JP On Gaming

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Origins 2018 AAR, Part 2: Thursday and Friday

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Thursday

I was around 5am when I gave up sleeping and opened my computer to go over a story I wrote at some point last year. The story features a lonely night for my Arcanis character. I wrote the story for me, to remind me of some of the elements of her story and background, why she is here and her motivations for doing some of the things she did.

The idea was not simply personal, but my good friend Tom-C approached me with the idea of having our two characters get married. Since we are both of high social status and our characters have a lot of synergy together. So we got to talking and I told him I had a short story for him. This was the story. I cleaned it up some and expanded a few passages, still needs a little work, but it works for the purpose of letting him know what is going on.

My morning table was of Exalted Pains for Tyrants of Saggakar. Great group, a lot of fun. The guys really got into the backstabbing element the houses of Faremh do to each other. Good stuff.

My afternoon table did not make, so I jumped on a table of Arcanis (again) this time. I joined a party of Peter-P, Eric-G, and Mary to play one of the adventures we missed earlier in the year. Investigation? Alcohol? Yes!

For the evening, my table did not go off, so it was the first of the adventures leading into the special two-round Saturday interactive. I was very curious because the adventure was set in a region that was considered mythical and where nothing was ever written for it. Psionics and other nastiness.

The adventure was very intriguing, with alien encounters and meeting cultures completely different to others on Arcanis. A fair amount of lore here and many things to do: find the missing legionnaires.

One thing I really loved about this one, and how my GM Ryan-W, from Colorado, allowed me to play it is that the adventure starts with a scene, then you jump back to the past. Since I have oracular powers, I was able to warn the party of what was coming. Really cool stuff, made me feel like a million bucks! Thanks Ryan!

I retired to the room and wrote a little before being kept awake by the multi-snoring machines...

Friday

I gave up on not being able to sleep again at 5am, when the snoring machines stopped their infernal racket... I wrote some more, starting a new story, one that followed the previous story, "when Kermina was told of her marriage." For that one, I had to go back and review my old 3.5 Arcanis characters, their special abilities, their histories. It was a trip down memory lane I thoroughly enjoyed!

Again, my morning slot went off. This time since I did not have all the handouts for the Saggakar adventure, I offered the guys to instead play the Akhamet intro: Lost Pyramid of Neferheket which was very fun. I really like that adventure. These guys did the adventure in the opposite order that all other groups have done so far. It was interesting to see how some encounters play with different information.

The afternoon, my table did not go off, so I jumped on a table of the second hard point for Arcanis.

This one was not as enjoyable.

I hate to say, but there was very precious little making this one fun in any way. To avoid spoiler, I will say that three over-the-top climactic battles in a row is not climactic. I am not certain we would have survived. This was unpleasant, and not in a way that you remember fondly. This was the first Arcanis adventure in a VERY long time that I did not see a point for characters that were not uber-twinked out (which I am not one of them, I'm more of a toolbox). Attack rolls that only check for crit/crit fail. Now I don't care about my own character (I'm always surprised when I am NOT hit, but that was just going above and beyond).

We got saved by the marshal kicking us out of the room. Thanks Josh! Again... Not fun.

I heard a few people talking about quitting Arcanis, which I thought was over-the-top. I told them that "everyone can write a Star Trek VI once in a while". Not enjoyable. Not having tickets for the next day's mega battle interactive, I seriously wondered if I should instead try to find a seat for Shadowrun or something else...

Next up was the "interactive"... not a battle, but one made up of mini-missions. I met up with Nicole-G (who plays my BFF Dessa) and her kids and my good friend Paul-G ran us for two mini-missions and Paul-B ran us through two more.

The fun I had on this one soothed my doubts about the previous adventure. I resolved to be back for the BI, if I could find a seat.

Next up: 5h of interrupted sleep

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Origins 2018 AAR, Part 1: Tuesday and Wednesday

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Trip There

The trip started around 4:30 from the south of Nashville. I had a hotel just north of Cincinnati, roughly 4.5 hours away. The trip itself was pretty much without incident. Perhaps, the lack of significant weather, which I just managed to skirt to my left for most of the way between Nashville and Louisville KY was different than previous trips where I had to deal with storms for most of that route. Not in 2018. I stopped at the hotel and tried to sleep but failed. Not because it was dirty, not because of noisy neighbors, not because I was hungry, not because I drank a coffee five hours before, and especially not because I was watching "Expeditions Unknown" on TV, no.

MEGA-NERD ALERTBefore I left, a coworker and I were discussing a way we could make some data in our Entity Framework for a Dot Net Core application perform some validation and throw errors when that would happen. We had a basic idea, but I did not like it. It was too heavy, intrusive and required us to drop the pattern and basically re-write the framework. Not something I enjoy doing.

Inspiration, usually for writing material, comes during these long solo drives. This time, I got nothing for any of my gaming stuff. Nada.

However, I did figure out a way I thought was elegant and would not force us to rewrite everything if the framework changed.

Since some of you wonder what it was (in real short): I overloaded the .SaveChanges and .SaveChangesAsync method of my context to look for a given interface (also new) and throw an exception if found. This made that readonly. Whipped up a few unit tests to validate and verify, checked it in and sent that to my coworker for his input...

Then I managed to sleep.

It was 3am my time.

Wednesday

Without any games before 1pm, I was able to get up at a leisurely 7am. I got up and drove an hour to the outskirts of Columbus to a Walmart. There, my plan was to buy a cooler (I had forgotten mine) and some food for the con. Later, I had a styrofoam cooler filled with lunch meats, fig newtons, chips, pretzels, and more than I really needed, and a bag of ice to keep everything cool. But at under 40$ that would allow me to live the epicurian lifestyle of mine.

MEGA-NERD ALERT Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who encourage taking pleasure in the small things in life. By making and simplifying expectations, one would live a life of felicity. Therefore for food, one does not need to eat a sumptuous feast to satisfy the desire for food, when a lunch meat sandwich would suffice. He did not discourage the partaking of feasts, just that they were not needed.

It was around 11am when I rolled into the parking lot beneath the Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC) and searched for a spot where I could leave my car all weekend. Creating a base of operation for myself. Done.

I acquired my GM badge and went to meet with the Gathering folks with whom I was running events.

It is always great to see everyone, many faces I see but once a year. It also reminds me that I have to get my rear end into gear to write something for Arcanis. It has been a year since I did anything on it...

My first slot was for the latest Rhym adventure, Come to the Hills and it went off. It was a fun time. That adventure is a rather simple, very traditional D&D one, something I rarely do for Saggakar, which makes Rhym so fun to write for.

My evening slot was one of the previews for Akhamet and did not go off. I had the pleasure of sitting a Sean-E's table. It was great fun and I was particularly happy to see Arcanis dig back into an adventure some 15+ years old as a hook. I will have to re-read the adventure because I ran that for Homer, Ryan, Jim, Matt and Kenton way back when... Around 2010-11.

Night was interesting. I will keep it down to the following: I will bring earplugs at future conventions where I share a room. In addition to food, earplugs will be obtained.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Monday, June 18, 2018

New art for FOE!

I am happy to preview some of of the art for an upcoming FOE project.

I can't reveal the full detail, so I will leave you guessing. This is the mock-up for the cover of something I've been working on... I've actually given Zammy options and see where inspiration takes her...

You can see my skills have greatly improved to now include letters AND smiles on the faces of the characters!

This is high-quality stuff!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Origins Sale: 30% off everything on DrivethruRPG

While JP is off to Origins, the gremlins decided to offer a sale! Everything FOE is 30%.

With the current Pathfinder sale week, that's TWO stacking sales!

This sale will run until Monday the 18th, when JP returns home!

Follow this link for the full FOE catalog DriveThruRPG.

Enjoy Origins!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

[ArcadiaQuest] Four Angels

More ArcadiaQuest from Will's stash of minis! This is the last big batch of models from the Kickstarters he participated in. It is from the Inferno set, I believe.

For this batch of models, since they are angels, he wanted them to have them be on a cloud-like effect. So I painted the base blue with some light blue locations where I added two or three layers of snow-flock to create a cloud-like effect. I think it finally came out pretty nice.

Gostor: Ethereal Horrors released for 5e

Way back in 2016, I put out a very successful book called Gostor: Ethereal Horrors which presents a series of monsters from the Ethereal Plane, presented in such a way as to can be easily added to any campaign or setting. That first book was for the Pathfinder RPG. I had someone working with me at the time who wanted to perform the conversion from PF to 5e, so I let him work on it.

As you can see, that work was never done and the porting of the Ethereal Horrors to 5e was never done. So while in Montreal at the end of May, I took time to look at the book and see what it would take to review and alter the creatures to make it to 5e. Less than two weeks later, it was done. The text had been reviewed, cleaned and clarified, the sample encounters had been updated and presented for 5th edition.

In short, it was done.

Therefore, after two long years of procrastination, I am please to announce the release of Gostor: Ethereal Horrors for 5th edition! It is available now on DriveThru RPG and RPGNow, and shortly, on the Open Gaming Store.

Let me know what you think of it! I am really excited to unleash those monsters on unsuspecting players...

Monday, June 4, 2018

June Writing Update

With the latest FOE releases: Gostor: Medusans and Gostor: Gifts of the Gods this past month, there are now more and more FOE products coming out. This post is to update you with what is coming up in the pipeline at some point this summer. For those who follow, Medusans are now fully legal in the Legacies Organized Play Campaign.

Tyrants of Saggakar

Tyrants will see at least two adventures, and hopefully one source book. The exact content is unclear because I keep flip-flopping. I have enough material for a book on the Houses of Faremh, but could split it into two: one book for the major and one book for the minor houses. All with the clear intent of completing my "Tyrants of Saggakar - Campaign Setting" by bringing together all those sourcebooks into one massive book. But I have a few other pieces to complete before that one can be ready... Farelis, and the Markhem Hills...

Rhym

We have not forgotten about Rhym. JD is working on a book of allies and adversaries. I have nearly completed a location book, set in the country of Therland. I completed the third adventure of my Rhym series, which premiered at Conglomeration earlier this year. I will be running this one at a few events this summer, shall I say "Origins" and "Gencon"?

Akhamet

After talking about it since last November and playing with it since the winter, Akhamet is moving forward. So you know, I have just two comments left. This one really grew on me, the definition of scope creep! My latest idea and what I have left? So the bestiary section has more than stat blocks, I have tried to put a short adventure with every one of the creatures. That way you get more than just a stat block. I thought it was pretty cool.

Gostor

Gostor will see a number of releases. Already you have seen the addition of the Mythical Greece products, including new character races just came out Gostor: Medusans and Olympians will be followed by at least two more Ancient Greece-inspired races: coming up next will be the titanborn and the nymphs.

Titanborn as primordial humanoids related to... the titans of course. I worked to make them very different from the Olympians, and I think they are. The book will have four very different sub-types that will allow you to make a truly unique character, whether you play for the uber-specialized character or the generalist.

Nymphs are still in production, but they will allow you play a minor deity.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Pink Carnivean

Here is a metal carnivean I got as part of a job lot. It has a minor conversion with one of its lower legs on a piece of Retribution jack. I went with a lighter shade than my others, which are all dark purple. Not much more to say...

Sunday, May 27, 2018

[Commissions] Going to Asia?

When I got my Reaper Bones III last year, I went through and was really very excited to find some of the Asian-inspired creatures therein. Among them, the large samurai-oni lady. Painting these guys was a blast I was able to complete them so quickly. Fun miniatures all around. The "set" of characters includes a Kenku, two Kitsune(fox-people), and a masked human woman.

At first, I had the idea of creating an adventure set in a fantasy Asia. Something akin to Akhamet, but now I am unsure. The idea is still there, still marinating in the back of my mind, but I need additional time to sit down and get it done. So this is one of the things currently on the backburner for FOE. Something you can look forward to find at your gaming tables.

I too am pretty excited about it... but it will wait until Akhamet is out and done.



Friday, May 25, 2018

[Commission] Freeblade miniatures

From the Vault of minis I painted long ago, but am only posting them now.

Last year, I bought myself these miniatures from the FreeBlades range. Putting them together proved to be somewhat of a challenge, but the finished product are very nice. The sculpts are solid and they paint well.

The first two characters are a Dryad and a sorceress/druid. I am particularly fond of the dryad character. She is a surprisingly simple but very effective character. The sorceress was one of my inspiration for the Medusan "iconic". As she holds a snake in hand she is perfect for that role. Expect to see her on the gaming table...

The next pair is an eagle knight and a lion knight. With the recent work I've been doing, the lion-woman will make her way into a game I started putting ideas together...





Friday, May 18, 2018

[5e] Two books on Ancient Greece released

I have been hard at work getting those two book done and out. With my recent sidetracks into the world of Ancient Greece, a multitude of side plots, items, characters, races and stories. These were placed into one of the many, many text files. Eventually, these ideas were grew and grew until I had to make something out of them. That my kids are interested certainly had something to do with this Ancient Greece thing... The other products of the sub-range include: Gostor Olympians, and the adventure A Question of Judgment.

So the first one is Gostor Medusan, presenting a new player-character race of half-medusas. The idea came one day when I was thinking of an adventure for "Greek Villains". And who is one of the top Greek Villainess? Medusa!

This train of thought led me to think of ways to mae a race that could turn people to stone with just a gaze... Then how to make it not so powerful. When I floated the idea to my team, many immediately went "oh no, that's too powerful" but after I explained how it worked they went "it's pretty cool".

Check it out yourself! Worse case scenario, you spring a surprise monster on your players!

The other product also comes from the Gostor line, Gostor Gifts of the Gods is a collection of twenty five new magic items taken from Greek Myths. These includes such classics as Zeus' Thunderbolts, the Caduceus, Hera's Cloak, and the Golden Fleece.

Big shout-out to my good buddy Wesley-O who served as a sounding board for these items and who offered valuable insight that made these items so much better.

This is the first time I am releasing two non-adventure products at the same time. It is also great to release them both on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow, AND the Open Gaming Store.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

State of FOE and some of my Yearly Resolution

I have not shared this with a lot of people, but one of my goals for 2018 is to increase both my throughput in terms of products and my sales in number of units and gross. This will allow me to grow, get more art and writing done, offer better pay to both my writers and my artists. I pay my artists and my writers. Granted, I doubt any of them will grow rich on this, but I like to think it helps.

If you don't know: FOE is in the black, everything is currently paid for (minus the final payments for pieces of art currently in the works). Everything else is up to date. Meaning that should I stop producing any content today, I would not lose anything. This is one reason I have kept my operation small and growing organically. Producing content for first the Tyrants of Saggakar, and now for Rhym, Akhamet, and my Ancient Greek side-project is something I do for fun, something I enjoy.

Back to the topic, after years of "just doing it," I looked at my sales and profits and began to wonder how to increase them, how to make more money. So for the first part of this year, I looked at a number of things to achieve my goals.

- Better content This means refining the writing, sharpening and improving my own style. This is one thing I have been working at doing, from polishing the writing, to the editing, to the look of FOE's products. I have been reading, watching and trying quite a few things. From the first products I put out back in 2013 to today, there is a world of difference.

- Better art When I started, I could not care less about the art. I am a writer and the art was little more than "eye candy" to illustrate a character. I have come around on that, going so far as to invest all of FOE's profits into commissioning more and new art. Akhamet is already funded and paid for (minus the cover page, one of the pieces I mention previously). All the unique races of Akhamet will have their own new unique piece of art just for them. I work mostly with two great artists: Irene and Zammy, both of which as great and provide my products with a look that I like. One great thing about it, I had to dust-off my Espanol because Zammy speaks very basic English. Small win. No. Do not expect a spanish version of Tyrants of Saggakar... I began talking to a local artist for some collaboration work.

- More content On the back of better content, I am trying to push out one product a month. These products cover a variety of subjects and settings: from races (such as Olympians, the Medusans), to settings books (Spiderfen) to adventures for Legacies and Setting-less, to magic items collections. I have even more ideas than time to complete them.

- More varied content I have been thinking about creating different products to complement products I am already making. A few random things include: NPC cards, and other media products.

- More revenu streams You may have noticed already that some FOE products have shown up on more platforms, such as DM's Guild, and the Open Gaming Store.

- More Appearances I've always been a firm believer that I can talk to people about why I think my setting is awesome, but nothing beats playing. So I plan on attending more events in and around Middle Tennessee. I am having a lot of fun doing so with ActionMan as the two of us get to travel and spend some time doing guy stuff.

Those are just some of what I am trying to make FOE more successful than ever, with an eye on breaking even on my con trips, so I can attend more events in the area. As I write this, I have three products that should be coming out within the next three weeks: Gostor Medusan, Gostor Gifts of the Gods, and a DM's Guild adventure: A Rose By Any Name, which is an update and rework of the classic Legacies Adventure of the same name, now setting-less to conform to the guidelines of the Guild. I will post when they come out...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Question of Judgment: a Greek adventure for 5e released

I am very happy to announce the release of FOE's latest adventure on DM's Guild, A question of judgment, and adventure set in mythical Greece where the PCs rub elbows with the gods and their brood. This is a simple adventure with the typical twists you now associate with FOE and our products.

I am very happy to publish this adventure. The kids served as play-testers for it and we had a great afternoon together. Dad knows of the many myths, while the kids know of them through young adult literature, such as Percy Jackson. Whatever the case, I was able to run this adventure with them knowing who the major players were. This adventure does not demand copious knowledge of mythology.

I also added the Olympian pre-gens.

Check it out! Let us know what you think. It is available on Drivethru Rpg and RPGNow.

Edit: This was way too setting-specific for DM's Guild so instead of dealing with an endless string of re-writes that would not satisfy them (I've been down that path before, and there is no pleasing them).

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

FOE (almost) Sold out at Gencon 2018, random thoughts, and ActionMan

FOE nearly completely sold out for Gencon! Within 24h of opening, FOE events have but a single ticket left! Because of my two awesome GMs: Isabelle and J-S, this means there will be two slots throughout Thursday and Friday.

I requested the addition of two tables for the evening of Lost Pyramid of Neferheket. The folks at Gencon should be adding these shortly, so stay tuned to see when they go on sale. Here is a link that will show you all the FOE events on the program.

Musings and Thoughts

I was chatting with a good friend of mine, Chad-N, yesterday night and the question was raised as to why this was. I always like to analyse such things and draw hypotheses as to why that is. And from this, draw lessons and learn. Such reasoning has led to my participation - or lack thereof - in certain events and moving forward with some and not others. The lack of participation in my Pathfinder tables led me to the decision to only offer 5e-based games at public events. And as a businessman, I have to see where the market is going and where my players and customers are, what they want, what they expect, and the reverse questions.

I know, I know, you will say "but JP you cannot use negative logic to define things" and you would be absolutely right however, I am trying to find where to go and where to avoid going. So the reasoning is sound - for you philosophical folk...

To start, I make the following postulate: Poeple want to play 5th edition D&D. Not a big stretch, I know, but it needs to be said. This is validated by looking at the registrations: most tables of 5th edition show Sold Out, and that includes Adventure League, Living Arcanis, FOE Legacies (us, yeah!) and even independent GMs and groups.

I wondered if cost would be prohibitive, but that does not seem to be the case, a 4h Adventure League event is 12$. Playing these events would simply be cost-prohibitive to me, but they have a good reputation and are generally quite solid (even if my own experience with AL at Gencon was not positive that such amount of money is not something I want to spend or risk).

ActionMan at Gencon

ActionMan asked me if he could come to Gencon and I thought about it. He really thought that would be a great thing, and he is 100% right. I'd love to attend Gencon with him. However, the family budget is simply not there to support a four day extravaganza.

There are a few problems with that: he is still too young to participate, I don't have room at my tables for him (remember all sold out), and perhaps the biggest problem: he played almost all of my material already! Anyway, I prefer attending smaller cons with him and Jojo where we can spend more time together.

Poor ActionMan will have to wait a few more years to come to Gencon... and by then he may be a member of my GM team. He expressed interest in GMing some Saggakar...

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Treasures: Ten Magic Items released for 5e

Some book come together through hard work and other come together without any effort at all. The latest FOE release to the DM's Guild, was one that was both. Some of the items came naturally and without any work on my part. Some items just wrote themselves and others requires work and many re-writes on my part. With the final stretch in sight, I brought them all together and formatted them. That part was really quick and simple.

The title of this one says it all: Treasures: Ten Magic Items. At first it may seem to be "just" another collection of items. However, after consulting with a few good people, I decided to add more.

Not only does each item include a description and art (a few don't have art), but each has at least two adventure hooks to introduce the items as more than something that was just lying around in a dungeon. With hooks ranging from dungeon to exploration to war to social...

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, April 30, 2018

[Review] All your base are Initiative Tokens

Every so often, I happen to see products on-line that draw my eye. In this particular instance, I was on DM's Guild trying to get one of my latest products out when I noticed a product called 'Initiative Token'. I know many people love these tokens and use them quite a lot. Me? not so much. My eye was drawn in particular to the many version of the file as it was repeated three or four times on the splash page. Frowning, I realized these were in a variety of languages, which made me even more curious. Of course, one of those languages was my beloved and native French, so I clicked on that to see what it was.

I cried. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_your_base_are_belong_to_us

"All your base are belong to us" Normally, I would just bow my head and cry but not this time... I had to say something, which I commented on the product. A brief exchange later and the creator, Luca Carbone responded back to me with what I already suspected: He was not a native French speaker. Still we exchanged a few messages in the discussion and in private and he is pretty cool guy. He sent me a version of the product (in English) for me to translate. If you speak another language, these types of things are annoying and frequent so you just learn to live with them.

And like a lazy slob, I left it on my stack of things to do... With finishing my adventures for Conglomeration and Lexicon, I just let it sit and almost forgot about them. Okay I did until it bubbled up my stack of tasks to complete... So I opened it, did the translation work and sent it back to Luca.

Another fun fact, I very rarely use them, but this past weekend, Josh who GM'd quite a lot for me

In the process of doing the translation, I got to get a good look at the product and thought it about writing this review.

Review

The total product is five pages long, 1 page recommending how to use the tokens and four pages of tokens. I initially thought these tokens would be circle or square, designed to be used on the grid, but no. They are instead mini-table tents for the GM to place on his screen and moved as combatants take their turns.

The splat page presents one way to use it with a very simple diagram on how to use them on your GM screen. That page is effective but I suspect very few GMs will spend any time reading it.

The last four pages, and where the best of the product is are the tokens themselves. Each page has 10 tokens designed to be cut out and used as tiny tents. One side has PC Name, AC, Passive Perception, and Notes and the other a piece of art with the class below. There is a good mix of genders (at least one of each class) and races. When looking at the race/class combos I did not cringe or go "Why would anyone want to play a [...]???" And by the inverse tokens, there are few really strange and wonky characters: no half-pixie half-fog giant ninja here. Solid, base D&D characters.

The art is funny and humoristic without being silly, it evokes each D&D classes well enough. The many characters reminded me of the art in the Casus Belli magazine which was the gold standard of publications for all French gamers in the 80s and 90s.

If i have one negative point for this product is that the "front" side where the art is has the classes written rather than give space for character names. For example, under the big burly fellow is written "Barbarian". I would have preferred that space to allow me to put "Tolgar the Bloody". That's minor and something of a(nother) peeve of mine that my character is not "Bard" but "Local Boy Mik". Many others don't care about that...

Scoring this product

So, like me I assume you are here to see how I will be rating this product.

First this is a product for those who use mini-tents/tokens for initiave. For you guys, you get some fun characters and simple tents you can print cheaply.

The art is fine, and is something to represent your initiative turn. I can see some will be turned away by it.

Because of this, I will give this product a score of 4 / 5 for those who like using those tents. This score does NOT take away any points for the strange French on the DMs Guild page, which really does nothing but affect the value of the product.

There you have it. Here are a few links if you want to check them out. I must say that when I first posted to the DMs Guild, I thought I expected to sneer at this product. I was left pleased and tempted to use them myself, so the gang did something good.

Luca's Collection of products: In every language

I believe most of you will want to see in English

And what started all this: la version Française (with my comments)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Lexicon 2018 After Action Report

This year's Lexicon has come and gone. I must say I have some mixed feeling about this one for a variety of reasons. But let's go over what happened.

I arrived in Lexington on Friday night with the last 2 miles taking about 45 minutes to cross! It was ridiculous... However, after receiving some great news from the Day-job front in the form of additional unexpected, well-paid work. I got to the con in a great mood. There is something about getting something you do not expect.

Why was Path/Starfinder completely off my options? I offered Chad a deal: if he would sit and play one game of 5e with me as a GM, I would join and play some of the Paizo stuff. His response (which did not surprise me) was That's a negative Ghost Rider... Meaning my conscience was clear not to participate in his games. Trap baited. Hook swallowed.

I entered got settled, chatted with Chad and Holly. I also noticed with great surprise there was to be no Shadowrun missions at the con. Too bad because I was really looking forward to playing that game again. This left me with... Pathfinder Society (huh... NO), Starfinder Society (even less), Adventure League (okay, but I wished to play something else because the following week, ActionMan and I are going to Chattanooga for some 5e action), or some indy stuff (maybe)...

This is where my offer to Chad somewhat backfired... And seriously limited my choices... I could not go and play any of P/SFS now... Which changed my choice to Adventure League.

Looking at the games offered, I sat at a table of Adventure League (AL). I sat down and played Local Boy Mik, who is a drunken hillbilly and everyone's relative. Our GM, Josh, was not used to tier 2 play and thought he was going to wreck us big time. But he did not. Our party was well-balanced with DPS, support, and buffing. A fun game. The 2h adventure lasted well over three and it was well-worth it as we role-played the be-jeezus out of the story.

Saturday morning, I ran a table of The Sorrowful Lady. It is a really fun adventure, one that has more than a few built-in laughs.

The afternoon slot, I had planned to play the AL epic. When I planned my events, I told Larry-E, the RPG coordinator that I would GM all day Saturday and Sunday morning, except for the slot when AL ran their epic.

It started out very rough for us as we got into a battle and got our rear ends promptly handed to us. I went through 8 potions of healing within the first 20 minutes of game start... Yes, it was Baaaaad. However, we adjusted our approaches and managed to be extremely successful in the rest of the epic, finishing ahead of time and getting the opportunity to return to the location that beat us up, for some revenge. I do enjoy the way they do their epics quite a lot, as the formula makes it feel like you can affect other tables, and do by providing them with some minor (and in our case, very useful) boons.

For the evening slot, I was to run another adventure, however, that one did not run. Leaving me to find myself a table. I went back to the AL room but the only adventure I had not played already had 6 players. And I don't do tables of seven. So it was back to looking. After looking, I joined a table of Iron Kingdoms RPG. I had been looking forward to playing this game yet had some reservations about it.

I may post a more thorough review later, but one of the biggest selling point for it is that it is pretty much Warmachine/Hordes. That is true. If you know how to play the wargame, you can play this game. And the many creatures from the wargames can be added, creating an ever-evolving beastiary, which is both brilliant and a great way to sell additional miniatures. With my own collection of models, I would be able to create quite a variety of encounters.

On the negative, the game is really great for fanboys (like myself) but a lot less approachable for newcomers. Similar to my issue with the 40k RPGs. Still for me, that is not really a negative.

One big shout-out, every miniature had a base of a great paint job, from the PCs to the bad guys we faced (we fought Khadoran troops). The PCs were well painted and colorful. I randomly picked the Rhulic dwarf sorcerer. What's funny about that? My "Main" faction. It was fun. Always nice to play with well-painted minis.

Which brings me to Sunday morning. Again, no sign ups so at time, I folded my table and mustered into a Mezro adventure for the AL once again. Fun times once more.

In writing this post, I went back to last year's After Action Report to see if things improved or worsen...

The positives remain the same: a fun crowd, a decent venue and Larry-E's tireless work he was very responsive to the feedback we provided (see the negatives).

The negatives have changed significantly from last year.
- The lack of trashcans, yes, you read correctly. For most of the con, there were no trash cans on the floor, forcing us to throw the garbage in the bathrooms where they quickly overflowed. This was remedied on Sunday, thanks to Larry-E!
- The Attendance grew for the con, which is good. However, the RPG attendance seemed to be lower, with the gains going to the board game crowd. This is a gain for the con, but as someone who attends for RPGs, this resulted in a drop of RPG attendance. The larger population of board gamers led them to move into the RPG are and squat, moving table numbers and refusing to move when asked. The table number issue was correctly (Thanks Larry) on Sunday with the taping on the table cloth of the actual number, in addition to the standing table signs.
-It seems the attendants are tied to the big organized play campaigns, with little outside of that. This is neither a positive nor a negative as such, but for the product I am offering, this is significant. If the attendants participate in little other than PSFS or AL, why should I put the amount of effort I did to put together my games for this event? This is the biggest negative and is something very personal. Other people will likely not notice this.

So... will I go back next year? As a player, resounding YES. As a GM/organizer, I am not certain, at this time. I leave the door open for a decision later. As much as I would like to say I would return, no, I cannot commit at this time.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Greece trip in the works

With Conglomeration in the rearview mirror, now is the time for me to look forward to the next thing to for me to complete: Lexicon in Lexington KY. I submitted games there this year again. Unlike MidSouthCon and Conglomeration, Lexicon is a pure gaming convention. There will be a lot of board games and RPGs. I expect to play some Adventure League OR Shadowrun Missions as I will only have one free game slot to play... Maybe a second one on Friday evening. Maybe.

I will be running two Tyrants of Saggakar adventures, both from last year's Gencon (re-ran at MidSouthcon) but I will have a few other pocket adventures in case I need to make a quick-switch. No worries, I will be ready for it.

I am offering one new adventure, one written for our latest release: Gostor: Olympian, called "A Tyrant Lost". This adventure may be published or it just might be one of my pocket adventures, I have yet to decide. This is an adventure I am having so much fun writing it. Takes me back to my early teens when I would devour the books of mythology at my school's library, of times when I wanted to play RPGs set in that universe but not having any friends who would geek out with me on such topics.

A Tyrant Lost takes place not in Saggakar, not in Rhym, not in Akhamet either! Instead, it is located in a fictionalized version of Greece. I mean, where else would it make sense to set an adventure that feature the children of Olympus.

Now some of you may have learned that for the past two years, I have been taking online classes on a variety of subjects, one of them being about ancient Greek mythology. Well, one of the things we covered extensively were perhaps the two most famous poems in history: Homer's Illyad and odyssey. One of the things that stuck with me was the formula of the introduction to both of those poems.

I copied the introduction from the Samuel Butler translation available through the MIT classics (a great place to find reading material). The titles are links to the full text.

The Illyad

Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.


The Odyssey

Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.


You will notice that both begin in a very similar fashion, with an invocation to a divine being. In a sense, Homer sets the stage for what the story will talk about. This first verse gives a resume in a few words. The Illyad is about Achilles' wild mood swings and especially his anger and rage during the Trojan War; while the Odyssey relates the many episodes of Odysseus' travels after the war. Two very different epics, very similar formulaic beginnings.

So now for my homage to the great master himself... The adventure opens with the following verse (translated by me from Ancient Greek, of course)...

A Tyrant Lost

Tell us, O goddess, of the tale of [six] sons and daughters of Olympus whose fate was altered by a tiny babe, and of the fury of mighty Hera queen of the gods.

The [six] is to be replaced by the number of PCs. I will give you a short introduction to each of the characters another day. Right now, the muses have work for me to complete.

Oh yeah... I am not going anywhere. This was just the ultimate tease...

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Akhamet book cover WIP

Akhamet keeps moving forward... One of the (many) elements that is in the works, is the book cover. Zammy has been working on it.

The cover is a fight between three of the iconics and a massive sphinx.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Conglomeration 2018 AAR Part 2

This is part 2 of my Conglomeration 2018 AAR. Here is a link to Part 1 posted yesterday.

Sunday

This morning, I had little room to play here. It was time to check out, get the three kiddos ready, pack everything, feed them ANND get ready for an 8:30 game (after whining a lot to Derek, I got my start time moved up from 7:30)...

This was accomplished and that is when I realized how much three munchkins can eat. They wolfed down nearly all the McMuffins/McGriddles (for those who don't know they are McDonald's breakfast sandwiches) BEFORE I got to eat one. Now granted, I can survived for weeks on my accumulated reserved, but still I do want to have some food in the morning.

This morning was the Conglomeration Sunday morning special, a tradition going back three or four years. I use that time slot to run something special and new. Last year, I ran Black Sails, a pirate-themed adventure set in Rhym. Two years before, was the selection of ArchDespot Hellebora to the crown of Faremh.

This year was something new. As discussed in my previous teaser post (read all about it here), I prepared a big showcase piece of terrain to use.

What I did not tease was that one of my ideas for the adventure itself was that I planned to allow people to select any one of our nineteen iconics. You read this right: NINETEEN! Now there are seven for Saggakar, and six each for Rhym and Akhamet, complete with art and specially-made miniature. After selection, I had three Akhamet characters, one from Rhym, and one from Saggakar.

So how to get all these nice people together in one place and get them to do something? Using the artifice of the Mist, the PCs woke up "somewhere" and each found on their person a note telling them they were on a quest to find something. Each world had something different they were secretly looking for. How these will affect the storyline of their world? You will have to wait and play some more.

Followed exploration and combat with various creatures, traps, and devious schemes. I think the whole story worked well enough, bringing together elements from all three of FOE's settings.

I have to declare myself extremely satisfied with the game. It went much smoother than I expected. One thing I notice is that 5e allows you to run more encounters than Pathfinder in the same amount of time, while keeping the feeling of something epic. Proof is, there were at least 10 combats in a 5ish hour game (we were interrupted a lot with checkouts and con-events). Since it was a dungeoncrawl, that was fine.

The game over, we left and returned to Nashville. I will say that I was tired. Speedway coffee helped me make the trip back as ActionMan did not see I-65 at all (we have it's a 180 miles or so on it). He did wake up on the final leg, on I-24. Jojo slept a little too.

The Review

Just for fun, I went back and reviewed my highlights and evaluations of the 2014, 2016, and 2017 conventions, looking for trends on how things are going.

What I will post here seems to continue some of the trends I found in previous years.

The Good

Smoothness of operation As a GM, all I had to do was show up, set up and run my games. That is always something I appreciate. This year, the guys did something new I though went really well: they had binders with the games inside, separate by game type, and day. So all the Saturday stuff was in one binder, then you chose to go to Pathfinder/Starfinder, 5e, Shadowrun, Cthulhu, etc.. That was absolutely great. It was simple and everyone could find what they want. It did create something of a choke point, but people were cool and after a few moments, you could sign up. Nice one!

Con Suite Now I know I ranted a lot about this one over the years, esp comparing it to MidSouthCon. MSC is still better. However, they now moved the suite to a room up in the hotel tower. Good: more room for people (the suite is big) and food is readily available. Both good things. On the down side, it is still far from where the con happens and requires an elevator trip. But, after griping about it for years, I have to put this in the good because of its improved state.

None of this would happen without the many Players (as I spent my time in the gaming section...) who attended and participated. I met a lot of new people I look forward to seeing again. Ah yes, some older ones too! Having young children with me and playing with them always makes me a little nervous because some people are less welcoming. Not the case here. I said it before (and in previous reviews) but you guys in Kentucky are great, and you proved my statement.

This year, I noticed there were quite a few other local GMs and game designers, include one guy whose name escapes me has a game called 3rd Age that seemed pretty interesting. I didn't get to play, but a lot of people did and they seemed to have a great time of it. Archie ran more of his stuff, he really likes non-traditional characters.

It seemed to me that the attendance was up for the con. At least in the gaming room and that was great to see. The place had a nice vibe from Friday night to Sunday.

The Bad

I griped about this one for a while... Firm RPG slots should be defined and adhered to by all GMs. As it was most RPGs were on one schedule: 9-2, 2-6, 7-12 (IIRC) but there were a few who were on odd schedules with games starting at 10-3, 5-9 9-1... Tightening would ensure everyone could have a game. Now I lucked out and had full or almost-full tables each slot.

One of the issue this created was that some players would come in and bounce during the game. That annoys me greatly.

The GM badge system is still a tad wonky, but I know the guys are working to improve it, so I'll put it here until it can become one of the strong point.

Conclusion

Conglomeration is one of those conventions I enjoy. It is one of those events where organized play is not present. I knew there would be no Pathfinder Society, but I was somewhat surprised not to see any Adventure League.

It was an opportunity to meet and catch up with old faces: JD, Archie, Jeff-D, Derek-M, Chuck, Derek-M, Sage, Jake, Randy-P, to name but a few and many more I forget. I missed Allison-R and Karen-J but that is the crazy wackiness of a con.

I'm pretty sure you can guess but YES, I am planning to come back to Conglomeration 2019 with my cohort of monsters.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Conglomeration 2018 AAR Part 1

Louisville, KY. My own small piece of Americana... I do own a small plot of land in that town... And it is one of the cities that really grabbed me. I always said good things about the people of Kentucky, from their welcome to their acceptance and encouragements, I will always have a small piece of bluegrass growing on top of my heart. They're great. Kentucky folk, you stay awesome.

This past weekend was Conglomeration 2018 now at the Crown Plaza by the airport. It is a place I went to for Imaginareum before, a site that is welcoming and comfortable. I prefer it to the Ramada inn on the east side (and closer to my own tiny piece of Kentucky...)

This year, I waffled about going due to a number of factors. However, talking to my good friend Derek-R, who once again took the reigns of gaming with Chuck, I allowed myself to be convinced. Okay it was not exactly a hard sell, but still. The con coincided with the kids' spring break. So I would be able to get there on Friday earlier, run on Saturday and Sunday morning, and be back home in time for my wife's awesome Easter ham. GREAT!

As the event drew closer, I contacted one of Jojo's friends in Louisville and invited her to attend the con, allowing the two girls time to hang out together. ActionMan who is more into gaming would play RPGs with me, all except one slot: the Lost Pyramid of Neferheket, which he play-tested (with Jojo). For that slot, I contacted my buddy Randy-P who was running Pathfinder games. I opted to let Jojo and Aubrie self-organize after pointing them to a few places they could do things.

Friday

The con officially started with a family lunch at our local Indian buffet. We are all big fan of Indian food, and the buffet allows everyone to eat what they want or try some new stuff. Filled with delicious food, we got on I-65... just in time to get stuck in traffic. Sheesh... just like in 2016.

We got to the con around 5pm, checked in to our hotel, and spent the evening bouncing around. I walked around talking to people, listening to games, and just soaking up the con's vibe. While fun and distracting, I grew more and more restless with the desire to get it started, to GM something. Good vibe, hall filled with people.

I went to my room, poked some files here and there as the kids snored to my left and right.

Saturday

Morning. Shower. Breakfast.

We headed to the car and rolled out all my gaming material to the gaming room. I was glad to see all my games had at least enough names to go off. Great!

The first game what my latest adventure, Come to the Hills set in Rhym. My players, including ActionMan, Jojo, and Aubrie, really loved the game.

The second game was set in Saggakar, Exalted Pains. This adventure was inspired by an adventure I wrote for Living Greyhawk. The Saggakar redux adds a lot of new elements, so it's not just a simple port. The move to 5e allowed me to add more combats and a few surprises. I think the last time I ran it was back in 2003, so few people may have recollections about the original.

The evening was the first public running of the Lost Pyramid of Neferheket. This was the first time running Akhamet in public. I was worried about this first public display. There are so many things to worry about: avoid info-dump, focus on what is important for the game, how will the races be accepted, what was missed, and so on.

Things went very well. I have a few things I want to alter to the iconics, but nothing particularly massive. That adventure is pretty cool and it provides a surprising amount of versatility for the PCs to decide what they want to do.

Running this, I forgot about the kids. ActionMan went and completed his Pathfinder game with Randy. The girls headed to Artemis: the star ship simulation, a place they spent a lot of time in. I sent them a text to go to bed and they went.

Tomorrow, the story of Sunday and the good, the bad and the conclusion...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Gostor: Olympians for 5th edition released!

I love Greek Mythology. The stories have entertained me since before I first read Clash of the Titans (yes, I read the novelization before I saw the original movie). Fun tales of heroes, misbehaving gods, magic items, and bands of warrior traveling to the ends of the world.

My eldest daughter has been taken with the same stories through some of the plentiful young adult literature that is available these days. She too is taken by the variety and imagination in the stories.

These two loves led me to the creation of this new book. I decided to build this new race. Over the course of creation, I came up with the basis of a race that allowed players to be children of the gods. The more I worked and designed it, the more obvious it became that I really needed to think of them as an umbrella race, that each god had to provide different powers.

For the original product, I opted to provide the children and favored of twelve of the main gods of Olympus (I replaced Hestia with Hades). So you can have a full party of Olympians and all of them be quite different.

So now I am very happy to announce the release of Gostor: Olympians, also available through RPGNow, and soon, through the Open Gaming Store (the current link points to all Gostor Products on OGS).

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Creating a special adventure: Terrain and all

Way back when, I submitted a blurb for a half-formed idea to Derek at Conglomeration Gaming HQ. Now you might be wondering "JP, why would you send something you did not really know what to do?"

A-ha! My young padawan, allow me to provide you some insight into the crazy world of writing and organized play management...

I am the lucky owner and leader of a campaign whose main draw is that players get to decide where things go. While I do have some idea on where things are going, I never know too far in advance. But that is not new...

Adrift on the Sea of Fate, the Conglomeration special is... well... special! I had a basic idea/gimmick with a very loose plot idea. Aka: "I would like to have an adventure where the players can pick any of our iconics OR bring their own characters and explore something together." Generic? Then I had a few things I wanted to add to it: monsters, twists, surprises. But nothing that was clear or set in stone.

I kicked the can around, going through a bunch of stories I felt were just too boring or repetitive, things I wrote before and that did not excite me very much. For a special, it has to kick some major butt and be exciting. If I can't be excited about it myself... then how will others like it?

The final clincher came as I was reading an old adventure (inspired by something I read in an old issue of the French magazine "Casus Belli"). Somehow that adventure hit every point I wanted and provided me with a framework. Awesome. So I began to write more ideas and develop the plot.

It should come as no surprise that some of the highlights of the CB adventure were ripped out in favor of other elements (remember my original list?). And the adventure was born, for real.

But it would not be a special without... well something special! Having two girl scouts at home, there were many, and I mean A LOT, of GS cookie boxes in the garage. So I wondered... What could I do with them? 1+1= Awesome! A few hours of gluing, drawing, and painting my right hand (I'm left-handed) and now I had a true special...

I spent this past Sunday writing and filling out all the rooms in the dungeons with combat, traps, and non-combat encounters.

I learned a few things:
- I was able to build this all for less than 5$ (and most of that was a 4$ gray primer can)
- Sharpies do not like primer-soaked paper
- Paint is great on primer-soaked paper
- Painting stuff is fun (yes, I know)

The result is an interesting story, mixed with a massive tower that should provide good (or nightmarish) memories to all those involved.

I am glad to say that I was able to provide something that could be meaningful to all three settings, while providing the political scheming so common in every FOE products.

So there you go... Another FOE special ready to roll out into production.

Oh yes, this one will be played only once (and count)... at Conglomeration this coming weekend in Louisville, KY. Come on by for a full weekend of FOE action. The adventure may see repeat performance, but those will not be counted for plot advancement.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Weekend in Rokugan 2018 AAR

One week following MidSouthCon was Weekend in Rokugan held in St Louis, MO. This event dedicated to the Legend of the Five Rings game system is one that I look forward to more and more. With Arcanicon's demise, I seem to have fewer and fewer playing opportunity to play those systems I like. The classic AEG game is one I appreciate very much. It was the game I met the gang in Dublin.

WiR is the one convention this year I intend to only PLAY something other than D&D and I look forward to it with growing anticipation.

After a fruitful and rather successful morning of coding learning new tricks with C# and .Net Core, it was time to hit the road. The trip itself was uneventful other than an odd jam at the Pilot gas station in Paducah KY where most of the pumps were blocked and people just left their cars there. For extended periods, enough to create traffic. I jumped to the Marathon next door, filled up, used the facilities, and bought me some candy and a coffee to go while the line barely moved.

I got into Chesterfield (the exact location of the event) around 4:30. With the next slot beginning at 7PM, I drove to my hotel (across the Interstate) and was able to set up, plugged in the laptop, and took a short nap before game time.

The first event was really interesting: two cranes, two scorpions, and a phoenix... Four shugenja and a single bushi! We managed to talk our way through this one. The scorpion Intimidated some guys while I was able to use my pretty crane flowery language to convince others.

I think this may have been the first time I played with Ken-W. Played-played that is, as he GM'd Arcanis for me many times in the past. He and I have similar yet very different characters: from the same school but the similarities pretty much end there.

Stopped for a meal of junk food, then off to sleep.

The morning game, I sat with Ken again! This time we were three Asahina-trained cranes shugenjas! (along with a crab, a mantis and a scorpion). This one was more challenging for our party and ended up having a lot more action, including an somewhat epic battle at the end. Where I spent my time trying to limit the amount of damage our group took against a very tough opponent. It was fun.

As we finished with almost two hours to spare, I drove to Smashburger. I really enjoy they burgers and had a mammoth made for lunch. No fries, no drink, only the burger. While in that little mall, I saw a Games Workshop store. Now I do not think I entered a GW store since the early days of my stay in Louisville, where the GW was around the corner from our house.

To his credit, the guy there was really good and friendly and just pushy enough not to be annoying and to want me to come by his store to learn more. "Lucky" for me, I don't live in the area. One of the things we discussed is that I dislike the sculpting of their miniatures with the many pieces of flair all over them and how they do not encourage me to convert such models. After all, cutting a 2$ is a no-brainer, but when a mini costs you 5 or more dollars, you'd better be DANG sure you can succeed in what you plan to do...

Got back in time for a fun afternoon with more shugenja madness. Three shugenja, one unicorn courtier, one monk and a phoenix bushi. When combat started, the poor enemies were splattered. The Ide and I aced the talking parts and the monk did all the monk stuff.

I took another nap before the final slot of the event. The 1-hour refreshed me and I was ready to go for the whole evening. It was the court larp event. Now I must say that I do not particularly enjoy those events. Most of the time, I figure my character is too weak to be consulted.

This time around, however, they did something I really enjoyed: in addition to the court plot, there was a plot running through the adventure where we felt something was wrong. With the help of Jeffrey-M (whose Isawa shugenja is a frequent companion of mine), we used the divination skill to help us along and discover many things. I spoke with the Emerald Champion and kept him and my clan abreast of everything I discovered and received a cool reward for it: his notice.

This side-plot to me, was the highlight of the event. It gave me a reason to approach some of the NPCs and interact with them, but also made us shugenja have to focus and discover something about what happened that made me feel like a shugenja, like a priest. Big kudos to the admin team on that, it made my weekend.

The rest of the larp went pretty much as expected: I participated in some events: Origami and Performing but did not win. I had fun and that was most important.

Home to snore.

My weekend in St Louis would not be complete without sitting down for what is becoming a tradition: breakfast at Gingham's in St Charles with Philip and Rachel, who this year were joined by Wesley. We talked gaming for hours. It was awesome. The food was awesome and I did not have to eat again until I got home some five hours later.

Yes, I plan to attend WiR again next year. Yes, I will play more Heroes of Rokugan at Gencon. I can't wait.

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, RPGNow.com.

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.

So...

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.