December 31, 2011

Prepping for New Year's Celebration, SW geek style

Just a quick little update.

I'm taking a brief break to run some errands, having spent a goodly chunk of last night and this morning getting everything printed and prepped for a New Year's Day session of Traitor's Gambit, set in the New Jedi Order era of play. If you've been listening to the Threat Detected podcast (and seriously, why haven't you if you've not been?), then you'll recall that I played in this under Garrett and Tony at GenCon 2011. I allowed myself to be coerced into running a Star Wars one-shot for a bunch of folks, some standing friends and established gamers, some new faces and gaming newbs. So I figured, given my recent exposure and growing interest in the NJO, I'd cheat a bit and run the module. Got the pre-gen PCs ready to go, have my NPCs typed up, and just need to get the necessary map tiles printed out.

Well, break over, lunch order just arrived (Chinese Take-Out, fah-ra-ra-ra), so a quick nosh and then back to work.

In any case, have yourselves a Happy New Year, filled with as much geeky goodness as you can handle, and then a little bit extra for good measure :)

December 29, 2011

Xmas goodies

On a happier note, Christmas has come and gone, and a good time was had, by me at the very least.

The day itself was nice, quiet, and quite relaxing, as I spent it alone and away from the hustle and bustle. Xmas Eve was spent up at my folks' for dinner, and while my yuletide haul wasn't the biggest, it was quite satisfying, including a couple Star Wars: Invasion collections from my good friend Linda and her family, some Star Wars and Harry Potter related goodies from my folks, and a most useful commodity in the form of hard cash, which given that I freely admit that I am a royal pain in the ass to shop for (mostly, if there's something I want, I go right out and buy it). I also finally got the chance to play a bit of Skyward Sword for my Wii (after dusting said console off), and am eager to actually log some serious play time this coming weekend.

I'm also toying with an RPG-related project, something that's purely unofficial, self-motivated, and not related to Star Wars. It's something that I'd been tinkering with on and off again for quite a while, but I'll say no more at the moment, other than it will likely be d20-based, but will draw from some non-d20 games as well. Dunno if anyone will really care, but it'll be something to keep my busy in what little downtime I'm likely to have in the coming months, especially if work history repeats itself from last year.

And the saga continues...

Sadly, I don't mean Star Wars, either Saga Edition or the movie sagas.

After calling to pester my ISP's Customer Service department last week about where the equipment I had ordered was, it showed up on my doorstep yesterday. Thank you FedEx for just leaving it sitting out in the open.

Relieved that finally the gear I'd ordered a week and a half ago (and paid for priority shipping on no less) had arrived, I opened it up, figuring it would be an easy matter to hook everything up.

To quote Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns... WRONG!

It seems that said provider forgot to include the actual modem in the box, which according to the invoice they provided, should have been included. So, another call to Customer Service (which of course is in India), and after a half-hour or so, I now have a confirmation number and should (allegedly) have my purchased modem within the next 7 business days. Granted, given the sub-par service I've received so far, I'm not holding my breath as to if it'll show up "as soon as possible," and figure it'll be the middle of January if the precedent set continues.

Sorry for the grousing, but just needed to vent.

December 23, 2011

On the values of customer service, or lack thereof...

Well, I mentioned that I'd contacted my internet service provider and purchased a replacement modem from them, which I'd done a week ago, and even paid extra for 2nd shipping.

Well, nothing had showed up, so I call them yesterday, only to find that while there was a record of my purchase, nothing had been done to fulfill that order. So had I not called their customer service desk to find out what was going on, it's likely my purchase order would have been sitting around until the new year. And all the while, I'd be charged for interet service that I'm not able to access or make use of. So while the Customer Service Rep did say he was going to push the order through, that still leaves the fact that I had to call about it in the first place.

So for anyone that's been keeping tabs on this little blog of mine, that's a large reason why you've not seen many content-based updates. Hopefully that will change in a few days, but at this rate, I'm not holding my breath.

December 18, 2011

Tech issues and last-minute gaming sessions

Well, seems the modem/router I bought that should have worked with my internet service provider does not. So still don't have fully reliable internet access at the moment, which is aggravating.

On the plus side, Saturday was an unexpected gaming double-header, put together at almost the last possible minute, consisting of Star Wars Saga Edition and some more Dragon Age RPG.

SWSE was a "mini-adventure" for our NJO group, giving us a chance to do some amount of good during the Battle/Fall of Coruscant, such as rescuing civilians and innocent children, as well as getting involved in a few skirmishes here and there so if nothing else, we can say we were there.

Dragon Age saw us pick up our characters from the playthru of the Dalish Curse, with the addition of a Dwarf merc to give us a bit more fighting power. The adventure we played through was called "Secret of Eastvale," and I'll be honest in that I really didn't see the psuedo-twist as to who the real villain of the adventure was. Granted, the look on the GM's face when one of the other PCs reminded me of a plot trinket I had held onto from Dalish Curse was priceless, but it wasn't a game-breaker by far. Got a better feel for the AGE system as stuff wasn't entirely new, and I still like it for the simplicity of how things run, and got out of the MMO/4e mindset of "aggro control" that was a holdover from my recent play-thru (Human Noble Warrior) of Dragon Age: Origins, where my main focus was tanking like there was no tomorrow. The Threaten stunt certainly helps against the really nasty stuff, but then again so does simply dishing out lots of damage in one go.

Gaming wise, this was a good note to end the year on, and it helped improve my mood from the sourness of dead/unfunctioning modem issues.

December 12, 2011

Just needed a nudge is all.

Okay, a short while ago I tossed up a post regarding my first experience with playing Green Ronin's Dragon Age RPG.

Well, that seems to have been the motivating factor to getting Darth Prefect of the d20 Radio forums to try and assemble a one-shot Skype game of the same. Pretty cool, and I certainly hope it goes well for him.

December 9, 2011

Tech failure suckage

Seems that last night, the router for my DSL connection decided it was time to say farewell to this cruel world. I noticed this as I was in the midst of tring to download the latest episode of the Threat Detected podcast, so quite annoyed. So, I'm pretty much without home internet for at least the next few days. Got a sinking feeling that it's going to be out of my wallet to replace the router, but I'll check with my service provider first.

So I guess any updates to this blog will be occuring from my lappy courtesy of any free WiFi. Well, at least it means less distractions while trying to work on gaming stuff.

December 8, 2011

A couple minor tweaks and musings...

Playing around with the set-up of various things around here. Big change is opening up the comments to anyone whose interested in leaving a remark.

Thinking about doing summaries of the various Star Wars campaigns that I'm running and playing in at the moment, those being a Alt'verse campaign and a NJO campaign respectively. I've got threads over at the D20 Radio message boards detailing what's happened in both.

DMF's Take on the Alternate Universe Campaign thread
Tales of a NJO Jedi Apprentice

Last night was quite a hoot as we played what will (sadly) be the last session of our NJO campaign for the year, as the GM now has to deal with holiday work hours until the new year. But it was a long session (just over 5 hours) and was a blast in more ways than one. We got to meet who I figure is the BBEG of the campaign, at least if how handily he smacked down my Young Jedi Guardian is of any indication, as well as getting a pretty solid bead on where my character's Redemption Destiny is headed.

December 6, 2011

Star Wars Fanartwork

Since my last post covered the Alternate Universe efforts of Sillof, I thought I might give a list of folks that I've come across that do Star Wars art of considerable quality.

Those of you on the D20 Radio message boards may not be fully aware of this, but Zrissa, aka Linda Whitson aka a very dear friend of mine, is a burgeoning 3d artist, using Daz Studio to create renditions of more than few Star Wars characters, including shots of some NPCs from my Alternate Universe campaign. You can find her at Renderosity under the handle of LadyDernyi, though she's got some regular photography stuff up there as well.

Another chap that does 3D Star Wars character models, this time in Carrara, is one Terras Jadeonar, or simply Jadenor should you opt to look him up on DeviantArt. Another fine chap that I've gotten a chance to speak with via IM and messageboards, and does some really nifty 3D poser art. He's also got a Renderosity account under the handle of Spacer_01. Again, if you're a D20 Radio board member, you might recognize his work in the form of the forum avatar of one Fulongamer.

Though she's moved on to Dragon Age, there is also Aimo, whose artwork is simply phenomenal, particularly her KOTOR pieces. She's taken commissions in the past, though I don't believe she is doing so currently. I could be wrong, so take a gander at her gallery and see for yourself.

Again on DeviantArt, you can find the works of JosephB222. Not only does he do some great Star Wars art, with the Sith Princess Ariel being amidst my personal faves of the lot, but he also freely offers up the linework to a number of his pieces for those interested in doing variant colors or even using the images for their own characters, provided you remember to give him due credit for the linework.

Yet more DeviantArt (noticing a trend here?), there's Turin-the-Forsaken. He seems to favor Jedi of a slightly darker bent, but there's a number of great pieces you could use for character inspiration.

DeviantArt in general can be damn handy, and not just for Star Wars. Type a theme in the search box, and see what comes up. Fair warning though, some of the results might be a bit too spicy for young eyes, but those tend to be flagged mature so minimal risk if you don't have a profile on DeviantArt. I've a friend I game with routinely that loves to just do random searches on DeviantArt when she's casting about for character ideas, often basing a character upon a particular image that strikes her fancy.

And lastly, there is the Star Wars Artists Guild, or SWAG for short. If you're ever stuck for an idea for a PC or NPC, just take a browse through this site. Odds are you'll find something that will spark the creative juices. They've also got a Forum section where you can submit requests. You might be able to ask a specific artist to do an image for you, but generally the artists tend to operate on "first one to volunteer," which might lead to some conflicts based on your idea and what the artist comes up with as the final result, and the turn-around may not be as fast as you might want, but consider that someone was willing to take the time to do your request for free.

Direct Gallery Links:
LadyDernyi's Renderosity Page
Terras' Renderosity Page
Terras' DeviantArt Page
Aimo's DeviantArt Page
JosephB222's DeviantArt Page
Turin-the-Forsaken's DeviantArt Page
SWAG Online website

Edit: Seems I misjudged what program ZRissa and Terras do their 3D artwork in. I've edited their entries to reflect the correct programs. Sorry 'bout that.

December 4, 2011

Speaking of Star Wars and AltU's

Another possible tact for Alternate Star Wars campaigns is to spin the entire setting into something different.

For some prime example (as well as some great figure designs), I'd suggest taking a look at the work of one Sillof, who has taken the iconic characters of the Star Wars Original Trilogy and set them in different eras, ranging from Steam Punk to Pulp Noir to Fuedal Japan, creating customized figures that look amazing.

Seriously, check this guy's stuff out.

Of Star Wars and Alternate Universes

Was just musing a bit last night about this topic, particularly as I was working out the details for the next installment of my own Star Wars Alternate Universe campaign.

And it does seem that this is a useful approach to running a Star Wars game that a lot of GMs may overlook, particularly those who feel "boxed in" if they want to run a gaming during the time frame starting with the Clone Wars and running up to the New Jedi Order era. A lot of the "big things" that need to be done in those eras are already covered by big-name heroes, and things may feel like a foregone conclusion, which can seem frustrating to players that really want their characters to be the resident Big Damn Heroes (ain't they just?).

For those long-time listeners of the Order 66 podcast, you're probably well aware that GM Chris's flagship campaign is an Alternate Universe campaign. And after a long spell of not actively running a campaign, it inspired me to get off my duff and get back behind the GM's screen. And I must say, being able to screw with my players' expectations of certain characters has been quite fun, as well as giving them the chance to be the ones to influence galactic events on an increasing scale, as their most recent adventure did, to say nothing of introducing new NPCs, ones who could be great allies or dangerous foes depending solely upon how the heroes interact with them.

And both of our respective campaigns started off with one seemingly minor change... what if Anakin had not acted when Mace Windu made to finish of Sidious in Revenge of the Sith? I've got my own version of how those events played out, and what the repercussions have been, both the good and the bad, and I'm sure that GM Chris does as as well.

Back in 2002, Dark Horse published a series of comic books called Star Wars Infinities, each of which took the Classic Trilogy movies and spun them off in a different direction based on one simple alteration.

A New Hope - What if Luke Skywalker had missed the thermal exhaust port?
Empire Strikes Back - What if Luke Skywalker had died from exposure on Hoth?
Return of the Jedi - What if C-3PO wasn't there to translate for Jabba?

Opinions may vary on the quality of the stories and how things played out, as is par for the course for comic books these days it seems, but they each show how one change, perhaps even a seemingly insignificant one, can have major repercussions.

Years ago, during the days of the RCR version of Star Wars d20, on the Holonet Forums, a couple guys got together and created a drastic AltU set-up based on the question "What if Obi-Wan had died and Qui-Gon lived?" I didn't personally care for it, but I can't discount the amount of work they put into developing the timeline of events.

So if, as a Star Wars GM, you find yourself grasping for what could be a great hook to base a campaign upon, consider the notion of running an Alternate Universe campaign. It may take some work to develop the alternate history depending on how much time has passed between when your campaign starts and when that divergence took place, but it can also lead to a fun and rewarding campaign where your players have the chance to be the main heroes.

And as an added bonus, if one of your players is a Star Wars junkie with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Expanded Universe and gets obnoxious about how your campaign doesn't match up with the EU, you can brush off his complaints of "well that's not what obscure book reference such-and-such says" with "Hey, it's an alternate timeline, so things are different."

December 2, 2011

Best. Xmas. Tree. Ever.

'nuff said.

Early Thoughts on Dragon Age RPG

I got the chance this past Friday to sit down and actually play the Dragon Age RPG produced by Green Ronin, based upon the quite popular Dragon Age series of video games.

I bought the first box set quite some time ago, and thought the system behind it was interesting, in that it was incredibly simple at its core, far more so than d20, while offering up some variety in the form of the stunt system. But I couldn't get any of my regular gaming friends to break out of the d20 mold and give it a whirl, and so the box sat amidst my gaming materials, woefully collecting dust. I even picked up the 2nd box set when it was released at GenCon, more to see how GR would build on the system with no real aspirations of ever getting it on the table.

But as said earlier, that has now changed, thanks to members of a newer circle of gamers whom I've had the good fortune to meet and roll dice with as part of a bi-weekly Star Wars Saga Edition game. We rolled up characters, using a couple of the Set 2 options, and then proceeded to run through the intro module in the Set 1 GM book, "The Dalish Curse," with my taking the role of Donovan, a young Fereldan Freeman warrior.

My initial assessment: Fun! And Quick!

For me, the litmus test of any RPG system is how it handles combat, which is admittedly one of the most rules-heavy aspects of any RPG. And the Dragon Age RPG did not disappoint. It was able to handle combat quickly and without getting too bogged down, though we were only 1st level, so we didn't face any super-heavy foes barring the adventure's BBEG. We only had four players (1 Tank Warrior, 1 Melee Rogue, 1 Archer Rogue, 1 DPS Mage), but the four of us managed to work quite well together both in and out of combat, with a fair amount of role-play involved between the characters. Though I guess if I had a complaint with the system, it did kind of feel like my character wasn't really able to force foes to attack him, as the GM could (and a few times did) easily choose to ignore the armored sword'n'board guy for the squishier characters. But overall it's a minor complaint. Just about everything else in the game worked nicely, and it really is a shame I didn't get a chance to play it sooner. Hopefully we'll get the chance to gather 'round the table and venture once more into Fereldan. After all, there are darkspawn in need of killing, and I wouldn't want to disappoint the ugly blighters.

And now, for some actual content...

Time to kick this off with some actual content.

To those that know me as Donovan Morningfire on a few different RPG message boards, you may (or may not) be aware that some time back I created a massive resource for Star Wars Saga Edition GMs in the form of a huge document called "Big List of NPCs."  Or as GM Dave once quipped, "Threats of the Galaxy Part Two, Electric Boogaloo."

Well, I've spent the better part of a year going through and revisiting every previous entry as well as adding a host of new NPCs, and even got a few fine folks from the D20 Radio Forums to help with proof-reading them to drastically cut down on the number of stat block errors.

I've also expanded each entry into it's own page, with some advice for new GMs on how to use them in play and a number of build options to change up or customize each NPC, which also doubles as a method to suggest to newer players ways to build their own PCs towards a certain concept.

So without any further rambling on my part, I proudly present...

Donovan Morningfire's Big List of NPCs v2.0