Star Wars – The Force Awakens Beginner Game Review

August 26, 2016 Leave a comment

swr09_box_leftClearly, 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.swr09_spread

Categories: RPGs, Star Wars

Star Wars for One

July 27, 2016 4 comments

gamblingLast weekend I set up another session of our Bounty Hunter campaign at our awesome FLGS the Wyverns Tale. Most weeks we have about 4-6 people show up, some weeks we have 12, some we have zero, but this week we had one, besides myself. Solitary FFG Star Wars is possible, but… if you’re just making up stories in your own head, maybe write a book? No, this week we had me and one PC. He was understandably nervous going on a solo bounty hunt, but really this seems like it would be a much more common scenario. One hunter means you get the whole bounty, rather than a share.

Given that it is difficult to predict how many PCs will show up in a given week, I built my encounters to be very flexible. Usually if a combat encounter involves minions, I’ll have 3 minions per PC making up the minion groups. One PC table = 3 minions (not the little one-eyed yellow kind, despite how much I would not mind taking a light repeating blaster to those). Rivals are usually a pretty decent challenge for most PCs, so I recommend adding them to encounters on a one to one basis with PCs for a moderately difficult encounter. A nemesis is going to be quite a challenge to solo for one PC. It is not impossible, but it will likely require a bit of luck and some very clever tactics on the part of the PC.

AggressiveNegotiationsBeyond combat, social encounters can be very challenging for a lone PC, unless they have a particularly well-rounded character. Often when playing in large groups, it is very helpful to specialize in just a few skills. You can be the party “face” with a lot of social skills, the muscle, the sniper, the mechanic/slicer, or maybe the driver/gunner. With a smaller party, and especially a party of one, you need a diversified character. Some career specializations lend themselves to this better than others. Dangerous Covenants, the sourcebook for hired guns has great examples off both a specialist, and a generalist. Take the Heavy: nearly all skills and talents are related to making you a walking tank. Good luck with anything outside wielding the heaviest weapons with devastating efficacy. Not very effective during negotiations, unless those negotiations turn aggressive. On the other side of the coin you have the Enforcer: adding Brawl, Coercion, Knowledge (Underworld) and Streetwise. This is the darker side of a “face” character, but when you add those skills to the already diverse base set for hired gun of Athletics, Brawl (again), Discipline, Melee, Piloting (Planetary), Ranged (Light), Resilience, and Vigilance, you get a street tough that knows how to drive, shoot, brawl, and intimidate information out of underworld contacts. Maybe not someone you would send in for delicate political negotiations, but pretty good in most Edge of the Empire situations.

This past week, as really every week of the Bounty Hunter campaign was fantastically entertaining. The player ended up using his most experienced and well-equipped PC, despite having a fairly narrow skill set as a Bounty Hunter Assassin. Sometimes *not* having the appropriate skill led to some hilarious situations. Negotiating with a Drall duchess, investigating a missing person, and attempting to wheedle information from the Drall Wing Guard were not this PC’s strengths, but that added to the adventure as he caused quite a stir around the capital city of Mastogophorus. Most of the combat encounters he breezed through, since that is his wheelhouse, and in the final battle he held his own, despite going against three rivals through some skilled tactics and favorable rolls.

Starting the session we were both a bit anxious as to how one PC would be able to succeed, but by the end we both agreed it was an excellent adventure and all the more memorable thanks to having just one PC! For those of you attempting your own one on one Star Wars game, I would recommend planning a lot more encounters and encounter areas than if you were planning for a larger group. My typical three major act format usually takes a full group about 3-4 hours. With one PC we were done in two.

Bounty Hunter Report – Infiltration

July 11, 2016 3 comments

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.

swa31-mission-briefing-artDesperate 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

NebulonB_schemI 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!

Categories: Uncategorized

Crawling Through “The Vertical Halls”

June 27, 2016 Comments off

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!

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DCCRPG – The Dread God Al-Khazadar Review

June 20, 2016 Comments off

GMG5091CoverLargeThe Skyland Games crew has been busy these last few weeks! Mike and Kevin attended North Texas RPG con, which we will likely need to write a longer recap about later, but here is my tiny review: if you go to cons for the gaming, NTRPGcon is definitely worth the trip! Saturday was also Free RPG Day, which marks the 4th anniversary of pretty much the best FLGS of the modern era: The Wyvern’s Tale. Mike and Kevin ran a table of both Mutant Crawl Classics and Lankhmar each, and an awesome time was had by all.

But on to to the main event for this blog. I picked up several awesome souvenirs from NTRPGcon, most of which we’ll be reviewing here. The latest DCC module came out that weekend, and it is not to be missed! If you plan on playing this adventure instead of running it, you may want to stop reading now. The review will contain some spoilers!

The Dread God Al-Khazadar is a 24 page module that starts in the famed city of Punjar (could be any city really…Lankhmar?) but quickly the party is transported to an entirely different world. Once there, the party encounter Zardu and Zarya, two natives who may be used to provide information about the world, function as replacement PCs, or in an appendix-N-themed style, love interests for PCs. The author includes some mechanics like +1d when defending their true love and possibly losing luck points if separated from them. This could encourage some really interesting role-play during the adventure and is unique to this module.

There are a lot of great new creatures and side-bars that detail different aspects of the world, including a hex-map in the inside cover that shows various details of the region and would allow for several sessions worth of material. I would not recommend this one for a single 4-5 hour convention slot, as you would have to make so many edits, it would feel rushed and wouldn’t do the source material justice. This could have easily been expanded into a boxed set in its own right like Chained Coffin and Purple Planet. In the hands of the right Judge, it could be mini-campaign.

My favorite aspect of this adventure is the end. It is a bit of a twist and a very compelling choice that actually made my jaw drop when I read it. No spoilers on this, but just know that your players will be talking about this adventure for a long time, no matter what they choose!

I own nearly all the DCC adventures and this has probably been my favorite read since Fate’s Fell Hand. This is a must-own adventure. Daniel J. Bishop knocked it out of the park!

Categories: Adventure, DCCRPG, Reviews, RPGs

Formula Kart – Adding Mario Kart items to Formula D

May 30, 2016 Comments off

comboYesterday I watched the Monaco Grand Prix F1 race from start to finish. I had never really paid much attention to F1 racing before, and this was quite the dramatic race. Check out the highlights if you missed it.

Monaco is the track that comes with the board game Formula D. I’m such a big fan of the game I own all the expansions which include F1 tracks from around the world. The game is a lot of fun in its own right, but some games can turn to run away victories with a few fortunate rolls of the gear dice. This got me thinking about other racing games I love, like Super MarioKart.

If you are looking to add another layer of excitement, and to add some randomness and equalizers to the race, just add Mario Kart items! For the uninitiated, in MarioKart when your Kart runs over a question mark box, you get an item that can help you in the race. At this point there have been a lot of MarioKart games, and with them a lot of different items with different effects. Some would be more difficult to simulate in a board game than others. Here are my suggestions.

Use the red debris markers to simulate the the boxes, adding one per player. For a one lap game, I would suggest adding them half-way through the lap, for a two lap game, I would add them just before the finish line, or in both places if you want a lot of items! Once a car runs over the box, that player rolls the standard d20 “danger die” to determine what item is received. I’ve mixed and matched items from several different versions of MarioKart to make the mechanics easier to handle.

I’ve borrowed a few mechanics from 5th Edition D&D for the shells. While the game comes with one standard d20, I would recommend adding a few more to the box if you’ve got a few lying around (and if you’re nerdy enough to be reading this, you probably do!). For green shells its just a simple contested roll: both attacker and defender roll a d20, if the attacker has the higher result, the shell hits and the defender spins out. If the defender has the higher result, the shell misses! Red shells work the same, except the attacker rolls 2d20 (advantage in 5th ed. terms) while the defender still only rolls 1d20. Highest result wins, if its the defender, the red shell misses!

Download the full table here. I hope you guys enjoy this expansion to the rules. Watch out for blue shells!

Categories: 5e, Board, Games, House Rules, Mechanics, Tips

Zine Scene – Crawl 11 – The Seafaring Issue

May 22, 2016 Comments off

Screen shot 2016-05-22 at 3.14.30 PMMike and I attended GaryCon VII (2015) together, and had an incredible time. While I bought up just about everything I didn’t already own that Goodman Games has released, Mike had the forethought to take one look at the rack of zines available, and pick up one of each. Since then, he got in on the Zine Vault kickstarter and recently lent me his collection to become more familiar with the medium.

I have paged through several, but Crawl #11 caught my eye and I read it cover to cover. Included are rules for naval warfare and nautical mighty deeds by Bob Brinkman, Fantastic Forms of Sea Ship Propulsion by the DCC editor (and Crawl! creator) Rev. Dak J. Ultimak, The Deep Elders by Daniel J. Bishop, and Life Aboard by Sean Ellis.

The last big pirate RPG I had played was the Pathfinder adventure path Skulls and Shackles. This (like most of my Pathfinder experiences) started really well, but got a little ludicrous as the story progressed. In contrast, Bob’s rules about ships, cannons, and alternative weapons like chain shot and greek fire provide a canvas on which a flavorful, action-packed adventure could be painted! These rules hit all the right notes without getting too bogged down in mechanics. Tables for both crits or fumbles with cannons and fire-throwers ensure the need for the last table: brutal injuries! Also included are brief descriptions of special maneuvers such as boarding, crossing the T (coming across the bow and firing), as well as ramming. The naval mighty deeds are the icing on the cake, and include tables for boarding, cannon shots, and general piracy.

crawl11Fantastic Forms of Ship Propulsion detail eight alternative forms of naval locomotion. These range from the sun and stars, to creatures acting as the motor such as turtles and eels. My favorite is the skeleton crew, which is literally a necromancer’s ship with skeletons at the oars. Each include possible complications of the alternative power sources. These could work well on the Purple Planet, or any sea adventure that needs an interesting twist.

If you are looking to add some elder god flavor to your next oceanic excursion, The Deep Elders describe starfish like servants of Dagon that glow with blue, green or yellow light and possess sailors. Those enthralled become puppets of the deep elders and may only be banished with very strong magic. There are interesting rules about starting over as a 0-level and choosing an alternate, or gaining levels of your demi-human class once possessed.

Sean Ellis writes Life Aboard, which is a great set of tables to simulate days or weeks at sea. The Ship Morale table affects the subsequent Wind Speed and On-board Events tables, as the crew is either motivated (or not) to get the most out of the ship and the winds that day. The events are well thought out, but include the use of a d18, which is not part of the standard DCC chain. I love weird dice more than most, but even I draw the line somewhere. Since both 1 and 18 are non-events, you could substitute a d16 for a lively journey, or a d20 to include more non-event days.

Overall, this is an outstanding value in either print or PDF form. Since this issue is focused around this one theme, if you are looking to run a nautical adventure using DCC, Crawl! 11 is an outstanding resource. Even if you hadn’t considered it before, I bet you are now. Great work!

Categories: DCCRPG, Reviews, RPGs, Zines
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