This one is for the GMs. Edge of the Empire’s latest sourcebook is Suns of Fortune, detailing the planet Corellia, all the major planets in the system, and the planets beyond in the Corellian sector. Corellia is home to Han Solo and Wedge Antilles; as such, Corellians are known for their piloting skills. Unlike the previous source book for explorer characters Enter the Unknown, this book has only 16 pages of its 144 dedicated to player options, ships, species, and equipment. The majority of the book details planets and points of interest on those planets, as well as dangerous local fauna that will likely try and eat the party.
For those Star Wars fans familiar with the galactic geography of the Star Wars universe, Corellia seems like an odd system to expand upon for EDGE of the Empire, as it sits squarely in the core worlds. However, Corellia has always blazed it’s own trail and was aptly described in a recent Order 66 podcast as “Space-Texas.” (If you’ve got a spare 2-4 hours, or are going on a roadtrip, it makes for a fun listen.)
Somewhat surprisingly, there is not a full-length adventure included in the book. Instead, this book provides several “modular encounters” which are set pieces that can be dropped in to a lot of different adventures, but definitely have a Corellian feel. Some of the more versatile encounters include a Sabacc game with some crafty card-sharks, a merchant transaction that gets spicy when a very unhappy customer shows up with the PCs caught in the middle, an encounter with local customs authorities while smuggling etc. Throughout the book there are lots of stats for adversaries in all sorts of situations, and lots of adventure seeds from descriptions of planets just off the beaten path.
The new species are the Selonians, the Drall, and the Corellian human. The Corellian starts with a skill in piloting (space or planetary) and interestingly can train up to rank 3 during character generation which breaks the typical limit of two. The Drall seem like highly intelligent, note-taking Ewoks. The Selonians are like tall battle ferrets with a tail attack. I’m a bit underwhelmed by the few character options that are in the book.
For a system known for building some of the best and fastest ships in the galaxy, there are precious few pages dedicated to them. There are a few airspeeders, landspeeders, and some stats for some mining vehicles, and a good mix of fighters, patrol boats, light freighters and one small capitol ship (the assassin corvette). I had imagined there would be more focus on the ships as that is what Corellia is known for.
Overall, I think the focus and audience of this book is a lot more narrow than Enter the Unknown. Maybe my expectations were set higher from being so pleasantly surprised with the Explorer’s sourcebook. Unless you are a GM looking to please a group of PCs who want to play pilots and extensively explore one sector, this is probably a pass. The material is all here to build an entire Corellian campaign, but with the rest of the galaxy just a few parsecs away, why limit yourself?
Today ended a successful Kickstarter campaign for Fat Dragon Games‘ medieval village of Ravenfell. The village of Ravenfell, and the products of the inevitable stretch goals, are paper modelling products: You print them, cut them, paste them, and viola! you’ve got as much scenery as you could possibly need (for that particular setting anyway).
I got into this many years ago, and spent a week toiling away cutting out bits and pieces for my planned game of Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords. That module (30 year old spoiler alert) takes part largely in the Slaver City of Suderham, and several bars come into play. I printed and prepped several key barroom items and I was able to mix and match my way into the appearance of several unique appearing locations.This is before I sank unmentionable sums on the last Dwarven Forge Kickstarter, (in fact, it predated kickstarter) but I think it added something, and could potentially be quite worthwhile to produce decent scenery on the cheap.
Paper Modelling is in some ways superior to your plaster and plastic backgrounds and scenery, in that they are objectively quite beautiful and not subject to your potentially substandard painting skills. You also have as much as you care to print, and could potentially manufacture an entire city for the price of the PDF and an ink cartridge (or two). I’ve been using Posterize to great effect to get the benefit of the beautiful maps from Paizo’s modules, as I stated a few blog posts ago, but this is a higher order entirely: Three dimensional, and now stacked in layers, if Fat Dragon’s Tom Tullis is to be believed. I clicked in at the “Beggar $1.00″ level for a while before finally being sold to jump in at the Knight level at $50.00. It’s a lot for some PDF’s but I appreciate the effort and support the project. And what do kids really need with a college education anyway.
There are significant downsides, to be sure. Paper modelling takes time. Precise cutting and gluing can be tedious work, and sometimes things don’t seem to come out quite how you expected they would. Ink isn’t cheap, either, and depending on your printer, you might wonder if you’re really saving money or not. Traditionally, the items are not as durable as a resin or plaster product (though are infinitely more replaceable) and can be tricky to store without crushing. Fat Dragon has apparently attempted to address this with collapsible pieces, which I look forward to giving a try.
Should you choose to download a copy of their other products, I believe you’ll be pleased with the quality of the artwork, and you’ll find that your time invested can be richly rewarding. You’ll want to pick up a few items to complete your ‘kit’ for paper modelling.
1. “Self-healing” cutting mat – these come in various sizes and serve to protect your tabletop while allowing your blade to cut the template cleanly.
2. Exacto knife – You don’t want to try this with scissors…. you might have one of these already from your miniature modelling, which will save you a few bucks. A must for these sometimes complex templates.
3. Water based glue – a type of craft glue that is tough yet forgiving (you may want some super glue at some point for certain models, however).
4. Markers – You’ll find that darkening the edges of the scores and cuts that compose the corners of your models will drastically improve the quality of their appearance.
5. Metal Ruler – Typically with a cork back, this will avoid slipping while cutting and make sure your cuts are a little more clean.
Consider going out and buying a set or taking a shot with the various free samples out there on the internet. You may find that you’ve got a new hobby, or at the very least the perfect prop for that encounter makes a particular encounter special.
I recently received my copy of Intrigue at the Court of Chaos from our FLGS, and it is fairly unique among the other DCC adventures. Its difficult to write a review like this without giving away some serious spoilers, but I think I can tip-toe around the main ones and at least speak to the concept of the adventure. One thing I love about DCC is that a 1st level adventure can have you traveling between planes, and coming face to face with deities. Normally RPGs reserve this for the very pinnacle of level advancement, with DCC all bets are off.
I think the cover for this module is one of Doug Kovacs’ absolute best. The swirling colors and myriad of characters immediately tips you off that this is not going to be a typical dungeon delve. Also the first map on the inside cover is of the court of chaos, and rather than a typical compass rose indicating which direction is north, it simply states: “N = There is no North! All is Chaos!” This was apparently a note on the reference map from adventure author Michael Curtis that Doug left in.
This is not a “beer and pretzels” kill the goblins in the cave and take their stuff 1st level adventure. This is much more cerebral and requires negotiation, and possible Player vs. Player in-fighting. The first part of this module is perfect for players who gush about not rolling a die for several hours and having it be the best RPG experience they have ever had. It certainly appeals to some, and definitely not to others. Essentially the party is charged with retrieving the Yokeless Egg from the Plane of Law, but the terms of this agreement and who in the party returns the egg to which member of the court brings about the intrigue.
The second part of the adventure involves actually retrieving the egg itself, which is more of a typical delve, if anything can be described as typical in DCC. One of the challenges I really enjoyed encourages the GM to drop a lump of clay on the table and have the players form something from it to solve puzzle. You can also do it through a roll with bonuses depending on your PC’s profession, or use a combination of both, but I felt the actual clay would make for a memorable encounter. Most of the plane of law is very combat-light and puzzle-heavy. If your group is tired of the old combat slog through a monster-hotel, this will be a refreshing change of pace. If all your players want to do is slay legions of beastmen with 32+ spell check magic missle, this may not be the best adventure for them.
There is a lot of potential to have one PC (accidentally or on purpose) leave the rest of the party stranded on the plane of law. There is also a lot of motivation for players to backstab (sometimes literally) the rest of their party for their own personal gain. (Hooray chaos!) There is a clear disclaimer at the beginning of the adventure that if your players “enjoyment of the game would be compromised” by such scheming, this is likely not the adventure for your table. I feel like both this, and the bonus adventure from the special edition of The 13th Skull called The Balance Blade could be exciting as a one-shot, but would be very challenging to integrate in to an existing campaign.
Overall it is a very entertaining read, and for the right group would be a very memorable game, but it certainly isn’t for everyone.
Fantasy Flight released their first character sourcebook for Edge of the Empire, Enter the Unknown: A Sourcebook for Explorers. At first I thought it sort of an odd choice, because as I go through the list of Edge careers, explorer probably isn’t even in my top 3. However, since Edge of the Empire is about the EDGE of known space and the outer rim, it does kind of make sense to dedicate more pages to those intrepid characters dedicated to charting new territory. This book includes not only new specializations for the explorer class, but new races, gear, and adventure seeds for the GM to create all sorts of explorer-centric stories.
First up, races. Enter the Unknown details stats for Chiss, Duros, and Toydarians. The most recognizable Chiss would be (the now non-canonical) Grand Admiral Thrawn. Arguably the most awesome empire villain since Vader himself. They are described as “cold and calculating” and known for the patience and tactical aptitude, which seem to me to be more traits of an individual than an entire race, but when one has as many races as the Star Wars universe, perhaps one needs to cut corners somewhere. It’s strange that they mention a cultural taboo of preemptive strikes, yet one of the racial abilities is starting with a rank in Cool, the skill you use for preemptive strikes. Hmmm. Cool is also based off presence, the one stat in which the Chiss start with a one. Since they’re so tactical, I would house-rule them to start with a rank in Vigilance as that is the more reactive skill. Other than that, they start with a three in Intellect, and their red eyes have infravision that removes a setback die from low-light conditions, and they all have blue skin and black hair. That makes the description part of the character sheet easy enough.
Next up: Duros. Considered one of the pioneer races of hyperspace travel, Duros are often confused with Neimoidians (trade federation). One of the most recognizable members is Cad Bane. These guys specialize in flying, mechanics, and most notably Astrogation. They have a rivalry with their astral-neighbors the Correllians which has become tense in recent years when the empire annexed Duro as a subject of Correlia rather than an independent world. That tension could be played up in-game once Suns of Fortune comes out. Duros is a natural choice as the party’s pilot, as they start the game with a rank in Piloting (Space) and always add one advantage to any Astrogation roll.
Finally, Toydarians. The most notable member of this race is Watto. Interestingly the first race to start with both two “ones” in starting ability scores, but also two “threes.” Interestingly, these guys would make great face characters, but be absolutely useless in a fight; like C3-P0 useless. They also hover with their little wings, so ignore difficult terrain, but can’t fly any higher than a few feet. Known mainly as lackeys for Hutts, and having some amount of force persuasion resistance, a Toydarian in the group could be a great Trader, Politico, or maybe Scoundrel, but leave the fighting to the other guys.
The next section details three new specializations for Explorers: Archaeologist, Big-Game Hunter, and Driver. The Archaeologist is very much in the predicable “Indiana Jones” rough and tumble school of Archaeology, but it provides a nice balance of educated loremaster with some field abilities. Surprisingly most of the skill tree is filled with Grit, Durable, and Toughened, with a few ranks of Knowledge Specialization and Respected Scholar in there for good measure. This would be a great addition to a small party that needs some knowledge skills, but not at the expense of losing a character that can hold their own in a scrap.
The Big-Game hunter has many of the same skills as a Scout, but is more combat-oriented. You lose the Scout’s skill in Medicine and Piloting (Planetary), but gain Stealth and Ranged (Heavy), both essential to this specialization. It reads a bit like a blend of Scout/Assassin, so those who want some survival skills, but also want to take things down at a distance, this is for you.
Lastly there is the Driver. This is a nice blend of Pilot/Mechanic in which you can gain talents like Full Throttle and Skilled Jockey, but also Gearhead and Fine Tuning. Pretty much the ultimate co-pilot class, as it adds Mechanics and Gunnery to the list of Explorer skills, it also adds a few to set it apart like All-Terrain Driver, Full Stop, and Natural Driver. Not as boring of a choice as I would have thought at first glance.
This book also adds Signature Abilities. The Explorer Signature Abilities are extensions to your Talent tree that have two prerequisite skills from the bottom row of the tree. These are meant to be ultimate achievements of characters that are at the very pinnacle of their field. After gaining the base Signature Ability for 30 points, there are two more rows of upgrades for 10 and 15 points respectively that make the ability easier to trigger or more powerful. One seems almost game-breakingly powerful, the other completely subject to the GMs whim. The first is Sudden Discovery, which allows a PC to pinpoint their exact location, discover a hidden item or location, or identify a safe and fast path thru any terrain. All this for two destiny points, and any results will be determined at the GMs approval. The only way I could see this being cool is if it was used as a last resort, and pulled the party out of the fire. The other Signature Ability is Unmatched Mobility which, a character can spend two destiny points to increase his maximum maneuvers in a round to 3 for 2 rounds. The modification tree below the ability add rounds to the duration or add free maneuvers (no strain) without increasing the maximum maneuvers. I could see how this could get abused, but may allow for some awesome results. Its hard for me to tell how these would balance out in game. I’ve played a lot of low to mid level games, but most of the PCs in my parties aren’t at the bottom of their talent trees yet. We’ll have to see some truly epic encounters to try and balance out these very heroic abilities.
The gear section in the book has some excellent additions, including long range stun weapons, an extreme range sniper rifle, and the shotgun-like Hammer (Blast 6, knockdown). The melee weapons are weird, one is a fusion cutter mining drill, another is a massive chainsaw, and the third a somewhat pedestrian vibrospear. The armor section has some cool suits, including the shockrider crash suit, that sounds basically like a racing suit that reduces strain taken from vehicle crits and reduces fire damage by one. There is also mountaineer armor that provides two boost dice to Athletics checks to climb or rappel. There are a lot of great tools and equipment with an explorer theme like modular backpacks, long range scanners, hunting goggles, chem lures, portable perimeter fences, and specimen containers. Some are more fluff than crunch, but overall there seems to be a good mix.
There is an excellent section on starships and vehicles, including several that could be good ships for a party if you are already tired of the YT-1300 or YT-2400. The Loronar E-9 long-range scout looks serviceable, as does the Ghtroc 720 Light Freighter. If you can’t get away from the signature look of the YT’s but want something a little different, the YT-1000 stats are included in this book, and it looks very cool in my opinion.
The last section of the book is geared towards GMs and making explorer adventures, but also included in there are a lot of background ideas for explorer characters. It also has detailed sections about making characters memorable (which could be applied to PCs or NPCs). There are a few good adventure seeds, but one deals with a heist on Bespin, which, if you plan on running the upcoming Jewel of Yavin, might be a little too close to that plot; Or make a campaign of it, whatever makes sense for the group.
Initially I was on the fence about this book, and to be honest if I didn’t have an Amazon gift card from Christmas burning a hole in my pocket, I likely would have skipped it. I would have been sorry. This is an excellent expansion to the Edge of the Empire game, with an excellent balance of crunch to fluff. Even if you are not overly excited about the Explorer career, I would suggest picking this up for the character development sections, the ships and gear, and the adventure ideas. It adds some welcome diversity without being redundant. It should hold us at least until the next beginner box or core book for Age of Rebellion.
First up, DICE! One of the chief complaints about DCCRPG is that it uses weird dice. Personally, weird dice was one of the first things that attracted me to D&D back in the 80s, and having new weird dice brings back all those feelings of mystery and intrigue of discovering the game for the first time. They are expensive, however. d14s, d16s, d5s, d7s and such aren’t produced in numbers that make them cost effective they way “standard” rpg dice are. There has also been a chorus of DCC fans who want a set of official Goodman Games dice to go with DCCRPG, or dare I say it, a beginner box-set? While a DCC red box is still just a dream, affordable funky dice can be yours, thanks to the Impact Miniatures 14-dice set kickstarter! There are tons of options to this kickstarter that allow you to get just the dice you want, and not have to buy in at a higher level just to get what you were looking for. Their “picks” system is confusing to some, but I’ll put it in terms RPG nerds can understand. Its a point-buy system. You buy a certain number of “picks” (points), then spend them on the stuff you want, just like building a character, but instead of a gnome illusionist, you end up with a pile of funky dice! The guys at impact have had success with kickstarter before for both minis and dice, so I have every confidence this project will go well. I’m really looking forward to having my DCC dice bag full of DCC dice!
Next up, Earthdawn from FASA! Yes, THAT FASA. Probably best known for battletech/mechwarrior, shadowrun, and maybe Crimson Skies, FASA is back with a new edition of Earthdawn. I never personally played the original, but fans seem pretty passionate about the setting, and I’ve heard it mentioned many times when people are adapting a setting to a new RPG system. From what I’ve read it sounds like a “post-apocalyptic emerging from a dark-age” kind of setting, which reminds me (possible inspired the latter?) of Numenera. Dusting off a classic can have mixed results (see Traveller review) but I wish these guys the best. In a time when massive conglomerates are buying up the rights brands/settings we knew from years past, its nice to see a team battle back and reclaim a franchise.
Lastly, I have been a big fan of d20monkey almost from day one, and the man behind the comic is involved in designing the logo and graphic work for Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone. The most recent project of Tracy Barnett, creator of several successful kickstarter RPGs like School Daze and One Shot, Iron Edda is a heavily viking-inspired setting using the FATE core system. It looks pretty intensely awesome. I’ve been looking for an excuse to get more into the FATE system anyway, and this might just be the ticket. Dwarves laying waste to the land in massive metal constructs? Undead giants? Ragnarok? Yep. Sign me up.
Book report: I just finished reading Hard Magic, the first book in the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia. In short, it’s a noir-type alternate history where average people have super powers or magic. Like x-men in the 1930s. Highly recommended. Check out a sample here.
iOS RPG: Cthulhu Saves the World. This has been out for over a year and a half on iOS, and probably longer on other platforms, but I just downloaded it the other day, and am loving it. I haven’t had this much fun with an old school RPG since Chronotrigger. It is a really good time! Bravo Zeboyd games!
Our typical gaming night is Wednesday, which last week fell on new years day. With it being a holiday, some people could make it, some couldn’t, so we were looking for a break from the regular campaigns. Luckily, the PDF of the World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl arrived just in time for Christmas.
For the uninitiated, the World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl was a kickstarter by the Dungeon Bastard to create the most trite, played-out RPG tropes and put them all in one adventure, and still make it AWESOME! In short, he succeeded in spades.
Once I started talking it up in our group, attendance went from “I don’t know if I can make it,” to “Make more pre-gens as we will be packed around the table like a can of dice-rolling sardines!” We ended up with 6 players, but I did make a pre-gen Paladin just in case. As it turned out, no one wanted to play the blind cleric/archer with a 95% chance to hit one of your allies on a miss. Wussies. However, in true D&D style no one wanted to play the cleric, so points for that.
We went over the rules for Badass Hack, which is a simplified version of D&D with some excellent additions. My favorite was the introduction of Shame Points. The idea is to have the players do awesome, badass actions on their turn. They are completely arbitrary, and can be awarded anytime at the GMs discretion. Once a shame point is earned, the player has to roll a d20. If they roll under their current shame point total, they are kicked out of the game! To mitigate this somewhat, a player can assume another player’s shame and add it to their shame score, but the player who just got saved owes the other player BIG TIME.
This, along with the comedic awesomeness of the adventure, kept players focused and trying awesome stuff. It also encouraged good gaming habits. Roll a d12 instead of a d20 on an attack? SHAME POINT. Checking your phone when your initiative comes up? SHAME POINT. Negotiate with orcs instead of cutting a bloody swath through them? SHAME POINT. You get the idea.
Also, the GM can award a 1d6 bonus if an action is particularly awesome. This is called GOING EPIC. A half-orc bard with strings attached to his great-axe leaps from a mine cart while rocking a wailing solo on his axe, buries it into the skull of a kobold as his finale? EPIC.
This kind of carrot/stick approach to RPGs was fantastically effective. It lead to players trying to out-do each other, and look at the map to plan their turn, rather than their character sheet. No fiddly grappling rules, no underwater combat, just epic awesomeness! You want to do something, roll a d20. Was it a particularly fantastic plan? Add a d6 or 3.
We all had an uproariously great time, and as Scott said at the end, “It really has about all the rules you need.” If you didn’t get in on the kickstarter (SHAME POINT) I’m not sure what the Bastard’s plans are for general distribution. If enough people bug him, he may release it on some digital platform like rpgnow.com. In the meantime, if you see this game posted on a schedule for a con near you, sign up, and GO EPIC!
Non-Player Characters (NPC’s) form the backbone of any good campaign; they give a human (or demi-human) face to the world the characters live in and create motivations for the heroes to right wrongs and triumph over evil. Occasionally, this is taken a step further as NPC’s that are heroic in their own right travel with the heroes to face enemies themselves. Other times, heroes become burdened with caring for an NPC that is relatively helpless and requires the escort of the PC’s to avoid harm. In the worst case scenario, there is a merger of these two later types, where a relatively vulnerable ‘heroic NPC’ is scripted to journey with the party, and the PC’s walk the line between heroes and babysitters.
A disgruntled party can find that role unrewarding, and this can throw a monkey-wrench into the flow of a story. I’ve begun using the idea of Companion Feats to keep my party motivated, encourage good role-playing, and ease the burden of caring for a vulnerable NPC while adding a realistic benefit of their in-mission presence.
Companion feats fall into three categories: Minor, Major, and Bonded
Minor Companion feats: An NPC with a Minor Companion feat grants a bonus to a predesignated skill or skills based on the particular skill set of the NPC. The bonus affects all members of the group while the NPC is present, and reflects either their off-camera guidance and training of the PC’s, or their helpful advice, watchfulness, or direct assistance during the acts themselves. Minor companion feats act as the aid another ability, but occur as a free action whenever a party member uses the benefitted skill category. Example: the party befriends a smuggler who grants a +2 to stealth checks to all party members as long as he travels with the party and is present during the actions in question.
Major Companion feats: These powerful benefits derive from the presence and ongoing assistance of a major NPC, giving strong motivation to keep the NPC present, alive and happy, but also conveying a certain sense of power or significance to NPC in the context of the campaign. These benefits are closer to actual feats, or may be actual feats, but are shared amongst the party members (essentially giving a free feat to each party member). Accordingly, use these with caution.
Example: the plucky northern trader that has lost so much and fought so hard for revenge against the White Witches of Irrisen grants the party a +1 to Will Saves while she remains in their presence. The impression of her personal suffering and fortitude inspires the party to push on.
When gauging whether a Major Companion feat is too powerful, measure it against lower level spell effects the party has access to. If it is on par with abilities that could be granted with a lower level casting, it’s less likely you have blown the top off your game.
Bonded Companion Feats: These powerful feats arise where an NPC has formed a close bond with one particular character. This is reserved for instances where the PC and NPC are in love, or where an act has occurred to bring two friends together in a way in which only the darkest of betrayals could separate them. In this instance, the NPC grants the benefit of a full feat or feat-like ability to the PC. Example: the PC is wedded to the NPC, granting him the benefit of the Toughness feat, as he struggles that much harder to survive, not for himself, but for his bride and unborn son.
It may be recommended to progress through these levels in steps so that as the relationships continue to grow, the benefits similarly increase in measure, culminating with the Bonded Companion feat advantage for the hero that has truly connected with the NPC. The GM can continue to use this as a source of motivation for the players, as well as finally using it to mirror a sense of loss should something happen to the beloved NPC from mishap.
Hopefully, Companion feats will create a bit of interest for players paired with NPC’s in your game and create some affection for the companions that help define the world the PC’s live in.