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Star Wars Edge of the Empire – No Disintegrations Review

February 11, 2017 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghostbusters and Dread – RPGs for Halloween

October 26, 2016 5 comments

AVL Scarefest was an absolute blast this year. The year before was great fun, but this year exceeded my already high expectations. For the uninitiated, AVL Scarefest started as a spooky Pathfinder Society game night at our FLGS the Wyvern’s Tale. GMs and players were encouraged to wear costumes and play the more Halloween-themed scenarios. This was such a hit, it quickly out-grew the ample gaming space at the tale. In 2015, some intrepid Asheville Pathfinder Lodge members started organizing a con to be held in the nearby idyllic and yet somehow spooky Montreat conference center. They invited GMs and players from far and wide to run all manner of spooky games. Some were on theme by their very nature like Call of Cthulhu, Dread, and Ghostbusters. Others had appropriately themed scenarios, despite not being creepy themselves like D&D, DCC, Star Wars, Shadowrun etc.

This year I got to play in both a Dread and a Ghostbusters game. If you are looking for something appropriate for the holiday to do with your gaming group this year, I would highly recommend checking these out. First up: Ghostbusters.

Tgbrpgstarterhe version we played is still basically the version that West End Games released in 1986. It has been out of print forever, but thanks to the magic of the internet you can find all the files you need at Ghostbusters International. Thanks to the Nerdy Show running a podcast called Ghostbusters Resurrection, they have produced updated equipment decks and ghost dice, as well as some updated and expanded rules. The system is d6-based and very easy to pick up. You can play one of the iconic ghostbusters from the original movie, or do what we did and play yourself. There are only four traits in the 1986 version: Brains, Muscles, Moves, and Cool. Each is assigned a number from 1 to 5, and you have 12 points total to spend between the four traits. Each trait has talents associated that are more specific. For instance, Venkman’s talents are Parapsychology, Brawl, Seduce, and Bluff. These each have a number associated with them that represent the number of d6 you roll when testing that skill. Once you declare an action, the GhostMaster has you roll the number of d6 associated with the appropriate trait and (if applicable) skill. If your total is higher than the target number the GM sets, you succeed.

There is a twist in the form of the Ghost die. One of your d6s for any check must be a ghost die. If it results in the iconic ghostbuster symbol, something bad happens. If you come up with a ghost but beat the target number you still succeed but with a complication. For example, you are deploying a ghost trap, but you step on the switch sideways and now it is jammed open and must be manually shut. If you roll a ghost and fail the check, you fail with a complication analogous to rolling a 1 in D&D and similar systems.

Your character also has brownie points which you can spend to add extra d6s to a check. You can also earn brownie points at the GMs discretion. Once you earn 30 you can increase one of your traits by one. Equipment is handled by the equipment deck. Your character can only take 3 cards with them on any job so choose wisely! This is a fun way to deal with encumbrance and allow your busters to make smart, or at very least hilarious, choices about gear.

Our intrepid GM for Scarefest did some research about local spooky events in Asheville and based our scenario around Highland Hospital and the tragic death of Zelda Fitzgerald. Doing a little bit of research about local ghost stories or tragedies in your area can add a lot of local color to the game. I would highly recommend throwing a few bucks at the Nerdy Show to pick up an equipment deck and ghost die from their starter kit and get to busting ghosts!

dread2016Next up: Dread. This is an RPG that uses a Jenga tower for action resolution. Diceless RPGs can elicit opinions from both fervent supporters and detractors, but stick with me (pun intended). Dread starts with a questionnaire for players that allow them to decide attributes about their character. Questions like: What is your most prized possession? Describe the last time you were bullied. How did you react? What is your biggest fear? What was your proudest moment? All of these questions are not about the player themselves, but the character they wish to portray for the scenario. Once the Host (GM) has read the questionnaires and taken a few notes on each, the game begins.

When players take an action that may be challenging or is thematically interesting if they fail, the Host may ask that character to make a pull from the Jenga tower to succeed. Jumping across a pit? Using an improvised weapon to fend off an enemy? Attempting first aid without supplies? All are good opportunities for a pull. Our Host also used this for perception if something was unclear. He would tell the character what they think they saw, and a pull would give them more information or certainty. If the tower falls, your character dies. Potentially, the characters could be incapacitated or removed in some other way, but most typically the consequence is death. As one might expect, this is very easy early on in the game, and becomes increasingly difficult as the game goes on.

Several scenarios are included with the RPG itself. We played one called 13, in which we were kids at a sleepover that woke up in an old strange house. The house had no windows, and seemed to be very old. Events got quite a bit creepier from there, seemingly just as the Jenga tower grew more unstable. As we made a pull, the host would usually be right over our shoulder whispering about our character’s insecurities or just about the stakes of the action itself during the pull. This really heightened the atmosphere and added to the tension in the game. Once one character was eliminated, our Host made several pulls to keep the danger level appropriate for the time we had remaining in the game. In the Rules As Written, remaining players take turns making pulls removing 3 blocks for each character that has been removed so far. Characters may also make a heroic sacrifice and, with the Host agreeing it would be appropriate, push the tower over on purpose. Unlike accidentally collapsing the tower, the character succeeds at their task, but is still eliminated from the game.

I highly recommend this game for this time of year, but it could be fun any time you and your gaming group wants to have a tense, horror-themed game. The entire table couldn’t help but cheer at precarious, successful pulls and cry out in anguish as the tower finally fell. When is the last time your entire table cheered or screamed at a die roll? Pick up the 167 page PDF for $12 or soft-cover book for $24 plus shipping. Pick up a Jenga tower, and have a very memorable game night!

The Value of Unplugging

October 10, 2016 Comments off

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So after observing that our kids fight constantly when exposed to a lot of TV and Video games, we decided (okay, my wife decided) there’d be no electronics during the week (with a few very specific exceptions) during the regular school year.

Harsh.

I was waiting for the kids to drive her nuts, and for everyone to then drive me nuts, and for that rule to be abolished and things to go back to normal.  To my surprise, after a day or two there were few complaints. The kids starting fighting less, and started actually “doing” more.  They slept better, got more exercise, and generally seemed less cranky. And best of all, we started spending more time together, with them taking an interest in RPG’s and Board games.

If you’re reading this and you’re a millennial tabletop gamer, I salute you.  The discretion to play role-playing games or board games when you’ve grown up with a plethora of media options was an unlikely one; streaming video, various video game platforms with multiplayer functionality, not to mention cell phone games and apps… it took a lot for you to even care enough to try to play a role-playing or board game where humans had to assemble in person around a table after learning rather complex rules.  If you’re older, you may understand that in the 80’s, when G.I. Joe went off the air for the day at 4:30, there was only the news and later Miami Vice or the A-Team to look forward to.  That downtime needed to be filled with something that wasn’t TV, and there was a limit to how much ATARI you could play before ragequitting.

Hence, in my day, tabletop role-playing games, board games , and war games were what we turned to.  And of course, books, sports, etc.  But on your basic rainy day or evening, we poured over the books and made characters or pulled out Talisman or O.G.R.E and had at it. Unwittingly, my wife has re-created that experience for my kids, and now they’re looking with renewed interest at my hobbies as a way to pass some enjoyable time.

I previously blogged about how my son showed some enjoyment from playing Dungeons & Dragons, but since he’s not quite old enough to be literate, he’s not catapulted into it like I had hoped.  My older daughter is a voracious reader, however, and after finishing Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle books, she’s showing a lot more appreciation for the concepts in fantasy RPG gaming than she ever has previously.

Both, as it turns out, love painting miniatures.

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I’ve had to set some restrictions to make sure they don’t paint things I have plans for, and not everything is a gem, but some are actually quite good, from both the younger one and the older.

Moreover, they’ve both become eager players of board games.  We’ve finally been able to start working through my massive collection of board games, half of which have stayed in the shrink-wrap due to the difficulty finding time with other gamers when we’ve got an RPG schedule that doesn’t allow the time.  Exposure to some of the board games like Wizards of the Coast’s Temple of Elemental Evil has got her interested in a more RPG-like experience.  It’s helpful her friends have read the same books and also enjoy painting miniatures as well (enough to shop for their own figures on reapermini.com).  For better or worse, we may just have a tween girls gaming group in the making.  You can bet I’ll blog about that, should it happen.

The time we’ve spent together has been fun for all of us, and we’re talking and sharing and growing closer as a family when this is going on, which is contrary to the quietude of zoning out in a show or game that doesn’t invite the distraction of conversation.  Of course, you don’t have to unplug to share this time, but you may just find that there’s peace that comes with cutting out those unhealthy distractions and getting back to a simpler time before Netflix.

I got on today to write board game reviews from the new games we have been playing, but realized this was maybe the more important part of the story.  Next week and for hopefully weeks to come, I’ll be sharing more of what we’re playing and how it works with younger players as well.

Star Wars for One

July 27, 2016 4 comments

gamblingLast weekend I set up another session of our Bounty Hunter campaign at our awesome FLGS the Wyverns Tale. Most weeks we have about 4-6 people show up, some weeks we have 12, some we have zero, but this week we had one, besides myself. Solitary FFG Star Wars is possible, but… if you’re just making up stories in your own head, maybe write a book? No, this week we had me and one PC. He was understandably nervous going on a solo bounty hunt, but really this seems like it would be a much more common scenario. One hunter means you get the whole bounty, rather than a share.

Given that it is difficult to predict how many PCs will show up in a given week, I built my encounters to be very flexible. Usually if a combat encounter involves minions, I’ll have 3 minions per PC making up the minion groups. One PC table = 3 minions (not the little one-eyed yellow kind, despite how much I would not mind taking a light repeating blaster to those). Rivals are usually a pretty decent challenge for most PCs, so I recommend adding them to encounters on a one to one basis with PCs for a moderately difficult encounter. A nemesis is going to be quite a challenge to solo for one PC. It is not impossible, but it will likely require a bit of luck and some very clever tactics on the part of the PC.

AggressiveNegotiationsBeyond combat, social encounters can be very challenging for a lone PC, unless they have a particularly well-rounded character. Often when playing in large groups, it is very helpful to specialize in just a few skills. You can be the party “face” with a lot of social skills, the muscle, the sniper, the mechanic/slicer, or maybe the driver/gunner. With a smaller party, and especially a party of one, you need a diversified character. Some career specializations lend themselves to this better than others. Dangerous Covenants, the sourcebook for hired guns has great examples off both a specialist, and a generalist. Take the Heavy: nearly all skills and talents are related to making you a walking tank. Good luck with anything outside wielding the heaviest weapons with devastating efficacy. Not very effective during negotiations, unless those negotiations turn aggressive. On the other side of the coin you have the Enforcer: adding Brawl, Coercion, Knowledge (Underworld) and Streetwise. This is the darker side of a “face” character, but when you add those skills to the already diverse base set for hired gun of Athletics, Brawl (again), Discipline, Melee, Piloting (Planetary), Ranged (Light), Resilience, and Vigilance, you get a street tough that knows how to drive, shoot, brawl, and intimidate information out of underworld contacts. Maybe not someone you would send in for delicate political negotiations, but pretty good in most Edge of the Empire situations.

This past week, as really every week of the Bounty Hunter campaign was fantastically entertaining. The player ended up using his most experienced and well-equipped PC, despite having a fairly narrow skill set as a Bounty Hunter Assassin. Sometimes *not* having the appropriate skill led to some hilarious situations. Negotiating with a Drall duchess, investigating a missing person, and attempting to wheedle information from the Drall Wing Guard were not this PC’s strengths, but that added to the adventure as he caused quite a stir around the capital city of Mastogophorus. Most of the combat encounters he breezed through, since that is his wheelhouse, and in the final battle he held his own, despite going against three rivals through some skilled tactics and favorable rolls.

Starting the session we were both a bit anxious as to how one PC would be able to succeed, but by the end we both agreed it was an excellent adventure and all the more memorable thanks to having just one PC! For those of you attempting your own one on one Star Wars game, I would recommend planning a lot more encounters and encounter areas than if you were planning for a larger group. My typical three major act format usually takes a full group about 3-4 hours. With one PC we were done in two.

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…

Fun with the Three Fates in DCCRPG

May 2, 2016 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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!