JP On Gaming

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fairs and Festivals

Every year, year, I take my family to two big events here in Colorado: the Renaissance Festival (in Larkspur, Co) and the Colorado State Fair (in Pueblo, Co). I enjoy both those events (even if my wallet does not). It’s a time to spend with my wife and the kids (and the occasional family and friends). Do something that's different than our everyday routine

Driving back from the state fair, I began to think how I could use what I saw/did to help make my adventure better, to breathe life into it. You see I am currently writing an adventure that uses a major fair/festival as its background. I wanted to see if I could "medievalize" my day's visit. Without any books or actual references, I tried to break down the fair into a number of elements (everyone else was sleeping in the car so using that time for gaming allowed me to stay awake).

How different were medieval fairs to the one I just attended? What elements of the fair were the same? Which ones were different? How did they differ? How could my experience add details in my adventure? Assuming I were a "typical" inhabitant (which I am), how would I react to impromptu events?

So I tried the following break-up.

  1. Performers This group includes acrobats, jugglers, dancers, even painters. Entertainers perform a variety of stunts and acts of daring that amazes and fascinates the common man. I am a sucker for jugglers myself because I have tried a number of times and… well I write RPGs.

  2. Tasty/Unique Foods Nothing to say about how good there are for us. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, turkey legs and the other dishes make those events stand out. Every year, I keep my stomach open for a turkey leg and a corndog.

  3. Vendors Another staple includes vendors. Many offer items one does not find in their usual stores. While many vendors are just outlets for the local big-wigs (like the phones or cable companies), many are quite unique, and are what I seek out most at the fair.

  4. Animals While some animals fall in the category of Performers, animals also include those involved in competitions, and the every-popular petting zoo. My kids LOVE the petting zoo and seeing the little piglets, horses/ponies, goats and bunnies. I will admit there is something about watching or petting animals that call to the kid in all of us. I personally find the horses to be quite nice.

  5. Musicians Concerts and music are an intrinsic part of those events. I will sit and listen to a few tunes from a country music band, then walk up to a Latin band and then to a rock band. Music is everywhere and to me, it helps create the event. Many of the tunes there are not my usual bands, and that makes it special.

  6. Competitions/Contests From lumberjack contests, to animal rustling, to sandcastle building, to animal judging to the local radio station madness, contests involve people or animals performing and winning prizes. I would generally not travel to witness a number of competitions that take place at the fair, I stop and watch kids run after a sheep or lumberjacks speed cutting a log.

  7. Games The Simpsons gave us The Carny Code which was a great episode. Those are games that involve throwing a basketball or a baseball or placing rings on coke bottles. I was never very good at those so I do not participate (one of the few things I can save money on).

  8. People The biggest reason to attend local fairs? People. Lots and lots of people. The crowd is what makes everything come alive and binds all of the above together. A group of people watching something will draw you in to see what is going on. Walking around the fairground makes me feel as though I was part of something big. I also like the mix of people, races, influences all coming together without conflict. Everyone gets together at the fair, no matter their size, race, color, affiliation, or style. All are part of the event and I like that.

With some of those elements in mind, I drifted off to fantasy aspects of fair. How different would the fair be if magic and other fantasy races were present? However, I found that fantasy really added nothing to those basic elements of the fair. Sure, it added some unique extras, but nothing to add really. I could replace the horses with a pegasus, turkey legs with dire chicken (hummmm dire chicken drumstick...), or the acrobats with flying wizards, but the elements of the fair remained the same. The people of different color/background would become elves and dwarves and halflings and gnomes.

Looking back on the article, this will really add to my adventure. Not so much in the form of encounters or challenges, but in the form of flavor, minor elements and potential subplots.

Oh! And it made the drive home go really fast...


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Wargaming Blog

My name is JP Chapleau. I was born & raised in Montreal, Quebec (that's in Canada). In 1993, I entered Sherbrooke University ( where I graduated in Computer Engineering in 1998.

After that I began work and I have lived and worked in Japan (2 months), Paris France (1 year), Dublin Ireland (2.5 years), Quebec City (2 years) and now I have been in Colorado Springs, Colorado since 2005.

I live with my lovely wife, Julie, two daughters Josiane & Marie-Katherine ("Kitty") and son Jean-Patrick.

I am most known for my involvement in Role-Playing and Miniature gaming. My miniature gaming love affair really started in the mid-nineties when the Donjon Maisonneuve opened in Montreal. That game store was the first one to include gaming table and to host games there. For the first time I saw and admired painted armies, terrain and different games. I was hooked (but broke). Around 1996-97, I took the plunge and finally bought Warhammer 40,000. It’s a love affair that’s been going on since. In the years since I took part in a number of tournaments and competitions from Paris, France to Dublin, Ireland to Ft Morgan Colorado. I generally do okay.
These days, though I still enjoy the occasional 40k game, I much prefer playing ancients (with Warhammer Ancient Battles being my favorite ruleset).

This blog will include entries and rants about things I like, things I dislike and what I'm doing these days, but also the occasional historical article and reference to support my war gaming addiction.

I admit that this blog was started to allow me to focus on war gaming only and have my other blog JP on Gaming focus on my other love, table-top RPGs. Thus separating the two will allow you, the readers to focus on those articles you want to read.



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tacticon approaches and gaming life

For those who do not know, I volunteered to serve as the Pathfinder Coordinator (no, I don’t have any news or official Paizo title) for Tacticon, a games convention in Denver, CO. You can find a link to the con website here. This year marks the first time that Tacticon offers PFS. At last year’s Tacticon, I was running some LFR (for the last time) and playing Living Arcanis. Pathfinder was just an upcoming game day in mid-September I hoped I would not be the only one showing up for.

This year, I’m completely out of LFR (not running, not playing). Living Arcanis is gone (though it is replaced by the Chronicles of the Shattered Empires).

What’s my plan for this year? As coordinator, any gaming I get will heavily depend on attendance. With any luck, I might be able to slip into a game or two of CSE, and perhaps play the one Pathfinder adventure I haven’t played yet.

When I came up with the schedule for Pathfinder, I took a page out of my good friend Lenny playbook. Instead of coming up with random story elements, I chose 6 adventures. Four of which were parts 1 & 2 of a series (#7 Among the Living & #49 Among the Dead, #51 The Shadow Gambit & #52 The Twofold Demise). The other two being independent, one-shot adventures. Part 1s would run every morning with part 2 in the afternoons. Evening would have a Fiesta where tables would form based around what they wanted. At this time, I ran four slot-zeroes and have decent DM coverage for all the slots. We will have 4-6 DMs for the Fiesta slots. Morale is high in my camp and the DMs also seem in good spirit. A rare luxury I find…

I remember the old and blessed days of LG when we would run slot zeroes until the very last moment to make sure we had enough DMs for the con. The mad scrambles to finish the interactive. Making sure everything was printed and ready to go.
So at this time, some two weeks before the con, I’m confident and looking forward to the con.

As I write this, I am currently waiting on a number of things: the announcement of the Regional Coordinators for PFS, word on an adventure I submitted to Paizo, same but from Chaosium… So many things going on at once… Plus I have friends wanting to give another go at “The Masks of Nyarlathotep” so they can finish the campaign… Good times indeed.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Thoughts about Cohorts

Recently, my (not-Living-Anymore) Arcanis character, Prima Gallia Tiberiana, leveled up to sixth level and I chose the Leadership feat. She is now accompanied by her handmaiden wherever she goes (being a noblewoman really helps). Oddly enough in my seven years of playing 3rd edition, this was the first time I took that feat. Though I thought about it in Living Greyhawk, I was too lazy (and generally too busy writing or editing) to take the time to maintain a cohort. Though I almost took one (I had access to an eladrin) for Corfell Treeshadow, my cleric of Corellon, the poor guys got removed from the campaign almost immediately after that.

However, I played with a few people (in and out of LG) who had cohorts some good, some bad, some memorable, some not-so-memorable.

The other day, my buddy Kenton (in the same Arcanis campaign) came up with a basic concept for a cohort and asked me for advice on cohorts. Yes, our party would be composed of 3-5 PCs with 1 or 2 cohorts (as we share DM duties, we always hit the 5-6 player mark).

So I began to think… What makes a great cohort? Is there a formula to come up with a great cohort? Which were the ones that left a lasting impression on me? How were they built? What role did they play in the game? Many questions filled my mind. I wanted to be sure that I would allow him to choose and build the character he wanted, by trying to provide options.

The Cohort’s background

This article targets mostly organized play campaigns so I like to keep the background light. I’ve seen spouses, lovers, slaves, squires, and planar allies as cohorts. All of which are fine. The goal is to find a reason the character would stick around you. A secondary goal is to find a way for the cohort to mesh with the rest of the party. After all, the cohort will be privy to many PCs’ secrets, abilities and even share the loot. This does not mean the cohort has to be lovey-dovey with everyone in the party, or an LFR character (oops, I meant a bland, flavorless series of dice rolls).

For my cohort, Drusilla, she used to be a poor legionnaire I recruited to be my personal assistant and handmaiden. Things I wanted her to have were Profession (handmaiden) and rogue skills (trap finding and open locks mostly), because the party needed those.

The Cohort’s basic personality

Like every good character, a cohort must have its own personality. I think that something contrasting especially in the social department is important. If your main character is talkative, the cohort should tend to be quieter. If you are rather quiet, your cohort should be talkative. Avoid the dual talkative or dual quiet characters. Makes them redundant plus it’s often difficult for the rest of the players to know who you are playing at that time. If you can work with completely different accent, this difficulty is not there. But you have to juggle the accents and that gets a little complicated.

Give a cohort a little spark by giving a single trait, what GURPS calls quirks to the character. Maybe the cohort speaks with a lisp, giggles when nervous, has a slight accent or has a short catchphrase. Nothing major just enough to give a short taste of the character.

The Cohort’s abilities

There are many types of cohorts one can build: the crafter, the healer/buffer, the talker the blaster… What is important to keep in mind is that the cohort is a second fiddle to the main characters (the actual Player Characters). The cohort will generally be weaker than the players and should not try to compete with the player directly.

If you already have a blasting Wizard, don’t make a cohort who is a blaster. It takes away the fun for the main character and usually makes your cohort look extremely weak. If your party has a great healer, make the cohort a buffer. If you have great melee, go for an archer.

The Cohort’s advancement

When people design their characters, they often imagine the PC at a very high level. So that at level 10-12, they will become gods among men, lording over all they survey. While a cohort often has a similar advancement scheme, I personally prefer to keep cohorts as simple as can be. This makes playing the cohort quick.

Cohorts should be designed to be effective NOW. Not in four or five levels when they gain a level of Awesome. Because they are often weaker than the PCs, they have to live and survive until then. Having a PC that is not fully effective for a level or two is one thing. Having a cohort that is not effective for the same duration often means a dead cohort.


A cohort’s role should be secondary. She supports the party and brings with it some abilities the party needs and can use. But should not be the main character at the table.

In organized play, where the party make-up is always in flux, the role of a cohort cannot be tailored to a party, but should be designed in such a way that she supports a party. A healer/buffer or an archer is a good choice as their options are limited and their turn goes quickly. Remember that guy who plays a druid with his animal companion, then his 20 summoned monkeys and his super-complex wizard cohort whose turn takes an hour? Yeah… avoid that. It’s just annoying and while fun for you, everyone else hates it.

Don’t be that guy.