Monday, July 28, 2014

Legacy of Lies: Closing the page

Wow! It has been a crazy year for sure! The first year of FOE and the first big year of Legacy of Lies! As it winds down, I plan to share a few thoughts about it.

First off, running a campaign like this takes a LOT of time. However, it is time I cherish and value as I get to spend it with great people, both on-line and face-to-face. I really believe the campaign will get bigger and better as time moves on.

One of the things I am extremely happy was that we had a number of new writers! John Dow wrote the excellent and choice-filled "Black Glass Valley Raid" and Dave "Sin" Polson worked on one of the sub-areas of "Legacy of Lies"! I should have both of them up on RPGNow very soon (and will post a quick thing).

This year, we attended even more cons than before and going into this next year, I hope this will continue!

Patrons...

One of the things I have been thinking about for the longest time and have yet to find a good way to explain is the way our patron system works. Patrons are there to provide you, the player with some additional information on what is going on in the big picture. Unlike early PFS where you be told to "go do this" and there was effectively one way to do it, here patrons are not so all-knowing "You are going in this tomb no one ever knew about, but get me some item buried there." They advance the nation's own goals, but also their leader's personal interests.

Do I have to take one? No. You don't.

What happens if I take one but ignore what they ask me? During premiere events: we evaluate what you have done. Some good or bad things may happen because of your choices. Yes, we look at that too.

Do you have any plans to add or remove patrons? Not at this time, no.

Are my rewards based on doing what my patron asked? Only during special events OR if your patron appears directly in the adventure.


I guess the biggest thing for me is that I want to ask YOU, the players "What do you want out of the patrons?" We want to provide you with something that fits OUR needs and YOUR wants! Do you have a patron that you do NOT like, would like to see more, or one you would like us to add? And the biggest sub-question of all: WHY?

JP

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Funnies: NO! You canNOT do that! and if you do, I dont wanna know

Something giving players creative use of spells.

Yes. I heard that one once.

Yes.

JP

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Time for Pain: Logo

It is that time of the year again... and I was lucky enough to have my good friend Lucas offer to do us another logo for this season! My dearest players gave me the theme "Legacy of Pain" oh do I love you so, so much. Seems you like me to do bad things you.

So Lucas sent me two logos. The first one is blue and red, just like last year's logo and the second is red and purple.

Accompanying this blogpost, I will be running a poll as to which one we should use... Again, on our Facebook group.

JP

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

NPC Card: Interview with Andreas Walters

I first heard of Andreas Walters, was when he invited me to a conversation on Google Plus. I had no idea who he was, so I snooped his profile on GooglePlus to learn more about him. Turns out he is a game designer working on a set of cards.

We talked briefly, starting with me telling him I had no interest in his card game. Yeah I'm as blunt through chat as I am on this blog! But he stopped me by informing me that it was not a card game, but a deck of cards. Chatting some more, he explained more of the project and I my interest rose. Rose enough that I wanted to learn more about it.

And when I learn more, I do an interview! So here goes.

JP - Who are you?

AW To put it simply, I'm a lot of people, I’m an analyst, a medieval fighter (SCA), a traceur, a jewelry designer, a philosopher and a game designer.

JP - How did you become a gamer?

AW Well, this happened when I was in early middle school (maybe earlier) when a group of my friends showed up in a mini-van and told me we were gonna play this cool new game (which they seemed to have some experience playing already). It was D&D 3.0, I got my first character (some level 1 fighter) I really had no idea what was going on, but when we got to combat, I was told I got hit, defiant I argued, "But i have the dodge feat, I dodged!!" (little did I actually know that only gave a +1 dodge to my AC). I’ve learned since then.

JP - What is your RPG pedigree?

AW When I was in high-school my friend was a fanatic about Star Wars (he still is), and he wanted me to create a 3rd edition D&D hack to fit Star Wars, I guess thats when I really started going into the manipulation of rules and systems.

From there I came up with a number of rules for other rules adjustments to streamline the Star Wars Saga Edition (when we found it, as the Use Force skill was waay overpowered).

After that, when D&DNext just started development, I started blogging about design ideas to make D&DNext a better, more balanced system, i pretty much was writing a blog in response to every one of @JoshWOTCs tweets.

When Monte Cook's Numenera came out, thats when I really started getting into game design and writing my own works/systems. Other systems I've played: Pathfinder, Star Wars Saga Edition, Scion, 13th Age, D&D 3.x/4e/next playtest

JP - What is your favorite RPG system of all times?

AW Hmm.. of all time....It would really have to depend on my mood, but right now I am a big fan of Monte Cook Games (MCGs) Cypher System.

JP - What game system do you currently play?

AW Currently, I am playing Numenera (which uses MCGs Cypher System), where I am GMing a play-by-post, and recently my old college friends got back so I'll soon be playing a Star Wars Edge of the Empire campaign which I'm really excited about starting.

JP - Why become a game designer?

AW Well, I kind of fell into it. When Numenera first released I was a very active member of the community. I got close to several great minded gamers whom i worked with to create a number of 1-3 page PDFs of supplemental information for players. Then once the Numenera 3rd Party Limited License was released, I really wanted to take my own shot at creating a short supplement. At first I thought I was going to just do a short 15 page supplement on poisons (since its a rather unexplained in the Corebook), and well the months passed and it grew to a 104 page supplement, which is offered in PDF and print on DriveThroughRPG. I've always loved manipulating systems (as its partially my job to manipulate data and streamline regulatory systems).

JP - I'm not a card man. I loose them all the time, get them out of order, etc. That's really on me. I just hate cards (funny I (try to) play Warmachine...) But, what made you decide "I want to produce a deck of cards"?

AW I’ve been itching to do a card project ever since I’ve published my first book. Cards are quick, easy to use and tactile, leaving their use and interpretation easy. Also, the use of cards enable us to focus in on each facet, allowing us to write a meaningful description in addition to showing off the evocative and inspirational art.

JP - How did you come up with the idea for this deck?

AW So, me and my lead author Andrew were working on an NPC supplement and we were working on a roll table that would be in the back of the book. After doing lots of research on various other NPC generators, we finally pieced together a comprehensive list, but it didn't feel right. Recently I've been trying to find a card project to do, Andrew suggested perhaps the NPC tables, and so I gave it a stab with a mockup and we liked it soo much that we're here with this Kickstarter.

JP - Flat-out: Why Kickstarter?

AW Well, being perfectly honest, Kickstarter is a nice way to:

1) get money without being tied to an investor that might influence the product

2) get an idea of whether people even want the product at all

3) tap into a community of like-minded people that like to see creative things happen

Also, $15k is a lot of money and is no way me or Andrew can rustle up that kind of funds for the project. If we tried spending that money ourselves it would put us in a lot of financial risk, risk that would be a distraction from actually making and delivering a great product. So if it can be funded by people that actually want it, we get the best of both worlds - a product actually gets made for people that actually want it, and we get the freedom to focus on making it the best it can be without having to worry about whether we'll be able to eat next month or lose our homes.

JP - This is a pretty ambitious project for your first effort. Why should people back you?

AW The project is ambitious, the budget is not as much.

Honestly, the total cost doesn't phase me at all. In my prior job, in the city department of transportation, I was an analyst in addition to being a project manager, of which I managed and facilitated several projects with budgets well-over $15k.

Why you should back this project? I think we’ve created a great product, that will become even more after this project is funded. It has great art and great writing which all lead to a good inspiration tool for both players and GMs. If you don't like cards, just go with the PDF rewards and get the Reference Booklet (and even upgrade to the print).

JP - Who else is working with you on this deck?

AW Yes, I'm not the only one going at this project alone, my lead author Andrew Montgomery-Hurrell is assisting me with the writing portions and technical bits of the project (including app specs and website programming). The other member of our team is Eren Arik, who was a classic painter that transitioned to digital paint. I love the work that he does, as he uses his classic painting skills to create imaginative and evocative pieces.

JP - What state is the project in write now: the writing, the art?

AW Currently the project is in its writing stages. We have most of the facets written out, most of our upcoming work will be writing the short descriptions that accompany each facet.

JP - Do you have any other projects you are involved with or have in the works?

AW Yes, actually I am currently in the process of releasing three titles for the Numenera Setting. Unfortunately, I can only publicly speak of one of them, which is Naval Supplement, covering the weird and diverse ways you can use vessels in your campaign, including trade goods, navigation, navigation hazards, naval-combat and customizing vessels.

JP - Any links for those who want to know more?

AW Kickstarter Non-Player Cards KS
Website Non-Player Cards Website
Twitter @AndreasWalters
Google Plus Andreas' Personal G+
Ninth Realm Publishing website

JP - Are you looking for some artists? If artist wants to participate in the project, how can they become involved?

AW At the moment, we haven't considered adding more artists to the project as we originally wanted to maintain a consistent style throughout the entire deck. That said, we are always looking for artists for to help us with our other publishing efforts.

JP - Are you looking for additional editors/ writers/ designers/ etc?

AW For this project as a measurement of quality control we want to keep the team small, however, as I said earlier if you really want to be apart of the project or help out with this, or my other publishing projects shoot me a message.

JP - Final words?

AW First off thank you for the interview.

Also, I wouldn't be here now if it weren't for Monte Cook for creating the Numenera setting and the Cypher System which got me into creating in the first place. So if you haven't played Numenera, I highly suggest you check it out, its a great community and a great game.

If you can support our project, I would be more than appreciative. This is an awesome product that we’re creating, but we need your help to make it happen.

Thank you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Procrastination Chronicles - of sorts

For the past two weeks, my house was invaded by family: namely, my mother-in-law and my nephew. Also, my work schedule has made it quite insane. Long hours, family, activities, summer time, GMing. All those things conspire to kill my time. And with 3 adventures to write for Gencon... well something has got to give. That something, unfortunately is my work on this blog.

Like most bloggers, I agonize over a "I should be writing something for the blog". And so I take a few moments to do so now.

When we moved to our Facebook Group, I posted a poll for people. This poll, offered the players a chance to decide the theme of next year's campaign. I am proud to announce that "Legacy of Pain" was chosen by my players. I must say that I am very thankful for their choice. Now I need to provide for their desires.

One of the Gencon adventures is something very special to me and quite complicated to pull off that I am trying to write. I am quite keen on doing this one right, but if it works, should be a very nice addition to the campaign, and something I am keep to do again.

The other one is one of those adventures that I felt when "nowhere" for a long time when suddenly it clicked. That one was different because it advanced the plot in new ways while reinforcing the "usual" feel. I really like how sometimes these adventures do not work out and you have to keep banging at it, but suddenly, they come together, become even more interesting than the "what do I want the players to learn?" you set out with.

Finally the special is on the back burner right now. I need to finish the "regular" mods first.

So there you have it folks, the latest installment of the "Procrastination Chronicles"!

JP

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Living Greyhawk: Unique Rewards ROCKED

The story of this one harks back to May of 2005. I had just arrived in Colorado and was attending my first convention in Denver: Bencon. I played URC5-I02 Rivalry at Richfest, the first of many County interactives I would be involved with.

This one involved a number of contests. Sir Azrel, Faris of Ekbir and demon hunter of some renown, won the riding contest fraily easily (he was a master rider who would later become a wild plains outrider). The reward I got was "Favor of the Radigast City Merchant's Guild" in short, I had to pimp their products and they would offer me a lot endorsements. I liked the idea so much that between that time and the money Sir Azrel retired at the end of the campaign, he would pimp out the products he committed to selling, even offering "free samples" to fellow adventurers.

That unique rewards totally made my day. I totally enjoyed role-playing that, from explaining the content of the trail mix to the golden fields of grain found outside Radigast City.

Funny thing, D'Anne who was then the junior triad GM'd me and thought I was a total jerk (scrubbed from exact word used). Sir Azrel may have been a paladin, but he was an Ekbirrian patriot first and foremost.

Here was the little speech he would find a way to fit into any adventure: Sometimes when I'm out adventuring for long periods of time, it can be difficult to be regular... Lucky for me, I have Sir Azrel Flakes! Sir Azrel Flakes are made with grain from the County of Urnst and are packaged by the merchants of Radigast City.

Sir Azrel Flakes... so good, they're LAWFUL good!

Finally, I drew the following (I think I did it while I was in Las Vegas during one of the border cons they had there pre-NeonCon).

JP

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Funnies: For my beloved wife

This one goes out to my beloved wife, Julie.

JP

Saturday, July 12, 2014

[Battle Report] Cowboys vs Indians vs Mexicans: A shootout in the west

This morning, the kids asked me "what will we do today?" So I said "MINIS GAME!"

I looked at my stash and quickly pulled out minis for three people: some Indians, some Mexicans and a few cowboys. Throw some terrain on the kitchen table. Throws some cattle and sheep (I know there weren't too many, but it works!)

The setup was simple: This quiet settlement was being raided at the same time by Mexican banditos and Indian braves. Just the kind of things where one can see a Clint Eastwood or Lee Van Cleef.

The Setup

The kids set up the terrain. And we were off. I used a quick, simple system to keep the game rolling. I won't elaborate it, but the Action Man (4 years old) caught how to play very quick.

I set up at one edge, the Indians on the other one and the cowboys were in the center on one side.

The Cowboys (ActionMan)
    - 6 x carbine-armed cowboys

The Indians (Jocelyn)
    - 4x close-combat-armed braves
    - 1x musket-armed brave
    - 2x close-combat-armed mounted braves
    - 1x musket-armed mounted braves

The Mexicans (JP)
    - 5x musket-armed banditos
    - 1x pistol-armed bandito
    - 1x sword-armed capitan

The Action

The game opened with a few turns of maneuvering with the occasional shot taking out random fighters.

But finally, the action got up close and personal. And it was something out of a great Western scene, with fighters on all sides falling to bullets.

One very lucky turn, I took out 3 Indians and one cowboy, leaving my Mexican force mostly intact. I used the opportunity to gather some sheep!

Without any opposition to stop me, I ran off with as many of the animals I had come to steal! With so many animals in my possession, victory was almost assured! I ran from the pursuing cowboys. Taking my ill-gotten gains back across the Rio Grande!

Lucky dice rolls really gave me the upper hand. Both boys did well as they battle each other with murderous intent. In the end, I won because I was able to leave with more sheep.

Did you hear? !FIESTA EN MEXICO ESTA NOCHE! Everyone will eat well, in spite of the loss of José and Miguel.

The game was fun, fast-paced and especially quite brutal. Perhaps the Indians need some more fighters to compensate the lack of firearms. But the speed of the horses really helped him.

So this game really played how the great, cheesy, stereotype-filled Western movies go. It was a fun morning for three kids getting together to roll dice, fight over some cows and sheep, and talk smack to each other.

The last part was really important.

JP

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

[RANT] PCI pulling a No-Reward on Arcanis

So, at Origins, I got to play at my first Premiere of an Arcanis Battle Interactive. I was very excited about it.

This 10hrs+ extravaganza was pretty fun. Super challenging for my low-defense character (she is a skirmisher and a social-based character), but of definite interest.

Rant: The Massive Damage Rule

I will rant about this one because I like to play Arcanis for the story line, I would prefer to use 3.5 or Pathfinder, but I have come to terms with this edition of the game. It has some good points: someone with a dagger CAN be effective.

Now to explain what the Massive damage rule is: if the damage from an attack exceeds your Fortitude score, you take a wound (which inflicts a -1 penalty to ALL rolls).

Now normally, this is something that is a worry. This particular battle had dwarves with crossbows who dealt so much damage that their base damage guaranteed a wound on me unless I used magic and I did . And they game in large numbers: 10-20 per map. So if I was hit, I took wounds. And I have very few of them (3). Magic helped me survived the adventure for sure.

If your character is not specialized in something, taking wound penalties quickly make you fail at whatever you try to do.

One of the thing that PCI have been using to sell their game is that Arcanis is "over-the-top and cinematic". Which it is - you will notice that I drank the kool-aid. I have seen more really crazy stuff in Arcanis than in Pathfinder.

This rule, will mean that Fate Points (previously used for all kinds of awesome stunts now will be used to negate wound penalties). In other words, what Fate used to be used for will now be used mostly as a CYOA method.

"Oh but JP, you are freaking because your character sucks at combat, stop your whining!" I hear some of you saying. While you are right that I am freaking out, the build choices are my own. And while "regular" adventures are not as deadly as the dwarven xbow lines of death, I will now always be on the lookout for that one lucky blow. Some of the GMs with who I play have very hot GM dice (Lenny) who don't hit you for 1-5 point, no its 15-25 per shot. I may use one, rarely two (of my 4), but the rest is now in a "Save Your Cute A$$" vault.

My final thoughts I am not really opposed to this change. It will change how the game is played for sure. It will lower the cinematic feel of the game. Not a big deal overall. Particularly bad for *MY* character, but not something I would shy away from. I'll say: This is a wash.

Rant: The Rewards

I guess what really got people up in arms was when we received our certs: expectations were that we would get XP on par with a two-round adventure, instead of a one-round. A number of reasons were mentioned as to why this was the case. I won't go into them in great detail. You can find everything in the long thread on PCI's website.

I will say this as what annoys me the most: the "surprise sucky rewards". Now if it was announced a head of time, I think it might've been less of a surprise when we got our "reward". In short, for a double module, we got half the xp of a single module. When I first saw this, I immediately replied "WTF" expecting some type of error. We got a one-time Fate Point that with a few special rules, but that was still underwhelming. See my comments about on what it was going to be used.

Yup, double mod, high risk of death (without ways of coming back), for half the reward. Apparently some people had been told of this "low reward" idea. I had not heard of anything of the sort. I would have asked, otherwise. Like I'm a shy SoB about asking this.

I think the "surprise! be happy to have participated" excuse did not go over well. That's really what threw me off. I do not think it is unfair of me to expect rewards on par with a regular adventure. If they plan on dropping the level of reward, then this must be communicated. BEFORE the fact. A little TOO much perhaps.

This was not done.

Players, including myself, feel jilted.

My final thoughts To their credit, the team from PCI owned and have promised us "something else". Now I like their responsiveness. It was really VERY quick to get a response from them. Now, that I particularly appreciate. Responsiveness is clearly a sign of a company that cares for its fans. So from a negative to a positive here.

Rant: Not favoring those who cannot attend the con

This thrend is one that I have noticed among many of the companies. WotC and Paizo have dropped all the unique con-only content, for events that "anyone can play, anytime".

There is something to be said about exclusivity. There is something to be said about unique content at cons. Cons makes the gaming community thrive. For those who do not live in an area with an intense gaming scene, these are crucial for them to keep in touch with fellow gamers. Adding unicity and special content DOES turn a con into an EVENT. Something that MUST be attended.

I have been quite vocal with my non-participation in any PFS events at larger cons such as Gencon or Origins. Two biggest reasons: 1- I can play them locally with people and GMs I know and 2- no exclusive content (I may have to wait a few weeks)

For years now I have been a strong supporter of my local events, wanting to make them as big and as awesome as possible. This, in an attempt to 1- generate more traffic 2- enhance the local experience 3- make sure the event returns.

Why? So *I* can play and enjoy myself

I do not understand why it should be WRONG for people to want to attend the events. For the amount of money they spend on the event (not just the ticket, but their entry and travel fees), they should have something that is fair and representative of the challenges faced.

I will say that finding balance is hard. But in the end, I think more XP is better than giving out material rewards.

I remember back in 2003 when I started in LG, I heard tales of Gencon and thought it was just the most awesome place to be. I heard tales of the specials and the awesome rewards that were given. It made me WANT to go. I make me TALK about how awesome it was. I wanted to take part in these specials and unique events.

So... ? Decisions and Conclusion

One reason like writing these rants is that it forces me to sort out my thoughts and ideas.

I still dislike PCI's leadership decision to lower the rewards for their specials, but in the end that will not be much of a game changer. Knowing this going in is fine.

I will either attend or I will play something else during the special. This decision will be taken in time. No doubt I will look at what other campaigns are doing before choosing what I will do. However, knowing ahead of time would allow me to make a decision I would be fine with.

Pulling such a surprise on the players was not a good thing. However, I still have a lot of faith in the PCI team and that they will make it all better. All that is left at this time is to wait. I fully expect that I will be back at my table seat next year. This time knowing what the risk/rewards are. OR I will be playing something else. I am still a big fan of Arcanis, the Arcanis story line and the Arcanis community.

I would give myself too much credit to think that they would change everything based solely on my own opinion, as valuable as this opinion is. It's never making the mistake that's bad, its how you react and respond to it. Let's wait and see.

Could I be diverted and play another special next year? Yes. I don't have the program before me!

Could I still be at a table for an Arcanis special? Yes, chances are very good.

JP

Monday, July 7, 2014

Cryx Monday: The Seether in chains

Again from the Cryx lot: a Seether! This guy is pretty nifty. I gave him a basic green-colored schema. Finding that too plain, I began to play with copper and other old paints to make the fellow look rusty. He's pretty rusty, I think.

I initially wanted to add more chains to him, but my trial-installs did not look right. So I ditched the idea. I may add some on other cryx jacks, however. I have not given up on THAT...

JP

Sunday, July 6, 2014

[PaizoCon Announcements 2014] Is Paizo phoning it in?

I was expecting a lot of new, good things from Paizo at PaizoCon. However, for the third year in a row, I cannot say that I am Wow-ed by anything they announced.

Let me start by saying that I don't care about the Card Games. I don't play them, so my money is safely in my pocket. Don't care about it, don't care about any card game. The only two ones I own are Guillotine and Munchkin and I don't think I played them since 2010-11. If that. So whatever they announce for the CCG is wasted on me.

So let's look at the actual Pathfinder RPG products.

The Strategy Guide is a book that holds no interest. As someone who has played Pathfinder for a long time, and someone who STRONGLY dislikes optimization boards, I don't understand what this book adds to the game, other than streamlining and making characters much the same. I haven't heard anything about that book that makes me find anything useful in this book. Perhaps for someone coming in the game today, it might hold interest but seriously? There are enough boards and forums to make this book. Rating: completely useless.

The Advanced Class Guide is a book I am personally ambivalent about, but I believe will be interesting to see. However, this book coalesces my belief that Pathfinder is getting too bloated now and is in need of a massive cleanup or reboot. Still I will wait for the final book to come out. Rating: of interest (but this book has been in playtest for the longest time).

After the Iron Gods Adventure Path - which holds no interest to me, the next AP will be a Giant Slayer one. Seems like an orcs and giants AP, iconic monsters that herald back to the days of Greyhawk. I'm not sure what to make of this overall, but I like the underlying idea better than that for Iron Gods. I am intrigued and will follow announcements and news from this. That said, the chances of me actually running this adventure path are null and nonexcistent. But I might play... Rating: of high interest

The Monster Codex appears to me like a beefed-up version of the "Monster Revisited" line of products. Which is a good thing as I do like that line. Rating: of interest

But the real big announcement is Pathfinder Unchained. This is described as "the developers going wild without having to maintain backward compatibility". The detailsa are sketchy at this time but this book has the glimmer of hope of the Pathfinder v1.5 I have been seeing in the cards. I am of two minds about this, and the end result really will be the deciding factor.

If this book is truly a new way to play, then I cannot wait for it to arrive. It may shake up some of the worse element of rules. We are promised a redo of the barbarian, rogue, and summoner among others. That would be most welcomed. Rating: of high interest

If this book is just a long list of optional rules, then that book will be just a piece of junk. Rating: crap

A good and simple barometer of how important this will be in the future will be based upon whether or not Pathfinder Society adopts these rules in their base line or if, like the Mythic Rules, it will only appear occasionally. The former means it will stick, the latter that you should keep your money.

So, unlike the last 2 years, I see some good, useful products in the pipe. Things usable outside Golarion. While some products hold little to no interest for me, I still believe they will be good products, but for others.

An interesting year from Paizo! As an answer to my titled question: No. They are not. I'm happy to conclude!

JP

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I HATE IT!

Okay I'm almost done with one of my Gencon adventures. And I hate it. Just reading it, it bores me to tears.

So I am tearing out a large section of the it.

I have what I think is a great hook, but the adventure fizzles out. The story I have is good, just NOT HERE. So what to do?

Restart.

JP

PS: I wonder how many of you thought this would be an anti-5e post?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Early thoughts about 5e: Let's be realistic

5e is a touchy subject. Like its predecessor, 4e, it ignites passion and feelings of hatred or love. Most people have a strong opinion: they love it, they hate it, they don't want to know about it.

With the summer, our gaming landscape will definitely change as more and more people try it. I will try it for sure. I have stated that as much as I love Paizo, I don't want to limit my gaming "intake" to just one company's products. I want to read about and use technique and rule elements from very diverse sources. I believe that Pathfinder itself was started with those goals in mind, and it was for many years a product that was clearly superior to its competitors. (Now it's bloated but still a very product overall)

I have a few reservations about 5e. Okay a lot. But I thought I should divulge those before I get any deeper into these worries.

I have a feeling that WotC is trying to hunt the rabbit and its shadow with it. By having a system that is somewhat compatible with every edition of the game, I fear they will be trying to get everyone and really fail to capture the majority of the gaming community. I wonder if when you will join a 5e game you will have to provide a long checklist of "how you play the game", similar to the checklist that was provided in 3e's Unearthed Arcana (or was is Arcana Unearthed?) where the GM had to check all the optional rules they wanted to use. I like when I join a group that it will follow the basic rules of the game, not be some customized that it no longer means anything.

Uncle JP's Olden Days Story time

I remember an old AD&D DM (over 20 years ago) who added all the thief abilities to ALL characters, no matter what their class was. He did that, he said, to show that the PCs were "professional adventurers". There were no backstab or anything, but everyone received Open Locks, Hide In Shadows, Scale Walls, etc. While this made for characters with a much wider range of abilities, it cheapened - and prevented - anyone from playing a rogue.

There was another one who gave a ton of bonuses for those who played humans. Not surprising when everyone played elves, dwarves & halflings. Why would you ever play human in those days? They sucked!

I think that one of the great marketing tools they used was to cater and promote a sense of nostalgia. This means that the old Grognards did not blast and bad mouthed the product before it even came out. Thus avoiding the edition war that marked the start of 4e so much. With a feeling of nostalgia (which I frankly don't understand) sweeping through the gaming community these past few years. By kinda catering to this old guard that 4e so successfully pushed away, they destroyed the staying power of their game.

By trying to get the old guard back in, they ensure a stability within the community. If you think of your community. Think of those guys who have been running their games at local events since 1980. These guys are local fixtures, provide their points of view about everything, but most of all, run fun games. These guys tend to be slow to adopt new systems and they are quick to let everyone know how and why your latest product is bad. These are the guys you either want on your side OR want them to ignore you. They have, WotC has, I believe, succeed at that.

I cannot complete this analysis without passing on one of the most-often heard complaints about people who have left 4e. They feel burned by WotC. They feel like they spent thousand of dollars on an edition and now they have to throw them away.

Here I have to slap you silly, fellow gamers.

You did get some enjoyment of these books from a previous edition. Nothing prevents you from enjoying them some more with you want. Just because there is no new material doesn't mean you cannot play the game. Oh and they never forced you to buy them. They produced material you thought was of good enough quality to separate from your cash. So it NOT THEIR FAULT.

However, the way these edition-killing were done can lead one to expect that in three years, we will have the "5e Ultimate Edition" which changes "nothing" but the game really isn't the same without it. In fact, I am almost certain that it will happen. Your 5e core books will be valid (bar errata) for about 3 years and then 6e will be here.

Some people have mentioned the cost of the books as a reason for not getting into it. This is a load of BS. Really. While the cost of books has gone up. A lot. From the 40$ I paid for each 3.5 core books to the projected 60$ for each 5e books a decade later. Yes that is a price hike. However, this is somewhat on-par with other books in the industry. WotC has always produced beautiful books. We can argue about the quality of content, but their production quality is great. Great art, great layout, worth the money on that alone.

The question on every one of the third party publishers: what about the OGL? Information is vague about it. Most sources I have say there will be one. However, they also say things like "it won't be as permissive as the OGL" or "WotC will keep much tighter control of the products that come out" so...

A good friend of mine was happy to tell me "they will have an OGL, the character creation guides will be free online!" I hated to burst his bubble but that was NOT the OGL. I explained the OGL and what it allowed writers like myself to do. I'm not sure he understood or cared, for him they were giving away a big chunk of it for free. For him the OGL was just the free set of rules.

If they do like they did with the mess of the GSL, I expect their free marketing team (aka 3pp) will quickly desert them fairly quickly and keep supporting Paizo.

An Origins Surprise: Organized Play

At Origins, I got to listen to Chris Tulach, head of the organized play division at WotC for almost a full decade now!

On the topic of Organized Play, he said a number of things I really liked. First off, WotC would focus on supporting local stores first, with home play and con play second. I cannot let you know how brilliant I thought that was. Its one thing I think Paizo is failing at: supporting stores with incentive to have people play there. I have been a very vocal and firm supporter of playing in stores. Yes, it may not be as conducive for full-immersion role-playing.

So what does this mean

That for pretty much everything about 5e: we don't know. There are a lot of unknowns and a few known things. WotC speak a good game. But words are cheap.

5e is almost out and I'll know then.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Cryx Mondays: Scrap thralls for the heap

In the Cryx lot from Cincicon, were a number of these scrap thralls.

Where to start with these models... I love them. Not just for their use in the game. I have no idea how good or bad they are, but with a name like "scrap thrall", I don't hold my breath for them being awesome.

Seriously, their usage for me lies in their usefulness as RPG models. Half-skeleton, half-construct, what else do I need? I mean really? They look bulky, unwieldy and just plain mean.

I have been thinking about a Zombie apocalypse mini-game for a while, using Zed or Alive perhaps. These guys just scream "INCLUDE US!" Not to mention additions to Deadlands: Hell on Earth or steampunk horror. But even as NeoExodus necrostructs... This is an adventure that simply writes itself.


JP

Sunday, June 29, 2014

[Interview] David Silver about Ponyfinder's latest Kickstarter

For my 100th post of 2014, I thought "Happy Thoughts" and Ponies make me think of happy things. Then of little girls screaming and squealing in delight...

Ponyfinder was a surprise delight for me. I really did not expect to like it. I am not sure whether I wanted to help on my own or if I was asked to do it (I was asked and waited to come back from my trip to Montreal before doing anything about it). I wanted to know more about the man, the project and this new kickstarter. And being a charitable person, I had a short interview with him and I'm posting it here for you!

I'm talking about the man in charge of Ponyfinder and the mastermind behind Silver Games LLC: David Silver (DS).

JP - How did you start playing RPGs?

DS My first taste of D&D was at the hands of a man that offered no advice. I left the experience confused and bewildered, but proceeded to go home and tell my friends about this thing. We went on to do cooperative storytelling for months, since I had no idea what the rules were and had no funny dice. Eventually I got AD&D 2nd edition and we started playing that, and I haven't stopped roleplaying since then.

JP - What is your RPG pedigree?

DS I'm about as indie as they come. I've designed online roleplaying games for over ten years, but never made an actual roleplaying book until just before the first Ponyfinder Kickstarter, when I made the race guide to ponies(Ponies for Pathfinder), which was later expanded into the Ponyfinder Campaign Setting that people are enjoying. I'm only starting to meet the 'big names' right about now, as I press further with my desire to keep on creating.

JP - What would you say is your favorite RPG system of all time?

DS Different systems work for different things! I admit that I tend to like crunchy numbers. I think it's the programmer in me, but I like watching those gears spinning around, and designing things to fit in the existing machine without breaking it appeals to me.

JP - What draws you to Pathfinder over other games?

DS Ponyfinder is a happy fit of luck and timing. I saw the joke version of it on the web long long ago, then got into Pathfinder organized play (Pathfinder Society). The organized play got me playing Pathfinder quite a bit, as it was a very fun format to bring a character from GM to GM.

JP - Ponyfinder is a 122 page book, quite an undertaking. What got you to decide to write?

DS Related to above. When I tripped over the joke Ponyfinder again, I thought I could do better, so I made Ponies for Pathfinder over a week or so and published it for all to see. The response was very positive, even to the point when I asked if they were willing to pay for a more polished book. I put their words to the test when I started a Kickstarter and they came through. We blew apart every stretch goal we could dream up and Ponyfinder was eventually born of it. It was an amazing experience.

JP - Why Ponies? My little girls love 'em... but grown and aging men?

DS Why dwarves, halflings, or elves? Tolkein's had a stranglehold on our fantasy for too long. I like interesting species choices, and the classic ones are getting a little dry. Making some races that had distinctly different anatomy and way of approaching life is great fun to write about and to play. The ponies as presented in Ponyfinder all have goals and ambitions that I try to make consistent with the world and 'realistic' as far as that world goes with brightly colored equines. They are not all nice people, and they don't live in a sunshine world of luxury.

JP - The Ponyfinder book introduces us to the Everglow setting. Can you tell my readers about it?

DS Everglow is a world parked right between the elemental planes. It's soaked in their clashing magic, which has given rise to elementally charged races, with flying horses, dogs that are on fire, and even races made of gems. The ponies were the last species to appear, but took the world by storm with their extreme variety(sea horses, gem, doppelgangers, unicorns, pegasi, bats, desert, ghost, and more) and their eventual cohesion. While their empire persisted, they were a powerful force of law and order, providing the framework for the world to function peacefully, mostly...

JP - One of the things I really liked about it was that you presented the timeline of the setting. Not only that, but you provided some hints, story ideas, factions for the era, in short you provided three settings in one. That I must say was quite ingenious. I think I may steal the idea in future products of my own. How did that idea come about?

DS When I wrote the original Ponies for Pathfinder, it was assumed the ponies were not in charge, and hints were given that they used to have an empire worth talking about, but it fell apart. We didn't want to abandon the roots, so we had to address that point in time, but we also wanted to touch on the empire itself.

I decided to go with three major points, before the empire, during, and after, and let the GM decide where along the timeline they want to run any given game. We don't mind which you pick, and not much changes mechanically, but it changes the flavor of the world dramatically from wild west to high court shenanigans, or post apocalyptic survival, all on the same world.

JP - Other than the obvious presence of ponies, what at the most unique elements of Everglow?

DS There are a lot of four-legged races, ponies aside. It's also the easiest setting ever to throw in elemental tomfoolery. It's not unusual for the border between 'here' and 'there' to thin out, causing a place to start manifesting properties of an elemental plane, causing trouble, or opportunity, for the players. We tried to add interesting character creation options in the form of feats, traits, spells, class archetypes, and such that you can use even if you don't set it on Everglow or play a pony at all.

JP - Who are the main bad guys?

DS That's a tough one! Most settings don't have a baked in nemesis for all that is good and just. We have some evil gods to worry about, but even they have their purposes, and are acknowledged by polite folk, rather than being banned. There is no good in war, so their war god is evil, and they accept that if one accepts the idea that killing a field of soldiers is probably not a 'good' thing to do, even if sometimes justified.

We expect storytellers to come up with more specific bad guys for their specific stories. Our first level adventurer has a gem gnoll that's quite a baddie. Every party I've run the scenario for has taken glee in putting him in his place.

JP - Quite simply: Why Kickstarter?

DS Kickstarter is an amazing tool that not only gets me the funding to pay artists, layout, and editing to make the book look right, but also connects me to the fanbase to share ideas with them. People love seeing their ideas come to life, and it was a blast working in their characters, towns, and even races into the campaign book the first time through. Kickstarter allows Ponyfinder to be a true product of the community.

JP - What does the griffon add to the setting?

DS Griffons are present in the campaign book as a racial option, but it's not very generous in details about them. The griffon book (Who's Kickstarter is going on right now!) dives into details. We'll reveal where their towns and cities are up in the mountains most ponies don't intrude upon. We'll give them specific class archetypes to do things 'the griffon way', and delve into their way of life and thinking. It will be an excellent tool for roleplaying a griffon, as well as a helpful guide for GMs who may wish to use griffons as aids or antagonists for the player. They have the potential to be amazing heroes or incredibly troublesome villains.

JP - Why griffons instead of any one of the other races?

DS In staying with our community driven ways, we ran a poll with all the non-pony Everglow races, and griffons came out on top.

JP - This kickstarter should be funded. How far advanced are you in the writing of it?

DS I have a basic timeline written out with events, one unique griffon goddess, and the griffon outlook for every class in the book. We also have some griffon racial types, allowing you to shuffle your stats a little if you prefer to play a clever raven-headed griffon or a pious pidgeon. When we hit our twelve thousand mark, we're going to be expanding on those options a lot. While they all look about the same to untrained eyes, the griffons have their own variance to compete with the ponies.

We're looking forward to the next stretch goal at ten thousand, less than five hundred away, which will allow us to bring on Hugo Solis, an artist who has worked with Paizo in the past, to do up some amazing pieces for inclusion in the book.

Just about every stretch goal makes the book better. I set the funding goal just as Kickstarter suggested, at the minimum amount needed to do the project. With each goal we bust through, the book will be that much better in the end.

JP - Who is your team on this new book?

DS Our artists, Sita Duncan and Tama'at Studios returns. My right-hand editor Anthony Mckaskle is ready for action, and we have a new marketing /PR consultant, Kyle Elliott. I'll be writing and keeping things moving. Lastly, we have an actual module for levels 1-3 being cooked up by William Kreber(the fellow who did Tower of Misery) and Michael Azzolino.

JP - Do you have any plans for a campaign?

DS Oops, just touched on that above. We have aspirations to do an adventure path type thing, starting with the first module I hinted at above. We're using some of the funds raised in the Kickstarter to cover art and editing on it, and look forward to releasing it when it's done.

JP - What about an organized play campaign?

DS I would love to see this! But I think we need a lot more content and a more steady stream to support such an endeavor.

JP - Are you planning to attend any major cons in the coming year?

DS My con list for the year: Everfree Northwest, Brony Fan Fair, and Nightmare Nights I only got my first taste of vendoring at a con early this year, and it was far too late to try to squeeze in one of those big ones. Maybe next year? Time will tell!

JP - Any there any important links where people can go to learn more about Ponies/ Silver Games/ the Kickstarter?

Twitter: @silvergamesllc
Facebook: Pathfinder Ponies
Our forums: forum.ponyfinder.net/
The Kickstarter: griffon.ponyfinder.net

JP - Are you looking for writers/ editors/ gms?

DSGMs are a precious commodity. If you like running games, you should set up some on our forum at http://forum.ponyfinder.net/ where you will find players waiting to play!

JP - Do you have any non-pony projects in the works that you can talk about?

DS Not at the moment. Ponyfinder is consuming my life!

JP - Any final word?

DS Thanks for the interview! I hope this was as fun to read as it was to type and if you haven't already, fly on over to griffon.ponyfinder.net and support the book. We can't wait to write with you!

If you can participate, I encourage you to check out the Kickstarter. Learn more about it for yourself. I know that talking with David, his enthusiasm about this project is quite contagious.

A lot of good stuff in there... And a few surprises if you read through everything...

JP