August 12, 2016

(Re)Learning the Ways of the Force

Firstly, Happy Birthday to me.  Not every day a fella becomes the answer to life, the universe, and everything after all now, is it? (yeah, that's not the least bit egotistical)

Been a while since I last posted an update to this blog of mine, so indulge me a brief summary of what's been going on since I last posted before I get to the "good part."

Since I posted those revisited PCs back in May, my friend Eric (known as oghen in some places) has been running a Star Wars campaign set in the era of The Force Awakens, taking place shortly after the events of the movie.  In this campaign, I'm playing a further revised version of Valin, who is still a Sentinel/Shien Expert, but his backstory has changed a bit; there's no Empire hunting him, and he's now packing a training lightsaber (still hasn't been used in a fight as of yet), but he was still on his own for most of his life and only had a modicum of Jedi training.  Also seeing play is Jade, whose re-write my adopted big sis Linda liked enough to use as her PC.  We're only two sessions in, due to a number of delays that our Friday Night Skype group have jokingly suggested were ploys by the First Order to keep two teenage Force-sensitives from embarking upon their respective journeys; after all, it's a known fact of the setting that teenage Force users are the bane of militaristic regimes seeking galactic domination.

As I'm sure any fellow Potterheads will know, the script for the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been published in book form.  While the book was a very quick read (it's comprised mostly of stage directions and dialogue), it was still an enjoyable read, and if this is indeed the last story to feature Harry Potter and company, then I think it was a pretty good note to go out on.  In a way, it was very much like visiting old friends that you'd lost touch with after many years, seeing how they're doing and how things have changed for them.  I've heard some complaints that too much of the action focus on Albus, but to me that makes sense as Harry's already had his grand adventure and settled up with most of his old demons.

I've also been reading through my hard copy of the 2nd edition corebook for 7th Sea.  I had a lot of fun playing the 1st edition, even if the mechanics were a bit loopy in several places (skills and knacks, I am looking directly at you) and the metaplot could be rather heavy-handed.  Thus far, I've only been able to run a single session and play in a single session, and I had a lot of fun both times.  I really like how the system has evolved, and that dice rolling is toned down in terms of how often you're making dice rolls.  One thing I have noticed is that being a Swordsman and having a Dueling School on your character sheet makes one's PC a terror in combat.  I'd run some test battles using a revamp of an old 1st edition PC of mine, one Estevan Santiago de Montoya, and even as a starting PC the boy can decimate brute squads like there's no tomorrow.  Sorcery is also very interesting, and while much more viable in the early going as compared to 1e, it still has its limits in what a player can accomplish (especially since it's fueled by spending Hero Points, which are a fairly rare resource for players); the Hexenwerk sorcery is suitably creepy, and Sorte is potent but not overwhelmingly so.  One minor gripe I have is that with regards to Villains, fighting them can begin feel like a grind, not unlike fighting Solo monsters in the early days of D&D 4e.  I am thinking of a house rule to either halve the number of Dramatic Wounds a Villain can withstand before they become Helpless, or simply halve the number of wounds needed to inflict a Dramatic Wound.  But beyond that, I love how this system works in terms of dice results and how vastly different one PC can be from the next.  Maybe later this month I'll post up the various characters that I've written up.

So that's that, and now onto the main course.

Off and on, I've been updating, revising, reworking, further revising, and so forth with what would essentially be the second edition of my old Ways of the Force fan supplement.  Now, I knew from the very start that WotF would have a definite shelf life, being a stop-gap to provide some more options for Force usage until the release of Force and Destiny.  But rather than let it fall completely to the wayside, I felt that some of what I had created still had merit, and that what it really needed was an overhaul and an update to account for the new rules and material regarding Force users during the time frame of Fantasy Flight Games' most excellent Star Wars Roleplaying Game.

To be perfectly honest, a large part of why this took so long was that I went through numerous versions of the Jedi Initiate universal specialization.  The one thing that I wanted to avoid was making this a "gotta have it!" spec for any PCs that were interested in being lightsaber wielders, especially those who started out with one of the six Lightsaber Form specializations in Force and Destiny.  While I'm currently pretty happy with how the version published here has shaken out, I'm still concerned that this could be a very dominate spec, seeing as how it offers both a Force Rating talent and the Improved Parry talent.  I tried to balance this by putting those talents on very separate paths in the spec, as well as having Improved Parry be rather buried in the tree, making it much more expensive to acquire than it would be in the other specializations it appears in, as well as kind of burying the ranks of Parry and Reflect so that a player won't get those talents too quickly.  Still, I feel like I've broken some sort of cardinal rule by including both those talents in the same spec, so if anything I would suggest to GMs that they require a PC looking to acquire this spec have undertake some measure of quest before they can purchase it, and that it certainly cannot be purchased at character creation for games set after the fall of the Jedi Order.

Another portion that I struggled on and off with was the new lightsaber crystals.  I wanted to introduce some new options for PCs, making them different enough from the already published crystals that they didn't all feel like retreads but not so different as to possibly unbalance the game.  I posted earlier drafts of some of those new crystals here on my blog a while ago, as well as guidelines for constructing a synthetic lightsaber crystal, which I've touched up a bit.  I ultimately opted to treat a synthetic kyber crystal as being the same as the Ilum crystal, and figure that the Sith were so hung up on synthetic crystals being "superior" to natural kyber crystals was a combination of their inherent hubris and that a freshly created synthetic kyber crystal would have the potential to have some of its modification options added during the creation process, making it "better" than a stock Ilum crystal.

One thing I had been going back and forth upon including was a "Beast Master" universal specialization, incorporating elements of the Pathfinder specialization as well as the Beast Rider specialization from Stay on Target.  I ultimately axed the idea upon the announcement of Savage Spirits, but upon acquiring the book I may revisit that idea down the line.  To be honest, a lot of the proposed intent for the Beast Master was taken from the Legends version of the Dathomir witches, who were capable Force users that bonded with and rode beasts (notably rancors).  As is often the case with home-brew specializations, the trick was not doing too much cherry-picking for this proposed specialization in terms of talents.

In terms of Force powers, that section was surprisingly easy to update.  I completely chucked the Force Techniques idea and the various powers I'd created.  While it's entirely possibly that the upcoming Sentinel sourcebook Endless Vigil will have some kind of Psychometry power, I put together my own take, one that I feel captures the essence of the power without it becoming too much of a potential game breaker, especially for adventures that revolve around solving mysteries or learning hidden truths.

Well, enough blathering on my part, so here's the goods.

Ways of the Force, Version 2.0

Hopefully you find this newest (and possibly final) version of Ways of the Force to be a useful, either in whole or in part, at your gaming table as your characters learn and explore the mysteries of the Force in a galaxy far, far away...

May 4, 2016

Revisting some old faces for May the Fourth

Firstly, a happy May the Fourth to my fellow Star Wars fans.

Been a while since I last posted, coming off of the gaming high that was GamerNationCon 2016: Beyond Thunderdome.  And to be honest, not a whole lot worth posting has been going on.  Been revisiting the con module (Taris City Rumble) that I wrote for possible pick-up games, and have wound up revising it considerably so that it has more of an Edge of the Empire feel to it.  Also been working on a new con module set closer to the time frame of The Force Awakens.  I am fully planning on offering these as scheduled events at GamerNationCon 2017: A  New Hope, given the rather ill-fated attempt I made at trying to run a pick-up game last time around.

There is the Captain America: Civil War movie opening in the states this weekend, which I'm eager to see.  I'm pretty solidly in the corner of #TeamCap, even if Spider-Man makes his long-awaited debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Iron Man's side of the fight.

But back onto things pertaining to Star Wars.  I've been working here and there on a pretty substantial revision of my Ways of the Force fan document, taking into account not only lessons learned and feedback provided and gained, but also the fact that Force and Destiny has been out for quite a while now.

And in that line of thinking, I started to wonder "what would some old characters from the earliest version of the rules look like now?"  I kind of answered that a bit when I did a minor update of my initial character Valin Starsmore, a Force-sensitive street rat that was originally built as a Smuggler/Scoundrel/Force Exile and got re-built into a Smuggler/Scoundrel/Force Emergent for an Age of Rebellion game.  I had toyed with rebuilding Valin a third time, making use of Force and Destiny, but simply never really got around to it until a little over a week ago, which in turn got me thinking to a couple other old player-characters, such as Auron, the aged Clone Trooper that had defected from the Empire (built as a Hired Gun/Mercenary Captain) and my friend Linda's character from her initial foray into FFG's Star Wars RPG, a young Tapani socialite on the run named Jade Morningfire (and no, the surname was not a coincidence).

So, I opted to go ahead and do complete re-builds of those three characters using the latest material from all three of the Star Wars RPG product lines.  You can find links to the character sheets for each of these characters by clicking on the link embedded within their species/career/specialization listing.

Valin Starsmore, Force-Sensitive Street Rat
(Human Sentinel/Shien Expert)
An orphan for as long as he can remember, Valin never really had a sense of belonging, having largely grown up on the streets, quickly learning to rely upon himself.  His one major edge was an unusual sensitivity to events and the people around him, giving him brief flashes of insight that helped him avoid danger.
That changed when he was taken in by a foster care center, where he came under the care and tutelage of an elderly Human by the name of Cori, who had once been a Jedi apprentice.  As such, Cori recognized Valin's sensitivity to the Force, and saw in the youth the potential for something better.  Over the next few years, Valin learned to better control his fledgling powers but also about the Jedi Knights and their beliefs, even coming to see the older man as the closest thing to a father-figure he'd ever known.  On his 16th birthday, Valin received his master's old training stick and the Old Republic credit that they'd use to train the boy to "move things without physically moving them," as well as encouragement to continue learning about the Force.  Valin can only figure that Cori had some foreknowledge about the impending of the ISB Agent that arrested the older man several days later on charges of treason against the Empire; Cori was never seen again, and a few days later Valin fled the center, certain that staying would put everyone else in great danger.

Valin has spent the intervening time once again living on the streets, doing his best to avoid drawing the wrong kind of attention.  But instead of simply trying to survive, Valin now has a greater sense of purpose, and has not forgotten what he'd learned about the Jedi Knights.  Now, he hopes to learn more about the Force while doing his best to live in accordance with the Jedi Code as best one can in these dark times.

Thoughts: This version of Valin works a lot better overall, even if it meant losing some handy skill ranks from his original iteration.  Not having to fork over XP for a universal spec to be Force-sensitive helped a lot, as did the +10 XP from Morality, enabling him to push his Cunning up to 3, something that's very handy for a street rat.  He's not great as combatant, but neither was his original version, though he lost Cool and Vigilance as career skills in the transition from Smuggler to Sentinel.

Jade Morningfire, Force-Sensitive Debutante-in-Exile 
(Human Mystic/Advisor)
Jade grew up the daughter of one of the noble houses of the Tapani Expanse, accustomed to a life of luxury and privilege that most beings can only dream of.  In spite of her somewhat sheltered upbringing, Jade was a decent person at heart, and even if she didn't quite grasp the plights of the common folk she always meant well in her limited dealings with them.  From a very young age, Jade demonstrated a knack for charming those around her, as well as being unusually perceptive of the moods of others.  Her constant companion was a young gossamer dragonet named Merry, most likely due to a combination of teenage whimsy and the creature's cheerfulness, with the tiny beast frequently curled around his mistress' shoulders when not fluttering about.

It wasn't until much later, well into her teens, that Jade came to learn some of the truth of her heritage.  Highly attractive, Jade was used to being the focus of attention for other men, particularly young nobles of a similar age, though it was a recent suitor, a young yet highly-ranked Imperial officer that had given Jade cause for concern; there was just something cold and unsettling about the man despite his handsome appearance.  Her father had been reluctant to approve the match, given the disparity in social status, but his sudden and uncharacteristic change in opinion lead to a heated argument between Jade's parents, which she overheard purely by chance.  It was then that she learned the man she had called father all her life was not her biological father, and that her mother had a short-lived affair with a Jedi General bearing the surname of Morningfire.  When it became clear that Jade was going to wind up having to wed the creepy Imperial officer, she made up her mind to run away, taking whatever she could grab before fleeing the family's lush estate on Procopia, deciding to adopt the surname Morningfire in honor of her true biological father and as a means of distancing herself from her adopted father after the perceived betrayal of her trust.

Since running away, Jade has had some difficulty in adapting to a life away from the pomp and luxury of the Expanse, learning quickly that most people will not simply do as she wishes because she asked them to.  That and much of the considerable sum of credits she started out with have quickly dwindled to a mere pittance, though Jade is determined to not go back and be forced to marry a man whose mere presence leaves her greatly unsettled.

Thoughts: I had Linda vet this updated version of Jade, and we both liked it.  Jade is a bit weak in her starting characteristics, only having two of them at a 3, which may hamper her in the long run, though her 3's are in the characteristics she'll most frequently using.

Auron Briggs, Former Clone Trooper
(Human Soldier/Commando)
The way that Auron sees it, there's really not a whole lot to tell about him or his life.  Like so many of his genetic brethren, he was created and trained on Kamino as part of the Grand Army of the Republic, given the designation CT-20237.  He entered combat duty during the 15th month of the Clone Wars, and served well if not with distinction; that he survived to see the end of the war is a testament to his level of training given the casualty rate of Clone Troopers.

At first, he accepted the Republic's transition into the Galactic Empire, though he remains quite on the subject of Order 66, saying only that what's done is done and that looking back won't change things.  For the first couple of years, CT-20237 didn't see much of a difference in how the Empire ran things, having never known what life was like prior to the Clone Wars.  But gradually that changed, and he began to see just how corrupt and awful the Empire was in comparison to stories told of the Old Republic.  One incident finally pushed the veteran trooper to the breaking point, at which he deserted Imperial service and set out to find his own path in the galaxy, heading for the Outer Rim Territories.  He knows that as a Clone Trooper that deserted, his life is essentially forfeit, and so adopted the name Auron Briggs to help cover his tracks, at least a little.

For the most part, Auron works as a blaster-for-hire, keeping to a personal moral code as to what sorts of jobs he will or won't take; the seedier side of the criminal underworld sickens a professional soldier like himself, and more than one sleazy underworld figure has found themselves facing the wrath of a man who is far more dangerous than his age would suggest.

Thoughts: Auron was a tough SOB in his Hired Gun/Mercenary Captain incarnation, and he's probably even more of a tough SOB as a Soldier/Commando.  He's got pretty solid combat skills, can take a couple of hits from lower-grade weapons.  I was sorely tempted to build him up to Knight Level just to see how much tougher he'd get with that additional XP, but I kind of like Auron being an entry-level character, with his mechanical lack of skill being narratively enforced by his advanced physical age; he wasn't much more than a front-line trooper during the Clone Wars, so he wouldn't be on nearly the same level of badassery as Commander Rex.

And there we go, updated versions of three staring characters that made their first entrances into the Star Wars universe during the bygone days of the Edge of the Empire Beta.

While I had originally intended to drop a new version of Ways of the Force today, especially since it was on a May the Fourth that the initial version made its debut, things didn't work out that way.  I'm generally pleased with out a lot of the current version looks, but there's still a few things I'd like to tinker with as well as getting the document's layout in proper order (it's currently a bit of a mess).  Given how infrequently I post updates to this blog, maybe next month will see a vastly updated version of Ways of the Force.

Until next time, May the Fourth be with you, always...

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)