JP On Gaming

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Yearly Retrospective 2016

With the year ending, now is the time to go over the events that marked the year. This year, I chose a slightly different format and I put a number of link to the events rather than re-write about them.

This was a good year.


On a personal level, things are pretty much the same as this time last year: same job, same family, same cars (although both are now fully paid, so woohoo!).

After a tumultuous 2014 and 2015, the simplicity and routine of 2016 was a welcomed addition and good time. The kids were able to join in activities that suited them well. Josiane is part of the Swim Team for her school. Kitty was a cheerleader. Patrick plays hockey in the Junior Predators program.

As a family, we did travel to Pensacola, FL twice (once in March and once in September). It was the first time Julie and the kids went to the beach and they really enjoyed it. So much so that we may have to go back next year.

- Passing of Neale D Like a lot of people, I was shocked to hear of the loss of my good friend Neale Davidson. I miss the guy and his wit. See my post at the time


2016 saw a serious drop in my output to this blog. 136 posts for the year, the lowest number of posts since 2010!

On the other hand, I started my second personal writing blog with very infrequent posts: JP On Writing where I put a number of short pieces of fiction and a lot of essays from the many classes I took throughout the year (more on that later). This blog got 56 post on its first year (three shy of this one).

This actually brings my total to 136+56 for 192 posts this year... Making 2016 the #4 all time in posts. Not bad, and I thought it was going to be completely abysmal... But not quite.

First Ones Entertainment

FOE did pretty well this year, if somewhat up and down.

- Saggakar 5e was released after much work.

- Rhym, our traditional setting has been in the works for most of the year. JD and I are getting closer and closer to release. We are currently working on some of the wild areas and padding out some of the other sections in the book. I find this work exciting, stimulating, and demanding, much like the work I did for NeoExodus: take in everything that is in pieces and gather it into a whole.

- The Legacies Organized Play campaign hit a patch of tough road, where I had less time to organize and schedules became harder to arrange with everyone. I will admit that from my side of things, with the other writing projects so I did not put as much time as I wanted to into the campaign. But it is still on-going. I plan to announce some new products in the next weeks.


A lot of good con action this year.

- GenghisCon Denver, Co (AAR 1, AAR 2, AAR 3)

- Arcanicon Chicago, IL (AAR)

- Mid-South Con Memphis, TN (AAR)

- Conglomeration Louisville, KY (AAR 1, AAR 2)

- Lexicon Lexington, KY (AAR)

- Nashcon Nashville, TN (AAR 1, AAR 2)

- Origins Columbus, OH (AAR 1, AAR 2)

- Gencon Indianapolis, IN (AAR)

- DragonCon Atlanta, GA (AAR 1, AAR 2)

- Imaginarium Louisville, KY. This is where I realized that I never posted and After-Action Report for this awesome con in Louisville. Well know that it was awesome!

- Post-Apocalypticon Cleveland, TN (AAR)

Dungeons and Dragons 5e

- Adventure League This year, I really got more into the Adventure League. Now I don't get into its politics or inner workings too much: I only join for fun. I do have to say that the product is interesting. Is it the best? No. Is it bad? No. Do I enjoy myself? Yes, a lot.

- Saggakar goes to 5e Yes, I managed to publish my first offering for 5th edition. I am very happy with the result of it and really like running Saggakar in 5e. Less crunchy, the game flows more naturally and that is to its advantage. Get it on DrivethruRPG

- Arcanis goes to 5e In a move that both surprised and excited me, PCI, makers of Arcanis, announced that they would run a 5e campaign alongside their Arcanis RPG campaign. From what I see, it seems to be chugging along (I don't really want to play Arcanis in 5e, especially now that I am so far invested in the ARG side of things). That said, I fully expect that when their setting finally comes out using 5e, it will be a great product and one I will most likely pay for. Check out their free 5e Primer. I said earlier that I expect this product to blow up all numbers and still do. Check out my initial reactions

Pathfinder Society

During this year, I saw the numbers of Pathfinder Society play drop throughout the year. I have not hidden the fact that I definitely believe that player-base exhaustion and a need for something new is definitely needed. Local events with few tables.

Most of what I played was online. The community there, is shrinking too with fewer play opportunities. There was a time when you posted "Looking for GM" and within an hour you had a table and a GM ready to go. Gone are those days.

I did get into a mostly private spat with some of the local PFS leadership (the Murfreesboro Lodge) over bringing my children to games, I can now travel with a legal table: Dad and three kids (Sorcerer, Fighter, Rogue, and me with a million characters). The situation has been resolved in an appropriate manner and the effective ban is lifted. Still, there is some bad blood that remains there and I simply prefer not to run any PFS to avoid any further entanglements.

I drive to Hermitage TN (about 40 mins away) to play with the group there as I feel welcome with my children, and the kids love to go and play.

Wargaming & Miniatures

- Sword and the Flame-like at Nashcon This game was great, and something I will put together again this coming year. I already spoke to Scott from Nashcon and FOE will be back. I may run Moritari Te Salutamus this year in addition to other games.

- Frostgrave The kids and I are currently engaged in the Thaw of the Lich Lord campaign. Definitely a highlight of the year!

- Broken Legions I received this game from Santa Claus and hope to give it a go next year. So much potential in that game... I have so many minis to use with it!

- Warmachine/Hordes I did not manage any games this year. I bought more minis, but did not play. With none of the local stores offering any play here (I have to drive to Hermitage TN to play)

- Games Workshop Glad to say, I did nothing with GW again this year. I may give in to Blood Bowl, but everything else is so ridiculously out of price...

- In 2016, I did a few painting commissions once again. It was really cool to see minis that were very different from those I usually do. Will got back to me and said he got rave compliments about his Arcadia Quest minis, which made me quite happy. I also got some other good news from him, which made it even better.


2016 was definitely a year where I wanted to learn and explore other things. I did this by taking a series of classes. Classes on a variety of topics: writing, history, mythology, astronomy, but also in management and leadership.

- Agincourt 1415 - University of Southampton French. English. Knights. Fighting. What is there not to love? This class was one I could not wait to take. And really this was one of the best made classes, with dioramas, pictures, references that I took here. Really a great class. The downside? The French lost.

- Ancient Egypt - University of Pennsylvania This class was given by a very knowledgeable professor who had to be one of the most boring ones. That said, the range of topics were very good, on-point and informative.

- Ancient Philosophy: Aristotle and his successor - University of Pennsylvania These two courses form a definite whole a overview of ancient philosophy. I enjoyed learning about the specifics of the beliefs and teachings of one group and the other. I took these two classes at work, listening and talking to the teacher as I plowed and developed some very complex work.

- Ancient Philosophy: Plato and his predecessors - University of Pennsylvania

- Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime - University of Glasgow This class was one of the first ones I did not particularly enjoy. The course did not really provide me with much of anything that I liked. The first week was good, but the other two were rather long and would have benefited from being cut into a few shorter lessons. Oh well. I learned about a few criminals and their deeds.

- Archeology of Portus - University of Southampton This course was quite interesting because of its subject: six centuries of the great port of Rome. While there were a few areas that were weak and dragged on, the overall was very informative. Building, upgrading and maintaining an ancient port is filled with information useful for gaming and writing. A fun class.

- Corruption - University of Pennsylvania An interesting class that dealt with the topic of corruption in a variety of ways. Very interesting especially in light of some of my work on Saggakar. Forced me to re-evaluate some things I know about my home land.

- Empire: The Controversies of British Imperialism - University of Exeter This class is one that really called to me. The course was really interesting in that it did not provide answers, but posed the challenges and asked questions with the students providing their answers and views. With a truly worldwide audience, this was very interesting.

- Greek and Roman Mythology - University of Pennsylvania This class was awesome... the Professor was entertaining, lively and really made me want to look deeper in many of the topics we touched on. Great course.

- Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier - Newcastle University Part archaeology, part history, this class was very informative. I must say this was one of the most informative classes I took this year.

- Irish lives in War and Revolution - Trinity College Dublin This class I took because of the little green corner of my heart. The two years I spent in Ireland back in 2000-2002 are some of the most important and treasured of my life. I met great friends there. My girlfriend (now wife) moved in with me. Plus discussing topics of civil unrest and civil war is a topic that offers a variety of ways to explore.

- Luther and the West - Northwestern University This class was just terrible. It seemed interesting, but it turned out to be a complete bore and snooze fest. The six weeks of this class could have been focused into two weeks, and still be long, drawn out and equally as interesting. It wasn't really a theological class, not really a philosophy class, not really anything. It sucked-diddly-ucked.

- Magic in the Middle Ages - Universitat de Barcelona An interesting view of various aspect of magic in the middle ages. Not "just" from a Christian perspective or Christian-bashing, but exploring both aspects: the pros and cons, defining black, white magic and alchemy. Jewels of the class included Islamic and Judaic traditions.

- Management and Leadership: Leading a team - Open University and Management and Leadership: Growing as a manager - Open University These two courses I decided to take with an eye towards improving myself and my leadership style in my day job as a software engineer. I must say that I really learned a lot. I was already doing a number of good things, but this put names to behavior and allowed me to emphasize aspects. Things I learned there, I know I will be able to use everywhere: day job, publisher work, and even family life.

- Moons - The Open University From the days of my youth, I have always been interested and fascinated by astronomy. This class was one I signed up for really early this year, but it only ran late in the year. It was really fascinating to read about moons, the effect they have on planets, their compositions, our future plans to colonize them, and the space probes we sent out there. Fascinating.

- Online Entrepreneurship - RMIT This one should be pretty self-explanatory as to why I took this class. My work as a publisher could use more business acumen.

- Paradoxes of War - Princeton University This class was one that was extremely philosophical. What is the western way of war and what, if any, future does it have? This class was very extensive. Perhaps a little too long, but a great and thorough review of war.

- Plagues, Witches and War: The world of historical fiction - University of Virginia This class is really a tale of two halves. The first half was about learning about writing about historical fiction. A second part was about talking with authors, in the process of a class and that was ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. I just skipped a ahead because it sucked so bad. You had an author talking about their book, about how their character came to be, how the researched, and that was fine. Then the class panelist would start reading passages and ascribe insanely deep meaning to every word, every sentence, and every intention of the author. Half the authors' answers were "WTF are you talking about? If it sounds good to you, then yes that's what I meant" I mean really. W. T. H.

- Roman Art and Archaeology - University of Arizona This class was interesting but I would say was a mixed bag and I did not learn as much as I wanted, but this was enjoyable. Having taken other class on a similar topic, this one was not as in-depth.

- The American South - Northumbria University This was a very interesting class and opened my eyes to understanding the world around me, now that I live in the South! I liked this class very much.

- The Ancient Greeks - Wesleyan University This class overlapped the previous one on a number of lectures, which made it much more interesting. This class looked closely at Greek wars, poems and Athenian democracy. Drier than the previous class, but informative in a different way.

- The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem - Tel Aviv University This class was on the fall of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC. This one had some great insight, mixing elements of the Bible as a historical text along with archaeological finds. The Professor read the Bible in Hebrew which was an added interesting piece.

- The French Revolution - University of Melbourne This one is a topic that is very close to my heart. I studied about that time period a lot before and during my time in Paris. I've always been fascinated by this serpent eating its own tail. The sources I used for the most part were French in origin, which provided inside views to what happened. This class was given in English, with an outside view of the events, which was extremely interesting to see one's perspective from the outside. One thing I did during this class was ace the tests first, then listen to the class. Julie - my wife - kept asking me why I bothered to listen to the class. But it was completely worth it.

- The Mediterranean a Space of Exchange - Universitat de Barcelona (En Espanol) A class given in Castillano was somewhat of a treat. I have stated before that I do not understand Mexican-Spanish, but that I can typically make out what people from Spain say. Here is another example. Very interesting view of the Mediterranean as a common place of exchange.

- The Modern Worlds, Part One: Global History from 1760 to 1910 - University of Virginia A great overview of the era. I really enjoyed the many ways approached taken with relevant, targeted, and interesting topics given in a way that felt like a conversation. I'm sure having a discussion with the teacher would create a fascinating exchange!

- The Secret Power of Brands - University of East Anglia This class was rather useless to me to be honest. I cannot say who it was aimed at, but my main takeaway is that it doesn't matter what your company actually DOES or does WELL, it is about the social aspect of the brand. Case studies about people who have jobs talking about other people's brands. You know the kind of people with no real skill who create themselves a job... You know who I thought this was about? "Absolutely Fabulous" with Jennifer Saunders I would watch while at the University... it played at midnight on CBC. Memories... Yup that class was useless.

- Write Fiction - Open University If there is a course that changed my life this year, this one would be "it". Through a number of short and very interesting chats, they got us to write short stories, edit and review them.

- Writing Mysteries - Online This eight-week course had me write a short novel! Yes! A mystery that I will eventually put out, but that is currently stuck in review mode.

- WWI Heroism: Through art and film - University of Leeds This very short class discussed a number of topics about WWI and how it is still relevant today. Not as complete in historical details as other classes.

- WWI Lessons and Legacy of the Great War - University of New South Wales A very thorough class on WWI: the causes, the protagonist, the weapons, the theaters, and the fallout. A very thorough review of the war and a class I very much enjoyed.

Abandoned Classes

- Arch of Titus: Rome and the Menorah - Yeshiva University I tried to finish this course, but I could not find the interest when the focus shifted from History to the plight of modern Jews and the state of Israel. I just did not care enough about the topic to spend the time and finish the course.


- Miyamoto Musashi's Book of the Five Rings I have wanted to read this book for the longest time. I will say it was not want I expected. I expected a book that delved heavily into philosophy and the story of Musashi himself, but found it was a book focused on martial arts and philosophy of martial arts. I liked it, once I got passed the initial surprise.

- Lars Brownworth's Lost to the West A great history of the Byzantine Empire from the early days to the end. This book presented the characters in a "novelization" of the events. Fun stuff.

- Machiaveli's The Prince What can I say? This is now my personal bible! A very good book on leadership, if not quite moral.

- Fritz Lieber's Sword and Deviltry A gift from my friend Chad, I delved into this series with gusto. Very "old school" in how it is written.

- Fritz Lieber's Swords against Death As above.

- L.A. Story's Urbania This was a fun short novel. Read my review.

- Spiderman Essential #2 Good stuff

- Fantastic Four Essential #1 This was the first Marvel series that was not focused on how to prevent the man from staying away from the woman. Sue Richards is a hot damsel in distress however.

- Mara Amberley's Fire and Gold See my review

- Marc Edelheit's Stiger's Tigers See my review

- Bernard Cornwell's 1356 I got to this book shortly after reading Stiger's Tigers and came into it expecting more of the same. However, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed this one. My only issue is that the English defeated the French at the end. Don't talk to me about history...

- Richard Harris' Conspirata A great historical novel about Cicero, the Roman orator and statesman. It takes us through the years of his consulship all the way to his first exile. This book I really enjoyed. Harris interjected himself as one of Cicero's slaves, able to be present during the major events he describe. Having read Plutarch's Life of Cicero last year, this book put a different twist on the characters and events of 63-57 BC, that most tumultuous of times in Roman history. Caesar is shown as a complete prick and power-mad man, an interpretation I could not disagree with. Pompey as an inner coward. Crassus as a dirty schemer. Great book, highly recommended.


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