JP On Gaming

Monday, March 19, 2018

MidsouthCon 2018 AAR

The weekend started on Friday. I left work early, using the opportunity to get some work done on the car (a much-needed tune-up). Then I waited for ActionMan's return from school to leave.

Three o'clock and we loaded the car with gaming material we had already prepared and stacked by the door. Then on the road to Memphis, TN! West on I-840, then I-40 and finally I-240 brought us to the Hyatt in Germantown. It was 6pm and both of us were hungry. On a whim, I opted to stop at the Hyatt, get signed up and make use of the con suite (which is well-stocked and conveniently located).

ActionMan and I munched before we mustered ourselves at a table of "Hammer and Anvil", adventure for the Adventure League. I played with the folks of FORGE in Memphis before and I have a high opinion of them: the quality of their GMs and their players. Our GM Daniel did not disappoint and our wacky band of adventurers made it way through. A lot of fun. The game over, we hoped in the car, checked into our hotel and slept.

That's where I discovered things about the Boy...
- He is a blanket hog
- He rolls to the middle of the bed
- He flails

After a rather exhausting night, we had a quick breakfast and went to set up. I must say that I really love having someone to help setting up. ActionMan is really excited and energized about playing some Saggakar, with his anuka fighter, Zombie-Slinger.

I ran the two adventures from Gencon: The Sorrowful Lady for the morning slot. It is a strange fantasy adventure where the forest comes alive yet has the dark touch that Tyrants of Saggakar is known for. We had a really fun group. Including Addison-M who really liked the setting, more later. Every time I run that adventure, I am reminded how crazy it is and the odd madness of it makes it worth so much more... It works. It really works as something different and run, which is one of the things I always wanted to do with my adventures: make them different in their own way. It is close to Jen's House of Mirrors as a fun adventure. Classic in its own right.

Coming back from getting lunch (Panda Express), we stopped at the foam sword fighting in the meadow. Needless to say, ActionMan really loved getting into it. After fifteen or so minutes of fighting with me and with other kids, he came back and provided me with some pointers on how to fight with a sword... "Never go full offense or full defense if you want to win." My son.

For the afternoon, we took part in the multi-table epic adventure Drums of the Dead a really challenging and fun adventure that has a lot of different elements for characters to shine. I have really been enjoying AL epics because of the challenge and the odd elements that happens in them. So never "really" know what will happen and there are twists and turns during the game. Not just combat means other aspects of your character can be used.

Our table was solid, with the four basic: heavy tank, healer, wizard, and me. I played Local Boy Mik, who is a drunken redneck walking around with a jug of moonshine. He is based on a mix of Cletus from The Simpsons with Tickle from Moonshiners, and so many other bad stereotypes of southern people (Deliverance anyone?). He is hilarious in his over-the-topness which makes everyone chuckles constantly, with his "have a shot o'shine" that serves as a somatic component to every one of his spells. Plus, as a Local Boy, he has family everywhere! (He is a Folk Hero). ActionMan played Sir Patrik, the dependable half-orc paladin. He really was one of the MVPs of our table by beating up on stuff that tried to beat us to a pulp.

Flush with victory, we returned to the other room where I ran House Cleaning, an adventure very different from the previous one. At the same time more political and more combat-intensive, it make for a fun evening. With that, Zombie-Slinger has out-leveled the band and would be level 6.

The morning I planned to run a Rhym adventure. Joining ActionMan was a family of three. The sails were hoisted and Black Sails was played. There were many distractions but we had a blast. Black Sails is the perfect Sunday morning adventure: simple in concept, with deceptive undercurrents.

Plus, Pirates. I mean. Yarrr.


On the way back home, ActionMan asked me when I would write and run "Tier 2" Saggakar adventures so he can play more Zombie-Slinger. He is getting to enjoy that character quite a lot. He was tired but very much excited about the con and looks forward to the next one he is attending: Conglomeration in Louisville at the end of the month.

As for me, MidSouthCon is easily my favorite con in Tennessee. It has a pool of great players, great GMs, and everything is close by: the con suite, the vendor hall, the art hall, pro-row (to get stuff signed and the like), and even food location (though you need a car for that one). It really sets its own standard and hits all of my buttons for what makes a good con. I strongly recommend it to everyone and to other con organizers. The team is responsive and I got emails the day of every event I was running (I knew of them, but I thought that was cool). Their sign-up board are clearly visible and accessible by being in the hall on folding walls. The con suite is always loaded with food and convenient (you can run to get food between your own round of initiative).

It brings in people from far and wide: I played with folks from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee (Memphis, Chattanooga, and Nashville), and a few guys from Arkansas. This melting pot of people brings to the table many different gaming style that makes games fun and every table its own mini-event. Not unlike Gencon or Origins (though on a MUCH smaller scale).

I mention Addison earlier, we are working on a few things together. I won't provide you with details right now, but there will be some


Yes, I plan to attend MidSouthCon again next year and bring more material from the FOEniverse...

I'm coming back next year! Not just me, but ActionMan wants to come back as well!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

[Old-Pro Tips] Explain it all vs Say nothing

I have been and played with many GMs. Some good, some bad, some okay, but they all fit into one of these two categories: The Explain-it-All and the Say-Nothing. These types are not static as GMs go from one extreme to the other...

I found it really hard to find a middle ground between these two extremes. Let's examine both before we try to rationalize.

Explain it All

Someone who is Explain-It-All, cannot stop himself from telling you all the wonderful thing an adventure contains. All the intricacies the players missed, read into, skimmed, ignored, or decided against. When the adventure is over and you step away from the game table, you know everything there is about it.

People who do that are often excited and enamored with the adventure that they want to showcase it all, make sure the players understand its awesomeness.

Say Nothing

The Say-Nothing is the GM who at the end of the adventure closes the book, smiles and says "see you next time". He is a bank vault about what you missed or ignored in his work.

What you experienced is all there is.

The Say-Nothing GM can also be very excited about the adventure, but his excitement lies in the surprise of the follow-up. That time when he slaps you with "that NPC you completely forgot about who now seeks revenge..."

Who am I?

Adventure writers and GMs are an odd bunch. Differently odd. Opposite odd in many ways. Adventure writers have to be Explain It All while GMs should be Say Nothing. Why? Because their goals are different.

The writer HAS to put everything in his product so the GM can make correct rulings and understand what is going on and focusing only on the absolute essentials. That is one of the reason that playing with the author is so great: because you learn all the secrets behind the adventure, some of the secret bolts the "random" GM has little way of knowing.

As a GM (of other people's stuff), I lean towards the Say-Nothing type, letting the game be the source of record. However as an author, I want to get people excited about all the possible secret links they did not experience in the adventure.

Which is best?

That is the big question. I do not think there is anything wrong with either of these styles or approach. What type of game I play - and run - impacts my personal taste both as a player and as a GM.

As I play a lot of organized play games, I like knowing what elements our table missed as the GM is rarely in charge of what comes next and important plot elements may be needed to understand what is happening next. So, Explain-it-All. Now I no longer run organized play from others, so this one for me is only on the player side.

In the few home games I play, I prefer the Say-Nothing approach so the GM can pick and choose threads he will expand upon going forward.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Old FOE favorite now on DM's Guild

Revisiting old works is something that is always interesting to do. Adventures I once thought was very interesting and well-written just read odd and awkward years later. I mean, I remembered them as well-thought out now feel empty and full of strange references that make the narrative heavy or are simply not needed.

With the advent of the DMsGuild, I am looking at adventures I wrote that could be updated to 5e and give them a new life. I have been digging in my old vault of material from Living Greyhawk, Living Forgotten Realms (yes, yes, I know it feels dirty but some of the adventures for the Moonshae Isles had good stories), and even some of my early Pathfinder stuff I did back in 2012.

This means stripping off all the intellectual property from them, giving them a new treatment so they are tighter and cleaner, but keep the underlying story that made them fun in the first place. 5th Edition makes it really easy to update material to it. I also found that it allows for more combats and encounters than previous encounters did.

These adventures will roll out over the next few months as I finish them, making them fully compatible with Legacies, and giving them new life. I hope to run them again, and could very well make surprise appearances at a local event run by yours truly...

Without further ado... I am proud to announce the release of Need of the Many by star author Jen McTeague, now on DM's Guild

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Conglomeration Louisville Update(s)

Just to let you know that we are on the program for Conglomeration in just over a month. Here is the link if you want to pre-register for games.

Also I remind you of the special promo code that takes 5$ off your registration! Here is the Registration link on Eventbright.

I am running one adventure in Rhym (Come to the hills), one in Saggakar (Exalted Pains), and one in Akhamet: the intro "Lost Pyramid of Neferheket". All three are well into their writing as I am now in the "manic writer touch-up stuff again and again phase". The kids play-tested the first draft of the Lost Pyramid... Unlike adult they all want to open stuff and play with whatever items they see and find... I enjoyed myself. Very much so.

I am now working on a special "Anything goes" type adventure for Sunday morning... The idea is there and all that's left is to execute the writing. As I do not plan to publish that, the writing is a lot looser. Read: hello spelling mistakes! (worse than usual)

As an added surprise, JD is also running a Rhym Legacies adventure featuring a new, unique cast of characters. Check out what he teased on his blog: Here

I am looking forward to seeing everyone and premiere new adventures. And a new setting (Akhamet world premiere).

Thursday, February 22, 2018

[Rant] System is irrelevant for RPG?

This is one of the endless conflict. And one that came to the forefront of my thoughts after I posted my review of Starfinder. A review that ignited the passions of many. Mostly along the expected lines: lovers of Pathfinder and its haters.

One of my issues with it was that the game felt heavy, sluggish and slow. I do not see high flying action coming through the game.

So many said "System is irrelevant". It is true that you can role-play with any game system. Heck have you ever seen gamers playing Monopoly? Yeah... Role-playing breaks out as you have to fork your cash... Or you take your friends' money.

Is it role-play? Yes. Is it a great part of the game? Oh yeah. Does the system matter? No. Therefore system is irrelevant, right?

Well no. Because the game does not support or encourage you doing anything off script. Can you do? Sure.

System is not irrelevant. It is important in how you get to do what you want. To keep to the sci-fi theme, I will use two franchises: Star Wars and Star Trek.

Star Wars is about action and adventure. The specifics of how technology works is secondary. That the characters understand it is a given. Star Trek is about exploration, engineering and science. Where you go is secondary to how you get there.

A game system that focuses on the minute details of how the technology works would greatly favor Star Trek, while one that focuses on action is better suited for Star Wars. A system like Savage Worlds that is very good on action is great for Star Wars. A system more focused on details, like Starfinder or Basic Role-play (BRP). Can these three games support doing either? Yes. However, you are not playing to their strength.

Is it wrong to do that? No, of course not. These are games and as long as every one at the table has fun and enjoys the adventures played is the important.

Does system force you into a pigeonhole and defines what you have to play? Yes and no. Yes because the rules make certain things easier and cleaner. No because your campaign is yours and the bigger systems at least support most things from combat to social to investigation.

I always like to understand the game rules and adapt my style of play to the game. Yes you can investigate the world of Cthulhu using D&D or Savage Worlds but using a more granular and deadlier system like BRP.

One story I tell to people is the following: when we come up to a band of twenty goblins...

Playing D&D: I charge into the lot and  emerge bloody but victorious standing over the pile of my enemies.

Playing WHFRP: I wait for half to leave. Then wait some more. Then keep staying hidden until we out number them two-to-one before we charge in and win.

Same situation. Different expected result. Different play tactics.

Therefore, I cannot say that system is meaningless. It is important. I would agree to "Setting over system", but not to "System is irrelevant".

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Many Secrets of Tothet Island Released

Legacies has now been run by FOE for five years. FIVE years! Time flies. During this time, FOE has grown and grown, with many product released all the time.

Moving more into the world of 5th edition, I revisited some old favorites to update and make them into 5th edition adventures. This is one such adventure that has a great hook and development that makes it exciting and challenging to play. Straight up combat is not always the only way to go, in fact here it is likely to get you killed. But do not think there are no combat here... quite the opposite.

The Many Secrets of Tothet Island is an adventure that will take your characters from first level to 4th level.

- As a boon for the GM, the adventure is full of loose ends that can be explored by the party upon conclusion of this adventure.

- Included is a LR to allow your character to use as a starter character for Legacies Organized Play Campaign

You can get this awesome adventure through DrivethruRpg,

Edit: Removed DM's Guild link

[Campaign Report] The Awakening... the finale

After months of trying to get people together, we finally got together (most of us) for the finale of the many one-shot campaign started back in September. Today was the final of this storyline.

After the last two sessions where the party cleared out WrathKeep, now occupied by the barbarian army. And discovered some of the enemy army's secret, such as how they recognized each other. They were given a great honor by Lady Kotina, High Priestess of the Law. Because the party voted against her in a previous gathering, she gave them the great honor of standing in the front lines, outside the city walls.

Facing them were artillery made of ogres with over-sized slings. With those, they fired at the walls. Not very precise but eventually effective.

Having cleared the ogres, they rushed back into town where they realized the enemy had burrowed into town as the veterans all ran out to take out the ogres, the enemy troops were bypassing their defenses. Bands of drakonians and barbarians in orange body paint were attacking the town: setting fires and destroying what they could.

After a lull in the fighting, both sides reorganized. The barbarians made a big push against the cathedral of the Law, where the slaves of House Katel gathered and where the priests animated zombies and sent them on rampage against the enemy. Here, a large red dragon is sucking power out a power stone, only to be stopped by Keevin (ActionMan) who disrupted whatever he was doing. As the dragon was unable to control the ritual, it keep bleeding necrotic energy that nearly killed the brave Keevin, who saved at the last moment by the brave action of Togg who batted away the hand of the dragon, allowing the dragon to escape, over-charged with the necrotic energy it sought to control.

In the final act, the PCs infiltrated the keep itself, finding out their compatriot Belladonus/a faked his death in the great hall. Giving a rough idea of the situation above: his brother, Lord Zarzal was locked in battle with a mighty dragon. He told them that they could use the Miststone, a portal they used to travel "somewhere" before. They do not remember where they went, but their mission there was clearly unsuccessful... All they had to do was hit the Miststone with a bead he gave them.

Running up, Togg the hareen went to pick up the stone while the others went up-top to appraise of the situation... Yeah... They regretted it and a lot of quality clothing were soiled (except the Sad Willow darkling who did not bat an eye upon seeing the beast).

The dragon did not care for the presence or actions of the PCs until the combatants noticed the Miststone was there and Lord Zarzal called "You fools! Why did you bring it here! That's what it came here for!" Group facepalm. On its next action, the dragon moved and took the stone. Followed by a throw of the bead using mage hand...

POOF! Everyone within 30 feet of the dragon, including the dragon itself, were swallowed by the Mists. Only Om-za, the kynean sorcerer stood up to find himself alone on the roof. He avoided being swallowed by the Mists.

The dragon gone, its army lost cohesion and though it would ravage the countryside, it was no longer the threat it once had. Lady Kotina, High Priestess of the Law, took command of House Katel and restored order in Katelkeep.

In the end, only the following party members have their whereabouts still known: Belladonus/a the haver-bard, Hyree the amazon ranger, and Om-za the kynean sorcerer. The rest are lost to the Mists...

The story for another time as they say...

Note to my players I did not tell you about this during or after the game, but I will count the result of the many mini-campaigns as binding for the Tyrants of Saggakar. Therefore, your actions will be written in an upcoming sourcebook for the campaign (which you will all receive a copy when I am done with it).

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

[Rhym] Lord of the desert released

One of the things I love about Rhym is that it allows me to write adventures I cannot in Saggakar. This includes desert-based adventure such as this one.

Following the success of Black Sails, I was inspired to write a follow-up adventure. This adventure picks up where Black Sails leaves off, but they can be enjoyed independently. Leaving pirates, ships, and naval puns behind for the heat of the desert, in an adventure that harks to old classics adventures.

This 5e adventure premiered at Imaginarium 2017.

You can get it through DriveThru RPG or RPGNow.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

[Review] Starfinder: Is it worth it?

I spend a long time mulling over this review because I wanted it to reflect my thoughts. I wrote most of it shortly after I played my first game and persevered for quite a few more. My first impressions are only confirmed by more adventuring. How much of that are the GMs and the team has been taken out of the equation.

The Good

Starfinder is quite simply Pathfinder in Space, this makes Starfinder a known quantity. In spite of the few tweaks, anyone knowing how to play Pathfinder quickly gets into the game. The dice rolls, the AC system, the skills are all still there. That's a good thing and shows the versatility of the D20 system. Other than ship combat (see below) the system played well enough.

The designers looked at 5th edition and created 5e-inspired abilities, include a "10-minute break" (aka short rest) and few abilities that grant "advantage" (but not called that).

The scale is right. Starfinder finds itself in a spot between Star Wars and Star Trek, somewhere along the lines of Firefly. This is a good place for a setting-less game as it allows the GM to do a lot of different things with the game. And players do not get drowned in NPCs.

It would be impossible to mention a Paizo major release without saying a word about its production value. This book is absolutely beautiful and wonderful to look at. One tiny thing: There is nowhere to easily put your name/info in the cover because of the full color treatment. Though that's a small blip, it does not diminish how good it looks.

The Bad

The worse part of the game for me is starship combat. Although I can easily see how the designers did their utmost to try and get everyone involved, it turned out into exactly what I thought it would: 1-2 players doing most of the work and the rest looking around for their turn to roll dice, no RP, no thinking, just roll and move on. This is not fully the designers' fault. I tried to think of a way out of this issue without coming up with a good alternative. There cannot be 5 people deciding what 1 token will do on the board. So 1 or 2 guys are really super involved and the rest wait, roll dice, then wait again. This is more in-line with a board game than an RPG.

One of the player mentioned he thought the designers wanted to have the PCs move about the ship doing different tasks, like Han Solo. Han runs from the pilot seat to the engineering section then to the guns. That's fine except many of these positions 1- require trained-only skills or 2- have DC so high that characters not specialized will need to over-specialize to be partially effective (or effective in only one part of the game). With high DC to do anything, low-level characters are paralyzed while high-level guys will simply breeze through this.

Adding to my worries particularly in Starfinder Society, as the game will often have new players and you will have to explain this complicated side-game (for it is a side-game) all the time. As the chance of having a consistent, coherent group is effectively impossible. Those who play together regularly will not have this problem. But for those who, like me and ActionMan, play with random people all the time, will find ourselves unable to use the things our characters have to be, ergo: end up with 2-3 pilots, 2-3 gunners, etc. With the small number of skill points per level, we have to make a choice: either be useful in starship combat OR be able to do multiple things. Uber-specialization is needed to be mildly effective.

I also found the position of Captain to be underwhelming and boring to play. I rolled a d20, give bonus or a meaningless penalty on the bad guys and then wait for your turn to come back. And half the positions, you cannot roll to help if you do not have the skill. The Taunt action seems great against one ship but is useless when faced with multiple ships.

"JP, It's not meaningless!" You say. Well let's see... I make an Intimidate check to give a -2 to the baddies's gunnery. Great! But wait... They are +8 to +12. And our own ship AC is 13-15... Yup. Pretty much meaningless. Better get on the guns and shoot them to bits. My theory of "shoot above all else" proved right once again as we played through more adventures.

Being Pathfinder in Space has a draw back: the game feels heavy and rules-filled with infinite minutiae. When I think sci-fi, I think of a system that allows me to resolve things quickly and with exciting results. It's not as bad as Modiphius' Star Trek. There are way too many times the game bogged down with the minutia that has become synonymous with Pathfinder: one bad roll (because DCs are HIGH), lack of a particular trained-only skill, like the one that allows you to recognize creatures.

I found the Starship DCs very high... Meaning that characters never succeed at anything unless they are uber specialized in something. Again, Pathfinder in Space.

One of the biggest strike against Starfinder is that there are many valid alternatives to play sci-fi games. Most alternatives are faster, simpler and convey the feel better and with less rules. Off the top of my head, I can think of Savage Worlds, FFG's Star Wars or Shadowrun.

The SFS Pregens were filled with errors and things that made no sense. For example, I had a med kit that required a DC 25 Medicine check to use... but I did not have that skill, making it completely useless for me to use! We found a few other issues and problems with them that I don't remember specifically.

I hate shopping. With a passion. I really, really hate it. On or offline. I foresee with dread that Starfinder will quickly turn into a massive mega-catalog of bonus-shopping that will make more than a afew character builds redundant. Oh you have Cultures? at +5? I have a rolodex +15, don't bother rolling... I fully expect to see such things appear quickly (I mentioned Shadowrun earlier, and that is one of its biggest issues IMO).

The Setting

As written, the game and the setting really go hand in hand. Unlike in Pathfinder where there is no setting with the core book. Starfinder has its setting built-in.

The setting has a number of creative things that makes it interesting, but not exciting. As for Golarion, we get only a teaser of what is where. It's "Fine" but I won't say it is great. It wants to be everything for everyone, without really hitting it. You would be hard-pressed to play Star Wars or Star Trek with it.

It integrates with Pathfinder with the lack of Golarion. I thought that was a cool idea to make the planet disappear (also, a convenient way not to have to explain what happens there). Absalom Station works as an alternative

Not bad. Not great. Okay.

Starfinder Society

I thought interesting that Starfinder Society had Multi-faction rewards! Where have I seen that? OH yes! The Legacies Organized Play Campaign had that! I'm glad to see they still look at my stuff for inspiration! In all fairness, I look at theirs all the time, so fair play!

The beginning of their demo adventure could be clearer. We were under the impression that we were member of the Society, but no... Just odd stuff. The adventure itself (other than ship combat) was fun and seemed to set up a storyline.

Who is this for?

Which leads me to ask the question. Who is the target audience for Starfinder?

After thinking about it, I have to answer: Pathfinder fans who want to do sci-fi. People who love and enjoy playing Pathfinder are the most likely people to be drawn in to play this. The Pathfinder-in-Space means that those who like Pathfinder will find Starfinder in their wheelhouse. It will not convert those who dislike Pathfinder to it.

I do not expect masses to drop their other system to jump into Starfinder. Those who like sci-fi likely already have a game they like and while they may "dip" or have a look at Starfinder, I don't know how much player retention they will have.


Well, I like Pathfinder, even if it is getting very heavy, old, and bloated. So the character-level stuff I did in Starfinder made me like it enough that I broke down and bought the book. Which was something I did not really expect to do. So a big plus for Starfinder.

The ship combat is a mess and I really hate it. A feeling shared by quite a few others of the players. While they may not have hated it as much as I did, they shared many of my skepticism about SFS and ship combat. Flying the ship is an exercise in arguing with the rest of the party, between tactically-oriented players (like myself), tactically inept players who still want to command everything, and the rest of the bored band wanting to get to something where something other than their numbers matter.

So my rating will go from 4/5 for Pathfinder fans to 2/5 for those who are not, settling on an odd 3/5. If you like the Starship combat system, bump that up by 1 to a 5/5 and 3/5.

Will FOE ever produce material for it? I reserve the right to produce stuff. At this time, the outlook does not look good.

Monday, January 22, 2018

FOE at Conglomeration in Louisville in 2018

With the spring convention season nearly upon us, I have to start and schedule my yearly travel times. Not only with the cons themselves, but also with the Missus and the kiddos. This year, I plan on returning to Conglomeration in Louisville KY. It is a convention I really enjoyed.

Don't believe me? See the my After Action Reports for 2016 and 2017.

Particularly the following passage:

I am very encouraged by the gaming team to do some changes and improve how the game room flows and runs and will anxiously (read: I will bother Derek about it through the year) wait for details of decisions and plans.

Well Derek and I have been talking about the convention and I am very happy to report that FOE will be returning to Louisville at the end of March to run some new material. I am still finalizing what I want to run and that's a big problem now because of the growing amount of material I can draw from: Akhamet, Rhym and Saggakar. It's like I am a 3pp Organized Play campaign all my own!

Seriously... the multi-setting campaign I can now run is pretty much how I envisioned Legacies would grow as a 3rd Party campaign, where different style of adventures would take place together.

But enough side-bar!

If you plan to attend Conglomeration, and I strongly encourage you to do so, I was able to get a special discounted rate for those who sign up with the GMPROMO2018 code... This code will take 5$ off your registration! At that price, I am thinking of having the kids join me. Well, Jojo and ActionMan. I don't think Kitty cares enough.

I will have the latest Rhym adventure, Come to the Hills for sure... and some Saggakar. I have a great plot but my writing for that one has fizzled out. I am stuck at an encounter that just does not make the plot flow. So I have it laying unfinished.

Akhamet? Maybe. I want to, but dunno what I will have ready. My plan is to offer 3-4 game slots, including the Sunday morning.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Writing Updates for January 2018

A quick update on the (many) projects I am currently working on actively. This does not includes projects on which I jotted down ideas because there are a lot THOSE.

Akhamet Setting I am continuing to work on Akhamet... The setting is in a good shape but still needs work. So... Work in progress. I got some great submissions from two other authors: Ed-K and Randy-P that added extra dimensions to the settings, takes I did not foresee.

Akhamet Adventure Path of the eight-ten projected unique adventures, I have completed five. Many still need to have added elements. One of the adventure I initially wrote as an introduction to Akhamet, but it grew into something much bigger. So I have a choice: cut it in two OR leave it and come up with something new. Choices...

Tyrants of Saggakar Advnetures I have been advancing a number of projects here and there, but the most advanced is a story that advanced the plot for House Tioten, with the ArchDespot's own father, Despot Qetneh of Hellsmere. They are still VERY raw and in need of a lot of formatting and polishing.

Tyrants of Saggakar Fiction I have a new narrative that will go out with the adventures. Once I decide to finally stop self-editing...

Rhym I have not heard much from JD in quite a while. I hope his health is doing fine. I have started on another adventure for the summer cons: this one takes place in Celtic-inspired Kheldorn. It will be time to move the website to a new location. All of that should be behind the scenes-type-stuff. Still the site will now be very mobile-friendly. I am very proud of it, in a nerdgasm sort of way...

Other projects I have a few things I'm playing with, but my time is currently occupied by Akhamet and the rest of the summer stuff. There are more projects than time to develop everything!

Playing Finally, I have been making a major effort to play some more. I've been scaling back on Pathfinder games (I am not having as much fun with them as I used to) and running more 5e stuff, a mix of Akhamet, Rhym and Saggakar. My kids really love Saggakar the most, the character races is what they like most. So a lot of plates to juggle.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Pre-playtest of a pre-release

Today, ActionMan and I attended a get together at Grand Adventure Comics, on of the local FLGS. One of the biggest advantages of it is its proximity compared to the distance with the other stores where games are played near here.

I brought with me a few things, among them my Akhamet iconics and the intro adventure I am planning to run at Origins.

As we were a very misfit group: misfit in the sense of a wide-ranging experience of playing D&D. Some having never played, some only played 1st Edition, others 3e/Pathfinder, etc. So I opted to run a quick encounter to teach the game to everyone. I pulled out the iconics and ran a simple encounter: the PCs are walking somewhere across the desert, they encounter a small band of zombies.

ActionMan played a rogue and enjoyed himself. I think he likes the flashiness of the monk better.

The minis on there represent the iconics (a mix of Privateer Press, Stonehaven, Wargames Foundry, Reaper and a lot of Crocodile Games) and the Privateer Press undead threatening the PCs...

Monday, January 8, 2018

[Adventure Writing] The Employer

Every adventure has a point therein where the PCs meet with some type of employer. There are a wide variety of "employer" from the Mr Johnson to a man dying on your table with a dagger in the back.

There are a wide variety of these people. Their background change, their motivation change, their means change, but they are all the same under the mask: [someone] [asking] the PCs for [something].

Every adventure hook I ever wrote boils down the following five main questions.

- Who hires them? This one gives an overview of who the person is and comes first (usually) because it drives a lot of what comes next. A king or a local merchant or a street-side beggar.

- What does that person know about it? (publicly and secretly) Not every employer is forthcoming with the information they have. Perhaps there is a secret tied to the plot, perhaps the employer wants the affair put to rest, perhaps there are external pressures on him/her. What he is willing to share and what he wants to hide creates many possible plot twists.

- Why doesn't that person resolve the problem themselves? I was always amused how Elminster shows up all the time to ask PCs to do things that are completely trivial (one of the reason I'm not a fan of Forgotten Realms). If you are a super-powerful wizard, why don't you resolve this in the blink of an eye? It is a legitimate question in my mind. Plausible denyability, laziness, distaste for the affair as a whole.

- What is the preferred outcome for that person? Just because the person sends the PCs to resolve a situation doesn't mean they want things resolved the way they ask for. If the PCs and the dragons killed each other might be a great way to remove problems. A partial success may help the vizier more than a complete success. Failure may serve the king because he would rid himself of a troublesome step-daughter. This completes the motivation for the adventure.

- What is that person willing to offer to get it done? Very few PCs will ever do things without some form of compensation or reward. This is an opportunity for the PCs to gauge the importance of the task in the eyes of the employer and might get them to re-evaluate their involvement. From a previous 4e LFR special "So you want us to infiltrate Zhentil Keep for 25gp?" The adventure from there had an air of silliness to us. We fan-boys knew it would be really cool to do so, but there is no way our levels 1 and 2 characters would undertake such a voyage. On the other end of the spectrum an overly generous reward may hint that the employer has no interest in paying.

Using the questions above, sending your PCs against bandits in the Nearby Hills will be very different one way or another.

Try it with simple quest and you will see how your adventure quickly changes from one type to another.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

[Campaign Report] The disagreeable wife (with art)

Today, I ran another of our family's home game starring three PCs. The kids taking their roles once again.

- Awelara, the apothecary (cambion warlock 4, played by Jojo)
- Nightshade, the urchin (darkling monk 4, played by Kitty)
- Zombie-Slinger, the soldier (anuka fighter 4, played by ActionMan).

At the end of the last episode, they managed to stop the dimensional web from destroying Saggakar. However, Zombie-Slinger was lost when he played with the device before it was turned off. So this adventure started as the girls arrived in a cave filled with Mists not remembering where they came from...

The two found a wanted poster in their pack. Yes, the following poster:

They had no idea who this Zombie-Slinger or Ramis of House Ougozar were... They headed to the nearby town of Pemrose in Therland where they found Zombie-Slinger working as a city guard there.

The Anuka has a treasure map where ancient orc chiefs were buried.

Having cleared out the whole caves, they found only large spiders, dead bodies, a pre-looted crypt, and a wedding locket. Flush with victory and wanting to buy more stuff, they returned to town to sell the equipment they found and buy new stuff.

The locket it turns out got them involved in an affair of a missing wife. So they began looking for the missing woman, which finally led them to a ruined keep nearby where a band of warriors kept the woman. They stormed the castle, fighting off wave after wave of reinforcements, including a magical snake, and the leader of the plot.

In the end, they found the woman which sounded a lot like their mother. And hillarity ensued... In the end, they were victorious and had lined their pockets.

Kitty colored Irene's work because she wanted her character to be colorful!

On a personal note, I think the maps for this part of the adventure was pretty nice and snazzy. I used the dungeon section as a way to bring the PCs into the story. They kept looking for "but there has to be a secret passage", "Are you sure we did not miss anything?", and my favorite "But there is no treasure here!"

The massive battle at the end was pretty cool, with reinforcements serving as a rechargeable lair action! (Yes, I had a maximum number of soldiers to send against them)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Looking of GMs for Origins

Now is the time to think about the summer con season. Yes, already! I am looking for one or two additional GMs for Origins (June 13-18) to run games for FOE. Right now, FOE runs events on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and Sunday mornings.

Origins will have three new adventures: one for Akhamet, one for Rhym and one for Saggakar.

If you are available and interested, let me know. I offer books... physical books... Contact me and we will discuss.

Hunting Ogres on a Tuesday

I painted these ogres for my home group... Three are from Reaper and two are from Privateer Press.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Yearly Retrospective 2017

Professional Life

The biggest event this year on the professional side was without a doubt my getting laid off in October. The company I worked for decided to stop all development efforts and I was sent packing. A sad state of affair for sure. I had not planned for this change and it took me by surprise but to be fair, I got a decent severance package which allowed us to get through this difficult and stressful time.

After many interviews, I had to choose between no less than five to seven positions, from Denver, to Louisville, to here in Nashville. The final decision was not an easy one: a lot of great recruiters worked tireless hours to get me interviews. On the plus side, if you are looking for great recruiters, I know many in both Louisville, KY and in the Nashville, TN area...

Luckily for me, I was able to find a new job, one that will teach me a lot and grow my skills.

One big kudos go to my children who were very stressed and unnerved by the situation but my wife and I told them that we would handle the situation and that their job was to focus on school. They did, and all three got good or improved their grades during the period. Kudos to them.


This year, I played more and more 5th edition and am finding myself liking the game more and more, and Pathfinder less and less.

I like the lightness of 5th Edition and the speed of play: my kids understood 5e a lot quicker and are more effective at it. The community as a whole seems a lot more receptive to playing new things using 5e.

One element that has turned me off of Pathfinder is its heaviness. The game is old and it shows. It needs a youth treatment more than ever. Add to it the arguments over minutiae and the gross unbalance of the character classes from the latest books dimmed my enthusiasm.

The released of Starfinder has only compounded the problem, it feels like Pathfinder. I bought the book, but do not think I will invest anymore in that game. It's setting is too involved in its ruleset to allow for alternative locations/settings, so I feel very little interest in investing in it as a publisher.

I got to run a home game called "The Awakening" set in Rhym, but using characters from Saggakar, Rhym, and using Gostor:Amazon all thrown together. The results have been very interesting and grew into something I really want to play more of.

I ran a short game with the kids, set in Saggakar, where they had to travel to a remote castle to find what happened to a missing First One. They did so, learning to loot the place of any valuable. It was a fun way to play as a family as they cheated each other and tried to get treasure and loot. Yes, they learned...

Their characters were: Zombie-Slinger the Anuka fighter (ActionMan), Awelara the cambion warlock (Jojo), and Nightshade the Darkling monk (Kitty). In the end, Zombie-Slinger was lost to another plane and must play in another setting before returning to Saggakar...

The other two games I played some, but very little outside of the big events were: Arcanis and Heroes of Rokugan.

Arcanis, I still love, but there are so few events happening outside Origins (or the now defunct Arcaniscon) that I don't play much anymore... I'll admit their move to 5e is fully understandable, but also makes me hesitant to follow... I don't really want to play it using 5e, now that I've grown used to ARG. Still the 5e move was inevitable and brings a lot more new faces to Arcanis than ARG ever did. For now I'll only play it using ARG, until I am forced to change.

Heroes of Rokugan is one that I like a lot... I have been playing for two-ish years now and really having a blast. I am quite happy that there is a convention Weekend in Rokugan out of St-Louis where I can binge-play and really enjoy myself. I plan on going back this year and living out more wacky samurai action.


This year was a big one for FOE... We released a number of new products:

- Tyrants of Saggakar got quite a few new products, in addition to more adventures, the big new was the release of Service is Eternal for 5th Edition. This book is not only a porting of the original Pathfinder version, but also an update, with updated art and added information about First One schools, orders, expanded backgrounds, and many great options for both First One characters and enemies. Oh yeah... if you are a haver, you can use them...

Faremh, the ArchDespotate is the setting for our Legacies campaign. A number of new setting products have been added, building up to a mega-book which I call "Ultimate Faremh" that will include everyone of these smaller books into a bigger, more comprehensive one.
    Markelis City-in-the-Mists presents a new city setting. It was a nice change of pace to write about a location in the grips of the Mists, without revealing the "truth" behind the Mists.
 Still on the settings, Spiderfen Terror in the Trees details the northern forest of the ArchDespotate.

- Rhym Campaign This new exciting setting allows us to write and run adventures using a setting very different from Saggakar. This second setting has done very well this year, and spurred some interesting campaigns, including my own "The Awakening" campaign. The more I write for it, the more I like it! The First Rhym adventure, Black Sails, was released late in the year. 5e

- Gostor: Amazon for both PF and 5e


Montreal in the Summer The most important family trip of the year was back to my homeland of the province of Quebec, where my wife spent a few weeks, I renewed my passport, and we got to spend quality time with both our families.

We missed many friends, but time was limited...

Montreal in the Fall With a new job, I had to fly back to Montreal to renew my work visa for the new job. This should've been a quick in-and-out trip, with the biggest surprise was bringing my mother in law back with me as a surprise for Julie. BUT NO. I was refused at the border for "not leaving quick enough" (further research showed I still have over 20 days to leave when I left)... So Julie had to make an emergency trip from Nashville to Montreal so we could all cross the border together. In the end, we got the visa and came back home.

Washington, DC The return trip from Montreal to Nashville was cut short with a stop in DC. We walked the Mall, saw the major sights before coming back. This was a welcomed break in the traveling.


The biggest and most important sporting event of the year was the Nashville Predators going to the Stanley Cup finals. This really increased the status of the game here in Nashville... And was very exciting to feel the craziness and the massive party atmosphere that fell on the city. While I am a Montreal Canadiens fan (who got bounced in the first round of the playoffs), I have no problem cheering on the Preds... when they don't face my Habs.


Plutarch - Rise and Fall of the Athenian Republic This book gives us the lives of nine Greeks who had a hand in the Golden Age of Athens. From the Mythological Theuseus to the Spartan Lysander who ended the Republic once and for all. This almost century of a unique form of government and the men that tried to use it and modify it is something that we deal with to this day with our modern government.

Peter Tsouras - The Warlords of Ancient Mexico I had been reading a lot of ancient Roman and ancient Greek stuff and I wanted to read something different. Ol'Santa Claus brought me this book. This book covers the rise of the Aztecs (or Mexica people). I knew little about them and was very curious. I will say that the rise and fall of the Mexica were both equally meteoric. Rising from outlanders to imperial masters to servants of Spain, all within a century. What a story! I will say that their names were... a mouthful and I quickly learned not to say them out loud, merely recognize their names as written.

JRR Tolkien - The Hobbit Finally got around to reading this classic of the genre. I don't know why it took me this long to do so. It was an enjoyable book. Having seen the movies, did not lessen my enthusiasm and enjoyment.

Ian Page - Le Sorcier Majdar The first book of the Greystar series, in French. As a teenager, I really loved that series (and the related Lone Wolf series). So it was on a summer's day that I decided to get the whole series. I really enjoyed this first book even if, of all the Joe Dever books this one feels like it is the one where you do the least. Playing a wizard was fun.

Lucia St.Clair Robson - The Tokaido Road This book of historical fiction was a welcome and surprising read. I was a tad wary about reading it, but as the pages flew by, the story of Lady Asano and her escape from Edo on the road to Kyoto became more and more enticing. I worried it might become a soapy romance story but no. Presented as many short chapters that each introduces us to one or more elements of Tokugawa Japan. From the pleasure quarter to dealing with commoners, to legal papers, to courtship, the story flows as the main characters walk the road. Very interesting.

Ian Page - La Cité Interdite The second part of the Greystar series and one that feels like there are coming to a head. While the first part sometimes felt short without too many significant choices, this one here provides us with a sequel that continues the plot, more so than Lone Wolf.

Dave Thompson - Le Talisman de la Mort This fighting fantasy book is one that I had very little recollection about. I remember reading it, but little more. I many ways, this felt like a first reading every. I was greatly and positively surprised by the amount of choices and the amount of things to do here. Definitely one of the best ones of the series.

DC Showcase - Teen Titans #2 Having read the first one, I was not looking forward to this one. The first one was bland, simple and representing teenagers from the 60s. This book advances the Teen Titans to the 70s and the stories now feel less like the "old-style" DC and more modern as the TT tackle problems that are more in-line with real-life. Granted, it is still odd, but a big step up from the previous collection.

Marvel Essentials - Defenders #2 I was never able to get #1, so I started with #2. Now I must say the Defenders are an odd group. Unlike other superteams, like the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, or the X-Men, the Defenders do not have a fixed or well-defined identity. In many ways, it makes me think of a group of super-powered PCs: somewhat random characters held together by a very thin premise. While these other groups all have a set focus, the defenders go from Asgardian adventures to patrolling the streets for crime. They really are an odd bunch. I am not a big fan of Doctor Strange who seems to be way over-powered for the problems he is facing. He is also one of the most important member who brings his own lore into the group, who along with Hulk are the two "big names". This book ends with a cross-over with Howard the Duck. I mean seriously, that was a complete waste of time! A useless character, a dumb story, I groaned upon seeing the cover and it delivered in groans of pain.

Steven Saylor - Roman Blood This novel I read in-between other books. I had planned on reading it slowly at night, but for some reason, I brought it with me to Canada. The story was good and really portrayed a number of Roman life. I really liked his portrayal of Cicero and Tiro (who I had read a lot about last year). The plot is good and the investigation interesting enough. The only weak point to me, is the few chapters after the closing of the trial... I rolled my eyes a few times, disappointed in the ending and the fate of Sextius filius. The original and most obvious solution would've been much, much darker and more in-line with the rest of the story. Instead, we get a sort of super-mega-happy end.

Marvel Essentials - Defenders #4 see below...

Marvel Essentials - Defenders #5 The story of the defenders in those two books really evolves here. This confirms the fact that this was really an extended version of many smaller titles with crossovers. This felt very much like an RPG campaigns where the party keeps going off on their own all the time and each has a few occasional touch-point. Very different than the Avengers or the X-Men...

Marvel Essentials - Marvel Two-in-One #4 I knew about Marvel team-up but did not know about this title. Whereas Team-up is a Spider-man showcase, this one is with the Thing. I must say there are a few nice stories, but the Thing is not as interesting as Spider-man, especially on his own. This "issue" also featured the last issue of the series, perhaps the best one of them all, issue #100 featuring the Thing and Ben Grimm. It was almost a What-if issue.


- The European Discovery of China - Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona A very interesting and eye-opening class on the interactions between China and the West, from the Roman Empire days through the Middle Ages to the formalization of the relations with Portugal and China. There was so many aspect and elements of Chinese culture I did not know: that the Chinese had illustrated books detailing a lot of things and the quality and beauty of these books were phenomenal. How the Chinese viewed religion as a whole was quite different. I could easily understand how the Chinese found these newcomers completely strange. As someone who plays and writes a lot of medieval-style material, how much these Chinese cities fit our idea of a modern city with many shops and restaurants along the roads... A great class.

- Life under Richard III - University of Leicester I followed the original unearthing and re-burying of Richard III when his remains were discovered under a parking lot in 2013. This class went through the history of the time and a re-interpretation of his life, trying to separate facts from fiction. Really loved it.

- Superpowers of the Middle-East - University of Liverpool This one was a short and overall only mildly educational. Having already taken a number of class on Ancient Middle East, this one felt rather flat and not overly informative. It has a few highlights but did not go into great details on anything.

- Wonders of Ancient Egypt - University of Pennsylvania Follow-up to last year's introduction class. This class was filled with interesting gems. Namely, I learned how to write and draw a number of information on hieroglyphics. Which really provided insight into Ancient Egypt that really made my day.

- The Age of Cathedrals - Yale University The great creations of the 11th and 12th century creations.

- Responsive Websites with Bootstrap 3 - Pluralsight This one for my new job... I really liked it and expect to take more of these next year... I created a temporary website for my publishing company (Here), that will become the template for the new

Design Pattern Playbook: Structural Patterns - Pluralsight A short class I wanted to use to remind myself of a few specific design patterns. I'll admit it I did not get much from this one. But it was only two hours..


This year, I participated in a number of conventions, here is the report I posted about them.
- Arcanicon in Detroit, MI
- Conglomeration Part 1, Part 2 in Louisville, KY
- Chattanooga Tabletop Game Fest in Chattanooga, TN
- Lexicon in Lexington, KY
- Nashcon in Nashville, TN Part 1 and Part 2
- Origins in Columbus, OH Part 1, Part 2
- Gencon in Indianapolis, IN Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
- Imaginarium in Louisville, KY


After a very hot start to 2017 that promised to be the biggest year for this blog, projects, life, and writing projects drew me away from here. It seems I never had enough time to do what I wanted. A lot of good writing came at the cost of this blog... It is still going. Still ticking.

So with all this, I wish you all a very happy new year.