JP On Gaming

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rocky Mountain Pathfinder Banner!

A few days ago, I announced that the Rocky Mountain Pathfinders were getting their own logo. Well no sooner did I get the logo that I started working on a banner. A banner I quickly looked for a maker...

Introduce VistaPrint. To make things even sweeter, Mark Moreland (my Paizo Boss) forwarded an awesome living social deal. A deal I immediately took...

I gathered everything, sent and paid for it all. And what did I get? a great deal on the second banner. So I ordered a second, identical banner. Now our presence cannot be missed at local events.

I want to give a big thanks to Andrei who did such a fantastic job with the goblin (which I like to call "Rocky").


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More Commissions for August 2011

I have a few more pictures of commissions I've done. Those were for my good friend Jeff Peters. I am particularly fond of the metal on those minis. It took like 4 or 5 different color, but it look very beat up and almost rusted. I really like the way it came out. Plus, this is the first time that I painted large numbers of big monsters all in one go and made for a unique experience.


Commissions for August 2011

Been a while since I've posted anything... I've been busy doing a number of painting projects. Here are my latest work.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Organized Play People: Jay Babcock, Part 1 (4e, Living Divine, JP gets stumped)

I spoke to Jay many times before I got to meet him face to face. As we were both Triads, we frequently talked. Like me, Jay was chosen to be an admin for Living Forgotten Realms. He quit long before I did. Still, he and I kept in touch.

Unlike myself, Jay took a liking to 4e. Me on the other had… Yeah…

Then the other day as I began thinking about this series, my good friend Lenny (shout-out) comes out and tells me that “some guy” was setting up a new campaign called Living Divine. So I did a quick Google search a who shows up? That’s right Jay’s name! I got on instant messenger and immediately contacted him and arranged to have him in my series of interviews.

Turns out his campaign kicked off at Gencon this year! Now I want to know more…

JP: Hi Jay! Glad you agreed to do this interview. Can you tell us a bit more about who you are? What about your RPG history?

JB: Well, let's see... I started playing RPGs when I was 8 and started running at gaming conventions when I was 11... In fact, I've judged or staffed that particular convention for every year of its existence, since then: some twenty-odd years.

I was part of the founding of my first organized gaming group in 1994. That group - now known as the Vice & Villainy Gaming Guild - still meets and games every week.

I was an Ancient Seer in Ultima Online's interest program for three years, running a team that created storylines and put on quests for that game world.

I helped put together the Aurora program in Eve Online - also tasked with creating quests and game content - participated for six months, and then took over and ran the program for two more years.

I was an active player and author for the Living City campaign.

I served as Triad for the Bissel region (New England) for five years, right up to the end of the campaign. My primary position was convention support, and at peak, I was staffing 16 conventions per year.

I work for Baldman Games, the company that runs D&D Experience and the RPGA events at Origins and GenCon. I serve as head marshal for those three major conventions.

The biggest line item on my resume, I suppose, is my writing. I have been the primary author or co-author on 242 rounds of RPGA and Living Divine scenarios. It's been speculated that I am the most prolific author in the history of the RPGA, but I'm not really interested in titles... just in keeping people entertained.

So... you might say I'm a gamer.

JP: You mentioned Baldman Games (BMG)… Is that Dave Christ’s organization?

JB: It is his company.

JP: I saw that BMG branched into some OP stuff with Ashes of Athas

JB: It is an excellent campaign, that I consider the spiritual sister to LD: I think we've got a lot of the same 'right' ideas in mind, and it's been marvelous to see how we've handled various issues that affect both campaigns.

I would recommend 4e to anyone and everyone. It's really a great body of work.

JP: Is Living Divine linked to BMG at all?

JB: Sure. We run under the Baldman banner at the three big cons, and I work closely with Dave Christ to make that all happen.

JP: What is your official title in the campaign?

JB: I am the owner of the Living Divine Campaign, and also one of the three Council of Elders members (our top-level, global administrators).

JP: What draws you to 4e in question? What particularly attracts you to that game?

JB: I'd say I'm less drawn to the particular game system, and more drawn to the community. I've been working with some of these folks for two decades. They could switch to Chutes and Ladders, and I'd stick with them. (I wouldn't recommend it, though... the level progression is HORRIBLY unbalanced).

That said, I've found that 4e is fine for our needs. Sure, it has pros and cons, just like every other system. It's no better or worse than any other system, at large. And, knowing that it was our target platform, we designed our campaign to work with it. If we were intent on using, say, Pathfinder, we would have worked things together differently, to accentuate some of its strengths.

JP: What is your favorite RPG game of all times?

JB: Spycraft, 1st edition. It is just a fantastic game that can be a ton of fun with the right group. And unlike many of its cousins, no one player-character can really be the star. You have to work together as a team, or you are sunk. Combine that with a fun, fast-paced action-adventure setting, and it's just dynamite.

JP: Your favorite supplement/ adventure?

JB: I don't think, in all fairness, that I could name one as my favorite... or even five, for that matter. I've enjoyed quite a few adventures, settings, and supplements over the years, all with their own bits to love.

JP: Okay then… can you name one that you REALLY did *NOT* like?

JB: One that comes to mind is a now-former OP campaign. I will leave it unnamed, as while the campaign is gone, the folks behind it are still around, and I would not like to start any bad blood.

I was introduced to this campaign by a few folks that were really into it. I lovingly crafted a rich, vibrant character, and sat down to play. I soon realized that to really do anything in the game, you had to take Character Option A or B, or know about in-game events X, Y, and Z, or be a part of Organization Q. My own character really didn't matter. As a new player to the campaign, I was all but useless - and worse, I was bored.

I was not easily deterred. I tried a few scenarios, with different groups. And got the exact same results. I decided that it just wasn't for me.

Years later, I've heard the exact same story from others. Apparently, the campaign was massively popular... if you got involved early on, and stuck with it. If you tried to get in, in the middle, you had no chance.

What I will say is that the experience helped flavor everything I've put together, since.

JP: What are the high points of a home game you run?

JB: I love it when my players are very truly and obviously invested in what's going on, when they can't wait for the next play-session, the next installment. When the compulsive i-phone gamer puts his phone away, when the guy that never pays attention is glued to the table, when the casual gamer whines that he has to wait until next week to learn who shot JR, and whether the bloody glove will fit.

That is a great moment.

JP: What elements do you particularly enjoy in a campaign?

JB: I think my favorite aspect is originality. Don't give me Tolkien elves and dwarves... it's been done, and done to death. Tell me that the elves are the local organized crime. Tell me that the dwarves are the local trade union, striking until their demands are met.

JP: You really need to check out NeoExodus from LPJ Design, then… those are some of the premises I put on myself… Yeah, yeah, I know. This is a shameless plug. I do share your view on that. “Traditional elements” of fantasy need to be revisited.

JB: I promise to check it out, as soon as I have free time. =)

JP: How does Living Divine address the traditional fantasy? Any new races? New spins of existing ones?

JB: Everything in our world is custom tailored to our needs... from the setting and the roles of our PCs, to our monsters. Nothing is cookie cutter.

JP: What would you say are elements that define your writing style? What elements would I expect to find in one of your adventures?

JB: I tend to use a lot of dark humor, often making light of situations that really shouldn't be funny.

I tend to favor the mundane over the fantastical. I hate when fantastic elements become mundane... it ruins the experience for me. When you meet a dragon in my world, I want you to go 'Oh wow, a dragon! Be careful, guys!'... Not 'Oh, yawn... another dragon'.

I tend to use a lot of symbolism and thematic tropes. For instance, in the Bissel days, the weather would generally turn foul while the PCs were heading off on a doomed quest. The worst the weather, the worse things were going to turn out.

JP: That is a great idea… I might steal that for my own stuff!

JB: If you do, then you are doing it wrong. Come up with your own, and institute it from the ground up. You need to really 'make it your own' for it to really work.

JP looks slightly annoyed at this.

JP: Please, continue your thoughts on a “Jay-style” adventure?

JB:Finally, I favor difficult adventures. Not 'kill your character, there is no hope' difficult... rather, I want you to have to work for your successes. I want you to walk out of the climax of my scenarios saying 'Oh, wow... that was tough! I can't believe we survived!' To me, that is the Holy Grail.

JP: I totally agree with you here… I love telling my players that “once you reach the top of Mount Doom, are barely breathing from damage and the environment and are about to throw the Ring into the fire…” That’s when the helpful NPC turns on you and forces you into a major fight.

JB: *nods*

JP: What would you tell those out there about your campaign?

In the world of Living Divine, there are no 'real gods' in the heavens. Rather, every once in a while, a creature is born among mortals with the divine spark. You, the player characters, are among these living immortals, walking the earth, attracting followers, raising armies and empires, fighting for power and survival.

Living Divine is more story-oriented and character-centric, and less focused on combat, than most organized play campaigns.

JP: How does that divine spark manifests? Is it just the fact that they are PCs? Or is there something more?

JB: There is much, much more. A small part of it is that the only real classed characters are gods (mortals just don't have that sort of ability), but it goes well beyond that. In fact, a major theme of the campaign is coming to terms with just what that divinity means.

JP: Why is your campaign the best there is?

JB: It's not. It's simply the one I want to run.

However, some of our players think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread; the prevailing opinion seems to be because we put the focus back on storytelling - whether it's us telling our story, or you telling that of your character.

JP: Why do you think a complete newcomer to organized play should join your OP?

JB: I don't. I would actively discourage it. From the beginning, I've billed LD as 'for mature gamers', and I mean it.

For instance, our campaign uses permadeath: a much harsher penalty than any other OP campaign I'm aware of. An inexperienced gamer is going to have to spend a lot more effort on the rules, just to survive... which means the story and roleplaying end of things will suffer. If they lose their focus, and drift too far towards the roleplaying end of the spectrum, survival will be that much harder.

But, of course, your mileage may vary.

JP: Permadeath… That is when your character is permanently removed from play? Can you expand a little on that? The term is very cool, and definitely grabs my attention.

JB: That is correct. When you die in Living Divine, you are dead for good. There is no 'raise dead' for immortals in the campaign. You weigh risks differently when there is really something on the line.

It also means there is no temptation to have reoccurring dead-again-live-again NPCs. They play by all the same rules.

JP: Why should an old grumpy player - yes. think of me as that grumpy old troll - what is the biggest strength of the campaign?

JB: It's a unique setting... a unique story. It's a different, fresh take on a game that's been around forever, that's been part of our lives, of our cultural fabric.

JP: How did you become a campaign administrator? Why?

JB: *chuckle*

I simply made it happen. LD has been my baby, from the ground up. I just decided 'this is what I'm going to do', and made it happen. That said, my original intention was to create something much smaller... and this beast is MUCH bigger than that. Somewhere along the way I caught the attention and interest of a few other folks... and here we are.

JP: What are you main duties as part of the campaign?

JB: I'm writing all 11 rounds of scenarios for the first year of the campaign. I've created the vast majority of our rules set. I'm recruiting, vetting, and training regional admins for the future years of the campaign. Every document that goes out crosses my desk for editing. And then there are all the details... financials, convention coordination, publishing, advertising, licensing.

JP: Wow! That is a lot… Eleven rounds, you sir, are a beast…

JB: I try. =)

And we've actually been ahead of schedule. Our first three scenarios were available for sneak previews, early in the year. The next three are premiering at GenCon (and are 88% sold out, as I type this!). The final three and the two-round year-end special will be out for the end of the year.

Our conversation goes on for quite a while, so I split this interview into two parts. Since next Monday is Labor Day Weekend, the next part of the series will come out on Sept 12, with the conclusion of my interview with Jay.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

30,000 Hits! Thanks!

I was super excited to see that my counter hit 30k!

Okay... It may be closer to 16k. When I started this blog, the counter I used was about 14k. I started JP on Gaming in 2009 and Pacman's Wonderpage when I was in college on July 4th 1996. While there is a lot of RPG-content on the wonderpage, traffic was low.

However since I started this blog, traffic has increased. A LOT. (14k=13years, 16k=2years).

Thanks to you all! There is much more to come.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tacticon Denver: JP To GMs


0- Get the Module(s) (if you don't have them now go to or contact me privately).

1- Print the module(s)

2- Print the handout & faction missions (2 copies/ table)

3- Print the chronicles (6/ table)

Be Ready: Read the adventure, make sure you understand what the faction missions are and what the PCs are supposed to do during the adventure. Prepare ahead of time, don't wait for until 5 minutes before the game to prepare. Read it away from others in a peaceful places

Sleep: During the con, I ask that you try to sleep well. Be rested in the morning. Do not agree to run or play in midnight madness slots. Sleep, be rested, drink coffee. Don't show up with 2h of sleep after the 1999 year end party.

Run the adventure in the time slot you have: Some adventures (the intros) can run EXTREMELY fast (so I am told). Use the added time to explain the campaign. Do not zip through all three in two rounds of play. I will personally strangle you while chewing on your pancreas. Take the full slot - or as much of is as possible. Expand the roleplaying encounters and force the PCs to play them out. It's not all about the combats (resisting urge to talk about "another" campaign).

When in doubt a +2 to every roll: I'm not kidding. There is nothing worse than running something that's not challenging. Don't focus on the thug fights, but the boss fights should be cool and entertaining. When in doubt add 2 or more monsters. As long as people have fun and feel challenged, I'm good with that.

NO TPK OF NEWBIES: Really. I am not kidding, if you have to cheat, re-roll, hit the table, dance, tell the players to look away, I DO NOT CARE! DO NOT DO IT. Get a GM screen. Hurt them, pummel them, beat them up, kick them in the nut. Twice. BUT DO NOT TPK THE TABLE. Unless *they* to something obviously stupid in spite of your repeated warnings.

Focus on the adventure, not the rules: It is more important that you know what the PCs are supposed to do than how they have to do it.

Work with the players: Creative solutions SHOULD be rewarded and encouraged. Sometimes it doesn't work, but do not discourage them from trying. Use your GM savvy.

Be fair, not nice: It's up to the players to think of their faction missions and what they are suppose to do. Do not spoon feed them (but don't screw them over either). Be fair. Do not be nice. Kick them in the groin while they are down, but don't take the killing blow.

Paperwork: Make sure it is filled correctly on the PC's chronicle sheet AND that ALL PFS numbers are readable. I will not guess numbers and those who fill invalid information won't see their game reporter. The DGA also ask for GM scoring sheet (those will be passed out for every slot). Make sure those are passed around and filled properly. I will personally cancel out ANY score below 5 without a comment.

If you have issues, come and get me. I am there to help if there is a situation. Whether the PCs go completely off-track, you wonder how to rule on something, have issue with a player, think Scott should be flogged, whatever. I will be there.

If I am running something/ busy/ away and Scott is available, he can help you too (he is my right-hand man).

I wrote a blog post that could be of use to you.

I will provide the level 1 pregens and the table trackers (though if you want to bring some, I won't say no).

If you need anything *BEFORE* the con, aks me.

Thanks for volunteering, its very appreciated. I look forward to having a con that will blow ALL other campaigns out of the water by size and awesomeness!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rocky Mountain Pathfinder logo revealed

Last week I posted that I had commissioned an artist to create a Rocky Mountain Pathfinders logo. Well it’s done. And frankly it looks EVEN BETTER than I thought. The Colorado-themed chimera is done. It’s in my inbox (and back up a few places). Andrei (the artist) did a fabulous job creating our new logo. I am very excited about this!

I know you’re not reading this, so here is the logo.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Katharan al-Zawree al-Pasha, Retired Pathfinder

For almost two full years now, Katharan al-Zawree, founder of the world-famous al-Zawree oil (great for frying) has reached the venerable level of 12. In short, she is nearly fully retired from the Pathfinder Society campaign.


Katharan was a character I built on a table corner that day in September at Enchanted Grounds. The choice of Qadira for her origin was mostly out of convenience: create a money-grabbing spoiled princess. Although she was similar in abilities to another one of my characters (Living Arcanis’ Lady Kermina val’Borda), she turned out quite different for Katharan was only motivated by her own private pursuits and projects.

For those who played with Katharan she was a unique character: never wanting to do anything herself, never paying attention, always in a hurry, but with impeccable grooming habits. Here are a few highlights of her adventuring career.

- She sold another PC into slavery in return for a carpet.

- She purchased a loyal slave in return for a masterwork longspear (she found it too heavy).

- Never wore more than a belly dancer’s outfit.

- After being turned to stone by a medusa, Katharan fled the next time she saw one.

- She once commanded a vampire to let her command another dominated PC.

- Noted “Do not go back there” after a trip to the Mana Wastes.

- Found the Mwangi tribes men nice and hot-looking.

- Cast four teleport spells to travel to Absalom and accomplish a faction mission (spending 1 PA in the process).

- Convinced herself that Naadhira was trying to kill her.

- Plots to kill Naadhira.

Katharan, I shall miss you. You are now waiting for a module (Academy of Secrets in September) to return to our lives and then run the 4-module retirement arc. Looking forward to that… Maybe one day you will return as an actual character in a story… that would be awesome!javascript:void(0)

It is with a sad heart that I retire you, dearest Katharan... Heavy heart indeed...

Her final character sheet is here.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Organized Play People: James Stepanek (Serial Pulp, 3.5, punching Hitler)

If you have ever played RPGs in the Denver area, the name of James Stepanek is known to you. James has been a pillar in the Denver-area con scene since before I showed up in the region. He wrote one of the nastiest Living Greyhawk adventure ever, URC5-05 Miner Mishap – which I can assure you was not minor at all. My first introduction to James was through his medusa archer backed by an invisible cleric with a rod of silent spell and the troll monk. Yes I did say nasty.

When I started this series, I thought of James as one of the people I would like to interview for this. His campaign, now called Serial Pulp has something of a cult following at local cons. Every echo I heard from it was positive with some very funny bits. Interesting characters, funny villains and best of all, interactives, and overall something that is unique.

On to the actual interview with James Stepanek of the Serial Pulp campaign.

JP: Welcome James, thanks for agreeing to do the interview!

JS: Sure thing

JP: Can you give us your RPG-Pedigree?

JS: I’m an old school gamer geek. I’ve been playing RPGs since about 1978, starting with AD&D (or a mishmash of AD&D and Basic D&D). I’ve tried quite a few systems over that time, including Traveller, Gamma World, DC Heroes, Marvel Superheroes, Villains and Vigilantes, Rifts, Heroes Unlimited, and others.

I’m an engineer by education, so I do tend to get into the mechanics of systems, and like to understand the math behind a lot of it. This means I tend to be critical of systems which don’t understand the math they are using, and what results from that. Poor probability mechanics are a peeve of mine. I like a table with good role play, and don’t end up too impressed with a bunch of people who just toss dice at each other.

It should be noted that people who focus on optimization do not exclude role playing, and I’ve seen many people who are top notch at both. I started with living campaigns back in around 1999 with Living Jungle. That was a really fun campaign which was focused on the role playing. If there was any competitiveness it was who could act the most like a moronic savage for laughs. I learned a lot from playing and running Living Jungle, and even wrote a module for RPGA for the campaign once upon a time (they even paid me!).

JP: What draws you to the pulp genre in question? What elements do you think lend themselves best to roleplaying?

JS: I can remember when the original d20 Pulp rules came out in Polyhedron and saying to myself “that would be a cool campaign setting”. Then at the next local con (can’t recall which one, it was around 2002) Doyce Testerman started the Living Pulp campaign. I eagerly signed on since I enjoy works from that genre. I’ve read plenty of books and followed movies from the era, and am a bit of a history buff.

Pulp is a grand adventure sort of thing. Everyone knows the Indiana Jones series, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, or the Shadow. There’s so many areas covered in the genre of Pulp that you have a huge amount of flexibility in adventure creation. We’ve had stories in the campaign venturing from were-Polar bears guarding fake ice bergs, to fighting Mayan Jaguar God Avatars in the Yucatan, to the Radium Beasts of Venus. There’s a wealth of ideas to explore, and the well-known history of the era also gives you a wonderful starting point to anchor everything on to.

I mean who doesn’t love delivering a knuckle sandwich to a Nazi goon?

JP: True… Those goons seem MADE to get punched in the face… Speaking of goons… Who would you say is the greatest/ best villain in Serial Pulp? Why should we want to beat him up?

JS: We have a few major villains who recur in the series. There’s Dr Malefaktus, a Nazi affiliated mad scientist who specializes in robots, St. John Smyth, a former PC who went bad and betrayed the PC organization to increase his own power, and Alan Peterson, an illegitimate son of British nobility seeking tear down the world order so he can set himself up to dominate the wreckage. All of these have appeared in multiple adventures, and story arcs. I’d probably guess that Malefaktus takes the cake for the biggest and baddest since he’s both stark raving mad, has extremely dangerous super scientific toys, and is a Nazi.

JP: What game system do you use? What are the changes to the game system?

JS: The system is a variant of 1st edition Spycraft d20, with some modifications from other systems such as Pathfinder present. The character classes are all customized to suit the genre.

JP: What particularly attracts you to Spycraft?

JS: I ended up using the Spycraft rules as a basis for the Serial Pulp campaign for a couple of reasons. The first was that the original rules used for Living Pulp (which, by the way, couldn’t be the name anymore as RPGA owns the term ‘Living’) were not open content and protected by the OGL. Hence we couldn’t hand out the rules to people, and finding that issue of Polyhedron wasn’t a trivial matter.

As the Pulp genre really lends itself to cinematic game mechanics, I felt that Spycraft was a perfect fit rules wise. Many of the mechanics lend themselves to how things work in movies more than in real life (out of ammo? Spend a hero point and you’re full- see you can have a 12 shot revolver). As the Spycraft rules are both OGL and cinematic in style, they fit well to the type of stories we like to tell.

Using the Spycraft OGL rules as a basis, we could modify them to suit our needs, and still give it all out for free to players. Recently we’ve updated the rules some with ideas brought into from the Pathfinder system, since we liked the streamlining of the rules.

JP: What is your favorite RPG game of all times? Your favorite supplement/ adventure?

JS: That’s a tricky question really. The best times I had roleplaying was likely a campaign I ran with friends back in AD&D 2nd edition, but by no means would I claim to care much for the system. I always really liked the mechanics of the Mayfair DC Heroes game (system is known as MEGS- Mayfair Exponential Game System). It was very elegant in its simplicity, yet capable of describing all manner of actions over a huge range of power levels.

As for an individual adventure, hmm that’s really tricky. I’m looking at 30 years of stuff. Much of the good stuff was custom work by a top notch GM. Actually I’ll name a DC Heroes Module- Don’t Ask (yes, that was the name). It was a joke module written about a joke character (Ambush Bug). I never had the chance to play it, but it was damned funny reading.

JP: What are the high points of a home game you run? What elements do you particularly enjoy or look for in a campaign?

JS: Oddly enough, I’m not running a home game right now. I’m playing, which is a relatively odd situation, since I’ve mostly run my home game since D&D 3.0 came out in 2000. There have been periods of other DMs, but mostly it was me.

The game I am playing in is a Gestalt Pathfinder game which means power levels are really high (on both sides, the GM doesn’t pull punches). As to what I like, well I’m pretty flexible. As long as I like the game system, and the people at the table, I’m ok with whatever. Most of the games I’ve been in tend to be of the ‘Beer and Pretzels’ mold, so I suppose I could claim that is what I find most comfortable. I like combats, and I like roleplay, though I suppose as it’s mostly a beer and pretzels group I’ve been in we do more of the former than the latter.

JP: What would you say are elements that define your writing style? What elements would I expect to find in one of your adventures?

JS: I look to put interesting twists into adventures that I write. I like there to be something different that people will not expect, and should elicit a grin at least.

For example, the Living Jungle adventure I wrote back in the day was called Engine of Destruction. It was a quest to claim a dangerous ancient relic before the big bad guys of the setting got it first. In the end it turned out to be a Cuisinart which was good for making berry smoothies, but wasn’t much of a weapon. I like to find a way to balance in puzzle elements with roleplay, and then make sure there’s enough rough and tumble stuff to keep the combat junkies from getting bored.

On Pulp modules, I tend to spend a fair amount of time on historical research to put in my quirky angles. I like people to learn an interesting historical tidbit from my Pulp modules.

JP: What is the story of SP? How did it come about, why? Who started this? How did you become a campaign administrator?

JS: Living Pulp was the original campaign name, and as I mentioned above, it was started by Doyce Testerman back in 2002. His first module, Tear of Ra, was a great romp with a strong Indiana Jones feel, featuring mystic artifacts, mysterious bad guys in the background, and treacherous NPCs. The feel and scope were very cinematic, and he went to a good deal of trouble to research his setting (Estes Park Colorado) and era. Other authors got involved, and I was one of the early ones (I started with a collaborative effort with Doyce called Sixguns at Chapparal). Eventually Doyce got tired of running the campaign and moved on, so I took it over. I’ve got a good stable of authors and other helpers who have made keeping the campaign alive a pleasure.

JP: What is your official title in the campaign?

JS: Umm, bossman? Il Duce? Generalissimo? We have titles?

JP: What are you main duties as part of the campaign?

JS: I am pretty much where the buck stops. I cajole authors into writing. I organize playtests. I arrange game slots with the con coordinators, and provide judges for those slots. I approve rules suggestions. Pulp is really run by the people who play and write for it, but someone has to give the editorial direction, and that’s me.

Oh yeah, and I write a lot of adventures (and run them).

JP: What would you tell those out there about your campaign?

JS: It’s a d20 based campaign set in the 1930s (we’re in 1938 now, war is on the doorstep) based on the pulp novels, serials, comic books, and other fiction of the time. It is also based on more current retellings of that genre such as Indiana Jones, The Shadow, The Phantom, Rocketeer, etc. We’ve had players in the campaign in various cities (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Long Island-yeah, not a city), but most of the action is in the Denver area at the local gaming cons.

JP: Okay… I have to ask here. I am a history-phile and anything historical is close to my own heart. I love games and campaigns that are set in historical times. How do you handle the mix between “real” history and game history?

JS: I guess there is some juggling involved there. We pick out real, or imagined historical tidbits, run with them as a story, and then generally ignore any potential effect they would have on the broader timeline. Generally we try to keep a low enough profile in the adventures that the repercussions of our acts would not have a large effect on the greater world scene. This is generally accomplished by setting things in remote locations which would otherwise be too flashy.

JP: What is the part of Serial Pulp that is reserved to history? If I know a lot or very little about it, how difficult is to get into it? How do you ensure this balance?

JS: We try to pretty much stick to the real timeline that occurred. There is in game history familiar to the people who have played from the start, but you won’t be lost in the world without it if you come in late.

JP: Earlier we spoke of villains… How historical are those villains if any? I would really want to introduce ol’Adolf to my five brothers…

JS: Traditionally we’ve used fictional villains. They are associated with Pulp type villains, so are generally over the top and a real model wouldn’t really fit the bill. However a new module coming out will actually feature a real person as an adversary for the first time. People who know WW II should recognize the name.

JP: One of the possible themes with events in the 30s is racism and stereotypes. The rise of fascism, and segregation in the US, how do you approach these sensitive themes, if at all? While it’s easy to “punch Hitler in the face”, what about some other figures who approved of the movement – such as Gerald Ford? Say I wanted to play a Jew in an adventure set in Germany? Or a black man in South Africa?

JS: I try to tell it like it was. I don’t pull punches, and I don’t try to modernize with Hollywood sensibilities. Discrimination will occur in a game (to PCs, not players of course), because it did occur in the world. I don’t intend to whitewash ugly pieces of history. As for people who approved of the Nazis, I think you mean Joseph Kennedy, Ford wasn’t really known for that he was just a law student at the time (though an isolationist). He did join the navy after Pearl Harbor. Joseph Kennedy was a big time appeaser and was against Lend Lease (while he was ambassador to the UK).

JP: DOHP! I mean Henry Ford! But continue… good catch. Sorry Gerald, didn’t mean to implicate you in anything…

JS: As for playing a PC in the wrong situation, well I admit I’m not really going to accommodate something the world wouldn’t accommodate. I make allowances certainly to cater to character concepts but will not stretch things too far. For example, in one interactive, the PCs have to save a Chinese village during the Japanese invasion. One character was a crazy Japanese explosives nut. They were shunned by the villagers because by this time the extent of Japanese atrocities was well known in China. I can’t have people ignoring something like that. The adventure description was explicit about it addressing the Japanese invasion, so the player could have made a different character to play. They didn’t like how it turned out since they didn’t want to fight their countrymen, and didn’t much like being shunned. While I prefer all players to have fun in an adventure, I can’t excuse them from choices they have made.

If you wanted to play a black in South Africa, you wouldn’t be treated well at home. Heck, it’s the 1930s, you’re likely not going to be treated all too well anywhere (except as part of the PC network, which is a bit more modern in sensibilities of course). Mind you, unless you wanted to play a faceman type character, it would be worked around without real deleterious game effect and such interactions would be minor and mostly for flavor of the setting.

Of course I’d like to be clear, I’m obviously not trying to promote discrimination here, I want to merely make sure we don’t forget history as it was. Painting a rosy picture does everyone a disservice.

JP: Why is Serial Pulp the best campaign there is?

JS: The people involved are why the campaign is great (yeah, I know that sounds cheesy). I can give an example. A while back myself, and another judge are running a module in the same room at a con. I can hear what he’s doing and he can hear me. We are running the exact same adventure, but both of them go off the rails in completely different directions. Both of us GMs just take it in stride and manage to keep up with the imaginations of the players as they take the story in new directions on their own. We have many moments when play comes to a brutal halt because we’re laughing so hard. Not because someone told an off topic joke, but because someone role played their character so well, and it was so damned funny.

JP: Why do you think a complete newcomer to organize play join SP?

JS: If the genre suits them, I suspect they will enjoy the experience. I’ve rarely had someone walk away from a Pulp table looking like they didn’t enjoy it.

JP: Why should an old grumpy player – yes… think of me as that grumpy old troll – what is the biggest strength of SP?

JS: It’s flexible in that you can pretty much play what you want, and act it out as much as you want. It’s also easy enough to pick up as it is d20 based, and few enough don’t know that system by now. The campaign tries very hard to accentuate that everything is about having fun. I don’t mean we want to break our own rules, but if you need to tell the story better, and encourage cinematic actions by the players, go to town. This is a bit hard on GMs, since you have to be able to ad lib at times, but we’ve been lucky to have good ones, and it’s always worked out.

JP: In an average week, roughly how much time do you devote to campaign-related duties?

JS: It depends on when it is and if I’m writing. Pulp runs almost exclusively at cons these days (though I’m always willing to run a game day if people are interested). Around the cons it can get fairly busy as I tend to always be writing something.

For example, this con while I’m not writing an adventure, I am writing the interactive as well as editing another module. Honestly I can’t really say a number figure in hours. Between cons I do very little Pulp work. Near cons I put in a fair number of hours. It’s too variable for a simple answer.

JP: Interactives… Another of my sweet spot… What do you do in Serial Pulp interactives? What is the difference between an interactive and regular adventure? Any sneak peek?

JS: Interactives are an opportunity to play out your character in a more epic and chaotic setting. Generally it’s a big event in the world/campaign that occurs and a large group of PCs have to team up to deal with the threat. We’re on our fifth one of the campaign this Tacticon. It looks to be pretty big, and starts to get deeper into the issues of the Holocaust as it will drop the PCs into the middle of Kristallnacht. Of course there will be a twist, since while just fighting Nazis is cool, it can be a touch predictable. Let’s just say, they won’t expect who they will end up fighting.

JP: A difficult one: I give you a magic wand and you can only use it to make your campaign better… What do you do?

JS: If I could have everyone who ever said “I have a great idea for a Pulp module” actually write up the idea, it would be great.

JP: Play, GM or write? Which do you enjoy best?

JS: Hard to say really. I like them all. I admit that I do miss playing at the cons, since I used to like the interaction caused by the random selection of people. There’s also some interesting people and characters I’d like to share a table with. However I have a good playtest crew, so when I get to play in those it’s all good. I enjoy GMing since one rule I have learned at Pulp tables is that no adventure is really written till a few tables have played it and all the crazy possibilities are explored (ones the author never thought of). I also enjoy the writing to see how I can make a story out of a nifty twist.

JP: Who are the other people involved in SP?

JS: David Geissinger is kind of my second in command, as he carries a lot of my judging slack and does a lot of writing. Anthony Chiesi did an amazing amount of work on the current rules revision, and Calvin Curtis, put in much of the slog work for the initial transition to Spycraft rules. We wouldn’t have a rules document to hand out without those two people. Michelle Norton maintains the web site, and has started writing modules. We’ve got a good stable of authors in Dave Geissinger (mentioned), Joe Carlson, (Mad) Matt Parker, and Andy Dammit Matthews. Authors from the past include Doyce Testerman, Rey Hererra, David Stroh, and Chris Simpson. There’s also the players and GMs, but I can’t list everyone.

JP: Yes, a solid stable of people! Dave was my fellow CoU triad in the last days of Living Greyhawk, a solid contributor. Most of the others I recognize as well. Looks like you’ve got a good team there… You did mention writing a lot throughout this interview. What do you consider a good plot for Serial Pulp? Are there pitfalls and things you do not want to see?

JS: The one thing I dislike most in a module is a railroad. While I understand a four hour time constraint does tempt authors to do that, I prefer the players to have the freedom to take the story where they want to. Better to just prod them in the correct direction from time to time rather than trying to follow your script as an author. It’s also very important to cater to as many play styles as possible. Some people have twinked up facemen (or cat burglars, or whatnot) instead of twinked up gunbunnies. They should get their time in the sun as well.

JP: I have heard a lot of good things about Serial Pulp and tend to send my “excess players” at cons to you, and getting great comments back. Have you ever thought of getting the Serial Pulp content published? With the many methods of self-publishing today or through an established RPG publisher, is that something you have considered?

JS: Not really. I’m happy to just let the people have the content to enjoy the game themselves. Anything of that sort would require a fair amount more polish as I do admit our rules document still has some rough edges. Also, I like to be able to adjust the rules as we go along to incorporate new RPG ideas. The inclusion of Pathfinder rules is a good example of this.

JP: Do you have any links or websites where people might learn more about the campaign?

JS: We have a web site at, while most of the organization, rules, and stuff is to be found on the yahoo group SPAdventures.

JP: Was your campaign ever linked to the RPGA?

JS: Nope, the campaign started up right around the time that RPGA stopped accepting new Living Campaign suggestions. After watching Living Jungle get killed off by the RPGA for little enough reason, I had no desire for there to be any association.

JP: Any plans to move the game to Pathfinder?

JS: We already use some of the Pathfinder rules. The skill system was lifted almost straight out of Pathfinder, and the rest is D20 (we might also go to the CMB/CMD system soon, since I’m now familiar enough with it to like it). An experienced Pathfinder player wouldn’t have any issues sitting down at a table and playing without studying the rules. A five minute intro from the GM would have you up to speed.

JP: Thanks for your time James, I really appreciate this interview and will try to get in on some Serial Pulp if I can. That said, I leave the final word to you.

JS: Thanks for the opportunity to give the campaign a bit more exposure, and it’s been a pleasure chatting.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Secret Project Y Revealed! Lux In Tenebras by MRP

After months of waiting to reveal Secret Project Y, I can finally announce to the world that my first Cthulhu Adventure is published in the new book by Miskatonic River Press, Lux in Tenebras. I am VERY happy to see this one come out. I've been nagging Osk for over a month, begging to let me post about it. But he held firm.

Finally I am free of my NDA! I can talk about it! WOOHOO!

It all started the week before PaizoCon when my IM window began flashing. Innocently I opened it. There was my good pal Oscar “Osk” Rios asking something to the effect of “Do you want to write something for an upcoming MRP PDF-only book?” I’ve been wanting to work with Osk and Tom (the head honchos of MRP) for a while and kept in touch with them, offering my services.

My answer was an immediate “YES”.

A thoughtless, excited and immediate "Yes".

His follow-up was “I need 1,000 words by Friday. Oh! And send me a short resume of your idea first...” That’s when I realized the trouble I was in and what I signed up for: it was the Monday before PaizoCon. I would have to prep my adventures for the con, make sure I had everything ready for the Premiere of Encounter at Ramat Bridge, pack up my wife and kids (they were leaving for a road trip to Montreal), some work on the Grand Melee to complete and now I had to write something very fast, something that would get me some “return-business”.

I pleaded for more time, but Osk proved unmovable. So I sat up, began thinking of something in the format he wanted. Found my idea, using a Mythos monster I am fond of then wrote something around it. Got my concept approved (actually I sent him three concepts and he liked one of them for this project).

What about the experience? It was fun and challenging. For one thing, I had only 1,000 words to include everything: background, encounter, stat block, and NPCs. One page. Writing for Basic/ Call of Cthulhu is very different than writing for Pathfinder or D&D. The flow of the game is different, what you assume from the game is different, and the PCs’ skill sets are different. Lucky for me, Basic/ CoC is not stat-heavy.

In adventure writing, some things don’t change regardless of system, era, genre or author. A good adventure relies on a good premise. A good adventure does not require the GM to explain the plot for an hour. A good adventure presents common theme with a twist. A good adventure is something that when you read it as a GM, you immediately go I can see my players going through this.

I haven’t seen the other parts, only my own, but with the names in there: Osk and Tom (of course), but also Chaw Bowser – mind behind Cthulhu Invictus (I admit I do not know the others). That is one great line-up. I am very proud to find my name next to those.

Get it and let me know what you all think.

Again, thanks to Osk and Tom for believing in me. Anytime guys. Anytime.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rocky Mountain Pathfinders to get their logo!

I have been thinking for a while about coming up with a logo for the Denver Lodge for Pathfinder Society. It was a project I had put in the “one day maybe” category. Then earlier this week, I received an email from Stephen White (my Australian Venture Captain counterpart), with some publicity for PaizoCon Oz with a goblin draped in a koala bear suit.

WOW I thought. That is awesome! I immediately thought about the goblin wrapped in a dragon suit (right)… A favorite of mine… I began to think what I would like to do for the RMPathfinders. After debating with myself for a while, I finally decided to turn the problem on its head.

What if, instead of doing it all myself, I were to ask the guys themselves, see what our communal heads could come up with.

So I posted the topic up for discussion.

There were some good ideas and some… well less usable but no less humorous, as is frequently the case with any such discussion on the RMPathfinder yahoogroup.

A few suggestions included: fiendish dire moth, Coyotes, Jackalope, cougars (no, not you Courtney Cox), bighorn sheep and the jabberwock. After many emails, I decided on the final design. One that I think is very cool.

A Colorado-themed chimera.


Using animals that are very Coloradoans, create a chimera! It would have a head of a mountain lion (pumas are quite common here), the head of a big horn sheep (Colorado’s state animal). The dragon head proved to be more problematic, but the group also came up with a solution… With Colorado’s history of mining, someone suggested the gold dragon, which I really liked. The idea of the western diamondback came up and here we went.

So the Denver Lodge’s symbol will be the chimera. I think it’s fitting and representative. Now to get us a goblin dressed as a chimera!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Organized Player People: Dave Kay (LFR, 4e and ranting)

I quit Living Forgotten Realms back in January of 2010. After deciding that campaign was not for me, a number of great volunteers stepped up. One such volunteer is my good friend Dave Kay.

I first met Dave when he was “that high-level guy from Boston” that came to our events in Montreal during the days of LG. Many encounters and high-level thrashing (usually of my monsters), Dave and I became good friends. He came up to the cold white north and I went to his house for an unforgettable weekend (featuring the ugliest cat you ever seen). That’s story for another day… A funny one too…

It was a conversation with him a few weeks back during which he told me that he was now an admin for LFR. I began thinking about this series… so in effect, thank (or blame) Dave! Obviously, he was the first person I contact for this series and he was the first person to get back to me! Enough of me yapping, let's start with OPP.

JP: Hi Dave. Thank you for accepting my offer.

I know many of my readers are expecting me to go on a 4e-rant, and I’m not saying they’re wrong… Just let me know if I get too excited.

Can you give us your RPG-Pedigree?

DK I started playing D&D when 3e first came out back in 2000 - I know, I'm not all that old school by comparison to some of you grognards. However, I've always been a gamer to some extent - I played MERP and Rolemaster throughout grade school.

I got my first taste of a Living Campaign in 2002 when I tried Living Greyhawk for the first time, and from there I was hooked. I traveled to conventions, organized game days, and formed lasting relationships with like-minded gamers. Towards the end of the campaign, I tried my hand at writing and realized I was pretty good at it - I knew how to really challenge players, even power-gamers like myself. After a few celebrated local adventures, I co-wrote the adventures in the finale plot arc of the campaign.

When Living Forgotten Realms started up, I quickly became a prolific author, producing 4-5 adventures per year, many of which were highly regarded. After two years, I was asked by the global administrators to plan, launch, and oversee the Living Forgotten Realms Epic campaign - the first Wizards organized play adventures to feature Epic-level game content. I've been running the show on the Epic campaign for the past year and we've had some tremendous success.

JP: What is your official title in the campaign?

DK I'm the global administrator and Writing Director in charge of the Living Forgotten Realms Epic campaign.

JP: What draws you to 4e? What particularly attracts you to that game?

DK I'm very strategy-oriented. Whether at work or at play, I love to think strategically to solve problems and overcome obstacles. My love for strategy games is an extension of that. Combine that for my love of fantasy and epic stories, and you've got the perfect game!

JP: What is your favorite RPG game of all times? Your favorite supplement/ adventure?

DK I've always been a fan of D&D - probably because of the setting. I've tried many of the White Wolf games, and the mechanics just didn't do it for me. I recently tried Witch Hunter and I have to say, the storyline and emphasis on storytelling really makes it stand out as a high potential game. I also love the genre.

JP: What draws you to organized play campaign the most?

DK I'm probably one of the few guys you'll speak with that doesn't have a grand recollection of a particular supplement or adventure - every home game I've played in just hasn't felt "real" or "official" enough for me. I always found myself wondering "well, other than these five or six guys, who cares what we do here?" I think that's what has always drawn me to Living Campaigns.

JP: What are the high points of a home game you run? What elements do you particularly enjoy in a campaign?

DK Back when I had the time, I ran a home game that was focused very much on storytelling as well as creating a strategically challenging game. D&D is all about teamwork, and I've always worked to encourage teamwork and strategic thinking as key ingredients for fun. As a player, I never have fun playing easy encounters, or encounters that don't force me to think, so why should I write them?

JP: What would you say are elements that define your writing style? What elements would I expect to find in one of your adventures?

DK You probably won't find much disagreement that the defining characteristic of my writing is strategic and tactical challenge. I try to find innovative and exciting ways to challenge the players in every adventure I write - I always try something new.

Sometimes I fail, but oftentimes, I'm able to provide a unique experience the players love and other authors can build on to keep this game exciting. Story is also a defining characteristic. I'm passionate about the stories I tell. Gaming is escapism and players want to have a chance to do something truly heroic (or epic), and have a chance to kick some ass. I'll never write an adventure that features caravan guard duty.

JP: What would you tell those out there about your campaign? Why is your campaign the best there is?

DK Living Forgotten Realms is a wonderful campaign because of the tremendous community behind it. We have dedicated administrators that have dedicated their time and energy (not to mention blood, sweat, and tears) into supporting the campaign and making it grow. We also have an equally passionate community of thousands of gamers that are incredibly passionate about the campaign. What makes the campaign stand out is that it's a shared experience - being a member of the Living Forgotten Realms community means being a part of something larger than your individual table of gamers. Your experiences are helping to shape the experiences of thousands of players around the world.

JP: When the campaign first started, there were regionally appointed admins, but the concept or real-world admin and game-world admins was quickly moved to the side. How is the campaign organized today?

DK There's no question that the campaign is more centrally-focused than it started out. The regionally-appointed admin model was an artifact carried over from Living Greyhawk. It worked in LG because of the regional system, but it just doesn't make sense here. Now, there are simply "story areas" with a writing director assigned to each story area, responsible for the content produced within that story area, and the writing directors report up to the global administrators who manage the campaign holistically.

JP: Why do you think a complete newcomer to organize play should join your OP?

DK It's a chance to be a part of something bigger - to expand your gaming community and meet new friends. If you like the idea of playing the same character(s) that you've invested time and effort into with different groups of players Furthermore, it's a chance to learn more about the game you're playing. There's no question that the average organized play participant knows far more about the game - whether it be best practices on how to run adventures, how to play well strategically, or how to play well with others and ensure a fun experience for all.

JP: Why should an old grumpy player – yes… think of me as that grumpy old troll – what is the biggest strength of the OP?

DK Not to sound brash, but I don't think organized play is ideal for grumpy old players. Organized play campaigns are living, breathing things. They strive on positive energy and suffer from negative energy. From my experience, grumpy old players typically have little to contribute to the campaign. My advice is for all those old grumpy guys to just stop being so grumpy. There's nothing wrong with being old.

JP: *Stumped* But… But…

At this point JP talks a walk outside to grumble about the fate of the universe and why all his complaints aren’t being addressed immediately.

JP: How did you become a campaign administrator? Why?

DK Simply put, I did a lot for the campaign before I ever became an administrator. I wrote adventures, I championed the campaign on the forums, and I showed an interested in bettering the campaign. When it came down to it, I didn't need to ask for the position - I was asked.

Why I became an administrator is another question entirely. I avoided the position for a while, simply because I didn't think I'd have the time to contribute. However, when the prospect of running the epic campaign presented itself, I couldn't say no, because I knew that if I left the task to someone else, I'd be on the other side of the fence, complaining about one thing or another along with everyone else. I decided that if I wanted the epic campaign to be great, I'd have to take it into my own hands.

JP: A-HA! So you too were ready to grumble and complain… I knew you had flaws!!!

JP then dances around doing a little victory dance.

JP: What are you main duties as part of the campaign?

DK I'm in charge of storyline and adventure production for the LFR epic campaign. I also have a voice in the decision-making process for the general administration of the campaign.

JP: In an average week, roughly how much time do you devote to campaign-related duties?

DK It all depends on the week and my due dates! Some weeks I spend as little as 2-3 hours, some weeks, I spend as many as 20.

JP: A difficult one: I give you a magic wand and you can only use it to make your campaign better… What do you do?

DK Give the players more chances to have an impact on the campaign and encourage travel to conventions. Living Greyhawk was great at this, but it had its own problems - one of them was the "old boys' club" feel that discouraged new players from joining. I'd love to see players more committed to the campaign and the storylines created by the adventures. Unfortunately, the only way to do that is by requiring more oversight and more volunteer work.

JP: Play, GM or write? Which do you enjoy best?

DK I love writing - creating something new and exciting and hearing about the enjoyment that other players derive from my work - but I'm a player first and foremost. I GM my fair share, but I usually have more fun on the other side of the screen (the winning side).

JP: Now LFR had a major change during the course of 2010, Wizard dropped the campaign as cannon, all the regions became one region. Everything changed. Can you sort this out for us?

DK Simply put, it had become obvious that Wizards was a bottleneck for the campaign. Because the Wizards' story team had to approve each and every adventure, as well as any campaign-wide decisions, the campaign's throughput was constrained by whatever resources were available at Wizards. It just wasn't worth it for them to dedicate more resources to a campaign that was for all intents and purposes not directly generating revenue, so they handed over the reins to the global administrators, who had worked with their liaisons at Wizards for long enough to know what was acceptable and what wasn't.

The elimination of regions was a decision made by the campaign administration and with good reason - there were too many stories going on at the same time - we were spread too thin and as a result, none of the storylines were compelling enough. We narrowed down the regions to a handful of "story areas" so that we could give storylines the attention they deserved and the new writing directors have been working hard to develop them. We also introduced the Epic campaign, for which I am responsible.

JP: How is the campaign organized today? Any known names?

DK The campaign is managed by some incredibly talented, dedicated, and creative people that help keep it all together and bring varied skills and experience to the table - Sean Molley, Pieter Sleijpen, Greg Marks, and Joe Fitzgerald. I couldn't think of anyone more capable, and could only think of a handful of guys who are as capable - and those guys are all involved with the campaign in one way or another.

JP: I went on the record saying that 5e is coming at Gencon 2012 (announcement). What are your thoughts about that? When do you expect 5e to come out? Any secret info???

DK I have no insight into that, but I can share my opinion that I don't think Wizards' is making the right decisions with where they're taking D&D. I was always a supporter of their decisions - 3.5 and 4e came out at the right time, and each change was a change in the right direction. A common prediction is that 5e will look a lot like the essentials rules, and that could come in 2012 (I wouldn't be surprised). I personally think that the next edition of D&D won't be 5th edition. I think they'll branch out into an essentials line of D&D, less focused on role-playing and more focused on modular board games. I guess we'll have to wait and see!

JP: The board game shift is one that we have all seen in recent times, with the reasonable success of Castle Ravenloft, do you think that perhaps Wizards is gaining the board game community, while losing the table-top RPGers?

DK It's difficult to say. Hasbro has some pretty huge market share in the mainstream board game space, but traditionally hasn't performed so well with specialty board games. I'm a huge board game fan, but those D&D board games aren't for me.

JP: I always said that most gamers are REALLY into one or two things: table-top RPG, Card games, board games or miniature gaming (regardless of company/ theme). I’m personally a RPG/Minis guy (I have a blog dedicated to my painting). Some of the recent “4e” products I’ve seen include cards, board games, essentials line. Are they diluting their honey pot?

DK I don't know about dilution, but it's clear that they're trying different things, which I'm in full support of. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those products just don't pan out.

JP: In a previous blog posts (here and here) I went on record predicting 5e at or announced at GenCon 2012… What do you think of my idea that it won’t be 5e: it will be named and branded as “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”?

DK As I mentioned earlier, I wouldn't be surprised if the Essentials line was branded as the latest and greatest, so you're probably not too far off.

JP: How do you think 4e – and LFR as a result – is doing? I know that in many places the game is dying while others it is thriving. Any insight or input you would like to add?

DK I think D&D as a whole is in a state of transition. There's a lot of product confusion between the essentials line, these new board games, and the more traditional D&D products. The next year will be critical for Wizards' to really show their cards, so to speak, and solidify the future of the game. LFR has certainly suffered from some of the recent decisions, but there's certainly a chance for the campaign to bounce back. We have a vibrant and dedicated community, and talented contributors that continue to produce some fantastic content and compelling storylines. However, I won't be around forever - we need new people with fresh ideas every day!

JP: Thank you Dave, it has been very informative. I love frank exchanges of ideas and opinions and for the smack I talk about 4e. I know you are a definite good guy among many… I am not surprised the campaign leaders went and got you for that position. Good choice… The floor is yours for some final words.

DK It's been my pleasure! I'm honored to be asked to share my thoughts!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Organizing at your local game store

This morning, I was asked how to start a Pathfinder group in a new store. The store, I was told, is a 4e-only shop with owners that do not seem to know that there are other games out there. They referred to Pathfinder as a specialty game, which brought a chuckle to my lips.

I have always been a strong supporter of public games. Playing in public brings immediate recognition to what you are doing.

Let me use war games as an analogy. Why does everyone know that Games Workshop is controlling the market? It’s certainly not because of their customer-friendly marketing or wallet-approved pricing.


It’s because you can see 40k/Fantasy Battles players at almost any shop.

Seeing people play makes it easier to rationalize the expense to collect/ research/ buy/ paint/ play the game. Since others are doing it, it must not be too bad. Plus you get to spend time with fellow geeks and nerds.

Same is true for tabletop RPGs.

If they see it, they will come.


Now many of you are already groaning and arguing with me mentally.

Get together three or four players, so you have the core of a table to play, and recruit people on-site. The reason for this is to ensure that you don’t stand alone in a corner looking for people. I’ve done it before and didn’t like it (though I usually managed to get a game going). Putting up your game material (screen, books, map grid and minis) and having people sitting at your table is a big draw.

Work with your game store. Unless they are complete idiots, they will be happy to work with you in getting an event together. After all public events mean people walking in; which has a good chance of translating into sales. Local stores are generally the best PR you can get as they meet people you don’t know.

Be willing to take a minute or two to talk to walkers-by your goal being to build and set up a group, walk-ins may have missed the start of the game, but taking a minute to talk to them will frequently get them excited about the game and makes them feel like you want them. Nothing worse than a dismissive GM.

It’s a public event I know I have to say it… I know your basement is better: you can play with the light, have mood music, have a collection of minis that could fill most people’s apartment. But this is a public event. You will not be alone. There will be noise. There will be distractions. It won’t be perfect, but it will help you get set up.

Lay it on thick Really. Go all out with your GMing. Don’t hold back. It will make a much bigger impression on people if you really RP well and run the event big. Have fun with it, make a splash.

Be consistent At least for the first few events, make sure YOU show up. Be on-time, ready to go and don’t cancel every week because there is a Twilight Zone marathon on TV or you haven’t seen the SyFy disaster movie playing in 1h. Be there and run the event. There will be times when attendance will be low such as when great movies are out, when it’s nice outside, when school is in/out, when people have vacation. People have a lot reason why they can and can’t attend. That’s part of the cycle. It will pick up. If you do it as a one-off and stop, you will fail.

So there you have it. My own guide to starting your own Pathfinder Society group – though it could be applied to any organized play campaign.

Remember it’s up to YOU to set this up, not someone else.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Gencon... in Idaho

As you all know by now, I spent my Gencon weekend in the wilds of America. Well not quite. I was in Boise for Fandemonium. Here is the story of my trip there.

After getting my plane ticket, I realized that I had previously planned on running part 2 of my redone NeoExodus adventure: Cold Visitor. I’ll talk about the specifics of the adventure at a later time, but the new adventure is a major re-do (the bigger plot points are still there), including full stat block re-write, addition of a NeoExodus introduction and flavor for many of the NPCs. So I got home around 1AM, finished packing (as I was packing my NeoExodus stuff, I could not pre-pack).

Thursday morning came fast. Morning routine over, got the kids in the car and we drove to the airport. We had McDonald’s for breakfast. They loved that! They got to play in the jungle gym for a little while, then off to the airport. The flight there was bumpy as all hell. I managed to hold down my lunch, but it wasn’t easy.

Finally Boise!

Got my suitcase, CA (aka Clarence) and I were then on the way to his place. The plan was for some Pathfinder Society to get everyone in the pre-con mood. I ran them through PFS0-08 Slave Pits of Absalom, one of the modules I like very much, even though the combats are not great. Still for a beginner-level adventure, it’s fun. I like the adventure. Room for role-play, I think it is a good intro to the campaign.

Friday Morning came. CA and I set up our Pathfinder display, we talked to people, did some recruiting and when two o’clock came by we had two tables ready to go and games to play. I ran Master of the Fallen Fortress – another good, fun introductory adventure. CA ran PFS0-05 Mists of Mwangi (another great one).

I always said that a good product will sell and that a good product well-presented does well. Pathfinder and Pathfinder Society are both. Fun, easy to pick up and exciting if the GM is even a little into it… I’m into it. I like the product. With the iconics freshly off the presses, they give new players a look into some of the aspects of the game: traits, feats, class features, everything to get people into the game fast and with characters adapted and that quickly fit into the game. Finally! Initially I think few of the people who stopped by our table had planned to play that much. But a good product…

Friday night, I ran NeoExodus: Encounter at Ramat Bridge for a number of participants (including CA). Again the response was tremendous and the players really got into the story. Really offers something different from what Paizo and Golarion offers. While I liked the adventure all along, it has really grown on me, really make NeoExodus come to life the way I imagined and wrote it. I would like to take this opportunity to give a big time kudos to ALL my NeoExodus players who each time made the adventure special for me to cherish.

In the morning, CA and I were back to our shenanigans, bright and “early”. We set up our gaming tables and kept on taking to the locals. Interesting discussions. We also did surprisingly less PR as our tables filled by themselves! We must’ve been doing something right as many “repeat customers” came back from Friday. The whole day, I took a group of young adventurers through the Godsmouth Heresy, well on their way to second level. Meanwhile CA ran PFS2-13 Murder on the Throaty Mermaid and Mists of Mwangi again. Good fun again. The group was RPing and having great fun with it, so the crawl itself was secondary. Fun prevailed on both sides of the screen (my bully side loved hurting them).

Came evening and I offered to run them through PFS2-EX The Midnight Mauler. Definitely one of my favorites adventures (and one I must’ve run like 15 times by now). If you haven’t played it get to your local Venture-Captain or 4-star GM and bribe them with food. It works. Great time, only black spot: we had to wrap up and that one lady was… well she was “forceful” about expelling us. So I had to pack in the dark. I’m sure I’m missing something I haven’t discovered yet.

A gamer’s dinner at Denny’s and sleepy time concluded the day. Again, the talks and discussions were extremely stimulating. Exchanges about the role and use of a sorcerer; edition war chat (between 1e to 4e and Pathfinder); the differences in local player’s gaming style (Denver has fighters and healers while Boise has fighters and arcane): “what ifs”; and “here is what happened (way back when)”… I really loved the discussions! Very stimulating.

Sunday was slow. Because we kept yakking and yapping with everyone, we started late (around 11). I ran PFS2-11 The Penumbral Accords while CA again ran PFS2-13 Murder on the Throaty Mermaid. When everything was done, my voice was trashed. I’m sure that had we decided to run more, we could’ve run until the cows come home. But I had to take a plane.

Jay, CA and I went to have a post-con lunch at Eddie’s. Great food. Then to the airport and back to Colorado. I’ll post more pictures later.

Thank you Boise! You are now on my “Gamer Tour” list!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Going to Fandemonium in Boise, Idaho

Everyone is talking about GenCon and talking about their trip east (from here you’re going east).

But I’m not going. My finances allowed me only to go to PaizoCon. Plus I’d have to staff for too long and feel I’d miss out on too many things. In short, I’m full of excuses why I can’t or don’t want to go.

There is one thing I cannot call an excuse, it’s something I am extremely excited to do this year: I’ve been invited by the Boise Pathfinders to go there and run adventures for them at Fandemonium.

It all started some six months ago when I received this email from a guy named “CA”. He was asking a couple of VCs “in his area” (I’m 16 hour’s drive away) about helping him with setting up some PFS in Boise and about setting up Fandemonium. All the other VCs were all Gencon-bound except me (see the excuses above). So we started talking and I share some of the things and tips I’d learned setting up events and the like. He was a really cool guy and after a few email we decided to meet in PaizoCon, since both of were going.

At PaizoCon, Clarence and I really hit it off. If you look at the line movie for PaizoCon that Jason Buhlman did, he flashes right at the start of the movie. Throughout the con we talked and enjoyed a late night dinner at the Dennys across the parking lot. There we talked some more… our characters, why we like Pathfinder, got to know each other a little more. Great guy.

After PaizoCon, I found some issue with my mortgage and had to correct it. This, of course, killed any hope I had to pay for a trip to Boise. I told Clarence about it (after trying to find another way). Then her said something along the lines of "Don’t worry, I’ll get you here". So I will get there. I talked to my wife who agreed (gotta love her).

So on Thursday I’m off to Boise to run some NeoExodus and Pathfinder Society for the guys there. I am very excited. It’s always fun to be part of something that’s starting. I’ll post more details about my trip to Fandemonium later.

Oh... if you're in the area, come say hi!