JP On Gaming

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Le Troisieme Testament - First Part Review

Since I learned earlier this year that a new series for "Le Troisieme Testament", I bought all five albums and have just been trying to pace myself to make this delight go on and on and on. I remember when I bought the first, then second, then third and forth installment of this series. Wow. I loved it. The clues are there all along but they are well-hidden in the fast-paced story.

A story that is well-paced yet gives the impression of going at breakneck speed but the characters have plenty of time for some internal character development. This development happens particularly on the main character of the story, Elizabeth d'Elsenor, a orphaned raised by the Bishop of Paris. She goes from being something of a damsel in distress to a competent person who understands that the events of the series will never be known by the world at large, that they will be swallowed and hidden by other narratives.

I really did this sort of historical fiction where were are told stories contiguous to major events. And the supernatural is there, or maybe there, and can easily be denied or explained away.

Le Troisieme Testament does that masterfully. Who is the bad guy is and remains difficult to ascertain.

Tie-in biblical events with the Grand Inquisitor Conrad de Marbourgh (who was stripped or all his inquisitorial powers for accusing an elector of the Holy Roman Empire), the knight templar, tongue-less monks, money-hungry mercenaries, a secret occult branch of the Church, with odd raven-like knights. This story goes across Europe: Bohemia, France, Scotland, Spain, Viking lands, each land beautifully illustrated. Their involvement includes elements of that country.

The final denouement comes as a shock every time I read it. Every. Time. There is a feeling of solemnity and "OH CRAP" at the same time.

In case you want to know, they avert the Apocalypse atop a mountain lost somewhere. And everything makes sense for it.

Like The Ninth Gate movie, we are presented with a philosophical question whose answer is more difficult than it initially appears:

Yes. You start seeing... there may be a Third Testament, one after the New Testament... So the story says.

So this is a review of a re-read of this tale. You will no doubt guess my rating.
- Tome 1: Marc ou le réveil du Lion The series starts with a bang 5/5.
- Tome 2: Matthieu ou le visage de l'ange The action slows down here, and the mystery expands to near-confusing point. 4/5
- Tome 3: Luc ou le souffle du taureau Here we (think we) start to understand what is happening and the pace speeds up. 5/5
- Tome 4: Jean ou le jour du corbeau For parts of this tome, the story is a little confused. But the art just carried this to the final few pages where you jaw dropped and everything suddenly makes sense with a simple "I was wrong about everything".

Giving the whole series a 5/5 is one of the easiest scores I've had to give in all my reviews.

[Review] Pathfinder v2 thoughts

Back on Black Friday (Nov 29th), my good friend Florent ran an intro game of Pathfinder version 2 (PF2) for the kids and I. I was excited and intrigued about the game as I received a LOT of varying feedback. Feedback that spanned the spectrum from "good" to "worse thing ever". I tried to step back and just focus on my own experience.

The adventure he ran was one of the Pathfinder Society v2 intros. It was fine as an introduction and showcased the system which was what I was most interested in. PF2 will not change my thoughts on Golarion (I dislike it). However, would I spend time investing in this game as a publisher to publish material for it.

I have little to say about the adventure itself.

Now my thoughts on the system.

Good

The action economy system is simple, clean and after a few rounds, it flows well.

I got to play with my kids and my friends Flo & Flo.

Improvable

I am not sold on this "origins" thing. I expect there are two or three that are so good you must take them and hundreds of other ones.

Your level is everything Attack, saves, skills, and even Armor Class. I hated that about 4th Edition. As we discussed about it, telling a story becomes level-specific. I think 5e did it right here: that number is limited.

Here is the example: Your campaign starts with the PCs fighting orcs. These orcs are tough. Then you get a few levels and those same orcs must either: level-up or become meaningless after two or three levels. So when the game reaches level 10, the party only faces against orc generals, the average mook could take on an entire city.

In contrast, in 5th edition, you can send the same basic orc against the PCs. True, the orcs will not be much of a threat to the PCs, but in mob, they will soak a few attack and may force the PCs to expend a few resources.

Verdict

I will put this down as "fine". 3/5. Like Starfinder, I do not see this game taking over the landscape. People who still play Pathfinder nearly all went back to PF1 and dropped PF2. People who currently play 5e or other games seem to have no interest in it.

Paizo has their fans and PF2 will keep them relevant for a few more years but I see them fading from the forefront. They will remain a major name in RPGs. Someone I spoke to about it used a phrase I thought was appropriate. "There is nothing new here that is not available elsewhere." True, if you don't like or care about Golarion... Then what will bring you here?

What should they have done? I don't know. If I did, I would be rich and selling my own book.

The biggest question that lingers: Would I play Pathfinder 2 again? I am not closed to the idea, yes. Yes I would though I would not go out of my way to run this, especially if I can play other systems that do the same thing.

I could even see FOE creating PF2 products.

Monday, September 7, 2020

DragonCon 2020: After Action Report

So for the second time, I attended DragonCon this past Labor Day weekend. Now my regular job would not allow me to do so but this year was a clear exception because the College Football season does not have a full-time kick-off this weekend, just a few games. In case you do not know I work in college sports for 247 Sports.

Now I was reminded of the event through a rather odd way. I received an email from the organizer who reminded me how to log into my account to be ready to run games. I suddenly panicked. I did not recall offering any games there!

Turns out I did not, so it was good.

I looked at the list of game offerings and settled for a few Adventure League modules. Though there were not many different adventures, there were enough for me to play a variety of characters, of every tier. I played 2 adventures with Igor (my 10th-level servant of Strahd), 1 with Israel Hands (4th level pirate), and 1 with Corfell (my 13th level cleric who I only play once every 6 months... So I never level him up to 17th...)

The GMs were well-prepared and ran tight games I really tought were high-quality events. This is something I think builds community. What I call the game experience. It's not that you just win. I did voice my disagreement with one decision to call it because things got really bad and we were on the fast-track to a quick death. Well that's why we have boons and rewards, and bonuses. Wussing out when thing get tough does annoy me, but fine.

I left my Sunday game with a positive vibe about it and really give a big kudos to the AL people.

So thanks to my GMs: Brett, Krishna, and Rebecca, who GM'd for me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Great Idea, Amazon!

This morning, Amazon sent me a recommendation for a product I might like.

They were right, I love that product!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Akhamet Player's Guide Released

After many months of writing, refining, and reviewing, it is with great pride that I announce the release of the Akhamet Player's Guide, the second book for the setting.

ActionMan has been reading the book from cover to cover and he's been really been enjoying it and learning a lot of new things.

The book includes and expands on the following:
- Expands on the Akhameti Pantheon by adding four new deities, from the beautiful Hathor, to Thoth the scribe, to the vengeful snake-headed Meretseger.
- Ten new races, including the cow-headed Hathorians, to the vulture-headed Nefru and living mummies!
- Six new class options, from the hoplite fighter to the divine agent rogue, to the divine sorcerer.
- New backgrounds including the fake priest, the former cultist, the prophet, or the palace brat.
- New feats, equipment, and magic items.
- Learn about Akhameti society, new cities, and locations.
- Explore the universe of the lands beyond Akhamet, the lands beyond death.
- Discover the ancient states and kingdoms that existed within Akhamet and the lasting impression they left behind.

The book is available right now through DriveThru RPG.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Apple of a Mother's Eye reached Copper Best-seller!

It took a little more time than I wanted it to, but earlier this week, Apple of a Mother's Eye reached the first threshold into eternal posterity... It reached the level of a Copper Best seller on the DM's Guild.

That adventure was written on the heels of Real Housewives of Ravenloft as an expansion of Curse of Strahd and from talking to the players, was one of the highlights of the campaign. It provided insight into the many NPCs and their backstory. You know how experiencing something gives you insight and perspective.

The adventure is available on the DM's Guild.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Treasures of Ravenloft released on the DM's Guild

As I was running Curse of Strahd this past year, one thing I created was a list of magic items. Why? Because nothing annoys me more than to have to stop the flow of the game to pull out the DMG and then read out loud the powers of an item.

That annoys me. Breaks the flow. Breaks immersion in the game.

One thing Call of Cthulhu taught me was the importance of putting things in the hands of the players: something tangible they can use a reference.

And in D&D, magic items are important. Getting a "Vine Axe" is more interesting than a +1 axe the deals extra damage to plants... It allows the player to read the item and understand it, refer to it, and reveal to the others as much or as little as he wants. Helps the game by adding mystery.

This new product is available now on the DM's Guild. Pay-what-you-want for it.

I also added it to the FOE Ravenloft Bundle.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Kinda Book Report: Legion of the Super-Heroes Vol.1

Many times, LPJ and I would talk about these guys. To me, the Legion of the Super-Heroes is just a gathering of the randomess, dumbest super-heroes. Whatever idea of the week ended up in there. Too many characters to have any kind of personality. A legion of them, litterally.

Half the stories deal with people they reject because of their dumb powers, and why they either turn into villains wanting revenge or joining the Legion of Substitute Heroes. As if there weren't enough characters already! Now surprisingly because of their really dumb flaws, the substitute heroes have some personality and are more interesting than the perfect super-heroes.

This book presents the origin of the Legion. These characters did not have their own titles but were taken from the pages of Superboy or Supergirl comics. The "modern-day" character would fly so fast that he or she would travel through time to the future... a similar trick to the Superman movie.

Now these are DC stories from 1960-1964 where wrote simple stories without any thought: the villains were evil because... well because. There were little-to-nothing in the way of foreshadowing the villains. Very bad-guy of the week with bland cardboard characters. The alien monster all look the same: some type of dragon/ crocodile/ dinosaur mix and look more silly than dangerous.

The Legion has a constitution that is used to bullshit reject or expel people from their ranks, to at least limit the number of members. I mean they are just the worse, most elitist jerks in superhero-dom ever.

One thing I did enjoy is that there is a meta-plot involving a barrier in time, which they frequently allude to in the latest issues. I do like this thread but the resolution did not happen as part of this omnibus.

To review this... Well the art is good - at least on-par with other comics of that era, which is a style I enjoy. However, the stories were mostly weak and without much wonder or interest, happening to characters without interest or personality.

So a rating? 2/5. I don't think I would read another omnibus set during that era. I WOULD be willing to read some later omnibus in the series, perhaps from the 70s when DC abandoned these types of stories.

In the end, I can tell LPJ that my original assessment of this series was right.

Gencon Online: After Action Report

Well as you all know, Gencon Indy did not happen this year. I had originally planned on running a smaller local event here (FOEcon) but I had to call that off. There was Gencon Online... I thought about it but in the end elected not to participate by running events. Maybe I should have, but I managed to get a lot good things done instead...

Normally I would tell you a tale of a trip and of the perils and experiences of the road. Of the Speedway coffee I'd get in Bowling Green or Lebanon (both KY). But no. There was to road trip with Will or Ryan as had been originally planned...

This year on the Wednesday, I got a teeth pulled (the whole crown popped off while I was GMing live a week before). Surgery it was! I survived but slept through the day enjoying the Maury show.

Thursday, I planned on taking off and find some game to play. However, work needed me so I coded and reviewed all day and finished work around 5pm. A short dinner later, at 6pm I was at my Heroes of Rokugan table. Well truth be told, that table was not part of Gencon. Let's say it was an impromptu planned game! Yeah go with that. Enjoyable, and another opportunity to play Haruhime, a character that I am really digging.

Friday, I had a ticket to play the newest Arcanis adventure by Cody Bergman. I must say that of the Arcanis authors, Cody writes the adventures I find the most fun to play. They are not key to the "main plot" but from a gaming aspect (what I call in French, scenaristique - the science of scenarios) they usually deliver. This one did. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I will say that his adventure went back to the Blessed Lands book and pulls material directly out of there, crafting a story with NPCs from there. I dug that.

Another point of interest was that I got to play with my in-game husband, Sestius Ovidius val'Mehan aka Comma played by Tom-C. He and I have been playing Arcanis together for years. We rarely play together but when we do, it's always awesome, like, super!

I could not find anything I wanted to play for the next while so I watched TV most of the day.

On Friday evenings, I run a D&D game for my kids and the neighbors so I ran that as they ransacked through my sahuagin temple looking for loot and plunder. I mean, it was pretty much a fight the whole time as they took down the sahuagin priestess and her entourage. It got dicy for them but they pulled out.

Saturday evening, after talking to Florent and Florence during their stay here at the Dublin House, I got a ticket in a Starfinder game. While I'm still not a HUGE fan, it is "okay". I will say the GM I had (Cory) mastered the system and was really on-point with both the rules and the scenario, which made things roll much smoother. The game was enjoyable though a few places the plot dragged on a little. I think everyone had fun and there was an interesting mix of colorful characters and cardboard PCs to keep my interest.

2$ well-spent.

Throughout the weekend, I kept looking at the Heroes of Rokugan tables as my ticket was on Sunday morning and my table not filled... Always a worrisome sight for Sunday morning.

When I rolled out of bed WAY too early (giving me time to play with some ideas on Olympia), I hoped the game would happen. Turns out, we had four players, to old hands and two new players (one was completely new and the other had only played a different edition). This adventure turned out to be a play-within-a-play situation and was a marked departure from the usually serious and dour scenarios that make Rokugan so enticing.

The adventure over, I looked at a few other offerings but did not find anything that drew my eye.

The trip home took my rear end from the chair to the couch and a well-deserved nap! Prepare

I have been thinking of participating at the next Gencon Online if/when it happens and put together a FOE program. Offer one or two adventures... Ah well live and learn.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Akhamet Player's Guide going to the printer...

After working and re-working the manuscript for months now - what to say... I'm a tweaker! I finally posted the final cover on the FOE Patreon. Patrons get access to a lot of early details on the book such as art, new races, new class options, and whatever I complete.

I also have a few occasional recorded chats about some of the design topics and interesting aspects with many of the regular FOE GMs and

The next project will be the Olympia Campaign Setting, a setting inspired by Ancient Greece! There is already a LOT of art getting posted and some additional details. Check out the FOE Patreon for full details.

Friday, July 24, 2020

FOE Christmas in July sale

In case, like me, you are living in a hole in the ground furiously typing away your summer, you may have (almost) missed the DM's Guild and DriveThruRPG's Christmas in July sale! Every FOE product is 25% off.

Check out our Ravenloft material at the DM's Guild .

Or our classic adventure settings and support material, such as Akhamet, Gostor, Rhym, or Saggakar on DriveThru RPG

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Something to break this block...

I've been affected by writers' block lately and not producing as much as I think I should produce. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is being almost entirely homebound and some changes at the day-job. I have just not been as inspired as I would've liked...

To change that, I submitted an adventure idea for the Heroes of Rokugan campaign. See what they think.

I will let you know.

Prompting me to write this is that I am starting a new fiction series on my blog that features Samurai and L5R character of my own creation. Check out the new Fiction on the FOE Patreon.

The illustration is by Irene of my own character, Matsu Haruhime (née Doji)

Friday, July 10, 2020

Real Housewives Now Electrum BestSeller!

Wow. Big news! I only dreamed the Real Housewives would do that good on the DM's Guild. It is now an Electrum BestSeller! This makes it the top-selling FOE product of all time.

What will I do to celebrate? Well I have more products in the works!

A big thank you to everyone who supports and backs many of my crazy ideas.

Another big thanks to the BritishShark whose art really made this book pop and to James (check out his awesome Patreon for scenes out of Ravenloft and other of the hardback adventure books).

If you don't have your copy yet... Get access to the most drama ever in Real Housewives of Ravenloft!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

FOE's Ravenloft Bundle on the DM's Guild

A few days ago, I ways asked for a list of Ravenloft products by FOE. I scrounged up a list of every Ravenloft FOE product and sent that person (shout-out to you, Jim-S!) the list.

It gnawed at me that I did not have one place I could send people to get our Curse of Strahd products, such as the bestselling Real Housewives of Ravenloft, Dark Gifts of Ravenloft, and some other great titles (almost bestseller) such as Rahadin Dread Knight of Ravenloft, and Dreams of Dust

For those of you who already have SOME of those titles, this is an opportunity to complete your collection at about 66% (not quite because I like nice numbers). If you already bought SOME of the titles, I believe the DM's Guild credits you that cost against other titles.

So here it is, the FOE Ravenloft Product Bundle.

What to tell us what you want to see from us going forward? Our Patreon is a great way to do so. Check it out.

Friday, July 3, 2020

More New Art at the FOE Patreon

As I complete work on some of our other products: Curse of Strahd II, the Akhamet Player's Guide, and the "Gencon" adventures, I have been working with new artists. Have a peak:

Check out the new art at the FOE Patreon

FOECon 2020: Not happening

It was a nice dream, one I entertained for the longest time, but I have to close the curtains on FOECon for 2020.

But WHY JP?

Health. I want every one to be safe and I cannot guarantee this. I even thought about running the event outside but there just is no good way. So I will punt the ball.

Now I have most of the events ready or in a good place. I expect we will run them at next year's Gencon (worse case scenario).

However, this means that I have extra time to dedicate to the extra 10 pages of material I am adding to the Akhamet Player's Guide and I will have a massive campaign-sized Ravenloft adventure. I thought it may take 3 hours and done but playtesting proved me wrong. Again.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Housewives of Ravenloft Campaign Tales: I love hearing this!

There is one thing I really like as an author is when a GM contacts me about a product I wrote and tells me how the product affected their game (hopefully for the better).

This is what happened early when I got a direct message on Reddit (You can contact me there is you what FOE on Reddit) from a GM who ran Real Housewives of Ravenloft. I asked him what how it went and what type of plot he created for his PCs to resolve.

One thing that really impressed me was how simply he was able to explain the subplot he created and how easy I was able to visualize the impact it might have on his campaign. I love at the ways this could really add a new dimension with some "humanity".

And like every good "Housewives" show, they experienced SOME of the housewives they could not stand, some they liked, and some they did not care for, to the point of planning to frame one they disliked to protect one they liked.

Yes, the players involved themselves in the drama!

I was just ecstatic when I read this.

Let me know how your "Housewives" story unfolded. I love to hearing them!

Yes... "Tell me about your campaign"

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Rahadin: Dread Knight of Ravenloft Released

One of the characters from Curse of Strahd that peaked my interest has always been "the butler," Rahadin. For a character with such a rich (and absolutely abject) history and background, I felt, as a GM, that was a wildcard for me to use. He is powerful enough to seriously hurt the party at low-to-mid levels. And later, he becomes added muscle.

Now for all the horrific things he did, there is no way someone like him would simply fade away and vanish from history.

I thought of doing something to my players wherein he rose again - as he should. So I started playing with the idea and the name "Dread Knight of Ravenloft" appeared in my mind. I began playing with the idea...

What I came up with a monster that can definitely provide a challenge to a party of adventurers around levels 9-11 (basically by the time they finish CoS.

Now this is not set, defined encounter. It is very much a villain and that wildcard to use wherever it is most convenient in your own campaign.

The PDF contains a collated history and note on how and why he would become the Dread Knight of Ravenloft, as well as how to introduce this new menace. I included the original stat block but gave him an "out of stat block power" to make him creepier in an eerie way.

Get Rahadin: Dread Knight of Ravenloft now available on the DM's Guild.

Note: as a special thank you for their support, all members of our Patreon will receive a free copy of this book as a thank you.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

[Legend of the Five Rings] Three Samurai warriors

Three samurai I painted with Legend of the Five color schemes. These are guys that stayed on my painting table "forever". I decided to finish them once I decided on a color scheme.

From left to right:

A Dragon clan bushi. I know, I know, they usually use both swords of their daisho, so he could also work as a mantis warrior - even tho most of them use peasant weapons.

A Lion clan bushi. This one can be a Matsu or an Akodo-school warrior. I know, I know, Matsu warriors are mostly women.

A Crane clan bushi. From the Daidoji Iron Warriors school as they will often use spears and other polearms. I really dig the bunny ears and the fur on the armor. I know, I know, Rokugan samurai do not wear fur.

Friday, June 19, 2020

New Olympia Art on the FOE Patreon

FOE's Greek setting, Olympia is ramping up. A few small things to clean up before I get on that project full time really.

However, many artists are hard at work (British Shark, Irene, Tristan, and soon another) producing the art that will make this come to life. They have already produced a number of pieces I can't wait to show you.

Starting tomorrow Saturday the 20th and continuing for the next two weeks at least, I will publish the art, some WIP, some completed pieces foe Olympia. With a new piece coming out every 2 days. There will be gods, characters, and monsters/opponents.

Next up, we will be moving to some of the concepts and ideas behind the settings. Patrons get to have direct input in the process.

So if this interests you or you want to know more, go to the FOE Patreon!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Olympia: Cyclops miniature

As I ramp up the work on Olympia - FOE's Greek setting - I am starting to paint up more miniatures to use in these games.

This guy is a Reaper Bones cyclops. I enjoy the dynamism of the pose. This guy will see many uses on the tabletop.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

[Kinda Book Report] Le Troisieme Testament: Julius II: La Revelation Partie 1

After devouring the First Chapter, I could not wait for this one to arrive. Now we get into the core of the plot and it gets darker as the characters travel east towards Babylon. We are treated to a similar set of absolutely superb frames and panoramic views.

Here, the plot gets a lot deeper with the direct appearance of the supernatural, which until now could have been explained with a simple explanation. I was happy to see one of the major thread from the first series get picked up here, thus far still shrouded in mystery. Who are these guys? Where do they come from? Why are they summoned this way?

And more importantly, how do they play into the greater story?

Unlike the first one which I read VERY slowly, savoring each frame, this one I just blew by so fast. This one has more interaction as the Jewish characters and Julius the Roman have this relation of distrust. One scene drew my attention: when they are making two camps separated by a few yards. That whole page was just awesome visual storytelling. Just WOW.

This story is BLOODY. Many people die throughout the journey which is yet to be completed.There are many action scenes that are equally well-drawn and that make your pulse race as you breathlessly want to see what will happen next.

Now to give this a rating. Although still great, it was not as great as the first one. So I settled for a 4/5. This feels a little weak.

Monday, June 15, 2020

[Kinda Book Report] Showcase Green Lantern #1

I don't know why but I have been interested in reading some Green Lantern comics recently. As such, I ordered myself the Showcase GL #1. This is a series that takes classic DC comics from the 50s and 60s and give you 500 pages of material on course newspaper with black and white art. I read a few Superman and Teen Titans from that series.

After reading the Superman title (which caused a lot of eye-rolls) and the Teen Titans (one which sucked and one that was fine), I did not expect much from this title.

However, while the stories are clearly in a similar style where the hero is more like a paternal figure than someone with real problems they have to deal with. The morality is simple and manicchean, with the bad guys wanting to be evil.

It is little surprise that Sinestro, the rogue green lantern, is introduced in this book. He makes ever-more machiavelian and convoluted plans to capture or kill Hal Jordan.

From his personal life, Hal Jordan does get the girl, but he keeps getting interupted and has to run. And Carol, the love interest, waffles between Hal and Green Lantern not knowing they are one and the same.

I found this book to be the most enjoyable of the Showcase series I read thus far. Some stories raising some definite eyebrows and piquing my interest more than others. The 57th century storyline where they pluck GL from the 20th century and name him Dictator of Earth so he can clean up problems was interesting. The Qwardian plot where evil is good and good is evil is convoluted but did not really detract. We are dealing with superhero-logic.

Rating? I hesitate between a 3 and a 4. It is not a 4, so I have to fall back onto a 3/5, which sounds right. This was good, but not great.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

[Kinda Book Report] New Defenders #1

I got this book in the bargain bin from a local comic shop. I was very excited to get into this one because I read the essentials volumes 2,4, and 5 back in 2017. I enjoyed the feel of this "non-team". The cover of the New Defenders featured some of my favorite characters: Angel and Beast. I was all in.

But this book, that gathers Defenders 122 through 131 is not great.

First, there is a story line where X-mas elves take Dr Strange, Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Namor to the future where they are told they will destroy some unnamed random alien that will lead to the destruction of Earth if they band together as the Defenders again. I mean... WHAT? Superheroes that when told that just go. "Uh... okay we will disband now." That premise was just stupid and spanned like 3 issues. Then they show up and say "bye" to the "new" defenders.

Where is the "we won't let that happen!" They just give up and leave.

By then I was pretty bored... Even after Beast forms the new Defenders, with Iceman, Angel, Gargoyle, Valkyrie, and Moondragon. Moondragon has a bit of an interesting side plot but all the others are there just "because". The team has no identity, no villains to give them a nemesis, they are just 3 former X-men with randos.

At one point both Beast and Valkyrie vie for the title of team leader but they never resolve this discussion as things happen. Personally, of the characters, Angel or Valkyrie would be interesting leaders but nothing comes of it. This seems to be a recurring theme. Thankfully, the title would be cancelled a short time later in favor of the much more interesting X-Factor title.

One of the most interesting story, which came in a one-off plot is when Beast gives a conference to a college and craziness ensues with a super-powered moron and Frogman.

Basically, you have cool characters without any reason to be together, no leader, no plot, no nemesis, nothing. No wonder this title failed.

Review-wise, I would give this a 2/5. I thought of a 2.5 but .5 was just because of the characters themselves, not the story or the book, so I have to drop this to 2. Two is about right.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

FOE updates

Updates on all things FOE on the FOE Patreon. Find out what is currently in the works and what is coming!

And an art preview!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Strahd is dead, Part 2

Part 1

Continuing my look back at my Curse Of Strahd 2019-20 Campaign. From the art on the top, you can see Strahd let himself go a little... That's me as Strahd... With hair! WOO!

Handouts

During the game, I created a few products to help me run the game.
- Crypts of Ravenloft is a series of handouts for the crypts so the players have something
- Dark Gifts of Ravenloft for the Amber Temple.

Expansions

I added the following sub-adventure/plots to enhance parts I felt were weak or where I had an idea that I thought was better than the material in there.
- Apple of Mother's Eye expands and re-imagines the town of Berez.
- Real Housewives of Ravenloft enhanced the Dinner at Ravenloft into a drama-filled plot.
- The Song of Aracos adds yet another tragic dimension to the tale. This one is likely to end poorly for the PCs. Very sad
- Interactive Tome of Strahd is a way for the PCs to live through the events rather than having a read of a page long story. I think this makes the story much more personal and gives added insight into what happened.

Notable RIPs

Many fell during this campaign, not all of them to rise again...
- Bando, "Maybe it wasn't such a good plan"
- Billy Bonescrusher, who almost became king of Barovia
- Donavich, who turned insane then turned to evil
- Ireena, disintegrated by a rival lover
- Patrina, She came back to life for a short time
- Ragdol, who almost TPK'd the party with a fireball
- Rahadin, ruthlessly faithful to the last

Thank You

There are so many people I need to thank for allowing this whole thing to come together.

A big thank you to Marvin-H who hosted EVERY session from the start.

Thank you to Steve-L who put together the Murfreesboro D&D group which led me to get off my rear end and run CoS "just to get people leveled up to continue the Adventure League stuff".

Thanks to the British Shark for making such awesome drawings of the team and the NPCs to enhance the game.

A special thanks to Sarah-R who played under-powered NPC character through the whole thing and made these NPCs come to life.

A thirty years-later thank you to Louis-G who ran me through Ravenloft when I was 12 or 13. Because of him, I learned to appreciate the material and kept good memories (okay, they were horrible memories, see First Love: Ravenloft and [WTF Gaming Moment] Balance Sucks). Thanks man, wherever you are.

Thank you to the Curse Of Strahd sub-reddit for giving me perspective and the shared knowledge of other GMs. There is a lot of good material there.

Congratulations

Finally, a big thank you and congratulations to the players who I really beat on and did dozens upon dozens of dirty tricks. I did not pull punches (at the end) and you guys got the job done, especially when I fully expected to TPK you all - which I came real close to doing.

You guys pulled it off!
- ActionMan who played Billy Bonescrusher, then Kasimir
- Billy-C who played Theron the albino dusk elf "I'm not albino!"
- Corey-C who played Beorn
- Dylan-B who played Ragdol, then Ismark
- Sarah-R who played Ireena, Arabelle, and Esmeralda
- Marvin-H who played Hapla

What now?

I don't know. I have a follow-up event I'd like to run but that will NOT be of the same scope as CoS. Then... Who knows?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Strahd is dead, Part 1

Part 2

After just about a year, my group emerged victorious from the Curse of Strahd campaign. What a magnificient sandbox campaign that will always rate really high in my all-time favorite and most memorable.

It has been years since I ran a bonafide, full on campaign. IIRC it was in Colorado Springs last time I did that. The other were collections of one-shots or short-campaigns. Nothing like this. With a set, constant, quite clear goal.

Quirks

Here are a number of things I injected into the campaign that made impacts.
- "It's not very far down the Old Svalich Road" Every time they got directions, they got this "not very far". And "You can't miss it, it's the first... no second road on the left." Pretty soon they began asking "So if we leave now will we make it before nightfall?"
- Never let the PCs breathe They must always feel like they have to do something. There will be no week-long rest in Barovia, no constant long rests, no time when nothing happens.
- The Weather is your friend. Let's be honest, the weather is always miserable in Barovia. It is cold. It rains. It snows. It sleets. By playing with the weather you can convey Strahd's mood or his approval or disapproval of what the party is doing.

Lessons

Here are a few lessons I learned while running the game
- Too Many NPCs This one I managed to save myself from when party members turned evil and abandoned the others. If the PCs play their cards well, they could a bunch of NPCs with them: their designated ally, Ismark, Esmeralda, the Order of the Feather. Avoid the party getting drowned in this massive mob without robbing them of these hard-earned allies.
- Sunsword too powerful. Removing its shedding of actual sunlight should be good. Alternatively, preventing it from dealing auto-damage or forcing the user to use a bonus action to make it do it would be fine. Once the PCs get it, there is very little that can hurt the PC. Most creatures here have vulnerability or powerlessness when in sunlight.
- Use Strahd smartly, kiting the party whenever possible. Move in, hurt them, bounce out. The lair ability of moving through walls and the legendary ability to move without opportunity attack is a GODSENT! Play the long game, drain the PCs of their spells, and abilities.
- Don't puss out, if people die, let them. If they win, let them. But don't take it easy on them. Let them stumble out of Ravenloft looking like Rocky I-VI: bloody, battered, bruised, and in a lot of pain.
- There is a lot to do. This is a tough one. Do not overwhelm your party with choices, especially at the start. Have them discover about one area/situation at a time then go on an on. Otherwise they may very well suffer from choice paralysis.
- A lot happens, often at the same time. This one is to help prevent the above and force the PCs to prioritize. Every few days, one of the NPC does something that may require the PCs to act. For example, at one point, Ismark left Vallaki for Barovia to check things out. At another, the PCs noticed women being herded into the black carriage.

Part 2

Friday, May 29, 2020

Eiryss II: Angel of Retribution

I may not play Warmachine anymore: no time, no players, but I still really enjoy the look of their minis. I will be re-using a bunch of them for upcoming FOE projects. This is not really one of them. I just like the character.

I pretty much painted her the same as my other two versions of her.

Now I do not like this sculpt very much. I am not really a fan of scenic bases and this one you have no choice but to use.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Introducing the Iconics: Rebel Greeks

This group of characters is composed of a rag-tag band of PCs best suited who would get together for mischief. Their backgrounds lend themselves to being outlaws, outcasts and rebels. The image of a Greek version of an "Ocean's Eleven" comes to mind.

Aktea

Female Olympian (Daughter of Apollo) Warlock of the ArchFey, Apothecary
You were born to a town physician : your mother made potions and spells to heal the sick and treat the sick and wounded . When you were of age, she brought you to meet your father Apollo at a party of the nymphs and the satyrs. They accepted you as a friend and taught you secret powers.

Kalliope

Female Amazon Cleric of Hera, Exile
Born to a princess in the lands of the Amazons, you were forced into exile because Hera herself gave you her cloak and sent you as her emissary. You grew up seeking to prove yourself worthy of that burden. Today you present yourself as a champion of Hera rather than a priestess.

Kleothera

Female Olympian (Favored of Artemis) Druid of the Order of the Moon, Scavenger
Born in poverty, you left your home for the road. One day, you killed a poacher before he shot a pregnant doe, this got the attention of Artemis who has since guided you.

Kritias

Male Olympian (Son of Ares) Paladin, Exile
When your mother, a princess, became pregnant with Ares’s child, she was sent away in exile. You grew up, dreaming of proving your family wrong for how they treated her . You spent your youth training, dreaming of becoming a legend.

Lysandra

Female Medusan Bard of Glamour, Subversive
You learned at a young age that people feared your ability to turn other in to stone, so you learned to keep to yourself. You joined a secret society called the Sons of the Gorgon, together you seek to establish – or takeover - a kingdom that will be ruled by medusans.

Thalassios

Male Olympian (Son of Poseidon) Fighter (champion), Pirate
Born to a disgraced princess abandoned at sea by your grandfather, you joined a pirate crew and took out your anger upon your prey. However, an oracle warned you that your crew would turn on you. You barely escaped with your life and the help of your father. After the destruction of your ship, you are re-thinking your place in the world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Princesses join the FOE line-up

With the recent release of Princesses on the DM's Guild, I had to create characters to showcase the variety and possibilities of the book. Best way to do that? Create a party of princesses!

I know it sounds strange to me.

So my quest started with the right miniatures. Where to look? My box of random Reaper Bones, broken Heroclix, and some limited edition miniatures Privateer Press characters.

As always... I will start with a group picture. Can you guess who's who and what their classes are? (Hint: they are all 3rd level and single-class).

Sunday, May 24, 2020

First Ones Entertainment Patreon

If you are interested in seeing more about the upcoming projects at FOE, check out our Patreon page. We publish early versions of material for all of our settings, art, races, and adventures.

Help us by joining our Patreon.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Barovia: Strahd von Zarovich

Strahd and hordes of the dead.

With my Curse of Strahd campaign coming to an end, I wanted to paint a miniature I could use for the big guy himself. Something I can use for the final fight which will start tomorrow

The Strahd model is from one of the Reaper sets and it really pleased me to find I already had him in my stash of minis.

I posed him here with the other Barovian undead I just painted. I think they look great together and form a unified unit.

Now let the bleeding of the adventurers... BEGIN.

Roll for initiative.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

[Kinda Book Report] The Eternals 1985 Issues 1-12

With out recent move, I went through many old boxes and (re) discovered a number of gems that stayed hidden in boxes "somewhere". One such thing was the complete series of the Eternals 1985.

This very much feels like comics I read as kid because... It was published at that time!

This series I bought at Moonlite in Frankfort, KY. (Shout-out to Jay and the Frankfort gang!) I loved that he would have short sales of comics whole-series and collections at a decent price. I am not exactly sure why I bought this one to be honest. I guess because I simply knew nothing about these guys and a full series is a win! I remember buying stickers for a superhero sticker album that featured these guys. I had no idea who they were but the "main" character of Ikaris (who is on the cover of Issue #1) stuck in my mind.

The story is one that is mostly isolated from the rest of the Marvel Universe. Even if there are a few cameos (because that's what they are) from the Avengers and West Coast Avengers, each in a different issue.

So... Who are the Eternals? In the distant past, humanity was split into three branches: the immortal and super-powered Eternals, mankind, and the Deviants who are mutant monsters. The Eternals inspired the Greek gods with characters names Ikaris -> Icarus, Thena -> Athena, and Sersi the enchantress (yes, THE Circe).

Now, the story in interesting with the Deviants being treacherous and sneaky taking on the Eternals. Other the Warlord Kro (one deviant leader) and high priest Ghaur (the other), the deviants are very cookie-cutter, there to get blasted by the hundred. As a group, they have little impetous. The only time they do something is at the behest of someone else: whether a priest, Kro, or an Eternal.

Even the Eternals are bland. Ikaris does have some personality and backstory but he just acts and does his thing without thinking about anyone else. Their powers are rather bland and unclear. In all, this felt like a bunch of NPCs doing something and me caring because I'm told I should care. For immortals, the Eternals don't do much more than lounge around. They have no real goals, no plans. Heck Ikaris is a pro-wrestler at the start of the story.

The one character that is interesting, is Warlord Kro. He is clever and devious. However, he is never allowed to shine truly. It's like there is such a big group of under-developed characters trying to not over-step each other and not outshine anyone. They are just... There.

So, in essence, we get a bad Superman story with plot holes and characters that don't matter: they didn't matter to the Marvel Universe before. And they don't matter after.

The art is fine and very much has that classic Jack Kirby look and feel. It's not as good as many of today's work but efficient to the story. For the first half, the story seems to go nowhere and the last half somebody seems to have gone "Crap! We need to finish this!" And the plot hurries along. It is not until issue #9 that what is going on really begins to take shape and not just have characters jumping back and forth.

So much so that by the end, I wanted to see the West Coast Avengers do something... Not the Eternals...

For a rating, I would go to a 2.25, which by my rules round down to a 2, which seems a little low but I can live with it.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

[Kinda Book Review] Le Troisieme Testament Julius - I

When I was in Paris, I purchased a book (bande dessinée) called "Le Troisieme Testament". It started with the inquisitorial tribunal against the Count of Sma&itrema;n by Conrad de Marbourgh. The drawing quality was great and plot drew you in with a series of questions. Mixing supernatural, religious, and historical elements into complex tale. I waited impatiently for the final parts to come out.

The ending delivered. The world was saved.

When I learned there was a new series related to the original, it immediately went into by cart and the book was purchased with Amazon Prime speed. And the wait began.

So this story takes place in the days of Roman Empire, in the dying days of Emperor Nero, around 66-68 AD. We are introduced to a general called Julius who represents the best and worse of Rome. He is ruthless, commanding, determined, and ambitious. He has a plan to advance himself by removing the emperor. One of the many plots against Nero that existed at the time.

After wondering for a moment where the story led, I will say it immediately took me back. The story does serve as a prequel to the later (historically) series. Leading me to believe that the stories should be enjoyed in publication order.

The art in this book is JUST AWESOME. The lines are crisp and clear, with superb panoramic shots of Rome, Egypt, and Judea. The action scenes feel super fast and detailed and engaging.

To say everything is action would be a clear lie. There are quite a few scenes where the story slows down as the characters trade meaningful glances or something supernatural happens behind the scene - maybe.

This is a book you want to look at the images slowly but can't. You spend your time going all around the page looking at the characters and what they do. Compelling storytelling at its finest.

So for a rating. Easy: 5/5! It was perhaps the easiest rating I ever had to give when rating books for this series. My only sad point was that I had to wait to get part 2... There are few things to which I say "Shut up and take my money" and this is one of those few. I will go and re-read the first series.

So.

Long.

To.

Wait.