JP On Gaming

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

[Old Pro Tricks] Character Backgrounds: A fourth question!

If you watch D&D Youtubers or even many other bloggers, they tell GMs to have players write them extensive backgrounds. That sounds awesome but when I am given a four-page novella, I often go, "Huh... that's not quite how I figured things would go."

Katharan al-ZawreeSo you end up stimying the players' creativity with characters who know nothing of their background, have no family, and no love affairs. Other than ladies of ill-repute they don't care about.

If you have been around this blog long enough, you will notice I changed my mind multiple times. Like when I thought about a good background length (where I recommended keeping it short), and especially the One Person, One Place, One Event technique. Both of those emphasize simplicity and brevity. They serve to get both player and GM to discuss.

The 1P1P1E technique in particular makes for simple obvious hooks. Effectively, the player gives the GM three hooks and reason for your character to adventure.

As a forever GM, I like to have as few notes as possible. No (just) because I'm lazy, but especially so I can easily and quickly find this information when my players are in front of my without having to point to one players and go "Who's that NPCs of yours? Oh yeah, your dad!".

The fourth question, is Tell me one mystery/questions you'd like to see in the game.

Fine, fine, it's not a question.

Jim HawkinsIt's a thread I can weave into the narrative. This could be a monster, a magic item, or a mystery about the setting or the character's background. This allows me to weave or use some of these into the different adventures. Give the player a simple nod during the game.

So 2p1e1q (or Spleeq) is the new style of character backstory I use from here on.

The great thing about it is that it can be used with any game system and any type of game without difficulty. It's a simple, highly portable way to create ways to have your character tied into the world.

Monday, April 8, 2024

[Kinda Book Report] Essential Astonishing Ant-man 1

Well... Most Marvel comics of that period with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are usually pretty good. Then there is Ant-Man.

Hank Pym and (later in the story) Janet van Dyne can become small. Then later, Ant-Man becomes Giant-man as he can only become big. I don't know why they changed because Giant-Man is much crappier than Ant-Man.

These stories feel much more like the DC stories of the era than those of Marvel. Especially when you compare to Spider-man or Iron-man. In short, they are just so bland and forgettable. Ant-Man and Wasp are NOT characters who can hold a series by their own. They make great characters as part of the Avengers, but on their own... *yawn*

The art is fine and is perhaps the best thing about it. But the plots are simply not interesting. The villain uninspired. And the resolutions...

This book is a 2/5 and I'm generous. I was bored out of my mind.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

[After Action Report] MidSouthCon 2024

A little late for this one... Ahh life...

After a pause of one year, MidSouthCon returned, this time in a new location, in Olive Branch Mississippi. In case you don't know I have a total geek's dream of playing one game of either RPG, LARP, or miniature wargame in every state in the continental United States. Mississippi was one of the states I never been (much less played in).


Friday night, I had a panel about world building in fiction and gaming. Which was at 10pm. Perfect! As it allowed me to drive to Memphis, check in to the hotel, and the con...

One fun fact: After checking in, as we drove back to the con site, I swerved to avoid coming the wrong way on the road!!! I must have succeeded in my driving check because I am here, but ActionMan did not even wake up!

We sat down to a panel about horror tropes. Now I'm much more of an horror than ActionMan who seems more "fine" with it.

The panel was interesting and fun with a good flow with diverse influences and perspectives. One older lady was strongly on the fiction side of things and had absolutely fantastic stories to tell about meeting classical authors. I had published gaming material while the other two members were experienced GMs who ran events.

I used to stay away from these panels, but more and more I find myself drawn to them. Perhaps as a way to share experience.

ActionMan took a few pictures during the panel.


Saturday, I offered one game, which would serve as the first playtest for Gencon. I ran the Olympia adventure Mud Slingers. Playtesting is absolutely fantastic because it gives me invaluable insight. I was worried the adventure would run quick, jokingly saying "we'll be done in 2 hours".

But it took a solid 4h to complete. On-time!

Shocked ActionMan
Action shot Action shot

After finishing my game, I joined a Delta Green adventure. ActionMan went to play a Pathfinder/ TV cartoon game. Unfortunately, the adventure ran too long and the final confrontation was handwaved. Too bad because the plot was pretty horrific. The theme was perhaps overly sexual for a public game, but the GM did a good job.

The premise, of us having to go into a place during a snowstorm, really added to the urgency and made the situation very interesting. I may very well steal that hook but I will use a different denouement.

After a quick walk to the nearby Taco Bell, we sat to play a Savage World game. ActionMan's first attempt with SW. The adventure could have been run using Mothership or another similar system. It was effectively a re-inventing of Jonh Carpenter's 'The Thing', a film both of us enjoy. We did fine and managed to survive, even if the world is doomed because we consistently failed perception-based checks...


After breakfast at Waffle House, we returned to the con shortly before 9am. There was something rather odd about the almost empty halls.

We both thought it felt like the Backrooms. (If you don't know what the Backrooms are, look at Kane Pixel's work on Youtube, I also wrote an adventure using them called Cthulhu Modern: Beyond the Door). Empty hotel halls feel blank and devoid of anything. Yeah, we cringed and had a fun time laughing (nervously) about it.

Since the only event going on was the Anime showcase, we went there. What sucked was that the feed cut every 30-45 seconds with a big clunk sound and the screen going dark. We chuckled but after a short time, it lost its interest and we left.

We split and I went to attend a panel about "Valuing your books" I expected this would be about pricing books, but no. The lady talked about getting books priced and evaluated. It really made me think of "The Ninth Gate" movie with Johnny Depp. Interesting to know and something I may used in an adventure later.

Meanwhile, ActionMan hit the board game room and played games.

I attended another this time about Drafting Military SciFi. I'm no military man myself but it was the panel I was most interested in. A pilot, a marine, and a navyman... It was interesting and gave me a few things to think about for SpaceFOE.

Next I gave my final panel, this one about improvisation and how to use and leverage. Again, the panel was interesting because I was the D&D guy while the others favored more freeform storytelling systems and/or LARPs. The difference in experiences added to the discussion, highlighting the difference (why system is important) and the similarities in techniques, styles, and tricks used regardless of the system.

I had a blast but it was time to drive back home.


This was the first time under the new administration and overall, I thought it was a pretty good one. There were a few bumps in the road, but I think these issues will be resolved next year. We still had a good time and definitely plan on going back next year.
- Attendance Low: Perhaps it was the new layout but it seemed like the attendance was lighter. I believe this was linked to the skip of a year.
- Nice venue: The new venue was comfortable and nice. My main issue is that everything is on different floors so things seemed quite separated.
- Good to be back! Both ActionMan and I enjoyed going back to the Memphis area.

I said it multiple times but I always believe Midsouthcon to be the official kick off of the con season that peaks at Gencon. It allowed me to test an adventure.

We'll be back in Memphis next year!