JP On Gaming

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Mutants and Masterminds: DONE

In my annual retrospective I put down that I joined a campaign of Mutants and Mastermind and that I hate was the Player-versus-player (PVP) events but I enjoyed the guys, the game overall (the PVP were occasional things/ monthly).

Well it's barely mid-January and the game is done. It is certainly not because of lack of player want: we had enough players to keep the game going - and many of the guys do A LOT of Play-by-Post role-playing in the Discord server (I just can't keep up with them). So the game itself was healthy, with invested and interested players.

Problem is one that I know well... DM burnout.

I won't go into details but he wanted a co-DM to run the game though I really wanted to step up. There were two GMs but one stepped down. Leaving one to run the whole thing.

I just could not find the time to put together something I would be proud of, write my products AND run my regular games. When having to chose between half-assing something or not doing it, I'd rather not do it.

I looked for options to lighten his load but his heart was no longer in it and he was already making plans for something completely different. Having been there, once you begin to look at reorganizing your game in something completely different, your heart is in the new thing.

So I walked away from the game. It was a fun three months in which I got to remember what I like of this system. I will remember this campaign fondly.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

FOE looking for GMs for Gencon

It is Gencon-planning season again!

Yes, I know, Gencon is at the beginning of August but now is the time for me to set up what we will be doing. Before I go and request tables and room, I would like to know how many of you would be willing to GM for FOE this year.

Over the past two years, I have been BEYOND lucky to surround myself with a wonderful team. (Isabelle, JS, Will, Randy, Flo & Flo). And I plan to once more organize events at Gencon and make it FOE's biggest ever. Like last year, I plan to have a multi-table event, one that would span both days. I am dreaming BIG! But also some single-table events.

This year's games will be mostly in Akhamet but may have one set in Rhym.

The GMs will be involved in the creation - by providing ideas and critique (and writing if you want to).

What do you get?

FOE products, carpooling (if you need it), and some extra goodies (previous GMs received sets of hand-painted miniatures and iconics). But most of all... A free Gencon Badge!


Interested? Available? Ask JP by any means: email (JP@FOELegacies.com), facebook chat, etc.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Clockwork Angels stopped: RIP Neil Peart

On January 7th, 2020, Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for the Canadian rock band Rush passed away from brain cancer. Aged 67.

In case you did not know, I have been a life-long Rush fan, going back to sometime in 1986 or 87 when I was introduced to them by my best friend Francois-M. (With whom I recently reconnected through Facebook) I remember the mixed taped, number 9. The tape had some of the tunes like "Limelight", "Xanadu", and "The Trees". Though the tape is long gone, its legacy remains. Rush and their many albums and evolving style form something akin to a soundtrack of my life.

In many ways, Neil's lyrics always called to me. They were the first band I listened to whose songs were not "just" about love and girls. His lyrics talked about history, philosophical concepts, immortality, science-fiction, space travel, the digital age, and mythology. All things that my young mind spent a lot of time on (and girls too, but that's for another post). Many of the questions I thought about was the subject of songs from my favorite band.

I learned of his demise on my Facebook feed first, then through quite a few people who let me know through direct messaging.

I replied a simple "Yeah I heard."

What could I say?

It was like a dear friend had passed away, one whom I never saw but who was always there. One who is still there. I'm one of those many strangers who's a long awaited friend.

I did get to see them quite a few times with other friends. Many of whom I rarely see. I saw them for the Roll the Bones, Counterparts, Test for Echo, and for R30. All of those in Montreal.

Thanks for the memories.

Farewell Neil.

See you in 2112.

It is only fitting that I leave the last words to him... From 1987's Time Stand Still

Summer's going fast
Nights growing colder
Children growing up
Old friends growing older


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

[Old Pro Tricks] Finding a group: a plea

This past Sunday, in Murfreesboro TN (where I live), was held the first DMs meeting organized through the Murfreesboro D&D Facebook group. It was attended by a GMs with experience ranging from some who only ran one or two games all the way to the old guys with white beards. We had a few guys looking for a game. A wide variety of experience, interests, skill sets was represented and the discussion was dynamic, respectful, and super engaging. I really recommend it if you are in the area and interested in meeting other DMs.

From the short discussions I had with these guys (many of which I met for the first time), a few things quickly became clear to me:

- There is a big demand for GMs

- There are quite a few games out there; the problem is to link GMs and players.

I ask those of you who do have games with open seats to please post it on public forums (such as the Murfreesboro D&D Facebook group) and do the same if you are looking for a group, you never know when an availability will happen.

Now on the flip side, do not get discouraged if you don't get a group within the first 15 minutes. It takes time to find a group once you leave college. It takes even more time before you can find a group that works well with what YOU want.

You may have to try your hand at GMing. Those great GMs you played with in the past once started without experience either. At some point, we all sucked and had to grind our teeth somewhere and did horrible things - to our PCs and our NPCs, then improve.

Reach out.

Monday, January 6, 2020

[Review] Spoilerless Review of Rise of Starwalker

Where to start? The Force Awaken was "fine" in that it set up things so I was willing to give it a pass. I really hated The Last Jedi: it just destroyed every story threads without setup anything to follow. So I went into this one with expectations so low.

How low? You ask. Well let me give you an exchange I had with the kids about going to see it.

JP Hey kids, let's go see a movie.
Kids Yay!
JP So... Star Wars or 1917?
Kids 1917! 1917!
JP finds out there is no showing in Nashville area.
JP It's not playing.
Kids (Disappointed Groan) Ah okay... Star Wars then.

So those were the expectations. Star Wars is no longer the first-day event it once was. I remember when Phantom Menace came out in 1999 and I was ready to sell my future children to see it day one. Which I did showing up 15 mins ahead of time...

Well... A few things

- Very fast pace. Very fast.
- Lando is a highlight. He's a pretty cool character and Billy Dee Williams' charisma overshadows the other, blander characters.
- This feels like a proper sequel to The Force Awakens
- Wasted potential on many of the non-Rey characters
- Many times I found my eyes rolling in my head so much that I would (thankfully) loose 10-15 seconds of movie.
- The kids loved and agreed when I referred to Rey as "Super-Jesus-Girl". She is beyond Mary Sue. She can beat Chuck Norris with one frown.
- Space battles never gave me the impression the outcome was in doubt.
- The lightsaber battles did not feel as meaningful as those from the original and prequel. The background was more exciting than the action.

So... What did I think of it? My review can best be summed by the following sentence: "It did not suck as much as I thought it would". There are some moments I enjoyed (typically when Rey is not there) but overall, it's a suck. Thinking back to the prequel, in spite of their many issues, they now look like great movies.

I will put this down as a 2/5.

Wow... Wow... How could I ever write this about Star Wars. 2/5! Jeez... I will give the final word to ActionMan who said: "There are six Star Wars movie... Oh and Rogue One... Rogue One was okay too..."

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Yearly Retrospective 2019 Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Books

I read a number of books this year, I tried to cover a variety of topics and genre as a way to prevent boredom. Many of them are Audiobooks I listened to while driving to cons or work. Saves me a lot of time and keeps my mind focused on something.

Marvel Essential - Hulk #4 Quite a change of pace from the heavier stuff of St Augustine... I approached this story with some apprehension after having read Rampaging Hulk last year. However, this was a very different affair. Here, Hulk is not used as a way to present modern concerns. Hulk wants to be left alone, a sentiment that is easy to understand, and people keep messing up with him. Unlike the previous book, I enjoyed this one and was left with a desire to read more about Hulk.

Glenn Cook - The Swordbearer I read this as an audiobook that kept me company on my road trip to Origins. This books is very much in line with other material from Cook: a very militaristic setting with powerful undead creatures that cannot be killed. Unlike the Black Company, the Swordbearer is his take on Moorcock's Stormbringer where a young man takes a powerful evil sword that wants to kill. The story is interesting and the twists keep things moving. The epilogue was a tad of a disappointment, when the dwarf explains the world was not to my liking. But if you like Cook's fantasy works, this is a good one.

Anthology - Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues A collection of short stories featuring thieves, assassins, and knaves I happened upon randomly while looking for a new series. As a collection, the stories ranged from "okay" to "good". As most stories ended, I found myself wanting to hear more about it, so I will call this a positive. Really enjoyed.

Tom Huddleston - Star Wars Adventure in Wild Space: The Dark I received this book for my birthday as a gift from ActionMan. This is a short book, definitely for children. It is the story of two children, a brother and sister duo captured by a bounty hunter. This was an enjoyable little story with a Star Wars flavor.

James Ward and Jane Cooper Hong - Pool of Radiance Way back when we all played the "gold box" D&D games on our PCs; Pool of Radiance was one of the best-liked games of the late 80s (during that time, I played Sid Meier's Pirates all the time. Still the best of all time). Anyway, I did NOT play that adventure at the time (I started playing the series with Curse of the Azure Bonds). So I listened to this one while the family was away in Canada. It has everything I disliked about classic Dungeons and Dragons: low-level characters using high-level in-game powers (the starter wizard in particular cast control weather spells and starts with a staff of power). Something my own players wanted to have "I want to start with a staff of power, like Shal!" Drove me nuts. I mean WTF!? You JUST STARTED! Okay JP, calm down. This is not a rant. Okay so the story here is fine if shallow. It gives you the tale of a group of adventurers coming together; it's really nothing to write home about. Unless you enjoyed the gold box or have a particular desire for completeness, you can easily skip this one.

Michael Moorcock - Sailor on the Sea of Fate I found this one in my YouTube feed and went for it. I read a lot of the Stormbringer/Elric RPG products and played it a few times to my enjoyment so I was intrigued about the story. I know this is not the first in the series. I found this to be good storytelling, very classic fantasy literature. No surprise as it was written in the 70s. This book held my attention from beginning to end and I will look deeper into this series.

Roger Zelazny - Nine princes in Amber For years, I planned to read this. Eventually, I decided on an audiobook. I knew it was a mishmash of genre, multi-verse style where people of every background could mix: from science fiction, to modern, to fantasy, everything can be found here. I found it has many elements in common with my own Tyrants of Saggakar setting wherein characters from anywhere and everywhere can be found together. Because of this merged multiverse, I walked into this one not fully knowing what I would find. In short, I did not enjoy it. The style and tone of the story I just could not get into. I won't continue this series.

Marvel Essential - Fantastic Four #2 As a kid, I could never really enjoy the Fantastic Four. Sure, they were interesting, but I always preferred the X-Men and the Avengers over the FF. This book takes me back to the 60s and by being able to get a full series of stories together really gets me going. I am getting into these characters a lot more and I can see how people loved them. Unlike all the other early title, there is a romance between characters (Sue and Reed, Ben and Alicia) even if there can be no happily ever-after. I will very likely continue this series.

Glen Cook - Dread Empire: Reap the East Wind Back in 2007-08, I first picked up this series in an omnibus book at a Borders in Colorado Springs. I had a very mixed reaction with it, but next I opted to read more, which led to my great enjoyment of his works. After listening to the Swordbearer for my Origins road trip, I found this one, which is set years after "A Cruel Wind: A Chronicle of the Dread Empire", which I read back then. I found this book to be very much in line with the others. It was an enjoyable book. Not great, but definitely better than others I've read/listened to this year. This presents us with a much wider tapestry, very much Game of Throne-ish. The end left me a little meh, but the rest is pretty cool.

Glen Cook - Dread Empire: An Ill Fate Marshalling Another audiobook and the "sequel" to the Reap the East Wind. I put that in quotation marks because the first part of the book is a retelling of the same story as "Reap". However, here, we follow King Braggi and his machinations to save his kingdom. Many of the scenes are presented again but with the thoughts and feeling of other characters, creating a very interesting tapestry and provides a lot of insight to some of the sudden changes in character that popped up through "Reap". The finale of this one is something of a let down, with many plot threads left hanging. By the end I really wanted to know MORE! But alas... But wait... there is now a third part of this sequel trilogy...

Marvel Essentials - X-Factor #1 This book I wanted to read since I was young. I was told by friends and owned a patchwork of the issues therein, but nothing that told me the whole story. This one is important in X-Lore, with the return of Jean Grey as Marvel Girl and the creation of X-Factor the mutant hunter/saviors. I found myself compulsively reading issue after issue. During this run Beast turned back to human-beast, the mutant massacre, the introduction of Apocalypse, the creation of the horsemen, and Angel losing his wings. Riveting stuff. I will buy the next installment (even though I still own most of those follow-up books).

Glen Cook - Dread Empire: A Path to Coldness of Heart The Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire. Full Report

Glen Cook - Black Company: The Silver Spike A Black Company off-series book. Full Report

Ian Ross - Battle For Rome Twilight of Empire Book 3. Full Report

John Norman - Tarnsman of Gor A novel set on a Counter-Earth Book 1 Full Report

Flavius Josephus - Wars of the Jews The historical story of early Roman Judea Full Report

Marcus Aurelius - Meditations The private thoughts of a Roman Emperor Full Report

James Luceno - Tarkin A Star Wars novel Full Report

St Augustine - City of God A philosophy/theology book from early Christianity Full Report

Marie Lu - Batman: Nightwalker A graphic novel set in Gotham City Full Report

Arthur C Clark - Imperial Earth A tale of the future of man Full Report


So with all this, I wish you all a very happy new year.

JP

Friday, January 3, 2020

Yearly Retrospective 2019 Part 3

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4

Publishing/ FOE

This year, I released a number of books, both on DrivethruRPG and the DM's Guild.

I released fewer products than I wanted this year however, most of them had sales that were much higher than previous offerings. I slowed down my scheduled and tried to work on the quality of the work, producing larger, more complete adventure than the four-hour Organized Play format I published previously. Sales followed the amount of effort I put in, which is encouraging.

This year's best seller for FOE was the Akhamet Campaign Setting, which in 2019 overtook the Tyrants of Saggakar as the company's best-selling product (the sales on amazon are pretty good also). It is truly exciting to see people's interest in my products. Now I have to keep producing quality products for you all, a burden I will gladly take on.

I released the following products this year:
- Akhamet: Death in Anupolis
- Akhamet: Dying of the Day
- Akhamet: Panacea

And the following on the DM's Guild
- Ravenloft: Apple of a mother's eye
- Ravenloft: Dreams of Dust
- Ravenloft: The Vanishing Ziggurat
- Crypts of Ravenloft
- Dark Gifts of Ravenloft

Wargaming

My wargaming this year was limited to playing a few games of Kill Team with ActionMan. It's been a while since I played anything other than that and we have a lot of fun. He is pretty sharp and has begun to beat me more than a few times.

Blog

With other pursuits, the blog suffered as I focused my attentions on other things. I had to focus my energies elsewhere.

One thing I started that I like doing are the "Kinda Book Reports" on the audiobooks and paperbooks I read/ listen to. Giving each a grade is something I enjoy doing.

Still, I have been able to post all of the important things in my life here.

I finished the year having "just" posted 79 articles on a variety of topics but most of them being FOE releases OR After Action Report for convention. I posted much less about miniatures. I posted fewer rants on other people's projects mostly because I did not want to argue about my opinion. Still I may post more of them.

Patreon

In January, FOE launched its Patreon page. It was not a success I envisioned. I pushed new content there throughout the year to try and get it off the ground. After a year, I will take it down as I do not have the time to put into something that has no return value.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Yearly Retrospective 2019 Part 2

Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4

RPGs

One thing I made a conscious effort to do this year was to run even more campaign games instead of "just" running one-shot campaigns. To that end, I did the following

I started running Curse of Strahd. I spoke to ActionMan about my playing in the I6 Ravenloft in the 80s, a story I related on this blog. As luck would have it, there were other guys who wanted to play and within like 10 minutes of me putting up the LFM (Looking For More) I had to refuse people. Nevertheless, I assembled a Crue to travel with ActionMan to Barovia... And they regretted it all the way into the Mists... We've been playing for well over six month almost weekly and the final confrontation is fast approaching.

I started an Akhamet Campaign on Wednesday nights which gives me a reason to get my adventure writing in gear and prepare something for the guys. This campaign is episodic - so much like an organized play campaign. We've been playing about 2-2h30 hours a week and I've had a good time of it. I spent a fair chunk of the Christmas break writing the next part in an upcoming adventure for Akhamet...

I joined a campaign of Mutants and Mastermind where I play the Alabama Slamma, the south's number one superhero. He is a sort of redneck paragon, a flying hillbilly version of the Thing. This is a character that is 90% humor because he embodies everything that is redneck. One element of the campaign I grew to simply hate are the PvP hero vs villain crossover (there are two groups). Our team (the heroes) are not on the same level as the villains, which results in us getting our butts handed to us every time. I will no longer participate in them after this last "Christmas" one. I have other things that to make a few jokes then get obliterated as the villains take an hour to do their round (they are well-built...) So that on our second turn, half of us are still up and the rest are barely standing. Perhaps if there is some reason to participate. But right now I don' t see the point.

Our local Murfreesboro D&D group has been growing and quite a few games spawned. Fun stuff really. We used to play some Adventure League but that has dropped off as the GM started his own game... Good result for all. As it grows, I expect we will have more and more events.

One of the things I got into this year was Mentoring new D&D players, GMs, and writers. I did a number of such collabs, helping people from around the world with their issues. I worked with Simon, Matt, Vince, and Andrew to name but a few. Working with each person is a different experience. I learned a lot myself by sharing some of my experience.

For me, the biggest release of the year in the RPG world has been the release of Wrath and Glory a RPG for the Warhammer 40k universe that finally does what we want to do with it. Then what happens? The game loses the license and it goes to Cubicle 7 (a company I am not very keen on)! Damn it! I'm not shelling another 40$ on the game. Looking at it from a publisher's perspective, that game is well-designed and sets itself to future supplements to expand on a solid base. You can play Chaos, Imperials, Eldars, or even Orks! Have not yet played much but plan to do something in 2020 with it.

RPGs/ActionMan

Right at the end of the year, ActionMan ran his first D&D game. It was a fun adventure where us band of misfits went to get money for the town to pay its taxes. We explored a dungeon in Wing Mountain. A fun rump for sure. Watch out people, ActionMan will be a good GM in the future. There were a few things he needs to work on, but the game flowed well, the story help up, and we had good fun. #ProudDad

I gave him the DMG to go over and he created the whole adventure by himself: a multi-room dungeon with different combats (we fought swarms, undead, and zombies). A well-crafted first effort - much better than my own first effort! There were potential ties to other campaigns (namely both Akhamet and Rhym).

I am really looking forward to seeing what he will come up with next. Perhaps giving him a few adventure league adventures so he can see more of the structure of an adventure in something that has a rather fixed format. I will talk to him about it, see what he thinks.

#ProudDad indeed.

RPGs/Organized Play

This year, I did LOT less organized play than in previous years.

The game I played the most was Arcanis. I got to play a bunch during Origins and had a great time. However, next year, I do not expect to play much more because they are pulling out of Origins.

I joined a campaign of the hardback Mad Mage's Labyrinth... And while I enjoyed the game (group + GMs), I hated that adventure. There is no plot, no story, just an endless series of random rooms with combats or traps. Truth be told, that style of adventure is why I quit D&D back in the 90s. I leveled up a few characters, but it really did nothing for me. I don't feel more excited by the game. I will not purchase that book, run it, nor play in it.

The other campaign I played in a lot has been Heroes of Rokugan who are using AEG's Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition. I am enjoying the campaign quite a lot as my origami-making Crane shugenja tries to perform her duty with all her disadvantages. This campaign is hit-or-miss in its adventures but the overall storyline is interesting.

Conventions

This year, I participated in a number of conventions, here is the report I posted about them.

After last year, I decided to attend less, focus on things at home. I have to say... I miss it. I really enjoy attending cons with ActionMan.
- MidSouthCon in Memphis, TN
- Conglomeration in Louisville, KY
- Origins in Columbus, OH: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
- Hypericon in Murfreesboro, TN: Part 1 | Part 2
- Gencon in Indianapolis, IN: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
- Labor Day Mini-con in Louisville, KY

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Yearly Retrospective 2019

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Another year has gone by one that snuck through. It was a year of great highs and lows. Let's go over it all...

Personal Life

We are still living in Middle Tennessee and loving it. Everyone has good friends here.

Jojo is still with the Blackman swim team and doing good. She hurt herself this year which sidelined her for October thru the New Year, but I expect her to make a full recovery and do well.

I'm not supposed to say but Kitty has a boyfriend, who is ActionMan's good friend. Don't tell her about it...

ActionMan got into a magnate school and has adapted well. He enjoys his new school quite a lot as it is more challenging to him.

Family Life

Perhaps the biggest change to our lives is that we entered negotiations to sell our house in Kentucky. So look for next year for a "new house" update. I am excited about it.

Professional Life

The year started on a massive high as the team I was one fired on all cylinders as we crushed out deadline after the other, to the point where we gave ourselves the title of "A-Team". It was a real blast to come to work every day with the idea of both challenging and being challenged by my team. We spearheaded a HUGE variety of technologies and techniques as we provided unprecedented values to those people out in the fields.

We created a series of APIs using .Net Core 2.X that were super fast with unit tests. We focused our work on providing the data to the user and moved all the ETL work to off-line processes (on which I spent a lot of time). We dropped the speed of some searches from 30 seconds for one result to 77,000 for less than 5 seconds! Needless to say I am still very proud of the work I did.

Then, during the month of March, things changed. A new management philosophy was put in place, one I disagreed with heavily, and that led me to decide to leave. The change affected the whole team, so much that less than two months later, every team member (4 developers, 1 QA, and 1 BA) left for new pastures. Lucky for me, we remain in fairly close contact with each other.

I left for CBS Interactive, to work on the 247Sports.com website. This has been a great experience with a wonderful team of guys who are as passionate as I am about their work. The site I work on is very expansive and we work to improve and make it look better every day.

I get to talk "shop" while talking about College Football. In fact, I have been involved with it this year more than ever.

Trips

The biggest trip I took this year was to Montreal, a trip that was filled with a whole lot of craziness. From missing our plane to calling the attorney to driving at 120mph on I-24. This trip started like a ton of crap but turned out to be pretty cool. The kids got to go on their first plane ride that they remember (Kitty was a baby last time she flew, and ActionMan was a peanut). Instead of a short trip where we got to see everyone, it was a weekend whirlwind of craziness.

Towards the end of the summer, I rented an AirBnB in Lindon TN with the family. The trip was a weekend of fun and rest together. We fished (Jojo caught a turtle!), swam, played together, and enjoyed a family fire. Easy, lazy living at its best. We had a great family time.

As a day trip, I traveled to Tuscaloosa, AL too see a football game of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I got to indulge in a lot of trolling of fans by calling "tROLL TIDE" to get the fans to respond. The people were smiling, cheerful, and friendly. I really enjoyed it and plan to see if I can take ActionMan to a game next year. I wonder if/how he will enjoy it as we have never attended a football game together. College, in particular, is very different than the NFL, and even more different than hockey.