September 15, 2015

Star Wars Uprising - Suprisingly Fun If Not Revolutionary

As I'm sure most folks interested in all things Star Wars are aware, the mobile app Star Wars: Uprising dropped last week.

I'll be honest, I was not very enthused about the game.  I dislike the "free to play but pay to win" video game model that has become the industry standard, especially where MMOs and mobile app games are concerned.  I'm old school in that I prefer to get the completed game all at once with a single payment.

But, since it's Star Wars and was free to purchase, I figured "what the heck, I'll download the game and give it a try."  After all, it's Star Wars and I'm a self-avowed Star Wars geek/nerd.  At worst, I figured I'd lose a couple hours to the game, and that'd be that.

Well, to be honest I was pleasantly surprised at how generally fun this little game is.  Granted, it's nothing super-inventive; if anything, this seems to be a Diablo type game with Star Wars window dressing.  There's no Jedi, no lightsabers, no Force usage at all in this game... which given it's set just months (if not weeks) after the events of Return of the Jedi, that makes perfect sense as Luke is the only known Jedi Knight in the galaxy.  That might change in later canon, such as the fates of Ezra Bridger, Kanan Jarrus, and Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: Rebels being as yet undetermined (or at least not yet revealed to the audiences), but as things stand, Luke's it and he's apparently quite busy elsewhere in the galaxy.

Now to be far, I've not gotten all that far in the game (still on the starting planet), but one thing that I do like is that while you may not have a whole host of XP-earning missions you can undertake, the game does offer repeatable side-quests that let you find new gear and crafting materials to upgrade that gear, as well as "crew missions" that you can send various underlings on to acquire credits, gear, crafting materials, and other in-game valuables

The missions themselves have a bit of variety in that you can choose how high on the difficulty meter you want to go; you can play it safe at the lower ends but with not-so-awesome rewards, or you can gamble and take on a higher difficulty with better rewards but a greater chance of being defeated.

Now, this being a free-to-pay game, there are of course options to make in-game purchases, or as TVTropes calls it "bribing your way to victory."  And in a lot of these types of games, if you aren't willing to shell out the extra money, you don't get access to a lot of the high-end content.  So far, Star Wars: Uprising has averted that, at least so far.  Granted, I'm still fairly early in the in-game plot, so there might yet be "juicy goodness" that's locked away behind dollar signs that I've not seen advertised.  Although I will admit there was an offer to buy an NPC astromech for part of your crew that I was sorely tempted to go for, simply for the fact of having an astromech (love those little droids), but chose to abstain.

Like I said earlier, at it's heart this game is a dressed-up Diablo clone, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  It can be a very fun diversion, as the various player missions don't take a lot of time, no more than several minutes tops, so it's something that can be played on the go.  And as long as you take the time to level up your gear, the majority of the missions aren't that difficult to accomplish, so it can also be a fun way to unwind after a stressful day.  And those crew missions I mentioned earlier?  You don't have to be logged in to have those run, so you can very easily check in, collect any rewards your crew members might have earned, and then assign them to new missions.

Another fun factor is that you have a lot of leeway in what abilities your character possesses.  While gaining levels doesn't do much behind giving a static bonus to damage and health, you can acquire various special abilities, such as the ever-useful Hold-Out Blaster that lets you spray death unto your foes or Grenade for an area-damage blast with a pretty short cool-down time.  I've not played around with too many different abilities, as the stock ones you get are pretty useful under most circumstances.

So in short, if you've got a smartphone or tablet that can support it, then I'd suggest picking up Star Wars: Uprising.  It's a fun game with a price tag no larger than what you're willing to spend on those in-game purchases.

September 4, 2015

The Force is with them (Force and Destiny Pre-Gens)

Happy Force Friday!

In honor of the event, I thought I'd post up a collection of pre-gen characters for use with Fantasy Flight Game's Force and Destiny, the third of the core rulebooks for their excellent Star Wars Roleplaying Game.

Each of these five would-be heroes was built using the rules for starting characters as outlined in Chapter 2, and each have something to contribute to the group in one form or another.   They were also built without a specific group resource in mind, allowing groups to pick the resource that best fits their interests.

Also, rather than just post a bunch of stat blocks, I've opted to simply collect these five characters in a single zip file, each loaded onto a two-page character sheet that I originally found over on the FFG forums during the EotE Beta and have sense extensively modified to account for various changes along the way.

Here's a quick summary of each of character:

Aayla Bondura, Twi'lek Sentinel
A street rat native to the seedy streets of Nar Shaddaa, Aayla is quick-witted and quite adept at getting into places others don't want her in.  She's no stranger to larceny of any stripe, though her many of her past thefts were driven by a need to survive than to hoard material wealth.  Her most valued possession is one that she lifted from an unsuspecting traveler, who had a secret that upon being revealed lead Aayla to rethink the course of her life and maybe see if she can be a better person than she was.

Loh Plund, Kel Dor Consular
While the Jedi are all but extinct, other Force traditions with equally long histories continue to exist beneath the Empire's notice.  Loh Plund is a student of the Baron Do Sages, having learned much of the Force, both the lore surrounding its many mysteries as well as a variety of Force powers.  Although there is still much for him to learn, Loh has left his studies to pursue a Force vision that he believes will guide him to his true destiny.

Oshaka Avros, Togruta Mystic
Strong-willed yet well-spoken, regal yet approachable, Oshaka is a natural speaker and a voice of reason.  At one time she hoped to become a leader among the people of her homeworld, but an altercation with an Imperial officer has required her to leave her old life behind.  She is an outspoken proponent of tolerance and equality, preferring peaceful solutions to violence, but that doesn't mean Oshaka will simply cower when threatened.

Tyron Roke, Human Warrior
A young man with strong views on right and wrong that are possibly as naive as they are noble, Tyron is determined to live up to the example set by the Jedi Knights of old, when they were defenders of peace and justice.  Though he only has the barest of training in the Jedi arts, Tyron is determined to use what abilities he has to stand against tyranny and oppression.

Zur Bukk, Zabrak Guardian
Tatooine tends to bred two types of people, those shifty enough to do whatever it takes to survive and those hardy enough to survive whatever the galaxy throws at them.  Zur is definitely one of the later, his rough upbringing and combat prowess making him sturdy enough to weather any storm.  Though he's left his homeworld behind him, Zur still acts as a protector to those in need.

Force and Destiny Pre-Gen Character Sheets

August 26, 2015

Archetype Alterations for Feng Shui 2

This post is inspired by fellow d20 Radio alumni and Gamer Nation member Taigia Reilly, due to a FB Messenger comment he sent me.  Sorry for not directly replying, but felt the reply might work better as a blog post.

In my last blog post, I'd made a brief mention of looking at tweaking some of the ready-to-play archetypes found in the core rulebook of Feng Shui 2.  Now, the intent of the archetypes in FS2 is that they are literally "ready to play" as in the only thing you need to do is provide a name and a dramatic hook.  For this new version of Feng Shui, the designers made the very deliberate choice to not include a traditional character creation system, and in fact there really aren't any character creation rules at all.

Now as I've alluded to in the past, I am an incessant tinker-monkey when it comes to RPGs.  It's something I've enjoyed doing, even if the fruits of my efforts have been less-than-stellar.  Then again, enough folks have liked the various rules tweaks I've posted over the years, ranging from an array of new crunch for Star Wars RCR (way back on the Holonet Forums) and Saga Edition (Deflect Blasters seemed to be quite popular back in the day, and it's been the rare GM that I've played under that disallowed the talent).  Heck, the Unofficial Species Menagerie still sees use even though it's been quite some time since it last got an update.

So with that in mind, here's some of the various tweaks I've thought up for the Feng Shui 2 archetypes.  Now to be clear, I like many of these as written, and am certainly not claiming that my proposed alterations are necessarily better.  They're simply different.

Everyday Hero (FS pg43)
About the only real changes I'd think of making would be swap out the Info skills for things not quite so stereotypical but still reflecting that the archetype is that of the ordinary Joe/Jane that's found themselves dragged into a life of adventure and danger.

Alternatively, you could go for a bit more of a Jack Burton feel by dropping a couple of the skills and either take the Blam Blam Epigram schtick (FS2 pg124), or as Taigia suggested modify it to "Wham Wham Epigram" and have the effects apply to a Martial Arts attack instead, though perhaps restricted to fists and improvised weapons rather than any melee weapon.  Either way, it gets you a nice boost for making a pithy one-liner, which is something most players are bound to be doing anyway.

Martial Artist (FS2 pg65)
Replace Hands Without Shadow, Lightning Fist, and Dim Mak with one of the following sets:
Set 1 - The Bruce Lee Clone: Hammer Punch, Back Leg Kick, Target the Core
Set 2 - Wuxia Themed: Prodigious Leap, Horse Stance, Crane Stance
Set 3 - The Brute: Claw of the Tiger, Tiger Stance, Unyielding Tiger Stance
Set 4 - The Ultimate 'Chucker: Cyclone of Wood and Chain, Rain of Pain, Signature Weapon
Set 5 - The Drunken Boxer: Drunken Stance, Drunken Fist, Wily Stupor

Maverick Cop (FS2 pg69)
For a bit less Dirty Harry,  swap out the S&W Model 29 and Winchester Model 70 for a Berreta M9 autoloader (also noted as the character's Signature Weapon) and a Remington 870 Police shotgun.  You could also drop Police skill's Action Value by 1 and add it to Driving to make the Maverick Cop a bit more capable in a vehicle chase.

Spy (FS2 pg85)
Aside from swapping out the Walther PPK for a bigger handgun (though probably want to stick to something that's got a low Concealment rating just to keep with the theme), you could re-arrange the Action Values of the Spy's skills as follows to be a bit less Moore!Bond and a bit more Craig!Bond:
Deceit - reduce to 13
Info: Food & Drink - reduce to 12
Detective - add at rank 12
Sabotage - add at rank 12

In a similar vein, swap Guns and Martial Arts to make Guns the Backup Attack at 13 and Martial Arts the main attack at 14 for a Spy that's more focused on melee beatdowns.  Still keep the Integrated Training to reflect the Spy being able to quickly mix up their attacks and keep foes off-balance.

I'll probably have more down the line, such as alternative set-ups for the Supernatural Creature archetype and maybe even some pre-set schtick set-ups for the other Transformed Creatures, but those will be a later post.  To be honest, a lot of my focus on the FS2 archetypes have been those that would function within a modern setting, something that a lot of the supernatural types such as the creatures and the sorcerer aren't very good at.  But now that I've codified these proposed changes, I may at some point get around to figuring some alternate set-ups for a few other archetypes.

August 23, 2015

Of Stars and Dragons and Frozen Wolf Zombies

Okay, so things got a tad more hectic than expected, but at least it's not been as long in between updates this time around.

My old PC, an eMachines tower I got fairly inexpensively for a pretty low price several years ago started developing all sorts of worrisome habits, foremost of these being random crashes and trouble starting up.  Which meant a new PC, which I now have.

Having had a really good track record with Dell PCs, I went with an Inspiron, and the difference in performance between the two is night and day.  It was on the costly side, but my financial situation is a lot better than it was several years ago, thanks to a steady job with a very nice pay rate and having managers that weren't trying to screw me out of pay increases.  Sure, I could have custom built one for cheaper and with bigger/badder performance, but I'm not super tech-savvy and my Dell covers what I need it to do and then some.

But since I started this blog to mostly talk about gaming, I figure I should start doing that.

A few weeks ago, I kicked off a brand new Force and Destiny campaign.  I'm sure most of you that read this blog have already seen reviews praising the quality of the book (the art is astounding from start to finish), and how FFG seems to have circumvented the problem that Force users presented in prior Star Wars RPGs of simply overshadowing the rest of the party.  I know that was a major concern in Saga Edition, and it cropped up in WEG's d6 system if a Jedi was played for more than a dozen or so sessions.

I've got a pretty interesting mix of characters, ranging from Nolt, a Zabrak Seeker/Hunter to Stell, a Human Smuggler/Thief/Gunslinger that attacks with throwing knives instead of blasters (and mechanically seem to be working quite well) to Ordo and Zara, a pair of Human fraternal twins that were once Jedi initiates (Guardian/Soresu Defender and Mystic/Seer respectively).  They're an interesting group, thanks in no small part to the quality of the players I've got.

Thus far, I've run them through Mountaintop Rescue from the Beginner Box and a part of the Lure of the Lost expansion module, though I've dropped the multiple holocrons plot and instead focused on the icewolf caves as the main source of the dark side corruption that drew Malefax in the first place.  Overall, the group's having fun, though I do feel bad for Ordo's player and share his frustration that his attacks with an Ancient Sword (rolling 3 proficiency at this point) frequently tend to end in failure with lots of Advantage.  Maybe that will change when Ordo is ready to stop hiding from his Jedi past and once again take up a lightsaber (something the player has advised he wants to wait for until the "timing is just right" for his character).  After the last adventure, the group did pick up a mascot in the form of an icewolf pup.  I think that after a tough fight with the revenant icewolf den mother (module isn't clear if she's still alive or not, so I went with undead), asking them all to make Daunting Cool checks made them all sweat... although the check was simply to see if they could avoid going "awwwww" at the cute little icewolf pup.  I'm really looking forward to their next few adventures, especially as they won't be quite so heavily focused on the Force.

Although we're not currently playing Linda's Age of Rebellion game (where none of the PCs actually used AoR careers), I've been taking a fresh look at the modified Shii-Cho Knight that I created back during the FaD Beta as an alternative to the purely melee-focused official version.  I was hoping that maybe the final product would at least give nod to Shii-Cho having some inherent defense against ranged attacks, but alas that was not to be.

With the new PC set up and running, I decided it was time to scratch a particular gaming itch, and go about replaying Dragon Age: Origins.  I bought the game when it came out (though only my laptop of the time could actually run it), even buying a decent portion of the DLC.  Well, sadly it seems that it'd been so long that I'd used my old EA account that it had been deleted.  However, a far less costly alternative presented itself in the form of the DA:O Ultimate Edition, which has all the DLC included plus Awakenings, as well as it being pretty easy to snag all the pre-order bonuses for free on top of that.  Best ten bucks I've spent in a while.

So yeah, been playing through the various origin stories, which was the one thing that really hooked me into the game, that each PC had a pretty in-depth introduction as opposed to the general trend of "here's your main hero, and off into the grand adventure you go!"  With the origin stories, you actually have a chance to get to know the history of your character a bit more, with the Human Noble and Dalish Elf probably being my two favorites of the lot.

Of course, playing the computer game has also gotten me to thinking about the RPG that Green Ronin created, as well as their Fantasy AGE system that is an evolution of the DA:RPG.  My Friday night gaming group seemed to grove on DA:RPG the couple times I got to run the system for them.  Maybe something to keep on hand as a back-up just in case one of our regularly scheduled games gets put on hold for some reason.

I've also been reading through my copy of Feng Shui 2, another game I'd like to try running at some point.  Being an incessant tinker monkey as Cyril put it, I've been toying around with tweaks to the various archetypes.  Nothing super-drastic, mostly little things like altering the weapons load-out the Maverick Cop (probably my favorite of all the archetypes, if only because it was so fun to play at GamerNationCon) is packing, or what Fu Powers the Martial Arist has (namely swapping out the Dim Mak stuff for Wing Chun to make true Bruce Le clone), or simply tweaking what skills and skill bonuses the Spy has (little less Connery/Moore!Bond, little more Craig!Bond).

Lastly, also been playing in Eric's re-launched Emerald City Knights campaign for Mutants & Masterminds 3e, and still playing my take on Spider-Man.  After playing in Kyle's cosmic-themed game, it was nice to pick up Spidey once again.  He's a fun build, with a lot of variety and options to handle most situations, both in and out of combat.  Still has no clue when it comes to women though, as there are early signs of him getting embroiled in a love triangle involving two other super-powered ladies, and he might be super-aware to most forms of danger, I get the feeling this one is going to wind up blindsiding him.  The most recent session was a bit rough, as there was some miscommunication between me and the GM on a couple points, but it all worked out and we're on our way to a big throwdown with what I suspect is the current arc's BBEG.

That's about all for this week in terms of gaming-related stuff.  I do have a new job (same company, different department) that's had its own challenges but so far I seem to be doing pretty good and managing to stay on top of things.

August 1, 2015

What a week it's been...

So made it through July without completely loosing my sanity, though will confess there were a couple points it was a near thing.

It's now the month of August, and I've made it through my first week in my new job.  I'm still with the same company, but I've finally been able to transfer out of the department that I've spent over a decade working in.  While the old job was steady, it had also become pretty mind-numbing in terms of routine; much like Jack Skellington I'd grown quite tired of the same routine day after day.  As for the new job, it's been a gradual start as there's various bits of access that I still need, but already there's been new challenges and next week's looking up to be quite interesting indeed.

On the downside, my personal computer is pretty much started to give up the ghost; I've joked with my long-time friend Linda that it's decided to take a page from her laptop (semi-affectionately dubbed HAL) in terms of not being very cooperative in working.  Had a lot of hassles getting into Windows, but I've got a work-around so that I can at least use the machine in the interim.  Now, I knew that a new computer was going to be on the horizon, as my current one quite a few years old and wasn't a top-line model when I got it; it was cheap and did what I needed it to do, so I can't complain too loudly.  I do have a new PC on order and en route courtesy of Dell, though FedEx is taking its sweet time in delivering it, but hopefully I'll have it on my doorstep by the middle of next week.

And speaking of FedEx, there's a reason I don't use them unless I've got zero other choices.  Dell's shipping options were FedEx or nothing, and an online gaming shop that I pre-ordered a book from also relies solely upon FedEx.  Well, in terms of that RPG book, it was shipped this past Tuesday and from what my tracking number says, it's not showing up until Thursday at best.  My new PC hasn't suffered any delays, but with the craptastic track record that FedEx has in terms of delivering my purchase, I'm half-expecting some kind of delay and that new PC to now show up until the week after next.

But, the week's not been all bad or all crazy.  Though it's a day late, I am enjoying a bit of Christmas in July, at least in terms of getting various goodies.

First of these was snagging my copy of the Force and Destiny core rulebook for Fantasy Flight Game's excellent Star Wars RPG.  I pretty much spent most of my evening poring through the book, enjoying the A+ artwork (which is pretty much standard with FFG products) as well as seeing what changed between the Beta+Updates and the final product.  The number of changes were pretty minor, with only the Protector spec getting a major revamp in terms of layout and Heal/Harm also being tweaked.  Sadly, the Shii-Cho Knight is still pretty much melee-only in terms of defensive traits, so it seems I'll still be employing my homebrew Shii-Cho Knight specialization.  But overall, I like the book and am really looking forward to kicking off a new brand new Force and Destiny campaign.  Most of the players have their characters ready to go, though we were mostly waiting for the FaD corebook to drop so we could see what tweaks would need to be made; luckily the careers and specializations selected didn't have any major changes that would impact the characters.

The new adventure in the back of the core rulebook was amusingly familiar, being quite similar to the Force and Destiny adventure that was being run at GenCon last year, although with some rather notable changes to make it more suitable for beginning characters.  It's also a nice contrast to the Beta adventure in that "Lessons from the Past" doesn't end with the PCs now having lightsabers, though they do get a nice resource at the adventure's conclusion that can be used to convey a bevy of plot hooks to a group.

I also picked up the GM Kit, and while the screen is nice, the main draw for me was the supplemental rules on lightsaber construction and discussion on Knight Level characters.  Truthfully, while nice I probably won't make use of the expanded lightsaber construction rules; the main quest in this system is more about the PC getting their crystal with the building of the lightsaber handled as more of a side element.  The adventure was kinda meh; not sure I'd ever run it for my upcoming campaign as-is, but I could always adapt it down the line.

Now a while back I'd backed the Kickstarter for a new edition of the classic RPG Feng Shui.  Sadly, I never really got the chance to play the game before, but simply loved how cool it looked and just the basic notion of an RPG that was meant to replicate the sort of things you'd expect to see in a Hong Kong martial arts flick as well an 80's action movie.  I did get a chance to play Feng Shui at this year's GamerNationCon, and while the dice weren't overly cooperative and my one-liners needed some work, I still had a lot of fun playing as the Maverick Cop.  I'm not sure if or when I'll have a chance to play or run this myself, but I may angle for at least a one-shot with either my Friday Skype group or my Saturday face-to-face group.  Well, the hardcover copy of Feng Shui 2 showed up yesterday, though I've not really gotten a chance to pour through.  I've got the PDF so I've got a pretty good idea of what's inside, but I just find reading the actual book so much more enjoyable than reading a PDF.

In similar news of hardcover RPG books, the copy of the Dragon Age RPG core rulebook arrived as well.  Now I've not touched Dragon Age in a while, so again this will probably be a "find time to sit down and read" to really get up to speed on what's changed in regards to the three box sets.  Of course, in a sense this RPG is already outdated as Green Ronin has released their Fantasy AGE system, an updated version of the rules used in Dragon Age.  Not sure when or if I'll pick that up, but since I was a backer for the AGE version of Blue Rose, I guess I'll get those newer rules one way or another.

But aside from the obvious capstone of getting the Force and Destiny books (let's face it, when it comes to RPGs, the fact that I am a major Star Wars nerd is going to very heavily flavor my preferences), earlier in the week I also got a very LARGE package courtesy of BigBadToyStore, something I'd ordered a while ago as kind of an early birthday present to myself.  Between computer issues and various RPG books, I'd not opened that box until this morning.  And inside was something that made my inner child grin with glee...

While my big fave amongst fandoms is and always will be Star Wars, a close second is Transformers.  I had a bunch of them growing up, and as an adult have picked up a whole bunch more from various product line ranging from the re-issues to the Classics to the movies (only a few though) to Masterpiece series and up to Combiner Wars, as well as a few 3rd party kits.  But one of the figures I'd never picked up was the Constructicons, mostly as I remember that they were pretty flimsy (a friend of mine had them) and you could tell that they were a first attempt at designing a combiner out of components that were themselves transforming robots.

But when combined, this version of Devastator is not flimsy and you can tell that Hasbro/Takara have learned a lot about designing figures for the Transformers series since the 80's.  Each individual Constructicon is a Voyager-class figure, meaning their big and frankly pretty beefy; I could see these guys standing up to actual play without much fear of breaking.  It also means that in their robot modes they generally dwarf the Deluxe line figures.

And the combined robot... yeah, this sucker is HUGE.  It's pretty sturdy, although the balance isn't perfect as the right leg is reliant upon Scrapper and the front scoop could very easily shift and cause the whole figure to go tumbling down.  Which given the price point is a pretty worrisome thought even to a very casual collector like me.  Were I an actual kid, this sucker would quite probably be the holy grail of potential gifts.  I put a LEGO mini-fig (a Clone Commander specifically) up next to Devastator, and the little clone trooper was absolutely dwarfed.  While I've not checked out much else of the Combiner Wars line (the figures are getting ridiculously expensive at this point), I have to say I'm pretty darn impressed with the quality of Devastator, both combined and in individual components.  It was a very pricy purchase (well over $100 bucks), but I think it was worth it.

Last but certainly not least, though it is kinda leaning into the week prior (but still part of July), I got to spend last Saturday evening enjoying dinner with my good friends Amy and Tiff, enjoying some very good sausage and ziti as well as finally playing a round of Betrayal at Haunted House on the Hill.  I've heard a lot of good things about the game, but just never got the chance to sit down and play.  We lost spectacularly once the Haunt came up, but it was still fun and many laughs were had, which is why people get together to game in the first place.

Well, that's enough yapping from me this time out.  I've got a series of Force and Destiny pre-gens that I'm going to be getting ready to post in the coming days, to commemorate the power of this fully armed and operational Star Wars role-playing game, so expect to see various posts next week.  I've also got a two groups of ready-made PCs for Age of Rebellion and Edge of the Empire, all set to be used in an extended campaign or pulled in for a single one-shot, so expect them as well later on.

July 3, 2015

Exploring the Galaxy: The AR-37 Paragon-class Transport

(Those familiar with the GSA will probably recognize the contents of this article.  I'm simply re-posting it here as I thought it was too good write-up to remain lost to the ether).

There are a multitude of planets to be found in the Star Wars galaxy as presented by Fantasy Flight Games and their awesome Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and the means of reaching them can be just as numerous.   With this ship first making its debut as part of the Mass Transit IV poster map by the supremely talented mapmaker extraordinaire Christopher West, this particular ship can serve as either a regular transport craft for a crew of spacers on the Edge of the Empire, or for a team of Alliance operatives fighting against the Empire in an Age of Rebellion.

AR-37 Paragon-class Transport
Silhouette: 4
Speed: 3
Handling: -2
Hull Trauma Threshold: 20
Strain Threshold: 15
Armor: 3
Defense (Fore/Aft): 2/1
Hull Type/Class: Transport/AR-37
Manufacturer: Kuat Systems Engineering
Hyperdrive: Primary: Class 2; Backup: Class 16
Navicomputer: Yes
Sensor Range: Short
Ship's Complement: One pilot, one co-pilot, one engineer
Passenger Capacity: 8
Encumbrance Capacity: 200 (with cargo module attached)
Consumables: 3 months
Cost/Rarity: 110,000/6
Customization Hardpoints: 5
Weapons: Dorsal Turret Mounted Laser Cannon (Fire Arc: All; Damage 6; Critical 3; Range [Close]), Starboard Twin Ion Cannon (Fire Arc: Forward or Starboard; Damage 5; Critical 4; Range [Close]; Linked 1, Ion)

History: Developed by Kuat Systems Engineering shortly after the release of the Wayfarer-class medium transport, the AR-37 Paragon-class light transport was intended to capitalize on the expected success of the Wayfarer series and its modular cargo container system.  Unfortunately many of the problems that plagued the early release of the Wayfayer-class also impacted the Paragon-class, not the least of which was that the intended market of the small-time independent trader balked at the idea of having to purchase multiple container modules, of which only the bulk cargo container was available upon the ship's release to the market.

Despite these drawbacks, the AR-37 Paragon-class has gained a reputation as a surprisingly sturdy and reliable ship that is just as friendly to the modification-happy independent trader market as the venerable YT-series of Corellian transports.  The ship is also surprisingly roomy due to its twin-deck design, an aspect that carries over to the cargo container that comes stock with the ship, giving crews an unexpected degree of luxury not commonly found on a light transport.

Design Notes: As with the first time these stats (now modified from their original appearance), a definite vote of thanks to the inestimable Sterling Hershey, as his Sage Edition/D6 write-ups of both the Nova Eclipse and default AR-37 Paragon-class transport done as part of his Star Wars Wednesdays blog helped inform this particular stat block.

The floor plans for this ship can be found as part of the Mass Transit IV map set, and a simple search using your search engine of choice should turn up several places form which to purchase them.  And speaking of buying Christopher West's excellent maps, Mr. West is currently running a Kickstarter for a new set of maps, titled "Poster Maps of the Forsaken Lands III, IV, and More!"  You can check it out here (and I highly suggest you do): 

A mere $35 gets you downloadable PDF versions of all his previous maps as well as maps from this particularly Kickstarter, which is one hell of a deal given the sheer number of maps that Christopher West has created over the years.  And a $50 pledge gets you access to the Omnibus, which not only includes the maps but all sorts of add-on tiles from his prior KickstartersThe project has already funded, so if you pledge you're going to get at least the Forsaken Lands III map, and Mr. West has never failed to fulfill a Kickstarter pledge, so whatever reward level you pledge at, you're going to get the goods.  And if this bad boy reaches the $8000 mark, that means Forsaken Lands IV gets printed.  There's only 12 days left as of this post before this Kickstarter ends, so if you've not pledged already and you like having high quality maps for your RPG sessions, then hurry up and get your pledge in.

July 1, 2015

Some further thoughts on Lightsaber Duels in FFG's Star Wars RPG

A while back, I'd made a post about what I'd seen regarding lightsaber usage in duels in Fantasy Flight Game's excellent Star Wars RPG.

Well, I've gotten some more experience in the matter, this time around as a player, in just how devastating a lightsaber can be against most opponents, and just how dangerous a lightsaber fight can be even for a well-experienced character.

The character in this case was Kyren Stryder, a Human Warrior/Shii-Cho Knight that I'm playing in my friend Linda's rather fun Age of Rebellion game.  To give herself something of a break from trying to figure what sort of adventure to come up with next for our motley group of Alliance operatives, Linda decided to put us through the Dead In The Water module, written by Keith Kappel and included in the AoR GM Kit.  There will be some spoilers ahead about the adventure, so be warned.

Now, as a bit of a preliminary disclaimer, up to this point the characters had zero idea that Kyren was in possession of a lightsaber; all they knew was that he had some Force abilities much like an NPC they'd just rescued when Kyren joined up, being a replacement for my previous character (a Human Commander/Tactician) who had lost his life to an ISB Agent while trying to ensure the rest of the team and the liberated Rebels made it to safety.  Prior to the second act of Dead In The Water, all they'd seen Kyren do combat-wise was mix it up pretty well in close-quarters.  Frankly, Kyren wasn't nearly as effective in a fight as he could have been, due to no ranks in the Melee skill and thus not being able to use the bulk of his talents.  But I had accepted this as a consequence of not wanting to have him break out his lightsaber in ever fight, and to save that particular pipe bomb for when things were really desperate.  With the GM's approval, I'd also been slowing modifying the Ilum crystal it came with (we were at roughly Knight Level when I brought Kyren in, so Linda was fine with him starting with a basic lightsaber) so that by this point, it was a Damage 8, Crit 1 weapon.

First act went by without too much incident, other than Kyren getting slugged in the face by a badly-scarred Wookiee for no apparent reason and him having to defuse a potentially violent situation between the Human ex-merc and an arms dealer while we tracked down info on the privateers we'd been sent to purchase a large shipment of droids from.  Our mission was successful, and we got the droids though not at quite as good a price as Alliance Command might have been hoping.  So we returned to the Shadow Raptor, which per this adventure was one of the Alliance's top intel-gathering/sifting ships for that region of space... only for the droids to stage a coup and seize control of the ship, forcing it out of hyperspace and locking up most of the crew, as well as leaving it drifting perilously close to the event horizon of a black hole (if the engines weren't repaired in time, the ship would get sucked in and we'd pretty much be done for).

Given the circumstances and sheer number of droids involved, as well as the fact that I was the only PC that was fully equipped with their gear, I felt that Kyren would deem this situation to have crossed the Zillo Beast Threshold, and had him finally break out the lightsaber.  Fun tidbit: to help conceal the weapon's presence, Kyren stores it much like Kanan in Rebels, splitting it into two parts.  And yes, carnage pretty much ensued, as the fact that I was striking with a Damage 8 weapon that had Breach 1 and could crit with a single Advantage, on top of getting a boost die thanks to the Multiple Opponents talent meant that I was chewing through those minion groups like a hot knife through butter.  And the various Rivals we encountered didn't fair much better.  In fact, what was probably meant to be the "boss fight" of Act II, squaring off against a tactical droid that was leading this insurrection and his droid minions/guards turned out to be fairly anti-climactic due to some astoundingly good rolls on my part and the application of the Sarlacc Sweep talent; rolling a dice pool of 3 yellow and a boost vs. 1 red and 2 purple made it very likely that I'd get that additional hit in and still have enough Advantage left over to score at least one critical on the minion group I was also engaged with.

So yeah, against most of your rank and file opponents, a lightsaber is going to be brutal.  Though from reading Act 2 of the adventure after we'd completed it, I noted that Linda and Rick (who'd helped her with prepping it) had trimmed down quite a few of the encounters, mostly out of a concern of the fights dragging on too long, especially when most of the PCs only had what amounted to their back-up weapons on them.  They weren't sure if Kyren was going to make use of his lightsaber or not, but correctly figured that if he did, it was going to be a massacre on the droid's side of things.

Now, the flip side of that is they tweaked the third act of the adventure to include an ISB Agent (the same one that had gutted my prior PC as a matter of fact) that was now wielding a lightfoil (using stats they'd adopted from my Ways of the Force fan supplement) and generally built along similar lines as an Inquisitor from the back of the Force and Destiny Beta, only with a lower Wound/Strain Threshold, Adversary 2 and no Force Rating, but having Parry 5 and Melee Defense 1 as part of his defenses.  To be honest, I'd been kind of spoiling for a lightsaber fight with Kyren for a while, and this opportunity was specifically included for my character, something that I thanked Linda and Rick for including.

On paper, that fight should have been a lot more daunting, as the ISB Agent was (I'm guessing) quite skilled with that lightfoil and his Parry 5 would allow him to negate a large portion of Kyren's damage output (increased to 9 thanks to a Contribution Rank reward of a superior hilt customization from completing the second act), and that the agent's lightfoil had enough ranks of Pierce to ignore Kyren's own soak value and blow past his 2 ranks of Parry (I'm using a modified version of the Shii-Cho Knight spec that replaces a couple of Parry talents with Reflect talents, but more on that later).  The ISB Agent got in one hit, and it was a doozy, inflicting nearly half of Kyren's wound threshold in one go; luckily he didn't get any Advantages with which to trigger a critical injury, but he did generate a Despair to let me tag him with a free hit thanks to Improved Parry.

In a way, I got lucky in that Kyren was able to get in the first strike; his Emotional Weakness is Anger, and I willingly accepted conflict points for acting on that anger after the ISB Agent made allusions to what he'd do to the other PCs as well as a supporting NPC that we'd previously freed from his clutches.  And that first strike was a monster, dealing 16 damage and having enough Advantage to inflict a critical injury and recover a bit of strain while I was at it.  From what Rick and Linda said, if the ISB Agent didn't have all those ranks in Parry, he'd have been nearly toast on that first strike, and my counterstrike via Improved Parry would have been the nail in the coffin for him.  My follow-up attack the next round was equally monstrous, only this time generating an obscene number of Advantages, enough to trigger a second critical injury with a +70 bonus to the roll, and ended with an insta-kill result that was narrated as Kyren simply driving his lightsaber right through the ISB Agent's throat and out the back of the creep's head.  In retrospect, I felt I should have done things differently, such as going for a disarm before moving back so that the other PCs could have the honor of taking the ISB Agent out, but hindsight is 20/20 and I was caught up in the excitement of the moment, thus taking the advice of one my fellow players to simply spend all that Advantage on a crit.

So what did this reveal?  Well, for starters a sufficiently modified lightsaber is damn dangerous to minions and rivals, since I not only get to ignore their soak values but have a very real chance of dealing enough raw damage to take out most minions or probably two to three minions (plus an extra one with a crit) in one shot.  And even a major Nemesis like the ISB Agent would need to get boosted up to last more than a couple of rounds, meaning that three ranks of the Adversary talent will likely become the norm for any major foes we encounter.  That and we probably will start seeing larger numbers of bad guys, and minions in full groups of five as we've proven incredibly capable of handling such things.

Now it's probably worth noting that the only other PC that comes close to that damage output is the ex-merc with his spiffed up heavy blaster rifle that does 13 damage base with Pierce 3 (the rifle is one I suggested from Dangerous Covenants and he's added a heavily modified augmented spin barrel to it as well), but an adversary with a sufficiently high soak value is still going to be trouble for him, where Kyren's all but assured to get damage through and still be likely to score a critical injury to debilitate the target even the damage doesn't exceed the target's wound threshold.  And with a recently added rank of Vicious to the lightsaber, any critical injuries that Kyren inflicts have a greater chance of being pretty nasty, especially if there's an abundance of Advantages on the dice roll.  But yeah, we're a couple of high-volume damage machines at this point.

Now I'd mentioned above that I'm using a variant of the Shii-Cho Knight specialization for Kyren.  To be honest, I never liked that the version found in the FaD Beta didn't include the Reflect talent, as all the basic lore on Shii-Cho as a Lightsaber Form indicates that it includes blast-deflect training as part of its core curriculum; i.e. the Reflect talent.  So having the spec be solely focused on defending against melee attacks felt off, particularly since being heavily focused on melee was Makashi's schtick.  Thus far, I'm pretty happy with my revised Shii-Cho Knight.  There are a couple of tweaks I'm thinking of making (in particular to where the lone Durable talent in the fifth row is hanging out all by itself), but seeing as how FFG hinted that a number of the specializations underwent further revision after the open beta was concluded, I'm going to hold off on any further tweaks until I get a copy of the core rulebook.  Who knows, they might have tweaked the Shii-Cho Knight spec to include ranks of Reflect already, making my revision unnecessary.

For those curious, here's the layout for my revised take on the Shii-Cho Knight:
(chart layout taken from OggDude's character generator program)