Friday, March 25, 2011

"Birthday Wishes" or "Phil Wants to Wacom"

So I've had my eye on a Wacom Intuos4 computer tablet for quite some time now.  I'm an artist, sketchwork mostly, and I've wanted to use computer programs for artwork for some time.  The problem is my mousework blows, it looks horrible when I try to draw most anything with a mouse.  So, I end up drawing on paper scanning it in to the computer, and trying to manipulate it there. 

But back to the Wacom tablets, they've intrigued me for years, and now they're finally down to the price were I'd feel comfortable putting down some serious coin for them.  The problem is, like many folks out there, I have no coin.  I'm trying to get my credit down so I can get married and maybe a home in the next year or two, and don't have a lot of extra cash to put aside for electronics that really fall into the category of "Nice to Have".

But that doesn't stop me from coveting.  Greed and Gluttony are my Sins.  Such is life.

I posted about it in another blog, and one of my lovely friends said the following:

"I am a big fan of the whole "put up a PayPal button and see what happens" theory... :)" hey, what the heck, right?

Between now and April 15th I will be taking contributions to the "Get Phil a good Wacom for his Birthday" fund.  On the 15th I'll take the button down and transfer funds to my checking account so on my birthday a few days later I'll skip into Best Buy and pick up my new electronic piece of awesomeness.

Everything I get will go directly towards the price of an Intuos4 Medium tablet from Wacom.  With this I'll be able to dive into computer art, map making, and other computer artistic activities sure to get me into trouble with someone.

Donate a little, donate nothing, donate what you like. 

In any event, happy birthday to me, right?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Episode 68: Dynamic Space Battles

I love space battles.  Seriously love them.  My college years were dominated by hours of play on TIE Fighter and X-Wing Alliance.  And it’s an unusual occurrence to go more than two sessions in my games and not have some sort of space encounter.

SAGA edition has done away with a lot of the old, tactical based combat mechanics like facing and turn radius, and allowed us to run space combat simply yet dynamically, just like ground combat.  But just like ground combat, if you’re not careful your space encounters can devolve into uninteresting sessions of dice rolling.

I noticed something when I ran my last game session.  One PC was in a Jedi Starfighter, and the rest in a Nu-class Shuttle from the Clone Wars campaign guide.  They faced off against 6 Droid Starfighters in orbit around Onderon.  There were squares filled with the wreckage of destroyed cruisers, to allow for sources of cover.   There was the atmospheric disturbance between Onderon and its moon Dxun, causing difficult terrain and some concealment for units with it.  At first, itlooked like the makings for a fun encounter.

Then combat started, and devolved into the Droid fighters flying up to point blank range on the Nu-Class Shuttle or the Jedi Starfighter.  The PC in the Jedi Fighter smartly headed for the wreckage for all the cover he could get from the Droids, but other than that no one moved.  All ships just sat there, with their players (myself included), content to just roll dice until the droid fighters were wiped out.

How droll.

GMs, my advice to you is to take a page from your days playing the X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter games and apply that to SAGA edition.  When your tiny little fragile fighter had to make attack runs on larger ships, you’d get your shields up, bomb in, make your attacks, and then fly off.  If you had buddies with you, you’d wait to let one draw the target’s fire, then all gang up on the ship and leave in different directions.  Have your ships in SAGA edition do that too.

Unless you’re running a game based around a fighter squadron, odds are your PCs have one, maybe two ships.  A light freighter they’ve turned into a gunship, and maybe a starfighter.  Possibly held in something like my custom Fighter Cradle rules.

If you fly up to point blank range on a large ship, bristling with multiple PCs in multiple turrets, any ship that survives sitting next to the PC’s gunship for one round should shoot first on their following turn then move as far and as fast as possible, preferably in different directions, forcing the PC flying the gunship to pick one fighter to go after so his gunners can make attacks with the fewest penalties possible.  It gets more action out of the map, presents a realistic tactic for the enemy, and should make the encounter more interesting and hopefully fun.

That’s all for this post.  Until next time, 20 side up, one side down.

Originally aired on The Order 66 Podcast Episode 123: "Die Meatbag Die"

Setting the Mood

To coincide with the recent subject matter discussed on the Order 66 podcast, I want to pimp out a program I've been using lately in my games.  Syrinscape is an audio file player and 15 slot soundboard. 

GMs can set up 6 different audio channels to play music, sound effects, and sound loops at random intervals as background to their gaming scenes.  Punctuate that tense negotiation with the Duke during a royal dinner by having mood music, crowd dinning noises, and crackling fire from the fireplace in the background.  Immerse your players trying to hold back a legion of Stormtroopers with blaster bolts, explosions, swinging lightsaber sounds, and dramatic scores from John Williams.  Even something as "mundane" as sitting in a tavern or cantina disucssing the PC's next course of action can be enhanced with approriate sound clips as background noise.

It takes a couple hours of investment to find and rename all the audio files, and place them into "states" that you can call up as needed, but once you do it they're ready to roll at any time.

I love this program.  And best of all, it's free. 

GMs, if you want to enhance your games, give this program a try.