Jacob W. Michaels's page

400 posts. Alias of motteditor (RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16).

Full Name

Jacob W. Michaels


Newspaper copy editor, freelance game designer






Bethlehem, Pa.




Newspaper copy editor, freelance game designer

About Jacob W. Michaels

I've been gaming since elementary school, though hopefully I've improved since then. My first recollection is "Expedition to Barrier Peaks," though mostly I think I was excited about having laser guns. Hey, it was third grade, or thereabouts.

Growing up, I mainly played D&D, though dabbled in Champions, Shadowrun, Gamma World (though that was mostly in my Monty Haul era and I shudder to think of it), Battletech, Top Secret, TMNT, Toon, Torg, Talislanta and even a home-brew game or two.

After getting out of the hobby for a few years in college, I got back into it with D&D 2.0, advanced to 3.0 and switched to Pathfinder in late 2010.

My gaming history:

The start
Like others, I started way back with the boxed edition -- I want to say I was in the third or fourth grade, which would've been '83 or '84. I remember the blue dice you had to pencil in with the white crayon thing. I have the vaguest of memories of running through "Expedition to Barrier Peaks."

I played a lot growing up, though to be honest, I don't recall most of the campaigns. I think they were probably a lot of just getting huge amounts of treasure. I vaguely remember one female wizard who ended up having lots of animals she trained -- I think she had a cheetah/leopard/liger/something and rode around on an elephant by the end. And I wanted to change her name in the middle of gaming so the first name ended up being a pseudonym she used since you never want to let people know your real name.

Ooooh, and I just remembered I had a kender. I LOVED kenders. I of course had a list with all the stuff in her pouches so I could roll to see what I grabbed. And the artifact she got that gave her a white stripe down her hair -- obviously that was when we got in our X-Men phase.

Fortunately, my parents are old fantasy nerds -- my mother especially still loves Lord of the Rings (our first dog was named after a character from the books) -- so they were always encouraging of my hobby.

I tried bunches of other games, which mostly means I'd make up characters and if I ever played them, it was never more than a half-dozen times: Top Secret, Toon, Gamma World, Battletech, TMNT, Torg, Talislanta, a home-brew game or two (though Champions and Shadowrun lasted a bit longer). Like you all, I kept coming back to fantasy, mostly D&D.

The fallow ages
I also dropped out of gaming a bit during that high school era. Honestly, I think it was more that my closest friend I gamed with really lost interest but it's hard to play by one's self.

I tried to start up a bit again freshman year in college, but it didn't work out for reasons I don't really recall. I guess I just didn't hit it off with the group of gamers I'd met, so moved on to other pursuits (mostly IRC, and RAC* on Usenet).

After college, I moved out to the middle of nowhere, Ohio. Definitely no role-playing there.

The Renaissance
However, after a year in Podunk, I got a job in State College, Pa. Nerd renaissance! I don't really remember exactly how I got back into gaming , but I assume I must've seen a flyer (for Rolemaster) during a trip to the comic store and said, "Hey, I remember gaming. I used to really like it." That petered out and I tried a couple other games (Vampire, for the first time) and eventually got into D&D 3.0 (I think I actually got the books for free, since I reviewed them for my newspaper).

The present
Moved to eastern Pennsylvania a little more than nine years ago and ended up meeting my current closest friends here via a flyer in the local comic store. Mostly it's three of us (with me GMing most of the time now, though we've all taken our turns), but sometimes my friend's wife joins in games as well. We played a bunch of D&D -- several campaigns coming and going -- with our best campaign being one that took us from 10th to 15th level. Stuck with 3.0 when 3.5 came out since none of us wanted to update our books.

When 4.0 came out, I bought those books, as did one of my friends and we both kind of decided we'd still just stick with 3.0 (especially since our third friend had no interest in buying new books). I forget how I discovered Pathfinder. Most likely, my friend bought the book, though I don't know how he'd have learned of it. I knew Paizo had taken over Dungeon magazine, but I'd no clue about Pathfinder.

Once I learned about it, though, I felt (and feel) like it fixed soooo much of what I didn't like about 3.0 that I really couldn't have been (and still can't) be much happier with it. I remember just being SOOOO excited about it when I learned about it, especially with how skills had been fixed. Where 3.0 gave a fighter, for example, no skill points and no options on where to spend them, Pathfinder (or D&D 3.75 as I probably shouldn't admit we still sometimes call it...) took away the restrictions and made it so I could have a fighter who could also spot something lurking in ambush.

Started doing PBP games on the website a year ago, shortly after discovering the website and Superstar contest.

I learned about the contest last year but didn't enter. I thought of an item I thought was interesting (and still do, though it's not Superstar -- basically a set of paired circlets that let one person see and hear what the other is experiencing; though they'd get sickened if they opened their eyes while looking through the other person's) but couldn't quite get a name I liked and never wrote it up.

I figured I'd practice all year and never did. : / When this year's contest came around, I was STILL playing with that item in my head. Then I was lying in bed and the mirror of many echoes (posted in the self-reject thread) came to me out of nowhere. I wrote up a couple versions of that, but just couldn't quite nail it. I think I was perusing last year's items (and the critique thread) when something in the candle of viscous ephemera caught my interest. From there, my haunting glass was born.

* Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of the High Court contributing author: Royal Defenders section, including three archetypes, two witch hexes and a witch patron (3.5 stars)
* Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Taverns contributing author: Formidably Maid
* Pathfinder Player Companion: Merchant's Manifest contributing author: Absalom and Caliphas sections
* Pathfinder Adventure Path #133: Secrets of Roderic's Cove (Return of the Runelords 1 of 6) contributing author: Warpglass ooze, in the bestiary
* Pathfinder Player Companion: Martial Arts Handbook contributing author: unarmed experts and improvised adepts sections

Superstar Entries:
2012 Round 1: Haunting glass
2012 Round 2: The Unfettered
2012 Round 3: Sidhe noble

2014 Round 1: Poltergeist knot (published in Daughters of Fury)
2014 Round 2: Guttersnipe
2014 Round 3: Ketterak, the Burning Village

Swords for Hire Development
A partnership with Superstar Top 4 Mikko Kallio started in 2014 (and later joined by RPG Superstar Mike Welham), where we give other newer developers a chance to get work published.
* Judge and co-founder, Here Be Monsters (2014)
* Villain Codex I: Foes for Fledgling Heroes is our first PDF, from Outland Entertainment, featuring 12 exciting, memorable NPCs for players to face, complete with stat blocks across a range of challenge ratings (3-8).
* Judge, Here Be Monsters 2: Hell Breaks Loose (2016)
* Villain Codex II: Adversaries for Advanced Heroes (Five stars)
* Villain Codex III: Enemies for Epic Heroes (Five stars)
* Villain Codex IV: Monsters for Meddlesome Heroes (Five stars)
* Judge, Here Be Monsters III: From Beyond the Stars (2016)
* Judge, Here Be Monsters 4: Out of the Primal World (2017)
* Creator, judge, DesignFinder Pathfinder Roleplaying Game talent search competition
* Judge, Here Be Monsters 5: Technology Gone Wrong (Starfinder) (2018)

Raging Swan Press products
* "The Ants Go Marching In" encounter in Random Encounters: Wilderness (Five stars)
* "The Sting of Sun and Sand" in Random Encounters: Wilderness II (Five stars)
* A section on dungeon lighting in GM's Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing (five stars) that Endzeitgeist called "one of the most useful DM-cheat-sheets of the whole series ... providing everything you need to know in that regard rules-wise at one glance. ... Detailed, versatile and downright brilliant, this chapter is glorious in its evocative details, even before the 2 new light-based traps." (Five stars)
* Village Backdrop: Aubade, which Endzeitgeist says is "one of the most impressive Village Backdrops in the series – and in a series with SO MANY excellent installments, that indeed is a feat." (Five stars+)
* Gibbous Moon - Collector's Edition, for which I added a village backdrop to the original adventure that brought it from 4.5 stars to five stars and a seal of approval by Endzeitgeist. (Five stars+)
* Village Backdrop: Hopespyre, "Jacob W. Michaels is a damn talented author and this pdf pretty much showcases some of his talents," says Endzeitgeist, who gives it five stars and his seal of approval. (Five stars+)
* Village Backdrop: Denhearth, which Endzeitgeist calls "a thoroughly compelling settlement - with a unique angle, capable NPCs and a surprising emphasis on kind characters as a beacon of light, the place not only will be useful for the PCs, it'll be a place they WANT to keep safe - which ties in perfectly with the numerous options and narrative directions a GM can take the village." He gives it five stars and his seal of approval. (Five stars+)
* Village Backdrop: Cahill Abbey, about which Endzeitgeist notes, "addition of a smart example for the trope of the self-fulfilling prophecy adds yet another facet to a versatile, well-written settlement." (Five stars+)
* Places of Power: Penitent's Rest "is a nice place of sanctuary you can easily drop in just about any wilderness environment," Endzeitgeist says. (three and a half stars)
* Places of Power: Visionary's Perch "is AMAZING. ... this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque," according to Endzeitgeist. (Five stars)
* Places of Power: Fraywrack, which Endzeitgeist calls "creative, cool and unique - the idea is simple, but the execution is frankly inspired and chock-full with roleplaying potential." (Five stars)
* Places of Power: Dead Man's Run
* Village Backdrop: Gulls' Roost

Rusted Iron Games
* The gloom bough and a selection of haunts for Rusted Iron Games' Spooky Gardens: Autumn Special (Five stars)
* Deadly Gardens Player Companion: Verids (Five stars)
* Deadly Gardens: Green Man (Four stars)
* Deadly Gardens: Faerie Circle Stalker (Five stars)
* Deadly Gardens: Dream Weed (five stars)

Flying Pincushion Games
* The scorned heart archetype for Into the Breach: The Witch (Four stars), about which Endzeitgest says, "The Scorned Heart rocks. ... Great archetype! Seriously flavorful and cool! Two thumbs up!"
* The circuit judge archetype for Into the Breach: The Inquisitor (Four stars), which one reviews calls "a perfect example of a themed archetype."
* The charioteer archetype for Into the Breach: The Cavalier (4.5 stars), which Endzeitgeist says "add a massive, cool dimension" to vehicle combat and play tests here.
* The poacher archetype for Into the Breach: The Rogue (3.5 stars)

* Wayfinder 10: Three types of magical ammunition in Heroes' Hoard: Desert Magic: sirocco bolt, arrow of aphasia and sunflower slingstone
* Wayfinder 11: Everbloom Leshy
* Wayfinder 12: Weal or Woe: The Fallen Pharaoh
* Wayfinder 15: Weal or Woe: River Kingdoms Gods; and Chosen Sovereign, a paladin archetype
* Wayfinder 16: Chargemoth Swarm
* Wayfinder 17: Strength Through Sin: Weaponry of Thassilon (with Isabelle Lee, who really deserves most of the credit for this after she did the bulk of the work based on my concept)
* Wayfinder 18: Golarion Gazetteer: The Palakar Provinces

Other work
* Ironwall Gap Must Hold, a module for 7th-level PCs that features the new mass combat rules (Five stars)
* A pair of magic items in Jon Brazer Enterprises' Treasury of the Sands
* Two spells in From the Forge: 13 Evil Spells (Four stars)
* Obsidian Apocalypse: Player's Guide from Louis Porter Jr. Design (Five stars)
* Call to Arms: Ceremonial Masks from Fat Goblin Games (Four stars)
* Call to Arms: Societal Masks from Fat Goblin Games; a follow-up to the Ceremonial Masks book that features a special mini-adventure using new rules from from Ultimate Intrigue. (Four and a half stars)
* Monster Menagerie: Troops from Rogue Genius games (Five stars+); Endzeitgeist says, "This delivers. BIG TIME. I am not kidding when I’m saying that this is, hands down, my favorite book in the whole series AND my favorite book from Jacob’s pen. This is one amazing, no filler, all killer monster book."
* A two-page write-up of the Shattered Skies god Coirithradail as supporting material in Charlie Brooks' adventure, Despicable Deeds. (Three and a half stars)
* Swashbuckler archetypes in Blood and Steel, Book 5: The Swashbuckler.