Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Year, New Game, New Podcast, Old Habits

Welcome to 2013!

I look at this dust-covered blog and think "wow, you're a slacker.  You haven't posted since July."  To be fair, my life has been something of an anarchic ball of chaos these past six months.  Buying a home takes a lot out of you, and if you work in mortgages in this time of low prices and lower rates, you get drained a lot due to volume of work.  You seek diversions more, and creativity less.  I haven't written much for any table-top game, for the Gamer Security Agency, nor have I worked on any costume in the last half of 2012. 

That being said, my Old Republic characters have been steadily chugging their levels along into the 30s and 40s...

Changes have happened, my life is starting to stabilize, and there are some exciting developments coming down the pipeline.  Let's start with the gaming, shall we?

New hotness...
 Edge of the Empire

Back in August, it was announced a GenCon that not only was Fantasy Flight Games working on a new Star Wars RPG, but they actually had a Beta Book available for purchase at the con.  The concept of a "Beta" game book for a table-top RPG was new to me, but as I look back on it, it makes sense.  Why have a limited playtest group of a hundred players when you can release a beta ruleset and get thousands of folks playing and giving feedback.  Paizo's done it with Pathfinder, Evil Hat is doing it with their FATE ruleset, so it's a brilliant move for FFG to do it with Edge of the Empire. 

I originally balked at the game and the system for two reasons.  First, the game has a very narrow focus.  Its designed for running games for characters living on the fringe of society in the Outer Rim, during the Rebellion Era.  The system mechanics are very bent towards Obligations (debts to enities & organizations, duty, addictions, family, etc.) and the periphery of the Rebellion Era, and has very little for Force Users or pure Rebellion characters.  Makes sense, because the next two books are Age of Rebellion and Force & Destiny.  The problem is these next two "Core books" are due out in 2014 and 2015 respectively.  I have to wait until 2015 for a more in-depth ruleset for Force Users and Jedi?  Pass!

The second reason I was resistant to change was that I am a fan of SAGA Edition.  Its the game that got me involved with the d20 Radio network, which lead to my involvement with podcasting for All-STOP and the Holocron 2.0.  It's what started me doing the Fragments from the Rim segment on the Order 66 podcast, and led me to start this blog.  I've got a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in SAGA Edition, which likely made me hyper-sensitive to anything in Edge that didn't come close to fulfilling the depth of crunchy material that SAGA has.

When I went to Star Wars Celebration VI, FFG was there with their X-Wing game and with a stack of Edge of the Empire BETA rulebooks.  I decided to drop my $30 and give it a shot.  I should at least read through it because Chris and Dave on the Order 66 Podcast were raving about it.  What little I read got confusing (11 pages just on the dice mechanic?) and discouraging (Yup, no Jedi!  Argh!).  With the chaos of my home-life, it was easy to put Edge asside and focus on other things for a few months.  Then in November the Order 66 Podcast announces they're changing formats from SAGA to FFG's system, and I have a conundrum.  "Do I keep doing Fragments from the Rim for the Order 66 guys?  Do I branch it off for something else?  Do I let it go?"  I had already lost a podcast when Fiddleback decided to stop playing The Old Republic, so I was about to lose my "radio presence" entirely if I didn't change too.  Plus there was something about Edge of the Empire that stirred within me, something that reminded me of the games I played way back in the day, when I first started gaming with the West End Games era of Star Wars RPGs.

I picked up Edge of the Empire again and forced myself to read it, and try to understand it.  After 200 pages (and an additional 12 pages from eleven weeks of Beta Rules updates), I found myself liking the system.  Yes, it's fringe Star Wars (Some would say it's "Firefly Star Wars" but screw you guys.  The show lasted 13 episodes and a movie.  It's never coming back.  Get over it.), but fringe Star Wars is where it all began, wasn't it?  Looking back, how many of you played in a Star Wars campaign where you were all Han Solo types, freebooting around the Outer Rim refusing to join the Rebellion but sticking it to the Imperials every chance you got?  I don't think you can say you played Star Wars until you've played a game or two in that theme.  Everyone's played it, so it makes sense to start a new game there, with something familiar.

The nostalgia for SAGA was slowly transformed into a nostalgia for Star Wars gaming as a whole, and the Edge of the Empire captured that for me.  It's also shinny and new, taking Star Wars gaming from a more tactical-heavy RPG to a more free-form narrative-heavy/map-light game.  I look at Edge of the Empire and I'm amazed how easy it would be to adapt a game session to the players going "off the rails".  I can eyeball NPC stats a lot better, and even make them up completely on the fly.  Creating NPCs themselves are more organic, less formulaic; I can simply say "I want this NPC to have these skills, these stats, and these abilities".  It doesn't matter if a PC couldn't do it, it's an NPC, they shouldn't follow the same rules as PC Character building.  Yes, I could do that with SAGA, sure.  But I don't know; something about SAGA compeled me to make NPCs "the right way", to follow the same rules and progressions as Player Characters.  Giving them an extra feat or talent felt like cheating somehow.  I like how I can make the NPCs do what I need them to do in Edge, without causing their defenses, hit points, or other stats to change dramatically beyond what the PCs can handle.

So I'm working on Edge of the Empire, and getting involved with the Gamer Nation on the d20 Radio boards with home-brewing rules.  Specifically, I'm eager to help brew rules for Jedi; because I sure as hell am not waiting until 2015 for Jedi PCs, not if I am now leaning towards using FFG's system for my "Another Longshot" campaign.

Fragments For the Future

This transition from SAGA Edition to Edge of the Empire means another slight change to the focus of my Order 66 segment.  When I made the decision to switch to EotE, I also decided to make some changes to how I produce my Fragments segment for the show.  Instead of the "persona" of Darth GM, and introduced by one of my "loyal minions", the segment is now introduced by a female bartender character, and my persona is one of a mysterious cantia patron named "Ji'em Fil".  He's an explorer who seeks out and shares little secrets in the galaxy (and the game).  He also may be Darth GM-in-hiding, but we'll see how that develops.  The first installment was in Episode 2 of the new Order 66 podcast, and seemed to go over quite well.  I'm looking forward to the next few episodes. 

The focus on the Fragments from the Rim segment has been to highlight one specific aspect of the game, be it a character ability, talent, or Force power.  Sometimes I'd even do a segment on gamemaster aids, like music or props.  I'm going to continue to do that for the Order 66 show, but it's going to be a little while before I can focus on the character talents and game mechanics choices of the system.  Until then I'm digging through my old West End Games books looking for inspiration that can be used in the new EotE system. 

You Can't Stop the Signal

Back in September, Fiddleback and I recorded our last episode of The Holocron 2.0 podcast, our podcast for the d20 Radio network for Star Wars, The Old Republic.  Fiddleback was ceasing his subscription, and was no longer interested in the game enough to keep playing, even given the Free-To-Play model the game was switching to in November.  So once again I found myself without a podcast to host.  I took a few months off, and then was approached by my good friend Erich Schafer to co-host a new podcast for my other hobby (and focus for this blog); the Rebel Legion. 

The Rebel Legion has been wanting a podcast for some time now, and Erich thought I'd make a good co-host with him.  We got the first podcast of All Wings Report In out the door at the beginning of January, and are currently in the process of lining up the next few shows.  It's going to be a monthly moouthpiece for the Rebel Legion, but it won't just be for news of the Legion.  We're going to have a variety of topics to talk about, including in-depth looks and discussions about the costumes in the Legion, adapting and acting in-character for the costume you're wearing, and hopefully interviews with Honorary Members of the Legion (i.e. Celebrities).

It's good to be on the air again.

Dying Hard

Now to the subject of old habits; I have them.  I cycle through interests like a juke-box.  I have "Attention Deficit-...OH SHINNY!" disorder.  How many months will I be updating here before I have another dead air period?  Good question.  So, in an effort to try and stick with this, I shall do my own version of Sterling Hershey's "Star Wars Wednesdays".  My goal is to have something up on this blog every Thursday (simply because reading Sterling's blog should remind me to update my own.

And hopefully my next update will involve some progress on my Jedi Consular costume...

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