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Star Wars Force and Destiny – Endless Vigil Review

November 2, 2016 1 comment

swf30_book_leftThe recent release of Endless Vigil puts a focus on urban encounters and investigations for the sourcebook for Sentinels. There are some very compelling and some questionable bits to this book, but first let’s talk about the main additions for PCs. This book continues the now very familiar format for career sourcebooks. The first chapter is PC options, the second equipment/vehicles, and the third provides some GM guidance and encounters.

The races are all new to the Force and Destiny line, with the only FFG Star Wars repeat being the Gand, found in the Edge of the Empire core book. The new additions are the Muun (tall, skinny, banking-clan race), and the Pantoran (Blue-skinned race featured heavily in the Clone Wars animated series and the Jewel of Yavin adventure). The Gand is statistically identical to the Edge entry for them (as you would expect) but it does provide some insight on Gand culture and their curious relationship with the Force. The Muun start out with a 3 in both intellect and cunning, balanced by low starting XP and a 1 in both willpower and presence. They would make a very fun archetypal Sherlock investigator; calculating and analytical. The Pantorans make excellent leaders and negotiators, starting out with a 3 in presence and a free rank in negotiation or cool.

Adding to the Sentinel core specializations of Artisan, Shadow, and Shien Expert, Endless Vigil presents the Investigator, the Racer, and the Sentry. While Sentinels have always been the street-level Jedi compared to higher-profile careers like Guardian or Consular, adding these diverse specializations to this career allow you to create a well-rounded character. From the core book, Artisan focuses on using the force to manipulate mechanical objects. The Shadow focuses on stealth and subverting criminals by meeting them where they are. The Shien Expert allows a PC to focus on lightsaber combat utilizing their cunning and reflecting ranged attacks. The new specializations are just as diverse. The core skills  for the Sentinel are Computers, Deception, Knowledge (Core Worlds), Perception, Skulduggery and Stealth.

swf30_vigil_artThe investigator adds Knowledge (Education), Knowledge (Underworld), another Perception and Streetwise. The talent tree includes several ranks of grit and toughened to beef up strain and wounds (likely handy for a mostly intellectual character) as well some interesting talents towards the bottom. There are a few instances of Street Smarts and Keen Eyed which remove setback dice to Streetwise and Underworld checks and Perception and Vigilance checks, respectively. The real signature talents arrive in about the 20 XP level for this spec. Clever Solution allows you to use Cunning rather than the typical characteristic linked to that skill. The onus is on the player to explain how Cunning applies to the situation they are trying to get out of. Sense the Scene allows investigators to identify the emotional characteristics of one person involved in a crime. This talent seems overly specific unless you were running a noir/private investigator campaign. I would probably allow this to be used any time the investigator tried to use perception to sense emotion in a social encounter. Valuable Facts (originally detailed in the talent tree for the Sage) is an excellent addition as it allows you to add a triumph to an ally’s skill check during an encounter. Elementary, my dear Watson.

The racer seems like an odd choice for the Sentinel career. It does open up many of the typical vehicular talents found in Edge and Age in such careers as Smuggler and Ace. This does fill a bit of a gap in the core Force and Destiny book as there is no other “wheelman” spec in this line. This career adds Cool, Coordination, and Piloting (Space and Planetary) to the core list of Sentinel skills. In addition to typical pilot talents like skilled jockey, full throttle and shortcut, racers also excel at foot races with the new talent Freerunning and Improved Freerunning. This allows racers to spend strain and move to any location in short or (with improved) medium range. May the Parkour be with you! On the bottom row of the tree, once per session Superhuman Reflexes allows a PC to cancel a despair result and add successes equal to ranks in Cool. Intuitive Evasion allows racers to commit a force die to upgrade incoming combat checks for one strain a round. This could be a fun choice if you had an all-Jedi table. If you mix the three (Edge, Age, and F+D) you’ll likely have better pilots if you are flying/traveling as a group.

The last new spec is the Sentry. This one adds some more lightsaber combat focus, as well as the only tree to feature a talent with inherent conflict. Specialization skills include Lightasber, Coordination, another Stealth and Vigilance. Unlike the Shien Expert which seems mostly defensive in nature, the Sentry has a few ranks of Reflect, but also includes an inexpensive path to Saber Throw and Improved Saber Throw. Beyond that, conflict-causing talent Fear the Shadows allows Sentries to make a hard deception check and cause a single minion group or rival to flee an encounter. This spec stacked with the Shadow spec from the core book would make one serious batman-like Jedi. As the saying goes, be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

swf30_art_moonsThe signature abilities are My City and Unmatched Vigilance. My City allows you to spend two destiny points, and make a hard core worlds or outer rim check. If successful for the remainder of the session you can spend two strain to recall or learn the location of any individual, group, or establishment within the city and any relevant information. Upgrades reduce the difficulty or change the skill to streetwise. Unmatched Vigilance allows you once per session to spend two destiny points to rearrange the initiative order for the first round of an encounter. PCs still make checks, and it returns to normal after the first round. Upgrades can increase the duration of the effect and allow PCs to choose Vigilance or Cool regardless of what would typically be appropriate. I’ve never gotten far enough in a characters development to utilize signature abilities, but compared to others in the soldier book for Age for instance, these seem somewhat underwhelming. Unmatched Vigilance when upgraded to three rounds would be a pretty big game-changer, but My City seems too specific to be useful unless you had an urban focus to the campaign.

The Force power introduced is Manipulate, which allows Jedi to affect machines, healing system strain and committing force dice to increase hull trauma thresholds. This again, seems a bit odd to me. The racer, this Force power and Pod Racing (we’ll get there) all seem shoe-horned into this book. Mechanically it is interesting, and works well with both the racer and artisan specs for the Sentinel, but it just doesn’t seem like a power that is in the typical spirit of other Force powers like sense, move, influence, etc. It’s fine, it just doesn’t seem to fit as well as other powers.

swf30_art_robotsThe gear section adds a few interesting guns including the NX-14 Needler which ignores setback dice from personal deflectors and is Pierce 3. Another eye-catching weapon is the lightwhip which is essentially a lightsaber whip with ensnaring abilities. They also include stats for a Crossguard lightsaber hilt (Kylo-style) as well as a Pistol hilt that allows stun bolts at short range just like Ezra’s saber in Rebels. There are a few droids stated out, including pit droids for podracing and  two Nemesis level droids: once security and one infiltration. One particularly interesting piece of gear is the Merr-Sonn model 31 Palm Stunner. These look very similar to the devices installed in triple-zero in the outstanding Marvel Darth Vader comic. It can’t be used in combat, but instead depends on an opposed Skulduggery vs. Resilience check on an unaware target. If successful it deals 12 stun plus any uncancelled successes! That would drop all but the most hearty rivals and nemeses.

There are a few new star ships including the venerable Eta-class shuttle and the obvious A-wing precursor, the KSE RHO-1 Limulus-class courier. The vehicle section is dominated by the podracing section, and includes just about all the pods from episode one. My questions is: why? Why is podracing in the Jedi book about urban investigations. I get that it is part of Anakin’s origin story, but it feels very shoe-horned in to this otherwise cohesive book. The third section includes a pretty interesting adventure seed with some possible threats that centers around podracing, but not enough to justify the page count spent in the equipment section. Having run the race in Jewel of Yavin, it is a challenge to keep the rest of the party involved when the main action is a race happening far away from the majority of the party. It’s not impossible, it’s just not what I’m looking for in a Star Wars RPG. If you’ve been waiting for more stats on pods to run a race during your Star Wars game, this is the book for you.

The third chapter does have lots of great stuff focusing on urban environments. Included are tables for suggested dice results in the city. These can work as great prompts to get your players creative juices flowing, while providing the GM with some guidance as to what is reasonable for two advantage compared to two triumphs. It also includes suggestions for threats, failure and despair as well as possible urban challenges: complications with law enforcement, crowds, speeder traffic and vertical spaces. Each of those include smaller tables with similar suggestions on how to spend dice results. There is a great section on developing networks of contacts, and tables about gathering information and investigations. It wraps up with a section on lightsaber hilt crafting and includes templates for precision, defensive, double-bladed and pole light sabers.

Overall this is a pretty excellent edition to the Force and Destiny line, with lots of great material for GMs and players alike. With the odd exception of the off-theme podracing rules, a great buy for those interested in Jedi in the big city!

Categories: Books, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

Star Wars Age of Rebellion – Forged in Battle Review

August 30, 2016 Comments off

swa42_book_leftGood sourcebooks give you usable material for your campaign and characters. Great sourcebooks inspire brand new campaigns. The Age of Rebellion sourcebook for soldiers Forged in Battle falls into the latter category. This book follows the now familiar format of three sections: new player options with new races and specializations for the career, new gear and vehicles, and finally a section for GMs about adventure seeds and building missions around soldiers.

From the jump, before we even get in to the new races this book describes potential duty posts. Each of these could be their own campaign, or at very least the premise to start a larger story arc: Local cells, sector forces, specforces, shipboard operations, intelligence services, and special operations. Between the soldier specs in the core Age book and the ones in this one, you could have a very capable versatile squad, all with the same career! This book is packed with the perfect blend of fluff and crunch. For those unfamiliar, fluff in an RPG typically refers to flavor text and window dressing that paints a vivid mental image, but has no mechanical/statistical information. Crunch is generally the numbers and stats of gear and mechanics of new talents and anything that interacts with the actual mechanics of the game.

swa42_new-speciesOn to the goods: There are a bunch of great backgrounds for the various specializations, as well as soldier-specific duties. This book then details four new races: Elom, Elomin, Kyuzo, and Shistavanen. Much like the Edge of the Empire technician sourcebook Special Modifications including Northern and Southern Mustafarians, Elom and Elomin are from the same planet, but are vastly different species. The Elom and Elomin are so different they merit their own individual stat blocks, not just different starting features. Eloms are pretty much mole people that can dig underground through loose soil as a maneuver. Elomin look a lot like Zabrak, but just because they have four horns out of the top of their heads. Kyuzo is the race of one of my favorite bounty hunters from the Clone Wars, Embo. Included in the gear section are stats for his hat that can be used as a Captain America style shield/throwing weapon, and occasionally downhill sled. It also goes in to detail about Clovocs of the Kyuzo that sound basically like ninja clans that specialize in a certain weapon, and may align themselves with different leaders in Kyuzo society. Lots of adventure seeds in those sidebars. Finally there are the Shistavanen. If you want to play a wolfman in Star Wars, this is your ticket. Alternatively if you wanted to play a wolfoid from Metamorphosis Alpha or a Vargr from Traveller, but the GM is running Star Wars, check out the Shistavanen. One really cool feature is they can use Survival rather than Cool or Vigilance for initiative to literally sniff out trouble.

swc23_planningtherescueThe specializations include one repeat and two new trees. The repeat is the Heavy from the Edge Hired Gun sourcebook, Dangerous Covenants. This tree is all about using the biggest weapons to take down the biggest targets. To the core Soldier skills of Athletics, Brawl. Knowledge (Warfare), Medicine, Melee, Ranged (Light) Ranged (Heavy) and Survival, the Heavy adds Gunnery, Perception, another Ranged (Heavy) and Resilience. Not bad for the big blaster obsessed players out there.

The second specialization is the Trailblazer. This is a nice combination of combat and outdoorsy skills. To the core skills, this adds Knowledge (Outer Rim), Perception, Stealth, and another Survival. Interesting talents early in the tree include Prime Positions which allows this PC or an ally within short to increase the soak against ranged attacks by 1 per rank. There is only one rank in this tree, but I imagine we’ll see this pop up in future supplements as well. Cunning Snare can be used to create a trap once an encounter. This can cause wounds and disorient based on the Trailblazer’s cunning, and how badly the triggering NPC fails his vigilance check to spot it. On the bottom line of the tree is Ambush, which allows you to maneuver from cover and add damage equal to your stealth skill on an attack within short range. I really like this specialization as a backwoods Rambo-type. In fact, I would be surprised if Rambo wasn’t an influence when it came to this spec as well as some of the gear later in the book.

The last spec is the Vanguard. They add another Athletics, Cool, Vigilance, and Resilience to the core skills. When I think of a vanguard, I think of the tip of the spear, always leading the attack. This tree includes a lot of focus on the guard part of Vanguard with two ranks of Body Guard available, as well as new talents Improved Body Guard and Supreme Body Guard. These allow you to to take a hit for an engaged PC you protected with the body guard maneuver. Supreme allows you to protect as many engaged characters as ranks in Resilience. My favorite new talent from this tree is Suppressing Fire. This allows you and allies within short to spend advantage on failed combat checks to cause 1 strain per rank. With two ranks in this tree and it applying to other allies, this is one awesome power to take out minions in a hail of concentrated fire. One of the talents at the bottom is Seize the Initiative. Once a session if you make a hard athletics check, all PCs can take their turns immediately. Now that is a Vanguard.

swa42_trenchwarfareBoth signature abilities are pretty cool in this book. The Bigger They Are… allows the character to try and take down vehicles, ships, or creatures of silhouette 2 (3 with an upgrade). If a knowledge warfare check succeeds the PC and friendlies within medium can attack with personal scale weapons, ignoring armor or soak. This calls to mind the scene from the new Rogue One trailer when the soldier launches a missile at the side of an AT-AT head. If I’m not playing in an Age Special Forces campaign before Rogue One, I imagine I will be shortly thereafter. The second signature ability is Unmatched Courage, which allows the PC to ignore effects of critical wounds for the duration. With upgrades, this allows you to not become incapacitated after your wound threshold is exceeded. You still suffer crits for any additional hit, but you keep going.

The gear section includes a number of nice new rifles, and massive guns for the Heavies. Of note is the T-7 Ion Disruptor that featured prominently in an episode of Rebels, and was used against the Lasat in a massacre lead by Agent Kallus. There is also a pulse cannon that has an option to expend all its ammunition in one shot to add Breach 1 and Vicious 3. It is slow-firing, but not a bad idea to keep one around in case you need to make a big hole in something. The Imperial heavy repeater slugthrower has a similar quality in which you can expend all its ammunition to add Blast 7 and Concussive 1. The armor section includes some new stealthy suits, as well as Rebel Heavy Battle Armor and Imperial Hazard Trooper Armor that includes protection from hazardous environments, as well an internal comm that can reach low orbit and a targeting system that removes two setback from darkness, smoke, or similar environmental factors. The Shistavanen Combat Utility Blade features many possible configurations but may contain a fire-starter, a hydrospanner, water contaminant detector and functions as a toolkit to repair devices and droids, but adds a setback die to such checks. It also adds a boost to survival checks. So pretty much a Rambo knife. Also of note in the gear section is the modular backpack. The basic storage unit just adds encumbrance capacity as normal, but there are other units that help control temperature in hazardous environments, power weapons or tools, mobile communication hub,  sensor suite, or oxygen supply. Lots of cool options to kit out your squad with different gear depending on the mission.

swa42_at-tewalkerVehicles include the 6-legged Clone Wars era AT-TE, as well as an Imperial Troop Transport that sounds like the one used commonly on Lothal in the Rebels TV show, as well as a repulsor tank that looks a lot like the old Cobra H.I.S.S. tank. Also from the Clone Wars era, LAAT/I and LAAT/C used as both troop and vehicle transports in the prequels and Clone Wars shows. These would be a fun way to get into and out of battle.

The final section is dedicated to the GM and how to integrate soldiers in missions that focus on other careers as well. Included are sample missions and possible strike targets, asset denial, and a Coup D’Etat of a planetary governor. Beyond those scenarios it provides ideas for different battle environments like trench warfare, urban fights, and raiding operations. Near the very end there is a really cool section on building fortifications as well as suggested ways to spend advantage/threat and triumph/despair on those constructions. It also details how to spend different results in different environments from city battles to boarding actions and wilderness combat. The very end of the book describes soldiers learning talents after recovering from critical injuries. The idea being that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It is an interesting concept, and could definitely add a lot of flavor to a soldier since you’ll likely be in the thick of it for most adventures. It also talks about possible trophies that soldiers may collect like an Imperial Officer’s cap and how they could add a boost die to coercion checks against imperial troops.

Overall this book is jam packed with awesome material for GMs and players alike. If you are playing a combat-focused Age game, this is a must-have. If you are interested in putting together an A-Team or X-COM style squad of soldiers with various skills that when combined can pull off amazing missions, this is the book for you. Between Sharpshooters, Medics, Heavies, Commandos, Trailblazers, and Vangaurds, I would argue Soldier is now one of the most diverse and well-balanced careers in the entire FFG Star Wars system. You will be hard-pressed to find another career in which every PC could play a soldier with a different specialization and end up in such different roles. Highly recommended.

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

Star Wars – The Force Awakens Beginner Game Review

August 26, 2016 Comments off

swr09_box_leftClearly, I’m a huge fan of the FFG Star Wars line, and often they knock it out of the park. This review, however, will be mixed. One can’t blame FFG for cashing in on Star Wars mania since episode VII came out. On the Order 66 podcast some FFG staff members reported a surge in sales after the movie release. Unfortunately, in this most recent (and likely last) beginner game, they cut some serious corners.

First the good: The materials include stats and details for New Republic-era First Order baddies, including Captain Phasma herself! It also updates the included galaxy map found in any of the core books with new locations of episode VII scenes: Jakku, D’Qar, Takodana, and Starkiller Base. The rulebook includes some background information for the different factions like the New Republic, the First Order and the Resistance. As in previous beginner boxes, the adventure continues with a PDF supplement on the FFG support page for the product, so you can get a few gaming sessions out of it.

The bad: There are no additional PC folios on the support page for the product. This means there is a GM and 4 players maximum. Also, 3 out of 4 of the PCs are human. Out of all the interesting alien races in all the Star Wars products from THREE different product lines, and there is ONE alien? You could mix and match character folios from other beginner boxes or create a few supplementary PCs, but that assumes you own other boxes or have enough familiarity with the system to create them. This makes running the beginner box at a convention or a FLGS more difficult. I’ve run the previous boxes for groups new to the system, and typically at conventions you have 6 PCs and a GM. All previous beginner boxes shipped with 4 folios and included 2 PDFs in the support section for the product so you could fill out the table. Also, the additional adventure PDF is several pages shorter than previous versions for Edge, Age, and F+D. The map (which is one of the main draws to purchase this for many veteran players) is only 17″x 22″ which isn’t too bad, but the flip side contains both maps used during the adventure. This puts them at such a tiny scale that they are almost unusable. On one half, First Order Troop transports are represented as being about two inches long, with a TIE fighters in racks on the walls being about 1/2′ x 1/2″. That is not a great personal scale map. The other half is an entire length of a Corellian Corvette which is a massive ship! It feels like those were supposed to be the two sides, which would have worked, then someone said, “Let’s add a galaxy map!” Instead of adding a separate poster with something cool like Jakku planetary locations on the reverse, they shoe-horned it into the player/scene map poster. Very disappointing.  Finally, with the exception of the PC folio portraits and maps there is no new art in the product. This is a huge missed opportunity and gives the appearance of cutting corners as all the illustrations are movie stills or promo shots from the movies. The reason I buy FFG Star Wars books is for the amazing art. Just think of Rey, Finn, Poe, Phasma, etc. in brand new scenes from the amazing stable of artists FFG commissions. Such a shame.

Overall, this is the first FFG Star Wars product I would suggest skipping. It feels rushed, and doesn’t provide the same great experience as previous boxes. It’s not bad if you need an extra set of dice and want a pretty nice galaxy map to illustrate other adventures, but this is a pretty low value product for the money. Hopefully, this is not indicative of a new direction for FFG RPG production, and merely a one-off to capitalize on movie hype.swr09_spread

Categories: RPGs, Star Wars

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…

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

 

Star Wars – Edge of the Empire – Special Modifications review

April 4, 2016 2 comments

swe14_mainBy now, those of us who have purchased a sourcebook or two (or ten) for this system are familiar with the typical Fantasy Flight Games formula for their supplements to the Edge/Age/F+D system: Add a few new species, three alternate specializations for the career, and some specific gear, weapons, and vehicles that compliment the specializations. Throw the GM a bone with the last section on building encounters specific to the career, and maybe some adventure seeds and you have a sourcebook.

Until now. FFG broke the mold for the technician sourcebook Special Modifications. It is still in three familiar sections, and it adds a few new species, three new specs and some career-specific gear, but then it goes further. The crafting section at the end of the book allows for true customization and building of weapons, droids, gadgets, and even cybernetics! It provides several basic templates for each category, as well as tables to spend results from the crafting check to add qualities and characteristics to the creation. For weapons this means positive effects like Accurate, Knockdown, Ion, Ensare, Stun, Pierce, etc. On the negative side it could add inaccurate, slow-firing, difficult to repair, expensive, prepare, etc. This is a tinkerer’s dream, and allows careers like outlaw tech and gadgeteer a lot of awesome new options.

swe14_walkingworkshopJust after the crafting section is expanded rules on slicing. It includes actions for both an ‘intruder’ and ‘defender’ which allows for the PC to play either side, and could involve several intruders and defenders depending on how complex you want to make the encounter. I think I personally would save this for a special occasion for a very important slicing mission, preferably during a fire-fight, so the rest of the party isn’t just sitting around. Otherwise this could fall quickly into the Shadowrun trap of PCs in cyberspace playing one game, and PCs in meatspace playing another. I do appreciate the stats and descriptions of computer spikes (previously seen in Jewel of Yavin) which I believe first appeared in Knights of the Old Republic as a way to slice into computer terminals.

Beyond that there are a ton of new vehicle and weapon attachments, and a few vehicles that can serve as mobile workshops, as well as a highly-customizable fighter that can use different attachments and modifications depending on the mission.

swe14_itsallonfireThe three new specs are Droid Tech, Cyber Tech, and Modder. Cyber Tech focuses mostly on self-modification through cybernetics, but adds Medicine, Athletics, Mechanics, and Vigilance to the base skills of a technician. The tree also contains talents like Surgeon which helps on medicine checks, so this could be a strong choice for a mechanic/doctor combo. Droid Tech is the technician’s technician (with a focus on droids of course) adding another Mechanics and Computers, as well as Cool and Leadership. Some of the talents deal with directing NPC droids, so I would assume Leadership would play into that. Modder is similar to the Age spec of Rigger in the Ace sourcebook. To the regular technician skills, Modder adds Gunnery, Mechanics, Piloting (Space) and Streetwise. Seems like a very playable combo to me. Much like the Rigger, the Modder has many talents that focus on a signature vehicle.

The new species are Dug (Sebulba from pod racing), Besalisk (Obi-wan’s buddy Dex), and two flavors of Mustafarians, Northern and Southern. Despite mechanics and medicine both being intellect based, none of the presented species start with higher than 2, which seems surprising given the focus of the book.

Overall, if you have been holding back on sourcebooks, I would recommend getting this one. I would even go as far to say if you were to only get one sourcebook, I would make it this one, just for all the customization/crafting tables. At least until FFG finally releases the one career that doesn’t have a sourcebook yet: Bounty Hunter. I can’t wait!

Categories: Books, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

Star Wars Age of Rebellion – Lead by Example review

February 29, 2016 1 comment

swa36_book_leftLead by Example is the latest Sourcebook in the Age of Rebellion line for the Fantasy Flight Star Wars system. This book provides additional specializations for the Commander career from the main Age book. It also adds Chagrian, Ishi Tib, and Lannik to the species options. Lannik we’ve seen in Force and Destiny (Master Piell), the other two are new to the system. The new specializations are Figurehead, Instructor, and Strategist. Beyond this, it also details a few new bits of equipment and vehicles, and has a very detailed section on mass-combat rules.

Chagrians are an interesting species. The most notable example I can think of is Vice Chancellor Mas Amedda, seen at the right hand of Palpatine in several scences from the prequels. Mechanically, they start with one rank in Resilience, can breathe underwater, and start with one rank in the Knowledge Specialization talent. This provides an additional success when a triumph is rolled on a particular knowledge check, per ranks in the talent. Not terrible, but starting with a one in agility (somewhat inexplicably) and only 90 starting XP makes this a pretty weak choice, unless its an amphibious campaign. (All Mon Calamari and Quarren PCs would get a bit old).

Speaking of which, Ishi Tib are also amphibious. I couldn’t think of a prominent Ishi Tib off the top of my head, but apparently one was Jabba’s accountant, and another was in the Techno Union (which I thought was mostly droid-like guys). These beaky guys start with a 3 in intellect, and rank in Discipline, but must be “doused in salt water every 24 hours” or their wound threshold is reduced by 2. Luckily they are pretty brawny, but that quirk could be either a really fun role-playing opportunity or a tiresome chore. It almost seems like starting the character with an addiction obligation from Edge of the Empire.

ponderingithorianLanniks are tough little dudes, who for some reason do not appear to count as silhouette zero (though I think I would house-rule this). Allegedly a warrior race, to me they look like sad house-elves from Harry Potter. Once again, hamstrung by starting with 1 Agility and 95 starting XP (really? not 90, not 100?) They start with a rank in streetwise and an interesting trait called Indomitable, which allows them to remove a setback from crits, fear, or disoriented. Astute reader, and Order 66 podcast listener Edward Sawyer brought to my attention the species abilities in this book differ from the Lannik described in Keeping the Peace, and the devs have indicated the more favorable stats from Keeping the Peace should be used. This means 100 starting XP, and indomitable removes two setback. Maybe I will play a surly house elf…

On to the specializations. Figurehead seems to be a blend of a diplomat and military commander. To the core Commander skills of Coercion, Cool, Discipline, Knowledge (Warfare), Leadership, Perception, and Vigilance, this spec adds another Cool, Leadership, Negotiation, and Knowledge (Core Worlds). This would make a pretty excellent all-purpose leader – especially combined with the Recruit tree from the core Age book to round out combat skills.

Instructor is my favorite of the three. This is a classic drill sergeant archetype, but to the base set of Commander skills, it adds another Discipline, Medicine, Ranged (Heavy) and Knowledge (Education). It is nice to have another spec with the rare medicine skill, and the tree also has stimpack specialization a few times, not to mention grit and toughened, to make this a frontline, combat-ready leader.

swa36-rebel-scoutingStrategist seems to be geared towards the mass combat rules detailed later in the book. This spec adds Computers, Cool, Vigilance, and Knowledge (warfare) – so pretty much just Computers. The tree has a lot of research talents, so its a bit of a scholar/commander combo. To me, this has very limited playability unless the campaign was focused on mass combat and capital ship battles. While that is certainly possible in Age, its not a campaign that really speaks to me.

The mass combat rules are basically rolling opposed checks based on the strength of assembled forces, upgrading or adding boost and setback depending on various circumstances. Based on the results you can narrate the results of massive battles, while your PCs do their best to affect the outcome on a more personal scale.

I enjoyed the section at the back that discussed medals, including a few I recognized from playing X-wing way back in the day like the Kaildor Cresent and the Corellian Cross.

Overall, this book is for the completionists, or GMs that want to run a campaign that focuses on a macro scale for battles. The instructor spec is excellent, but I’m not sure if that is enough to justify this one. I’m looking forward to what the Technician book will bring for us in Edge, and of course, we’re all awaiting the Bounty Hunter sourcebook.

Categories: Books, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

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!

Strongholds of Resistance Review – Star Wars Age of Rebellion

December 30, 2015 Comments off

swa30-book-leftThe latest addition to the Age of Rebellion line details Rebel strongholds that can be used as adventure locations, and to give Age characters a bit more detail for common home worlds of typical rebel races like Mon Calamari, Gran, and Sullustans. Interestingly it also details a few famous rebel locations from the movies like Echo base, Yavin 4, and the flagship Independence. Beyond this, it details a few new races, gear, ships, and some modular encounters similar to those found in Suns of Fortune, and Lords of Nal Hutta.

The first section of this book is much like the Galaxy chapters of the main core books. Each world described starts with a fact sheet detailing population, languages, major cities, imports/exports, and what the world is generally known for. This book allows for a lot more detail than can be afforded in any entry in a core book. For instance the entry on Chandrila (Mon Mothma’s home planet) has details on the capitol of Hanna City, as well as nine points of interest that could serve as adventure locations. It also provides information about a few lesser cities, and the crystal canyons, as well as a few native peoples and creatures that could be encountered in the cities or the wilds. Sidebars enrich the environments with a few extra details like a hovertrain that connects agricultural communities, and rumors of an ancient Jedi tomb in the crystal canyons.

Kinyen, the Gran home world is given similar treatment, as is the aquatic planet of the Mon Calamari and the Quarren, Mon Cala, and the volcanic, industrial world of Sullust, home to the Sorosuub corporation, and Sullustans. Ord Gimmel is included as well. It is apparently a chief provider of hyperdrives, but has a weird history in that it was forgotten by the republic and cut off from the galaxy for a period of time. Its not clearly explained how this could have happened. Seems like an odd choice. The Roche Asteroid field is the home of the Verpine which are also provided as a playable race in this book. They are technologically-minded, and had a lot to do with project Shantipole and the development of the B-Wing fighter. There are creature stats for both mynocks and an “enormous space slug” that has vehicle stats rather than typical creature stats and is silhouette 7! That is no cave! Other planets include Thyferra, home of bacta production, Yavin 4, the former rebel base, and the rebel flagship Independence, home of the rebel high command. There are also a few paragraphs on minor locations like Barkhesh, Chardaan, Contruum, Hoth, and Kolaador.

swa30-caveshipsThe second section of the book goes in-depth about rebel bases, large and small. These can serve as templates for the PCs’ own base of operations, or serve as adventure locales for different missions. It starts big with Echo base on Hoth, and provides suggestions for participating in the evacuation, should the GM want to recreate the famous scene from Empire Strikes Back. The next is an asteroid base on Polis Massa that mainly serves as an archaeology research station. Interestingly, it does detail a secret rebel base, but none of the elements are pictured in the diagram; another odd choice.

The Tierfon Outpost is a nice example of a smaller base that could be encountered. It has a barracks, command center, medical suite and hanger, as well as 8 fighters (Y or X-wings) and shuttle or freighters for deliveries, as well as a few speeders for ground transport.

The final base provided is the Defiant Core base, which is formed from a clone wars era wreck of a Separatist destroyer, that carved a valley into the planet’s surface and ended up in a cave. Interestingly, it is provided in several stages, which represent the development of the base over time, with more assets and staff.

swa30-speciesThe third section is about player options with new races, gear, and ships. The Quarren we have already seen in Fly Casual, but the Polis Massans are new, along with the Verpine. The Polis Massans lack vocal cords and are mainly concerned with archaeological and xenological research. They start with a rank in medicine and a 3 in intellect and willpower, as well as a form of short range telepathy to communicate. Not my cup of tea, but could make an interesting intellectual type. The Verpine is known to excel with technology. They start with a rank in mechanics and a 3 in agility and intellect, as well as compound eyes that allow for a boost die on perception checks when examining something up close, and can produce radio-waves to communicate to other Verpine and specially tuned comlinks. This would definitely be my choice for a PC out of the three.

Notable gear includes a droid disruptor, that fries circuits rather than just overloading them like an ion gun. Also the Spore/B stun grenade which relies on spores to stun targets, but if you roll a despair on a challenge die, you suffer 6 strain and begin to suffocate. A hard medicine check is required to restore regular breathing. Powerful Mon Cala Leviathon power armor provides not only protection but built-in weaponry like a mini torpedo launcher and deadly duo-flechette rifle. Don’t pick a fight with the squids! Other cool new entries include jump boots, that operate similar to a jetpack, but for limited jumps up to 35 meters, and the Verpine Headband which allows PCs to exceed their strain threshold, and just take wounds instead, while suffering from the disoriented condition.

swa30_10524_hiddenoutpostThe last section describes a few encounters that can serve as a side-quest or solid game session worth a material each. The first one includes battling TIE phantoms in an asteroid field, as well as the stats for the deadly ships and a few very talented imperial pilots. Another deals with diplomatic negotiations between Mon Calamari and Quarren on Mon Cala, which was definitely an episode of Clone Wars, but could still be fun. The third is supporting the Sullustan resistance on Sullust, and the last describes a plot to wipe out Imperial Intelligence operations on Ord Gimmel.

Overall this is a great resource for both players and GMs alike, especially for rebel campaigns looking for mission ideas, or base schematics. It can also provide a lot of backstory and detail to rebel characters from these planets, and serve as a well of inspiration for unique adventure locations.