JP On Gaming

Monday, January 30, 2012

Game-time expectations

My previous post about expectation on a game has generated a couple of great comments and got me thinking some more about when joining a posted game, how realistic can I set my expectations? Here are two comments (edited slightly, for the full thing, click here)

Anonymous wrote:[..] Most good GMs pick a "base set" of rules and adjust the others to fit the particular gaming group. Every gaming group is different, and they all want different things out of the game. I will probably find some things I like in 5e and somethings I dislike, and I will adjust my house rules accordingly. I will pull from Pathfinder, all D&D versions, and even a few small things from White Wolf. It's ok as long as the players know what they are getting into.

LittleCodeMonkey wrote:I think it's bad to go into a game with any kind of expectations. There are too many variables. Every GM is different and will have a different style, and weigh different rules heavier than others. Even the same GM, with the same module, on the same day, and in the same venue, with just different players will have a wildly different game. (Conventions are good examples of this) Who knows, I may enjoy a GM doing something I haven't enjoyed other GMs do before. I try to just be easy going, and go into a game with no expectations other than hoping to have a good time. With that kind of attitude I am rarely disappointed.

The guys touch on a few good points. GM style/preference, house ruling and cherry picking.

GM style or preference

This one gives the wildest and most varied calls. Some GMs offer games I like, with a style I like. I think this element transcends the game system. For example, Mario my former Warhammer GM, I would play with him almost anything. Same with Lenny and a few others. (Yes, this is a shout-out to those guys). As GMs, as long as they offer to run a game I am interested in, I would try to play with them.

Littlecodemonkey says that a GM on a different day would run the game differently. That’s fine. I do it myself. A Lot, especially when I run an adventure many times (Midnight Mauler). There are a few adventures I’ve written and ran for people many times. My now-classic The Lion Sleeps Tonight for Call of Cthulhu comes to mind. The last time I ran, I thought it was way better.

CRAP! Now I have that stupid song stuck in my head… (When you play it, you’ll have it stuck too…)

House rulings/ cherry picking

We all do it. We take things from one game/edition and use it in another. That’s fine. It’s not an issue to play Pathfinder, but have a turn structure like 4e. I myself ran Call of Cthulhu using a Move/Standard-type of system, and we frequently used 3.5 thinking when resolving rules.

But the game was still (clearly) Call of Cthulhu. The minis and battle mats were extras that aren’t quite covered by the core rules of CoC. We didn’t use a strict 3.5 system, and ruled accordingly when situation arose. Many of these rules changed over time, but we kept them consistent. I would not want to publish them (nor could I do a good job of it).

Here is my issue with this point and where I disagree with Littlecodemonkey: when I posted the game, I made sure the guys knew they were joining a CoC game where we’d use some extra minis. When I joined the "3.5" game, I was told "It’s 3.5". It wasn’t. Having been in LG for a few years by then, I know 3.5 pretty well so adjusting to the rules was an annoyance. However the others who were not as well-versed had a hard time understanding the subtle things that were not in the PHB.

Is it unreasonable to expect that for a one-shot (it was not a campaign game), expecting to stick to 3.5 for a one-shot? I do not think that’s unreasonable. I did expect some house ruling during the game, of course. But to have the whole event based on those alternate rules? No.

Is it unreasonable to expect sticking to 3.5 rules strictly in a campaign or home-game setting? Yes! The DM may change/ swap/ allow/ disallow certain elements of the game mid-game without issue. I’d actually be surprised if they didn’t do it.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

5e Presentation: Initial impressions

Amid the flurry of tweets activity about 5e at D&D XP, I can honestly say that we are going back to the days of 2e when whatever the GM wants is in there. That has some good and some bad.


As a GM, I get to include those elements I like and ignore those I like less.

The terminology sounds good. Then again, so did 4e at the time... I put this in the good pile because I feel more optimistic about this than pessimistic on this topic.

The Design goals and approach is interesting. I like that they want to make the GM the center of the game. He is, after all.

Monte Cook. I mean.. do I really need to expand on this?

They definitely took a page from Paizo's play book: less rules = better.


I fear that it will be a game more akin to Gurps or even Heroes where there are so many options that it makes the game difficult to know what it contains or what the GM allows or disallows.

Customization is a good thing. Excessive customization is akin to creating nothing. We'll have to wait and see. It may lose some of the unity that brings people to the table. I like knowing that when I go to play "Call of Cthulhu", I won't be playing a d6-based system or that my character won't be Superman's brother. I really disliked a local game I showed up for that promised D&D 3.5, but everyone was using some alternate system for magic, attacks, and hit points. It felt like false representation (and a factor why I disliked the event). As long as they have a solid core system, the modularity I guess I can work with. I'm more wary about this so it goes in the negative pile.

No word on the OGL.


I learned as much from the tweets as I did from this week's State of the Union address... A lot of nice rhetoric, but let's see the actions behind the word.

4e started talking about "points of light" and "equipment is not what defines your character" but that disappeared after 4e came out! Too bad because I really liked the concepts!

So now we know some of the design philosophy. All good. Now I want to hear from people who do not think 5e is "all that", just like the Amazon/ Ebay reviews... I don't care much about the positive reviews, I want to hear from people who do not like what they see as they often provide a different insight than the "likers". When critiquing, I try to prevent points of why I dislike, and I think other do the same.

Then again, how many 4e haters went to D&D XP? I guess those will have to come later.

I guess I'm left with the same feeling I had after the announcement: Cautious Optimism.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Undying Legacy of the First Ones for NeoExodus funded

Good times!

Good times indeed!

Last week, I posted a plea to you all for our Free RPG Day adventure. Many of you visited and I like to think either considered supporting OR did pledge to support.

Well this weekend, thanks to you, the project got funded! We reached 110% of our goal! That's like putting the amp up to 11! Now, it's time for us to give YOU our 110% and provide you all with the type of adventures you want to experience in NeoExodus. "Undying Legacy of the First Ones" will hit your local game stores on Free RPG Day, June 2nd 2012. A heartfelt THANK YOU to all our backers!

Louis posted on his blog more information about it and some of his (my) future projects. I say my because guess who will write the product??? That's RIGHT!

Me! (or at least "Not Louis")

Back to "Undying Legacy", for the past few days, I have been doing the occasional writing on the project. (You may have seen the occasional twitter update (@jpongaming)) about the adventure. Well, my original plan was to write a simple, intro-style adventure to introduce people to Exodus, little muss or fuss. Then I started writing, and during that creative process, I came up with a number of additional scenes and role-play encounters that while not crucial to the adventure, nonetheless playing them would enhance and expand the adventure to being more than what it is. These encounters (which we call "Soft Points", see later for more info on that), really add to the adventure but are not essential to someone's enjoyment of the adventure.

For a while, I debated (with myself) what to do with these encounters. I had them in my head, they were nice and exciting, especially in the more relaxed atmosphere of a home setting (unlike the convention setting). I am a first believer in play experience and experiencing play is the most important thing. In short, getting to experience something in the game beats being told about it. You can be told that group A hates group B. Fine. No issue. But until you get stuck between those two, they are just distant, background flavor. Get them to beat you over the head with a stick because you walked on the wrong side of the road. You won't forget it... Experience matters.

Then inspiration hit.

It hit me hard.

Those chicks are vicious when they strike! (+5d6 sneak attack)

But enough with the inspiration metaphors...

I approached LPJ with the idea of writing the full ideas, include the soft points and provide all our backers with them, so they get the added scenes to their PDF product! Another way of saying "Thank you" to the people who believed in us and who support us. The "Complete" or "Expanded" Undying Legacy will be an adventure I'd like to play! Fun and full of NeoExodus flavor!


Shout-Out To PCI

The terms Hard and Soft points were first introduced by my good friends at Paradigm Concept (you know, the Arcanis folk), in their adventures. For some reason, I prefer to use their terminology to the more generic "Optional" encounter found in other Pathfinder products. A Hard Point is considered a core and central part of the story, while a Soft Point is optional or flavorful that is not central to the adventure. In classic D&D terms, the random encounter tables generate Soft Points while the dungeon itself is a Hard Point (Hats up to Peter and the PCI team).

PS: Thanks to all our backers!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tales from the Auction: Legion of Everblight for Hordes

At the auction, I won a fair number of lots, including a many Legion of Everblight minis, mostly infantry (which I have yet to paint). After delving into the background and looking at the nice minis, I decided to go and get me a few extra minis to give me a complete army. So I got a started box for the Legion and an Angelius.

I went with a color scheme I seen on Tyranids before: Purple and cream on the warbeasts, purple and red for the infantry. This gives me an interesting palette and a uniting theme for everything.

Next step: the infantry! They have been glued to their bases and should get primed this evening.


Monday, January 16, 2012

[Organized Play People] Teos Abadia and Chad Brown [Ashes of Athas, 4e, 5e, Pathfinder 2]

When Teos, Chad and I had this talk, the news that smashed through the internet about 5e. The 5e news, prevented me from posting this... Still, the rest of this interview is fun and vastly informative.

JP: Why do you think a complete newcomer to organized play should join Ashes of Athas?

TA/CB: Our campaign allows you to create one PC and then have your experience be a single story. We provide periodic level bumps so you won't fall behind if you play casually. Each adventure has a different Death Certificate that helps you rejoin the campaign if your PC dies without feeling like you lost everything you had previously learned and earned. Limited PC options mean it isn't so hard to create a character. Limited magic and the style of play means the game doesn't revolve around extremely optimized PCs.

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

TA: The Dark Sun setting is really fun and we try to highlight what Athas is about in ways that are fun for players new or accustomed to OP. AoA story awards are full of flavor and shape future play. There is a ton of story and RP.

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

TA: I swore I would never be an admin, but I do really love organized play. I wanted to do my part to contribute the same way so many others have done. It is a job with far too few "thank you"s and incredible amounts of free work, but I could not say "no" to helping other people love Dark Sun.

CB: I served as an LG Triad member happily until I moved away from my region, so I perhaps had some better idea of what I was getting myself into. As I mentioned before, I had explored the idea of trying to start a `Campaigns'-style Dark Sun campaign on my own, which is probably how I got hooked into AoA. At the time, I was looking for a way to spread the truly great experiences that 4e D&D and LFR could offer to a group - judge and players - that was willing and able to play the adventure, rather than complete the module.

If we stopped AoA right now, I'd be happy with what we've done, just in showing people that the same great D&D I played since 2nd Edition still works great in 4e (and now it's doesn't have to kill the DM!).

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

TA/CB: We all work together to create the story. We then identify authors and each admin works with one to assist them with the authoring process. We edit and develop the adventures. We promote the campaign and work to keep in touch with fans on the forums.

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

TA: It varies greatly from just a couple of hours in a week to more than 20/week during crunch time. We work really hard on adventure quality.

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?

TA: I make myself more efficient and smarter at design. I would like to do a better job of providing information to DMs and players on the setting. I would like to see more Wizards of the Coast employees playing the campaign so they understand OP well (several played at D&DXP). I would like to find ways to have the campaign revolve around players even more (coming up with new ideas and refining them takes time).

CB: If Teos is smarter and more efficient, that gives us even more time and ability to break down the boundaries that so often lead to the typical "organized play as lowest common denominator D&D" experience. If you can't tell, I think this is actually our biggest contribution to organized play (just ahead of `give people a chance to play Dark Sun').

The most nagging lack I typically see in the version of AoA without the magic wand is "How do we give the PCs important choices, and make them matter?".

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

TA: I love to contribute in whatever form is needed. If I play, I hope my play helps other players have a great time. If I DM, I hope I really bring them a great experience. If I write, I hope what I do furthers the cause of crafting good adventures and honors those from whom I stole.

CB: I really like, want, and need all three, so I try to adjust things so that all three are satisfied. In practice, GMing for me is usually mostly part of Playing or Writing (this is probably the main thing I like about 4e - DMing can be more about playing, even above 12th level).

JP: Any known people associated with the campaign?

TA: Having Chris Sims as an admin is great. He has a really amazing understanding of RPGs, story, and editing. Chad has great living campaign experience and is an excellent author. We are of common mind on many things. Derek has great ideas and tremendous experience in other types of RPGs and games. Shawn Merwin is a mentor to me and I often come to him with questions about organized play, editing, etc. I also have to thank the people that have volunteered, authored, and playtested. We have a Yahoo list where people can volunteer and I hope they know how vital they have been to the campaign. Small things are really big when you are short on time. Death Certificates and Story Awards are the types of things that happened because volunteers gave us enough time to create them back in Chapter One. One guy making a map for us can have a really big effect.

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

The guys provided me with three links:

JP: Can we hope to see an "Ashes Of Athas" published book, either by WotC or by a 3PP under license?

TA: Unlikely. WotC prefers to really have organized play be special and not available in other means. I don't really disagree with that.

JP: When I first read about AoA, it was to be a "big con only" event, something that would run at DDXP, Gencon and Origins. This changed pretty quickly after the campaign’s kickoff. Why did you do so?

TA: I think it had to do with Dave Christ hearing many people desiring to have a home play option coupled with Wizards being open to the idea of a limited window when each chapter could be requested and played.

CB: We're still mostly a "big con event" campaign, but no longer exclusive. That's been driven by player demand and Wizard's willingness, both of which are gratifying.

JP: How many adventures does the campaign produce per year?

TA/CB: 9 (three chapters per year, with each chapter having three adventures. Chapters are released at D&DXP, Origins, and Gen Con). We periodically consider other opportunities that could extend the play experience.

JP: Are you looking for authors?

TA: Always! They should contact us and provide their level of experience with writing, their knowledge of Dark Sun, their expertise with 4E, and any organized play experience. You don't need all or any of those necessarily, but we do want to understand that you can create a quality adventure and understand the commitment involved. There is no pay, but you reach thousands, tell your story, and get to improve organized play! My own AoA work has opened doors to writing articles for both Dragon and Dungeon.

JP: What is the campaign’s link to WotC and/or the RPGA? Did you have talks with them about using their IP?

TA: Baldman Games is contracted to provide content at the three large D&D conventions. Ashes of Athas is part of the content that Baldman Games provides and thus can use official IP (using OGL would mean we could not use the Dark Sun setting, as setting is part of their non-open IP). We are careful around distribution (adventures can only be distributed through the web site in a controlled fashion during a limited window). None of this has been a negative for us. Wizards has been great to work with and we continue to have an open dialogue around how best to coordinate and support organized play. The legal side of things can be confusing for those that don't understand these issues, but we feel really good about what this all means for us creatively and for gamers in general.

CB: On the content side, we haven't been asked to avoid or include anything; we've basically been given free rein.

JP: When writing an adventure or plotting a storyline, how do you go about doing it?

TA: I'm really story driven. I tend to envision a story and then begin hanging fun bits on that story. Whether a combat or a skill scene, I want encounters to feel like part of the narrative. Any part of an adventure, when summarized to one paragraph, should be a cool tale and stimulate the imagination.

JP: Why 4e instead of a 3.5 or Pathfinder adaptation?

TA: Because Pathfinder fans are a bunch of... ha, ha! Totally kidding. I truly despise the edition wars. We are all gamers and we all love RPGs. Fighting x edition is really destructive to our hobby's growth. Pathfinder is really good. I love what Paizo does and I admire much of what the company does. At the same time, I played 3E for a long time and I'm worn out on it. I play a hybrid 4E/3E home game called Enlightened Grognard ( and while I love the system, I still find the "attack it with my axe again" to be a step back and a bit boring (EG works to mitigate that with a cool token system). Ashes of Athas uses 4E because Wizards wants content that is based in 4E for their conventions (no surprise there!). I have run AoA for players that have played only 1E, only 3E, only Pathfinder, and others who are sworn off of 4E... and they all had a fantastic time. Edition wars shackle the gaming community, as does any form of hatred.

CB: I have a pet theory about the RPG community, based on 20+ years of observation, which I'll summarize by saying: The RPG Community needs to have at least two games at any one time. Because so much of our efforts and discussion are driven by comparing and creating differences (i.e. Game Alpha is Game Beta, but with X and Y and without Z). The `Edition Wars' are still `hot' because the two games that exist right now are Dungeons and Dragons and... Dungeons and Dragons.

There are certainly games that will be easier, and likely better, in one system or the other, but those differences in the game are, in my experience, far less meaningful than the differences that we fabricate, just to create the sense of contrast we require.

JP: What will happen to AoA when 5e came out?

TA: There are no plans here. It would really depend on what Baldman Games wanted to do, what the differences in the edition would be, what Wizards would prefer, what OP would look like, what we wanted to do, how the campaign was being received... too many variables for any of us to worry.

JP: At the risk of starting another edition war thread... Do you think Essentials is a 4.5 edition?

TA: It clearly isn't the same as 3.5 was to 3.0. Those editions changed many fundamental aspects that really forced you to "upgrade". Can you count the number of people that kept using their PHB 3.0 once they had the 3.5 version? For a while I had no idea when I was judging a player with an Essentials PC or a "classic" one. That doesn't sound like a new version of the game. The numbers of people still using content from the 4E PH are countless! That said, I do think all of 4E has suffered from poor marketing communications. Essentials is some of the best work WotC has done writing-wise (great flavor!) and products like Monster Vault and Neverwinter Campaign Setting (which could easily have been bloat) are amongst the best D&D has _ever_ seen. I've heard many say that the reception to Essentials would have been better if it had actually been the initial offering for 4E, because it is a bit closer in design to 3E. I can see that, even while liking the original 4E design.

CB: The term `4.5' really has two possible meanings: either it's an analogy to 3.0/3.5 - in which case the answer is "nope" - or it's a reference to software versions, - in which case the answer is "kinda, although 4.4 is more accurate". Even the term `Essentials' is far from well understood at this point, having been smeared well beyond its original "These specific 10 products".

Monster Manual 3 kicked off a clear change in design ethos for the game, aimed primarily at diminishing the `boring grind' that could - and did! - happen. This design change continued through several products (including the Dark Sun Campaign Setting and Dark Sun Creature Catalog), but really hit home with the players in the two `Heroes of the...' books. In terms of changing the game, though? Essentials is less of a change than 3.5 was to 3rd edition. It's less of a change than the Complete foo Handbooks were to 2e AD&D, and *waaay* less of a change than the "Player's Option" series.

JP: I made predictions of doom about 5e at Gencon 2012 (5e or "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons). Do you have any insight on that? Any thoughts? Any secret knowledge you can share?

CB: I don't expect 5e to come out in 2012, but I would love to see it announced there, if not sooner. I think that WotC took several large risks in 4e, and have learned a tremendous amount since the launch, and I'd love to see a new edition.

TA: (To be clear, all of my answers are my own, not secret, and not those of any other person or organization.) I have also in the past told my friends I thought it could be 2012, though I wasn't sure if it would be announced or released at Gen Con. That was before Essentials was released, though, which could extend the time frame. What makes prediction so hard is that we don't know the financials. Encounters seem to be doing really well. RPGA play at Gen Con and at PAX was huge in 2011. DDI memberships seem likely to be really lucrative. While there has been some exhaustion of the design space (the guessable sourcebooks have been released), the latest offerings are great... Gardmore Abbey is a fantastic super-adventure with lots of innovation. There is a mix of those that want to see 5E and those that want to see 4E go longer. My bottom line is that I really like what WotC has been doing in 2011. I suspect I will really like 5E whenever it comes out. If I had to make a prediction, it would be that the game will allow players to consume content differently so that more players are buying things more often. I know players criticize things like Fortune Cards, but it is important to understand that there is no clearly profitable RPG company in the history of our hobby. Some of the ones that were heralded for fiscal intelligence (like FASA) have fallen by the wayside. No one has truly conquered the problem of one DM that owns lots of stuff and most players not owning more than one book. Compare what most players pay for WoW to what they spend on D&D. Paizo's subscriptions and WotC's DDI are a step in that direction. We will surely see more. What I love is that both Paizo and WotC clearly love the game. They aren't willing to sell out the game we all love for profit.

TA: Let me turn the tables on you, JP. What is next for Pathfinder? It has been a few years and they show good growth, but third edition is 11 years old. While Paizo made some revisions, can they continue to retain the old guard that has played such a similar game for so long? Can they continue to bring in enough new players? With some of the released material looking like the basic story of Golarion is told and obvious sourcebooks already written, will Paizo need to consider something along the lines of a new edition? How can that be done under the current license?

JP: Turn the tables! Preposterous!

But fair enough... That is a valid question! I cannot speak for Paizo any more than you guy speak for WotC. One element that Paizo has done very well so far is to release fewer core elements, and really focus on their adventure line through their adventure paths and their modules series. So while there are a LOT of products for Pathfinder, most of it is adventure, and we all know, there are never enough adventures.

About their setting, yes, I believe they may reach a point where everything has been said and done, and at that point, they will either come up with a new completely new setting, OR bring out Pathfinder 2e. But the way they have their release set up I don’t expect this until a number of years down the road... Yes folk, I did say Pathfinder 2e. But it’s like 5e, you know it’ll come. Though I expect PF2 MUCH later than 5e (or dare I say it, 6e?)

But Paizo has different lines: core rules, adventure paths, modules, Pathfinder Society people and fiction. Each has different people running them and they are pretty good at what they do. This creates a MUCH larger pool of people working and thinking for the same game world. The way Golarion is set, I’d be surprised to see them running out of ideas.

When I started working on NeoExodus with LPJ Design, that was one of the big issues: how to make it different from Golarion? (I have a big blog post series on it) Erik Mona has stated publicly that Golarion is pretty much "frozen in time" that it will not get a "five years later" update. Which has a lot of good things going for it, but as you say, does limit certain things.

To answer the question, this year, we will see the coming of the Tian Xia, their Asian setting come out. I can see a book on the planes (Ultimate Planes), more monster books, a "north American" continent (like Maztica) being discovered (or re-discovered), with supporting adventure path and sourcebooks. With their current release schedule... That could last them quite a few years. And with the PRD behind them, Third-Party Publishers can continue to produce material for the game (adventures, settings) that will keep their core line in business for a while.

That a fair answer?

TA: A big wish for me: What if for 5E Paizo and WotC could combine forces once more? It may sound nuts to fans, but the designers for each game are all in each other's home campaigns...

JP thinks about it a while...

JP: I doubt that will happen, but it is a nice idea... I would love to see Pathfinder adaptation of some of WotC’s OP (Dark Sun comes to mind), though that’s little more than a pipe dream... Home game maybe?

JP dreams for a second...

JP: Talking Dark Sun... what do you think makes 4e a good choice for that campaign setting?

TA: Dark Sun is filled with larger-than life Conan and Barsoom-style combat. This works really well in 4E. You don't just hit things with your axe. You break it on their head, pick up their weapon, then call to the elements before charging the next guy with a special power. I'm immensely happy with how Dark Sun plays in 4E. As a deep fan of the old material, this is better. Come play some Ashes of Athas with us!

(Please let your friend know he can't legally do that unless for personal use. You can't distribute setting under the OGL!

CB: I'll add that the role structure in 4e has proved to be even better than 2e for Dark Sun in a bunch of ways. The addition of several healers that aren't divine is awesome! There's no more need for the wonky `elemental vortexes'! The psionics system is usable without being hand-hacked by every individual DM! We don't need a 50-page Open/Closed/Banned list! 4e is great for Dark Sun. As Teos says, come give it a try!

JP: That was great! Thanks for taking the time to do this... I learned more and am quite intrigued by the product...

PS: For the first time, Ashes of Athas is going to be on the program at Genghis Con

Friday, January 13, 2012

NeoExodus: Free Rpg Day Project Plea

We are getting there! We've reached over 50% of our funding request.

In December, Louis launched our project for Free RPG Day on Kickstarter. I really want for this to work as it would expose NeoExodus to a number of people who have never seen the world. And its a great world! Very different and exciting.

Someone commented that "if I get the product for free, why should I pledge to the Kickstarter?" Which is a fair question. Here are the two top answers.

First, without the kickstarter, we may not be able to get the adventure to the printers (or have more than one copy per box). Printing anything costs money, and even though it's FREE Rpg Day, we need to pay for the actual product.

Second, art is not free. If you have ever looked at a NeoExodus product (or any NeoExodus blog post), you know that Louis insist on having only top-notch, color art. Look at the video for some sample. I mean Louis does a stellar job finding awesome artists.

Third, you may pledge and get some awesome rewards forcing me to use an NPC you name or a town or province you get to name and give us some thoughts on.

Therefore, I ask that if you can pledge to our Kickstarter, to please do so. We are getting so close to the finish line and it would be so awesome! Check out the rewards... they are well worth it! It would mean a lot to us and you will get a great adventure and discover (or expand your knowledge of) NeoExodus. You can pledge by clicking this link.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tales from the Auction: A Khador Army for Warmachine

Last Saturday was Gamers' Haven auction. Now a few places have done auctions locally, by definitely the best in terms of quality content, entertainment and just plain ol' fun, that's the one to attend. True, miniatures are the most common lot, but RPGs and board games are becoming more common. In fact, there so much stuff to go through, that the good folks decided to have it twice a year (once in January and once in August). The past two I missed due to Pathfinder Society events. Finally I could attend (though my wallet sings a different song...).

One of the lot I won at the auction was a anumber of Khador troops that were all broken and busted up. Missing arms, missing weapons, missing parts... Although I did not expect that much damage on the miniatures. Using a number of GW bitz, I fixed them. One of the jacks was missing so many parts that I had to turn it into a wreck marker.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January Commissions: More Malifaux

Some more commission work for Stephen' Malifaux army. These quality miniatures were great to paint.

The first one is the Avatar of Conflagration. It is a great miniature with a lot of character. I like how the woman came out. I painted here in a blue tint for two reasons: first because the rest of Stephen's army is in blue, doing that ties her into the rest of his minis; second, because it forms a clears contrast to the yellow/orange/red of the flame.

The second mini (actually numbers 2-4) are more of the little demon-things. I did some minor conversion (arm swaps) and painted them similar to the ones I did last month. I painted these a darker blue with red hair, so they can be distinguished on the tabletop. As I took the pictures, I noticed that I have to retouch one of the bases so it's all nice.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Warmachine: My Rhulic Army Grows [Mercenaries]

My first army in Warmachine are the dwarves of Rhul. They are awesome. I love how they paint up, I love how they play. Now I just need more playtime! I offer some more units for my Rhulic army. As I assembled my force, at 35 pts, I have a tier 4 Gorten army, which allows me to get a number of extra goodies!

First, another unit of gun shields, the true backbone of my army. These guys are tough and have thus far helped me win a number of games. I need more of them (of course). On a trip to northern Denver, I found a "cheap" officer and banner blister. These guys I can include for free as part of my Gorten themed list. I really like 'em.

I bought a new heavy warjack specially for jack marshaling by the gun shields. This is a Ghordson basher. As its name implies, it is designed to charge into melee and beat up on things. I am not convinced of the paint job I did however, and may decide to add to it. It works, but I find it too simple, it could use some... some... "funk up" I guess to really make it pop! I may have to revisit this model later (and I'll post all the pictures here).

Before Christmas, Castle Games ran a 20% off sale... I couldn't ignore that and as I looked through their wall of Privateer Press stuff, I picked up my first Hordes model. It should come as no surprise that I chose Brun and Lug the dwarf/bear combination! It's a BEAR! How can you go wrong with a bear... I mean bears are awesome! Lug's model is very easy and fun to paint, I had a blast during the Xmas break getting him ready. So far, he "only" ate through some Circle warriors...


Monday, January 9, 2012

5e: I told you so, with dates and times!

This morning, I was fully decided to publish part 2 of my chat with Teos and Chad. I also thought about posting about the Gamers' Haven auction on Saturday (you will see all the new minis I won here). But as I sat on my chair at work this morning, my twitter feed (@jpongaming) and other sources were a blur of activity with the news that 5e was coming out. So I have to post about that.

Today, the internet is abuzz with the news of 5e being worked on. Once again, a Prediction of DoomTM has come to pass. I promised you here that 4e would be dead an buried by Gencon 2013. I also talked about the dream team rebuild Wizards was getting together here.

My take on the whole deal

I think Wizards are on the right track on a number of things:

  • They involve the community. During the 4e PT, I felt like everything was already written and decided without any input. The only input I felt they wanted to hear was "this is great!" (which it wasn't).
  • In their announcements, they have not attacked 4e itself (or 3.5, or Pathfinder). Rather, they attacked the process that led to the release of 4e. I believe the attitude with which 4e was presented helped create the Edition War. By blasting a product I thought was good, it really pissed ME off.
  • They built a design team made up of people who have gaming creds before announcing the upcoming release of the game: Monte Cook, Stan Brown and Matt Sernett.
  • They are open about it. Openness helps build buzz. And buzz sells.

Things I would like to see:

  • PDFs. Will we have legal PDFs of D&D5? I saw nothing about this.
  • GSL/OGL. I think WotC would gain a lot by having something closer to the OGL. It allowed for a lot cheap content to come out quickly. Getting people to play the game. I doubt it'll be back. Although I don't think it'll be a big win if there is an OGL. I think an OGL would go a long way to foster goodwill.

I think Wizards has it wrong or should be wary about:

  • Stores with collections of 4e have paperweights for the next year-ish. I don't see these books moving a lot (except is "out with 4e" sales, and those should only appear closer to 5e's release date. Stores won't be happy, but don't have a choice in the matter.
  • No, I will not be buying any 4e book on sale... (I only spent 6$ on 4e and that was to play during a game day).
  • Not everyone will flock to the new edition. Many will look and try the game. I'm one of them. However, they have now lost a fair amount of market shares to other games. Getting everyone back to their own game system might be something of an uphill battle.
  • I am not yet sure of the business model they are going to use. Part of the business model includes the release schedule. 4e's schedule at release was INSANE. I mean RETARDED: two 40$ books a month. Later, they released their stuff slower and from all the feedback I got, the quality improved. Of course, by then only 4e-fans remained.

Will it be successful?

Upon release, it will be the biggest release yet. Sales will skyrocket as everyone will try to get their copies to try it out. The question is: how many of these people remain a year later? What about two years later? So far, 4e failed the 2 year anniversary (Essentials) while Pathfinder is still going strong. I have faith in Monte Cooke to provide a good, solid product.

What should Paizo do?

It's like everyone who is chatting to me (outside my non-gamer family) is asking me that question. The short answer: nothing. It serves Paizo little in blasting or starting an Edition War. I suspect Paizo will do what they do best: come up with some great products that sell on the basis of their awesomeness.

At this point, unless WotC makes D&D a retro-clone (which would greatly surprise me), I consider D&D4e+ and D&D1-3.5/Pathfinder to be completely different games. This makes the competition between Pathfinder/ 5e the same as the competition between Shadowrun, D&D, Palladium and Pathfinder: the competition is for players' time. A good product generates interest, a bad or aging sees its stock drop in the community.

My final assessment

I am cautiously optimistic about the whole deal. I want to see 5e succeed but fear it may get squashed in the WotC bureaucratic crap. There is little that is known so far other than to promote the fact that 5e will be community-driven. Although they will be running 5e games at D&DXP, which makes me think they already have a very extensive framework laid out for 5e.

I am not very trusting in anything Wizards say. experience have shown that they are great at saying what people want to hear, but the delivery is... Well like a politician. Their "Community Involvement" as play testers become known slowly (look around, it's not hard to figure who pt'd). I think it's a smokescreen and that the book is almost on the printers.


So there it is. I am cautiously optimistic with 5e.

We'll see.


Friday, January 6, 2012

[Avatar of the Kaga] Monsters of the Campaign Setting

If you ask LPJ, he'll tell you "We need more monsters!". But that's about all the inspiration he'll give you. Or he'll say "it has to be scary". That's helpful.

When the time came to put together the NeoExodus campaign book, I thought to myself: I need monsters that are interesting, iconic and can help a GM set the mood for NeoExodus. By that time, a couple of monster books were already available: the First Ones, the scythians, the calibans, the harvesters of sorrow, to name but a few. I started in those book and took a few monsters: the low-level scythian warrior appeared again, I copied the caliban from the caliban with some (minor) updates to it, based on material that was not available in the original book. Adding a fully stated Exodite as a First One was a must. So I built an Exodite inquisitor. Bad mojo. Finally, I added the Quickslavers, as they were in the original book and that they really added to the dark elements of NeoExodus. Those things are evil.

Going back to old NeoExodus books, I found a monster forgotten: the draco. The draco was a race LPJ designed in the pre-4e days aka "the preview days". It was to bring dragonborn to NeoExodus. The idea was good, but I found them a little lackluster as a race (in 3.5). We already had enough races for the book and their original book had some decent background for them making them isolated from the rest of the world. So I decided to remake them, but as a "monster".

Monsters from a previous adventure are the necryos. These 3.5 cold-base monsters were given a make-over and streamlined abilities, making them pretty scary against unprepared adventurers, giving the GM a nice advantage on the PCs.

With those monsters done and updated, I thought "what other creatures do I need?" The Protectorate Golem - or Ironforged - immediately came to mind. They do appear in at least two of our yet unreleased adventures... So I built a few sample ones: a basic ironforge, the military ironforged, and the ironforged goliath, a final, smaller and more common one was created to round them out. The now-infamous mobile cannons (anyone who faced them know how bad they are). Protectorate golems are all partially intelligent (Int 3) and have the profession soldier skill. Still they are dumb as a rock, hence the constant need for Protectorate officers and artillerists to command them.

The other monsters added to the book were either, for flavor or things I like lot. The Arcaneslime, the caliban hound, the cynean hunter, the ember, the melted flesh ooze, the needlewing, and the razorfiend complete the monsters.

The result is that in the Campaign book, you have monsters that span the gammut of CRs: from 1/3 (caliban warrior) up to CR14 (melted flesh ooze).

The campaign setting is currently available through RPGNow (Here), and Paizo (Here).

If you have comments about it, contact me, I'd love to pick your brain about it!


Warmachine: More Cygnar

A few quick pictures of my growing Cygnar army. These guys are Long Gunners. I won a number of these guys on Ebay and decided to build them. I tried to paint them in a way where I can use them as Mercenaries (in the Highborn Covenant), or as Steelhead Riflemen.

I should not be saying anything, but I plan to use them as Protectorate soldiers in a coming large-scale event for NeoExodus! Which got me thinking... Maybe I should start writing a series called "A minis guide to NeoExodus"... That's a thought.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pathfinder Society: Great News for Genghis Con

Okay, I can *FINALLY* talk about this. I've been freed from my NDA by Mike.

You know I've been vocal about this to you all and well, I've been the same to my Paizo Overlord. As a way to shut me up, they decided to give me what I've been asking for over a year now. My plan worked and guess who will be happy recipients of this most excellent news? That's right, the brave folk who will attend Genghis Con this year!




That means we will have a locally written and produced PFS-legal *INTERACTIVE* for Genghis Con!

That's right.

At the moment Scott and I are working on the story before we contact the GMs and get everyone together for a Slot Zero/tweak session. I want this to be awesome and great! Your feedback will be solicited after the event so that I can get back to M&M and tell them how it went.

PFS-legal means that you get risk AND reward for the game. XP, GP and perhaps, some extra goodies as well! You asked for it, I asked for it, and now we've got it.

How can you help?

First and most important will be to be present at Genghis Con (as a player or a GM). The bigger the event, the better.

Second, if you are a GM scheduled to run it (you should have received an email prior to this), I'll be in touch with you. If you are not a GM for it, don't worry. I can use a few more.

Third, provide feedback after the event.

What is it gonna be?

Those of you who were around in the days of LG can remember that I like to THINK BIG and make interactive adventures take you from the norm of the regular grind. At this time, there are lot of things up in the air about it, but I will be bolting everything down "soon" and begin talking to the GMs about it.

You might get to see some local celebrity PCs making cameo appearances...

What is it gonna be called?

"VC Special" is the name I favor, not to be confused with the "4-star Special" Paizo will keep publishing every year.

What format will it take?

You will have to show up and play. I expect it to be dynamic, interactive and fun.

What does "think big sti" means?

It mean I dream REALLY big... and swearing at the same time! It's a quote from a French Canadian Movie: Elvis Gratton II (Miracle à Memphis). You may not want to see this, but this has a French Canadian (Bob) vs a Frenchman... Hilarious (even if you don't speak French).

Okay this has NOTHING to do with anything, but I needed a good laugh.