JP On Gaming

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

[Titan Tuesday] Titanic Dragon

More goodies for Gencon.

The dragon is a creature that will see use in at least two different adventures, playing a different role in both.

The Olympia Campaign Setting can be the home of any number of monsters and creatures you can imagine.

It is from Reaper Bones 5, I think.

Monday, June 27, 2022

[Die Inspired] Finale Madness!

Yesterday, the Game Keep held the finale part of Die Inspired's Convoy to Straith. This is the same game I have been posting about since mid-April (See this post and these updates May 8th, May 25th, andJune 25th).

I have yet to catch my breath...

Just as I thought the craziness was cranked up to eleven, the team cranked it up to FIFTEEN! I mean, without going into details, they used a few tools to help speed up the process and it worked... The pressure rose and things got worse and worse as more people died.

Again, most of the encounters were pretty simple (as I posted in a previous Old Pro Tricks on simple effective scenes) and... deadly.

Epic things leading to incredibly entertaining - but sad - deaths. As we tried to reach the find a way to leave this accursed island, things got from wild, to crazy, to insane, to COMPLETELY MAD! The breaks we took barely managed to cut the tension. I found myself holding my breath multiple times and my blood pressure shot through the roof!

As we died, everyone stayed to hear who would live, how they would live, and what would happen.

Even after sleeping over it and write about it... My pulse races and my breath quickens.

Yeah. It was that good.

I am sure I said this before, but I am not one who listens to actual play online. I just don't like them. But I will definitely tune in for this. I'm curious about how the games went for the other early groups and I will want to see those "simple effective scenes" again and how they will work those into post-production.

One of the things that was very interesting to see were the many ways people tried to survive: some use great teamwork, others focus on their own resourcefulness, other had a game plan. Everyone worked together during the event itself.

The few who lived got a share of the chest filled with 5,000$ in cash! Yeah, not D&D money, enough cash to make it rain! I won't give details about my own whereabout but...

AH TO HELL WITH IT!

Jim will be back for season two! The Innkeeper's son survived the ordeal. But I have to thank luck and the assistance of others.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Ma' Hawkins didn't raise no stupid boy!

[Meet the Iconics] First Ones Iconics: Amarilynn

If you don't know, at Gencon, one of the adventures will have the players take on the role of First Ones... I had a great time thinking about which characters to use. There are so many combinations possible...

I went with about it quite simply: I first went through the many races found in the new Power is Fickle. This book updates, expands, and upgrades of material what was first published in Service is Eternal.

What does that mean? New art. Tightened the writing. Tightened the rules. And made the material more multiverse-specific than "just" Tyrants of Saggakar, even a short mini-setting of a world the First Ones recently took over. It is just full of options, magic, archetypes, monsters, and the usual good stuff!

I put down the eight races and their iconic class. Boy did I dream of really interesting, unique combos. But I limited myself to one class. Then, I trimmed down the choices.

Now Power is Fickle has 8 playable First One races and four minion races. So I actually have another 6 unique races to create a second group of iconics... another time! So without further ado, here are the iconics, with their miniature.

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.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

[Die Inspired] Made it to the finale

Much to my surprise, I made it to the final event of the first season of Die Inspired! It's seems like so long ago that I sat down to create Jim Hawkins, the halfling son of the owners of the Admiral Benbo Inn.

I am really happy that I was able to use my 3-point background to create someone who is unique, easy to slot into any campaign, and really fun to play. I had a blast playing Jim, pulling from that background all the time. "Ma' Hawkins didn't raise no stupid boy." I will be using it on ALL my characters going forward and asking the same of my players.

Also in character-building, I went with a combination I felt was a little different that the more iconic role. Jim is a lightfoot halfling bard 3 (college of lore) whose background is Guild Merchant. Not typical but something I thought fit the character, and something I was able to bring in multiple times during the game. Yes, my membership in the Guild of Culinary Delights came up quite a few times. My spell list included a few utility spells that came in handy multiple times - and that failed as many times.

As I prepare for the final event, I can only hope Jim will be able to survive to escape his current predicament.

And predicament it is.

Tomorrow is the final - and fatal - day. Wish Jim luck!

Friday, June 24, 2022

[Gencon 2022] Terrain Friday Crystals 2

Terrain for Gencon. What are these crystals for? What are their impact upon Olympia?

I received this crystal for free as a broken piece at a convention in Nashville (I think it was Hypericon 2018).

Thursday, June 23, 2022

[Akhamet Thursday] Heroes of Akhamet 1

Earlier, I posted about replacement sidekicks. These models will serve as these replacements. I will also have them for sale if anyone wants to go home with one of these little guys.

The Akhamet Campaign Setting is vast and you can create a vast number of different characters.

These models are from a mix of Old Glory and Crocodile Games.



Wednesday, June 22, 2022

[Olympia Wednesday] Heroes of Olympia 1

Earlier, I posted about replacement sidekicks. These models will serve as these replacements. I will also have them for sale if anyone wants to go home with one of these little guys.

The Olympia Campaign Setting has a wealth of miniatures from historical sources that can be used and most of them appear human. So you can use many such models for your character.

These models are from Wargames Foundry, perhaps my favorite company for historical models.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

[Titan Tuesday] Giants and Beastmen

More goodies for Gencon. The blue giants and the beastmen are titans.

The giants were printed by Matt - big thanks. While the beastmen and wood nymphs are from Reaper Bones. I think Bones 4 or 5...

The Olympia Campaign Setting can be the home of any number of monsters and creatures you can imagine.

Monday, June 20, 2022

[Release] Power is Fickle: Villainy and the First One

It has been too long since I published a FOE book. It has been even longer since I published a book about the First Ones. When I first published Service is Eternal, I focused on getting all my content and ideas together as they flooded into my mind. After a few years, I went back to it and... well I didn't think it was as great anymore. Concepts evolved some, clarifed, and formed into slightly different things.

One major concept that really form and got a good, definable name is the Burning. The ever-devouring ambition that links all First Ones together. It is neither a hive mind nor a deity, but something that has elements of both. It unites the First Ones without making them a monolothic presence.

Well if you don't know the First Ones, they appear in some form or another in every FOE setting, from Tyrants of Saggakar to Akhamet. They are used differently in every setting, in some, they are more directly involved than others.

ArchDespotToday, I am publishing the new and revamped guide to the First Ones, called Power is Fickle Villainy and the First Ones. It is mostly a book about the First Ones, how to create and use them, but it was expanded to include playing and running villains with style and a reason. Therefore, Power is Fickle is not a ToS product, but a FOE product.

For those who prefer a hardcopy, it is also available on Amazon.

The art in SiE wasn't up to par and frankly looked terrible. This new book has a LOT of new art. Most of it commissioned just for it and drawn by FOE regulars The British Shark, Niall Arts, John F Ridley (inspector97), Blehc, Irene Campos, and many others.

But you want to know what the book contains:

We are the First Ones.
Lordship is our burden.
Obedience is our birthright.
Power is fickle.
Service is Eternal.

A guide to adding the First Ones to your Campaign. This book presents who they are, what they do, and how to add their threat to your campaign. They are more than just a new faction. They are a threat to the multiverse that grows from within and without.

- Details on how to include the First One in your campaign

- Details on howto run an evil campaign

- Details to help you create a campaign for evil characters

- 8 playable First One races

- 4 playable Minions races

- New class options and expanded rules

- Over 50 new feats, backgrounds, and spells

- Over 15 magic items and artifacts

- 18 sample characters to help you link the First Ones to your campaign

- Over 30 new monsters

The Burning reaches across the Multiverse. All for 5th Edition.

Friday, June 17, 2022

[Gencon 2022] Terrain Friday Crystals 1

Terrain for Gencon. What are these crystals for? What are their impact upon Olympia?

I must thank Matt for Printing this for me. This large piece is definitely a centerpiece.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

When Inspiration Strikes!

Every once in a while, a writer gets suddenly inspired by something you see in the world around you. For me, it was when I randomly clicked on a YouTube video and suddenly elements for a one-shot began to fall into place. One after the others, the dominos fell into place with scenes and elements to play.

In short, it took less than an hour to have basic character outlines, a plot, a mini-setting, and a game system to use.

So yeah, it took an hour to write the skeleton and a few extra ones to flesh it out and make it playable. It was lightning in a bottle.

Now will it be good and/or fun? I believe so but that's where I have to spend more time to complete the work. A skeleton may be good enough for me to run, but I want to flesh it out some more.

So what is the idea? It is a Cthulhu Modern adventure. I thought of using Delta Green but that brings too much baggage and would dilute the adventure. The main tenet of a good One-shot adventure stands in the simple adage: One Action, One Time, and One Location. The idea fits all of these, into one convenient whole.

I don't want to spoil anymore but I've been blasting the idea onto the page, creating the scenes, the handouts, and unique tweaks and secrets to make the characters more interesting. I'm about 75% done for the adventure, working on the finale with explosions and sanity-draining horror.

But at the same time, make this adventure something that players new to CoC can get into the action and learn something about the setting and how usually the plays. As well as deliver what people expect when playing CoC: madness and horrible death!

So why am I talking about this? Because I still have one last adventure for Gencon to write and complete. And I'm a little stuck with it. All my ideas for THAT feel flat and uninspired.

I plan to run this adventure a few times before publishing it on the Miskatonic Repository, Chaosium's equivalent of the DM's Guild. It feels so refreshing to write some non-D&D. And I wonder how many of you can make it of... Beyond the Gate.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

[New for Gencon] Replacement Characters

This year, I have really gone overboard with new ideas and material to bring to the game table. In addition to a full slate of events (who are selling out nicely, see all the FOE events and slots there are fewer and fewer availability every day), one of the things I am going to add this year are sidekicks.

As I wrote the specials, I was stuck in a position where characters might die or be left for dead. Which in turn might leave someone with nothing to do. I really hate that and "just pretend you didn't die" really takes away from the events that are happening. I wanted to have a way where death could be real, but that would allow the player to keep experiencing the adventure. Nothing worse than showing up for a paid event, die soon after and be done, especially when there are multiple possible replacements within shouting distance. In a home game, the player might get a short-term NPC to complete the scene or current event before either leaving or fading into the background. How many times did "Jimmy the Guard" suddenly became a recurring character or contact of the party after being played as a sub?

Since many of the specials take place in or near urban locations where there are many people about, the idea of "replacement characters" made sense. So having them handy required making them! I created first two for Olympia: an hoplite and a psiloi (archer) as both made a lot of sense from the people available nearby. Which then led to the idea of creating some for Akhamet - a guard and an acolyte.

I commission fellow Canadian John F Ridley (Inspector97) for the art and thus these guys immediately began taking shape. (As I write this, he is working on them).

But JP, why would I want to play a sidekick? You ask. Simply, the sidekicks are going to be available only during special events (every evenings and the Sunday morning finale), or by player choice. They are built using the rules found in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. When I first looked at them, I was not impressed. But after using them for Witches of Pikemaster, I found them to be surprisingly fun and interesting. Not as powerful as regular characters, but decent enough to be useful while not overwhelming the table.

So how do I go from a sidekick to "Jimmy the Guard"? This one was a little more complicated however, inspiration struck during a conversation with a fellow DM. When someone plays a sidekick and should the sidekick survives the adventure, that sidekick will become an NPC to be written in future adventures. So if "Megakles the Hoplite" survives the adventure, he will be written in future adventures and supplements. Perhaps he becomes an officer, a respected citizen, or an adventurer of his own.

More Gencon news to come...

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

[Die Inspired] Staying Alive (for now)

On the 15th, I participated in the third session of Die Inspired's big campaign and well I managed to survive it. Events are definitely moving forward as we head towards the end.

Again, the "simple effective scene" principle they used applied once more... (see my post on this here) Though I take it with the two previous sessions everyone was pretty gun-shy but that did make for some tense and interesting roleplay.

One fun fact is that after the previous two dates, we were now overly cautious when faced with a challenge, even when the challenge was not overly deadly. (It was, but the threat was less immediate than the previous two games) That's why I always "you train your players." It will be fun to see the face of poor GM Roscoe seeing how we overcomplicate something that should be easy... I've been there too.

But the big kicker is how everything came to a head at the head, which left us, the players, on a cliffhanger. I mean hold-your-breath-until-next-game type of thing and left me chomping at the bits for more. I was actually annoyed that we stopped instead of continuing... I just want to go back and see what happens and how things play out.

Now to wait for the next game... guh... so long!!! Jim Hawkins still lives!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

[Old Pro Tips] Creating Effective Scenes

:I've been writing a LOT these days. And I mean A LOT for Gencon (see the blurbs for everything in this post). I have been thinking of other GMs who ran games that really hit home. I focused on scene-setting. What worked best? What didn't work?

What didn't work

Among a number of elements, one that doesn't work involves over-described room. Rooms with so many elements that get lost with the number of things present. Here are two examples that jumped to my mind (one was Pathfinder Society and the other from a GM I don't want to name here).

- An inn where you know the size, composition, type of the cups of beer, add the number, size, color, and history of the boar heads trophies on the walls, the exact position of the tables, the graffiti on them... Then the scene focuses on talking to the strange guy in the corner.

- A forest where you are told the type of trees in great details, the size of the fallen trunks and branches, the color of the leaves (it was set during summer), and the sound of the birds singing and squawking nearby. And then, what we had to do was sneak through the forest.

Tere

What does work

Reversing the scene, I kept thinking back to Mario (who ran WHFRP in 2009-10) and the other is from a more recent GM. These scenes were notable by focusing on the essential and unique elements of each location. The simplicity of their dressing made it so they allowed for us players to come up with solutions. Then if we, the players, wanted to do something with the environment, we can ask and go from there. Need vines? Now they are there! Need Spanish Moss? Sure! What about a very knobby tree? Oh yeah!

- A bandit camp centered around a fire pit with a series of tents in a rough circle around it.

- A thick jungle where a creek flows into a pond covered with waterlillies.

What I really like is that each of us were able to use the basic description and add elements to it based on our common imagination, with each player adding something. By the time we attacked the bandits in the camp, there were deer skins getting tanned for cover, buckets of water (and chamber pots), the two sentries huddled around the fire, and a pair of horses were tied nearby. I really love that scene because each of us, player and GM, built into something concrete we used in our plan.

We didn't care the bandit's spears were made of maple, oak, or pine wood. So it was never defined.

Finally

Everyone can picture a tundra. A sandy desert. A pinewood forest. A pool beneath a waterfall. A fortified city gate. See what I did there? You pictured each of those scenes and I use no more than 5 words to describe each of them.

KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Focus on elements that matter to the players or major elements. Unless you plan to have a confrontation or a trap-like with a scaffold, don't mention it unless/until it becomes relevant to the players. Work with them.

Yeah. KISS. And grow the story and scene together.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

[Question Time with JP] What would've happen to [NPC]?

What was up with [NPCs we didn't look in the game] by Sarah-R

This question was asked in-person by Sarah-R, a playtester for many of FOE's campaigns (and the one who GMs back for me).

This answer is really a non-answer. Basically, everytime I get asked, my answer may and will change, depending on whatever latest idea I have. Anything that is not in the adventure frankly is irrelevant.

For her specific question, she asked what would've happened if they tracked down some NPCs they heard about but never chose to track down.

One thing I have been doing in the design of larger adventures and mini-campaign is to set up a location and present unique locations with characters and main event or element that would happen there, and let the PCs explore and follow the threads they are interested in.

So, in short, if the party went to track down these NPCs, They could've been there, unaware of anything.

Or they could be in on the conspiracy and support it.

Or they could have been victim of the conspiracy.

Or they could have been replaced by robots.

Or be ninja turtles in disguise...

Or nothing.

Why are you asking me? I don't know.

Friday, May 13, 2022

[Kinda Book Report] Essential Hulk Vol 3

I've been binging a number of comics, many of which I bought at last year's Free Comic Book day. This is one of those.

I will say this one was better than the previous Essential Volume 1, but mostly because it was significantly more consistent. It does not trigger the nostalgia factor as much and I must say few stories really stood out. It was "fine". This feel very much like a story on cruise control as there is little that really stuck. Hulk's powers were much more like those we know today.

Even the stories where the Avengers co-star, do not feel like they have significant impact. It could easily laugh that this was like the TV show with Hulk wandering in to a situation or a situation.

This is a simple 3/5 rating. It was "fine".

Sunday, May 8, 2022

[Die Inspired] The Wild Ride Goes Bananas!

NOTE: I wrote this after the game on May 1st. I thought I had it scheduled to publish... BUT NO. So here it is with a delay.


Well this past Sunday was the second date of the craziness that is Die Inspired's campaign. My first post on it described it as A Wild and Crazy Ride and Day 2 delivered in the craziness department.

Having survived the deadly events on the ships, we made landfall. But that provided us no security. The type of work changed from Day 1 whereas we now had to cooperate as a team to tackle the island itself. All thirteen of us.

Yes. The ominous number proved prophetic...

The first combat was BRUTAL with the monsters scoring a critical hit against a player that left him dead.

ON THE FIRST ATTACK.

*Squelch* Ouch.

We were on-notice and things did not really look up from there for us. We left the beach having lost a few people. One was rescued by a great bit of teamwork, one I am really looking forward to seeing how the final cut will look like. If you ever saw "A Million Ways to Die in the West" (the funny part at the start of the movie), well... it was a little like that. You know when you wince in pain when something really bad happens?

Yeah. That.

Now just for the record, I wish to state that my natural halfling sense was to get provisions, reload the boats and leave this accursed place. I was, of course, outvoted but I just want to put that here. So my (inevitable) ghost can haunt the others for not listening my wisdom.

We were not so gung-ho for the second scene. What started as a fun time in the jungle ended up with screams of panic, body parts getting thrown left and right, showers of gore, and the frantic fleeing of adventurers through the forest.

That's glossing over many details, ranging from hilarious to scary to nervous chuckle-able to odd to flat out worrisome. I was on the edge of my seat for most the encounter, scrambling through my sheet for find what the best option for myself and for others It was glorious and memorable. Shouts of joys. Animal screeches. War cries. Squeals of squeamishness. All broke the deceptive tranquility of the jungle.

No wait, that last one, the squeals were all me.

Not everyone made it. Instead many shone bright and then got squished on the forests of Black Glass Island, often with memorable squish (there weren't as many notable quotes for the ending.).

I am surprised and very happy to report that Figjam "Jim" Hawkins made it through. This time. I'll be back in two weeks to see where this goes. As a halfling, I curious to see what is coming up next...

The scenes set are simple but extremely effective, not requiring extensive descriptions or specific elements to paint the picture. It allows the players to tweak or add to make the scene work: A beach, a ship, a jungle-covered island. Their maps served to enhanced the picture, creating an effective and clear picture of what is happening without having to over-describe everything. I cannot say how much I appreciate that. (I will write further about my thoughts regarding creating these sort of scenes in a future post)

I admit that I am growing increasingly curious to see the finalized product. How it will look when everything is put together and finalized? Really building my interest in it... and I never watch/ listen RPG podcasts and web series, but this one I'll want to see what everyone did.

The game flow was much improved as not only the GM and DI crew, but we players got used to the formula and upped our game. Perhaps it was due to there being fewer players? As a player, I felt much more involved in the game as it seemed it was my turn more often. It is always fun to feel like you are in the thick of things at the heart of the action and get to act and react based on what is happening. I felt there was much more interaction and cooperation between players all around the room this time, not just in small nearby groups. This also added to the dynamism of the game.

One thing the crew did that was pretty cool was to bring guest-star GMs to run the monsters, allowing the Main GM (Roscoe IIRC) to focus on herding the cats and added to the flow. A great idea.

I will provide more insight after the next game. "Jim" Hawkins the ship's cook made it to round three!

Halfling's luck.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dragonlance: First Thoughts

In case you have not seen it, WotC has given us a trailer for their new Dragonlance campaign setting for 5e. I've stated on this blog about my love for that setting and even if it is not really "realistic," it is fun to play in. I failed miserably at my last attempt to run the Classics with it (see this post here and part 2) The different races and classes you could play made for something different than "straight Tolkien port." The gully dwarves are funny. The elves ridiculously isolationist. The Irda are cool. Even the 3.x version that allowed draconians was fine.

Except kenders.

I hate kenders.

So... Looking at the trailer, I struggled to find Dragonlance in there. It LOOKS like it. I am very wary of what I saw for the following reasons.

- I could not find any of the CORE element that made Dragonlance unique: the clear-cut struggle between good and evil. A struggle that is mirrored "As above so below," as the gods themselves fight each other. Dragonlance is NOT a setting where you deal with many shades of grey. There are many other settings for that. Evil is so clear and power that without heroes who rise to the occasion, the world will be plunged into eternal darkness. The "we fight for each other" is well and good but does not provide a sense of anything unique; it is generic D&D at its best.

- Dragonlance has known heroes who are part of its draw. None of these characters appear here. They are just missing. Nowhere to be found. Who are these new characters? What's unique about them? How do they align with the classics? Everyone has a favorite in the Innfellows (I'm partial to Goldmoon), or one of the villains: Kitiara, Soth, Raistlin, or even Toade! It's like having a Batman movie with no Batman, no Robin, and no Bruce Wayne... I fear that the classic characters were omitted to avoid paying anything to Hickman and Weiss.

- The draconians are only in the background. They should be front and center! They are this world's unique and premiere monster PCs will engage with throughout their careers. I want to see them do something cool.

This trailer has not won me over, but neither did it turn me away. I'm curious to see what the final book will contain and whether it has any value to me. I can't put a Fry meme saying "Shut up and take my money" with this one.

Not just yet.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

FOE Gencon 2022 Lineup (many links)

Finally, FOE events for Gencon are approved! This means 27 total events spanning ten slots! My appeal has put me in touch with a couple of new GMs (for FOE) and that really alleviated my worries.

This year, there will be 9 unique events, a First One Special, two Akhamet adventure, four Olympia special, and an overall finale. I provided links to the events. They will become available when Gencon open them up next week on May 1st.

First One Special

Legacies: Back Door To Hades Sometimes you must break dozens of eggs to conquer a world. A two-round event for evil characters. An 11th-level adventure set in Greece-inspired Olympia. Part 0 of Tartarus Rampant.
- Thursday 8-18

Akhamet

Legacies: Dead and Buried Some secret lie under the desert for good reasons. A 3rd-level adventure set in Egypt-inspired Akhamet. Part 1 of Dark Tide.
- Thursday 8-13 and 13-18
- Friday 8-13 and 13-18
- Saturday 8-13 and 13-18

Legacies: Out of the Deep Multitable battle interactive. Test your mettle against the best in Akhamet. More may be tested before the end. A 3rd-level adventure set in Egypt-inspired Akhamet. Part 2 of Dark Tide.
- Thursday 19-00

Olympia

Legacies: The Marauding Titan Monsters roam wild across Olympia. As a hero, you are called to help protect the people from these menaces. A 3rd-level adventure set in Greece-inspired Olympia. Part 1 of Tartarus Rampant.
- Thursday 8-13 and 13-18
- Friday 8-13 and 13-18
- Saturday 8-13 and 13-18

Legacies: Best Served Cold Monsters roam wild across Olympia. Someone is responsible and you must uncover their identity and make them pay. A 3rd-level adventure set in Greece-inspired Olympia. Part 2 of Tartarus Rampant.
- Thursday 8-13 and 13-18
- Friday 8-13 and 13-18
- Saturday 8-13 and 13-18

Legacies: Hexcrawling the Cyclopeans You are called upon to locate items that may secure them again. Ongoing multi-part hexcrawl. A 3rd-level adventure set in Greece-inspired Olympia. Part 3[A-D] of Tartarus Rampant.
- Friday 8-13 and 13-18
- Saturday 8-13 and 13-18

Legacies: Mitenian Coronation Multitable interactive event. After a year without a King, Mitenia must chose a new ruler. A 3rd-level adventure set in Greece-inspired Olympia. Part 4 of Tartarus Rampant.
- Friday 19-00

Legacies: Mitenian War Multitable interactive event. War brews on Mitenia, which side will you choose? A 3rd-level adventure set in Greece-inspired Olympia. Part 5 of Tartarus Rampant.
- Saturday 19-00

Finale

Legacies:Reforging the seal Multitable event. Sunday Finale Conclusion of both Dark Tide and Tartarus Rampant. A 3rd-level adventure.
- Sunday 8-13

As you can guess I've been blasting page after page of material for these adventures.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

[Doctor Who] Legend of the Sea Devils Review

Well the "Easter" special has come and gone. I was excited for this one. The return of classic monsters. Pirates. Doctor-13 is about to bite the bullet. A bed showrunner about to leave...

Well... In short, the episode was bland and boring. A lot a don't show but tell. Blah Blah Blah! Omg! A woman pirate! Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah.

Yaz looks as much of a dead fish as ever. No emotion, a confused look with her mouth agape. As terrible as ever.

The Doctor hints at a love affair with her, but clearly neither actor wants to touch the other. These scenes are just awkward, long, and simply seem forced. If this plot point was not shoehorned previously, the relation may have grown into something interesting, with both characters playing off their uncertainty, their doubts.

BUT NO. This forced plot is set amid another massive cast who each fight to participate in the plot. The Pirate Queen, her comic love-interest who should get vengeance upon her, Dead-Fish Yaz, Random-NPC-we-dont-care-about, the Doctor, and Dan. And the sea devils who are around for the better part of 5 seconds. "Oh no! the Sea Devils" and then they are gone. To make it even stupider (at least someone mentions it- reshoot I'm sure), the Pirate Queen HAS NO CREW!

So... the reason for all this craziness is because the Pirate Queen's crew was gone and she needed to pay someone for their return. Now if you do a quick search of Zheng Yi Sao, her life is SUPER EXCITING! With fleets of pirates raiding the Chinese, Portuguese, and British. She would make a great antagonist. But no. Here we have a woman who is good because she is a woman. She could easily just leave and be fine. Another waste.

Now Dan is once again, the only one who seems to enjoy what is happening and do useful things. However, I thought that him killing a half-dozen sea devils in one go. Without anyone saying anything about it afterwards (other than "Cool! Nice!") felt oddly out of place for the show... It's just out of place. Another cop out to explain how a random Liverpool-joe takes out creatures trained to fight for years.

Again, the plot ends up with a situation where either the Doctor or Yaz must sacrifice themselves to defeat the Sea Devils. BUT NO. Random-NPC-we-dont-care-about swoops in at the last moment and saves them. Again, both gals IMMEDIATELY agree and leave.

Truth be told, I fell asleep twice during the second half of the story as I just could not remain focused on what was happening. Rewind. Restart. Forward.

This story was... forgivable. There is no substance there. Now in fairness, it had the potential to be a great adventure but it should've been a two-parter. With the Doctor facing the Pirate Queen in part one (remember the part where I said she fought the Brits?). Perhaps as she and the ship where the Doctor is engage in a race to get to safety as they are pursued by the sea serpent. Let the situation develop. Give the NPCs time to speak build her up. Not simply go "Pirate Queen OMG!" and then we accept her as the bestest evar!

Then part two, the current episode would work because now we know, understand and have a reason to care for the NPCs and the Pirate Queen and give us more impetous to care.

But no. Chibnall can't write action that is not spoken. He can't be bothered to give us a story inspired by a real historical event. He can't give us a story where people have normal feelings. Where they interact with each other normally.

I am SO glad his tenure is ending. Like most other plots, this was a wasted opportunity to do something interesting with a rather unique historical figure. Nope.

I would give this two snoozes but that's not the scale. Frankly, it was not great. It was forgettable and I see no reason to rewatch this episode. I will score this a 2/5 for the wasted potential of the timeframe, the character, and the villains.

Monday, April 18, 2022

[Old Pro Trick] Character Background: One Person, One Place, One Event Examples

Part 1

Here are some examples of One Person, One Place, One Event stolen from my own characters and those of others.

Example 1

I was raised as a monk in a mountain retreat (place) by an old and mysterious master (person) until someone set fire to the monastery.

So here, as a GM, I have a mysterious monk and I have an arsonist. Plus I have a number of threads: where are the monks now? why was the monastery where it is? why is the master mysterious?

Example 2

Son of innkeepers, I always wanted to get my mother's (person) approval. So when approached by a retired pirate about a lost treasure (event), I went to look for it (place).

As GM, I have a family with an inn, I have a treasure somewhere, I get other pirates. And threads: why did the pirate retire without the treasure? Is the treasure real? what is the story of the treasure? what does it contain?

Example 3

Coming from a distant land (place), I got drunk (event, repeated) and woke up on a ship that dropped me here. The only person I met who understood my language was the harbormaster (person).

As a GM, I get a distant land with a sea route to [here]. I have a character who does stupid things while drunk, repeatedly. And I have a harbormaster who speaks many languages. And this leads me to: what other mischief did the character do before? did he insult someone in his homeland?

Example 4

I got into a spat with my father (event, person) who threw me out. So I left town and I have been trying to get my application to the temple approved.

As a GM, I get an antagonist father as a mini-boss/distant threat, where are the character's friends? what was the argument about? are the friends employed by the father? why is the temple delaying?

Example 5 (an odd example)

I was sold by my parents (event) to a traveling musician (person) and I dream of returning to the family farm (place).

As a GM, this one is complex, but I can nonetheless get a number of things. Why was the character sold? why would the musician agree to such a deal? what is so unique and different about the farm?

This is very intertwined and leaves very little to interact with the outside world. The place is more of a motivation than a place. I would encourage the player to change that. I might replace the place with a location in town, perhaps the church or school where the character went. With a church or school, the GM can draw characters such as "Oh! Don't you remember me? I went to the Church of [...] also! I saw you there."

Example 6

I was sold into slavery (event) by my jealous sisters (persons). I became the swordmaster at the house of my new master (place).

As a GM, I get two evil sisters. I know I said to target ONE person, but a pair of sisters is close enough. Why was the character sold into slavery? where is the new house? what did the rest of the family do/say about the disappearance? Why does the new master need a swordmaster?

Sunday, April 17, 2022

[Old Pro Trick] Character Background: One Person, One Place, One Event

Wow! It's been a while since I made one of these posts... Here goes.

I've been recently called upon to help work on a number of characters and I was asked for guidelines. Since many were new players, I wanted to give them a solid foundation through which they could create their characters, even if they did not know the setting very well.

I paced a little before arriving to this "three elements background" which definitely fits for any RPG, any setting, and any character. It boils down to: One Person, One Place, and One Event.

One Person, One Place, One Event

In short, give your GM a rough outline of what you want, something that allow him to include you into the story while keeping things maleable. Keep yourself open to the GM's ideas about the character. He may have a character who could fit the description perfectly. Or he might change the context a little, instead of a human, the NPC is an elf.

One Person means giving the GM one NPC that is important to YOU. This could be an ally, a relative, a villain, or your master. Whenever the GM pulls out this NPC from his bag of tricks, your character should be driven to action. Don't over-specify who that person is, or how they are.

I mean if it is the wizard who trained you... then you that NPC is likely to be... a wizard.

One Place is a location that is important to you. Don't specify the name, but keep it to a generic location, such as your home village, a castle, a church, or a ship. This gives flexibility and allows for some adjustment. Maybe your village is not on top of the highest mountain, but isolated in the hills. Or is a fishing village.

One Event means you get to decide one thing that happened in the world. The less you know about it, the more localized it should be. Perhaps your parents were killed, or you found a shiny magical object.

The one thing to avoid here is to have the event remove the person and place from the game. Basically don't have you person be your father and your event the murder of your father. Or your special place is a castle and your event the castle vanishing in another dimension. The event should be linked to the other two, perhaps clarifying the relation to the person or giving a short history of the place.

The result should fit in one or two sentences that you can easily use. Then, as you grow and the campaign advances, you will expand and explore that background.

The goal is to help the GM tell a better story and for you to feel more invested in the adventure.

See Examples in follow-up post.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Crocodile Games Rock: A Shout-out

In case you don't know, I've been a HUGE fan of Crocodile Games for well over a decade now. From the moment I saw them at Genghis Con in 2007 or 2008 (can't remember, it was before the blog!) and I bought two armies from them (the Basti and the Sebekites (which I still have scattered in my stash))

When I started working on Akhamet, I won't lie and say that having miniatures that could be used to represent characters and enemies was a huge factor in helping me come up with the idea and develop the setting. Plus, I mean... their sculpts are fantastic and super easy to paint, even for someone of simple skills, like myself. Without having to do too many conversions...#Winning.

So on to the reason for this post...

Back at Gencon 2019, I purchased a number of models from Crocodile Games. They included 4 Tethru (Thoth-headed people), which all of us know appear in the Akhamet Player's Guide.

Coming home, I put the models on my stash and left them there for a few months. It was October when I decided to open them, build them and paint them.

Imagine my deception when I realized none of the heads were there! Now I saw the heads, and the lady showed them to me when we packaged them. So they must've fallen! I had four headless models!

Since I had no reason to hurry, I resolved to contact them closer to Gencon 2020 and get the heads there...

Yeah.

Gencon 2020...

I hoped to see them at the show in 2021, but they weren't present.

I despaired and moved on... Until a few days ago, I contacted them again. Before I was able to ask them, if they could bring the heads at Gencon, Fitz offered to send them to me by mail! I was impressed and happy!

Earlier this week, I received an enveloppe from CG. I placed it on top of my painting table and left it there while I continued my week. Then last night, as I needed to get away from the computer, I decided to open my mailed minis and revel in the awesome.

I opened the package and saw there was a model in there... WTF? I asked myself. A Basti gamer! They got me right! And the four heads! They sent me a free model too! Great service!

I built them up and am currently waiting for the primer to dry! (That and finishing my work day). I had to write this because I was pleasantly surprised and super happy.

You know who will not be happy about this?

My wallet in the Crocodile Games booth at Gencon...

DAMMIT.

I'll leave you with just a few more CG minis I painted before... Just 'cuz.

Monday, April 11, 2022

[Die Inspired] A Wild and Crazy Ride

A few weeks ago, I saw posts on a local D&D group on Facebook about this thing called "Die Inspired". Details were sketchy but they presented their product as something akin to Critical Roll.

Now full disclosure, I have *never* watched a full episode of CR. I heard great thing about it, but watching actual play is frankly, not my thing. I will participate in streamed game, such as the one I did for over a year with Francois-L on his YouTube, JDRd30. But watching requires too much concentration on my part.

So. In short, not my thing.

At first, I was gonna pass. An event on a Saturday is premium time. Then JP2 sent me a message about him going. Looking at the schedule, I have nothing special for that day, so I sent my name too.

As the day of the event approached, I kept seeing warning signs. There seemed to be an awful lot of people playing. I'm talking over a dozen. If you know me, you'll know I do not play games of seven or more. They just aren't fun.

As I peeked over the flapping doors of the Game Keep at setup in the back and saw the number of people in there... I thought about doing a 180 and just head on home. But no, I said to myself. You drove all this way. You wanted to play with JP2. Just see how it goes.

The event is well-organized, Brandi and the folks at the Keep helped make this go off without a hitch. It was pretty seemless, some waiting, but nothing terrible.

Heck! They had food while we waited. So was it REALLY a wait?

Short interviews about us, our character, time playing RPGs, then we got seated ready to go.

I will not (NDA-cannot) explain what the game is about. The game had sixteen players all in it at the same time! There was a good rhythm overall and the plot was very much problem-solving. Death came fast, quick, furious, and generally funny! People bouncing off others, attack with masts, crit attack with barrels, force cauterizing wounds...

Or in my case, taking the stash of rhum!

Oh wait! I did not introduce my character to you (with the art of the inimitable British Shark). I played Figjam "Jim" Hawkins, the lovable halfling ship's cook who was down on his luck after his previous expedition did not turn out how he thought...

Jim is a bard who inspire other by offering them double portions of rhum or food!

In the end, I survived the event (with many rolls too close for comfort) and JP2 did not (his valiant efforts made him the first casualty). One player, who was drunken Friar kept calling me "child," which led to my shouts of "Clerics and Children first!" And I think I will be invited to the next one as our numbers keep dwindling I assume.

If you ask me what it was like, I will say... "The D&D version of Squid Games" as a gross simplification.

It was mad, it was fast, and it was fun. It was a very different way to play D&D. With the smiles and positive reactions all around, I expect there will be MORE participants in the event. So more craziness!

As for the shenanigans that Jim go into? It should be edited into a series and formatted for your viewing pleasure on their social media/ YouTube in the coming months. They will have hours of footage, over fifteen players per ship... That's a lot but I think an ambitious project can yield ambitious result. Go for it.

Go check them out, their website DieInspired.com is currently pretty bare but should fill up.

Also a big thanks to The Game Keep for hosting, allowing this madness to happen.

I will post updates as they become available.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

[Kinda Book Report] Captain America Essentials #2

Another pickup from last year's Free Comic Book Day and one I was pretty excited to read. Cap is an interesting character, and his movie portrayal by Chris Evans was really good. I was curious about some of the early (60s) stories about him.

Well... This is a mixed bag.

The villains are great: the Red Skull is just as dastardly and evil, Batroc and the Swordsman are interesting, Modoc and AIM are serious antagonists, and Hydra. Oh a favorite of mine in early Marvel: the Cosmic Cube! Give the Cube to the Red Skull and get a number of body swap stories with Cap and the Skull! Delightful.

The NPC crew is detailed: Sharon Carter the SHIELD agent/love interest is more than a damsel in distress, Nick Fury is cool, Rick Jones is interesting as a sidekick, doning Bucky's outfit (alas for a too-short period but the potential for a great duo was there), and the stand out: the introduction of the Falcon.

The biggest gem is Cap's own inner demons as he wrestles with being an anachronism. Is he a symbol of times passed? How can he live and protect his loved ones when everyone knows who he is?

All this should make for a great comic, right? Right?

Well not really. The stories touch on subject but over-simplify all the answers. One story of racism mixed with the mafia (maggia), the Falcon being wanted stood out and had me on the edge of my seat. But the ending was a let down. It solved nothing, offered no potential solution, and except proving Falcon innocent accomplishes little. Unlike the X-men stories later everything here is fairly shallow.

Next the art is not great. Oh it is very dynamic, but often, I had to make two and three passes to guess which position Cap was in.

I will settle on a 2.5/5 rounded out to a 3/5 for this one. It has so much going for it, but fails to really live up to the overall hype. This solo run is not great, and I think Cap shines more when he is parto of a team - such as the Avengers than in solo issues.