JP On Gaming

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Musings and wonderings

I firmly believe that variety is the spice of life, and try to apply this to every level of my life. I currently take classes in archaeology, history, writing, along with technical programs on new Visual Studio methods, Scrum methodology, and cloud technologies. As you all know, I am always evaluating and looking into the world of gaming and organized play in particular, seeking to make my own play experience better, more exciting. I play the following games more-less regularly: Arcanis, D&D 5e, Legend of the Five Rings, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds (Space 1889), Shadowrun, and WitchHunter. I GM Pathfinder mostly.

What I take away from this is the firm belief that playing more than one system makes me a better GM, and more importantly, a better writer. Just as playing in various games system makes me understand the RP-gaming industry better because I not only get in touch with more and different styles of play. It allows me to think of the products I write in a different light.

I'm not talking about knowing the rules perfectly for all of these system. To be honest, I am terrible at knowing the rules for Shadowrun, in spite of having played the same character for over 6 years... How magic works for summoning is still somewhat nebulous to me. So I don't do too much of it.

This post was prompted by my running of Arcanis adventures at Origins. When I received them, I waited a few days to read them (life and all). When I did, I was surprised and could not stop laughing. You will remember this post where I posted how not to write adventures... Well Henry transgressed a few of the points I made. Not to say that he's wrong but it made me think back on my own evaluations and my points.

First off, Henry is much more successful than I am (based on the number of players playing Arcanis vs. Tyrants of Saggakar). Next he has much more experience than I (as a writer). So... how can I make myself more successful using the lessons learned from Arcanis? I have a lot of soul-searching to do to make my products better and reaching out to more people. Lucky for me, I do have a number of friends I can reach out to, including Henry, LPJ, Steve, and the guys who work with me on FOE (James, Randy and JD) to pick their brains. But also to my players whose minds I constantly raid for ideas.

Yeah, I have a lot to think about.

Improve my product. Improve my writing. Improve myself. That's my 2016 goal...


Monday, June 27, 2016

Farewell, Neale

It is with a heavy heart that I learned the passing of my good friend Neale Davidson. He and I hit it off from the moment we first sat at a gaming table together. He was cynical and creative, but also very much a free thinker who thought about stuff. If you have not had an argument with Neale over one thing or another, you haven't met him. One of the things he did for me was to constantly force me to re-evaluate my positions on things.

He was always a supporter of my own works especially when I was a starting author, writing stuff for LPJ. He encouraged me to be better and to come up with wackier and zanier things.

Oddly enough, I worked with Neale's wife, Shayna for years before I knew they were together! Small world indeed. There is a Go Fund me page to help with the expenses.


RIP brother, we'll read your comments on the great social media site in Heaven!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Origins 2016: After Action Report Part 2

Continuing my AAR from Part 1.


This was the big day...

I first went to play Shadowrun in the morning. I am not naturally a fan of Shadowrun, but I've been enjoying playing the organized play with my character, Ralf Boogerman. He's a complete street bum who is not much of a direct combat monkey (which I rarely do anyway). This mission was one of the most interesting I ever saw in Shadowrun: do not kill the target or seriously incapacitate him, do not cause massive damage, but make this guy's life hell. I laughed so hard throughout most of the slot. I used only a single summon spell myself to get my part of the job done (and succeed I did).

I then spent some time shopping and unsurprisingly spending too much money for me. Got my Hordes v3 goodies but I also bought some ships for a project I've been thinking about for years. So I need to get things together... another this to add to my list of things to do.

The rest of the day, I spent beating up old friends from Colorado: Bill, Michelle, Ryan, Matt, Gregg, and Jim. It was good to play with them again, as most of them (except Michelle and Matt) beat up my own character, Kermina in the past. For ten or so hours, I beat them and battered them. They were troopers and tolerated my attempts (occasionally successful) at hurting them. This was the final element story of the Coming of the Destroyer story arc as we move on into the future.

I liked the plot, and I was quite happy to run this as I would've gotten my rear end SERIOUSLY beaten up.

After that, my Origins was coming to an end. No longer would I need to GM. I decided I would attempt to find a seat for more Shadowrun.

But then I went back to my room where I yakked and yakked with Ken and Heather until the wee hour of the night. It was great to talk to someone who had so much experience in organized play.


I threw myself out of bed early in the morning, showered and headed for breakfast. Packed up the car and off to the Union room hoping to find a game.

Turns out I got me a seat at a table ran by none other than my buddy Ed, from Throat Punch Games. A fun rump where we got involved in heavy fighting. Good 'run.

That concluded my time in Columbus for this year.

Next time: what did I learn at Origins?


Monday, June 20, 2016

Origins 2016: After Action Report

Origins this year would definitely be very different. I was at the same time excited and leery about it for a number of reasons (which I will explain/explore here).

After last year's rather underwhelming showing of and ticket sales, I initially planned on simply attending and playing. So I did not submit any events for the con. No worries.

However, real life has a tendency to play tricks on you... I had a few surprises (thanks Uncle Sam) that meant I could not simply cover the costs of attending and playing full time. I considered for the longest time simply not attending, but that would make mean missing out on the Arcanis finale of the current story arc.

So I thought to myself "what the heck, I'll just GM it." So I got on Facebook, contacted Henry from PCI and within a few emails, I was going to run Arcanis! Hence my worry and excitement.

Now I have said on this blog many times, that I really love playing Arcanis because of Henry's storytelling skills. These adventures were no exceptions! I won't spoil them here..

The Trip

My trip was done in two phases. After leaving work at 5pm, I came home and had dinner with the family.

Leaving home, I first drove to Louisville, KY to stop at a local Wal-mart where I stocked up on supplies: cheese, meat, bread, and mustard. Not great tasting, but spending 30$ for a weekend of gaming would be a great booster to my (tight) budget. From Louisville, I stopped for an overnight stay in Florence, KY. It was already late and a clean bed was all I ready cared for.

I made my way to Columbus in the morning, fighting through the traffic in Cincinnati, but otherwise no issues. My first game started at 1pm, so I had ample time.

Wednesday & Thursday

Seated and ready to run, I ran - with a few mistakes, I must add - Night of a Thousand Scream and later - with less issues - The Chosen. Of the two, I much prefered the Chosen because it has a very classic D&D feel, yet with a very Arcanis twist to it. Before you ask, "Night" is a very Arcanis adventure, one that called less to me because of its subject. (It's about the Elorii, a race I don't care about myself).

Thursday morning, I got to sit at Tony-N's table and play "Night" myself (and realize that my character is not well-built to take on the monsters therein). I really like Tony's style of GMing and thought he definitely did a great job. The table had Peter-P's Armand character who is a male version of my own bimbo character, though we branched out in different direction with regards to our advancements. Dirty jokes and innuendoes gallore. No, they were no longer innuendoes, we talked dirty. Plain and simple.


I was originally scheduled to run one of the 5th edition Arcanis. I had two adventures prep'd (one moreso than the other) and was ready to go. However, no player showed up during the slot. So I got to play WitchHunter for the first time since Gencon 2014.


Almost two years without playing this game! *sigh*

The shape of the campaign has changed quite a lot... I am definitely anxious in seeing more of it and how it will evolve. The adventure I got to play was really challenging with the difficulty level definitely higher than it used to be.

But from the afternoon through the evening, was the first of two Arcanis special events. This one was part LARP, part battle interactive. Did someone say LARP??? This meant I had to paint my nails, don my dress, put on my wig and be ready for adventure!

I make no apology for the horrors I unleashed upon the players. Henry's fragile mind was further shattered...

Funny story, a little girl (of about 5 or 6) took a liking to me and we danced a few times together... She was really cute and I had a good time.

But wait, dear readers. Wait.

Someone took me for a woman!

Yes, they thought I was a lady!

Okay, okay, they did not have their glasses on. I was across a hall, so he simply waved back politely, not knowing who it was was waved to him.

But that's NOT important. My dressing up skills are increasing!

Next time: Saturday and Sunday


Friday, June 10, 2016

[Old Pro Tricks] Five ways not to write an adventure

There are quite a number of things that will drive me nuts whenever I look at a published adventure. Whenever I see those things, I immediately think that the author is trying to beef up his word count. I have held myself on this side of going full rant, though there is some ranting here in. See for yourself whether this warrant the rant tag.

5- Passive voice

The room has already been plundered by bandit or The animals have all been chased away from the castle. The passive tense is acceptable when making something lyrical or prosaic. Adventures are neither.

Always think of the GM when he has a table full of players bombarding him with questions about this or that. Finding what you are looking is quicker with simpler language.

4- Boxed Text duplicating maps

This is something I have grown to be much more annoyed by, particularly with PFS. Room descriptions that end up with a long paragraph describing where the door are (and the doors rarely matter to the adventure anyway).

Describe what is important and let the GM run the game.

3- "Nor Crystal Falls"-syndrome

VTF3-01 Nor Crystal Falls was a Living Greyhawk adventure, the first of our meta-region (the Velverdyva/ Tuflik/ Fals trade route, occupying the western routes of Greyhawk and the Baklunish West). The adventure was fine, when I played it, it went pretty much like this: "You are in this Crystal Tower. You enter a room, there is a priestess of water there, roll initiative. You enter another similar room, another priestess or water, initiative." I thought it really sucked as an adventure.

Then I read the adventure and prepared to run it. WOW. This adventure had a lot of flavorful background on EVERYONE of these NPCs, about half a page IIRC detailing why they joined the cult, who they liked, who they disliked, etc. All this background was nothing more than garbage and junk. It was useless and though I wanted to try and share it during the adventure, players rightfully understood that killing priest of Elemental Evil/ Tharizdun was a much safer option...

So all this writing was just junk, too bad because there was adventure potential there, and it would turn the adventure from a three-part combat into something more.

This adventure has really molded me as an adventure writer: anything that's not essential to the adventure, leave it out. This is something I later learned was called "Chekhov's Gun". I wasted so much time reading and thinking how to portray these cultists, when it would've been much more rewarding to merely have them charge across the room brandishing their weapons.

2- The Novelist

Adventures are not the place to showcase your wordsmithing skills. Keep the flowery text to a minimum. It is fine to provide some neat prose, but keep boxed text to an absolute minimum.

Beyond the introduction/conclusion, no boxed text should *EVER* tell the PCs how they think or feel about something. Even passing comments like "The biggest man you ever saw" are fine in fiction, but in RPGs... Provide a reference "as tall as a bear" or "smaller than a lap dog" gives reference without assuming of the PCs' experience.

Next in this section... Do not for the PCs into a course of action. "You meet with the king who offers you a post, which you accept." NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. NO. NO. NO. A simple test for this is to assume the following: I play a character who always says no to everyone and everything (such a character being a complete jerk, and be unplayable, but is perfect for the purpose of the exercise). If that person would immediately start screaming "NO WAY! I'm not doing that!" Then change your text.

Finally, do not write whole pages of boxed text, broken only with "give the PCs a chance to agree."

Oh and Braziers are not Brassiere...

1- Future tense

This one share a number of points with passive tense. It is rarely found in boxed text but all too common in GM-text.

After defeating the monsters, the PCs will find a map. They will follow the clues to the treasure. This is one of those things that once you notice, it becomes EXTREMELY annoying, almost like it is trying to assault me, punching me in the face. This one really makes it hard to find important words in a paragraph because "will" appears every sentence and our brains love to find repetition and pattern.

Write your adventure in the present, active tense. It will make for a lighter, faster, more dynamic read and facilitate the GM's job when players are in his face asking for the color of the African swallow.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why am I not doing my job?

It seems like it has been weeks since I posted something here, and like many bloggers, I miss it. I think I have a number of good reasons and excuses. Excuses nonetheless.

Since mid-to-late April, I have been taking a number of online classes. This year, I decided that I was going to improve and widen my skills as a writer first and foremost. The first class I took was "Start Writing Fiction". I enjoyed that class a lot as it validated a number of habits I already had developed myself writing RPG products. Perhaps more formalized than I did it, so I learned better habits to write.

I started a number of different projects, including a new writing's blog (Click here to see), starting a mystery novel, wrote a number of short stories (between 300-1000 words each), I am working on two FOE side projects (for which I will provide details shortly, one is an Adventure Path and the other is a full new campaign setting).

As you can see, everything but doing what I should be doing for Legacies... I have been advancing little by little on Gencon adventures (where I only have one slot approved... Sunday morning). But fear not, it will be ready and fun to play. I can't wait to be done myself...


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Nashcon After Action Report Part 2

Part 1 of the series.

Here are some pictures of the game after set up (click on a picture to view it full size). Views of the village, the treasures. I built the big palm trees as a new piece. They added variety to my other trees.

Very simple build: chopsticks cut to various length. Planted on a piece of foamcore with wood glue and the foam core itself glued to a plastic base. I then painted a sheet of paper first with various shades of green and then with a thin layer of watered down glue. The later was to give it some strength and stability. Once the paper was dry, I cut it roughly into shape and then glued it to the top of the chopsticks. Then a quick paint job, flocking and voila! Cheap palm trees.

The rest of the village was made and posted on the blog over the last few years.

Now as to the game itself:

The following are the two Europeans staring positions. The Castillians were played by Eddie and Actionman had the Burgundians (the red crossed barbs). They both had similar forces composed of 5 musketeers, 5 swordsmen, a cannon and three named characters (represented by a special miniature, the musician and the banner).

The African warriors and the Spaniards engaged in a forest near the village. This tentative engagement showed just how swift and brutal combat was in the jungles of Africa.

Actionman sends his forces into the village to capture treasures and is attacked by the local warriors who returned from a hunting trip.

Finally, the big moment as everyone charges in the village and combat happened everywhere. The villagers against all odds managed to capture a few warriors, but they were eventually overwhelmed.

A good time was had by all. The game was brutal, bloody and went off very well. I will be posting a few notes on the rules here and later to RPGNow.

On the final part of this series, I'll talk abot the good, the bad, and the ugly.