Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lando's Used Shipyard: YT-1300

This is the text for the new Segment I'm doing on a seemingly monthly basis for the Order 66 Podcast.  I'm working with fellow Star Wars nut and D20 Radio contributor FULONGAMER.  We're actually using sound-files of Billy Dee Williams for the "Lando" lines.  Folks liked it, and we hope to do many, many more in the future.  For clarity sake, my dialouge is in Red, while FULONGAMER's is Black.

EDIT: This is odd...all the text after this line, which appears in the "edit" screen, is not appearing on the published page.  How irritating...

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Matter of Great Import

One of the most enjoyable things about being a GM, to me, is memorable combat encounters.  I really enjoy crafting an interesting fight location, populating it with memorable opponents and complex (yet fun) terrain and hazards, and running my PCs through a fight they'll talk about for months.  One of the biggest problems I encounter is the survivability of certain NPCs, specifcally the Big-Bad-Evil-Guys (BBEGs).  I either have to give them so much that they could one-shot a PC, or I make them close to the PC's level, he gets tag teamed, and blanket-partied into the ground in two rounds.

On the other end of the spectrum, I enjoy giving the PCs a room full of targets that they can mow through, but I don't like the NPCs being no threat to the heroes.  If I have a group of five 8th level heroes, and I give them thirty standard Battle Droids to face, those droids are toast, have a 5% chance to hit the PCs (by rolling a Natural 20), and the PCs engage in the chore of tearing them up by going through the motions.  I want to beef up the droid's attacks and damages, but not their crunchability.  If I add more levels, they'll get tougher.

This is assuming I make my NPCs "play by the rules of advancement".  One question I've been asking myself a lot lately is "Why do they have to?"  After an enjoyable and insightful conversation in the Post Show of the most recent Order 66 Podcast, I'm starting to put thoughts to paper (or keyboard, in this case) about adapting some runes for monsters in D&D 4e and porting them over to Star Wars Saga Edition.


The first step is Minions.  In 4e, these crunchtastic targets are generally equal to the PCs in attack rolls, a little sub-part on the Defense numbers (the number needed to hit them), and deal a set amount of damage (usually the average for the weapon's damage dice, rounded down).  They may also have a neat trick or two that they do, like shift "X" number of squares after a PC misses them, or get +1 to attack rolls when adjacent to another NPC Ally of their type.  In all cases, they have 1 hit point and never take damage on a miss (so missed AoE attacks that usually do half damage do no damage to minions).   Minions are worth 25% of the normal XP award for an NPC of their same level/Challenge.

GM Chris [on the Order 66 Podcast] has developed his own set of rules concerning Minions.  He will make an NPC with the usual number of stats, Feats, and Talents, but they'll only be able to take one "hit".  One successful attack, and they're done.  If they get hit by an Area-of-Effect attack that misses, they are assigned a "half hit".  Presumably this is to allow someone to pop some AoE attacks (like setting a blaster to Auto-fire), miss twice (dealing half damage, normally), and still being able to drop the Minions in two rounds.

I like this rule.  I can throw the PCs against B1 Battle Droids, Sith Troopers, Stormtroopers, or Pirates and the PCs will hewn through them with every hit.  Also, it makes them a viable threat.  That takes care of the first part; crunchy-yet-threatening.  But what about the second thing I wanted to do for them; increase their tactical ability in combat.

There are many talents and feats that I could use for this, but paging through the Monster manual comes up with some interesting ideas.  I could assign an extra ability to the various Minions.  Looking at Goblins, they have Goblin Tactics, which allows them to shift 1 square when they are missed by a melee attack.  Neat ability, something I could see giving Pirate Minions for when those pesky Jedi or Axe-wielding Wookies get in their faces and miss.  Hobgoblins get Phalanx Soldier, where they gain a +2 bonus to AC while at least one hobgoblin ally is adjacent to them.  I could see this as an ability for Battle Droids, or Stormtroopers.  Two enemy groups that are routinely seen fighting adjacent to each other.  These types of bonuses favor the tactics we've seen various "thugs and mooks" take in Star Wars media.  It could work with a little refinement.

Serious Threats

You've taken three days to carefully sculpt, tweak, and hone your BBEG's abilities, talents, and feats to make them a devastator on the battlefield.  You look at your work, and then look at the PCs just-as-carefully-sculpted abilities, and at their number of Destiny Points.  You come to the realization that, by following the rules of NPC and Character Creation, your BBEG is a two-round threat.  The PCs simply have enough Destiny Points to auto-crit your NPC to Hell and back.  Or worse, the PCs are so honed that they don't need Destiny Points, and can utilize high powered attack rolls, weapons, and twinked out Use the Force checks to render your NPC useless. 

What they need is an edge, one that isn't just leveling up the NPC to be 5 or 6 levels over the PCs.  Digging into the 4e Dungeon Master's Guide, I came across "Templates".  This may be the starting point for what I'm looking for.  While "Death Knight", "Lich", and "Mummy Lord" may not be viable right out of the box, several others are. 

Look at the "Battle Champion" template.  It gives a bonus to it's Defenses (AC and Fortitude), +1 Action Point, +8 hit points per level, and several useful tactic abilities that could translate well to Saga Edition.  Battle Lord Tactics grants an extra d6 of damage to allies that are flanking an enemy with the Battle Champion.  Battle Talent allows the Champion to score a critical hit with a 19 or 20.  Finally, Inspiring Assault heals the Battle Champion and all Allies within 5 squares of him by a number equal to half the Battle Champion's level.

How could this look?  Let's add this to your average Stormtrooper from the SECR.
  • Reflex Defense would increase to 18, and Fortitude Defense would increase to 14.  Not too shabby...
  • +1 Action Point could be 1 of two options, either give the Stormtrooper Force Points (I'd give him 3), or give him a Destiny Point to purely spend on another round of actions
  • Hit Points would increase to 42 (Base 10, +8 x 4 non-heroic levels).  That's one beefy Stormtrooper commander
  • Because the Stormtrooper is a ranged attacker, I doubt Battle Lord Tactics would come into play much, but if it does, it's a bonus d6 damage for any of the Stormtrooper Commander's allies.
  • Battle Talent is just pure awesome, and potentially very deadly.  I see this NPC as a hefty threat to 2nd and 3rd level characters, characters that could be killed by a well rolled Crit from a Blaster Rifle.  But hey, that's what Destiny Points are for (spent by the PC target to negate an attack all together), am I right?
  • Inspiring Assault could shine, but it could also not come into play much at all.  Odds are the PCs will mow down the average 10 hit-point Stormtrooper without much trouble.  Healing everyone 2 HPs when the Stormtrooper Commander hits won't do that much unless the PC's just dropped the Stormtrooper and didn't kill them.
Supposedly, this Stormtrooper Commander is worth twice the normal XP for such an opponent.  Looking at the numbers, I'd probably tweak that to three times the award.  This guy is beefy, at least equal to a 2nd or 3rd level Soldier.  Maybe even more-so, with his ability to score a Crit 10% of the time and the extra full round of actions once per encounter.

Under Development

I really like where this is going.  It's going to surprise some of my players, for sure, but I hope it's going to be fun and challenging for them.  As I work on the details and development of this "4e import", I'll update my progress here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Long Time Ago...

It's sadly been quite a while since I had the opportunity to update this blog.

(Aright, to be honest and fair I've had plenty of opportunity, I just haven't had the mental drive to.)

I'm going to take a moment or two and try to back-fill in what's been going on in my Costuming and Gaming career since last we spoke.  I've started a new, non-Star Wars campaign, returned to one of my Star Wars campaigns with feelings of trepidation, and went to Dragon*Con 2011.


As mentioned in a previous post, I have returned to the lands of Barsaive and am running a new campaign set in the world of Earthdawn.  Called the Exiled Lords*, the campaign will focus on a band of heroes drawn to the village of Asylum, and their discovery of two great legends; the Books of Scale and the Exiled Lords.  The game just completed it's second session, and the PCs are being very forthcoming with keeping the Obsidian Portal site for the game up to date.  This is because there are mechanics in the game that reward Players for keeping journals of their hero's exploits.  I've also devised mechanics for awarding the PCs more experience for contributing to the website.  In a game system where you spend Experience Points to improve your character's abilities, there's a ton of motivation to write a few paragraphs to get enough XP for a new Talent or to improve an old one.

Go and check it out if you're curious.  The PCs are doing a heck of a job.

Star Wars: Brothers in Arms

Back to the main focus of this Blog; Star Wars gaming.  I ran/returned to my Clone Wars Era campaign this past Monday night, and it went okay.  There's a lot of cob-webs to shake loose, a new character to introduce, and a general feeling of dread on my part.  We really only had time for one space encounter and a bit of roleplaying that led into a set up for a combat encounter at the start of the next session. 

As is typical with any social group, a lot of time was lost in the game session catching up with each other.  Some of us hadn't seen other players for months, and a lot has happened over the summer.  I'm just as much an offender to the "tangent of stories" as the rest of the players, I found myself side-tracked at least three times when I should have been bringing the focus of the evening back to the gaming table.  I figure it's going to take another 2-3 sessions before we get back into the groove of gaming, and are able to stay focused.

I still wish folks would refrain from dropping the innuendo-fueled comment of "That's what she said!" at every humorous opportunity.  It's a rampant problem in that game.  Cure for the first twenty times, but it's gotten old.  To me, anyway.

There are two hurdles in this "re-launch"; first is that I lost a Clone.  When we started we had three clone troopers; a character going Arc Trooper, a support clone trooper who was actually Force sensitive, and a Clone Commando named "Professor".  The player of "Professor" wasn't having fun with the Follower system and it really colored his perceptions of his Clone Commando he made.  We tried various mechanics, including using the Droid's Protocol system as a base for handling his followers, but nothing seemed to be working well.  He wanted to stop playing Professor and has swapped out to a Bith Jedi Knight.  I didn't get to see the character until that night, because the player procrastinated in even making the character (he had 3 months; what the hell, man?)  I haven't even really had a chance to see the character and review it, so I'm glad that the first encounter was a space encounter that the Jedi wasn't really built for.  Now I have a copy and can review him.

Thanks to my brother for taking a look at the Jedi, and noticing the player chose Phase for a Force Power.  I don't allow Phase in my game.  This is Star Wars, not X-Men; no "Kitty Pride Tricks" in my campaign.  Now I have to look it over and see if there are any other issues with it.

With the loss of the Professor, and the character evolution of the Force Sensitive Clone Trooper, the game is starting to feel less and less like a "Brothers in Arms" situation.  The players are all the same, but the in-play dynamics have changed.  It could all just be me not being in the mind-set of the campaign after 4 months, or it could be more of a feeling of writer's block with where to take the game.  It's something that I'll have to figure out and play out over the next few weeks.

Dragon*Con 2011

An amazing and good time.  Anyone who's into TV and Movie Stars, Sci-Fi and Horror, and Costumes needs to go to this Con.  I spent way too much money there (I'm looking at you Ultra-Sabers...damn you and your Convenction Discount prices!) and had a great time.  Sadly I caught the "Con Crud" and in the drive back to New England gave it to my Fiancee.  I've still got a cough that I can't quite get rid of...

Bumped into Sam Witwer, of D20 Radio fame (he also does this side project, acting in Sci-Fi's Being Human TV Series as the vampire Adian).  Sadly didn't get a chance to talk to him for very long, but it was nice to be able to shake his hand none the less.  I had much better luck talking with Star Wars authors Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston.  Two very cool guys, and fun to just shoot the breeze with. 

I'll get up pics of the costuming I did soon, I just don't have them accessible right now.  Commander Fil in the Georgia heat, and my contribution to a Renassaiance JLA costuming group.  It was awesome.

That's it for now.  Back to blogging, and back to growing Fragments from the Rim.

* Yes, I totally stole the name from the forthcoming Sith Empire guild the D20 Radio listeners plan to form when The Old Republic MMO launches later this year.  It's a solid name!