Fall is here! That means that AVLscarefest is only about a month away. Last year was a really fantastic time, and the organizers are going out of their way to apply feedback and make this year truly fantastic! From October 21-23 add set in the picturesque mountains of Montreat, NC, the old stone buildings of the campus and convention center set the mood for some spooky games of all types. Beyond the truly staggering amount of Pathfinder Society games, you’ll find thematically appropriate games of Call of Cthulhu, Dread, Ghostbusters, D&D adventurer’s league, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Lankhmar, Cryptworld, Savage Kingdoms, Bolt Action, and many more! Get your ticket and sign up for games at the warhorn.
Last year I had an absolute blast trying games I had never tried before like Deadlands Noir, Bolt Action, and Shadowrun. I also ran a pretty creepy table of Star Wars which became the impetus to get the Star Wars bounty hunter game going. This year I’ll be running Masks of Lankhmar and two sessions of Star Wars bounty hunters. Mike will be running the Shambling Un-dead and the Arwich Grinder!
New this year is a token system, in which players and GMs are all provided tokens that can be used to reward awesome role-playing, helping out around the con, and can be used at the end of the con to win some awesome prizes from local vendors. This encourages both excellent games and excellent community spirit. I can’t wait to see the results!
Don’t miss out on this fantastic con in the mountains. Try a game you have never played, or bring your favorite game to run. I’ll see you there!
My wife approached my desk holding the mail, shaking the noisy manila bubble-wrap mailer incredulously. “What is this?”
As a man who may or may not own too many dice, I replied, “I think you know.”
It was a bag of 105 dice in the amazing vibrant and uncommon colors that make up the “Alchemic Oddities” series of dice that I’ve had my eye on ever since Wiz Dice had a naming contest for the new colors. I’ve purchased a few bulk dice collections in the past like the Chessex Pound o Dice, and the first Wiz Dice collection of 100+ “random” dice. The Chessex dice had some really interesting dice, but were mostly just factory mistakes, some of which were d6s that were missing numbers and there was only one complete set of the same color. Not bad if you want a ton of random dice, but not great if you are looking for sets. I had seen other people’s accounts of ordering from Wiz Dice and receiving tons of complete sets with only a few odd dice out. I was pleased to have a similar experience in that first set and now own just about every typical color of opaque dice, as well as some interesting marble-like and translucent colors.
This most recent set has very unique colors with fan-suggested names like Dwarven Brandy, Faerie Fire, Boiled Bile, and Abyssal Mist. With this second set, I received 105 dice or 15 complete 7-dice sets for $26.34 shipped. That comes out to about $1.75 a set, and they are some of the coolest sparkly, marbled, vibrant colors I have ever seen. If you want specific colors, you can order individual sets at $7+shipping, or just let them pick for you and “roll the dice.” There is something for everyone in this set from oranges, neon yellow, pink, black sparkly, translucent grey, and a gorgeous marbled dark green they call Basilisk Blood.
Good sourcebooks give you usable material for your campaign and characters. Great sourcebooks inspire brand new campaigns. The Age of Rebellion sourcebook for soldiers Forged in Battle falls into the latter category. This book follows the now familiar format of three sections: new player options with new races and specializations for the career, new gear and vehicles, and finally a section for GMs about adventure seeds and building missions around soldiers.
From the jump, before we even get in to the new races this book describes potential duty posts. Each of these could be their own campaign, or at very least the premise to start a larger story arc: Local cells, sector forces, specforces, shipboard operations, intelligence services, and special operations. Between the soldier specs in the core Age book and the ones in this one, you could have a very capable versatile squad, all with the same career! This book is packed with the perfect blend of fluff and crunch. For those unfamiliar, fluff in an RPG typically refers to flavor text and window dressing that paints a vivid mental image, but has no mechanical/statistical information. Crunch is generally the numbers and stats of gear and mechanics of new talents and anything that interacts with the actual mechanics of the game.
On to the goods: There are a bunch of great backgrounds for the various specializations, as well as soldier-specific duties. This book then details four new races: Elom, Elomin, Kyuzo, and Shistavanen. Much like the Edge of the Empire technician sourcebook Special Modifications including Northern and Southern Mustafarians, Elom and Elomin are from the same planet, but are vastly different species. The Elom and Elomin are so different they merit their own individual stat blocks, not just different starting features. Eloms are pretty much mole people that can dig underground through loose soil as a maneuver. Elomin look a lot like Zabrak, but just because they have four horns out of the top of their heads. Kyuzo is the race of one of my favorite bounty hunters from the Clone Wars, Embo. Included in the gear section are stats for his hat that can be used as a Captain America style shield/throwing weapon, and occasionally downhill sled. It also goes in to detail about Clovocs of the Kyuzo that sound basically like ninja clans that specialize in a certain weapon, and may align themselves with different leaders in Kyuzo society. Lots of adventure seeds in those sidebars. Finally there are the Shistavanen. If you want to play a wolfman in Star Wars, this is your ticket. Alternatively if you wanted to play a wolfoid from Metamorphosis Alpha or a Vargr from Traveller, but the GM is running Star Wars, check out the Shistavanen. One really cool feature is they can use Survival rather than Cool or Vigilance for initiative to literally sniff out trouble.
The specializations include one repeat and two new trees. The repeat is the Heavy from the Edge Hired Gun sourcebook, Dangerous Covenants. This tree is all about using the biggest weapons to take down the biggest targets. To the core Soldier skills of Athletics, Brawl. Knowledge (Warfare), Medicine, Melee, Ranged (Light) Ranged (Heavy) and Survival, the Heavy adds Gunnery, Perception, another Ranged (Heavy) and Resilience. Not bad for the big blaster obsessed players out there.
The second specialization is the Trailblazer. This is a nice combination of combat and outdoorsy skills. To the core skills, this adds Knowledge (Outer Rim), Perception, Stealth, and another Survival. Interesting talents early in the tree include Prime Positions which allows this PC or an ally within short to increase the soak against ranged attacks by 1 per rank. There is only one rank in this tree, but I imagine we’ll see this pop up in future supplements as well. Cunning Snare can be used to create a trap once an encounter. This can cause wounds and disorient based on the Trailblazer’s cunning, and how badly the triggering NPC fails his vigilance check to spot it. On the bottom line of the tree is Ambush, which allows you to maneuver from cover and add damage equal to your stealth skill on an attack within short range. I really like this specialization as a backwoods Rambo-type. In fact, I would be surprised if Rambo wasn’t an influence when it came to this spec as well as some of the gear later in the book.
The last spec is the Vanguard. They add another Athletics, Cool, Vigilance, and Resilience to the core skills. When I think of a vanguard, I think of the tip of the spear, always leading the attack. This tree includes a lot of focus on the guard part of Vanguard with two ranks of Body Guard available, as well as new talents Improved Body Guard and Supreme Body Guard. These allow you to to take a hit for an engaged PC you protected with the body guard maneuver. Supreme allows you to protect as many engaged characters as ranks in Resilience. My favorite new talent from this tree is Suppressing Fire. This allows you and allies within short to spend advantage on failed combat checks to cause 1 strain per rank. With two ranks in this tree and it applying to other allies, this is one awesome power to take out minions in a hail of concentrated fire. One of the talents at the bottom is Seize the Initiative. Once a session if you make a hard athletics check, all PCs can take their turns immediately. Now that is a Vanguard.
Both signature abilities are pretty cool in this book. The Bigger They Are… allows the character to try and take down vehicles, ships, or creatures of silhouette 2 (3 with an upgrade). If a knowledge warfare check succeeds the PC and friendlies within medium can attack with personal scale weapons, ignoring armor or soak. This calls to mind the scene from the new Rogue One trailer when the soldier launches a missile at the side of an AT-AT head. If I’m not playing in an Age Special Forces campaign before Rogue One, I imagine I will be shortly thereafter. The second signature ability is Unmatched Courage, which allows the PC to ignore effects of critical wounds for the duration. With upgrades, this allows you to not become incapacitated after your wound threshold is exceeded. You still suffer crits for any additional hit, but you keep going.
The gear section includes a number of nice new rifles, and massive guns for the Heavies. Of note is the T-7 Ion Disruptor that featured prominently in an episode of Rebels, and was used against the Lasat in a massacre lead by Agent Kallus. There is also a pulse cannon that has an option to expend all its ammunition in one shot to add Breach 1 and Vicious 3. It is slow-firing, but not a bad idea to keep one around in case you need to make a big hole in something. The Imperial heavy repeater slugthrower has a similar quality in which you can expend all its ammunition to add Blast 7 and Concussive 1. The armor section includes some new stealthy suits, as well as Rebel Heavy Battle Armor and Imperial Hazard Trooper Armor that includes protection from hazardous environments, as well an internal comm that can reach low orbit and a targeting system that removes two setback from darkness, smoke, or similar environmental factors. The Shistavanen Combat Utility Blade features many possible configurations but may contain a fire-starter, a hydrospanner, water contaminant detector and functions as a toolkit to repair devices and droids, but adds a setback die to such checks. It also adds a boost to survival checks. So pretty much a Rambo knife. Also of note in the gear section is the modular backpack. The basic storage unit just adds encumbrance capacity as normal, but there are other units that help control temperature in hazardous environments, power weapons or tools, mobile communication hub, sensor suite, or oxygen supply. Lots of cool options to kit out your squad with different gear depending on the mission.
Vehicles include the 6-legged Clone Wars era AT-TE, as well as an Imperial Troop Transport that sounds like the one used commonly on Lothal in the Rebels TV show, as well as a repulsor tank that looks a lot like the old Cobra H.I.S.S. tank. Also from the Clone Wars era, LAAT/I and LAAT/C used as both troop and vehicle transports in the prequels and Clone Wars shows. These would be a fun way to get into and out of battle.
The final section is dedicated to the GM and how to integrate soldiers in missions that focus on other careers as well. Included are sample missions and possible strike targets, asset denial, and a Coup D’Etat of a planetary governor. Beyond those scenarios it provides ideas for different battle environments like trench warfare, urban fights, and raiding operations. Near the very end there is a really cool section on building fortifications as well as suggested ways to spend advantage/threat and triumph/despair on those constructions. It also details how to spend different results in different environments from city battles to boarding actions and wilderness combat. The very end of the book describes soldiers learning talents after recovering from critical injuries. The idea being that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It is an interesting concept, and could definitely add a lot of flavor to a soldier since you’ll likely be in the thick of it for most adventures. It also talks about possible trophies that soldiers may collect like an Imperial Officer’s cap and how they could add a boost die to coercion checks against imperial troops.
Overall this book is jam packed with awesome material for GMs and players alike. If you are playing a combat-focused Age game, this is a must-have. If you are interested in putting together an A-Team or X-COM style squad of soldiers with various skills that when combined can pull off amazing missions, this is the book for you. Between Sharpshooters, Medics, Heavies, Commandos, Trailblazers, and Vangaurds, I would argue Soldier is now one of the most diverse and well-balanced careers in the entire FFG Star Wars system. You will be hard-pressed to find another career in which every PC could play a soldier with a different specialization and end up in such different roles. Highly recommended.
Clearly, I’m a huge fan of the FFG Star Wars line, and often they knock it out of the park. This review, however, will be mixed. One can’t blame FFG for cashing in on Star Wars mania since episode VII came out. On the Order 66 podcast some FFG staff members reported a surge in sales after the movie release. Unfortunately, in this most recent (and likely last) beginner game, they cut some serious corners.
First the good: The materials include stats and details for New Republic-era First Order baddies, including Captain Phasma herself! It also updates the included galaxy map found in any of the core books with new locations of episode VII scenes: Jakku, D’Qar, Takodana, and Starkiller Base. The rulebook includes some background information for the different factions like the New Republic, the First Order and the Resistance. As in previous beginner boxes, the adventure continues with a PDF supplement on the FFG support page for the product, so you can get a few gaming sessions out of it.
The bad: There are no additional PC folios on the support page for the product. This means there is a GM and 4 players maximum. Also, 3 out of 4 of the PCs are human. Out of all the interesting alien races in all the Star Wars products from THREE different product lines, and there is ONE alien? You could mix and match character folios from other beginner boxes or create a few supplementary PCs, but that assumes you own other boxes or have enough familiarity with the system to create them. This makes running the beginner box at a convention or a FLGS more difficult. I’ve run the previous boxes for groups new to the system, and typically at conventions you have 6 PCs and a GM. All previous beginner boxes shipped with 4 folios and included 2 PDFs in the support section for the product so you could fill out the table. Also, the additional adventure PDF is several pages shorter than previous versions for Edge, Age, and F+D. The map (which is one of the main draws to purchase this for many veteran players) is only 17″x 22″ which isn’t too bad, but the flip side contains both maps used during the adventure. This puts them at such a tiny scale that they are almost unusable. On one half, First Order Troop transports are represented as being about two inches long, with a TIE fighters in racks on the walls being about 1/2′ x 1/2″. That is not a great personal scale map. The other half is an entire length of a Corellian Corvette which is a massive ship! It feels like those were supposed to be the two sides, which would have worked, then someone said, “Let’s add a galaxy map!” Instead of adding a separate poster with something cool like Jakku planetary locations on the reverse, they shoe-horned it into the player/scene map poster. Very disappointing. Finally, with the exception of the PC folio portraits and maps there is no new art in the product. This is a huge missed opportunity and gives the appearance of cutting corners as all the illustrations are movie stills or promo shots from the movies. The reason I buy FFG Star Wars books is for the amazing art. Just think of Rey, Finn, Poe, Phasma, etc. in brand new scenes from the amazing stable of artists FFG commissions. Such a shame.
Overall, this is the first FFG Star Wars product I would suggest skipping. It feels rushed, and doesn’t provide the same great experience as previous boxes. It’s not bad if you need an extra set of dice and want a pretty nice galaxy map to illustrate other adventures, but this is a pretty low value product for the money. Hopefully, this is not indicative of a new direction for FFG RPG production, and merely a one-off to capitalize on movie hype.
The bounty hunter campaign is still going strong at The Wyvern’s Tale. Yesterday, the mission involved infiltrating a the Rebel Nebulon B Medical Frigate Redemption, to capture a wounded high-value target that eluded another team of bounty hunters.
The target was a former representative from Ithor, an Ithorian named Gela Aasa. Not sure if that is a canonically-correct Ithorian name, but I got it from a Star Wars name generator, and it worked. If you run Star Wars with any regularity, I would highly recommend having a sheet of these random names to grab for NPCs or players who are looking for a name for their PC.
As described in previous posts, I came up with the outline of three likely scenes and probable NPCs from the adversary decks, and selected some fun and interesting weapons and equipment for the PCs to rent or purchase that would likely come in handy during the mission. For this particular job, I chose some items from Age of Rebellion‘s Desperate Allies, as well as the Mimetic Suit from Fly Casual, which basically acts as a personal cloaking device.
Desperate Allies includes some interesting clothing options that confer different benefits like banal apparel to make characters harder to identify in a crowd, diplomat’s robes to add a boost die in social checks when trying to use status to bypass regular protocols, or resplendent robes and performer’s attire for those trying to attract attention and serve as a diversion for their stealthier comrades.
For weapons, I choose from Desperate Allies again, providing the option to purchase Military Holdout Blasters which are very concealable, but pack more punch than a regular holdout, as well as Goseia HIC “Mercy” Grenades. These grenades emit a hallucinogenic gas that impairs memory, and causes illusions.
The party passed on most of the costume options, but picked up a few banal mechanics coveralls, a few of the holdouts, and all of the grenades!
Once the team was briefed and equipped, it was time to start the mission. Here are the three scenes I planned for:
- Boarding the Redemption. The frigate would be hiding in a light nebula, while the main Rebel fleet was battling the Empire elsewhere. As the medical model has the fighter bay replaced by a medical suite and a dozen bacta tanks, it would only be escorted by a handful of fighters. The PCs need to come up with a premise for boarding the Redemption with falsified Rebel credentials provided by the Guild for this mission. Likely NPCs: Comm Operator, Rebel Liason, Alliance Infantry, Rebel Pilot.
- Surgery Suite – The main hanger on the Redemption has been converted to an oversized medical bay. The hunters will need to locate the acquisition, determine his current condition, and find a way to transport him to their ship, and deliver him alive back to the Guild. Likely NPCs: Diplomat, Physician, Medical Droid, Rebel Pilot, Alliance Infantry.
- Escape – They’ll need to escape with their quarry, which may prove difficult given the tractor beams, laser cannons, and fighter escort accompanying the frigate. Likely NPCs: Alliance Commander, Comm Operator, Rebel Pilot. X-wing, Y-wing stats.
I had imagined the PCs would try and pose as some diplomatic delegation to get close to the target. As it turned out, one of the players that showed up this week brought his Wookie Doctor PC. This afforded a much more conventional angle for being there. The protocol droid acted as the Wookie’s translator, as the other PCs posed as mechanics, while one Rodian Assassin PC elected to use his newly acquired Mimetic Suit to stealth around the ship. This allowed the team to smuggle in smaller weapons in tool kits and the Wookie’s medical bag.
I provided a simple schematic I found, which helped the PCs plan their operation, and also helped us keep track of who was where in the ship. I would highly recommend printing out ship schematics of ships you plan on using in missions. Most of the common ones are readily available.
This mission had the fewest combat encounters of just about any of the previous bounty hunter missions. It also would have been difficult to fight an entire frigate worth of rebels, but the players came up with some brilliant strategies to avoid combat at set them up for successes.
One of the “mechanics” was a Gand Outlaw Tech that was actually quite good at mechanics. His human smuggler companion was able to fake it. The Gand was also decent at Computers, and was able to find the target was being treated in a VIP wing of the medical suite, and under guard. The wookie and his droid translator gathered some information by some successful charm and medical checks with the young, inexperience and overworked Rebel physician and a troop of Rebel special forces the Wookie was asked to triage. Meanwhile, the Rodian made use of his stealth suit to head down to the main turbolaser and laser cannon batteries.
Hilarity ensued as the Gand used his position in main engineering to disable the tractor beams, cause steam to come out of the vents of the target’s room, which added to the smuggler convincing the posted guards there was a “small” radiation leak in there. Nothing to worry about. The Rodian was able to sabotage the turbolasers and laser cannon batteries, but rolled a despair and a triumph on a stealth roll to get out of there. We ruled this meant a gunnery deck officer mistook him for a Rodian on the gunnery crew, and that he was late for his shift and needed to be written up. That ended in one of the few fights of the entire session, aided by the Gand cutting the power to the entire area, which made for a lot of setback dice from darkness.
In the end, the Wookie, the Droid, and the Smuggler were able to safely transport the target, disguised as a hoversled full of medical supplies back to their ship. The Gand created false records of where the target was transferred to in the frigate, and the team crafted a dummy attached to one of the “Mercy” grenades, so when the rebels came looking for him, they were in for a hallucinogenic surprise! The power being off in the gunnery section meant the turblift was off too, so the Rodian rigged an escape pod to “misfire” and hoped his fellow hunters figured out a way to pick him up. The Droid succeeded on a daunting piloting check to hook up with the escape pod, and the team was able to hold off a pair of Y-wings long enough to escape with their acquisition. Amusingly, the Gand’s obligation came up for this mission. His obsession was to earn a name, and by capturing this Ithorian rebel conspirator, he certainly did!
Coming back from NTRPG Con loaded with goodies, I started going through things I hadn’t read yet and putting stuff in order. Glad I looked, because I discovered a lost treasure! When I was putting stuff into the zine boxes, I found a great level 2 adventure for DCC RPG called “The Vertical Halls” from Phlogiston Books and written by Gabriel García-Soto that for some stupid reason I never got around to reading before this weekend.
Spoiler Alert: It’s pretty damn epic. I loved it from beginning to end. The interior art by Francisco Tebár and Valentí Posa is especially great.
I don’t want to spoil anything too much, but there is a lot to work with here. The adventure can literally fit into any kind of scenario. For your ‘typical’ fantasy campaign, you can place it as is into any mountainous region. It could really work well in a Shudder Mountain campaign for sure. You could crank up the weirdness factor and put it into something like the Purple Planet, too! Make the town a ruin an go Crawling Under A Broken Moon. It could fit almost any setting if you do just a little adjusting, I’m sure.
It starts out simple enough: your adventuring group enters the town of Shadypass where, like they do, the villagers are all acting a little odd. Some investigation leads you to the main event and I’ve yet to see a creepier or more disturbing setting. Excellent throwbacks to some Lovecraftian goodness and the best part is that the author has taken some ‘typical’ monsters and put their own spin onto them. Great stuff! I can’t wait to get a party inside and make them squirm!
The PDF and Softcover combo are available on RPG Now. Definitely one to pick up and I am anxiously awaiting the next product this studio will be releasing!