JP On Gaming

Monday, January 31, 2011

Microcon’s Doctor Who RPG Marathon

Yesterday during Micro-con, I ran a Doctor Who marathon, with 4 different “episodes” of Doctor Who taking a group of random time travelers on a voyage through time and space. I was able to run all four parts I had planned, for which I was very happy.

Who were the PCs?

Lady Gwendolyn, an alien posing as an Edwardian Lady, Gilbert-Andre de Bellevue, a Napoleonic infantry officer; Theela, a cave woman; William Belfast, a starship engineer; and Wogo Loogo, an African tribesmen; Doctor Vladimir, a cybernetic doctor from 2030 joined for “Little Blue Box”.

The Fort Next to Nowhere

You are at home, spending a lazy day relaxing. In the background, a grinding, warbling sound breaks the silence. It grows loud enough that it draws you from your idle reverie.

There is a flash of bright light and you find yourself standing at the edge of a wooded area. It is about noon on a nice day.

Before you is a tilled field leading to a crude wood fort. To your left and right people dressed in strange garb, all of them seem as surprised as you to be standing here.

The PCs are transported to Roanoke Island. The PCs encountered Indians and a bizarre gargoyle-like creature. During their investigation, they discovered a strange pump-like device. The device proved to be made of Dalekanium, a metal obviously not normally found on earth. After William tried to hit the gargoyle with the device, the device activated. A bright flash of light emitted, cue credits.

The New Emperor of the Daleks

Four futuristic soldiers huddle together in a trench, their faces dirty and grimy. Their brown uniforms matching the wet dirt and mud that surroundes them. From their inaudible conversation, it is obvious that they are scared, tired, and almost out of ammunition.

Energy beams and explosions echo in the distance. The men crouch as they receive a shower of dirt. The soldiers return fire, shooting at enemies unseen. A fog covers the ravaged lands around the trench.

A blue light appears in the gray haze, then another, then another. Finally the pepper-shaker forms of Daleks come into view. “EXTERMINATE!” They repeat as their beam guns blast away.

The scene cuts and the soldiers are brought into a military tent. “KNEEL! YOU WILL OBEY!” The Daleks push the soldiers to their knees. A human-shaped figure stands, hidden in the shadows.

The PCs appear on a deserted, foggy wasteland where a group of soldiers come running towards them. The PCs follow them to a bunker where they learn that the Daleks are coming. They learn that the war is not going well for the Thaals, and that though they initially thought to have won the war when the Doctor destroyed the Kaled’s dome. The Daleks arrive and the PCs disable one and break the others’ eyestalk before fleeing. Fleeing through the fog, they encounter a group of Napoleonic soldiers who force them to surrender. They are taken to a camp where Daleks and Napoleonic soldiers are together. In a tent, they meet with the Emperor, Napoleon. Napoleon orders them to be “processed”. As the PCs are taken to a machine, they are told that there is a small gap in the machine. Finding their way in, they encounter a young Thaal boy hiding in the machine. The PCs discover that the Thaals have microchips in their necks. Using the device they used earlier to disable the Dalek, they destroy the Emperor’s microchip. The Emperor pulls out a bejeweled sword hilt. The PCs figure out this is a time travel vortex. The Emperor activates it and disappears. A secondary flash makes the PCs disappear.


The scene is inside a starship. Red lights flash. An alarm repeats in a monotone tone “Hull breach detected”. Two men run before the camera, run through an airlock and the door closes behind them.

A second later, a pop is heard and the escape pod disappears quickly in the darkness of space. As the alarm continues to repeat mindlessly “Hull breach detected. Hull breach detected. Hull breach detected.”

The PCs appear on a starship. After some research they cannot find any hull breach. They are on IZ-244, a freighter “transporting” a large ball of ice to the moon colony. The ship is effectively a large rocket attached to the ice. The PCs investigate and find that the Captain was spying on his crew. They also see that five of the 8 crew seem to be sleeping in their quarters. Forcing one of the crew quarters open, they find a man dead of unknown cause.

Then, a group of pirates get on the ship. The PCs discover the pirates are not too bright, deferring to their captain on most things. The PCs then surprise the pirates as they are trying to stop the engine and search for a blue box (though they initially think it is the TARDIS, the dimensions are incorrect). In the end, they strike a deal with the pirate Captain Illyana after she discovers the crew died from some unknown radiation. They team up to find the box and the PCs find it first. They wait for the captain to open it and within are a bejeweled cybernetic arm and a wand-like device. The wand is of Gallifreyan origin. The pirates take the arm and leave the wand.

Asking one of the pirate to see if they can fix the time travel vortex, a pirate attempts something and he believes will get them home to 1812.

The Little Blue Box

President Obama stands at the podium ready to deliver a speech. “My fellow Americans, today I have signed a bill that will provide free and comprehensive healthcare to everyone. No longer will we be Democrats and Republicans. No longer will we be divided on fundamental issues. From now on, America will once again lead the way into the future. My fellow Americans, I bring you the future.”

The camera pans out and flanking the president are two tall metallic men. One of them says in a monotone voice “Prepare to be upgraded.”

The PCs appear in Colorado Springs. Looking around they see Cybermen walking up and down Academy boulevard. The Cybermen track down the PCs and Dr Vladimir is nearly disintegrated after a close encounter. The PCs then run to escape and meet with a survivalist. They are told that 75% of the US population has been turned to Cybermen since the President put in place his “Obamacare”. They meet with the anti-government rebels at the Citadel mall. During the meeting, they are told that the Cybermen have lock away a very important prisoner within Cheyenne Mountain. The Cybermen again discover the group and the PCs flee, heading south toward what was NORAD command.

Going inside, the PCs follow the odd wand that mysteriously activates. Finally, the PCs defeat two cybermen guarding a prisoner ward. They rescue a snarky redheaded Scotswoman who tells them they must find the Doctor. Following the inevitable “that’s not what the Doctor looks like” scene, they find the doctor with a bowtie (the 11th Doctor). The Doctor then takes all three of the items they collected, creates a device and summons the TARDIS.

He takes everyone back to their time and thanks them.


Friday, January 21, 2011


I just received word from Meghan McLean from Chaosium telling me that I was one of the winners of last year’s Cthulhu Invictus adventure contest. My adventure, Shadow on the Vesuvius was accepted. I’m really excited about this. It will be included into an upcoming monograph with other winners, to be published in the coming future. This is my second victory with Chaosium.

With new projects coming in for NeoExodus, this year is looking pretty good so far. Thank you to the Big-Man-Up-There.

So this has been an odd week... From the lows of not making the top 32 of RPG Superstar, to a lot of new work from LPJ Design and now to win this contest. Good time!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Not a RPG Superstar

Well I didn't make the top 32 of RPG Superstar. I thought my idea was solid, but I guess the others were cooler. So I'll have to come up with something new. That's cool... I have a few things I'd like to do.

I won't say that I'm happy about it, but the other entries look very solid, there is no shame in getting beaten by a better entry. Only the desire to get up and try, try again!

Here is the link to the contest and all the winners RPG Super Star


To Genghis Pfs Volunteers

To all those who volunteered to DM @ Genghis (in particular). You guys are awesome! I mean really. Yesterday, I was in a state of pre-panic especially regarding Saturday night's game slot. From the 2 GMs (the 2 iron men), There are now 8 GMs and another one stepped up to the iron man plate! We should currently be able to seat everyone with regular tickets! Ain't that awesome!

Iron men: Scott Crosson, Jeff Kokx and myself

Which brings me to my next point: Make sure you pre-register to get the games that you want. I know that PFS real estate will be at a premium, especially Friday Evening through Saturday. This is no joke, I would hate to turn anyone away from PFS.

The weirdest/ coolest thing about this? I believe that my publicly-stated goal of running more tables than LFR may come true!

To Scott, Jeff, Todd, Russ, Kerney, Kenton, Matt, Ken, Josh, Dave, Derek, Phil, Ryan, Ted & Bill (and those I'm still waiting to hear from)... Thanks. Thanks A LOT! You guys ROCK! \m/


Six pointers for a new GM

My buddy Mike (of Mario's Warhammer Campaign fame) recently decided to jump into the fire and try his hand at Game mastering. He asked me for some pointers on become an evil GM. Here are the pointers I sent to him.

0- GM as often as you can.

0A- Read adventures, campaign, encounters, from any source. That will fill your mind with alternate ways of handling players and moving encounters along.

1- Relax.

2- Know what you want to do. (Point A and Point B) The path between these two will vary, don't get married to a given solution.

2A - The players will most likely NOT follow the perfect plan you thought they would follow. Now you know.

2B - Work with them. Talk to them, get them involved. Take as many hooks from them as you can to drive the plot towards Point B.

3- Be fair, not nice, but fair.

4- As long as the rules work the same for everyone, it's all good. Don't over focus on them.

5- Its your game. If the campaign setting/ book/ published supplement says otherwise, the book is wrong.


6- Relax.

Here is the ultimate evil DM! Love the "instant replay" idea, it will really take down the PCs by a few notches. I didn't think of that but I may start doing that! Thank you John Madden for the tip! Plus if you need help fighting your monsters, summon BRETT FAVRE! He'll sort everything right. Beat the players, beat the monsters and win!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

DND Minis are gone

I‘m sure you know by now, but the D&D minis line has been officially discontinued by WotC.

To me, that won’t change anything. I have not bought a single pack of D&D minis (since 2003), all those I owned came from either prize packs or friends giving me stuff. I paint my own minis something I really enjoy doing. So the plastic pre-painted minis were not for me. I knew many friends who really enjoyed them and used them, and frankly it made the game more attractive… Colorful minis look nicer than a dice, a coin, a jelly bean or a Hello Kitty key chain. Don’t laugh, I saw it.

After many, many rather unsuccessful attempts at bringing miniatures to market for D&D, Ral Partha, Chainmail, and other partnership never seemed to work for them. Whereas other companies, such as Reaper Minis, made some very nice minis, they were not being official D&D miniatures. In 2003 they found a format that worked, and it took off like a cannon. The first collectible sets offered both monsters and PCs. The fact that they were collectible – with hidden content added to their attraction. I remember days when we would hold LG weekends at Valhalla's and they would sell out of any minis they had as people bought them by the dozen.

I didn’t buy them, but liked the fact that others did. GMs now had entire collections of representative miniatures. It kept my hobby going and local hobby store owners fed. Somehow I managed to get a few minis myself, through a series of events. I still own most of the dragons I had. Their dragons were well-sculpted and awesome. (See this post on dragons for more thoughts I have about them). The fact that I did not care for the 4e green dragon doesn’t change the fact that I still own one.

When 4e came out, they announced the end of the D&D minis tournament format. Again, I didn’t really care because I didn’t participate in it. Then they canned the format of minis they had. WHAT A MISTAKE! I thought. They re-formatted the line to offer PC boxes (3PC / box) and monster boxes (8 monster / box). While I am not privy to the exact number, I am pretty sure that the numbers were nowhere what they been a few months before.


As a player, I could look at the box of minis (because they’re of clear plastic) and buy only the box that has the character that fits me best. I don’t have to buy any monster, and even have 2 spare characters I can either trade or make new characters with. Similar to the Reaper model, but with minis with terrible paint jobs… Why would I buy that, when I can buy more minis from the Heroscape set for about the same amount…

Now that I’ve ranted about this…

If there is one thing that WotC has taught me is not to underestimate them. They are the kings of the gimmick and if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I fully expect them to come up with some new mini deal/ scheme. Anything they can sell with the brand, they do.

Perhaps they are planning on doing something like Paizo did with their iconic characters: license them to a minis company. Wouldn’t be a bad idea... Perhaps even link further with Heroscape? It would make D&D minis available in Wal-Marts and other such big stores. Give the brand more exposure.

Perhaps come up with a new D&D cartoon deal and sell toys based on the cartoon. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as the cartoon from the 1980s, but you never know. It might definitely be a way to re-brand D&D to another generation. With the popularity of The Clone Wars, Fox’s Animation Domination (The Simpsons and Family Guy), South Park and Adult Swim on Cartoon Network… There might be something there.

I will wait and see. Lucky for me, I have all the minis I need… until I go to my FLGS and buy more…


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Sanguine Covenant 2.0

For the past weeks, I have been working on re-vamping LPJ Design's Sanguine Covenant book for NeoExodus. It was a good book with an interesting take on monotheism in a fantasy setting. Trying to include a world view that encompasses and explains the polytheism in the world. Unlike our world where the mysteries of God are not readily available to all.

Okay, they are and he does, but he does not manifest his power through direct, obviously magical means like we see in Pathfinder / fantasy RPGs. I would be surprised if I could go to my local bishop and ask/pay for a heal to get rid of my asthma and diabetes... Man that would be cool... But he's more mysterious than that, and I like that. GO JESUS!

The original document was written by Owen KC Stephens (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Neoncon 2011) and Chris McCoy. It was a good document, went into a lot of details and after reading it, I considered myself to be well-versed in what the Covenant and how it operated.

So why update it?

First off, the prestige class, Covenant Daemonslayer that was found within seriously needed some re-vamping. Not because it was bad. Simply because Pathfinder does certain things much, much easier than 3.5 did. I wanted to revamp the class and to make it simple and attractive.

Second, I looked at the feats presented in the book. While good, many feats no longer applied in PFS. So I took it upon myself to review every feat, one at a time. While keeping in mind game balance, I updated some, removed others and wrote new ones.

With most of the number-crunching behind me, I went over the rest of the document with the two following goals. 1- Provide information that could enhance a game and 2- Make this document a complete reference for the Covenant. I did a lot of reformatting and moved things around to give it a more natural flow.

Finally, I have this major pet peeve with these source books. I want adventure ideas. Not full-fleshed out adventures, but ideas, something I can just glance over and gain some inspiration. Like those old GURPS supplements I keep looking at, just for their "adventure seeds". So I added those in.

Satisfied with my work, I reclined on my chair and took a deep breath.

I was happy.

Then I remembered that the Sanguine Covenant had ANOTHER element... There was another prestige class that was not in the original document, but that was out there. The Covenant Purifier. The purifier is the left hand of the church. They are the assassins of the Covenant. So I asked Louis if I should include that class into the new document. A few minutes later, I was reviewing the prestige class to the Sanguine Covenant.

So there you are folks. The sum of a lot of work is mostly done, now its the editing and reviewing that begins. But the bulk of the work is there for us to critique first before it goes out to you!


Friday, January 7, 2011

Doctor Who Marathon Posted

I have just sent the details of the Doctor Who Marathon I plan to run during Microcon III. Here are the names and titles of the episodes

Somewhen in Time Ep 1: The Fort Next to Nowhere

Somewhen in Time Ep 2: The New Emperor of the Daleks

Somewhen in Time Ep 3: Snowball

Somewhen in Time Ep 4: Little Blue Box

The blurb is:

Everything was fine when you heard a grinding noise nearby. A second later you were somewhere else with strange people: a cavewoman, a proper Edwardian lady, a space jock, a tribal warrior and a officer of Napoleon. Finding a way home is just the beginning. Knowledge of the Doctor Who universe is optional. Simple and quick play.


Everything for two bucks!

Over the years, I bought a number of products, some good, some not so good. Earlier this week, I was talking about the cost of RPGs. With Adamant Entertainment pricing all its PDFs for 1.99 (full details and announcement) , I really am of two minds on this topic.

First, I am very happy that for 12$ I can get 6 supplement. That’s the good part. As a consumer, I like the idea very much. But soon, I begin to wonder “why are such products so cheap?” It seems like a desperate attempt to dump low-or-bad quality material out there. I’m not saying Adamant’s stuff is crap (it’s not), but it makes me expect less from what I get… after all I only paid two bucks for it.

As a writer, this annoys me a little. A lot of work goes into writing these supplements, a lot more than it seems. 1.99 seems low to sell certain quantity of work.

Things I am very happy with buying for 2$ are small elements (such as a race or a class) that to plug into a current project or campaign, short adventures, even a series of feats/ abilities. Another category of items include old versions of books and books that are about to be reviewed. That way I know I am getting an older document.

Things I would not be willing to buy for that price include complete, high-quality campaign settings, elaborate campaigns and major sourcebook. The price I would be willing to pay for them varies greatly, but I think that a cap around 10$ gives the product value and gives it a level of assurance. I mean with Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG for 10$... If you price something beyond that, it better rock my world!

All that said, I hope it works for them, but it tints my view of their stuff negatively…