January 1, 2020

Homebrew Arms and Equipment for FFG's Star Wars RPG

Wow, two entries within that many weeks?  Yeah, I don't expect that pattern to continue either.

So to ring in the new year, I thought I'd offer up some of the various weapons, armor, gear, and personal items that I've come up with for use with Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPG.  I'm also including why I created each item.  It's worth noting that I've been working here and there on the meat of this particular post for a while, deciding what to include and what adjustments might be needed.  There are a number of other items that I've created for this game over the years, though the majority of them can be found in my old Ways of the Force fan supplement if you're interested


Padded Flight Suit
Favored by pilots and spacers across the galaxy, these one-piece protective garments provide limited life support, protecting the wearer from the harsh effects of vacuum as well as lessening some of the adverse effects of high-velocity flying.
Encumbrance: 4
Price: 250 credits
Rarity: 3
Soak Value: 1
Defense Value: 0
Hard Points: 1
Features: When sealed, the wearer can ignore the effects of vacuum or poisonous atmospheric environments for up to 30 minutes.

Why is this a thing? A good friend of mine really likes the snubjock mold of character, even if she doesn't get many opportunities to play that type of character.  We both felt it was an oversight that something like the near-ubiquitous Alliance flight suit really didn't get any sort of coverage, and were both dismayed when Stay on Target missed the opportunity to address that.  I know that one of the FFG freelancers (Jason Marker I think it was) poo-poo'd the idea of Rebel/Resistance flight suits offering any sort of protection to the wearer, but I think on that point he's full of it.  So, I wound up porting over the padded flight suit from WotC's Star Wars RPGs.  From what friends in the Rebel Legion have told me, those get-ups are not exactly easy to move around in, thus why this suit has such a high Encumbrance value, as the various tubes and straps are going to hinder one's movement, even if only a little.

Security Uniform
Common ballistic uniform worn by local soldiers, ship security, and law enforcement. Comfortable, but with a blast helmet giving a definite military appearance.
Encumbrance: 2
Price: 250 credits
Rarity: 4
Soak Value: 1
Defense Value: 0
Features: Includes a helmet comlink attachment, and the wearer adds an Advantage to any Coercion or Leadership checks made in which the wearer is presumed to have a position of authority.

Why is this a thing?  I don't know about the rest of you, but I've run enough fringe type games where the PCs for some reason or another swipe the uniforms of the local guards.  Granted, it's not the same as Han and Luke stealing stormtrooper armor during A New Hope, but its happened enough times I figured that I'd go ahead and come up with something like this, which can function for Imperials, corporate security, and
even royal guardsmen.

Tailored Clothing
Using any number of design aesthetics and distinctive color palettes to catch the eyes of onlookers, these outfits can be found in a plethora of styles and fashions, running the gamut from from the tactfully subtle to outrageously flamboyant, and are well-suited for those occasions when the wearer is wants to make a solid impression on those around them.
Encumbrance: 3
Price: 300 credits
Rarity: 5
Soak Value: 1
Defense Value: 0
Features: Add an Advantage to any successful Charm, Deception, or Negotiation checks the wearer makes when interacting with others and can be seen.

Why is this a thing?  So this is pretty much the equivalent of the custom-fitted three-piece suit or tailor-made evening gown, making the wearer look good but without the outrageous price tag that a truly custom designer outfit would command.  It's a nice boost for social-focused characters.  There are items that do similar for a higher price tag, but I'm not that worried since this counts as armor, and a character can only benefit from one set of armor.


Adventurer's Utility Belt 
Marketed and sold under a variety of brand names by several different manufacturers to professional scouts, and amateur explorers alike, this style of utility belt contains a number of useful items for dealing with the hazards that one can encounter when out in the less civilized portions of the galaxy.  The belt's contents are arrayed in such a way as to not encumber the wearer while also providing a couple of empty pouches for whatever else the wearer might have need of, as well as attachment points on either side for a holster or weapon clip.
Category: Survival
Price: 600 credits
Rarity: 3
Features: Contains the following items: a handheld comlink, an emergency medpac, a glow rod, a condensed tool kit, a personal respirator, a spare energy cell, a roll of mesh tape, a liquid cable dispenser (15 meters) and grappling hook, and one week's supply of food capsules.  In addition, this item increases the wearer's Encumbrance Threshold by one.

Why is this a thing? So one item that I always liked from Saga Edition was the utility belt, as it made gear shopping for a lot of my characters very easy; just spend your credits and you've got most of what you need in one place.  Most of what's in this item is what's found in the Saga Edition version, sans the power pack aka extra reload.  The price is a bit higher than what Saga Edition listed, but that's due to a combination of the cost of what's included and the fact that the belt doesn't add to the character's encumbrance total, which lets them carry a lot more other stuff.

Decorative Jewelry
Consisting of a wide and varied array and styles and made using a combination of semi-precious stones and polished metals, decorative jewelry adds a bit of class to one's appearance without being too overtly ostentatious.
Category: Luxury Items
Price: 500 credits
Rarity: 5
Features: Add an Advantage to any successful Charm or Deception checks the wearer makes when interacting with others and can be seen.

Why is this a thing? This came up during an early EotE campaign I was in, where one of the PCs wanted her Twi'lek Smuggler/Scoundrel to have something that would make her look "extra fancy" and provide a boost on her social skills (namely Charm and Deception).  Funny thing was, I cooked up an early version of these about the time I got offered to do playtesting for Desperate Allies, which had the similar Expensive Jewelry item in it.  Like a lot of what's in that supplement, I feel the official item is overpriced or what it does, so I don't mind that this item about the same at a fraction of the cost.  Plus, it's a fun item for characters from a well-to-do background (or those pretending to be from such) to have without needing to break the bank.

Personal Multitool
Offered in a bewildering variety of styles and replate with a number of small yet useful implements, these small devices have proven useful in a pinch to numerous beings across the galaxy.
Category: Tools
Encumbrance: 1
Price: 100 credits
Rarity: 2
Features:The user is considered to have the proper tools when performing Mechanics checks to repair or modify simple devices or when performing Skulduggery checks to open or disable simple locks.

Why is this a thing? Because what is a MacGuyver style of character without their ubiquitous Swiss Army knife?  This way, a character with Mechanics and/or Skulduggery can attempt to do their thing without necessarily having to lug around a full-blown tool kit.  Granted, it's not as good as having the full-blown proper kit for the job, but it's better than nothing.  That and I wanted to have an option out there for characters to be able to modify the attachments on their gear without necessarily having to have access to a full blown tool kit.

Portable Fire Extinguisher
Small and easily portable, these devices are most often used to douse flames, but more than a few creative individuals have used them to create an impromptu if short-lived smokescreen.
Category: Tools
Encumbrance: 1
Price: 50 credits
Rarity: 1
Features: This is a one-use item, and must be replaced after each usage.

Why is this a thing? Because we saw R2-D2 use one to such memorable effect during the Bespin escape in The Empire Strikes Back.  It's here in part as a former gaming companion of mine had a huge thing for astromech droids, to the point that any Star Wars game he was in, he'd play an astromech unless the GM went out of their way to disallow it.  Also, I figure it's a nice thing for a repair/technical droid to have on them without having to flip a Destiny Point any time they wanted to provide some impromptu concealment for their allies.

Security Kit
Comprised of a special set of tools and devices for the express purpose of bypassing electronic and mechanical security measures, most worlds treat the possession of such a kit as illegal, thus requiring specialized permits to legally carry.
Category: Security
Encumbrance: 2
Price: 750 credits
Rarity: 5(R)
Features: Remove 2 Threat from the results from any Computers or Skulduggery checks made to defeat a mechanical or simple electronic lock.

Why is this a thing? So I came up with this one well before Fly Casual introduced the far cheaper Lockpicking Tools, mostly a less-sophisticated version of the electronic lock breaker that would give sneaky types a bonus to their efforts to get past more conventional locking systems without lugging around a full tool kit.  The bonus does seem a bit good at first pass, enough so that I considered limiting the effects to successful skill checks, but I ultimately decided that the higher price tag was enough of a balancing factor.


The preferred weapon of duelists from the remote world of Adumar, the blastsword is an unusual combination of a standard vibroblade and the inner workings of a blaster. At the weapon's tip sits an emitter nozzle which glows and hums audibly when the weapon is activated.
Skill: Melee
Encumbrance: 2
Price: 1200 credits
Rarity: 8
Damage: 6
Range: Engaged
Critical: 2
Hard Points: 1
Qualities: Defensive 1, Stun Setting

Why is this a thing? Okay, on this one I'll cop to it just being silly; it was silly when introduced in Starfighters of Adumar, it was silly when I wrote the Saga Edition stats for the Unknown Regions sourcebook, and it's still silly now.  And that's why I like this weapon, which was aptly described by Wes Janson as "a blaster you hit somebody with," and that one listener to the Order 66 podcast denounced as sounding like something from a bad Final Fantasy game.  I've yet to see or play a character with this weapon, mostly as the specs that lean themselves towards melee combat lean towards the brutish side of things while the dueling-orientated specs are focused more on using lightsabers than swords.

Double-Barreled Blaster Carbine
A favored weapon of bounty hunters, enforcers, and those who generally live on society's fringe, the double-barreled carbine packs a rather substantial punch for its unassuming size.
Skill: Ranged (Heavy)
Encumbrance: 3
Price: 1200 credits
Rarity: 6(R)
Damage: 8
Range: Medium
Critical: 3
Hard Points: 1
Qualities: Linked 1, Stun Setting

Why is this a thing? Yes, it's from the Legacy comic book series, but it's essentially a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun that fires blaster bolts.  The version of the weapon that appeared in Saga Edition's Legacy Era Campaign Guide gave it what in FFG's system amounts to the Blast quality, but there's already enough Ranged (Heavy) blasters that offer up the Blast quality.  That, and with it being double-barreled, using the Linked quality made more sense, even if it does make this weapon a lot more dangerous in a fight, thus why it has the restricted tag next to the price.

Electroshock Prod
Usually attached to droids, the probe emits a brief electrical discharge capable of shorting out a computer terminal or security lock.
Skill: Ranged (Light)
Encumbrance: 1
Price: 100 credits
Rarity: 2
Damage: 5
Range: Short
Critical: n/a
Hard Points: 1
Qualities:Disorient 1, Stun Damage

Why is this a thing? So this kinda initially came from the old KOTOR video games, with the idea that your astromech companion could use small blasters to assist in combat, but was largely codified by Chopper, the cantankerous astromech from Star Wars Rebels.  It's a low-powered weapon that lets droid PCs, especially if they're playing some variety of astromech, be able to make ranged attacks without having to pick up full-blown blaster weapons (assuming they care about that sort of thing).

Fighting Pike
Typically made of either fire-hardened wood or well-crafted metal, the fighting pike is a preferred weapon for itinerent monks, being not only innocuous in appearance, but surprisingly effective in the hands of a skilled wielder.
Skill: Melee
Encumbrance: 3
Price: 1000 credits
Rarity: 3
Damage: +3
Range: Engaged
Hard Points:2
Qualities: Defensive 1, Disorient 2, Knockdown, Superior

Why is this a thing? Because there really isn't anything that covers Chirrit's staff from Rogue One, not even in the Dawn of Rebellion supplement where they introduced the Force Adherent universal spec, which is pretty much "You want to play a warrior monk like Donny Yen's character?  Here you go!"  I suppose there's the gaffi stick from the EotE core rulebook, or the heavy staff from TFA Beginner Box, but both of those feel lacking.  The price feels a little low for having the Superior quality baked in, but given ho much of a general disadvantage most melee weapon users are at in this game compared to ranged weapons or to lightsabers, I'm not too concerned about it.

Sporting Blaster Rifle
A favored weapon of bounty hunters, enforcers, and those who generally live on society's fringe, the double-barreled carbine packs a rather substantial punch for its unassuming size..
Skill: Ranged (Heavy)
Encumbrance: 4
Price: 800 credits
Rarity: 5
Damage: 8
Range: Long
Critical: 3
Hard Points:2
Qualities: Accurate 1, Stun Setting

Why is this a thing? This was something I came up with in the early days of the system, wanting something that sat between rifles and carbines but not being quite so military in nature; as the name suggests it's a sporting weapon that civilians could carry around without getting into too much trouble.

Tapani Lightfoil
Although the first lightfoils were creations of the Sith operating in the Tapani Sector, during the time of the Empire a sub-culture of young nobles known as “Saber Rakes” have taken to wielding modern recreations of the lightfoil. Although not as potent a weapon as a lightsaber, the Tapani lightfoil is still a dangerous weapon; a sure sign that one is dealing with an experienced Saber Rake is the presence of a cybernetic prosthesis, often earned as the result of being on the losing end of a lightfoil duel. A Saber Rake without such a prosthesis is either a novice duelist or a very skilled swordsman.
Skill: Lighsaber
Encumbrance: 1
Price: 4500 credits
Rarity: 8(R)
Damage: 5
Range: Engaged
Critical: 2
Hard Points: 1
Qualities: Accurate 1, Defensive 1, Pierce 2
Features: A Despair result from any combat check made using this weapon can be spent to have it short out and deactivate after the combat check has been resolved.  The weapon may be reactivated as an incidental, but not until after the last initiative slot during the following round  If this weapon is used with the Parry or Reflect talents, the attacker can spend a Triumph to trigger the same effect on the weapon.

Why is this a thing? So one of my favorite settings from the WEG era was the Tapani Expanse, as detailed in the Lords of the Expanse boxed set, with the lightfoil being such a fun weapon in concept, providing a means to have lightsaber duels without necessarily bringing in lightsabers or even Jedi for that matter.  I've had versions of this in the past, and often struggled with getting the right balance between it being useful in a fight while still retaining it's quirky nature but keeping it from being as potent as a proper lightsaber.  I ultimately decided to just employ the effects of refined cortosis weapons from the F&D core rulebook to mimic the Tapani lightfoil's unreliability, and from the handful of test combats I've run, it does seem to work without requiring a bunch of extra rolls.

December 25, 2019

The (Once Again) End of The Skywalker Saga

Firstly, a Merry Christmas to one and all who celebrate the holiday, and a Happy Holidays to those who celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanza, or other festive events that occur this season.

Now, fair warning that if you've not seen The Rise of Skywalker, there's going to be some major spoilers in this post, so consider yourselves warned...
Okay, now that that's out of the way, on to my thoughts and impressions of what's been billed as the final installment of the Skywalker Saga aka the tale one family's drama effing up the entire galaxy for three generations.  I've seen the film twice thus far, and while I won't be seeing it in the theater again due to the price of tickets and finding the time to go, I'm eager for this movie to hit Disney+ and watch it yet again.

So to start with, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd put this movie at a 7.5; overall the film was good, I enjoyed it, the cast did great (Adam Driver especially so), but it had problems, the least of which was the first act being a bit too hectic; I normally don't fret that much about so-called "pacing issues" as even action films need to take time to breath, but for much of this film's first act, it did feel like Abrams forgot that stopping to breath is a good thing, and that breakneck action paces aren't always the way to go.  But in general, the film was well shot, well directed, and well produced.  I certainly feel I got my money's worth, which really is all that I ever ask from a movie when I go see it in the theater.

For me, the biggest problem was the ass pull of Rey's status as it was established in The Last Jedi, in which it was revealed that she was a nobody, that as per Kylo Ren's words she "had no place in this story" as she had no special lineage or connection to the major players of the saga, that she was just a girl from pretty much nowhere.  TLJ took pains to highlight that anyone could rise up to become the hero, and how deserving of one's hero status wasn't dependent upon bloodlines.

And then this film decides to undercut that whole message by revealing that Rey has secretly been Palpatine's grandchild all along.  I literally facepalmed in my seat in theater at this, and silently hoped that this reveal turned out to be some kind of manipulative twist, that Palpatine had lied to Kylo Ren, and that Rey was indeed still a "nobody" in terms of her heritage.  The writers did make a (to me at least) half-assed attempt to keep the "your parents were nobody" aspect from TLJ, by saying they went to ground as junk-salvaging drunks who only sold Rey for money to protect her from her (presumably dead at that point) grandfather.  Needless to say, this whole reveal was the biggest strike against the movie, and again feels like it was LFL trying to offer an olive branch to a segment of the fanbase that couldn't accept Rey being strong in the Force for reason other than the plot required it.  Heck, Snoke himself in both TFA and TLJ all but outright says that the only reason Rey is getting so powerful so quickly is that the Force is pushing her up to counterbalance Kylo Ren's growing power.  If you've listened to Freddie Prinze Jr's rant about what the Force is and isn't, then you know that Rey's growth in power was the Force trying to restore balance by creating a champion to counter the growing darkness of Kylo Ren.

I'll be honest in that I was actually disappointed that they trotted out Palpatine as being the major villain behind it all.  I might not have been that disappointed if there'd been hints of Darth Sidious having survived the events of RotJ, but that would have required JJ Abrams and other writers to put some thought into the story of this trilogy as a whole instead just the specific movie they were working on.  Instead, it feels like Palpatine's robes should be covered in brown rather than being all black given where his reappearance came from.

The last element that I guess irked me was the fake-out deaths, which this film did much too often.  I went into this film fully expecting that we were going to see one or more of the good guys take the final jump and go out.  I know a number of folks would have lost their collective shit if Chewie had indeed died when the movie made you think he did, but I feel his death would have added more weight to the scene of Rey's freakout, and that revealing he was alive all along only lessened the impact of that scene, as it felt like her and Finn's reactions were overly dramatic.  I was also onboard with the Falcon, the iconic ship of the franchise, being destroyed during the final battle, with Lando (possibly even Chewie) going out in a heroic blaze of glory, and Lando making one last jaunty quip before it happened.  While I understand that Threepio is a droid and him losing his memories only to have them restored from a backup is a thing, that said thing existed undercut the drama of Threepio's "I'm taking one last look... at my friends" scene, as it was less of a major sacrifice on his part and more of a minor inconvenience for the rest of the group.  Yes, I know Leia died, but with the far too soon passing of Carrie Fisher, we all know that was coming.

So enough of my complaints about what I didn't like, and onto some of the things I did like.  I won't be listing them all, but instead will hit what for me were the real highlights.

Top of the list was that each actor did great, from Daisy Ridley and Oscar Issacs (probably my two faves out of the new heroes) to Billy Dee Williams (it was as if Lando had never really left), and it was indeed a treat to see Rey, Finn, and Poe finally able to interact with and bounce off each other, making me really wish that we'd gotten more of this earlier in the trilogy.

But quite frankly, Adam Driver just fucking killed it from start to finish, especially in the third act where his lack of dialogue would have been a major hindrance for a less capable actor.  Hell, I cracked a grin when during his battle with the Knights of Ren, his expression upon getting the Skywalker lightsaber all but screamed, "game on bitches!" before pulling back to show him giving a very Han Solo-esque shrug before he proceeds to rip each of them a new one.  You could see the anguish on his face as he cradled Rey's lifeless body, the relief when she came back to life, and joy at her having accepted/forgiven him for what he'd done as Kylo Ren, and then the reluctant acceptance that his act of healing Rey meant his own death and becoming one with the Force.  There were a couple of young girls that were apparently Reylo shippers due to their squeals of delight at Ben and Rey's kiss followed by their moans of despair when Ben died and faded away.  This is a purely personal take, but I would have liked to have seen Ben avoid the "redemption = death" trope and survive to try and make amends for his actions as Kylo Ren.  But, like his grandfather Anakin, the boy is all about the drama, and hard to get more dramatic than peacing out after saving the girl you're hot for and sharing a big ol' victory smooch.

Which brings me to the final lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo.  It was reminiscent not only of RotJ's final duel, but also of RotS' duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan.  Not only was the scene shot well, but you could see and almost feel the intensity in the faces of each combatant, with the duel going on to a point where they're both getting physically exhausted.  It had the feeling of weight that Luke and Vader's duel in ESB had, even though Rey and Kylo were fairly evenly matched up until the very end.  Also the fact that their moves lacked the degree of polish that the prequel fights had lent more weight to the duel.  And then Rey's horrified reaction at what she's done in fatally stabbing Ben and the shock of feeling Leia pass, showing a young woman (she's only 20 as of this film, being a few years younger than Luke and Anakin at the end of their respective trilogies) who is struggling to come to grips with everything that's been happening and just happened; it's no small wonder she fled to Ahch-To and intended to become a hermit in the wake of something like that.

And next up comes the reappearance of Luke Skywalker, not merely as a Force ghost but as the Jedi Master we had all hoped to see in the sequel trilogy, full of renewed faith and jovial humor, making a jocular call back to his casual disregard for his father's lightsaber in TJL.  Now, I know some folks have said that JJ took a big steaming dump over TLJ and how Luke was portrayed there, but I disagree with that.  If anything, we're seeing in TRoS the culmination of that arc, that had Luke survived the events of TLJ, this is the person he would now be, having come through his crisis of faith with said faith not only renewed but stronger than ever, having learned Yoda's final lesson that one shouldn't let their failures define who they are, and that what matters is what you do after failing.  And in his own way, he imparts that same lesson to Rey, going so far as to reinforce that notion that it's what you do and the choices you make that matters the most, rekindling her heroic spirit.  And then there was him lifting the X-Wing out of the ocean's muck, much like Yoda did and with a smirk on his face, showing that this was the Luke that Snoke (and Palpatine by extension I suppose) were very much worried would come back should the Resistance find him.

And then we have Harrison Ford's uncredited appearance as Han Solo, and in spite of being nothing more than a memory, it was great to see a father (even if just the memory of a father) reaching out to his son in that son's time of emotional crisis and be supportive.  I loved that the dialogue was a replay of Han's final scene in TFA, only this time ending with Ben Solo forsaking the dark side and shedding the mask of Kylo Ren, much as Anakin forsook the dark side and shed the mask of Darth Vader in the climax of RotJ.  I did smile at Han getting to be himself by cutting off what was probably going to be some very inelegant blubbering on Ben's part by saying "I know," which has kind of become the franchise's way of saying "I love you too," and it's nice to see what was an ad lib in ESB be used deliberately in such a touching manner.

The giant final space battle was pretty intense, and I can see why some folks felt the arrival of the cavalry felt unearned, but I didn't have that problem.  For me, after mulling the film over in my head for a couple days, while the timing of the Big Damn Fleet might have been a little off, that this around everyone showed up makes sense.  When the Resistance sends out their call for help towards the end of TLJ, the only people the First Order are openly antagonizing is the Resistance, so the rest of the galaxy may well have figured that there wasn't much of a point of picking a fight.  But come the climax of TRoS, when Palpatine has pretty much outed himself as a Sith (i.e. the MAJOR villains of the setting's history) and told everyone either kneel or I kill you, when the call for aid came out, the galaxy knew that if they didn't stand up now, then they'd either be kneeling forever or be dead.  Of course, having it be the suave old smoothie Lando making the call for help probably didn't hurt.

And Lando very much filled the "wise mentor" role not only very well, but in his own way, providing verbal support where needed, especially to Poe during his personal crisis after finding out General Leia was dead.  Speaking of Leia, I thought they handled her scenes very well, even if there were a few instances where it was pretty clear they were using body doubles; makes sense that they'd have to, given the limited footage to work with and Abram's promise to not use a digital double.  It really does sadden me that she passed before this film could be shot, as I can't help but wonder how much larger of a role she would have played in the film.  Finding out that Luke had trained her, to the point where Leia had built her own lightsaber, was a nice reveal, as it showed that he passed on what he had learned, just as Yoda had advised him to do.  While she may not have fully completed her training as a Jedi, it was still nice to see that Leia had at least developed her abilities to the extent that she could serve as a capable teacher for Rey.

One complaint I saw was that the film never really addressed if Finn was Force-sensitive or not, and that if he was then the film didn't do anything with it.  That didn't bother me because RotJ ended much the same way with regards to Leia's revelation of being Force-sensitive, with her only getting one brief moment of using it before the credits rolled.  At various points in the film, Finn gets these "feelings" about things, as well as sensing when Rey died on Exogal, so even if it wasn't stated as such, he at least got to display some minor uses of the Force, which is a touch I liked.

All that said, from the perspective of a GM that has run Star Wars games aplenty in the past, I am intrigued to see where LFL will go from here, and what shape Rey's rebuilt Jedi Order will take.  I did like that she converted the head of her staff into a lightsaber at the very end, just before announcing herself to be a Skywalker in honor of Luke, Leia, and Ben, and that it had a yellow/amber blade, demonstrating that she's not as bound by the ways of the old Jedi as Luke had initially been.  It was also touching to see the Force ghosts of Luke and Leia, being reunited in the netherworld of the Force.  For Rey's first crop of students, I'm guessing Finn will be one of her first students, along with the broom kid from the end of TLJ.  I'd be interesting in seeing or reading about such a story, of her establishing a renewed Jedi Order, this around hopefully free from lazy writers who decide to turn said Jedi school into an easy way to justify having new dark side villains; given how often he had students go rogue in New Republic era of Legends, it's amazing that Luke's Yavin 4 Praxuem wasn't shut down for being a hazard to galactic security.

Overall, I think this was as good a movie to close out not only the sequel trilogy but also the entire Skywalker Saga as could be made.  I do think all three sequel films, but this one especially, were hampered by there not being a roadmap to help guide the filmmakers from the opening scene of TFA to the rolling of credits in TRoS, but I found the films to quite enjoyable, with TFA perhaps being my favorite of the three.  I seriously wanted to love this film, but the first of my major grievances with the film, that of Rey being retcon'd into having a special lineage after all, keeps that from happening.

So while far from being a perfect film (and let's be honest, NONE of the Star Wars films are truly perfect, no matter what nostalgia tells you), it was enjoyable end to a saga that began when I was a wee child, and I do look forward to seeing what's yet to come.  Apart from The Mandalorian which has thus far been fairly good, there's a Kenobi series by Deborah Chow (who directed what I think were some of the best episodes of The Mandalorian bar none), a Rogue One prequel series focusing on Cassian Andor, and apparently a new Star Wars film that's slated for December of 2022, with another new film in the Decembers of 2024 and 2026, though no details have been released about whether this will be a new trilogy or what.

Chris Witt of the Order 66 podcast said it best when he said that right now, it's a good time to be a Star Wars fan.  The franchise may hit stumbling blocks along the way, even as far back as Lucas making the first movie back in the mid 1970's, but it's also a franchise that has endured over the decades, and I think it'll be around for many more decades to come.

November 27, 2019

Of Jedi, Vidoe Games, and Fallen Orders

Greetings programs!

Yeah, been a spell since my last post here.  Mostly that's been due to having been rather busy with real life things (nothing worrisome, just time consuming).

So a little over a week ago, I opted to take the plunge and pick up EA's latest offering, Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order.  I'll be honest in that I was largely skeptical about whether I'd enjoy this game or not, given the less than stellar experiences I had with Spider-Man and Kingdom Hearts 3.  Still, I'd been hearing lots of good things being said about this game, both from reviewers and especially from one of my friends whose opinion on video games I generally trust.

And I have to admit that the game is generally pretty fun, being an action-adventure "metroidvania" style game.  Now admittedly I'm playing the game on Story Mode (aka Easy Mode) as at this point in my life I play video games as a means of relaxation and am not looking for a serious/frustrating challenge.  The game's not perfect, as the combat controls feel like there's a bit of lag between button input and result, especially when there's a lot of enemies on the screen.

So that said, I got the inspiration to work up some stats and such of people and things that appeared in the game.

Cal Kestis, Jedi Fugitive (as of Escape from Bracca)
The protagonist of Jedi: Fallen Order, young Cal is a survivor of the purge that was Order 66, and has spent the five years since that fateful day hiding on the planet Bracca, where he works as a scrapper alongside his Abednado co-worker and friend Prauf.  Circumstances arise that causes Cal to reveal his Force abilities and subsequently coming to the attention of the dreaded Imperial Inquisitors.

I built Cal using the Jedi career and Padawan specialization from the Rise of the Separatists supplement, as it not only fit his background, but also allowed me to get him up to Force Rating 2 rather inexpensively and thus acquire the Bind power, which is what I'm using to represent his Force Statis ability both to slow down enemies but also to briefly freeze various obstacles to allow him to progress.  I also gave him the benefit of the Mentor shared background resource from Force & Destiny to account for the his proper training prior to the events of Order 66.

Psychometry (New Force Power)
So this was a Force power I had originally taken a crack at years ago as part of my old Ways of the Force fan supplement.  At the time, the only example of a Force user that was skilled with this ability was Quinlan Vos, but now that we have Cal demonstrating the power, I've got a somewhat better handle on what the power can accomplish.  It's fair to warn GMs that this Force power very much has the ability to unravel adventure plots that center on discovering things, so that end many of the upgrades for this power are expensive to purchase.

Kudos also to FFG forum user Nytwing, whose on take on Psychometry helped inform a fair bit the above.  You can read his take on the power on his website here.

BD Unit Droid
Serving as Cal's companion through much of the game, BD-1 is the game's exposition fairy, and has been likened to an intelligent puppy in terms of how he acts.  The stat block presented here presents more of a "factory model" version of the droid.
Cost/Rarity: 4500 credits/6

While the species was introduced in The Force Awakens, I thought it'd be fitting to include my take on a species write-up given that the character of Prauf plays a pivotal role in pushing Cal to undertake the grand quest that is the game's focus and for the young man to embrace his destiny as a Jedi.  I did use the character sheet for the Abednado Colonist Bormo from FFG's The Force Awakens Beginner Box set to help inform my choices on how to design this species.  It of course goes without saying that FFG ever does an official write-up of the Abednado, it's going to look rather different than what I'm posting here.

Starting Characteristics
Brawn 2, Agility 2, Intellect 3, Cunning 1, Willpower 2, Presence 2
Wound Threshold: 9+Brawn
Strain Threshold: 12+Willpower
Starting XP: 90
Species Abilities: Abednado being with one free rank in Resilience.  They still may not train Resilience above Rank 2 at character creation.
Gregarious: Due to their affable and friendly nature, Abednado characters add an Advantage to the results of all Charm and Negotiation checks the character makes.

S-161 "Stinger" XL Luxury Yacht
The game's principle method of getting Cal and company from planet to planet on their quest, the Mantis is fairly sleek ship design.  There's not a whole lot to go on apart from the comments of Greeze, the ship's captain and pilot, about how the Mantis is fast but not much good in a fight.

We don't get to explore much of the ship in the game, but I feel safe in presuming that there's more interior space than what is shown, enough to warrant putting this vessel in the Silhouette 4 category and with a decent amount of space for passengers and cargo.  I also decided to price the vessel as something that an Edge of the Empire group could begin play with, though it is out of the initial reach of a Force and Destiny group.

You can find PDFs of most of the above (everything save the write-up for the Abednado) in a zip file located here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/696xqpegf7c2eut/Jedi%20Fallen%20Order%20files.zip?dl=0

Hopefully you've enjoyed reading this, and may even find use for some or even all of this material in your own games.

So until next time, remember.... persistence reveals the path, and trust in the Force.

August 25, 2019

And the Road Goes Ever On...

Well, it's certainly been longer between updates than I'd originally planned.  Most of that was due to distractions of other things, mostly gaming and work in about that order.

So firstly, another birthday has come and gone, leaving me a little bit older and hopefully a little wiser than I was.  In spite of some annoying incompetence on the part of the Arkansas Postal Service, I did at last get the last of my birthday presents from Clan Whitson, including a cool geek t-shirt and some yummy home-baked chocolate chip cookies.

In terms of gaming, in spite of some unexpected shake-ups in the routine, I've been fairly active on that front.  A Star Wars campaign using FFG's system in which I played a youngish minor Jedi (Sentinel/Shien Expert/Padawan) named Colwyn Morningfire just recently wrapped up; with the GM saying it might be possible that we'll return to that group of characters at some later point, but that he wanted to run a different system and style of campaign for a little while.

In lieu of that Star Wars campaign, the GM started off a campaign using Cubicle 7's Adventures in Middle-Earth, which is there d20 version of their award-winning The One Ring game, set several years after the events taking place in The Hobbit.  We're starting out as 3rd level characters, and have a notable lack of Elves or Dwarves amidst our company, and with having 32 points to use to purchase our ability scores, each of us is generally pretty competent in our areas of respective expertise.

The GM has already said he's not running the game as being entirely "rules pure" and has adapted a couple elements from D&D 5e for the characters.  The first of these was importing the Inquisitive archetype from Xanathar's Guide to Everything for our Hobbit Treasure Seeker (C7's slightly reworked Rogue class) as neither of the existing AiME archetypes (Agent and Burgler) really seemed to fit the character concept she had in mind.  So we now have a Hobbit who's quite cheerful in spite being so far from the Shire, overly curious about most everything, and having the common sense of a Took; nobody's called her a "Fool of a Took!" but that may just be a matter of time.  She is however very good at Riddles, something she proved in the first session by getting into Middle-Earth's version of an impromptu rap battle by engaging in a riddle-contest with a bunch of bar patrons and trouncing the handily; likely helped that the player has researched and typed up a bunch of riddles to have on hand to recite.

The other house-ruled bit in this game is our Woodwoman Scholar has the ability to use actual D&D-style magic, having used her starting virtue/feat and 3rd level class archetype feature to gain a limited number of spells, most of which are cantrips with a single first level spell.  Narratively, her background is that she was taken in as a sort-of apprentice by Radagast the Brown (she really enjoyed Sylvester McCoy's portrayal in the Hobbit films, and felt having Gandalf as her mentor would have been too cliche).  Helpfully, Cubicle 7 listed a number of 5e OGL spells that fit the general themes of Middle-Earth, from which the character made her selections, most of them being various utility spells, with only one spell (Produce Flame) having offensive capabilities, and even then it's not that great.  The player (who is the youngest of the group) seems pretty content with what she's got for magic, and even with her primary experience of the setting being the Peter Jackson films grasps that D&D style spellcasters are not a thing in this setting, and that magical effects are far more limited, so not sure if she's going to try to finagle more spells or not.

Another imported D&D 5e elements for this group is a reworking of the Totem Warrior Path for our Beorning Slayer, with the spell-based abilities removed and a couple other abilities tweaked.  He's already stated that he intends to go full-on Bear Totem.

The last imported element being the GM having tossed out the Known Lands feature the Wanderer class (C7's reworking of the Ranger to remove all spell-casting) and replacing it with a slightly modified version of the Natural Explorer feature from the Revised Ranger presented in WotC's Unearthed Arcana series, done mostly so that he's got more freedom to send our party into various parts of the Wilderlands without having to worry about my Dunedain Wanderer's key class feature being of limited use, especially as we have a mage who has a bevy of at-will cantrips to her name. Though we've started out in Lake-Town, having come there separately for different reasons, I have a feeling the GM's going to have us be traipsing all about the Wilderlands during the course of our various adventures, so I admit it'll be nice to not have to worry about is the journey taking us through my character's Known Lands.  The bonuses provided aren't quite as nice, having lost the "double your proficiency bonus for Intelligence and Wisdom checks when dealing with a known land" and not getting some of the revised Natural Explorer's other abilities right away, I think it works out, trading overall potency for increased utility.  We're still fine-tuning, so I won't be posting what the current state of this revised-revised Natural Explorer is at the moment.

So far, it does seem like quite a fun group, having a Barding Warden with the Fallen Scion background having a bit of a casanova vibe and aspirations of being The Hero of the group, much to our Woodwoman Scholar's great dismay, while the Beorning Slayer and Hobbit Treasure Seeker are fast becoming the group's comedic duo.  My Dunedain Wanderer hasn't quite found his niche within the company's social dynamics, but we've only had one session so I'm sure he'll find his place soon enough.,

Sadly, the Saturday Discord group that I'm in had a disruption due to our GM struggling with various real-life concerns, leaving our Mutants & Masterminds 3e Emerald City campaign in a bit of a lurch.  Luckily, thanks the above AiME campaign, I got the notion to run an adventure using that game for the group while our GM briefly stepped down to sort a few things out.  It helped that we're all pretty familiar with the 5e rules, so we wouldn't have to try and learn a radically different new system for what was likely to be a one-off.  And so, with a company consisting of a Dwarf Fallen Scion Warrior, a Barding Harrowed Warden, a Hobbit World Weary Scholar, and a Woodwoman Lured by the Road Wanderer, I ran them through the Eaves of Mirkwood.  A couple players remarked on the oddity of playing actual first-level characters, but everyone had fun and enjoyed themselves.  Unlike a typical D&D adventure, there wasn't very much combat except towards the very end, and I think the "encounter" that the players had the most fun with was sitting and conversing with a trio of traveling dwarves over a meal of roast pig and fine mead, getting into a riddle contest and a contest of blowing smoke rings, the later of which our Hobbit sadly lost in spite of a great effort of going for a big finish.

One major change I did for the adventure was to frame it as a tale being told by Gandalf to a group of Hobbit children, with the introduction being Gandalf agreeing to tell the children a story (he was in an unusually chipper mood that late spring afternoon), which also let me set the stage for the players as to where and when they were in the timeline of Middle-Earth (five years after the Battle of Five Armies, and on the western reaches of Mirkwood).  I had thought about using Bilbo to tell the story, but decided to use Gandalf instead as I've always liked the Grey Wizard, cranky as he might get at times.  And after the adventure as written had concluded, I went back to having Gandalf conclude the tale and shoo the various Hobbit children away, with one of them hanging around just a bit longer to ask the old Wizard if indeed there were more stories of this company of adventurers, to which Gandalf told a very young Frodo Baggins that there were indeed, but those were stories for another time.  The players very much loved the use of the framing device of their adventure being a story told by one of The Wise, giving them a greater sense of accomplishment and tie to the world of Middle-Earth.  I can only hope that any further adventures I run for them are met with equal enthusiasm and appreciation, given that until this adventure, I'd had an abysmal track record when trying to run any sort of D&D game (most efforts crashed and burned by the third session at the latest, and several attempts during my 20's didn't even make it through the first session), so it was nice to have a D&D game (modified though the system was) be both successful and appreciated by the players.

I also have to say that I really like the Journey mechanics that Cubicle 7 imported from The One Ring.  It removes a lot of the "need to roll for random encounters" and the chart for Journey Events gives the GM a number of options to either roll for or choose from beyond "you run into a bunch of monsters, what do you do?"  I can see why a lot of GMs have decided to import the Journey rules into their regular D&D campaigns.

Well, that's about what's been going on of late for me.  I've got a notion for a smaller Star Wars RPG post, but that will probably wait for next weekend.

June 8, 2019

Two from the archives

I know, I know, it's been a while since my last update.  I haven't forgotten this page exists, but rather keep getting pulled in different directions and rarely have something that I really feel is worth posting here.

Well, that's obviously changed, as I finally got around to doing something I'd been meaning to do for quite some time, that being converting a pair of very memorable characters from a long ago Star Wars Saga Edition campaign over to the FFG system.

The characters in question were by far the two most memorable PCs from a Legacy Era campaign as run by Ben "Cyril" Erickson, and were the brainchildren of Kevin "Rikoshi" Frane and Nateal Falk.  I had a couple of different characters in that campaign, starting off with a Corellian near-human ex-cop (nobody but me seemed to remember that he as a near-human, and even I forgot a few times) before he had a very explosive end (something I don't think Nateal has still quite forgiven me for) and I brought in a Jedi PC from an older New Jedi Order campaign that made the transition to the Legacy Era courtesy of a very long carbonite nap (and managed to avert most of the carbon hibernation symptoms by way of Jedi hibernation trance), though sadly the campaign never really got the chance to explore just how young(ish) Alwyn handled the transition between two very different eras.  Then again, from his perspective the galaxy was still at war, just the bad guys had changed from Yuuzhan Vong to the One Sith.  I think at the end there was a remark about how my PC had a similar name and appearance to a young Jedi from the Skywalker Praxuem that had helped save the Imperial capital of Bastion from a maniacal Dark Jedi's invasion efforts, but again nothing that was explored in any depth due to the campaign wrapping up.

Now, given how very different the two systems approach things, I opted to try and decided to instead aim more for the spirit of what each character was rather than do a straight point-to-point conversion.  Once that decision was made however, the characters actually fell into place, more or less, pretty quickly.  I did have to take a couple of liberties with each of them, but I think they work out pretty well as low-end player-characters.

For both of these, I opted to grant them an additional 25XP, which was treated as "earned XP" and couldn't be used to increase characteristics, as well as an extra 1000 credits worth of equipment.  I considered going full-on Heroic/Knight Level, but found that just that extra 25XP sufficed to get the basics of the character.

The first of these two is Kirikinerry-tovante (Kiri for short), and he remains memorable to me simply for virtue of being a Squib, a meter-high species of blue-furred goofballs with a love of over-complicated negotiations and a notable lack of self-preservation instincts.  This character was played by Rikoshi, and to my view, if our campaign had been a TV series, he would have been the fandom favorite of the cast.  What really sold the character was the way Rikoshi voiced him as well as the mannerisms; given we were playing through Skype and Roll20, that he was able to convey all that with voice alone is pretty amazing.  Heck, I still chuckle at the fact that Rikoshi took the time to draw up a "contract" for the group, denoting who got what amount of any proceeds, with all sorts of adjustments based on some of the most odd factors, such as "non-koovy non-Jedi penalty" for the Caamasi Force adept.  I sadly don't have the list anymore, and I'm pretty sure the forum thread for the campaign has long been pruned for inactivity, but it was a piece of demented genius.

When writing up Kiri's stats, I opted to take two bites at the apple.  In Saga Edition, he was built using the Smuggler class, so I first opted to go the route of the Smuggler career, and settling on the Thief career.  However, that just didn't quite feel right for an "independent busyness being" like Kiri, so I did a second build using Explorer as the career and Trader as his specialization, which I honestly think works a bit better.  Obviously, there's no official write-up for the Squib as a species (a major oversight on FFG's part in my estimation), so I used the unofficial stats that I'd created for this blog some time ago instead.

At any rate, here's links to each of the versions.  Hopefully Kevin can forgive me for using the stock image of a Squib, as I sadly lack the artistic talent to create an image that suitably captures the koovy majesty of the character.

Kirikinerry-tovante, Squib Smuggler

Kirikinerry-tovante, Squib Explorer

Now, for the second character, this was Niera Kurucz, an Arkanian scientist with a rather abrasive personality when it came to dealing with organics, but had quite the soft spot with regards to droids and cybernetically-augmented creatures.  While Kiri was just that right sort of crazy-awesome that makes a character both memorable and enjoyable to have in the group, Niera was in part memorable to me for the fact she was kind of the party face while really not having the personality for it.

Niera's conversion was a lot more difficult, due in large part to her being Force-sensitive, an ability that was always present but was only slowly developed over time.  She never became a really potent Force user due to her cybernetic enhancements (Saga Edition operated under the old assumption that cybernetics interfered with one's ability to use the Force, itself based upon Darth Vader no longer having the potential power that he'd had as Anakin Skywalker), but there were some interesting moments with her trying to learn about the Force from the Caamasi Force adept; she never did quite get around to trusting my Jedi character, though she did accept his offer to let her borrow his copy of The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force (in-setting, that book was a reprint of the tome that Luke had uncovered some time prior to the NJO era, but obviously without the various in-character margin notes from different owners over the decades; said book is now Legends, but it's worth reading if you're looking to play a character trained in the mold of the classic Jedi).

Ultimately, I decided that Niera's core concept would be best served if I deep-sixed the bulk of the "party face" elements and focused on her being a highly intelligent engineering and droid mechanics expert, and settled on Technician for her career and Droid Tech as her starting specialization.  I did still give her Force-sensitivity by way of the Force Sensitive Exile specialization, though much like her original character build in Saga Edition she's lacking much in the way of actual Force abilities, though that will change over time.  I was sorely tempted to give her the Manipulate power out of Endless Vigil, but all she could really afford was the basic power and that effect didn't really jive with her focus on droids and cyber-technology.

One bit of rule-bending I had to do for Niera was to employ the droid-crafting rules from Special Modifications, and assign a certain number of advantages and triumphs from her Mechanics and Computers checks to build and program her custom personal droid PLUM.  I have no idea what sort of stats PLUM had in Saga Edition, so I built the little droid as having proficiency in mechanics and computers, with a small scientific database, with the intent that it pretty much provides Niera with a boost die on her Computers, Mechanics, and Knowledge (Education) checks.  She can also send PLUM out to operate independently, with it working a little better while following her directions.

So here's my take on Niera and her droid companion PLUM (which in my head canon at least stands for PersonaL Utility Mechanism):

Niera Kurucz, Arkanian Force-Sensitive Technician

PLUM, Niera's custom droid companion

I do have a few other ideas rattling around in my brain, but we'll see how long it takes before something viable actually shakes out.

Edit: Forgot to note, but the characters were built and the character sheets are from OggDude's excellent character generator program.

April 13, 2019

The Intrepid Fellows - a party of adventurers for WFRP4e

Wow, two posts in one week.  That's got to be some kind of record, though we'll see how long it lasts.

As you might have surmised, I was pretty darn busy over the prior weekend, what with being down in Plano, Texas for the 6th GamerNationCon and 4 Days of Gaming Goodness.

Prior to that however, I had the chance to run a one-shot for my Discord gaming group, that being "If Looks Could Kill" by Cubicle 7 for the fourth edition of the venerable Warhammer Fantasy Role Play game (aka WFRP4e).  I made a few one-the-fly tweaks to events in the module, but overall it ran rather smoothly, with my buddy Eric (who is notorious for abysmal dice rolls) having a blast simply due to his usual habit of rolling low working in his favor, even going so far as to snark that "this must be what it feels like to be Jon!" in reference to my own habit of making some pretty awesome rolls when I'm playing.

Now, while I've got the PDFs of the characters from the Starter Set, I opted to instead use a quintet of characters that I'd created myself, as I knew for a fact they were legally built starting PCs and didn't suffer from any oddities incurred by the errata.  Plus, having made these characters myself, I had a fairly solid idea of what each of them was capable of doing.  And for the most part, they did what they were designed to do and did it well.

In the interest of sharing, here are the group of adventurers that refer to themselves as the Intrepid Fellows.  You can either click on the links in the individual character's name to get their character sheet, or click here to download the entire group as a single zip file.

Cedred Laudenheim, Human Guard
The ostensible leader of the band, Cedred is actually from a noble family that has long since been impoverished and fallen upon hard times.  He's very much a front-line combatant using a sword and buckler, but is also quite sociable thanks to a high Fellowship, and hard to surprise thanks to high scores in Intuition and Perception.  This was the character that Eric played, and between his very much getting into character as a generally heroic-minded individual and his habit of generally rolling very low on his percentile dice, Cedred was probably the MVP of the entire adventure, taking down the major threat of the adventure and gradually working on building for himself a reputation as a heroic figure.

Erwin Brahms, Human Rat Catcher
Erwin is very much a salt of the earth sort of fellow, as indicated by his trade of hunting down and cleaning out vermin infestations, with his small (but vicious) dog Otto being his most stalwart traveling companion.  Despite of only having a sling, he's the groups ranged attacker, which in this system can be surprisingly effective given how a single well-placed sling bullet can undercut whatever combat momentum the target has built up for themselves.  Erwin was played by Rick, and I didn't realize it until much later that Rick and Eric had largely reversed the character dynamic they have with their characters in my Force and Destiny campaign, with Rick being the crass boor contrasting with Eric's well-mannered heroic figure this time around.

Heidric Strohmann, Human Wizard
The token spellcaster in a setting where being a spellcaster can get you into a lot of trouble with the locals (namely, being lynched and/or burned at the stake), Heidric is an apprentice at the Colleges of Magic in the capital city of Altdorf.  For a one-shot, I didn't designate which color of magic he was studying, and figured that since he only has access to petty magic that he's drawing on just drabs of magical energy rather than properly channeling and focusing the various winds of magic.  Brennen played this character, and while unaware of the consequences of being an open magic user outside of Altdorf, he did much to avoid making it was obvious that he could use magic.

Karrag Thronsson, Dwarf Bounty Hunter
A surly and rather blunt individual, as befits a dwarf, Karrag is the group's muscle and ostensibly their tracker (sadly, the player's dice rolls didn't really help in that regard).  Played by Doran, Karrag as indeed quite blunt in his dealings with others, and had made good on capturing all three of a trio of local bandits that'd been plaguing the area that the adventure took place in.  He did notably get covered in ichor, and took down two of the bandits (who'd tried to lay an ambush for him) by himself without killing either of them.

Rosalinda Dottenbacher, Human Apothecary
This was a pre-gen I made specifically for Linda, as she has a deeply abiding love for medic/healer characters.  I had debated about making Rosalinda a Halfling, and in retrospect I kind of wish I had, but that would have pushed Rosalinda too far into being the party face, a role that I know Linda is usually not very comfortable with taking most nights.  Still, Rosalinda was helpful in patching up the injured members of the group and identifying a few plot threads, though she is very much a support character and generally not much use during a fight.  Still, her staggering variety of Lore skills can certainly provide the group extra information in the right circumstances.

For those curious, for each character I used the same set of randomly rolled values for their characteristics, which amusingly worked out to 125 points.  For race, I rolled randomly with the exception of Karrag, thus winding up with a party of Humans for some extra XP.  Talents were all rolled randomly, with most of them working out for the character concepts quite well, though Cedred having Noble-Blooded was a wrinkle that I eventually made work out for the character.

April 10, 2019

Post-GamerNationCon 6

And once more, another GamerNationCon has come and gone.  As was the norm for me, I had a lot of fun, got to play a lot of games, catch up with old faces, and make some new acquaintances.  It was pretty cool to meet the members of the Dice Pool Podcast, most of whom made the very long trek from Australia just to attend the convention.  And naturally getting to see Linda and her family in person, as well as having at least a couple chances to sit down and share a meal with them.  It was a major shame that Eric couldn't make the trip, as the con's theme was superheroes and he's a big-time superhero fan.

One thing that helped the mood for me was that this year, I'd opted to spring for the MVG pledge on the Kickstarter.  Granted, it was a few hundred bucks, but the pledge got me a guaranteed seat in two games as well as first dibs on getting into scheduled games when even sign-up went live.  This was a marked difference from previous years where I wound up getting locked out of a number of games that I really wanted to play in, such as GM Phil's always entertaining Fallout sessions.

Highlights for me were playing in the Star Wars D6 1st edition session run by convention Guest of Honor Michael Witwer, who is a very enthusiastic GM, with our group having a blast all around playing through the classic module Starfall.  We had to speed things up a bit, but my smuggler did get a chance to shine by engaging the big bad in a one-on-one AT-ST duel, which ended with my character ramming into the overly chatty Imperial officer's vehicle to end the fight.

There was of course GM Phil's Fallout session, run using the Genesys system with the theme of the PCs having adopted heroic personas in the post-apoc wasteland.  In this one, I played a Protectotron that due to a programming glitch believed it actually was the space-faring hero Captain Cosmos, accompanied by a robot companion that had a stuffed toy hanging off the front of it to play the roll of the Captain's loyal space monkey companion (and was apparently not happy about it).  Phil is probably one of the most fun and energetic GMs that I've had the privilege to play under, so any time spent in one of his sessions is sure to be a lot of fun.

Another major highlight was playing in a GI Joe session again using the Genesys system (detecting a theme for the con yet?), this one run by Dustin of the Staggering Dragon crew.  In this one, I played Spirit, who was the team's tracker and sharpshooter as our team of Joes (Flint, Mainframe, Chuckles, and Snake-Eyes) got dropped into Transylvania to see what mischief Cobra was getting up to in Castle Dracula.  Playing Snake-Eyes was my Texas friend Will, who got seriously into character and never spoke once until the session had concluded, which for those who know Will is a major achievement as by his own admission he is an incredibly chatty fellow, and communicated by way of writing on index cards.  We each got a number of cool moments, starting up with the two of us coordinating to flawlessly take down a Cobra sentry without raising an alarm, starting with Spirit timing his rifle shot (normally a very loud crack) to fire in time with a peal of thunder to mask the sound, and Snake-Eyes being right next to the guy to catch him before the sentry hit the ground and noiselessly tuck away the body.  Next was Snake-Eyes taking out a bunch of Cobra soldiers while hanging from a chandelier without scratching Chuckles (who was wearing a Cobra uniform) with his sub-machine gun.  And finally, after completing our objectives and bugging out of the castle in a stolen Cobra Stinger jeep, while being pursued by a pack of some sort of serpent-themed lycanthrope/Frankenstein's monster crossbreeds, we worked together to take down all but one of them while Mainframe got an old Russian helicopter up and working.  Snake-Eyes did most of the work with using the jeep's on-board missiles, while I got to take down the very last monster while quoting an appropriate line from Dresden Files, that being "Mother says you don't belong here. *crack of thunder* Father says you're ugly too" before putting a rifle round into the thing's gaping maw and out the back of its freakish head as it leapt to attack the group, and stopping its sliding body with my boot before we boarded the repaired helicopter and made our exit.

A couple of unexpected highlights came from a pair of pick-up games, both being Genesys games.  The first of these had the group playing members of Marvel's Alpha Flight, the Canadian government's sponsored team of superheroes, as run by Canadian Chris Hunt, which pretty much wound up with myself and another lady playing Canadian superheroes in a game run by a Canadian GM with other members of the Canadian contingent.  Also in the group was convention guest Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy, who is a pretty chill guy and fun to game with.  We were probably one of the few teams of superheroes to shut down a bad guy's operation by way of government regulations.  It was also amusing to be witness to the Canadians dropping cultural references that we Americans are generally unaware of.

The other unexpected highlight Genesys pick-up game that I got into was Sunday morning, due to the GM for the scheduled 7th Sea game being "under the weather," which I'm sure had nothing to do with the night prior being "GamerNation After Dark" (i.e. booze being served and shared liberally).  Said game was run by Brett Bowen, one of GM Phil's longtime friends, and was using the Earthdawn setting.  Now Earthdawn is a setting that I've always liked (post-apoc high fantasy), though sadly the game's mechanics were in short a total mess.  Heck, I liked this enough that when a printed copy of the theme (signed by Brett) came up for bid in the post-con auction, I largely made sure it was mine to take home by effectively squashing the bidding war by doubling what was the current bid at the time.  I've skimmed through the book a couple times, and may well try running some one-offs for some of the gaming groups I'm in.  The look of the document is very slick, and you can tell from looking at it that Brett is not only a major fan of the setting but put a lot of work into this.

Other gaming included playing in both parts of the Android two-part module that FFG released for their Shadow of the Beanstalk Genesys supplement.  This one I didn't find quite as enjoyable, but I think that was more circumstances than anything Darren West (the GM) did specifically.  First part, we had one player pretty much commandeer the group at a critical point and effectively tell half the group (which I was in) to sod off in terms of how to resolve a particular dilemma and instead make things a whole lot worse for us.  In the second part, we got hung up in a combat encounter that the module intended for us to avoid, except that the way things played out there was no way for us to really avoid it, which in turn effectively lead for a TPK with the exception of the medic PC.

In terms of food, I got to try out a couple of places that I'd never eaten at before, which were generally good, although one of them was a Chinese place where the food smelled good was way too spicy for me to really stomach.  The pre-con barbecue feast provided by the Rayburns was just as delicious as last year's, and was a great way to start things.  I wound up not going with the majority of the remaining con attendees to the post-con dinner, and instead headed with Lin, her family, and our friend Doran to a Chinese buffet that was pretty solid in terms of food, and it was nice to have a chance to wind down after four solid days of gaming goodness.

So yeah, a whole lot of fun was had, and I've already got at least a couple ideas for things I could run for next year's GNCon, from a Genesys major cross-over using various fan-made themes to a 7th Sea adventure whose roots can be drawn from a pick-up session I played during this recent con.