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Star Wars Age of Rebellion – Lead by Example review

February 29, 2016 1 comment

swa36_book_leftLead by Example is the latest Sourcebook in the Age of Rebellion line for the Fantasy Flight Star Wars system. This book provides additional specializations for the Commander career from the main Age book. It also adds Chagrian, Ishi Tib, and Lannik to the species options. Lannik we’ve seen in Force and Destiny (Master Piell), the other two are new to the system. The new specializations are Figurehead, Instructor, and Strategist. Beyond this, it also details a few new bits of equipment and vehicles, and has a very detailed section on mass-combat rules.

Chagrians are an interesting species. The most notable example I can think of is Vice Chancellor Mas Amedda, seen at the right hand of Palpatine in several scences from the prequels. Mechanically, they start with one rank in Resilience, can breathe underwater, and start with one rank in the Knowledge Specialization talent. This provides an additional success when a triumph is rolled on a particular knowledge check, per ranks in the talent. Not terrible, but starting with a one in agility (somewhat inexplicably) and only 90 starting XP makes this a pretty weak choice, unless its an amphibious campaign. (All Mon Calamari and Quarren PCs would get a bit old).

Speaking of which, Ishi Tib are also amphibious. I couldn’t think of a prominent Ishi Tib off the top of my head, but apparently one was Jabba’s accountant, and another was in the Techno Union (which I thought was mostly droid-like guys). These beaky guys start with a 3 in intellect, and rank in Discipline, but must be “doused in salt water every 24 hours” or their wound threshold is reduced by 2. Luckily they are pretty brawny, but that quirk could be either a really fun role-playing opportunity or a tiresome chore. It almost seems like starting the character with an addiction obligation from Edge of the Empire.

ponderingithorianLanniks are tough little dudes, who for some reason do not appear to count as silhouette zero (though I think I would house-rule this). Allegedly a warrior race, to me they look like sad house-elves from Harry Potter. Once again, hamstrung by starting with 1 Agility and 95 starting XP (really? not 90, not 100?) They start with a rank in streetwise and an interesting trait called Indomitable, which allows them to remove a setback from crits, fear, or disoriented. Astute reader, and Order 66 podcast listener Edward Sawyer brought to my attention the species abilities in this book differ from the Lannik described in Keeping the Peace, and the devs have indicated the more favorable stats from Keeping the Peace should be used. This means 100 starting XP, and indomitable removes two setback. Maybe I will play a surly house elf…

On to the specializations. Figurehead seems to be a blend of a diplomat and military commander. To the core Commander skills of Coercion, Cool, Discipline, Knowledge (Warfare), Leadership, Perception, and Vigilance, this spec adds another Cool, Leadership, Negotiation, and Knowledge (Core Worlds). This would make a pretty excellent all-purpose leader – especially combined with the Recruit tree from the core Age book to round out combat skills.

Instructor is my favorite of the three. This is a classic drill sergeant archetype, but to the base set of Commander skills, it adds another Discipline, Medicine, Ranged (Heavy) and Knowledge (Education). It is nice to have another spec with the rare medicine skill, and the tree also has stimpack specialization a few times, not to mention grit and toughened, to make this a frontline, combat-ready leader.

swa36-rebel-scoutingStrategist seems to be geared towards the mass combat rules detailed later in the book. This spec adds Computers, Cool, Vigilance, and Knowledge (warfare) – so pretty much just Computers. The tree has a lot of research talents, so its a bit of a scholar/commander combo. To me, this has very limited playability unless the campaign was focused on mass combat and capital ship battles. While that is certainly possible in Age, its not a campaign that really speaks to me.

The mass combat rules are basically rolling opposed checks based on the strength of assembled forces, upgrading or adding boost and setback depending on various circumstances. Based on the results you can narrate the results of massive battles, while your PCs do their best to affect the outcome on a more personal scale.

I enjoyed the section at the back that discussed medals, including a few I recognized from playing X-wing way back in the day like the Kaildor Cresent and the Corellian Cross.

Overall, this book is for the completionists, or GMs that want to run a campaign that focuses on a macro scale for battles. The instructor spec is excellent, but I’m not sure if that is enough to justify this one. I’m looking forward to what the Technician book will bring for us in Edge, and of course, we’re all awaiting the Bounty Hunter sourcebook.

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Categories: Books, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

Bounty Hunting Report

February 16, 2016 1 comment

huntersThe hunt is on! The past few Sundays I’ve organized an open Star Wars Edge of the Empire game at our Friendly Local Gaming Store, the Wyvern’s Tale. The theme is that the PCs are guild bounty hunters (regardless of mechanical career or specialization) that are sent on episodic missions each week. Thanks to excellent players it has turned out even better than I would have imagined, despite playing consecutively on Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s day!

The adversary decks have proven to be a really valuable resource for not only building encounters beforehand, but having stats on the fly once your hunters inevitably fly off the rails of your adventure. If/when FFG comes out with a deck of ships I would buy it immediately, as those stats can take a bit of prep to research. It can make an impromptu ship-to-ship encounter a bit cumbersome to run.

Overall using the 3-scene system has worked nicely for our typical 4-hour time slot. This allows for any character introduction at the beginning and book keeping at the end. Some players came with more traditional bounty hunter PCs, others went way outside the box, with really fun results. One player brought a Hutt Entrepreneur that has proved invaluable not only for his skills in social encounters, but having a few extra credits around to rent/buy specialized gear or ply infochants for leads to the acquisition. It has proven to be very entertaining.

The objective of capturing the target alive has allowed me to dig through my sourcebooks for explorers and colonists to find interesting non-lethal weapons and grenades to offer the PCs as optional equipment. Thanks to the myriad of books out for the system now, there are plenty of interesting specialty items that can add a twist or give an advantage to the hunters during the mission.

BountyHunters-TCWHere are some example missions we have run so far:

Tracking down a Bothan, Erdu Hirell, on Bothawui for providing “key intelligence” to rebels. The first scene started with the PCs arriving in the system, only to be ambused by pirates in hiding in the asteroid rings of Bothawui. The second scene involved gathering information at a local cantina to find a lead on Erdu’s whereabouts. The final scene was outside the city at Erdu’s walled compound, facing off against him and his security droids.

The next mission was about going after those pirates and capturing ‘Commodore’ Zizzy Sarkin, last seen in the vicinity of the Wheel. The first scene started with a distress signal from another hunter (according to the code, other hunters must render aid). She was being attacked by pirates and had information on the Commodore. Scene two involved tracking down what docking bay the Commodore’s ship was in by exploring several locations in the Wheel (borrowing liberally from Beyond the Rim). The third scene involved attacking the pirate in that bay, and capturing the pirate. This one had a bonus scene at the end, in that the PCs tried to convince Wheel security they were undercover CoreSec, which worked long enough for them to depart the station. Once they were discovered, they were pursued by Wheel headhunters, firing concussion missiles that nearly took them out before punching to hyperspace.

The third mission landed us in Cloud City on Bespin. The hunters were tasked with a rescue mission to save a Pantoran’s husband from the clutches of a rival gang. We narrowly avoided a confrontation with Black Sun in an asteroid belt, tussled with a Rodian clan in one of Cloud City’s seedier cantinas, and tracked down our acquisition to an abandoned mining platform after renting an airspeeder to get there. We were able to kill or subdue the slavers and rescue the target.

My mind is still brimming with mission ideas: recluse jedi, droids-rights command droid, starting with the acquisition in custody and having to defend against assassins, illegal interference from a rival hunter (and subsequent tribunal), dangerous navigation into the Deep Core…

Episodic adventures are proving to be a hit. Here are some lessons I learned and tips I would like to pass on. Smaller table size is generally better. This system is much more fun with tables of 4 compared to tables of 8. When it comes to character generation, diverse skills are usually more effective than specialists. For instance, Bounty Hunter – Survivalist will have plenty to offer in several situations while Technician – Slicer may be really handy in just a few. Keep the amount of credits each PC clears at the end of the hunt to about 400-600 for a live capture. Account for guild fees, equipment/vehicle rental, and general upkeep as a way to explain how a big bounty turns into a more modest payout. Experience works well with the 5 xp per hour played guideline. This generally allows for 15-20 xp earned per session and allows players to develop their PCs at a reasonable rate. After explaining the target, and offering optional equipment rental/purchase from the guild, drop the PCs in the action in medias res. This is thematically true for any great Star Wars movie, show or game, and players love it!

Happy hunting!