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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.

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Fun with the Three Fates in DCCRPG

May 2, 2016 1 comment

A few months ago we ran some fourth level pregens through the awesome Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure “The 13th Skull” while taking a week off from our regularly scheduled D&D game. Someone had to be the cleric and so I pulled a Neutral priestess and using just the Core book as inspiration chose “The Three Fates” as her patron. Thus was born the legend of Sister Aramella…

Her background occupation was fortune-teller and she had a tarot deck as one of her pieces of equipment. We had a printed copy of the Deck of Many Things, so I grabbed that and whenever someone questioned Sister Aramella or wanted me to cast a spell, I pulled a card and wove that into my role-play.

We faced an enemy: I pulled a card – “Death” – and said “Well this does not look good…” It was a great hook and the spell Second Sight got the most use out of any previous DCC game because I’d pass the deck to the GM and he’d arrange for me to pull a card and let me interpret it as I saw fit. “Oh you’d like healing?” Pull out the Skull and “Sorry, the Fates decree that you might not survive the day. We’ll see.” Botched a spell? Pull out the Idiot card and cry that my actions have upset the Triplicate Goddess.

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One of the things I would like to add more of to my own DCC games are additional patrons, and additional spells or effects like I described. The 2015 Gongfarmer’s Almanac (available at the Google+ DCC community for free and now in an omnibus addition) has a whole slew of new patrons and even a great chart for additional daily effects expanding upon the birth augur in the core rulebook.

What sort of props have you added in to your DCC games? What kind of patrons or additional effects would you like to see? Comments are open!

Pathfinder Unchained: Summoner

June 15, 2015 Comments off

This week we conclude our examinations of the new classes and from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.

We are finally examining the new Unchained Summoner, one of the least changed classes. The summoner itself is basically unchanged except for the revamped spell list. Spells that were obviously out of place in the old version have been placed at higher levels, balancing the class out versus others of a comparable power level. The biggest change has been to the eidolon itself. Players now choose a template, such as angel or devil, that dictates its base form and gives a sort of cohesion to the eidolon and tie it to a game world better than some random smattering of evolution points. This template comes with several free evolutions, resistances and even class abilities (ex. agathions gain lay on hands at the summoner’s 8th level) in addition to the evolutions that eidolons already receive. Roleplay-wise, this is one thing that needed to be done.

The downside to this rebuild? Nothing. Or it should be if players did not want the older version. The new version fixes all the kinks and problems, such as the spell list and randomized eidolon parts, of the old version, but with the older version still around may mean the unchained version will stay in lower numbers for a long while.

The Unchained Summoner receives a grade of B+ because even though it sets everything right from the old version, players will still want the broken, over-powered version that appeared in the Advanced Player’s Guide. It receives the great marks from balance and role-play, but low on desirability.

Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a somewhat different type of build. We went with a build that uses the eidolon not as a tool of the summoner but more of a main character and the summoner taking the support role. We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on his name) and progression to level 8.

*** Loris of Almas ***

One of the most promising young orators and diplomats to come out of Andoran, Loris has long had dreams of becoming a great statesman. He was shocked to find that he had been chosen, some say by Talmandor himself, to become the liason of an avoral by the name of Gramann. Charged with presenting Golarion to Gramann, he has been trying to get his plumed obligation to see and understand the good and the evil of the world.

  • Level 1 – Extra Evolution, Summon Good Monster
  • Level 2 –
  • Level 3 – Combat Advice
  • Level 4 – +1 Charisma
  • Level 5 – Extra Evolution
  • Level 6 –
  • Level 7 – Battle Cry
  • Level 8 – +1 Charisma

Check out the other reviews of Unchained Classes:

Pathfinder Unchained: Rogue

June 12, 2015 5 comments

This week we continue to examine the new classes and options from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.

We will examine the new Unchained Rogue today, probably the best revision to a class in Pathfinder Unchained. The new version takes the old version and adds several new features. The Unchained Rogue automatically gets the Weapon Finesse feat, finesse training with allows you to add dexterity modifier to damage with a single weapon, debilitating injuries (penalties or bonuses) to sneak attacks and rogue’s edge. The rogue’s edge is part of Pathfinder Unchained’s skill unlocks system which adds abilities according to how many ranks of a specific skill you have (Five ranks of Stealth reduces the penalty from sniping by 10). In Pathfinder Organized Play, this is special to the Unchained Rogue; no other classes are allowed to have this. By adding these four things the Unchained version of the rogue is so much better.

The only possible downside to the new rogue is the continued lack of armor class boosters. But for those who have played or are playing a rogue, those are not problems for you and you know how to overcome that with flanking and stealth. Honestly, it is not really a problem.

The Unchained Rogue has been made revised and upgraded beyond what many were expecting. With all of the new changes the rogue gets a grade of A+; all of the additions have made this class more attractive to play while keeping the versatility and abilities of the rogue that players are accustomed to.
Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a different type of build. We went with a build that uses a finessable two-handed weapon and combat maneuvers (trip or disarm). We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on her name) and progression to level 8.

*** Alyssa Denaria ***

Playing the role of the young, naive girl like an expert, Alyssa is able to accomplish many more things that if she was a hulking brute for the Pathfinder Society and the Exchange. Her subtle and lithe movements are calculated and she draws on her Varisian heritage to become an expert in reading the Harrow cards, a master of the beautiful dance and a wielder of a deadly bladed scarf.

  • Level 1 – Combat Expertise, Improved Trip (or Disarm)
  • Level 2 – Combat Trick (Agile Maneuvers)
  • Level 3 – Piranha Strike
  • Level 4 – Trap Spotter, +1 Strength
  • Level 5 – Rogue’s Edge (Escape Artist), Twist Away
  • Level 6 – Surprise Attacks
  • Level 7 – Extra Talent (Pressure Points)
  • Level 8 – Distracting Attack, +1 Intelligence

Are you happy with the new changes to the rogue? Let us know!

And have you seen our reviews of the Unchained Barbarian and the Unchained Monk? Which of the classes (so far) have piqued your interest?

Pathfinder Unchained: Monk

June 10, 2015 2 comments

This week we will continue to examine the revamped classes and new options from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.

Today, we will examine the new Unchained Monk, one of the best revisions to a class in Pathfinder Unchained. The most outstanding revision is to the flurry of blows. It is now an additional attack at the monk’s highest base attack bonus as part of the full-attack action. It is much simpler to calculate than the older version. This version of the monk has a FULL base attack bonus and a higher hit die, making it more formidable and increasing its survivability in combat. Some of the higher level abilities (abundant step, etc.) that were part of the old version of the monk are now part of the selection of ki powers and not automatically given, adding some versatility to the class. There is a vast selection of ki powers, bonus feats and style strikes to push the versatility to the next level. Style strikes are new and they are abilities used during an unarmed attack during a flurry of blows that add an effect if the attack hits. There are elbow smashes, flying kicks and foot stomps and more that give some really interesting bonuses when attacking.

A continual issue with the monk is the lack of armor class. Even though a monk can add the wisdom modifier in with the dexterity modifier, it still is behind any other class that calls itself a front line unit. Of course to offset this you will need to supplement with rings, amulets, bracers, potions or even wands to obtain a decent armor class. The Will save will also need to be supplemented since the monk now has slow progression for that save (but not Fortitude or Reflex).

The Unchained Monk has been revised and upgraded beyond expectations to make the monk more viable and fun to play. So with all of the new changes the monk gets a grade of A-, with the only bad marks coming from the continual lack of a high armor class and a low Will save.

Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to show how much power the new version of monk actually has. We went with more strength than finesse and with the full base attack bonus, we were able to pick up some abilities sooner than as a regular monk.

How much power can this monk put out? At level 1, flurry of blows yields 2 attacks with the seven branch sword, a two-handed weapon. At level 3, flurry of blows + ki attack yields 3 attacks with the sword. At level 5, flurry of blows + haste + ki attack would be a total of 5 attacks (1. leg sweep style strike (unarmed damage); 2. if trip successful, triggers AoO attack with the sword thanks to Vicious Stomp; 3. flurry attack with sword; 4. haste attack with sword; 5. ki attack with sword.) At level 7, it could be 7 attacks (Greater Trip gives another AoO during the initial trip and the monk gets iterative attacks at level 6). When you reach level 8, you could probably solely use unarmed strikes (1d10+10+1d6 elemental fury) instead of using the sword. We included haste into the level 5+ attack scenarios because that should be available to the monk.

We (as always) provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on his name, Power Attack is already factored in) and progression to level 8.

*** Tamagon the Youngerman ***

When not inspecting the latest artifact brought to the Grand Lodge or teaching fighting techniques to his fellow Pathfinders, Tamagon dedicates his service in the Society to doing good in Absalom and beyond. Each one of the short L-shaped blades on his seven branch sword has a sin (of the Seven Deadly Sins) etched on it. His goal is to stop an instance of each sin every week, which he denotes by tying a ribbon on the corresponding blade.

  • Level 1 – Combat Reflexes, Power Attack
  • Level 2 – Improved Grapple
  • Level 3 – Vicious Stomp
  • Level 4 – Quiggong Power (Feather Step), +1 Intelligence
  • Level 5 – Style Strike (Leg Sweep), Combat Expertise
  • Level 6 – Improved Trip, Elemental Fury
  • Level 7 – Greater Trip
  • Level 8 – Abundant Step, +1 Strength

What do you think about the changes to the monk? Would you give them the same grade? Why or why not?

Check out our previous review of the Unchained Barbarian HERE.

Edge Bounty Hunters Guild – Careers

May 4, 2015 Comments off

Mandalorian_logoI’ve been kicking around this idea since picking up the Bounty Hunter’s Code 6 months ago, and I’ve decided to start a series of articles about setting up a pick-up game of Edge of the Empire, based on being Guild Bounty Hunters. What day better than May the 4th (be with you) to kick it off! Ideally the GM would have 2-3 scenarios prepped, each focusing on different sets of skills. The higher the bounty, the more difficult the baddies.

The players would bring 2-3 Guild bounty hunter PCs to the table, and choose from their stable the best team of hunters based on who shows up for game day. This would get boring quickly if we restricted the career and specialization to just that of Bounty Hunter (Gadgeteer) Bounty Hunter (Assassin) and Bounty Hunter (Survivalist). All three of course would be welcome on just about any hunt, but there are plenty of careers and specializations outside of the namesake that would make excellent hunters.

BHCAs I was re-reading the Bounty Hunter’s Code, the one that immediately jumped to mind is the Marshall, from the Colonist sourcebook. The Guild treats hunting like a very specialized version of law enforcement, and a Marshall (or narratively, ex-Marshall) with a past could make a really awesome vigilante-like hunter. Not only are you great in a fight, the Marshall has some social talents in Good Cop and Bad Cop that could be useful in tracking down leads; one way or the other.

Another fun option from the soucebooks would be Enforcer from the book on Hired Guns. Enforcer would be ideal for a player’s stable of hunters when the party needs to get up close and personal. This specialization blends melee and brawl skills with some talents that combine street smarts and an intimidating presence for those dens of inequity that require a bit of swagger. This blend of skills and talents would make for a strong addition to the party on an urban hunt.

SWE10-Book-leftIf you don’t have all the awesome sourcebooks out there (which I can understand, but they are SO good), there are plenty of specializations in the core book that could make fine additions to a Guild hunt. An Explorer (Scout) would make a great versatile edition to a team, especially for hunts that require travel to a remote destination or sparsely inhabited world. Survival can be a rare skill, but medicine is the big advantage, as few hunters would have training in that. I would also submit Technician (Slicer), as it never hurts to have a computer expert that can also train in mechanics and stealth.

This is just the beginning. One could make a case for several other “outside-of-the-box” hunter careers and specializations. Who will be available for the next job? What skills will they bring to the hunt to insure success? Next installment (which will likely be in several weeks), sample bounties!

Resurrection Revisited

April 6, 2015 Comments off

Avalynethelifegiver1988The Easter season is a time that rebirth is on our minds, with the backdrop of the story of the Resurrection prominent for many, and the revitalization Spring brings.

It made me think about the role of resurrection and ‘raise dead‘ in fantasy role playing. Most systems have something of this sort at some level of play, and conquering death is one of the big fantasies we have in reality and fiction. That said, as an element of a gaming setting, it’s a complete game changer.  And here’s the thing: It is horrible.

Resurrection ruins games.  It ruins good story-telling. It cheapens heroism, belittles triumphs, and obliterates drama. It destroys the impact and gravity of the greatest story telling device there is: Death.  Without death, there is no finality, no consequences to any event that can’t be unmade or recycled.  Heroes need not live up to a higher standard where they might just prevail by way of a Holy Mulligan. It’s a softening of the game world that detracts from the story, and thereby detracts from the game itself.

We finished up Paizo’s Reign of Winter adventure path this past year. After we hit the midway point of the series,  it became apparent that the presence of raise dead and resurrection was quickly arrived at as the easy remedy for character death. A shoulder shrug followed by a quick calculation of how many diamonds it would deplete from the party stores was all the drama that such an event as character death added.  It was a failure of the system if not myself, the storyteller.  Death had lost its finality, and the threat of death was greatly offset by the players calling my bluff of a TPK, which I theoretically wouldn’t let happen (though I would, with some caveats that I went into last year in my article “The Art of Fail“) . That is a problem.

Outside of a softening of the consequences, it is problematic from a general story telling perspective.  How can the loss of life of villagers in a goblin raid remain poignant when someone can walk up and raise the victims?  Why stop there?  Why not raise random people of historical note?  The King murdered?  Bring ’em back?  It only takes 10 minutes in some of these systems, so he might not even be missed!   It cheapens the value of life and the story telling dynamic, and creates numerous plot holes that are hard to work around without clumsy artifice on the part of the GM.

And you shouldn’t do that!  Resurrection and Raise Dead should be rare, almost wish-like events that are costly.  Costly, painful rituals for a loved friend and companion, like we see in Conan the Barbarian.  Some of these costs are built in, but if it’s just money, it’s a pittance (get a character to sacrifice their most powerful magic item and you’ll see them weep openly).  Promises should be required to raise the dead.  Oaths. Blood sacrifice.

Some of you might have played under old rules in OD&D that indicated that an elf could not be resurrected.  We did, back in 1997, and when a elven ranger died at the hands of a certain Troll  in the Temple of Elemental Evil, we all realized that he was DEAD DEAD, and it sobered the players that evening.  When not long after, a paladin of St. Cuthbert was mostly devoured by rats, the drama of her resurrection was a story in itself; an epic race to the nearest city that had a priest of sufficient level to raise her, a debt undertaken, oaths sworn, and a battle with a cult of Iuzian priests fighting to interrupt the ritual.  The resurrection became a story in itself, and carried weight.

It’s a hard choice to ditch resurrection or deny its availability to players.  They will hate you for it, so you had better telegraph those decisions early on before it becomes a resource they anticipate. When the playing field is clear before hand, few have reason to complain (especially where the challenges are freely taken and understood).  Games that let you know that they plan on killing you can be strangely refreshing, like Paranoia (giving you six clones is a good indicator of the cheapness of human life) or Dungeon Crawl Classics, where the 0-level funnel has you generate 3 to 4 peasants who try to try to survive a normal first level adventure (protip: your most unworthy character will always be the sole survivor).  While seemingly depressing, the result is a certain lack of attachment for more lighthearted games, which is surprisingly welcome.  Alternately, for more serious games, a grim determination and earnest concern for other characters becomes more pressing.

Perhaps the biggest downside to this approach is when it takes effect, and a favorite character is gone without the realistic possibility of a remedy.  Sometimes, this can be a game-ending or campaign-ending event, especially if more than one character bites the bullet.  My advice is to play through it and see if you can’t come out on the other side.  That said, you know your players.  The point, is to have fun (Commandment #10) so as long as folks are having a good time, it’s worth it, but remember you may have missed an opportunity for players and characters to grow a little, which could lead to even better results.

Try it on, or say you’re going to, and see how it changes your player’s play-style.  You might just be surprised what the fear of death will do for your next game.