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Strongholds of Resistance Review – Star Wars Age of Rebellion

December 30, 2015 Comments off

swa30-book-leftThe latest addition to the Age of Rebellion line details Rebel strongholds that can be used as adventure locations, and to give Age characters a bit more detail for common home worlds of typical rebel races like Mon Calamari, Gran, and Sullustans. Interestingly it also details a few famous rebel locations from the movies like Echo base, Yavin 4, and the flagship Independence. Beyond this, it details a few new races, gear, ships, and some modular encounters similar to those found in Suns of Fortune, and Lords of Nal Hutta.

The first section of this book is much like the Galaxy chapters of the main core books. Each world described starts with a fact sheet detailing population, languages, major cities, imports/exports, and what the world is generally known for. This book allows for a lot more detail than can be afforded in any entry in a core book. For instance the entry on Chandrila (Mon Mothma’s home planet) has details on the capitol of Hanna City, as well as nine points of interest that could serve as adventure locations. It also provides information about a few lesser cities, and the crystal canyons, as well as a few native peoples and creatures that could be encountered in the cities or the wilds. Sidebars enrich the environments with a few extra details like a hovertrain that connects agricultural communities, and rumors of an ancient Jedi tomb in the crystal canyons.

Kinyen, the Gran home world is given similar treatment, as is the aquatic planet of the Mon Calamari and the Quarren, Mon Cala, and the volcanic, industrial world of Sullust, home to the Sorosuub corporation, and Sullustans. Ord Gimmel is included as well. It is apparently a chief provider of hyperdrives, but has a weird history in that it was forgotten by the republic and cut off from the galaxy for a period of time. Its not clearly explained how this could have happened. Seems like an odd choice. The Roche Asteroid field is the home of the Verpine which are also provided as a playable race in this book. They are technologically-minded, and had a lot to do with project Shantipole and the development of the B-Wing fighter. There are creature stats for both mynocks and an “enormous space slug” that has vehicle stats rather than typical creature stats and is silhouette 7! That is no cave! Other planets include Thyferra, home of bacta production, Yavin 4, the former rebel base, and the rebel flagship Independence, home of the rebel high command. There are also a few paragraphs on minor locations like Barkhesh, Chardaan, Contruum, Hoth, and Kolaador.

swa30-caveshipsThe second section of the book goes in-depth about rebel bases, large and small. These can serve as templates for the PCs’ own base of operations, or serve as adventure locales for different missions. It starts big with Echo base on Hoth, and provides suggestions for participating in the evacuation, should the GM want to recreate the famous scene from Empire Strikes Back. The next is an asteroid base on Polis Massa that mainly serves as an archaeology research station. Interestingly, it does detail a secret rebel base, but none of the elements are pictured in the diagram; another odd choice.

The Tierfon Outpost is a nice example of a smaller base that could be encountered. It has a barracks, command center, medical suite and hanger, as well as 8 fighters (Y or X-wings) and shuttle or freighters for deliveries, as well as a few speeders for ground transport.

The final base provided is the Defiant Core base, which is formed from a clone wars era wreck of a Separatist destroyer, that carved a valley into the planet’s surface and ended up in a cave. Interestingly, it is provided in several stages, which represent the development of the base over time, with more assets and staff.

swa30-speciesThe third section is about player options with new races, gear, and ships. The Quarren we have already seen in Fly Casual, but the Polis Massans are new, along with the Verpine. The Polis Massans lack vocal cords and are mainly concerned with archaeological and xenological research. They start with a rank in medicine and a 3 in intellect and willpower, as well as a form of short range telepathy to communicate. Not my cup of tea, but could make an interesting intellectual type. The Verpine is known to excel with technology. They start with a rank in mechanics and a 3 in agility and intellect, as well as compound eyes that allow for a boost die on perception checks when examining something up close, and can produce radio-waves to communicate to other Verpine and specially tuned comlinks. This would definitely be my choice for a PC out of the three.

Notable gear includes a droid disruptor, that fries circuits rather than just overloading them like an ion gun. Also the Spore/B stun grenade which relies on spores to stun targets, but if you roll a despair on a challenge die, you suffer 6 strain and begin to suffocate. A hard medicine check is required to restore regular breathing. Powerful Mon Cala Leviathon power armor provides not only protection but built-in weaponry like a mini torpedo launcher and deadly duo-flechette rifle. Don’t pick a fight with the squids! Other cool new entries include jump boots, that operate similar to a jetpack, but for limited jumps up to 35 meters, and the Verpine Headband which allows PCs to exceed their strain threshold, and just take wounds instead, while suffering from the disoriented condition.

swa30_10524_hiddenoutpostThe last section describes a few encounters that can serve as a side-quest or solid game session worth a material each. The first one includes battling TIE phantoms in an asteroid field, as well as the stats for the deadly ships and a few very talented imperial pilots. Another deals with diplomatic negotiations between Mon Calamari and Quarren on Mon Cala, which was definitely an episode of Clone Wars, but could still be fun. The third is supporting the Sullustan resistance on Sullust, and the last describes a plot to wipe out Imperial Intelligence operations on Ord Gimmel.

Overall this is a great resource for both players and GMs alike, especially for rebel campaigns looking for mission ideas, or base schematics. It can also provide a lot of backstory and detail to rebel characters from these planets, and serve as a well of inspiration for unique adventure locations.

 

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Keeping the Peace review – Star Wars Force and Destiny

December 21, 2015 Comments off

swf24-book-leftKeeping the Peace is the brand new sourcebook for Guardians, and the first career expansion in the Force and Destiny line. It follows the typical format of adding 3 new specializations, 3 new races, 2 signature abilities, and the force power Suppress. There are also sections with new vehicles, equipment, character motivations and ideas for the GM for encounters and campaigns that use Guardian themes.

First off let’s start with the player options. New species include the Iktotchi, Lannik, and Whiphid. All of these have Jedi masters associated with them. Iktotchi Saesee Tiin appears as one of the members of the Jedi High Council. Even Piell is the most famous Jedi Lannik. Master K’Kruhk is the most notable Jedi Whiphid, though he seems to be the more obscure of the three.

Iktotchis are pretty unique thanks to their precognition power that allows them glimpses of the future. Mechanically, this allows them to perform a free maneuver when a triumph is rolled during an initiative check or have an ally within short range perform one. Narratively, this can be used to great effect by a crafty GM to give this PC just a glimpse of something good or bad about to happen. They also start with a rank in Vigilance, making this an ideal race to choose for a Guardian.

Lanniks look like tough little gnomes that, according to the profile in the book, come from a surprisingly belligerent warrior society. Mechanically they start with a rank in streetwise and have an interesting trait called Indomitable which allows them to remove two setback dice caused by critical injuries, fear, or being disoriented. Not bad!

whiphidWhiphids are essentially wookies with a tusk attack. They are also known for surviving difficult environments, and as such start with a rank in survival and add one automatic success to survival checks. They can also survive several weeks without food thanks to reserve blubber. Their tusk attack is +2 damage, vicious 1, crit rating 4. That is one of the more powerful natural racial attacks.

On to the three new Guardian specializations. This book adds Armorer, Warden, and Warleader to the existing Peacekeeper, Protector and lightsaber style Soresu Defender.

Armorer is an interesting mix of staunch tank/defender mixed with mechanical tinkerer. The core Guardian skills are Brawl, Cool, Discipline, Melee, Resilience, and Vigilance. Armorer adds Knowledge (Outer Rim), Lightsaber, Mechanics, and another Resilience. The stand-out skill being mechanics, as not a lot of Jedi careers are mechanical in nature. It includes a fairly convoluted and linear skill tree that introduces a Talent series of Armor Master, Improved Armor Master, and Supreme Armor Master. These allow this PC to soak more damage with existing armor, culminating in the ability to suffer 3 strain to reduce a critical by 10 for every point of soak. This is a pretty compelling option, in that you will be really tough in combat, but also have lots of use modifying equipment and possibly making ship repairs. Nicely balanced.

Warden defends by intimidating foes to not act. The additional career skills are Brawl, Coercion, Discipline and Knowledge (Underworld). Its an interesting concept that introduces the second talent that costs conflict to even know about: Baleful Gaze. Interestingly its a power you can trigger when targeted by an attack, spending a destiny point allows you to upgrade the attack by number of ranks in Coercion. I don’t know if I’m crazy about this one to be honest. Causing conflict by giving enemies dirty looks? Hmm… I do like some of the other force talents in the tree including No Escape, which allows the PC to spend two advantage from a Coercion check or two threat from a foe’s Discipline check to take away the enemy’s free maneuver for that round.

swf24_12298_laststand_cristibalanescu_big2Warleader is my favorite of the three. It is tailor made for the Iktotchi and has some interesting talents that can provide bonuses for allies. The skills it adds are Leadership, Perception, Ranged (Light) and Survival. Prime Positions is an interesting talent that relies on there being cover during a battle, but allies that take cover within short range of the warleader add one to soak per rank of Prime Positions. Another cool talent is Prophetic Aim that disallows despair from ranged attacks to be used to target engaged allies. The Coordinated Assault maneuver allows for allies engaged with the PC to add an advantage to attacks made until the beginning of next turn, which can make crits easier and narratively just sounds cool. This is the stand-out specialization from this book for me.

I haven’t played a single character long enough to qualify for signature abilities yet, but this book introduces two for Guardians: Fated Duel and Unmatched Heroism. Fated Duel allows the guardian to force an enemy into a duel that prevents others from stepping in. While I understand what they are going for from a Star Wars perspective, in an RPG setting this seems forced and kind of silly. It would allow a guardian to take on a big bad at the end of an adventure and allow his allies to regroup, possibly sacrificing himself in the meantime, but seems to have limited utility.

Unmatched Heroism allows the guardian to redirect attacks that are made on allies within short range to be made on the Guardian instead. This seems way more appropriate for an RPG setting and the Guardian role, as you can protect allies in dire situations, and would definitely be my pick out of the two.

lightningThe new force power is called Suppress, and its pretty awesome as a Guardian power as it allows you to reduce the effectiveness of incoming offensive force powers (force lightning, move, etc.) by adding failures for every pip on the force dice generated. This may reduce or completely nullify the incoming attack. Thematically cool, and could manifest in a variety of ways, like force lightning being absorbed in a lightsaber for instance.

There are a few new weapons, and quite a bit of armor for the Armorers in this book. It introduces two new lightsaber styles, the Guard Shoto which looks like a nightstick and the Temple Guard Lightsaber Pike, which looks a lot like Darth Maul’s dual-bladed saber. There are also a lot of armor attachments that can modify armor abilities or add some add a special quality to the suit.

swf24_ghostVehicles stated out in this book include the General Grievous wheel bike, and surprisingly the VCX-100 light freighter, better known as the Ghost from the new Star Wars Rebels show. Surprisingly the stats do *not* include the little Phantom shuttle that makes the Ghost such a compelling choice for parties, since it allows the versatility of having a little shuttle away from the main ship, and allows it to serve as a small escort fighter in a battle. Despite that, the stats are pretty solid and it would be a fun ship to have as the party’s mode of transport.

The last section is aimed more at the GM and details Guardian encounters and adventures, as well as story elements that could feature a Guardian prominently. Themes like monster slaying, impossible odds, and arming the townsfolk (seven samurai style!) can provide a lot of great adventures for the entire group. My favorite element of these books is there is something for both players in GMs in every addition.

While there are some odd choices in this book, if you just saw the new movie and NEED everything Jedi related, this book has some great new options that will keep your game going strong!

Monster Alphabet, GM Gems, 50 Fantastic Functions Review

December 15, 2015 Comments off

FINAL_MonsterAlpha_BandsendsheetsMy gaming inspiration cup overfloweth, thanks to some recent deliveries from Goodman Games kickstarters! I received my copies of the Monster Alphabet and GM Gems in the mail, and the PDF version of 50 Fantastic Functions for the D50 was released to backers! When the print version arrives, all three will be shelved next to the awesome Dungeon Alphabet for a nearly endless font of gaming ideas.

I have a PDF copy of the 2007 version of GM gems, and just wanted a print copy to thumb through. In all the excitement of the onslaught of Goodman Games kickstarters, I had forgotten it was getting a complete DCC remake, complete with a ton of new art from Stefan Poag and William McAusland! The written content is mostly the same, but the DCC aesthetic is an excellent bonus! The entries vary from urban encounters, traveling between adventure locations, and dungeon ideas. They are authored by 21 different people. There are a good amount of tables to roll on, but unlike the Alphabet books, there are some entries in paragraph form that vary in length, but tend to flesh out the adventure hooks and ideas.

B is for Breath Weapon

B is for Breath Weapon

The Monster Alphabet is noticeably thicker than its dungeon brother thanks to some excellent stretch goals that allowed additional entries for certain letters. For those unfamiliar with the format, the alphabet books have corresponding letters matched with a certain aspect of monsters that start with that letter. On that page is amazing art surrounding a table of inspiring ideas that a game master could roll on, or cherry pick something to fit or inspire an adventure idea. For instance, N is for Noxious, O is for Ongoing Damage, P is for Psionic etc. While the Dungeon Alphabet is a standard 64 pages, the Monster Alphabet is 80 pages of awesome! As always, the art is amazing and a huge selling point for the book. It features all the regular stable of DCC artists as well as some classic TSR names: Doug Kovacs, Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Stefan Poag, Diesel LaForce, William McAusland, Brad McDevitt, Peter Mullen, Fritz Haas, Erol Otus, Russ Nicholson, Chad Sergesketter, Chuck Whelon and Michael Wilson. Some of my favorites are full page spreads like B is for Breath Weapon (above).

50The 50 Fantastic Functions kickstarter was a brief two-week project with no stretch goals, launched on black Friday just to see if there was a market for it, and to give Lou Zocchi’s obscure d50 something to do. As one might expect, this book is filled with 50 entry tables, but one that I found particularly creative was Harley Stroh’s d50 Assassin generator. It uses the tens digit to determine the assassin’s level, and the ones digit to determine how many attempts the assassin will make before giving up. Beyond that, there is an 8-pointed star that has different methods like poison, blades, ranged weapons, public duels, black magic, etc. Depending on which direction the die lands indicates primary and secondary assassination methods. Pretty cool!

I also appreciated Brendan LeSalle’s 50 minor mercurial effects for DCC. Currently when you roll up spells in Dungeon Crawl Classics, you also roll on a table of Mercurial Effects modified by the caster’s luck. Generally high results have a good side-effect, low results, not so good. In the middle 41-60 there is no effect. Instead, you can now roll on this table which produces a minor or temporary effect, rather than nothing. This is an awesome upgrade to what I feel is the most magical of magic systems! There are also Metamorphosis Alpha tables by Jim Ward and Michael Curtis, Eldritch and Elder God tables for Cthulhu and Lovecraftian games, and more general fantasy generators like dungeon doors, and gems.

The 50 Fantastic Functions hasn’t been released to non-backers just yet, but keep an eye out for it. It has tons of great ideas and you can dust off that d50 you bought at that con that one year cause it looked weird.

Between the three of these new additions and the old standby of Dungeon Alphabet, an endless supply of adventures await!

DnDonations 2 – Borderlands Boogaloo!

December 11, 2015 Comments off

The Skyland Games crew is very excited to participate in this year’s event! If you missed out last year, D&Donations is an awesome 24 hour marathon D&D 5e game hosted by our FLGS, The Wyvern’s Tale. Just like last year, the entire event will be streaming on Twitch, complete with old school SSI gold-box-like theme! Just like year there will be boon and bane rolls to either help or hinder the party, but this year there will be a threat level depending on how many gamers are waiting to play! The longer the line, the deadlier the dungeon!

This year we will be saving the children from the caves of chaos in the classic Keep on the Borderlands! The set has leveled up in several departments, including a digital map and several awesome cameras. Skyland Games crew will start the DMing with Scott at 6pm Eastern tonight (December 11th)! Kevin will DM at 10am-2pm tomorrow. Tune in and donate for a great cause! If you are anywhere near Asheville, NC, come on down and play! For the Children!!!

More info: http://www.dndonations.org/

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