June 30, 2015

Karabast!

Well, in keeping with the prior post being about Star Wars Rebels, here's a little something that I'd originally planned for an update of the Unofficial Species Menagerie.  But with that particular project having become defunct due to both myself and Ben being too busy with other things, I figure I'll post said update here.  So without further blathering...

The Lasat
(http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Lasat/Canon)


Starting Characteristics
Brawn 3
Agility 2
Intellect 2
Cunning1
Willpower 3
Presence 1 

Wound Threshold: 12 + Brawn
Strain Threshold: 9 + Willpower
Starting XP: 90
Species Abilities: Lasat begin with one free rank in Athletics and Brawl.  They still may not train Athletics and Brawl above Rank 2 during character creation.

So yeah, these guys are very tough, and stubborn to boot.  Brawn and Willpower of 3 to start makes them solid combatants at 15 wound threshold and 12 strain threshold even without any increases.  But their low Cunning can be a liability, which I think fits what we see of Zeb in SW Rebels.  I considered setting their Intellect at 1, but nothing we've seen of Zeb really indicates that the Lasat as a species are particularly dim-witted.  Still, they're definitely a warrior species, and would do quite well in the Hired Gun and Soldier careers.

As an added bonus, here's my take on Zeb's signature weapon...

AB-75 Bo-Rifle
(http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/AB-75_bo-rifle)
Skill: Ranged: Heavy (rifle configuration) or Melee (staff configuration)
Damage: 9 (rifle configuration) or Brawn+3 (staff configuration)
Critical: 3
Range: Medium (rifle configuration) or Engaged (staff configuration)
Cost/Rarity: 2500 credits/8
Encumbrance: 6
Hard Points: 2
Special: Cumbersome 3, Dual Mode, Linked 1 (staff configuration), Stun Setting, Unwieldy 3

New Weapon Quality: Dual Mode
A weapon with this quality has two separate configurations.  A character can spend a maneuver to convert the weapon from its current configuration to the other configuration.

Darth Vader, the Empire's greatest troll

Okay, so it's been a dog's age since I last posted here.  To be honest, been pretty busy with a number of different things, ranging from work to playtesting gigs (now completed) to playing in various RPG campaigns to planning out my next Star Wars campaign.

So the Siege of Lothal has dropped, giving us a taste of what's to come for Season 2 of Star Wars Rebels.  Now I've already been enjoying the show since I first saw Spark of Rebellion last year, and while Season 1 had a couple of rough spots I enjoyed that as well.  Where the first season ended on a fairly bright note for the titular Rebels, Siege of Lothal undoes all of that.

If you've not seen Siege of Lothal, then fair warning that ahead there be spoilers.

Season 1's "Fire Across The Galaxy" ended the episode with the introduction of Darth Vader, suggesting that if Grand Moff Tarkin showing up was bad news for Lothal, then things were due to get a lot worse.

And what may well be the first time for the more casual breed of Star Wars fan, we get to see Lord Vader earn his rep as one of the most dangerous and perhaps frightening individuals in service to the Emperor.  While the EU/Legends did much to build up Vader's rep, going by the movies we really don't see him do a whole lot in the films to truly establish his bad guy cred.  Siege of Lothal changes that, as he pretty much masterminds the schemes to ruin what good will the crew of the Ghost had with the Lothal populace by placing the blame for the minister's death squarely on their heads, and then dealing with
rag-tag Rebel fleet that had amassed since Season 1 had ended.  He utterly dominated Kanan in their battle, and as the Jedi-turned-Rebel accurately said, they were indeed lucky to have survived that; I suspect that if Vader didn't need them to lead him to the Rebel fleet, none of the Ghost's crew would have survived that encounter.  Instead, he pretty much made it clear that he was several magnitudes more dangerous than the Inquisitor ever was.  And then there was his near-surgical destruction of Phoenix Squadron and crippling of the Rebel's command ship with nothing more than his personal TIE Advanced and the fact that he's one of the best fighter pilots in the galaxy.  In a way, the whole movie felt like Vader was out-and-out trolling the Rebels simply because he could, merely to underscore just how badly outclassed they were in comparison to the might of a Sith Lord.

In ANH, Ben Kenobi called the period of years between the Empire's founding and the Battle of Yavin as "the dark times," and Vader's appearance pretty much highlights that times are going to be very dark for the Rebels.  While I doubt we'll see Vader as a constantly recurring  adversary (after all, James Earl Jones can't be cheap, even he is the iconic voice of the Sith Lord), his actions in Siege of Lothal are undoubtedly going to be felt throughout the rest of the season.

Well, that's enough gushing about Siege of Lothal and Vader's badassery, though I will admit that it's going to be a long wait for the rest of Season 2.

Back in March, I'd said that I'd start posting stuff that I'd written either for the defunct GSA, as well as things I'd been planning to incorporate into the next Unofficial Species Menagerie.  So it's probably about high time I start doing that.  Things have settled down a little bit for me, at least for this week, so time to start posting some crunch.

March 13, 2015

3DoGG lived up to the name!

Sorry for the lengthy silence.

February was something of a crazy month, and the first few days of March were spent trying (and to some extent failing) to get everything together for GamerNationCon 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Those who know me also know how crushed/pissed I was when my flight plans to go to the inaugural GamerNationCon in 2014 got squashed by the Albany area getting slammed with a massive snowstorm that pretty much shut down all flights leaving the Albany International Airport for the entire morning and probably well into the afternoon as well.

Well, luckily there was no report performance of that, and I was able to attend this year's GNCon.  And the tag of "3 Days of Gaming Goodness" lives up to the name, as I had an absolute blast.

Most of my time was spent playing various RPGs, including a couple that I'd never played before, such as ICONs run by my friend Eric "oghen" Brenders.  It was a fun system, and I felt kind of bad ditching them for a rare chance to play the Dragon Age RPG, but from what I'm told the ICONs session wrapped up pretty shortly after I left.  The Dragon Age game was fun, though sadly my dice couldn't roll for crap, which was a trend that also continued into the Feng Shui 2 session I participated in.  All three sessions were fun, but I think playing a Maverick Cop by the name of Jacob McFoley was probably the highlight of the non-Star Wars RPG sessions I played in.

I did get to play in 2 (well, technically 3) Star Wars sessions, all using the FFG system.  The first one was run by author Keven "Rikoshi" Frane, who I was glad to finally be able to meet and hang out with, even going so far as to having dinner with him and his friend Paul at Red Hot and Blue.  Rikoshi's adventure was fun, but needed some work as it probably could be run as two 3+ hour slots instead of trying to cram it into a single 4(ish) hour slot.  He did say this was his first time running it, and nobody really gets their written con modules right the first time out.  Even GM Chris makes used of "slot zero" to iron out the bugs in his assorted con modules.  It was also great to meet and game (even if briefly) with Wayne Basta, who I've also known through the d20 Radio forums for quite some time.  He did a bang-up job at making the Trandoshan Doctor PC be quite creepy, particularly with some of the wild facial expressions he did.  And Paul giving the female Twi'lek Politico the air of an uptight diva was also entertaining, but just not quite to the same extent.  I'd certainly play in a game run by Rikoshi again, as he's a fun GM and pretty good at keeping things moving; the only flaw with the adventure was that it was too ambitious for a 4 hour con slot.

The other Star Wars game I played in was Sunday, and that was probably the highlight of the whole convention for me.  Phil aka "DarthGM" is a great GM, even when (or perhaps especially when) he's sleep deprived from the shenanigans of the night before, particularly when combined with Daylight Savings Time pushing the clocks an hour ahead.  What made that session particularly cool was getting to share the gaming table with FFG Lead Developer and the con's Guest of Honor Sam Stewart.  I've played under Sam as a GM a few times at GenCon, and while those were fun, he really shined as a player, being quite entertaining and creative as the Duros Scholar/Saboteur.  I was playing the "lucky charm" build that Phil described on the Order 66 episode discussing the Force Sensitive Emergent, who was also a Soldier/Sharpshooter and a fun character to roleplay; I got to be annoyingly chipper around a bunch of people in various degrees of sleep deprivation :D  I am curious to see how my dice roll after sharing them with Sam and rolling them in Phil's dice tray.

Also, I got to make two trips (the second one being much shorter) to Plano's FLGS, Madness Games and Comics.  If you listen to the Order 66 podcast, then in the past you've heard Chris and Dave mention and rave about the place.  I think Eric put it best when said "it's not a gaming store, it's a geek hobby warehouse!"  Seriously, the place is HUGE, befitting as I believe it was a supermarket that got retrofitted into a game store.  Shelves upon shelves upon shelves of comics, RPG books, minis, dice, statues... I could have sworn I actually heard a choir of angels sing the first time I crossed the threshold, and were it not for packing concerns (I intentionally used a smaller suitcase), I could have easily spent a bunch of money I really didn't have to spend at that place.

The convention itself wrapped up with dinner at a Texas steakhouse, and man was that steak goooooood.  In fact, most of the food I had down there was good, ranging from a joint that was a combination BBQ pit and gas station to Red, Hot, and Blue (a small chain that also had yummy BBQ).  Sadly, I made the mistake at eating at a tex-mex buffet called Panchos, and I will never, ever make that mistake again.  Also ate at IHOP a couple times, which was good as usual (though I may have overdone it on Monday morning in terms of the amount of food I ate).

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other cool people I got to hang out with, such as Adie/R2DToots all the way from the UK, who was a piggin' sweetheart of a person and newly-minted Queen of the Keg Stand.  I really do hope she can make it to GNCon next year, as I'd love a chance to game with her, though she seems to be more of a boardgame type of gal where I'm more of an RPG kind of bloke.  Also enjoyed getting to talk campaign ideas with Eric without having to deal with the hassle of us being on Skype at the same time.  And it was great to finally meet and talk to Doran "Doctor Xerox" in the flesh, and he's about as quiet in person as he is in Skype, though part of that might have to do with me and Eric being such boisterous personalities when it comes to gaming ideas.  It was great to see and talk with GM Chris, GM Dave, Brev, Krista, and Kat as well.  Didn't get a lot of time to hang/talk with Phil or Sterling Hershey, but that's how it goes, particularly since Phil seemed to do nothing but run Star Wars games, such as his "The Big Leagues" module or his newly-crafted "Guns of Nova Rain" (which is what I played on Sunday).  Sterling ran an adventure on Sunday morning, but I didn't get a chance to check that out due to being in Phil's game; maybe next year if Sterling can make it.

The "Yes, And..." panel was a lot more interesting than I'd though it'd be, with Sam, Sterling, Phil, and Keith Kappel discussing various ways that players aka "those jerks" can derail a pre-written adventure and how you as the GM can put things back on track without having to completely scrap what you've written.

The flight back home had a bit more drama than I would have liked, but I made it home safe and sound, with my luggage showing up the next morning equally safe and sound.  A big vote of thanks to the Gamer Nation folks that were willing to ferry me not only back and forth between the hotel and con site, but also pick up and drop off at the airport.

I won't go into too much more detail, but I have to say of all the various conventions that I've gone to, including GenCon, this one was by far the most fun.  GenCon has its perks (dealer hall for one), but in terms of things to do, GamerNationCon is one tough act to beat, and was far less expensive for me in terms of travel and hotel costs to boot. And truthfully, I didn't pre-reg for a single event at GNCon, and the only times I wasn't gaming was because I was eating or had removed myself from the hustle and bustle to give my social anxiety meter a chance to zero out.

Overall, it was one hell of a weekend, and I so can't wait to do it again next year.  Early word is that they're looking to move the con to April, which I think will go a long way towards alleviating some of the travel problems that a few folks had; a number of folks flying in from the northern parts of the country had weather-related delays.

Now, as to that "fail" part I mentioned earlier?  Well, I had initially planed to bring the materials to run three possible RPG modules.  The first of these was my Saga Edition version of Operation: Jailbreak, the second was Dragon Age's Duty Unto Death (as seen on TableTop), and an unspecified EotE module.  Sadly, I rolled a Despair at properly managing my time, and simply couldn't get the characters and core plot idea to properly gel for the EotE module in time for the con, so I wound up scrapping it entirely.  Which was probably just as well as enough folks were running EotE and AoR that anyone that needed their Star Wars fix wasn't hurting for options.  Next year, I'll probably just bring the stuff for Dragon Age (which folks seemed to enjoy even though I'm sure I forgot all sorts of rules and had to look up skill specializations to see what sort of check I should be asking for) and the FFG Star Wars module that I'm currently working on.  Said module should be good to go in time for GNCon3, as I've got the characters set and ready (just need to tweak one a bit and fine tune the stats for another) and a pretty solid plot layout that just needs some polish and embellishing; it likely won't be a formally written module (as dear gods do I suck at doing those) but will have enough structure that I'll know where it's going but flexible enough that I won't be at a loss for the palyers' inevitable right turn at Albuquerque.  It's a pretty fun cast of characters, or at least they look like a pretty fun cast of characters; I'll have to run the module first to see if that holds true.

Well, that's enough blabbering from me for one night.  If I don't stop now, I'm likely to keep going on and on about how fun this year's GNCon was.  Unless things go totally pear-shaped for me, I should be all set to attend next year's con, especially if it's being held in April due to a severe lack of weather-related shenanigans that frequently occur in March.  After all, there's plenty of shenanigans at GamerNationCon already.

January 25, 2015

So what did happen to the GSA?

Okay, I've been asked this by a number of folks, and while I'd prefer to keep my thoughts to myself, I do think

What happened to the GSA?

Some time back, there was an idea, the brainchild of Dave "GM Dave" Villegas and Brian "Fiddleback" Casey.  Called the Gamer Security Agency, or GSA for short, it was meant to be a kind of repository for various members of the Gamer Nation to write and post articles discussing various aspects of gaming, and likely also a means to advertise Gamer Nation Studios and their line of games.  Not too surprisingly, given that most of the d20 Radio community were big into Star Wars (heck, it was a Star Wars RPG podcast that lead to the formation of the d20 Radio community), when FFG's Edge of the Empire Beta got into our hands, the GSA had almost become an EotE fan site instead of the general gaming web site that had been intended.  And then, Brian departed to go do his own thing, and the GSA pretty much went into hibernation.  A lot of contributors, such as myself, waited to see what would happen... only for nothing to happen.

Now to be clear, I have ZERO idea as to what actually caused Brian to take his ball and go play in a different yard; that's something you'll have to ask him.  But if I had to speculate then I'd say that Brian and Dave had differing ideas about where the GSA should go, and thus parted ways, with the GSA lying dormant and no updates being made.

Then something happened a couple weeks ago, that took a number of folks by surprise.  The GSA website vanished.  Honestly, I'm not surprised at this, as I'm sure that paying money for a website that wasn't being updated and wasn't doing much to draw traffic to the d20 Radio website was a fiscal drain that Dave and Chris could do without.  Frankly, I'm more surprised the site stayed up as long as it did.

So what does that mean for the content that was on the GSA?  Given most of the contributors have either gone their own ways or jumped ship over to Brian's GSA knock-off site, odds are good most of those articles are lost to the ether and will require the Internet Wayback Machine to dig up.

Luckily, I saved soft-copies of all the GSA articles I posted.  So as the weeks and months go by, I'll start posting some of those items here, such as the various starships I did for the "Exploring the Galactic Fringe" section of the Equipment Labs, the much enjoyed Unofficial Species Menagerie (more on that in a moment), and even some of the Heroes on Demand, though I will probably have a number of new ideas to offer given how many more books are out.  Though with HoD, I may wind up revising several characters to account for the new core rulebooks but that will depend greatly on time available.

As for the Unofficial Species Menagerie, there had been plans to do a Version 4, but frankly those plans fell completely through.  From the start, I had meant for it to be a joint project between myself and Ben "Cyril' Erickson, but it's become pretty clear that Ben's interests have moved away from Star Wars RPGs as well as his own personal life having several demands on his time.

True, I probably could forge ahead without him, but doing just feels wrong to me.  Like I said, it was meant as a joint project, and if Ben's not contributing, then I feel the best thing to do at this point would be to set any further updates of the USM aside.  Plus, there's the fact that a lot of the species we'd created are getting covered by FFG in their sourcebooks, so I'd be placing more and more species into the archive chapter than I would be adding new species.

That being said, I will post a link to the USM for folks to reference now that the GSA has passed on.  I'm not sure yet if I'm going to push ahead with the mostly updated version that I have, or just simply post the link to version 3.5 and leave it at that.

January 1, 2015

Happy Frakkin' New Year!

(Yes, that is a Battlestar Galactica reference.  Deal with it).

Yeah, so it's been a while since I last posted here.  Short version is that the past month has been quite busy for me for a number of reasons, making it rather easy to forgot about this blog of mine.

I did get around to seeing The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.  And quite frankly, the more I reflect on the movie, the more let down I am in its execution.  That's not to say it was horrible or that I regret spending the time watching it in the theater.  It's just that this movie proves that Peter Jackson really should have kept his adaptation of The Hobbit to only two films as this third one just really suffered from stretching the material so thin.  I did very much like how the film ended, and the opening sequence with Smaug unleashing fire and death upon Laketown was very well done, as was the White Council going up against the Necromancer/Sauron in Dol Guldor; it was quite cool to see Elrond and Saruman holding their own quite well against the Nazgul and shiver-inducing to see Galadriel invoke her "dark queen" aspect to essentially banish Sauron back to Mordor followed by Saruman's saying to leave taking care of Sauron to him, especially as audiences generally already know which side Saruman pretty much ends up on in the Lord of the Rings films.

Things are still rather busy, and I'm still trying to catch up on things that got pushed aside due to the Xmas holiday weekend.  In fact, working on this blog post comes as something of a break from what I've most recently been working on.  Can't provide any specific details, but I must say the project in question is fun and I can't wait to see the final results when it's all said and done.

As folks that follow along with the Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games know, the first career sourcebook for their Age of Rebellion game line is out on shelves now, that being Stay on Target for the Ace career.  This was a fun product for myself and the other members of Squadron 66 to playtest, though it did expose just how unused to running starship combats I was; there were a number of times where the player said they wanted to do something, and I had to scramble through my copy of the rulebook to see what the specific rules on that action were.  If it were a regular session, I'd have probably just handwaved it, but since this was playtesting I felt it was more appropriate to stick to the rules as written, particularly for talents like the Corellian Send-Off that directly reference existing mechanics (in this case, collisions) in the core rules.

Of the new material, I'd have to say the Hotshot is my favorite of the three careers, and I'd love a chance to play one in a starfighter campaign some point down the road.  I was also a big fan of the Z-95 Heavy of the new starfighters, although the E-Wing is a pretty boss ship in its own right.  I also had to hold myself in check upon reading complaints in the Age of Rebellion section of FFG's own forums about folks complaining that having an astromech didn't provide any actual rules benefit when I was in the midst of playtesting those actual rules.  Hopefully those folks that lamented the lack of said rules are pleased with what FFG has offered up to address said concern.

A fair chunk of my time has been taken up with various RPG campaigns.  The Punching for Justice! podcast, dedicated to Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition, has quite recently posted their two-part holiday-themed live play session, of which I was glad to participate in.  They've actually got a bunch of live play sessions recorded for the Emerald City Knights campaign that Eric "Ogehn" Brenders was running (currently on hiatus) in the can, but that Kyle simply didn't have the opportunity to edit (being a full-time student tends to do that).  Hopefully things will settle down a bit for Kyle and he'll have the time to get back into editing and posting those live play episodes, as well as recording regular episodes of Punching for Justice!

I've also been running sessions for the Force and Destiny Beta, testing out how characters progress under those rules as well as various bits of the rules themselves, up to and including just how dangerous a lightsaber duel can be even for a PC that's all about lightsaber duels.  Those have been a lot of fun, though I think Edo (Gand Seeker/Hunter) is probably the most memorable PC of the group; but Viado Airhart comes close, particularly since the player is using an image of Nicolas Cage to represent what Viado looks like.

Also been playing in my good friend Linda's Age of Rebellion campaign, which also has been a lot of fun.  I had started the campaign playing a Human Commander/Tactictian named Jacen Roke, but after Jacen made the ultimate sacrifice for his comrades and the Alliance, I've brought in a new PC by the name of Kyren Stryder, young Human male that's been rather derisively labeled a "useless pretty boy" by one of the other PCs.  Not much to say on Kyren other than he's simply out to help those who need it, and is a recent recruit to the Rebel Alliance.  He's been pretty vague about his particular skill set, beyond that he's good with his fists, can handle himself in a fight, and has demonstrated significant athletic prowess.  Kyren's also a pretty easy-going individual; part of my concept for his personality was in part inspired by Christopher Reeve's portrayal of Superman, in that Kyren generally sees himself as being "a friend to those in need."  Given that one of Kyren's motivations is "Helping the Helpless" (lifted from the Force and Destiny Beta because it was too perfect to pass up), I think that fits.  Really hoping that with Linda now back on her usual daytime hours instead of the evening holiday hours she was working, we'll pick this campaign back up.

Last night was spent on the inaugural session of what I hope is a long-running Legend of the Five Rings campaign.  Once again, I am taking up the banner of the Minor Clans by playing a Hare Bushi (Usagi Katsuro).  A large part of the hook for this character is that he's driven to prove that the Minor Clans can produce an extraordinary swordsman on par with those of the Great Clans, particularly the Crane and Dragon Clans; while the Hare Clan might be respected for their courage and luck in facing their foes, the Usagi Bushi school does not come to mind when one thinks of "schools that produce great swordsmen" and Katsuro is out to prove that the Great Clans do not have a monopoly on doing so.  Said drive will probably get him into trouble sooner rather than later, but as things stand he's already very capable, be it in a proper iaijutsu duel or employing the precepts of battojutsu in a skirmish as he darts around the field of battle.

The inaugural session was meant to be more of a "everyone meets" type of deal as well as allowing us to get a feel for our characters and make any minor adjustments we feel are needed.  For me, Katsuro performed as expected in that he was able to deliver a devastating opening assault but fast enough to avoid getting squashed outright by his opponents.  We did have one player make a ronin brawler in the theme of Sanosuke Sagara, but the player sadly learned that if you're playing a true ronin with no starting technique or path in L5R, you're pretty much boned.  The Mantis Bushi and Scropion Shugenja both seemed to do well, the the shugenja is interesting as she is definitely not a combat mage; instead she seems to have been built to be the party face with her magic backing this up to make her an even more effective social character.

As for the campaign itself, the GM is placing us into the Naishou Province setting that AEG published for GenCon 2013.  We as players have only been given a few scant details about the province, but from what we've thus far been told, it sounds to be pretty interesting.  Each of us has their own reason to be traveling there under orders of our respective lords; not sure about the ronin brawler as he seemed not to have much direction (and probably just as well the player will be making an entirely different character).  Given the focus of the Hare Clan in rooting out some fairly dark conspiracies, that my character is being sent there probably doesn't bode well in the long run, but I'll have to simply wait and see.  It will also be interesting to see how this rather disparate group of young samurai continue to interact with one another; thus far I'm probably the most honorable character in the group; the Mantis Bushi's attitude is not unlike that of Tony Stark prior to the events of the first Iron Man flick, and the Scorpion Shugenja has made it pretty clear that she holds to her clan's rather unusual views regarding Bushido and "honorable" behavior.

Well, that's pretty much what I've been up to.  Got to head off and make final preparations for a playtesting session for a new project for tonight.


November 30, 2014

Star Wars - The Force Awakens: My thoughts thus far

If you weren't aware of the release of the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then I'm pretty surprised you're reading this blog post.

I won't bother linking directly to the trailer itself, since social media has pretty much been bombarded with links aplenty.

There's also been a lot of folks giving their two bullet's worth* on the trailer and dissecting it like a frog in a high school biology class.

Frankly, though he was a bit salty language-wise about it, I think that Kevin Smith generally has the right idea in regards to the teaser trailer: Shut the F*&$ up and rejoice at the fact we're getting brand new Star Wars movies!

I remember seeing the teaser trailer for The Phantom Menace, and when it ended with the iconic Vader breath I was pretty darn excited.  Granted, said movie had it's flaws (overuse of Jar Jar Binks and Jake Lloyd's horrific acting**), but I thought that for the most part, it delivered the goods, particularly the big lightsaber battle at the end.  Which, with be being a major league fan of most things Jedi, should surprise nobody.  I was the guy in a Star Wars RPG group that typically played a Force user, getting to the point that with one group, anytime we started up a new WEG campaign I was the guy designated to be the token Jedi given how well I knew the rules on the Force (sometimes even better than the GM did).  My first PC in each new Star Wars RPG had been a Jedi, with FFG's system only bucking that trend due to not having Jedi rules; wound up playing a Force Exile though.

I've seen some folks whine and kavitch about the cross-hilt lightaber we see in the trailer, and how "it's not realistic!" or "it's not practical!"  First, realism in Star Wars is at best a happy accident; those movies break the laws of physics faster than I can rip into a bag of gummy bears (and I freaking love gummy bears, especially the ones made in Germany with actual fruit juice instead of fruit flavoring).  Secondly, there were similar complaints when the trailers spoiled the fact that Darth Maul had a double-bladed lightsaber, and about the one point that most fans agree upon is that the battle sequence of Maul vs. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan was the highlight of the film, particularly the Obi-Wan vs. Maul sequence after Qui-Gon is mortally injured.  I've got a clip of just that whole fight sequence that I ripped from YouTube, and have watched it plenty of times.

The rolling ball droid doesn't bother me on bit, nor does the blocky speeder design that one girl is riding.  And maybe there was a bit of lens flare while the Falcon is flying about, but it wasn't horrific (not nearly as bad as it got in the New!Trek films at least), and frankly that last sequence was what made the trailer for me.

So in short, I enjoyed the teaser trailer, and if there'd been a theater in my area showing it, I may well have gone to that theater to see it on the big screen.  I'd probably also stay for the movie, as given the price of movie tickets if I'm going to shell out that much cash then I'm going to stay for the entire freaking movie.

Now, the question that really needs addressing is: Can December 2015 get here fast enough?

Oh, a few of fan-made parody trailers that I've come across and enjoyed...

Disney Version:
http://youtu.be/cwe90O7tktM

George Lucas "Revised" Version:
http://youtu.be/qjrPTCnZwB4

George Lucas Special Edition Version:
http://youtu.be/v93Jh6JNBng

LEGO Version:
http://youtu.be/6BKHhP8sUR8

*I blame the old Deadlands Mailing List for that one, since that's where I picked it up.
**Yes, I know he was a kid but there are child actors around his age that can actually freaking act.  I don't know whose grandkid he was, but he makes Hayden's turn as Anakin in Episode II almost tolerable by comparison.

October 28, 2014

Force and Destiny: On Lightsabers and Duels

Been meaning to get this one typed up for a while, just kept getting sidetracked for one reason or another.

I remember quite some time back, there was a lot of concern of lightsaber duels being far too deadly in FFG's Star Wars RPG, particularly with lightsabers in that game being Damage 10, Critical 1, and Breach 1 weapons, ensuring that the target was going to take a lot of damage and suffer a pretty nasty critical injury in the process.  There were a number of proposed "solutions" to this problem, with the most frequent one being to simply have lightsabers upgrade the difficulty twice (rolling two Challenge dice as the base for a Lightsaber combat check) to avoid the "first hit = victor" scenario that became a major issue for the WEG D6 Star Wars RPG in regards to the Lightsaber Combat power in the hands of a highly capable Force user.

Personally, I felt the real problem was that lightsabers in EotE and AoR were simply way too good, and should have been toned down to something more reasonable than "near-instant death on a stick."  I think the reaction of my GM for the (now on hiatus) Rascal Squad Age of Rebellion campaign in the session immediately after he allowed Valin to assemble a lightsaber of his own, having earned a suitable focusing crystal by completing a series of "trials" during the GM's modified running of the "Echoes of the Past" fan module.  He was rather shocked at how quickly Valin, who was not a major contributor to combat encounters compared to the rest of the group, had gone from "kid with a blaster" to "kid capable of wiping out minion groups in a single round" or "kid capable of crippling important adversaries with only marginal degrees of success."  After we finally concluded the last portion of Long Arm of the Hutt, the GM confided in me that he was starting to really regret letting Valin have such a powerful weapon afterwards.

Luckily, that session took place just before GenCon 2014 and the release of the Force and Destiny Beta.  One of the first things I noticed in the equipment chapter was that the Basic Lightsaber was far less powerful than the EotE/AoR lightsaber, with the damage nearly halved, the critical rating doubled, and a lack of the Vicious quality with the cost only being reduced by several hundred credits.  And that the other lightsaber types were of a similar vein; Breach 1 remained to make them dangerous, but these were not the "one-hit kill" weapons that the lightsabers in the prior books had the reputation of being.  What was interesting was that if the PC was willing to invest the time and resources (and had a bit of luck on their side), they could modify a basic lightsaber into being the potent weapon, so the option was there, though certainly not easy to achieve (at least not before the Beta Update #4).

Now, shortly after the Force and Destiny Beta came out, I managed to wrangle up the players from the Friday night game I was in and offered to run a one-shot using the adventure at the back of the Beta book.  Though I made a number of little tweaks here and there to the adventure, the players had plenty of fun and were eager to play these one-shot characters again (handing out double XP probably helped on that front).  One of the things I'd wanted to do was have the party's Nautolan Makashi Duelist (Kennis) get into a one-on-one lightsaber duel, with one pick-up session pretty much being cribbed from the FaD demos that FFG was running in the Dealer Hall at GenCon (a bunch of Force users are on this planet to find a small child, but are confronted by stormtroopers and one or more Imperial Dark Jedi).  I added enough other details to make the core idea fit into the loose continuity I'd established thus far (the group are all students of an Order 66 survivor and are working towards setting up a refuge/compound for those sensitive to the Force that is hidden from the Empire), but sadly Kennis' player couldn't make it.  Instead, Viado (Human Starfighter Ace who had just recently picked up the Shien Expert spec, a rank of Lightsaber, and nothing else) stepped up to duel the Imperial Dark Jedi that I concocted for that encounter.  The fight was pretty tense, with the party eventually ganging up and the IDJ and taking him down and Viado doing surprisingly well (though part of that might have been to lousy dice rolls on my part) though the fight did get a bit silly with the amount of disarms going back and forth.

Now this past Friday, I finally got to have a bona-fide lighsaber duel between Kennis and a Saber Rake NPC.  And the fight got pretty nasty, particularly for Kennis who got hit with multiple critical injuries and wound up loosing his non-weapon hand before other PCs stepped in to defeat the Rake.  Granted, it took a few rounds of back and forth, with the Saber Rake getting fairly beat-up as well even with his 3 ranks in Parry, 2 ranks of Adversary, and Melee Defense of 2.

To further add to this, Valin (who wound up getting a Mephite Crystal with a couple of modifications already made for his basic lightsaber) got into a couple of saber-fights, having delved into the Ataru Striker specialization.  However, the true test of Valin's skills was against an Inquisitor made using the rules in the back of the Adversary chapter of the FaD Beta, and to put it bluntly the only reason Valin didn't snuff it was that the option was there for him to make like Luke in ESB and take a "suicide plunge" out of a high-speed repulsor-train into a lake far below.  Now at this point, I'd bought far enough into Ataru Seeker for Valin to have two ranks of Parry and Reflect (but no Improved Parry), and I got my ass handed to me, simply because rolling against a dice pool of 2 Challenge dice, 1 Difficulty die, and 1 Setback die with a pool of 2 Proficiency dice and 1 Ability die put the odds pretty solidly not in my favor to both hit and have Advantage left over, and the fact that while I could impose the same difficulty dice pool on the Inquisitor, his 4 ranks of Lightaber and 4 Brawn meant he had a far better chance of hitting with Advantage left over.  In fact, I think the only reason that Valin survived at all was that the GM was having lousy rolls on the critical injury chart, even after spending 7 Advantage with a prior critical injury on what should have been a "kill shot" only to roll 08; this still was bad since it increased the difficulty of Valin's efforts to attack even more.  To say it was something of a rude awakening to just how far Valin had to go in becoming a 'saber-wielding badass would be an understatement.  I figured that in-character, it would lead to Valin being too focused on "fighting like a Jedi" and forgetting his background as a street rate, and that he'd adjust his tactics appropriately in the future to be more of a combat pragmatist.

Now while getting into a 'saber combat with Valin was fun, the fact remains that even before delving into Ataru Striker he had a lot of XP invested into Force Emergent and the Sense power, giving him a solid defense option in the defensive Control Upgrade with the Duration and Strength Upgrades as well as additional wounds and strain.  One of my friends has been gracious enough to let me bring a Force and Destiny PC that's much closer to being a starting PC into her Star Wars game, and while he's not had a chance to get into a fight or even break-out the lightsaber, I'm curious to see how it goes when said opportunities do present themselves.

So the point of all this?  In short, I think FFG got the settings just about right for Force and Destiny PCs to be able to engage in lightsaber duels, particularly once they've seriously invested in one of the Lightsaber Form specializations, but not have those duels being the "first hit wins" scenarios that they'd have been if they'd stuck to the EotE/AoR lightsaber stats.  And while I'm sure that there are some power-gaming twinks that are lamenting the lose of such "out-of-the-box uber-weapons," the game is overall better for replacing them with the basic lightsaber and its cousins from FaD.