JP On Gaming

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Response to Paco Garcia Jean. and Richard Whipple

Monday, I got a tweet that pointed me to the following article by Paco Garcia Jean talking about "Is it WotC's responsibility to bring new people to the hobby?"

The question at first prompts a simple "yeah, unless they're stupid" type of answer (which I admit was the one I had). But as you start thinking about it some more, the question is not that simple to answer. And Paco's expose is very good.

Richard Whipple's opinion:

The hobby is shrinking and it is because of the attitude of WotC towards the game industry and the edition wars that ensue every time there is a new D&D edition release. Dungeons & Dragons is still the flagship and gateway game by default and people recognize the brand, whereas other games are not recognized, thus if you try to use another game to introduce people to the hobby, people won’t be interested since there won’t be any familiarity. WotC doesn’t do enough to bring people into the hobby – instead, it’s just trying to bring players back and not expanding the demographics of the hobby.

I both agree and disagree with Richard.

I do not believe the hobby is shrinking, I think it is growing, but in a more diluted form than what many of us now-longer-so-young gamers used to see. In the old days, everyone would play board games, table-top (which was usually D&D or AD&D), bizarre card games, etc. If you were geeky enough, you would play whatever would be brought for the entertainment. Nowadays, many gamers won't bother to show up unless you play the specific version of the setting they like. Forget about bringing the games' club together for "whatever night".

I admit I'm super guilty of this... I won't show up for 4e games, won't show up for board or card games, but I try to attend most other RPG events. I'm a war gaming guy and a table top guy, and will (try to) participate in those events. This dilution of the gamer pool certainly help the "hobby is getting smaller" opinion.

Next, I agree with him that D&D's brand as a whole is getting smaller. Good computer games, like the gold boxes where the game mimics the table top closely - or closer than first-person shooters and RTS - have gone away. Now we have DDO (which I liked, but it didn't really feel like D&D, more like "D&D-flavored water", and with the latest upgrade gone too 4eish to my taste so I stopped playing and gone back to... BLOOD BOWL!!!), the reviews for the latest Atari 4e game were just DISASTROUS, so even the 14$ price tag allowed me to safely leave it on the shelf. The D&D movies were not exactly great - I think they were better than most SyFy movies, but not Willow or Arny-Conan great!

His final comment... That WotC seeks to bring players back is really what lead to the disaster of 4e. A lot of the old guard - myself - dropped 4e like a sack of unwanted goblin steak. With that old guard walking away, they did not have these die-hard fans who would support the game. When most of the "old time GMs" start running something else, you need to scramble to find a GM who is willing to put the time to run AND who can do a good job of it.

In all fairness, I think Colorado was blessed with a number of old timers who enjoyed 4e enough to keep it going strong for much longer than other, much bigger markets. There are a number of GMs with whom I like to play, most of them are older, more experience guys who have played for years. I'll give a shout out to Mario (Warhammer), everyone from the NIGA (Non-Irish Gamers Association who GM'd: Kristian, Christophe, Darryl) and locally, there is Lenny and Stu whom I always enjoy playing under. Now don't go flaming me if your name is not on the list... I only mentioned guys who I played with more regular games.

The Edition War

Over the past year or so (and with the announcement of 5e), I have come to the realization that the edition war lies squarely on WotC's shoulders, at least the initial salvoes. I remember talking to Lenny who was a Gencon 2007 when they announced the death of Living Greyhawk, the death of 3.5 and the coming of 4 as the savior of all RPG-kind. I felt... I felt offended by what they were saying. Then reading blogs, comments and forums only convinced me that I felt attacked, that the outcry for the terrible overall product the 3.5 was, which really offended me. 3.5 had flaws, but it wasn't THAT bad... especially when you don't have an alternative that's out there right away! That we had to wait about a year before we got to see what was offered (okay I got to see it early and I didn't really like it then either). But that's the thing... if you are gonna blast it, provide something to replace it right away, not promises.

Which does explain why they have been VERY careful when they talk about 5e, which is encouraging because they now know that without the old guard they don't have the critical mass to maintain their product. That's good to see.

D&D's image as the flagship of RPGs

This is something I never paid to much attention to. However when doing my interviews with Organized Play People, I realized that the brand itself is beloved by a lot of people. More than I expect. My parents still say I play "dungeons" no matter what it is I play. As such, yes people have a rough idea what you do when you say "I play Dungeons & Dragons" more than "I play Gurps/Pathfinder/Robotech/whatever else".


When did you see an ad for D&D anywhere outside a gaming magazine? Okay, those ads in comics, when did they look interesting and not a bunch of kids about to discover what comes out of the box when "pop goes the weasel" finished playing...

Even more telling, google "4e D&D ad" or "4e D&D marketing" looking for images... You'll get wrestlers, cos-players and a lot material you don't really care for... But little in the ways of advertisement. And what you find looks a lot like: Click on the links to see them in full glory...

I know. It's scary...

The one from the 80s is odd... it looks a little like those ads for the x-ray goggles that would allow you check out girls' underwear (why else would you need them?). It's not great, but it was in the spirit of the time. I mean you have these oddly shaped characters walking through a town... The two guys look like they are planning some nefarious activity. Not what you want to see and the young kids there seem to be having seizures of happiness. Again scary for parents. And what does the text let you know? Once you have the basic, you're hooked you can become an EXpert? Now what is that?

But it was the 80s, a lot of what we did back then didn't require strict scrutiny. Surely, the recent one would...


The 4e one doesn't even let me know what else I could be doing in a significant way. So... I'm going to meet people in person and... what? play? do the same thing? That add is just scary bad because it doesn't tell you what the problem is. It seems like an ad for sex addicts anonymous... I'd be worried about going there.

So... Should WotC be responsible to bring in new people to the hobby

After all this, I think the initial response of "yeah, unless they're stupid" still makes a lot of sense!

Because like any creator/manufacturer of product, they need to maintain and grow their client base. How do they do that? by creating material that is aimed at new players. By giving people something that will intrigue them enough to fork hundreds of dollars into this hobby. They are the gateway into the world of RPG, want it or not, like it or not, they are. Schools, youth events, friends will often talk to you about D&D before you head out to the store to buy that memorable first D&D product...

Because of their "regal" status among RPG, they are the ones people compare themselves to. When you create a new game: a number of concepts and elements will come or be created in opposition to something in D&D.

Don't like the D20 skill system? Make if D100!

Hit points bother you? Replace it with a system of health by location!

AC? Thac0? Claw, claw, bite? Again, many other games are designed "in opposition" to D&D. My own NeoExodus was designed with a similar thought process: Let's do something that is similar but not the same as Paizo's Golarion! And go from there.

WotC has to be good shepherds of the gaming community. Not just because it makes sense, but because it will help them in the long run. Why is Paizo currently the top publisher in the game industry? Why/how did they overtake something that seemed impossible just 2 years ago? They made themselves be good shepherds of the herd that we are. They put themselves out there, answered questions, made themselves available AND they published quality products. I won't go into the specifics of why Paizo rocks at this time, but suffice to say that the biggest thing is that Paizo HAS DELIVERED what they promised. Remember the Virtual Table Top for 4e? PDFs?

But the "No, not really" is also good.

Then again, it's not *JUST* WotC's place to be the sole bringer of new players to the hobby. That would be unfair. While they have the name and the following, we, as a community are no responsible to it. We have to be good shepherds, includers and ambassador to the game. Whatever your game of choice, there are people who need/want to play. By being inclusive, by talking to them, you grow interest.

One of the things I keep telling my players and GMs is that if you want to set up a game, set it in public. In a game store. When players see people playing, they will want to buy and try it out. Don't only plan massive 12-year campaigns that no one who starts will ever finish. Plan short one-shots. Get people playing. Get people excited. That's what we need to do. Don't hide in your dark basement with you 20 year old edition of Champion and wonder why no one ever comes to play. Make it easy.

Sure, true, the game environment in a store is not as cool as in your basement you tricked out with light and sound effects. But for those who don't know you, its a lot less worrisome.

It's not just WotC's role to bring in new people... no.

It's all of us, WotC included. For the new person that comes in to play D&D could be at your Pathfinder table tomorrow! (They should, anyway).


Monday, July 30, 2012

More July Commissions

This one was a long time in coming! The story of this miniature start at Genghis Con this winter. I did say long. So, after I ran one of the tables, Homer gave me the mini to paint, which I did.

Then for the longest time, I did not get to see him. So the mini gathered dust on my painting table. Instead of taking a picture, post it here and wait to give the mini to him, I waited... and waited... and yes, waited some more! Eventually, I had to give the mini to Homer and I could not find the camera... so, no pic!

After Saturday night's PFS event, Homer pulls out the mini and says "I'll take a picture right now" and so... Here they are.

His character is a bare knuckle fighter who fights for Andoren, the dark, evil, remorseless, murderous people of the Pathfinder Society.

No, he does not own a sap either.

Point JP.


Sunday, July 29, 2012


This has nothing to do with gaming, yet everything at the same time... I have been working on a Star Trek TNG adventure to run today and I could not help myself thinking of the following...


Thursday, July 26, 2012

What do you want in a players' guide?

For the past few weeks, I've been working very hard on the upcoming NeoExodus players' guide, adding things in there that I had in the works for a long time, things that we had to cut out of the Campaign book (space restrictions and all), and yes, even some of your ideas and comments.

This questioning is something that Louis struggles with often. "What do our customer want? Adventures? Character-building material (feats/classes)? Monsters?" To which I usually respond (which frustrates him to no end), "Yes." This usually amuses me very much...

But not today.

Nope, today, I find myself thinking about the same question. When I worked on the NeoExodus Campaign Book, I looked at all the elements I wrote and thought to myself, in the following order...

1 - Does this add to the flavor of the setting? Flavor is everything in NeoExodus, otherwise, might as well play in Golarion/Forgotten Realms with new races.

2 - Does this stimulate or give me ideas to write an adventure in NeoExodus? A few friend of mine mentioned to me that "every page of an RPG book should contain an idea that could be directly used in a home campaign.

3 - Is it cool? (Yes that was the last question, LPJ would disagree and say it has to be at the top).

Now for a Campaign Book, you have to hit wide: make sure all the little secrets we have for the setting are hinted at and mentioned, that most things we were working on were mentioned in there.

But a players' guide... that's a different beast altogether! One of the things I've been doing lately was look at the characters created by NeoExodus players (and there have been quite a few) to play the game: Arman machinesmith, Cavian Rogue, Enuka sorcerer, Kalisan barbarian, Sasori monk to name but a few. Yes, you did read correctly "Enuka sorcerer", I was surprised too, but he was pretty fun with his nasty 15 foot tongue. I love these out-of-the-blue, weird concepts that work (somehow).

Currently (as of the writing of this blog entry), I have the following:

- New Race Options (each race gets alternative traits, including the Gevet and Kalisan)

- New Class Options (archetypes, an oracle mystery, a sorcerer bloodline)

- New Feats (including a new type of feats: the nobility feat, allowing you to play a noble)

- New Traits (including the Affinity traits, which define where your character is from and gain benefits from that)

- Twelve pages of new spells (including some spells which can be taken by any members of a given class)

- New Magic items

- New Equipment

So the question I wrestle with right now is: What do *YOU*, the players and customers of NeoExodus want to see in this book?

Do you have any ideas for things you would like to see?

Anything that would make those of you who waffle go "because *this* is in there, I have to get me this book" type of reaction.

So, the floor is open...


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July Commissions: Pathfinder for Brad!

If you ever ask Brad to tell you about the meteor hammer, you're in for a semi-rant about why it should be a monk's weapon. It's quite interesting and fun, though a tad time consuming.

When he gave me the mini to paint, I got to hear the rant... So I redirected the discussion to "if you want, I'll model one for you." The original model has a spike chain, which looks fine, but does not feel very dynamic.

For those of you who do not know what a meteor hammer is, it's the weapon the Japanese schoolgirl in Kill Bill Vol 1 uses against "the Bride". There are many types of meteor hammer, but they generally have one ball-shape end - often with spikes or studs. The other end is another heavy weight. So looking at the many bits, I chose to pick a spear head and a flail head for the weapon. They are a little bigger than they should be, but it just looks more fitting in a fantasy setting.

So I took a hard piece of steel and twisted it to give the new hammer a feeling of movement, of someone flying the weapon threateningly.

With the converting and painting done, I realized the issue I created for myself... The weapon was so big I had no way to store it. So I had to twist one of the head a little more to fit into one of my many Walmart pill bottle. So I fixed my issue that way!

Last night, when I returned the mini to Brad, he was extremely pleased. I did warn him to be careful as the weapon is... It's a weapon!


PS: A big thanks to Brad for the pictures...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Horror in Colorado: More Real Life Tragedy

In case you did not know a horrible shooting happened last night in Aurora, CO (just southeast of Denver). Although I had planned something completely different to post today, I don't feel like it. Instead, I feel like I have to re-post the following email I sent to the Rocky Mountain Pathfinders group to everyone.

Please do not let the horror of this tragedy change your opinion that Colorado is full of great people. Even if our nutjobs seem to always make national (and I suspect international) headlines.

Pray for us and tell people around you how they matter to you, wherever you are.

Fellow Pathfinders,

I too woke up to this tragedy about the mass shooting at a theater in an Aurora, CO cinema during the premiere of the new Batman movie. This has left me shell-shocked and taken me a fair amount of time to change my thought from anger and rage to resolve and clarity. If you do not know, the latest toll I can find is over 10 dead and 50 wounded. As I read in horror the details in the Denver Post I cannot help myself but choke and try to contain the tears.

Well Pathfinders, I failed to contain them. I'll admit it. Some people got unfairly hurt, paying a price they should not have paid. It paints our State and its capital in a poor light. But the important thing is not whether some of us or our families are hurt, the important thing is to help those in need, whoever they are. And show these wackos that the community stands strong and united. This tragedy affects all of us as a community and we have to show that the good people of Colorado are much more numerous and that we

I would ask that today (and I'll ask at tomorrow's PFS) that we all observe a moment of silence and pray for our nation, for its people and in particular for those affected by this tragedy, whether they be Pathfinders or not. If you can help in any way, I encourage you to volunteer or donate to your favorite charity (I don't know if there is one yet for this massacre so giving to a charity will help).

I will also ask you, in the spirit of community to be nice, polite, and say a few words to friends and those you see less frequently. With any luck, a kind word may avert such horrors.

Therefore I'll start by saying that I feel very blessed to belong to the RMPathfinder community, to be surrounded by such awesome, giving and fun people. These compliments and feelings I extend to my neighbors and people who welcomed me here, back in 2005. When I was this big Canadian guy who wandered out of the cold and among you. You have welcomed me, my wife and my children with open arms. I love Colorado and its people.

Thank you all for being there, Colorado. Let not horrors like these diminish your beauty and the goodness of your people.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

More Hinterlands Minis: VSF Female Sailors

Although the princesses and the Hussars are great, one of the unit that really caught my eye were the sailors. So I got me a Skirmish line and a Command pack. Like the Hussars, these are just great sculpts full of character and screaming for me to run some Victorian Sci-Fi. It sounds corny, but I really like a sailor uniform on a woman, which may date back to my Sailor Moon addiction I had in the 90s.

When I started to work on them, I was worried about my skills at painting white. But the result is pretty good. They look like they have been out on patrol and not come out of the laundry.

I really like handkerchief around their necks, makes them look the part even more. The Princess and the musician I wanted to really stand out, so I gave them the blue jackets. Makes them stand out.

You may remember that in mid-May, I posted a picture of a commission miniature I painted for Brad. The Victorian adventurer? Well I used the same technique here. The pith helmet and the jackets really came out great.


Now I have to come up with a minis-based adventure... Space 1889 anyone? This just might be the reason I've been needing to go out and buy the Savage Worlds version of the game, instead of my old, GDW game... Or maybe pull out the Soldiers' Companion? Either of those would really be cool! Been years since I touched either books.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More Hinterlands Minis: All-Female Hussar Regiment

In my review, I hinted at the presence of more hussars! Well here they are. I inspired myself from the colors of the 2nd Hussars (IIRC) from the Napoleonic Wars (Thank you L&L Funcken for doing all the research for me). I wanted a color that would look nice and "feminine" I did not want to use black (heck, I never want to use black). After looking through, the green did not appeal either.

I wanted these girls to really stand out when they would appear on the board. What color is more visible than red? There was only one unit of Hussars that had red, so I used them as inspiration.

I purchased two packs for these: the command pack and the skirmish line. You will see that the sculpts are awesome. The Command pack in particular has some great-looking ladies. I am particularly fond of the one waving her colpack and the ones with the Mauser/Luger pistol. Really nice. They paint up so fast and so well that I remained surprised at how easy and nice they got so quickly.

Also, Jason reminded me of another great reason to get these: shipping is EXTREMELY reasonable. No price gouging and the minis show up VERY FAST! Which is good - and bad for the impulse buyer like myself.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Talking Interactive: Death of an Iconic...

This post is the first in a series of them I will be posting here over the course of the next few weeks that will detail the fall out of the events that happened at PaizoCon.

When I first sat down to put my ideas together for what was to become A5 - Battle of Trovaska, I never could've foreseen what was going to happen at PaizoCon. The playtest and the "official run" could not have been any more different. And that is what I really like of NeoExodus and its players. I, as a designed, want to give players some power to change and alter the world. Throwing me a curve ball and see what I do with it.

Doing something like this is not easy, and requires a lot of thinking on my part. It's something I did with Living Greyhawk and something I see PCI and Arcanis do all time. The trick is not to set and pre-determine the result. It is to give the players as much rope as possible and see how they can hang themselves with it. Then we take the piece and rebuild the puzzle.

Many, including LPJ, when I first started talking to him about this feel like "if you allow the players to change the world, it'll explode in 15 minutes." Which is not quite wrong.


If while designing your adventure, you give your players a chance to change certain aspect of the world/story, let them. I for one love influencing - if only in a minor way - the world I play in. So I extend the same to players who play "my" campaign. I also want players to experience what we're building instead of simply being told what they should see/ think about the events.

Without spoiling the story:

Hans Skeffard, priest of the Kaga, got angry when the audience of the Senatorial committee would not listen to him or agree to his train of thought. The room was full, rafters and all, filled with high-ranking dignitaries from every nation of the Imperial Alliance, including nobles, senators, diplomats and a large crowd of their entourage and as many onlookers as the room would fit. Hans's words had worked the assembled crowd into a frenzy. He was heckled, booed, hissed at and repeatedly insulted as he tried to make his point that all of the nations would suffer if they refused to come together with the common good in mind.

His voice was drowned by the crowd he threatened with some half-revealed threats. To command the attention of the crowd who no longer paid attention to his words, he cast a damage-dealing spell to get them "to shut up" so they would pay attention to him.

That they did.

Immediately, the guards and the bodyguards acted and seized him. They dragged him out of the room with Akarma and Nose-Cutter who tried to defend him. The latter two got whipped repeatedly (esp Nose-Cutter) for their involvement.

But Hans refused to recant his words or his actions. He remained unapologetic. He continued to promise doom and gloom to all of the nations of Exodus if they continued their current actions. This forced Grofka Polina Vlaklova to demand his head as a mean of reparation for the insults canted against the Protectorate. In a shocking move, Senator Arem Kal’erandra of the Dominion, seconded the motion. Although Senator Elsa van Wispluy tried to stop what was to come, both Dominion and Protectorate agents executed Hans and quartered his body.

His head was sent to the Tsarina in Mureath.

His torso sent to the Khagan in Qijom.

And the rest of the body was turned over to the church of the Kaga for interment.

The important thing to take out of this is that from here on out, Hans Skeffard will NO LONGER be available for play. Who will we create in his place? Only I know for now. I haven't told LPJ about it (much).


Monday, July 16, 2012

Hinterland Miniatures's Princesses Review

A few years ago now, my good buddy Johnny posted a picture on his Facebook profile of a woman in a hussar uniform. I was immediately intrigued and looked a little. Well to my happy surprise, this was not something out a Victorian Sci-Fi (VSF) dream or from a steampunk's RPG. It was real!

Crown Princess Viktoria Louise and her sister-in-law Princess Cecilie seemed to have been into military uniforms! The Kaiser even granted Viktoria the right to form a unit of hussars (light cavalry).

While I doubt that the unit was little more than a sideshow and an attraction, in an alternate history OR in a VSF setting... what about then?

But the coolest part of it is that Hinterlands Miniatures has made a line of miniatures for these ladies! No longer is the world the sole property of men, but now the ladies can also take part in the taming of wild Africa, the exploration of the canals of Mars or the founding of Venusian bases!


There are three criteria I consider when reviewing: Cost, sculpting, and painting.

1- Cost These minis come in at around 2.50$ each (13.50$ for 5/6 infantry or 3 cavalry) with characters at 3$ each. They are a tad pricy, but not so much so. As I don't plan on building a FULL army of them, but rather provide some colorful units for a game, that's fine. Plus there are very few female characters out there. So the price is acceptable.7/10

2- Sculpting The sculpting is done IIRC by Paul Hicks who has done work for many companies. I like his style as his miniatures are full of character. These ladies don't disappoint. The Mounted Princess Viktoria, riding amazon-style was a great surprise. She really seems to be leading her girls. While Cecilie really seems to be ready to command a WWI charge. The Command squad is also very nice. Though I personally don't mind, these miniatures cannot be described as Booberellas, and their uniforms are perfectly adequate for an afternoon of hunting in the savannah followed by afternoon tea. Anatomically correct, characterful, female miniatures: without a doubt top marks for this. They are really quite impressive.10/10

3- Painting After they came in through the mail, I put them on a base and admired them for a while, worried I would mess them up with a bad paint job. But much to my happy surprise, they painted up quick, well and with details popping through my average skills. Definitely a big plus! Unlike the Over the Wire minis whose sculpts were "okay", but who painted up great, the ladies from Hinterland have awesome sculpts AND paint up quickly and nicely. Another top marks. 10/10

Finally, I would strongly recommend these figure to anyone seeking to field a unit that will no doubt draw stares and attention. These ladies are great! If you are dilly-dalling, fill your shopping cart now! What are you waiting for? 9/10

Oh! You want pictures of how I painted mine? I'll be posting them over the next couple of days.

The Minis...

Being the proud father of two beautiful daughters, I renamed the princesses "Princesse Josiane" and "Princesse Kitty" after them.

Friday, July 13, 2012

PaizoCon 2012: Sunday

Sunday... PaizoCon was now mostly behind us... Still got up, packed, looked for a breakfast that wasn't Starbucks... but the only affordable place was... Starbucks! My voice was thrashed and generally useless. That's when Bruce Higa told me of a magical cure: hot tea with vinegar (honey would make the taste go down better).

I seriously doubted that it would work but I was wrong! The tea managed to give me enough voice for half a game (I would've needed a second tea...). So shout-out to you, Bruce!

I was scheduled to run Quest for Perfection II, I had packed my terrain for it, found a table, and waited for players when Wes Nicholson (who you will remember bumped me off my table in slot 2)... Well Wes was at it again! He showed up and asked for the table. With the voice I had, I was quite happy to give my seat...

So I went to the player/gm pool, hoping to find a game to play.

But that was not to be... Seeing the many players still waiting for a table, I offered to run them through QFP2. It wasn't long that I had a table and once more was seated in the Mezzannine/ Parking lot tent. Though far from my favorite adventure, I ran it and had some fun with it. My players also enjoyed themselves, in spite of a few very close calls.

With that, PaizoCon ended... I went back to see LPJ and we talked. Okay I talked as he picked up his stuff. Did the rounds, saying goodbye to everyone.

The day ended where PaizoCon began: at Matt's for a good meal. Big Kyle, Todd, CA, Martin, Alistair, myself and a few others I don't remember sat together. More talks about what we like, and what we'd like to see.

Then airport, plane, Denver, home.

PaizoCon 2012 was over.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

PaizoCon 2012: Saturday

Saturday morning was my one free slot of the con. Already my voice was trashed from talking like a pirate the night before. I was hoping for a pass on the GMing. Lucky for me, I got to play in one of the new adventures 3-2X Storming the Diamond Gate. Since I had not brought any of my characters (I fully expected that slot to be spent GMing something), I had to play off my computer. I hate running faced with a wall of computer, so I tried to keep my screen low. A fun table we had. Very melee-heavy with no dedicated clerics. Still, a good time.

What an interactive it was!

The afternoon slot was the one that had me nervous all weekend: A5 - Battle of Trovaska, the NeoExodus interactive. It might've been the coffee, but I really was shaking with anticipation. I wanted to see what the players would do, what they would decide, and how they would "wreck my setting".

Actually, I say that, but I really relish it. It forces me, as a story developer to think in new and creative ways on how to evolve my storyline. As a player, there is little I love more than to be able to change the world I play in. And since I like to design a setting/storyline that *I* would like to play in, it's a natural conclusion that I would give that opportunity to my players.

I will not go into too many details about the adventure itself at this time (I have a whole series of posts to come on it). I will say this: the players really did not disappoint in my "changing the story". From the play-test, I expected one type of result, but the game itself went completely another. This included the death of an Iconic character who from this day forth will no longer be offered as a playable character at NeoExodus events. That was something I did not expect AT ALL. But I always say that actions in the game matter, so I have to uphold my own stipulations.

Here are a few pictures: (you can click on them to enlarge them).

The Preview Banquet

My stuff packed, my head full of new ideas and "how will I move this forward?", I headed for the endless line of the banquet. When I saw how long it was, I decided against waiting in line. So I headed for the bar where Alistair and Martin were also "waiting". CA joined us and we talked about this and that. While imbibing a decent quantity of White Russians... Quite a few, based on my credit card statement, but it was all in a good cause!

Finally the line vanished, we headed for the food. Unfortunately, we had to wait (and eat most of our food on the line waiting for chicken or beef or potatoes)... The food was "okay". Found a seat next to LPJ pretty much just as the talking parts were to begin.

First presentation of every Paizo employees, then Lisa gave a very passionate speech to promote and congratulate Jeff Alvarez, Vic Wertz and Erik Mona. It was very moving and heartfelt. Then it was the Volunteer of the Year (going back to 2008).

Now at the risk of angering my Paizo Overlords, it was very long. Yes, I get that it was Paizo's 10th anniversary, but it went on and on. The high energy from the start did fizzle out some and I had difficulty staying awake: a mix of full stomach, lack of sleep and gamer anxiety. I was here for the preview stuff and that's what I wanted to see the new stuff coming down the pipe.

Jason Bulmahn presented three book: Complete Equipment, NPC Codex and Ultimate Campaign. While the layout and appearance of the two books we were shown was nice, I don't see the value to *ME*. I'm not a big equipment guy and going through endless lists of stuff just does not do it for me. NPC Codex could be useful, but for GM-only. Ultimate Campaign I am very ambivalent on. Knowing Paizo it'll be a useful book, but I don't see the up-front usage. So I'll reserve comment.

Gary Teeter spoke about the online element. The free Virtual table top stuff was cool, though left a lot of questions on the table.

Wes Scheider talked about the Player Companion revamp. I'll be blunt (and more than a little unkind here). These supplements sucked. They really did: the useful content was minimal for both Player and GMs, other than one useful feat or trait or weapon, they were non-essential books. But the new format presented by Wes is great. The format is more magazine-like, which is fine, but what I really look forward to is CONTENT. Having a book that gives me - as a player or GM - information about the topic I can use is likely to put these books on my "recommend" list. They weren't before.

Ryan Dancey gave a presentation about Pathfinder Online. It seemed like a well-rehearsed presentation because I doubt there were many in the room who did not know about the Kickstarter, what it was, how it would be done. But in the end, we saw what we wanted: some stills. Seoni the sorceress looks delightfully boobalicious and the goblin looks vile and evil. I can't wait to see what they come out.

Vic Wertz presented "Project Swallowtail" which is a Card game. I don't know much because once the word "Card" was uttered, I immediately turned off any attention I had left. He talked about it, and I kept laughing at myself thinking that Swallowtail could mean "C**kS****r". I just kept giggling to myself, prompting LPJ to threaten me - again. But the joke was too funny.

Finally Erik Mona came in to show us some miscellaneous goodies... A plush goblin, the covers of Pathfinder comics, and a few other things. Interesting.

After The Preview

The banquet over, I headed back to the bar with the usual suspects and LPJ. Reaction was not particularly positive. Many grumbled out loud. The length of the presentations may not have helped. I spent a few drinks trying to sort out my feelings on the matter, and making sure people remained calmed about the whole situation.

I felt it was unfair to Paizo to grumble that their new books were not "great". Not having seen them myself, and using their track record for great stuff, I have to believe they were gonna come up with some good stuff. I think perhaps the biggest problem is that unlike last year, when Tian Xia was coming out, there were a lot of products that opened to Oriental setting, and a book that would capture everyone's interest (Ultimate Combat), this year does not feel... Special.

I compared it to the guy expecting a porterhouse steak and getting a burger. As good as the burger might be... it's not a steak. I believe that most of us expected "something" magical and grandiose. The products offered are not like that. They are useful and practical but lack some "zazz".

This contrasted sharply with the announcements and dynamic changes I heard two nights before at the VC dinner. Very contrasting moves.

The Elephant in the Room

One topic that was not touch and that really felt like it overshadowed everything was 5e. No one mentioned it, but the timing of products and the impression I got is that a lot of people at Paizo are holding their breath to see what 5e will be. Again based on the track record, I don't expect much positive from WotC so I'm fine. I want to see the final version of it and play, but I'm not holding my breath.


In all, I left with a positive view of what is going on. It was a little long, true. But I don't share the doom and gloomers's vision for once. I think the future is bright and clear. Looking forward to many years of Pathfinder.

Yes, yes, I stumbled to my bed after the bar ran out of Kahlua to make White Russians, then out of Baileys to make Dog Farts then out of everything to make us some weird chocolatey drink... Yeah... That part really sucked...


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

PaizoCon 2012: Friday

Early morning, ready to go. As usual, the registration took a long time, but the whole thing was well-organized.

One interesting story, I asked Mike Brock where non-Society games were. He pointed to a door leading outside and said "there's a tent somewhere over there". I went out, took a peek, saw nothing, so I came back and laughed. So I went to ask Adam Daigle the same question. Using the program, he pointed me to the Mezzanine.

Now that made sense.

So I got to the Mezzanine... and walked out into the parking lot.

Under a tent.

Really? I thought Mike was joking, but no.

The tent was cool and it made sure I woke up.

Finally, we gathered and started to play. First slot of the con was A2 Ruins of Trovaska. I had originally decided to run that adventure because it helped explain some of the setting and events and put a number of things into perspective. That game went well. It was fun to see the excitement and the feel of the story develop. I have to say "Ruins" is fun to run since there is so much going on off-screen, which makes it unique among NeoExodus adventures.

After a successful first slot, it was time for some PFS. I gave my table to Wes Nicholson who was much closer to getting his shot at a fifth star than I (by about 12 tables). But, I got to rand a table of 3-18 Gods' Market Gamble instead. I had a lot of fun with it too.

Best quote of the game? The PCs are talking to a halfling NPC and ask "What did the person look like?" to which the NPC responded "I don't quite know, you tall people all look like crotch to me!"

Fun times.

The Grand Convocation

Liz Court and I, says I.

Friday night was the Grand Convocation. This extravaganza of grandeur and madness. I played the role of a Pirate based on a GM-character of mine, the White Shadow. I had to assassinate someone later in the adventure. Until then I was to "make sure I was seen" and pretend to be one of the players. Which I did...

I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Some things went very well: the major NPCs all looked the part, they remained in-character and had interesting things to say for the most part. I managed to get thrown out for insulting all Taldane by "showing the road straight te hell!". Lady Blakros spat on me because she did not like the grog I added to her drink. The guards were both impressed and terrorized of my wonderful "Andoran Sap". I got mass held by Amenopheus, leader of the Osirion Faction. I cut a deal with Ambrus Valsim to save my life after I killed "just another elf".

There were a few issues which are too common with well-attended LARPs: if you were not close to the action, it was hard to hear what was happening, tabletop RPGers too often don't consider what's happening to be important unless an NPC speaks directly to them. Perhaps my biggest criticism of it is that the non-Larp portion felt VERY formulaic: attack on the Grand Lodge.

In retrospect, the event was fun. The issues I found should be classified as "growing pains" and things that are addressable in upcoming events. Nothing that would stop this from the playing again next year and being even better.

Sleep is for the weak!

The Grand Convocation over, it was time to get some alcohol and fraternize with my fellow VOs and others. I can't remember how much I drank, but my credit card statement tells me it was a long and amazing night...


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PaizoCon 2012: Thursday

This year's PaizoCon started very early.

As in 2:40 AM.

After a quick shower, last minute packing, a shot of juice and then up the I-25 to Denver International Airport. I make good, but safe time and then went on through TSA and at my gate. I allowed myself the "luxury" of having a quick Skype-chat with LPJ while at the McDonald's (only thing open).

Then I was on my way to Seattle. Flight uneventful.

At the Airport, I had a while to wait for Todd Morgan and CA to arrive, so I worked on one of the new NeoExodus adventure for Tacticon. Got some good writing too. The fact that I had 2 coffees and a 5 hour energy certainly had NOTHING to do with it... I think.

The three VCs went to have lunch at Dennys. More great times.

The afternoon was spent napping. I really needed it. Perked me right up.

The VC dinner

As much as last year's dinner felt informal, this one felt a lot more formalized, yet at the same time... A lot more relaxed. I'm not sure why that is, perhaps it was because many of us had met previously. I felt surrounded by friends. Mind you friends with whom I frequently butt heads, but friends nonetheless.

Without going into all of the specifics, we each talked about our region, what worked for us, how we made things better, problems we had, what we'd like. A fair amount of information in a very short time. We gave each other advice and thoughts on similar situation we have.

Think a gamer version of a therapy group. Again I gleaned a few pearls on how to make Colorado better, ideas which I will roll out slowly throughout the year...

But what did we talk about? I mean the spoiler-ific stuff you want to hear? Well Mark Moreland gave us a comprehensive overview of what was coming for Year 4, story-wise. While I won't give you any specifics, there are going to be a lot of things happening. Story-things... Good-things...

I have to say that the amount of changes and things to come (that I cannot reveal to you), really surprised me. I did not expect that many changes, and especially, as many changes I found myself nodding in agreement with. Still there are a few things I would've love to hear more of, the ship is steering in the right direction.

And Mike Brock confirmed some news I've been waiting on for a very long time. So it was a very good evening.

The food wasn't bad either!

A few extra drinks later, it was time to turn in... but just as was heading to my bed to sleep who turns up?

It's never time to sleep


We talked with CA, as he showed me his goodies and I showed him mine.

Wait... That didn't come out right.

Actually that's EXACTLY what happened. I'll let your dirty minds make up whatever you want make with it.

Finally, I made my way to my bed and slept a restless sleep as I was too excited to sleep.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Secret NeoExodus Preview: Map of Trovaska

On this 4th of July, I'm sitting here in the house, alone waiting for 5pm to head out to see the Sky Sox (local baseball team) with a bunch of people. So while I'm idle, I decided to do a map of Trovaska for PaizoCon.

"I thought you were done" LPJ commented this morning on my Facebook update. Well... No. I'm not... While there is time left AND it hasn't gone to print, I will try to add more into it. Deformation from my life as a computer engineer I guess.

Though I knew what I wanted to do, I was never able to draw it well enough. So I took out my paint, my brushes, the black, homemade parchment paper and did it. It came out with the artisan-quality I was never able to complete on my PC. No, I will not explain the name of the places on the map. You will have to play the adventure(s) for that!

The paper was done using hot tea (cheap Walmart brand) and paper (also cheap Walmart brand!). I used the downstairs bathtub to do a lot of them years ago and use them when I need them, after 4 years or so I'm starting to run out. The trick is to get the tea VERY dark to give the paper a similarly dark complexion. After soaking for an while, drain the water and sprinkle the paper with either instant coffee "grains" or fold it and put another tea bag in the fold. Like many things there is no fixed recipe (something that drives my wife nuts). But try it. Then let the paper dry, the side of the tub is a great place as the wet paper will stick to it (allowing you to further stain it) but once its dry it'll fall to the bottom of the tub.

Be warned that this could be messy and since you are trying to stain the paper, you WILL have to clean the tub or face the wrath of your panty-clad overlordess. I know I'd face mine.

This is something even LPJ has yet to see so look for his incendiary comments below.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

[Rant] Terrain Builder's Rant

Why is it that ALL terrain makers and guidelines found on the Internet are for massive pieces. I've been looking on-line for some inspiration on what to do for my next project. Okay for something to add to my Pirate city (here and here). All I could fine was these massive tables and terrain pieces.

Now don't get me wrong... The tables I saw look AWESOME. And the time, effort and planning that went into their creation is something that I can only admire. But I want to be able to re-use my terrain for multiple projects. At least get some ideas.

Why is it that when terrain builders start thinking of terrain, they always think up of things that would not fit in my Civic... Now I have to transport it (in my Civic) and that's a big point to me. So I think of terrain in terms of putting together a game. With a goal in mind, BUT I also want to

Okay, this is not a strong rant, but still I felt like I had to say it.

Maybe its just jealousy.

By the way, for the full post, check out this post on Terragenesis. It will make you rant with jealousy too.

I will be posting some pictures of my Pirate City after PaizoCon where some of the pieces I've been keeping secret will be revealed to people other than my kids and wife! They are mostly smaller pieces, as fitting this rant! Kinda rant that is.


PS: This site has a lot of basics and well-illustrated "how-tos".