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):

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mapmaker/poster-maps-of-the-forsaken-lands-iii-iv-and-more 

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)

June 30, 2015

Karabast!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Darth Vader, the Empire's greatest troll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2015

3DoGG lived up to the name!

Sorry for the lengthy silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 25, 2015

So what did happen to the GSA?

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

What happened to the GSA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 1, 2015

Happy Frakkin' New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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