December 11, 2012

And another campaign bites the dust...

Again, been fairly quiet, though it's at least been less than a month since I posted anything here.

Work... well, it's still hectic and still nuttier than a jar of peanuts.  Everybody wants everything done at once, and as always I simply don't have the time, which frankly gets a bit annoying when half the stuff I'm doing really should be the responsibility of another department.

Got to hang out a bit and have a nice dinner with a couple of my former co-workers.  After missing the November get-together due to illness, it was nice to see them again.

Still cranking out the Heroes on Demand articles on a weekly basis for the Gaming Security Agency, and to be honest I was quite tickled to hear Brian "Fiddleback/Agent 00" and Dave "GM Dave/Agent 42" give this long-running article series a mention on GSA Briefing #5.  You can listen to it here:

Also been watching episodes of Young Justice via Netflix, and I'm really enjoying this series.  I never read the comic book, but I'm a big ol' fan of the DC Animated Universe, particularly the Justice League and Batman Beyond, and enjoyed Teen Titans as well, so I'm very much enjoying Young Justice, particularly Robin (just finished the episode "Downtime").  Also been getting in some older-school gaming by way of Final Fantasy I (level-grinding to get ready to take on the first Elemental Fiend) on my iPhone and Dragon Quest 8 (just starting on the monster-hunting for the fighting pit) on my PS2.

Sadly though, it seems that the Marvel Heroic RPG campaign I was in (in which I played Darkhawk, a favorite comic character of mine from back in the day that's seen a surge in recognition over the past few years after lingering in comic-book limbo) has come to an end, as the GM simply doesn't have time to come up with scenarios anymore (increased job responsibility and small child will do that to a person).  In a way, it seems kind of fitting to the game's comic book roots that series staring our rather oddball cast of heroes suddenly got cancelled.  Ah well, such is the way of things, and it was fun while it lasted.

Also, I think the semi-regular Dresden Files game, in which I play a youngish (early 20's) White Council Wizard by the name of Danny Copperfield, is winding to a close.  The GM has set the stage for a potentially catastrophic event; you know the drill, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.  If you're a fan of the series or at least know the background of the Dresdenverse, the short version is that someone (or more likely several someones) is setting the stage for the supernatural equivalent of World War III, dragging the Winter Court, the Summer Court, the White Court of Vampires, the White Council, the Denarians. and even a couple Freeholding Lords (such as Gentleman Johnny Marcone and Donar Vadderrung) into a big ol' apocalyptic fracas of a scope that would make Buffy crap her too-tight pants in terror.  And it's up to a lone White Council Wizard, a freshly-minted Knight of the Cross, a junior SI detective, and a Summer Court changeling to find out who the guilty party is and stop this mess. So yeah, no pressure (I wonder if that counts as a self-compel on my "Habitual Snarker" Aspect?)

Upside though is the Saturday group (most of it anyway) is getting back into Legend of the Five Rings, so I get to step back into the role of Usagi Hiro, Topaz Champion aka the "KIller Bunny" (an in-game nickname give how devastatingly effective some of his batojutsu attacks have been as well as his Yoda-esque style of fighting).  A bushi of the Hare Clan (one of the many Minor Clans in Rokugan), Hiro's been a fun character to play, being kind of the "odd man out" given the rest of the group are Major Clan samurai (Crane yojimbo, Mantis priestess, Scorpion socialite, and a Dragon investigator, though I think the last one is pretty much gone at this point).  The GM has been using the "Heroes of Rokugan: Champions of the Sapphire Throne" series of modules, adapting them to a slightly different version of Rokugan.

As for the Wednesday group, while the Marvel game is done, I may very well be picking up the GM reins to run Star Wars: Edge of the Empire for them.  Our next get together (which won't be until January) will be me running my conversion of the old Star Wars Gamer adventure "Rendezvous at Ord Mantell."  I've not put this one the web, as I'd like to give it a second "shakedown run," particularly in light of some of the changes FFG made.  As there is also the Beginner's Box due out later this month, itself with an introductory adventure, I may very well wind-up running that instead, following up with "Crates of Krayts" and "RatOM" if there's enough interest.  Most of the players are interested in giving the new system a try, and I'm already playing in one EotE game so I don't mind being the GM once again.  There was some initial talk about a campaign using D&DNext, but after how the last playtest went, that notion pretty much got sunk.

Speaking of Edge of the Empire, the Order 66 Podcast, the original podcast dedicated to Star Wars RPGs, had it's swan song for Saga Edition this past Sunday, bringing a close to several years of entertaining and informative podcasting about what I honestly think is the best d20 system to have hit the market (Mutants & Masterminds is a close second though).  This however now paves the way for Order 66 to focus on Edge of the Empire and the later materials from FFG's Star Wars RPG line.  Will be a tad odd at first to hear Chris and Dave jawing on about a system other than Saga Edition, but I'm sure it'll be just as enjoyable as their SWSE-based efforts.

Well, that's about it for this month.  On the off-chance I don't make a post until next month, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

November 15, 2012

Been awfully quiet 'round these parts...

Not to much meat here, just a quick post to explain why it's been fairly quiet of late.

Main reason is work, plain and simple.  Mandatory OT and amount of stuff that needs to get done (everyone else in the company can dawdle and twiddle their thumbs 'til the cows come home, but gods forbid I don't get everything done ASAP) pretty much doesn't leave me with a whole lot of mental bandwidth after the working day is done.

Also, a decent chunk of my time has been spent writing articles for the GSA website, ranging from homebrew species stats for Fantasy Flight Games' Edge of the Empire beta to RPG reviews (latest being one on for the 4th edition of Legend of the Five Rings) to the weekly Heroes on Demand column, which itself covers a gamut of RPGs.

The other big thing that's been gobbling up a lot of my time of late has been the Edge of the Empire beta, both in analysis of the official rules and experimenting with various rules tweaks, to say nothing of playtesting when and where I can.  Though with the final update having been posted a few days ago (I even did a couple GSA articles running through the updates week by week), I imagine that will be quieting down a bit, now that the rules are more or less "stable" until the final product is released sometime next year.

Gaming wise, the Sunday Star Wars Skype game I play is still going strong, and there's been a positive reception to the notion of alternating between the existing Saga Edition campaign (which has proven quite interesting so far) and an Edge of the Empire campaign.  It was even suggested that we might record the EotE sessions as a live-play podcast, a notion that's both exciting and daunting.  If said live-play podcast does occur, it won't be the well-edited sort of podcast that Garrett of Threat Detected produces, but probably something more akin to Brev's Real Gamers podcast (though hopefully with far less Skype issues).  But, we'll see.

I've also been playing in another Edge of the Empire game via Skype, this one a weekly game occurring on Friday nights.  In this one, I'm playing a Clone Wars veteran named Auron Riggs (Hired Gun/Bodyguard/Mercenary), and he's proven to be quite badass.

There's also the bi-weekly Wednesday group, in which we're playing the Marvel Heroic RPG.  The party are comprised of teenage heroes, with three out of the five players using existing characters (Darkhawk, Slapstick, and Patriot) with the two ladies are using (mostly original) concepts.  As much as the MHRPG system didn't wow me when I first read through it, I must say it's really started growing on me, and I've still amazed at how much variety is available in the system with what a character can do, particularly when Slapstick (living cartoon) and Miss Hex (teenage spellsplinger) use their various abilities to create complications and assets.  Me?  I mostly just break stuff, including an film!Iron Monger knock-off.

Saturday gaming has seen some changes, as the One Ring game I was has pretty much come to a screeching halt.  I was pretty darn sick that particular Saturday, so I don't know the full details, only that I wasn't the only missing player and that the remaining PCs wound up either dead or incapacitated and in the hands of some very savage goblins.  But, in lieu of that, most of us are delving right back into Legend of the Five Rings, something that we had a lot of fun with, using modules from the Heroes of Rokugan II: Champions of the Sapphire Throne living campaign as the basic framework, though with some very different NPCs.  I must say I missed playing my Hare Bushi, and getting the chance to let the "killer bunny" get back into the thick of things was a blast.

There's still the monthly Dresden Files game on Saturdays, with the GM promising a suitable holiday-themed session given it's the last session before Thanksgiving, and quite possibly the last Dresden Files game for the year.  Looking forward to seeing what sort of mischief my "freelance paranormal consultant" aka White Council Junior Warden gets embroiled in next, particularly since the GM has moved the campaign to Chicago and has made it clear that she's diverting from the novels after the events of Changes.  So no Harry Dresden, leaving me as Chi-town's resident wizard.  Yeah, it's about as enjoyable a role as you'd expect, but at least there aren't prolonged periods of boredom.  Granted, Danny might really like some boredom after the events of the past few sessions (such as getting dragged into a pissing match between the Black and White Courts of the Vampire Nation), but you don't get to be a respected member of the magical community by collecting bottle caps.  Still haven't had a run-in with Gentleman Johnny Marcone, and I think I'd like to keep it that way for at least a little while longer.

So, that's whats been going on since I posted here last.  I can at least look forward to a few days' respite thanks to being able to take all of next week off, so maybe I'll work on developing some material for this wee little blog of mine.

BTW, if you're interested, here's a few links to some of my recent work on the GSA website:

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire: The Game has Changed

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire: Is the Game Still the Same?

RPG Review: Legend of the Five Rings, 4th Edition

RPGs You Need to Play: Dresden Files

September 30, 2012

Well that was a busy Saturday

Been a bit quiet here, so thought I might change that.  Nothing earthshaking this time around though.

Supposedly the weekend is a time to relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of the work week.  Well, my Saturday was anything but a chance to relax and unwind, but at least it was due to fun activities (mostly).

It started off the way most of my Saturdays for the past year have, with me waking up to go to work.  Honestly, the paycheck is nice from all the mandatory OT they've got us doing, but doing so week after week after week burns a person out.  Thankfully, things went pretty smoothly, and I was out of there by 2pm.

After that was some errands that needed running (including grabbing lunch) and the quick check on a few different forums, amidst which the FFG Edge of the Empire Beta forum and D20 Radio, as well as get up to date on my Twitter feed.  And then it was off to game night.  Thankfully, it wasn't a repeat of last Saturday, with me only finding out things had been cancelled at the very last minute due to sudden appearance of in-laws at the GM's house.

Once again, I'd brought the starter set for FFG's X-Wing game, hoping to get that on the table and see how the final game turned out in comparison to how it played when I got a chance to play a few rounds at GenCon 2011.  Turns out, it was still fun, and I managed to squeak out a victory as a Red Squadron Pilot in a lone X-Wing with a trusty astromech vs. a pair of Obsidian Squadron TIE pilots thanks in no small part to a very lucky critical hit.  I'm actually glad I pre-ordered all the boosters when I made my purchase of X-Wing, as I guess the X-Wing and Y-Wing boosters are vanishing fast.  Sadly we didn't have time for a full-fledged game, but maybe that will change for next weekend.

After that was a burger run to Five Guys (gods do I love their burgers, and their cajun fries are pretty darn tasty as well) for dinner (GM's wife really didn't feel up to cooking anything, which is fine), and then once the rest of the gaming group arrived, it was time to venture back to the realm of Middle-Earth for another session of Cubicle 7's The One Ring.

Once again our GM pulled from the Tales of the Wilderland adventure path, this time running us through "Of Leaves & Stewed Hobbit."  As many an adventure has done, this one started out in an inn, specifically a Hobbit-run establishment called the Easterly Inn that's fairly new to the region, and provided a taste of Hobbitish comfort for the two Hobbits (Mirabella and Rorimac) in our group.  The dwarf (Bruni) found the mead to be "acceptable" in quality, the elf (Caranlas) was rather aloof, and my psuedo-Ranger (Brander) was simply content to be sleeping next to a warm fire after a warm meal, the group having been "on the road" for some time, with most of the weather having been damp and dismal during the trek.  As the night wears on, many of the patrons get ready to turn in; sadly there wasn't enough open rooms for any of our company to get a bed, so we got stuck sleeping in the common room.  During the wee hours of the pre-dawn morning, there's a thunderous pounding on the inn's door, waking most of the sleeping patrons and putting the Ranger and elf on high alert (the dwarf was too busy sleeping off his mead and the Hobbits not really sure what to do).  The owner of the inn, a cheerful Hobbit named Dodinas (Dody) Brandybuck was quite glad to have some backup when he went to go check the door; any would-be brigands would have an archer and a swordsman to deal with rather than a halfling.

But the unannounced guest turned out to be a rather harried looking youth that claimed to be a survivor of a trade caravan that was coming across the Misty Mountains, with the innkeeper's brother Dinodas (aka Dindy) being amongst the caravan, but whose fate was unknown to the youth, who answered Dody's frantic inquiries with news that the caravan had been attacked by goblins just after they'd settled in for the night.  But before he could go into any more detail, the band of goblins that had been chasing him came up, weapons drawn and cruel intent plain to see on their faces.  At this point, the dwarf and the Hobbit PCs had been awoken, and the dwarf quite eager to spill goblin blood.  After the goblins had all been dispatched (with the elf archer ably dropping the two torch-carriers so as to prevent them from setting the inn on fire), Dody offered our company a job, seeing that we were capable folk; in short, a small amount of coin for finding news of his younger brother, and an offer of free room and board for a week should we bring the young Hobbit traveler back to the inn alive.  From what the youth told the company, the caravan had been attacked just as it was nearing the end of the High Pass, just on the edge of the Misty Mountains.  It would be a few days' journey, and the youth was in no shape to accompany us, so once the sun was up, off we set.

The journey was thankfully without peril or hardship beyond being dreary and gloomy, perhaps fitting for early summer, though being able to make use of a small boat to take us down the Carrock rather than making the trek on foot probably helped.  We reached the foot of the High Pass as the sun was setting, having followed the trail instructions that Dody provided to the ruins of a Mannish town.  The sharp eyes of the elf spotted the presence of a shadowy fiend, one that sought to snatch away wee Mirabella.  The dwarf and elf found their axe and arrows did little more than annoy the creature, but Brander recalled a story his grandfather had told him of night-haunts, and replaced his sword with a torch, forcing the monster to recoil in fear until it eventually fled back into the night to trouble us no more.

However, the night sky cleared, and again the sharp eyes of our elven archer proved their merit as he spotted signs of a bonfire further up the pass.  Given we were already awake and knowing that the night did indeed hold dangers, we made best possible speed towards the alleged bonfire.

What greeted our sight as we approached was not a happy vision, as we found the remains of the caravan holed up in an old ring-fort, with a substantial number of goblins making ready to attack, and signs that the caravan survivors had been under siege for several days.  We play the role of Big Damn Heroes and force the goblins into fighting a battle on two fronts.  It was at this point that teamwork proved a huge boon, as Rory and Bruni had made each other their Fellowship Focus, enabling the Hobbit to remain on the defense and spend his Hope to protect Bruni, freeing the Dwarf up to go for an all-out offensive that left dead goblins in his wake.  Mirabella proved to be a true shot with her sling, with Caranlas and Brander working in tandem to take down as many goblins as they could, all while caravan archers from the ringfort peppered the goblin force with arrows.  Brander ended up drawing the attention of a rather brutish looking Orc, who sought to challenge the manling in a one-on-one fight, going so far as to telling the other goblins to leave the Human warrior to him.  Dumb move, as a critical hit and a couple tengwar runes lead to the Orc's swift end on the third exchange.

It was a tough fight, but in the end we proved victorious, with only a few minor cuts and scrapes suffered.  The caravan leader, a stern fellow named Iwgar (a Beorning) was quite glad for the help, but unfortunately related that Dindy had been taken prisoner during an earlier attack on the ring-fort, due mostly to the "fool of a halfling" running off in a panic rather than staying with the wagons as Iwgar had instructed him.  From what the Beorning knew, the goblins likely had a lair in a cave nearby, as it was a short distance from where the caravan had been initially attacked, costing them half of the six men he'd hired in Bree, leaving only three defenders for the rest of the trek.  Feeling obligated to at least try and mount a rescue of young Dindy, the heroes agreed to get what rest they could before trying to track the goblin raiding party to its lair and hope the Hobbit traveler was still alive when we got there. And so ended the first part of "Of Leaves & Stewed Hobbits," with us slated to hopefully finish the adventure either next Saturday or the Saturday after.

Myself and a couple others hung around a bit later to get another couple rounds of X-Wing in, and I really wish I had brought the boosters along in order to let more people play rather than having to settle for one-on-one battles.  But like I said before, it's a fun game, and I managed to score an Imperial victory, putting the final tally at Rebels 3, Imperials 1.

So like I said, a busy Saturday, but ultimately a fun one.

September 21, 2012

Edge of The Empire - Unofficial Species Menagerie

As of this morning, a fun little project that I've been working on alongside fellow "unabashed tinker monkey" Ben Erickson, aka Cyril aka Agent 66 on the GSA, went live.

Exclusive to the GSA is a fan-produced document for FFG's Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beta called the Unofficial Species Menagerie.

It was born of a pair of threads, one on the D20 Radio Forums and the other on FFG's own sub-forum dedicated to the Edge of the Empire Beta, lamenting the lack of species available at this stage of the game.  A few folks, particularly Ben and I, started coming up with our own conversions of various species.  As usual for me, I'd started putting my work together in a single word document to better keep track of, with the intent of eventually tossing it up on the web.  Ben suggested that maybe we ought to combine our efforts, and thus was born a compilation of 32 different species from not only the Rebellion Era but also some selections from the Prequel, KOTOR, and even the early New Republic eras.

And truthfully, this was a fun project to work on.  To be honest, a lot of the enjoyment I got out of working on Unknown Regions was the collaboration with other Star Wars RPG authors such as the amazingly prolific Sterling Hershey and sci-fi author Patrick Stutzman as well as lead designer Rodney Thompson; being able to bounce ideas off some very esteemed minds really helped the creative process for the portions I worked on.  Working with Ben as we bounced ideas about how to translate a species from their prior edition write-ups into Edge of the Empire had much the same feel.  He had a lot of good suggestions, both for the species he worked on and for how to improve upon the one's I'd written, and was receptive to my suggestions as well.

So if you haven't already, check out the article that I provided the link to above, and check out the fruits of our work.  I think the odds are good you'll find at least a couple of species that will tickle your creative processes.  And hey, we've got Squibs.  After all, who doesn't love the little fuzzy blue haggle-masters?

September 16, 2012

Finally ran Edge of the Empire last night...

Like the title says, I finally got the chance to run a bonafide session of Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beta (whew, that's a mouthful) last night.  So now I've had the chance to be both a player and a GM for this game.

And I must say, in spite of my initial skepticism, I'm quite liking this game.  That's not to say it's the perfect Star Wars RPG experience, but it's not an abysmal train wreck of a failure either.

I had chosen to convert a pre-existing adventure, Rendezvous on Ord Mantell (first printed in Star Wars Gamer #1 back in the early days of WotC's OCR version of Star Wars).  Aside from the bad guy stat blocks (I'll get to that later), converting the adventure proved to be a breeze, needing just a few tweaks here and there to account for the very different game mechanics.

I won't spoil the details of the adventure, but if you're curious, stay tuned to the GSA website for further news down the line ;)

I had thought about creating a bunch of pre-gens for this group, which consisted of most of the folks I routinely game with on Saturday nights, but opted to let them build their own characters.  I must say, even though they were largely unfamiliar with the system, it only took an hour for all five people to build their characters, and everyone seemed pretty happy with what they had.  One house rule I did implement was doubling the starting credit allowance, which gave everyone a chance to buy gear suited for their character concepts without being forced to take increased Obligation.  A couple heroes did take some extra starting cash, and the rest wanted a few extra XP in their starting budget (though one of those ended up changing his mind and not taking extra Obligation since he didn't really have a good use for the token XP bonus).

So after that hour, this is what we had for a party:
- Raith Bardo, Captain of the Rusty Sparrow (Human Smuggler/Pilot)
- Gen Capo, Co-Pilot and First Mate of the Rusty Sparrow (Rodian Explorer/Fringer)
- Seku'dira, Teenage Tech Savant (Twi'lek Technician/Mechanic)
- Dewryyhn aka Dewie, Grouchy Ex-Gladiator (Wookiee Hired Gun/Marauder)
- Trista Keyis, Laconic & Sarcastic "Field Operative" (Human Bounty Hunter/Gadgeteer)

A pretty eclectic mix of characters, who again may be showing up at a later date

As to the adventure itself, I'd figured it'd take three, maybe four hours at most for the PCs to get through it all, with about half of that time being devoted to combat to allow for them to learn the rules and get used to the dice pool mechanic that EotE uses.

Let me just say that the dice roller app that FFG is offering, either thru iTunes or as an Android app, is totally worth the five bucks.  I'd put the app on both my iPhone (so I could roll my dice) and on my iPad (so the players could use it), and having said app available to the PCs speed things up quite a bit.  In fact, after the first combat encounter, one of the players went to iTunes through their own iPhone and bought the app to download right then and there, so I imagine the next time I run a game in this system, most everyone will have the dice roller :)

There's also the fact that most of the fights in the adventure were against minions, who tended to go down pretty quick seeing as how everyone except Seku'dira were dealing a minimum of 9 damage per attack, and none of the minions could absorb more than 8 damage before dropping.  I think the first Henchman they encountered was quite a surprise when he didn't just drop after getting shot by Trista.

I will say that one thing that makes combat go a lot faster in this game than Saga Edition is that the heroes are lot more fragile, in that one good hit with a blaster rifle will drop all but the toughest of PCs (such as Dewie).  That doesn't mean they're at risk of dying, merely being knocked unconscious with some lingering effects of the battle after the fact.

The dice pool system is really a case of "you need to play it to fully understand it," as on paper it looks much to cumbersome, though admittedly if you're converting regular dice rolls to the symbols that EotE uses, it's going to be a slow process regardless.  After the first few rolls of the initial combat, the players had the hang of it, making frequent use of their Advantages to either hinder their enemies and/or boost their allies' efforts, which in turn lead to combat being less about "who deals the most damage" but more of a group effort, something that's been kind of lacking in the other Star Wars RPGs, as d20 generally required a character to give up their chance to do stuff in order to help an ally, and though it's been a while, pretty sure the D6 system was much the same.  With EotE and the use of Advantages and Threats, you can still attack, but you're going to do more than just deal some damage to the target.

Ultimately, it took about two hours total to run through Rendezvous on Ord Mantell, with the heroes ultimately successful and not being quite as broke as they had been at the start of the adventure.

As for the amount of prep-work needed by the GM... really, it's not that much, and calls back to D6 Star Wars in that for most NPCs, you just need a couple of lines noting the NPC's characteristics (probably a 2 in most cases), what skills they have ranks in (if any), with combat-based NPCs needing a Soak Value, Wound Threshold, and combat-related gear.  And that's about it.  Raith's player caught me by surprise by wanting to chat up the female bartender, whom I had no stats for, so I simply gave her a Cunning and Presence of 3, a rank each in Cool, Charm, and Negotiate, and went from there.  And it worked wonderfully.

For the major NPCs of the adventure, I didn't so much as convert them to EotE as totally rebuild them using EotE's mechanics.  And they all came out pretty close to function if not exactly form compared to their d20 versions.  Unlike the d20 versions, building an NPC in EotE really is more of an art-form, as there's currently no official guidelines on how to do so other than comparing what you've come up with to what's published in the book. For people that are used to RPGs that largely require you to follow a fairly strict formula, this can be quite a shock and not something they're entirely comfortable with.  Hopefully, either in a weekly update or in the finished product, FFG will offer some NPC creation guidelines, but until then, you'll just have to wing it.

The only thing missing was having someone play a Force-Sensitive character, but given the steep costs involved (particularly after the Week 1 updated), I can't exactly fault anyone for that, as the couple players that were initially interested in playing Force-users lost interest when it became clear that they'd be pretty darn weak, at least compared to beginning Force-users in the d20 versions of Star Wars; I think only one person in this particular group has ever played the D6 version of Star Wars, something I might have to remedy at a later date.  But having played a Force-Sensitive character myself, I can understand where they're coming from; I'm a D6 veteran myself, so playing a wannabe Jedi that can barely accomplish the more routine tasks in the Force isn't something new to me, and EotE is firmly of the mindset that if you want to be an awesome Force-user, you're going to have to work for it.  And even then, there's a limit on how powerful you can get as a Force-user, at least at this early stage.  You're not Obi-Wan Kenobi in TPM or Ahsoka Tano in the early Clone Wars, but rather you're Luke Skywalker long before he gets trained by Yoda.  Heck, you can't even begin play with a lightsaber, which given how freakin' awesome those weapons are in EotE is probably a good thing.

So the early prognosis of Edge of the Empire is pretty good, seeing as how this was the same group that was largely burnt out on Star Wars gaming (or at least the d20 versions).  Everyone had fun, and there wasn't a huge focus on tactical positioning (which also helped speed up combat), even though I did make use of some maps and minis to give folks a relative idea of where everyone was.

If the opportunity presents itself, I'll definitely be running this system again.

September 4, 2012

Post-Play Thoughts on D&D Next

A few weeks ago, I finally got the opportunity to play D&D Next, using the playtest rules released on 8/13/12.  It was a last minute sort of thing, with the prospective GM eager to run and scrambling to find at least four players, enough so that each of the four base classes could be tried out.

As I'm wont to do, I choose to roll up a Human Fighter for my first foray in to D&D Next.  Compared to earlier editions, I must say that character creation is a bit more streamlined than 3e, with a bit more initial complexity than 4e.  Our pack of 1st level heroes were built using "4d6, drop the lowest" and I will admit that my d20 Radio GenCon 2011 dice did not fail me.  All said, it took just under half an hour for most everyone to get our characters built, which given this was the first time half the group was even laying eyes on some of this material was pretty impressive.  Simplest oddly enough was our Halfling Rogue, while the Elf Wizard took the longest due to her debating what spells she wanted in her spellbook.  One thing of interest with current character creation is that instead of just getting ability score boosts from your race, you also get a score bump from your class.  However, for those D&D players preferring a bit of an "old school" approach to character survivability, 1st level PCs in this version tend not to start with a whole lot of hit points; the Wizard was super-squishy at only 5hp.  Admittedly, this can be overcome if using Feats (or "specialties" as they're currently being presented), namely Toughness which is no joke by an stretch.

Skills are fairly interesting, going the route of 4e's "trained or not trained" rather than 3e's skill points or 2e's "proficiency" system.  In short, you simply roll an ability score check, and if you have a relevant skill, you gain a trained bonus to your check.  For the latest playtest packet, skills are still attached to specific ability scores, though the notion from the prior packet that skills did not have a default ability score to fall back on made them more interesting, as it would encourage newer players to try and make more use of their skills in new and interesting ways.

So, with our fresh-faced pack of adventurers chomping at the bit, the GM ran an updated version of the old "Raiders of Oakhurst" module that was created back in the days before 4e was released.  We didn't really get all that far, doing some investigation and interaction with the townsfolk.

One of the elements of D&D Next that I liked was the Background system.  Instead of choosing your trained skills bases solely upon your class (with few a minor exceptions), you instead get three trained skills based upon what Background you've chosen.  For my Human Fighter, I chose the Background of Knight, figuring him to be a "poor knight" in that he was of non-noble birth but had recently earned his knighthood.  Said background gave me a healthy boost when trying to converse with various townsfolk, which normally for a Fighter would be a problem, since prior editions had social aptitudes marked as "not available."  So, after some asking and poking around, we learn that there's been goblin attacks in recent weeks, mostly harassing travelers and traders.  Being heroic-mind types, we offer to go "sort things out," and here my being a knight helped out, as it lead the town mayor to take us at our word and even offer a small reward for our time and efforts.

Long story short, we found a couple different groups of gobbos and laid into them.  Frankly, against the rank-and-file goblins, we were death incarnate.  Thanks to my very high Strength modifier, I almost couldn't miss and always did enough damage to take out any goblin I hit.  Now while pre-4e Fighters were pretty much limited to "I engage the enemy, I smack them until they drop, rinse & repeat," D&D Next gives you a little bit of combat versatility in the form of maneuvers, enabling you to strike for more damage, parry an attack, or several other abilities depending on which fighting style you choose.  Being all knightly and all, I opted for the Protector style, which gave me an option to reduce damage done to an adjacent ally.  This proved handy a few times to spare the Wizard from being dropped, as she had the worst AC of the group in addition to her paltry amount of hit points (her player has only played 4e D&D, so being so fragile was quite a shock for her).  Me on the other hand, I was indeed the party tank, having taking Toughness for a boatload of hit points and being decked out in heavy armor with a shield; I think only three attacks out of the several dozen that came my way during the session actually hit, and with as many hit points as I had, they really weren't much for me to worry about, especially if I was able to parry them to reduce the damage total.

Interestingly enough, the Rogue in this version really, I mean really has to work if they want to get their Sneak Attack damage.  Nothing in the rules packet suggested that flanking provided any benefit, so he was having to make skill checks to feint and get advantage over his foes, which pretty much reduced him to attacking every other round.  Neat thing with Rogues is that if they're trained in a skill, they're pretty much guaranteed to get a minimum result.  So however he sought to feint or trick or whatever, the target had an uphill battle to counter it, especially if they weren't trained in Spot (which seems to be the "skill to observe things" in D&D Next).  Granted, he didn't really need a lot of Sneak Attacks for the first encounter, as well he had to contend with were basic goblins and a few dire rats, all of which got taken down pretty quick.

Wizards and Clerics are at an interesting level of power.  While both have minor, at-will spells they can cast as often as they please (including few decent attack choices for Wizards), they're back on the old-school "spells per day" system.  It was a good thing our Cleric was patterned after Durkon of Order of the Stick, so he could at least do some melee stuff once he'd run out of his daily allotment of spells.  One point about the Cleric we weren't sure one was if using their granted domain spell counted against their "number of spells cast per day;" if it does, then a low level Cleric will need to be extra careful about when they use their spells.  For those familiar with 4e, the Channel Divinity ability is here, but it's now a daily effect rather than a per-encounter thing.  I'm not sure how I feel about this; given the limits of the ability (either a free Cure Light Wounds on an ally or auto-damage on Undead), I don't see it as being a game breaker to move this to "once per encounter" rather than "once per day," especially seeing as how frail a low-level PC can be, as was proven in a later fight.

So, our quest to exterminate the goblin raiders continued, and we finally managed to track them back to a large warren, where we found a humanoid priest of some dark god urging the flock to sally forth and lay waste to Oakhurst.  Yeah, we weren't about to let that happen.  The Halfling got off a really good shot with his sling, pretty much taking down one of the priest's bodyguards with one stone.  The fight was pretty tough for us, as the Wizard got outright dropped by what I'm guessing was the evil priest's own Channel Divinity ability, as there was no attack roll, just her taking more than enough damage to drop her into negative hit points.  This kind of worries me on a design level, as it's much to close to "save or die" type of effects from 3e, only without the courtesy of some kind of save.  On the upside, we did get to test out the dying rules, where much like 4e you have to make a saving throw, except it's not "three strikes you die," but rather three successes and you stabilize, otherwise you take take automatic damage.  Our Cleric was johnny-on-the-spot with his healer's kit though, so he was able to stabilize the Wizard quite handily before healing her on the next round.  The priest suffered the same fate as Thulsa Doom from the old Conan the Barbarian movie after getting shanked in the thigh by the Rogue, with the remaining goblins thoroughly routed.

Though only first level, the Fighter can be fun to play.  I'm inclined to think of the D&D Next Fighter having their lineage traced to the D&D Essentials Fighter, only instead of an "always on" combat stance, you instead have a round-by-round choice of tricks you can do.  I've heard some folks comparing to Iron Heroes, which was created interestingly enough by Mike Mearls.  The Fighter has to pay out of a special dice pool to use their various maneuvers, and with only a single die to start with, you need to pick what maneuver you are going to use from round to round.  The first fight, I spent most of my dice reducing the damage done to the Wizard from the few enemies that got in close enough to take a swing at her and either survived or simply didn't trigger an opportunity attack from my Fighter; looking at the bestiary after the fact, I would have had to roll pretty darn poorly in order to miss or not kill most of what we fought outright, with the Goblin bodyguards (I'm guessing they were Gobbo Leaders) and the Dark Priest (again, guessing based on hit points and the rusty ring mail he was wearing) being the only ones I'd have to roll at least half-way decent in order to land a hit on them.

One thing I did see that kind of worries me is the ability, or lack thereof, to resist an enemy's spells.  Due to rolls, the Wizard started out with a 20 Intelligence, meaning that the monsters had to beat a pretty high DC on a straight ability score roll to avoid getting fragged by her magic, with one group of gobbos getting flat-out incinerated by a use of the burning hands spell just before she got dropped by the dark priest.  That she was able to cast magic missiles and rays of frost as at-wills gave her plenty to do in the fight without having to draw upon her more potent (in comparison) spells in order to be helpful.

The Cleric, at the least that of the War domain, showed every sign of being as burly in a fight as 3e Clerics could be, which is slightly worrisome given the prevalence of "CoDzilla" that ran through that edition, particularly when various supplements, official and third-party, started rolling in.  Heck, he took down one of the priest's goblin bodyguards in one shot thanks to a mix of his domain spell and being a dwarf with a warhammer and an above-average Strength score.

Rogues are interesting, as they go back to being the skill monkeys they were in prior editions, particularly with how many trained skills they start with in addition to a class ability that makes them less dependent on high ability scores when it comes to their final skill check bonus.  This might seem a bit alarming up front, but so far there really doesn't seem to be a way to improve your skill check bonus, and D&D Next seems to aiming for a set range of DCs instead of having to constantly scale the check DCs with the party's level.

What's also interesting is that D&D Next seems to have gone back to attack bonuses that scale based on your class, with Fighters getting a hefty starting bonus to their weapon attacks while Wizards get a similar bonus when casting attack spells, while Clerics seem to be taking a middle path on both and Rogues are really going to need to rely on having advantage since they too have lower base attack bonus, but at least they get Weapon Finesse pretty much for free, so a Thief-style Rogue can pretty much not worry too much about Strength since they're using Dexterity for both attack and damage.

One other element, this one pertaining to the races, is the how D&D Next is (so far) implementing the idea of "racial weapon preferences."  Older editions simply made your character automatically proficient with the weapon, which didn't mean a lot if you were playing a Dwarf Fighter or Elven Ranger.  This time around, if your Dwarf, Elf, or Halfing is wielding a certain type of weapon and they're already proficient with it, the damage die for that weapon is increased to the next die type; so a Halfling with a short sword is doing as much base damage as a Human with a longsword, and a Dwarf with a warhammer can really dish out the pain.  It really does encourage players to chose weapons that are typically associated with a certain race, which can be both good and bad, as it rewards playing to a certain stereotype and discouraging choosing less optimal weapons.

Well, that's my thoughts on D&D Next, at least after one playtest adventure.  While I'd largely written off D&D in all its forms (having become disgusted by 3rd and its variants, such as Pathfinder, and largely bored by 4e) by the time Wizards announced that they were doing an Open Beta for the next version of D&D, depending on how this version shakes out, I might be more inclined to playing, or perhaps even running, the occasional adventure every now and again.  And if it can bring other former D&D players back into the fold, then so much the better for WotC, especially if they can make the game less daunting to new players while still having enough variety and complexity to intrigue the old salts that cut their teeth on much earlier editions of the game.

August 18, 2012

FFG & Star Wars, take two

Last night, the GSA put up a much more in-depth article discussing what was (at the time) known about Fantasy Flight Games' upcoming Star Wars RPG.

Fair warning that the tone can seem a little negative, but take it with a grain of salt.

I won't rehash what's said there, but of note is at the end Mr. Ruffles of the Brew City Gamers podcast has a short iPhone video clip of him flipping through the book.  Seems there's not a lot of art, but there is a lot of crunch-based content, and word has it the lack of art is going to be the only major difference between the "beta" book and the final version.  To me at least, this sounds less like it's a beta in regards to D&DNext, and more like the rules are largely set, they just don't have the assorted bits and bobbits ready yet.

I'm hoping that we'll have more information not long after GenCon, as the GSA's got at least a couple Agents on the spot at GenCon with the chance to talk to some of the folks behind this game.

Edit: You can also read about a fellow gamer's thoughts about FFG's version of Star Wars over at Word of the Nerd at

August 17, 2012

Fantasy Flight Games & SWRPG, my thoughts

As I (and probably a host of other folks) expected, Fantasy Flight Games finally released some news on what they were doing with the RPG portion of their Star Wars license.  Clue one, it ain't using it as a seat warmer.

From what bits I've seen on Twitter so far, it looks like it's going to follow a model similar to that used by the Warhammer 40K RPG, with at least three books of escalating power levels, with the initial offering being "Edge of the Empire," and an additional book being released each subsequent year.

To be honest, I'm a bit hesitant about this.  Having seen the WH40K books and the way they were set up, I have a bad feeling about just how "open" this new iteration of Star Wars is going to be, at least in terms of official content.

Granted, it's true that the d6 version of Star Wars had an incredibly strong focus on the Rebellion and eventually the New Republic eras, but that's due largely to those really being the only eras out there, with Clone Wars pretty being "hands off" as per The Flanneled One.  But since the release of the Prequel Trilogy (regardless of what you think of them) on top of the New Jedi Order, Knights of the Old Republic, and Legacy Era material, Star Wars now covers a much broader range of eras than just the Classic/Rebellion Era.  Even the OCR and RCR versions of Star Wars by Wizards of the Coast weren't heavily restricted to just a small window of time, remembering that they were released at the same time as the adore-mentioned Prequel Trilogy.  Star Wars Saga Edition, by far my favorite version of the different Star Wars RPGs, almost literally covers the gamut of eras, with the vast-majority of the crunch-based material being non-specific enough that it can be ported into game set in other eras with a minimal amount of fuss, to say nothing of almost half the line's sourcebooks generally being "era-neutral" and thus applicable to campaigns set during the Dawn of the Jedi all the way up to to Legacy Era and everything in between.

No granted, I don't have any special insider info, and not being able to go to GenCon this year obviously means what a lot of what little info I do have is coming to me second-hand, so I might be way off base.  Then again, considering the press release that FFG put up on their website, there may not be a whole lot of viability if you want gameplay in settings outside of the Rebellion Era.

However, that may also change, as FFG is offering up the chance to get involved in the Beta Testing as early as now, even if you're not at GenCon.  Unlike a lot of other Beta testings, this one you have to pony up your cash up front to play along.  So for those of us not at GenCon, there are two options: Hope you've got a participating retailer in your area, or buy the beta book right off FFG's website, which is the option I took.  I choose the Priority Mail shipping option, but I suspect the book won't even ship until after GenCon.

For those of you curious and would rather get the (limited) info from the horse's mouth, here's the link:

In other news, I'm really hoping for my X-Wing game to be shipped soon.  I pretty much pre-ordered the main box set and all the available boosters as soon as they became available, based solely upon the demo games I played of it at GenCon 2011.

Also, lack of being at GenCon has the prospect of being made up for by playing a Skype game of Mouseguard run by my friend Nateal.  I've heard a lot about the game, so I'm eager to see what all the talk is about.

August 15, 2012

Edition Wars: Great Fun in Small Packaging

Not a huge post, but just a quick one to discuss in brief the first offering by GamerNation Studios, aka the guys behind the D20 Radio network.

Funded via Kickstarter earlier in the year, Edition Wars has officially been let loose upon the world.  Part of the premise is it's a quick, fun card game you can throw down while waiting for the rest of your gaming group to show up, or perhaps play if the GM suddenly can't make it (which is what happened tonight).

As most of our group for the bi-weekly Marvel Heroic RPG had shown up but the GM had to beggar off to avoid excessive wife aggro, that left a bunch of gamers ready to game but no game on hand.  Luckily, I'd brought along my copy if Edition Wars so at least our gathering wasn't a total waste of everyone's time and gas money.

We only played a couple times, and the first one had some referring to the instruction pamphlet (not really a booklet) a few times just to make sure we got things right.  Nothing's worse than playing a game, not having fun, and then realizing you'd screwed up several key elements.

Well, fun was to be had, as well as laughs galore at some of the gamer types and the GMs, as well as various Critical Effect cards.  I must admit, it felt kind of odd to lose the game because my own gamer card was the 6th gamer in to another GM's group.  I'm going to want to play a few more times before I really go into an in-depth review, but suffice to say it's a really fun game and worth the $25 to pick it up at either your FLGS or various online gaming retailers.

In other news, while I've not been posting much here, I have been far busier over at the Gaming Security Agency website, found here:

I've done a couple of advice articles, including a warning about excessive house ruling taken from my own long experiences with RPGs and an incessant urge to "tweak" things under just about any RPG I've played or GM'd.  I've also kicked off a running series of articles called "Heroes on Demand," which is intended to provide ready-to-run characters, all of them rules-legal, for new players and time-pressed GM's alike.  I'd say about half of the offerings so far are for Star Wars Saga Edition, although I really do hope to change that in the weeks to come.  Already there's a Chest-Deep hero for the FATE-based Dresden Files game as well as a doughty adventurer for Warhammer Fantasy.  And there are a lot of other great articles by my fellow Agents that are worth your time to check out, so if you haven't scoped out the GSA website, go do so.

July 25, 2012

A change in objective and pace

First, a fair warning in that you might not be seeing this blog be updated quite as often in the months to come.

However, this won't be entirely due to lack of interest on my part.  Rather, this will be due to the creation of the Gaming Security Agency blog, or GSA for short.  The brainchild of one Brian "Fiddleback" Casey, a longtime member of the d20 Radio Network and the Gamer Nation, the GSA is a collection of gamers, referred to as "Agents," who have gathered together from the four corners of the universe to put their prowess as geek savants to use in helping others build upon and improve their gaming experience, table-top or otherwise.  It includes such folks as Chris "GM Chris" Witt, verbose co-host of the Order 66 podcast, Garrett "barefoottourguide" Crowe of the Threat Detected SWSE live-play podcast, established author and gamer Wayne Basta, plus Nateal "Kaylylia/HotPinkJoystick" Erickson, chipper gamer geek fatale and her sagely husband Ben "Cyril" Erickson, and many others.

Having signed on as Agent #94, a fair chunk of the stuff that I'd be posting here will probably end up being posted over at the GSA instead.  Although it's only been around for a few days, there's already a good number of articles up on the site, so click the link below and check them out.  You won't be sorry that you did.

July 24, 2012

Chris West is at it again!

Having only just shipped out the last of the maps from his previous Kickstarter project, Christopher West, mapmaker extraordinaire, has a brand-new Kickstarter up and running

There's not much in the way of details at the moment, but the fact that he's only a few hundred dollars short of his funding goal in less than two days should tell you something about the quality of this man's past work and the trust he's earned amidst the gaming community.

So like the man said, if you're gonna pledge, hurry up and do it.  This Kickstarter as a short window of opportunity, and the sooner the initial funding goal is met, the sooner we get more details.

July 10, 2012

And now... our heroes

Not calling this part three of my series of posts regarding the 4th of July game I ran of Deadlands using the Savage Worlds rules.  Well, mostly using the Savage Worlds rules; I'd kept things fairly simple in terms of "expanded actions" and revamped the way skill checks worked.

Bear in mind that each character was made using the optional "card system" that I linked to a few posts back, with the hand being a King, a Jack, a 10, a pair of 7's, and a 6, so don't be surprised if these pre-gens don't add up right according to the official method of character creation in the Savage Worlds Deluxe book.

So enough of my yappin', and on to the heroes of our tale, as well as couple other pre-gens that I put together after the fact.  But rather than post each of them individually, I compiled them onto a no-frills PDF, which can be found at the link below:

Dono's Deadlands: Reloaded Posse Pregens

I also included a brief synopsis of each character, particularly where I think their strong points in a group would be.

The Doom Pool podcast

If you've got an interest in Margaret Weis Production's Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game but haven't yet taken the plunge, either to buy the books or get this game on the table, then I encourage you to check out the brand new podcast, "The Doom Pool," to be found right here.

They just released their second episode, and so far Jason, Bryan, and Daryl have done a good discussion of the doom pool mechanic (1st episode) and the effect die (2nd episode), as well as giving several of the published hero files a pretty in-depth review, both how they work and don't work (and Sentry gets what is, in my opinion, a much-deserved bashing almost across the board).  They've got an actual play segment at the end of each show, but sadly there's some audio issues that makes it very difficult to hear everyone, particular Bryan/Spider-Man (which is especially unfortunate as it sounds like Bryan was really getting into character) and Susan/Beast.  However, that portion is prefaced with Jason discussing where he made mistakes as the GM/Watcher, and why he made some of the rules calls that they did.

They've also got their own sub-forum on the D20 Radio Network (which isn't quite as d20 dominated as used to be), located over here.

Seriously, give these guys a listen.  They're informative and entertaining.

July 8, 2012

The Posse, they be Comin' Round the Mountain (Part 2)

Well, for this blog entry, I'll be discussing both the events of the adventure Comin' Round the Mountain as well my thoughts on the Savage Worlds system, including what changes I made.

We actually started with only four players in the posse, these being the Buffalo Gal (Jessie Reynolds), the Gunslinger (Roy Walker), the Huckster (Thomas Kimball), and the Mad Scientist (Professor Wilson Washington).  We had a fifth player join just in time for the first real combat encounter, and he chose the Indian Brave (Laughing Wolf).  So a pretty good mix of characters, though with a bit of bias towards combat.  I also encouraged them to choose a famous person to "portray" their character as well as come up with names, and wound up with the following:

Buffalo Gal - Jessie McCoy, portrayed by Jennifer Garner
Gunslinger - Roy Walker, portrayed by Russell Crowe
Huckster - Thomas Kimball, portrayed by Johnny Depp
Mad Scientist - Professor Wilson Worthington, portrayed by Denzel Washington*
Indian Brave - Laughing Wolf, portrayed by Eddie Spears
*Yes, there were Blazing Saddles references aplenty

The adventure started with the heroes grabbing a Union Blue train in St. Louis, Illinois and heading for Dodge City, Kansas.  I left it to each of the would-be heroes to decide why they were heading for Dodge City, as well as to decide if they knew any of the other posse members.  Roy agreed to have been hired as "personal security" for Professor Worthington while the later is en route to a symposium of his fellow "advocates of the New Science" taking place in Denver.  Jessie was looking to hire on as an enforcer for one of the Rail Barons, with either Black River or Union Blue being her preferred choices.  And Mr. Kimball was actually just trying to leave town ahead of some "misunderstandings" between himself and several persons who gambled more money than they could afford to lose.  For the sake of this adventure, I gave the train what amounted to a "cattle car" to allow Jessie and Roy to keep the horses that came as part of their starting equipment if they so chose.  Roy opted to pass, figuring a "horse is a horse," but Jessie kept hers, even giving the steed (a feisty mustang she called Charger).

Things got off to a slow start as the posse got the chance to interact and get to know some of their fellow passengers, including such folks as Gregory Dawson, a "professional gambler" that was eventually revealed to not be adverse to cheating at cards, though Thomas proved to be much more adept at cards and won a "treasure map" of Mr. Dawson, as well as Denise Meritt, an aspiring journalist from somewhere Back East that constantly quizzed folks (namely the heroes) about what they've done, a very pretty red-headed mail-order bride named Penelope Brown who's not thrilled about the arrangement but it does get her out of Pittsburgh, and a very secretive chap going by the name of Richard Chasen.  There's also a "museum liaison" from Boston by the name of Allan Seyberth, and a charming yet somewhat spoiled daughter of a cattle baron named Laura Giles.  I let the posse interact with these folks for about half and hour, simply basking in the attempted western/southern accents of varying quality.

Things pick-up (in a matter of speaking) just as the train is starting up a slope to cross a trestle over a wide ravine (not especially deep, but lengthy).  There's some commotion as it suddenly becomes known that the baggage car, cattle car, and caboose have been disconnected from the rest of the train.  Yeah, Jessie got a mite ticked that her beloved steed is now bound for a bad end, with Roy not helping by remarking she can just buy another horse down the line.  First blow was struck when Jessie belted the rather semi-chauvinistic gunslinger for his crass attitude.  Roy's response to the fact that she didn't really do much of anything for damage. "You hit like a girl."  Thankfully, Thomas interceded to keep things from getting really violent.  And then things got worst.  The afore-mentioned trestle got blown up, and even though the train was already in the midst of slowing down due to the detached cars, there's still no way the engine is going to be able to stop in time to avoid a sudden drop.  Working quickly the posse see about trying to as many of the other passengers off the passenger cars before they wind up going up and over.  The professor is naturally upset that his precious "scientific properties" were on the baggage cart and are likely to be damaged by this "excessively rough handling."  As it turns out, a group of outlaws had planned to wreck the train and scavenge the wreck, but the fact it was slowing down means that only the locomotive itself will be demolished.

Now combat in Savage Worlds is a tad on the deadly side, but it does move very quickly.  To those that don't know, Savage Worlds uses a poker deck to determine initiative, starting with Aces and working on down.  The default difficulty on a roll is a 4, with every increment of 4 that you exceed that default earning you a "raise," which typically means you get a better result.  The Marshal/GM can impose a penalty to the roll for difficult tasks, or a bonus for easier tasks.  Now typically, players choose one die, either an Attribute or a Skill that is most appropriate to the task they are trying, plus a d6 called a "Wild Die" for being a "Wild Card," keeping the highest result; if you roll the max result on a die (such as getting a 6 on a d6), you roll that die again and add it to the prior result.

Well, I wound up ditching that from the start and taking a step back towards Classic Deadlands, being a bit more open in what I allowed the skills to cover (which admittedly are already pretty broad), and letting characters roll an Attribute and a Skill die, but still only keeping the best die.  Also, if the hero is trying a skill they're not trained in, they use their default Attribute at a -2 penalty to their end result rather than the "official" rule of using a d4 at a -2 penalty.  Personally, I think it makes the heroes seem a good deal more badass.  Certainly seemed to work for Roy and Jessie, given they both had a d10 in Agility and a d8 in Shooting.

As for damage, non-important characters (called "Extras") are pretty much dropped if your damage total beats their Toughness value (average value of 5, 6 for tougher hombres), and firearms do anywhere from 2d6 (pistols) to 2d10 (big rifles).  Well, the fight with the outlaws largely went in the heroes' favor, thanks to Jessie's expert marksmanship and the 2d8 damage of her rifle enabling to drop any outlaw she hit.  Just when things are looking good, the leader of the outlaws hurls a small bundle of dynamite (3 sticks) at them, and nearly does Roy in (who mainly survived thanks to a Fate Chip and a good vigor roll.  It is at this point that Laughing Wolf, out on a personal quest, enters the fray, whooping and hollering and pretty as he rides into battle on his horse, making good use of his rifle to snipe at outlaws while darting in and out of range of their pistols.  Seeing that things have gotten far more dangerous, Thomas decides that he needs to "pitch in" and reveals his particular talent for magic, dealing some hefty damage to the outlaw leader with a single spell.

Now for those of you familiar with the old version of Deadlands, you'll know that in the Classic version, hucksters (aka the spellcasters of this setting) worked their mojo by drawing poker hands to determine how powerful of an effect they can generate.  While Deadlands Reloaded has removed that as the default, putting hucksters under the Arcane Background (Magic), but with a couple tweaks.  Instead of having to draw for every spell, the huckster has an option of using a (limited) store of Power Points to cast their spells, or they can go to the cards in the hopes of getting a good enough poker hand to cover the Power Point cost of their spell.  However, if they fall to get the minimum hand needed to cover the spell's cost, the manitou (aka demonic spirit) that the huckster tried to engage in a mental battle of wits gets to take a free swipe at the huckster (known as backlash), which can be quite bad.  Oh, and Jokers are included in the deck, but if you use a Joker to build your hand, you suffer backlash.

Well, Thomas' player was an old-school Deadlands player, and he opted to "gamble for power" with just about every hex (spell) he cast, in spite of the considerable risks.  Well, he was good (or simply lucky) enough to get the required hand each time while avoiding Jokers (with one exception to be mentioned later).

So, with the outlaws dead and the revelation of a "sorcerer" in their midst (man did Thomas have to do a lot of smooth-talking to avoid getting shot by some of the other passengers), there's now the issue of needing to get back to civilization.  The nearest town is 50 miles away and the train's cook mentions that his larder isn't well-stocked (they expected this to be a safe, uneventful trip).  So the heroes are convinced, mostly by Miss Giles, to go check up on the detached cars, with the young cattle baron's daughter coming along, presumably to ensure that some heirloom (belonged to her mother, is quite dear to her) is alright.  It is at this time they notice that Mr. Seyberth and the stern-faced conductor are missing from the remaining crew and passengers.  Jessie is eager to find out the fate of her horse, dearly hoping her trusty steed was mostly unharmed, while Professor Worthington was eager to reclaim his prized property.  So after a short yet tense walk (the posse kept expecting more outlaws to show up and try and bushwhack them), they get to what's left of the detached train cars.  Yeah, they're pretty much totaled, though amazingly, Charger is alive (how exactly he got free and managed to avoid the crash is not entirely known, but he's showing signs of having tussled with something with some scars on his forelegs and neck.  The posse does a little searching around, and find a set of drag marks akin to a person in boots being dragged off, while the baggage car showed signs of a fight, with a large wooden crate marked "Property of the Boston Museum of Arts & Sciences" looking like it had been broken apart from the inside.  Professor Worthington however is more interested in his trunks, and is relieved to find that the goods within are in working order, aside from a few dents and dings.  Well, night has pretty much fallen, and the posse gets ready to head back to the survivors with what goods they can salvage (not a whole lot beyond Worthington's trunks), with Miss Giles being content with finding a silver-chained necklace with a decent-sized pearl pendant, again saying how important it was due to having been her mother's, though Thomas is sharp-eyed enough to catch that the young lady was quick to palm something else from the wreckage; what exactly he's not sure, but he's got a feeling this young woman knows more than she's letting on.

The posse makes it back to find the other passengers have set-up a fire and some rudimentary defenses in case more bandits show up, with Mr. Chasen giving the suggestions and instructions.  Roy pegs the man for an ex-soldier, likely Confederate given the man's accent, but soon adds that the war's done and over as far as he's concerned, and the ex-soldier's reasons are his own business.  Denise makes a bit more of a nuisance of herself, and Penelope seems quite taken with the dashing dandy Mr. Kimball (apparently she missed out on the whole "he's a spell-slingin' warlock" bit from earlier).  After a very sparse meal, the posse and passengers decide to get what sleep they can, and then decide on a proper course of action in the morning.  Some of the folks are a bit unnerved by Laughing Wolf's presence, but he doesn't seem to really care, and stays up half the night to keep watch.  During the night, he is certain that something is out there, watching them, but it never comes close enough for him to spot it, though at one point he does wake everyone up with a shot from his rifle.  He does notice however that he bodies of the fallen outlaws have gone missing...

In the morning, the posse are approached by Laura Giles, who confesses to them that she thinks they might be in greater danger than they know.  She says that she'd been able to "chat up" Mr. Seyberth prior to the crash, and he'd let slip that he was playing escort to some kind of "very dangerous" animal to be studied by Union eggheads at some "secure locale."  She manages to convince the posse that this thing needs to be taken down before it can start preying on the other passengers, who obviously aren't as capable as the posse.  Roy balks a bit at this, wondering why a cattle baron's daughter is so worried about folks she barely knows, but Jessie shuts him right down by not-so-subtly insinuating that the gunfighter isn't quite as much of a "man" as he pretends to be, even adding that she's sure they can salvage a dress that'll suit his disposition from the wrecked baggage car.  Seeing this as a perfect chance to "conduct a proper field test" of one of his latest creations, Professor Worthington goes to his trunks, and after a minute returns with a flamethrower!  Unlike the bulky contraption sold by Smith & Robards, Worthington's flame thrower uses a much more compact storage system bolstered by the usage of ghost rock vapor.  The fact the tinhorn "prefessor" that half the party had been mocking as just broken out a flamethrower does not pass without remark. The train's cook, who is pretty much the only authority figure from the train crew left at this point (the rest died either when the locomotive went over the destroyed trestle or when the baggle and caboose got detached) decides the others should begin making the trek towards civilization.  Denise however is determined to come with the posse, saying she "smells a story," even telling Laura to keep her nose out of her business when Miss Giles demurely tries to convince the would-be journalist that it'd be too risky.  The rest of the posse agrees it'd be too risky as they don't know what they'd be dealing with, and Denise is mollified when Professor Worthington promises to give her a full accounting when they get back.

Starting from the wrecked baggage car, Laughing Wolf is able to track the "thing" with a little aid from Jessie for good measure, and determine the thing is insect-like given the stilt-like tracks left as the thing dragged the bodies of Seyberth and the conductor off, likely as meals.  However, as they soon learn to their horror, the various bodies, including those of the outlaws killed in yesterday's shootout, have been dragged to just outside a small cave.  And worse yet, the bodies don't have the good sense to stay dead!  Thomas is badly scared and scrambles away from the corpse that just tried to grab his leg, while Wilson just stands there jabbering in shock.  Jessie, Roy, and Laughing Wolf are all made of sterner stuff and get to work.  Jessie and Roy shoot the walking corpses closest to Wilson while Laughing Wolf draws his tomahawk and gets to work hacking and hewing at these abominations.  But it soon becomes clear that these are not just walking dead, but the bodies are being used as shells by some kind of disgusting parastic creature.  Recovering his wits, Wilson fires up the flamethrower and roasts a whole host of the things in one go, leaving the other three to quickly take down the few surviving critters, as the corpse shells proved to make them a bit more resilient than might normally be expected (not that getting blasted with a gout of super-heated ghost rock vapor did them any favors).

After a brief examination of the remains of these "huskers", Wilson concludes that these are likely the larval stage of the thing (seems he's got some medical training in addition to being a mad scientist), and concludes the cave is the most likely place for the "mother husker" to be hiding.  With as much care and caution as they can muster (though not as much of either as Wilson would like), the posse sets up a means to "flush out" the beastie, using Jessie and Wilson (they drew the short straws) as "bait."  Figuring it might be best if the posse were bit less visible, Thomas uses his magic to make the other heroes "dim to the eyes of others."  Laughing Wolf thinks the dapper dandy is a foul to knowingly consort with the manitous, but Thomas just laughs it off, saying that he's canny enough to avoid playing the game when the deck is stacked too high against him and to not be too greedy.  Sure enough, there's a loud scream and the sound of something inhuman screaming in pain, leading Roy to conclude that the bait's been taken.  A few moments later, Jessie and Wilson come hightailing it out, and skittering right behind them is an even bigger and uglier version of the "huskers" they fought earlier, and sure enough, the thing is pissed, particularly as it has severe burns all over its body.  Thomas opens up with a big blast of arcane power that rips a nasty hole in the beastie but leaves him badly winded in turn.  Roy surprisingly darts forward to try and draw the monster's attention to him after spotting that Jessie's got a nasty slice across her back, discarding his rifle to fast-draw his pistol and plug the monster in one of its eyes as Laughing Wolf draws a bead with his rifle and opens a hole in the thing's guts, but it's still not enough to take the thing down.

A note regarding Savage Worlds combat and damage, when a target suffers damage that is equal to or greater than its Toughness but the damage doesn't beat that value by 4 or more, the target is "Shaken," which largely means they can't act on their next turn.  If a Shaken target is hit and would again be Shaken, it instead suffers a wound.  Wild Cards (such as the heroes and really important NPCs) can take up to three wounds before they drop on the fourth.  Well, the Mature Husker in the Conversion Notes for this adventure was not a Wild Card, and from years of playing d20 games, I knew that it would be very easy for the posse to gang up and take this thing down.  So, I made two changes, the first being to promote it to Wild Card status to make it tougher to take down (Extras drop as soon as they take a single wound) and to give it the Hardy trait from the Savage Worlds corebook, which prevents the critter from suffering wounds upon getting tagged with multiple Shaken results.  So yes, the posse had a fight on its hands, though between a flamethrower blast and a nasty arcane bolt, the fight could have been worse.  The creature does have an armored hide, but firearms in DL:R pretty much punch thru most low lend armor, so said armored hide wasn't as much of a boon as it might have otherwise been.

Still, the fight wasn't as easy as the prior two had been, but the posse was victorious at the end, with Roy putting a final bullet into the thing's brain-pan with his six-gun after saying an appropriately cold one-liner.  Jessie got pretty badly banged-up, and might have died outright had she not spent a Fate Chip to avoid getting speared through the chest by one of the mama husker's spindly legs, and Laughing Wolf nearly got blinded by the thing's acidic spit when he closed into melee after his rifle jammed up (due to his going bust on a shooting roll; i.e. rolled snake eyes).  As for Thomas, well, he gambled with the a rather nasty manitou, as he needed a lot of power (4 Power Points to pull off two bolts with increased damage), and had to use a Joker to make his poker hand, thus suffering backlash in the form of being Incapacitated, which he narrowly avoided due to a lucky roll on his Vigor check; otherwise, it would have been lights out for the huckster.  Still, you take your chances, you pay your dues.  Like I said, he kept to the "old-school" flavor of Hucksters in having to draw a poker hand for each casting, even though he could have covered the spell easily with his own stock of Power Points.

With the monster dead and the Professor taking the time to ensure the small cave was properly scoured clean with a few extra blasts from his flamethrower, the posse moves to catch back up with the train passengers.  Sure enough, the Professor gives Miss Merritt the full story, much to Miss Giles' chagrin.  And we leave the group as they make the long trek back to civilization.

And that's where I ended it, as it was getting close to 11pm and I had a decent drive back home ahead of me.  It was indeed fun to once again run a game of Deadlands.  As noted, I did tweak the Savage Worlds rules a bit, particularly in terms of skill checks.  I'm not sure I'll stick with that change if I do run Deadlands under this system again, but beyond that I have to admit that combat in this game moves a lot faster, particularly as you don't have to worry as much about hit locations.  The one part of the game I didn't get to try out were the rules for "Duel at High Noon," which is kind of a pity as Roy was designed to be a pretty effective duelist.  Maybe next time.

Well, that's the adventure, with a few thoughts and notes on the mechanics of Savage Worlds.  In all honesty, I suggest that you give the system a look.  You can download the Test Drive version of the rules from Pinnacle's own website at the link provided below.  They've also got a number of free "one sheet" adventures that fairly loose one-shots, as well as some pre-gen heroes for various genres.  Hey, you could even get a little crazy and do a genre mix-and-match if you were so inclined.

Savage World Test Drive rules (V6)

Next time, I'll post the pre-gens I cooked up for my 4th of July session, as well as few others I put together after the fact.

Until then, happy trails pardner.

July 5, 2012

The Posse. they be Comin' Round the Mountain! (Part 1)

When this week started, I really didn't have much in the way of plans for the 4th of July.  Most of my family either lives too far away or had other plans.  However, that all changed when I got something of a last-minute invite to a last-minute get-together barbeque.  And I do mean last minute, as I was notified of such quite late the night of July the 3rd.

Well, what does this have to do anything?  Other than spending the holiday in the company of friends?  Well, it was a small gathering of folks, most of whom were gamers, and I was asked if I'd be willing to break out some Deadlands for the occasion.  You see, a few weeks back, my interest in Deadlands and Savage Worlds got re-ignited thanks to the Deadlands Noir Kickstarter project.  Now I'd given Savage Worlds a once-over when the Deadlands Reloaded book came out, but I really wasn't that impressed.  But with the Savage Worlds Deluxe version and DL:Noir, I was willing to give it a second look.  So when the offer came to once again break out some Marshal Law on a group of hapless cowpokes, I was hard-pressed to pass up the chance.

I initially was going to run an intro-module I'd written up for Classic way back in the day, but sadly the document file got corrupted between computer moves.  So that left me scrambling for a suitable adventure.  I had pondered running Night Train, a classic Dime Novel adventure that is well-known amidst the Deadlands community for being one of the most lethal adventures written for the game, possibly ranking up there with the legendary Tomb of Horrors in terms of kill-factor.  But I didn't really my first foray into a new system to be wind-up a TPK.  To heavily paraphrase a line from the movie Purgatory, "The Marshal is tough, but he ain't without mercy."  And Night Train is bad even if you know what you're getting into; I've run and payed this module several times, and only two didn't end with TPKs (though one came awfully darn close).

Luckily, I still have all my Deadlands Classic books handy, and so I skimmed through them, finally settling on "Comin' Round the Mountain" from the back of the Marshal's Handbook.  I'd run it once before, and it works pretty well for a one-shot.  Thankfully, I didn't have to re-work any of the stats, as Pinnacle has been considerate enough to offer a free conversion with updated mechanics and stats.  So that cut down on the heavy lifting as it were.  If you're interested, there's a direct link at the bottom of this post.

So next came the issue of "pre-gens or build-their-own"?  Do I build a bunch of pre-gen heroes for my player-victims, or do I spend valuable time trying to herd cats and get folks to build heroes in a system that most of them really aren't that familiar with?  Well, I opted to simply build a bunch of pre-gens, taking advantage of a set of house-rules to use a draws from a poker deck to build your would-be hero; again, see link at end of post.  I used the same draws for all the pre-gens, as the first one proved pretty snazzy in the shape of a King, a Pair of 10's, a Pair of 7's, and a 5.  All I did was alter what card was assigned to what value for each of the pre-gens, all of whom were based upon an archetype selected from the DL:Classic Player's Guide.  I left each of the fairly generic so that any little details, like name, appearance, and personal details could be filled in as the player wished.  When done, I had a Buffalo Gal, a Gunslinger, a Huckster (re: a gambler-themed magician), an Indian Brave, a Mad Scientist, and a Private Investigator.  That to me sounds like a good mix of character types and should provide ample opportunity for role-playing (which it did, in spades).

That's all for this post, as the second one will have an overview of how the adventure played out, and my thoughts on the Savage Worlds system.  I made a few on-the-fly changes, particularly in the realm of how skills work, but said changes seemed to work out pretty well.

DL:Reloaded - Card-Based Character Creation

DL:Reloaded Conversion Notes for "Comin' Round the Mountain"

June 28, 2012

"I'm the Doctor, and the doctor is IN!"

I'm pretty sure that most people reading this are well aware of the pop culture phenom that is "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic."  And before you leap to a conclusion, I am quite emphatically NOT a "Brony."

However, that said, I did stumble across something related to MLP:FiM and a long-standing geek fave of mine, the BBC long-runner Doctor Who (started with the 4th, though I think Tennant's 10th Doctor is my favorite of the bunch).  It's fan-produced series of audio stories called "Doctor Whooves and Assistant."The basic premise is "What if the Doctor came to Equestria, got turned into a pony, and had adventures in that setting?"

Well, the answer to that question is a result that is quite entertaining, with the VA for this version of the Doctor doing a very enjoyable job of channeling the 10th Doctor with elements of the others (predominantly the 11th) thrown in for good measure, particularly the Doctor's relish at the utter strangeness of being a pony and life in the MLP:FiM 'verse.  And so far, unlike a lot of other fandom works in various genres, it's not trying to supplant the "official" events of the TV series, with the first three audio segments taking place rather neatly alongside the first two-part episode of the show.

I guess it says something for the MLP fandom that they could take a background character with a couple of suggestive character traits (wild brown mane and hourglass mark on his rump) and turn it into this.  Heck, there's even an article on this fan-work to be found on TVTropes.
(it also has links to the various audio programs to boot)

Now my friend Nateal aka HotPinkJoystick has become fully engrossed in the MLP:FiM fandom, and is one of many that have been needling me, subtly or otherwise, to really give this show a shot.  Admittedly, I did try briefly, but it didn't click for me.  But that was before Doctor Whooves.  So, I'll give it another go, perhaps slightly less-biased try; being an Adult Male, I do have an inherent bias against a TV show mainly aimed at selling toys to Young Girls.  If nothing else, I can amuse myself with the notion that while the Mane Six are hogging the spotlight, the Doctor and his charmingly bubbly/ditzy companion are having their own thrilling adventures.

One story ends, another begins...

Well, last night we had the final session of our NJO Star Wars campaign.  There were a couple of minor encounters/battles, part of the New Republic/Galactic Alliance's renewed offensive against the Vong invasion, mostly as a chance to give our 8th level characters a chance to show off a bit. But generally, it was a bittersweet ending as the heroes wound up going their separate ways.

Meerix Rhys, an Arkanian Offshoot and ace starfighter pilot, has been given full command of her own X-Wing squadron, which she got to lead into battle against Vong coralskippers as part of an offensive campaign to start liberating Vong-held planets.

Gorth, a rather crude-humored Trandoshan bodyguard, opted to take the offer of serving as full-time bodyguard to an up-and-coming young singer/diva while she embarks on a series of USO-type shows for the Alliance's troops.

SKT-R08, a rather interesting "probe" droid that proved to have quite an interesting history, is no longer amongst the functioning.  Of course, as its body was never found, SKT-R08 could still be out there. Heck, it's story of having been abandoned by its prior masters could have just been a cover story for all we knew.

Shael, a Selkath medic and Jedi-in-training, has chosen to part ways with Skywalker's New Jedi Order and seek his own path in the Force, opting to "wander the galaxy" and trusting to the Force to guide him to where his healing abilities are most needed.  He even went so far as to hand over his lightsaber to Master Skywalker, thanking the man for the opening his eyes to the ways of the Force.

Lyra Blyss, a Zeltron gambler/grifter also ultimately chose to go back to her larcenous ways, having only "gotten involved" by chance.  She did enjoy herself quite a bit, but she'd prefer a lifestyle that didn't involve a near-constant risk of a horrible death.  She did threat Alwyn (my character) that he'd be seeing her again, with her parting act being to plant on heck of a kiss on the lad's lips, leaving him speechless and the other characters laughing.

And lastly, there's Alwyn Reezaki, a Human Jedi apprentice, upon review of his conduct and actions in the past few months, Master Skywalker judged that he was ready for promotion to Jedi Knight.  That Alwyn could admit that he'd come perilously close to giving into his anger was deemed a good thing, as it meant he was aware of the risk and thus could be wary of falling into that particular trap.  As part of the New Jedi Order's renewed commitment to helping the Galactic Alliance defeat the Yuuzhan Vong, Master Skywalker has formed several Jedi strike force groups, with Alwyn being placed in one that is under the direct command of Jaina Solo (a humorous nod to something I'd included in my '3 Questions' answers for Alwyn way back when).

As Alwyn had started out as a 1st level "Force wizard" in Garrett's NJO Traitor's Gambit, I must say it was quite satisfying to have played Alwyn all the way to becoming a fairly badass Jedi Knight.  I do seem to play a lot of those types of characters, as my good friend Linda/Zrissa often reminds me.  But it was also nice to be playing a Jedi that wasn't an "uber-Jedi" like a couple of my prior characters had been.  He's certainly competent in Force-usage and lightsaber dueling, but he's not a dominant force in either regard; perhaps helped muchly by not rolling nat 20's on every third Use the Force check like on Jedi PC of mine had a habit of doing.  And with the exception of a single house rule (combining Block and Deflect into a single talent called Deflect Attacks), Alwyn was built using just the feats, talents, and classes from the Core Rulebook, proving you don't need a plethora of splats to build an awesome character.  Probably helps that most of the really awesome stuff for Jedi can be found in the corebook to begin with.  Still, while it's sad to be laying this particularly Star Wars hero aside, there's always the hope of a chance to once again pick up the dice and continue Alwyn's adventures in a galaxy far, far away.  May the Force be with you, Alwyn Reezaki, who started from a "fire and forget" character for a 9-hour convention one-shot and developed into a fun and memorable character.

June 23, 2012

Other Campaign Updates

In light of the New Jedi Order campaign having pretty much wrapped up (GM said he wants one more session to 'tie up a few loose ends' this coming Wednesday), I thought I might review the other campaigns I've been playing in, as well as ones that I might be planning for the future.

Sadly, it seems that the Dresden Files game I was in had fizzled out due to the GM having no clue where she wanted to take the story as well as some difficulties handling a couple of characters (my Dresden-esque wizard being the lesser of the two offenders),  There may be some hope of this picking back up once the Paranet Papers supplement comes out, but if not, then at least it was fun to play a smart-ass young spell-slinger for a while.

My friend's The One Ring campaign is still going strong, though I never did make a post about the last session we played a few Saturdays back.  Our odd group of would-be heroes were tasked by Gloin to deliver an urgent missive to none other than Radagast the Brown, member of the Order of Wizards and White Council.  We had a pretty "interesting" trek through wilderness along the Old Forest Road that cuts through Mirkwood, including a chance encounter with a group of Wood elves, a few run-ins with goblin raiders, as well as a pack of spiders that had pretty much subdued a feisty Woodman lass and slain what we presumed to be her two male traveling companions.

After coming to the comely lady's rescue, she introduces herself as Derawyn, apprentice and ward of the Brown Wizard, but when teased by both the elf and dwarf as to why she didn't just use her magic to banish the spiders, she grew a deal more modest when replying that the magics she knew were more subtle and better given to tending the ills of body and spirit, which she proved by using a song of healing on Brander, who'd taken some nasty hits from the spiders during the attempted rescue.  She was returning to Rhosgobel after concluding a task for her mentor, and would be much appreciative if the Company would permit her to travel with them the rest of the way.  Well, we reach Rhosgobel without further incident, only to find that scouts returned only hours before with word of a massive orc raiding force that will likely strike that night. Better still, Radagast is absent on "some wizard's errand," leaving the Woodsman village without it's most powerful protector.  Gee, if only there were a group of stout-hearted adventurers in the neighborhood... oh, wait there is.  So we wind up joining in the defense of Rhosgobel, and many an orc was slain that night, with Brander, Bruni, and Caranlas making like Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas during Helm's Deep :)  Finally, just when it seemed we were about to be overwhelmed by one last desperate surge of orcs, the dawn came and with it Radagast, with the combined presence of the two forcing the foul minions of the Shadow to flee back into the depths of Mirkwood.

Once the injured had been seen to, Radagast gathers the Company so that he might hear the message we were tasked to bring.  The message was from Dain Ironfoot, King Under the Mountain, and concerned a rising number of orcs spilling down from the mountains as well as those that survived the Battle of Five Armies, and the Brown Wizard concurs that some fell power had caused the orcs and goblins of the Wilderlands to stir in such numbers; he fears the attack on Rhosgobel will not be the last settlement of the Free Peoples to be laid siege to by such reckless hate.  Fearing that a new threat lurks on the horizon, Radagast asks that we ferry a message for him, only this time we are to bring that message to none other than the King of the Elves of Mirkwood.  The wizard also makes it a point to thank us for coming to the Derawyn's aid, and as such he owes the hero a minor boon to be named once they have delivered his message to the Elf King, though we were permitted the chance to rest.  The Company agreed to make Rhosgobel a sanctuary as our Fellowship undertaking, so at least we've got an additional base of operations, one that's closer to Mirkwood even.  We gather once more on July 7th to continue the adventure, and I'll admit to being very curious as to where this is going.  Timewise, we've passed through spring and are into early summer.

Back to Star Wars, the Skype-based game that Ben "Cyril" Erickson is running is still going strong, with our next session planned for this coming Sunday night.  The session before last ended with us getting knocked unconscious after a prolonged fight aboard a supposedly derelict freighter, only to have us wake-up next session with a (most likely) drug-induced dream sequence that left a few of the characters freaked out and us apparently trapped in a compound someplace.  We finally managed to escape our freaky captors (vestigial heads for extra freakiness) and made our way to a docking bay, just in time for another firefight.  Which was where the last session ended.

While I've stepped out from behind the GM's screen after the last two Star Wars campaigns I was running pretty much fell apart due to lack of player interest, I've been getting an itch to run something.  And spurred by a bit of gaming nostalgia and a recent Kickstarter for Deadlands: Noir setting, I picked up Savage Worlds and Deadlands: Reloaded.  Just so you know, I was a huge fan of Deadlands back in the day, though I'll confess a minor preference for Hell on Earth, the post-apoc Deadlands setting.  While I wasn't all that impressed by Savage Worlds on the first go-round, I picked up a hardcopy of the Savage Worlds Deluxe book, and I must say I'm pretty intrigued by how much quicker and cleaner the system runs compared to Deadlands Classic.  Big handfuls o' dice for skill checks are gone (generally a good thing in my opinion), and the Edge/Hindrance system looks to have been very nicely streamlined.  I've got a bunch of notes pertaining to a Deadlands Classic mini-campaign that I never got to run, and while it needs a bit of polish, I might just be able to get that sucker into play-worthy shape.  Trick will be rustling up a posse of players, but on-line gaming might make that task a mite easier, though time'll tell.

Also on the horizon is our SW NJO GM is looking to giving the Marvel Heroic RPG a try as a campaign, with the agreed upon theme being "TeenAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D."  Yeah, we're playing teenage supers that are working for/with S.H.I.E.L.D. in some capacity or another.  X-23 and Darkhawk are already going to be part of this group, but not sure yet who the others will be, though I'm sure it'll be interesting.

So that's whats going on campaign wise for me.  How about you guys?