JP On Gaming

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A new Legacies banner

I created a new banner tonight. I do like it... Its currently on RPGNow's rotation! What do you think?


Monday, March 30, 2015

MidSouthCon After-Action Report

(Meant to post this last week)

Two weekends ago, I travelled to Memphis for MidSouthCon 33. This was the first con I was to attend in Tennessee and I was looking forward to it.

I happened to learn of the con through my friend Geri who was posting having an extra free pass and no one to give it to. I asked and she agreed to give one to me.

So Friday morning, I drove down interstate 40 to Memphis. I arrived just in tmie for the 2pm game slot. After a little bit of a scramble, I got myself a seat at a PFS table.

I won't give a play-by-play, but let me give a few highlights (and low-lights).

Perhaps the best slot I got to play was a Shadowrun Mission. I didn't use to like the system too much, but like a lot of things, it is growing on me. The missions are fun, exciting and always generate so much laughter. My character, Ralph is such a fun character to play. I'm starting to get the hang of this magic thing as I summon more and more things. It's really fun.

For those who don't know, Ralph (Boogerman) is based on Dave Chapelle's crack-addicted character, Tyrone. He's always out of money and looking for his next hit or something to decorate his box. Yep, he lives in a box "somewhere near here". He's bumming smokes, begging and asking for stuff from his fellow runners.

I was able to play PFS: Search for the Sky Key Part 1, 5-99 The Path we choose, Of Kirins and Krakens, and the Year 6 special.

I will say I was particularly disappointed with 5-99. I expected something interesting, but all we got were a series of mindless thug fights that meant even less than I expected. Too bad the plot was poorly designed. It could have been so much more, so well done. Of all the PFS mods, I was expecting so much... It did not deliver.

By the same token, I must add that the year 6 special was one of the best for PFS. It has a nice twist, good writing, and some interesting fights. I really enjoyed that one, above and beyond all the previous ones.

So one good, one crappy. I got out okay...

I also joined in on a midnight madness event of a strange WoD mod world. The GM was had created a world where gods had fallen and had been separated from their or worlds. They came to Earth and bred with humans. She explained the archetypes and base characters, they some depth and each had a strangeness/ uniqueness about them. I ended up with the BDSM-obsessed race, another got a race where they only reproduced with immediate siblings *shudders*. We had a lot of laughs over that one.

I can honestly say that I did not enjoy the event, and was happy to call it early. Why?

The GM committed a few cardinal sins of GMing at a con, IMO.

   -  She did not have character sheet ready to go
   -  She gave us her home group's characters to play, complete with their mini stories
   -  The story made no sense to use un-initiated to her world
   -  Two hours of constant fighting or listening to her download game world information

It was just too much. I could see the flashes of brilliance and a very interesting setting that it was. However, con get should get to the point, fast. It started: an NPC was kidnapped, we teleported and started fighting right away. No investigation. Plus this other super-powered NPC came with us and blasted the crap out of the villains. I really wanted to enjoy this, but I could not. When the GM started talking about "con games are all about combat", I would not handle another 2h of that, so I was on my way out. Oddly enough, neither of the other players disagreed.

Such is the luck of the draw. I'm sure the home game version is MUCH more fun and interesting.

After all of this, where does that leave me? I was quite pleased with my trip to Memphis. Some games were good, some less so, but I got to meet a number of Tennessean gamers and really enjoyed myself. While the adventures might've sucked, the people I played with were good, entertaining and we had a lot of laughs, the GMs were quite good (I was impressed by the level of the PFS GMs)

So pat yourself on the back, Memphis. I will very likely be back next year! That time with some Legacies...


Sunday, March 29, 2015

[Historical Figures of Renown] Richard III

I don't know how many of you have followed the recent saga of Richard III of England.

A short recap of the story: Richard died shortly after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. In 2012, a corpse was unearthed while work was being done on a parking lot in Leicester. They ran DNA test and the remains were found to very likely be those of the dead king. Richard was interred today in Leicester. His re-burial led to something of a period revival. Not only that, but the search for Richard's descendants and the story of Richard himself has been a story like one finds only on made-for-TV-movie.

Except for Richard did not come back to life.

And he didn't look like Dean Cain.

So, Richard was the last king of the House of York (whose symbol was the white rose), and he was succeeded by Henry Tudor of the house of Lancaster (whose symbol was the red rose). England's symbol, the red rose comes to us from the 15th century.

Today, we know him best through the Shakespearean play that bears his name where he is presented as a hirsute, power-hungry, vile, and deceitful humpback ready to do anything to further his own cause. Great for a play, a clear villain without any true quality. A mastermind of evil. By the way, it is a delightful play, perhaps a tad long, but awesome in so many ways. I recommend one of the many film adaptations, Sir Lawrence Olivier's remains a personal favorite. The play has everything: Murder (after murder after murder), betrayal, conspiracy, a major villain as a protagonist, angry vengeful ghosts, and combat. I easily rate this one as my favorite of Shakespeare's works.

So what makes the discovery of the body so interesting?

First off, the play leads us to believe that he was abandoned in a ditch. The burial site, in the former Grayfriars monastery, indicates that the former king was not just dumped and forgotten. I did some quick searches and he was buried in a chapel. So much for the ditch.

Was he a hunchback? The archeologists made some tests and found that the body did show that his spine was indeed crooked and that he would be standing with one shoulder clearly higher than the other (I keep thinking of Jonathan Frakes' stance). To a medieval person, he would indeed look like something of a hunchback. Shakespeare scores one.

Did he have his nephews killed? (The tower princes) This one will forever remain unclear, but the evidence and circumstantial evidence is very plausible. As long as Edward the Fifth lived, he could never ascend to the throne. Did he order it directly? Indirectly? Or was it done by an ambitious devoted? An opponent trying to paint him as a villain? That much is hard to say, but history certainly puts the blame on him, and he definitely received the bulk of the rewards from his nephews' passing. I'll give Shakespeare the point.

Was he an ignoble, abject person? Here again, my history research leads me to a more middle of the road view.

Was he prone to scheming and plotting? It seems so. During his brother's reign, he switched sides more than a few times, even joining the enemy house of Lancaster under the Earl of Warwick, before returning to his brother's side.

However, before he became king, he acquitted himself well of a number of tasks. He was a general before he was eighteen. He participated in the crucial battle of Tewksbury, restoring his family to the throne. He seemed to have had a sound military mind.

Using Richard III in your game

All of the above make Richard a very very interesting case for this series... Focus on one aspect and he is a villain. Focus on another and he is a genius.

As the Duke of Gloucester, Richard is clearly a schemer and a plotter, with a a fair amount of flair to do it. He can feel which way the wind blows and aligns himself with the likely victor. After all, for most of his adult life, he switched sides with some regularity.

Richard is a man who relied on his luck as he schemed and plotted his way to the top. However, once he got there, he seemed to have lacked the ability to maintain himself there. I suspect because he made too many enemies one his way to the top.

Richard is a man of drive. Someone who wants to get to the top and is willing to do what he needs to, to get there. He's got the skills.

As a king, he's someone isolated. His only legitimate child died within a year of his ascension, leaving him without a clear and stable heir. And during dynastic conflicts like the War of the Roses, not having a sufficiently diverse and numerous issue is a sure-way to get yourself killed.

Richard had to fight against both his house and the Lancasters. He obviously reneged on some deals had to fight two rebellions during his two year rule.

In the end...

I am happy that during my lifetime, his remains were found, leading us to a re-evaluation of this man's life. After all, if history teaches us anything is that people are much more complex than what we find a play. It has to be reviewed and re-examined whenever new evidence is found. Applying Ockham's razor to the evidence and going for the simplest, and usually most likely explanation often leads us to review what we thought was fixed.

So in the end, rest in peace Richard.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

[Rant] Pathfinder Society Core: Looking back on the early days

Well the PFS Core campaign has been out now for a few months. And well... I have been surprised by a few of the things I have heard from the players.

I have to say that the comments I made in my January Rant hold true. There has not been a massive challenge increase, characters have not become more vanilla, it's not open replay, and there has not been a massive influx of new players to the campaign.

What it has done is create a number of GMs who do not want to deal with the BS and the huge number of material in splat books, in essence, making the game simpler and "purer".

So what has changed?
    -   I noticed, on the lists and group where I lurk and troll that there have been More Games organized. That's a big bonus for the Core Campaign.
    -   A definite reason for the previous point, is that I noticed New GMs were stepping up and running games. These new GMs do their best, with mixed result. However, as they get more experience, I think most of them will do just fine. Another big plus, this time for the gaming community as a whole, but the core campaign. By limiting the options, a GM can be much more familiar with the basic abilities of their players.
    -   Replay opportunities have grown. This really has been a boon for old farts like me who are always looking to play. I don't GM PFS anymore, but do a lot of Legacies. I had the chance to play more. That's always good.
    -   On the somewhat negative side, I noticed a fairly large Split in the GM base. As many GMs prefer to run Core, and avoid the shenanigans and arguments that the Open campaign has. Since the additional splat books are not as well-balanced as the Core book, this makes the game more fun for the GM, who does have the advantage of playing with all kind of toys.
    -   Similar to the previous, a Split in the Player base has appeared. Many of the more "power-players" definitely shirk away from the core. In smaller markets, this might definitely be a bigger issue.

So where does that leaves us?

After some time, it seems to me that Core was a great move for PFS. There are some issues (it's not perfect), but overall the gains FAR outweigh the issues and problems. I have been enjoying a few Core games myself and they were very enjoyable, reminded me of those early days of PFS when (we thought) factions mattered.

This led me to start thinking about the game itself. Is it time for a Pathfinder RPG trim-down/ redux/ v2? The release of Pathfinder Unchained and the eventual inclusion (or not) of its content into PFS will be a good indication of where the wind is going at Paizo. I have been a vocal proponent of a cleanup of the game (a v1.5 if you will). After going on six years, gathering the content into a "new" core book would not be a bad thing, quite the opposite. Hopefully include some of the good things of 5e and make PFRPG the better game.

But I do not have the ears of the gods. So all I can do is rant about it. And keep playing this game I love. And hope that Paizocon will have announcements of interest.

So everything is still to come!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

[Secret Project X] Halflings with a bite!

I have been working on Secret Project X (SPX) for a while now, and with my unexpected free time/vacation, I had to take for most of the month of March, I got to do some writing, and some thinking about SPX. Now if you remember my previous post about races, I mentioned but did not detail the races I created for the Akos project.

One of the things that Akos had was halflings. A lot of them. And the work I did featured them heavily. When I started writing my piece, I separated the halflings into three separate races for my own purposes. Looking at my list of races, I saw there were two "holes" in the setting. I needed a race dedicated to social interactions and politics. And I needed a race that was definitely focused on the more nature side of things. Both of which I had.

The Hajit or "Greater People" are a race of halflings heavily involved in politics. In SPX, the hajit were the first race to come to power in the world. They ruled the world until the First Ones showed up and took it from them. Since that time, the Hajit have been dreaming of a return to power. I keep seeing those in a way that is reminiscent of the ancient Babylonians, as seen in Frank Miller's 300: a lot of jewelry, many complex patterned robes, extensive braiding of their hair. The hajit were inspired by the political intrigues of medieval Italy (Macchiavelli, the Borgias), but with a completely different aesthetics.

The Hareen or "Lesser People" are a race of halflings living on the fringes of society. These halflings are definitely of the more feral bend as they are at once amazed, confused and curious about civilization. They tend to live away from most society and rely on their wits to thrive. Hareen are very simple people and because of this are often enslaved by other races. I will not lie in saying that the inspiration for the Hareen comes from the halflings of Dark Sun (and their later copy, from Eberron).

Now many of you Halfling aficionados will complain "but JP, where are the lovely Tolkien-esque Hobbits?" The answer is simple: they are not here. I wanted to use a race people were familiar with and wanted to play, but give them an interesting twist, some bite if you will.

Both of these races will get an iconic to join the SPX troupe. The Hajit is an enchantress and the Hareen I am still debating: whether a ranger or a druid. But that's too much spoiler already!


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Should I turn the blog into a podcast?

Last week, I was talking to Tobias (the artist behind Spooks) about his Kickstarter, which got funded BTW, so congrats to him and Nathan! We talked about a few things and one of them was podcasts. I admitted that I was not a big consumer of podcasts (they distract me too much and I have difficulty concentrating on them) and he proposed that I could do a half-and-half, with some podcasted posts and some typical writing ones.

One of the main reasons I use this blog, which I readily admit, is to practice writing in an editorial style. This colloquial form of writing is one I try to avoid in my adventures. Early adventures I wrote, were very much in that style and after some criticism about it, I try to abandon it for a clearer, more concise, technical style.

It is the opinion piece rather than the information part of a newspaper. You know that this blog presents opinions, whether controversial or not.

So this blog is an exercise itself.

Every blog post is lovingly written, then edited and finally posted. I have done a few videos, but I do not get as much enjoyment from doing them.

So as I was driving to and from MidSouthCon this weekend, I had a LOT of time to think about things. In the end, I want to gauge the feel of the audience. Should I be doing more podcast/ video blogs? Which do you do more of? Listening to podcasts? Watch video blogs? Read text-based blogs?

How do you consume your media?


Friday, March 20, 2015

[Secret Project X] Writing the villains

For the past week, I have been unemployed, waiting for my new job to start. So what is a guy to do?

Writing of course!

When I returned from Canada last week, I began to put together a number ideas for Secret Project X (SPX). And as I keep put those things into a document, more and more kept coming. Before I realized what was going on, I have well over twenty pages of material, and material for another twenty! I was looking through other 3pp's old books for inspiration.

So what was I writing about? One of my favorite topics: villains.

Now I post in a previous post that I had found my gimmick for SPX. I mentioned in that post some of my ideas, but I did not reveal them, yet. The setting needed villains. And well one of the group of villains I really love are NeoExodus's First Ones.

That's right. The First Ones!

However, I was not thinking of using them exactly like in NeoExodus. I wanted to use them in a different way, give them a twist as well. One thing I learned from working with LPJ is that you never put out the same dish. Always give things a new or different twist. That's one of the reasons he has been in the business for so long, creating such awesome products. So I went back to an idea I had discussed with him long ago that never went anywhere. Imagine a location where the First Ones are still in power. In Enemies of NeoExodus: The First Ones, we presented Kayen'Te, the Undershadow where the First Ones are. However, that book allowed for a LOT of open interpretation and tie-ins.

Oddly enough, I pretty much presented the same idea to the PFS leadership way back when. I was asked to present a project for an "alternate campaign", something that could support evil characters and/or very different races, but also allow Pathfinders as "guest stars". My idea for Paizo was to use Tian Xia as a background and have the PCs work for different factions. Really making the final result something that would allow for a much different play experience. Many of the ideas I had with this (not all of which I provided to Paizo) made it into what became NeoExodus Legacies.

So back to our First Ones. In SPX, I thought about putting them in power. What would an evil empire look like after a few centuries, when not tied to some clear deity or undying creature.

So what would it look like? I quickly began thinking about a series of civil wars that would wrack the empire until a new or stable leader would emerge. I immediately thought of the last century of the Roman Republic. The civil wars first between Marius and Sulla, then Caesar and Pompey, then between Octavian and Marc Anthony. Until Octavian/Augustus took power each generation placed someone in power, then they fought for that power and once the tyrant would die, the fighting would start again.

Looking at the Romans, there were periods of great stability (from Titus to Marcus Aurelius ~70-180AD) and periods of great instability (~the third century).

Though I don't think the Roman empire was an evil empire - least not the same way as the First Ones. That was my basic framework.

For more, you will have to wait for another day/ another post.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

FOE: More art for Secret Project X

I recently obtained the final version of the art commissions I asked from Irene. As usual, she was able to capture the facial expressions I wanted for the characters.

With these guys, SPX is really starting to take shape. I now have some of the major NPCs and iconics done. I really like how this is coming together. I have a few commissions I'm still waiting on. I can't wait to get to show them to you!

With Gencon approaching I am ramping up work on SPX so that I can have something physical to show people. Though PDF books are good, nothing makes a product more "real" than having it in hand.

I plan on putting out more material for SPX in the coming days.


Monday, March 16, 2015

[Sanity loss warning] JP as a woman: the full reveal!

All right, all right! I kept you all waiting for long enough that now is time for me to make my first appearance en femme. I am now officially joining the universal sisterhood!

By the way, I want to apologize to Kaitlynn Peavler (aka @theDiceGoddess on twitter) for defiling her awesome drawing of me!

This is your final chance to turn away and keep your sanity intact! I warned you. You can click on the links below.

I had a lot of fun and I am still chuckling at how horrible a woman I make! The kids really laughed at the pictures I sent them. The jewelry and the wig are now among the kids' own stuff and I must admit that Josiane looks very nice in the wig.


Friday, March 13, 2015

I'm having a baby! (Surprise!)

Like many of you, I have had the privilege of becoming a father (aka "I succeeded my Bluff check on a woman!"). In my case, not just once, but three times! I must admit that being present at the birth of all three (something I won't lie and say I'd gladly NOT go over again). When I saw their little faces for the first (or in the case of the eldest, her tiny foot) I knew my life would be changed forever.

Well this introduction leads me to the core of this post.

Those of you who have been playing in the Legacies campaign may have heard that a "certain NPC" is pregnant... One of the (good) things about pregnancy is that it ends. And with time moving forward in the Legacies campaign, the child must come at last! Which poses a dilemma: what gender will the child be? Leading into the next question: what name will the child have? Leading to: is the child healthy? So many questions, such an exciting time!

So how do I do this? I was debating it with myself as I was driving between Nashville and Louisville when a few ideas came to me. Finally, the idea I came up with was the following.

  -  Determine the baby's gender: Have LPJ make a public dice roll during a public hangout
  -  Determine the baby's name: Run a poll on the Facebook group
  -  Determine the baby's health/secret: This one I will discuss with LPJ in private and surprise you all.

Why a surprise? Quite simply because there is just SO much story potential there. I wanted to make sure that we kept something to surprise you. I mean we can't have ALL the cards on the table up front? We do have to leave ourselves some wiggle room.

When is the baby due? I won't reveal anything yet, but Gencon is fast approaching...

I will have more new sneak peeks as time moves on.

Did we forget anything?


PS: The pictures in this article are of our eldest daughter, back in 2004! She's now ten! GAH!

PPS: NO! Julie and I are *NOT* having another child. The bakery is closed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

[Kickstarter] Interview about Spooks

Every so often, I get contacted by someone who wants me to look over their game and provide them with critique of it. This has two benefits for me: first, I get to learn about other game systems or settings and second, I get to learn about their creator. This second benefit is of particular interest to me, as I often learn tricks and methods others have never tried before.

Thus I received a LONG. And when I say LONG, I mean that was the longest Facebook post I ever saw. And I post 'em long myself! So a LONG Facebook message that led to this interview.

Let me introduce you all to Tobias White. Tobias contacted me to review his RPG called Spooks. Which I will admit, I never heard about at the time, so I spent some time reading up on it:

- Victoriana

- Supernatural

- Touch of steampunk

Okay. Now I was hooked and I needed to know more. A quick search and the guys ran a previous Kickstarter back in 2013. They are now running another one, for the game expansion. Link to their current kickstarter!. As of today (ten days to go), they are getting quite close to funding. Let's see if we can get them there!

So I did this interview with Nathan Reese Maher and Tobias White to learn more about them and their project. What I learned was quite surprising!

A big thanks to Tobias for providing me with the art.

JP: Who are you?

NATHAN: I grew up on 2nd Edition AD&D Skills & Powers, having started playing back in the early 1990s and have been hooked every since. I have a BA in English Literature and have written several books, both fiction and gaming material wise, since 2011. I love puns, dancing when everyone is looking and making crude jokes in a Mickey Mouse voice. I also have a dance background in classical ballet. Most importantly, I'm married to my best friend.

TOBIAS: I grew up playing the old AD&D computer games like "Secret of the Silver Blades" and I had a few AD&D books, but I really didn’t understand the concept because I did not have a group to cut my teeth on, however I loved the art in them. When I became a US Marine I eventually found groups to play in and became a DM myself. I have been playing on and off ever since. My art education is not only from a traditional university with a BA in Art, but I am also self-taught since very young and I constantly seek to improve my skills because education is still important. My greatest joy in life is imagination and sharing ideas with others with the hopes of creating something special which is why I enjoy creative writing as well.

JP: What other products have you worked on before?

NATHAN: I've produced ?The Wailing Sorrow - Fan Made Ravenloft Adventure?, ?Sticks & Stones - The Free RPG (The Playtest)?, ?Spooks? Welcome to the Great Beyond? (for gaming materials), ?Secrets of the CitySpire - Book 1, A Familiar Love Song? (cyberpunk), ?Rubberband Lazer; Or, The Adventures of Casey Norider and Jaq Synergy - Vol. 1? (space western comedy) and ?Tales of Enoch? (gothic sci-fi).

TOBIAS: As a freelance artist/writer I have done work for budding creative companies such as Tightrope Games LLC and independent writers such as Jim Philips who writes Call of Cthulhu adventure modules and he posts them on Skype of Cthulhu. I also have done work for Bubba Jerky for an old friend of mine and I only bring that up because well Jerky is totally gamer food? Lastly, I am also a video game concept artist doing contracted speculation work with and we are getting close to getting a demo completed to present to publishers.

JP: What is your favorite RPG of all time?

NATHAN: Hands down 2nd Edition AD&D - Ravenloft. I'm only 8 books shy of a complete set of both 2nd and 3rd edition books.

TOBIAS: That is a tough call, but I have to say my fondest memories are with 2nd Edition AD&D Planescape and I think I own all the gaming material related to that setting. I think it appealed to me because it was a hub setting that let you travel to anywhere in the AD&D universe.

JP: What is the best/longest campaign you ever took part in?

NATHAN: I ran a group for 2 years called ?The White Dragons? who followed a sky-deity. There was a running joke that the youthful female Bard/Paladin had the hots for the old wizard. One player's kooky dwarf once throttled an old woman for stealing his feather. There was a crossover once where the good characters met their respective evil characters - luckily they didn't fight. I once scared all the players to death when I first introduced Intellect Devourers. They boarded themselves up in a tavern and stoked a fire to prevent them coming through the chimney. Little did they know the townsfolk inside the tavern with them had a few hidden in their skulls.

TOBIAS: There are so many stories I wouldn’t be able to list them all, but my second group lasted for about 2 years and we played almost every weekend. It was a lot of fun and was a great way to blow of some stress? We played a combo of Planescape and Forgotten realms and it ended in Raveneloft, but we shortly ended those heroes because our characters were simply too powerful and it lost its appeal and we moved on to other games.

JP: One word: Spooks.

NATHAN: Spooks? WTTGB is role-playing in the afterlife. Play as Bhoots, Dolls, Ghouls, Ghosts, Skeletons, Vampires and Zombies in an Ancient Egyptian inspired Hereafter. Now with the Mortal Intrusion you can play as exceptional humans, common people, blessed types with religious powers, magi, psychics, those born of fae ancestry and were-creatures while alive. Dungeon delve, solve mysteries, monster hunt, engage conspiracies, encounter historical NPCs, invade the Great Beyond and survive the inferno of the Hellfire Lands, swim the River Styx, explore the Spirit Realm and dive into the dreams of both living and dead. Built for improvisation, quick character generation, unique spell system and an all-in-one encompassing rule set that allows for limitless gaming.

JP: How did Spooks came into being?

NATHAN: When my grandfather died around 2000 ish, I had a dream where I sat next to him on the couch in his old house. No one could see him but me. When everyone left the room I turned to him and asked, ?What is it like?? (in reference to being dead). He, a devote Christian replied in his matter of fact way, ?Nathan... It's not what we thought.? Since then it's haunted me and as my writing career grew I decided that I needed to make something that would reduce the hours of preparation time as a storyteller and make it so that I can improvise better in my games. Tim Burton movies have always been a favorite of mine and I realized that there wasn't very many settings out there like it. So I took what my grandfather told me and started developing Spooks?. I will admit though that outside of Tim Burton I'm also a huge fan of Lucas Arts games - so that's where the comical side of the game shines through. After it was a success a lot of people asked about playing the Living. This was in the plan all along but the question of when wasn't a topic I had even thought of yet. Tobias really spearheaded the Mortal Intrusion and helped motivate the project. I think he was more excited for it than I was - as I had already started writing for a different type of expansion that we may see later on this year.

JP: Tell me about the game system.

NATHAN: Spooks? WTTGB runs off a classless system, using d6s to determine fate. As you level, you gain points to distribute among your ability scores and at each time they reach a new 10s position you gain a skill point to distribute among that category of skills. Dice in this game pool, creating an unlimited leveling system that doesn't bog down the game the higher you go. Every character can use spell cards, with each card representing a different spell. Players can choose to cast spells or they can use the cards to boost their rolls.

TOBIAS: In addition to the system Nathan described, Mortal Intrusion is introducing a new feature called "Organizations". As Nathan mentioned, Spooks? uses a classless system that uses skills, abilities and core character concept to define one’s character, but sometimes a player’s character could use additional flavor and that is where "Organizations" comes in. When a character joins an "Organization" that character gains access to allies, resources, skills and powers the more they become entrenched in the organization, but that character slowly becomes more corrupted by their doctrine and it is then hard to refuse their requests or orders. For example, a character can join the Order of Dagon, but the more tasks they do for the Order then they slowly start transforming into a half-breed Deep One, but they also get cool abilities and powers with those transformations.

JP: What is so unique about Spooks?

NATHAN: I've never played Wraith but I have played Vampire the Masquerade. Spooks? WTTGB as mentioned above is designed for improvisation, the game is streamlined so that very little time has to be spent in preparation. Denizens (monsters) can be built on the fly and so too can magical items and equipment. The game allows you to travel virtually anywhere, encounter virtually anyone from fiction characters like Sherlock Holmes to real characters like Nikola Tesla. The game is also lighthearted and doesn't get bogged down by the seriousness that WOD tends to do. Unlimited advancement and a variety of game genres allows for storytellers to truly build their world the way they want it without core-content restricting play. The best part about Mortal Intrusion is that if you lose your character to a mortal death that individual just comes back as a Spook. Storytellers can choose to transition to the afterlife full-time or have dead characters come back to the Land of the Living carrying with them the shroud of the Hereafter.

TOBIAS: I felt that most unique aspect of Spooks? is that your characters can and often do encounter historical characters who are dead. Not only does this spur the imagination, but I feel that it can encourage both the young and old to take a more active interest in history, so not only is the game family friendly to adult level game, but it is also a game that can be a positive influence on education.

JP: What about Spooks is familiar?

NATHAN: You can play a skeleton who claims he is the pumpkin king and a rag doll by the name of Sally. You can be the ghost with the most while adventuring with a human girl named Lydia. You can play (or meet) Sam and Dean Winchester from Supernatural, or encounter a Mulder and Scully agent-type. Try your hand at an Indiana Jones type or maybe you want a character like Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are so many classic TV shows and movies that you can draw from to inspire your campaign and characters. The best part is that you don't have to worry about how others might view your sessions because with Spooks? anything goes.

TOBIAS: I agree, the way that Spooks? has developed and continues to develop is that you can apply your favorite works of fiction or history and we continue to retain that factor because it helps keep the game fresh and a joy to play. For instance, if you wanted to do a campaign where you combine the elements of Ghostbusters with Beatlejuice then you can easily do so, because the game can adapt to it. Nathan and I discuss our plans for expansions of the Spooks? universe all the time and it safe to say that this flexibility will remain a part of the Spooks? and yet remain its own unique universe where it is light-hearted or as dark as you want?

JP: Bluntly, why Kickstarter?

NATHAN: Kickstarter was the first crowd funding site that I came to and I did a lot of research. Now there are many places to go and we're already talking about experimenting with a few other non-brand titles to see how well it does. We mostly wanted to keep with Kickstarter as it is where all our original backers were from. When I first embarked on this journey for the core rule-book I don't think I realized exactly how much the project was going to cost. After putting approximately 2,000 of my own money into it I realized that I needed to find another way to fund it. Kickstarter gave us that avenue.

JP: What happened with the first KS?

NATHAN: Surprising to both Tobias and myself it was a success. We were looking at less than 50% funded in the final 15 days and I was at the point of giving up hope for funds and then BAM? people came from all walks of life and donated. We got more than what we were hoping for and were able to put more art than expected. I still see the core book as a work-in-progress as I'd like to get more art inside there somehow. I'm sure in time we'll be able to revisit it. The good news about that, is that I don't believe in re-hashing old editions into something new to generate income. We'll update it and people can go and download their updated copy at no cost.

TOBIAS: One of the pitfalls to avoid running a Kickstarter is that you have to keep active in reaching out for the public awareness of your project and the need to be funded. One of our struggles right now is networking, our network to the community is small at best, but growing every day, but we have very little reach, which means that we have to do a lot of legwork in the form of contacting people on the internet, in person, at Cons and anyway possible to spark an interest in helping us out. You can’t be static during a Kickstarter and it is a lot of work and stress, but we believe in our project and we hope that comes across to those who we hope will donate.

JP: How advanced is the current project right now?

NATHAN: I'm a typing fiend. I don't double-back and I'm very committed to releasing early but with high standards. That said, I have a little over 20,000 words typed up and Tobias is in the same ballpark. The original goal was 50k in word size but I think realistically we'll be at about 65-75k when it's done which is far more than what we expected. This isn't taking into consideration any stretch goals we reach which in turn will increase the size of the book. Once funded, I plan to commit a few chapters to final draft and send them to our editor so that we can keep the project moving. If everything goes well, we'll have it ready around August 2015. Why August? I'd like to get another project up on Kickstarter (if we need to) before the year is out and I don't want to be one of those publishers that has multiple projects out at a given time, asking for funds before the first one is done. To me, that's just not right.

TOBIAS: I would also like to add that the first book was sent out in a timely manner, we kept all of our backers updated with the progress and we pushed it to be a quality book and game. We are very dedicated to keeping our promises to our players who are also our customers, because we are gamers as well and we want to be a positive force in the gaming community. Mortal Intrusion or any other expansion to Spooks? will be no exception to our dedication or integrity.

JP: Do you plan on releasing some type of ongoing campaign? Or adventure/campaign supplements?

NATHAN: I'd love to? Tobias plans to as well. I already have a few adventure ideas that will slowly mold the direction of the dimensions but I'd like to have the foundation laid first. We've already put together Dead Living Magazine which features a unique story line that follows a single NPC theme. The first issue is tailored to Edgar Allan Poe, my favorite horror writer, and the Red Death. As far as other ideas, I'd like to write an adventure that was inspired by the first mini-adventure that was created for the Kickstarter backers for the core rule-book called, ?The Bluebell Door?. I sadly work 40 hours each week, am writing several novels and it can be difficult to put my attention to more than 1 major project at a time. Funding is another thing. I love beautiful looking adventures, just like the old Ravenloft ones, so I want to make sure that when we do produce something that it's going to turn heads.

JP: Does the art drive the game design or game design drive the art?

NATHAN: The game was mostly done before I was introduced to Tobias, but I saw something in his work that I knew would help inspire it further. I'd lie if I said that the game didn't evolve a bit as more and more art was produced. Before I gave detailed descriptions of what I wanted and Tobias would work hard at getting it to fit. My mother was an artist and I too took classes so I knew how the creative spirit worked. It wasn't long before Tobias took creative license and the results were great. I realized that the artwork took on its own life without me trying to control everything and in time both the game and the art just synced up.

If anything, I think it is the tiny details that gives the art its most charm. There are several hidden Pris Mascotti's about, repeat NPCs, as well as small literary, movie, TV-show references that it brings you into the world. Watch the recent speed video of the Esper Divergent and just see everything that he sneaks in there.

TOBIAS: I honestly feel that the literary, musical and the visual are all forms of art and they are not their own beast. My Mom is music writer and musician, but she is also an artist who does beautiful portraits. Because of that exposure, I began to understand that there are many parallels in creating art whether they be literary, music or visually oriented and when you combine them and design them to work in concert then the result is awesome. A good example of this would be the The Triplets of Belleville or Fantasia movies. This is part of my philosophy when I do illustrations for my clients and partners.

JP: Do you have any potential stretch goals in mind right now, assuming the project funds?

NATHAN: Many Stretch Goals. The way it's designed right now is to release additional content exclusive to backers such as digital wallpapers, free issues of Dead Living Magazine Issue 1 and Issue 2, Mini-adventures to kick the game off, additional equipment, denizens, magical items and even a new divergent that can be played. The goal is to increase the size of the book and the need for art. If there is anything left over we can move it into re-vamping the core-rules or just make some adventures.

JP: Are you guys planning to attend any of the large cons? Where can we try the game?

NATHAN: Cons are expensive, especially when you factor in hotel stay and booth rental. Right now I'm over in Iowa and Tobias is in California. I do plan to attend many conventions this year in the midwest. I've already been to Gamicon in Iowa City. We plan to hit up Demicon, Anime Iowa, Anime Demoi and Midwest ComicCon. Wizard World is coming to Des Moines, IA but I won't be vending but there is still the possibility of attending. I attended 3 cons last year and so we are expanding year by year. I'd love to make it to the other major conventions but that may still be a few years away. In the meantime, I am considering running a few more demos so people can get an idea of the game.

JP: Are you looking for writers? Artists?

NATHAN: Last year it was Tobias and I, and now we have an editor. With Dead Living Magazine we are looking for fan contributors and pending on their work we may commission one or two to start with something small and work their way up. Spooks? is still new to the gaming world and the fan base is increasing at a steady rate. I'm sure with time I won't have the ability to keep up on the demand and we may have to start expanding the family. Keep that list handy, I may be reaching out to you for it sooner than I think.

JP: Links of interest

NATHAN: Spooks Facebook page | Spook Website | Nathan's personal site

TOBIAS: is my blog and it is hub that links to all my art related web sites and contact information. Also don’t forget to visit the kickstarter!

JP: Parting words?

NATHAN: Selling my work is a very humbling experience. I always get shaky whenever someone pulls out their wallet and asks how much. Crowd funding is not only humbling but it shows that people believe in your word and promises. I find myself both flattered and beside myself whenever a new backer comes in and makes a pledge. I love hearing from people, even after the donation train has left the station. I like knowing the experiences people have with the game, suggestions and reviews. If you ever find yourself with a free moment and you have a few words about the game, don't hesitate to share them. I feel that all critiques, both good and bad, are your way of telling me that you care enough to have an opinion. Thanks for taking the time to learn about our game and don't be a stranger.

TOBIAS: I agree with Nathan, it is a very humbling experience because you have to really put yourself out there and don’t hold back. As an extrovert, I really like engaging people, especially when it is about creative endeavors which is why I love tabletop roleplaying games. Both Nathan and I have a lot of heart, dedication and drive and we want to be a positive influence on the gaming community, but no man is an island and we need all the support we can get, so we in-turn can send that support right back out, I guess you can call it gaming karma.

Monday, March 9, 2015

My day as a woman!

So for the second year in a row, I attended Arcanicon - this year in Chicago. For the second year, it was awesome. So many story lines, so many things people did, so many memories.

For the past two years, the big draw to me, was the day-long special. That's right: a full day event!

So my trip to this con began around Winter Fantasy when I learned there would be a LARP segment. Now my main character (and the one everyone wants me to play) is a valley-girl airhead, based on Paris Hilton. But Slutty. So I was dared to come in, dressed as my character. It had to be done. I had to impose that on the world. I knew I could force people to lose sanity.

I had to dress up as a woman!

Okay well that sounds a lot simple.

It is not.

So I acquired a wig, and some jewelry at Party City, a dress at Wal-mart and a few extra accessories I borrowed. It seemed so simple in my apartment.

Well... came Saturday morning I had the choice. As I had blabbed about Sanity loss and revenge for the dare, I had to do it.

A fat guy. In a dress. With a blonde wig.

So I had to do it. I got dressed, put on my dress, jewelry, nail polish. And then I was ready for prime time. Well, as ready as I would be. It's one thing to say it and to try the outfit in the bathroom. It's another thing to go through with it. So I took a deep breath and just did it. I knew I would look ridiculous, but just like performing a play, when its time to go on, you do it.

So I appeared to the world in all my feminine glory! And so I nominate myself for history's most horrific woman!

I spent most of the day in a dress, with my wig playing the role of a beautiful woman!

Came evening (more than eight hours later), I had to take off the wig, it hurt my head and a big welt had formed. I needed to take it off. I used the opportunity to change back into my everyday clothes. My effort was made.

For the guys: that day really taught me new respect for the ladies and the many painful or difficult things they do to remain so pretty. But they make it look so effortless, so easy, so graceful (three things that cannot be used to describe me).

  -  Stepping over things is NOT easy in a dress (chairs, gamer bags)
  -  After a few tries, I began to understand the "order" of my purse. That scared me. I'm still rattled
  -  Putting on nail polish is easy
  -  Putting on nail polish in an even fashion is NOT easy
  -  Pockets in pants are AWESOME! I had to carry everything in a gaming bag/purse
  -  when you put on nail polish, you need to make sure you have remover.
  -  I am still afraid about the purse thing
  -  I don't have a very girly figure

But JP! There is almost no pix in this post. Stop teasing us, POST THE PICS!

Well don't you know that a lady doesn't put out on the first date? I guess you'll have to wait for a second date!



Thursday, March 5, 2015

Arcanicon 2015: I have a cunning plan!

So Arcanicon is upon us again. Last year, I had such a blast playing in the day-long special, I was lucky to play on a table with Paul, Nicole and Eric, who I got to join again at the battle at Gencon. Our adventures were quite memorable. During that adventure, my character, Kermina, became the bearer of her "pink sword" called Morning Glory.

My Arcanicon 2014 post can be found here.

So now comes the time to do it again!

So right around Winter Fantasy, I found a ticket from Nashville to Chicago (this year's con is at the Holiday Inn just out of O'Hare airport) at a very low price. It would allow me to work all day (leaving around 3-3:30 and fly into Chicago, get a good night's sleep and then get to som full-day gaming.

That's right. This year again, the campaign leadership decided to run a FULL-DAY special event!!! Add to the fact that I am a whore for special/unique content. (note the use of "whore" here, it will be funnier later). Ever since my first such event at Winter Fantasy, I always find that attending them turns a convention into an event, into something great. It is also one of the reasons why I keep promoting them to everyone and why I blog about them. (Don't worry after Arcanicon, I'll start on the Lexicon shortly).

But back to business.

This year, in addition to all the fun stuff surrounding the full-day event, is one that my main character in the campaign, the quite unique Kermina Gallia val'Borda, is going home to the convent where the nuns have taught her... Well it was a very libertine convent is a nice way to put it. This was such a nice incentive for me to attend the event.

Not only that, but the event in question is the Feast of a Thousand Kisses (I can already hear my wife and daughters go OOOOOOh). So I was dared (I won't way who on this forum, but you know yourself) to "comes dressed as Kermina!" I laughed at first. But he insisted. I was trapped. Now the gauntlet was thrown and the challenge had been issued!

I was going to dress up as Kermina. A seductive, pretty, woman with long hair, wearing just enough to not be arrested for public nudity... Yes like the image to the right.


The fat, tall, bald, bearded man, a woman.

I will be the more horrible-looking woman in the history of mankind. So I hatched a plan. Not just any plan... a CUNNING PLAN it was. Hehehe vengeance would be mine!

So I did exactly what I said I would do: I would dress up as a woman for the special! It would be the MOST sanity-draining day in the history of mankind. I expect Cthulhu to rise for sunken R'lyeh and Jesus to fly down from Heaven to have a fight on that day. It will be awesome!

Okay the idea was in... now I have to execute. I was wont to just waste money on a costume I would not wear again. So I assigned myself a budget of 50$ and sought items that I could pass on to my daughters afterwards. A lady friend helped me learn things about myself, such as my dress size.

I never looked at women clothing too closely before (at least not with an eye to putting it on myself. but wow... Ladies clothes are so much more complicated than men's (and children's) clothing. Okay maybe I had taken on more than I could there... But I was committed. It had to be done.

I took Julie and the kids to Party city to find some accessories: wig and jewelry. I thought about getting a sword but we thought the boy might use it against his sisters. So you know, the wig AND the jewelry are already claimed by my girls.

So now... all I have to do is get everything in the suitcase and prepare for the con.

As I said... I have a cunning plan.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Secret Project X: The Gimmick revealed

I have a map. I have races. I have some shred of ideas for locations. So what is the next step? What should I focus my energies on?

Although I hate to use the term gimmick, what I need is a gimmick, a trick that will make SPX pop and stand. One of the thing I always have been passionate about has been doing something different. Thus my love of Dark Sun over the vanilla settings.

At first I threw a few things out there. Things I wanted to achieve. I needed the world to accommodate a wide range of adventure types. It needed to be cosmopolitan yet have racial prejudices. It needed a lot of conflict. It needed to be in trouble.

Then I wrote down a few things I did not want. I did not want the PCs to belong to a monolithic group: the conflicts and rivalries one found in Legacies I wanted to keep. In short, I did not want another Pathfinder Society where some characters have no reason to be together. This is a very dual-edged sword: how can I make sure that PCs still cooperate to complete the mission, even when they join people they may not naturally want to work with. That remains a decision to make. Allow me to punt it down the road.

Then I noted a number of historical counterparts I wanted to write about. This list grew huge in a manner of moments: the Diodachy, the barons of King John's England, the warring states of China, Emperor Justinian, Ancient Assyria and Babylon, the Brotherhood of the Coast, the late Byzantine Empire, the Aztec Empire, the Zulu Empire, the Malian empire, the Vikings, and the lost goes on. Frankly making that list did not help. It only added MORE things I wanted to do!

Now with all of that in mind I thought of a few things. I will admit I spent a long time until last summer inspiration came to me. I tried to change things around and thought "what would scare ME?".

Images of poisonous snakes immediately came to mind, but that was quickly moved away. I could not base a whole setting on scary snakes. I had to dig deeper.

One of my biggest personal fear is the loss of one's self. My grandfather passed away after suffering from Alzheimer's disease in the 80s. His degeneration affected me a lot and is one of the things I dread the most to this day. Other family members were also affected by it.



I had it. Mixing those two I would be able to provide something different. What if you forgot about all people and places you knew when you got there? In short, a barrier that made you simply forget who you were, those people you knew, allegiances, reasons for being there... In short losing big parts of yourself...

There I had my gimmick! I immediately went back over my previous notes and things fell into place. It also gave me a reason for people not wanting to leave. Would you willing head into a place from which you remember nothing and no one ever sees you again when you do leave? Think about it. This is very similar to the choice given to Neo in the Matrix. Most people prefer to stay asleep.

Then we have adventurers... those crazies.

Next: Finding a villain to tie all of this together!