JP On Gaming

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Organized Play People: Kitty Curtis, Part 2 [Arcanis]

I know, I know, I've been slacking and you have all been wanting to get part 2 of my chat with Kitty Curtis. It's been well over a month since I posted part 1. Well, here is the continuation of the discussion!

JP: What is your official title in the campaign?

KC: Short and sweet - just Campaign Director for Legends of Arcanis.

JP: What draws you to the Arcanis RPG? What particularly attracts you to that game?

KC: First and foremost it's the world. I was intrigued when I found out that even in D20, the gods didn't have alignments, only their followers. You could be any alignment and follow any god; you would just have a different focus. This sent shivers down my spine as I was playing a Lawful Good cleric of Wee Jas at the time, and constantly having to explain that she was just a poor lost little goth girl. ("It's not about vampires, it's about magick, and the goddess, and why does everyone run away screaming?")

The original world book, the Codex Arcanis (free download) devoted a chapter to each country, written from the point of view of someone raised in that culture, and they contradicted each other. There were no definitive right and wrong answers about histories, only each nation's individual version.

The Elorii are elemental beings based on the 5 elements of earth, air, fire, water, and life. The Dwarves are celestial giants cursed for their hubris, and driven to create the perfect item as atonement in order to restore their people. The Val are humans with celestial heritage, which gives them a tiny spark of power. The Dark Kin are humans with infernal heritage, which gives them powers, *and* an obvious physical mark. Gnomes are the twisted cursed wretches that come from a human-dwarf pairing, despised more than the DarkKin. And all of these races co-exist in a world where most major historical empires from ancient Egypt to feudal Germany are all present *simultaneously*.

It doesn't seem like it would work, but it does.

JP: Yes… Yes it does work! That’s the awesome thing about it. What about the mechanics?

KC: And now to the mechanics of the game - I love the initiative clock. I know we disagree here, but I love it. The base initiative mechanic is that you try to roll a low initiative, and that's when you first act. Whoever goes on ‘1’ acts first, then whoever goes on 2, etc. When it's your turn, you choose an action, and different actions have different speeds. If I act on tick 1, I can cast a spell with a speed of 4 and act again on tick 5, or I can ready a shield (speed of 2) and act again on tick 3. And whenever you go past 12, it wraps back around again, hence the "clock".

It really cuts down on the "but if I move 10 feet, I lose 3 attacks, so I delay instead". Instead of having to pull your head out of the game and debate the abstraction of the rules, you can just act, knowing that if you did something complicated you'll have longer until you act again and if you do something quick and simple your action will be up again soon. I know you don't like having the chart of action speeds, but we all had to use the move/action chart for d20 at first - it becomes habit over time. Actions don't clump up the way you'd think they would, and it really keeps everyone in the action – no one gets up and wanders off every turn because "it'll be forever before I get to act again".

Then there's the skill system - Any skill can be used with any attribute. The base mechanic is that you roll 2d10 (Action Dice), add the die that's linked to the attribute, and add your skill bonus before comparing to your Target Number. You could roll Athletics with your Might die to win a contest of strength, with your Prowess die to compete in an Archery contest, with your Dexterity die to navigate an obstacle course, with your Insight die to deduce an opponent's strategy and a play to counter it, etc. It's all up to your imagination to make the link. And did I mention that your combat rolls are skill-based?

JP: The dice rolling system is not so much an issue with me. I’m fine with it. But let’s get to something that’s more complex… And frequently more interesting: MAGIC! What about it? How does it work?

KC: There are no slots! (The thing that most infuriated me about d20) There are no "spells per day" either. If you know how to cast a spell, you know how to cast it, period. So long as you can rest, you can re-cast spells as many times as you want to.

Additionally, there is now a bigger difference between divine and arcane magic. In the world of Arcanis, all magic echoes from the creation of the world. Divine magic is pre-set; each spell is cast exactly the same way each time, as you are using the literal words of the gods. In mechanics terms, each spell can be cast in specific ways, and anyone who learns the spell knows those variations and only those variations.

Arcane casters are instead tapping into the inherent magic of the world and forcing their will upon it, so they can alter their spells in more ways, but their spells are also more difficult to cast (both in terms of having a higher Target Number and the damage the caster would have to endure for pushing past their limits).

JP: What else is new and cool?

KC: Oh, and Fate Points! Points earned for good RP (or otherwise making the table more enjoyable) which can be redeemed for in-game benefits are a part of the base rules of the game. PCs get them at character creation and occasionally during advancement, but they are primarily earned by players.

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

KC: I have 2 favorite systems at the moment, both for their commonalities and their differences: Hero and the new Arcanis RPG. I love Hero because it can be bent and twisted to any genre, and it has the flexibility to handle it all. A teeny tiny book holds the majority of the rules, and all of those builder books are primarily lists of ways to use those rules to make characters with the math done for you. I love the Shattered Empires rules system because it is so linked to the setting and they show each other off nicely. Both systems load the majority of the rules knowledge into character creation, so a new player can learn the basics of the system in 5-10 minutes and handle 90% of what will come up in game if they have a pre-built character.

In both games the primary complaint I hear from new players is that they can't make a character because there are too many options to choose from. That's an awesome problem to have, and again both systems cover that by providing sample characters. (Yes, I know I sound a little partial being the Campaign Director of one of them, but I honestly am really pleased with how it turned out. As I told everyone locally, I would have continued with the campaign even if the new system sucked, but I would have said "The system sucks, but the story is awesome." I am fortunate that the system has really blossomed over its year of open playtest into something I can be proud to introduce new players to.

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

KC: Definitely my NPCs - the players tend to remember them better than I do, especially my "throwaways". No character is truly superfluous - if a PC takes an interest in them, they now have something interesting to contribute. I'll steal blatantly from a PC's background to pull that RP moment out of them and make it stick in their memory. And that's my favorite part of a home campaign - those little signs that show that our characters *matter* and are not inter-changeable cogs.

Even in a mass Organized Play campaign, there's a lot a GM can do to recognize the impact of the PCs. I still get jaws that drop when I sit at a new OP table and ask people to tell me about their PC, they give me their class/archetype, and I ask "But what's their personality like? Why are they taking this mission?". If the adventure isn't going to be tailored to the PCs, why are we playing with live GMs instead of a computer?

That's it for now. I'll post the next and final part next week!

On an unrelated matter, well not really, I am currently set up to play my first game of Legends of Arcanis here in the Springs this Sunday.


What have I (not) been doing? [Travel, Paizo, NeoExodus]

Been a while since I posted anything and I’m feeling withdrawal pains. So let me give you a number of updates on things I am working on.

I spent last week in Phoenix, Arizona at my parents’ winter home, practicing my golf and generally doing little in the way of work. This was a fun time with the kids, the wife and my parents. Another trip is in the cards… when? I don’t know but we’ll be going back. While there I got to see a hockey game (Anaheim @ Phoenix) with my dad. Something he hadn’t done since the 80s. Great times!

My commission painting work is doing well: my painting table is filled with minis I need to paint. Now to actually finish painting all I need to do. Not an easy task. I have some more Malifaux (for Stephen) and a Pathfinder mini (for Brad) I need to complete. I look forward to painting them, as I plan to try some different techniques with the Malifaux minis.

I am doing some Society work for Paizo but can’t say much more due to fears of the NDA-monster. Mind all of you: it’s going to be something that changes many of what we assume about Society. [NDA] Oh crap! I said too much. When you hear the official announcement, you’ll go (like I did) WOW! This is an awesome announcement! I really did.

Speaking of which I am starting to get organized for Genghis Con in Denver (weekend after Valentine's Day). Most of the guys who GM'd for me at Tacticon offered to do so again, which is a great plus. Jeff Kokx from Enchanted Grounds has agreed to organize and run Slot Zeroes for me, further taking me out of the equation, thanks Jeff, much appreciated. Getting the con to be our biggest event in the Denver area is a major undertaking. I am looking forward to the con. It will be good times.

Last summer, I posted that I was writing an episode for Steam Radio. As of this exact time, I have completed nine scenes and am working through the tenth. It sees the crew travel to a remote location of the world in search of a lost explorer. I really like writing for it. It’s such a new and different way to write. Since there is no visuals, you have to rely on the dialog for the express purpose of presenting anything Look at this big building, it must be at least a hundred yards across! A different - and thus far very enjoyable experience.

NeoExodus is going strong. Louis ran a MASSIVE sale over the Thanksgiving holiday, which coincided with the official release of NeoExodus. You can still get the super bundle at There is still a lot of material on my plate with material coming out and so little time to do it. I have been working on an upcoming NeoExodus monster book, I have personally dubbed Scions of the First Ones, but I doubt the name will stick, but I find it an interesting name for a work-in-progress. Whatever the case, I created a number of new monsters for NeoExodus, some that have ties to the First Ones and others that are completely new. They include the Feral Aneishis and the Swamp Spud (a name I know Louis will love).

Oh and I'm still waffling on the Google Plus thing (I still have a lot of invites to give if you need them). Yes it has nice features but the lack of an API and the impossibility to post from other sources to it make it... Well, it takes away from me seeing the use in it. Google, please hurry and get us that API.

So there you have it! What I am currently doing.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

[Avatar of the Kaga] Spells and Tomes of Exodus

The NeoExodus campaign book contains just under sixty new spells for your group. Unlike the feats (which we saw yesterday), many of those spells are "generic" and could be used in other settings and campaigns. Spells are interesting and fun to design, but balance is also a big factor in determining if GMs will use them or ban them. Many spells in there affect perceptions and senses,

There are a few novelties (or course!).

First is the return of the First Ones spell subtype. Spells marked with this subtype first appeared in Enemies of NeoExodus: Widowmaker Scarlet. These spells call upon an inner darkness that should be repugnant to most people. Here is the entry for the subtype.

First Ones: Spells marked with the First Ones subtype are spells that call upon an inner darkness, a dark energy that most spellcasters avoid. Possessing a copy or knowledge of these spells is considered heresy by the Sanguine Covenant.

Second, many of our spells are only available to clerics of a certain deity. For example, the Sanguine Covenant has access to spells that protect one from shapeshifters, while the Cult of the Dragon has access to spells that unleash elemental fury, and Xonism provide its clerics with undeath-related powers.

Tied with spells, we have added to the game, the notion of magic tomes. These tomes are presented in a way that is both reminiscent of Call of Cthulhu and the old grimoire entries from Dragon magazines. Our goal is to give GMs another tool or quest-reward that is not a +1 longsword. Tomes can provide players with additional knowledge about a given topic, customizable to the current quest. The campaign book presents six of them, five of which have spells within and one without.

Tomes require some time to read and understand. As such, they provide bonuses to skills when dealing with a particular subject. For example, the Libram of Lunacy provides +5 competence bonus to the following skills: any Knowledge skill with regards to creatures with the shapechanger subtype, Knowledge (arcana) for astrological purposes taking a few minutes to consult this eldritch tome would grant someone who already ready the book (takes a few days to do so, the system is provided in the book).

The tomes found in the campaign book are the Hymnal of Sacred Flame, Libram of Lunacy, Manual of Burials, Raiding the Sorcerer-King, Somes Planaris Magicae and the Tome of Sensation. One of those tomes has already been included into one of the upcoming NeoExodus adventure!

Each tome entry is presented as follows to give everyone a good idea of what it contains but leaving a LOT of room for game-related additions.

Full Name gives the exact name of the book if different than the usual name
Author gives details about the author of the book.
Description describes the book and what it looks like.
Content describes what the book is about. Since few books "only" contain spells this details what the prose includes.
Status reveals whether or not this book is considered heretical by the Sanguine Covenant.
Language gives the original language in which the book was written. Generally, a book in the original language is more detailed and more complete than other, later copies.
Locations give the known location of the book. Private collectors often have copies of these tomes in their collection.
Reference gives the skill bonus given by spending 5 minutes to reference the book. If the PC lacks the Knowledge skill, having the book does not allow one to make a check, unless mentioned.
Spells gives the list of spells found in the original. This list is far from exhaustive. Feel free to add to the list as need be.
Other Versions gives a list of other versions of the book. These versions are often of lower quality or poorly translated. Their game effects and contents are listed.

Next Time: GM goodies, a look at the monsters found in the NeoExodus campaign book.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

[Avatar of the Kaga] New Feats of NeoExodus

One of the big decisions we had to face on NeoExodus, was "How close do we want to stay to the core game?" As you know, the answer was "a lot". This early decision really changed the way we would approach feat creation and inclusion into the final book.

The 3.5 version of NeoExodus has a lot of feats. I mean A LOT of them. Many of them granted similar abilities to many races. The Dalreans and the Sasori in particular, had lost their uniqueness through over-seeding in feats. So I sat down and went through the list, trying to focus on each races’ uniqueness. Thus, the Sasori are not the only ones who do poison on their own. The Dalreans have a definite nature/ plant bend they lacked before.

At first, I hated myself for cutting so many feats. But nothing is really lost! My backup files include feats I liked, but felt did not belong in the campaign book. Many of these other ones I plan to add into regional books, create some regional alternate racial traits... Keeps the core book smaller (and thus cheaper for the buy) and present the races as WE see them.

Looking at the list, you can very easily see that most feats are race-specific, with some races getting more than others. The Enukas, for example have only 3 specific feats, but the book gives a list of over twenty mutations for them to chose from. The Kalisan qualify for all of the feats found in Enemies of NeoExodus: The Caliban. The gevet do not have any race-specific feats... Why? Oh wait! Because they count as both outsider (native) and Human for effects related to race. That's quite a collection!

Here is the list of feats you can find in the NeoExodus Core Book.

Race-Specific Feats

CavianCavian Bite Mastery, Hive Fighting, Hive Node, Greater Seeds of Clairvoyance
CyneanArcane Crystal, Arcane Crystal Energy, Arcane Crystal Resilience, Arcane Crystal Shield, Arcane Crystal Strike, Greater Arcane Body, Faceted Body, Greater Faceted Body, Improved Faceted Body, Metallic Lacing, Terran Sorcery, Improved Terran Sorcery
DalreanGuarded by Nature, Hail of Thorns, Hardy Form, Plantsense, Plantsight, Rebuke Nature, Spellbud, Tough Bark, Thorns, Vegetative Mind
EnukaAdditional Mutation, Mutation Focus, Predatory Nature
KalisanCannibalize, Greater Cannibalize, Improved Cannibalize
PrymidianAnatomical Targeteer, Implied Threat, Multi-Tentacle Fighting, Rational Argument, Scholarly Upbringing, Sharp Wit, Tentacle Jab, Tentacle Lash
P’TanBlack Lightning Beam, Black Lighting Bolt, Black Lightning Burst, Black Lightning Cone, Black Lightning Fist, Black Lightning Sheath, Black Lightning Surge, Daylight Adaptation
SasoriInformation Network, Poison Immunity, Greater Poison Immunity, Scorpion Sight, Venomous Coating, Venomous Spittle, Vermin Call, Virulent Poison, Well-Informed

Nation-Specific Feats

ConfederacyDancing Warrior, Greater Dancing Warrior
Janus HordeDraconic Bloodline, Draconic Inheritance

General Feats

CraftingCraft Candle
GeneralAssault Formation, Disrupt Spell Trigger, Disrupt Spell-Like Ability, Energy Absorption, Into the Hole, Jungle Born, Menacing, Pain Focused the Mind, Phalanx Leader, Potion Guzzler, Rhino’s Charge, Shield Expertise, Spear Mastery, Stalwart Casting, Tactical Move, Team Leader
WyrdArcane Wyrd, Wyrd Blood, Improved Wyrd Blood, Wyrd Casting, Wyrd Communication, Wyrd Time, Wyrd Visions, Improved Wyrd Visions


Next: Spells and Grimoires of NeoExodus


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

[Avatar of the Kaga] Character Options for NeoExodus

But JP, you ask. But what about MY character??? What new options do I have?

The base classes remain unchanged, with Gunslingers having to be from the Protectorate, and oracles getting extra options for existing mysteries.

The apothecary is an archetype for the alchemist, joining healing abilities.

I’ve mentioned the cleric of the Kaga many times already. This archetype is the only one that allows a player to play a "devoted" of the Kaga. These characters are arcane casters, rather than divine.

The fist of the dragon is an archetype for barbarian that focus on the power of dragons. This archetype is very suited to members of the Janus Horde. New dragon-flavored rage powers are found in the book.

Janissary is a monk archetype that provides them with some psionic training allowing them to command and control others around them. Janissaries are known for imposing truces on the most hostile opponents.

The peacekeeper is an organization formed during the Twilight War by the Protectorate. These warriors are completely devoted to the Protectorate and the Sanguine Covenant. At certain level, they gain faith-based abilities named "diligences" rather than feats. These feats may grant the peacekeeper spell-like abilities, bonuses to skills checks or his CMD.

Prestige Class

The High Guard are the personal bodyguards of the Canean Crown. Tough and resilient, these warriors can take hits for others and command the battlefield around them.

The Imperial Man-at-arms is the elite mailed fist of the Imperial Alliance. These warriors fight on through sheer force of will. They are also granted authority over alliance representatives.

The Khalid Asad - eternal lion in Qijomi - are the Dominion’s mage slayers. These warriors move behind enemy like to disrupt spell casters. Many a spell caster fell to their blades and unconventional tactics.

The Panther Warrior are an order of warriors from the Confederacy who specialize in single, heroic combat. Panther warriors are warriors of legend rumored to have the ability to transform into feline form and attack with multiple weapons.

The Protectorate Artillerist is a combat engineer who can command Protectorate artillery batteries from a distance. These men and women know the weaknesses of constructs and exploit them. They can also command constructs by sight.

Wyrdcasters are a type of spell casters found exclusively in the Dominion. Wyrd is a type of magic that is a blend of divination and fate-manipulation. Wyrd ravages the body but opens great magical possibilities to its practitioners. Wyrd techniques add a lot of power to spells, but all come at a price.

Next time: Some feat sample.


Monday, November 14, 2011

[Avatar of the Kaga] Dark Faiths of Exodus

Var Shaal

The Var Shaal is a religion that is almost exclusively followed by the gevet race. Deep in the Burning Lands of the Dominion, the Var Shaal (Cloud Seat in Qijomi) is the place from which all life began on Exodus. Within the Var Shaal lies the Gevet. The Gevet is a being of vast power that promotes growth and the prosperity of the gevet people. The Gevet’s rites are simple, crude and barbaric, blood spilled during childbirth is never washed from its shrines.The Gevet only takes female priestesses.

The Var Shaal – the name given to the faithful of the Gevet to differentiate the Gevet (being) from the gevet (race) – is judge heretical by the Sanguine Covenant. However, Var Shaal temples are located deep in the Burning Lands where the church’s people are few and the gevet many.

Prominent in the church is the presence of demons and devils. Both of these groups follow with great interest happenings on Exodus. These creatures are frequently found protecting gevet strongholds or other holy sites.


Xonism, unlike all the other faith is more of a philosophy. The faith itself was first revealed by the necromancer Xon as he led his armies through Sametia during the Twilight War. The Black Notebooks of Xon is the unholiest text of the faith. It is where the thoughts and research into the secrets of lichdom are kept preach that everyone is dying and that one must accept and embrace undeath as the only way to survive the coming apocalypse.

However, the notebooks are separated and incomplete. Xonist priests scour the world to gather more fragments and pages, seeking to discover more about Xon and his work. Xonism is a major heresy to the Sanguine Covenant. In spite of this, the group has been making converts in Sametia and parts of Gavea.


As I wrote this chronicle on the faiths of Exodus, none filled me with the dread that I now feel as I must write about the faith of the Murderous Lord Khayne. Khayne is a bloody, dark, vengeful, chthonic, primal entity that calls for blood. Whether the blood of allies, friends or enemies, Khayne demands his temples be drenched in it.

Khayne is not only the dark lord of death, conquest and destruction, he has many faces, faces that must be approached differently.

To the Brotherhood of Khayne on the mainland, he is the lord of vengeance and the founder of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood believes and teaches that Khayne sends envoy among them to test their faith and ensure they do not grow lazy in their duties.

On Unthara, where the Brotherhood enjoyed centuries of control, the Brotherhood’s teachings have changed and make Khayne the king of the gods, and the one who blesses ruthless rulers and conquerors.

The First Ones, whom I am told all worship the Dark Lord, each have their own version and myths about his past deeds and proper method of worship.

The one saving grace of these mad cults is that they rarely grow beyond the ability of their cult leader to organize them. By cutting the head of the snake, worshippers of Khayne generally turn on each other to find a new leader, each member thinking he is most suited. A Covenant purifier once told me that the most difficult thing was to take down the leaders who frequently survived through a number of assassination attempts.

Next time: Character options.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

November Commissions [Warmachine, Malifaux, Pathfinder]

Been a while since I really did a lot of painting. Really sit down and get it all done. So with much more talk, minis.


These guys have been partially painted for months now. Yesterday (and early this morning), I decided to get everything off my plate and finish my army. I am now done with my Rhulic army. You will notice a single human in there... You would be correct. I love the mini so I got me one of them! She is Madelyne Corbo, a courtesan. I painted her as a soiled dove of sorts. This one is fully painted!

Pathfinder Society

The two Pathfinder minis are for Pathfinder characters. The Napoleonic officer (a French Officer) was painted for my buddy Todd who has a Taldan sorcerer using the image of Maréchal Murat. While I did not have a mini of the Maréchal, I used that one instead. I like the red and white contrast. The second is a ninja character.


These minis I've been intrigued by for a while and my chance to get my hands on them happened when my buddy Stephen (for whom I had already done a number of commission work), asked me if I wanted to paint his army. I agreed. Those miniatures I really enjoyed painting those (next update will include one mini from the lot I hate with a passion).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Neoncon 2011: The Hate

Reading my previous three parts about my trip to Vegas for Neoncon, it is easy to think that I am happy and that everything was great at Neoncon. But NOTHING could be further from the truth. I have a lot of hate to send out to people.

Doug is the mastermind behind Neoncon and someone who has been nothing but nice to me, even when I was purposefully a dick to his kobold character… Any one of his characters really. This time, Doug went too far: he organized a great show once again in spite of some political issues (issues I won't go into here as they're not my opinionated self to comment upon). Then he gathered a collection of swag that made me so jealous, a pile of swag that makes classic adventures look like a poor man’s treasure hunt. I am certain there were more than a few magic items in the large shelves behind his staff. Then he – and his staff – go on and give away all the NeoExodus Campaign book! That book should retail for 100$+, if not a million bucks!

Let me throw Jeremy Olson under the bus… When I sat down at his Shadowrun Missions on Thursday night, I was looking forward to four hours of wacky Seattle-based madness, then be on my way happy to have tried something but not wanting more. But because of him (and his table of 'runners), I found myself actually enjoying Shadowrun and looking forward to MORE missions! As if I had time for more gaming? Really? More gaming? Just because the character he built for me is exactly what I wanted to play and that somehow I managed to survive (and be useful) to the group, I have no reason to spare him. So to you sir, I say, a chicken on your head! Now I will have pacify my wife twice as much!

Then there is Mike Brock, my Paizo Overlord. Mike emailed me that he had something he needed to talk to me about and that we should set aside a few minutes during the con. I wondered what he was gonna tell me. Turns out we had our chance on the first slot (Thursday afternoon). Although the NDA monster is gonna eat up anything I could say about the chat, he had my head spinning and my ideas and thoughts running a thousand miles an hour (and still is). You will noticed that I pointed the speed in mph rather than the kilometers I know and love. I’m already losing sleep because of him and I KNOW I will be losing a lot more. And it’s all Mike’s fault. I know it has nothing to do with my yapping and BS about "putting my money where my mouth is". Trust me, I know. That has nothing to do with anything!

How could I post a hate-filled email without mentioning Louis Porter Junior? That’s right. The man behind NeoExodus… There are so many reasons to send hate his way. Throughout the con he was worried about things like How many characters killed? or Are they running in terror? or How did they like it?. You know the kind of questions one cannot ask… For those are part of the GM-player confidentiality agreement of 1988TM. I would not be the one to break such an agreement… Who would I be if I told that I killed no one? That on two out of three NeoExodus tables, the players opted NOT to continue and flee (they’ll say withdraw, but they are lying). Or that the overall vibe was positive regarding NeoExodus? I mean COME ON, MAN! I won’t be THAT GUY, LPJ. Find yourself another stool pigeon!

Dave Stern. David A. Stern III. You thought you’d escape my hate-filled wrath? WELL NO! For those of you who do not know Dave played in my shortened version of The Sashenka Incident on Saturday morning. Then in the afternoon, with a NeoExodus book in hand, he approached me with some thoughts about the adventure. Insightful comments, yes. Valid comments, yes. But they force me to work to include them… like a good twenty minutes! It’s like a lifetime! REVENGE!

Can I say a word about time change? Because of you, I woke up in a panic! Then I called the front desk thinking it was 6am! That girl giggled and said "sir, it's only 4." Thought that was clever? Well I did not! I could not go back to sleep after that... Forced me to get up with my heart beating a thousand miles an hour. Not Cool. Not Cool.

Oh! Did I mention anything about the 14$ sandwiches or the 24$ cheese pizzas? Well hate to you too! Don't laugh... Only in Vegas could you find those.

Oh! And also lemme send hate to all of you who did not attend Neoncon. We could’ve use a few more people!

I must calm down… The dark side surged within me so much that got sick all day yesterday.

That’s it for Neoncon. I’ll attend again next year!


[Avatar of the Kaga] Faiths of Exodus, Part 3

The Cult of the Emissary

The Cult of the emissary is a cult that sprang up recently. It contends that the Sanguine Covenant has lost its way and that deep reforms are needed. It also contends that worship of the Venerates is heretical, that the Sanguine Lord can only be reached through his own envoy, the Emissary of the Sanguine Lord. Emissarists contend that only through his own words can one reach paradise. Emissary Cults are growing along the Abaddon River basin.

Emissarists have formed many militaristic militias that roam the countryside destroying all who oppose the supremacy of the Emissary.

The cult is obviously inspired by a mixture of Reformation and early Islam. These two periods led to extremely violent and brutal conflicts. The cult of the Emissary is one such cult.

With such teachings, many wonder why the Archprelate has not declared the cult to be heretical.

The Lawgiver

The Lawgiver is a man who appeared some twenty years ago among the camps of the Janus Horde warning about an impending doomsday that will befall the world. To prepare, he told his disciple they would have to follow a strict regimen and prepare themselves and their bodies to become weapons to fight this apocalypse.

Faithful are branded with a tribal tattoo of ancient design. This brand, called the Lazarus Brand, is said to make the faithful resistant to damage, to disease and even death. These brands can be placed anywhere on the body. Branded followers head out into the world to pick fights and perfect their martial mastery.

The cult of the Lawgiver is heretical to the Sanguine Covenant.


Not a unified religion per say, but an umbrella that gathers many different faiths. These faiths range from ancestor worship to the worship of local spirits. Some cults often remain small and unnoticed until they rise to prominence. The Cult of the Dragon is one such cult. Most of these cults are tolerated by the Sanguine Covenant, though some are persecuted. The Brotherhood of Khayne frequently uses shamanist cults as a front to cover their activities.

Next time: The major evil faiths of Exodus. Yes, I say EEEEEEEVVVVILLLLLL!!!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NeonCon 2011, Part Three


That morning, we had a sorta Paizo-VC breakfast at the Excalibur’s buffet. Robyn, CA, Stephen (SRM) and myself pigged out before running back to the Tropicana for the morning slot. I was not due to GM NeoExodus until 9am, but I like getting there to see if I can help.

Turns out, one GM was missing in action. Guess who??? That’s right, our glorious leader, Mike Brock was missing. So I started running the event for him. It was Part 3 of the Intro (which I had not prepared). But I played Dradle Dreng, Lady Morilla and Grandmaster Torch for the young wide-eyed Pathfinders.

Comes 9am a player (who I would later know as Dave Stern) shows up to play NeoExodus. At the same time, Mike strolls in at a leisurely pace… Excellent. I tagged him into the adventure and move to NeoExodus for “The Sashenka Incident”.

Table of three into the political thriller that is “Sashenka”: fun times to come. This time: Freija, Nose-Cutter and Hans got embroiled in the turmoil of Imperial and local politics. I had to cut some elements of the adventure short to fit in the four hour we had.

The afternoon I spent gladly doing nothing but walking around the hall, shopping, talking and listening in on Courtney’s excellent rendition of my “Terrors” adventure I wrote for the Beginner Box Bash. I won’t hide that I preferred the original version, but the one that was produced for the BBB was excellent (it’s a question of setting, not adventure). I also listened in on Stephen (SRM) run Midnight Mauler. It was very interesting to hear another GM’s take on this adventure I now run with only minimal peeping at the text anymore. I looked at the painted minis involved in the events. In short, I made a butterfly of myself (a fat, balding butterfly mind you).

Of particular note, during that time, Dave (from the morning game) came to see me with an issue he had in the adventure. He and I talked for quite a while about it. In the end, he managed to convince me (he must’ve made quite a Diplomacy check). Following our talk, I had to re-think a few things and his argument is extremely valid. I talked to LPJ about it last night and in turn brought him to Dave’s way of thinking. So I have to go back into the adventure and clean up some things. These elements will be moved to a later part of the story.

Thanks Dave and congrats on getting me a lot more work!

For the evening, I had volunteered to run the Gencon Special, Blood under Absalom. The adventure has a few issues and things I wanted to change to make it flow more smoothly. So I gathered my judges and I told them what to change. I have to give a lot of kudos to Peter, Jay, James, Will, Chris, Bruce and Nick who went along with my last minute changes and brought everything together. The game was fun.

One thing I strongly disliked is the finale with the stupid d20 roll-off that serves no real purpose but to add “action”. I have no problem saying it was stupid (said it before, will say again). There should NOT be a “winning” and “all others loose” in these types of events. Last year’s Year of the Shadow Lodge, though it suffered from some issue was a better adventure.

A big thanks to Doug Daulton who provided a mountain of swag (although that mountain led to one happy table and 6 table of disappointed-to-pissed-off players). But experience teaches us many things, including the splitting of swag! Next time we’ll make sure everyone leaves with something…

Though I tried to stay up all night, I went to bed and slept. Too soon, it was onto the shuttle, to the airport and…


Got home, ate with the family. Slept. Woke up, watched my fantasy football getting creamed by Julio Jones. Watch The Simpsons. Fell asleep after that. Snoozed through Family Guy (I don’t watch Allen Gregory, that crummy show they put after the Simpsons, it’s just terrible). Got up, went to bed.

That was my last days at Neoncon…

Next time: The hate, the hate and bucket of hate flowing onto the con…


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NeonCon 2011, Part Two


My Neoncon trip started with an early morning as I dropped my two girls at school, then off to the doctor for some blood work, and finally onto Pueblo Airport. Pueblo sits on the Arkansas River and was the old border with Mexico.

So I got to the Airport. The place is very small. However the cafĂ© there (Spitfire Grill) does serve a nice green chili, which I enjoyed on eggs. Nice. Very nice. Good spice, I ordered the half-and-half and it was, well I already said it, nice. The Allegiant Air plane lands and moves up to the terminal. I kid you not; the MD-80 was longer than the terminal. I left the terminal, went outside to check and sure enough…

If something happened during the flight, I had no knowledge of it. I slept throughout, waking up as we were over Hoover Dam (I assume it was Hoover Dam). Shuttle to the Tropicana and voila!

I told Doug that I would GM a slot at 2pm, but to put my name is soft ink as I would likely be delayed (I was). When I got to the con, it that 2:20 or so, my table had folded and the guys had moved to another table. I wanted to run The Dalsine Affair but had no problem with what was done. So I enjoyed the free time. Looked around, chatted with people, including Mike Brock with whom I had an extended discussion (the chat I mentioned on my previous post). I got to talk with Doug a little, played a game of Orbit, said hello to a lot of people I hadn’t seen in at least a year. I used this to do a lot of socializing which is a rare boon to me at con, since I generally spend most of my time running or organizing. Neoncon would be no different.

Evening time came, and I sat down at Jay Olson’s Shadowrun Missions game. Jay and I exchanged a number of tweets about it and I asked him to build me a character since I would not have time (or the books) to do one myself. Before continuing on to the game, let me be candid here. Okay, even if you don’t I will be anyway… If you read this blog you know I always try to be brutally honest.

I am not a fan of Shadowrun.

I have no specific issue with the setting, the system, the people, the adventures or the location of the game.

It just does not do it for me. Nothing specific. Just not my thing.

That said, since I have nothing against the game, I am definitely willing to play the game occasionally. If I get to play, then I’m even more interested in playing. I was intrigued about how they did their organized play (having never heard back from the Missions guys for my “Organized Play People” blog series).

So I finally sit down, and get handed a troll shaman.


Look over the character… while I do not understand most of the crunch, I get the role. Look over the book for a few things. Bah, if I need something I’ll either wing it or be told how to do it, fail spectacularly and have a jolly ol’ time.

The adventure itself was a simple affair, with a few surprises. It was very entertaining and I must say that I had a blast playing Ralph B (for Boogerman) the Rat Troll. I did spend most of the adventure hiding or invisible, but had a great time trying to keep my mouth shut to get the promise bag of candy…

I was surprised and happy to get a 10$ Catalyst gift card at the end! I had a great time already. But 10$ adds a cherry to the sundae. Or with food prices on the strip… more like a Snickers bar for your meal…


Woke up early on Friday, got me a coffee and was on my way to running Encounter at Ramat Bridge. Exciting time. I know I had Robyn and Jay at the table, but did not know who else so I got everything ready. Table of four, game on. The adventure went well (even though they forgot to bring a healer, oops!). I noticed that pretty quickly the players understood the strong political undertone of the adventure.

Before I knew it, we were done, WELL ahead of time. The quickest run of Ramat Bridge ever! After the game, I sold my last copy of NeoExodus and had to start pointing people towards the swag pile for more.


Then in the afternoon, as I hovered near the muster area for Pathfinder Society, there seem to be a lull in the play. I had already played every PFS adventure offered. As things began to stagnate, I called out that I had a Call of Cthulhu adventure in my pocket. Within a few minutes, I had a table of 6 and they were on their way to Normandy…

I ran In Darkness, I wait the scenario I wrote for the 65th anniversary of D-Day. The players had a blast shooting at targets left and right – and each other. The adventure is fun, fast-paced and exciting more in-line with a Pulp Game than Call of Cthulhu, but the Mythos is clearly there. The fact that it deals with elements most of us are familiar with (at least in passing), makes the adventure that much more special.

I like how the adventure turns from a war film into a horror movie. Slowly, but unescapably.

For in Darkness, It waits…

The evening organized in a similar fashion, but this time I ran Ruins of Trovaska, the latest NeoExodus adventure I had come up with. This time, the adventure follows the PCs as they head into Sametia where they discover some more things about NeoExodus…

After that I went in search of food, then sleep.

Tomorrow: Saturday and Sunday.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Neoncon 2011, Part One

If you did not know, I spent last weekend in Vegas at Neoncon. I will post a more complete version of My NeonCon Experience 2011, there are a few topics I wanted to touch upon first.

My next post will include a bucket of hate I have to send to Vegas and its people. It’s a full bucket. Overflowing I may add.

NeoExodus Pre-Release

If you did not know, NeonCon was a pre-launch event for NeoExodus. Over the three days I was there (I flew back early Sunday morning), I ran three NeoExodus adventures: Encounter At Ramat Bridge, The Sashenka Incident and a playtest of Ruins of Trovaska.

After my Friday morning slot, I was out of books! A good way to go…

The product is great. No doubt. The adventures, though complex and filled with politics, did go over well. I would really love to have more GMs to allow more people to experience NeoExodus. In time, it will come. I will have Ruins of Trovaska and Slaver of the Dominion (it was on the Neoncon program, but I was tired and no one showed up, so I gladly took a slot off) on the next Genghis Con program, here in Denver.

If you have a NeoExodus story you want to share, do not hesitate to email me (, tweet it (@JPOnGaming) or post it as a comment here or on Facebook, I am extremely interested in what you think.

Pathfinder Society

Mike Brock (aka my Paizo Overlord) and Stephen Radney-Macfarlane (SRM) were in attendance and both ran a few adventures. I even tagged in for Mike when he woke up late on Saturday morning. It all worked out in the end. Unfortunately, I was not able to able to get either of them to sit at a NeoExodus table… I guess the call of Vegas was too much for them.

Mike and I had a long chat over a number of things regarding the Society.


You all know.

This means that most of the conversation is covered by this filthy beast known as the NDA monster. However, that means there are a lot of GREAT announcements to come. I mean seriously. This is stuff that make me want to play and get MORE involved with Paizo and the PFS campaign. I certainly hope that you will too.

We spent a lot of time talking about how I felt about the Campaign and what I would like to see change. Truth be told he and I spent a few hours Tuesday before the con talking about this. So in effect, this was a return on some of the topics we talked about. I cannot wait for him to announce the many things he hinted at. Among the dates of PaizoCon (July 6-8), I can say them since the Paizo blog now announced it.


Among the vendors were a number of returning faces, including Infrno with whom I had a chat. Okay I spoke with Mike Muldoon, the brain behind the operation. His flaming mohawk really looked cool. I was pleasantly surprised to see the various changes and updates to the system since the last time I took a good look at it. Mike really liked it when I told him that he had "Replied so fast, I did not have time to complain"TM, which was true. I also got my first Infrno reward…

The program has come a long way and I like it more and more every time I see it.

D20 Pro had more demos, but I didn’t have time to really sink my teeth into that one. Mat Morton & Co was there enjoying the con.

I spoke with Quentin Boomer about his latest book, The hole behind midnight for which he had some free art; the Art Institute Lady who assured me that I was not a hopeless art case… Heard that Louis? SHE liked my painting AND she is much more pleasing to the eye that you; the 42 Games guys maker of Orbit (I only got to play 1 game but their latest installment really makes the game look much better than last year’s pre-release product); and I browsed through the number of other items (being broke has benefits).

Venture Captains

This year again, NeonCon allowed a number of Venture Captains to get together and play some PFS and other games. In attendance, I can remembet Robyn Nixon (from Los Angeles), Mike Az (from San Francisco), CA Garrett (from Boise, Idaho), Rene-A (from Phoenix, Az) and of course, our host Doug Daulton (Mr. Vegas). We played a number of events, I saw Robyn take part in a Dark Ages tournament (a minis game I never saw played before). I got a seat for Rene at a Blood under Absalom table (which I once again Oversaw, strong of my Tacticon Experience).

I really like meeting these guys face-to-face. It allows for a different dynamic and a lot of idea exchange. Like in the old LG days, one thing that always surprised me is the variety of background and interest shared by campaign staff. Yet the common passion unites us. Very cool.

I want to salute Robyn who was plugging my own blog more than I was, and praising it too! Thanks Robyn!

And especially: Thanks Doug and crew for putting it all together.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

[Avatar of the Kaga] Faiths of Exodus, Part 2

The Cult of the Dragon

Though the name brings up thoughts of another similarly-named cult in another campaign setting, NeoExodus’ Cult of the Dragon does not worship dragons or consider them to be of worship.

A belief system that exists almost exclusively among the barbarians of the Janus Horde, the accepted version is that nature rests upon a powerful dragon. Followers of the cult believe that they have to slay and defeat nature’s wrath – incarnated by dragons and other such enormous beasts. To that end, they embark on quest and slay the biggest monsters they can find and drink of their blood. For the blood makes them stronger.

Like most things about the Janus Horde, the exact origin and meaning of this faith is unclear at best. The few active priests (who are mostly all oracles or druid) do not fully agree with each other about the exact nature of the faith. They even have difficulty agreeing on the look, location, creation of the dragon. The only thing that matters to them is that they take nature by the horns, claws, jaws or wherever else they may grab on and plunge a sword into it.

The Sanguine Covenant has declared the Cult of the Dragon and all its followers to be heretics.

Next time: More minor faiths of Exodus (after Neoncon)


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

[Avatar of the Kaga] Faiths of Exodus, Part 1

Some of the first NeoExodus projects I worked on were Pathfinder re-vamping of The Sanguine Covenant and The Church of Kaga, both churches and religious organizations. So this section was very dear to my heart.

Like most “D&D" campaign setting, NeoExodus has a number of unique deities and divine powers. One thing I particularly like when it comes to religion - and I believe PCI’s Arcanis is perhaps the best representation of this is that religions are not a strict block of people of similar alignment. Alignment and religion is not the same.

Let’s take for example a well-established real-world church like the Catholic Church (I’m Catholic, so I’ll speak from experience). Within the church there is a VAST majority of “good people" who live their lives doing the best they can, incorporating the rulings of the church whenever they can. And there are a bunch wacko-nutjobs. There are liberals and traditionalists currents within the church. Depending on which book of the Bible you read, it seems the teachings are slightly different. Through the centuries the church turned a blind eye on some extremely bad things (wars, genocides, executions, etc.). But it’s still the same church. And today’s thinkers try to tie themselves more with the better thinkers such as St Augustine.

So when I began writing about faiths and religion, I tried to keep in mind that there are three main elements here: the lay worshipers, the church and its teachings and the god’s own will. The goals of all three are rarely the same.

The Sanguine Covenant

The Covenant is the most widespread faith on Exodus by virtue of being the official religion of the Imperial Alliance. The Covenant is a monotheistic church based on the notion of an almighty, all-powerful deity known as the Sanguine Lord. To speak his real name is heresy. The church is an expansive one seeking conversion of all to its numbers. The Covenant takes from elements of the medieval Catholic Church with elements of Judaism and other faiths sprinkled in.

The Covenant is particularly active in hunting that which it considers heresy (which also means a lot of the bad elements of Exodus: the First Ones, worshipers of Khayne, undead creatures, evil shapeshifters, evil outsiders, evil arcane casters, to name but a few).

The most unique thing about the Covenant is that rather than praying directly to the Sanguine Lord himself (who is much too busy keeping the universe together), faithful instead pray to his Venerates. These extremely powerful beings - akin to archangels - are freer to listen to followers and grant benefits to faithful in the name of the Sanguine Lords. In other words, don’t disturb the boss… ask his Senior VPs.

The Venerates are: Dhazvok (the Warrior), Koliav (Keeper of the Icy Gates), Laita (the Queen of Rites), Makash (The Green Mother), Perun (The Stormbrother), Rylos (Lord of the Wildlands) and Svarog (The Father Smith). Their alignment, powers, favored weapon and domain are varied, and are presented in the same format as deities are in other Pathfinder settings.

In game terms, most lay worshipers worship "the Covenant". Only clerics and other divine casters devote themselves to one of them. Depending on their current needs and desires, they will pray to one of the Venerates. I strongly recommend The Sanguine Covenant as it is choked full of extremely valuable information, plot hooks, story ideas and NPCs.

The Church of the Kaga

The Church of the Kaga is a church that is not a religion. Yep. The Church of the Kaga is organized along the lines of a church but really is not. Its followers - and any learned person - know that the Kaga is not a god, even though it has god-like powers. However, to the masses and uneducated, it is much simpler to say the Kaga is a god and that his shrines are mini-temples. But his devoted are arcane casters rather than divine casters and are more akin to wizards than clerics. Clerics of the Kage must belong to a unique archetype - the Cleric of the Kaga. The Church of Kaga is present in major cities throughout Exodus.

The Kaga was created during the reign of the First Ones over Exodus when a thousand of mankind’s greatest minds gave themselves to the creation of the single greatest and most powerful arcane creation in the universe. The Kaga is an arcane construct, a creature resulting of the merging of all those minds, and two millennia of additional knowledge. Petitioners who seek to learn from the Kaga do so by discussing with miniature versions of the Kaga (called "avatar of the Kaga"). Avatars can take in information and give information. Thus the Kaga is one of the best-informed persons on Exodus. The Kaga frequently restricts dangerous information from those he does not deem worthy. He sometimes volunteers information (known as Revelations) to petitioners. In short, the Kaga is an ever-evolving encyclopedia or as Louis likes to say "The Kaga is an edited version of Google."

The church of the Kaga has two main goals: the pursuit of all knowledge to increase the Kaga's own and the destruction of that which can threaten the people of Exodus. Clerics of the Kaga travel the world, recording their experiences in log books and travel journals. They are known for their insatiable curiosity.

As before, I strongly recommend you check The Order of Kaga book for full details. The campaign setting presents a simplified version of the information in that book.

Next time: More Faiths of Exodus