JP On Gaming

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

[Review] Mobile Suit Z-Gundam

I was lucky enough to find a special sub'd version of all 50 episodes of Mobile Suit Z-Gundam. This series was originally shown in Japan in 1986-87.

Now when the show started, I expected something similar to the origanl series, with complex characters, both for the good and bad guys. Even if most of the villains were somewhat crazy with maniacal goals and short-term obsessions. But still, a few of the villains, such as the Zabi family and Char Aznable, had goals that could be understood. They may be evil but you can see how they do not see themselves as bad.

The basic story is ten years after the original series, with the defeat of the Principality of Zeon, the Earth Federation created a new group to ensure no group in space would grow powerful enough to threaten it, called the Titans. In the decade since, the Titans grow into a militaristic powerhouse that subsumes the Earth Federation Military.

And what happens when you give people all the best and latest weaponry and a decent dose of power?

You end up with a "Who watches the watchers" scenario where, on one side, the Titans want to assure and consolidate their power. And on the other, freedom fighters who oppose the move.

I won't go into the many twists of the series, but from the AEUG (Anti-Earth Union Group), the Earth Federation, and the Titans, we later add a group of Neo-Zeon trying to return to prominence.

Our heroes here are a gathering of random people from the latter group. Most have no ideological attachment to one side or the other. Some are there because of someone else. And others have a private reason to join one side. There are 50 episodes, so that makes a LOT of characters.

Of course, my favorite in Gundam-dom, appears here as a good guy. Char Aznable (going by the name Quattro) is a lieutenant in the AEUG and one of their best mobile suit pilot. His presence and participation in the events starts as something of a mystery but his charisma and intelligence shine through as the series progresses. He is Mr Cool throughout the series, keeping his eyes on the prize (most of the time). His reactions are very human and make him an endearing figure throughout the series.

The main character is Kamille. Many people make jokes that his is a woman's name (in French, it is a unisex name). At first, he is a petulant child, but losses and lessons hit him hard at the end.

One side plot involves the many women, on both sides, who try to prove themselves as pilots but also try to figure out their places as women. Their role is contrasted by the women who took on domestic roles. I found the questioning, the answers, and the doubts they went through to be surprisingly deep. They are not just eye candy (though some of their dresses in space are odd choices...). I found myself wondering about the two roles women have. I thought it was a well-presented dilemma overall.


A major element of the story has to be with the Titans trying to control the Earth Federation. The political aspect is important throughout the series because some characters like Char have to pull double-duty: pilot and politician.

Char's speech in Dakar is pretty powerful and one I thought was truly a highlight of the Gundam universe. (You can see the full speech on Wikiquote). It encapsulates everything that is right about Gundam. I copied the final paragraph because it speaks of a timeless truth, of a tyrant losing his grip on power and the extremes he will go to to keep that power.

The Titans have started a battle above us, disregarding the lives of the delegates of this Assembly. You can see the brutality of their actions for yourselves. They set themselves above the regular Earth Federation Forces, and smear anyone who opposes them as terrorists. But it is their own arrogance that is their greatest sin; it will be the ruin of humanity! Those of you who have been watching these events unfold on television must realize by now that this is who the Titans are. I admit, it was wrong of us to take over this Assembly, but what of the Titans, who are trying to destroy it with the representatives still inside? Would they even destroy their own supporters among them?!


Another thing the series does well is to draw in characters from the Original Series, give them a cameo role that plays into the bigger story. This is the case of Amuro Rey, of Frau Bow (now Kobayashi), and Mineva Zabi. These characters come in for a few moments or episodes before fading in the background as we focus on Kamille. Now I don't like "Uber good boy" Amuro but I liked that he stayed on Earth when Kamille returns to space. We touch base with him later when they return to Earth.

When we first meet him, I worried that we'd get a massive blob of characters, similar to the latest era of Doctor Who when fifteen characters all try to say something and everyone's plot gets drowned in noise.

The team of Z Gundam are not modern-day writers. They did it right. So much so, that I feel like a series could be developped around the adventure of Amuro and Hayato as they fight the titans on Earth. Their actions are important but do not detract from the gravitas of what we see. Though there is something there for sure. Well done team.


Now... one element that looks really odd has to deal with physical contact. Yes, some dudes just randomly grab the women's breast or butts and no subtly. They are quickly slapped but still it took me by surprise.

Another is whenever a subordonate refuses or challenges an order, the commanding officer slaps or punches the subordinate. Kamille gets his butt kicked a few times, especially early on.


Now... This series is ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL. I mean people die. A LOT. Named and unnamed characters meet their end. Their deaths are sudden, and even when a Titan gets killed, I felt sad about the loss. Long-time rivals like Jerid, Mouar, and Bask in particular.

The series ends on a sad note, with Kamille's mind getting completely broken. This series takes no prisoners and really lets you know that no one escapes war without serious loss. No one wins. Only, the Titans are defeated. A lot of people died.


So... I did not have to deliberate very long about this one. The animation is dated, but the fight scenes still deliver, the story is good, and the characters different and each with their own subplot and the questioning it presents spot on.

This is the type of great entertainment that, had I seen as a child, I would have loved it. Mecha, missiles, action, girls, everything I like (still). However as I watch as an adult... the questioning and dilemmas become most important. Pixar did that on a few of its products too.

My rating for this is a clear 4/5. This is a solid and highly enjoyable anime that's more than firing missiles and laser swords.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Played Kanabo RPG - Mini Review

This past Saturday (Nov 12), I went on Warhorn and joined a random game that was announce to be "Bushido." I was interested and wanted to play that game forever but never got the opportunity (or when I did get the opportunity, there were other things I wanted to do more).

So the adventure was called "Kwaidan" - the same as the movie of the same name and that loosely translates to "Ghost Story". The movie is awesome and beautiful at the same time, presenting us with four tales of ghost. Many of them fairly well known today. One of the things I love about these old Japanese horror movies for their aesthetics.

But enough about the movies, on to the gaming!

Well... the game turned out NOT to be Bushido but a rules-light system called Kanabo by Monkey's Paw Games. Very story game.

Background of the setting (as presented) was a non-descript Japan where a major war ended about five years ago. The specifics were not important. Cool. Still in.

How rules light? You have 4 stats Earth (discipline, durability), Fire (aggressivity, speed), Water (inquisitivity, tranquility), and Wind (grace, intuition). D100 system (I have Ea22 Fi39 Wa26 Wi33), so someone who is aggressive and agile but without much consistency or insistence. Background generated through character generation elements. I was born in a castle and an artist by trade.

So I came up with a quick story: I worked as a painter in a village with my family. A drunk samurai set the house on fire while I was away. I plot revenge against him but am too much of a coward to actually do anything about it. So, in an effort to steel my (crappy) resolve, I became an adventurer/ investigator for hire.

One unique element of the game: if you die (and the system is pretty deadly), you make a new character the party encounters shortly afterwards. "Poor Hiro, he was a good friend... But hey there Tatsu the villager" We had one death that could easily have been more than that.

Okay already, I liked it. It was simple, quick and highly versatile. Setting and rules easy to grasp. I won't give you all the details of the adventure but it were confronted with some ghosts that gave us little chance. A great little story game.

My rating? It was a 3/5. I don't see this game as something I would like to run a campaign with. But it is a nice system, perfect for a one-shot: quick, simple, and fun.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

[Release] Races of the Planes: Githzerai

Now, you may know that I am working on a plane-hopping campaign, something that harks back to the days of Planescape - or perhaps more accurately to the days of its predecessor: the Manual of the Planes or the Tales from the Outer Planes. Therein, you got your party to go from one plane to another solving problems.

This adventure/campaign is going to be a loose sequel to Witches of Pikemaster which was published earlier this year. As I was writing WoP, I had a number of additional ideas and elements I had to cut in the interest of brevity. However, all that research would not get wasted as I came up with a number of potential products that would go great with it.

Race of the Planes: Githzerai is just the first of a number of small products meant to accompany this new campaign. Yet, they can easily be added to your home campaign. To add a touch of planar flavor. This product was purposefully kept short and small because of the vast amount of lore out there, and each edition giving them a slightly different flavor. Either clarifying or expanding the lore. I opted to let each GM define the full racial flavor and background.

Initially appearing in the Fiend Folio the githzerai were psionic slavers who hated both the mind flayers and their githyanki cousins. In time, the slaving aspect was drop to focus more their introspective aspect.

Want to get it for 50% off? Races of the Planes: Githzerai has been added to the FOE Character Option Bundle, giving you access to new character races, such as the Amazons, the Princesses, and now the Githzerai. A lot of goodies! And if you bought some already, you may actually get it for free or almost free! Check it out.

This product is now available on the DM's Guild.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

[Kinda Book Review] Showcase Elongated Man vol 1

I picked this one up during a big comic sale wanting to read something different. Having read about the Elongated Man while reading the New 52 (reviewed part 1/4, part 2/4, and part 3-4/4). He was one of the characters whose arc I was interested in. So why not go to the source and read the earliest appearances of the character...

Yeah.

The story starts with a few cameos in the pages of flash. These are stories from the early 60s by DC. They are trying to write "mysteries" but they fail. The stories all go the same way. EM and his wife are somewhere and find a "mystery". EM then stretches around, finds the goons responsible, beats them up and win.

In the 500 pages of comic in this book, in no case does EM face against a real super villain. He has no enemy, no recurrent opponent. And no real storyline. Other heroes show up as cameos, with their own villains and they do not do much together.

The line art is mostly good, but oftentimes when EM is fighting, he stretches odd parts of himself and that takes a few moments to understand what is going on.

So I rate it a 2/5. Weak stories and enough odd drawings justifies this. Yeah, I'm good with a 2.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

[Release] Campaign Events on DM's Guild

Imagine the following scenario: You are GMing for your party. During a trip, you mention they pass through a different province. Your goal is to move the story forward.

Then one of your players go and ask you "So... what's going on in that town? Anything of interest?"

Will you simply answer "nothing important or interesting" or will you plant the seed for a future adventure and tell them something exciting, at the risk of running something impromptu?

If the latter, this product is for you. With one massive table, you get a number of events that can affect life in a town/ province/ nation. They range from natural disasters to political events to outside factors. All of these should help you come up with adventure ideas to keep your players interested.

Or like some of mine: not interested and they can keep moving along. You now have a seed for later and you haven't spent hours of preparation on it.

Okay so that was what I thought this product to do. However, I have since used it as a preparation tool for my Ozaka campaign. I wanted some event to happen but could not decide between two or three of them. So I let the dice decide. In a few seconds, I came up with at least three ideas and my game was saved for another few weeks!

This product is now available on the DM's Guild.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Vanishing Ziggurat Reaches Silver Bestseller!

I remember the day well, when I came up with the wacky idea that became the Vanishing Ziggurat I had two girl scouts and dozens of boxes (the boxes that contain the boxes for the cookie) just piling up in the garage. After playing with them a little, I found a way to stack them up to form a massive 3D ziggurat. At that time, I had only a few notes containing ideas of what I wanted to add in there: constructs, undead, fiends, some social encounters, and a few treasures for this dungeoncrawl.

I took the ziggurat first to my local FLGS (before it became much less "F" to the "G"s) and ran it there. Met a few great people and had a fun time of it. Then later, I took it to a few con, including Hypericon 2019 here in Murfreesboro TN. There, I used the ziggurat in a simplified (and lower-level'd) version set in Akhamet.

The ziggurat adventure is a dungeoncrawl. But one that is not simply door-monster-treasure. It asks a number of questions, many of which tie it into other FOE product.

One of its biggest successor is a minor tie-in with the awesome Witches of Pikemaster where a character from Vanishing Ziggurat makes an appearance. Its a fun tie-in if you played both but not one that is the core of the adventure.

Did I mention that both Vanishing Ziggurat and Witches of Pikemaster are currently on-sale on the DM's Guild? They are during the October monster fest sale!

Anyway, I guess the most important part is to thank all of you for your continued support. I am always amazed and touched by it.

Thank you.

Monday, October 24, 2022

[Review] Power of the Doctor

The 13th Doctor's finale has come and gone and after viewing it (once), I feel I have to go over the predictions I posted in a Previous Post and see where this one hit and where it failed.

And where I hit and where I failed.

Let me start by repeating my two main predictions:
- A lot of character, too many for the run time
- A great premise
- An over-convoluted plot
- The Shipper's paradise.

Well... there were a characters. Yup. There were A LOT of them. Both on the good and bad sides. Now... This one played around this, by doing some clever things. First, Dan was pretty much written off right at the start. I was not happy seeing the most interesting character of the crew getting kicked out early. Frown #1. But from that point on, it was great to see old companions, each of them adding to the story and its resolution. Even the final cameos added to the story in a positive way. The appearance of old Doctors was favorite part of it. Their use was clever and added to the plot.

I really think Chibnall was helped by having established characters to use rather than having to build them up (though having seen what he did with Captain Jack, this argument does not really stand). Perhaps it was Tegan, Ace, and Kate who refused to a plot that was pretty lame. I guess I'll never know but whoever edited the script finally said "no" to the worse ideas.

Now if I have a criticism, the daleks had nothing to do here, just over-crowding. They could've been skipped or replaced by the cybermasters without affecting the plot. I would have removed them.

Only Vinder added nothing to the story. His inclusion did not add anything. I still don't know what he was doing in the story.

I am sad that Sacha Dewan is also stepping down as the Master, a bigger loss than Jodie Whittaker's Doctor. I really liked him as he overshadowed the Doctor throughout his tenure. I am hoping he comes back later, similar to when John Simms returned. I thought he was very convincing as Rasputin. And the Master and Rasputin are a match made in heaven.

The great premise... This one I don't think I hit the mark. I can't quite say the premise was particularly great. That said, the premise and the hook are not the same. The hook (or hooks) were actually pretty good and had me wondering where the story was headed from the get-go, but in a good way. It proceeded forward at a good pace, with the plot advancing and characters helping and doing something.

Over-convoluted plot... Yeah I called this one. The plot was pretty convoluted, trying to be overly clever. This is where the story loses points. The whole "Forced Regeneration" thing is unclear... What did it hope to achieve? What was the goal? If the Master became the Doctor, okay... That whole thing made no sense. I just don't see what the end point was. What was up with the two random planets fighting each other? I thought it was Earth and Mondas (home of the Cybermen). Just another random element

The story was filled with winks and nods to classic Who - references that mostly lead nowhere, but that Who-nerds thought was pretty cool. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but it would have been more interesting had such nods happened throughout the season. Also, there is no explanation for the Flux, why half the universe was gone. I guess this whole season is something that will never be mentioned again.

Shipper's paradise. I got this one COMPLETELY wrong. They nodded to it, but did not do much with it. So a big plus.

So in the end, I am not sad that Jodie vanished. I'm not sad the Chibnall era is over. This was without a doubt, the BEST episode of her tenure.

What's your score, JP? I would give this one a solid 3.25/5, which rounds out to a 3/5. I can live with that. The episode was entertaining and most of the plot was good. As much as I wanted to hate it, I found the story was very enjoyable. But with a little time, it is only "fine". I don't hate it that's for sure and think was one of Jodie's best, despite the plot hooks. I expect there is little-to-nothing that will be referenced the era of the 13th Doctor. It will just be ignored and forgotten.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

[Release] Courtiers: Envoys and Peacemakers on DM'S Guild

So what is this you ask? How did that come about? Why do I need this for my game?

Well "Courtier" is a full 20-level class that allows you to create a jack of all trade focused on Charisma. It occupies a role between the bard and the rogue: it is less magically-focused than the bard and more "trick"-based than the rogue. Closer to a non-combat rogue from Pathfinder v1 (before it was retooled). 

These tricks allow you to do minor dips and get a number of special abilities that include some minor spellcasting abilities, to mirror abilities of other classes, to getting a yojimbo, to the ability to gain resistance to some damage types. The trick here is that courtiers are great toolboxes that give you a lot of customization options. And if a trick no longer applies or lost its shine, you can swap them out when you gain a new level. 

This product was designed during the writing process for the upcoming Ozaka setting. Now this idea of playing a courtier or noble is not new to me and my games. Years ago, I wrote Gostor Nobles for Pathfinder v1. It was based on the original class by PCI. 

While there is no doubt that Courtier inherits some ideas from that product, it is at the same time something different. Whereas Nobles put the character in the role of a member of a ruling elite, Courtier makes the character someone in the employ of a powerful. 

Why are not all courtiers nobles? Well... that's where character creation and the background feature of 5e comes into play. Was your character born into abject poverty and clawed his way to this position? What if you were a charlatan who impersonated a diplomat and you turned out to be really good at it? I never hid the fact that I love 5e's background feature and that your background comes into play during my games. So one of the design changed was to focus on separating the background from the class and to let the character build and tell his own story.

Why do I need this for my game? Well... a courtier gives you a lot of versatility in how you decide to built your character and your bard does not have to do all the talking anymore. 

Courtiers will be present in our iconic characters coming in 2023. Not sure which just yet. But there WILL be a courtier. Want to know more? It is currently available on the  DM's Guild.

Oh! And a big thanks to the British Shark and John Ridley (Inspector97) for the interior art!

Friday, October 14, 2022

[Kinda Book Review] 2113 Anthology

Earlier this year, my childhood friend Francois-M came to visit us for what turned out to be whirlwind trip with his daughter Florentine. It was great to meet her for the first time.

I had not seen him since around 1994-95 (when we attended a Musical Box concert in Sherbrooke). So we caught up. He was always a music afficionado, knowing and keeping an ear out on what was hip at the time. Oh and classic rock too. Well now it is classic rock. It was just "rock" at the time...

But that's not why you are here. You want to know about the book.

I'm getting there. I'm getting there!

One day I went to his house with a cassette (which was forever to be known a #9) for him to put on some of the music he has me listen to when I went to his place. Those were NOT the bands that you'd hear at my house.

#9 included many different bands like Queen, Heart, and most commonly, Rush. Songs like Xanadu, Limelight, Tom Sawyer, Big Money, Subdivisions, Circumstances. Good stuff. Real good stuff. Almost all of these songs are still on my playlist today. But JP aren't a big Genesis fan? Yes. But that was #23. I got into it MUCH later... This was around 1986 (I know because Hold your fire was not out yet and Power Windows was the latest album).

So Francois brought me a book (he knows I'm a geek like that): 2113, an anthology of stories inspired by the music of Rush.

I had the relatively bland Ancient Japan on my reading desk. And man did I want to ditch that to move to 2113.

So if you are not a Rush fan, they have music that deal with a variety of topics, many of which have a clear science-fiction theme, the reality of life, and other questioning one asks himself during his life. I mean it is a match made in heaven.

I won't spoil the stories. But the idea was well executed, with some stories being more litteral with their story than others. One or two, I must say the inspiration was... distant at best. I was pleased to find that Fritz Lieber wrote a story in there (from where Neil Peart got inspired) and the story that inspired Red Barchetta.

One story I did not particularly like but it has some very clever writer's artifices was the story based on "Mission". I love how they presented the point-of-view transitions by having the sentence run on, put a divider, and continuing the sentence but as a different character. What? You don't really care? I thought that was a really cool thing and it enhanced the story.

Some stories had some clever endings that made me smile, some left me wanting more, some had an interesting twists. None were bad, just less interesting.

Perhaps my personal favorite is the final story of the book, the eponymous 2113. This is one of the most literal ones, a story that where the classic 2112 ends with the ominous and domineering Attention all planets of the Solar Federation, we have assumed control. And the story takes us to that mad vision of an Elder Race and of the Temple of Syrinx, in an almost Hemisphere-ian dichotomy. Loved it. The ending? Very well done. I put the book down on a high.

So a score... It's an anthology, so the stories ranged from 2/5 to 4/5. However, I think a better score would be 3.5/5, which according to my rules make me give it a 4/5, a score I can easily live with. I plan on going back and re-visiting these stories later, after I let the kids read it.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

[Release] Burned and Cooked Released for Akhamet

Gencon 2021!!!

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?

Well... I thought it was out there already. I set up everything for it last year after Gencon but never made it public. So it was simply waiting for me to push the button.

Funny thing: I was talking to a FOE writer about something done in this adventure and told him "here let me send it to you to see what I mean." Well... I could not find it. With good reason!

This is an investigative adventure with an alternative way to run things without making PCs choice irrelevant or giving out all the information in one dump. It is a style I will certainly revisit in the future.

Here is the blurb for this one:
The City of Cats is a great place to find entertainment and relaxation. After a few weeks, you are in need of funds but lucky you, you managed to get a lucrative job lined up.
A 5th edition adventure for characters 1 through 4 (optimized for 3rd level).
This adventure first premiered at Gencon 2021.

You may also be interested in getting this and other Akhamet adventure for 50% by getting the Adventure Bundle.

But if you are interested in this one only... Cooked and Burned is available on DriveThruRpg now!

Friday, October 7, 2022

Doctor Who Centennary Predictions

If you haven't been following closely you would never know the finale of Jodie Whittaker. There has been so little leaked about the plot. What we did get are a lot of info about WHO would be in it! (See what I did)

For something that should be a big deal, there has been surprisingly little about it. I guess even the BBC expects this to be so bad they have no intention of supporting it more than they have to. It would be a recurring theme of the Chibnall era: pack too much then the Doctor

So many peopleAnd in Chibnall fashion, it is a lot. Let's see:
- The Doctor
- Deadfish expressionless Yaz
- Dan
- Ace (Former companion of 7th Doctor)
- Graham (Former companion of 13th Doctor)
- Teagan (Former companion of 4th and 5th Doctor)
- Kate Stewart
- The Master
- The Daleks
- The Cybermen

See? So we can expect exactly that: every one having equal screen time. So in all fairness, I expect there will be a lot of people standing around or having cameos. The return of Teagan and Ace will not have a significant impact, and they will be relegated to the background, interjecting a few lines in a crowd of people.

Wasted opportunity. Again.

Seems to be the hallmark of this 13th Doctor era. Great premises then too many people all of which must be important when they are not. Fewer characters would provide a better stories...

So I can predict the following: a plot that is convoluted, overly-simple resolution (if any), and with too many characters to have any time to play out.

Oh yeah. And I expect to see the back of my head as my eyes roll with the "resolution" of the Deadfish-Doctor "love angle". Cringe.

So I really do not have any expectations for this one. Unlike the 14th Doctor era where there is a lot of buzz and excitement. Quite a difference in energy.

Prove me wrong, Chibnall.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

[Kinda Book Review] Ancient Japan by Captivating History

Book coverAs I am working on Ozaka, a fantasy Japanese setting, I wanted to read a few books on the history of Japan. Something to serve as a reference.

Not speaking Japanese, I looked around for a while before settling on this one.

This book was not what I was looking for... It delivers what it promises on the cover A Captivating guide to the ancient history of Japan, their ancient civilization and Japanese culture, including stories of the samurai, shoguns, and zen master. But it does not provide much more.

I found this book dry and lacking depth. If I had no basic knowledge, then I would've appreciated it more. But as it was, it felt like I learned very little.

This seems like a wonderful book to read while on a plane to Tokyo. Not for the type of research I was interested in.

So... a score... I am going with a 2/5. However, for those with less knowledge about history might find it a good overview and introduction an rate it 4/5.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Dead And Buried Akhamet adventure released!

With Gencon over (for a while), I am going over a number of things left undone. This includes making the adventures available to everyone.

"But JP! You put the Olympia adventures out there weeks ago."

Checkmate.

Okay, my only defense is that I've been busy writing new material for a Planescape campaign AND Ozaka. That's not an excuse but... That's the truth.

So... Dead and Buried is an adventure I worked and reworked and tweaked and prodded and disliked and changed and switched. Until AT LAST, I got it right. This iterative work made this into a fun adventure that really moves the Akhamet forward and that has a nice flow. The flow was what really tripped me as I was writing this one.

Here is the blurb for this one:
Some secrets lie under the desert for good reasons. Part 1 of the Dark Tide series.
A 5th edition adventure for characters 1 through 5 runs around 4 hours.
This adventure first premiered at Gencon 2022.

It is an interesting adventure that challenges not only the combat-enthusiasts at your table, but also the role-players and the puzzle fans.

I back-seat drove a few tables and found it fascinating to hear how different GMs presented the same challenges. And challenges, with an "S" is exactly what this short adventure provides.

You may also be interested in getting this and other Akhamet adventure for 50% by getting the Adventure Bundle.

But if you are interested in this one only... Dead and Buried is available on DriveThruRpg now!

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

[Patreon][Cleric] Fire Domain

Continuing me series on the elemental cleric domain for Ozaka. This time everyone's favorite: FIRE!!!

Who else to represent this than Rhym's very own Juri-sho (yes, I know she is a sorceress... but isn't a sorcerera funky shugenja?) with Irene Campos's awesome art.

Check out the FOE Patreon! It is available for free!

Friday, September 30, 2022

[Kinda Review] Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

So for many weeks, I have been dreading watching the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix. I remember seeing that movie as a child and really loving it. The Skeksis (whose name I forgot but whose plots marked my childhood) influenced how the First Ones took shape. Their look stands out to this day as unique in the world of fantasy.

After giving up on Rings of Power, I was SOOOOOOOOOoooooo worried it would be a similar story with bland character defiling something I loved from my childhood.

Well I must say that my worry was for naught. I was so wrong.

To put it simply, this is how you create and write a story that will engage the viewer and interest them.

World building is quick but effective. The narrator at the start gives us a lot of info but it's enough to get you started. It is not long that we understand the dangers of the Darkening. Their effect on people. The Tree of Sanctuary. Everything is done organically, presented when first needed.

There are a few moments where we are introduced to something that flows naturally in the story but whose significance comes to the forefront later. The gobblers, the nurlocs, the arathim. Everything happens first, then there is a payoff later.

The characters have emotions that make sense. They feel and show despair, hope, joy, suspicion, worry, and sadness. Their motivations start off very simple but grow with time. I can say that when one of the good guys met its end, I was genuinely sad. Because I cared enough for the characters to WANT them to succeed. And the Skeksis to get their butts handed to them.

The main characters all add to the plot in their own way: Deet, Rian, Seladon, Tavra, Brea, and Hup. They start off very simple but grow through the story. The clans took a little more time to know but their appearance showed what they were about and made it easy to associate them.

When the final confrontation comes, you know why they stand against the skeksis. The story grew them into this confrontation. And the payoff is... Well it's great. The battle show the skeksis as tough opponents. And for every major gelfling who dies is an emotional moment. Again, because they built them up into great characters.

Even the villains had personalities: the Emperor, the General, the Chamberlain, the Collector, etc. They had enough development to make them different from each other. You cannot help but hate them because they are so devious and nasty. But it makes them cool too because none of them is a generic baddy. They wrap themselves in the trappings of good but behind the scenes do the worse things of all. The way they plot against each other and try to cheat each other is a over-the-top comical, but makes them no less evil.

Now without the comedic aspect, how they used the Skeksis is EXACTLY how I see the First Ones working in a world as they rise towards ultimate power. I just could not stop seeing them with the more typical First One appearance. And man... that added to my enjoyment of the series so much more.

One of the things I will say is that each episode has revelations throughout, not just in the last 5 minutes.

Oh something I really loved: they used divination and oracular powers. Some of the scenes we are shown are those from the movie. They tied the two together very neatly and I had a had a blast. It was fun and exciting.

I thought I'd be annoyed by the puppets, but no. They are top-of-the-line and in many shots very creatively used.

I'm sure you know by now, but I must give this a 5/5. I may go rewatch it later.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Panacea Reaches Copper Bestseller

When it first released, Panacea was the first adventure in quite some time that was designed as a multi-level adventure. Previously adventures I published were all designed for a 4-5h one-evening campaign.

Panacea started pretty much the same way, as a simple dungeoncrawl. And as I wrote and wrote, additional elements came to mind, making the result an adventure that could easy bring characters from 3rd to 5th level and still provide a challenge.

Not only is there challenge, but a fair bit of exploration as well. I ran my own Akhamet group through this and it really made an impact on them. They learned they should've brought garlic butter...

This post is to thank everyone who bought a copy of the adventure. I am greatly appreciative and thankful.

Panacea is now available on DriveThruRPG. It is also part of the Akhamet Adventure Bundle.

Monday, September 26, 2022

[Kinda Review] Rings of Power... I tried

I tried to watch Rings of Power on Amazon Prime. I really did. And quite frankly... it is terrible.

The overall look and the scenery is breathtaking and fantastic. It LOOKS like the Peter Jackson movies. Good.

Now let's get to the story...

The uh story.

You know, the things that happens between the plot holes.

OOPS. I meant what you are told happens. (Cuz the coolest elements are narrated, not shown on a visual medium).

Well... Yeah, nothing of consequence really happens. The worse the character is, the better the outcome. But actually, everything is not revealed at any point, forcing you to wait to the end for some reveal that will no doubt let you wondering why you wasted all this time. Nothing feels like it builds to anything (other than a Season 2).

There is an ensemble of characters, I could not tell you most of their names because they are wallflowers and decorations. Everything they try to do leads to something pointless that is immediately addressed without a later payout. In the end, you recognize the character, but their name is not important. "hobbit girl," "fat hobbit girl," "black elf guy," "Scottish dwarf," "not-Elrond," "black dwarf wife," "rogue-like-guy-from-the-boat" etc...

She is scowling againThe one exception is Galadriel who walks around with that strange "no expression" movies love to give tough women. It's that same face you see throughout Marvel movies (if you saw Captain Marvel, that's the face). There are two looks: either a scowl of contempt at everyone around them and the shocked/confused but disgusted look.

For a famed centuries-old commander, she doesn't give two craps about her troops. She scowls at them in disdain and disgust. For troops who followed her for centuries (as we are told, not shown), you would expect her to have respect for them. To at least consider their opinion rather than be faced with mutiny before going back.

Well.. seeing how she kills the troll by herself while her troops just look around like 1st-level sidekicks... She may have a point. But I cannot accept that centuries-old elves be that useless. Not in Tolkien. Maybe your 1st-level D&D character... but not Noldor elves.

The actress' (I can't be arsed to look for her name) performance is made even worse because of the contrast with the stellar performance given by Cate Blanchett in the original. Her portrayal was great as she comes across as someone of great power but still have emotions and feelings, almost vulnerable. Particularly after she is offered the One Ring. Cate wasn't scowling in disgust of the hobbits and humans.

Then she fails in her task but everyone gives her accolades... That is addressed when you learned the elf king wants to get rid of her later: "Yeah there is a shadow, but I don't want to rock the boat" kinda bull-crap.

That's not how you create a lovable, interesteing character. The character must grow, learn from its mistakes and either succomb or overcome its flaws. Sometimes they are sad, sometimes they are happy. Triumphs and failures. Mistakes and learning.

Comparing Galadriel's performance with that of "Hobbit girl" is night and day. The protagonist of the story scowls in disdain while the halfling goes through various emotions that gives us insight into her character. I really her portrayal in the scene where she finds a worg track: her expression changes from carefree to worried and she takes charges of the young ones. I remember when I was watching going, "Oooh, that won't end well for the Hobbits"

Then nothing happened after we saw the worg on a nearby hilltop. It doesn't attack the hobbits, because they fled too quickly.

All of this. All my issues are things that could EASILY have been addressed, but as it is modern TV, that's not something we are going to talk about/deal with. Galadriel is better than everyone and everyone knows it because she is just that good! There are some flashes of potential but the door is quickly closed again or the threat is made quickly irrelevant. The snow troll. The worg. The orc mine. The sea serpent. The Numenor prison. No build-up for no payoff. The monsters appear, are defeated or cause a problem then are gone/ killed/ defeated.

After three episodes, I just had to give up. I have better things to do with my time. Like watching reruns of Family Feud or wondering what my dogs are barking at. It is just awful. Nothing of consequence happens.

Rating? The beauty of the sceneries and sets cannot offset the abysmal nothing happening or how unlikeable most characters are. So I can easily put this in the 1/5 and turn the TV back to Family Feud.

Read my more contrite review on Amazon.

Friday, September 23, 2022

[Rant] Fighting with Feedback

I have been receiving feedback on a new class for 5e: the Courtier. In short, the courtier is a class that is a low-magic version of the bard and a less combat-focused version of the rogue.

I asked a crack group of experts from the FOE Facebook group a couple of questions
- What do you think of the class overall?
- What is the weakness of the class?
- What is its strength?
- Would you allow this class in your home game? Why/Why not?
- Is there anything missing? Anything you would add?
- Is there anything you deem overpowered? Why?

I'll admit the courtier is focused on the social pillar of RPG (with combat and exploration). But it needs to be good enough to be at least functional in the other pillars. Nothing worse than a character who is completely useless when not in their element. The trick to the courtier was to make the class something of a non-magical toolbox that you can tailor to your own campaign.

I'll talk more about the class later but here is what made me write this post. Two weeks ago, I reached out to the FOE Facebook Group asking for feedback on the class. Got a lot of very diverse feedback: what someone likes another dislikes. What one thinks is "meh" another thinks is very exciting and full of role-play potential. Which means it is up to ME, the designer to read into the arguments for why something is good or something sucks... The glorious life of a game designer.

This is pretty much why I think large-scale public playtests like Pathfinder and the current OneD&D one leads to fairly little as even things you may think if great and obvious will have its fans and detractors. Now my pool of feedback-providers is much smaller than WotC's but I think the issue is the same.

The touchy part is that both sides have value and their impression matters. I, as the writer/designer, form the third leg of that love triangle.

Like trying to get three historians agree who is the best General in history is (toughie between Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon)... Or what is the best Rush song of all times (these days, I'll say Time Stand Still). Or the best Genesis album ever (Selling England by the Pound, I will fight you).

All of this to say two things: design has many elements of addressing gut feelings and impression AND a new FOE product allowing you to create a courtier character is coming "soon".

I guess this is the least offensive rant I ever posted here... Pretty tame, old man...

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Two Olympia Adventures Released on DriveThruRPG

It has been over a month since Gencon has ended and it is now time to release the Gencon Adventures for Olympia: The Marauding Titan and Best Served Cold. These two very different adventures take you back to the Island of Mytenia where things are afoot

In 2019, the world first visited the island of Mytenia, a city-state the allied with Athenion and Lexos allied with Spartia. With war looming, events precipitating, and divine interest growing, heroes are needed to protect the people and the land, from more than Spartian invaders, but also from the titans and gods themselves!

These two Greek-Style adventures are set in Olympia for character levels 1-4 (optimized for 3rd level).

The island city-state of Mytenia and its allies in Athenion face off against Lexos and its Spartian allies. These adventures require heroes to help Kreon and his many problems.

The Marauding Titan Monsters roam wild across Olympia. As a hero, you are called to help protect the people from these menaces.

Best Served Cold Monsters roam wild across Olympia. Someone is responsible and you must uncover their identity and make them pay.

Both adventures premiered at Gencon 2022.

Big Shout-out to the GMs who made these adventures come to life: Bill, Logan, Marissa, and Will.

Get them today on DriveThruRPG (they are sold together). OR you can get them as part of the Olympia Bundle at a discounted price!

Monday, September 19, 2022

[Patreon] Ozaka material incoming

I will start posting game material to the FOE Patreon (and you thought it was defunct...). I decided I would use the Patreon to post actual game material, including monsters and art material, and to use the blog to showcase things like miniatures I painted and give my opinion on things. As I know many of you like to read my (many) rants and opinions on things, I thought it was a good idea to separate the two.

If you like what I do and want encourage me, feel free to ship a whatever you want my way. It always helps.

So to learn more about Ozaka... you will have to go check out the series on the FOE Patreon. There are already a few posts there to hopefully wet your apetites.

Thanks

[First Ones Monday] The Mad Alchemist

While I was trying to decide which character I wanted for the iconics to support Power is Fickle, I painted up many characters. Seeing which character would stick.

Another Reaper Bones. This Reaper Bones is a great-looking model and as soon as I saw him, I knew he would be a First One. I am particularly proud of how the apron with the and the blood splatter came out. Imagine a mad plague doctor or an alchemist.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

[Kinda Book Report] Essential Hulk 4

CoverYou know that feeling you have when you read something and go "this is very familiar." And as you keep reading you keep that sense of déjà vu. A series of simple, threadbare plots where Hulk goes and seeks to be left alone but he also continues going around the same people over and over.

Well... This feeling was well-deserved because I had already read it. Yup. One of the cool things about posting to this blog is that I can then go back and see what I read and thought about things, in the moment versus what I think about it right now. That previous time, in 2019, I did not rate the books at the time.

On a second reading, this is a forgettable book with a decent array of villains that each try to take on Hulk and beat him up. One thing that annoyed me is that Hulk's breathing ability goes from him flying around the Sun to being unable to stay in the depths of the ocean.

So where does this book stand rating-wise? I would rate it as a 3/5. It is "fine". The art is solid and decent but the plots are... well you are reading Hulk, so the situations and their resolutions are not very complicated.

It's Hulk.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

[Kinda Book Report] Crisis on Infinite Earth

Earlier this year, the artist George Perez passed. So I picked up one of his seminal work: Crisis on Infinite Earth.

Crisis coverThis was one of the first major cross-over events that we began to see in the 80s, and something that reintroduced me into the comics in the latter half of the decade with events like the Fall of the Mutants spanning multiple titles.

For those not in the know, someone is destroying entire worlds and universes. Right off the bat, the action begins with the entire universes swallowed into nothingness.

Now I will give a shout-out to my man LPJ. I kept joking about the 3 million characters of the Legion of the Superheroes not making much of a story... Well I stand corrected. This story succeeds and thrives by its large cast.

All right Perez is an amazing artist. His characters are well-and clearly drawn, with varied expressions, and most importantly, what is happening is clear and easily understood without a lot of narrative text. I like to be able to SEE what is happening by looking at the page. Art is 5/5.

The writing by Marv Wolfman is also top of the line. The story is never confusing, despite the ongoing mysteries: Who are the villains? What are their goals? How can they be stopped? Who will rise to the occasion? Characters get to act and get their time to shine. Having that many characters do something is a tour de force. No surprise, the writing is also 5/5. My one concern is I had

With time, the events were undone, but for a while, the DC universe was "reduced" to just one universe with some heroes gone and others rebooted. DC would do similar things later in the 2000s to clean up and shake up their universes.

So coming to a final rating? 5/5 Well worth it.

Monday, September 12, 2022

[First Ones Monday] The Necromancer

While I was trying to decide which character I wanted for the iconics to support Power is Fickle, I painted up many characters. Seeing which character would stick.

Another Reaper Bones. The final one is a necromancer I really l

Saturday, September 10, 2022

[Kinda Book Report] Essential Iron Man 4

This one is MONTHS late. So late that I had to go back and skim the book to remind myself what it was about.

The story of IronMan continues. It is rather "run of the mill" without too many stand-outs.

The one standout is the introduction of Firebrand as a villain.

One thing that I do find pretty interesting is that we deal with social issues. Comics have always touched on those with a fairly simplistic way. The unique take is that Tony Stark, unlike say Peter Parker or the Avengers, is someone with power to act. He is often caught between what he must do and care for his employees. While it is not clearly labelled as such, Tony must balance that. He does pivot his company away from his initial weapon manufacturing.

In all, this is unmemorable either for good or bad. I will rate this a 3/5. It was "okay."

Friday, September 9, 2022

Desert Pearls Reached Copper Bestseller!

Desert PearlsIt is with great joy that I announce that the Akhamet adventure Desert Pearls has reached the first best-seller level, Copper!

For those who remember back in 2019, Desert Pearls premiered officially at Gencon where it marked a few people. It is an action-oriented adventure that really showcase some of the unique elements of Akhamet and the complex relation between its many clergies. It introduced an NPC many people still hate to this day, the gebite Siwa (which reminds me... I must bring him back next year!)

I loved running that adventure, the few times I did it. I even used it to start my ongoing Akhamet campaign (which has been running for 3 years). The name "Wild Card Billy" (Shout-out Billy!) is still mentioned around the table...

You can get Desert Pearls today on DriveThruRPG. If you want to get it 50% off, get the Akhamet Bundle.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for your support of FOE. It is always appreciated and motivating to continue.

Monday, September 5, 2022

[First Ones Monday] The Ranger

While I was trying to decide which character I wanted for the iconics to support Power is Fickle, I painted up many characters. Seeing which character would stick.

Another Reaper Bones. This guy is very generic and can be used as a rogue, a ranger, a bard, a fighter, or even a cleric.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

[Thanks for the Memories] Heroes of Rokugan

This past Gencon, Heroes of Rokugan ended its "five" year arc and fourth campaign. I've been involved as a player and a writer (earlier this year) with this campaign for six years. With the end of the campaign, came the news the campaign would move on to the new Edge/FFG system.

With that decision, which I agree is good for the campaign, I chose to step away from it. I love the "classic" AEG d10 system for its simple deterministic nature. After all, the 4th edition of L5R, is well over a decade old and is currently available from Amazon for the "low" price of... 300$! (plus shipping).

I've stated before that the new dice system does not do it for me. I could get into it, but I already have mountains of dice that do it for me. I've no intention to buy new ones. It's a weak argument, I know. I just don't want to put in the effort into this new system. Instead of giving a half-hearted effort, I am just walking off into the sunset and say goodbye to all the great people of that campaign.

Big thank you, everyone

Monday, August 29, 2022

[First Ones Monday] The Crossbow Assassin

While I was trying to decide which character I wanted for the iconics to support Power is Fickle, I painted up many characters. Seeing which character would stick.

Another Reaper Bones. This model is a wonderful assassin, with her hand crossbow. I used the bright red to make the dark of her skin. As I looked at her, I thought she looked like Eyriss from Warmachine (I added a pic of a model I painted in 2011).

Monday, August 22, 2022

[First Ones Monday] The Dancer

While I was trying to decide which character I wanted for the iconics to support Power is Fickle, I painted up many characters. Seeing which character would stick.

Another Reaper Bones. This gal was my alternate Dark Dancer before I settled on Amarilynn simply because I wanted the alieness of the spiderling. Had I not been able to make a model for Amarilynn, she would be the iconic dancer. She may be used as the iconic Master of the Veils.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Gencon 2022 After Action Report Part 7

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

In this seventh and final installment of my Gencon report, I am putting down the result of the critical event summary results. That way throughout the year, I will

Unavailable Heroes

These heroes will be removed from play rotation until something happens and they are made available again.

- Kolreka of House Ougozar the First One Mistress of the Veils (Wizard). She offered herself as a hostage in Tartarus to seal the alliance between the First Ones and the Titans.

Dead Heroes

These heroes fell and will no longer be usable for specials going forward.

- Marguerite the Belle Wizard. This princess was killed, swarmed by a growing army of zombies during the Battle of Seraklis.

- Osaphis the Sethru Bard. This brave desert warrior was killed by a giant boar while trying to sway the votes towards their options.

Elevated Heroes

These sidekicks survived through one of the specials and lived to tell the tale. As such, they now get the following. Reward for their bravery.

- Auset the priestess This brave priestess of Pharaoh, joined a ragtag band of adventurers in fighting the endless numbers of the dead. After the battle of Seraklis, she was put in charge of the reconstruction efforts.

- Baerius the Hoplite This brave soldier led a band of hero into battle. Having survived, he became something of a local celebrity in Mytenia. With the many losses, he was promoted to captain of the phalanx. A prestigious post that makes him a high-ranking member of the regular army.

Next Year

For Akhamet:

- With Saggakara's victory, she needs a few additional sites to complete he current plot. Can she be stopped in time? Can others discover what she is up to?

- Why did the Deep Tide wash over Seraklis? Is there a reason for it?

For Olympia:

- A monster of the size and type of Typhon means that it will need to be handle. You cannot release such a creature and let it roam freely. So that will continue into next year.

- The tale of Mytenia will continue

- The First Ones may have been delayed so their schemes may have to be diverted elsewhere.

- Two nations were promised control of the island of Xechasos... That will of course end in a meeting with tea and crumpets with a polite conversation. Yeah, right.

- Of the missing horses of Appolo, only one was not retrieved. I have the name in my notes somewhere. (I will edit this post with the info later)

Parting Thoughts

Gencon 2022 was absolutely fantastic for FOE. Great games, great people, and a crazy atmosphere.

A big thank you to all who made this happen:

- The Players who attended (and came back to play with us),

- Those who springboarded my bad thoughts and ideas

- The GMs who made a smashing job! Adam, Bill, Jason, Logan, Marissa, Steve, and Will

- All the playtesters who played and gave me feedback on the adventures.

- The kids Friday group: ActionMan, Caden, Kitty, and Tommy who screamed in anguish as I crushed them for the battle interactive.

From the bottom of my heart: Thank you!

JP - OUT

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Monday, August 15, 2022

Gencon 2022 After Action Report Part 6

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 7

Divine Interventions

More than a few people decided to call upon the gods. Sometimes, it helped...

- Athena appeared and spelled out her desires clearly. Some people discovered that even the gods have no control or information about what lie beyond the Mists...

- Zeus blasted someone with lightning, so angry was he at the events unfolding.

Outcomes (Adventures)

- Akhamet 1: Dead and Buried Saggakara retrieved her magic item!

- Olympia 1: The Marauding Titan A wedding has been arranged, even if the arrangements remain to be made...

- Olympia 2: Best Served Cold (From Memory) The criminal did not manage to escape Mytenia and paid for her crimes.

- Olympia: Hexcraling the Cyclopeans Only Notus, Ares' horse of the southern winds was not rescued.

The three "regular" adventures will be available on DriveThruRPG "shortly."

Outcomes (Specials)

- Back Door to Hades The First Ones special I ran on Thursday. The Titans and the First Ones did sign an alliance and traded hostages. The First Ones freed multiple titans, including Ypogeios (who ravaged Seraklis), the Tarrasque, and Typhon.

- Battle of Seraklis The city of Seraklis was attacked first by the undead of the Deep Tide. When it retreated, a massive Titan, called Ypogeios attacked and destroyed large swaths of the city. While heroes from Akhamet and beyond fought off that monster, Prince Diogenes led the priests into invoking Pharaoh to banish the creature. Much to rebuild.

- Mytenian Coronation After much deliberation, games, and challenges, it was decided that Princess Kreomene would be crowned queen of Mytenia. She won with a narrow margin of 10 votes vs 7 for Queen Aria, and 5 undecided votes. With the goddess Eris getting involved, someone present poisoned the wine of the Spartian Ambassador, sparking open warfare with Lexos.

- Mytenian War The public murder of the envoy led to all-out war. Forces loyal to Mytenia, scored a major victory (which I did not think possible). They allied with the bullywugs of King Klarglbur, bribed the enemy general, trained the militia and helped organize the population, creating a corp of combat nurses (that helped them during the battle). However, the battle was not against the Lexosian, but against an army of titans emerging from the depths of the earth! They inflicted a major beating on the titans, severely hurting the titanic dragon that flew around and took on every table. Chosen Patrons Zeus, Apollo, Artemis, Hades

- Reforging the seal It was time for heroes to gather and beat back the titans. They reached out to the Aetian Empire, the Minosian Empire, and the Spartian Hegemony for help. With added troops, they invaded the island only to find... a couple of titans and mercenaries! Then they were given a green acorn to bind and close the portal where the titans. After hearing of the alliance, they chose to bind the portal to the First Ones instead, allowing Typhon and his titans to escape to threaten the might of Olympus.

A rumble growls beneath your feet, making everyone stop to look around.

The ground turns upon itself, sending everyone flying. The floor and ceiling begin to tango in a vigorous dance of death. You scramble towards the exit.

Seeing the sky provides only the barest of respite as the island moves. The mountains now loom over you, evermore with each passing second. The seas bubble and churn as even the waves themselves can’t seem to decide if they want to come or go.

The skies suddenly turn dark, turning red, then purple, then a dark shade of grey, none of these having to do with clouds. The land breaks apart, revealing massive cracks as sections of the island are projected into the air!

Only then can you see the entirety of what is happening. The massive titan that slept beneath the island stood up.

A long serpentine tail with a body made up of vines. No, made of serpents. No, made of draconic creatures intertwined into a torso, two wings, two arms, and a featureless face. The monster stretches its massive limbs, reaching east to west, while serpentine hair can tickle the stars themselves. The name of such a creature lives on in legend: Typhon!



You’ve escaped Xechasos. As the rowers pull you away from the island, you can see armies of titans walking on and into the massive body, forming a tide ready to disgorge.

Typhon almost vanished over the horizon when he roars over the waves with a fury imprisoned for ages. “Tremble, Olympus Typhon is free again!”

* * *

In another world, a pair of Protoi generals approached the ArchDespot with concerned looks.

“Your Ruthlessness… The portals, they are locked from the other side. We cannot open them.”

“What of the titans?” asks the crowned woman.

“All our divinations report a monster has been loosed upon the world. It is taller than the clouds.”

“Well then, let them destroy themselves while we find a way to bring our troops for mop-up operation. Things are going better than I planned.”

Poor Xechasos was promised to two empires and part of the population would be resettled... Chosen Patrons Artemis, Athena, Hades Poor Xechasos was promised to two empires and part of the population would be resettled... Chosen Patrons Artemis, Athena, Hades

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 7

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Gencon 2022 After Action Report Part 5

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 6 | 7

Conclusions

It was a very good Gencon for FOE. Every event ran as planned with enough players to safely go on (not tables of 2 or 3).

I listened in on games throughout the weekend and really enjoyed the different styles and flavors.

So what do I take away from this year's Gencon?

- Have a spare tire Pretty self-explanatory.

- Masks/vax As you can see by the pictures, outside of the main Convention Center, they were mostly-optional. I hope this hysteria will end this year. The vax-line was just ridiculously long on Wednesday and it really proved little. I hope all that craziness ends with 2022.

- New GMs I will admit that I was worried about the new GMs. Since I never met many of them prior to the con, each came through like champs. A true all-star lineup. With the con ending, I can honestly call Adam, Bill, Jason, Logan, and Marissa, my friends (I knew and called Matt & Will friends already).

Jp watching his titan army disappear - Don't run/write 5 specials in one year By special, I mean a multi-table, one-shot event. Five was just too much. As I don't want to redo the same thing twice, I really pushed myself. I think next year, I will have three (or four) specials with four "regular" adventures. This will allow to keep the formula fresh and tweak it.

- Pimp myself out Quite frankly, this is something that Matt brought on the carride back. Offer a "special", much like I did for "Back Door to Hades" this year. But perhaps offer multiple times during the con. I am thinking of a "Welcome to Ozaka" or something else. I have time and choices to decice what I want.

- Run Morning and Evenings I came home with my voice and my health intact.

- Sidekicks I created sidekicks as replacement characters. These were well-received and behaved pretty solidly in spite of the events. One player event asked to play the sidekick two events in a row! I was surprised and pleased at once.

- Recap mods With FOE having run an ongoing campaign for multiple years now, I need to have adventures that can bring new players up to speed, if only for the important events. I would hate for a new player to be completely lost. I want them to know the events so they can make educated choices.

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 6 | 7

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Gencon 2022 After Action Report Part 4

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 5 | 6 | 7

Saturday

Saturday came much like Friday. With a pinch of sadness, I realized Gencon was more than half over... But onwards!

For the morning, I ran Dead and Buried again. Once again, I chuckled as they sought the answer to the problem posed before them. Fun GMing times once again.

GMs for Morning: Bill (Best Served Cold), Marissa (Marauding Titan), JP (Dead and Buried), Matt (Hexcrawling the Cyclopeans)

My afternoon was free. I hit the dealer hall once again. This time, I roamed about randomly. That's when I got to meet Wes-R at the Chessex booth, an old friend from Denver. We did some catching up. It was great seeing him again as I hadn't seen him in about a decade! I really hope to see him again next year!

After that, I returned to the FOE room, making a quick stop by the Baldman Games room where I spoke with my old buddy Konrad-B, also from LG days. Great catching up with him.

GMs for Afternoon: Bill (Best Served Cold), Will (Marauding Titan), Jason (Dead and Buried), Matt (Hexcrawling the Cyclopeans)

Mytenia under siegeThe evening was again another special. This time, Mytenian War. Following the evening and the shocking finale of the events of the previous night... Things had to get sorted out. With the army of Lexos with their Spartian allies at the gate, how would the PCs succeed in getting the situation resolved.

This adventure drew on many of the active threads of the weekend. A mix of action, diplomacy, and surprise made this adventure quite memorable. But the highlight were really the GMs who made everything come to life.

GMs for Mytenian War: Adam, Jason, JP (Overlord), Logan, Will

Short drive. Pass out.

Sunday

We got up early, packed and loaded everything up. That left us almost two hours before kick-off... So why not get the Denny's meal we planned on taking last Wednesday? I will say... it was AWESOME. It was everything I wanted it to be. Really hit the spot before going to the game. Definitely better than McDonald's.

Only one event today: the capstone of everything. An adventure that both closed the mini-campaign AND prepared it for next year. We had 21 ticket sold but only a fraction of that number came. Instead of 4 tables, we folded one and had Adam played at Matt's table. And so... we began to close our story for the year...

Once again, it went great! A lot of interesting development. I will keep the outcomes for a later post...

GMs for Reforging The Seal: Adam (released to play), Bill, JP (Overlord), Matt, Will

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 5 | 6 | 7

Friday, August 12, 2022

Gencon 2022 After Action Report Part 3

Parts 1 | 2 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Friday

Riding on a high after collapsing from exhaustion, Friday promised a lot of new things. It would be the premiere of Matt's Hexcrawl event. And today the focus shifted to Olympia. I was really curious about the reception his adventure would get. I had an original idea about it but as I worked through, my ideas shifted. Still what I heard and play-tested of these short adventures were really fun. Much like Matt, less formal and more whimsical. It would be a good complement to our other events.

I ran the Akhamet adventure, Dead and Buried, an adventure that I had percolating for years (if you go back on the Gencon program, its original title of The Half-Crazed Mummy was on the program). I pulled it out for various reason, revised and re-tweaked. This finalized version, is definitely the best and most fluid of all of them.

There is a definite high point of the adventure that was so much fun to run as a GM, and I expect players really liked to find the solution, taking damage all along the way. It's a fun one on both sides of the screen.

GMs for Morning: Bill (Best Served Cold), Marissa (Marauding Titan), JP (Dead and Buried), Matt (Hexcrawling the Cyclopeans)

The next slot I had off, which was great as I was able to visit the Crocodile Games booth, walk around a little, and just take things slow. One of my only 2 slots off during the con. I used it to go meet with Leslie-F, my old LG buddy from New York.

My next slot was the second multi-table special: Mytenian Coronation. This adventure took me time to figure out, and got a fair bit of help from Florent and Florence. I knew what I wanted to do, and what dilemma I wanted to present, but my breakdown fell flat and overly pre-processed. With a different perspective, I was able to turn this into something really interesting to which I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how it would go!

GMs for Afternoon: Bill (Best Served Cold), Marissa (Marauding Titan), Jason (Dead and Buried), Matt (Hexcrawling the Cyclopeans)

In the end, the final votes ended up 10-7-5! Just a few different rolls or decision could've made it go another way! One NPC voted one way because she was asked only by one group, and they rolled a "natural 1" on the D20.

I actually had very little to do during this one, boxed text at the start. Boxed text in the middle. Conclusion. Easy?

But that would not take into account that the conclusion rested on players' choices... So I would have to take notes and improv some of it according to what happened. And it was not just two three words, but quite a lot. I think it went fine.

During the game, I met and chatted with Pedro from PCI. It was great to see him again, in person. I've been a fan of their stuff for years and they definitely influenced my work and writing. There are things they do I don't like, but I still play and enjoy their games. A good chat between designers and game-runners.

I was pretty happy when someone said I was a good storyteller, which made my day.

GMs for Mytenian Coronation: Adam, Jason, JP (Overlord), Logan, Will

Short drive. Sleep.

Parts 1 | 2 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Gencon 2022 After Action Report Part 2

Parts 1 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Thursday

Got up early (I mean I was too nervous to sleep, my mind raced with concern and Will snoring). I was (more than) a little cranky in the morning, but truth be told: an egg mcmuffin and a McDonald's coffee smoothed out my issues and sorted me out.

Will and Matt (who both did not have any GMing duties with me that morning) joined me to help carry my massive collection of stuff: the food, the smurf uniforms, the character sheets, the books, the minis. You know the massive collection of stuff.

I got everyone sorted out with the Smurf uniforms - except Steve, for whom I had ordered a massive polo... I'll get you next Steve with one that fits!

Hades faces off with the First OnesDuring day (2-slots worth), I ran a special one-shot adventure that put the players in the role of First Ones. In effect, they caused everything the other tables would be cleaning up the rest of the con. They arrived in Olympia, got involved in Mytenian politics, travelled to Hades, then to Tartarus, freed up a number of Titans, made a deal with Kronus...

You know what First Ones tend to do! The game went great and they really delved into the evil side - and I was happy that they kept their evil very cerebral - very manipulative. They did a smashing great job, bypassing some of the less important fights with their abilities. You know 11th level characters can do a lot.

GMs for Morning: Bill (Best Served Cold), Logan (Marauding Titan), Steve (Dead and Buried)

GMs for Afternoon: Bill (Best Served Cold), Marissa (Marauding Titan), Steve (Dead and Buried)

The evening had the Akhamet special. Unlike our other specials, this one had the players walk in, select a character from either the Akhamet party #1, party #2, the Olympia party #1, or the Princesses. In all, there were 25 characters to choose from. Having taken a character, they were invited to sit down "wherever there was an open seat."

Do you see the chaos this could create?

Do you?

Exactly, the GMs had NO idea who/what character would be at our tables. This made some really strong tables, and others who had a more difficult time. For example, my table has no one who could heal another without a healing potion! Fighters had second wind and that was it. In a battle interactive with many scenes of battle, it made for a difficult time.

One thing I decided to add this year, during the specials, any iconic who died during the interactive would no longer be available and would remain dead. The result would take effect at the end of the con. Someone DID die at my table (I will keep who for a later post).

After facing a massive horde of undead, and a massive titan, they stood victorious. It was a difficult fight with little mercy offered by the GMs. The city was saved, by a mixture of insane bravery and sheer determination. Smiles all around let me know that this was a success. They walked out bloody and battered, but as heroes.

GMs For Special: Jason, JP (Overlord and Table GM), Logan, and Steve

Parts 1 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Gencon 2022 After Action Report Part 1

Parts 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Before Gencon

Gencon started so long ago, around Christmas time when I started working on and planning the convention. What overall story I wanted to tell? What format did I want to use? What setting? What would I need? And most importantly, how to NOT make it all more of the same.

Something I learned and trained myself over the many years was to create stories and adventures that added to the overall plot but they were not the same with serial numbers filed off.

True, there are *TYPES* of adventures that will resemble each other: a dungeoncrawl, the exploration of a region, an event-based adventure, but as adding twists and subplots make everything different.

Although I had high-level ideas for the longest time, some came together better than others, and some frankly had me bang my head against a wall to complete.

I must thank Florent & Florence (both veteran FOE GMs) who did some late-night chats with me to sort my head out. And because it them, it did come together.

Wednesday

This year, I planned my Wednesday better. No working that day. The plan was... Leave Murfreesboro TN around 8:30am, pick up Will around 9:30 and be there around 14:00.

Why? Because this year, Gencon added vaccination status line and I never got a clear answer regarding the handing out of the GM badges. So getting there early would simplify everything. We'd have time to do some setup, then hit the Denny's for a good pre-con meal, yak some and finally crash with ample time.

But nothing went according to plan.

Oh, I was able to pick up Matt and Will at the appointed time. Great.

But about midway through Kentucky, the problem hit.

Pic by Matt Thor GoodmanI say hit because as we passed a truck, I believe something flew and hit my front tire. The tire shredded and I was able to stop (safely) by the side of the Interstate.

To get a tow truck (I had no spare) took about 4hours:

- The company sent a truck to mile marker 48 in Tennessee (over 100 miles back)

- The company sent directed a truck to Franklin KY (50 miles back)

- The company canceled the truck because I refused to give them my credit card over the phone (to someone I never talked to before), after I offered to pay cash.

- When the truck arrived, we had to leave one of our number behind (Matt offered), I told him Google showed a Taco Bell nearby, so he headed there.

- As we were in the tow truck, the driver decided to cut the median... AND WE GOT STUCK!

- The drive used his jacks to push the truck... but it was going INTO the INCOMING FAST LANE! We eventually got unstuck.

- The Taco Bell was closed, replaced by a gas station and Subway. (He did get to visit ALL of Park City, KY - which was not a needed bonus). We did get a nice picture of the goat to hillarity (From Will and I).

- Will tried to get HIS company to send us a truck and that caused more snafu. They sent a truck after he called to cancel AND we were at the Firestone dealer.

But finally, we got back on the road.

After a six hour delay... We picked Matt up and rolled northwards.

We finally got to Indy around 8pm having eaten only snacks.

We got through the vax-check line, which had to be about a mile-long. It was litteraly going all over and around the Convention Center. Granted, it moved quickly, but it was just insane. I'll give additional thoughts about it in the conclusion for the con.

After about two hours, GM HQ was closed for the night. Our game room in the JW was also closed. So in effect, the only thing we accomplished in my list of things was to get to Indy and get through the vax line.

We went to the hotel - after I passed right in front the Denny's...

Will and I kept yakking and yakking. (and yakking)

Parts 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Monday, August 8, 2022

[Meet the Iconics] All the First Ones Iconics together

The First Ones Iconics made for Power is Fickle.

Amarilynn

Female First One (spiderling) bard 11 (Dark Dancer)

From a young age, you trained as an entertainer with your mother who was a Dark Dancer too. From her, you learn the secret dances of the school. Like many spiderlings, you prefer to manipulate events rather than control them directly, let others take the fall.

Blarg the Underhanded

? First One (shogleth) fighter 11 (Kares’kor)

From the moment you gained consciousness, you knew you wanted to be adored and worshipped by others. Thus, you became a gladiator since shogleths are low on the totem pole. Not interested in fighting fair, you met with a Kares’kor master and learned to fight dirty, you don’t care as long as you win.


Quanah of the Jet Arrow

Female First One (netherling) ranger 11 (Jet Arrow)

From a young age, you trained as a bounty hunter, chasing down rebels and escaped slaves. After finding a copy of a secret book “The Jet Arrow: A Shot out of the Dark.” You joined their order.

Kolreka of House Ougozar

Female First One (harovite) wizard 11 (master of the veils)

You trained at the Althrezzar School where you spend years learning about the many planes of existence, their relations with each other, and how they could be conquered. You are not merely interested in them for scholarly pursuits, but seek to subjugate them.

Koryo of the Whip

Male First One (grexodite) paladin 11 (oath of the Whip)

Trained from birth to be the a brute and the enforcer, taking slaves and forcing them into service. You learned are merciless and draw pleasure from knocking opponents off their feet.

Barkah of House Ougozar

Male First One (drovite) rogue 11 (Shadow Blade)

You are a Shadow Blade, one who strikes from the shadows and vanish before retribution is possible. You trained at the Na’Zathal School where you studied poisons.