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.