The 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.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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 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!
Whiphids 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.
Warleader 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.
The 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.
Vehicles 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!
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.