JP On Gaming

Monday, August 31, 2015

The whole Player's Guide in one post

Well barring any major last-minute changes to my plan, this is what you will find in the Tyrants of Saggakar Player's Guide. I held nothing back, it's all in there! Oh yeah. I still don't have the front/back cover... But the content is all there...

JP

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

Updates: Saggakar, Legacies, Contest, Conventions

Tyrants of Saggakar Player's Guide

In the past week, I have been really putting this book together, trying to get it all wrapped up. I have been working on the index for the past few days, to provide a clear and useful index. Trying to balance quantity and utility.

I am waiting for art from a few sources to complete the book. I expect it to trickle in through mid-September.

One piece I am wondering: Should I add some fiction to the book? I mean as chapter headers and the likes. I don't quite know if it adds anything. I tend not to read them, particularly if they span multiple pages. What about you?

Epilogue For Memories of a Frozen Hell

I have really procrastinated on this one, but I assure you I have it. It provides a lot of information gathered by the players as they investigated Yorix Island in Gencon's "Memories of a Frozen Hell" and the chilling (pun intended) revelations about Yorix and Saggakar therein... I will make it available when I get home tonight.

New Legacies Adventures

I think I can now reveal the next batch of Legacies adventures and their authors. The adventures have gone through one pass of editing and I expect them back for final editing and formatting in the next two weeks or so. I am working on two ones myself. One is a brand new story and the other is a re-hash (and massive re-do) of an old Living Greyhawk adventure I wrote.

One of the things that I like during the creative process is that we often start with an idea and as we write, the idea morphs and the adventure changes from one thing to another. Although the original idea is still valid, the story expands and changes, and what we originally thought was awesome gets bumped out to a later story, with the current one setting up and foreshadowing what we originally planned. It is hard to explain if you have not experienced it for yourself, but I am always excited when it happens.

This is one of the side-benefits of the agile way (I am a programmer and an adept of agile development, a methodology I apply to Saggakar), I am trying to expand and explore Saggakar: define the overall in broad terms, and focus on the specifics only when they are needed. This means that a later, better idea always wins out and makes it to the final product much better because the most exciting, best idea can always overrule what has yet to be written or defined.

This happened to one of the adventures (I'm not saying which, you'll have to wait and see).

The following titles and blurbs are subject to change before they are finally released for public play.

TOS-1-04 House of Mirrors by James McTeague

MURDER! MURDER MOST FOUL! People in glasses houses should not throw stones, but which of the suspects is the guilty one?

An adventure for APLs 3-9 (characters level 3 through 10)

TOS-1-05 Path to Ambition by Randy Price

Pearched in the Markhem Peaks, the city-states of Onero enjoys freedom from the ArchDespotate's harsh laws. However, a rash of recent crimes forces the Lady-Mayor to call on outside help.

An adventure for APLs 7-7 (characters level 6 through 8)

TOS-1-06 And Everything Nice by JP Chapleau

Banditry is too common occurence in the ArchDespotate. The long gauntleted arm of the law is swift, brutal, and merciless. When rumors of sabotage and commercial interference between the great houses may lead to more violence, impartial justice must be dispensed.

An adventure for APLs 3-7 (characters level 3 through 8)

Name that Wizard

Just a quick word about the "Name that Wizard" Contest. I've had quite a few entries so far, and I am very excited about the variety of characters and mini-story coming in. Keep the entries coming!

Upcoming Conventions

I am still working out my upcoming yearly schedule for 2015-2016. There are so many event I want to go, but budgetary reasons. Cons I will attend for sure include: PurpleBunnyCon in Murfreesboro TN, MidSouthCon in Memphis TN, NashCon in Nashville TN, Lexicon in Lexington KY, and GenCon in Indianapolis IN. I don't have a firm plan for any of them yet but it will be posted here.

I have heard some very positive news from Louisville and hope to go back and run some Legacies. That said, I am waiting on some news. I'll work with Chad and Nate (Kentucky's awesome Venture Captain and Lieutenant) to come up with a schedule that suits everyone. I'm debating whether I should "just" have some regular adventures or provide a special with it. I have time to come up with my plan.

Cons I am debating whether to attend (as a GM) include Winter Fantasy in Fort Wayne IN and Origins in Columbus OH. I plan on attending as a player, however.

JP

Thursday, August 27, 2015

[Bucket List] Five places in the US I want to visit

For this list, I tried to focus on places I have either never been or been through but never really spent much time visiting. There are a number of reasons for each, which I will detail below.

Many of these places I would love to visit but not live in, while others I could stay. But for now, I am set and happy to stay in Tennessee.

New Orleans LA The Big Easy has always been a place I wanted to visit. It just seems to be a city with a unique mix of French, Spanish and American influences that it must be very interesting to see. Plus, with the bayou nearby, I think it would be a place where there is so much to do that I would either have to live there for a while OR go there many, many times to get to do everything.

Hawaii I mean, do I really need to give any explanation? Is there anyone who does NOT have Hawaii on their list? I would love to go see the lava fields, the beaches, attend a luau, take a fishing expedition for large fish (tuna/ sharks/ anything). But also take one of those helicopter tours around the islands to see the lush vegetation. I'd like to so snorkeling in the water.

Philadelphia PA Philadelphia is a city I would like to see mostly for its colonial heritage and ancient structures. It just seems like an interesting city. Plus when there, I would have to have a REAL Philly cheesesteak. In Philly! I like them, but I've been told by more than one native that "It's not the same outside Philly" so I need to know what the hubbub is about.

Miami FL I have always wanted to go to Miami. It seems like a nice and fun town: from the beach to the nightlife, I think its Cuban flair is exotic and interesting. I'd like to do similar things to what I'd do in Hawaii, but add to that re-learning how to sail a boat and head off into the Carribeans, see the islands were pirates once hunted for Spanish gold and silver... Perhaps find such a ship myself... Yarrr! T'would'be fun. Yarrr!

Los Angeles CA LA is a city I would love to visit, but would not like to live in. I went there shortly back in 2011. I would love to do the tourist thing: visit the movie studios, see the beach front, oh and the "CHiPs"... I do have a number of friends there (shout-out to Robyn-N, Brian-D, and Bruce-H) and friends who lived or hail from there (shout-out to Everett-M and his family) that I would no doubt end up with a crazy-full schedule with awesome restaurants and out-of-the-way awesome things to see or do.

JP

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Real-life wall of human skulls

I follow a variety of blogs on a number of topics I like. They include history, archeology, politics, and obviously, gaming. Every once in a while, one of these blogs comes up with something that really, really, gets my creative juices flowing. Quite frankly, had I written this from the depths of my mind, I would have thought of myself as a rather sick individual... However, history has a sick way of providing inspiration.

And the Aztecs deliver every time.

This time, the history blog reported the finding of a wall decorated with human skulls in Mexico! Not only men, but women's and children's as well. Creepy.

But beyond the creepiness of the whole thing, one has to wonder WHY they had done it. With our modern sensibilities, this horrific act would be something that would definitely bring terror. It does terrify me, in fact.

But could the Aztecs see MORE than the terror aspect of a wall of skulls?

Could it serve as a way to present their power? Could it display their wealth? Could it be a way to show the favor of the gods?

I have to assume that the people who passed by this wall every day would either grow accustomed to it or they would ignore it. What went through their minds?

"JP, you are reading way too much into this!" I hear many of you saying - with good reason. Well as I write about Saggakar, where such horrors are fairly commonplace, how the Aztec commoners felt about the wall of skull should guide me in how locals react. Numbess? Avoidance?

Perhaps I am reading too much into this...

JP

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

More Art! The Skythian Monk

I got up this morning to a neat surprise: Kaitlynn came through with her latest art piece: a Skythian monk. The book is coming together quickly now, and taking directions I really like.

JP

Monday, August 24, 2015

[Contest] Name that Wizard!

I seek to create a short background (no more than 100 words) for a group of up to three great wizards of Saggakar. Their exact class is not important. What I am looking for is a short bio that tells me what type of magic he would be interested in. I am looking for the elevator pitch for Rary, for Mordenkainen, for Elminster.

How to participate

Send your entry to Contest@FoeLegacies.com before the closing of the contest, September 6th 2015 at midnight, central time (GMT-5).

The Prize(s)

The three winning wizards will have spells named after them in the Tyrant of Saggakar player's guide, receive contributor credit, AND be the envy of the gaming world forever!

For example: Yorix was a First One completely absorbed in his quest to find a way to travel through the Mists without losing his mind. His career ended abruptly as he and the island he lived on vanished in the Mists.

JP

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Haver race for the Pathfinder RPG

This last piece of design was completed shortly after the Primer was completed, so they were not included into the document.

The last thing I needed was an illustration of an androgynous character. Someone without strong secondary sexual characteristics. I lucked out and found this illustration by Kaitlynn Peavler, darkened the skin and voila! A haver!

The book contains alternate racial traits and a few other goodies which are not presented here.

Haver Racial Traits

+2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma, -2 Intelligence Havers are lithe and charming, are somewhat dim-witted.

Medium Havers are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.

Normal Speed Havers have a base speed of 30 feet.

Androgynous (Ex) A haver counts as male or female or neither, whichever is most advantageous to it. They usually select one gender to identify as, but change it as suits their needs. As half-breed creatures, they cannot reproduce and have no sexual organs.

Darkvision (Ex) Havers can see in the dark up to 60 feet.

Disguise Expert (Ex) A haver gains a +2 bonus to Bluff and Disguise checks to disguise themselves as a First One or as one of their other parent’s race, or to appear as a member of one gender or another.

Evasive A haver gains either Deceitful, Persuasive, or Stealthy as a bonus feat.

Shadow Jump (Su) Once per day, as a move action, a haver can jump between shadows as if using a dimension door spell. A haver must jump from a shadowy area to another, up to 5 feet per level each day. Activating shadow jump does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Split parentage (Ex) Havers are humanoids with the First One subtype. Also select another race at character creation. A haver qualifies as either a First One or a member of that race for the purpose of qualifying for feats, prestige classes, and any other class or race-related option.

Languages Havers begin play speaking Common and Exodite. Those with a high Intelligence score add any non-secret regional languages to their list of bonus available languages.

JP

Thursday, August 20, 2015

[Design and Inspiration] Building a new race

Ever since I posted the original table of content for the Player's Guide to Saggakar, people have been asking me about the "haver" and about rumors that they will be able to play a First One in the Legacies campaign. Usually followed by a series of "Dude! That would really be powerful!"

Well the rumors are true! You will be able to play a First One.

The haver is a new race that serves as an ultimate half-breed. The basic idea came to me from a wide variety of sources. The first was when I was asked about creating half-breed creatures, particularly what the result of cross-breeding First Ones with [insert other race]. Now Service is Eternal does answer some questions about that. The Drovites who are the descendents of crossbreeding between drow, elves, and First Ones. The Harovites are believed to be the children of First Ones and humans.

But what about anukas-First Ones combinations? Or a First One-Kaliban? My mind began racing with the potential, both crunch and fluff-wise of this idea.. It would make a lot of sense that they have these half-breeds here and there. They have the magical means and the power to do so.

Which lead me to the question: why was the world not filled with these half-First Ones? I got stuck on that one. Also, how could I define them and make them useful?

Of all places, the idea came to me as I was watching Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura, Pet Detective with the kids. In the movie, there is a transgendered individual and I began to make connections. Why my mind went from a transgender to the haver, I do not know, but I decided to make the haver a creature of weak gendered identity, someone who could change gender at will, like one of those frogs who change gender based on the rest of the population around them.

This time, it created an interesting fluff, but not really something that players care about. "Woohoo! I can change gender at will!" is not an ability that is super exciting to play. At least not without becoming weird... I needed something that would make them fun and exciting.

I was a little stuck with the idea for a while.

Then finally, inspiration struck as I randomly opened an old Dragon magazine and one of the topics was the mul: the classic half-human, half-dwarf, all awesome! Muls are great but cannot reproduce.

EUREKA!

Working back into my fluff, I began to work through this... Haver are First Ones, so they have access to First Ones abilities, feats, prestige classes, and all that jazz. However, as half-breeds, they would be the target of ridicule by the "pure" First Ones. As First Ones, they would not fit in quite well into the rest of society either. Making them societal rejects. Not being from one gender or the other only added to their confusion. Wow suddenly, I had a race that lent itself to a lot of story potential built into its fluff. As rejects, they would most likely seek the friendship and approval of others. I could tackle any gender-based theme through these.

Some work on their crunch and voila!

Now all I needed was an appropriate name, something that could be disparaging without sounding insulting. I toyed with with haviers (a neutered male stag), halfer, and a number of others before settling on "Haver". I liked the elegance of it, plus it's a (partially) veiled referrence to their lack of genitals, separating the world between those who have and those who do not. Insulting, clever.

DONE.

Tomorrow: The stats for a Haver so you can build your own.

JP

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

[Tweaking Pathfinder] Rule bloat, time for a new version?

I have been talking to a lot of people about many gaming things. One sad fact that I keep hearing is that people are moving away from Pathfinder and into 13th Age or 5e. Although the specifics change wildly, one of the things that really stands out is what people call "Rules Bloat". I can't help but nod my head and say "yup". Many adapt the Adventure Paths - which as still seen as some of the best stuff out there - to their new system of choice.

Pathfinder was first released in 2009, meaning that it is now fully six years old. Six years of monthly releases of adventure paths, campaign setting book, AP player guides, hardbacks, and so on. Now I know the do not release one of each of those monthly, but there are monthly releases for Pathfinder. The sheer amount of books and material makes it that a tablet is now needed for the average player/GM to carry what he needs to run a game. It has

I, as a small-time publisher and a lover of the game, find myself in a bind: on the one hand, I love and want to see Pathfinder keep being successful; on the other, I have to go where my customers are going.

Dilemma.

I will admit that because I do not use any of Paizo's splat books in Legacies, I don't feel the bloat as badly. It also cuts out some of the worse overpowered stuff out there. No offense, but some of these feats and abilities are just so powerful. I will point you to Reign of Winter's Tribal Scars feat. Wow! That is worth like 3 feats in one: save bonus, skill bonus, HP bonus...

Which leads me to the question...

Is it time for a NEW Pathfinder?

I have been thinking about it for the past two years that Paizo should begin looking and putting efforts into a new version of Pathfinder. Something along the lines of a 3.0->3.5 or 3.5->PFRPG rather than a full edition where all your books become obsolete. I think having to throw the pile of Pathfinder books out, like WotC has been doing every edition would be a death knell for them, so a "half-edition" would be nice. Just to trim out the fat, tighten some of the things that creeped in over time. I thought Unleashed would be the first step - and still believe it - but I will admit I expected to hear a new version in 2016.

Now we will be going to 2017 before the next edition which I believe is VERY late.

Here are some thoughts of mine:
- Get rid of Appraise in favor of an appropriate Knowledge skill.
- Get rid of Climb and Swim into an "Athletics" skill.
- Get rid of Craft in favor of Knowledge or Survival.
- Get rid of Disguise in favor of Bluff.
- Get rid of Escape Artist as a skill, make it either an Acrobatics or a Climb check.
- Limit the amount of bonuses to skills (particularly Perception/Stealth) a character can get beyond his own abilities. - Simplify charge rules so they become something like "every square you must be closer to the opponent than the square you are currently in."
- Make AoOs like 5e AoOs: only when you leave a threatened square
- Replace the current flanking rules by an "outnumber" rule, like in 5e and other.
- Instead of targeting corners and coming up with complex shapes, target a square and all distances are counted as movement from that square.
- Use the Unleashed classes in a CRB
- A new CRB would be welcomed as most of ours are falling to pieces

Those are just a few random thoughts I would like to see in an upcoming new version, but I am not attached to any of them. They are nonetheless worth discussing now, hopefully get something in the ear of the Paizo team.

I wish I had that much power/reach...

JP

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

[Old Pro Tricks] One adventure idea per page

I remember back in 2010, I had just written my first part of a setting (Akos). I had all those ideas bursting in my head: new character options, new races, complex political interaction between NPCs, between nations and between factions. It was a grandiose experience and I was so happy about my work. The draft was rough, sloppy and needed cleanup and tightening, but it was ready.

I happened to fly to Montreal in the weeks that followed and decided to put a game together for my friends. In advance, I sent them the document with a few goodies and solicited feedback.

It was honest (I'll stay just shy of "brutal"). And I learned a number of things from the experience. Things I brought into my later projects and finally into Tyrants of Saggakar.

One of the lessons a friend of mine (Alex-FG) phrased so eloquently "You need to have at least one story or adventure idea per page."

I was taken aback by the simplicity of the design rule. I like simple, elegant design rules simply because they are easy to follow and adapt. Overly complex ones eventually forces you to adapt to the rule rather than letting the rule be a guideline.

With time, I have evolved this rule to mean "every page, must present a conflict or a situation where adventurers can come in and explore." A mouthful, but in essence, everything written must lead to something the PCs may need to investigate. The less secrets are defined, the fewer prophecies explained, the better. If you think Joe killed Bob, leave clues, but do not actually say it. Revealed secrets take away from the GM's ability to write or create this adventure per page.

For me, once something appears in an adventure or in a book, that is set in stone. I don't go ret-conning or changing things because I have a new, better idea. So with this prudent approach, I define the minimum and work up from there. In many ways, this is what I see in Paizo's Golarion. Bare bones really, then things get defined up from there.

This rule evolved into my adventure writing philosophy. Focus on the important stuff, that which is required for the adventure, and move everything that is not out of the adventure. This gives the GM freedom to work within his particular style, but also limits the amount he needs to prep and remember an adventure. By giving him the tools he needs to handle the situation: what happened before, what is happening now, who is involved. However the PCs evolve from point A to point B will be up to them. How one group will do it depend heavily on their style, abilities and interests. Some will try to brute force, others sneak around, others use diversions, yet others will use the charismatic way through the problems.

The important thing in adventure design is not to burden the GM with a whole lot of information that may not be relevant to his PCs' evolution through the adventure. Nothing worse than watching "GM-loading" as he frantically searches a document of an answer. Focus on the essentials.

JP

Monday, August 17, 2015

Heroclix Family Battle Royale Battle Report

This weekend, I pulled out a number of Heroclix to play with the kids. Batman, Superman, Supergirl, Robin, Batgirl, all came out to duke it out in the street of Clixville. We did not use the extended rules and kept the game to its basic form, and allowed the kids to play, using the game's simple math.

ActionMan in particular got into the idea of fighting with superheroes. Kitty didn't mind it, but she liked most of all that I could give her a couple of gorillas and she did not like us hitting them. Jojo played a little then got bored and left the game after a warm-up.

The girls had:
- Batgirl (Kitty)
- Bat swarm (Kitty)
- Batwing (JH)
- Gorilla City Soldier (Kitty)
- Gorilla Grod (Kitty)
- Parasite (JH)

ActionMan and I had:
- Batman (JP)
- Catwoman (JP)
- Damien Wayne (ActionMan)
- Gangbuster (ActionMan)
- Grider (ActionMan)
- Harley Quinn (JP)

The game ended up as a victory for the boys as we beat down the girl's team. In the end, I had only Catwoman while ActionMan still had everyone of his team on the board. We made a few mistakes on the rules, but we'll correct it next time around.

We will repeat the game in the future. I really enjoyed myself.

And my wife enjoyed the idea of punching me in the face a little too much...

JP

Sunday, August 16, 2015

FOE heading to Aethercon in November

This cranky old gamer has seen a lot of conventions, some good, some bad, some improving, some imploding. However rarely these past few years can I actually say that I have been very impressed with a convention organization. I'm not talking about the "big ones", such as Winter Fantasy, Origins or GenCon... No I am talking about one of the smaller one.

This year, I will try to participate in Aethercon, a convention entirely set on-line. I was able to participate in the last two (was scheduled to run a Legacies adventure this past year, but I was on a plane at the time and couldn't run it). I hoped in on a few games here and there and had an overall good time.

This year, I approached them to serve as a sponsor. I plan on offering a few products from the growing FOE library. I will, of course, use the event to premiere one of the new Legacies adventures. I don't know quite which one yet (my backlog is growing so fast!), but I can only promise that it's going to be fun.

I will be quite honest and thought that I would send an email, wait for a few days or weeks before I got an answer.

Boy was I wrong in my assumption.

Stephen-H got in touch with me very quickly (email and facebook) about supporting the con and talking about it on this blog - something I was going to do anyway. He asked me for banners - sizes I did not yet have so I would have to make them. So I finally made them and sent them to the guys. These banners will part of the blog rotation.

So this is the official announcement that this blog and FOE will be taking part in Aethercon in November!

JP

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

[Talking Interactive] Kudos to the Adventurer League

It has been a long time since I posted one of the "Talking Interactive" series. And this time, I am very happy to put out this post as a positive event.

One of the things that really warmed my heart to the Adventure League's battle interactive at Gencon. The ALBI ended as follows: low and mid levels succeeded while the high levels failed, leading to demons still roaming the Underdark.

This meaningful possibility of failure is what makes things fun for me as a player, where *MY* contribution affects tehe setting and the story. How do I know this? Because the results are announced publicly, and immediately at the end of the battle interactive.

This gives a rather agile feel to things. The forces in charge of the AL have now clearly announced the results and will be help to them in upcoming adventures/ interactives. This self-accountability gives the player - one who is not part of the organization - something to say *I* did that. Merely having a conclusion and an epilogue is not sufficient. You must announce and let people know why things happened this way. There must something in play, something to be gained or lost. Some result that can be achieved or failed, something tangible and realistic.

I am not talking about all the players deciding they don't want to participate or turning against the town or anything like that. No. Challenge the players, stimulate their creativity and give yourself some leeway to accomodate that. But also, do not baby them and give them another chance.

So, big kudos to the powers of the AL. My opinionated mind increased your standing by a lot. That is what we want to see more of. That is what so many organized play campaigns have lost. Well done. Well. Well. Done.

I am frankly (re)thinking my involvement with the Adventurer League.

Again, kudos Wizards, kudos DCI, kudos team. I have taken notice.

JP

Monday, August 10, 2015

[Rant] Paizo's four specials at Gencon

I know I mentioned last week that I had a full blown rant for Paizo about their Gencon offerings. Well here it is... I spent the last week thinking about how best to formulate this rant.

First off, what got me going was their announcement that they would produce and run four special adventures. With three evenings at Gencon, this meant they were going to put the squeeze on all the prime time game slots throughout the con. As a partner and competitor, this annoyed me as I felt they were bypassing the usual con etiquette which is to allow everyone a chance to shine. And by doing that, they drew people away from a number of other great events. I completely support Paizo's desire to run a big event during the con. I would even be supportive of running this event every evening to give as many people a chance to play the adventure. And allow players a choice between that and other thing. The keyword here is choice. However, many people feel they have to participate in the premiere.

Four unique specials is just in bad taste. I have so many ideas on how Paizo could release these adventures. One or two for Gencon, one around Thanksgiving, and final one in February or March. Doing so would stimulate the community year round, create events people will want to attend. Work through the millions of Venture Officers to get this content out, like the previous -EX adventures were. This would give the VOs some added clout and reasons to get invited places.

And allow the smaller guys to shine some at Gencon.

After posting a rant warning on Monday, I received some notes from friends about the fact that Erik Mona posted that such work was too much on their editing staff (see Erik's post). I like to believe that my rage and anger got to others as well and that both fans and staff asked Erik not to attempt this madness again (self-centered me!). I always known Erik as a level-headed and sharp guy. Once again he played his hand like a master. Thanks Erik.

Looking forward to what will happen this year.

A stroke of Genius

Now there is one place they made a masterful stroke. As soon as I was told, I immediately lauded and praised the idea: Running a special on Sunday Morning. What a great way to ensure people actually attend their slot. By having a special. Stroke of genius, Paizo.

JP