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Star Wars Edge of the Empire – No Disintegrations Review

February 11, 2017 2 comments

swe16_book_leftThe day has finally arrived, and FFG has saved the best for last. No Disintegrations, the last career sourcebook for Edge of the Empire has finally hit the shelves, and it was worth the wait. This book follows the now very familiar three-section format. The first details new race and specialization options, the second focuses on gear and vehicles, and the third provides GMs with adventure ideas focused on the particular career. As someone who has been running plenty of bounty hunter games, I was eagerly awaiting this release over any other in the FFG RPG line, and it does not disappoint.

First up: new species. The Devaronians debuted in the Force and Destiny book, Nexus of Power, and are the devilish looking aliens first seen in the Mos Eisley cantina scene. Most notably, the species possess two livers, and add an automatic success to Resilience checks they make. Don’t get in a drinking contest with the devil. They also start with a 3 in cunning which will serve them well in a bounty hunting role. The other two races are new additions to the FFG Star Wars system: Clawdites and Kallerans. Clawdites are known for their shape-shifting doppelganger abilities, as showcased in episode II of the movies by Zam Wesell, the Clawdite hired to assassinate Padme. Mechanically, to change their appearance from their natural somewhat reptilian look, they suffer 3 strain and make an average Resilience check. Starting out with a rank in Resilience as their other species feature helps. These guys start with a 3 in cunning as well, and with their Changeling ability, offer a very compelling option for a bounty hunter. Kallerans were introduced in the Kanan: The Last Padawan comic. They can breathe through their skin which presents quite the paradox: they are strong but fragile, starting with a 3 in Brawn but only adding 8 for their initial wound threshold. Compare this with a Wookie adding 14 to their initial wound threshold and it is tough to make the case for a Kalleran PC. They have hypersensitive antennae which provides them with a rank in the Heightened Awareness talent, so could make an interesting force-sensitive PC, but seems like an odd choice as a bounty hunter.

zamNew specializations in this book include the Martial Artist, Operator, and Skip Tracer. Martial artist has a lot of interesting talents focusing on unarmed strikes and parrying in melee and brawling combat. Clients often pay more for live acquisitions, though this particular specialization may appeal to more than just bounty hunters. This may be a compelling choice for smaller parties that require more well-rounded PCs instead of specialists. To the core bounty hunter skills of Athletics, Brawl, Perception, Piloting (Planetary), Piloting (Space), Ranged (Heavy), Streetwise and Vigiliance, Martial Artist adds another Athletics, Brawl, as well as Coordination and Discipline. Your key attributes would certainly be Brawn followed by Agility, but this would make you a good pilot and a good shot in addition to being the muscle. If you are looking to create an all bounty hunter group with highly specialized PCs, hand the piloting keys over to the Operator. They add Astrogation, Gunnery, as well as additional ranks of Piloting (Planetary) and Piloting (Space). With a nice mix of talents from Ace:Driver and Explorer: Navigator, your key characteristics would be Agility followed by Intellect. Talents like Debilitating Shot allow the operator to disable vehicles with gunnery checks, as well as Shortcut and Improved Shortcut making them superior racers and ideal during vehicular pursuit of an acquisition. The Skip Tracer may be the most versatile of all three, but it is also the least focused. They add Cool, Knowledge (Underworld), Negotiation and Skulduggery, all new skills to the bounty hunter tree with two out of the three relying on Presence. With talents like Bypass Security, Good Cop, and Hard-boiled this would make a solid choice as a leader for a bounty hunter group, and certainly who you would want in the room while negotiating the contract, but suffers from being a Jack of All Trades, Master of None. This would be a fun choice for a small group focusing on investigations/noir kind of adventures, but it will take a lot of experience before they are as good as a larger group with more specialists. Ideally, you would want a 3 in Presence, Agility, and Cunning, which will give you a good pool for most of your career skills.

The two signature abilities are Always Get My Mark and Unmatched Devastation. Always Get My Mark is a narrative ability that basically fast forwards the plot until you start an encounter at your mark’s location. The book mentions the inherent issues with this as it has the ability to essentially skip the majority of an investigation/pursuit adventure and suggests this will always be a negotiation between the GM and the PC. I guess it could be cool, and I’ve never had a single character long enough to buy into one of the narrative signature abilities, but it doesn’t do a whole lot for me as a GM. It seems the cons far outweigh the pros. Unmatched Devastation is the more combat-oriented power, allowing a PC to make an additional combat check against the same target with increased difficulty and must be made with a non-ship/vehicle weapon not already used this turn. The “there was a firefight!” (NSFW language) scene from Boondock Saints immediately jumps to mind. With upgrades you can choose more targets and draw more weapons as well as move as an incidental for two strain. This ability would certainly allow a notorious bounty hunter to carve through crowds of mooks and create some truly memorable battles – especially for well-armed, outnumbered hunters.

swe16_weponsNow to the gear! The second section of the book is definitely the highlight for me, as we now have official stats for Mandolorian armor and attachments, a few nice rifles, and five flavors of mini-rockets for either under-rifle launchers, pistol or wrist mounts: Anti-Armor, Explosive, Flechette, Incendiary, and Ion. There are also rocket attachments to increase range and improve accuracy as well as adding the Guided quality. They are awesome! There are a couple of melee weapons, including an ion pike that only does ion damage, but does 10 pierce 4! That would be a must have for a droid bounty. There are a few new interesting armor types, but of course the most intriguing is Mandalorian Armor with its five hard points. Armor attachments include micro-rocket launcher, integrated holsters, and repulsor-assisted lifting which reduces encumbrance so you can add more stuff! There is so much great gear in this book: holonet homing beacons, rocket boots, a holographic disguise matrix… the gear section is amazing.

But that is only half of it! In a brilliant stroke of brand synergy, the ships and vehicles section gives you EotE stats for almost every Scum ship in the X-wing miniatures game, since that faction is made up of all the famous bounty hunters from Star Wars. It stats out IG-88’s Aggressor Assault Fighter and provides a mechanic that makes it more maneuverable with safety limiters turned off, which causes 3 strain to organics, but only 1 to droids. The signature craft of 4-LOM and Zuckuss G1-A is provided as is the Kihraxz star fighter, YV-666 Hound’s Tooth and the soon-to-be-released C-ROC scum capitol ship.  It also stats out a few ships from recent Rebels episodes like the Mandolrian Protectorate starfighter and the Shadowcaster. The vehicle attachments include a minelayer and six types of mines! Unlike typical weapons, mines require a hard Piloting (Space) check and their damage equals the base for the mine plus uncancelled failures. Uncancelled threats can be used to trigger various qualities for the different types of mines.

swe16_shadowcasterThe third section of the book is focused on the GM, and includes a lot of information for running investigations (which a lot of bounty hunts could certainly be) this is almost word-for-word identical to the section in Force and Destiny Endless Vigil, which is a bit disappointing. They do go into a bit more depth towards the end about creating obstacles and transistions between scenes, as well as creating an investigative campaign. If you were interesting in building these types of adventures and could only own one, I would certainly recommend this over Endless Vigil. Beyond that, there is some specific information for what benefits and risks go with being a guild bounty hunter as opposed to freelance, and outlines a few example investigative campaigns. The book ends with a section on rewards for different types of bounties and provides a table of sample bounties and modifiers in addition to exploits. Exploits provide a mechanical benefit to the bounty hunter based on performance after bringing back a Major or Legendary target. Some of these include: Humane: boost die to negotiation checks for bounties, but setback die for coercion checks about physical violence. Professional: may ask for a 10% advance on the next bounty after delivering a target within three days. Oppressor: hunter was a part of the rebel alliance or affiliate organization – adds 10% to bounties posted by the empire and increases the difficulty of social checks with rebels once.

Bottom line: This book is epic and amazing. If you only own one sourcebook for Edge of the Empire, this should be it.

Review: Volo’s Guide to Monsters (5E)

November 6, 2016 2 comments

volo

TLDR: If you’re running 5E, you need to buy this book.

When I heard that the next book in the 5E lineup was Volo’s Guide to Monsters, I was a little disappointed.  I’ve never been much of a Forgotten Realms fan, and Volo’s Guide sounded like it was going to be a fluff piece with articles similar to the old Dragon Magazine “Ecology” pieces.  While that’s great for magazine content, I didn’t get too excited about the prospect of a $45 book with minimal new information.

Fortunately for me, Wizards really outdid themselves in packaging a variety of things in this book that make it a very valuable addition to my growing 5E collection.

Volo’s Guide starts with the following disclaimer in small, easily missed print, under the cover attribution:

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast does not vouch for, guarantee, or provide any promise regarding the validity of the information provided in this volume by Volothamp Geddarm.  Do not trust Volo. Do not go on quests offered by Volo. Do not listen to Volo. Avoid being seen with him for risk of guilt by association.  If Volo appears in your campaign, your DM is undoubtedly trying to kill your character in a manner that can be blamed on your own actions.  The DM is probably trying to do that anyway, but with Volo’s appearance, you know for sure. We’re not convinced that Elminster’s commentary is all that trustworthy either, but he turned us into flumphs last time we mentioned him in one of these disclaimers.

I enjoy the fact that wizards is having fun with this volume, and it made me enjoy getting into the book a bit more than if I hadn’t noticed it.  I also appreciate Wizards sold a special limited edition FLGS cover for only $5 more (pictured above) to help the local shops get a leg up.

The book is broken into three parts: Monster Lore, Character Races, and a Bestiary.

Monster Lore

Monster Lore, the first 100 pages of the book, is what I had expected, but some crunch where I otherwise expected fluff for lifestyles of Beholders, Giants, Gnolls, Goblinoids, Hags, Kobolds, Mindflayers, Orcs and Yuan-Ti.

Examples of neat details that might constitute crunch include beholder charts detailing size, shape, texture, and a great random name generator, with tactics, variant eyestalk abilities, minions, treasure and a lair map.  History, mindset, and biological function is laid out in a depth previously unvisited in text as far as I’m aware, allowing the GM a deeper background on this favorite of monsters.

The Chapters going forth are what I’d call asymmetrical, being that they don’t follow a routine pattern.  Chapters on Giants have more details about origins, their habitat and personality traits. Gnolls have details on tactics, random traits and features, and tables to help build a gnollish warband.  Mind Flayers have some magic items listed that are specific to their culture.  Yuan-ti have a variety of charts detailing their variable physiology.

Each race detailed has a map of their typical lair, which gives some great examples where the trappings of the race might be otherwise somewhat mysterious (Mind-Flayers in particular).

Overall, these chapters are well written and flesh out the background of these common and popular monsters.  Is it essential? No.  Is it helpful? Yes.  My fear had been that for $45.00 I was going to get that, and that be it. Fortunately, it goes on.

Character Races

Now we start to hit things I can work with, and things that people invariably try to do on their own with varying degrees of success.  I happen to currently be playing a kobold priest of Kurtulmak in our Out of the Abyss game, and have been playing a kobold trapper race variant my GM got off the internet somewhere.  I yearned for canon guidance on what a kobold PC should look like.  Fortunately, Volo delivers.

Races detailed are Aasimar, Firbolgs, Goliaths, Kenku, Lizardfolk, Tabaxi, and Tritons with a separate section for “Monstrous Adventurers” giving blocks for the already detailed bugbear, goblin, hobgoblin, kobold, orc and yuan-ti pureblood.

I’ve always been a guy that likes the idea of playing the monster as a PC, and this opens doors for me.

Bestiary

This, by far, seals the deal for this book being a must-have for the dedicated 5E player.  100 pages of new and classic monsters that were conspicuously absent from the Monster Manual.  A few personal favorites include:

  • Barghest
  • Bodak
  • Catoblepas
  • Darkling
  • Baubau
  • Devourer
  • Flail Snail!
  • Froghemoth!
  • Several new Variant classed giants, very cool
  • Girallion
  • Flind
  • Leucrotta
  • Quickling
  • Shadow mastiff
  • Spawn of Kyuss (Greyhawk?)
  • Trapper
  • Vargouille
  • Vegepygmy!
  • Xvarts (Eric Mona must have been involved in this)
  • Yeth Hound
  • Many more!

Also a number of “Beasts” (including a rot grub swarm) and 21 new stock NPCs which are sure to prove super useful on an ongoing basis (in particular, it appears a mage of each spell casting school, archers, archdruid, war priest and so on).  Not mentioned in my list are also special “classed” versions of various orcs, yuan-ti, hobgoblins, and so on, as well as some subcategories of other races like beholders that will prove useful in putting on games that utilize those species.  This is where the book proves out its crunchiness but give me stat blocks that I can use to have a more interesting game.

Overall

Wizards has done a good job of bringing a little more than just the basics to each book it has published.  Each adventure module has had a few spells and a few more general stat blocks that make each book tempting to pick up.  This book, as a sourcebook, doubles down on that principle making there elements that you just can’t afford to miss.  This book has extended value for the GM of your group, but remains optional for the player short of playing a racial variant.   That said, I think anyone who picks it up is going to find it’s a great addition to their collection.

All Praise Kurtulmak!

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Star Wars Force and Destiny – Endless Vigil Review

November 2, 2016 1 comment

swf30_book_leftThe recent release of Endless Vigil puts a focus on urban encounters and investigations for the sourcebook for Sentinels. There are some very compelling and some questionable bits to this book, but first let’s talk about the main additions for PCs. This book continues the now very familiar format for career sourcebooks. The first chapter is PC options, the second equipment/vehicles, and the third provides some GM guidance and encounters.

The races are all new to the Force and Destiny line, with the only FFG Star Wars repeat being the Gand, found in the Edge of the Empire core book. The new additions are the Muun (tall, skinny, banking-clan race), and the Pantoran (Blue-skinned race featured heavily in the Clone Wars animated series and the Jewel of Yavin adventure). The Gand is statistically identical to the Edge entry for them (as you would expect) but it does provide some insight on Gand culture and their curious relationship with the Force. The Muun start out with a 3 in both intellect and cunning, balanced by low starting XP and a 1 in both willpower and presence. They would make a very fun archetypal Sherlock investigator; calculating and analytical. The Pantorans make excellent leaders and negotiators, starting out with a 3 in presence and a free rank in negotiation or cool.

Adding to the Sentinel core specializations of Artisan, Shadow, and Shien Expert, Endless Vigil presents the Investigator, the Racer, and the Sentry. While Sentinels have always been the street-level Jedi compared to higher-profile careers like Guardian or Consular, adding these diverse specializations to this career allow you to create a well-rounded character. From the core book, Artisan focuses on using the force to manipulate mechanical objects. The Shadow focuses on stealth and subverting criminals by meeting them where they are. The Shien Expert allows a PC to focus on lightsaber combat utilizing their cunning and reflecting ranged attacks. The new specializations are just as diverse. The core skills  for the Sentinel are Computers, Deception, Knowledge (Core Worlds), Perception, Skulduggery and Stealth.

swf30_vigil_artThe investigator adds Knowledge (Education), Knowledge (Underworld), another Perception and Streetwise. The talent tree includes several ranks of grit and toughened to beef up strain and wounds (likely handy for a mostly intellectual character) as well some interesting talents towards the bottom. There are a few instances of Street Smarts and Keen Eyed which remove setback dice to Streetwise and Underworld checks and Perception and Vigilance checks, respectively. The real signature talents arrive in about the 20 XP level for this spec. Clever Solution allows you to use Cunning rather than the typical characteristic linked to that skill. The onus is on the player to explain how Cunning applies to the situation they are trying to get out of. Sense the Scene allows investigators to identify the emotional characteristics of one person involved in a crime. This talent seems overly specific unless you were running a noir/private investigator campaign. I would probably allow this to be used any time the investigator tried to use perception to sense emotion in a social encounter. Valuable Facts (originally detailed in the talent tree for the Sage) is an excellent addition as it allows you to add a triumph to an ally’s skill check during an encounter. Elementary, my dear Watson.

The racer seems like an odd choice for the Sentinel career. It does open up many of the typical vehicular talents found in Edge and Age in such careers as Smuggler and Ace. This does fill a bit of a gap in the core Force and Destiny book as there is no other “wheelman” spec in this line. This career adds Cool, Coordination, and Piloting (Space and Planetary) to the core list of Sentinel skills. In addition to typical pilot talents like skilled jockey, full throttle and shortcut, racers also excel at foot races with the new talent Freerunning and Improved Freerunning. This allows racers to spend strain and move to any location in short or (with improved) medium range. May the Parkour be with you! On the bottom row of the tree, once per session Superhuman Reflexes allows a PC to cancel a despair result and add successes equal to ranks in Cool. Intuitive Evasion allows racers to commit a force die to upgrade incoming combat checks for one strain a round. This could be a fun choice if you had an all-Jedi table. If you mix the three (Edge, Age, and F+D) you’ll likely have better pilots if you are flying/traveling as a group.

The last new spec is the Sentry. This one adds some more lightsaber combat focus, as well as the only tree to feature a talent with inherent conflict. Specialization skills include Lightasber, Coordination, another Stealth and Vigilance. Unlike the Shien Expert which seems mostly defensive in nature, the Sentry has a few ranks of Reflect, but also includes an inexpensive path to Saber Throw and Improved Saber Throw. Beyond that, conflict-causing talent Fear the Shadows allows Sentries to make a hard deception check and cause a single minion group or rival to flee an encounter. This spec stacked with the Shadow spec from the core book would make one serious batman-like Jedi. As the saying goes, be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

swf30_art_moonsThe signature abilities are My City and Unmatched Vigilance. My City allows you to spend two destiny points, and make a hard core worlds or outer rim check. If successful for the remainder of the session you can spend two strain to recall or learn the location of any individual, group, or establishment within the city and any relevant information. Upgrades reduce the difficulty or change the skill to streetwise. Unmatched Vigilance allows you once per session to spend two destiny points to rearrange the initiative order for the first round of an encounter. PCs still make checks, and it returns to normal after the first round. Upgrades can increase the duration of the effect and allow PCs to choose Vigilance or Cool regardless of what would typically be appropriate. I’ve never gotten far enough in a characters development to utilize signature abilities, but compared to others in the soldier book for Age for instance, these seem somewhat underwhelming. Unmatched Vigilance when upgraded to three rounds would be a pretty big game-changer, but My City seems too specific to be useful unless you had an urban focus to the campaign.

The Force power introduced is Manipulate, which allows Jedi to affect machines, healing system strain and committing force dice to increase hull trauma thresholds. This again, seems a bit odd to me. The racer, this Force power and Pod Racing (we’ll get there) all seem shoe-horned into this book. Mechanically it is interesting, and works well with both the racer and artisan specs for the Sentinel, but it just doesn’t seem like a power that is in the typical spirit of other Force powers like sense, move, influence, etc. It’s fine, it just doesn’t seem to fit as well as other powers.

swf30_art_robotsThe gear section adds a few interesting guns including the NX-14 Needler which ignores setback dice from personal deflectors and is Pierce 3. Another eye-catching weapon is the lightwhip which is essentially a lightsaber whip with ensnaring abilities. They also include stats for a Crossguard lightsaber hilt (Kylo-style) as well as a Pistol hilt that allows stun bolts at short range just like Ezra’s saber in Rebels. There are a few droids stated out, including pit droids for podracing and  two Nemesis level droids: once security and one infiltration. One particularly interesting piece of gear is the Merr-Sonn model 31 Palm Stunner. These look very similar to the devices installed in triple-zero in the outstanding Marvel Darth Vader comic. It can’t be used in combat, but instead depends on an opposed Skulduggery vs. Resilience check on an unaware target. If successful it deals 12 stun plus any uncancelled successes! That would drop all but the most hearty rivals and nemeses.

There are a few new star ships including the venerable Eta-class shuttle and the obvious A-wing precursor, the KSE RHO-1 Limulus-class courier. The vehicle section is dominated by the podracing section, and includes just about all the pods from episode one. My questions is: why? Why is podracing in the Jedi book about urban investigations. I get that it is part of Anakin’s origin story, but it feels very shoe-horned in to this otherwise cohesive book. The third section includes a pretty interesting adventure seed with some possible threats that centers around podracing, but not enough to justify the page count spent in the equipment section. Having run the race in Jewel of Yavin, it is a challenge to keep the rest of the party involved when the main action is a race happening far away from the majority of the party. It’s not impossible, it’s just not what I’m looking for in a Star Wars RPG. If you’ve been waiting for more stats on pods to run a race during your Star Wars game, this is the book for you.

The third chapter does have lots of great stuff focusing on urban environments. Included are tables for suggested dice results in the city. These can work as great prompts to get your players creative juices flowing, while providing the GM with some guidance as to what is reasonable for two advantage compared to two triumphs. It also includes suggestions for threats, failure and despair as well as possible urban challenges: complications with law enforcement, crowds, speeder traffic and vertical spaces. Each of those include smaller tables with similar suggestions on how to spend dice results. There is a great section on developing networks of contacts, and tables about gathering information and investigations. It wraps up with a section on lightsaber hilt crafting and includes templates for precision, defensive, double-bladed and pole light sabers.

Overall this is a pretty excellent edition to the Force and Destiny line, with lots of great material for GMs and players alike. With the odd exception of the off-theme podracing rules, a great buy for those interested in Jedi in the big city!

Categories: Books, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

Star Wars Age of Rebellion – Forged in Battle Review

August 30, 2016 Comments off

swa42_book_leftGood 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.

swa42_new-speciesOn 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.

swc23_planningtherescueThe 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.

swa42_trenchwarfareBoth 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.

swa42_at-tewalkerVehicles 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.

Categories: Books, News, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

Star Wars – Edge of the Empire – Special Modifications review

April 4, 2016 2 comments

swe14_mainBy now, those of us who have purchased a sourcebook or two (or ten) for this system are familiar with the typical Fantasy Flight Games formula for their supplements to the Edge/Age/F+D system: Add a few new species, three alternate specializations for the career, and some specific gear, weapons, and vehicles that compliment the specializations. Throw the GM a bone with the last section on building encounters specific to the career, and maybe some adventure seeds and you have a sourcebook.

Until now. FFG broke the mold for the technician sourcebook Special Modifications. It is still in three familiar sections, and it adds a few new species, three new specs and some career-specific gear, but then it goes further. The crafting section at the end of the book allows for true customization and building of weapons, droids, gadgets, and even cybernetics! It provides several basic templates for each category, as well as tables to spend results from the crafting check to add qualities and characteristics to the creation. For weapons this means positive effects like Accurate, Knockdown, Ion, Ensare, Stun, Pierce, etc. On the negative side it could add inaccurate, slow-firing, difficult to repair, expensive, prepare, etc. This is a tinkerer’s dream, and allows careers like outlaw tech and gadgeteer a lot of awesome new options.

swe14_walkingworkshopJust after the crafting section is expanded rules on slicing. It includes actions for both an ‘intruder’ and ‘defender’ which allows for the PC to play either side, and could involve several intruders and defenders depending on how complex you want to make the encounter. I think I personally would save this for a special occasion for a very important slicing mission, preferably during a fire-fight, so the rest of the party isn’t just sitting around. Otherwise this could fall quickly into the Shadowrun trap of PCs in cyberspace playing one game, and PCs in meatspace playing another. I do appreciate the stats and descriptions of computer spikes (previously seen in Jewel of Yavin) which I believe first appeared in Knights of the Old Republic as a way to slice into computer terminals.

Beyond that there are a ton of new vehicle and weapon attachments, and a few vehicles that can serve as mobile workshops, as well as a highly-customizable fighter that can use different attachments and modifications depending on the mission.

swe14_itsallonfireThe three new specs are Droid Tech, Cyber Tech, and Modder. Cyber Tech focuses mostly on self-modification through cybernetics, but adds Medicine, Athletics, Mechanics, and Vigilance to the base skills of a technician. The tree also contains talents like Surgeon which helps on medicine checks, so this could be a strong choice for a mechanic/doctor combo. Droid Tech is the technician’s technician (with a focus on droids of course) adding another Mechanics and Computers, as well as Cool and Leadership. Some of the talents deal with directing NPC droids, so I would assume Leadership would play into that. Modder is similar to the Age spec of Rigger in the Ace sourcebook. To the regular technician skills, Modder adds Gunnery, Mechanics, Piloting (Space) and Streetwise. Seems like a very playable combo to me. Much like the Rigger, the Modder has many talents that focus on a signature vehicle.

The new species are Dug (Sebulba from pod racing), Besalisk (Obi-wan’s buddy Dex), and two flavors of Mustafarians, Northern and Southern. Despite mechanics and medicine both being intellect based, none of the presented species start with higher than 2, which seems surprising given the focus of the book.

Overall, if you have been holding back on sourcebooks, I would recommend getting this one. I would even go as far to say if you were to only get one sourcebook, I would make it this one, just for all the customization/crafting tables. At least until FFG finally releases the one career that doesn’t have a sourcebook yet: Bounty Hunter. I can’t wait!

Categories: Books, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

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.

Categories: Books, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

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.