JP On Gaming

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My Little Pony: Raging Barbarian

Continuing my ponies from Impact Miniatures. At Christmas, I gave the kids their ponies, now those ponies belong to dad (for use with the kids). This fellow has a lot of character and really feels like an enraged barbarian. I was inspired by the Pathfinder iconic, Valeros for his armor. I like how it came out.

JP

Sunday, January 31, 2016

[Review] The Blessed Lands for Arcanis

When the final PDF for The Blessed Lands appeared in my inbox earlier, it was like a belated Christmas present. Fun fun fun. So I began to put down a few notes with the intention of sending it privately to Henry Lopez (the author), but this short list grew and grew and grew to the point where it became a blog post.

What are the Blessed Lands?

This book is a source book for the Blessed Lands, a region of the World of Arcanis that contains a city blessed by the gods where all the major empires have held sway. The lands around are filled with magic and history dating back millennium.

This book was funded via Kickstarter back in December of 2013. So it took a full two years to land in our lap. After years of teaser, mostly through adventures, the material was tested, refined and inflicted on the players of the Legends of Arcanis campaign (among which yours truly is a dedicated - or is it rabid - fan and aficionado). I backed this book - as I backed most of PCI's kickstaters: because I knew I would get to play with the material (same reason I backed WitchHunter).

I am rather happy to see that this is present as the Codex Geographica Volume 1, meaning we can expect more of this series in the future.

Overall: A few high-points

    - The maps: the maps are super-nice and very professional, they are definitely a highlight of this book for me.

    - The art: as usual, awesome done by their regular artist, Pat Laboyko (whose art graced this blog in the past, his stuff is good and really give Arcanis its own feel). I was particularly excited at the views of the First City. The art really highlights that and make it come to life - oddly enough it is very much like I envisioned it when I played the various adventures - like looking at a postcard. MAJOR high point.

    - The districts of the First City have their own section, each with a section of the map copied nearby.

    - One thing I personally always look for in such a source book: is the material leave open for the GM to add and expand his own stories. While not adventure hooks per se, just by reading, I must be able to answer this question "could I run an adventure that uses this material?" While I have yet to read everything in details, the spot-reading I have done so far answers the question is a big YES!. And that raises the value of the book greatly. These hooks are not always obvious, but are tainted (yes, tainted is the right word for most things Arcanis) in the history or the current events in a good mix.

    - There are a few special secret messages in the book. I'll let you decipher them. Took me about an hour to do it (watching old Superbowl recaps from the '70s). As usual great lore!

Codex of Heroes: The character section

Such a book would not be of value to players without at least a few new options. The options are fine. They mostly allow one to create a character that has more attachment to the Blessed Lands, but there are options for those of us with characters from other parts of the world.

I can honestly say that I found a few gems for my own character... The Order of the Laughing Viper could add a really funny twist (a gladiator harlot... "Why did you join the Order?" "Do you know a better way to get close to those hot, sweaty gladiators?" the laughs roll on and on). However, the requirements are too high (would take me literally hundreds of adventures to fulfill the requirements).

The spells are utilitarian, those I read were interesting and I could see myself use them (or see them used on me much more)

Bestiary: The Monster section

I will be honest and say I purchased the book to use as a player the vast majority of the time. So I did not spend a lot of time in this section at my first perusal. My second pass as I resolved to write this review warranted that I spend some additional time therein. The monsters there are flavorful and are a number of monsters that have been eating or beating on me for the past two years. Pat's art now puts a visual aspect to the creatures that have been plaguing me.

I was particularly intrigued and worried about the nightrunners. Those things were part of a massive attack during Gencon '15. A major event I took part in... lo and behold, there is a drawing of what it was like on page 132! Yup that's pretty much how that was...

The Appendix

Appendix A presents us with a few new gods present in the Blessed Lands. I am particularly interested in Aii, a Jesus-like monotheist faith that provides an explanation of the pantheon in a monotheist approach. Very well done by the way. As a philosophical enthusiast, that faith SCREAMS

Appendix B details the weather in the Blessed Lands. Now the weather there is MESSED UP. This section is something players who adventured there have... experienced (some would say, rightfully so "submitted to"). The terrors are all deadly, from the Banshee's Wail to the Blood Fog, to Saluwé's Caress, are nasty and not something you want to have happen to you. One trick: RUN. FAST. DON'T STOP.

This section could've used some art (I really would like to see what Pat-L could do with some of those. ), but as an appendix that's perfectly acceptable.

Annoying points

    - There is one element I was not initially overexcited about and I quickly, and privately brought it up as "an annoyance point". Not something that would really prevent me from enjoying the book - it has too many good things in it. The well-detailed history of the Blessed Lands is separated into a number of logical sections (which I like). However, each such section has an entry for what people know

(Taken from the book) Req.: Ss’ressen, Followers of the Azure Way (10+ Fame) or Knowledge: History 12 So a character who is Ss'ressen (lizardfolk-type race), a member of Azure Way with 10 or more fame points with the organization would automatically know this. No issue so far, when you are a member of that race or a value member of the organization, they would tell you some secrets. A character with 12 ranks in Knowledge (history) would similarly automatically know. That's quite a lot but fine. Still no issue...

The problem is that there is no clear corelation between someone with 11 ranks and someone with 12 ranks.

"JP, you're reaching here" you say? And you would be right.

    - The book is late, very late (it was initally promised for September of 2014). True that's annoying but I never felt like PCI abandoned us or and we received updates all the way through. Plus, seeing the end result: additional pages (~60 of them), it was worth the wait. But that's no longer a concern it's here, NOW.

Final Score

As much as I tried to find issues with the book (I found the occasional typos here and there - I *was* looking hard!), I cannot find any fault with the book. It has everything I want: good writing, adventure potential, creative entries, great art, great maps, an index, character options, as much as I tried to find something, I could not. The issues (lateness, number of ranks to know something) aren't really something that affects the book overall or its quality.

I tried to find something I didn't like.

Because of that I have to score the book a 5/5 stars and a solid recommendation for it. Look for it at your local store, online or during one of the big cons attended by PCI (like Origins).

Great job guys! Great, great job.

JP

PS: The cover art by Tomas Honz is copyrighted by PCI and used here without permission.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

[Tweaking Pathfinder] Reviewing the charge rules

The charging rules are just too cumbersome and are a relic harking back to the days of 3.0/3.5. 4e, 5e, and even games using similar mechanics - such as Arcanis - have presented us with simpler charge rules. The "straight line corridor" is as complicated to explain as it is to enforce. While old salts like myself quickly see whether someone can charge or not, to new players and even less-regular ones, it is very difficult to explain.

The rule presented here aims at addressing these issues, keep in the spirit of the game, and most of all, limit argument and make the game flow quickly. Quicker = better. However, dear players, this means that YOU will also end up on the receiving end of a charge more often - to the greater joy of GMs everywhere.

Except where detailed below, the existing charge rules apply (full-round action, partial charge, hit bonus, AC penalty, etc)

   1- The charger must see opponent throughout the movement.

   2- Every square moved must bring the charger closer to the target (no equally-distant). The charger must seek as direct a path to the target, but can make adjustments as he is moving.

   3- The charger may not cross any effect or location that slows down or negatively affects movement. A charger may jump over obstacles such as walls or rivers, but may not charge through an area of entangle. If the charger enters such condition (fails to cross the river's width or enters zone suddenly filled with difficult terrain), the charge fails and the charger's movement ends immediately.

   4- Because someone asked me: NO, it is not possible to use the Stealth skill while charging.

There... simple, elegant, quick, and usable.

JP

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

Video Games Memories

A few days ago, I was contacted by someone from Man Crates. Now this is something that appeals to my own sense of neanderthal goodness. Think about this, a wooden crate you need to open with a crowbar, they are uniquely gifts for men. Is there anything more manly than that? I can hear myself grunting in joyful glee the boy and I open it to unveil its content. I had heard of them before, someone sent me their information - as a gag - but as I watched it, I realized the genius of the idea. You can't hear it now, but I've been grunting happily just thinking about it.

But back to the topic, so I was asked to share my experience as a video gamer: what memories did they conjure? what images come to mind? associative thoughts. Although I consider myself more of a tabletop gamer than video gamer, but the opportunity to first reminisce then write other types of gaming I talk about a lot less.

My love affair with video games started long, long ago, it started years before The Citadel of Chaos was placed in my hands. Here is my story, telling the story of three of my favorite games: my first console game, my favorite PC game, and my first MMO.

A- Console Gaming

In that era known as the early 80s, at time where five pixels would form a star ship. Or a submarine. Or an airplane. Or a Tennis player. The box covers of the cartridges fired our imaginations more than what we saw on our TV.

In the era of the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision, my parents gave my brother and I a ColecoVision. At the time, it was the best system out there, with games that were innovative and in general much clearer that the four pixels our friends had.

We played hours upon hours of Cosmic Avenger and Looping, both of them side-scrollers where you took a ship or a plane through mazes. "Looping" I particularly liked, and I remembered that we used to flip the controller upside-down to navigate the narrow mazes. One game we got later that I played a lot of was called Fortune Builder, a predecessor to SimCity, you had to build your town and make it prosper. One thing it had that SimCity didn't have until later version: ski resort. Part of the map - you always played on the same maps - was a set of high mountains where you could put slopes and see pixels "ski" down them. It was insanely hard to make consistent money.

We used to play downstairs on the old black and white TV. That place was cold: Canadian winters and my mother kept the house at 68' in the summer, so colder downstairs. We would wrap ourselves in blankets hiding the controllers inside our cocoons decked out in our Montreal Canadiens jerseys listening to the game my father watched upstairs. (Go Habs Go, btw)

When my cousins would come over with their own games, we huddled around the small screen, which couldn't have been any bigger than 10 or 11 inches. We munched on chips and cheese puffs, which made the controllers absolutely nasty but none of us was willing to give up his turn.

My brother and I went through two or three power cords, forcing my dad to get another with surprising regularity.

B- PC Gaming

I was in high school when I next got into a video game that really took my time away. It was around 1989-90, Marc-P, a buddy of mine introduced me to this game call "Pirates!" for the PC. Wow! Love at first sight! I first spent hours playing the game, and through it, learned the geography of Caribbeans and led me a love affair with the period that lasts to this day. I scoured the high seas, plundering. One of my characters had a life of adventure that spanned for more than thirty-five in-game years (quite a feat).

Pirates! was clearly a driving factor in my love affair with history, a love affair that influences my writing to this day.

I played this game late into the night, for hours on end, drinking the teas my mother brought back from England, jerky, muffins or whatever I could smuggle up into my room, for the PC, unlike the consoles, was upstairs in my bedroom. Food was strictly disallowed by my mother, but I smuggled some snacks once in a while.

C- MMO

For years, I stayed away from MMOs, calling them time-sinks and money-sinks (both of which I can't say are false). However, my biggest issue was the subscription model which I understood but did not have the disposable income to spend on it. Then one day, a friend told me that Guild Wars only had a fee to buy the game and it was free to play.

I played that game for a long time and having become old and diagnosed with diabetes, kept a big jar of pecans or peanuts (I varied the flavors). I filled the cap and munched one at a time as I quested across the world. From Guild Wars, I have since moved to other games: D&D Online, DC Universe Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Then again - as now - I wrapped myself in a Denver Broncos blankets.


Video games have always been part of my life, from the early days of playing in the basement to the man cave of today. I even introduced my kids to playing on the X-Box. Good thing: the old man is still better than they are at NHL, but they are improving. The 10-0 is now 4-2.

DAMN YOU, OLD AGE!!!

TLDR: What I associate with each of the above:
A - cheese puffs, soda pop, music by early Bryan Adams, a throw blanket
B - jerky, chips, muffins, loose-leaf tea, music by Genesis or Rush, a throw blanket
C - nuts (particularly pecans and peanuts), music by Iron Maiden or Sonata Arctica, a throw blanket

JP

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Legacies Writing Update

With time marching on as it does, I have been busy writing more material for both Saggakar and Legacies (not just for Arcanis). This week I have been busy writing an adventure I plan to unveil around March/April of this year. The adventure is tentatively called "One Final Night of Freedom" and closes one of the threads that has been in the background since Gencon. This adventure needed some of that simmer time not only for me to present and introduce the cast involved, but also for me to really see where the players would go on some of their threads. How much players can screw things up is a good way to describe what I had to wait for, and the insight has been very... interesting. Some Houses have definitely advanced their agenda, while others have not fared as well.

It's an adventure that can easily be described as a major story point for the campaign, one that will bring together a number threads, meaning that there will be NPCs from a variety of threads entangled in this one. I am still trying to sort out the many possible ramifications of this one.

On its heels, I have another one I have in the wings, though I wonder if it might not serve as a special...

Whatever the case, those two adventures, numbered ToS1-09 and ToS1-10 respectivelly should be the last two for this year, making it the biggest year for FOE so far. Even in the days of the previous campaign, we only published 4 then 6 and 5 core adventures (with a few others). So I am very proud of it.

For those of you seeking play opportunities, our Facebook group is the best place to play.

JP

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

JP the Brony

After a long time, I finally get around to posting my pics of Ponies from Impact miniatures. The sculpts for these models is great. They have character and paint up well, and most importantly look the part of the My Little Pony characters. My daughters especially really like that I got some ponies to paint.

However, my issues with the models come from the resin they used. They required so much prep work because the primer didn't stick to it. Neither did the diluted glue solution I applied on the model held on too good. Once they are ready and fully primed, they are great models.

I wish I had gotten more of them.

The first mini is painted to resemble the pony called "Applejack" who is a farmer. She speaks with a southern accent.

The second pony was painted as an homage to the Denver Broncos, my favorite football team. Go Broncos!

JP

Monday, January 18, 2016

Arcanis: Back on the road

So after axing my Arcanis adventure with a delightful blow to the head (and torso, and arms), I took the pieces, pulled out some new duct tape and brought it all back together! This time, I like what I came up with and the adventure is back.

So what was wrong with it? You ask, not wanting to write an adventure I dislike. The answer is not obvious, and touches on a lot of intangibles.

First, the PCs' motivation. As written initially, the PCs had no motivation to do anything in the adventure. The PCs were to investigate something without any real reason to do so.

Second, since the PCs had no reasons to investigate, they had reason to make a choice one way or the other. If you don't care about A or B, what difference does it make? Why pick one over the other.

Third, the events felt forced, or rather, completely random instead of having a logical flow. Those who know me, know the importance I place on the flow of an adventure, that the encounters feel natural and logical. This one didn't have any flow. It was just flat.

Finally, I could not come up with a good climax, the adventure did not build towards anything. It had no real timeline.

So we had a story where the PCs were tangential to the actual plot, had no reason to care. That bugged me like crazy. The more I tried to work on it, the more I confounded the problems. In short, I was digging myself deeper into a hole.

So what to do?

When I posted the axe to the head post, I really took the plot and chopped it into small pieces.

I thought of my basic set up. And worked up from there. So I started on the introduction, working up from Cody's comments. With this new set up, I was able to put nearly every one of the elements back in the adventure, because the new set up made them relevant, instead of forced in. Once I redid the start, the rest came together really quickly, like when you have something you know is good and exciting.

So the adventure is back with my reviewer, hoping he will like it as much as I do! I'll keep you all posted as to what happens, but I guess it will be very quick from writing to production...

JP

Friday, January 15, 2016

5e OGL: Should I stay or should I go?

Earlier this week, after a long two years of silence and limbo, Wizards published their 5e OGL, and now all the little publishers, like myself, are excited about the opportunity to publish material under this license.

The question I have is "should I stay loyal to Pathfinder, or hop on this new boat?" Which has a lot of ramifications...

First off, what is the state of Pathfinder? I haven't heard anything from Paizo that makes me believe they will refresh and clean up their game, so Pathfinder will stay around for another year as we get Bestiary 6 and the Books of Tactics II. I've stated publicly multiple times, and support Jervis Johnson (of Games Workshop fame) when he said that an average game has a life span of five years before it needs a new edition. Pathfinder has been around now since 2009, six and a half years (so far, more like 7 or 8 by the time a new edition rolls around).

I am anxiously waiting for PaizoCon to see what they will announce. A revamp/ reboot/ clean-up of the book is well needed and would be welcomed by the community in general, not to say increase sales through the new book.

Let's ask ourselves what is the state of 5e? I'll be honest, 5e may not be setting things on fire, but it is the new hat on Malibu Stacy. Its play numbers are growing, more and more people are looking into it as an alternative to Pathfinder. More than one organizer reported the growth of its play numbers and the decline of Pathfinder play at their events. So players are migrating to something new, looking for a change.

Who is my target audience? It would be too simple to say "every gamer", and while that is my goal, it is unreasonable. I know there a lot of people who have no interest in my products, whether because of the platform, they like what they have or they hate me (yes, yes, I know there are a few out there...). My target player used to be "a PFS player wanting a change of pace", increasing their play options for a game they loved. However, that player, as a whole is now either playing 5e/Adventurer's League (AL), playing other games or playing PFS full-time (and only PFS).

I don't have a good answer right now. I still believe that those who play both PFS and Legacies enjoy playing Pathfinder more, because they do it in a different way and get more mileage out of the game they love.

Is there a way to have my cake and eat it too? Isn't this the ultimate joy? Be able to write and create material for both 5e and Pathfinder? My answer for it is pretty clear and simple: NO. I do not have the time nor the energy to be able to produce material for both consistently. The Legacies definitely cannot run in both systems, because of the time required to write, design and correct. Creating two play-test groups would be more hassle than I really want to do. With the Player's Guide for Tyrants of Saggakar out, I would be open to publishing a 5e version of it.

So the question becomes, How about having one campaign in Pathfinder and another one using 5e? which has a similar answer. However, they idea has a lot of potential. One campaign could focus on Faremh and the other could be on a very different local (such as hajit-dominated Seher, or the Kynean-dominated Nyen'To) with occasional winks and crossovers. Had NeoExodus Legacies still been around, this is something that we could have attempted and pulled off.

Is there really a desire in the community for third party 5e products? I'm pretty sure there is. With so few 5e products out right now, third party publishers will fill the gap and establish 5e as the new baseline, a crown Paizo had. WotC get some free marketing and a bunch of additional fans and de-facto partners to promote their game and the core game.

What do I want to do? Perhaps the biggest question of them all. I don't have a good answer for this one.

To help me decide, I ran a poll on the Legacies Facebook group. But there too, the community is torn, with great passion to one side or the other.

So I have yet to make a decision, meaning that everything stays as is for now. I will publish products for 5e in the future.

I'll admit I am not sad with that decision.

JP

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Arcanis gets the axe

Well it had to happen. After putting a few more hours into my Arcanis adventure. I decided to give it the axe. I will not write it because it bored me.

And like most of you, I have neither the interest nor time to write something I am bored with. New adventures should be exciting and fun. What I have now is neither.

So what does that mean? Simply that I am dropping my current script and restarting from scratch. Sure I may pull some ideas from the original but what I have now is pretty much bound for the scrapyard.

The underlying theme will remain, but where it goes from there will differ.

A lot.

As of this morning, I have already have the story back on track. I think only the NPC "names" and roles survive (the NPCs are names XvD, YvD, R1, R2 for now). And I think the adventure will have a better flow and be much more fun to run and play, while staying the feel of Arcanis

JP

PS: You did not really think by the title that 1- Arcanis was going away and 2- that I would stop playing it did you? Because neither are true.

Curse you, Wolflair/Herolab

A few weeks ago, I contacted a GM on Roll20 to join his Space 1889 game. I've always been a fan of that setting and lucked out as I found a game on-line. So I contacted the GM and it turns out he (Mike) is a guy I knew from my time in Colorado (I do say I'm an international celebrity).

So I started creating a character for his game and what is the best tool out there? HeroLab. So I got to the site to add the SW license to my HeroLab, pay up and then I end up paying for it.

Turns out I clicked on the wrong thing about bought myself a NEW license...

After contacting them, they quickly told me they could either reimburse me or they could merge the two licenses and I could get the (I stopped listening at that point). I was annoyed, there was nothing I wanted for 10$.

So I asked for the cancellation of the new license. It was done in short order... Great customer service: friendly, clear, and efficient.

Then I returned to the Wolflair site... And instead of just buying the Savage World, I ended up with the Call of Cthulhu AND Mutants and Mastermind 3rd Ed packs! GAH!

Curse you Wolflair! A Chicken on your head!!! Now you are forever branded with that tag and people across the megaverse will revile you!

I managed to be good and not spend much during December but now I went and spent more than I wanted.

Let the curse be upon you because of your awesome products and great customer service that got me to split from my hard-earned money.

JP

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

[Old Pro Tricks] The Taldor Test

A Happy day in Taldor

Now I have been pulling what few hair I have left to come up with a solution to my rut on my Arcanis adventure. The adventure has a clear path, the reason for the antagonist to do what they do is reasonable, and the interesting elements abound. So why then do I think it is flat?

Because it fails the Taldor test big time.

So what is the Taldor Test?

Taldor is one of the nations in Paizo's Golarion. It is a nation that I would consider to be generic med-fan. It has a little flavor of its own, but is not overly unique, especially when compared to say Ustalav (Gothic horror), or Rahadoum (anti-theist paradise). The Taldor test is something I came up with after I played a few adventures of Pathfinder Society, and gripe about how little of the setting they actually used in their adventures. Most would take place in an interesting location, then would take you away

To pass the test, an adventure must require major changes to set it in Taldor. This means that the setting of the adventure is important. Though there are a number of elements that come into play when determining whether an adventure passes the test, an obvious way is to see if the party has to change something in how the game is played. "When here, you must hide your holy symbol" or "This is enemy territory so avoid letting people know you work for us" or "While in this town, don't mess with the gelatinous cubes". Removing these unique conditions would make the adventure lose a LOT of its flavor.

Passing or failing the Taldor Test really tells you nothing about the adventure itself other than how important its setting plays into it. I personally favor adventures than pass the test, because I love it when the setting is a drive for adventure. I'm not talking just about an opening story about it, but a plot that uses and becomes better because of it.

Here are a few PFS examples. The first part of the Heresy of Man passes with flying colors. It uses local flavor as a vessel for adventure. The other two parts, however, fail miserably.

The test runs on the main elements of an adventure rather than the artifices around it. Early PFS (Seasons 1-4) usually fails the test. Pathfinder adventure paths and modules usually pass the test with flying colors.In contrast, the hard points of the Arcanis campaign rarely fail. (The soft points are a mixed bag). For

So why am I stuck on the Arcanis writing? I fail the test. Miserably. I need to find something that will make my adventure both please the PCI folks, and make me happy so the adventure takes, draws, and thrives from its location and surroundings. It becomes better because it is Arcanis.

This morning I woke up with a strange idea of a plot device that might accomplish everything in one swoop. A plot twist like M Night Shyamalan... But it makes sense and makes the adventure be more like Arcanis... I will keep working on this see where this latest idea takes me and whether it makes the adventure pass the Taldor test.

Back to work...

JP

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Christmas To-do list... How did I do?

Let's go over the list of things I planned to do and evaluate up from there. Here is my original posting of the list.

1 - Complete Sailing Down the Kiflan Status: Done.

2 - Arcanis outline I have been working on it. However, I can't find hos to zazz it up to take it from an adventure that's fine to one that is good. I am still looking for that element that will make it really good. It's not bad I'm just not wow'd by what I have.

3 - Play 3+ games of Frostgrave The kids were barely in the house, we talked about it a few times, by never got around to playing the game.

4 - Play 1+ game of Pathfinder I was able to play the Reign of Winter game, but also #5 of Jade Regent, and the new evergreen 7-10. Wow that evergreen was NOT fun. It reinforced my peeve that "Perception is the only skill that matters". Status: Done.

5 - See Star Wars The Force Awakens with ActionMan Status: Done.

In the end, this gives me 4 out of 5 five. Not bad.

Bonus points

- Play a game of Warmachine

- Outline the Saggakar special for Gencon

- Take both girls to Star Wars Here, I scored a partial success. Kitty was too tired so was left at home. Jojo on the other hand came and really liked it.

- Expand my outline for ToS1-08

I did not accomplish any of these, so .5 out of 4.

Extra activities

- Playtested Sailing Down the Kiflan I drove up to Frankfort to run this one. Cosmetic changes to do, but the core is good.

- Attended two hockey games at Bridgestone Arena with the kids. That was very exciting. Hockey is great, even if my team (the Montreal Canadiens) kept getting their butts handed to them.

- Painted miniatures I was able to paint a number of miniatures, which you will see on the blog shortly.

- Played Games We spent New year's eve playing the old "Gold Digger" game and then "Munchkin" with the kinds. Good fun for all

- Star Wars The Old Republic I completed the story line for the Imperial Agent.

In the end

Although things did not pan out quite as I planned it, I enjoyed time with Jule and the kids. So plans fell kinda-through, but things turned out better than expected.

Christmas Vacation: WIN!

JP

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Yearly retrospective 2015

For a few years now, I have been posting a yearly retrospective. It is a time for me to go over the highlights and think back on the year. So here it is: 2015.

Personal

This year was marked, for our family by our move to Tennessee. I lived by myself and played weekend Dad from January to July. It was tough but worth it in the end.

We are also landlords now as we could not sell our house in Louisville without leaving with a major loss. I love Kentucky and hope to go back there one day.

I am sad to announce the death of my good friend "Char" which I had since 2002 on my return from Ireland. He and I traveled from coast to coast, across ALL north american countries. Yup that's Canada, the US, and Mexico. Took us to cons during the days of LG. Moved with my to Colorado, then to Kentucky, and lasted most of the winter... Now I have a "new" car to build memories with...

Jobs

- Humana After the events of last year, I decided to end my position there. I did not liked nor fit in well to their culture. It was time I left, and have no regrets.

- NFIB Shortest position of my life: six weeks. It is a place whose goals I supported, but that had an IT director who was a... well... I avoid cursing on this blog but you can figure it out. Give you an idea, out of a team of four, there had been thirteen people in the year prior. Once he left (once I was already gone), things stabilized there. The time after I lost my job there were the most stressful and busy of my life. Lucky for me, the Nashville job market for IT is rather hot, so I was able to get a number of interviews really quickly and find myself a new job.

- Eco-Energy From late March to this day, I have been working for Eco-Energy as a lead developer. My work there started a little rocky as I'm unconventional as a developer, but finally after a good talk with the boss about what I wanted to do, how we could help each other, things have really taken off. I am working on a web service system to serve as a hub for all our different systems. Very interesting and a lot of new technologies to learn and put into place. I am extremely optimistic about the amount of work we will get to do.

First Ones Entertainment

This was a very good year for First Ones Entertainment (FOE), I want to thank all of those who downloaded and/or purchased any of our products over the course of 2015. As of right now, my hope for the next year is to make it so I can pay my authors more. I pay them a percentage based on sales.

- Tyrants of Saggakar Without a doubt, the biggest event in 2015 was the reveal and release of our own setting, Tyrants of Saggakar. Drawing inspiration from historical sources, and what I think is the best elements from other settings (stuff from LPJ Design and Fantasy Flight) all placed together. The result is a world I am extremely thrilled to discover with my players as we expand it through our Legacies campaign. It's a world that is not completely set in stone just yet, so authors get to have a lot of freedom with what they want to come up with.

I published a number of small sourcebooks for Saggakar on RPGNow which are available here: Tyrants of Saggakar Setting bundle and our growing collection of Legacies adventures Year 1 Adventure Bundle

- Player's Guide My biggest personal accomplishment was the release of the Tyrants of Saggakar Player's Guide into physical form! You can get your own hardcopy of Tyrants of Saggakar Player's Guide by clicking the link. It is also available through Amazon and a number of other channels.

- New author In 2015, FOE added new author Randy Price to our group of writers. His adventure, ToS1-05 Path to Ambition really got both our collective juices going. Expect more from Randy in 2016, including a sourcebook for Onero, the city he introduced to us in "Path" (which will also appear in "ToS1-07 Doud where's my cart", by yours truly).

I have been talking with a few other people about writing material for Saggakar. I can't wait to see if those things get done. If they are, it will create a whole new aspect of Saggakar I hadn't considered at the start.

- Returning author James McTeague returned to Legacies this year with a murder mystery adventure in ToS1-04 House of Mirrors. Really an investigative, Clue-like story that works in Pathfinder. I cannot wait to run this one.

- Legacies From NeoExodus to Saggakar There is no doubt that losing the license to produce NeoExodus adventures hurt me. FOE had a nice collection of products for that setting and losing the rights to sell them, was a blow. Albeit, it turned out to be a blessing. It saved my friendship with LPJ. It forced me to focus on Saggakar, making it better and focus my energies there. So from a negative, came positive. LPJ and I talk on and off about stuff. I will be participating in his kickstarter next year. But more on that later.

Legacies now has grandfathered all the NeoExodus material and adventures so if you have a NeoExodus product and want to use it, you can indeed do so.

- Legacies Expands into new venues This year, I am extremely proud to report that other GMs have run Legacies adventures in Ottawa, Canada (thanks Steven-M!) and Philadelphia, PA (thanks James-M). Next year, I hope this will continue to grow as we get more and more adventures and products.

Books Read

- Pathfinder Tales: Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross Although I am not overly taken by fantasy novels, this one turned out to be rather imaginative. The story could've gone so many directions that it really kept my attention throughout. A lot of twists and turns, moreso than the other Pathfinder novels. I also got to play fan boy by Facebook-chatting with Dave Gross (the author) about one point I did not quite grasp while reading the book. I think this one is definitely my favorite of the Pathfinder novels I read (dethroning Winter Witch).

- Rethinking Extreme Programming Something more on the professional side. If you read this blog, you may have read that I am a strong proponent of agile programming and that I apply its concepts to my writing. This book I was offered at work.

- Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity Gauntlet Aftermath These two I got as a deal on Free Comic Book day. I will say the stories within are uneven. Art was good, but the plot left me unsatisfied.

- Essential Classic X-men Vol. 2 I always wanted to know how the early X-men (pre Giant-Sized) interacted with each other. Turns out it was pretty much as I expected. The stories are very much in-line with other 60s-era Marvel: boy loves girl but won't tell her. Though here, there are two boys vying for the girl.

- Teen Titans, vol 1 In sharp contrast to the X-Men, DC's Teen Titans are goodies-two-shoes without any clear personality. They are all fairly bland characters. For some reason they are saviors of teens, travel in helicopters. But the worse of all is Aqualad. For some reason there is always junk in the water nearby. The stories are great for kids ages 6 or 7, not teens.

- Essential Marvel Team-up Vol. 3 Though as a child, the X-men were my favorite comic series, the Team-up series came close behind. I liked how different heroes kept coming in for short meetings. Today, this is very much like an organized play campaign. Some players keep coming back for every game and others come in and out. It was fun re-reading some of the stories I read as a kid. I particularly remember the Spider-Man with Iron Fist. It was a very good story.

- Essential Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 2 From the 80s, this series was gritty and grim, unlike the rest of the superheroes these two dudes have it hard. Although I am not a big fan of 60s' DC stories, this one didn't work for me. That said, I like Luke Cage and Iron Fist, but the support cast was well-used as driving forces for the stories. So though this is not the type I liked, I enjoyed the stories. Doubtful I'll buy another one of this series.

- Plutarch's Fall of the Roman Republic Biographic stories of five of the most influential men of Rome: Marius, Sulla, Cicero, Caesar, Pompei and Marcus Crassus. It is such an interesting book because Plutarch provides context, and he presents us the motivations of each man since their stories interact and cross-mingle with the other, making the narrative compelling and interesting. I particularly liked Cicero's addition as he is not a man of war first, like the others.

Gaming (Tabletop RPG)

- JP as a woman Perhaps the most significant event of the year, and the one that made people lose the most sanity was my Larping as Kermina Gallia val'Borda... Next year, I may be taking up my dress again... My wife doesn't like it too much, but the kids finds it very funny. I likened that dress to "wearing a long t-shirt".

- Arcanis I did spend a fair amount of time playing Arcanis this year and really enjoying myself doing so. Henry's complex story is great and expansive. I am looking forward to next year's events and adventures. I've been on an Arcanis drought since Gencon. There is nothing.

- WitchHunter Unlike Arcanis, I did not get to play as much Witchhunter as I would've liked. This new season seemed very interesting, and a-propos for my character. The first year had a good feel, of win and loss, the second year looked very good. However, every time I mustered at a table to play, more than six players would show up, bumping me off the table (I never play more than 6 player tables).

- Pathfinder Society I got to play a fair amount of PFS throughout the year. I played most of it online and have to say the quality of many of the players is going down. People cannot seem to think and GMs focus on minutia way too much. The adventures have a lot of new or "one-shot" sub-systems that really are annoying to play through and only succeed at making the game drag on, especially if your character does not have the skills (I usually avoid Perception as a skill unless I'm a rogue or ranger).

On a sad note, I am having issues with some of the local leadership, so I either have to travel further to play, play only online or start doing something else. The local Adventure League seems to be quite welcoming, so I may give them a nod.

- Pathfinder Adventure Path: Reign of Winter Finally hitting book 6 from Reign of Winter with Chad and the team. Like most adventure path, once you reach the high levels, the story becomes secondary to the massive, over-the-top fights. The group is fun, but the fights are a little too deadly, even the thug fights...

- Witchfire Trilogy I started to play a Pathfinder adaptation of this trilogy. Very fun, but I can't seem to roll above a 5 so combats are a long series of rounds without anything. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Massive damage. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss... You get the idea.

- 5th Edition I have stated many times that I was neither wow'd nor repulsed by it. It left me indifferent. However, I think I will give it another shot, and take the children with me. That way as long as there is a GM, we have a table!

Gaming (Tabletop RPG)

I must admit that things were very quiet on that front. I played a few games of Warmachine and Frostgrave, but that's pretty much it. Frostgrave being the game I played the most out of the two.

I painted a lot, though with a long break. I did literally nothing between January and September. Now I am working through my Reaper Bones.

Gaming (Cons)

I attended the following cons this year. I attended a number of new cons I had not attended previously.

- Winter Fantasy in Fort Wayne, In

- Arcanicon in Chicago, Il

- Midsouthcon in Memphis, Tn

- Lexicon in Lexington, Ky

- Origins in Columbus, Oh

- Gencon in Indianapolis, In

- Aethercon in the Aether...

- Post-Apocalypticon in Chattanooga, Tn

Post-Apocalypticon was the first con ActionMan attended, and he really liked it and wishes to attend some more. SCORE one for dad! We will be doing more events together and with the girls.

Blog

- 248 Posts 2015 was the biggest year so far for this blog, with me posting 248 posts! Again October's 44 posts was the biggest month of the year.

- 1000 posts Perhaps the biggest milestone for a blog is its first 1,000th post, which happened on September 3rd. I am proud of this blog, its content, its style, and its variety. I plan on continuing telling you all about my writer's issues, my thrills and shrills. Hopefully keep it entertaining, fun, and constructive.

- 30 Days of D&D This year, I did the 30 days of D&D challenge, posting one thing a day. I like having to think over a number of these subjects. Judging from your views and visits, I think you guys enjoyed this too. So I will need to come up with something similar in 2016.

Movies

- Star Wars: The Force Awakens There was only one movie worth mentioning for 2015. I saw others but who really cares? There was a new Star Wars movie. I will post some additional thoughts on it in a different post.

Looking towards 2016

2016 looks like it'll be a great and fun year for me, my family and FOE. I have a job I like, kids love their school and want to do more gaming. Julie likes where we are.

I have games planed for Legacies in England (shout-out to Paul-H), I have a trip back to Denver for Genghis Con. I will be going back to Origins and Gencon. I plan on returning to Kentucky for a con.

JP

Friday, January 1, 2016

Two More Pathfinder Iconics

Continuing my posts of the Reaper Bones II with two Pathfinder Iconics.

The first model is the iconic gnome druid. I painted with one with a blue to white hair style, to contrast with the one I painted for Tom back in 2013. Now that I put pictures of both, I realize how similarly I painted them. That hair is what makes the model.

The other one is the iconic monk, whom I painted with dark skin. This dude is relatively simple to paint otherwise.



JP