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Cyphers and Masks Review – Star Wars Age of Rebellion

September 3, 2018 1 comment

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The most recent sourcebook for Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG is an Age of Rebellion sourcebook expanding on the Spy career. I’ve been looking forward to this book almost as much as the bounty hunter book for Edge of the Empire, and it does not disappoint. It follows the familiar format of other career source books: three sections, the first with new species and specializations, the second with new gear/vehicles/weapons and the third focusing on the GM and integrating spy characters into larger campaigns.

If you are more selective about your sourcebook purchases, I would still suggest giving this one a look. It includes some interesting new species such as the nearly synonymous-with-spy Kubaz, the insect-like Melitto, and mantis-antennae-having near-human Balosars. Those “antennapalps” provide two advantage on vigilance checks, which may prove handy since willpower is not generally a strong stat for spies. Kubaz have enhanced vision which can cancel out two setback dice from perception checks due to environmental factors. The Melitto have sightless vision and never need light. Seeing as it looks like they lack a mouth, Melittos could make cool silent snake-eyes type spies.

swa53_art_specialization-courierThe three new specializations are courier, interrogator and sleeper agent. Thanks to some generous 5 XP skills, courier is a more compelling choice than you might think at first blush. To the base spy skills of Computers, Cool, Coordination, Deception, Knowledge (Warfare), Perception, Skullduggery and Stealth, Courier adds Athletics, another Deception, Streetwise and Vigilance. With 5XP talents Well-Travelled and Pilot Training, this quickly becomes a very well-rounded tree mostly focusing on agility and intellect. Well-traveled makes Knowledge Core Worlds and Outer Rim career skills. Pilot training does the same for Piloting Space and Planetary. There are some parkour talents like Freerunning and Swift for personal movement, as well as some that apply to either personal or vehicles like Shortcut and Lose Them. This makes courier a solid choice for a pilot/analyst in your rebel spy cell. The only glaring omission is any kind of weapons skill, but that can be addressed with a dip into the universal recruit tree from the Age core book.

Interrogator is a surprising choice for a PC specialization, but could be an exciting one the way they have it written here. To the base spy skills add Charm, Coercion, Medicine, and another Perception. This makes the interrogator the de facto “face” spy, relying more on social skills rather than subterfuge. The talent tree has a good cop side and a bad cop side, as well as talents about called Resist Questioning and Made You Talk. One of the most interesting is a 25XP skill called Pressure Point that allows the PC to make a brawl check that does stun damage equal to ranks in medicine ignoring soak. This could be used to judo-chop some minions or knock out a weakened rival or nemesis for questioning. Other than the scout, this is the only other Spy spec with access to medicine, and with access to two ranks in Surgeon may be the best healer of the bunch. Every rebel spy cell could use a doctor/face.

swa53_sleeperagentSleeper Agent has some very cool benefits. To the base skills add Charm, another Cool, Discipline, and Knowledge (Education). The tree has some slicer talents like Codebreaker and Bypass Security. For 5XP you can pick up Well Rounded to pick up any two skills and make them career skills. This is a cheap way to pick up some weapon or piloting skills. Ideally these would match what your roll is in the Empire: Pilot, Soldier, Mechanic etc. The 25XP talents are especially cool: Inside Person and Inside Knowledge provide advantages to checks associated with a certain installation or large ship. You can also use it to find an item previously stashed in a location, which has cool story possibilities.

Just as one would expect from any classic spy movie, the gear and gadget section does not disappoint. Weapons that fire invisible blaster bolts, wrist mounted razor launchers, hidden garrotes, and convertible pistols that can be switched to a sniper rifle with two maneuvers (thanks Cassian!) and some stealthy armor. Gear and tools include a fake tooth with a poison crystal inside, cybernetic implants of tools and lock picks (go-go gadget hydrospanner!), disguises both holographic and implanted, concealed escape kits in the heel of a boot, explosive belts etc. Its just like walking into the lab of a Bond movie, as it should be. There are several droids detailed here, from interrogation, slicers, incredibly strong assault droids, and armored messenger droids. RA-7 stats are included as well. This was the inventory droid from Star Wars Rebels.

swa53_species_2A fair amount of space is dedicated to weapon attachments and enhancements to help conceal or break down weapons so they can be smuggled in to places they shouldn’t be. The vehicle and ship section just has one speeder and one star fighter with a lot of hard points to be used in customization. The vehicle attachments include lots of interesting options for cloaking, retractable weapons, and espionage electronics. You could certainly create something reminiscent of classic Bond cars filled with gadgets.

The third section details campaign ideas and potential rewards for spies. It outlines potential pitfalls GMs could run into with groups that have a lot of direct-action PCs and one Spy that relies on stealth. Given the variety of skills in this career I think you could run a really fun rebel spy cell with PCs made exclusively from spies. This section also provides some really helpful suggestions for spending dice results for computers, deception, skullduggery and stealth checks.

As expected, this was one sourcebook worth waiting for. The team at FFG is not running out of gas for this Star Wars line. I have yet to buy a book in this line that isn’t worth every penny. Even if you don’t collect them all, I highly recommend this one due to how well they stuck to the theme and the surprises along the way.

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Categories: Books, Reviews, Star Wars

The pros and cons of sourcebooks and settings

July 23, 2018 Comments off

The Skyland Games crew was a bit divided about the release of the Han Solo movie. Some felt it was unnecessary and was a movie no one was asking for about characters of which we already know the fate. Others felt it expanded both the story and the universe in very cool ways. We can see an analog in RPGs and their respective supplements and expansions.

Today Wizards of the Coast announced two new worlds for 5e D&D: Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron and Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravinica. The Eberron update is digital only (at least for now) and the book for Ravinica won’t be released until November and represents the first cross-pollination of Magic: The Gathering lore making an appearance on the D&D side of the WotC fence.

This news comes on the heels of Fantasy Flight Games reprinting a special 30th anniversary of the West End Games Star Wars RPG. Recently I purchased both it, and two Force and Destiny sourcebooks: Knights of Fate and Unlimited Power. Staring at my formidable shelf of FFG Star Wars got me thinking: at what point is a system too diluted by supporting materials?

Fans of RPGs are familiar with the cycle: A core rulebook (or three) comes out for a system. Adventures, supplements and sourcebooks follow. Perhaps errata or an updated print run or seven. Finally the bottom of the barrel is scraped (for D&D often in the form of the Tome of Vile Darkness), and a new edition is released. Most recently we have seen this with Pathfinder and X-wing.

Reading through the old WEG Star Wars is a pretty wild contrast from a recent FFG sourcebook. The bibliography (they included one!) at the back of the WEG sourcebook is most telling: the original trilogy, their novelizations, a Han Solo trilogy of novels, a Lando Trilogy, and some art books for visual reference. In fairness, that was probably everything in print about Star Wars in 1987. Almost impossible to imagine thirty years later.

The player section for the entire system weighs in at 24 pages, and a full one-third of that is dedicated to a solitaire choose-your-own-adventure style introduction to the concept of roleplaying: making decisions and rolling dice to see what happens.

“This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster. An elegant weapon… for a more civilized age.”   – Obi-wan Kenobi

Is the system perfect? Certainly not. There are awkward combat mechanics, especially when it comes to starship combat. However, it does get you into playing the game quickly, and emphasizes not stressing the details as the GM. Between the two 144-page books included in the 30th anniversary reprint, you have everything you need to evoke the feel of the original trilogy and have a fantastic game.

On the flip side of the coin, I love having a Star Wars sourcebook library that is now the size of an old Encyclopedia Britannica collection. Each book is filled with inspiration from settings, equipment, encounters, and adversaries. However, it can be daunting for new players creating a character. It would be an awesome compromise for FFG to produce not pre-gens, but templates similar to WEG: familiar archetypes to which you can add a few skills, a description, a background and a motivation and get to rolling.

For D&D, each world at the peak of system bloat that was second edition seemed to have its own feel: Dark Sun, Spelljammer, Ravenloft, Dragonlance, and yes, Forgotten Realms. I imagine these new 5e options will provide that same sort of tone-setting characteristics to make each memorable. Maybe that is one way to think of it – not as dilution, but a particular flavor.

Dungeon Crawl Classics has taken a similar approach with setting box sets: The Chained Coffin (Shudder Mountains), The Purple Planet, and very soon Lankhmar. Goodman Games has also recently released a post-apocalyptic version of their system called Mutant Crawl Classics (which is awesome and will get a much more in-depth review later).

Ultimately it comes down to playing the style of game you want to play. There are pretty excellent RPGs that fit on a single sheet of paper. In my years of gaming, it has mattered less what system or edition we were playing and more that we had an excuse to get together every week and have a great time. Nerds tend to desire an encyclopedic knowledge of subjects they enjoy. This works out nicely for publishers. Is it necessary? Maybe not, but it sure is fun.

Fully Operational Review – Star Wars Age of Rebellion

April 8, 2018 Comments off

The latest sourcebook for Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Age of Rebellion is Fully Operational. This sourcebook expands the options available for the Engineer career, and adds three new species, three new specialization options, as well as some interesting crafting options to the FFG Star Wars system.

As always, the career sourcebooks follow the familiar format of three sections: player options, gear/vehicles, and finally additional mechanics and systems for GM and PC use. Both Edge and Age have some overlap when it comes to careers and specializations that make sense for PCs in both lines. We’ve seen this show up in the past with FFG repeating certain species and specializations that could apply to careers in either line. One could almost understand if FFG wanted to copy and paste from the excellent Edge sourcebook for technicians Special Modifications. In this case, they resisted that temptation, and this book is a better value for it.

When reviewing this book, I immediately grabbed my copy of Special Modifications to see if there was any overlap, and I had to do a bit of a double-take: in the new Age book one of the new specializations is Droid Specialist, but in the Edge book it is Droid Tech. The trees have some similar skills, but some unique ones as well. This was a refreshing change from seeing careers like Heavy being copied whole-cloth between lines. It could also allow for some interesting multi-classing giving a PC an opportunity to stack lots of ranks of talents like Machine Mender and Hidden Storage, while also providing new talents in this book like Design Flaw (add 1 advantage per rank when attacking droids at personal scale) and Repair Patch Specialization (heal an additional wound per rank when using an emergency repair patch). Similarly, the crafting section focuses on facility and ship/vehicle crafting and doesn’t go over the gear/droid/cybernetics of the other book. What surprised me the most was how much of this book did not retread what had been established by Special Modifications.

Three new species are detailed in this book. The Bith on the cover (made famous as the band members in Mos Eisley cantina), Kaminoans (genetic engineers of the clones from the Clone Wars), and Skakoans, often synonymous with the Techno Union.

The Bith, while cool and recognizable from the original trilogy, don’t seem to make the best choice for an engineer. The have a one in brawn and a three in presence, and a two for everything else including Intellect. They start with a rank in perception and have sensitive hearing, but none of that predisposes them to make great engineers. They seem like a better fit for the Colonist-Performer specialization.

Kaminoans are a natural fit for this book, starting with a three in Intellect, a rank in Medicine, a rank of the Researcher talent, and most humorously trait called Expressionless. This results in a setback die for Charm checks and provides a setback die for others making social skill checks targeting Kaminoans. This really evokes Obi Wan’s experience when meeting them in the prequels, and would be fun to role-play.

Skakoans may be the least recognizable of the three, and as methane-breathers like the Gand, can pose environmental challenges other PCs may not face. Interestingly, this is the first species that start the game with a type of armor. They require a specialized pressure suit that provides +2 soak and 3 hard points. They start with a three in Intellect and a rank in Knowledge (Education) and Mechanics, but with only 80 XP. As an Engineer you were going to train those up anyway, so not a bad trade really.

The three new specializations include Droid Specialist, Sapper, and Shipwright. While the Droid Tech in Special Modifications focuses on building and commanding a droid army, the Droid Specialist can build them up, or break them down. In addition to the core Engineer skills of Athletics, Computers, Knowledge (Education), Mechanics, Perception, Piloting (Space), Ranged (Light) and Vigilance, this spec adds another Computers, Cool, another Mechanics, and Melee. These skills paired with the talents in the tree make this PC brainy, but pretty good in a fight at range or up close and personal.

The Sapper seems like it would be quite close to the saboteur, and much like the droid specs above they have some similarities, but are not identical at all. The Sapper focuses on construction as well as destruction, specifically of facilities and emplacements. In addition to the core skills, Sapper adds another Athletics, Knowledge (Warfare), another Mechanics, and Survival. One interesting new talent on the tree is Improvised Defenses. This allows the PC to make an average Survival check to create cover for up to four characters for the rest of the encounter.

Shipwright is quite the unique specialization. At first blush you would think it would be similar to Rigger in the Ace book or Modder in the Technician book, but it shares very few talents with either. Shipwright adds Gunnery, another Knowledge (Education), another Mechanics and another Piloting (Space) to the Engineer core skills making it the most laser-focused engineer specialization. Some talents you would expect are here like Solid Repairs, but also Dockyard Expertise which reduces time and cost of repairs by 25% per rank. Also Push the Specs which increases the top speed of the ship with an average Knowledge (Education) check. Creative Design allows a PC to apply a number of advantage equal to ranks in the talent to a crafting check, while allowing the GM to apply an equal number of threat.

The signature abilities include The Harder They Fall and Unmatched Ingenuity. The Harder They Fall allows once per session, a PC to spend two destiny points and make a hard mechanics check that if successful, automatically critically hit vehicles, droids or structures whenever they suffer wounds or hull trauma. This seems quite overpowered, but most of the signature abilities are. Unmatched Ingenuity allows once per session a PC to spend two destiny points and make a hard mechanics check to add one item quality to a weapon or item they are holding or operating. They can spend a triumph to add an additional quality, and advantage to increase the value of the quality if applicable.

The weapons section is pretty excellent for what is one of the more brainy and less combat-focused careers, but as one might expect from a career that includes both saboteur and sapper, the explosives are the highlight. Grenade additions include both Incendiary and Cryoban, as well as explosive compounds and devices for taking out structures and emplacements. My favorite is Flex-5 Detonite Tape that consists of a bulky roll of tape for breaching doors or lightly armored objects. This section also includes stats for Bardium charges, Detonite (think c-4), Fuel-Air Bombs, and Shaped charges. Not only are there stats for one charge, but how they stack when using multiple charges.

Gear section highlights include the Model 40 Repulsor Hoist and modular base structures. For a mere 3 encumbrance and 550 credits you can get a set of 6 repulsors to help hoist a disabled vehicle for field repairs or towing up to a silhouette 4 up to two meters high. Modular base structures allow you to build a quick and inexpensive command center, barracks, and hangar/motor pool. This could be a fun adventure session in itself!

The vehicle section has some cool engineer-focused transports and construction vehicles. Among these are stats for a silhouette 7 mobile space dock that would serve as an interesting adventure locale to get ship repairs, or defend from imperial attack. New vehicle weapons include stats for a tow cable launcher, ion torpedoes, and a termite torpedo which would likely be quite the headache for a PC ship targeted by such a weapon.

The last section includes some interesting ideas for using the Mechanics skill, as well as spending advantage, threat, triumph and despairs on engineering-focused checks. There is a fairly substantial section on making repair and construction efforts in different settings and environments like an active battlefield, desert/tundra, high-atmosphere, a firefight, forest/jungle, underwater, etc. Next is a section dedicated to converting civilian vehicles and facilities to military applications. This would certainly inspire at least a session or two of game materials. Finally, the most substantial section is dedicated to crafting ships and vehicles. This follows the same format as droids, weapons, and cybernetics from Special Modifications and goes into quite a bit of detail about different aspects such as frames, engines, and hulls. Each of these have their own template tables and advantage/threat, triumph/despair result suggestions. This may prove challenging to get an entire table of PCs to get excited about during a session unless the adventure or campaign is focused on building out new ships and bases for the rebels.

To wrap up the last section there are a few campaign ideas focused on a shipyard, a battle station, and combat engineering. Yet again FFG Star Wars is proving to be consistently high quality and worth purchasing. Unlike other RPGs that run out of quality material before they run out of supplements, FFG Star Wars seems to be getting even better and more refined the more books they produce. This is one of the better sourcebooks in the Age line, and I imagine using several ideas from it in future adventures.

Categories: Books, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

Star Wars – Dawn of Rebellion review

March 3, 2018 Comments off

The recently released Dawn of Rebellion is the first Era Sourcebook for the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG line. Unlike previous books, this is the first to bridge all three lines of Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny. This comes out just as the Rebels TV show is coming to an end. For fans of both the Rebels animated series and the Rogue One movie, this book is full of stats for both characters and vehicles seen in each.

This book is a bit thicker than most specialization books, but about on par with Lords of Nal Hutta and Suns of Fortune weighing in at 144 pages. There are four chapters broken down into Worlds in Revolt, Organizations, Player Options and Game Master Support.

Worlds in Revolt features several systems that play an important role in the era including Alderaan, Atollon, Dathomir, The Death Star, Jedha, Lothal, and smaller sections on other places just called Other Worlds. Each system has the familiar fact sheet and picture of the planet featured in other releases, followed by a longer description of points of interest as well as key NPCs and a modular encounter that would work nicely as a mini-session in each system.

Often RPG books can be broken down in a crunch:fluff ratio, meaning how much of the book is stats and numbers compared to flavor text that helps bring the world alive, without providing those numbers that mechanically affect the game. This book leans towards the fluff-heavy, but details a satisfying amount of gear, creatures, NPCs and vehicles to keep the crunch crowd happy. The organizations section in particular features a lot of information on the Empire, Rebellion and Independent Organizations like The Broken Horn Syndicate (Vizago’s smugglers from Rebels), The Free Ryloth Movement, and the Protectors of Concord Dawn. Each has a few key NPCs detailed and some background information. Each main character of the Rebels TV show is statted out, as well as Shore Troopers, Death Troopers, Agent Callus, the Inquisitors, Vader and Thrawn. From the Independent Organizations you get stats for Fenn Rau, Azmorigan, Hondo Ohnaka, Ketsu Onyo and Lando Calrissian (previously statted out in Jewel of Yavin). This section gives you plenty of key characters to interact with if you want to start a party that runs in parallel to the events of Rebels or Rogue One. This seems to fly in the face of the wisdom expressed in previous books about shying away from key figures, since it is a pretty big galaxy after all. I think it is pretty cool to provide the stats for folks, since people try and make them up in the FFG forums anyway, and can add some gravity to your session. Hopefully, Vader won’t cut through your party like he did those rebels at the end of Rogue One.

The Player Options section introduces six new universal specializations that can be purchased for 10x the amount of specializations the PC currently has in XP. The book suggests this can add depth to a PCs past if chosen at the beginning of character creation, or could be a big reveal of a hidden past if chosen later. Either seems like a really compelling option to me, and I hope they come out with more of these in subsequent Era books. Those included in this are: Padawan Survivor (Kanan), Force Adherent (Chirrut), Imperial Academy Cadet (Han, Wedge, Sabine), Pirate (Hondo), Retired Clone Trooper (Rex), and Ship Captain (Hera). These trees include 4 bonus career skills (with the exception of Padawan which grants Force Rating 1 unless your PC already has it) and feature associated talents that can provide depth to your PC.

There are also four new species options from Rogue One: The loud-mouthed amphibian-like Dabatan, the Wookie/Wampa-like Gigorans, heavy-browed simian Iakaru (door gunner in the U-wing), and insecto-mammalian Tognaths (Saw’s lieutenant on Jedha).

The weapons section includes stats for Chirrut’s lightbow, Baze’s repeating cannon, and the Shore Trooper’s E-22 (linked 1 heavy rifle), and Death Trooper variant E-11D and DLT-19D Heavy blaster rifles.

The vehicles detailed include the AT-ACT, Occupier Assault Tank (Jedha), Delta-Class Shuttle (Krennic), TIE Striker and U-Wing. The U-Wing stats I found and used from FFG forums for my Rogue Two adventure were very close to the published stats. Also included are Arquittens-class Imperial cruiser and the hammer-head class corvettes use in Rebels and Rogue One, as well as the Ghost and both Phantom shuttles. There are also stats for the Death Star, which are so huge as to be nearly useless, but it does have a stat block.

The GM Support section includes a really nice idea about crafting a campaign like a season of a TV show, and even provides a roadmap for primary and secondary plots focusing on different characters as well as an overall story arc. We are attempting to do much this same thing with our own gaming group while sharing GMing duties. We’ve each contributed NPCs and planted story seeds that other GMs can choose to advance or go in a different direction. We’re only about 3 sessions in, but so far it has been really rewarding to not only share the GMing duties and responsibilities, but build our own corner of the galaxy together.

This section of the book provides the framework for either one GM to craft an entire season, or perhaps allow for a group to round-robin GM. This system has always provided a wealth of GMing resources and tips but this section of this book in particular goes above and beyond. It also discusses developing antagonists – villains that surpass a typical “big bad” at the end of an adventure and provide a long-lasting true nemesis. It also mentions antagonists don’t have to be evil to oppose the party such as Saw Gerrera, Fenn Rau and Cham Syndulla.The final part of the GM section deals with building a Rebel Cell campaign. This provides several ideas and seeds that can help groups write their own versions of Rebels or Rogue One.

Overall, this book is a great resource for those of us that watch the new movies or TV shows and start statting things we see out in our heads. It provides a ton of background information on this particular era of Star Wars and will be a great book for both players and GMs alike. I hope this is just the beginning and FFG is able to release a Knights of the Old Republic, Clone Wars, and possibly Force Awakens era books as well.

Categories: Books, News, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

Disciples of Harmony review

June 7, 2017 Comments off

The fine folks at Fantasy Flight Games are at it again, this time with the Star Wars Force and Destiny sourcebook for the Consular: Disciples of Harmony. This book follows the now tried-and-true format of three sections: new species/specializations, new gear/vehicles, and a GM section about consular-focused encounters. Out of Edge of the Empire, and Age Rebellion, Force & Destiny is the line I have actually played and run the least, but every line in FFG Star Wars has such great stuff it is worth picking up. This book is no exception.

The first section has some interesting and to me, surprising choices for new species. This book adds the Arkanian, Cosian, and the Pau’an.

Arkanians are usually white-haired, white-eyed, 4-fingered near-humans that are known for superior genetic engineering and generally superior attitudes to other beings. Space Aryan would not be my first choice for a Jedi, but the book goes on to explain force-sensitive Arkanians seek a perfect understanding of the force through analytical research, allowing them to transcend they typical scientific perfection their people are known for and attain a more complete perfection though the force. They start with a 3 in Intellect and 1 in Presence. Beyond that, they have Dark Vision which removes two setback, and start with a rank in Medicine. I suppose this could work well for a conceited Healer, and could be a good choice if you are looking to role-play someone with a superiority complex. Alternatively you could go against type, and be the black sheep Arkanian who is actually nice.

Cosians are a reptilian species that have kind of a beak, a tail that ends in a hairy tuft and blink up instead of down. Some may recognize this race from Jedi Master Tera Sinube from Clone Wars. Out of the three, this choice seems to be the most natural for what I think of as the consular role. Hailing from a planet in the deep core, Cosia is a verdant planet and their villages are interconnected in massive trees on the surface. They start with a 3 in Intellect and a 1 in Brawn, as well as a free rank of Knowledge (Lore) and the racial trait Strong Backed, which gives them an Encumbrance of 10 + Brawn.

Pau’ans are the creepy race of (most notably) the Grand Inquisitor from Star Wars rebels. I had no idea what race he was, nor that all of them are that ghoulish in appearance. This makes them somewhat of an odd choice for one of the more diplomatic and “face” careers for Force and Destiny. They originally hail from the planet Utapau, but the various clans have been driven from their home world by the Empire. They start with a 1 in Brawn and a 3 in Willpower, but interestingly start with +12 wound threshold and +8 strain, which makes them a bit more balanced than at first glance. They start with a rank in Negotiation or Coercion, and have sensitive hearing which gives them a boost die on Perception and Vigilance checks as long as they have their protective earpieces. With those removed, they suffer an automatic threat as their ears are overwhelmed. This would certainly make an intimidating character or NPC, but seeing them in a diplomatic role is still a hard sell for me. Still, I’m glad to have the option for other careers/specs.

The new specializations compliment the core consular specs of Healer, Niman Disciple, and Sage quite nicely. The new specs are Arbiter, Ascetic, and Teacher. The challenge with the core consular specs is the career seems to focus on 3 characteristics: Intellect, Willpower, and Presence. While choosing one of the specs will allow you to narrow down to two main characteristics, if you are cross-specing within consular, you’ll want at least a 3 in each.

Arbiter is the classic role of Jedi as mediator or judge to resolve disputes. To the base consular skills of Cool, Discipline, Knowledge (Education), Knowledge (Lore), Leadership, and Negotiation, Arbiter adds Knowledge (Xenology), Lightsaber, another Negotiation, and Perception. The skill tree is a nice balance of defensive combat talents like parry and reflect, as well as “face” talents like nobody’s fool and a new one called savvy negotiator. My favorite new power on the bottom row of the tree is Aggressive Negotiations. Once per session you can perform a hard lightsaber check to reduce the difficulty of all Negotiation checks for the encounter by 2. Not downgrades… difficulty. That is one impressive lightsaber show!

Ascetics are essentially monks that eschew possessions and have studied the force in hermit-like isolation. To the core skills they add Athletics, Discipline, Resilience and Vigilance. Clearly this build relies more on Brawn than the others. Surprisingly, the only talent with an inherent conflict cost is in this tree: Mind Bleed. This allows a character to reflect physical damage on an attacker by suffering an equal amount of strain. It also requires the PC to have 2 or less encumbrance. The character suffers a number of strain equal to the wounds suffered from the attack. The attacker then suffers wounds equal to the strain suffered. Pretty dark stuff. The tree is also loaded with grit, so between being a brawny and gritty tree, its kind of dark being an Ascetic too.

The Teacher adds another rank of Knowledge (Education), Knowledge (Lore), Leadership and Perception. This would be an interesting choice to take as a first spec, as an inexperienced PC will have much to learn. Mechanically it is pretty nice since Well Rounded is a 5xp buy on the tree which allows you to choose two additional skills of your choice to make career skills. It also allows you to lend your expertise through talents like Skilled Teacher which allows you to suffer strain equal to ranks in Skilled Teacher and provide an equal number of successes to the ally’s next check. This has some very cool role-play opportunities. Teacher is probably my favorite out of the new three. Lots of interesting talents deep in the tree as well.

The weapons/gear/vehicles sections of Force and Destiny books are rarely the highlight, but this has a few really cool additions, including a lot of non-lethal options which can be fun for bounty hunters or those trying to not gain the conflict associated with murdering people. The concussive rifle is like a noise blunderbuss, and there are a few nice new grenades in the Spore Stun grenade, and the Spray Foam grenade. But the really cool addition is the melee Z6 Riot Control Baton, famously from the scene in Force Awakens with Finn and the lightning-baton wielding First Order trooper. This will be fun to arm potential foes of the PCs as it has the Cortosis quality, Disorient 2 and of course, Stun Damage. Armor includes a diving suit for aquatic diplomatic missions, as well as in interesting Reflect Body Glove that provides very low-profile armor, but degrades with each hit. It may be repaired with an average Mechanics check. The book adds some interesting lightsaber crystals in the Cracked Crystal which according to the text is from the debris of the first Death Star’s destruction in Yavin and a Corrupted Crystal, which is essentially a dark side crystal you can “reclaim” once your PC’s morality rises above 70. Seems like some cool role-playing options there. The vehicles are predominantly very low crew/passenger capacity. This would be cool for games with one or two PCs, but would seem to have limited usefulness in larger groups. The capital ship section is pretty cool, with stats for the iconic Consular-class cruiser first seen in the Phantom Menace. Its got a cool sealed conference room pod that servers as an escape pod in a pinch. This book also details stats for the Jedi training cruiser Crucible – which would be an awesome adventure in itself!

The GM section discusses incorporating three types of mentor NPCs to the campaign, each with different styles and examples from the movies and shows. There are some helpful tables that suggest styles and complications to bring your NPCs to life. They also include example stat blocks of each type: Trainer, Consultant, and Challenger. Most interesting to me was some details on alternative force traditons: Baran Do Sages, Dagoyan Masters, Gand Findsmen, and Sith Lords. Provided are benefits and drawbacks to studying with each group, as well as an XP cost to eventually overcome the drawback. The benefits include reduced XP costs to learn certain powers that correspond with the different groups. I hope they have similar stats for the Nightsisters adventure that is coming out soon! One really nice section discusses knowledge checks. It provides two possible approaches to encourage knowledge checks and make them more dynamic, and is illustrated by my favorite illustration in the book: a human consulting a datapad while his Nautolan friend holds off a Stalking Acklay. The final section talks about making diplomatic encounters exciting and provides a table of possible success/failure/advantage/threat/triumph/despair results. I’m still not convinced any amount of political maneuvering will be more fun than a firefight, but at least it gives you more tools to help spice them up a bit.

Overall, this book surprised me with how much great stuff they packed into 96-pages. I would highly recommend this book for those looking to diversify their encounters and include some really intriguing options beyond force-sensitive PCs. Despite the entire shelf I now have dedicated to this system, quality has not gone down. Time to clear another shelf!

Categories: Books, News, Reviews, Star Wars

Star Wars Rogue Two – Less is More

March 31, 2017 Comments off

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

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

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

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

Act I – Planning/Infiltration

Act II – Rescue/Escape

Act III – The Emperor’s Snare – Interdictor Showdown

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

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

 

ACT I

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

ACT II

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

Act III

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

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

Rogue2map

GotalSaboteur

BothanQuartermaster

GranFigurehead

SullustanDriver

KyuzoHeavy

DurosInstructor

IthorianMedic

March 4th! GMs Day! Mace West Preview!

March 4, 2017 1 comment

drownedHappy GM’s day gamers! RPGnow is having a big sale, and many awesome publishers are participating. Get yourself or your favorite GameMaster something cool! I’m celebrating GM’s day by preparing for the games I’m running at an upcoming convention: MACE West 2017! This will be the third year the event will be held in Asheville, NC just outside the Biltmore at the Doubletree hotel, March 24-26th. The first year I attended I had a great time, and each year it keeps getting better and better! This year there are a staggering number of board games, RPGs, and other events listed this year at the OGRe.

The Skyland Games guys alone will be running Dungeon Crawl Classics, Mutant Crawl Classics, Age of Rebellion, Metamorphosis Alpha, Apes Victorious and Imperial Assault. Games are filling up fast, and we are looking forward to another great year at our “home” convention!

Kevin is running the Frost Fang Expedition, a 3rd party published DCC adventure that is almost purpose-built for cons since there is a ticking-clock element to the adventure. The full review is here, but the short version is this: if the heroes don’t succeed, rocks fall and everyone dies. Not everyone in the party, everyone in the town below the crumbling, floating castle. That old chestnut. He is also running one of the Metamorphosis Alpha adventures from the recent Epsilon City kickstarter, and a homebrewed Star Wars adventure called Rogue Two, in which a small rebel commando team is sent to Mytus VII, star’s end, to break out a group of rebel pilots including Wedge Antilles to aid in the assault on the Death Star.

Mike is running a homebrewed Mutant Crawl Classics adventure he will also be running at GenCon, but MACE West gets it first! Where the drowned god dwells looks to be an exciting post-apocalyptic underwater adventure! Apes Victorious from Goblinoid Games is based around Planet of the Apes and looks to be quite the enjoyable romp if you’ve ever wanted to play the role of a 70s astronaut marooned on future earth. This one is also on sale as part of the GM’s day event. If you haven’t played it yet, you can try out Goodman Games Lankhmar with Mike running Masks of Lankhmar, an adventure he was fortunate enough to playtest with the author Michael Curtis at GaryCon VII.

Scott is running three slots of Imperial Assault, and thanks to the hard work and excellent skill of local mini-painter Galen, they will be some great looking sessions! Minis in the front are some of the bones from recent kickstarters, but the back shelves are all Star Wars! There are more games and events than ever before, these are just the few events we are running. Check out the event pages on facebook and at Justus Productions to find out more. See you there!

minis