JP On Gaming

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.


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