JP On Gaming

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Old FOE favorite now on DM's Guild

Revisiting old works is something that is always interesting to do. Adventures I once thought was very interesting and well-written just read odd and awkward years later. I mean, I remembered them as well-thought out now feel empty and full of strange references that make the narrative heavy or are simply not needed.

With the advent of the DMsGuild, I am looking at adventures I wrote that could be updated to 5e and give them a new life. I have been digging in my old vault of material from Living Greyhawk, Living Forgotten Realms (yes, yes, I know it feels dirty but some of the adventures for the Moonshae Isles had good stories), and even some of my early Pathfinder stuff I did back in 2012.

This means stripping off all the intellectual property from them, giving them a new treatment so they are tighter and cleaner, but keep the underlying story that made them fun in the first place. 5th Edition makes it really easy to update material to it. I also found that it allows for more combats and encounters than previous encounters did.

These adventures will roll out over the next few months as I finish them, making them fully compatible with Legacies, and giving them new life. I hope to run them again, and could very well make surprise appearances at a local event run by yours truly...

Without further ado... I am proud to announce the release of Need of the Many by star author Jen McTeague, now on DM's Guild

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Conglomeration Louisville Update(s)

Just to let you know that we are on the program for Conglomeration in just over a month. Here is the link if you want to pre-register for games.

Also I remind you of the special promo code that takes 5$ off your registration! Here is the Registration link on Eventbright.

I am running one adventure in Rhym (Come to the hills), one in Saggakar (Exalted Pains), and one in Akhamet: the intro "Lost Pyramid of Neferheket". All three are well into their writing as I am now in the "manic writer touch-up stuff again and again phase". The kids play-tested the first draft of the Lost Pyramid... Unlike adult they all want to open stuff and play with whatever items they see and find... I enjoyed myself. Very much so.

I am now working on a special "Anything goes" type adventure for Sunday morning... The idea is there and all that's left is to execute the writing. As I do not plan to publish that, the writing is a lot looser. Read: hello spelling mistakes! (worse than usual)

As an added surprise, JD is also running a Rhym Legacies adventure featuring a new, unique cast of characters. Check out what he teased on his blog: Here

I am looking forward to seeing everyone and premiere new adventures. And a new setting (Akhamet world premiere).

Thursday, February 22, 2018

[Rant] System is irrelevant for RPG?

This is one of the endless conflict. And one that came to the forefront of my thoughts after I posted my review of Starfinder. A review that ignited the passions of many. Mostly along the expected lines: lovers of Pathfinder and its haters.

One of my issues with it was that the game felt heavy, sluggish and slow. I do not see high flying action coming through the game.

So many said "System is irrelevant". It is true that you can role-play with any game system. Heck have you ever seen gamers playing Monopoly? Yeah... Role-playing breaks out as you have to fork your cash... Or you take your friends' money.

Is it role-play? Yes. Is it a great part of the game? Oh yeah. Does the system matter? No. Therefore system is irrelevant, right?

Well no. Because the game does not support or encourage you doing anything off script. Can you do? Sure.

System is not irrelevant. It is important in how you get to do what you want. To keep to the sci-fi theme, I will use two franchises: Star Wars and Star Trek.

Star Wars is about action and adventure. The specifics of how technology works is secondary. That the characters understand it is a given. Star Trek is about exploration, engineering and science. Where you go is secondary to how you get there.

A game system that focuses on the minute details of how the technology works would greatly favor Star Trek, while one that focuses on action is better suited for Star Wars. A system like Savage Worlds that is very good on action is great for Star Wars. A system more focused on details, like Starfinder or Basic Role-play (BRP). Can these three games support doing either? Yes. However, you are not playing to their strength.

Is it wrong to do that? No, of course not. These are games and as long as every one at the table has fun and enjoys the adventures played is the important.

Does system force you into a pigeonhole and defines what you have to play? Yes and no. Yes because the rules make certain things easier and cleaner. No because your campaign is yours and the bigger systems at least support most things from combat to social to investigation.

I always like to understand the game rules and adapt my style of play to the game. Yes you can investigate the world of Cthulhu using D&D or Savage Worlds but using a more granular and deadlier system like BRP.

One story I tell to people is the following: when we come up to a band of twenty goblins...

Playing D&D: I charge into the lot and  emerge bloody but victorious standing over the pile of my enemies.

Playing WHFRP: I wait for half to leave. Then wait some more. Then keep staying hidden until we out number them two-to-one before we charge in and win.

Same situation. Different expected result. Different play tactics.

Therefore, I cannot say that system is meaningless. It is important. I would agree to "Setting over system", but not to "System is irrelevant".

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Many Secrets of Tothet Island Released

Legacies has now been run by FOE for five years. FIVE years! Time flies. During this time, FOE has grown and grown, with many product released all the time.

Moving more into the world of 5th edition, I revisited some old favorites to update and make them into 5th edition adventures. This is one such adventure that has a great hook and development that makes it exciting and challenging to play. Straight up combat is not always the only way to go, in fact here it is likely to get you killed. But do not think there are no combat here... quite the opposite.

The Many Secrets of Tothet Island is an adventure that will take your characters from first level to 4th level.

- As a boon for the GM, the adventure is full of loose ends that can be explored by the party upon conclusion of this adventure.

- Included is a LR to allow your character to use as a starter character for Legacies Organized Play Campaign

You can get this awesome adventure through DrivethruRpg, RPGNow.com.

Edit: Removed DM's Guild link

[Campaign Report] The Awakening... the finale

After months of trying to get people together, we finally got together (most of us) for the finale of the many one-shot campaign started back in September. Today was the final of this storyline.

After the last two sessions where the party cleared out WrathKeep, now occupied by the barbarian army. And discovered some of the enemy army's secret, such as how they recognized each other. They were given a great honor by Lady Kotina, High Priestess of the Law. Because the party voted against her in a previous gathering, she gave them the great honor of standing in the front lines, outside the city walls.

Facing them were artillery made of ogres with over-sized slings. With those, they fired at the walls. Not very precise but eventually effective.

Having cleared the ogres, they rushed back into town where they realized the enemy had burrowed into town as the veterans all ran out to take out the ogres, the enemy troops were bypassing their defenses. Bands of drakonians and barbarians in orange body paint were attacking the town: setting fires and destroying what they could.

After a lull in the fighting, both sides reorganized. The barbarians made a big push against the cathedral of the Law, where the slaves of House Katel gathered and where the priests animated zombies and sent them on rampage against the enemy. Here, a large red dragon is sucking power out a power stone, only to be stopped by Keevin (ActionMan) who disrupted whatever he was doing. As the dragon was unable to control the ritual, it keep bleeding necrotic energy that nearly killed the brave Keevin, who saved at the last moment by the brave action of Togg who batted away the hand of the dragon, allowing the dragon to escape, over-charged with the necrotic energy it sought to control.

In the final act, the PCs infiltrated the keep itself, finding out their compatriot Belladonus/a faked his death in the great hall. Giving a rough idea of the situation above: his brother, Lord Zarzal was locked in battle with a mighty dragon. He told them that they could use the Miststone, a portal they used to travel "somewhere" before. They do not remember where they went, but their mission there was clearly unsuccessful... All they had to do was hit the Miststone with a bead he gave them.

Running up, Togg the hareen went to pick up the stone while the others went up-top to appraise of the situation... Yeah... They regretted it and a lot of quality clothing were soiled (except the Sad Willow darkling who did not bat an eye upon seeing the beast).

The dragon did not care for the presence or actions of the PCs until the combatants noticed the Miststone was there and Lord Zarzal called "You fools! Why did you bring it here! That's what it came here for!" Group facepalm. On its next action, the dragon moved and took the stone. Followed by a throw of the bead using mage hand...

POOF! Everyone within 30 feet of the dragon, including the dragon itself, were swallowed by the Mists. Only Om-za, the kynean sorcerer stood up to find himself alone on the roof. He avoided being swallowed by the Mists.

The dragon gone, its army lost cohesion and though it would ravage the countryside, it was no longer the threat it once had. Lady Kotina, High Priestess of the Law, took command of House Katel and restored order in Katelkeep.

In the end, only the following party members have their whereabouts still known: Belladonus/a the haver-bard, Hyree the amazon ranger, and Om-za the kynean sorcerer. The rest are lost to the Mists...

The story for another time as they say...

Note to my players I did not tell you about this during or after the game, but I will count the result of the many mini-campaigns as binding for the Tyrants of Saggakar. Therefore, your actions will be written in an upcoming sourcebook for the campaign (which you will all receive a copy when I am done with it).

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

[Rhym] Lord of the desert released

One of the things I love about Rhym is that it allows me to write adventures I cannot in Saggakar. This includes desert-based adventure such as this one.

Following the success of Black Sails, I was inspired to write a follow-up adventure. This adventure picks up where Black Sails leaves off, but they can be enjoyed independently. Leaving pirates, ships, and naval puns behind for the heat of the desert, in an adventure that harks to old classics adventures.

This 5e adventure premiered at Imaginarium 2017.

You can get it through DriveThru RPG or RPGNow.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

[Review] Starfinder: Is it worth it?

I spend a long time mulling over this review because I wanted it to reflect my thoughts. I wrote most of it shortly after I played my first game and persevered for quite a few more. My first impressions are only confirmed by more adventuring. How much of that are the GMs and the team has been taken out of the equation.

The Good

Starfinder is quite simply Pathfinder in Space, this makes Starfinder a known quantity. In spite of the few tweaks, anyone knowing how to play Pathfinder quickly gets into the game. The dice rolls, the AC system, the skills are all still there. That's a good thing and shows the versatility of the D20 system. Other than ship combat (see below) the system played well enough.

The designers looked at 5th edition and created 5e-inspired abilities, include a "10-minute break" (aka short rest) and few abilities that grant "advantage" (but not called that).

The scale is right. Starfinder finds itself in a spot between Star Wars and Star Trek, somewhere along the lines of Firefly. This is a good place for a setting-less game as it allows the GM to do a lot of different things with the game. And players do not get drowned in NPCs.

It would be impossible to mention a Paizo major release without saying a word about its production value. This book is absolutely beautiful and wonderful to look at. One tiny thing: There is nowhere to easily put your name/info in the cover because of the full color treatment. Though that's a small blip, it does not diminish how good it looks.

The Bad

The worse part of the game for me is starship combat. Although I can easily see how the designers did their utmost to try and get everyone involved, it turned out into exactly what I thought it would: 1-2 players doing most of the work and the rest looking around for their turn to roll dice, no RP, no thinking, just roll and move on. This is not fully the designers' fault. I tried to think of a way out of this issue without coming up with a good alternative. There cannot be 5 people deciding what 1 token will do on the board. So 1 or 2 guys are really super involved and the rest wait, roll dice, then wait again. This is more in-line with a board game than an RPG.

One of the player mentioned he thought the designers wanted to have the PCs move about the ship doing different tasks, like Han Solo. Han runs from the pilot seat to the engineering section then to the guns. That's fine except many of these positions 1- require trained-only skills or 2- have DC so high that characters not specialized will need to over-specialize to be partially effective (or effective in only one part of the game). With high DC to do anything, low-level characters are paralyzed while high-level guys will simply breeze through this.

Adding to my worries particularly in Starfinder Society, as the game will often have new players and you will have to explain this complicated side-game (for it is a side-game) all the time. As the chance of having a consistent, coherent group is effectively impossible. Those who play together regularly will not have this problem. But for those who, like me and ActionMan, play with random people all the time, will find ourselves unable to use the things our characters have to be, ergo: end up with 2-3 pilots, 2-3 gunners, etc. With the small number of skill points per level, we have to make a choice: either be useful in starship combat OR be able to do multiple things. Uber-specialization is needed to be mildly effective.

I also found the position of Captain to be underwhelming and boring to play. I rolled a d20, give bonus or a meaningless penalty on the bad guys and then wait for your turn to come back. And half the positions, you cannot roll to help if you do not have the skill. The Taunt action seems great against one ship but is useless when faced with multiple ships.

"JP, It's not meaningless!" You say. Well let's see... I make an Intimidate check to give a -2 to the baddies's gunnery. Great! But wait... They are +8 to +12. And our own ship AC is 13-15... Yup. Pretty much meaningless. Better get on the guns and shoot them to bits. My theory of "shoot above all else" proved right once again as we played through more adventures.

Being Pathfinder in Space has a draw back: the game feels heavy and rules-filled with infinite minutiae. When I think sci-fi, I think of a system that allows me to resolve things quickly and with exciting results. It's not as bad as Modiphius' Star Trek. There are way too many times the game bogged down with the minutia that has become synonymous with Pathfinder: one bad roll (because DCs are HIGH), lack of a particular trained-only skill, like the one that allows you to recognize creatures.

I found the Starship DCs very high... Meaning that characters never succeed at anything unless they are uber specialized in something. Again, Pathfinder in Space.

One of the biggest strike against Starfinder is that there are many valid alternatives to play sci-fi games. Most alternatives are faster, simpler and convey the feel better and with less rules. Off the top of my head, I can think of Savage Worlds, FFG's Star Wars or Shadowrun.

The SFS Pregens were filled with errors and things that made no sense. For example, I had a med kit that required a DC 25 Medicine check to use... but I did not have that skill, making it completely useless for me to use! We found a few other issues and problems with them that I don't remember specifically.

I hate shopping. With a passion. I really, really hate it. On or offline. I foresee with dread that Starfinder will quickly turn into a massive mega-catalog of bonus-shopping that will make more than a afew character builds redundant. Oh you have Cultures? at +5? I have a rolodex +15, don't bother rolling... I fully expect to see such things appear quickly (I mentioned Shadowrun earlier, and that is one of its biggest issues IMO).

The Setting

As written, the game and the setting really go hand in hand. Unlike in Pathfinder where there is no setting with the core book. Starfinder has its setting built-in.

The setting has a number of creative things that makes it interesting, but not exciting. As for Golarion, we get only a teaser of what is where. It's "Fine" but I won't say it is great. It wants to be everything for everyone, without really hitting it. You would be hard-pressed to play Star Wars or Star Trek with it.

It integrates with Pathfinder with the lack of Golarion. I thought that was a cool idea to make the planet disappear (also, a convenient way not to have to explain what happens there). Absalom Station works as an alternative

Not bad. Not great. Okay.

Starfinder Society

I thought interesting that Starfinder Society had Multi-faction rewards! Where have I seen that? OH yes! The Legacies Organized Play Campaign had that! I'm glad to see they still look at my stuff for inspiration! In all fairness, I look at theirs all the time, so fair play!

The beginning of their demo adventure could be clearer. We were under the impression that we were member of the Society, but no... Just odd stuff. The adventure itself (other than ship combat) was fun and seemed to set up a storyline.

Who is this for?

Which leads me to ask the question. Who is the target audience for Starfinder?

After thinking about it, I have to answer: Pathfinder fans who want to do sci-fi. People who love and enjoy playing Pathfinder are the most likely people to be drawn in to play this. The Pathfinder-in-Space means that those who like Pathfinder will find Starfinder in their wheelhouse. It will not convert those who dislike Pathfinder to it.

I do not expect masses to drop their other system to jump into Starfinder. Those who like sci-fi likely already have a game they like and while they may "dip" or have a look at Starfinder, I don't know how much player retention they will have.

So...

Well, I like Pathfinder, even if it is getting very heavy, old, and bloated. So the character-level stuff I did in Starfinder made me like it enough that I broke down and bought the book. Which was something I did not really expect to do. So a big plus for Starfinder.

The ship combat is a mess and I really hate it. A feeling shared by quite a few others of the players. While they may not have hated it as much as I did, they shared many of my skepticism about SFS and ship combat. Flying the ship is an exercise in arguing with the rest of the party, between tactically-oriented players (like myself), tactically inept players who still want to command everything, and the rest of the bored band wanting to get to something where something other than their numbers matter.

So my rating will go from 4/5 for Pathfinder fans to 2/5 for those who are not, settling on an odd 3/5. If you like the Starship combat system, bump that up by 1 to a 5/5 and 3/5.

Will FOE ever produce material for it? I reserve the right to produce stuff. At this time, the outlook does not look good.