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May the Fourth Be With You

May 4, 2016 1 comment

 

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A few weeks back, I was roped into trying my hand at running a session of the Fantasy Flight RPG Star Wars “Edge of Empire” at the local Bounty Hunter’s Guild at The Wyvern’s Tale in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s a weekly (or semi-weekly) “drop in” game that Kevin has posted about before, and since I had played several games figured I would step up and try my hand at GMing.

It was a complete blast!

I am normally a person who preps like crazy. As noted before, I have a penchant for making detailed binders for trips and for campaigns. The story-telling nature of the typical Star Wars game, however, doesn’t lend itself to my normal GM style. Stepping way outside of my comfort zone, I came up with a basic premise with three “scenes” to make the entire game. First up, an alien xeno-archaeologist (with a bounty on his head) discovers a hidden temple and needs rescue; there’s unique environmental effects which cause havoc (and preclude the use of the bounty hunter’s overpowered normal transport) and causes their ship to crash to the planet’s surface; and at last a big scary beast to scare the bounty hunters off.

For the first part, I decided to make the alien a Brizzit and that he would have a protocol droid translator who was demolished. The temple he was hiding out in was dedicated to the Sith, and there would be a Sith or Sith-spirit present. The second part would be the planet itself: heavy electrical storms in the high altitude meant that any vehicle without specialty shielding would almost certainly crash (luckily the Bounty Hunter’s patron had just such a ship); and finally, for the third scene I’d have to create a creature loosely based on the Krayt dragon, but capable of flying for the final battle, followed by rescue from another ship.

I tried to play it fast and loose. I figured the first scene would be a combo: quick RP interaction with the Hutt boss and outline of the mission followed by a piloting / mechanics check scenario as they try to navigate the horrific lightning storm. Right from the get-go that didn’t go according to plan. With a double-Triumph and setback dies removed from the check due to some crazy co-pilot talents, the ship sailed down with minor damage, enough that I ruled there was a hull breach and they’d need to set down for repairs.

The second scene was originally supposed to be interaction with the alien (who did not speak Basic) and repairs to the protocol droid, and that went as planned for the most part. We didn’t have a real ‘face’ character so without too much misunderstanding the repairs were effected and the Brizzit convinced the group to take cover from the approaching storm in the temple itself.

This is the point at which having tried to plan on every contingency would have been a very bad mistake. The original idea was to very cinematically have the Sith Master drop in front of the hole made by blasting through the wall, threatening the PCs and then being swallowed (fancy red lightsaber and all) by the humongous “dragon” and the smaller ones (still quite dangerous) leaping in to attack.

Of course, two of the PCs got first attack and one of them rolled a Triumph (again!) to shoot the lightsaber out of his hands and the other one did some crazy maneuvering to roll around and grab it. At this point, things are very much off the rails. A Chadra-fan mechanic skill monkey with a lightsaber can just about ruin any campaign, so I had to think fast. Additional fire from the high-powered assassin droid and several rounds of crits from the Bounty Hunters rocked the Sith back on his heels and it was only a matter of time before he fell.

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Now I felt it was time to panic. I knew I’d have to get that away from them somehow, and then it hit me: this was the “treasure” the Brizzit and his no-good protocol droid were after the whole time! I played up the fact that the storm wouldn’t be abating for several hours and they were in for a long repair session, but afterwards they’d be good to go. With a few nudges about how exhausted they were, everyone played right into my hands by putting the assassin droid as “guard” while the rest of the crew napped. One restraining bolt later and the “xeno-archaeologist” steals the lightsaber off the sleepy Chadra-fan and runs out into the storm to “escape” while the droid fought everyone who was waking up.

Cue the music and it’s the other bad guy who gets scooped up by the big “dragon”(along with that saber)… and everything from there continued more or less as planned. They killed the big thing (again thanks to a lot of crits), got the ship up and out of the storm and away back to home base. They had to explain why their bounty was dead and the ship had a hole and they really had nothing to offer beyond the location of an old Sith temple. The Hutt (and by extension me) took some pity on them, swore them to secrecy saying he may have a buyer for that sort of information (and a potential plot hook for another game).

All in all, I had a great time with a low-prep way of running and everyone seemed to have a good time. The game lends itself to a different style of GMing than I am used to and I really enjoyed it when all is said and done. Kevin pointed out that only I could make a Star Wars game with space wizards and thunder dragons. Rightly so.

With it being May the Fourth today would be a good day to write down some ideas of your own for your Star Wars campaign. Just look out for those untrustworthy droids…

Bounty Hunting Report

February 16, 2016 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy hunting!

Bounty Hunter Missions for Star Wars Edge of the Empire

November 8, 2015 Comments off

bobasamIt is time to get serious about this bounty hunter campaign for Edge of the Empire. Scarefest was an absolute blast. I ran a really fun table of  the Order 66 podcast‘s Ice Station Zulu, which features the fear check mechanic, and was highly appropriate for a Halloween-themed convention. It is a great time to be a Star Wars fan, and there were several gaming buddies I spoke with afterwards about creating a steady game at our Friendly Local Gaming Store, the Wyvern’s Tale. With this in mind, it’s time to detail my plans on creating a round-robin GM, drop-in/drop-out campaign for Star Wars Edge of the Empire.

In previous articles, I detailed my inspiration from the non-RPG book The Bounty Hunter Code which I would recommend picking up, at very least until Fantasy Flight releases a proper Bounty Hunter sourcebook (They must be saving the best for last). We also went over building a bounty hunter guild office as a “home-base” for the campaign. In this installment, we will explore building an adventure that can be completed in a nice 3-4 hour block.

Some interesting twists when it comes to bounty hunter missions: most pay more if the target is captured, rather than killed. Also, bounty hunters live by a code (on paper, anyway).

1) People don’t have bounties, only acquisitions have bounties.

2) Capture by design, kill by necessity

3) No hunter shall slay another hunter

4) No hunter shall interfere with another’s hunt

5) In the hunt, one captures OR kills, never both

6) No hunter shall refuse aid to another hunter

Screen shot 2015-11-07 at 10.30.06 AMIf you have designed an adventure or two, your head is already spinning with the possible plot hooks in just the bounty hunter code. Entire missions could be crafted around any one of these. The book goes in to a lot more detail about each one, and includes little footnotes from prominent hunters like Boba Fett, Greedo, Bossk and Dengar.

As bounty hunters are law-enforcement officers of the Empire, it would be common to target members of the Rebel Alliance, and less common for bounties to be issued for Imperials. Beyond that, there are plenty of possible acquisitions that fall in between, such as corporate bounties, private bounties, members of the Black Sun, and Hutt Kajidics.

For this article, I’ll detail the main plot points for a fairly straight-ahead bounty with a twist. I would suggest starting small, but allowing for some player-agency on how easy/difficult the mission is based on their choices. While the guild benefits the hunters with steady work, dues must be paid, and specialty equipment rented. It is best to include a variety of encounters, or at least allow encounters to be completed in a variety of ways between space/personal combat, social encounters, and investigation/knowledge skills. For your NPCs you’ll also want a nice mix of lots of minions, a few rivals, and usually one nemesis, who in most cases would be the acquisition. Beyond adversaries, also consider encounter locations, and try to make them memorable as well as potentially hazardous which allows for setback dice and creative narrative use of the setting by the PCs.

imageFor this mission, the PCs will travel to Nar Shaddaa, the Smuggler’s Moon. Nestled in the heart of Hutt Space, it is a haven for the lawless, and those wishing to evade the Empire. Lords of Nal Hutta has a detailed run down of this particular location, but a brief entry can be found in the Galaxy chapter of the core Edge of the Empire book. I would encourage providing the hunters with a few potential leads, and let them explore in any order they wish. If you like, you can reserve the acquisition for the last scene (regardless of location) or have the target in a set location, and introduce some complications for egress once the team has captured (or killed) their quarry. The following scenes could be completed in any order, and Keth *could* appear in any of the locations.

For GMs, I highly recommend picking up the new adversary decks, which makes picking and tracking potential baddies very easy. I will be referring to them heavily throughout this example.

Acquisition: Keth Corcer

Crime: Arms smuggling and industrial espionage

Bounty: 5,000 credits alive, 2,000 credits dead, 500 credits for each intact prototype rifle returned

Employer: Blastech Arms

Optional Equipment Rental:Blastech LBR-9 Stun Rifle 700 credits (2800 if damaged/lost), Starhawk speeder bikes with sidecars (Fly Casual) 250 credits (2,500 if damaged/lost)

Dossier: Keth Corcer has been running shipments of weapons all over Hutt Space for years, but recently, he and his crew were able to capture a shipment of prototype E-11S extreme range rifles that were being delivered to a factory to ramp up production. He operates with impunity in the den of galactic scum that is Nar Shaddaa. Recent intelligence from trusted Infochants indicate he has been spotted at the Orange Lady in New Vertica, and is believed to operate out of the warehouse district there. (Use Rebel Cell Leader stats and picture)

swc10_6945_thefalsereport_cristibalanescuScene I (Orange Lady): This is your typical dive bar. Nearly unlit, except for the neon signs advertising cheap inebriants. The bartender is a muscular Aqualish known as Hopper who may provide some information, for a price. 300 credits will get the team the ID of the warehouse Keth normally operates from (Excellent Charm/Negotiation rolls may modify this). Coercion for this infomation only raises the hackles of the bartender and the security guards (use hired thug stats). If this is the last place they check, Keth may be here with a few members of his gang (2 swoop gangers, and 3 minion street toughs). Otherwise, the party may be able to locate black marketeer, a one-eyed Klatoonian named Horus, if they start asking after long range rifles. The black marketeer will charge a similar price as the bartender for information leading to the rifles or Keth. (If negotiations go sour use Black Marketeer stats, with a similar crew as Keth above).

Scene II (Warehouse 33 Xesh): The warehouse is about the size of a large starship hanger. There are piles of crates, and a few hoverlifters for moving cargo. There are two loading bays on the west wall, large enough to accomodate heavy speeder trucks. There is a man-sized door in between the two garage-like bay doors, and there is a fire exit on the south side of the warehouse. There are very few windows that haven’t been blacked out or boarded over. There is dim light inside in the middle of the day, and only the scant glow of irregular streetlights filtering inside if approached at night (one setback die on sight perception checks during the day, three at night). If Keth is here, I would suggest providing the PCs one long range shot him, with appropriate stealth rolls (ideally with the stun rifle). Otherwise, the black marketeer will be here with the gang, and will be less likely to negotiate, and on their guard, unless a very clever negotiation/charm strategy is used by the players. (Use stats from Black Marketeer, swoop ganger, and street toughs.)

Scene III (Chase or Imperial Entanglements): Ideally, after the first round or two once the party has found Keth, he should try and make an escape to a waiting speeder truck (Trast A-A5 from Edge core book). From here, he can take shots at the party with his prized E-11S from any range (likely trying to disable/damage the PC swoops/speeder). When the PCs get close enough, any surviving gang members who jumped on the truck can take shots as well. It may take a round or two for PCs to either get to their swoops (if they chose to rent them, see Fly Casual) or force-ably procure transportation from the locals (use X-34 from Edge core rules). This may set up an awesome chase sequence through the “streets” of Nar Shaddaa, which will likely attract the attention of local Hutt security forces (use Corporate Sector Authority security police).

If the PCs roll really well in one of the previous scenes when they first meet Keth and are able to capture him in either the warehouse or the Orange Lady, I would encourage the GM to include an Imperial encounter. In either scene, just as the PCs are gathering their acquisition have an ISB officer arrive, accompanied by half a dozen scout troopers. (Use Imperial Intelligence Agent, and Scout Trooper.) She will be furious that the bumbling bounty hunters have ruined her month-long operation on Keth, and demand he and his contraband be turned over to her. Convincing her otherwise will take a pretty awesome series of charm checks, and probably a good ploy from the players. Maybe an arrangement can be struck, if she “let’s this one slide” the hunters would owe her a favor. Being in the ISB’s pocket is a dangerous place indeed! Triumph would mean she let’s the party go, but will warn them to tread lightly. Success means she will require a favor from the hunters. Failure means she will require something much more (5 point obligation to the ISB). Despair means she will not allow them to leave with Keth or the rifle (which may result in combat and further implications for the party’s hunting license).

Hope you all had fun reading this one, and can use it as a guide to start your own public play bounty hunter’s lodge at your Friendly Local Gaming store. Good hunting!

Scarefest Preview

October 20, 2015 Comments off

scarefest3-logo2-horizontal1This weekend in Black Mountain, Scarefest 2015 brings an awesome weekend of gaming to the campus of Montreat! Tons of RPG sessions and board-gaming from the 23rd to the 25th, and a $10 pass gets you a seat at the table for all three days. The outstandingly active Asheville Pathfinder Lodge would hold a Halloween-themed costume game event that started as one day at our Friendly Local Gaming Store the Wyvern’s Tale, in subsequent years grew in to a weekend of gaming, and this year has expanded to it’s own location.

Like previous years there will be lots of Pathfinder Society sessions, including the “specials” that are typically only run at big conventions and include coordination of several concurrent tables of players working together towards a common goal. This year, the scope of Scarefest has expanded to include other RPGs like D&D Adventurer’s League organized play, as well as Dungeon Crawl Classics and Star Wars (both run by yours truly), and World of Darkness (can’t get more on-theme than that!), Shadowrun, several flavors of Savage Worlds, Bolt Action, Dread, Numenera, and a truly impressive collection of board games. Once you’ve purchased your ticket, sign up for games on the event’s warhorn.

Scarefest-MainPromo-webI’ll be representing DCC with two adventures: The 13th Skull and Bride of the Black Manse.

13th Skull synopsis: Thirteen generations ago, the ambitious first Duke of Magnussen made a fell pact with an unknown power, who asked for but one thing in return: the thirteenth daughter born to a Magnussen duke. Now, generations hence, the daughter of Duke Magnussen XIII is stolen away by a hooded executioner riding a leathery beast. As it wings back across the city walls to drop behind the Duke’s mountain-top keep, all who watch know it alights in the Magnussen family crypts, where the devilish secrets of thirteen generations have been buried and forgotten – until now…

Bride of the Black Manse synopsis: Centuries past, Lady Ilse ascended to scion of House Liis by trading the archdevil Mammon what he wanted most: her immortal soul – and a diabolical betrothal. The triumph proved hollow, for every year on the eve of her fell covenant, she was beset by visions of Mammon and her foul promise. Seeking to save herself, she was buried alive, swaddled in the holy symbols of a dozen divergent faiths. This desperate ploy held Mammon at bay for centuries…but a devil can afford to wait a very long time.

After hundreds of years, the last of the holy wards has fallen. The devil has come to collect his due. Tonight a storm crashes against the ancient manor house and forgotten spirits rise from the muck and mire. The fallen belfry tolls once more, announcing the hellish fete. As the adventurers arrive to explore the Black Manse, Mammon calls for his winsome bride. He will leave with a soul at the end of the night. The only question is: Whose?

The Star Wars adventure I’m running caught my ear on the Order 66 podcast from d20 radio. They created a horror-themed Star Wars adventure that features the “fear check” mechanic, and should be really fun to run! Not many people would associate Star Wars with a creepy Halloween gaming event, but Ice Station Zulu does well to bring some darkness and fear to a galaxy far, far away.

It looks like quite the impressive line-up, and is a pretty awesome value. Come out this weekend and roll some dice! Costumes are highly encouraged, but not required. See you there!

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Build your Bounty Hunter Guild Office

August 23, 2015 Comments off

marshallThe guys at the always entertaining Order 66 podcast reminded me of one of my favorite elements of the Far Horizons colonist sourcebook in their most recent episode which talks about taking a homestead or a business as a party asset during character creation. We are going to use that as a basis for my ongoing concept for a bounty hunter campaign. There are different upgrades and benefits for running a homestead as compared to a business. While it might be awesome to have a dedicated space station for a guild office (especially with the infirmary, landing bay and mechanic’s garage upgrades), it seems to make more thematic sense to run a guild office as a business. As a business, you can acquire a specialized license (bounty hunting!) that can allow the party access to restricted items (weapons, vehicles, gear).

This provides the party a home base, and possibly a place to rest and recover. Beyond that, as one of the mechanics for taking the homestead/business, there is one NPC per PC to represent the staff that takes care of day-to-day operations while the party is out gallivanting across the universe. This is not only convenient to keep the lights on, these NPCs can become beloved friends of the party and may turn into adventure seeds if they get in to trouble. It could also provide a possible stable of replacement PCs, should something go terribly wrong on an adventure. A nice ancillary benefit of taking this as a starting asset is that all PCs start with a skill associated with the business as a career skill. The Order 66 team suggest not allowing this to be a combat skill, as that would be slightly out of balance, and I agree. For a Bounty Hunter Guild office, I would suggest Knowledge (Underworld), Perception, or Vigilance.

Having a home office makes sense for low-level bounty hunters, as they would start out with easier, more regional bounties before working up to larger, further reaching and higher-profile jobs. Having the PCs based out of a regional office could also mean higher profile hunters stop in from time to time to gather supplies, intel, and maybe trade a few stories and tips.

SWE10-table

For running a casual weekly campaign at a Friendly Local Gaming Store with players dropping in and dropping out now and again, the base can be assumed to be the party asset during character creation. Since there should be an NPC droid or employee per party member, I would encourage each PC to come up with their NPC counterpart. They could be old friends, or have no relationship between them whatsoever, but it takes some of the NPC burden off the GM. Not only that, but whoever shows up for the mission, dictates the cast of NPCs that show up for work that day. Ideally, the NPCs would serve some basic function and have a defining quirk. Possible ideas include a custodial droid that aspires to hunt himself, and trips over itself trying to impress the hunters. Another could be a grumpy Gran operations manager that constantly complains about the quality of hunters these days. There could be an attractive receptionist that always plays it cool around the hunters like Ms. Moneypenny from the Bond movies. Also specifically for a guild office, there could be a meticulous quartermaster in charge of renting specialty equipment for certain missions. The possibilities are endless.

casinoHaving the guild office be a business rather than a homestead would mean the hunters would need services and develop relationships with others in the community/settlement/city. They would likely have to work with a space dockmaster, trade for supplies with merchants, and blow off some steam at a casino or cantina. Building your own sandbox can be challenging, but very rewarding in that the PCs will feel empowered to blaze their own trail. A bounty hunter campaign could become stale if it was an endless string of jobs assigned by the guild. Creating a rich ecosystem allows for adventure seeds to develop outside the acquisitions from the office.

Once the PCs are established, they have the option of starting another office on another planet, or starting one as a homestead (likely spacestation). This would allow them a base that includes an infirmary, landing pad, and mechanics garage if the party pays for the upgrades or takes on the additional obligation. Unlike typical obligation, this would apply to the entire party rather than a single PC. If this obligation is rolled, it could mean maintenance issues or slow business, or something much more serious like a trusted NPC staff member in trouble.

I really like this mechanic as a basis for a more detailed bounty hunter campaign, that could serve as a great pick-up game to play in public. In the next installment I’ll detail some example guild missions, and maybe one or two NPC missions that can come from having the PCs operate out of a home base.

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.

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!

Generators or Degenerators? The Mixed Blessing of Character Generator Culture

February 23, 2015 3 comments

cease and desist!Guest Post by Matt Orbach

Recently, Pathguy got a letter from WOTC, politely asking that he remove his 5E character generator and any other content that might be their IP. I’m not going to discuss that choice here; what WOTC did was legal, and there are boards aplenty debating the matter. Suffice it to say that what you can do legally and what you can do wisely do not always coincide.

But it put to the question, do these generators really help the game, or do they remove us too far from the fundamentals? As it happened, I hadn’t visited this page in quite a while, but I was reminded of it as a tool to help level a 5E character.

Pathguy’s generator was a great tool. When I found it was unavailable, I was forced to level up by hand. As it turned out, leveling by hand was very easy for 5E, although this is not always the case for all rules systems. It caused me to wonder how reliance on character generators for popular systems had shaped the quality of play from a GM perspective and from a player perspective.

THE GM PERSPECTIVE
As a GM, I come to a game with a set of expectations as to what my players will do during a session, including, but not limited to:
• know most of the rules, and ask questions about the others
• learn how characters and the game world interact
• pay attention
• enjoy the narrative of the story-line
• act out characters
• collaborate with the other players
• have fun

I’ve also come to understand that a group of committed players enjoying themselves will typically do about 75% of these; which is fine, as long as “have fun” is somewhere in there. It might be great for everyone to come prepared with a carefullly researched and crafted character, and it probably makes for a richer, deeper game, but realistically it just won’t always happen.

To enjoy a game a player has to have an understanding of what they are doing. A character generator that removes that understanding inhibits enjoyment of the game by making the character mechanically incomprehensible for most play systems. A good build is useless without some knowledge of its implications, and inhibits having fun if it is mysterious and incomprehensible to the player.

THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE
As a player, I have slightly different expectations. I know the groups I’ve played with all seem to enjoy different aspects of the game. These can be primarily broken into two groups:

The Artist
This player enjoys creating interesting characters, sometimes with unexpected traits. Some temper this so the character can be effective in the game world, and thus more involved in the story. For others, the reverse seems to be true: they start from a fairly blank slate and draw out the character from the actions taken during gameplay, laboring only to create one who will take effective actions. Still others go further to extremes, creating bizarre and often unplayable characters.

The Engineer
There may very well be a graphing calculator or spreadsheet involved, because these folks enjoy the mathematical permutations and precise calculations of creating a character that is purpose-built. While personality and story is a factor, it is secondary to the build mechanic.

I fall primarily into the first category myself. There’s a certain appeal, I’ll admit, to the Engineer, but I lost my love for that sort of endeavor years ago. You see, I spent a summer designing mecha upon mecha for a tabletop wargame called Battletech. But when the hour of completion neared, I began to realize that the GM had no intention of actually playing the simulation as a massive dropship game, sure to be a fight of epic proportions…oh, the glory that was not! He simply enjoyed, and assumed his players enjoyed, crafting the pieces. Even with the computers of the time (early 90’s) we could have done it faster, but we would have missed fretting over the small decisions of armor vs. weight v.s ammo capacity.

Engineers enjoy the thrill of the build. Artists want to tell a story (efficacy coming in a distant second).

THE APPLICATION

Character Generators can facilitate quick and effective ends for the needs of both these player personalities as well as accommodating the needs and desires of the GM perspective, but only when used judiciously.

Here’s what I think Pathguy did right: his character generator was fluid and helpful, and allowed you to “see” the rules as you went through the build process. It didn’t mask them or create copy pasta out of inputs, but walked you through the relevant choices and bypassed rules not related, but still allowed you to glance at them as you scrolled down. It encourages the player to consult the related rules and sourcebooks, rather than depend on an output charsheet note.

A character generator needs to facilitate rather than inhibit an understanding of the rules; a helping hand rather than a crutch.

There are more generators out there that fall into the crutch category than don’t, however. A very quick search will lead you to whole-cloth character generators, with everything from family relationships, to appearance, to complete backstory. And if you’re stuck, those can help… but if you aren’t interested enough to create something, will you play it? A “disgruntled, fine boned young man with a bad arm who is from the sea and lives with an army of undead” doesn’t think you will. Thanks http://whothefuckismydndcharacter.com/

“Artist” and “Engineer” must perform a balanced calculation to make a really good gaming experience, and GM’s and players must work together to really optimize the outcome. And the right generator is only one of many tools that helps the player and GM get there.

Matt Orbach is a raconteur, an alchemist, a some-time magician and a noted character creator. He should always play a bard.

The Inselberg Clan – Dwarven Occult Playtest Characters

November 18, 2014 Comments off

To cap off last week’s reviews of the Occult Adventures Playtest material, we are presenting a group of pre-generated characters (PFS legal) to help get you in the mood to play. We chose to make a group of dwarves just because the occult does not always have to be represented by humans. As a group, this group is tough, well armored and has good damage potential, but the lack of specialized skills and abilities of the traditional roles (cleric, rogue, etc.) of an adventuring party may make them seem weaker. But, they are dwarves and dwarves are cool.

Click on each individual dwarf’s name to see their character sheet and hopefully the two done by hand are correct. Even though they are PFS legal, we did not give them factions because you may envision a different way to depict these characters. And if you aren’t quite sure about an ability or power, check out the Occult Adventures Playtest reviews here:

Now presenting the Inselberg Clan:

The Inselberg Clan is a small group of dwarves brought together because of their strange abilities. Possessing abilities not of the divine or the arcane, they struggle to find a place in dwarven society where they are accepted and can continue to develop their powerful abilities.

Samas Goldeye (Dwarf Kineticist 1) : Buried in a cave-in deep underneath the clan hall, Samas was given up for dead. Thoughts of death and dying caused Samas to exhibit sudden control over rock and earth, aiding in his escape from his rocky tomb. He now spends his days trying to control his newfound abilities as a geokineticist, or at least that’s what Jargas calls him.

Bogurr Deepearth (Dwarf Medium 1) : Bogurr found that he had gift to commune with his ancestors during a visit to his familial clan’s vaults where he heard voices calling out to him. These voices turned out to be the voices of his closest ancestors and Bogurr is allowing them to channel their energy through him to finish things that they were unable to before death.

Turk Granitesides (Dwarf Mesmerist 1) : Having served time in the militia and establishing a name for him as a capable leader, Turk became aware of his abilities as a surprise to many, including himself. He had a reputation for a steely gaze that unnerved his enemies and a calming, compassionate way with his troops that seemed to always yield surprising results.

Bogarr Deepearth (Dwarf Occultist 1) : Brother to Bogurr, Bogarr Deepearth is deeply proud of his ancestors. Noticing Bogurr’s gift with communing with his long-dead family, he discovered a way to manifest his ancestors’ might through items they held dear, from his great-grandfather’s waraxe to his grandfather’s shield.

Jargas Greystone (Dwarf Psychic 1) : The studious Jargas keeps close tabs on his fellow Inselbergs. Having discovered his own increased mental faculties, he researches ways to help both his comrades and develop his own abilities.

Burgand Midearth (Dwarf Spiritualist 1) : As the Deepearths’ first cousin, Burgand seemed to be the most in tune with his family’s ancestors. While Bugarr channels them through his body and Bogarr channels them through their possessions, Burgand has actually become a vessel for his great-great-great-grandfather, Fregan Greenstone, one of the first battleragers ever known. Burgand struggles to keep his angry grandfather from getting out of control and he depends on his fellows for guidance and understanding.

 

Warhorn101

September 7, 2014 3 comments

Warhorn.net is a great site for convention organizers and Friendly Local Gaming Store event planning. For the uninitiated, it can be a bit confusing to sign up, and reserve your seat at the gaming table. Somewhat recently the site went through a significant overhaul, with one main feature being that once you sign up for your free user account, you can use that same account for recurring game days at a FLGS or a yearly convention, like Asheville Comic Expo.

This is going to be a screenshot-heavy article, as I would like to detail the process on how you sign up for an account, and register for tables. Once you sign up, keep your login credentials handy, and you can use them for any events organized through warhorn. You can even add your Pathfinder Society Number and DCI (WotC/D&D organized play) numbers that will follow your login from event to event, but let’s not put the cart before the horse.

First, go to warhorn.net and sign up for a login in the upper right corner of the site:

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Fill out the form with your email, desired username, and password. You can use either your email or your username when you login to the site:

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It will now ask you to verify your email address. Clicking on confirm will send another confirmation email (check SPAM filters!):

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In your email you should see a message much like this. Click the Confirm my Account link in the email:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 12.25.40 PMOnce your account is confirmed, we can use warhorn Event listings to search for events in the area. They are divided into recurring game days (frequently at FLGS) or Upcoming Conventions:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.09.48 AMUse the search field just above dates to search for events happening in your area, or an area where you will be traveling:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.10.18 AMClick on that event to get more info and register for tables by clicking on the Register for this event button in the upper right. If you have questions you can also email the organizer on the far left:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.10.36 AMOnce you are registered, check out the Event schedule and sign up for tables:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.11.02 AMFor both conventions and recurring game days, games are typically listed by start time, and title. Open tables will list a “Play” if you want to be a PC or “GM” button if you want to run that table. It also gives you the option to join a waitlist if the table is already full. If there is a no-show, you are in!

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After clicking “Play” the site will ask you to confirm, just to make sure you got in on the right game:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.12.28 AMOnce you click Save it will reserve your spot at the table, allowing organizers to plan for more GMs if necessary, and allows you a guaranteed seat at your favorite game! If something comes up, or you want to switch tables before the event, you can always click “Withdraw” and sign up for something else:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.12.52 AMBe sure and check for recurring game days in your area as well, and support your FLGS!

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.14.58 AMHope this helps, and remember, once you’ve created your account you can use it for any conventions or game days organized through warhorn. It’s also a great site to see events in your region you may want to travel for! In less than two weeks, the Skyland Games crew will be running the RPG tables for Asheville Comic Expo (ACE). Sign up at the warhorn, and we’ll see you around the table!