Thursday, March 12, 2015

PUG Life - GamerNationCon 2015


A review of a convention can sometimes read like a post on a travel website; somewhat entertaining but ultimately pointless unless the person reading has an interest in going there. To that end, I'm going to try to not only entertain you, but also sell you on attending GamerNationCon in the future;

I had more fun gaming at GamerNationCon 2015 than I did gaming at GenCon2014.

The two conventions are completely different animals; GenCon is an industry trade show and the pinnacle of competitive gaming. The biggest tournaments are held at GenCon, as are the biggest releases. Companies save product to specifically release at GenCon to boost the hype. Gamers and GMs from around the world write and register events, creating a catalog of events 200 pages long in tiny 6-point font.  40,000 gamers crowd into the vast halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center.  It truly is an experience every gamer should participate in, simply for the sensory overload of "GAME".

GenCon is what you make it; if you have a lot of friends to go and adventure with it can be a great time. If you can get in on one of the official events run by the game companies, you may be treated to a grand, well written adventure. You may even get in on some private-run and registered game, run by a solid GM who knows his stuff.  It's very hard to get in on pick-up games, unless you come from a gaming community and they organize something together. Even then, your group wanders around the vast halls and hotels looking for some place to play your game while a dozen other groups attempt the same feat.

In my experience, there's little friendly interaction with other con-goers unless you've happened to sign up for the same game. Because everyone pays an additional amount to play the registered events, some folks come to the table with an attitude of "I'm a consumer and I'm going to get my money's worth, dammit". They may insist on rulings go their way, or tell the rest of the party how the group will proceed and hog the spotlight as much as possible (which is funny, because everyone else paid just as much to sit at that table with Captain Blowhard).

Pick Up Games at GenCon are mostly non-existent, except in the situations I described above (gaming communities) or at demo-areas in the exhibition hall where game companies are trying to get you interested in their games. Not a bad thing, mind you, a good game is worth its weight in gold, but Demos tend to last just long enough to teach you how the game works and get your buy in to the product, not the other players.

On the flip side is GamerNationCon, a convention held entirely within the confines of a former dance studio in Plano, Texas. "Dallas Games Marathon" is a small facility with a capacity for 187 people, max. This means attendees are capped at 150, to allow room for volunteer staff and small overflow. This particular site location has the advantage of a massive games library where you can grab a game off a playing rack, a flag that states "Looking for Players", and generally within 5 minutes you're off and running.

Everywhere you look are people that are there for the same reason you are; to play some games. They're war-gaming, or board gaming, or Role Playing, or trying to get through the Artemis Bridge Simulator. There's minor celebrities and Names from "the industry" to game with, or simply chat with.  There's shenanigans, late nights, gamer food, and laughs.  It's a lot like the "gamer community" option with GenCon, but the whole room is filled with folks there for the same reason; game with others from the community. This happens at all hours.  There's almost always someone to game with, someone willing to hop in on Pandemic, or Star Wars RPG, or a hundred other games.

GamerNationCon also has the game-within-the-game; GamerCred. Various actions or accomplishments earns you small buttons that have a name, an image, and a point value. Coming in costume/cosplaying gets you the "Alter Ego" badge, worth 10 points. Getting a photo with a member of the 501st is worth 5 points.  Playing a game that's no longer being supported or produced earns the 10-point "Dead Gamer" pin. Play in 30 hours of events over the con and you get the "Iron Gamer" pin.  RUN 30+ hours of events and you'll earn the "Iron GM" pin. There are secret ones too; Order 66, Brush with Greatness, Sad Panda, Steward of Gamedor, the list goes on and on. Starting next year, your total in "GamerCred" will earn you benefits or first shots at events. It'll be fun to see.

Personally, I had a blast at GamerNationCon 2015, also called "Three Days of Good Gaming" or "3DoGG" for short.  It's a fun con where you're surrounded by gamers who are there to game with the community and have a good time. I feel that can get lost, and did get lost in the insanity that was GenCon.

If you get a chance, or an opportunity, go to GamerNationCon. It's small, it's weird, but it's awesome and can be the most fulfilling con-gaming experience you'll ever have.

Don't get me wrong, GenCon was awesome and I'd love to go back. But sometimes you don't want the Big Dog at the Big Show.  Sometimes you just want a PUG*.


May the dice be with you (and see all my Puggies in Plano next year!)


* - Someone REALLY needs to make a mascot/icon for GamerNationCon, and it needs to be a pug...

The Long Dark Road Out of February

I made one post in February...One. Partially because of all the writing I needed to do for my Another Longshot games. Partially because of the show notes and additional work I was doing for the Order 66 Podcast.  Partially because I was suddenly inspired to write a Convention Module from scratch for Gamer Nation Con 2: Electric Boogaloo.  But also partially because we in New England were subjected to an unprecedented amount of snowfall in the course of 1 month. It became the snowiest month on record and are only inches away from the snowiest winter on record. My time for creative writing was limited, so I had to focus.  Naturally this fell by the wayside.

I'm going to attempt to make it up to you folks, my loyal readers and those who just happen by every once in a great while. I've got plenty of things to write about for all my main topics of blogging; gaming, conventions, costuming, RPG tips. I've got a lot to talk about; I had a great experience at GamerNationCon 2015, making some good progress on "Another Longshot", wrote a module in two weeks that folks seemed to have a good time playing in, and we're in the final few weeks to get costumes ready for Celebration Anaheim.

There's some big changes and upgrades happening over with the D20 Radio folks on their website. They've started a Patreon Campaign to help pay for some improvements and give our listeners some additional content on a regular basis. I'm excited to see what comes from all this.

So I'll post this now as a place-holder, and I promise I'll be back before Sunday with a less generic, more focused post.

Until then, may the dice be with you.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Suspending the Rules: The Snap-Roll action

During the "Saga Edition" version of the Order 66 Podcast, the boys had an occasional segment where listeners would send in their various house rules or "fixes" for the game. I was an occasional contributor to this bit, but in the new FFG system there hasn't been much call for it. Most of my home-brewed rules (like my Jedi Career) have been addressed in full, official rules. Practically everything has been addressed except for one glaring deficiency to this game, or at least something I find to be a deficiency. 


I've found the system's vehicle combat rules way too lethal for what we see in the films and EU. I'm okay with unnamed or minor characters being blown out of the sky at a whim, but for the named heroes (and villains) the space combat system is a big game of "who hits first" with there being no margin for error. If you don't score the first hit, you're toast, and if you're outnumbered you'll never get a chance to get the first hit in on everyone. This has made starfighter scale combats in my games quick, bloody, and unsatisfying affairs. There's nothing in the system currently to help the PCs survive if they come under the guns of an enemy ship, and nothing I can do as a GM if my enemy ace becomes a focus target by the PCs except spend a Destiny Point to make them survive when their ship is destroyed around them.

Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, Ben Kenobi, Corran Horn; these are all pilots who have been in ships under heavy fighter attack yet somehow survived getting hit long after the rules say they should have been blown to space dust. They are also all (with the exception of Kenobi) great pilots, and pilot skill doesn't currently have any influence on a ship's survivability.

Lastly, the system doesn't take into consideration a ship's Handling in relation to defense. I've played a lot of X-Wing/TIE Fighter over the years, and I can attest to the maddening difficulty of trying to shoot down and A-Wing, TIE Advanced, and TIE Defender.  Shouldn't the sudden responsiveness and turning ability of a ship factor into it's defense and survivability somehow?

While pondering a possible resolution to this dilemma, I remembered back to my last stab at home-brewing and what I did to make Lightsaber Combat more survivable. During the time before Force and Destiny, lightsaber were god weapons; one hit wonders that would take enemies out in one hit, two at most. To counter this I stacked up defenses as best I could in my Jedi Career talent trees, but that just reduced the odds of a hit; one hit still killed most targets.  Ultimately the solution came with FFG adding the Parry (and Reflect) talents, as well as dialing down the base damage of the lightsaber.  The reduced damage meant that the wielder would still likely carve up weak foes, but against Rivals and Nemesis-level opponents the fights would become more drawn out, more cinematic especially thanks to the Parry talent. Now both the player and their opponent can "suffer" from a few hits in such duels.

The advantage that this change had in lightsaber combat is that FFG didn't publish the complete rules for Saber users until Force and Destiny. Space Combat has been in since the beginning.  There are set Talent trees for pilots; both independent and combat trained. If I created a Talent to basically make a "Starship Parry" effect, how would we get it into the game for those who took the Pilot tree, or the Hotshot tree, or the Driver tree.

I looked at other ways to get it into the game; where it could fit in and finally figured it out. If I make it a Pilot Only action, I can add it to the available choices in the Vehicle chapter of each book. It simply becomes another option available to pilots, instead of something they have to spend XP on and buy a special specialization tree to get. 

My design goals were thus:
  • Utilize pilot skill and ship maneuverability to reduce the damage from an incoming attack
  • Have a cost to use (as with Parry)
After some thought, this is what shook loose.

SNAP ROLL - Out-Of-Turn Incidental
Pilot Only: Yes
Silhouette: 1-4
Speed: 2+
Quick reflexes and fly-by-wire systems are not only important in maneuvering a ship into a superior attack position, but are also helpful to quickly respond to enemy fire blasting away a ship's shields and hull.  Snap Roll allows pilots to utilize the maneuverability of their ship and their own exceptional skill to suddenly react to incoming fire.  The pilot quickly rolls, dives, or climbs to avoid part of the incoming attack as soon as his shields and armor start getting hit by a volley of blaster bolts, or he times his maneuver so only part of a missile's detonation affects his ship.
When his ship is successfully hit by a Gunnery combat check, the pilot can elect to take a Snap Roll Incidental action and reduce the damage of the attack by the sum of their ship's Handling plus the pilot's Ranks in Piloting (Planetary or Space, whichever is applicable to the vehicle he's controlling). This sudden dodge puts the ship, and the pilot, under extreme stress and g-forces; when this incidental action is taken the ship suffers 3 System Strain (bypassing Armor) as the high-G maneuver taxes on-board systems and support surfaces.  Additionally, the pilot suffers 3 Strain (bypassing Soak) as those same G-forces pull, crush, and exhaust him.
If a person is wearing a flight suit that reduces the amount of Strain incurred from Critical Hits to the ship, they reduce the Strain they take from a Snap Roll action to 1.  Droids are immune to the personal Strain damage as long as they are at a station, locked in a droid socket, or have some other means to prevent them from being bounced around the ship's interior. Finally, certain species* may be immune to some or all of the Strain damage, such as those with hearty metabolisms or who can survive in a vacuum (GM's discretion). 

* - Recommended examples include:
  • Kel Dor, as they can survive in a vacuum for 5 minutes (total immunity to personal Strain damage from Snap Roll)
  • Nautolan, who are described as having a metabolism that's able to survive great pressures such as those found in deep water (total immunity to personal Strain damage from Snap Roll)
  • Zabrak, strong metabolism with two hearts (reduce personal Strain damage from Snap Roll by 1)
What this does is allow folks in highly maneuverable, yet fragile craft survive a hit or two, at the cost of pushing their ship's systems closer and closer to shutdown. It can also give a great pilot the ability to take an additional few hits in a less-maneuverable craft as long as their Pilot skill is higher than a ship's negative Handling score.  Minions would not be able to utilize this action because they are denied from voluntarily suffering strain. This keeps the classic "horde of TIEs" from suddenly becoming more deadly while making that enemy Rival or Nemesis with the red-bloodstripes on their TIE Interceptor's wings even more of a challenge. It encourages a PC pilot to invest more in their Piloting skill, since every Rank is another point of damage blocked when making a Snap Roll.

As a suggestion, a target can spend a Despair on the attack roll to activate Snap Roll at no cost (system strain or personal strain).  My buddy also suggested that the attacker can spend an amount of Advantage to pass along the 3 strain to all occupants of the vehicle, not just the pilot. I'd probably say that it would require 3 Advantage or a Triumph to do that.  There was also a suggestion to allow an attacker to spend a Triumph from a Gain the Advantage check to prevent their target from making Snap Roll incidental actions until the end of the attacker's next turn.

Testing


So how would this work with some iconic craft, on paper?  Let's take a look at a couple ships with a pilot with the appropriate skill at Rank 2.
  • Y-Wing:0 Handling, 10 SS Threshold, Snap Roll reduces damage by 2 - a solid, robust System strain allows the pilot to reduce the damage by 2 three times. Helps define the Y-Wing as a "reliable, sturdy bomber"
  • X-Wing: +1 Handling, 10 SS Threshold, Snap Roll reduces damage by 3 - even better than the Y-Wing, the pilot is able to prolong his engagement time thanks to the X-Wing's high maneuverability
  • A-Wing: +3 Handling, 6 SS Threshold, Snap Roll reduces damage by 5 - the A-Wing pilot is able to practically ignore some hits, but can't do it very often (only twice, assuming no other System Strain inflicted to the A-Wing). The lack of an astromech or additional crewman further limits the pilot's ability to restore System Strain.
  • B-Wing: -1 Handling, 6 SS Threshold, Snap Roll reduces damage by 1 - Unless the pilot is exceptionally skilled, the Snap Roll action is ill advised except for life-or-death circumstances where a point of damage means killing the B-Wing
  • Z-95 Headhunter: +1 Handling, SS Threshold 8, Snap Roll reduces damage by 3 - as good as the X-Wing, but with less System Strain to play with and no astromech a Z-95 pilot could only do it twice without attempting Strain repairs himself
  • TIE Fighter: +3 Handling, SS Threshold 8, Snap roll reduces damage by 5- a Rival TIE pilot (or one flown by the PCs) means keeping that skilled Imperial pilot in the thick of things, and represents a talented Imp Pilot like those in Vader's Black Squadron
  • TIE Interceptor: +3 Handling, SS Threshold 8, Snap roll reduces damage by 5 - the same as the TIE above, perfect for anyone in a squadron like Baron Fel's 181st.
  • TIE Defender: +2 Handling, SS Threshold 10, Snap roll reduces damage by 4 - the TIE Defender wouldn't quite get the same benefits as the previous TIEs on paper, but since it has one extra point of armor over the Fighter and the Interceptor it actually would provide the same net result.
  • YT-1300: -1 Handling, SS Threshold 15, Snap Roll reduces damage by 1 -  our first freighter, as minimally effective as the B-Wing, but with a high strain threshold and the likely presence of a crewman to repair the strain damage, it becomes a much higher option.
  • YT-2400: +0 Handling, SS Threshold 18, Snap Roll reduces damage by 2 - more maneuverable and more resilient than the 1300, a 2400 could practically Snap Roll every attack. It could burn through the system faster than the crew could repair it, so while the Snap Roll keeps the 2400 in the fight longer, it doesn't make it impervious.
  • 74-Z Aratech Speeder Bike: +1 Handling, SS Threshold 4, Snap Roll reduces damage by 3 - our first speeder, the Speeder Bike could do this once, assuming no system strain damage to the vehicle. Gives a PC or named NPC once chance to survive a light hit.
  • T-47 Snowspeeder: +0 Handling, SS Threshold 6, Snap Roll reduces damage by 2 - like the speeder bike before it, a Snap Roll would give the Alliance speeder the ability to possibly survive one hit from an Imperial Walker's cannon, but only just.
  • T-16 Skyhopper: +3 Handling, SS Threshold 6, Snap Roll reduces damage by 5 - a Snap Roll for the Skyhopper is pretty much the only way it could survive a hit from any sort of laser cannon, and even then it would only be delaying the inevitable.

This is what a Snap Roll would look like given a starting PC or comparable Rival NPC (not counting those Corellians, of course). Raising the ranks in Piloting would increase the effectiveness of a Snap Roll, and allow PCs to eventually reach a point where they could take on multiple enemy fighters at one time and stand a good chance of survival thanks to their superior Skill.

Final Thoughts



I like the way this looks on paper. Next, like any good idea, is to see how it works in practice. I'll want to do some test rolls on classic fights (X-Wing vs TIE Advanced, A-Wing vs TIE Interceptor, YT-1300 vs horde of TIEs) and then the ultimate test; giving this option to my PCs. I like the numbers above, as they don't look overpowered. I guess I need to see how it plays and if it slows down combat, or makes space combat long enough to be enjoyable.  I'm hoping for the latter.

Should be a blast (or maybe not, if this works as intended).  I'll let you know how it goes.

May the dice be with you.


EDIT 2/3/2015: I've decided after supporting feedback that giving certain species reduced or immunity to the strain from the Snap Roll opens up too big a can of worms. I no longer recommend that, but feel free to use it with caution.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Proof of Concept: The Jedi Shadow

A while back I took a look at the progression of my main character from Star Wars the Old Republic and saw what he would looks like in terms of the Star Wars RPG. The last time I did this, it was for Saga Edition. It was kinda fun to convert Dunne, my Jedi Shadow with the Tanking spec, into the game and try to compress his build into 20 set levels.  It was also pretty tricky, as I really had to map out what he took, because with a set end-point I had to be choosy about what he picked up, and when.

Now here we are, in the post-Force & Destiny Beta world, waiting for the core rulebook to release, and I wonder if I could make Dunne given the current rules set.  Would he be as fun to play? Can I get a character that captures the essence, and possibly the effectiveness of a "tanking character" in FFG's game?

I dunno about you, but I'm eager to try it out.

Character Generation


We all have to start somewhere; and Dunne started his adventures on the Jedi "homeworld" of Tython.  A fresh twi'lek just off the shuttle, Dunne had his training robes, a training sword, and a novice grasp of the Force to guide him.  He also has about one-and-a-half twi'leks on a one-twi'lek frame, if you catch my meaning; Dunne was pudgy. We won't hold that against him though.

So the be a tank, Dunne will need a good Brawn score, at least at 3. Jedi Shadows, the Tanking-spec for Consulars, use double-bladed Lightsabers. To use them without penalty, Dunne will need an Agility of 3. Many of Dunne's eventual attacks will be based on Move, which uses the Discipline skill which is a Willpower skill.  So he wants a high Willpower.

With 100 Experience Points from the Twi'lek race, I'll buy Brawn up to 3 for 50 XP (1 to 2, then 2 to 3). Willpower up from 2 to 3 for another 30xp. That leaves me with 20xp remaining, and I need to get that agility up. Thankfully, I can start with a Morality score of 50 and get 10 more xp.  That gives me the 30 I need to get Dunne's Agility to 3 and to remove any penalties caused by the Double-Bladed lightsaber's Unwieldy 3 quality.


Twi'leks get a free rank in Charm or Deception.  Given Dunne's kind nature, I'll take the free skill rank in Charm.  He also gets to remove a Setback die from any skill checks caused by arid or hot environmental effects. That will come in handy as he adventures through Tatooine, Oricon, and any other place with hot environments.

Now I have to choose a career. Looking at the book, I find it funny that my best choice to replicate Dunne's "pre-Advanced Career" state is the Consular career. The Niman Disciple will set up Dunne along a perfect track to becoming the great Jedi Master he will eventually be.  I get free ranks in 3 Career skills and two Specialization skills, so here's what I end up with.


Cool and Discipline will help when he is targeted by certain social attacks, and keep him level-headed.  The Consular storyline is all about unlocking hidden Jedi secrets, so Lore will be a big boon for Dunne.

Starting equipment is easy; Ancient Sword (which uses the Lightsaber skill), Heavy Clothing, a Comlink and a Stimpack almost perfectly mirror what he started with way back when I first made him in December of 2011.

Brawn 3, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 3, Presence 3
Wound Threshold: 13
Strain Threshold: 14
Soak: 4

Skills: Cool 1, Charm 1, Discipline 2, Knowledge (Lore), Lightsaber 1
Abilities: Desert Dweller (Remove 1 Setback die caused by arid or hot environments from all skill checks), Force Rating 1


Equipment: Ancient Sword (Lightsaber, Range [Engaged], Damage 5, Crit 3), Heavy Clothing (+1 Soak), Comlink, Stimpack

Character Progression


Not a bad starting point.  Now the fun stuff. Dunne's first chunk of XP will be spent to get Move and the upgrades needed to deal damage with it. That's going to be a staple of Dunne's attack options, and one he had very early on in the game.  He'll be picking up more in this tree over time.

Dunne's role in the party will be to be the focus of his enemy's attention, and to combat his foes with a combination of lightsaber and Force attacks. Shadow-tanks are big on deflection or shielding away damage, as opposed to mitigating it with high Soak rolls. Finally, Dunne's Force powers include the ability to smash foes with nearby objects, occasionally Force persuade his way through tough conversations, and disappears from sight to sneak by foes.


Niman Disciple is a solid start to this, as with less than your average session's reward of XP he can get a rank in Parry and Reflect and another point of Strain Threshold from a rank in Grit (boy, will he need that). With the purchase of Niman Disciple, Dunne will now be using his Willpower stat for Lightsaber checks, and it opens up the tree to a bevy of talents he will need.  Dunne will be spending a lot of his XP in this tree, but this tree won't give him everything he needs.

To help beef up his Tanking role, he needs a tree that's going to give him more defensive options and build off the ones he gets through Niman Disciple.  After digging through the book I found a solid choice in the Guardian's Protector spec. Ranks in Grit, Toughened, Parry, and even Reflect will help, plus it gives Dunne access to Body Guard (perfect for a protective tank), Force Protection (which will increase his Soak value if he commits Force dice), and more ranks in Center of Being (Increasing the Crit rating of any attack against him). I can actually take useful talents in the Protector tree while dodging around the ones dedicated to Medicine and Stimpack use, which don't really fit into this concept.  I'll probably also drop ranks into Athletics and Resilience, to take advantage of that better-than-average Brawn score.


Use the Force


Looking through Force powers, Dunne doesn't have many but he does have some good ones. The one he'll put the most points into is Move; to stick with the short-range Shadows have in the MMO, I'll keep his Range upgrades to 1, but I'll buy at least 2 Magnitude and Strength upgrades, as well as the Control upgrade that allows him to pull objects out of secure mounts or opponents hands.

Next is Influence; I see only a little going into that one, to give Dunne his ability to Force Persuade his way through some social challenges. I could see getting one Magnitude upgrade, as I recall him actually using Force Persuade on a pair of individuals at a few points in his story.

Dunne's stealth ability won't be able to translate directly in the FFG system.  For one, he's supposed to be able to disappear to everyone, droids included.  That's simply not possible under the current rules set.  I think the key to mimicking it as close as we can lies in the Misdirect Force power.  With the basic power, a Range Upgrade, and two Magnitude upgrades that should give Dunne the ability to waltz by groups of opponents just like he does in the game.  He just has to watch out for droids in this version.  To get the second Magnitude upgrade, he has to go through the Duration upgrade, which makes sense, allowing him to commit 2 Force dice to keep the effective invisibility going.

Progression


I wonder how close to game progression I can get this.  Let's see how it looks after every 100xp, shall we?

100 earned XP: Move power (Basic power, Range Upgrade, Control-Damage targets), Parry, Nobody's Fool, Reflect, Grit, Niman Technique, Defensive Training, Sense Emotions, Reflect (2nd)

Somewhere in here Dunne gets some better equipment, as well as his double-bladed lightsaber. He'll pick up Armored clothing too.

200 earned XP: Influence power (Basic Power, Control - Emotion/Belief), Move Power (Strength Upgrade, Magnitude Upgrade), Misdirect power (Basic power), Lightsaber 2, Knowledge (Lore) 2, Discipline 3, Lightsaber 3

So far so good, after 200 XP Dunne has a solid base.  He's got a few Force powers that are difficult to use with only 1 Force Die, but not impossible if he's willing to risk some Conflict.  Probably time to get his damage taking ability up, and to push for another Force Rating talent.

300 earned XP: Draw Closer, Center of Being, Improved Center of Being, Force Rating, (Misdirect (Range Upgrade, Duration Upgrade)

I like that Draw Closer pretty much perfectly replicates Dunne's Force Pull from the MMO and combines it with a Lightsaber attack. Sure he has Move, but this is a two-part wallop that just looks fun.

Now that he's got Draw Closer, I'll have Dunne pick up a Dantari crystal, so that if he rolls well with Draw Closer he can use any excess Force Points to recover Strain. Mods for his equipment will be a Damage mod and a Crit Rating reduction mod for the crystal, a Superior Hilt customization for the saber itself, and a superior Armor customization for his armored clothing.

Time to get up Dunne's damage taking ability.

400 earned XP: Protector specialization, Toughened, Body Guard, Grit, Toughened, Force Protection, Center of Being, Heightened Awareness, Misdirect (Magnitude upgrade)

500 earned XP: Force Assault, Dedication (Willpower), Grit, Parry, Parry, Resilience 1

So after 500 XP, Dunne looks like this...

Brawn 3, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 4, Presence 3
Wound Threshold: 17
Strain Threshold: 17
Soak: 5
Defense: 2/1

Skills: Cool 1, Charm 1, Discipline 3, Knowledge (Lore) 2, Lightsaber 3, Resilience 1
Abilities: Desert Dweller (Remove 1 Setback die caused by arid or hot environments from all skill checks), Force Rating 2, Influence (Basic Power, Control Emotion/Belief), Misdirect (Basic Power, Range 1, Duration 1, Magnitude 1), Move (Basic power, Magnitude 1, Strength 1, Range 1, Control - Hurl)

Talents: Body Guard, Center of Being 2, Improved Center of Being, Dedication, Defensive Training, Draw Closer, Force Assault, Grit 3, Heightened Awareness, Niman Technique, Nobody's Fool, Parry 3, Reflect 2, Sense Emotions, Toughened 2


Equipment: Double-Bladed Lightsaber (Lightsaber, Range [Engaged], Damage 9, Crit 1, Breach 1, Linked 1, Sunder, Superior, Unwieldy 3), Armored Clothing (+2 Soak, Defense 1, Superior), Comlink, 4 Stimpacks


Wow, not bad.  The next 50 xp would get Dunne another Dedication talent (Willpower to 5) and another Force Rating. He could also use some more points into Move to round out his ability to smash targets with objects.

If I wanted to get another specialization (and right now, I'm not sure I do), I'd look at Seer or Sage.  Dunne is still a Consular, and his proficiency in the Force is a big part of his story. A higher Force Rating would also allow him to still have a good Force die pool when he has a few of his dice committed to other Force effects.  Looking at the Sage spec, I don't find a lot of abilities that fit Dunne's style.  I do find a bunch of talents that are useful to this spec over in the Mystic's Seer spec. While expensive to cross-class a third time, the talents he will have access to can't be beat; multiple ranks in Uncanny Reactions, Grit, and Toughened, Dodge, Pre-Emptive Avoidance, The Force is my Ally, and of course two opportunities to buy Force Rating, bringing Dunne's total potential Force Rating from his three trees to 5.


Conclusion


Is a 500xp character unreasonable?  I don't think so.  In my Wild Cards game the PCs hit 100xp after about 6 sessions, and that was a 3 hours per night bi-weekly game.  At that rate a PC would be at 500 xp in 34 sessions (64 weeks), so just over a year.  If it were a PC in one of my larger, yet less frequent games, those games generally go 6-7 hours every 6 weeks, and earn 30xp per game.  That's 16 sessions, so about 100 weeks; just shy of 2 years.

But would I want to play such a character?  Does he adequately fit and fill the role he's designed to do?

I dunno.  Anyone wanna run a game and let me find out?

May the dice be with you.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Costumes, Campaigns, and Comics

 It's funny, there are about three or four things I want to blog about, but I'm having some difficulty settling on them to get them out.  I try to keep this blog on-topic (when I am able to write for it, anyway), partially because I think it's better to share my experiences on specific topics; costuming, Gamemastering, anything Star Wars; whatever.  I don't like doing "shotgun blast stream of consciousness" posts, but maybe I need to just to break this log-jam.

Costuming


With Celebration: Anaheim only three months away, there's been a small amount of pressure to 
 finalize some costuming for the con.  My stepson had thoughts about formally getting a Cade Skywalker outfit made, and I was looking forward to helping him put it together.  Problem is Cade's mop-of-hair and my stepson's dislike of having his hair more than 2 inches long, it seems. So he ditched Cade in favor of something else.  At first he thought about being a clone trooper, which could be really cool.  Now, starting on a Clone trooper, like most fully armored Legion costumes, means you just committed yourself to a $1,000 outfit. The stepson was taken a little aback about that, but if that's something he wants to do, we'll find a way to do it.  In the mean-time, he's now looking at other soft-costume characters he may want to do, and is considering Starkiller from The Force Unleased.  "Especially since you know him!"
"...call the POLICE..."

Ah, the innocence of youth.

In other news, I have a box of Biker Scout parts sitting in my father's basement, just waiting to be assembled for him.  It's a good kit, I just have to find the time to drive down and help him with it.  It shouldn't take too long to assemble, either, and I'm fairly certain it includes all the straps and such needed for him to wear it.  The only part I dread is the helmet; my helmet came to me pretty much done.  Just had to attach the visor to the helmet faceplate, and then the faceplate bolts onto the helmet itself.  This is more of a 4-part kit; visor, faceplate, that square brim that goes around the faceplate, and then the helmet itself.  I'm probably going to tap into the expertise of one of my local Legionnaires who's put together this exact kit before, and get some help with that.

But what about my own costumes?  I've lamented before about finishing my SWTOR costumes, or getting them started more like.  The wife says I am to break out the dummy and toss my Jedi Shadow onto it to see where it is and what needs to be finished. I honestly have a fear that doing so will do no more than make an obstruction in the traffic pattern in my house...again...and that it still won't go anywhere.  

We'll see, I guess.

Another Longshot


What a rabid batch of PCs I've cultivated for Another Longshot.  Seriously; I can't remember the last time I had such involvement by my PCs in additional writing, and support for the game.  Maybe my short-lived Earthdawn game, but I think this is even more (probably because I've got 5 more PCs than that game had).  Background stories, in-character reports to command, a pair of Adventure summaries; their writing has even inspired my writing (which is probably contributing to my lack of updates here). Mostly, it's background information for a location that will likely become a prominent one in the game, Port Rasper.  I'll admit, I had a bit of Babylon 5 influence when writing about it.  Hopefully it will keep a unique feel and give my PCs some inspiration for what to do on the station.

Wild Cards


My campaign that was labeled as the "Another Longshot Prequel" has been in hiatus since September.  I ran a Force and Destiny Beta group on a short series of adventures (which I intended to chronicle here, but something came up).  Now with that group brought to a pause, and the main Another Longshot begun, I have a third group of equally rabid PCs asking when I'll be starting up the Tuesday night game again.  Sadly, we lost my former co-host Fiddleback as an active PC. I have found another contender who's looking at making a melee bruiser droid along the lines of the IG-100 Magnaguard; a sort of "Mr T of Droids".  Likely Marauder, maybe Enforcer. He should be good and as a droid could be easily inserted into the party.

I just have to get that game back up and running again.  I've got some ideas, and I think they're worth pursuing.  But man, that would effectively mean that my Another Longshot campaign has 3 PC groups, all in the same overall storyline, with 15 PCs total.

I must be out of my god damned mind...

More variant covers than any Liefield comic, ever

Marvel Star Wars Comics


Just my feedback on Marvel's return to writing for Star Wars comics; I'm not impressed.  They released Issue 1 with over 100 variant covers, and with the exception of an Imperial Captain and a bunch of stormtroopers only included the major characters from A New Hope; Luke, Han, Leia, R2, 3PO, Chewie, and Vader. 

My favorite characters from the Dark Horse runs were the non-movie characters.  Rogue Squadron! Quinlan Vos! The rise and fall and rebirth of A'sharad Hett! Dass Jennir!  K'Kruhk!  Cade Skywalker! Ganner Kreig! Zayne Carrick! Jahan Cross!  If I could costume these people I would! These are the characters I would look forward to the next issue for, stories I really enjoyed.  They made the Star Wars universe bigger.  But with Marvel's latest issue, they made the galaxy smaller.  Insinuating that only the Heroes of Yavin can do the important missions in the galaxy, and only Vader can oppose them.

Eh, it is only issue one...time will tell I guess.

Jedi by day, lead singer of Nickelback by night...
May the dice be with you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Another Longshot - Launch Day


So there were no updates in December, the primary reason being that any time I had to write for the blog, I spent it on writing for today's topic.  As you may discover, there was a lot of work needed and it seemed to pay off.

New year, new post, new campaign.

...campaignS?

Technically seven years in the making, Another Longshot has finally launched.  Set in the "Legacy Era" of what is now called "Star Wars Legends", the campaign takes place primarily in the Hagen sector on the edge of Wild Space.  Mysteries, ancient enemies, new threats, and a struggle to survive and fight the Sith Empire are all themes of this story, and this past weekend my PCs helped me kick it off with a bang.

Day One: Group Besh


On Saturday, the first dice started rolling for Another Longshot. Group Besh, "the Rebel group", got everything started with a romping 6 hour adventure. I think the thing that most impressed me was the lack of combat in this session.  There was one altercation on the promenade of a space station thanks to some Threat results on the dice, but otherwise it was all skills and role-playing to move along the plotline.  The players seemed to have a good time, so much so that three hours after I left (I live an hour away even without snow on the roads) my PCs were still hanging out talking and writing about the game.

I think I may have hooked their interest in the game...

I'm not going to re-hash what the PCs went through; I'll let them do that!  You can find the adventure write-up by the Group Besh PCs here.

I think the best part about the adventure was the collaboration. Everyone tried to make sure that everyone else felt useful and needed in the group. I still think Joe (playing the displaced Jedi) was the odd-man out and may have felt the least effective. Still, he contributed and I'm fairly certain the next session will focus the spotlight on him a little bit more, especially since his Bounty obligation got rolled.

I roll Obligation, Duty, and Morality at the end of the session so I know what's triggering for the next one and can write it into the story.  Works much better than spending hours writing something and then having someone's Oath Obligation get rolled or Space Superiority Duty rolled and having no extra room for random NPC interactions or space battles.


Day Two: Group Aurek


Due to schedules, it worked out that I had to run both groups back-to-back or else Group Aurek wouldn't "launch" until Late February.  Better to get the games going and PCs collaborating, I thought and predominately I was right.  "Group Aurek" is a unique group because everyone is a Force User.  It's basically a Force and Destiny group, with two Jedi, two Imperial Knights-to-be, and an unwilling Sith Apprentice who started off the campaign by saying "enough of this, I'm leaving and I'm freeing my Master's prisoners first".

This is the group with the most overt-ties to the original Longshot game. One of my PCs (Alex) is playing a descendant of the cigarra-smoking, foul-mouthed, unkempt space-pirate-turned-Rebel-operative he played seven years ago.  Now playing an upstanding Imperial Knight named Bleys (sort of a Star Wars take on an old favorite D&D PC of his), he's been saddled with his great-grandfather's broken-down ship and even further broken-down droid. This group also was exposed to the campaign "prophecy", or at least the "Nemoidian Fortune Cookie" variant.  Read all about their harrowing adventures here.

It will be fun to see where this motley crew goes.

Lessons Learned


Two games!  Two PC parties!  11 PCs!

I will never do this again if I can help it.

I ran 12 hours of games and had 5 hours of travel (thanks to detours and snow-delays). My wife is a very loving, understanding, patient soul for supporting me in doing this (and doing my best to give her some quality time prior to this hopefully helped).

I will happily run for 6-8 hours straight, but only for one day.  And I just can't spend that much time in the cars.  The rest of my weekend was basically shot, and I had to bail on an Order 66 episode because I was fried.

If I do have another game-a-rama like this, it had better be because I'm at a con.  Then again, who knows; I'm sure that at some point the calendar gods will decide to throw this scenario at me with a "both sessions on X weekend or one team doesn't play for 3 more months" or something like that.

I need to resolve how I'm doing maps.  Making maps on Roll20 is easy, and handy, but unless more players are using their own laptops to access the game everyone's looking at my secondary 19" widescreen from across the room to see the action. Plus I can't figure out how to center the other screens on what I'm looking at on mine, so I can't "force" the view on the second screen and am constantly shifting back and forth to adjust the PCs view. On the flip side, extra laptops for Group Besh would really clutter the table we're sitting at.  I wouldn't mind using physical maps, but I'd miss out on several good maps of Chris West's and it wouldn't work well with Group Aurek, where we're all sitting around a living room. Group Besh might be easier, but the map could take up more room than the extra laptop or two.  Going to have to work on that.

Someday, my friend...someday.


On a more positive front, I forgot how much music enhanced my game. I'm still using my Beta-release of Syrinscape because it allows me to make my own sound sets with my music and I don't have to pay for a subscription to use it (a recent development from that program's developer). The music was on for the Group Aurek game, with tense overtones coming in  while I'm describing scenes as if I planned them from the get-go.  Definitely worth my time Friday night rebuilding my sound sets from my laptops "format faux pas" a year ago.

Logistics


Early on I knew that I wanted to document this adventure, perhaps more-so than almost any previous campaign. Let's face it; I'm a known entity now (at least in a very niche group). Folks who are not playing the game will be following the campaign. Also, I've developed something of an issue in keeping things straight, so it helps if everything is written down someplace I can access it at any given moment. Finally, it's good to see things from a PC's perspective, and see what they are thinking.  Many times they come up with angles and sub-plots that are better than what I had planned.

I'm encouraging my PCs to help me develop and record the game, and bribing them with XP to do it.  It'll be small, usually 5xp between sessions, but that 5xp will add up over time.  Assuming I stick with my schedule, that'll be an extra 25-30xp by the end of the year. I know no PC who wouldn't want an extra 25xp to add to their character. That's a bottom row talent, or a Skill from Rank 1 to Rank 3, or a new Force Power with an upgrade or two. With 11 PCs, it's going to be tricky finding something for each of them to do, though.  I think the next few weeks will be needed to hash out the "PC contributions" portion of the campaign.

I hope this works out. I won't really know if I've got this on a good head of steam until we hit LARP season, and arranging games turns into a real puzzle with all the games folks play. To be fair, I've got a plan for that to, I just have to get my PCs to a point where they could have "crossovers" with each other and run with everyone who isn't at a campsite with boffer swords and spell packets on a particular weekend.

And I have to see how I can deal some Wild Cards into the deck...

Hope to have another blog-post sooner rather than later.  Until then, may the dice be with you.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Science Fiction within Science Fiction

There's something that's always bothered me about Star Wars technology, and that's when people try to implant today's technological marvels into it.  The movies have a real "the future that was" theme to them; technological advancements far beyond our scope and dreams in the 1970s and 80s, but when compared to today a lot of it seems retro.  Personal communications are push-to-talk, effectively.  Video communication is nigh-monochromatic and static-filled.  Computers need to be accessed within the system, and can't be accessed remotely.

Maybe it's because I grew up on those films alongside the development and implementation of the home computer, the video game industry, and the dawn of wireless communications and the internet.  I remember when all phones were analog and corded, when television was only what was broadcast over the airwaves, and when computer data was limited to what stack of floppy disks you had sitting in the library.  I bought into the communications tech level of Star Wars as seemingly permanently stuck in the era the films came out in, and I was okay with that.

Even the prequels did little to counter what's come before.  Information is still delivered in person, communications still very line-of-sight and broadcast based.  Heroes have to walk around to find junk dealers, or visit specific people to uncover information about rare weapon technology.

But invariably, there's always someone in one of my games who tries to apply the technologies of today to Star Wars.  They want to use computer skills to look up information about everything, applying tech like the internet and Google and Wikipedia as galactic sources of information.  They are under the assumption that everything is networked, and every computer system can be accessed remotely.  That vast amounts of information can be sent electronically.


There was a discussion over on the FFG boards titled The Google Effect and upon reading it the poster "knasserII"property verbalized what has been kicking around in my head all these years, but just couldn't put into words.


[The] Star Wars setting is NOT an Information Society. They manage perfectly well without everyone broadcasting personal information everywhere or running blogs and creating Wiki encyclopedia. Indeed, they would probably respond to suggestions that they should with very good reasons why they don't want to.
 Most of his posts in the thread involve a discussion on the type of tech in Star Wars, that it's not electromagnetic-radiation based communication (or if it is, it's not like we have today).  The Holonet is not the internet of today; it can share some things like the internet (news sites, government alerts) but it's not the be-all information source from anywhere in the galaxy.  You're certainly not using it to hack a database from across the sector.

He presents an interesting argument that the level of holographic communication (that allows for real time conversation from light years away) could theoretically suffer from a limited bandwidth issue, which is why holo-communications are so "low tech".

In Star Wars, a droid the size of an office copy machine floating around a back-water world looking for evidence of Rebel Bases takes a grainy picture of a shield generator and sends it off to the Empire hundreds of light years away.  Darth Maul's probe droids have to fly back to get him to show him where Qui-Gon and Padme are on Tatooine.  Droids have to plug in to terminals directly to manipulate doors, schematics, and to issue commands.  The biggest system Artoo is able to access on the Death Star is the garbage smasher schedule and reset it; the only reason he could do that was because the Death Star is probably the largest computer network  ever, he was inside of it, and he could only access minor systems commands.  He couldn't remotely deactivate the tractor beam, or let the Princess out of her cell, or turn off the alarms from Cell Block AA-23.

I wonder if the reason is generational.  Or maybe it's simply that we've gotten so accustomed to having our smartphones and internet so close at hand that we can no longer imagine a universe with any sort of advanced technology not having that tech.

I'm kinda curious what "technological advancements" we see in Episode VII.  Will there be an obvious internet-like system, or will the tech stay the same?

Guess we'll find out in 13 months.

May the dice be with you.