will have bunch of short "One-page dungeon" adventures, maps I drew, new races, monsters, NPCS, and anything else you propose. Some of it will be 5e-focused, but I expect to post a lot of it in a system agnostic way. I do have a few ideas for other random things. Things I'm not sure this blog is the right place to fit it. Whether you are interested only in 5th Edition game material or not, you will still find great material for your game from that Patreon.

I am building it up now and will make an announcement about when it will be ready. My goal for it would be to provide small products, such as races, encounters, short adventure ideas, and art.

Now, before you ask, YES, all content posted on the Patreon will be available for the Legacies Organized Play Campaign. So by joining, you will get additional game-friendly material.

No, this blog is not going away. It will remain as what it is: a place where I post thoughts about gaming, pictures of miniatures... There is no plans to change it.

One question people asked me was whether FOE would use a Kickstarter. I do have a few products that COULD be kickstarted. I reached out to someone I think is one of the greatest minds in gaming marketing: my good friend LPJ and he was very forthcoming with his insight into how to use crowdfunding. I spent time thinking about it before finally deciding to pull the trigger on this.

Update: The Patreon is now live! You can see it First Ones Entertainment Patreon

Friday, December 28, 2018

A Shackled Mind is a Clear Mind - Tomes for 5th edition released

I am very happy to announce the release of FOE's latest product: a 5e port of the highly successful "A Shackled Mind is a Clear Mind" written for the Pathfinder RPG. This is more than just a straight port, new tomes have been added to the book, namely the Book of Thoth, which allows you unlimited power!

You can get this new book on DriveThruRPG

Monday, December 24, 2018

Dreams of Dust Final Playtest report

This past Saturday, I got to finally run the upcoming "Dreams of Dust" adventure. This is my first foray into the Ravenloft setting. I did run a few campaigns in there way back when, but I never liked the way the Mists behaved or how the "setting" worked together. I do like how you could get people from a variety of worlds get together...

This is one of the things that actually happened, and that made the game special for me. My playtesters did a similar things and I thought that was really cool.

Speaking of playtester, David, Joe, Jon, and their crew gave me some invaluable information on how to improve the adventure and the biggest problem they reported - not knowing what they should do - was addressed. Unlike other adventures, there is no "this is what you must do"-type of introduction.

The adventure is more than simply going and beating up monsters - though there is some of that. The environment itself is hostile in ways that make the adventure much more difficult for the PCs.

The party was, based on their home worlds:
Akhamet Sadjam the Storyteller (numru bard) and Terata (anubian rogue)
Forgotten Realms Iva (tiefling warlock)
Rhym Sad Willow (darkling (undead) rogue)
Tyrants of Saggakar Zombie-Slinger (anuka fighter) and Sister Atusa (human cleric)

This adventure can easily run for a full 15-hour run. There is so much to do in there. No only set encounters, but random ones too that serve as resource drains and to keep players guessing about what and where is safe.

The structure of the adventure does allow for additional players to be added later, and stick them into this messy situation.

I have a few more things to touch upon with the text, but the adventure works, it is solid, clear, and with a challenge level that is not overwhelming, but that should challenge most parties.

Thanks to Will for taking pictures of the game.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

What is the ideal size for an adventure? Part 3

Part 1 | Part 2

There is one thing about writing as a stream of consciousness, the way I started with the first two parts of this series. You keep getting ideas and more thoughts cram into your head. One thing I like about blogging vs vlogging is that the mass of craziness that fill my mind has to be organized. I can't just blurt out twelve things at once. So while I originally planned a two-parter... I had to expand this to a third part...

Because of the many side ideas and thoughts I came up with were related but not really formed, I put them at the bottom of the text file for later as I kept on thinking about shorter stuff. But then, after I completed the two posts (it was one I decided to later split in two), I saw the many ramblings and partial thoughts: "Masks x 3", "I3-5", "longer=more dev/harder" and a few that just don't make sense. Enough rambling, here is the post, after a little clean up...

Mega-Modules or Adventure Path

Having put down my thoughts on one-shot modules (Part 1) and on tournament adventures (Part 2), I had more to say about mega-modules or the adventure path format.

Those old modules, with names we all know: the Tomb of Horrors, the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and Castle Greyhawk became household names the same way Paizo's Runelords are now part of the gaming universe. The reason is deceptively simple:

Because we played them.

Old guys like myself all have tales of someone doing something stupid in one of these adventure and creating comedy gold. I mean, it is funny to see your friend getting disintegrated because he touched the big red button.

I do not play many of them, because of the logistics and time to complete. I was able to play through one of Paizo's adventure paths (Reign of Winter, shout-out to Chad and Evan who GM'd it for me), but never got a chance to play in a 5e mega module all the way through (I played parts of them as part of the Adventure League).

Back in the days, I played Desert of Desolation (I3-5), Egg of the Phoenix (I12), and significant parts of both Queen of Spiders, and Temple of Elemental Evil (T1-4) back in the day, including the PC game of ToEE.

The best thing about them is the amount of story and adventure there is to do, all in the same theme. It's not just to get in, beat up the goblin king and get out. From fairly innocuous beginnings, your character becomes involved in a greater plot, in some massive affair. This means that you get to take part in something massive.

That is also their biggest downfall. Because there is so much to do, and often the plot becomes personal to the PCs, after one or two characters die, or after a few player cycle in and out, the party's motives are difficult to maintain. I will tell you of the Mask of Nyarlathotep in another post for a good example of this. Plus remembering all the details of what you did two years ago because of the long time between games. Back on track, After the 4th book of an adventure path - or the third full dungeon level - the initial motivation for adventure is not as strong, and the question of "why are we doing this again?" props up. I find it difficult to keep up the interest from that point.

Another strength/weakness is that such large-scale adventures have a theme: WotC's Curse of Stradh and Paizo's Carrion Crown is Gothic Horror, Reign of Winter deals with the mythology of Baba Yaga, Tyranny of Dragons deals with Tiamat and dragon cults, Wayof the Wicked deals with evil characters, etc. There is a lot to do. The flaw? Some people have no interest in the theme. Say you don't like long wilderness exploration (I'm not really that much into it), then a mega-module is just not for me. The chance of me running it is zero and the chance of me playing and giving the game a high level of interest as something I love is not the same.

Dang... the strength of these modules is also its weakness.

Looking at their physical size, WotC's Curse of Stradh, Dragon Heist, Princes of the Apocalypse all are 256 pages, while Paizo Adventure Paths and 6 books of 64pages (each book has 32 of adventure and 32 of setting), they are now reducing this to 3 books, a decision I am very happy about because it will keep the plots more concise and address the issues I mentioned above. Three books means your opening motivation easily holds through. Also, the best ideas are the ones that win through.

These adventures are written by different people, each with their own style. As a small publisher, this is one of the toughest type of product to create. But as a GM, and as a player, a bigger scope adventures are more rewarding to take part in because you get to delve more into the party dynamic, get to play with more things.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

What is the ideal size for an adventure? Part 2

Check out Part 1 of this essay or sort.

The Convention Adventure

What used to be called "tournament modules" during the days of RPGA... These are mostly self-contained adventure designed to be run and played in a 3-5 hour time slot. These are the adventures for Pathfinder Society (PFS), the Adventure League(AL), and the Legacies Organized Play Campaign. They adventures average around 20-25 pages, with a high variance (typically on the higher end).

The Adventure League has a large boiler plate that takes a number of pages, but that provides a good way for the GM to interact with the setting.

Pathfinder Society adventure do not have that, and tend to get right to the point, often without giving the GM some important setting notes or sending the GM to a different book with more information, later years have remedied this problem to an extent.

Legacies adventures are the shortest of the lot, around 15 pages. The older Pathfinder averaged around 20 pages, while those for 5th edition average 13 pages.

So there is a wild disparity of size here. The amount of dungeon and plot differs wildly between all of them, making an accurate comparison difficult. I personally like the idea of doing 1 thing on 1 place to avoid confusion. Since there is limited time, focus is better. I think the 2-hour adventure of the AL are a great example of this. You have one job and you do it. There is little side plots to speak of.

Monday, December 17, 2018

What is the ideal size for an adventure?

What is the ideal size for an adventure?

A fairly simple question, but one that requires a lot of clarifications, and different answers. I will go over a few types of adventure: the stand alone and the convention product. Each has its own answer, and subset of questions and precisions. I may do one for the larger-scale adventures in a later post.

I am more interested in the format, and especially the amount of dungeon locations to include in each.

Stand alone module

I am not thinking of a Paizo-style Adventure path or a WotC hardcover, but a one-shot stand alone adventure.

When I think of like the classic I-series of adventures, like I3 Pharaoh or I6 Ravenloft, these adventures are "only" 32 pages long, with the maps printed on the covers. These adventures are very tightly coupled with location of events, with the overall plot woven through the rooms of the dungeon.

Paizo has followed suit with a similar products. However, Paizo had the advantage of years of play, their adventures do have a stronger plot (usually), and many elements are tied to a time or other event and they are better organized (20+ years of gaming shows), but the overall is still quite similar to the original.

Looking at the two products, the old TSR had much more dungeon in them, typically 1-4, while Paizo's adventures are much less dungeon-focused, relying on encounter locations. Still, they both end up at the 32 page mark.

So this makes me think I am looking at creating a product between 30 and 40 pages, with a sweet spot around 32. So around 15-16k words.

More to come in Part 2 of this self-interrogation.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Cover preview: Dreams of Dust

Coming soon to the DM's Guild...