JP On Gaming

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...