April 5, 2016

The REAL Best Four Days of Gaming - my thoughts on GamerNationCon 2016

Yeah, the title is sure to piss some folks off.  But to be honest, after the amount of fun I had this past weekend, at this point GenCon can go screw itself.

So this past Wednesday, I flew down to Texas to attend the 3rd GamerNationCon, a fairly small gaming convention/gathering of various d20 Radio members.  This year's Guests of Honor were Rodney Thompson, formerly of WotC (now working for Bungie) and the man largely responsible for Star Wars Saga Edition as well as mapmaker extraordinaire Christopher West.  Other important folks (aside from GMs Chris, Dave, and Phil) were Sam Stewart and Sterling Hershey, both returning for another round of gaming goodness.

My trip down was mostly uneventful, with a slight delay due to windy conditions in the Plano area.  I will admit that Texas drivers take a bit of getting used to, and that I don't exaggerate that I nearly got hit three times just on my way to the hotel.  Of course, getting to the hotel was its own adventure, due to Google Maps wanting to take me to some entirely different location.  But, I got to the hotel in my rental car, though a tad more frazzled than I would have preferred.  Still, the Wednesday Dinner get-together was great, as I got to sit and chat with the ever-so-sweet Adi, who flew over from Scotland to attend the convention.  It's a shame that Chris Brinkley went through the trouble to arrange things, but then couldn't attend due to a combination of food poisoning and exhaustion from having to do all the driving he did to get down there.  Also got to meet GM Hooly, which was very cool, and of course meeting up with folks from last year's GamerNationCon.

I won't go into too many details, but the con was rightly billed as "Four Days of Gaming Goodness."  I got a chance to play in two games run by Christopher West, that being his Deep Cover adventure, which was set during the Force Awakens era.  Second time around was a lot more fun, with me playing a BB unit that had formerly been property of the First Order.  I also got to play in an eight player pick-up game run by Sam Stewart, which was such a laugh riot, due in no small part (just the tip) to GM Chris playing Dorbecca the Mad Claw and really getting into character.  My buddy Eric Brenders ran a slew of games, earning his Iron GM badge the day before the con ended (way to go!), and I got to play in two of his Star Wars sessions and a D&D 5e pick-up game he ran, playing a 3rd level Human Paladin and having a blast with all three, though sadly I kinda had to duck out in the midst of his "Save the Princess" module due to an issue I'll touch upon later.  Also played a 3rd level version of a Human Monk I'm playing in a local game (running through the "Curse of Strahd" adventure) in a 5e pick-up run by one of the Canadian Contingent, which was fun.  Both D&D sessions were played with a lass by the name of Jody Kinkaid, and the session that Eric ran was one of the few times where a player (her) ran a halfling thief in the vein of a kender without being a jerk about it.  With the child-like way her character was acting, it was very easy for my paladin to be very protective of her, even if she was dishing out heavy damage almost every round.  For the final day, I played in a Star Wars pick-up game run by Sterling Hershey, and while we didn't get to properly finish the adventure due to a lot of fun conversations side-tracking us, it was still a fun adventure, with a very interesting development about half-way through, one that I won't spoil here.

I also got to play a couple rounds of Artemis with GM Phil as our captain, and had a lot of fun.  Just re-inforced the idea that game can be a lot of fun if you've got the right group of people.  I got to play tactical (much fun) and communications (not so much).  I think I'm best suited for tactical, as during that first session I was largely on top of things with keeping the right missiles in the tube and flipping laser frequencies to best punch through enemy shields.

One of the highlights of the convention was the opportunity to help induct Rodney Thompson as an Honorary Member of the Rebel Legion.  To provide a bit of background as to why this was such a highlight, I myself am an Honorary Member, thanks entirely to Rodney willing to give me a shot at doing some freelancer work for Star Wars Saga Edition, first for Galaxy at War and then again for Unknown Regions, where I got to add two entirely new planets to Star Wars lore as well as sneak in a reference to a Jedi General Morningfire, who for a time was indeed canon (low level canon, but canon all the same).  So back in March of 2012, my dear friend Linda Whitson arranged for me to be named a Friend of the Rebel Legion, with GM Phil backing the nomination.

However, upon further review by Phil, it turned out that they'd overlooked something.  I was considered a writer for Star Wars thanks to those freelancing gigs, and as such qualified for Honorary Member status.  So, in GenCon of 2014 at the GamerNation Pre-GenCon Dinner my status was officially upgraded from Friend of the Legion to Honorary Member (occurring the day after my birthday).  Apparently that upgrade was meant to happen during the first GamerNationCon, but a freak blizzard that shut down the airport the morning I was due to fly out nixed that idea.  Sterling Hershey was named an Honorary Member on the following Saturday, and given the sheer amount of history the man has with Star Wars RPGs, I feel it was an honor that was long overdue.

And at GamerNationCon 2015, Sam Stewart was named an Honorary Member of the Rebel Legion, and as of this year's GamerNationCon, Rodney Thompson joins the ranks.  Being the one to hand Rodney his plaque and gold badge was great... and almost didn't happen.

The Saturday that his induction was planned, I'd overslept and in my rush to make sure I had everything I forgot the most important thing... his badge and plaque.  I had packed them, but they were sitting back in my hotel room, along with the boots for my Jedi costume.  A huge thanks to GM Chris for being willing to ferry my dumb ass back to the hotel so I could grab those items, since he was also grabbing Christopher West and Rodney Thompson; I was able to hide plaque and badge in one of my boots, keeping Rodney in the dark about what was in store for him.

The induction ceremony was something of a "seat of the pants" operation, with GM Phil having to step away from the middle of a game he was running, and GM Dave nearly missing the ceremony (and not being able to do music) as he was in the midst of running an event as well.  But, in the end we pulled it off, with Chris Bradshaw in a very awesome Tusken Raider costume and another member of the Rebel Legion in attendance in her Rebel trooper costume.  I don't think I looked too bad in my Jedi robes, and a few folks joked that they had finally gotten to meet the real Donovan Morningfire as opposed to the New Yorker that used that name as a forum handle.  I think it was safe to say that Rodney's gob was indeed smacked when the four of us walked in at the tail end of a panel that he was hosting.  What a found out not long after was that Rodney had noticed Sterling wearing his RL Honorary Member badge, and being impressed asked about how one went about getting one.  Well, he found out, and was very appreciative of the accolade.  For the Sunday Auction, there wasn't anything that I really wanted and would have had a chance to actually win, so I opted to donate my points all to Phil to boost up his chances to win the Star Wars Armada starter box and still have points left for him and his brother Andrew to use to bid on other items they may have wanted.  Seems I wasn't alone in that, with Eric and Sam Stewart also donating some of their points so that Andrew could get the trio of custom Star Wars minis that he really wanted.

It was kind of sad that 4DoGG had to come to an end, but it was a memorable experience, and left me eagerly looking forward to doing it again next year.  As was officially announced at the end of the convention, issues with the space we used prevented GNCon 2017 from being held in that same spot, but it does seem that Chris and Dave have plans to help ensure the GamerNation can gather up again next year.  The whole thing was capped off with a Mexican restaurant that Dave suggested, with us having many more laughs at the dead dog dinner as we enjoyed some really good food.

About the only downer to the whole thing (apart from it ending) was flying back to the northeast to learn that Mother Nature had decided to dump a whole lot of snow on the area, in spite of it being April and thus the early stages of spring.  The snow's slowly fading away, but I was not expecting to come home to freezing temps and having to dig my car out.

Well, that's my general experience with GamerNationCon 2016: Beyond Thunderdome.  As I expected, it was a lot of fun, even if my one attempt at a PUG flopped simply due to bad timing.  And hopefully there will indeed by GamerNationCon 2017: A New Hope, for which I will most certainly be posting up some pre-registered games.  What those games will be, I'm not 100% certain beyond that there will be FFG Star Wars, and maybe one or two other things.  I could be balls-out crazy like Eric and Phil and try for the Iron GM badge, but since I also like playing RPGs and I go to these things to relax, that's probably not gonna happen.

January 31, 2016

Forging Synthetic Kyber Crystals

So back on Christmas, I posted up an article listing out a number of homebrewed kyber crystals for use with a character's lightsaber in Fantasy Flight Game's Force and Destiny RPG.  And overall, they seemed to be pretty well received.

One thing that did come up was "how do I create a synthetic kyber crystal?"  And by extension, how would a PC create a compressed synthetic crystal, which is supposed to be a 'flawed' version of the typical synthetic crystal.

As I noted in the comments section of that post, at the time I wrote those crystals for inclusion an update of my Ways of the Force fan supplement, we didn't really have any sort of constructions rules.  However, with the release of the Force and Destiny GM Kit as well as Keeping the Peace, we've actually got rules for building things, specifically lightsaber hilts and sets of armor.

Well, after reviewing both sets of rather different rules, I opted to take the route that best adhered to the long-standing principle of "Keep It Simple Stupid."  So, going the path of the construction rules for lightsaber hilts, I've put together this fairly simple process to enable a PC to try and construct their own synthetic kyber crystal.

Creating a Synthetic Kyber Crystal
The process of creating a synthetic kyber crystal requires a geological compressor, which is often far easier to obtain under false pretenses due to its primary usage of replicating geological conditions in a laboratory.  The raw materials to form the crystals are also easy to obtain, costing approximately 900 credits with a Rarity of 4.  Once acquired, the raw materials are placed within the compressor and essentially left to bake for a period of roughly three days.  During this time frame, the Force user creating the crystal would meditate upon it through the Force, guiding the formation of the crystal and increasing its potency.  The level of control required over the formation process of the synthetic crystal often proved daunting to raw initiates; perhaps the difficulty and degree of control required lead to the Sith preferring to use synthetic crystals in contrast to the naturally-formed crystals used by most Jedi in their lightsabers?

When a character attempts to create a synthetic kyber crystal, they need to make either a Mechanics of Discipline skill check at a Formidable (dddd) difficulty, adding Force dice equal to their Force Rating to the check.  Each Force Point generated can be used to add either success or advantage to the check result.

If the check is successful, then the character has created a synthetic kyber crystal.  If the check succeeds with a Triumph or 3 advantage, the player may choose one modification option of their choice to be included with the crystal when it is installed into a lightsaber hilt (it still counts as a successful modification when determining the difficulty of future modifications to the crystal).  If the check is successful but generates 3 threat, then the character has created a compressed synthetic crystal.  If the check succeeds but generates a Despair, then the character has created a flawed kyber crystal.  A failed check results in a crystal that is unsuitable for use in a lightsaber, requiring the character to start over from scratch.

Under most conditions, the synthetic kyber crystal does not have an inherent color until it has been attuned through the Force for installation into a lightsaber hilt.  However, if the creator is a dark side Force user, then the lightsaber's blade will default to a shade of crimson, usually the blood red for which the Sith are known and feared.  However, the dark side can spend a Triumph from a successful check to create the crystal to have the lightsaber blade be of a different color, though for most followers of the dark side, a red-hued lightsaber is seen as both mastery and commitment to the dark side of the Force.

January 16, 2016

Additional Lightsaber Hilt Ideas

So, first post of the new year.  Had meant to post something sooner, but didn't happen for one reason or another.

A few entries ago, I posted a small collection of lightsaber crystals for use with FFG's Star Wars: Force and Destiny RPG.  Today, I'm following up on that with a few different lightsaber hilts.  None of these have seen any degree of serious playtesting, but at the very least they pass the eyeball test of not being too broken.

Crossguard Lightsaber
Considered to be an archaic design by the time of the Galactic Empire, the crossguard lightsaber creates a distinctive appearance over other lightsabers by way of either a single or pair of lateral vents that are placed at a 90-degree angle to the primary blade.  When activated, these lateral vents create a smaller blade, forming energy quillions that can be used both offensively and defensively in combat.

This lightsaber is a crossguard lightsaber hilt containing an unmodified Ilum crystal (see page 197 of the Force and Destiny Core Rulebook).  This crystal occupies two of the weapon's hard points.

Skill: Lightsaber
Damage: 6; Critical: 2; Range: Engaged
Encumbrance: 1; Hard Points: 4
Price: 9,900 (r); Rarity: 10
Special: Breach 1, Defensive 1, Sunder, Vicious 1

A crossguard lightsaber hilt without a kyber crystal costs 900 credits, has a Rarity of 8, and has the
Defensive 1 and Vicious 1 qualities.

Rare and exotic even by the standards of lightsabers, the lightwhip operated on the same general principles as a more traditional lightsaber, emitting a coherent beam of energy, with the key difference being that the blade was frequently several meters in length and very flexible.  Another difference was that the lightwhip made use of multiple smaller crystals instead of the single focusing crystal used in the majority of lightsaber hilts.

This weapon can be used to make Lightsaber combat checks against targets at up to short range, although the difficulty of the attack remains at Average.

For purposes of gameplay, this weapon is treated as having a single crystal.  This lightsaber is a lightwhip hilt containing an unmodified Ilum crystal (see page 197 of the Force and Destiny Core Rulebook).  This crystal occupies two of the weapon's hard points.

Skill: Lightsaber
Damage: 5; Critical: 2; Range: Short
Encumbrance: 1; Hard Points:3
Price: 10,500 (r); Rarity: 10
Special: Breach 1, Ensnare 1, Sunder, Unwieldy3

A lightwhip hilt without a kyber crystal costs 1500 credits, has a Rarity of 8, reduces the damage value of any crystal placed in the hilt by one, and has the Ensnare 1 and Unwieldy 3 qualities.

Two-Part Lightsaber
An uncommon though deceptively simple variation on the standard design of a more traditional basic lightsaber hilt, the two-part lightsaber was conceived with stealth in mind, allowing a Jedi to better conceal their signature weapon and avoid drawing attention to themselves while undertaking covert missions for the Jedi Order; a feature that has proven very useful in the dark times of the Empire's reign as Imperial agents scour the galaxy for Jedi renegades.  The emitter portion of the two-part lightsaber made to quickly and easily detach to the lightaber's grip, and can be reattached just as quickly, enabling the two pieces to present a far more innocuous appearance when traveling the galaxy; to most inspections, the two components are little more than bits of tech gear that are hardly cause for alarm.

When it is disassembled, add two setback dice to all skill checks to identify the separated components as a weapon.  Assembling or disassembling a two-part lightsaber is an incidental, and is treated as a single item for purposes of holstering or drawing the weapon when in its disassembled state.

This lightsaber is a two-part lightsaber hilt containing an unmodified Ilum crystal (see page 197 of the Force and Destiny Core Rulebook).  This crystal occupies two of the weapon's hard points.

Skill: Lightsaber
Damage: 6; Critical: 2; Range: Engaged
Encumbrance: 1; Hard Points: 4
Price: 9,450 (r); Rarity: 10
Special: Breach 1, Sunder

A two-part lightsaber hilt without a kyber crystal costs 450 credits and a Rarity of 6.

Blaster-Hilt Lightsaber
Initially devised by the Rebel and Jedi-in-training Ezra Bridger, the blaster-hilt lightsaber has very little in common with the more traditional aesthetics of a lightsaber.  However, it does have the added benefit of providing the wielder with a viable weapon at times when openly brandishing a lightsaber would be foolish, as the hilt guard section can double as a short-range blaster.  While Ezra designed the blaster portion of his lightsaber to only fire stun bolts, the weapon can be constructed to fire standard blaster bolts.

The wielder may switch between blaster-mold and lightsaber-mode as an incidental, however the lightsaber blade must first be deactivated before switching to blaster mode.  In blaster mode, treat the weapon as having the same stat block as a light blaster pistol as detailed on Table 5-5: Ranged Weapons on page168 of the Force and Destiny Core Rulebook).  Due to its highly unusual appearance, attempts to identify a blaster-hilt lightsaber as a lightsaber without having seen it in action have the difficulty increased once; it is still obviously a blaster, albeit one of an unusual design.  If the option to spend a Despair result to force the blaster-hilt lightsaber to run out of ammo is used while operating in blaster-mode, the lightsaber-mode is similarly unavailable until the end of the encounter.

This lightsaber is a blaster-hilt lightsaber hilt containing an unmodified Ilum crystal (see page 197 of the Force and Destiny Core Rulebook).  This crystal occupies two of the weapon's hard points.
Skill: Lightsaber
Damage: 6; Critical: 2; Range: Engaged
Encumbrance: 2; Hard Points: 3
Price: 9,600 (r); Rarity: 10
Special: Breach 1, Sunder

A blaster-hilt lightsaber hilt without a kyber crystal costs 600 credits and a Rarity of 7.  Given the origins of the design, it should not be available for sale, and instead the Games Master should require the character to construct this hilt as per the guidelines provided either on 177 of the Force and Destiny Core Rulebook or on page 23 of the Hidden Depths Adventure Module instead.

December 30, 2015

My take on The Force Awakens (Spoilers!)

Okay, having seen the film enough times in the theater I think (3 at the moment), I think I'm as ready as I will be to discuss the film.

First off, I very much enjoyed it.  I'm not sure it's the greatest or best Star Wars film ever, but it's certainly a lot of fun, and the most fun that a cinematic Star Wars film has delivered in a very long time.

I'm not the biggest fan of the prequels, but I don't hate them either.  If anything, I mourn all the potential that was in that story, potential that a capable director would have been able to bring out.  For as amazing of an idea guy that George Lucas is, he really hadn't grown as a director since filming the original Star Wars, and in the prequels it showed.  On top of the problem of not having anybody that would tell him "No George, that's a bad idea" during that time frame.

Now, to The Force Awakens, let's get one particular elephant ushered out of the room right now.  Yes, the basic plot structure was beat-for-beat almost identical to that of Episode 4.  The decorations were different, particularly in terms of the main cast, but the core plot structure was very similar.  In spite of what some internet trolls might tell you, this does NOT constitute a "remake" or a "reboot" of the franchise.  And honestly, I liked that TFA took its nods from the Star Wars films that the fans generally consider to be the better half of the franchise.  You didn't get overburdened with background elements, being given enough basic background info to set the stage, and then into the story we go.

The Force Awakens is ultimately the foundation for Disney's stewardship of the franchise, one that they paid a very princely sum to acquire.  Sure, they could have taken more risks with the film, but for the first outing, especially given the general loathing of the prequels and The Phantom Menace in particular, they opted to hedge their bets and go for what the masses had claimed "felt like Star Wars."

That's not to say Disney and Abrams didn't take risks in the story presented to us.  Killing off the fan-favorite Han Solo was certainly a risk, and it certainly did strike an emotional chord with the adults in the audience that had grown up with this character, even if a lot of them saw it coming.  Like GM Phil of the Order 66 podcast said, the moment Han stepped onto that bridge, you knew he wasn't coming out of that alive.

Another big risk, especially for a multi-million dollar action movie (which truthfully is what The Force Awakens is), was having a female being the lead protagonist for this new trilogy.  It's kind of telling that in spite of the rampant success that Marvel Studios has had with their films we've yet to see a Black Widow movie, and the closest they've got to something headlined by a female lead is the very good Agent Carter series.  It's a sad shame that where action movies are concerned, a female leading character is seen as too big of a risk for major film studios.  So the fact that Rey winds up being the hero, especially after making folks think it was going to be Finn in the various previews, was a pretty big risk... and it paid off big time, as audiences really liked the character, with Daisy Ridley's performance being no slouch.  As I heard it said somewhere on Facebook, we got more actual acting out of Daisy in 10 minutes than we got out of Hayden in the entirety of both AotC and RotS.

That's not to say the rest of the cast was bad, because they weren't.  Harrison Ford was great (as he usually is) in portraying the crusty, worn-down Han Solo, while I likened Carrie Fisher's performance to a Leia that is equally worn-down and simply tired and more than a little frustrated of having to go through all this nonsense that she did when part of the Rebellion; doubtless Leia heard stories from her adopted father about Senators of the Old Republic turning a blind eye towards the dangers of then-Chancellor Palpatine's rise to power, and saw parallels with how the New Republic was turning a blind eye to the dangers of the First Order.  General Leia was someone that had lived a rough 30 years since the Battle of Endor, losing her family and seeing all that she'd fought and struggled for about to go down the drain.

John Boyega I thought did a tremendous job as Finn, and I cheered when he dropped the "cowardly" part of the "cowardly lion" act that had defined him through much of the movie.  Finn proved he could be brave when it called for it, but the moment he took up Anakin's old lightsaber to square off against Kylo Ren, overmatched though he may be, simply to protect the unconscious Rey... even if Finn isn't Force-sensitive, that still took a lot of balls.  Even more so perhaps since as a former member of the First Order, he's probably heard stories about Kylo Ren and just how unhinged the guy can be.  And having one of the principal leads and potential main hero be a black male in a franchise where the main hero has been white was also a risk, one that I also felt was worth it.

Poe was... well, Poe.  As GM Chris said, Poe was the kind of guy that you could go have a beer with, and he'd be glad to do so.  I personally felt Poe was a bit one-dimensional (ace pilot, incredibly loyal while easy to make friends with), but it was a good dimension, and I suspect/hope that he'll get much more character development.

I did like that the essence of Luke's character in the original trilogy was split in to the three leads, with shades of Han and Leia thrown in as well.  Poe as the hotshot ace pilot, but one that's not sensitive to the Force and is steadfastly-loyal to the Resistance, Finn is the idealist, albeit one that's a defector from the bad guys and mostly just wants to avoid the fight until the girl he's crushing on is put into grave peril.  And Rey as the Force-sensitive desert dweller and heir to a great legacy, albeit a female that scraps by on her own and was abandoned by her family at a very young age.  My guess is that Rey is actually the daughter of Luke Skywalker, and that's why Anakin's old lightsaber called out to her in Maz's Palace, and perhaps why it didn't respond to Kylo's attempts to claim it during the film's climax.

As for Kylo Ren, while he's certainly not the greatest villain in cinematic history, I do like that he's simply a pale reflection of Darth Vader.  I saw earlier today on Facebook that Kylo's cross-guard lightsaber was very much a reflection of Kylo's psyche, and I think it's a very apt comparison.  I think having a villain that can grow and develop just as the heroine grows and develops can lead to some wonderful parallels between Kylo and Rey.  One of my favorite animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbende did this as well with the parallels between Aang (the hero) and Zuko (initially the villain before developing into something far more complicated and interesting).  I do have to give props to Kylo for taking as much of a beating as he did, and was still able to keep going; even after Rey had disarmed him and scarred his face, Kylo was still trying to get back up and continue fighting.

I've seen a lot of complaining about how TFA left us with more questions than answers in terms to the state of affairs 30 years after the events of RotJ.  And I'm okay with that, because I knew from the outset, from when the film was announced as part one of a new trilogy of films, that we weren't going to get all the answers right away.  After all, they need stuff for the sequel.  And the only reason that ANH was as self-contained as it was is because Lucas was convinced that it wasn't going to do well enough to merit a sequel, so that was going to be his one shot.  I suspect that if he knew full well that he'd have the chance to make additional movies, he'd have left a few more threads hanging to be handled in ESB and RotJ, such as perhaps introducing a bit more mystery into the nature of Luke's father.

So yeah, while there were a number of similarities between the original films and TFA, I honestly felt that instead of detracting from the new film, it instead enhanced it while getting new members of the fanbase up-to-speed on the basics of "what is Star Wars?"  I'm hopeful that now that the foundation has been laid that further films in the new trilogy will take a few more risks in terms of the story; after all, we've already had the "greatest hits of the original trilogy" film to get everybody on the same page in terms of the Star Wars experience.  But time will tell, and given the monstrous success of TFA it might be that Disney takes this as a sign to not stray to far from the tried and true.  I do expect we'll see more nods and parallels in Episode 8 to ESB, and will be astonished if that film doesn't end with the First Order in a very strong position and the Resistance/Republic in a very rough one by the time the credits roll.

So overall, yes I very much liked The Force Awakens (that I went to see it three times in the theater in the opening week should be testament enough to that).  Was it perfect?  No, but then none of the Star Wars films were without their flaws.  But it was a very enjoyable rider, one where the pacing was quick enough that things kept moving but never so fast that you had no idea what was going on, provided you were willing to pay a modicum of attention to the movie.  I'm very much eager for this to come out on Blu-Ray, if only so that I can watch it meticulously for all the little background elements I did miss.  I did catch the 501st banner at Maz's palace as well as at least two (I think) appearances of R2-KT in the film, but I'm sure there are other tidbits that I missed simply because I was having too good of a time being entertained by a film that well and truly felt like Star Wars.

December 25, 2015

Merry Xmas! And Some Lightsaber Crystal Options!

First off, a very Merry Christmas to my fellow Star Wars fans out there.  While it is true that most of us got our Christmas gift early in the form of The Force Awakens (more on that in a later blog post), today's still a day to be spent in the company of friends and family, even if gifts aren't formerly exchanged.

Well, In time for the holiday season, here is an assortment of lightsaber crystals for use with the Force and Destiny branch of FFG's Star Wars RPG.  Most of these come from the Legends side of the fence, and were things that I'd been working on and revising/tweaking pretty much since the Force and Destiny core rulebook came out earlier this year.

Compressed Synthetic Crystal
On occasion, when attempting to create a synthetic kyber crystal, the crystal's structure is over-compressed.  The end result is a crystal that produces a blade that is thinner and thus more precise than a standard lightsaber blade, which in turn enables the user to better bypass their opponent's defenses.
Base Modifiers: Installing this crystal changes a lightsaber's base damage to 7 and critical rating to 2, and the lightsaber gains the Breach 1 and Sunder qualities.  When the target uses the Parry talent against an attack made with this lightsaber, reduce the amount of damage negated by 1.  If the crystal is ever removed, the lightsaber loses these qualities and reverts to its previous base damage and critical rating.
Modifications: 2 Reduce the damage negated from the Parry talent by 1 Mods, 1 Decrease the weapon's critical rating by 1 to a minimum of 1 Mod, 2 Item Quality (Vicious +1) Mods.
Hard Points Required: 2
Cost: 12,000 credits
Rarity: 10 (R)

Flawed Kyber Crystal
Found among both naturally-formed and synthetic crystals, a flawed kyber crystal is less than ideal for usage in a lightsaber, as the minute imperfections tend to create an unstable blade that literally crackles with barely restrained energy.  Extra precautions need to be taken, as a flawed kyber crystal is much more susceptible to cracking than a perfectly formed crystal.
Base Modifiers: Installing this crystal changes a lightsaber's base damage to 7 and critical rating to 2, and the lightsaber gains the Breach 1, Sunder, and Vicious 1 qualities.  The difficulty of all checks to modify or repair a lightsaber using this crystal are upgraded once.  If the crystal is ever removed, the lightsaber loses these qualities and reverts to its previous base damage and critical rating.
Modifications: 2 Damage +1 Mods, 3 Item Quality (Vicious +1) Mods.
Hard Points Required: 2
Cost: 9,000 credits
Rarity: 7 (R)

Rubat Crystal
A type of kyber crystal once used in the construction of lightsabers by the Jedi Order, rubat crystals were most commonly found on the remote world of Phemis in the Corellian Sector.  While not as powerful or receptive to the Force as the crystals of Ilum, rubat crystals gave the blade a much sharper and defined appearance, allowing the wielder to strike at their opponents with greater speed.
Base Modifiers: Installing this crystal changes a lightsaber's base damage to 6 and critical rating to 2, and the lightsaber gains the Breach 1 and Sunder qualities.  If the crystal is ever removed, the lightsaber loses these qualities and reverts to its previous base damage and critical rating.
Modifications: 2 Damage +1 Mods, 1 Decrease the weapon's critical rating by 1 to a minimum of 1 Mod, 1 Item Quality (Accurate +1) Mod.
Hard Points Required: 2
Cost: 9,000 credits
Rarity: 10 (R)
Note: To be honest, I was disappointed that the rubat crystals offered in the GM Kit adventure "Hidden Depths" was just a re-flavored Ilum crystal.  So this version is presented as an alternative for GMs to make use of in their games.

Synthetic Kyber Crystal
During the time of the Emperor's rule, most of the known sources for kyber crystals were either destroyed or kept under strict Imperial surveillance.  In response to these draconian measures, those students of the Jedi looking to construct their own lightsaber had to rely upon the practice of growing synthetic crystals.  While easier to procure than natural kyber crystals, the difficulties that come in properly forming the synthetic crystal still made them difficult to acquire.
Base Modifiers: Installing this crystal changes a lightsaber's base damage to 6 and critical rating to 2, and the lightsaber gains the Breach 1 and Sunder qualities.  If the crystal is ever removed, the lightsaber loses these qualities and reverts to its previous base damage and critical rating.
Modifications: 3 Damage +1 Mods, 1 Decrease the weapon's critical rating by 1 to a minimum of 1 Mod, 3 Item Quality ( +1 Vicious) Mod.
Hard Points Required: 2
Cost: 9,000 credits
Rarity: 9 (R)
Velmorite Crystal
Found on the planet Velmor in the Halori sector of the Mid Rim Territories, these crystals were prized by Jedi duelists for the fine, thin blade that resulted when attuned for use in a lightsaber.  Such a blade was particularly conducive to the graceful and fluid movements of the Makashi Form of lightsaber combat, although many Ataru adherents found the blades just as useful for their own style of combat.
Base Modifiers: Installing this crystal changes a lightsaber's base damage to 7 and critical rating to 2, and the lightsaber gains the Accurate 1, Breach 1 and Sunder qualities.  If the crystal is ever removed, the lightsaber loses these qualities and reverts to its previous base damage and critical rating.
Modifications: 3 Damage +1 Mods, 1 Item Quality ( +1 Accurate) Mod, 1 Item Quality (Defensive +1) Mod
Hard Points Required: 2
Cost: 15,000 credits
Rarity: 10 (R)

December 18, 2015

Threat Assessment: Imperial Purge Troopers

As I'd noted a while back, I've been playing the mobile app Star Wars: Uprising a fair bit.  Not quite as much recently as the endless grinding has really ground down my enjoyment of the game, but I'm still playing it.

One of the recurring adversaries on the Imperial-themed missions in the game at later levels are the Purge Troopers.  They're a lot tougher than the regular stormtroopers found in the game, and almost qualify as mini-bosses if not outright being a boss in mook's clothing.  I've also not seen any attempts to stat them up using FFG's Star Wars RPG, so I thought I'd take a crack at them.  Fair warning to players, if you're not packing some serious firepower of your own, these guys will be devastating if you try to tackle them head-on.

Imperial Purge Troopers (Rival)
Characteristics: Brawn 3, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 3, Presence 1
Skills: Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Coercion 2, Discipline 2, Gunnery 2, Melee 2, Ranged: Heavy 2, Vigilance 1
Talents: Adversary 1, Burly 1, Enduring 1
Soak Value: 6
Defense (Melee/Ranged): 1/1
Wound Threshold: 15
Equipment: Light repeating blaster (Ranged [Heavy]; Damage 11; Critical 2; Range [Long]; Auto Fire, Cumbersome 4, Pierce 1), 2 heavy frag grenades (Ranged [Light]; Damage 9; Critical 4; Range [Short]; Blast 7, Cumbersome 2, Limited Ammo 1), purge trooper armor (+2 soak, +1 defense, includes helmet comlink and in-helmet scanner), extra reloads, utility belt.

Based upon Star Wars: Uprising, optional weapon load-outs for the Purge Troopers would be to replace a flame cannon (Ranged [Heavy]; Damage 8; Critical 2; Range [Medium]; Burn 3, Blast 8) or a missile tube (Gunnery; Damage 20; Critical 2; Range [Extreme]; Blast 10, Cumbersome 3, Guided 3, Breach 1, Prepare 1, Limited Ammo 6) depending on what their role is in an engagement.

October 31, 2015

Threat Assessment: Rakghouls

Another blast from the GSA past, I wrote these up a few years back and given their origins in such classic monsters as the vampire and the zombie, I think All Hallow's Eve is the perfect time to have these nasty creatures rise from the grave to yet again menace unwary groups of player-characters in Fantasy Flight Game's Star Wars RPG system.

Rakghoul (Minion)
Brawn 3, Agility 3, Intellect 1, Cunning 2, Presence 1, Willpower 1
Skills (Group Only)
Athletics, Brawl, Perception
Rakghoul Disease (see below)

Soak Value:4
Melee/Ranged Defense: 0/0
Wound Threshold: 6
Equipment: Claws and Teeth (Brawl, Engaged, Damage 5, Crit 3, Pierce 1, Vicious 1)

Rakghoul Fiend (Rival)
Brawn 4, Agility 4, Intellect 2, Cunning 3, Presence 2, Willpower 1
Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Perception 1
Adversary 1, Rakghoul Disease (see below)

Soak Value: 6/0
Melee/Ranged Defense: 0/0
Wound Threshold: 16
Equipment: Claws and Teeth (Brawl, Engaged, Damage 6, Crit 3, Pierce 1, Vicious 1)

New Ability: Rakghoul Disease
Spend a Triumph generated from a successful Brawl attack that inflicts damage to infect the target with the rakghoul disease, an incredibly virulent contagion that all but dooms most beings into eventually becoming a rakghoul itself.

Every 24 hours after being infected, the target must make a Hard Resilience check.   A failure means the disease still lingers, inflicting a single wound (this bypasses the victim's soak value).  If the check is failed and generates three Threat or a Despair result, the victim is immediately transformed into a rakghoul, which is a permanent condition and cannot be cured.  A successful check means the disease was not able to take hold and the target suffers no lingering after-effects.

Curing this disease requires a Daunting Medicine check, unless the person treating the disease has access to rakghoul serum, in which case the difficulty is reduced to Average.  However, given the rarity of rakghouls in general, getting access to rakghoul serum can be an adventure in and of itself.  A character that has been successfully treated through the use of rakghoul serum is considered to be inoculated against the contagion, and can no longer be affected by rakghoul disease.

Background: The hideous result of a virulent disease that has plagued worlds such as Taris, the rakghoul truly is an abomination and affront to nature.  Created by the deranged Sith Lord Karness Muur, the rakghouls were his means to achieving power over his fellow Lords of the Sith during their time in exile from the Old Republic.   While a resurgence of the monsters occurred during the Mandalorian Wars, by the time of the Galactic Empire the rakghouls had been all but exterminated, a process that was ironically sped up by Darth Malak’s order to conduct an orbital bombardment of the planet Taris in an attempt to kill the Jedi Bastilla Shan and the amnesiac Revan. 

Still, the creatures managed to persist in small pockets of the Outer Rim Territories, with sentient species being their preferred prey.  Those that survived being slain and devoured by the monsters were invariably transformed into rakghouls themselves by the disease inflicted by the creature’s claws and bite.  While a cure for the disease was developed during the Jedi Civil War, knowledge of its existence has become almost as rare as the rakghoul itself, only rarely is the modern medicine of the Clone Wars era or later able to prevent the infection from transforming those poor souls suffering a fate worse than death.