Thursday, January 28, 2016

Writing Pause - A Break in the Narrative

So, one of the things that's keeping me from continuing my "Force Awakens" re-writes is the amount of writing for other things I'm finding myself doing for the later half of January.

Last weekend I had my Group Besh run for Another Longshot, which went over pretty well. They're engrossed in an interesting bit of spycraft and political maneuvering all set to the backdrop of a "Motorcross" style speeder-bike race. We didn't actually get to the race last weekend, so we have plans to finish up the session on Super Bowl Sunday (since my Patriots lost, I'm not really concerned with a conflict anymore). I want to get it done because it looks like I won't be able to run that group again until April, at least.

This week, I'm writing like a fiend trying to finish up the session for Group Aurek (My "mostly Force Users" group). I had a severe case of writers block with the adventure until the group decided on what they wanted for a "Rebel Base" (a la the home base rules in Desperate Allies). They wanted a space station, I had ideas about something about two years ago and wrote it into the Hagen Sector, and it looks like the two could fit together nicely. Two words; space dungeon.

In addition to all this, we've got another episode of the Order 66 Podcast coming up this Sunday. This week, we're going over a "loved-at-first-glance, but-not-after-reading-it" Spec for our "Well Isn't That Special" segment; the Shadow from Force & Destiny. I want to contribute what I can to that discussion, but that means I have to block more time for writing and research.

Then there's Gamernation Con...are you going to Gamer Nation Con 2016?  I am; and I've got ideas for modules that I need to write, test, and prep for while I'm there. I'll be bringing The Guns of Nova Rain, my first "Knights of the Rebellion" module, but I also have the rough idea for a sequel and second module tentatively titled The Hunt for Bloodfall. Finally, there's this idea that I've had since November that I really need to get on paper and get out there, and since the theme of this year's GNC is the Post-Apocalypse, I'd be negligent not to write, develop, and bring my "Edge of the Fallout" module. Yup, Edge of the Empire in a pre-Fallout 4 setting. No title for the module yet, but I'm working on it.

Oh yeah, plus I've been sick all day, and haven't wanted to write much of anything.  Gah.

Gonna be a long and busy couple of days. What can you do?

More next week, I promise.

May the dice be with you.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

TFA; FFG Style - Part One

After a couple weeks of utter "fluff posts" where I reintroduce myself to my own blog, it's time to get back into the nitty gritty of what I was born to do; geek out about Role Playing Games. This week specifically will be an uninvited retort of a post by author Max Gladstone from a week or so ago where he basically lays out several of the key moments in The Force Awakens to West End Game's old D6 version of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. Curious to take my hand at shoehorning, this week I shall mirror Mr. Gladstone's work, scene for scene.  Head on over and read his article so you can get a baseline of where I'm working from; he does a real nice job of presenting D6 Star Wars in a nutshell.

Research and Development

Looking over this excersize, it occurs to me that The Force Awakens is a nice example of a game where two PCs are new characters, and two PCs are old war horses from a previous campaign. Finn and Rey are perfect starting characters; they have their brief introduction which serves as their back story, and  the opening scene on Jakku is a nice opening adventure. Rey finds BB-8, and Unkar Plutt recognizes the droid and sends thugs after it. The thugs attack Rey, and Finn's path crosses hers. Not exactly "you meet up in a cantina, looking for adventure", but the sudden appearance of the First Order takes care of pushing them to adventure together.

But I'm getting ahead of myself; let's get these two PCs on paper, shall we?

Feeling Finn-icky

Let's start with a PC named John.  John wants to make Finn the Stormtrooper; or actually the soon-to-be-ex Stormtrooper. D6 has the advantage here because it allows Finn to be made organically, there are no classes in the D6 system. For FFG, we need to find a "best fit". The inclination may be to start Finn off as a Soldier Career from the Age of Rebellion book, and you certainly could. I think Finn's story starts when he decides to leave the First Order, which means he wouldn't have a Duty score (the mechanism by which your character gains prestige in their organization). He's being hunted by the First Order for having freed a VIP (Very Important Prisoner), blown up a hanger bay full of troopers while stealing a TIE Fighter, and shot up General Hux's shinny new star destroyer. That screams for an Obligation (in this case, Hunted) which says to me that Finn's PC Career is from Edge of the Empire.

What do we know about Finn? He's tough, he's decent in a melee fight, he's good with a blaster or a gunner's emplacement. He's not technically inclined, nor is he exceptionally resistant to fear or intimidation (at first, anyway).  Humans start with 110 XP, and 2s in every Characteristic.  These are the Characteristics we have to work with (in case there's anyone reading this who isn't familiar with the FFG Star Wars system).

Brawn - Combination of Strength and Constitution/Endurance, how touch you are, how good you are at physical tasks involving strength, power, and endurance. Used for melee attacks like punching, kicking, and hitting folks with sticks (or with lightsabers).
Agility - Manual dexterity and hand to eye coordination. Used for skills involving balance, reflexes (piloting), and ranged combat of all flavors.
Intellect - Mental dexterity, knowing things, understanding of machines. Knowledge skills and mechanical skills use Intellect.
Cunning - A measure of how crafty and perceptive you are. Thieving skills, Deception, and general awareness are covered here.
Willpower - Mental fortitude and strength of the mind. Willpower drives determination to accomplish a task or resist the influence of others. Very important characteristic for Force Users.
Presence - Charisma and the ability to use it. Most of the social skills that rely on convincing others (Charm, Leadership, Coercion) rely on  Presence.

As stated, Finn is tough; like, really tough. He can take a beating and seems pretty athletic. He powered his way though the Jakku desert (Brawn + Resilience) rather than using his Cunning to survive it (Cunning + Survival). Finally, he fakes using Luke's old saber pretty well, relying solely on the Characteristic for that. John gives his character a Brawn of 4 to reflect this. That's 70 of his 110xp. Finn is a good shot too, so his Agility should be above average at 3 for another 30xp. That leaves 10xp, plus another 10 if John takes on more Obligation, which he will. John's character starts with +10 on his Hunted Obligation (the First Order is really pissed at Finn for freeing Poe and shooting up their hanger bay). We'll want that 20xp for skills.

The most likely career for Finn is a Hired Gun, and the Spec that fits best is Mercenary Soldier. It best  exemplifies the training he received from the First Order, and his new role in the galaxy as a gun-for-hire. Finn gets four Career Skills at Rank 1 for no cost; from the list available we'll take Athletics, Resilience,Vigilance and Melee. The first three are appropriate for basic training, and Melee because Finn and "TR-8R" had training in shock-batons during Basic, according to Finn also gets two Skills from his Specialization skills list; this is a no brainer - Gunnery and Ranged (Heavy). He's not a leader (not yet), he's not exceptionally disciplined (his nerve breaks often during the movie). So he's got a rank in Athletics, Gunnery, Melee, Ranged (Heavy), Resilience, and Vigilance.  Humans also get two non-career skills at Rank 1. Looking over the list there are a few that call out to me; Charm and Stealth. Finn does a fair amount of sneaking around in the film. He also charms (or attempts to) several folks into helping him, or at least is able to convince them of his sincerity.

With his remaining 20 xp John decides to buy up his Ranged (Heavy) skill to Rank 2. From the Mercenary Soldier tree he buys two talents for Finn; Second Wind to help recover strain and Side Step to help avoid blaster-fire.

Finn starts with pretty much nothing, so clearly he doesn't spend his Obligation increase on credits. Starting equipment is essentially Padded Armor, for the combination of his Stormtrooper body glove and Poe's armored jacket. Finn is now ready to start his adventure, wandering into town from the desert after his bone-jarring ejection.

Speaking of which, you might be wondering "wait, what about Finn and Poe's escape from the Star Destroyer? Isn't that on-camera?" Nope; that's a rockin' good backstory that explains many of Finn's skills, his connection to BB-8 ("The McGuffin"), why he's on Jakku (failed escape attempt), and what the First Order is after him (Hunted Obligation).

Rey of Sunshine

Let's talk about the other PC in this adventure; we'll call her "Daisy". Daisy wants to make a tough fringer who struggles to find out where she comes from, and who is sensitive in the Force. She names her PC "Rey", purposefully leaving her last name blank for the GM to mess with.

Now, Rey has some perceived issues from a starting perspective; she's a pilot, a mechanic, a melee fighter, and a Force user (...spoilers!).  As long as we remember that the narrative system allows us to grow characters organically, we don't have to try to cover all these bases from the very beginning.

So what are Rey's characteristics? Where Finn could focus on one Characteristic and have a good second one, Rey is so diverse that it feels better to spread her out a bit.  She's tough and capable in a melee fight, and she's deft at crawling all over the wrecks of old ships, so Daisy puts Brawn at 3 for 30xp. She's also Agile, a necessary trait for a good pilot (and decent shot), so she buys up Agility to 3 for another 30xp. As a mechanic, Rey needs a high Intellect; buying that to 30 for 30xp.  That leaves us with 20xp left, and there's one more trait that Rey has that we need to buy up; Willpower. She is very strong willed, doesn't back down, and doesn't get intimidated easily. With only 20XP left, Daisy adds on 10 point to Obligation to get 10 more XP (just like John did with Finn).

Rey has a bit of an odd Obligation; she's waiting for her Family. She hasn't left Jakku because she believes her family is coming back for her. When she does get off world and is offered a new life, she turns it down and stammers that she needs to get back to Jakku. This is definitely an Obligation, and while the description for "Family" doesn't quite cover this, it is a good way to explain her anxiety over their return.

Moving to Careers; Daisy finds one that gives her a near-perfect set-up for Rey; Technician.  With  Coordination, Discipline, Knowledge (Outer Rim), Mechanics, and Piloting (Planetary), that's Rey's initial skillset right there! Looking at the three Specializations, Mechanic is the best choice here; she's not a Slicer, and she's not a crafty Outlaw Tech making a bunch of customized gear. Plus Mechanics gets her Piloting (Space) as a career skill. There's a lot here to take in, so Daisy chooses Coordination, Discipline, Knowledge (Outer Rim), and Piloting (Planetary) from her Career, and Mechanics and Piloting (Space) from her Specialization.  Rey is also human, so Daisy can choose two non-career skills and get a rank in each of those. Daisy chooses Melee, because Rey has this bad-ass junk-staff that she deters people with, and Coercion. Jakku is a rough world, and if you don't stand up for yourself you become a victim. Rey uses her strong will (and staff when that fails) to get other denizens to leave her alone.

Daisy has spent all her XP, so there's nothing left to buy up skills with or get talents. She's got her 500 credits, with which she buys climbing gear, a tool kit, a staff, and heavy clothing...okay, maybe not that heavy, but cut me some slack.

"What about her speeder?", you say?  Tell me this; after coming to the scrapyard with BB-8 the next day after finding him, do we see her speeder again?  No.  No need for Daisy to buy a speeder for Rey; it was a plot device previously.

First Session

So the first session starts with Rey bringing BB-8 to the scavenger yard to try and help him find his master. Concurrently, Finn wanders into town from his TIE wreck, dehydrated and looking for a way off Jakku. Rey gets accosted by thugs sent by Plutt to retrieve BB-8. Finn rushes in to assist but Rey rolls really well on her Melee combat check and defeats the two thugs soundly. After an awkward moment of PC interaction where Finn and Rey determine they're on the same side, they're spotted by a pair of First Order stormtroopers. Having no blasters, and the stormtroopers having two too many, Finn elects to run, dragging Rey with her. Rey goes along with the chase because she doesn't think her staff would fare well against blaster rifles.  

Then the TIE Fighters start to attack, causing the two PCs to look for some other means of escape. Their first objective is blown to pieces on the sand during a TIE strafing run, so the PCs change directions to board a deceptively well-armed YT-1300 transport. Rey (the one who can actually fly starships) heads to the cockpit while Finn hits the gun well. Daisy picks up her one yellow Proficency die and her two green Ability dice. The GM flips a destiny point, slides over a purple Difficulty die, a red Challenge die (to represent the panicked speed at which Rey is trying to get the ship started and airborne), and two black setback dice (total unfamiliarity with the ship).  Daisy rolls and scores one Success but three Thread. Rey...tries to take off, causing the Falcon to skip, slide, and gouge furrows in the sand before rolling well enough to bring the ship to speed, rocketing off into the sky. The Falcon takes some strain damage, but is in the air.

Finn does his best with the quad-cannon, and now it's John's turn to roll. He also grabs a one yellow, two green die pool because of his 3 Agility and 1 rank in Gunnery. His target number is two purple difficutly dice and one black setback die for shields. The Falcon's guns are upgraded, though, and have a bonus targeting interface. This interface boosts Finn's gunnery check to two yellows and a green. Finn spends a Maneuver to aim, adding a blue boost die to the check and rolls.  He scores two successes and two advantage. The Quad Cannons have a rapid-fire special quality that enables the gunner to spend 2 advantages to hit the target with another blast in the same attack. The TIE takes two solid hits for 8 damage (Base 6 + 2 successes), bringing down one of the pursuers as Rey tries to weave the Falcon through the Star Destroyer graveyard

A new round, and now it's the TIE's turn. It opens fire on the Falcon. The TIE Ace is good, with an agility of 4 and a Gunnery skill of 2. He's rolling two yellows and two greens vs two purples and two black. The Falcon would normally be able to angle it's deflector shields to provide better shield coverage, but Daisy has had to spend Rey's actions on accelerating and moving the ship. She hasn't had the maneuver to spare to mess with the shields.  The TIE Ace shoots, scoring one success but four advantage; enough to score a Critical Hit with the cannons. The GM picks up two dice and rolls a 49, Component Hit. The attacker can choose one component to knock off-line until after the end of the following round; the GM chooses Finn's gun.

Rey flies the Falcon through another canyon of Star Destroyers, trying to get the TIE to fail a pilot check so spectacularly it smashes into a ruined warship. Finn, with nothing to lose, tries to repair the Quad Cannons (he's futzing with the dials on the controls, trying to get something to work). The difficulty is easy, one purple die, but Finn has no skill at mechanics. To make things more difficult, the GM flips another destiny point to made the purple die a red Challenge die. Fin rolls his two green ability Dice, and elects to flip a destiny point of his own. One green and one yellow vs one red. Finn rolls two successes but a Despair on the red die. The GM says the guns are working but locked forward.

The TIE goes again, scoring another hit to the Falcon. Daisy wants to try a deft maneuver that will bring the Falcon's ventral cannon in line with the enemy TIE. The GM says it'll be a Hard check, vs 3 purple dice.  Daisy says that Rey will go for it, picking up her dice and flipping a destiny point. She's rolling two yellows and one green vs three purple dice (the black dice are now gone since she's had some quick on-the-job training with the Falcon).  She rolls and scores a success and a Triumph; not only does she bring Finn's quad laser cannon in line with the TIE, she does it so well Finn gets a free upgrade on his Gunnery check. John flips a destiny point on his turn, spends a maneuver to aim, and rolls three yellows and a blue boost die vs a purple, a red (because the TIE Ace is an Adversary and upgrades attacks against him), and one black (for the TIE's shields).  John rolls really well, and the TIE is blown from the sky.

Session Ends

Finn and Rey excitedly congratulate each other until the Falcon's damage becomes alarmingly apparent. Hurriedly making repairs, trying to figure out what to do next, the two PCs find themselves drawn in to the hold of a much larger freighter that tracked their signature. Hiding and preparing to repel boarders, the two PCs huddle in an access hold.  The door hisses open and the other two PCs for the campaign stride onto the ship; playing two aged but experienced PCs from the GM's last campaign...

"Chewie...we're home!"

This has been a fun little exercise.  Maybe I'll continue it again in the next week or two. 

Until then, be sure to tune in to the next episode of the Order 66 Podcast this Sunday, where we'll be talking with Christopher West from Maps of Mastery and freelance writer Sterling Hershey on gaming in the "Resistance Era".

May the dice be with you!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different...Mostly...Sorta...

I write a lot of Star Wars games...

...I mean, A LOT of Star Wars games...

I think I technically have three games going right now; both Another Longshot campaigns (same story, 2 teams) and I'll be starting up a new Wednesday night game shortly tentatively called Star Wars: Relics.  I've got six campaigns with the words "Star Wars" on my Obsidian Portal campaign list. Relics will be my first foray in mainstream, Rebellion-Era storytelling since 2007. Before that, I've run games going back to 1992, when I discovered West End Games and their Star Wars 2nd Edition rules set. I'm trying to think of a time when I didn't have at least one Star Wars game going; maybe in College, in the Earthdawn days and early D&D 3rd edition timeframe, but still...

I've run a lot of Star Wars. It's what I know. It's what I'm passionate about. I can, in my egocentric opinion, run a damn good game. It may not be a Machiavellian tale or a Best-Seller-List-quality plotline, but if you're in my game you can be sure that I'm going to try to show you a good time, present a story worthy of at least a comic book series, and give you a good fight or two every session.

But every now and then, every once in a great while, I want to try something new. Something different. Right now, I'm not solid on what that is. I find myself latching on to various aspects, and trying to put them together. Think of it like taking a blank canvass, some paint, and just sort of painting what comes to mind at that particular moment. Or maybe it's more like Legos; yeah, that's a better analogy. I've got all these Lego sets that I like aspects of, and sort of want to take the bits and pieces I like and put them together and see if what I can make from them is interesting enough to invest real time and effort into refining. A little Fallout 4, a little Starcraft 2, some Dresden Files, some Earthdawn (or Shadowrun, whichever), some half-cooked ideas from campaigns past, a baseplate in the shape of my old Twin Worlds D&D campaign...

And yeah, even a little Star Wars.

Who knows what system I'll use for it; that comes later. That's just a mechanism to drive the story. First I want to figure out how to put the pieces together; build the world, build the opposition, build the story, then we see how the players fit in. Figure out where the story goes.

A while ago I made a campaign world that I submitted for consideration of a new campaign. I lost, never even made the qualifiers, but I liked it. I put energy and effort into it. I think it's time to give World Building another try.

And if I win the lottery on Saturday, maybe I can do it full-time, hire a staff, and publish a new campaign world for you all to use. And if Wishes were Wings...well, hopefully mine would be an "X".

Next week I'm going to give a "retort" on an article blogged by writer Max Gladstone where he explains key scenes in The Force Awakens as a D6 WEG-era Star Wars RPG. It would be improper of me not to do the same as a Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG (especially after @FFGames "liked" my Tweet about it). It should make for a nice warm-up piece for our next Order 66 Podcast episode...

May the dice be with you.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome to 2016

Happy New Year and welcome back to Fragments from the Rim!

It's been a long year. I haven't really posted anything of consequence since Gamer Nation Con.  After that, it was a whirlwind trip to Celebration Anaheim, a very long couple of months dealing with the water damage in my home caused by ice dams from the Great Snowpocalypse of 2015, and...general lack of time and drive to write anything for this blog.

Which is sad, I really enjoyed writing and sharing my thoughts.  So with the new year comes a new focus, a new mandate to try and write as much as I can for this blog, while sharing what knowledge I can drop on you unsuspecting peoples in the interwebs.

D20 Radio

As some of you know, I've been an occasional writer for D20 Radio's gaming blog. There have been some handy and entertaining articles posted up on that site; hopefully you find that mine are some of them.  I do still plan to write for them in addition to writing here.  I'm not sure if some of my articles will be cross posted, or if I'll keep content to either page exclusive to one or the other.  I know my readership is more over there, they simply have more viewers.  Still, cross pollination of blog posts can't hurt, right?

Aside from that, Chris and Dave have graciously kept me involved and a part of the Order 66 Podcast, and it's still a lot of fun to do.  We're trying to get the shows down to 2-hours in length, partially because Dave wants some shows he can submit for Ennie consideration, and partially because they were honestly getting long and off-topic at times.  If you never listen, you should.  And "if you never listen", thank you for your patronage.

Another Longshot

Ah, my current flagship; the Longshot Campaign.  It's still going, and tomorrow marks the 1 year anniversary of it's birth. I'm celebrating with the second of two "Side Bets"; games that incorporate characters from both teams (I have one PC group consisting of Force Users from various factions, and another PC group consisting of Galactic Alliance troublemakers called The Idiot's Array). Tomorrows game involves one of the Legacy Era's watershed events, and the PCs get to deal with the backlash from it in the Hagen Sector. Or not. They're PCs after all, they could surprise me.

More about the Longshot Campaign will be shared in this blog as we enter Season 2 of the story.

Fallout 4

Another source of seemingly endless time-consumption lately has been Fallout 4.  I've been playing this game like a mad, mad fiend.  Juilian Cross, sole survivor from Vault 111, has crafted quite a considerable Minuteman Protectorate in the northern Massachusetts region.  I'm finding the game a lot of fun, but as usual I'm getting massively sidetracked from the main plotline by exploring the wastes, managing my multi-settlement Mutfruit-and-Purified-Water empire, and using the proceeds to construct bigger and better towns.  I'm glad I picked up the PC version, as the Settlement Creation Editor's size limit can be bypassed, allowing me to make some pretty elaborate towns (much to the dismay of my frame-rate, at times)

Playing Fallout has got me thinking about roleplaying Fallout.  It's the only real deficiency that I have with the IP, the fact that it doesn't have a dedicated RPG supporting it at this time.  I've kicked around a few ideas to home-brew something, or adapt it to Savage Worlds (pretty easy) or to Edge of the Empire (a little harder).  I even wrote an article about it for D20 Radio called They Came From The Vaults.  Doing so inspired me to come up with an Edge of the Empire module to play at Gamer Nation Con 2016 that takes place entirely in the Fallout world.

It's still under development, and a lot of that development is going to be shared here in the coming weeks.


Remember how I advertized this as a costuming blog too?  I haven't forgotten about that.

I'm working on a few costumes for 2016, not all of them mine.  For the 501st Legion, I'm involved in a group project to make a horde of First Order Snowtroopers for the local garrison. My father and I are waiting with bated breath for all our pieces to be complete, and start assembly as soon as they are. I like the look of these snowy's, and while I wish they got more screen time in the movie, at least they were in the movie, you know?

After that, I'll be keeping my eye on something for the Rebel-side of the group, or should I say the Resistance-side.  I really dig the new X-Wing pilot outfits, and there's already talk of supplementing our pilots up here in "Phantom Squadron" with some T-70 jockeys.

Finally, I'm working on a more practical suit, something to be used for the upcoming Crossover LARP in my area. I've been working with EVA Foam to make (a rather mandalorian looking) armor suit for my new character, and my lovely wife picked up an airbrush kit for me to learn how to use. The airbrush can be used for painting and giving the armor some wear, but the main reason for the kit is for use with liquid make-up for my character.  Think something rather Darth-Maul-like, but with blue and white instead of black and red.  Along with that comes repaints of the various weapons I'll be using in the game; nerf guns painted a more appropriate shade for use in the game. I'm moving towards painting nerf guns for other players for commission, and am painting up 5 of them for the NPC camp's use.  I probably won't be doing much work on that until March, as the game isn't starting until May.

Welcome Home

And that's pretty much it for now. Thanks for reading, please check back in here from time to time and see where things are going!

Until next time, may the dice be with you!