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Star Wars Rogue Two – Less is More

March 31, 2017 Comments off

Recently I put together a FFG Star Wars adventure for Mace West called Rogue 2. The synopsis was brief, and apparently intriguing enough to fill the table months before the con:

“You are part of an elite commando team for the Rebel Alliance. The Empire has demonstrated the fearsome and devastating power of the Death Star. It is up to you to stand up for freedom in the galaxy. Your comlink indicates a summons to the briefing room with High Command. This next mission is going to be something big. Hopefully you’ll live long enough to tell about it!”

I studied episodes of Rebels, as well as Episode IV and what I could remember from Rogue One (this was shortly after the theatrical release) and did some research about what could happen in the short time frame between Rogue One and A New Hope. In one of the behind the scenes clips for Rogue One the writers revealed they wanted to include  Wedge Antilles in the planetary shield battle on Scarif, but realized he would have never seen it since at the beginning of the battle of Yavin he says, “Look at the size of that thing…” So where is Wedge during Rogue One?

Enter Rogue Two: The Antilles Extraction. Those of you familiar with how I have run several Bounty Hunter missions will know I like to plan for a three-act structure, maybe with an optional fourth, if there is time. I play-tested this once before the con, then ran it at the con, and both times we ran out of time in our 4-hour block before getting to Act III. That being said, the sessions were great fun, but one day I plan on getting to the third act. Here is the basic outline:

Act I – Planning/Infiltration

Act II – Rescue/Escape

Act III – The Emperor’s Snare – Interdictor Showdown

With just a few other notes, a very basic map, and a small deck of probable baddies/NPCs from the adversary decks, we were off! I’ve found the more I run this system, the better it is to provide a small sandbox like a map of a ship or facility, then literally let the dice fall where they may. Relying not only on my creativity, but leaning on the players to help interpret FFG dice results has been some of the most fun I’ve had running or playing an RPG… ever.

While my actual adventure notes were pretty slim, I did a bit of research before the session to help flesh it out on the fly during the session. Researching prison facilities in Star Wars led me to discover an old Dark Horse comic called Han Solo at Stars’ End which was based on a novel by Brian Daley. I didn’t go so far as to read the novel, but I used some of the visuals to inspire the map of the exterior of the facility. The shape of the prison is a tall silo that reminded me of the cells from an episode of the Clone Wars that required floating repulsor sleds to reach them (S3E7). Beyond that, I wanted a reason Wedge and his squad were captured alive, and what better than an Interdictor cruiser to capture both ships and pilots.

 

ACT I

The first part of the session is planning the infiltration and requesting additional gear from Rebel High Command. The briefing is short on details, just the rudimentary reconnaissance scan gathered from an A-wing at long range. Mytus VII is a moon-like rock with no atmosphere and little natural gravity. I provided the squad with a choice of two available ships for infiltration: a U-Wing (with some home-brewed stats borrowed from forums) or a captured Imperial Lambda shuttle. Beyond that, they could make reasonable requests for other equipment that may be around the Yavin IV base. The playtest group requested a few speeder bikes (non-military versions, granted) and the con group requested ascension cables (which came in *very* handy). Now to plan the approach: land outside the facility and approach on foot or speeder? Land at the end of one of the tubes? Brazenly fly into one of the hangars? Any of these are options using this approach. The pre-gens I provided did not include any humans, which limited their options for posing as imperials in stolen uniforms, so both groups opted to land their U-wing (both chose the U-wing) well outside the facility and made a stealthy approach. The con team had the foresight to request an astromech droid to keep the engine running and stand by to fly in and pick them up. How they get in from here is entirely up to the table. The playtest group took out a pair of bored guards at the end of a landing tube, and stealthily made their way in to the main facility. The con group set some remote explosives on the outside of one of the tubes to the hangar, and took out a gunnery crew in one of the turbolasers.

ACT II

Now the team is in the facility, they need to find which cells have their rebel pilots and successfully extract them from the vertical tower of cells in the center of the complex. Optionally (if they are somehow captured) they could be facing off against gladiator droids in the arena on the very top level of the central tower (this is in reference to a scene in the comic) but this did not come up either time I ran it. Leaving the interior of the facility vague gives the game master great flexibility to improvise. Elevators or turbolifts can be anywhere you need them to be, as well as interior doors, tunnels to the turbolaser batteries, utilities like power and gravity generation may be in the basement. If your team seems stumped, provide them with options in a rudimentary directory (“Hmm, this says central generator on B1, arena on level 42, Warden’s Office on 41…” etc.) they can pull up from any terminal or datajack. Regardless of how they eventually get there, this will lead to an encounter with Imperial Dungeoneers in repulsor sleds. Judging from the visuals in the Clone Wars, I set up a central control tower, and at least three sleds with two dungeoneers on them a piece. Since this is an Imperial facility, I replaced the floating little cam bots in Clone Wars with interrogation droids, which make for pretty nice rival-level adversaries. This is generally where the stealth part of the mission breaks down. Alarms start going off, you can send in squads of storm troopers and their red-pauldroned sergeants as back up. Both times I ran it, this involved a few PCs in the central tower identifying the cells of the rebel pilots, and a few PCs going from cell to cell, freeing them. The con team set the gravity generators into a diagnostic mode that turned the gravity both off and on every two minutes, adding to the chaos. Once you retrieve Wedge and his squad (4-6 pilots) they reveal they were captured by the Emperor’s Snare, an Interdictor Cruiser that ripped their squad out of hyperspace. Their ships are still intact, and recoverable, if the team can capture the impound hangar. This can lead to a battle with TIEs on the base. I would encourage GMs to use group checks to narrate how the squad is doing rather than rolling a bunch of checks for NPCs, and let the PC squad take ship actions as normal. The rebels will likely outgun the Imperials until…

Act III

The Emperor’s Snare drops out of hyperspace on the horizon. Now both the commandos and the pilots are trapped unless the commandos can board that Interdictor and shutdown the gravity wells! I wrote this before watching the amazing Rebels Season 3 finale in which Interdictor cruisers play a big role, but if you are looking for inspiration for this chapter, check out the end of Rebels season 3! Having run out of time both times I ran this scenario we never actually made it this far, but I would suggest more group checks for the rebel pilots while having the PCs make some daring checks to board the bridge of the Interdictor and either shut it down or (more likely) sabotage the gravity wells before escaping. If the U-wing is still intact they may be able to take that, or if its destroyed in the ensuing battle, have them find some other shuttle or escape craft in a battle to the hangar bay. In a truly Rogue 2 like twist, the commandos may be captured or even killed in the attempt to disable the Snare and ensure the pilots get back to Yavin for the battle against the Death Star!

I hope you enjoy this adventure outline. I’m providing the map I used as well as six pre-gens for potential commandos below. Happy gaming, and may the Force be with you!

Rogue2map

GotalSaboteur

BothanQuartermaster

GranFigurehead

SullustanDriver

KyuzoHeavy

DurosInstructor

IthorianMedic

The Death of Jar Jar Binks

April 21, 2016 4 comments

NEpVH1HqB1S5sx_1_bThe weekly Bounty Hunter game at our FLGS The Wyvern’s Tale continues to be a hit! Never have a seen so many sign up so quickly, as when I announced the target would be the notorious representative from Naboo, Jar Jar Binks. With the release of Nexus of Power, we now have PC stats for Gungans, as well as Gungan weapons, details about their culture and significant locales on Naboo. I’ll provide links to the three NPCs I stated out at the bottom: Gungan Guard, Boss Nass, and Jar Jar himself.

I employed my typical three scene strategy for this week’s episode, but quickly adapted to a new setting for the final scene based on what the players wanted to do once we got to Otoh Gunga. This mission was sponsored by the ISB, and as this particular chapter of the Bounty Hunters Guild had run afoul of the ISB last week, the ISB would provide the equipment for the mission, but the pay was just a matter of settling a previous debt. Most players would probably take a shot at Jar Jar pro bono, anyway. The imperials provided a commandeered Mon Cala explorer sub (from Stronghold of Resistance) as well as a Verpine Shatter Rifle, and a Verpine Shatter Pistol on loan. Due to the rarity of these weapons and the listed cost of 30,000 and 15,000 credits, respectively, I allowed the players to chose whether to bring the weapons or not, with the caveat that if they were lost or destroyed, it would incur a personal 30 or 15 point obligation to the ISB. The PCs took them anyway!

Colo_claw_fish_SWK_magazineThe first scene involved the team descending into the depths and navigating to Otoh Gunga, the underwater capital of the Gungans. This involved piloting planetary checks that became more difficult as the PCs descended into the depths. Failures and threats could do hull damage or system strain to the sub, despair causing a vehicle crit. Successes and advantages could allow for finding shortcuts, and safely maneuvering the sub, while a triumph may give them the drop on the first encounter: colo claw fish! While these creatures are not much risk to the sub, I had a great time describing their bio-luminescence. It also served to illustrate there are big, bad terrible things in the water.

The second scene was the team arriving in Otoh Gunga, and meeting with Boss Nass. There was some negotiation and skullduggery around carrying weapons around town, and certainly into the meeting hall. Once that was settled, the team learned that Jar Jar was in Otoh Gunga, but that he had been a headache to the Boss and sequestered in a remote section of the city. This involved several negotiation, deception and charm checks, and allowed the “face” characters to really shine.

The third scene I had planned was going to be a chase through the streets of Otoh Gunga, culminating in an underwater chase, ultimately resulting in Jar Jar and his aiwha mount (Stay on Target) being eaten whole by a sando aqua monster (think underwater godzilla). The team would then have to battle this giant beast underwater and retrieve proof of the kill.

kill-jar-jar-binksInstead, the team wanted to see about entering in a bongo race. So sure enough, there just happened to be a bongo race at Otoh Gunga Garden (info in Nexus of Power), and who would be in attendance, but Jar Jar himself! I intended this to start the chase to get to the sando aqua, but we had such a great time in the stadium we ended up with a Sudden Death (campy Van Damme/Hockey movie)  type of assassination-in-a-stadium situation. This involved the team covertly getting into the catwalks for the lighting in the stadium to line up a shot on Jar Jar’s VIP box seats, and the ensuing mayhem when the team missed the shot. Eventually they chased him down and brought back his tongue as evidence for the ISB.

The reason the team missed the shot is due to how I built Jar Jar. At first I thought I would try and pick what I feel to be one of the more useless classes, the Colonist Performer. It ended up working perfectly, as performers have talents like distracting behavior (ideal for Jar Jar) that adds automatic threat to rolls, as well as coordination dodge, which allows you to add automatic failures to a roll when spending a destiny point. This allowed me a modicum of control as to when they finally made their takedown, and narratively, allowed me to describe some appropriately infuriating Jar Jar hijinks! It was definitely a memorable session, and one I am likely to run again.

Here are the Gungan NPCs I stated out:

Gungan Body Guard

Boss Nass

Jar Jar Binks

 

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.

 

Keeping the Peace review – Star Wars Force and Destiny

December 21, 2015 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Age of Rebellion: Desperate Allies Review

June 30, 2015 Comments off

swa31-book-leftI picked up Desperate Allies on Free RPG day at our Friendly Local Gaming Store (which was a blast!) as well as the Force and Destiny Beginner Box. I’ll wait to review F&D after I run it once or twice, but I’ve now had time to read over the Sourcebook for Diplomats and have a few thoughts I’d like to share.

First off, let’s get to what this book adds to the game. The new races are Caamasi (weird fuzzy bird-like species from a world nearly annihilated by the empire), Neimoidians (Trade Federation! Boo!), and Gossam (silhouette-0 bug looking guys). The Caamasi have an interesting ability, in that they can (once per session) create a Memnis or perfectly recall certain events that can be shared with other Caamasi or a force-sensitive character. That has some cool story implications, and could be really fun for either an investigation or negotiation mission. The text for the Neimoidians pretty much says good luck playing one, since most have bad memories of the Trade Federation during the clone wars. Seems like a strange choice for a rebel, but if you’re looking for a challenge, you could go this route. No great special ability to speak of: start with a rank in deception or negotiation. The Gossam could be cool, since they are silhouette 0. They also start with a rank in deception.

swa31-mission-briefing-artThis book adds the standard 3 specializations to Diplomat. From the core Age book we have Ambassador, Agitator, and Quartermaster. This book details the Advocate, Analyst, and Propagandist. Something that jumped out at me about these options are they seem to play 2nd fiddle to a main “face” character. Several of the talents from the Advocate’s tree in particular modify another character’s roll. All Diplomats start with their choice of Charm, Deception, Knowledge (Core Worlds), Knowledge (Lore), Knowledge (Outer Rim), Knowledge (Xenology), Leadership, and Negotiation.

Advocate adds Coercion, another Deception, another Negotiation, and Vigilance. This is definitely the bad cop, in a good-cop bad-cop style deal. This spec is mostly about seeing through deceptions while crafting your own. I don’t feel like this would be the strongest choice, unless your campaign was mostly diplomatic missions. I think these skills have their place, but this is Star Wars! This spec just doesn’t do much for me.

Analyst has the most initial appeal to me. To the main skills, Analyst adds Computers, Knowledge (Education), Knowledge (Warfare) and Perception. The consumate skill-monkey and researcher, this could make a really fun droid character to play. If you wanted to be a bit more well-rounded, you could buy in to the recruit spec from the core book and hold your own in a fight. The analyst is likely the character with their face buried in a terminal during a firefight that your more martial characters are buying time for. Seems like a great addition to any rebel cell.

Propagandist has some interesting possibilities. To the core skills add another Charm, another Deception, Knowledge (Warfare) and Perception. They have a talent called Positive Spin which increases Duty by 1 per rank, allowing the party to “advance” more quickly in the ranks of the rebels. Towards the bottom of the tree there are interesting talents to influence NPCs. Bad Press allows you to make a Deception check once a session to decrease the wound threshold of members of an organization. Seems like if that organization was, I don’t know, THE EMPIRE that could be a bit over-powered. I’m sure its up the to the GM’s discretion, but wow. The illustration has a little floating camera droid I thought sure there would be stats for, but I haven’t been able to find any, if they are in the book.

no-time-to-panicThere are a couple of signature abilities for diplomats that this book provides. One is Diplomatic Solution which allows you to spend 2 destiny points and make a daunting charm check to turn a combat encounter into a social encounter instead. I think this is pretty clever, and definitely fits the flavor of the class. The other is Unmatched Insight which allows you to know background information of people you are negotiating with, that could be used as leverage.

In the equipment section there are a few blaster pistols,  bunch of great new non-lethal grenades (sonic, data-purge, and nightmare), and a whole section on Protocol Droid NPCs, much like Astromechs were in the Ace book. There are a number of interesting melee weapon additions, mostly stealthy in nature like needle gloves, a sword cane and a stealth vibroknife. Also, the armor section has some interesting entries in the Flare Jacket that allows once per encounter to trigger charges that can stagger foes (or really anyone) within short range, as well as a holographic suit that can be used for very quick costume changes, and the hauling harness (think Ripley’s cargo loader) that increases encumbrance capacity by 6, but also upgrades combat checks *twice*. Some other interesting additions include an ascension pistol (dedicated grappling-gun), security sweeper for surveillance devices, and a sound dampener that adds two setback dice to checks made to detect noise from the area in which it is used.

Included in the vehicle section are some luxury land speeders, as well as the J-Type diplomatic barge maybe better known as the Naboo cruiser, as well the the precursor to the more famous Lambda, the Kappa-class shuttle. There are a few interesting starship modifications, but the one that really piqued my interest was the holonet pirate array. This allows you to either communicate or monitor communications through the heavily restricted Imperial Holonet. Lots of cool adventure ideas came to mind once I read over the full description.

table-of-contentsThe last section details diplomatic mission ideas. A lot of these remind me of certain Clone Wars episodes: Maintaining Relations, Insurrection and the Empire, Diplomatic teams. At first I thought that diplomatic missions would be pretty dry, but when you think about it, so many parts of Star Wars have to do with diplomatic negotiations, and making sure they proceed without a hitch. There are lots of great adventure seeds for different Diplomat specs and different motivations or duties. There are a few full multi-scene adventures that could be used as a quick outline for a session or two. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had in an RPG is when the party has a home base. In Edge, you are encourage to make your ship your home and place of refuge. In Age, you are encouraged to build a rebel base. This book talks about not only creating a base, but adding upgrades to it like medical facilities, hangers, an armory, training facilities, command and control. You could make this like base management from X-COM. Finally the book wraps up with a few campaign ideas revolving around diplomatic missions, and mentions awarding diplomat characters with non-material awards like contacts, honors, and favors from NPCs to be called in at a later date.

Overall at first blush I thought this book was not going to be the strongest choice. I have to admit diplomat did not hold a lot of interest for me when I first reviewed the core book. After reading this I have a new appreciate for the nuance that could go into a diplomatic character, and the wide variety of missions that could come out of this material. This is a great addition to the Age of Rebellion game, and I would highly recommend it.

 

Pathfinder Unchained: Barbarian

June 8, 2015 5 comments

This week we will 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 Barbarian, one of the mediocre ones. The biggest change to the barbarian is its rage ability. The new version of rage takes out the attribute bonuses, simplifying the need for players to have to recalculate everything associated with strength and constitution, including extra hit points, and replaces it with a version that gives static bonuses to attack and damage and grants temporary hit points. By getting rid of the increased hit points through the constitution boost and givng temporary hit points instead, the risk of death when a barbarian comes out of rage is eliminated. While the temporary hit points may be the best thing to happen to barbarians since Conan, having increased strength replaced by the static bonuses (attack and damage) leaves them unable to show off said strength while in a rage (breaking down doors, etc.) and less of a bonus when wielding two-handed weapons. That is where this rage loses.

Unchained also adds a plethora of new rage powers for the barbarian. Stances, activated during rage with a move action, are new rage powers that give abilities that last over the course of a rage and not just once a rage (or even a day). Stances look like variations of the D&D 4th Edition Essentials fighter class who had stances instead of powers. Some of the stances are good and scale nicely over levels and some just do nothing for the barbarian. Examples are powerful stance which adds increasing damage over level progression but others like accurate stance just do not give much of a relevant boost. Of course, some of these stances are the beginning of rage power chains that gets more powerful at higher levels.

Overall, the Unchained Barbarian tackles the disadvantages of the original barbarian, but opens up new problems created by the new rage power and stance powers to get a grade of C+ (which may be higher than any grade any barbarian has ever gotten).

Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a non-tradtional race and direction. Instead of a half-orc with a greataxe, we have a tengu with two swords in a more finesse type of build than a hard hitting smasher. We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on his name) and progression (feats and rage powers) to level 8.

** Cawsus Blackfeather **

Hailing from the far, far east, Cawsus joined the Pathfinder Society after being rescued by field agents there. He wields a traditional pair of daisho with deadly efficiency but often leaves himself open when he ‘loses’ himself in battle. Although a little flighty, Cawsus considers himself one of the best swordsmen and uses his abilities to protect his fellow Pathfinders.

Progression:
Level 1 – Two Weapon Fighting
Level 2 – Powerful Stance
Level 3 – Power Attack
Level 4 – Knockback, +1 Dexterity
Level 5 – Tengu Wings
Level 6 – Ground Breaker
Level 7 – Improved Two Weapon Fighting
Level 8 – Crippling Blow, +1 Constitution

What do you think? Did they ‘fix’ the barbarian? What other issues do you think need to be fixed? And come back next week for Pathfinder Unchained: Monk as we take a look the new monk.

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.