JP On Gaming

Thursday, October 6, 2022

[Kinda Book Review] Ancient Japan by Captivating History

Book coverAs I am working on Ozaka, a fantasy Japanese setting, I wanted to read a few books on the history of Japan. Something to serve as a reference.

Not speaking Japanese, I looked around for a while before settling on this one.

This book was not what I was looking for... It delivers what it promises on the cover A Captivating guide to the ancient history of Japan, their ancient civilization and Japanese culture, including stories of the samurai, shoguns, and zen master. But it does not provide much more.

I found this book dry and lacking depth. If I had no basic knowledge, then I would've appreciated it more. But as it was, it felt like I learned very little.

This seems like a wonderful book to read while on a plane to Tokyo. Not for the type of research I was interested in.

So... a score... I am going with a 2/5. However, for those with less knowledge about history might find it a good overview and introduction an rate it 4/5.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Dead And Buried Akhamet adventure released!

With Gencon over (for a while), I am going over a number of things left undone. This includes making the adventures available to everyone.

"But JP! You put the Olympia adventures out there weeks ago."

Checkmate.

Okay, my only defense is that I've been busy writing new material for a Planescape campaign AND Ozaka. That's not an excuse but... That's the truth.

So... Dead and Buried is an adventure I worked and reworked and tweaked and prodded and disliked and changed and switched. Until AT LAST, I got it right. This iterative work made this into a fun adventure that really moves the Akhamet forward and that has a nice flow. The flow was what really tripped me as I was writing this one.

Here is the blurb for this one:
Some secrets lie under the desert for good reasons. Part 1 of the Dark Tide series.
A 5th edition adventure for characters 1 through 5 runs around 4 hours.
This adventure first premiered at Gencon 2022.

It is an interesting adventure that challenges not only the combat-enthusiasts at your table, but also the role-players and the puzzle fans.

I back-seat drove a few tables and found it fascinating to hear how different GMs presented the same challenges. And challenges, with an "S" is exactly what this short adventure provides.

You may also be interested in getting this and other Akhamet adventure for 50% by getting the Adventure Bundle.

But if you are interested in this one only... Dead and Buried is available on DriveThruRpg now!

Friday, September 30, 2022

[Kinda Review] Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

So for many weeks, I have been dreading watching the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix. I remember seeing that movie as a child and really loving it. The Skeksis (whose name I forgot but whose plots marked my childhood) influenced how the First Ones took shape. Their look stands out to this day as unique in the world of fantasy.

After giving up on Rings of Power, I was SOOOOOOOOOoooooo worried it would be a similar story with bland character defiling something I loved from my childhood.

Well I must say that my worry was for naught. I was so wrong.

To put it simply, this is how you create and write a story that will engage the viewer and interest them.

World building is quick but effective. The narrator at the start gives us a lot of info but it's enough to get you started. It is not long that we understand the dangers of the Darkening. Their effect on people. The Tree of Sanctuary. Everything is done organically, presented when first needed.

There are a few moments where we are introduced to something that flows naturally in the story but whose significance comes to the forefront later. The gobblers, the nurlocs, the arathim. Everything happens first, then there is a payoff later.

The characters have emotions that make sense. They feel and show despair, hope, joy, suspicion, worry, and sadness. Their motivations start off very simple but grow with time. I can say that when one of the good guys met its end, I was genuinely sad. Because I cared enough for the characters to WANT them to succeed. And the Skeksis to get their butts handed to them.

The main characters all add to the plot in their own way: Deet, Rian, Seladon, Tavra, Brea, and Hup. They start off very simple but grow through the story. The clans took a little more time to know but their appearance showed what they were about and made it easy to associate them.

When the final confrontation comes, you know why they stand against the skeksis. The story grew them into this confrontation. And the payoff is... Well it's great. The battle show the skeksis as tough opponents. And for every major gelfling who dies is an emotional moment. Again, because they built them up into great characters.

Even the villains had personalities: the Emperor, the General, the Chamberlain, the Collector, etc. They had enough development to make them different from each other. You cannot help but hate them because they are so devious and nasty. But it makes them cool too because none of them is a generic baddy. They wrap themselves in the trappings of good but behind the scenes do the worse things of all. The way they plot against each other and try to cheat each other is a over-the-top comical, but makes them no less evil.

Now without the comedic aspect, how they used the Skeksis is EXACTLY how I see the First Ones working in a world as they rise towards ultimate power. I just could not stop seeing them with the more typical First One appearance. And man... that added to my enjoyment of the series so much more.

One of the things I will say is that each episode has revelations throughout, not just in the last 5 minutes.

Oh something I really loved: they used divination and oracular powers. Some of the scenes we are shown are those from the movie. They tied the two together very neatly and I had a had a blast. It was fun and exciting.

I thought I'd be annoyed by the puppets, but no. They are top-of-the-line and in many shots very creatively used.

I'm sure you know by now, but I must give this a 5/5. I may go rewatch it later.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Panacea Reaches Copper Bestseller

When it first released, Panacea was the first adventure in quite some time that was designed as a multi-level adventure. Previously adventures I published were all designed for a 4-5h one-evening campaign.

Panacea started pretty much the same way, as a simple dungeoncrawl. And as I wrote and wrote, additional elements came to mind, making the result an adventure that could easy bring characters from 3rd to 5th level and still provide a challenge.

Not only is there challenge, but a fair bit of exploration as well. I ran my own Akhamet group through this and it really made an impact on them. They learned they should've brought garlic butter...

This post is to thank everyone who bought a copy of the adventure. I am greatly appreciative and thankful.

Panacea is now available on DriveThruRPG. It is also part of the Akhamet Adventure Bundle.

Monday, September 26, 2022

[Kinda Review] Rings of Power... I tried

I tried to watch Rings of Power on Amazon Prime. I really did. And quite frankly... it is terrible.

The overall look and the scenery is breathtaking and fantastic. It LOOKS like the Peter Jackson movies. Good.

Now let's get to the story...

The uh story.

You know, the things that happens between the plot holes.

OOPS. I meant what you are told happens. (Cuz the coolest elements are narrated, not shown on a visual medium).

Well... Yeah, nothing of consequence really happens. The worse the character is, the better the outcome. But actually, everything is not revealed at any point, forcing you to wait to the end for some reveal that will no doubt let you wondering why you wasted all this time. Nothing feels like it builds to anything (other than a Season 2).

There is an ensemble of characters, I could not tell you most of their names because they are wallflowers and decorations. Everything they try to do leads to something pointless that is immediately addressed without a later payout. In the end, you recognize the character, but their name is not important. "hobbit girl," "fat hobbit girl," "black elf guy," "Scottish dwarf," "not-Elrond," "black dwarf wife," "rogue-like-guy-from-the-boat" etc...

She is scowling againThe one exception is Galadriel who walks around with that strange "no expression" movies love to give tough women. It's that same face you see throughout Marvel movies (if you saw Captain Marvel, that's the face). There are two looks: either a scowl of contempt at everyone around them and the shocked/confused but disgusted look.

For a famed centuries-old commander, she doesn't give two craps about her troops. She scowls at them in disdain and disgust. For troops who followed her for centuries (as we are told, not shown), you would expect her to have respect for them. To at least consider their opinion rather than be faced with mutiny before going back.

Well.. seeing how she kills the troll by herself while her troops just look around like 1st-level sidekicks... She may have a point. But I cannot accept that centuries-old elves be that useless. Not in Tolkien. Maybe your 1st-level D&D character... but not Noldor elves.

The actress' (I can't be arsed to look for her name) performance is made even worse because of the contrast with the stellar performance given by Cate Blanchett in the original. Her portrayal was great as she comes across as someone of great power but still have emotions and feelings, almost vulnerable. Particularly after she is offered the One Ring. Cate wasn't scowling in disgust of the hobbits and humans.

Then she fails in her task but everyone gives her accolades... That is addressed when you learned the elf king wants to get rid of her later: "Yeah there is a shadow, but I don't want to rock the boat" kinda bull-crap.

That's not how you create a lovable, interesteing character. The character must grow, learn from its mistakes and either succomb or overcome its flaws. Sometimes they are sad, sometimes they are happy. Triumphs and failures. Mistakes and learning.

Comparing Galadriel's performance with that of "Hobbit girl" is night and day. The protagonist of the story scowls in disdain while the halfling goes through various emotions that gives us insight into her character. I really her portrayal in the scene where she finds a worg track: her expression changes from carefree to worried and she takes charges of the young ones. I remember when I was watching going, "Oooh, that won't end well for the Hobbits"

Then nothing happened after we saw the worg on a nearby hilltop. It doesn't attack the hobbits, because they fled too quickly.

All of this. All my issues are things that could EASILY have been addressed, but as it is modern TV, that's not something we are going to talk about/deal with. Galadriel is better than everyone and everyone knows it because she is just that good! There are some flashes of potential but the door is quickly closed again or the threat is made quickly irrelevant. The snow troll. The worg. The orc mine. The sea serpent. The Numenor prison. No build-up for no payoff. The monsters appear, are defeated or cause a problem then are gone/ killed/ defeated.

After three episodes, I just had to give up. I have better things to do with my time. Like watching reruns of Family Feud or wondering what my dogs are barking at. It is just awful. Nothing of consequence happens.

Rating? The beauty of the sceneries and sets cannot offset the abysmal nothing happening or how unlikeable most characters are. So I can easily put this in the 1/5 and turn the TV back to Family Feud.

Read my more contrite review on Amazon.

Friday, September 23, 2022

[Rant] Fighting with Feedback

I have been receiving feedback on a new class for 5e: the Courtier. In short, the courtier is a class that is a low-magic version of the bard and a less combat-focused version of the rogue.

I asked a crack group of experts from the FOE Facebook group a couple of questions
- What do you think of the class overall?
- What is the weakness of the class?
- What is its strength?
- Would you allow this class in your home game? Why/Why not?
- Is there anything missing? Anything you would add?
- Is there anything you deem overpowered? Why?

I'll admit the courtier is focused on the social pillar of RPG (with combat and exploration). But it needs to be good enough to be at least functional in the other pillars. Nothing worse than a character who is completely useless when not in their element. The trick to the courtier was to make the class something of a non-magical toolbox that you can tailor to your own campaign.

I'll talk more about the class later but here is what made me write this post. Two weeks ago, I reached out to the FOE Facebook Group asking for feedback on the class. Got a lot of very diverse feedback: what someone likes another dislikes. What one thinks is "meh" another thinks is very exciting and full of role-play potential. Which means it is up to ME, the designer to read into the arguments for why something is good or something sucks... The glorious life of a game designer.

This is pretty much why I think large-scale public playtests like Pathfinder and the current OneD&D one leads to fairly little as even things you may think if great and obvious will have its fans and detractors. Now my pool of feedback-providers is much smaller than WotC's but I think the issue is the same.

The touchy part is that both sides have value and their impression matters. I, as the writer/designer, form the third leg of that love triangle.

Like trying to get three historians agree who is the best General in history is (toughie between Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon)... Or what is the best Rush song of all times (these days, I'll say Time Stand Still). Or the best Genesis album ever (Selling England by the Pound, I will fight you).

All of this to say two things: design has many elements of addressing gut feelings and impression AND a new FOE product allowing you to create a courtier character is coming "soon".

I guess this is the least offensive rant I ever posted here... Pretty tame, old man...

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Two Olympia Adventures Released on DriveThruRPG

It has been over a month since Gencon has ended and it is now time to release the Gencon Adventures for Olympia: The Marauding Titan and Best Served Cold. These two very different adventures take you back to the Island of Mytenia where things are afoot

In 2019, the world first visited the island of Mytenia, a city-state the allied with Athenion and Lexos allied with Spartia. With war looming, events precipitating, and divine interest growing, heroes are needed to protect the people and the land, from more than Spartian invaders, but also from the titans and gods themselves!

These two Greek-Style adventures are set in Olympia for character levels 1-4 (optimized for 3rd level).

The island city-state of Mytenia and its allies in Athenion face off against Lexos and its Spartian allies. These adventures require heroes to help Kreon and his many problems.

The Marauding Titan Monsters roam wild across Olympia. As a hero, you are called to help protect the people from these menaces.

Best Served Cold Monsters roam wild across Olympia. Someone is responsible and you must uncover their identity and make them pay.

Both adventures premiered at Gencon 2022.

Big Shout-out to the GMs who made these adventures come to life: Bill, Logan, Marissa, and Will.

Get them today on DriveThruRPG (they are sold together). OR you can get them as part of the Olympia Bundle at a discounted price!

Monday, September 19, 2022

[Patreon] Ozaka material incoming

I will start posting game material to the FOE Patreon (and you thought it was defunct...). I decided I would use the Patreon to post actual game material, including monsters and art material, and to use the blog to showcase things like miniatures I painted and give my opinion on things. As I know many of you like to read my (many) rants and opinions on things, I thought it was a good idea to separate the two.

If you like what I do and want encourage me, feel free to ship a whatever you want my way. It always helps.

So to learn more about Ozaka... you will have to go check out the series on the FOE Patreon. There are already a few posts there to hopefully wet your apetites.

Thanks

[First Ones Monday] The Mad Alchemist

While I was trying to decide which character I wanted for the iconics to support Power is Fickle, I painted up many characters. Seeing which character would stick.

Another Reaper Bones. This Reaper Bones is a great-looking model and as soon as I saw him, I knew he would be a First One. I am particularly proud of how the apron with the and the blood splatter came out. Imagine a mad plague doctor or an alchemist.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

[Kinda Book Report] Essential Hulk 4

CoverYou know that feeling you have when you read something and go "this is very familiar." And as you keep reading you keep that sense of déjà vu. A series of simple, threadbare plots where Hulk goes and seeks to be left alone but he also continues going around the same people over and over.

Well... This feeling was well-deserved because I had already read it. Yup. One of the cool things about posting to this blog is that I can then go back and see what I read and thought about things, in the moment versus what I think about it right now. That previous time, in 2019, I did not rate the books at the time.

On a second reading, this is a forgettable book with a decent array of villains that each try to take on Hulk and beat him up. One thing that annoyed me is that Hulk's breathing ability goes from him flying around the Sun to being unable to stay in the depths of the ocean.

So where does this book stand rating-wise? I would rate it as a 3/5. It is "fine". The art is solid and decent but the plots are... well you are reading Hulk, so the situations and their resolutions are not very complicated.

It's Hulk.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

[Kinda Book Report] Crisis on Infinite Earth

Earlier this year, the artist George Perez passed. So I picked up one of his seminal work: Crisis on Infinite Earth.

Crisis coverThis was one of the first major cross-over events that we began to see in the 80s, and something that reintroduced me into the comics in the latter half of the decade with events like the Fall of the Mutants spanning multiple titles.

For those not in the know, someone is destroying entire worlds and universes. Right off the bat, the action begins with the entire universes swallowed into nothingness.

Now I will give a shout-out to my man LPJ. I kept joking about the 3 million characters of the Legion of the Superheroes not making much of a story... Well I stand corrected. This story succeeds and thrives by its large cast.

All right Perez is an amazing artist. His characters are well-and clearly drawn, with varied expressions, and most importantly, what is happening is clear and easily understood without a lot of narrative text. I like to be able to SEE what is happening by looking at the page. Art is 5/5.

The writing by Marv Wolfman is also top of the line. The story is never confusing, despite the ongoing mysteries: Who are the villains? What are their goals? How can they be stopped? Who will rise to the occasion? Characters get to act and get their time to shine. Having that many characters do something is a tour de force. No surprise, the writing is also 5/5. My one concern is I had

With time, the events were undone, but for a while, the DC universe was "reduced" to just one universe with some heroes gone and others rebooted. DC would do similar things later in the 2000s to clean up and shake up their universes.

So coming to a final rating? 5/5 Well worth it.

Monday, September 12, 2022

[First Ones Monday] The Necromancer

While I was trying to decide which character I wanted for the iconics to support Power is Fickle, I painted up many characters. Seeing which character would stick.

Another Reaper Bones. The final one is a necromancer I really l

Saturday, September 10, 2022

[Kinda Book Report] Essential Iron Man 4

This one is MONTHS late. So late that I had to go back and skim the book to remind myself what it was about.

The story of IronMan continues. It is rather "run of the mill" without too many stand-outs.

The one standout is the introduction of Firebrand as a villain.

One thing that I do find pretty interesting is that we deal with social issues. Comics have always touched on those with a fairly simplistic way. The unique take is that Tony Stark, unlike say Peter Parker or the Avengers, is someone with power to act. He is often caught between what he must do and care for his employees. While it is not clearly labelled as such, Tony must balance that. He does pivot his company away from his initial weapon manufacturing.

In all, this is unmemorable either for good or bad. I will rate this a 3/5. It was "okay."

Friday, September 9, 2022

Desert Pearls Reached Copper Bestseller!

Desert PearlsIt is with great joy that I announce that the Akhamet adventure Desert Pearls has reached the first best-seller level, Copper!

For those who remember back in 2019, Desert Pearls premiered officially at Gencon where it marked a few people. It is an action-oriented adventure that really showcase some of the unique elements of Akhamet and the complex relation between its many clergies. It introduced an NPC many people still hate to this day, the gebite Siwa (which reminds me... I must bring him back next year!)

I loved running that adventure, the few times I did it. I even used it to start my ongoing Akhamet campaign (which has been running for 3 years). The name "Wild Card Billy" (Shout-out Billy!) is still mentioned around the table...

You can get Desert Pearls today on DriveThruRPG. If you want to get it 50% off, get the Akhamet Bundle.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for your support of FOE. It is always appreciated and motivating to continue.

Monday, September 5, 2022

[First Ones Monday] The Ranger

While I was trying to decide which character I wanted for the iconics to support Power is Fickle, I painted up many characters. Seeing which character would stick.

Another Reaper Bones. This guy is very generic and can be used as a rogue, a ranger, a bard, a fighter, or even a cleric.