Monday, September 1, 2014

Light the Fires

Tomorrow night I start up a new campaign, of sorts.  My "Wild Cards" campaign is on temporary hiatus.  I'm trying to figure out where to take it, and also since it's part of the much larger Another Longshot mega-campaign, I feel like I need to put the brakes on while I figure out my plans for the other team(s).  In the meantime, we've been given this lovely black-covered manuscript from FFG, and an open request to play the hell out of it and give feedback on what players and GMs think works and what doesn't. 

So for purely scientific reasons and solely for creative feedback purposes, I've transitioned my usual bi-weekly, Tuesday night game to test out the Force and Destiny Beta rulebook.  I'm certainly not doing it because I've nearly destroyed the book flipping through it so many times or because I've drooled all over the pages. 

And if you believe that, I've got a lovely plot of land on Alderaan I'd love to sell you.  Cheap, too!

I know I've said this before; but this time I'm going to try...really, really give readers a peek behind the curtain in my presentation of this campaign.  I'm highly motivated to do this because this is a playtesting process.  These rules have to work with both sides of the GM screen; with players and with Gamemasters.  So I'm going to try and talk about how my adventures were formed, and how the party performed, and what rules worked and what rules didn't.  I'm going to be submitting this data to FFG for their Beta Test, and will hopefully contribute to the final product.

So later this week, hopefully, you folks will start to get a GM-eye view of "The Lightbearers".

Monday, August 18, 2014

Force and Destiny

24 hours ago I was at the Indianapolis airport in an Indy 500 themed restaurant starting to recover from all that was GenCon 2014.  What a whirlwind week that was.  Time dilation seemed to be the theme of the event, as Thursday seemingly took forever (which was awesome) and suddenly it was Sunday ("...wait, what? I have to go HOME?!").  Through it all, Fantasy Flight Games may not have been the advertised belle of the ball (that went to 5th Edition), but they were certainly one of the 800 lbs gorillas smacking some gaming goodness down on folks entering the exhibit hall.

Star Wars Armada (capital ship and fighter squadron combat), Star Wars Imperial Assault ("Descent" style, modular tile map, character scale combat and adventure), and of course the Beta Release of Force and Destiny.  The giant pile of Force and Destiny books sat atop a table as I entered with the other VIGs at 9am Thursday morning (shout out to Chris Bradshaw for letting me join his quartet this year).  Many copies were purchased, and by Sunday they were all sold out.

On the flight(s) home, I was able to give F&D a good read-through.  I read the limited fluff, tried to absorb and understand the crunch, and started to formulate opinions and impressions about the book.  Before these thoughts and ideas are blown away by my return to real life and the mental bandwidth required for employment, I shall get them down here and tell you all about Sam Stewart's, Jay Little's, Andy Fisher's, and the rest of the FFG team's brilliant book that is Force and Destiny.

The cover of the book is great.  Black and gold (I thought it would be green, myself), with the image of a Lambda-class shuttle landed in front of the Jedi Temple draped in Imperial iconography.  Clearly the Emperor has moved in and is using the Jedi Temple as his palace.  Probably redecorated the Grand Council chamber too.  The image actually tied in well with the book; you're trying to undo the damage the Empire has done in quashing the Jedi Order, seeking out the lost lore and knowledge of that once great sect.

This is not the "Jedi Knight RPG"

Take a look at that header and absorb it for a moment.  If you were planning on this book being the on that allowed you to bust out your Jedi Robes and your lightsaber and go stomp the Empire, you're about to be disappointed.  This book will not allow you to move the game to other eras and play fully fledged Jedi Knights as written, but it's a great start.  What it does do is give you the opportunity to rediscover and aspire to the legendary status of the Jedi Order, and work towards bringing that light back to the darkened galaxy of the Empire.

Force and Destiny takes place in the same time frame as the other two "Core Games" (Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion).  Even as back as far as the Edge of the Empire Beta, we were told "In Star Wars: Force and Destiny, the players become figures of legend; the last surviving Force Users in the galaxy.  Hunted by the Empire, they must stay alive, and more importantly, stay true to the ideals of the forebearers - the fabled Jedi."  Put your mindset there and get ready for it; you're not a Jedi.  You're someone who has discovered the Force within themselves and has decided to unlock it's mysteries in-spite of what the Empire has outlawed.

Keeping your Morals in Order

The new character role-playing mechanic in F&D is Morality.  Every character in the game has a Morality value that measures how good or evil they are.  Much like Obligation and Duty, Morality pushes your character to act in certain ways in certain situations.  It's a dynamic system, that moves up and down with each passing session.  Morality has two elements; Emotional Strengths and Emotional Weaknesses.  Strengths might be Bravery, or Compassion, or Justice.  Weaknesses of those same aspects are Anger, Hatred, and Cruelty.  If your Morality is triggered, you're encouraged to "engage" your Morality's Strengths and Weaknesses during the session.  If you do, the adjustment to your Morality score at the end of the session are doubled.

I Sense your Conflict

For years now we've wondered what the mechanism will be for handling dark side actions, and falling to the Dark Side.  We finally know, with Morality and more specifically Conflict.  Actions you take during a session will accumulate Conflict.  Inaction when you know someones going off to cause harm may earn a Conflict point or two.  Stealing out of greed or for no reason may earn 2-4.  Murder of a helpless foe at your mercy could earn as much as 10.  Calling on the Dark Side and using Dark Side Points to power your Force Powers earns a number of Conflict points equal to the Dark Side Points used.  

At the end of the session, you roll a D10 and subtract the Conflict score you have earned.  That number is how much your Morality score moves, up or down.  Conflict is then reset to zero for the next session and you start all over again.

The game encourages players to play Dark Side Users if they want to.  It's certainly something you can do.  Something to consider if you're a Dark Side user your Strain Threshold lowers and you poison the Destiny Pool, flipping a Light Side point to Dark once the pool is generated (you still use Light Side points when you spend Destiny Points).  Characters who venerate the light gain a bonus to their Wound Thresholds as well as an extra Light Side point to the Destiny pool (not a flip, an additional point).

Racial Profiling

I was almost dead-on with my racial predictions in this book.  I nailed Human, Kel Dor, Mirialan, Togruta, Twi'lek, and Zabrak.  I picked Droid and Miraluka for the other two races.  FFG went with Cerean and Nautolian instead.  The races look great, and all appear to be fun to play.  I'm surprised by a couple choices in starting abilities; I didn't see Kel Dor as particularly weak, yet they start with 1 Brawn.  Maybe it's more a reflection of their constitution rather than their strength.

Career Day

There are Six Careers in this setting, just like Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion. They are Consular, Guardian, Mystic, Seeker, Sentinel, and Warrior.  Every one of these careers starts with Force Rating of 1.  They also only have six Career skills, instead of the normal eight.  All the specializations come with the usual four skill choices to add to the Career skills list.  None of the Careers have Lightsaber as a career skill, but every career has one Specialization that offers it.  Each Career has one Specialization tree named after one of the six Jedi Lightsaber Forms (no Form VII: Juyo/Vapaad).  Each form (except Shii-Cho) has a talent that allows the Lightsaber Skill to be used with a talent other than Brawn.

Most specializations get a Force Rating talent, improving the character's Force Rating by 1.  Some get 2, a few get none.

Here's what we got:
  • Consular
    • Healer (like Doctor but with some Force tricks added in, has 1 Force Rating talent)
    • Niman Disciple (Form V specialist, Force Effects with lightsaber attacks, uses Willpower with Lightsaber, 1 Force Rating Talent)
    • Sage (Force Using scholar, has 2 Force Rating talents)
  • Guardian
    • Peacekeeper (Group leader who buffs his allies with the Force, 1 Force Rating talent)
    • Protector (Part Combat Medic, Part Bodyguard, 1 Force Rating Talent)
    • Soresu Defender (Form III specialist, melee defensive form, uses Intellect for Lightsaber attacks, no Force Rating Talent)
  • Mystic
    • Advisor (Social expert with support talents, 1 Force Rating talent)
    • Makashi Duelist (Form II specialist, focuses on one-on-one duels, uses Presence for Lightsaber attacks, no Force Rating talent)
    • Seer (precognitive and clairvoyant prowess, 2 Force Rating talents)
  • Seeker
    • Ataru Striker (Form IV acrobatics, uses Agility with Lightsaber skill, no Force Rating talents)
    • Hunter (Ranged combat expert and big game hunter. 1 Force Rating talent)
    • Pathfinder (The second half of the "Ranger" class, with animal bonding powers.  One Force Rating talent)
  • Sentinel
    • Artisan (A Force version of the Outlaw tech.  One Force Rating talent)
    • Shadow (Infiltrator and Investigator.  One Force Rating Talent)
    • Shien Expert (Form V master, uses Cunning for Lightsaber skill, experts at Blaster Deflection.  No Force Rating talents)
  • Warrior
    • Aggressor (Uses intimidation and fear to resolve disputes, 1 Force Rating talent.)
    • Shii-Cho Knight (Expert with the basic Form I. Good at fighting multiple opponents. No Force Rating talent)
    • Starfighter Ace (Use the Force while piloting vehicles.  1 Force Rating talent)
Remember how I told you this was not the book for Jedi Knights?  That cannot be better spelled out than in the fluff description of "A Consular's Role" for that Career. 
"Followers of this career are not Jedi Consulars of the now-fallen Republic, but they do embrace some of the same philosophies and practices."
You are not playing a Jedi Knight.  You are playing someone who's trying to live up to their reputation and legend.  Someone who in many cases has learned to use their Force aptitude alongside a more mundane role; be that melee combatant, diplomat, or technician.  It also means that you're going to have to spread yourself far and wide to grab all the "traditional abilities" of the Jedi.  The only tree that has blaster deflection (Improved Reflect) is the Shien Expert tree, yet we see Jedi throughout the Movies, Shows, and EU bouncing back blaster bolts.  Usually, those examples are full-fledged Jedi.  You're not a Jedi, not a fully-trained one anyway.  You haven't been using a lightsaber since before puberty.  You're lucky if you have a lightsaber at all.  So only those practitioners who have invested time and effort into tracking down the abilities of Shien will have any proficiency in slapping a "return to sender or nearest enemy resident" label on incoming blaster fire.

I can get behind that.

The (Glowing) Elephant in the Room

One of the first things I dove into when I got the book was how Lightsabers were working.  I had them being upgraded melee combat checks, because so much can go wrong when you're swinging around a massless plasma blade that can cut anything.  Lightsaber is now exclusively a Brawn skill, but can be replaced by other talents as listed above.  The difficulty is the same as any melee combat check, 2 Purple difficulty dice, with no inherent upgrades.  The lightsaber we've seen in previous books is not the base lightsaber now, however.  The "10 damage, Crit 1, Breach 1, Vicious 2" statblock we've seen is apparently for a lightsaber with an Ilum crystal that's been tweaked to Hell and gone by some previous Jedi (or Sith). Base lightsabers deal 6 damage, have a crit of 2, and still have the Breach 1 and Sunder qualities.  You can try and find a wide variety of crystals, too.  Crystals that add Burn, Disorient, deal more base damage, or even have higher Breach ratings.

Getting hit by a lightsaber has been mitigated by the prolific inclusion of the Parry talent throughout the Careers.  Parry lets you take 3 strain to reduce the damage you receive from a melee attack by 2 plus the number of Ranks of Parry you have.  Note I didn't say "soak", because Soak is armor that can be blown through by the Lightsaber's Breach quality.  Parry simply reduces damage before Soak is applied.


There's some awesome gear in this book.  The lightsabers for certain (Double Bladed Sabers with Linked 1!), and a new quality; Unwieldy (also applies to the Saberstaff).  Unwieldy is like Cumbersome, but for Agility.  You have to have a certain Agility or you suffer increases to difficulty when you use the weapon.

This book gives us Electrostaves, Cortosis shields and swords, ancient swords (that use Lightsaber instead of Melee), and even Cortosis plated gauntlets (like the Imperial Knights use in Legacy).  Nothing REALLY new in the equipment section; oh, except for Demon Masks, Meditation Tools, and Holocrons.

Use the Force

This book offers eleven Force powers; the five previously released are back and unchanged from their Core Rulebook release, and 6 new ones.  Many of these new Force Powers have a minimum Force Rating to take.  A lot of these powers have alternate effects if you use Dark Side points to power them.
  • Battle Meditation (Pre-Req: Force Rating 2+): Buff (or dominate) your allies to perform better in combat as a more cohesive unit.
  • Bind (Pre-Req: Force Rating 2+): Restrict your target's ability to move or act, or if you use the Dark Side crush them in your Force-powered grip.
  • Heal/Harm (Pre-Req: Force Rating 1+): A Force-powered stim-pack which can restore health to a target.  If you use the Dark Side you Harm your target instead, and can steal the life force from that target to heal yourself or allies.  You can even bring someone back from the bring of death (Light side) or pervert the Living Force and use the life force of one person to restore life to someone who has died (Dark Side, duh)
  • Misdirect (Pre-Req: Force Rating 1+): Create powerful illusions to beguile (or haunt) your foes.
  • Protect/Unleash (Pre-Req: Force Rating 3+): Erect potent Force Barriers that can protect yourself or allies, or call on the Dark Side to project lethal lightning blasts or deadly cones of cold.
  • Seek (Pre-Req: Force Rating1+): Become the master of location and be able to hunt down anything or anyone.  Can even be used to perceive the weaknesses in those around you (Shatterpoint powers, anyone?) and add Pierce to all your attacks.

The Knight Time is the Right Time

The book spells out the option for "Knight Level Play" saying that characters with 150+ earned XP are advanced characters, should have proper lightsabers (if they want them), and can generally handle opponents with Cortosis weapons and lightsabers.  The book also spells out rules for starting at Knight Level, with every PC getting 150 points to spend after character creation (no buying up Characteristics) and a basic lightsaber or 10,000 credits in gear (player's choice).

No One Expects the Imperial Inquisition

The GM chapter includes more than 2 full pages to making bad-ass Inquisitors to send against your PCs as a main adversary, and brings up the rules for "Enhanced Nemeses".  These pages are a godsend, and really get your juices flowing to provide your players with their own Darth Vader to contend with.

You All Meet In A Cantina

There is, of course, a starting adventure.  I've only skimmed it, but it does look like a fun romp and does offer some neat rewards at the end.

Opinions: Everyone's Got One

In the final analysis, you're probably reading this to find out what I think about FFG's Force and Destiny book.  I'll put it thusly; I am sorely tempted to derail my Tuesday night, bi-weekly game and have everyone roll up these characters.  I find the theme of the book to be simple yet elegant, and most of the design decisions the Devs made towards "Jedi Characters" to be brilliant given the era of the game.  You're not playing characters who will become Jedi Knights after a year or two of playing, you're portraying beings that follow in the Order's fading footsteps and may one day rival their expertise.

Look, Luke Skywalker thinks he's the last Jedi, and he's right from a certain point of view.  He claims the mantle in Episode VI.  He moves on to restore the Order after the war.  But as Johnny Bravo once said " really, REALLY BIG" and Luke is the Hero of Yavin, on everyone's radar and everyones lips across the galaxy.  Who says there aren't bands of Force Users out there that are fighting against the Empire, or simply just trying to survive in this crazy mixed-up galaxy.  They wouldn't be known to all, and even if they were in the Rebellion how quickly would word of such Force Users spread across the thousands of light-years and millions of worlds?  Obscurity is helpful when the powers that be are out to get you.

This book completes FFG's love-letter to the dawn of Star Wars Gaming, giving us characters that feel like the ones I first played back in the 90s with West End Games.  Characters that work to improve their raw, untapped Force potential to perform great feats and greater heroics while being hunted by the Empire.  It gives us the chance to have our own "Luke Skywalker moments", of finding our place in the Galaxy and our role within it.  It also allows us to experiment with our own Morality, discover for our own if the ends do justify the means, and how far down the "line we will not cross" lies.

How this book will affect my upcoming games, I do now know yet.  One thing I do know is a retort to Grand Moff Tarkin's line "The Jedi are extinct.  Their light has gone out of the universe."

Beware those who carry the light, no matter how diminished or dim.  

Beware the Lightbearers.

(...and boy, does that line give me ideas...)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

GenCon 2014: Pre-Game

Here I am, in New Hampshire.  In 24 hours I hope to be in the middle of the D20 Radio GenCon Meet N Greet, rubbing elbows with those of you out there in the Gamer Nation that could make it to the con, and with some industry friends of the show.  After that, it's likely going to be 4 days of poor sleep, late nights, and geek overload.

Gods, I hope I can survive it.

When going away on any trip, it's important to make sure you don't forget anything.  This trip is no different.  It's even more important not to forget anything because I've got probably a dozen or more folks in Indianapolis who are looking forward to sitting down at my module, "The Big Leagues".  So I did what anyone would do (yes, at the suggestion and urging of my wife); I made a list.

So here's what I'm bringing...

The Big Leagues

  • Huttball Map
  • Final Encounter Map
  • Dice Rolling Tray (Thanks Ann Marie and Erich!)
  • Dice (...for the tray)
  • Initiative Tracker (8.x11 dry erase board, thanks Chris!)
  • The Module (printed)
  • Character Sheets (24 of them, 3 pages each.  Quickest use of a printer cartridge ever...)
  • GM Screen
  • Character Tokens
  • Assorted Alea Tools Magnets (Status conditions, height modifiers, etc)
  • Cargo Tiles
  • Age of Rebellion core rulebook (rules and autographs)
  • Edge of the Empire core rulebook (rules and autographs)
Jedi Outfit
  • Jacket
  • Tabards (2)
  • Obi
  • Pants
  • Boots (with insoles)
  • Belt
  • Pouches (2)
  • Lightsaber
  • 32" blade (bought my current suitcase specifically because it fit inside)
  • Charger
  •  Hex Key
  • "101" Jumpsuit
  • Belt
  • 10mm Autopistol (Made from a NERF Maverick)
  • Mentats
  • Combat Boots
  • Vault 13 flask
  • Pipboy 3000 (gotta remember to get 9v and AAA batteries)
  • Micro Mp3 player (45+ minutes of music & 3-Dog clips pre-loaded)
  • Phone
  • Tablet
  • Charge Cords
  • Back-up Battery 
  • Power Strip (I'm rooming with 3 other guys with just as many electronics as I...we'll need the plug-space)
Mundane items
  • 4 days of clothes
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Deodorant (I will not be "That guy")
  • Drugs (Wife would be upset if I died in would I)
  • Airborne chewable capsules (Wife will kill me if I bring home the ConCrud)
  • 2 travel-size bottles of Purell (see above)
  • Electric Razor (gotta remember to shave the head tonight)
  • Moleskin (for when I wear the Jedi boots)
  • Scissors (for the moleskin)
  • Box of Pop-Tarts
  • Box of Granola Bars
  • Water Bottle w/ built-in purifier (This item alone will probably save me $10-$20 per day...)
Also included are various gifts and attire I need for the weekend, including my 501st Legion Challenge Coin and Name Badges.

Supposedly most of that will fit into my suitcase and two carry-on bags.  I don't think I'll be over 50 lbs in the suitcase, I've actually got a bit of dead-space in there.

I should be running The Big Leagues at least twice, but I brought enough material to run it all four times (once for each PC Set).  We'll see how many times and who I get to play with.

I have no clue how often I'll be updating this blog this week.  I'm more likely to post little blurbs on Twitter.  Follow me @DarthGM on twitter and you'll get my various updates.

May the dice be with me...

Bonus Content: Boston Comic Con

This past weekend was Boston Comic Con, and I wanted to give a shout out to my base CO, Mike Brunco, for getting his idea for our convention booth from concept to finished product.  Another local legionnaire Kevin made the bulk of our new Trash Compactor, and many of us went to Mike's house to paint it up.  The dianoga head was made by Brian Anderson, and the tentacle was made by Bob Gouveia.  By the images on the NEG website, you can see that it was something of a big hit.

Oh, and I bumped into GM Sam at the con.  Chatted with him for a bit about upcoming conventions. 

And didn't have to pay BCC $40 to do so...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Inspirations and Motivations

Late last night The Wife mentioned she hadn’t seen a Fragments blog post in a while.  I’ve been around the block enough times to know that if your wife points something out to you, you pay attention to it. I resolved to making sure today did not go by without an update to Fragments, so here we go.

I’ve been finding it harder and harder to find the time to post to this blog, but it’s important to me that I at least try and continue to do so.  If I’m going to keep a link to this blog on my various forum signatures around the web I really need to stay on top here.  What’s more important is the content.  I’m sure many of you are interested in the mental workings of my mind, but let’s face it; according to the statistics on my blog more of you are interested when I have something of substance like my Edge of the Jedi rules or a build thread about a costume I’m working on.

Let’s see what I can do with that.

GenCon Module

The GenCon Mod is coming along and growing.  I’ve done quite a bit of re-working.  I’ve realized that my long-winded writing style doesn’t work very well when introducing a con-module.  It was pointed out that my opening speeches were too long and too verbose.  I needed to get the PCs into the action, or at least the interaction, a lot quicker.  So I trimmed off an entire page of dialogue and replaced it with a paragraph.  Got rid of some useless bookkeeping, added in some ties to some of my plot threads, and cleaned up the flow of the module.  All this should allow the module to flow better and fit into the time-frame I have set aside for the adventure.

I’ve got time set aside in my GenCon schedule to run the module twice, and if I find myself with a few hours to kill I may do a bonus run or two.  We’ll have to see what time allows, because I do want to do other things besides running the adventure.

This weekend I’m going to look at printing options for the maps for the Huttball encounter and (thanks to Chris West at Maps of Mastery) the final encounter to the module.  The Huttball map is an odd size, about 40”.  I need to talk to the folks at the print shop if I should print it as an odd-sized poster or as a banner.  I’m worried the banner won’t be as good a print as the poster, but it allows for a larger surface and a little more structurally sound.  

NOTE: As an aside, Chris West is going to be starting his next Kickstarter soon, first one in over a year.  Finally releasing his Space Station Maps, and pout a preview for it up on Facebook.  It looks AWESOME.

The PCs and NPCs for the module are coming along nicely.  During one playtest one of my PCs stated that “no one was playing huttball, everyone was just attacking each other”.  Now, the encounter is based on a PVP Arena zone in Star Wars The Old Republic, but she’s right.  The objective, and how you win Huttball, is to score more points than the other team.  Attacking your opponents are simply a tactic to make scoring easier or preventing them from scoring.  Another problem was a mistake I was making; I was basically setting up my NPCs as opposition and not really playing them like they would to play Huttball.  Everyone rushed the center, or attacked the ball carrying PC.  No one was going long for a pass, or moving to prevent the PCs from getting the ball.  So I went through all my NPCs who could appear in the huttball match and gave them one-paragraph notes on how they will act when playing the game.  Some will be all over the sport, some will enjoy the combat aspect, others will play a tactical-reserve game, and some will just be in there to hurt people and if they get the huttball they’re just as likely to toss it away because it throws off their aim.

It’s gonna be fun…32 days and counting.

Inspirational Works

The Age of Rebellion core rulebook finally released last week, and I picked up my copy from my Friendly Local Gaming Store (at a discount; the benefits of membership!)  One thing I immediately focused on was how damn pretty the book is.  The artwork in prior books in the companion line (Edge of the Empire) was good, and even some of it was re-used in this book, but my word the artists out-did themselves in this book.  So many iconic characters, and not-so Iconic ones.  One artist did Rebel Battle Armor from the old Star Wars Galaxies game, which made me long to see some updated imagery for my old R.I.S. Battle Armor my Armorer had made back in the day.

One artist who has done some phenomenal backdrops in the various FFG books is Mark Molnar.  I really enjoy his works, as they capture the high-tech yet desolate locales in the Star Wars Galaxy, and in some cases the vast urbanization of entire worlds.  His starships are majestic.  It’s just…insane.
Another great artist I’ve enjoyed is Anthony Foti.  His character portraits are incredible.  Absolutely gorgeous and inspiring.  Its artists like these that give me an urge to find a Computer Painting class at a local college and really learn how to get the most from some of these programs I have.  I’d love to do art a quarter as good as these guys.  My only issue is time, and the fact I don’t have much of it.  But I suppose if I really want to get something done I will set aside time for it.

Hosts with the Mosts

So that should do for now.  Once I’m “done” with my GenCon Mod I can start to focus on my impending Star Wars campaign, Another Longshot.  I really want to have this game be an “in-person” game as much as possible, but I may have to resign myself to the fact that I can never get everyone I want to at the same place at the same time.  I’ll just be happy to get my Expatriate Gamer and former co-host  Alex back from Georgia in October.

Speaking of co-hosts; I’m still the  “Regular Guest Host” on the Order 66 podcast for the immediate future.  This week we’ll be talking with Art Director Zoe Robinson from FFG about Rebellion Era Campaigns.  

Art Talk and Classic Star Wars with me, GM Chris, and a gaming industry pro; yeah, this will be a short podcast…

Thursday, June 19, 2014

GenCon Mod: Big League Chew

Okay, so I didn't post during my vacation.

Cut me some slack.  i was totally burned out from work and had quite a bit to get done on my vacation.  Relaxing stuff.  Game-prep stuff.  Costuming stuff.

...okay, I spent most of it playing video games, but I did get a lot done for my GenCon Module, including got a first attempted run through.  It was educational.  It was enlightening.

It was far too long for a Convention Module.

But that's okay, because I learned a lot in my first run through of the module.  I learned where some fat could be trimmed, and what was important and what wasn't.  I learned that there were some potential plot threads that I could tie together to make the story more cohesive, and what plot threads needed to be cut for fear of the adventure going horrifically off the rails.  I learned that the encounters I had made for the less-combative characters were token encounters; there to make them feel useful instead of actually contributing to the progression of the story.

And I learned that my signature encounter, the centerpiece for my module, is a giant clunky beast that takes a while to run.

I set aside 5 hours to run the module; from 1 to 6pm last Saturday.  We started at about 20 past; not too bad, but then we hit my first of many bogs.  You know; places where the story bogs down?  The intro "speeches" were way too long, and I realize after the fact that I gave away too much at the beginning.  Moving some of the discovery to the middle or even the very end of the module would work out much better, I think.

The investigation part of the module needs to be more than just an excuse for folks to use Streetwise, Social checks, and Knowledge skills.  It didn't really do a good job of moving the plot line along.  It either needs to contribute to the advancement of the story, or it needs to be gone.  Some plot elements got fleshed out better, a couple got dropped.

The showcase encounter got rolling at...3:30?  And we got through 5 rounds of combat before 6pm hit and we lost a player.  That's a lot longer than I want it to be, especially considering what comes after. 

I'm wondering if some of the slow down is the interface; Roll20.  There are some pretty involved changes to the map that take some time to complete, and they occur every round.  Maybe at the table things will go a little smoother.

This simply means I need to get the map for the encounter printed out, and start testing live and in person.  That could be tricky based on the inability to nail down 5 people locally long enough to play the damn game.


Maybe I'll keep running it online and just get more familiar with the module, and practice and improved familiarity with the flow of the module will reduce the delays.

As a final note; airfare has been purchased.  Now it's more official, I'll be at GenCon 2014.

And there will be much fun to be had.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

GenConMod: The Jedi Barsen'thor Companions

Here we are at the end of May.  A scant 75 days to GenCon 2014, and the official premiere of my GenCon Module.  Development is coming along, as is the process of turning my three pages of bullet points into something resembling an actual adventure write up.  Testing is going well, too.  I'm learning a lot about my NPCs, and the PCs I've been making.  One item that's become readily apparent is that the tanks are, well,  tanks.  They're stomping around with high Wound Thresholds and high Soak values, taking all comers and dealing out massive damage.  Bowdarr and Lord Scourge are the worst offenders; and I'm pretty sure Qyzen's going to add to that list.  I've been making passes at the stats, adjusting them and tweaking them for better balance. 

There is going to be a disparity between characters, that's apparent.  Some characters are simply going to be better in certain areas, and have more effective XP than others.  Still, as long as the character is effective, it should be okay.  The trick, tho; I have to make this module matter to everyone in the party regardless of their role.  Combat, social, skill challenges; the characters that are focused on more social aspects need to feel as useful and helpful as the ones like Scourge and Qyzen who will wallop anyone up against them.

That's going to be a trick; I look at my adventure path and it's a pretty straight line.  I need to include opportunities for more paths to the pivotal encounters.  Some combat, sure, but also a possibility for diplomacy, deception, and investigation to move the story.

I've got 75 days.

But first, one last group to write up stats for. 

Qyzen Fes

Race: Trandoshan
Career: Hired Gun
Specialization: Marauder
Brawn 4, Agility 1, Intellect 2, Cunning 3, Willpower 3, Presence 2
Wound Threshold: 22
Strain Threshold: 12
Soak Value: 8
M/R Defense: 1/1

Skills: Athletics 2, Brawl 2, Coercion 1, Discipline 1, Piloting (Planetary) 1, Melee 2,  Perception 1, Resilience 2, Survival 2, Vigilance 2
Talents: Defensive Stance, Enduring 2, Feral Strength 2, Frenzied Attack 2, Knockdown, Lethal Blows, Natural Brawler, Toughened 3

Equipment: Heavy Battle Armor, Vibro-Greatsword, 2 Stim-packs

As previously stated, Qyzen is a beat-stick.  He's got his vibro-greatsword and the talents to annihilate anything that comes up against him.  I'm actually thinking about removing a rank of Feral Strength and Frenzied Attack, just so he doesn't out DPS the DPSers.  Then again this is a module inspired by the companion character's role and story in The Old Republic.  Qyzen is a devoted hunter and a terror to face in combat.  Plus he worked pretty well as a damage dealer for my Consular in the game, so he could do the same here too.

I've pondered making him as a Big Game Hunter spec from Enter the Unknown to see what he'd look like.  Qyzen would lose a bit of tanking ability, but as a party support character it may work out better.  It's something for me to consider.

Tharan Cederax

Race: Human
Career: Colonist
Brawn 2, Agility 3, Intellect 5, Cunning 3, Willpower 2, Presence 2
Wound Threshold: 12
Strain Threshold: 13
Soak Value: 3
M/R Defense: 1/1

Skills: Charm 2, Computers 3, Knowledge (Lore) 2, Knowledge (Education) 3, Mechanics 2, Medicine 2, Ranged (Light) 3, Streetwise 3
Talents: Brace, Codebreaker, Grit, Intense Focus, Knowledge Specialization 2 (Education, Lore), Resolve, Stroke of Genius, Well-Rounded (Ranged [Light], Medicine)
Abilities: Holi-daze

Equipment: Armored Clothing, Blaster Pistol, Portable Holographic Projector, Portable Supercomputer (Holiday)

Tharan and Holiday are an odd pairing to be sure.  He's a brilliant scientist who's fallen in love with his creation; his super-computer holographic projection, Holiday.  And she loves him back.  How this relationship works is beyond me, but apparently not Hollywood.  In game, Holiday is the mechanism for Tharan's Medic-ability to put opponents in a fragile hold for 10 seconds. Holiday appears next to a target and dances seductively at them, dazing them.  An interesting ability to try to port over to a game, so I gave it a try and gave Tharan a unique ability.
"Holi-daze": Tharan can project Holiday towards a target out to Short Range and attempt to distract or daze the target.  Make a Computers check opposed by the target's Cool skill.  One success is needed to "hit" the target.  Three Advantage can be spent to immobilize the target until the start of Tharan's next turn.  Triumph can be spent to Stagger the target until the start of Tharan's next turn.  If the target takes any wound damage before the beginning of Tharan's turn, the effects end immediately. 
As a scholar, Tharan is a passable medic, a social protege, and a knowledge-skill titan.  He'll be useful in combat, but players will find more mileage from him by utilizing his non-combat skills in every situation they can.  This also brings up a disparity between role in the game and roles in the tabletop incarnation; a similar one as Guss Tuno from the Smuggler Crew.  Tharan's skill set and background don't really fit the role of "Team Medic" very well, and yet that's the role he plays in the Consular's party.  Since this module is more focused on the characters, and less on their SWTOR roles, Tharan merely dips into the Medicine ability and mostly focuses on his back-story as a brilliant scientist.


Race: Twi'lek
Career:Bounty Hunter
Brawn 2, Agility 4, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 2, Presence 3
Wound Threshold: 12
Strain Threshold: 14
Soak Value: 3
M/R Defense:  1/1

Skills: Athletics 2, Deception 1, Perception 2, Ranged (Heavy) 3, Skulduggery 2, Stealth 2, Streetwise 2, Vigilance 2
Talents: Dodge 2, Grit, Jump-up, Lethal Blows 2, Precise Aim 2, Stalker 2, Targeted Blow

Equipment: Armored Clothing, Modified Blaster Rifle

Zenith is a simple concept; build a sniper.  Pure DPS from start to finish, he's as basic a character concept as Bowdarr.  He does have some uses outside of combat, it's always good to have a character that can utilize stealth in a party.  But at his core, Zenith is all about finding that perfect position to bring down the opposition with a well placed blaster bolt from across the battlefield.

His rifle will be tricked out with some mods, but no where near as much as Risha Drayden's.  She's got a couple talents affecting her rifle anyway.  Zenith's lethality is based off his innate talents, where Risha's is based on her technical prowess.

Felix Iresso

Race: Human
Career: Soldier
Brawn 3, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 3, Presence 3
Wound Threshold: 19
Strain Threshold: 14
Soak Value: 6
M/R Defense: 2/2

Skills: Athletics 2, Brawl 2, Discipline 1, Knowledge (Warfare) 1, Mechanics 1, Ranged (Heavy) 3, Resilience 3, Survival 1
Talents: Armor Master, Durable 2, Grit, Heroic Fortitude, Improved Armor Master, Physical Training, Point Blank, Strong Arm, Toughened 3, Unstoppable

Equipment: Blaster Rifle (Forearm Grip Mod), Heavy Battle Armor, 2 stim-packs

Felix is kind of a better-liked Corso; possibly due to the fact that he isn't as annoying.  The only character in the Barsen'thor's party who translates as a Career from Age of Rebellion, Felix fills the role of a Ranged Tank.  Much like his counterpart in Havoc Squad, M1-4X, Commando seems to be the perfect tree for this gun-toting bruiser.  His soak value isn't that high, but his Wound Threshold is respectable, as is his ability to shrug off critical injuries.

I didn't feel that a high Brawn fit Felix; although I could make a change for the sake of his Soak and Wound Threshold.  Brawn is both strength and toughness, and Felix is a tough customer.  Felix is best utilized laying down fire with his blaster rifle, drawing attention away from the squishier members of the team.

Nadia Grell

Race: Sarkhai
Career: Jedi
Brawn 2, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 4, Presence3
Wound Threshold: 12
Strain Threshold: 17
Soak Value: 3
M/R Defense: 1/1

Skills: Athletics 1, Charm 1, Lightsaber 3, Discipline 2, Negotiate 2, Perception 2, Ranged (Light) 1, Resilience 2
Talents: Ataru 2, Grit 3, Force Rating 3, Force of Will, Jump Up, Makashi, Nobody's Fool, Precise Aim, Second Wind, Sense Emotions, Smooth Talker, Uncanny Senses
Abilities: Force Power Move (Force Point: Move a Silhouette 0 item within Short range up to Max Range. Can hurl objects with enough force to damage targets with Discipline check.  Spend a Force Point: to increase Silhouette able to be targeted by 2. Spend a Force Point: Increase the Range Band by 1.) Force Power Enhance (May roll Enhance power check as part of Athletics, Coordination, Piloting [Planetary], or Piloting [Space]; Spend Force Point to add Success or Advantage to the check.  Commit Force Die: User increases her Agility characteristic by 1.  May make a Enhance power check to make a Force Leap Maneuver to move to any point horizontally or vertically to any location in Short range.  Spend Force Point: increase Force Leap range band by one)

Equipment: Saberstaff, Armored Clothing,2 Stimpacks

Ah, Nadia; I felt so creepy romancing you while playing the Consular.  Probably because I thought of my Consular, Dunne, as my age.  And Nadia's like...17.  She seems that way, anyway.  And a padawan.  My padawan.  

Creepy...Anyway, abilities!  

Nadia is built for close range damage.  Legally, to be able to deal damage with Move she needs to have one Range upgrade.  I'm tempted to remove it for the sake of the module, and give her a Magnitude upgrade instead (allowing her to affect multiple targets at once).  That would probably fit better.  I mean, I could do both, but she didn't really use telekinesis much at range.  She's a close-in fighter, I sort of would like to encourage that.  

Because of her role, Nadia also has Enhance to give her Force Jump.  I also bought down the Enhance line to let her boost Agility by committing a Force Die.  More Agility when it matters, and lowers the number of Force Dice for Move.  I can work with that.  (Assuming the player elects to do it that way...)

First Run

I had originally planned to run one of the final sessions of my Order 65 campaign in mid-June.  Due to some conflicts with the players, I'm going to run my players through the module.  I have to start testing it now.  I have no clue how many times I'll get to run and tweak the module before GenCon, so I'm going to grab every opportunity I can.  

And every run should make the final product better.

That's the plan, anyway.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Funny Thing Happend at My Brother's Wedding

Going to be a bit of a quick post this week.  I've been having some good luck with my GenCon Module, and the playtesting of the highlight encounter.  I've actually got another test run Wednesday night with the Smuggler Companions.  Should be a hoot.

I didn't quite realize how much of a monster I made Bowdarr.  Meh, that's okay.  Risha's actually pretty obscene too with her tricked out Blaster Sniper Rifle, with mods and Jury-Rigging and Tinkering.  High damage, high accuracy, Pierce, low Crit Rating; not too shabby for an Outlaw Tech.

Armored Groom

But the big thing I wanted to talk about is another secret project I've been working on for most of the year, but couldn't talk about it because my brother reads this blog.  He got married this past weekend, and me and a few others got together and picked up a suit of Imperial Knight armor for him to finish off and get approved for the Rebel Legion.

I had some trouble working on it until the weather got decent in New Hampshire...which was sometime around the first weekend in May.  Prior to that it was either too cold or too rainy to spray paint.

It trimmed out pretty well.  I was still having problems coating the suit in three layers of Red Valspar for Plastic.  It was either so windy the paint went sideways, or a Goddamned bug would fly in front of the spray and plaster itself into the wet paint on the armor.  I had to sand and re-spray three pieces because of that, including the back-plate.  Damned bugs...

So anyway, three coats of red, and eventually will put on a coat of clear protective glossy to preserve the finish and give it a nice shine.  I ran out of time so I sort of put the armor together haphazardly and mounted it on my duct-tape dummy that I have.

It still needs the undersuit and belt.  And the cape is just the material draped over it, not really sewn into it's proper shape yet.  Still, it's progress towards getting my brother into the Rebel Legion with an Imperial Knight. 

Actually, the 501st Legion also recently approved this outfit for membership.  It's a good guy, but it's an Imperial Knight.  Got the cogs and everything.  It falls under the "TR" designation for the Flagship Eclipse Detachment (basically the place for all the Expanded Universe costumes).

Let's see how long it takes my brother to get this finished.  I'd love to see him as a Rebel Legionnaire by the end of the year.

We'll see!