JP On Gaming

Thursday, December 12, 2019

[Release] Dark Gifts of Ravenloft

I know, I know... About a month ago I teased three products that were coming for FOE. Those products are still coming in the next weeks - some quicker than others...

This one is a product I came up as I was preparing my own Curse of Strahd Campaign. I am someone who prefers to let the PCs play along their madness and know of their powers secretly. I designed this one in two steps: first the description of the gifts the PCs bringing together all the information a player may need without reference to the content of the Monster Manual or the Dungeon Master's Guide. Format everything in a highly readable format and thus Dark Gifts of Ravenloft was born!

Okay, I skip all the formatting tests I've been through and the many steps in-between.

It is currently available on the DM's Guild as a Pay-What-You-Want product.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

[Release] Crypts Of Ravenloft on DM's Guild

FOE just released its latest product through the DM's Guild. This is a short product including a collection of handouts for Curse of Strahd. Within, you will find over 40 handouts for your players to allow them to review and annotate.

It's price can't be beat: Pay-What-You-Want!

Available now on the DM's Guild.

[After Action Report] Alabama Football Game

On the 23rd of November, my buddy Donan and I took a trip down to Tuscaloosa, AL to watch the football game between the University of Alabama and Western Carolina University.

Morning came too early. It was 3:06 when I rose from my bed. Met Donan at a Waffle House off I-65. I was too early for food so we drove on.

No sooner did we hit I-65 that rain began to hammer the car. I mean beat the car RELENTLESSLY. I slowed down to make sure we got there safely. The walls of water fell and fell. There were a few breaks on the way to Birmingham with Donan keeping an eye on the weather as the copilot.

We got there around 8 with the rain having stopped a short time before. We walked a little, down the walk of fame where the statues of the coaches who won football championships are, before taking a spot on the Walk of Champions. For those who don't know, that is where all the players walk from the bus to the stadium.

We were in the front lines. Well I lets a bunch of little kids stand in front of me. They did not even block my view! The team passed by and I can say that there are quite a few large dudes on there. I'm not small myself, but these boys are BIG.

After that, our package included a club meal, which we enjoyed. Before heading into the stadium.

From there, we got inside and walked right next to the field where we watched the players warm up and looked around. That stadium is absolutely massive! I could not help but think of the Roman Colosseum where the fighters were enclosed in every direction by masses of screaming fans.

Then the game started. To let you know, it ended 66-3 for Alabama. There never was an expectation that WCU would be a tough opponent. They played their best against a team that was in a higher level.

The game over, we began the long drive home.

At some point, there was a sign that read "Game Day I-59 Alternative". Now I know and saw enough horror movies dealing with the backwoods of Alabama that when given the choice. I told Donan "Adventure it is!"

Yes, I can hear you call out to your screen "YOU FOOLS!" and you would be right. I did tell Donan that we would not stop for anything for fear of getting Deliverance'd. I could hear his nervous chuckle. He thought about that too.

After a close call with a crazy driver we made it back to the interstate safely! We conquered the backwoods and emerged victorious from the deadly threat that loomed over us.

Dinner then home to watch some hockey. And sleep in front of the TV.

I survived Alabama.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Three Upcoming FOE products

Here is a short update on FOE Products that should be released in the next month. We have 2 adventures and 1 supplement.

Apple of a mother's eye

This adventure came to me from a reddit post. Reading the post, I thought "man! That is way more interesting than what is in the book."

And from that short idea, a full-on book sprang!

When inspiration comes easy, it is a wonderful thing and I was able to blast through this to bring an early alpha draft to my own gaming group. From there, the adventure evolved further as I refined more and more elements.

What I really like is that this puts an alternate spin on a story that is otherwise rather uni-dimensional. Adding and alternate perspective was something I had a real blast laughing.

To Quench the Flame

This adventure was writing last year around this time. Since then, I sat on it for many reasons.

Then after Gencon, I decided I would revisit this project and see where I could take it. The adventure as I initially wrote it was too big for just one adventure so I decided to make it two adventures, creating the Giant Problems of Kajara series.

Splitting the two allowed me to focus on both parts separately. In this one, I added a massive encounter at the start of the adventure. Something to get the PCs in the action quicker than the original work.

Now that I am done with this, it seems like this story could be used to expand and continue Storm King's Thunder as they were written for levels 11-14.

Crypts of Ravenloft

This sourcebook is a collection of handouts to use with Curse Of Strahd. This product contains the writing on each of the forty tombs in the massive crypt of Ravenloft castle.

I came up with the idea as I began preparing for the exploration of this massive room.

I wanted something clean and simple to give to my PCs. As many of the names have a humorous tinge to them, giving a handout should allow me to keep a straight face as they figure out the meaning of the names.

Edit This was now released. Get it on DM's Guild

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

[Francais] Larmes de Dragon: Une Campaign True20 En-ligne

Je me suis joint à un groupe qui joue une partie de True20 sur JDR D30. Voyez comment mon personnage, Urto le Mesquin, a mis au monde pas seulement un mais deux bébés le même jour!

Notre MJ, Francois-L est un type que j'ai rencontrer via un groupe Facebook il y a maintenant quelques années et avec qui j'ai fait plusieures parties de type One-Shot. J'ai toujours bien aimé son style. Donc quand il m'a demandé si je voudrais participer à une petite campagne, j'ai accepté sur-le-champs.

C'était la premiere alors qu'on essayait le jeu. Si vous aimez Mutants and Mastermind, ben c'est la version fantastique...

Ma Caméra est pas fameuse...

Monday, November 18, 2019

[Release] Panacea, New Akhamet Adventure Released!

When I completed the first draft of this adventure, I was very happy with it. However, play-testing revealed that while the adventure was good, it needed a few more things to get to that next level. There was good story and a decent plot but a lot of it the PCs just could not find.

I took this adventure back to the design stages and worked on it some more, adding to those parts I felt missing and focusing a few others. Then I re-played the result with my home Akhamet group. Now the adventure reached the right balance of information and misdirection.

Parties playing every parts of this adventure may have over 16 hours of play-time. Although this adventure is set in Akhamet, it can easily be moved to any campaign setting.

You can get it now on DriveThru RPG.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

[Kinda Book Review] Imperial Earth by Arthur C Clark

I picked this audiobook rather randomly. Being in a Sci-Fi mood, I picked this book because I wanted to space stuff. Arthur C Clark is one of the leaders in Sci-Fi as the man who wrote 2001, a movie that both intrigued, terrorized, and interested me all at once.

The science element is strong and interesting. The description of life on Titan and how the frozen volcanoes work and some of the unique elements of the planet and space travel. ACC really knows his stuff when it comes to the space race.

We see a lot of elements that we are just breaking today (cloning, holographic projections, space travel) and others that are well established (smart phones, internet). He spends a lot of time describing these devices. Unlike other writers who do this, ACC's devices ARE things that are useful, realistic, and that seriously help mankind.

The story is set on the 5th centennial (2276 AD) and a big celebration is coming with representatives from all over the Solar System: Earth, Moon, Mercury, Mars, and Titan. Each of these nations developed their own flavor and culture - even if the story mostly focuses on Earth and Titan. Duncan Mackenzie comes to Earth as the representative of Titan he also plans on getting himself cloned as he cannot have children (long story).

Duncan's trip to Earth is a trip to the Eastern USA locations viewed 300 years in the future. He visits locations and places that exist today but in the future.

As the story evolves, we are introduced to a series of characters... None of them are particularly engaging or endearing. Kalindi, his youthful love interest may be the only one that has some sort of realistic plot. Every character, including Duncan, is bland and flavorless. They have a short discussion. "Is that guy trustworthy" "Yes" And he is.

Whatever interest the start drew from me quickly gave way to boredom as the reader was terrible. It felt like a robot reading. Gah, it was painful. Very painful.

He approaches many social elements I do not share his views on, one of the biggest reason is that these changes happen within 300 years. Other elements he hints at but rather than completing his approach, he simply drops the situation rather than create a serious discussion. Topics include alien existence, cloning, people living underground, veganism/goo-eaters.

The one element I found myself seriously at odds with his views was in the subject of love relationships. In the future (300 years, not a million. three centuries), people live a mostly debauched lifestyle when young, having kids left and right then forming strong and tight families with a mom and dad.

No. Just no. Human nature is not that way. Strong families and super-promiscuity do not go hand in hand, particularly in frontier areas like Titan. My position on those is that in such situation, you would have tight families with a mother and father at the center. Should one become widowed, the surviving parent would remarry, forming a Brady Bunch.

BTW, there is nothing "imperial" about Earth in there. Earth is a decadent place where people only look at the past.

The best element of this story however, and the shining jewel of this dreary, boring story, is its conclusion when we get Duncan's address to the United Nations. That speech, not only ties the story together, but is also a view into the future. Even though mankind turned away from the stars to look at how we can screw up the Earth, the stars and future are where mankind eventually will end up.

So rating this book... Well overall, this is a solid 2/5 but a 5/5 if you only read Duncan's final address. I kept finding myself nodding at every one of his points.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

[Kinda Book Report] Batman Nightwalker by Marie Lu

I bought this book for the kids at Halloween Free Comic Book day. I am not a huge fan of modern comics, not enjoying the pace and politics in the stories.

This is not an origins story, which I like. Instead, we find a 17 year old Bruce Wayne who is about to turn 18 and take over the Wayne Fortune. An interesting take.

I won't spoil the story, which I found more interesting than I thought. In a vein similar to Joker, this is not a superhero comic but a sort of coming-of-age story. The events shown here will mold Bruce Wayne from a child into the billionaire-playboy/Batman of the future.

I really liked the story. It had interesting twists and characters that were more than one-dimensional (though many of the side characters are effectively just that, cardboard cutouts). The pace was extremely fast. The art top-notch, in a fake two-color "black and white" works amazingly to evoke Gotham.

Now if I have a ding to it: the pace was breakneck. I kept flipping the pages so fast that I caused a hurricane in the Caribbeans!

In the end, I will give this book a 4/5. I liked it much more than I expected but felt it went on too fast.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

[Old Pro Tip] Setting up a gaming group

I have been reading across the internet "I'm a GM and I can't get a campaign going."

I was lucky to be able to travel and form RPG groups in no less than four countries (Canada, France, Ireland, and the USA). When I reached all countries but my native Canada, I was able to get a gaming group going within a month. Here are some of the lessons I learned.

- Run Short Events I cannot stress this enough. Once we leave school/college, time comes at a premium. Spouses, jobs, children, video games, professional sports, or porn: RPGs require time and you are competing with people's own time. Many WANT to play but are not ready to put the time to actually play. Running short events is a great way to do this, by focusing on a 4h "one-shot", you bring the best of the story to the table, dropping the extra fluff. It allows you to showcase your GMing style by showing off your strengths. People are more willing to devote 2-4 hours than their every Saturdays to playing a game.

It took me YEARS to run a dungeoncrawl I'm comfortable with running and doing a good job of it. I'm typically not one who enjoys running them. But that's a rant for another day.

- Run in public This is one I learned over the many years of trying to organize games. I have been lucky enough to work with a number of great stores over the years: Le Griffon Feerique, Gamers Haven, Petrie's Family Games, and now Grand Adventure Comics. (Yes I forget a few)

This helps both sides of the equation. As a GM, I don't bring in a bunch of strangers into my house, where other family members keep interrupting. Similarly, I may not be interested in going to people's homes (I have pet allergies). There are some people you do not want in your home, to say nothing of the weirdos.

Yes, you cannot use your 100,000$ super-surround sound, 3D-projector, full wall of miniatures, and other convenience. There are on-lookers breaking the immersion, you have to keep it PG-13, you cannot act out every scene, and you may have a closing time impacting your game time.

So I ask you: what is your end game? Run a campaign. Or run a campaign at home, on your own time?

- Keep it simple This is a big issue I see a lot. Many GMs plan massive arcs that take the PCs from levels 1 to 135,000 and will run for three decades. I say do the opposite. Focus on short games, ones you can resolve in one to four sessions. Again, this allows you to focus on your best elements. By doing this, you can vet your players: who is good, who is offensive, who knows his stuff, who is a noob, and allows you to remedy situations: remove a player, train the crew, adjust your own style to the group, or change based on what they want to see.

Simple allows for expansion, saving you prep-time.

I would like to call this running the game as Columbo. Columbo was a series of made-for-TV movies starring Peter Falk as the detective. The movies were tied together only by the titular detective (hey! don't blame me, I am not a fan of the series). Perhaps this lends itself better to running a series of "I'm hiring you bum adventurers for this mission, " instead of a plot where the PCs are the chosen ones.

- Participate in Organized Play Organized Play campaigns: Adventure League, [Path/Star]finder Societies, Shadowrun Missions, Living Arcanis, or even my own Legacies, are always looking for GMs. This is a good way to meet people. Not only do they reach more people than you do by yourself but it allows you to showcase your skills. Having run a few games, you will be able to invite people you like to your own campaign.

- Fail All of the above lead to this one. You WILL fail. That's fine, just get back up and try again. You may luck out or you may fall flat on your face. Like everything in life, you get back up and try again.

LIFE!

Friday, November 1, 2019

[Kinda Book Review] City of God by St.Augustine

When I ordered this book from Amazon, a few years ago, I never expected the massive bible-size tome that came. Back in 2018, I decided to read it, see what this was about.

I was not quite sure what its content was either. I knew it would deal with early Christianity history, but I thought it was a particular gem when this book was written around 415AD following the first sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410. I expected - and was rewarded - with such insight.

What I got was a serious, complete, expansive, and very well-laid out explanation of Christianity. Explained in fairly simple terms are the relation between polytheism and Christianity; the relation of philosophies with Christianity; Hell; Heaven; angels; fallen angels; sin; the afterlife; the beginning and end of the universe. This is a complete exposé of it all.

Although his words are simple, the resulting content is complicated. Not the type of reading one does before going to sleep - as I did. This book is heavy and forces you to think about what is said, a book of philosophical theology. Each chapter requires some time to reflect on what was just read.

Because of the heaviness of this book, I took breaks to ready "lighter" material in-between.

As I completed reading of this book, I found myself saddened. This is one of those books that marked me and that will be with me forever. It confirmed many of my own thoughts while putting words and arguments into many others.

So, the review: 5/5 without a doubt or hesitation. If you are interested in Christianity, History, or Philosophy, you will find this book fascinating. Just be prepared to invest time into getting all you can from this.

Monday, October 28, 2019

[Kinda Book Report] Tarkin by James Luceno

With a new Star Wars movie coming, I decided to listen to a Star Wars Audiobook. I am a huge fan of Peter Cushing, his portrayal of Grand Moff Tarkin, the man who destroyed Alderaan.

To keep this short, this book is the garbage I expect from Star Wars litterature. Tarkin is a Mary Sue who is never in true danger, always knowing more than his enemies. The story is predictable once you realize how invulnerable he is. I do not recall a moment he did not have the right training. In the end, I just could not wait for the end as the eye-rolling hurt my eyes.

The biggest problem is not the story but how it is written. None of the "now" events have any influence of impact on Tarkin. He experiences nothing that changes him or even confirms his beliefs. He has them from birth or teenage. Well, Mary Sue Tarkin...

Having said that, the audiobooks production was really high: the music and sounds - from the Star Wars soundtracks and movies. Whoever did that really did a great job of it. The voice work was absolutely fantastic, with Tarkin, Darth Vader and the Emperor standing out.

So... The rating? The story is worth 1/5. As I said before, I never felt he was in any danger and that he would always get the upper hand just... because. Now the production was one of the best, I would rate this as 5/5. The sounds added to the atmosphere and made the story tolerable from the cringe.

I will settle on a 2/5 for the whole package. Keep your money.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

[Kinda Book Report] Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

There are books you always wonder what they are about. This is one of these books.

To put this book into context, its author, Marcus Aurelius was the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD and is considered one of the "Five Good Emperors".

The book is a series of short thoughts, personal notes about the world and people. Very much organized as a modern days book of proverbs or maxims. They are not organized in any order, giving the impression of someone's personal note book being used and published.

However, it is a series of short reflexions that give us direct insight into stoic philosophy. Stoicism preaches a quiet living, and the ultimate futility of life, and the restraint of passions (in really short). I consider myself closer to epicurianism but found myself agreeing with many of his points.

One interesting point was the relation of the gods. The stoics were polytheistic but also understood and thought in a partially monotheistic way. That was an interesting side point.

So in the end... I would give this a 4/5. It was interesting but in the end, a little repetitive. It's a short one though.

Friday, October 11, 2019

[Ravenloft] The Vanishing Ziggurat released on DM's Guild

A few years back, I built a massive pyramid using girlscout cookie boxes that filled my garage. I did not have any specific idea what I wanted to do with it. I had an overall idea of what I wanted to do with it. Nothing overly fancy, a dungeon crawl with a few surprises.

Having play-tested it a few times each time adding new elements and making the dungeon more setting-neutral than the original version, I changed the target level band, some of the monsters and a few encounters completely to arrive at its final, current form.

This is an adventure nominally set in Ravenloft but really, it can be adapted to your setting quite easily. Because of the nature of the adventure you can literally set it anywhere...

This is the first pure dungeoncrawl adventure I ever written and I will say it was a refreshing and fun thing to write. Yet in spite of that, from the feedback, I managed to put in an interesting story line and an underlying plot. This adventure has new unique magic items and more than a few unique twists on known monsters.

Get it on the DM's Guild today!

[Kinda Book Review] The Wars of the Jews by Flavius Josephus

This is a book I had on my list for a very long time, and I listened to it as a free Audiobook from Librevox.org.

For those who do not know, Josephus was a Jew who chronicled the world during and around the Flavian Dynasty (Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian). First captured by Vespasian, he was freed and served him during the campaign. So this book is a report by someone who party to the events described therein, not someone far removed from them.

Josephus began as a rebel general who fought against Vespasian in Galilee before being captured, enslaved, and then freed by him. So we deal with someone who was there, dealt with the situation and had first-hand knowledge. A few times in the narrative, he is sent to speak with the Jews to ask them to surrender to Titus.

There are seven books with the narrative beginning around 200BC, through the period of the rise of Christianity, to the naming of Vespasian as commander of the army to punish the rebels by Nero, to the Year of the Four Emperors, to Titus' destruction of Jerusalem, and the destruction of Massada which ended the war.

The First few books presents the wars of the Seleucid kings in Judea and the many regime changes in Judea: the one king, then the tetrachy, and the Roman intervention. A veritable who's who of the late Roman Republic pass through: Pompey, Caesar, Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra all appear influencing the region. I was fascinated.

Like many, I knew of the region around that time was from the Christmas story: King Herrod and Salome. They appear here but in the context of the wider world. In fact, they seem to be mere local despots with limited power overall with the kingdom of the Jews broken into four pieces and each king named tetrach (ruler over a fourth (roughly): Galilee, Judea, Samaria, and coastal regions).

Josephus describes the area as a hotbed for rebellious activity: under the Greek/Seleucids, then under the Romans with only limited periods of peace in-between. Religious fanatics, corrupt and avaricious governors and family squabbles contributed to the destabilization of the area.

So the wars begin and the Jews enjoy a fair amount of early successes, ejecting the Romans from their lands and continuing the administration in place.

Nero assigns Vespasian command of an army to conquer the territory.

This is the part where we must be wary and apply some common sense. As Vespasian was Josephus' patron, the book from here on does a fair a amount of what I think is propaganda as the Roman commanders (particularly Vespasian and Titus) are always portrayed as fair and generous. Still the narrative is interesting and pretty clear.

I never visited Jerusalem or Israel but after reading this book, I can say I have a pretty good idea what the city looked like.

Josephus provides us with ample stories anecdotes - many of them absolutely horrible of the famine in the besieged city. The worse is that of the woman who cooked and ate her own son.

...

Yeah. That was hard.

This book demonizes many of the players in the who affair, such as the leaders of the Zealots. It is clear that he regrets the whole war and its conducts but at the same time he admires and commends the Jews for their courage and spirit.

Another fun thing... The narrative definitely reminded me of terms and expressions taken from the Bible, particularly the most historical books - such as the Book of Kings.

So this book came in perfectly as I received a new war game: SPQR which I cannot wait but try with ActionMan. It's an ancients skirmish game of which I'll post more later.

Rating? Really? You ask me for a rating of a book that held my attention for over twenty hours??

FIVE EAGLES (out of five).

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Eyriss: Mage Hunter Commander of Ios

Anyone playing Mercenaries in Warmachine knows of Eyriss, this mage hunter character. This mage-slayer has been a terror to both main and backup casters.

Way back when, I painted this model and it has been a staple of any armies since. Well... at least when I played.

This version of Eyriss is no longer a member of the Mercenary faction, but has returned to her home among the elves of Ios and of the Retribution.

I must admit to preferring the earlier model rather than this newer plastic one. The dynamism is gone.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Stuffed Full of Pathfinder and playing turkey ???

Okay so Pathfinder v2 is now out and the universe has not ended. Neither has it taken aflame. I have NOT bought the book and as of yet do not plan on doing it. That is until I get to play a game or two and can have a good idea of how the game plays.

With that in mind, I have been looking for events here in the Nashville area and was not able to find anything.

Edit: As I write this, there is the first event for PF2 setup. I cannot attend that event so that will not be it.

I was speaking to my good friend Florent who will be coming to see us for Thanksgiving this year. While they are here, he offered to run something for us. I guess I will play something with ActionMan at that time.

I must say that I find myself excited at the prospect. See whether the things I heard are true: both the good and the bad - as there seems to be three tiers of people: those who like, those who hate, and those who just don't care (typically because they are playing something else).

So stuff me full of turkey before putting dice in my hands! That is a positive game experience.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Ethereal Scarabs: bringers of nothingness

A few years ago, I came up with a series of creatures that really freaked me out. The basic idea came to me as I was thinking about how to tie the FOEniverse together.

In the time since I created these horrors, they appeared in more than one adventure since then. Typically accompanied with a "OH CRAP!"

The book, Gostor: Ethereal Horrors, is available for sale right now on DrivethruRpg for both 5th Edition or Pathfinder v1.

These miniatures are from one of the Reaper Bones set.

Feel free to share your story of these great little things.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

[Kinda Book Review] Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman

Looking at my list of recommendations from Amazon, this book came up and as it was time for another audiobook to keep me company as I travel to and from work. I went for it.

Way back in the late 80s, I remember watching this movie called Gor (and its sequel "Outlaw of Gor"). It was a strange, a bad Conan the Barbarian redo. It was cheesy, with bad acting, bad decors, and minor nudity (which was always a nice bonus to my teenage mind). Come to think of it, I'm still in favor of nice nudity... Hmmm

The story has NOTHING to do with the movie. Just nothing.

Wait.

There are some scenes of nudity. Okay a lot. Female clothing does come off quite a lot. Not a bad thing...

Well the story is of an English professor who is taken to a counter-Earth (a planet that mirrors Earth on the other side of the Sun). There he trains as swordsman and a tarnsman (a tarn is like a big eagle). He goes around getting involved in the politics of this rather messed up world. He steals from a city, and that's where the action starts.

He captures the girl, she tries to kill him, they get captured, she is taken, he is placed to be killed. Now at the start, it is pretty cool and exciting but after a while, the death traps and escapes grow more and more unbelievable. I even began to roll my eyes when - again - Tarl was put in a death trap and escaped towards the end.

His complete refusal to surrender to the local customs got on my nerves. As an expat myself, it ground on me. I always tried to fit in wherever I went, not forgetting where I came from, but also never dismissing local customs. Towards the end, I wanted to slap him because he was just too goody-two-shoes

The ending clearly sets up that there will be a series.

Where the story was interesting was in the strange codes of honors of the castes - the warriors have their own, as do the merchants who need to turn a profit, as do the scribes, the assassins, and the initiates. The relations between freemen and slaves are odd, but "makes sense" within this universe. As I am currently working on expanding Tyrants of Saggakar, that part held interest.

The book done, I hit Wikipedia to learn more about the series. WOW! I had no idea this was a BDSM super series! I'm not into that and I did not get that vibe from the book. In retrospect, I can see it. Those currents are there, I just did not see them but they are there.

So what did I think about it. It was good but not great. I would give it 3.5 stars out of 5, which I must round out to a 4. Now would I read some more? I'm on the fence about it (one could say I'm not bound to an answer).

Monday, September 16, 2019

Retribution of Scyrah Forces

More long-painted models I put this here. I purchased these models and they were already converted at the time. When I bought them, I planned on using them for Starfinder or something like that. However, since I have yet to find something to play Sci-Fi games I like (I really need to dig into Esper Genesis), they merely gather dust under the TV...

I like these models and the "stormtrooper" pattern I did them in, which is the standard color scheme Privateer Press gives them.



Wednesday, September 11, 2019

[Kinda Book Review] Battle For Rome by Ian Ross

Another audiobook. This one a historical fiction novel.

When I picked this up, I did not know it was book 3 of a series (Twilight of Empire). Gah. That's why I hate series.

I found this book with a moreless random search. I was intrigued by the premise. Most historical fiction is set in the late republic/early empire. However, this book is set at the dawn of the 4th century, covering the year 310-312.

Diocletian, the emperor who stabilized the Empire and set up the tetrarchy (where 4 co-emperors ruled part of the empire together). The tetrarchy failed almost immediately as Constantine who ruled out of Gaul and Maxentius who ruled out of Rome got to blows almost immediately.

The story follows Aurelis Castus an officer in Constantine's army and a down-to-earth soldier. The cast around him are interesting and colorful, presenting a fresco of the times, which is (un)surprisingly like today.

One of the high points are the battle scenes. They are clear. Concise. Fast-paced. Yet at the same time provide the reader with a taste of the chaos around Castus. Not only does Castus get involved in some of the large-scale battles, such as Verona or Milvian Bridge, but he also gets pulled into skirmished when he is not ready for battle. I was really engrossed in these scenes and could envision what happened all around me without issue.

The slower points move the story along well, focusing on relevant events, with an interesting overarching plot. He does not suddenly get into philosophical discussions. In fact, Castus doesn't really care for the Christian and when his secretary discusses with the bishop, he rolls his eyes and go off doing other things.

This book is aimed at those with an affinity for Roman history and the later Roman empire. I am a sucker for that period of history, so I'm a buyer.

I would've loved to get into the series at the start instead of in book 3, but from the first scene, I was hooked. That intro is very gripping and full of action. There are three more books for me to read on. The rest of the series has gone on my "Xmas Amazon List".

So how do I rate this book? I will give it a 4.5/5 (-.5 for the series thing), which I must round to a 5/5. I was really excited and wanted to keep going as I really enjoyed the plot and the approach to some of the characters.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

People of Akhamet

As usual, you can click on the image for a larger view of the characters.



Monday, September 9, 2019

Akhamet: Two More Adventures released

Two more Akhamet adventures to released on DriveThruRPG!

Dying of the Day

This was an adventure I wrestled with writing but it came together and really took on a life of its own. This adventure features one of the most memorable NPCs I did for Akhamet, Prince Diogenes the son of Apollo. To this day, I have requests to feature him again as I read murderous intent behind the request. Yet the Prince is a hero...

Getting the artefact was the easy part. Getting it to its destination will be more difficult than you can bear. Originally run as the FOE Gencon 2018 Special.
A 5th edition adventure with an Egyptian flair and a touch of Greek myths for characters 1 through 5 (Optimized for level 3)

Colloquially known as the "Prince Diogenes Adventure"

Death in Anupolis

Akhamet - Death in Anupolis is an investigation/ dungeoncrawl where the PCs are called in to find a missing priest. All of this set in Anupolis, perhaps the oldest and most ancient of cities in Akhamet.

This adventure, Randy-P ran multiple times at Gencon 2019. I ran it here in Murfreesboro and had a real blast.

Grisly murders turned the peaceful town of Anupolis as a murderer is on the loose. To make things worse, the killer takes different body parts from the victims.
A 5th edition adventure with an Egyption flair for characters 1-4 (optimized for level 3)

Get it on DriveThru RPG today

Get it on DriveThru RPG today

Friday, September 6, 2019

[Review] Game of Thrones Finale... was it that bad?

So I finally got through the final episodes of Game of Thrones. And frankly, I cannot get where all the hate comes from. It ends like the series has been thus far: with a "we survived" sort of ending.

Now I won't say I am super excited about the ending. It was "all right". I never read the books (and have no intention of reading them), so I don't care about that. So as a fan of the show, I have a few issues with it, but they have more to do with today's TV than with the show itself.

Here is my assessment of the result for some of the characters that made an impact.

Arya undeserved. She has the weakest of all ending. She sails off to somewhere. I did not care for her all along, so seeing her off doesn't matter to me one bit. Her entire story arc felt forced and contrived. She got powers of super assassins and she barely used them. Removing her would not have changed the story much (have Theon stab the Night King instead).

Brienne fitting. Now I do not like her. The character just makes no sense to me. Her one thing was when she got it on with Jamie... And I did not want to see that. Still her ending is fitting.

Bran fitting. Bran is a character that should've been better exploited. His true motives remain nebulous and thus left me pretty happy with him. With his powers, I am curious to see what he will do.

Cercei fitting. I doubt anyone liked her, she was the world's greatest bitch but her motivations held through. I liked her "just one good shot" line.

Danearis fitting. She had it coming all along and her action at King's Landing made her death necessary. She was a Targaryan through and through: just waiting for one small thing to make her go nuts.

Euron fitting. Okay this guy was a sleezy jerk. His brutal and graphic honesty was fun to see and towards the end, I rooted for this guy to live. Great pirate king!

Jamie fitting. He did move about for a LONG time after being stabbed in both sides. I got to really like this guy and was sad to see him die, but understood.

Jon Snow fitting. I like his exile at the end as he leaves the civilized world with the Wyldlings.

Night king undeserved. He died like a punk and his generals just stood there. Wasted opportunity.

Samwell undeserved. This guys should'a bit the bullet during the fight with the undead. He's not good for much. Still a fitting end for him.

Sansa fitting. The girl who got passed around the most ends up as Queen of the North. I cannot stand Sophie Turner with her dead eyes and emotionless face. I would not have cared if she died or was assassinated. However, that her end leaves the North in a positive note.

Theon fitting. His end redeemed him after all the crap he did to everyone (and what everyone did to him). He was a good guy in the end.

Tyrion fitting. This guy is perhaps one of the most polarizing figure as I loved and hated him: sometimes at the same time, other times in sequence. His transformation as a character was really remarkable and interesting throughout the series.

So, out of 13 characters, 3 I rated as "undeserved" and 10 as "fitting". So with that, I can declare myself satisfied with the ending of the series.

Would I watch more if they came up with more? Yes, I think I would. The finale left it open enough for more stories to be told in Westeros.

Unless the story focuses on Arya and her travels. And I don't want that.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Armchair Adventurers Labor Day Mini-con AAR

This past Saturday, I went up to Louisville KY for a one-day event held by Rich and Chris of Armchair Adventurers. The location was a store I did not know called Card-N-All (nice play on words to the Louisville Cardinals, the local university's sport teams).

After work on Friday, I got in the card and drove north, along I-65. Stopping for gas and coffee, I arrived at the store around 6:30 local time. I wanted to (1) see where it was and (2) I was to meet with Rich for dinner.

The store is nice and HUUUUUGE. I mean gigantic. After a short walk, we went to a local Italian restaurant. It was good stuff, then we returned to Card-N-All where I helped him a little with some administrative stuff.

Then I left and checked in to my hotel. My original plan was to have ActionMan come with me, but he got in trouble for doing something stupid at school, so this would be a solo day! Excellent I could watch Ridiculousness for hours on my own.

Saturday morning, I showed up 30 minutes early to get ready for the game. People were filtering in.

I had planned to run Akhamet for the first two slots, having both Gencon adventures, the newly released The Tomb of Prince Tsubeteb and Desert Pearls. Letting the table decide what they wanted to play, they chose the Tomb. It was a fun game, filled with the typical twists and turns, only enhanced by the craziness of the players.

I had planned to run the other adventure for the second slot, but I did not have enough players for a table. We re-shuffled and I sat to play at Aileen's Call of Cthulhu game.

Let me go on an aparte. I was excited for this adventure because the game used the 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu. 7e is the first edition that massively departs from previous editions of play. I had never played 7e before and wanted to play before investing time into it. Well, after playing it, it is like a riding a bicycle or meeting with the old gang to play another game of a twenty-year old campaign...

The adventure was interesting as each of us was a group of ladies from a club of good women in the 1920s. The characters were interesting and had simple enough background to make each of them have an interesting personality. I played Delilah Scott, whose husband Brother-Reverrend Samson Scott of London, was part of a very exclusive Gentlemen's Club. The others were similarly intriguing: Charlie the huntress, Nell the bookworm, Flo the old cougar, and Lana the Russian ballerina (there is someone I forget). Fun times. Fun times. I spent four hours with a bad Georgian accent. I managed to escape this, but I can imagine Delilah in a straight jacket rocking back and forth, saying "Jeezus" every few seconds.

For the last slot, my original plan was to play something. I had originally plan on playing Matt-M's Cthulhu adventure. However, Matt was taken to the hospital in the days before and could not attend. So I offered to Rich and Chris that I could run an old Cthulhu adventure I wrote years before. So I ran "In Darkness, I wait", which is set in World War II. After less than an hour of play, the party trimmed itself down to half.

The two new players who fled when the shooting started hid for a while and returned to explore some more and discover what was going wrong.

The day was done and I spend time talking with JD out in the parking lot. I headed to the hotel, made a pit stop at Waffle House, then sleep.

The Good

- Rich and Chris are super dynamic, friendly, and responsive. I really hope this event will grow and happen more often; I heard talks of twice a year. Well guys, you have a volunteer down here in Tennessee.

- The venue is great. Close to food in a strip mall. The team was super welcoming and friendly. I mean, a story that sells RPGs, miniatures, gundam minis, and video games? And fill with people on a Saturday? This is a place I would want to be. A lot. Often. Alas, I am no longer in Louisville (Chad will comment about this)

- The attendees wanted to play and try out new things. This is something I am always very excited to see. People played one game then another.

The Improvable

- The typical Attendance as there could've been more people. A few tables did not go off, but everyone got to play something they seemed to have enjoyed. Was the attendance lower because of the long weekend? I don't know.

- Matt-M's Health should improve. I will keep him in my prayers.

For the next time

- Bring ActionMan with me so he could be exposed to more games and gaming styles.

So by now, you should no longer ask yourself "Will you be back, JP?" Yes. Yes, I plan to be back next time.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

[Old Pro Tricks] Historical Campaign and Setting Writing

I am mentoring a guy I met on Facebook, Paul-O. He is creating a campaign setting based on a historical period I find fascinating. We started talking as my experience in such things could help him deal with some of the pitfalls of doing this. Part of his latest round of question yielded experience I thought could be useful to all.

He plans on publishing his setting in the future, something I will look forward to seeing.

I scrubbed the name of the people and locations to keep his idea private.

[Paul] What makes for better storytelling: having the characters start somewhere on the [Sea], which is the trade route crossroads and at the border of the approaching destruction of the [Historical] war machine? Or, start the players inside the ruthless [Historical] empire, potentially as displaced conquered people, rebellious citizens, or loyalists on a quest?

This is where you need to change from thinking as a GM and thinking as a setting writer.

As a GM you decide what your players will do: kill the orcs, conquer the city, destroy the evil god. This is where you decide what happens. As a setting writer, you must separate yourself from those concerns.

IF D&D were a play, the setting writer paints the set and the decor. Where is this? Why here and not there? Who are the big players? The adventure writer is the director working from his own script.

Since YOU will not be at every table, the plot of things at your table and at mine will be different, but set in the same place. You may decide the [Historical] are the bad guys whereas I may decided I want the PCs to fight against the [Historical II] rebels in my city. Both plots are equally valid and the more grey/ open to interpretation to set that line, the more adventure potential you open. Monsters are bad guys and few PCs bat an eye at going and killing beasts or fiends. However, killing many other humans is something different and should be see as such.

So your [Historical] could be aggressive and militaristic with a penchant for heavy-handed tactics but their empire is crumbling from internal pressure. The [Historical II]s are on the rise but many think they are [Historical] 2.0, the [Historical III] may use dirty tactics in war and hate both, and the [Historical IV] are officially allied to the [Historical II] but sell secrets to the [Historical]. This give a GM more pieces to play with.

True the rulers of [Historical] may be evil and those of [Historical II] good, but even if the leader is of a given alignment does not make the whole country like that. One may be good but a zealot for [Historical God] and another may be evil but concerned mostly with the creation of defenses. A good-aligned leader may hire assassins to protect his people. This makes the character relatable, interesting, and complex

There are VERY FEW historical people you can qualify as "pure good" (Jesus and the Apostles) and more as "pure evil" (Hitler and Stalin). I firmly dislike the current attitude that if someone does something bad or stupid one time, that person needs to be shunned and outcast forever. I did some stupid things as a kid and changed my ways.

A character that is pure as snow (as we now see too much on TV) or with blemishes that are meaningless are not interesting. You don't want perfect people, you want them to have inner conflict. One person hates his spouse, another is broke but no one knows about it yet, and another plans to abscond with another man's wife.

That create conflicts: within the character and in the setting. And conflict is what leads to adventure. Alignment should not be the only factor in determining what an NPC does. One of the best NPCs ever: Lancelot. By all account, a good and true knight. When given the opportunity, he slept with his king and best friend's wife.

So I ask you, does "Lawful Good" tell you everything about Lancelot?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

[Kinda Book Report] Glen Cook - Black Company: The Silver Spike

Audiobook.

Silver Spike CoverNow if you are a fan of the Glen Cook's Black Company series (I am), this one is a special treat in that it follows the events of The White Rose where the decimated Black Company is heading south. After buying more of Glen's books at Hypericon, I wanted to get back into the BC universe.

This book can best be described as a spinoff. It features a number of characters that left or opposed the BC in the first cycle of the series. In many ways, this is a sort of epilogue to the Black Company empire-shattering tour of the North. This was a very different type of book from the rest of the series in that it is less militaristic and more along the lines of "regular" fantasy book, while still fitting in the univerSE of the BC.

The story starts with a group of characters: four random low-level thieves decide to go and steal the Silver Spike that was used to destroy the Dominator at the end of Shadows Linger. The story then brings back Bomanz, Raven, Darling, Silent and the Limper as a(nother) villain.

The characters are interesting and have realistic development, with complex interactions. The four thieves were highlights with plot twists. Old Man Fish started off very low-key and grew into a pretty cool character.

I will say that unlike Path to the coldness of heart, the story end with a climax that is epic and awesome. Most story arcs are closed off (a lot of people die) but leave the door open on enough character for a possible sequel or writing them back into the main storyline.

If I had to rate this one... I'd go with a 5/5.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

[Legion of Everblight] Proteus warbeast and Ancient Greece

Another old picture of a character I did a while ago. This is a Legion of Everblight Proteus.

This creature - and many of its brothers - has a future in the upcoming "Greek setting". I have been working with Roberto on this as we exchange ideas and now I need to sit down and write it. More on that in a different post...

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

[Old Pro Tricks] Character Backgrounds: How Long?

I was lurking around on RPG StackExchange and happened upon a question that made me pause. The poster asked the following question: "How much detail should I put into my characters backstory as to not be annoying to other players?"

Katharan al-ZawreeThe question was shut down because it is very opinion-based - true. But still the question is worth asking. How long should you have your backstory?

I will go from a historical view. I created characters that had a LOT of backstories: a few pages. And I created characters that had a very short backstories: a sentence or two.

I will differentiate between a background and a shtick.

A background links the character to the setting, creating ties between local events and NPCs. They tend to be rather specific in terms of which element you relate to. For example, my winter witch Katja grew up with her paternal grandmother after her father, a mercenary, dropped her off when she was about 5 years old and disappeared. This gave Katja a reason to help the locals: she grew up there, she had a grandmother present, and she was known as a quiet girl by the rest of the party. She had a few possible side-quests: finding her father and mother, discover her own powers, and an interest in books.

A shtick is typically short idea that gives the character a reason to be present but does not really get too close. For the past few characters we built for the Adventure League, ActionMan and I based and named our characters out of characters from Treasure Island. Captain Flint, Ben Gunn, Billy Bonescrusher, and Israel Hands all made appearances in games. They are all pirates and speak using "YARRR". They are there "just because". The shtick can generally be conveyed over a sentence of two. "We are pirates from Captain Flint's crew," gives most players a quick idea of what you look like.

Werner von Breshlow-GiersbergenSo how long should your background be?

I have a bias towards "keep it short". Why? Here is a short list of my thoughts.

- You want to integrate with others. The more you detail your background, the more likely you isolate your characters from the other party member.

- Easier to change and adapt. Nothing sucks more than to have to go back and redo all your background because the plot suddenly took you to a different place. "What do you mean my father is the brother of Sauron?!"

- The GM has other things to think about. Perhaps the biggest reason for brevity, the more expansive you make it, the more the GM has to remember all your stuff. Few points makes it easier to remember and integrate in the plot.

- A good shtick may be good enough. A simple one-liner "I am a son of the nobility who came here thinking it would be fun".

So I will add a caveat to this list. If your GM asks you for more of a background, then go as big as he wants it. Still try to keep it open: avoid the "I am a complete loner and I never met anyone and have no friends or family outside the party."

Monday, August 26, 2019

Akhamet: Two New Adventures released!

Finally, after a long time of preparation, view, review, and an absolutely great reception at both Origins and Gencon 2019, now is time to release not one, but TWO adventures for Akhamet. Both of these adventures has an Egyptian flair.

The Tomb of Prince Tsubeteb

Akhamet - The Tomb of Prince Tsubeteb is a dungeoncrawl with an little investigation. It's an adventure that introduces many of the concepts behind Akhamet while giving players a lot of freedom on how to accomplish the task before them.

Prince Tsubeteb, one of Pharaoh’s favorite sons received the ancient and holy rites of mummification and was buried in the great necropolis. Death is not the end and many threads remain beyond its icy grip.
A 5th edition adventure with an Egyptian flair for characters levels 2-4

It runs for 3-6 hours. and is optimized for level 3 characters.

Get it on DriveThru RPG

Desert Pearls

Akhamet - Desert Pearls is an action-packed treasure hunt with a very unique twist. It is an adventure to be run at the speed of a crazy train. Yet, it offers the PCs many choices and will keep even the hardiest veterans on the edge of their seats.

In eastern Akhamet, local markets flood with desert pearls. A merchant is gathering an expedition to the depths of the desert that might make every one of its members rich. Or dead.
A 5th edition adventure with an Egyptian flair for characters levels 2-4

It runs for 3-6 hours. and is optimized for level 3 characters.

Get it on DriveThru RPG

[Minion Monday] Pulling out my big snake

Another one I painted long ago and used a couple of times in games. I got this monster from one the Widower's Wood pack I think.

I used Beetlejuice as an inspiration for its color scheme.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

[Kinda Book Report] Glen Cook - Dread Empire: A Path to Coldness of Heart

Another audiobook. Now I have been pretty excited about the previous two: they were clever, especially the scenes replayed from different sides. This one... Pfff... I'll be honest and did not enjoy it as much. This story dragged on and on with little that was happening of interest. It felt more like a soap opera with bad quasi-romance elements, and a huge cast of characters that effectively accomplish nothing but wait together.

The "Last" of the Chronicles of the Dread Empire feels like nothing like an ending.

Just not great.

I did not enjoy this book.

Another book by Cook I read that I did not enjoy was Bleak Seasons. However, I did not enjoy that one because of the odd tone and darkness.

According to Wikipedia, the original manuscript was stolen. Perhaps that one may have been better.

The ending is a let down. Effectively saying "I'm done for now, but there are so many questions and plot hooks remaining that the story feels incomplete." It leaves everything in the air. The main characters do not achieve anything.

Soap opera.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, August 19, 2019

[Minion Monday] Bunch of pigs

I painted these guys almost two years ago from the Hordes Unleashed RPG. This is a small band of Farrow (boarmen). I do not really have a use for them in most of my game so I may just sell them. I don't know... I still like their sculpts.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dungeon Decorations: A trio of treasures

A short post with a few small items that have been waiting for a post. There are a trio of random treasure/ objectives/ dungeon decoration. I do not remember where I got those. They came as part of a kickstarter.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Ancient Ship Gallery and Construction Guidelines

Two years ago now, I made a series of ships designed to be used in RPGs particularly Akhamet. These ships served me for years now. I now have more ship designs I want to build, which I will with the experience I gained from building these three guys.

Here is a short guide on how to create such ships for you:

1 - The bodies were made of corrugated cardboard with the corrugations at 90' angle. This makes them light but sturdy. Make sure to keep the amount of glue to a minimum to avoid warping.

2 - Once the body is done and dry, cover the top and sides with Popsicle sticks. This will strengthen the body. Now here you can be as loose or tight with the planking as you want. Again easy on the glue to avoid warping, not only for the body but also for the sticks themselves. A little stick warping will make it look more "realistic".

3 - For the mast, use a chopstick you will stick into the center of the ship. Stick it through wood - having drilled a hole then force it through the cardboard. Since these boats are based on ancient designs, I use a square sail, with the cross beam to form a T. I chip small notches that makes both fit in together better.

4 - Painting is simple: brown then drybrushing to make the grain of the wood pop and a few black lines to make the planking appear smaller than they are.