JP On Gaming

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Gencon 2023 After Action Report Part 6

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Next Year

Looking at next year and the result of this year's adventure, I can announce the overall theme of next year's Gencon mini-campaign.

War with the Titans

War is a fertile ground for adventure and with so many settings to play with, I think we will have some very interesting plots coming. It is still early but having a direction to work from is very interesting, especially this early in the process.

Once again, I plan to challenge and play with the formula of tabletop RPG. Perhaps some wargaming elements?


My buddy Alex

Trying to put a neat bow on this year's Gencon is not easy. There are so many things to cover before the end.

- The FOE GMs have been asking me to run higher-level games to which I must say I am somewhat reticent as I value our games as being welcoming to all newcomers and we get a LOT of new players (both FOE and 5e new players). If I write or run level 7, training wheels are off and I will hurt people. Bad. That said, I want to leave the idea here to see what the community wants.

- Seeing our success this year, I have been thinking of increasing the number of games offered. This is twofold. First, I am thinking of going up to five tables per slot. This would require a MUCH greater involvement from GMs (ergo: I'd need AT LEAST four gms to accomplish that). Whether this would be more tables of the same adventures or extra adventures remains TBD. This is one thought that both terrifies and attracts me a lot.

- Partial follow-up of the previous, if you are willing to write and run your own FOE adventure, let me know as soon as possible and we can make that happen. This year, Thor and Bill wrote and ran their own adventure this year (Thor did it last year too)

- Two sidekicks made good this year: Kanato the samurai and Rin the martial artist. Be prepared to see them in future Ozaka adventures.

My new buddy Ray - This year, was the year I had the most visitors. Of course, Alex FG came by, but also Brandon-B on his scooter, and I saw JP2 give a quick wave. I forget others now, but don't worry I will remember after this gets published.

- One issue that caused consternation was the naming (and renaming) of specials, I may take a different approach next year. But... It will be difficult to get away from clever puns and double-entendre title...

- For the first time this year, I had my adventures bound in a spiral book. It was such a good idea and I was easily able to carry my adventures and specials without doing my typical spread-and-lose method. I will do that again next year. It was a little pricier, but well worth it.

- My 3d printer worked through the year to print the many models used in adventures by the GMs. I gave them baggies of miniatures as a small thank you.

- I will be producing a Narrative Kickoff before Christmas. This will be a short story that will bridge the time between Gencons 2023 and 2024...

Farewell JD

JD and ActionManThe passing of JD Conrad earlier this year, affected me. My good friend had moved on. By then, Gencon was turned in and much written already.

I wanted to do something for him.

So I did a small gesture: I altered the specials to include one table of Rhym characters. Thus, Rhym lived again! It was fun to write for that setting once again and the Rhym crew was perhaps the first really well-balanced group of Iconics.

Big Thanks to Logan and Sicquan for taking on that crew.

I was touched by the respect of the community for JD and his works. I don't think I was able to ask that of people without my voice breaking. I am writing this with wet eyes.

Thanks my friend for giving us Rhym.

Rhym will very likely return next year on the FOE program.


General thank yous: Gencon, the Marriott, city of Indy, and Dennys.

So many people to thanks, as usual. My first specific one goes to all attendees who woke up early, stayed up late, or both. For giving us your time and your confidence to entertain you with unique events.

It is also so pleasing to see returning faces, who come play with us, year after year, and the many who have tried to get FOE tickets only to see them disappear in an instant. I always want to grow but want to do so with quality GMs, products, and adventures.

Next, I must thank the FOE GMS: Adam, Bill, Brandon, Logan, Marissa, Rebecca, Sicquan, Steve, Thor, and Will. You guys really made everything sound great and come alive. I said it before but your personalities and skills crafted the game experience around my framework. I said it many times, but I really get a kick out of listening to you all and to the twists you create. I could not have done it without you. My thanks and love.

Another set of thanks goes to all those who heard me gripe about my adventures either sucking, falling flat, or being unimaginative, OR that I was stuck in the writing process. I would never have gotten it all done without your insight and rubber ducky powers. ActionMan, Brandon, Florence-M, Florent-F, and Will a big thanks to you guys.

This year, my workload was lightened particularly by Bill and Thor who both created awesome adventures that complemented the FOE offering and gave alternative approaches to the setting and new ideas. Bill's site-based investigation and Thor's dungeoncrawl helped craft a very complete slate of adventures, none of which were similar to the others. And you took my odd comments about adding things (green crystal) in stride. You guys rock. Now you've set your own bar pretty high. (Just sayin')

Thanks go to ActionMan who had to hear all about the awesomeness but not begin able to attend. Don't worry bud, you'll be joining us soon enough.

Thanks to my wife, Julie who tolerated my late nights as I tried to get it all done. And the frustrated groans of writer's block. And the online chats at odd hours.

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Friday, August 18, 2023

Gencon 2023 After Action Report Part 5

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 6


Everyone wants to know... "So what are the final results?" For "Regular Mods" (those we ran multiple times), the rules for tabulating are as follows:
1 - The event that happen most often is taken as the result.
2 - In case of a tie, the playtesters' table get the deciding vote. (meaning they could choose an option not most chosen).

For Specials, the rules are simple: what happened is what happened.

AkhametAkhamet The Canopic Resurrection, Matt's excellent dungeoncrawl:
- The Queen of Cats escaped to cause chaos another day.
- The Lich Skunnezzar was resurrected and is free to go about as he wills.
- The lich's library will provide many avenues of study to those researching Pharaoh's current condition.

Akhamet The Dangling Castle, the point-crawl:
- The Castle was sent home, taking many adventurers with it.
- The village was saved.
- The bronze dragon Ratapedes vanished with the castle.

Olympia The Wolves in the Fold, the tale of Artemis' Revenge:
- Heraklea, priestess of Artemis was killed to slate the blood lust of her mistress.
- Truces were made between the PCs and the Spartian leader Keronides.
- Baetius was rescued and returned safely to Mytenia.
- Many instances of single combat, or of a priestess of Aphrodite vs the Spartians. (No, I did not ask more, ask the internet).

Olympia Deja Vu All Over Again, Bill's time and mind-bending titan hunt:
- The village of Delos was freed from Hades' grip
- The shape-shifting titan, Leodes was captured and turned over to the authorities.
- The mayor, Matullis, played up his role to the Queen.

Ozaka Lady Mijiko, A feel good coming-of-age story:
- Lord Azaki's youngest daughter safely reached the village of Iwazaki

Thursday Night's The Ozakan Race, with the rampaging Kaiju:
- The Yokai threatening the land is still out there
- Heroic sacrifices were made and heroes allowed their friends to escape. They were last seen charging the Kaiju Chuwatori as the portal closed.
- All portals were closed, binding Chuwatori once again.
- Relations between Ozakans and the outside world remain somewhat tense. Some links were made but prejudices and distrust still exist.
- Kallias the Oracle of Hermes was technically right... "I never said it was a Temple to Hermes. I said you'd help the Oracle of Hermes and find titans. Where's the lie?" (Smarmy grin)

Friday Night's Tearing Down the Wall, with GMs changing tables:
- Akhamet and Olympia both used Temizia's ritual, allowing the First Ones a secret entry point.
- The Land of the Princesses used Corfell's ritual, preventing the First Ones from reaching in.
- Rhym used Corfell's ritual but did not complete it in time.
- Hapatset had her feline companion killed. The poor kitty touched one of the crystals and burned to death. Bast will have retribution.

Daabi by KeelSaturday Night's Sinking of Bastis, set in another realm:
- Saggakara's natural charm did not come through as she thought. Many disliked or distrusted her.
- The performance contest was won by someone who rolled a 23!
- The princesses forced a goblin to swear fealty, Daabi the goblin. I am thinking of allowing him as a sidekick available only for the Princesses in future years. He could join if there are less than 6 princesses at the table. Whatever the case, I thought the idea so interesting that he has to return. Now I have art for him, he has to appear in future adventures. Isn't that how it works?
- The Sponsors were well-received and made connection to many groups of PCs.

Sunday Morning's Dousing Fire with Blood, the escape adventure:
- Everyone escape the fortress of Titan's Hold.
- The former king, Nestor was executed for his crimes against the Titans. He invoked Zeus before his execution and was struck with a bolt of lightning. His body was never found.
- Some PCs escaped through the portal while most others sailed away.
- Prince Alekreon and Princess Kreozandra was brought to her sister in Mytenia
- Prince Herakreon was taken to the land of the Princesses to be raised under their guardianship
- Emetros-the-Cursed was a big hit. Poor man was turned into a gelatinous cube by Apollo.

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 6

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Gencon 2023 After Action Report Part 4

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 5 | 6


And just a quickly, it was Sunday morning. Packed up the van and back to the Marriott.

There is always trepidation about Sunday. Ticket sales mean nothing. (It was sold out). Every time, people buy tickets but do not show up. Particularly on Sunday.

I was happy to give Bill a free slot, so he headed to the dealer hall to his wallet's dismay!

The crew was in high spirits with their voices still intact - a bonus at that time of the con!

We had four mostly full tables, after seating generics. I had to turn generics away many times during the con - a nice problem to have.

Power Is FickleDousing Fire with Blood is an adventure I ran at Gencon... 2014..? I initially thought to re-write it for 5e and run it. However, the more I looked at it, the less it pleased me. I was really in a bind because the more I worked on it, the less useful it became to me: It set up no thread I could follow up on. It was just... useless.

Then I was talking to someone else about adventure design and told that person. "You know sometime, you just have to flip your premise on its head."


I knew what I had to do. I scrapped EVERYTHING I had for this adventure. I mean the lot. And jumped forward in the future to the events AFTER the original, bypassing them completely. From there, things came through. I did have one encounter I thought sucked, got help and solved that problem. The result was something well-formed in my mind.

Then I sent my GMs loose on it... They created a third version of the story. Though it wasn't what I had planned, I thought what they did made the story a lot more fluid and added choices to the players. So I got to look good for money added.


That was it for Gencon. Packing and leaving.

Thirty miles out of Indy, I realized I forgot my folding table in the room! GAH! It was good one: light and easy to open and close (we have others but they are pains to transport). Oh well... It was gone... *sigh*

Tried to get it back, but it was gone. I may get it back next year...

Monday Onward

Monday, I came down with a severe case of con crud (no Covid). That lasted for most of the week.

I slept most of the day re-watching the Nashville Grand Prix as I kept falling asleep over it. It was great to be back.

Click for larger version

Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 5 | 6

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Gencon 2023 After Action Report Part 3

Parts 1 | 2 | 4 | 5 | 6


Friday morning, slot #3 of Lady Mijiko. This one confirmed that the adventure, though it is challenging, did not live up to the deadly reputation my first slot gave me. There was a death, however, when someone used stealth to sneak away from the party and explore something on their own. Ran into an encounter on his own. And no body was found - or sought.

For the afternoon, I had a free slot.


So, I went to the ICC, turned in all my tickets, picked up my coupon book, and headed to the dealer hall. I did not have any specific target. I wanted to pick up my free dice. This year, Crocodile Games were not there, so the money in my pocket remained there. Bittersweet to be honest. I always love speaking with Fitz there.

I wandered briefly until I got to the Gooey Cube booth where I picked up the two Genzacon adventures. Both Will and Randy had talked to me about their stuff and I thought getting both would be a fun thing to do. Using my coupon, I got both for the price of one. BOGO.

I also stopped for some liquid core dice... Pricy but so soo shiny... I had to get two. One for me and one for ActionMan. Then, I returned to the Michigan Room to make sure everything was fine.

It was.

So I spent the rest of the slot listening to games being played and really enjoying GM-craft. It is always so interesting to listen to great games. Bill, who was now in his third time running "Deja vu all over again" was in spendid form. Matt was his highly entertaining self. Marissa was at her first running of Wolves. Finally, new GM Rebecca was running the Dangling Castle. Her nerves showed a bit, but as the slot went on, she settled down and did a great job. One thing I recommended to help her speed up combat was to use average damage. I recommend most GMs do that, by the way. Makes combat zip by.

The evening was Tearing Down The Wall, and adventure whose format I had originally planned for Gencon 2020. However, the story completely changed.

As the barriers between the worlds weakened, worlds begin to collide and crash into each other. Elements begin shifting between worlds. Check out these pictures to see how this was accomplished. Oh and what I did most of the time...


And just like that, it was Saturday...

For the morning, I had my final run of Lady Mijiko. Another great group, these guys actually almost figured out the plot but missed one crucial clue (which was not in the adventure) to find out who was the villain.

For the afternoon, I was free once again. This time, I took the opportunity to do a number of things: listen to my GMs do their thing, went around the Marriott to see other rooms. The place was truly popping and it was great to see. So many people enjoying games. I saw worried looks, smiles, concern, and despair... all the things you want to see from players.

I also managed to take a nap in the corridor. And while I slept, it seems everyone came to see me! Lucky for me, I got to spend a few hours with my good friend Alex-FG (from college/university). Great catching up with him. He played in my Thursday afternoon's Lady Mijiko game but we hadn't had much time to talk after - with me organizing and such.

Good times.

I was pulled back to the room to start the madness that was to be The Sinking of Bastis. Here, the PCs were invited to a music festival in the City of Cats. When the city around the Palace of Sweet Dreams was taken to another realm. Here, this world was a patchwork place made of pieces from different worlds.

Under the command of Saggakara, they explored and defended the pieces of the city from barbarians, made deals with other factions also stuck in this place. Eventually, they were sent to destroy large collections of green crystals to allow Bastis to go home. They succeeded and in doing so, sacrificed themselves in the process.

I must admit I was rather worried about the ending, whether people would pelt me with dice and food carton.

Lucky for me, no. I like to think that my "come back tomorrow morning to find out what happens next," may have saved me. Still from the faces, there were really excited faces. Many people spoke about how excited they were about the story and how they enjoyed the multi-table nature of the event.

Next, Sunday... The day everything hinged on...

You can click on them to view a larger version.

Parts 1 | 2 | 4 | 5 | 6

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Gencon 2023 After Action Report Part 2

Parts 1 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6


Finally, it was time for the con. I had a crazy week as I wanted to leave my coworkers in the best situation possible as I told them I would not answer my phone for the next few days. The understood I was going to GM through the day and would not have my phone handy. Love these guys!

I got up, got everything packed in the minivan (those things are great for a Gencon event coordinator!) and headed to pick Thor and then Will.

The best part of the drive was... that there isn't anything to report about the drive. We stopped at Denny's and learned some of the WTF history of Indiana on the way.

Quick stop at the ICC. Checked out our game room. Got GM badges. Found and set up a fridge.

Hotel room for an early night.

Well... at least Will had an early night. I was gripped by insomnia again. On the plus side, I got to write 2,500 words on my Olympia novel. Great for work. Sucks for sleep.

It was time to game!


My first slot was Thursday at 8am, running the Ozaka adventure Lady Mijiko's Journey. This would be the only Ozaka adventure offered at the con. So how it played really had me nervous. Add to it that following the playtest, the adventure saw significant re-writes. How would it work?

Well I left the adventure with blood on my hands. A lot of blood. Two party members died at the first battle (both roll natural '1s' after failing a death saving throw). I had to pull out the sidekicks in the first slot.

Then the very next encounter, another PC got killed, again with a natural '1' on a death saving throw...

Oh my! This promised to be a difficult weekend.

Only a few no-shows even at this early hour. I felt pretty positive about the attendance.

The afternoon was pretty full. My second table of Lady Mijiko ran without a hitch. I was ready to scale back and alter the adventure, but there was no problem there. Better tactics, better luck led to a more positive outcome.

Then it was time for our first Special... And the fun really began.

Oh not just because I had to change the order of the specials from the Gencon program. I had to swap them because while in the process of writing, the new order just made more sense.

The short of the story: PCs go investigating a local tower in ruin occupied by local monsters. When they get there, they find an open portal to a strange land... Ozaka! Traveling there, they meet locals who agree to help them. To find the missing portal piece, they have to brave the creature known as Chuwatori... a large reptilian creature that cannot be killed...


You can click on them to view larger versions.

Parts 1 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Monday, August 14, 2023

Gencon 2023 After Action Report Part 1

Parts 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Before Gencon

Gencon never starts with the con. It typically starts when I'm driving back from Gencon. That's when I begin spitballing a few ideas to my carmates about "you know what would be cool?" But then I promptly forget most of that, my fatigued brain remembering only a few elements of the ideas. These form the core of adventures to be explored.

Nothing fully-formed, just an overall idea.

Having run "Hades' Back Door" in 2022, I had created an elaborate magic trap/puzzle for my table of 11th-level First Ones. It featured a massive green crystal, effectively one of the many lynchpins of the universe, holding the planes separate from each other.

And they cast disintegrate on it.

Just like that.

No puzzle. No discovery.

Worse thing: that was one way to solve the challenge.


Now I had initially planned on having a war between the titans and the gods of Olympia, but as everything marinated in my brain, such an opportunity was just too good to pass up. It had to become the focus of my annual storyline. When would I get another change? Not without forcing it.

It's one thing I love about running this "campaign." Not only do I not script the storyline beyond one Gencon (or if I do, it is in such broad strokes that it can be used for anything), but I set things up so that the players make choices that affect and direct my storyline. Just because I tell you "next year, we are fighting the titans" does not mean someone won't do something that requires a different story to be told.

I do think of artifices of the game and how to change or alter the formula: six players, one (round) table, and one GM. My idea is to offer a playing experience that is completely different from other gaming group, particularly for our specials. I know many groups offer great, quality games, but how many seek to break the mold?

FOE does.

And I am lucky to have a growing crew of GMs willing to go along with the madness I envision and run with it. Giving life to these visions.

So... How to break up everything into tiny chunks? So that each adventure gives some added piece of the puzzle.

First challenge was to identify something that could be used as a common link. That was pretty simple, if everything came from a shattered green crystal, green crystals would be manifestations of something wrong.

Next, I sat down and broke the events I wanted to run by setting:
- An Ozaka Introduction (It would be the major release of the year)
- Two Akhamet
- Two Olympia
- Four Specials

The great news was that BOTH Bill-C and Thor-G both offered to write and run an adventure for FOE. This would be Thor's second adventure and he wanted to write an Akhamet dungeoncrawl. Bill's idea was a little more nebulous but it would be set in Olympia.

I quickly broke things up into smaller pieces. High-level notes about what the overall theme was for the adventure. My post-it board was filled with a few words like "Dungeoncrawl," "divine curse," and "Godzilla" with partial arrangements ready to be turned into adventures.

That was all nice and good. But many many times over the next few months, I got hit with a horrible case of writer's block. I knew what I wanted to do at a high level, but turning those ideas into adventures just didn't happen.

I reached out to different people to get different perspectives or views on what I had and with their help, I was able to complete the adventures. Each of them having something different and something new. See I COULD use the same formula and run the same thing over and over, but I refuse to do so. I want things to be different, sometimes those difference are mostly of me the writer, but I like to think they all feel different in play too.

I finished the last adventure sometime in mid-july and thought I would relax.

But that was me not counting on the printed miniatures I forgot to prepare for the GMs. See, this year, I thought I had everything done, but I basically got in the car with paint still drying on my hand...

Here are some of the miniatures I painted (GMs, you can guess which ones I painted last...). You will notice the diversity of creatures used across the con. And some creatures appeared multiple times. You can click on them to view larger versions.

Parts 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6