JP On Gaming

Thursday, October 20, 2016

[Review] Fire and Gold by Mara Amberly

A good friend of mine (now) from Ireland is up-and-coming author Mara Amberly. Mara has published a number of books of poetry and other short work, but her latest book is a fantasy novel called Fire and Gold, Book 1 of the Sisters of the North. We were talking writing and she offered to send me a book to get my impressions. I readily agreed not mentioning that my stash of books has gone down to almost nothing. I had but one book to read before I was out. So two birds, one stone. Plus as you know this year, I have been trying my hand at short works of fiction, hoping to complete a bigger one myself.

So on to reading I went.

I will be honest and say that it flew by so quickly. I could not put it down until the end. The story revolves around two sisters: one fiery and spontaneous, the other quiet, pensive and reserve. This may be cliche, but it works as a basic dynamic. They are part of a religious order and have received magical training. The magic is elemental-based with each caster getting one affinity for one type. Simple.

Our heroines find themselves away from their temple when it is attacked by an evil order that kills (nearly) everyone else. From that point, they are on the run trying to reach safety of another temple of the order. There that's the overall plot in two sentences. Again simple.

This simplicity of story is not what made me like this book, but the characters themselves, with their flaws and strengths, are where this book really shines. The story has enough surprises and twists to keep you interested.
- Quite simply, the base story is good. It's simplicity makes it that much more believable.
- The main story is given in the third person narrative where the story unfolds from the perspective of the characters. As the sisters flee the city of Kalle, their flight is easy to imagine and with a good portrayal of a group of city-women heading out into the wilds. We are presented with the elements of the world we need as readers only when they become relevant through natural and realistic dialogue. Therefore, I never felt as the story progress that I was lost as to where they were or what were the challenges they expected to find along the way.
- The women were not experts of wilderness survival, but neither are we given Paris Hilton going into the wild, nor do they become master bandits because they need something. They don't go from city slickers to master huntresses. Procuring food and water is a vital challenge with decent obstacles. They are capable, but clearly out of their comfort zone.
- There is a feeling of refrained sexuality the sisters experience throughout the story (as they meet male characters). I will tell you that if there is no long romantic or sex scenes in the book (I know, I hear many of you pervs out there sigh) but this tension actually adds to the story. Providing a few interesting scenes as one of the sisters' reaction to the male lead creates moment of definite interests as she tries to look but not look, playing strong but inwardly shy. This interplay was really one of the gems and one of the elements I liked best of the book.

And now the weaker points of the story.
- As good as the main characters and their interactions were, the story has a couple of side-stories. These were weak and did not contribute to the story. They felt like distractions. Now that being said, I can see how these side-plots can develop into major story lines later. The potential is there for them to grow and mix the main story. But here, they felt weak. This is a personal peeve and a reason I dislike series, this starting of random thread. Since a number of the sub-plots should be in a different book. I would hate to pick up book 2 then go "who the heck are these people? Why are they here? Why do they do this?" Some people will love this, I dislike it myself. A lot.
- Related to the previous point, I could not care about any of the characters in these side-plots, that they lived or died, I did not care. They only one was poor Luke, whose side-plot explains part of the action and was a pretty interesting story. The thread started and ended within the book.

So if I have to give this a solid 4/5. However, this is mostly related to my dislike of unresolved threads. For those who enjoy reading this type of saga, you will find your fix here.

However, in spite of the scoring, when I get to the end and think about it, I feel compelled to ask myself. Would you read a sequel? And the answer is a clear and definite YES.

You can get your copy of the book on Amazon.Com. While you're at it, tell Mara you read this review!


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

[Commission] The Lost Pix

This is the forgotten final installment of the first batch of Will's Arcadia Quest.

This group has a Legolas, "Chaz" (who ActionMan kept saying he looked just like Sir Patrick, his Adventure League character), as a Grace-Jones like character. I will say that I think she has to be one of the ugliest woman in history. That said, the model is full of character and captures the her wild and crazy persona in Conan The Destroyer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

[ArcadiaQuest] The end of batch 2

The Final installment of this batch of ArcadiaQuest Minis for Will.

Perhaps my favorite mini of the lot is LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEROY JENKINS!!! It has so much character! The face and posture is just iconic. I love it!

The second guy, Spike, I painted highly inspired by classic Warhammer dwarven slayers, this mini was perhaps one of the most fun of the lot. His spiked hair and beard are just so cool and the bright orange gives them a lot of character. Add some blue tattoos and you have a great mini.

Next to the other two, this final mini, called Diva, is uninspired. There is nothing wrong with it, it just does not have the dynamism or the character of the other two. It is hard to see, but the armor is red with metallic red. I played with various mix levels of reds and metallic.

Monday, October 17, 2016

[ArcadiaQuest] Hallo. My name is not Inigo Montoya. You killed my father

More painting for Will's ArcadiaQuest. These three are an interesting contrast.

The first is Montoya. He is clearly inspired by Sean Connery's character in Highlander, not one named Inigo who looks for his father's killer...

The second is a barbarian king called Haldor wielding massive weapons. His face is very

The third is a knight called Johan. This guy was surprisingly simple: covered with metal armor. So I spent some extra time on his eyes and hair.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gostor: Ethereal Horrors released!

Here is a book I have been thinking about for the longest time. Initially, I wanted to include it into Saggakar, and as I worked on developing and expanding the creatures so they become a different and unique threat, it felt that limiting them to "just" Saggakar. So that's why I decided that it should be a Gostor product. It made sense to me: the content was not unique, it had nothing that was specifically setting-specific.

Where did I get the idea? I was going over an old storyline written for Living Greyhawk. One I really enjoyed, but that I thought had a weak ending. Creatures from the Ethereal Plane broke through and attacked, a nation.

So I sat back and thought about the creatures. If I had been in charge of this plot, how would have I gone about it? First, I needed creatures, more than one type of them to provide variety. Next, I had to think of a target threat level, in Pathfinder this means CR. High CR creatures sound good, but I found that few people care for putting them. So I went for some lower-powered creatures. This affected the rest of my design work.
- First, it meant the PCs could fight them at low level. Low-level meant the PCs would not have access to cross-planar travel methods.
- Second, the ethereals could be used in large numbers rather than one big monster: a personal love of mine.
- Third, I could create non-magical equipment specifically to combat the ethereals.

With that in mind, I put everything together. And left it there.

Yeah, I just left it in my pile of "stuff I need to finish". I worked on other projects (many I'm still working on today) and let this one were it was.

I was looking through the internet for another project when I happened on something for this one. WOW! It was better than I thought! So I quickly returned to the book, and began working on Ethereal Horrors again. I quickly got things up and running: formatted and aligned. I thought I was done in a day or so. But after a hardcopy review, a number of additional ideas came to me. Things I wanted to share with the prospective GM. So I went back to my document and added a number of extra information. Namely, unique magic items and expanded the campaign section I had.

So with all this, I am really proud to announce the official release of Gostor: Ethereal Horrors for the Pathfinder RPG.

I will tease you that Loren is working on making the 5e version of the book! Great stuff!

You can get a copy of Gostor: Ethereal Horror on DriveThru RPG or RPGNow!


[ArcadiaQuest] And now for something completely different

And now something completely different...

More ArcadiaQuest for Will! Okay that's not very different. However, these guys are bad guys - from my understanding - and are twice as large as the adventurers I've been painting up to now. I got two beastmen with hammer and two with spears.

I painted them with hair color variation along with highlights so they can be easily distinguished when on the board. I don't know if it matters, but I thought it might be cool.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

[ArcadiaQuest] Solomon Kane and Conan

Another set of commissions for Will from his Arcadia Quest set. This time three new characters from literature.

The first is Victor, but he is clearly modeled after Robert Howard's Solomon Kane. I like how the hat covers his eyes, giving him this dark and brooding look.

The second is Grom. Or should I say Conan? Yeah. Conan...

The third guy is the King of Thieves. He makes me think of a leper king. I feel there is an anime reference with this character.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

[ArcadiaQuest] Three more models

A second wave of minis by Will begins with three new characters. More fun guys.

The first character is Morgan, who is based on the Merlin character from the Excalibur movie from 1981. It was one of the movies I watched so many times as a kid. Sure it's not historical, but it's visually cool. At least until you can't stand the Carmina Burana anymore. Paint job was very much like the Merlin of the movie. For some reason I always think of that character when I think of a wizard... I gave him the red eyes from the movie as well!

The next guy is called Seth and he is a vampire wizard. The skin tone was a challenge to get right, but it really came through great. His skin - though I thought about making it sparkly - came through awesomely, with a greenish that made me think of the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz.

The third fellow is called Pluck who is some type of alchemist. I painted him with an outfit inspired by the Alan a'Dale from the old Rocket Robin Hood. I like his smile and look.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

[007 Lists about James Bond] Top 3 Theme songs

After the teaser, the theme song really sets the mood for the movie. They add the teasing effect and sets you in the mood. From the asian tune of You Only Live Twice or the pop beat of Duran Duran or the soul-filled voice of Adele, they provide an added link between the movie and its time. The big band sound of the 60s to the pop song of the 80s to the complex tunes of today, they let you know when the movie was made.

This list was quite interesting to compile because of the variety and mood of the songs themselves. Definitely a fun day/playlist that will take you through time.

I did not include the James Bond theme from Doctor No, the big band tune that recurs in every movie. Simply because there it is instrumental, it was disqualified from this list, otherwise it would be a clear winner for this list.

Top 3 Movie Theme Songs

3- Nobody does it better (Carly Simon / The spy who loved me) This one won out by just barely a nose. Perhaps it is because I remember it from my earliest days. Carly Simon's voice is beautiful and the lyrics really showcase James Bond's personal view about the ladies. The Spy who loved me is a great movie with a lot of East/West interaction and the song completes it.

2- Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey/ Goldfinger) Sublime big band theme with the powerful voice of Shirley Bassey over it. She comes off as someone who is both drawn to and repelled by Goldfinger. Although the Goldfinger of the song is James Bond, not Auric Goldfinger. Integrating the James Bond theme towards the end with the brass is a powerful combination. Oh and the Simpsons' Max Power Theme song on the same tune is awesome.

1- Live and let die (Paul McCartney & Wings/ Live and let die) This very Beatles tune feels larger than life from the opening verses to the powerful riff then its brutal reggae beat. As a fan of prog-rock, is there a non-prog-rock that better embodies it? Guns N Roses redid it in the 90s but as usual, the original is so much better.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

[Commission] Kurzog's Throne painting commission

A few weeks back, I posted to a few local Facebook groups about my quest for a lizardfolk or troglodyte or draconian miniatures.

Why did I need such a mini?

You may remember that a few weeks ago, I ran a poll on the Legacies Facebook Group to find who would become the new Legacies Iconic. The winner, hands down, was the drakonian druid called Bloodclaw. I'll tell you more about Bloodclaw in an upcoming post.

John-B replied to my request, offering a few minis, including one I really thought embodied the character. I asked him what he wanted in return and he had a model he wanted painted in return. I agreed!

He needed a throne painted in the way of Kurzog's Throne from the cover of the DungeonMastery Guide to use for his Rise of the Runelords finale.

We met and hit it off, as two old gamers yakking it up. I really wanted to do a good job for him, make something special. The model he had was not exactly the throne on the cover, but it would work...

I gave it large, magical, non-circular red gems, which came out with an interesting non-euclidian shine. When I first did them, I did not like them initially. Then I added the sparkle (the white dots) and left it there for a few days as I worked on other things, you know... life. Then when I picked it up again, it made sense to me and I thought it really came out cool. Perhaps my mind made the unearthly, Lovecraftian links after the insanity reached deeper into my mind...

Click on the pictures for a larger picture. (They are a little dark unfortunately)