JP On Gaming

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pathfinder Society Adventures... Some thoughts

I have played three Pathfinder Society adventures so far and really enjoy them. While those I have played so far are mostly cookie-cutter adventure door-monster-treasure, they have kept me interested and wanting for more. I look forward to the next rounds of adventure. The local community in Denver/Colorado Springs is still small but one that is growing.

I have tried to bring out some of the good and bad points about the campaign. I plan to revise those as time goes by.

Strong points

  • The system Drawing on about 8 years of experience in the system, the Pathfinder system is solid and very good. Even during the game, we keep finding out gems that make the game so much more interesting and easy, like staggered.
  • The world I really like Golarion... it has so many different regions each of them with great adventure potential.
  • The Factions I like the factions. All five of them are distinct and have unique flavors of their own to really add a whole other dimension to your PC. An Andoran fighter and a Taldoran fighter would have clearly different adventuring goals and outlook on life, one that is completely based in a role-playing element.
  • Weak points

  • The adventure hooks Simply being ordered to go do something is a simple way to get adventures on-track, but it does lack originality and is quickly redundant. I hope future adventure do break that mold.
  • No regional system The Golarion world cries out for a regional system like Living Greyhawk or Living Arcanis. To have volunteers expand and develop it would help the system grow quicker. It would also help certain (real-life) regions to grow by having a local volunteer run and help with events. Another reason I would like to see this is because when creating a character, one can build characters for specific regions. "Going to Khafeer?! I’ll use my Qadiran character!"
  • The Factions Yes... they are a strength, but they are also a weakness! The Factions should be one of the best things of the game, but they fall a little flat. I would really like to see them play a bigger part in the adventures themselves. Perhaps have something more akin to Living Arcanis' secret societies. I hope they come out with something more geared towards those factions later on, like faction-specific adventures, goals or even interactives.

    In the end, I think the campaign will gain in experience and grow with its strength. A lot of what I find as weak points can be expanded, modified or changed with time. I hope the big-wigs at Paizo are willing to listen to suggestion and push them through the pipe down to the players. Having been on their side of the coin for the last 6 years, I know that many changes like the ones I would like to see take time to trickle down the pipe to the players. Until then... roll those 20s!


  • Tuesday, September 29, 2009


    Whenever that word is mentioned, I keep thinking back to my youth, to reading Marvel Comics. When I anxiously waited for the next issue of the X-men to marvel at the awesome evilness that was Magneto; or the Fantastic Four’s next conflict with Galactus or Dr Doom; or Loki’s next prank that could lead to the end of the world...

    In Marvel comics, the villains made the heroes (DC to me had more interesting heroes than villains, but I won’t go there). It was more important who the villain was than who was stopping him. Dr Doom could face the Fantastic Four, the Avengers or Spider-man. It did not matter. His presence made the story take on a new dimension. One paid attention when he talked because he COULD do what he promised.

    So I was thinking today about what makes a great villain. What makes him an opponent to be feared more? What makes a villain memorable? I’ve tried to boil it down to as few elements as possible.

  • Conviction Any good villain must have conviction and belief in his ultimate goal. So when the Villain calls the UN Security Council to ask for ransom, people know that he means business, that he’s not just another clown in a costume. Conviction is what makes the villain remarkable. My favorite Anime villain of all times, Char Aznable from Gundam: Char’s Counterattack is exactly that way. He says he will do something and he does it.
  • Personality If personality is an important thing to have for the PCs, it is twice as important for the villain. One would not replace Magneto with Dr Doom and expect the story to unfold the same way. Both have personalities that would make them proceed with or stop their plans. Having some unique personality trait gives something special to the villain. Personality often dictates what a villain will do more than how he will do it.
  • Resources Only McGiver can take over the world with 2 elastic bands and an old sock. A good villain has resources that will allow him to being his plan to fruition. A broke overlord is more of a farce than a threat. A super-villain who does not have a good few faceless minions willing to get pounded & blasted by the heroes usually has a very short career.

    There... three points to make a good villain, with a clear superhero stint to this article, but you can easily adapt to any game system/ setting.

    Now that you have a good villain, avoid the most common pitfall of them all: do not let him steal the show! The PCs are still the heroes.


  • Monday, September 28, 2009

    Our Realms is almost here!

    This Saturday, October 3rd, the first OurRealms game day will take place. Run by well-known DMs from the Denver & Colorado Springs region, such as Rich Clark, Timmy Creese, James Hicks, Bill Wimsatt and myself. (Shout out to you guys).

    It’s been a few months already since I first came up with an idea for an all-MyRealms game day. I approached my good friend Lenny with the idea hoping that he would agree to organize the day... He told me to "Git R Done" (not in those words, but that’s what it meant.

    I am not an organizer, for all I’m worth I do not like organizing bigger events. I have difficulty getting things going. Now I have done a few of them, but I still prefer to let those with better organizational skills do the legwork.

    I have a lot to do before Saturday comes around: print the rewards, print my own adventure, prepare the terrain for my own adventure (now you know I have special terrain) and then get the soda and coffee pots ready to go... I’m pretty excited about that whole day.

    I spoke to Rob at the Gamers’ Haven (where the event is taking place). We are covered for playing room and could expand a little if need be.

    With everything falling into place at this time, things are looking good. And I am quite happy of the assistance I had from my DMs and the staff of the ‘Haven (as usual, they have been great to deal with).

    What am I most worried about at this time?

    1. No-Show DM. Seriously that is my greatest fear with this game day. The unfortunate randomness of real life could really hurt the game day. In my planning, I have tried to give each DM one slot off so that he could play at least one slot (my own free slot will be used to get food in and other organizational things). With that "Free Slot", that means I could potentially get to pull one extra DM if need be.
    2. The timeframe we have for this day is going to be very limited and tights. So everything must click correctly from the get-go. For this, I must rely on my DMs to run their adventure(s) in a little under four hours. Knowing they are experienced fellows, I have little doubt that it will be fine.
    3. No-Shows and Late-Shows because waiting on people will not be possible due to the tight schedule. Late-show will be told to wait for the next slot, unless a DM agrees to take them on. I cannot stand the late-shows attitude that since they deigned to grace us with their presence, they must be shown to a table immediately.
    4. Walk-ins could present another issue. They are greatly appreciated and are most welcomed. This time however, I do have a finite number of seats and will not ask any of my DMs (or myself) to run tables of 12. Those are NO fun for the players and even less for the DM.

    If you are interested in playing in Our Realms, I strongly recommend you pre-register using the warhorn site at There are still a number of seats available (but they are going fast).

    Now... I’m going to return to my worrying about everything!


    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Life Changing Moments (in game)

    Having a character suddenly realizing something about him or the world around them and changes his outlook on life really enhances the gaming experience. There is nothing more boring than having a character that never changes no matter what happens around him. The character should learn from experience and adapt. That makes a character come alive.

    And I love that.

    Giving out experience should be more than a matter of beating up monsters or NPCs (though I must say that is a good way to learn). Experience should allow your character to grow. Even in real life, one’s best plans are changed by circumstances or others around us.

    Such events ADD to a character and make that character unique. Although the character should be the same, some aspects of his life change. Think of moments like that for some of your past characters. How did it affect them? What did you change in the way you portrayed the character? How did it affect the game?

    How to do that?

    First thing is that *YOU*, the player must be willing to change your character to adapt to what happens. If you have 15 levels of character pre-determined with everything plotted out... It is unlikely that you will want to do a 180’ turn for your character. Have a goal in mind, but do cast anything in stone.

    I have not said this enough: having a character with motivation and goals helps the GM to write that into the story and you to write yourself into it. A character with depth gives so much. Now there is no reason to write a 20-page background on each character. Usually a few lines and some basic goals are sufficient to start. Work WITH and IN the game. I have never written a character background that was used completely. Only bits and pieces were used. Most often those were elements I added once the game started.

    One way to give your character some depth is to give them a unique quirk. This quirk then adds to your role play. For example, in LFR, I have an ork character who hates statues "because they always animate" so when there are large statues, he growls at them and breaks them. You would be surprised by how many time that quirk comes up (I was). Another of my character (Tiernan McWilbur) constantly talks to himself, his familiar or others, making the concept of moving silently alien to him. Your GM will mess with your mind as often as he can... Just because...

    I guess the most important bit or wisdom I can impart upon you is work with your GM and work with the other players. This is a group and social game. Of course, the final word about your character comes to you, but input or ideas can sometimes give you a different perspective.

    Finally, there must be a certain element of time between those moments. This allows you to re-settle into your character and give time to the GM to find new ways to mess with your head. If those moments happen all the time, your character really never gets to embrace the change and confront his new perspective to the world around him.


  • It’s not about me so I don’t care Ahhh... A common mistake... Although at a table, each player should have their own time and story element, just because another character is getting some attention in a storyline does not mean that you have to completely give up or ignore what is happening... Get involved though let the other player drive the story. You never know when you might suddenly find yourself involved in an interesting situation because of another PC. BAM! That’s another role-play element to add to your character ("Remember when that lady’s husband chased us out of town...").
  • This other PC has a relation with an NPC so I won’t interfere This one is more complex. Sometime your character may not like that your friend is involved with the thieves’ guild. You could fall in love with the same NPC or vie for the attention of the same noble or even take a liking to that other PCs’ sister.
  • Everything about me is secret! You spend a lot of time on the road with the other characters of your party. Chances are, some personal information about you will come around. If you are a total mystery, it is likely that the others around you may become curious about your activities. Or they decide that you are too strange and leave you behind! Give to the others some rope to hang you with...
  • I have no back-story! Now come on... just because you don’t want to create one doesn’t mean that you just plopped into existence. You could just be amnesiac or be somehow cursed. Just because the character does not know does not mean the player and/or the GM should be kept in the dark. And if someone suddenly shows up pretending to be your long-lost [insert relation here]... Work with that... I found that my characters rarely have much back story during the first game and the story forms as the sessions go on.
  • You should do XYZ with your character Don’t go designing or thinking about the path of other party members. If they ask you, then fine, but don’t force the issue if they are not interested.
  • That’s not how I viewed my character! Work with your GM. On the one hand, the GM should not force you to change your character because he wants to. On the other, you must be willing to adapt. It’s a two-way street!

  • Life changing moments: an example

    Anyone who spoke to me recently knows that I take part in Mario’s WHFRP game. And I love it. Love the game, love the party, love the dynamic, love it love it love it. After playing years of short-term missions and adventures, reverting to one where you have to think long-term and where life-changing events happen during the game is... refreshing.

    Characters that each have goals (some public, some less so), each with a unique story and background help make the game more than a mere walk around the Empire.

    In that campaign, my character Werner von Breshlow-Giersbergen started off as a na&itrema;ve young noble out to seek his fortune in the world. Throughout many challenges he became someone who liked to bully people, beat up monsters and collect bounties. Werner’s greatest pride was his beautiful hair.

    Then last night, while praying hard to thank Sigmar for another victory over chaos, Werner had a vision of Sigmar. Wherein he asked for Sigmar’s blessing in battle. The effect: Sigmar turned Werner into an Initiate (prelude to becoming a priest).

    So from a warrior who trusted only in sword, spear and hammer, Werner shaved his hair and embraced this new destiny. Werner is still the same: he sings, talks about fights, tells stories about his grandfather, but his outlook on life and the path ahead has changed.

    I can’t wait for next week to see what will happen to Werner and his 2 colleagues: Lady Violet (who used to be a vigilante but is now an Initiate) and the dwarf Rogny (who used to be a pit fighter but is now a blacksmith’s apprentice).


    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Pathfinder Society, first impressions...

    So this past Saturday, I played at Enchanted Ground in the first of what I hope will be many Pathfinder Society Saturdays. In this post, I will share my thoughts about the game. Not the adventures themselves.

    I always recommend people play in any type of organized play system in game day or convention format, where you can play many adventures in a very short time. Hopefully, this gives you a sample of the game, the system, how adventures run and a mix of players if some of them annoy you. In my case I played a mini-con of Living Greyhawk in a frozen wasteland of a bar back in January of ‘03. The first 3 adventures left me somewhat cold (more than just figuratively but I enjoyed the 4th adventure (TUS3-1 Haunted House of bin-Khadij) so much that I came back for more and the rest is history.

    Although I now consider myself an organized play veteran, I still like to try out something new be playing a burst. At best, I stick around and learn a new system. At worse, I lost a day and don’t have to do it again.

    My Character

    Face it, who does not like to talk about their characters. I certainly do! I thought of three different characters for the game.

    First a cleric, cleric has always been my favorite class (at least until 4e came along). However the table had 2 clerics already, so I canned the idea. Second an elemental sorcerer. Ever since I began to write and play them, sorcerers with their large number of spells per day have been a draw to me. When I made an Arcanis character, I created a sorceress. Third a paladin. Pathfinder paladins really gained a lot and they are high on my "want to play" list.

    So I created a half-elf sorceress. I did like the idea of sorcerers being travelers and merchants so I made a Qadiran sorceress. Though I initially thought of a water sorcerer, I settled on good ol’ fire instead.

    Lessons about Pathfinder society

    One I quickly learned is that Pathfinder is about resource management. The adventures were very resource-intensive, requiring cleaver management of spells and abilities. Do not throw the fireball on the first thug you meet, but do not hold back too much that you need to spend all your healing at the first enemy you meet either. As I said... manage your resources well. That is why I love to play sorcerers (especially beyond the first level).

    Two Cantrips & Orisons are awesome. Because of lesson #1, using 0-level abilities (because they do not use spell slots) is always a valid option. I never saw so many acid splashes & rays of frost being used!

    Three The faction system is a great idea. More than once did we have some minor role-playing arguments about what to do with NPCs. Especially when some PCs maintain that "Slavery is the basis of the economy, freeing slaves results in market instability"... Yes, good times. I have found that the secret societies help people focus their characters and give them some level of distinction (see my many rants on vanilla characters).

    Four Perhaps the most important lesson: Pathfinder is AWESOME. The system is fun and characters all have class abilities that make them unique.

    Will I play again

    I case you have not read the rest of the article, the answer is a big *YES*, I will.


    Friday, September 11, 2009

    Pathfinder Society... Finally here!

    It took some time but finally, Pathfinder is here... Not just here, but HERE, here in the Denver area! With Pathfinder comes the Pathfinder society "Living" Campaign... And there was much joy! The fact that I would not have to be the only DM and would be able to run the adventures did wonders for my morale! This saturday (that's tomorrow) I will be playing two adventures and see who things pan out... I am really excited and look forward to playing...

    I know friends of mine in Montreal have been playing the game for a long time and raved about it, but it hadn’t reached the shadow of the Rockies...

    First I looked at the 3 classes I like to play the most in D&D. 1- Cleric, 2- Sorcerer and 3- Paladin.

    Wow! Great stuff! Clerics are awesome and can be how I like to play them: healers & buffers. Sorcerers gained a lot of versatility and uniqueness by integrating the equivalent of the Draconic/ Arcane origin... And paladins... well they are awesome too...

    So next up I need to sit down and think about what I want to do as my first character... I think I’ll show up with two... a Sorcerer and a Cleric...

    Now if someone can build a Pathfinder Heroforge character generator!


    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    Moonshae Isles Year 2... An Overview

    Well... it took me a good few weeks to sort out everything I needed to come up with the Year 2 Moonshae Storyline... Wasn’t it easy but finally, I got it going. I cannot take all the credit as I received valuable feedback from the authors of MOON2-1 though MOON2-5. I know, I know, the bonus round is not assigned yet, but I have no intention of not getting it. It is a matter of pride. After all, since I took over the plots/ storyline position in Tusmit in 2004, my region ALWAYS managed to come up with all of its adventures, and usually more.

    The Moonshaes will not be that exception. The authors are all very anxious to start on this new year, as am I.

    So looking at the adventures in front of me and not being able to come up with a final part for a major quest (through a Core or by working with another region), I tried to use my own posts as a guide.

    Now before people go barking at the Globals or the other regions about not being willing to help, let me tell you this. Everyone I talked to was very willing to help but has prior engagements. Either the story I was trying to push did not suit them or they did not have adventures of a level-band to make things compatible. Still, we talked and exchanged ideas... Maybe in Year 3.

    So back to the storyline! What do you do when you cannot continue on a story? Why... If comic books thought me anything (and they thought me a lot of stuff), is that when the future can’t be changed, change the past!

    Okay... Now calm down...

    Using my great powers of RetCon (RETroactive CONnection), I began to look back into previous Moonshae adventure for potential links. Since linking to past adventures is, I believe, the best way to create continuity, so I began to look... MOON1-1, MOON1-2, MOON1-3, all the way to MOON2-1 (which as we speak has been at HQ for over a month for review) and a strange pattern began to emerge. Not immediately obvious, but something that was hiding behind the obvious trees...

    So I sat down and began to play with my web of storylines and ideas... Looked at my pool of authors and tried to come up with something that would surprise you (the players) more than a little...

    So next year, we will have a major quest unofficially called "Giants of Oman" or "To Oman and back". The first part of the quest will be EITHER MOON1-3 Black Gold, MOON1-5 Lost Love, MOON2-3 Title TBA or even BALD2-1 Lost Hope (Working Title). So, in any one of those adventure you might get a reward that counts as the first part of the quest. MOON2-2 will really get you out there and have you confront the problem facing the Moonshaes. MOON2-4 is the culmination of the story.

    I heard a lot of people saying that adventures in LFR had no bearing on the world. Well, this story WILL have an impact on the Moonshaes and YOU (the players) will get to be the ones who decide what happens! I always believed that LFR gains by imposing choices upon the players that cannot be resolved by a simple roll of the dice. Well be prepared to make a choice!

    To give you a quick overview of the current plan, here is the breakdown of the adventure locations.

  • MOON2-1 is set on Moray. Although not part of a quest and stand-alone, those who have played MOON1-2 The Sea Drake might find it interesting (wink wink).
  • MOON2-2 is set on Oman. Part 2 of the Major Quest
  • MOON2-3 is set on Alaron. Could be another starting point into a major quest
  • MOON2-4 is set in a number of places... most of them distasteful and bad for you. It is the conclusion of the Major Quest.
  • MOON2-5 is set on Flamsterd island (it’s not in the 4e book... you’ll have to look at an older source to see who Flamsterd is and where the island is located).

    Finally, MOON2-2 and MOON2-4 will have the "elf-intro" that was discussed on the Moonshae Yahoogroup some time ago. I am quite interested in seeing how this play out. Yes, I know they are both high-level adventures. No, I will not change my plan because of that.

    I would really like to set an adventure or two on Gwynneth in Year 3, but I need to wait and see what our level range will be before making any plans.

    Again... everything I post is subject to change without notice (and most likely already has by the time you read this. It is intended to give all of you a small taste of what is coming down the pipe for us.


  • Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Four Questions: Working down the list

    Here is where you put it all together. At one point or another you will need to answer the following four basic questions. Here, you take your first idea through internal questioning and answer everything one small bite at a time.

  • Who are the PCs?
  • Who is the villain?
  • How does the adventure start?
  • What is the planned finale?

    Putting it together

    Let me work this through one of the above example into an example.

    The Romulan High Command has ordered a task force to destroy a remote Federation outpost. The outpost is vital to the Federation because of its Dilithium mines (who the villains are).

    The adventure starts with the Romulans bombarding the outpost defenses and communication arrays from space while the PCs are away from the outpost (Introduction).

    The PCs are Federation officers who are on a mission to study mineral properties of the planet and see if it can be used in starship design. (Who the PCs are)

    The adventure ends with the PCs beaming up to the Romulan ship and either disabling it or contacting the Federation for assistance (Conclusion).

    I don’t want to be very precise with this because I want the PCs to have latitude regarding the ending of the adventure. But in the end, the PCs must find some way to stop the Romulan plan.

    The middle part is still fuzzy but I have a good idea of what is happening in the adventure and with whom.

    A twist you ask? Well maybe one of the Federation NPC is a Romulan who does not want the destruction of the outpost. At a critical time, his true nature is revealed. How do the PCs react to him? What if the PCs receive help from a Federation spy on-board the Romulan ship?

    Who are the PCs, who are their opponents, how to start and how to end...